Thursday, January 27, 2005

Should be a good one

No matter whether you agree or disagree with James White, the man does know how to speak with confidence and persuasiveness. The debate he scheduled for his 2005 conference should be fantastic. Pastor White is taking on John Dominic Crossan, the ex-priest who is arguably the most prominent face for the Jesus Seminar. Although there are a million things on which White and I might disagree, I think Christianity will be quite well represented in this contest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Continuing Dialogue with Observer

[This post will continue the dialogue with "Observer" begun here.]

I'll put Observer's words in blue, and any previous responses I made in red. This reply is in black.

Remember, I stated we were focusing on initial justification from the Catholic perspective. If you will not grant that initial justification is by faith alone there is no sense to discuss the judgment at the eschaton. ...
Yes, and we can discuss perseverance of the saints or final justification( I’m speaking as a Catholic) later. I was trying to stick to initial justification. Is initial justification by faith alone is the issue before us.

>> The point is that there's no difference between initial justification and ongoing justification in that respect. It's all by faith working in charity. Justification is justification.

Actually a number of the passages says more than we are justified by faith, but they also say not of works. Furthermore, I don’t see how it can be argued that many of those passages could be interpreted as the works faith creates when they are actually arguing against works in justification. ...
You don’t have to show me that faith produces works, because I already affirm that.

>> My argument is that they aren't excluding works generally. St. Paul is using the term in a particular way, and it isn't a general reference to all human action. Faith justifies by producing works (ordinarily).

"Where we disagree is on the "not by works" interpretation. In that respect, I've given an argument for why this refers to works of human effort and not faith working in charity."

I’m assuming you meant "*not* works of human effort but faith working in charity"? If so, I’m not trying to be uncivil or mean, but giving an argument does not mean it is a good or convincing one. Your main point seem to be if a person is doing any activity while believing than this is an act of charity and rules out faith alone. You make this argument once again down below and I will address there. I know the last post was long, but I did address this argument there also in a number of places.

>> You've interpreted by statement correctly (viz., the "works" in "not by works" refers to human effort). And my point is not that any activity done by a faithful person is faith working in charity. Certain works are justifying, and which works depends on the person and the circumstances. Normatively, initial justification is by baptism.

"The act of charity was touching the hem of Jesus's robe in the former case (caritas includes love of God). Obviously, the paralyzed man could do little but believe, although presumably, he wished to be lowered to touch Jesus."

So your position equates to anything you are doing while believing constitutes an act of charity. In the case of the woman it was her touching Jesus’ garment. In the case of the paralyzed it his desired to be lowered. In the case of the wretched tax collector I guess you could say it was confession. Like I said in the other post, faith alone does not mean you have to be dormant with the right thoughts in your head. Based on your reasoning Paul argument is a non sequitur when he proves that Abraham was justified before circumcision. In other words, the Jews could forcefully argue that circumcision was the act of charity.
Initially I said:"Well, why did Paul go out his way to show that circumcision was not needed to be joined with faith as the means of justification?"

>> It's not a non sequitur, because Paul is contrasting the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. The view of the Old Covenant is that the Law brings people into communion with God, first by entering into the covenant through circumcision, then by abiding in the Law afterward. The reason Paul focuses on Abraham's circumcision in particular is not because it's human action but because it is the initiation into the people of the Law. IOW, circumcision is the most important example that Paul could pick. If Abraham could be declared righteous before he was even under the Law, that proves that the Law is not the means of righteousness.

Likewise one who walks the isle to confess Christ could equally argue that is their act of charity produced by faith. Or even the confession itself. We know the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10 if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord than you shall be saved. Why is this confession with the mouth a sufficient act of charity for justification?

>> Sure, but whether it is or not has nothing to do with whether the person can argue that it's produced by charity. It only matters whether the act is actually a gift of God's grace (Christ working through you) or not. In particular cases, namely the Sacraments, God has promised that He will be present to provide a sure sign for the faithful. That's the normative case, although there are obviously exceptions in particular cases (Abraham, Christ's miracles, etc.).

And BTW, if you read Romans 10:10 as strictly as you do, then it is contradictory, since it says one is justified by believing and saved by confessing. If you believe in sola fide, justification and salvation come as one piece, so it would be contradictory. I would simply go with the interpretations that belief and confession are part of the process by which one is justified and one is saved; Paul isn't referring to the actual instants that these actions take place.

"But I think He was talking about their acts of charity produced by faith. In fact, I can do better than think it; I can show it:[citing Luke 8:43-48]. The healing power did not go out from Jesus until He was touched (the act of faith)."

I think you are confusing the physical healing with the spiritual healing. The physical healing is used to demonstrate that Jesus has the authority to provide the Spiritual healing and vindicate His claims about who He is.
>> But the physical healing is a true sign of the spiritual healing. The sign and the thing signified aren't separated either here or in the Sacraments. Why would one think that they are separate, apart from its convenience for rationalizing sola fide?

Why couldn’t the act of faith have been her desire to touch Jesus? Or any of her acts right up to the point of touching him? Who can know what act of charity will be the means to their justification in your system?

>> It could have been, but it wasn't in that case. We have normative acts of charity in the Sacraments, so that the faithful have a sure sign to know what acts of charity are the means of justification. It's always possible that there would be other justifying acts, but with the Sacraments, it's not ordinarily the case.

