Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Overwhelming Exegetical and Logical Insight
06/25/2007 - James WhiteI am currently traveling, but happened this morning in catching up on a few items to see the following overwhelming example of Rome's powerful biblical argumentation. You will recall that a few days ago I made note of the fact that in essence, Rome's exhortation to her followers to pray to saints and angels means that the prohibition on contact with the dead found in Scripture is in essence irrelevant and without meaning. In Deuteronomy 18:10-11 an entire list of things that God considers to be hb'[eAT, toevah, detestable, to Him, are listed.
Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.There are two terms to look at briefly: The first is ~yti(Meh;, "the dead." The meaning is not difficult: it refers to someone who was once physically alive on earth but is no longer. It's just that simple. When a person stops breathing and their heart stops and they expire, they are dead. It is sophistry at its best to say, "Oh, but they are alive to God!" Of course they are. Even those undergoing punishment awaiting the day of judgment are "alive" in that sense. That is not the point. The prohibition here refers to the dead, and whether one was righteous or unrighteous is not mentioned. It does not say "those who call upon the unrighteous dead," it simply says "the dead." Further, this is a prohibition in law directed to those of us alive on earth. Hence, it uses our viewpoint, not God's, as the definition of who is dead and who is alive. Can anything be more obvious, more plain, more simple, than this?
The next term is vr;D', darash,to seek after, to inquire after, resort to, frequent, or, when used with el- as it is here, to seek in prayer or worship. One of the activities that is an abomination in God's sight, connected with other magical and pagan activities, is seeking after, resorting to, and praying to, the dead.
Now, Rome encourages this very activity, so, Rome must find a way to dismiss commands like this. We have seen how some apologists, like Patrick Madrid, have dismissed God's law regarding the prohibition of statues and images as objects of religious worship by saying that men back then had a particular problem with idolatry, but we do not have the same problems today. In this instance, the prohibition against religious contact with, communication with, inquiry of, the dead, is dismissed by simply redefining the term "the dead." If you are a saint, you aren't dead, so, all is well! So, we have to ask, what is this prohibition about then? Who does it forbid us to inquire of? All those who have passed from this life are, we believe (in opposition to some), conscious, either in the presence of God or they are undergoing punishment (there is no purgatory to make reference to in such a biblical discussion). So, it would follow, if the Roman argument is valid, that this last section was a waste of "sacred page space," a useless prohibition without object and meaning. That is the result of allowing Rome's dogmas to trump the plain meaning of Scripture.
Now, all of that having been said, I get quickly to what I just saw this morning from the keyboard of Dave Armstrong. Evidently DA has been ransacking the Internet looking for quotes he can throw around in hopes that no one will notice that the man cannot respond to an exegetical argument. He seems to think that if he can garner enough quotes that will somehow add up to doing serious exegesis of the text itself. In any case, those who think it is a complete waste of time to even interact with DA were given a huge gift in the form of the following argument that, I must confess, I have no answer for. Nor can I refute the argument that "God came from Teman" (Hab. 3:3) means God is a man who came from someplace called Teman (yes, I've had Mormons use that one). Some arguments, honestly, provide their own refutation. So, here is DA's newest. I had written:
[T]he prohibition of contact with the dead is specifically in the context of people living on earth seeking to have contact with those who have "passed from this world"! This kind of argumentation leaves the prohibition of contact with the dead meaningless and undefined.And now, DA's refutation:
This can be annihilated with one biblical example, from St. Peter, who contacted the dead when He raised Tabitha, saying, "Tabitha, rise" (Acts 9:36-41). Who was he talking to? Well, Tabitha, of course: a dead person! You can't get much more straightforward and plain than that. Therefore, the Bible offers explicit proof that we can have contact with the dead in a certain sense....There you go. Annihilated. Peter raised Tabitha to life, hence, Peter contacted the dead. Just like when a Roman Catholic prays to Mary to be rescued from the wrath of Jesus. There you go folks, behold Romanism in all its (twisted) glory.
06/24/2007 - James SwanCatholic apologist Dave Armstrong is now arguing Jonathan Edwards believed the saints in heaven see what's happening on earth. Therefore, Dr. White should consider granting the validity of at least this basic aspect of Armstrong's argument for intercessory prayer to the saints:
"Jonathan Edwards would wholeheartedly agree with me on this general point of awareness of saints in heaven, of the earth, and disagree with James White."
"White can dismiss, if he likes, my exegetical and theological arguments as the raving of an unregenerate, ignorant Catholic apostate (that's what he thinks of me), but surely he can't dismiss Jonathan Edwards so easily."
This is desperate logic. James White is a Reformed Baptist. Jonathan Edwards was not. A theological argument is not valid simply because one of the greatest minds in church history speculates on the state of the awareness of those in heaven. Dr. White is under no compulsion to grant the validity of every point Edwards made. One can understand why Armstrong would argue this way: he is under compulsion to believe the theological dogmas defined by his church, despite what the Bible says contrarily.
Edwards viewed many aspects of Roman Catholicism as darkness and gross delusions. Edwards says, "Many nations are under popish darkness, and are in such gross delusions that they worship the Virgin Mary, and a great multitude of dead men, whom their church has canonized for saints; some real saints, and others abominably wicked men... they worship the relics of dead saints; such as pieces of their bones, their teeth, their hair, pieces of their garments, and the like. And innumerable other such foolish delusions are they under" [The Works of Jonathan Edwards II:634].
Continued Review of Armstrong and Hahn (Part 2)
06/22/2007 - James WhiteIn my previous article I had begun looking, I thought at first briefly, at some comments made by Armstrong regarding prayer to saints. But what was supposed to be brief has expanded a good bit, and since I thought it would be useful to bring Hahn's recent work into the discussion, I imagine this will take a while! In the last section we had begun looking at this claim by Armstrong:
If it is objected that the dead saints cannot hear us, we reply that God is fully able to give them that power -- with plenty of supporting biblical evidence: 1) the "cloud of witnesses" that Hebrews 12:1 describes; 2) in Revelation 6:9-10, prayers are given for us in heaven from "saints"; 3) elsewhere in Revelation an angel possesses "prayers of the saints" and in turn presents them to God; 4) Jeremiah is described as one who "prays much for the people" after his death in 2 Maccabees 15:13-14. The saints in heaven are clearly aware of earthly happenings. If they have such awareness, it isn't that much of a leap to deduce that they can hear our requests for prayer, especially since the Bible itself shows that they are indeed praying. (p. 121)We looked at Hebrews 12 previously. Now I wish to look at Revelation 6:9-10:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"Armstrong tells us that here "prayers are given for us in heaven from 'saints.'" It would be good to expand upon this commentary by looking at Hahn's use of the same passage. Hahn quotes verse 11 as well, "And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until [the number of] their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also" and then comments:
So what do we know about the martyrs in heaven, based on this brief passage? We know that they communicate with God: They call out to Him, and He responds. We know that they are aware of events on earth, and that they plead the cause of the just against the unjust, the Church against its persecutors. We know, too, that they have some foreknowledge of the future, by the grace of God. They know how events will play out for "their fellows servants and their brethren." What we see in Revelation confirms what we have read in Hebrews: the martyrs in heaven are a "cloud of witnesses" around their fellow Christians on earth. Furthermore, they are intercessors in heaven for the cause of Christ on earth. (97)Let's look again at what the text says. These are martyrs "who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained." It is easy to see the role these play in the text: the Christians to which the book is being sent by God are undergoing just this kind of persecution. Their cry to God is simple: how long will justice be delayed in avenging their deaths? The response is that they are given white robes (evidently they didn't need a trip through purgatory before being pure), and they are told to wait a little while longer. There was a certain number of martyrs yet to be made (hard to read this without seeing God's sovereignty, for, "blessed in the sight of God is the death of His saints"), and they are to wait until that time is completed.
