Archive for the ‘Definitions’ Category

Defining "Christian" so as to Deceive Christians

June 8, 2010

Over in the comment box of the GreenBaggins blog, Dave Armstrong asked:

First of all, how could one who accepts the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed not be a Christian? I think that is something you should ask yourself.If those do not help clarify who is and who is not a Christian, what in the world does? This is the very purpose of creeds and confessions: to determine in a concise manner who is within and outside of the fold.

One has to ask why, i.e. upon what pretense, Dave selects the creeds of those councils, and not the Tridentine creed?

If one is going to include “heretics” who do not accept the Tridentine creed, why not accept heretics who do not accept the Nicene creed? After all, from Rome’s perspective, both Arians (who reject Nicaea) and the Reformed (who reject Trent) are “outside the fold” in the same sense. Trent is not less of an ecumenical council in Romanism, nor is its authority any less.

I understand that there are Christians out there who like to use one of those creeds as being a true definition of what is involved in being a Christian. That’s because they think that the essential doctrines of the faith are captured in those creeds. That’s not Rome’s position – Rome doesn’t permit people to differ over what Trent has said: if you deny Trent, you can’t reasonably call yourself a Roman Catholic.

For a Roman Catholic to select the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed as definitive of what it means to be a Christian is, at best, arbitrary. Trent and Nicaea are equally authoritative for a Romanist. Monothelitism (not condemned at Nicaea) is just dogmatically defined to be a heresy as Arianism. Iconoclasm is as strongly opposed as Monothelitism. And Trent’s Canon IX on Justification defines Sola Fide to be as false as any other condemned teaching.

Unfortunately, a number of Christians fall for this sort of sophistry. They imagine that folks like Mr. Armstrong are recognizing them as true followers of Christ by calling them a Christian. You should have seen him squirm, though, when asked the simple question of whether he equated “Christian” and “saved.” (he himself documented his own numerous attempts to evade the question on his own blog – link) This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that there are many folks within the Roman Catholic Church who do actually think that non-RCs are just on different paths to heaven: RC members who essentially adopt pluralism. Those two groups read Vatican II’s comments “ecumenical” comments in radically different ways.

And which group reads Vatican II correctly?


Dr. James Galyon Against Hyper-Calvinism

April 10, 2010

Dr. James Galyon has an interesting post on the topic of Hyper-Calvinism. He provides a long list of items that he views as Hyper-Calvinism, many of which I would agree with. I may not agree with him in every last detail in his definition. For example, he includes as one form of hyper-Calvinism: “Scripture is to be interpreted only by individuals, not by the Church.” While that position is wrong, I wouldn’t necessarily see it being an error under the umbrella of hyper-Calvinism.

Here’s his post.


– TurretinFan

Defining Hyper-Calvinism

September 14, 2009

John Sneed at Ministerial Meanderings provides a good (and much better, imho, than Phil Johnson’s) definition of hyper-calvinism in a recent re-post (link). Also important is his post’s emphasis on the need to be Biblical Christians, recalling that for us the Scripture is not just a rule of faith, but the rule of faith.


UPDATE: Mr. Sneed mentions the “love of God for the non-elect” issue that is sometimes brought into the hyper-Calvinism discussion, normally without warrant. He doesn’t really make that his definition (that I could see) and I didn’t think it worthwhile mentioning that minor issue in his post. That said, plainly the two major points of his definition:

1) Teaching that God attains ends without means; and

2) Teaching that there is no need for evangelism,

hit two of the three main areas of hypercalvinism.

A third area would be teaching providence-favoring incompatibilism: the error of asserting that moral choice and divine Providence are incompatible, accepting Providence and consequently denying moral responsibility.

There are several things that are not properly classified as hypercalvinism:

1) Scrupling over words such as:
a) “Offer” of the Gospel (as long as one proclaims the gospel, refusal to use the word “offer” may make one unconfessional, but it does not make one an heretic);
b) “Common grace” (as long as one proclaims that God’s providential dealings extend to both the elect and reprobate, one is not a heretic simply because one refuses to use the term “grace” for things other than saving grace);
c) “love of the reprobate” (there is no rule that says people have to use the adjective “love” to describe God’s relationship toward those to whom he may give riches in this life but hell forever); and
d) “duty faith” (as long as one does not deny that faith is commanded by God, refusal to use the expression “duty faith” cannot be considered heretical).

