Archive for the ‘John Martin’ Category

Scripture and the Church – Response to John Martin

May 3, 2010

The following is a response to comments from John Martin (Roman Catholic) in the comment box of a previous post (link to previous post). In general, the quotations (using normal quotation marks) are from John Martin. My responses follow line-by-line.

“All scriptures were written by prophets either of the OT church of Israel of the NT church of Israel.”

Seemingly, all the Scriptures were written by people who were Jewish and who were believers. As far as we know, all were males. The fact of their ethnic identity and their masculinity are not especially significant. We don’t actually know who wrote some of the books of Scripture (for example, Hebrews, Job, or Esther). The fact that we don’t know who wrote them is not especially significant.

“In both cases the prophets came first, and spoke the word and some of the word was then written down.”

No. In the case of Paul’s epistles, the word was written down in the first instance. The same goes for Revelation. The same may be the case in many or nearly all cases. It’s rare when we are told that a certain prophecy was first given orally and later written down.

“From this we have the principle of church dependence upon the OT and NT, for the scriptures were never self written nor self authenticating, but were written and authenticated by church members.”

No, the Scriptures are θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), God-breathed. Thus, they are self-authenticating. Their authority was recognized by members of the Church, but on the authority of God, not the church.

“In both the OT and the NT the scriptures were recognised as such by the magesteriums’ within either testaments. In the OT were have the chair of Moses and the NT we have the chair of Peter.”

We don’t have “the chair of Peter” in the New Testament. If you disagree, please point it out. No doubt not only the magisteria of the churches of the old and new testaments but also the congregants altogether recognized the authority of the Scriptures. And “the chair of Moses” (the Sanhedrin who sat in that seat, and ) clearly did show that it was aware of the Scriptures, as did the apostles, elders, and brethren of the Jerusalem church.

Ironically, however, you don’t accept the same Scriptures that the “chair of Moses” accepted, together with the Jewish people generally, even though the divine oracles were committed to them:

Romans 3:1-2 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

“Church founded by Christ and the apostles”

It was founded by Christ on himself. The apostles were built on him. And we are built on their foundation.

“Some members of the apostles and their close associates writes some texts”

Some holy men of God were inspired to write the Holy Scripture.

“These texts were used in the liturgy and later recognised as being apostolic and inspired by the church magesterium. This is historical fact.”

Saying “This is the historical fact” doesn’t make it one. The development of stable liturgies comes after the apostles. The Scriptures were read both in the synagogues before Christ and in the churches once Christ came.

As I’ve already pointed out, the Scriptures were recognized as Scriptures immediately, though a few of the smaller books took longer to circulate.

“In short we have church- church members write- church uses text- church recognises text officially as scripture.”

The fact that the people who write something are “church members” doesn’t make their work a product of the church. And, the churches used the text before there was an “official” recognition. Peter mentions the canonicity of Paul’s epistles almost as a matter of course, without any prior (that we know of) official dogmatic announcement of the canon.

“Therefore, from beginning to end the authority of scripture is dependent upon the church.”

See above.

“It is fallacious to cite a cited text as being authoritative without establishing the authority of the original text that uses the statement.”

No, it’s not.

“Therefore to say Peter says Paul’s texts are scripture means we must determine the authority of Peter first and as Peter is not self authenticating then it must be determined as authoritative through the ordinary means of tradition and the magesterium.”

a) Peter’s epistles are self-authenticating.

b) All that we must do is believe Peter’s epistles to know that Paul’s epistles are Scripture.

“Therefore the so called early citation of scripture is fallacious.”

It’s not “so called.” Peter refers to Paul’s epistles as Scripture.

“Christ also referred to the chair of Moses as being binding on the believer and Paul says repeatedly throughout his letters that tradition is binding on the believer.”

a) The chair of Moses was binding only to a limited extent. When it came in conflict with God’s law, it was not to be obeyed.