Now, this is the contextual meaning of the passage. Where does Hahn, and by extension, Armstrong, get all the rest of these assertions? Where is the evidence that these souls have knowledge of current events on earth? Where is the evidence that they have communication with anyone on earth? They are not aware of events on earth; and to say they have "foreknowledge" of the future is to say nothing more than they know God is just and will punish sin, which, of course, means we all have foreknowledge of the very same kind. They are informed about the fact that there will be more martyrs, they do not have this information naturally (which they would have known were they observing events on earth). So there is nothing in the text that supports the extended comments Hahn makes, leaving no meaningful connection at all to the Hebrews passage, which we examined before.
So, at this point, we have examined two of the passages put forward by both Armstrong and Hahn and have yet to find any compelling reason to accept their usage of them. Ironically, the Roman Catholic apologist, who so often refers to "private interpretation" as all you can have as a Protestant, has nothing more himself, in fact. And when we examine his use of Scripture, we find it strained, even tortured, and anything but compelling.
James White Promotes Worship of John Calvin!
06/21/2007 - James White...or so Dave Armstrong alleges this morning. As an example of his methodology of argumentation (which often includes the, "Oh, look at that issue over there that is completely irrelevant to the point at hand, isn't it interesting?" tactic), Armstrong's attempted response to this blog entry begins by re-posting Dan Borvan's picture from Geneva of the "Reformation Wall" with this subtitle:
For this to be true, of course, it would have to follow that DA has evidence that Dan bowed down to these statues, lit candles to them, prayed to them, and sought the intercession of these men of God. Of course, Armstrong doesn't have that evidence, and, of course, Dan didn't do that, which only shows once again that Armstrong has no compunctions about constructing straw-men.
I note briefly in passing as well that Armstrong's response proves that he is unable to engage the actual texts under discussion outside of relying upon secondary sources. That is, all he can do is try to line up commentators on one side or the other and say, "See, my point is possible because these guys say so." But he is not capable of responding to the substance of the comments regarding martu,rwn, qeatai, etc., for this is beyond his area of study. Now, there is nothing wrong with someone being ignorant of the original languages, exegesis, etc., however, there is everything wrong in being ignorant of these things and yet making repeated pronouncements about the conclusions of the study of these fields.
Romans 3:2 And The Apocrypha (Part 2)
06/20/2007 - James SwanCatholic apologist Gary Michuta has released a new book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger. This is a part two of my examination of his interpretation of Romans 3:2. Part one can be found here.
The verse states, "First of all, [the Jews] were entrusted with the oracles of God." This verse implies a specific set of authoritative inspired writings treated by the Jews as the very word of God. The Jews knew which books were Scripture and which were not. When God gave them the oracles, they knew exactly what He gave them. Catholic apologists maintain the Jews were uncertain as to the extent of their scriptures in order alleviate themselves from the weight of evidence. The evidence shows the Jews knew which sacred books they had, and the apocryphal books were not among them.
Michuta doesn't have an infallible interpretation of Romans 3:2. I mention this because any time Protestants interact with Catholic material, one must remember to apply the same standards they attempt to hold Protestants to. The charge is usually Protestants rely on their own private interpretation, while Catholics have a unity of theological certainty. Yet, pick up any Catholic book, one will find pages of private interpretation. Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown has said, "To the best of my knowledge the Roman Catholic Church has never defined the literal sense of a single passage of the Bible" [Raymond E. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible (New York: Paulist, 1981), p.40]. As we head further into Michuta's understanding of Romans 3:2, keep in mind, it's his understanding, and not the official interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church, because there is not an infallible interpretation of Romans 3:2.
"Secondly, when the Apostles says the Jews were entrusted with oracles of God he uses the aorist passive; he indicates, in other words, that the authority of the synagogue is a thing of the past. Any right to reject a given prophecy or prophetic book had now passed from the rulers of the Jews to the Christian Church (if it were not so, the authority of Paul himself would be null and void)" (p.12).
That's a fair amount of private interpretation. The use of the aorist passive has nothing to do with the synagogue. Read through Romans 2 and 3, and note the absence of anything to do with the synagogue, the authority of the synagogue, or the future and past of the synagogue. Gary certainly is not interpreting the literal sense of Romans 3:2.
Michuta is grasping for an implied meaning, a meaning that would be coherent within a Catholic worldview: Romans 3:2 is all about the exchange of authority from the Jews to the Church. Earlier, we saw Michuta criticize the notion of an infallible Jewish magisterium, now we find Romans 3:2 refers to some sort of transfer between magisteriums, a transfer of rights to accept and reject prophetic books. Again though, there is nothing within the immediate context to even suggest such a passing.
How best to approach this verse? Why not first read Romans 3:1? Romans 3:1 provides the context of 3:2, which is written in response to the questions in 3:1. The questions ask what advantage the Jew has, and what is the benefit of circumcision? Note also, the question is not, "What was the advantage of the Jews in the past?" Paul answers the Jews have an advantage over the gentiles, having the oracles of God. This verse does not speak of a transfer between national, physical Israel and the physical church. The Jews still have the oracles.
Further, even though the Jews as a whole had received the oracles of God, the oracles of God were and are, always intended for Abraham's descendants. God's word has not failed. The children of the promise always receive it (Romans 9:6-8). In each generation, he preserves a remnant, even when a majority of seemingly religious people rejects His word (Romans 11:1-5). Abraham's genuine children always have God's word. They do not reject it. Believer in Christ, you and I are Abraham's descendants, and we have God's word. The canon baton was not passed from the Jewish leaders to the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, God's people recognize the voice of God, be they Jew or gentile, during the Old Testament era, and the New Testament era.
Michuta goes on to say:
"It should be remembered that Paul did not literally say that the Jews were entrusted with the inspired books (though that is certainly included in what he meant): what the Apostle actually said was entrusted with the oracles of God- and this category included much more than just the Old Testament writings. The Hebrews, recall, were also entrusted with the Urrim and Thummim (Nm 27:21), and other prophetical devices; and not all the consultations received by these methods were written down. The scope of Romans 3:2 then, cannot be restricted to inspired books alone and cannot, therefore, be a direct reference to a fixed canon" (p. 12-13).
Gary attempts to literally explain the word oracles saying it doesn't mean inspired books specifically. True, Paul doesn't launch into an exposition of oracles of God, but he does begin Romans 1, "Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son...." Paul repeatedly refers to the Jewish Scriptures throughout Romans, and does not make any reference to unwritten prophetical utterances. Thus, the burden is on Michuta to prove oracles includes unwritten content, specifically in Paul's usage.
For the sake of argument, let's grant Michuta a wider scope of the term, oracles. On what logical basis must it necessarily be concluded "The scope of Romans 3:2 then, cannot be restricted to inspired books alone and cannot, therefore, be a direct reference to a fixed canon?" The conclusion does not equal the premises. Even if Paul meant to include unwritten prophetical utterances in the term oracles, this does negate a specific set of writings by which the Jews knew and appealed to.
Quick Example of Armstrong's Argumentation (#1)
06/19/2007 - James WhiteUnder the broad topic of Mary and the Saints, Armstrong attempts to defend Rome's doctrine of prayer to saints. Once again, we find no evidence that he is interested in responding to the strongest objections to his position, but only to the weakest. But despite this, even in responding to the weakest argumentation, the number of circular arguments and simply false assumptions is great indeed.
Armstrong rightly lays out the objection: "The Bible forbids communication with the dead. It also tells us there is only one mediator between God and men: Jesus." Exactly, and, if he has taken the time to listen at all, he knows that the vacuous, yet nigh unto universal, argument of Roman Catholic apologists regarding asking a friend to pray for you (this is somehow taken as having relevance to Jesus' role as the sole mediator between God and men). The fact that Jesus role as mediator is essentially and necessarily different is lost on those who use this facile argumentation, for Christ has a grounds upon which to stand as a mediator that no one, including Mary, possesses. This has been explained many times, but Roman apologists continue repeating their simplistic argument as if no one has ever responded to it.
Armstrong's "one-minute" reply is that James 5:16-18 tells us that "the prayers of certain people are more effective than those of others." Of course, what James 5 tells us is that "the prayer of a righteous man has great power." From this, it seems, you can create a direct proportion statement, so that the saints, being perfected, have the greatest "prayer power co-efficient" possible. But please notice, there is nothing in James 5 about dead people praying for us. Nothing at all, in fact, just the opposite. The example Armstrong relies on specifically says, "Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves." Yes, he was...and that likewise means he was alive!
