Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Theology of Islam
09/30/2007 - James WhiteA few portions of my interview on Islam with Coral Ridge appeared this weekend. You can watch the segment on line. If I could figure out how to link directly to the video feed in a player, I would, but that's a bit beyond my technical capacities. I'm honored to have gotten to contribute to the segment along with the likes of Al Mohler and Walid Phares, and in particular I'm glad the last segment where I speak of the difference between Islam's vision and that of Christianity was included. I also had a few comments included in an earlier segment. You can order the DVD of all of these segments here.
A Trip Through Steve Ray's Combox
09/29/2007 - James WhiteAs I noted last week, Steve Ray's response (titled "The Obsessed Man Continues his Rant") to my series (which he professes to have not bothered to read---can you imagine if I replied to his 30 page pdf with the same kind of attitude?) began with these kind words:
Someone informed me that James White the Baptist was continuing his rant concerning my blog on the Assumption of Mary. The guy continues to take me far more seriously than I have ever taken him. He's really just a little man full of himself an angry know-it-all who's really just a tempest in a teapot. The only reason I have ever responded to him in the past is for the sake of others reading the material. If I had nine lives I might waste some time refuting his latest rantings, but this time his preaching is not worth responding to. Let him prattle on. I have better things to do that to respond to every pontificating anti-Catholic that sets up a blog.I had not commented on the fact that he dismisses my response as "not worth responding to." I would invite our readers to examine what has been offered thus far and see if perhaps Mr. Ray may well be guilty of a little misrepresentation here. It would be easy to waste time focusing upon such kind and charitable lines as "pontificating anti-Catholic," and "a little man full of himself," but we already know that Mr. Ray operates on a gross double-standard when it comes to such things, and, you won't find any of the folks over at Jimmy Akin's comboxes calling for him to be more charitable as a result, either, will you? In any case, I believe my blog has been active at least as long as Ray's, covers a much wider range of topics, so the attempt to dismiss it as having been set up just to pontificate in his direction is another indication of just how cavalier Ray is with the truth.
But I decided to take a quick spin through the comments Ray has allowed in response to this post, since a couple of folks contacted me and said that Ray had refused to post their replies. Hence, one can expect a very one-sided set of replies, and that is exactly what you find. Here are some of the more instructive of the comments. Erik wrote,
The greatest day is going to be when James White finally reads history, understands it (he seems to have a problem with isogesis) and, realizing his mistakes, joins RCIA and becomes a Catholic apologist.That would be "eisegesis," actually, and isn't it ironic that this would be posted in this thread, when I am providing fair, accurate replies to Ray which include patristic materials? There is an element of "look, I am putting my fingers in my ears and not listening but still saying you are wrong while not listening to you" in the comments in this thread, to be sure. "Tiber Jumper," another highly unbiased source, commented,
Your testimony and work has brought far more souls into the Church than Dr. Whites blog could ever pull out of the Church. But its not about numbers but truth. Ultimately, the Truth will set us all free.If it isn't about numbers, why cite non-existent numbers? No one has a clue what numbers are accurate or relevant regarding numbers of "converts," and anyone who knows my work knows I take the long-view, praising God for the conversion stories we do hear, but looking down the road to generations to come as well. I do get wonderful e-mails from people who have come to the truth, but I generally feel very uncomfortable asking to "use" their testimonies. That's just not how I do things. Next, if you want true irony, remember that the next comment from Randy is in response to Ray's refusal to so much as pretend to interact with the refutation of his claims:
Think of the parable of the sower. Some ground is just too hard. It needs to soften up a bit. Not just him but many of those that read his site are determined not to listen to the Catholic message. They listen to poke holes but do not REALLY listen. That is in huge contrast to so many Catholic apologists who have given protestantism every chance to convince them it is true.How many times have I documented the fact that it is Rome's apologists who so often demonstrate the "fingers in the ears" methodology of apologetics? How many times do their apologists take it as a badge of honor that they have not read my books, that they do notinteract even with the criticism I offer directly of them by playing their own words on the DL? One must truly be living in a fantasy world to think this is an accurate representation of the modern situation. Next we have Z said, and again, this is written in a combox sponsored by a man whose entire persona is self-promotion,
I dont know that I want James White to become a Catholic Apologist. I think the man does more to turn people away from whatever he is promoting, simply because the number one thing he promotes is himself.As is normal with our intrepid apologists (he identifies himself as one), no examples are given. Remember Guardian, who has had to ask for three months just to come up with documentation of an allegation he made over at Catholic Answers? Regular listeners to the DL have heard the few of these folks who have had the intestinal fortitude to call in, and when challenged on these issues, their replies have been significantly less than useful. Of course, I'd be happy to have Z said call in if he would like to provide some documentation of his allegations. Given the work that I do, it is always best to have answers, and the irony is, I have always openly admitted that there are entire areas that I will not even begin to address because I either know nothing about them, or, only have a general knowledge and I don't want anyone to invest such an opinion with any extra weight. But, I have rarely found these folks to have taken much time to actually study or listen, so I can hardly put too much weight in such comments.
Then we have Dozie the Internet Mind Reader and Amateur Psychologist. He starts out with this observation:
One of the major problems in America and in the world today is the problem of people raised in dysfunctional homes that is, raised without any standard values or proper boundaries.Then we get personal...
In observing James White and his form of rebellion and his seemingly autonomous religious existence (the man has never invoked any form of religious authority over him or made reference to any limitations his religion imposes on him and his public behavior), I cannot fail but make a connection between his approach in public discourse and the environment and values in which he grew up.And this from a person who hasn't a clueabout the "environment" in which I grew up, of course. What is more, the fact that I am an elder in a Reformed Baptist Church, affirm the vital importance of church membership, etc., only shows how little these people actually care about the accuracy or factuality of their public pronouncements. But it should be remembered, for these folks, this is an apologetic argument.They are obviously not up to the challenge of actually dealing with the issues (remember the context of the combox), so this is the only mechanism open to them: lie about the person who is presenting the historical and biblical arguments you cannot possibly refute, and use your lies as your basis for ignoring the essence of the arguments. We cannot help but feel for someone who deceived and entrapped in false religion as this person, but we must recognize the existence of this kind of rhetoric. So, in the face of the obvious hypocrisy of Steve Ray to first take me "seriously" enough to offer a 30 page pdf, and then, upon receiving criticism and refutation, all of a sudden no longer take me "seriously" enough to defend his own assertions, consider the insight we gain here into the followers of Ray. Dozie opines,
In a sense, like the radical left who grew up in dysfunctional homes, here must be an example of a radical right who was raised up badly and who inserts himself in the most obnoxious manner in conversations regarding a system he is incapable of understanding and insists that we must answer to him provide him with a certain level of refutation. I do not think a Catholic has to. I have insisted that no Protestant(who is not a seeker) has a right to make any kind of demand on a Catholic for any kind of answer. The most appropriate response to James White then is to let his matter die.When you have to attack a man's family to get around his documentation of your errors, well, you are truly bankrupt in the arena of truth.
Finally, Ray chimes in in response to another comment counseling ignoring my replies to his own claims with these words,
I agree with you completely, but there are some innocent folks who might be influenced by such nonsense and it is good for them to see that guys like White and his kind are very easy to refute. If someone does not refute them, like saints have refuted heretics in the past, then others might think they cannot be refuted. Such petty, self-important know-it-alls need to be refuted so others don't fall prey to them.OK, so which is it...am I important enough to respond to, not important enough to respond to, or am I so easy to refute? Can Ray figure it out? I'm not sure, but if he is right, and I am so good at bringing folks into Rome, how come I'm not getting invitations to debate the likes of Ray, or, appear on their radio programs? I'd think if they really believed this, they'd want to give me as broad an audience as possible to get more folks into Rome! But, of course, we know this is nothing but the bluster of a man who cobbled together a pdf from previous documents and now refuses to defend his own assertions...and errors. He melted down when refuted on the 33,000 denominations error, and hence his behavior here is hardly startling. He shows how very charitable he is with this comment,
Actually James White does more for good for the Catholic Church right where he is! I know many people that have become more convinced of the Catholic Church by listening to arrogant folks like him.
Third, if I considered White important enough and I had free time with nothing to do on my hand, I would deal with his latest rant which I haven't even taken the time to read. I responded the last few times since I did have a day or so and they were interesting topics for me to expand upon.We all know if I spoke of him in this fashion we'd never hear the end of it, but again we see the double-standard: in the service of Rome, all insults are allowed. No one will call him on it, to be sure. In any case, the comments of his supporters found in this combox give us a somewhat startling insight into the mindset of those who buy into the twisted reasoning of Ray and others.
Fourth, whenever one steps into a mud puddle with White one always feels the need of a shower. I took one last week and am now on to other projects more profitable and beneficial. However, if I have time this summer I may revisit his site and read his latest and edit my papers with Addendums to deal with his "critique."
Sippo and a Reminder (Updated)
09/29/2007 - James WhiteTuretinfan has posted a reminder to Guardian that his 90 days will be up soon. As the first DL we will be doing after the cruise and debate will be 10/23, Guardian gets almost an extra week to get all that material together. I'm looking forward to the phone call!
TQuid posted a recent diatribe of Art Sippo here. Classic Sippo...though I wish he'd post this stuff on his blog, which has gone dead for months now. Anyway, compare this rant from Sippo with this sermon (listen/download) from back in July. The contrast is...striking.
Update: Guardian wrote in an indicated that his work has him traveling a lot, and hence, he knows he will not be able to call in on 10/23, but he promises to call in, eventually. For those who don't recall, Guardian had written this about me back in July:
I don't know why you all give Ole' Jimbo White the time of day. I own and have read all of White's books regarding Catholicism, and think they lack scholarship at best and honesty at worst. In fact, I've found so many things misconstrued, not just with his books but with what he says in debates and on his blog, I simply dismiss him. Now, a lot of times he does make honest arguments, but they are laughable at best, usually.When I challenged him, he called in, and asked for ninety days to make a list. Now, I really don't know why someone would need ninety days to make a list when they make claims like that, but we were happy to oblige. Guardian concluded his note to me with these words, "Regardless, please feel free to make fun of me and do ad hominem argumentation about me until I return home and can call in." Evidently, Guardian doesn't seem to know what ad-hominem argumentation is. See, I am not the one making an argument here. He is. He made claim X, and when challenged, has demonstrated that he did not have anything to back up that claim. He asked for time. He's been given time. Now he needs more time. Fine...but all this does is make the serious minded person think that maybe, just maybe, he was not quite up front and honest in his initial statements? Maybe? Possibly? And when you make the kinds of statements he made, without evidence, isn't that a form of ad-hominem argumentation? I think so.
He's the boy that cried wolf, in my opinion.
A Second Open Letter to Dr. Lee Carter
09/28/2007 - James WhiteDear Dr. Carter:
On September 21 I posted an Open Letter to you and informed you of its appearance by e-mail. On September 25thyou made reference to people who e-mail you and challenge you to debate in your class, and hence I assume you received the previous e-mails. You have chosen to not so much as acknowledge my letters, let alone reply to any of the substantive issues raised therein. I understand now why: by definition, you preclude believing Christians not only from the academy, but evidently preclude them from deserving your respect as well. This speaks volumes, especially in light of the fact that on the very issue you challenged Summer on last Thursday (the authorship of the gospels) you have been silent in the face of a logical, meaningful response.
Evidently, sir, you feel a call to be a "gatekeeper" for the "academy," and feel that it is your calling to "keep out" of the academy a particular view of the world. To quote you directly from 9/25/07:
So what I want to keep out of the academy, because it has no scientific evidence to support it, reason doesn't support it, and common sense doesn't support it: the view that the Bible is inerrant.This was followed by your assertion that the Bible contains thousands of errors, perhaps tens of thousands. I must admit, you sound very much like one Dennis McKinsey, founder of the atheist publication Biblical Errancy, a man I have encountered many times. The difference is that McKinsey is at least familiar with the responses Christians offer to his criticisms, while you clearly do not feel any need to bother yourself with studying such material, lest you grant "legitimacy" tothe position you detest so strongly.
You listed two positions that you feel disqualify anyone from participation in the academy: a belief in intelligent design, and a belief in an inerrant Scripture. You asserted that these views 1) have no scientific evidence, 2) are unreasonable, and 3) lack common sense. I would like to demonstrate, to those who are not dogmatic anti-Christians, that your assertion is untrue. The fact that you will say on the one hand that you welcome open dialogue and debate, while on the other saying you will have nothing to do with anyone who holds these viewpoints, demonstrates the incoherence of your position and your worldview as a whole.
Let's examine the assertion that a belief in an inerrant Bible (or any inerrant Scripture) disqualifies one from participation in the academy and, evidently--given your refusal to even acknowledge e-mails, and given your willingness to tell Christian students that their parents have "lied" to them about the Bible, even if you haven't a clue what those parents have actually said--from simple common courtesy and respect. You assert that inerrancy lacks scientific evidence. Given the nature of the claim, that is hardly a weighty observation. The claim of inerrancy is not a scientific claim, hence, it hardly needs scientific evidence in support of it. To say otherwise demonstrates an epistemological confusion of massive proportions. But let us go beyond the simple observation that not all truth claims are answered in the same fashion. Let's address the assertion that science debunks the inerrancy claim. This would require an examination of relevant texts, which would likewise require some knowledge of the original languages of the Bible (for the claim of inerrancy speaks to the Bible as written, not to the activities of, say, a scribe in Macedonia in the 1200s and his understanding of the world), history, and other basic principles of historical examination of ancient documents. I have reviewed the materials you have posted on your website, including lists of alleged "problems" in the Bible, and all I can conclude from these lists is that you have a very simplistic view not only of the Bible, but of historical examination of such materials as well. For example, you write,
There are 2 different creation stories and the timelines concerning when man was created relative to the other creatures contradict one another.Do you truly think that Christian scholars are not aware of the issues raised by Genesis 1 and 2? What amazes me, Dr. Carter, is that you do not show the first bit of awareness of what Christian scholars have written on the subject for literally hundreds of years. You show no awareness of any believing Christian literature beyond what you mockingly refer to as coming from Oral Roberts University, or the like. This purposeful ignorance on your part, combined with a wide-eyed gullibility in accepting anything the likes of Pagels or Ehrman produces, is very telling to those of us who actually do read both sides. You use the term "contradiction" in a simplistic fashion, without taking into consideration the purposes of the accounts, their inherent differences, etc., seemingly assuming that the author, or, as you would undoubtedly prefer, later redactors, possessed significantly less common sense and literary ability than anyone living today. In any case, he who alleges must do more than merely assert, and without any assertion, there is little that can be said in response outside of, "No, Genesis 1 and 2 address different aspects of the creation, and hence are not contradictory to one another when seen to be addressing the subjects they address." Or another example of the lack of depth of your materials is found here:
In Misquoting Jesus, Professor Bart Ehrman, the former believer in the inerrancy of the Bible tells how he requires his students to see what each of the Gospels says concerning the birth and death of Jesus. In fact, they contradict each other in their differing accounts.I have not only read Ehrman, I've read his more scholarly work that preceded this one---have you? And I have listened to Ehrman make this very allegation in the context of debate against William Lane Craig. Have you? And I can provide sound, contextual, fair answers to every accusation he makes on that level. But, amazingly, you preclude even the possibilityof such replies, and that on the basis of your own ipse dixit! It is an example of rationality or "common sense" to dismiss an entire spectrum of replies by definition like this? I think not.
Moving to the next criterion, that of reason, allow me to lay this out:
- Given God exists and is personal and the Creator of all things;
- Mankind, as the creature of God, possesses the ability to communicate;
- God must possess the power of communication to be the source thereof in His creatures;
- If God can communicate, He has the power to do so perfectly, in oral or written form.
Is there an error so far, Dr. Carter? Unless you presuppositionally remove the existence of God as a personal being, you cannot say itis unreasonable to believe a personal God who creates creatures with the capacity to communicate can Himself communicate in a fashion understandable to His creatures. Upon what principle of reason, then, would you say it is impossible for the God who created men in His image to use them then as a means by which to communicate Himself, using their language, even their historical setting and context, in such a fashion that the resultant revelation accurately and inerrantly communicates His will to them? The belief in an inerrant revelation does not require the suspension of reason at all; it is not internally incoherent or contradictory. You may reject, presuppositionally, any number of the foundational elements of the argument, but your rejection does not make the argument irrational. We would have to first address the presuppositions of our worldviews before addressing the issue of whether God can communicate with His creatures in a written form, and perfectly. But once again we see that your assertion that to believe in an inerrant revelation is unreasonable is itself unreasonable.
As to common sense, I find the separation of this category out from reason or rationality rather artificial. But since it is a vague category, I can simply say that it is common sense that if God has, in fact, revealed Himself, He could surely do so in such a fashion as to provide clarity to His revelation. Simplistic "common sense" arguments are easy to construct: " It is common sense that all written books contain errors" is easy enough; "It is common sense that God can reveal Himself without error" is just as easy.
You likewise seem to harbor, Dr. Carter, an all-too-common prejudice regarding the holy grail of secularism, the heart and the soul of the Western free thinker, the matter of the religious dogma of Darwinism. Once again the criteria you offer only argue against your conclusions. The scientific evidence is overwhelming in reference to the existence of purposeful design in nature, and no amount of circular reasoning has yet provided the Darwinist with a meaningful way of explaining how random chemical reactions can create even the most basic elements of life, let alone the fantastically complex and purposeful mechanisms we see at the biochemical level. And I speak as one who completed a major in biology with academic honors and was Department Fellow in Anatomy and Physiology as well---in a context where none of my professors were creationists, I note. The order and complexity of life that has been discovered at the biochemical level is beyond argument, and for you, or Richard Dawkins, to dismiss as unworthy of entrance into the "academy" all those who have written on this subject is to do nothing more than demonstrate your inability to engage the topic and fulfill your own words, that truth becomes clear through conflict.
