Archive for March, 2013

All Have Sinned – Except Mary? (Responding to Steve Ray)

March 31, 2013

Steve Ray (Roman Catholic) writes:

From the early centuries Mary was considered the All Holy One and considered as without sin. Rom 3:23 is a general statement but does not mention exceptions to the rule. For example, Jesus was a man without sin, therefore an exception.

Jesus did not come short of the glory of God, because Jesus is God. Recall that the text says:

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Moreover, it’s not just Romans 3:23.

Romans 3:10
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 5:12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Job 25:4
How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?

Psalm 143:2
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

This falls into the category of manifest exceptions. A similar manifest exception is explained here:

1 Corinthians 15:27
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

I would love to see this testimony to Mary as “the All Holy One.” While it may possibly exist (there are many extant writings, “Holy One” is a divine title and “all-holy” is a divine attribute. So, particularly in the early patristic period and among orthodox writers, one would not expect to find this attributed to anyone but one of the persons of the Trinity.

But certainly Scripture does not describe Mary as sinless. On the contrary, she herself recognized her need for a Savior:

Luke 1:47
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Steve Ray continued:

The New Adam (Jesus) is without sin. From the 1st century Mary has been viewed as the New Eve. It would be appropriate, actually proper, that the New Eve be without sin also.

The bride of Adam was Eve, but the bride of Christ is not Mary, but the Church.

And the church will be sinless:

Ephesians 5:27
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Indeed, Mary as a member of that church is now in heaven, holy and immaculate. But it was through the work of Christ purifying her – first sanctifying her and later glorifying her. She was not sinless, just as none of us are sinless.

Again, there may have been some fathers who called Mary a “new Eve,” but she’s hardly a close parallel to Eve.

Steve Ray continued:

Those who die before the age of reason, or who are mentally deficient are also exceptions. Job could even be called an exception if you take God’s report of him literally (Job 1:8).

This is just a rehashing of Pelagius’ error. Both Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum cited Job as an example of a person who was perfectly holy before the law. But Augustine, in Section 12 of Book 2 of “The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins,” denies that Job was sinless (and more expressly in section 14).

The statement, therefore, “He that is born of God sinneth not,”[1 John 3:9] is not contrary to the passage in which it is declared by those who are born of God, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”[1 John 1:8] For however complete may be a man’s present hope, and however real may be his renewal by spiritual regeneration in that part of his nature, he still, for all that, carries about a body which is corrupt, and which presses down his soul; and so long as this is the case, one must distinguish even in the same individual the relation and source of each several action. Now, I suppose it is not easy to find in God’s Scripture so weighty a testimony of holiness given of any man as that which is written of His three servants, Noah, Daniel, and Job, whom the Prophet Ezekiel describes as the only men able to be delivered from God’s impending wrath.[Ezekiel 14:14] In these three men he no doubt prefigures three classes of mankind to be delivered: in Noah, as I suppose, are represented righteous leaders of nations, by reason of his government of the ark as a type of the Church; in Daniel, men who are righteous in continence; in Job, those who are righteous in wedlock;—to say nothing of any other view of the passage, which it is unnecessary now to consider. It is, at any rate, clear from this testimony of the prophet, and from other inspired statements, how eminent were these worthies in righteousness. Yet no man must be led by their history to say, for instance, that drunkenness is not sin, although so good a man was overtaken by it; for we read that Noah was once drunk,[Genesis 9:21] but God forbid that it should be thought that he was an habitual drunkard.


