Archive for June, 2012

Doug Wilson Discussing Sexuality

June 30, 2012

Canon Wired has a set of videos including lectures delivered by Doug Wilson on a university campus. There are some minor points I would probably disagree with Wilson on, but it was nice to see that he gave a clear, evangelistic message as part of the presentation.

I thought I had previously posted a clip that showed one of the disruptions that took place during this presentation, though perhaps I did I not. Wilson does a good job of keeping fairly calm throughout the heckling and “protesting.”

I found it interesting to listen to the 2 hr. Q&A session first, and then go back and listen to the lectures (about 1 hr. 15 min. combined). It helped to highlight points where what the students heard was not necessarily what was said. It was also interesting to see how some of the people from the Q&A behaved during the lecture.


The Father’s Testimony to Jesus – and did Jesus say, "I am God"

June 29, 2012

Sometimes when talking with Muslims, you may hear the line, “Jesus never said he was God” or “Jesus never said, ‘I am God, worship me.'” There are a lot of valid responses to this comment. Among these is the response: “He didn’t have to!”

I. The Father’s Testimony to the Son

The Father testified to the son, calling him “My beloved son” on at least two occasions (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35; and 2 Peter 1:17), namely at his baptism and at his transfiguration.

It is enough for us that the Father called Jesus his Son. That tells us who Jesus is. That’s why Mark’s gospel begins: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God” (Mark 1:1).

II. Jesus Calls himself “First and Last” and “Almighty”

But did Jesus claim to be God? Jesus called himself the First and the Last, a title that belongs only to God, as it is recorded in Revelation:

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:17-18).

We can see from Isaiah that this term is a term that refers specifically to YHWH, Jehovah, the Lord:

Isaiah 41:4 “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.”

Isaiah 48:12 “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.”

Likewise, Jesus calls himself “the Almighty” which is one of God’s titles:

Revelation 1:8 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

The number of times this title is used of God are too numerous to mention, particularly in the book of Job, but beginning at least as early as the time of Abram:

Genesis 17:1
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.


Perhaps a good conclusion would be the words of Jesus in John 8:

John 8:54

Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

There are reasons that Jesus did not constantly announce his divinity, both because he came in humility and because when he did announce his divinity (by calling God his Father, by calling himself “I am” (“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Exodus 3:14), and by saying that he was older than Abraham.

Moreover, there is an additional testimony to Jesus’ divinity here. When the Jews picked up stones to stone him, Jesus hid himself and passed through their midst. Would God allow a blasphemer to escape judgment in this miraculous way? But if Jesus was not a blasphemer as the Jews accused him of being, then he was who he said he was: “I AM” who was before Abraham, the Son of God.

Thus we testify that Jesus is the Son of God. It is plainly stated numerous times in the gospels. The Father’s testimony to the Son is enough for us, because the Father is God. Moreover, Jesus himself did claim divinity: he did so in a variety of ways, both during his time on earth and in his Revelation to John.

May the one Lord receive us to himself according to his mercy and his great love,


Steve Ray’s "Convert" Promotion

June 27, 2012

Steve Ray recently promoted the supposed conversion story of atheist Leah Libresco. I wonder if he’s aware of her own self-description:

I’m bisexual. Other queer people’s experience of their orientation varies, but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m bisexual because gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates. That means I’m already out of step with the Catholic Church before you even get up to gay marriage or any issue like that, because the Church thinks gender is much more central to someone’s identity than I do.

I imagine I’ll do a lot more reading and pick a lot more fights over the next few years. I’m willing to not date women in the meantime, but I wouldn’t necessarily universalize that choice. …

As to the larger political question: civil marriage is different than sacramental marriage. If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews). I still support civil gay marriage.



Five Solas Bacon

June 23, 2012

Five Solas Bacon | the delicious second course | to TULIP bacon
By grace alone saved | All that justifies is faith | Canon suffices
Only Christ’s Merit | None but God glory receives | (five tasty solas)

Long version:

By grace alone saved | not by merits of our own | only by mercy

A sinner made just | justified by faith in Christ | justice imputed

Canon suffices | clearly shows what is needed | Word of God alone

Only Christ’s merit | not from our fellow sinners | one sole redeemer

None glory but God | All glory to our one Rock | Our foundation stone


Supplement Response to Chris Date on Result Nouns

June 20, 2012

This post is heavily reliant (to the point that it would be plagiarism if I did not give full credit) on Adam Blauser’s comment in the previous post. 