In the same way, it is anything but reasonable or rational to look at the complexity of the DNA/RNA transcription and replication complex that exists in the cellsof the human body and to insist that this complex arose randomly. I would go so far as to say that it is the Neo-Darwinian micro-mutational evolutionist who must defend himself on the "rational" and "common sense" level when it comes to dogmatically giving non-teleological, random forces the credit for the creation of DNA, the blood clotting mechanism, the allosteric enzyme system, glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, electron chain transport (cellular respiration), and the biochemical mechanism in the eye that allows for the recognition of light and hence for sight (the complex including rhodopsin, one of the most amazing molecules in nature). No one with common sense can look at this complex mechanism and say, "Oh, yes, well, of course, random actions over millions of years created this mechanism." The reality of irreducible complexity eviscerates the micro-mutational model at this point, a fact I recognized when I first read Dawkins' The Blind Watchmakershortly after it came out (note how my reading consistently includes the works of those with whom I have fundamental disagreements). This was before the terminology of "intelligent design" became popular.
In few areas has your own attitude of "win the argument by defining your opponents out of existence" come into play with more force than in the field of intelligent design. I regularly read of the leaders in this field encountering the most closed-minded, dogmatic attitudes on the part of their opponents, very similar to the attitudes displayed toward Galileo long ago by a different set of power-hungry priests. I, for one, am looking forward to the upcoming film documenting the modern incarnation of the Inquisition, this time manned by secularists and Gnostics, titled Expelled.
One thing is for certain: when one side has to try to silence the other side, just as you, Dr. Carter, seek to silence the expression of the other side in your own classes, there can only be one reason: you know you cannot refute those positions logically and factually in the presence of a knowledgeable advocate.
And so we see that even using your own criteria, your reasons for "barring the door" so as to pretend that you are protecting "the academy" from the intellectual terrorists known as those who believe creation has a Creator and that He does not stutter, fail. And while you may well succeed in keeping a small classroom of students from hearing the other side, at what cost? And to what end, I wonder? I stand ready not only to engage the topics you raised initially, but those raised in this letter, along with those related to your promotion of a "Gnostic Jesus" vs. the Jesus of the historical, canonical gospels.
In closing, sir, there is indeed one thing upon which we agree: you said recently in one of your lectures, "Truth comes out in the conflict of ideas." We agree. Your ideas have been challenged. What will you do?
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel
The Great Debate
09/28/2007 - Jeff DownsFor some of you this may be old news, but it is worth mentioning. For a limited time you can receive the Greg Bahnsen/Gordon Stein debate for only 2 pennies. You can either download the MP3's or CMF will send you two CDs (free shipping).
To take advantage of this offer (and you should if you do not already have this debate) click here.
BTW, If you prefer a paper edition click here
Today on the DL: James White is Fallible!
09/27/2007 - James WhiteA bit of a frustrating program today. Started out with an update on Dr. Lee Carter and his refusal to even respond to my e-mails, let alone deal with his prejudice against believing Christians, and his unwillingness to acknowledge how wrong it is to tell Christian students in class that their parents "lied" to them. Then I took a long phone call. My first mistake was not to recognize the name and place of origin. John from Detroit called, and he has called before. If I recall correctly, the first call was on an accusation of error on Jesus' part regarding the coming of the Kingdom in Matthew 17/18. I think it may have been on a second call on that topic that the subject of Robert Price came up. I repeated a statement from Dan Wallace regarding Price, which turned out to be in error (i.e., Wallace mistook what Price was referring to in reference to a particular Latin manuscript of the New Testament). I linked to this discussion back in June of this year, but I noticed that the link no longer gives the exact article, which is found here. Well, as I said, I did not recognize the name, and, given the way he began, I assumed, as I think everyone else did, that he was a believer. I wasted a huge chunk of time treating the man as a believer, discussing with him the issue of Beckwith and the Council of Trent, which I never, ever would have done had I realized he was just using this as a set up to go back to the Price issue. Once I realized my error in wasting half my program on that subject, we moved back to the BAM program with Akin, and closed out with a call on various topics, but concluding with a discussion of whether there are "original" manuscripts of the Qur'an. Here's the program (free/high quality).
A Few Items
09/27/2007 - James WhiteBill Webster has posted his own testimony in light of the constant drum-beat of promoting Catholic converts. Here's his article. Bookmark that one! When someone sends you some emotional, fluffy conversion story, send them to Bill's. The contrast is striking, at least for anyone who loves the truth, that is.
Secondly, I've been Simpsonized! MB ran me through the Simpsonizer, whatever in the world that is. But when I saw the result, there were two obvious things the Simpsonizer had missed: first, I was way too thin (looked like I did after I rode the Magic Circle Bike Challenge back in 1993, my first 100+ mile ride, and I dropped to a low of 165 lbs), and secondly, the tie I had on was plain black! Impossible! So Micah reprogrammed the Simpsonizer and the result was a bit more realistic!
Finally, Mark Shea, Catholic commentator and sometimes apologist, has excoriated Robert Sungenis here, including a YouTube video featuring some of what he claims are statements made by Sungenis regarding the Jews. I have not had a lot of interest in following the Sungenis saga, honestly, but it is fascinating to read someone like Shea writing like this. He also takes on Matatics as well. My, how things have changed since the early 90s.
More on Steve Ray's Double-Standards
09/26/2007 - James WhiteTurretinFan (for those who do not know the real Turretin, you should! One of the greats of the church's past!) has nailed Steve Ray's hypocrisy to the wall in his post here. That Ray's own fans do not see the double standard is quite telling, to be sure. I have had a number of folks write to me and report that they added comments to Ray's comboxes, only to have them quickly deleted. Given Ray's constant discussion of converts, evidently their testimonies of converting from Rome did not fit his attempt to create the "Everyone is Coming Home to Rome" fantasy.
Dr. Carter Responds
09/25/2007 - James WhiteMany have been asking about any developments in the situation my daughter Summer encountered in having a philosophy professor who accused her parents of "lying" to her regarding the authorship of the gospels (though, of course, he hasn't a clue what she was taught on the subject to begin with: Carter assumes everyone who believes God can speak with clarity to His own creation goes to Oral Roberts University or the like). Today was her first class since I posted my open letter. I will have more to say later, but in light of the fact that Dr. Carter began his lecture with a discussion of how "open" and "transparent" he is (in contrast, for some odd reason, to the Bush administration), and how he invites folks to read everything he posts on his website, etc., I provide here the only portion of his lecture that I can consider a "reply."
I get e-mails all the time from religious people all the time who say, "I want to come to your class and talk. I want to come debate you." I'm not going to have anything to do with those people, because I don't want to give them any kind of academic legitimacy. Do we understand this? All the time I get those things. And they are always trying to sell their particular brand of truth. Yes? And the whole idea is to keep them out of the academy. If they want to have their churches, fundamentalist or otherwise, I have no problem with that, but as far as coming into the academy, I got a big problem with that, for all the reasons I just enumerated.
Dr. Carter then goes on to claim he loves the "free exchange of ideas," but, it is painfully obvious, that does not include the ideas of anyone who can demonstrate that he has but a surface level knowledge of the claims he makes regarding Christianity. And since he has refused to even acknowledge my e-mail, evidently, he believes that he is within his rights as a professor in a publicly-funded school to say to Christian students, without the slightest basis, using nothing more than freshman level knowledge of Christian history, theology, or biblical matters, that they have been lied to by their parents, and more so, he cannot be challenged on those claims and actions. The irony is, Carter is as fundamentalist in his hatred of Christianity (and his ignorance of it) as the worst fundamentalist is in his hatred of secularism or "worldly learning." He is a walking contradiction, claiming first that we should have open debate, but then, when challenged, dismissing those who would challenge him as being unworthy to enter the academy. Of course, the fact that I have been teaching in related fields for fifteen years seems to have missed his notice, or, more likely, since it doesn't fit his paradigm, he ignores the facts that stand before him.
So we have yet another example of what is happening in Western culture today. While the culture once gave honor to those who lived consistently in light of their profession of faith in the Creator who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, today those same people are denigrated, their beliefs mocked, not by knowledgeable men with insight and knowledge, but by those who pass off pitifully simplistic arguments as if they are the final conclusions of solid scholarship. And if you challenge them, you are not refuted by argument, fact, or logic, but you are shouted down as unworthy of response. Those who actually love truth do not behave this way, which is why folks like myself take the time to listen to men like Carter, read Pagels (one of Carter's primary sources), Ehrman, and Dawkins, while those on the other side refuse to even acknowledge that anyone on the other side has anything worth saying.
I will make one quick note: Carter says in this lecture that he believes in the "Gnostic Jesus." I.e., the Jesus of Gnosticism, found in the Gospel of Thomas, etc., is amenable to his worldview. Now, any fair-minded person can see that an encounter before his class, or in a formal setting, centered on the thesis, "Which Jesus is Historically Tenable: the Jesus of the Canonical Gospels or the Gnostic Jesus?", would be useful. I am fully confident that I could demonstrate that anyone who thinks that second century Gnostic texts like Thomas provides a more accurate view of the teachings of Jesus than the canonical gospels is engaging in utterly wishful thinking that cannot withstand historical and logical examination. But while the students would be benefited by this, Carter would never allow it, because, of course, to engage in such a debate would be to give credence to a view other than his own. Of course, if he could substantiate his views, and refute mine, wouldn't that accomplish his goal much more forcefully? Yes, but clearly, he supports the "silence the opposition within the academy" viewpoint. This is the way of the person who knows he or she does not possess the truth.
Today on the Dividing Line
09/25/2007 - James WhitePlayed clips from Tim Staples and...Dave Hunt today. Yes, an odd combination, but it was what I had collected over the past few days. Also took a call on Frank Beckwith's appearance on EWTN. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#4)
09/24/2007 - James WhiteI continue working my way through Steve Ray's attempt to defend the bodily assumption of Mary and her queenly coronation as posted in a thirty-page pdf on his website. I note that for the first time since I began my response, Ray has taken note of it on his blog. And, as is usual for Steve Ray, his reply is bombastic, mean-spirited, insulting, condescending, and hypocritical---all at the same time! Here are his words:
Someone informed me that James White the Baptist was continuing his rant concerning my blog on the Assumption of Mary. The guy continues to take me far more seriously than I have ever taken him. He's really just a little man full of himself — an angry know-it-all who's really just a tempest in a teapot. The only reason I have ever responded to him in the past is for the sake of others reading the material. If I had nine lives I might waste some time refuting his latest rantings, but this time his preaching is not worth responding to. Let him prattle on. I have better things to do that to respond to every pontificating anti-Catholic that sets up a blog.Let's step back for a moment and ponder this example of Ray's behavior. When I initially responded to Ray, I did so in the space of a single paragraph. Just one. His response, after a certain amount of bluster, encompassed a thirty page PDF. Now, if I was just a "little man full of himself -- an angry know-it-all" back then, why did he invest the time to cobble together a thirty page long PDF, even asking for assistance from Gary Michuta? What has changed in only about a month? Well, nothing, of course. Instead, the reality of this situation is painfully clear to any honest and semi-impartial observer: no matter what I do, Ray has no intention of seriously interacting with a criticism of his assertions. When I documented his errors regarding his incessant use of the "33,000 Protestant denominations going back to the Reformation due to sola scriptura" error, his response was bluster and dissimulation. And when he realized I was going to actually invest the time, not for his sake, but for the sake of those who might be impacted by his presentation, to take his 30 page PDF apart, point by point, all of a sudden it is time to duck and run. When he puts out a 30 page PDF, it is sound scholarship. When I respond, it is the mere rantings of a rabid anti-Catholic.
But consider what would have happened had I not replied to his 30 page PDF. What would have happened? "See, White has been refuted!" You would have seen it on his blog, and others. So, if I reply, I'm a ranting anti-Catholic; if I don't, I'm a refuted anti-Catholic. If I replied to his 30 page PDF with something like "I don't have time to respond to every ranting Papist who puts up a blog," you know the response would have been "See, he's just an uncharitable anti-Catholic who can't reply!" Etc. and etc. Irrationality cannot be rationally refuted--by definition. If a man does not love the truth, he will be willing to behave in any fashion necessary to continue to love a lie. But I know fellow believers have benefited from seeing his errors documented, so I press forward with my replies, as time allows.
As noted in previous articles, Ray covers a wide variety of topics prior to actually getting to the subject, including attacking sola scriptura and making assertions of papal claims. I am working on getting through those materials before addressing his attempt to use a single event in the kingship of Solomon to provide an arbitrary and inconsistent foundation for the assumption and coronation of Mary. It has been, and remains, my assertion that the use of the Solomon and Bathsheba wherein Solomon shows great deference to his mother, and yet not only rejects her request, but kills the man who prompted it, is more of an example of the desperation of Rome than it is of sound biblical exegesis, let alone sound typology, and I add to this assertion the fact that evidently no one in the early church "saw" this connection, either (just as they did not "see" the Isaiah 22 text--in both instances, the obvious reason for this is that you don't "see" connections to beliefs that do not yet exist in the context of the Christian faith). I continue my response, though I believe I will have to put off many more replies until after the conference and debate in mid-October.
In Acts 16:4 we find that this council delivered a binding decision which was even called a dogma (Greek here for decrees or decisions is dogma). Thus, long before a book with 27 writings was ever collected and codified the Church exercised authoritative leadership with a mandate from Christ.The use of the Acts 15 council by Ray is illegitimate for many reasons. First, this meeting is not only attended by apostles (councils after the apostolic period could not, by definition, have apostles in attendance) but since it is part of Scripture itself, making it normative outside of Scripture would require much more than mere assertion. There is no question that when the apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, give a decision, that decision is binding. But what does this have to do with Rome? Nothing at all, of course. But notice especially the last sentence. Let me rewrite it in a more accurate form: "Long after the Scriptures had become fully authoritative for both Christians and Jews, the Apostles taught and preached in perfect harmony with those Scriptures and in light of the coming of Christ, and immediately their written words came to have the same kind of authority that the Old Testament Scriptures already possessed."
Ray then turns, mistakenly, I think, to Irenaeus for support of his views at this point regarding tradition. Mistakenly, I say, for two reasons. First, a study of the actual content of Irenaeus' tradition does not assist the Roman Catholic cause. What is "apostolic tradition" for Irenaeus? Well, here is one of the best definitions I know of from his pen:
These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ, the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics (ANF 1:414-415).I have discussed the nature of this tradition in my chapter on the subject in the Soli Deo Gloria publication on sola scriptura. I will only note here that it is clearly sub-biblical. That is, the content of this tradition is not something that exists beyond or above Scripture in any fashion. Hence, since it can be derived fromScripture, it cannot fulfill the role forced upon it by Roman Catholic apologists. Further, Irenaeus, as I have noted before on this blog, likewise attributed to a form of "apostolic tradition" the idea that Jesus had in a sense "recapitulated" all the ages of man's life in himself, being more than fifty years of age when He died. This he used as an argument against the Gnostics, but he claimed he had received this teaching from those who had known the apostles. This is, to my knowledge, the earliest example of someone claiming to know something directly due to an extra-scriptural apostolic "tradition." Of course, no one takes this alleged tradition seriously today, but this only shows how quickly such "traditions" can be corrupted, or, made up. In any case, here is Ray's citation:
Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she [the Church] is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth (Irenaeus, Heresies 3, 4 in ANF 1:416-417).It is important to keep in mind that for Irenaeus, the "church" here noted would not include Popes, Cardinals, celibate priests, transubstantiation, purgatory, or the entire corpus of Marian dogmas, and it surely was not centered by divine fiat in Rome. While Rome was an important Western see of the day, and could not be ignored, the idea that the bishop of that city was the sole possessor of the keys of the kingdom of heaven would never have crossed Irenaeus' mind. With this in mind, note what comes very shortly after this citation:
Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him. (V:1).Irenaeus proves his points from Scripture, and he does not say, "Well, I would go to Scripture to prove my points, but since the bishop of Rome has only gotten started on his job, I do not yet have any infallibly defined texts that I can turn to. And since I don't want to offer you just my private interpretation...how about this weather we are having?"
Ray continues: ...
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An Open Letter to Dr. Lee Carter
09/21/2007 - James WhiteDear Dr. Carter:
I have had the privilege of teaching for the past sixteen years, and am thankful for every opportunity I have to stand before a class of students. It is an honor, but it is truly a privilege as well, one to be taken very seriously.
It is my understanding that during your philosophy class at Glendale Community College on Thursday, September 20th, you had a number of exchanges involving the raising of your voice, interruptions, and very strong and emotional assertions on your part, with my daughter, Summer White. It is my understanding that during these exchanges you not only repeatedly interrupted Summer, but you likewise made claims regarding her being "deceived" and "lied to" by none other than myself. These are, of course, serious breaches of professional decorum. But more than this, the entire context of the encounters, and the claims made therein, have caused me to write this open letter.
Over the weeks as my daughter has been listening to your lectures (I have even listened as well via mp3 recorder) she has noted that you have spent a very large portion of your time criticizing President Bush, the war in Iraq, Republicans, etc. To say that your viewpoints would be aligned with "moveon.org" would be to put it mildly. It seems that there are two topics that come up all the time in your lectures: your dislike of George W. Bush and your dislike of Christianity. These elements appear at some of the oddest junctures in your lectures.
Evidently, the lecture on September 20th was supposed to be on Nietzsche. In fact, it seems that this was supposed to be the topic for a number of classes, but that the actual class time devoted to Nietzsche has been much less than that dedicated to political indoctrination in leftist ideologies. Personally, I wonder why there is such a need for the constant and repetitious proclamation of your leftist political agenda in a philosophy class, especially when this results in significant diminishment in actual instruction on the subjects at hand? While there is always room for application, it seems in this situation that you have gone far beyond application to simple indoctrination. Is this fair to the students who might actually wish to learn about philosophy, and may have need for such basic information in future classes, where your leftist ideals will not be of any use to them? I have often found keeping the future studies of my students in mind a useful check to my personal desires to "ride a hobby horse" thereby failing to give them what they need and what I have claimed I will provide in the course itself.
