Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Making The Judaizers Orthodox

Defenders of the Manhattan Declaration have been posting a lot of bad arguments in response to the controversy over the document, in addition to largely ignoring the best arguments against their position. One argument I've seen is an appeal to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, as if the passage demonstrates that a group can reject justification through faith alone, yet still be orthodox.

Evangelicals and Catholics disagree significantly over what "died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3) means. As the book of Galatians illustrates, the adding of works to the gospel nullifies what Paul summarized in 1 Corinthians 15. As he puts it elsewhere in 1 Corinthians itself, the gospel involves the sufficiency of the crucified Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul defined that sufficiency in a way that made the inclusion of works as a means of attaining justification a denial of the sufficiency of Christ and His finished work. Any understanding of 1 Corinthians 15 that makes the Judaizers orthodox is problematic.

For an explanation of why the Roman Catholic gospel is false and why it should be considered to be under the anathema of Galatians 1, see posts # 94 and # 99 in the thread here.

30 comments:

  1. Ironically, this may be yet another case in which lay Catholic epologists (as well as the Vatican) finds itself at odds with the best of modern Catholic Bible scholarship:

    “A large amount of evidence suggests that the ‘works of the law’ on which some Jews depended for their salvation included efforts to keep all the prescriptions of the law and not just those that distinguished Jews from Gentiles. See J. A. Fitzmyer, ‘Paul’s Jewish Background and the Deeds of the Law,’ in According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle (New York: Paulist, 1993), 18-35,” A. Köstenberger et al. The Cradle, The Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H 2009), 426.

    That would underscore the parallel between the works-righteousness of the Judaizers and the works-righteousness of Rome.

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  2. "Making the Judaizers Orthodox"

    I'm not sure if you're capturing or representing the argument accurately.

    It's not whether the Judaizers were "Orthodox" but whether the Judaizers were damned to Hell.

    Here's a blog comment I've read:

    “If salvation comes by faith alone, can Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc receive salvation simply by their repentance and belief in Christ’s death on their behalf and resurrection? If they believe that additional good works are also necessary, does this negate their faith? If they misunderstand the nitty-gritty theological underpinnings of justification, does this negate their faith?

    I guess what I’m getting at is, if salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, not by anything that we can do, does it not follow that there’s also nothing we can do that negates our saving faith? (Including being a part of a wayward theological tradition?)

    For example, were the Judaizers in the early church truly saved? Or did they negate their salvation when they insisted that the OT ceremonial regulations were still necessary?”

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  3. TUAD,

    That's one instance where the phrase "faith alone" doesn't capture everything. One is not saved by some random instance of "faith", but rather one is saved by the object of one's faith (and, as we know from Scripture, there is only one object of faith Who can save, and that is Jesus Christ). So it's not sufficient to say "We are saved by faith alone" because we have to clarify "faith in what/whom?" This is generally understood in the debate between Catholics and Protestants so that we typically don't have to clarify it in those conversations, but based on the path you're taking I think it does need to be clarified.

    In reality, we can get even more technical than that. Faith is the natural response to our having been regenerated. It is therefore evidence of our regenerated condition having already occurred, which means that part of how you can tell if someone is saved is if they have faith in the correct object, Jesus Christ.

    Additionally, what does it mean to have faith in Christ? It's not enough merely to acknowledge His existence, as even the demons do that, but includes more than that--things found in the regenerate heart. One thing that Protestants have always maintained is the complete dependence of man upon God for the entirety of his salvation. I believe this to be a Biblical view given Paul's statements in Galatians. Therefore, if one does not have the correct faith in the correct object, then we affirm such a person is anathema, as Paul stated.

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  4. Hi Peter,

    I appreciate the earnestness and sincerity of your comment. I actually knew what you're talking about already and I appreciate your irenic approach.

    I actually sent the following video by Greg Koukl to my friends about what true saving faith is.

