Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
On Next Tuesday's DL
01/30/2010 - James WhiteWow, what a week. I spoke 14 times over eight days, finishing up with a long period of teaching with Sam Shamoun on Islam at the First Arabic Baptist Church here in Phoenix today. A very enjoyable time!
Next Tuesday on the DL I want to comment on last week's debates. Michael Brown did a program on Calvinism the next day, and I may respond to some specific statements regarding such passages as Genesis 50 and Philippians 1:29. Then I will respond to some of the comments that have been made regarding the Tim Staples debate. I will also look at the claims being made on the CA forums, including the confusion of one "Marco Polo," a Catholic who has attempted to interact with my statements (I would encourage "Marco Polo" to call in, but then again, we've seen over the years what happens when CA forum users call the DL).
We won't have a Thursday DL as I will be flying to Georgia that day.
Seems the Followers of Catholic Answers Would Like More Debates
01/30/2010 - James WhiteI mentioned yesterday my suggestion to Tim Staples that we do a similar type of fair debate and exchange on Catholic Answers Live. I said then that I would expect many in the CA audience would love to hear the "largest Catholic apologetics organization in the United States" actually doing direct, one-on-one apologetics with leading critics of their position. I was pointed to a thread that has begun on the CA web boards that seems to verify my prediction. You can read it here.
Greetings From Kingdom Envoy, We Miss You!
01/30/2010 - James SwanSometime back I had a discussion with Dr. Art Sippo on Luther biographies. It was a written exchange via Patrick Madrid's Envoy discussion forum. I can't provide the forum link, because it was deleted. I did though save my posts and analysis of Mr. Sippo's opinions. Eventually, I was banned from Envoy by Patrick Madrid. In fact, if you're a Protestant, chances are you'd be banned from Envoy as well. I was banned for posting a link to an aomin article.
Recently on Envoy, Dr. Sippo asked:
Where have the Protestant Pundits gone? It seems that the Protestnat [sic] Pundits just kind of drop in to give a few insults and then run away newver [sic] staying to engage in any frank discussion. Very typical. I hae [sic] made a number of charges about Protestantism that the pundits refuse to refute.
Where have we gone? Why Mr. Sippo, we were banished from Kingdom Envoy. I thought perhaps Sippo had forgotten this, so I dropped him a little e-mail:"Dr. Sippo, We were banned from Envoy... Remember? Perhaps raise this question to Mr. Madrid." To which I received the response, "Only the REALLY rude ones, Jim. ;-)."
Anyone can read through my posts and see this is entirely untrue. I was banned for posting a link, plain and simple. Sippo appeared to be tickled that I actually wrote him and posted this followup:
I got an e-mail from a Protestnat punpit [sic] who shal [sic] remain namelss [sic] but whose initials are Jimmy Swan. He was all cut up about being banned from this board. Golly! I wrote back to him that this is only done to the REALLY nasty people. I wonder if he got the hint? For those who do not know this fellow, he thinks that Catholics should ignore the general historical consensus that Luther was mentally disturbed and instead accept the position of Fr. Josef Lortz, a german priest in the 1930s who was a CARD CARRYING NAZI and who (among other things) wrote an extended defense of Hitler's book Mein Kampf in contradiction to the position taken by the German hierarchy. Luther was a great hero to the Nazis for a variety of reasons including his rejection of 'decandent'[sic] Rome for 'modern' German values and his snti-Semitism [sic].
Of course, the above paragraph includes the disclaimer, "Edited by - Patti on 01/29/2010 10:30:39 AM," so what was actually posted was probably far worse. What irony- Dr. Sippo has repeatedly called me names (including "Nazi") and hurled abusive language at me, yet I'm the one who is supposedly rude and nasty. Even during my discussion with Dr. Sippo, Patrick Madrid stated:
Art, we've been through this so many times now, I don't know how else to say it. Please drop the invective and ad hominem and just make your case, critique the other guy's, and move forward with the conversation. All the egregious stuff is just plain unedifying and it has no power to persuade, only provoke.
Ah well, it seems Dr. Sippo is tolerated because he supports Mother Church. Envoy is truly an odd place. They know what they like, and they like what they know. They also don't have a problem reinventing their own history.
1 Corinthians 3 and Tim Staples on Today's Dividing Line
01/28/2010 - James White
Don't hold your breath for the invitation for me to be on Catholic Answers Live to discuss, oh, "Does John 6 Teach the Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Eucharist," (I'd do it in a heartbeat), but today we had Tim Staples on the program for 90 minutes to debate 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and the doctrine of purgatory. You are invited to take your Bible and listen carefully to our presentations and interaction, and ask yourself a simple question: who handled the text consistently, and who gave evidence of engaging in eisegesis? We took a number of calls in the last 20 minutes as well, with (mainly) good questions. I encourage Catholic Answers to make the debate mp3 available to their audience, I truly, truly do. Tim got enough "ra-ra" shots in at the end (Mr. White teaches silly myths, the constant teaching of the church for 2000 years, etc.) to keep their regular donors happy, but I am not concerned about them. I debate for those who will honestly consider the arguments carefully, not emotionally. Here's the program.
And I would like to reiterate my willingness to not only debate a topic such as the one suggested above (and truly, wouldn't the Catholic Answers audience enjoy such an exchange?), but any number of others. I would also invite Tim Staples to do what Michael Brown and I will do in the future: a full, formal, video taped debate. We have been attempting to get Mr. Staples to do that for many years now, but it seems that Catholic Answers has adopted a "no debating folks who know us that well" policy. Perhaps CA's supporters might bring some pressure to bear upon them to start doing real apologetics again? Let's hope so.
