Saturday, March 13, 2010

'Vatican officials defend pope on abuse"

See no evil, hear no evil...

Answering the Objections of Dogs and Hogs: Judge Not!

This morning we engaged in our regularly scheduled outreach at A Woman's Choice abortion clinic at 201 Pomona Drive in Greensboro, NC. We stand outside the clinic twice monthly to pray, preach the gospel, and do some one-on-one witnessing to those who are having abortions and obtaining contraception so that they can continue fornicating without worrying about the temporal consequences associated with fornication; namely, pregnancy. As happened today and on many other occasions, when unbelievers become angry with you for exposing their sin and calling them to repentance, the following objections are almost always leveled against us:
"Judge not lest you be judged!"

"He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!"

"Do you sin? If so, then who are you to judge me?"
These canned responses are mere smokescreens used to offer an attempted justification for their desire to get us to shut up. Thus, when evangelizing, I want to provide you with a few quick rebuttals to these responses.

1. "Judge not lest you be judged!"

This response rips Jesus' words right out of the context of Matthew 7. Scripture twisting is the hallmark of a false professor who wants to justify their ongoing sin. Here's the passage with some context from verses 1-5,
"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
The context makes it clear that Jesus is condemning all types of judgment, but only hypocritical ones. For example, if I sin and don't repent yet I go on to judge my fellow Christian for doing the very same thing that I refuse to repent of, then I am a hypocrite and have no right to point out that same sin in other believers. Christ tells hypocrites to first repent of their sin (v. 5, "first take the log out of your own eye"), then go and confront other believers who are doing the same. It is further evident that Christ is not condemning judgment altogether when He later says in the same chapter:
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matt. 7:6)

"You will know them by their fruits." (Mat 7:16a)
In order to determine the difference between dogs, hogs and believers, Christ commands us to judge a righteous judgment (Matt. 7:6, 16a; John 7:24). This is a judgment call that is made by the believer with an eye to discerning whether the person lives a life that is characteristic of a true believer. John sums up this kind of life quite well in 1st John 3:6-10,
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6-10 ESV)
When the unbeliever says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged" you can respond with, "Then why are you judging me?" Explain to them that everybody makes judgments when it comes to people's behavior and that is what they are doing to you. The real issue is whether your judgment is righteous or hypocritical. This means that you must continually fight against your own sin and put it to death by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13). It may be helpful to ask them, "Would you feel comfortable letting a drunk stranger rummage around in your home with your young children present?" The point in asking a question like that is to show once again that everyone judges since everyone must evaluate other people's behavior. This is not only necessary for Christian fellowship but also for safety. Some judgments are righteous and some are hypocritical and for a wicked sinner to make a judgment call on a righteous person who is lovingly confronting them in their sin is the height of hypocrisy.

2. "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!"

First, it must be noted that this quote from John 8:7 is the section dealing with the woman caught in adultery, commonly known by scholars as the Pericope de Adultera. Almost every evangelical textual critic over the last 100 years has considered John 7:53-8:11 to be a dubious portion of the text, which means that it was probably not an original part of this gospel. It is found in various places throughout the manuscript tradition of John's gospel (after 7:36, 44, and 21:25) and even one extant manuscript places it after Luke 21:38. Also, the earliest manuscripts and many early versions do not have this section at all. Many manuscripts that do have it contain scribal notations that indicate that it was not an original part of John's gospel. The vocabulary and style in this section are very different from John's own writing style and the traditional placement of 7:53-8:11 interrupts the flow of thought that naturally occurs between verses 7:52 and 8:12, further suggesting that this section is an interpolation. Finally, no Greek church father comments on this passage before the 12th century, further suggesting that this passage was not original to John's gospel. I favor the scholarly opinion that suggests that this narrative is a true historical event that occurred in Jesus' ministry that circulated as oral tradition in the early church but was never included in the original New Testament writings. Instead, this oral tradition was later added as an extended marginal note in some early manuscripts and because it is in harmony with Jesus' ministry it eventually made its way into the text of John's gospel as we have it today. However, since this section is in most Bibles, because the average person knows nothing about the text critical situation of John 7:53-8:11, and because believers almost never read the small footnotes at the bottom on the page in their modern translations, a few comments are in order.

