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America’s New Religiosity: “God Bless America, But Don’t You Dare Tell Us To Repent!” – Vintage

Christians are unpopular folks today.  I mean by that, anyone who takes seriously biblical truth and biblical principles will find himself on the sharp end of angry stares if we dare speak the truth in the midst of today’s national crisis.  To what do I refer?

            America has all of a sudden gotten very religious.  There are vigils and candlelight prayer services on every corner.  People who hadn’t said “God” except in profanity for years are all of a sudden very pious and reflective.  Radio personalities who were focused upon tax cuts or some other political issue on Monday, September 10th are now mulling over the role of “evil” in our world.  The past week has turned the landscape upside down in many ways, to be sure.

            Lest anyone think this new religiosity is a reason for rejoicing for Christians, it most surely is not.  Oh yes, we are hearing old Christian hymns being sung.  Ostensibly Christian churches were full this past Lord’s day.  But there is no such thing as “partial Christianity,” nor is there any such thing as a Christianity that stands side by side with Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, and says, “We worship one God under many names.”  And surely, there is no Christianity that does not speak of repentance from sin.  The new religiosity of America has two basic foundational pillars: there is one God, unknown, but addressable under any variety of religious epithets, who has revealed absolutely nothing of objective value regarding His will regarding worship or human behavior; and second, this God has no wrath; knows nothing of sin or judgment; and hence, any person who dares to say that God would punish a person, or a nation, is a glowing heretic to the new American religiosity.

            The problem is easily seen: Christians believe, fundamentally, of necessity, that there is one true God.  This true God is not Allah.  This true God is not Krishna.  This true God is not the god of Joseph Smith or Buddha or the Sikhs or the Bahais.  Our God went to great lengths to differentiate Himself from all the gods of the peoples and religions that surrounded His ancient people, and that for a purpose He Himself proclaimed: He seeks true worship, worship based upon a knowledge of who He is in reality, based upon His revelation to man.  He does not grant to man the freedom to make images of Him, to worship Him in a manner that pleases the creature rather than the Creator.  God is particular about His worship.  His worship is intimately, vitally connected to truth.  Without truth, there is no worship of the Christian God.

            And the truth revealed by the Christian God in the Scriptures is without question when it comes to the matter of His law, sin, rebellion, punishment, wrath, and judgment.  One of the most amazing things to observe is the willingness shown by “evangelicals” to jump right onto the “we shall never utter a word about wrath or sin or punishment” bandwagon.  Is the remnant so small that almost no voices will be raised to cry out against this foolishness?  To withhold the truth about sin and judgment out of fear of man’s opinions and feelings is to make the cross of Jesus Christ a travesty!  There is no cross, there is no sacrifice, where there is no sin, no offense that demands forgiveness be wrought through His perfect sacrifice!  The person who refrains from speaking of sin and judgment to “win” a person over is doing so through unfaithfulness to the very gospel itself!  And to what has such a person been won over?  Where is the gospel when there is no sin to be forgiven at Calvary?  

            But it is right here that the new American religiosity clamps its hands over its ears and refuses to hear.  America wants God’s blessing.  America wants God to protect us from more horrific visions of airliners flying purposefully, relentlessly into our national monuments.  We want God to be near us as we board our aircraft.  We want Him to protect us from the horror of thinking about what it was like when the towers collapsed.  We want Him to guide our military and allow us to flex our muscle and launch our missiles with impunity.  We want a blessing God, a caring God, who simply panders to our wants and whims.  This is the “God” of the new American religiosity.

            But what America does not want is a God who is holy, who is just, and who has revealed His will concerning how we, His creatures, are to live.  America is a land soaked in blood.  We glory in violence.  We are so selfish, so bound in our avarice, fornication, and sexual lust, that we murder our own offspring in the womb (or at birth as in partial-birth infanticide).  Our hands are covered in blood, and yet we think lighting a candle and lifting them up while mumbling “God Bless America” is going to bring God’s favor?  Listen to the words of God to another nation that likewise was “religious” but refused to hear the word of repentance:

“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”  (Isaiah 1:15).

Is America so arrogant, so utterly self-absorbed, so diseased by religious liberalism and philosophical subjectivism, that she thinks she can ignore all of history itself and demand from God blessings when she refuses to repent of her evils?  Do we really need to be reminded that Planned Parenthood has killed more little children in our land in the week since the attacks than died in the attacks themselves?  Are we so blind?

            Surely the scourge of abortion would be enough to warrant the unleashing of the wrath of God, but there is so much more!  We are a nation on a crusade–a crusade to wipe from our history books every vestige of our former religious past.  The religion of scientism, with its chief idol in the person of Darwin, has become enshrined in our very governmental policies.  There is no creator, we are told, to express His law for us in the first place. We want to banish God and His law from our courtrooms, our schools, our every public institution.  If God says it is wrong, we celebrate it.  Every form of sexual debauchery is found in the land.  The airwaves are filled with programs that exalt fornication and adultery.  Major film stars are lauded for the most sinful lifestyles.  Homosexuality is not only turned into an acceptable “lifestyle,” it is made a political right, a political force, a test-case for being properly “tolerant.”  The list goes on and on and on.  The widow and orphan is oppressed, while the nation indulges in every creature comfort, sits back in its luxury, looks about upon the bounty of the land, and says, “Ah, what the labor of my own hands, my own intelligence, my own insight, has accomplished.”

            Religious liberals may mock our “literalistic” reading of the Bible at this point, preferring to simply label us “fundamentalists” and ignorant, but the fact of the matter is, they know they could never win a scholarly debate on whether the Bible actually teaches that these things are sins which must, inevitably, bring God’s judgment upon a people.  They know that is exactly what the Bible teaches.  They are just embarrassed by it, and hence seek to suppress that truth. 

            As I said, Christians who believe the Bible are an unpopular lot today. If they speak in accordance with the Word they may well find themselves being called “unpatriotic” and “judgmental.”.  In fact, given that the new orthodoxy demands of us the confession “Everyone is God’s child” over against such clear biblical teaching as John 1:12 (remember how Christians refused to say “Caesar is lord” and died as a result?), we must be ready to “count the cost” in engaging in formal, cultural “heresy” by speaking the truth.  We need to realize: this new American religiosity can take on the same kind of fanatic zeal that kept the hi-jackers’ hands steady all the way to their end.  May God grant His people the strength to proclaim loudly God’s demands upon a wicked nation, and may He be pleased to bring repentance and revival in a land where darkness reigns.

