Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Canon as Infallible Sacred Tradition

Originally appeared on the aomin blog, 03/20/2010

"How do you know that the Holy Scripture is all you need? What tells you that? Might you need a God-led authority (like the Roman Catholic Church) to tell you that?" This was a question I recently came across from the depths of cyberspace. It's a question sharply aimed against sola scriptura, but it's a false question attacking an incorrect understanding of sola scriptura. Underlying this question is the assumption that the Sacred Scriptures are not enough to function as the sole rule of faith for the church. There must be something else a believer needs, like an infallible magisterium.

One part of this question is indeed true: if God's voice of special revelation is found somewhere else besides the Bible, Christians are obligated to seek out that voice, and follow it with their entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. Protestants though argue the only extant record of God's infallible voice of special revelation is found in Sacred Scripture. The burden of proof then lies on those who claim God's infallible voice is somewhere else besides the Scriptures. If God's infallible voice is extant today somewhere else, sola scriptura is refuted. If God's voice is found in an infallible magisterium or unwritten traditions, sola scriptura is refuted.

This is why those of us defending sola scriptura constantly ask those attacking it to produce what they claim to have. If they have God's special revelation elsewhere, throw it on the table and let's get a good look at it. For those of you who've listened to Dr. White's debates on sola scriptura, this is his pen example. In his old debate with Patrick Madrid on sola scriptura, Dr. White held up his pen and said:

If our debate this evening was that I was going to stand here and say that this is the only pen of its kind in all the universe, how would I go about proving it? Well, the only way I could prove the statement "there is no other pen like this in all the universe," is if I looked in all of your purses, and all of your shirt pockets, and in all the stores in the world that carry pens, and look through all the houses, and all over the planet Earth, and the Moon, and the planets in the Solar System, and in the entire universe, looking for another pen like this. And, of course, I could not do that. But it would be very easy for Mr. Madrid to win that debate. All he needs to do is go out, get a Cross Medallist pen, walk up here, hold it right next to mine, and say, "See! Another pen, just like yours!" and he's won the debate.
In light of this, I would assert that Mr. Madrid must either recognize this reality, and not attempt to win this debate by doing nothing more than depending upon an illogical demand; or, he must demonstrate the existence of "the other pen." That is, he must prove to us what the Council of Trent said was true. I quote, "It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitted as it were, from hand to hand."
An argument like this is pointed directly at what Romanism claims to have: God's voice elsewhere besides the Sacred Scriptures. Most often those defending Romanism claim to have God's voice in Sacred Tradition. Getting them to throw this Tradition up on the table to take a look at is the problem. Typically only one thing is thrown up on the table as Sacred Tradition, the canon of Sacred Scripture. The canon is said to be an example of God's voice of special revelation outside the Bible.

The first problem with this argument is that it goes to battle alone. If I quote a verse from the Bible, I can also have that verse joined by the entire text from which the verse is found. When someone uses the canon as an example of God's voice in Sacred Tradition, the entire contents of Sacred Tradition still hides back up in the hills. Roman Catholics can't produce what they claim to have. They aren't even unified as to whether Sacred Tradition is simply the same material as found in the Bible, or if it's information of another kind. One bucket of water in a desert is not proof that a large lake is just over the mountain.

The second problem is a misunderstanding by Roman Catholics as to what the canon list is. The canon list is not revelation, it's an artifact of revelation. It is Scripture which Christians believe inspired, not a knowledge of the canon which is inspired. The church has discovered which books are canon, they haven't infallibly determined them to be canon. For a detailed explanation of this, track down a copy of Dr. White's book, Scripture Alone, chapter five.

Third, Roman Catholics have often jumped on R.C. Sproul's statement that the canon is a fallible collection of infallible books. The statement itself originates from Sproul's mentor, John Gerstner. This statement is not an admission that there is an error in the canon. It is a statement simply designed to acknowledge the historical selection process the church used in discovering the canon. By God's providence, God's people have always identified His Word, and they didn't need to be infallible to do so. Remember that large set of books in your Bible before the Gospel of Matthew? The church had the Old Testament, and believers during the period in which the Old Testament was written also had God's inscripturated word, this despite a lack of magisterial infallibility.

Fourth, there is no reason to assume church infallibility in order for the church to receive the canon. That is, there is no reason to assume God's voice of infallible pronouncement via an infallible magisterium. I recognize the Christian church received the canon. It does not though infallibly create the canon, or stand above the canon. The church was used by God to provide a widespread knowledge of the canon. The Holy Spirit had worked among the early Christian church in providing them with the books of the New Testament. This same process can be seen with the Old Testament and Old Testament believers. The Old Testament believer fifty years before Christ was born had a canon of Scripture, this despite the ruling from an infallible authority.

First century Christians had the Old Testament, and had "certainty" that it was the very word of almighty. Clement of Rome frequently quotes the Old Testament. He does so, with the understanding that the words of the Old Testament are the very words of God. He was certain of it, this despite not having the alleged infallible ruling of an infallible authority. His use of Old Testament passages show a certainty that the words were God's words. Or, think of Paul's exhortation to Timothy. Paul notes that from infancy Timothy "knew" the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:15): "and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." How was it Timothy could know the Scriptures were the words of God without an infallible church council declaring which books were canonical?

Obviously, the notion that an infallible authority can only provide canon certainty cannot be an accurate explanation of Christian reality. Think of all the New Testament writers. They freely quote the Old Testament with the certainty that it was the Word of God. Yet, no infallible source defined the canon for them. A "source" definitely received the Old Testament canon, but that "source" was not infallible, nor do I recall Rome arguing that the Jewish Old Testament leadership was infallible. There is no logical reason why the entirety of the Bible needs an infallible authority to declare the canon. It wasn't needed previous to Trent, Damasus, or the pre-Christ Jewish authority.

How was it that Timothy had "certainty" the Old Testament was the word of God? It is God's sovereign power that reveals the canon to His church, for His purposes. The people of God are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. It is they, who are given spiritual life and continually fed by its words. Jesus did this himself, as recorded in Luke 24:45, "Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." As to how a Protestant can have certainty on the canon, my certainty is in the providence and work of God. Only faith will read the Bible and hear the voice of God. God used means in giving us His canon, but like the Old Testament believers, those means don't need to be infallible for one to know they are reading and hearing God's word.

If sola scriptura isn't sola, this certainly isn't proven by Roman Catholic claims or argumentation. If Roman Catholic have God's voice somewhere else other than the Scriptures, they need to prove it. Till then, I'll stick with that which is God breathed and which can thoroughly equip a believer (2 Tim. 3:16). I'll stick with that which is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane

Hurricane Irene hit here in NJ. I've been up most the night. My back up battery for my sump pump failed around 2:30 AM when the power went out, and my basement began filling with water. I actually keep my books and music stuff in the basement, so as the water began rising, I moved what could.

I simply prayed. Books are just... things. So, I simply was thankful for the years I had them. As the water filled, I turned off my furnace and hot water heater, unplugged what I could, and tried to figure out how to get down to my electrical panel once the water stopped.  As the water encroached upon the part of my basement where my books are, the power came back on, and my pump kicked into gear, and in about 5 minutes the water was gone. If the power though goes out again, it'll be the same thing all over again.

