Archive for the ‘James Swan’ Category

"We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary #10

May 19, 2009

To a certain extent I’m treading on Mr. James Swan’s toes in posting this episode to the “We Have Apostolic Tradition” series. Mr. Swan had noticed that Roman Catholic apologists often let us know how crucial it is to have an infallible magisterium and church Tradition in order to interpret the Bible correctly. With so many Roman Catholic apologists now commenting on sacred scripture, Mr. Swan thought it would be interesting to provide their commentary on the Bible. Let’s see how they’ve been able to rightly divide the word of truth.

One issue that comes up again and again is the issue of justification by faith alone. As most people know, this was an issue of great importance to Luther and is viewed as one of the dividing lines of the Reformation. Accordingly, many Roman Catholics have been quick to accuse Luther of adding the word “alone” to his translation of Romans.

Jodocus Adolph Birkhaeuser writes:

In Rom. iii. 20, and Rom. v. 15, Luther inserted the word “only“, and in Rom. iii. 28, after the words “we account a man to be justified by faith,” he added the word alone, “by faith alone.”

(History of the church, from its first establishment to our own times, 1898) Mr. Birkhaeuser provides a footnote to this claim. The footnote states:

When charged with having falsified verse Rom. iii. 28, by adding the word “alone,” he replied, “Should your Pope give himself any useless annoyance about the word sola (alone), you may promptly reply: ‘It is the will of Dr Martin Luther that it should be so.'”

But today, although we have seen that some Roman Catholic apologists like Mr. Martignoni are making similar claims (link), we also see a new trend that recognizes that this older view was wrong. Anthony N. S. Lane writes: “Ever since Luther inserted the word ‘alone’ into his translation of Romans 3:28 this [sola fide] has been a major point of controversy.” Mr. Lane also provides a footnote, but it is somewhat different from Mr. Birkhaeuser’s. Mr. Lane notes: “Though Hans Küng points out that some pre-Reformation translations of Galatians 2:16 contained the formula “faith alone”. (citation omitted)

Mr. Swan has already pointed out (at the link above) that Joseph Fitzmyer has confirmed that Luther’s translation here was not a radical departure or unwarranted insertion. Indeed, as Mr. Swan pointed out, Fitzmeyer references the fact that Bellarmine had identified at least eight men who had translated Romans 3:28 to include the word “alone” ranging from Origen to Thomas Aquinas.

But, of course, Fitzmeyer has been tagged as a “liberal” within Catholicism, and consequently he sometimes gets dismissed as not being sufficiently scholarly or not being truly unbiased. However, it should be noted that Fitzmeyer is not all on his own here.

A certain man of German extraction, presently living in Italy wrote: “And he adds “we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (ibid., v. 28). At this point Luther translated: “justified by faith alone”. I shall return to this point at the end of the Catechesis. … [at the end of the Catechesis] For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.” (General Audience, 19 November 2008)

By now you have perhaps guessed who this man is: he is Joseph Ratzinger who goes by the title Pope Benedict XVI and is recognized as the earthly head of the Roman Catholic church. This sounds somewhat different from what we recall of Leo X’s words against Luther and of Trent’s condemnation of justification by faith alone. These times are different, though. Today we find statements put forth from the Vatican, such as the following: “Justification takes place “by grace alone” (JD 15 and 16), by faith alone, the person is justified “apart from works” (Rom 3:28, cf. JD 25).” (source)

You’d almost think that the Vatican has conceded that Luther was not just right about his translation, but that he was right about his doctrine. That thought would be wrong. Through careful sophistry the Vatican today has done what the Vatican in Luther’s day was unable to do: they have found a way to affirm Luther’s words while meaning precisely the opposite thing.

“Grace Alone” is not, in the Vatican’s new double-speak, inconsistent with human cooperation. “Faith Alone” is not, in the Vatican’s new double-speak, inconsistent with justification by human cooperation (recall Trent: “CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” and “CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.” and “CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity [unbelief]; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity [unbelief]; let him be anathema.” and again “CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.”) To which we might add many more such quotations.

What is the bottom line? Rome has been forced to acknowledge that Luther’s translation was correct. Instead of going after the translation itself, there has been attempt to redefine the phrases “sola fide” (faith alone) and “sola gratia” (grace alone) to include a concept that can be adopted by those who believe that they contribute something of their own to their justification by co-operation.

Who has apostolic tradition? The answer, as always, is whoever sides with Scripture.



Two Kingdoms, Yes – But Don’t Go Beyond the Bible

February 17, 2009

Mr. James Swan, for a very different purpose, brought the following two quotations to my attention (link to source). Both are from Martin Luther and help to demonstrate the danger of taking the two kingdoms distinction beyond the Bible:

It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests and monks are called the spiritual estate, while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate. This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except that of office.