Recall what Peter and the other apostles said:

Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

b) The apostolic tradition we have is that found in Scripture. You cannot point us to any other authentic apostolic tradition. Nor can you establish that there is any part of the apostolic tradition that was conveyed by the apostles but not contained either expressly or implicitly in Scriptures.

“As Paul was an apostle and Paul preached many truths not recorded in scripture, we then have the three authorities of scripture, tradition and the magesterium being used in the early Church.”

a) There’s not a good reason to think think that “Paul preached many truths not recorded in scripture.”

b) Even if there were a good reason to think that “Paul preached many truths not recorded in scripture” it would not follow that we need those additional things.

“Evidently the church was Catholic and not a reformed version of the Gospel.”

The early church had a mixture of true and false teachers, just as now. But none, even among the false teachers, taught the odd assortment of distinctively Roman dogmas, such as papal infallibility, the immaculate conception of Mary, and Purgatory.

That doesn’t mean that the alternative is that all held to precisely the Westminster Confession of Faith. There were a variety of different views among the early Christians – though they had a single source for their doctrines: the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

“The Bereans listened to Pauls oral tradition as from an apostles who was a member of the magesterium.”

What makes you say that? It can’t really be something in the text of Acts, can it?

“The Bereans were formally using scripture ad materially using tradition and the magesterium, which to be expected because the Bereans were not yet in the church, but only possible converts when Paul was evangelizing them.”

They were using Scripture as their rule of faith.

“Even still, the Bereans used scripture tradition and the teaching magesterium and not scripture alone.”

It would be nice if you could demonstrate that – but we both know that you cannot.

“The first person to correctly put together was Athanasius in the 4th C, so the NT canon was not settled until at least that time.”

a) You ought to say instead that the first person whose list we have, where the list of New Testament books exactly matches our list, is Athanasius.

b) The fact that there was a little uncertainty (in various churches) about some of the books is true. Nevertheless, the vast bulk of the Scripture was well known from the earliest times, as I’ve already noted.

c) Additional evidence may be found in the canon list of Eusebius of Caesarea, which has all the New Testament books, although it notes that some are disputed (Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 25.)(about A.D. 324).

I wrote: “h) The Scriptures were given for the purpose of the edification and instructions of the church.”

JM responded: “And so was tradition and the teaching magesterium to resolve doctrinal conflicts.”

Not in the same way, to the extent they were given at all.

“We see this in the Jerusalem Council and later at Nicea and Chalcedon and son on.”

All three of those councils relied on the authority of Scripture, rather than on supposed inherent authority of the council.

“All three authorities were used together throughout church history. This is undeniable fact.”

Not in the same sense that you have in mind – based on your arguments here. And we don’t have any authoritative extra-scriptural “tradition” left, if there ever was any. Meanwhile, we still have the authority of teachers in the church – but this was never an authority comparable to Scripture.

“From what I’ve said, from what’s found in scripture and from church history there are three authorities of scripture, tradition and the church magesterium all required and interdependent.”

Do you think you can show from Scripture that Scripture is dependent on the church or extra-scriptural “tradition”?

“We cannot base the authority of the church upon formally upon the scriptures, but only materially, because the scriptures authority formally comes from God, through the church.”

Do we find any of the Scriptures written in the name of “the Church”? Not one. We find that they are all God-breathed, and that they are written by individuals whom God’s Spirit has moved to write what they write.

There seems to be an attempt in the argument you are making to allege the mere material sufficiency of Scripture, although the way you are phrasing the argument is somewhat unusual.

“The OT scriptures come from the OT church, which was OT Israel. Again, this is an almost self evident fact.”

I’ve addressed this above. They came from individuals who were inspired. The OT church did not say, “Go write some Scriptures.” The individuals’ authority came directly from God.

“Taking a closer look at the text shows us just how problematic sola scriptora really is.”

Let’s see.

“The reference to scripture being God breathed is only a metaphor, which assumes an authoritative magesterium to flesh out the meaning of the text and give the church a more formal and a more precise meaning of what it means for a text to be inspired.”

