Friday, June 29, 2007

"Battleground God"

I have to admit it, this little game is right up my alley. I sustained two "direct hits", but that's due to some of the questions being impossible to answer True or False. A 3rd option would've been nice.
I'd be interested in knowing how this goes for others. I thought like a fairly dumb atheist and went thru the game a 2nd time and had to "bite the bullet" thrice.
W/o taking on a fairly Reformed worldview, it might be tough to make it thru as clean as I did. Maybe I should think like an Arminian and see how I do.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Only £10 to hear something other than the Gospel

Whew! At least Joel Osteen finds it almost impossible to preach the Gospel. I'd hate to think that he would charge people to hear it in the United Kingdom.

And BTW, I'll get back to the discussions here, but this week I've been occupied w/ work and especially completing our application for missionary service, and then I was sick for just over 2 days.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Exegesis practice


You tell us what Matt 18 means then if you want to be contentious.

How about I post it here and we can figure it out from the context?

15"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

16"But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.

17"If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18"Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

20"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."

Are you familiar w/ how to perform proper exegesis of the biblical text? How might we go about figuring out how to interpret this psg? This is a question to any reader.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Gospel and the OT Law. Orthodox has no idea.

OK, I spoke too harshly about Orthodox's disingenuousness recently. He has made many comments I consider disingenuous, but this one in particular that I called out was off.

On the other hand, let's consider this brilliant input into our discussion:

WIll (sic) you test the NT canon against the previous torah? Would you have tested Paul's oral traditions in the early church against the torah? Good luck justifying Paul's gospel against the torah.
It's so funny, when I think about it. This guy Orthodox is clearly skilled in polemics against Protestants and has demonstrated some knowledge of the Bible and some knowledge of Church Fathers' writings. And yet he exhibits total cluelessness as relates to a fundamentally important idea in the New Testament.
I recommend that Orthodox read the Epistle to the Hebrews. And then he can ask himself how the noble Bereans went about testing what the Apostle Paul said when he brought the Gospel to them and they tested it by the Scripture (ie, the Old Testament).
He is also welcome to come to my church anytime where, if he cares to, he can learn about God's Word.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Orthodox the Disingenuous

This is not the 1st time I've seen him do this but it's certainly fairly egregious this time around.

1st came this exchange:

>ORTHODOX: I'd be curious to know if the early church fathers who are very clearly the same as EO, are also "not the people of God". People like say, John Chrysostom, or Athanasius.
RHOLOGY: Their beliefs are not directly in line w/ modern EOC.

ORTHODOX: Oh do tell. PLEASE PLEASE tell, how Chrysostom or Athanasius are substantially different to modern EOC. This will be very interesting if you bother to provide more than a sound bite.

In response, I wrote this post.

In that post's combox, Orthodox now writes the following:


Was that indeed the original challenge? Did my post completely and totally miss the point as Orthodox implicates? You make the call.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Athanasius, Chrysostom, and the modern EOC

The question has been raised as regarding my claim that Athanasius and John Chrysostom (for ex) did not teach the same as modern EO-doxy. I will paste several statements from each of them below to defend that. I of course don't expect Orthodox the poster to buy it, but he won't have any good reason not to concede the point.

As far as this goes, I'm not going to comment much on these but I will list them b/c I was challenged. I am not a patristics scholar or even very well-read in them. But what I will do is try to head some objections off and then defend those in the combox if challenged.

Athanasius is first in alphabetical and historical order:

1A) Athanasius had a Canon of Scripture (unlike the modern Eastern Orthodox Church [EOC]). Also, his books are different from those that EO-dox usually present as their Canon.

"I also write, by way of remembrance, of matters with which you are acquainted, influenced by the need and advantage of the Church. In proceeding to make mention of these things, I shall adopt, to commend my undertaking, the pattern of Luke the Evangelist, saying on my own account: 'Forasmuch as some have taken in hand,' to reduce into order for themselves the books termed apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the fathers; it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as Divine...There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews...there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit" (Festal Letter 39:2-4, 39:7)

2A) See above citation - "this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews". Athanasius disagrees w/ EO posters on this very blog in that he was convinced that his was the Canon of the Hebrews.