Initally:"However, faith alone does not mean one is motionless thinking the right thoughts, normally individuals will be engage in some sort of activity. You therefore conclude that the activity one is engaged in is therefore an act of charity and this rules out faith alone. JP:"Correct." Response:Yes, but it doesn’t follow as I have pointed out a number of times. If this is what disproves faith alone then I don’t know anyone that believes in it. With your broad definition of works of charity then everyone is committing a work of charity at initial belief which makes me wonder why you would call baptism the ordinary work of charity.

>> Not every act performed by a faithful person is a work of charity, so not every act is justifying. Simply believing is ordinarily NOT a work of charity; it requires something else to complete it (ordinarily baptism). I should have been clearer on that point; I was agreeing that faith normally produces activity, and that works of charity are *always* acts produced in this way, but not every act performed by a faithful person is an act of charity. That is determined by God's grace alone.

Well, I don’t think James changes anything in this regard. James is discussing how those who are justified demonstrate that they are. Once again this fits with everything I have been saying. If you are contending that James is dealing with initial justification then I think you will have major problems with the examples that he uses(i.e. Abraham ) to prove his point.

>> I perceive no problem for Catholicism. James speaks of his justification in faithfully offering his son on the altar. Abraham was also justified when he left his homeland at God's command (Hebr. 11:8-10) and by sustained belief in God's promises (Rom 4:16-22). These multiple declarations of righteousness are quite in line with Catholic thinking.

Initially I said:"I agree that the Old Covenant sacraments are not the New Covenant sacraments, however would you not equally classify the sacrament of circumcision as an act of charity just as you consider baptism an act of charity."
JP:It could be, but it isn't necessarily so (IOW, one could be circumcised with an uncircumcised heart). It is unlike baptism where there is an explicit promise of regeneration and the remission of [s]ins.
Response:Well of course I believe the same is true for baptism. Someone who doesn’t have faith could be baptized, would you still say they are born again? Remember without faith it is impossible to please God. As far as the explicit promise, there are also explicit promises for circumcision and many more for faith, but that never stopped anyone from looking at them in context of all of the Scriptures.

>> None of those other things promise regeneration and remission of sins, though. And yes, I believe that a valid baptism (not performed as a sham, but truly the act of the Church) confers grace, and even if someone produces an internal obstacle to that grace (which would be an odd scenario indeed), the grace is truly conferred and becomes effective once that obstacle is removed. That's what a true sign (sacramentum) of grace means.

I quoted [Romans 8] v8 which speaks of those "controlled by the sinful nature" not being able to please God. In that chapter it is speaking of two classes of men, unregenerate and regenerate. The unregenerate cannot please God. This is basically saying the same thing as without faith it is impossible to please God.

>> I don't see where the passages necessarily equates regeneration with being in the Spirit. It says that those who are in the Spirit will do good, and those who are not in the Spirit cannot do good, but it doesn't say that only those who have the indwelling of the Spirit (the regenerate) are "in the Spirit." The Spirit acts in a number of ways and can even give faith without regenerating, so the two things aren't necessarily connected. In fact, this passage actually shows that the Spirit can be drive out of those who are regenerated ("... if in fact the Spirit dwells in you" is spoken to born-again believers).

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

As I was checking my Hotmail account, I noticed that there was an article linked on the home page titled "How to raise a spiritual child." Suffice it to say that I was a bit curious about what MSN considered to be the correct method to go about such a thing, so I read the article. To give you an example of how far off the deep end some people have gone, I submit the following excerpt (emphasis in original):

Don't pretend to have all the answers. When your child asks where people go when they die, answer honestly: "Nobody knows for sure, but some people think they go to heaven to be close to God. Other people think they're born again in a new body." Inevitably, your child will ask what you think. If you have a strong belief, share it. If not, it's okay to admit that there are some questions people spend their whole lives trying to figure out -- and this is one of them.

Glad to see that all religious beliefs are simply personal opinions with no connection for reality. I'd hate to see somebody have the nerve to believe that God actually exists.

Monday, January 17, 2005

To remind me why some people aren't worth the time

I am reproducing this quote from Eric Svendsen, Ph.D.

Just to recap, this [sic, referring to I. Shawn McElhinney] is a Roman Catholic apologist. Of those things that he includes among his "interests" are: Alcohol, Beer, Nightcaps (not the hat), Red Wine, Tequila (various flavours), and Whiskey. Isn't that list just a tad bit "heavy" on the drinking side? I wonder if he plans to put himself into a drunken stupor before he comes to beat me up? Or perhaps he was already in one when he wrote his comments? We can't really know, I guess, but that certainly is some list. And he certainly has given credence to the old saying: "Wherever you find three or four good Catholics, there's bound to be a fifth."

I don't know where that's an old saying. The first time I ever heard it was a self-deprecating remark made by my Southern Baptist roomie at A&M, replacing "Catholic" with "Baptist" and referring sarcastically to the inconsistencies between the behavior of Baptists in church and Baptists elsewhere (and since Catholics don't share that bit of pietism, I'm not sure where the humor is in the substitution). At the time, it struck me as one of those "I can get away with saying it, but you can't" things, precisely because it is presumptuous for an outsider to remark upon the shortcomings of an insular group (not to mention that such generalizations are rarely true). Such a remark might be the sort of thing that one could get away with saying to a close personal friend, if you knew that the relationship permitted that sort of thing. But Dr. Svendsen is not my friend, nor is he a friend of any of the numerous Catholics frequenting the board at which this reply was directed. In this unguarded moment of irritation, we got to see just what kind of a person that Dr. Svendsen is: a bigot who thinks it's funny to stereotype a class of people he doesn't happen to like. Of course, this simply makes manifest a characteristic that is obvious in his arguments: an irrational antipathy toward Catholics that has long since compromised his ability to engage in reasonable dialogue or argumentation.