The use of metaphor in writing doesn’t ordinarily require an authoritative magisterium. Why should it require one here? The sense is relatively transparent despite the use of an anthropomorphism.

“This was done by the catholic Popes, who made pronouncements on the nature of inspiration in conformity with tradition.”

When I read through the church fathers who either comment on that verse or cite it, not a single one makes reference to pronouncements by Roman bishops about the verse. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? I mean, if you were right, we wouldn’t we expect to hear it say, “as Bishop Celestius explains” or even, “as Rome has taught us.”

Take Chrysostom’s commentary as an example:

Having offered much exhortation and consolation from other sources, he adds that which is more perfect, derived from the Scriptures; and he is reasonably full in offering consolation, because he has a great and sad thing to say. For if Elisha, who was with his master to his last breath, when he saw him departing as it were in death, rent his garments for grief, what think you must this disciple suffer, so loving and so beloved, upon hearing that his master was about to die, and that he could not enjoy his company when he was near his death, which is above all things apt to be distressing? For we are less grateful for the past time, when we have been deprived of the more recent intercourse of those who are departed. For this reason when he had previously offered much consolation, he then discourses concerning his own death: and this in no ordinary way, but in words adapted to comfort him and fill him with joy; so as to have it considered as a sacrifice rather than a death; a migration, as in fact it was, and a removal to a better state. “For I am now ready to be offered up” (2 Tim. iv. 6.), he says. For this reason he writes: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, 510for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All what Scripture? all that sacred writing, he means, of which I was speaking. This is said of what he was discoursing of; about which he said, “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures.” All such, then, “is given by inspiration of God”; therefore, he means, do not doubt; and it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

“For doctrine.” For thence we shall know, whether we ought to learn or to be ignorant of anything. And thence we may disprove what is false, thence we may be corrected and brought to a right mind, may be comforted and consoled, and if anything is deficient, we may have it added to us.

“That the man of God may be perfect.” For this is the exhortation of the Scripture given, that the man of God may be rendered perfect by it; without this therefore he cannot be perfect. Thou hast the Scriptures, he says, in place of me. If thou wouldest learn anything, thou mayest learn it from them. And if he thus wrote to Timothy, who was filled with the Spirit, how much more to us!

“Thoroughly furnished unto all good works”; not merely taking part in them, he means, but “thoroughly furnished.”


“Evidently the church is only materially dependent upon the scriptures for its authority.”

Actually, listen to what Chrysostom explains above: “Thou hast the Scriptures, he says, in place of me.” Having Paul’s epistles is like having Paul himself, and better – for Scripture is infallible but Paul was fallible. See also my note above the formal/material distinction.

“The church is formally dependent upon Christ and the apostles and the tradition passed down through the church history. This tradition tells us of the way in which the church is to pray, worship, a code of conduct to be used to please God …”

Paul (indeed Scripture itself) says that Scripture itself is able to furnish man thoroughly for every good work.

“… and a magisterial authority that can an has made pronouncements upon many matters of faith and morals.”

There is, of course, authority in the church. It’s just not as high of an authority as your church suggests.

“Any way you look at it, scripture, tradition and the church are all interrelated and we cannot come to the conclusion that the church is formally dependent upon the scriptures for its authority.”

Jesus’ subordinated his own ministry to the Scriptures, encouraging the Jews to Search the Scriptures to confirm that He was whom He claimed to be.


A Note of Thanks to John Martin

April 29, 2010

John Martin (Roman Catholic) has been taking the time to provide long responses to a number of my posts in the comment box. I want to express my appreciation to him for providing these comments. I’ve been kept busy trying to answer his comments, and I hope that I will be able eventually to answer all of them, although he seems to be outwriting me at present – something like two comments to one.

Scriptural Doctrine of the Atonement Defended – against John Martin

April 28, 2010

John Martin has also responded to another of my previous posts (link to post, his comments are in the comment box there).

