Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sola Scriptura Debate - DavidW's second cross-ex answer

See it here.

My apologies for not posting this notification before now. It was unintentional but broke our agreed-upon rules.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Michael Shermer whiffffffs on the EAAN

I've been listening to the recent Michael Shermer and Donald Prothero debate vs. Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg. Not a bad debate, in my estimation, maybe one of the best that the ID vs evolution conflict has produced. Unfortunately, that's not saying much - I find public disputations of this issue are usually flaccid, fairly boring retreads of the same old garbage. One of the worst debates I've ever heard is one I attended personally, between Michael Ruse and William Dembski at the local university. Dembski finished his opener and I thought, "I cannot imagine Ruse's could be any worse." But it was.
This one, fortunately, incorporates a lot of material from Meyer's very good book Signature in the Cell as well as discussions of what seems to this layman to be fairly cutting-edge research. Meyer also pwns Shermer's blind "God-of-the-gaps" canard in real time, which was fun, especially since Shermer went on a few minutes later to spew out a steaming pile of Darwinism-of-the-gaps.

Anyway, the audience Q&A was refreshing b/c the moderator had audience members write down their questions and send them up front during the intermission, and the mod read them. This is the best way to go about things, even though the mod misread and thus fundamentally neutered the question I sent to Mitch Pacwa a couple of years ago.

I was very happy to hear that an audience member asked Michael Shermer what amounts to a variant of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (see more simplified version here, courtesy of a friend of mine) (or listen to the lecture or see some lecture outline notes) around the 1 hr, 39 minute mark.

Moderator: Do you believe that reason is an emergent property of molecules and if so, why should we trust anything you say?

Shermer and others laugh.

Shermer: Well, first of all you shouldn't. The first principle of skepticism is be skeptical of the skeptics. Um, so obviously, but I think there's something deeper in the question on - to what extent should we trust some kind of inductive process practiced by science or reason or logic or something like that?
Well, um, as opposed to what? As I started off saying, there's only 2 explanations; there's the scientific one based on reason and logic and evidence, and then there's everything else. And the one that works the best just pragmatically is science. You want to get a spacecraft to Mars, you use astronomy, not astrology. Just b/c it works is the best answer to that question.

That's the best that this nationally-recognised author, speaker, and debater, the editor of Skeptic magazine, can muster? A string of begged questions and "um, duh" assertions? Now, I don't mean to set the standard unreasonably high here - that's all PZ Myers could come up with as well.
I'd set the over/under for the wager "number of seconds has Michael Shermer spent pondering a very challenging argument put forward by well-known and widely-published professional philosophy professor Alvin Plantinga with respect to Shermer's own worldview and indeed his very livelihood?" at 3. Pitiful performance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Et tu, Nestorius?

Our Eastern Orthodox and Romanist friends like to accuse Calvinism of being Nestorian (that is, the view that Christ is two persons, not one, allegedly held by a 5th-century figure named Nestorius, and which view was formally condemned at the 3rd Ecumenical Council, at Ephesus). Here are some recent posts that repudiate this erroneous contention, as well as calling into question how much such an allegation matters.

In chronological order, with highlights pasted here:
From TurretinFan -

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 2 of 13)

The Nestorian error is (to put it concisely) to deny the hypostatic union. Nestorianism, as it is classically defined, argues that Christ was not one person with two natures, but two persons. The existence of the hypostatic union is critical to the Calvinistic view of the atonement...The fact that the person of Christ had a truly human nature made the atoning death of Christ possible, as well as making the form of the sacrifice (death of man) a proper suffering of the penalty due. Without one or the other, the atonement would be impossible. Consequently, it would be impossible for a consistent Calvinist to embrace Nestorianism.
In the years since "theotokos" became accepted terminology, Mary grew to have an increasing role in the worship of Rome, until today we have apologists for Catholicism insisting that devotion to Mary is a mandatory part of religious life. Now, an official document from the Vatican from the 1970's states: "With his mind raised to heaven ... the priest should very often turn to Mary, the Mother of God, ... and daily ask her for the grace of conforming himself to her Son." (source) If Nestorius were still around today, he'd feel vindicated in opposing the term "theotokos" on the ground that it can lead to what amounts to Mary-worship... (last link added)

Further Response to Dyer

...it does not appear, on the historical record that we have before us, that Cyril accurately represented Nestorius in his characterization's of Nestorius' views. I'm not sure why Dyer is so set on defending Cyril on this point. Why not just admit that Cyril was fallible, and may have misunderstood Nestorius for a variety of reasons?


From Vox Veritatis -

If Mary is the Mother of God...

...saying that Mary is the mother of Christ, rather than the mother of God, does not make one Nestorian, but rather saves one from an absurd logical conclusion.

1. Mary is the mother of God.
2. God is the Trinity.
3. Therefore, Mary is the mother of the Trinity.

This is absurd, but it gets worse.

4. Both the Father and the Holy Spirit subsist within the Trinity.
5. Therefore, Mary is the mother of both the Father and the Holy Spirit.

This is patently absurd. On the other hand, it is accurate (and logical) to say that Mary was the mother of the incarnate second person of the Trinity. That is, to say that Mary is the mother of Christ. Such an assertion maintains the unity of Christ's natures in one person, without the logical absurdities of saying that Mary was the mother of God. Thus, it is logically coherent, and not Nestorian (in the Christological sense)...
...Jesus and God are not logically identical. God is a trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and thus to identify Jesus as God, in the second sense, is to assert a modalistic view of the Trinity (since Jesus, encompassing the meaning of "God," must also encompass the Father and Holy Spirit, in which case the most logical explanation is that there is only one person who manifests himself in three different ways). Unless one wants to assert modalism, one cannot say that "Jesus is God, Mary is the mother of Jesus, therefore Mary is the mother of God."
(Thus reflecting my words here: She bore the HUMAN Jesus, Who was God and man. Jesus was her Creator. She bore His humanity... It is more correct to say The Person who came from her is man. And it is MOST correct to say The Person who came from her is the God-man.)


And again from TurretinFan -

David's Relationship to God

The only argument for the expression is that Jesus is God, Jesus is the Son of Mary, therefore Mary is the mother of God. But Jesus is also the Son of David. Any takers for calling David "the Father of God" or the "Ancestor of God"?

