Archive for April, 2012

John Calvin vs. Cardinal Sadoleto

April 30, 2012

September 1, 1539, Calvin delivered a powerful blow to Roman apologetics of his day with his letter to Cardinal Sadoleto (Tony Pietrantonio recently provided an involuntary imitation of Sadoleto). What is interesting about the Calvin vs. Sadoleto dispute is that it begins from the topic of worship. Calvin states:

Therefore, Sadolet, when you uttered this voluntary confession, you laid the foundation of my defense. For if you admit it to be a fearful destruction to the soul, when, by false opinions, divine truth is turned into a lie, it now only remains for us to inquire which of the two parties retains that worship of God which is alone legitimate.

It is with great sorrow that we see some heirs of the Reformation squandering the legacy of legitimate worship of God, replacing it with all manner of will worship. Granted that it does not yet reach the extremes of Rome with its worship of idols of Mary, Angels, and the Saints, and the worship of them and of God by idols – the worship of bread as though it were God – and many other idolatries and blasphemies of like sort. Nevertheless, the emphasis on the purity of worship is something that is sadly too often missing in churches that are aimed at marketing themselves with popular music and other entertainment.

When it comes to doctrine, Justification by Faith takes a chief place, and Calvin’s argument is excellent:

You, in the first place, touch upon justification by faith, the first and keenest subject of controversy between us. Is this a knotty and useless question? Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. That doctrine, then, though of the highest moment, we maintain that you have nefariously effaced from the memory of men. Our books are filled with convincing proofs of this fact, and the gross ignorance of this doctrine, which even still continues in all your churches, declares that our complaint is by no means ill founded. But you very maliciously stir up prejudice against us, alleging that, by attributing every thing to faith, we leave no room for works.

I will not now enter upon a full discussion, which would require a large volume; but if you would look into the Catechism which I myself drew up for the Genevans, when I held the office of Pastor among them, three words would silence you. Here, however, I will briefly explain to you how we speak on this subject.

First, We bid a man begin by examining himself, and this not in a superficial and perfunctory manner, but to sift his conscience before the tribunal of God, and when sufficiently convinced of his iniquity, to reflect on the strictness of the sentence pronounced upon all sinners. Thus confounded and amazed at his misery, he is prostrated and humbled before God; and, casting away all self-confidence, groans as if given up to final perdition. Then we show that the only haven of safety is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are, in the sight of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since, by his obedience, he has wiped off our transgressions; by his sacrifice, appeased the divine anger; by his blood, washed away our stains; by his cross, borne our curse; and by his death, made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way man is reconciled in Christ to God the Father, by no merit of his own, by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy. When we embrace Christ by faith, and come, as it were, into communion with him, this we term, after the manner of Scripture, the righteousness of faith.

What have you here, Sadolet, to bite or carp at? Is it that we leave no room for works? Assuredly we do deny that, in justifying a man, they are worth one single straw. For Scripture everywhere cries aloud, that all are lost; and every mans’s own conscience bitterly accuses him. The same Scripture teaches, that no hope is left but in the mere goodness of God, by which sin is pardoned, and righteousness imputed to us. It declares both to be gratuitous, and finally concludes that a man is justified without works, (Rom. iv. 7.) But what notion, you ask, does the very term Righteousness suggest to us, if respect is not paid to good works ? I answer, if you would attend to the true meaning of the term justifying in Scripture, you would have no difficulty. For it does not refer to a man’s own righteousness, but to the mercy of God, which, contrary to the sinner’s deserts, accepts of a righteousness for him, and that by not imputing his unrighteousness. Our righteousness, I say, is that which is described by Paul, (2 Cor. v. 19,) that God both reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ. The mode is afterwards subjoined — by not imputing sin. He demonstrates that it is by faith only we become partakers of that blessing, when he says that the ministry of reconciliation is contained in the gospel. But faith, you say, is a general term, and has a larger signification. I answer, that Paul, whenever he attributes to it the power of justifying, at the same time restricts it to a gratuitous promise of the divine favor, and keeps it far removed from all respect to works. Hence his familiar inference — if by faith, then not by works. On the other hand — if by works, then not by faith.