From this Armstrong recalls the examples of Abraham and Moses who interceded with God, which is, again, quite true. But it is likewise irrelevant since, obviously, they were both alive at the time of their intercession with God. Then we have the statement,
If, then, the Blessed Virgin Mary were indeed sinless, it would follow (right from Scripture) that her prayers would have the greatest power, and not only because of her sinlessness but because of her status as Mother of God. So we ask for her prayers and also ask other saints, because they have more power than we do, having been made perfectly righteous (according to James 5:16-18).You will remember that back in the days of the Reformation a common complaint made by the Reformers was that Rome's defenders were sophists, men who tried to look wise while promoting the most amazingly incoherent statements. Little has changed over the centuries. You take the statement that a righteous man's prayers have great power, which is said only of the living, transport this into another context, attach it to Mary (assuming her alleged sinlessness), and then "follows" "right from Scripture" (!!) that her prayers would have "the most power." Then, you throw in the other saints, who now have more power (because the prayers of a living righteous man have great power), and tie it all up with another reference to James 5, and voila! the Roman position. Not compelling? Of course not. It really isn't meant to be. It is meant to have just enough appeal to it to keep the person who wants to believe it in a state of faith.
This is then followed by the constant false appeal to inter-Christian prayers as if they are relevant. "Most Protestants are quite comfortable asking for prayers from other Christians on earth; why do they not ask those saved saints who have departed from the earth and are close to God in heaven? After all, they may have passed from this world, but they're certainly alive -- more than we are!" That sounds so nice, but it is double-talk. Passed from this world = dead to us. Alive to God? Of course. Spiritually alive? Completely. But the prohibition of contact with the dead is specifically in the context of people living on earth seeking to have contact with those who have "passed from this world"! This kind of argumentation leaves the prohibition of contact with the dead meaningless and undefined. Further, there is a substantive, clear difference between asking a fellow believer to pray for you, and the prayers that are addressed to Mary and the saints. I have never asked anyone to save me from the wrath of Jesus, and yet that is what we read in this famous prayer:
O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the goods which God grants to us miserable sinners, and for this reason he has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee. Come then, to my help, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou are more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge himself, because by one prayer from thee he will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation I may neglect to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, then, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.When Mr. Armstrong finds me bowing down in front of one of my fellow believers, rocking back and forth mouthing prayers while fingering a string of beads, and placing a lit candle before them, then we can talk about parallels.
But then we find the paragraph that drew my attention to this section. I quote it in full:
If it is objected that the dead saints cannot hear us, we reply that God is fully able to give them that power -- with plenty of supporting biblical evidence: 1) the "cloud of witnesses" that Hebrews 12:1 describes; 2) in Revelation 6:9-10, prayers are given for us in heaven from "saints"; 3) elsewhere in Revelation an angel possesses "prayers of the saints" and in turn presents them to God; 4) Jeremiah is described as one who "prays much for the people" after his death in 2 Maccabees 15:13-14. The saints in heaven are clearly aware of earthly happenings. If they have such awareness, it isn't that much of a leap to deduce that they can hear our requests for prayer, especially since the Bible itself shows that they are indeed praying. (p. 121)Let's examine this argumentation. First, the objection would be based upon a lack of biblical evidence, along with the positive biblical prohibition against contact with the dead. To reply, "Well, God is fully able to give them that power" is not, in fact a response. Of course God can do so. God has all power, and since that is not a point in dispute, this is a classic example of a red herring. If God had wanted to arrange things so that Mary is the mediatrix of all graces, and so that saints intercede on our behalf in a Christianized pantheon of gods in heaven, He could have done that. The question is not "does God have the power to do so," the question is "has God done so?"
But what kind of supporting biblical evidence are we offered? I mean, if prayer, an act of worship in Scripture, is to be offered to anyone but God, surely there will be overwhelming evidence found in the normative practice of the Christian church, and in the writings of the early leaders of that church, the New Testament. But is that what we find?
The first text given is Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Armstrong assumes that the "great cloud of witnesses" refers to saints in heaven observing events on earth. However, given that this is a transitional statement following the chapter on the faithful men and women of old, it is far better to understand this text as referring to them and to recognize that a witness is not one who is observing events (as in Western thinking) but one who testifies, witnesses, by their life. The faithful of old are the ones who have witnessed to God's faithfulness by their own lives, and, since we have their testimony, we are to run the race with patience and joy. There is no reason, in the context of Hebrews, to conclude that the writer was positively teaching that saints in heaven observe earthly events, a concept that would be completely irrelevant to his point. ...
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Deacons, Elders, Armstrong, and...Luther
06/18/2007 - James SwanCatholic apologist Dave Armstrong has been attempting to justify his recent blunder in his new book, The One Minute Apologist. Recall, Dave presented Protestants as holding "...bishops, elders, and deacons are all synonymous terms for the same office." If this were simply one of his blog entries or web pages, it wouldn't be that big of deal for him. He would simply change his blatant error (If you visit DA's blog, you know his entries can appear, disappear, or change hour to hour). Problem solved. Unfortunately for him, the error is in a published book. He will have to wait for his second edition to fix it. Thus, we've been subjected to long blog entries, as Dave tries to put forth anything possible to smooth over his error.
Armstrong has dug up a Martin Luther quote to justify his error: "According to the New Testament Scriptures better names [for priests] would be ministers, deacons, bishops, stewards, presbyters . . ." In other words, Luther equivocated all these terms to mean the same thing. Armstrong then posits:
"It follows (by White's peculiar "reasoning") that Martin Luther was either: 1) exceptionally ignorant, as White claims I am, 2) a wacko on the fringe of Protestantism, leading a tiny sect, or 3) not a Protestant. 4) not a theologian (etc.,etc.). Take your pick (or throw out White's ludicrous argument) . ."
Well, before we thank Mr. Armstrong for such an invincible argument, perhaps we should make sure Luther holds what Armstrong says he does. If he doesn't, then certain conclusions follow as to the value of Dave's research. Before we delve into the Luther quote Armstrong utilized, let's take a quick survey of Luther's writings.
Sometime between 1527 and 1528, Luther lectured on 1 Timothy. This Biblical book sets forth detailed information about elders and deacons. Hence, whatever Luther says here specifically has importance as to his view. When one reads through the lectures, it is not simply a passing comment from Luther on elders and deacons. Rather, one finds long discussions as to what these offices mean. Luther clearly distinguishes between the office of elder and deacon:
"He must be above reproach. This is the first quality he must have. The man who wants to investigate, correct, and teach others should be above reproach." [LW 28:283]
"An apt teacher. Does this mean he should be trained at the university? He should be eager to teach and qualified to teach. Better yet, he should teach carefully." [LW 28:285]
"He teaches what they must learn. At the same time he instructs them in doctrine. Then he refutes those who contradict." (Titus 1:9). [LW 28: 285]
"We have heard that a bishop ought to have this gift, that he teach well and cheerfully. This is the chief responsibility and duty of the bishop: the ministry of the Word, even though our people regard religion most cheaply."[LW 28:285].
