Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bogus, Non-Accredited "Doctorate" Degree of Reformed Baptist Apologist James White is Defended Yet Again (vs. Jamin Hubner)


By Dave Armstrong (6-29-10)



This question was raised anew, due to the latest post on James White's blog (7-6-10): The Truth About Education and Accreditation, written by "new member to Team Apologian, Jamin Hubner." He has made flat-out amazing claims in the obvious attempt to shore up White's own bogus doctorate. In a particularly revealing tack, he actually attacks the very notion of accreditation of universities and seminaries ("what is 'accreditation,' and what is it really worth?"). I shall interact with a few of the more remarkable points, with Hubner's words in blue:

Reasons to (and not to) Obtain a Formal Education

. . . Doctoral: A person should get a doctoral degree for (a) training for ministry/teaching/leadership roles (i.e. job as researcher, apologist, professor, etc.), especially those in the academic and scholarship world. A person should not get a doctoral degree because . . . (b) "I want to be called "Dr.",

Exactly. Yet the anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist apologist James White has gone around the world proclaiming himself "Dr. James White" for years now. Obviously, he thinks this grants him a higher degree of credentials (looks great on debate announcements, doesn't it?), and he knows full well the prestige associated with the title; yet it is bogus, because it came from non-accredited Columbia Evangelical Seminary (see the school's lengthy defense of its stand on this score).

It's false advertising, and an insult to all the thousands of men and women who have done the necessary hard work of achieving a real doctorate degree. How ironic, given White's persistent and ongoing critique of a certain figure in the evangelical world, for allegedly falsely presenting his own background on a number of fronts. I am making no judgment on that affair, by the way; if anything I am inclined to agree (from my heavy skimming of it) with the substance of the case that that White has made. But I have not thoroughly read both sides, and so make no final judgment at this point in time. I'm simply noting the irony of criticizing one man for "false advertising" while doing the same in one's own glorious title of "Dr." -- without having written a genuine doctoral dissertation (and that term means something very specific, too) for an accredited educational institution.

(c) "I want to be accepted in the academic community," etc.

There is such a thing as an academic community, and it sets standards for membership: legitimate scholars vs. ones who merely proclaim themselves to be so. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with seeking to be part of this class, and therefore, abiding by its membership requirements.

Completing doctoral studies demonstrates (should) that a person is capable of being a scholar through demonstrating scholarship in one particular area, and demonstrates that a person is prepared to take Christian ministry (i.e. elder, professor, apologist, etc.) seriously.

"Demonstrates" is a malleable, subjective term. Who determines that? This is precisely why accreditation exists in the first place: to ensure certain educational standards. One is not a "scholar" simply by proclaiming himself to be one (such as, e.g., Presbyterian polemicist Tim Enloe has done, before even obtaining an advanced degree of any sort). If White has "demonstrated scholarship," who determined that? His rabid followers? A majority vote from same?

According to his own online listing of his publications, White has been published many times in the Christian Research Journal, which is not a "peer-reviewed academic publication," but merely an arm of the evangelical cult-watching organization, the Christian Research Institute: founded by Dr. Walter Martin. It's a great evangelical magazine (I've often benefited from it, particularly in my cult research), but it's simply not formally an academic one. It is on the same (popular) level as Catholic apologetics journals like This Rock or The Catholic Answer or Envoy Magazine: publications I've written for, myself, many times.

His articles have been in TableTalk Magazine on three occasions. Ditto the above: it is the "devotional" publication of Presbyterian author and radio preacher R. C. Sproul's ministry, not an academic, peer-reviewed journal. He has another in Modern Reformation Magazine, which is of similar nature, flowing from Sproul's ministry.

He has four articles published in Reformed Baptist Theological Review, which appears to be (at least prima facie) legitimately academic and peer-reviewed (though edited by those who teach at the non-accredited Reformed Baptist Seminary), but of course that is merely part of his own small wing of both Reformed Protestants and Baptists, so he can expect to get a minimal amount of scrutiny, preaching to the choir. Thus, he has a total of four articles in one (ostensibly) peer-reviewed academic journal that derives from his own theological school. This is hardly impressive academically, and does not suggest the peer-reviewed work commensurate with a true doctorate.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


His many books are written on a "popular level," precisely as my own are. They aren't "academic books" and all are published by evangelical or specifically Calvinist publishers. His initial publisher, Crowne (sometimes called Crown) Publications, appears to have folded. I can't find anything about it online. There was a huge controversy between Crowne / Crown head George Bonneau and Robert Morey: a rabidly anti-Catholic apologist who was also published at Crown / Crowne, with Morey being charged with everything under the sun as a most unsavory, wascally character. And so it goes in the world of anti-Catholicism

White has at least taught at accredited institutions: Grand Canyon University and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (see some courses he has taught by scrolling to his name, and notes on accreditation).

None of this, however, magically transforms him into a "Doctor."

Granted, White has learned lots of stuff. He knows Hebrew and Greek. He does have a legitimate seminary education. He has learned exegesis (though he often applies it in a thoroughly fallacious manner because of his highly tendentious and dubious anti-Catholicism). He knows a great deal of theology and theological history. He may know any number of things (and I think he does). For all we know, he might be the world's smartest and most knowledgeable man. But that is not the same -- sorry -- as acquiring a doctoral degree.

I actually agree with one key premise of the article: education and acquiring of further knowledge (especially for the right reasons) is a wonderful thing in and of itself. In my own case (as I have openly stated many times), I have no formal theological education. I have studied the Bible and Christianity and Christian history and apologetics and philosophy for over thirty years, for use in my vocation as a full-time apologist.

I'm all for learning: whether informal or formal. A great deal of my own (and all of my theological study) has been informal. No one need be ashamed of that. G. K. Chesterton, for example, never obtained any college degree. Yet few (in the Christian and especially Catholic world) would question his learning or even wisdom.

What I object to is the false advertising of claiming to have a doctorate and proudly bearing the title of "Dr." when one has not done the work that is required to achieve that goal and honor. It's an insult to those who have done so. I don't call myself an "academic" or a "scholar" because that would be a lie. I do call myself a Catholic apologist because that is the truth. "Apologist" is a larger, more inclusive category than "academia" or "the scholarly world." It always has been and always will be.

C. S. Lewis was a Christian apologist, but he didn't have a theological degree. The man was an English professor. I don't go around saying I have a "Ph.D." (or Th.D.) when in fact I do not. White should not do so, either. He has a legitimate Masters degree (MA in theology, 1989) from the legitimate school, Fuller Theological Seminary. That is what he can properly claim.


If a person gets, for example, a doctoral degree from an institution, this means (if the above assertions are true) that the person has demonstrated himself/herself to be a scholar in a certain area, and thus, is (hopefully) capable of being a scholar in almost any area. Doing so requires nothing more than that: a demonstration.

The same muddleheaded fallacy is presented again: the "demonstration" is merely subjective rather than based on proper accreditation and academic, peer-reviewed standards.

If a person or group of people decided to recognize some degrees as being "real" and others "not real" for reasons other than this demonstration, it obviously has nothing to do with the doctoral degree - the demonstration of being a scholar.

