Archive for July, 2012

"The" Catholic Position on The Rule of Faith

July 31, 2012

An advocate for the papacy, over in the Greenbaggins comment box wrote:

And, again, whether or not the Papacy is a divine institution – the Burden of Proof is always on him who asserts. In this case, Reformed Christians and Catholic Christians both have something to prove.

The Reformed assertion: Scripture is the Rule of Faith.
The Catholic Assertion: The Church is the Rule of Faith.

I answer:

First, I thought that Mr. Anders had already agreed that Scriptures are “A” rule of faith. If so, then the only question is whether there is another rule of faith in addition. In that case, while the Reformed side may have had something to prove, that time has passed.

After all, if one concedes that the Scriptures are a rule of faith, then one has – in effect – conceded that we have met our burden. The only other assertion required to move from “Scripture is a rule of faith” to “Scripture is THE rule of faith” is the negative proposition “and we don’t have any other rule of faith.”

The burden is on the proponent of that other proposed rule of faith.

Moreover, Mr. Anders specifically asserted: “The Catholic Assertion: The Church is the Rule of Faith.”

Interestingly, Benedict XVI (Yes, I know he’s German like Kung, Rahner, and Luther, but hear me out) is reported as saying:

The word of Scripture is not “an inert deposit within the Church” but the “supreme rule of faith and power of life”. Benedict XVI wrote this in a message to participants in the annual Plenary Session of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, held from Monday, 16, to Friday, 20 April, at the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Marthae.

L’Osservatore Romano, 21 April 2012

So, will our Roman communion friends concede what that German prelate who claims to be the successor of Peter and Paul concedes? Or do will they deny that Scripture is the supreme rule of faith?

I mean one might think that “the Catholic position” is better expressed by the pope who says: “The Church has always considered and continues to consider Sacred Scripture, together with sacred Tradition, “as the supreme rule of her faith” (DV 21) and as such she offers it to the faithful for their daily life.” (19 June 1985, General Audience)

And yes, he’s quoting from Vatican II, but I hear that they are planning on making even SSPX finally assent to those teachings.

So, what will it be? Will our Roman communion friends be on the pope’s (I suppose that should be popes’, as the 1985 audience would be the Polish prelate, not the German one) side? Do they agree that he has conceded that the Scriptures are a rule of faith and has further alleged that “Tradition” is as well?

If so, we’ve met our burden on this point – but Rome’s apologists still have to meet theirs by somehow deomnstrating that their “Tradition” is to be received as the rule of faith.


Response to Jason Stellman

July 25, 2012

Jason Stellman has officially announced his intention to join the Roman communion at the “Called to Communion” blog.

Jason writes:

Part of me has wished for a while now that I was born early enough to have been a fan of The Clash back in the Seventies. The first song I ever heard by them (several years after its release) was their cover of Sonny Curtis’s hit, the chorus of which goes, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Despite being a fairly law-abiding guy, I can relate to being on the losing side of a battle, only mine was not against the law, but against the Church.

I do agree that Jason has lost a battle. Abandoning a church of the Lord for Rome is always a loss. But the war is not over for Jason. He has the opportunity to repent of this error and return to Christ.

Jason continues:

As many of you know, I recently resigned from my pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America (you can read my resignation letter here, as well as some clarifying posts here and here). My stated reasons for stepping down were that I could no longer in good conscience uphold my ordination vow that as a PCA minister I sincerely accept the Westminster Confession and Catechisms as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. More specifically, I no longer see the Reformed doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide as faithfully reflecting what the Bible teaches, which is why I will, Lord willing, be received into full communion with the Catholic Church sometime in the next several months.

a) Stellman’s ordination vows (assuming his were typical) also included a vow of subjection to his brethren in the Lord. It is unclear whether Stellman intends to fulfill this vow by submitting to the discipline of his presbytery, or not. While it is commendable that he eventually fulfilled his vow to alert presbytery to his changed views, such obedience is only partial fulfillment of his vows.

b) It is interesting that Jason seems to premise his change of position on his private judgment regarding what Scripture teaches. However, if Jason actually joins the Roman communion, he will be required to give up his private judgment of Scripture.

c) It’s an obvious non sequitur to deny Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide and consequently say, “Rome!” Even if Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide were wrong (which they certainly aren’t), it wouldn’t follow that Rome is right. Rome is defined by a lot more than just rejection of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. Moreover, there are plenty of religions beside that of Rome that reject those doctrines. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, and many others could be listed.

