Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Ya Gotta Love rC's
02/28/2007 - James WhitePaul Owen just can't stay away from my blog. No matter how completely focused upon other issues I might be, ol' Paul just can't make it through a week without promoting his wishy-washy form of Anglo-Mormo-Catholicism. This time it's just funny, however. I posted a clip from my debate with Peter Stravinskas. Now, you will note, I posted two prior clips as well. Both were on exegetical and historical issues. Both were lengthy periods of interaction. Both represented very well the substance of the debate. So, after fairly representing the debate, I provided the most memorable audience question. It was not my question. I responded to it on the fly just like Stravinskas. But note how Owen takes it:
I must admit, I brought Tobit into the discussion because of some comments I saw on another website, in which someone attempted to make a Catholic priest look like an imbecile for defending Tobit’s statements about almsgiving. But Tobit’s statements, while certainly capable of being misused to promote a sort of works righteousness, can just as easily be understood in keeping with biblical piety.I even had Roman Catholics likewise complaining about the clip. Hey folks, you should be writing to Peter Stravinskas about his response to an audience question, not to me! How on earth can I be held accountable for his replies to audience questions?
Truly makes me wonder what would happen if I posted some of the video from the Martin Tanner debate. I am sure Owen would defend the Mormons at that point as well.
Note to Paul: don't you have anything better to be doing? I sure do! Spent the day while traveling working on gathering the needed resources to respond to the "tomb of Jesus" attack on the very heart of the Christian faith. Read the book, got Rich Pierce and Marie Peterson working on ordering in materials for writing a response. I was evening pulling down resources on my Blackberry while waiting for my flight on the second leg of my cross-country journey! What is it like, Paul, to live your life sniping at others all the time, rather than doing something, you know, original? Meaningful? Try it some time! I invite you to delete aomin.org from your blog reading list. Try it for a month. I know it would be the first time in like eleven years you did not define your entire life by your hatred of me, but believe me, it would be good for you! :-)
Cameron's Preface To The Jesus Family Tomb
02/28/2007 - James SwanDr. White described James Cameron's preface to The Jesus Family Tomb as "Wide-eyed acceptance of absurd claims joined with a gross and abysmal ignorance of simple historical facts and methodology." I thought a few examples would solidify his point.
During interviews, Cameron has made sure to point out he is not a theologian. He proves this in his preface: "At Christmas we celebrate the birth of a man who called to the spark of goodness that exists within all of us, a man who gave the world hope two thousand years ago." Perhaps he gleaned this insight from an apocryphal book. It certainly is not a Biblical concept. He asks, "But who was this Jesus? Read on. You're about to meet him." You will meet a Jesus in the Tomb book, but not the Jesus of the Bible, nor his message.
In speaking of Jesus, Cameron says, "Until now there has been zero physical evidence of his existence." I would simply ask Mr. Cameron to apply this standard to any historical figure mentioned in the first century. He can't seriously be suggesting physical evidence of the actual body of Jesus, or any other person from the first century is an important standard by which to validate history.
In speaking of the Gospels, Cameron states, "Historians, however, now view them as composite works, each created by several authors and based in turn on oral traditions carried on for decades, possibly half a century, after Christ's actual ministry. There is no historical evidence that any of the authors, if in fact they were individuals, actually heard the words of Jesus from his own lips." What Cameron fails to tell you is only certain historians hold this view. He ignores an entire group of serious scholars who would repudiate such ideas. For instance, W.F. Albright, a leading Biblical archaeologist has noted, "In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75."
In speaking of his research on his movie The Titanic, Cameron states, "As a result of this twelve-year investigation, I have come to realize that history is a consensus hallucination. It is a myth upon which we all agree to agree. The truth is a moving target: new evidence must always be weighed." I would simply ask Cameron to apply this standard to his own work. He suggests a truth that truth is a moving target. Is this statement not a moving target as well? Cameron uses a spurious methodology that posits certainty can never be achieved. In terms of the Biblical material, he assumes God has not spoken.
Of the transmission of the Gospels, Cameron states, "...[T]hey have been edited by Church fathers, centuries after the original words were spoken, to conform to their subsequent vision of orthodoxy." This statement shows a deep ignorance of the science of textual criticism. The amount of Biblical manuscripts from different times, places, and languages prove the reliability of transmission. The New Testament has more manuscript evidence than any other piece of literature from antiquity.
In speaking of Gnostic Gospels repudiated by the Christian church, these receive two thumbs up from Cameron for reliability. ..."[T]hese precious and astonishing books show the rich diversity of early Christian thought and give clues to the historical story not available in the Big Four of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John." The bias against the canonical Gospels is blatant. Scholars have taken the non-canonical books apart, demonstrating their historical and doctrinal unreliability. Cameron though finds them precious and astonishing. His champion writing, The Acts of Philip, dates much later than the Biblical Gospels, yet this he treats as a vehicle for historical clues. Ian Wilson said this book, "...has no special claim to an early date, and may be merely a fantasy of a type not at all uncommon among Christian apocryphal literature of the third and fourth centuries" [Jesus: The Evidence (San Fransico: Harper & Row, 1984), 96-97].
Matthew, the New Aquinas
02/28/2007 - James White
Dear James, I get a kick out of you greatest hits videos on your website. They are good examples of decent debating and very poor debating skills. Unfortunatley God doesn't judge us on our debating skills, he judges us on whether or not we have acepted the Grace thast He has offered us. I just wish for once you would debate someone who knew what the heck they were talking about. Anyone who knows the Catholic faith would have defeated your arguments very easily. Secondly just because someone has 2 PHDs, like Stravinskas, doesn't mean that they know what they are talking about, or that they can debate their way out of a classroom of intellectually challenged school-children. I find it quite absurd that you put these videos on your site trying to glorify yourself, when you pick such pinheads like Stravinskas to debate. He wouldn't know the side of a barn door if it hit him in the head. The answer for almsgiving covering a multitude of sins is only worthy if it is united to Jesus Christ. Catholicism is not a pay as you go Christianity. It is a unite yourself to the will of God and sacrifice your will for His, Christianity. One which you have no clue of. I know that I don't have 2 PHDs James, but I could defend the Catholic faith much better than the clowns you put on your videos. Yours in Christ, Matthew.
The next time I see Fr. Stravinskas, Fr. Pacwa, Gerry Matatics, etc., I will let them know you think they are clowns. Thanks for writing.
Oh My Goodness
02/28/2007 - James WhiteI am boarding my flight back east and just wanted to report that James Cameron's preface to the tomb book can only be described as "sadly naïve.". Wide-eyed acceptance of absurd claims joined with a gross and abysmal ignorance of simple historical facts and methodology. A bad start to be sure! More when we land.
One of the Most Amazing Admissions I Have Ever Heard in a Debate
02/28/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#520).
Today on the DL
02/27/2007 - James WhiteI played portions of the Today Show interview and the Larry King program from last night and gave an overview of the many problems in the Tomb of Jesus story today on the DL. If you know folks who are more likely to listen to something than read something, today's program might help. Here's the program (free/high quality). Of course, this is all preliminary. I just obtained the book and will be taking it with me to Massachusetts this weekend. Flipping through it I saw passing references to the Gospel of Thomas, so I can guess what we are up against there as well.
In any case, Jeff Downs has put together a list of resources here. Jeff is a dear brother in the Lord. He has been a great help to me, he's one of the best data-miners around (almost as good as our own UberLibrarian, Marie Peterson!), so drop him a line of encouragement and thanks if you have time.
I likewise announced my intention to write an entire book, From Toronto to Emmaus, coming out, Lord willing, in as brief a time as humanly possible, with Solid Ground Christian books. Please pray for us as we "clear the decks" and invest pretty much every waking hour in this provision of an apologetic, sound, fair, accurate response to this attack upon the very heart of the Christian faith.
If There Was Ever An Unfair Fight, This Is It
02/26/2007 - James SwanThe recent tomb controversy serves as a reminder of how much skepticism the Christian church has endured. The fact that God has spoken, and has done so reliably confounds non-believers. They've tried so many different angles to suppress this truth and hide the fact they are responsible to His Holy Word.
In 1778, H.S. Reimarus argued Jesus was a Jewish zealot failing to set up his Messianic kingdom. To help keep the cause alive, the disciples stole his body and fabricated stories about the resurrection. In 1835, David Strauss published an influential book entitled, The Life of Jesus. He presented a work seeking to discredit the reliability and historicity of the gospels. The historical accounts of Jesus were myths. One couldn't trust the Bible to present any accurate information about Jesus. In 1901, William Wrede published The Messianic Secret. Wrede posited Mark added fictitious material of Jesus being the Messiah. In 1906 Albert Schweitzer released: The Quest of the Historical Jesus. His work concludes, "...[I]t is not Jesus as historically known, but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men who is significant for our time and can help it." So much for the historical records.
And of course there was the onslaught of form criticism. These critics argued the oral tradition containing the historical facts about Jesus suffered considerable corruption. By the time it was written down, the Gospel accounts were nowhere near being historical truth. The early church was so devious, they couldn't be trusted to give an accurate account of the life of Jesus. They even mixed in stories and elements from non-Christian ancient literature. They controlled the facts and put forth what they wanted to. The form critics, bowing at the alter of Rationalism, defined miracles out of existence.
And of course, lets not leave out the supposed suppressed evidence about Jesus. Facts and tidbits from spurious later non-biblical gnostic material somehow or other present the bigger picture of the true Jesus. These later apocryphal traditions rejected by the early church find their place front and center for such modern works like The Lost Years of Jesus. Jesus spends 17 years in India, even though the gospel accounts ask, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?" Shouldn't they be asking, "Isn't this the mystic from India?" And it gets sillier and sillier. Morton Smith from Columbia University explained Jesus was a magician. He used illusion and hypnosis to leave his mark on history. Perhaps the most bizarre was the hypothesis of John Allegro, the Semitic scholar who wrote The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. Jesus wasn't a real historical person, but was rather a code name for a hallucinogenic mushroom. The men who wrote the New Testament were the ancestors of the New Age hippies, working out cryptograms for an ancient fertility cult. Then in the early 1980's the world was given Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The book argues Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had 6 kids. Years later the same fiction made millions being retold in the Da Vinci Code.
Like dominos falling, all these arguments, spanning hundreds of years have failed. They differ in hypothesis, and many with each other, proving they can't make sense of the evidence they are evaluating. Now we're going to get a chance again to tune to the Discovery Channel (home of such notable epics as "The Search for Bigfoot") to see the same futile efforts. Scholars, philosophers, and historians failed to conquer Jesus and keep Him buried; now filmmakers will be shooting their cap guns at God. At the heart of this new documentary is a worldview positing a denial of sola scriptura. The latest tomb controversy is simply another attempt to run from the fact that God has spoken. Rather than being scared by this new documentary, I look forward once again to watching God and His Word prove its reliability and authority. The Psalmist said, "Your word, O Lord is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." Imagine, filmmakers versus God. Now, if there was ever an unfair fight, this is it.
Live Blogging Larry King
02/26/2007 - James WhiteI am listening to Larry King Live. At least the outlines are becoming very clear, even before the release of the video. (I find it ironic that Jacobovici keeps pointing out people who are responding to his claims have not seen the film as if that means something. Well, try following the normal canons of scholarship so that those responding to your claims have your data before you are producing movies presenting your conclusions!). Evidently, they could only "test" the two ossuaries they claim are of Jesus and Mary (Mariamne). Jacobovici just said Mariamne is the real name of Mary Magdalene, but, as yet, no one has explained how they know this.
Al Mohler is now coming on. Cameron is now responding. Cameron is now claiming Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary were "leaders" of an oppressed movement. No one, not even the Jewish opponents of the time, ever made such a claim. Now he is saying that in later years they would have had the "resources" to have such a tomb. Of course, he is ignoring the realities of first century Israel, politics, etc. Jacobovici is now doing the "you haven't seen it yet" thing again. They keep going back to the "name cluster" idea. We need to remember this: the "chance" of your family names, your "cluster," coming into existence by chance, is very high. Yet, you have parents with names, do you not? You have a name as well, do you not? This kind of statistical abuse is so obvious!
James Tabor is up next (see my previous blog reference to him). Three on one against Mohler. That's ol' Larry King. "Renowned" theologian? Goodness, does King have any idea how grossly biased he is? Mohler just accurately points out Tabor's idea that Jesus was the son of Pantera, and that he said the proper tomb for Jesus would be in Galilee. Here comes the false statistics argument again. I am getting tired of the "I am not a theologian, I am not a statistician, I am not an archaeologist" thing. I don't think Dr. Mohler has had the time to consider the error of this statistical argument. What we need to do is take another tomb that has been found, at random, put the names together, and run the statistics on it as well.
Now Bill Donahue is blowing a cork, unfortunately. He has rightly raised the James issue and the questions about its accuracy. But he is coming across as quite belligerent. King is such a royal post-modernist. Donohue is correct about the "making connections" argument.
Jacobovici is clearly clueless about Christian theology. This "we are not challenging the resurrection" argument is grossly false.
If this is a good example of the viewpoint of these men, we now know, before the film, exactly what the key elements are: does Mariamne mean Mary Magdalene? How accurate are the inscriptions? And can we get a statistician to run the "chances" of the "name cluster" of a few representative families today to demonstrate the misuse of this kind of argumentation?
Tomorrow On the DL
02/26/2007 - James WhiteThis is not going to surprise anyone, but I intend to tackle the Tomb controversy tomorrow. They may have the collective ignorance and gullibility of the secular media on their side, but that is not going to stop me from replying. I have found that there are some real questions about the reading of the inscriptions, and I likewise have the audio of the Today interview to go through. So make plans to listen in!
