Sunday, March 30, 2008

I was alerted that a Catholic apologist seems to think I believe the Apostles could be in Hell. Rather, the careful reader who followed my comments in Carrie's post will note I was arguing from a theoretical Catholic perspective. I am Reformed. I believe the Apostles were chosen by God, and that Christ's blood was shed for their sins, and that nothing could snatch them out of the hand of God. They were justified long before they were sanctified, as are all who embrace Christ by faith alone.

Then, some of my quotes directed toward another person in a completely different context were added to the entry, and frankly, I'm not sure what the connection was supposed to be. Along with this was a mocking picture, and an insult to the title of my blog. I'm not sure if the post from this Catholic apologist will still be up in the form it is now. My guess is it will be edited or expanded to further the cause of ____________ [fill in the blank, I really don't know the point of this entry against me].

As to my methodology, remember, Roman Catholics are the ones who have repeatedly told me that one cannot know who is, or isn't in Hell. Recall, the old question..."where did Luther end up?" A Roman Catholic on this question of Luther's fate stated, "Unless Mr. Swan wishes us to disregard the plain language of Scripture, the Church will not speculate as to Fr. Luther's fate"
and also, "We do not know whether Fr. Luther damned himself to hell by preaching heresy If Mr. Swan has the ability to read the heart of Fr. Luther at the moment of his death back in 1546, he does not state the source of his ability."

So, now, I guess for Roman Catholics, it is possible to know the fate of particular people, just not Luther. If Catholics have the ability to read the heart of people at the moment of their death, well, this is new to me.

In context, here is what I stated:

The possibility of a "Pope in Hell" is quite consistent with Rome's systematic teaching. If one is sanctified unto eventual justification, and that process is in "some way" dependent on the free will response of the one who can choose not follow Christ unto that eventual justification, it is indeed possible even the apostles themselves are in Hell.

The only surety (for the Romanists) is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense. She was chosen by God before her birth to be completely saved from all sin, and therefore, completely justified this side of eternity....but she's the exception. Of course, the Reformed would never argue we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell.

and then, I responded to this charge:

James Swan,Characterizing the Catholic church's view of Mary as idiosyncratically "Calvinist" seems to be fundamentally mistaken.

I would suggest reading my statements carefully. I stated, "The only surety (for the Romanists)is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense." Note the words "type" and "sense." These are crucial to my point. I then stated, "Of course, the Reformed would never argue we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell."

The doctrine of Mary's preservation from original sin - which is not as unique as you may think (See John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." Luke 1:15)

To my knowledge, Roman Catholics do not argue John the Baptist was kept from sin his entire life, hence there is not a parallel.

Thereafter, the Church teaches, Mary was provided with a special grace that preserved her from committing sin.

Patrick Madrid states, 'Christ indeed saved Mary from sin- from all sin- but he did this for her prior to her contracting sin. We on the other hand, are saved after we fall into it" [Madrid,Pocket guide To Apologetics, p. 30]. Karl Keating states, "But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and certain of its consequences" [Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 270]. On p. 271, Keating states, "It took a positive act of God to keep her from coming under [sin's] effects the way we have." "...she enjoyed certain privileges we never can, such as entire avoidance of sin." Keeping Mary from the stain of original sin, in effect, keeps her from all personal sin. So much for Mary's free will according to Catholic apologists.

Could Mary nonetheless have committed sin? This involves some speculation, but the answer would probably be "yes." Mary had free will.

Now, not all sin is an outward act. I agree with Augustine, whom I think it was, who argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation. In fact, the worst of all sins is the sin of unbelief- it's at the root of all sins. In a certain sense, when we sin, we don't believe God's ways are the right way, we think ours are, hence, we commit unbelief against God with each of our sins. In Roman Catholicism, Mary was preserved from even these inward sins. I would argue, if Mary was kept from sin, she was kept from the desire to sin as well. So much for free will.

Admittedly, God knew the outcome of Mary's life from the beginning, but knowing something isn't the same as predestination in the Calvinist sense.

Well, once again, let's note that Catholics don't all have the same opinion on this, nor are there infallibly defined answers on predestination, nor are the Biblical references on Predestination dogmatically defined. So much for Catholic certainty.I picked up a little book a few years back, Mary Immaculate In The Divine Plan by Michael D. Meilach, O.F.M., who argues for Mary's predestination: "...we maintain that her predestination to be the Mother of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental- the single factor that explains everything else about her" (p. 58). The preface states that "Christ and Mary emerge as holding an absolute and universal primacy over the rest of creation...the Savior and his Mother must have been predestined first, and hence independently of Adam's fall" (pp. v- vi). So, there are indeed those who see Mary as predestined with the Roman sect.

Insert all the free will you want- Catholic apologists still argue Mary was kept from sin throughout her life. This means that in terms of salvation, Mary was given something special. She lived a completely sanctified, and hence a completely justified life. By God's miraculous predetermining act of the immaculate conception, Mary (and Jesus) become the individuals in Roman Catholicism kept from sin, and completely justified, their entire lives.
12:20 AM, March 30, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Popes in Hell

So, Catholics confirm that there are likely some Popes in Hell.

I am still wondering why God would attribute such high responsibility and honors to a man who would end up in hell for eternity. This does not sound like an understandable spiritual end for the visible leader of the flock of whom the following has been said said:

Catechism of St. Pius X

50 Q: Who is the Pope?
A: The Pope, who is also called the Sovereign Pontiff, or the Roman Pontiff, is the Successor of St. Peter in the See of Rome, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and the visible Head of the Church.
52 Q: Why is the Roman Pontiff the Vicar of Jesus Christ?
A: The Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Jesus Christ because He represents Him on earth and acts in His stead in the government of the Church.
53 Q: Why is the Roman Pontiff the Visible Head of the Church?
A: The Roman Pontiff is the Visible Head of the Church because he visibly governs her with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, who is her invisible Head.
54 Q: What, then, is the dignity of the Pope?
A: The dignity of the Pope is the greatest of all dignities on earth, and gives him supreme and immediate power over all and each of the Pastors and of the faithful.
55 Q: Can the Pope err when teaching the Church?
A: The Pope cannot err, that is, he is infallible, in definitions regarding faith and morals.
58 Q: What sin would a man commit who should refuse to accept the solemn definitions of the Pope?
A: He who refuses to accept the solemn definitions of the Pope, or who even doubts them, sins against faith; and should he remain obstinate in this unbelief, he would no longer be a Catholic, but a heretic.
62 Q: How should every Catholic act towards the Pope?
A: Every Catholic must acknowledge the Pope as Father, Pastor, and Universal Teacher, and be united with him in mind and heart.