Format for Today's Debate with Tim Staples
01/28/2010 - James White
Don't forget to be with us live this afternoon at 3pm PST, 6pm EST, for the special 90-minute edition of the Dividing Line, featuring a live debate with Tim Staples of Catholic Answers on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and the doctrine of Purgatory. The format is as follows:
15 minute opening statements (Tim gets to go first)
8 minutes rebuttals
5 minutes cross examination each
8 minute closing statements
Then, we will take phone calls for just under 20 minutes. We will open the lines for your calls when Tim begins his closing statement. So be ready to ask a QUICK and CONCISE question at 877-753-3341.
Tim Staples vs. The Reformers on Priestly Celibacy
01/28/2010 - James SwanWhy can't Roman Catholic priests get married? I've heard this question asked a number of times on Catholic Answers. Tim Staples recently commented on priestly celibacy here (mp3). Tim points out Roman Catholicism considers priestly celibacy a discipline, not a dogma. This means it's something that could theoretically change, but probably will not because (as Tim says) "celibacy is a saint making machine." He also argues it's an apostolic tradition.
Tim Staples also used Biblical proof-texts to prove his case:
10 The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
First Tim says the context of these verses is the calling of the twelve apostles, then he says the context is the sending out of the twelve apostles. In Matthew though, the calling is in chapter four, and the sending is found in chapter ten. He then quotes Jesus saying, "He that can take this ought to," concluding "so Jesus recommends celibacy." He then infers the apostles chose celibacy: "And Peter then says 'Lord we have left all and followed you,' which seems to indicate that they did in fact just that, so Jesus recommends celibacy." This statement from Peter does follow, after another 14 verses (including the account of the little children brought to Jesus, and the story of the rich young man). It was the response Jesus gave to the rich young man that provoked Peter's immediate question, not Matthew 19:12. ...
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Debate Audio with Dr. Michael Brown
01/27/2010 - James White
I have been very busy since the end of the Michael Brown debate today, and in fact, have been working toward a possible major debate event that I really didn't think was going to happen (can't go into details yet), so I have not had a chance to do much else. I would like to thank Dr. Brown for a very irenic and hopefully useful discussion, and I look forward to a significantly less interrupted series of encounters on the DL in the near future. For those who missed portions, or who expressed frustration at the breaks (I had said I thought we would get 38 minutes out of an hour, and it was actually 36), here is the full audio, breaks removed, from both days, in a fairly tight audio file (for those poor souls, like Carla of Canada, who still suffer from Dai Lup syndrome).
Yesterday's Dividing Line Program
01/27/2010 - Tur8infanYesterday, on the Dividing Line (DL), Dr. White interacted with Tim Staples' interesting assertions regarding Mary being the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. After that, Dr. White interacted further with Sir Anthony Buzzard's essentially Socinian teachings. (Here's the mp3)
Anthony Buzzard Listens In
01/26/2010 - James White
Evidently Anthony Buzzard was listening to my exchange with Michael Brown today, and, not surprisingly, being a Socinian, is far more in line with Arminian soteriology than Reformed. Here is a comment he left on Dr. Brown's website:
I think you should continue to press your point about the constant plea of God that we choose to do right. If in fact we’re not making any choice, and all the choices are made by Him, then language has ceased to have any intelligible meaning. Calvin’s God simply plays games with the human race if He commands everyone everywhere to repent, knowing full well that He has already decided that it is impossible for the non-elect to be saved.
You will note that Buzzard does not understand the position he is denying: who said "we're not making any choice"? Surely not I. We make choices all the time. What I did assert was what the Scriptures teach:
“because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7-8)
We make decisions all the time: outside of grace, rebellious decisions, sinful decisions. Notice as well the Socinian man-centeredness, as if condemned men deserve some kind of "chance." The Gospel isn't a game of chance, a system to be "worked" to gain something from God. It is the Triune God's central act of self-glorification. But, again, we are dealing with a non-Christian view of the Bible here (Socinianism), so that should hardly be surprising.
Of course, the question in my mind is, "Was Sir Anthony listening to the DL as well?" Let's hope so!
My thanks to Michael Brown once again for a very engaging conversation. I really look forward to tomorrow, and even more so, when we can have Dr. Brown on the DL. We should try to arrange that as soon as possible, though, my trip to London will put a major hole in the upcoming schedule, obviously. I didn't mention it, but I wanted to chuckle on the air, since each time Dr. Brown said he was going to join me on the DL, he said, "God willing."
Hebrews 5:11-14: Don't Be Satisfied with Milk!
01/26/2010 - James White
Hebrews 5:1-11, PRBC AM Service
01/25/2010 - James WhiteIt was my privilege to minister the Word of God yesterday, and we continued in our study of Hebrews. I, however, forgot to bring my video camera to the morning service, so, here is a still shot from the evening service along with the audio of the sermon. A truly challenging portion of Scripture.
Who Really is Anti-Catholic?
01/23/2010 - James SwanBack in one my old philosophy classes I recall lengthy discussions as to the relationship between names and reality, and then spinning around for hours contemplating the brain teaser of what it means to "mean" something about anything. The aftermath: an entire class of young minds slipped further into skepticism, as if the reality each twenty something experienced was completely unknowable. Of course, arriving at the conclusion that ultimate reality is unknowable is... to know something about ultimate reality! Ah, the futility of the sinful mind in its continual construction of Babel towers. Without the presupposition "He is there and He is not silent" the sinful mind does what it does best: it creates a worldview that can't account for the reality it truly experiences.
