Archive for February, 2014

Caner’s Father – An Architect who "Came to Build Mosques"?

February 28, 2014

In describing his father, Ergun Caner has repeatedly referred to him as an “architect” and claimed he came to America to “build mosques.”  I doubt this account for a number of reasons.

First, Acar Caner’s death certificate lists his occupation as “engineer.” Unfortunately, this certificate has not been posted on-line.
Second, the Turkish article we previously reported (here) stated: “His father’s family had its roots in Istanbul. His father was an engineer and a religious man who was also attached to his secular values. Acar Caner studied engineering in Sweden and then moved to the capital of Ohio, Columbus, in 1969, with his Swedish wife who had converted to Islam.”
Third, although the building that is now the “Islamic Foundation” on Broad St. in Columbus, Ohio was renovated in the 1980’s, the architect listed was not Acar Caner.

Of course, lots of things are possible.  Still, if Acar Caner was actually an architect, there surely must be some evidence of it out there.  There’s an aspect of “wait and see” about this, but I would encourage people not to automatically assume that Acar Caner was an architect or that his primary role was building mosques.


Ergun Caner at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

February 27, 2014

Ergun Caner was the featured guest speaker (see advertisement here) at the GGBTS 2010 Missions Conference (link to page with links to audio), which was held February 12-14, 2014.  Caner evidently delivered at least three addresses:

Friday evening:
Around 6:20, Caner claims that his father-in-law is from “Possum Kill, NC.”
We can’t find any place by that name.
Around 15:40, Caner said, “When I got saved, it was later in life.  And then going into college – I got saved in my teens – but then going into college, I have switched from an urban church to a country church – and it caught me off guard.”
It is nice to see that Caner quickly corrected his “later in life” to “teens.”
Around 19:50, Caner said, “There was never any singing in the mosque.  Not in Sunni mosques, not in Shia mosques. It is forbidden. There is no singing in the mosque.”
No, it is not forbidden to sing in mosques. (See discussion here.)
Around 33:40, Caner said, “I’ve been tasered live on stage as a sermon point. And it worked, nobody forgot it. That was four years ago, nobody’s ever forgot it. I haven’t forgot it either, it hurt like crazy.”
Around 43:55, Caner said, “People always hit you up, ‘what is it that reached a Muslim?’ In my case, grace and the atonement, but it was worship. I had never heard singing – not in the mosque – I didn’t know why you were so happy.”
Keep in mind that Caner was in A Capella his sophomore, junior, and senior years and in Freshman choir in high school (see the discussion here).
Around 51:50, Caner said, “Jerry Tackett in my life for four years, freshman, sophomore, junior, going into my senior year. Every time I told him, ‘no,’ he kept coming back. I dressed differently, spoke differently, and worshiped a different god.”

Caner’s claim that it was his senior year is inconsistent with some of his other claims, like his claim that it was 1982.

Around 52:15, Caner said, “When I got saved I lost my family, I lost my loved ones, I became murtad, an object of scorn, and one anonymous church loved me.”

Caner apparently was disowned by his non-custodial father, but he apparently continued to have a close relationship with his mother and grandmother.

Around 53:00, Caner said, “I couldn’t understand her, because she was from Japan.  And her English was worse than my English.”

This may be true, but considering that Caner grew up in Ohio, it is a strange comment.

Around 53:40, Caner said, “A year after my salvation, while I’m in college, both my brothers get saved. My father has other wives, other children, but from our mom, three boys – all three born again …”
Caner’s father did not, as far as we can tell, have other wives.

Around 55:10, Caner said, “I have brothers and sisters that I’ll never see again, I’ve cousins and uncles and nephews and such that hate me.  But my nuclear family is changed, because of one boy.”

Caner does not, as far as we can tell, have other brothers than Emir and Erdem.

Saturday morning:
Around 9:50, Caner said, “I learned English, to all my immigrant friends, you can learn English simply by studying their dialects. And even in the south, they have variant dialects.”

Caner came when he was about 2 years old.  I doubt he learned English by studying dialects.

Around 10:15 Caner said, “My full name is Ergun Mehmet Caner.”
No, his full name is Ergun Michael Caner.