Catechism of Trent

"Above all these, the Catholic Church has always placed the Supreme Pontiff of Rome, whom Cyril of Alexandria, in the Council of Ephesus, named the Chief Bishop, Father and Patriarch of the whole world. He sits in that chair of Peter in which beyond every shadow of doubt the Prince of the Apostles sat to the end of his days, and hence it is that in him the Church recognises the highest degree of dignity, and a universality of jurisdiction derived, not from the decrees of men or Councils, but from God Himself. Wherefore he is the Father and guide of all the faithful, of all the Bishops, and of all the prelates, no matter how high their power and office; and as successor of St. Peter, as true and lawful Vicar of Christ our Lord, he governs the universal Church."

If I were a Catholic I would feel a bit discouraged that Popes, with all their "graces" and honors, may not make it to heaven. I would have to have a great deal of confidence in myself to "merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed" when some Vicars of Christ have failed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Who said it?

No googling or wagering!
We are to copy the views and virtues of the men who found they could remain under the Pope, and especially of one who actually died for the supremacy of the Pope. We are to throw away practically every rag of thought or theory that was held by the people who did not remain under the supremacy of the Pope.

This same person did actually write something very prophetic at the same time as the above. Something that seems to be playing out very strongly right now.
The genuine Protestant creed is now hardly held by anybody--least of all by the Protestants. So completely have they lost faith in it, that they have mostly forgotten what it was. If almost any modern man be asked whether we save our souls solely through our theology, or whether doing good(to the poor, for instance) will help us on the road to God, he would answer without hesitation that good works are probably more pleasing to God than theology.

Who said it?



Did He Make It?

This story from Catholic News got me thinking:

“The office in charge of promoting Pope John Paul II's sainthood cause is looking for English speakers who have a story to tell about their meeting with the late pope, their prayers for his intercession or graces received after asking for his help.

In a March 17 statement, the Rome diocesan office for the sainthood cause said English submissions to the cause's Web site were seriously falling behind those in Italian, Polish and French.

…A spokeswoman for the office said: "It does not have to be a miracle or something extraordinary. We would like to hear and share stories about an encounter or a grace received or a hope.”

First, I find it interesting that there is an “office” devoted to promoting JPII’s sainthood. What is in this for people?

Second, I have to wonder why Popes, the great “Vicars of Christ”, wouldn’t be fast-tracked to sainthood. Do Catholics believe that God would send his number one representative on earth to hell, or is time in purgatory the wild card?

My questions are rhetorical, I am not looking for answers – just sharing my thoughts on the inconsistency and futility of it all.

Quotable Catholics #2

"Sola scriptura is a grave theological error that has led countless souls to doctrinal ruin, a purely human construct that all Christians who love and obey God's Word should reject as a tradition of men that nullifies and distorts that Word."

Source: Patrick Madrid, "Sola Scriptura: A Blueprint For Anarchy" in, Robert Sungenis, ed. Not By Scripture Alone, (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997), p.2.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The official reason for canceling Issues Etc. was released today by Mr. Strand.

The stated reason for canceling Issues Etc. was because it was losing money and had a very tiny listening audience.

According to Mr. Strand, 1,650 people listened to the show during the week and only 64 listened via the live internet streams.

On the Sunday show, only 39 people were listening via the internet.Here is the letter:

Visit The Wittenberg Trail at:

A few days ago, I posted a quote from Jerome here. The following response was put forth:

"I don't think it was Saint Jerome who had the identity crisis, I think it is the multifaceted Protestant nightmare that has the identity crisis."

"When Protestants disagree, they just form a new denomination. There is no binding mechanism to resolve such disputes other than placement of oneself as his own pope."

DTK responds:
What a Romanist cannot appreciate about this letter (letter 15) of Jerome is that he writes as a theological novice, as he later describes himself during this period of his life, in the prologue of his commentary on Obadiah (PL 25:1098). In Letter 15, as well as Letter 16 (which was his 2nd attempt to get Damasus to respond to him, with Letter 15 having gone unanswered), he makes mention in both letters the three rival bishops of Antioch, "I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist."

With a true sectarian spirit, Jerome writes off all three of these rival bishops as being of "Antichrist" (LOL). Now, I laugh because Jerome makes the same youthful mistake of judgment that any of us are liable to make. After all, unknown to Jerome at this time, Damasus recognized Paulinus as the true "catholic" bishop of Antioch. And Meletius (and this is where it becomes comical when dealing with fanatical Roman apologists) whom Jerome rejects in this letter, and regards as one of "those Arians" because Meletius and others (most notably Basil of Caesarea) were using the language of "three hypostases" to describe the relationship of the persons in the Trinity. It is because this language is new to the ears of Jerome, that he dismisses it as "Arian," all the while informing his pastor Damasus that if he chooses to accept it, so will he! As Kelly points out concerning this language of Jerome, "It was sheer prejudice, or deliberate perversity, to dismiss the adherents of the ‘three hypostases’ doctrine as Arians. They were just as much opposed to Arianism, with its subordination of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Son and its denial of divinity to both, as he was." See J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 54.

But what becomes even funnier against the Romanist paradigm of the alleged pristine unity of "catholics," in that day, is that while Pope Damasus recognized Paulinus as the true bishop of Antioch, Basil of Caesarea (no small ecclesiastic of the east) and John Chrysostom recognized Meletius as the true bishop of Antioch, from whose hands Chrysostom was baptized and ordained to the diaconate! The third claimant to the throne of Antioch, who is mentioned by Jerome, Vitalis, fell into the error of Apollinarius.