Jason again:

The purpose of this piece is not to unpack those claims in detail (there will be plenty of time for that in the future), but rather to provide a little more insight into the process that led up to my resignation, as well as to respond briefly to those who have sought to analyze me and the supposed internal psychological factors that must have led to my making such a drastic decision.

I don’t plan to comment on Stellman’s own testimony regarding what psychological factors did or did not contribute to his current move.

Jason once more:

One of the things I found especially curious (slash bemusing, slash maddening) while reading the diagnoses of my volunteer analysts was the fact that my being drawn to, or lured by, Rome was simply assumed, and that the only real question was what, exactly, was it that ultimately did it. Was it some positive aspect of Catholicism that appealed to me, or was it a nagging drawback of Protestantism that finally proved to be the deal-breaker?

Motive, Stellman – that’s what people were curious about.

Jason again:

Now, I realize that I went into a period of radio silence during the weeks following my resignation (one that was not exactly self-imposed, but that has turned out to be a blessing), and that this created something of a vacuum that invited speculation on the part of some. But now that I am no longer “off the grid,” I would like to clear something up once and for all:

There’s not much to comment on here.

Jason once more:

Catholicism never held any allure for me, nor do I find it particularly alluring now.

Who knows what Stellman means by this. Perhaps he means that his conscience reminds him that it is wrong to worship God by images, that is idolatry to worship consecrated bread as though it were God incarnate, that is wrong to offer religious devotion to Mary, angels, and the saints, and that it is wrong and foolish to attempt to communicate with the dead through prayers. I hope that is it, and that he will listen to the voice of his conscience and the testimony of Scripture. But perhaps he means something else – it is certainly strange that he seems to want to join a communion that he does not like.

Jason yet again:

Now to be honest there has always been an attraction of a “Wouldn’t-it-be-nice” or “stained-glass-windows-are-rad” variety, but when it came to an actual positive drawing to Rome or a negative driving away from Geneva, there has never been any such thing. In fact, since much of my theological output has been part of the public domain for so long (especially in the form of my preaching, teaching, and writing), this claim of mine can actually be proven. If anyone cares to go back and listen to or read what I was talking about right up until the day I was confronted with the claims of the Catholic Church as they relate to those of Protestantism, the inquirer will easily discover that I was about as staunchly confessional an Old School Presbyterian as anyone would want to meet. There was not even the slightest hint of discontent with my ecclesiastical identity, not a trace of longing for greater certitude, nor a smidgen of regret that my soteriology didn’t have enough works in it.

Is Stellman saying that he wants greater certitude and a soteriology with more works in it? It seems clear enough that Stellman wants a different ecclesiastical identity.

But Scripture is quite clear that justification is not of works, lest any man should boast – moreover Scripture assures us that it can provide certainty:

Luke Says So

Solomon Says So

Jason once more:

I will raise the pot even more: I wrote a book whose entire purpose was to demonstrate, in the highest and most attractive terms possible, how ironically boastworthy all the supposed disadvantages of amillennial Protestantism are. Messiness? Lack of infallible certitude? The need for faith over sight? Check, check, and check.

Frame has already provided a review of Stellman’s book. Suffice for our present purpose that Stellman’s book does not show depth in the Scriptures, even by Stellman’s own description.

Jason again:

Further still, so far from longing for a type of kinder, gentler Catholicism that I could disguise in Reformed garb, I was the prosecutor in a doctrinal trial against a fellow minister in my presbytery for espousing views that I, and many others, considered dangerously close to being Catholic. No, there was never any desire to place human works anywhere but where the Reformed confessions say they belong: in the category of sanctification and never justification.

But again – where was Stellman’s Biblical criticism of Leithart’s position? I’m not a supporter of Leithart’s views, but the answer to those views is from Scripture.