UPDATE (19JAN2010):
John Bugay said...
On the issues of councils, too, I would point to the back-and-forth of Ephesus (enforced by Cyril's armed guards) first to attribute a heresy to Nestorius and then to condemn, then Chalcedon, which, according to Pelikan (and others, especially in our day) who say that Nestorius did not teach "Nestorianism" and was wrongly condemned. (see Kallistos Ware and a room full of Orthodox and Catholic bishops heartily applaud this notion, here: http://www.oltv.tv/id553.html ) And then Constantinople II in 553 ad, which condemns by name individuals such as Nestorius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, etc.

John Bugay said...
Specifically, this video (Clip 01): "Nestorius himself did not hold the Nestorian heresy" around 2:30 http://www.oltv.tv/id518.html

Finally, this fine post from Vox Veritatis deserves to be read in its entirety.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17

John 17:20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Our friends in Rome like to point out that Jesus prayed in His "high priestly prayer" at the Last Supper that His followers would be in "complete unity", that they would "all...be one, Father..." So, they ask, why aren't Sola Scripturists joined together in perfect unity, as one institution, the Church? Did Jesus' prayer fail? Don't you Calvinists always say that God's will is always performed successfully?

We respond (for example, here, said far better than I ever could) that the unity Christ prayed for was not organisational or institutional in nature, but rather spiritual, as God builds together the Body of Christ into spiritual union with Christ. Presumably, RCs and Eastern Orthodox do not accept this identification of the unity Christ prayed for, but rather insist that the unity is institutional and organisational in nature. Let us see whether their contention holds water.

1) It has been proven over and over again at the Beggars All blog alone that this claimed unity within Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome does not exist in reality.

2) Our opponents criticise the Calvinistic doctrine of God's preservation of His saints, once justified, as a violation of the free will of each person (not to mention other points of Calvinism, such as irresistible grace). Yet the very building of an institutional unity into a group of disparate and different people who have sinful tendencies, in order to bring an answer to the prayer of the Lord Jesus, would require "violation" of their free will. I mean, Protestants are creatures "blessed" with free will, and just look how organised they are, in their sin! (There are RCs who are more Augustinian and who are less; this would be an argument against the latter and against EO-dox.)

3) On that same topic, take a look at John 17:15 - "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one."
Isn't it RC and EO dogma that God does not preserve His believers, but that they can in fact fall out of a state of grace? Didn't Jesus' prayer thus fail here (on RC and EO presuppositions)?

4) More pointedly, apparently the fact that we Sola Scripturists are not in communion with the RCC or the EOC is not an obstacle to our eventually landing in Heaven.
Whenever the Sacrament of Baptism is duly administered as Our Lord instituted it, and is received with the right dispositions, a person is truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the Apostle says: "You were buried together with Him in Baptism, and in Him also rose again-through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead".

Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion.

Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders, nevertheless when they commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord's Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory. Therefore the teaching concerning the Lord's Supper, the other sacraments, worship, the ministry of the Church, must be the subject of the dialogue.

23. The daily Christian life of these brethren is nourished by their faith in Christ and strengthened by the grace of Baptism and by hearing the word of God. This shows itself in their private prayer, their meditation on the Bible, in their Christian family life, and in the worship of a community gathered together to praise God. (source, emph. mine)
Or:
For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ... Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (source, emph. mine)
In short, we Sola Scripturists are, by virtue of RCC's ex cathedra statement, united with Christ and thus on our way to Heaven (unless we commit a mortal sin, of course, but our Sola Scriptura convictions, refusal to participate in transsubstantiated Eucharistic suppers, and failure to join RCC are obviously not mortal sins, else they wouldn't have talked about being united with Christ, etc).
And my EO debate counterpart believes I am not headed to Hell as well.

Now, since we are united with Christ but not in communion with institutional RCC or EOC, since Christ prayed that His disciples would be united with Him, and since the RC and EO claim that Christ's prayer for unity would certainly not fail to be granted, we can conclude that Christ's prayer has either not yet been granted or that the unity He had in mind was not institutional / organisational unity. Either of these conclusions declaws the original argument cited at the beginning of this post.

(Also see TurretinFan's recent dealing with this passage and similar topics.)


(Please leave any comments at the cross-post at Beggars All)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Believing Jesus

Me: If the Scr was clear enough for the CFs to properly understand it, then it's clear enough for someone today to properly understand it. "

John, anonymous Eastern Orthodox commenter who apparently sees fit to speak for Orthodoxy: That assumes that some random John Smith has equal spiritial and theological skills as the greatest minds in God's church which is led by the Holy Spirit. Quite an arrogant claim.

Me: Wrong.
1) Assumes that God speaks sufficiently clearly.
2) And takes into acct the fact that we have responsibility assigned by Jesus to properly interp the word of God, and
3) to dismiss traditions of men that make void the word of God (Mark 7:1-10).

John: Of course you won't accept the me and my bible under a tree accusation, but you'll pull out this nonsense when I suggest you listen to greater saints.

Me: 1) Maybe b/c that's a false dilemma. Just maybe.
2) If Jesus told us it was indeed me and my Bible under a tree, then I'm sticking with Him. Deal with what Jesus said.

John: If Jesus said to worship pink unicorns, I guess you will stick with that too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oral Roberts is dead

Praise be to God for removing such a deadly false teacher from the midst of Christ's church.

The special pleading of Sola Ecclesia-ists' claims to unity

A favored argument against Sola Scriptura frequently used by our friends in the Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church is "Just look at Protestantism! It's a mess, of 22,000 25,000 30,000 33,000 58 gazillion denominations!"
What are they saying? Mostly that Sola Scriptura as a rule of faith is insufficient to bring about institutional, organisational unity to the church of Jesus Christ. And of course, Christ would obviously want His church to have institutional, organisational unity! Evidently, setting the Scripture alone up as the sole infallible final rule of faith for the church doesn't accomplish what it's supposed to. Ergo, Sola Scriptura is false.

I've created this crude and very maladroit drawing to illustrate.


Let's analyse, then, the alternatives of Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Now, we of course like to accuse them of Sola Ecclesia; that is, we contend that their sole infallible final rule of faith is Whatever The Church® Says. But they don't like it when we say that, so let's be conciliatory and lay the contention aside. Their "real" rule of faith is Apostolic Tradition, which includes written and unwritten tradition from the apostles, both in Scripture and in other places such as the lived-out faith of the church, the liturgies, the writings of church fathers down through the years, etc.
Notice that, like the Scripture, this too forms a corpus with limits. The Da Vinci Code is not part of Apostolic Tradition. Neither is the Qur'an, nor is The Audacity of Hope (though, depending on which Roman or EO priest you ask, that last one might be close). We and others have contended many times, rightly, that the limits to the Roman and EO Canons of Scripture are not only poorly defined but actually non-existent. It is also indisputable that one's presupposition of an infallible interpreter (whether she be Rome or EOC) will govern which little-t traditions are actually accepted, promoted if you will, to Big-T Sacred Apostolic Tradition, thus forming the basis for Roman or Orthodox dogma, leaving the little-t traditions to rot by the wayside, relegated to "Well, he was just speaking as a private theologian" or "That was just his opinion" status.
But let's leave all of that aside and grant that there is one big and awe-inspiring God-given Verbum Dei corpus of Scripture and Tradition that is the proper rule of faith for the church of Jesus Christ.

