Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
01/31/2009 - James WhiteThis morning I was on David Wheaton's Christian Worldview program discussing the Ehrman debate and related issues. I sounded like Barry White instead of James White, but hopefully it was helpful.
I just finished the galley proofs of the 2nd edition of The King James Only Controversy. That means we should be seeing the new editions of both that book and The Potter's Freedom real soon. I'm excited about these new editions!
I will be joined by Joel McDurmon on Tuesday on The Dividing Line. Mr. McDurmon wrote a front page article for the American Vision website asserting that the Ehrman debate demonstrated the "limits of evidentialist apologetics," and that my observation of the consistency of liberals in not even bothering to find out what their conservative opponents actually believe was actually a "plea for pity"! Hopefully the discussion will clarify a number of issues. I will also be writing two feature articles responding to McDurmon's article as well.
Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 4 of 13)
01/30/2009 - Tur8infanThis is part 4 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).
Jay Dyer says:
3) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] A Monothelite, in that in conversion, the divine will supplants the human will. And this would go for Christ's divine will as well."
a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)
In regeneration, man is given a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19) - which (together with the on-going work of the Spirit) leads to good things, like repentance and faith, coming forth from him (Luke 6:45). Christ affirmed a distinction between his human and divine will (Luke 22:42) - and, of course, Christ was resurrected, but was not regenerated. Sometimes conversion and regeneration are spoken of interchangeably, other times they are distinguished, but this nuance of theology (as important as it may be) is not particularly relevant, since it is in regeneration (properly speaking) that man's will is changed.
b) The Accusation Disputed
The error for which Monothelites were criticized was a denial of the human nature of Christ. While this may not have been justified (as with the criticism of Nestorius), it has become the primary defining characteristic of what is viewed as Monothelitism. Perhaps a more precise expression would be saying that in Monothelitism, Christ had only a divine will and no human will. Such a view is unacceptable in Calvinism, which teaches that Christ was both fully God and fully man. How this can be is hard to understand. Nevertheless, Scripture teaches it, and so we believe it. A view that denied Christ's true human will would compromise the active obedience of Christ, which is imputed to believers. The active obedience of Christ is his obedience, as a man, to the moral law. Arguably, Monothelitism also undermines the ill-named "passive" obedience of Christ in voluntarily suffering during life and dying on the cross, since it does not show the true submission Christ showed in consenting to die for us, his people, as taught in Scripture (John 10:18).
The fact that man's heart is changed in regeneration has nothing to do with Monothelitism. Man only has one will - and the number of wills of man is not really part of the Monothelite controversy. Furthermore, since Christ himself doesn't experience regeneration (since Christ's nature was not depraved by the fall, as he was not under Adam's federal headship), it's far fetched (to say the least) to imagine that there can be any regeneration-Christ-Monothelitism connection.
c) The Accusation Redirected
Of course, Catholicism doesn't deny that Christ had both a human and a divine will. Nevertheless, the superstitious error of transubstantiation could be said to deny the true humanity of Christ (which would be as serious an error). How so? The doctrine of transubstantiation claims that the bread and wine physically become the body and blood of Christ. However, a careful investigation of the bread and wine reveals them to be physically just bread and wine, unlike true human flesh and blood, which has identifiable biological characteristics. Aristotelian categories are brought into play (by, for example, Trent) to try to assert that the substance of the body and blood are there under the accidents of bread and wine. This explanation, however, makes little philosophical sense, and certainly makes no scientific sense. The physical sciences can confirm there is no physical change. God does certainly have the power to perform physical changes (just as the water was transformed to wine at Cana), but when those physical changes occur, the changed thing exhibits the physical qualities of what it has been changed into. To assert that the bread and wine are literally the physical body and blood of Christ are implicitly to deny that Christ's body and blood have human DNA, have human cells, or are in any way like our human bodies. Such an assertion amounts to an implicit denial of the true humanity of Christ.
This should be concern enough, but it gets worse. One of the bishops of Rome actually was condemned by an ecumenical council (The Sixth Ecumenical Council, Constantinople III) as a Monothelite. It's popular for modern Catholicism to try to dismiss Honorius' posthumous excommunication as being simply based on his private views, and not on his teachings in an official capacity.
Nevertheless, the Sixth Ecumenical Council declared:
But as the author of evil, who, in the beginning availed himself of the aid of the serpent, and by it brought the poison of death upon the human race, has desisted, but in like manner now, having found suitable instruments for working his will (we mean Theodoras who Bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter, who were Archbishops of this royal city and moreover, Honorius who Pope of the elder Rome, Cyrus Bishop of Alexandria, Macarius who was lately of Antioch, and Stephen his disciple) has actively employed them in raising up for the whole Church the stumbling of one will and one operation in the natures of Christ our true God one of Holy Trinity; thus disseminating, in novel terms amongst the orthodox people, an heresy similar to the mad and wicked doctrine of the impious Apollinaris, Severus, and Themistius, and endeavouring craftily to destroy the perfection of the incarnation of the same our Lord Jesus Christ, our God, by blasphemously representing flesh endowed with a rational soul as devoid of will or operation.
How to deal with this contradiction between a pope and an ecumenical council has proved challenging for those in modern Catholicism. Schaff notes, that one "Roman Catholic Curialist writer" named Pennacchi affirmed that "Honorius's letters were strictly speaking Papal decrees, set forth auctoritate apostolica, and therefore irreformable, but he declares, contrary to the opinion of almost all theologians ... that they are orthodox, and that the Council erred in condemning them ... " (quotation is Schaff writing). The majority approach (as mentioned by Schaff, and probably still true today) to try to evade the force of the contradiction is to assert that Honorius' letters were errant but were not ex cathedra.
Nevertheless, the historical fact is that Honorius was condemned as an heretic and monothelite, as established by at least 13 points of evidence that Schaff provides, including the following: "The Papal Oath as found in the Liber Diurnus taken by each new Pope from the fifth to the eleventh century, in the form probably prescribed by Gregory II, "smites with eternal anathema the originators of the new heresy Sergius etc together with Honorius because he assisted the base assertion of the heretics." (footnote omitted)
Of course, this sort of thing (posthumous anathemas for heresy) are, or should be troubling, for those who wish to trust that their church is providing them with the truth and not an heretical error. Who can confidently say that John Paul II or Benedict XVI will not be found by a later ecumenical to be heretics on some point that today is widely accepted (note how many patriarchs and bishops from a wide geographic area were condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council)? Who is in a position to judge whether Benedict XVI is teaching you heresy or truth?
Scripture has the answer - it is not to follow a church that has been led by fallible and even heretical men. Instead, it instructs us to follow the example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11), search the Scriptures (John 5:39), test the spirits whether they are from God (1 John 4:1), go to the very thing that is given as profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16), that is alone described as being given by God's inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), and which can make one wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15), so that you might be thoroughly furnished (2 Timothy 3:17). In short, the answer is that believers must turn to Scripture to judge whether the spirit of Rome today is the spirit of God, or whether it is one of the many false teachers that were prophesied (2 Peter 2:1).
Continue to Part 5
NT Manuscripts and Romans 9 on the DL
01/29/2009 - James WhiteStarted with some discussion about the text of the New Testament again, took a call, and then, at the break, Darrin, the atheist I talked a bit about a few weeks ago, who had written to William Lane Craig, called in. We went about ten minutes long so we could talk. Here's the program.
"We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary #2
01/28/2009 - James SwanCatholic apologists often let us know how crucial it is to have an infallible magisterium and church Tradition in order to interpret the Bible correctly. With so many Catholic apologists now commenting on sacred scripture, I thought it would be interesting to provide their commentary on the Bible. Let's see how they've been able to rightly divide the word of truth. I'll post their interpretations as I come across them.