Jason once more:

In a word, I was as happy and comfortable in my confessional Presbyterian skin as anyone, and the trust I had earned from many well-known and respected Reformed theologians, as well as having graduated with honors from one of the most confessionally staunch and academically rigorous Reformed seminaries in the nation, should be sufficient to dispel any notions that I never really understood Reformed theology in the first place or that I was always a Catholic in Protestant clothing.

I suppose that this event should serve as an exhortation to the seminary to consider grounding its young men better in the study of the Word.

Jason continues:

One of the things that made fighting against the claims of the Catholic Church so frustrating was that there was no single, knock-down-drag-out argument to refute; neither was there an isolated passage of Scripture or silver-bullet issue of theology to deal with. If it had been simply a matter of answering one specific challenge that came from a single direction, the battle would have been much easier to win. But as it happened, there were two distinct issues that were coming under attack (Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide), and the attacks were coming from multiple directions: the biblical, the historical, and, in the case of Sola Scriptura, the philosophical as well.

There may have been multiple attacks coming, directed at multiple doctrines, but Stellman ought to have been prepared to deal with them. After all, the kinds of challenges provided from folks like the “Called to Communion” crowd with whom Stellman was communicating are relatively easily answered.

Jason again:

In the case of Sola Scriptura, I, as a self-described Reformed non-evangelical, considered the distinction between Solo- and Sola Scriptura as absolutely essential to my own spiritual identity. It was the evangelicals who were the heirs of Anabaptism, not the Reformed; it was the evangelicals who espoused “no creed but Christ,” not the Reformed; it was the evangelicals who interpreted the Bible in isolation from history and tradition, not the Reformed. Therefore as one can imagine, when I was confronted with Catholic claims that called this crucial distinction into question, it was a sucker-punch of epic proportions. Needless to say, my confessional brethren and I did not appreciate our ancestral city of Geneva being confused with Saddleback.

Actually, the claims were handily addressed. It’s true that, in some respects, the two views are similar – and neither is Rome’s view. Nevertheless, there are important distinctions between the two views. (see the responses starting at item 4 in this index post)

Jason once more:

But the more I read and wrestled, the more I began to see that Geneva was not being “confused with” Saddleback at all; the two were just different sides of the same coin (or to be more precise with the metaphor, they were sister-cities in the same Protestant county). Readers of this site have no need for the arguments to be rehearsed here, so suffice it to say that, philosophically speaking, it became clear to me that Sola Scriptura could not provide a way to speak meaningfully about the necessary distinction between orthodoxy and heresy (or even between essentials and non-essentials); neither could it justify the 27-book New Testament canon, create the unity that that canon demands, or provide the means of avoiding the schism that that canon condemns.

It’s a little hard to tangle with philosophical arguments that remain unargued. What Stellman appears to be saying is that he adopted the radical skepticism/postmodernism that CTC crowd were offering – the idea that we can’t figure out what God is saying in the Bible so as to distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy, etc. But such an argument is fatally flawed, since Scripture affirms its value for such purposes.

Jason again:

Historically speaking, the idea that the written Word of God is formally sufficient for all things related to faith and practice, such that anyone of normal intelligence and reasonably good intentions could read it and deduce from it what is necessary for orthodoxy and orthopraxy, is not a position that I see reflected in the writings of the early Church fathers. While there are plenty of statements in their writings that speak in glowing terms about the qualitative uniqueness of Scripture, those statements, for them, do not do away with the need for Scripture to be interpreted by the Church in a binding and authoritative way when necessary.

I have no idea how much of the fathers Jason has read.

He can find some clear statements here from:

Early Christian Writers
Third Century Fathers
Fourth Century Fathers
Fifth Century Fathers

Jason once more:

This discovery in the church fathers is unsurprising if the same position can be found in the New Testament itself, which I now believe it can. To cite but one example, the Church in her earliest days was confronted with a question that Jesus had not addressed with any specificity or directness, namely, the question of Gentile inclusion in the family of God. In order to answer this question, the apostles and elders of the Church gathered together in council to hear all sides and reach a verdict. What is especially interesting about Luke’s account of the Jerusalem Council is the role that Scripture played, as well as the nature of the verdict rendered. Concerning the former, James’s citation of Amos is curious in that the passage in the prophet seems to have little to do with the matter at hand, and yet James cites Amos’s words about the tent of David being rebuilt to demonstrate that full Gentile membership in the Church fulfills that prophecy. Moreover, Scripture functioned for the Bishop of Jerusalem not as the judge that settled the dispute, but rather as a witness that testified to what settled it, namely, the judgment of the apostles and elders. Rather than saying, “We agree with Scripture,” he says in effect, “Scripture agrees with us” (v. 15, 19). And finally, when the decision is ultimately reached, it is understood by the apostles and elders not as an optional and fallible position with which the faithful may safely disagree if they remain biblically unconvinced, but rather as an authoritative and binding pronouncement that was bound in heaven even as it was on earth (v. 28). Despite some superficial similarities, no existing Protestant denomination with an operating norm of Sola Scriptura can replicate the dynamic, or claim the authority of the Jerusalem Council (or of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon for that matter). The fact that the Bible’s own example of how Church courts operate was hamstrung by Protestantism’s view of biblical authority was something I began to find disturbingly ironic.

We already rebutted Stellman’s argument as presented by another former presbyterian minister who left his charge for Rome.

Jason once more:

Moving on to Sola Fide, I found myself wrestling with this issue from both a historical and biblical perspective as well, and this is what ultimately proved to be the coup de grâce for me as a Protestant. As long as I believed that Catholicism mucked up the gospel so severely, its arguments about authority remained merely annoying, like a stone in my shoe that I would eventually get used to (after all, better to be unauthoritatively right about justification than authoritatively wrong about it). But when I began to dig into the issue more deeply and seek to understand Rome on its own terms, I began to experience what some have referred to as a “paradigm crisis.” A severe one.

Stellman, however, does not provide any historical or biblical arguments here on the issue of Sola Fide.

What is remarkable, though, is that some of the more obvious and easily seen problems of Rome – the worship of bread as though it were God, the hyper-dulia of Mary, and religious dulia of innumerable other people, as well as attempted communication with the dead, and the use of images — none of these things seem to have given Stellman a second’s pause.

Jason again:

As a Protestant minister, I had always operated under the assumption that the fullest treatment of the gospel, and of justification in particular, came from the apostle Paul, and that the rest of what the New Testament had to say on these issues should be filtered through him. But as I began to investigate again things that I had thought were long-settled for me, I began to discover just how problematic that hermeneutical approach really was. If justification by faith alone was indeed “the article on which the church stands or falls,” as Reformed theology claimed, then wouldn’t we expect it to have been taught by Jesus himself, somewhere? Moreover, wouldn’t John have taught it, too? And Peter, and James? Shoot, wouldn’t Paul himself have taught the imputation of alien righteousness somewhere outside of just two of his thirteen epistles?

Poor Jason – listening too much to Luther, but not hearing him correctly. The article on which the Reformation stands or falls is not quite the same thing as the article on which the church stands or falls.

Moreover, while understanding the issue of justification by faith alone is important to understanding why it is necessary to excommunicate the bishop of his Rome and his adherents, having a complete understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is not what saves. What saves is repentance from sin and trust in Christ.

That said, our hermeneutic regarding how we understand justification should be that we go to the places where the apostolic teaching on the matter is most clear and explicit, and then interpret less clear passages in view of the more clear passages.

When Paul states plainly that man is not justified by works, Rome’s system of justification is necessarily excluded. That’s true whether it was something that Jesus taught Paul in the 2nd person, or whether it is merely something the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write.

The fact that a particular doctrine is useful in distinguishing Rome from true Christianity should not lead us to suppose that the doctrine is necessarily going to be found as the major, central theme of the Bible repeated often and by all authors.

To put it from another angle – why isn’t Paul stating something in two of his epistles enough for Stellman?