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  5. Truth Unites... And Divides,

    As Peter said, scripture (like other literature) often summarizes something in one passage that's addressed in more detail elsewhere. Just as 1 Corinthians 12:3 can't be isolated from other passages in order to argue that any profession of Jesus as Lord demonstrates a person's justification, so also 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 can't be isolated from the larger context of other passages like the ones I've cited.

    I was using the term "orthodox" in the sense of being correct on essentials. See the two posts I referenced in the Challies thread above for a further discussion of the degree to which the Judaizers' gospel was wrong and, by implication, the degree to which the Catholic gospel is wrong. When Paul says that the adding of works nullifies the foundational gracious nature of the gospel (Romans 4:4), that the Judaizers' gospel actually isn't a gospel (Galatians 1:7), that it makes one accursed (Galatians 1:8-9), that they're "severed from Christ" (Galatians 5:4), etc., the most natural way of reading such comments is that the error in question is of a foundational nature. If you want to argue that one can remove the gracious nature of the gospel, have no gospel at all, be accursed, and be severed from Christ - yet be a justified person - then make your case.

    For reasons I've explained already, such as in threads here and in the Challies thread linked above, the possibility that some Catholic and Orthodox signers of the Manhattan Declaration are justified in spite of their group's false gospel isn't sufficient to justify the language of the document about those groups. Individuals who attempt to be justified in a manner contrary to what their group prescribes shouldn't be considered representatives of their group's view of salvation. And the most natural way of reading the Manhattan Declaration, for reasons I've already explained, is that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are orthodox as groups, not just that some individuals within those groups are orthodox. When we judge the Catholic gospel, for example, we judge it in accordance with the assumption that people attempt to be justified through that gospel from the start. We don't assume that they believe the true gospel, then go astray after the Catholic gospel afterward. People who accept the true gospel are sometimes unfaithful to it, as we see with Peter and the Galatians. But we judge a group, like Catholicism, by its gospel alone, without an assumption that another gospel was first or later believed.

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  6. "I was using the term "orthodox" in the sense of being correct on essentials."

    I understood that. But I have to repeat this or just settle for the fact that we'll continue to talk past each other: "It's not whether the Judaizers were "Orthodox" (correct on essentials) but whether the Judaizers were damned to Hell."

    What would help me understand where you're coming from, Jason, is for you to select from one of these 3 categories (if they're not adequate, please do say so):

    (A) Judaizers are damned to Hell.

    (B) Judaizers are not damned to Hell.

    (C) I don't know whether Judaizers are damned to Hell or not.

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  7. Or maybe there's a (D).

    (D) Some Judaizers are damned to Hell. Some Judaizers are not damned to Hell. And damned if I know which Judaizer is going where.

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  8. (A).
    Gal 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

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  9. TU&D:

    Do you believe that Rome proclaims a false gospel?

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  10. TUAD,

    I think Jason actually addressed your question at the very end of his response when he said:

    ---
    People who accept the true gospel are sometimes unfaithful to it, as we see with Peter and the Galatians. But we judge a group, like Catholicism, by its gospel alone, without an assumption that another gospel was first or later believed.
    ---

    In other words, if you are to ask on an individual basis, is such-and-so Judaizer saved, then he very well could have been; but when you say "Were Judaizers *as a group* saved?" the answer is clearly no, as the Scripture Rhology quoted demonstrates.

    The gospel of the Judaizers was a false gospel, and it would always be a false gospel even if some of its members believed in the real Gospel too. Those who believed what the Judaizers put forth would not have saving faith, but there are often people who identify themselves with a certain group without holding to all that that group maintains.

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  11. Hi TurretinFan,

    I thought I answered you already. I'm in the same camp as Mohler, Duncan, and the other conservative Protestant signers. We'd all answer you the same way. The issue has moved past where you've been fixated.

    On this thread the topic is whether members of a church/Church that teaches a false gospel are all necessarily damned to Hell.

    Dear Rhology and Peter,

    Rhology's answer looks to be the most logical. But Peter's answer (which I would put in Category D) is what every conservative anti-MD Protestant that I have read says. There are CHRISTIANS in a church/Church which teaches and preaches a false gospel, but they are not damned to Hell. So then it can't be (A) as Rhology asserts. Rather, it must be (D) as Peter argues (in so many words).

