Archive for September, 2011

Justification as Declaration of Righteousness

September 30, 2011

Here are some thoughts on Justification from the early church father John Chrysostom, courtesy of the great Reformer Thomas Cranmer and my friend (and fellow heir to the legacy of Chrysostom and Cranmer) David King:

Chrysostom (349-407): What does he mean when he says: “I have declared your justice?” He did not simply say: “I have given,” but “I have declared.” What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.

Greek text: Τί ποτέ ἐστιν, Εὐηγγελισάμην δικαιοσύνην; Οὐκ εἶπεν ἁπλῶς, Ἔδωκα, ἀλλ’, Εὐηγγελισάμην. Τί δήποτε; Ὅτι οὐκ ἀπὸ κατορθωμάτων, οὐδὲ πόνων, οὐδὲ ἀμοιβῆς, ἀλλʼ ἀπὸ χάριτος μόνης τὸ γένος ἐδικαίωσε τὸ ἡμέτερον. Ὅπερ οὖν καὶ ὁ Παῦλος δηλῶν ἔλεγε· Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ πεφανέρωται· δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, οὐ διὰ καμάτου τινὸς καὶ πόνου.

Adversus Judaeos, VII, §3, PG 48:919; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 7.3.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 186-187.

Hans Küng and the Roman System

September 27, 2011

Hans Küng is not allowed to teach “Catholic theology,” but he remains with the Roman communion, apparently teaches ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen, and is still a priest (i.e. he has not been defrocked).  Unlike most priests, he has been invited to the pope’s summer palace and corresponds occasionally with the pope.

However, Küng has a less Roman perspective than his former colleague Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI).  As reported by Spiegel, Küng stated:

Küng: In my view, the Catholic Church as a community of faith will be preserved, but only if it abandons the Roman system of rule. We managed to get by without this absolutist system for 1,000 years. The problems began in the 11th century, when the popes asserted their claim to absolute control over the Church, by applying a form of clericalism that deprived the laity of all power. The celibacy rule also stems from that era.

SPIEGEL: In an interview with the respected weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, you were sharply critical of Pope Benedict, saying that not even King Louis XIV was as autocratic as the leader of the Catholic Church, with his absolutist style of government. Could Benedict truly change the Roman system if he wanted to?

Küng: It’s true that this absolutism is an essential element of the Roman system. But it was never an essential element of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council did everything to move away from it, but unfortunately it wasn’t thorough enough. No one dared to criticize the pope directly, but there was an emphasis on the pope’s collegial relationship with the bishops, which was designed to integrate him into the community again.

SPIEGEL: Was it successful?

Küng: I wouldn’t say that it was. The shamelessness with which the Vatican’s policy has simply hushed up and neglected the concept of collegiality since then is beyond compare. An unparalleled personality cult prevails once again today, which contradicts everything written in the New Testament. In this sense, one can state this very clearly. Benedict has even accepted the gift of a tiara, a papal crown, the medieval symbol of absolute papal power, which an earlier pope, Paul VI, chose to surrender. I think this is outrageous. He could change all of this overnight, if he wanted to.

There’s plenty more in the article, but it interesting to hear Küng speak for himself, particularly considering how “conservative” (the way he would describe them) members of the Roman communion seem to portray him as some sort of monster.


Debate Announcement – Conditionalism Debate

September 25, 2011

Lord willing, I will be debating Ronnie of Consuming Fire on the topic of what he calls “Conditionalism”  (Debate announcement and chance to submit “audience questions” here.), which evidently holds to the idea that those in hell will eventually be consumed by the fire there (leading others to describe it as “annihilationism”).

Ratzinger vs. Hitler

September 24, 2011

The Pope went on: “In this place, remembrance must also be made of the ‘Kristallnacht’ that took place from 9 to 10 November 1938. Only a few could see the full extent of this act of contempt for humanity, like the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who cried out from the pulpit of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral: ‘Outside, the Temple is burning – that too is the house of God’. The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in Him. The supposedly ‘almighty’ Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men. Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed”.

(Vatican Information System, 23 September 2011)

A few separate points:

1. It is interesting to contrast the rhetoric that Ratzinger quotes approvingly (“Outside, the Temple is burning – that too is the house of God”) with that of Christ (as revealed to John):

Revelation 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 3:9  Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

2. Remarkably, it appears that Rome never formally excommunicated Hitler.  It’s very nice to say nasty things about him now that he’s dead and gone, but when he was actually killing the Jews, Gypsies, and others, Rome apparently didn’t think it was appropriate to actually excommunicate this “pagan idol.” 

3. I suppose it is obligatory at this point to observe that Ratzinger was evidently conscripted into the Hitler Youth, was drafted into service in an anti-aircraft corps during the war, and was briefly made an American Prisoner Of War.  There’s nothing that I’m aware of that suggests that Ratzinger was particularly supportive of Hitler, even despite his (apparently involuntary) participation in those organizations. 