Jason once more:

Having realized that I was using a few select (and hermeneutically debatable) passages from Romans and Galatians as the filter through which I understood everything else the New Testament had to say about salvation, I began to conclude that such an approach was as arbitrary as it was irresponsible. I then sought to identify a paradigm, or simple statement of the gospel, that provided more explanatory value than Sola Fide did. As I hope to unpack in more detail eventually, I have come to understand the gospel in terms of the New Covenant gift of the Spirit, procured through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, who causes fruit to be borne in our lives by reproducing the image of the Son in the adopted children of the Father. If love of God and neighbor fulfills the law, and if the fruit of the Spirit is love, having been shed abroad by the Spirit in our hearts, then it seems to follow that the promise of the gospel is equivalent with the promise of the New Covenant that God’s law will no longer be external to the believer, but will be written upon his mind and heart, such that its righteous demands are fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. And again unsurprisingly, when I turned to the early Church fathers, and especially Augustine, it was this very understanding of the gospel that I encountered over and over again.

There are a lot of people who read and do not understand Augustine. But I will leave that particular issue for another time. Suffice that if Stellman seeks to be justified by the law, he is fallen from grace, as Paul teaches.

Jason again:

While the case for the Catholic Church may not be immediately obvious or easily winnable, the fact remains that Rome’s claims are philosophically compelling, historically plausible, and biblically persuasive. Yet despite the claims of most Reformed believers who, when wrestling with the issue of people like me leaving Geneva for the supposedly-greener pastures of Rome, insist that such a move betrays a “quest for illegitimate religious certainty,” the fact is that if it is a sense of personal and psychological certitude that one is searching for, Catholicism will more than likely disappoint. Ironically enough, Protestantism provides more certitude for the seeker than Catholicism does, since the ultimate basis for the truthfulness of its claims is one’s agreement with one’s self and one’s own interpretation of Scripture. But if what you are searching for is not subjective certitude but the Church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church’s case for being that Church, when harkened to with charity, humility, and faith seeking understanding, is as compelling as it is disruptive.

But Rome’s claims aren’t historically plausible. The historical evidence is that the apostles did not believe what Rome does today. There was not one person – even as late as the council of Nicaea – who held to all of the dogmas that Rome demands people accept today.

The historical evidence is that there was no papacy in the early church. Rome’s claims that there was are not just historically implausible, they are contrary to the best available evidence. Indeed, the historical evidence is that it wasn’t until the middle of the second century or later that there was a single monarchical bishop in Rome, which gradually gained regional power, particularly as imperial and ecclesiastical powers combined forces.

It’s not clear what “biblically persuasive” argument Jason thinks exists, but we stand ready to open the Scriptures and examine his arguments with him.

As for Rome’s claims being “philosophically compelling,” this appears to be totally empty. I’ll let Stellman try to back this up, if he can.

Jason once again:

And make no mistake, the Catholic Church is disruptive. It is audacious and confrontational, sucker-punching and line-in-the-sand drawing. Like the Lion Aslan from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, it is not a tame Church, and will make no promise not to devour and discomfit its subjects as they partake of its life-giving water, causing them to constantly bend the knee and cede their worldly wisdom to the foolishness of the cross. In the words of Aslan to Jill, who expressed fear about letting down her guard to drink from the water by which he stood, “There are no other streams.” Or the words of Peter to Jesus when asked if the Twelve would forsake Him because of His difficult and demanding message, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

It is interesting to see how Jason has already begun to participate in the deification of “the Church” that we often see only implicitly in Roman apologetics. The words of eternal life were transmitted from Jesus to the apostles and others and by the apostles and others to us in inspired Scripture. There is no other reliable source – because there is no other inspired source. Jesus is ascended and his apostles await the resurrection of the body. The Holy Spirit is the guardian that preserves the Word – it was the Spirit, not a Roman monarchy, that was promised by Jesus.

Indeed, the entire papacy is foreign to Scripture. But let me cut this rebuttal short.

Jason yet more:

The Catholic Church, wistfully alluring? Hardly. Tidy and tame? Not by a long shot, for once discovered it demands that the seeker relinquish the one thing above all others that offers him confidence, namely, his own autonomy. In fact, submitting oneself to the authority of the Catholic Church is the most harrowing experience a person will ever endure, which is why the suggestion that converts from Geneva to Rome are simply opting for a feel-good, fairy-tale romance betraying an “over-realized eschatology” and desire to skip blissfully down the yellow-brick road to heaven, utterly trivializes the entire ordeal.

What exactly Stellman’s motives are in his quest are really primarily a matter for him to be concerned about.

