Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Few Roman Catholic Notes (and...Other Stuff)
01/31/2007 - James WhiteTQuid (James Swan) has a fascinating post here. I would like to suggest another scenario that is more likely than the one TQ mentioned. I would suspect that one of the regular RC readers of my blog contacted Hahn. I doubt he reads my blog anymore than he has to (i.e., when he is mentioned, or when a relevant topic is addressed). In any case, you cannot help but chuckle a bit at the language of conversion. I've seen it for decades now. If a young man, a student even, who has read some Reformed theology (and has even listened to some Greg Bahnsen tapes!), apostatizes, all of a sudden that young person becomes one of the most brilliant thinkers of our age as a newly minted RC. Of course, had he stayed where he was, he would not have been a brilliant thinker at all. You truly wonder if those who use such language don't chuckle a bit as they are typing.
I may just have to get TQ to join Team ProsApologian. If I could convince the Calvinist Gadfly to come over, too, we would definitely have the firepower to take out ol' Team Pyro in the Calvinist Blog SuperBowl X (I haven't a clue what happened in the previous nine, but X looks so much more impressive than I).
I likewise noted this paean to sacramentalism from another writer, a "re-convert" to Rome. My sacramentalist critics (both Roman and non) attribute my views to ignorance of the "beauty" of the sacraments. I have to apologize to them all, but you see, I truly do seek to bring all aspects of my thinking under the lordship of Christ. I find Him speaking with clarity in His Word. I do not find Him speaking at all in the mumblings of Rome, or the ever-self-contradictory ramblings of the traditions of men. So those things that arise from those non-divine sources hold no attraction for me. But beyond even this, when they become self-evidently contrary to divine truth and pure worship, they cease being simply items of irrelevance but instead they become objects of disgust. When God's glorious gospel becomes encrusted with layers of human accretion in the form of "sacraments," I find it hard to find any "beauty" in them at all.
Join with this reality the fact that I find most sacramentalists to have a higher love for their activities and rituals than they have for the divine truths of God's revelation, and you can see why I really am in no position to find much common ground with these folks. Inevitably the human-originated religiosity over-powers the divine decrees concerning purity of worship, and the results are predictable. In the case of Rome, even the gospel itself is lost, forced out of the realm of proclamation by the bloated self-importance of an allegedly infallible, unreformable hierarchy.
So the person trusting in the grace channeled through the sacraments of his church, who has been willing to trade in a finished work and a perfect Savior for the endless treadmill of sacramental obligation, will not find me traveling that road with them. Nor will I find any basis upon which to embrace the exaltation of these unbiblical, human inventions. When you've found the real thing, all these baubles and bangles just seem so...cheap. It was like the Papal Treasures exhibit I visited in 1993 in Denver. Gold and silver and diamonds and crowns and clothing---all utterly worthless in my eyes. Repulsive, actually. But that one piece of papyri from the beginning of the third century written by a fellow believer long, long ago (seen here), well, that was true treasure. Likewise, all the gaudy gold and jewels of the Vatican, adorning all the monuments to man and his religiosity and his power---utterly cold and empty. Do forgive again (I know I offended many when I made that comment on this blog when I was in Rome), but marble monuments to man's self-absorption and perversion of God's truth are not attractive to me. In comparison, this martyr's cross, which speaks to the suffering of God's people at the hands of communists and Muslims across the world today, is far more attractive to me than all the gold and silver and relics and tombs and religiosity and fanfare and sacramentalism anyone can offer. Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. One's sense of beauty is trained by one's world view, one's heart. My heart still breaks when I see people abandoning the truth for a lie. Yes, I know that probably means they never knew the truth in the first place. But I do pray that I will never become accustomed to seeing people moving away from truth and toward destruction. God help me to not become jaded to such things.
Finally, I could really stretch things and make some kind of connection between Pete Ruckman and Roman Catholicism...but I will leave that kind of humor to the experts. Since everyone else has just recently discovered Tom Slawson, I thought I'd link to this article. I have been insulted by Ruckman many times. I get to laugh about it.
Exegesis of Romans 5:1 from The God Who Justifies (For Comparison)
01/31/2007 - James White5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (NIV)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (NASB)
Dikaiwqevnte" ou\n ejk pivstew" eijrhvnhn ¢e[comen pro;" to;n qeo;n dia; tou' kurivou hJmw'n ÆIhsou' Cristou'
Romans 5:1 marks the transition from the demonstration of the doctrine of justification to the application of justification. But it is not a sudden transition, and we can gain much theological insight from the passage. In fact, the very form of the transition ("Therefore, having been justified...") is rich in theological insight regarding the topic before us.
The NET and NIV both render the aorist participle, dikaiothentes (dikaiwqevnte"), since we have with the NIV choosing "been justified by faith" and the NET going with "been declared righteous by faith." The NASB's "having been justified by faith" is only slightly more literal. In each of these translations, we see one of the key elements of the passage: the declaration of justification is in the past. That is, the aorist participle, syntactically speaking, refers to an action that is antecedent to the action of the main verb, here echomen (e[comen).(1) As Fitzmyer observed,
now that we are justified through faith. Lit., justified from faith, expressed by the aor. pass. ptc., which connotes the once-for-all action of Christ Jesus on behalf of humanity. What is stated at the beginning of this verse is a summation of the latter section of part A, especially 3:22-26.(2)
The relationship between justification and having peace is clear: because we have been justified through faith as an action in the past, we now have, as a present possession, peace (eijrhvnhn) with God.
There can be no doubt what lies behind Paul's use of the term peace in this passage. The Hebrew steeped in Scripture knew full well the meaning of shalom (~Alv'). It does not refer merely to a cessation of hostilities (though surely it means this as well, and such is true of justification, for the reason for hostility is removed in the work of Christ). It is not a temporary cease-fire. The term shalom would not refer to a situation where two armed forces face each other across a border, ready for conflict, but not yet at war. Shalom refers to a fullness of peace, a wellness of relationship. It has a strong positive element. Those systems that proclaim a man-centered scheme of justification cannot explain the richness of this word. They cannot provide peace because a relationship that finds its source and origin in the actions of imperfect sinners will always be imperfect itself. Only the gospel of Christ, which says that Christ is our all-in-all, that Christ is the powerful Savior, that Christ is able to save completely (Hebrews 7:25), can provide for true peace. This theme was prevalent in the older, theologically-oriented commentaries:
The phrase eijrhvnhn e[comen pro;" to;n qeo;n, we have peace in regard to God, properly means, God is at peace with us, his ojrghv (wrath) towards us is removed. It expresses, as Philippians says, not a state of mind, but a relation to God. It is that relation which arises from the expiation of sin, and consequently justification. We are no longer his enemies, in the objective sense of the term..., but are the objects of his favour.(3)
Justified by faith as a past action, resulting, infallibly, invariably, in peace with God: Paul will repeat this theme in Romans 8:30 where he will say that those who are justified by God will, invariably, be glorified by Him as well. The Christian can speak as the Apostle Paul, I have been justified by faith. I have peace with God through my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. ...
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Today on the Dividing Line
01/30/2007 - James WhiteWent back to the Craig/Ally debate today to finish up the cross-ex portion and look at little more closely at original sin vs. "actual sin." Then we went back to the Bryson presentation, and took a call on the textual variant at 1 Timothy 3:16. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Also, don't forget we will start the textual critical series on Thursday with some background discussion.
Knowing When to Move On
01/29/2007 - Mike PorterIf the person who wrote this can so easily read my recent post on Bullinger and then say this about it:
I’m supposed to respond to arguments about Bullinger and his perspective on the Roman Church while at the same time being subjected to questions as to how much I’ve actually read of Bullinger…as if that had anything at all to do with the matter at hand.I doubt I can change his mind, so I will not pursue the matter.
The Foundation of Christian Apologetics
01/29/2007 - James WhiteI had a tremendous time this weekend. Far beyond my expectations. My mind is still reeling from all the information I took in regarding the oldest manucripts of the Qur'an. Great information. I'm tremendously excited. You will definitely be hearing the fruit of this weekend in future debates. I am thankful to those who support this work that I had the opportunity of flying out here and meeting with these leading scholars in this field. Though we have kept expenses for this trip very low, please remember us at this time. We are always in need of your prayers and your support.
It is a bit of a rough transition to go from hours of intense conversation on the Qur'an, Arabic orthography, textual transmissional issues, etc., to reading the blogosphere, I confess. But I just saw Kevin Johnson basically saying I'm a big mean nasty guy and that it is mean of me to challenge him to put his claims to the test and show us how he exegetes Romans 5:1 via the "mind of the Church" as he himself said. I sorta expect that, to be honest. It is, in fact, an impossible challenge since, well, his original claim just didn't make any sense. He's just not willing to admit it. But the point has been made for all willing to think about it.
But I'm also mean for pointing out that the rC's are hardly known for their front-line apologetics work. This is an arguable point? Those who assure us that we can't possibly know what Jesus said or meant in the synagogue in Capernaum, who regularly undercut the perspecuity of Scripture, enslaving us instead to human tradition, somehow have something of substance to say to Islam's apologists? Excuse me? What are you going to do, invite them to sit down over a cup of coffee while you discuss your hadith versus theirs? Please. Johnson once again ignores the context of even my own words (this "ignore the context, make it say what you want it to say" syndrome he suffers from is pretty consistent anyway) which was in reference to biblical authority and clarity outside of the addition of human authorities. It is sort of basic to apologetics with other world religions, especially with Islam. Johnson knows this. He just refuses to face it.