But let us see what Job has to say of himself, after God’s great testimony of his righteousness. “I know of a truth,” he says, “that it is so: for how shall a mortal man be just before the Lord? For if He should enter into judgment with him, he would not be able to obey Him.”[Job 9:2-3] And shortly afterwards he asks: “Who shall resist His judgment? Even if I should seem righteous, my mouth will speak profanely.”[Job 9:19-20] And again, further on, he says: “I know He will not leave me unpunished. But since I am ungodly, why have I not died? If I should wash myself with snow, and be purged with clean hands, thou hadst thoroughly stained me with filth.”[Job 9:30] In another of his discourses he says: “For Thou hast written evil things against me, and hast compassed me with the sins of my youth; and Thou hast placed my foot in the stocks. Thou hast watched all my works, and hast inspected the soles of my feet, which wax old like a bottle, or like a moth-eaten garment. For man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of wrath; like a flower that hath bloomed, so doth he fall; he is gone like a shadow, and continueth not. Hast Thou not taken account even of him, and caused him to enter into judgment with Thee? For who is pure from uncleanness? Not even one; even should his life last but a day.”[Job 13:26 – 14:5] Then a little afterwards he says: “Thou hast numbered all my necessities; and not one of my sins hath escaped Thee. Thou hast sealed up my transgressions in a bag, and hast marked whatever I have done unwillingly.”[Job 14:16-17] See how Job, too, confesses his sins, and says how sure he is that there is none righteous before the Lord. So he is sure of this also, that if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. While, therefore, God bestows on him His high testimony of righteousness, according to the standard of human conduct, Job himself, taking his measure from that rule of righteousness, which, as well as he can, he beholds in God, knows of a truth that so it is; and he goes on at once to say, “How shall a mortal man be just before the Lord? For if He should enter into judgment with him, he would not be able to obey Him;” in other words, if, when challenged to judgment, he wished to show that nothing could be found in him which He could condemn, “he would not be able to obey him,” since he misses even that obedience which might enable him to obey Him who teaches that sins ought to be confessed. Accordingly [the Lord] rebukes certain men, saying, “Why will ye contend with me in judgment?”[Jeremiah 2:29] This [the Psalmist] averts, saying, “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”[Psalm 143:2] In accordance with this, Job also asks: “For who shall resist his judgment? Even if I should seem righteous, my mouth will speak profanely;” which means: If, contrary to His judgment, I should call myself righteous, when His perfect rule of righteousness proves me to be unrighteous, then of a truth my mouth would speak profanely, because it would speak against the truth of God.


Steve Ray continued:

Romans is also discussing that it is not only the Gentiles that have sinned but also the Jews. All can be a collective of peoples. “You Jews think you are righteous because you are of Abraham? You think only the Gentiles are in sin. No, all have sinned, Gentile and Jew alike”

Yes, “all” can have that sense. But the “there is none righteous, no not one” does not have a similar semantic range.

Steve Ray continued:

This is born out in Psalm 14 from where Rom 3:9 (parallel passage to Rom 3:23) is quoted. Here is says, Psalm 14:2–3 “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

This doesn’t support the previous assertion that this is just about “both Jews and Gentiles.”

Steve Ray continued:

Yet immediately following we find that God has his righteous. Psalm 14:5–6 ”There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.”

This refers to those who are justified by faith, not those who are immaculately sinless.

Psalm 14:7 “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”

The “righteous” people Steve Ray is pointing to are those in captivity in a foreign land for their sins!

Steve Ray continued:

As a Baptist I used to use the Bible often for proof-texts and sound bites. Scripture is much more subtle than that. It is our tradition, whether Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, etc., that guides us in our approach to Scripture. The real question is, which tradition will you allow to direct your interpretation and study? I chose the tradition that was practiced from the first century until today – which is Catholic.

Of course, people’s traditions can interfere with letting the text of Scripture speak for itself. We should not glory in that, but seek to minimize the effect of our traditions, allowing the text to speak for itself.

That said, the fathers writings are valuable. I happen to have two patristic commentaries on Psalms in front of me. On Psalm 14, Augustine (354–430) says:

There is no one who does anything good, no, not even to the very last one. This expression, not even to the very last one, can either be understood as including that particular one, which would mean nobody at all, or it can be taken to mean “with the exception of one,” indicating the Lord Christ … This latter interpretation is the better one, because nobody is deemed to have done anything good right down to Christ, because nobody can unless Christ himself has shown how.

(Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 1-32, at Psalm 13[14]:1, The Works of St. Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century, p. 175, trans. Maria Boulding, OSB)

Likewise, Cassiodorus (c. 485 – c. 585) states:

They are corrupt because in abandoning the sanity of the Scriptures they have demonstrably fallen into sinful thoughts. … There is none that doth good But what about the patriarchs? Did Noah not do good when he was obedient to the Lord’s commands, and entered the ark to be saved? …. Even today through the Lord’s kindness good things are done through the action of just men. But so that this denial may become wholly meaningful to you, ponder the words that follow: None, even to one. In fact that only One is Christ, without whom human weakness has not the strength either to begin or complete any good thing. So the statement was justified that no man can do good unless through His mercy we have gained Christ. When we reach Him and do not abandon Him, every good is undoubtedly performed.

(Explanation of the Psalms, Vol. 1, at Psalm 13[14]:1, Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 51, p. 150)

Before posting, I thought I would check the catena found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series. There I found some interesting words from Asterius the Homilist (4th/5th century):

“There is no one who speaks good,” when all the disciples fled as they abandoned him. John ran off naked. Peter denied him, the disciples fled, the spear of doubt pierced the soul of Mary. There was no one who showed the fruit of love in his suffering. … Even after his death, the soldier pierced his side. … Surely he has visited us and wants to save, but none desires to be shown the medicine.

(Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Psalms 1-50, at Psalm 14:1, pp. 110-11, ellipses in ACCS, for discussion of Asterius’ Nicene credentials, see Wolfram Kinzig’s “In Search of Asterius: Studies on the Authorship of the Homilies on the Psalms”)

So far from supporting Steve Rays “Jews and Gentiles” interpretation, Asterius even apparently ascribes sinful doubt to Mary!

I’m sure Steve Ray is very much enamored with traditions, but his traditions are not as ancient as he supposes. He ought rather to follow the still more ancient traditions of the apostles, who were inspired by God to inscripturate the revelation given to them. If he had done that, he could avoid the corruption of those who abandon the sanity of Scripture and fall into the sinful thought of ascribing sinless perfection and immaculate conception to Mary.


Special Creation is a Key Part of the Gospel – not a "Taint"

March 29, 2013

Special Creation is a Key Part of the Gospel – not a “Taint” (to build on my previous post). Special creation is something frequently mentioned by both apostolic-era preachers and apostolic era-books.

Stephen’s Sermon
Acts 7:48-51
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Judged by the standard of short-term pragmatism, one might argue that Stephen’s sermon was not very effective (he was killed at the end of the sermon). Then again, Paul (then Saul of Tarsus) apparently was there witnessing it and was later converted.

And Paul himself made special creation a prominent part of his messages:

Paul’s Sermon in Lycaonia
Acts 14:15
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Paul’s Sermon on Mars’ Hill
Acts 17:24-26
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

And Paul did not hesitate to mention it in his letter to the Corinthians:

Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians
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.

Moreover, the doctrine gets top billing in both John’s Gospel and the book of Hebrews:

Book of John
John 1:3
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Book of Hebrews
Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

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.

Hebrews 11:3
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.


Martyrdom of Polycarp

March 29, 2013

The work called “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” is a story of martyrdom that is itself more historical fiction than historical account. That is not to say that Polycarp was not martyred. Rather it is to say that many of the details of the story are not accurate.

In The Myth of Persecution, Dr. Candida Moss makes several interesting observations, but one that particularly struck home (pp. 103-04):

In a similar way, the author describes religious devotional practices that didn’t really take hold until the third century. At the conclusion of the piece, after Polycarp’s body is burned for a second time, the Christians steal the fragments of bone and ash that remain and deposit them in an appropriate place for safekeeping. This is not just a concern for proper burial; the author describes Polycarp’s remains as “more valuable than precious stones” and says that the remains were placed somewhere that Christians could gather to remember the saints and prepare themselves for their own martyrdom. The situation envisioned here is the veneration of relics.

… Apart from the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the practice of collecting and venerating the bodies of martyrs is completely unparalleled in the second century. Our next earliest references to relics are from the third century and are much less developed. They may not even be firm references to relics so much as references to the distribution of mementos. In contrast, the Martyrdom of Polycarp does not just refer to relics; it provides an explanation for why the church in Smyrna doesn’t have the whole body. That it was necessary to apologize for the absence of relics again presupposes a situation in which relic veneration was already booming. It’s difficult to imagine the need to offer this explanation, if the audience wasn’t expecting more, and it’s difficult to imagine that the audience would have expected more before the third century.