First, when the objector says, "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!" immediately ask, "Who's trying to stone you?" Explain that the context of John 7:53-8:11 is that of stoning an adulterous woman on the spot on the basis of two or three witnesses in accord with the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:7). Thus, their objection is irrelevant to our present situation since we are no longer under the Mosaic theocratic kingdom.

Second, this objection is not helpful at all to their situation since stoning someone under the Mosaic Law could not be done by witnesses who were complicit in the same sin. This explains Jesus' comment to the Pharisees in 8:7, suggesting that they too were adulterous. Thus, this objection is moot on at least two counts.

3. "Do you sin? If so, then who are you to judge me?"

This objection assumes that a person has to be absolutely sinless in order to preach the gospel, a notion that clearly contradicts Scripture and reality. We will never be completely sin free as long as we live in our unredeemed flesh, for even the apostle Paul said that he had not attained perfection in this life (Phil. 3:12). The Bible says that there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins (Eccles. 7:20) and that the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh so that you may not always do the things that you please (Gal. 5:17). Including himself in the "we", the apostle James said that "we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2) and the apostle John declared plainly "If we say that we have [Greek for "we have" is a present tense, indicating an ongoing action] no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). To be consistent, that means that all people everywhere would have to stop preaching the gospel whether on street corners, in private conversations, or in church buildings because all people sin. The logical implication of this would be that we would have to rid the world of all true Christians. Ask, "So are you saying we need to get rid of all Christians everywhere since no one is completely sin free?" They might get confused when you say this, so go on to explain that Jesus commanded that all Christians go into the world and make disciples by preaching the gospel, which includes a call to repentance (Matthew 28:19), but if we have to be sin free to preach the gospel, then we can't preach the gospel. Worse, since everybody (believer and unbeliever alike) necessarily makes judgment calls on others, we would have to rid the world of all people since everyone judges others in some sense. Finally, like the first objection, this too is self-refuting since all men sin and yet they, an unrepentant sinner are judging you for judging them, thus, by their own standards they too are in sin.

I am sad to say that in spite of what's offered above, most unbelievers who bring up these inane objections could care less about your well reasoned responses. Few will listen; most will not. Their objections usually aren't borne out of an original interest to get help from Christ by removing their own intellectual debris, but to attempt to tie Christians up in knots so that they can feel justified in their sins. May God sanctify us as we seek to put to death our sin as we serve Christ with clean hands and a pure heart and may God grant them repentance through sincere gospel preaching.

Why Anderson is not a Densonian

Since Clark gets his definiton from or rather believes he has support for his definiton from scripture, which he quotes, Anderson’s objection would have been weightier if he had simply provided exegesis of that verse and shown that it does not have the meaning that Clark attaches to it. (Source)

I don't recall Clark offering an exegesis of Proverbs 23:7. But we can start with the authorial intent. Is the intent of this passage to expound on philosophical anthropology? Second, isn't the passage actually referring to the begrudging host, in particular? Even if we could give Clark's reading serious attention for this one man, by what Clarkian right do we have to reason inductively to all men? Third, doesn't this passage really refer to character, i.e., the begrudging host reveals his true character., his stingy heart? There's a contrast between being generous (eat and drink) and being stingy (not wanting to give). So this passage simply refers to a hypocritical person, a contrast between what he outwardly says and what he inwardly feels (Waltke 242-43). Waltke says, "Outwardly the host conforms to his social obligations according to oriental rules of hospitality, but inwardly he is revolted by his guest." In fact, is there ANY exegete who exegetes this verse along Clarkian lines? This doesn't beg the question against Clark because (a) it would be gratuitous to call him an "exegete" and (b) he doesn't offer any. So I guess this leaves us waiting for the I.O.U. on the exegesis, until then Clark's position lacks the support of his "strongest" verse.

