Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
On the Persecution of Christians
04/30/2007 - James WhiteI read this shocking report that goes into very graphic and difficult detail concerning the torture and murder of three Christians by Muslims in Turkey just a few weeks ago. The press had not seen fit to reveal the scope of the horrific abuse heaped upon these believers by these young men, nor the continued persecution, bigotry, and hatred shown by Muslims in Turkey against the Christian people in general.
I had the privilege of ministering the Word of God on April 22 on the topic of the persecution of Christians in both the morning and evening services at PRBC. Those sermons are now linked here.
Finally, in a completely different context, I wish to once again thank all of the faithful brothers who made my time in Anchorage and Coos Bay this past week so enjoyable and, I hope for them, useful. I truly look forward to returning to Anchorage, Lord willing, in August of '08, and I thank especially Mitch and Jim for their friendship and kindness toward me while up in beautiful Alaska, and of course brother Fowler and the fellowship of Mariner's Reformed Baptist Church up in Coos Bay as well.
04/30/2007 - James WhiteI had never met a Mormon scholar before with an earring, to be honest, but Dr. Dennis Potter broke new ground for me. Dr. Potter is a graduate from Notre Dame, and we debated about four years ago at the University of Utah. The discussion is focused primarily upon the nature of the gospel, God's grace, etc. Note the last phrase, "It really is all up to us." Think about that.
The Sacrificial Priesthood, the Mass, and Catholicism
04/27/2007 - James White
This debate is available here (#583) and here in mp3 format (#453)
The Mindset of Militant Islam: Kill the "Cross-Worshippers"
04/26/2007 - James WhiteI was following some links this morning and came across this article. Notice the use of the phrase "cross-worshippers." The rejection of the atonement found in scholastic and historic Islam becomes pure hatred in this form of militant Islam. What is more, it blinds its adherents, since, obviously, the vast majority of Westerners have no love for the cross, no love for the Savior, and no commitment to the Christian faith. Aside from not worshipping the cross (can you imagine the fire-storm if such inaccurate language was used of their own beliefs?), the fact is that the militant Muslims share much in common with those in the West who likewise hate the cross and what it stands for. Here is a selection of citations from the above article:
Islamic State Of Iraq: The Cross Worshippers And Their Henchmen Plans Have Collapsed
As usual, this was followed by a swift visit by the new (American) Defense Minister “Gates” who said, “The American support to the Maliki government is not unlimited”, insinuating that the American administration is impatient with the Maliki government that is incapable of handling the strikes of the Mujahideen. This comes on the heels of an important statement by House Majority Leader Harry Reid who previously said, “The Iraqi war is hopeless and the situation in Iraq is same as it was in Vietnam.”
Then came Bush’s stupid statement where he emphasized that his strategic goal in Iraq is more than a military victory but also to prevent the Mujahideen from benefiting from the fruits of the Jihad to ultimately achieve victory.
This is how the cross worshipping occupiers and their henchmen live. Their morale continues to collapse as the result of the increasing strikes of the Mujahideen, carried out by the grace of Allah. From downing their aircraft to penetrating their fortified Green Zone and targeting the heads of apostasy and agents, all this has pushed the American army to repeat what it did in Vietnam. In a similar fashion, they are instigating the policy of isolating cites and regions by building a concrete roadblocks and walls as we see in al-Ghazaliyah, al-Ameriyah and others places in order to create a huge prison for the Sunnis. But none of this disappoints the Mujahideen; they have activated their sniper weapons against Allah’s enemies to fill their hearts with terror and death, by the grace of Allah.
“O you who believe, if you revert from your religion, (Islam) then Allah will substitute in your place people whom He loves and who love Him. They will be kind with the believers, stern with the disbelievers, and will strive in the cause of Allah without fear of any blame. Such is Allah's blessing; He bestows it upon whomever He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient, the All-Knower.” Qur’an 5: 54
And Allah’s love is precious and Allah’s provision is paradise. The signs of victory can be seen and the cross worshipper’s defeat is obvious and progressive, all praise be to Allah.
Keep in mind, for the militant Muslim, "cross-worshipper" = Christian = Western non-Muslim. It is vital to communicate that very few in the West love Christ, or submit to His lordship. Of course, the mindset of these kinds of men is not open to rational refutation anyway, but it is our duty to speak the truth while we still have the freedom to do so.
Greetings from Anchorage!
04/26/2007 - James WhiteJust a quick hello from sunny, but rather cool (32 this morning--I saw folks in short sleeves), Anchorage, Alaska. I've been pretty busy since I got here, so I have not had a chance to do much on line. I have had a wonderful time with the brethren here, and will be speaking again this evening on developing a proper Christian apologetic. Last evening I spoke on Islam, and was surprised how many people approached me after the service to comment on how The King James Only Controversy had meant so much to them. That book continues to have a wide and useful impact in counter-acting a movement that has brought much confusion and has disrupted many fellowships as well. I am thankful that it has now been in distribution for twelve years!
At one point I had the chance to stop by briefly at the Anchorage LDS temple. I did not go inside. It is hard to see in this picture, but honestly, I have seen larger Stake Centers. This is the smallest LDS Temple I have ever seen. But then again, the Manhattan Temple is likewise rather small. At times I wonder if Brigham Young would have approved of the "mini-temple" movement launched a while back.
I will be visiting with the brothers and sisters of the Mariner's Reformed Baptist Church on Saturday, and then will be home.
Checking Armstrong's Facts on the Reformers
04/26/2007 - James SwanI've been asking Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong a very simple question lately. It all has to do with one of Armstrong's books. Dave cites one of the Reformers, and I've simply been asking him if he's actually read the Reformer he's citing, in context. So far, I've gotten a massive amount of response from Dave, but a simple yes or no is yet to appear (probably never will).
Why is this a big deal? In a recent debate book by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson entitled, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, the Catholic contributor cites, you guessed it, one of Dave Armstrong's books as a source for information about the Reformers views on Mary.
I find this curious, because Dave Armstrong is neither a historian nor a theologian. As far as I know, he's a guy in Michigan sitting in his attic with a computer. But yet, this book cites him as if he were an authority on the Reformers. Now, if I were to cite someone on the Reformers, I would at least want to know they've actually read the Reformers, particularly the material being cited. Well, Dave won't answer, which leads me to believe there is a strong probability he has not read the primary source material.
I found this out a few years ago when I did a written exchange with Mr. Armstrong on Luther's view of Mary. I methodically cited Luther from the standard English set of Luther's Works. This makes it quite easy for anyone to go to a library, look up the citations, and check my work. Now in the electronic age, Luther's Works are available on CD. It becomes quite difficult to obscure facts when tracking down the context can be done with ease by anyone.
Dave on the other hand primarily cited Luther's German Works. He referenced the German Weimar edition 33 times. Some of the references didn't even make sense. Then he cited numerous secondary German sources. Now, one could stand in awe of Armstrong's seeming fluency in Luther studies, if of course Armstrong spoke and read German, and had access to scores of books that have been out of print for many years. But, as far as I know, Armstrong does not read or speak German, nor does he have access to the Luther goldmine of written material.
And then comes the kick. In checking Armstrong's citations, all is not as it appears. For instance, Dave is fond of saying Luther was "extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary." He loves to put forth historical data suggesting Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception. Back when I dialoged with him, his original source for this was a Luther quote put forth by Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar, nearly 100 years ago:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527)
So, I tracked down the Grisar book Armstrong was using. Sure, the quote was there, along with this commentary from Grisar:
"The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther's approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in later editions which appeared during Luther's lifetime they disappear."
The reason for their disappearance is that as Luther's Christocentric theology developed, aspects of Luther's Mariology were abandoned. Grisar recognizes this. In regards to the Luther quote in question, Grisar goes on to say,
"As Luther's intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works."
Even in material readily available, one wonders if Dave reads what he cites. For instance, Dave has said, "In fact, Martin Luther praised Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg." This is an easy one to track down. Armstrong is correct Luther mentions Mary in his last Wittenberg sermon. Luther did not say or imply though that Mary should be honored. Luther's tone is quite sarcastic, and his main point is that Christ alone should be worshiped. Luther mocks those who would call upon Mary or venerate her. Luther insists that those who seek Christ through Mary do so by the use of reason, and reason is by nature a harmful adulteress.
Dave accuses me of nitpicking over tedium like this. He wants to be taken seriously as a Catholic apologist. If it were my book going to print making historical claims, I would make sure that I actually read and understood the material presented. It has nothing to do with Dave's Catholicism. Recently on this blog I took a look at some historical assertions made by C. Gordon Olson, a Protestant.
As a layman, I do my best to read critically. If I'm going to respect someone as an authority on a particular subject, the facts should check out. With Mr. Armstrong's work, he still has yet to impress me as an authority on the Reformers. Catholic laymen should know that there are in fact Catholic historians and scholars that have put forth some excellent books on Luther. Don't settle for material that sounds good because it makes Rome look better. Check the facts; look for the truth, even if the facts come from your own camp. Simply because they do, does not mean they are correct.
Audience Questions from the Priesthood Debate
04/25/2007 - James White
This debate available in mp3 format (#453) here.
The Caners Get It Right
04/23/2007 - James WhiteDespite Ergun Caner's "Calvinists are worse than Muslims" statement (which he has yet to withdraw, modify, or apologize for), the following article, which contains an article from Emir Caner found in the Baptist Press, is an important read. The pressure to see Allah and Jehovah as merely two different names for the same God is great, especially in the missionary field. I would argue the very unbiblical "number oriented" mindset that fills many churches today is partly to blame for this pressure. In any case, the Caners are correct: Allah is not Jehovah.
[Just one note: I would clarify in Emir Caner's article the reference to Surah 3:78, which reads, "There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, "That is from Allah," but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie a gainst Allah, and (well) they know it!" [Yusuf Ali Translation]. I think it can be argued fairly successfully that the Qur'an as a whole, even granting a unitary authorship, does not argue for the corruption of the Christian or Jewish Scriptures. Later generations of Muslims, of course, have taken it to mean this, not because the text demands it, but because the contradiction between the Old and New Testaments and the Qur'an is so clear and obvious. So it is best to emphasize that the text is understood by later geneations to mean the Old Testament has been corrupted, though all the text says is that some read it in a distorted manner.]
A Monday Radio Free Geneva!
04/23/2007 - James WhiteWell, I surely was not planning on this, but I wanted to address statements made by Steve Gregg in the last of the nine mp3 files I have downloaded. But since I am about to head out of town, I had to rush into the studio and record quickly. I address various errors in particular on the topic of Greek grammar and syntax in the comments offered by Mr. Gregg. Here's the program (free/high quality).
A Further Response to Gary Michuta and John Betts on 1 Esdras
04/23/2007 - James Swanby William Webster
In the articles I posted on the status of 1 Esdras and its relationship to the Councils of Trent and Hippo/Carthage, there have been 3 main responses to which I want to give a brief reply. The first response has to do with Gary Michuta's assertion that Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence, the second is the charge that I am misleading people about the preface to the Biblia complutensis and the third is a response that John Betts, a Roman Catholic apologist, wrote some time ago to what I have written on 1 Esdras and which is now being used by other Roman Catholics such as Art Sippo, who states, "My good friend and Catholic Apologist John Betts has written an essay that deals with this and literally puts the matter to rest DEFINITIVELY" (Found here).
1. Gary Michuta has stated categorically that Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence and therefore there is no contradiction between Trent and Hippo/Carthage. But such an assertion is clearly untrue. Trent has spoken quite clearly. 1 Esdras is not canonical. Nowhere in the official list of canonical books is 1 Esdras to be found. The only books that are canonical are those listed by Trent. This is just obvious. There is no silence here. For example The New Catholic Encyclopedia in referring to 1 Esdras states:
"The Council of Trent definitively removed it from the canon" (New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), Volume II, Bible, III, pp.396-397). This authoritative Roman Catholic source clearly states that Trent did not pass over 1 Esdras in silence. It definitively removed it from the canon.
Gary Michuta suggests that it is possible that the canon is not closed for the Roman Catholic Church, but such is not the case. The term canon means that a definitive list of inspired books has been promulgated and it is a closed list. The Catholic Encyclopedia says this about the canon from a Roman Catholic perspective:
"The word canon as applied to the Scriptures has long had a special and consecrated meaning. In its fullest comprehension it signifies the authoritative list or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined for the well-being of the Church, using the latter word in the wide sense of the theocratic society which began with God's revelation of Himself to the people of Israel, and which finds its ripe development and completion in the Catholic organism. The whole Biblical Canon therefore consists of the canons of the Old and New Testaments" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the Old Testament).
Note here the Catholic Encyclopedia states that the term 'canon' signifies a closed number of writings. The council of Trent spoke clearly and definitively on the issue of the canon and that is precisely what authoritative Roman Catholic sources say as well:
"According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church at the Council of Trent...The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon.That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent" (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. II, Bible, III (Canon), p. 390; Canon, Biblical, p. 29; Bible, III (Canon), p.390).
This is also confirmed by Yves Congar: "...an official, definitive list of inspired writings did not exist in the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent" (Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions (New York: Macmillan, 1966),p. 38).
According to Congar and the New Catholic Encyclopedia the first infallible decision on the authoritative declaration of the canon, from a Roman Catholic perspective, was the Council of Trent, not Hippo and Carthage. The English translator of the Council of Trent, H.J. Schroeder, O.P., wrote:
"The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures" (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford: Tan, 1978), Fourth Session, Footnote #4, p. 17).
These Roman Catholic sources state categorically that the list of canonical books promulgated by Trent was infallible, official and definitive and that Trent definitively removed 1 Esdras from the canon. This does not constitute silence. 1 Esdras (from a Roman Catholic perspective) was infallibly, officially and definitively excluded from the canon. The argument from silence has been shouted down by the Tridentine decree itself.
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Closing Statement, Sola Scriptura Debate, 1999, San Diego
04/23/2007 - James White
This debate is available here in mp3 format (#436)
LDS Debate in Salt Lake City
04/21/2007 - James WhiteI do not just do debates with Roman Catholics. In fact, we have done a number of debates in Salt Lake City. Here is the cross-examination period from a debate on the effect of Adam's fall with Dr. Gilbert Scharffs, the author of the LDS response to the "GodMakers" film, a long time professor and LDS theologian. I had more than two minutes left when I stopped, but I felt it was the proper thing to do.
This debate is available in mp3 here (#409)
A Friday Radio Free Geneva!
04/20/2007 - James WhiteI was riding this morning, pressing on with listening to the 13.5 hours worth of lectures delivered by Steve Gregg on Calvinism, when I decided to do another Radio Free Geneva episode. Since I did not get into the office till late in the afternoon, I had to record it without webcasting it, hence, no announcement here on the blog about a live broadcast. In any case, I felt the comments in the seventh of the nine files worthy of the investment of time I put in this evening. Since I played a lengthy portion of the presentation, the resultant program is 2 hours, three minutes in length! But the topics addressed are very important: God's nature, God's love, and the topic of assurance. I hope and trust that many will find the interaction useful and helpful. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Today on the Dividing Line: Radio Free Geneva
04/19/2007 - James WhiteHad a most enjoyable time on the program today reviewing various elements of the presentations made by Steve Gregg in support of synergism over against monergism. I trust I was fair, yet firm, and that the clips I played were of sufficient length to accurately portray Gregg's position on the topics addressed. I only got to John 6:37, and will schedule another Radio Free Geneva for May 1st, the time of the next Dividing Line (I will be traveling next week). Here's the program (free/high quality).
Checking In With The Other Side Of The Tiber
04/19/2007 - James SwanI regularly visit Roman Catholic blogs and websites to see what the apologists are up to. Here are a few highlights.
Gerry Matatics says he's continuing his 300-city mega tour "contrary to the hopes of my many enemies, critics, and detractors." Gerry says:
"I pull no punches and make no apologies for opposing, and exposing, the novelties, oddities, heresies, and blasphemies promoted by what purports to be the "official" Catholic establishment, but in fact is nothing but a band of unauthorized apostates and usurpers who have been permitted by God's providence to commandeer the infrastructure of the previously Catholic institutions of our world since the death of Pius XII precisely in order to bring about the universal apostasy God has patiently and persistently repeatedly warned us, over the last 6000 years, must precede the return of His Son."
