Archive for June, 2014

One Particular Accomplishment in the Sye Ten Bruggencate v. Matt Dillahunty Debate

June 26, 2014

There were a number of highlights (and a few lowlights) in the Sye Ten Bruggencate v. Matt Dillahunty debate (link). One highlight was when an audience member asked Sye if there was anything Sye couldn’t be wrong – and Sye pointed out the essentials. The follow up was “and what are those?” Sye did a great job of immediately presenting the gospel. It was a great opportunity, and Sye nailed it.

-TurretinFan

Advertisements

The Paradox of Atheism

June 24, 2014

The Psalms provide us with an interesting paradox about Atheism. On the one hand, God is not at all in their thoughts:

Psalm 10:4
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

Psalm 14:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

On the other hand, they actively deny God’s existence:

Psalm 53:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

A third branch to this remarkable paradox comes in Romans, together with the resolution:

Romans 1:21
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Although we all know God exists, we can become vain in our imaginations to the point of denying God’s existence or even forgetting about God. How sad is the plight of atheists!

-TurretinFan

Some Interesting Parts of the Ten Bruggencate/Dillahunty Debate

June 11, 2014

During the Sye Ten Bruggencate debate with Matt Dillahunty there were some interesting audience questions.

1) One gentleman asked why everyone isn’t saved, if every one knows/believes that God exists. As Sye explained, the problem with the question was that it presumed that it is enough for salvation for people to know the truth of the gospel (i.e. understand the content), or enough for salvation for people to assent to the truth of gospel (i.e. acknowledge that it is true). Instead, salvation is about trusting in and relying Jesus Christ alone for salvation, which we could describe as viewing the truth as good and desiring it for oneself.

2) Another gentleman asked whether, if God exists, Matt Dillahunty thinks that God owes him anything. This question was good from the standpoint of providing one way of getting atheists to try to think. Sometimes atheists try to raise internal critiques of God’s existence. Usually these critiques fail because they aren’t dealing with the God of the Bible. For example, some atheists seem to think that if God exists, then there should be no human suffering, as though God’s primary purpose would be to serve us and make us happy, instead of vice versa. Such a critique is obviously – at best – an external critique.

In this particular case, Matt stated that he said there would be some things that he would like – but that he did not believe that God would owe him anything. But then Matt took it a step farther and said that he felt that he would not owe God anything. On the contrary, if the God of the Bible exists, then Matt owes God obedience and repentance and faith when obedience falls short.

3) One lady raised an excellent question regarding how one gets from “there must be an absolute outside ourselves” to “the God of Scripture is true.” Sye explained that rather the God of the Bible is a necessary starting point in order to make sense of any absolute. Thus, it is not “absolutes therefore God” but rather “God therefore absolutes.”

Transubstantiation: Historical Development as Described by Garry Wills

June 10, 2014

Garry Wills (author of “Why I am a Catholic”), in “Why Priests,” describes the development of Eucharistic theology in the Middle Ages (p. 43):

William of Ockham (c. 1288–c. 1346), also known as Occam, wrote a long treatise on the Sacrament of the Altar. There he admitted (because the dogma of the Resurrection demanded it) that the glorified body of Christ in heaven was material. But the sacramental body of Christ was non-material, therefore non-spatial, like that of an angel. It could be present in a punctum, a point. The Scholastic theologians are often derided for debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. That is not a thing they would ever discuss, since their angels are non-spatial and pins are spatial, so never the two could meet.

Wills explains that the position of Thomas Aquinas won out over views like that of Occam.  Thomas used an Aristotelean distinction between accidents and substance.  However, as Wills explains, Thomas took Aristotle in a way Aristotle never imagined (p. 45):

Though Aristotle distinguished substance from accident, he did not (could not) separate them. A dog cannot exist without accidents like size. And there cannot be “a large” or “a white” standing alone without a substance. It has to be a large or a white something. An accident “comes along with” (symbainei) the thing that is its essence. Thomas admitted this natural truth: “An accident assumes what it is from its substance” (ST 3.77 a1r). But for the Eucharist, he posited a miraculous disruption of the natural order. He took the radical step of claiming that a substance can exist without its proper accidents, and accidents can exist without their proper substance, though only by a special action performed by God every time the priest says the words of consecration.

Wills further explains that there was an opposition to the position that Aquinas inherited and adopted (p. 49):

Thomas was forced to go to such lengths in caring for damaged Hosts because alternatives to transubstantiation were condemned by the church. One such alternative was offered in the ninth century by Ratramnus of Corbie, who said that Jesus was present in the Eucharist only symbolically (in figura), not physically. Ratramnus was rebuked by his superior, Paschasius Radbertus, who insisted on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist–which made Ratramnus’s student Gottschalk of Orbais claim Paschasius was advocating cannibalism. The view of Paschasius was the dominating one for the next two centuries.
But then, in the eleventh century, the charismatic and ascetical Berengar of Tours renewed in a more sophisticated way what Ratramnus had argued for, that the Eucharist is Christ in figura (in symbol). Relying on Augustine’s philosophy of the sign, Berengar said that the sign does not stand alone. It has to have a signifier and recipient of the sign. The whole system cannot function without this transaction. For him, the Eucharist was a dynamic system, in which the riches of salvation were offered to those with the faith to receive it.

There was also a liturgical aspect to this development.  Wills explains (p. 51):

Even when the Host was not exposed in a monstrance, it was felt to be present within the altar tabernacle, its divinity signaled by a vigil lamp–not a sheltered matter of bread and wine but an abiding divine person to whom one “paid visits,” worshiping, genuflecting, and praying to it. Alexander Nagel points out that, increasingly, from the fourteen to the sixteenth century, the tabernacle became larger and more central to churches.