I had written: “The Christian position is that Christ is our substitute.”

JM responded: “If Christ is our substitute and we are impute a legal righteousness, even though the Father knows we are sinners, means”

Christ is our substitute, and we are imputed the righteousness of Christ … let’s examine the supposed implications:

“1 – Jesus has deceived the father and therefore the Father and Jesus are not God because God cannot be deceived, or sin.”

No. The Father has graciously permitted the substitution.

“2 – The Father sent the son to do a sinful act to deceive the father into believing we are righteous even though we are not.”

No. It’s absurd to say that Father sent the Son to deceive the Father – how could that even be possible? More to the point, the Father sent the Son to die in the place of the elect, so it was known to the Father all along.

“3 – There is no need for faith, because a substitute is a substitute for all our sins. Yet the scriptures say we need faith to be justified.”

Faith is the instrumental means of justification, not a meritorious cause of justification. Thus, faith does not satisfy divine justice, only Christ’s work does that.

“4 – Nobody can go to hell, because Jesus has already taken the punishment for sin as a substitute.”

None of the elect can go to hell (or the Romanist fiction of purgatory), because that would imply double payment.

“5 – The scriptures nowhere say Jesus was a substitute for our sins.”

a) You’ve lost track of supposed implications. That isn’t an implication of the doctrine.

b) It’s also not a true allegation. The Scriptures do teach that Jesus was a substitute for the sins of his people. I can provide a more extensive discussion on this, if needed.

“6 – The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son, after the Son has deceived the Father into thinking we are righteous, even though we are sinners. Therefore the Holy Spirit has been sent on a mission by a deceiver and the deceived, to guide the church into the truth of forensic imputation of righteousness, which is itself a deception. Evidently the Holy Spirit is also a deceiver and has been deceived.”

This blasphemy is built in the previous false claim that forensic imputation is deception.

“7 – There is no precedent in the OT for a substitute atoning for a sinner and the sinner having the substitutes righteousness imputed to the sinner, therefore if penal substitution is correct, it is not base upon the OT, so Jesus cannot be the Messiah, because he didn’t fulfill the OT.”

This simply shows JM’s unfamilarity with the OT sacrificial system. Practically the whole system was one of substitution and imputation. Of course, it was in shadows and types, but Hebrews helps us to see the connection between the shadow and substance.

“8 – There is no need for repentance because the substitute has been made and the Father sees all men as righteous.”

Repentance is not a meritorious cause of justification. See discussion of faith above.

“9 – According to Calvinism, the substitute only has limited value because it’s not applied to all men, even though it’s a perfect substitute. Somehow the father is deceived into thinking the substitute is only satisfactory for some men and not others, even though the Son was a perfect substitute. So the Father has been deceived in sending the Son as a substitute because the substitute didn’t work for some men even though Jesus was the perfect substitute. What’s a God got to do to be a substitute and perfect savior when not even an imputed exchange that is external to the sinner cannot cover all men’s sins?”

a) This misrepresentation of Calvinism is possibly the result of reading Dave Armstrong on Calvinism rather than reading Calvinists on Calvinism.

b) “the substitute only has limited value” That’s not the Calvinist position. The Calvinist position is that the value of the substitute is limitless – sufficient for all.

c) “Somehow the father is deceived into thinking the substitute is only satisfactory for some men and not others, even though the Son was a perfect substitute.”

The Son, as Priest, only offers himself (as sacrifice) for many (not all). That many is the elect.