UPDATE -- Numerous commenters on Dave's blog have offered their commentary on Svendsen's jackassery. No endorsement of any of these views by the owner of this blog is expressed or implied by reproducing them.

Eric Svendsen wrote: "One of the regular 'commenters' at DA’s blog is a man named Jonathan Prejean. I don’t normally respond to mere commenters of blogs, but…" And then he rambled on for awhile in his usual way.
(…parody warning…)
Here is what I find so very troubling about what's going on with Svendsen. Only two blog posts after writing the above, Svendsen went on to discuss yet another mere commenter—Shawn. I'm afraid that by Svendsen's own standards, that post about Shawn violates Svendsen's solemn oath, quoted above, that he does not frequently reply to mere commenters.
Let's be clear on the facts here, since this is a serious charge. Recall that Svendsen came right out and said as clearly as one could ever hope for: "I don’t normally respond to mere commenters of blogs." But, despite this absolutely clear resolution, two out of his last four posts have, in fact, been responses to mere commenters. How much more "normal" does it get than 50%? Svendsen is systematically ignoring his "resolution" not to normally respond to mere commenters. This is a strategy of deceit! He behaves as though his claim that he does not normally reply to mere commenters was never written! Can that type of thing legitimately be chalked up to a "moment of weakness"? Of course not. It's ridiculous even to suggest such a thing.
Further, if Svendsen replies to my post here, then he is showing—*obviously*—that he intends to violate his solemn oath not to normally reply to mere commenters, even when he's reminded of that oath. So if he replies, he is only proving yet further, and beyond any reasonable doubt, that he engages in a strategy of deceit. But, of course, if he doesn't reply, then that is proof enough that he is afraid to respond to my devastating arguments against his position. Svendsen's meltdown is nearly complete. QED.

Eric Svendsen takes these cheap shots because he is most likely a litte bitter over over CATHOLIC LEGATE handing him his butt over his anti-Marian polemics. His He├Ás hou argument is hysterical.
BTW I sometimes drink Zima & I'm secure enough with myself to publically admit it.

Very interesting.
A couple years ago on their closed-to-the-public message board forum at NoTRoman, Svendsen made a big to-do about both my homebrewing hobby and my photos of beer-related festivals and other events after banning me for taking David The King to task for his obnoxious and ill-mannered behavior.
In the process, both "Dr." Svendsen and His Majesty referred to both myself and my homebrewing compadres as "drunks," which only reveals their abysmal ignorance of the homebrewing hobby and the craft brewing industry.
Apparently, "Dr." Svendsen has a preoccupation with the drinking habits, real or imagined, of others. This kind of obsessiveness is usually indicative of a recovering alcoholic, or a practicing but closet alcoholic, or one who is otherwise incapable of handling alcoholic beverages responsibly.
Where there is smoke, as the old saying goes, there is usually fire.

I've been looking over Shawn's list of interests, and I've noticed something particularly damning, which somehow escaped Svendsen's eagle eye. In the interests of advancing the cause of True Christianity** by dishonestly attacking the reputations of all those who are not believers in True Christianity—IOW, by engaging in Svendsen's own favored tactic—I shall now bring this evidence to light, much as it pains me to do so.
Shawn mentions that he likes, among other things: business, cigars, incense, Mexico, tea (and chai, which, of course, is some kind of crazy foreign word for tea), and travelling!!!
Could it be any clearer? Do I even need to point out what this list tells us about Shawn?
Well, just to be safe—I don't want you dishonest, dimwitted, drunken Catholics missing the point here—I will explain the import of this list.
Shawn is interested in "business," eh? Well, just what kind of business interests him? Since he also claims to be interested in Mexico and travelling, we can be sure that his business interests bring him south of the border regularly. Now, what kind of business would a drunkard like Shawn have way down in Old Mexico? Let's see, Shawn is also interested in incense. Well, as everyone knows, people only burn incense in their homes for one reason: to cover up other smells. And what other smell would Shawn be trying to cover up—a smell, mind you, that undoubtedly has some connection to his Mexican business? Safe to say that this smell has something to do with cigars, since they are also included on his list. But one needn't get cigars in Mexico. No, no, there are plenty of good cigars to be had in the US. And if American cigars aren't good enough, then one goes to Cuba, not to Mexico. So these have to be very interesting cigars, indeed. How do they fit into this list?
The missing link here is Shawn's openly admitted interest in tea. Yes, tea! And, as everyone knows, "tea" is an old jazz term for marijuana. And, as everyone also knows, lots of people who smoke tea like to hollow out—you guessed it— cigars and fill them back up with pot. And, as everyone knows, lots of people smuggle in marijuana from Mexico. And, as everyone knows, smuggling is a business.
It really couldn't be plainer. Shawn's list of interests is really a code, meant to convey his status as a drug peddler to other dope fiends on the internet, so they can email him and ask him to send them some packages of "cigars." Perhaps he even includes some incense in the packages to help the other degenerates cover up the stinky evidence of their crime.
Yes, I have broken the code and revealed the truth about Shawn. You would all be well advised to abandon Romanism and join up with me and Eric Svendsen in True Christianity! Otherwise, you'll all become hopeless pot addicts and tequila drinkers, burning your incense and trying to dodge border guards. You have been warned.
**True Christianity is defined thusly: whatever Eric Svendsen believes about stuff.