Now that's quite a sentence! I actually caught one of Gerry's mega-lectures last summer. Gerry's new position is eschatological. He emphasizes the church is in a "last days crisis." Thus, the entire undercurrent of his talk had a sense of urgency, reminiscent of those dispensational evangelical church services I grew up in where the rapture was going to happen at any moment. The signs of the times prove this to be the case. Gerry holds the majority of Catholics have been swept away by great deceptions in last 40 years, particularly ecumenism. Not only the Bible predicts this, but also various approved sightings of Mary throughout history have similarly confirmed the great falling away of the Roman Catholic Church in the last days.
Over on Patrick Madrid's Envoy discussion boards, a question was asked about Madrid's unspoken policy to not allow any links to aomin.org. The questioner also commented, "I just read an article on envoy where Pat Madrid thanked White & Co. for advertising envoy and the forums. Is this ban because envoy doesn't want to advertise for protestant pages?" Well, what's the deal Patrick? No response from Mr. Madrid, but Catholic apologist Art Sippo took the helm of the good ship Envoy:
"This message will likely get bleeped, but HEY! You can't blame a guy for trying! Envoy linking to Mr. White's material is like B'nai B'rith linking to the Aryan Nation website for an opposing view on the Holocaust and Nazi genocide. It is very obvious to us that Herr Weiss... I mean MR. White follows the doings on this board very closely and often überreagiert... uh, overrects to what we say here. But this does not mean that we have to provide a tyrannkanzel.... sounding board for all the sturm und drang ... controversial comments he makes."
Nothing like the poetic Dr. Sippo! Indeed, Dr. Sippo was correct, this discussion was deleted off the Envoy boards. Anyone visiting Planet Envoy immediately realizes the contributors spend a lot of time reading aomin.org. Madrid should at least explain why his fellow apologists are not allowed to link the web site which so consumes their discussions.
Finally, another "doctor" of sorts has put together an interesting blog entry. Dr. Dave Armstrong has finally put together a link which is beyond refutation. Protestants beware, the argumentation and information will not be easy to refute.
Don't Forget Today's Radio Free Geneva!
04/19/2007 - James WhiteDon't forget! Today's program is a special Radio Free Geneva featuring the examination of Steve Gregg's presentations on Calvinism, in particular, on John 6:37 and Romans 9:19-20. Be listening! Here's a bit of a preview. Steve Gregg comments on Romans 1:18 and the suppression of truth. Notice that not all men suppress the truth! Some are inclined toward it! This is one of the fundamental differences between Gregg's synergism (strongly semi-Pelagian) and biblical monergism, for Paul's argument is not that some suppress the truth in unrighteousness but all do so (as he concludes in Romans 3:10-18). Failure to appreciate the deadness of man in sin (along with the difference between God's prescriptive will and His eternal decree) cripples Gregg's criticisms of Reformed theology.
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Dean Burgon and His Phantom Manuscripts
04/19/2007 - Alan KurschnerOne of the most bizarre arguments made from King James Only advocates is the claim made popular by the late 19th century Dean Burgon. Attempting to explain why there are no extant Greek manuscripts with distinct KJV readings (or more specifically, distinct readings from a Greek Byzantine form of text) from the first 300 years of church history, he claimed that because these manuscripts were so popular and were used extensively in the early church, they became "worn out."
Given that KJVO advocates since Burgon have not advanced any substantial arguments up to this day, you will often hear this "worn out manuscripts" argument from many KJVO even today. (Btw, since their arguments have not substantially advanced in over 100 years since Burgon, it is the reason why they continue to invoke their hackneyed arguments against Westcott and Hort.)
Let me preface my comments for some by explaining that there is substantially about only six very late manuscripts that were used to create the Greek edition which is the basis behind the King James Version. They are contrasted with the host of early better Greek manuscripts (Alexandrian text-type) that make up the Greek edition behind modern translations such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, to name a few. It should also be noted that the two forms of the Byzantine Greek text--the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus (KJV)--have 1,838 differences between them! In other words, the Textus Receptus is a very poor reflection of the Byzantine text-type. (To be sure, the differences between the Byzantine and Alexandrian text-types are not two separate New Testaments; and no cardinal doctrine is affected in the differences, albeit, a good number of significant exegetical texts are affected in one’s textual choices.)
Since KJVO advocates want to claim legitimacy and antiquity to their Greek Byzantine textual tradition that is behind their KJV, they will assert that the Greek Byzantine line of transmission goes back to the early church, even to the first century to the autographs themselves.
There are fundamental empirical-historical problems with such a claim: The most glaring problem is that there is not a single Greek manuscript, papyrus, or early version for the first 300 years of church history that contains a distinct KJV (or Byzantine) reading from a manuscript that reflects a Byzantine text.
How did Dean Burgon—and today, KJVO advocates—respond to these historical facts? They claim that because the Byzantine manuscripts were highly valuable in the early church they were “used so much that they wore out." If you ever witness such an explanation from a KJVO advocate, the following responses should correct their claim quickly:
1) If the Byzantine text was so "highly valuable that they wore out," then why do we find all of the early church fathers for 300 years using other texts such as the Alexandrian text-type, mix-types, etc., but absolutely no Byzantine texts? In other words, nowhere is there to be found any Byzantine texts used in the voluminous writings of any early church fathers for the first 300 years of church history!
If the early orthodox fathers were not using Byzantine texts, then who were? Heterodox teachers and heretics? Who was using these phantom texts? There is no evidence that anyone possessed or used this phantom “popular” and “highly valued” Byzantine text. So, not only do we have phantom manuscripts in the early church we have all these phantom believers who were using these manuscripts extensively, and consequently they "wore out."
2) Dan Wallace makes a great point on the utter improbability that the Byzantine text existed in the early church. He writes, "what is to explain their complete nonexistence before the late fourth century? Are we to suppose that every single ‘good’ NT somehow wasted away—that no historical accident could have preserved even one from the first 350 years? The quaint analogy that a used Bible gets worn out might work in individual cases. But to argue this on a grand scale stretches the credibility of the theory far beyond the breaking point. Would one not expect to see at least some early papyri...with a distinctively Byzantine text form? It will not do to say that all the early papyri represent the local text of Egypt, because every text-type is apparently found in the papyri—except the Byzantine" (See his "The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique").
3) Related to the previous point, KJVO advocates evidently do not recognize an obvious flaw in their argument when they assert that the Byzantine text was very popular and therefore many copies were produced. If this Byzantine form of text was copied so many times, then we would expect to find many extant copies—not zero. So this argument only self-refutes and demonstrates the opposite conclusion.
In Sum, The emergence of the Byzantine text (again, what is roughly the basis behind the King James Version) can be explained as a conflation around the turn of the fourth century in the corner of the Byzantine region. And given the supplanting of the Greek language for Latin in the West, and the expansion of Islam, it explains why Byzantine Greek manuscripts continued to be copied in the Byzantine sector and eventually became the majority Greek text not until the ninth century onwards; and why the early Greek text-types such as the Alexandrian, which is the basis of modern superior translations, were not copied during later times in other areas of the Christian world.
So when confronted with this unavoidable historical-empirical evidence, where does the KJVO advocate then find recourse to further their fideism? They will flee from this historical reality to Biblical proof-texting such as Ps. 119:89; John 10:35; and Isa. 40:8. These Biblical texts are somehow supposed to prove that a 17th century Anglican English translation (KJV) is the fulfillment of God preserving his Word.
In due course, I will be responding to the eisegetical claims in the book Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture edited by Kent Brandenburg with contributions by Thomas M. Strouse who is a founding member and executive member of the Dean Burgon Society.
For further reading on this subject I recommend,
"Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism" and
"Why I Do Not Think the King James Bible Is the Best Translation Available Today" by Dan Wallace.
The rC Campaign Presses Downward
04/19/2007 - James WhiteEver intent upon demonstrating that the "r" part of "rC" is a meaningless addition, the boys of the oxymoronic blog have provided some hum-dingers of late. Both Kevin Johnson and Tim Enloe have used the "post something that is ultra nasty and names names and demonstrates we are as sectarian as they come and detest conservative Calvinists with a passion but then pull it so you have some kind of deniability but make sure it is up long enough to get noticed anyway" ploy of late to go after yours truly and others of my "ilk." Enloe continues to seethe in his detestation of his former allies and friends, a sad state of affairs that many of us had hoped time, marriage, and family, would at least minimize if not alleviate. We were wrong. Just a few days ago Enloe posted a long diatribe that included these paragraphs (which I had in the logs of our chat channel: the post disappeared later in the day):
Note: I know we’re all trying to let this sort of stuff go, but it seems best to put it up here, where I know it will be seen. Comments on this post will remain closed, because there’s no sense in inviting another spontaneously-degenerating non-discussion with White’s followersWow, can you feel the love? The "catholic spirit"? I sure can. The rest of the post was just as bad. That warm, "catholic" spirit was exemplified just a few weeks ago by Kevin Johnson, the coffee maker who has spent his recent years dogging Douglas Wilson, and now John MacArthur and Phil Johnson, when he posted this winner:
In the name of accountability for myself, I want to modify one thing I recently said about White in a comment thread on Crimson Catholic’s blog. I said that White seems unacquainted with intellectual alternatives and gives very simplistic presentations that lead his puppy-dog like Internet followers astray. I even went so far as to say that in many ways White and his like-minded followers “are, as a general rule, a blot on the serious discipline of Christian theology and apologetics.”
Instead, you will find 8 in 10 who appear to suck up every simplistic thing White says as if it’s gospel-truth itself–and then rush vigorously to his defense on message boards all over the Internet anytime anyone says something against him. Of course, it is the responsibility of these lemming-like people to do some serious work for themselves, but it’s exactly the point that they don’t do any serious work for themselves.
I listened in horror today to James White and Rich Pierce of Alpha and Omega "Ministries" cackling over an errant suicidal man who called their ministry offices ( you can listen here, the comments were made somewhere after 47min). I don't normally listen to this broadcast anymore but I caught someone linking to it in agreement about something else. After listening to the mocking tone and carelessness with which these guys talked about this suicidal institutionalized man that dared to try to reach out to these so-called apologists, I just sat dumbstruck wondering whether it would be better to describe these guys as the Beavis and Buttheads of the apologetic world or the sort of cackling witches mentioned in Macbeth I've mentioned elsewhere in noting what I considered to be ministerial abuse. The care of errant souls outside the purview of proper apologetic concerns. Hmmm.
Again, isn't it wonderful to experience such an open hearted ecumenism? Johnson pulled the paragraph a few hours later, just like Enloe. I guess for the rC's, it is their loving, open-hearted form of unity, or none at all.
Meanwhile Paul Owen has been demonstrating how far off the radar screen from where he once claimed to be he currently is. Nothing new there. ...
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Is LaHaye For Real?
04/18/2007 - James WhiteI wonder if I could get Tim LaHaye to write a foreword for one of my books? Remember this piece of incredible insight written for Dave Hunt's What Love is This? "This book could well be the most important book written in the twenty-first century for all evangelical Christians to read." Think about that one for a moment. So today the abridged edition of C. Gordon Olson's book arrives, Getting the Gospel Right: A Balanced View of Salvation Truth. Now, may I say, that is simply false advertising? There is nothing balanced about Olson's work. It is a pure defense of synergism and a blatant (and often errant) attack upon monergism. Why do synergists dodge accuracy in advertising? Why not just come out and say, "Hey, I want a God who tries and fails, is eternally disappointed, and a creature, man, who has the final say in salvation, so that salvation is a cooperative effort, OK?" Hmm. Just re-read that. Never mind.
Anyway, LaHaye has a foreword in the trimmed-down, nicer-looking Olson book. And once again you are left coughing and sputtering at the wide-eyed silliness of his words:
What I find interesting is that in spite of its incredible distribution, no scholar to date has attempted to refute it or anything in it. As another who was impressed with the book said, "The reason no one has attempted to refute it is that they cannot." I would agree.Wow. Frasier Crane said it best:
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C. Gordon Olson and Ephesians 1:11
04/18/2007 - James WhiteC. Gordon Olson needs to be held to the standard his own writings have placed upon him. As we have begun noting, Olson seems to view himself as one with sufficient basis to overthrow the consensus translations of all major English translations of the Bible as long as it fits into his "mediate theology," i.e., his particular brand of synergism. Should someone say he is merely suggesting these translations and understandings as a mere possibility, a quick glance at his writings will disabuse you of this very quickly. Note this paragraph from page 63 of his larger work, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism:
Augustinian theology is an extreme extrapolation of the biblical data: it is not only risky but dangerous. Since the Old Testament says so little about God's decrees and the New even less (zero), the decrees of Calvinistic theology are pure speculation. All discussion about the logical or chronological order of God's decrees in eternity past is absolute nonsense. It is worse than the medieval theologians' discussions about the number of angels which can dance on the head of a pin.He then goes on to say that "Ephesians 1:11 has been grossly pulled out of its context and extrapolated to make it a reference to an all-inclusive decree(s), when the subject at hand is God's gracious plan of salvation, planned by the Father and implemented by the Son of God." Before examining his incredible re-translation of Ephesians 1:11, let us note that to argue that there is little to nothing about God's "decrees" based upon the usage of the single term "decree" is without merit. I have no idea how Olson can read through the trial of the false gods in Isaiah 40-48 and not see that terms like purpose and intention intertwine with the theme of creatorship to lead us directly to the concept of God's decree, but he manages to pull it off. Contrast his presentation with material such as this.
How to Misuse Scholarly Resources
Let's begin with a few of the standard English translations of Ephesians 1:11:
NASB also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,...
ESV In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
NET In Christ we too have been claimed as God's own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will
ASV in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will;
CSB In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will,
ERV in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will;
KJV In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
NIV In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
NKJ In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
NRS In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,
RSV In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will,
And let's throw Tyndale in for good measure:
that is to saye in him in whom we are made heyres and were therto predestinate accordynge to the purpose of him which worketh all thinges after the purpose of his awne will:
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Today on the Dividing Line
04/17/2007 - James WhiteToday I began with a brief discussion of the Virginia Tech massacre and then transitioned into more of the Ally/Licona debate, then took a call on Markan priority. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Also! On the DL for Thursday....
A Radio Free Geneva Episode! Surely, Jerry Falwell's comments from a few days ago are not worthy of an entire RFG edition, but there is more. Over the past few years I have received a number of e-mails saying I should debate one Steve Gregg of The Narrow Path. So I recently took the time to download his materials on Calvinism, and have been listening to them (more than nine hours of lectures). I'm into the fifth of the lectures now, and I finally popped. The comments offered on John 6:37 almost got me to comment on them on today's DL, but I refrained. But today I listened to one of the most amazing assertions I had ever heard about Romans 9, and that was it. I will play it on the program Thursday along with the John 6:37 discussion. So be listening for a special Radio Free Geneva!
C. Gordon Olson on John Calvin and the Gift of Faith
04/17/2007 - James SwanC. Gordon Olson presents a fair amount of historical analysis in Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism. Coming under scrutiny is none other than John Calvin. One curious historical tidbit by Olson is the implication Calvin did not believe faith is the gift of God given to a specific chosen people. Of Calvinists believing faith is a gift from God, Olson says, "Contemporary Calvinists have gone far beyond Calvin in this area and show a serious lapse into a scholastic deductionism rather than giving preference to direct Scriptural inductive study" (p. 228).
Olson notes inductive Biblical study proves faith is not "...the immediate, direct gift of God..." (p.228). Olson says, "...God is never represented in Scripture as striking people with faith as a direct gift...". He then offers a number of proofs. A subcategory in this section is entitled, Faith is always ascribed to man, not God. Olson then quotes Calvin for support:
"The next question is, in what way do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendation, it follows that salvation does not come from us.... When, on the part of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ" [Calvin's Commentary on Ephesians 2:8, bolded text by Olson).
From Olson's quote, it would appear Calvin is right with him. Olson is intent on showing faith is something man has the ability to muster up without it being given by God. He molds Calvin's quote to say this. But notice the "..." (indicating he left some of Calvin's words out). The section missing is pertinent. Calvin says,
"Ought we not then to be silent about free-will, and good intentions, and fancied preparations, and merits, and satisfactions? There is none of these which does not claim a share of praise in the salvation of men; so that the praise of grace would not, as Paul shews, remain undiminished."