In this MP3 clip, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin was asked if the offering of Issac by Abraham in Genesis 22 was in accord with "reason":
Jimmy Akin Interprets Genesis 22
Instead of consulting "Tradition," Akin first consults the philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard (so much for consulting the Church Fathers). Ironically, Kierkegaard wasn't a Roman Catholic, but was raised a Lutheran. Akin explains Kierkegaard's interpretation of the offering of Isaac as "If God says Abraham should offer Isaac on the alter, then it's morally legitimate for Abraham to do that." In case this interpretation isn't satisfactory, Akin provides another: "He [God] is also showing Abraham and his descendants that you shouldn't commit child sacrifice because God stops him [Abraham] from actually slaying his son.... There could be an object lesson here that child sacrifice is ultimately not what God wants."
The most interesting aspect of Akin's answer on this passage is his lack of mentioning Christ, as well as the ram caught in the thicket. Rather than locating my old copy of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, notice how others in church history like Augustine have interpreted the passage:
"And on this account Isaac also himself carried to the place of sacrifice the wood on which he was to be offered up, just as the Lord Himself carried His own cross. Finally, since Isaac was not to be slain, after his father was forbidden to smite him, who was that ram by the offering of which that sacrifice was completed with typical blood? For when Abraham saw him, he was caught by the horns in a thicket. What, then, did he represent but Jesus, who, before He was offered up, was crowned with thorns by the Jews?" [source]
"But let us rather hear the divine words spoken through the angel. For the Scripture says, "And Abraham stretched forth his hand to take the knife, that he might slay his son. And the Angel of the Lord called unto him from heaven, and said, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy beloved son for my sake." It is said, "Now I know," that is, Now I have made to be known; for God was not previously ignorant of this. Then, having offered up that ram instead of Isaac his son, "Abraham," as we read, "called the name of that place The Lord seeth: as they say this day, In the mount the Lord hath appeared." As it is said, "Now I know," for Now I have made to be known, so here, "The Lord sees," for The Lord hath appeared, that is, made Himself to be seen. "And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham from heaven the second time, saying, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy beloved son for my sake; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess by inheritance the cities of the adversaries: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." In this manner is that promise concerning the calling of the nations in the seed of Abraham confirmed even by the oath of God, after that burnt-offering which typified Christ. For He had often promised, but never sworn. And what is the oath of God, the true and faithful, but a confirmation of the promise, and a certain reproof to the unbelieving?"[source]
Was the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham in accord with "reason"? Akin is right, there is an object lesson here. If one keeps in mind the entire Bible has Christ as it's central focus, one has found the "reason" for Genesis 22.
On a Tuesday Dividing Line...
01/27/2009 - James WhiteFirst DL back from the conference, debate, and cruise. Great to be home! Went over the debate again, played a couple other clips, and gave some background/before the debate information as well. Here's the program.
Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 3 of 13)
01/27/2009 - Tur8infanThis is part 3 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).
Jay Dyer says:
2) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] Manichaean, in that nature is inherently evil."
(Note, "Manichaean" and "Manichean" are both widely used spellings for this position.)
a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)
Men are, by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Nevertheless, God originally created man good (Genesis 1:26-31) although fallible (Genesis 2:16-17). By Adam's fall, he and all those whom he represented died and came under bondage to sin (Romans 5:12). In regeneration, the old becomes new (Colosians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24) as a result of the work of Christ (Ephesians 2:15). Thus, Christ is called the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). God has foreordained all things that come to pass (Acts 17:26), and has a purpose even in the evil acts of men (e.g. Genesis 50:20). Thus, as Proverbs 16:4 states, "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil," and as it is written in the Epistle to the Romans, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." (Romans 9:18)
b) The Accusation Disputed
The error of the Manicheans may be succinctly described as asserting that the physical world is intrinsicly evil, having been created by an evil opposite of God. Thus, the Manicheans deny that evil has a purpose in God's plan, view the body as contemptible, and deny God's omnipotence. Calvinism, however, teaches that God has a purpose even in the evil that happens, that the bodies of believers will be redeemed, and that God is omnipotent, even to the point of affirming that nothing can happen apart from the permission of God. Thus, no consistent Calvinist could be a Manichean.
c) The Accusation Redirected
On the other hand, Manichean errors - particularly the dualism of viewing the body as intrinsically evil - have had a perceptible impact on the theology of Roman Catholicism. Thus, for example, we seen in modern Roman Catholicism things like a view that abstinence from sexual relations is more holy than normal marital relations and an exaltation of asceticism.
Furthermore, Catholicism does not have a clear answer to the question of the purpose of evil. That is to say, Catholicism cannot consistently account for the existence of evil in the Creation. This can be seen from the widespread denial of predestination in Catholicism. To be sure, there are some Thomistic folks within Catholicism who would have a similar view to Calvinists (which in itself should cause Mr. Dyer to pause), but the Roman magisterium has not clearly sided with either Thomists or the Molinists (in fact, folks like Jimmy Akin (a popular lay apologist for Catholicism) claim that the Roman magisterium has adopted the essentially relativistic position that Thomism, Molinism, and at least one other view are all acceptable, and none can call the others heretics (source)). Nevertheless, Molinism or a form/variant of it, is the most widely promoted view in Catholicism today. This position ultimately denies God's omnipotence, by asserting that man's "free-will" decisions are something that God cannot control.
Continue to Part 4
White/Ehrman Debate Is Available
01/26/2009 - Jeff DownsNo doubt most of you are already aware that the MP3s and Audio CD of the debate are available. But since no one has mentioned it on the blog yet, I figured I would.
Go here to purchase. $6.00 for MP3s and $15 for audio CD.
Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 2 of 13)
01/25/2009 - Tur8infanThis is part 2 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).
Jay Dyer says:
1) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] Nestorian, in that the Logos cannot assume a fallen human nature."
a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)
Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). Christ, however, (and only Christ) was immaculately conceived. He was like the sinful flesh of Mary from whom he (after the flesh) came, but his flesh was not itself sinful. He was a true human, but he was the second Adam. He was not under Adam's federal headship and he did not inherit Adam's fallen and depraved nature. This is, of course, not only the Calvinist position but also the position of at least most of the major early church fathers who addressed the subject.
b) The Accusation Disputed
The Nestorian error is (to put it concisely) to deny the hypostatic union. Nestorianism, as it is classically defined, argues that Christ was not one person with two natures, but two persons. The existence of the hypostatic union is critical to the Calvinistic view of the atonement. The fact that the person of Christ was of infinite dignity on account of His divine nature makes the atonement of infinite intrinsic worth. The fact that the person of Christ had a truly human nature made the atoning death of Christ possible, as well as making the form of the sacrifice (death of man) a proper suffering of the penalty due. Without one or the other, the atonement would be impossible. Consequently, it would be impossible for a consistent Calvinist to embrace Nestorianism.
Furthermore, this alleged Nestorian error has been disputed. As A.A. Hodge explains in his Outlines of Theology:
The Nestorian heresy charged upon Nestorius, a Syrian by birth, and bishop of Constantinople, during the fifth century, by his enemy, Cyril, the arrogant bishop of Alexandria. Cyril obtained a judgment against Nestorius in the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, to the effect that he separated the two natures of Christ so far as to teach the coexistence in him of two distinct persons, a God and a man, intimately united. But it is now, however, judged most probable by Protestant historians that Nestorius was personally a brave defender of the true faith, and that the misrepresentations of his enemies were founded only upon his uncompromising opposition to the dangerous habit then prominently introduced of calling the Virgin Mary the mother of God because she was the mother of the human nature of Christ.
c) The Accusation Redirected
The Nestorians (those associated with the historical Nestorius) never went away, and (ironically) Rome now accepts the Nestorian communion under certain qualified circumstances (link), which (as the linked document cautions) should not be confused with the idea there is full communion between them.