Jason yet another time:

In a word, I fought the Church, and the Church won. And what it did was beat me, but it didn’t draw me, entice me, or lure me by playing upon some deep, latent psychosis or desire on my part for something Protestantism just couldn’t provide. Catholicism went from being so obviously ridiculous that it wasn’t even worth bothering to oppose, to being something whose claims were so audacious that I couldn’t help opposing them. But what it never was, was attractive, and in many ways it still isn’t.

Of course, Catholicism’s claims are roughly the same as those of Islam and Mormonism – claims that the Scripture is not enough and you need some other authority instead.

Jason concludes:

But what Catholicism is, I have come to discover, is true.

And how did Jason determine that “Catholicism” is true? Can Jason really explain how Rome’s justification by works can be reconciled with Paul’s explicit condemnation of the idea of justification by works?


Luke the Evangelist vs. Postmodernism and their Roman Allies

July 24, 2012

Luke 1:1-4

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Notice that the purpose of the Scripture, particularly of the gospel of Luke, was to provide certainty that could not be obtained simply based on the prior oral tradition that Theophilus had received.

You can have the same certainty Theophilus did, by reading the same Scriptures that were given for that very purpose to him. Scriptures that are superior to the instruction he received before receiving the Scriptures, because they are based on the perfect understanding that comes, though not stated explicitly here, from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.


Secular Anti-Islamic Materials – A Few Thoughts

July 24, 2012

There are a number of secular anti-Islamic materials that circulate. These materials, in my exposure, include only a small number of legitimate criticisms of Islam. They tend to focus on aspects of Islam that they believe will shock their fellow secularists and liberal Christians, especially Shariah.

Perhaps these materials may serve a useful purpose in terms of helping secularists realize that Biblical Christianity is not the thing they should most fear. There is less shocking to them in our demands on modesty and our prohibitions of illicit sexual relations. They may not like what we have to say, but Islam’s offense to them is – on many points – more severe.

Whether they serve that useful purpose, or not, I do not know. That purpose, however, is not enough of an incentive for me to promote them.

In principle, such materials should be similarly opposed to Christian views (I mean, Biblical Christianity, as distinct from modern Rome, liberal Protestantism, or any other of a myriad of groups that call themselves Christian). The Bible prescribed circumcision for the Jews – a practice that some liberals today view as shocking and barbaric.

The Bible, moreover, teaches that the world was formed by God in six days (days having a length of an evening and a morning), and that man was formed from the dust of the earth, with woman being formed from the man’s rib. The Bible promotes male headship and glorifies patriarchy, even in the very prologue itself.

God did not pick a gender-neutral language in which to communicate truth about himself, and explicitly refers to himself using male descriptions, as the dominant form of description of God. He is our Husband, we are his bride. There is God the Father and God the Son, but there is no “God the Mother” or “God the Daughter.”

The Bible provides strict penalties for a variety of sexual crimes, including things like adultery. The Bible likewise does not teach that the kind of “religious liberty” that is en vogue in modern Western society.

The Bible describes God as authorizing the genocide of the Canaanites, as well as the elimination of the royal families of several of Israel’s kings.

There are numerous things that shock and offend modern Western secularists in the Bible. I’ve named only a few.

So, if I appeal to modern Western secular sensibilities for the rejection of Islam, what have I done? I’ve appealed to a rule that also rejects Christianity. As far as I’m concerned, that’s an inconsistency that I cannot live with.

There are, of course, other secular criticisms of Islam – such as scholarly criticisms of Islam’s historical and textual claims. Those criticisms of Islam appeal to things like the historical evidence. Those criticisms, therefore, appeal to a standard that I can adopt as a useful tool. After all, the historical evidence is not contrary to the truth – even if the historical evidence is not always complete.

Primarily, though, my rule of faith is not even the historical evidence, but the Word of God. My rule of Faith is the Scriptures themselves. They teach me what I should believe about God and how I should act on the basis of that belief. They inform my sensibilities.

They are the reason I reject Islam, and the primary reason anyone should. If you reject Islam for the wrong reasons, you are simply changing your affiliations. Instead of the section of hell that includes Muslims, you will be in another section (not that hell really has sections).

