Archive for the ‘Paul Hoffer’ Category

Hoffer – Real Presence and Transubstantiation

June 12, 2012

Paul Hoffer had posted some responses in our on-going dialog regarding Augustine and transubstantiation, which included the following kind of comment:

Before we begin addressing errors and omissions specific to Turretinfan’s commentary on Sermon 272, I would refer the reader to Part I where I have already addressed Mr. Fan’s apparent confusion between the term of “Real Presence” and the term “transubstantiation” in my commentary on his thoughts about Letter 36.


It was gratifying, therefore, to read the following from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:

The problem with this is that “the Real Presence” is a term that is also used by non-Catholics to refer to their beliefs about the Eucharist. I’ve heard Anglicans, Methodists and even a Baptist talk about “the Real Presence” at Holy Communion. They all mean something different by the same term.

This reflects a major problem in all theological and ecumenical discussion: people use the same terminology to describe totally different beliefs. The Catholic uses the term (or should) to refer to transubstantiation. The Anglican says he believes in “the Real Presence” and may be referring to consubstantiation (the belief that Christ is “with” or “beside” the consecrated bread and wine) or receptionism (Christ is received by the individual as he receives the bread and wine by faith) The term “Real Presence” used by a Baptist or Methodist may simply mean, “I feel close to Jesus when I go to communion.”

(source – emphasis added)

He links to a further entry, in which he provides a more detailed explanation:

So–like Ridley and Latimer before him– he used the term ‘real presence’ to sound as close to Catholicism as possible while in fact rejecting Catholic doctrine. Pusey believed the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the sacrament was only a spiritual and sacramental presence. In this way the Victorian Anglo-Catholic actually agreed with the reformer Ridley who wrote, “The blood of Christ is in the chalice… but by grace and in a sacrament…This presence of Christ is wholly spiritual.”

So why does it matter if the presence is only spiritual and sacramental? It matters because the whole work of Christ is more than spiritual. It is physical.

So likewise the church has always insisted–despite the difficulties– that the presence of Christ in the blessed sacrament is not simply spiritual and subjective. It is objective and corporeal. In some way it is physical. At the Fourth Lateran Council that explained that belief with the term transubstantiation. As the Oxford Dominican, Fr.Herbert McCabe has said, “Transubstantiation is not a complete explanation of the mystery, but it is the best description of what we believe happens at the consecration.”

So what should Catholics do when confronted with this confusing term ‘real presence’? First of all Catholics should realise that it is not a Catholic term at all. It’s history is mostly Anglican, and as such it was always used as a way to adroitly sidestep the troublesome doctrine of transubstantiation; and as such it is not an accurate term to describe true Catholic Eucharistic doctrine.

So as Catholics, we must use clear language about the sacrament. We can affirm the ‘real’ presence of Christ which non-Catholics affirm in the fellowship of the church, in the preaching of the gospel and in the celebration of the Eucharist, but we must also affirm that the fullest sense of the ‘real presence’ is that which we worship in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

Although Paul VI used the term ‘real presence’ in Mysterium Fidei the whole thrust of the encyclical is to support and recommend the continued use of the term ‘transubstantiation’ as the Catholic terminology. With this in mind I suggest Catholics should avoid the ambiguous term ‘real presence’ and speak boldly of transubstantiation. Instead of ‘real presence’ we should also use the terminology used in the twelfth century when the doctrine of transubstantiation was being hammered out. Then there was no talk of a vaguely spiritual ‘real presence’, instead they referred to the ‘real body and real blood of Christ.’

Mr. Hoffer has a lot more to say in the post which the first snippet referenced. In that much larger segment, Hoffer provides some discussion regarding “real presence” and “transubstantiation.”  But, at most, the distinction between the two within modern Roman theology is that “transubstantiation” describes the change as a change, whereas “real presence” in modern Roman theology describes the result of that change. We might add that transubstantiation implies not only the “real presence” of the body, blood, soul, and divinity after the consecration but also the “real absence” of bread at that time – but some would say that the modern Roman “real presence” view includes that aspect as well.

As it relates to our discussion of Augustine, Mr. Hoffer’s nuance is one that is interesting.  It seems that Mr. Hoffer is not willing to defend the idea that Augustine held to transubstantiation, even under a different name.  Thus, he seems to have conceded the major point we have consistently alleged.

On the other hand, it seems that Mr. Hoffer believes that Augustine held to the modern Roman concept of “real presence,” which would require Augustine to believe that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are all “really” present under each species (both under the species that has the appearance of bread, and under the species that has the appearance of wine diluted with water).

Augustine, we contend, held to a divine, spiritual and sacramental (in the Augustinian sense, not the modern Roman sense) presence.  That kind of presence is real, yet it is not the modern Roman conception of “real presence,” but rather more like one of the Reformation conceptions of real presence, as Longenecker explains above.

So, at least a minor point of disagreement remains between us, namely whether Augustine held to a full-blown conception of modern Roman “real presence,” or whether Augustine merely held to something like the Reformation view of a divine, spiritual, and sacramental (in the Augustinian sense) presence. 



Gnosticism, Hermeneutics, and Rome

July 3, 2011

In comment box at Beggars All Reformation, Roman communion advocate Paul Hoffer made the claim: “It is amazing that you decry the hermeneutics of Gnostics when Protestantism embraces that very same thing today.”

Hermeneutics of the Gnostics

1. Rejection of Sola Scriptura

Tertullian points to the inability of the heretics to support their controversial views using the principle of Sola Scriptura.

Tertullian (c. 160-220) :

Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all.

ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter III.

The same is true today. What Roman apologist seriously thinks he can prove the immaculate conception or bodily assumption of Mary from Scripture? And only slightly more will fantasize that they can prove the infallibility of the bishop of Rome from Scripture. Like the errors of the Gnostics, the errors of the Romans are unable to be supported from Scripture alone.

2. Tradition Mandatory

Irenaeus in “Against Heresies,” Book IV, Chapter 2, explains that the Gnostics that he was dealing with opposed the perspicuity of Scriptures, opposed the self-interpreting nature of Scripture, and insisted that tradition is mandatory in order to be able to understand them. Irenaeus writes:

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition.