Dr. Moss has a full paper on the dating of “the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” which can be accessed for free (at this link). Ultimately, Dr. Moss concludes that the current version of the story was probably composed in the early third century.

For people looking for examples of the kinds of problems that readers of patristics face, I encourage people to check out Dr. Moss’ paper. The work should also help confirm our position on the reliability of the New Testament itself, which is not subject to the same textual transmission difficulties as the story of Polycarp’s end.

I think it is worth noting that Dr. Moss dates the work earlier than some of the scholars whose work she is addressing. That said, as Dr. Moss notes in the paper (p. 19): “To my knowledge, no scholar who has regarded MPol as a forgery has ever been convinced that the extant version was written in the middle of the second century.”

All the above dove-tails with a point I was noting to someone (in the comment box at GreenBaggins, if I’m not mistaken) that the cult of the dead was not part of the apostolic tradition and only arose later. Even by the time of Augustine in the 4th and 5th centuries, it was not so highly developed as it was in later centuries, such as under King Philip II of Spain (1527-98), who apparently housed 8,000 relics (and over 1,000 paintings) within his palace, el Escorial (see discussion here).


Some of the Counsel of God is a "Taint" to the Rest?

March 29, 2013

Michael Patton seems to be continuing his downward spiral. In a new post, he writes:

The historic message of the Bible needs to take precedence over the theological nature of the Bible. And here is where I feel we Evangelicals, in our zeal and love for the Bible, taint the Gospel with unnecessary additions. These additions, more often than not, drag us down rabbit trails where we can end up losing Jesus altogether as we defend against thousands of claims of Bible contradictions.

This is really unbelievable. The theological nature of the Bible, outside some core represents a “taint” that risks “losing Jesus”? Contrast that with:

Acts 20:27
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

Deuteronomy 8:3
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

Matthew 4:4
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Psalm 119:160
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Luke 24:27
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

And what do the Scripture teach about Jesus?

Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Much more could be added, but inspiration and special creation are two of the things that Scripture teaches us about Jesus Christ. So, Patton should not consider these theological points either “unnecessary additions” or a “taint.”


Status vs. Behavior

March 29, 2013

OLSON: Well, you’ve said in the cases decided by this court that the polygamy issue, multiple marriages, raises questions about exploitation, abuse, patriarchy, issues with respect to taxes, inheritance, child custody, it is an entirely different thing. And if you—if a state prohibits polygamy, it’s prohibiting conduct. If it prohibits gay and lesbian citizens from getting married, it is prohibiting their exercise of a right based upon their status.

Amy Hall has some good thoughts about this (link), but I want to point something else out – actually three things, the first of which is:

When the government prohibits marriage to already-married people, it is prohibiting “exercise of a right” (assuming marriage is a right) based on their status of being married. It is prohibition that is explicitly based on the status of the person. In fact, if getting a marriage license were like getting a job, they wouldn’t be allowed to ask if you were already married. Prohibition of polygamy is about status. That’s my main point.

The second is much more nuanced. When two people of the same sex seek to be “married” to each other, they are not being prohibited from “exercise of a right” – even if marriage is a right – because they don’t want marriage as that term is defined. They want something that isn’t marriage, which they want to be called marriage and treated as marriage.

The third point is that calling marriage a “right” is odd, given that in America single people apparently don’t have this right unless someone else voluntarily consents to it. Can you imagine if your right to free speech depended on the people hearing you consenting to it? I’m pretty sure the pro-abortion folks wouldn’t think a woman has a “right to choose” if she has to get someone else (like whoever procreated with her or the child) to voluntarily consent.


Called to This Communion?

March 28, 2013

Roman Catholic Michael Voris has a new video railing against Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Wuerl because they admit to communion those who Voris thinks should be excluded – especially Voris’ Vice President, Joe Biden. Here’s the video:

If you are a Roman Catholic who disagrees with Voris, you are a “Dolanite.” Ironically, Voris’ own bishop has forbidden him from using the term “Catholic” to describe his own activities (link).

Voris tries to appeal to Pope Francis’ supposedly hard line against pro-abortion politicians, but Biden was also given communion at Pope Francis’ inaugural mass together with Nancy Pelosi (as reported here).