That about sums it up. You've got to either cry or laugh at that kind of display, and many Catholics have opted to laugh. Of course, one couldn't really help but laugh at this statement by Svendsen:

Here is a perfect example of why Dave Armstrong cannot be trusted with rightly representing the statements of those he opposes. My meaning here--as the context makes clear--was that DA'a decision did not involve merely shutting down the comments section of his blog (as did my decision, and James White's decision not to start a comments section, and Tim Enloe's decision); instead, his decision involved closing the blog to discussing "anti-catholic" apologetic issues (that, in context, is the meaning of "he's getting out of the apologetic blog business entirely!").

And this is the statement that was supposedly clear "in context:"

And now, as poetic justice would have it, Dave Armstrong is not merely closing the comments section of his apologetic blog--he's getting out of the apologetic blog business entirely!

If you need any proof that anti-Catholicism diminishes one's capacity for rational thought, just review the record here.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Oh really, Jason?

Replying to the exchange here:

"It's inconclusive, since Clement is addressing a category that includes a variety of subjects."

Then presumptively, one wouldn't think that a particular subject was being excluded, particularly when the context doesn't suggest it.

"No, there's no contradiction between saying on the one hand that Abraham was blessed through works and saying on the other hand that he was justified apart from works. You're assuming that there would be a contradiction where there actually wouldn't be one."

I'm not assuming anything. Clement himself draws the analogy between Abraham's blessings and the justification of the Christian. He says "All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves...." If Abraham's blessings came from works, and the justification of the Christian did not, then this analogy would break down.

"If he only mentions faith, why should we think that he meant to include works as well?...I'm arguing that Clement only mentions faith because only faith receives justification. That makes sense."

Why should we think that he didn't, particularly when we have good contextual evidence for thinking that he did?

"You used the word "contrasting"....So, I ask again, since Clement repeatedly refers to works of holiness in a positive sense, why should we think that something deficient is being referred to when he refers to works of holiness in chapter 32?"

Fair enough on the misunderstanding, but the point was that the categories are *different* (one meaning of contrasting), not that they are *opposed* to one another (another meaning). And since when does something being positive mean that it can't be deficient for a particular purpose?

"You can't be pure-hearted without faith. What you're trying to do is make works of holiness seem deficient.......I'm arguing that works of holiness are good works. That makes sense."

Sure you can. Non-Christians do plenty of things that aren't sinful and aren't done for sinful motives. I don't say that their actions of charity, for example, are deficient in the sense of not being good.

"Then you have to argue that Clement meant to include other types of works as a means of attaining justification, even though he only mentioned faith. Your interpretation is much more unnatural than mine."

Self-contradictions aren't natural. Transitions back and forth on particular subjects aren't natural. Assuming that something appearing in a class being described doesn't fall within the description (e.g., eternal life not being a reward for works) is not natural. You don't have anything like a natural reading, much less one that is more natural than mine.

"And I'm arguing that Clement refers to people always being justified in the same way because we are justified through faith, just like Abraham, without baptism or any other later works being added. That also makes sense."

Well, given that it certainly appears that he is arguing that Abraham was justified by faithful obedience, then I'd say we're justified just like Abraham too.

"No, Mathetes refers to Christ's *righteousness* being substitutionary as well. He refers to an "exchange" and a righteousness that "covers" sin and Jesus' righteousness justifying His people."

So does everyone who talks about substitutionary atonement. Reading imputed justification in here is simply anachronism.

"I'm giving examples of church fathers I agree with on this subject, so it makes no sense to claim that I view the fathers collectively as "morons". Even as far as the fathers I disagree with are concerned, I don't claim that they're "morons". If you disagree with the premillennialism of Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc., should I accuse you of thinking that they're 'morons'?"

If I accused them of failing to take note of the clear teaching of Scripture on the subject, then you certainly could. Modern-day Evangelics get around this by assuming an irrational and self-protecting worldview and working from the assumptions of that worldview, so it's not being "morons" so much as being uncritical of their assumptions.

"If you think that my interpretation of Paul is wrong, then explain why."

Not the point of the exchange, but suffice it to say that I think that the contrast between kinds of works in St. Paul is works of the law (human effort) and the obedience of faith (Christ working through us), which is exactly the opposition between Old and New covenants. In this context, when Paul just says "works," the connotation is not "any and all human action." Obviously, this is a central theme in his writing, since he is the Apostle to the Gentiles who are now being included within God's people.

"I agree that trying to explain why we think a historical source erred on a matter is helpful, but it isn't *necessary*. For example, scholars speculate about how Irenaeus (or his sources) could have been wrong about the age of Jesus, but nobody can claim to know for sure why he was wrong. We don't have to know *why* he was wrong in order to know *that* he was wrong. Similarly, people who reject premillennialism wouldn't have to know for certain why Papias, Justin Martyr, and other early fathers (or their sources) accepted the doctrine in order to reject it. If scripture is silent or unclear on a matter, such as where Peter died, then the church fathers can clarify it for us. Thus, I conclude that Peter died in Rome. But the more explicitly scripture discusses a subject, the less we would need later sources (the church fathers or other sources) to inform us or clarify the issue for us. Since justification is a subject discussed frequently and explicitly in scripture, there isn't as much of a place for patristic clarification on that subject as there is for others."