(Against Heresies, 4:2:1)

Interestingly, on this point, the hermeneutics of the Gnostics is like that of Mr. Hoffer’s church, not like that of “Protestantism.” Mr. Hoffer’s church, Rome, when confronted with the Scriptures does not say dare to say that Scriptures are not correct, and while Rome does not give them the proper level of authority, Rome does not altogether deny their authority. Rome does, however, assert that the Scriptures are ambiguous and that tradition is necessary in order to properly understand Scriptures.

Hopefully it is obvious that “Protestantism” (in general) does not accuse the Scriptures in ways like the Gnostics do. So, on this point, the Gnostic approach is closer to that of Rome than that of the Reformation.

Gerhard Maier:

To summarize: enscripturated revelation maintains that it is accessible and sufficiently clear for every person to understand. True, it links comprehensive understanding and existential transformation to the gift of the Holy Spirit. But philological understanding and the essential content lie open to every person. The Christian community itself requires no special class of people “in the know” who alone are competent to open up Scripture’s meaning to the rest. Therefore, we abide by the principle of the perspicuity of Scripture in the double sense alluded to above.

The protest against the perspicuity of Scripture has traditionally come from three quarters: from Gnosticism, from the champions of the Catholic teaching office, and from historical-critical theologians.

Gerhard Maier, Biblical Hermeneutics, trans. Robert W. Yarbrough (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 183.

3. Even Tradition and Scriptures Insufficient

Irenaeus continues by pointing out that when appeal is made to tradition from the apostles and Jesus himself, the Gnostics still claim that one needs something more:

2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.

(Against Heresies, 4:2:2)

A similar thing happens when we engage Rome on the teachings of the fathers. They insist you need tradition handed down from the fathers outside of Scripture, and so we point out what the fathers actually say. But then they end up appealing to the raw authority of their own truth, as though Trent and Vatican I were wiser not only than the fathers but than the apostles as well, and that Rome alone has discovered the unadulterated truth.

The Reformed hermeneutic, by contrast, holds the Scriptures to be sufficient. Therefore, while we may study the fathers to gain the benefit of their wisdom, we do not invest them with infallibility. At the same time, however, we do not claim to have our gift of infallibility. Unlike Rome and the Gnostics, we appeal to a rule of faith that is not tied claims about ourselves. The Gnostics claim their own private revelation, whereas Rome claims to have an infallible magisterium, so there are distinctions, but those two positions are closer to one another than to Irenaeus and us.

Peter Toon:

Later in the history of the Church a need was felt to supplement Scripture by teaching from Tradition and this is the ‘supplementary view’. Gnostics adopted this position in the second century and it was the commonly held view in Roman Catholicism from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

Peter Toon, Evangelical Theology 1833-1856: A Response to Tractarianism (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), p. 138.

J. N. D. Kelly:

Not only did the Gnostics exploit Scripture to their own ends, but one of their techniques was to appeal, in support of their speculations, to an alleged secret apostolic tradition to which they claimed to have access.

J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, 4th edition (London: Adam & Charles Black, reprinted 1968), p. 36.

J. N. D. Kelly:

Did Irenaeus then subordinate Scripture to unwritten tradition? This inference has been commonly drawn, but it issues from a somewhat misleading antithesis. Its plausibility depends on such considerations as (a) that, in controversy with the Gnostics, tradition rather than Scripture seemed to be his final court of appeal, and (b) that he apparently relied upon tradition to establish the true exegesis of Scripture. But a careful analysis of his Adverus haereses reveals that, while the Gnostics’ appeal to their supposed secret tradition forced him to stress the superiority of the Church’s public tradition, his real defence of orthodoxy was founded on Scripture. Indeed, tradition itself, on his view, was confirmed by Scripture, which was ‘the foundation and pillar of our faith.’

J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, 4th edition (London: Adam & Charles Black, reprinted 1968), pp. 38-39.

Here Kelly directs the reader to Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, 2:35:4, “But that I may not be thought to avoid that series of proofs which may be derived from the Scriptures of the Lord (since, indeed, these Scriptures do much more evidently and clearly proclaim this very point), I shall, for the benefit of those at least who do not bring a depraved mind to bear upon them, devote a special book to the Scriptures referred to, which shall fairly follow them out [and explain them], and I shall plainly set forth from these divine Scriptures proofs to [satisfy] all the lovers of truth.” Kelly also cites 3:5:1, where we read, “Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him.”

Augustine (354-430) commenting on John 16:12-13:

And yet all these utterly senseless heretics, who wish to be styled Christians, attempt to color the audacities of their devices, which are perfectly abhorrent to every human feeling, with the chance presented to them of that gospel sentence uttered by the Lord, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now:” as if these were the very things which the apostles could not then bear, and as if the Holy Spirit had taught them what the unclean spirit, with all the length he can carry his audacity, blushes to teach and to preach in broad daylight.
It is such whom the apostle foresaw through the Holy Spirit, when he said: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate XCVII, §3-4.

4. Apostolic Succession

It is important to note that the Gnostics claimed apostolic succession. Commenting on Irenaeus’ comments above, G. W. H. Lampe (the compiler of the only Patristic Greek Lexicon available today) concurs that “According to Irenaeus the Valentinians (a Gnostic sect) claimed that the truth in Scripture cannot be discovered by those who are ignorant of tradition.” Coupled with this observation, the same writer then proceeds to make the same striking connection:

G. W. H. Lampe:

In Gnosticism, therefore, we encounter for the first time the idea of unwritten tradition as an authority for doctrine. Unlike orthodox tradition, it is neither the raw material, as it were, of what is to become Scripture, nor the explication of what is contained in Scripture. It is wholly independent of Scripture and is even superior to it, since only in the light of the tradition can Scripture be understood. Doctrine and practice alike are founded upon it. It claims to be apostolic tradition, handed down in succession from the apostles. The Gnostic theory was reasonable enough, given the doctrinal principles of the movement. Having denied the historical basis of the gospel, the Gnostics seek to reinterpret it in alien terms with the aid of a spurious tradition. A similar theory of tradition, however, adopted from different motives, is by no means unknown today.

Quoted from his essay in F. W. Dillistone, ed. Scripture and Tradition (London: Lutterworth Press, 1955), p. 41.

G. W. H. Lampe:

Apostolicity, guaranteed by historical succession, was, indeed, the only weapon readily available with which to meet the attack of Gnostics with their bogus claims to apostolic succession and Montanists with their new revelations of the Spirit which, if unchecked, would have sought to produce a kind of second and spurious apostolic age.

Quoted from his essay in F. W. Dillistone, ed. Scripture and Tradition (London: Lutterworth Press, 1955), p. 42.