On the other hand, Rome has proven Nestorius' apparent concerns over the term "theotokos" (literally "God-bearer" but often translated "mother of God") to be well founded. In the years since "theotokos" became accepted terminology, Mary grew to have an increasing role in the worship of Rome, until today we have apologists for Catholicism insisting that devotion to Mary is a mandatory part of religious life. Now, an official document from the Vatican from the 1970's states: "With his mind raised to heaven ... the priest should very often turn to Mary, the Mother of God, ... and daily ask her for the grace of conforming himself to her Son." (source) If Nestorius were still around today, he'd feel vindicated in opposing the term "theotokos" on the ground that it can lead to what amounts to Mary-worship (though modern Catholicism is careful not to call this sort of veneration of Mary "worship").
Continue to Part 3
The Ehrman Debate: Phase Two
01/24/2009 - James White
As I mentioned on the DL last week, I see a strong need for me to press forward with the studies I did in preparation for the debate in the production of a book. I covered a much wider range of topics in my preparation than came up in the debate, including Synoptic issues, inspiration issues, allegations of contradiction, etc. And as I have been speaking on the cruise since then, I see that for most believers, the textual questions always lead to questions about canon, Synoptics, authorship, etc. The entire range of attacks upon the reliability of the New Testament come into play. Of course, for those working in the Islamic field, you well know how central these issues are as well.
So I wish to maintain the momentum I have in my studies by diving directly into this work as soon as I return to Phoenix. Though I will have to set aside time to press forward in Arabic and, Lord willing, work toward some very important future debates (yes, still working on them, please pray that the Lord will open these doors!), I need to keep this as my first priority. I know in light of the economic situation that this will be difficult to do. I am praying the Lord will provide sufficient support for me to concentrate on this project. I know many folks get excited when there is a debate up coming, but the fact is, support is just as important during periods of writing and research.
One way for folks to let me know you want me to pursue a major published work on the authorship, text, and transmission of the NT, along with focus upon Synoptic issues, takes us back to that ministry resource list. I've added a series of resources for such a project at the top of the list, mainly works on Synoptic and Q issues. If I see those disappearing from the list, I'll know folks out there want me to put in the effort to produce this work on these vital issues. I have been tremendously encouraged by the response to these requests, and I again wish to thank everyone who has helped in this way. It sure was a great aid in the debate! But I need to know the people of God will stand with me during the months it will take to write such a major and in-depth work.
UPDATE: Thanks to all who have sent some of those resources my way. I will keep that list active as I am doing the work. As you know, when you begin to reference, footnote, etc., you run across hidden gems that you need to verify and document, etc. Rich folks, or tenured professors, can send folks off to libraries, but assistant-less apologists multi-tasking on multiple topics at the same time don't have that luxury (let alone any decent theological libraries nearby). So thanks yet again!
Yesterday on the DL
01/24/2009 - James White
Did a Skype DL from the ship yesterday, playing eight clips from the Ehrman debate and commenting on them. The quality isn't what you'll get from the mp3s, of course, but very useful anyway. More on the Tuesday DL back in Phoenix! Here's the program.
Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 1 of 13)
01/23/2009 - Tur8infanI had never heard of Jay Dyer before, but he is a non-Calvinist, ex-Protestant. He has eleven claims (source) with respect to what a consistent Calvinist must be.
At first, I thought I'd give a quick answer to each and make this a single blog post. However, the more I looked at the issues, the more I realized that there are, for most of the criticisms, three issues to be addressed: (1) What is the actual error (or conversely, doctrine) at stake? (2) How does or doesn't Calvinism correspond to the error (or doctrine)? and (3) Does this criticism fit Catholicism better? (Jay is apparently now a part of that religion, having turned away, practically at the last minute, from joining Eastern Orthodoxy last June, if my understanding is correct.) I'll address each in order, in separate (hopefully brief) posts, in the upcoming days.
Obviously, Jay's post is largely simply meant to mock and poke fun at Calvinism, rather than being a serious critique. Nevertheless, it provides an interesting platform for discussing the issues. The plan is to make this a thirteen part series in which I will consider each of his points in a separate post and then wrap up with some concluding thoughts.
To the glory of God,
Continue to Part 2
Quick Announcement About the DL Today
01/23/2009 - James White
We will be doing a live DL from the Florida Keys today at 10:30am MST, 12:30pm EST. I will be playing clips from the Ehrman debate and taking your calls (Lord willing!).
A Brief Introduction to the Qur'an: The Qur'an and the Old Testament
01/23/2009 - Colin SmithOne of the prominent ideas set forth within the Qur'an is that of continuity with previous revelation, namely Judaism and Christianity (e.g., sura 2:87-91). Sura 2 teaches that in the beginning all people were one community, presumably with a single religion. Allah provided mankind with a Book with which to judge disputes that arose among people, and sent prophets to show the way, and to warn the people when they disobeyed the revelation given to them (2:213; see also 35:24; 13:7).
In light of this, the Qur'an draws particularly from stories concerning Old Testament prophets to illustrate Muhammad's warnings, and teach regarding obedience and faithfulness to Allah and his commands. There are two things particularly noteworthy about the Qur'anic use of the Old Testament: first, the stories are always presented as teaching tools to make a present-day (at least for Muhammad) point; second, they are rarely, if ever, presented without embellishment--sometimes to the point where the original Old Testament story is barely discernable.
The lessons taught by the Qur'an through the use of Old Testament stories tend to revolve around similar themes: Allah's faithfulness to believers, and warnings against those who are unfaithful, or who reject the warnings of the prophets (or Prophet: Muhammad). Sura 38 laments the fact that people disparaged the Warner that Allah had raised up within their midst. They neither gave him respect, nor believed the message he brought to them. In contrast, the Qur'an sets forth a story wherein two men visited with David and asked him to arbitrate a dispute. One man had ninety-nine ewes, while the other had only one. The man with the ninety-nine demanded that the other give him his one. David rebuked the man for his selfishness then realized that God was using this dispute to point out his own sin. David fell down in repentance, and God forgave him his transgression. In other words, those who disparage Allah's Messenger should rather be like David, who recognized the divine purpose behind his visitors and turned from his sin.
The background for this story is David's adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, and Nathan's subsequent visit to David where he recounted the story of the two men as a means of bringing conviction to David's heart over his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-15). The differences between the Qur'an and the Bible are clear: in the Qur'an there is no mention of Nathan, and the people in Nathan's story become literal men. Also, the focus of the Biblical story is how God brought repentance and restoration to David after committing gross sin. The Qur'anic version, however, places the emphasis on the faithfulness of the men who came to David.
Sura 11:96-99 gives Moses as an example of a messenger sent by Allah with Clear Signs and authority to Pharaoh and his Chiefs. The purpose of this example is to show that true prophets are often ignored and their messages are more likely to fall upon deaf ears. This was certainly the case with Pharaoh and his Chiefs since his Chiefs preferred to listen to Pharaoh than Moses, but Pharaoh was not equipped of Allah to rightly lead.
In sura 21, the Qur'an tells brief stories about Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, Solomon, and others to illustrate Allah's provision of protection and a means of escape from the midst of difficulty. Some of these tales merely give an overview with little embellishment. For example, Allah delivered Noah and his family from the evil people of his age by means of the flood, and Allah rescued Lot from the town wherein the people practiced abominations. Other stories give extra-Biblical details, or, in some cases, complete re-writes of the Biblical account. The story in Genesis 12 where Abraham leaves his home country at the Lord's bidding does not contain any reference to the idolatry of his people. However, sura 21:51-70 tells of Abraham breaking his fathers idols and challenging his idolatrous kinsmen to converse with their idols. The people respond by attempting to burn Abraham, but Allah thwarts their plan by making the fire a protection for him. This event is not recorded in the Genesis account, but is stated in the Qur'an as a historical event demonstrating Allah's deliverance of his faithful messenger.
