Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
12/18/2010 - Tur8infanOne of the claims we sometimes hear from Rome's apologists these days is that the Scriptures are materially sufficient, but that they are not formally sufficient. This sounds better, no doubt, than simply saying that the Scriptures are "insufficient." In a series of posts, Pastor David King and I (TurretinFan) are exploring the topic of the sufficiency of scripture in the backdrop of Roman Catholic claims to the contrary. In fact, we were spurred on to do this series based on a challenge from one of the contributors of a popular Roman Catholic blog. The series is on-going, with one more post planned.
At present, we have introduced the topic and explained what the Reformed position is. This is probably the most key part of the series, in that our Roman opponents would prefer that our position would be something like "there is no place for the church," or "the church does not help us interpret Scripture," or something like that. Of course, our position has a very high view of the church - it just does not make the church the rule of faith and life - the ultimate authority. Instead, our rule of faith and life is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
The second post in the series is really the next most important post. Having identified what our position is, in the second post we explain that what we believe is what the Scriptures teach. Scripture's own testimony as to its own clarity and illuminating power are conclusive. It is readily apparent from Scripture that Scripture teaches its own formal sufficiency.
The next four posts set forth the early Christian and patristic era testimonies. They show that what we say about Scripture, what Scriptures says about itself, was recognized and understood in the early church, both in the East and West. What we hope yet to provide is a post addressing "scholarly" opinions on the subject. After all, some of our theologically opponents (especially those who cannot handle the Scriptural arguments or patristic evidence) like to claim that if what we are saying is true, we are the first to make this observation.
In any event, I just want to share these posts with those who have an interest in Sola Scriptura, both as it relates to explaining the Reformed position, as well as defending it from Scripture, and showing that historical theology abundantly demonstrates that it was the view of the early church.
Introduction - Explanation of Formal Sufficiency
Scripture's Own Testimony Regarding Formal Sufficiency
Early Christian Writers (1st - 2nd Centuries)
Third Century Fathers
Fourth Century Fathers
Fifth Century Fathers - This section is actually quite massive (larger than the preceding sections combined).
There are also a couple of miscellaneous posts on the same theme. One relates to a view of "Partim-Partim Sufficiency" that is of less interest these days, since Rome's advocates argue for Material Sufficiency (Rome has yet to tell them which - of the two opposing views held within their ranks - is correct). The other post makes the point that if you deny formal sufficiency, you're basically insulting Jesus, the same way you would be if you said he had a speech impediment. Jesus can and does speak clearly to us in Scripture, telling us what we need to know to be saved.
Partim-Partim "Sufficiency" Rebutted
Formal Insufficiency, an Insult to Jesus
To the Glory of God!
How Quickly They Learn the Tactics!
12/11/2010 - James WhiteTaylor Marshall has not been a devoted follower of Rome for very long, but he has surely learned the standard tactics of the Roman Apologetics Group (RAG) quickly. The RAG manual is very large (we managed to obtain one covertly from a liberal Church of England guy---not even the Jesuits could tell he wasn't one of them!), and contains an innumerable cadre of brilliant "tactics of distraction." But some are used so often it is easy to create a list of them.
A few days ago I noted a number of problems with Taylor Marshall's presentation on the Immaculate Conception, in particular, its incoherent use (or abuse) of Scripture, as well as its completely selective citation of historical sources. This was all in the context of asking whether a person who is a graduate of Westminster Seminary would even attempt to communicate to his former religionists in a meaningful, fair, accurate fashion. It would strike me that a sound response would provide some kind of compelling argument for the kind of interpretational system offered, or, some explanation of the quotes from Ludwig Ott, or at least some kind of weighty historical citations refuting my over-all case.
Instead, Mr. Marshall demonstrated that he has already drunk deeply at the well of Roman Catholic apologetic tactics. Rome learned long ago not to go toe-to-toe, for let's be honest, the battleground is not hers. She can only hope to prevail on one ground, her own. So, you assume that ground, and then define your critic, your opponent, as "anti-Us." So, before you even get to the text of his blog, you have the poison thrown into the well, the constantly prescribed ad-hominem that is at the very heart and soul of Rome's apologetic methodology: those who would dare oppose us, who would dare say we are twisting Scripture, dare point out how often history directly contradicts us, they are all...anti-Catholics. Remember, Rome was using this tactic long before the homosexuals came up with the ever-ready, mind-numbing, discussion stopping "homophobe" label. But it has the very same purpose, of course. It is the constant drumbeat of Catholic Answers, the regular phraseology of Envoy, and here we find it in the title of Marshall's response, "Please Pray 3 Hail Mary's for This Anti-Catholic Man."