Oscar Cullmann:

Despite the deep gulf between them in other respects, is it not true to say that the Catholic Church, Gnosticism, and ancient and modern sects which claim a superior enlightenment, are at one in denying that scripture is a superior norm for the testing of the genuine activity of the Holy Spirit? The Church will examine every later revelation, individual or collective, but will always take as criterion this norm [i.e., scripture] of the apostolic witness. The Church will therefore not be a superior tribunal able to decree what must be added to this norm.

Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, trans. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), p. 83.

Robert M. Grant:

The Gnostic teacher Basilides claimed that he had been instructed by a mysterious Glaucias. Papias had said that Mark had been an “interpreter” or translator for Peter; Basilides claimed that Glaucias performed the same function for the same apostle. Similarly, another Gnostic teacher named Valentius said that his own teacher had been Theodas, a disciple of Paul. Apparently Valentius had in mind the more normal tradition that it was Luke who was Paul’s disciple and, like Mark, wrote a gospel. And Valentius’ own disciple Ptolemaeus, perhaps about 160, said that his Gnostic group had received its “apostolic tradition” by “succession,” just as ordinary Christians claimed to have received theirs. In such an era of claims and counterclaims about tradition it was inevitable that more emphasis would come to be laid on the written word and on the collecting of acceptable books.

See his chapter “The Creation of the Christian Tradition” in Joseph F. Kelly, ed., Perspectives on Scripture and Tradition (Notre Dame: Fides Publishers, Inc., 1976), p. 14.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. It was later, in the times of Adrian the king, that those who invented the heresies arose; and they extended to the age of Antoninus the elder, as, for instance, Basilides, though he claims (as they boast) for his master, Glaucias, the interpreter of Peter.

Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter.
Such being the case, it is evident, from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the Church, that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions falsified [from the truth].

ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book VII, Chapter 17, p. 555.

4. Extra-Scriptural Tradition

E. Flesseman-Van Leer:

For Irenaeus, the church doctrine is certainly never purely traditional; on the contrary, the thought that there could be some truth, transmitted exclusively viva voce, is a Gnostic line of thought.

E. Flesseman-Van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen, 1954), pp. 133.

E. Flesseman-Van Leer:

Thus we can maintain that scripture is, for Irenaeus and Tertullian, apostolic tradition in written form. When they want to get direct access to this tradition in concrete form, they point not to the church, which is a living, intangible locus of the tradition, but to scripture in which this tradition has become as it were attainable and perceptible to every one. They appeal exclusively to scripture to substantiate their assertions in matters of faith. For they are fully convinced that as regards content, apostolic kerygma, scripture, and church tradition coincide entirely. They deny most decidedly the existence of extrascriptural tradition. To appeal exclusively to revelatory truth apart from Scripture is heretical gnosticism.

E. Flesseman-Van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church, p. 191.

5. Living Voice of the Magisterium

Vittorio Subilia:

It would not be difficult to detect in the Roman concept of the charisma veritatis a threefold Gnostic idea at work. In the first place the notion that truth is known only to the hierarchy introduces into the Church the esoteric idea of there being ‘initiates who possess the gnosis, and non-initiates who do not possess it, but can receive it from the hierarchy’. Thus the gospel notion of truth is substituted by one which seems not unconnected with Gnostic ideas.

Secondly, there is the idea of the ‘living voice of the magisterium’ and the idea of truth committed by Christ directly to the apostles and passed on by word of mouth without ever being fixed in written form, constituting thus the secret key for interpreting the written traditions in the true sense intended by the Master. Here we cannot but think of that tradition so favoured by the Gnostics, that set the greatest store on that period between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, which cannot be historically verified and in which he is alleged not only to have communicated to certain favoured disciples the secret knowledge necessary for the understanding of the words he had spoken during his public ministry, but also to have given them a series of special revelation reserved for the ‘perfect’.

In the third place one might note a Gnostic, as well as Jewish, influence, in the way of interpreting the apostolic succession as a succession both of doctrine and of persons from the apostles down, a chain of transmission through history, intended to guarantee the apostolicity both of the content and the origins of the message and of its interpretation. This seems to have been a device, used by both the Gnostic and Christian sides, to counter each other’s propaganda attacks, from Irenaeus, perhaps even from Hegesippus on. This concept is closely bound up with that of oral tradition, and it is to be recalled that the most ancient document known to us in which we first find the phrases ‘apostolic tradition’ and ‘succession’ is not a document of the Church, but a Gnostic one of Valentinian tendencies, the Epistle of Ptolomy to ‘sister’ Flora.

Vittorio Subilia, The Problem of Catholicism, trans. Reginald Kissack (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1964), pp. 130-131.


P.S. I would also direct Mr. Hoffer’s attention to the interesting comparisons provided at the linked web site.

N.B. I am indebted to Pastor David King for his assistance in identifying and transcribing the quotations provided in this post.

Immaculate Conception Errata

April 26, 2010

In my previous post, I had erroneously asserted that Bernadette’s purported revelation was in French (“Je suis l’Immaculée conception”). Although that formula can be found on dozens of French-language pages at the Vatican site, it appears that I had overlooked the fact that “Je suis l’Immaculée conception” is itself a translation of Bernadette’s Basque Bigourdan dialect: “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou.” It was my mistake, and I’ve fixed it on the original page with an “Update” but wanted to give credit to Paul Hoffer for pointing this out to me (link to Mr. Hoffer’s post). Mr. Hoffer adds an acute accent to the e in que, for reasons unknown to me. The point of the post remains (the original language involved wasn’t really a significant aspect of the post), but this inaccuracy of mine needed to be, and now has been, corrected.

There are some other issues in Mr. Hoffer’s post that may need to be addressed from a more critical standpoint, but I wanted to take the opportunity separately and promptly to thank him for his correction and to note that I am making the necessary correction to my prior post. If he can point me to some sort of authoritative source that acutely accents the e in que, I’ll be happy to make that change as well. Neither the accent nor even the original language of the quotation from Bernadette should be thought to be considered significant, however.


Further update: At least one website calls her tongue a “Bigourdan dialect” rather than Basque, although many seem to call it Basque. Thanks to Michael Gray for pointing this out to me. Based on some samples of Basque, I would agree that the sentence above doesn’t sound like Basque link to examples.