What To Say
02/26/2007 - James WhiteI've created a blog category "Tomb Issues" for the on-going discussion of the claims regarding the 1980 ossuary finds. Unless the on-going fraud trial in Israel right now turns up conclusive evidence of tampering regarding the inscription on the James ossuary (and hence blows this entire thing up--which may, I emphasize may, explain in part the speed at which this film has come out), this will be the most talked about apologetic subject of our generation, and possibly generations to come.
So what about today, nearly a week before us normal humans even get to see this film, or purchase the book and begin the long and careful process that has been so glibly by-passed by Cameron and Jacobovici called scholarship? Serious minded folks will be willing to withhold judgment and ask for a full hearing of the facts. But serious minded people are the vast minority in decadent Western culture. Microwave mentality reigns. Get it fast, get it easy. So what do you say to the co-worker who, knowing you are a Christian, wants to know when you are going to admit you were wrong all along? Here's one I'd suggest:
Important and world-changing issues are not decided by filmmakers over the course of 90 minutes. The process that should have taken place, the normal, proper process wherein claims are examined critically over time, has been by-passed for reasons that are not at all clear at this time. So the only person who is going to be swayed by the opening argument of one side that has a vested interest and has already broken the rules of scholarly engagement without even waiting for the other side to respond is obviously a person looking for a reason to disbelieve.
There are many others. In passing, I saw Cameron and Jacobovici on the Today Show this morning, and caught Cameron, if I recall correctly, throwing out the "Acts of Philip" as a decisive resource in their "evidence," and credited Jacobovici with "finding" this source. Ever read the Acts of Philip? Here, it will, in the words of one, make your brain itch. Date? The earliest manuscript is 14th century. Some, for reasons unclear, claim it could be as old as the fourth century. But no evidence of this is to be found. But let's give it the benefit of the doubt. A text, removed in all probability by half a millennium from the actual events, which never once identifies this "Mariamne" as Mary Magdalene, but instead reports that this Marianme will die in the Jordan river and that, when she was threatened, turned into a glass box or a cloud of fire, was a vital piece of the puzzle that allowed Jacobovici to see in the ossuaries what the original trained archaeologists did not? This is a better "fit" to the evidence than "Mariamne the Master was a woman of Greek origin or extraction who lived in Jerusalem in the first century and was probably master over the house" (not Mary Magdalene)?
The Many Errors of Brian Flemming #1
02/26/2007 - James WhiteWith the advent of The Blasphemy Challenge Brian Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There is once again garnering attention. I have addressed some of the more glaring aspects of this video on the DL in the past, but since the kind of "scholarship" that this kind of film promotes is so common in humanistic "academia" today, it is good to address it here as well. Let's start with this claim from Flemming:
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Yes, I think "year of our Lord" is a shot, too.
Flemming says Mark was the first gospel written, and he states it as a simple fact. There is no doubt that "Markan priority" is the majority viewpoint of New Testament scholarship. But not only are there other possibilities as to the relationship of the gospels to each other, the question of direct documentary utilization is wide open as well. That is, it is a grossly simplistic assertion to say Matthew, for example, is sitting at a desk with a complete, written version of Mark in front of him, and some "Q" source as well, and is going, "Hmm, well, I don't like the way Mark said this, so I am going to change it to this." As popular as this is these days, it is itself mythological in nature. Sure Luke says he used sources, and there is nothing inherently "anti-spiritual" about study and preparation and research in the writing of the gospel of Luke. But what so much of this discussion ignores, discounts, dismisses, etc., is the very testimony of the NT itself. As we will see, Flemming makes the same mistake. They put the gospels as late as possible, and then point to this "empty" space during which all sorts of development could take place. Every wild-eyed liberal theory on the planet requires us to believe that from AD 33 or so until AD 70 a massive amount of "development" was taking place. But the reality is quite different. We know the Apostles were preaching during this time. We know the church was being persecuted, first by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, and then, over time, the Romans began to take note of this (at first) Jewish "sect," and then, sometime during the sixth decade, as a religion unto itself. This took the Apostles all across the known world (see Paul's travels as just one example). What is the result of this dispersion of the original eyewitnesses? In a way similar to the distribution of the early manuscripts of the writings of the New Testament, so too the oral preaching of the Apostles was not limited to a small group in a small place (and hence subject to particular, focused redaction and "development"). Instead, the apostolic message, including the core of the gospel accounts themselves, was spread across the Mediterranean in a relatively small amount of time. The story of Jesus became known to thousands, and tens of thousands, in Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and many other tongues. They would be memorized, and re-told, countless times. In the early Christian gatherings the Old Testament scriptures would be read, and then the fulfillments, seen in Jesus, would be narrated. The parables would be retold, the Sermon on the Mount recounted, etc. This is the real "Q" source, it seems to me. I hear precious little discussion of the fact that there would have been an insatiable desire for knowledge of Jesus and His teachings in those early decades. And once the gospel stories became known to tens of thousands, memorized by devoted repetition, the idea that someone else could come along (i.e., Paul, for example), and make up a whole new religion and a whole new view of Jesus (as Shabir Ally suggests) is simply without merit. While the early church surely looked for the imminent return of Christ (as do we today), I think the real impetus for the production of the canonical gospels was the growth of the church and the need for documentation of the record that was already so familiar and well known to believers. The idea that these gospels were just "cooked up" decades later flies in the face of the reality of the existence of the infant Christian church. Of course, this would require Flemming to be honestly examining the facts at this point, and one thing we can tell just by the choice of "scholars" used is that examination of facts is not his goal.
Flemming says the rest of the gospels, Matthew, Luke, and John, are "clearly derived from Mark." Excuse me? Not even someone as radical as John Dominic Crossan would go that far regarding John. This is just bright-eyed fundamentalistic atheism speaking. If he is speaking of the oft-discussed and highly studied relationship of the Synoptics, I would only expand upon what I said above to point out that if I am correct about a widely-dispersed (i.e., not simply focused upon Jerusalem, for example) core of apostolic teachings entrusted to the entire body of the church (not to just a few who memorize it, as you have in the Qurra of ancient Islamic history), then one must seriously consider the possibility that each of the gospels is drawing upon this firmly established knowledge of the gospel and presenting it within the context of each writer's intended audience. Luke, for example, is writing, along with Acts, in defense of Paul's liberty, presenting the fact that the gospel is free from the accusations made against it by Paul's Jewish enemies at his trial in Rome. He is not writing for an Aramaic speaking Palestinian audience, and this answers many questions about style and format, etc. That a strong and meaningful case can be made for such alternative viewpoints of the literary relationship of the Synoptics demonstrates that Flemming's borrowed cavil against the gospels, which becomes the ground of all else that follows, is ill advised.
And finally, the glaring nature of the circularity of Flemming's naturalistic world view comes out in the bland way in which he says that since Mark mentions the destruction of the Jewish temple, well, that must mean he was writing after the event itself, because, of course, we all know there is no such thing as prophecy. Talk about assuming your conclusions so as to arrive at them! But I think even here the student in the college classroom who encounters this kind of argument can offer an excellent response. It might go along these lines, "That argument seems to prove too much. You say Mark was written after Jerusalem fell. But, Mark, and all the gospels, include elements in the predictive passages about the fall of Jerusalem that clearly have not yet been fulfilled completely, or, at the very least, would not be something someone would include in something they are pretending to be prophetic in nature. Why include problematic items you would have to explain when all you are really doing is trying to make Jesus look good as a prophet? Instead, these elements clearly indicate, to the semi-unbiased reader, that these words were written before the fall of Jerusalem, in fact, before the Roman seige began, probably before AD 66."
But Flemming is not interested in a fair accounting of the information. Just watch the end of his video to see what his real motivations are.
I will continue with a review of the heart of Flemming's attack upon the faith over the course of the next few weeks.
More Outlandish Discovery Channel Claims
02/26/2007 - James WhiteAt this very moment, in New York City, a press conference is getting underway. Some ancient ossuaries are being displayed, and the key men involved in the production of The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Here are a couple of links (here / here).
A statement in the Discovery Channel press release immediately makes any sober-minded person sigh in frustration and, in light of the obvious intentions of this project, not a small amount of disgust as well. Here it is:
A statistical study commissioned by the broadcasters (Discovery Channel/Vision Canada/C4 UK) concludes that the probability factor is 600 to 1 in favor of this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.The statistical analysis (I discussed it in the preceding entry) is about the possibility of names appearing in a single tomb. How on earth can any rational person leap from this to "in favor of this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family"? The leap is breath-taking, and utterly without warrant. When statisticians start determining ancient history without the slightest bit of meaningful context you can be certain you have encountered a true "rush to judgment."
They've uncovered evidence on which a "conservative" statistical analysis has placed 600-to-one odds in favour of being the family tomb of Jesus.
The statistical possibilities of any mixture of names appearing in a particular tomb would be large, and yet, all of our families have names, do they not? This kind of argumentation is particularly vacuous, and yet, it is given prominence in the writing of those promoting this new film. The lack of even semi-scholarly fairness is glaring.
We are also seeing the danger of investing Hollywood celebrities with nigh unto divine powers. James Cameron brought us Terminator and Titanic, but now he seems to have become an archaeologist and theologian as well. He is quoted as saying, "It doesn't get bigger than this. We've done our homework; we've made the case; and now it's time for the debate to begin." Well, if a true scholarly debate is what they wanted, they would have presented this material first in a completely different context. They don't want debate anymore than Dan Brown did. They want money, they want power, and evidently, they know the best way to get it these days is to join the "attack Christianity" bandwagon. They have presented their conclusions before the debate itself, and that is so that they can poison the well. When the debate finally begins, the money will already be in their pockets, the damage done, and for the foreseeable future we will be dealing with people repeating their claims as established facts.
Joining the Freakishly Tall Todd Friel...
02/26/2007 - James WhiteI got this voice mail on my new Blackberry last week. This MASSIVE RADIO VOICE guy calls me. I mean, I can do a radio voice. I grew up doing radio. But, it isn't natural. This guy has a radio voice 24/7. It's...just how he sounds. And of course, I am referring to Todd Friel, host of Way of the Master Radio. I'll be joining him tomorrow (Tuesday) and we'll be talking about something...but, given the "we found Jesus' body" story I noted over the weekend and that is now all over us like a bad haircut, we may end up having to address it. Who knows? But tune us in anyway, here. I am scheduled for the second hour, 3pm CST.
The Lost Tomb of Jesus
02/26/2007 - James WhitePrepare for a flood of media coverage of the Cameron/Jacobovici film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Fox News has already picked it up, and I imagine you will be deluged with pictures of the ossuaries in question by tonight, with the major news outlets grabbing various folks with the film to do the morning shows on Tuesday and Wednesday. Don't expect them to be looking for the best Christian apologists to give an answer, either. You know how the media works.
As more of the storyline of The Lost Tomb of Jesus comes out, my suspicions are being confirmed. As I saw the list of "experts" in the article I cited yesterday, I had to try to figure out how their fields of expertise would be relevant to empty ossuaries. Two caught my attention immediately: DNA experts, and statistical experts. I theorized that statistics would be used on the names allegedly (I will explain the use of allegedly below) found on the ossuaries, and in reading a Canadian interview with "the Naked Archaeologist," Simcha Jacobovici, I have found this is the case. The film will present probabilities of finding these specific names together in the same tomb. Of course, this raises the question about how you determine the names of Jews in the first century. Sure, you can come up with a list of names that have been found in various forms from history, from monuments, documents, ossuaries, and chiseled in stone on ossuaries, sepulchres, walls of homes, etc. But this hardly gives you a database that is overly relevant. Why? Well, outside of graffitti, poor folks don't show up in historical documents and chiseled in stone nearly as often as the rich do. Jesus was not rich. His followers were not either. Remember the famine in Jerusalem requiring Paul to collect an offering for their assistance? Same time period, and things didn't get much better in Jerusalem before its destruction in AD 70). The whole idea that Jesus would ever be buried in Jerusalem years later along with a family runs counter to every single fact we have from every other source known to us, which highlights the speculative nature of the argumentation of the film. In any case, the statistician would be giving us nothing but an educated guess and that without sufficient evidence in the social strata to which Jesus belonged to be even slightly relevant. Given that the number of entire families that have been unearthed is but a tiny percentage of the actual number of people who lived, it would be like concluding that a family with a father named Earl and a mother named Sarah and a boy named Michael could only have existed once in a particular part of the country, never twice. It is the kind of argumentation that while mildly interesting, is really only produced by those who are weaving a tapestry of wild possibilities, hoping you will be so mesmerized you won't notice you are having your pockets picked. In any case, my suspicions were correct, and this is how the "statistics experts" will be used in the film.
The next group is the DNA experts. My theory here was pretty easy, for anyone who has seen CSI half a dozen times: find "traces" of DNA in the ossuaries; prove the Joshua/Jesus ossuary contained bones (remember, the bones are gone--these would have to be nothing more than small bone fragments) that were not genetically related to Maria, and then try to prove that the ostensible offspring is related to Joshua/Jesus and Mariamne. Most, upon hearing about "DNA," immediately assume there is some attempt to "identify" Jesus directly, which, of course, would be impossible. But that would be impossible, of course. And once again, this is what is coming out. The above linked article notes,
DNA tests conducted for the documentary at Lakehead University on two ossuaries — one inscribed Jesus son of Joseph and the other Mariamne, or Mary — confirm that the two were not related by blood, so were probably married....
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
About That New Ending of Mark
02/24/2007 - James WhiteAs expected, there isn't any such thing. Student newspaper, reporter without understanding, confusing what they'd like to find with what they have in fact found. Here is a letter from the actual scholars doing the imaging. Of course, that does not really explain the comments of the undergraduate student which still, it seems to me, give an insight into the mindset LDS take into this field of work.