Leaving the less-than-edifying, I point out yet again what I have said so many times before: the great apologetic divide goes to a simple question: has God spoken with clarity or not? Sadly, the largest portion of the academy today, Christian or non, says, "no." If you believe God has indeed spoken with clarity and force, you are in a minority. And you know how you can discover the strength of the foundation upon which a gospel presentation is based (or, at least, how consistent the person is in their presentation)? It's pretty easy. The Apostles did not present the resurrection and the call to repentance and faith as probabilites. "It is highly probable that if you weigh the evidence in an unbiased fashion that you will come to the conclusion that there is a better chance Jesus rose from the dead than there is He didn't." Is that how the Apostles preached? No. They presented not only the existence of God as a certainty, but the resurrection is presented as a reality that demands of every man, woman, and child, the response of repentance and faith. That kind of preaching requires the highest view of Scripture, and sadly, when people say, "Why don't we hear powerful preaching any longer?" the answer is not difficult to find. Few believe they any longer represent God as an ambassador with a certain message with divine authority. That's why.
In any case, I'm headed home later today, and so the DL should be at its regular time tomorrow. And don't forget the TC (Textual Criticism) series that starts on Thursday!
An Open Response to Jonathan Bonomo
01/28/2007 - James WhiteMr. Bonomo,
Thank you for your letter. I confess it would be a bit easier for me to respond in detail if your original post, and the comments to which you make reference, were still available, but I will do the best I can in the absence of this material.
I have noted your comments upon reading materials written by Paul Owen, Kevin Johnson, and Tim Enloe. As you know, my history with these men is long. I am without a doubt their favorite target of insult, put-down, and caricature (Doug Wilson might wish to argue that point at least with reference to Mr. Johnson). For years Owen could not write an article or utter a peep in public without taking a shot at me, and Tim Enloe has sunk to saying outrageous things about me and his caricature of my beliefs in such contexts as the Envoy forums, a haven of the most conservative Roman Catholics such as Art Sippo. So it is fairly easy, upon seeing you joining in (both in your comments, and in your own blog), to take your words at face value. I am uncertain how I could have done otherwise. It would be impossible to privately write to each person who you find writing consistently in such a context, who likewise engages in a caricature of your position (your comments currently on the rC website join in the misrepresentation of myself as some kind of individualistic anabaptist, showing a tremendous ignorance of my deeply held churchmanship, my role as an elder in an LBCF church, and my published work which includes sufficient testimony to the breadth of my ecclesiology to convince anyone with an open mind that the constant drumbeat of those in your circles is without merit), and ask them, "Do you really mean what you are saying?"
I appreciate your apology for what you have identified as your "rant" of 1/3/07. I am thankful I was not the only target, though, I must ask, what other Reformed Baptist apologetics ministries were you referring to? I guess I am asking too much of a "rant" to ask where the comments about me ended and those about others began because, of course, I could not see how the entire post was not about me and my "kind." And please realize, sir, that if someone had posted that in my chat channel, for example, I would have assumed it was written by Timothy Enloe. I have entire files of rants just like it, and he means each and every one. So, in light of my having seen your name attached to his, Johnson, Owen, etc., it would be hard to not assume a pattern of consistency based upon similar beliefs and attitudes.
You say you realized the rant was wrong. This seems to have happened after I linked to it, and was related to certain comments posted there. Was the rant "wrong" because it misrepresented me? It seems that what you said, and even the way you said it, is quite consistent with the type of criticism that marks the rC movement as a whole of myself and others like me. Or did the "wrongness" exist in the style, but not the substance?
I believe TULIP represents the spectrum of gospel truth most reprehensible to the natural man. I believe TULIP rips the lips off of man's self-righteousness. It casts man fully upon the mercy of God and leaves no ground for boasting. I believe TULIP then is vital to maintaining gospel balance against the ever-present drag of remaining sin that leads us to constantly find ways of robbing God of his glory and putting ourselves back in some semblance of control.
Likewise, I see Rome's gospel as a glory-stealing, man-exalting, Christ-blaspheming falsehood that can only damn, never save. I see transubstantiation and the concept of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice as gross falsehoods that fall squarely under the anathema of God. I see purgatory as a denial of the finished work of Christ; the sacramental priesthood an unbiblical mechanism of unrighteous control at best, and a gross blasphemy against the singular high priesthood of the Lord Jesus at worst. I see the Marian dogmas as a transparent scheme to distract from the singular glory of Christ. I see the Papacy as a vile imposture with enough martyr's blood on its hands to testify to its gross iniquity for all time.
So you can see why, if the TULIP discussion is "Reformed," and the preceding paragraph is "Catholic," I find the title of the rC website so utterly oxymoronic. And I admit I find those who play games with these eternally important issues, most troubling.
So is TULIP co-extensive with the gospel? No, TULIP refers to a portion of the gospel, not to its whole. But is TULIP therefore irrelevant? Surely not. Sacrificable? No, it is not. Not if we wish to honor the Spirit of God who revealed these truths in Scripture. Of course, part of the problem is I believe many today claim to believe these truths but at the same time never miss an opportunity to cut the ground out from underneath them, leaving us with nothing more than man's opinions and predilections. ...
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Bullinger on Rome, a Reply
01/28/2007 - Mike PorterI made sure I looked both ways before posting. It appeared clear, so cover me: I'm going in.
Kevin Johnson responded to my article on Bullinger. He seemed to understand the implications of Bullinger's views regarding Rome to some of his own views on the matter, although it seems he missed the larger point of the article. The main objections that Johnson issued to my "interpretation" of Bullinger, as he calls it, break down into the following points:
- Bullinger's context is 500 years removed from ours and must be read in a proper historical context to not superimpose our modern and personal perspectives (per his statement about imposing the most absurd sort of anachronistic categories upon the matter)
- Bullinger did not mean all individual churches of Rome; he meant only the leadership of Rome, the hierarchical structure. The people, Kevin asserts, were "largely" viewed as Christians.
- Rome's great blasphemy is therefore reduced to claiming authority and identity exclusively that she simply did not have. While she is not exclusively the true church, she is a part of the true church and still shared in the rights and privileges of the true Church of Christ.
- Kevin claims all of this is indicative of Bullinger's supposedly "fuller ecclesiology," one due to the continued presence of Word and Sacrament among the Romish churches. What Kevin means by Word and Sacrament is unclear, but appears to be synonymous with baptism, communion, and reading Scriptures.
A caution about context is a two-edged sword, of course, and applies equally to Kevin's offered interpretation. Several things must be considered: Bullinger's Decade's have not been republished in English in over 150 years until 2004, his role within the Reformation became somewhat obscured by Calvin, Zwingli and other names, and many of his writings remain in Latin or German still. The danger that many recent scholars of Bullinger face is interpreting Bullinger as ever the student of Zwingli and never his influencer, interpreting Bullinger in view of other Reformers or perceptions of Reformers, or interpreting Bullinger without considering the significance of his role within the Reformation and later Reformed thought (this is an entirely simplistic reduction of points that would require its own article to elaborate).
For instance, Drs. Muller and Venema have both stated in their respective works that Bullinger has been misread or misunderstood. Other scholars have claimed that since Bullinger's 500th birthday, his role and theology have been or is being clarified. So Kevin's caution is well taken, but to my knowledge Johnson has read only Bromiley, which contains sermon one from the Fifth Decade. ...
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01/27/2007 - James WhiteI'm on the road again, but I'm not speaking anywhere. I'm actually off studying. Don't want to get too specific, but yes, it has to do with Islam. But, I should still have net access, so I will keep plugging away here.
Haven't seen how we can exegete Romans 5:1 via the "mind of the Church" yet, and, to be honest, I really doubt I will. Johnson's original statement is getting the same treatment we will hear from our national politicians for the next two years or so: spin. It was obviously an over-statement that really cannot be defended, and you just can't make the original statement work. So, when challenged, the spin starts and now instead of seeking the context in the "mind of the Church" over against the original context, now we are being told that it is important and helpful to consider what past generations have thought about a text. Of course, I have never said otherwise, and, if folks would even attempt some level of fairness (I truly don't believe the RefCath folks bother to read anything I write outside of my blog) they would know that I have no problem with avoiding re-inventing the wheel with each generation. But that wasn't what Johnson originally said, of course. We won't see any defense of that original statement because it is indefensible and, as stated, this "mind of the Church" as a hermeneutical methodology is nebulous and undefined.
I am reminded of my challenge to Doug Wilson in our Credenda Agenda debate many years ago. It sounds so wonderfully pious and warm and theological to speak of "the mind of the Church" or the "ecclesiastical text" and the like. You can really get folks worked up about stuff like that. I bet I could get quite a following if I was content to wander about in the feel-good land of puffy phrases and theologically loaded language. But I have this problem. See, I actually try to take my faith into the marketplace and present it as God's truth. I have to defend it. So, language like that, as nice as it sounds, has to be able to translate into reality. It has to work. When I asked Doug Wilson to take the Theodore Letis-inspired concept of an "ecclesiastical text" and actually show us how it works in real life in deciding a textual variant, he couldn't do that. It wasn't his fault, of course. It is just that while we may long for certain things, it doesn't mean that the object of our longing exists; further, even if we say it exists, it may just exist in our minds and on paper, but it doesn't exist in reality. The ecclesiastical text model can't do textual criticism. It can't get its hand dirty in the real world and actually accomplish anything. It can't answer questions, it can't defend itself. So, it's only worth is that generated by folks who wish it were true.
In the same way, Johnson's original claim sounded very pious and ecclesiastical and religious and the like, but, it can't make the transition from wishful thinking to reality. You can't do exegesis with it, especially has he used it originally. It just doesn't exist down here in the real world where you have to answer tough questions. And since Johnson will never offer an exegesis of Romans 5:1 using this "mind of the Church" as his sole guide, well, the point is proven.