Around 12:05 Caner said, “I have lived in Korea. No one speaks Korean as quickly a Southerner speaks English.”

I’m sure Caner has visited Korea – but that’s not quite the same thing as living there.

Around 22:45 Caner said, “I spend a large portion of my time in front of hostile crowds.”
Really?  Where is the evidence of this.

Around 23:00 Caner said, “I got saved in the ’80’s …”

I wish we could verify this – partly in terms of verifying that he really professed faith in 1982 as he has claimed – and partly in terms of seeing repentance for his autobiographical embellishments.

Around 1:05:00 Caner described his interview at Liberty University.  He claimed he was asked about liquor and tattoos.  He claims that he told them that he had 12 tattoos.  More particularly, Caner said (around 1:06:00): “All of mine are anabaptist and church history and – I have a mark from when I was a Muslim, and so, when I got saved, I wanted something that – I got Arabic that says ‘Jesus is Lord,’ I’ve got Athanasius’ creed, Contra Mundum across my back-  If you ever see me get captured, I don’t want to be in an orange jumpsuit before they cut off my head, I want to be sleeveless, so that the last thing they see is ‘Jesus Christ alone is Lord’ in Arabic on my arm.”
a) Did Caner really get tattooed before his professed conversion to Christianity?  He would have been under 18 at the time.

b) Also, most Muslims think that permanent tattoos are forbidden (link).

c) The pictures at right show all the tattoos (or lack thereof) that I’ve seen (I’m linking to his twitter pics, so the pictures should disappear, if he pulls the pictures from his twitter site).
Around 1:10:20, Caner said: “Then, I was told I couldn’t get a masters, because I was a straight C student, until one professor – one – one guy grabbed me by the nape of the neck and said ‘Stop coasting.’
Caner was a “Presidential Scholar” at Cumberland (as we reported here).
Saturday evening:
Around 10:00 “In 1978 when my people moved here – when we moved here – Ayatollah Khomeini had said, ‘We will not stop, until America is an Islamic nation.’
Around 10:20 “When we started – in ’78 – when my father set up the Islamic Foundation in Columbus, Ohio, there was 1000 Islamic houses of worship.”
From what we know, Caner came in 1969, not 1978.
Around 46:20, Caner said: “So we are repeating, in Islam, six verses of the Koran – the first chapter – the first Surah of the Koran.  Over and over.”
Actually, the first Surah has seven verses. (see here)
Around 47:05, “This Islamic form of hyper-calvinism.  You fall down, you break your leg, you are supposed to say what? ‘Inshallah’ – Allah willed it. He broke my leg. It was supposed to happen.  It’s fatalism – it’s absolute fatalism.”
Caner is wrong – the Muslim exclamation would be alhamdulillah or perhaps allahu akhbar – “inshallah” is forward-looking.
Around 50:50, Caner said: “Are you saying that Islam is inspired by the devil? That’s exactly what I’m saying, so you can quote me.”
I figure we should go ahead and quote him.  I would think that the devil would know the Trinity better than the view that is reflected in the Koran.
Around 52:20, Caner said: “In the 61st chapter of the Koran, Surah 61, Mohammed has Jesus saying I must go so that I will send a Paraklĕtos – not klātos – Paraklĕtos and in Arabic it is shortened to Ahmed which is the nickname or the shortened version of Mohammed .”
Caner has conflated a few things here.  The Koran says that Jesus claimed he would send a messenger or an apostle and that the person would have the name Ahmed (short for Mohammad).  Certain Muslims claim that when John 16:7 reports that Jesus said he will send a Comforter (παράκλητος – parakletos), that this is a textual error and the text should read “περικλυτος” (periklutos), which allegedly would mean “praised one,” which is the meaning of Ahmed/Mohammad.   
Around 53:05, Caner said: “Ibrahim, goes to the top of Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his son. Lays his son on an altar – so far so good – Genesis 22, right? lays his son on the altar, raises up the knife, because Allah has told him to kill his son. Plunges it down, and at the last minute, Allah prepares an animal in the thicket and saves the life of Ishmael. You get it? 2200 years after Moses writes it – 2700 years after it actually happened – Mohammad changed the story. He changed the characters.”
As discussed elsewhere, it appears that the replacement of Isaac with Ishmael in the story is a post-Mohammad development in Islamic history (see the detailed discussion here).
Around 1:07:50, Caner said: “I will never move. If I ever leave Liberty, you know where I’m going? State school.  Put me on the floor at a community college – where I’m with every leftist, loser, liberal, lesbian, everything, surrounded by heathens – what better place to be!”
Of course, Caner didn’t know the future, but since he’s left Liberty – he has apparently only worked at Christian colleges.