The problem is obvious - Rome, sedevacantists, traditionalist Catholics, Pope Michael-ists, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and various other churches with incompatible teachings all appeal to this set and limited corpus of Scripture and Tradition. It would appear that the criticism against Sola Scriptura of multiple denominations applies to the Roman and EO rule of faith as well.

The Romanist or Orthodox might object: "But we're not in communion with those schismatics/heterodox/heretics!" Now, what if I were to reply, as a member of a Southern Baptist church, that, have no fear my non-Sola Scripturist friends, my church holds that everyone who's not a member of a Southern Baptist church is a schismatic/heterodox/heretic too? Would that make our Romanist or Orthodox friends feel better?
Or would that make them criticise us even more strongly: "See? You Sola Scripturists can't even hold communion with each other!"? Yep, my money's on that one, too. We're darned if we do and darned if we don't, but somehow if the Romanists or Orthodox don't hold communion with these other churches, that's just fine. Such special pleading is just...special.

So let me break this down as clearly as I can. "The Protestant Church" does not exist. Self-named "Protestant churches" vary so widely in doctrine and authority as to make points of comparison impossible to ascertain. If you want to compare unity and disunity, compare the adherences to the competing rules of faith. Or compare churches, like the Roman Church to the Southern Baptist Convention or the Pope Michael Catholic Church to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. What do we find, if we do this? How different from each other are the churches that hold to Scripture alone as rule of faith, and how different from each other are the churches that hold to "Sacred Apostolic Tradition" as rule of faith? Answer that and you'll know one reason why we consider all this talk about how Tradition and Magisterium make for superior church unity to be just that - talk.

(Please leave any comments at the cross-post at Beggars All)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Read this before yelling "James 2!"

“When James says that faith alone does not justify, faith here refers to mere intellectual assent. For instance, demons affirm monotheism, but such “faith” is not wholehearted and glad-hearted assent that leads demons to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Instead, the faith of demons is theologically orthodox, but leads them to shudder because they fear judgment (James 2:19). The faith that saves, according to Paul, embraces Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, placing one’s life entirely in his hands. James criticizes a “faith” that notionally concurs with the gospel but does not grip the whole person. In other words, James does not disagree with Paul’s contention that faith alone justifies, but he defines carefully the kind of faith that justifies. The faith that truly justifies can never be separated from works. Works will inevitably flow as the fruit of such faith. Faith that merely accepts doctrines intellectually but does not lead to a transformed life is “dead” (James 2:17, 26) and “useless” (James 2:20). Such faith does not “profit” (ophelos [James 2:14, 16 RSV]) in the sense that it does not spare one from judgment on the last day. Those who have dead and barren faith will not escape judgment. True faith is demonstrated by works (James 2:18). James does not deny that faith alone saves, but it is faith that produces (synergew) works and is completed (teleiow) by works (James 2:22). The faith that saves is living, active, and dynamic. It must produce works, just as compassion for the poor inevitably means that one cares practically for their physical needs (James 2:15-16)....The foregoing comments, of course, need qualification. As I argued above, in some contexts Paul also emphasizes that good works are the fruit of faith and are needed for justification (e.g., Rom. 2:13; 4:17-22). The purpose of James as a whole, as is evident from this entire discussion, is to emphasize that good works are necessary for salvation. His letter apparently responds to a situation where moral laxity was countenanced. Nevertheless, James should not be interpreted to teach that believers can gain salvation on the basis of good works. Righteous deeds are the fruit of faith. James recognizes that all believers sin in numerous ways (James 3:2), and that even one sin makes a lawbreaker of the one who commits it (James 2:10-11). Being sinners, humans lack the capacity to do the works required to merit justification. They are saved by the grace of God, for in his goodness and generosity he granted believers new life (James 1:18). Even faith is a gift of God, for God chose some to “be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5). What James hammers home is that such faith must always manifest itself in good works if it is genuine faith, but such good works are a far cry from perfection, as James 3:2 clarifies.”
-Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pp.603-605.

(HT: Saint and Sinner)

For more detail, check out Excursus 2 in Dan McCartney's commentary on James.
(HT: Steve Hays)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sola Scriptura Debate: My second cross-examination question

DavidW, in your answer to the first cross-examination question, you cited Vincent de Lérins' aphorism that "that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all" is how one can distinguish Sacred Apostolic Tradition from mere traditions of men.

How do you know that this is indeed the correct rule of faith?

(Word count: 53)

(Link to comment repository/peanut gallery)

More disunity in Eastern Orthodoxy

Given the reassurances from DavidW and other EO commenters about my eternal destination, I thought this article was interesting, as it highlights both that DavidW, a faithful EO layman, is out of step with others in his church on the topic of ecumenism and that the problem is more widespread than just him. They can't decide who's in and who's out. And contrary to the recent goalpost-shifting to "well, we're all about unity in the essentials of the faith" (which sounds exactly like my position, a pretty cheap move), take a look at the following:

3) That whoever says that our Lord Jesus Christ at the Mystic Supper had unleavened bread (made without yeast), like that of the Jews, and not leavened bread, that is to say, bread raised with yeast, let him depart far away from us and let him be anathema as one having Jewish views and those of Apollinarios and bringing dogmas of the Armenians into the Church, on which account let him be doubly anathema.

7) That whoever does not follow the customs of the Church as the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils decreed, and Holy Pascha, and the Menologion with which they did well in making it a law that we should follow it, and wishes to follow the newly-invented Paschalion and the New Menologion of the atheist astronomers of the Pope, and opposes all those things and wishes to overthrow and destroy the dogmas and customs of the Church which have been handed down by our fathers, let him suffer anathema and be put out of the Church of Christ and out of the Congregation of the Faithful.
Now that's bringing the pain. DOUBLE anathema for using unleavened bread for the Eucharist. Watch out. And a measly single anathema for those who won't hold to the Old Calendar. I guess that's not quite as big a deal...