"Deacons were men who also preached occasionally. We read in Acts 6:16 that they chose seven men in the church to be in charge of providing for the poor and the widows. Those deacons also at times preached, as did Stephen, and they were admitted to other duties of the church, although their principal responsibility was to care for the poor and the widows." [LW 28:295]
"There ought to be deacons for the church men who should be of service to the bishop and at his recommendations have control in the church in external matters." [LW 28:295]
"You see, the deacon takes care of the people and is the bishop's steward." [LW 28: 297]
"Then let them serve as deacons. He imposes neither the office of teaching nor the qualifications of the bishop on deacons. Instead he gives them the responsibilities for supplies or financing. They should be serious, not double-tongued. They should not sow disharmony within the church. They should have a talent for bringing harmony, for increasing concord, peace, and the reputation of the bishop. They should not be drinkers but be attentive to their business." [LW 28:298]
"You have heard what sort of men Paul wants set up in the church. The rest is the promise which he connects to this: For those who serve well, etc.This promise which the deacons have can be taken generally to refer to bishops as well as to deacons. Paul strengthens them in this way that each is established in his own service. Yet he seems to be speaking especially about deacons, and he seems to be encouraging them. To be sure, the sense is: deacons belong to a lower order; inequality generally causes discord; and, since the lesser envy the greater, they become double-tongued. Paul now wants to interject this promise and make them content with their lot. He says in substance: Even if you do not have duties as solemn as bishops, yet you should be content with your rank. Before God you will not be lower than bishops, as if bishops were better people." [LW 28:299]
"The deacon wants to be the bishop: 'I know as much as he does, and I can preach as well as he.' That's the way they act today too. That rivalry Paul forbids everywhere. Let us have no self-conceit,Gal. 5:26. Let us not rival each other except in good. In this way, then, he now comforts deacons and wants to make them content, etc. Let each serve faithfully in his own vocation. If someone else has a loftier situation, let him not be jealous or despise his own lot. You should be careful that you serve well. [LW 28:300].
"If deacons do not seem to have so important a position, they nonetheless have the highest position in reliance on and faith in Christ. It is enough that they remain in faith toward Christ. That deacon can be free if he knows that his work pleases Christ and that his diaconate is as pleasing to Christ as is a bishop in his bishopric. Therefore he should comfort them that they may minister willingly and well and not be jealous. If some who are jealous do this because they consider that they have a gift of eloquence and good appearance, they have no confidence in pastors who do not have the same blessings. This is to ask for an official position from the world and the flesh. Give thanks! You can be as rich in Christ as a bishop.What is it to me that I do not have the same function?" [LW 28:301].
So what of Armstrong's Luther quote? The quote is from the 1523 treatise, Concerning The Ministry. The treatise was written for the emerging church of the Reformation. These early churches found themselves without pastors or supervision, so Luther was compelled to address this situation. The editors of Luthers Works explain, "Lacking episcopal supervision, the parishes were to be supervised by superintendents who would exercise the essential functions of a bishop, namely, to see to it that the Word was preached and the sacraments administered, the real work of the church" [LW 40, introduction].
Luther moves quickly to address the Roman Catholic priesthood and assert that it is invalid. Luther strongly chastises those who call themselves priests. He strongly condemns them, saying even their titles and their functions are unbiblical. He states, "On this account I think it follows that we neither can nor ought to give the name priest to those who are in charge of Word and sacrament among the people. The reason they have been called priests is either because of the custom of heathen people or as a vestige of the Jewish nation. The result is greatly injurious to the church." [LW 40:34]. Well, if the term priest is not to be used, what do we call those who run the church? Luther says, "According to the New Testament Scriptures better names would be ministers, deacons, bishops, stewards, presbyters (a name often used and indicating the older members)" [LW 40:34]. Luther is stating the priesthood (its role, powers, functions, etc), is not valid. Whatever office priests think they are holding, they are in severe Biblical error. Those who are in charge of the church are ministers, deacons, bishops, stewards, presbyters. Luther is not equivocating these terms. He is stating the papacy and its priesthood are not Biblical.
Luther instructs these new churches to pray for those whom will come forward to leadership roles in the church. He then states,
"When you have so prayed, have no doubt that he to whom you have prayed is faithful and will give what you ask, opening to him who knocks and granting to him who seeks [Matt. 7:8]. Thus you may be assured that you are not pushing this matter, but being pushed in it. Then call and come together freely, as many as have been touched in heart by God to think and judge as you do. Proceed in the name of the Lord to elect one or more whom you desire, and who appear to be worthy and able. Then let those who are leaders among you lay hands upon them, and certify and commend them to the people and the church or community. In this way let them become your bishops, ministers, or pastors. Amen. The qualifications of those to be elected are fully described by Paul, in Tit. 1[:6ff.], and I Tim. 3[:2ff.]" [LW 40:40].
If you've read my blog or any of my Luther papers, I have stated often that Dave Armstrong has trouble with Luther. The quote he uses once again proves he does not carefully consider his information before hitting "publish" on his blog. What do I think will happen? I think Dave will probably edit his use of Luther in this instance, or blame the Lutheran Scholar C.F.W Walther. Dave's blog is often now you see it, now you don't. I have demonstrated once again, Dave Armstrong struggles with context. In this instance, he has Luther's Works Volume 40, so there is no excuse.
Can Armstrong Admit He's Wrong Without Blaming Me?
06/15/2007 - James White(Once again, by the mouth of two or three witnesses: please see this excellent refutation of Armstrong's errors on this same point).
I recently pointed out a basic, simplistic error in Dave Armstrong's new book: he claims Protestants (he makes no distinctions) think elders, bishops, and deacons are all one office. He is, of course, wrong about this. I know Armstrong has not read it, and, to be honest, I doubt he will do so now, but he might actually benefit, just a bit, from reading Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity, edited by Chad Brand and R. Stanton Norman (Broadman-Holman, 2004). He won't look at it since I wrote the article defending the plurality of elders, and he's let us know he refuses to purchase my books except at used bookstores. That explains why he keeps repeating arguments with holes in them that have been pointed out in my debates, as they don't appear in used bookstores! He intentionally wishes to remain ignorant of what is going on in that arena of modern Roman Catholic vs. Protestant debates. A mighty odd view of how to do apologetics.
In any case, Armstrong made a mistake on the level of my saying Catholics think Cardinals and acolytes are the same office. It's just wrong. He can't blame it on a typo. He really believed that we make no distinction between the two offices despite the fact that there are two lists of qualifications for the two offices in Scripture! And this from a man who is a former Protestant. This speaks to how solid his "Protestant" credentials really were, and he knows it.
Now, the proper way to respond to the error is to say, "I'm sorry, I should have been more careful. I confess I do not know nearly as much about what Protestants believe as I pretend to." Of course, that won't do, because Armstrong considers himself an expert in Protestant beliefs.
So how does Armstrong address the error? Here is yet another classic example of why there is no reason to address Armstrong outside of addressing his positive arguments. You see, he may have made a "poor choice of one word" but you see, really, it's my fault anyway. Poor choice of one word? Poor choice of wording has to do with adjectives, not with completely blowing the Protestant view of the deaconate! But, read for yourself:
This is a case of a poor choice of one word (minor point) in the midst of a perfectly valid overall argument (major point); in other words, "majoring on the minors" (something White is extremely good at doing, as a first-rate sophist and obscurantist). It is true that this was an unwise use of "deacon". If I had left out that word, the argument, coming from the hypothetical Protestant, would have been virtually identical to White's own ecclesiology, since we see above that he equates elder and bishop...When my point was that Armstrong's book includes misrepresentations of Protestant belief, how can a plain example of this be a "minor" point? By saying this was an "unwise" use of "deacon," would it follow that if I said "Catholics worship the Pope" I could excuse it later by saying "that was an unwise use of the word Pope"? It is this kind of refusal to simply admit, "OK, I was wrong," that leaves Armstrong without a shred of credibility. But it gets worse.
If Armstrong would take the time to actually study the writings of those he critiques (rather than just proof-texting sources, often from secondary writings), he would know that Reformed Baptists have confessed the elder/bishop interchangeability since their inception; likewise, that we have always distinguished deacons from elders. And, he might actually have to deal with the reality that the Scriptures likewise use the terms interchangeably. This is not even a debatable topic, to be honest. It is a given, but, clearly, Armstrong is ignorant of the facts of the case. This is why he calls me "Bishop White," though, of course, no one else does. He thinks it is funny, when all he is proving by using the phrase is that he is the one ignorant of the subjects he chooses to pontificate upon in his voluminous writings.