Despite the aspirin needed after attending such classes, it did force me early on to think about ostensive definitions, and the carefulness with which one defines terms. With theology, correctly using terms takes on the greatest moral imperative: one is speaking about the very holy God that created the universe. Think of terms that are used to describe Biblical doctrine, like "Trinity." One is using a term to describe a collection of factual data given by the Holy Spirit. If ever one should use caution, it should be with the construction of theological terms. ...
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We All Deserve an "F" on the Atonement
01/22/2010 - Alan KurschnerI once heard a lecture by Dr. Paul Lim on the extent of the atonement. He commented that years ago students approached their grade from the perspective of a zero with the aim of increasing the points to a letter grace of D, C, B, and hopefully an A. He said this is not the case anymore since many students today assume that they start with (deserve) an "A" and only the possibility of losing their points or grade level. Dr. Lim's point is obvious: many approach the blood of Christ today assuming that God is obligatory in his grace. And since the blood of Christ is predicated on his love, the same is said of the love of God. It is not demanded; it is freely bestowed -- not on everyone, but to those whom he chooses based on his infinite wise counsel. The person who demurs that God is free to confer his electing grace on his chosen cannot with any honesty believe that "God owes us nothing." But if God owes us something, why would we think so highly of his love and grace? It would be expected and deserved.
All of this is a good reason why the term "limited atonement" should probably be jettisoned from the Reformed vocabulary. It suggests that all deserve the atonement (everyone starts with the letter grade "A"), and therefore God "takes away" something that he is obliged to bestow. The reality is everyone starts with an "F", and thus God in his wisdom, freedom, and love, bestows grace to a particular or definite undeserving people.
It is one thing to say that we are undeserving sinners; it is another to be consistent and apply that to the love and blood of Christ. As it is often said in Reformed circles, we dare not ask for a "fair" God since fairness and justness would require us to suffer for our own sins in eternal perdition. We do not want a fair God, rather our hope is in a merciful God whose willing Son absorbed the wrath on the cross as our glorious substitute.
Anthony Buzzard Debate on Unbelievable!
01/22/2010 - James White
Well, the Lord answered prayer and opened the way for an Unbelievable Radio Program debate with Sir Anthony Buzzard, formerly of Atlanta Bible College, one of the leading Socinians of our day. Justin Brierley just confirmed his willingness to do the debate on the 23rd of February while I am in London (in fact, Justin is attempting to arrange a second debate for the same day on another topic). That will be the morning after my debate with Abdullah al-Ansari at Trinity Chapel in London. We are also working on another visit to Revelation TV later in that week. What is really nice about the Buzzard encounter is that he is actually reading my book! I will find it refreshing to engage someone who has actually taken the time to hear what I have to say. I know next week when Michael Brown and I square off on Calvinism on his radio program that he will have read The Potter's Freedom as well, which always makes for a better and more useful debate.
We are still looking for folks to help us with the costs of the trip, including airfare, hotel, food, etc. If you would like to help edify the saints in London and bring these debates about, please prayerfully consider assisting us.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line: Joseph Pipa, A Defense of the Deity of Christ
01/22/2010 - James WhiteStarted off the program with an interview with Dr. Joseph Pipa of Greenville Presbyterian Seminary, and followed this with the beginning of an examination of the anti-Trinitarian claims of Anthony Buzzard. Here's the program.
Letting the Word Speak: Justification
01/22/2010 - James WhiteTim Staples argues that the Bible presents justification as a "process." But close and careful examination says otherwise.
Yesterday on the DL: Tim Staples on Calvinism
01/20/2010 - James White
TurretinFan joined me yesterday for an hour-long examination of Tim Staples' attempt to undermine Reformed objections to purgatory, specifically, his lengthy attack on Calvin's doctrine of God's sovereignty and providence found in his 5-CD series, published by Catholic Answers, on purgatory. Though we had much more material we could have covered, we managed to get to the key errors in Staples' understanding. Here's the program.
Beckwith's Bait and Switch
01/19/2010 - Tur8infanFrancis Beckwith has a recent blog post entitled, "Sola Scriptura and the canon of Scripture: a philosophical reflection" (link). Let's take a look at his reflection.
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Loeb Books Downloadable...FOR FREE?
01/17/2010 - Alan KurschnerYes, indeed, free, online, public-domain Loeb Classical Library volumes: here.
Resources for London
01/16/2010 - James White
I just got word on a possible debate topic for Revelation TV, which would be really great. But more importantly, if the hoped for encounter with a particular anti-Trinitarian materializes, there are two resources on the ministry resource list that would be very useful in preparation for that encounter, as both focus upon the OT text as it existed in the days of Jesus, i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls/Qumran materials. The ministry resource list is here, and if you order the list by priority (high to low), I've put those two items in the "highest" category.
It looks like the next six weeks are going to be very, very busy, and not in just one area, either. Anti-trinitarianism, textual issues, Reformed theology, Roman Catholicism, Islam---and it looks like I'm doing the "schedule something just about every day while traveling over seas" thing that doesn't give you a moment to breathe. All prayers on deck, please!
Exciting Opportunities in London
01/16/2010 - James WhiteI haven't been able to talk a lot about my trip in only a month to London, as we are still arranging things, but I'm getting really excited. We are trying to arrange *two* debate on Unbelievable, and one of them may be with an anti-Trinitarian I have wanted to engage for a long time. Another Islamic debate opportunity may have opened up as well. Of course, once we have confirmation of any of these, I will let you know, either here, or on the DL (or more probably, both!).