But, it seems, injury is done to Christ, if, under the pretence of his grace, good works are repudiated; he having come to prepare a people acceptable to God, zealous of good works, while, to the same effect, are many similar passages which prove that Christ came in order that we, doing good works, might, through him, be accepted by God. This calumny, which our opponents have ever in their mouths, viz., that we take away the desire of well-doing from the Christian life by recommending gratuitous righteousness, is too frivolous to give us much concern. We deny that good works have any share in justification, but we claim full authority for them in the lives of the righteous. For, if he who has obtained justification possesses Christ, and, at the same time, Christ never is where his Spirit in not, it is obvious that gratuitous righteousness is necessarily connected with regeneration. Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches, (1 Cor. i. 30,) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification. Wherever, therefore, that righteousness of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too Christ is, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life. On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not in vigour, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ himself; and wherever Christ is not, there in no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.

Since, therefore, according to us, Christ regenerates to a blessed life those whom he justifies, and after rescuing them from the dominion of sin, hands them over to the dominion of righteousness, transforms them into the image of God, and so trains them by his Spirit into obedience to his will, there is no ground to complain that, by our doctrine, lust is left with loosened reins. The passages which you adduce have not a meaning at variance with our doctrine. But if you will pervert them in assailing gratuitous justification, see how unskillfully you argue. Paul elsewhere says (Eph. i. 4) that we were chosen in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy and unblameable in the sight of God through love. Who will venture thence to infer, either that election is not gratuitous, or that our love is its cause? Nay, rather, as the end of gratuitous election, so also that of gratuitous justification is, that we may lead pure and unpolluted lives before God. For the saying of Paul is true, (1 Thess. iv. 7,) we have not been called to impurity, but to holiness. This, meanwhile, we constantly maintain, that man is not only justified freely once for all, without any merit of works, but that on this gratuitous justification the salvation of man perpetually depends. Nor is it possible that any work of man can he accepted by God unless it be gratuitously approved. Wherefore, I was amazed when I read your assertion, that love is the first and chief cause of our salvation. O, Sadolet, who could ever have expected such a saying from you? Undoubtedly the very blind, while in darkness, feel the mercy of God too surely to dare to claim for their love the first cause of their salvation, while those who have merely one spark of divine light feel that their salvation consists in nothing else than their being adopted by God. For eternal salvation is the inheritance of the heavenly Father, and has been prepared solely for his children. Moreover, who can assign any other cause of our adoption than that which is uniformly announced in Scripture, viz., that we did not first love him, but were spontaneously received by him into favor and affection?

Your ignorance of this doctrine leads you on to the error of teaching that sins are expiated by penances and satisfactions. Where, then, will be that one expiatory victim, from which, if we depart, there remains, as Scripture testifies, no more sacrifice for sin? Search through all the divine oracles which we possess; if the blood of Christ alone is uniformly act forth as purchasing satisfaction, reconciliation, and ablution, how dare you presume to transfer so great an honor to your works? Nor have you any ground for ascribing this blasphemy to the Church of God. The ancient Church, I admit, had its satisfactions, not those, however, by which sinners might atone to God and ransom themselves from guilt, but by which they might prove that the repentance which they professed was not feigned, and efface the remembrance of that scandal which their sin had occasioned. For satisfactions were not regularly prescribed to all and sundry, but to those only who had fallen into some heinous wickedness.

You can (and really should) read the whole letter here (link to letter). It is excellent.


Genetic Anomalies Due to Inbreeding?

April 30, 2012

A reader (I’ll live him anonymous for now, unless he wants credit) wrote:

Reading last May’s “Where is the Promise of Christ’s Coming?” , the question came to me: how do we square the facts of closely-related “inbred” lines in genealogy with the Biblical fact that all of humanity descends from Adam via the eight of the Ark?