4. Moreover, it is actually Benedict XVI who wants to take the place of the Biblical God.  I can’t say whether Hitler ever called himself the very vicar of Christ and earthly head of the church, but Benedict XVI certainly claims that for himself.  I can’t say whether Hitler ever set up headquarters in what purported to be the temple of God, but the pope certainly attempts to exalt himself over all that is God’s and seats himself on a throne.  (see 2 Thessalonians 2)

5. The concentration camps were filled with death and horror, I am sure.  What if we compare those few years of Nazi cruelty with the cruelty with which Rome sought to persecute and kill European believers from the time of the Waldensians until the defeat of the Spanish Armada?  Were the Nazis as cruel as the Inquisition?  While there are no photographs to document the acts of cruelty perpetuated by Rome, one can read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to get some sense of what happened.  Perhaps Benedict XVI’s conscience will persuade him to accept the fact that the Roman church that authorized the slaughter of the Albigensians was one that denied God as much as the Nazi regime did.

All which shows why we must not put our confidence in princes or in the sons of men.  Instead, our hope must be in the name of the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth.


Contrasting Ecumenism

September 24, 2011

“For this reason”, the Pope added, “I am very grateful to our Protestant brothers and sisters who have made it possible to hold this highly significant meeting in the convent where Luther began his theological journey, to pray … and talk together about our responsibility as Christians today. I am delighted to be able to express our fundamental unity as brothers and sisters who work together for the good of humankind, announcing the joyful message of Christ, of God Who has a human face and Who speaks to us”.

(Benedict XVI, Vatican Information Service, 23 September 2011)

In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows:

25. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ Himself in blessed Peter.

28. If the pope with a great part of the Church thought so and so, he would not err; still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary for salvation, until one alternative is condemned and another approved by a general Council.

33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.

No one of sound mind is ignorant how destructive, pernicious, scandalous, and seductive to pious and simple minds these various errors are, how opposed they are to all charity and reverence for the holy Roman Church who is the mother of all the faithful and teacher of the faith; how destructive they are of the vigor of ecclesiastical discipline, namely obedience. This virtue is the font and origin of all virtues and without it anyone is readily convicted of being unfaithful.

(Leo X, Ex Surge Domine, 15 June 152)

In addition to the contrast between Benedict XVI and Leo X in general, I selected a few of the alleged “errors” of the Reformation that Leo X singled out. Papal supremacy, of course, made the last. But so did the idea that it is ok to disagree with the pope and the majority of the church, even when the matter has not been defined. According to Leo X, capital punishment of heretics is not just ok, it’s “the will of the Spirit.” And Leo X actually thought one could prove purgatory from the canonical Scriptures.

One might say that in some ways there has been substantial progress between the time of Leo X and the time of Benedict XVI. But Rome has not officially repudiated its own earlier teachings – it has not said it was wrong, even after nearly half a millenium of demonstration of those errors.


Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 4a

September 24, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the first part of a fourth in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

4. Let us take the points one by one, and follow the tracks of this impiety that we may show that he has contradicted himself. He admits that she was betrothed, and in the next breath will have her to be a man’s wife whom he has admitted to be his betrothed. Again, he calls her wife, and then says the only reason why she was betrothed was that she might one day be married. And, for fear we might not think that enough, “the word used,” he says, “is betrothed and not intrusted, that is to say, not yet a wife, not yet united by the bond of wedlock.”

We should definitely seek to avoid self-contradiction.  But is this a self-contradiction?  Why else is a woman betrothed except in order to become a wife?  Moreover, Joseph was minded to put her away, which is what one does with an unfaithful wife, but was encouraged to “take” her by the angel of the Lord,

Jerome seems to be attempting to score some kind of rhetorical points here, but it isn’t working.  Helvidius’ and our position is pretty straightforward and non-contradictory.  Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was – at that time and in that culture – the first stage of the marriage, but it was prior to cohabitation.  Nevertheless, as set forth in the previous sections, the legal status of a betrothed woman was like that of a married woman, in that any fornication would be adultery.  Thus, Mary is sometimes called Joseph’s wife even though they had not yet come together.  It may be imprecise, but it is not really self-contradictory.

Jerome doesn’t attempt to revitalize the “intrusted” alternatively, seemingly granting that Helvidius is right.  Mary was betrothed (not intrusted) to Joseph.  She was to be his wife.

– TurretinFan

God Just Wants to Make You Happy, Says Pope

September 24, 2011

Benedict XVI said:

When the Blessed Virgin rescues us from plight, “with a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, Who is so rich in mercy. ‘Understand,’ she seems to say to us, ‘that God, Who is the source of all that is good and Who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields unreservedly and joyfully to His will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise’.

(Vatican Information System, 24 September 2011)

Let’s leave aside the adoration of Mary issue and consider the doctrine that Ratzinger puts in her mouth.  According to the pope, God “never desires anything other than your true happiness.”  This is so typical of man-centered religions.  God just wants to make you happy.  But is that what Scripture says? In fact, it does not.