[The Dividing Line of September 15, 2001 touched on all these issues as well.  You can listen to this program by clicking here.]

THE NATURE OF GOD – THE TRI-UNITY OF GOD – Vintage

I. The Attributes of God:

A. Natural:

    1. Spirituality (John 4:24)
    2. Personality (Exodus 3:14)
    3. Life (Jeremiah 10:6-11)

B. Pertaining to His Infinity

    1. Absoluteness – Uniqueness
    2. Sovereignty/Supremacy (Isaiah 40:12-17, 43:12-13, 46:9-10, Psalm 135:6)
    3. Self-existence
    4. Immutability – He doesn’t change – Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17
    5. Unity – one substance, one ousia (Deuteronomy 6:4)
    6. Perfection (Matthew 5:48)
    7. Immensity (2 Chronicles 6:18)
    8. Eternity (Exodus 3:14, Psalm 90:2, 1 Timothy 1:17, Jude 25)

C. Pertaining to Creation

    1. Omnipresence – Psalm 139:7-10, Jeremiah 23:23-24
    2. Omniscience – Hebrews 4:13, Matthew 10:29-30, Romans 11:33
    3. Omnipotence – Genesis 17:1, Revelation 1:8, Romans 4:17

II. Moral Attributes of God

    A. Holiness
    B. Righteousness
    C. Love
    D. Truth

III. The Tri-Unity of God

    A. The Creeds:

The Nicene: “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten born of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God from God, light from light, true God from true God; begotten, not created, consubstantial with the Father; through Him all things were made, those in heaven and those on the earth as well…And we believe in the Holy Spirit. As for those who say: ‘There was a time when He did not exist’ and ‘before He was begotten, He did not exist;’ and ‘He was made from nothing, or from another hypostasis or essence,’ alleging that the Son of God is mutable or subject to change – such persons the Catholic and apostolic church condemns.”

The Athanasian: “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity; we distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. [Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons still they] have one divinity, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. [Each, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is uncreated, has immensity, is eternal, is omnipotent, is God, is Lord, yet there is] but one eternal being…one uncreated being…one being that has immensity…one omnipotent being…one God…one Lord…The Father is not made by anyone, nor created by anyone, nor generated by anyone. The Son is not made nor created, but He is generated by the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. There is, then, one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. In this Trinity there is nothing antecedent, nothing subsequent to anything else. There is nothing greater, nothing less than anything else. But the entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity…we believe and profess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. As God He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man He was born in time of the substance of His mother. He is perfect God and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity but is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two but one Christ…because He is one person.

IV. Foundation of the Trinity: The doctrine of the Trinity is based on three Biblical truths that together form its foundation: 1. There is only one God (monotheism); 2. There are three Persons – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is in direct contradiction of modalism, Sabellianism, or the “Jesus Only” teachings that deny the separate personhood of Father, Son and Spirit; 3. There is full equality of the Persons. This is in direct contradiction of Arianism and all systems that would deny the full Deity and equality of the Son and the Spirit. Each of these truths is part of God’s revelation of Himself, and no system can claim to be based on the Bible unless these truths are taken into account. The denial of any one of these Biblical teachings leads directly to heresy and false doctrine – denial of monotheism leads to polytheism (such as in Mormonism); denial of the three Persons leads into modalism (such as the United Pentecostal movement); and denial of the equality of the Persons leads to subordination-ism (Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Way International, etc.).

A. There is One God:  Deuteronomy 4:35, 6:4, 10:14, Psalm 96:5, 97:9, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6-8, 44:24, 45:5-6, 45:21-23, 46:9, 48:11-12, John 17:3, 1 Timothy 2:5, Revelation 1:8, (Hosea 13:4). He is not, in His essential nature, a man: Hosea 11:9, Numbers 23:19.

B. There are three Persons: Father, Son and Spirit:  Matthew 3:16-17, 11:27, 17:1-9, 27:46, John 1:18, 14:16-17. The Pre-existence of the Son:  Colossians 1:13-17, Hebrews 1:2-3, John 1:1.

C. Equality: the Deity of Christ: Colossians 2:9, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, John 1:18; identification as Yahweh: John 6:39-41/Isaiah 6, Hebrews 1:10-12/Psalm 102:25-27.

V. The Personality of God: He is Trinal

A. Scriptural Evidence: (Quotations from The Works of B. B. Warfield, vol. 2, pages 133-135).

     The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a Biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense of Scripture is Scripture. And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such unBiblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assemble the disjecta membra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture. We may state the doctrine in technical terms, supplied by philosophical reflection; but the doctrine stated is a genuinely Scriptural doctrine…In point of fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is purely a revealed doctrine. That is to say, it embodies a truth which has never been discovered, and is indiscoverable, by natural reason. With all his searching, man has not been able to find out for himself the deep things of God. Accordingly, ethnic thought has never attained a Trinitarian concept of God, nor does any ethnic religion present in its representations of the Divine Being any analogy to the doctrine of the Trinity.
     As the doctrine of the Trinity is indiscoverable by reason, so it is incapable of proof from reason. There are no analogies to it in Nature, not even in the spiritual nature of man, who is made in the image of God. In His trinitarian mode of being, God is unique; and, as there is nothing in the universe like Him in this respect, so there is nothing which can help us to comprehend Him.
     The fundamental proof that God is a Trinity is supplied thus by the fundamental revelation of the Trinity in fact:

that is to say, in the incarnation of God the Son and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit. In a word, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the fundamental proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is as much as to say that all the evidence of whatever kind, and from whatever source derived, that Jesus Christ is God manifested in the flesh, and that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, is just so much evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity; and that when we go to the New Testament for the evidence of the Trinity we are to seek it, not merely in the scattered allusions to the Trinity as such, numerous and instructive as they are, but primarily in the whole mass of evidence which the New Testament provides of the Deity of Christ and the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. When we have said this, we have said in effect that the whole mass of the New Testament is evidence for the Trinity. For the New Testament is saturated with evidence of the Deity of Christ and the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. Precisely what the New Testament is, is the documentation of the religion of the incarnate Son and outpoured Spirit, that is to say, of the religion of the Trinity, and what we mean by the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing but the formulation in exact language of the conception of God presupposed in the religion of the incarnate Son and outpoured Spirit.