Jerome isn't appealing to "the teacher of all Christians" who had the ultimate authority to adjudicate between the rival bishops. He was appealing to the pastor of his own communion in the western see where he had been baptized! Moreover, no one in the east had any notion of the papal primacy of jurisdiction. Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, in supporting Meletius as the rightful bishop of Antioch, certainly held no notions of papal primacy, such as Leo XIII's Satis cognitum attempts to read back into this letter of Jerome. After all, according to the standard of Leo XIII's Satis cognitum, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom were "outside the edifice," "separated from the fold," and "exiled from the kingdom," for the simple reason that neither of them joined Damasus in recognizing Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see! They "knew nothing (As Edward Denny points out in his helpful work, Papalism, p. 347) of the Papal Monarchy as an integral part of the Divine Constitution of the Church necessary to its very existence."

This is why I regard Romanists by this title. After all, there is no greater "anti-Catholic" spirit than that of a Romanist who maintains that communion with Rome constitutes the necessary requirement to be in the true Church of Jesus Christ. What can be more sectarian (as it was in Basil and Chrysostom's day) than this kind of party spirit!

"If you read these texts in proper context you will find that Saint Jerome was anything but a Protestant."

No, I say to any who alleges that we are trying to turn the ECFs into Protestants! Even to express such a sentiment only underscores the ignorance for the reason we read and study the ECFs. We, as Protestants, are very content to let the ECFs be what they were. But it is the Romanist who, on the contrary, must read back into the ECFs the notions of modern day Rome and papal primacy that were never recognized by the eastern church. Again, for all this insistence on the ECFs being "catholic" I am in great agreement! But the true "anti-Catholic" title belongs to those who argue for the exclusive claims of Rome.

When the ECFs happen to support some of the positions that Protestants take today, I would be more sympathetic to the Romanist who can at least recognize where the ECFs took a different path from modern day Rome. But the radical, fanatical Romanist can entertain no such objectivity on this account, because for them it's a matter of all or nothing! That's what makes it so laughable when Roman opponents begin immediately to shout “Foul play, out of context” at the faintest citation of any patristic witness whose words appear to be at odds with the modern day views of the Roman communion, whether they have actually investigated the context of any such citation or not. One would verily be led to believe, by such statements, that such members of the Roman communion possess the attribute of omniscience when it comes to the context of every quote that stands in contrast to their present day claims. So, go ahead and pretend that Jerome's appeal to his pastor in Rome concerning matters of which he is utterly ignorant as an example of papal primacy. But all you demonstrate to me is another excursion in "humble" (perhaps), but nonetheless real ignorance.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quotable Catholics #1

"You see, the problem with lay people trying to [do] exegetical work is this~without a proper foundation in theology, hermeneutics, literary and Bible criticism, ancient history, ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin languages, and plain inspiration, we are literally stuck with having to take the word of someone "more knowledgeable" to understand even a single verse of Scripture. As our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, once said, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." In order to do this work properly, I have had to read and try to learn what I believe to be necessary for someone like me to write about a passage of Scripture." [source]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My review of the Islam debate can be found here. To get a perspective of Mr. Ahmed, you can visit his website.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

I just got back from Norfolk Virginia. I went to see Dr. White debate Nadir Ahmed on "Can we trust what the New Testament says about Jesus and the Gospel?" I will be writing a brief review over on the aomin site.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jesus Is Risen

All praise to the Risen One. Let the peoples look and be amazed.
He Is Risen Indeed!

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

"Individual interpretation of the Bible—the most sublime but also the most difficult Book ever penned—can never bring satisfaction, can never give infallible certainty, can never place a man in possession of that great objective body of truth which Our Blessed Lord taught, and which it is necessary to salvation that all should believe. The experience of many centuries proves it. It can not do so because it was never meant to do so. It produces not unity, but division; not peace, but strife. Only listening to those to whom Jesus Christ said, 'He that heareth you heareth Me,' only sinking his own fads and fancies and submitting with childlike confidence to those whom the Redeemer sent out to teach in His Name and with His authority—only this, I say, will satisfy a man, and give to his intellect repose, and to his soul a 'peace that surpasseth all understanding'. Then no longer will he be tormented with contentious disputings about this passage of the Bible and that, no longer racked and rent and 'tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine', changing with the changing years. He will, on the contrary, experience a joy and comfort and certainty that nothing can shake in being able to say, 'O my God, I believe whatever Thy Holy Catholic Church believes and teaches, because Thou hast revealed it Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.' God grant that many Bible-readers and Bible-lovers may obtain the grace to make this act of faith, and pass from an unreasoning subservience to a Book to reasonable obedience and submission to its maker and defender—the Catholic and Roman Church."

-Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Ancient Voice For The Day #24

Jerome (347-420):

"‘In his record of the peoples and princes the Lord shall tell of these who have been born in her.’ Now the psalm did not say, those who are born in her, but who have been born in her. ‘The Lord shall tell.’ How shall he tell? Not by word of mouth, but in His writings. In His writings of whom? Of the peoples. That is not enough, for it also speaks of the princes. And which princes? Those who are born in her? No, it did not say that; but, those who have been born in her."

Source:FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 142.

Jerome then goes on to say a few sentences later in the same homily...

"‘‘In his record of the peoples the Lord shall tell’: in the sacred writings, in His Scripture that is read to all peoples in order that all may know. Thus the apostles have written; thus the Lord Himself has spoken, not merely for a few, but that all might know and understand. Plato wrote books, but he did not write for all people but only for a few, for there are not many more than two or three men who know him. But the princes of the Church and the princes of Christ did not write only for the few, but for everyone without exception. ‘And princes’: the apostles and evangelists. ‘Of those who have been born in her.’ Note ‘who have been’ and not ‘who are.’ That is to make sure that, with the exception of the apostles, whatever else is said afterwards should be removed and not, later on, hold the force of authority. No matter how holy anyone may be after the time of the apostles, no matter how eloquent, he does not have authority, for ‘in his record of the peoples and princes the Lord shall tell of those who have been born in her.’

Source:FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 142-143.

For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Attention Lutherans: Issues, Etc Cancelled

From my mailbox:

Today's a black day in the LCMS. Today the Synod ordered the cancellation of the popular radio show Issues, Etc. without stating a reason why, and terminated the employment of Pastor Todd Wilken, the show's host, and Mr. Jeff Schwarz, the show's producer. If you can get into the archives and save MP3 files of the show ASAP.

The person who made the decision to cancel Issues, Etc. was Mr. David Strand, Executive Director of the Board for Communication Services. Here is Mr. Strand's contact information:David L. Strand Executive Director Board for Communication 314)

I listened to this show off and on. It was a quality broadcast. I will indeed miss it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Authority Debate: Svendsen vs. Pacwa

I greatly appreciate Eric Svendsen's work. I own a few of his books on Roman Catholicism. They are excellent resources. I stopped by his blog, and I noticed he's been posting video clips from his debate last year with Mitch Pawca.