3A) See above citation - just two 'verses' later in the same letter, Athanasius says: "These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these." (Festal Letter 39:6)

"It is plain then from the above that the Scriptures declare the Son's eternity; it is equally plain from what follows that the Arian phrases 'He was not,' and 'before' and 'when,' are in the same Scriptures predicated of creatures." (Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1:4:13)

"And let them [the Arians] blame themselves in this matter, for they set the example, beginning their war against God with words not in Scripture. However, if a person is interested in the question, let him know, that, even if the expressions [used by those who oppose Arianism] are not in so many words in the Scriptures, yet, as was said before, they contain the sense of the Scriptures, and expressing it, they convey it to those who have their hearing unimpaired for religious doctrine." (Defense of the Nicene Definition, 5:21)

"Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture" (De Synodis, 6)

"The knowledge of our religion and of the truth of things is independently manifest rather than in need of human teachers, for almost day by day it asserts itself by facts, and manifests itself brighter than the sun by the doctrine of Christ. Still, as you nevertheless desire to hear about it, Macarius, come let us as we may be able set forth a few points of the faith of Christ: able though you are to find it out from the divine oracles, but yet generously desiring to hear from others as well. For although the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth,-while there are other works of our blessed teachers compiled for this purpose, if he meet with which a man will gain some knowledge of the interpretation of the Scriptures, and be able to learn what he wishes to know,-still, as we have not at present in our hands the compositions of our teachers, we must communicate in writing to you what we learned from them,-the faith, namely, of Christ the Saviour; lest any should hold cheap the doctrine taught among us, or think faith in Christ unreasonable." (Against the Heathen, 1:1)

John Chrysostom:

1J) John Chrysostom wanted people to read and hear scripture as often as possible and to possess copies of the Bible. He included unbelievers, even young children. As opposed to the EOC (or at the very least quite a few EO-dox w/ whom I have interacted over the past few years).

"this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this" (Homilies on the Gospel According to St. John, 32:3)

"It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures!...For it is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom....How many persons, do you suppose, have spoken upon the Gospels? And yet all have spoken in a way which was new and fresh. For the more one dwells on them, the more insight does he get, the more does he behold the pure light." (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 19)

"And so ye also, if ye be willing to apply to the reading of him [Paul] with a ready mind, will need no other aid. For the word of Christ is true which saith, 'Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' (Matt. vii. 7.)...For from this it is that our countless evils have arisen - from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this that there are negligent lives; from this labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must needs be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking the worst darkness." (Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, The Argument)

2J) "All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain." (Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5)

3J) John Chrysostom didn't think there was much unity in what is alleged to have been the Eastern Orthodox Church® of his day:

"What is one to say to the disorders in the other Churches? For the evil did not stop even here [Constantinople], but made its way to the east. For as when some evil humor is discharged from the head, all the other parts are corrupted, so now also these evils, having originated in this great city as from a fountain, confusion has spread in every direction, and clergy have everywhere made insurrection against bishops, there has been schism between bishop and bishop, people and people, and will be yet more; every place is suffering from the throes of calamity, and the subversion of the whole civilized world." (Correspondence of St. Chrysostom with the Bishop of Rome, Letter 1:4)

4J) He refers to 2 Timothy 3:17 applying to all Christians, not just members of the church hierarchy:

"'That the man of God may be perfect.' For this is the exhortation of the Scripture given, that the man of God may be rendered perfect by it; without this therefore he cannot be perfect. Thou hast the Scriptures, he says, in place of me. If thou wouldest learn anything, thou mayest learn it from them. And if he thus wrote to Timothy, who was filled with the Spirit, how much more to us!" (Homilies on Second Timothy, 9, 3:16-17)

Many thanks to Jason Engwer for the sourcing of these quotes.

Now, someone might object: You got these from an article meant to refute Roman Catholicism.
True, but the citations stand on their own and refute the EO position too.