To the contrary, it has everything to do with what a degree is, and whether it is legitimate or not. Granted, there are plenty of abuses in the academic world (heaven knows that I know that full well, in all of my apologetics debates and studies). But having problems does not mean that one should ditch the very notion of accreditation. We don't, for example, get rid of all traffic rules and thumb our noses at them because some routinely abuse them (e.g., speeding on the freeway or not using a turn signal when changing lanes). We don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Indeed, the "degree" has everything to do with reaching a certain degree - getting to a point where one can earn the letters (BA, MA, Ph.D, etc.) indicating such accomplishment.

By this absurd reasoning, anyone can read a bunch of books, get several folks to say that he or she has reached an appropriate "degree" of knowledge, thereby entitling them to add titles to their name. I've been told myself by many people (including those with real doctorates) that my learning indicates a knowledge commensurate with those who have obtained those degrees. I take that as a high compliment and am honored and humbled by it, but I would never dream of calling myself "Dr." simply because of those observations. Yet that is what Hubner's "thesis" (no pun intended) seems to amount to. It's subjective and arbitrary and wishy-washy, rather than objective.

A person can obviously have the knowledge of a degree without actually formally earning the degree and having it recognized; . . . an athlete is no more competent a runner after he has obtained a running reward than before he received such formal recognition. . . . just because a person doesn't have the formal degree doesn't mean that person can't have the same abilities and knowledge.

I agree (this is what many folks have kindly said about me); but it doesn't follow that we can proclaim ourselves "Doctors" without following the proper, required, understood process by which we can attain to that title and honor.

Thus, to "demonstrate" what one must demonstrate in any particular degree, is to earn "the degree." So, for example, in a doctoral program, demonstrating scholarship = degree; the "degree" = demonstrating scholarship.

Again, who decides who has demonstrated this level of accomplishment or not? If anyone can do so, then it is completely subjective. If "academics" do so, then we are right back to the question of legitimate credentials and educational requirements, which is accreditation. Hubner is painting himself into a corner by his own flawed logic.


In fact, absolutely nothing about the cheeseburger (i.e. origin, taste, nutritional value, physical weight, smell etc.) would change if every single CEO, manager, and cook of every restaurant in the world endorsed the cheeseburger through paper packaging, labels, and formal institutional recognition. So it is with educational degrees. Accreditation is supposed to mean something, but it can often mean nothing - at least when it comes to getting to a certain degree of academic ability and accomplishment.

I see. So let's dispose of it altogether and regard diploma mills as the equivalents of accredited universities . . . Again (let it be plainly known what the nature of my argument is), I am not even opposed to some schools doing what they do without being accredited, if they perform a valuable teaching service. All I am opposing is the false advertising of claiming that they grant doctorate degrees and that these degrees are the same in essence as those from the accredited institutions.

Since some people have created degree-mills which give the recognition (i.e. Ph.D) without the actual demonstration of reaching a degree of ability and accomplishment, the academic world has come together to establish standards for what a "true" degree is and what it is not.

Exactly. Now we need to determine what a "diploma mill" is and isn't. Hubner apparently thinks there are three categories:

1) Illegitimate non-accredited "diploma mills."

2)
Legitimate non-accredited schools.

3) Legitimate (though questionable in several ways) accredited schools.

Who decides which is which, with regard to #1 and #2? At what point does the "diploma mill" cease to be illegitimate and become a legitimate non-accredited school? Hubner doesn't inform us. He then goes on to note some abuses in the accreditation process (inclusive language). I agree, but this has no bearing on my viewpoint one way or the other.

The purpose of accreditation should be to do just that: to associate a degree with an actual demonstration, not to make unnecessary rules that have no effect upon the actual education and quality thereof.

Bingo! So why wouldn't White's school seek this?

A doctoral degree at, for example, Columbia Evangelical Seminary,

. . . that just happens to be White's alma mater, by the merest of coincidences . . .

is not accredited by any agency. There is no golden stamp on the outside of the cheeseburger bag. But, if one compares the fruit of the doctoral degree (the actual demonstration of scholarship) with that of an accredited institution and there is is no difference, then simply put, there is no difference in the degree - except the packaging, of course.

How is "scholarship" graded, in order to determine "fruit" and "quality" -- if not by accreditation and the peer-reviewed process of journal articles and academic books?

If we are willing to assert the opposite and say, "but the academic world says its not real, so it's not," we are only fooling ourselves. We are saying the cheeseburger isn't real until an organization says it's real. We're saying a man who can lift 40lbs really can't lift 40lbs until he has formally done so in the presence of an approving body.

This forces us to stop and think: Who is determining the value of the accreditation institution anyway? If one institution can validate another, what makes accreditation institutions exempt? If there are "degree-mills," why not "accreditation-mills"? What is to prevent their false education, except yet another, higher accreditation institution?

In conclusion, high standards of accreditation does not always mean high standards of education. The fruit of one's labor is the true test of academic success, not the letters after one's name. If that's true, then term "scholar" should be more broadly used.

Right. As I stated above, obviously, Hubner is eschewing the entire edifice of accreditation, which is a ridiculous thing to do. If it isn't necessary for legitimacy, it isn't necessary. A=A (rule number one in logic). This is its own refutation.

Some of the non-accredited institutions that offer demonstrated superior education (at a fraction of the cost) include Columbia Evangelical Seminary, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the Midwest Center for Theological Studies, and Reformed Baptist Seminary.

We shall eagerly watch to see what new "scholars" and "doctors" emerge from these wonderful institutions. I say they should continue doing what they do (again I am not opposed to that in and of itself, being a great advocate of more informal education, myself), but drop the pretense of the granting of "doctorates" and churning out "scholars." Words (and titles) mean things, and we have no liberty of redefining terms at our own whim.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Catholic Resources on the Serious Error of Freemasonry (Links)

Compiled by Dave Armstrong (6-28-10)



The Catholic Church & Freemasonry (Rev. Robert I. Bradley, S.J.)

Good Catholics Should Not be Masons (Fr. Ashley Beck; The Catholic Herald [UK] )

Can Catholics Become Freemasons? (Cathy Caridi, J.C.L.; Catholic Exchange website)

Is Freemasonry Incompatible with the Catholic Faith? (Wlodzimierz Redzioch; Inside the Vatican / Catholic Culture)

Irreconcilability between Christian faith and Freemasonry (L'Osservatore Romano, 11 March 1985)

The Masons Themselves Make The Church's Case Against Them (Thomas A. Droleskey; The Wanderer, 11 July 1996)

What Are the Masons? (Fr. William Saunders, Arlington Catholic Herald, 2005)

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Can Catholics Be Freemasons? (Catholics United for the Faith, 1998; PDF)

Why Catholics Can't be Masons (Sandra Miesel; Our Sunday Visitor, 24 September 2006)

Christianity and American Freemasonry (book by William J. Whalen; "The Origins of Masonry" -- excerpt from chapter two)

Masonry (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Regent Restates Vatican's Anti-Masonry Position (Zenit, 2 March 2007)

Quick Answers on Freemasonry (Catholic Answers)

Freemasonry and the Anti-Christian Movement (Rev. E. Cahill, S. J.)