In either case, we still need a lot more help to "pay the freight" for the trip over to London. There is a banner ad up above that would allow you to help me bless the saints in the United Kingdom (while we still have the freedom to do so!). You could help there, or by helping me with the personal computer project I mentioned recently as well. In any case, your partnership in pursuing these exciting opportunities of witness, ministry, and apologetics, is deeply appreciated.
Theology, Morality, and the Caribbean
01/16/2010 - Tur8infanA reader named Charles wrote in with the following comments:
My question is, isn't following Christ following his morality. I have read plenty of your arguments but why don't we ever discuss morality. Who cares about theology if the morality is flawed. God isn't going to test us on our understanding of the 2nd Council of Carthage or Martin Luther. I am not arguing this solely against your website, but against any apologist website that puts emphasis only on words and not on actions. We would all be blessed to put our polemics aside and work to make this planet one that truly reflects God's wishes. Of course, I suppose the argument would lie on what is morality, but that's why we have the Bible...right? Anyways, I don't agree with everything you have on your page but your heart seems to be in the right place. I suppose I would challenge you to defend Christian morality rather than Christian theology. After all, my Lutheran friends are rather offended by your theology. haha Let's find common ground.Theology matters.
On the one hand, it is good, proper, and necessary to preach about morality. On the other hand, without proper theological foundation, emphasis on morality easily becomes legalism. But to get right to the basic question, we do address both Christian morality (example from Dr. White) and Christian theology (of which you're already well aware).
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Thankful for My Mother
01/15/2010 - James WhiteThere is no greater joy than to know the power of Christ's resurrection in the face of death. The gospel of God's free grace, which points us solely to Him and away from ourselves, gives great peace and comfort when loved ones who share the faith leave this life and enter into His presence.
The Lord in His great grace gave my daughter Summer and I the blessing of being with my mother when she suddenly entered into eternity this past Sunday. Though we thought she was making a good recovery from a heart attack suffered on Tuesday, and would be coming home soon, the Lord had other plans. Summer and I came by after church on Sunday, and were chatting with her (and her very talkative roomate) when evidently she suffered another massive heart attack and went to be with the Lord. The entire family was so thankful that we were there, and though we grieve her loss, we do so as those with a living hope.
My parents have always made my ministry and work their highest priority. Sharing in the work of the gospel has united us and drawn us together in the face of all adversity and opposition. My mother was a servant to the end, complaining in the ICU on Tuesday that she might not be able to play the organ at church the coming Sunday. She didn't realize she would be playing the organ indeed…just in the heavenly places!
I rejoice in the great blessing of a life well lived, in the hope of the resurrection, and the comfort of the Spirit.
Betty Lou White, October 4, 1932 / January 10, 2010
Apologies from Mill Valley
01/14/2010 - James White
I know I mentioned it on the last DL, but I should have blogged the fact that I am out of town this week, teaching at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary's Mill Valley campus. Sorry if anyone tried to listen to the DL and found...well, nothing at all. Lord willing, we will be back on a regular schedule next week.
Please note the week after is going to be...insane. As the banner ads show, I will be joining Michael Brown to discuss Reformed theology on his nationwide radio broadcast on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Thursday Tim Staples and I will be debating 1 Corinthians 3:10ff and purgatory on the DL. I will be speaking at a conference the preceding Saturday, twice on Sunday at PRBC, and Friday and Saturday evening in a conference on Islam the following weekend, and the next week I head to Georgia! Who is in charge of my scheduling, anyway? Oh, that's right, I am.
While I am away Rich is making good progress on getting the new studio/meeting room finished. I can't wait to shoot our first video in there. I also expect that the DL next Tuesday will be streaming from our new DL machine, too.
Speaking of the DL and our great supporters, we have put an item into our shopping cart, here. Now that we have the computer on Rich's side of the glass updated, it is time to work on the one on my side of the glass. For about 16 months now I have been basking in the glory of a MacBook Pro, which has become my primary computer. It goes with me to the office, back home, on the road, to the debate, conference, and classroom. I am typing on it even as I sit here in Mill Valley. It is a great unit, and we want to bring it into the DL studio to become the unit I use while on the air. To be able to do that, I need to replace it with a new and more powerful unit. I do my own videos on this Mac, and the new Macbook Pros are much larger and more powerful, disk and RAM wise, than this one. We have put the above item into the shopping cart to start working toward updating my "go everywhere, hopefully survive TSA screening" main unit, and putting this unit into the DL studio. Your help in the on-going work is greatly appreciated.
Prayer Request for a Couple in Haiti
01/13/2010 - Alan KurschnerThere is a young couple from my church in Wisconsin who flew to Haiti to minister at an orphanage. It was one hour after they landed that the earthquake hit. Please keep them in your prayers as they now minister in ways that they were not expecting.
Dear Moms and Dads and Pastors (Jan. 12)
Please pass this info along to everyone who may be worried. The earthquake was scary but the building held up fine. We even have internet at the moment. But we may not later. So don't worry if we don't write back soon.
We have plenty of water and a large pot of rice and beans, snacks and medical supplies
The earthquake hit about one hour after we landed, we were on the road about 1/3 of the way to the guest house. It took two hours of driving through rubble and by many large collapsed buildings to get to the guest house. (I saw at least 6 bodies of those killed by the street, but there must be thousands thoughout the city) I went with Jason to see the two orphanage building, and both are intact, on generator power, and the kids are safe. The streets are crowded because everyone is scared to go inside, but we are in a strong building. We don't know what the plan is from here, but we will do what we can to help tomorrow and take it one day at a time.