Lourdes and other "Worthy of Belief" Fictions

April 23, 2010

Louis asked:

But does your church believe this story [the story of “St. Philomena”] is true? Or are they saying that even if this vision [revelation that Maria Luisa di Gesù, a Roman Catholic nun, claimed she received] is a delusional lie (a false sign or wonder), then it is still “not contrary to the Catholic faith”, and may still be used to express devotion to this saint?

Paul Hoffer (Roman Catholic) responded:

Hi louis, The Church does not offer an opinion as to whether it is true or not because we, as individual Catholics, are not required to accept as true a private revelation made to a private individual as true as such do not belong to the deposit of faith. What the Church has said is that a person may accept the revelation as true if they wish without danger to their soul. [CCC 67] We recognize that such revelations are devotional in nature, not doctrinal.

I answer:

The RCC is a little unusual in this regard. In some cases, things are written off as frauds. In other cases, things are indicated as being, in essence, believable or “worthy of belief.” For example, people are permitted to believe that something miraculous happened at Lourdes, but a person is not required to believe that.

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.

Interestingly, at Lourdes, a 14-year-old local girl named Bernadette Soubirous (who is the central figure in the event) claimed that the apparition of a beautiful woman told her, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This oddly ungrammatical claim (original French: “Je suis l’Immaculée conception” UPDATE: the French is not original … apparently, the original is the Basque Bigourdan dialect: “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou.”) is probably best explained by the fact that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had recently been defined, and Bernadette, while aware of the definition, didn’t fully understand it. Mary calling herself the “Immaculate Conception” would be like Jesus saying, “I am the virgin birth.” Of course, an alternative is that since Mary was a Palestinian Jewess, perhaps her French (UPDATE: Basque Bigourdan dialect) just isn’t that good. But this seems unlikely, because other things that Bernadette reportedly heard from the apparition were more well constructed grammatically – even to the point of being formal.

In any event, Rome views the Immaculate Conception itself as a dogma that must be believed (despite the fact that we can’t find it in Scripture or among the extant writings of orthodox Christians for the first few centuries of church history). In contrast, the fraud at Lourdes is viewed as being “worthy of belief.” Rome won’t say that it is true, and won’t say that it is false.

Lourdes, as a result, is one of the most popular Marian shrines (probably the most popular in Europe, and perhaps in the world). There are dozens of miracles that are attributed to visits to Lourdes and use of the water there. Furthermore, while there may not be an official pronouncement that the Lourdes’ apparitions were genuine, we see Benedict XVI acting as though he thinks they were:

Lourdes is one of the places chosen by God for his beauty to be reflected with particular brightness, hence the importance here of the symbol of light. From the fourth apparition onwards, on arriving at the grotto, Bernadette would light a votive candle each morning and hold it in her left hand for as long as the Virgin was visible to her. Soon, people would give Bernadette a candle to plant in the ground inside the grotto. Very soon, too, people would place their own candles in this place of light and peace. The Mother of God herself let it be known that she liked the touching homage of these thousands of torches, which since that time have continued to shine upon the rock of the apparition and give her glory. From that day, before the grotto, night and day, summer and winter, a burning bush shines out, aflame with the prayers of pilgrims and the sick, who bring their concerns and their needs, but above all their faith and their hope.

(13 September 2008 – Emphasis added to one of the most outrageous comments.)

Sean Patrick of the Roman Catholic blog “Called to Communion” has suggested that I should point out worship to Mary in each post I do on Roman Catholicism. I don’t really think that is necessary, but I’ve included the paragraph above as an example to help satisfy his request. I’m sure that there will be those who deny that paying religious homage and giving Mary “glory” are worship, but I trust that there are those who will see it for what it is.

Nevertheless, to return to the point of the post, the answer is to Louis’ question is that if something is designated as “worthy of belief,” the RCC is not saying that it is true, but rather that you are safe believing it (i.e. doing so won’t harm your faith or morals), even if it is false. Where these apparitions (and the like) tend to get into trouble is when they start to try to speak authoritatively on things (Rome doesn’t like competition). So, while “I am the Immaculate Conception” should be seen to be a clumsy fraud, Rome approves of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and consequently sees no harm in letting people believe that the events of Lourdes are true.

– TurretinFan

Responding to Paul Hoffer on Morality and the Gospel

June 3, 2009

In response to anonymous comments on a previous post, Paul Hoffer wrote:

Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays. Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.

Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian. Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book “The Cost of Discipleship.” He wrote:

[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” pg. 30.

Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller’s church is truly horrific because it justifies one’s sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.

I answer, going section by section:

“Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays.”

Uh … no. The reason that Dr. Tiller’s murder was intrinsically wrong is because men are created in God’s image and their lives cannot lawfully be intentionally ended by their fellow men without God’s authority.

Uzzah was killed instantly for his sin, without the chance to repent. Furthermore, in general, capital punishment is prescribed by God’s word as the appropriate punishment for numerous crimes (as I’ve laid out elsewhere). The issue is not the fact that death takes away the ability to repent, but that to lawfully kill another person intentionally, one must have divine warrant.

“Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.”

He is treated as a martyr by some, to be sure. However, his death will actually discourage other young doctors from taking the path of becoming professional murderers. So, it’s really hard to guage whether his murder will have positive or negative consequences. Consequentialism, however, is a flawed ethic.

“Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian.”

Many call themselves Christians who are not Christians.

“Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship.'”

I don’t have any way of knowing whether he was familiar with those writings or not. I assume this is just a bit of rhetorical flourish by Mr. Hoffer.

“[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”

I wonder whether Mr. Hoffer is willing to direct Bonheoffer’s cannon Rome-ward? How often are we reminded of the fact that church discipline in the Roman church is largely lacking!

“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

The concept of “cheap grace” is one error into which one can fall. It is the error of the libertines. But there is an equally dangerous error: the error of grace cheapend by purchase. The error of legalism that supposes that one’s own works contribute to one’s justification in the sight of God, or that somehow one’s personal righteousness is the basis of or the maintenance of a right relationship before God. Mr. Hoffer is locked on one error, but has he forgotten the other?

“Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller’s church is truly horrific because it justifies one’s sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner.”

An antinomian gospel purports to justify sinners, just as a legalist gospel purports to justify “righteous” folks. Both are serious errors, for justification is by faith alone – but a true faith is one that comes out of a love of Christ – one that will consequently be accompanied by fruits of that love of Christ. Mr. Hoffer seems to be good at straking the other ditch for its errors – but we invite him to come out of the opposite ditch and join us on the straight and narrow road provided by Christ.

“Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.”

Yes, both the legalist and the orthodox can decry the antinomian. Nevertheless, it would be a false ecuminism to suggest that because we both reject the false gospel of antinomianism (live as you please) we are of one mind.


Athanasius Misquotation Index Page

March 5, 2009

This page is designed to serve as an index for the discussion of the quotation of the so-called “Homily of the Papyrus of Turin” by various Romanist apologists. At first it will be a bit skeletal, but I hope to fill it out over time, depending on the level of response generated. I would be pleasantly surprised if it turned out to be a chronicle of those from the Roman side of the Tiber pleasantly acknowledging their error – but so far the experience has been just the opposite.

2008 Article Questioning the Authenticity of the Work
2009 Article Asserting that the Work is not Properly Considered Authentic
– Mr. Albrecht’s Attempted Defense of the Quotation (link) and Mr. Ray’s Support of Mr. Albrecht (link)
Response to Steve Ray/William Albrecht
– An attempted rebuttal by William (link)
Second Response to William Albrecht
– Mr. Hoffer Chimes in (link) – my response is below.
Response to Paul Hoffer
– More of the Same from Willaim (link) Answered in the Third Response, below.
Third Response to William Albrecht
– Yet More of the Same from William (link) All Albrecht’s points relevant to the Athanasius question are already answered above.


Response to Paul Hoffer’s Comments

March 5, 2009

Someone [Mr. James Swan] directed me to the comment box of an entry of David Waltz’s blog where Mr. Hoffer has been providing some information and some misinformation (source). I’ll respond to Mr. Hoffer’s comments more or less line by line:

Hoffer: “One of the problems with Mr. Fan’s (would he be considered a Pseudo-Turrettini since he posts anonymously?) attack is that he hasn’t reviewed the actual text in question.”

I answer: Mr. Hoffer has a problem with assuming things and passing them off as facts. This is an example. I had reviewed the actual text in question between the time I first raised this issue in 2008 and the time I posted the more definitive post in 2009. It is Mr. Hoffer who has not reviewed the actual text in question, nor did he even bother to ask me whether I had reviewed the actual text, before he posted his misinformation.

Hoffer: “He is merely googling what he thinks are references to it without verifying it.”

I answer: This is also not true, for essentially the reasons indicated above. The fact that Mr. Hoffer starts by posting his assumptions as though they were fact seriously undermines his criticism.

Hoffer: “For example in one of the posts that Rev. Temple mentions, Mr. Fan cited to works by both Virginia Burrus and David Frankfurter as claiming that a pseudo-St. Athanasius wrote the quote. If he had gotten Burrus’ work, he would have found that she is merely an editor of a book that contains a portion of previously mentioned work by Frankfurter. So there are not two citations, but merely one and Mr. Frankfurter does not state why he believes that it was written by a pseudo-Athanasius.”

It is reasonable to point out that Burrus is the editor of the work, not an independent author. I have provided an update to the original 2009 post to clarify this, as well as to identify several other editors besides Burrus who have edited Frankfurter’s works with the citation as pseudo-Athanasius.

[I omit a list of authentic writings that Mr. Hoffer provides.]

Mr. Hoffer: “Now without comparing each and every one of these citations (some of which have not been translated in English that I have found yet) against the particular work, how does he know that the particular text in question is actually spurious?”

This is where it is handy to resort to scholars who deal with the works of Athanasius. Having to compare each spurious or dubious work against all the other known works can be a momentual task, particularly with some of the more prolific authors like Origen or Augustine. In this case, that has been done.

Mr. Hoffer: “Now there is one thing that Mr. Fan is correct about-the work in question is not correctly labeled. Lefort’s “L’homelie de St. Athanase des papyrus de Turin” does not translate from the French into English as Saint Athanasius’ “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.” It actually translates as “The Discourse of Saint Athanasius” from (or found in) the Turin papyri (plural), the Turin reference is a reference to the great museum in Turin that has substantial holdings of Eygptian papyri spanning over 3000 years. The problem with the translation is that French does not have a plural for papyrus. One has to look at the word “des” (de + les) to see that the reference is to a plural of the word.”

Leaving aside the fact that “homily” would be a favored translation over “discourse” simply because of its cognate relationship, Mr. Hoffer is right that the “des” does imply a plurality of papyrus documents. Thus, Mr. Gambero’s translation of the phrase (or his English editor/translator’s translation) could have more accurately used the more awkward “papyri” in place of “papyrus.”

Mr. Hoffer wrote: “I hope to have my hands on LeFort’s work from Le Museon amd translations of the authentic works this weekend to do the due diligence that Mr. Fan should have done before writing his piece.”

As noted above, Mr. Hoffer’s criticism is misplaced because he himself didn’t bother to investigate his own claims before making them. As noted above, I had brought this spurious (or, at best, dubious) quotation to Mr. Hoffer’s attention in 2008 when he himself tried to use it. He indicated at that time that he was going to investigate the matter. Now, over half a year later, he is finally getting around to it, only after a more definitive post has been provided.

Mr. Hoffer wrote: “I will let you know what I come up with here and on my own blog.”

This was Mr. Hoffer’s comment on March 3, 2009, if the blogging software’s date stamp is accurate. Scrolling down through that comment box, we find, later that day another post (source):

Hoffer: “BTW, I have already gotten ahold of one of the Pseudo-Athanasius’ citations and determined that it does not refer to the same work as the so-called “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.” I anticipate being able to clear some of this up or if nothing else shed some light on the matter somewhat soon.”

This is probably because a Latin name for the work is the name that scholars typically use in such lists. That name is “Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria” (“Homily against Arius, of the holy mother of god Mary”).

There was also an additional comment speculating on how the document came to be in Coptic and arguing that the obscurity of the text doesn’t invalidate its truthfulness or authenticity. These are essentially tangents. As Mr. Hoffer went on to admit in yet another comment, “Language that a manuscript is written in is a factor that scholars weigh in determining the work’s authenticity, but it is not sine qua non of the process.”

Throughout the day of March 3, Mr. Hoffer posted a couple more posts, indicating (for example) that he had found out that one of the pseudo-Athanasian works is not the same as this homily, and that Lefort translated at least one work of Athanasius from the Coptic that is thought to be authentic (of course, it is not this particular work, so that’s not a real issue).