Eric's opening statement can be found here

Eric's rebuttal to Pacwa's opening statement can be found here

For 7 video clips from the debate, click here.

I owe Eric a debt of gratitude for hosting many of my longer papers on Martin Luther. He's had them on his NTRmin site for quite a few years now.

I highly recommend Eric's work on Roman Catholicism, and suggest that if you are involved with this subject, getting his books.

Semi-Pelagianism 101: Arminians are Christians? Yes, Barely!

I recently went through this snippet from R.C. Sproul in my Sunday School class, and since it really puts things in perspective, I thought it was worthwhile to share:

The classic issue between Augustinian theology and all forms of semi-Pelagianism focuses on one aspect of the order of salvation (ordo salutis): What is the relationship between regeneration and faith? Is regeneration a monergistic or synergistic work? Must a person first exercise faith in order to be born again? Or must rebirth occur before a person is able to exercise faith? Another way to state the question is this: Is the grace of regeneration operative or cooperative?

Monergistic regeneration means that regeneration is accomplished by a single actor, God. It means literally a “one-working.” Synergism, on the other hand, refers to a work that involves the action of two or more parties. It is a co-working. All forms of semi-Pelagianism assert some sort of synergism in the work of regeneration. Usually God’s assisting grace is seen as a necessary ingredient, but it is dependent on human cooperation for its efficacy.

The Reformers taught not only that regeneration does precede faith but also that it must precede faith. Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration’s fruit, not its cause.

According to semi-Pelagianism regeneration is wrought by God, but only in those who have first responded in faith to him. Faith is seen not as the fruit of regeneration, but as an act of the will cooperating with God’s offer of grace.

Evangelicals are so called because of their commitment to the biblical and historical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Because the Reformers saw sola fide as central and essential to the biblical gospel, the term evangelical was applied to them. Modern evangelicals in great numbers embrace the sola fide of the Reformation, but have jettisoned the sola gratia that undergirded it. Packer and Johnston assert:

“Justification by faith only” is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia. What is the source and status of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received, or is it a condition of justification which is left to man to fulfill? Is it a part of God’s gift of salvation, or is it man’s own contribution to salvation? Is our salvation wholly of God, or does it ultimately depend on something that we do for ourselves? Those who say the latter (as the Arminians later did) thereby deny man’s utter helplessness in sin, and affirm that a form of semi-Pelagianism is true after all. It is no wonder, then, that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism as being in principle a return to Rome (because in effect it turned faith into a meritorious work) and a betrayal of the Reformation (because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformers’ thought). Arminianism was, indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favour of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other. In the light of what Luther says to Erasmus, there is no doubt that he would have endorsed this judgment."

I must confess that the first time I read this paragraph, I blinked. On the surface it seems to be a severe indictment of Arminianism. Indeed it could hardly be more severe than to speak of it as “un-Christian” or “anti-Christian.” Does this mean that Packer and Johnston believe Arminians are not Christians? Not necessarily. Every Christian has errors of some sort in his thinking. Our theological views are fallible. Any distortion in our thought, any deviation from pure, biblical categories may be loosely deemed “un-Christian” or “anti-Christian.” The fact that our thought contains un-Christian elements does not demand the inference that we are therefore not Christians at all.

I agree with Packer and Johnston that Arminianism contains un-Christian elements in it and that their view of the relationship between faith and regeneration is fundamentally un-Christian. Is this error so egregious that it is fatal to salvation? People often ask if I believe Arminians are Christians? I usually answer, “Yes, barely.” They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency.

What is this inconsistency? Arminians affirm the doctrine of justification by faith alone. They agree that we have no meritorious work that counts toward our justification, that our justification rests solely on the righteousness and merit of Christ, that sola fide means justification is by Christ alone, and that we must trust not in our own works, but in Christ’s work for our salvation. In all this they differ from Rome on crucial points.

Packer and Johnston note that later Reformed theology, however, condemned Arminianism as a betrayal of the Reformation and in principle as a return to Rome. They point out that Arminianism “in effect turned faith into a meritorious work.”

We notice that this charge is qualified by the words in effect. Usually Arminians deny that their faith is a meritorious work. If they were to insist that faith is a meritorious work, they would be explicitly denying justification by faith alone. The Arminian acknowledges that faith is something a person does. It is a work, though not a meritorious one. Is it a good work? Certainly it is not a bad work. It is good for a person to trust in Christ and in Christ alone for his or her salvation. Since God commands us to trust in Christ, when we do so we are obeying this command. But all Christians agree that faith is something we do. God does not do the believing for us. We also agree that our justification is by faith insofar as faith is the instrumental cause of our justification. All the Arminian wants and intends to assert is that man has the ability to exercise the instrumental cause of faith without first being regenerated. This position clearly negates sola gratia, but not necessarily sola fide.

Then why say that Arminianism “in effect” makes faith a meritorious work? Because the good response people make to the gospel becomes the ultimate determining factor in salvation. I often ask my Arminian friends why they are Christians and other people are not. They say it is because they believe in Christ while others do not. Then I inquire why they believe and others do not? “Is it because you are more righteous than the person who abides in unbelief?” They are quick to say no. “Is it because you are more intelligent?” Again the reply is negative. They say that God is gracious enough to offer salvation to all who believe and that one cannot be saved without that grace. But this grace is cooperative grace. Man in his fallen state must reach out and grasp this grace by an act of the will, which is free to accept or reject this grace. Some exercise the will rightly (or righteously), while others do not. When pressed on this point, the Arminian finds it difficult to escape the conclusion that ultimately his salvation rests on some righteous act of the will he has performed. He has “in effect” merited the merit of Christ, which differs only slightly from the view of Rome.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"I am curious as to why Swan goes to such length to "defend" and promote Luther, but from what I understand he (Swan) is NOT a Lutheran. Odd it seems...Matthew Homepage 03.14.08 - 11:52 am #"

I would've e-mailed Mathew, but I'm not sure his "homepage" is really his homepage. Maybe one of you who know Matthew can link him to this blog entry, which is a re-posting of something I wrote in January 2006. My apologies if any of the links no longer work.