First, he provided an article that states:

Deverbal nouns that allow a result interpretation often allow an event interpretation too.
In order to separate the different meanings of a deverbal noun, one usually employs distributional
tests. If we assume result objects to be concrete entities then result object nouns
should be usable in complement positions of verbs which require concrete objects:

(1) a. Die F¨alschung wurde der Polzei ¨ubergeben.
‘The forgery was handed over to the police.’

b. Er ber¨uhrte versehentlich seine Verletzung.
‘He inadvertently touched his injury.’

c. Er verbarg seine neuste Erfindung im Keller.
‘He hid his newest invention in the basement.’

d. Die Beurteilung wurde ihm gestern zugesandt.
‘The assessment was sent to him yesterday.’

He points out that words like “injury” and “forgery” are deverbal result nouns, yet one can easily think of contexts in which the focus is not on the result, but upon the action. Consider:

His back was injured during the first quarter of last night’s game. During the injury, he also hurt his left forearm.


He could have honestly worked for the money necessary to buy a house in the time the forgery took.

Notice how, in each of those instances, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to say that the only or primarily result is in view. While one might think that we are talking about the results of the act of injuring occurring, it is much more rational to assume that we are talking about when the act of injuring itself took place, especially since it is connected temporally with another event, namely, the “hurting” of his forearm. The same thing can be said of the second example. “The forgery” clearly refers to the making of the false document, with no focus on the result, especially when it is coupled with a parallel reference to a process verb (“worked”) and a reference to time.

His point (he used different but similar illustrations) that, even if Date were correct that “punishment” were a deverbal result noun, he would have to argue that the context favors a result interpretation, not an event/process/manner interpretation.

He goes on to state:

However, it gets even worse when he deals with the Greek and the Hebrew. From a historical linguistics perspective, the Greek term κολασις has the ending -σις, which is typical of words that are nominalized forms of actions. Consider the following:

ερημοω-to lay waste [to a city] ερημωσις-destruction, depopulation

κρινω-to judge κρισις-judgment

ζητεω-I seek ζητησις-investigation

ελευσομαι-I will come ελευσις-coming

πιπτω-I fall πτωσις-a fall

As can be readily seen, the meaning “the action itself as a noun” is typical of Greek nouns formed by adding the ending in -σις to the root. However, this is why historical linguistics can never settle these issues. The reason is that some of these nouns would go on to develop resultant meanings, for example, ποιησις comes from the Greek verb ποιεω which means “to do.” While ποιησις *can* mean “the act of doing something” [James 1:25], most of the time, it means the result of doing something, namely, “a work.”

However, in Matthew 25:46, the “result” meaning very clearly cannot be sustained, as it is put in parallel with “eternal life.” Living is something that will be done eternally, and thus, why would anyone think that punishment is something that will not be done for all of eternity? Even though this is my final point, I think it is what I would want to emphasize. Meaning in language cannot be taken from historical linguistics or semantic categories. Semantic classification is, itself, subject to change by multiple factors, including context, background assumptions, etc. Thus, when we discuss the deverbal character of nouns, how they morphologically came into existence, or their meaning, we cannot simply give universal labels, but must consider how this particular term is understood in the light of the communal and authorial context of our target text. If we don’t do that, we can fall badly into the fallacy of defining words by roots, and thus, a person who is feeling “awful” is “full of awe!”

I want to underscore what I see as his most crucial point. Words can have a range of meanings, known as the “semantic range” of the word. When there is a question about which meaning of the range of meanings applies, the very best clue to that meaning is the immediate context.

Recall that, above, “injury” and “forgery” are deverbal result nouns (generally speaking), yet clues from the sentence allowed us to recognize that they were being used in a “event” or “manner” sense. Likewise, when “eternal punishment” is placed in parallel with “eternal life,” we are given an unmistakable clue that the “event” or “manner” sense is intended.