We know from the condition of the Habsburgs that such close relations lead to deformities and even mental incapacity (Charles II) over the span of less than 500 years of that family’s history. Has humanity overall been preserved from this biological fact which interbreeding seems to engender over long periods of time? Was this simply a curse of God on the Habsburgs?

How do the 8 saved in the ark translate to the ~7 billion of today with such varied racial characteristics? It seems contradictory.

First, the Bible does indicate to us that human lifespan has dramatically decreased from the multiple century lifespans before the flood to the sub-century typical lifespans after the flood, and even today. Whether this is due to genetic corruption from an early period of “in-breeding” or whether it is due to changes in the Earth’s protection from solar radiation associated with the Great Flood (something I’ve heard AiG types suggest), there has been some significant change to human life.

While I understand what you mean by “racial characteristics,” it needs to be recognized that categories like “race” are largely conventional. Typically, pronounced physical differences are associated with relatively isolated groups. This isolation does tend to reinforce particular physical characteristics that are less common outside the group.

An example that most people may think of is the Pygmy people group, while the blue skinned people would be another less well known example. In God’s providence, neither of those groups ever got large enough to be referred to as a “race,” but the basic principle is the same.

Thus, “in-breeding” (very loosely defined) of each group may help to explain the very distinctive appearance of Europeans as compared to sub-Saharan Africans, peoples of the Indian sub-continent, and far-east Asians (to take some examples).

The Bible explains that at Babel language confusion resulted in dispersion of people from the tower. Moreover, in the days of Peleg the world was divided. This dispersion and division tended to have the result of people groups becoming more segregated and distinctive. It’s not totally clear how uniform in appearance the pre-Fall humans were, but even if they were all quite similar in appearance to one another, this post-fall dispersion and segregation would be expected to produce groups with distinctive looks after a number of generations.

We all derive from one pair of adults (Adam and Eve), and also from a maximum of 8 grandparents (Noah and his wife and the in-laws of their three sons), all of which are descendants of that original pair. This led to some measure of marrying one’s close relatives for a number of generations. However, over time this necessity decreased. Thus, by the time of Moses, there were prohibitions on marrying one’s half sister, although only about seven generations earlier Abraham had married his own half-sister, though clearly there was already stigma associated with marrying a full-blooded sister at that time.

Why then are we not all then deformed? First, as the relationships become more distant, inbreeding does not invariably produce and emphasize harmful, recessive mutations. Second, the “survival of the fittest” principle applied to a large extent in pre-socialistic societies. Those with physical and/or mental defects would tend to remove themselves from the gene pool in a variety of ways. Thirdly, it is entirely possible that human genetics were not as prone to mutation before the fall, and that they only gradually became prone to mutation after the fall. For example, if the mechanism that produces a short life is also the mechanism that leads to harmful mutations, and if that mechanism is solar radiation, then it seems possible that there was no significant genetic risk to mutation before the fall.

A lot of this is, of course, speculation. God does not necessarily give us the answers to all these questions. We have no way of knowing whether the Hapsburg family was specially cursed by God, or whether their condition had some other purpose in God’s plan. Whatever the answer to that question, since the history of man before and after the flood does not require men to marry their first cousins or full blooded sisters for many successive generations, the risks associated with in-breeding today among a population of 7 billion derived from an original pair is small.


Bayseian Probabilities Misused … Exemplified

April 30, 2012

In this amusing post, Glenn Peoples (Update: Technically, the creative work is Tim McGrew’s) lampoons Richard Carrier’s misuse of Bayseian Probability by turning his methods on – the existence of Richard Carrier (link to example). This misuse of “probability” is not confined to anti-supernaturalists like Carrier. We also see it among supernaturalists, from time to time.


H.T. Victor Reppert

Ehrman Spin Kicks Carrier in the Jaw

April 27, 2012

It seems safe to say that the Ehrman-Carrier fight is over. Ehrman very effectively demolished Carrier’s attempt to criticize his work. There are a number of interesting things that Ehrman has to say, but most of all this is the water in which Ehrman can safely swim. Carrier plays directly into Ehrman’s strengths, and Ehrman takes full advantage of Carrier’s weakness.