Remember, this is not an argument FOR my position. I merely bring this up because our EO friends so...very...frequently say stuff like: "Yeah? Well, you Protestants have 45 gazillion denominations!!!!1 You must be wrong!" And yet when we examine Eastern Orthodoxy's unity, we find that -horror of horrors- their church is filled with sinful human beings too! And God hasn't miraculously restrained their sinful predilection for disunity either. Crazy how that works. I consider the argument absolutely stupid and wrongheaded; I bring up refutations of it only because they try to use it against my position. I'll stop when they do.

And before you ask, yes, I don't know about you, but I consider the webmaster of orthodoxinfo.com a more informed and trustworthy source on Eastern Orthodoxy than DavidW, Texan blogger in his 20s.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Darwin hates gays

I am often told by naturalistic atheists that the survival of the human race is a strong basis, if not the basis, for moral prescriptions. Things we ought to do.
Here's a recent example from a YouTube comment:
Majorbakstor: And that utility is based on the resistance of death and suffering, increasing the chance of survival and well-being. Anything that goes against these standards is immoral because it goes against the moral standards that prehistoric human beings required in order to survive at ALL. I recommend you studying anthropology and philosophy before you go spouting off about morality.
Operating from that presupposition, I briefly examine homosexuality. Homosexual relations lead to non-procreative relationships between humans. The species' chances of survival are reduced to the lifespan of that generation, and only that generation, as there will be no offspring. The human race ceases to exist, or at least suffers damage to its evolutionary competitive fitness, as there are fewer humans to be selected from and thus it requires fewer disasters, fewer diseases, less predation, etc, to bring about the end of humanity.

Thus homosexuality is morally wrong, given this naturalistic evolutionary framework.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Taking sin seriously, or, the Gospel

Sounds to me like you're the one not taking sin seriously. Let me get this straight: so I can cheat on my wife, never share a dime with the poor, drink myself stupid, eat to my heart's content, and even murder that neighbor that plays his stupid music at top volume all day and night -- and, as long as I have faith -- I'm still saved? Tell me if I'm getting this right. (from DavidW)

Let's see if DavidW does indeed take sin as seriously as he should, as seriously as Jesus did.

Matthew 5:20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

-cheat on my wife
Matthew 5:27 "You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
DavidW is a man. I'm not going out on a limb in hypothesising that he's done that a few times. Today.


-never share a dime with the poor
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"

How much is enough? Does DavidW give as much as he's supposed to? Does he always put his neighbor's needs before his own, "considering others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3)?


-drink myself stupid
I'm willing to give him a pass, on his word that he's unlike most of the other Eastern Orthodox I've met in my life on this count. But can he be sure that he's never given himself over to anything that unduly influences his senses, intellect, and judgment? Never unwisely or in an unholy manner wasted his time?


-eat to my heart's content
Has DavidW never eaten to his heart's content? Has he never thrown excess food out, when he could have been sure to follow Christ's command: "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14)?
Has he never indulged in the delight of a Snickers or a Coca-Cola when that money could've gone to a much better purpose, like feeding hungry children in Africa or making sure all the EO priests in his state had enough funds to pay their bills? Not even once?


-even murder that neighbor
Matthew 5:21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

So how well is DavidW "considering others better than himself" in this regard? Is it not better to forgive and allow that noisy neighbor to enjoy himself than to be angry? Is DavidW 100% sure that his anger and irritation are 100% holy and justifiable before a holy God Who "will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus" (Rom 2:16)? "21 Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart" (Ps 44:21).

So the answer to DavidW's question is: Yes, IF you have faith. The point of the biblical teaching, esp. that of James and 1 John, is that one's faith is seen as true by one's actions, and such actions reveal an unregenerate character. But ultimately, we don't know whom God has saved for sure; only He knows. Some live their whole life in a holy manner AND have true faith. Some imitate the holy manner in some, or even many, ways, and DO NOT have true faith - Matt 7:21-23. Some pass thru times in their lives in which they disobey God badly, but are indeed God's elect and have true faith, like King David, the Apostle Peter, Gideon, Samson.

Of course, such a lifestyle SHOULD also cause the man to doubt his own salvation. But it's not like a man can have infallible knowledge of his own salvation either. And that's the other angle to this question that is less relevant at this time.

I told DavidW, and still maintain, that his position equates to his not taking sin seriously. I was trying to help him see that he's making it about works! He says on the one hand that works ARE faith, like "baptism is faith" and other such nonsense, and then turns back around and acts all shocked when I tell him that God saves sinners through Christ's perfect and finished sacrifice. His view makes those men I named not saved. It's biblically backwards, but humanly forwards. What we all need a biblical perspective, that's the problem, and the EO position is not alone among the smorgasbord of man-centered religion out there. EOdoxy just sounds more Christian.

Given DavidW's intense and unremitting guilt before God for his unjust, evil, and repeated, consistent(ly bad) actions, what amount of "doing better" will outweigh the many times he has broken and will break the holy commandments of God? Does baptism do it? How about giving more money to the poor? Saying an extra set of prayers every single night? Giving up football on Sundays so he can work in a soup kitchen for several hours? At what point do the scales tip in a man's favor?

No, rather, as Scripture explains:

Romans 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Not just a problem for Sola Scriptura part 2

DavidW said...

Multiplying authors simply makes mutual consistency that much more difficult.

Absolutely agreed; which is why I consider the mutual consistency of the Fathers nothing short of miraculous, and a sign of Christ's fulfilled promise that the gates of hades would not prevail against the Chruch and that the Holy Spirit would guide it.

That's precisely what you were getting at when we were discussing the sign over Christ's Cross.

I've read this and other attempts at harmonizing the signs as reported by the evangelists. I find them unconvincing; too desperate.

No. They held to the deity of Christ. Monotheism. Baptism. An as-yet unrealised Eschaton.

They also held to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the visibility and unity of the One True Church founded by the Apostles, Apostolic Succession in said Church, and a belief in Theosis -- all of which you reject. So, the question remains: were they all simultaneously mistaken, but agreement with each other, as to the message of the Apostles OR did they conspire together to distort said message?

The shared beliefs far outweigh the differences.

100% agreed.

the majority of CFs held to Sola Scriptura.

That's the very thing I'm exploring in my series on the issue -- and I'm finding the exact opposite of Mr. Webster, as everyone who actually takes the time to read the writings of the Fathers tends to do.

1 Clement contains a very clear endorsement of justification by grace alone thru faith alone.

I've read St. Clement's letter several times and never seen such an endorsement. Perhaps you could provide me with the quote or at least verse number so I can read it for myself?

Infant baptism was inconsistently held.