Tom McCall – Conversation with Dr. Ergun Caner

February 17, 2014

This conversation, between Tom McCall and Ergun Caner, was recently posted to Youtube, but appears to be from several years ago, while Ergun Caner was with Liberty Theological Seminar (not sure how many years ago, exactly) (link to video).  It has some of the usual claims, and some interesting situations.

Around 45 seconds in, the host says that he believes Caner was originally from Turkey. Caner responds: “Well, I am Turkish, 100% Turkish, and came to America as an immigrant, and as the son of a muezzin.  My father was a leader in the mosque and we built mosques – this was part of our background.  And so, because of this, we came here to work on the mosques.”

Caner was a toddler when he came and we have found no evidence to corroborate this claim that his father built any mosques.  Possibly, Caner’s father helped remodel the building that served as the Islamic Foundation on Broad St. in Columbus, Ohio.  As for being a “muezzin,” we again have nothing to substantiate this claim.

Also, Caner now admits that his mother was Swedish.  Even if his mother were Turkish but merely a Swedish citizen, or something like that, it still pops out that Caner does not correct McCall’s wrong impression that Caner is from Turkey, but instead provides information that will lead McCall to continue to think what he thought.

Around 1:30, the host asks what the reaction of Caner’s family was to his conversion.  Caner responds: “Well, I was saved on a Thursday night.  And so, the next night I went back to the mosque, masjid is on – you know – jumiyat is on Friday prayer, and told them that I was a believer in Jesus.  That was not well received.  But I was disowned by my father, and disowned by my family. Did not see my father until 1999, till right before he died.  But my church was my new family.”

Apparently, Caner was disowned by his non-custodial father.  However, Caner was not – as far as we can tell – disowned by his hippy-universalist mother nor by his Swedish Lutheran (background, at least) grandmother, who raised him.

Around 5:30, Caner states: “I get to Genesis, and Abraham, in Genesis 22, sacrifices his son, Isaac.  This is exactly opposite – the polar opposite – of what the Quran teaches, that Abraham sacrifices Ishmael.”  The host mentions how he first heard that this was the Muslim view. Caner then responds, “And the Quran is explicit in this, and Mohammed’s teachings in the Hadith are explicit in this. And then, I find out, 2200 years after Moses wrote it, and add 500 years to that, 2700 years after it actually happened, Mohammed changed the story.”

As I previously wrote:

This is actually a widespread modern Islamic view, namely that Abraham nearly sacrificed Ishmael, not Isaac. Sam Shamoun points out, however, that the early Islamic literature actually supports the fact that it was Isaac. The idea that nearly sacrificed son was Ishmael is apparently a later Islamic development (see Sam’s excellent discussion here). So, it’s probably not accurate to say that Mohammed changed the story, but rather that his followers did.

In short, it’s not explicit in the Quran, and it’s not even clear from the Hadith.

Around 8:15, Caner states: “Those with lies can only threaten, because the truth is its greatest danger.  … Those that don’t have the truth, the only thing they have left are lies and threats and screaming.”

This cliche seems oddly appropriate in these times where Caner has threatened action against those who are presenting the truth.

Around 8:30, Caner states: “Most of my life I spend with people yelling at me in debates and such, but that’s ok, you know.”

Where are any of these debates?  We cannot find any evidence of these happening.

The host then asks Caner about the fact that Caner had indicated that he likes to debate and spends a good deal of time debating on college campuses and elsewhere.  Caner replied, “I go into debates – open debates – which means pro bono, nobody makes any money. We don’t want any Christian sponsorship for them. I debate anyone who comes: Buddhist, Bahai, Zoroastrian, Sunni, Shia, Suffi, Nation of Islam, I debate anyone.”

Again, we cannot find any evidence of these debates actually happening.