B. OT: “Let us”; tri-hagion of Isaiah 6; plural Yahwehs in Genesis 19:24.

C. NT: Deity of the Son & Spirit in correlation with the fact that there is only one God. Matthew 28:19-20. On this section: Deuteronomy 28:58 – “this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh thy God.” Jeremiah 14:9: “Yet Thou art in our midst, O Yahweh, and we are called by Thy name.” Jeremiah 15:6: “I have been called by Thy name, O Yahweh God of hosts.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 literally: “and My people over whom My name is called…” c.f. Daniel 9:18-19. When, therefore, our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize those whom they brought to His obedience “into the name of…,” He was using language charged to them with high meaning. He could not have been understood otherwise than as substituting for the Name of [Yahweh] this other Name “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]”; and this could not possibly have meant to His disciples anything else than that [Yahweh] was now to be known to them by the new name, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…There is no alternative, therefore, to understanding Jesus here to be giving for His community a new Name to Yahweh and that new Name to be the threefold Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Nor is there any room for doubt that by “the Son” in this threefold Name, He meant just Himself with all the implications of distinct personality of “the Father” and “the Holy Spirit,” with whom “the Son” is here associated, and from whom alike “the Son” is here distinguished. This is a direct ascription to Yahweh God of Israel, of a threefold personality, and is therewith the direct enunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

D. Triadic formulae: 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:2-5, 6:11, 12:4-6, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 13:14, Romans 8:26-27, 14:17-18, 15:16, 15:30, Colossians 1:6-8,Ephesians 2:18, 3:16-17, 4:4-6.

E. Statement of the Doctrine: 1. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia). 2. In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 3. The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. 4. The subsistence and operation of the three persons in the divine Being is marked by a certain definite order. 5. There are certain personal attributes by which the three persons are distinguished. 6. The Church confesses the Trinity to be a mystery beyond the comprehension of man.

1. One essence, substance, or ousia.

2. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father. 3 subsistences – “personal self-distinctions within the Divine essence.” 3 modes of existence – there are personal relations between the three.

3. Naturally following from the indivisibility of the ousia of God. Hence, there can be no subordination of one Person to another with respect to essential being. Turretin once said, “The mind of the worshiper will not be distracted by the consideration that there are three Divine persons, if he remembers that the whole Divine essence is in each of the persons, so that if he worships one he worships all.”

4. Father, Son, Spirit. Son is begotten by the Father (book example). Spirit is spirited or proceeds from both Father and Son (Western) – also seen in the positions each took in the Eternal Covenant of Redemption.

5. opera ad intra: Father generation; Son filiation; Spirit procession. opera ad extra:  creation, redemption, sanctification.

6. Finite versus infinite existence.

F. Eternal Covenant of Redemption

Remember the voluntariness of Christ’s humiliation, His unique new position, how that explains the “my God” passages and how this reflects the inherent positions within the eternal Trinity.

“In interpreting those passages in which omnipotence and divine exaltation (Phil. 2:9) are said to be “given” to the incarnate Son, it must be recollected that it requires an infinite nature to receive and wield such infinite gifts… They are communicable only to an infinite person.” (Shedd, vol. 1., p. 318).

Exegetica: Roman Catholic Apologists Practice Eisegesis in Scripture and Patristics – Vintage

In scanning a recent article by Mark Bonocore I noted an interesting example of the constant presence of anachronism in Roman Catholic apologetic treatments of both the Bible and patristic sources.  In this case, he is responding to an un-named Protestant who wrote the following:

Clement wrote only a little earlier than Ignatius and clearly didn’t share Ignatius’ ecclesiastical view. Granted, Clement is from the West, but from him it seems clear that both Rome and Corinth of about 100 CE didn’t have an Ignatian like monarchical episcopate but just local presbyter governance. It is true that Ignatius like the NT speaks of episkopoi; but also like the NT, he only means local presbyters.

This anonymous writer is surely correct.  Indeed, he is supported in his position by the vast majority of historical scholarship, both Catholic and Protestant.  For example, Roman Catholic scholar Joseph F. Kelly wrote in The Concise Dictionary of Early Christianity (1992, p. 2), “The word ‘pope’ was not used exclusively of the bishop of Rome until the ninth century, and it is likely that in the earliest Roman community a college of presbyters rather than a single bishop provided the leadership.”  This is echoed by Protestant church historian J.N.D. Kelly who wrote:

In the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. the tradition identified Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This was a natural development once the monarchical episcopate, i.e., government of the local church by a single bishop as distinct from a group of presbyter-bishops, finally emerged in Rome in the mid-2nd cent. (p. 6).

When speaking of Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Telesphorus, and Hyginus (to A.D. 142), Kelly consistently notes the same thing: there was no monarchical episcopate in Rome at this time.

When we combine this fact with a fair reading of the anonymous epistle traditionally attributed to “Clement” we certainly discover that the churches at Rome and Corinth did indeed have a plurality of elders, not a monarchical episcopate.  The fact that Rome could write to Corinth and consistently use the plural of “elders” and never once speak in the singular name of the “bishop of Rome” at the time shows this clearly.  At the same time, Ignatius’ epistles plainly present the monarchical idea existing at the very same period of time, primarily in the Eastern churches.  The unnamed Protestant writer is certainly speaking in line with the majority of scholarship on both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide.

Now we should note at the very beginning that Mr. Bonocore’s response is obviously little more than an e-mail (or possibly a post on a discussion board), so it may not be fair to look overly closely at it. But since it has been posted as an article on a website it seems fair to respond to it.  The first assertion Bonocore makes is that since Ignatius uses episkopos in the monarchical sense, when he speaks of bishops who are “settled everywhere” (Eph. 3) that this somehow means that Rome must have had a monarchical episcopate as well. But the idea that Ignatius is saying something about the organization of the church at Rome by his comment is unfounded.  Upon what basis is this assumption made?  We are not told. When Ignatius wrote to the church at Rome, did he address this monarchical bishop?  No.  In fact, his letter to the Romans is the only one where he does not address the bishop by name.  This is considered strong testimony by most scholars in support of what J.N.D. Kelly said above.