I think the Protestants are skewing the evidence on this one. It's a topic I investigated quite a bit, because I had my own doubts about it initially (even having been baptized as an infant myself). St. Gregory Nazianzen's objections are rather late in the early Church -- and not quite what the guy at this blog is trying to make of them (read it for yourself). The inscriptions, paintings, and fathers of the first, second, and third centuries are pretty clear on the issue. Later, beginning in about the 3rd century, some began to delay baptism into adulthood in order to assure that all previous sins were washed away -- this practice was later condemned by the Church for being what it was: an attempt to evade living a Christian life.

Kinda puts the kibosh on the whole "everywhere by all at all times".

St. Vincent, whose canon you're quoting here, addresses that very thing in the paragraph following that quote; and I've addressed it several times to you as well.

I take the CFs' mutual and internal inconsistencies and count them as 100% expected - they were MEN. ... especially since on many issues they were jumbled and thus useless as a prescriptive authority.

You've made this allegations many times in the past, but you have yet to present a single issue upon which this was the case. I'd love to see one, especially on an essential matter of faith or practice.

1) Which claim of course begs the question in favor of the EOC.

Insofar as the Orthodox Church is the One True Church founded by the Apostles and preserving the Faith thereof, yes, it does; it can't help but. No other Christian organization or church has a legitimate claim. The closest to having a decent claim are the Roman Catholics and the Assyrian Church of the East, as they both possess at least a physical link with the Apostles (via laying on of hands) -- but both have clear points of departure from the early Church, which can be quite easily named and dated.

DavidW said...

Since the OT was the Bible of the earliest church

But not the Bible alone, else we'd all be Jewish.
and then the NT served in large measure to inform and correct churches in their error

Exactly -- for the most part, they were written to correct problems in the churches already founded. Which calls into question how they could have ever been intended as all-encompassing -- as standing alone. Correcting errors is not explicating the entirety of the Gospel.

That's a pretty disingenuous thing to say, since this whole time you've been making the CFs into at the very least a more useful tool.

I never claimed they were "more useful." They are necessary to Scripture, as they teach us the correct interpretation thereof.

Not to mention "the Faith of the Church", whatever that is.

The Faith of the Church is the Scriptures and the Councils, speaking in terms of dogma. More correctly, though, the Faith of the Church is our worship -- if one were able to attend every Church service in an entire year, he'd have heard the entirety of the Orthodox Faith explained -- it's the same standard the Fathers used in determining what belonged in Scripture hundreds and hundreds of years ago: the Liturgy.

Rhology said...

which is why I consider the mutual consistency of the Fathers nothing short of miraculous

It's only by willful blindness that anyone could consider the Fathers mutually consistent. You're inviting us to Patristic FantasyLand, but I prefer reality.


I've read this and other attempts at harmonizing the signs as reported by the evangelists. I find them unconvincing; too desperate.

What cracks me up is your willingness to ignore the obvious wrt mutual patristic inconsistencies, but find "desperate" my friend Seth's harmony of the Cross inscriptions. Again, let the reader judge.


They also held to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the visibility and unity of the One True Church founded by the Apostles, Apostolic Succession in said Church, and a belief in Theosis -- all of which you reject

You're missing the point. Congrats, you came up with three issues on which I'd largely disagree with at least your characterisation of their position, but there are far more with which they and I *are* in agreement. Just b/c the disagreements are more visible b/c we're always debating them doesn't mean that the disagreements are more numerous than the agreements. So again, your argument fails.
As for how they ended up mistaken, we can see that at work already in the NT churches, the addressees of most of the epistles and the 7 letters in Revelation 1-3. I've said that many times to you; when are you going to take that fact into acct?


I'm finding the exact opposite of Mr. Webster, as everyone who actually takes the time to read the writings of the Fathers tends to do.

Rdr DavidB once told me sthg that an EO priest with whom he used to meet when considering conversion to EOC told him: EOdoxy is found in the Bible, just in the places less often quoted by evangelicals. That would apparently be the case for SS and the CFs. Maybe you should expand your reading and take a look at what Webster and King have found.


Later, beginning in about the 3rd century, some began to delay baptism into adulthood in order to assure that all previous sins were washed away

Next you're going to tell me that this fits in perfectly with Vincent de Lérins' aphorism and your rule of faith.


You've made this allegations many times in the past, but you have yet to present a single issue upon which this was the case.

Cyprian vs Pope Stephen on the issue of the baptism of heretics is a great place to start.
Council of Hieria vs 2nd Nicaea.


Insofar as the Orthodox Church is the One True Church founded by the Apostles and preserving the Faith thereof, yes, it does; it can't help but.

yes, that's exactly my point. EOC says it's the OneTrueChurch, you've made the choice to switch your brain off when it comes to testing that claim, and so the circularity doesn't bother you. You have no way to test it, but you don't care to.


Exactly -- for the most part, they were written to correct problems in the churches already founded.

Exactly.


Which calls into question how they could have ever been intended as all-encompassing -- as standing alone.

1) the NT epistles were not meant to stand alone.
2) You're assuming w/o proof that the oral msg delivered to the churches covered material found outside the Bible.
3) The churches, standing alone, didn't do so hot either. So... what's the answer?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

1st Clement on sola fide

Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” 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, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (source, emphasis mine)
To be read in conjunction with this post of mine. DavidW and other EOdox (not to mention RCC) would have us believe that their position represents "that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all", quoting Vincent de Lérins (a Western Christian, interestingly enough). So... what's the answer here?

Was Clement wrong and just speaking as a private individual? Is it intellectually honest just to scrub this testimony out of your annals of Sacred Tradition? If it's OK to ignore any writing you want to, why can't I do that too and only cite as For Real Sacred Tradition anyone I want and claim that the Reformed faith is "that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all"?

Am I mischaracterising him? I only quoted him, you know.
Some other option?

(See here a lame attempt by a Romanist to explain this away that I encountered.)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sola Scriptura Debate: My first cross-examination answer

DavidW's question assumes a false premise of Sola Scriptura. He asks "If we cannot rely on the Church", and that's the problem. He is implicitly making "rely on the Church" to mean "ascribe infallibility to the Eastern Orthodox Church", which, as you can see, adds two elements to what the question may appear to be to the untrained eye.

First off, yes, it is true that I do not ascribe infallibility to the EOC. Nor do I ascribe infallibility to the church of Jesus at any time in history. But DavidW is setting up a false dilemma, that either the church is infallible or it is worthless. What's wrong with a third option? - that the church was and continues to be used by God to accomplish His purposes, sometimes to reveal Himself, sometimes to reveal man's sinfulness, sometimes to imperfectly foreshadow the Eschaton, sometimes to reflect the glory of God, sometimes to show that while there is the 'already', there is also the 'not yet'. And on and on the examples could be multiplied innumerably.