FAQs on Freemasonry (John Salza / Scripture Catholic)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

C. S. Lewis' Belief in Purgatory and Prayer for the Dead Documented from Five of His Works


By Dave Armstrong (6-22-10)



In his fictional book, The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, 1946, 39), Lewis portrays the damned (including some near-damned, as it were) making a trip to the outskirts of heaven. One of the spirits is told: "You have been in Hell; though if you don't go back you may call it Purgatory." This theme was expanded later in the book (p. 67):

"If they leave that grey town behind it will not have been Hell. To any that leaves it, it is Purgatory. And perhaps ye had better not call this country Heaven. Not Deep Heaven, ye understand." (Here he smiled at me). "Ye can call it the Valley of the Shadow of Life. And yet to those who stay here it will have been Heaven from the first. And ye can call those sad streets in the town yonder the Valley of the Shadow of Death: but to those who remain there they will have been Hell even from the beginning."

Here is Lewis' most explicit, extended treatment of the topic of purgatory, followed by an interesting short exposition from his famous semi-catechetical work, Mere Christianity:

Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to Him? . . .
I believe in purgatory. Mind you, the Reformers had good reasons for throwing doubt on "the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory" as that Romish doctrine had then become. . . .
The right view returns magnificently in Newman's Dream. [1] There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer "With its darkness to affront that light." Religion has reclaimed Purgatory.

Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, "It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy"? Should we not reply, "With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first." "It may hurt, you know" -- "Even so, sir."

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. . . .

My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am "coming round," a voice will say, "Rinse your mouth out with this." This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure.

(Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, 107-109)


"Make no mistake," He says, "if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect — until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less." 
(Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1960, 172)

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Lewis wrote about purgatory after the death of his wife, Helen:

How do I know that all her anguish is past? I never believed before -- I thought it immensely improbable -- that the faithfulest soul could leap straight into perfection and peace the moment death has rattled in the throat. It would be wishful thinking with a vengeance to take up that belief now . . . I know there are not only tears to be dried but stains to be scoured. . . .

But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't.

Either way, we're for it.

What do people mean when they say, "I am not afraid of God because I know He is good?" Have they never even been to a dentist?

(A Grief Observed, New York: Bantam, 1976, 48-51)

In a letter to Sister Penelope, C.S.M.V., written on 17 September 1963, only nine weeks or so before his death, Lewis stated:

If you die first, and if "prison visiting" is allowed, come down and look me up in Purgatory.

(W. H. Lewis, editor, Letters of C. S. Lewis, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966 [revised and enlarged Harvest edition edited by Walter Hooper, 1993], 509)

* * * * *

[1] Here is the passage from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's poem The Dream of Gerontius (1865) that Lewis refers to (from "§ 4. Soul"):

Angel [partial stanza]

So is it now with thee, who hast not lost
Thy hand or foot, but all which made up man.
So will it be, until the joyous day
Of resurrection, when thou wilt regain
All thou hast lost, new-made and glorified.
How, even now, the consummated Saints
See God in heaven, I may not explicate;
Meanwhile, let it suffice thee to possess
Such means of converse as are granted thee,
Though, till that Beatific Vision, thou art blind;
For e'en thy purgatory, which comes like fire,
Is fire without its light.

Soul

His will be done!
I am not worthy e'er to see again
The face of day; far less His countenance,
Who is the very sun. Natheless in life,
When I looked forward to my purgatory,
It ever was my solace to believe,
That, ere I plunged amid the avenging flame,
I had one sight of Him to strengthen me.

Angel

Nor rash nor vain is that presentiment;
Yes,—for one moment thou shalt see thy Lord.
Thus will it be: what time thou art arraign'd
Before the dread tribunal, and thy lot
Is cast for ever, should it be to sit
On His right hand among His pure elect,
Then sight, or that which to the soul is sight,
As by a lightning-flash, will come to thee,
And thou shalt see, amid the dark profound,
Whom thy soul loveth, and would fain approach,—
One moment; but thou knowest not, my child,
What thou dost ask: that sight of the Most Fair
Will gladden thee, but it will pierce thee too.

Soul

Thou speakest darkly, Angel; and an awe
Falls on me, and a fear lest I be rash.

Angel

There was a mortal, who is now above
In the mid glory: he, when near to die,
Was given communion with the Crucified,—
Such, that the Master's very wounds were stamp'd
Upon his flesh; and, from the agony
Which thrill'd through body and soul in that embrace,
Learn that the flame of the Everlasting Love
Doth burn ere it transform ...

***

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Documentary Theory of the Authorship of the Pentateuch: Collection of Critical Articles (Links)


By Dave Armstrong (6-21-10)



"In the last two decades of Pentateuchal scholarship, the source-critical method has come under unprecedented attack; in many quarters it has been rejected entirely. . . . [various factors] have led scholarship to the brink of abandoning the four sources, J, E, P and D. "

--- The Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University (Spring 2009 Calendar of Events)


Catholic



The Documentary Hypothesis (Mark A. McNeil)

Crisis in Scripture Studies (William G. Most)

Critique of the Documentary Theory (William G. Most)

Documentary Hypothesis (Catholic Answers forums discussion thread)

JEDP theory (Catholic Answers forums discussion thread)

Documentary Theory: True of False? (Catholic Answers forums discussion thread)

Documentary Hypothesis (JEPD) from Catholic perspective? (Coming Home Network discussion thread)

JEDP refutations (Joseph Blenkinsopp) [link for cited book]

"The Genesis of a Commentary": Review of Genesis, by Jewish scholar Nahum M. Sarna (Jimmy Akin, This Rock)

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1911): "Pentateuch"

What Is Biblical Criticism—and Should We Trust It? (Peter Funk, O.S.B.; This Rock)

What Is the Documentary Hypothesis? (This Rock)

Jesuit Bible Scholar on Source Criticism and Exegesis [Dennis J. McCarthy] (John Bergsma)

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/

Protestant


Does Anyone Still Believe the 'Documentary Hypothesis'? (UK Apologetics)

The Documentary Hypothesis: Its History and Present Status (Glenn Giles)

The Torah in Modern Scholarship (Rev. Kenneth W. Collins)

Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? Reflections of a Bultmannian Turned Evangelical (Eta Linnemann)

Does the triple tale of Gen. 12, 20, and 26 support the JEDP theory? (J. P. Holding)

Do Genesis 15 and 17 support the JEDP theory? (J. P. Holding)

Does Genesis 21 support the JEDP Theory? (J. P. Holding)

Midianites or Ishmaelites? (Genesis 37) (Eric Vestrup)

Does the "water from rock" double tale support the JEDP theory? (Ex 17:2-7; Num 20:2-13) (J. P. Holding)

Does Numbers 16 support the JEDP theory? (J. P. Holding)

Deuteronomy and the JEDP Thesis (J. P. Holding)

Contradictions in the David and Goliath Story Examined (1 Samuel 16-18) (J. P. Holding)

On the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

Was there not enough time for Hebrew to have developed? (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

The Making of the Old Testament Before Moses (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

A brief note about the Documentary Hypothesis (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