    As an aside, perhaps a humorous aside, I suspect that it would not be surprising at all to Steve Hays, Jason Engwer, and Peter Pike to see Perry Robinson, Bryan Cross, Francis Beckwith, Taylor Marshall, and other "Called to Communion" guys up there in Heaven with them.

    Anyways, if you read Albert Mohler's and Ligon Duncan's posts about their signing the Manhattan Declaration, you'll see that they don't see or view the MD document in the same light as the anti-MD Protestants do with regards to the Gospel.

    So with regards to this discussion about the Gospel it's simply just meeting the anti-MD'ers in the arena in which they want to grind their axes. But that's not the arena by which the pro-MD Protestants have chosen to sign.

    The great disconnect between the pro-MD'ers and the anti-MD'ers is this:

    Anti-MD'ers: Gospel's compromised.

    Pro-MD'ers: The specific focus of the MD is sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious freedom.

    The two sides understand each other's arguments, but simply have different perspectives.

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  12. TU&D:

    You state: "We'd all answer you the same way."

    But actually, they'd answer me (at least I think they would): "Yes, Rome preaches a false gospel."

    You haven't answer me that way, though I've asked you the question at least three times.

    Is your answer that Rome preaches a false gospel, or is it something else?

    -TurretinFan

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  13. My position would not be your D) because your D) included "And damned if I know which Judaizer is going where." Maybe there are some we don't know the final destination on, but there's plenty of Biblical evidence that gives us the ability to accurately judge most of their states right now. So I can talk to a Catholic, for example, and often tell fairly quickly whether he or she is a Christian in a false church, or lost.

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  14. Peter has accurately summarized my position.

    And I've repeatedly explained why the Manhattan Declaration is problematic in light of that position, including in threads in which Truth Unites... and Divides has participated. He hasn't made much of an effort to interact with what I've said on the subject. He's asking me questions I've already answered. And citing a response like Albert Mohler's or Ligon Duncan's doesn't advance the discussion much, since neither response interacts much with what I and other critics of the document have argued.

    Truth Unites... and Divides writes:

    "Pro-MD'ers: The specific focus of the MD is sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious freedom."

    As critics of the document have explained many times, the issue isn't what the document primarily focuses on. Rather, the issues are whether it's wrong on matters it's less focused upon and how significant such errors, if they exist, are. Do you acknowledge that the document is wrong about the Christian status of Catholicism and Orthodoxy? If so, how significant is that error?

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  15. "And citing a response like Albert Mohler's or Ligon Duncan's doesn't advance the discussion much, since neither response interacts much with what I and other critics of the document have argued."

    Hi Jason,

    Sorry if the discussion hasn't "advanced" more than you wanted. I really don't know what else to say. I'm nowhere near as capable as Mohler or Duncan. Yet somehow, if they were able to respond to you at length, I'd think that you'd still levy the same criticisms and dismay as you do now.

    ""And damned if I know which Judaizer is going where."

    Hi Peter,

    I was just jokin' around, for the most part. You may know which Judaizer is damned to Hell, but I don't.

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  16. I've read more than several anti-MD critiques and comments from the conservative side.

    They're fairly similar (which is a good thing). I'm informed that referring to a Catholic or an Orthodox member as a "Christian" is an error of some significance, if you happen to be a Protestant. If a Catholic or an Orthodox member wants to refer to themselves as Christians, well there's nothing you can do about that. But Colson, Timothy George, and all the other well-known Protestant signers have committed significant error because by signing the document they have affirmed that Catholics and EO's are Christians. And from a conservative Protestant perspective, they aren't. So why did they?

    I don't know. Anyone want to start a list of possible reasons? Here's some suggested possibilities:

    (1) Some Protestants really do regard Catholics and EO's as brothers and sisters in Christ, and so they sign the MD.

    (2) Some Protestants aren't sure, but out of a spirit of Charity, they're willing to call Catholics and EO's fellow Christians, and so they sign the MD.