I do believe that the church of God reliably and sufficiently came to a correct knowledge of the Canon of Scripture. This can be powerfully argued on the basis of the impossibility of the contrary, as I mentioned in my 1st rebuttal. The i.o.t.c. is a powerful internal argument not only for atheism but also for EOC, which is why I've mentioned "DavidW is not an atheist" in my rebuttals. He too is supposed to believe the Scripture is breathed out by God, and if he does not, then it is easy to prove that he has no basis for believing any of his position, not with any degree of consistency.
Thing is, this doesn't require the church's infallibility. Just God's.

It does require the movement of the Holy Spirit over the course of time, bearing subjective and yet powerful, individual and yet repeated, witness that book X is theopneustos and book Y isn't. Sometimes some people got it wrong, sure, but not in the majority, and over time God arranged that commonality of belief would come to be. Given that this took place over the course of decades and centuries in the early church, that the early church was scattered over even thousands of miles and there was no means of communication that did not require at least weeks of sometimes-dangerous travel, and that the early church was often undergoing severe persecution and suppression of written Christian materials, I count it a serious and powerful, though subtle, miracle on God's part that any consensus was ever reached at all. Further, I don't see why David would disagree with this.

The bottom line for this point is that, while the church of God is not infallible, God is, and God chose to use a fallible church filled with fallible people to accomplish an amazing work - revealing His Word to His people.
If one were inclined to argue, I commend you to the example of the way God revealed to His people of the Old Testament just what the content of His self-revelation was. Did the Jews have an infallible hierarchy, as Rome teaches? No. Were they infallible as a whole? No. Rather, we see over and over throughout the OT the remnant motif. God preserves a remnant in the midst of a usually ungodly generation. This remnant is the people God preserves through the storms of judgment wreaked on unbelieving Israel. They knew somehow what the delineation of the Canon of God's speech was, but without an "official council", without an infallible body to decide it, without even all that much moral or spiritual purity. They knew that when a true prophet spoke, one was obligated to listen. Think about it - even thousands of years after the time of the writing of most of the OT and hundreds of years after it was complete, did the enemies of Jesus ever dispute with Him over His quotations of the OT, even when He used those quotation to condemn them and convict them of sin? They had every reason to do so, because His arguments and Scripture citations flummoxed them! Since they had no answer, at minimum they could have called into question the canonicity this or that OT book Jesus cited, but they never did. Why? Because they were still the covenant people of God at the time, and God had given them the knowledge of the Canon.

Romans 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written,
“THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS,
AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.”

Were the Jews who in large part missed their Messiah and even insisted He be put to death, who were the subjects of a "partial hardening" (Rom 11:25) from God, infallible? And were they clueless about their Canon? The comparison of the OT account of God's covenant people with the NT covenant people defeats the Sola Ecclesia argument.
See also my discussion of Canon1 and Canon2 in my first rebuttal.

Second, let us redirect the charge back at DavidW. I mentioned in my opener that EOC has at best a vague and partial answer to the same question. To the Sola Scripturist, let us remember, the Scripture contains all the teachings that are of the highest authority. Thus the Canon of Scripture is the delineation of

||infallible, most-authoritative teaching||
from
||fallible, less-authoritative or not-particularly-authoritative teaching||.

To the Sola Ecclesia-ist like the EOdox, where is that well-defined limit? My Canon is in the Table of Contents of my Bible. Where's EOC's? The Bible, the Deutero-Canonical books (well, sorta), the 7 (or is it 9?) œcumenical councils, and of course living tradition, handed down from the apostles and lived out in the liturgy and song of EO people throughout time. "That which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all," as DavidW quoted Vincent de Lérins in his first cross-examination answer. It doesn't get any vaguer than that, friends.
The Sola Ecclesia-ist might make hay of the fact that we SS-ists don't claim our Canon is infallible, but at least we have one! Where is EOC's canon of infallible teachings, even a fallible one? Non-existent. Know why? With no well-defined grounds for corrective authority, the enemy has a much easier time taking a group of people off-course, and it doesn't have to happen all at once. No, detach people from their sure and solid moorings to God's infallible Word, and Satan can move them pretty much at will, and gradually, to embrace teachings "which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind" (Jeremiah 19:5 and others).

This is why I said in my opener:
For another, are there not other candidates for the status of The Church®, or the infallible interpreter, out there? Rome? The WatchTower? The Latter-Day Saints? David Koresh? How can we choose which infallible interpreter really represents The Church®, if Scripture is not sufficient for that task? After all, all would shape "Tradition" in the way that best serves each one, picking and choosing, ignoring this and emphasising that.
I'm not sure DavidW understood my point here. Read little-t tradition and you'll quickly discover all sorts of things the EOC does not accept. EOC doesn't accept it; therefore it's not Sacred Apostolic Tradition, as I've said before. That's just the way it is - the Church Fathers and other early Christian writers didn't, on the whole, agree on much of anything besides monotheism. But that's ostensibly EOC's rule of faith, its foundation for authority! What to do? Simple - cull them for what agrees with your position, call it SAT and demote the rest (or neglect to promote the rest), leaving it at the little-t. My point is that ANYone can do that and have the exact same logical consistency and the exact same circularity of appeal to self. Point out to the JW that there's a teaching in the Bible that disproves their position? Simple, the infallible interpreter (the Watchtower) tells me to ignore it, so I ignore it. Show an EO that Basil or Athanasius pointed to Scripture as the final authority? Simple, the "living voice of The Church®" says that's not really what he meant, so ignore it. The well-attended council at Constantinople in 754 says that veneration of icons in worship is wrong? That's not SAT, because The Church® (ie, the faction within the church who won) said in 787 that what The Church® really believes is that icons are perfectly fine for worship. Like I said, this kind of facile handling of history can be done by ANYone whose first authority is not to history but to the infallible interpreter of today. And there's no way to prove them wrong, because the presupposition is already in place.

In short, I'm glad DavidW asked this question, but if our situations were reversed, I would've stayed far away from it.

(Word count: 1551)
(Link to comment repository)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Not just a problem for Sola Scriptura

DavidW said...the Protestant "rule of faith" is "Bible + me" is correct. You're not really submitting yourself to your church, elders, pastor, teachers, etc.; you're following your own interpretations of the text, and, in the end, that's it.