Moving to the actual events that took place during class, I have been informed that you frequently make negative, and often unfounded, comments about the Christian faith, the Bible, etc., in your lectures. Summer has reported a number of them to me and as a Christian academic I confess that I find it troubling that so often these comments show a very minimal familiarity with the subject at hand. But these came to a much fuller fruition in the encounter in class. I truly wish I had a full recording of the class (a problem I will surely alleviate in all future situations), but Summer's recollection includes assertions regarding the text of Deuteronomy and allegations that to "really believe" the Bible one would have to hold to some form of radical theonomic reconstructionism involving the use of stoning for prostitutes; assertions about the Bible's teaching of the relationship of male and female that involve absolute "rulership" by the man, along with a challenge to Summer to provide "any" text indicating any form of equality whatsoever between male and female (ouvk e;ni a;rsen kai. qh/lu\ pa,ntej ga.r u`mei/j ei-j evste evn Cristw/| VIhsou/ given its ancient context would seem to fit the bill, would you not say?); and the odd challenge, repeated more than once, for Summer to "Google Matthew, Mark, Luke and John" so as to ascertain their authorship. This last challenge, I have been told, included a "$100 challenge" to Summer to provide you with the specific authors of these books.
Along with these was the troubling assertion that Summer had been deceived and, in fact, lied to by me. Her recollection is that you seemed to be incredulous that an 18 year old freshman in college could have knowledge of the original languages of the biblical text, their translation, relationship, issues relating to canonicity, etc. She informed you that she had grown up around the Bible. She has. Some of her earliest memories are related to her father writing books, speaking, teaching, and debating. Want photographic evidence? Here is a clip from a debate I did on Long Island with an Islamic apologist in 1999. At the very beginning of the clip you will see a young girl turning around to see the person who is asking the question in the audience (I have posted a screen capture from the clip above). That young girl, aged ten, is Summer, attending a debate, and listening carefully to the dialogue, on the topic of the deity of Christ in the New Testament. A few years later she attended this debate with ACLU board member and head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Barry Lynn. (I wish she had been able to attend the debates with John Dominic Crossan and John Shelby Spong, but she was not able to). I have notes Summer took in kindergarten or first grade in a church history class I was teaching while Scholar in Residence at Grand Canyon University--in colored marker. I actually took the time to find these notes, and had to chuckle when I read this page (see graphic). See what I see? Evidently, I had discussed Augustine's use of the biblical phrase "compel them to come in" with reference to the Donatist Controversy; then I mentioned the Inquisition ("incosishen"), and the ex opere operato theory of sacramentalism. Likewise B.B. Warfield. But then note Summer heard me speaking of Jerome and Origen, two of the only early writers who knew both Greek and Hebrew, and she noted this, "study hebrew," along with Jerome's date, AD 400. This was one page of three over the course of a more than hour long class. She listened to the entirety of it at age six. My recollection is that you could not believe she would make reference to Hebrew, and accused her of making things up. Ironic how even these old notes prove you wrong, Dr. Carter. I likewise provide here a picture of her and her brother at a Christology class I was teaching for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary a few years later. She has, therefore, been exposed, constantly, over the course of her life, to discussions related to the biblical languages, canonicity, and theology. As I am a critical consultant on a major Bible translation, she has likewise been around critical Greek and Hebrew texts, and has heard me discuss translational and textual issues many times.
Given this information, I am sure you now regret accusing her of "making things up" in class. While she has not learned the biblical languages personally, she has more than a passing familiarity with the subject.
Which brings me to the subject of the authorship of the gospels, and my allegedly deceiving her, or lying to her. I cannot begin to imagine ever speaking to one of my students in this fashion, to be honest with you, sir. But that breach of professional decorum aside, I have to ask you: how do you know what I have said to my daughter about the authorship of the gospels? For your information, she is now old enough to attend my Sunday morning Bible Studies at our church, where I am in the midst of what has been, so far, a four-year long Synoptic Gospels study. We have been working through the Aland Synopsis, tackling every "synoptic problem" as it has arisen in our studies. In the course of said study I have addressed the topic of the authorship of the gospels. It is painfully obvious you do not have any idea what I have said, in any of my more than twenty published books, and many dozens of articles, on this, or any other, topic. It is likewise just as obvious that you are assuming a naïve view of the issue both on my part and Summer's. Possibly you are used to shocking poor Christian students with your erudite observation that, in fact, Matthew, Mark, and John are anonymous works. Luke is known through Acts and Paul's epistles. It is hard to say, but to actually direct a student to "Google" the topic is enough to convince me that you were making the worst, most disrespectful assumptions concerning Summer and, by extension, myself. ...
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Always Ready to Give a Defense
09/21/2007 - James White
This is the Greek phrase found in Peter's first epistle exhorting all believers (not just elders, not just "professionals," but all believers) to always be ready to give a defense, an answer, when asked concerning the hope that is within us. It should strike us that these words were addressed to people who were, by and large, of the lower-class of society, and in many instances, under growing pressure to renounce their faith. Few were highly educated, yet, they were to be ready--always--to give an answer. That implies forethought, preparation...even study! But some might say, "No, no, you should not do that, because Jesus said..."
Mark 13:11 "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.But clearly the context here is different: Jesus is speaking of persecution, not of someone asking of us a reason for the hope that is within us. We are not to obsess about what we will say if the authorities take us at gunpoint, but we are to "always be ready" to give an answer for those who ask us a reason for the hope that is within us.
It is truly my prayer that our small ministry has helped you to be prepared to fulfill this command, and it is my hope that we will continue to assist the saints in this fashion for years to come.
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#5)
09/21/2007 - James WhiteI continue my examination and rebuttal of Ali Ataie's article, "Can Paul Be Trusted?"Ataie has been alleging that Paul contradicted Jesus, and thus far, we have seen that in each instance, it is Ataie who is in error, not Jesus nor Paul. We continue with these assertions:
Jesus exhorts his followers to strictly adhere to the laws and commandments (Mark 10:18-19; Matt. 19:17; Luke 18:20) while Paul calls the law and commandments a curse and bondage (Gal. 2:16, 3:11, 24; Rom. 2:13).As with the previous assertion, Ataie is ignoring the context of each of his citations, while at the same time ignoring counter citations that would refute his assertions. For example, Paul himself said "we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31), and that in a context that explains Ataie's error. Further, Jesus, for example, declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and claimed the prerogative to heal on the Sabbath, basing His claim upon the fact that the Father likewise "works" on the Sabbath (John 5:17-18). In the specific texts cited, all we have is the abiding validity of God's moral law on the one hand, affirmed by both Jesus and Paul, and the fact that no amount of law-keeping can make one righteous before God, for the standard for holiness is perfection itself. Hence, one must be justified by faith in the provision God has made in Christ Jesus. Ataie's citations only demonstrate how it is possible to pick and choose citations while ignoring their context to create the false appearance of contradiction, which can be done just as easily to the text of the Qur'an, or any other written text, for that matter.
Jesus says that atonement through sacrifice in not necessary (Mark 12:28-29; Matt. 9:13) while Paul believes that only Jesus' atonement blood sacrifice can save us (Eph 5:2; Gal 3:13; Heb. 9:26).Once again, a quick glance at the texts documents that Mr. Ataie is context-challenged:
Mark 12:28-29 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;It is hard to imagine five more completely dis-connected contexts than these offered by Ataie. It truly does make one think that he is using a Bible search engine and simply looking for usable phrases without giving the first thought to the context in which they are used. The first context is in identifying the greatest commandment in the Shema.It has nothing to do with sacrifice. The second from the Lord Jesus does not make the sacrificial system "unnecessary" but it instead contrasts the attitude of the person who would sacrifice without changing his or her heart to the one who engages in sacrifice with the proper attitude, that of a broken heart, with compassion for others. This is the same Jesus who told the lepers He had healed to make the offerings found in the law of Moses. There are only two citations from Paul (evidently Ataie assumes Pauline authorship for Hebrews), the first speaks of Christ offering Himself up for us, and the second speaks of His becoming a curse, both completely consistent with the New Testament's presentation of the intention of Christ to give Himself in our behalf. Nothing said hereis even slightly relevant to the citations from Jesus, for once again, Ataie seems to ignore the reality that all words in language take their meaning from the context in which they are used.
Matthew 9:13 "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Ephesians 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "
Hebrews 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Yet after all of this, Paul still has the audacity to claim: Be my followers, as I am a follower of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1)!As well he could do so, having given his life in the service ofChrist. The better question is whether Ataie has the audacity to claim any kind of facility in languages and in the fair reading of the Christian Scriptures after posting this kind of cavalier, a-contextual, and so easily refuted material? I wish I could say this is the end of his presentation, but alas, it is not. So we shall press forward as time allows during this very busy season of preparation for our conference and debate in providing a full response to Ataie's claims.
John 1:1, Matthew 27:46 on The Dividing Line Today
09/20/2007 - James WhiteStarted off mentioning my daughter's trials as a Christian in the secular educational world, and then took only two calls, both taking up the rest of our time. The first call was on John 1:1, which took us to past the half hour mark, and the second was on Matthew 27:46 and the concept of the Father "abandoning" or "turning His back on" the Son on the cross. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Second Portion of Boston College Statement
09/20/2007 - James WhiteA few days ago I posted the first portion of my comments in the Boston College debate as part of my reply to Steve Ray. In my comments I noted that Robert Sungenis had asserted that Paul had "over-reacted" in response to Peter's actions at Antioch. In my reply I pointed out that according to inspired Scripture, Peter was not walking straight in accordance with the truth of the gospel. Here is the text:
Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?So, Paul was just exaggerating a bit about this "truth of the gospel" stuff? What an amazing statement! But, as I noted then, Sungenis began his rebuttal with a defense of his statement! You will find this at the end of this clip:
Yeah, It Was a Long Summer, but Please!
09/19/2007 - James WhiteYes, the summer months are tough on ministries. Donations are down all over, including here in the ol' A&O bunker. But after getting eight copies of the same "we are about to go belly up, we need a quarter of a million bucks right now" e-mails from Catholic Answers, I started getting another one, featuring a Madonna/child graphic, for the Catholic Answers Forums. You all know about those forums: I quote from them often enough. I have now gotten at least three, possibly four, copies of this e-mail that begins,
Dear Friend of Catholic Answers,Together with the others, I'm right at a dozen or so fund-raising e-mails from Catholic Answers. And Jim Swan sent me one he got from Sophia Institute Press that began,
Our dire financial situationhas placed a key part of our ministry at risk: our popular Internet forums.
Without a substantial infusionof money, we will be forced to curtail Catholic Answers Forums.
We need you to join us as a supporter of the extremely effective Catholic Answers Forums site.
Indeed, I've brought forth into the world over two million copies of books by the very best Catholic authors, living and dead -- authors whose holiness and wisdom continually draw souls to the Church (the perfect Church) that Christ founded 2,000 years ago.I believe a number of Dave Armstrong's titles are with Sophia Institute Press.
Now, however, all this is threatened.
We may have to close our doors.
Slow sales this past summer have left us with an empty checkbook and overdue bills approaching $75,000.
If I don't pay this soon, we'll have to cease publishing.
Here's my suggestion as to how you can help all these folks out! First, make sure you are doing what God would have you to do in supporting your local church. Then, consider supporting good ministries that have a long track record of remaining focused on what is important. I think, by God's grace, A&O qualifies. We will do our best to keep working so that Catholic Answers and the rest won't have to worry about the summer slump anymore! Meanwhile, we promise not to send anyone a dozen e-mails begging for support. We will just let you know: we need it, we hope you are blessed by what we do, and we pray God will continue to give us even more opportunities in the future to glorify His name through the proclamation and defense of the gospel.
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
09/19/2007 - James WhiteYesterday we began with a discussion of the atonement and the many attacks upon the biblical concept that are rampant in "evangelicalism" today. Then we took a call about the New Covenant from a "Messianic" perspective, and finished up with a little Shabir Ally. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#3)
09/19/2007 - James WhiteI continue my examination and refutation of Steve Ray's attempt to defend Rome's dogmatic teaching of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, and her doctrinal teaching of the queenly coronation of Mary. In our first installment we pointed out that since the Assumption is a dogmatic teaching, the highest standard of evidence is required to defend it, and we noted that the typological and probability arguments used by Rome are surely insufficient grounds for a dogmatic teaching. In our last installment we began responding to the attack Ray launches against sola scriptura, and we continue our response at that point. Ray writes,
First, when Jesus said Farewell and ascended into heaven, he did not leave us a book. In fact, there is no record of him instructing the disciples to ever write a book, nor was there an expectation that someday there would be a collection of writings attached to the Hebrew Scripture and considered equally inspired. Nor did Jesus leave a detailed manual or cataloged tradition.
Can you imagine the Psalmist who penned the 119thspeaking like this? I sure can't. When Jesus walked the earth as God incarnate, He often said, "It is written." The one who formed earth itself held in His incarnate hands the Scriptures and read from them as God's Word in the synagogue. As Jews stood before him with stones in their hands and hatred in their hearts He looked them in the eye and said "The Scriptures cannot be broken." Jesus identified the words of Scripture as the very speaking of God, so what could possibly possess someone to opine that when Jesus returned to the presence of the Father he "did not leave us a book." The book was a given. Anyone with a Greek New Testament that places Old Testament citations in bold or italics knows that the New Testament writers were a people of the book themselves. Roman Catholics constantly forget the centrality of the Scriptures to the primitive church because the Scriptures are not central for them, to be quite honest. But Augustine knew better, for he wrote,
All things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behooves us to hear with earnest heed.... And yet even inregard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe: for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read. Augustine, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume VII, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 2, 1 John 2:12-17, section 1.It is also ironic in the extreme to find Ray saying Jesus did not leave a catalog of tradition. So? Rome, in his view, has had nearly two thousand years to sort through all of that and give us a clear, documented listing of apostolic tradition as they define it, and they have completely failed to do so. He continues,
What DID Jesus leave as an authority for the Church He was building? He left us Twelve Menone with the Keys of the Kingdom and all Twelve with the authority to bind and loose (Matt 16:18-19; 18:15-18). He promised them the Holy Spirit to lead and teach them (John 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:7). He also promised that the decisions and judgments they made regarding the Kingdom would be ratified by King Jesus in heaven.Ah, the poor Holy Spirit. Replaced by the infallible Roman magisterium again! All of those promises about the coming of the Spirit, lost in the rush to give to Peter alone the keys of the kingdom. It is not that Ray does not know the problems with his theory. He thinks he has mustered enough snippets of citations to establish the case for all time in his book, Upon This Rock (Ignatius Press, 1999). In fact, it may well be a worthwhile project to add to the long, long list of "blog articles that need to be written" a response to each citation he makes of my own work in that book. I would enjoy the opportunity to do so, though at the moment, none of my writing projects, teaching opportunities, debates, or schooling, would push me that direction in my studying. But I shall surely put it on the "list." In any case, Ray realizes that Peter did not receive the keys in Matthew 16. He realizes the verb used in the text is future, and he goes out of his way (providing an entire Appendix in the effort, pp. 263-297) to find a way to avoid seeing Peter as receiving the keys along with the other Apostles. His primary means of accomplishing this is through the use of the Isaiah 22/Matthew 16 argument. I cannot help but smile as I read his cobbled-together footnotes (which often take up the majority of his pages in his book) for once you know the subject you see how tremendously selective he is being. But what truly makes me chuckle at this point is that it is obvious he well knows he is presenting an argument (the Isaiah 22 argument) that hasn't the first scintilla of patristic support behind it. That is, if any of the early writers had ever dreamt that Isaiah 22 is somehow the very key to establishing Petrine primacy in Rome, they did not bother ever mentioning it, since I know of no such references in the early period. Since Ray loves to throw out patristic citations (even if he fails to give a full context that would make the citations relevant), he would surely be quoting any such resources in support of his thesis, but we find a strange lack of such citations in this portion of his work.
In any case, Ray asserts that Peter receives the keys by the time of the ascension, but he does not, as far as I can see, delineate any biblical basis for assuming this. He surely avoids Matthew 18 as the point in which Peter alonereceives these keys, as he must, but he does not tell us upon what biblical basis he comes to the conclusion that by the time Jesus ascends, Peter alone holds these keys. One would think that if the universal faith of the early church was in agreementwith his views, he would make note of this. Ironically, he doesn't. Why? He knows better. As the great historian von Döllinger, in his work The Pope and the Council(Boston: Roberts, 1869), 74, asserted:
Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matt 16:18, John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peters successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we possessOrigen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenashas dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church of the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peters confession of faith in Christ; often both together. Or else they thought Peter was the foundation equally with all the other Apostles, the twelve being together the foundation-stones of the church. The Fathers could the less recognize in the power of the keys, and the power of binding and loosing, any special prerogative or lordship of the Roman bishop, inasmuch as what is obvious to any one at first sight they did not regard the power first given to Peter, and afterwards conferred on all the Apostles, as any thing peculiar to him, or hereditary in the line of Roman bishops, and they held the symbol of the keys as meaning just the same as the figurative expression of binding and loosing.Join this with the fact that the "chair of Peter" in many of the early Fathers refers not to the bishop of Rome alone, but to all bishops, and you begin to see why so many of the citations Roman Catholic apologists offer really prove nothing at all. Then, consider the fact that the church at Rome itself did not even have a singular bishop until around the year 140 AD. Joseph F. Kelly, The Concise Dictionary of Early Christianity (The Liturgical Press, 1992) p. 2 says, 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 Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, and the eminent church historian J.N.D. Kelly concurs, saying, with reference to an alleged early pope, His actual functions and responsibilities can only be surmised, for the monarchial, or one-man, episcopate had not yet emerged in Rome.This is in reference to a period all the way into the middle of the second century! Ask yourself this question: if Vatican I was right, and if Christians have always believed that Peter alone was given a primacy, and that Peter alone was given the keys, and that Peters successors are aloneto be found in fullness in the bishops of Rome, why would the church at Rome go for nearly a full century without a single bishop as leader, instead using the primitive and most biblical concept of a plurality of elders?