A Couple of Links on the Cameron Film
02/24/2007 - James WhiteWell, it isn't a joke. Looked like it, but it's not. Here's a Time article, which links to this blog entry. The utter lack of scholarly approach in this stuff is very troubling. It may take years to dig through the fiction to get to the facts. Of course, that won't stop folks from claiming the fiction is itself factual, but that is nothing new.
Oh Brother, Here We Go Again--or Do We? (Updated Below)
02/24/2007 - James WhiteIs this a joke? Maybe---but, it is too early to tell. Indications exist that this might be a spoof, and given that no details at all are given as to where this "press conference" is going to take place, that might be the case. However, this link suggests the film is real. So it is very hard to say.
We have an article here making rather grandiose archaeological claims. One is immediately struck with the "showiness" of the piece. This isn't a sober, scholarly work, and they seem to know it, since they do all they can to try to prop up their storyline even in announcing a press conference! "Decades of research" and repeated references to experts makes it clear these folks have an agenda right from the start. A few obvious questions would be, Who are the experts who have so far had access to these alleged caskets? How were they dated? Why were they kept secret and under the control of Jewish authorities for so long? Interestingly, one of the names cited in the article, Professor Amos Kloner, is also associated with the finding of the "James, the brother of Jesus" ossuary a few years ago, and in his report on that finding, made this comment, seemingly only four years ago:
The family of Jesus and James had no burial cave in first century Jerusalem and it is known that about a generation elapsed between the death of Jesus and that of James. It is not known from the details of their lives that the family moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It is thus not likely that in the space of thirty years the burial of a large family related to Jesus and his brother James developed in Jerusalem, that made it necessary to write the deceased’s name on the ossuary in order to distinguish him from others. According to the above proposal, that such an ossuary would derive from a large group, it is unlikely that the present ossuary of Ya‘acov son of Yosef originates in the burial cave of the above family. The rationalization that early Christians were buried in Jerusalem according to their own rites still lacks proof or evidence. The possibility of a sectarian burial exists, but it doesn’t seem likely that an ossuary would be inscribed in this special way, that normally would belong to a family burial. (reference)Yet, the article says he announced this finding ten years ago. Something smells a tad bit fishy here, if you ask me. The whole idea of families in caskets sounds so wonderfully Western, but, it isn't the way of poor folks in first century Israel. What are these alleged caskets made of? They surely could not be made of wood, as they would not have lasted in the moist environment of Jerusalem (see Steven Fine's "Why Bone Boxes?" BAR 27:05, Sep/Oct 2001). Are these ossuaries (hence, not caskets at all)? Use of ossuaries (as in the photo above) flourished around Jerusalem in the first century. They are in essence "bone boxes," where the bones of the decomposed body were collected about a year after initial burial on a flat slab. Is that what is being claimed? We are left without sufficient information to even begin to ask the best questions, let alone respond. And it all points to this being, as one commentator on the article says, a "Purim joke." Maybe. But it would also be perfectly logical to launch an attack like this in film, put it out there before any rebuttal can even be organized, just to have "maximum effect." That is not the way of sober scholarship, of course, but it is the way of the world.
In any case, here's my prediction if this is not, in fact, a mere joke. If there is some big press conference and the film has already been produced, this will get lots of airplay because of the allegation that here is more "proof" that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children. "See, we told you!" will be the cry of the wild-eyed Da Vinci Code addicts. Then the scholarly challenges will come, examinations will be made by those without a financial investment to protect, and once the truth is known, the media will be...oddly busy that day/week, etc. But the problem will be that without any substantiation or study, this kind of allegation will be taken as "fact" and repeated ad nauseum for the foreseeable future. Sound like a decent prediction? But, if this is just a joke, well, at least you can now amaze your friends by knowing what an ossuary is!
It seems old stories never die. In point of fact, ten years ago this story surfaced. I have the feeling it was the money connected with The Da Vinci Code that raised this story back to life (pun fully intended). Here are two stories from 1996 giving the background: ...
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02/24/2007 - James WhiteOnce again I wish to thank everyone who has expressed concern, and support, with reference to the break-in a few weeks ago. A lot of progress has been made. If it is a computer in my office, it is now cabled down securely. Our doors are finally in. In fact, here is a shot I just saved from our security cameras a few moments ago of Rich, master of all tasks, painting the new door outside of his office. The doors are steel, thick, and heavy. They have full length hinges and double industrial strength dead bolts. Full length astricle as well. As you can see, there are bars on all the windows now as well. So we have been quite busy on that front, to be sure.
Most of what was stolen has now been replaced. The tablet PC I use so often while traveling is no longer made, so I went with two refurbished units instead, each about half the price of a new one. This way I have a backup. An unexpected blessing that came along with this route was that one of the two units came with a docking station. This allowed me to restore my system from my backups very easily and quickly (the last time it was quite a chore, requiring shipping of the unit to Texas!). So I am thankful for that. In the same way, replacing my mp3 voice recorder means the new unit, which was cheaper than the original, is actually a better unit, with much more recording time on it. So, I try to look at the bright side as much as possible!
But let us not forget justice has yet to be done. I showed this picture to a worker at a local restaurant and they identified him as the one who had robbed them as well. Rich mentioned the guy to someone at a local lock company and he described him perfectly without even seeing his picture as the thief who robbed the restaurant while he was there! So I would think that someone as active in the criminal realm as he is will eventually make a mistake. Of course, given that God's law is so despised in our nation today, and justice is so little seen as a reflection of God's nature and His glory, criminals like this are rarely punished. But God will not be mocked. Justice will be done. I have a sign in the window of my office with this man's picture, warning him of the wrath of God, and inviting him to knock on the front door during business hours so that he can learn what he can do to be made right with God.
Please continue to pray for the work of the ministry and the security of our offices. We know that all the measures we can take will not stop a determined criminal. Only God can provide real protection, and so we trust Him in this matter.
This Is Just Amazing (If You Are a Geek)
02/24/2007 - James WhiteOK, I have joined the legions of mind-numbed zombies with a Blackberry. I must admit it is the most amazingly well designed, intuitive electronic device I have ever used. It is the closest thing I will probably ever have to a secretary. Just amazing. So, I've been looking to put juts a few things on it to increase its usefulness since it will be the one item with me at pretty much all times. I am not looking to replace the massive library of stuff I have on my Palm, as that will continue to function as before. But there are times you just want to "go light," so I've put a Bible on it, for example, and a few utilities. Well, last evening I saw a section called "religion" so I started looking around, and found the "Quran Reader Pro." I have a number of Islamic programs on my computers, such as Al-Alim, but I am amazed at the capabilities of this program, including search functions in Arabic! Of course, I should probably avoid standing in line at the airport using it, but it is a great addition to my library of resources. I have used the Qur'an on my Palm a dozen times while giving presentations all across the country and in the UK. I have a limited amount of memory, and as I noted, am not looking to replace my Palm, so it is just a matter of "what you might need in a flash" as to what I load on the Blackberry. I will probably put the LDS Scriptures on as well since I have that in the MobiPocket edition. Geeks press on!
Measuring the Ride...Vertically
02/24/2007 - James WhiteWell, it took me two months to find the time to actually get around to doing this again. Back in December of 2005 I did a "triple ascent" of South Mountain here in Phoenix for my 43rd birthday, and so I was going to do it again for my 44th. I figured if I added a little in I could up it to 44 miles and 4400 feet. Weather and my desire to row 200,000m in December conspired to push it back, so I tried on New Year's Day. Big mistake. It was like they had shifted the entire traffic pattern of I-17 onto the two lane, winding road in South Mountain Park. Literally bumper-to-bumper at times, and when you are on a road bike, that stinks. So there was no way I was going to play dodge-car for three ascents that day. So, I decided to try for President's Day, 2/19. Rained all day. I hate riding in the rain. So, finally, on Wednesday, 2/21, I set out. My riding buddy Eddie McKee couldn't get off work to join me, so I was solo the whole way.
First ascent I did the "heart rate control" thing, keeping my heart rate as low as possible so as to maintain my glycogen supplies for that third attempt. South Mountain reserves its steepest grades for the last half mile (of course!), and I'm still a big boy, so climbing 10%+ grades is an energy-intensive task. Managed to do well on the first run, keeping my energy output as low as practically possible.
Second run things were going well until I heard a loud, deep rumble behind me. I was at a point where you can see a long way down the mountain, and as I looked back I saw a biker's worst nightmare: a huge tractor-trailer loaded with heavy equipment, obviously heading for the farm of television and radio towers at the top. What do you do? Stop and wait for it to go by, or try to outrun it? I did some quick calculations and picked up the pace. It would have caught me but for a very sharp turn about 1.5 miles from the top that required it to do some tricky maneuvering. Here you can see it from my vantage point at the top of the second run, and then a few minutes later as it waited for the gates to be opened so it could get to its destination. That took a bit more energy than I had planned to expend on the second run.
Third run started fine. The weather was exceptional. 72 for a high, probably upper sixties for the last run. My biking friends back East can't help but be a bit jealous at this point (of course, during the summer, I have to be down there by 5am to start by 5:15am with a beginning temperature, before sunrise, of 93 degrees). But as I approached the steep grades at the top I started to feel something that is quite unusual for me: my quads were starting to cramp up. Now, when you are on 10%+ grades, cramping quads not only hurt, but, since there was some traffic there, it is a bit dangerous. I had to stop once to try to stretch them out, but getting started again from a dead stop on a grade is tricky (those who ride know that is the one time your cleats just won't click in right the first time). But I refused to give up, and made it to the top. But guess what happened then? Yeah, the truck, having been unloaded, decided to head down. Now, a bike can descend winding mountain roads faster than most four wheeled vehicles. On the straighter portions of the descent I'll be in the lower to mid 30s speed-wise, and obviously I can take a turn much tighter than a car, and surely a whole lot faster than the truck. Thankfully, I found a spot near the top to pass him safely, but then I had to keep my speed up the rest of the way down. He surely made my day interesting. ...
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Who is the Blessed Man? And Augustine Said What Again?
02/24/2007 - James WhiteMore from the cross-examination of Peter Stravinskas on vital issues of apologetic import.
DVD available here (#520). For details on Stravinskas' error regarding Sermon 131, see here.
Yesterday on the DL
02/23/2007 - James WhiteWell, evidently, I answered all possible questions on textual criticism, or, bored the world to death with that series, so we moved on to listening, sort of on the fly, to last weekend's sermon by Johnny Hunt in which he once again did the "here's the template, we are all going to keep repeating this, without modification, without accuracy, and without responding to the refutation of these claims, until we have driven every biblically-literate person from our midst" thing that is starting to mark an entire spectrum of Southern Baptist ministers. I pointed out that this kind of "believe what I say but don't expect me to develop my position consistently" preaching leaves those who are exposed to it as their own source of edification dangerously under-developed and incapable of responding to the apologetic issues of the day. Eventually we took some calls, one of which was, in fact, on a textual critical issue (the fact that the LXX version of Jeremiah is about 1/3 shorter than the MT version). Here's the program (free/high quality).
Calvin Said What?
02/23/2007 - James SwanIt's been a while since Tiber Jumper's Crossed The Tiber has been in the spotlight. Every so often, this Catholic convert provides quotes from the Reformers. It amazes me how Catholic converts become so seemingly fluent in Reformation history and writings (I do wonder, though, how much of the Reformers writings actually are read prior to Catholic conversion). This time, John Calvin gets center stage as a supporter of the Roman Catholic view of baptism. Calvin's position is said to be so similar to the Catholic Catechism that he could have written this:
"The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1129).
Rome's view holds sacraments infuse grace into a person: "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131). Now, whether or not you agree with Calvin's view of the sacraments, his view definitely was not that of the Roman Church. Tiber Jumper says, "We Sacramentalists in agreement with the writings of the Early Church and Sacred Scripture insist that a little water does indeed regenerate a person." Well, Calvin does not agree. Calvin says,
"The schools of the Sophists have taught with remarkable agreement that the sacraments of the new law (those now used in the Christian church) justify and confer grace, provided we do not set up a barrier of mortal sin. How deadly and pestilential this notion is cannot be expressed and the more so because for many centuries it has been a current claim in a good part of the world, to the great loss of the church. Of a certainty it is diabolical. For in promising a righteousness apart from faith, it hurls souls headlong to destruction. Secondly, because it draws the cause of righteousness from the sacraments, it binds mens pitiable minds (of themselves more than enough inclined to earth) in this superstition, so that they repose in the appearance of a physical thing rather than in God himself" (Institutes IV:14:14)....
"Now, it is clear how false is the teaching, long propagated by some and still persisted in by others, that through baptism we are released and made exempt from original sin, and from the corruption that descended from Adam into all his posterity; and are restored into that same righteousness and purity of nature which Adam would have obtained if he had remained upright as he was first created. For teachers of this type never understood what original sin, what original righteousness, or what the grace of baptism was" (Institutes IV: 15:10).
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An Encouraging Note on Multiple Fronts
02/23/2007 - James WhiteThis note came through our website from DC in Tennessee:
Dear Dr. White
I grew up in a KJO home. My grandfather wrote a book on the subject (pro KJO) and as a result was close with Peter Ruckman. In 1995 I was 20 years old and I was clueless about truth but addicted to Ruckman's crazy ideas. I remember that during these years Ruckman went on and on about a James White who had written a book that was trying to destroy people's faith in "the book" (KJV). I never read you book, but I certainly knew I didn't like you (after all, you were trying to "destroy my faith").