Now, it is fascinating to watch the spinning going on over at the Oxymoronic Blog. I have been quite straightforward in my replies to Owen and Johnson. If you are new to his blog, you may think I've been too harsh. Consider the background and you might recognize I've been quite restrained. In any case, if you peruse the articles and the comments posted over the past few days dispassionately, simply analyzing the thought patterns and methodologies, you will discover that none of these folks have the slightest interest in actually engaging the text on the level I have presented in my rebuttals. None. In fact, there is a general tone of mockery of that kind of exegetical examination of the text (the form that starts with the original author's context, his intentions, his language, grammar, lexicography, syntax, narrow and broader literary context, authorial context, broadening out to the corpus of the author's writings, and finally to the New Testament as a whole) almost always (especially in the comments of Timothy Enloe, who cannot restrain himself from making these comments in every possible context) along with some kind of "gnostic" accusation or "anabaptist" insult or something along those lines. What is always accepted as axiomatic is my irrationality. I'm simply beyond reason they say. I will gladly let the reader compare and contrast and decide if there is any merit to the accusation. One thing is for certain: one side can quote the other and interact directly with their presentation. The other can't. You decide. ...
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Qur'an 101: the Uthmanic Revision
01/27/2007 - James WhiteSometimes just having a small number of specific vocabularly terms mastered will help you feel more at home in a conversation or discussion. This is especially the case when it comes to Islam. For regular readers of this blog, you have undoubtedly heard me make reference to the "Uthmanic Revision." It is best to give you the direct statement from "official" Muslim sources. Here is the relevant material from the Hadith literature as recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari, 6.507, 509-510:
(The Caliph 'Uthman ordered Zaid bin Thabit, Said bin Al-As, 'Abdullah bin Az-Zubair and 'Abdur-Rahman bin Al-Harith bin Hisham to write the Qur'an in the form of a book (Mushafs) and said to them, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit (Al-Ansari) regarding any dialectic Arabic utterance of the Quran, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, for the Qur'an was revealed in this dialect." So they did it.
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet's Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found 'Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), "Umar has come to me and said: 'Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected." I said to 'Umar, "How can you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" 'Umar said, "By Allah, that is a good project." 'Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which 'Umar had realized." Then Abu Bakr said (to me). 'You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book)." By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" Abu Bakr replied, "By Allah, it is a good project." Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. So I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat At-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. The Verse is:
"Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty...(till the end of Surat-Baraa' (At-Tauba). (9.128-129) Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Qur'an remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with 'Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, the daughter of 'Umar.
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Qur'an) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'Abdur-Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had
written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' " (33.23)
Here we have the traditional Islamic statement of the Uthmanic Revision, that point in time where Uthman, prompted, according to this form of the tradition, by others, and by the death of a number of the Qurra (those who knew the Quran by heart), gathered up the Qur'an from various sources and compiled an "authoritative" version. Note that part of the concern was so that the Muslims would not argue over the text of the Qur'an "as Jews and the Christians did before." This is vitally important (I have often made reference to the same concept in KJV Onlyism: exchanging truth for certainty, an issue I will address in the upcoming series on textual criticism). But note especially the destruction by fire of "all other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies." Given the reference to differing recitations based, clearly, upon different readings in the collections that had already come into existence, we have here evidence of textual variation in the pre-Uthmanic Qur'anic manuscripts. Uthman's action, then, destroys the very means that could have been used to arrive at a far clearer picture of the original compilation and reading of the Qur'an.
However, in 1972, fragments of what may well be a pre-Uthmanic compilation of the Qur'an were found in Sana'a, Yemen. The picture above comes from the same manuscript find, specifically, from what is today Surah 5, with part of ayah 60, 61, and part of 62.
So when you hear someone speaking of the "Uthmanic Revision," this is what they are referring to. Of course, there is much discussion concerning just how accurate this tradition itself is, and what truly prompted Uthman's actions, etc. But even from the most conservative Islamic perspective, there is clear evidence of pre-Uthmanic textual variation in the text of the Qur'an.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
01/26/2007 - James WhiteSorry to be late getting this up. Yesterday I played sections from Shabir Ally's debate with William Lane Craig regarding the nature of God. Then I took calls. I will continue with both Ally and the Bryson debate next Tuesday, and remember, next Thursday we start the textual criticism series. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Paul Owen Capitulates
01/25/2007 - James White
v.v. verb cease to resist an opponent or an unwelcome demand; surrender. Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
When you are challenged on a theological and biblical claim you have made in public, it is expected that you can respond to said challenge with serious and sober argumentation, exegesis, and contextual argumentation. If you cannot do so, you can either ignore the challenge, or, as is so often the case, you can attempt to obfuscate. This is done by grossly misrepresenting the substance of the challenge and then by attacking, often with extreme prejudice and emotion, the straw man you have erected. The hope is that the wild display will be sufficient to dissuade anyone from pursuing the topic.
The utilization of these forms of invalid argumentation is, to the serious observer, nothing more than surrender. Capitulation. And that is what we see when we evaluate the responses posted by Paul Owen of my critique of his assertion that John 6 is normally mishandled and misread by "Calvinists."
I would encourage the reader who is interested in how various groups in today's world handle the text of the inspired Word of God to spend a few moments doing a comparison. I am posting, here, the text of a fairly brief exegesis of John 6:35-45 I wrote a few years ago. I would probably expand upon my comments on v. 45 today, but I will allow it to stand as is for the moment. The file is in pdf format.
Then look again at Paul Owen's original comments on John 6, found here. Try to avoid the vein-popping, red-faced diatribe connected in the update section, for that came after the original was published. Remember the statement he originally made, and is now doing his best to have everyone forget: "Calvinists take a clearly Eucharistic passage and turn it into a treatise on predestination. It is not." Remember that Owen is the one "locking" the passage into being "clearly Eucharistic" and is denying that it is a "treatise on predestination." Those are his own words. If he wants to retract them, we will all gladly allow him to do so publicly. But that was the assertion to which I was responding. In any case, read his handling of the text of John 6. Compare and contrast it with the file linked above and my own comments. Which, if either, follows the flow of the dialogue in the synagogue? Who jumps from text to text, back and forth, and who follows in the natural order of the conversation, allowing terms to be defined, and then meanings built up? Determine for yourself. I don't have to browbeat you into taking my side. I think the facts speak for themselves.
Now, there is so much venom in Owen's response that it would not be edifying to most to invest a lot of time in it. So I will summarize some of the main obvious errors and let the reader decide who is blustering and who is not. A few things: ...
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01/25/2007 - James WhiteSteve Hays has commented on the exchange with the folks at the oxymoronic website here.
Johnson has attempted a response here, but, has only demonstrated that he has no answers, because he keeps shifting the ground, as I will demonstrate when time allows. Owen has likewise replied. Given his position he can do nothing more than keep proving my points for me, but as long as it remains useful as a warning to others, I will respond and keep pointing them out.
BTW, I call "Reformed Catholicism" the oxymoronic website not because historic Reformed folks did not claim consistency with the early church (they did); nor is it because the term "Catholic" cannot be used in a more general sense (it can). I call this website the oxymoronic website because it is so painfully obvious that for them, they neither hold to the heart of Reformed soteriology (their mockery of the solas is just one example) nor do they hold to the heart of [Roman] Catholic authority claims but they are always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to anything Roman but never to anything conservatively Reformed. Hence the oxymoronic nature of the name of the website, and the movement, in its modern form.
TQuid (James Swan) has an excellent and very useful blog entry here. It is so sad to see a young man falling for the circular arguments of Rome, as noted by James in this entry. I confess, however, a good bit of amazement that anyone can find de Sales overly compelling. He had the nuanced abilities of a jack-hammer or a baseball bat, and as David King notes, his arguments require the acceptance of their conclusions right from the start. TQuid is right to note, "There are more factors going on than simply a historical and scriptural search to determine 'truth'. I’m sure if I were to sit and talk face to face with this man for an hour, 'heart' factors would emerge." Exactly.
Finally, I was pointed to this loving blast from a student at Gordon Conwell. I had no idea I had managed to hi-jack the entire Reformed movement! Man those Reformed Baptists are nasty, and sneaky, too!
Mike Spreng Comments
01/24/2007 - James WhiteThe first comment on Mr. Johnson's post is by a fellow by the name of Mike Spreng:
Don’t you just love how he fires those shots without leaving a chance for anyone to comment on his site (not that anyone wants to interact with such a man)? What can be said about guys like this that only go as far back as Spurgeon, or at best Zwingly?1) We have never had comments, nor will we. Comments sections are the theological ignorance aggregator of the Internet.
2) I do a live webcast twice a week. 877-753-3341, toll-free. Feel free to call. Just have your facts in line.
3) It's Zwingli, not Zwingly.
4) Given that I have published entire books that include discussions of early church sources, including providing my own original translations of some of those materials, Mr. Spreng might want to try checking his facts next time around.
You will note not a single meaningful comment (one that actually interacts with anything I've said so far) has been posted. I expect Owen will respond, but, if he follows his pattern of the past, as soon as I once again re-focus and point out the fact that he has yet to engage the text exegetically he will move on to some other subject (probably related to how Reformed Baptists just can't do anything right---note Enloe's comment currently posted there).
I get a lot of questions when I travel about the process people go through who were once with us, and who now stand against us. Obviously, there are many variations in the theme, but this thread is demonstrating some of the key elements of that process and the abandonment of the authority of Scripture and its ability to speak with clarity.
Of Coffee and Words
01/24/2007 - James WhiteKevin Johnson has responded to my comments about his "mind of the church" hermeneutic comment last evening. Let's remind ourselves what he said and the context in which he said it (for that little element got lost in his response):
My belief is that context ought to be centered more in the concerns of the mind of the Church rather than the mind of the writer in the first place especially as we look to passages like John 6 where it is quite clear to me anyway that what is being presented is a whole lot more than just the arcane details of the miracles of Christ.