Once you have gotten your constituency properly numbed by the use of the mantra "anti-Catholic," you can begin the personal belittling, and remember, if it is in service of "mother Church," anything goes. So, we have:
Many Catholics are not fully aware of how much some Protestants hate Catholicism. James White is one of those Anti-Catholics and he has made a living out of "refuting" Catholicism.
Make sure to ascribe hatred to those "Anti-Catholics," because you do not want to have anyone thinking that it is just possible that someone would oppose Romanism out of a love for, and allegiance to, Jesus Christ, His Gospel, and His Church! No, that possibility must be banished, so, you can freely adopt the role of heart-reader and judge of motives, and impugn those "Anti-Catholics" in this manner. Of course, since you have already marginalized them by defining them by your own religion (their own surely is not sufficient to define them!), who needs to worry about ignoring the full picture of their work? I mean, just because my blog is currently featuring hours worth of teaching and ministry on the subject of Islam, that's irrelevant. So is the work I've done in debating Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Dan Barker, John Shelby Spong, etc. I'm just a wild-eyed "Anti-Catholic" according to the cookie-cutter Roman Catholic apologetics manual. You'd think they would come up with something new, but, no, it's the same, over and over again.
The only positive of this non-response (no attempt is even made to pretend this is a response) is that he linked to the full article, which would allow any and all to see for themselves the facts of the matter. But he closed with this,
...but don't forget to pray three Hail Mary's for his conversion. Even more, why don't we all leave a comment over at his site saying that we love him and that are praying for his conversion to the Catholic Faith. Storm the gates!
Another good reason not to have a comments section! So to all who are praying for my conversion to Romanism, let me repeat what I said before: doesn't it strike you as odd that you pray for conversion to a system rather than conversion to Christ? And that you are likewise praying to someone who has absolutely no knowledge of your prayers? You have been deceived, deluded, led astray, to think Mary is listening to your prayers, let alone that she would seek to convert me (if she even had the ability to do so) to a system that is so thoroughly opposed to the finished, completed work of her Son, a religion that did not exist when she lived, and about which, thanks be to God, she knows absolutely nothing. Mary (the true Mary, the Mary in heaven today, a faithful servant of Christ, not the pagan Queen of Heaven that Rome has created over the centuries) has never heard of a Pope, let alone heard a prayer from you, or anyone else.
So make note of this situation: an apostate embraces Rome, and abandons the gospel. He then promotes falsehood, twisting and distorting the Scriptures, and misrepresenting history, badly. When I point out these problems, what is his response? A clear, compellingly argued rebuttal, replete with meaningful exegesis, and cogent, weighty historical citation? No, of course not. Sling the anti-Catholic insult, attribute hatred, and pretend to take the high road by continuing your belief in the barely baptized pagan mythology of Marianism! It truly is amazing how fast some folks pick up the tactics used by Rome for centuries.
Obligated to Mythology: Modern Romanism's Continued Exaltation of Mary in the Face of Biblical Truth and Historical Reality
12/08/2010 - James WhiteToday is a "holy day of obligation" in the Roman Church. Followers of Rome are obliged to participate in Mass on such days (exceptions, of course, exist). The reason for today's obligation? The definition by the Roman Church of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. I will not, in this brief article, go back over all of the many problems with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, problems I presented as clearly as I could in my debate with Christopher Ferrara this past summer. I have only a few moments as I travel to comment on an article posted yesterday by Taylor Marshall, an apostate who is seeking, to the best of his abilities, to encourage apostasy amongst others in Reformed churches and seminaries. [Post-modernism infection alert: if identifying someone as an apostate immediately offends you, consider well whether you have become so conformed to the spirit of this age that a factual, documented assertion can be a source of offense to you. Marshall, like Robert Sungenis, graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary (MAR, Systematic Theology), so to one who continues to hold firmly to sola fide and sola scriptura, such a one has fallen from his profession, hence, committed an act of apostasy.] He has recently written a book, The Catholic Perspective on Paul (as if there is only one such perspective!), which has been sent free to a handful of seminarians across the country. He is one of the primary contributors to Called to Communion, a blog outpost of primarily former Reformed men who have defected to Romanism.