    (3) Some Protestants aren't sure, but because they see sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious freedom as being critical issues, they're willing to call Catholics and EO's fellow Christians to have a greater mass and a louder voice, and so they sign the MD.

    (4) Some Protestants aren't sure, but because they see the names of well-known conservative Protestant leaders such as Mohler, Duncan, Keller, Colson, Dennis Rainey, Dobson, Ravi Zaharias, et al sign it, well then it must be okay to sign the MD which calls Catholics and EO's fellow Christians, and so they sign the MD.

    (5) Some Protestants seemingly care more about the socio-political arena and how to effect socio-political change in a morally decadent and decaying society, and so they disregard the issue of whether Catholics and EO's are fellow Christians, and they then sign the MD.

    (6) Some Protestants are ignorant about whether Catholics and EO's are Christians, but they do see the attack on the sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious freedom, and so they sign the MD.

    And some people might have a combination of the above reasons. Well, that's a start. Anybody want to add to that list?

    Out of curiosity and out of lack of knowledge about U.S. Protestant history, how long has it been the doctrinal position of Protestants to make it explicit that they will in no way regard Catholics and EO's as Christians? Are there official, formal documents from various denominations and church bodies dating back X number of years stating either directly or indirectly that Catholics and EOs are not to be thought of as Christians? Or is this an informal, and perhaps somewhat of a recent phenomenon, that's generally and widely agreed upon, and which really should be known by both Protestant leaders and by Protestant laity that it's truly a mistake of significant magnitude to ever refer to Catholics and EO's as Christians?

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  17. Truth Unites... and Divides writes:

    "Sorry if the discussion hasn't 'advanced' more than you wanted. I really don't know what else to say. I'm nowhere near as capable as Mohler or Duncan. Yet somehow, if they were able to respond to you at length, I'd think that you'd still levy the same criticisms and dismay as you do now."

    If you "don't know what else to say" and can't go beyond citing material as unresponsive as Mohler and Duncan's articles, then why do you keep posting so much on this subject in so many places? You keep ignoring the most significant issues involved. It seems that you're trying to maintain an appearance of having a defense of the Manhattan Declaration, by citing Klusendorf, Mohler, Duncan, and other sources you come across on the web, while not being able to defend the document yourself.

    You write:

    "I'm informed that referring to a Catholic or an Orthodox member as a 'Christian' is an error of some significance, if you happen to be a Protestant."

    You've been asked multiple times, by multiple people, what your view is. Telling us what you've been "informed" doesn't answer the question.

    You write:

    "But Colson, Timothy George, and all the other well-known Protestant signers have committed significant error because by signing the document they have affirmed that Catholics and EO's are Christians. And from a conservative Protestant perspective, they aren't."

    You've been given evidence that Catholics and Orthodox aren't Christian from a Biblical perspective, not just from a conservative Protestant perspective. Why, then, do you refer to "a conservative Protestant perspective" and go on to ask about the history of Protestant belief on this subject? That's another of the many less significant issues you keep pointing us to while neglecting issues of more significance. Why don't you address the Biblical data, tell us what your view is, and tell us whether the Manhattan Declaration is wrong on this subject and to what extent?

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  18. TUAD are you an ecumenical Calvinist like John Armstrong?

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  19. "TUAD are you an ecumenical Calvinist like John Armstrong?"

    No. I'm like Dr. Albert Mohler who believes in cultural co-belligerency without theological compromise.

    Read his article titled "Standing Together, Standing Apart" for more information. This will help explain to some degree why he, Dr. Russell Moore, Dr. Denny Burk, myself, and others have signed the Manhattan Declaration.