I would challenge Armstrong to prove that presbu,teroj is a distinct office from evpi,skopoj. He might wish to start in Acts 20, where the terms are used interchangeably (Paul calls for the presbute,rouj of the church in 20:17; he then calls the very same group evpisko,pouj who poimai,nw the church of God. For the fair-minded person not bound to Roman developments, the NT's view is not even controversial. Armstrong claims:
Of course, the far greater burden lies on White, to establish his novel ecclesiology of bishops in the New Testament having no higher status than a mere elder or pastor of a local church (i.e., what he himself is). Hierarchical episcopacy is most apparent in the New Testament in the Council of Jerusalem.First, I have done so, Armstrong's refusal to read it notwithstanding (pp. 255-284 of the above cited work). Secondly, it isn't "novel." What Armstrong might try to deal with is this documentation on my part, posted years ago, demonstrating among other things that the monarchical episcopate at Rome was a second century development; i.e., that the Church at Rome did not have a single bishop until over a century after the resurrection! As to the Acts 15 Council, I would likewise refer him to my discussion of the Council in the above mentioned book (if he is actually willing to read the published works of others, anyway). If that is too much to ask, I addressed the issue on The Dividing Line as well, here. The fact that the Council is recorded in Scripture and is attended by apostles vitiates Armstrong's argument, of course, for he seeks to make it normative for the non-apostolic period.
Next, Armstrong attempts to deal with the issue I raised regarding the fact that his citation of Matthew 16:19 does not say what he wishes it to say. Sadly, he, and his readers, do not seem to understand that saying "Jesus gave the keys only to Peter" is an invalid conclusion from the future-tense promise that Jesus would give the keys to Peter. The "alone" part falls off if you do not have the fulfillment recorded in Scripture. How do you know Peter alone received the keys? Matthew 16:19 refers to a future event. There is, in fact, an event that fulfills the language in Matthew 18, but that cannot do for the Roman Catholic, because there, no distinction is made between Peter and the other apostles. So we are left to either conclude as many in the early church did that Peter received the keys equally with others (the Roman argument being a later development), or, that the Bible does not tell us anything about when Peter received the keys. But if that is the case, then no one can possibly claim he alone received them, for there is no logical grounds upon which to say "Since Jesus promised to give the keys to Peter it follows that He did not give them to anyone else either." Centuries later Roman pontiffs might wish to make that claim, but there is no reason at all to assume it as Armstrong does. But this fact is missed by him and his writers. One comments,
[A]t Matt. 16:18, Jesus says to Peter that He "will" give Peter the keys of the kingdom. Is he trying to say that Jesus is not a person that keeps His word because the Scriptures don't record the actual conveyance of keys later? If one reduces Mr. White's argument to its logical conclusion, it would suggest that Jesus is not "the Man of His Word (pun intended).How anyone can so completely miss the point is difficult to see: Armstrong says Jesus gave the keys to Peter alone in Matthew 16:19. The text does not say this. Armstrong is in error. I have asked Armstrong to explain how he grounds his claim. Armstrong then comments in response to the above:
Yes, I thought this was rather bizarre and striking also. What does it matter what tense the statement was? Obviously Peter was singled out for an extraordinary position and we can assume from common sense that Jesus intended for this to be during his earthly lifetime.Note that for Armstrong, basic exegetical facts about the texts he so glibly cites in error are "bizarre." This is the result of Roman authority claims. If a Jehovah's Witness replied to Armstrong, "Who cares what tense the verb is in John 1:1, that's bizarre!" would he have to grant his argument validity? Surely not.
So who cares whether it was a reference to the future? The fact remains that only Peter was promised the "keys of the kingdom." What God says will happen inevitably does happen. Another fallacy of White is to assume that "binding and loosing" represents the sum total of the responsibilities and prerogatives of the "keyholder." This is untrue. It involves much more than that.
At this point Armstrong once again demonstrates his utter incapacity for scholarly, germane debate. He writes,
Since Bishop White was apparently unable to locate this paper on my blog: the very one that already has the answers to his current arguments, I will cite a few of the things in it, all written by Protestant Bible scholars.First, there is nothing, absolutely positively nothing, in what he cites, addressing the meaning of dw,sw and his own claims regarding Matthew 16:19. Hence, we have paragraph after paragraph of text reposted as if it is a refutation of my statements, when, logically, it is nothing but smoke and dust. This is Dave Armstrong's modus operandi, one that has been documented over and over again. And, since it is simply all the man has, he will only keep proving my point if he tries to reply further, or, he will do what he has done in the past, take his ball, and run home. In either case, the facts will be plain for any fair-minded person to review.
The lengthy materials posted about Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 have been refuted over and over again in my public debates with men such as Gerry Matatics, Robert Sungenis, Scott Butler and Mitch Pacwa. I refer the reader to those debates for the arguments Armstrong ignores. ...
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From the Mouth of Two or Three Witnesses
06/14/2007 - James WhiteI could not have said it better, but, it is best when someone else observes, and comments upon, the obvious. Read Armstrong's post. Not even the mention of a single point of criticism of his position. Not once. Just "Oh, woe is me! I'm a victim!" Truly amazing. Please note, I am not reviewing Armstrong's book for the sake of Armstrong. He is beyond dialogue or discussion. But his errors repeat themselves out there in the "real world," and hence the refutation of them...again...is useful for those who refuse to be silent.
Dave Armstrong: The One Minute Apologist
06/13/2007 - James WhiteDave Armstrong has a new book out (anyone who has visited his website for many months is well aware of this fact). It is titled, The One-Minute Apologist. There isn't much new here (Armstrong is not an original thinker, he just collates what others say and repeats their arguments, normally in very inflated forms), but the format is interesting. Each section is only two pages long. Now, that kind of format is very challenging, especially for someone like Armstrong, whose most effective weapon is verbal flooding. He is well known for doing text-based core dumps, filled with links to his own writings. But this format does not allow that. Instead, to do this well, you must master the art of providing the quick, accurate, insightful, communicative reply. You must choose your words carefully, and most importantly, you must reply to the objections to your claims by showing an in-depth knowledge of "the other side." On the other hand, if you might be better off working in another field, attempting this kind of project will illustrate that, too.
Many of Armstrong's suggested objections and answers are either aimed at the most dismally ignorant of those who oppose Rome's claims (a common element of much of the literature produced by the wide spectrum of their apologists) or against people I honestly have never met or heard of. So a number of the sections really are not relevant to a serious non-Catholic reader. It is hard to decide which are which, because of some of the tremendously obvious errors Armstrong makes. For example, on page 17, Armstrong attempts to present a "Protestant" objection relating to the offices of the church:
The Bible teaches that bishops, elders, and deacons are all synonymous terms for the same office: roughly that of a pastor today. It doesn't indicate that bishops are higher than these other offices.Just who believes this, I wonder? I have never read any work by any Protestant theologian of any note who has ever made this argument. So, is Armstrong just ignorant of Protestant ecclesiology, or, has he run into some tiny sect someplace that has come up with some new wacky viewpoint? Given that he was once non-Catholic, it is hard to believe he could be so ignorant of the reality regarding the fact that bishop and elder refer to the same office and are used interchangeably in the New Testament, but that this office is clearly distinguished from that of the deacon. But, he does not show any knowledge of the biblical arguments in his presentation in this book (though any brief review of my debate with Mitch Pacwa on the subject of the priesthood would have provided him with a very useful outline). I will demonstrate the circularity and failure of his arguments for the priesthood later.
But in the majority of presentations, Rome's position is assumed, not actually demonstrated. The circularity of Armstrong's writings is plain for all to see. He falls into the category of apologists who believe that arguing for the possibility of Rome's position is sufficient to establish her ultimate authority claims. But that kind of argumentation is only effective for those who already want to believe and are simply looking for a reason to continue to do so. It surely has no impact upon the one who continues to demand some kind of substantive response.
The One Minute Apologist illustrates the same problem I have documented in the majority of the rest of Rome's apologists: they do not have any desire to interact with the strongest criticisms of their position, but, for some reason, are more than content to repeat the same worn out arguments that have been offered, and refuted, over and over again in the past. And when they represent the "objections," they do not present the best, the strongest, but the most mundane, the least compelling, as normative for "the other side."
For example, Armstrong does not even seem to be aware of fundamental and fatal objections to his favorite arguments. He repeatedly asserts that Jesus gave the keys to Peter alone. On page 34 we read, "Peter alone is given the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven'--a symbol of stewardship and supervisory capacity over the house of God, or the Church." A footnote is attached pointing us to Matthew 16:19: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." But there does not seem to be any recognition on his part of what I brought out over a decade ago in The Roman Catholic Controversy: ...