You said that the words of Scripture have a meaning all their own apart from what you or I think -- I agree; but it must be awful hard to get at that meaning, considering the proliferation (whether hundreds or thousands doesn't matter -- it's a lot, more than ever before in Christian history) of Protestant organizations with significantly differing beliefs on every possible matter of disagreement.

And, so, in the end, we have to find ourselves an interpreter -- Scripture itself says so. Who's more likely to be able to tell us what a book really means: the authors' friends or a guy who lived over a thousand years after the authors and in a place thousands of miles from where the authors lived, and who had completely different cultural and linguistic influences? To me, the answer it obvious. I don't know what else to tell you.

Rhology said...

That's exactly why the Fathers are important

Which, of course, leads us to the question: how do we know we have the right interpretation of the Father?
Which, of course, leads us to the question: how do we know we have the right interpretation of the FatherS?

There's no escaping that question. It's both more fundamental and less problematic than you give it credit for.


I'd say the more innovative we get in our interpretations, the farther we are from what it really means

But more innovative FROM WHAT STANDARD?
YOU'RE the guy who's preferring later writings to the original Christian writings - the NT. Me, I stick with the ancient-est stuff out there, and conform my doctrine to what it says. EOC et al prefer the innovation.


in order to be a Protestant, you've got to assume that the Apostolic Fathers either completely misunderstood what the Apostles taught them

Now all of a sudden innovation, in which the CFs got away from the Scr, is a GOOD thing. See, I don't need to mess with all that. If the Scr was clear enough for the CFs to properly understand it, then it's clear enough for someone today to properly understand it. And it can easily be the INDIVIDUAL's fault for misunderstanding a given text, especially an infallible (or almost infallible, if we're talking about you) one.


Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and all of the other so-called "Reconstructionist"/"Restorationist" groups are natural outgrowths of Protestantism

JWs and LDS share a rule of faith with YOU, not me.
And it's hardly the Scr's fault that ppl misinterp it or neglect it or ignore it. Any more than it's the CFs fault that I don't "listen" to them.


This statement of yours is essentially a tacit admission that my charge that the Protestant "rule of faith" is "Bible + me" is correct.

Only if you agree that your rule of faith is "Vincent's aphorism + me." the problem of individual interpretation is not limited to Protestantism.



I agree; but it must be awful hard to get at that meaning, considering the proliferation (whether hundreds or thousands doesn't matter -- it's a lot, more than ever before in Christian history) of Protestant organizations with significantly differing beliefs on every possible matter of disagreement.

Listen to yourself, switch "Scripture" in there with "writings of Christian tradition", and then try to see it from the other angle. And then ask yourself why it's OK for you to charge God with garbling.


And, so, in the end, we have to find ourselves an interpreter -- Scripture itself says so.

And back around goes the circle. I thought you couldn't know what the Scr says without an interper.

Peace,
Rhology

David said...

Which, of course, leads us to the question: how do we know we have the right interpretation of the FatherS?

One of the great things about the Fathers is that there were so many of them, who said the same thing in different ways.

But more innovative FROM WHAT STANDARD?

From the standard of history, to begin with. If you're the first person in 2000 years to look at Scripture and see a certain thing -- there's probably a reason.

YOU'RE the guy who's preferring later writings to the original Christian writings - the NT. Me, I stick with the ancient-est stuff out there

Not that it's an important point, but some of the writings of the Fathers pre-date some of the writings in the New Testament.

Now all of a sudden innovation, in which the CFs got away from the Scr, is a GOOD thing.

So, are you admitting to holding what I charged that Protestants must hold? Did the Apostolic Fathers all misunderstand the Apostles' message and agree with each other in those ways in which they misunderstood it OR Did the Apostolic Fathers all conspire together to alter the message of the Apostles? By calling the Faith expressed in their writing "innovation" you are charging them with one of these things; I'd like to know which it is -- it would at least help me to understand your position.

If the Scr was clear enough for the CFs to properly understand it, then it's clear enough for someone today to properly understand it.

It definitely is -- but only within the context of the Church which produced and preserved it; as the Fathers, who themselves are the ones that put the NT as you and I know it together, made very clear.

I think it's also important to point out that one of the criteria, in fact probably the most important and most-used criteria, used by the Fathers in determining whether or not something was Scriptural is that it agreed with the Faith of the Church, especially as expressed in the Church's liturgical worship -- this means that the Faith of the Church comes first, then Scripture (logically and historically), and that the Fathers, in assembling the NT, worked with the assumption that the Faith taught by the Apostles was uniquely preserved in the Church.

Eusebius of Caesarea, in his "History of the Church," recounts one event that illustrates this point. A 3rd century Bishop (I apologize that I can't recall his name) found out that a book claiming to be a Gospel written by the Apostle Peter was in use in one of his churches. He read the book for himself and found in it things that disagreed with the Faith of the Church and so banned this church from using it any longer. He didn't do this because he had any historical reasons to doubt that the Gospel was written by the Apostle -- he did this because it didn't agree with the Faith of the Church.

David said...



the problem of individual interpretation is not limited to Protestantism.

I agree, but I would add also that it is an inevitable necessity for the Protestant, whereas, for the Orthodox, it is something to be avoided, as we seek to submit ourselves to the phronema, or mind/spirit, of the Church.

Listen to yourself, switch "Scripture" in there with "writings of Christian tradition", and then try to see it from the other angle.

I guess it comes down to this: is the Church the Church -- the one founded by Christ and the Apostles -- which Christ said the gates of hades would not prevail against. The Scriptures and the Fathers are both clear, I think, that there is a Church -- and anyone who stands outside of its visible walls is not in it. You don't find any of the Fathers saying that any of the Gnostics, Marcionites, and Ebionites are somehow "invisibly" part of the Church or that the Church can be divided at all -- they're clear -- you're in or you're out. So, now, we have to ask: did Christ lie? Did the gates of hades prevail against his Church? And I don't think that's possible. And so it comes to finding the True Church -- and I think that point is easily shown, honestly. And when one finds that Church, I think it's a necessity, as Scripture and the Fathers both say, for him to submit himself to it.

There were many things that I struggled with as I came into the Church. Ultimately, though, I knew that I had found the Church -- and was obligated to submit my own interpretations and suppositions to it. My time in the Church and my studies since then have done nothing but confirm my decision to do so.

This also brings up another important point. One of the main charges the Apostolic Fathers leveled against the various heterodox and heretical individuals and organizations was that their beliefs had a clear beginning point in their respective founders -- Marcion, Valentinus, Cerinthus, etc. where as the Church had its beginnings with the Apostles. That's why Orthodox use this same argument today against Protestants -- that the various sects had their beginnings with John Calvin, Martin Luther, Joseph Smith, etc. respectively.

