Archive for May, 2008

Reformed Blog in Farsi

May 21, 2008

To some extent, I have to trust my Farsi-reading viewers to confirm that the blog I’m linking to below is in fact Farsi and is in fact Reformed. Nevertheless, based on the information I have, if you are interested in the Bible and more familiar with Farsi or a related language, this blog may be for you (link). Evidentally the raison d’etre of the blog is to provide an improved translation of the Bible into Farsi.


When was Purgatory Invented?

May 20, 2008

PhatCatholic recently addressed a question related to the question above, by posing the following question (link to source):

When was Purgatory first talked about?

PC answered:

The earliest reference to Purgatory that scholars have found so far comes from The Acts of Paul and Thecla, which was written around 160 AD. In that work, we read the following:

“And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: ‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous'”

Notice how Thecla will be praying for Falconilla, even though Falconilla has already died. Prayers for the dead implies the doctrine of Purgatory b/c Purgatory is the only place or state where a soul could reside in which prayers would be necessary or beneficial. Souls in heaven have no need of our prayers and there’s no point in praying for the damned, who can never be freed from Hell.

Note also that the doctrine of Purgatory wasn’t invented in 160 AD, it’s just that the earliest reference to Purgatory that we have comes from that period.

I answer:

She does pray for a dead girl. The problem is this – there is no indication that the place that the girl is in is anywhere other than hell. PhatCatholic discards the idea that it could be hell that is referenced, because that wouldn’t be orthodox.

I agree that it wouldn’t be orthodox – but Purgatory isn’t orthodox either (and likewise prayers for the dead in general are not orthodox). The fact that it has come to be accepted by the papists doesn’t make Purgatory any more orthodox than the idea of successful intercession on behalf of souls in hell.

And the idea of an error with respect to intercession for souls in hell is not so farfetched. After all, it is alleged that Pope Gregory I interceded on behalf of Trajan, who was in hell, and that Trajan was released by Gregory’s intercessions.

Furthermore, Suarez, De Pecatis, Disp. vii. 3, claims that the possibility of such deliverance is an open question, and Estius, in Setent. iv (Disp. xlvi. 241), claims that many people have been so delivered. Even Thomas Aquinas himself seems to credit the legend of Trajan’s release from hell, excusing this oddity by stating: “Trajan had not been finally doomed to hell, but only provisionally, and that his deliverance was granted to him as an exceptional privilege.” (I should note that Aquinas appears to recognize the truth that “there is no redemption in hell” – for he places that phrase in the mouth of an objector on the question of whether the priesthood of Christ endures forever.)

There’s an important road-block left out of PhatCatholic’s analysis: there is no indication that the girl was previously a Christian or that she was baptized. In short, there is no reason to suppose from the story that she was in any place but Hell. Such, it appears from several reports I have read, was the opinion of John of Damascus, though I have not been able to find a precise citation.

Thus, upon weighing this supposed early testimony for the existence of Purgatory, we find it to be nothing but optimistic anachronism. There is no mention of Purgatory in the text, and no reason (except wishful thinking) to make us believe that Purgatory is referenced. That a fictional tale of Paul’s life might include some theological errors is to be expected. After all, the same tale has the heroine, Thecla, baptizing herself in a ditch of water. In the end, it would be a mistake to view this tale from the fictional “Acts of Paul and Thecla” (apparently a work of the late second century) as teaching the modern Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. It would be the sort of mistake one might make if one was disparately grasping for straws of the innovated doctrine of Purgatory in the ECF’s. Nevertheless, it is a mistake: an anachronistic eisegesis of the document. Purgatory is not to be found in the text, and can only be added in through eisegesis. In short, the claim for the earliest evidence of Purgatory must wait its actual innovation later in history.


P.S. If one is going to imagine Purgatory into the text of the “Acts of Paul and Thecla,” why not add in the Limbus Infantum (Limbo)? If we let eisegesis be the methodology, there is no barrier. We can insert whatever theory we want, willy-nilly. By requiring the reader to let the text speak for itself, these problems can be avoided.

Men are Evil

May 19, 2008

In the clip above, Paul Washer preaches a short but powerful message from Scripture on the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell.