The act of faith would be the direct consequence of free will, and it would indeed be something man could contribute to his salvation. But even more troubling with Olson's interpretation of Calvin is his lack of research into Calvin's view of the gift of faith throughout his writings. If Olson is correct, I shouldn't be able to find clear affirmations Calvin believed faith is the gift of God, statements from Calvin like these:
"[Paul] exhorts the Ephesians to remember (Ephesians 2) that they were saved by grace, not by themselves nor by their own works.... Faith, moreover, precedes justification, but in such a sense, that in respect of God, it follows. What they [Roman Catholics] say of faith might perhaps hold true, were faith itself, which puts us in possession of righteousness, our own. But seeing that it too is the free gift of God, the exception which they introduce is superfluous. Scripture, indeed, removes all doubt on another ground, when it opposes faith to works, to prevent its being classed among merits. Faith brings nothing of our own to God, but receives what God spontaneously offers us. Hence it is that faith, however imperfect, nevertheless possesses a perfect righteousness, because it has respect to nothing but the gratuitous goodness of God" [John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent With its Antidote, (The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection, Ages Digital Library, 1998), 110].
"Now we understand that we are made partakers of all his blessings by means of faith; for this it is which brings us into communication with Christ, in order that he may dwell in us, that we may be ingrafted into him as our root, that we may be members of his body, that we may live in him, and he in us, and possess him, with all his benefits. And that it may not be thought strange that we attribute such virtue to faith, we do not take it fox a fleeting opinion, but for a certainty which we have of the promises of God, in which all these blessings are contained, and by which we embrace our Lord Jesus Christ as the surety of all our salvation, and apply to our own use what he has received of God his Father to impart unto us. This faith we likewise know that we cannot have if it be not given us from above, and as Scripture declares, (Ephesians 2:9; 1:18) till the Holy Spirit enlightens us to comprehend what is beyond all human sense, and seals in our hearts what we ought to believe" [John Calvin, Selected Works of Calvin Volume 2 (The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection, Ages Digital Library, 1998), 138].
"Since, therefore, Abraham is at this time the father of all the faithful, it, follows that our safety is not to be thought otherwise than in that covenant which God established with Abraham; but afterwards the same covenant was ratified by the hand of Moses. A difference must now be briefly remarked from a passage in Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 31:32) namely, because the ancient covenant was abolished through the fault of man, there was reed of a better remedy, which is there shown to be twofold, namely, that God should bury mens sins, and inscribe his law on their hearts: that also was done in Abraham's time. Abraham believed in God: faith was always the gift of the Holy Spirit; therefore God inscribed his covenant in Abraham's heart. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Ephesians 2:8)" [John Calvin, Commentary on Ezekiel (The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection, Ages Digital Library, 1998), 574].
"Dearly beloved brethren we must not be amazed if the article of the everlasting predestination to God, be so assaulted and fought against by Satan's maintainers, seeing it is the foundation of our salvation, and also serveth for the better magnifying of the free goodness of God towards us. On the other side those Dogs which bark against it thinking to have a good and favorable cause are therein more hardy: as in very truth there is nothing more contrary to man's understanding, than to place the cause of our salvation in the good will of God, in saying, that it belongeth to him alone to choose us: without finding of anything in us wherefore he should choose us: and after he hath chosen us, to give us faith through which we should be justified" [ John Calvin, Sermon on Election and Reprobation, (The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection, Ages Digital Library, 1998), 225].
One of the primary sources Olson used for his Calvin reseach was R.T. Kendall's book, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649. Like Norman Geisler, Olson uses the phrase extreme Calvinists in a less-than-charitable fashion. Perhaps designating Olson an extreme-Kendall-ist is appropriate. He has gone beyond one of his sources for Calvin research by attributing a position to Calvin that he did not hold. Kendall explains Calvin: ..."We cannot turn to God or do anything that pertains to obedience until first we have been given faith" (Kendall, p. 26). For C. Gordon Olson to use any comment from Calvin to prove faith is not the gift of God is simply historical sleight-of-hand.
Lies, Lies, and More Lies
04/17/2007 - James WhiteHere is the last clip I will post from this portion of tape I found. If you listen carefully, you will get a good idea of how dishonest the SSC is. You will also hear Rich and I chatting as well.
First, it is a lie that I wish to be the "elder" of the Mormons, take Joseph Smith's place, or have anyone "follow" me. They know this. This is a reflection of my asking the SSC, the first time they showed up, who their elders were, based upon Hebrews 13:17. "Jesus is my elder!" was their response (read Hebrews 13:17 and you'll see how well that response correlates to Scripture).
Next, everything they say about the debate we had that evening is, of course, dishonest. I never made any of the claims they were yelling to the passing Mormons. So, they do not mind lying "for the cause," even when it means Mormons might not attend the debates! These men know they could never engage in debate in that context, but they are willing to mock those who do. A sad commentary.
As the camera pans across the street, I told Rich about "John the security guard." We had run into John a number of times over the 18 years we had been going to Salt Lake. I remember one very intense encounter. The anger I felt coming from him was just overwhelming. So, here I am telling Rich that he had just come by, shook my hand (he had refused to do so in the past), and thanked us for the way we do things. The contrast between those who show respect to the LDS by dressing appropriately, studying their own faith and the beliefs of the LDS Church, and seeking meaningful conversation with them, and the behavior of the SSC, is surely not lost on those observing these events.
By the way, when I speak of "leaving," I'm referring to heading to lunch. We would time it so that it came after the big rush out of the morning Conference session. I really miss those times.
Then you hear them lying big time when they claim they are "working with us." This is one of the main problems in even attempting to work when the SSC is around. No serious representative of the truth wishes to be associated with men so bereft of the truth as the SSC.
So now, with the advancement of the Internet since these events, we have been able to provide you with first-hand sight and sound of what it is like to be accosted by the SSC. I pray for the day when these men will be disbanded, their support gone, and meaningful witnessing restored to Salt Lake and Mesa. It would be wonderful to see them converted, as well, so that they could come into submission to God's truth and give evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (and that really important work, self-control). But for the moment, they are very much like the Assyrians being used of God against the Israelites: they are a blight upon the LDS people, a judgment, designed to hard them even more against the truth. And just as God judged the Assyrians for the attitudes of their hearts even while being used as His instrument, so too He will judge the SSC, in His time, in His way.
Jerry Falwell Identifies Calvinism as Heresy
04/16/2007 - James WhiteThe irony, of course, is that not only does Falwell demonstrate tremendous inconsistency in his own presentation, and in reference to his statements of the past, but he does so at an institution that is constantly attacking Reformed theologians as "hyper-Calvinists," while he himself is the one illustrating the nature of what it means to be "hyper" by identifying the views of men like Edwards or Hodge or Spurgeon as "heresy"! Sorry for the quality, or lack thereof, of this clip, but nothing else would work. This is from Friday, April 13th (ironically):
At some point in the past Falwell knew the historical fact that substitutionary atonement is a Reformed doctrine, rejected by Arminians. I do not pretend to understand the process that wipes inconvenient historical truths from the mind, but here you have a good example of its result. What will happen, I wonder, when those high school students keep running across passages like, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies" (Romans 8:33), or one of my favorites, "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen (NIV: "the elect"), that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Timothy 2:10)? Will C. Gordon Olson come up with a new rule of Greek grammar that precludes the translation of the term evklekto,j? Or will Ergun Caner stand on his hands on a stump and yell "whosoever will" loud enough to banish all contemplation of what the term means? One is left to wonder.
Now, of course, Falwell is unclear as to whether he is identifying as heresy only the view that Christ's death is substitutionary and a true propitiation and actually accomplishes God's intention in it (that's called "particular redemption" or "limited atonement"), or all of Calvinism, since he sort of went back and forth and did not use very specific and clear language. But given that his #1 right hand man, Ergun Caner, has refused to apologize for asserting that Calvinists are worse than Muslims, we don't need to worry too much about the details.
In contrast with this, I post again the message for the students of Liberty University from back in November, here. Enjoy!
Having A Laugh With Catholic Apologist Mark Shea
04/16/2007 - James SwanA recent blog entry from Catholic apologist Mark Shea demonstrates the difference in purpose between Catholics and Protestants. Mark took some shots at Dr. White's work on the recent Jesus Tomb controversy. Shea writes,
"James is now stuck with thousands of copies of his laborious prose sitting in boxes in his garage. So he naturally tries to make lemonade from lemons by turning his blunder into yet another proof of the heartlessness of the Romanist Deception. In his earnest, anything-for-a-rhetorical-point way, he asks (in a piece called "Apologetics Roman Style"): 'Let's say the scholarship in The Lost Tomb of Jesus is laughable. So what? Do you respond to laughable scholarship with...laughter?' Um, yes. You do.Or, at any rate, normal people do. See, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the Nine Day Wonderhood of this story was a given when the story broke, when I saw the lame nature of the "evidence" adduced, so I laughed it off as I generally laugh off news ofthe absurd. Life's too short."
For Reformed Christians with a love of the Scriptures, the Gospel, and a heart for the lost, the Jesus Tomb controversy was yet another opportunity to proclaim God's Word and Christ's resurrection. It was also another opportunity to demonstrate the reliance of the Bible to an unbelieving world. By Dr. White's careful research, he once again equipped Christians to discuss current issues in an understandable way with those who are lost. He also helped demonstrate how recent anti-Biblical scholarship attempts to malign the Bible by its use of Gnostic and missing books. Shea shouldn't be so naïve. He should go down to his local big-chain-bookstore and note how many books on the Gnostic writings are being put forth as comparable to the Bible. He shouldn't be so naïve to think this is the end of such attacks on Christianity. Knowing how important it is for those against the faith to destroy it, the Jesus Tomb will probably be re-packaged again. For the next time, much of the work has already been done by Dr. White.
Shea though thinks a correct response to the Jesus Tomb is to laugh it off. This tells me that whatever Shea's apologetic pursuits are, they are not concerned with taking any fact or current situation and using it to proclaim God's truth. Perhaps this is simply the distinction between Catholic and Protestant apologetics. Catholic apologists work to get you to join their church, even though if you're a Protestant, you are only a separated brother anyway. Protestants see apologetics as a means of proclaiming the Gospel. It is the desire to honor God and proclaim His truth to a world enslaved to sin. For those who are interested in laughing off arguments, I simply must ask how much you actually care about the lost.
A Note from JRW:
I was going to write a brief note about Shea's article myself, so I will just tack a few thoughts on here. There is definitely a vast chasm between the attitude of Shea and his compatriots (check out the insightful, mature, relevant comments on the article) and myself. I can only conclude that Shea has never run into someone who had been influenced by the burgeoning body of "if the gnostics said it, it must be right" literature. That seems hard to believe, since this kind of material is ubiquitous in the hallways of academia today. But as James Swan has pointed out, the glory of God in the proclamation of His truth is not the goal for this kind of RC apologist anyway: submission to Mother Church is all that matters.
The head-in-the-sand mentality of Shea and those like him is nothing new. When Holy Blood, Holy Grail first came out, opening the flood of gnostic-inspired tales, many responded in the same way. "Oh, that's just silliness" may work in some contexts, but look what happened over the decades. That work, and those like it, led directly to The Da Vinci Code. Sure the entire theory was silly when it first appeared, and it remains silly today. In the ultimate scheme of things, any mechanism man uses to rebel against his Creator is "silly." But explaining why it is silly is the problem. Giving an answer that then opens the door to the proclamation of the Gospel, well, that takes a little more than a good guffaw.
It's been a little while since Shea bothered to bare his fangs my direction, but this is surely not the first time.
I Love Gail Kiplinger!
04/16/2007 - James WhiteSo the Mormons are streaming out of the Conference Center, heading for lunch. Thousands of folks passing right by you. And what do you preach? Well, if you are one of the members of the Street Screeching Cult, you preach about...King James White, of course! Oh, and you have some poor deluded soul smile while wearing a bald cap and yell out, "I love Gail Kiplinger!" (it's Riplinger). I'll never forget turning around and seeing that these men had taken the time to produce signs about me, and then to listen to them making fools of themselves in front of the Mormons proved, once and for all, that whatever else you call these guys, "preacher" is a title far too high, far too noble, for whatever it is they do.
Some More of the "Preaching" of the Street Screechers
04/15/2007 - James WhiteA few days ago I was rummaging around through some old video tapes and found one marked "SLC Street Preachers." It contains 34 minutes of video from the second year the SSC was in Salt Lake, including the infamous "I Love Gail Kiplinger!" portion I played on the DL when we got back. As I listened to it I was reminded of just how grossly dishonest these men are. They have no problems lying through their teeth. It is shocking, but, it shouldn't be. In any case, they love claiming they have all sorts of converts from their "preaching." Here you catch Lonnie not only claiming about people getting "saved" at the last Conference (remember his claims last weekend on the video I posted?), but as a good, credentialed Ruckmanite, he plainly asserts that God's power is so limited, so feeble, that God can't save a Mormon through the instrumentality of an English translation such as the NIV (Lonnie seems utterly clueless that I use the NASB). In any case, you get a good taste of the cultic nature of the SSC in this short clip:
Once again, if you know anyone in churches that support this kind of activity, attempt to reason with them. If they are Ruckmanites, you will probably fail, as reasoning rarely works in that context, but if they have any common sense, any concept of biblical norms, they should be shocked at the behavior of these men.
C. Gordon Olson: Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism
04/15/2007 - James SwanC. Gordon Olson's Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism (New Jersey: Global Gospel Publishers, 2002) hasn't sold as many copies as other books against Calvinism. Since the book appears to be self-published, those in New Jersey have more copies than most other regional locations. The author lived in New Jersey when the book was released, and gave lectures in local churches based on the book. Many local NJ churches sold it in their bookstores. The book is now out-of-print. Copies on Amazon start around $79 and top out at $169. The book is 500+ pages. Quite frankly, it is an awkward read and in need of editing. Currently, it looks as if the material has been scaled down and repackaged in a book entitled: Getting The Gospel Right: A Balanced View Of Salvation Truth.
Olson took many of the anti-reformed arguments of Norman Geisler and Laurence Vance, combining them with his allegedly "inductive" and exegetical Biblical work. Olson also engages in historical examinations. At one point, he credits Dave Hunt's book, What Love Is This? as presenting "devastating chapters" of historical work on Augustine and John Calvin. Olson views Calvinism as a theology not based on clear exegetical Biblical work, but rather upon "abstruse philosophical reasonings." He says,
"There is an intellectual appeal of a difficult and labyrinthian system of theology which seems to be based upon the subtle nuancing of certain Scriptures not obvious to the simple reader and upon abstruse philosophical reasonings. This is a point which Dave Hunt makes repeatedly in his recent refutation of Calvinism, What Love Is This? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God. This is why Calvinism has attracted some of the most brilliant minds over the centuries and currently tends to be at the forefront of evangelical scholarship. Many of these subtleties are not accessible to the simple reader of Scripture, nor is their gospel the simple gospel accessible to the babes. Those of us who don't have that intellectual brilliance can take comfort in the prayer of the Lord Jesus: 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight' (Mt. 11:25-26). It is not mere fideism to give priority to biblical exegesis and leave the abstruse reasonings to the philosophers.It is being responsive to the warnings of Christ and His apostles" (p.520).
These are strong words. Read Dr. White's recent examination of Olson's exegetical work on Romans 3. This is but one example of the untrustworthy nature of Olson's book. Many others can be documented. For example, Olson offers this interpretation of Philippians 1:29. Note how the interpretation is not based on an exegesis of the verse:
"Calvinists also use Philippians 1:29 (For to you it has been granted for Christs sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake...) to prove their point, but it is clear that we are given faith only in the same sense in which we are given suffering, that is, mediately through circumstances. No one would argue that suffering is an immediate and irresistible work of grace. As in the two Acts passages above [Acts 5:31 and 11:18], Paul is referring to the privilege and opportunity given to the Philippian Christians to believe, while alerting them to the fact that suffering for Christ comes with that privilege (p. 222)."
"Mediately through circumstances" is theological jargon from Olson's interpretive paradigm. He means that God uses means in offering the Gospel to a man with the ability to choose. Olson says, "God has a mediate role of carrying out much of His plan in this present world- through His agents" (p.29). What Olson is saying about Philippians 1:29 is simply that God is giving people the opportunity to have faith through the preaching of the Word. In other words, we're really not given a supernatural gift of faith via God's grace; were given situations like preaching in which we can express our faith in Him. Olson's wording is tricky, since he says "we are given faith." He definitely does not mean this- he explicitly states that "repentant faith" is within the means of spiritually dead men (chapters 4, 9, 10).