Playing musical chairs in hell, though, is a trivial accomplishment. It is a far, far better thing to embrace the one and only means of salvation: Christ Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God, the Word made Flesh, the Rock of our Salvation and Creator of the world.

If you repent of your sins and trust in him alone for salvation, you have good reason to be confident that he will hear your prayer, have mercy on you, and rescue you from the judgment you otherwise deserve.


Solomon vs. Postmodernism and Her Roman Companions

July 23, 2012

Proverbs 22:17-21

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

Does the written word communicate the words of truth with certainty to the individual (thee = you singular) reader?


James on the Divinity of The Lord Jesus

July 16, 2012

During the Dividing Line of July 13, 2012, Dr. White mentioned an Islamic argument alleging that James (the author of the book of James) did not believe that Jesus is God and that the church of Jerusalem (which he seemingly associates with James) was somehow in opposition to the church of Paul.

But James does make it clear that he holds to Jesus’ divinity.

James 1:1-7

(1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. (2) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

In verse 1, James identifies Jesus as both God and the Lord. But if you will dispute this point, note that James clearly identifies Jesus as the Lord. Moreover, after suggesting that people can ask things from God, he immediately switches to the designation “Lord” in verse 7.  James’ interchangeable use of God and Lord demonstrates that he held Jesus to be divine.

James 2:1

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

Here James explicitly calls Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, which is a divine title. It’s the same title that Paul uses for Jesus:

1 Corinthians 2:8

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Moreover, James is explicitly teaching people to place their faith in Jesus, which would be very strange if James thought that Jesus was merely a man.

It would be especially strange given that just a little later in the chapter, describing faith, James states (James 2:18-19):

(18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Notice that James views faith as faith in God, and holds that there is only one God, yet it is the “faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as we saw above.  Thus, for James, Jesus is God.

And again, this is the same as the teaching of Paul.

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.

We see James equating Jesus and God again in the fourth chapter.

James 4:8-10

(8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

This is yet another example of James using “God” and “Lord” interchangeably.

Perhaps the most obvious example for a Muslim will come when James provides the Christian precursor to Islam’s “Insha’Allah”:

James 4:13-15

(13) Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: (14) whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (15) For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

What Muslim would say, “If Mohamed will”? Surely the determination of what the future holds is something that is firmly the will of God – not the will of mere prophet or messenger, yet James assigns the future to the will that to the Lord, whom he has explicitly identified as Jesus Christ.  Thus, James held Jesus to be divine.

But James doesn’t stop there. He describes the future return of Jesus to the world (James 5:7-11)

(7) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (9) Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. (10) Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (11) Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Notice that here James identifies this same coming Lord, namely Jesus Christ, with the Lord in whose names the prophets spoke, and particularly the Lord referenced in the book of Job, which is undoubtedly God.  You will recall that after all Job’s sufferings, the Lord gave him better than he had before.

Another example is found in James 5:14-15

(14) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (15) And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Notice here that prayer in the name of Jesus is commended, and it is alleged that Jesus will raise up the person. While this may be less explicit than the other cases, the very fact that the prayer is in Jesus’ name indicates Jesus’ divinity.

Thus, not only does James fail to deny the divinity of Christ (James affirmation of monotheism is no contradiction to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), but James repeatedly treats Jesus as divine from the very first verse of the epistle.


Confessional Hermeneutic – What Man is to Believe about God and his Duty to Him

July 14, 2012

In my previous post, we saw that Jesus’ own hermeneutic with respect to the Old Testament is that all the law and the prophets hang on the two great commandments. One might wonder whether this treatment of Scripture is unique to TurretinFan, or whether others have had a similar idea. The latter is the case.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God,[1] and to enjoy him forever.[2]

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,[3] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.[4]

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God,[5] and what duty God requires of man.[6]

[1] Psalm 86. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee. Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. Show me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me. Isaiah 60:21. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s…. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Revelation 4:11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

[2] Psalm 16:5-11. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 144:15. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. Isaiah 12:2. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Luke 2:10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Revelation 21:3-4. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

[3] Matthew 19:4-5. And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? With Genesis 2:24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Luke 24:27, 44. And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself…. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 1 Corinthians 2:13. 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. 1 Corinthians 14:37. If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 2 Peter 1:20-21. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 3:2, 15-16. That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour…. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

[4] Deuteronomy 4:2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Psalm 19:7-11. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Isaiah 8:20. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. John 15:11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. John 20:30-31. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. Acts 17:11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 2 Timothy 3:15-17. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 1 John 1:4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

[5] Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. John 5:39. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. John 20:31. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. Romans 10:17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:15. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

[6] Deuteronomy 10:12-13. And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Joshua 1:8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Psalm 119:105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Micah 6:8. He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? 2 Timothy 3:16-17. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Notice that the catechism describes the primary teaching of Scripture as being what we should believe about God and about how we should act toward God.