This is just your own private personal interpretation.
Ah geez, don't even get me started.
Of course everyone interprets things - that is not open to question. Do you believe, however, that every interpretation is the same? If so, then here is how I interpret your last statement:

MY INTERPRETATION OF OBJECTOR: My feet are made of broccoli and I won 500 corn chips in the lottery.

See how silly it is to talk that way?
If you disagree w/ my statement, you must show me (and any reader) why w/ a reasoned argument. Which will then be interpreted by me and every reader. Just running around questioning interpretation or retorting “That’s just your interpretation!” is a conversation-killer. And it’s an ugly death for the conversation.

(If you're keeping score at home, that's my exact response to a liberal Protestant who used the same line. Just sayin'.)

You've taken them out of context.

i) According to YOU. But you tell me to eschew private interpretation all the time, so why should I listen to your private interpretation?
ii) I don't have time right now to read thru the Fathers, so I don't feel the force of the objection very strongly anyway.
iii) **Main point** Let's just say for the sake of argument that you're right - Ath and JoChr taught in more than one *other* place the opposite doctrine to what I've presented here.
That leaves us w/ CFs who have contradicted themselves. To be consistent w/ these Ch Fathers (and remember, my claim is that modern EO-doxy is inconsistent w/ them), EOC would either have to:
A: Teach just as inconsistently as these two guys do, sometimes saying one thing, sometimes the other, or
B: Call these teachings not actually part of Divine Tradition.

The problem w/ resolution A is that the cognitive dissonance would be pretty much unbearable. The upshot is that I don't know if I'd expect a lot of people to turn away from EO-doxy in real life.
The thing about resolution B is that they have indeed already done just that. Somehow these two godly, forcible, powerful writers, from whom EOC ostensibly derives much of its tradition and doctrine, also produced impious, ungodly, and flat wrong teachings.

Now, how would the EO know this? Apparently from judging these non-"Apostolic Traditions" by... yup, you guessed it! What The Church® Says.
In the end, it's a vicious circle of question-begging. I claim the modern EOC is not totally faithful w/ Ch Fathers and then cite them when challenged. Then they say, "Hey, those aren't part of Apostolic Tradition!" I say, "Thanks for proving my point."

I also pause to note how pernicious this is. The Lord Jesus set an authoritative example for how one is to judge tradition - by Scripture. The EO refuses to do that and instead appeals to his own doctrinal construct which is already in place to then look BACK on tradition AND Scripture and pick and choose what he'll believe and what he won't believe. Thus the EO holds to the Scriptural teaching of the Deity of Christ and rejects the Scriptural teaching of salvation by grace alone thru faith alone. He accepts the Trinity and rejects sola scriptura. He accepts the fact that we should pray to God as commanded in the Scripture and rejects the fact that prayer to dead people and angels is strictly prohibited in the Scripture.
It becomes easy to see how this not only dishonors God in ideal (that is, that we should not judge men's teachings by God's) but also later in practice (bowing down to images, praying to dead people, trying to work one's way to salvation).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Canon made simpler

Several friends have recently told me that they've had difficulty following recent interactions on this blog. It's understandable - it's not every day that an American or une française encounters a Hyper-Preterist or talks to an Eastern Orthodox (or anyone) about the Canon of Scripture or our basis for knowing what it is.

There's also Lucian, who's not following me either, given his recent ???????????????????????? comment.

Let me try again really quick:
The pious Jew in 50 BC did indeed know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture, were Canonical. How did they know? God led His people gradually, passively, subtlely over time to understand the Canon. They did not have any Infallible Interpreter to TELL them what the Canon was.

The reason this is relevant is that EO-dox tell me that I need The Church® to tell me what the Canon is and I can't know it w/o their telling me. Thus, as a Protestant, denying that any such infallible interpreter exists, I don't have any justification for the Canon I do accept.

Two immediately relevant problems w/ their answer:
1) The EOC does not have a Canon of Scripture themselves, so how are they in a position to tell me what the Canon of Scripture is?
2) The model we see in the Old Testament provides the paradigm for knowing what the Canon of the NT is - God's subtle, gradual leading of His people as a whole to accept the true Canon, to accept the books He has inspired and to reject as inspired the books He didn't inspire.

Hopefully that is helpful.