I've got a serious leak in my kitchen, but as long as I empty the buckets, all will be fine. I'll re-shingle and patch. I've  yet to head into my attic, but I expect to find a few leaks there as well. My house is around 100 years old. It's seen this before.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Never Throw Rocks at Scholars in Ivory Towers

"Your scholar is wrong because my scholar says..." This is an example of "My scholar can beat up your scholar." I do not lack the intelligence to recognize there are gifted people who've done important work on the Reformation. But on the other hand I do not worship scholarship. Scholars are not infallible sources of information. What a great scholar concluded  in the 1800's might not be accurate today. Then on the other hand there's the problem of generational snobbery. It's indeed possible that a scholar today thinks his work far surpasses that of previous generations. Every scholar pours facts into a particular worldview, so, for example, a contemporary scholar with a Marxist worldview might not be a better scholar than someone who came before him. Then there's the problem of scholars going beyond their field of expertise. I've seen this with some Church historians. It's impossible to know every nuance of every bit of church history and theology. Sometimes a scholar simply relies on the opinion of someone who came before him. If that work contains errors, that error will be passed along. And so on. I'm certain this list could be greatly expanded.

So who am I to pontificate on the pros and cons of scholarship? I am not a scholar, so how could I possibly voice any of the above concerns? Here's an excerpt from the CARM boards from one of my adoring fans who asked a similar question:

The great Jaroslav Pelikan warned against amateurs and their presumptions:

“Only a working scholar, one who is himself engaged in the investigation of texts and sources, is in a position to summarize and evaluate the work of his collegues, for his command of these texts and sources puts him into a position to pass expert judgment on the quarrels among the learned. Yet he cannot claim to have formed his opinions of such a vast subject (the Reformation) strictly on the basis of his own research. That is why Professor Dolan (Catholic) alludes to earlier studies, and why someone who has himself a working knowledge with these materials will catch many other echoes of these studies in the pages of this book.” Jaroslav Pelikan, (Lutheran, Professor of Church History at Yale), Introduction to: John P. Dolan, “History of the Reformation”, pg ix-x

Here we have a Lutheran Introduction to a Catholic History of the Reformation, in which the Lutheran states quite clearly that non-professional, non-working, non-Scholars are NOT in a position to judge those who are. Now James, this is exactly what you have done.

Despite the sentiment against me in the above statement, I'd like to thank my fan for pointing out this book: John P. Dolan, History of the Reformation, A Conciliatory Assessment of Opposite Views (New York: Desclee Company, 1964). That book arrived a few days ago, and I finally had a chance to thumb through it. Dolan is a Roman Catholic scholar. I was familiar with Dolan, as he is the author of the Luther entry in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, an entry far different than that in the old Catholic Encyclopedia.

Below is the actual context of Pelikan's statement. Pelikan explains that Dolan has given a scholarly overview of recent Reformation research. Pelikan explains that a working scholar familiar with the issues is the only one in a position to present his materials evaluating all the differing perspectives on the Reformation. That is, Dolan's book is a credible scholarly book needed to be taken seriously. My fan though used the quote to take a jab at me: "Here we have a Lutheran Introduction to a Catholic History of the Reformation, in which the Lutheran states quite clearly that non-professional, non-working, non-Scholars are NOT in a position to judge those who are. Now James, this is exactly what you have done." This is not what Pelikan said. Pelikan is referring to Dolan's book and its value as a scholarly study.

Here is Jaroslov Pelikan, from the Introduction to Dolan's book:

The great Protestant theologian and historian, Ernst Troeltsch, once coined the epigram: "We must overcome history by history." By this he meant not only that history, as a bearer of the will and purpose of God, can transcend and break the forms of the past by producing something new, but also that historical research can be a means of renewal and reform if it subjects those forms to honest examination. A prime illustration of Troeltsch's axiom is the history of the Reformation. Scholarship in Reformation history has been shaped as much by the religious and theological presuppositions of the scholar as by the historical materials. A careful study of a volume on the history of the Reformation can give the reader a pretty good idea of the theology of the author — perhaps even a better idea of this than of the theology of the Reformation. Conversely, the more honestly `historical" one's research is, the more carefully will he examine his presuppositions. And as historical research participates in the give-and-take of the scholarly community, everyone's presuppositions come in for review and criticism.

Such review and criticism have dominated recent scholarship in Reformation research. The succinct history of this research in Chapter I of this book can introduce the reader to the currents of scholarly debate and give him a sense of how deep the currents of that debate are. A clearer sense of this can come only from an exposure to the actual data of Reformation research, as these are summarized in the main body of, this book. To an extent that the modesty of its scholarly apparatus may belie, Professor Dolan's History is based upon extensive study both of the source materials and of the scholarly research produced by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and secular students of the Reformation era. In many ways, his account could be called a Forschungsbericht, a report on the present state of scholarly investigation and on its tentative results. Only a working scholar, one who is himself engaged in the investigation of texts and sources, is in a position to summarize and evaluate the work of his colleagues, for his own command of these texts and sources puts him into a position to pass expert judgment on the quarrels among the learned. Yet he cannot claim to have formed his opinions of such a vast subject strictly on the basis of his own research, but must rely on the mining and minting of many other scholars. That is why Professor Dolan alludes to earlier studies, and why someone who has himself been working with these materials will catch many other echoes of these studies in the pages of this book.
The irony is that the person chastising me for commenting on this or that scholarly opinion went on to do the same thing.  He cited Heiko A. Oberman, Luther Man between God and the Devil, pg 92-93 and then stated,

"Normally Oberman is a voice of reason. However, it seems that his statement that Luther’s vow was “not abnormal”, is more than a little “hopeful”. In order to find Luther’s terrified vow as being “normal”, we would be required that many monks decided to enter the monastery in moments of bone crushing terror. That would be a stretch to say the least."

According to this Romanist, he doesn't have the authority himself to make such a statement! Many Romanist apologists comment on scholars and texts, and some of these guys don't have any sort of theological degrees. If my detractor wants to continue with a such a notion, he's eliminated a large chunk of Romanist apologetics. Maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing.

So who am I to comment on scholarship? I'm just a guy with a blog. I simply post the way I work through things as I seek to understand. It's up to you to check facts and sources, be they something I post, or something in a book you're reading for yourself. I don't think any scholar would object to a layman checking his facts.

Remember when Paul spoke in Acts 17 to the Bereans? Did Paul say "I'm an Apostle, therefore an authority, you have no right to question me"? The Scriptures say, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." In Galatians Paul says his very words were to be scrutinized: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tossing Blog Comments into the Elbe, Save One

-Updated Below- 8/27/11

Here are a few general comments in regard to Luther and the book of Esther.

Blog reader Brigitte stated, Let's play "Who has the strongest 'you will never convince me attitude." This is a ridiculous thread. Bottom line, knowing Luther, he could have easily said either or both. If the book did not preach Christ or have prophecies, etc. it just simply is not on par with those who do. This is a good rule.

Those are good points from Brigitte in regard to Luther studies, and not to be tossed into the Elbe. I've been maintaining that the information is simply to vague and sparse to come down strongly either way. It could easily be as Brigitte describes. What Luther thought about this or that ultimately doesn't matter anyway.