Key points that Ehrman addresses:

1) Was Pilate a procurator (as referred to in the NT) or a prefect (as referred to in Tacitus)? Answer: both titles referred to the same position – in Judea, that post was referred to as prefect at the time Pilate held it, but within the apostolic era began to be referred to as procurator.
2) Did Tacitus refer to Jesus? Answer: Yes. Even the relative minority of Scholarship that questions this either (a) suggests that the passage is an interpolation from another (now lost) work of Tacitus, or (b) thinks that Tacitus himself was making a mistake.
3) Was Osiris a dying and rising god? Answer: No. While in some Osiris myth Osiris comes back, he comes back from Hades. This is not a bodily resurrection.
4) Did Paul think that Jesus was a person who lived just before Paul’s conversion? Yes, and all the relevant sources support that. Ehrman has an amusing paragraph on this point:

Maybe I could have made this a bit more clear by saying that the view I was referring to could be found in “all our sources from Paul’s time and in the decades that followed, not sources written 300 years later that have no bearing on Paul’s thinking.” But frankly, I didn’t think it was necessary since I went on to enumerate the sources that I was referring to. What I meant, of course, was that all of the relevant sources have this view.

I should add that Paul’s reference at Galatians 1:19 to “James, the Lord’s brother,” as being someone he met, strongly suggests that Paul thought Jesus was a contemporary (as Albert McIlhenny recently pointed out).
5) Did the Romans keep scrupulous records of everything, such as births and deaths, in Judea? Answer: No. While there are some detailed records of this kind from Egypt, they were made by the indigenous population.

There was one embarrassing point for Ehrman. He remarks:

Carrier finds fault with my claim, about Earl Doherty, that he “quotes professional scholars at length when their view prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis” (p. 252). He points out that Doherty does in fact indicate, in various places throughout his book, that the argument he is advancing at that point is not accepted by other scholars. As a result, Carrier states, my claim is nothing but “falsified propaganda.”
I am afraid that in this case Carrier misses my point. It is true that Doherty acknowledges that scholars disagree with him on this, that, or the other thing. But the way he builds his arguments typically makes it appear that he is writing as a scholar among scholars, and that all of these scholars (with him in the mix) have disagreements on various issues (disagreements with him, with one another). One is left with the impression that like these other scholars, Doherty is building a tenable case that some points of which would be granted by some scholars but not others, and that the entire overall thesis, therefore, would also be acceptable to at least some of the scholars he engages with.

But this is a criticism that could similarly be leveled at Ehrman’s own works, especially “Misquoting Jesus.” Now, granted, it’s probably not the case that Ehrman’s work falls prey to this: “The reality, however, is that every single scholar of early Christianity that Doherty appeals to fundamentally disagrees with his major thesis (Jesus did not exist).” So, he’s not fully in the same boat with Doherty, and it is only fair to point that out. He didn’t quote exclusively from scholars who reject his major thesis.

I say that the Ehrman-Carrier fight is over. I stand by that. That doesn’t mean that Carrier or his crew know that. As Ehrman predicts, they may continue to launch web based attacks. Truly, though, the battle is over. The knock-out kick has been delivered, and any ref would be pulling Ehrman off of Carrier in mercy.


Rhology Islamic Dialog / Debate

April 26, 2012

My friend Rhology engaged in a three part dialog with an imam, which is recorded. Interestingly, the imam suggested that Islam does not permit “debate,” as such (mentioned near the beginning of the first part). I thought Rhology did a good job of highlighting some of the important issues. It was relatively low key and calm.

Part 1/3 –
Part 2/3 – (if you have a Mac: )
Part 3/3 –


Response to Bryan Cross on Penal Substitution

April 25, 2012

Bryan Cross has provided a significant number of posts in a comment box at the GreenBaggins blog, suggesting that somehow the doctrine of penal substitution is inconsistent with orthodox Trinitarian theology and/or orthodox Christology.