Thus, while my previous post sinks Mr. Date’s argument, even if Mr. Date were correct about punishment being (generally speaking) a result noun, Mr. Date’s argument is still sunk.


Tobit – One Reason to Reject its Alleged Canonicity

June 18, 2012

The book of Tobit is told from a first person perspective by a man called “Tobit.” The book begins: “The book of the words of Tobit, son of Tobiel, the son of Ananiel, the son of Aduel, the son of Gabael, of the seed of Asael, of the tribe of Nephthali …” (Tobit 1:1). One reason to reject the canonicity of the book of Tobit is that Tobit seems to have a very foreshortened view of Israel’s history, even when it comes to his own autobiography.

“Tobit” continues the self-description above with this: “Who in the time of Enemessar king of the Assyrians was led captive out of Thisbe, which is at the right hand of that city, which is called properly Nephthali in Galilee above Aser.” (Tobit 1:2)

The very first issue is trying to identify this supposed king of the Assyrians. The Assyrians don’t have one by exactly this name, but the best guess we have about who the author of Tobit was trying to identify is this event:

2 Kings 17:1-12

1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years. 2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him. 3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. 4 And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison.

5 Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

7 For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, 8 And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. 10 And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: 11 And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger: 12 For they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.

The twelfth year of Ahaz corresponds to about 728 B.C.

On the other hand, the Scriptures tell us that people of Naphtali were carried off by Tiglathpileser:

2 Kings 15:29

In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.

(approximately 758–737 BC)

Notice that the captivity mentioned there includes Galilee, which is the region that Tobit claims to have haled from.

Even if we somehow blend out these seeming inconsistencies, we are left with a man who was around in the 8th century B.C.

Moreover, Tobit claims that it was in his youth that Naphtali fell out with all the tribes from worshiping God in Jerusalem.

Tobit 1:4-5

4 And when I was in mine own country, in the land of Israel being but young, all the tribe of Nephthali my father fell from the house of Jerusalem, which was chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, that all the tribes should sacrifice there, where the temple of the habitation of the most High was consecrated and built for all ages. 5 Now all the tribes which together revolted, and the house of my father Nephthali, sacrificed unto the heifer Baal.

There are a couple of problems with this. Primarily, the problem is that this is an event that took place in the time of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. That date is roughly 961 B.C. Secondarily, the problem is that although the people of Naphtali sacrificed to the calf and to Baal, those are really two different things (as can be seen in 2 Kings 17, above).

As you can see, this would imply that Tobit was about 200 years old.

But Tobit tells us his total age.

Tobit 14:1-11

1 So Tobit made an end of praising God. 2 And he was eight and fifty years old when he lost his sight, which was restored to him after eight years: and he gave alms, and he increased in the fear of the Lord God, and praised him. 3 And when he was very aged he called his son, and the sons of his son, and said to him, My son, take thy children; for, behold, I am aged, and am ready to depart out of this life. 4 Go into Media my son, for I surely believe those things which Jonas the prophet spake of Nineve, that it shall be overthrown; and that for a time peace shall rather be in Media; and that our brethren shall lie scattered in the earth from that good land: and Jerusalem shall be desolate, and the house of God in it shall be burned, and shall be desolate for a time; 5 And that again God will have mercy on them, and bring them again into the land, where they shall build a temple, but not like to the first, until the time of that age be fulfilled; and afterward they shall return from all places of their captivity, and build up Jerusalem gloriously, and the house of God shall be built in it for ever with a glorious building, as the prophets have spoken thereof. 6 And all nations shall turn, and fear the Lord God truly, and shall bury their idols. 7 So shall all nations praise the Lord, and his people shall confess God, and the Lord shall exalt his people; and all those which love the Lord God in truth and justice shall rejoice, shewing mercy to our brethren. 8 And now, my son, depart out of Nineve, because that those things which the prophet Jonas spake shall surely come to pass. 9 But keep thou the law and the commandments, and shew thyself merciful and just, that it may go well with thee. 10 And bury me decently, and thy mother with me; but tarry no longer at Nineve. Remember, my son, how Aman handled Achiacharus that brought him up, how out of light he brought him into darkness, and how he rewarded him again: yet Achiacharus was saved, but the other had his reward: for he went down into darkness. Manasses gave alms, and escaped the snares of death which they had set for him: but Aman fell into the snare, and perished. 11 Wherefore now, my son, consider what alms doeth, and how righteousness doth deliver. When he had said these things, he gave up the ghost in the bed, being an hundred and eight and fifty years old; and he buried him honourably.