But most troubling was the citation given of Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians.  Remember that the title is traditional: the epistle does not give a name of the writer(s).  The first troubling item is the way in which the quotation is given:

“Since then these things are manifest to us, and we have looked into the depths of the Divine knowledge, we ought to do in order all things which the Master commanded us to perform at appointed times. He commanded us to celebrate Sacrifices and services (the Eucharist), and that it should not be thoughtlessly or disorderly ….He has Himself fixed by His supreme will the places and persons (the appointed presbyters) whom He desires for these celebrations, in order that all things may be done piously according to His good pleasure, and be acceptable to His will. So then those who offer their oblations at the appointed times are acceptable and blessed, but they follow the laws of the Master and do not sin. For to the high priest (the bishop) his proper ministrations are allotted, and to the priests (the presbyters) the proper place has been appointed, and on the Levites (the deacons) their proper services have been imposed. The layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity. ……Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices.” (1 Clement to the Corinthians, 44:4)

I say this is troubling because this is not merely from section 44 of the epistle: it is actually cobbled together from a number of places in the epistle.  It is hard for almost any reader to follow any flow or context when the only reference given is to the very last line of the quotation, nothing more.  The second troubling thing is the insertion, without notification or explanation, of parenthetical commentary that is not found in the original text.  Taking out these a-contextual comments, utilizing a standard translation, providing the actual context, and providing references, we get:

These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behooves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen. (40)

Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. Ye see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed. (41)

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labors], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.” (42)

And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned, when the blessed Moses also, “a faithful servant in all his house,” noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him, bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed? For, when rivalry arose concerning the priesthood, and the tribes were contending among themselves as to which of them should be adorned with that glorious title, he commanded the twelve princes of the tribes to bring him their rods, each one being inscribed with the name of the tribe. And he took them and bound them [together], and sealed them with the rings of the princes of the tribes, and laid them up in the tabernacle of witness on the table of God. And having shut the doors of the tabernacle, he sealed the keys, as he had done the rods, and said to them, Men and brethren, the tribe whose rod shall blossom has God chosen to fulfill the office of the priesthood, and to minister unto Him. And when the morning was come, he assembled all Israel, six hundred thousand men, and showed the seals to the princes of the tribes, and opened the tabernacle of witness, and brought forth the rods. And the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but to bear fruit upon it. What think ye, beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would happen? Undoubtedly he knew; but he acted thus, that there might be no sedition in Israel, and that the name of the true and only God might be glorified; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (43)

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office (literally, “name”) of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor. (44)

A careful reading of the text reveals a few basic things.  First, the author(s) of the letter are reproving the Corinthian church for having ejected their elders.  They demonstrate that the church is a place of order (a problem Corinth had long before, as evidenced by Paul’s letter to them).  The Old Testament witness is brought forward in the first sections, demonstrating that God has the right to order His worship as He sees fit.  Unfortunately, Mr. Bonocore draws from this Old Testament section as if it is applied in detail by the authors to the current situation (an unwarranted action).  Clement knows only of elders and deacons in the church at Corinth.  A quick scan of the relevant Greek data in the Thesaurus Lingaue Graece demonstrates that Clement’s normal usage when referring to those who filled the office is plural.  The singular uses of episkope are made in reference to the episcopate as a whole.  There is not a shred of evidence that Clement differentiated between the office of bishop and presbyter within the text itself.  Despite this, after giving the parenthetically-filled citation noted above, Bonocore says,

So, the three-fold ministy (sic) was indeed recognized by Clement of Rome.

He bases this upon a misreading of the above text, focusing upon the Old Testament illustration used by Clement.  However, as J.B. Lightfoot rightly commented on this passage, “Does the analogy then extend to three orders?  The answer to this seems to be that…this epistle throughout only recognizes two orders, presbyters and deacons, existing at Corinth….Later writers indeed did dwell on the analogy of the threefold ministry; but we cannot argue back from them to Clement, in whose epistle the very element of threefoldness which gives force to such a comparison, is wanting.”  (J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Clement, Volume 2, 123).  Bonocore then provides more anachronistic eisegesis of the text in Clement by moving more then two centuries into the future, and a thousand miles away geographically, to a quotation by Athanasius, where Athanasius does use the term “Levite” of a deacon.  Are we to conclude that because one writer in the fourth century uses “Levite” of “deacon” that every writer in all preceding centuries followed the same path?  Surely not.  But this is all that is offered in support of this assertion.  A fair reading of the text forces us to reject such fanciful interpretation.

Bonocore goes on to admit that the terms presbyter and bishop were used interchangeably (he seems to limit this to Europe, for some reason).  Such is surely the case.  Interestingly, Jerome commented upon this very fact in the late fourth and early fifth century.  Note his words:

In both epistles commandment is given that only monogamists should, be chosen for the clerical office whether as bishops or as presbyters. Indeed with the ancients these names were synonymous, one alluding to the office, the other to the age of the clergy. NPNF2: Vol. VI, The Letters of St. Jerome, Letter 69 – To Oceanus, 3.

However, Bonocore errs in that he assumes, incorrectly, that Ignatius’ words, quoted above, mean that a three-fold ministry existed in Rome (it didn’t), and that Clement likewise presents such a distinction (the epistle, as we have seen, does not).  From this faulty basis he moves on to rightly say that the terms were used interchangeably in the Bible as well.  There is surely no distinction made between episkopos and presbuteros in the New Testament as to office, qualifications, and duties.  For the person who follows the advice given by Clement above regarding God’s right to define His own worship and those who will carry it out, this should be enough: the inspired Scriptures give us two offices in the church (elders and deacons), and woe to the one who will add to what He Himself has commanded!  But Rome has, surely, gone far beyond the Scriptures at this point.  Following her lead, Bonocore sees evidence of a three fold ministry in the text of Scripture.  But this is another example of eisegesis, this time reading into the text of Scripture itself.  He writes,

Yet, even in NT times, while the TERMS “bishop” and “presbyter” were still being used interchangeably, it is also clear that each city-church possessed an “arch-presbyter” (what we would call a “bishop”) — a singular leader of the church. For example, this was clearly the role of James in Jerusalem:

Acts 21:17-19: “When we reached Jerusalem the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day, Paul accompanied us on a visit to James, and all the presbyters were present. He greeted them and proceeded to tell them in detail what God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry.”