This may literally be the most illogical thing I have seen generated by a Protestant's keyboard. You have stated the burden of proof exactly backward. If a subject is discussed more explicitly in Scripture, then it stands to reason that there would be substantially fewer mistakes among the people familiar with it. Historically speaking, widespread contradiction of a doctrine that you believe to be taught clearly in Scripture is where you have the HIGHEST explanatory burden, and you are arguing that it is LOWEST. It is *absolutely* necessary for you to explain these cases; that is practically the definition of your burden in making a historical case for your position. Explaining why there might have been eschatological differences on material that was only questionably Scriptural (i.e., the Apocalypse of John) written in highly metaphorical language and dealing with prophecy is almost trivial; it's obviously an area where the meaning isn't going to be obvious. Explaining why Christians unanimously believe something that is specifically and clearly anathematized in Scripture is another thing entirely.

"Since justification is a subject discussed frequently and explicitly in scripture, there isn't as much of a place for patristic clarification on that subject as there is for others."

You may not have to explain error in every case, but when you say that something is discussed "frequently" and "explicitly," you are clearly taking on the historical burden to explain why the belief was almost-universally if not universally contradicted among the church fathers. And don't give me some nonsense about "human tendencies toward legalism."

"How do I think the fathers who erred on matters related to justification did so? Surely the answer would vary from case to case. And some of the answers may not be available to us. But I think we can put forward some reasonable possibilities. "

I'd love to see them, because the following sure don't work:

"With something like Hermas' doctrine of limited repentance, I imagine that there was an overreaction to sin in the church. Limiting the number of times a Christian could repent probably seemed like an effective means of limiting sin. "

But if he believes in limited repentance, he must also believe that salvation can be lost by a Christian. Odd that he would think that if sola fide is taught frequency and explicitly in Scripture.

"Or why did some fathers believe in universalism? Probably for many of the same reasons people do today (disliking the doctrine of an eternal Hell, concern for individuals we know who seem to have died as an unbeliever, etc.) or other philosophical reasons."

Yes, and those "other philosophical reasons" include Scriptural beliefs in the Incarnation and redemption, which are, incidentally, entirely inconsistent with sola fide. I wonder where they got those?

"Why did Cyprian reject heretical baptism?"

Because the question isn't answered in Scripture as far as I can tell. Principles from elsewhere had to be applied by the judgment of the Church to answer the question. See, Catholic theology recognizes that there are problems that are definitively resolved through the life of the Church even though there were a multiplicity of views on the subject. This is because some topics are theologically difficult, which means that people won't perceive the full implications of each and every piece of revelation (and sometimes, there simply was no sure way to tell which belief was correct until the Church resolved it). That's why some beliefs are not "allowed" any more, even though they were before; the wheat of tradition is separated from the chaff, preserving the good and discarding the bad. That would be "development."

"Why did Ambrose believe that original sin is remitted through foot washing?"

First, the doctrine of original sin wasn't even entirely formulated in Ambrose's day. Second, the rite was a traditional part of the liturgy, and it wouldn't be at all unusual to speculate that it had sacramental effect before the Church formally identified the Sacraments. Third, this practice was incorporated with anointing of the sick, which does forgive venial sins, so it's not even entirely erroneous. None of these things are obvious at first glance; they involve careful discernment of Scripture and tradition and resolution by the Church.

"Sometimes the fathers themselves give us an explanation, and sometimes they don't."

Well, you had darn sure better come up with one.

" I think one of the factors involved is the general human tendency toward trying to attain favor from God through good behavior, even when God is offering something as a free gift."

To the point of universally believing something clearly anathematized by Scripture? Besides, that's not a historical explanation unless you can show specifically how this theme is incorporated in their reasoning. Otherwise, it's simply amorphous pontificating.

"I also think that J.P. Holding is likely correct about one of the other factors involved:"

You mean this?

"Thus, what we would consider separate actions of conversion, confession, and obedience in the form of works would be considered by the Hebrews to be an act in totality."

I love that. This statement is entirely correct, but then it would be entirely unwarranted to posit that "faith" refers to "faith alone" and not the "act [of faith] in totality," which is exactly what Catholics have been saying all along. A great argument thatworks nicely with my point on St. Paul above.

"But I don't maintain that the fathers were all wrong all the time on justification, much less do I consider them 'morons'. As I've said repeatedly, I think some of them were right about justification, and I think that even some of the ones who were wrong in general also were right at times. And on issues other than justification, I agree with them the large majority of the time (monotheism, the historicity of the Bible, the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, etc.). I certainly don't consider them 'morons'."

What other explanation could there be for them missing something that is "frequently" and "explicitly" taught in Scripture, to the point of their view being explicitly anathematized? Other than being such ignorant blockheads that they didn't realize their view was being anathematized despite the counter-doctrine being taught all over Scripture, what could possibly be the explanation?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh

Jason Engwer (yes, that Jason Engwer) actually said the following:
The diversity allowed has narrowed on other issues as well. Some of the church leaders of the fourth century interpreted Nicaea in Arianizing ways that we reject. Councils after Nicaea further narrowed the views of Christ that would be acceptable. The church fathers held a wide variety of views on the canon of scripture, but we don't think that sort of diversity is acceptable today.
When I refer to the diversity of views of justification, I'm including such doctrines as Gregory of Nyssa's universalism, Ambrose's belief that sin is remitted through foot washing, and Hermas' belief that some sins can't be forgiven if they're committed a particular number of times. In other words, I'm including some beliefs that are far out of the mainstream. These are doctrines that probably all of us in this forum would reject. Do we really *want* that sort of diversity of doctrine? I don't think so.