It's the polemical nature of things like this that I find fascinating. What troubles me is when Roman Catholics like Paul Hoffer say, "And to top it off, all this huffing and puffing is over a quote that probably accurately reflects Luther's disdain for Esther even if the quote itself is inaccurate." That's a big assumption, and I'd simply have to ask Paul if he's surveyed the entire corpus of Luther's writings. It could "probably" be a number of possibilities. It doesn't surprise me at all that Mr. Hoffer would lean towards a negative perspective on Luther's view. We are all motivated by our presuppositions.

Last night I briefly went through some archived web pages saved on an extra hard drive. Some of the web pages go back almost 10 years. I found a number of instances of Roman Catholics citing the very bogus quote in question. One old page stated, "Martin Luther, in accord with his posture of supreme self-importance as restorer of Christianity, even presumed, inconsistently, to judge various books of the Bible, God's holy Word." Patrick O'Hare was then cited:
"Of the Pentateuch he says: 'We have no wish either to see or hear Moses. Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . . Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . . The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . . The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible . . ."
Now if anyone were to search this blog, you'll find I've probably worked through all of the quotes, and in each instance, O'Hare proved to be a propagandist. Go ahead and Google search any of the quotes above. This was only one instance from one old web page. I can post more examples if needed from various Roman Catholic websites and discussion boards. Regardless of who was responsible for rendering this Table Talk quote inaccurate, this has been a favorite quote of Roman Catholic Internet apologists. That is simply the truth. When I looked back on my older entries about this quote, you'll notice I never picked a fight with anyone specifically about this quote.

It was after I posted this second link that a Roman Catholic left a comment stating, "See my thorough refutation." To which I responded, “Refute what? Stop being silly. To refute this would be to prove Luther meant Esther and not Esdras in this comment. I don't think even you would be foolish enough to attempt this, but you never know. Good luck slaying windmills.” So, I never picked any fight over this quote. I simply posted the facts of the matter.

Update 8/27/11
I began responding to Paul Hoffer's comment below, but it became so long I thought it best to post as part of this entry. Paul's words will be in blue.

Hi Mr. Swan,

Hello Paul.

you quote Fr. O'Hare as if his works are on the bedstand of every Catholic apologist.

As I mentioned, the book was quite popular for awhile with Roman Catholic Internet apologists, and even some of the bigger name Roman apologists. Here's a sample:

Steve Ray, Crossing the Tiber, page 46.

Steve Ray, Upon This Rock, page 104.

Steve Ray: Book Recommendations "Even though this book is a bit polemic, it is nevertheless, an important read, telling the whole story of Luther that Protestant authors and historians have failed to tell. This book is a sobering, eye-opening, record-straightening analysis of the life, thought, and work of Martin Luther"

Phil Porvaznik: Recommended Catholic and Christian Books

Catholic Culture: The MOST Theological Collection

These were only a few hits from among dozens, go ahead and check for yourself. As I mentioned previously, I became interested in Luther quotes while dialoging with Roman Catholics on discussion boards. I found over and over again that if O'Hare wasn't being cited directly, he was often the source from which many Luther quotes were being taken. Now with so much more available on the Internet, O'Hare isn't as popular as he once was amongst those on your side of the Tiber. If you search my blog, you'll notice that over the years I spent a lot of time on O'Hare's book.

In this link, you'll notice this:

Luther was not content even to let the matter rest there, and proceeded to cast doubt on many other books of the Bible which are accepted as canonical by all Protestants. He considered Job and Jonah mere fables, and Ecclesiastes incoherent and incomplete. He wished that Esther (along with 2 Maccabees) "did not exist," and wanted to "toss it into the Elbe" river.

The text above contains no bibliographic references, but its similarities are so similar to O’Hare’s work, I would be surprised if another source other than O’Hare was being used. Compare it to this. While every Roman apologist doesn't have O'Hare's book, it obvious to me that a lot of Roman Catholics do indeed have the book. The Esther / Esdras quote was just one of a number of quotes taken primarily from O'Hare's book over the last 10 years, and popularized on the Internet. I recently went through the Roman Catholic web page, Luther Exposing the Myth. The Esther quote is cited from O'Hare's book (see footnote #64). The Catholic Apologist Network cites it here. These are only a few examples. Search some of the discussion boards, or even the Catholic Answers boards. you'll simply have to trust me on this one: I've had the Esther / Esdras quote cited to me a more than a few times, along with many other quotes taken from O'Hare. Go ahead and blame Protestants for the origin of the quote (which I think is ridiculous), it still doesn't excuse the fact that many in your camp simply take Luther quotes from secondary sources without ever looking them up.

I do not own any books written by him nor have I ever read any of his books. Thus your linking of my comments with his is not well placed.

They were actually two different thoughts. Notice I began by saying I was posting "a few general comments." I was not inferring that you were an O'Hare supporter.

I would note in passing that my opinion was formed in part by reading Bondage of the Will, statements made by folks like Bainton, Bruce, and Filson as well as something a guy who went by the appellation of Tertiumquid wrote in 2004. Perhaps you have may have heard of that last gentleman?

While I respect scholarship, I don't worship scholarship. For instance, Bruce is certainly in error when he quoted Luther as follows, "he is reported as saying, ‘I hate Esther and 2 Maccabees so much that I wish they did not exist; they contain too much Judaism and no little heathen vice' ". On the other hand Bruce is certainly correct when he immediately adds this footnote: "too much weight should not be laid on many of the obiter dicta in Luther’s collected Table Talk."

More importantly, please note I did not challenge if Fr. Luther thought Esther was canonical.

That's refreshing. Your friend appears to think differently. As I've looked at this issue off and on for a number of years, I simply don't know.

Obviously, he must have thought part of it was since he included it in his Bible and thought enough of the "added" parts that Catholics like to print them in his Bible as well in a different part.

Why, that would be the same point I've been making for a number of years now.

My comment that you quote reflects the fact that based on what I know of the matter, (which is very little to be sure) Fr. Luther did not think very highly of it, a fact borne out by his words in "Bondage of the Will" and some other works of his besides Table Talk.

I don't really put much weight on the Table Talk utterances in general, and certainly not the one in question specifically. The quote from Bondage of the Will though is certainly the only quote worth taking seriously, and even that quote has ambiguity. Nor do we know if Luther's view of Esther was in flux throughout his career (it can be proven that his opinion of Revelation and Hebrews certainly varied over the years, so why not Esther?).

One of the few favorable references I recall Luther ever make about Esther has to do with the deuterocanonical parts which he called "cornflowers" deserving to be planted in its own garden, if memory serves. Fr. Luther may have included Esther in his canon, but he was probably pinching his nose shut when he did so.

The cornflowers reference can be found here. One line of evidence I have not quoted (if I recall my own blog posts) is Luther's citing of Esther, which he did occasionally throughout his career. I guess one could consider some of those instances as "favorable." I don't think though that such favorable references mean all that much, because Luther also cites from the Apocrypha in a favorable way throughout his career. 