Galatians 2:12: “For until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles…”

There is no question that James had a position of leadership in Jerusalem: but making Jerusalem normative for all churches, as Bonocore does, is utterly unwarranted.  Where do we find Paul ordaining “arch-presbyters” in the churches?  We do not.  James’ position was apostolic and unique: to extend his unique ministry in Jerusalem to the entirety of the church is as unwarranted as the conclusions drawn earlier from the words of Ignatius.  But his error becomes even more pronounced when he attempts to find more scriptural backing:

Similarly, Timothy held the office of monarchical leader in Ephesus. For, using the singular “you” in Greek, Paul instructs Timothy how to manage the Ephesian church saying,

1 Tim 5:17-22 — “Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor …Do not accept (you singular) an accusation against a presbyter unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Reprimand (you singular) publicly those who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid. I charge you (singular) before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to keep these rules without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism. Do not lay hands (you singular) too readily on anyone…”

Therefore, Timothy was the one who both ordained presbyters and sat in judgment of them.

So, while there was yet no distinction between the TERMS “bishop” and “presbyter,” the practical distinction of the offices was already fully established.

Is it a sound argument to note that Paul wrote a letter to a single elder (Timothy), and since he used singular personal pronouns in writing to him, this means Timothy was the only elder, or, held a position of priority over anyone else?  Surely not!  Such involves the same kind of leap in logic we have seen previously.  There is no rational reason to conclude from these words that Timothy was an “arch-presbyter” and hence a three-fold ministry existed in the New Testament.  Paul is giving general instructions to Timothy (and through him to the entire church, knowing that Timothy, ministering in Ephesus as he did, would pass these truths along just as the gospel had gone forth from Ephesus into all of Asia Minor).  He is not creating in Timothy a new office, higher than elder, by addressing the letter to him.  These commands are just as valid today.  All elders in Christ’s church receive these words and operate upon their basis to this very day.

And so we see that this attempt at inserting a three-fold ministry into the Scriptures fails.  And just as importantly, in the field of Roman Catholic apologetics, we are again reminded of the fact of history that Rome itself did not see the need for a monarchical episcopate until the middle of the second century.  How very strange if, indeed, the concept of the singular bishop of Rome as the singular successor of Peter is actually “apostolic” in origin.

John 6 – A Final Response by James White, Mike Porter, Eric Nielsen, and Colin Smith – Vintage

Over the course of the past few months a very lengthy exchange took place between James White and Robert Sungenis on the topic of John 6. We believe the facts have been established with more than sufficient certainty for anyone who is willing to fairly observe them. Mr. Sungenis has responded with a very lengthy article, but to be perfectly honest, we do not feel the issue can be made any clearer, and in fact, continuing the exponential growth of point-by-point commentary and refutation would only serve to obfuscate the key issues that began the discussion anyhow. This is particularly the case due to the fact that the main issue, that being certain claims by Mr. Sungenis, have pretty well gotten lost in the shuffle.

Three colleagues of mine have provided brief commentary on different aspects of Mr. Sungenis’ final offering. With these comments we will leave the issue for the certain day when James White and Robert Sungenis will square off to debate issues such as predestination and election, etc. So with these comments we will close our contribution to the debate at this point.

The Use of MH
Mike Porter

When Robert Sungenis wrote his first rebuttal to Dr. White, he made the following comment regarding the use of MH and a defense of his own comments about it:

Robert Sungenis: For clarification, it is certainly possible that the use of MH in John 7:31 expects a negative answer. Nevertheless, a few things need to be said. Since Dr. White appeals to the statement “many of the multitude believed in Him” in John 7:31, he is inferring that the belief of these people was so strong that they would be able to determine whether Jesus was the Messiah, and thus answer the question of John 7:31 negatively. I don’t think that assessment is provable, since we do not know what kind of belief the people had. For all we know their belief could be like the people of John 8:31, who are finally told by Jesus in verse 44 that their father is the devil. This chapter is in close proximity to John 7:31, the verse in question, and thus would have great impact on determining the type of belief present among them.

Dr. White brought out the point that Mr. Sungenis entirely missed the point. While he agrees, seemingly reluctantly, that it is possible that MH in John 7:31 expected a negative answer, he still managed to say that it does not matter since it is not proven that the people believed, or we have no knowledge of what kind of belief they had. Thus, Mr. Sungenis used his interpretation to override the grammar.

Dr. White responded to this by noting that Mr. Sungenis specifically asserted,

1) MH before the main verb does not always expect a negative answer. For example, in John 7:31, MH before POIEESEI expects an affirmative answer, not a negative one. In other words, the implied answer to the question of whether the Christ will do more signs than Jesus is affirmative.

He continued,

I pointed out that, in fact, the only meaningful way of understanding the passage is to understand that the crowd is saying just the opposite: that the expected answer is a negative. I even cited A.T. Robertson’s comments that specifically note the use of mh, indicating a negative answer. While it is hardly central to the issue at hand, it does speak to Mr. Sungenis knowledge of basic Greek grammar and to his general approach to exegesis and interpretation.

In other words, Dr. White was able to point out that a grammatical error on the part of Mr. Sungenis that he seems simply unwilling to admit that he erred. Mr. Sungenis asserted his interpretation in order to validate his grammatical approach.

Mr. Sungenis compounds his error by defending his eisegetical approach:

(9) R. Sungenis 2: Suffice it to say, I am not saying X and then saying non-X. When I said, “For clarification, it is certainly possible that the use of MH in John 7:31 expects a negative answer…” I was implying that the Greek is ambiguous here. Second, Dr. White now asserts that my going to the context to answer the question is “obfuscation.” Earlier he complained that “Mr. Sungenis makes a number of rudimentary errors in his handling of the Greek language in context…” but now he insists that my appeal to the context is inappropriate. I exposed Dr. White’s premise as false. Dr. White was trying to claim that the people of John 7 would answer negatively because they were “believers.” By this he meant “true believers,” a distinction he made in a later part of his rebuttal. But the context shows that we can’t know if they were “true believers,” and, in fact, it shows that they were probably just casual believers. Thus, a negative answer to the question in John 7:31 cannot be as definite as Dr. White would like it to be.