[LW 44:127].

It follows from this argument that there is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status. They are all of the spiritual estate, and are truly priests, bishops, and popes. We are all one body of Christ the Head, and all members one of another. Christ does not have two different bodies, one temporal, and the other spiritual. There is but one Head and one body.

[LW 44: 129-130].
To be sure, Luther goes a little far in his response to the errors of Rome. The offices of bishop/elder and deacon are real offices, not merely labels. And the elders and deacons are to serve the Body of Christ (whose only head is Christ) in unique ways that are not the same as the duties of all the other members of the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, the basic point that Luther is making is correct: there is one head over the Body of Christ, and it is Christ not a pope.

Likewise, all men (whether peasants or kings) have a responsibility to promote the true religion of Jesus Christ according to the abilities, gifts, and opportunities that God has given them, and in their functions within the kingdom of this world.


Two Methods of Apologetics towards Catholics

April 6, 2008

Passionately (link).

The link is to a Catholic blog, in which is embedded a video of a man dressed a Catholic priest shouting a message of repentance to an assembled congregation of Catholics, apparently during their service. The audio is somewhat indistinct – a combination of amateur recording equipment and lousy acoustics / camera location.

The man shouts out warnings to the Catholics that the priest cannot save them, and that they are endangering their souls by their religion. At first the priest (it seems) tries to tell the man to go away. Eventually, after a bit, the priest realizes that the man’s shouting can really only be overcome by the vox populi, and consequently leads the congregation in song.

Cons of this approach:

1. The Catholic blog that posts the video in the link above suggests that this is illegal in many places. While illegality is not an absolute bar to evangelism, it may be more seemly to pursue methods of evangelism that honor the king. Also, getting arrested for disrupting a worship service is not necessarily the same as getting arrested for preaching the gospel, even if that is what you were doing when we disrupted the service.

2. The approach is rude. These are people who clearly do not want to be disturbed. Again, it is not absolutely necessary that an evangelist be polite at all costs, but being rude is not the Pauline model, to say the least.

3. The approach doesn’t seem effective. It is too easy to drown out the message with a hymn – it is too easy to write off the messenger as a “rabid anti-Catholic.” The mockery in the Catholic blog post above demonstrates both of the ways in which the message will be minimized.


1. These are people who may not otherwise hear the gospel warnings, that may be jolted by such an approach.

2. It cannot be completely ignored.


I’m not in favor of this sort of apologetic methodology, at least not in the society in which we live. I am not trying to judge the man in the video: I don’t know his heart, his motivation, or his intent. Perhaps he simply longs for the Catholics in his community to be saved. Calling him an “anti-Catholic” for that it is wrong. I could alternatively ascribe negative motivations, but I don’t know the man’s heart. I really don’t like the fact that he dressed up as a Catholic priest, although in a few places other ministers also were similar atire. From the voices in the video, it sounds as the person calling the parishioners to repentance is an American, which tends to make me think that the garb is assumed.

Rationally (link).

The link is to a post by James Swan over at Alpha and Omega Ministries. The link presents a studied examination of one particular station of the so-called “stations of the cross.” It provides a demonstration that one of the stations is based on ingrained legend founded in etymological error.


1. Catholics have to be interested in reading to get the message.

2. Catholics have to actually go to the website to read the message.

3. Catholics have to think to get the message.

4. It’s fairly easy to ignore: just call Swan names and don’t go to his web site.


1. If someone goes, they have a tough time answering matter rationally.

2. The message is polite but firm, based in fact and compelling to someone who makes an historical examination of the matter.

3. The message is engaging. If you disagree, you cannot just stick your fingers in your eyes and sing a song, because your mind expects something more.

Compared to the former approach, Swan’s approach seems better – but then Swan has a different intended audience. The rank and file of Roman Catholicism do not go to Swan’s website and check out what he writes. On the other Swan’s approach is also more durable: he doesn’t have to shout every day to be heard every day. Also, Swan’s approach is more winsome. I think if I were Catholic, I’d be more well persuaded by Swan’s approach than by the approach in the first video.


Of course, these are not the only two approaches that exist. I have no doubt that someone may think that there is a better approach than either of the two I’ve outlined above. Regardless of how we go about it, we must do so from the right motives – and ought to do so in a way that is aimed toward bringing souls to Christ.

Paul encourages us this way:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
19For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33
31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Therefore, let us be constant continually preaching to those who do not trust in Christ alone for salvation, that they do so, repenting from their sins, and receiving the gift of God by faith in the Savior.

Praise be to His glorious grace!