10 years later. In 2005 struggled through the version issue and finally realized KJO is absurd. After realizing that the KJO position was false I knew I had to leave my IFBx church. After I left IFBx'dom for good I had no clue where to go. I knew I was lining up with Reformed folk in my worldview but I rejected Calvinism. I decided to study more so I bought Sproul's Chosen By God. After reading a few chapters I was still unconvinced. I went out and bought Chosen But Free still believing Calvinism was false.
Well, one day, not too long after finishing Chosen But Free I stumbled across a little book called "The Potter's Freedom, A Rebuttal of Chosen But Free". I immediately knew that if I was going to be fair about things I would need to read through this book with an open mind. Dr. White, you didn't waste any time in The Potter's Freedom destroying every Arminian falsehood and straw-man that I had ever clung to. By the time I was halfway through the book I was a convinced Calvinist. What did me in was the way you consistently exegeted the Scripture. I had no defense to what you were saying. Because of that I knew I was in error, and since then have enjoyed the fine Reformed expository preaching in a Founder's Friendly SBC church. So, I genuinely say want to say "Thank-you"! God has blessed me because of you ministry and I am thankful for that. I hope to come and meet you someday if you ever make near East Tennessee! God bless you!
Why Cross Examination is Vital
02/22/2007 - James WhiteHe taught at two well respected universities. Two earned doctorates. Numerous books authored. Editor of "The Catholic Answer." Ordained priest. The debate was on purgatory. Only a few biblical texts are relevant to the topic. 1 Corinthians 3 is the main one. Watch and listen.
DVD available here (#520).
A Classic Updated--in the AOMin Bookstore
02/21/2007 - James WhiteI have to admit, it is one of the most humorous comments I've seen in print, from a Calvinist anyway, in a long time. When Lance Quinn updated the work of Steele and Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism for P&R, he expanded the book tremendously by adding a wonderfully useful bibliography. During the process he asked for not only my old books on the subject, but for information on how he could get hold of Debating Calvinism which was, at that time, in process of being written. I'm thankful he was able to include the book before his own work went to press. In the bibliography (90-91) we find the following:
Hunt, Dave, and James White. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. Sisters, Oreg.: Multnomah, 2004, 427 pages.
This book grew out of James White's response to Dave Hunt's 2002 book, What Love is This? (see the annotation on The Potter's Freedom, by James White, under "Articles in Reference Works, Systematic Theologies, Etc." below). This book has a debate format and could well go down as the most lopsided debate in church history. Once again, as in What Love is This? Dave Hunt neither understands true Calvinism nor correctly represents classic Arminianism. If you want to see an excellent presentation of classic Calvinism, you will find it in James White's portion of Debating Calvinism.
Pick up your copy of The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented (Steele, Thomas, Quinn) today!
Rumors Out of BYU
02/20/2007 - James WhiteThis is interesting in light of the discussion we have been having on the DL about textual criticism. Here is a story that claims that scholars working on the Oxyrhnchus papyri using multi-spectral imaging have discovered "an unidentified Christian apocryphal Gospel, a new ending to the Gospel of Mark, a different version of two verses in the book of Philemon, and a missing section in Luke 22:43-44." Unfortunately, no other information is given outside of the claim, such as, the text, the manuscripts in which the material was found, dating---all the stuff you need to evaluate such claims. Most of the chatter I have seen so far is pretty skeptical about the claims, but it will be interesting to see what kind of evidence is brought forward. But lest you wonder about the inclinations of LDS who engage in such studies, these paragraphs should be kept in mind:
Seth Kohrman, a senior from Decatur, Ind., majoring in ancient near eastern studies, is one of the students involved with this project and on the Oxyrhynchus collection. Kohrman said he has learned a lot about the gospel from his studies.The amount of confusion inherent in that statement is truly breathtaking. Let's see...because gnostic heretics in the second and third centuries wrote silly books about Jesus and a cache of their writings has been found buried in the ground this means we don't really know what the New Testament said so we should trust the imaginative work of Joseph Smith Jr. from the 19th century which quotes from the 1769 Blayney Revision of the King James Version of the Bible so that we can truly know the gospel? OK, well, I hope Seth doesn't mind if we wait a little while a look a little closer at those manuscripts.
"In a funny way it has strengthened my testimony of the gospel and the Book of Mormon especially," Kohrman said. "There are over 5,600 manuscripts of the New Testament, not to mention all the apocryphal writings we are working on now, and none of them contain the New Testament as we have it today. This shows me personally of the immense importance of the Book of Mormon. Without it, we would be lost and confused."
Today on the Dividing Line: Finishing the Textual Critical Series
02/20/2007 - James WhiteStarted to wrap things up today on the TC series. Here is the textual data I discussed at the top of the program regarding Mark 1:41 and Bart Ehrman:
Greek text: kai. splagcnisqei.j evktei,naj th.n cei/ra auvtou/ h[yato kai. le,gei auvtw/|\ qe,lw( kaqari,sqhti\
Variant: orgisqeij D a ff2 r1*
I cited Metzger as well, but the Greek font did not translate, so you can just follow the text as I read it on the program. Then we took a call on the LXX and the OT Hebrew text. On Thursday be ready with your textual variant questions, as we will take your calls, and then move on to other topics! Here's the program (free/high quality). [Due to technical difficulties the DL will post Wednesday AM.]
Tuesday Morning Odds and Ends
02/20/2007 - James WhiteWe've seen it coming for a while now. With the entrance of Mitt Romney into the 2008 presidential election, the subject of Mormonism would be front and center. But, given the mind-set of Secular America (might as well capitalize it: it's the official religion of the nation), I for one expected exactly what we are getting. First, anyone who dares assert that there is truth in the area of religion (resulting in the logical necessity of the existence of error in religion) will be laughed to scorn before two sentences can be uttered. Our society has a 3 second timer built into its thinking when it comes to someone trying to make a theological assertion in public dialogue. Only in "Christian" media will there be any willingness for a serious discussion of the teachings of Mormonism, and even then, there will be resistance to the promulgation of any firm conclusions. For secularists, Mormons are Christians, period, end of discussion, move on.
But on the second front, the theological ignorance of Christians, joined with the widespread incapacity to express theological postions succinctly and with clarity, results in this kind of embarrassing result:
Was anything accomplished here? Outside of mockery of the entire idea that Mormonism does, in fact, present a false God, Christ, and gospel, not really. Political town-halls are not the venue for a discussion of the fundamentally non-Christian nature of the LDS Church. That will require sober, sound, accurate discussion by individual believers in the market place of ideas, and, of course, that first requires a solid grasp on the necessity and importance of biblical monotheism to all of the Christian faith. And given the willingness of many post-evangelicals to throw the Trinity under the bus as an irrelevant dogma of the past anyway (witness the continued popularity of Phillips, Craig and Dean on your local "Christian" station), I'm not overly optimistic about the over-all conversation we will be enduring for the next number of months. Of course, no matter how badly that goes in the over-all culture, you and I as believers are responsible to glorify our Lord in the matter all the same. ...
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Another Bodily Assumption Thought from the 1996 Debate
02/20/2007 - James WhiteAbout a week ago I commented on Owen's discussion of the Bodily Assumption of Mary, and noted how serious Rome was when she defined this as a dogma of the faith, something to be accepted de fide. It is truly a testimony to the internal collapse of the Roman system in our day that so few who profess Roman Catholicism actually believe its teachings. Having seen the secular character of Italian culture first-hand, I can tell you Rome has some very serious problems.
In any case, I was thinking about the topic and took the time to record a short clip (3 minutes) from the cross-examination of my debate with Gerry Matatics on the Marian dogmas back in 1996. Listen carefully to what Matatics says. He asserts we have the exact same basis to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have to believe in the Bodily Assumption of Mary. Don't believe me, listen carefully to what he says, and then ponder how anyone could ever come to such a conclusion. Ironically, that kind of dogged "Rome's teachings are true, change history to fit them if need be" viewpoint comes through clearly in his finally leaving the Roman communion and concluding that modern Rome has abandoned its heritage, etc. Of course, if the current pope could be in error, then why...well, never mind, let's not get into that circular mess. I'll leave Gerry and his critics to figure that one out.
Dave Hunt Defends the Irrationality of Man's Autonomy
02/19/2007 - Alan KurschnerI am not sure why I check Dave Hunt's newsletter every month. Maybe there is a ray of hope that he will begin to engage with concrete objections presented to him over the years. But once again, we find his February Newsletter Q&A section consistently disappointing.
Someone wrote in with a Calvinist persuasion and asks Hunt some honest questions about the will of man. What we find is not a instructive response to any specific questions and comments, but what is to be expected when the pot's knee refuses to bow down to the Potter. Nevertheless, in this post I will respond to one comment in particular that Hunt makes, and post a couple of more responses in the near future. Hunt writes,
If something or someone “makes the will make its choices,” free will is not free.On the contrary! For those who are new to this debate, Arminian theology affirms a philosophical view of free will called “Libertarianism” (if our actions are determined by a set of antecedent conditions, we do not possess authentic free will); versus Calvinism’s model of Compatibilism (it is precisely because our actions are governed by a set of antecedent conditions, we can say that we make authentic choices.)
If there are no causal reasons that govern our choices, as Hunt asserts, then he is an irrational man and so is everyone else who cannot give an account for his behavior.
Arminian theology asserts that if we could not have chosen to do something otherwise, then there is no free will. Here is their irrational fallacy in a nutshell. They are resisting any idea of a guaranteed result from any same conditions. It is irrational because there is no explanation for the effect of an action.
If they cry, “oh yes, there can be an explanation,” then I ask, “Will it always be guaranteed to produce the same action?” They of course being the libertarian have to say “no.”
This is ironic because Calvinists are frequently accused of having no basis for personal responsibility. It is the Arminian who has no basis for personal responsibility because there are no conditions that can exist in their system that can produce the desired result every time.
For personal responsibility to exist there must be the same set of conditions to always bring about the exact same result. How else can you hold someone responsible if they can claim no reason (i.e. set of antecedent conditions) for their actions?
Arminian theology says if you do not have something of a neutral will at the moment of choosing, then you have no authentic will at all. Think about that most absurd statement. That is a contradiction in terms. A “will” by definition is not neutral but rather acts on causality. A will by definition cannot be “neutral.” If it was neutral, it could not will. What makes us choose X over Y? Not neutrality, but rather causal conditions.
In the theological context, it is Calvinism that believes in a will—a very strong will. One that makes authentic choices. When the Spirit regenerated our heart, he placed in our heart a set of antecedent conditions that would always produce the same result: faith and repentance. And thus we chose according to our strongest inclinations. Could we have chosen otherwise? No. Because the conditions that existed from God’s miracle of regeneration produced what it intended from its particular causality.
Praise God…the Creator of intelligibility, and creating in our hearts a set of antecedent conditions that gave us spiritual life.
I close with a summary by Steve Hays on the state of the irrational condition of Arminian theology,
Calvinism and Arminianism are not epistemically on par with each other. For Calvinism enjoys explanatory power, while Arminian theology represents the abdication of rationality.
Arminian theology is worse than untrue—it could not even be true. It is unable to supply and satisfy certain truth-conditions without which the very possibility of an explanation is overruled. As Van Til would say, Arminian theology is disproven by the impossibility of the contrary, for it cannot acquit the preconditions of intelligibility.
Roman Catholic Apologetics Goes Presuppositional
02/19/2007 - James SwanNever underestimate the writing output of a Catholic apologist. You can be easily buried with facts on several different topics spanning numerous pages. Most of their arguments are exercises in reasoning from the facts back to the Roman Catholic Church. One fact supports another in arguing back to the church Jesus is said to have established. The Catholic apologist will run the spectrum in facts and evidence. Once one fire is put out, multiple others will be started. Get set to read numerous pages of quotes and miscellaneous tidbits of theological information. All the proof one could ever ask for will be put forth. Every argument has a reason. That is of course, until one gets down to the presuppositional level. This is the place I've found few want to go. How is the authority of the Roman Catholic Church proved? What facts prove this?
I've wondered when Catholic apologists would take an honest look at their initial faith claims and try out presuppositional arguments. Now some of them simply don't understand this approach, as Robert Sungenis demonstrated last month (see question #7). While attending Westminster Seminary, Sungenis claims to have read many works by Cornelius Van Til (see, Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (San Diego: Basilica Press, 1994), p.111). Yet he still caricatured the presuppositional approach by saying, "Unfortunately, Van Til denied any recourse to Evidentialism, and he chided the Roman Catholic Church (and any Protestant, e.g., Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell) for depending on evidences to preach and convince one of the claims of Jesus Christ. Essentially, Van Til's approach was one sided, and that is usually the case for Calvinistic approaches to philosophy and Scripture."
Sungenis either misread Van Til or, has not really read his books. Contrary to Sungenis, the presuppositional approach does not deny the use of reason, argument, and evidence. These only make sense and find meaning in the context of a theistic worldview. Since this is God's world, every fact can be used as evidence to point to Him as creator. Van Til's presuppositional approach can start anywhere with any fact. Presuppositional apologetics actually gives the freedom to use every single piece of evidence existing.
On the other hand, for the last two months Art Sippo has been busy defining and defending Catholic Presuppositionalism. Normally vicious towards "Prots" (see for instance, Sippo's kind words of appreciation for my Luther research), Sippo uncharacteristically refers to Van Til's method as brilliant.
Sippo says, "As to the foundation of the Chritian [sic] religion, the ultimate presupposition is Jesus Christ himself. All authority in Christendom comes from him and ultimately our faith in God is faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ as revealed to us by his Son." And then comes the thrust of Sippos argument: "How do we know that Catholicism is necessarily true? First of all, Catholicism derives its authority directly from Christ in unbroken succession. Jesus is the self-authenticating true human being that all men can recognize as the true head of the race. He did not write a Bible. He established an institution with ministers in a succession of authority and then he promised it the Holy Spirit as its guarantor of all truth (John 14). The entire patrimony of the Church included Scripture, Tradition, liturgy, etc. All of these communicate Christ to us in a complimentary fashion."
