Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Response to Cursilista Regarding Church History

December 26, 2011

Cursilista wrote:

The one thing that bugs me is that the question I would ask is for a protestant explanation of how did Christianity move forward through time after Christ died. 

We have a pretty clear answer to that.  Read the book of Acts.  It says zero about a Roman-centered Christianity.  Rome is part of Paul’s mission field, it’s not the locus of a papacy.  We see churches being planted all over the world, wherever Paul and other missionaries go.

Cursilista continued:

Give an explanation of what form of organization did Christianity take that survived since the time of Christ to today. 

The form of the organization was initially elders in every city (Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:), accompanied by deacons (Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:). The terms bishop and elder were originally synonymous.

Eventually, a monarchical episcopate emerged, in which one of the elders became designated as “the” bishop.  Later, certain bishops gained a preeminence over others, particularly in cities that were important in the Roman empire.  I could go on, and recite the tale of the development of a variety of different organizational forms that have existed from ancient times down to modern times, but suffice to say that there have been a significant number of different organizational forms that have existed, both in ancient times and – of course – in modern times.

Cursilista continued:

Christ said that his church would not be overcome by the gates of hell. Satan would not prevail over his church, therefore Christ’s church had to have existed since his death to current time and will continue to exist forever. 

This is a non sequitur, premised on a misunderstanding of what Christ said. 

First of all, the organizational form of the apostolic era church (with a plurality of elders accompanied by deacons in every city) was quite not carefully maintained.  Even historians within the Roman communion (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) acknowledge this fact. 

Second, the apostasy of individual churches (even very many of them) does not entail victory of Satan over Christ’s church.  Recall that during the time of the Old Testament, it seemed to God’s prophet Elisha that he was the last follower of God on earth, but God replied that there were 7000 others.  Thus, even if for a few years – or even a few hundred years – there were only 7000 scattered followers of Christ, it would be Satan’s error to think he had the victory over the church.

We need not, however, assume that apostasy was so complete that there were only 7000 believers.  Certainly there were many errors that crept into the churches, even from a very early time.  Nevertheless, salvation is not obtained by having perfect doctrines or perfect practices, but rather by trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

Third, the reference to the gates of hell is a reference to death, not Satan.  Recall that Wisdom 16:13 states: “For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again.”  The promise that Jesus is making in Matthew 16 is not some kind of victory in spiritual defense against Satan (after all, in warfare gates are themselves defensive not offensive) but rather victory over death: resurrection.  The “church” that Christ is talking about here is all believers.  As Christ explains: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.  … No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  … Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39, 40, 44, and 54)

Cursilista continued: 

So name that church, name the leaders of that church, show a succession of those leaders, there is a 2000 yr. span of time which has to be accounted for. 

This request proceeds from the faulty premises identified above.  Christ does not promise that every apostle would be faithful, much less that those who came after them would be faithful.  The head of Christ’s church is one: Christ, as it is written: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:22), “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”  (Ephesians 5:23), “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

It is true that Christ died, but Christ was raised again on the third day and continues to live even until this day.  So, the two thousand year time span is fully accounted for.

Moreover, while Christ is bodily absent from us, he has provided us with both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we can learn what we need to believe to be saved from them.  The churches are an aid to that, but they are (and must be) subordinate to both.

Cursilista wrote:

What churches did the Apostles start. They should still be around today. 

Why would one assume such a thing?  Look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation (sorry, Rome didn’t make that list).  There is no promise to those churches, which were started in the apostolic era that they would endure forever, or that they would endure without apostasy.  Indeed, can you find those seven churches now?

Cursilista continued:

For 1500 years, my only knowledge of such a Christian church is the Catholic Church. 

There are other churches that claim an ancient lineage.  The Eastern Orthodox churches are the most visible alternative, but there are others as well – such as the Copts in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox.  The fact that a church claims an ancient lineage does not demonstrate that the church teaches what the apostles taught.  We can know what the apostles taught from the Scriptures, and we can compare the teachings of churches like Rome to those teachings to see whether they have maintained or departed from the apostolic faith.

Moreover, Rome’s claims to being ancient are easily challenged.  Events like the Council of Constance or the move from election by the people of Rome to election by the Cardinals suggest that the modern papacy is disconnected from the older Roman bishoprics.  The fact that men have obtained the papacy by simony similarly negate the idea that somehow the Roman bishopric has been maintained against Satan’s attacks.  Do we even need to mention mention men like Julius III and Alexander VI who occupied the papacy but demonstrated by their way of life that they were not Christians?

Cursilista wrote:

The protestant reformation took place in the early 1500’s. 

That’s a typical sociological date.  However, of course, at the time Luther was treated as being a continuation of what Huss (1369-1415) and Wycliffe (1328-1384) had started before him, in terms of opposing Rome.  And we could back even prior to Wycliffe to the Waldensians, who trace their roots to Peter Waldo (1140-1218).  Of course, this is only in the West.  An East-West division occurred in 1054.  So, while the Protestant Reformation was a very notable and important event, it’s more of a continuation of lots of people disagreeing with the bishop of Rome, and the bishop of Rome (at least from the 11th century) acting as an autocrat (see the power struggle between Emperor Henry IV and the pope of his day, for example).

Cursilista continued:

The protestants need to fill in a 1500 yr. gap as to what was Christ’s church, other than the catholic church, here on earth for those 1500 yrs. If they cannot, then, they have to admit that the Catholic church is the church that was established by Christ. If Christ said he church would endure forever then, either his church started at Pentecost and continues to today or Jesus waited 1500 yrs. to start his church during the protestant reformation. The later proposition is hard to believe.

Mostly, this is already addressed above.  The faulty presupposition behind this argument is that Christ came to establish a single denomination.  Instead, the rock upon which Christ’s church is built is a confession of faith in Christ alone (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”).  That is to say, “the church” is whoever trusts in Christ alone for salvation.  It’s not an organization with a headquarters in Rome, ruled by men in fancy clothes who sit on thrones.

Cursilista again:

Also in this debate, my two cents would be to ask the question and make this supposition . Is god a god of order or disorder. In order to organize men, there needs to be a committee and a head of that committee that controls the debate with authority. 

Cursilista assumes too much. In the Old Testament era, there was no pope, yet the same God ruled his people then.  Now, we have Christ as the head of our church, and we have his official word, the Scriptures, to guide and rule us.  That, however, is not enough for some, it seems.

Cursilista wrote:

When Jesus left this earth , he left his church in the hands of the apostles, humans, his committee, to organize and keep intact all of his teachings. 

Actually, when Jesus left, he sent the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to write Holy Scripture. 

Cursilista continued:

Some of those teachings were not written down, so the bible says, because, all that Jesus taught his apostles couldn’t be written down, it would fill up the earth with books. 

Cursilista may have misunderstood the verse in question, but let us suppose that not all of Jesus’ teachings were included in the Bible.  If so, how could we reliably know what those other teachings were?  We would have to examine the historical record to see what else the apostles were teaching, beside those things that were included in Scripture.  But when we examine the historical record, we don’t see the distinctively Roman teachings (like papal infallibility, the bodily assumption of Mary, or the immaculate conception) being taught in the earliest period.

Moreover, the distinctively Roman dogmas are not that hard to put into book form.  So, it is not the case that these were simply not included because the amount of dogma was too much for the New Testament to fit it all.  Indeed, certain Roman advocates attempt to allege that Rome’s distinctive dogmas actually are found in Scripture.

On top of that, we see that the early Christians plainly did not hold to things like papal infallibility.  While many people say nice things about Rome, and many people even seek the wisdom or authority of the bishop of Rome at various times in the patristic era, where does anyone argue that the bishop of Rome is infallible?  It’s absurd to think that such a doctrine is apostolic or from Christ himself, yet we see people try to argue that today.

Cursilista again:

Therefore, The apostles with someone as the , lets call it chairman of the board of the committee, was the governing authority of the faith. 

The book of Acts does not reflect this.  On the contrary, the seeming “chairman” of the council described in Acts 15 is James, not Peter (who was living in Antioch or Samaria at that time, not Rome), and certainly not Linus (who is not even mentioned).  Likewise, as noted above, Rome’s own historians dispute the idea the Roman papacy is something that was from the beginning.

Cursilista concluded: 

How else would the faith survive intact if not for some form of human organizational body in place to keep the teachings intact and without error or human interpretation to twist the teachings to cultural changes as time went by.

The answer should be obvious: Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit preserve and persuade us of the apostolic faith.  There is no promise all believers will have beliefs totally free from error.  But our faith does not depend an organization of men or a particular denomination of believers.

-TurretinFan

Proverbs 1:1

October 1, 2008

Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

This verse provides both the title of the book and the author of the first and main section of the book. The author is King Solomon, himself the son of David. Both were the king of Israel. It may be grammatically an open issue of whether “king of Israel” is meant to refer to Solomon or David. I believe that the latter sense is the probable, but the ambiguity is of no consequence.

Some people have attempted to deny that Solomon was the author of the book. Their rationale is that Solomon turned from God. For it is written,

1 Kings 11:6-10
6And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. 7Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. 8And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. 9And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, 10And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.

The reasoning continues that if Solomon turned away from God, then he was not saved, and that an unsaved person could not be an author of the Holy Scripture. This reasoning is weak in two regards:

1) Scripture indicates the punishment laid upon Solomon for his disobedience. That punishment was (a) taking the ten tribes away from Solomon’s son’s rule and (b) stirring up adversaries against Solomon.

2) Scripture concludes the account of Solomon in the book of Kings by stating:

1 Kings 11:41-42
41And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? 42And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years.

And Scripture concludes the account of Solomon in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel by stating:

2 Chronicals 9:29-31
29Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat? 30And Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. 31And Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.

Neither of these accounts suggest that Solomon died in ignominy, though of course that is not conclusive.

3) We are not told whether Solomon repented of his sin or not. The book of Proverbs itself speaks of repentance (see verse 23 of the first chapter, for example). This supports the idea that Solomon himself repented, though it is not conclusive.

4) There is no rule that Scripture must be written by saved men. The word of God has come by the mouth of a donkey and by mouth of King Saul, the suicide. Since we believe in verbal, plenary inspiration, it is irrelevant whether the prophet is himself a righteous or wicked man.

Original (Hebrew)
Proverbs 1:1
משׁלי שׁלמה בן־דוד מלך ישׂראל׃

LXX (Greek)
Proverbs 1:1
Παροιμίαι Σαλωμῶντος υἱοῦ Δαυιδ, ὃς ἐβασίλευσεν ἐν Ισραηλ,

Vulgate (Latin)
Proverbs 1:1
parabolae Salomonis filii David regis Israhel

Email Irony

September 18, 2008

This is not a political blog, but I find it ironic that days after Obama mocked McCain for not using e-mail, Gov. Palin’s email account was hacked, illustrating why it is wise not to use e-mail if you are in politics. It also illustrates the wisdom of Solomon, who by inspiration wrote:

Ecclesiastes 10:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

Today the bird may be electronic – but the same principle applies. And here is my personal exhortation to you: try not to speak, write, email, blog, or otherwise communicate that which you would not want to be found out.

Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

Mark 4:22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

-TurretinFan

Wisdom Chapter 14 – Test of Irony

August 7, 2008

The following is chapter fourteen from the uninspired book of Wisdom.

1 Again, one preparing himself to sail, and about to pass through the raging waves, calleth upon a piece of wood more rotten than the vessel that carrieth him. 2 For verily desire of gain devised that, and the workman built it by his skill. 3 But thy providence, O Father, governeth it: for thou hast made a way in the sea, and a safe path in the waves; 4 Shewing that thou canst save from all danger: yea, though a man went to sea without art.

5 Nevertheless thou wouldest not that the works of thy wisdom should be idle, and therefore do men commit their lives to a small piece of wood, and passing the rough sea in a weak vessel are saved. 6 For in the old time also, when the proud giants perished, the hope of the world governed by thy hand escaped in a weak vessel, and left to all ages a seed of generation.

7 For blessed is the wood whereby righteousness cometh.

8 But that which is made with hands is cursed, as well it, as he that made it: he, because he made it; and it, because, being corruptible, it was called god. 9 For the ungodly and his ungodliness are both alike hateful unto God. 10 For that which is made shall be punished together with him that made it.

11 Therefore even upon the idols of the Gentiles shall there be a visitation: because in the creature of God they are become an abomination, and stumblingblocks to the souls of men, and a snare to the feet of the unwise. 12 For the devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual fornication, and the invention of them the corruption of life. 13 For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be for ever.

14 For by the vain glory of men they entered into the world, and therefore shall they come shortly to an end. 15 For a father afflicted with untimely mourning, when he hath made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god, which was then a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices. 16 Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law, and graven images were worshipped by the commandments of kings. 17 Whom men could not honour in presence, because they dwelt far off, they took the counterfeit of his visage from far, and made an express image of a king whom they honoured, to the end that by this their forwardness they might flatter him that was absent, as if he were present.

18 Also the singular diligence of the artificer did help to set forward the ignorant to more superstition. 19 For he, peradventure willing to please one in authority, forced all his skill to make the resemblance of the best fashion. 20 And so the multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took him now for a god, which a little before was but honoured. 21 And this was an occasion to deceive the world: for men, serving either calamity or tyranny, did ascribe unto stones and stocks the incommunicable name.

22 Moreover this was not enough for them, that they erred in the knowledge of God; but whereas they lived in the great war of ignorance, those so great plagues called they peace. 23 For whilst they slew their children in sacrifices, or used secret ceremonies, or made revellings of strange rites; 24 They kept neither lives nor marriages any longer undefiled: but either one slew another traiterously, or grieved him by adultery. 25 So that there reigned in all men without exception blood, manslaughter, theft, and dissimulation, corruption, unfaithfulness, tumults, perjury, 26 Disquieting of good men, forgetfulness of good turns, defiling of souls, changing of kind, disorder in marriages, adultery, and shameless uncleanness.

27 For the worshipping of idols not to be named is the beginning, the cause, and the end, of all evil. 28 For either they are mad when they be merry, or prophesy lies, or live unjustly, or else lightly forswear themselves. 29 For insomuch as their trust is in idols, which have no life; though they swear falsely, yet they look not to be hurt. 30 Howbeit for both causes shall they be justly punished: both because they thought not well of God, giving heed unto idols, and also unjustly swore in deceit, despising holiness. 31 For it is not the power of them by whom they swear: but it is the just vengeance of sinners, that punisheth always the offence of the ungodly.

Now I ask you which is more ironic: that I (not believing this passage to be the Word of God) accept this passage as generally true, or that others (believing this passage to be the Word of God) nevertheless claim that the prohibition on idols did not last for ever (as stated in verse 13) but ceased after the Incarnation. Which is more ironic, that I believing this to be uninspired believe it teaches the truth (generally) or that they believing it to be inspired nevertheless do not follow its teachings, but make and use in worship images both purporting to be of God and of holy men.

-TurretinFan


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