Nope, the problem I had was not whether Fr. Luther considered the work to be canonical, but the fact that you denigrated the work of someone who once had used the maligned quote in a book which he himself later acknowledged to be a false quote and had withdrawn it from later editions of his work, a small fact that you gloss over if mention at all.

That's quite a sentence, to read out loud, one must take a good deep breath.

I think you've missed my real target here Paul. If you go back and read my post (which I really hope you will), you'll notice my target was an Anglican who primarily regurgitated someone else's work. He referred to one of my arguments as "lame" and denigrates me throughout his posts. I'm portrayed quite negatively, as if I don't know what I'm talking about. He puts forth your friend's article as a "must read." Well if I'm such an idiot according to this Anglican (who at one point mocks me for my desire to have solid references), I think it's highly comical that the first thing he cites by regurgitation is a direct benefit from one of my blog posts. Of course, you wouldn't know that from reading this, which, if I recall originally said the following, but now no longer does:
“I accept this as a legitimate gripe, and the "Esdras" version of this particular quote. Mea culpa on behalf of all those (including yours truly) who have wrongly used this false citation in the past or present, and kudos to James for correcting the error. Falsehood of any sort (whether inadvertant [sic] or not) does no one any good.”
As I stated in my blog entry, my Anglican detractor appears to think the Roman e-pologist he cited simply was hit with a cosmic meatball of clarity one day and posted a correction to his previous years of error. Don't you get it Paul? My target was a far different person than you think. It was the Anglican who portrayed me quite negatively. That Anglican didn't even realize that the very first thing he cited was a direct benefit from something I put together.

My problem was that there was a high road to present your information and a low one and you chose the latter.

I'm hopeful my comment above cleared this up for you. As to low and high roads, you need to deal with the people on your side of the Tiber first before you even look my way and attempt to be a moral guide of Internet discourse. You've certainly got your work cut out for you. I should not have to explain myself here. Simply look for the blog that posts pictures of toilet paper.

Now you point fingers at how others treat you as justification for treating someone else poorly,

I was hopeful you'd see the very person you defend and want me to treat fairly (whatever that means) had no problem accepting Richard's comments. I don't recall ever talking about Romanist families, or family members. In my opinion, that little Facebook banter was despicable. Shame on all of you for the little laugh.

but if one were to reflect upon it, that is merely a rationalization or an excuse for not treating others as Our Lord commanded us to do.

I've explained my intended target. It's up to you now to re-read my post, the entire thing, and ask yourself who Swan was after, and what was the overall point of the entire entry? None of you seemed to even notice 99% of the entry was about specific Luther quotes.

If you do not like what some Catholic apologists and commentators say about you, why not lead the way and show them how people should be treated, not repeat what you point to as a poor example. Perhaps a dip in the Elbe would well serve all of us who tend to get all worked up over what others write about us. Would you like to join me?

Actually, it's you guys that made a big deal about all of this. I simply pointed out to the anonymous Anglican that I'm not as clueless as he thinks. If you guys couldn't interpret that properly, that's your problem, not mine. As to Internet discourse, I wrote on that recently here. I know this sounds like I'm ending on a sour note, but this entire discussion has gone on long enough.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Man-Made Religion tries to make God more understandable

The doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates respect for the Bible, rather than trying to make God simple and understandable.
“If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple is he has no facts to bother about.”
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 145. (MacMillan Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1943, 1945, 1952. (Originally in Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God, 1944, p. 19)
“The doctrine of the Trinity was formulated by followers of Jesus Christ to safeguard the good news that in Jesus Christ we encounter God face to face. It was not devised to make God less understandable, or to make God so mysterious that the common people have to depend on clergy and theologians to understand it for them, as the JWs [Jehovah’s Witnesses] charge. Instead, the doctrine of the Trinity was developed out of respect for God’s revelation of Himself. [the Scriptures, OT and NT] The Witnesses’ doctrines about God, Christ, and “holy spirit”, on the other hand, were developed not in order to represent the bible’s teaching more faithfully, but to make God understandable and comprehensible. “
“The choice is therefore between believing in the true God as he has revealed himself, mystery and all, or believing in a God that is relatively simple to understand but bears little resemblance to the true God. Trinitarians are willing to live with a God they cannot fully comprehend. As C. S. Lewis put it:
“If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple is he has no facts to bother about.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses (Arianism) and Islam are similar in that they reject the doctrine of the Trinity; which demonstrate that they are man made religions, among other problems of many false doctrines.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Politics and Comedy

This is very funny and brilliant. I usually don't agree with Jon Stewart's political positions; but he is a very gifted comedian and smart. I don't understand some of Ron Paul's positions, and I disagree with several of them, if I understand them correctly. He seems really solid on the Constitution and for the most part, on most financial issues. (As far as I can understand the big picture.) But I wish he would produce lecture length videos to explain the security/defense/military issues and the moral issues more thoroughly rather than just sound-bite answers. I wish the media would give him more of a chance to explain further and I wish they would give time for him to explain himself.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Root of Man-Made Religion

Why the issue of the Bondage of the Will in sin is so important.

John 8:34
Ephesians 2:1-3
Romans 6:22
Mark 7:20-23
Matthew 5:22-26
Matthew 5:28
Genesis 6:5
Jeremiah 13:23
Jeremiah 17:9
Romans 3:9-23
Romans 8:7
John 6:44
John 6:65
John 8:43
John 8:47

James Swan wrote an excellent post on Luther's Bondage of the Will back in 2006, and shows how Arminians (like Dave Hunt) have effectively, and at the root, denied the Reformation, even though they don't know it.


James Swan cites my favorite Luther quote (along with his Diet of Worms "I will not recant" speech) :

In Luther’s closing remarks to Erasmus in his monumental work, The Bondage of the Will, Luther states:

I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevancies about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles (for trifles they are rather than basic issues), with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit.”

Source: LW 33:294.
Luther was very insightful. He wrote that the issue of the bondage of the will in sin, man's inability to choose good over evil, without the grace of God, was the main root issue of the Reformation and he thanked Erasmus for focusing in on that.

We do not have free will ability to choose or do good without the grace of God. We do have natural human freedom of choice in that we are free to choose as we want to choose; but the question that gets to the root of that issue even deeper is "what does man naturally want, without the grace of God in regeneration (being born-again - John 3:1-8; Titus 3:3-5; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Acts 16:14) ?

R. C. Sproul's Willing to Believe explores the free will issue in history, from Pelagius and Augustine to Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Charles Finney, Jonathan Edwards, and Lewis Speery Chafer. This book is very helpful to explore the depths of an issue that many people in modern evangelicalism never wrestle with.
What do Muslims, Arminians, and Roman Catholics have in common?

Here is part of a Debate between Thabiti Anyabwile (Reformed Christian) and Bassam Zawadi (Muslim)

"How can we find forgiveness from a Holy God?"

This is part 4 of the debate where they ask each other questions. It gets to the roots of the differences between Christianity and Islam.

I recommend the whole debate to watch and take notes on and to think about deeply.
http://vimeo.com/24464095 - you can find the rest of the debate once you go to part 4 that I link and embed here. Bassam's opening statement in part 2 is very good for Christians to get a more accurate understanding of what Islam actually is. It is important for Christians to accurately understand and present Islam as it understands itself, in order to communicate the gospel to Muslims. (In future posts, I may comment on more of those details later, but for now, I want to focus on the issues of free will here, and what man-made religion has in common.)