Olson says, "As in the two Acts passages above [Acts 5:31 and 11:18], Paul is referring to the privilege and opportunity given to the Philippian Christians to believe, while alerting them to the fact that suffering for Christ comes with that privilege." Olson arrives where Dave Hunt does: inserting the word "privilege" into the text of Philippians 1:29. He also adds "opportunity." The striking thing about these two words is that throughout his book, Olson accuses Calvinists of reading their theology into the Bible, rather than doing inductive study, verse by verse. Here is a striking example of just that: neither "privilege" nor "opportunity" are in the text of Philippians 1:29 (think of how many times you actually "choose" to suffer!). Suffering is more than a mediate opportunity to be either accepted or rejected. It is related to our sanctification. As the Biblical text clearly states, belief and suffering are gifts of God, used to conform Christians to the image of Christ.
Remember, Hebrews 12:2 says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." You can't read Olson's inductive study of this verse, because I don't think he analyzes Hebrews 12:2 in his 500+ pages. Olson's book demonstrates once again the distinction between monergism and synergism. In monergism, the Biblical text is left to say what it says. With synergism, words and concepts need to be inserted to make the text say what it must say according to one's tradition.
C. Gordon Olson and the Many "Mistranslated" Texts on Calvinism
04/15/2007 - James WhiteC. Gordon Olson is one of the better known opponents of Reformed theology today. He is an instructor at Liberty University. This past week a student contacted me (and I assure you, I will not be divulging the student's name, for obvious reasons) with questions about the things Olson is teaching in class, and in particular, his claim that many of the key verses that relate to issues central to the gospel have been "mistranslated" not just in some versions, but in almost all versions. This caught my attention, and so I have taken some time to look into the passages noted by the student. The results have been most troubling.
I note in passing that a little net search brought up reference to Olson making a presentation at the "Grace Conference" in 2005. For those unfamiliar with the title, this would be the Hodges/Wilkin cheap-grace, anti-Lordship, anti-God has any purpose in salvation movement that is so destructive to sound theology, Christian life, and the proclamation of the gospel itself. The fact that the Reformed faith is so opposed to such falsehood should explain the constant attacks coming from that quarter.
The first argument that caught my attention was that we have missed the point of Paul in Romans 3 because Romans 3:11 should be translated "no one diligently seeks God." Now before even quoting Olson, I must say I was struck by the argument. How is this relevant to one who wishes to defend a man-centered gospel rather than the gospel of the free and powerful grace of God? This point is very useful in evaluating all such writings, whether those of Olson or Hunt or Geisler or Bryson or whoever: so often we get hung up on the details ("Oh, do the lexical sources support that rendering? Ooh, he's using Greek! He must be right!" etc.) that we fail to step back and ask the big questions first, "Does this make any sense in the over-all scheme of things?" When we step back and consider the context of Romans 3 and Paul's entire point, it is very obvious that whether this is "diligently seeking" or just "seeking" is utterly irrelevant to the role of the text in the context of Paul's apologetic for the universal sinfulness of man, let alone the role it plays in Reformed theology.
Consider: Is Paul saying "there is none really righteous (but some who are sorta-righteous)" in verse 10? Is he saying there is none who understand really well, but some who sorta understand, just enough," in verse 11? And since he latches on to the present participle, how about verse 12? "There is none who regularly does good (but there are some who do good once in a while in and of themselves)"? Have all turned aside, or just most? Have they become useless, or just mainly useless? You truly have to wonder if Paul's point is going to be sacrificed on the altar of the defense of human autonomy. How much plainer can Paul put it? The conclusion of his series of citations is not "Mankind is really sinful...though...not so bad as to be unable to do some good, have some fear, do a little seeking, etc."
But the first thing that caught my attention was a more simple point. "What, less diligent seeking will bring you salvation anyway?" This is supposed to be a defense of libertarian free will? And so I wondered, what does the text in Hebrews 11:6 say? I had to chuckle just a bit when I saw that it is the very same verb, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. If Olson is consistent, then this would be "diligently seek Him," and so, the standard remains the same: God requires diligent seeking (Heb. 11:6), and there is none who does that (Rom. 3:11), therefore, we are back to the necessity of the work of God in the heart by the Spirit. We've taken a completely useless trip around the bend and arrived right back where we started.
Having noted this, let's still do the work required to give a proper response. Let's start with his statements regarding lexical and grammatical issues:
Most extreme Calvinists base their view on the English of Romans 3:10-11: There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God." In Paul's paraphrase of the Septuagint of Psalm 14, he was careful to use the intensified verb ekzeteo, rather than the simple zeteo. From its usage in Acts 15:17; Heb. 11:6; 12:17; and 1 Pet. 1:10, it is clear that Paul is not referring to an indifferent seeking, but a 'diligently seeking' for God. (The verb has an even more intensified force in Luke 11:50, where it is rendered 'require.') So Paul was not affirming that no one ever seeks God at all, but rather that no one diligently seeks God. It might also be significant that this verb is a present participle, which could be either gnomic or customary. It it is customary, it would refer to a regularly recurring action, and thus, could be rendered, "no one customarily and diligently seeks God." Otherwise, if neither of the above were true, Scripture would be in contradiction with itself. I could only find about fifty verses which contradict a superficial reading of Romans 3:10-11! Why do extreme Calvinists ignore the fifty and focus on the one? William A. Butler, that "brilliant and profound thinker," probably got it right: "We hold a few texts so near the eyes that they hide the rest of the Bible." In this case, it is just one text! (Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, pp. 102-103.You can make the argument that ekzeteo should be translated in an intensified fashion, however, the mere fact that it is an intensified form is not sufficient grounds for pressing the point. The context is what would cause us to go beyond the normative translation and emphasize a particular aspect of the term's semantic domain. Is there reason to do this in the text? The vast majority of translation committees working on English translations have said "no." There is nothing in the context that would suggest a "diligent seeking" versus "a less diligent, careless seeking" concept. Further, while this is, in fact, a participle, it is a substantival participle, with the article, and since it is naming a particular type of person that the apostle is negating (i.e., there is none of these folks), the person seeking to invest weight in the syntax of its present tense has to explain how any other tense of a substantival participle would have impacted the meaning. Olson simply throws these issues out, but does not substantiate them. ...
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OK, This is Just Cool
04/14/2007 - James WhiteI was just about to head out for the night after finishing up the Olson blog article (above) when someone said, "I just watched this clip on GodTube, and you might find it interesting." So I clicked on it. And I sat there watching, with this odd feeling. "Man, that sounds...familiar." And the more I watched the more I realized...I was being quoted. Yeah, took me about five minutes to realize that "Dave" is Dave Hunt, and JR is yours truly (JW would confuse people!), and the script is taken from my open letter to Dave Hunt found here. Search on some keywords and you'll find the relevant portions. Now where do I get a cool looking nuclear carrier radar control fire center backdrop for my future debates?
Speaking of Penal Substitution
04/13/2007 - James WhiteI saw this website a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the US version of the book won't be out till July. It looks like excellent "supplementary reading" for the October class from what I can see. The UK price is up there...£17 + shipping is pretty steep! But it is good to know faithful men are standing in the gap in the midst of a very faithless generation.
04/13/2007 - James SwanThe Envoy discussion board will not allow links to Alpha and Omega Ministries, yet they are fixated on this very blog. The following Envoy discussion threads from the last few weeks are specifically on James White or material posted on aomin.org. Some of these topics are posted to not move from the first page of the Envoy discussion board:
"Ancient Baptists" and Other Myths (Started by Patrick Madrid)
Madrid vs White Debate on Sola Scriptura (Started by Patrick Madrid)
My Response to White (Started by Jonathan Prejean)
Oral Traditions and Sola Scriptura (Started by Apolonio Latar)
Response to James White & Bill Webster on Esdras (Started by Gary Michuta)
James White and Me (Started by Shelia)
The Latest Protestant Anti-Envoy Barrage (Started by AugustineH354)
White attacks the development of the papacy (Started by AugustineH354)
These threads all mention either James White or material from aomin.org: Bridging the "Faith Alone" Divide; Dr. Hans Boersma does it again!; Former Dominican priest who became LDS.
Commenting on one of the threads, Catholic apologist Art Sippo stated, "He's so vain, I bet he'll think this thread is about him. But in reality it is about how the truth will out despite the best (worst?) efforts of the obfuscators to cloud the issue." Contrarily, I think the Envoy crowd are fixated on Alpha and Omega Ministries because the materials and arguments put forth are effective, and they know it. This barrage of threads dedicated to Dr. White's work all started when video clips of Dr. White's cross examination debate sections were posted. I don't think this is coincidence. These clear presentations of arguments interacting show the shallowness of Roman Catholic claims. If you want true obfuscation, simply go over to Envoy and read through any of these threads, then compare them to the video clip content posted on aomin.org.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
04/13/2007 - James WhiteStarted off with a brief discussion of some comments from C. Gordon Olson, and then went to the Licona/Ally debate on the death and resurrection of Christ from 2004. Discussed apologetic methodology differences at the start, and then went into Shabir's opening presentation. Here's the program (free/high quality).
And Thus Spoke Angelz, and Verily, the Great Ship Sank
04/12/2007 - James White
The Ever Humble, Ever Less Orthodox Paul Owen...UPDATED
04/12/2007 - James WhiteWhile believers were attempting to explain the concept of substitutionary atonement, penal satisfaction, etc., to an atheist, good ol' Paul Owen, former (sorry, not enough room to fill this list in anymore), pops in to help out:
I don't agree with "penal substitution" because God would simply not punish His Son for the sins of others. Christ was given up to evil men and the devil to suffer on the cross and to die to appease God's offended holiness, but He was not punished for the actual sins of the people. That post-Anselm view of the atonement is hogwash. You need to study harder...I guess if we all just study harder, we will be able to have as impressive a list of former beliefs as Owen! Excuse me while I get back to studying!
BTW, "God would simply not punish His Son for the sins of others" is a line I have heard many times before...from Muslims. You think there's a chance?
According to Paul Owen, he did not write the above commentary found at Triablogue. If so, then surely he cannot be held accountable for what someone else would say in his name. But I am a bit confused here. The "Paul Owen" on Triablogue does not agree with penal substitution. Yet, on 3/19/07, Owen wrote, "None of this language requires a penal model. We just disagree." He also wrote,
In my opinion the problem with many of the Reformed orthodox (and Calvin too often speaks this way as well) is they took an unbiblical model of penal suffering which was derived from the medieval doctrine of the Mass and purgatory, and applied it rather uncriticially to the logic of the atonement. Anselm and the earlier church understood that satisfaction for sin was precisely a means of avoiding punishment. If God still demanded that Christ be punished in our stead on the cross, not only does this rob his obedient life of its compensatory value, but it makes meaningless the very idea of “satisfaction” itself. The reason a Judge or Monarch demands a punishment is precisely because he has not been satisfied by any compensatory gift. What I am arguing is that Christ’s obedience unto death was a pleasing gift to the Father which negated the necessity of punishment. It is “propitiatory” in the sense that the need for punishment was done away with, not propitiatory in the sense that the demand for punishment was fulfilled.
Now, is the above substantively different than the comment left at Triablogue? If it is, how? Owen even concluded that particular portion of his commentary with these words: "Sorry you can’t bring yourself to think a little more open-mindedly about an issue that is not nearly as straightforward as you seem to wish." Isn't that very much like what the "Paul Owen" on Triablogue said as well? If I have "blundered" I am more than happy to admit my error. I was deceived, as Steve Hays was, by a person writing on Triablogue under Paul Owen's name who...presents the very same viewpoint as...Paul Owen. So if the comment left there represents the same viewpoints as Owen, just where is the ground for offense? Shouldn't Owen simply be upset with the person using his name, and yet be thankful that that person has accurately represented his own views?
Finally, as to why I noted this. Simple: I had seen Owen's comments on this topic a few weeks ago. I didn't mention them. Why then mention the Triablogue commentary? Well, first, Steve sent it to me. But more to the point, it is one thing for Owen to spread his views on the oxymoronic website. By now, anyone who goes there knows what they are going to be getting when they do so. But when he leaves that realm and starts promoting those views elsewhere, as it appeared he had done so here, that's what prompted the discussion.
So to Paul Owen, if you did not write the comments on Triablogue, then I apologize for being fooled like everyone else. But more so, I would be happy to apologize if you could demonstrate how the comment left in your name is substantially and fundamentally different in theological perspective and assertion than what you have actually posted on your blog, and in particular, in the link cited above, the infamous "#1035" which garnered, as far as I can see, 151 comments. Indeed, your words in your first paragraph found there are just as liable to the opprobrium I heaped upon the comment at Triablogue:
Nowhere does the Bible say that God sent his Son “to die,” as though God would be the one who would put Jesus to death as some sort of substitute punishment. Instead, the death of Jesus is put squarely on the shoulders of sinners (Acts 2:23b; 4:10-11) and the powers of darkness (1 Cor. 2:8). Rather than seeing the logic of the atonement in terms of a substitute punishment to satisfy the strict justice of God, it seems better to see Jesus’ death in terms of the hostility of sinful powers.
Jesus Tomb Film Scholars Backtrack?
04/12/2007 - James WhiteI must have been sent half a dozen or more links to this article in the Jerusalem Post. While it is interesting, it is nothing new. Just the media begrudgingly admitting what we were saying from the start, actually, and what I documented in From Toronto to Emmaus. Specifically, we well know that Bovon and Matheson have, from even before the airing of the film, made public comments about the misuse of their statements. Feuerverger had posted what might be called an "adjustment" of his views within the first month as scholar after scholar pointed out the misuse of his calculations by Jacobovici, just as Dr. Stamps did in my book. Pfann's paper is discussed in the book as well, so, there is truly nothing in this article that is not noted (with the exception of the Feuerverger "adjustment") and documented in From Toronto to Emmaus.
What is still missing from the discussion is the data on The Acts of Philip. Given the prevalence of the use of such sources by so many enemies of the Christian faith today (need I say Gospel of Thomas yet again?) I continue to wonder why it is that almost no one is willing to call this work what it really is: a work of fourth century vegetarian fiction. This is probably due to the fact that the academy has bought into the value of resurrecting gnostic fantasies from the mid second century, and besides, one of the easiest ways to "get published," find a dissertation topic, etc., is to promote some kind of gnostic viewpoint, so, that does not leave you in a position to describe these works for what they really are.
In any case, I have been encouraged by the positive feed back as people have begun receiving their copies of From Toronto to Emmaus, and I continue to ask our friends to pray that God will give the book a wide audience and that it will be used as an evangelistic tool to His glory and honor.
Dave Armstrong on Presuppositional Apologetics (Updated)
04/12/2007 - James WhiteOn Tuesday I noted in passing the importance of the relationship between theology and apologetics, and how a sub-biblical theology can only result in a sub-biblical apologetic. I have been a bit concerned about some of the replies I have seen. There is a lot of confusion about the relevant categories. One glowing example of completely missing my point (and I do mean completely), is provided by Roman Catholic Dave Armstrong. The entire post is a classic example of missing categories and utter epistemological confusion (let alone a glaring example of how someone can be the prisoner of their own bias when it comes to reading what I've written), but here is one portion that stands out:
White mocks the notions of "preponderance of the evidence" and "greater probability" as antithetical to biblical Christianity and the proclamation of the gospel, yet this is precisely what the early Christians did: they proclaimed eyewitness testimony of what they had seen and heard. If they presented "legal"-type testimony, then why cannot an apologist use the same sort of argument today? No one alive was an eyewitness of these events, so it is necessarily the case that we have to make legal-historical arguments in order to do an intelligent rational apologetics.Now, lay aside the normal Armstrongian loquaciousness and hand-waving and hear how completely he has missed what I said. I never once said a word against the presentation of eyewitness evidence. I never once "mocked" the direct proclamation of the resurrection of Christ by the eyewitnesses. In fact, that was my point. The apostles did not say, "Well, we are pretty certain Jesus rose. I mean, no one can be totally certain, of course, but we think that on the balance, the best data we can give you points to the greater probability that He rose than that He didn't." My point was that the apostles did not speak in such a fashion. They did not say that God might have raised Jesus from the dead, so you get to judge the facts for yourself as if you are some kind of neutral observer and "greater probabilities" will persuade you. No, God has spoken with clarity and force, and has rendered man avnapolo,ghtoj, without a defense. That does not mean, "with an argument that is less probable than the Christian one," but without any argument. The non-Christian worldview devolves down to absurdity, and it is our task to point this out.
Sadly, Armstrong truly has no concept of what he identifies as presuppositionalism. Anyone who has spent any time at all with Van Til or Bahnsen cannot help but shake their head at Armstrong's wild swings at a phantom far removed from the truth.