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Francis Beckwith Begins to Give His Reasons (#4)
06/11/2007 - James WhiteI began working through the reasons offered by Frank Beckwith for his reversion to Rome contained in a recent National Catholic Register article, found here. Of course, such an article cannot provide an exhaustive accounting, but so far we have seen indications that the foundations of this move were rather hastily constructed, or, more accurately, the actual foundations went back a long way (i.e., his non-Catholic standing had long been less than informed), and this reversion seems to have more to do with that long-standing consistency of theological and philosophical viewpoint than it does a brief four-month run through selected works of certain early Christian writers. What has become quite clear is that Dr. Beckwith was representative of a very large portion of what was once called evangelicalism: he was a non-Catholic who did not know why he was a non-Catholic, though, in his case, he was a former Catholic as well. His confusion in answering the question "Why are you not a Catholic" reveals a major problem with many "evangelical leaders" today who likewise can only give an answer to that question that is surface level at best.
Then I read the Council of Trent, which some Protestant friends had suggested I do. What I found was shocking. I found a document that had been nearly universally misrepresented by many Protestants, including some friends.
Again, any "Protestant" leader who has never even bothered to read the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent should be ashamed of themselves. Seriously! I would invite Dr. Beckwith to substantiate his "nearly universally misrepresented" statement on the basis of my own published works. And what is more, I would challenge him to do so not on the basis of some 21st century, Americanized, a-historical reading of Trent in light of post-Vatican II theology, but on the basis of the historical context of Trent and in light of the commentary on its meanings provided by those who were actually at the Council, and on the basis of the catechism produced to support it.
I do not believe, however, that the misrepresentation is the result of purposeful deception. But rather, it is the result of reading Trent with Protestant assumptions and without a charitable disposition.One should surely read Trent with Catholic assumptions, i.e., in the context of the kind of Roman Catholicism that produced it (and may I suggest Post Vatican II Roman Catholicism is vastly different in tone and outlook?), but once again, what kind of "charitable" disposition is required to accurately interpret historical documents? Does "charitable" mean "willing to allow modern Roman Catholicism to redefine historical documents so as to maintain a facade of consistency and unity over time"?
For example, Trent talks about the four causes of justification, which correspond somewhat to Aristotle's four causes. None of these causes is the work of the individual Christian. For, according to Trent, Gods grace does all the work. However, Trent does condemn faith alone, but what it means is mere intellectual assent without allowing Gods grace to be manifested in ones actions and communion with the Church. This is why Trent also condemns justification by works.So, since Rome condemns Pelagianism, all is well? Did Beckwith actually think that was the issue all along during his time outside of Rome? How could anyone who has read even a smattering of Calvin or Luther or any of the relevant Reformation literature think that saying "none of these causes is the work of the individual Christian" is even slightly relevant? Once again, no one was arguing the necessity of grace. They were arguing the sufficiency of grace. As far as numbers go, Rome has won, since, obviously, the majority of "Protestants," in ignorance, agree with Rome on the matter. Not that there are too many left in Rome to care, given her own internal collapse, but that is another subject. Man's religions are quite happy to confess the need for God's grace. Man's religions cannot possibly confess the sufficiency of that grace. Once you do so, you cut out the necessity of the "middle man," in this case, the Roman sacramental system, which, of course, is the lifeblood of the Roman Curia. Sufficient grace replaces the centrality of Rome's sacraments. And hence the battle.
What do these words mean? "...without allowing Gods grace to be manifested in ones actions and communion with the Church." I join in condemning mere intellectual assent as being saving faith (Hodges/Wilkinism). But are we to truly believe that this was Trent's context? If so, were they simply ignorant of what the Reformers were teaching? If they were not, then why use their language while condemning an error no one was promoting? This is what I mean when I say we cannot interpret Trent in a 21st century context but must allow the original context to stand. And what does it mean to have God's grace manifested by communion with the Church? Is this a reference to the sacraments? It would seem so, but unfortunately, the article is too brief to allow for a full examination of these tantalizingly brief statements.
I am convinced that the typical Council of Trent rant found on anti-Catholic websites is the Protestant equivalent of the secular urban legend that everyone prior to Columbus believed in a flat earth.Does it follow, I wonder, if the typical type of "faith alone is only found in James 2:24" "rant" found on anti-Protestant websites (if Beckwith is going to start with the anti-Catholic rhetoric, let's at least keep it consistent) is the Catholic equivalent to a secular urban legend as well?
But what was shocking to me is that one never finds in the Fathers claims that these doctrines are unbiblical or apostate or not Christian, as one finds in contemporary anti-Catholic fundamentalist literature. So, at worst, I thought, the Catholic doctrines were considered legitimate options early on in Church history by the men who were discipled by the apostles and/or the apostles disciples.I wonder why Beckwith, as a scholar, chooses to focus upon "anti-Catholic fundamentalist literature" rather than serious historical and theological works reflecting a Reformed critique of Roman Catholicism? Is it because all he is familiar with is, in fact, "fundamentalist" literature of the Jack Chick variety? I would truly like to ask Beckwith if he has seriously read and studied Calvin's Institutes, and if so, when?
But more to the point, if this reasoning is what brought Beckwith back to Rome, why didn't the absence of so much of unique Roman teaching keep him away? Sure, you can always do the Newman thing, but if you do that, why bother with history at all? Why say, "Well, I can find part of these teachings in early writers, and for the rest, I can do the acorn/tree thing ala Newman"? How is this kind of argumentation compelling?
At best, the Catholic doctrines are part of the deposit of faith passed on to the successors of the apostles and preserved by the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.At worst, they are a perversion of the gospel, without historical foundation, some even being completely unknown for great expanses of the early centuries, forced upon men and women by the false authority of Rome.
At this point, I thought, if I reject the Catholic Church, there is good reason for one to believe I am rejecting the Church that Christ himself established.Now there is a leap that leaves the rest of us standing there wondering what just happened. How he got from "I found some doctrines in the early writings I didn't expect to find" to "well, that means it is best to bow to the Pope's authority" may have been included in the interview material but didn't make it into the published account, but that's unlikely. Let me see if I can take another stab at it. "At this point, though I had only been spending a matter of weeks looking at this material, and had not, in fact, taken the time to read the 'other side,' and though I found no evidence of the unique Roman Catholic dogmas relating to Mary, or Papal power, in the early sources, I had found enough things to make me believe it would be best to submit to Rome anyway." And this is not taking a "risk"? Obviously, something is missing here, something very important, something that has yet to be revealed or discussed publicly.
Thats not a risk I was willing to take.
After all, if I return to the Church and participate in the sacraments, I lose nothing, since I would still be a follower of Jesus and believe everything that the catholic creeds teach, as I have always believed. But if the Church is right about itself and the sacraments, I acquire graces I would have not otherwise received.Think this one through for a moment, and you might see why even conservative Roman Catholics might find this reasoning a tad bit less than compelling, or even helpful. But more to the point, consider this in light of Paul's warnings to the Galatians. Beckwith sees that Rome's sacraments are the "added" feature. So I wonder how he views these words:
Galatians 5:1-4 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.Christ will be of no benefit to whom? To the one who adds a single thing to the gospel, a single action that "controls" the grace of God. I continue to stand amazed at men who can read this, and, knowing Rome's sacramental system, knowing her penances and the like, can squint so hard as to say, "No, no, I don't see Rome adding anything to the message of faith in Christ alone." I do not know if Beckwith has considered these things, as so far, I have not heard of him actually sitting down with anyone but Roman Catholics during his "study." I have found this a commonality with RC converts, sadly.
Evangelicals can learn from Catholics that Christianity is a historical faith that did not vanish from the earth between the second and 16th centuries.This again makes one wonder, very strongly, just what Beckwith's views were about church history as a "non-Catholic." Comments like these do not cause us to think his was a very deep-seated study of the Reformation and the literature produced therein.