What he has done here is rather obvious. Rather than admitting that his John 7:31 argument from a grammatical standpoint is untenable (Dr. White cited scholarship, Sungenis cited himself), he argued that the context supported his claim. His argument is contingent upon the assumption that 1) the Greek is ambiguous, and 2) we don€t know what kind of faith they held. Therefore, he feels justified to argue that the implication is that they believed the Christ would in fact do more than this man they just heard. The resultant interpretation is an odd tautology.

However, the main flaw in his presentation is that the Greek is not ambiguous, and his interpretive assumption is not clearly seen. If Mr. Sungenis is going to challenge a point of grammar, he needs to demonstrate the impossibility of the view put forth using the grammar. However, in this context, it is quite clear that the people were saying that Christ himself would not do more than this man has. Yet, without citing a single grammar (to do so would destroy his point) and without referencing a single commentary, Sungenis offered his unique interpretation as overriding the grammar of the sentence.

In short, Mr. Sungenis erred, simply put, and he was unable to bring himself to admit that he erred, and was forced to create a hermeneutic principle where grammar is subordinate to interpretation.

I admit that this observation is not central to the bulk of the dialogue, but it is a point that is worth mentioning. A rather basic point of grammar cannot be arbitrarily overturned for the sake of a theological preconception.

Robert Sungenis and Sola Ecclesia
Eric Nielsen

Robert Sungenis begins his recent rebuttal[1] to James White with an objection to Dr. White’s use of the term sola ecclesia. He states:

By “Sola Ecclesia” I believe Dr. White is trying to say that he thinks I get my information only from the Catholic Church.

Mr. Sungenis goes on to explain that sola ecclesia is therefore an inaccurate, misleading term to describe his position. Indeed, if Dr. White used the phrase sola ecclesia in this manner, Mr. Sungenis would have a valid objection. A quick search of the Alpha and Omega Ministries web site, however, reveals that Dr. White gives the term sola ecclesia an entirely different definition than the one provided here by Mr. Sungenis, a definition that Dr. White uses in a consistent manner throughout his web site:

What is sola ecclesia? It is the concept that the Roman Church (exemplified in the Papacy especially) is the sole and final authority in all matters.[2]

Since Dr. White uses this phrase in the same manner throughout his web site, it is safe to assume that he meant to apply the same definition to describe Mr. Sungenis’s position. That is, for Robert Sungenis, the Roman Church is the sole and final authority in all matters. Is Dr. White justified in claiming that Robert Sungenis exercises this sort of sola ecclesia? More to the point, is Dr. White applying the term fairly to describe this discussion?

Let’s examine the claim, that for Robert Sungenis, the Roman Church is the sole and final authority in all matters. In the book Surprised by Truth, Mr. Sungenis discusses his discovery that “the whole debate between Catholicism and Protestantism could be boiled down to authority.” [3] He explains:

As I studied Scripture in the light of the Catholic materials I had been sent, I began to see that the Bible in fact points to the Church as being the final arbiter of truth in all spiritual matters (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15; Matthew 16:18-19; 18:18; Luke 10:16).

This made sense, especially on a practical level. Since only an entity with the ability to observe and correctly interpret information can act as an authority, I saw that the Bible, though it contains God-breathed revelation, cannot act as a final “authority” since it is dependent on thinking personalities to observe what is (sic) says and, more importantly, interpret what it means. [emphases ours][4]

It is evident from Mr. Sungenis’s own statement about the authority of the Roman Catholic Church that, although he does not apply the term to himself, he believes sola ecclesia exactly as Dr. White defines it.

Mr. Sungenis continues in his rebuttal:

In response, let me say a few things. First, the Catholic Church believes Scripture, Tradition and the Church are equally coexisting authorities (whereas Protestants believe Scripture alone is inerrant, thus “sola scriptura”). From that premise alone, “sola ecclesia” is inappropriate.

Here Mr. Sungenis attempts to demonstrate that the Roman Church is not his sole authority, claiming that “Scripture, Tradition, and the Church are equally coexisting authorities.” Certainly the Roman Church does claim these three sources of authority, and doubtless Mr. Sungenis recognizes these three as well. It is difficult to see, however, what Mr. Sungenis could possibly mean by the phrase “equally coexisting authorities.” In his own testimony he has already made the claim that the Scripture cannot be a final authority, while the Church must be the final authority. The Church, then, as the interpreter of Scripture and the final authority, exercises authority over the Scripture, and is therefore not equal to, but greater than the Scripture.

Mr. Sungenis later admits to his practice of sola ecclesia as Dr. White defines it even as he denies the charge:

Third, in my rebuttals to Dr. White, now amassing close to 100 pages, I think I mentioned the Catholic Church only once, which came in a quote from the Catholic Catechism, para. 600: “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination,’ he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.” So, again, with only one citation to the Church, the use of “sola ecclesia” is not at all applicable to this present discussion. Ninety-nine percent of my rebuttal is based on an exegesis of the biblical text.

Since Mr. Sungenis has already established that the Roman Catholic Church is the final arbiter of truth in all spiritual matters, he has admitted that he can not make any “exegesis” of the Scripture passages under discussion other than interpretations that coincide with what the Church has already decreed about predestination and free will. This is indeed sola ecclesia.

[1] http://www.catholicintl.com/2nd_Rebuttal_to_Dr_White_on_Predestination.htm
[2] http://aomin.businesscatalyst.com/_blog/Apologetics_Articles/post/The_Bodily_Assumption,_Scripture_and_Tradition/
[3] Surprised By Truth, p. 117
[4] Surprised By Truth, p. 118

Sola Scriptura/Sola Ecclesia
Colin Smith

In his second “rebuttal” to Dr. James White, Mr. Robert Sungenis says:

By “Sola Ecclesia” I believe Dr. White is trying to say that he thinks I get my information only from the Catholic Church. In response, let me say a few things. First, the Catholic Church believes Scripture, Tradition and the Church are equally coexisting authorities (whereas Protestants believe Scripture alone is inerrant, thus “sola scriptura”). >From that premise alone, “sola ecclesia” is inappropriate.