While much more could be added at this point, I would simply direct the interested reader/observer to the debates we have done on these very subjects, especially the one with Robert Sungenis and Scott Butler from Boston College (#464). Ray's work depends a good deal upon Jesus, Peter & the Keyswhich was written by Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, and David Hess (I wrote the review of this work for the CRI Journal). This is the same Scott Butler who engaged the debate at Boston College. Likewise, this is the same Scott Butler who continues to possess the video tapes of the first two debates I did with Mitch Pacwa in January of 1990, but who has never made them available for viewing. Since we have established a long history of videotaping, at our own cost, our debates with Roman Catholic apologists, and giving unedited masters to them for distribution, I believe it is only fair for Butler to reciprocate, and provide us with an unedited master of these debates for distribution. I believe the same is true of my very first debate, the debate with Gerry Matatics in August of 1990. I call upon Mr. Butler to make these video tapes available.
Here is the first of two clips I will post from that debate. You may note that when the camera pans back early in this clip you will find Scott Butler is missing. As has happened more than once, our Roman Catholic apologist opponents were not overly concerned about what we had to say during our presentation, so they don't mind leaving the room while we are speaking. Almost all of the presentation is relevant, but please note one interesting point that I had forgotten. Sungenis had asserted that Paul was simply "over-reacting" in Galatians 2:14. I will tack on the beginning of his rebuttal to the second clip so that you can actually watch him defend this assertion. I think it speaks volumes about Roman Catholic "exegesis" and "private interpretation" in light of Papal claims.
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#4)
09/18/2007 - James WhiteI continue my review and refutation of Ali Ataie's attack upon the Apostle Paul titled "Can Paul Be Trusted?" Thus far we have seen Mr. Ataie offering horribly flawed interpretations of Paul's words that betray both a great prejudice and bias on his part (bordering on bigotry) as well as a tremendous amount of ignorance concerning the art of serious literary exegesis. Nothing he has raised has, as yet, provided a serious reason to doubt Paul. But now he moves to the assertion that Jesus and Paul were in contradiction in their teaching, and as Ataie's accusations mirror the thinking of many Muslims, especially in the West, we will find reviewing his words educational.
Paul has managed to contradict Jesus in almost every single area of faith and practice. Jesus says that there is no original sin (Mark 9:13-14) while Paul says there is (Rom. 5:12-14).I can only assume that Mr. Ataie has very badly mis-cited his sources here. If you look at the Markan reference, there is nothing even remotely relevant to be found. I looked around Mark a good bit, and had given up finding any references at all when it struck me that the only possible text Ataie could be referring to would not be in Mark, but in John; not verses 13-14, but 3-4, and the only part he got right was chapter 9. So, I think he is referring to this:
Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 "We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.So, if this is in fact the text, then does it follow that Jesus did not teach original sin? Surely not. In the context, Jesus is answering a very specific question from the Apostles, who had accepted the thinking of their day: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"Jesus is not even addressing "original sin" at all: he is addressing the common belief that if a child was born with a defect, that either the parents committed a particularly gross sin, or, even the child in the womb committed a sin (such as kicking on the Sabbath day!). Jesus' reply is that neither of these assumptions were correct: instead, the man was born blind for a purpose, a purpose that was about to be fulfilled in his healing. To place this in contrast with Paul's teaching in Romans 5 is completely without merit. Jesus taught the same doctrine as Paul in such chapters as John 6 and 8, for example.
Jesus says that not ALL of us are unrighteous people (Mark 2:16-17; Matt. 15:24) while Paul says that no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10, 23).The irony here, of course, is that Romans 3:10 is simply a citation from Psalm 14, so unless Ataie wishes to say Jesus contradicted the Old Testament Scriptures, he hardly wishes to make this argument. But even without this consideration, once again Mr. Ataie completely mishandles the texts:
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:16-17).There is no question that Jesus taught that all men had to repent; there is no question that Paul said the same thing. So the only question is why Mr. Ataie so badly misunderstands the gospel text. Evidently, the argument goes like this: if Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, then there must be righteous folks that Jesus did not come to call. But since Jesus called all to repentance, this is an obvious error on Ataie's part. Ataie is missing the fact that the Pharisees did indeed claim to be righteous, and it was their vaunted self-righteousness that kept them, in His words, blind. This was the point of the story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14). There are no righteous people in and of themselves: the only ones who can stand before God in righteousness today are those who are clothed with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ given to them by faith and faith alone. ...
Matthew 15:23-28 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." 24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 26 And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one."
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and come fall short of the glory of God.
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Book Review - Second Edition of Basics of Biblical Hebrew
09/17/2007 - Alan KurschnerThe Biblical Language Series published by Zondervan is comprehensive and pedagogically cutting edge. Just recently they have published the second edition of Basics of Biblical Hebrew by Gary D. Pratico of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Miles V. Van Pelt of Reformed Theological Seminary in Mississippi.
This first year grammar has emerged as a standard Hebrew grammar in the past few years, and for obvious reasons: the pedagogy is most conducive for learning, which is "combining the best of inductive and deductive approaches," and its employment of using the "diagnostic" approach for learning the derived stems so that paradigm memorization is not required for those verbal stems. Though this grammar is used in seminary classroom settings (I had the privilege to learn Biblical Hebrew through the first edition of the grammar with Dr. Pratico as my professor), it is also designed to be used for studying Hebrew on your own.
The very first improvement of the second edition that someone will notice is that the physical book dimensions itself is roughly 20% larger than the previous edition. This was done to make the font larger and the text size easier reading. Other improvements were made as well:
- Colored text highlights particles added to nouns and verbs, allowing easy recognition of new forms.
- Chapters Two (Hebrew Vowels), Nine (Pronominal Suffixes,) Seventeen (Waw Consecutive), Eighteen (Imperative, Cohortative, and Jussive), and Twenty-Three (Issues of Sentence Syntax) are revised and expanded.
- Section of appendices and study aids is clearly marked for fast reference.
- At the end of each chapter there is an exegetical or theological insight to continue to inspire and remind the student why they are studying Hebrew. The new edition includes a lengthy piece by John Piper on the importance of pastors learning their languages. It is titled, "Bitzer Was a Banker!" In addition, there is a new insight by B.B. Warfield titled "The Languages and Pastoral Ministry."
- Also the accompanied Workbook has been improved and updated as well.
The grammar has retained its effective approach as it touts that it "uses actual examples from the Hebrew Old Testament rather than 'made-up' illustrations," and "Emphasizes the structural pattern of the Hebrew language rather than rote memorization, resulting in a simple, enjoyable, and effective learning process."
The grammar comes with a CD-ROM that includes (1) the full answer key to the accompanying workbook; (2) Scripture indexes to both the grammar and the workbook; (3) Flashworks (TM) vocabulary-drilling program from Teknia Language Tools.
If you have a passion to learn Biblical Hebrew and thus enrich your Old Testament studies, here is your starting point!
A Lord's Day Thought
09/16/2007 - James White"in the defense and confirmation of the gospel" (Phil. 1:7). As you go to gather with the saints this day, aren't you thankful that despite all the voices that cry out "you can't know the gospel! It is too difficult, too obscure!" that we do, in fact, possess the life-changing truth that God has saved in Jesus Christ, and that we can have peace with Him through faith in Christ alone? John promised that the truth would abide in us and be with us forever (2 John 2), and the continued progress of the gospel in our world today is evidence that this promise is being fulfilled in generation after generation. Rejoice this day that the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to change hearts and lives, no matter how the skeptics rant and rave against it!
Systematic Theology and Catholic Converts
09/16/2007 - James SwanI've been reading Van Til's An Introduction To Systematic Theology. Van Til notes systematic theology seeks to offer an ordered presentation of what the Bible teaches about God. He says "the study of systematic theology will help men to preach theologically. It will help to make men proclaim the whole counsel of God. Many ministers never touch the greater part of the wealth of the revelation of God to man contained in Scripture. But systematics helps ministers to preach the whole counsel of God, and thus to make God central in their work."
Here was the point that I found most interesting:
"It is but natural to expect that, if the church is strong because its ministry understands and preaches the whole counsel of God, then the church will be able to protect itself best against false teaching of every sort. Non-indoctrinated Christians will easily fall prey to the peddlers of Russellism, spiritualism and all of the other fifty-seven varieties of heresies with which our country abounds. One-text Christians simply have no weapons of defense against these people. They may be able to quote many Scripture texts which speak, for instance, of eternal punishment, but the Russellite will be able to quote texts which, by the sound of them and taken individually, seem to teach annihilation. The net result is, at best, a loss of spiritual power because of loss of conviction. Many times, such one-text Christians themselves fall prey to the seducers voice."
Of course, I had the converts to Roman Catholicism in mind, rather than Russellites. I wonder how many of these Catholic converts actually attended churches that proclaimed the whole council of God? A question I would ask is how many Catholic converts previously went to churches with strong systematic confessions of faith, like the Westminster Confession, and how often were they taught the confession, like in a Sunday School class, and how well did their minister cover all the doctrines in the confession of faith? I would expect some rather weak answers.
Van Til states, "We have already indicated that the best apologetic defense will invariably be made by him who knows the system of truth of Scripture best." I would modify this a bit and make it a negative: "the best converts to false gospels will invariably be made by those who knows the system of truth of Scripture least."
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#2)
09/15/2007 - James WhiteWhat do all false religions share in common? While a number of answers suggest themselves, in our context, I am referring to their united attack upon the inspiration, consistency, and sufficiency, of the Bible as the Word of God. In particular, false religions that wish to make some room for Jesus in their teaching while fundamentally altering the truth about who He is or what He did will have to find a way around the Bible. They can do this in a multitude of ways, such as the addition of new "revelation," mistranslation of the text of Scripture, or, the ever-popular "you can't figure out the Bible on your own, you need us to tell you what it is really saying" maneuver.
As we look at Steve Ray's attempt to give a defense for the dogmatic teaching of Rome regarding the bodily assumption of Mary, along with her regular teaching concerning the queenly coronation of Mary (not a dogmatic definition, but, given her regular promotion of such a teaching, surely one that falls well within appropriate criticism), we once again see the "attack Scripture as a means of smuggling your false teachings into the faith" motif. Just as the Apostle Paul did not put up with such false brethren for even a moment (Gal. 2:4-5), if we wish to follow the Apostolic example we must likewise be quick to cast the light of truth upon those who wish to bring the people of God into slavery to false religion and error.
Ray spends some time attacking a very shallow version of sola scriptura. It would probably be sufficient to simply link to the many articles and resources on sola scriptura on my own website. But that would not help most folks in seeing the errors that are part and parcel of the Roman Catholic presentation.
Surely, when it comes to trying to defend the Marian dogmas, one has to attack sola scriptura. Why? Well, as Ludwig Ott put it, "Direct and express scriptural proofs are not to be had" [Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford: IL, Tan Book Publishers, 1974), p. 208.] You have to start off making the claim that everything a Christian must believe to be a follower of Jesus Christ is not in fact to be found in a "direct and express" reading of the inspired text. As Karl Keating said in Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 275,
Still, fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none. It was the Catholic Church that was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly. The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true.Ray likewise admits that "Are these Marian dogmas explicitly spelled out in the Bible? No." and "So, what about Mary? The Church has defined certain doctrines about the Mother of Our Lord. Does everything they define have to be explicitly stated in the Bible? No." Indeed, no one would ever come to these conclusions by simply reading the text of Scripture. The early church surely did not. But this is why Ray has to begin with page after page of attacks upon sola scriptura.
Ray begins with some comments on the concept of tradition:
Though many try to turn tradition in a dirty word--the dreaded T word--the Bible is not so negative. Notice these three passages in particular that mention the existence and importance of the apostolic tradition: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." (2 Thess 2:15); "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us." (2 Thess 3:6); "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." (1 Cor 11:2).We have discussed tradition ourselves...much more thoroughly than Mr. Ray has. Here is just one example from our website, an article that has been posted for many years:
At this point Mr. Palm goes well beyond the scope of a discussion of the NT usage of "tradition," and begins to engage in a good bit of special pleading for his cause. The ellipses in the quotation remove a little "however" that points us back to the discussion in Kelly of how often the early Fathers cited as yet "uncanonized" Scripture, especially that of Paul. Hence, Kelly has just indicated the high viewpoint of the written testimony to the apostolic teaching, and as a counterbalance produces the statement cited. However, he doesn't stop there. He continues on:...
Logically, as it must have done chronologically, the testimony stood prior to the documents, and it would be more correct to say that the latter were valued precisely because they were held to enshrine the former. Admittedly there is no evidence for beliefs or practices current in the period which were not vouched for in the books later known as the New Testament. But there is equally nothing to suggest, and general probability makes it unlikely, that Christian teachers had these books specifically in mind on the majority of occasions when they referred to the apostolic testimony. It is much more plausible that they were thinking generally of the common body of facts and doctrines, definite enough in outline though with varying emphases, which found expression in the Church's day-to-day preaching, liturgical action and catechetical instruction, just as must as in its formal documents (pp. 33-34).
Now that is quite different than reading the entire Roman concept of "Tradition" into Kelly's words as Mr. Palm does above! Remember, Mr. Palm's "Tradition" includes, of necessity, purgatory, indulgences, Papal Infallibility, and a whole plethora of Marian doctrines. Surely Kelly would be the first to admit that such beliefs were utterly absent from the Church's instruction and belief at this stage in history. Hence, to read Mr. Palm's capitalized Tradition back into Kelly's words is a misuse of a scholarly source, to be sure.
Now I will only mention in passing that Mr. Palm's reference to the early Father's struggle against the heretics begs the issue. What was the rule of faith they used to refute the heretics? Mr. Palm's infallible Roman Tradition? In no way. The "rule of faith" was far more simple, and was, in fact, derived from biblical sources, and is fully defendable from the Scriptures themselves. Hence, the idea that this rule of faith, this tradition, mentioned by men like Irenaeus, is in fact an extra-scriptural revelation, holds not the first drop of water.
Likewise, Ray objects at one point to the assertion that Rome's claims of infallibility force her to a functional position of sola ecclesia over against sola scriptura. He writes,
But while we Catholics do not accept sola Scriptura, we also cannot be painted into a corned [sic: corner] named sola Ecclesiathe Church alone.To which I offer this reply from this article on our website:
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Luther for Dummies
09/14/2007 - James SwanWhenever I go to the local bookstore, there seems to be a new volume in the "For Dummies" series. I have yet to see a "Luther For Dummies" volume, but there is The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Reformation & Protestantism (I would like to point out that book suggests Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong's old website as an "Internet Resource" on page 367, thus presenting quite an irony). The question of good Luther books has been asked of me often, and it is not answered simply.There isn't one simple book like "Luther For Dummies" or "The Idiot's Guide To Martin Luther."
I consider myself a student of the Reformation rather than an expert. Recently, one of the guys from Triablogue asked me for my Luther recommendations, so in the spirit of friendly blog etiquette, and considering who was asking me, I figured I'd finally oblige the question. As a student, I can only point to those resources that have helped me (that is, until I get down to business and write my own book on Luther!).
Recently I was reading a book from 1959 that stated there were over 3000 biographies and studies on Luther. Now in 2007, I would probably be in error if I said the number is double. It is probably much more than that. I have lost count of how many Luther and Reformation books are in my own collection. I point this out because it is no easy task to navigate through the multitudes of books written on Luther. Why are there so many books on Luther? Besides the fact of his impact on church history and western civilization, Luther's actual written corpus is immense. It can sometimes seem as if everything he actually said was written down. This keeps biographers and theologians very busy.
With these considerations in mind, I'd like to offer my recommendations. Note, I have laymen in mind (If you're a scholar, you don't need my recommendations!). This is only a partial list, and a simple list. It is intended to give people a few reliable texts to begin learning about Luther and the Reformation.
Of course, the best thing to do is actually read Luther. This is much easier than it used to be. You can actually purchase Luther's Works on CD-ROM. The CD contains the 55-volume American edition. The price for the CD has been going down over the years as well. For those of you who want just a taste of Luther's writings, there is a good anthology edited by Timothy Lull, Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings. Lull does an excellent job of collecting key texts, and presenting key snippets from Luther's Works. There is also an older anthology edited by John Dillenberger, Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings.
One of the most fascinating and helpful resources is What Luther Says by Ewald Plass. The book contains 1700 pages of quotes by Martin Luther arranged topically. This book is a masterful topical arrangement of Luther's opinion on a myriad of subjects: everything from practical matters to in-depth theological issues. There are 5,100 quotations on more than 200 subjects. A thorough index links to hundreds of other subjects. This book isn't cheap, but it is well worth it. Also this book makes a great gift for your pastor. There is a smaller volume similar in nature called A Compend Of Luther's Theology by Hugh Kerr. It is out-of-print, but easy to track down, and inexpensive.
Though these anthologies are great introductions, I always recommend people begin by reading some of Luther's Sermons. Recently, Baker books republished seven volumes of these entitled The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther. The set is inexpensive. I recommend this as a starting point because it gives one a feel for the pastoral heart and care of Luther. His sermons are much easier to read than his theological treatises, and will challenge and inspire you.
As to basic historical biographies of Luther, I recommend two books that compliment each other. The first is Roland Bainton's Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. The book is straightforward, and though criticized for being too lenient on Luther, it is a highly reliable historical work. The second is Heiko Oberman's Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. This biography is more daring. It presents more of a "Luther, warts and all". As with Bainton's book, the historical and biographical information is set forth accurately.
Here are some interesting historical treatments. Robert Kolb's Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero traces Luther's impact on Lutheranism, and explores the way Lutherans have understood who Luther was. Some early Lutherans went as far as calling him a Prophet. Martin- God's Court Jester by Eric Gritsch tackles some of the controversial subjects surrounding Luther, like the folly of using psycho-history to interpret Luther's life. Richard Stauffer has an interesting little book called Luther As Seen By Catholics, tracing the way Catholics have understood Luther for the past few hundred years. Similarly, if you can track it down, Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation by W.H.T. Dau gets into debunking the slanderous accusations Catholics have leveled against Luther.
But most people never move beyond the biographical with Luther. Luther was a theologian, and had distinctive theological paradigms. For the simplest overview of his theology, Steve Paulson has written Luther For Armchair Theologians, with the layman in mind. The book is by far the easiest text available on Luther's theology. For an advanced detailed treatment, The Theology of Martin Luther by Paul Althaus is, in my opinion, the definitive overview of Luther's theology. It is an in-depth analysis of Luther's thought, fully indexed, and documented with citations from primary sources. But the book that really takes Luther's theology and makes it practical is Gerhard O. Forde's, On Being A Theologian Of The Cross: Reflections On Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518. This book endeared me to Luther, and really challenged the way I do "theology." Forde clearly puts forth what Luther meant by the theology of the cross. Out of all the books listed above, this would be my favorite, and the one I would promote as required reading.