Much of what evangelicals think of as the odd beliefs of Catholics have their roots deep in Christian history.Yes indeed. For example, the Gnostic Gospels beat modern Roman Catholicism to many of the Marian dogmas by many centuries. Is this the kind of "roots" he is looking for? Possibly not, but, is he even aware of this? Has he looked into it? We cannot tell.
More information will probably come out, slowly, over time. But so far, I, for one, am left wondering just how "non-Catholic" this Catholic revert ever was, and I am once again forced to recognize how many post-evangelicals are non-Catholic only by tradition or taste, not by conviction.
My Own Personal Papal Stalker
06/09/2007 - James WhiteDave Armstong: Papal Stalker. Check it out for yourself.
Romans 3:2 And The Apocrypha (Part 1)
06/08/2007 - James SwanI've been working through Catholic apologist Gary Michuta's new book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger (Michigan: The Grotto Press, 2007). Michuta's book has informed us Josephus can't be trusted when he refers to a twenty-two book Jewish Bible. We also learned Rabbinical Judaisms' tradition of a cessation of prophecy after the time of Artaxerxes was concocted in the second century and read back into history. We've seen that the writer of Ecclesiasticus wasn't sure what other books were canonical, but was sure his was. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Michuta's book is canon uncertainty. Michuta informs his readers the canonical status of 1 Esdras, 4 Ezra, and 3 Maccabees were passed over in silence by the infallible Council of Trent (p.240). In other words, there may be a few more books that could make Catholic Bibles even bigger. Apparently not a top priority, the papacy isn't in any hurry to turn this silence into the certain voice of God. They've had over four hundred years to resolve this. By implication, Catholics are certain they are uncertain on the exact number of books comprising the Old Testament.
This time lets focus on Michuta's treatment of Romans 3:2, "First of all, [the Jews] were entrusted with the oracles of God." This verse implies a specific set of authoritative inspired writings treated by the Jews as the very word of God. By looking at the New Testament and historical evidence, it can safely be said the canon of the Hebrew Bible was a definite set of books compiled before the time of Christ. The Jews knew which books were Scripture and which were not. When God gave them the oracles, they knew exactly what He gave them.
Catholic apologists argue first century Judaism was uncertain as to the exact contents of the Hebrew Bible. In other words, the Jews were unsure as to the exact extent of the oracles of God. They knew there were some inspired divine books. Their confusion was sorted out when they finally rejected the apocryphal books later in the second century. Only then were the limits of the Hebrew Bible fixed, excluding the apocryphal books once and for all. Because the Jews had no infallible magisterium, they mistakenly deleted the apocryphal books, as well as repudiating the New Testament.
Roman Catholics typically revert to certainty and infallibility arguments, and Michuta is no exception. In using Romans 3:2, Michuta argues Protestant apologists (by implication) believe the Jews must have had an infallible ability to declare the contents of the Hebrew Bible (p.11). If Oracles of God means a complete and finished Old Testament, then the apocrypha and the New Testament cannot be Scripture. Closed means closed. Gary says, "To put the case shortly, if Paul's words in Romans 3:2 mean that inspiration had already ceased in Judaism and the canon of Scripture was already closed, then Romans 3:2 itself is non-canonical and we need take no further notice of it!" (p.12).
In actuality, Protestant apologists argue something quite different.The recognition of the Hebrew Bible by the Jews points out an infallible church is not needed for canon certainty. The Jews were entrusted with the Scriptures, despite the fact they did not have an infallible magisterium. God held the Jews accountable to the books entrusted to them, as demonstrated by the interaction of Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus quoted Scripture, and He assumed those listening knew it was Scripture. None of Jesus' opponents claimed uncertainty as to what was canonical in counter arguing with the Lord. Jesus charged the Pharisees as making the word of God void by their tradition (Mark 7:13). He asks them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures?" (Matthew 21:42). If Jesus held them responsible to the Scriptures, they certainly knew what those Scriptures were.
Once Gary's infallible card is removed, the entire argument collapses. Protestants are not arguing the canon of the entirety of Scripture was closed upon the death of the last prophet, Zechariah. They argue the Scriptures being spoken of in the New Testament were a definite set of recognized books. For instance:
Luke 24:27 "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."
John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me..."
John 10:35 "...the Scripture cannot be broken..."
Acts 17:2 "And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures."
Acts 17:11 "Now [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
The Spirit of prophecy returned to Israel in John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. The miraculous signs accompanying them demonstrated this. Some of the Jews rejected them, and thus subsequently rejected their soon-to-be inscripturated message. But some of the Jews did accept the New Testament: recall, the first Christians were Jewish Christians. Like any period in history, God's people will hear his voice and follow:"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Next, we'll continue looking at Gary Michuta's private interpretation of Romans 3:2, to see what the phrase exactly means to him.
Francis Beckwith Begins to Give His Reasons (#3)
06/07/2007 - James WhiteBeckwith then begins to recount, briefly, his steps back into full communion with Rome, which included David Currie's book, Born Fundamentalist, Born-Again Catholic. The time-frame is also interesting. His reading of "the Early Church Fathers" and the Catholic Catechism began long, long ago...in January. Given I blogged his conversion in early May, which went back to late April, not even four months passed by. Just how much of the patristic corpus can one tackle in that time period, I wonder? Very little, of course. I have a feeling, given the comments I have seen so far, that we have another "Jurgens Conversion" here when it comes to patristic materials. That is, quote books, like Jurgen's collection, are the main-stay of those who claim that they have "read the early Church Fathers." What they have read are selections, carefully chosen, but not the actual sources themselves. That is how they can glibly speak of unity and harmony and the like while passing over all the contradictory evidence.
Likewise during this time Beckwith notes he read Noll's Is the Reformation Over? a particularly bad book I reviewed for the CRI Journal. This then leads to this very telling statement:
This led me to read the “Joint Declaration on Justification” by Lutheran and Catholic scholars. While consulting these sources, I read portions of a book by my friends Norm Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences. It is a fair-minded book.Yes, I'm sure Geisler's work has functioned that way for more than one person, as I warned when it first came out long ago. That's what happens when your primary author is Jesuit trained, and you run it by Jimmy Akin for editorial suggestions and corrections. Nothing shocking here, to be sure.
But some of the points that Norm and Ralph made really shook me up and were instrumental in facilitating my return to the Church.
In this long, in-depth and intensive study of patristic sources, Beckwith concludes, "Then when I read the Fathers, those closest to the Apostles, the Reformation doctrine was just not there." Really? Maybe it was next to the discussion of purgatory, indulgences, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, Papal infallibility, the immaculate conception of Mary, and the bodily assumption of Mary, which are all not to be found in any reading of the early writings of the Christian faith? I wonder why those facts would not keep Beckwith from Rome, while this other alleged "fact" would? Truly hard to say, isn't it? But I wonder, did Dr. Beckwith find the following in his patristic sources, or was time just too pressed to notice it in passing?
This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Savior who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life... (Mathetes to Diognetius, Chapter 9).
That sure sounds like what I believe! But, it must not be, for we have Rome assurance that it is not! But then again, let's say I could not find texts like this. What did Augustine teach me?
What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought....Therefore, I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher. (Augustine, De bono viduitatis, 2, NPNF Series I, III:442; Migne PL 40:431. Note especially the phrase, "Scriptura nostrae doctrinae regulam figit," that is, "Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine.")
You ought to notice particularly and store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian. For when He offered Himself to them to touch, this did not suffice Him unless He also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures, for He foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read" (In Epistolam Johannis tractus, 2).
Let us not hear: This I say, this you say; but, thus says the Lord. Surely it is the books of the Lord on whose authority we both agree and which we both believe. There let us seek the church, there let us discuss our case. (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3)
Let those things be removed from our midst which we quote against each other not from divine canonical books but from elsewhere. Someone may perhaps ask: Why do you want to remove these things from the midst? Because I do not want the holy church proved by human documents but by divine oracles (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae 3).
Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae 3).
And just one more for now,
Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-95): "..we make the Holy Scriptures the canon and the rule of every dogma; we of necessity look upon that, and receive alone that which may be made conformable to the intention of those writings. (On the Soul and Resurrection).