David said...

Here's St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in Against Heresies, Book 3, chapter 4 (I highly recommend a reading of chapters 1-5 of the book -- Irenaeus' argument against the Gnostics is excellent, and applicable to Protestant organizations today):

"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? "

And then ask yourself why it's OK for you to charge God with garbling.

I don't mean to do that at all -- I don't mean to say that the Scriptures are not clear, but that they are not clear on their own; they are only clear within the context of the Church. You can't read any book and make sense of it outside of its context, and that includes Holy Scripture. And the context of Holy Scripture, as both the Scriptures themselves and the Fathers make clear (as well as logical reasoning), is the Church.

Rhology said...

One of the great things about the Fathers is that there were so many of them, who said the same thing in different ways.


1) And alot of Bible authors too.
2) Multiplying authors simply makes mutual consistency that much more difficult. That's precisely what you were getting at when we were discussing the sign over Christ's Cross. The consistency between biblical authors is one of the evidences of divine inspiration. Neither of us claim the Fathers were theopneustos.


From the standard of history, to begin with. If you're the first person in 2000 years to look at Scripture and see a certain thing -- there's probably a reason.

That's begging the question though, since the contention is that the BIBLICAL AUTHOR saw it.


Not that it's an important point, but some of the writings of the Fathers pre-date some of the writings in the New Testament.

A few, yes. Not very many.


Did the Apostolic Fathers all misunderstand the Apostles' message

No. They held to the deity of Christ. Monotheism. Baptism. An as-yet unrealised Eschaton. The shared beliefs far outweigh the differences.
To get more specific to the Reformed/EO disagreements, the majority of CFs held to Sola Scriptura. 1 Clement contains a very clear endorsement of justification by grace alone thru faith alone. Infant baptism was inconsistently held. Kinda puts the kibosh on the whole "everywhere by all at all times".
But fundamentally, what happened with the CFs makes little difference to me. I have good reason to trust God's self-revelation more than I trust the writings of mere men, good men though they may be. I take the CFs' mutual and internal inconsistencies and count them as 100% expected - they were MEN. I take them for who they were and what they believed, but not as any authority, especially since on many issues they were jumbled and thus useless as a prescriptive authority.


It definitely is -- but only within the context of the Church which produced and preserved it;

1) Which claim of course begs the question in favor of the EOC.
2) And you've forgotten the fact that you had to choose which church/infall interper, on your own, w/o the aid of an infall interper. Your choice was fallible.

Rhology said...

the Faith of the Church comes first, then Scripture (logically and historically)

Since the OT was the Bible of the earliest church (Acts 17, Bereans), and then the NT served in large measure to inform and correct churches in their error, I'd put the Scr at least the same level as "the Faith of the Church". But here we're talking authority, so it's not really all that relevant.


I agree, but I would add also that it is an inevitable necessity for the Protestant, whereas, for the Orthodox, it is something to be avoided, as we seek to submit ourselves to the phronema, or mind/spirit, of the Church.

It is no less an inevitable necessity for the EO. You may seek to submit yourselves to the phronema, or mind/spirit, of the Church, but you do so FALLIBLY.
Similarly, the Sola Scripturist seeks to submit himself to the Scripture. The same problem presents itself. Your framework doesn't solve the problem.


is the Church the Church -- the one founded by Christ and the Apostles -- which Christ said the gates of hades would not prevail against.

One would have to use one's fallible interpretation to figure that out, wouldn't one?
Let me be clear here - this is not an argument I use. I am refuting your attempted argument against SScrip here. It's a bad argument since it's a two-edged sword and bleeds your own position just as badly. I suggest you use another argument.


I don't mean to say that the Scriptures are not clear

That's a pretty disingenuous thing to say, since this whole time you've been making the CFs into at the very least a more useful tool. Not to mention "the Faith of the Church", whatever that is.


You can't read any book and make sense of it outside of its context

And how much truer that is for CF writings than of the Scr! Further, knowing the context doesn't help reconcile the irreconcilable in CF writings.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Two harmonies of the Resurrection accounts

Just a quick note on the problem of reconciling the various accounts of the Resurrection of Christ from the four Gospels. Often it is claimed that the events and timelines are irreconcilable with each other. I've recently come across two good resources that go a long way toward putting that claim to rest.

Pastor Stephen Kingsley's Easter Answer
Harmony of the Resurrection Accounts from Answering Islam

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Eastern Orthodoxy's gospel

Let's recap a brief conversation with DavidW, unofficial representative of Eastern Orthodox and official biblical errantist.

Me: 2) DavidW, if we don't hold to the same Gospel, how is it that you've said that I'm not headed for Hell (if my current trajectory holds)? Did you change your mind on that, or is your Gospel not all that central to how one escapes damnation?

DavidW: I trust in the loving mercy of our good God and Father.

Me: God's loving mercy unto relief from damnation (ie, salvation) is granted outside of the Gospel?

DavidW: "With God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:26.

Me: You don't think quoting Matt 19:26 in reply to that question is just a tad out of context?

DavidW: I trust in the loving mercy of our God and Father, with whom all things are possible -- and I leave it at that.


Maybe it would be helpful if we could define "Gospel". I assume you'd agree that from its Greek root, it means "good news".

What is the good news offered? Isn't it that Jesus Christ has come to take away sin, forgive sin, and give eternal life? What could be better news than that? "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?"

Why is that good news? Because we're sinners! What's the problem with that? Why does it matter that we're sinners? B/c God is angry with sin AND sinners, no?


Lk 3:7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness

Rom 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,

Rom 4:14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

Rom 9:22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

Col 2: 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Col 3:5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

1 John 5:11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

Rev 6:16they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

Rev 14:10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”


What is the remedy for this? Jesus Christ!
What does Jn 3:36 mean?
--If one believes in Christ --> eternal life.
--If one does not believe in Christ --> not eternal life. Wrath.

And you want to tell me that Matthew 19:26's "all things are possible with God" means "self-contradiction is possible with God"?
I guess since you're an errantist, you're free to do whatever you want in this case. Do you really think that Jesus forgot His discussion with Nicodemus when He said Matthew 19:26, or vice versa? Or maybe your grand inclusivity is wrongheaded and exhibits postmodern politically correct inclusivism? I expect that from someone like Billy Graham, not from a representative of "the ancient Church".
When I was considering conversion to EOC, this is one of the things that bothered me greatly - your theology doesn't make a very big deal out of sin. It's only gotten worse and more obvious in the years since I stopped considering it.