The host then asks Caner who invites him to these debates. Caner replied, “Sometimes it’s college ministries and churches. But I tell them, you know, if you’re going to set this up, this needs to be with the approval of the school and it must be an open forum – anybody can speak. And my only rule is that no Christian can ask me a question. Only the unbelievers can ask me questions, because I think if I’m going to spend my life planting seeds, I’m not going to plant a seed in a Christian, he’s already saved. And the Muslim will suspect it, or the Buddhist, he will suspect the question. I let them ask whatever question they think. They spend their lives thinking they are going to stump us, you know, and so throw your best shot.”

Yet again, we cannot find evidence of any of these debates actually occurring.

The host then asks what happens at the debates.  Around 9:50, Caner replied: “Well, sometimes it becomes the gospel according to Jerry Springer. Sometimes it becomes yelling and cussing and etc. But not on my end. You know, we have to be bold but not brash. The difference is bold, you attack the lie, but if you’re brash, you attack the person.”

We definitely have noticed the tendency of Caner and company to attack the people who point out Caner’s untrue statements.  Regarding Jerry Springer, recall this previous post (link).

Around 12:45, Caner says: “I love my job at Liberty, but if I was ever to leave Liberty University, it would be to teach at a secular school.  You know, put me on a floor where I’m surrounded by lesbians, and liberals, and idiots, and potheads, because where else is Christianity going to be effective? We have never been called, God never called us to apathy, he never called us to sedation.  He called us to engagement. And it’s not jihad, like I lived, it’s an engagement of converting the enemy, loving the enemy, who is not really the enemy, but is someone for whom Christ died.”

Now, since Caner has left Liberty, he’s served – as far as we can tell – only at Christian colleges.  Of course, he could not predict the future, so we can’t totally hold this against him. Still, one wonders what efforts Caner has made to try to teach at a secular school, if any.

Also, note Caner’s claim to have lived “jihad.” Of course, that claim could presumably be justified by treating jihad as an internal struggle, but Caner has elsewhere objected to using the term jihad that way.

Around 17:10, Caner says, “The Josh McDowell of the Islamic world, Shabir Ally, is famous for asking the question in debate, he always says, ‘Well, what does his death have to do with me?’ You have to find a way to explain the atonement to a Muslim.”

If only Caner had stuck with this version of the story rather than inserting himself into the story in other versions of this story!  Still, one wonders if Shabir Ally ever even said this in any of his debates.  I have listened to some of Shabir’s debates and I don’t recall hearing this line.


Back to Blogger Comments …

February 11, 2014

Unfortunately, the use of more elaborate commenting schemes was slowing down the blog.  So, we’re back to Blogger comments for now.  Unfortunately, that means many pearls of wisdom posted on the blog are not fully lost, but also may not be visible to the public.  If some one of your comments is gone and you want to repost it, please feel free.

On the 24 Hour Days "Argument" in Genesis

February 10, 2014

Arguing 24 hour days in Genesis is hardly necessary – the text doesn’t just say day – it specifies the kind of day – the kind with evening and morning. It’s not so much a question of arguing as just basic reading comprehension.

I posted the above on Facebook recently, and got some objections.  I’ve posted the objections with my responses.  I’ve tried to use some color coding to help highlight what words came from the objectors, although I’ve taken a little bit of liberty in terms of simplify, rewording, or omitting portions of the objections. I have not named the objectors, but would be happy to do so, if either of them wants to be named.

An objector might respond that the text specifies the pattern of the day but uses the evening and morning pattern, not the hour by hour pattern.

The value of this objection is low.  If the objector’s point is that a day could have been 25 hours or 23.5 hours – and didn’t have to be precisely 24 hours – fine.  But if the point is that “day” could have meant a billion years – that’s an entirely different thing.  Such a meaning for “day” is totally unreasonable.

The objector may respond that the argument is overstated in the sense that there is no way one can prove the 24hr day theory from the text.

Nevertheless, the text says day.  Moreover, the text specifies the morning/evening kind of day.  That kind of day is approximately 24 hours long.  It’s hard to see what could possibly be missing in that proof.

The objector may respond “That kind of day is approximately 24 hours long” is a scientific assumption you are reading back into the text. It assumes that the days as we observe today are exactly the same as the days of Genesis.