Thank you for your prayers, we will try to stay in touch.
Why We Still Need the Biblical Languages
01/12/2010 - Alan KurschnerDeRouchie Challenges Members of the Evangelical Theological Society to Keep the Biblical Languages in Their Curricula.
"During the week before Thanksgiving, many of the BCS staff and some of our students attended the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in New Orleans, LA. Our Associate Professor of Old Testament, Jason DeRouchie, presented a paper that challenged members of the ETS to retain the biblical languages and original-language exegesis in their school curricula. Read More..."
Why I am Not a Roman Catholic
01/11/2010 - Alan KurschnerThe following simple juxtaposition is a sufficient reason.
Roman Catholic apologist Tim Staples:
"The bottom line here is this: Jesus Christ did not suffer and die so that we don't have to. Jesus Christ suffered and died so that our good works offered up in him can be truly pleasing and salvific before God. And indeed, Jesus didn't suffer and die so that we don't have to suffer and die, he suffered and died so that our suffering and death could be salvific."
““Look, my servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted– (14) (just as many were horrified by the sight of you) he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; (15) his form was so marred he no longer looked human– so now he will startle many nations. Kings will be shocked by his exaltation, for they will witness something unannounced to them, and they will understand something they had not heard about. (1) Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the LORD’s power revealed through him? (2) He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him. (3) He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. (4) But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. (5) He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. (6) All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him. (7) He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth. (8) He was led away after an unjust trial– but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. (9) They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully. (10) Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him. (11) Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.” —New English Translation
The God Centered Gospel vs. a Man Centered Gospel
01/11/2010 - James White
Sola Ecclesia Defined and Illustrated
01/10/2010 - James White
Bryan Cross, Frank Beckwith, and Being A Trinitarian Simply Because Rome Tells You To Be
01/09/2010 - James White
Response to C. Michael Patton on the Divine Decrees and Hyper-Calvinism
01/08/2010 - Tur8infanC. Michael Patton has a new post entitled, Calvinism and the Divine Decrees – Correcting a Misunderstanding. Unfortunately, Patton's post actually promotes a misunderstanding and confuses a few categories. ...
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Steve Hayes On Playing Theological Chicken
01/08/2010 - James WhiteSteve Hays is driving his '64 muscle car at the triad of Cross/Beckwith/Liccione at full speed, with all 8-cylinders guzzling gas so fast Al Gore is having a panic attack. A classic retort, and one that well needs to be said. As I said last night, the fact that these Roman apologists have made Rome's magisterium the sole line of defense against something as insidious and Christ-denying as Arianism speaks volumes, and should be repeated every single time they attempt to bandage up the mortal wounds they are forced to inflict upon the Christian conscience that knows, by Spirit-borne witness, that the Word is sufficient, it is truly God speaking.
Two Follow Ups on Thursday's DL Discussion on the Authority of Scripture
01/07/2010 - James White
First, TurretinFan posted a fascinating quote from Erasmus that I had not seen before:
What weight the authority of the church may have with others, I know not; but with me it weighs so much, that I could be of the opinion of the Arians and Pelagians, if the church had approved their doctrines.
TurretinFan asks if Cross, Beckwith, and Liccione could endorse Erasmus' statement. That is a question that would definitely interest me as well. It surely illustrates sola ecclesia in its most dangerous form. I know one church father who would have rolled his eyes at that statement, one Athanasius of Alexandria.
Then, I encountered Steve Hay's downright Erasmian lampoon of the Roman position expressed by Cross, Beckwith, and Liccione. It is well worth reading in its entirety, but I only include the final portion here. It borrows from the Manhattan Declaration but this time brings together Trinitarians and Arians (specifically, Jehovah's Witnesses, the best known representatives of the Arians today).
II. We Affirm Together
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Unless he's the Archangel Michael.
Either affirmation is rationally defensible.
That is the first and final affirmation and counter-affirmation that Christians make about all of reality.
It's plausible to believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
It's plausible to believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
It's also plausible to believe in Jesus Christ, the first creature.
A fully informed person of good will, with knowledge of the languages, could affirm either reading of Scripture.
III. SignatoriesBryan Cross
What makes this so bitingly humorous is its truth content. It rips the mask of scholarly respectability off of the Roman position and shows it for what it is. I hope people will remember what Frank Beckwith said in defense of Bryan Cross' errant views on Nicea and the sufficiency of Scripture to demonstrate the deity of Christ. Keep this in mind, all of you ecumenically minded Protestants who are thinking of having Dr. Beckwith speak at your next conference or retreat:
What Bryan is saying is really uncontroversial: the Arian reading of Scripture is not obviously irrational. It is, of course, heretical. But that does not mean that a fully informed person of good will, with knowledge of the languages, could not have come up with the Arian reading of Scripture.
Brit Hume Commentary from Tuesday's DL
01/07/2010 - James White
Why I'm a Calvinist and He Isn't!
01/07/2010 - James White
I will be joining Dr. Michael Brown live on his Line of Fire radio program January 26th and 27th to discuss Calvinism. Dr. Brown did a series a few months ago on why he is no longer a Calvinist, and he mentioned then that he wanted to do a debate on his program. After we do those programs we will arrange to have him on the DL as well. We might be able to go more in-depth on the DL as we can be more flexible with our time. I hope to engage more of the exegetical subjects in that context. But till then, be looking forward to this discussion on Line of Fire in just a few weeks!
