Archive for April, 2011

Peter has spoken thus through Leo!

April 30, 2011

One of the quotations that is sometimes used in discussions about the fathers and the papacy is the following quotation, taken from Session 2 of the Council of Chalcedon:

After the reading of the foregoing epistle, the most reverend bishops cried out: This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. Anathema to him who does not thus believe. Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles. Piously and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril. Everlasting be the memory of Cyril. Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, anathema to him who does not so believe. This is the true faith. Those of us who are orthodox thus believe. This is the faith of the fathers. Why were not these things read at Ephesus [i.e. at the heretical synod held there]? These are the things Dioscorus hid away.

(source)

Those who are trying to argue for an ancient view of papal primacy love to interpret this as a recognition by the council of Leo’s unique Petrine authority. In other words, they would interpret this as meaning “Leo is today’s Peter.”

But the tone of the comments is somewhat puzzling, if they think Leo is the pope that must be obeyed. It looks as though they are blessing and giving approval to Leo’s comments. They are authorizing him, rather than vice versa.

Moreover, there is a much more logical and straightforward explanation for their words. Leo’s letter had argued in this way:

But when our Lord and Saviour himself was by his questions instructing the faith of the disciples, he said, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” And when they had mentioned various opinions held by others, he said, “But whom say ye that I am?” that is, “I who am Son of Man, and whom you see in the form of a servant, and in reality of flesh, whom say ye that I am?” Whereupon the blessed Peter, as inspired by God, and about to benefit all nations by his confession, said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Not undeservedly, therefore, was he pronounced blessed by the Lord, and derived from the original Rock that solidity which belonged both to his virtue and to his name, who through revelation from the Father confessed the selfsame to be both the Son of God and the Christ; because one of these truths, accepted without the other, would not profit unto salvation, and it was equally dangerous to believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be merely God and not man, or merely man and not God.

Let him listen also to the blessed Apostle Peter when he declares, that “sanctification by the Spirit” takes place through the “sprinkling of the blood of Christ,” and let him not give a mere cursory reading to the words of the same Apostle, “Knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain way of life received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.”

(source)

As an aside, note that Leo identifies “the original Rock” as Christ here. The main point of providing this selection, though, is to highlight the more obvious source of the words of these men. Leo argues from the words of Peter, both in Matthew and in Peter’s first epistle. In this way, Peter spoke through Leo, in that Leo repeated Peter’s words. It’s the most obvious and straightforward explanation of their comment.

I think it is worth pointing out what Leo thought about the role of Scripture in the issue of resolving the heresy that they were dealing with:

But into this folly do they fall who, when hindered by some obscurity from apprehending the truth, have recourse, not to the words of the Prophets, not to the letters of the Apostles, nor to the authority of the Gospels, but to themselves; and become teachers of error, just because they have not been disciples of the truth. For what learning has he received from the sacred pages of the New and the Old Testament, who does not so much as understand the very beginning of the Creed? And that which, all the world over, is uttered by the voices of all applicants for regeneration, is still not grasped by the mind of this aged man. If, then, he knew not what he ought to think about the Incarnation of the Word of God, and was not willing, for the sake of obtaining the light of intelligence, to make laborious search through the whole extent of the Holy Scriptures, he should at least have received with heedful attention that general Confession common to all, whereby the whole body of the faithful profess that they “believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary.”

And, of course, that’s what the rest of his letter does – it goes through the Scriptures and demonstrates the proof of the matter, including the testimony of Peter in Matthew and Peter’s Epistle, as well as the testimony of John in 1 John:

Nor has he been overawed by the declaration of the blessed Apostle and Evangelist John, saying, “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit which dissolveth Jesus is not of God, and this is Antichrist.” Now what is to dissolve Jesus, but to separate the human nature from him, and to make void by shameless inventions that mystery by which alone we have been saved?

Let him also not resist the testimony of Blessed John the Apostle, “And the blood of Jesus the Son of God cleanseth us from all sin.” And again, “This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith;” and, “who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not in water only, but in water and blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness—the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are one.” That is, the Spirit of sanctification, and the blood of redemption, and the water of baptism; which three things are one, and remain undivided, and not one of them is disjoined from connection with the others; because the Catholic Church lives and advances by this faith, that Christ Jesus we should believe neither manhood to exist without true Godhead, nor Godhead without true manhood.