When I came across the word "allowed" in the first sentence, I just about fell off my chair. This is from a guy who states his position thusly:

Again, we have to go back to apostolic standards. Whatever previous generations may have done, we have to follow the standards set by the apostles. Like the Jews of Nehemiah's day, we have to go back to the original revelation given to us by God (Nehemiah 8:13-17). We can respect and learn from previous generations, but they weren't infallible.

How can you say that something is not "allowed" or that it being "outside the mainstream" matters at all if you have to "go back to apostolic standards" in every instance? This sort of absolute inconsistency is invariably present in these vain attempts to leech off of things that developed completely within another ecclesial system while simultaenously purporting to reject that system in favor of some objective standard. In fact, it's nothing other than the "stolen concept" fallacy: arguing from one premise while rejecting the epistemological grounds required for that premise. These types of Evangelicals are parasites that exist only to attack the host despite their inability to survive without it.

BTW, to highlight just exactly how ridiculous and inconsistent his position is, he also refused to answer a straight question from "Patrick":
Surely, you're prepared to admit that Catholic theologians have at least a plausible reading of Scripture and the Fathers, according to which Catholic teaching on justification is perfectly in line with these sources, even if you think in the end there is a superior reading? That's not a particularly difficult admission to make--it simply requires you to grant that some Catholic theologians have been competent and honest exegetes and historians. And anyone can manage that.

Yeah, Jason, how is it that all of these people were incompetent historians and exegetes who just missed "passages like Acts 15, 2 Corinthians 11, and Galatians 1?"

We view the church fathers as people who taught a combination of truth and error that doesn't completely align with any modern belief system.

Not what I asked. I mean what independent basis do you have for suggesting that these people were incompetent historians and exegetes?

The evangelical view of church history is similar to what we read about in 2 Kings 22:8-13, where the original revelation is what must be followed, even if our forefathers failed to do so.

Again, not what I asked. If you have some REASON for thinking that the extraordinarily devout and well-studied men would have left something out, then I could totally understand. What reason do you have for them all endorsing a false Gospel under the anathema of Galatians 1?

Evangelicals believe that the church fathers held a wide variety of beliefs, so we don't expect as much consistency as the Catholic view of church history would require.

Who cares about "as much consistency?" You're talking about a ridiculous degree of inconsistency, a degree of inconsistency so massive that no historian would endorse it without overwhelming evidence in its favor. And you're telling me that you have no OBJECTIVE reason for thinking that there's this sort of inconsistency? Just some namby-pamby "men can err" excuse? Doesn't that sound a little unreasonable to you? In fact, doesn't it sound EXACTLY like what you called an "unreasonable objection" from Catholics?

Claiming that the church fathers were allowed to disagree with modern Catholic teaching at that time, since no infallible ruling had been made on the issue yet. By that reasoning, we would conclude that Christians could believe anything during the first 300 years of church history, since there was no infallible papal decree or ecumenical council during that time. If apostolic teaching was being passed down in an unbroken succession, there isn't any reason to expect any bishop, much less a large number of bishops, to be ignorant of it, regardless of whether any allegedly infallible ruling had been passed on the subject. Saying that people had freedom to disagree with the RCC at that time doesn't change the fact that the doctrine is being contradicted, and that it should have been known across the Christian world if it was one of the apostolic teachings being passed down in the presence of many witnesses (2 Timothy 2:2)

Yeah, but they just missed that whole Galatians 1 thing. Whatever. Between this and the mindless response to Perry Robinson's argument, you start to wonder how much cognitive dissonance can possibly be sustained in someone's head before it explodes.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Assertions made without rational argument

Rather than going into extensive substantive response, which would likely not accomplish much, I will simply cite portions of arguments (in blue) in which assertions were made without rational justification, either by rational fallacy or by being unwarranted. I will state the observed flaw (in red), and if it may not be obvious where the flaw is, a brief explanation justifying it.

Now, of course, DA will respond with text files (liberally salted with URL's) that will average 10x the word count of anything I have to say. That's OK. I shall win the award for brevity and concise expression, and let him take home the bragging rights to verbosity and bandwidth usage.
[False and unwarranted.]

I will start there in the next installment simply because Armstrong notes The Roman Catholic Controversy in his book, hence, his section on the verse should "confound" my own exegesis of the text.

He writes, "Catholics believe that there is such a thing as a binding, authoritative Sacred Tradition and that it is explicitly indicated in the Bible (notably in the above passages)." So, we here have Armstrong wedding himself to these passages as "explicitly" presenting Rome's full-blown (capital "S" capital "T") Sacred Tradition. But given the hesitation of many a Roman Catholic scholar, it is quite possible Mr. Armstrong has over-reached himself just a bit. The mere presence of the term "tradition" is hardly sufficient to establish the position enunciated by Armstrong.
[False attribution of an argument based on unwarranted inference. Contrast the author's explicit statement that "the question is not whether but which."]

How a Protestant is "confounded" by these passages is difficult to determine, at least, if meaningful exegesis of the text is the standard. And the first thing to note about Armstrong's work at this point should have a rather familiar ring to it if you have been following the Dave Hunt series: there is no meaningful exegesis offered to substantiate these grand claims by Armstrong. Examine pp. 38-40 for yourself, and you will find no discussion of grammar, lexicography, syntax, or anything else relevant to meaningful exegesis.
[Assumes facts in dispute, namely, how one defines "exegesis."]