I was attracted to Marshall's article for only one reason. Knowing that the Immaculate Conception is unknown to the authors of Scripture, unknown in the early centuries of the church, denied by many for centuries even after it developed out of the burgeoning Marian piety, and defined as dogma only 156 years ago, and assuming that such a "convert" to Rome would be aware of all of these problems, how would he present this dogma, one which so clearly demonstrates that Rome is in no way bound by either Scripture or tradition? Would he admit the facts of the case, present a balanced argument, and really seek to be truthful in calling his former co-religionists to his newfound faith? Or would he succumb to the essence of Romanism and, like his new found ultimate authority, spin the facts?
It did not take long to discover the answer. This graduate of Westminster Seminary presents a case that, to anyone with the slightest familiarity with the facts of the case, is egregiously fallacious and, quite simply, dishonest. It is, of course, possible that Marshall is ignorant of the facts concerning the history of the dogma; it is possible he accepted the surface level answers proffered by the Keatings and Akins and Sheas of the world, and abandoned all he had professed before without any kind of meaningful or in-depth inquiry. The fact that his bio proudly notes his distribution of Jack Chick tracts in the past does not bode well for the settledness of his convictions on the matter of Rome's errors, to be sure. But looking at his presentation we note:
1) Honoring your mother does not mean you protect her from the stain of original sin, and the leap from Jesus' perfect obedience to the Law and the overthrow of clear biblical teaching (and even the clear patristic witness that God alone is without sin) is another of the amazing gymnastic moves prompted by devotion to Romanism.
2) "She never sinned once." She identified God as her Savior (and any and all suggestions that she herself understood the dogma of the application of Christ's merits to her preemptively at conception are so utterly ridiculous they only illustrate the cultic nature of Marianism) and is never exempted from sin by inspired writers. Well known church historian J.N.D. Kelly listed such notables as Irenaeus (Haer. 3, 16, 7), Tertullian (De carne Chr. 7), and Origen (Hom. In Luc. 17), who taught that Mary committed acts of personal sin (a fact ignored by Marshall). It is another example of how "Scripture and Tradition" means nothing to the modern Romanist. Sola ecclesia.
3) Luke 1:28 has as much to do with Mary being immaculately conceived as the Lord's words to Paul in Acts 23:11 mean Paul had never experienced fear in his life, or had an inherent characteristic of bravery, implanted in him at conception. Such eisegesis which ignores context, grammar, syntax, audience, and every other necessary element of interpretation, while common in Romanism, only shows its utter disconnection from the Apostles who wrote the inspired text.
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Jesus Obeyed the Fifth Commandment - Therefore Mariolatry is ok?
12/07/2010 - Tur8infanJesus explicitly repudiated people who singled out his mother for special attention. For example:
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
When we bring up the fact that Jesus explicitly repudiated people who singled out his mother for special attention, however, we sometimes get a zinger like this one: "Our Lord obeyed all the commandments including ‘honor your mother and father’ and did not repudiate her." (Sean Patrick)
This zinger is faulty for a couple of reasons:
1) Of course, no one is arguing that Jesus sinned. Jesus could say that his flesh and blood relationships with his physical siblings and mother are basically insignificant compared to the relationship every believer has by faith in Christ, without breaking the fifth commandment.
2) The zinger assumes that Jesus was under Mary's authority. It's tempting to make this argument because Mary was - as to his humanity - his mother. But Jesus was unlike every other child - he was his own mother's creator. She owed her existence to him in a much more important way than the way in which he owed his existence (i.e. only the existence of his human nature - and only by choice) to her. It is no dishonor to her, therefore, for Him to repudiate the idea of her having either special devotion or any special privileges with respect to him in the Kingdom of Heaven.
3) The Mariolaters are actually in good company in making this error in reasoning. Peter (who Jesus called Simon here, demonstrating to us that the name "Peter" was a surname, not a change in name) made a similar mistake.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Jesus was Jewish and within the realm of the Roman empire, but whether this was the temple tax or the Roman tribute, Christ was not required to pay. And remember that tribute and honor are different, but fall within the same general category of duties of the fifth commandment.
Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
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