Sola Scriptura and the Mail Bag on the DL
01/07/2010 - James White
Today on the Dividing Line I spent the first half of the program responding to Bryan Cross and Frank Beckwith on the issue of sola scriptura. The fundamental attack upon the sufficiency of Scripture and hence its truly divine character and purpose in Roman Catholicism remains central to any discussion of the issues that separate us. Then I went to the "mailbag" and responded to a whole host of e-mails I have received. I may need to do this more often as it is simply impossible for me to type up responses to all the e-mails that make it past Rich's system to mine. Here's the program.
Roman Unity: If it Promotes Mother Rome, It's All Good
01/06/2010 - James WhiteMy first moderated, public debate was on the subject of Roman Catholicism. It took place in August of 1990. Since I have a few decades of experience now, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at one particular fact over and over again: Rome's apologists just don't seem driven to work hard in their field. Further, they clearly observe the "throw everything including the kitchen sink in defense of Rome, no matter how objectively bad it is on a scholarly level."
Illustration: today Patrick Madrid took a shot at "Calvinists" in general on his blog. For someone who has yet, to my knowledge, to engage a Calvinist on the relevant subjects (of course I would, Patrick, let's set it up!) in debate, I find his surface-level retorts somewhat amusing. But what is amazing are the three links he provides for, what he calls, "quite able" refutations of Calvinism. Two are ancient articles Jimmy Akin wrote years and years ago, neither of which provide much in the way of substance. And the third is to Dave Armstrong's series on Calvin! Now, with all due respect to ol' Dave Armstrong, he is one of the clearest examples of why past canon law prohibited laymen from engaging in public disputation in defense of Rome. Serious readers in the field realize that while Dave may stumble over a thoughtful argument once in a while, it is always to be found somewhere else. He simply does not produce original argumentation of any kind, and clearly does not understand the responses that have been offered to him over and over again. So, we find Madrid once again pulling out of mothballs surface-level materials that are nearly two decades old, and promoting Dave Armstrong as "quite able" refutations of Reformed theology. One is truly left wondering if these men really think this kind of material has real weight and meaning, or if they are just too bored to do serious work in the field. I will leave it to the reader to decide.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
01/06/2010 - James WhiteStarted off playing the Brit Hume clip and discussing the hypocrisy of the secularists in demanding that Christians remain silent in the public square. Lesson here: free speech dies when secularists rule. Then we moved on to a half hour examination of the text of the Qur'an and the topic of "being subdued," i.e., humbled, humiliated, and such texts as Surah 9:29, 7:13, and 27:14-44, and how this relates to the moderate/radicalized discussion so prevalent in our society today. Finally, took a call on the subject of the ancient Jewish views on death and the afterlife. Another eclectic DL! Here's the program.
Inspiration, Inerrancy, Preservation
01/05/2010 - James WhiteStarting with a flawed foundation dooms a building, and starting with improper instruction in the Christian faith can often have disastrous consequences. Thankfully, the Spirit overcomes our ignorance and our traditions, all to His glory, but we should surely be very concerned that we give new believers a solid foundation upon which to develop a heart of wisdom to God’s glory.
One of the areas I have focused upon in my ministry that is vital to the maturity of modern Christians is the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. I am convinced that we must tackle the “tough issues” in the context of the community of faith before people are exposed to the “spin” of the enemies of the faith as they cherry-pick the facts of history and prey upon the unwary and immature.
One of the most often asked questions I encounter has to do with the relationship between the reality of textual variation and the doctrine of inerrancy, or even the general concept of inspiration. And this goes directly to the foundation that must be laid regarding this vital area.
First, we must understand that the doctrine of inspiration speaks to the origination and character of the original writings themselves, their character and authority. Inerrancy speaks to the trustworthiness of the supernatural process of inspiration, both with reference to the individual texts (Malachi’s prophecy, 2 John) as well as the completed canon (matters of pan-canonical consistency, the great themes of Scripture interwoven throughout the Old and New Testaments). While related to the issue of transmission, they are first and foremost theological statements regarding the nature of Scripture itself. They were true when Scripture was written, hence, in their most basic forms, are not related to the transmissional process.
Many new believers, upon reading the high view of Scripture found in the Bible itself, or hearing others speak of its authority and perfection, assume this means that the Bible floated down out of heaven on a cloud, bound together as a single leather-bound volume, replete with gold page edging and thumb indexing. The fact that God chose to reveal Himself in a significantly less “neat” fashion, one that was very much involved in the living out of the life of the people of God, can be disturbing to people. They want the Bible to be an owner’s manual, a never-changing PDF file that is encrypted and locked against all editing. And while I surely believe God has preserved His Word, the means by which He has done so is fully consistent with the manner of the revelation itself. We dare not apply modern standards derived from computer transfer protocols and digital recording algorithms to the ancient context for one simple reason: by doing so we are precluding God’s revelation and activity until the past few generations! What arrogance on our part! We must allow God to reveal Himself as He sees fit, when He sees fit, and we must derive our understanding of His means of safeguarding His revelation from the reality of the historical situation, not our modern hubris.
In my debate with Bart Ehrman almost exactly a year ago the issue of Ehrman’s radical skepticism about our knowledge of ancient documents came up. I pointed out that given his standards, God could not have begun His revelation of Himself until 1949, when the photocopier was invented. Why? Because given his presuppositions, it would require that level of photographic copying to allow for the promulgation of God’s revelation. God couldn’t speak until we could guarantee an absolutely perfect chain of transmission! But such ignores the entire scope of the history of God’s dealings with His people.