Again, these are only a few texts I have found helpful. I should really do a follow-up entry on books you shouldn't read on Luther. I can mention one immediately: The Facts About Luther by Father Patrick O'Hare. This book is quite popular with Catholic laymen. It is poorly researched, and filled with distortion. I have spent a lot of time with this book, and can prove my case.
Today on the Dividing Line
09/13/2007 - James WhiteFinished up Deedat's presentation on Muhammad in John 16, and then took two good calls on the nature of the gospel. Here's the program (free/high quality). This evening I was directed to an Orthodox blog that seems to be dedicated to nothing more than making wise cracks about The Dividing Line. You can find it here. I wonder why this fellow doesn't call the program and make all these wonderful points?
How to Avoid Cage-Stage-itis
09/13/2007 - James WhiteI've seen it many times. The Cage Stage. A believer's eyes are opened to the majesty of God as the sovereign King of the universe, and their entire life is turned upside down. And for a while, they have more zeal than they have knowledge. We call it the "cage stage." That period in the experience of the new Calvinist where they would be better off kept in a cage until they can gain enough maturity to handle these vitally important topics aright. That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! You know, when they are all running around smacking someone upside the head with Pink's The Sovereignty of God? Yeah.
So how do you avoid getting locked up in the cage? One of the questions people have is, "I want to share these truths with my loved ones! How do I do it without looking like a zealot?" Here's a suggestion: Drawn by the Father. This is one of my smallest books. It's focused, brief, concise. But, since it is about John 6:35-45, it is very powerful. The words of the Lord Jesus from the synagogue in Capernaum have opened the eyes of many! This isn't some thick tome of theology, yet, at the same time, it presses Jesus' claims upon the heart of the believer with clarity. It is especially useful for those who may be impacted by a slight infection of "red-letter onlyism," where people think that the red letters in the Bible are somehow more inspired than the black ones (especially the black ones in Paul's writings!). You can order Drawn by the Father from our bookstore, here.
Sandra Tanner on the Bible Answer Man
09/13/2007 - James WhiteI just received notice that Sandra Tanner, one of the greatest living experts on Mormonism, will be on The Bible Answer Man Broadcast next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, September 18th and 19th. Anyone who has ever spent time talking to Sandra knows she is an encyclopedic resource of information about the history and beliefs of Mormonism, so I would encourage you to listen in.
Reading in Context and for Meaning: Evidently, a Lost Art + A Fractal!
09/13/2007 - James WhiteYesterday, in responding to the straw-man representation of "Baptists" presented by Jonathan Bonomo, I replied to the assertion that Baptists have separated themselves from "Christendom" (I used the term Christianity, since as a good Baptist I don't believe it is appropriate to dub something "Christian" that lacks the gospel and the Spirit and, also as a good Baptist, I'm not a sacralist) with these words:
No RB would view himself as having "broken away" from Christianity because he is convinced the Bible teaches that baptism, like the Supper, is for believing, repentant people. When I join with my Presbyterian brothers in defending the gospel against the heresies of Rome, I will try to remember we are not fellow Christians.To my shock and dismay, some folks have failed to catch the clear, obvious, contextual meaning of these words. They are found in an article pointing out all the mischaracterizations in Bonomo's description. So it is painfully obvious that the last line is pure sarcasm: I even refer to my Presbyterian brothers, with whom I join in the struggle for the gospel, in the sentence. I am replying to the assertion that I have somehow separated myself from them because of my views of baptism so that we are no longer part of the same Christian faith. I'm mocking the idea that I could join with someone in fighting for the gospel who isn't a fellow Christian. Yet, some have so completely missed the point they actually think I'm saying Presbyterians are not my brothers in Christ! Please, folks, read in context! I was saying just the opposite about my Presbyterian brothers with whom I have true koinonia (fellowship) in the gospel!
Ironically, there are some Presbyterians who are not my brothers in faith. Those who denigrate the authority of Scripture, who promote a different gospel, promote homosexuality as a God-accepted lifestyle, etc., are not the first on my list of those with whom I feel koinonia. But this again brings us to the point: it is fellowship in the gospel that matters for me. I don't call those who have a false gospel Christians. I call them pseudadelphoi, false brethren, (Gal. 2:4). Paul used this language of baptized professors. To call those who preach a false gospel "Christians" simply because they underwent a religious ceremony "properly" in your viewpoint is to sow the seeds of the crop of utter confusion that exists all around us today. Such is the reason we have a "Christendom" that has no message, no cohesion, no voice. Once the gospel is lost as the central unifying definition of the faith, all you have is...human religion. That is what my debate with Doug Wilson came down to: Christianity defined by baptism vs. Christianity defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, to try to get back to a positive note, it has been a very long time since I uploaded a fractal! This one turned out especially nicely. In fact, I converted the non-buttonized version and loaded it on my BlackBerry 8830 and it makes an awesome background on that small screen. Since it has been a long time since I last posted one of my fractals, let me explain what a "fractal" is to those who might be a bit confused as to why a bald apologist from Arizona would be posting colorful graphics. Fractals are the result of plotting the results of hyper-complex mathematical formulae and assigning color definitions to the graph. The resultant plots are...well, glorious! If you search on "fractal" on this blog you will see that I have posted many before, and they are all found here. Many have found my fractals useful desktop backgrounds, and as long as you don't pass them off as your own, or try to copyright them, please feel free to download, use as backgrounds, pop them in your PowerPoint presentations, use them on your PDAs or BlackBerrys, or whatever you'd like. I have much I could say about the theological implications I find in fractals and the like, but I have a debate to prepare for, and more of the Ray response, Ataie response, etc., to get to. I'm sure for some, fractals prove I'm not Reformed, too! I mean, Calvin would not have approved of fractals (way too colorful). Enjoy!
Why These "Discussions" Are Worthless
09/13/2007 - James WhiteMichael J.G. Pahls wrote this morning, "This statement itself, however, shows why White is not Reformed. He presupposes that one’s doctrines of the church and sacraments are external and indifferent to one’s doctrines of God and Scripture or the gospel." This illustrates why I have so little taste for the "You are not Reformed, we are, hug a Romanist with me now!" folks on the net. Anyone who can throw out such a wild-eyed statement in the face of such overwhelming published documentation to the contrary leaves me shaking my head. My point all along has been to point out I believe what I believe because of that very consistency, but men like Pahls have no interest, it seems, in hearing that. I, for one, find these silly debates very frustrating simply because I see how much work needs to be done on so many fronts. I have introduced so many to the doctrines of grace, and yet, when I do so, I always have in the back of my mind the nagging concern that while these folks may be greatly excited to see the wondrous truths of God's holy and omnipotent Kingship over His creation, and how the Gospel is about God's self-glorification, not man's "felt needs," they will probably, eventually, run into the "downside" of the community that teaches those truths---those who while confessing these same truths end up marginalizing them in favor of their petty arguments about who is "truly Reformed." Meanwhile, so many of these same folks will inconsistently sow seeds of doubt as to the perspecuity of Scripture, the clarity of the gospel, and any number of other issues all in the name of "catholicity." While I will never stop decrying the soul-crushing slavery of Roman religion, I have no interest at all in wasting any more time with those who think it enjoyable to sit in their comfy personal libraries while lobbing off literary artillery shells at those on the front lines.
On Being "TR" (Truly Reformed)
09/12/2007 - James WhiteJonathan Bonomo has replied to the immediately preceding article. While I truly have no desire for this conversation at all (Mr. Bonomo's ability to embrace contradictory gospels so as to see both Baptists and Roman Catholics as his brothers is far more important, and telling, than anything that comes below), I feel it necessary to clarify some issues.
Mr. Bonomo wrote the following:
When I speak of a Baptist tradition, I am speaking broadly of a basic doctrinal paradigm which reduces Christianity to a personal thing - a matter of merely personal salvation which ordinarily happens apart from any material means (i.e. the ministry of the Church in Word and Sacrament); says that one only becomes a member of the church because one has been saved outside of her rather than being saved by God through her (which is the historic Reformed position); therefore reduces the church to a mere collection of like-minded individuals, the sacraments to mere memorials of what is absent and badges of profession rather than sacred signs of what is present and actual means of grace; and thinks it is ok to break away from the rest of Christendom by claiming that they alone possess true Christian Baptism and therefore think it permissible, good, and necessary to re-baptize anyone not baptized in an age of accountability. This is what I mean by the term Baptist.There is, of course, one main problem. Mr. Bonomo claims to be a former Reformed Baptist. I can only interpret these words as an attempt to describe his former confession, which happens to be my confession. But no Reformed Baptist who has the first level of knowledge of the LBCF, or who has read more than a few paragraphs of RB theological writing, could ever write such a description of his faith. So how is one supposed to respond to such a straw man? Are there "Baptists" about whom the above would be true? There certainly are. If Mr. Bonomo would like to say, "Oh, I didn't mean Reformed Baptists, I meant these Baptists over here..." then great. But his post did not make that distinction.
The citation is a straw man, and an obvious one. It is loaded with "bias words," such as the repeated use of "mere" and "merely." It loads all sorts of false assumptions into its assertions. Briefly:
No RB "reduces" Christianity to merely a "personal thing," "merely personal salvation" etc. I challenge Bonomo to substantiate such assertions from the LBCF. The effort itself would be highly educational in viewing the thinking of one who has moved from one set of convictions to another. As one who has written in defense of the divine nature of Christ's church, and the biblical pattern of its governance (Perspectives on Church Government, 2004, pp. 255-284), I find the insinuation that RB's have no ecclesiology and no belief in the divine nature of the means of grace to require me either to question Mr. Bonomo's motivations or his knowledge of the subject he is addressing.
No RB denies God uses means in the salvation of the elect. No RB denies the normative role of preaching (a means of grace) in that divine work. One does not have to adopt some form of sacramentalism to recognize God uses means.
RB's do believe the New Covenant is perfect and complete, that as Scripture so plainly states, those in that covenant have the law of God written upon their hearts and their sins forgiven. RB's recognize that this is descriptive of the work of God in regeneration, and hence, we accept and believe the teaching of Hebrews 8 regarding this truth, and see it perfectly in line with the apostolic example, consistently found in Acts, of baptizing repentant, confessing believers. So while we recognize the existence of false professors in our midst, we insist that we are being consistent in protecting boththe font and the table: anyone baptized upon profession of faith proving themselves to be reprobate was not properly baptized at all, for the symbol has no connection to reality in them. Further, we insist that while the external Christian fellowship may be marred by false professors and false brethren, it should be the intent of the elders to protect the fellowship, recognizing that the true church is that made up of the elect, and that the number of those in the New Covenant today and the number of the elect who have been regenerated are the same: the New Covenant is unlike the Old at this very point (back to Hebrews 8, Jeremiah 31).
No RB would ever view the church as "a mere collection of like-minded individuals," as the fifteen sections of Chapter 26 of the London Baptist Confession makes so painfully clear. No person who ever took seriously their claim to be a Reformed Baptist, and who has read Chapter 30 of the LBCF on the Supper, could assert that we reduce the ordinances "to mere memorials of what his absent and badges of profession rather than sacred signs of what is present and actual means of grace."Surely we are not sacramentalists, and I will gladly go to the text of Scripture to prove any insinuation that God's grace operates in some ex opere operato fashion, and since this writer seems to think Rome's sacramental theology is no barrier to the gospel, I have a feeling we are very, very far apart on these issues. But again, the "mere" language he uses is nothing but straw-man argumentation which gives him the power to define his views as the standard and any variation is thrown into one of two extremes. Surely he must realize that a self-conscious Reformed Baptist who reads Calvin carefully is far removed from a KJV Only independent fundamentalist who would never dare crack the bindings of the Institutes, so why paint with this broad brush, especially under the title provided?
If the citations of the LBCF are not sufficient, just note Bonomo's reference to "an age of accountability." Again, it is very hard to believe Mr. Bonomo was an RB when he uses this kind of language. Common term amongst Baptists in general? Yes. Reformed Baptists? No.
No RB would view himself as having "broken away" from Christianity because he is convinced the Bible teaches that baptism, like the Supper, is for believing, repentant people. When I join with my Presbyterian brothers in defending the gospel against the heresies of Rome, I will try to remember we are not fellow Christians.
Finally, one has to wonder: does Mr. Bonomo believe that anyone possesses "true Christian baptism" and just how would anyone know? I know it is tremendously naive of me, but I thought we determined these things on the basis of inspired writ, not on the basis of traditions, whether ancient, or derived from the Reformation. And indeed, this seems to be the real "rub" here. How does one determine Christian baptism?Does one do so by appealing to direct, inspired revelation? Upon what consistent biblical teaching would one conclude that this is no longer a valid thing to do, and that a tradition could be established beyond Scriptural examination?
I said I would be brief, so I shall add only two things. First, it troubles me greatly that Mr. Bonomo can have such clarity of conclusion that he can identify my views of baptism as "heretical" while at the same time identifying Roman Catholics as his brothers. Does anyone else find it odd, and in a certain way, very sad, that a "Reformed" person would even find it useful to be comparing Baptists to Roman Catholics while allowing Rome's gospel to go unchallenged? While promoting a form of sacramentalism that, I would assert, compromises the freedom of grace? Which leads me to the second point,one I made in essence in my previous post. What makes someone Reformed? For Bonomo it is clearly one's sacramentology. Fine. He is excused from calling me Reformed. However, I won't be using the term of him, either. Why? Because I think it is far more definitional of the term to insist upon such things as the solas and the centrality of the gospel and the fact that Rome's gospel is a fraud than it is to hold a particular sacramentology. And I will gladly allow our readers to determine who is more consistent with the foundational tenets of the faith--Bonomo and his dismissal of Baptists, or myself and Bill Shishko in our taking our positions to the final court of Christian arbitration, the Word of God, and that before the people of God, all to their benefit and edification? Mr. Bonomo is certainly free to continue to express his views about Baptists and display proudly his Reformed credentials. I will continue to introduce as many as I can to the doctrines of grace, the solas, and the great truth of justification by grace through faith, and let the readers decide.
An Exercise in Self-Control
09/12/2007 - James WhiteI am truly seeking to exercise self-control in responding to two items that appeared today in my RSS feed. The first is a very sad example of what happens to someone who once showed promise but who, for reasons only known to him and to God, has become an enemy to anyone who would follow Jesus' own prayer, "sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth" (John 17:17), so that one would seek to handle that word aright (2 Timothy 2:15). This particular writer's refusal to become a workman of the Word has led, over the past few years, to his becoming a clear warning to all who would handle sacred truth but who would refuse to love that truth (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
Along the same lines a former "Reformed Baptist" posted the following under the title, "Rome v. Baptists: Is One Really Superior to the Other?"
When I speak of a Baptist tradition, I am speaking broadly of a basic doctrinal paradigm which reduces Christianity to a personal thing - a matter of merely personal salvation which ordinarily happens apart from any material means (i.e. the ministry of the Church in Word and Sacrament); says that one only becomes a member of the church because one has been saved outside of her rather than being saved by God through her (which is the historic Reformed position); therefore reduces the church to a mere collection of like-minded individuals, the sacraments to mere memorials of what is absent and badges of profession rather than sacred signsof what is present and actual means of grace; and thinks it is ok to break away from the rest of Christendom by claiming that they alone possess true Christian Baptism and therefore think it permissible, good, and necessary to re-baptize anyone not baptized in an age of accountability. This is what I mean by the term Baptist.I am exercising restraint in that I find this description so utterly inaccurate that I am truly amazed that someone would have the temerity to post it publicly. But I must be disciplined and stay focused on what is truly important at this point in time. The above straw man is only the beginning of the post. Another wonderful example is found in these words, where again the old canard of the Anabaptists is thrown out:
No matter how loudly they may want to protest that they are not of the same mind with their forefathers here, they cannot get away from this underlying issue: they have taken baptism away from the church catholic and presumed the right to claim it for themselves. This is a material deviation from both Reformed and historic Christian orthodoxy.Later the same writer tried to unruffle a few feathers with these calming words: "I believe that both faithful Baptists and faithful Romanists are my brothers, and therefore, I see neither side as being any worse than the other, just as I see neither as any better." Yes, well, that helps a lot. All of this is in the context of denying to Reformed Baptists the title "Reformed." You see, for these folks, "Reformed" has nothing to do with your view of God, your view of the gospel, your view of the atonement, your view of Scripture. No, those things are irrelevant. They have a completely different list to work from in defining "Reformed." Of course, in the end, they are force to call "Reformed" men who mock the Reformers and their gospel and their proclamation and the entirety of the Christian faith just because they happen to hold to a particular sacramentology, while at the same time denying me not only the term, but identifying my belief as "heresy." Do I see any evidence such men have seriously considered, with an iota of fairness, what we have to say? Not at all, as the above ridiculous description evidences.
The key issue is whether Jesus Christ as King of His church gets to determine the nature of that church and the New Covenant. I say He does, and I say I am being consistent not only to apply the same hermeneutic to all of Scripture but to apply sola scriptura to the teachings even of the Reformers themselves. In fact, I would suggest it is very unReformed to do otherwise. So with that, despite the overwhelming desire to say much more, I provide you with a less than five minute discussion of the New Covenant from the baptism debate:
Today on The Dividing Line
09/11/2007 - James WhitePretty well split the program in two today: first half hour was on the Ahmed Deedat presentation on Muhammad in John 16, the second half hour we got back to the 1995 BAM program with Jimmy Akin, this time moving into the second hour. No, I didn't even mention the date today--not because the date isn't important. But you can only handle so much "remembrance" material. It is good to remember---but our battle is not with earthly weapons, and I think it is important to continue training to give a response to Islam, as well as Rome, for both give a false hope. Here's the program (free/high quality).