Now, despite the abandonment of a belief that words have meanings, contexts are discernible, etc., I will do my best to accurately represent what Mr. Johnson has written, though, he does not seem to think we can do that for the Scriptures. The context of his comment was Owen's sacramentalist interpretation of John 6 and his rejection, over against Luther and Calvin, of the mainstream understanding that recognizes the element of God's sovereign decree in the teachings of Christ. Please note that Johnson says that "context ought to be centered more in the concerns of the mind of the Church rather than the mind of the writer in the first place." This is a direct assertion that the foundation of grammatical-historical interpretation, which seeks first to determine the meaning of the author in the context in which he was writing and in the language in which he was writing is to be subjugated to a new hermeneutic focus, and that focus is provided by "the mind of the Church." Now I note in passing I did not even point out the obvious straw-man provided at the end of the paragraph, for no one is, in fact, suggesting that the only meaning of the text is the "arcane details of the miracles of Christ," since, of course, in the specific portion of John 6 under discussion, no miracles take place anyway. The point was that Johnson is attacking a belief he once held (note the common thread with Owen, Enloe, Johnson, et. al.?). Whether he has thought through the ramifications of making the "mind of the Church" the primary hermeneutical lens of interpretation or not, I cannot begin to tell you. I can only tell you that once you make that step, you should be honest and reject any meaningful concept of sola scriptura and admit you have embraced the epistemological ultimacy of "the Church," however it is you define your beliefs. That is why I said I have more respect for the person who says "sola scriptura is wrong, you need the authority of the Roman See to know what the Scriptures state" than the person who tries to maintain an oxymoronic middle-ground.
In my response I pointed out the obvious problem: if the lexical meanings of words, grammar, and syntax, is not sufficient to inform us of the meaning of an ancient text, how in the world is a nebulous, undefined "mind of the Church" supposed to do so? Johnson has capitulated on the very heart of the matter, and truly has no consistent reason to remain outside of the authority of the Pope any longer. For who gets to define "the mind of the Church?" Kevin Johnson, the coffee company owner from Phoenix? Paul Owen, the former Mormon, former evangelical, former Presbyterian, now Anglican? Who? At least Benedict XVI has a big cathedral and lots of statues and some history behind him! And, most importantly, whoever gets to define this "mind of the Church" obviously gets to define the very meaning of the text of Scripture itself. And that is the point that needs to be understood here. Johnson is arguing for the death of any meaningful exegesis of the text of Scripture. He is arguing for a position that leads to the silencing of God, just as we have seen in Romanism since the middle ages. Once the church becomes ultimate, she enters into a monologue with herself. If her "mind" becomes the hermeneutical principle, then she is talking to a mirror. Reformation is precluded by definition.
With these things in mind, let's look at Johnson's response: ...
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The Gospel in Capernaum Defended Against Roman-Style Traditional Eisegesis (Updated)
01/23/2007 - James WhiteThose who have followed this blog over its two-plus years now know how often the topic of "The Gospel in Capernaum" has come up. I have reviewed a number of attempts to get around this tour de force of clear salvation teaching on the part of the Lord of glory, and all have crumbled to dust when the simple reality of the ordered flow of the text is allowed into the discussion. This is true whether the attempt is made by a hyper-dispensationalist, who seeks to make the text irrelevant to anyone but the Jews of the first century, or to the sacramental traditionalist. Context always exposes eisegesis.
Paul Owen has given us another glowing example of how not to handle the text of the Word of God here. Let's note his words:
Nowhere do we get a clearer illustration of the folly of anti-sacramental, non-churchly Christianity than in John 6. Calvinists take a clearly Eucharistic passage and turn it into a treatise on predestination. It is not. I note:
Note the definition of "churchly" as "sacramental." These words are written by a man who has moved from church to church to church, adopting, and abandoning, distinctive elements of faith, and ecclesiastical conviction. It is hard to take seriously his accusation that those who have seen in this text the clear proclamation of God's sovereignty in salvation are somehow "non-churchly." Obviously, if Owen's "churchianity" is such that he thinks himself under the Pope, for example, that he has adopted baptismal regeneration, and is even willing to go so far as to think that the textual form prevalent in the last Greek-speaking area left in the world after the West went to Latin and the rest of the world become Muslim is somehow invested thereby as the "ecclesiastical" text, who knows what his "churchianity" will look like next year, or five years from now?
Now, let us ponder the claim enunciated here that this is a "clearly Eucharistic" passage. Why does Owen say this? Is it because this text refers to the institution of the Supper? No, it refers to Jesus' teaching in the Synagogue at Capernaum. In fact, the Supper is not even mentioned, for, obviously, the text refers to a time frame well before anyone, including the Lord's audience, could have comprehended the entire concept. So, how is it "clearly Eucharistic?" In the same way the Byzantine manuscript tradition is now proclaimed by Owen as the "canonical" form of the New Testament: in light of the particular version of tradition Owen chooses to associate himself with. It is not because the text demands it to be so: tradition has spoken, well, at least, the tradition to which Owen currently gives fealty.
1. This is a discourse about eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus (6:32-33, 35, 41, 48, 51, 53-58), set in the context of the Passover feast (6:4). It is explaining how people find life through a believing participation in the Eucharistic meal, not how to distinguish God’s eternal decrees.
Here we have a truly classical example of tradition-bound eisegesis in terms that one would be hard pressed to differentiate from the most conservative Roman Catholic rhetoric. Notice how Owen completely misses the actual flow of argument because he has abandoned the text in favor of tradition: he takes an example, an illustration of the previously enunciated teaching, transports it out of the immediate context, drops it down in the midst of a later theological aberration and mutation, and voila! a "clear" meaning appears! Never mind that if you actually follow the conversation the focus is upon who Christ is, and the contrast between the surface-followers who disbelieve, and why this is the case. Never mind the fact that the text plainly and inarguably explains coming in faith (not partaking of a ritual) in light of the Father's activity of drawing; never mind that you have the constant Johannine emphasis upon being raised up to eternal life, faith, and all that. Let's just start out with how "plain" our conclusions are, and hope we can find a way to force them into enough of the text that no one will notice we are not reading our meaning out of the text.
2. It is therefore the case that the distinction between groups which is the concern of this text is not elect vs. reprobate, but those within the Church who enjoy the benefit of the sacrament of the altar vs. those outside the church who do not believe and thus do not partake of Jesus’ body and blood.
If you fail to see how this kind of teaching has even the most remote connection to the text, do not feel badly. It takes a great deal of effort to bend your mind this far. It is not meaningful exegesis that produces this kind of assertion, it is capitulation to external authorities in the form of "tradition." The Lord is addressing unbelieving Jews about their unwillingness to see Him as the Bread from Heaven and so to have life through faith in Him. He is talking about coming to Him, believing in Him. He is not talking about altars or sacraments or being inside the church or outside the church or anything of the sort. But, when you no longer actually believe in sola scriptura you do not have to worry about the mundane details of what the text is actually saying. Flights of theological fancy become common place, and just how far you go will depend on which "stream of tradition" you happen to take a fancy to at the moment.
3. Those whom the Father “gives” to Jesus (6:37) are not to be equated with the eternally predestined elect (though they would be included), but refers to all who enter the Church and partake of the benefits conveyed through the Lord’s Supper.
Another wonderful example of how far from the text Owen stands. Note the actual words and what Owen ignores, or simply does not see, because his newly minted Anglican glasses of tradition get in the way:
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
What is the context provided by the Lord to His words in 6:37? The proclamation of Jesus' centrality in salvation; the one coming, the one believing, finds in Him all he or she could ever desire. But in contrast to those who find in Christ their spiritual sustenance, those standing before Him He identifies as unbelievers. Those who believe, those who disbelieve. The difference? John 6:37 explains it: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." Who comes and as a result finds in Christ eternal life? The one given by the Father to the Son. Why are some believers and others unbelievers? Altars, sacraments, or church membership? No, the sovereign purpose and will of the Father. ...
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Today's Dividing Line
01/23/2007 - James WhiteStarted off with George Bryson and then took a few calls toward the end of the hour. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Also announced that starting next Thursday, 2/1, I will be doing the textual criticism series, including explaining the textual critical symbols in the UBS4 and NA27 texts. Be watching for more details on this series.
01/22/2007 - James WhiteHonestly, Pastor Modene thinks he is speaking the truth. Anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge can only sit in amazement at this meandering, wide-eyed attack upon one of the silliest straw men ever recorded. (Note the Servetus story again---I get the distinct feeling Modene actually thinks Servetus was a fellow Christian). Do not listen to this while driving. The level of ignorance and arrogance could cause sudden loss of control.
Why Am I a Christian?
01/22/2007 - James WhiteThis 27 minute presentation, unscripted, with no notes, no outline, is an explanation of my faith meant for those without any pre-existing theological vocabulary. It is less than 5 megs in size. No, it is not meant as a "response" to any other presentations floating about out there. I had been asked to address this topic many months before any current controversies erupted. Please feel free to copy and distribute freely, if you find it at all helpful.
By His Grace and For His Glory
01/20/2007 - James WhiteTom Nettles' classic work, subtitled A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, from Founder's Press, is currently being offered by SGCB for less than $20 until mid-February. If you don't have this in your library, you'll want to pick it up. Great resource, important citations.
Rolling Eyes, Shaking Head in Disbelief
01/20/2007 - James WhiteWhich part of "Your e-mail never got to me, stop acting like a child" is difficult to understand? I'm not sure. But instead of simply moving forward, Greg Stafford continues to play childish games. As this is grossly distasteful for me to even respond to, I will cut this here and only those who are concerned need go past the "read more" link. I respond simply because Stafford is falsely accusing me without the slightest foundation for doing so, and his behavior in this matter is utterly out of bounds. ...