I actually have to thank Sippo for stating this argument. It has been my experience that Roman Catholics never admit upfront faith in Rome's authority as an unproven beginning presupposition. In dialoging with Roman Catholics I try to press this point: what evidence do you have establishing Rome's infallible authority? When asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, they cannot be allowed to answer it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. An appeal to Matthew 16:18 should not serve as a basis for proof of a Roman Catholic worldview. If they do, they are not being consistent. They would be proving the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures. Sippo falls into this with his appeal to John 14.
How then does one respond to Sippo's presuppositions? Van Til's arguments are very useful in dialoging with those who deny the Biblical worldview. Sippo though claims belief in Jesus Christ, and he has at least some sort of Christian worldview. Van Til originally used the phrase, transcendental reasoning in describing his apologetic approach. It is reasoning from the impossibility of the opposite. In other words, any position opposed to Christianity is impossible. This means all the facts of reality will point to the truth of the Christian worldview. It is the only worldview thatwill give coherence to the facts. The facts will all point to the necessity and reality of Christianity as a beginning presupposition. Any other worldview will not be able to make sense of the facts.
Once a person subjectively places faith in the Roman Church, simply ask them to apply their chosen authority as a template for reality. If it works, all the facts of reality will support the initial faith claims. If you read this blog regularly, you know they do not. This means you will still be involved with evaluating the evidence. But keep in mind Roman Catholics cannot prove the authority of the Roman Church. It is your task to show their choice to be Roman Catholic is a faith choice, not a decision based on evidence and reasoning. It is your task to show the impossibility of this authority giving coherence to all the facts.
Sippo's use of presuppositional apologetics proves the point that I've been making for years. The choice to become Roman Catholic is the placing of one's faith in the authority of the Church. It is a subjective fallible choice. It is a decision of the heart. For a Catholic convert, it is the giving up of Biblical and scriptural presuppositions, which do give coherence to the facts. It is the taking on of a sola ecclesia presupposition, which sinks the facts. For a closer look at a presuppositional evaluation of Roman Catholicism, see this article by Greg Bahnsen, Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction? A Biblical Defense of Sola Scriptura.
Open Theism Debate
02/19/2007 - James WhiteI've seen a lot of chatter about Open Theism over the past week. Here is a clip from the cross-examination portion of my debate with John Sanders at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando a few years ago. The DVD is available here (#551).
Helping out a Faithful Reader...
02/18/2007 - Mike PorterA faithful reader of this blog has borrowed some of the quotes from my first blog article on Heinrich Bullinger. Unfortunately, he also borrowed four points where I summarized a section of his sermon and confused them with Bullinger's words. As honored as I am to be confused with Bullinger, I concede that there is a bit of an age difference between us. But, thank you, Mr. Armstrong, for that momentary lift to my ego.
While I am helping him to correct his citations, I'd also like to help him with his history just a bit. Mr. Armstrong, for the record, while Bullinger was extremely influencial in the Reformation, a point I made in my article (you did read the article fully, right?), Bullinger was not a contributing author of the Second Helvetic Confession. He was the exclusive author. It was his own personal declaration of faith which he sent to Friedrich III. Here is more background on it. And, here is the confession in full.
You must be confusing the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith (1564) with the First Helvetic Confession of Faith (1536), of which he was a contributing author.
A final correction I would offer is that Bullinger was by no means "anti-Catholic." Bullinger sought very much to connect with the ancient church (part of those quotes you cited demonstrate that very point). A great deal of his sermons spend time demonstrating "Der Alt Glaub" ("the Old Faith," one of his works where he seeks to summarize the Old and New Testaments as well as the faith once delivered). Further, his works on the Sacraments, in particular, his refutations of the Mass and Transubstantiation, cite heavily from Augustine in order to disprove the concept. He further sought to bring unity among the Reformed Churches, earning him the title "The Father of the Reformed Church".
So, call him anti-Romanist doctrine if you wish, or call him anti-Papal, but it is not historically accurate or theologically fair to call him anti-Catholic.
Catholic Answers Responds to "Who Has The Fullness of Truth?"
02/18/2007 - James SwanThe folks over on the Catholic Answers board came across my entry, Who Has The Fullness of Truth? The first set of criticisms concentrate on the differences I noted between Biblical conversion and Roman Catholic conversion. First I was said to miss the need for baptism in my citations of Acts 8:35 and 16:14. While indeed there is a Biblical mandate for believers to be baptized, Scripture does not teach that baptism regenerates. Neither of these chapters in Acts states that conversion is brought about by baptism. My critic then states, "Next he goes on with the typical Romans 4 verse but again, he fails to note why or how this is in conflict with Catholic teaching. He is most likely promoting faith alone in a drive by manner but this article doesn't do justice to the issue of conversion." The majority of Catholic interpretations I've seen on Romans 3-4 attempt to limit Paul's concern to the Jewish ceremonial laws. But such an interpretation misses Paul's contrast between working and believing, as Romans 4:4-5 clearly demonstrates.
I was then criticized for referring to the "gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15), "The Eph 6 reference is also interesting considering it's in the context of Paul teaching Christians to prepare for the daily struggle they will encounter in trying to live a holy life, this is perfectly inline with Catholicism." This criticism neglects the distinction between justification and sanctification. This distinction is set forth earlier in Ephesians 2:8-10. Paul goes on to describe Christ as "our peace" (2:14) and notes we are now members of God's household (2:19-20), not that we will later become such people by "trying to live a holy life." My citation of Colossians 1:20 pointed out salvation is the result of Christ's atonement. My critic cited Colossians 1:22-23 and 2:18-19 and noted, "It is clear this is an 'IF' situation, 'IF' you continue in your faith...nothing guarantee here...in fact the second quote says explicitly you can be disqualified...in total contradiction to what [Swan] asserts." Note that Colossians 1:21 speaks of the believer as reconciled and presented as holy in His sight. "If you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel" is descriptive and not prescriptive as the context shows.
Finally, my point that a Protestant converting to Catholicism goes from certainty of salvation to uncertainty of salvation befuddled my critic. The point was simply to contrast the message of the Biblical gospel with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Ludwig Ott notes a Roman Catholic cannot know if one is saved. 1 John 5:13 states, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
A Blast from the Past
02/17/2007 - James WhiteIt is hard to believe my son, now engaged to be married, was only nine years old when this video was shot.
This is from the John Ankerberg series on the King James Only movement (available here). Look at those glasses! Ah, but you can see the hair on the top is thinning, and that quickly. Oh well. This was the same series during which Don Wilkins actually had the audacity to cough, yes, to cough at the beginning of a segment, causing Ankerberg to stop and restart that portion. And the result? Wild-eyed stories of God striking him mute! Don't believe me? Here's the story. Is Marrs still running around? Haven't heard a word about him in years.
Which reminds me about this article, which contains a link to an audio clip which we haven't had available for a few years now. I have re-cut it so that people can hear the wild-eyed fanaticism and simple dishonesty of Texe Marrs. Note his "Revelation one, one....one." One of the folks in the studio literally fell off his chair laughing. Just incredible. Listen for yourself:
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Oh, and here's a scan of the envelope Marrs sent me proving his utter dishonesty. Sometimes you just have to see it with your own eyes to believe what these folks are willing to do.
And one last thing. I did originally spell it "Gayle Riplinger" instead of "Gail Riplinger." There was a fairly simple reason for that. Look at her original book. She never gave her name. Only "G.A. Riplinger." Many did not even know a woman had written the book (this was her intention). Once again we find the arguments of the rabid wing of the KJV Only movement significantly less than compelling.
Today on the DL
02/16/2007 - James WhiteYup, you guessed it, continued with the textual criticism seminar. Going to try to start wrapping things up on Tuesday, hopefully taking your calls on textual issues on Thursday. We will see. Started today's program with a clip from ol' Texe Marrs, which will appear on the blog soon. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Upcoming Video Clips and Discussions
02/15/2007 - James WhiteI am truly enjoying providing these video and audio clips on the blog, but, as most of you know, since A&O has a massive staff of...two, I am doing all of this on my own. I have two writing projects I must get done next week, so I am going to have to slow things down. I have a bunch of stuff already posted, so I am spreading it out and inviting the rest of Team Apologian to step up and fill in the blanks a bit as I will be heading to Massachusetts at the end of the month. What is coming up? Well, a few clips from the debate I did with Peter Stravinskas on purgatory that are well worth watching, a KJV Only clip, and then I have begun writing a quick series in response to Brian Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There. Yes, I know Ergun Caner has challenged Flemming and his group to debate. I've even been told they have accepted the challenge. Yes, I predict a train wreck. I can only assure you that my response to Flemming will be focused upon the facts of his allegations and that it will hopefully be a blessing to those who take the time to watch, and read.
From the Bookstore at AOMin...
02/15/2007 - James WhiteIf you have not read this book, you must. Not just you should, you really must. I read it over two decades ago in a single sitting. And it changed my life. It planted the seeds that eventually produced Pulpit Crimes, to be honest, because so much of what I decry in that work is the shallow, fluffy preaching of a church that has no grasp upon the seriousness of the business of worship because it has no grasp upon the holiness of God.
Sproul's a genius, and everyone knows that, but genius oftens stands in the way of communication, zeal, and passion. As a result, really smart folks can write some horrifically boring books. But that is Sproul's gift: he can write with clarity, pace, and passion. That's why I couldn't put the book down in 1986, and you won't be able to as well in 2007. If you don't already own it, get it. If you know an elder, a pastor, who does not have it, get it for him. In a day when Western culture in general, and the wide body of "Christianity" in particular, has created a warm, fuzzy, "very much like us" idol called "god," we must be reminded of the holiness of the awesome Yahweh. As we sing so often at PRBC:
Before Jehovah’s awful throne,
Ye nations, bow with sacred joy;
Know that the Lord is God alone;
He can create, and He destroy,
He can create, and He destroy.
His sovereign power, without our aid,
Made us of clay, and formed us men;
And when like wandering sheep we strayed,
He brought us to His fold again,
He brought us to His fold again.
We are His people, we His care,
Our souls, and all our mortal frame;
What lasting honors shall we rear,
Almighty Maker, to Thy Name,
Almighty Maker, to Thy Name?
We’ll crowd Thy gates with thankful songs,
High as the heavens our voices raise;
And earth, with her ten thousand tongues,
Shall fill Thy courts with sounding praise,
Shall fill Thy courts with sounding praise.
Wide as the world is Thy command,
Vast as eternity Thy love;
Firm as a rock Thy truth must stand,
When rolling years shall cease to move,
When rolling years shall cease to move.
P.S. John Samson informed me that the video series related to this book is currently available here.
02/14/2007 - James WhiteIt was one of the most humorous occurrences in my debates. The context was anything but humorous. I was debating noted liberal Barry Lynn on the subject, "Is Homosexuality Compatible with Biblical Christianity" on Long Island. This is the debate Lynn tried to suppress, threatening legal action if we distributed the tapes. During the cross-examination, as is so often the case, the wheels fell off my opponent's wagon. I was pressing him on his utterly untenable reading of Romans 1 and finally, he had to give in. See, Rev. Lynn (ordained minister in the United Church of Christ) had come to a debate on whether homosexuality is compatible with biblical Christianity without his biblical. Err, his Bible. So...he had to borrow mine. Unfortunately for him, I had the little shirt-pocket sized NASB, "the eye strain edition." The result is memorable.
The DVD of this debate is available here (#521). We had some major sound problems toward the beginning of the debate, but it is still usable, and clears up before the cross-examination.
And by the way, it seems all liberals find the Bible an expendable asset at a debate on...the Bible. Here's an image of John Shelby Spong at the debate on the very same topic in November in Orlando. The only book on the table is my book on homosexuality that I gave him during the break. Absent is...the Bible. I suppose it could just mean that liberals have the Bible memorized. But, maybe not.
Serving the Mormon Jesus (Update)
02/14/2007 - James WhiteOver the past few years as I have responded to the public statements of Paul Owen my language, and my predictions of his eventual abandonment of any form of evangelical belief, have undoubtedly caused some to wonder. The "behind the scenes" issues, and years of previous private interaction, explain a lot of it. This is not a "I told you so" post. Instead, the massive confusion created by the movement Owen represents has been illustrated to such an extent relating to Mormonism that it must be used as a clear warning to all who would go down that road: it ends in Babel, where everyone talks, but no one says anything any longer.
This post documents in Owen's own words his rejection of evangelicalism (or, to use his words, "the evangelical wasteland"). Of course, what "evangelical" means anymore is anyone's guess, but the rest of this article gives you a good idea. Once again, Owen's multi-traditional past comes to the fore, even in his own self-diagnosis. In any case, Owen views himself a good Catholic today. A few decades ago that would have meant something in the broader spectrum of things, but today that probably means he will get a wider audience in a post-evangelical landscape where the foundations have crumbled and the boundaries of truth are no longer discernable nor desired.
Two days after posting this testimonial, Owen posted the following:
On March 22-24 we will be holding the annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology. The meetings will be held at BYU in Provo, Utah. I will be presenting a paper entitled: “How Being an Anglo-Catholic has Affected My View of Mormonism.” For more information about the society, check out www.smpt.org . Having been involved from the beginning in the founding of this group, and having attended the annual meeting last year, I can tell you that there are some high quality theologians and philosophers involved (both LDS and non-LDS), and some very interesting papers and discussions. I find it a refreshing time to get together and converse with my gracious Mormon friends about the God we both profess to love and worship, the Lord Jesus Christ whom we serve, the differences which define our two faiths, and future dreams of drawing closer through the illumination of God’s word.One cannot help but notice the similarity in this language and that used by Rome regarding Muslims in Vatican II, how Catholics and Muslims together "adore the one true God" etc. In any case, let's step back a moment and get our bearings.