Since Anderson believes that there is apparent incoherence in scripture, which he calls paradox, one must ask what are the grounds upon which Anderson bases his seeming demands for coherence from this particular one?

The grounds he lays out in his book.

Further, Anderson’s objection would imply that self knowledge is incoherent.

Besides the fact that it doesn't, Scripturalism implies that claims to self-knowledge are false since such knowledge is non-existent! (Since it can't be so deduced and is not deducible from Bible verses.) As John Robbins once said in an email exchnage:

Please do not water down,
dilute, or make ambiguous the definition of the word “knowledge.”
Don’t blur it with opinion. Don’t bother citing immediate
“self-knowledge” or some such notion, for the Scriptures explicitly
say: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
Who can know it?”

Further, Anderson’s objection would imply that self knowledge is incoherent. For, self knowledge must “presuppose(s) a distinction between the thinker (“he”) and his thoughts (“the propositions”).”

But Clark can't make that distinction, that's the point. Anderson isn't claiming that such a distinction can't be made, he's claiming that Clark's definition presupposes a distinction where there should be none if Clark were correct! So the charge of incoherence has not been met.

Either Anderson simply does not read his bible at all or in his pursuit of an anti-Clark agenda he must ignore passages in scripture from which Clark believes he had support for his ideas. Why Anderson objects to a congeries of propositions but has no objections to the passages in scripture where Christ says He is the truth and the Bible refers to Him as the Word is hard to explain.

Would Clark approve of false dilemmas? Besides that, how does any of this answer Anderson? It seems our author has now "proved" that "light" and "bread" and "paths" can "think" since Jesus calls himself all of those! Also, truth is a property or a value of a proposition, not a proposition itself. So our author has went beyond Clark. Maybe our author can deduce the conclusion: propositions can think from the premise: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light. Needless to say, the deduction isn't obvious.

Huh? The ability to think [some of] the same thoughts is what provides a basis for a common definition of man, otherwise, we can only have individual men, but no man.

Really? But we can think some of "the same thoughts" as God too!

On the other hand indviduation is provided by the fact that no two minds (congeries of propositions) can be completely identical.

Really? That's not obvious to me. I agree no two minds can be "identical", but I deny that it is impossible for no two minds to think exactly the same propositions, and if we are numerically identical to the propositions we think, then if two people thing the same propositions they are, according to the transitivity of identity, identical. So, what would an argument for this impossibility look like?

Science and Health with Key to the Scripturalists

In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with the Syllogism, and the Logic was the Syllogism. He was in the beginning with Syllogism. All things were thought by him, and without him was not any thing thought that was thought. In him was reason, and the reason was the entailment of men. The entailment shines in the contradiction, and the contradiction has not invalidated it.

There was a set of propositions sent from the Syllogism, whose name was John Robbins. He came as a witness, to opine about the entailment, that all might opine through him. He was not the entailment, but came to opine about the entailment.

The true entailment, which implicates every set of propositions, was coming into the Matrix. He was in the Matrix, and the Matrix was mentally projected by him, yet the Matrix did not infer him.

And the Logic simulated flesh and propositioned among us, and we have cogitated his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Consequent of the Antecedent, full of modus ponens.

But when they came to Logic and saw in their mind’s eye that he was already simulating death, they did not break the concept of his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced the concept of his side with the figment of a spear, and at once there came out the idea of blood and water.

Now Mary Baker Eddy, one of the logicians, called the Twin, was not with them when the Logic came. So the other Clarkians told her, "We have seen the Logic in our mind’s eye." But she said to them, "Unless I infer from his hands the concept of the scar, and deduce the mark of the nails from my simulated finger, and imagine the figment of my hand feeling the idea of his side, I shall never opine."