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A Brief Response to Stafford
01/19/2007 - James WhiteLet me set a few things straight regarding Mr. Stafford's recent comments on his website:
1) firstname.lastname@example.org is not a valid e-mail address. Period. It has never been used by me, it is not my personal e-mail, or anything else. In fact, it has not been in use since, as far as we can tell, the late 90s, and then it was not my e-mail, but a generic e-mail. It is currently not even in use, and, would not have even gotten into an accessible, let alone read, e-mail box in October of 2006.
2) I have an e-mail dated 12/5/03 from Mr. Stafford addressed directly to my current, and private, e-mail address. Hence, he had it, but, according to what he has posted, did not use it on 10/7/06.
3) I am not responsible for e-mails sent to e-mail addresses that I do not and never have used.
4) I imagine Jeff Downs did not forward the e-mail since he saw the cc address, assumed it was valid, and went from there.
5) Therefore, my statement was perfectly correct: I have not heard from Mr. Stafford directly. Mr. Rawe has called Mr. Pierce a number of times. At one point Mr. Pierce specifically asked Mr. Rawe "Does Greg have James' e-mail address?" Mr. Rawe indicated he did. Evidently, he has forgotten it.
6) Mr. Stafford does not seem to understand the concept of a "blog." Sometimes I post long, multi-part articles here. Those are meant to provide full discussions and documentation of a particular subject. I have refuted men like Dave Armstrong or Art Sippo in such formats; I have responded to Islamic attacks upon the textual integrity of the NT in such a fashion; and I likewise invested a great deal of time responding to The Da Vinci Code in this format. These include citations, references, etc. However, I have not even pretended to address Stafford's recent anti-Calvinism campaign on this blog. Anyone with a modicum of sense and balance can tell the difference between a single note referencing a URL and noting the claims of someone, and what is intended to be a response. Unlike Mr. Stafford, I am not nigh unto uni-topical. I deal with a wide variety of topics, and what I post here is not, obviously, always intended to be an in-depth expose or refutation. Mr. Stafford has had the amazing temerity to compare my brief, one-paragraph reference to him (including the URL to his statements) with my pointing out that Norman Geisler neglected, in an entire book on the subject of the alleged errors of Reformed theology, to actually exegete John 6:37ff! I guess I should not be surprised at this glaring mixture of categories, since it is, in fact, the hallmark of Stafford's attempts at doing serious exegesis, especially in this area. But it is still beyond imagination that anyone could be so facile in their thinking as to compare a quick URL reference at the end of a longer blog article with the mistake of writing an entire book on a topic while neglecting to engage the most basic exegesis of one of the most important texts on the topic. Amazing is again a great understatement!
So Mr. Stafford, I suggest you back up the truck, take a deep breath, calm yourself, and stop making absurd accusations against me before you derail any possibility of a meaningful debate at all. You had my e-mail address. I have the e-mail, and will post it, if you force me to, proving you had my proper e-mail address on 12/5/03. You sent your e-mail to an address that is not valid. I never saw it. Mr. Pierce has informed Mr. Rawe that I am waiting to hear from you and that long since 10/7. Neither you, nor he, have asked us, "Well, what about the e-mail I sent 10/7?" You know this to be the case, so please, stop trying to make it look like folks are "afraid" to debate you on this topic. Drop the hysterics, Greg. Now that you have posted your 10/7 undelivered, mis-addressed e-mail, I will download it, and, when I return from my current speaking engagements, respond to it.
Greetings from the Atlantic Coast
01/19/2007 - James WhiteGreetings from Tom's River, New Jersey. A fairly uneventful (if rather bumpy) flight out here yesterday. Speaking this evening, tomorrow, and Sunday. Here are the details once again.
Just a quick "thank you" to the Calvinist Gadfly for this article this morning. I followed his links and was once again deeply touched to think of our brothers and sisters who this day languish in bonds for their love of Christ and His gospel. Oh how few who crowd into the mega-plexes of creature comforts often called "churches" in our land on a Sunday morning (unless the NFL playoffs get in the way) would give up family and friends and freedom! Remember these words:
I dare you to memorize that one. I would also like to link to the stories of these dear ones. I have likewise raised an eyebrow once or twice by preaching on Jesus' call to the crowds to "join the death march," which is exactly what He did in Mark 8:34-38. We need to remember that the Jesus who had compassion on the crowds in Mark 8:2 is the same Jesus who said these words:
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."Do we live in an adulterous and sinful generation? Sure do. Does Jesus call us to die to self, walk the opposite direction, join the death march to crucifixion, endure the mockery inherent in such an action? Yes, He does.
It's a little like the biblical concept of compatibilism: there is a vital, living, purposeful relationship between the sovereign and eternal decree of God and the actions of men in time. They are not contradictory, nor are they equal. This isn't the "train tracks that meet in eternity" routine (the train would still wreck if the tracks ever met, in time or in eternity). One truth conditions (God's creatorship and hence His purposefulness, resulting in the necessity of His decree) and forms the other, to be sure. But the truth is that God's sovereign decree exists, it is real, and man's will exists, and it is real, and the one gives the basis and foundation of the other. You cannot deny one without materially impacting your understanding of the other. Likewise, proclaiming God's love does not mean we have to define that love in terms of human sentimentality. God's love transcends merely human categories, and as such, co-exists in perfect harmony with His holiness, His justice, His grace, His mercy, and even His wrath. The strong call of the gospel to die to self and renounce self-sovereignty is not contradictory to the proclamation that God's salvific love is freely available to all who repent and believe. But skip the repentance, skip the dying to self, leave man in possession of self-sovereignty, and the result is spiritual poison, resulting in buildings full of unregenerate hypocrites, twice hardened to the true call of the gospel.
And the funny part is, those brothers and sisters suffering today under Islamic and atheistic regimes would not even understand why I am belaboring the obvious. Think about that.
A Wise Comment from Greg Bahnsen
01/17/2007 - James WhiteHere is a quick comment from Greg Bahnsen I heard today that is very relevant to discussions taking place these days. You can download the three mp3 set here. Hopefully the advertisement will cover for the 2 minute citation!
I am off to New Jersey. Lord willing, the blogosphere will return to some semblance of balance and normalcy by the time I get back. Maybe someone will install a sarcasm filter, too? Sure would help a lot.
Greg Stafford on "False Doctrine"
01/17/2007 - James WhiteA few days ago I noted, very briefly (all of a single paragraph at the end of a longer blog entry), the continued campaign of Watchtower apologist Greg Stafford in reference to Reformed theology, and in particular, the sovereign decree of God and Yahweh's exhaustive knowledge of future events. I doubt our Open Theist friends are overly appreciative of the assistance offered by Jehovah's Witnesses, but it is a well known fact that the Watchtower (to the surprise of many) has denied Yahweh's exhaustive divine foreknowledge for a long time. In fact, Duane Magnani, if I am not mistaken, wrote a book/booklet titled "The Heavenly Weatherman" about the subject quite some time ago. In any case, my brief notation of his last installment in his series (which did not even bother providing a rebuttal, as Open Theism and its odd off-shoots is not my primary focus at the moment) brought the following retort, posted 1/15:
You know, sometimes I hear things. No, not those kinds of things. But things from the mouths, or pens, or as they appear on the blogs and web sites of others. Take Dr. James White, for example.Now, I am more than a little bit surprised by this response, on many levels. A while ago someone by the name of Richard Rawe began calling our ministry offices, wanting to set up another Trinity debate with Greg Stafford. When Rich Pierce informed me of this, I indicated I had no interest in repeating the debate, and found the request rather odd. Then I heard the "debate" (I hesitate to use the term) with Bob Morey and began seeing the rather passionate denunciations of Reformed theology flowing from Greg Stafford's pen. A while later Jeff Downs sent me a note indicating that he had raised the idea of a debate with Stafford on God's exhaustive knowledge of future events. I said I would be willing to engage such a debate, but Stafford seemed to think Downs was trying to interfere with some future Morey debate. Given that my focus right now is elsewhere anyway, and that I have formally engaged Open Theism in scholarly debate in the past (against one of the leading proponents of the concept, John Sanders, at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando), I did not invest much time in pursuing the idea. But when Rawe raised that topic as a debate topic, I told Rich Pierce that I would be waiting for Mr. Stafford's e-mail. Surely he has my address. I have never gotten any response. ...
A debate with him over the merits of Calvinism, a system of belief that has no business being associated with the name "Christian," let alone "Jesus Christ," appears unavoidable. That's a good thing. But until that happens, Dr. White can talk all he wants on his blog. He can post here, or there, or anywhere, if he chooses. But until he takes the stage with me, or until he gets on the radio to defend his traditions, he's just talking to himself, or only to those who already think as he does. Frankly, though he's talking, he's not really saying much of anything.
As I told you months ago, Dr. White, and as I have offered to your friends at "The Bible Answer Man," and through others, by all means let us bring our differences out in the open, as we did with the Trinity. If you are so confident in your beliefs about the knowledge of God and the will of man, then surely you can pull some strings, somewhere, and talk to me, not just to yourself on your blog, or elsewhere only to those who think like you.
I respect you as a person, James, and I admire your accomplishments. But you are teaching false doctrine, still, and so I cannot allow you to hide behind the shallow, in fact, hollow words of "amazing forms of argumentation," "lengths to which he [me] will go," and the like. There's nothing of substance there, and you know it. Yet you say it anyway, and so where does that leave us? The same place it always leads. So let's hurry up and get there.
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Come On Now...
01/16/2007 - James WhiteTo my knowledge, no one has contacted me to ask if Phil Johnson and I are at odds over the current discussion of Stop and Think. Despite how easy it is to contact me (how many folks do you know who sit at a toll-free number an average of two hours a week, and are almost always available on line?), people rarely take their objections directly to me (evidently, my back is a great place for that kind of thing!). Anyway, as far as I know, no one has asked me, but, from the comment Phil posted on TeamPyro, someone has been asking him that question. And I can only echo what he said, and what I have said since last Friday or so on this blog: there is a whole lot of arguing right now that is a tremendous waste of time and energy. I have yet to hear any response to what I've actually expressed as my concerns. I really haven't. I've heard lots of folks assuming this or that, but nothing about what I am actually concerned about. So, please, I haven't heard from Phil, and Phil hasn't heard from me. That makes sense, since both of us have been trying to tell folks that this isn't a matter of individuals or politics: let's stick to a meaningful discussion of the topic, and hopefully, focus some of this passion into a profitable channel.