2011 Dubai Muslim-Christian Dialogue - Part 4 of 6 - Q & A Between Speakers from gdskc on Vimeo.

In the first 8 minutes of this section, Bassam seeks to establish that the atonement of Christ and God the Father pouring out His wrath upon Christ on the cross is somehow an ontological change in the Trinity. Bassam calls it an "intrinsic /internal change" as opposed to an extrinsic/ external change. This is not the focus of this blog article, but I hope to explore this more in the future. A temporary action in a relationship within the 3 persons of the Trinity (God the Father pouring out His wrath upon the Son, who voluntarily and out of love willingly died - John 10:18) does not seem to logically follow that it is an internal change within the nature of God.
The focus of this blog article is on the 17 minute mark and beyond.

Thabiti seeks to get to the roots of the differences between the Islamic concept of the holiness of God and the justice of God vs. what the Bible says. Bassam seems to have a very common and human understanding of God's justice as "what is fair", which, to me, is so typical of the average human being and their answers in witnessing situations, and also seems typical of left wing secularists and liberals. But there was not enough time to explore to exactly what Bassam was trying to communicate about justice, God's holiness, and the will of God and the arbitrary and capricious nature of Allah's will, that seems to be there in Islam, and has greatly affected Islamic societies with fatalism.

At around the 17:37 mark - Thabiti says to Bassam: "your question assumes that man is neutral"

Later, around the 36 minute mark, Bassam says, "humans are created good". Indeed Islam teaches that human beings are created good (Qur'an Surah 30:30), and that they are able to present Allah with a "whole" or "sound" or "sincere" or "clean heart". (see Surah 26:88-89) Bassam refers to this passage at the beginning of the debate.

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ

"The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail"

إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

"But only he who brings to Allah a sound heart." (Surah 26:88-89)

Thabiti refers to Mark 7:20-23, [I wish he had read it slowly in his presentation, as I think beginning in verse 14 of Mark 7, this passage may be the most powerful passage to use in evangelism with Muslims, along with Matthew 5:22-30, in the hope and prayer that God would use His word to convict their hearts of their sin and draw them to Himself.] - Bassam seems to struggle here and will not admit that all humans have a corrupt nature that is sinful and prideful, and that we need freedom and forgiveness from our corrupt natures.

Around the 38 minute point - Thabiti says, "So you are Arminian." and Bassam agrees, and admits, basically saying, "Yes, I think we are closer to the Arminians on the free will issue and we are closer to the Catholics on the faith plus works issue."

Throughout the debate, Bassam admits that Muslims have some kind of a "purgatory".
I have heard this many times in evangelism with Muslims. They admit that they are not perfect and have not kept the will of Allah perfectly and sin, and so, many times Muslims have said to me, "I will probably spend maybe 200 years in the hell-fire."

What do Muslims, Arminians, and Roman Catholics have in common?
Answer: The Free will of man (innate ability to choose good over evil) is common to all three; a faith plus works salvation is common to Muslims and Roman Catholics, and to those Arminians who do not believe in the perseverance of the saints, and some kind of purgatory is common to Roman Catholicism and Islam.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Luther's View of Esther: A Response to "Nazaroo"

While searching around for something else I ended up on BaptistBoard.Com, viewing a discussion thread entitled The Book of Esther and Martin Luther.  I was surprised to find an Anglican physicist (named "Nazaroo") throwing me under the bus for my opinion of Luther's view of the book of Esther. He was doing so also with the help of Roman Catholic e-pologist blog entries.

The Bogus Esther Quote
He first began by citing a Roman Catholic web page addressing a botched Luther quote on Esther. What he doesn't appear to realize is that it was I who pointed this error out to the verydefender of Rome he's citing. For quite a number of years a number of Roman Catholics had been citing this Luther quote:
“The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness.”
I pointed out here that Esther was a mistake for Esdras. I love finding little tidbits like this, because whatever Luther's view, such quotes show how poorly some of Rome's defenders do their homework. My Anglican detractor didn't mention this. He appears to think his champion simply was hit with a cosmic meatball of clarity one day and posted a correction to his previous years of error.

Long Live Luther's Table Talk
"Nazaroo" Began by quoting Luther's Table Talk (via a Roman e-pologist blog entry). Perhaps he's unaware that the Table Talk is not a reliable vehicle for determining Luther's opinions or theology. I must sound like a broken  record at this point: Luther didn't write the Table Talk. I was extremely gratified when Roman Catholic scholar Franz Posset recently stated, "the real distortion of the Luther image occurred with the Table Talk." Posset notes that the Table Talk should be read for entertainment rather than as a serious historical guide.

"Nazaroo" argues (via a Roman e-pologist blog article) that after the bogus Table Talk Esther quote comes the following legitimate Table Talk Esther quote:
"I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities. The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets; though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains."
If one looks at the version of the Table Talk being cited by "Nazaroo", it does indeed appear that while Esdras reads first (instead of Esther), this other mentioning of Esther does appear to be an example of Luther denigrating the book of Esther. However, such is not always as it appears. Here was a fascinating review of both Table Talk "Esther" quotes put forth in the book, Vindication of Luther by Julius Charles Hare:
For instance, when our eyes run through the Reviewer's anthology, one of the most startling sentences is this: "The Book of Esther I toss into the Elbe." If a person familiar with Luther's style lights upon this sentence, he will recognise the great Reformer's unmistakable mark in the words, I toss into the Elbe; and it will be a pang to him to find Luther applying such rude words to any book, even the least important, in the Holy Scriptures. But he did not. The Reviewer asserts that he gives us Luther's "own words, literally translated : "Mr Ward asserts that the Reviewer's name is "a sufficient voucher for the accuracy of his quotations:" and yet Luther never said anything of the sort about the book of Esther. The original of this "literal translation" is plainly the following sentence in Luther's Tabletalk, Das dritte Such Esther werfe ich in die Elbe: The third book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. Why the Reviewer left out the word third in his "literal translation," it is for him to explain. Were one to follow the example he sets in imputing the vilest motives to all persons in authority in the University of Oxford, one should call this a fraudulent imposition. Was he puzzled to make out what could be meant by the third book of Esther? and did he intend tacitly to correct the text? When words are made the ground of an accusation, they should be examined with scrupulous care; and if it appear requisite to alter them, this should be expressly stated. Here the next sentence plainly shews that a totally different correction is needed. "In the fourth book, in that which Esther dreamt, there are pretty, and also some good sayings, as, Wine is strong, the king stronger, women still stronger, but truth the strongest of all." I quote from Walch's edition, Vol. XXII. 2079, and have no means of examining older copies of the Tischredren; but the old English translation speaks of the third book of Hester. So that the error, gross as it is, seems to have belonged to the original text. For there can be no question that Luther had been talking, not of a non-existent third and fourth book of Esther, but of the book of Ezra or Esdras: though there is still much confusion in the report of his words; since the argument about strength does not stand in the fourth book, but in the third, the first of the Apocryphal ones; those of Ezra and Nehemiah being numbered as the first two. Thus Luther's words are nothing but a Lutheran mode of saying what Jerome actually did, when he cast these Apocryphal books out of his Version, as he says in his Preface to the book of Ezra: "Nec quemquam moveat quod unus a nobis editus liber est; nec apocryphorum tertii et quarti somniis delectetur; quia et apud Hebraeos Ezrae Neemiaeque sermones in unum volumen coarctantur, et quae non habentur apud illos, nec de viginti quatuor senibus sunt, procul abjicienda." Nor can anything well go beyond Jerome's contemptuous expressions about the same books in his pamphlet against Vigilantius (bi).
Assuredly too the next sentence quoted by the Reviewer,— "I am so an enemy to the book of Esther that I would it did not exist; for it Judaizes too much, and hath in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness,"—though here again the English Translation agrees with Walch in applying Luther's words to the Book of Esther, was in fact spoken of the Apocryphal books of Esdras. For the whole passage in the Tabletalk is as follows : "When the Doctor was correcting the translation of the second Book of the Maccabees, he said, I dislike this book and that of Esther so much, that I wish they did not exist; for they Judaize too much, and have much heathenish extravagance. Then Master Forster said, The Jews esteem the book of Esther more than any of the prophets." The combination of the book with that of the Maccabees, — which the Reviewer ought not to have omitted, — as well as Forster's remark, leaves no doubt that Luther spoke of the book of Esdras (bj). These blunders shew how unsafe it is to build any conclusions on the authority of the Tabletalk.
The German text of the Table Talk quote can be found here. Hare's statement "These blunders shew how unsafe it is to build any conclusions on the authority of the Tabletalk" is on the mark!