Instead, Armstrong depends upon secondary sources, and even then, the conclusions offered by secondary sources. He quotes Thomas More, but then focuses upon John Calvin, evidently seeking, it seems to me, to prejudice the reader through the use of quotations using language that was common in the day but is considered harsh and even non-Christian today. Indeed, one can judge the character of the discussion by noting these telling words: "Be that as it may, it is scarcely possible to discuss that issue constructively , because (in my opinion) Protestants are so afraid that any serious discussion of Tradition will cast doubt on sola Scriptura and lead to undesired 'Catholic' consequences." I'm sorry, but such rhetoric detracts from the work, at least for any serious minded reader.
[Poisoning the well. Contrast the author's explicit statement that "[i]n the theologically supercharged sixteenth century, it was probably impossible for the polemics to have been otherwise."]

Armstrong moves into a dialogue after this that again offers nothing in reference to exegesis of the texts themselves, and in fact has only a marginal connection to the issue of the meaning of "tradition" in the Pauline corpus. How one leaps from para,dosij in Paul to Sacred Tradition as defined by modern Rome is left unanswered.
[False. Answered by appeal to history.]

The fact that this is a present command, that the tradition referred to had already been delivered, in fulness, to the entirety of the church at Thessalonica, is not noted. (This observation would require the RC apologist to trace the content of his alleged oral tradition back to Thessalonica, and, as they well know, that cannot be done for the major elements of that alleged tradition as Rome has defined it).
[False attribution of argument based on unwarranted inference. This appears to be an attempt to reverse the Catholic argument that 2 Tim. 3:16-17 refers to the Old Testament, but that reversal fails because the use of "tradition" here need not be all-encompassing, as White's unwarranted claim asserts.]

The immediate context of the passage and its relevance directly to the gospel (and hence to the content of the "tradition" delivered by Paul) is likewise ignored. In essence, nothing presented in regards to the meaning of 2 Thess. 2:15 in context is addressed by Armstrong.
[Irrelevant. The point being demonstrated isn't the extent of tradition delivered at Thessalonica, but the use of tradition as an authoritative means of transmission.]

Now, if the standard of being "confounded" involves presenting a compelling, exegetically sound, contextually derived interpretation of a passage resulting in a clear vindication of the Roman Catholic reading (though, how Dave Armstrong, a private Catholic, could actually know the "official" Roman understanding of a passage without engaging in "private interpretation" is difficult to say anyway), then we need to re-work the sub-title to "91 Bible Passages that Confound Protestants."
[Unwarranted. The introduction made clear that the goal was to show Catholicism to be "at least as Biblically respectable" as Protestantism. IOW, the claim being confounded is merely that Catholicism is not Biblical.]

WRT this issue, it's entirely a non-response to the substance with some well-poisoning thrown in.

The Protestant Verses: Can Dave Armstrong Exegete This Passage?
[Irrelevant, but the argument itself is unwarranted, as shown below. I'm leaving out the bare assertion of the Protestant view of what "works" means, which is also unwarranted.]

This brings us to a question that must be answered by every person who believes the Bible to be God's Word. Who is the blessed man of Romans 4:8? It seems an obvious question.
[It's not obvious that the passage refers to any one particular individual or even a class of individuals in particular. Hence, this assertion is unwarranted.]

The religions of men cannot answer this question. Man's religions, centered as they are upon man's works and merits and will, must, as a result, lack a perfect Savior who can save in and of himself, without the aid of the creature. Their systems, drawing from the nearly universal synergism of human religiosity, always make room for man's success, or failure, in "doing things," whether they be called sacraments, rituals, works, or good deeds, so that the final outcome of "salvation" is always in doubt. And if these systems contain any kind of belief in a punishment after life, there must be some means of holding man accountable for the sins committed during life. Without a perfect sin-bearer, the issue of unforgiven sin, rightly "imputed" to the one who committed it, must have resolution.
[Assuming this is intended to describe Catholic soteriology, it's false. Christ saves in and of Himself, and the one saved contributes nothing of himself to the process.]

But it is just here that the question we are asking comes into full play. Who is the blessed man to whom the Lord will not impute sin? If a religion claims to follow the Bible and yet has no meaningful answer to this question, its error is immediately manifest.
[Unwarranted again.]

Overall, an unwarranted attempt to impose an obligation that the author hasn't assumed.

You get the "flavor," I hope. The concept of suffering is tied in with a synergistic, grace-prompted, but still free-will driven, concept of penance/merit/forgiveness.
[False. White evidently doesn't understand what temporal punishment is.]

One other thing to remember before we move to Armstrong's comments. Armstrong is identified as a "Protestant campus missionary" on the back of his book prior to his conversion. I do not know what that involved, but one thing that it probably did not involve was a great deal of study of the Puritans, reading of Edwards, or even of someone like Spurgeon. So when we encounter his views of "suffering" in Protestantism, we need to remember that they are not coming from someone who was, in fact, much more than a layperson, and one who has given very little evidence, in fact, of having done a lot of serious reading in better non-Catholic literature to begin with. In fact, I would imagine Armstrong has done more reading in non-Catholic materials since his conversion than before. In any case, this lack of background will resound loudly in the comments he offers, to which we will turn in part 2.
[False, and poisoning the well.]