Swan’s Response to Michuta on the Canon

January 25, 2008

James Swan has provided a two part response to a portion of Gary Michuta’s recent book on the canon. If the subject, and particularly it’s relation to Luther, interests you, you should check out his detailed comments:

(part 1)
(part 2)


Various Readings of the Great Luther Citation

January 23, 2008

The following are the fourteen readily obtainable uses by authors of the spurious Latin gloss on Luther’s statement, as instigated by Cochlaeus and perpetuated by Bellarmine, and as brought to the public’s attention as spurious by both Whitaker and Swan. The words: “Si diutius steterit mud, iteru erit necessariu, ut, ppter diversas Scripture interptationes, q nunc sunt, ad coservandam fidei unitatem, Concilioru …” are Cochlaeus’ words, not Luther’s words. This has been shown. Armstrong mentioned that the entire passage by Cochlaeus may be forthcoming. That would be wonderful, as it would permit us to fill out the first item in the list, and particularly to see whether Cochlaeus handled the matter like Grisar.

These are only the readings in which the Latin language is used. It is also known that there are additional related readings in German and English.

1. Si diutius steterit mud, iteru erit necessariu, ut, ppter diversas Scripture interptationes, q nunc sunt, ad coservandam fidei unitatem, Concilioru … [which, being expanded is: Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, ut propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum …] Cochlaeus, [work from Opuscula] (link to snippet) (link to book) (info about book) Opuscula includes, “De canonicae scripturae et catholicae ecclesiae auctoritate,” the speculative original source of the fictious gloss.

2. Lutherus ipse in lib. 1. cont. Zwingl. et Oecolampad., nonne scriptum reliquit; Si diutius steterit Mundus, iterum fore necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam Fidei unitatem, Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus.
Bellarmine, Opera Omnia, p. 98 (link)

3. Quare Martinus Lutherus in lib. cont. Zuvinglium de verit. corp. Euchar. Si diutius, inquit, steterit mundus, iterm erit necessarium, ut propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, conciliorum decreta recipiamus , atque ad ea confugiamus.
Bellarmine, Opera Omnia, p. 76 (link)

4. Lutherus ipse scribens contra Zwinglium et Oecolampadium I. 1. ait: Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum fore necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus.
Mellini, p. 138, Institutiones Biblicae (link)

5. Luther lib. 1. contra Zwinglium et Oecolampadium ait: si diutius steterit mundus iterum fore necessarium propter diversas sacrae scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, et ad ea confugiamus.
Leibniz, Philosophische Schriften 4, p. 2288 (link)

6. Luther, writing to Zwinglius, said, “If the world lasts for a long time, it will be again necessary, on account of the different interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of Councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of the faith.—Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, propter diversas Scripturœ interpretationes quœ nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, ut conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus.”
Balmes, Protestantism and Catholicity Compared in Their Effects on the Civilization …, p423 (link) (p. 360 in this version)

7. (1) Luther lui-même écrivait : « Si diutius steterit muridus, iterum necessarium erit, ut propter diversas Scripturœ interpretationes quae mine sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum decreta recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus. » De veritate corporis Christi cont. Zuinglium.
Bacuez (and Vigouroux), Manuel Biblique, p. 215 (link)

8. Such was the confusion in the camp of Protestantism, that Luther himself had to exclaim “si diutius steterit mundus, iterum esset necessarium, ut propter diversas scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem concilii decreta recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus”—(De Veritate Corporis Christi contra Zwinglium.)
Hallinan, Modern Erroneous Systems of Biblical Interpretation (pub. In Irish ecclesiastical record), p. 236 (link)

9. Imo iam olim Luther, de veritate corporis Christi contra Zvingl. scripsit : „Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, ut propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem Concilii decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus.”
Ranolder, Hermeneuticae Biblicae Generalis Principis Rationalia Christiana et Catholica, p. 272 (link)

10. Luther écrivait dans une lettre à Zwingle, qu’à cause des interprétations différentes de l’Ecriture sainte, il faudrait, pour conserver l’unité de la religion, admettre de nouveau les décrets des conciles et y avoir recours. « Si mundus diutius steterit, ad conservandam fidei unitatem iterum erit necessarium propter diversas Scriptura interpretationes ut conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus. »
Buszczynski, La Decadence de l’Europe, p. 429 (link)

11. Et c’est icy ou je crois d’avoir fermement prouvé que nous avons besoin d’une autre Regle pour nostre foy outre la Regle de l’Escritture Sainte : Si diutius steterit mundus (dict une bonne fois Luther *), iterum fore necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus; il confesse qu’auparavant on la recevoit, et confesse que ci apres il le faudra faire. J’ay esté long, mays cecy une fois bien entendu, n’est pas un petit moyen de se resouvre a une tressainte deliberation. [marginal note] * Contra Zuing. et Œcol.(1) [footnote] (1) In libro, Qod haec verba, « Hoc est corpus meum, » etc. Vide in Parte Prima, cap. III, art. IV, p. 97.
Francis, Oeuvres de Saint Francois de Sales, p. 207 (link)