Sura 12 is the most detailed retelling of an Old Testament story in the Qur'an. It recounts the story of Joseph in a way that appears at first to be simply a paraphrase of the Biblical account; however, the story soon deviates from the Biblical narrative. Instead of being accused of molesting Potipher's wife, Joseph is vindicated by eyewitnesses but chooses prison over being under her control (28-35). This testifies to the Islamic attitude toward the prophet: Allah will not permit him to be shamed. For the Muslim, the idea of Joseph being accused and convicted of impropriety with Potipher's wife would be as unthinkable as a prophet being executed as a criminal on a common cross.
The fate of the baker is that he would hang from the cross (41). In Genesis 41, the cupbearer eventually remembers Joseph when Pharaoh asks for an interpretation to his dreams, and Pharaoh sends for him. In the Qur'an, the cupbearer learns the interpretation from Joseph and reports back. However, somewhere between 12:49 and 12:50, Pharaoh learns that the interpretation is Joseph's such that he then sends for him. Joseph does not come immediately, recalling that he asked to be imprisoned rather than spend his time under the control of a woman who tried to blacken his name. He receives assurance that no woman would ruin his reputation, and he would come into Pharaoh's presence directly, with honor and rank. This is all, of course, absent from the Genesis account. Further, in the Qur'an, Joseph demands to be set over the storehouses, whereas in Genesis Joseph merely recommends that someone be put in that position, and Pharaoh, finding no other worthy candidate, offers the job to Joseph.
There are many other examples of Old Testament stories that appear in a somewhat different form in the Qur'an, but these few demonstrate the point more than adequately. In the next installment, we shall look at the Qur'anic treatment of John the Baptist, Mary, and Jesus.
Before We Head to Sea
01/22/2009 - James White
I wanted to drop a line before we head out to sea. I've been thinking about last night, and a number of things have come to mind. First, I'm really glad Dr. Ehrman said many of the things he did. Most of us have known he was heading this direction, but the frankness of the debate, and his obvious displeasure at being challenged, led him to make things very, very clear. His statement that he has "moved away" from even talking about the "original" text is tremendously telling, and the fact that much of what is called New Testament textual studies today is no longer, really, relevant to the concerns of believing Christians needs to be made very, very clear.
I was especially interested in his tremendous fear to even talk about the Qur'an and Islam. I thought Dr. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies? The chair of that department, in fact? Yet he professed utter ignorance of Islam last night, once even accusing me of trying to "liken" him to a Muslim! He simply refused to comment on the Qur'an whatsoever, not even theoretically answering the question that if the Qur'an has textual variants, would this not mean that the Qur'an is misquoting Muhammad? His unwillingness to apply his own hyper-skepticism to anything other than Christianity betrays his deep bias and prejudice. He knew that to be consistent he would have to say the Qur'an misquotes Muhammad, but Dr. Ehrman is a good post-modernist liberal, and quite politically correct. He avoided that like the plague, though, obviously, he would have to say that very thing, if he was consistent.
I will attempt to have sound clips (pulled from my little video camera) to play on the DL tomorrow.
One other item. Ehrman asked me to cite all 12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament. I knew where my list was in a print book, but forgot totally that I had the same book in my Libronix library! I could have pulled the list in 20 seconds had I remembered that. I have been kicking myself for that all morning once I realized how quickly I could have accessed the information. But, here's the data (I will be expanding this discussion a good bit in the future). The following manuscripts have been dated to the second century by credible papyrologists and paleographers: P4/P64/P67 (all one manuscript), P32 (which I mentioned), P46, P52, P66, P75, P77, P87, P90, P98, P104, P108, P109.
A Quick Report
01/21/2009 - James White
Just a quick note to thank everyone for your prayers for the debate tonight. Everything went smoothly as far as the debate is concerned. I think we have a great recording, etc. I think those in attendance were a little surprised at Dr. Ehrman's treatment of me, but I wasn't overly surprised. He did not prepare for the debate, had no idea who I am, and did not read anything I've ever written, hence, he was in a tough spot, given that I had studied his works so thoroughly. As a result, he made horrific blunders in misrepresenting me in his rebuttal. In any case, his radical skepticism was clearly documented, and those in attendance found it very useful. Lord willing I will be able to get some pictures and maybe a quick video clip over the next 36 hours or so from the ship. We will try to do a DL on Friday as well.
Again, thank you for your prayers!
Right Facts, Wrong Conclusions
01/21/2009 - Jeff Downs
Turn on your television around the two major Christian holidays and a perennial stream of really smart people who don't believe in the historic Christian faith will wax eloquent on the real meaning of the Bible. The latest weapon in their arsenal is the work of renown scholar of textual criticism and best selling author of Misquoting Jesus, Dr. Bart Ehrman. In a much anticipated upcoming debate in Ft. Lauderdale, FL the basis for all Christian truth claims will be defended ably by tonight's guest, Dr. James White.
Click here to listen to the interview James did with the guys at Apologetics.com.
01/21/2009 - Jeff DownsThe audio from James' sermon preached at Grace Baptist Church titled "Our Need to Answer the Critics," is online here.
Carla Provides a Good Post Inauguration T-Shirt Design
01/21/2009 - James White
My quote on this shirt is hardly unique. But it sure is becoming more rare. In any case, here is the link.
I apologize for the quiet blog, but most of you know why. I will see if it is possible to drop a note after the debate this evening just to give you a quick summary, but I have to confess, I am uncertain I will be able to do so. We have to be up early in the AM to depart, my family is coming in this evening, there is always the 90 minutes or more of post-debate discussions, etc., so...I can only promise to try!
Once again, I thank all of you who have contacted me and assured me of your prayers. May God's truth be honored and His people blessed this evening.
01/21/2009 - Jeff DownsThis past Wednesday I had the opportunity to preach the first time in a Homiletics class. My sermon was based on Hebrews 12:1-2. If you are interested in hearing it, and the critique from the professor and students that followed click here.
Students who attend Greenville Seminary are (for the most part) to preach extemporaneously. In the past, I have always preached from a manuscript (that's not saying I've read it). This time I did eliminate things, which reduce my outline (i.e. manuscript). Wouldn't you know it, less then two minutes into the sermon I get stuck. That because at the point, I was reading. :)
Here is the sentence on which I froze "But do you ... from the beginning of Paul’s ministry, some ... disciples of Christ were afraid of him (they wanted nothing to do with him)."
The funny thing is the missing word I could not remember/recall is "remember"!
BTW: The professor for the course was Dr. John Carrick who is the author of The Imperative of Preaching and his latest The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards.
Today on the Dividing Line
01/20/2009 - James White
We Skyped the DL today, as I am in Florida. Rattled around a bit for the first 15 minutes, then got into playing part of the Unbelievable radio discussion between Peter Williams and Bart Ehrman, took a call on the same topic as well. We intend to attempt to do a DL sometime Friday, but I will be at sea, so I am uncertain as to the exact time as yet. We will let you know. Here's the program.
An Encouraging Word from Down Under
01/18/2009 - James WhiteI shall try to keep this as short as I can. Basically I stumbled onto your website about 2.5 years ago after stumbling onto a KJV-onlyist website (www.av1611.org) and although seeing that many of the arguments were absurd on their face (the KJV is actually EASIER to read than the new versions?? Seriously, they have this 'scientific' test to prove it by counting average word lengths or something) I still was curious to find a proper response to the things they were saying and so found your site. It was from reading many of the articles you have posted, and then subsequently using said articles to defend sola scriptura against a catholic on a Christian web-board about 18 months ago that kindled my own passion for theology and studying God's word and my life has changed dramatically since then. I will use note points for brevity's sake:
- I have left my old church, your typical large 'evangelical' church that seemed to care more for playing trendy music than for the exposition of God's Word and the teaching of sound doctrine - in the 10 years or so I was attending there I never ever once heard the words 'justification' or 'sanctification' or (heaven forbid) 'predestination' used in a sentence. Until 18 months ago I didn't even know what those words meant (also sola scriptura, sola fide, etc...). I now attend a solid, Bible-believing and teaching reformed Presbyterian church as there aren't any Reformed Baptist churches in Western Australia to my knowledge (incidentally your work on infant baptism has been very useful in this regards!!).