But no, it is not a “scientific” assumption.  Instead, it is the plain meaning of “evening/morning” to the Israelites to whom God through Moses wrote the text. In other words, the only way to try to poke a hole in the argument is to throw out grammatical/historical hermeneutics.

Another objector might respond that the method I just mentioned is exactly what I am suggesting we do with our current Scientific understandings.

Instead, I am just suggesting that the assumption of indefinite uniformity in the past is unjustified.

In response to “No, it’s not a “scientific” assumption – it’s the plain meaning of “evening/morning”” the first objector may respond that this is exactly the same prima facie proofing dispensationalists use for their eschatological theories. No one reads scripture in the sense of a strict grammarian, there are more factors that are involved in reading the text.

First, the only reason for not reading it according to the plain meaning is a desire to harmonize it with some ideas the objector got outside the text.  Furthermore, there is no need to falsely associate my objector’s view with someone else to point out that error.

Now, regarding dispensationalists and some of their interpretations – typically those errors the objector is pointing out arise in the context of trying interpret prophecy: statements about future events. That’s a different genre from history. IF(!) dispesnationalists apply the same kind of interpretation to prophetic passages as to historical passages, it is no surprise that they have errors.

The objector may respond that he is just pointing out the methodological approaches to reading scripture. Appeals to a “plain sense” reading are similar to the arguments heard from dispensationalists. It doesn’t mean the argument is invalid, it just means that particular methodology needs to be avoided.

Of course, the fact that people who come to wrong conclusions (let’s just assume they do, to avoid turning this into an eschatology discussion) sometimes use a specific form of argument does not make that argument wrong or suggest that the form of argument should be avoided.

Still, the objector may ask about “The plain sense of x”: What do you mean “plain sense”?

What I mean is not some secret meaning, like in a parable or prophecy; nor some specialized technical meaning, like in some detailed discussions of theology or other technical writing.  It’s the ordinary meaning people normally associate with the word.

So, for example, when God says he made Eve from Adam’s rib, rib means one of those bones around Adam’s lungs: it is not a code word for something else. On the other hand, when God speaks of the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” that’s a prophetic reference to Jesus. Different genres, different ways of looking at words.

The objector may then ask: would you argue that because Genesis 1-3 is describing events that are historical, that there are no other literary elements at work? The text is giving us a history, but it isn’t doing just that, nor is it doing it strictly chronological (more emphasis on the word strictly). It is providing us a theological understanding of the beginning of the universe, the world, and mankind.

You can have multiple literary elements at work in a single writing. For example, the gospels and Acts are historical accounts, but they are also providing a theological understanding of redemption, of Christology, and so on. We don’t hold the third day resurrection as being somehow doubtful, just because there are other purposes to the gospels than just to provide history. So, we also shouldn’t hold the sixth day Creation of man to be doubtful just because the purpose of Genesis is not just to provide history.

Now, if your point is that Genesis 1-3 is not “strictly” chronological, because after Genesis 1 describes the 6th day closing, Genesis 2 then provides more detail about the 6th day, ok. Likewise, if you are pointing out that God says first that “in the beginning” God created the heavens and the earth, before then explaining the day-by-day events of that, ok. In both cases, that’s a departure from strict chronology. But Genesis 1 does present a sequence of events that are described as occurring chronologically, with explicit relative and absolute chronological references.

And recall that while much of the Pentateuch was Moses writing under inspiration, there is a section where God himself wrote the text, in his own hand, in stone. There he wrote: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is … .”

The objector may respond that Ken Ham demonstrates that YECers rely on scientific models, so it’s a bit odd to attribute that conclusion to OEC speculation.

They rely on scientific models in different ways, as Ken Ham also explained during the debate. For example, scientific models are sometimes offered to hypothesize how people lived such enormous lengths of time before the flood, or how the animals dispersed to places like Antarctica, South America, and Australia.

The objector may respond that it’s quite a stretch to absolve Ham from placing how he reads on his scientific understandings, it would be a double standard. It all comes down to “Well since I agree with YEC, then Ham gets off the hook”.

Maybe the objector thinks it is a stretch because he has overlooked that Ham’s starting point is the text of Scripture, whereas for others the starting point is backwards extrapolation with a variety of assumptions, especially the assumption of indefinite uniformity.