Good questions on JEDP (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

A Brief case for Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

Was the Pentateuch "adulterated" by later additions? (Glenn Miller, Christian Think Tank)

New Directions in Pooh Studies: Überlieferungs- und religionsgeschichtliche Studien zum Pu-Buch (satire of JEDP principles)

Did Moses Write the Pentateuch? (Don Closson)

The Genuineness and Mosaic Authorship of Genesis (Dr. Timothy Lin; PDF file)

Documentary Hypothesis: The Subjective Approach to Biblical Criticism (Graham Apologetics; PDF file)

The Documentary Hypothesis (list of scholars of various religious persuasions who reject it) (Alice C. Linsley)

My Trouble with the Documentary Hypothesis (+ Part Two) (Agkyra website)

Genesis: Before Abraham Was and the Documentary Hypothesis
(+ Intro, Parts Two / Three / Four / Five / Six) (Stephen Rives)

Another Good Critique of JEDP (Matt Kennedy; + long discussion thread)

Response to Rolf Rendtorff's "What Happened to the Yahwist? Reflections after Thirty Years" (David J. A. Clines, Society of Biblical Literature)


Jewish


On the Documentary Hypothesis (Rabbi Yosek Reinman; Biblical Archaeology Review)

The Documentary Hypothesis Eight Lectures (Umberto Cassuto)

Jewish Responses to Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis (Abraham Jacob Berkovitz)

The Documentary Hypothesis – a Critique (Jacob Stein)

On Bible Criticism and Its Counterarguments: A Short History (Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo)

Documentary Hypothesis Debunked: An Analysis of Bible Criticism (Rabbi Shlomo Cohen)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

John Calvin's Belief in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary Confirmed by Reformed Scholars (Dialogue with a Presbyterian Elder)


By Dave Armstrong (6-17-10)



This dialogue occurred in a combox on the Reformed Protestant-dominated Green Baggins website (starting at comment #314). Jeff Cagle is a Presbyterian elder (PCA). His words will be in blue. John Calvin's words will be in red.

* * * * *

It strikes me that Catholic magisterial authority appears to function in the same fashion. To take one of the most vexing doctrines for me, Perpetual Virginity, the normal rules of hermeneutics, when applied in any reasonable manner, cannot possibly conclude that what Matthew and Luke are really trying to tell us is that Joseph and Mary were married, but celibate; or that Jesus’ brothers were really cousins. Nothing in the text supports that conclusion by any objective measure or reading.

Both Luther and Calvin thought so (were they hermeneutical dolts, too? Maybe you think so and will be fair-minded enough to include them in your disdain for lousy Bible exegesis :-):

And in fact, no Catholic interpreter has ever tried to make that positive case; the discussions of PV are all reduced to defensive plays, trying to show that the Scripture doesn’t necessarily require disbelief in PV. But regardless of the rules of hermeneutics, Church authority has declared that the text of Scripture means PV, so PV it is. In that sense, it appears to me that the RCC authority creates truth. Regardless of hermeneutical physics, what the Church says is what is true. Regardless of Matthew and Luke’s intent, as observed by the evidence of their writing, this is what the text means.

I have thirteen posted papers on the perpetual virginity of Mary on my Mary web page, with many “positive arguments” included (if you desire further discussion on that). You can read them, challenge what I set forth, and I will be happy to counter-reply (either here or on my blog). Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Bullinger all believed it, along with many later Protestants such as John Wesley. The widespread denial among Protestants today is mostly a product of higher criticism and post-Enlightenment skepticism. It certainly was not a feature of the early Protestant movement. You can believe that all these Protestants had no scriptural reason whatever to believe as they did, and it was mere “holdover” from Catholicism, etc. (the stock reply), but I don’t find that plausible.  Bullinger even made a very strong statement about the Assumption of Mary, etc.

LUTHER
Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that "brothers" really mean "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Luther’s Works, vol. 22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 [1539] )

When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom. (Luther’s Works, vol. 45:212-213 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew [1523] )
CALVIN
Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s "brothers" are sometimes mentioned.
(Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)
[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called "first-born"; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)
Under the word "brethren" the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3] )

Point of fact: Luther (and Zwingli) believed in Perpetual Virginity; Calvin was agnostic on the issue. Here is Calvin’s quote in full:
This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ.Calv Comm Matt 1.25 [linked]
I’m sure you would agree that it is important to go no further than the facts allow; and this is what Calvin is saying here. In researching Perpetual Virginity, I noticed several Catholic sites claiming Calvin in defense of the belief. But in fact, he cannot be pressed quite so far; he goes only so far as to criticize Helvidius for going beyond necessary inference. I trust that you will help your Catholic brothers to be factually accurate on this point.

Okay, so (given your strong remarks on the exegetical considerations), you think Luther and Zwingli were dolts on the matter, and that Calvin missed the absolute clarity of Scripture to the extent that he was (oddly enough, from the strength of your claims above about how manifestly obvious Scripture is on this) an agnostic.

I think the claim that Calvin was an agnostic is possible to be made, because of the scarcity of the evidence (it’s not an unserious or frivolous opinion, I don’t think), but for myself, I’m inclined to think he did believe in the dogma, from what we have. I’m not alone. Many Protestant scholars agree. 

David F. Wright, in his book, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, pp. 173, 175), stated:
. . . his more careful biblicism could insist on only Mary’s refraining from intercourse before the birth of Jesus (i.e., her virginity ante partum). On the other hand, he never excluded as untenable the other elements in her perpetual virginity, and may be said to have believed it himself without claiming that Scripture taught it. . . . [Calvin] commonly speaks of Mary as "the holy Virgin" (and rarely as simply as "Mary" preferring "the Virgin", etc.).
That would be my exact position on the matter, too.

Thomas Henry Louis Parker, in his Calvin: an Introduction to his Thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), concurs:
. . . the Virgin Birth, which Calvin holds, together with the perpetual virginity of Mary. (p. 66)
He is the author of several books about Calvin, such as John Calvin: A Biography (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), and Oracles Of God: An Introduction To The Preaching Of John Calvin (Lutterworth Press, 2002), Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (S.C.M. Press, 1971), Calvin’s Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), and several other Calvin-related volumes, and translator of Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels in its 1995 Eerdmans edition.

The article “Mary” (by David F. Wright) in the Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (edited by Donald K. McKim, Westminster John Knox Press,1992, p. 237), proclaims:
Calvin was likewise less clear-cut than Luther on Mary’s perpetual virginity but undoubtedly favored it. Notes in the Geneva Bible (Matt. 1:18, 25; Jesus' "brothers") defend it, as did Zwingli and the English reformers . . .
Donald G. Bloesch, in his Jesus Christ: Savior and Lord (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2006, p. 87), joins the crowd:
Protestantism . . . remained remarkably open to the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Among others, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wollebius, Bullinger and Wesley claimed that Mary was ever-virgin (semper virgo). The Second Helvetic Confession and the Geneva Bible of the Reformed faith and the Schmalkald Articles of the Lutheran churches affirm it.
Geoffrey W. Bromiley in his article, “Mary the Mother of Jesus” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: K-P (edited by Bromiley, revised edition of 1994 published by Eerdmans [Grand Rapids, Michigan], p. 269), wrote:
The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25) . . .
Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza argued that Catholics and Protestants agreed on the perpetual virginity of Mary, at the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561 (see William A. Dyrness, Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: the Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards, [Cambridge University Press, 2004], pp. 86-87).