- You are partly responsible for me being a reformed baptist as opposed to just a regular vanilla baptist, though I haven't yet decided whether I should thank you for that or not. The killing blow was one of my friends from the aforementioned Presbyterian church that I wasn't attending at that time talking to me and lending me a copy of A. W. Pink's The Sovereignty of God, though it was listening to you on the DL (I think you were going over a sermon by George Bryson or something) that made me realise that maybe Calvinists aren't all a bunch of heretics. Otherwise I doubt I would have taken Pink's book when it was offered to me.
- As a result of your ministry getting me interested in theology I am planning next year to go and get my M.Div at Trinity Theological College, the only conservative theological college left in the state. If you ever come to Western Australia I recommend not accepting offers to speak at any other college (even the baptist one), because they are all either charismatic (and hence focus more on how to run effective youth ministries than on the unimportant things like, say, systematic theology or exegesis) or failing that, would laugh at any student who believed that the Old Testament is actual history. True story - one of my friends did a Theology unit at Murdoch University (the theology school there is run by the Anglican church, what a surprise) and was marked down for citing Calvin and Matthew Henry in an essay because they aren't reputable sources! Ack! Back on topic though - in the years to come there is going to be a Reformed Baptist church/ministry in Western Australia that there otherwise wouldn't have been without the work of your ministry. So, thank you very much for that!
- Another side note: about 15 months ago I started working at a Christian bookstore, and even though I get a staff discount the manager still told me a little while ago with a smile that I am getting close to being in her top 20 customer list - including churches and other bookshops! We are the biggest Christian bookstore in WA by miles so that really is something. I dare say I was the only 20 year old (I'm nearly 22 now) they've had spend $450 on the 38 volume early church fathers set.
So in summary, I have Alpha and Omega ministries to thank for starting my own passion for theology, which has in turn got me planted in a proper church, and hoping to study theology full-time next year with the hope of beginning a career in full-time ministry. I can absolutely guarantee that none of that would have happened otherwise, so I truly am very thankful for your work and all that you do!
Patrick Madrid's Strongest Weapon Against Sin
01/16/2009 - James SwanThis MP3 clip is from a broadcast of Catholic Answers live last month. Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid answered a caller concerned about her mortal sin. After explaining how the Catholic Church instructs such a person to go through confession, absolution, and penance, Madrid says to pray the Rosary because it is the "strongest weapon outside the sacraments that we have to combat mortal sin." The Rosary is not just a repetitious prayer in the Catholic veneration of Mary, but the strongest weapon to keep one from mortal sin.
In his book, Where Is That In The Bible?, Madrid mentions the repetitious Rosary helps Catholics "meditate on key episodes of the Gospel narrative, as well as mysteries of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary" (p. 136). This prayer asks "Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, to intercede on our behalf and use her prayers as a weapon of grace against the evil one, the Red Dragon spoken of in Revelation 12... when we pray the Rosary, we go well-armed into battle against the adversary, who is 'prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour'" (p.137).
True, all Christians are engaged in a real battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Yet God has not left us to fend against the ravages of sin on our own. But before we consider Madrid's "strongest weapon," why not look into the Scriptures? Over the years I've heard many sermons on "putting on the full armor of God" as expounded by Paul in Ephesians 6. Paul exhorts us to "put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." He mentions the "belt of truth," "the breastplate of righteousness," "the shield of faith," and "the helmet of salvation." He says to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. In Ephesians Paul doesn't tell Christians to meditate on the "mysteries of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary." Rather, he asks the Ephesians to pray for him as he proclaims the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:19). In fact, the entire epistle to the Ephesians is soaked in devotion to Christ. Christians are instructed to be "imitators of God," while Mary, Madrid's strongest weapon, is conspicuously absent.
Paul doesn't mention the Rosary as a means of fighting sin and standing strong in the faith. One would think if the Rosary is the "strongest weapon outside the sacraments that we have to combat mortal sin" he would've mentioned it. Perhaps Paul mentioned it elsewhere to the Ephesians, but didn't write it down? Perhaps this is an unwritten Tradition? Perhaps it's been defined as such by an infallible authority? Perhaps Madrid is engaging in private judgment as to his positive disposition towards the Rosary? The answers to these questions probably won't be forthcoming any time soon.
Patrick Madrid, Bart Ehrman, and the Infidel Guy on the DL...oh My!
01/15/2009 - James WhiteStarted out with a clip from Patrick Madrid attempting to get around the presence of non-Roman Catholic teachings in patristic sources, and then finished up listening to the Infidel Guy and Bart Ehrman. Here's the program!
For Those in the Central Florida Area
01/14/2009 - James WhiteI'll be preaching at Grace Baptist Church this coming Sunday morning. Here are the details.
Textual Issues on The Dividing Line: Who Woulda Thought?
01/13/2009 - James WhiteIt should not be overly surprising to anyone that given the Ehrman debate is a week from tomorrow that the topic would be...New Testament textual issues! So we continued listening to the Infidel Guy/Ehrman program, this time getting into where the train jumped the tracks, i.e., where the Infidel Guy discovered Ehrman, unlike his other heroes, actually believes Jesus existed! We also took a call on the textual issue relating to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Here's the program (free/high quality).
01/13/2009 - James WhiteI was just watching a very disturbing video, taken by Muslims themselves, of a clash with police in London on January 3rd, 2009. Since the Muslims were using profanity (and yelling "Allahu Akhbar" at the same time), I will not post the video, but here is the current link. I doubt it will be up long.
In any case, the video is shocking on many levels. The abject hatred of those yelling "Free Palestine!" and "Allahu Akhbar" speaks volumes. The impotency of the British police likewise speaks to the incapacity of compromised Western nations to defend themselves and do what is right (those protestors seen throwing objects and attacking police should be arrested, tried, and jailed). But what is even worse is the insanity of Western commentators in the face of such behavior. Note this:
LONDON (AFP) — Government ministers expressed concern Monday that Israel's military campaign in Gaza was radicalising Muslims in Britain.
Radicalize? Just what does it take to move a Muslim from "moderate" to "radical"? The fact is, very, very little. And the dhimmi West, its backbone eroded by immorality, post-modernism, and secular humanism, cannot see that it is absurd and simply wrong to reason, "Oh, we dare not act in self defense here, for if we do, someone might be offended over there, so...we will just acquiesce to everyone."
I am glad that there are, in fact, "moderate" Muslims. My fear is, they lack the foundation to fight for their position. The religion they embrace is internally incoherent and hence incapable of providing correction to the "radicals."
Meanwhile, dhimmitude comes to Germany.
The P52 Graphic
01/12/2009 - James WhiteAs most of you know, I am working now on the presentations I will be making next week in Florida, and, of course, primarily my opening presentation in the debate with Bart Ehrman. I have always wanted to do something more with Rylands 457 (P52) than just show it on the screen. So a few weeks ago I got an idea of what I wanted to have, and yesterday I managed to put it together. I've posted a video of the KeyNote slides below. It begins with an image of the fragment itself. The first transition gives you the rest of the text of John 18:31-33; next, the fragment disappears leaving just the text; next, the very same text as found 300 years later in Codex Alexandrinus; then it transitions into the modern printed text, then into the same text in modern digital format, then I bring the fragment back in to complete the circle. One text, transmitted faithfully for about 1,900 years. The Lord is good to His people.
By the way, shortly after I uploaded this graphic, I got some help with my debate preparation. I think I will blame this little thing for any errors or omissions! Maybe a few scribes had a similar problem?