Above: One of Luther’s first Roman Catholic biographers was also a great adversary with lasting impact: Johannes Cochlaeus. Cochlaeus best expressed his campaign against Luther by portraying him as a seven-headed monster. Cochlaeus divided up the life of Luther into seven distinct periods, each represented by one of the heads on the monster. Each head held a contradictory opinion to the other. He explains what each head represents:

“Thus all brothers emerge from the womb of one and the same cowl by a birth so monstrous, that none is like the other in either behavior, shape, face or character. The elder brothers, Doctor and Martinus, come closest to the opinion of the Church, and they are to be believed above all the others, if anything anywhere in Luther's books can be believed with any certainty at all. Lutherus, however, according to his surname, plays a wicked game just like Ismael. Ecclesiastes tells the people who are always keen on novelties, pleasant things. Svermerns rages furiously and errs in the manner of Phaeton throughout the skies. Barrabas is looking for violence and sedition everywhere. And at the last, Visitator, adorned with a new mitre and ambitious for a new papacy, prescribes new laws of ceremonies, and many old ones which he had previously abolished—revokes, removes, reduces.”

With any study of Luther and the Reformation comes a crash course in Roman Catholicism. Many Roman Catholics on-line are livid against the Reformation, particularly Luther. I’ve read all sorts of unbelievable “facts” about Luther from the keyboards of Papal defenders: that he was adulterer, a drunkard, a polygamist, took books out of the Bible, uttered massive amounts of profanity, hated Jews, had people killed, and basically was in league with Satan.

Was Luther really all these things? If these things are true, how in the world could people like R.C. Sproul speak of him with such grandeur? Why would the great bastion of Reformed theology, Westminster Seminary, actually teach classes on Luther? How could an entire group of churches call themselves “Lutheran”? Well, it didn’t make sense to me. Someone wasn’t telling the truth, or either the truth was being told in such a way that the “facts” were being manipulated as tools of propaganda.

A few years ago, I was participating daily on the CARM discussion boards. Roman Catholics would frequently bring up Martin Luther- mentioning the unflattering attributes described above. Often I was directed to the entry about Luther in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Sometimes, they would link to articles to prove their historical “facts” about Luther. For instance:

Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact

The Orthodox vs. the Heterodox Luther

Luther vs. the Canon of the Bible

Martin Luther, Indulgences, and the Origins of the Protestant Revolt

Martin Luther's Devotion to Mary

The information from these old links was frequently brought into conversations. The good news is, some of these links are no longer available, and some of them have been "positively" updated, so to speak. I share them in this form only to show what I originally came across, way back when.

The links above quote from historical authors that were at one time unfamiliar to me: Hartmann Grisar, Patrick O’Hare, Johannes Janssen, - and some that were familiar to me- like Will Durant and, Roland Bainton. Also, I was amazed to find the writer of these links seemed so familiar with Luther’s writings in German and Latin (and some of those dating back to the 16th Century!): Works (Werke), Weimar ed., 1883, Werke, Erlangen ed., 1868, De Servo Arbitrio, in Op. Lat, (Latin Works: Erlangen ed., 1829), Werke, (German) Wittenberg ed., 1559, Tischreden (Table-Talk), L.C.12.s., Werke, Halle ed., Luther's Letters, De Wette - Seidemann, Berlin, 1828.

Now, these editions of Luther’s writings were not readily available. Some are quite difficult to track down. The amazing citations from the above German and Latin editions were taken from secondary sources (the authors I mentioned above). So I tracked down some of these secondary sources. There is an entire corpus of Roman Catholic writings that were not only against Luther and the Reformation, but were passionately and viciously against Luther and the Reformation. The result of my research can be found here:

The Roman Catholic Understanding of Luther (Part 1)

When I started researching Roman Catholic approaches to Luther, I was quite perplexed to find out that many of the Roman Catholic “anti-Luther” writers had been answered, in some cases, over fifty years ago, by very capable Lutheran writers. But unfortunately, these writings were not readily available. There were a good handful of articles from theological journals, but these are not so easy to locate (I spent many hours in the basement of Westminster’s library scouring the periodicals and journals).

Any good biography on Luther will deal with some of the issues brought up by Roman Catholics. But often, these treatments are sparse. To my knowledge, only two full-length books (in English) exist that directly respond to Roman Catholic treatments of Luther:

W.H.T. Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1917)

Richard Stauffer, Luther As Seen By Catholics (Virginia: John Knox Press, 1967)

Both of the books are worthy investments. It’s unfortunate, but more web pages vilifying Luther may actually exist than those dedicated to presenting his work fairly.

So, one of my “hobbies” has been trying to fill a need, so to speak, in cyber-space. I’ve tried to pick out those aspects of Luther brought up by Catholics, and present the other side of the story: the side that great Lutheran writers had presented decades ago.

I say it's a "hobby" because I don't think it's as important as other things worthy of discussion- like "faith alone" or sola scriptura. Unfortunately, when one engages Roman Catholics on these subjects, a digression is sometimes put in play that seeks to link Luther's life with these subjects. It is sometimes argued or implied: "Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura cannot be what the Bible teaches, because Luther's personal life was so sinful."

If by some chance, any of my research can put a discussion of these important subjects back on track, I will feel as if I've done some good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

And the winner is....

ME! Just kidding! :)

The winner to the Hebrews Commentary giveaway is Pastor Robert Cole!

Congratulations Pastor Cole! Too bad you're too far away for me to borrow these books.

I would also like to give a big thank you to Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground Ground Christian Books! I've had the opportunity to meet Mike at two different FIRE conferences that were held here in the Atlanta area. He is certainly a nice guy and I appreciate the books he offers. I just wish my wife would let me buy more. I encourage you all to take a look around at the great books they have to offer on their site.

Thank you folks who read the blog and responded. We may do more of these in the future. So let me know what you think about having future drawings.



Widening the Road with Monotheism

Online Roman Catholics often quote Newman in their discussions with Protestants: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” After some recent combox discussions here and here, I was reminded of one of my own renderings of the Newman quote, “to be deep in the Book of Romans is to cease to be Roman Catholic”.