I trust that you will help your Catholic brothers to be factually accurate on this point.

I’ll be glad (indeed, more than happy) to inform my Catholic (and Protestant and Orthodox) brothers and sisters in Christ that there are Protestant scholars (even reputable, renowned Reformed Protestant scholars of Calvin and encyclopedias of Calvinism) who hold that Calvin did indeed accept Mary’s perpetual virginity. If they do so, then we Catholics who are of the same opinion cannot be charged with being dishonest with Calvin texts (without the same charge landing on the heads of Parker, Wright, Bloesch, Bromiley, and indirectly to McKim).

Thanks so much for challenging me to clarify this. The case from Protestant opinion as to Calvin’s belief on this point is a lot stronger than I had heretofore realized.

Again, being careful on the facts here, I don’t think that either Luther or Calvin was a dolt.

I would encourage you not to rush to enlist Calvin to your cause until you have weighed what he says concerning Matt 1.25 with his commentary on 1 Cor 7. His criticism of Helvidius in the commentary on Matt 1.25 is a common criticism that he makes of many folk of going beyond the evidence. It is common for Calvin to criticize this or that commentator on those grounds, sometimes while agreeing with their conclusions in the main (here, he does not express agreement with Helvidius).

Meanwhile, his criticism of Jerome’s views of virginity in the commentary on 1 Cor 7 are quite strong, and Calvin undercuts Jerome’s entire support for PV at a stroke.

So if indeed Calvin held to PV as a private opinion (and that’s logically possible), he did so on grounds much different from the RCC and from Jerome in particular.

With regard to Calvin scholars: I’m sure you realize that credible secondary sources do carry some weight, but are not definitive. Without any primary source backing, the quotes that you provide are intruiging, but neither you nor I should simply take their word for it.

If primary source writing turns up in which Calvin expresses positive support for PV, then I’ll change my tune.

But until then, it seems that we should not claim that “Calvin supported PV” or “Calvin believed in PV” unless we have a primary source in hand showing that he supported or believed in PV. Right?

(Ditto for Bullinger. I’m seeing a lot of secondary sources claiming Bullinger’s support of PV, but I can’t find it in the primary sources. I’ll keep looking.)

But the most important point is the difference between Luther and Zwingli, and the RCC doctrine. Both men affirmed the proposition that Mary remained a virgin all her days. But no Reformer ever affirmed PV as a dogma, a belief necessary for salvation.

This is the key point. You may believe in PV all your life, and I might disagree with you all my life, but we have the freedom in Christ to disagree on that matter. PV is not a doctrine taught in Scripture; and if it were necessary for salvation, the apostles would have written it down. So says Irenaeus, and he’s right.


So we want to be careful here about what’s being challenged. I’m not challenging the proposition that Mary remained virgin. I have my doubts; I think that 1 Cor 7 is decisive about what godly marriage should look like. But I can be wrong. Clearly, men whom I admire as thinkers and scholars (Luther in particular) disagreed with me.

What I’m challenging is the elevation of PV to the status of dogma, a doctrine without which one cannot be saved, a doctrine whose denial makes one liable to anathema. (or “made one liable”, prior to the redefinition of anathema.)

And in so challenging, I’m getting to the heart of sola scriptura: we may hold all manner of pious opinions; but we as elders may only authoritatively require belief of those opinions taught by good and necessary consequence from Scripture. To turn a phrase, sola scriptura is not so much about formal sufficiency of Scripture, but the formal necessity of Scripture for doctrine. In formal language:

The Formal Necessity of Scripture: Good and necessary inference from the Scriptural text is the necessary warrant for dogmatic proclamation.

Or to go back to our umpire analogy: the good umpire will only stand by decisions that can be scrutinized when we roll the tape and look at the play in slow motion. The point behind “good and necessary inference” is the requirement that all calls meet the scrutiny test: we can roll the tape and defend the doctrine from the Scriptural evidence.

Let’s go back to your original claim of just two days ago (#314), to refresh readers’ memories:
. . . the normal rules of hermeneutics, when applied in any reasonable manner, cannot possibly conclude that what Matthew and Luke are really trying to tell us is that Joseph and Mary were married, but celibate; or that Jesus’ brothers were really cousins. Nothing in the text supports that conclusion by any objective measure or reading. . . . Regardless of hermeneutical physics, what the Church says is what is true. Regardless of Matthew and Luke’s intent, as observed by the evidence of their writing, this is what the text means.
http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