Mormonism, in its historical self-definition, is the "one true Church on earth." It, and it alone, possesses authority from God in the priesthood. It is the singular restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ after the church ceased to exist on earth shortly after the death of the last apostles. Its founder, Joseph Smith Jr., taught an extreme form of polytheism (LDS prefer the term "plurality of gods") wherein the distinction between God and man is abolished: God and man are of the same "species," and the difference between them is one of degree (exaltation) not one of being. God himself is an exalted man who lived on another planet, and today lives upon a planet that circles a star named Kolob. There were gods before him, there will be many gods after him. In fact, for many Mormons, the number of gods is infinite. God, in Mormonism, cannot create anything, he can only organize pre-existing matter. Jesus Christ has not eternally existed as God in Mormonism, which is hardly surprising in light of the fact that the Father (Elohim) likewise has not existed as God from eternity. Jesus is the first begotten spirit child of Elohim and one of his many heavenly wives (the current LDS hymnal makes reference to our "heavenly mother"). Despite the embarrassment of many LDS scholars, the consistent teaching of the LDS hierarchy over the years has been that God the Father, who possesses a body of flesh and bone (but no blood) sired, fathered, Jesus Christ naturally through a physical relationship with Mary. This is, in fact, why Jesus had the ability to take back his life, for he had, in Mormon theology, an immortal father. Jesus Christ, rather than being the eternal Creator whose all-sufficient death on Calvary redeems God's people perfectly, is but one god amongst many gods, one of our species, who began the work of "atonement" in Gethsemane, and only finished this upon Calvary. Mormonism has no meaningful doctrine of sin, atonement, holiness, justification, and, being a polytheistic religion, has never been able to produce a scholarly commentary on such books as Romans. It subjugates the Bible to Smith's "revelations," some of which, like the Book of Abraham, are so far removed from serious consideration as divine revelation that it is testimony to the power of deception that so many intelligent LDS continue to believe in them. ...
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Continued the Textual Criticism Series on the DL Today
02/13/2007 - James WhitePressed on with the textual criticism series on the DL today. I took some time to address the "ecclesiastical text" argument before moving into some more specific variants. We just got started on looking at the NA27 text near the end of the program. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Also, I made reference to my disputatio with Douglas Wilson on the issue of textual critical issues. Here is the link.
"Reformed Catholics" and the Bodily Assumption
02/13/2007 - James WhitePaul Owen has opined on the Bodily Assumption of Mary, perhaps as a result of my posting the clip of the debate portion between myself and Gerry Matatics. He writes,
I struggle as a Protestant who longs for catholicity over the dogma of Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven.I do not struggle as a biblicist who longs for unity based upon divine truth with the dogma of Mary's bodily assumption into heaven anymore than I would struggle with the dogma that Barnabas could shoot fire from his fingertips. Both would be utterly irrelevant falsehoods that not only offend the God who has spoken so clearly, but are offensive to His majesty and truth, and are to be rejected because they bind upon the faithful de fide beliefs that are plainly human in origin and were never a part of the Apostolic proclamation of the gospel.
We know that Mary went to heaven, and the date of August 15 for the Assumption of Mary continued to be recognized in the Lutheran and Swiss Reformed churches of the Reformation.Two mightily disconnected statements. We know Paul went to heaven, too, but what that has to do with traditions deeply embedded in the medieval psyche and hence slow to be washed away by the waters of truth is hard to say.
But there is not a complete agreement as to the details. Did she pass through death, and then ascend bodily into heaven? Or did she ascend into heaven without tasting death? Or should we just say that her Blessed soul passed into heaven and was received by Christ, the Saints and the Angels there?Remember, folks, this is from a man who can't allow the Scriptures to have sufficient clarity to define the sovereignty of God in salvation or whether worshipping a Jesus who is the offspring of an exalted man from another planet is sufficient to be deemed worshipping a false Jesus--but oh, when it comes to a tradition unknown in the Scriptures or even in the first five hundred years of church history, let's put that on the table! Behold the power of traditionalism.
I would tentatively suggest the following:I would firmly suggest that given his flight into "Anglo-Catholicism" Owen has no basis for anything but tentative suggestions any longer. Well, except about Baptists. He can be ever so conclusive on that subject.
1. We do not know for a certainty the details of Mary’s entrance into heaven. We do know the fact of it, and it is surely a cause for celebration.
As the entrance of any saint of God would be (using the term "saint" in its biblical, not traditional, sense). The fact is, we do not know anything about the subject, nor does anyone else for that matter. One of the most bothersome aspects of the attitudes of these men is that they do not even take seriously the concept of "dogma" as historically used by Rome. Surely, they are joined by many on the Roman side who likewise take lightly the authority claims of their own leaders, but the fact remains that Rome does not suggest dogma. Consider these words from Munificentissimus Deus, the dogmatic definition of the Bodily Assumption from 1950: ...
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Quick Note for the DL Today
02/13/2007 - James WhiteHere are the links for the documents for the textual criticism series (UBS, UBS2, NA27). Oh, and I will probably mention the SESB for Libronics today as well. Here's a glorious image of how you can have the full textual data on your computer as well.
Impact of the Secular Mind on Scholarship
02/12/2007 - James WhiteWhile riding yesterday I listened to the folks at The Things that Matter Most interviewing Dr. Bock. In the process they played three clips from a previous interview with Robert Jensen of the University of Texas. Jensen is not a biblical scholar, nor a historian. His field is journalism. But, despite that, for some odd reason, he decided to opine on the topic anyway. This particular clip caught my attention:
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Please note some particulars about what he says here. First, Greek would have been the language the people spoke in a vast majority of the New Testament. I assume he is thinking only about the gospels here. Second, what does "translated many times" have to do with anything? Is this the all-too-common "telephone game" analogy? Let's hope not. Next, who are these people who have "control" of these texts? It is a common myth that the early church somehow had some kind of over-arching "power" that, quite simply, they did not. The early church struggled to survive. There was no secret Illuminati-type hierarchy that somehow had "control" of texts at any point at all, even during the apostolic period. Ironically, in their rush to push the gospels as far away from Jesus as possible to leave room for "development," these same critics move the texts beyond the only period in time when you could even theorize any kind of "control," and even then, given the dispersion of the apostles and the early martyr deaths of many of them, the idea that there was ever a situation where the literature of the infant church was under some human control makes no sense. And so on this non-existent basis, Jensen concludes that to claim a text "like that" (whatever that means) is "definitive" is "extremely contentious." Of course, I would identify all he has said to this point as "extremely contentious" and more so, extremely dubious.
But we move on. Of course Jensen would never make a claim to authority for even a "secular" text, but given the world view he has presented, that is hardly shocking, is it? How could he? He says he tries to have a "reasonable" understanding of what we can learn from ancient sources. Please recognize the code here: "I am a naturalistic materialist and I reject, a priori, the concept of divine revelation. Therefore, divine revelation does not exist, cannot exist, and any text that claims to contain such revelation is to be dismissed immediately, with no examination." He then enshrines his fellow naturalistic materialists in the realm of true scholarship, and as a result, says they are much more "cautious" than those in the realm of the Christian faith.
"I think here we would want to value most to the degree possible those who are disinterested." He then refers to "myths," but here, my friends, is the greatest myth of all. Jensen is not "disinterested." The great myth is that the secularist is "neutral" and we Christians are the "biased" ones. This is so often repeated that sadly I would have to say the majority of Christians buy into the argument and remain silent because of it. There is no neutrality when it comes to the fact that God is the Potter and every single man, woman, and child, is His creation. The myth of neutrality is one of the central dogmas of the secular world view, and any Christian who buys into it loses, immediately, the firm foundation of the Christian faith. Consider this: we profess that God is the Creator of all things. He defines all things. Every fact that is a fact is so because God created it that way. The moment we step off this central platform of the Christian faith we are left standing in mid-air. The secularist knows this. The secularist does everything in his power to take God off of the throne of the universe and make Him just another object of human knowledge, judgeable by man. That's one of the reasons I would pull my hair out (if I had any) constantly when listening to so many Christian apologists today who speak of the "greater probability" that "a god" exists, as if this is somehow sufficient to ground the Christian faith. We believe in a God who is so central, so non-judgeable by the puny creature man, that without Him, man cannot even give an account of his thought, his very existence. We believe in a God who is not only there, He has to be there for anything else to exist! That kind of extensive claim cannot be proven by baby-step probabilities.
So listen well to Jensen and realize that his words reveal the great Myth of Neutrality, the cardinal dogma of naturalistic materialism. To embrace it is to deny the Christian God, for if there is, in fact, anything that exists that is neutral to the God who made all things, the Creator of heaven and earth, then the Christian God does not, in fact, exist. Once you recognize this key element of epistemology, you will hear the high priests of secularism spouting the idea constantly. Once you hear it for yourself, you can warn your children about it, illustrate it for them, and prepare them for the very anti-Christian world they will face in the not-too-distant future.
P.S. After writing this I came across this article in my blog reading. Consider it in light of the above and it takes on a much fuller meaning. Given that universities are the veritable "priestly temple" of secular humanism, you can see where the real conflict lies.
Who Has The Fullness of Truth?
02/12/2007 - James SwanRoman Catholic conversions are not descriptions of God's sovereign grace- that is, as something God does perfectly and completely. Rather, they describe a progressive development in one's understanding and spiritual life.This development may culminate in eventual salvation, or it may not. In the Surprised By Truth series, many of those crossing the Tiber claim to have experienced some sort of conversion while a Protestant. In these stories, the spiritual journey ends plugged into the Roman Catholic Church, given a set of standards and sacraments to help one work the works of achieving possible salvation.
Once in the arms of the Roman Catholic Church, the convert now has the fullness of the truth (which implies Protestantism is less true, or not completely true). Marcus Grodi, host of The Journey Home asserts, "One can be truly converted only when one recognizes or painfully discovers that to be fully a follower of Jesus Christ - and thereby have the full potential of growing in union with him - one must also be in union with the Church he established in and through his apostles" [Coming home Network, a Catholic Apostolate for Converts]. Imagine telling this to a persecuted Christian in an Islamic controlled country- that the faith he claims and daily risks his life for is not that of a full follower of Jesus Christ because he has not made the ideological journey to Roman Catholicism.
Here we see a fundamental difference in the understanding of just what conversion is for Protestants and Catholics. In the Scriptures we read how God uses His people to proclaim the Gospel to those the Lord calls (Acts 8:35). The Lord opens hearts to respond (Acts 16:14). This gospel message declares to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:5). This is a Gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15), a peace that comes through the blood of the cross (Col. 1:20). This isn't a hypothetical peace; this is a real and lasting peace. Given is not a possible salvation, but an actual salvation. Given is a full and guaranteed salvation, not a salvation including chances of disqualification.
Rather than moving towards the fullness of truth, one needs to stop and ask the Catholic convert why they have moved away from the fullness of truth. They have gone from Christ's completed work on the cross that saved His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) to an uncertainty of their state of grace, "...[W]ithout a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions that are necessary for achieving justification" (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Rockford Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974), p.262).
Think for a moment on the concept of fullness of truth Roman Catholics claim to possess. When one considers fullness one thinks of something complete, and indeed, this is the sense in which Roman Catholics use the phrase. Protestants are lacking, because they do not have the complete body of truth Rome claims. But consider also Rome's notion of development. The truth they have is in the process of developing. If truth is in the process of developing, it cannot be said to be complete. In other words, the whole notion of fullness of truth is misleading. Truth cannot be full and at the same time still in process. This can best be seen in Catholic Marian issues. What Mary is to finally become has yet to be determined (for instance in the co-redemptrix movement). To further complicate the situation for a Catholic convert, the fullness of truth comes with various interpretations of official decrees. Similarly, only a small handful of Biblical texts have been infallibly defined, leaving the alleged fullness of truth a theological façade.
Marcus Grodi states also, "In fact, we are called all the more to shower our now confused or indignant friends and family with the all-forgiving, all-accepting love of Christ. However, we must not let the emotional trajectories of our loving glances turn our attention away from the fullness of truth before us, found only in union with the Catholic Church." Paul states though in Colossians that believers have been given fullness in Christ, are complete in Him (2:10), and that He forgave all sins, nailing them to the cross (2:14). It is not some higher knowledge attained by placing faith in an ecclesiastical body. The development of a believers salvation was started and completed in Christ. In dialoging with your Roman Catholic friends or relatives, keep in mind that it is not they who are full by conversion to the Roman church, it is you who are full because of Christ and His work.
One of the Most Memorable Moments in My Sixty-One Debates
02/12/2007 - James WhiteIt was The Great Debate I. The first big debate on Long Island. An intense evening of debate between myself and Gerry Matatics. Unfortunately, we have not gotten this debate off of VHS onto DVD as yet (it's on the list). You can find it in the mp3 list, of course. In any case, this was the third cross-ex period (we did four topics that night), and I finally got exasperated with Gerry's many circular and unfounded arguments, and especially his saying we have as much basis for believing in the Bodily Assumption of Mary as we have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So the following ten minutes or so are intense, ending in one of the most memorable moments in my debate career.
CD available here (#472); mp3 available here.
A Wonderful Example of Why Audience Questions Should be Banned
02/11/2007 - James WhiteMake your question short, succinct, direct. Make sure it is a relevant question. We give instructions to the audience every time we have audience questions with an open microphone. Thankfully, we have pretty well stopped doing that (we ask for written questions now), but when folks insist upon having that format, it is always interesting.