Can't Make the Debate? Help a Friend! (Update)
01/10/2009 - James White
I know lots of folks would like to make the debate in Florida but just can't get away.#10
There is one young man who has been a great asset to me in preparation for this debate. He knows the textual critical field very well, and is one of my Team Apologian bloggers. But being your standard seminary student, he is having a hard time making it to the debate. I would love to have him there, not just so he could observe, but I sure wouldn't mind having someone who has studied under Epp to chat with during the break. He could be checking references for me as well. So if you'd like to help Alan Kirschner make it to the debate in less than two weeks, you can do so here. He'd sure appreciate it, and so would I!
Update: Thank you! Alan will be able to go! Thanks to all who helped! Alan wrote:
"Thank you for all those who donated with your gracious provision. The amount that is required for me to make it was reached. I am humbled at the response!"
A Quick Resource Request (Updated)
01/09/2009 - James WhiteI have begun creating my KeyNote presentations for the conference, debate, and cruise, and in the process came across a resource that would surely expand my citations on one of the key texts that will be discussed, Mark 1:41. I have added it, with the highest priority, to the ministry resource list. It is the work on Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis by DC Parker. As a "sneak peak," here is a graphic of one of the slides for the conference presentation on Mark 1:41 and Hebrews 2:9:
Updated less than fifteen minutes after posting: Thank you, the book has been ordered! Once again, to all who help in this way, I do hope that as you watch or listen to these debates, you feel a part of what we are doing in giving a defense of the gospel.
A Balanced View of Church History and a Blessing in the Philippines
01/09/2009 - James White
Interestingly as a flaming Pentecostal, I was not hesitant to accept this strange system of doctrine called Reformed Theology when I encountered it on your site. While your debates on Calvinism served to fortify my already strong conviction of Calvinist doctrine (I had been 'converted' before by some other Calvinist teachers). It was your love for Church History that dragged me into loving to listen to your debates and the Dividing Line. It was my dipping into Islam and Romanism at one point to see if they had any valid claims to being the replacement of Christianity or true Christianity, respectively. Now, I'm a recovering Pentecostal who affirms God's absolute sovereignty and literally LOVES Church History. The difference is that through your site, podcasts and debates I can now balance Church History with a proper theology and doctrine of Scripture. God bless you. (And Rich too, I guess ;) )
I often hear you mention London and US but do you know that even in Asia (in the Philippines) your ministry has been used by God? I am grateful to have bought your book "The Roman Catholic Controversy". Your ministry has been used by God to straighten my views and become a 5 point Calvinist (though I never like this terminology to the biblical view of salvation). It has been 3 years now since I've accidentally accessed your web page. The debates are great! Yet, it also reminds me that debates is not the end all activity but merely the beginning of a life long study for the truth. It is my prayer that more than the information, argumentation and refutation of false doctrines; the Holy Spirit will use such intellectual grounding into a deeper relationship and walk with God among Christians.
You have encouraged me to study the Scripture deeply. More than studying, to walk with the Lord in a committed way. I praise the Lord that He used your ministry to inspire a young corporate auditor to love Greek and Theology. I could not imagine how corporate controls and governance theories blend with soteriology, Trinity and etc. But the Lord works in very mysterious ways! I said to myself, "I would rather be an expert in the things of God and about His love and character than be an expert in the things of the world that tomorrow fades away." May the Lord bless your ministry greatly and may he cause you more to be humble because our God is using you for the edification of His people. When the time comes that God will pass on the torch to the next generation, I pray that people like me who heard the Gospel will walk your walk and face the errors that christians and non-christians hold with boldness in public debates or personal engagements. May we never be ashamed as you provided as an example to not be ashamed of the Gospel.
You will not be alone in your ministry as you stand in the pulpit delivering your opening, rebuttals and closing parts. There are a lot of us who join you in our own pulpits in the corporate world who stand for God and a commitment for truth. As you do your God given task, we will also do our assignment and God will knit together our efforts for His glory. But, Dr. White, we don't have the luxury of time to go in the libraries and read theological books as much as you do. So, at times, God prompt us to read AOMIN for some resources and validate the information through our own research. May the Lord continue to provide you the strength, vission and passion to share your gift to the church even here in Asia. God bless you richly... all of you in AOMIN!
Today on the Dividing Line
01/08/2009 - James WhiteFocused (after an initial phone call) on the Infidel Guy/Bart Ehrman program. I confess, I am so focused on this I could hardly let Ehrman say three words before stopping and commenting. But a good warm up for the debate! We will continue next week with the same topic. Here's the program (free/high quality).
The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Lie
01/08/2009 - James White
2009 Filling Up Fast
01/07/2009 - James WhiteI hope to have a major debate announcement later this week to share with you all. I'm really excited about it! Also, please note that if you have discussed having me speak on apologetics/theology at your church, the earlier I hear from you the easier it is for me to schedule around debates and my main commitment to being at PRBC. There are still some openings in 2009, though, oddly, mainly in the earlier part of the year rather than the latter! Contact me through the ministry, and Rich will forward the note to me.
01/07/2009 - James White
Monday morning I posted two items on my ministry resources list at Amazon, both commentaries on John by Origen. By Tuesday evening the books were sitting on my desk, being put to use (thank you CR!). They led me to the needed location in a resource I've had for many years so as to have the exact citations, in Greek, that Bart Ehrman has based an important portion of his external argumentation relating to the textual variant at Hebrews 2:9. Specifically, in his earlier work, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, he speaks of the external sources that support the reading "without God" (χωρις θεου) over against the reading of the vast majority of manuscripts and sources, "by the grace of God" (χάριτι θεοῦ). I will be addressing this variant, along with the one from Mark 1:41, in the opening session of the conference the day of the debate, for those of you who can get there early. It will be recorded, of course, for those who can't. In any case, the reading is found in only two tenth century manuscripts, which would normally be enough to dismiss the reading. However, Ehrman points out that 1) one of those manuscripts is 1739, from Mount Athos, an important minuscule that is an excellent copy of a 4th century exemplar that itself is a copy of a (probably) 2nd century manuscript (1739 and 1881 are important later minuscules). 1739 is pictured to the right. 2) Early writers knew of the reading. And here is what I wanted to check out, for he says the reading "was acknowledged by Origen himself as the reading of the majority of the manuscripts of his own day, manuscripts that consequently must have been produced no later than the end of the second century or the very beginning of the third." He provides at this point a footnote (he repeats the same assertion in Misquoting Jesus, but without the references) that gave me three references in Origen's commentary on John, 1.35, 28.18 and 32.28.
In only one of these is there any reference to other manuscripts, and it simply does not substantiate Ehrman's claim that Origen said "the majority of the manuscripts" of his day read as 1739 reads. The citation is very short, but it reads, "For 'apart from God he tasted death for all.' This appears in some copies of the Epistle to the Hebrews as 'by the grace of God.'" I wanted to see if the underlying text in any way suggested that "some copies" here would be "a few, or a minority," so I found the text in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. The Greek reads, "οπερ εν τισι κειται της προς Εβραιους αντιγραφοις χαριτι θεου." I see nothing in the phrase εν τισι αντιγραφοις that in any way indicates that these are the minority of manuscripts. It seems Ehrman is assuming that if Origen prefers the reading of "apart from God" that this means it is in the majority of the manuscripts available to him. But the reasons why Origen may have preferred one reading over another can be quite complex, to be sure. In any case, all we can glean from the references Ehrman himself provides is that Origen knew of the variant in the third century. The idea that it was a majority reading at that time is not substantiated by the references he offers, and there is good reason to think otherwise, given that the reading simply disappears from the manuscript tradition outside of two 10th century witnesses. It is hard to imagine a scenario, especially in Alexandria, where we have the greatest papyri witness (P46 contains this text and reads "by the grace of God"), where a majority reading could simply disappear, only to be found in a 10th century manuscript.