On Tuesday's Dividing Line: a "Pre-Feed" Portion
09/10/2007 - James WhiteBack from Toronto, just trying to catch up on "life" today. On Tuesday's Dividing Line I wish to continue looking at Ahmed Deedat's attempt to find Muhammad in John 14 and 16, but I was thinking that sometimes the "Deedat Effect" gets lost when I start and stop his presentation and point out all the errors in the process. So, what I will do, is I will start playing the rest of his presentation 21 minutes before the start of the program, so that if you wish, you can hear it as a single whole, so you can get the "feel" of what a Muslim audience especially would "hear" in Deedat. So, that would be about 1:39pm EDT I will get Deedat started, if you wish to tune in early. We normally just have music the half hour before the program gets started, but this time we'll pre-empt the tunes for some Deedat...though I do think he broke into song a couple of times!
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#3)
09/10/2007 - James WhiteI continue with my review of, and response to, Ali Ataie's article, Can Paul Be Trusted? Mr. Ataie continues:
Not unlike the Christian missionaries of today who travel into Muslim lands dressed in Muslim garb, Paul admits that he employs the use of deception to catch fish for Christ--becoming a Jew for Jews and a Gentile for Gentiles, that he may gain the more (1 Cor. 9:19-22).It is hard to judge whether Mr. Ataie simply does not understand the context of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians, and specifically, his discussion of liberty in the ninth chapter, or if he is just so intent upon making a point that he is ignoring what is so obvious. Paul is not even addressing the use of deception in the text, of course. In fact, the verse immediately following those referenced by Ataie explains it rather clearly: "1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." Paul is not saying he pretends to be something he isn't in a deceptive manner, he is saying he uses his freedom so asto make a clear path for the gospel. So, he is free (v. 19) he willingly gives up that freedom so as to proclaim the gospel. So, he uses his freedom to make it possible to preach to the Gentiles when in that situation; when amongst Jews, he does not demand that he be allowed to continue to do whatever he wishes, but instead, he uses his freedom to once again make it easy for him to proclaim the gospel. To accuse Paul of some kind of deception is almost silly at this point, as if Mr. Ataie has no interest at all in actually attempting to understand Paul's context. But it is not as if this is some confusing or difficult section. The language is not hard to follow, if a person is not already so prejudiced against Paul that they cannot allow him to speak for himself.
The despicability of such treachery is something Christians have practiced for over 2,000 years and in many cases have even condoned. When it comes to clinching a convert, anything goes.This is nothing more than rhetoric unworthy of serious interaction, to be honest. Terms like "treachery," "despicability" (!) and "clinching" are emotional buzz-words meant to end rational discussion, not prompt it. Ataie has grossly misread Paul, and now attributes to Paul the worst possible motives without any basis. This is angry denunciation, not serious argumentation.
Such immorality is demonstrated as Paul describes to the Corinthians how he stole money from other churches in order to bribe them to believe -- Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service (2 Cor. 11:7-8).
Yes Paul, you have committed an offense--remember, Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15; Matthew 19:18)?!
Once again, Ataie's prejudice blinds him to the simplest and easiest of linguistic usages. Paul is referring to the fact that he had not asked the Corinthians for their support, relying instead upon the support of the other infant churches he had founded. His use of the term "robbed" (sula,w) is clearly ironic, not literal. He was not literally saying he took money that was not meant to be for him! If I were to say to a church, "I robbed my family so that I might serve you," I am saying I gave preference to the one, taking from the other, not literally, but figuratively. Surely Mr. Ataie knows this, and one is left wondering if Mr. Ataie simply is not concerned to communicate to knowledgeable Christians who would find argumentation utterly unconvincing and facile.
Most astonishing of all is how Paul tells the Romans that as long as people continue to believe in his doctrine, he cannot be labeled as a sinner for LYING (Rom 3:6-7)?! Lying about what? The fact that he saw Jesus?Again, the serious reviewer is left struggling to believe that such a plain text, and a plain context, could be so completely misconstrued by Mr. Ataie. Here is the text, in context:
Romans 3:1-5 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED." 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?What is Paul saying? In context, he has just concluded the demonstration of the sinfulness of the both the Gentiles and the Jews. He has concluded that even those who possess the law of God do not in fact obey the law of God. So he is answering an objection to his teaching: "what advantage has the Jew?" He answers that there is great advantage in that, for example, they were entrusted with the "oracles of God," i.e., the Scriptures. But immediately he faces another objection, one he will actually return to in Romans chapter 9, that being that the Jews, as a group, rejected the Messiah, and rejected the gospel. Doesn't this constitute an argument against the Christian faith? Paul's response is no, for man's actions cannot overthrow the faithfulness of God. Instead, "let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." God's justice must be upheld at all costs, or we face the specter of a universe without purpose and without resolution. But notice then the example Paul raises. He indicate that he is speaking "in human terms," i.e., he is using merely human reasoning to illustrate the folly of the objection. That is, if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, then wouldn't that make God unrighteous to punish our unrighteousness (since is only serves to demonstrate His own righteousness)? To which Paul replies in the strong negative, appealing to the necessity of God's justice as judge of all the world. This then becomes the context of the statement, "But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?" Note the theoretical nature of the statement. Paul is not referring to any specific "lie" as Ataie's reading would require. Instead, just as the contrast pair before was "unrighteousness/righteousness," here the contrast pair is "lie/truth." Ironically, Ataie once again stops his reference citation right before a verse that would, in context, destroy his argument, v. 8, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come '? Their condemnation is just." Evidently, Paul had encountered the likes of Mr. Ataie's highly prejudiced, horrifically biased, interpretation of his words, back in his own day.
So in light of the actual meaning of the text, it is next to impossible to track any relationship between that and Mr. Ataie's commentary, it truly is. There is nothing about continuing to believe his doctrine, there is nothing about not being labeled a sinner, there is nothing about Paul having seen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ataie is simply making this up as he goes along, and I for one find this kind of abuse of the Christian scriptures highly offensive. I believe I am under compulsion to expend myself to accurately represent and examine the text of the Qur'an, for example. I would be ashamed of myself to throw out this kind of invective without being able to show due diligence in my study of the text itself. It shows no respect for God, and no respect for the truth, and no respect for those you believe to be in error, to produce this kind of non-argumentation. If Islam is true, it cannot be properly promoted by ridiculous argumentation, and so to use such argumentation may well indicate that the originator does not have as much confidence in the truthfulness of his position as he wishes others to believe.
A Parting Word...
09/09/2007 - James WhiteHeading home in the AM, Lord willing, but was kindly provided with the mp3s of my sermons today, and when I asked some folks in channel whether they'd like me to post them, they said yes, for some odd reason. So here is the AM sermon from Colossians 3, and the evening sermon from Psalm 15.
Greetings from Toronto! (Armstrong Update)
09/07/2007 - James WhiteI have once again made it across the border, and look forward greatly to meeting the saints here in Toronto. My flights were in the main uneventful, but now I am rushing to make some major changes to my presentations in light of some studying I was doing on the way up here. I am thankful for the technology to be able to do so (i.e., I remain very thankful for a working, wonderful laptop computer). At the same time, I will need to focus upon this task first and foremost, which may mean that an article or two I had hoped to write today for the blog will be delayed until after my travels are over.
Part of my morning routine involves scanning through the blogs I have in my RSS feed. Most of the time that is useful and even edifying, as there are some fine resources out there. I enjoy reading what Tom Ascol has to say over on the Founder's blog, and our own James Swan has been posting some great things on his blog regarding Rome's inability to meaningfully interact with Islam (a fact I have seen over and over again as I have been moving deeper into that field of apologetic work). But given the nature of my work, I likewise have to read, or at least take note of, a lot of highly unpleasant stuff. It comes with the territory I believe is the colloquial phrase. In any case, a few easy Google searches that you can save and make a part of your iGoogle home page make keeping up with what can only be called the ranting and raving of some on the net fairly easy.
I do not have time to spend on this today, so I shall be brief. This morning Roman apologist (see my discussion of the difference between a Roman Catholic apologist and a Romanist from a few weeks ago) Dave Armstrong has posted yet another inane attack upon me based upon the most ridiculous play-on-words. It is as embarrassing as his "See, Peter spoke to a dead girl, so that means we can pray to saints" argument from back in June, or his "explicit biblical evidence for indulgences" piece a few days ago. Now he and a few other Romanists have decided that if I object to the application of the title "Vicar of Christ" to the Pope, this means I would logically have to subordinate the Spirit in a heretical sense. And the reason for this? It's easy: pick a single meaning for "vicar/vicarious" to fit your absurd assertion, ignore the original context, and voila! You have yet another wonderful apologetic argument. Childish? Of course. Absurd and laughable? Obviously. Unworthy of anyone with the slightest modicum of concern for the truth? Without doubt. Meant only as a joke? Sadly, no. For Armstrong and those like him, this kind of twisted argumentation is the substance of their religion.
The serious reader knows that my objection to the term "Vicar of Christ" is based upon the fact that it is the Spirit who is sent by the Father and the Son into the world so that believer are not "left alone," as Jesus promised in John 15-16. To give that role and title to a man is blasphemous; and what is more, it would be very easy to develop the point even further, demonstrating how often Rome has claimed authority over the church that only the Spirit of God Himself could ever truly bear and wield. But to take a different meaning of "vicar" that is utterly outside of the range of meaning that I myself have used and then turn it into an implicit charge of Trinitarian heresy is simply despicable, let alone ridiculous, especially coming from a man who has never, to my knowledge, stood before an audience in defense of the Trinity against those who would deny it, nor has he produced anything of any meaningful scholarly substance on the topic that is not a mere re-hash of the sources he cherry-picks for his interminable writings.
But more than the absurdity of the specter of Dave Armstrong pretending to be the great defender of Rome is the fact that he is aided in this by the entire Roman Catholic apologetics community. Just where are the honest, concerned Roman Catholic apologists today? You see, if you are not consistent in pointing to the problems "in house," you have no credibility with me. I have taken huge hits over the years for daring to demand that if we are going to point the finger at false religion we better be consistent "in house" as well. I have long pointed out the errors of Jack Chick, for example. I denounced the Alberto comics back in the 1980s as unworthy of those who desire to speak the truth about Roman Catholicism. I have honestly criticized the really, really bad apologetics materials that you can find in "Christian bookstores," and I have publicly criticized men like Dave Hunt for their less-than-scholarly assertions in many fields. I have played clips from debates and honestly admitted when the other side had the better point, and when "our guy" tripped up. Why? Because you have to to be able to look at yourself honestly in the mirror in the morning, that's why. It's called consistency. And if you claim to follow Him who is the Truth, you better have the highest view of truth, and practice it yourself. Sunday evening I will be preaching on that topic from Psalm 15, where we read these sobering words, Ab)b'l.Bi tm,ªa/÷ rbeîdow>, which I translate, "speaking truth in his inner-most being." Who can dwell in God's presence? The one who speaks truth--consistently--in his heart--in his mind--when no one else is looking. The man who does not engage in self-deception. Ah, the glory of God's Word.
If Roman Catholic apologists want to be taken seriously, they need to realize they have to clean house. Now, of course, if their ultimate authority is Rome, and their ultimate goal is the promotion of Rome, and nothing else, then they have no reason to worry about men like Armstrong. Let him rant and rave and put out Jack Chick level materials in defense of Rome. Who cares? But if those on the far side of the Tiber manning the defensive works actually claim to love the truth, then why are they so deathly silent in the face of the likes of Armstrong? Why are converts like Steve Ray given a complete pass to throw out the most shallow, easily refuted arguments? Is it because "hey, they get some results, and something is better than nothing!"? Is it all just pragmatism? Where are the websites denouncing the behavior of an Art Sippo? Where can I find the Roman Catholic who apologizes for the hit and run tactics of a Phil Porvaznik? If they are there, they are well hidden. I can't seem to find them.
One last example and I must get to work on pressing duties. James Swan sent me an e-mail he had received from Sophia Institute, an organization that publishes some of Dave Armstrong's books. Now, to my knowledge, Dave Armstrong has never been hired by an institution of higher learning to stand before a class and teach on a scholarly subject. To my knowledge, prior to his conversion, he was an amateur "apologist," like the guy at church who reads Walter Martin books. To this day I do not believe he has ever been hired as a professor anywhere; if he reads Greek or Hebrew I have never seen the first bit of evidence of it (and by "reads" I do not mean "has BibleWorks, can left click a mouse"). I have never seen his articles published in any journals, and the level of "scholarship" in his books is, quite simply, secondary, derivative, and shows no first-hand capacity. So with that in mind, I give you here a wonderful example of the Roman Catholic tendency to turn all converts into Paul, i.e., the Paul Syndrome. I have documented other instances of this in the past. Gerry Matatics loves to claim that he was an "anti-Catholic" before conversion---which simply means he was a consistent Protestant. I asked him once, "Gerry, what books did you write against Rome before your conversion." "I didn't." "What debates did you do?" "I didn't." "What articles did you write?" "I didn't." "What tracts did you write and distribute against Rome?" "I didn't." "What classes did you teach, outreaches did you do?" "I didn't." "So why do you call yourself a former anti-Catholic?" "I was very opposed to Roman Catholicism." Well, duh. Follow the logic of that one through. In any case, here are the opening paragraphs of an e-mail promoting Dave Armstrong's books from Sophia Institute as sent to James Swan: ...
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"Unless a Grain of Wheat..."
09/06/2007 - Colin SmithIt was with sadness today (Wednesday, Sept 5th), that I received two items of news that caused me not only to pause for prayer, but also to reflect. The first came as a complete shock. Arif Khan and his wife, missionaries to Pakistan where Arif pastored a Reformed Baptist church, were shot dead last week. The circumstances of this incident have not yet been made known (at least to me), but nevertheless, while I did not know the Khans personally, both Reformed Baptist churches I have been a part of have been active supporters of them, so I was well aware of their work. As you can well imagine, Pakistan is not exactly one of the easiest places in the world to be a missionary, let alone pastor a church (let alone a Reformed Baptist church!), and I have long admired the Khans' dedication to the Lord and their labors for His Kingdom. It is truly a testimony to God's grace that such a work has persisted for so long, and now we must pray that God's grace will abound all the more to a region that so desperately needs it. I would encourage you all to keep their families and that church in your prayers. We believe that even in this tragedy, God has a purpose, and we know it is for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). May the brethren in Pakistan not lose heart, and may the Lord give them strength to continue the work so ably begun by Arif and Kathleen, as God the Holy Spirit enables them.
I heard the second piece of news at church this evening, concerning the passing of Dr. D. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. I doubt there are many in the church who do not know Dr. Kennedy (for the few who don't, Coral Ridge have established a memorial site here), and those that do cannot deny that he truly loved the Lord and desired to see the lost brought to a saving faith in Christ. His passing brought home to me the fact that there is a generation of church leaders whose presence I have taken for granted all my life, who I have strangely assumed would always be there with words of wisdom and encouragement for God's people, as well as strong defenses of Christian truth against its detractors. Yet, as a friend pointed out tonight, every year we grow older, so do they. And when the Lord calls them home, who is ready to fill the gap? Do we have a next generation of church leaders able to take the mantle of a D. James Kennedy, or an R.C. Sproul, or a John MacArthur? We need to pray that the Lord would continue to be merciful to us, raising up men within the church to guide His people, to tend His sheep, and watch over the flock. Pray for the current generation of teenagers, that God would captivate their hearts with a love for His Word and His Truth. Give thanks to God for the many excellent pastors and teachers He has given to His church, both the well-known, and those known only to their congregations. They are a gift of love from Him to His people. Pray for them, and treasure them! Also, pray for your own kids, and/or the kids in your church--you never know if another Kennedy, Sproul, or MacArthur is in your midst!
Frank Beckwith on CA Live Today
09/05/2007 - James WhiteI think I will live blog Frank Beckwith's appearance on CA Live today. It begins at 3pm PDT. You can find the link here. Be watching, as I will update as the program progresses.
Start: I wonder if Yanni knows CA Live uses his music as their theme?
Well, that's interesting. I thought Beckwith did not want to be an apologist, yet, well, he isn't here just "sharing his journey," but is acting as an apologist answering questions from the viewpoint of Roman Catholicism---is he not? Sure sounds like it to me.
President of ETS: personally, Beckwith does not sound "comfortable" in this role. He didn't on STR, he doesn't sound confident here, either.
Didn't want to resign: I do hope that my breaking the story and immediately calling for his resignation had some impact upon his appropriate decision to do so.
Fordham is a Jesuit institution. Beckwith is right. He had imbibed fundamentally Roman Catholic concepts of man and grace, and never broke with Rome on these issues. I have pointed to this a number of times.
Still a Protestant. Did you notice something? Not a word about a conversion experience, a break with Rome, a true move into a position that denied Roman Catholic teachings. He just sorta "slid" into Protestantism---can you actually do that? I don't believe so.
The practices of the early church. I wonder if Beckwith will address the differences in the early views of the Supper and those of Rome today? Or will he just keep repeating the same assertions he made on STR?
What do I lose? How about...the gospel? How about...peace? These are the words of a man who never had a passionate commitment to the gospel of grace, no doubt at all. So ask yourself: how many Christian academics today who call themselves Protestants are exactly where Beckwith was?
Bad catechesis. I wonder why Rome allowed such a horrible decline in its teachings? Wait...Vatican II led to this? Hmm, how does that work?
Lorraine Boettner. Hey, let's go after Boettner. Wait a minute...if Boettner is so bad, wouldn't Beckwith's reading of Trent, as we now know he had done, (right?) have made him realize something was wrong?
Getting Southern Baptists to be Roman Catholic. Again...I thought Beckwith wasn't going to be an apologist for Rome?
This is sweet. Again, a person who has found peace in the glorious gospel of grace would not find an invitation to deny that sufficiency of grace and of Christ to be "sweet," would he or her?
Christian...but not yet Catholic. Remember James Swan's posts on how modern Roman Catholics seek to convert people not to Christ, but to Rome? You are hearing that right now.
Ah, William Lane Craig. The leading proponent of Molinism, even after the Jesuits have abandoned it!