So, if you happen to find Roman apologists quoting this to support the authority of the papacy (as one sees at Catholic Answers) or in Jimmy Akin’s new book (sorry, no preview available), even if you happen to find it used in the more nuanced approach of Klaus Schatz or the rather extreme position of Susan Wessel, just bear in mind the context. Understand that Leo’s letter was based on Scripture and was accepted because of the authority of Scripture.

That is the faith of fathers – that is what Leo taught – that is what we believe.

-TurretinFan

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Update to Alternative Responses to Jay Dyer

April 29, 2011

Mr. Drake Shelton (you may recall him as the person who wrote: “I was ashamed of Turretinfan’s responses to this so I decided to devote the past year and a half to these issues.“) has apparently provided yet more responses to Jay Dyer, although I couldn’t find any direct reference to Dyer in the article. Mr. Shelton explains, “I just thought you didn’t have a clue what you were talking about when you spoke with Jay and I thought I could help you not look so unfit to teach theology to people.” I’m always thankful for the assistance of people like Mr. Shelton, who can help me look less unfit to teach theology. Under the circumstances, however, you may excuse me if I simply report, rather than endorse, his responses.

-TurretinFan

Blogger Criticism of the Pope

April 29, 2011

Some people are unhappy because a well-known name in the Roman Catholic apologetics community has taken to criticize two popes. That’s just not something one does, apparently. I’m yet to see any rule in the Code of Canon Law against criticizing popes, but who knows – perhaps I missed something.

If you want to see a real celebrity culture: there it is. If Carl Trueman (or anyone else) thinks that the Evangelical world has celebrities, he need to take a look at what happens when a Roman Catholic blogger suggests that it might possibly be a bad thing for John Paul II to kiss the Koran.

Suggest that Benedict XVI might have been influenced by the liberal tendencies of his late buddy Rahner – and look out!

Popes are fallible and peccable in theory, but in the practice of the blogosphere …

Purgatory Debate with Dan Marcum

April 27, 2011

Yesterday, Dan Marcum (Roman Catholic) and I did a short debate on purgatory. An mp3 of the debate is available. There a number of points within this debate that I would like to comment on, but I thought it would be better to go ahead and post the debate now. My main comment on the debate is that the constructive and conclusion speeches were just too short.

GodIsMyJudge on Sola Scriptura

April 27, 2011

I’m not sure he actually disagrees with me, but William Birch has posted an article by GodIsMyJudge on Sola Scriptura, in which GodIsMyJudge distinguishes his explanation from mine.

Enjoy!

-TurretinFan

One of the Problems of Pluralism

April 26, 2011

If you live in a pluralistic society, you are going to have deal with situations like this one (link). Keep in mind that Sikhs are required by their religion to carry a kirpan. Their code of conduct states: “Have, on your person, all the time, the five K’s: The Keshas (unshorn hair), the Kirpan (sheathed sword), the Kachhehra (drawers like garment), the Kanga (comb), the Karha (steel bracelet).” (Reht Maryada, Chapter 13 as translated/paraphrased here)

Suppose for the sake of the argument that there is a religious justification for the actions of the “dissident” members who are opposing the “open membership” move of the majority. Must a pluralistic society tolerate this settling of their religious dispute amongst themselves in their own temple? Or must the state step in to enforce the will of the majority? or of the minority (if the minority are right about the requirements of their religion)?

And if a pluralistic society can rightly intervene in religious disputes amongst Sikhs, why not amongst other religions?

And for my Escondido friends, what if a majority of a Christian church were attempting to open communion to everyone who wants it? Does the civil magistrate have a duty to protect the church of our Lord against such violence from a majority?

-TurretinFan

N.B. No Sikh I’ve ever met would approve of what took place in the Sikh temple in the linked article. Please don’t assume that because Sikhs carry the kirpan, they are violent people. Please don’t make any other illogical conclusions from what I’ve written. There, that should avoid about 90% of the comments.

Sad Story

April 24, 2011

Perhaps it would be good to pray for Pastor Timothy David Miller in this difficult time.