To summarize what you were saying then (as opposed to now, under challenge), and my replies:
1) “Normal rules of hermeneutics, when applied in any reasonable manner, cannot possibly” lead us to the PVM (including Jesus’ “brothers” being cousins).
2) “Nothing in the text supports that conclusion by any objective measure or reading.”
3) The Catholic Church (strong implication: outrageously so) declares the dogma, despite the clear intent of “normal, reasonable, objective” hermeneutics and in the teeth of original intent.
4) I reply that Luther, Calvin (with documentation) and many other Protestants also believe in the PVM.
5) (Luther and) Calvin did not accept Catholic infallible authority.
6) Therefore, if Calvin accepted the PVM, he must have done so on scriptural basis only (or tradition understood in a non-binding fashion, excluding apostolic succession as traditionally understood).
7) This being the case, it follows that Calvin was a “hermeneutical dolt” (so was Luther) — as I colorfully described it, since he fell prey to all these things you criticize the Catholic Church for: neglect of normal, reasonable, objective hermeneutics, in the teeth of original intent.
8) Therefore, your original criticism of Catholic hermeneutics here also applies to Calvin.
9) But now you want to deny the logic of it, by saying, “I don’t think that either Luther or Calvin was a dolt.”
10) You also tried to deny that Calvin believed in the PVM.
11) I produced much documentation from Protestant sources (mostly Reformed) holding that he did in fact accept it.
12) One can legitimately differ on whether he did or not, as I have already stated, but I think what I have established is that your characterization of how clear-cut the hermeneutical issue is (supposedly against the PVM) is unwarranted. The issue is not nearly as simple as you made out.
13) Thus, you should either modify your original strong, critical statements against Catholic hermeneutics or apply the ire equally to Luther and Calvin (or at least Luther: whom you yourself admit did accept the PVM). The tendency in so much of the Protestant critique of Catholicism (even irenic, reasonable, thoughtful ones such as yours) is to have one standard for Catholics and another for Protestants who believe the same thing in particulars. we’re blasted for unreasonableness or excessive arbitrary dogmatism, while important Protestants who agree in particulars are given a pass (or else it is not known in the first place that they agree with us).
I would encourage you not to rush to enlist Calvin to your cause until you have weighed what he says concerning Matt 1.25 with his commentary on 1 Cor 7. His criticism of Helvidius in the commentary on Matt 1.25 is a common criticism that he makes of many folk of going beyond the evidence. It is common for Calvin to criticize this or that commentator on those grounds, sometimes while agreeing with their conclusions in the main (here, he does not express agreement with Helvidius).
Meanwhile, his criticism of Jerome’s views of virginity in the commentary on 1 Cor 7 are quite strong, and Calvin undercuts Jerome’s entire support for PV at a stroke.
That logic doesn’t follow. You are equating things that don’t equate. I looked up the commentary on the CCEL site. So. e.g., at 1 Cor 7:1, Calvin states:
Now we must observe what he means by the word good, when he declares that it is good to abstain from marriage, that we may not conclude, on the other hand, that the marriage connection is therefore evil — a mistake which Jerome has fallen into . . .
If in fact Jerome believed that (and he may not have; I always have a healthy suspicion of what Calvin says Catholics believe, having recently written a book about him), he was obviously wrong. Calvin is right in condemning such a view. Catholics believe marriage is a sacrament and gives grace, so obviously we don’t think it is evil. It was Martin Luther who thought even marital intercourse remained evil in every instance:
Intercourse is never without sin; but God excuses it by his grace because the estate of marriage is his work, and he preserves in and through the sin all that good which he has implanted and blessed in marriage.
(The Estate of Marriage [1522]; translated by Walther I. Brandt; pp. 17-49 in Luther’s Works, Volume 45 [Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1962], p. 49)
Likewise, commenting on 7:7, Calvin writes:
Nor has the error as to this matter been confined to the common people and illiterate persons; for even the most eminent doctors, devoting themselves unreservedly to the commendation of virginity, and forgetting human infirmity, have overlooked this admonition of Paul — nay rather, of Christ himself. Jerome, blinded by a zeal, I know not of what sort, does not simply fall, but rushes headlong, into false views. Virginity, I acknowledge, is an excellent gift; but keep it in view, that it is a gift. Learn, besides, from the mouth of Christ and of Paul, that it is not common to all, but is given only to a few. Guard, accordingly, against rashly devoting what is not in your own power, and what you will not obtain as a gift, if forgetful of your calling you aspire beyond your limits.
And for 7:8:
The sum is this, that an unmarried life has many advantages, and that these are not to be despised, provided every one measures himself according to his own size and measure. Hence, though virginity should be extolled even to the third heavens, this, at the same time, always remains true — that it does not suit all, but only those who have a special gift from God.
Exactly right. Exactly the Catholic view (I have argued in the same exact way many times in my apologetics, using this very passage in 1 Corinthians). This doesn’t rule out the PVM at all. She would simply be one of the “few” who had the “gift” — just as Calvin would say was true of Paul, John the Baptist and other celibate disciples and apostles and past figures such as the prophet Jeremiah. He resumes criticism of Jerome’s alleged or real views at 7:33:
Let us always, however, bear in mind, that these evils do not belong to marriage, but proceed from the depravity of men. Hence the calumnies of Jerome, who scrapes together all these things for the purpose of bringing marriages into disrepute, fall. For, were any one to condemn agriculture, merchandise, and other modes of life, on this ground, that amidst so many corruption’s of the world, there is not one of them that is exempt from certain evils, who is there that would not smile at his folly? Observe, then, that whatever evil there is in marriage, has its origin somewhere else . . .
Also, at 7:36:
As to Jerome’s making a handle of the expression sinneth not, for reviling marriage, with a view to its disparagement, as if it were not a praiseworthy action to dispose of a daughter in marriage, it is quite childish.
Again, we agree wholeheartedly with this reasoning. It is Martin Luther who would disagree: who thinks that marriage and especially marital sex, necessarily retain evil by nature. And again, this has no bearing on Mary’s perpetual virginity or whether Calvin believed in it.

Therefore citing Calvin’s commentary here has no direct bearing on the question of Mary unless Calvin says something specific along those lines. Perhaps I have missed that and you can direct me to it. This was all I could find about Jerome in the entire 1 Corinthians 7 section of his commentaries.
So if indeed Calvin held to PV as a private opinion (and that’s logically possible), he did so on grounds much different from the RCC and from Jerome in particular.
Yes; he did it on hermeneutical grounds, which is precisely my point: your condemnation of the supposedly profoundly erroneous heremeneutics involved redounds upon Calvin (if he believed in the PVM) and Luther also.
With regard to Calvin scholars: I’m sure you realize that credible secondary sources do carry some weight, but are not definitive.
You are one such source, but you are not a Calvin scholar like several of these men are (I don’t know if you are a scholar at all). Therefore, their scholarly opinion (especially Parker’s) carries far more weight than yours (or my own mere layman’s opinion). As I respect scholarship, I prefer to accept their word over yours. It’s not an absolute proposition, but I think the plausibility and seeming scholarly consensus lie with my position: that Calvin believed in the PVM.
Without any primary source backing, the quotes that you provide are intruiging, but neither you nor I should simply take their word for it.
I’m not taking their word for it. I was simply making the case that many Reformed scholars agree with my take. I think that is significant. They are interpreting the little (somewhat ambiguous) data we have, just as you and I are doing, but isn’t it interesting that you disagree with your own reformed scholars, and I agree with them in this instance? That’s what makes debate fun! They look at it and conclude as they do (in agreement with my opinion); you look at the same data and conclude that only the most mangled, unreasonable hermeneutics could possibly conclude such a thing.

I think you should learn from this to tone down and moderate your statements about such honest disagreements in the future, since it has boomeranged back upon your head.
If primary source writing turns up in which Calvin expresses positive support for PV, then I’ll change my tune.
These men think it does exist. They were not tentative; they feel fairly certain about it.
But until then, it seems that we should not claim that “Calvin supported PV” or “Calvin believed in PV” unless we have a primary source in hand showing that he supported or believed in PV. Right?
No; the evidence is sufficient to form a reasoned opinion; at the same I have acknowledged that reasonable men can differ. I am being as honest and fair-minded as I can on the question. I have no stake in the matter either way. Whether Calvin believed it or not is nothing that has any effect on myself or my beliefs. But you seem to have a stake in his not believing it. You would think he was being unreasonably “Catholic” if he did so, right? :-)
(Ditto for Bullinger. I’m seeing a lot of secondary sources claiming Bullinger’s support of PV, but I can’t find it in the primary sources. I’ll keep looking.)
Let me know if you find something! Donald Bloesch, for some odd reason, thin ks that he did, and I am assuming he (being a scholar) must have some reason for thinking that, if he put it in a published book.
But the most important point is the difference between Luther and Zwingli, and the RCC doctrine.
I know there may very well be differences; that is beside my point. You want to stress difference; I want to stress common ground and examine why it is there in the first place.
Both men affirmed the proposition that Mary remained a virgin all her days. But no Reformer ever affirmed PV as a dogma, a belief necessary for salvation.
That’s correct. But they did plenty of similar things. Luther, e.g., concluded that Zwingli was damned because he denied consubstantiation. Other fellow “reformers” concluded that Luther was damned. So in effect, it is the same thing: folks were excluded from the fold for denying something other than the plain gospel: no different from Catholic thought.

Anti-Catholics do the same thing today: I and other Catholics are supposedly outside the fold of the Body of Christ because we believe things that Protestants don’t agree with: also stuff that has no direct bearing on the gospel or even (in many cases) soteriology.