When, late in the day judging by the time stamps, Mr. Hoffer discovered that I had actually read the article, he wrote: “To all, I see that Mr. Fan has posted another article on his website and it appears that he has obtained a copy of the 1958 edition of the Le Museon where the quote is taken from. Good for him! I am very glad that he has taken the time to review the magazine. It’s unfortunate that he did not take the time to do that prior to writing his earlier piece. From what he is saying, it appears that the article does not claim that the text is either authentic or spurious. I hope to see for myself and will report my findings.” (source)

Again, one wonders why Mr. Hoffer just assumes things and treats them as fact. Contrary to his negative assumption, I did do that “prior to writing [my] earlier piece” (though not, of course, prior to my very first comments on the subject in 2008, where I first raise the issue).

After that, I have seen nothing either in that comment box or Mr. Hoffer’s blog. Of course, perhaps Mr. Hoffer is still tracking down the article from Le Muséon, or trying to verify that the work “Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria” is the same dubious/spurious work as the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.

I would think that Mr. Hoffer would reach no significantly different conclusion than I did once he has researched the evidence more fully. I hope, as he proceeds, that he will consider beginning from the more reasonable assumption that I check things first, before making claims about them.


Can Papists Properly Call Reformed Churches, Churches?

January 3, 2009

Mr. Paul Hoffer referred to Reformed churches by the rather modernist/pluralist terminology of “faith communities. Mr. Mike Burgess has come to Mr. Hoffer’s aid by suggesting that Mr. Hoffer is just being proper, and that properly Reformed churches cannot be said to be churches because they are not part of the true Church. We deny.

In opposition to this error, I present several arguments:

1. Pius XI, even while distinguishing them from the “true” church, referred to the reformed churches as such.

24. In his Controversies, although the holy Doctor made large use of the polemical literature of the past, he exhibits nevertheless a controversial method quite peculiarly his own. In the first place, he proves that no authority can be said to exist in the Church of Christ unless it had been bestowed on her by an authoritative mandate, which mandate the ministers of heretical beliefs in no way can be said to possess. After having pointed out the errors of these latter concerning the nature of the Church, he outlines the notes of the true Church and proves that they are not to be found in the reformed churches, but in the Catholic Church alone. He also explains in a sound manner the Rule of Faith and demonstrates that it is broken by heretics, while on the other hand it is kept in its entirety by Catholics. In conclusion, he discusses several special topics, but only those leaflets which treat of the Sacraments and of Purgatory are not extant. In truth, the many explanations of doctrine and the arguments which he has marshaled in orderly array, are worthy of all praise. With these arguments, to which must be added a subtle and polished irony that characterizes his controversial manner, he easily met his adversaries and defeated all their lies and fallacies.


2. “Faith Communities” appears to be a term born out of attempted ecumenical dialog with Judaism. Example (link) (Cardinal Kasper states: “I am committed to work together with you for the reconciliation of our two faith communities, on the basis of a total mutual respect for our respective traditions and convictions.”) While it may be viewed as a valid super-category for Church and Synagogue, it is not a “more proper” term for “heretical” and/or “schismatic” churches. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that no one could find a pope using the expression “faith communities” before Vatican II.

3. Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 speak of the “synagogue of Satan.” If “false Jews” can be said to be of a synagogue (even Satan’s synagogue), then “false Christians” could be said to be of a church. Moreover, as Mr. Burgess admits, the claim today is not even that the Reformed churches are full of false Christians, just separated brethren.

On these three points, I’d respectfully disagree with Mr. Burgess’ attempted buttressing of Mr. Hoffer on this issue of nomenclature. I can appreciate that Mr. Hoffer’s choice of words may have been made with total innocence of any derogatory ring, aiming instead to use the language of ecumenicism (it should be noted that the Vatican now uses “faith communities” to refer not only to Jewish synagogues and the church of Rome, but also to “Protestant” churches, such as the Methodists).

To that, however, I’d add that the Reformed churches are part of the true church, while the Vatican is not. What are the marks of a true church?

See the Real Turretin’s comments on this subject.


Response to Hoffer’s Inquiries on Christian Liberty

December 30, 2008

PH wrote:

I would like to get your thoughts on the role of the Church in deciding whether to [celebrate] certain holidays or not.

PH went on to provide the following:

Chapter 21 of The Westminster Confession titled “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day,” states in part:

“The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.”

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) Chapter 24 captioned, “The Festivals of Christ and the Saints.” states:

“Moreover, if in Christian Liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly.”

Article 67 of Church Order of the Synod of Dordt (I hope that I got that right) states:

“The congregations shall observe, in addition to Sunday, also Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, with the following day; and since in most cities and provinces of the Netherlands, besides these there are also observed the day of Circumcision and Ascension of Christ, the ministers everywhere, where this is still not the custom, shall put forth effort with the authorities that they may conform with the others.”

Turretin seemed to approve of the celebration of Christmas in his commentary on the Fourth Commandment set forth in his Institutes:

“The question is not whether anniversary days may be selected on which either the nativity, or circumcision, or passion, or ascension of Christ, and similar mysteries of redemption, may be commemorated, or even on which the memory of some remarkable blessing may be celebrated. For this the orthodox think should be left to the liberty of the church. Hence some devote certain days to such festivity, not from necessity of faith, but from the counsel of prudence to excite more to piety and devotion.”

Then, Mr. Hoffer asked:

You talked of Christian liberty, yet all the authorities above provide (at least in these texts)that such liberty resides in the churches, not in the individual.

I answer:
These documents speak of the liberty of churches. They do not deny the liberty of Christians. For example, in the Westminster Confession, the section on liberty of conscience is found in Chapter XX. Likewise, the Second Helvetic Confession addresses “things indifferent” in Chapter XXVII. Similar the Belgic Confession (which is one of the “three forms of unity” in churches that use Dordt as a Normed Norm) contains Article 32, which identifies limits on the authority of the church. I’ll leave Turretin out of it, for now.

PH continued:

If your particular faith community had decided to exercise its Christian liberty and decide to celebrate Christmas would you be obligated to adhere to such a decision?

Faith community? What sort of talk is that? Reformed Christians have churches. If my church decided to celebrate Christmas, there are various ways it could do so. One way would be through holding a Christmas-day service, and exhorting (or encouraging) the faithful to attend. That’s the usual way I’ve seen it done.

What if they tried to require everyone to come? It’s an interesting dilemma. In general, the commands of the church should be obeyed if they do not cause one to sin. On the other hand, the churches ought not to insist on unnecessary things. Unless (as in Romanism) the command were phrased as a condition for salvation, it would be obligatory for Christians who could conscientiously comply.

PH wrote:

And if you are free to disregard the decision of your church on something like celebrating Christmas, does your liberty as a Christian extend to other doctrines as well?

Christian liberty extends to indifferent things.

PH wrote:

For example, purely as a hypothetical, what if you became convinced through your studies of Scripture that 2nd Maccabees should be included in the canon because Jesus celebrated Hanukkah (Jn 10:22), a holiday that is found only in that deuterocanonical/apocryphal text and nowhere else in the OT, would you be allowed to disregard the authority of your church that says that such book does not belong in the canon and hold to the contrary?

There are a number of issues tangled together in that question:

1) John 10:22 doesn’t say that Jesus celebrated the feast identified, but rather that it was that time of year, and that Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s porch.

2) The feast identified is the feast of the dedication (today, in Judaism, Hanukkah corresponds).

3) The feast identified was appointed during the inter-testamental time, as recorded in the apocryphal works of 1st and 2nd Maccabees (1 Mac 4:52-59, 2 Mac 10:5-8).

4) The Reformed churches do not accept 1st and 2nd Maccabees as canonical.

5) The proper identification of the canon, however, is not a thing necessary to salvation – and one is not required to deny that the books of the Maccabees are canonical in order to receive the sacraments. Accordingly, the Reformed churches would not ordinarily excommunicate someone for mistakenly thinking that 1&2 Mac were canonical. Nevertheless, in an ideal world, the elders would make time to counsel them and show them that those books are not canonical.

PH continued:

To posit a different hypothetical, let’s say that your particular Church now authorizes homosexual unions and permits the ordination of homosexual men to become ministers and you disagree with that decision, are you allowed according to the traditions or rules of your Church to dissent?

It depends what you mean by “dissent.” The issue of who can marry and who can be ordained to the ministry is not a matter necessary to salvation. So, if the church taught those things, it would normally be permitted in the church for members to disagree.
However, in these particular examples, the teachings of the church are so clearly contrary to Scripture, that it might be the duty of Christians not simply to disagree, but after attempted reformation (if unsuccessful) to leave.

PH concluded:

I am asking these questions so I can get a handle on your understanding of the limits of Church authority. I thank you in advance for your reply to this query.

I nearly didn’t respond, but at least now I can have the pleasure of saying “you’re welcome.” I hope it is helpful.


Response to Paul Hoffer – Salvation of Muslims

August 29, 2008

This article is in response to one by Paul Hoffer (link to PH’s article). I had written:

Question for my readers who follow Vatican 2’s proclamation that “the plan of salvation includes” Muslims: Can you see from the example above that zealously following Islam leads to eternal destruction? If so, how do you justify to yourself your church’s claim? Can you not admit that your church has erred on this point?

Mr. Hoffer has characterized my statement by claiming that “TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific.” Let’s leave aside whether Mr. Hoffer’s ability to extract suggestions is correct, for now.

Assuming this to be the case, Mr. Hoffer complains for a full paragraph about how this is an “prime example” of “plurium interrogationum.” Again, for the moment, we will leave aside whether Mr. Hoffer has actually found a p.i. or not.

Mr. Hoffer proceeds by stating what he believes to be my motive: “Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific …,” meanwhile disputing as untrue this impression that he supposes I intended to convey. Again, let’s set aside, for the moment, whether he has correctly divined my intent.

Mr. Hoffer then offers “Proof” of his “contention that TF’s questions are based on a false premise … .”

Mr. Hoffer first confirms that my quotation “plan of salvation” is accurate, and provides a context for that quotation. I appreciate the fact that he has acknowledged that I accurately quoted the document, and I think it is fair to observe that the quotation must be understood as it was intended in context, and not simply according to what serves one’s apologetic or polemic needs.

Mr. Hoffer provides the following excerpt:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Emphasis Mr. Hoffer’s).

The first sentence that Mr. Hoffer highlighted makes sense: it is the sentence from which my quotation was taken. I found Mr. Hoffer’s second highlighting an odd choice. I would have thought in fairness he should highlight second, “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.”

I would think that sentence, and particularly that phrase, and most especially that word “also” would inform the reader that the comment about the people in the two previous sentences (1) “in the first place” the Muslims and (2) “those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God … ,” were comments about people who “can attain to salvation.”

Mr. Hoffer, however, argues that the reason is that “they claim to profess a belief in the God of Abraham” and that this is “a step closer to accepting the fullness of His Gospel even if there is much error in what a Muslim may otherwise believe.” Mr. Hoffer goes on to claim that, “If we accept that Muslims do in fact believe in the God of Abraham, then such a belief would make them more receptive to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus be saved.” We’ll return to this briefly.

Mr. Hoffer then tries to support the idea that truth contained in a pagan religion can prepare adherents to accept the Gospel of Christ. Of course, I don’t think anyone doubts this. That is to say, God can use truth contained in anything to prepare people for the Gospel.

Mr. Hoffer, however, does not rest on this argument, but quotes from Dominus Jesus (2000), which states that “It would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her.” I found it a bit odd that Mr. Hoffer (after seemingly chastising me for providing only a snippet) does not even quote the whole sentence. Since he would doubtless not be opposed, I provide the entire paragraph:

21. With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.83 Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully. Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God’s salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However, from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the “unique and special relationship”84 which the Church has with the kingdom of God among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour — it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God. (emphasis in original, though form of emphasis changed from italics to bold)

What is especially interesting is the tail of the sentence that Mr. Hoffer snipped off, the part about these other religions “converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God.” Also of note is the initial sentence of paragraph, “With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.”

Mr. Hoffer also provides another quotation, from the next paragraph, “If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation” (emphasis omitted by Hoffer restored). This quotation seems rather helpful to the idea that in fact followers of other religions receive divine grace, even if they do not have the fullness of the means of salvation.

Mr. Hoffer provides a further quotation from John Paul II, in which the pope notes that “Islam is not a religion of redemptino.” Mr. Hoffer, however, appears not to appreciate the fact that JP2 is simply describing Islam for what it is (forgiveness of sins in Islam is arbitrary, not based on redemption), not suggesting that Islam cannot serve as a means of divine grace.

Next, Mr. Hoffer links to an argument from Mr. Armstrong, which I plan to address some other time. Since Mr. Hoffer does not reproduce the argument, and since it appears to reflect Mr. Armstrong’s rather unique views on the subject, I trust Mr. Hoffer will not mind me passing it by for now.

Mr. Hoffer concludes his line of thought by stating in bold capital letters (not shown here): “The Catholic Church does not believe that a person can be saved through adherence to Islam.” Even if that is true, it is somewhat moot. After all, a good adherent of Catholicism will insist, consistent with the following, that the “Catholic Church does not believe that a persona can be saved by adherence to” Catholicism:

However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 (Dominus Jesus, 22)

The question is whether God graciously rewards those who follow Islam, not whether adherence to Islam is itself meritorious in the sense mentioned in the above block quotation. Catholicism claims not to believe in such salvation through meritorious adherence to religion.

Now, let’s return to some of those issues we previously deferred.

1) “TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific.”

In response, I should point that many Roman Catholics do actually believe that following Islam will save you. “I believe that all roads lead to the same place,” is the way I once heard a very elderly Roman Catholic put it. That, however, is a moot point. Inclusivism, as popular as it may be amongst the laity, is not (as such) official church dogma, at least not yet.

Next, I should point out that saying that Muslims who practice Islam faithfully will be saved is different from saying that Islam itself is salvific. In fact, given the emphasis on grace, a consistent, conservative Roman Catholic would be hard-pressed to argue that even Catholicism itself is salvific (since salvation is by grace, not adherence to religion).

Finally, I should note that Mr. Hoffer doesn’t ever seem to dispute that Muslims who are Muslims (not Muslims who become Christians) are able to be saved as such. Furthermore, that is the best and plainest sense both of Vatican 2’s Lumen Gentium and JP2’s Dominus Jesus (which, again, Mr. Hoffer does not seem to expressly dispute).

2) This is an “prime example” of “plurium interrogationum.”

No. This is not a prime example. Even if it were what Mr. Hoffer suggests, it would not be a prime example, because of the fact that (at a minimum) Mr. Hoffer seems to have overlooked an alternate premise upon which the questions can be founded, namely that practicing Muslims (as such) can be saved (i.e. that Muslims can be saved without becoming Christians). That lesser premise Mr. Hoffer only reaffirms via his quotation of church documents. Thus, even if I were guilty of what Mr. Hoffer tries to charge (i.e. loading the question), this is not a prime example.

3) “Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific … .”

No. I actually directed the question to those who hold to Vatican 2. I was assuming that my audience would be familiar with Lumen Gentium, and consequently place the snippet quotation I provided in its proper context. I assumed (perhaps rashly) that the reader would recognize that modern Catholicism does seem to teach that non-Christians can be saved, without becoming Christians, as demonstrated above.

In fact, popular apologist for Catholicism, Jimmy Akin recently (about two years ago) stated:

Thus any atheist who could say, “I don’t think that God exists, but if I was shown convincing reasons to believe that he does then I would go and get baptized immediately and become one of his devout followers” then this person’s heart is such that God will not hold his ignorance against him and will allow him to be saved.

On the other hand, if an atheist says, “Even if there is a God, I’ll still refuse to believe in him and I’ll spit in his face when I die” then this person is toast.

Between the two would be atheists who display some openness to God but who also to one degree or another resist compelling reasons to believe that he exist when they encounter such reasons. These individuals would seem to be in an ambiguous condition. If their openness to believing in and following God is their more fundamental motive then they would be open to his grace and be saved. If their resistance to believing in or following God is their more fundamental motive then they would be closed to his grace and thus lost.(emphasis changed from italics to bold)


At the end of the day, I’m afraid I feel that Mr. Hoffer’s comment in his first paragraph, “I have been accused at times of reading things into what people write,” is supported by the present illustration. Mr. Hoffer read something into what I wrote, and got it somewhat wrong.

Against Mr. Akin and Vatican 2, I insist that the only way to be saved is by explicitly believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Thus, I deny that non-Christians can be saved as such. Of course, the only sense in which “the plan of salvation includes” non-Christians is in the sense that there are some non-Christians today who are among the elect: men for whom Christ died, who will – some day – come to a saving faith in Him and be justified by faith alone in Christ alone, thereby being saved by grace alone.

Glory to the One Name under Heaven whereby men are saved, Jesus,


P.S. It is something of a pet peeve of mine to note that what Mr. Hoffer has called “Begging the Question,” is more properly called the fallacy of the “complex question” or more colloquially, “asking a loaded question.” In logic, the fallacy of “begging the question” normally refers to petitio principii, where an argument is made in which the conclusion is smuggled in as a premise. I am especially sensitive to this, because of the rampant abuse of the phrase “begging the question” to mean simply “raising the issue.” Mr. Hoffer, thankfully, does not fall into that ditch. Likewise, the example of the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” is a prime example of the plurium interrogationum fallacy, although it can take several forms. Incidentally, “plurium interrogationum” literally conveys the idea of “many questions” – hence the English “complex question.”

Update: Mr. Hoffer, in a new post (link) seems to miss the point of my correction of his irregular use of the term “begging the question” to describe plurium interrogationum. So that things are clear for him, I’m saying that his accusation/objection should have been to “complex question” or “loaded question” if he was objecting to a fallacy of plurium interrogationum (and I have assumed that it was his intent to object to plurium interrogationum, as petitio principii would be an even less appropriate, for the formal reasons Mr. Hoffer outlines in his post). The phrase “begging the question” derives from the petitio principii fallacy, not the plurium interrogationum fallacy. As well, the preferred spelling of petitio principii is ending with two “i”s (i.e. four total “i”s in the word).

Update: In yet another new post (link), Mr. Hoffer has tried to continue to insist on his nomenclature. The fact that “begging the question” derives from the petitio principii fallacy, not the plurium interrogationum fallacy is something that would be obvious to anyone who knows Latin. I commend to Mr. Hoffer’s reading the following:

  • “Fallacies” by Alfred Sidgwick (link), particularly p. 175
  • “The Laws of Discursive Thought, Being a Text-book of Formal Logic” by James McCosh (link) particularly p. 184
  • “An Elementary Treatise on Logic” by William Dexter Wilson (link) particularly p. 184
  • “Logic” by George Hugh Smith (link) particularly pp. 174 and 189

Additional rudimentary books on Logic could be brought to bear to establish by authority what should be plain to everyone by now.

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