Dave Armstrong continues to beat himself in the head over his utter lack of understanding of the issues involved related to his very confident claims regarding presuppositionalism. To prove his great and in-depth study, he has now told us that RC Sproul is a critic of presuppositionalism! Shocking! I am so glad to learn of this! Oh...wait! I used Classical Apologetics as a text book in my Christian apologetics class I taught at Golden Gate Seminary at least six years ago! How could I have forgotten? Oh, I remember now! I was lecturing on the methods of apologetics and was providing my students with material from both sides! That's right! I even referred them to the Bahnsen/Sproul dialogue on apologetic methodology! So, Armstrong has a book I have assigned to my students! And what does this mean? That despite having such a book, he still couldn't understand what I was talking about and properly follow the categories!
A Test for Your Listening Skills -- Part III
04/12/2007 - James WhiteThe next question is based upon the Carmen Christi of Philippians 2:5-11. You might find my article on this text from the CRI Journal useful, found here. The issue can be summarized in this section from my article:
But how was this action of making Himself “nothing” accomplished? It is just here that we must listen to this hymn from the balcony of heaven itself. We must hear the words from a divine and heavenly perspective. The Son makes Himself “nothing” by taking the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of man.[vii] From the human realm, “being made nothing” by taking does not seem right. But when we see the glory and majesty and power of the One who is here condescending to enter into creaturely existence when He Himself is the Creator, we can begin to appreciate how this act of being made nothing is properly described as taking the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of man. Daniel B. Wallace, an eminent Greek scholar, sees both terms “taking” and “being made” as the means by which the “being made nothing” is accomplished.[viii]
The biggest difficulty with seeing labwn (taking) as means is that emptying is normally an act of subtraction, not addition. But the imagery should not be made to walk on all fours. As an early hymn, it would be expected to have a certain poetic license….The Philippians were told not to puff themselves up with “empty glory,” because Christ was an example of one who emptied his glory. If this connection is intentional, then the Carmen Christi has the following force:So the means of the kenosis is the addition of a human nature, the veiling of the divine in the creaturely. This is important to understand, for many interpret Paul to mean that Christ abandons the “form of God” rather than seeing this as an addition of the human nature to the eternal divine nature that was Christ’s. It is this addition that “veils” the form of God. While there are certainly many who see this passage teaching that Christ did indeed lay aside the “form of God,” the words of Paul do not present such a concept.
Do not elevate yourselves on empty glory, but follow the example of Christ, who, though already elevated (on God’s level), emptied his glory by veiling it in humanity.[ix]
[vii] Both participles, “taking” and “being made,” are describing the means of the “making Himself nothing,” that is, of the “kenosis.”
[viii] That is, the syntactical function of these two participles is circumstantial modal.
[ix] Wallace, 630.
Now, the point of my question was to expose, through the exegesis of the text, the presuppositional nature of unitarianism in Stafford's position. It is vital, in examining the argumentation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and Muslims, to recognize the presuppositional nature of their commitment to unitarianism. They rarely defend it, they simply assume it. Here Stafford admits that it is a starting place in his theology that if one is God, one cannot be man. He begins by precluding the possibility of the Incarnation, seen in Philippians 2:5-11 or John 1:14. If you begin with your conclusion, you will always be arguing in circles, and this becomes the operative factor in his interpretational methodology. Though Stafford is far more polished in his presentation than your regular Witness, or Oneness Pentecostal, or Muslim, take the time to examine their materials: you will find the exact same foundational assumption. Paul could not actually be saying Jesus became a servant, because that just isn't possible. For the Witness, this means Jesus is a pre-existent spirit creature; for the Oneness Pentecostal, it means He must be the Father (hence denying the eternal existence of the Son as a Person); for the Muslim, it means Paul made up Christianity and corrupted the original, pure, Islamic Jesus.
So how did you do in your original viewing of the clip? Did you catch Stafford's errors on the John 12 text? How about the second section? Did you immediately see the presuppositional nature of his response, and recognize that in many ways, this decided the debate, for Stafford never offered a defense for the presupposition that determines his entire exegetical approach? These are the kinds of skills necessary to exercise proper discernment in the apologetic realm today.
Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on the 1 Esdras Problem
04/11/2007 - James SwanI mentioned a few days ago Catholic apologist Gary Michuta posted a response to William Webster's entries on the Esdras problem. Gary said,
"My assertion that the Council of Trent passed over the question of the canonicity of Esdras in silence is not a matter of my own or anyone else's interpretation of the decree. It is a historical fact."
Well, I guess it depends on which Catholic apologist you talk to. In the same discussion started by Michuta, Catholic apologist Art Sippo grants Gary's point, but ventures off into a different resolution. Sippo replied:
"As Gary mentioned, Trent specifically discussed the status of 1 Esdras and decided to pass over the question of its canonicity. But anyone who is familiar with the state of the Biblical Canon in the late 4th Century knows that the term '2 books of Esdras' had been used for over 100 years by Origen and others to refer to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And St. Jerome was well aware of the difference between 1Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah in the 390's. In the Vulgate translation he made, St. Jerome used the title 1Esdras to refer to Ezra, 2Esdras to refer to Nehemiah, and 3Esdras to refer to the apocryphal 1Esdras from the Septuagint."
Sippo agrees Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence, but then argues early usage of 1 Esdras shows Hippo and Carthage understood 1 and 2 Esdras to be Ezra and Nehemiah. I'm questioning exactly where Michuta stands with Sippo's answer. These two Catholic apologists appear to be giving different answers. Michuta did not venture into historical usage in his brief response. Perhaps Gary's new book will provide similar argumentation to that put forth by Sippo. As it stands, these two men appear to be giving different answers.
Sippo's proof for his view holds Origen, Jerome, and others held to a strict Ezra / Nehemiah distinction, and were not fooled by the apocryphal book of 1 Esdras. William Webster though notes Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ephrem Syrus, Basil the Great, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Ambrose, Theophilus of Antioch, Dionysius of Alexandria, Augustine and Prosper of Aquaitaine all quote 1 Esdras. So, some were fooled by this apocryphal book. If Sippo is right, one would think Christendom was certain on the Ezra / Nehemiah distinction. Rather, what we find is what one would expect if 1 Esdras was in the Septuagint: widespread usage by the Church fathers.
But more troubling for Sippo's Esdras resolution is the open canon question. Why would Trent even bother to discuss 1 Esdras, if in fact these earlier councils ruled on the canon? Here was a book the earlier councils supposedly didn't even consider; yet Trent is still wondering about it. Now for Sippo, is the implication Carthage and Hippo remained silent on the Septuagint 1 Esdras as well? So much for canon certainty provided by these earlier councils! The Infallible councils keep passing over this book, and the Roman Church doesn't seem to be in any hurry to resolve its status. Now, if there really is a chance that God inspired a book currently not in the Roman Catholic canon, shouldn't this be a top priority to resolve? Wouldn't the very words of almighty God be something worthy of the intimate attention of both pope and council?
Sippo concludes by commenting on Websters argument:
"IMHO the whole thesis is DOA. But White, Webster, Svendsen and the rest of the Kampus Krusade for Kthulhu keep beating this dead horse, so we need to keep dealing with it."
Indeed, Art, do tell. You either have a blaring contradiction between councils, or a possible missing book from the Bible. I think Sippo, Michuta, and the rest of the zealous defenders of Rome have a lot of explaining to do.
Greg Stafford Attempts to Reply
04/11/2007 - James WhiteRegular readers of this blog know that for a couple of months now I have been posting clips from various debates. Why? Because I learned how, that's why! I've done more than sixty such debates, and many of them have been video taped. The large majority of my readers have enjoyed watching clips of debates on a wide variety of topics, including Islam, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Inclusivism, Open Theism, etc. Monday I posted a section from the debate with Greg Stafford on the deity of Christ. Since Stafford obviously monitors this blog, he is well aware of the fact that I have been using YouTube and GodTube to post clips. So why he would now write on his blog, "Now we find White trying to use sections of our 2003 debate for some to-be-determined purpose, sections which I think show clearly that he not only did not understand the issues he asked about properly but where, again, he basically ignored my answers." I am more than happy to allow those not trapped in a cult (and those who are) to view the debate and check the assertions of both sides. Unlike Mr. Stafford, I have no need to blow my horn and proclaim victory, etc. I will leave him to join many of my other former opponents in that game. But what on earth does "some to-be-determined" purpose mean? I felt this would be a good clip to use to illustrate the kind of listening skills needed to follow the argument in debate, nothing more. I could have used any number of debates, but this one likewise allows for an explanation of the glorious truth that the New Testament writers did not hesitate to apply to Jesus passages that were originally about Yahweh Himself.
Now, I had a few folks write to me Monday and say, "Oh brother, I wonder how many pages of text Stafford will crank out in response to this?" We have not been disappointed. But I hardly expected anything else. Mr. Stafford has a lot of time on his hands. That's fine. If anyone thinks volume of writing = truth, well, I can be of little assistance there. I honestly believe the more closely folks look at Stafford's writings, the more they will see the constant element of special pleading and circular argumentation. He cannot see his pre-commitment to unitarianism, so plainly documented in the clip itself, and unless God is gracious to him, he never will. So his writings remain a good example of the circularity that comes from commitment to a false religion.
I will not waste much time on Stafford's thinly veiled "White is afraid of me" stuff:
As many who have followed this Chat know, I have made myself available to Dr. White and to his ministry for debate at practically any time. I have not heard from him, or from his ministry, in some time, and my associate, Richard Rawe, was recently told by Rich Pierce of AOmin.org that I am "low on the priority list," and that it may be "two years" before Dr. White can make time to debate me. When asked by Mr. Rawe to set a date two years from now, Mr. Pierce declined.I will never cease to find it amusing whenever anyone accuses me of being afraid to debate someone, especially when it is someone I've already debated! Stafford is now sounding like Sungenis, for example. Stafford's behavior a few months ago left a very bad taste in my mouth, to be sure. Further, when the idea was first raised, Stafford believed it a ruse to draw him away from a debate with Morey that, to my knowledge anyway, has not taken place. But more to the point, Greg Stafford does not determine the Lord's direction for my areas of study. I have nothing to prove to someone such as Mr. Stafford, and I do not make decisions on what is worthwhile as far as the investment necessary to produce an edifying, useful debate on the basis of school-yard taunts. Right now I am focused upon the October debate with Shabir Ally in Seattle, not upon the subject of the Watchtower's denial to God of exhaustive knowledge of future events. Another denier of God's omniscience and eternal decree has contacted me as well, and if in the Lord's providence I should choose to address this issue, the two debates might well be arranged. Mr. Stafford may be able to schedule things a month in the future. I am not, and I find this kind of behavior on his part less than useful.
Stafford has posted the following:
Not only has White finally realized that the LXX of Isaiah, which John was quoting in John 12, references the glorification of Christ, the very same glory that Isaiah "saw" in Chapter 53 (Hebrew), but it is also the same glory that Isaiah "spoke about" clearly in that same Chapter, to which John refers in John 12:41. White had no answer for where Isaiah "spoke about him" in Isaiah 6 in our 2003 debate, and he has no answer now:There is no end to Stafford's ability to engage in obfuscation regarding the text of inspired writ in defense of his personal take on Watchtower theology. Those who have attempted to deal with him for years know this well. But his replies only dig him deeper into the hole his error has created for him.
First, note how Stafford's interpretation is completely disconnected from John's purposes in his Gospel. What connects the citation of Isaiah 53:1 with Isaiah 6:10 is not a discussion of glory, but a discussion of judgment. That is the theme that connects the two citations. Notice the text:
John 12:37-43 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM." 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
Follow the idea:
37: they were not believing
38: who has believed?
39: they could not believe
40: God's judicial blinding and hardening
41: Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke of Him
42: Some believed, but, did not confess because
43: they loved the approval of men rather than God.
So the primary connection, provided by John himself, is the issue of unbelief and judgment. So when we come to verse 41, and John says Isaiah saw Jesus' glory, and spoke of Him, is he referring to both texts, or only one text? Stafford has to direct our attention away from the citation of Isaiah 6:10 for obvious reasons. But the fact is that Isaiah said both things, and both have a common theme (which is why John cited them). So when John says Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus' glory, and spoke of Him, what is the natural understanding the original readers of John's Gospel would gather?
Let's remember that the Greek speaking audience of this Gospel would have possessed and read the Greek Septuagint, the LXX. I have asserted that John is plainly making reference to Isaiah 6:1 when he says Isaiah "said these things" because Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him. Stafford cannot allow this because, of course, he's one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and he cannot allow anything that would violate the central, definitional doctrine of the Watchtower. Let's compare. Here is Stafford's proposed reading:
kai. doxasqh,setai sfo,dra
ei=den th.n do,xan auvtou/
Now compare mine:
|Isaiah Source||John's Reading|
ei=don to.n ku,rion ... plh,rhj o` oi=koj th/j do,xhj auvtou/
ei=den th.n do,xan auvtou/
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A Test for Your Listening Skills -- Part II
04/11/2007 - James WhiteNow, a little behind the scenes information. I have often said that the best "the other side" has to offer is the best way to make sure your own arguments are strongest. Arguing on the basis of the Least Common Denominator, going for the "popular" viewpoint, may sell more books, but it is not the way to honor the truth. In any case, I have credited Stafford's published discussion of the texts that identify Jesus as Yahweh as a catalyst for a much stronger presentation in my own book. And so I was a bit surprised at Stafford's response to the initial question, because it indicated to me that if he had in fact read my book, he had not read the endnotes. Or, he had no response to that material, because he was unable to interact meaningfully with the point. Here is what I said in The Forgotten Trinity. Note especially the material found in the endnotes:
Who Did Isaiah See?
Toward the end of Jesus public ministry as recorded by John we find an incident where a group of Greeks seek out the Lord Jesus. The significance of the passage often goes right past us because we are looking more at the encounter than a little comment John tacks onto the end of his citation from Isaiah:
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED? For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM. These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. (John 12:37-41)
The struggle with the meaning of the words from Isaiah often causes us fly right past verse 41. Yet, what does John mean when he says that Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him? Who is the Him to which Isaiah refers?
We have to go back a little to see that John cites two passages from the book of Isaiah. In verse 38 he quotes from Isaiah 53:1, the great Suffering Servant passage that so plainly describes the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. John says the unbelief of the Jews, despite their seeing signs, was a fulfillment of the word of Isaiah in Isaiah 53. He then goes beyond this to assert their inability to believe, and quotes from Isaiah 6 and the Temple Vision Isaiah received when he was commissioned as a prophet:
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
In this awesome vision, Isaiah sees Yahweh (the LORD) sitting upon His throne, surrounded by angelic worshipers. The glory of Yahweh fills his sight. Isaiah recognizes his sin, and is cleansed by the Lord, then commissioned to go and bring a message to the people. But the message is not one of salvation, but of judgment.
He said, Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed. Then I said, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate (Isaiah 6:9-11)
John cites the heart of the message of judgment given to Isaiah, and sees the hard heartedness of the Jews who had seen the miracles of the Lord Jesus, and heard His words of grace, as the fulfillment of these words.
Then John says, These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. John has quoted from two passages in Isaiah, Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10. Yet, the immediate context refers to the words from Isaiah 6, and there are other reasons why we should see the primarily reference as the Isaiah 6 passage. John speaks of Isaiah seeing glory. In Isaiah 6:1 the very same term is used of seeing the LORD, and the very term glory appears in verse 3. Even if we connect both passages together, the fact remains that the only way to define what glory Isaiah saw was to refer to the glory of Isaiah 6:3. And that glory was the glory of Yahweh. There is none other whose glory we can connect with Isaiah's words.
Therefore, if we ask Isaiah, "Whose glory did you see in your vision of the temple?" he would reply, "Yahweh." But, if we ask the same question of John, "Whose glory did Isaiah see?" he answers with the same answer---only in its fullness, "Jesus." Who, then, was Jesus to John? None other than the eternal God in human flesh, Yahweh.
 The connection is actually closer than first glance might indicate, for the Greek Septuagint (the LXX) contains both the verb form John uses in verse 1, ei=don, and departing from the Hebrew text, it contains at the end of the verse the reading
th/j do,xhj auvtou/ meaning the house was full of His glory. This is the same phraseology used in John 12:41, th.n do,xan auvtou/, (the accusative for the genitive) meaning he saw His glory. The use of the same phraseology makes the connection to the John 6 passage unbreakable.
 Or, more likely, the term glory used in the LXX in verse 1.