Tonight the "Calvinist Gadfly" mentioned in our channel, "This evening my reading has been consumed with the gospel and non-western persecuted countries. I am convinced that Evangelical Americans are sadly myopic when it come to what the gospel demands. It demands that we repent and take up the cross. In short, it requires, self-denial, not self-improvement." That struck me, and emphasized what I said on the program earlier today: there is such a vast difference between "improving your life" by "getting with Jesus" and crying to God for mercy in light of your confession of sin and the justice of God in His wrath that I just can't span the chasm between them. In other words, I really doubt anyone would be having this argument in any nation where you were sure to lose your life for confessing Christ, you know what I mean?
Can this kind of faith save him?
01/16/2007 - James WhiteThe following is taken from The God Who Justifies pp. 333-336:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? (NET)The text of the verse presents no difficult variants, and its translation is not questioned in the main. However, one vitally important syntactical issue must be addressed, that being the translation of the last phrase and in particular the presence of the definite article h` before the word pi,stij (faith). As this is the opening statement of James thesis for 2:14-26, we need to take special care in our understanding of what he intends to communicate.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? (NIV)
What use it is, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have deeds? Is the faith able to save him? (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James, 236)
What good is it, my brothers Literally, what benefit or gain is there? The phrase is repeated in 2:16. The question is rhetorical. There is no benefit or substance to the claim being made, anymore than there is in 16. The NET takes the plural masculine as a generic plural forthe entire Christian congregation ("brothers and sisters"), recognizing that the words of James apply equally to men and women.
if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Literally the text reads, "says" rather than "claims," but the NET translation is very accurate, retaining the infinitival form, "to have." James presents a hypothetical question. Is there any benefit or use in the claim of a person to be in possession (e;cein) of faith (pi,stin, placed first in the clause for emphasis) when that same person is not in possession of e;rga, deeds. Two immediate issues confront us:
First, the subjunctive le,gh| (says, claims) will be expanded upon by James throughout the section. It is plainly his intention to contrast the mere claim existing only in the realm of wordswith the true possession of real faith that is demonstrated by something more than mere speaking. Hence the accuracy of the NETs claims,for this carries more forcefully in English the idea of empty profession than merely says. This translation will be seen to fully fit James application in the next two verses.
Next, what is the correct translation of e;rga? Obviously both deeds and works fit the original meaning. Johnson comments,
The translation of erga as deeds attempts to represent more accurately the point as well as to avoid precipitous or inaccurate comparisons with Paul. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James (1995), 237.
A person seeking to equate Paul's context with James' context will object to such a translation. And as we have already seen, Paul's normative use of e;rga is actually perfectly in line with James! Paul often speaksof deeds done in righteousness that flow from a changed heart. Indeed, Paul teaches that we are saved by grace through faith unto good works (Eph. 2:8-10). He insists that it is God's purpose that we should walk in or live in doing good works (e;rgoij avgaqoi/j). Yet, we also know he says that no one is declared righteous before him by works of the law (Rom. 3:20) and that God credits righteousness apart from works (Rom. 4:6). So it is primarily in Paul that we see the same Greek term being used in more than one sense. Since the confusion generated by this passage is due to the errant assertion that James is addressing the same context that Paul addresses in Paul's decrying of works,choosing, with Johnson and the NIV, to use the term deeds makes perfect sense, and the wisdom of the translation will be borne out throughout the exegesis of the text. ...
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Today's Dividing Line
01/16/2007 - James WhiteStarted out with some more comments on gospel presentations, focusing on the fact that we live in a context where pandering to the humanism of our age is one of the primary reasons we have entire churches that are, to put it bluntly, unregenerate in their membership. I contrasted exhorting men and women, boys and girls, to plead for mercy from God with presenting God as if He is pleading for mercy from men! Then we took some calls, spending most of our time on John 6 and 12 and the means used by some in print and on the net to get around the teaching of these texts. Here's the program (free/high quality).
A Blog-anza Overload
01/15/2007 - James WhiteWow! A quick blog run has brought me an embarrassingly rich number of things that really, really need to be addressed, each of which can be made into an edifying blog article. But I don't have time to do them all!
First, I note Paul Owen has shown he thinks himself much wiser than his far better known namesake (John Owen) in reference to the atonement. His words speak clearly:
The whole notion of “double jeapardy” [sic] is misguided, for (largely based on a misreading of Isaiah 53:4-12) it depicts the cross as a passive reception of punishment by God on the part of Jesus. Since Jesus was punished for our sins, we cannot be punished again. But the cross is not a place of punishment. It is a place of Jesus’ offering up to God a pure and selfless sacrifice, a sacrifice consisting of his willingness to suffer with and for us in our state of death and alienation. As the embodiment of the benevolent God, Jesus’ desire was to be with us (Matt. 1:23), and to identify with us (Isa. 53:12), wherever that might take him (Phil. 2:8). God was pleased with the death of Jesus, not because it quenched and satisfied his anger, and provided an occasion for him to rectify the demands of strict justice, but because the innocence and purity of the sacrifice of his Son was simply of more weight than the gravity of our sin. His merit outweighed our demerit, so that the whole world has now been objectively reconciled to God (i.e., God is willing to actually wipe away their sins through Jesus’ blood on the condition of faith and repentance), and now the world has to choose whether to remain outside of the household of God, or to come and enjoy the benefits of the reconciliation secured for them.The cross is not a place of punishment? This kind of shredding of basic biblical truths (we are not told why seeing God's wrath and punishment in Isaiah 53 is a 'misreading') is nothing new for Paul Owen, of course, and we have come to expect it. But please note how it is done, and what it costs: it is done by taking one truth (the pleasing nature of the offering of Christ) and using that as a basis to deny plain biblical teaching (the Father was pleased to put Him to grief). All the substitutionary language connected to atonement, propitiation, wrath, etc., is dismissed in favor of another stream of biblical truth. This is a very common methodology and given how often it appears in false argumentation today, should be something we spot quickly.
But consider the cost: God's wrath, and the punishment of sin, is left off to the side. Where is the demonstration of God's wrath and power and the fulfillment of His holiness in reference to those who are saved, unless we have, in fact, that substitutionary atonement of Christ? Does God simply sweep these sins under the rug, or is His holy law satisfied in the sufferings of Christ in behalf of His people? It is hard to figure out just what Owen believes (his position keeps changing so you can't go back to whatever view he had in his last denomination and use that as a benchmark), so leaving him aside, let's consider the vital importance of the demonstration of God's justice in the sacrifice of Christ. This is a topic to which my mind has been turning a good bit of late for the obvious reason that Islam denies this very foundational truth. They assert that God can forgive sin without the holiness of God's justice being fulfilled. Here is a tremendous example of this concept found in the hadithliterature. In a story narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri (Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.676), we read:
The Prophet said, "Amongst the men of Bani Israel there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment quarrelled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven."...
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A Quick Greeting and Introduction
01/14/2007 - James WhiteSince I am headed to New Jersey this week, and have a ton of other things coming at me at high speed, I have been negligent to introduce Mike Porter, who provided the most interesting article on Bullinger below. Mike works in the computer industry, and was a student of mine many years ago at Grand Canyon College. He is a member of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. I have invited him to join myself and Colin Smith here on Pros Apologian. At the moment his main reading is, as you may have noticed, in Bullinger. I'm looking forward to more from both Mike and Colin.
Bullinger and the Upstart Church in Rome
01/13/2007 - Mike PorterAmong the charges the Reformers leveled against Rome was that it was corrupt and heretical. The Reformers also leveled charges against the Anabaptists stating that they were schismatics and unjustified in leaving the church. This same charge was, simultaneously, being leveled against the Reformers by Roman defenders, labeling the Reformers as being schismatic for departing from the catholic faith. Setting aside the Anabaptist issue, it is interesting to observe how the Reformers addressed the unity of the church and their separation from Rome. Henry Bullinger, successor to Zwingli at Zurich (though not to be considered his inferior) is briefly discussed here.
Henry (Heinrich) Bullinger, arguably one of the most influential Reformers, and one who has garnered the title by some as The Shepherd of the Churches or The Father of the Reformed Church(a title given also to Calvin and Zwingli by others), addressed this issue on many occasions. One such occasion is in his Decades, a series of fifty sermons, five sections of ten sermons, covering the whole of Reformed doctrine. This was his most popular work, though he was extremely prolific, writing more than Luther and Calvin combined.
In his fifth decade, second sermon, On the Unity of the Church, Bullinger addresses the issue by arguing the following points:
- Whereas there was once a true church in Rome, that church, the ancient and catholic church, knows nothing of the doctrines and practices of the upstart church in Rome and would have accursed the Romish church had it seen what it became.
- Since Rome is an upstart church and not the true church, then for leaving the church of Rome, the Reformers cannot be considered schismatics.
- The church will have evil and wicked men in the visible church, but the Romanists are the very worst of the enemies of God and therefore have neither the outward nor inward marks of the church.
- A church may exist among the those at Rome, those who worship Christ and keep themselves from all popish pollution but this is akin to saying that God has preserved a church in a Turkish country.
It should be noted that Bullinger does not believe that Rome had corrupted the sacrament of Baptism, for this he acknowledges that Rome did not do in the name of the pope (he alludes to the first sermon in this fifth Decade where he makes the argument). But, neither is that indication that Rome is in any sense a true church.