So, Tobit was 158 when he died. Moreover, Tobit was only 85 when he went blind. But Tobit went blind after the captivity. Tobit 2 explains, Tobit 2:1-10:

1 Now when I was come home again, and my wife Anna was restored unto me, with my son Tobias, in the feast of Pentecost, which is the holy feast of the seven weeks, there was a good dinner prepared me, in the which I sat down to eat. 2 And when I saw abundance of meat, I said to my son, Go and bring what poor man soever thou shalt find out of our brethren, who is mindful of the Lord; and, lo, I tarry for thee. 3 But he came again, and said, Father, one of our nation is strangled, and is cast out in the marketplace. 4 Then before I had tasted of any meat, I started up, and took him up into a room until the going down of the sun. 5 Then I returned, and washed myself, and ate my meat in heaviness, 6 Remembering that prophecy of Amos, as he said, Your feasts shall be turned into mourning, and all your mirth into lamentation. 7 Therefore I wept: and after the going down of the sun I went and made a grave, and buried him. 8 But my neighbours mocked me, and said, This man is not yet afraid to be put to death for this matter: who fled away; and yet, lo, he burieth the dead again. 9 The same night also I returned from the burial, and slept by the wall of my courtyard, being polluted and my face was uncovered: 10 And I knew not that there were sparrows in the wall, and mine eyes being open, the sparrows muted warm dung into mine eyes, and a whiteness came in mine eyes: and I went to the physicians, but they helped me not: moreover Achiacharus did nourish me, until I went into Elymais.

Note as well that he refers in this passage to remembering the prophecy of Amos, but Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel:

Amos 1:1 1 The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

This is in a window from about 808-770 B.C. So, this window begins more than 100 years after division of the kingdoms, making it impossible for a man who was 85 to have been around at the time of the division of the kingdoms.

There are more issues with Tobit’s history than this (for example, Senacharib seems to be inaccurately described), but this is one glaring issue.


Punishment is a Deverbal Manner Verb – Response to Chris Date

June 18, 2012

In his constructive speech (in a recent debate with Joshua Whipps), Mr. Date alleged that noun “punishment” is a “deverbal result noun.” He stated:

Linguists call this a deverbal result noun: a noun referring to the results of its corresponding verb.

He cites no authority for this contention. The noun “punishment” is a deverbal noun, but it is not a deverbal result noun (as previously discussed in the comments box here).

Roget’s Thesaurus provides the following entry for “punishment”:

Definition: penalty
Synonyms: abuse, amercement, beating, castigation, chastening, chastisement, comeuppance, confiscation, correction, deprivation, disciplinary action, discipline, forfeit, forfeiture, gallows, hard work, infliction, just desserts, lumps, maltreatment, mortification, mulct, ostracism, pain, penance, proof, punitive measures, purgatory, reparation, retribution, rod, rough treatment, sanction, sequestration, short shrift, slave labor, suffering, torture, trial, unhappiness, victimization, what for
Antonyms: encouragement, exoneration, praise, protection, reward

(Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third)

As you can see, most of the descriptions of “punishment” are of processes, not of results. The punishment may be the beating, whereas the hoped-for result is correction of behavior.

Thus, for example, “eternal punishment” would be similar to “eternal abuse,” “eternal amercement,” “eternal beating,” “eternal castigation,” etc. When each of those words is modified by “eternal,” what is referred to is the duration of the process, not the duration of the effect. An “eternal beating,” is a beating that does not have an end, in contrast to something like an “eternal scar” which would be a scar that would last forever.

So, “punishment,” like “walk,” is a manner noun, not a “result” noun. Mr. Date quotes from Augustine who says that people wouldn’t consider capital punishment as measured primarily by its duration. This is true, but it misses the point. Capital punishment is severe regardless of its duration, because of the kind of punishment it is. But “eternal punishment” is specifically a comment on the duration of the punishment.