The discussion in the last few posts have centered around some quotes by Pope John Paul II and three associated paragraphs from the catechism:

#841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

#847 “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

#1260 “"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

Some Roman Catholics seem to maintain that it is possible for some people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ. It’s a “mystery” that is somehow through Christ, but without knowledge of Christ. Unfortunately for their argument, this idea goes against the basic truths of God's revelation.

In discussing these ideas and related to the RCC’s courting of Muslims, the assertion has been made by some RCs that monotheism is a sign of God’s grace working in a person’s life. As best as I can follow the argument, a monotheist has a better chance at salvation than, say, a polytheist. From the RC point of view, the fact that someone is a monotheist means they are seeking God, and since no one seeks God without his grace, anyone outwardly seeking a single god must be doing so by God's graces.

In my mind, this sounds like a Roman Catholic version of “many roads lead to heaven” with God drawing people by his grace primarily, but not necessarily, to Christ. Religious people, especially monotheists, are such because they are responding to God's universal drawing and "doing the will of God in accordance with their understanding of it". In defense of some of these ideas, some RC commenters have been relying heavily on two prooftexts: Acts 17:27 and Romans 10:2. I would like to address the Romans verse briefly, I hope I can find time eventually to address the Acts citation also.

Opening with the latest framing of Romans 10:2 by an RC commenter:

How is it possible that they had zeal for the true God? By grace,

I am still baffled at what this verse proves in the RC's mind. Looking at it in context:

"Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:1-4

Their zeal is not based on knowledge. They do not know Christ and they are not submitting to Him.

The Judaizers were monotheists and “zealous” also. Was their zealousness, condemned by Paul, by God’s grace?

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good,” Gal 4:17-18

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Gal 6:12

Paul was “zealous” in his persecution of the church prior to his conversion. Was his “zealousness for God” (by persecuting Christ) by grace?

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless… For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Phil 3:2-5, 18-19

“Then Paul said: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,” Acts 22:2-4

Considering what Paul said to Timothy about his life pre-Christ, his "zeal for God" as a Jew hardly sounds consistent with positive movement towards God:

"I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Tim 1:12-14

Likewise, most of the Pharisees would have been considered “zealous for God” (as Paul was as a Pharisee) but it was without knowledge.

Here is what Jesus said to the Pharisees about their rejection of him:

“Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." John 8:42-47

Were the Pharisees children of the devil by grace? They certainly were outwardly “zealous for God”.

Now, I think the RC usage of "grace" here is a bit different than mine, but even using their broad definition, I think their prooftexts fail to show what they think they show. It has not been shown that anyone who is seeking "a god" is doing so by God's grace. If it were grace, then grace is doing some weird things. There also seems to be a misunderstanding on the RC's part around the difference of “knowing of God” and “knowing God”. Romans 1 addresses this:

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1: 20-25

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hebrews Commentary Book Giveaway!

Update: I plan on closing comments/entries tomorrow at 12pm est and announcing the winner sometime tomorrow evening. Comments are now closed.

Exegetical and Expository
by William Gouge

In conjunction with Solid Ground Christian Books we are doing a book giveaway by random drawing! Click the title above to go to Solid Ground's page about these books. It is a two volume with an $85 list price!

Here's what Charles Spurgeon had to say about William Gouge, "
We greatly prize Gouge. Upon any topic which he touches he gives outlines which may supply sermons for months."

How it works: In SEVEN days we will have a drawing to see who gets the book. Please make sure there is an email address available to notify you if you are the winner or we may determine that another drawing take place. Just sign up ONCE below in the com box to enter. No anonymous entries will be accepted. Upon winning your information will be forwarded to Solid Ground so they can mail you the books.

Special thanks to Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground.



p.s. If your email address isn't publicly displayed or you're not comfortable doing so and you win I will provide a way for you to contact me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vatican on Mortal Sins

From FoxNews:

After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalization. The list, published yesterday in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the Pope deplored the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession.

…The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell.”

…Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, said after a week-long Lenten seminar for priests that surveys showed 60 percent of Catholics in Italy no longer went to confession.

He said that priests must take account of “new sins which have appeared on the horizon of humanity as a corollary of the unstoppable process of globalization.” Whereas sin in the past was thought of as being an individual matter, it now has “social resonance.”

“You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos,” he said.

Bishop Girotti said that mortal sins also included taking or dealing in drugs, and social injustice which caused poverty or “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few.”
Update: It looks like this story was misreported by most News agencies. For a Catholic perspective see here and here. The original source of the material (L’Osservatore Romano) should be available online in the next day or two.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Human Openess to God?

"In Nostra aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, the Second Vatican Council teaches that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.

…The “seeds of truth” present and active in the various religious traditions are a reflection of the unique Word of God, who “enlightens every man coming into world” (cf. Jn 1:9) and who became flesh in Christ Jesus (cf. Jn 1:14). They are together an “effect of the Spirit of truth operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body” and which “blows where it wills” (Jn 3:8; cf. Redemptor hominis, nn. 6, 12).

…It must first be kept in mind that every quest of the human spirit for truth and goodness, and in the last analysis for God, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The various religions arose precisely from this primordial human openness to God. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience. Handed on to others, this experience took form in the doctrines, rites and precepts of the various religions.

In every authentic religious experience, the most characteristic expression is prayer. Because of the human spirit’s constitutive openness to God’s action of urging it to self-transcendence, we can hold that “every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person”.

…Normally, “it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour (cf. Ad gentes, nn. 3, 9, 11)”

…For the reasons mentioned here, the attitude of the Church and of individual Christians towards other religions is marked by sincere respect, profound sympathy and, when possible and appropriate, cordial collaboration. This does not mean forgetting that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator and Saviour of the human race. Nor does it mean lessening our missionary efforts, to which we are bound in obedience to the risen Lord’s command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). The attitude of respect and dialogue is instead the proper recognition of the “seeds of the Word” and the “groanings of the Spirit”."

-Pope John Paul II

"as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." Romans 3:10-12,23-25

Friday, March 07, 2008

Busy Minds Are Working to Make Black=White

"According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic. " [source]

Some are probably wondering if Rome can pull this off- that is, coming up with some way to condemn someone for heresy without that person being a "heretic."

I say they probably can. They can stretch language and logic as far it needs to be in order to protect the balloon from being popped. My guess is, since Luther was not specifically named at Trent as a heretic, it will be argued the Church never officially declared him a "heretic." But what about those particular papal bulls and earlier writings that condemn him? Well, they were written before the proclamation of papal infallibility, so how do we know with certainty the Pope wasn't just expressing his own opinion on Luther when he condemned him?