And the folks at “Called to Communion” want me to join this communion with the supposed benefit being visible unity? No thanks.


Mr. Patton, Your Anecdotes don’t Provide a Biblical Argument

March 25, 2013

Sadly, Michael Patton has decided to double down on his attack on the fundamental importance of Special Creation and Inerrancy with a new post titled “FORGET ABOUT EVOLUTION AND INERRANCY (FOR A MINUTE).”

Patton doesn’t offer any Biblical or even logical argument for his position. He just provides two anecdotes of people who were allegedly persuaded to set aside their concerns about evolution or inerrancy and consequently became Christians. Patton writes:

These two stories are illustrations of the importance of keeping to the “make or break” issues of our faith when sharing the Gospel. The issue of origins and inspiration and inerrancy are very important. We eventually need to discuss them. But they are not ”make or break issues.” And they can be used to sidetrack the Gospel into endless and fruitless debate. They can often keep you from getting to Christ. The two people above may have never really heard an actual argument for the Gospel. They were both intellectual types who were ready to debate so many things that did not matter. I don’t need to convince an unbeliever that the Bible is inspired or inerrant. The issue of evolution does not matter if it is only keeping you from sharing the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people will have legitimate hang-ups about these and other things that need to be dealt with. But sometimes we need to deal with them by explaining that they have no bearing on whether Jesus rose from the grave. Once we establish Christ’s resurrection, you can get back to those things. But in our apologetics, we need to do everything we can to get to the historicity of the resurrection.

That’s very clearly an appeal to expediency and pragmatism. But the argument lacks the necessary foundation to be anything more than an assertion and two anecdotes.

For example, Patton hasn’t provided any revelation from God in support of his conclusion that special creation and inerrancy aren’t make-or-break issues.

Likewise, Patton has not actually engaged in scientific experiment – providing controlled comparisons between consistent, uncompromising evangelism and evangelism of the kind that Patton seems to prefer.

All that said – as with the previous post, not everything Patton says is wrong.  It can be useful to get people to stop focusing on the excuses they are making for not addressing the central gospel issues of creation, sin, and redemption (accomplished and applied).

In fact, there are non-compromising ways of handling those excuses.  I recall reading Eusebius responding to an objection that Jesus was raised from the dead too soon – the sign of Jonah was “three days and three nights,” whereas Jesus was risen before Sunday night.  He simply and quickly identified the absurdity of the objection (see how), without setting aside things like Biblical inerrancy.


Everlasting Contempt

March 25, 2013

In my debates on hell, I didn’t mention the following verse:

Daniel 12:2
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Perhaps I should have, as it helps to make clear one of the verses I did cited:

Isaiah 66:22-24For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, [that] from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

The point of this is not specifically to make clear that the punishment of hell will include torment of the damned. After all, that aspect of hell is abundantly clear from verse like the following:

Luke 16:28
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Revelation 14:11And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Rather the point of citing Daniel 12:2 in connection with Isaiah 66:22-24 is that the condition of the wicked is a permanent condition. It won’t cease, either for salvation or annihilation. Instead, it will be a perpetual memorial to God’s justice and power.

Daniel 12:2 also confirms the general resurrection, which we see more clearly in the New Testament.

John 5:29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Acts 24:15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

People might find my reference to Isaiah 66 surprising, because on its face it is not clear that these corpses are people who are alive in some sense, even while being dead in another and important sense.

But the second death is spelled out more clearly in Revelation 20:

Revelation 20:7-15
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Notice that the lake of fire is a place of eternal torment, and it is the second death.

And ultimately, the reason why the “traditional view” of hell is the view of hell that we will continue to hold is because it is the Scriptural view – represented not only by the above verses, but most especially by

Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

That punishment will generally be the wrath of God, and will particularly involve both torment and also specifically shame and contempt.


Michael Patton – Wrong 6 out of 8 Times

March 21, 2013

Michael Patton’s recent post, “Eight Issues that Do NOT Make or Break Christianity” is not his finest moment. Of the eight positions he picks, six are issues that go to the fundamentals of the faith, to wit (using his numbers):

1 . Young Earth Creationism

You don’t have to agree with every argument or every position from Answers in Genesis, but special creation as a matter of historical fact is a fundamental aspect of the Christian faith and a doctrine plainly taught in Scripture.