The lexical analysis is a little complex (see here and here), but it should be intuitive, particularly when you see the synonyms above.

Punishment describes a manner of treatment, not the result of that treatment. Thus, “punish” is more like “walk” (a manner verb) than “go” (a result verb) – it’s more like “wash” (a manner verb) than “clean” (a result verb). It tells you more about the process than about the outcome. But “punish” and “punishment” are about the process.

Therefore, Mr. Date is all wet in his linguistic claim. Linguists may refer to a category of “deverbal result nouns,” but Mr. Date has not identified any that treat the noun, “punishment,” that way.


P.S. Incidentally, while Mr. Whipps and I advocated for the same side in our respective debates against “conditionalism” (aka annihilationism), our presentations are quite different.

John the Baptist’s Bones?

June 16, 2012

A recent press report indicates that some human bones have been dated to the 1st century.  The bones were found in a bone box.   Oddly, the bone box also contained some animal bones, and these bones were about 400 years older than the human bones.  Who knows whose bones these are.

The article reports:

The human bones in the box included a knucklebone, a tooth, part of a cranium, a rib and an ulna, or arm bone. The researchers could only date the knucklebone, because radiocarbon dating relies on organic material, and only that bone had enough collagen for a good analysis. The researchers were able to reconstruct DNA sequences from three of the bones, however, showing them to be from the same person, likely a Middle Eastern man.

Thus, this is quite unlikely to be the bones of John the Baptist.

Mark 6:17-29

For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, “Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.” And he sware unto her, “Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.”

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, “What shall I ask?”

And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, “I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.”

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.

There are two important things to note here. First, his head was separated from the body. The head was given to Herodias, and the corpse was taken by John’s disciples. Second, notice that John’s disciples buried his body. They did not maintain his body as a relic, but placed it in a tomb.

Thus, while it’s not impossible that someone collected his head from Herodias, and then dug up his remains to keep them as relics, it seems unlikely.

The article goes on to point out the abundance of forged relics. A particularly amusing note comes from a relic of a different kind:

Even Joan of Arc has been the subject of forgery. A 2007 study found that alleged pieces of her body kept in a French church actually belonged to an Egyptian mummy.

It’s possible that this relic has a similar origin.


Bede – the Ark of the Covenant, a Type of Christ and the Church

June 15, 2012

As mentioned in a previous post, contrary to at least one later Pope, Bede (A.D. 672-735) identifies the Ark of the Covenant with the human nature of Jesus.  The cited place I provided is not the only such place where Bede makes this identification:

And the priest who touched the ark of God with ill-advised rashness was to make expiation for the guilt of his audacity with an untimely death — which should cause us to consider that while any offender who approaches the body of the Lord is guilty of transgression, if that person has undertaken vows as a priest he will be punished with death for taken hold of that ark (namely, the figure of the Lord’s body) with less reverence than it deserves.

Bede, On Eight Questions, Question 8, p. 160 in “Bede: Biblical Miscellany,” Foley and Holder trs.

Bede then goes on to explain:

But according to the allegory, David signifies Christ and the ark significance the Church.

Bede, On Eight Questions, Question 8, p. 160 in “Bede: Biblical Miscellany,” Foley and Holder trs.

Bede goes on to give a lengthy allegorical discussion of the passage regarding retrieval of the Ark, in which he consistently refers the ark to the church.  For example he states the following:

Bede then goes on to explain:

Now the three months during which the ark tarried in [Gath] are faith, hope, and charity. For just as a month is filled with days, so does each one of the virtues come to its perfection step by step. These months do not end until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.

At last, David returns to bring the ark into the city of David, because the Lord will turn the hearts of the parents to the children through the preaching of Enoch and Elijah.

Bede, On Eight Questions, Question 8, p. 163 in “Bede: Biblical Miscellany,” Foley and Holder trs.


Does Rome Teach a False Gospel, Let me count the ways! (1 of ?)