Nowhere was this more true than in the audience questions after the debate with Hamza Abdul Malik on Long Island in 1999. And this man's question surely set the record for the longest, most dis-jointed, and basically irrelevant question of all my debates. It is humorous, at the very least, but a good example of why audience questions really have little place in scholarly debate.
DVD available here (#585).
Primer on Paleography...
02/10/2007 - Alan Kurschner
For those who are really ambitious about learning textual criticism and want to place it in a concrete context (the various characteristics of the materials and the human process of making or copying actual manuscripts), I recommend the following classic primer on paleography, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Paleography, by Bruce M. Metzger.
Though someone with a working knowledge of the Greek language will appreciate this book more, it is not necessary to know Greek to get the gist of this specialized discipline--and at best, it may induce you to take up learning Greek.
The book covers the following topics:
How ancient manuscripts were made (Did you know that scribes did not sit at a table to do their work--they sat on the floor, stool, or even stood at times).
Material: papyri to parchment to paper.
The "Codex." Are you aware that it is Christians who invented what we know as the form of the book at the turn of the 2nd Century?
Styles of Greek Handwriting: Uncial, Minuscule, Scriptio Continua
Palimpsest: the "Etch-A-Sketch" of antiquity.
Ancient Punctuation, Abbreviations, and Symbols.
And many more paleographical features....
An Insight into the Islamic Mindset
02/10/2007 - James WhiteWhat is the result of the decades of popularity of the lectures of Ahmed Deedat? Well, he has legions of followers to this day who repeat his questions almost verbatim. Here's an example from the Malik debate. And in case you are confused, it is "fig tree."
DVD available here (#585).
Computer Textual Comparisons
02/09/2007 - James WhiteA correspondent sent me a screen shot of his Logos program providing a textual comparison. Here is a shot of my Logos comparison screen, followed by BibleWorks doing the same kind of thing.
Eerdmans Continues Its "Mormonism is Christian" Campaign
02/09/2007 - James WhiteI guess it fits. With the political situation of Romney running for the presidency, the utter collapse of all meaningful discernment in the culture as a whole in religious matters, we should hardly be surprised that Eerdmans, which broke ground by publishing a work of LDS apologetics (note the discussion here and here), is now putting out a book on Muhammad written by one of the leading LDS apologists, a BYU professor, Daniel C. Peterson. You may be familiar with Peterson. One of the worst works of LDS apologetics, Offenders for a Word, was co-authored by Peterson (see here). This is the same man who boasted he would be willing to go "head to head" with Richard Ostling or myself on the theosis issue "any day of the week" (here is the audio clip from the California radio program he was on with Bill McKeever). When challenged to do so, he had his wife return the phone call, declining the challenge.
Peterson's field of expertise is, in fact, Islam. However, just as I think it does impact one's politics to truly believe that God is an exalted man from Kolob, so too I can't help but believe that Mormonism, with its parallel to Muhammad in Joseph Smith, must produce a rather odd overview of Islamic history and claims. Though Islam's radical unitarian monotheism is the polar opposite of Mormonism's extreme polytheism, there are many other parallels between the two systems, especially between Smith and Muhammad, the Book of Mormon and the Qur'an, etc. It is interesting to note that some of the first Christian writers to encounter the new religion of Islam identified it as a Christian heresy. In any case, I have ordered the work (unlike so many of my opponents, I actually read what they have to say), and will be interested to read an LDS view of Islam. My current studies, and my background, should make this read fascinating.
Meanwhile, note the review posted at Eerdmans as provided by Jeff Downs: "The best scholarly text on the prophet Muhammad written by a Christian. A must-read, especially for non-Muslims who are interested in a solid, compassionate treatment of Muhammad's vision and accomplishments." - Parviz Morewidge." Yeah, Mormonism continues its mainstreaming attempt. Makes me want to get Is the Mormon My Brother? back into print as soon as possible.
Pastor Jim Handyside Speaking in the Florida Area
02/08/2007 - James WhiteMy dear brother Pastor Jim Handyside of the Reformed Baptist Chuch at Anniesland (Glasgow area, Scotland) will be speaking in churches in the Florida area over the next number of weeks. Let me tell you, there are few preachers who draw the line as straight and who cut to the heart of the matter the way brother Handyside does. If you are tired of smarmy "feel good" preaching, and you are anywhere near these locations, do yourself a favor and go hear him (and say hello to his dear wife, who outran me up the steep hill to the Wallace Monument in Scotland last year). They are dear friends. As best as I was able to work it out (brother Handyside is a bit slim on providing me with details, so I had to Google most of the locations to get addresses), here is his itinerary:
Highlands Grace Reformed Church
514 N. Pine Street
Sebring, FL 33870
Providence Baptist Church
4471 W. Sanction Rd.
Lecanto, FL 34460
Faith Baptist Tabernacle
17531 Northeast Highway 27 Alt
Williston, FL 32696
5460 Holy Cross Ct.
Sanford, FL 32771
407 834 2373
Collins Road Baptist Church
6105 Collins Road
Jacksonville, FL 32244
Textual Criticism Series Continued on the DL
02/08/2007 - James WhitePressed on with our textual criticism series on the DL today. On the fly I decided to update the link provided below, here, and add a scan of Colossians 1:14, which I discussed on the program. Today we mainly covered examples of scribal error and the sources thereof. Enjoy! Here's the program (free/high quality).
To Debate or Not to Debate?
02/08/2007 - James WhiteTony Costa has confirmed to me that the story of Pastor Harding being sentenced to "Islamic Re-education" is factually accurate. I am at a loss for words at the hypocrisy of Canadian jurisprudence that allows Muslims to deny the heart of the Christian faith while criminalizing Christian apologetics! The Canadian press seems a willing accomplice. I was referred to one article (ht: Carla) referring to Harding as a "convicted hate criminal." Get used to it folks. Ever read John 15? It is hard not to come to the conclusion that Canada has not only lost its judicial mind, but may well need to be added to the world map of nations that persecute Christian belief. And this is only proven by this story in World Magazine. Those seeking to deport Zachariah Anani seek to avoid the kind of open, honest exchange that we still, for now, have the freedom to engage in.
Note the value of meaningful interaction by watching this exchange between myself and Hamza Abdul Malik on his allegations of contradiction in the New Testament. The circularity of Malik's argument is further exposed by Gleason Archer in the second video.
See why you should be listening to the DL this afternoon when we continue the series on textual criticism? The days when we will be able to openly discuss these things in the West are numbered.
Another Document for Today's Textual Critical DL
02/07/2007 - James WhiteHere's an additional document for today's DL (UBS2.pdf). I am hoping the landscape orientation doesn't lose too much in the way of detail. Hopefully it will not. This will help to illustrate some common scribal errors, so download it and have it ready for the DL today.
And here are some materials that I wish to make reference to as well:
Trust me, it will make sense!
Finally, just to get you ready for the DL...here is a clip (this is the Islamic version...they even put in subtitles mocking the Christian) from a Deedat debate where Deedat slaughters textual critical information. Not that the Islamic audience would really listen to reason, but, it is always good to know.
Forced To Undergo "Muslim Re-education?"
02/07/2007 - James WhiteDoes anyone have any further insight into this article? I looked at the pdf of the court proceedings of the stuff in Philadelphia, and while a mess, the Christians had clearly not helped themselves (or the rest of us) by their words and behavior, unfortunately. But could someone confirm the truthfulness of the Harding story? I would be utterly speechless if that is, in fact, what happened.
Roman Catholic Conversion Stories: A Response
02/07/2007 - James SwanA response to my entry on Roman Catholic conversion stories completely missed the point. The writer states, “I guess Saint Paul was a loon for giving his personal testimony of how he was changed by Jesus Christ in the Sacred Scriptures as well.” A careful reader though would have noted I differentiated between Biblical conversion stories (like that of Paul in Galatians 1; cf. Acts 9) and conversions to an alleged infallible church magisterium (like those given in Madrid’s book Surprised By Truth). The former are God glorifying examples of undeserved mercy on an enslaved sinner, the later are examples of what Luther called a “theology of glory”. They do not point to Christ---they point to a triumphal entry into a magnificent human institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Their conversion stories are about what they did. They are about what wisdom and glory they achieved.
The writer continued, “We should all give an account of our conversion stories, this is how we help pass on the Gospel, just as Saint Paul did.” This helps prove my point: Paul did not give an accounting of an initial biblical conversion and then proceed to give an accounting of his conversion to the “true church” located in Rome. He did not give testimony to the realization of an infallible Papacy as the ending location of his spiritual journey. Rather, Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
Lastly, I made no personal attack on Catholic apologist Scott Hahn. As a point of interest, In Surprised by Truth, Hahn states, “The practice of telling the story of one’s conversion has been around as long as Christianity has. Since Paul’s testimony in Galatians 2 (cf. Acts 9:1-9) of his experience with Christ on the Road to Damascus, to Augustine’s Confessions, to our own day, thousands have recounted their journey to Christ and his Church” [[Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), p.9]. First, note that Paul’s conversion story was told in Galatians chapter 1, not chapter 2. Second, note that Paul doesn’t speak of a conversion to the Roman church. Third, In Galatians 2, Paul doesn’t have a notion of an infallible Council to place his trust in- even opposing Peter at Antioch for “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). It was probably a mistake that Hahn points his readers to Galatians 2, and not chapter 1. There is irony though- for the paradigm of an infallible church for Paul to place his trust is clearly not found in Galatians 2.
The Textual Criticism Series Rolls On
02/06/2007 - James WhiteI continued the TC series today, even went five minutes long to get us to a decent stopping point. I have decided I need to upload a few more scans before Thursday. I'll get to them as soon as I can. But till then, here is today's program (free/high quality).
Another Loving (and Undocumented) Love Letter from Rome
02/06/2007 - James White
Roman Catholic Conversion Stories: An Introduction Wow James, what moxie does anyone have by giving their personal testimony of how Jesus Christ has changed their lives. You attack Scott Hahn and others, or rather your midget-minded friend James does in this case, but you posted it, and concurred with him. I guess Saint Paul was a loon for giving his personal testimony of how he was changed by Jesus Christ in the Sacred Scriptures as well. We should all give an account of our conversion stories, this is how we help pass on the Gospel, just as Saint Paul did. Of course if Saint Paul was standing here in person telling you the truths of the faith as handed on by Jesus Himself you would probably call Saint Paul a dull-witt as well. Your gross arrogance is simply amphigoric as usual. Why on earth James do you think you have any authority whatsoever to teach from Sacred Writ? As you well know you constantly mutilate and pervert Holy Writ and the quotations of the Church Fathers. You alone will have to answer for your unmittigated, apathetic arrogance. Yes another love letter from Rome. You have been warned. Yours in Christ, Robert LocksleyIf TQuid wishes to respond to this, he is surely free to do so, but I think it actually confirms rather strongly the mind-set he mentioned in his article (though, Robert doesn't seem to see that). In fact, it misses the whole point James Swan was making. But notice the appeal to authority, and that in defense of a system that only knows how to muddle the meaning of Scripture, never clarify it. And remember what happens each and every time one of these folks is challenged to back up their "you constantly mutilate and pervert Holy Writ and the quotations of the Church Fathers" accusation is made? Yeah, lots of documentation provided here, as usual. Oh, and I must say, I appreciate learning the term "amphigoric." But the "wow" factor of using amphigoric was ruined by misspelling "unmitigated" and by connecting it improperly with "apathetic." Seriously, I wonder what "you have been warned" means?
Graphics Related to the Textual Critical Series
02/06/2007 - James WhiteI pulled down an image of the end of Jeremiah and the beginning of Lamentations in Sinaiticus (a) from the British Museum. It is super high resolution (12 megs, 4000x5000 resolution). Here is a portion of it, just to give you a feeling of the nature of the manuscript. It is such a good quality picture you can see elements of the vellum (leather) surface.
One of the texts we will examine (not today, maybe Thursday, it all depends on how far we get), is 1 Timothy 3:16. I posted some material on this last year here. When folks who do not know Greek (or even those who do, but who have not been exposed to uncial texts) see the reality of the difference between the two readings at 1 Timothy 3:16, all of the "conspiracy theories" that especially KJV Only advocates, but, that others likewise throw out (like Islamic apologists) evaporate.
Here is an example of the nomina sacra form of "God" as written by the scribe of Codex Alexandrinus. You will note from the preceding article linked above that at 1 Timothy 3:16 it is hard to tell which form is original, so this one is a good bit clearer.
Here is omicron-sigma, hos, by the same hand. The point to be understood is that these would be the two forms at issue in the variant at 1 Timothy 3:16. Anyone can see their tremendous similarity, and hence all the "they took out the deity of Christ!" allegations are seen to be the wild-eyed fanaticism they truly are.
Here Are the PDF's for the Textual Criticism Programs
02/05/2007 - James WhiteI have stayed up late enjoying myself immensely examining the wealth of high quality digital images of Codex Sinaiticus this evening...well, morning. I will be posting some images in the morning to illustrate one of our variants. Anyway, I have two files. The first contains just two pages from the UBS 4th text. The introductory remarks are so diffuse that even trying to provide them would produce a very large file. The second contains the sigla explanations from the NA27 text, along with a number of major variants we will examine. If you use the zoom feature on the pdf's you should be able to easily follow along, even if you do not have the actual texts.
Why Listen to the DL Tomorrow?