Consider the example of the New Testament. Did the New Testament writers display a modernistic view of the validity and transmission of the Old Testament text? Or did they recognize that God had preserved the text in such a way that they could quote from the Greek Septuagint (the text known to their target audience) and still identify this translation as the Word of God? Surely, their use of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament raises all sorts of challenging, difficult questions. But you know what? I have never received greater benefits than when I have, in trust and expectancy, knuckled down to do the work to figure out those difficulties. I feel sorry for the modern believers who think that instant answers and easy solutions must be theirs right now! Microwave theology. True, valuable, long-lasting insights come through patient meditation and study, and only in God’s time. We are rarely patient enough to obtain such lofty understanding, and the confidence that comes there from.
But, someone is sure to respond, how can we trust the Bible if there are textual variants? To which I respond, the same way Jesus or Paul or Luke did. There were textual variants in the days of Jesus and the Apostles. Only if you errantly assume, as Ehrman does, that this artifact of the mechanism of God’s means of preservation is, in and of itself, fatal to the truthfulness of the text, can you come to the conclusion that all is lost. But there is no reason to join Ehrman in his radical skepticism. Let’s consider the facts.
Take the two most representative texts of the two extremes of the NT textual tradition, the Westcott and Hort text of 1881 (an almost purely Alexandrian text) and the Robinson-Pierpont text of 2005 (the Byzantine Priority text). If you applied the same principles of interpretation to both texts what would be the result? Would you have one text teaching a different gospel than the other? Surely not! Would you have a different doctrine of the Trinity, the person of Christ, the crucifixion or the resurrection? No, you would not. What you would have, however, is a very slightly different set of texts teaching and supporting each of these divine truths. You might have a little longer list derived from the Byzantine text than from the Alexandrian (as the Alexandrian text is 1.75% shorter than the Byzantine), but you would not have a different Christianity arising from the two texts.
Or we could approach it from Ehrman’s direction: he claims various texts completely change the meaning of entire books of Scripture, but the fact is, he is wrong. Dead wrong. Take his favorite example, Hebrews 2:9 and the variant that has “without God” rather than “by the grace of God” (χωρις θεου/χάριτι θεοῦ). How does it follow that a sub-clause in one chapter can change the entire message of the book of Hebrews? Surely it is relevant to study the variation. Surely you should mention it when addressing the text (as I did when I preached through this chapter just a few months ago). But the book of Hebrews is not changed by the variant. The argument of the book is not done away with or altered. It is simply ridiculous to say otherwise. Ehrman’s assertion that whether Hebrews talks about the grace of God in the death of Christ or not is a calculated attempt at misdirection. Only a person who has never actually studied Hebrews or followed its argument could come to such a conclusion.
Speaking of Hebrews 2, I pulled up both the Byzantine Priority Text and the Westcott/Hort text in this section, and had Accordance compare the two. Here is the resultant screen shot:
Notice that in the eight verses following 2:9 there are only two differences between the Alexandrian family and the Byzantine: whether we read “flesh and blood” or “blood and flesh” (i.e., word order) and whether there is a movable nu at the end of one other term. So while I could find a number of texts with many more differences, this is a good illustration of how harmonious the major families of texts really are.
So I say to the person who wonders, “Why would God allow even small variations?”, have you considered the alternative? Aside from precluding the spread of the gospel through the widespread copying of the text, the only alternative is the Muslim one: a controlled, centrally edited text. Sound good? I hope not, as you then have to transfer your ultimate faith for the accuracy of the text from the original writers to the compilers/editors/redactors. Then you have to deal with the allegations of wholesale corruption and change, which can, in fact, be lodged against such a text. But with the means God used to spread the NT far and wide, that kind of allegation is simply bankrupt.
So as I consider God’s gift of His Word, I am thankful that I have been forced to examine its history closely, and from many angles. And when I do, I am again and again forced to my knees in thanksgiving for what He has done. He has not left us to wander in darkness. He has provided us with a reliable, trustworthy guide in Holy Scripture.
The Most Fundamentalist Materialist I Have Ever Heard
01/05/2010 - James WhiteWhile riding yesterday with my lovely wife I listened to the encounter between William Dembski and a South African atheist and biologist, Lewis Wolpert, that took place on the Unbelievable radio program. You can listen to it here, but I warn you, if you are looking for a meaningful exchange on intelligent design, you won't get it. You will, in fact, beat your head on your desk (metaphorically, I hope), as you experience the perfect example of a man utterly beyond reason. Yet, it is obvious, he views himself as the very picture of logic and rationality. A complete slave of his worldview, Wolpert proves himself incapable of showing the first bit of reflective thought about his own worldview. It is shocking, and sad, to listen to this intelligent man demonstrate the utter totalitarianism of his worldview. And one is left breathless by his assertion that he stopped believing in God because he prayed for help in finding his bat as a child, and, since God didn't help him, well, that was that! His dogmatic atheism is amazing. But, at the very least, Dembski's comments are educational and useful.