2) Denying that non-Calvinists are unsaved. This is a rather extreme view, no doubt, but it is not what hyper-Calvinism is.

3) Being a big meanie. Remarkably, in some circles, I’ve seen this used. Don’t be a big meanie, but if you are one, that doesn’t make you a hyper-calvinist.

Learn a Word: Aseity (Self-Existence)

August 19, 2008

As one wise pastor recently pointed out to me, “very few people even know what aseity means.” He’s right, of course. So, what does aseity mean?

In general it refers to God’s property of being self-existent. By way of background, I provide the following explanation:

By self-existence we mean
(a) That God is “causa sui,” having the ground of his existence in himself. Every being must have the ground of its existence either in or out of itself. We have the ground of our existence outside of us. God is not thus dependent. He is a se; hence we speak of the aseity of God.
But lest this should be be misconstrued, we add
(b) That God exists by the necessity of his own being. It is his nature to be. Hence the existence of God is not a contingent but a necessary existence. It is grounded, not in his volitions, but in his nature.

Augustus Hopkins Strong, Outlines of Systematic Theology, p. 72 1908 ed.


The Real Turretin on: The Definition of "Catholic"

April 27, 2008

Catholicity, in the absolute sense of the word, as Turrettin remarks, can be predicated only of that society that includes the Church triumphant in heaven, as well as militant on earth, that society that comprehends all the elect, reaching back to the days of Abel, and onward to the last trumpet.

Institutio Theologiae Elencticae, Francisco Turrettino, vol. iii. quest, vi.; Genevae, 1688.

(source, Wylie, The Papacy, pp. 206-07)


Armstrong vs. Aquinas – Classifying Reformed Christians

April 9, 2008

As recently noted by the “Shrine for the Holy Whapping,” a Catholic blog, Aquinas quoted with approval, the following (link to source):

“We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be venerated in all sincerity” and “If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius.” (citing De Eccles. Dogm. xl)

Lay Catholic Dave Armstrong has asserted: “I would note that the official Catholic position is to acknowledge Protestants as Christian brothers, whereas many Protestant groups either are officially anti-Catholic or contain within themselves a strong legacy of anti-Catholicism which is then passed down almost unconsciously. ” (source)

Let me be clear: the body (in whole or in part) of no Christian whatsoever should receive religous veneration of any kind, whether alive or dead. Furthermore, religious veneration of corpses is open necromancy (in the broad definition of that word). Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot treat corpses with respect, or that we cannot hold funerals, etc. Thus, religious worship (such as Catholic veneration of relics) is to be distinguished from non-religious consideration. In view of these statements, it should be apparent that I hold a contrary position to that of Aquinas expressed above. According to Aquinas’ standard, I should not be accounted a Christian.

On the other hand, Armstrong broadly defines Christianity this way: “[A]nyone who is a trinitarian and who adheres to the Nicene Creed is (doctrinally) a Christian (that is basically the official Catholic position on other Christians)” (source – including all bracketed material).

So, now the question is this:

1. Is Aquinas out of touch with the Official Catholic Position?


2. Is Armstrong out of touch with the Official Catholic Position?


3. Has the Official Catholic Position changed? (If so, when and by whose authority?)


4. Are Aquinas and Armstrong somehow reconciliable? (If so, how?)


5. It doesn’t matter / no one can understand Catholic theology, except people who agree with me / some similar cop-out


6. Your views are not contrary to those of Aquinas.

That last option seems utterly implausible.

Option 5 is self defeating.

Option 4 doesn’t seem possible, but I’m open to attempted explanations.

Option 3 is my thought as to the best guess – with the Vatican II era being the place where the tide shifted in favor of people who think it is a species of necromancy to venerate the “relics of saints.”

Option 2 is presumably the answer that traditional Catholics, especially sedavacantists, would give.

Option 1 would take a great deal of gumption, but perhaps someone will try to make that claim.

NOTE: Although I enunciate very quickly the objection to veneration of alleged relics, this is not the post for that debate. This post is questioning whether modern Roman Catholicism (and/or Dave Armstrong) defines Christianity the way that Aquinas did.


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