Bryan’s argument was provided a variety of different ways with many different tangents, but Bryan’s premises can be reduced to this:

1. Penal substitution requires Christ being punished by God.
2. Punishment requires a loss of communion between God and Jesus.
3. A loss of communion between God and Jesus means either that Jesus is two persons (one person who is God and one person who is man), that Jesus is not God, or that there are more gods than one. (Respectively, those positions would be identified as Nestorianism, Arianism, or Polytheism.)

Penal substitution requires Christ being punished by God.

We don’t object to Bryan’s first premise. Isaiah 53 teaches this. That chapter states:

Isaiah 53:3-12

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Christ was treated as though he was a sinner (“numbered with the transgressors”) and specifically received this treatment from God (“it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief”) and particularly as a result of attributing our sins to him (“the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”).

So, we agree with Bryan’s first premise, namely that penal substitution requires Christ being punished by God. Moreover, we affirm that Scripture teaches this, something that Bryan (in this argument) does not dispute. One supposes that Bryan would dispute this point, but at least in the context of this argument he has not presented any exegetical reasons for doing so.

Instead, Bryan has attempted to argue that the conclusion conflicts with orthodox Christology and/or orthodox Trinitarian theology.  He argues this by first asserting:

Punishment requires a loss of communion between God and Jesus?

Bryan’s second premise is ambiguous.  The term “loss of communion” can refer to a variety of different things.  Bryan was asked a number of times to clarify what he meant by “communion” a number of times, but he declined to provide any clarification.  We could reject Bryan’s second premise on this ground alone.  We don’t need to accept premises that have undefined and ambiguous terms, particularly because such terms can lead to equivocation when it comes time to draw conclusions from them.

Nevertheless, we can answer this premise by distinguishing.

Punishment of Jesus by God does not require a loss of communion in the sense of God and Jesus being actually at odds.  Jesus underwent the punishment of humiliation, including suffering and death, willingly.  It is written: “Saying, ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.'” (Luke 22:42) And again: “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7:27)  Had Christ been an unwilling victim, we might have said that the will of Christ and the will of God were at odds, but Christ submitted himself according to his human will to the will of God.

Thus, at a minimum, this premise is not true in every sense of the term “communion.”

Bryan argued that punishment involves loss of communion in some sense, and that it is this loss of communion that primarily distinguishes punishment from discipline.  Bryan is wrong.  The primary distinction between punishment and discipline is the intent of the one inflicting the punishment or discipline.

In the case of punishment, the primary intent is to restore justice.  In the case of discipline, the primary intent is to improve the disciplined person.  It is worth noting that substitutionary punishment makes sense, while substitionary discipline largely does not.  One is reminded of the prince’s “whipping boy” in The Prince and the Pauper.  While justice may be served by a man being flogged for a crime committed that merits flogging, in general the ill-behaving does not learn his lesson by another being flogged.

It is true that in the usual case, without substitution, there is typically an accompanying attitude of fundamental displeasure with the person being punished and an accompanying attitude of fundamental pleasure with the person being disciplined.  Thus, a father beats a son whom he loves, although of course the father does not love the son’s behavior that led to the need for the beating.  If you are a modernist who thinks that beating children is immoral, read the Bible – but for the sake of this illustration just substitute “time out” for beating.

Hebrews 12:5-11

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Moreover, one can take the case of restitution as an example of retributive justice.  Justice can be served by the victim of theft receiving treble restitution for his losses, but that justice is served regardless of the source of the funds.  If those funds come from the criminal, they may have a disciplinary effect on the criminal, but even if they come from a substitute, they still make the injured person whole again.

Nevertheless, there is a sense in which communion, in the sense of felt favor of God, may have been lost.  While we need not be dogmatic about it, it is possible for Christ, on the cross, to have lost a sense or awareness of the presence and favor of God.  Christ was unaware, according to his humanity, of the day and the hour of the second coming.  Likewise, it was possible for him to be unaware, according to his humanity, of the pleasure and favor of God toward him for a time on the cross.

Such an absence of awareness of God’s presence and favor is one of the penalties that produce suffering for those in hell.  Christ could undergo that same punishment in terms of suffering without actually losing God’s presence or favor.   Therefore, if this falls within the ambit of “communion” in the sense that Bryan means, Christ may have undergone it on the cross.

Loss of Communion with God Implies Some Heresy or Other?

Bryan’s third premise depends heavily on the sense in which he means “communion,” a sense he’s seemingly unwilling to disclose.  If Bryan is suggesting that punishment requires God the Father to stop loving the Son in every sense, then we simply disagree with Bryan’s assertion.  Suggesting that God the Father stopped loving the Son in every sense is clearly wrong.

Likewise, it is wrong to state that the Trinity was somehow severed by the cross.  The intra-trinitarian communion was not damaged by the cross.  Indeed, Christ was unified in will with the Father and the Spirit in the purpose of the crucifixion.  If Christ and the Father were actually at odds, this would imply a serious error.

Furthermore, it is wrong to state that one person (Christ the God) was actually at odds with another person (Christ the Man).  Christ is one person in two distinct natures.  That means that Christ has two wills, but as one person Christ is unable to “commune” with himself, much less “lose” or “break” communion with himself.

On the other hand, Christ merely ceasing to be aware of God’s presence or favor for a time on the cross according to his humanity does not imply any sort of heresy.  So, much hinges on what Bryan means by “communion.”  Therefore, we cannot grant his third premise outright, just as we cannot grant his second premise outright.  Instead, we need to distinguish in each case.

– TurretinFan

Update: In the comment box, Bryan Cross denies that he holds to the second premise.  I’ve provided some documentation that seems to suggest he once advocated that premise.  Nevertheless, he recently continued the argument in the comment box by alleging that the essence of hell punishment in particular is loss of communion with God.   Even with this modification, the response above largely maintains.  A few parts may not be relevant, but the rest is.

Why Men Shouldn’t Be Ordained?

April 25, 2012

I understand the purpose of the top-ten list at this link, identifying supposed reasons that no men should be ordained.  That is, the purpose is to take some of the arguments against women’s ordination and try to turn them on their head.  Ultimately, the list ends up refocusing us on the real issue why men are to be ordained and women are not: Scripture teaches it.

So, while I doubt the post at “Christian Feminism” (think “Hindu Cannibalism” or “Muslim Alcoholism”) was intended for the purpose of recentering the debate on women’s ordination, it does serve that purpose.

While a lot of the mocked statements may be real reasons why it is imprudent for women to serve as elders, they are not ultimately the real reason: the real reason is that God has decided.


Benedict XVI and the Word of God

April 20, 2012

On April 20, 2012, Vatican Information Services reported a message from Benedict XVI to Cardinal Levada (the head of the CDF). Among the points found in the message were the following (as reported by VIS):

“Thanks to the charisma of inspiration”, the Benedict XVI goes on, “the books of Sacred Scripture have a direct and tangible appeal. Yet the Word of God is not confined to writing, for although the Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, the revealed Word has continued to be announced and interpreted by the living Tradition of the Church. Thus the Word of God, fixed in the holy texts, is not an inert matter at the heart of the Church but the supreme rule of her faith and her life force. The Tradition she draws from the Apostles advances with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and grows through reflection and study on the part of believers, through the individual experience of spiritual life and the preaching of bishops”.

Hence the need for deeper study on the theme of inspiration and truth in the Bible, because it is “fundamental for the life and mission of the Church that Sacred Scripture be interpreted according to its nature; and inspiration and truth are constituent characteristics of that nature”.

First, note the denial that the Word of God has been confined to writing while acknowledging that Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. Hopefully you’ve seen this Roman claim elsewhere. But where else is the Word of God to be found?