Romans 9:22-23 
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

Even if Scripture were silent on this topic, though, one really has to wonder.  If God really desired nothing other than the “true happiness” of anyone, why would hell exist?  Does hell bring any men “true happiness”?  What about purgatory?  Is unnecessary suffering in purgatory something that brings men “true happiness”? 

These questions alone should be enough to reject the errors of Benedict XVI.


Guess Which of These Popes is German and Which is Not

September 23, 2011

“Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric:” Benedict XVI

“Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected.” – Leo X

Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 3

September 23, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the third in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

3. His first statement was: “Matthew says, [Matthew 1:18-20] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” “Notice,” he says, “that the word used is betrothed, not intrusted as you say, and of course the only reason why she was betrothed was that she might one day be married. And the Evangelist would not have said before they came together if they were not to come together, for no one would use the phrase before he dined of a man who was not going to dine. Then, again, the angel calls her wife and speaks of her as united to Joseph.” We are next invited to listen to the declaration of Scripture: [Matthew 1:24-25] “And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife; and knew her not till she had brought forth her son.” 

Finally, Jerome is getting around to an actual argument, and kudos to Jerome, he is presenting his opponent’s position first.  Specifically, what Jerome has done here is to present what Helvidius argued, apparently as a quotation from or at least a paraphrase or summary of Helvidius.  Considering that Jerome had accused Helvidius of being loquacious, one suspects that this may be a summary of Helvidius’ argument, rather than the entirety of it.

Helvidius argued from Matthew 1 that the word used is “betrothed” not merely “entrusted” and the reason for the betrothal was ultimately marriage.  Helvidius further argued that Matthew wouldn’t have written “before they came together” unless they were going to come together.  Likewise, the angel calls Mary Joseph’s wife and speaks of her as being united to Joseph, according to Helvidius.  Finally, there seems to be implied that “knew her not till …” implies that Joseph eventually knew Mary.

All of these seem to be sound arguments.  To them, we may add the argument we mentioned in the previous section, namely that Joseph was minded to put away Mary, not to seek out her seducer or to return her to her father or elsewhere.  Putting away implies divorce, which implies a marriage (of which betrothal is a first step), not merely an entrustment.


Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 2

September 23, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the second in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

2. I must call upon the Holy Spirit to express His meaning by my mouth and defend the virginity of the Blessed Mary. I must call upon the Lord Jesus to guard the sacred lodging of the womb in which He abode for ten months from all suspicion of sexual intercourse. And I must also entreat God the Father to show that the mother of His Son, who was a mother before she was a bride, continued a Virgin after her son was born. We have no desire to career over the fields of eloquence, we do not resort to the snares of the logicians or the thickets of Aristotle. We shall adduce the actual words of Scripture. Let him be refuted by the same proofs which he employed against us, so that he may see that it was possible for him to read what is written, and yet to be unable to discern the established conclusion of a sound faith.

While we agree with Jerome that the standard should be the actual words of Scripture and not attempts at Aristotelean philosophy, we have to note that Jerome is still not actually setting forth a valid argument for his position.

Notice that Jerome seems to think that “sexual intercourse” is something bad.  Thus, he describes suggestions to the contrary of his position as “suspicion of sexual intercourse” like one might speak of “suspicion of fornication” or the like.

Here is an opportunity, however, to help define the difference between us.  We agree that Mary was a virgin before the conception of Christ, and that until Jesus was born she remained a virgin.  This is important, not because virginity itself is somehow sacred, but because it was necessary that it be clear that Jesus was the Son of God.

Upon Jesus’ birth, the need for Mary to remain a virgin ceased.

Likewise, Mary was already betrothed when she was found with child.  She was Joseph’s bride-to-be, though they had not yet come together.  Under the Jewish regime, it would have been adultery for her to have been sexually joined to anyone but Joseph (“If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” Deuteronomy 22:23-24), and when Joseph discovered her pregnancy, he was planning to divorce her (“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.” Matthew 1:19).

That stood in contrast to the situation of a virgin that was not betrothed (Exodus 22:16  And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.). In that situation, neither death nor merciful divorce (as Joseph thought he would do) was appropriate.  Instead, in that case, the seduced girl would (with her father’s permission) become the spouse of the seducer.

Joseph was not minded to track down her seducer and make him marry Mary, he was minded to “put away” (i.e. divorce) Mary.  This demonstrates that Mary was to be Joseph’s wife.

Moreover, when Joseph considered this option of putting away Mary, God intervened. 

Matthew 1:20  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Look at that! God specifically tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary unto him.  In context, that means Joseph is not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife, which will involve the very thing that so troubled our ancient brother Jerome.  After all, that’s what distinguishes husband and wife from merely “betrothed” and is what is involved in “taking” her (compare “And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.” Deuteronomy 20:7).

In fact, it is such an integral part of taking her, that the Scriptures make sure to explain an exception:

Matthew 1:24-25 
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Notice that Joseph took Mary to be his wife, but did not know her until Jesus was born.  The implication, of course, is that this exceptional case ended with the identified terminus, namely Jesus’ birth.


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