Other Luther / Esther Quotes
"Nazaroo" also argues (via the same Roman e-pologist blog article) from a quote found in Luther's On The Jews and their Lies, "Oh, how fond they are of the book of Esther, which is so beautifully attuned to their bloodthirsty, vengeful, murderous yearning and hope". I covered this quote here. This quote doesn't at all address the issue of canonicity, but rather involves the interpretation of Esther 9:5 ff.

The only legitimate Luther quote speaking poorly of Esther in  regard to canonicity comes from The Bondage of the Will (also covered here):
“...[T]hough I could rightly reject this book[Ecclesiasticus], for the time being I accept it so as not to waste time by getting involved in a dispute about the books received in the Hebrew canon. For you poke more than a little sarcastic fun at this when you compare Proverbs and The Song of Solomon (which with a sneering innuendo you call the “Love Song”) with the two books of Esdras, Judith, the story of Susanna and the Dragon, and Esther (which despite their inclusion of it in the canon deserves more than all the rest in my judgment to be regarded as noncanonical)." [LW 33:110].
This quote was a direct response to the following from Erasmus:
I do not think anyone will object against the authority of this work that it was not, as Jerome points out, regarded as canonical by the Hebrews, since the Church of Christ has received it by common consent into its canon; nor do I see any reason why the Hebrews felt they must exclude the book from theirs, seeing they accepted the Proverbs of Solomon and the Love Song. As to the fact that they did not receive into their canon the last two books of Esdras, the story in Daniel about Susanna and Bel the dragon, Judith, Esther, and several others, but reckoned them among the hagiographa, anyone who reads those books carefully can easily see what their reasons were. But in this work there is nothing of that kind to disturb the Reader” [Erasmus, The Diatribe, as cited in Luther's Works 33:110].
Luther prefaces his comment by granting the canonicty of Ecclesiasticus so as not waste time on tangents with Erasmus.  In both quotes above, It seems to me the apocryphal books (including Esther) are being compared to Proverbs and the Song of Solomon. I say this because his comment is a direct response to Erasmus, who indeed compared Proverbs and the Song of Solomon to the "two books of Esdras, the story in Daniel about Susanna and Bel the dragon, Judith, Esther, and several others." That is, Luther is simply repeating back what Erasmus said in his response.

Luther's German Bible
Despite this quote from The Bondage of the Will, Luther translated Esther and allowed it in his Bible, without offering any negative criticism as to its non-canonicity in his Bible prefaces. He translated it, not with the apocryphal books, but rather with the canonical books. If he considered it apocryphal, why didn't he translate it with apocrypha? Why didn't he place it with the apocrypha when he placed the Biblical books in order? In fact, in one place in his Bible prefaces, Luther distinguishes the particular noncanonical parts of Esther, and places them with the other apocryphal writings:
"Preface to Parts of Esther and Daniel.Here follow several pieces which we did not wish to translate [and include] in the prophet Daniel and in the book of Esther. We have uprooted such cornflowers (because they do not appear in the Hebrew versions of Daniel and Esther)" [LW 35:353].
Oddly "Nazaroo" goes on to argue Luther translated and included Esther in the canon so as to mistranslate it and use it against the Jews. That though is a blatant admission for Luther treating the book as canonical. "Nazaroo" in essence argues Luther didn't think Esther was canonical, but included it as canonical in his Bible for ulterior motives. Luther though could've just as easily placed the book along with other apocryphal books. this simply doesn't explain why Luther would go through the trouble of separating the spurious parts of Esther from the genuine.

The information available on this subject is sparse, and I'm not so dogmatic as to insist my view is the only reasonable view. It could very well be Luther didn't think the book of Esther was canonical. I would though need some clear primary evidence as to this assertion.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Luther Didn't Believe in Hell?

Here's an odd one from the CARM boards:

"Luther’s terror over his own Salvation was not a fear of burning in hell for all of eternity. In fact he didn’t believe in a physical hell, but more of a psychological hell. His fear was of death, not a death of torment but a death of annihilation, a death that meant nothingness after life on earth. It was either everlasting heaven immediately upon death or – nothing. What kind of a “Christian theologian” believes or HAS EVER believed that?"
As far as I can tell, the above thought was snatched from Richard Marius, The Christian Between God and Death, p. 61 and perhaps other sections of this book. If it was not, I'll adjust this post. I've done a brief overview of this book here. For Marius, Luther was not the heroic God believer in a cosmic spiritual battle. Luther was a man who questioned whether or not God even exists, and was terrified of death.

Marius first records Luther describing hell as a place of conscious suffering in his commentary on Psalm 20. So, whatever the case, at some point Luther did indeed present evidence he believed in a physical hell, even according to Marius. Marius does his best to downplay this text, commenting that the description of hell "seem(s) like an afterthought."

Marius then presents material from Luther's commentary on Jonah and says "(Luther) never flatly denied the existence of hell, but came close to doing just that in his German commentary on the book of Jonah..." He then quotes Luther saying: "What hell may be in the last day, I am not altogether sure. I do not believe it is a special place where damned souls now exist like the place painters depict and servants of the belly [evidently the begging friars] preach it." Marius then remarks, "He cites Peter, Paul, and Jesus to argue Satan is not in hell but that he is in this world and in the air, and this could not be if hell were a particular place."