In any case, more on this in a few weeks in Florida! Once again, my thanks to those who have assisted me in my studies through the ministry resource list. I will keep it current for those who like to support the work by providing study and research resources.
Get Ready to Rumble in 2009
01/07/2009 - James White
Surprise! I'm not talking about my debates. I am talking about a re-ignition of the justification controversy due to the publication of NT Wright's new book, from IVP no less, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, expected in June, 09. One of the "endorsements" should get our attention:
"Tom Wright has out-Reformed America's newest religious zealots--the neo-Reformed--by taking them back to Scripture and to its meaning in its historical context. Wright reveals that the neo-Reformed are more committed to tradition than to the sacred text. This irony is palpable on every page of this judicious, hard-hitting, respectful study."
—Scot McKnight, North Park University
Of course, having Brian McLaren's endorsement makes one wonder a little bit, too ("And it will give Wright's critics a clearer sense than ever of what they are rejecting when they cling to their cherished old wineskins of conventional thought."), along with Rob Bell.
My main concern is simple: due to the continued degradation of evangelicalism's view of Scripture---reflected not only in the hallowed halls of academia, but in the pews of the "mega churches" that have slopped some religion on unrepentant sinners and assured them of heaven, leaving their reprobate worldview unchallenged and intact---this controversy will produce more and more who are called "Christians" who have a severely deformed view of the nature of justification. This controversy is not really exegetical, per se. Though that is the realm in which the proponents of the New Perspectives are placing it, we must keep a few things in mind. This viewpoint did not arise from a sound, believing view of Scripture. It came from liberalism, and at its heart is a severe restriction of the Pauline corpus. I will be very interested to see how Wright handles this, but I would imagine, if you look closely, you will see that he will be functioning with the smallest Pauline corpus, leaving out the Pastorals, Ephesians and Colossians, possibly others. This is common in modern scholarship---so common, in fact, that few who repeat the mantra of "scholars have determined these epistles were written at a later time by a follower of Paul" have ever heard a meaningful defense of Pauline authorship of the entire corpus.
It is vitally important to note that the Reformation doctrine of justification was forged out of the highest view of Scripture, while modern viewpoints come forth from a far more skeptical, man-centered perspective. Let's put it this way: most in academia today find the term "inerrancy" a reason to blush, even if they believe it (sort of like saying, "Yes, I believe God created the heavens and the earth"), and yet none of those who faced the anathemas of Rome for preaching the glory of justification by grace through faith alone would have had the slightest pause in professing such a high view of Scripture (despite the repeated assertions that inerrancy is a modern doctrine, a thought you can only entertain if you drain every bit of common sense from your reading of earlier writers). The view one holds of God's revelation will determine everything else. If you do not believe God has spoken, theology of any sort becomes a game of chance or an exercise in taste. Theology can never possess authority or power when it is based upon human predilection rather than divine revelation. And the last thing people want today is a God who has spoken with clarity.
So get ready for the next round in the battle. But, if you are tempted to feel troubled by this in the sense of experiencing hopelessness, remember: in the final analysis, it is the Spirit of God who convinces us of His truth. Think how many times Romans, as an epistle, has sparked revival when it has been preached clearly and authoritatively. Just because many decide to mute the letter by changing its message (primarily through removing it from the rest of Scripture) does not mean God will be thwarted. He will continue to build His church, continue to draw His elect. He may well do so far more often in other lands, lands where His wrath is not in full display as it is in the West, but His purposes will not be deterred.
Does Hebrews 2:9 Deny Particular Redemption?
01/07/2009 - James WhiteThis is the section from the last DL on the subject of Hebrews 2:9.
The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Lie Again, Plus Ehrman with the Infidel Guy
01/06/2009 - James WhiteOn today's Dividing Line we began with a further refutation of the constantly repeated falsehood on the part of Rome's defenders concerning the "33,000 Protestant denominations" claim. We invited Tim Staples to call, but alas, he didn't. Then we began reviewing Bart Ehrman's appearance on The Infidel Guy's webcast. Here's the program (free/high quality).
"We Have Apostolic Tradition"- The Unofficial Catholic Apologist Commentary #1
01/06/2009 - James SwanCatholic apologists often let us know how crucial it is to have an infallible magisterium help one interpret the Bible correctly. With so many Catholic apologists now commenting on sacred scripture, I thought it would be interesting to provide their commentary on the Bible. Let's see how they've been able to rightly divide the word of truth . I'll post their interpretations as I come across them.
In this first installment, Catholic apologist Tim Staples explains Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."
Listen to Tim's interpretation of Romans 5:12, here.
01/06/2009 - James White
Thank You, Thank You
01/05/2009 - James WhiteRich just informed me that we have reached our goal and will be able to order the audio/video computer. My sincerest thanks to all who participated. I hope as you see the videos going out and read about people being blessed thereby that you will feel a part of what we are doing here.
I would like to also thank you for providing the two volumes of Origen's commentaries as well. They were purchased this morning from my ministry resources list. I look forward to being able to check some important assertions against these resources in preparation for the upcoming debate.
An Update on Ministry Resources
01/05/2009 - James White
I understand we are within $200 of the audio/video machine, for which I am very grateful. I just added two very high priority items to my ministry resource wishlist, comprising Origen's commentaries on John. I need to check some textual references in preparation for the Ehrman debate, but, if I don't have them, I'll survive. Just like to track down references!
The Catholic Myth of 33,000 Protestant Denominations is Alive and Well
01/05/2009 - James SwanOn the last 2008 broadcast of Catholic Answers live, Tim Staples continued perpetuating the myth that there are 33,000 Protestant denominations (this MP3 can be heard here). Some time back Dr. White gave a thorough examination of this claim, as has Eric Svendsen. If you interact with those espousing Catholic apologetics, I suggest reviewing these links and keeping them handy. They clearly show a misuse by Catholic apologists of a source and statistics. That this popular falsehood made it to the last 2008 broadcast by one of Rome's "top apologists" (as CA Live states) doesn't give me much hope for their 2009 endeavours.
Such corrective information has been available for years. This clearly demonstrates that either certain Catholic apologists don't pay attention to responses to their claims, or zeal for their religion inhibits them from citing sources correctly. Around two years ago, Dr White asked,
"I would like to call upon Steve Ray, Tim Staples, and all other Roman Catholic apologists who have taught, by spoken word or in written form, that there are 33,000 Protestant denominations, to openly and publicly retract their errant assertion, apologize, and explain how it is that they could actually provide a citation to a source that, upon examination, actually refutes their application in its entirety. Did they just not understand what they were reading? Did they actually even look at the source? Were they just offering the citation as taken from someone else? What is the explanation? Inquiring minds want to know" [source].
I don't know if Rome's apologists have made any New Year's resolutions, but perhaps one of them can step forth from the pack and add to their list an explanation as to why the 33,000 Protestant denominations myth still lives. I realize it may seem like a great emotional argument to confound Protestants with, but it isn't true. An actual reading of the source in question shows Rome likewise has "denominations." As has been stated often on this blog, if the argument used when applied to one's own position similarly works, then it is not a valid argument.
Out of Mormonism
01/03/2009 - James White
Dear A&O ministries,
I have been very fond of this ministry for at least a decade now. I began my "religious" experience back when I became a member of the LDS church in high school. Some friends and myself were attending a general conference when I had ventured to cross the street to get some lunch at the nearby mall. A lady was handing me a tracts near the temple square sidewalks which contrasted Mormon grace and Christian grace. On the way back from our trip, heading to Idaho, I had a chance to ponder what was on that tract. I didn't ever see that tract again, since I think a friend of mine had discarded it. However, it was enough to get me thinking about salvation.