For argument one, Bullinger states:
For freely we confess, and with great joy giving thanks to God that hath delivered us we publish abroad, that we are departed from the Romish church, and that we do at this day abhor the same. But first of all we distinguish and put a diversity between the old church of Rome and the late upstart church. For there was sometime at Rome a holy and faithful church, which apostolic men and the apostles of Christ themselves did establish and preserve by the word of God: which ancient church was not only without the ceremonies there used and received at this day, but if she had but seen them, she would have accursed them.
Indeed, Bullinger distinguishes the ancient church from that late upstart church of Rome. Therefore, since Rome is a late upstart church and not a true church, it is impossible to be considered a schismatic for leaving the Roman church.
Bullinger states for his second point, "That ancient church wanted the decrees whereupon the church of Rome at this day altogether stayeth herself. She was ignorant of that monarchy and all that stately court. Therefore from that ancient and apostolic church of Rome we never departed, neither will we ever depart."
And again, "Finally, we do not acknowledge that upstart church of Rome to be the true church of Christ, which doth acknowledge and worship the pope as Christ his vicar in earth,and is obedient to his laws. Wherefore we cannot be schismatics, who, leaving the church of Rome, have not departed from the true church of God."
You will notice that he circumvents Roman criticism by arguing that since Rome is not a true church then to leave her is no crime, but in fact, a virtue. Yet, maintaining connectivity to the ancient church, they leave Rome with a clear conscience. ...
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01/13/2007 - James WhiteI was listening to a debate while riding this morning (nothing new there). What was unusual was 1) it was cold (for Phoenicians, 43 and windy is cold, and for anyone, really, on a bicycle, that's cold), and 2) the Christian in the debate illustrated for me yet once again how theology matters. Your theology determines your apologetic, by nature. And since this particular individual's theology is, quite simply, sub-biblical, his non-Christian opponent was taking him to task. If I can find the time I will play portions of this debate on the DL and use it as a contrast to how I would respond to the non-Christian and how our theology truly does matter.
Ironically, one of the points where I would fundamentally disagree with the Christian debater intersects directly with the current furor over the Stop and Think video. Now mind you, one of my deepest concerns in this situation is the fact that there just hasn't been any meaningful dialogue and debate as yet. As far as I can see, Steve Camp and I have raised very similar concerns. Both of us have addressed theological issues, over-arching paradigms, and have sought to express our concerns within the context of avoiding personal issues. For example, Pastor Chan simply is not relevant here, anymore than I am, or my church is, or Steve Camp is. Where Pastor Chan went to school, who produced the video, who is speaking at the same gathering he is speaking at, what kind of car I drive, or how many parking spaces are in someone's parking lot, are so utterly irrelevant it is simply painful to watch people raising such things. It is so very disturbing that so many have shown themselves unwilling, or incapable, of separating personalities from the biblical issues that cry out to be addressed.
I have raised the issue of the impact of an explicit synergism upon the entirety of the gospel proclamation. I have pointed out the importance this has to the church, and how presenting the church as a mere after-thought in the context of a creaturely-centered appeal is very much responsible for the degradation of ecclesiology in the thinking of so many today. I have likewise pointed out that synergism ends up emphasizing elements of the gospel presentation that exclude, by definition, other elements that are just as important. If there is to be any meaningful dialogue and debate on this topic, those are the issues we should be seeing addressed by those who endorse the Stop and Think video as an appropriate and properly biblical gospel presentation. But, sadly, I surely have not received that kind of response.
Instead, as normal, I personally have become the subject, and that quickly. One writer actually had the audacity to grossly misrepresent the ministry of my own church without showing the slightest concern for accuracy or truthfulness in the process. We have been told that if we dare question any elements of the presentation we are being "overly censorious," despite the fact that at least as far as I have seen in SC's comments, and my own, we have carefully focused upon the theological issues and backgrounds, while some others have been first in line with the ad-hominems and irrelevant side-issues. In essence, I would say 98.9% of the comments on blogs on this topic have been utterly worthless in promoting a growth in understanding or in showing a spirit that is willing to consider other possibilities or perspectives.
Now, when I chose to review the video a few days ago, I did so without any thoughts whatsoever of political alliances. I had read a few items about it, but only in passing, and had not had any contact with SC at all on the topic. It just seemed directly related to what I do on The Dividing Line. And if I might make a note here for a wide variety of my regular readers: I don't do politics. I do not sit here running things through a political filter, "Hmm, if I say this, then this group over here might be offended, or this person over here might think I'm talking about him, or that ministry there might get bent out of shape, so, I better avoid this topic completely." Let me say this clearly and loudly: the day I have to start thinking that way is the day I close the doors and turn out the lights. I seek no political alliances, I have no stomach for the entire game of politics. Now, as a result, I regularly offend just about everyone with power in the broadly Reformed community today. For any and all offense I cause out of sinful ignorance or stupidity, I apologize, but for all offense I cause for simply speaking the truth and not caring about being politically correct, I stand firmly behind my statements. If you think I'm living on my phone or in e-mail promoting an alliance here, a connection there, you are woefully in error about me and my way of doing things. We do not join groups, alliances, foundations, you name it, for just that reason. I'm not smart enough to juggle all that stuff. Our ministry is tiny, and will remain tiny, for just that reason. That's just all there is to it. I say what I say because I believe it is true. Period, end of that discussion.
So, when I addressed the video, I did so because I address that kind of thing all the time. I've been playing George Bryson's comments, I've reviewed all sorts of SBC preachers, and here was another opportunity to comment upon a current issue and hopefully bring some perspective to it that would be useful to someone. I wasn't asked to do so. I did not do so to get into some fight with other brothers who take a different view. ...
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Michael Spencer: Selective Hearing Illustrated
01/12/2007 - James WhiteWhat keeps God's love from becoming mere maudlin sentimentality? What is the bulwark, the firm foundation, that keeps the love of God from falling into the abyss of universalism, and prohibits us from the idolatry of seeing God as the great grandfather in the sky, filled with woe and sadness at His inability to make us all happy? I suggest to you it is the balance forced upon the person who honors God's Word by handling it aright, carefully taking into consideration all that the Word says. When we lose our balance in that area, we are liable to fall into any number of serious errors.
Yesterday on the DL I took the last half of the program and played a few clips from the video, Stop and Think. My primary concerns with the video are two-fold: first, it flows from a synergistic, man-centered view of the gospel, where God's primary concern is not His own glory, nor the creation of a people in Christ Jesus (the church) who, as a body, will be presented without spot and blemish, but the individual self-fulfillment and happiness of sinners. Secondly, there is a biblical mandate to proclaim the "whole counsel of God," to hold back nothing the Holy Spirit has deemed important enough to reveal in Scripture and preserve for us today. The gospel by definition includes the wrath of God, repentance from sin, denial of self, all focused upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To put it briefly, my problem with the video is this: the gospel exalts the Triune God and humbles man. It takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on our Creator. God gets bigger, we get smaller. God becomes Lord, we become servants, slaves. I do not see this being presented in the video. I see man being made the focus of God's attention; I see God presented as seeking, equally, a "relationship" with each individual, without distinction, and experiencing rejection and failure when the creature spurns His appeal. Rather than the gospel being a command, it is reduced to a series of suggestions all based upon the improvement of man's life (rather than His own glory and authority as Creator). Sin is "messing up," it is "junk from the past," rather than a slap in the face of a holy God, bringing certain punishment unless forgiven. In other words, the focus is on man, not on the risen Christ. What is missing ends up vitiating even the good and right things that are said. I repeated myself over and over again on the program: What you win them with is that you win them to. A gospel that does not challenge the sinful sovereignty of the rebel soul will fill your church with religiously hypocritical rebels, nothing more. ...
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Today on The Dividing Line + Stop and Think (Before Ripping Someone's Lips Off)
01/11/2007 - James WhiteWell, you can see now what our major announcement was, and I'm truly excited about it. I took the first half hour to make the announcement and play some comments from Shabir on the issue (there are a number of his presentations on the topic available on line at places like YouTube). Then, in the second half hour, I may have once again proven that I am far too naive for my own good. I played portions from the video that was being discussed, and is now becoming, sadly, a bone of contention, in the blogosphere, found here. I then interacted with them as fairly as I can.
I have seen some comments being posted on this topic that truly trouble me. Why can't this issue be discussed without the personal shots, the disrespectful statements? I truly do not understand it. Let's hold ourselves to a higher standard, brethren!
Here's the program (free/high quality).
01/11/2007 - James WhiteLast week we mentioned that we were working on a major addition to our October class and cruise, The Cross: Historicity and Theology, but at the time, we could not give details. But now we are happy to announce that Islamic apologist Shabir Ally will be debating me on the topic of the crucifixion on Friday night, October 19th at the SeaTac Marriott, the same location where I debated John Dominic Crossan in 2005. That means we will disembark the ship Friday morning, head to the Marriott, and that evening apply all the things we have learned over the course of the cruise as we seek to glorify God, honor Christ, and proclaim His cross and resurrection in debate with Shabir Ally.
When we first contacted Shabir, we asked about the Saturday before the cruise, for this is how we have always handled things in the past. But when he could not engage the debate that weekend, but only the weekend after, we started to think of the great advantages of moving the debate to the end of the cruise, especially in light of the nature of this cruise's intensive class on the subject of the cross. This way, we will be able, as a group, to prepare for the debate and pray together as well that God will honor the defense of His truth.
So, tomorrow I will post a link to a page with all the details of how you can get set up at the Seatac Marriott, rates, etc., and how to get in to the debate for free by making sure you have your room reservations made by March 1 even if you are not on the cruise. But you don't have to wait till tomorrow to join us on the cruise! The link is on the right hand column of this blog. And more than that, start praying even now for this tremendous opportunity!
Don't Miss Thursday's Dividing Line!