Here's though what Luther says in his commentary on Jonah about hell. Luther states:

"I am not so sure what hell is like before the Day of Judgment. The notion that hell is a specific place, now tenanted by the souls of the damned, as artists portray it and the belly servers preach it, I consider of no value, for we know that the devils are not yet in hell, but as Peter declares (2 Peter 2:4), they are “in ropes of nether gloom.” And St. Paul speaks of “powers and world rulers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Christ also terms the devil “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). To dominate the world, to commit so much villainy, and to create so much misery would be impossible for the devils if they were confined to hell. The agony of hell would surely deter them from this. Scripture also says of many saints that they went down into hell, as Jonah does here. Thus we hear this of Job (Job 17:13), and Jacob laments (Gen. 37:35): “I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Scripture uses the word “Sheol” graphically to describe the anxiety and the agony of the dying. It adapts itself to their mood and feelings. And the dying do feel as though they were descending into hell, that is, into God’s wrath, although they know of no specific place to which they are departing. Everybody carries his hell with him wherever he may be so long as he feels the final anguish of death and God’s anger. In conformity with this, St. Peter in Acts 2:27 interprets Ps. 16:10 as spoken by Christ: “Thou dost not give Me up to Sheol, etc.,” and he says (v. 24) that God “loosed the pangs of death.” St. Peter wants us to think of “Sheol” as the pain of death that Christ felt when He died on the cross and when He departed this life and passed into the power of God. However, on the Last Day this will assume a different aspect. Then hell will be a particular place and the abode of those consigned to it and the eternal wrath of God. But let this suffice. It is not very important whether or not one pictures hell as it is commonly portrayed and described. The fact remains that hell is far worse now—and will be even worse than it is now—than anyone is able to say, depict, or imagine." (LW 19:74).
Marius is simply wrong, as the context shows. Notice the qualifier Luther places above: "I am not so sure what hell is like before the Day of Judgment." Luther concludes, "However, on the Last Day this will assume a different aspect. Then hell will be a particular place and the abode of those consigned to it and the eternal wrath of God. But let this suffice. It is not very important whether or not one pictures hell as it is commonly portrayed and described. The fact remains that hell is far worse now—and will be even worse than it is now—than anyone is able to say, depict, or imagine."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Always be prepared to give an answer... with gentleness and respect... Most of the Time

Against my better judgment I've been interacting over on the CARM boards. I'm bunkered down in one thread, "Authority", Luther vs. the Catholic Church (continued). This thread been going since March 2010.It' s precursor began in September 2008 and went till March 2010. I check into this discussion from time to time, sometimes linking to tidbits of the discussion here on the blog. I've rejoined the thread starting here. I had been searching for a particular quote, and Google brought  me back to this thread. So, the shortage of blog entries over here are mostly due to my participation in this CARM thread.

The mastermind behind this lengthy discussion is a Roman Catholic named Tim MD. You can read through his lengthy tomes for yourself. Pick any one, and you'll get the gist. Tim has stated the following to me a few times: "I have some advice for you James: Do NOT enter the ministry in any form."

I don't know anything about Tim other than what he demonstrates via his reading and writing on CARM. Over the years, I've noticed some rather bizarre posts and responses he's offered. There have been times when I've tried to be charitable towards him. There are times I haven't.

The Scriptures exhort to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). There are indeed many people with whom I converse in which this applies.

On the other hand, the Scriptures also demonstrate there are times to simply follow the example of Christ and the Apostles. Let's bring Luther in to summarize. Luther asks rhetorically if the Lord used abusive language against his enemies: “Was he abusive when he called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, an offspring of vipers, hypocrites, and children of the Devil?… The truth, which one is conscious of possessing, cannot be patient against its obstinate and intractable enemies." In similar fashion, Luther responded to his opponent Latomus:

“He (Latomus) says that I lack the evangelical modesty which I enjoin, and that this is especially true of the book in which I replied to the sophists of Louvain when they condemned my teachings.  Now I have never insisted that anyone consider me modest or holy, but only that everyone recognize what the gospel is. If they do this, I give anyone freedom to attack my life to his heart’s content. My boast is that I have injured no one’s life or reputation, but only sharply reproached, as godless and sacrilegious, those assertions, inventions, and doctrines which are against the Word of God. I do not apologize for this, for I have good precedents. John the Baptist (Luke 3:7) and Christ after him (Matt. 23:33) called the Pharisees the “offspring of vipers.” So excessive and outrageous was this abuse of such learned, holy, powerful, and honored men that they said in reply that He had a demon (John 7:20). If in this instance Latomus had been judge, I wonder what the verdict would have been! Elsewhere Christ calls them “blind” (Matt. 23:16), “crooked,” “liars,” “sons of the devil” (John 8:44, 55). Good God, even Paul lacked evangelical modesty when he anathematized the teachers of the Galatians (Gal. 1:8) who were, I suppose, great men. Others he calls “dogs” (Phil. 3:2), “empty talkers” (Tit. 1:10), “deceivers” (Col. 2:4, 8). Further, he accused to his face the magician Elymas with being a “son of the devil, full of all deceit and villainy (Acts 13:10).”
With Tim, I've reached a point in which the former (1 Pet. 3:15) no longer applies, but the later does. Now, I don't plan on using any of the negative words Christ and the apostles used against their opponents. The above is merely to make the point that 1 Peter 3:15 is not the paradigm I'm using these days with Tim. Tim is not on CARM on an ecumenical encounter in which we're all learning about each other, sharing similarities, and politely discussing the differences. No, Tim stands vehemently against the Gospel and the sole authority of the Scriptures. He's demonstrated over the years that he's consistently not willing to listen. He stands committed to Romanism, and not just any Romanism (like the current post-Vatican 2 ecumenical Jimmy Akin / Catholic Answers approach), but rather an older strand that thinks all the heresy in the world finds it's path back to Luther and the Reformation. For Tim, to refute Luther either doctrinally or morally is to defeat Protestantism (at least in his mind). While some may think all this historical quibbling over little tidbits is trivial, I think Tim himself would admit he posts it for a reason, and that reason is to convince Protestants to embrace Romanism.

Perhaps in other areas of life, Tim is a great guy. Perhaps if I knew him in some other context things would be different. I don't, so he's simply words on a screen to me. If I met him as a stranger broken down on the side of the road, chances are I'd stop to help him. If he were the guy trying to merge into traffic, chances are I'd let him in. If Tim is some sort of war veteran, I'd shake his hand and thank him for his service. If he was picketing an abortion clinic and I knew it was Tim, I'd join him in protest. But I only know Tim as a Romanist attacking the Gospel. In this context, I'm not here to minister to TimMD, even if I were ordained.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Always Learning, but based on the knowledge of the truth