02/05/2007 - James WhiteWhy should you listen to the textual criticism series on the DL? Well, here is a brief portion of comments made by Islamic apologist Shabir Ally in our debate at Biola University last May regarding the text of the New Testament. How would you respond? It is my experience that especially Muslims are willing to repeat what leaders like Shabir Ally teach in public without question. So how would you reply to these claims? Listen to the textual criticism series on the DL and find out!
Roman Catholic Conversion Stories: An Introduction
02/05/2007 - James SwanHave you read the book, Surprised by Sovereignty: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming a Calvinist? No, I don’t think you’ve read that book. Within Reformed circles, there is not a tendency to write about how one became a Calvinist. Sure, we talk about it sometimes. But it is not a primary tool of evangelism, nor are our testimonies a key method of directing people toward the “fullness of truth”. Rather, when one explains the basics of Reformed theology, Bibles are open and pages are flipping. What happened to me really doesn’t matter. Rather, It’s about “what are you going to do with the clear teachings of Scripture?” “Do you see that you bring nothing to Christ and that salvation is the result of His mercy on an undeserving sinner?”
With the contemporary rise of Catholic apologetics, there has been a consistent trend to highlight the, “conversion story”. That is, Joe or Suzy was previously some sort of Protestant, but now they’ve “converted” to Roman Catholicism. Books, television broadcasts, radio programs, and internet web pages, all tell a similar glorious tale of journeying to Rome, and so should you. These are not conversion stories of the broken sinner bowing his knee to the merciful God, given by the Father to Christ and irresistibly drawn (like Paul’s recounting in Galatians 1; cf. Acts 9); rather, these are accounts of people accepting the alleged Roman Catholic “fullness of truth”, and a rejection of Protestant essentials like sola fide and sola scriptura. In other words, the emphasis is not on spiritual rebirth, but rather the acceptance and realization of a “higher knowledge”. The conversion is not to Christ, but to an infallible church.
This apologetic use of the “conversion story” is directly borrowed from Protestantism. Being raised in an independent non-denominational church, I heard countless inspiring stories of the wayward sinner finding and choosing the love and grace of Christ. As a youth, I was always interested to hear how possibly my favorite rock star accepted Christ. These tales could be used as a “witnessing tool” to my non-Christian friends. “You see, person x converted, so should you.” With the current trend in Catholic apologetics, Joe Protestant became Catholic, so should you. As Evangelicals swam the Tiber, they brought their Evangelical methods with them to the shores of Rome. They brought their vocabulary and their communication skills: Catholic apologetics had been rejuvenated by disenchanted Protestants!
Listen to the description of the glorious journeys of finding Rome as told by Scott Hahn:
We converts have been made so rich. We have been given wealth beyond our wildest dreams! What words can express the sense of the child who, after passing through a series of orphanages and foster homes, finds himself standing in the doorway of an unfamiliar mansion staring into the loving faces of long-forgotten family members? He is reintroduced to his Father, Almighty God, and to Mary, his mother and queen, who is standing, arms outstretched in welcome, next to his elder brother, King Jesus- in the midst of that glorious company of angelic and saintly siblings who stretch forth from heaven to earth and under the earth. Can you imagine a more royal reunion? Few joys surpass the ones related here by these former theological step-children who have finally come home. [Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), p.10)]These glorious tales of “former theological step-children” are nothing more than aspects of what Martin Luther called the “theology of glory”. The late medieval Roman church Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. Luther rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury. Conversion stories repeatedly put forth by Catholics are just that: examples of achievement and glory. They point to the abilities of a person and the supposed wisdom gained by crossing the Tiber. They do not point to Christ---they point to a triumphal entry into a magnificent human institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Their conversion stories are about what they did. They are about what wisdom and glory they achieved.
Rather, Paul informs us that the message of the cross is foolishness, and God chooses those who are weak, lowly, and despised to be his children. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” Becoming a member of the church is to be given a life of trial and tribulation (1 Thes. 3:1-5). The Scriptures do not speak of joining a powerful visible institution, as judged by the world’s standards. Rather, the strength and splendor of the church is Christ and his Spirit that indwells His people everywhere. His people comprise a church that the world despises and seeks to destroy. To join this body is to join with those the world sees as fools.
Hahn goes on to speak of the “anguish endured” by those who made the journey to Rome. The Bible though tells of how we should consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, for whose sake we have lost all things. We should consider them rubbish that we may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own. Our conversions should be to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Phil. 3:7-11). When someone converts to Christ, they are receiving His Lordship and ultimate rule of His word over their lives.
I have not denied the Roman Catholic usage of the word “conversion” in their journey to Rome. For in this voyage, they have indeed made a decision from the heart, a conversion. They have received the Lordship of an alleged infallible church magisterium as the ultimate rule over their lives. It is not sola scriptura, but rather sola ecclesia. I submit the Scriptures do not speak of being transformed into the image of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather being transformed into the image of Christ. The Scriptures do not speak of the power of such a testimonial conversion to a “fullness of truth” in joining a particular church body. Rather, they speak of spiritually dead sinners being raised to spiritual life. By this resurrection they become members of Christ’s bride, His church. If you are to boast about your conversion, boast only that once you were blind and now can see. Boast only that you were once enslaved to your sins, but have now been freed by the perfect Savior.
Greetings to James Swan (aka TQuid)
02/05/2007 - James WhiteI would like to introduce the newest member of "Team Apologian," James Swan, aka, TQuid. I have linked to James' blog many times, and he reminded me that I posted an article he wrote about a quote Norman Geisler provided from Calvin as well. I have greatly appreciated TQuid's insightful work on Roman Catholic apologetics and his discussions of the rampant "Luther abuse" found in their writings. He begins his time here on Pros Apologian with a very insightful article. I am thankful for his partnership and ministry.
Phoenix: Do You Know This Man?
02/03/2007 - James WhiteAnyone in the Phoenix area: do you know this man? He is our thief. Last August he stole my tablet PC and a number of other items from my office. This morning, at 7:49am, he did it again. My tablet, once again, is gone. He took a very nice travel bag as well (with various connections and the like, my only mp3 recorder, etc.), but, he only did that to hide the tablet as he made his get-away. He went straight to the same door he got through last time. How on earth could he have done this twice? Because we have asked to have the door replaced for five months (we only rent this facility), but, it has yet to be replaced. We put a huge bolt on the door and made other modifications, but we had expected those measures to be temporary. I had never dreamed it would take over five months to replace the door. Ironically, we had been told last week the doors had finally arrived. But, no one had called to arrange the installation. The alarm system worked, but, this is Phoenix, and I arrived before the cops did!
I am truly at a loss as to what to say. Obviously, given another break in, the processes that had begun back in August of last year will get a little "bump" in priority. The doors will be replaced with high quality security doors this week. Maybe the fence issue will finally be addressed. But, knowing how things normally work, that extra energy will be temporary. As for me, I do not think I will ever feel safe leaving anything here over night. As I sit here at my desk my mind is racing, looking around my office, asking myself, "What else is missing?" It took over a month for me to identify all the items stolen last time.
If you recognize this man, please call the Phoenix Police. I know my tablet is gone. It's already been sold to someone for drug money or the like. But this man needs to be apprehended. Sadly, my cynicism tells me he would probably never even see jail time anyway.
Here is the video:
The Results of Religious Apathy
02/02/2007 - Colin SmithSo, it seems the Mayor of Macon, GA has converted to Islam. In our increasingly Islamic-friendly environment, this news in itself is perhaps not too surprising, nor indeed is the fact that it was reported by a major news network. Whenever I come across things like this, however, like many people who know anything at all about Islam, I am curious to know why he converted. Was there something in the Qur'an that convinced him that Muhammad had written under divine inspiration? Did he listen to a particularly articulate Imam who explained to him the benefits of Islam over against the Christian faith with which he was raised? Well, let's let the Georgia mayor speak for himself:
Why does one become a Christian? You do it because it feels right. ... To me it's no big deal. But people like to know what you believe in.
Wow! I don't know about you, but I think we need to review our evangelism techniques. Maybe the Bereans got it wrong! Perhaps instead of searching the Scriptures to determine the truth of what Paul preached, we should search our emotions to determine if it feels right. Of course, I am being facetious. There are a couple of things I would like to note about this statement, however.
First of all, the concept of turning to Christ because "it feels right." Feels right to whom? To the natural man, dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)? To the natural heart which is deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9)? The last place one should turn to determine truth is one's heart, especially when God has provided objective truth in the form of His creation, His Scriptures, and His Son. That doesn't mean that Christians cannot feel deep-seated conviction about the truth of God's existence and His Word; but such conviction is a fruit of regeneration, not a prerequisite for regeneration.
Second, notice what he says next: "To me it's no big deal." Aha! Here we have what I believe is the major problem with most post-moderns: they don't care. Changing one's religion is like changing socks: if the old ones fall out of fashion, or they don't fit any more, you throw them out and get new socks. No big deal. If you discover that, after being raised in a Christian household, your ancestors were actually African Muslims (one might be tempted to ask what they were prior to being Muslim--a little church history goes a long way) and Islam "feels right" to you, then just convert. It's no big deal. It's not like we're talking about objective truth, or life-or-death issues, after all. I mean, all roads lead to God, Allah, The Supreme Architect of the Universe, whatever, and the Bible and the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon and The Bhagavad Gita all teach the same thing anyway, as long as you're a nice person... blah... blah... blah...
Religious apathy, particularly among the religious, is one of the hallmarks of spiritual decay I see in this country. It has already happened to a large extent across Europe and the UK and it is sad to see. But this is what happens when Christians fail to bear testimony to the truth that is within them, when they are willing to capitulate to the world on every front where they should be standing firm on God's Word, showing the world that we are different. In other words, if the world can't look at the church and see it as any different from their local cigar club or fraternity, why should the world bother? If the church refuses to proclaim God's truth and call sinful mankind to repent, why should the world think there is any danger? Why should the world think it really matters whether one claims allegiance to Jesus, or Allah, or Vishnu when the church is willing to let sinful men continue to believe the lie and feel comfortable in their delusion?
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Quick Humorous Link
02/02/2007 - James WhiteOne of my RSS feeds is Bill Dembski's Uncommon Descent. This morning he has linked to a very well done spoof of Richard Dawkins, The Dawkins Delusion. I am now convinced that Dawkins does not exist, how about you?
The Textual Criticism Series Begins
02/01/2007 - James WhiteWe kicked off the TC series today on the DL. Didn't get as far as I expected, so I will need to finish up a few items on Tuesday before we launch into the texts themselves. Here's the program (free/high quality).
02/01/2007 - James WhiteOn the DL today I will be making reference to various kinds of manuscripts and styles of writing. So here are some graphics.
OK, Our Template Collects SS (Updated with Channel Banter)
02/01/2007 - James WhiteOl' centuri0n is back at it again! Yeah, he's always looking to start a fight, that one! Then he can make a t-shirt about how he survived the fight (never about how he won it) and add in some trinket sales, too. Good ol' cent. Anyway, he saw my shameless attempt to woo (not quite the same as "draw" in John 6:44) the Calvinist Gadfly and TQuid over to Team Apologian (sounds better than prosapologian), and my comment that with those two on board, we'd be in a position to knock off the Bishops of Blogdom, the Rulers of RSS, the Pyromaniacs. His retort was emblematic of the insight, depth, and power of the TrinketMan's apologetics:
What James has overlooked is that while his Dream Team would be some very sound thinkers and generally decent and thorough apologists, aomin.org looks like it was last remodeled in 1979.Now, of course, this came along with the ubiquitous comic graphic, which always helps you to make a deep theological point, to be certain (at least I actually make my fractals). I mean, who will question your theological points when some green monster with muscles ten times the size of Arnold is ready to cut you in half with some huge battle ax? So anyway, a few corrections to cent's comments. First, there was no net in 1979. Our site is vintage...99 or 00 or so, I've been told. Second, the gurus of the net tell me that slapping a different template on a blog is very simple. Changing the template of an entire website the size of ours, especially one that was not originally designed to make that job easy, is very, very time consuming. Believe me, I would like nothing more than to have a website that looks like something created in the modern era, but since it has something to do with the shopping cart and links to the audio files and all that, well, I'm hoping to be up to about 2005 by 2010 or so. So yeah, our template is so old and primitive it is able to collect Internet Social Security. But till then...we are at least readable! And that is where the rubber meats the road, the blog meets the brain, and the Super Bowl of Blogs takes place! I dare cent to try to make a point without a comic book character at his side! Ha!
And listen: I say that after having sent at least one very nice template ugrade to them for nothing about 6 months ago. That purple thing that site has sported for the last decade or whatever is, um, well, I'm sure it was a great idea before CSS was invented, or people used something better than a VGA monitor ...
... BRING IT!
For the many humor challenged folks in the blogosphere, the preceding was not meant to be taken seriously. It is Super Bowl week, hence, the connection, and, picking on centuri0n is a channel pastime and something at which I excel. Given that multiple folks yesterday actually thought Ruckman had denied the existence of Greece (which is just as much a commentary on who far out Ruckman is as it is on the naivete of some), I thought I needed to provide this closing clarification.
Update! Upon posting this, some interesting comments were made in channel:
[brigand] I never thought Doc would write a blog article like that.
[DrOlrx] Why not?
[brigand] This is a funny post.
[tiredofnj] Maybe I'm going crazy but aomin.org began transitioning from "outdated" to "unique and possibly edgy" in late December.
[tiredofnj] Possibly edgy.
[ScottMcC] tired: If it can hold out another 3 years, it'll be "retro."
[tiredofnj] Scott: Right, right. Antique. Art deco. Edwardian.
[tiredofnj] "[mutatoLrks] tired: Congratulations for being quoted in the uberblog!" Thanks. Anything I can do to encourage a brother in his steadfastness to HTML 2.1.
Just gotta love #prosapologian.