Developed a love for Mary? "I haven't prayed the rosary." Oh, this is heart-breaking! Do you hear this? He clearly and honestly said he has not developed a "love for Mary" as yet. Can you hear the audience gasping as I can? Think about the centrality on EWTN of Mary. Oh he sounds so uncomfortable at this point! He's almost stuttering he is stumbling for words so badly. He knows the Marian dogmas are completely without foundation. What a horrible shame to listen to this! "I've only been a Catholic for four months." Really? He was raised in it and didn't know how to pray the Rosary? I assure you, I'm not the only one shaking my head at this point.
Sola scriptura and Sunday worship. Of course Sunday worship preceded anything in the form of a Roman statement on the topic. Beckwith's response is very Protestant, to be honest, not Roman. He's still a Protestant in his thinking at least on issues like this.
Richard Bennett. An "open air" preacher has called in asking about whether Frank has read Bennett's work. Beckwith hasn't. Interesting dialogue, but hardly focused upon what matters. Anyone who has listened to the STR dialogue is now appreciating Greg Koukl's questions. He got more done in discussing serious theology in three minutes on STR than we have gotten so far in 45 minutes of interview on CA Live.
Giving the Berean Beacon URL. Sorry, that's just funny. The smoke coming out of your computer is from the CA guys fuming over someone giving out the Berean Beacon website URL! :-)
Finishing up. Well, again, what a massive contrast to the STR program! Almost nothing of substance was said in the past hour. Nothing. Not only did Beckwith struggle mightily with the Marian question, but there was truly nothing in comparison with what was brought up by the studied, in-depth, focused questions Koukl asked. I truly believe those Roman Catholics who were looking for some kind of "celebrity conversion" story that would be compelling are very disappointed at this point. Tim Staples will be on in the next hour, and if he was listening, and I expect he was, he is going to be frustrated, to be sure.
You Must Listen To This
09/05/2007 - James WhiteThis morning I listened to an information-packed, highly useful lecture by Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund. Even if Islam is not "your topic," you cannot afford to remain in the dark about it, and this lecture is tremendously useful. I challenge you to find the time to listen and learn!
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#1)
09/05/2007 - James WhiteOn August 13th Steve Ray posted a blog article that presented the "logic" used in Roman Catholic theology that lies behind the assumption and coronation of Mary. I replied the next day here. (Ray, in his response, has the wrong date of his own initial blog article, and links not to my initial response to him, but a later one). This began a give and take that was very one sided: on one side you had Ray's dismissive insults and ad-hominem argumentation, and on the other side factual and logical refutations focused upon the facts. Soon Ray mentioned he was going to post a lengthy refutation, co-authored by Gary Michuta. This appeared on August 21st in pdf format. It is 30 pages in length, though, the actual material directly relevant to the topic is a minority of the information. Instead, the response begins with pages of standard, oft-refuted Catholic claims, stated in such a fashion as to leave the knowledgable reader without any reason to believe Ray and those involved in the production of his response are either fully aware of, or concerned about, the refutations that have been offered of this kind of apologetic materials.
In any case, the "scatter-gun" format Ray uses throws out claims on a wide range of topics. It always takes far more time to accurately respond to falsehoods than it does to enunciate them. The errors that can be spoken in a few seconds may take many minutes to refute; falsehoods found on one page may take ten to correct. And so, responding to Ray's missive is a large task, not because it is particularly compelling argumentation (it is not), but because of the wide range of assertions he makes and how long it takes to correct his misapprehensions.
Despite the fact that my attentions are focused elsewhere, appropriately so, I have taken time to put together materials relevant to the claims Ray makes. But I wish to begin by pointing out something very important.
This discussion began when I replied to Ray's comments about the assumption and coronation of Mary. I was not replying to an obscure, irrelevant theological speculation on the part of an off-beat former fundamentalist. I tend to let such obscure things pass by, as they rarely hang around anyway. The internet is filled with the theologically speculative blog post, the theoretical musings of this person or that. I scarcely slow down long enough to notice such things. It is a bit like most of the current craze in eschatological nuttiness in post-evangelicalism. Not worth the time it takes to explain it, let alone refute it.
But the concept of the Bodily Assumption of Mary, while it may seem speculative and off-beat to many, is a completely different animal when we are speaking of its place in Roman Catholicism. While the "Queenly Coronation" element is part and parcel of Marian piety in Roman Catholicism, it is not, in and of itself, a dogmatic teaching. But the Bodily Assumption is. Since very few appreciate the difference between dogma and doctrine, a word of explanation is needed.
Roman Catholic popes have taught as doctrine the concept of Mary's standing as co-mediatrix with Christ for a hundred years. Yet, this teaching is not a dogma. A dogma is a revealed truth, a definitional truth, and it is to be accepted de fide, by faith. The Trinity is dogmatically true, and is to be accepted de fide. So is the resurrection. But Rome has gone far beyond these historic, clearly biblical teachings. For example, "It is permissible and profitable to venerate the Saints in Heaven, and to invoke their intercession" is a de fide teaching of the Roman Church. Likewise, "Christ becomes present in the Sacrament of the Altar by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His Body and the whole substance of the wine into His Blood" is de fide dogma, as is "The Worship of Adoration (latria) must be given to Christ present in the Eucharist." So is, "The Sacrifice of the Mass is not merely a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but also a sacrifice of expiation and impetration," "The Church possesses the power to grant Indulgences," and "The souls of the just which, in the moment of death, are burdened with venial sins or temporal punishment due to sins, enter Purgatory." These are all de fide dogmatic statements. Some come earlier in church history, but some come very, very late.
In reference to authority, such statements as "The Pope possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, not merely in matters of faith and morals, but also in Church discipline and in the government of the Church" and "The Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra" are both de fide statements. They are dogma. And they come much later in history than the primitive periods of the church, to be sure.
The Marian dogmas are just that...dogmas. They are not Marian speculations. They are not "nice and pious thoughts about Mary that one may or may not takes seriously." The following statements have been defined de fide as dogma:
- Mary was conceived without stain of Original sin.
- Also after the Birth of Jesus Mary remained a Virgin.
- Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven.
Now please realize, I don't live in a fantasy world. I know a large, large portion of Roman Catholics in America today can't tell the difference between the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception. And amongst those who know the difference, many are quite indifferent and could completely care less what the bishop of Rome has said on the topic. Nominalism is rampant in Rome's religion, especially in places like Italy, and surely here in the United States as well. So I know you know of a "good Roman Catholic" who doesn't believe these things about Mary.
At the same time, those folks are not believing, practicing, orthodox Roman Catholics, either. Even Rome has said that in the past, though it seems today Rome has completely lost her spine and dares not discipline anyone any longer when it comes to what they teach or believe. But that aside, truth is still truth, and if you don't believe what Rome has defined as dogma, well, don't be too shocked here, but that means you aren't a Roman Catholic. ...
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Today on The Dividing Line
09/04/2007 - James WhiteA real mixed bag on the program today, to be sure! Started out with a little discussion of what a Matatics/Sungenis debate would look like (would still love to see a Matatics/Hahn debate, maybe at that Holiday Inn on the Pennsylvania Turnpike!), took three calls on wildly different topics, including the deity of Christ (specifically, the use of qeo,j and ku,rioj in reference to the Father and the Son), a call on idolatry, and a call on the Word Faith movement. Then I began playing a section from Ahmed Deedat wherein he attempts to find Muhammad in the Bible (specifically, in John 16). Quite a range of topics, a little something for everyone! Here's the program (free/high quality).
One Last Set of Replies to the Top Ten List
09/03/2007 - James WhiteI was directed to another set of replies to the top ten questions I posted a few days ago in answer to a question sent in by e-mail. I don't get the feeling they were offered in an overly serious manner, so I will skip most of them. But I did find some of the comments left on the blog indicative of the mindset of many Roman Catholics, and of converts thereto. Note this one:
I had seen the excitement over White's questionaire [sic] floating around the blogosphere. I really wasn't interested in it enough to visit his site, since I was pretty confident it would be nothing more than one of his typical attacks on Catholicism. I'm glad you posted it on your blog; that's the only way I would have ever read it. Interesting stuff!
Well thank you so much! The same open-minded fairness can be heard in these comments:
Though I am not a Roman Catholic, there is much to embrace and their [sic] is much mis-representation coming from the Protestant side. I did not care for James White's smug questions.
Joseph, Don't bother with his site, I have seen enough of Mr. White to be completely turned off. I have never seen someone so sure he is right in pretty much all theological matters.
Yes, well, we wouldn't want to be confident in our beliefs now! Post-modern Westerners want you to exhibit "epistemological humility," i.e., don't proclaim the gospel with confidence. Don't say one thing is right and another is wrong. But anyway, these kind comments aside, our writer had the following to say:
8) Have you looked carefully at the claims of Rome in a historical light, specifically, have you examined her claims regarding the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers, and all the evidence that exists that stands contrary not only to the universal claims ofthe Papacy but especially to the concept of Papal Infallibility? How do you explain, consistently, the history of the early church in light of modern claims made by Rome? How do you explain such things as the Pornocracy and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church without assuming the truthfulness of the very system you are embracing?
I believe I have looked carefully. I do not know what Mr. White means by unanimous consent.
The phrase is used by Rome at the 4th Session of the Council of Trent, in these famous words:
Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published.
Vatican I used similar language:
...we, therefore, for the preservation, safe-keeping, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the sacred Council, do judge it to be necessary to propose to the belief and acceptance of all the faithful, in accordance with the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, the doctrine touching the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the sacred Apostolic Primacy...
At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture as it has been ever understood by the Catholic Church are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in his Church, deny that Peter in his single person, preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction;
Note the words of Satis Cognitum (June, 1896): "Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age.
If he means that 100% of church fathers have to believe something for the Catholic claims to be valid, that would give, ex post facto, a limitless veto power to any one father (who would not have realized he was wielding this power when he wrote). I do not know if he means Papal Infallibility the way I have read it defended.
I mean unanimous consent isn't really unanimous consent, and that while Roman controversialists like to use it in its "big" sense in passing, they then have to make it "not so unanimous" and, in the very doctrines Rome uses it most, admit that "well, unanimous might actually be less than 50%."
I do not know what remains to be explained about the Pornocracy et al.My questions were not really intended for those willing to accept any "explanation" no matter how stretched or shaky it might be, to be honest.
The Catholics claim that the church is not free from sinful people; they say the Church is semper reformanda.Of course, no one has ever claimed that impeccability is required. But anyone who has read about the history of the Papacy knows there is a difference between impeccability and basic, simple regeneration. And for a lengthy period, the Papacy was held by men the lost world itself considered reprobates. Evidently, when it comes to the Papacy, no amount of immoral behavior, false teaching, or general improper behavior, is sufficient to overthrow the ever-strong desire for a king.
No one questions the authority of the Apostles, but what does this have to do with Honorius, I might ask? Or Innocent III? If the last portion of the last sentence has something to do with a claim regarding canonization, why would it take 1546 years to accomplish this task, I am forced to wonder?7) Have you applied the same standards to the testing of Rome's ultimate claims of authority that Roman Catholic apologists use to attack sola scriptura? How do you explain the fact that Rome's answers to her own objections are circular? For example, if she claims you need the Church to establish an infallible canon, how does that actually answer the question, since you now have to ask how Rome comes to have this infallible knowledge. Or if it is argued that sola scriptura produces anarchy, why doesn't Rome's magisterium produce unanimity and harmony? And if someone claims there are 33,000 denominations due to sola scriptura, since that outrageous number has been debunked repeatedly (see Eric Svendsen's Upon This Slippery Rock for full documentation), have you asked them why they are so dishonest and sloppy with their research?
I have applied the same standards to all my analysis, thank you for asking. Regarding circular logic, I believe the Romanist would say that Christ promised us that he would give his Holy Spirit, and the Book of Acts records this very event. This, and Christs commissioning of the Apostles should give us some reason to believe that their claims to authority could be valid, certainly valid enough to identify which texts this same Holy Spirit inspired.
Rome's claims do not nearly produce harmony.Well, I am not sure what this means, but it does remind me of an off-the-cuff remark one of my debate opponents made years ago. I really dont think he meant to say whathe said, but it was an honest remark. I pointed out that there was a whole stream of Roman Catholic opinion different than his own on an important point, and sort of absent mindedly he said, "Yes, there are a lot more opinions since we stopped the Inquisition." Uh, yeah, I guess so. Rome's claims...and her political power...surely did produce a form of "harmony," if you consider that a meaningful use of the term. I would say harmony that is produced by anything other than the Spirit of God applying the truth of God from the Word of God is not true harmony. Today I would invite this writer to visit Boston College sometime and see just how harmonious Rome really is. When Rome starts bringing discipline to bear on the wild-eyed liberal wackos who parade under the banner of "Roman Catholic scholarship" then we can talk about "harmony." Till then, I find the claim significantly less than compelling.
Many walked away from Christ when he explained that His flesh had to be eaten for salvation.Funny, when you actually read the text, it says they walked away because He kept saying, "And He was saying, 'For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.' As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." That looks like it says "as a result of this," but one might need the Pope to explain the actual grammatical construction. Oh, wait...I don't believe this text has been infallibly interpreted yet. If Jimmy Akin is correct, and only eight texts have been infallibly defined, that's one text every...two hundred and fifty years. Well, I guess we could hold out and hope that by 2250 this text will be the next one infallibly determined, but the chances are not overly good.
Rome's criticism (in observing the factionalism of Protestantism) is that our claim that the Bible is a sufficient sole rule of faith has been disproved by reality, as we are in such wide disagreement on its interpretation, even in essential matters.So, the realistic factionalism of Rome would prove the magisterium insufficient, yes? Or, is the entire argument that a sufficient rule of faith is supposed to banish the sinfulness of man? Man's ignorance? Rebellion? Traditions? Given that there were false teachers in the days of the Apostles, and no one would argue that they were an insufficient guide, why is it assumed that the existence of false teachers in the days of the Scriptures means they are insufficient? Of course, these issues have been addressed many times, so I wonder if this writer has, in fact, read Goode or Whitaker or Salmon?
There may not be harmony, or even obedience in Catholicism about the use of, say, the Pill (an abortifacient), but at least everyone understands that their Church has spoken against it.As if that is the only area where Roman Catholics disagree! Given that the literary mass of the teachings of Rome is far larger than that of the Bible, upon what logical basis are we to believe that it is easier to interpret that body of literature than it is the Bible?
Incidentally, and speaking of essentials, I believe Calvin would say that Mr. White's Reformed Baptists are not part of the true church, since they do not properly attend to the Sacraments.I haven't any idea why this shot was included, but while that would have been true (does he think I am unaware of this?), what does it have to do with anything? I hold Calvin to the same standard I hold anyone else to--the very standard he would have had me use, if he could be allowed to be consistent given his historical situation. I have recently provided what is, I think, an excellent example of how this works in my debate with Bill Shishko on baptism.
Regarding Indulgences and Paul's doctrine of Grace, this textual criticism does not account for the Catholic defense that Indulgences are able to relieve only temporal punishment. Eternal punishment is cured by Christs grace alone (Cf. Paul's doctrine of grace taught to the Romans).It may be quite convenient to make such a distinction so as to dismiss the words of Indulgentiarum Doctrina,but the fact is the text speaks of God's grace as God's grace in words that would make any mind trained in apostolic doctrine as revealed in inspired Scripture jolt in revulsion. You can do your best to get around this kind of abhorrent material, butit is part and parcel of Rome's literary production, and more importantly, a part of her theology. ...
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Material Sufficiency and Joseph Ratzinger
09/02/2007 - James SwanThe Scriptures are materially sufficient. This simply means the content of divine revelation God intends His people to have is contained entirely in Scripture. That is, all the doctrines Christians are to believe are found in the Bible. The Bible alone is a sufficient source for the believer. The Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and the very voice of God (Rom. 9:17; Gal.3:8). Christians have an infallible standard by which to judge the words of men (Acts 17:11). The Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). It was the standard the Lord Jesus used to evaluate extra-biblical tradition (Mt. 15:3-6). All things are subject to it, nothing stands by its side as its equal. There is no tradition or infallible church that shares its unique place in the life of the believer.
Some Catholics advocate a particular form of this view. Along with affirming totum in Scriptura, Catholics who maintain a type of material sufficiency also hold Tradition likewise contains the entire content of revelation: totum in traditione. This Tradition is seen as an active process of handing down truth, and that truth is a living heritage, or content. Thus, for some Roman Catholics, two vehicles carry God's special revelation in total: Scripture and Tradition. Both are infallible.
To my understanding, this is not the official view of the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, it is one acceptable view within their sect. The other would be the view that part of God's special revelation is contained in the Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. This would be the partim-partim view. In this view, the Bible is materially insufficient. The New Catholic Encyclopedia states of those who hold this view, "Neither tradition nor Scripture contains the whole apostolic tradition. Scripture is materially (i.e., in content) insufficient, requiring oral tradition as a complement to be true to the whole divine revelation" [Source: New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) Vol 14, p.228].
While still a Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger (now the Pope) stated, "...no one is seriously able to maintain that there is a proof in Scripture for every catholic doctrine" [See Joseph Ratzinger's "The Transmission of Divine Revelation" in Herbert Vorgrimler, ed., Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), Vol. 3, p. 195]. Ratzinger made this comment with the documents of Vatican II (article nine of Dei verbum) in mind.
Recently, a Roman Catholic stated on my blog that a Protestant using this quote as it is cited above is citing it out of context. He posited Ratzinger clearly embraced "totem in sacra scriptura- totem in traditione." He didn't provide any relevant information to explain Ratzinger's view of "totem in sacra scriptura," but he did attempt to explain what Ratzinger meant in the above citation, stating that "...he [Ratzinger] was dealing with interpretation (formal sufficiency) and not simply material sufficiency." Earlier though in the same document, Ratzinger states the problem of the material completeness of Scripture was under dispute in 1965, and that "finally the idea of any tradition of this kind was rejected." This would indeed harmonize with Ratzinger's statement, "...no one is seriously able to maintain that there is a proof in Scripture for every catholic doctrine." Both these sentences reside in the same context.