The objector may respond that Ham asserts that his starting point is the text of scripture, but that’s a verbal fiat. It doesn’t carry over into all of his argumentation consistently.

He does, in fact, start with the text of Scripture. Now, if you are saying that at some points in his arguments he loses track of that starting point – ok – but that doesn’t change his starting point, it just leaves room for improvement in his argument.

– TurretinFan

High Priest Argument for Definite Atonement aka Particular Redemption aka Limited Atonement

February 6, 2014

Sometimes it is hard to explain to people why the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death is relevant to the question of the scope of the atonement: i.e. whether the atonement was made for all, hypothetically all, or particularly the elect.  One way to explain this is by reference to the fact that Christ is not just the lamb of God, whose death takes away the sins of the world, but that Christ is also the High Priest who makes the offering.  The following provides an easy explanation of this argument, so that you can present it to your friends, without requiring them to know everything about the Old Testament sacrificial system.

At the heart of it, the offering of a lamb as a burnt offering involved killing the lamb and roasting it in fire.  That’s quite similar, as hopefully you’ve noticed, to the core of having lamb for dinner.  What then differentiates lamb chops from a sacrifice?

It’s not the fact that the lamb can still be eaten in the dinner context.  Yes, there were “whole burnt offerings” where the entire animal was fully consumed by the fire, but the more typical context of animal sacrifices involved the cooked animal being eaten – partly by the priest and partly by the person offering the sacrifice. That’s why the apostles taught gentile Christians, you may recall, to buy their meat without asking whether it was a sacrifice to one of the gods.  So, it is not the degree of cooking that distinguishes the sacrifice from the dinner.

Instead, what distinguishes the two is the ritual, especially the prayer.  The prayer asks God to accept the animal as a sacrifice and consequently to accept the person for whom the sacrifice is offered.

Furthermore, sacrifice could be made for one person or a group of people.  For example, when sacrifices were made on behalf of Israel as a nation, sometimes lots of animals were killed, but there was not a one-to-one relationship between the animals and the people of Israel.  Likewise, in some cases a sacrifice might involve more than one animal, but only one person.  How could these situations be distinguished?

Again, the answer lies in the ritual – particularly in the prayer.  The prayer is what distinguishes a sacrifice from one person from a sacrifice for a family, tribe, or nation.

Now, apply that principle to Christ’s death.  For whom does Christ pray? Does Christ pray for all mankind indiscriminately? Or does Christ pray for all the believers – all the elect?  Does Christ specifically pray for those given to him by the Father?

In theological terms, this is the “impetration” aspect of the atonement – for whom does Jesus ask the Father for forgiveness of sins and eternal life? Without any request, the sacrifice is just a tasty meal.  With the request, the sacrifice is made for the people identified in the request.

Now, someone might try to claim that Jesus asks for life for everyone, but the Father turns Jesus down except in the case of those who make the difference and autonomously cooperate in some way.  Such an idea, though, lacks any Scriptural testimony and drives a wedge between the Father and the Son, which contradicts the idea that “I and my Father are one.”

Indeed, the Scriptures do not describe that Jesus prays for each and every individual, that the Father would accept His sacrifice on their behalf.  For example, Jesus says: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. … For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:1, 2, and 8-10)


Bryan Cross versus the Evidence

February 1, 2014

Bryan Cross writes: “All the historical evidence Lampe cites in his book, even when taken together in aggregate, is fully compatible with there being a monarchical bishop in Rome. Twelve times zero is still zero; it isn’t greater than one times zero.” (source) This response appears to combine sophistry and ignorance in a particularly insidious way.

In what way is the Evidence “Fully Compatible” with a Roman Monarchical Episcopate?
By “fully compatible” Bryan simply means that there is some possible way to view the evidence as fitting in with his hypothesis of a monarchical bishop in Rome. So, for example, when confronted with the Eusebius says he created a succession list when he came to Rome, Bryan speculates that Eusebius may have used a pre-existing list to make his own list.

Similarly, regarding the evidence of the role of presbyters in particular ancient Roman controversies, without reference to any monarchical bishop, Bryan argues: “This is an argument from silence, which is a fallacy when there is no objective standard by which to know the likelihood of non-silence given the truth of the hypothesis [e.g. that there was a monarchical bishop].” (bracketed material is Bryan’s.)

In short, even if every historical account of first and early second century Rome is silent regarding any monarchical bishop there, and even if some of those accounts actually do make reference to an authority structure of presbyters/elders, Bryan is going to call this “fully compatible.”

Why is Bryan’s “Fully Compatible” Claim Absurd?
Put this in perspective: suppose my hypothesis is that Abraham Lincoln’s identical twin brother delivered the Gettysburg Address. The fact there is no contemporary account of Lincoln having an identical twin brother is “fully compatible” with my hypothesis in exactly the same way that the absence of contemporary historical evidence of a monarchical bishop in Rome is “fully compatible” with such a bishop actually existing. In other words, the “fully compatible” bar as used by Bryan is such a low bar it permits all kinds of absurd hypotheses.

So, it is sophistical for Bryan to respond that the evidence is “fully compatible” (in such a sense) with his hypothesis.  Such a response suggests that the historical evidence is not problematic with respect to his hypothesis, when – in fact – it is devastating to his hypothesis.

What about the Twelve-Times-Zero Argument?
This argument seems to stem from Bryan’s ignorance. When it comes to the question of whether the hypothesis of a monarchical bishop is true, the amount of inconsistent evidence matters. So, for example, if we had no contemporaneous accounts of Rome, the silence of such accounts on any particular issue would be of very little significance. It might be surprising that such information would be lost (had it existed), but that would be the extent of the problem.

On the other hand, when there is a positive account of Rome and it omits any mention of the supposed monarchical bishop of Rome, this is more problematic for the monarchical bishop in Rome hypothesis. When there are two or more such accounts and they all fail to mention this alleged bishop, the problem is increasingly worse. Obviously, if we had 10,000 such accounts and none mentioned the alleged bishop, well – that would be that much stronger.

The reason, of course, is that such “silence” is not a zero.

Furthermore, not all of the evidence is silence. For example, some of the evidence is evidence of the life of the church in Rome at the time. Rome was an enormous city by ancient standards. Furthermore, Rome was a city with a lot of immigrants. There is evidence that the Christians in Rome did not all meet together for worship, but instead that they met in different groups, in house churches. For example, Paul writes:

Romans 16:3-5
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

and then again:

Romans 16:14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.

and again:

Romans 16:15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

(and, of course, Paul does not mention in his salutations any of the men set forth as purportedly the early monarchical bishops, but that brings us back to this silence that Bryan is trying hard to suppress)

Similarly, there is evidence that there was an absence of a central structure to the Roman church. Thus, for example, Onesiphorus could not easily locate Paul when he came to Rome:

2 Timothy 1:16-17
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.

In short there is evidence that the Christian groups were scattered around the city in various groups. It would have been administratively challenging for a single monarchical bishop to govern such scattered house churches. So, the very historical situation of the churches in Rome weighs against having such a mode of government in Rome.

Indeed, this evidence suggests that at least initially there probably was not a central authority of any kind in Rome – not just that there was no monarchical bishop, but that there was not necessarily even any well-established presbytery.  Rather individual churches were governed by presbyter/elders, as the apostles taught churches should be governed.

This kind of evidence is not a “Zero.” On the contrary, it paints a picture of Rome in which Bryan’s hypothesis becomes increasingly implausible and unfeasible.  In fact, there wasn’t a single monarchical bishop of Rome in the first century or early second century.  Eventually there was such a bishop, but such a development required things like organization of the Roman churches.

Is Bryan Really Looking at the Evidence like an Historian?
No.  For a historian, the aggregation of historical evidence is used to paint a picture of what existed at the time.  Silence is important to historians.  Moreover, historians are also interested in historical context that lends credibility (or contrariwise) to historical claims.

The problem for Bryan is that Rome’s historical claims are not historically credible.  On the contrary, history contradicts Rome’s historical claims.  Not only was there no papacy from the beginning – there was not even a monarchical bishop of Rome from the beginning.

Keep in mind, historians are not infallible.  The only infallible writings we have are Scripture — and Scripture is an even worse enemy of the papacy than history is.


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