    Obviously, the explanation will not satisfy everybody, but that's simply the way life is. I have yet to meet anybody who's been satisfied with the all the explanations they've been given in their entire life on all matter of subjects. I know I haven't been satisfied by other people's explanations on a variety of issues either. And then I've pouted, whined, insulted, got angry, became agitated, dismissive, rude, snappy, and all other sorts of unhealthy and ungodly responses when I didn't get an explanation which I thought was satisfactory enough, or most likely whenever the other person just wouldn't concede and convert to what I think was my well-reasoned, logically and objectively unimpeachable, rebuttal-proof viewpoint. If the other person didn't engage or interact with what I thought he or she should have interacted with in regards to what I think are the pertinent and critical arguments or information, then I would start to harangue and pester and insult the other person. But I would rationalize that it was an act of love. After all, the other person was wrong and don't they know that their explanations aren't good enough? I must disabuse them of their self-deception and this sometimes required means which they might not appreciate. But it was for their ultimate good! So back to haranguing and pestering and annoying.

    Anyways, I hope you don't do that LonelyBoy. Otherwise, you'll be a lonely boy for a long time. Hope you enjoy Mohler's article and his arguments.

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  20. Truth Unites... and Divides wrote:

    "I'm like Dr. Albert Mohler who believes in cultural co-belligerency without theological compromise. Read his article titled 'Standing Together, Standing Apart' for more information....Obviously, the explanation will not satisfy everybody, but that's simply the way life is. I have yet to meet anybody who's been satisfied with the all the explanations they've been given in their entire life on all matter of subjects. I know I haven't been satisfied by other people's explanations on a variety of issues either. And then I've pouted, whined, insulted, got angry, became agitated, dismissive, rude, snappy, and all other sorts of unhealthy and ungodly responses when I didn't get an explanation which I thought was satisfactory enough, or most likely whenever the other person just wouldn't concede and convert to what I think was my well-reasoned, logically and objectively unimpeachable, rebuttal-proof viewpoint. If the other person didn't engage or interact with what I thought he or she should have interacted with in regards to what I think are the pertinent and critical arguments or information, then I would start to harangue and pester and insult the other person."

    Your latest post is another example of what I described above. You don't answer questions people ask you about the most significant issues relevant to this controversy. And you link us to yet another article written by somebody else, an article that fails to address the central issues in dispute.

    Given that you keep involving yourself in online discussions of the Manhattan Declaration, discussions in which nobody had mentioned you before you arrived, it's misleading for you to refer to "haranguing and pestering". If you don't want people criticizing you for your approach toward the Manhattan Declaration, then you can stop involving yourself in discussions of the subject. Or you can acknowledge that you aren't prepared to address the subject in much depth and accept the criticisms of other people accordingly. What we're doing is responding to comments you've made in public forums. And the comments I've been making in response to you have been reasonable, not some sort of equivalent of "pouting" and "whining". If you can't address the issues surrounding the Manhattan Declaration at any deeper level than you have already, then it's irresponsible for you to keep involving yourself in discussions of the subject in the manner in which you've been doing so. The questions people have been asking you, such as about your view of Catholicism and whether the Manhattan Declaration is wrong in what it says on the subject, aren't unreasonable questions. You shouldn't choose not to address issues central to the controversy surrounding the document, yet keep posting about the document and the surrounding controversy, all the while suggesting that people who criticize your approach are "haranguing and pestering" you.

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  21. The article by Albert Mohler that you just linked, TUAD, was written in 2003, so it doesn't address the details of the Manhattan Declaration. And what Mohler says in that article is closer to my position than yours. While you question whether the Judaizers should even be considered a non-Christian group, while you act as if you don't understand what people mean when they allow for individual Catholics to be saved while viewing Catholicism as a non-Christian group, while you keep trying to avoid addressing the central details involved in the controversy surrounding the Manhattan Declaration, here are some of Mohler's comments in his 2003 article:

    "Those on either side of the ECT [Evangelicals and Catholics Together] project who express surprise at this verdict should take note to distinguish those who reject the statement for both its call for co-belligerence and its theological content beyond a foundation for co-belligerence, and those who reject the statement for the latter, while joining in the former, at least in spirit. Most of the Evangelical critics of ECT support the call for co-belligerence, even as we protest what we believe to be inherently dangerous theological claims within the statement....Evangelicals, Catholics, and the Orthodox do not share a common understanding of how the work of Christ accomplishes our salvation—and this is the heart of the gospel....Evangelicals came to our understanding of justification by faith alone the hard way, and we defend it as central and essential to Christianity itself. This is the doctrine of salvation, the kerygma, as preached by the true church. Without this doctrine, no church is a true gospel church. Many Evangelicals, myself included, remain unconvinced that any consensus on salvation now exists between those who hold to the teachings of the Reformers and those who hold to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church....Evangelicals must measure the claims of any church or individual by the simplicity of the gospel. If the true gospel is not preached, this is no true church. Again, any thoughtful Evangelical would acknowledge that there are certainly true Christians within the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, but that these true believers must in some sense come to the simplicity of faith through means other than the official teaching of these churches....we must be sufficiently honest to concede that our doctrinal disagreements are not incidental, but urgently important and carry significance for eternity, in that we teach what we claim to be the gospel of salvation....we must be careful with words and specific in clarity. Confusion harms all concerned, and clarity is never to be feared. We must be ready to admit disagreement and agreement where each is appropriate....We claim the name of Christ. We claim a purchase on the Great Tradition of authentic Christianity. Each of our traditions claims to be normative Christianity. These claims are incommensurate and necessarily involve conflict. These claims do not necessarily prevent cooperation in the cultural arena."

    Given that Mohler was largely saying what I and other critics of the Manhattan Declaration have been saying, and given that you've questioned us (critics of the document) when we've made comments similar to Mohler's, why is it that you're now citing Mohler's article as representative of your view? As I said before, it seems that you're trying to maintain an appearance of having a defense of the Manhattan Declaration, by citing Klusendorf, Mohler, Duncan, and other sources you come across on the web, while not being able to defend the document yourself. You'll link to an article like Mohler's from 2003 even if it's significantly inconsistent with what you've been saying.

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  22. I read Mohler's article several years ago. It's a large reason why I signed the Manhattan Declaration. I also prayerfully read his post titled "Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration" prior to signing the Manhattan Declaration. Given that both he and I signed the Manhattan Declaration, I'd say that we're more in agreement than for you to claim that you're more in agreement with him. If your goal was to make me laugh this morning, consider it accomplished.

    I really like what Mohler wrote at the end of his MD article:

    "I want my name on that list."

    "I Want My Name On That List."

    "I WANT MY NAME ON THAT LIST."

    "I WANT MY NAME ON THAT LIST."

    "I. WANT. MY. NAME. ON. THAT. LIST."

    "At the end of the day, I did not want my name missing from that list when folks look to see just who was willing to be listed."

    Yes. YES. YES!

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  23. But would anyone really doubt that his name was on the list anyway?

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  24. I still find it interesting that someone with the nick "Truth Unites ... and Divides" is seemingly unable to give a straight answer to the simple question:

    Do you believe that Rome proclaims a false gospel?

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  25. Question: "Should Catholics be counted as Christians despite the significant errors within their doctrine? Should the Protestant denomination consider Catholics as siblings in Christ?"

    Answer: "To begin, I should clarify exactly what a Christian is, or what it means to be in Christ. A Christian is someone who has repented from their sin and has believed in Jesus. The Bible teaches that this also needs to entail an understanding that Jesus is Lord.

    Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.”

    Jesus’ message was, “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

    Being a Christian has nothing to do with the church that I choose to go to or the denomination that I choose to align with. Being a Christian has to do with acknowledgment about who Jesus is and turning away from sin and back to him.

    So the question that I want to ask anybody who claims to be a Christian is have they truly repented from their sin and turned to Jesus? Let me also say that there are some church-going Anglicans who sadly have not truly believed in Jesus and who align themselves with the Anglican Church or attend church for a whole host of other reasons.

    As for the question of doctrine, you are right that the Catholics have made some serious errors in their understanding of the Bible. The most serious of these has to do with the very question above, what is a Christian. The error that has been made is that a person becomes acceptable to God by what they do rather than by what Jesus has done on the cross. This is what we call being saved by ‘works’. The problem is that no-one is good enough for that, that’s why Jesus went to the cross to die for sin.