 Stafford insists that we look only at Isaiah 53 for the referent to John 12:41, but does not deal with the verbal parallels to the Greek LXX. In fact, one will search in vain in Isaiah 53 for ei=den / ei=don being used with glory; and one will not find the phrase th.n do,xan auvtou/ or anything similar to it. The term glory only appears once in Isaiah 53, and that in a completely separate context.
Now, Stafford claims that the verbal form of "glorify" appears in the LXX at Isaiah 53:13, and he repeats this assertion in his book (Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 177). However, there is no Isaiah 53:13 in the LXX. He is referring to Isaiah 52:13, "Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted." The LXX has the verb, doxasqh,setai, here. But as anyone can see, it is a tremendously far reach to try to connect this to the citation in John---downright desperate, in fact, especially in light of the obvious and direct parallel to Isaiah 6:1.
In answer to his question, "Where did Isaiah speak about him?" the answer is far too obvious to even mention: Isaiah spoke of him in the Temple, surrounded by the angels, for his point is that Jesus is Yahweh! Stafford's entire response collapses in light of the LXX reading, and the identification of Jesus as Yahweh stands firm.
Tomorrow we will examine the second portion of the discussion.
On How Theology Determines Apologetics
04/10/2007 - James White
I would like to request James White to use his knowledge to tame Islam - rather than wasting time on other christians like William Lane Craig, who frankly is doing a very good job. Let us focus on the MAIN doctrines like Divinity of Christ, his life and message, which we all accept cutting across different apologetic styles, cutting across denominations etc. So, instead of wasting time on minor issues of differences, it will be better to spend time on those who do not accept Christ at all. Today's challenge is Islam. I am from a place where I am seeing on TV, islamic channels that are talking more on christianity than Islam - they are using completely incorrect understanding of christian doctrines, attacking them and airing them on TV to audiene who do not know anything. If Islam is tamed at the level of best Islamic debaters, the well defined arguments can then be used by ordinary people in their conversations with muslims.
I appreciate your desire to see Islam refuted. I share your passion, and am regularly involved in study of Islamic belief and apologetics. I am spending the majority of my study time on Islam and its apologists.
But I cannot allow my desire to see Islam refuted to over-shadow the truth to which I seek to direct Muslims themselves. You have given very clear expression to one of the greatest dangers in apologetics: pragmatism. "We need to respond to Islam! So, let's not worry about the specifics of the faith to which we hope to direct them!" May I suggest that our desire to see Muslims come to know Christ should only heighten our concern for accuracy in our proclamation of biblical truth? Vanilla Christianity is not what Muslims need to hear. Biblical, thorough, accurate, consistent Christianity is the only antidote to Islam.
W.L. Craig's theology is sub-biblical. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. His Molinism is more of a symptom of a wider theological weakness, one that, I believe, illustrates what happens when philosophy becomes the guiding force in theology. As a result there is a tremendous difference between the apologetic he represents and that which would flow from a consistent theological position. Apologetic methodology must of necessity flow from our theology. What we believe about God, His self-glorifying purpose in Creation, His nature, His power, His will, and His creatures, will determine how we defend His truth. A theocentric theology will result in a theocentric apologetic; an anthropocentric theology always results in an man-centered apologetic.
Let me give you an example. It is common for WLC and those trained in his system to argue that the "preponderance of the evidence" points to the "greater probability" of the truthfulness of Christianity. Is this kind of argument consistent with the Apostolic proclamation? Did the Apostles claim that "there is very good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead!"? Or did they proclaim it as a certainty, the very foundation of God's judgment itself (Acts 17:31). Did they say there is more evidence Yahweh exists than there is that He doesn't, or did they identify as foolish any argument raised against the existence of the Creator by the created? I believe a consistent biblical theology will result in the proclamation that outside of the Creator, who has revealed Himself perfectly in Jesus Christ, there is no grounds for human predication at all, and that Christianity is not merely the "best of a number of possibilities," but it is the only possibility. What is more, the WLC system places the sinner, man, in the position of "neutral judge" of these "probabilities," and again, this is something the Apostles did not do. Man is not a neutral judge of the existence of God: he is a rebel creature busily suppressing the knowledge of God. What you believe about these things will tremendously impact your apologetic methodology as a whole, and your response to Islam in particular.
So while I encourage you to continue working toward the proclamation of God's truth to the Muslim people, I would suggest you consider well just what it is you are saying to them, and how you are doing it. Are you trying to tell the Muslims there is a "better chance" Christianity is true than there is that Islam is true, or are you proclaiming a clear, consistent, compelling, and certainly true revelation in Christ and in His Word that means beyond all doubt that Islam is false? I hope you can see the difference, and why apologetic replies to Islam are not helped by fuzzy theology on the part of Christian apologists.
Today on The Dividing Line
04/10/2007 - James WhiteI was a bit taken aback by an e-mail wherein George Bryson said it was a "self serving self promoting fantasy" on my part that I have said he does not want to debate again. I read an e-mail I sent George back in January of 2006 explaining that a debate without cross-examination simply isn't a debate. Then I moved on to Surah 4:157, reading from four different Islamic sources as to what this text in the Qur'an means, all to provide background to my review of portions of the Licona/Ally debate from 2004 on the crucifixion of Jesus (which I will begin on Thursday). Here's the program (free/high quality).
The Cult of Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda
04/10/2007 - Jeff DownsJust as we had a cult born before our eyes as in Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite, here we have another in Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda.
Don't miss this very important interview, which took place on The Narrow Mind with guest Johnny Navarro last evening.
Johnny has done his homework and is to be commended.
A Test for Your Listening Skills
04/10/2007 - James WhiteHere's a test. Watch this exchange from the debate on the deity of Christ from December of 2003 in Tampa. Tomorrow I will begin posting a discussion of the exchange. But, watch this first. Also, make note of the two main questions addressed in this exchange, and the answers provided by Stafford. Assign a relative "strength" to Stafford's response. Obviously, without having watched what came before, you are at a bit of a disadvantage, but it is still worth the exercise.
The Testimony of a Newly Minted King James Onlyist
04/09/2007 - James White
Dear Sir: This is in regard to your article on Gail Riplinger. Just over a year ago the leader of the church that I had been attending condemned the AVKJ! This was shocking so ASAP I went into prayer asking our Heavenly Father thru His only begotten Son Jesus Christ of Nazareth to please show me His truth, not the leader's truth,not my truth but only His. Also asking Him to give me the eyes to discern and recognize the truth as it came my way and then most importantly a willing heart to obey whatever He showed me. I got home that night and turned on the TV and a video that had been playing before came on right at the point of the AVKJ ONLY speaker was speaking. I slammed off the TV amd cried out to God, "I already know this, give me something else." Well, not a month later He showed me the truth by bringing me to see and hear a speaker at The Prophecy Club in Laurel MD. Not the speaker but a man. I have no idea how this stranger and I began speaking about the AVKJ but we did. Here we were perfect strangers yelling at each other. Don't know who was yelling the loudest! But then I shut up and decided that perhaps I should listen instead of being a Ms Know It All! By the time he finished and gave me a DVD that was about the AVKJ and then actually going to a church and hearing more I was utterly convinced. Please remember the prayer that I had prayed. Here we are,over a year has passed and many changes. No longer do I even possess any other Bible, nor will I. He showed me that only the TRANSPIRED WORD of GOD is His Word the AVKJ. My life has entirely changed due to this decision. Only those who have made this decision understand, you know like when we become born again? Our lives change! Well this is what happened to me. My deepest prayer is that you make the prayer that I did and truly seek to know the truth, He will show you. But remember to ask for a willing heart to listen to Him and then the willingness to obey! In the love of our Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazerath, TW.
Silence and the Problem of Catholic Canon Certainty
04/09/2007 - James SwanCatholic Apologist Gary Michuta asserts the Council of Trent chose to pass over in silence the status of the Septuagint book of 1 Esdras (or what Trent called, 3 Esdras). Michuta says,
"Both White and Webster take the position that the absence of a book called Esdras in the Council of Trent's definition of the canon constitutes, not mere silence on the issue, but a clear and explicit rejection of the book without the slightest ambiguity.This is a big deal for them because, if it is true, then a case could be made that Trent contradicted the Councils of Carthage and Hippo which they understand to have explicitly included Esdras (no doubt without the slightest possible ambiguity there either). My position is that, whatever we want to make of the status of Esdras, the question of a contradiction between Trent and Carthage cannot arise because the bishops at Trent explicitly avoided answering the question. White and Webster seem to be under the impression that this idea is my own 'novel' interpretation of the decree of the Fourth Session. It is nothing of the kind."
"Let me be perfectly clear. My assertion that the Council of Trent passed over the question of the canonicity of Esdras in silence is not a matter of my own or anyone else's interpretation of the decree. It is a historical fact."
What are the the implications of such a view? I think Gary Michuta may have cornered himself by his own argumentation. While he solved one problem, he created another. Let's grant Michuta's assertion that Trent passed over in silence on the book of Esdras in question. This means in the Roman system, as interpreted by Michuta, the possibility exists that the book in question is canonical, but not currently in the canon. Therefore, it is possible that the Bible is missing a book, in which case, Roman Catholics cannot be certain they have an infallible list of all the infallible books. In which case, their arguments stating they have canon certainty crumbles. It would also possibly mean, the canon is still open. Michuta notes that 42 people at Trent voted to pass over the book in silence. If Michuta is correct on his interpretation of Trent, these 42 people solved the problem of the contradiction between Hippo, Carthage, and Trent, but created the problem of an unclosed canon, and thrust Catholics into uncertainty.
Even more troubling for Michuta's position are the statements put forth on the closed canon from the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Catechism states, "It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New." Notice the words, complete list. If a book is passed over in silence, and may in fact be canonical, the list is not complete.
Or consider this statement from the Council of Trent:
"...(the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testamentseeing that one God is the author of both as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession."
How is it possible to know with certainty one is venerating with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books of the Old and New Testament, if one was passed over in silence?
Michuta notes 3 people at Trent voted to reject the book of Esdras in question. These three people uphold Catholic argumentation on Canon certainty: yes, the book of Esdras in question is not canonical. The canon is closed. Catholics have a complete infallible list of infallible books. In this answer, the earlier councils of Hippo and Carthage deemed Esdras canonical, but these three men at Trent say it's not. In other words, if these men were followed, it would prove councils are not infallible. The councils contradicted themselves.
Go ahead, argue Trent passed over in silence. It proves again Catholic arguments for canon certainty are empty. The argument shows clearly that sophistry is at work. The argument is like trying to scotch tape together a structure that needs to be demolished. The epistemological foundation of Roman Catholicism is top heavy from its weak foundation, one that is built on sand.
Easter Sunday Guests
04/08/2007 - James WhiteThey've been threatening to do this for years. You always expect visitors on Easter Sunday, of course, but...this? Yes, good ol' Lonnie, victim of old ladies on oxygen in wheel chairs, bravely stood outside the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, preaching to the...shrubberies. He only showed up right before service started, so most folks were already inside, and afterward we just had everyone go out the back. What's more, our building was built back when they really made walls thick (due to the heat), so, I never heard a word. It was a perfect waste of time, but, that's the forte of Lonnie and the Gang.
We were given a warning, anyway. Listen to this mp3 of two phone messages left on our answering machine. The second is from Lonnie himself: phone messages.
But then Lonnie, and his faithful videographer, showed up. After church we recorded some of his "preaching." Since these men claim to be preachers, let's see how well they preach. Here is Lonnie preaching.
Yes, well, I'm definitely edified. Did you catch the end? Did he really just claim to have talked to, or converted, 100 to 150 people a night in Mesa? Did this guy go to the Benny Hinn school of statistics? They claim they are going to come back next week, too, driving all the way from Los Angeles to..."preach" to the shrubberies!
If you know of any church that supports these men, please, let them know what they are really up to. These men are a blight upon the faith, just like the cult out of Kansas (Fred Phelps). Folks, if we do not stand up to these people, if we do not show not only in deed but in clear language how we are completely separate from them, the world will continue to lump us all together. You will note that Lonnie claims the Mormons "thanked them" for "getting rid" of us. We all know that is a bold-faced lie, but I wish to make sure any Mormon who reads this article knows that we have always approached the task of evangelizing them with respect---not only in how we act and dress, but in the effort put into understanding Mormonism and showing the Mormon people the respect due to them that comes from accurately representing their faith. This is something the SSC can never claim.
Please pray the Lord will restrain the madness of these men, remove their support, and end their hateful campaign of spewing hatred in the name of Christ.
A Resurrection Sunday Thought
04/08/2007 - James WhiteA thought about the work of Christ on this Resurrection Sunday from my debate against Richard Hopkins on the subject of LDS Temples.
Ah, There It Is
04/07/2007 - James WhiteI had wanted to use this picture in my blog article last night, but could not locate it. With a little help this afternoon I was able to find it. Since Dave Armstrong posted this one of himself, I figure he likes it, and I would not want to be one to use a photo of him that he would not like. So this is Dave Armstrong, Catholic apologist. In a tree. I am fighting madly to avoid making the obvious commentary that begs to be made at this point. Really. I am. I'm biting my lip. Or my fingers. Or something. Dave Armstrong in a tree. There you go. No distortions, color fades, or anything else required. Just, Dave, in a tree.
If this just isn't enough for you, there are more. And more. And more.
Augustine, Schaeffer, Van Til
04/07/2007 - Jeff DownsThose names don't exactly go together, but in this post they do. You might enjoy (a break from the "nasty boys") the following...
Ken Samples Lectures on St. Augustine
Part 1 - St. Augustine's Spiritual Quest
Part 2 - Apologetic Factors in Augustine's Conversion
Part 3 - Augustine as Bishop and Theologian
Part 4 - Augustine: Philosopher and Saint
Kim Riddlebarger Lectures on Francis Shaeffer
Part 1 - The Life and Significance of Francis Schaeffer
Part 2 - Sources of his thought (Old Princeton)
Part 3 - Sources of his thought (Van Til)
Part 4 - Apologetic Methodology (Epistemology)
Part 5 - Taking the Roof Off
Part 6 - A Critical Evaluation
Also, if any of you are wondering, from my previous post, who K. Scott Oliphint and Lane Tipton are, both teach at Westminster Seminary (East) and both have some of the sharpest minds when it comes to Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics.
Here are two lectures from Lane Tipton: Implications for Human Knowledge (discusses the covenantal aspect of Van Til's apologetic), and Biblical Theology & Apologetics (this is an exposition of Acts 17:30-31). I'm assuming that most of what you'll hear in this lecture, is what you will read in his chapter titled "Resurrection, Proof, and Presuppositionalism: Acts 17:30-31" in Revelation and Reason. Tipton's doctoral dissertation, dealing with Van Til's Trinitarianism, should be published (P&R) in the next year or two. You will want to get a hold of this very important work.
Here is a lecture by Scott Oliphint titled Something Much Too Plain to Say and here is the text version. This is a critique of (atheist) Michael Martin and his Minions.
04/07/2007 - James WhiteThe Arizona Republic ran a story on the Lonnie Pursifull "I am scared of little old ladies in wheel chairs" story today. JJ Hensley did the write-up. Rich and I are both quoted in the story, and now we know the name of the lady in the wheel chair, Anne Carlisle. Immortalized in print, however, are the words of Pursifull, a carpet-layer and leader of the Wilderness Bible Baptist Church in Duchesne, Utah. "Pursifull said he was afraid when Carlisle came at him in her wheelchair Tuesday night before the Easter pageant." Yeah, right. Shaking in his boots as this 250 lb. man was "attacked" by a woman on oxygen in her wheelchair. Yeah, I could see the terror in his eyes as he yelled, "I'm going to file charges!" More like glee. And then, "'It was an attack with a weapon, literally with a weapon,' Pursifull said Friday as his colleagues preached. 'The woman could've killed somebody with her wheelchair."" Yeah, he could have died of shin splints, I guess. And what a horrible way to go, too! I had a lot better chance of dying when Lonnie smacked me in the head with his sign, as this video shows:
But then the reporter managed to get Lonnie to give his views about yours truly, "Pursifull claims that White leads a flock of sinners that he thinks rivals those in the LDS Church, largely because they don't believe the King James version of the Bible is the only trustworthy translation." Ah, there you go. Ruckmanism at its best. Well, I told Rich Tuesday evening, "Yeah, this will look great. 'Anti-Mormons have LDS woman on oxygen in wheelchair arrested for attack!' Just what these guys love." And there you go. But, at least this time, anyone who desires to know will see that we oppose these spewers of hatred and ignorance, and unlike them, believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which the LDS people do need to hear, demands sobriety, respect, and a level of maturity on the part of those presenting it befitting its nature and glory.