Steve Ray’s Response to Michael Welton Critiqued

April 22, 2011

Steve Ray has posted a response to comments made by Michael Welton in Popes and Patriarchs. There is a lot of filler in the response, but Mr. Ray aims to address essentially two issues (1) Basil’s words of dismissal of Rome and (2) Basil’s failure to appeal to the Bishop of Rome as a supreme authority.

As to the first issue, Basil himself wrote:

I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and “especially unto them who are of the household of faith;” [Galatians 6:10] and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favour, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or to forget the Church which is under him, or to treat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints.

Steve Ray cuts the mention of Rome out of the quotation, beginning at “And, although it is a grand testimony …” but I have provided it to you, since it is significant to the question.

Steve Ray’s response is that Basil’s words must be understood as hyperbole. “Why? Because if Basil here denounces Rome, he denounces God as well.” (p. 6) Of course, Mr. Ray’s argument is empty: Romanism (the view that denouncing Rome is denouncing God) is not Basil’s worldview. Steve Ray says we have to view Basil’s words as hyperbole because if we don’t they conflict with Romanism. The “begging the question” fallacy is aptly illustrated by his remarks.

Steve Ray goes on to complain that Basil could have been even more explicit in his denial of Rome’s authority (“He could have easily said, ‘I reject Rome’s presumed authority which they have unlawfully arrogated to themselves.'” pp. 6-7). But Mr. Ray’s example mistakenly assumes that in Basil’s day Rome claimed universal authority.

In any event, “I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men,” is clear enough of a testimony that Basil doesn’t view the letter from Rome as having supreme authority. Basil makes a direct appeal to a higher authority by stating, “Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints,” in which he seemingly alludes to Galatians 1:8 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” One is left in full agreement that while conceivably Basil could have used even stronger language than he did, the language he used is plenty strong.

It should be noted that this is not the only place where Basil criticizes the West. Basil wrote:

I am moved to say, as Diomede said,

“Would God, Atrides, thy request were yet to undertake;

…he’s proud enough.”

[Homer, Iliad ix.]

Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on, what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus, when they quarrelled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy.

Basil of Caesarea, Letter 239 (to Eusebius of Samosata), Section 2

On the second point, the question of whether Basil never appealed to the bishop of Rome as the supreme authority, Steve Ray attempts to answer the question by quoting from Basil’s Letter 70.

Mr. Ray writes:

Also, in Letter 70 Basil addresses Pope Damasus as “right honorable father” and admits that “nearly all the East . . . is being agitated” and concedes that the pope’s authority is “the only possible solution to our difficulties.”

Remarkably, Letter 70 is without address, although it is widely believed to have been written to Damasus of Rome, the addressee is identified only by various affectionate names such as: “right honourable father” and “your mercifulness.”

Moreover, it should be noted that Basil uses this affectionate term for Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria in his letter 66 to Athanasius (the exact same Greek term: “τιμιώτατε Πάτερ”) and similarly refers to Athanasius this way in letter 90 (“ὁ τιμιώτατος ἡμῶν πατὴρ”). I say this not to argue that Athanasius is the addressee, but simply to point out that at least equal dignity is given to Athanasius: this is not a proto-papalist speaking, but simply a bishop speaking to another esteemed bishop. It should be noted that Basil mentions that the addressee is in the same see as Dionysus, and while there were notable Dionysuses (Dionysi?) of both Alexandria and Rome, a references to “the East” (defined in the text as “Illyricum to Egypt”) seems to weigh in favor of Rome as opposed to Alexandria.

But lets move along from the affectionate title to the actual request. His actual request to his addressee is this:

I have been constrained to beseech you by letter to be moved to help us, and to send some of those, who are like minded with us, either to conciliate the dissentient and bring back the Churches of God into friendly union, or at all events to make you see more plainly who are responsible for the unsettled state in which we are, that it may be obvious to you for the future with whom it befits you to be in communion.

There is not here any request for exercise of authority and power. Instead, the request is for aid and encouragement:

We are lamenting no mere overthrow of earthly buildings, but the capture of Churches; what we see before us is no mere bodily slavery, but a carrying away of souls into captivity, perpetrated day by day by the champions of heresy. Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand.

Without further commentary, I think it is worth pointing out the use here by Basil of “churches” (plural) as distinct from buildings. Basil may view communion as universal, but his ecclesiology is one in which there are many churches.