If I recall, the great Catholic scholar Hubert Jedin argued that no "official" judgment against Luther exists by which a Catholic is bound.

Here is a blog post I put together back in 2006:

"...I dont get this, if Luther is not in hell, is anyone at all? if a man that leads millions into a false belief system is not punished, how can any other "mortal sin" warrant it?..." -Musings From a Catholic Answers Participant

The subject of Martin Luther is always a hot topic on the Catholic Answers forums. A recent thread with only 39 posts generated over 500 views in about 2 days. The thread was, Luther’s Eternal Destiny. A person named Johannes raised an excellent question about whether or not the Roman Catholic Church knows who is in Hell and who is not, particularly Martin Luther:

I read in an RC apologetical work that the Roman Church makes no presumption concerning the eternal destiny of Martin Luther. Is that assertion true, and if so, has it always been the position of the Roman Church? It seems to run contrary to the language of the papal bulls issued concerning Luther. Exsurge Domine said that the Pope could, "without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation..." Luther was nevertheless given time for repentance, so that he might escape "the death of a sinner." But Luther obviously did not repent. Decet Romanum Pontificem spoke of Luther's "depraved and damnable purpose." It called for any of the faithful who were sympathetic to the Lutherans to shun them, so that they "may escape divine vengeance and any degree of participation in their damnation." It further declared concerning Luther and his followers: "...these and the other sentences, censures and punishments... we decree to have fallen on all these men to their damnation." Clarification would be appreciated."

Now this is a well-constructed question. Of course, the mantra response was basically: The Church has made no specific pronouncement on Luther’s eternal state, or more precisely- the Roman Catholic Church has never declared any particular man is in Hell, be it Luther or even Judas.

Now- the implication strongly suggests that Luther, if he remained unrepentant, is currently in Hell, according to Roman Catholicism. This probably pleases many Catholic Answers forums participants.

Johannes made some excellent observations during the discussion:

I know the bulls do not say that the Pope is damning Luther. However, there is a big difference between (a) damning someone yourself, and (b) finding someone guilty of offenses that will certainly lead to eternal damnation, unless they are repented of. It looks to me like (b) is what the bull is doing. And if that is the case, then Luther's failure to repent would seem to require the conclusion that he is now in hell.”

The solemn threats of the bulls do not seem to be dealing with a mere probable destiny. Rather, it looks like they claim that Luther must either repent before he dies, or face damnation after his death.”

I still cannot see how, if the bulls are read in a straightforward way, and understood according to their original meaning, anyone can conclude that there is not grounds to say that Luther would be presumed to have been damned. The standard modern response to this appears to be the assertion that the church never directly or explicitly said that Luther was damned. That is of course true. But it ignores what seems like a simple, albeit indirect, inference from the bulls. For if someone is authoritatively called upon to repent because he is guilty of sins entailing damnation, and if he dies obstinately refusing to repent, then, even without any further declaration, there would appear to be only one possible presumption about his fate.”

In my own studies, I find a shift in attitude toward Luther in Roman Catholic circles. Previous to the work of Joseph Lortz, many Catholic writings against Luther had no problem locating him far from heaven. For instance, a contemporary of Luther’s, Cochlaeus, said Luther was a child of the devil and possessed by the devil- Satan then dragged Luther off to Hell when he died. I tend to think that if you were to poll 100 Catholic scholars in 1560 they would say Luther was condemned as a heretic and got what he deserved- a direct journey to Hell. If you were to poll 100 Catholic scholars in 2006, the responses would be varied. Why is this?

After Lortz ‘s work in the early 20th Century, an ecumenical wave went through the church. Now, it's hard to find Current RCC scholars and apologists willing to be so certain of Luther's fate. Catholic scholarship shifted from its early focus of evaluating Luther "the person" to evaluating Luther "the theologian". The focus shifted from painting Luther as the bogeyman to evaluating his theology. When the emphasis was placed on his character (which was grossly distorted by many earlier catholic works, as many scholars agree)- there was more of an emphasis on him as being the direct voice of Satan, thus damned along with Satan. But with the shift towards evaluating his theology, there has been give and take among Catholic scholarship, This makes things like ecumenical treatises JDDJ and ECT possible.

Of course, protestants are no longer heretics, but "separated brethren" in current Roman Catholic thought. Gone are the days of the sentiment of the Council of Florence which declared:

"It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. " (Denzinger 714).

Now the RCC loves everybody: section 841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

I don't know if he intended this, But in Johannes closing comments he popped the big RCC ecumenical smiley face balloon:

What particularly bothers me about this whole matter is that what was actually done in the sixteenth century appears to have been reinterpreted or muddied in more recent times in order to serve the purposes of, for example, the ecumenical movement. It is interesting to me that many today are strenuously pressing the claim that there has never been any presumption about Luther's fate. My guess, which may or may not be right, is that this is in large part motivated by modern ecumenical sensibilities.”

Ultimately, this matter is for me one of honesty. I would sincerely hope that there is some other more secure foundation for the modern claim that Luther was never officially presumed to be damned. If there's not, simply telling the world that there neither is nor ever has been a presumption seems improper, since it omits a detail [that Luther never repented before his death] that would put the reality in a whole other light.”

Agreed Johannes. Thank you for the insightful comments.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Catholic E-pologetic Methodology #3

This is a personal favorite of mine, of Catholic apologetics in action.

II Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for every good work."