It’s really a simple set of syllogisms:

1. All men are sinners;

2. You are a man;

3. Therefore, you are a sinner.

4. All sinners deserve death;

5. You are a sinner;

6. Therefore, you deserve death.

7. There is one way to be saved, namely by faith in Christ alone for salvation;

8. If you have not believed on Christ alone for salvation, you are still under condemnation;

9. Therefore, believe: repent of your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation. For there is no other way to be saved. Your works will not save you: they will only render you more guilty. Your will cannot save you: it is the slave of your desires. Only God can save you: therefore, trust in Him! Turn to Him in repentance, and beg Him for mercy, aware of the heinousness of your sins, and the justice of hell that you deserve.


Khalid Yasin’s Blunders

May 19, 2008

Dr. White recently posted a YouTube video providing a clip in which Khalid Yasin provides a rather spectacular string of blunders. Dr. White’s video, which includes Dr. White’s own commentary on the blunders is embedded below.

I simply wanted to take the opportunity to try to root out what appears to be the possible conflation taking place in each of Khalid Yasin’s mistakes. First, the video, then – after that – I’ll provide the short analysis:

KY: “The council of Nicea in 354”

The most famous council of Nicea in the 300’s was the council of Nicea of 325. I couldn’t immediately locate any record of a council at Nicea in 354.

KY: “The Romans at the council of Nicea”

Nicea (now known as Iznik) is a city in Turkey, not Italy. The council of Nicea (of 325) was called by Emporor Constantine, a Byzantine Emporer. If there was a council at Nicea at 354, it would have been a local or regional council, and consequently wouldn’t have included any Romans. The famous council of Nicea of 325 undoubtedly included Roman Christians, but also would have include a large majority of non-Romans.

KY: “that there were five books that they didn’t want to include in the New Testament”

There doesn’t appear to be any record of the famous (or any other) council of Nicea deciding on a negative canon of Scripture. It’s possible that Dan Brown, or a similarly unreliable source, has tried to infer such a decree from the inclusion of certain books in the NT canon by Origen before the famous council of Nicea, and the non-inclusion of such books by Athanasius after the council of Nicea.

KY: “The Gospel of Barnabas”

There was an epistle attributed to Barnabus that was extent in the fourth century, but as Dr. White points out in the video: not the Gospel of Barnabus, which was a much, much later writing.

KY: “Who was the Blind Companion of Jesus”

Barnabas was the companion of Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey.

Bartimeaus was a blind man from outside Jericho, who Jesus healed and who subsequently followed Jesus.

Bartholomew was an apostle and companion of Jesus.

Somehow, KY seems to have rolled all three up into one.

KY: “Saint Barnabas”

The primary name associated with the title “Saint” Barnabas is Paul’s missionary companion. He does not appear to have been the author of the Epsitle of Barnabas (although some people attributed it to him), and he clearly was not the author of the “Gospel” that bears his name.

The Gospel of Barnabus is a rather obvious medieval forgery. For more information, one may look here: (link). As Dr. White said, those who try to promote Islamic apologetics should be more mindful of the truth, which is something KY was quite clearly not promoting with his reliance on a medieval forgery and garbled history.


Shelton on Fruitfulness and Multiplication

May 17, 2008

Lee Shelton IV has an interesting article on the command to be fruitful and multiply (link). Shelton seems to take the view that we should – in essence – spiritualize the command to be fruitful and multiply in the New Testament era. I respectfully disagree.

The relevant Scripture is:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

This was a creation ordinance. It is not part of the Mosaic law, and it was not fulfilled by Christ. We can see that it was not fulfilled by Christ, for example, from the fact that there is no record of (and no reason at all to suppose) Christ marrying. But more importantly, we can see it from the fact that it predates the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace, and even predates the fall of man.

While we certainly should make disciples of all nations, spiritually being fruitful and multiplying and replenishing the earth and subduing it to the Gospel, that is not the primary sense of the text, but simply an application we can make via analogy. The primary sense is the literal sense.

We can determine this exegetically. Almost the same command shows up again after flood:

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

From the two contexts in which see that command, we see that it is a command for literal procreation: a command to have children at more than a replacement rate.