    But there are many Catholics who have truly repented from their sin and turned to Jesus in faith. That means that they are also Christian brothers and sisters.

    So I would recommend a Christian to not go to a Roman Catholic church because of what they teach, but if they do it doesn’t mean that they’re not a Christian."

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  26. Me: "The great disconnect between the pro-MD'ers and the anti-MD'ers is this:

    Anti-MD'ers: Gospel's compromised.

    Pro-MD'ers: The specific focus of the MD is sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious freedom.

    The two sides understand each other's arguments, but simply have different perspectives."


    I commend this article by Dr. Niel Nielson, President of Covenant College, titled "Why I Almost Didn't Sign the Manhattan Declaration."

    Here are some excerpts, but do read the entire article:

    “I realized as well that the Declaration, while implying that the signers may agree on the nature and meaning of the gospel, does not define the gospel in any way that I find objectionable, i.e. by signing I was not affirming any heterodox, unbiblical view of the gospel. My signature – and this is important – signals my agreement with the Declaration as it explicitly and specifically stands, and nothing more.

    To critics of the Declaration who say that it implies agreement with Catholics and Orthodox on the nature and meaning of the biblical gospel, I say that such implication is possible but certainly not necessary. To critics of the Declaration who say that it commits the signers to agreement with Catholics and Orthodox on the nature and meaning of the biblical gospel, I say strongly, “No, it does not.” I disagree with official Catholic and Orthodox understandings of the gospel, and embrace wholeheartedly our Protestant Reformation theology, grounded in the Scriptures and summarized most beautifully and convincingly in the Westminster Standards. The Declaration not only does not in any way violate those Standards, but in fact flows from them.”

    I heartily commend Dr. Nielson’s thoughtful article.

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  27. TRUTH UNITES... AND DIVIDES SAID:

    "Being a Christian has nothing to do with the church that I choose to go to or the denomination that I choose to align with. Being a Christian has to do with acknowledgment about who Jesus is and turning away from sin and back to him. "

    That's a false dichotomy. What church you align with can speak volumes about the state of your Christian convictions.

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  28. Truth Unites... and Divides wrote:

    "I heartily commend Dr. Nielson’s thoughtful article."

    You've also recommended assessments much different from Nielson's. Nielson makes some of the same points critics of the document have been making, including critics who have argued with you about the subject. In some portions of the article you don't quote above, Nielson goes on to distance himself from Chuck Colson's explanation of the document, and he says that he "dearly wishes" some portions of it had been written differently. Do you agree with him on those two points?

    Since Colson was one of the original drafters and has been far more prominent in speaking about the document to the public, his interpretation carries more weight than Nielson's. And while Nielson says that he disagrees with the wording of some portions of the document, he doesn't go into much detail. I and other critics of the document have gone into the relevant details, explaining why they're problematic and the extent to which they're problematic. See, for example, the discussion at Tim Challies' blog.

    Nielson's article is the best I've seen yet from a defender of the document. It acknowledges some of the points that critics have been making, points that defenders of the document had largely been ignoring or denying previously. But it doesn't adequately address the portions of the document that are most problematic. Nielson tells us that he "dearly wishes" the document had been written differently, but he doesn't say much about which portions he has in mind or why he disagrees with critics about the extent to which those portions of the document are problematic. Nielson's article is a step in the right direction, but still leaves some important issues unaddressed.

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  29. Truth Unites... and Divides wrote:

    "Given that both he and I signed the Manhattan Declaration, I'd say that we're more in agreement than for you to claim that you're more in agreement with him."

    Signing the document is only one factor involved. As your own citation of Niel Nielson's article illustrates, different people can sign the same document for different reasons. Nielson distances himself from Chuck Colson's interpretation of the document, for example.

    I explained how your argumentation has been inconsistent with Albert Mohler's. You're not interacting with much of what I said. You've also been ignoring what other people have said in their discussions with you on this subject.

    If a political or theological liberal acted as evasively as you're acting, how would you respond?

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