“10 – The scriptures have deceived us into thinking we need to do something to be justified and pleasing to God, even though according to Calvinism, man is depraved and cannot do a good act in the eyes of God. Therefore we are told on one had to have faith and this is enough to be justified by a legal process, yet we are also told men cannot do an act pleasing to God, so God justifies man, even though He is not pleased with men’s acts. What’s a man to do to be justified after all? Does he have to do an act pleasing to God and if so, is this is a meritorious act? (Yep!) If not, then why does man have to do any act at all to receive justification, when the perfect sacrificial substitute has already been made?”

a) “we need to do something to be justified and pleasing to God”

Scripture’s message is clear that we cannot do anything to be justified and pleasing to God. Justification is by grace, through the instrumental means of faith in Christ and His work.

b) “man is depraved and cannot do a good act in the eyes of God.”

Until God’s Holy Spirit regenerates him, right. As Jesus said, “Except a man be born again … .”

c) “What’s a man to do to be justified after all?”

There is nothing a man can do to be justified. “In thy sight shall no flesh be justified.”

Instead, man must place his hope in the works of another so that he may be vicariously justified.

d) “Does he have to do an act pleasing to God and if so, is this is a meritorious act? (Yep!)”

That is the alternative to the Christian view of the atonement. The alternative is that man merits justification by an act that is pleasing to God.

“11 – If God sends anyone to hell then He is being unjust, because Jesus has already taken the punishment for sin.”

If God received Christ’s payment for the sins of anyone and still punished them for those sins, there would be a double punishment. Thus, none of those for whom Christ was offered will go to hell.


Immaculate Conception and Pelagianism – Response to John Martin

April 27, 2010

In an earlier post, I wrote:

On the other hand, sometimes (much more rarely) the RCC adds some new requirement to the list of things that must be believed. For example, about four years before the Lourdes event, the RCC defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception – requiring people to believe the unbiblical (and frankly Pelagian) doctrine of the Immaculate conception.

In the comment box, John Martin (Roman Catholic) responded:

“and frankly Pelagian” are you for real? The Immaculate Conception is the very opposite of Pelagianism. It indicates Mary was saved completely by God through His grace from conception. This is the Gospel of salvation by grace and not by Pelagian works. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for making such a wild claim.

There are at least two reasons to view the Immaculate Conception as Pelagian:

1) It denies the universality of Original Sin.

While Pelagianism would deny that anyone has Original Sin, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception asserts that Mary did not have Original Sin. Thus, it is Pelagianism as applied to Mary, though obviously my comment above should not be taken as suggesting that Roman Catholicism has the full breadth of Pelagianism. Indeed, Roman Catholicism (in Trent) sought to condemn full Pelagianism on the issue of original sin, even while making an explicit exception for Mary:

This same holy Synod doth nevertheless declare, that it is not its intention to include in this decree, where original sin is treated of, the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the mother of God; but that the constitutions of Pope Sixtus IV., of happy memory, are to be observed, under the pains contained in the said constitutions, which it renews.

(Interpretive Note for Session 5 on Original Sin)

Trent was wrong to make Mary an exception. It was a Pelagian error to do so, even if making that exception does not mean embracing all of Pelagianism.

Saying that Mary was “saved completely by God through His grace” is not a way of differentiating the Roman position on Mary from the Pelagian view on Mary. When God’s gift of a pure nature to Mary is called “grace” and “salvation” – the Pelagian believed the same thing about Mary and people in general. In any event, the need to make an exception for Mary in Trent’s Fifth Session should be an adequate answer to sophistical attempts to make Mary’s condition consistent with orthodoxy. In other words, the fact that the Tridentine bishops felt the need to say that the doctrines of original sin they had just taught shouldn’t be applied to Mary shows that they were not teaching the same thing about Mary that they were teaching against the Pelagian error.

2) As a minor, almost trivial point, the Pelagians are the first group we can document in church history who claim that Mary was born without original sin. Obviously, that doesn’t make the doctrine in itself “Pelagian” in the normal sense, but it may make it “Pelagian” in a very loose sense.

So, I’m not sure what else to tell John Martin. His comment was long on shaming and assertion, but rather short on documentation and analysis. That may simply be a byproduct of the fact that he left his comment in the comment box, but perhaps this post will help him to think more deeply about the subject.


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