June 13, 2012

I was recently asked to consider debating the topic, “That the Roman Catholic Church teaches a false gospel”. I do think that Rome teaches a false gospel, but I don’t think that for just one reason.  There are numerous grounds upon which we can conclude that Rome’s gospel is a false gospel.

In 1301, Boniface VIII wrote Unam Sanctam in which he not only declared that there is no salvation outside the church, comparing the church to Noah’s ark, but made the famous statement: “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus dicimus, definimus et pronunciamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis. (full text)) The context of the statement is the subjection of the temporal power of earthly kings to the supreme authority of the pope, as well as the necessity of the “Greeks” (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox) to treat the Bishop of Rome as the supreme earthly spiritual authority.

This statement illustrates one way in which Rome’s gospel is not the apostolic gospel. The apostles never taught what Boniface VIII defines here. This is not an article of faith that was taught either explicitly or implicitly by the apostles, and consequently – even on Aquinas’ definition of papal power – it was not within the pope’s power to define this article of faith (“And since the Church is founded on faith and the sacraments, the ministers of the Church have no power to publish new articles of faith, or to do away with those which are already published, or to institute new sacraments, or to abolish those that are instituted, for this belongs to the power of excellence, which belongs to Christ alone, Who is the foundation of the Church. “) (source and additional discussion)  It is not an article of faith taught by Scripture or one to be found among the teachings of the early church. Unam Sanctam quotes Scripture, to be sure, but it does so inappropriately.

For example, Boniface VIII states:

Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: ‘Feed my sheep’ [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John ‘there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.’

The use of “feed my sheep” without specifying which sheep does not imply that Peter was to feed every sheep.  As Paul writes to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:8
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

So we see from Scripture that Paul fed the Gentiles, while Peter ministered to the Jews. 

Likewise, it is true that there is one shepherd, but that shepherd is not Peter, or his successors, but Christ himself.  As it is written:

Psalm 23:1
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 80:1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Hebrews 13:20
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Peter himself testifies:

1 Peter 2:25
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

1 Peter 5:4
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

And, of course, Jesus himself in the context explains who the one shepherd is:

John 10:11
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:14
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

So, Boniface VIII is right that the church is not a two-headed monster, but the one head is Christ, not Boniface VIII. Peter was not the head of the church, and there is no unique successor of Peter – rather many have succeeded Peter in feeding Christ’s sheep.

Indeed, Boniface VIII himself confessed earlier in the same short work:

We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles [Sgs 6:8] proclaims: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,’ and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Eph 4:5].

This ought to have informed Boniface VIII that Christ alone is the head, and he is not. But notice the strange apparent suggestion that there is one lord “in her”. The “one Lord” that Paul is referring to in Ephesians 4:5 is Christ, not a lord in the church. As it is written:

1 Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

So, the apostolic faith is that the one Lord of the church is not “in her” but over her. But if someone will insist that Boniface VIII here meant to refer to Christ, not himself, all the worse for Boniface VIII’s later statements!

Boniface also attempts an allegorical exegesis:

There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.

But the captain of our salvation is not the bishop of Rome, but Christ himself:

Hebrews 2:10
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

And it is the Spirit of truth that guides us into all truth:

John 16:13
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Moreover, Noah was not the pilot or guide of the ark, for we are told that it was an ark. It is nowhere described as having rudder or helm nor yet a keel. Thus, God alone was the guide and pilot of Noah’s ark.

Thus, it is written:

Genesis 7:18
And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 8:4
And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

But Noah remained contained within the ark, so that he could not see to steer, if he had wished to:

Genesis 8:6
And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

Genesis 8:13
And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

We can easily add one final example of Boniface VIII’s misuse of Scriptures in this document:

Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man’ [1 Cor 2:15].

Read the context in 1 Corinthians 2:7-16:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

So, here Paul is not describing a singular bishop of Rome, but rather he is referring to himself and the Corinthian believers. It is apparent, therefore, that Boniface VIII has wrenched this phrase about the spiritual man out of its proper context to make it refer uniquely to his office – an office that did not even exist in the time of Paul, as many of Rome’s historians today acknowledge.

I could go on and on, but surely the point has already been made. What Boniface VIII taught as being part of the gospel (“absolutely necessary for salvation”) is a false gospel.


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