Sometime after that, after I had determined that the LDS church was false, I had become saved through reading some Josh Mcdowell materials. My thirst for spiritual knowledge was huge, and I tried to get my hands on any books that talked about the cults, and apologetics. I began reading Hunt (on Mormonism), and Geisler (on general apologetics) and continued to grow (in some areas) in my faith. During this time I still had a desire to revisit and study salvation. During this time I had been a member of a Church of God 7th day church. I believe to this day I was saved during that time, but didn't understand some things about salvation. I believed one could lose his salvation and wasn't sure about the nature of the Godhead. The materials on A&O's website, and the book The Forgotten Trinity helped me to firmly understand what was meant by the Trinity, thereby preventing me from accepting the COG 7th-day teaching that God was a two-personal being. Near the end of my time at that church, I had left for reasons of disagreeing over the teaching of eternal security, which I had come to realize was true, through various A&O materials, and bible study. Although I had left, the pastor at that church did confess he was wrong about the Godhead and embraced the Trinity through various dialogues we had. I remember the pastor mentioning after having borrowed my copy of The Forgotten Trinity that it was "real heady"! :)
As I continued in my Christian growth, I continued in my admiration for Dr. Geisler and Dave Hunt. As I observed over time their various dialogues and debates with James White, I began to wonder about James. I thought perhaps that James was just real arrogant. I thought that maybe the reason Geisler wouldn't debate him was because James was making a big deal over a minor issue of doctrine as it related to God's sovereignty in Salvation. Admittedly, I was only reading Dave Hunt's sections in Debating Calvinism, and Geisler's Chosen But Free. I did have a copy of James White's The Potter's Freedom but mainly for the purpose of giving the appearance that I was an "open minded" guy. God is faithful however. He continued to press me to the point where I had to fully study out the issue, and not just remain satified with the emotional rhetoric of Hunt, and the Thomistic-esque (if that's a word!) syllogisms of Geisler. I approached TPF thinking that perhaps I could build my own argumentation that would allow for a good response to White. But there was one problem. The Spirit helped me to see that it wasn't White I was battling, but God's word, and God himself. White's work in TPF cut through my empty logic, my pride, and ultimately my arminian system that I wore so proudly. I still pray that Geisler would debate James, and that Hunt would give him a real debate.
Today, I am currently working toward the goal of becoming a pastor and would like to perhaps plant a church. I have had many dialogues with Mormon missionaries, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, and now Arminians. God has used these times to deliver some Mormons, even allowing me to give a presentation of the Trinity to a family of Jehovah's Witnesses and more!
I am truly so very grateful to God that I have been delivered through so much false teaching, and that A&O ministries has been there beside me through this whole crazy thing! To the staff of A&O ministries. You guys will perhaps never know in this life how many people you have equipped for ministry, and how God has used you all to help those in error to see His truths.
Today on the Dividing Line
01/02/2009 - James White
I began today addressing Hebrews 2:9 and following, demonstrating the a-contextual, eisegetical use of the text by Arminians. I then addressed question #79 on William Lane Craig's website which mentions my comments on Romans 9 and John 6:65. Then we took a number of calls on textual critical issues before returning, briefly, to listening to the Covenanter's Call radio program on KJV Onlyism. Here's the program.
Is Mormonism Christian?
01/02/2009 - James White
For My Good Friend, Tom Ascol
01/01/2009 - James White
I noticed today that my good friend Tom Ascol wants a motorcycle. But, his dear wife said lightning would have to strike first. Well, that's one obstacle down anyway. I've been riding since I was 19 (do the math: that means I have safely ridden with no accidents or tickets for about 27 years). My last two rides I purchased on-line. Both were incredible deals. My 1986 Virago finally gave up the ghost this past Spring, so I am now riding this gorgeous machine, which again, I got used, but in awesome shape, on Craig's List. It was really nice to get 52 mpg when gas was over $4 a gallon (and sadly, folks, it will be back there, and beyond, before we know it), and Phoenix is a pretty decent place to ride (though riding in the afternoon in July and August can be---messy). So, to show my solidarity with ol' Tom, I will be riding my bike to the office tomorrow! Keep hoping, Tom!
Patrick Madrid Interprets Revelation 12
01/01/2009 - James Swan
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. (Revelation 12:1-2)
When asked where the Bible teaches Mary was assumed into heaven, Catholic apologists typically use Revelation 12 as a primary proof-text. Sometimes though, what may seem like a helpful solution does more harm to one's cause than good. Consider this secondary issue- if Mary is literally whom the apostle John is referring to, then it follows that when she was with child, "she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth." Think back to what God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16 as the result of her fall into sin, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children." So if Revelation 12 proves Mary was assumed into heaven, it also refutes the dogma of the immaculate conception. Mary was subject to the curse of sin explicit in Genesis 3, and Revelation 12 corroborates this.
Recently on Catholic Answers live, Patrick Madrid addressed this very issue (I have included the brief MP3 clip here). Madrid states:
"Pain in childbirth was one of the maledictions God pronounced in Genesis chapter three, but so is death. Keep in mind, that Jesus himself, who is perfect in every respect- he suffered death. So I don't think we can be quick to say that because Mary was immaculately conceived and sinless that therefore God did not permit her to suffer in the ways that are foretold in Genesis chapter three."
This is a striking example of private interpretation. Rome's apologists may claim to be part of a monolithic church in which all her devoted apologists are on the same page, but when one surveys their writings it becomes quite obvious such is not the case. Catholics are free to follow Madrid, or not, and I would posit even some of Madrid's closest allies would not follow. For instance, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin interprets the woman of Revelation 12 quite differently. For Akin, The woman is not only Mary, but also Israel, the Church, and Eve. This gives him the freedom to affirm and deny almost any interpretation of the text:
Because the Woman is a four-way symbol, different aspects of the narrative apply to different referents. Like Mary, she is pictured as being in heaven and she flies (mirroring Mary's Assumption). Like the Church, she is persecuted by the Devil after the Ascension of Christ. Like Israel, she experiences great trauma as the Messiah is brought forth (figuratively) from the nation. And like Eve, it is her (distant) seed with which the serpent has his primary conflict.
Conversely, portions of the narrative do not apply to each referent. Mary did not experience literal pain when bringing forth the Messiah, but she suffered figuratively (the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart at the Crucifixion). Eve did not ascend to heaven. And the Church did not bring forth the Messiah (rather, the Messiah brought forth his Church).
So for Akin, the text means whatever it needs to mean. If it needs to mean Mary's assumption, it does. If it needs not to mean a denial of the immaculate conception, it does. If "the woman" needs to mean "the church" in order to harmonize with the view of the early church, it does.
In a logical Catholic worldview, Akin and Madrid can't both be right. One of them is wrong. This is the same worldview that chastises Protestants for private interpretation, and holds the door open for Protestants to embrace the alleged theological certainty Rome offers. Rome's apologists are certain of Mary's immaculate conception and assumption, but they are so only because Rome has told them so, not because the Bible teaches it. Their interpretation of Revelation 12 serves as an example of what happens when one takes non-biblical dogmas and forces them into the Bible.
Madrid and Akin are only two of a number of differing Catholic interpreters of Revelation 12. To read a concise overview, I highly recommend Eric Svendsen's overview in his book, Who Is My Mother? The Role and Status of the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament and Roman Catholicism (New York: Calvary Press, 2001) pp. 209-233. Svendsen works through the major views present in church history, and it appears neither Madrid's novel view or Akin's all-inclusive view find a champion in the early church. Rome's apologists are therefore forging new roads of interpretation. Neither though can show where the immaculate conception or the bodily assumption are deposited in apostolic, enscripturated revelation. The best they can do is privately interpret passages they think may allude to these gnostic tenets. One must seriously consider whether Madrid's interpretation of Revelation 12 falls under the curse of Revelation 22:18.
Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text. Is not truth indestructible? (NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book II, §3)
Christian Contenment in 2009
01/01/2009 - James White