2. The authorship of the Pastoral Epistles

The pastoral epistles clearly state their authorship (see vs. 1 of each of them). It may not be a fundamental of the faith in itself, but it is a plain teaching of the text.

3. The inerrancy of Scripture

The Scriptures are the Word of God. God does not make errors.

4. Whether the flood covered entire earth

The Scriptures plainly teach that the flood did cover the entire earth. While this issue is not as fundamental as special creation, the significance of the Noahic covenant is very significant.

6. The inspiration of Scripture

The doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures is fundamental to the faith and is plainly taught.

8. The theory of evolution

Rejection of the theory of evolution is necessary in view of the plainly taught doctrine of special creation.

The only two points on which Patton was correct were:

5. The character witness of Christians

Christianity is about Christ, not about his followers. We are not disciples of anyone but God. If we were disciples of someone else, that person’s character could be in question, but we are not.

7. The unity of Christianity

Christian unity will be complete in the kingdom to come. It is incomplete now for many reasons, but chiefly because God has chosen that it will be incomplete now.

Oh, and even about the two he gets right, on #7 he claims:

It is important to note that all of orthodox Christianity has always been united on many things. There is a certain perspicuity (clarity) to the Scripture which has brought about this universal unity. We call this the regula fide or the canon veritas. It is simply an expression of orthodox belief, arguing that there are certain beliefs shared by all Christians, everywhere, at every point in history. There are too many things to list, but in essence we all agree on the person and work of Christ.

Obviously, I don’t speak for Patton or whatever group he associates with, but for us (as for Thomas Aquinas) “only canonical Scripture is the rule of faith.” There are many plain teachings in Scripture, to be sure, and generally speaking true believers agree on them (although human tradition is a powerful distorter). But Christianity unity is chiefly about unity in Christ – in the fact that we each have union with Christ through faith in Him. Thus, by faith we are the body of Christ, a fact we celebrate when we remember the Lord’s death until he comes.

Note well – I’m not saying that Christians must have a correct understanding about the six things above in order to be saved. The way to be saved is by trusting in Christ alone for salvation, as he is presented in the Gospel. People can be saved with numerous doctrinal errors, even about very important points on which compromise is impossible.

Patton writes: “I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued.” Of course, as a Calvinist, I’m well aware of the fact that people who walk away from “the faith” do so either on a temporary basis (as I hope and pray is the case for Jason Stellman) or because they were never one of us.


When did Roman Catholicism Begin?

March 20, 2013

Over at Greenbaggins, Scott asked:

TF, when, exactly, do you believe Roman Catholicism began?

I answer:

If Roman Catholicism is defined by her (supposedly) infallibly defined dogmas, her birthday is November 1, 1950, which is when her pope defined the fiction of the bodily assumption. If she is defined by the last (supposedly) ecumenical council she accepts, she’s even younger (December 8, 1965), the date of conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. If she is defined by her canon laws, the most recent major edition was January 28, 1983. If she’s defined by her current pope, then she’s newborn.

But if she’s simply vaguely defined as a movement, it’s hard to provide a fixed date. Benedict XVI treated Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) as the father of Roman Catholicism – despite the fact that Thomas Aquinas’ views would place him outside the RCC today.

Perhaps better dates would be the dates of the councils of Constance (1418), Florence (1445) and Trent (1563), where certain strands of scholastic theology gained ecclesiastical dominance over other strands. Then again, a lot of Tridentine RCism has been undermined in contemporary RCism.

And frankly, that’s probably the best way to date the movement – to the “late medieval” period – 15th or 16th century, although there were undoubtedly doctrinal roots that go back earlier, even while recognizing that RCism continues to change even today.

That doesn’t mean that no one before 1054 held to any views in common with Roman Catholics, and it doesn’t mean that things like the Edict of Milan or the forged “Donation of Constantine” were insignificant factors in producing what eventually came to be RCism. Still, calling anyone in the late patristic or early medieval period “Roman Catholic” is anachronistic.


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