Just today on my blog I had a guy (self-defined Anabaptist / Brethren) say that Catholicism isn’t Christian insofar as the communion of saints is believed in (what he falsely called “saint worship”).
This is the key point. You may believe in PV all your life, and I might disagree with you all my life, but we have the freedom in Christ to disagree on that matter.
You have the freedom to disbelieve in God and choose to go to hell, too. We all have a free choice to believe what we will. The Catholic Church makes judgments about what is orthodox and what isn’t: no different from any other Christian group: the only difference is in degree and scope.
PV is not a doctrine taught in Scripture; and if it were necessary for salvation, the apostles would have written it down. So says Irenaeus, and he’s right.
There is all sorts of evidence in Scripture and early Christian tradition. As I mentioned, I have 13 papers about it that I have written myself.
So we want to be careful here about what’s being challenged. I’m not challenging the proposition that Mary remained virgin. I have my doubts; I think that 1 Cor 7 is decisive about what godly marriage should look like.
It doesn’t rule out a possible celibate marriage in extraordinary circumstances. Jesus said that a disciple could even leave a wife in some situations, for His sake. We know that Peter was married, but seemingly voluntarily separated from his wife: a scenario not unlike voluntary celibacy.

Whatever Calvin stated in his commentary of 1 Cor 7, somehow many Protestant scholars believe he accepted the PVM. Your task is to understand why they think that, seeing that you think the truth is so obviously different, and that Scripture gives no warrant for believing in it.
But I can be wrong.
Indeed! :-) I think this is one such instance!
Clearly, men whom I admire as thinkers and scholars (Luther in particular) disagreed with me.
Yep. And that should cause us to moderate our critical language a bit, no? But I’m a straight shooter myself, so I really can’t talk much about that . . .
What I’m challenging is the elevation of PV to the status of dogma, a doctrine without which one cannot be saved, a doctrine whose denial makes one liable to anathema. (or “made one liable”, prior to the redefinition of anathema.)
The Catholic Church takes a strong stand as to what is true; hence the abundance of dogmas. This particular dogma goes all the way back to the Council of Ephesus and was accepted from the 5th century onwards: from the time before many non-Catholics think that there was a ['Roman'] ‘Catholic Church’ at all: as we know and love her today (since many Protestants seem to think that papal supremacy began only with Pope Leo the Great [440-461] or even as late as Gregory the Great [590-604] ). Therefore, this is early Church dogma, not the dreaded “Tridentine dogma” etc.
And in so challenging, I’m getting to the heart of sola scriptura: we may hold all manner of pious opinions; but we as elders may only authoritatively require belief of those opinions taught by good and necessary consequence from Scripture.
But this belief is itself not in Scripture. Secondly, we contend that PVM does have sufficient scriptural support. It’s not explicit; it is indirect and deductive, but so are many other Christian beliefs that even Protestants hold. Moreover, you hold things that are not in Scripture at all (sola Scriptura and the canon, denominationalism and many other errors).You simply substitute Protestant man-made traditions for biblical, apostolic, patristic ones in those cases.
To turn a phrase, sola scriptura is not so much about formal sufficiency of Scripture, but the formal necessity of Scripture for doctrine. In formal language:
The Formal Necessity of Scripture: Good and necessary inference from the Scriptural text is the necessary warrant for dogmatic proclamation.
Yep.
Or to go back to our umpire analogy: the good umpire will only stand by decisions that can be scrutinized when we roll the tape and look at the play in slow motion. The point behind “good and necessary inference” is the requirement that all calls meet the scrutiny test: we can roll the tape and defend the doctrine from the Scriptural evidence.
Indeed. We do so. I do so. But not everything has to be explicit in Scripture. I believe in material sufficiency, but I also believe that doctrines present in Scripture can undergo much development and that Scripture is not the be-all and end-all of all relevant evidence.

First, it is entirely possible to believe that Luther was quite brilliant, yet mistaken on one point or another. Google for Linus Pauling and Vitamin C.

I think the problem, really, is with the colorful characterization of “dolt.” One mistake does not a dolt make. If you replace the term “dolt” with “mistaken”, then I’ll probably agree with you.

Second, it is possible also to examine Luther’s argument for PV and ask the question, Is he appealing to Scripture as the ground for PV, OR is he appealing to some other ground? We can walk through Luther’s argument and see whether it follows the principle of sola scriptura or not.

As you read his argument, how would you characterize it? Is he defending PV from Scripture or from some other ground?

Third:
10) You also tried to deny that Calvin believed in the PVM.
11) I produced much documentation from Protestant sources (mostly Reformed) holding that he did in fact accept it.
Yes to both. Specifically, I find in Calvin’s treatment of Matt 1.25 a reluctance to come down on one side or the other. I’m surprised that you disagree on this point.
12) One can legitimately differ on whether he did or not, as I have already stated, but I think what I have established is that your characterization of how clear-cut the hermeneutical issue is (supposedly against the PVM) is unwarranted. The issue is not nearly as simple as you made out.
What is not clear-cut is Calvin’s own view of the matter.

What is clear-cut is the status of PV as dogma: NONE of the Reformers made it into a dogma. And that’s really what I’ve been arguing about.

What is further clear-cut is that claiming Calvin as a supporter of PV is tenuous based on the evidence so far on the table.

Which brings us to …
With regard to Calvin scholars: I’m sure you realize that credible secondary sources do carry some weight, but are not definitive.

You are one such source, but you are not a Calvin scholar like several of these men are (I don’t know if you are a scholar at all). Therefore, their scholarly opinion (especially Parker’s) carries far more weight than yours (or my own mere layman’s opinion). As I respect scholarship, I prefer to accept their word over yours. It’s not an absolute proposition, but I think the plausibility and seeming scholarly consensus lie with my position: that Calvin believed in the PVM.
You have no need to be limited by the secondaries. Each of these sources you have cited will, presumably, footnote their sources in the primary writings of Calvin, which are for the most part freely available. Ad fontes! (“To the Bat-sources!”) Evaluate the state of affairs for yourself, instead of relying solely on the judgment of others.

It’s not my word against theirs — I’m just some guy on the ‘Net — it’s their word against the evidence. Before you accept their word (especially since you consider Reformed sources a generally unreliable barometer!), check their work.

Or if you don’t have time for that (being a busy guy), it is a simple matter to qualify your claim as “some Reformed scholars claim that Calvin held to PV, but I haven’t been able to verify it myself.”

As I said, I’m happy to change my mind in the face of primary source evidence. I just haven’t seen any so far that confirms your claim. The claim that Calvin believed in PV appears to be too strong and unsupported by direct (i.e. primary) evidence.
I want to stress common ground and examine why it is there in the first place.
Both men affirmed the proposition that Mary remained a virgin all her days. But no Reformer ever affirmed PV as a dogma, a belief necessary for salvation.
That’s correct. But they did plenty of similar things. Luther, e.g., concluded that Zwingli was damned because he denied consubstantiation. Other fellow “reformers” concluded that Luther was damned. So in effect, it is the same thing: folks were excluded from the fold for denying something other than the plain gospel: no different from Catholic thought.
Quite different from Catholic thought, actually. There is a similar-looking conclusion (Lack of salvation, “You have a different Spirit!”), but a quite different ground for it.
Let’s take the Confession. The Confession lays out doctrines that it believes to be necessary for salvation (and some not necessary for salvation, also). But it book-ends itself with these two statements:
1.10. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
31.2. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.
3. All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.
Note the important difference here: whereas the RCC anathematizes deniers of PV on the ground that they have rejected tradition and therefore rejected the authority of the church (“The Faith”), the Confession declares an objective standard for the faith, and then carefully states that the Confession itself is not the ultimate rule of faith, but rather Scripture is.