But perhaps the confusion demonstrated by this Roman Catholic is due to the ambiguity of Ratzinger's words. Ratzinger goes on to point out that even Protestants really don't believe in material sufficiency. Quoting H. Ott, Ratzinger states an ecumenical protestant should realize "... it is surely also true for a Protestant who has not forgotten the basis of the Reformation that we do not acquire certainty about God's revelation only from Holy Scripture, but also through preaching and the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit." In other words, Material sufficiency is false even for Protestants, because God uses means outside of Scripture with his people.
But this is a false understanding of what Protestants mean by material sufficiency. "Acquiring certainty" is not extra-Biblical revelation. 1 John 5:13 states, "These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God." Similarly John 20:31 states, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." The certainty I have is due to the fact that no authority can stand above God's word to validate God's word. God says in the Scriptures "I can know," and therefore, I can know! Further, by implication, Ratzinger holds that the Roman Church provides certainty, but this indeed is an unproven assertion. There is no decree from God stating that the Roman Church is infallible and provides absolute certainty. It is simply assumed by adherents of Roman Catholicism.
Ratzinger also attempts to use preaching as a denial of material sufficiency. But what is preaching? It is the oral proclamation of God's Word. What content preached will savingly penetrate the heart? Only the Word of God, not cute anecdotes, jokes, or stories. The Word of God is that which is sharper than any double edged sword, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb. 4:12), whether spoken or written. Ministers are to preach the Word in season and out of season, to correct, rebuke and encourage. The content of their preaching, if they wish to be true men of God, is the content given in sacred Scripture.
Ratzinger then uses the "inner testimony of the Holy Spirit" to disprove material sufficiency. But one only believes in the "inner testimony of the Holy Spirit" because the Bible affirms and teaches it. Romans 8:16 states, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." How do I know with certainty that I savingly believe God's word? Because God's word states my certainty is due to God's Spirit confirming the Gospel in my heart. It explains and describes what is going on inside me, in the same way the Bible explains and confirms how non-believers are spiritually dead in sin.
The real problem as I see it, is that Ratzinger speaks in ambiguous language. At times he appears to affirm material sufficiency, and then other times, he clearly denies it. It's no wonder Catholics are often confused on exactly where and to what extent God's revelation is located. Further, the giant elephants in the Catholic room are such things like the Assumption or papal infallibility. Things like this can't be found in Scripture, nor can they be traced via Tradition back to the early church. Thus, whatever form of material sufficiency men like Ratzinger or Congar attempt to embrace, they will never be able to be consistent to an exclusive source of revelation without radical redefinition of terms. In some way, partim-partim will have to be redefined to mean "totem in sacra scriptura- totem in traditione."
Thus, on one of them most vital aspects of authority, Catholics are not united as to the understanding of the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. One would think the hierarchy of the Roman Church would at least provide a clear and definitive statement by which Catholic theologians could agree, particularly since the Roman Church claims infallibility and the ability to interpret God's Word. That this isn't the case is obvious to any who try to navigate through Catholic discussions on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. Perhaps a Catholic could claim the Church has spoken clearly, but because of the fallibility of men, they simply can't understand the explanations. This of course makes one wonder why the infallible interpreter causes the wisest of the Roman sect to disagree with each other, while the Scriptures give light and understanding to the simple (Ps. 119:130). Jesus and the Apostles never debated on the relationship of infallible Tradition and infallible Scripture, nor does a believer have to today. A believer can simply rest in God's promise that His Word will make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15), and will thoroughly equip for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).
More in Response to our Catholic Convert
09/02/2007 - James WhiteSince I have found another response to my "ten questions" list on line, I will abbreviate the rest of my reply to our catholic convert that I began a few days ago so that I can try to wrap up some of this current Roman Catholic topic and get focused upon other issues in my studies and here on the blog.
That is very interesting, but it really doesn't tell us anything, unless what is being said is, "I did not understand the Scripture before, and I still do not, but reading them by inserting anachronistic interpretations derived from Rome makes it all so clear." Did these texts not have a meaning when they were written? And is it being asserted that no one could know that meaning until a much later time? And what if the meaning of these texts goes contrary to what Rome would later define? Have any of these texts been infallibly defined? If not, does it not follow that your understanding of them even now is fallible? And even if they have, are you sure you understand the allegedly infallible interpretation?Have you seriously considered the ramifications of Romes doctrine of sin, forgiveness, eternal and temporal punishments, purgatory, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, sacramental priesthood, and indulgences? Have you seriously worked through compelling and relevant biblical texts like Ephesians 2, Romans 3-5, Galatians 1-2, Hebrews 7-10 and all of John 6, in light of Roman teaching?
In fact, I have been so blessed by reading texts like these in the light of Catholic tradition. It has opened up so much greater depth of understanding of the scriptures. It has explained many verses that never madesense to my protestant way of thinking. There have just been so many more exclamation marks than question marks.
The point is not so much that I have but people much smarter and much holier than me have. Lots of saints, lots of converts, lots of amazing Christians that have an insight into the scriptures I can only dream of. They lived in many different times and came from many different culture. Catholic teaching on all of these question is massively scrutinized. To suggest that nobody has read these scriptures and remained Catholic is beyond silly. It shows a VERY narrow view of history andSo, in essence, "I really can't understand that stuff...I'll just have to trust someone else." How many times have I spoken to a Mormon and, upon bringing the Word of God to bear upon a false teaching of Mormonism, they have responded in like fashion? Is this truly a Christian attitude toward the Word of God? "It is a light...unto the path of others, who then guide me along in the darkness."
No, have you pondered "what it means to embrace a system that teaches you approach the sacrifice of Christ thousands of times in your life and yet you can die impure, and, in fact, even die an enemy of God, though you came to the cross over and over again?"Have you pondered what it means to embrace a system that teaches you approach the sacrifice of Christ thousands of times in your life and yet you can die impure, and, in fact, even die an enemy of God, though you came to the cross over and over again? And have you pondered what it means that though the historical teachings of Rome on these issues are easily identifiable, the vast majority of Roman Catholics today, including priests, bishops, and scholars, don't believe these things anymore?
Have I pondered what it means to persevere to the end? Of course. Is that such a thing to do. Nobody can snatch me Gods hand. I don't jump I will remain there. So I need to keep saying yes to God. I have the grace of the true Word of God and the true That is pretty powerful.
How many Catholics really believe the teachings of the church does not matter. What matters is if they are true or not. They are. Catholics that have the strong spiritual fruit are the orthodox ones. The rest are people who just don't influence my spiritual thinking one way or the other.If the defection of so many Roman Catholics from historic Roman Catholic theology doesn't matter, why does the existence of wackos on TBN count as evidence against sola scriptura?
Note how its original meaning truly is irrelevant at this point. Sola ecclesia, sola Roma.Have you considered what it means to proclaim a human being the Holy Father (that's a divine name, used by Jesus only of His Father) and the Vicar of Christ (that's the Holy Spirit)? Do you really find anything in Scripture whatsoever that would lead you to believe it was Christs will that a bishop in a city hundreds of miles away in Rome would not only be the head of His church but would be treated as a king upon earth, bowed down to and treated the way the Roman Pontiff is treated?
This is a common mistake. Just because a doctrine develops in a way that was not foreseen in the early church does not make it false. Remember Catholics don't believe Sola Scriptora so they dont have to find clear teaching. All that is required is to find that scripture when read and interpreted through sacred tradition teaches the doctrine.
Not the custom or the practice but the doctrine behind it. The doctrine of the papacy more than meets that standard. In fact, protestant readings of Matt 16:18 just never made sense to me.Really? So, reading the text and recognizing that the rock is Peter's confession, which unites all Christians, and that the topic remains Jesus throughout the text, never made sense to you? But a reading that talks about "this Rock" but actually makes it "you, Peter," makes sense? Reading it so that Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, becomes the first bishop of Rome, and so Jesus is talking about the bishops of a church that would not be founded for years and would not even have a singular bishop until 110-120 years after the events of Matthew 16 makes more "sense"? Is that really what you want to suggest?
2) Have you considered how completely unbiblical and a-historical is the entire complex of doctrines and dogmas related to Mary? Do you seriously believe the Apostles taught that Mary was immaculately conceived, and that she was a perpetual virgin (so that she traveled about Palestine with a group of young men who were not her sons, but were Jesus' cousins, or half-brothers (children of a previous marriage of Joseph), or the like? Do you really believe that dogmas defined nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ represent the actual teachings of the Apostles? Are you aware that such doctrines as perpetual virginity and bodily assumption have their origin in Gnosticism, not Christianity, and have no foundation in apostolic doctrine or practice? How do you explain how it is you must believe these things de fide, by faith, when generations of Christians lived and died without ever even having heard of such things?A bit the same as the last time.You need to understand development of doctrine. I know that is foreign to the Sola Scriptora mindset where everything has to have a proof text. Even so, protestants buy doctrines all the time that have little support in scripture and no tradition behind them. They have no logical basis for new teaching to develop. Catholics do.
Really? So, once you understand Newman's development hypothesis, you will be able to accept that doctrines that flow from gnostic thought can, over time, without apostolic foundation or Scriptural basis, become definitional of the Christian faith? Just what doctrines do I, as a Protestant, believe, that originated in Gnosticism?
Understanding deepens and grows over time. The church is there to make sure no error gets introduced. So we are not constantly relearning the same truths they did centuries ago with no hope of new discovery. We are part of a living tradition that does learn and grow. The immaculate conception cannot be understood apart from some knowledge of genetics. So the apostles could not have taught it. They would never have guessed how much of a persons nature is defined at conception.The IC requires genetic knowledge? Really? Are you sure of your own understanding of this dogma?
All the teachings about Mary are really about Jesus.Really? And you know this by infallible teaching as well?
When we learn something about Jesus it has implications for what we can say about Mary. That is why Christology grew up before Mariology. It has nothing to do with Gnosticism. Gnostics denied Jesus was physically human.Some did...but if it has nothing to do with Gnosticism, why do your own scholars identify the original sources of many of the Marian dogmas as being...gnostic? Have you read anything like Stephen Shoemaker's work, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (Oxford, 2006)? Is there any kind of evidence at all that could falsify Rome's Marian dogmas, once you have accepted Rome's authority claims? And if there is not, does this not demonstrate the circular nature of Rome's position?
Talking about His mother is a very powerful way to affirm that Jesus is physical and human. He not only had a body but it developed inside Mary for 9 months and therefore she needed to be prepared for such a job.Or confessing that Jesus died and rose again is an even more powerful way. Now, I know the Apostles and the early Christians did that. I do not have the first bit of evidence that they ever talked about Mary as perpetually a virgin, or immaculately conceived, or bodily assumed into heaven...so...why should I?
The number 1 question I would ask of such a person is: if you claim to have once embraced the gospel of grace, whereby you confessed that your sole standing before a thrice-holy God was the seamless garment of the imputed righteousness of Christ, so that you claimed no merit of your own, no mixture of other merit with the perfect righteousness of Christ, but that you stood full and complete in Him and in Him alone, at true peace with God because there is no place in the universe safer from the wrath of God than in Christ, upon what possible grounds could you come to embrace a system that at its very heart denies you the peace that is found in a perfect Savior who accomplishes the Father's will and a Spirit who cannot fail but to bring that work to fruition in the life of Gods elect? Do you really believe that the endless cycle of sacramental forgiveness to which you will now commit yourself can provide you the peace that the perfect righteousness of Christ can not?
This is the easiest one of all. I continue to believe in I am saved because I am in Christ. I no longer separate that from the idea of being in sacramental union with the body of Christ.just seems like you have no clue what the heart of Catholicism is. It is grace from first to last. Yes grace through the sacraments. They are part of gracenot an alternative to grace. Yes, grace by faith expressing itself through love. My Catholic faith is greatly enriched by my days as a protestant. Very little of what I learned there has been repudiated. Becoming Catholic was a refinement of my protestant faith and not a rejection of it. I am still a biblical, evangelical christian.
Will it be a difficult day when our convert discovers that the Protestantized version of Rome's gospel he has accepted is inconsistent with that taught by Rome over the years? Or will that ever happen, in light of an ever less doctrinally oriented Roman Catholicism in the West, one enamored with inclusivism and even universalism? Or will this convert do what so many others have done and adopt a "cafeteria style" Catholicism that picks and chooses what will be believed and what will not? It is hard to say, but the saddest thing is that the essence of the last question clearly went right past our convert, which would indicate significantly less than enough reading and study in both his former beliefs (whatever they might have been) and Rome's soteriology as well. Which, I think, was why I wrote the questions I did in answer to the e-mail. Of course, it is an act of God's grace that would ever allow a person to realize the importance of the question, let alone what it means to him or her.
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel
09/01/2007 - Jeff DownsThe latest from the Areopagus Journal (May 2007):
"Veritas: Troublesome Movements in the 21-Century Church," by Craig Branch.
"Emerging Error? An Evaluation of the Emerging Church Movement," by Criag Branch.
"The Package Matters: Problems with the Church Growth Movement," by Phil A. Newton.
"Speaking for God? A Response to the Apostolic and Prophetic Movement," by Keith Gibson.
"Seeing is Believing: A Response to Federal Vision's "Objective" View of the Christian Faith," by Brandon Robbins.
You can purchase this edition by going here.
Dealing with Islam
09/01/2007 - Jeff DownsLarry Wessels and Steve Morrison deal with topics in Islam in a video series. They are uploading some of them to the net:
Islamic Holy War - Jihad
Answering Islamic Apologists (Part 5)
Did Mohammed Marry a Nine Year Old Girl.
8 Reasons Why It Is Fallacious for KJVO Advocates to Invoke the Majority Rule
09/01/2007 - Alan KurschnerVery often you will hear a King James Version Only advocate claim that since the majority of Greek manuscripts that are extant today (which is a Byzantine text-form that is substantially behind the KJV translation) therefore the KJV is a superior translation. The following are eight reasons to debunk this fallacious KJV argument.
(1) The Greek text that is behind the KJV is not the “Majority Text”; rather it is called the Textus Receptus (TR). There are 1,838 differences between the Majority text and the TR! In other words there are numerous readings in the KJV that follow a small minority of Greek texts.
(2) To dovetail the last point, I adduce a few examples of numerous minority readings in verses found in the KJV, and the majority readings found in modern translations: Revelation 5:10; Acts 8:37; Acts 9:5; Revelation 22:19; Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 3:9 (the latter verse contains a variant attested by 99.5% of all Greek manuscripts, yet the KJV takes the .5% reading!). If the KJVO wanted to be consistent with the majority principle they should change these and many other readings.
(3) How did the Byzantine text-form end up having more attested Greek manuscripts than the other text-forms such as the Alexandrian and the Western? Here is a very important fact of history that KJVO advocates ignore. Given the supplanting of the Greek language for Latin in the West early on, and given the expansion of Islam into Egypt and other regions, it explains why Byzantine Greek manuscripts continued to be copied in the Byzantine corner of the empire and eventually became the majority Greek text around the ninth century onwards; and explains why the early Greek text-types such as the Alexandrian were not copied during later times in other areas of the Christian world.
If there were no Islam expansion and coupled with the West speaking Greek not Latin, certainly the Byzantine text would not have been the “majority.” The Alexandrian and Western Greek text-forms would have continued to be copied with frequent pace.
(4) Let’s take a step back from history and ask a logical question: Why should we simply assume that the fact of the majority of manuscripts somehow follows a logical necessity of being more accurate or faithful to the originals? Indeed, this assumed principle may be compelling for democratic nations—the majority rules. But why should this principle be carried over to the Holy Writ? Is a basket of 100 rotten apples more valuable than a basket of 10 good apples? Again, why does the fact of a majority (in this case Greek manuscripts) in itself warrant accuracy?
Say you begin with two manuscripts with two different readings: A=uncorrupted and B=corrupted. And manuscript B is copied 10 times. Since we now have 10 corrupted manuscripts versus 1 uncorrupted manuscript, it follows that the purest text of the two is found in A. Indeed, manuscripts need to be weighed not blindly counted.
(5) Related to this last point is an interesting observation that myself and others have noticed about the most fundamental criticism that KJVO advocates make against modern textual criticism. They incessantly denounce that modern critics use “rational principles” in the utilization of determining better readings from inferior readings. And yet this is clearly a double standard given that the most fundamental principle that govern their thinking is a rational principle! In the mind of the KJVO advocates is the deep-seated rational conviction: "This is the way that God must have preserved his Word.” Notice that this is not a Biblical, historical, or textual argument—it is a rational argument. Somehow they believe that they are privy to God’s mind and can see this rational reason. And stemming from this fundamental rational reason is another rational reason: the majority principle. So what KJVO advocates criticize the most, is what they are essentially guilty of themselves! And to be sure, there is nothing wrong with rational thinking—I would hope that we do not approach God’s Word with irrational thinking. The question should be: is this or that rational principle applicable and warranted in this or that context?
(6) When the Majority Text was not the majority before 900 AD, I ask the KJVO advocate: how was God's Word preserved for the first 900 years or so of church history? I'd like an answer for this. When the Alexandrian or the Western text-form was the majority in the early church, was God’s Word preserved in that text-form until the Byzantine became the majority?
(7) When that last Byzantine manuscript was copied circa AD 900 to make the Byzantine text-form the Majority, did God's Word all of a sudden become preserved in the Majority text that year? For KJVO to make preservation support the Majority text, it must imply accessibility for it to work. When did believers have accessibility to the Majority for the first 900 years?
(8) The points above have been mostly in reference to the New Testament, but it should be noted that the Old Testament text and the manuscripts that attest to it, is another embarrassing and glaring problem for KJVO advocates who invoke the majority criteria, which is why they most often completely ignore Old Testament discussions on its transmission history and textual realities.
In conclusion: What basis is majority rule correct? Reason? No, since there is no rational principle to accept the majority principle. Is more better? Is eating 1000 jelly beans better than eating 10? No. Is having 1000 dollars better than 10 dollars? Yes. Only the nature of a category can tell us if quantity is a variable in the worth of something. Is having more Byzantine manuscripts than Alexandrian manuscripts better? No, since the Byzantine MSS contain many corrupted readings. And if someone objects, then that brings us back to a discussion of the quality of a manuscript and not its mere existence.