The Dave Armstrong Shuffle
04/06/2007 - James WhiteThose who monitor the comings and goings of Roman Catholic apologists on the Internet know of Dave Armstrong. I have not interacted with the man in quite some time on this blog. I took the time a while back to examine one of his books directly, demonstrate its utter lack of meaningful argumentation, and challenge him to defend himself. He collapsed into a puddle of goo, ran for the hills, vowing to never again have anything to do with "anti-Catholics." That lasted for a while, but, before long, he was back. Recently DA has been acting like his old self again, even offering to debate me and give me all sorts of extra time (because, obviously, against someone of his apologetic prowess, I'd need it...unlike the rest of his compatriots). He's become downright nasty and demeaning, but again, this is nothing new for DA. Some will remember the cartoon disaster of a while back, and if you have ever been on his massive site, you will find lots of pictures of me with distortions, color changes, and the like. He truly strikes me as a kind of stalker. Anyway, I explained to him that arranging a debate with him would be problematic for the obvious reason that he can't be trusted. He is not stable. He swings from pillar to post, and if we did, in fact, arrange a formal debate today, how could anyone trust that next week he won't have yet another change of heart, make another vow to avoid anti-Catholics, and bag out?
I was looking through some old files tonight and I ran across the following, posted by DA on March 14, 2001. It is just one of many such examples of the instability of Dave Armstrong. Here it is, and remember, anything that could be said in 100 words can be said by Dave Armstrong in only 10,000:
I, DAVE ARMSTRONG, DO HEREBY RESOLVE TO CEASE AND DESIST EVEN FROM *MENTION* OF DR. JAMES WHITE AND TIM ENLOE (and strongly urge other Catholics to do the same)
Posted by Dave Armstrong on March 14, 2001 at 19:32:43:
Thanks for reminding me of, and provoking me to my own actual preference, down deep. You have done me a great service indeed, and I appreciate it. One can get caught up in all the controversies with anti-Catholics, and thus cite the "king" and most supposedly "respectable" of the anti-Catholics too much.
The better part of my judgment agrees that this is excessive, for I have been urging Catholic apologists to not engage White in *public* (oratorical) debate for many years now. I turned him down in 1995 and twice in our recent exchanges. Funny, though, how he keeps challenging *me* to debate him, since he considers me an absolutely unworthy and unqualified opponent, a pompous, foul-mouthed, dishonest and devious blowhard, etc. - things he has verbally expressed in one way or another many times. Yes, quite odd. But I don't think it is all that hard to figure out, without too much effort. ...
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04/06/2007 - James WhiteFirst, I need to officially change the name of the Street Abusers Cult. Though SAC fits quite well, I think the name suggested today in our chat channel is far better, "Street Screechers." So, since you always have 72 hours to change the new name of a cult, I hereby dub them the Street Screechers Cult. SSC.
Next, some folks have a hard time believing these guys exist. Now, we have a bunch of video of them, actually, and I may take the time to go through those tapes, if need arises (and if Rich can find them for me). What we have below is a series of little clips from my tiny digital camera. They are really short, unfortunately, but, they were also easy to string together and upload to YouTube! So, what you have are:
1) Here you see Ruben Israel yelling at the Mormons who are streaming in to the Conference center. Yes, he says, "Bring 'em young," as in "Brigham Young." Charming, yes? You could see the Mormons converting by the droves.So there you have just a few shots at the Street Screechers and their activities. As I type this they are going at it in Mesa, proving to all that a megaphone can trump reason every time.
2) I'm waiting for Ruben to start again and guess who comes by and smacks me in the head with his sign but Lonnie Pursifull! I'm sure that was a worse assault than getting hit by a little old lady in her wheelchair, but I didn't call the cops.
3) Next you see someone using a plastic bottle, cut out to form a megaphone, yelling into the Temple Square area through the North Gate.
4) Next you see the "lunch rush" coming across North Temple. My son, Josh, is in the blue shirt with the tie. Note no one is interested in a tract as long as the street screechers are out and about. And note how different our demeanor and dress is than that of the SSC.
5) Next you see the same crowd flowing into Temple Square, passing by the sign carrying folks, followed by another shot across North Temple, with the yelling in the background.
6) Then, I included a shot from the debate that took place at the University of Utah with Martin Tanner. The men sitting in the back are the primary sign-carrying leaders of the SSC. They behaved themselves as the debate. We had informed security about them anyway.
7) Next, you will need to turn your head sideways, because I don't have the ability to rotate these clips, my apology. This is from Salt Lake in 2004. I was up to do another debate (I think the one on Temples at the UofU) and so I decided to go by and see what was happening at the General Conference, and quickly I was recognized. This young kid went nuts, as the next few clips show. A good follower of Peter Ruckman.
8) The last clip is of Lonnie in Mesa a few years ago.
I Did Not Need Proof, But Since It Has Been Offered...
04/06/2007 - James WhiteOne of the leading names in the Street Abusers Cult (SAC) dropped us a note. I have said these men hate just for the purpose of hating. The objects of their abuse don't matter. Note the end of his message, where he intimates they might protest a Baptist Church.
JAMES I CAN NOT BELIEVE THAT YOU RUN AWAY FROM THE MESA PREACH. I EXPECT THAT FROM JOSEPH SMITH, I EXPECT THAT HE WOULD HIDE HIS TAIL BETWEEN HIS LEGS AND RUN FROM STATE TO STATE. BUT YOU THE GREAT PUBLIC DEBATER, THE MOST WISE OF ALL BIBLICAL TRUTHS, THE GREAT OZ RUNS WHEN A FEW STREET PREACHERS COME TO TOWN? THIS SPEAKS VOLUMES OF YOU KING-JAMES. AND FOR THE RECORD, YOU CAN NOT QUIT.YOU ARE FIRED. BESIDES WE WERE PRE ORDAINED TO BE AT MESA BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH RIGHT? QUESTION FOR YOU JIMMY, JUST HOW FAR IS THE SIDE WALK FROM THE FRONT DOOR AT 3805 NORTH 12TH STREET IN PHOENIX? RUBEN ISRAEL
Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented Final
04/06/2007 - James WhiteHere is the final clip I've recorded from the 1997 sola scriptura debate with Gerry Matatics on Long Island. This comes directly after the cross-ex I posted Monday, so they go together. I picked up the same theme and pressed forward with it here. Hopefully these clips have illustrated, in a way that only video can, the less than useful gamesmanship and circular argumentation favored by many of the most popular, less popular, and formerly popular, Roman Catholic apologists today.
Today on The Dividing Line
04/05/2007 - James WhiteStarted off with a review of the attack of the SAC (Street Abusers Cult) in Mesa, and related some of the stories from nearly a quarter century of ministry at the Easter Pageant. Then callers took up the last half hour with discussions of the exegesis of Galatians 2:7 and then the natures of Christ. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Gary Michuta Says: Read My Book
04/04/2007 - James SwanRecently, Catholic apologist Gary Michuta began posting on the Catholic Answers forum. In his posts, he commented on his apocrypha debate versus Dr. White, presenting his novel way of reconciling the canon discrepancy between Hippo, Carthage, and Trent. Michuta also mentioned the work of William Webster, prompting these responses from Webster:
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta Part I
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part II
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part III
I had been having some interaction with Gary over on Catholic Answers, and I knew he was aware of these links. There was nothing though from Gary on the recent entries from Webster. I had wondered if he disagreed with them, or if he was passing over them in silence. One thing you can say about Catholic Answers is they do allow for opposing points of view. There are numerous discussions between Protestants and Catholics going on. It would've been interesting to interact with Gary on this subject.
On the other hand, the Envoy forum has "bunker" mentality. They protect themselves from those who would offer a different opinion. It appears Gary Michuta has traveled from Catholic Answers over to Envoy. He is now a moderator on Envoy. One of his first posts was a response to William Webster. I find this interesting, because he chose to post this response in a forum that doesn't like to allow Protestants to respond. Michuta couldn't even link to Webster's articles because aomin links are not allowed on Envoy.
What of Michuta's response? He simply reaffirmed the stance he took in his debate with Dr. White. He notes the vote at Trent to pass over in silence was 42 to 3. So much for canon certainty from Rome: 42 said you can't be certain you've got all the Biblical books, 3 said you can. Michuta concludes by pointing people to his new book: "If anyone is interested in a fuller discussion of the many questions surrounding the disputed books of the Old Testament canon, my newest book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger, will be available later this month." Ah, another read my book.
Quick Addition from JRW: OK, does this mean Trent did, or did not, provide a dogmatic, infallible canon? Haven't we had the Keating/Madrid/Akin/Matatics/etc. crowd telling us for years now that we need Trent's canon to even know what Scripture is? So, what do we call this? Dogmatic silence? Infallible uncertainty? "By Our Apostolic authority, standing in the line of Blessed Peter and Paul, We hereby grit our teeth." If they knew of the differences, does it not follow that we have here an ecumenical "We are clueless, don't ask"?
04/04/2007 - James WhiteDue to the invasion of the SAC (Street Abusers Cult), we will not need to move the Dividing Line on Thursday to the morning time slot. It will air at its normal time, 7pm EDT. Also, I will be joining Chris Arnzen on Iron Sharpens Iron at 3pm EDT as well (noon my time). Listen in and feel free to participate as well.
Street Abusers: Mesa
04/04/2007 - James WhiteAs soon as the music ended, the screaming began. The band of street abusers (they call themselves preachers, but that has a particular biblical meaning that is utterly disconnected from their disjointed harangues) with their barely relevant signs held high began yelling out at those gathered on the front lawn of the LDS Temple in Mesa, Arizona, "Mormonism is a false religion! Joseph Smith was a false prophet! Repent or you will go to hell!" As I watched the people streaming across Main Street toward me, I realized I had seen this scene before, a few years before, actually, in Salt Lake City. The grim looks on the faces of people who had just had to pass abusive, mean-spirited men spewing hatred at them, showing them not the first bit of respect as human beings. And what was worse, those headed toward me assumed I was one of these abusers. I fully understood why. You can't get very far away from the yelling abusers, and you can't expect the attendees to differentiate between us. And so we passed out almost no tracts at all. In years past, we had regularly had long, fruitful conversations with Mormons. Not with these guys around. They are not looking for dialogues, they can't handle that. They are strictly monologue type folks, and short monologues at that.
A few hours before Rich and I had been standing on "corner one," the main corner at Hobson and Main in Mesa. I have stood on that corner at least once a year (normally six times a year) since 1983, the first year I visited the LDS Easter Pageant. I had driven there on my little Kawasaki 440 with my new bride on the back seat. Times have changed. We began passing out our tracts and thankfully, at first, anyway, the street abusers were a good distance away. Eventually one of them named Paul came right up to us. An older man, mid-sixties I would say, he was purposefully coming to speak to us. "You know what?" he said. "I want you to know I detest Calvinism almost as much as I detest Mormonism." We knew it would be an interesting night. After I asked him why he believed our choice was the primary issue in light of the fact that God is the one who chooses in eternity past, and we are the direct object of the verb, he realized he had better switch over to the "more abusive" mode, and he did so. By the end of the night he had actually hissed...yes, I said hissed, at both Rich and I. His hatred for, well, everyone other than his tiny little group, was tremendously obvious.
There was another man standing near us with a sign about seven books from hell. Here's a shot of him from later in the evening. I noticed that along with the "Koran" and the Book of Mormon he had the NIV and the "New American Bible" listed. I simply could not restrain myself, so I asked him, "Umm, which New American Bible are you talking about? The New American Bible, or the New American Standard Bible." "Both," he replied, "since they come from the same text." I.e., as long as they used something other than the Textus Receptus, they are from hell, all the rest of the glaring differences notwithstanding. I was sorely tempted to ask him about particular textual variations, problems with the Byzantine text and the like, but the opportunity did not present itself.
Now, this fellow was standing on the sidewalk about five yards away from us early on. The sun was still up (93 degrees), and I happened to be looking his direction when I saw a little old lady, I would estimate around 80 years of age, heading toward him in her electric wheelchair. It had a joy-stick control panel, and she must have had a fresh battery charge from what I saw take place. "You're not welcome here!" she yelled at the man, and then headed her wheelchair right at him. He got out of her way, but she just turned and headed for his new position, still yammering away quite loudly about how he had to leave. I noticed as well that the woman was on oxygen, and very frail, so I was immediately concerned. The fellow finally stepped off the curb, still holding his sign. She was trying to grab his sign to tear it down (but it was a bit of a reach for her). Then something caught her attention. It was Lonnie Pursifull of Salt Lake City heading across the street with his even larger double-sided sign.
Readers of this blog remember Pursifull. Sorta hard to forget him. Here's my most famous, or shall we say, infamous, picture of him. He's the man on the left. You will note they are holding signs at the General Conference in Salt Lake City that are about...me, not about Mormonism. These men hate me more than they hate the Mormons (which is saying a lot). Why? Because I wrote The King James Only Controversy and because I'm a Calvinist. And because I have rebuked their childish behavior from the first time I saw them in Salt Lake City. That's why they even made up signs just about me. They didn't make much sense, but, that's not unusual for these folks. After the first few sentences, they have to start repeating themselves.
So anyway, Lonnie had started heading our way earlier, till one of the other KJV Only street abusers had pointed out to him that his sign was upside down. He sheepishly went back to the van to fix it. And now he was crossing the street, and the wild-eyed little old lady in the wheelchair made a bee-line for him. "You are not welcome here!" she screamed as she headed straight for him. Now Lonnie is not a small guy. If he had fallen over on top of her she would never have survived the encounter. And as soon as Lonnie recognized what she was up to, the martyr-syndrome kicked in. Moving with the speed of chilled syrup, he moved a bit to the right, then a bit to the left, but he was enjoying the "persecution." The little lady kept screaming and kept coming, even after she wasn't going anywhere anymore (since her wheelchair could hardly be expected to move a man of Lonnie's size). Finally Pursifull stepped back into the street, and to my shock and dismay, she followed him right off the curb. She hit on one wheel, and for a split second I thought Granny was going to flip on her side. Thankfully, she righted herself. And right around this point I heard Lonnie say, "I'm going to file charges!"
Now, at some point I had motioned to an LDS security guard nearby who was just standing there watching all of this in a rather bemused fashion. Little old ladies lying in the street is not a good thing, so he finally somewhat reluctantly came over to try to calm her down. Meanwhile, she had gotten back up on the sidewalk and headed for a smaller target. A very quiet, very kind gentleman was standing next to the traffic control box. He had a sign around his neck that reads, "Former Mormon. Ask me why." That's all it said. Unlike the others, he was quiet and respectful. Well, granny didn't care. She headed right for him, reached up, and pulled the sign right off his neck and threw it on the ground. About this time the guard intervened and started heading her away from her little electric-powered rampage.
Now, there is no question that Mormon Granny lady was way out of line. In fact, on any technical level, she was guilty of assault, no doubt about it. But the little lady went away, and we went on with what we were doing. But you see, this cult of street abusers is out there for only one reason: to experience martyrdom. If anyone opposes them, in any fashion, they interpret this as "persecution," and proof that they are doing God's will. They can't defend themselves biblically, logically, historically, or rationally, so they only have one source of encouragement: their persecution complex. And Lonnie had been assaulted, and so he was going to make sure the whole world knew about it. Soon he's in the face of every cop he can find demanding that the 80 year old lady in the wheelchair be arrested for assault. And when the initial cops, there to do traffic control and the like, did not act with the severity he was demanding, he called his attorney in Salt Lake City, who, we were told, called the cops in Mesa. Soon more units arrived. Now realize, granny-on-oxygen-in-wheel chair is long gone. She's at least 120 yards away and she's not using her wheel chair to ram folks anymore. But that's irrelevant. This is now about Lonnie making the cops do what he wants them to do. And so he is putting on the full court press. And I'm getting ill. "Anti-Mormons have 80 year old LDS great grandmother arrested in wheel chair." Yeah, great. We had told one of the first cops what had happened, and he came back later and asked us to fill out a report. Rich and I looked at each other and said, "What, to help him prosecute a little old lady in a wheel chair? Are you kidding?" Later, when the cops served her with two citations, Lonnie yelled toward Rich and I, "I will have you subpoenaed to appear in court!"