-TurretinFan

Paul Helm Reviews Michael Horton’s Systematic

April 21, 2011

Paul Helm has a balanced review of Michael Horton’s new systematic theology, “The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.” I’m still in the process of reviewing the book myself. I will reserve my comments until a later date.

With Friends Like These, Jeffrey Meyers Needs Help!

April 20, 2011

A committee of the Missouri Presbytery of the PCA attempted to exonerate Jeff Meyers of the charges of, in essence, being a Federal Visionist. They explained:

In addition to this the [committee] suspects another underlying assumption of the complainants in this first section (II.A), namely, that any man who identifies with FV in some way and has put his name to documents authored by other men who claim the same (i.e. the JFVP), must, de facto, be guilty of doctrinal infidelity and placed on trial for it on the grounds of the GA’s adoption of the declarations in the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision.

(Report, page 12, lines 25-30)

They then argued that this blanket condemnation is not proper, because the Federal Vision is not a monolithic movement. They then apparently attempted to argue that Meyers is not like the others (i.e. those in error) in the Federal Vision movement with the following explanation:

Wholesale, blanket condemnations of movements are usually very inaccurate and therefore unjust. No church court of the PCA has condemned everything that every person associated the FV believes and teaches. That is why the measure of a man’s fidelity to the Westminster Standards cannot be the views of men identified with FV but rather the judgment of the appropriate church court as it is makes its own judgments and by doctrinal guidelines laid down by higher courts. And here we would simply mention that the MIC duly pressed TE Meyers on the point as to whether he could affirm all the declarations of the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision and while he does disagree with much of the reasoning in that report, he answered that indeed, he is able to affirm its formal declarations, with a few qualifications he laid out for the MIC (see MICR, Appendix B, JJM Q and A, p. 3)

(Report, page 12, lines 37-47)

The committee thinks this is supposed to help Meyers, but the committee has conceded that Meyers holds neither to the reasoning nor, without qualifications, to the declarations of the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision.

Consider this declaration:

The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

(Declaration 9 from the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision)

Contrast this item from the Federal Vision Joint Statement:

We affirm that apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians. All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body. The connection that an apostate had to Christ was not merely external.

(Federal Vision Joint Statement, emphasis added)

Moreover, consider that Mr. Meyers has subsequently stated: “Yes, I continue to affirm this statement.”

Moreover, in response to this specific declaration Meyers responded:

Again, this declaration uses the phrase “united to Christ” in quotation marks. In my responses to earlier questions in the last section on baptism and in questions 1–4 of this section, I believe I have answered this already. I believe this statement summarizes a view that is unreformed, unbiblical, and not consistent with the Westminster Standards. If we take “union with Christ” as Westminster defines it and not as a reference to the fact that baptized Christians are “united with him” in the sense that they are in covenant with him as members of his body, of which he is the Head, then this view is wrong.

It is curious that this was accepted. It is particularly curious in view of the fact that in response to the question of apostasy, Meyers wrote:

Apostates do not merely “fall away” from external benefits, but from God himself. “Take heed, brethren, lest there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12).

That seems, again, to affirm what the Federal Vision Joint Statement affirms and what the 2007 Ad Interim Report condemned. Mr. Meyers cannot, it seems, either hold to the reasoning of that report, nor (in an unqualified way) to its declarations. He continues to hold to the errors of the FVJS, but yet the committee suggests he should be given a pass. Remarkable!

Lane Keister has already expressed his amazement over the comment: “ . . . no one school of interpretation on these disputed issues should be adopted as the only orthodox position to the exclusion of the others.” (Report of the Complaint Review Committee, 62). I will simply echo that. I wonder whether the issue is that the Missouri Presbytery doesn’t view the issue of union with Christ and apostasy as big issues, or whether the issue goes beyond that to a general lack of concern over theological issues. It is hard to stomach such a conclusion, but it is also hard to understand how these glaring issues could be overlooked.

-TurretinFan

N.B. I see that both Mr. Meyers and others have made the report of the committee public. While this is, therefore, a public matter – it is also one that has not yet completed its tour of the PCA court system. It has not come before the General Assembly. Those who may be involved in the final determination matter should take care to observe any PCA rules with respect to circularization.


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