Were these texts missing from Dr. Beckwith's 100 day examination of patristic writings, or were they simply missing from Jurgens or such secondary sources? ...
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Francis Beckwith Begins to Give His Reasons (#2)
06/05/2007 - James WhiteAs I noted a few days ago, Frank Beckwith has begun elucidating his reasons for going back to the Roman communion. In an article in the National Catholic Register, Beckwith answers various questions about his reversion. I continue reviewing his comments.
For instance, because Protestant evangelicals accept much of the Great Tradition that Catholics take for granted such as the Catholic creeds and the inspiration of Scripture but without recourse to the Churchs authority, they have produced important and significant works in systematic theology and philosophical theology.
The inspiration of Scripture, pre-existing the time of Christ, of course, is hardly dependent upon any post-NT "tradition" of whatever nature one might theorize. But I find it ironic that while especially Reformed Protestants have stood for the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, producing scholarly tomes in its defense (think of Warfield's work on the topic, for example), Rome's schools are filled with priests and academics who no more believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible than they actually believe Mary was Bodily Assumed into heaven. When one thinks of those who believe in and defend inerrancy, you do not think of Rome.
And as to having recourse to the (Roman) Church's authority, is that the same authority that cannot give final and clear answers to such issues as the nature of God's act of predestination, but can give clear answers to such obscure and obtuse things as whether Mary was bodily assumed into heaven or immaculately conceived? We have recourse to the church established by Christ, with elders/bishops and deacons, not the monstrosity that has developed over the centuries with Popes and cardinals and every sort of unbiblical, non-apostolic invention that could possibly be created for the self-aggrandizement of the Vatican and the prideful men who have sat upon the cathedra Petri.
Next Beckwith is asked about the "hostility" he has had to endure regarding his reversion. I wonder, will anyone ask him about the hostility Rome has shown toward gospel believing men and women down through the centuries, and the hostility implicit in his own renunciation of his former confession of faith in such things as sola scriptura and sola fide? For folks who are so often talking about history, it is very odd that we do not hear very much at all about Rome's own history of hostility toward other religious groups, especially those nasty "heretics" with which she was so busy from 1100 up to the time of the Reformation. Strange, no?
Of course, a repeated statement now by Dr. Beckwith is that this "hostility" is based upon ignorance of the "real" Rome. We read,
Some of the hostility was not surprising, for some of it came from well-meaning Protestants who simply do not have a good grounding in Christian history or the Catholic Catechism. Many of these well-meaning folks, unfortunately, have sat under the teachings of less-than-careful Bible-church preachers and pastors who approach Catholicism with a cluster of flawed categories that make even a charitable reading of the Catechism almost impossible.
Given that Beckwith had launched a strike against John MacArthur on the subject of Lent just a few weeks before his reversion, it is not difficult to figure out who the "less-than-careful Bible-church preachers" are. But I wonder what kind of "charitable" reading of Rome's teachings today allow Beckwith to insist he is still an "evangelical"? Does charity change history? Does it remove the contexts that give meaning to words found in ancient documents? Is this how modern Roman Catholics get around the impossible contradictions in their own history, holding together their modern inclusivism with their historical statements, such as this one?
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger 714).
All the charity in the world will not change the meaning of those words as they were penned originally. The olympic efforts put forth since then to change that meaning, alter it and neuter it, are only monuments to how far men and women will go to maintain a religious system. As Dr. Beckwith has made reference to a possible book, it will be interesting to see just how consistently you can create a "charitable" framework in which to hold together Rome's many historical, biblical, and theological contradictions.
I actually think there are different circles of evangelicals that overlap each other. There are those who interact with Catholics, and those who dont. I have been with the group that has interacted for quite a while because of my discipline of philosophy and because the cultural issues that I write on are the ones around which evangelicals and Catholics have been aligned.
I noted when the news of this situation first broke that Beckwith's work on "cultural issues" with Roman Catholics was clearly important in his decision. Well over a decade ago, in response to the initial ECT document, I wrote the following, that remains relevant today:
ECT was born out of the common alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestants in our land against such travesties as abortion, pornography, and the general decline in moral values that is readily seen on all sides. Until one recognizes the power that such an alliance can bring to bear upon a person, one will not be in a position to criticize the authors. Many will have nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to this document, rejecting it out of hand without learning from it a very important lesson. We do not live in vacuum; our theological beliefs are impacted by the world around us, and by our interaction with it. When we feel very strongly about an issue, we can allow that perspective to influence many other aspects of our lives.
As an example, a few years ago I became involved in protesting the murder of unborn children. I believe to this day that abortion is murder, plain and simple, and that those who engage in this activity will answer to God, either now, or in the judgment to come. Indeed, abortion may well be one of the many aspects of God's judgment that is already coming upon one of the most wicked societies the world has ever known. Be that as it may, I became involved with Operation Rescue on a local level in the Phoenix area, even debating abortion rights advocates on local radio stations, and appearing as a representative in the media. It is vital for everyone to understand how strongly one can feel about this kind of issue, and how that strong feeling can overshadow every other consideration.
It was not long, however, before I became aware of a real problem. It was not, in my situation, stated in writing, but it was understood by all that everyone involved in the work was to be considered a Christian if indeed they claimed to be one. On the practical level, this meant that if I were to find myself in a jail cell with a Roman Catholic it was my duty and obligation to join hands with this person as a fellow believer in Christ, no questions asked. I could not address the issues that separated us. I could not contrast the finished work of Christ, and His free grace, with the Roman concept of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, and the idea of merit. I could not, if convinced of its necessity, share the gospel of grace with this Roman Catholic, for this would amount to a "division in the ranks" so to speak, and would detract from the focus of the work. This reality quickly drove me from the organization, and helped me to see the very error that has now been enshrined in Evangelicals and Catholics Together. ...
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Porvaznik on Debates
06/04/2007 - James WhiteFor some reason my Google blog search pulls up items from the Catholic Answers forums. This one came up a little while ago:
On James White's web site, he is advertising's a number of debates against Tim Staples, Patrick Madrid and Mitch Pacwa.
Presumably, he believes he 'won' these debates, at one point noting that St. Joseph's Communications would not want Catholics to hear them. I did notice that the debates against Mr. White are not for sale there or on Catholic Answers (except one with Jimmy Akin).
Question: Would it be worth procuring the debates against Staples, Madrid and Pacwa from James White's web site? Or would it be a disappointment, ie, did the Catholic side not do so well?
I wonder, does some "presume" that if you make the tapes of a debate available it automatically follows that you are claiming to have won? I would say if you do not make the tapes available, that might indicate you realize you lost, unless the debate is very old and you have debated the topic since that time, possibly. Also, do you think this fellow got a few quick e-mails warning him away from aomin.org? Hey, at least he was able to post the URL to our website. More than you can say for Envoy! Anyway, Phil Porvaznik always comments on this topic whenever anyone raises it. He has a "scorecard" of which debates I have won and which ones I have lost. I suppose I should be thankful that I'm batting about .384 (that would make me millions in MLB) according to ol' Phil who, of course, would never step into the ring himself. He says Sungenis won the Papal infallibility debate in Tampa, but sorta forgets to mention that Sungenis not only contradicted Staples in defending the papacy in that debate, but likewise had to assert that Roman popes can themselves be heretics (you should have heard the gasps from the Roman Catholics in the audience). But it was this comment that caught my eye:
And of course Akin won his two debates with White: eternal security and BAM (1995) radio debates so those are safe.Now, what makes me chuckle here is just this: the key argument Akin presented in 1995 had to do with John 6 and his assertion that Jesus used an "inceptive aorist" here. Since then Akin has admitted the argument was silly, but, despite this, Porvaznik still thinks he won, even though Akin has abandoned one of his most important arguments stated in the debate! You gotta love ol' Phil. Refuted repeatedly, but nothing---even obvious facts---can keep the boy down. That's the kind of defender Rome needs, one that is never rattled, even by the truth! Way to go, Phil! You deserve the "True Crusader" Award.