01/09/2007 - James WhiteTomorrow morning we will have a very special announcement to make on The Dividing Line. Remember, instead of the normal Thursday time, the DL will be on at 11am MST (1pm EST). We have tremendously exciting news about October's cruise, so make sure to be listening!
Today on The Dividing Line
01/09/2007 - James WhiteStarted off with a discussion of Romans 9 and "prepared for destruction," and then moved into a brief review of Paul Owen's "I'm a Calvinist. No, really, I mean it" post on the oxymoronic website. Then in the second half of the program we took calls, the first of which was on critical claims about the Gospel of John. Here's the program (free/high quality).
A Not So New But Still New Debate DVD Available!
01/08/2007 - James WhiteIt is funny how things work here. One of the assignments in my current GGBTS class is to write a review of two debates shown in class. After interviewing the students as to where their ministries are and where they think they will be going in the future, I decided a debate on Mormonism, and a debate on Islam, would be good. So I asked Rich where the DVD's of my debate with Martin Tanner at the University of Utah were. And as he looked around he got a puzzled look on his face. He knew the number off the top of his head, but, when he looked into the system, he discovered that it was not linked at all on the website! He put all this work into editing it (I watched it with the class Friday night, and it is well done---the first debate we shot with our good cameras), but as far as we can tell, it was never listed in the DVD listing on the website, so I doubt highly anyone has ever seen it! So, we have of course fixed the problem.
The debate was on the topic "Can Men Become Gods." It followed two radio programs I did with Martin Tanner and Van Hale on KTKK radio in Salt Lake City during which discussions of the subject of theosis came up (here, #442). There is an entire chapter on this topic in my book, Is the Mormon My Brother?, and the conversation on the topic on the radio became quite heated. So a debate was arranged between myself and Martin Tanner (an attorney) at the University of Utah. Personally, I felt it clearly displayed the vast differences between biblical Christianity and Mormonism, and I detected a very different attitude on Mr. Tanner's part between the radio programs (where, as the host, he was in control) and the debate (where even time frames were in play).
So, though the debate took place a few years ago, in essence, it is new, at least on DVD, so if you would like to have a video presentation on the central difference between Christianity and Mormonism, this one might work well. Check it out!
Think on What has a Good Reputation
01/07/2007 - James White
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Phil. 4:8, NASB)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil. 4:8, ESV)
Whatever is of good repute, commendable, is praiseworthy (o[sa eu;fhma). This would continue the theme of thinking upon that which is in line with God's truth, in line with God's holiness. Of course, he is speaking of what is commendable and praiseworthy in God's sight and therefore in the sight of God's people. And today, that is far removed from what is considered commendable and praiseworthy in our society. For the believer today, what is of good repute is that which is laughed at by the world; what is commendable is that which is scorned; that which is praiseworthy is considered, by the world, worthless. The world praises those who run over others on their way to "success," but God honors the servant, the one who gives of himself in the service of Christ and others. The world commends selfishness, "taking care of number one," while Christians commend giving their lives for others, eschewing the things of the world, looking for that which has eternal value; the world praises the temporary, the now, the flashy, while believers praise that which glorifies God and has lasting value in God's sight.
Look at the string up to this point. "Whatever things are...." We have to exercise discernment here. We have to apply a heart of wisdom, built up by constant exposure to God's truth and regular worship with the people of God. We have to put out some discipline to keep our minds free of the twisted thinking of the world which seeks to conform us to its own image. We must remember the world never gives up. Our constant exposure to it means we are in just as constant need to be exposed to God's truth to counteract its effect upon our thinking. The world will adjust our sights a little at a time, convincing us that "this isn't so bad" or "I can enjoy this, too," all the while seeking, eventually, to sap us of spiritual vitality and eventually the peace of God by making us friends with the world. The process can be very subtle, which explains why we can see believers who, over time, move away from a vital faith to the point of capitulation to the world, even to the point of defending their love of things that are in no possible way true or honorable or right or pure or lovely or of good repute. The world rarely uses a frontal attack to accomplish this: it is an inward insurgency, sabotage on the small level over time, to accomplish final victory.
The believer thusly compromised is robbed of the peace of God, a vital spiritual life, and usefulness in the Kingdom of God.
Today on The Dividing Line
01/04/2007 - James WhiteStarted the program off with the wonderful quartet music linked below. As was noted by someone, the Mormons would love that song, too. Anyway, we then read a wonderfully kind e-mail from one of our zealous defenders of Roman Catholicism, and then looked again at some of the official statements Rome has produced in reference to Islam. Then the calls started, and toward the end of the program I actually got to a few minutes of George Bryson's Calvary Chapel presentation. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Wow...Psalm 135:6 and John 6:44 Thrown Out...Musically
01/04/2007 - James WhiteThe Calvinist Gadfly posted this. It's...uh...wow. Be prepared.
On this Day, 1521
01/03/2007 - James WhiteThis is the Papal Bull, Decet Romanum, by which Martin Luther was formally excommunicated by the Roman See. The earlier Papal Bull, Exsurge Domine, had been burned by Luther December 10, 1520. Given the paucity of cell phones in that day, it took a while for word to get to Rome of Luther's response. Hence, on this day, January 3, 1521, this document was promulgated. Its text follows. (ht: RW)
Through the power given him from God, the Roman Pontiff has been appointed to administer spiritual and temporal punishments as each case severally deserves. The purpose of this is the repression of the wicked designs of misguided men, who have been so captivated by the debased impulse of their evil purposes as to forget the fear of the Lord, to set aside with contempt canonical decrees and apostolic commandments, and to dare to formulate new and false dogmas and to introduce the evil of schism into the Church of God—or to support, help and adhere to such schismatics, who make it their business to cleave asunder the seamless robe of our Redeemer and the unity of the orthodox faith. Hence it befits the Pontiff, lest the vessel of Peter appear to sail without pilot or oarsman, to take severe measures against such men and their followers, and by multiplying punitive measures and by other suitable remedies to see to it that these same overbearing men, devoted as they are to purposes of evil, along with their adherents, should not deceive the multitude of the simple by their lies and their deceitful devices, nor drag them along to share their own error and ruination, contaminating them with what amounts to a contagious disease. It also befits the Pontiff, having condemned the schismatics, to ensure their still greater confounding by publicly showing and openly declaring to all faithful Christians how formidable are the censures and punishments to which such guilt can lead; to the end that by such public declaration they themselves may return, in confusion and remorse, to their true selves, making an unqualified withdrawal from the prohibited conversation, fellowship and (above all) obedience to such accursed excommunicates; by this means they may escape divine vengeance and any degree of participation in their damnation.
I [Here the Pope recounts his previous Bull Exsurge Domine and continues]
II We have been informed that after this previous missive had been exhibited in public and the interval or intervals it prescribed had elapsed [60 days]—and we hereby give solemn notice to all faithful Christians that these intervals have and are elapsed—many of those who had followed the errors of Martin took cognisance of our missive and its warnings and injunctions; the spirit of a saner counsel brought them back to themselves, they confessed their errors and abjured the heresy at our instance, and by returning to the true Catholic faith obtained the blessing of absolution with which the self-same messengers had been empowered; and in several states and localities of the said Germany the books and writings of the said Martin were publicly burned, as we had enjoined.
Nevertheless Martin himself—and it gives us grievous sorrow and perplexity to say this—the slave of a depraved mind, has scorned to revoke his errors within the prescribed interval and to send us word of such revocation, or to come to us himself; nay, like a stone of stumbling, he has feared not to write and preach worse things than before against us and this Holy See and the Catholic faith, and to lead others on to do the same. ...
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Woops! I Meant to Post This One! But Both Are Nice
01/03/2007 - James White
A Great Fractal Background to Start 2007
01/03/2007 - James White
On the DL Yesterday
01/03/2007 - James WhiteMike O'Fallon visited us at our offices yesterday, so we talked some more about cruise developments and the like to start things off. Then I played sections from Brian Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There and noted the horrific argumentation it presents. Also talked a bit about Tim Staples, and fielded a call on NT Wright's view of justification. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Left Behind: Tehran
01/03/2007 - James WhiteSee, silly eschatology is catching. (ht: TC)
Think on what is Lovely
01/01/2007 - James WhiteOur world is filled with ugliness. The ugliness caused by sin, caused by rebellion, by hatred of God and His truth. Ugliness caused by the perversion of God's goodness. Destroyed relationships, ruined marriages, are ugly. Lives marred by drug abuse and alcoholism---ugly. Beautiful women living in constant debauchery, adultery and fornication--ugly. Abortion as a birth control method, greed ruining lives. Ugly.
We cannot avoid seeing the ugliness that comes from the perversion of sin. But, we can refrain from wallowing in it. We can limit our exposure to it to that which God's calling in our lives demands: that is, the person who is called, and gifted, to face the ugliness of the world with regularity will be given the grace to handle the task. But it is the willful exposure of one's heart and mind to unnecessary ugliness that makes no sense. The more exposure we have, the less we will be appalled and repelled by it.
"Think on what is lovely." In the context, this is not simply a command to enjoy the beauty of goodness, of holiness, of what is pleasing in God's creation. It is a part of the entire string of commands, and truly, we are given a good idea of what "lovely" here means by seeing it in light of what has come before. God's creation is beautiful when it is in harmony with its Creator. The Christian who stares at the grandeur of creation can do so with an added level of depth that the one who remains in rebellion against God cannot. That which is righteous is lovely; that which is holy is pleasing to God, and to those who are at peace with God.
When we are purposefully seeking to discipline our thinking, our minds, we will know when we are indulging the flesh and thinking upon that which is not pleasing to God, which reverberates with the rebellious tones of the world. We should truly seek to be sensitive to the Spirit in recognizing when things are lovely, of a good report, and when they are stained with the revolting stench of the world.