Brit Hume Incident Illustrates Secularism's Hatred of Christianity
01/05/2010 - James WhiteMost have heard about these comments by Brit Hume:
The secularists are, of course, howling in protest, but if you read what they are saying, one obvious underlying theme comes to the fore. No one is offering reasoned, objective criticism of the substance of Hume's comments, because, quite simply, he is right. Buddhism does not, in fact, provide for redemption and forgiveness, but instead directs one to look inward for enlightenment and eventual freedom from suffering (via freedom from desire). But redemption? Not in this life, for in its classical expression, this would involve a long process of moving toward enlightenment through many lifetimes. In any case, secularists do not care about the objective truth contained in Hume's words, but instead they are enraged that he would actually dare to express his thoughts in public---the realm over which they now claim absolute authority and control. Secularism is an all-encompassing worldview, especially in its naturalistic/materialistic expression predominant in the West, and it simply cannot brook even the expression of dissenting viewpoints in its holiest place: the media. So for secularists, it is not what Hume said, it was that he said anything at all. Surely, our freedom of speech should be put on the endangered species list.
A Loving Comment from a Calvary Chapelite
01/04/2010 - James White
You're strutting on you tube with your chest stuck way out boasting "I know more than Chuck, I'm more spiritual than Chuck" Even if you do have superior biblical knowledge, you don't get to use it to attack and tear down the reputations of your fellow servants of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Also, regarding what you said about Chuck Smith being the leader like a pope was incorrect because I happen to know first hand there are Calvary Chapel pastors who don't necessarily agree with everything Chuck teaches, and that the doctrinal structure between Chuck Smith and other Calvary Chapel pastors is a relatively loose coupling. Not at all as you represented. But because you presented that pretending to have first hand knowledge when you obviously do not, you were being dishonest at best. Knowledge puffs up. God resists the proud. And what makes you think you are any less blinded to the traditions that exist in your own doctrinal paradigms? I suppose you see perfectly and Chuck is blind right? If you actually do see clear to remove the mote from your brothers eye, do it by speaking the truth in love in an email to Chuck, not in a retaliatory vindictive work of the flesh designed to tear down your brother and exalt yourself. Talk about being blind. I am ashamed of you.
Isn't it amazing how I can provide an exegetically based response to Smith's eisegetical comments, and all I get in response is this kind of emotionalism? I have not received a single biblically based response to what I said about Smith's comments, yet, I have received a number of emotional ones. Personally, I think this speaks volumes. Compare the above emotionalism with what I actually said:
Arianism is Consistent with Scripture?
01/04/2010 - Tur8infanPhoebadius (d. @ 392): Knowing, therefore, this unity of substance in the Father and in the Son, on the authority, not only of the prophets, but also of the gospels, how canst thou say that the Homoüsion is not found in scripture? Latin text: Cum ergo hanc unitatem substantiae in Patre et Filio non solum prophetica, sed et evangelica auctoritate cognoscas; quomodo dicis in Scripturis divinis ὁμοιούσιον non inveniri? S. Phoebadius, De Fide Orthodoxa, Contra Arianos, Alias De Filii Divinitate et Consubstantialitate, Tractatus, Caput V, PL 20:41.
Sometimes the opponents of sola scriptura end up taking their position to absurd lengths. Consider the following statement from Roman Catholic Bryan Cross:
The term 'refute' means "shown an argument to be unsound". The bishops did not 'refute' Arianism; they condemned it, by defining the Faith by way of an extra-biblical term: homoousious. They were unable, by Scripture alone, to refute Arianism. The Arians could affirm every single verse of Scripture. That's precisely why the bishops had to require affirmation of the term homoousious. So if the bishops had no authority by way of apostolic succession, then their requirement of affirming homoousious would have had no more authority than its denial by the Arians. Scripture alone was insufficient to resolve the dispute, precisely because both sides could affirm every verse in Scripture. And since sola scriptura denies the transfer of authority by way of apostolic succession, therefore the Council of Nicea and the Creed, given sola scriptura, only have authority if you agree with its interpretation of Scripture.Mr. Cross' zeal for his church has placed him out of touch with history, as can be seen both from the initial quotation above, as well as from the discussion that follows.
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A Quick Note on "saghara" and Surah 7:13/9:29
01/02/2010 - James WhiteA caller on the last DL asked about something I have noted a few times in the past regarding the text of the Qur'an. As it would take a while to type all of this out, I will address it on the DL on Tuesday instead. But for now, in fulfillment of my promise to provide the information, here it is. The term I was referring to is saghara, which is found in both Surah 7:13 and Surah 9:29. Here are the contexts:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His apostle nor acknowledge the religion of truth (even if they are) of the People of the Book until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (صَغِرُونَ). The Jews call Uzair a son of Allah and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouths; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; Yet they were commanded to worship but one Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to him: (far is He) from having the parents they associate (with him). Fain would they extinguish Allah's light with their mouths but Allah will not allow but that His light should be perfected even though the unbelievers may detest (it). (Surah 9:29-32)
11. It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels bow down to Adam, and they bowed down; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who bow down. 12. (God) said: "What prevented thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?" He said: "I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay." 13. (God) said: "Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest (of creatures)" (ٱلصَّغِرِينَ).
14. He said: "Give me respite till the day they are raised up." 15. (God) said: "Be thou among those who have respite." 16. He said: "Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way: 17. "Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies)." 18. (God) said: "Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee,- Hell will I fill with you all. (Surah 7:11-18)
Way Back Last Year on the Dividing Line....
01/02/2010 - James WhiteWell, OK, it was just a few days ago. But I forgot to blog the program. When that happens, remember, the file name is always consistent! For example, this DL's URL is http://www.aomin.org/podcasts/20091231.mp3. Next Tuesday's DL will be http://www.aomin.org/podcasts/20100105.mp3, and so forth. In any case, I started off discussing a bit about Islam and the Christmas day disaster in Detroit that was narrowly avoided. Then we took calls on a wide variety of topics, finishing with a discussion with an atheist at the end of the hour. Here's the program