I am always learning; and confess I have a long way to go . . . but thanks be to God for giving me grace and granting repentance and faith (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Philippians 1:29), so that I can learn more from the foundation of already knowing the Lord, rather than falling into the danger of 2 Timothy 3:7.
One of the themes of 2 Peter is growing in knowing God and the knowledge of the truth. (2 Peter 1:2; 1:3; 1:5-6; 1:8; 2:20; 3:18) 2 Peter 2:20 indicates that that knowledge in that context of the false teachers of chapter 2 was only intellectual knowledge of the truths (like James 2:19) and not true conversion; because their natures were not changed, as they were like pigs that returned to the mud, and dogs to their own vomit. (2 Peter 2:21-22) True believers in Christ have their natures changed. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:6; 6:22; 2 Peter 1:3-4; John 3:1-8) Colossians 1:9-10 also exhorts us to grow in knowing God and His will and in spiritual wisdom; and Philippians 3:7-14 speaks of pressing on to know Christ deeper. 2 Timothy 2:25 speaks of “God granting repentance and coming to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus said “the truth will set you free”, if you abide in His word. (John 8:31-32) Jesus said “Thy Word is truth”. (John 17:17); in fact Jesus is “the Truth”. (John 14:6) David prayed, “Thou dost desire truth in the inner-most being; And in the hidden part, Thou wilt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
So, we are to keep growing in our knowledge of God and knowledge of the truth; and good books can help us grow in our knowledge of sound theology and in apologetics and historical background on the Bible. Let us pray as we study and be watchful to take knowledge and use it to glorify God and grow closer to the Lord Himself.
But some people are “always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7)
Let us pray that with all our gaining of knowledge in apologetic defense, that it will be based on the foundation of knowing Christ as Lord, and not just head knowledge of facts and historical background.
With that exhortation, these sources seem to have been helpful to many in dealing with modern attacks on the Bible from atheists, skeptics, agnostics, Muslims, etc.
More Defense of the Gospel of John
Richard Bauckham gives lots of good scholarly evidence that the apostle John is the author of the 4th Gospel, the Gospel according to John. He was on the Unbelievable Radio Program (August 29, 2009) with Justin Brierley and discussed issues of the reliability of the NT gospels with a liberal professor, James Crossley. Dr. White has been mentioning this book for several years now on his Dividing Line Program and in blog articles; and others have also mentioned this book in apologetic contexts, so it must be excellent.

Dan Wallace refuting Bart Ehrman’s Forged:
Part 3 is especially good in reference to the book below on the use of an amanuensis (secretary).
About Secretaries (Amanuenses) in the Ancient world:
A book to look into in a follow-up to my article on "Not Even Mentioning the Best Evidence" and I Peter 5:12 and the use of a secretary or amanuensis:
Paul and First Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection. By E. Randolph Richards. (Thanks to Dr. Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary for recommending this book.)

When Dr. Bock wrote, “I have nothing to add to that”; that sounds like a pretty good source for apologetics for the issue of first century secretaries (amanuenses).

Top Commentaries by Keith Matthison of Ligonier Ministries:
I am praying that the Lord will give me wisdom and some extra money to get some of these.
This one on 2 Peter and Jude looks really good.

There will be things that we will disagree with in all these books; and they are not infallible themselves; only Scripture itself is infallible and inerrant. The authors may have some really wrong ideas and reach wrong conclusions and have faulty assumptions about some things; but we must use our minds and love God with all our mind in study of the truth and we must love God with all our heart in praise and devotion and give the mysteries of life, history, and our doubts over to the Lord Himself, who is the Truth. See Deuteronomy 29:29

Monday, August 08, 2011

Not Even Mentioning the best Evidence

Popular skeptic and agnostic Bart Ehrman (professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC) and Darrell Bock, NT professor at Dallas Theological Seminary discuss Ehrman's book Forged on the August 6, 2011, Unbelievable Radio Program with Justin Brierley.


I was absolutely amazed that neither one of these men even mentioned I Peter 5:12, which gives evidence that Peter wrote 1 Peter through Silvanus (or Silas) as his secretary or amanuensis. I was especially surprised that Darrell Bock did not at least mention this, as evidence for Peter writing I Peter. 2nd Peter's style is different and not as polished, and so fits with the evidence of Peter as a Galilean fisherman, not as educated as Paul or Silas or Luke or the writer of Hebrews (Barnabas ?), but able to write in rough Greek. Since Peter used Silas for I Peter and it is a higher literary style than 2 Peter, there is no good reason for doubting that Peter himself wrote 2 Peter.

"By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it." I Peter 5:12, ESV
"Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God." I Peter 5:12, NASB
"By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand." I Peter 5:12, NKJV
διὰ Σιλουανοῦ ὑμῖν τοῦ πιστοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ὡς λογίζομαι, δι’ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα, παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ· εἰς ἣν στῆτε

Bock has written several blog articles on Ehrman's book, Forged. One of them is here, focusing on I and 2 Peter. Ehrman, on the radio show and in his book, tries to make it seem impossible for Peter to have known any Greek at all. In the article by Darrell Bock, linked above, these two paragraphs stand out:
“Now again we seem to ignore certain things we know about the culture and Peter. Apparently Peter was literate enough to lead and help launch a religious movement that spanned continents by his death. This means he must have been a solid oral communicator at the least, making him potentially capable of expressing himself in letters. Some of this communication took place outside the land in a diaspora context where Greek would have been important. In an oral culture, he need only be able to dictate in order to compose his letters. Ehrman's argument seems trapped in a literary model of communication, not the predominantly oral world of the first century. I make this point to observe, even if Ehrman is right about literacy and Peter, a point I am about to challenge, his conclusion about what Peter is capable of does not follow in an oral context.
So was Peter illiterate and can we know he did not know Greek? These claims can also be challenged in light of Peter's role as a merchant tradesman and what may be happening with education in the first century among Jews. Evidence does exist of extensive commerce and knowledge of Greek in Tiberias and Sepphoris, both of which are located close to Capernaum and Nazareth respectively. In fact, these larger Sea of Galilee communities are seen as so important that John Dominic Crossan, hardly a conservative interpreter of Scripture, argues that Jesus would have almost certainly practiced carpentry in Sepphoris and engaged in a kind of international trade and exchange of ideas. All of this assumes some level of linguistic and cultural engagement.”
Thank you Dr. Bock, for commenting here and for standing up to Bart Ehrman. I should have stated that except for that one complaint I have; I should have noted that otherwise Dr. Bock did an excellent job of standing up to Dr. Ehrman.

I wrote in comment box "
Wow - that's really cool, and an honor, that you came here to comment - I greatly appreciate your work and books and scholarship. (I have some of them and have benefitted from them greatly.)

Yes, you talked about how secretaries were used in interacting with Ehrman, but, still, with all due respect, I still don't understand why you say "I could not mention Silvanus" - skeptics and agnostics should not be allowed to tie our hands in apologetic debate. (in my opinion) It seems to me you could have at least mentioned that issue and verse, no matter what the debate is on how secretaries were used.

It would have been nice to have more discussion of that and how an Evangelical believing student (like myself) and scholar like yourself deals with the issue of connecting the issue of "how the secretaries are used" with the actual verse there in I Peter 5:12.

Thanks for your comment!

Given that we believe that "all Scripture is God-breathed", and Peter used Silvanus as a secretary/ amanuensis, and that God used people to write Scripture and that 2 Peter is also written by Peter himself, can you write a believing article (from an Inerrancy perspective) on the issue of "how secretaries are used" and connect it to I Peter 5:12? Maybe you already have done this, but I confess I haven't read it or seen it; and I am limited in my overall understanding of all the issues.
11:47 AM, August 08, 2011
Blogger Ken said...
Rhology posted 2 comments while I was typing.
I hope Dr. Bock will see my comment to him.

Thank you Dr. Bock for coming here and commenting.
i agree with Rhology on all else - you did a good job of standing up to Bart Ehrman.