So what? This: The difference is the ground for the anathema. Ultimately, the Church anathematizes on the ground of rejection of Church authority and teaching.

The Confession pronounces no anathemas, but to the extent that it promulgates doctrines necessary for salvation, it does so on the principle of good and necessary inference from Scripture. The Confession is careful not to place itself in the seat of the Word of God.

And this gets back to the issue of recognizing v. creating truth. Augustine did not believe the Apocrypha to be fully canonical. Trent anathematizes all those who do not receive the Apocrypoha in their entirety as fully canonical (Session 4)

Why is Augustine not therefore considered heretical? Because, goes the reasoning, the doctrine of the canon was not yet fully defined.

But as we agreed, the church does not create truth, or create the canon; it recognizes it. Thus, if disbelieving the canon was pernicious to faith after Trent, it must have been equally pernicious to the faith prior to Trent.

UNLESS

(1) The truth changes. Hope no-one wants to defend that!, OR
(2) The real damnable crime with heresy is not the belief itself, but rejecting the church’s authoritative declaration.

This is clearly a significant difference between the WCoF and the magisterium. On the Confession’s account, heresy is objectively heresy, as proved in the Scripture. A denial of the Trinity is a pernicious heresy because it conflicts with saving faith.

On the magisterium’s account, heresy in one era is not heresy in another; and the difference is the stance one takes towards the Church authority.

This is why the recurring charge from Rome is one of schism.
More later.

You can have the last word on these particular discussions. I continue to disagree (surprise!). Mostly I think you are reiterating now. It has to end somewhere. By saying this, I’m not saying that there is nothing worthwhile above to respond to (in your posts there always is), but that it is mostly stuff now that has already been discussed and pretty much beaten to death in our exchange.

I have neither time nor desire to now start on a lengthy comparison of the methodologies of the WCF vs. the Catholic Church. To me it is another rabbit trail, . . .

My overall emphasis was to try to show (with some analogies, that I always love to bring into play) that we’re not nearly as different and radical as you are making us out to be, and that there are many similarities all down the line.

Not to minimize any real difference (I never want to do that), but I think it is important to establish common ground where it is supposed or argued that there is not. That is my ecumenical impulse that is always present alongside my apologetic one.

Lastly, I have looked at the relevant Calvin texts (though, no doubt, not with the rigor that a Calvin scholar or professional historian or theologian would bring to them) and came to the conclusion I presently have. You should cut me some slack on this, since I already agreed above (#345) with David F. Wright. He stated that Calvin “believed it [PVM] himself without claiming that Scripture taught it.” I agreed, by saying, “That would be my exact position on the matter, too.”

You brought up his commentary on 1 Corinthians 7, but after examining it I found nothing that had any direct bearing on the topic of PVM at all, as argued above. Apples and oranges. So that is not even a relevant text. I think you created a fallacious association there, simply because the estate of virginity was being discussed.

Also, Calvin habitually calling Mary “the virgin” or “holy virgin” (as Calvin scholar T.H.L. Parker noted), is further evidence, since that had always been understood in Church history (I’m pretty sure) as a belief in perpetual virginity, and was clearly understood as such in Calvin’s time. Examples:

Institutes of the Christian Religion
II, 10:4 . . . the blessed Virgin . . . [footnote: “Beata Virgo.” French, “la Vierge Marie;”—the Virgin Mary]
II, 13:3 . . . being descended of the Virgin; . . . nourished to maturity in the Virgin’s womb. . . . Matthew does not here describe the Virgin . . .
II, 13:4 . . . conceived miraculously in the Virgins womb . . .
II, 14:1 . . . he made choice of the Virgin’s womb as a temple in which he might dwell.
II, 14:4 . . . the name of the Son of God is given to him who is born of a Virgin, and the Virgin herself is called the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:32, 43).
II, 14:5 . . . he was begotten in the womb of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit. . . . We indeed acknowledge that the Mediator who was born of the Virgin is properly the Son of God.
II, 14:6 . . . He who was born of a Virgin, . . .
II, 14:8 . . . he was conceived in the womb of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit . .

Harmony of the Gospels
Matthew 1:18 . . . the virgin . . .
Matthew 1:19 . . . the virgin . . .
Matthew 1:22 . . . the virgin . . . [twice]
Matthew 1:23 . . . the virgin . . .
Matthew 2:16 . . . the virgin . . .
Matthew 5:6 . . . the Virgin . . .
Luke 1:26 . . . the virgin . . .
Luke 1:28 . . . the virgin . . .
Luke 1:30 The holy virgin . . .
Luke 1:31 . . . the virgin . . . [twice]
Luke 1:32 . . . the holy virgin . . .
Luke 1:34 The holy virgin appears to confine the power of God . . . the mind of the virgin,. . . the holy virgin . . . the virgin . . . the virgin . . .
[Calvin in the same section denies that this passage suggests a vow of perpetual virginity made by Mary]
Luke 1:35 He only leads the virgin . . .
Luke 1:36 . . . the mother of the holy virgin . . .
Luke 1:38 . . . the holy virgin . . . [three times]
Luke 1:39 . . . the Virgin . . .
Luke 1:46 . . . the holy virgin . . . [twice]
Luke 1:48 . . . the holy virgin . . .
Luke 1:49 . . . the holy virgin . . .
Luke 2:34 The holy virgin . . .
Luke 2:35 . . . the holy virgin . . .
Luke 2:48 . . . the holy virgin . . . [twice]

This is not simply referring to the Virgin Birth. Think about it. We don’t call women who are married now and sexually active, “virgins” their whole lives and thereafter. That would make no sense, since they ceased being virgins. It is as illogical as calling them “children” when they are adults. They’re not lifetime eunuchs or celibates or virgins. They were simply one thing and then another, by virtue of getting older and passing into the state of marriage. They did not have the gift of celibacy that Calvin acknowledged, per clear Pauline teaching.

Calvin didn’t even use the phraseology of Theotokos ‘”Mother of God”] (as Luther and many other Protestants — even in some confessions — did), so I think that if he continued to use “holy virgin” that it is more plausible to believe that he retained the traditional view than that he did not. Otherwise, it stands to reason that he would cease using that title for her, too, since he was well familiar with historical usage and patristic teachings.

Therefore this is another relevant evidence of Calvin’s position, by both linguistic and commonsense criteria, and it is direct: not a non sequitur, like your alleged connection of his commentary on 1 Corinthians 7. I think that would influence the determination of scholars like Parker and Wright and Bloesch and Bromiley to conclude as they did. You can write to them and ask them yourself, if you want to learn more. I’d love to hear what they would say, too.