If anyone will argue further, we can see that a similar commands were made with respect to animals:

Genesis 1:21-22
21And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

So also, to Noah God said:

Genesis 8:17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

And it is arguable whether God addressed the following command to the animals or Noah and his family, though the former seems more likely in context:

Genesis 9:7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

Note as well as that this is not simply a command, but a blessing. Viewed as such, we should not consider it as an absolute command. It was not required, as Shelton seems to imagine, that men were required to have absolutely as many children as possible, without considering anything else. Indeed, if that were the case, one would expect to see Jesus with a large family and many children.

Even the papists recognize that the command was not absolute. Thus, they limit the command to married folks, and then further to married folks who engage in copulation. Ultimately, it is all for naught.

The command simply is not universal and unexceptional. There are men who are eunuchs – by nature, by their own will, or by imposition of others. There are women as well who are barren. Indeed, it is God who opens the womb.

Thus it is written:

Psalm 128:3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.

And likewise:

Genesis 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

And again:

Psalm 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

This is not simply for the Old Testament time. No, likewise in the New Testament it is the norm for men to have natural children:

Titus 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

By natural children, I do not of course exclude adopted children, but simply differentiate between children physically and children spiritually.

There can be overlap, certainly. As Paul explains:

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

You see, the mission field can begin in the bassinet or crib. We are to come to the Lord, and we are to bring our children, following the example here:

Mar 10:13-14
13And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
So, I must disagree with Shelton’s apparent conclusion (which he qualifies by “one might argue that”) “the Old Testament command was merely a prelude to the Great Commission.” It is a prelude – for the promise to Abram:

Genesis 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

is spiritually fulfilled in us, as Paul tells us. Nevertheless, it is a creation ordinance. It has not passed away, though it will (apparently) in heaven. For there:

Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

May God’s kingdom come!


The Real Francis Turretin on: The Commands of God

May 17, 2008

Standing Solus Christus has kindly provided a new transcription of the real Francis Turretin, discussing the subject of God’s commands. (link)

R. Scott Clark on Catholics, Evangelicals, and Rome

May 17, 2008

While we are on the subject of “Evangelicalism,” R. Scott Clark has recently reposted a couple of articles on the issue of Catholics, Evangelicals, and Rome. Article 1 (link) notes that we should not cede the title of “Catholics” to the sect of Roman Catholics, nor the term “Evangelicals” to the broadly evangelical movement. He does not mention it, that I recall, but we also should not cede the title “Orthodox” to the sect(s) of the Eastern Orthodox. Article 2 (link) continues the discussion, getting deeper into the history, and exploring how the use of “Evangelical” (as well as “Catholic”) has evolved over time.


Wes White on Evangelism

May 17, 2008

Wes White has an excellent piece on Pauline evangelism (link), which emphasizes the importance of other avenues of evangelism than the weekly service(s).

Bruce Ware contra Open Theism

May 17, 2008

I happened to recently come across the following linked article by Bruce Ware on the topic of whether Open Theism is properly classified as evangelical. (link) Ultimately, I agree with what I understand his conclusion to be, namely that the doctrines of open theism are not evangelical doctrines. They compromise the nature of God.

Of course, they are also not Reformed doctrines in consequence of not being evangelical doctrines.

Ultimately though, we should be cautiously charitable in approaching professing believers who hold such errant views as open theism. There is an important difference between people simply being in error (due, for example, to inadequate teaching), and those who stubbornly resist the truth. By correctly identifying open theism as outside the evangelical walls, we must be careful not to insist that everyone must have a perfect understanding of every aspect of the nature of God in order to be saved.

I don’t think Ware was trying to suggest anything to the contrary. Indeed, reading Ware’s article, one can sense the tension in Ware, who would prefer to include Pinnock and other open theists within the walls of broad evangelicalism.


Read Systematic Theologies

May 17, 2008

I noticed recently that Peter Beck at “Living to God” has encouraged folks to read Systematic Theologies (link). While I’d rather invert his list (placing items 4 and 5 at the top, followed by 3, and then by 1 and 2, it is valuable to read systematic theologies, particularly those that have withstood the test of time. Such systematic theologies include:

1. Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology
2. Benedict Pictet’s Christian Theology
3. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
4. Herman Witsius’ Economy of the Divine Covenants Between God and Man
5. Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology
6. W.G.T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology
7. William Ames’ Marrow of Sacred Divinity

Among the contemporary systematic theologies, I would rank in the first place Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (link to a bookstore that sells this book). At least the first six above are freely available on the internet, and Ames’ Marrow is back in print, I believe.


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