It is astounding that, after the many debates and discussions that have taken place between Dr. White and Mr. Sungenis, not to mention the reams of paper and kilobytes of web pages that have been devoted to discussion of the issues, Mr. Sungenis still does not seem to understand what is meant when these terms are used. The issue here is not as much about inerrancy or infallibility (although Protestants deny Papal Infallibility), or even authority, but one of final authority. For the Protestant, the Scriptures are the final arbiter. They are the rule of faith and practice. It is to the Scriptures that every Christian must submit; all other opinion is mere opinion, open to debate and to critique. This is what is meant by the phrase Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is that which determines doctrine and practice. Dr. White is not suggesting that the Roman Catholic does not regard Scripture as authoritative. When he uses the phrase Sola Ecclesia, he is asserting that, while the Roman Catholic Church holds Scripture, Tradition, and the Church to be equally authoritative, it is the word of the Church that carries the most weight at the end of the day. Regardless of what Scripture may teach, the meaning of Scripture is determined by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Hence, because of Roman Catholic soteriology, it is very difficult for the Roman Catholic apologist to read even the clearest passages any other way. John 6 is a very clear passage, demonstrating without any ambiguity that salvation is of God and by God without reference to the free will of man. The only reason that Mr. Sungenis and his colleagues in the Roman Catholic Church do not see this is because to agree with Dr. White would be to elevate the Word of God above the Word of Rome. White€s contention is that no Roman Catholic would do this, demonstrating that, at the bottom line, the Roman Catholic holds to the Church, and the Church alone, as the final authority for doctrine and practice. Hence, Sola Ecclesia is quite appropriate.

Sungenis Marginalizes the Enemy

Mr. Sungenis continues:

Second, it is a simple fact of history that those who hold to the doctrine I espouse are not only from the Catholic Church. Dr. White has plenty of opponents in his own Protestant denominations who believe something very similar to what the Catholic Church believes regarding Predestination and Free Will. In fact, while Dr. White calls himself a “Reformed Baptist,” there is a denomination which calls itself “Free Will Baptist.” In fact, the majority of Protestant denominations repudiate Dr. White’s view of absolute predestination as being thoroughly unbiblical (Note: “Absolute predestination” is the view that God predestined some men to heaven and the rest to Hell, the former without regard to their Free Will, and in most versions, the latter without regard to their sin).

Sungenis’ words should be noted here, especially by every Arminian who crusades against Roman Catholicism. Sadly, Mr. Sungenis is correct in his assertion that the Arminian and the Roman Catholic views of soteriology are very similar. However, it is important not to lose sight of what Sungenis is trying to do in this paragraph. He is attempting to marginalize White’s views. If Dr. White can be labeled an “extremist” who holds to a theological position that is not representative of modern Protestantism, then Sungenis’ battle can be presented not as Roman Catholicism versus Protestantism, but Roman Catholicism versus a small, fringe group of extremist Calvinists. This is smoke-and-mirrors. It does not matter in the least whose position Dr. White represents, whether 90%, 50%, 20%, or 1% of Protestantism. Biblical theology is not a matter of counting noses to see who has the majority view; rather it is a matter of searching the Scriptures to see whose theology is most consistent with God’s revelation of Himself. The reader must answer the question: Of the two views presented, which most accurately and consistently exposits the meaning of John 6, both in its own context, and also in the context of the rest of Scripture.

A few words need to be offered with regard to Sungenis’ use of the term “absolute predestination,” and his definition of this term. Scripture does not speak of an “absolute” predestination, only predestination. Since predestination is both a Biblical term and a Biblical concept, no serious student of the Bible would deny that the Bible teaches predestination. The difference between the Reformed and the Arminian/Roman Catholic usage of the word lies in its definition. For the Arminian, God predestines those whom He knew would exercise faith in Christ. For the Reformed, God predestines those whom He chooses, without regard for who they are or what they will or will not do.

Sungenis offers an explanation of the term “absolute predestination”: God predestines some to Heaven and others to Hell , the former without regard to their Free Will, and, in most versions, the latter without regard to their sin. This is a shallow, and incredibly misleading presentation of Reformed thinking. In the Westminster Confession of Faith, we read the following:

Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. (6:6)

So, according to Reformed belief, man, due to both original and actual sin, is condemned to an eternity in Hell. Those that are not elect, therefore, are already sentenced to eternal punishment, and this is because of sin. This is in directly contradiction to Sungenis’ definition.

With regard to man’s free will, the Westminster Confession states:

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. (9:3)

Notice that the Confession does not deny man’s free will. It merely states that the will of fallen man is unable to will any spiritual good, and, hence, man is unable to save himself. So, when God elects someone to salvation, He does act with regard to the creature’s free will. God regenerates the unregenerate so that his will is no longer bound to sin, but is truly free to serve his Creator.

The above explanation is provided for two reasons. Firstly, Mr. Sungenis badly misrepresented the Reformed view. It is only fair for the reader to understand properly what Reformed theology teaches with respect to these issues. Secondly, the issue of Mr. Sungenis’ credibility as one who knows what Reformed Protestants believe is called into question. On his website, there is a small biography of Robert Sungenis which, toward the end, states the following:

Robert was born into a Catholic family in 1955, but left the Church and joined Reformed Protestantism at the age of 19. During his next 18 years in the Protestant faith, he served as an elder, adult education director, radio-talk show host, and itinerant preacher for various Protestant churches. Robert came back to Catholicism in 1992 and his self-told conversion story can be found along with 10 other converts in the book Surprised By Truth (Basilica Press 1994).

Whatever Sungenis’ experience in “Reformed Protestantism” may be, it is clear he did not truly understand Reformed theology. The statement that he served in “various Protestant churches” does not further his position as one who understands Reformed Protestantism, since, as he has already acknowledged, there are plenty of Protestants who would disagree over this subject. It is to Mr. Sungenis’ shame that he assumes he knows Reformed doctrine, and yet does not cite Reformed writers to support his understanding. If his presentation of Reformed theology can be shown to be erroneous with citations from as basic a Reformed document as the Westminster Confession of Faith, one cannot hold much hope for future dialog with him.