Benedict XVI refers to the “Tradition she draws from the Apostles,” but the only tradition that is traceable to the apostles is Scripture. There is not a body of extra-scriptural tradition that can be reliably alleged to be apostolic. I do not mean to suggest that only us Christians lack that tradition. Even within the Vatican there is no access to earlier tradition. The Vatican Secret Archives don’t contain notes from the Apostle Paul that are not in Scripture. The cardinals don’t get together every year and hand on oral tradition from mouth to ear to the next generation of cardinals. In general, they have what we have.

Benedict XVI went on to claim that the apostolic tradition, “advances with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and grows through reflection and study on the part of believers, through the individual experience of spiritual life and the preaching of bishops.” This is clearly wrong. What the Holy Spirit does is to preserve Revelation and to open the eyes of men to it. The Revelation is itself a fixed quantum. It does not grow, even if believers’ understanding of it grows. The Holy Spirit has given believers great understanding over the ages, but that understanding is not itself Revelation, or a growth or advancement of the Revelation.

It is interesting to see Benedict XVI claim that “the Word of God, fixed in the holy texts, is not an inert matter at the heart of the Church but the supreme rule of her faith and her life force.” That is true of Christians, where “the Word of God” refers to the Scriptures. It’s not really true that the Word of God is the supreme rule of faith for those in the Roman communion, however.

For those in the Roman communion, the magisterium’s dogmatic proclamations are the supreme rule of faith. If one finds any discrepancy between the dogmatic proclamations of Rome and the Scriptures, one is to simply accept what Rome has dogmatically proclaimed. But Rome’s dogmatic proclamations are not the Word of God. Therefore, it follows that Rome’s supreme rule of faith is not the Word of God, but the word of the magisterium.

Benedict XVI goes on to say that it is “fundamental for the life and mission of the Church that Sacred Scripture be interpreted according to its nature … .” But isn’t it remarkable that Rome has found so few occasions for exercising its alleged gift of infallible interpretation of Scripture. How many verses have been infallibly interpreted? People have attempted to make lists, but the lists all tend to show the same result: not many. No whole chapters, and obviously no whole books.

Moreover, the few verses that have been interpreted in connection with allegedly infallible papal decrees have been wrongly interpreted (Genesis 3:15 is the most obvious example), so that defenders of papal infallibility have been forced to qualify the alleged gift to simply limit it to the definition of dogma itself, without regard to the interpretation on which it was actually founded.


Steve Hays vs. Peter Sean Bradley on Oral Tradition

April 19, 2012

My good friend Steve Hays has posted an interesting item in response to Peter Sean Bradley. The post emphasizes the interesting point that John records the fact that one of Jesus’ sayings was either misreported or misinterpreted in the apostolic era among Jesus’ own disciples.

The specific passage is

John 21:22-23
Jesus saith unto him, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, “He shall not die;” but, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”

This underscores the vital importance of inspired Scripture. John’s gospel has a credibility, because it is inspired Scripture, that we cannot give even to reports of people who were contemporaneous with Jesus and among the brethren. We see in this instance in John that even at this early period oral tradition was failing to provide reliable tradition.

That should be something of a problem for those who try to suggest that doctrine should be arranged like a stool sitting on the three legs of Scripture, Oral Tradition, and the Magisterium. The legs are not equal. Indeed, neither the magisterium nor oral tradition is reliable. Sitting on the stool proposed by Rome would be the calamity of anyone who sat on it, for two of the legs would break, and because the seat is not squarely centered on the leg of Scripture, the occupant of the seat would be unceremoniously deposited on the floor. Better to have a stool with a single leg, but which is inspired by God and able to thoroughly furnish the man of God. Better to rely only on the Word of God than to rely on the teachings and traditions of men.


Minority of IUers Make the Rest Look Bad

April 18, 2012

It’s interesting watching hopelessly clueless college student “activists” trying to bully Doug Wilson at IU.

He does a great job of responding to them. *** Warning, Atheist Speech in the Video ***


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