[Part II]
Once again, in citing Phil. 3:10 and Rom. 8:17, Armstrong does not consider it necessary to actually handle the verses, establish context, meaning, anything exegetical. They are simply cited, and then the assumption is made that Protestants have no place in their theology for "suffering." And his source for this (if you happen to be widely read in meaningful Protestant writing you are probably wondering, since you have read lots about suffering and its role in conforming us to the image of Christ) is...himself! "He [Paul in Romans 8] is going along, talking like a good 'born again,' sanctified, 'filled with the Holy Ghost" Evengelical Protestant, and then suddenly (unless one ignores this part, as I did in my Protestant days) he becomes a morbid, masochistic, crucific-clutching Catholic and takes away everyone's fun and peaches and cream: '...if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.'" Evidently, Armstrong's audience does not include serious minded Protestants, for such writing immediately informs one that Mr. Armstrong's "Protestant" experience was anything but serious. Armstrong writes, "There is no need to consult commentaries at this point, for our purposes." Well, even if consulting secondary sources without providing primary exegesis would be sufficient, the point is that Armstrong has no concept of the depth of writing from non-Catholic sources on the meaning and purpose of suffering; further, the Roman Catholic use of the term, especially in reference to penance, would require his proving that in the context of writing to the churches at Rome and Philippi Paul intended to communicate, through the term "suffering," the kind of thing Armstrong has in mind as a Roman Catholic, and once again, he does not even try to make this connection. It is simply assumed. Armstrong then says that outside of certain forms of Pentecostalism, "they will not deny that a Christian needs to, and can expect to, suffer." Expect to suffer? Surely. Walk as Christ walked and one will suffer the hatred of the world. But "need to" is a completely different animal, especially in the context of Rome's beliefs regarding the subject, as noted previously.
[The claims against competence are false, and the need is what the author says Protestants deny, making the entire response, which does not deny this, irrelevant.]

I believe fully that God intends to conform me to the image of Christ, and a number of the experiences I will go through in that process will take the form of what can be properly identified as "suffering." But "need to" so as to expiate temporal punishment of sin? Need to so as to perfect my justification before God? Most assuredly not! This is the issue, and Armstrong leaves it untouched. He writes, "Most Evangelicals do not take it that far, yet still minimize the place of suffering, and hence, of the related notion, penance. This represents a scandalous lack of understanding of the deeper, more difficult aspects of Christianity." I think this represents a scandalous lack of understanding of the deeper, more meaningful works of Calvin, Edwards, the entire body of the Puritans, Bunyan, Spurgeon, Warfield and any number of modern writers. The fact is that the Reformed understanding of the sovereignty of God is so far beyond the crass "suffering by grace = penance for temporal punishments, say your Our Fathers and Hail Marys and fast on Fridays and consider obtaining some indulgences just in case" kind of Catholicism that afflicts millions on our planet that it is truly beyond words to express.
Yes, suffering is very clearly present in the text. No one doubts this. But what Mr. Armstrong does not seem to understand is that the mere presence of the word does not, to any serious minded reader, include within it the massive mountain of theological baggage connected to suffering/penance/merit as seen in Indulgentiarum Doctrina and other Roman Catholic magisterial documents and teachings. Presumption is not exegesis, nor does it amount to confounding the Protestant position. Armstrong assumes that the suffering to which Paul refers is identifiable with the sufferings Rome refers to. Why? He does not say. He does not even try to tell us how v. 17 is functioning in the entire citadel of Christian truth known as Romans chapter 8. It is just thrown out there, and we are to believe. Sorry, but I've spent far too much time seeking to honor the text and communicate its meaning to others to buy such an obvious ipse dixit. And Phil. 3:10 is not even touched. It is merely cited as one of the "95" verses, no exegesis offered. Just presumption.
[I think that this is true, but since White asserted that there was a difference between "need" and "expectation," I think the burden would have been on him to show why those meanings should be separated. Still, this mostly included both sides saying mostly unsubstantiated things about the other view without adequately explaining their own. I put that one on the author in this case for not taking the opportunity to explain the Catholic dogma more fully.]

Overall, a legitimate claim that the argument needed more, used as an opportunity to sling mud at the author and Catholic doctrine.

The Luke 1:28 issue has been done to death, and I'm not bothering to mess with it any further. Besides, this was about the point at which Dave decided to pull out of the discussion altogether, so the real question is what had happened up to that point, and I think that White's claims that Dave was running from critiques looks absolutely ridiculous at this point.

But I do want to hit one more point that has frankly become the straw that broke the camel's back. In a blog entry on "satispassio," White quoted Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, saying "The temporal punishments for sins are atoned for in the purifying fire by the so-called suffering of atonement (satispassio), that is, by the willing bearing of the expiatory punishments imposed by God." White then said, "Would Mr. Scott like to show me where Rome has defined satispassio as the application of the grace or merits of Jesus Christ? Or will he instead seek the "easy way out" and offer the lame excuse that, "Well, anything related to salvation is ours by grace, so, even the opportunity to undergo the suffering of atonement in purgatory is, ultimately, due to Christ's grace," an absurdity that would only prove my point to the fullest?"

For the 900th time, atonement for temporal punishment has NOTHING TO DO with salvation. They are completely and entirely different. You are already SAVED immediately upon arriving in Purgatory. How someone who claims to offer competent interaction with Catholic theology can fail to take note of that after having been corrected publicly so many times is beyond me. I personally think that it had reached the point where interaction with White's supposed "critiques" isn't even helpful anymore.