12. Lutherus ipse sic scribebat 83): Si diutius steterit mundus , iterum necessarium erit, ut propter diversas scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam Fidei unitatem Conciliorum decreta (Tridentini videlicet) recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus.”
Brunati, De nomine, auctore, emendatoribus et authentia Vulgatæ dissertatio, typis …, pages 45-46 (link)

13. And he is willing in his despair to take refuge from the anarchy he has made in the decrees of the Catholic Councils.FN12 … FN12 “Erit necessarium, ad conservandum fidei unitatem, ut Conciliorum decreta recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus.” – Letter to Zwingli
Dominic Bevan Wyndham Lewis, Charles of Europe (link to snippet) (link to book) (link to second copy of book)

14. „Si diutius steterit mundus, iterm erit necessarium, propter diversas scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, ut conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atquae ea confugiamus.” List Lutra do Zwingli.
Aleksander Tyszyński, “Rozbiory i krytyki,” “Pczatki, Filozofii Krajowej,” Page 264, Footnote 1 (link)

15. Noverat hoc exitiosissimum periculum iam ipsemet LUTHERUS, qui teste Cochlaeo in l. de canon. Script. auctoritate c. II ingenue sassus est : „ Si diutius mundus steterit, iterum erit necessarium , ut ob divinas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem concilii decreta recipiamus.”
Chrismann, Regula Fidei Catholicae et collection domatum …, p. 68 (link)

This may be updated at some point, for example, either as additional examples/details/etc. come to light, or as related readings in other languages are addressed. This was originally posted just after midnight London time on 23 January 2008. It will probably get backdated along with all the Luther citation materials, as it does not demand a great deal of further immediate attention. At the moment, the list exceeds the growing list at Armstrong’s corresponding page, in that it also includes the use by Ranolder, as well as the full text of the use by Wyndham (Armstrong was apparently unable to obtain the relevant text) and the use by Aleksander Tyszyński.

Adding the English usage will complicate the tree.

For example, we see Balmes’ English regurgitated in

Everett Pomeroy, “‘The Great Reformation’ a Great Mistake,” p. 13 (link) (1912)

But, on the other hand, we see Rheims’ English regurgitated in

Thomas Grave Law, “The Latin Vulgate as the Authentic Version of the Church,” p. 62 (link)


Will Converse Wood, “Five Problems of State and Religion,” p. 237 (link)

and quoted uncrtically:

Brooke Foss Westcott, “A General View of the History of the English Bible,” p. 257 (link)

David Armstrong Assists James Swan while insulting him

January 4, 2008

In a recent post (link), Dave Armstrong attempts to take on James Swan, who has been establishing that Luther was taken out of context, and that it was made to appear that Luther said something he did not. Dave has (for some odd reason) misinterpreted Swan’s task as an, and I quote, “Effort to Liquidate the Honourable Endeavour of Catholic Apologetics” (British spellings in original).

After a lengthy attempted demonstration to poison the well by establishing that James Swan is a inane mudslinger (“his almost daily inanities and mudslinging”), Dave finally gets around to making some attempt at argument. The result is comical.

First Dave pulls the reverse ad hominem, by establishing that “Leibniz has been estimated to have possessed an IQ of 176” (link in original), that Leibniz was a Lutheran, and that Leibniz cited the same source that someone else (Dave is not real specific here, possibly he means Balmes) did. The “he’s a genius so he must have been right in this instance” argument is a classic example of the fallacy of “argument from authority.”

Next, Dave collates several Latin citations, and compares them to an alleged German original. Finally Dave establishes that real differences exist between the alleged German original and the collated Latin translations.

Finally, Dave concludes by (apparently) blaming Protestants for the difference between the Latin and the German.

I think what Dave has demonstrated is that, in fact, the Latin translation is inaccurate at the critical point for which the Latin translation (or a variant thereof) is being used. In short, Steve Ray following in the footsteps of other Catholic apologists misquoted Luther. I’d welcome different opinions of Dave’s post, but that’s mine for now.


UPDATE: More of Dave’s obsession with James Swan in this more recent post (4 January 2008).

UPDATE: Dave has updated the article linked to above, which this post addresses. Accordingly, the summary above is incomplete, as he has added more material. He has also added a new post (link) that is really pointless from where I’m standing, at least as far as the citation debate goes. For some reason Dave confuses Leibniz’s mistaken claim that Luther was a glutton (a claim that is objectively false) with Calvin’s harshly critical, yet opinionated words about Luther’s character.

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