In other words, the position adopted by Aquinas and calcified by Trent was a mutation, not an ancient tradition that was first disputed by the Reformers.

-TurretinFan

Misamplified Metaphors

June 6, 2014

People love metaphors – they are the salt of our linguistic cuisine, enhancing the flavor of our verbal diet. Still, they can be abused. I remember learning some time ago of mixed metaphors. I won’t get into those now. Instead, let’s talk about misamplified metaphors. These are cases where people are attempting to take an existing metaphor and amplify it. This can be done right. So, for example, “He wasn’t just burning the candle at both ends, he had found a way to light in the middle too.”

Misamplification can be seen when people say things like “he didn’t just jump the shark, he jumped the beach, the lifeguard stand, and most of the cars in the parking lot.” The reason this is a misamplification is that the metaphor is not about the height of the jump, it was an example of a purportedly low-quality episode of a popular TV program. You could say, “He didn’t just jump the shark, he did it during sweeps week.”

Misamplification can be applied to other metaphors as well: “He’s not just circling the drain, he’s circling the whole bathroom!” Instead, try “he’s not just circling the drain, he’s already half down it!”

Another misamplification example: “He’s not a paper tiger, he’s a rock, scissors and paper tiger!” A better option might be “He’s not a paper tiger, he’s more of a paper tiger’s cub” or “he’s not a paper tiger, he’s a paper tabby cat.”

Some misamplifications actually defeat the point: “He didn’t just spit into the wind, he spat away from the wind as well!” Another: “It wasn’t just coming up spades, but hearts, clubs, and diamonds too!”

I suppose there’s also a special category of misamplifications. If someone tries to amplify “I am the door,” into something more, it’s likely going to end up just wrong. Same for “I am the vine.” The Roman Catholics get a special award in this category when they amplify “this is my body” into “this is my body, blood, soul, and divinity,” although perhaps they should be disqualified from receiving the award, since they mean it non-metaphorically. Thankfully for their teeth they don’t make an identical error with “this cup” but instead refer those words to the contents of the cup.

Anyway, just something on my mind.

-TurretinFan

Oops, the original post included a simile, instead of a metaphor at one point:

So, for example, “that went over like a lead balloon” could be amplified as “that went over like a lead balloon filled with sand.”

My apologies to the reader

On Silence of Christian Leaders

June 4, 2014

My brethren are getting frustrated with the fact that certain Christian leaders seem willing to talk boldly about things that all their hearers already agree with, while refusing to speak up about the more controversial in-house problems. Remember the words of Mordecai:

Esther 4:13-14
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

God does use men, like Esther, to advance his kingdom and cause. Nevertheless, God’s purposes don’t depend on Esther. Christian leaders who remain silent, thinking it is to their advantage, are not undermining our cause, but their own. We can entreat them to do what they seem called to do, but we should also recognize that God will deliver us, if not from that quarter, from some other.

-TurretinFan

What’s the Big Deal About Priests?

June 3, 2014

Garry Wills, in Why Priests, provides some interesting thoughts on the significance of the Roman Catholic priesthood (Chapter 2, p. 20):

The most striking thing about priests, in the later history of Christianity, is their supposed ability to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. “From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength” (C 1566). Nothing else about their actions is on that scale–the fact that they can routinely work an astounding miracle. Jesus becomes present in every bit of bread and every bit of wine that is consecrated, and only one thing can make it happen–the words of a priest impersonating Jesus at the Last Supper and saying, “This is MY [i.e., Jesus’ though the priest is speaking] body . . . This is the cup of MY blood.”
The only person on earth who can do this is a priest, and he can do it all by himself, with no congregation present (in what is called a private Mass). A congregation of believers, no matter how large or how pious, cannot do this if no priest is present. The people of God cannot approach God directly, in this rite central to many Christians, but only through a designated agent. As Thomas Aquinas put it: “A priest, it was earlier said, is established as the mediator between God and the people. A person who stands in need of a mediator with God cannot approach him on his own” (ST 3.22 a4r).

This does, of course, lead to the “Protestant” objection that there is only one mediator, Christ.  This becomes even more clearly in a quotation Garry Wills provides from an RC “saint” (p. 25):

In the twelfth century, Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order of priests, wrote of the priest’s re-enactment of the Incarnation, “Priest you are not, because you are God.”[Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast (University of California Press, 1987), p. 57]

Garry Wills also draws a distinction between the traditional splendor of the papacy and the austerity of the original apostles (pp. 28 and 32):

Until recently the pope used to enter Saint Peter’s on a sedia gestatoria, a throne borne on the shoulders of twelve footman while two attendants used the flabellum, a large ceremonial fan made of white ostrich feathers. Despite suspension of its use, the sedia has not been formally renounced.
All this fuss and finery far outdoes what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees. “Everything they do is done to impress people. They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels” (Mt 23.5-6).

Of course I have known humble and hardworking priests, men who shamed me by their devotion to others. But there are enough of the other kind to make one appreciate the words of Jesus when he told his Followers not to strive for pre-eminence (Mk 9.33-37). Or when he sent his disciples out to preach the Gospel, saying, “Provide yourselves no gold or silver or copper in your belts, or traveler’s pouch, or a second pair of tunics or sandals” (Mt 10.9-10). Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Palace cannot claim true descent from that pair of sandals and that single tunic.

The current bishop of Rome is less interested in finery than many of his predecessors, but his “succession” is from them.  He has not condemned their moral heresy, nor does he refuse to be called “Holy Father” or “Vicar of Christ.”

-TurretinFan


%d bloggers like this: