Sunday, December 13, 2009

Open Forum

For topics unrelated to existing posts. Be charitable and courteous always. Chesterton observed: "People generally quarrel because they cannot argue."

37 comments:

Adomnan said...

With some reluctance (as the lapse of time shows), I'll reply to a number of Nick's most recent comments in our exchange concerning the meaning of "works of the Law" in Paul. This will probably be my last posting on this topic for a while (or maybe forever). I originally broached this subject with Nick in hopes that he would adopt my interpretation, which I of course think is the correct one. However, by now it is apparent he won't, and so there's little point in my continuing.

To recap briefly for those who didn't follow the earlier discussion. I contend that works/works of the Law in Paul's writings refer only to specifically Jewish ritual/religious observances like circumcision. So when Paul writes that one is justified apart from works of the Law, this means that one is justified apart from specifically Jewish rites and observances.

Nick, on the other hand, contends that works/works of the Law in Paul refer to everything the Jewish Law commands, including its moral precepts. In his interpretation, when Paul writes that one is justified apart from the works of the Law, he is stating that even observing the moral precepts of the Jewish Law does not justify (or perhaps that no one can in fact observe these moral precepts and so be justified).

With these positions in mind, I will comment on some of Nick's most recent remnarks, first citing Nick and then responding.

Nick: You said: "It is the "letter" of the Law that Jews observe when they observe rites and customs, like circumcision. It is the dikaiomata that they and we observe when we keep the Law's just requirements."
I disagree with this. The righteous requirements of the law include circumcision, but it is done by the Spirit and instead of having a written code the Spirit writes the truest expression on the heart (Rom 2:29).

Adomnan: No. Paul calls Gentile Christians "the uncircumcision," who nevertheless keep the "righteous requirements of the Law" (dikaiomata). If they are uncircumcised yet keep the righteous requirements, then circumcision cannot be one of those requirements. The fact that he speaks of Christians having undergone a "circumcision of the heart" does not imply that the Law's circumcision of the flesh was a "righteous requirement" for Paul. If so, Paul would be contradicting what he just said; i.e., you can be uncircumcised and yet keep the righteous requirements. "Circumcision of the heart" is not a moral or ritual command, or a "work" for that matter; it's just a way of talking about the inner state of one who is obedient to God. You're mixing commands up with states.

Adomnan said...

Nick: The "letter" refers to the written code, the Torah.

Adomnan: Yes, but with a stress on literal observance. That's why Paul calls it "the letter" (gramma) here and not "the scripture" (graphe). The letter in Paul is always contrasted to the spirit. Paul's point is not that the Torah is all "letter" and Christianity all "spirit." Rather, he is pointing out that one can adhere punctiliously to secondary, temporary requirements of the Law (Torah) while ignoring its spirit, what Jesus called the weightier matters of the Law. So Paul's criticism of the letter is the same criticism Jesus sometimes made of the scribes and the Pharisees.

Paul is contrasting the letter and circumcision in Rom 2 with the righteous requirements of the Law (dikaiomata). They can hardly be the same thing.

Writing about Romans 2, Anglican Bishop N. T. describes Paul's aim well, I think, when he writes:

"The Law sets the standard by which Israel will be judged; Gentiles will be judged without reference to it. However, there is one class of Gentiles who in a sense will be judged with reference to the Torah. This class consists of Gentile Christians; though by birth they do not possess the Torah, they are now in the strange position of 'doing the Law', since the Spirit has written the "work of Torah" on their hearts."

Nick: In that full context, Rom 2:17-3:8, the law is the Torah and Paul is especially speaking of the Judaizer hypocrites who own the law but are breaking moral requirements of the law (2:17-24).

Adomnan: Yes, the law is the Torah, but the works of the Law are only the dispensable rites and observances.

Nick: Circumcision and keeping moral requirements go hand in hand for Paul here.

Adomnan: No, they don't. Paul writes in Rom 2:26 that the "uncircumcision" keep the moral requirements of the Law, and so circumcision and keeping these requirements hardly "go hand in hand."

Nick: Paul is not faulting them for keeping rites apart from morals,

Adomnan: Yes, he is. Why else would he write in Rom 2:25: "Circumcision truly is of benefit if you keep the Law"? This implies that one can "keep rites apart from morals," and that's precisely why Paul is faulting sinful Jews. They keep the rites (e.g., circumcision), but not always the morals.

Nick: In 2:15, the Gentiles "do not have the law" but none the less "do what the law requires," meaning they lack the written code but obey the essence of the written code.

Adomnan: They -- that is, Gentile Christians -- obey the moral essence of the written code. They do not do "the works of the Law," however.

Adomnan said...

Nick: I'm not trying to aggravate you here. The problem is that your argument doesn't fit then because (as I originally pointed out) places like Acts 13:39 and Acts 15:5 say: "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."
NOW, since we both agree the "law of Moses" is not a subset (ie more than just rites) of the Law but rather the WHOLE Law, this is explicit proof the Judaizers were not limiting themselves to a subset of the Law. Their demand was "circumcised and obey the WHOLE Law," but this doesn't fit YOUR idea that Paul was ONLY attacking a subset (ie circumcision and rites).

Adomnan: Nick, it's comments like this one that aggravate me. Were the Judaizers going to say, "We don't care if you Gentiles fulfill the moral precepts of the Law, we only want you to do the ritual bits"?

The Judaizers' issue was evidently that the Gentile Christians, even if they were keeping the righteous requirements of the Law, were not keeping the "works of the Law," the special Jewish observances like circumcision. So they said they wanted Gentiles to keep the WHOLE thing -- because if they kept the WHOLE thing, they'd get circumcised. Surely you understand that?

Nick: Further, when Paul says "you cannot be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39), he is saying the same thing when he says "no man will be justified by works of the Law" (Rom 3:20). It makes no sense for Paul to say the whole law cannot justify and then shift the discussion to saying only a subset wont justify.

Adomnan: Actually, Acts 13:39 doesn't say "you cannot be justified by the Law of Moses." It says, "...through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." The wording would suggest that you can be justified from some things through the law of Moses, just not everything. This fits in rather well with the assertion in the Epistle to the Hebrews that OT sacrifices did in fact expiate sin, just not as completely or permanently as the sacrifice of Christ.

Paul's statements in Acts were as Luke remembered them. Luke got the gist, but he didn't necessarily preserve the exact words. In any event, I disagree that Paul's statement in Acts has the same content as his statement in Romans that one is justified "apart from the works of the Law." In the statement in Acts, Paul is saying that Christ brings a greater and more complete justification than the Mosaic Law. In Romans 3:20 and 3:28, he's saying something more specific; namely, that one is not justified by the Law's rites and observances. Obviously, these two statements don't contradict each other, but neither do they have exactly the same content.

Look at this way. In Rom 3:20, Paul says no one is justified by the works of the Law. In 3:28, he says one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. These two statements are equivalent. Now, since no one is justified apart from loving God and loving neighbor, the "works of the Law" cannot include this. These works must be limited to circumcision and other rites and observances.

Adomnan said...

Nick: Hmm, that doesn't fit the plain reading of the text. It's those under the Law who are subject to the curse, and this is solidly confirmed by the fact Paul directly quotes Deut 27:26 - which is also the conclusion of a long list of MORAL demands on the Jews.

Adomnan: Well, then you're going back to the Protestant position, another "plain reading of the text," that God demands perfect obedience from the Jews and that Paul is somehow overlooking the fact that the Law itself provided for atonement for sin, thus making a statement ("the Law curses everyone under it who transgresses it") that is NONSENSE.

Adomnan said...

Nick: You can't have it both ways. Either the demands of Christ are superior than that Moses or they are not. If they are, then there is not a full harmony with the Torah's moral demands and that of Christ, and thus Paul looking to the Torah's moral demands is wrong. Rom 2:29 shows it's only the fulfilled law by circumcision of the heart by the Spirit that saves, not done by hands, so yes there is a 'radical cleavage'

Nick, later: This fails by the simple fact the whole Law is abolished, it makes no sense to say only part is abolished, nor does it make sense in light of the fact the "curse" applies to breaking moral demands. When Paul says we are no longer under the Law, that means the whole thing.

Adomnan: Rather than my taking on your theory of a radical cleavage between the moral precepts of the Jewish Law and those of Christ, let me cite instead an early church father's view on the matter:

Irenaeus, Against Heretics, Book 4, Chapter 12

3. As in the law, therefore, and in the Gospel [likewise], the first and greatest commandment is, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, and then there follows a commandment like to it, to love one’s neighbour as one’s self; the author of the law and the Gospel is shown to be one and the same. For the precepts of an absolutely perfect life, since they are the same in each Testament, have pointed out [to us] the same God, who certainly has promulgated particular laws adapted for each; but the more prominent and the greatest [commandments], without which salvation cannot [be attained], He has exhorted [us to observe] the same in both.

Adomnan said...

And here is Irenaeus explaining that Paul excluded only Jewish rites and observances from playing a role in justification (and did not exclude the moral precepts of the Law):

Chapter 16, 2. "And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows,— that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, “believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.”39913991 Jas. ii. 23. Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation."

With this quotation from St. Irenaeus, I conclude my participation in this exchange.

Dave Armstrong said...

I agree with Adomnan on this one, and on the "New" Perspective on St. Paul (N.T. Wright et al). I have a section on this in my first book, citing my friend Al Kresta at length.

Adomnan said...

It occurred to me that I need to clarify one aspect of my position. Some of my statements about the Jewish Law might lead one to suppose that I was saying that a person could be "justified" in Paul's sense by adherence to the Jewish Law.

In fact, Paul believed that anyone who was justified under the Old Covenant was so not because he adhered to Jewish Law as such, but because he had an underlying faith in God that was the true basis of justification. Adherence to the Jewish Law was a result of this righteousness of faith, not its cause, a matter of what Paul called "the obedience of faith."

When Paul spoke of the Jewish Law, the Torah, he was referring usually to what we might now call "Judaism" or the "Jewish religion." Like any religion, Judaism had both moral precepts and rites and observances, the latter being morally neutral but enjoining certain behaviors that characterized the religion. The moral precepts were universally valid, which is why Paul calls them "the just requirements of the Law" (dikaiomata) and distinguishes them from rites like circumcision. When Paul says that Gentile Christians should not adhere to the Jewish Law, he means that they should not take on Jewish rites and observances ("the works of the Law"), not that they should discard the dikaiomata, which he explicitly says they keep. And keeping the Law in this sense does justify, as Paul writes in Romans 2:13 ("the doers of the Law shall be justified").

Moving from a state of sin to justification is not initially a matter of "doing the Law," of course. However, once one begins to be justified, one increases that justification and secures final justification by "doing the Law."

Adomnan said...

Furthermore, even though Jesus modified the moral precepts of the Jewish Law, extending and perfecting them, neither Paul nor the Fathers (nor Jesus Himself) saw this as a repudiation of the older precepts.

Here is how Irenaeus, who wrote that Jesus did not do away with the Law, saw it:

Against Heretics, Book 4, Chapter 13:

3. And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, “Thou shalt not kill,” He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbours only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods. For “to him that taketh away thy coat,” He says, “give to him thy cloak also; and from him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again; and as ye would that men should do unto you, do ye unto them:” so that we may not grieve as those who are unwilling to be defrauded, but may rejoice as those who have given willingly, and as rather conferring a favour upon our neighbours than yielding to necessity. “And if any one,” He says, “shall compel thee [to go] a mile, go with him twain;” so that thou mayest not follow him as a slave, but may as a free man go before him, showing thyself in all things kindly disposed and useful to thy neighbour, not regarding their evil intentions, but performing thy kind offices, assimilating thyself to the Father, “who maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and unjust.” Now all these [precepts], as I have already observed, were not [the injunctions] of one doing away with the law, but of one fulfilling, extending, and widening it among us; just as if one should say, that the more extensive operation of liberty implies that a more complete subjection and affection towards our Liberator had been implanted within us. For He did not set us free for this purpose, that we should depart from Him (no one, indeed, while placed out of reach of the Lord’s benefits, has power to procure for himself the means of salvation), but that the more we receive His grace, the more we should love Him. Now the more we have loved Him, the more glory shall we receive from Him, when we are continually in the presence of the Father.
4. Inasmuch, then, as all natural precepts are common to us and to them (the Jews), they had in them indeed the beginning and origin; but in us they have received growth and completion.

Adomnan said...

Dave: I agree with Adomnan on this one, and on the "New" Perspective on St. Paul (N.T. Wright et al). I have a section on this in my first book, citing my friend Al Kresta at length.

Adomnan: Thanks for the support, Dave! You made my day. I now see that I haven't just been writing on water.

Dave Armstrong said...

Scott Hahn and Bob Sungenis had the same discussion years ago. I used to get forwards in my e-mail. Scott took your position and mine.

Protestantism has traditionally taken the other perspective, which is why Wright is not a very loved figure in many circles. He dares to criticise Luther's flawed paradigm: he goes after the sacred cow of Luther's "Reformation" soteriology from within Protestantism.

I love people like that, who are willing to go against the grain and take all the hits that inevitably come from that.

Grubb said...

Ben M.,

Sorry it's been so long since your last question to me my friend. I've been intending to reply but just haven't gotten to it until now.

But again, it is the (ROMAN)CC which is mentioned explicitly in the N.T.(Rom 1:8)!

That's not exactly true, is it my friend? There is mention that those Christians in Rome had great faith, but there is no mention of the RCC as it exists today. Nor does it appear that Paul considers himself submissive to this church as he would have if the RCC had been established at that point. He actually sounds as though he sees some areas of weakness in the Roman church of that time when he says, "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine." (Rom 1:11-12) He's simply pointing out that they have great faith, and their faith is being heard of around the world.

“ALL the churches of Christ” salute this Roman Church! (Rom. 16:16)"

Firstly, the NIV & ESV say all the churches of Christ "greet you" not "salute". That's a huge difference. It's interesting you would quote this verse, as it's one I would have quoted if you hadn't. It says "Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you." So churches that weren't a part of the church in Rome greeted the church in Rome; but they were Christian churches apart from the church in Rome!! This clearly hinders your belief rather than helping it.

Again, Grubb, you miss the point! Paul is praising the faith of the Roman Church. Now this faith had to be absolutely pure, otherwise he would never have praised it,...

He said he wanted to impart to them some spiritual gifts, so it's very possible they were lacking in some ways. Besides, you seem to think that because the Christians who were in Rome were praised for their faith that the church that eventually grew from that country is the only acceptable church. Apparently Paul thought there were other Christian churches when he wrote to the church at Rome.

...and certainly such praises would never have arisen to the level of divine inspiration! So now you must tell us just when the Church of Rome, which Paul (and thus Christ) praised, fell from its exalted position, as you allege.

I will ask you the same thing. When did the Christian churches that greeted Rome cease to be Christian churches? But to answer your question, the church in Rome may have fallen from it's position of praise when it decided it (and only it) was the true Christian church. You may think that could never happen, but look at those who were delivered from Egypt through the Red Sea. Just days after their deliverance they were building a golden calf to worship. So they wandered for 40 years and when they finally entered the Promised Land, how long before they went wayward? 1 generation.
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Grubb said...

Grubb: Yes, since my church is a part of the one true church, we're a part of the one true church that stood in the 1st century.

Ben: But have you any documentation for your claim (a list of succession of your bishops e.g.)?


Did the churches in Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Philippi, Galatia, Berea, and Colosse have a succession of Bishops? No, they had the Word of God and faith in that Word. My church has that too.

a. There is ONE CHURCH (Rome) whose doctrines are the standard for all Christians.

This is an unbiblical claim. Just because the churches of that time greeted one another, doesn't mean that the church in Rome was the one true church.

b. All true Christian churches are in communion with this ONE CHURCH (Rome).

Again, this is unbiblical. Christian churches of that time were in communion with one another; there's no indication that the RCC was the leader nor that other churches established by Paul were less Christian or even less faithful than the church in Rome.

Now you keep trying, my friend, to get around this CLEAR teaching of the N.T. by saying Rome fell from grace. But your (unenviable ;)) task now is to tell us just exactly when the Church at Rome fell (and why).

First of all, it isn't "CLEAR" that Rome is the head of the one true church. If it was, I'd believe it. : ) You've deduced it from a very ambiguous passage. When did the RCC fall from grace? Well, I don't know the exact date and time, but they certainly fell away from truth and grace when they said we're saved by works. In the story of the jailer who wanted to be saved, "The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.'" (Acts 16:29-31)

My church doesn't deny salvation by faith.
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Grubb said...

Everyone,

The last conversation I had with y'all (yes, I'm from the south : ) we discussed tithing and giving in general. Unfortunately way too much of the conversation centered on retirement plans. One of the ideas put forth (I think by Adomnan, but I could be wrong) was that the only amount one would be required to give is his portion to support the local church. So if there are 100 families in a church and it costs $100,000 to support the church for a year, then each family would necessarily give $1,000 for the year. Anything above that was unnecessary.

First of all, that is a horrible standard for giving. It seems very odd that God would require 10% from people who were much poorer than we are and now only require us to support the local church building and staff's salaries. What about taking care of the poor & widows as Paul was encouraged to do? That can be costly. And here's the kicker for RCs: if you only pay enough to support your local church, who supports the regional governing body (I believe it's called the diocese)? What about the Bishops over the churches? What about the Cardinals over the Bishops? What about the Pope and the Vatican and all those employed in it? These are tremendous costs that cannot be covered if every person only gave enough to support the local church.

My church helps feed the homeless, jobless, and others in need in our town. We help fund missionaries overseas. We help plant new churches. And we help cover electric bills when people can't pay their own. And my small group helps with furniture, time, and food when refugees move to our town. (Please note, I'm praising my church, not myself) How can we do that if everyone gives just enough to support the building and staff?

Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth where moth and rust can destroy and where thieves can break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:19-21) How can we acquire wealth & possessions here while neglecting the poor & needy and claim we're storing up treasures in heaven? As Randy Alcorn said in The Treasure Principle, "You can't take it with you, but you can send it ahead."

The average American gives about 2% of their salary to non-profit organizations. The average "Christian" gives about 2.2% to non-profit organizations (including their church). THAT is an abomination! Don't you guys agree? If not, why?
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Adomnan said...

Grubb: Well, I don't know the exact date and time, but they certainly fell away from truth and grace when they said we're saved by works.

Adomnan: They said we're saved by observing Jewish rites and customs? That's what "works" means in Paul.

My question is rhetorical, Grubb. Don't feel obliged to answer it. I won't be discussing this subject with you in any event. If you're interested, take a look at the exchange I had with Nick. I have nothing to add to that.

Randy said...

Grubb, when Paul talks about other churches outside Rome he is not contradicting Catholic thinking at all. Each local church was led by a monarchial bishop. They were appointed by the apostles or by another bishop like Titus 1:5 indicates. These bishops were pretty much responsible to lead the church in their area as the spirit led them. But they were expected to stay in unity with the church of Rome. So Paul's statement of all the churches saluting the Roman church fits in well with this.

I understand your point of the translation. If you can find sonething written by a Greek scholar about that word I would be interested. But in either case we have many churches in persecution far away from Rome. Why would they greet or salute the church of Rome? Because Rome had some sort of central place. Certainly in the secular realm it did. Peter was also there. Even if you don't accept Peter as the first pope you can admit he was a big name. Paul was not leading a church so Peter was the most respected church leader leading the most visible church.

Paul said he was coming to Rome to give them spiritual gifts. The gift he gave them was his own martyrdom. Yet another honor for the church at Rome. God was moving the center of the faith away from Jerusalem before 70 AD. He didn't want the church's central authority to be destroyed. He wanted it built up.

Randy said...

Did the churches in Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Philippi, Galatia, Berea, and Colosse have a succession of Bishops? No, they had the Word of God and faith in that Word. My church has that too.

You need to read Irenaeus and Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius names the leaders of several those churches. That is one leader in each church firmly in place by the year 110 AD. How does that happen? The apostles appointed them. Who else could have?

Irenaeus claims he can name the apostolic succesion of all the churches. He only names two. His own church and that of Rome. Somehow Rome is important. But he calims he could document the succesion for all the churches back to the apostles. Do you feel he is lying?

Randy said...

First of all, it isn't "CLEAR" that Rome is the head of the one true church. If it was, I'd believe it. : ) You've deduced it from a very ambiguous passage.

You are removing the bible from history. The passage is clear when you fit it into everything else we know about the first and second century church. Not that we should expect to find all future changes in church structure in scripture. Still when it is referenced you simply call it ambiguous.

When did the RCC fall from grace? Well, I don't know the exact date and time, but they certainly fell away from truth and grace when they said we're saved by works.

James 2:24 says, "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." Not sure when James was written. But saved by works is not the whole story. Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is dead. Both are responses to God's grace.


In the story of the jailer who wanted to be saved, "The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.'" (Acts 16:29-31)

You stopped in the middle of a paragraph. Here is the rest:

32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

So they explained the word and then they baptized his whole family. So we have obedience implied and sacraments explicitly referenced. Could that be part of their answer?

You are right that faith is what we should be our first answer when somebody asks how do I get saved. But it is not our last word. Works do get involved. Not because we earn anything but because we can be transformed so much more fully when we act on our faith.

Phil said...

Hi Dave,

I recently read your blog entry about your Father's death and I offer my condolances and prayers.

I was wondering if you could help me out with a debate that I am currently taking part in and am losing quite badly, to do with the Priestly sex abuse scandal in the Church. My opponent is quite entrenched in his view that any institution that "turns a blind eye" to paedophelia and homosexuality within its own ranks is amoral and corrupt. I have offered in defence several examples that show that the Church is not immune from sin, for example Jesus' reference to the authority of the Pharisees despite their hypocrisy, as well as the fact that before the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century most Catholic Bishops were Arian Heretics. Any attempt to appeal to the Bible he dismisses as "hypocritical rationalisation", since "the Bible contains nothing to justify paedophilia".

He continually stoops to ad hominem attacks, for example joking that if the Church truly did get rid of homosexual priests then there would be no clergy left. Or saying that the Church acts like "a whore running a convent and then being canonised". His favorite whipping boy are the Legionaries of Christ, since their founder Father Marcial Marciel had many homosexual and heterosexual affairs. He is outraged at the fact that Father Marciel "died in tranquil isolation instead of prison with the other paedophiles". This of course, he blames on the two-faced Vatican. He has hinted several times that he would like the dissolution of the entire order since it was "founded by a monster". When told that the Popes have in fact tried several times to sort the problem out, he scoffs by saying that they merely did it when they could no longer hide the abuse from the media.

I know I keep coming back with this stuff, but the people that I hang out with just don't ever give me a break.

Thanks,

Phil

Grubb said...

Randy,

I apologize for the delayed response. It wasn't intentional.

Each local church was led by a monarchial bishop. They were appointed by the apostles or by another bishop like Titus 1:5 indicates.

Titus 1:5 says, "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you." No doubt they needed Godly elders (aka priests), but that doesn't mean the hierarchy of the RCC is established here. New churches should have help from wiser men. When my church was started in '91, the group that started it was helped by the church from which they "spun off" in order to establish a pastor, elders, and other stuff like that. It doesn't mean that church is continuously over us.

But they were expected to stay in unity with the church of Rome.

The unity Paul's talking about is the unity of true faith. And the reason Paul wrote so many epistles was because the appointed "bishops" that (as you claim) were supposed to stay in unity with Rome kept failing. And if they were supposed to stay in unity with Rome, why was Paul the one doing all the admonishing?

But in either case we have many churches in persecution far away from Rome. Why would they greet or salute the church of Rome? Because Rome had some sort of central place.

They greeted all true Christian churches, not just the Christian church in Rome. In I Cor 16:19 Paul writes, "The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house." Does that mean the church in Corinth is THE church? No, it simply means they greeted them.

Paul was not leading a church so Peter was the most respected church leader leading the most visible church.

True enough, but that would be like saying all reformed churches follow (or should follow) John Piper's church, because he's one of the most respected reformed leaders of our time. It's true, we should give more consideration to what Piper says due to his wisdom, but it doesn't mean my church isn't a true Christian church if we disagree with them on "debatable" issues or if we don't do whatever his church tells us to do.

But [Irenaeus] claims he could document the succession for all the churches back to the apostles. Do you feel he is lying

Not at all, but that aligns with what Paul taught Timothy in II Tim 2:1-2, "You then my son be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witness, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." It makes perfect sense that if Paul taught "A" & "A" taught "B" & "B" taught "C", Irenaeus could trace the succession from "C" back to Paul.
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Grubb said...

You are removing the bible from history. The passage is clear when you fit it into everything else we know about the first and second century church.

While my knowledge of the Bible doesn't have the rich understanding of the 1st century church, other reformed Christians (like John Piper & Wayne Grudem) do. That notwithstanding, we see other places where one or more churches "greet" a church that's NOT the Roman church. So even if Rome was considered the sharpest Christian church of the 1st century, merely greeting them doesn't insinuate it was the leader of or had authority over all the Christian churches.

But saved by works is not the whole story. Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is dead. Both are responses to God's grace.

We agree completely on this, but we differ on how we view "works" (I think). The reformed church believes that works are the practical application of genuine faith. In other words, if no good works are visible, it's right to question someone's salvation. It doesn't mean they're not saved, because they may have good works that we don't see that validate their faith. But even though those works are a part of faith, they aren't part of salvation. The simplest example of this is a deathbed conversion. If someone truly has a heart change in the last minute of their life and puts their faith in Jesus, they will be saved even though there were no works to accompany that faith. But if someone simply makes the grandest gesture of all (suppose he dies on a cross for someone else as Jesus did) and doesn't have faith, he still isn't saved. Paul makes it very clear throughout Romans & Hebrews (I believe he wrote Hebrews even if there's no proof...there's way too many run on sentences not to be Paul : ) that we're saved by faith alone. James then helps us understand the correlation between faith and works.

So they explained the word and then they baptized his whole family. So we have obedience implied and sacraments explicitly referenced. Could that be part of their answer?

Right, but salvation comes through faith, and obedience comes after faith. In this case it was immediately after but after nonetheless.

You are right that faith is what we should be our first answer when somebody asks how do I get saved. But it is not our last word. Works do get involved. Not because we earn anything but because we can be transformed so much more fully when we act on our faith.

It sounds as though you and I are almost in complete agreement on this, and this is the same thing I've heard from Dave. But Dave has also been called out by some other RCs for being too Protestant-like regarding salvation and has been told that works ARE part of salvation. What you're saying sounds right, it just doesn't sound like what I've heard from so many other RCs in my lifetime.
.

Randy said...

I apologize for the delayed response. It wasn't intentional.

No problem. We are all busy. Glad you could find time.

Titus 1:5 says, "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you."

This does not lay out all the terms and conditions that apply to their leadership. It does tell us where the leaders came from. They were appointed by and apostle or by an appointee of an apostle or by an appointee of an appointee of an apostle or by ...

The unity Paul's talking about is the unity of true faith. And the reason Paul wrote so many epistles was because the appointed "bishops" that (as you claim) were supposed to stay in unity with Rome kept failing. And if they were supposed to stay in unity with Rome, why was Paul the one doing all the admonishing?

If everyone kept the faith perfectly then there would be no reason to define the true faith. The fact that other churches wandered meant there was a need for a standard by which they could know they wandered.

The bishop of Rome is not the only one who can admonish. Admonishing is way to much fun to leave it all to one guy! Paul was an apostle. He had authority in the church. He didn't do ALL the admonishing. We have more letters of his but that does not mean that much.

In I Cor 16:19 Paul writes, "The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house." Does that mean the church in Corinth is THE church? No, it simply means they greeted them

Actually the older sees were considered more important than the newer ones. That is still true today. In Ireland the bishop of Armagh is a Cardinal and the Bishop of Dublin is not because Armagh was the see of St Patrick. Corinth was started by Paul. It would have been looked as a model by many churches in Asia Minor.

True enough, but that would be like saying all reformed churches follow (or should follow) John Piper's church, because he's one of the most respected reformed leaders of our time. It's true, we should give more consideration to what Piper says due to his wisdom, but it doesn't mean my church isn't a true Christian church if we disagree with them on "debatable" issues or if we don't do whatever his church tells us to do.

But if you had any notion of authority you would do precisely that. Piper as the pre-eminent leader would be respected in matters of teaching and goverence. You need to understand there were no protestants back then.

Not at all, but that aligns with what Paul taught Timothy in II Tim 2:1-2, "You then my son be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witness, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." It makes perfect sense that if Paul taught "A" & "A" taught "B" & "B" taught "C", Irenaeus could trace the succession from "C" back to Paul.

This is a stunning admission. When did this become unimportant? If it was big during Irenaeus' time then why isn't is still?

Randy said...

So even if Rome was considered the sharpest Christian church of the 1st century, merely greeting them doesn't insinuate it was the leader of or had authority over all the Christian churches.

It was the beginnings of it. At this point most churches were preoccupied with local matters. Rome was the place they went to settle disputes as in Matt 18:17. But that was not common. Still we see that reflected in scripture.

We agree completely on this, but we differ on how we view "works" (I think).

You were giving the reason why you can't be in unity with Rome. I give one reply and you declare we agree. So why did the church split over this? Your paragraph is all fine. They key is to stop being suspicious that the catholic language is hiding some terrible heresy.

Right, but salvation comes through faith, and obedience comes after faith. In this case it was immediately after but after nonetheless

Don't get to focused on time. Faith, obedience, and baptism are all grace transforming lives. That is what salvation is. Our physical and spiritual lives change together.

It sounds as though you and I are almost in complete agreement on this, and this is the same thing I've heard from Dave. But Dave has also been called out by some other RCs for being too Protestant-like regarding salvation and has been told that works ARE part of salvation. What you're saying sounds right, it just doesn't sound like what I've heard from so many other RCs in my lifetime.

For protestants salvation is a one-time event. For Catholics salvation is a one-time event but also a process. There is eternal and temporal salvation as well. It gets confusing. Protestants have concepts related to temporal salvation but they don't use the word salvation at all in that context.

The biggest real difference is Catholics believe serious sins can cost you your eternal soul. So in that sense works are a part of salvation. If you intentionally commit a grave evil and don't repent you can put yourself on the road to hell. Protestants would wonder if your initial commitment was sincere. For Catholics that would be irrelevent. You need to be restored through confession.

I would try and read a book about this and see how big the problem really is. One that I have found helpful is here. Of course there are many others.

Grubb said...

Randy,

This is a stunning admission. When did this become unimportant? If it was big during Irenaeus' time then why isn't is still?

It's easy to see why it was so much more important before the canon was established. If a church was started by an apostle, it's reasonable to say it was right on the money with it's theology...maybe not perfect, but very close. But if a church was started by a guy (we'll call him Bob) who only traveled with Jesus for a few months and wasn't in the inner circle, that church's theology might be good in most areas but way off in others. The same would be true of one of Paul's disciples vs Bob or one of Paul's disciples vs one of Bob's disciples. Before the Word was written and canonized, word of mouth was the primary way of communicating the truth from one group to the next or one generation to the next. In that instance, it's very important to make sure the "line of communication" is good between a church and Jesus' teachings.

You were giving the reason why you can't be in unity with Rome. I give one reply and you declare we agree. So why did the church split over this?...They key is to stop being suspicious that the catholic language is hiding some terrible heresy.

The reason I'm "suspicious" is what I mentioned earlier. When you and Dave espoused salvation by faith with works being a reflection of one's faith, other RCs vehemently denied that and condemned you (specifically Dave). Dave's and your understanding appears (to me) to be in the minority of RCs. In fact, when I read Dave's position on salvation by faith, I remember saying something like, "I'm shocked." Dave said I shouldn't be, but what the two of you claim is not what I've heard from other RCs nor what I was taught in the RCC.

For Catholics salvation is a one-time event but also a process.

You do realize that's a contradiction, right? : ) That's what led Luther to understand that salvation and justification are two separate things.

There is eternal and temporal salvation as well. It gets confusing.

But should it? Should it really be confusing? Jesus summed it up with 2 sentences: Love God & love your neighbor. Plus, why would God make it so complex when the majority of people to walk the earth (at least for the first 2000 years after Jesus) wouldn't even be able to read? It seems that He'd make it very simple and easy to understand, and that's what the Reformed Church teaches.

If you intentionally commit a grave evil and don't repent you can put yourself on the road to hell. Protestants would wonder if your initial commitment was sincere. For Catholics that would be irrelevent. You need to be restored through confession.

This contradicts your previous statement that I agreed with. Now you're saying salvation comes from faith + confession. And doesn't it seem odd that someone who lived a life like Mother Theresa could do one sinful act in a moment of rage, and if she died immediately following that act, she would go to hell?
.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Hello, Dave.

1. I‘m back, this time asking you for tips on some fine literature, including yours (books or posts here). The issue I‘m iterested is: how can we prove that God promised (by the words of Jesus, right?) to the church that He will protect her teaching (Magisterium, both ordinary and extraordinary, both popes and councils) from error under the complex conditions defined, e.g., by the 1st (and the 2nd) Vatican Council?

(It‘s relevant for my dissertation on the principle of dwindling probabilities in analytic philosophy of religion and apologetics. More generally, the theme of the dissertation is: can we construe a good argument showing that the contents of the Christian, or even Roman Catholic, faith are probable on the body of public evidence?)

2. The Anglican theologian and mathematician George Salmon, in his book The Infallibility of the Church (1899; available at archive.org), on p. 442, suggests an interesting objection: suppose that no pope ever taught an error under the conditions defined by the 1VK; yet, some popes (Liberius, Honorius, and even others) vehemently supported theological errors; thus, even if formally no pope was an erroneous teacher, some popes were erroneous guides for many Catholics:
„... the Christian world was not concerned with the thoughts of Liberius but with his acts ; and they who were guided by them would find themselves ranged against Athanasius and on the side of his opponents. And not to go through a host of other cases ... where the Christian world avoided heresy by following some guidance different from that of the bishop of Rome, Honorius may have had in his heart, if you choose to say so, the most orthodox abhorrence of Monothelism. But all this supposed internal [or formal] orthodoxy does not alter the fact that in his capacity of guide he did all that in him lay to lead the Christian world into that heresy. So it remains proved that even if it were possible to demonstrate that no bishop of Rome had ever entertained sentiments [or formally proclaimed doctrines] that were not most rigidly orthodox, still the pope is not an infallible guide.“

What would be your answer, Dave?

3. Are there some good reasons to think that the „keys“ given to Peter and his successors would guarantee for each of them (i) papal formal infallibility (as defined by the 1VK) and would NOT guarantee for each of them (ii) protection against their own massive erroneous influence in the substantial matters of faith?

Thanks!

V.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Vlastimil,

The issue I‘m iterested is: how can we prove that God promised (by the words of Jesus, right?) to the church that He will protect her teaching (Magisterium, both ordinary and extraordinary, both popes and councils) from error under the complex conditions defined, e.g., by the 1st (and the 2nd) Vatican Council?

The fully developed theory of infallibility cannot be "proven" -- it is a matter of faith. But the principles behind it can be. I deal with various facets of infallibility on my Papacy page.As usual, it is an accumulation of many individual evidences and indications that make it compelling.

(It‘s relevant for my dissertation on the principle of dwindling probabilities in analytic philosophy of religion and apologetics. More generally, the theme of the dissertation is: can we construe a good argument showing that the contents of the Christian, or even Roman Catholic, faith are probable on the body of public evidence?)

All the evidence taken together make it exceedingly "probable" (from a standpoint of human reason alone. I think Newman's Essay on Development remains the best treatment of the overall case from the historical perspective.

2. The Anglican theologian and mathematician George Salmon, in his book The Infallibility of the Church (1899; available at archive.org), on p. 442, suggests an interesting objection: suppose that no pope ever taught an error under the conditions defined by the 1VK

Which is, of course, true: none ever issued binding proclamations contrary to the received faith.

yet, some popes (Liberius, Honorius, and even others) vehemently supported theological errors; thus, even if formally no pope was an erroneous teacher, some popes were erroneous guides for many Catholics:
„... the Christian world was not concerned with the thoughts of Liberius but with his acts ; and they who were guided by them would find themselves ranged against Athanasius and on the side of his opponents.


Catholics know enough to not equate holders of an office with the dignity of the office itself (when they fall short). We're not like Protestants, who slavishly follow leaders (Calvin, Luther) no matter how foolish their teachings.

And not to go through a host of other cases ... where the Christian world avoided heresy by following some guidance different from that of the bishop of Rome,

I deny that there were a host of such cases.

Honorius may have had in his heart, if you choose to say so, the most orthodox abhorrence of Monothelism. But all this supposed internal [or formal] orthodoxy does not alter the fact that in his capacity of guide he did all that in him lay to lead the Christian world into that heresy.

Dave Armstrong said...

[cont.]

Then Protestants are in a tremendous mess, when we look at all the heresies that Luther and Calvin espoused.

So it remains proved that even if it were possible to demonstrate that no bishop of Rome had ever entertained sentiments [or formally proclaimed doctrines] that were not most rigidly orthodox, still the pope is not an infallible guide.“

This, of course, changes the definitions. Infallibility applies to what is dogmatically proclaimed, not everything a pope does, or perfection on a human level. So Salmon fights a straw man.

For a refutation of Salmon, see:

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num11.htm

What would be your answer, Dave?

Those are my short ones. The topics you bring up are far too complicated to answer adequately in a short space, so I'll have to refer you to my papers.

3. Are there some good reasons to think that the „keys“ given to Peter and his successors would guarantee for each of them (i) papal formal infallibility (as defined by the 1VK) and would NOT guarantee for each of them (ii) protection against their own massive erroneous influence in the substantial matters of faith?

There are solid biblical reasons why we think the keys confer a sublime authority:

The Biblical, Primitive Papacy: St. Peter & the "Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven": Scholarly Opinion (Mostly Protestant) (+ Part II)

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/11/biblical-primitive-papacy-st-peter.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/09/biblical-primitive-papacy-st-peter.html

Protestant Scholars on Mt 16:16-19 (Nicholas Hardesty)

http://phatcatholic.blogspot.com/2006/09/protestant-scholars-on-mt-1616-19.html

See also:

Biblical Evidence for Papal and Church Infallibility

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/05/biblical-evidence-for-papal-and-church.html

Inspired Prophets as a Biblical Analogy to Papal Infallibility

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/02/inspired-prophets-and-petrine-epistles.html

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Dave,

I noted you defend the claim that the OT prophets were infallible when speaking what they regarded as the "word of the LORD."

An interesting, probably Anglican, 19th century theologian Charles Row has something relevant to say.

Esp. on pp. 55-63 of his book Future Retribution, http://www.archive.org/details/futureretributi02rowgoog

He argues there that even in the NT "when a prophet spake in the congregation, the
others who possessed the prophetic gift were to sit by and
discern the nature of his utterance. This implies that they
were to determine how far it was in conformity with the
Divine Spirit, or how far a human element was mixed up
with it."

According to Row, the same holds, a fortiori, for the OT prophets.

What would you say?

Dave Armstrong said...

According to the OT, the prophet was to be judged by whether his prophecies came true or not. If they did not, he was regarded as a false prophet and stoned. That was the criterion of truthfulness, and a strong motivator for a person to be sure he was a prophet before claiming that!

I would say the NT covenant was fundamentally different insofar as all were now filled with the Holy Spirit; thus had much more of a power of discernment than the masses under the Old Covenant.

Therefore, the standard then was simply whether a person spoke verifiable truth or not.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

I guess Row would reply that generally even sayings of the authentic prophet, a receiver of real revelation, and confirmed by fulfilled prophecies, must be sifted -- even when they present them as the word of the LORD.

I copy from the pages by Row I mentioned above:

"A cursory perusal of the Old Testament is sufficient to
prove that it was the custom of these early ages to ascribe
everything which we now attribute to second causes to the
direct and immediate agency of God. To this immediate
agency its writers ascribe the activity of the forces which
energise in nature, and not a few of those which energise in
man. Hence it has come to pass that various actions are
ascribed to a direct Divine impulse which the line of thought
pervading the New Testament forbids us to attribute to Him
who is the Spirit of holiness, truth, and love. Two examples
will illustrate my meaning. The author of the Book of
Judges, after narrating the story of Samson's wager and
the trick by which his companions attained the solution of
his riddle, thus describes the mode in which he paid the
forfeit which he had incurred :

" And the Spirit of the Lord came mightUy upon him,
and he went down to Askalon and smote thirty men of them
and took their spoil, and gave the changes of raiment unto
themi that declared the riddle." (Judges xiv. 19.) That is
to say, that he killed thirty persons who, as far as anything
appears to the contrary in the narrative, had given him no
offence, to give thirty changes of raiment to his thirty com-
panions who had seduced his wife into betraying his secret.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

(Cont.)

In the Second Book of Samuel we thus read —

"And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against
Israel ; and he moved David against them, saying, Go,
number Israel and Judah," &c., &c. (2 Sam. xxiv., which see.)

Here the impulse to an act evidently regarded by the
author as a great sin, is directly attributed to the Lord.
But the author of the far later Book of Chronicles attributes
the temptation to Satan. Thus h6 writes —

"And Satan" (margin, an adversary) "stood up against
Israel, and moved David to number Israel" (1 Chron. xxi 1.)

Thus the temptation which is directly ascribed to the
Lord in the Book of Kings is not less directly ascribed to
Satan in the Book of Chronicles, or it may be to some adver-
sary of the Israelites, the same word meaning both Satan and
adversary, just as in the New Testament the word " devil "
(SeajSoXof) has the double meaning of devil and calumniator.

The real explanation of these not infrequent direct attri-
butions of evil to God is that there is no line of distinction
drawn in the Old Testament between what God does by his
own immediate and special agency and what he permits to
be done by second agents, whether they be evil spirts, men,
or the forces of nature. We also find an occasional absence
of this distinction in the New Testament. Thus St Paul
writes to the Thessalonians, "For this cause God sendeth

them a working of error" ...
but St. James's affirmation, that God is never the tempter of
men to evil, leaves no doubt as to the real meaning of these
and similar expressions. Thus he writes —

" Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of
God : for God cannot be tempted of evil ; and he himself
tempteth no man."

All similar temptations, as well as various evils which
affect the bodies of men, are uniformly ascribed in the New
Testament either to the devil, i,e, Satan, or to his subordinate
agents, designated demons. We may, therefore, conclude
that all ascriptions of evil to God's direct and immediate
agency which are found in the Old Testament are due to the
fact that its writers in their utterances on such subjects were
either not elevated above the conceptions of the times, or
else that they accommodated themselves to them.

There is a section of the Book of Exodus which throws
considerable light on the use of these formularies in the Old
Testament Scriptures. I allude to those chapters which pre-
scribe to the minutest details the mode in which the tabernacle
was to be constructed. They are introduced with the usual
formula, " The Lord said unto Moses," but we are informed
that previously Moses received an injunction — an injimction
which is twice repeated — to make it according to a pattern
which had been shown him in the Mount. This injunction
is thus referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews —

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

(Cont.)

"Even as Moses is warned of God, when he is about to
make the tabernacle ; for see, saith he, that thou make all
things according to the pattern that was showed thee in the
Mount."

It is, therefore, clear that the author of this epistle was of
opinion that Moses was admonished to be careful to frame the
tabernacle according to a model which he had previously seen
in vision. But if he was admonished to frame it according
to a pattern previously shown him, what is the meaning of
his having been instructed as to every, even the even the minutest,
detail by a number of special revelations? Surely these
would have rendered the injunction to be careful to frame
it according to the pattern unmeaning. ' It follows, there-
fore, that the formula, "The Lord said unto Moses," so
often repeated in these chapters, was not intended to aflten
that every detail of the construction of the tabernacle was
then and there imparted to him by a number of special
revelations, but that it is used because, according to the wis-
dom given to him to enable him to discharge the duties of
his office, he constnicted according to the model which he
had previously seen in vision.

...

striking is the case of Jehu. The prophet who anointed him king gives him a direct commission to exterminate the house of Ahab, and in 2 Kings xii. the Lord is
represented as saying, " Because thou hast done well, in exe-
cuting that which is right in mine eyes, and done unto the
house of Ahab according to all that which was in my heart,
thy sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of
Israel" Yet the prophet Hosea thus writes respecting the
act in question, "And the Lord said unto him. Call his
name Jezreel ; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the
blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause
the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease." (Hosea i. 4.)
The reader will remember that it was at Jezreel that one of
the great slaughters of the house of Ahab took place.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

(Cont.

WRT THE NT PROPHETS)

"The Christian prophet Agabus also is recorded by St. Luke,
after binding his own hands and feet with St. Paul's girdle,
to have addressed him in the following words : " Thus saith
the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the
man that owneth this girdle, and deliver him into the hands
of the Gentiles." But according to the subsequent history,
the Jews did not bind Paul and deliver him into the hands
of the Romans, but, on the contrary, when they were striving
to kill him, the Romans, in direct contradiction to the wishes
of the Jews, rescued him out of their hands and bound him
with two chains, which act was the means of St. Paul's
escape from their malice.

This passage, therefore, throws great light on the use of
this and similar formulas with which the prophets prefaced
their utterances. Agabus had received a Divine direction to
warn Paul of the danger which he was about to encounter in
going to Jerusalem, but the particular form in which this
intimation was conveyed must have been the creation of his
own mind, and not dictated by the Divine Spirit, for the
details of the utterance were not realised by the event ; yet
the whole is prefaced by the words, "Thus saith the Holy
Ghost." It is evident that St. Luke, who has recorded both
the utterance and the facts, saw no inconsistencv between the
words which he has attributed to Agabus and the facts as he
has narrated them.

...

"Let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the
others discern. ..." (1 Cor. xiv. 29)

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Your argument, Dave, is that some of the OT prophets were infallible; so, a fortiori, popes and councils are infallible. Row seems to me to have it the other way round -- early Christian prophets were fallible, their sayings had to be sifted; so, a fortiori, the OT prophets were fallible, their sayings had to be sifted, too -- even when they presented them as the word from the LORD:

"... it is incredible that the Christian prophet, endowed
as he was with the gifts of the Spirit promised by our Lord,
possessed an inferior degree of enlightenment or of Divine
guidance to that of his Jewish brother. If, then, the utter-
ance^ of the former required to be " discerned " (cicucpiveTwrap,
a very strong word, of which the English discern is but a
feeble rendering) by the other prophets who were present in
the congregation, before they could be accepted as certainly
conveying the mind of Christ ; or if, as in the case of Agabus,
the Divine Spirit only suggested to their minds a general truth,
and not the special form in which it was delivered, but left it
to the prophet to fill up its details, it is only reasonable to
assume that elements of imperfection must have been mixed
up with the utterances of the prophets of the Old Testament
dispensation whenever they contain anything which is incon-
sistent with the teaching of our Lord, or with the character
of God as it is revealed in his divine person, or with the
aflBrmations of the enlightened conscience, which is the voice
of God speaking in man. It seems to me that on this prin-
ciple alone is it possible to explain those utterances of the
Old Testament which represent God as tempting men to sin,
or as deceiving a prophet, or as authorising a subordinate
agent of His providence to carry out His purposes by inspiring
men who were regarded as prophets to utter a lie, and direct-
ing them to go forth and do so."

I am deeply interested in your reply (and deeply sorry for the length of the comments). No cavils. Just FQI (fides quaerens intellectum).

Truly,

V.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Vlastimil,

Many things going on here. You wrote:

Your argument, Dave, is that some of the OT prophets were infallible; so, a fortiori, popes and councils are infallible.

The argument is not that simplistic. I have never presented it in that way. I explained exactly what I think the nature of the argument is, and its strength, at the end of chapter three of my book. Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths. I made roughly the same arguments in another paper of mine, still online:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/05/biblical-evidence-for-papal-and-church.html

In a nutshell, the argument is (as I stated in my book):

***

“If prophets spoke with inspiration, then popes can plausibly speak infallibly, since the latter is a far less extraordinary gift than the former.” Or, from a different angle: “if those with lesser gifts can do the great thing (inspired utterance), then those with greater gifts can certainly do the lesser thing (infallible utterance).”

***

Certain parts of the argument are indisputable. There were prophets in the OT. These did speak the Word of the Lord, which was not only infallible, but in retrospect inspired, insofar as they are now recorded in inspired Scripture.

It's a simple analogy: there is such a thing as a de facto infallible person in the OT; there also is such in the NT.

The presence of false prophets in both covenants does not nullify that. It simply means there are false prophets! The true ones do not cease to exist because there are fake ones; imitators.

I am arguing for the existence of infallible authority; not the non-existence of fallible authority or illegitimate authority. Both can clearly exist simultaneously. Therefore, the presence of such fakers (freely conceded) constitutes no disproof at all of my analogy.

This guy Row is pretty clearly a skeptic. He doesn't believe in biblical inspiration. He manifests the typical liberal view of progressive understanding of biblical writings, according to an anthropological notion of biblical development. Hence, for him, all Bible writers were strictly pawns of their times.

He makes basic category mistakes, such as that God commands evil, because of a certain manner of speaking in the Bible whereby God's providence is referred to as allowing evil in the free acts of men. Atheists and skeptical types often misunderstand this because they assume the Bible was written by dumb, ignorant men way back when, who couldn't possibly have expressed such a sophisticated concept. But so they do. And at the same time, these critics routinely misunderstand the nature of multifaceted biblical literature. I've written about this:

Supposed Contradiction Between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 (God or Satan as Cause?)

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/supposed-contradiction-between-2.html

On the Alleged Contradictions of 2 Samuel 24, and 1 Chronicles 21 and 27

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/on-alleged-contradictions-of-2-samuel.html

The other basic hermeneutical aspect that he fails to understand is anthropomorphism and anthropopathism, whereby God represents Himself as having human emotions or various physical characteristics by analogy, so He could be understood.

These two things alone explain much of what troubles him. Because of the false premises involved, he'll go around (as these types of minds always do) spouting off scores of alleged biblical contradictions.

At ties I have dealt with these charges, and have debated atheists who think they are experts on the Bible but who are, in fact, abysmally ignorant of many things biblical.

It's okay for a time, but one can only devote so much time to playing ring around the rosey with those who are operating on false first principles.

Dave Armstrong said...

Just put up a new post with our discussion:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/02/inspired-and-infallible-prophets.html

Phil said...

A while ago (in February) I read an article by Dave talking of how Luther called a severely disabled boy "a mass of flesh without a soul" and then proceeded to suggest that he be suffocated. Yet now that I search for it, I can't find it anywhere on the blog. Has Dave deleted it? Or did I dream the whole thing?