Now, somewhere during this time period the older fellow, Paul, had gotten in our faces again, and then had hissed at us both. And then all of a sudden a guy shows up in a Satan costume. Yes, a Satan costume, pitchfork, tail, and red mask, with a sign that says, "These street preachers are my disciples," and parks himself right next to them. I kid you not. And so I am standing there watching this complete circus when all of a sudden up pulls a forensic evidence van from the Mesa PD! And what are they there to do? To take evidence on the assault charge! This is very dark, I know, but you can make it out, especially when they fire up the light to take pictures of the unbroken skin, but slight red mark, on one of Lonnie's shins. Here it is:
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Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented #4
04/04/2007 - James WhiteHere is Gerry's cross-ex portion, including the 18 seconds of silliness Porvaznik has turned into an "admission of defeat" on my part. To do this, of course, he has to seriously argue that for sola scriptura to be true, it must have been true at all times and in all places and in all situations. Hence, Jesus and the Apostles, though living in a time of enscripturation, would have to have operated on the principle for it to be true. Evidently, I guess everyone who ever lived would have had to have done so. So, Adam, would have to have believed in sola scriptura for it to be true. Of course, there was no scriptura at that point, so that's obviously silly, but, given the presupposition of the Roman Catholic "question" here, doesn't that prove the point? If sola scriptura speaks to today, and both sides agree today is different than the days of the Apostles (revelation was being given then, it is not today), then how can the question even be asked in all honesty? The circularity of the Roman position of self-proclaimed infallibility and outright ownership of "Sacred Tradition," including the "written traditions" of Scripture, blinds their apologists to the emptiness of their claims. As I have pointed out in the past, it is an empty claim to assert that a belief must be believed at all times. There was no Papacy to believe in even from the Roman Catholic position before Peter (and in the historical context, long after). Applying the same circular logic to that concept would lead to self-refutation of the belief. Indeed, the only folks who believed in oral, extra-scriptural divine revelation in the days of Jesus were...his opponents in the Jewish leadership. I'm sure my RC apologist opponents do not wish to embrace that as their paradigm---or do they? All depends, I guess.
In any case, just a few comments: it is so sad to see a former student at Westminster Seminary starting off with a classic Jehovah's Witness style question, "There is no verse that says the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith." When the same man will have to admit there is no verses referring to the Papacy, transubstantiation, Bodily Assumption, purgatory, etc., and that he will then have to attempt to demonstrate these things not from specific texts, but from constituent teachings from different texts brought together, you again wonder how the question can be asked honestly. What is more, this kind of argument likewise could be used in the form, "You would agree there is no text that says specifically that the Book of Mormon is not divine Scripture" or the like. This kind of argument is supposed to be compelling?
You will note that as soon as I finish citing 2 Tim. 3:16 Gerry says he wants me to quote Scripture. I thought that was Scripture. Then note he asks, "does that say every doctrine?" It says doctrine (teaching). It does not say every doctrine, but that would be included in the work of teaching, would it not? Any sober-minded exegete of the Pauline letters to Timothy and Titus would have to say yes. Then he accuses me of "reinterpreting" the term "good work," yet, again, he well knows, or, at least, at one point in his life, knew, that "good work" in Paul's exhortation to Timothy did include the entire list of exhortation, teaching, rebuking, training, etc. This is not even a question in any serious context. His wandering off into the Roman Catholic addition of "good works" to justification is, of course, not only not a question (and hence a violation of the cross-ex rules) but a red herring as well.
The applause of the Roman Catholics in the audience at the grand admission that the word "only" is not in 2 Timothy 3:16 is as gratuitous and empty as the glee of a Jehovah's Witness at the admission the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, or that of the Mormon when you "admit" the Bible does not say Joseph Smith was not a prophet. The Bible does not speak, by direct verbiage, to the term "Islam" either, but that is hardly relevant, is it?
Next, Gerry's "last year you used Greek to confuse this audience" rhetoric was simply reprehensible and, on any meaningful level, sufficient grounds for his disqualification. He is referring to the discussion of "until" and e[wj ou- "hews hou" in reference to Matthew 1:25. Even raising the topic in this context was an egregious violation of the rules. He spends 45 seconds wandering all over the landscape and then has the temerity to insult the audience by saying "it's a simple yes or no question." This is the standard Matatics methodology of using what can only be called cheap debating tricks. For the person who seeks to follow the issues closely, this kind of thing is maddening. The circularity of Matatic's attack upon the sufficiency of Scripture, all to make room for Rome's dogmas of Papal Infallibility, or the Bodily Assumption, etc., is clear to all with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Today on the Dividing Line
04/03/2007 - James WhiteToday on the DL I made note of at least the majority of works we will be reading for The Cross: Theology and Historicity class on the cruise in October, and then replied a second time to a Roman Catholic correspondant. Then we went back to the Catholic Answers Live presentation on the "twin pillars" of Protestantism. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Is William Webster Telling The Truth?
04/03/2007 - James SwanI received a private message over on the Catholic Answers forum informing me William Webster was being accused of lying about the edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia which contains a statement from Ximenes, Archbishop of Toledo, against the canonicity of the apocrypha. This Bible was published by the authority and consent of Pope Leo X. The assertion of Webster's lack of truthfulness reads:
"I hate to admit this but I think Webster's assertions are wrong. I found a book about Cardinal Ximenes, Pope Leo X and the Complutensian Polygot. It was on Questia com. From what I read there is no preface condemning the Apocrypha books. What Pope Leo does condemn are pseudo-Apocrypha books. But who really knows... perhaps the Vatican isn't telling the truth (maybe they fudged the real documents). After all the Vatican has all of these secret documents (I tried to check some of them out on the Vatican web-site) that the average person isn't permitted to read."This was the first time I've come across such as assertion. If this is indeed the case, I would have to ask this person to explain this statement from the preface of Ximenes:
"The books which are without the Canon, which the Canon receives rather for the edification of the people than for the establishment of ecclesiastical doctrines, are given only, in Greek, but with a double translation."
If pseudo-Apocryphal books are meant, this is equally as awful for the Roman Catholic dealing with the historical record. Well, this is not what is meant. Ximenes meant the apocryphal books.
Six Points On Luther's "Epistle of Straw"
04/03/2007 - James SwanAlmost five hundred years after the fact, Roman Catholics still scrutinize Martin Luther. One the most popular quotations from Luther is the infamous "epistle of straw" remark, directed at the canonicity of the book of James. It really is amazing how frequently this citation appears. It is usually brought forth as proof one must believe an infallible church authored an infallible list of infallible books. Without this, one subjectively decides which books are canonical, like Martin Luther supposedly did in the sixteenth century.If you find yourself in dialog facing this quote, there are a few facts and arguments you should know.
First, this quote only appears in Luther's original 1522 Preface to the New Testament. After 1522, all the editions of Luther's Bible dropped the "epistle of straw" comment, along with the entire paragraph that placed value judgments on particular biblical books. It was Luther himself who edited these comments out. For anyone to continue to cite Luther's "epistle of straw" comment against him is to do him an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind.
Second, detractors are keen on selectively quoting Luther's preface to James. Most often cited are only those comments that express negativity. If one takes the times to actually read Luther's comments about James, he praises it and considers it a "good book" "because it sets up no doctrine of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God." Rarely have I seen Luther detractors inform a reader Luther praises James, or respects God's law. On the other hand, I have seen many Catholics insist Luther was either morally corrupt or an antinomian. Luther though insists James is worthy of praise because it puts forth Gods law.
Third, Luther does appear to have held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James, but it wasn't because he was purely subjective as Roman Catholics claim. He did not whimsically dismiss Biblical books simply because he did not like their content. Luther was aware of the disputed authenticity of the book. Eusebius and Jerome both recorded doubts to the apostolicity and canonicity of James. Luther did not consider James to be James the Apostle. He wasn't alone in this. The great humanist Scholar Erasmus likewise questioned the authenticity of James, as did Cardinal Cajetan, one of the leading 16th Century Roman Catholic scholars.
Fourth, it is true Luther had a contextual problem with the content on James. He saw a contradiction between Paul and James on faith and works. Some conclude Luther missed the harmonization between these two Biblical writers, but this isn't true either. Luther's great biographer Roland Bainton pointed out, "Once Luther remarked that he would give his doctor's beret to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul. Yet he did not venture to reject James from the canon of Scripture, and on occasion earned his own beret by effecting reconciliation. 'Faith,' he wrote, 'is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith' " [Here I Stand, 259]. In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther answered this spurious proposition: Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead [Jas. 2:17, 26]. Therefore, dead faith justifies. Luther responded:
"The argument is sophistical and the refutation is resolved grammatically. In the major premise, 'faith' ought to be placed with the word 'justifies' and the portion of the sentence 'without works justifies' is placed in a predicate periphrase and must refer to the word 'justifies,' not to 'faith.' In the minor premise, 'without works' is truly in the subject periphrase and refers to faith. We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but a feigned faith. 'Without works' is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works. [LW 34: 175-176].Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution, it is probably the case that the question of James' apostleship out-weighed it. One cannot argue Luther was never presented with a harmonization between Paul and James. He seems to have granted the validity of it, yet still questioned the canonicity of the book.
Fifth, its important to point out the double standard at play when Catholics bring up Luther's opinion on James. If it comes up, hypothetically grant the validity of the Roman Catholic Church declaring the contents of the canon. Then point out Erasmus, Luther, and Cajetan formed their opinions and debated these issues previous to the Council of Trent's declaration. The New Catholic Encyclopedia points out,
"According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon."Erasmus, Cajetan, and Luther had every right within the Catholic system to engage in Biblical criticism and debate over the extent of the Canon. All expressed some doubt.Their's was not a radical higher criticism. The books they questioned were books that had been questioned by previous generations. None were so extreme as to engage in Marcion-like canon-destruction. Both Erasmus and Luther translated the entirety of Bible, and published it.
Finally, Luther says he cannot include James among his chief books "though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him." These are hardly the words of one claiming to be an infallible authority or a "super-pope" (as one Catholic apologist used to claim). This points out an important flaw in Catholic argumentation. Some actually argue as if we think Luther was an infallible authority. Luther didn't think he was, and I've yet to meet a Protestant who considers him anything more than a sinner saved by grace, imperfect, yet used by God during a crucial period in history.
04/02/2007 - James WhiteLooks like the blog flood has subsided a bit! Wore TQuid and cds and DV out, I do believe! By the way, I wanted to especially thank cds for that tremendous series on Qadar. If you missed it, head for the March archive and make sure you catch up! Speaking of that, I have been playing catch-up on "real life" stuff that I had to put on hold while the book was being written (you know, like, cars and family and stuff---son getting married, daughter headed off to college, little things like that), and I even rode El Tour de Phoenix on Saturday (I hadn't had time to really train or anything, so it was a survival ride--but a most enjoyable one that now has me hoping to be disciplined enough to ride El Tour de Tucson again and then try to really improve my time in El Tour de Phoenix in '08).
This week brings us the LDS Easter Pageant in Mesa, and though we are running into this week without nearly the preparation we have enjoyed in years past, Mormonism is still Mormonism, and the gospel is still what Mormons need to hear. I've written a new tract for this year's pageant, and I hope the KJV Only radicals have finally found some other mission in life other than mocking the Mormons, mocking the church, mocking...everything. I have a feeling things will be a little more active this year if only because the emotions will already be a bit inflamed due to the distribution of the new film on Mormonism. One of the local talk show hosts was talking about how the Mormons are all upset that thousands of videos have been sent to the homes of local Mormons. "Upset? You invented door to door!" In any case, pray for us as we seek to witness to all who attend the Pageant in Mesa, Arizona.
Next, From Toronto to Emmaus arrives tomorrow! If you have pre-ordered it, Rich has been diligently working, and your package is already labeled and ready to go. As soon as the books get here, we will be shipping them out. Of course, if they get here late in the afternoon, right as we are leaving to go to Mesa, then they will go out Wednesday (which is the probable scenario). But we will turn them around as quickly as possible.
We also got some more nice commendations that we will include in future printings of the book. Phil Johnson, grand-mufti of the Pyromaniacs (I bet he hasn't even been notified of that promotion/exaltation, and centuri0n will be miffed), commented,
We've come to expect that every year, just before Easter, the worldwide media will publish some ostensibly monumental new finding about "the quest for the historical Jesus." These are actually thinly-veiled attacks on core Christian beliefs--rooted in shameless cynicism. The "lost tomb" hoax of 2007 was one of the cheesiest, most offensive such assaults, boldly claiming that after nearly two millennia, credible scientific evidence--including DNA tests--had led certain "experts" to conclude that the tomb of Jesus had finally been located. "He is not risen; He is here," the media reported with breathless gullibility.Now that is so kind I might even have to talk to Angel about drawing a nice caricature of Phil some day. Maybe. First I have to send Angel the new book, and at least a Tomb t-shirt. I would send him an aomin.org t-shirt, but he could just buy a t-shirt and draw it himself. Which sort of ruins it. Along with Phil's comments came these from John MacArthur:
The fact that it took James White barely more than two weeks to write a book that conclusively debunks the entire "Jesus tomb" hoax demonstrates two important things: 1) The claims were obviously total rubbish and should never have been publicized in the first place; and 2) There may be no one better equipped than James White to defend the gospel skillfully in every major arena here it is currently under attack. Whether the battleground is historical, theological, textual, linguistic, or biblical, you can count on James to be ready to give a skilled defense of the truth and a convincing reason for the hope that is in him. I love him for that.
James White adroitly dismantles the latest pseudo-scientific ploy of the skeptics. These increasingly clumsy and self-contradictory attempts to discredit the biblical account of the resurrection seem to reflect a growing level of desperation among Christianity's postmodern critics. Dr. White wonderfully responds to this flash-in-the-pan silliness with some timeless truth, highlighting why the Resurrection is vital to all Christian belief, and demonstrating why the testimony of Scripture is trustworthy....
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Porvaznik Perfidy and Matatics Mendacity Documented #3
04/02/2007 - James WhiteHere is the final portion of my cross examination of Gerry Matatics in 1997 on the topic of sola scriptura. In the next section I will present his turn, which will include the 18 second clip Porvaznik has posted. This portion ends with my giving Gerry a copy of the Soli Deo Gloria book on sola scriptura. Footnote 41 in my chapter on sola scriptura and the early church (pages 60-61) provides the following information, directly relevant to his question of me at the end:
Greek text found in Robert Thomson, edtior, Athanasius: Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 2. Or Migne, PG, 25:4. The Greek reads, auvta,rkeij me.n ga,r eivsin ai` a[giai kai. qeo,pneustoi grafai. pro.j th.n th/j avlhqei,aj avpaggeli,an. With reference to the term auvta,rkeij, we note the definition provided by Bauer, "sufficiency, a comptence" and "contentment, self-sufficiency." See Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 122. The most helpful work of Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domans (United Bible Societies: 1988), p. 680, says of the term, "a state of adequacy or sufficiency---'what is adequate, what is sufficient, what is needed, adequacy....' In a number of languages the equivalent of this expression in 2 Corinthians 9:8 may be 'always having all that you need' or, stated negatively, 'not lacking in anything.'"
Bill Webster Responds to Gary Michuta, Part III
04/01/2007 - James WhiteThe Teaching of Major Western Theologians of the Middle Ages
The perspective of the Glossa ordinaria is reflected in the views of the most influential theologians of the Church throughout the Middle Ages. They separated the Apocrypha from the canon, consistently citing the Hebrew canon and Jerome as authorities. Bruce Metzger affirms this reality:
Subsequent to Jeromes time and down to the period of the reformation a continuous succession of the more learned Fathers and theologians in the West maintained the distinctive and unique authority of the books of the Hebrew canon (Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford, 1957), p. 180).
A thorough documentation of the views of the Western theologians of the Church from Jerome to the time of the Reformation can be found here.
The majority view is that expressed by Cardinal Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan), the great opponent of Luther in the sixteenth century. Cajetan wrote a commentary on all the canonical books of the Old Testament which he dedicated to the pope. He stated that the books of the Apocrypha were not canonical in the strict sense, explaining that there were two concepts of the term canonical as it applied to the Old Testament. He gave the following counsel on how to properly interpret the decrees of the Councils of Hippo and Carthage under Augustine:
Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage (Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, In ult. Cap., Esther. Taken from A Disputation on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker (Cambridge: University, 1849), p. 48. See also B.F. Westcott A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Cambridge: MacMillan, 1889), p. 475.
This is a fair summary of the overall view of the Western Church from the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century. Jerome's opinion dominated. ...
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