Adam€s Sin and Dr. White’s Alleged Self-Refutation
Mr. Sungenis writes with regard to the doctrine of “absolute predestination” and God’s sovereignty:

In answer to Dr. White, I explain later in this paper that such a position is self-refuting, since even Dr. White and the Calvinists must believe that Adam, before he sinned, had a genuine Free Will that coincided with God’s foreknowledge and foreordination of all events. The Calvinists cannot explain how this “mixing of the unmixable” is possible, nevertheless, they must believe it exists. Unless Dr. White claims to be a supralapsarian Calvinist (a Calvinist who says that Adam really had no free will, such that Adam committed sin because God foreordained him to commit it, and that God predestined the non-elect to Hell but not based on their sin but on His own choice and pleasure), then he really has no room to say that a theology which seeks to coincide predestination and free will is not “rational.” If Dr. White is an infralapsarian, then he believes that God took into account Adam’s free will prior to His ordaining of predestination. If so, then Dr. White would have to agree that Predestination and Free Will can be mixed.

Notice that he says that Dr. White and the Calvinists “must believe that Adam, before he sinned, had a genuine Free Will that coincided with God’s foreknowledge and foreordination of all events.” Why is this? Why must the Reformed Protestant deny God’s sovereignty at the Fall? Once more, the Westminster Confession, which is held to by supralapsarians and infralapsarians alike, states:

Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory. (6:1)

One wonders if Mr. Sungenis has ever read a discussion of God’s use of means and secondary agents by a Reformed writer. He may have a clearer understanding how God can sovereignly ordain sin without being the author of it. Those who would try to “protect” God from having control over the sinful actions of men must deal with some very cold, hard Biblical data. It was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart when Moses issued the command from God to free the Israelites (Exodus 10:1-3). It would appear that God ordained Pharaoh’s disobedience toward God. God caused Samson to desire after a Philistine woman (Judges 14:4). God caused Eli’s sons to ignore their father’s advice (1 Samuel 2:25). God caused Assyria to attack Israel as punishment on His people, even though the Assyrians were ungodly and would be punished by God for their arrogance (Isaiah 10:6-7, 12). Finally, it was God who ordained the sinful act of crucifying His only Son, so that He may save His people from their sin (Acts 2:23).

Ezek 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9 and Zech 1:3
These passages came up more than once in Mr. Sungenis’ response, so it seems necessary to say a few words about them. Of course, Sungenis’ first problem is that he fails to understand these passages (as well as other proof-texts) apart from the rest of Scripture. While the Reformed Protestant is forced to look to Scripture for his understanding of potentially difficult texts, the magesterium of Rome has provided Mr. Sungenis with his theological framework.

With regard to Ezekiel 33:11, the reader is urged to look at the context of the passage. God is addressing His people, Israel. He does not enjoy the sin of His own people, which is why He will chastise them, and bring other nations against them, that they may be a people pleasing in His sight. It is not unusual to read of God urging His people not to sin, and to walk in righteousness. Even though God has decreed the ends and ordained the means of our lives, He always holds before us His righteous demands. Without His enabling, we are unable to follow those demands, but that does not excuse us from obeying those demands. Someone who is drunk is still required to drive safely, even if his condition means that he is incapable of so doing.

One can only imagine that Mr. Sungenis does not read much Reformed writing, since 2 Peter 3:9 has been addressed numerous times, especially in recent years. Firstly, the context of the letter demands that we understand the referent in the verse to be the Christians Peter is addressing. The context of the passage is the end times. His readers are concerned that the Lord has not yet returned, and Peter is exhorting them to be patient; God’s promise still stands, but He is not being slow for the sake of it. The delay of Christ’s return has a purpose: the salvation of “all” of “you.” That is, that all those whom God intends to save will be saved at the time that God ordains. If one insists on reading the “all” in this verse as “all people,” one must answer some tough questions: if it is God’s will to save all people, why do people die in sin and unbelief? Is God’s purpose in delaying Christ’s return that every person on earth may be saved, or that they will be saved? What does the text say?

As for Zechariah 1:3, again, God urges His people to walk in His ways and in His righteousness. He can do this and ordain their actions. It seems that the Arminian/Roman Catholic has as much problem seeing that God can exhort His people to righteousness while also ordaining the path they will go as the Reformed Protestant allegedly has seeing God’s sovereignty and man’s free will as co-existent. The question is, which is the most Biblical position?

1 Timothy 2:4
Mr. Sungenis makes clear his lack of understanding with regard to the Reformed position on this passage in the following remark:

Do you see how Dr. White is so used to inserting words and concepts into Scripture that he can glibly say, “We have already seen that 1 Timothy 2:4 refers to all kinds of men,” without the slightest pangs of conscience. Even though he is fully aware that “kinds of men” and “all men” are two entirely different ideas, he is cock sure that “kinds” should be in the translation or interpretation. Until Dr. White ceases from making these inordinate insertions into the text, he will never see the truth.

Sungenis seems so intent to maintain his position that he is blind to the obvious context of the verse that would clearly restrict the meaning of “all.” In verse 1, Paul tells Timothy to pray for “all men.” Does this mean that he wants Timothy to pray for every person on the face of the planet? Clearly not, and, indeed, Paul goes on to qualify the phrase. In verse 2, Paul makes it clear that he wants Timothy to be sure to pray for kings and those in authority. The authorities, whether Jewish or Roman, were not friendly toward the infant church, and so it appears that Paul is using the phrase “all men” in the sense of “not just your friends and those who are good to you, but all men.” It would be appropriate to understand “types of men” since this is clearly Paul’s implication. The reason that Paul wants Timothy to pray for all men is because God desires to save all men. Continuing the context, this would mean that Timothy should pray for those who rule and not just his friends, because God does not intend to save only Timothy’s friends, but even those who are currently at enmity with him. It makes sense to continue the understanding “all types of men.” Once again, if God wills the salvation of everyone on the planet, then surely that will come about. There is no qualification that God wants to save them if only they would believe. God desires to save men from all strata of society, and whatever God desires to do will be accomplished (Psalm 115:3; Psalm 135:6).