Christ’s Own Hermeneutic of the Old Testament

July 13, 2012

A lot of the Old Testament relates to God’s plan of salvation, and so it is understandable that the so-called “Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic” is popular. Moreover, it is true that Christ’s mission included bringing the fullness of revelation that was then inscripturated by the New Testament authors. Thus, the New Testament is a guide to understanding the Old Testament.

Nevertheless, Christ himself explained the key to understanding the Old Testament in response to a question by one of the scribes/lawyers of the Pharisees. This account is found in Matthew and Mark. Since the Matthew account is more familiar to most people, I’ll put it first, but note that the Mark account provides some additional detail that is not included in the Matthew account.

Matthew 22:34-40

But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said unto him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’ (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Deuteronomy 7:9, 10:12, 11:1, 19:9; 30:6, 30:16, and 30:20). This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Leviticus 19:18; cf. Leviticus 19:34). On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Mark 12:28-33

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; cf. Deuteronomy 7:9, 10:12, 11:1, 19:9; 30:6, 30:16, and 30:20) this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ (Leviticus 19:18; cf. Leviticus 19:34). There is none other commandment greater than these.”
And the scribe said unto him, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he (cf. Deuteronomy 4:35, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 7:22, 1 Chronicles 17:20, Isaiah 45:5-6, and Isaiah 45:21): and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (cf. Hosea 6:6).

Notice that the key to understanding the Old Testament, “all the law and the prophets,” so that there is “none other” commandment, is love of God and love of one’s neighbor. Thus, it is written: “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).
If you want to properly understand the Old Testament, you need to keep this hermeneutical grid in mind as one of the primary hermeneutical grids. It is true that there is much about the person and work of Christ in the law and the prophets (Luke 24:44, John 1:45, Acts 13:15, 24:14, and 28:23), but when it come to saying what “all the law and prophets” hang on, Christ taught that it was “Love God” and “Love thy Neighbor.”

– TurretinFan

Scripture texts referenced above:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

Deuteronomy 10:12
And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

Deuteronomy 11:1
Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.

Deuteronomy 19:9
If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:

Deuteronomy 30:6
And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Deuteronomy 30:16
In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

Deuteronomy 30:20
That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Leviticus 19:18
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:34
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 4:35
Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.

1 Samuel 2:2
There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

2 Samuel 7:22
Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

1 Chronicles 17:20
O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Isaiah 45:5-6
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.

Isaiah 45:21
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

Hosea 6:6
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Luke 24:44
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

John 1:45
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

Acts 13:15
And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

Acts 24:14
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

Acts 28:23
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

Romans 13:10
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Ergun Caner Citizenship …

July 11, 2012

Over at the “MosesModel” blog, there is an interesting blog post regarding the issue of when Ergun Caner became a citizen. It is provocatively titled, “Is Norman Geisler Calling Ergun Caner a Liar?” There is even a video that accompanies the post (link to video). I say it is interesting, but I suspect that most have moved on.

See Dr. White’s comments on the general topic of Norman Geisler and Ergun Caner (at this link).

If God Calls you to Open Air Preaching …

July 7, 2012

… please take an hour to listen to this discussion of it (link). I’m not going to endorse every last iota of what is said in the video, and quite frankly the men in the video wouldn’t be happy if I did. Nevertheless, as Steve Hays has already observed, there is a lot of wisdom in the video, notwithstanding the fact that the men themselves (judged by the world’s standards) do not appear to be highly educated.

Even if you are not called to open air preaching, a lot of the principles described are also applicable to blogging, on-line forums, and like virtual interactions.


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