James White: "But, finally, we remember Mr. Madrid's challenge to show him a verse that teaches sufficiency. Mr. Madrid, I would like to direct you to the Scriptural standard, "by the mouth of two or three witnesses shall a fact be established." I first refer you to Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon, where we encounter the definition given for the semantic domain of ejxartivzw, I quote, 'To make someone completely adequate, or sufficient for something; to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified; adequacy." They translate our passage as, "completely qualified for every good deed.' While Louw and Nida give us two witnesses, I wish to direct you as well to the well-known scholarly resource by Fritz Reinecker and Cleon Rogers, entitled Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Here, we find the following, in regards to both terms, here in verse 17: 'a[rtios': fit, complete, capable, sufficient, i.e., able to meet all demands; ejxartivzw: completely outfitted, fully furnished, fully equipped, fully supplied.' "

Patrick Madrid: "Mr. White is resting his case on the say-so of a few Protestant Greek scholars. That to me is not an infallible source of authority, Mr. White, the Bible is. Now, I didn't mean to denigrate the Biblical language, and I'm sorry that you took it that way, when I said that your argument was irrelevant. What I meant was, that you can use all the Protestant Biblical scholars' citations that you want to show that a word means something, but, notice that the word "sufficient" came as the third or fourth definition, or the third or fourth meaning, that was assigned to this word. It was not the primary meaning. I am not going to debate what this Protestant Greek scholar may or may not have said. First of all, they're Protestant, so they're naturally going to give a spin to something that a Catholic scholar might see something different in. Now Mr. White might respond by saying that, "Well, Greek is Greek, Mr. Madrid, you can't argue on the basis of ideology or politics." I'm going to save that for some future point, simply because we don't have the time to go into what the Catholic scholars say on that issue. So I'm not going to go into that now."


Catholics: Blurring Lines with Muslims

Some recent discussions in the comboxes here have reminded me of a very unfortunate reality: Catholics represent Christianity to many Muslims. There are no winners in that exchange.

Note the words of Pope John Paul II in an address to Muslim leaders in 2001:

“It is important that Muslims and Christians continue to explore philosophical and theological questions together, in order to come to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each others’ religious beliefs. Better mutual understanding will surely lead, at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions not in opposition, as has happened too often in the past, but in partnership for the good of the human family.

…For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness. Jesus teaches us that we must pardon others’ offences if God is to pardon us our sins (cf. Mt 6:14).

As members of the one human family and as believers, we have obligations to the common good, to justice and to solidarity. Interreligious dialogue will lead to many forms of cooperation, especially in responding to the duty to care for the poor and the weak. These are the signs that our worship of God is genuine.

As we make our way through life towards our heavenly destiny, Christians feel the company of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; and Islam too pays tribute to Mary and hails her as "chosen above the women of the world" (Quran, III:42). The Virgin of Nazareth, the Lady of Saydnâya, has taught us that God protects the humble and "scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts" (Lk 1:51). May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the One, Merciful God be praise and glory for ever.” Source

Christians and Muslims are not believers together, nor do we worship the same God. We must call all Muslims to abandon their false religion and place their faith in Christ alone as Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of sins and salvation. Blurring the lines between Christianity and Islam is a shameful practice by Roman Catholics and just another example of how far the gospel of Rome has drifted.

"Is Bible Reading Necessary for Salvation?—Undoubtedly the Divine Scriptures have been given to the whole Church and to all the children of the Church for their instruction. The Bible is certainly an ordinary and universal means of instruction, but at the same time there is no universal precept, either divine or apostolic, that all the faithful—every man, woman and child—should personally read the Bible. Heaven is open to illiterates. It is the doctrine of the Bible that matters, not knowledge of the letter. Those who teach religion—the pastors of the Church—should know the Book, but the faithful may, according to circumstances, know and live the faith which the Bible teaches without having spelled one sentence of its pages. Even in this present age of paper and of printing numberless Catholics live admirable and even sublime lives of faith, hope and charity without any direct reading of Holy Writ. They nourish their minds with the substance of the Bible through the liturgy of the Mass, through the mysteries of the Rosary, through the prayers which they know by heart. And through the sermons which they hear. Just as in countries which have an old traditional culture illiterate peasants can have an exquisite refinement of soul and manners, so also bookless peasants who have lived in the stream of Christian tradition can have all the grasp of faith and right living which are necessary for any, even the highest, degree of sanctity (cf. § 3i).

A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953), p. 11.

Catholic E-pologetic Methodology #2

"What I would suggest, if you wish to cut down on your response time, is to steal stuff from other folks. Steal things from my newsletters. Go to (Catholic Answers website) and use their search engine to look for articles on whatever topic you're discussing. Don't hesitate to lift verbiage from an article here and an article there. If you want to cite your source fine, but if you want to leave that out- I don't see any problem, as long as you're doing it in private correspondence."

"Another thing to keep in mind, is that you should be asking more questions than you answer. Asking a question takes a lot less time than writing an explanation. Don’t feel like you have to answer every single argument the other guy makes all at the same time. Narrow your discussion down to just one or two and deal with those before moving on to one or two others. If they ask a question that you don’t answer, and they ask it a second or third time, then just tell them you’ll get to that question once they answer this or that question that you asked which has gone unanswered by them."

Source: Apologetics for the Masses – Issue #77

Monday, March 03, 2008

Catholic E-pologetic Methodology #1

I wanted to see what it was like to do pop-Catholic apologetics, so I found this old snippet from a book from 1856. It seems fairly easy... just find a wild quote from a book long out-of-print, and type it out. I've even footnoted it as it needs to be.

"On this subject I find an account too curious to be omitted here. 'The Dean told me that an old Canon, a familiar friend of Calvin's, had formerly related to him the manner in which John Calvin died, and that he learned it from a man called Petit Jean, who was Calvin's valet and who attended on him to his last expiring breath. This man after his master's death, left Geneva, and went to reside at Noyon. He related to this Canon that Calvin on his death bed made much lamentation, and that oftentimes he heard him cry out aloud and bitterly bewail his condition, and that one day he called him and said; Go to my study, and bring from such a part, 'The Office of our Lady according to the use at Noyon.' He went and brought it, and Calvin continued a long time praying to God from this office: he mentioned that the people of Geneva were unwilling to let many persons visit him in his illness, and said that he labored under many complaints, such as imposthumes, the rash, the piles, the stone, the gravel, the gout, consumption, shortness of breath, and spitting of blood; and that he was struck by God, as of whom the prophet speaks Tetiget eos in posteriora, opprobrium sempiternum dedit eis'." [Amicable Discussion, p.60]

Dr. Hargrave addresses Southern Baptists & Calvinism

An astute reader informed me of this video. As the screen shots tell us, yet again, Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism must be distinguished from one another for SBCers. Gene Bridges recently addressed this same issue. Dr. Hargrave gives an important message to consider in the SBC.

Dr. Hargrave talks about labels and being honest about them. I will just give one quote from the video.
What works has become more important than what is true in our pulpits and in our congregations. We have become less theological in our denomination.

Good stuff!