Adjunct anthro profs need to understand elementary logic

Christopher O'Brien believes that med students need to understand evolutionary biology.
  1. O'Brien is ignorant of the very position(s) he criticizes. For example, not all ID proponents would necessarily oppose teaching evolutionary biology.

  2. If it's licit for secular scientists to use science to argue metaphysical positions (e.g. for atheism or against theism), then why is it illicit for other scientists like creationists or ID proponents to use science to argue metaphysical positions (e.g. for theism or against atheism)?

  3. So O'Brien wants his doctor to "put personal beliefs aside" and "treat [him] with all the modern science that could be mustered...including evolutionary biology." Let's say it comes to light he has an abnormal gene or set of genes which would certainly be harmfully passed onto future generations. In this case, O'Brien ought to never father children. Perhaps he ought to consider a vasectomy or similar.

  4. There's a disputable assumption in O'Brien's post: that one can't be an innovator in the medical field without understanding evolutionary biology.

Aquinas on Rom 9

Some excerpts from the Angelic Doctor's commentary on Rom 9:


First, the greatness of the benefit conferred on us by the Holy Spirit, namely, that all things work together for good.

To realize this we should consider that whatever happens in the world, even if it be evil, accrues to the good of the universe; because, as Augustine says in Enchiridion: “God is so good that he would permit no evil, unless he were powerful enough to draw some good out of any evil.”

However, the evil does not always accrue to the good of that in which it is. Thus, the death of one animal accrues to the good of the universe, inasmuch as by the destruction of one thing something else begins to be, although it does not accrue to the good of that which ceases to be; because the good of the universe is willed by God according to itself and to this good all the parts of the universe are ordained (341).

For it is clear that distributive justice has its field in things given as due; for example, if some persons have earned wage, more should be given to those who have done more work. But it has no place in things given spontaneously and out of mercy; for example, if a person meets two beggars and gives one an alms, he is not unjust but merciful. Similarly, if a person has been offended equally by two people and he forgives one but not the other, he is merciful to the one, just to the other, but unjust to neither.

For since all men are born subject to damnation on account of the sin of the first parent, those whom God delivers by His grace He delivers by His mercy alone; and so He is merciful to those whom He delivers, just to those whom He does not deliver, but unjust to none (382).

To understand his answer it should be noted that with regard to the election of the good and the rejection of the wicked two questions can arise. One is general, namely, why does God will to harden some and be merciful to some; the other is particular, namely, why does He will to be merciful to this one and harden this or that one?

Although a reason other God's will can be assigned, in the first question the only reason that can be assigned in the second question is God's absolute will. An example is found among humans. For if a builder has at hand many similar and equal stones, the reason why he puts certain ones at the top an others at the bottom can be gathered from his purpose, because the perfection of the house he intends to build requires both a foundation with stones at the bottom and walls of a certain height with stones at the top. But the reason why he put these stones on the to and those others at the bottom seems to be merely that the builder so willed.

First, therefore, the Apostle answers the problem involved in the second question, namely why He has mercy on this one and hardens that one; secondly, the problem involved in the first question, namely, why He is merciful to some and hardens others (390-91).

Then (v. 22) he answers the first question, namely, why God wills to be merciful to some and leave others in wretchedness, i.e., to choose some and reject others. Here it should be noted that the end of all divine works ins the manifestation of divine goodness: "The Lord has made all things for himself" (Pr 16:4). Hence, it was stated above that the invisible things of God have been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (1:20).

But the excellence of the divine goodness is so great that it cannot be manifested in one way or in one creature. Consequently, he created diverse creatures in which He is manifested in diverse ways. This is particularly true in rational creatures in whom is justice is manifested with regard to those he benefits according to their deserts and His mercy in those He delivers by His grace. Therefore, to manifest both of these in man He mercifully delivers some, but not all (393).

The Ethereal Evidence For A Physical Presence In The Eucharist

If anybody is interested, I'm having a discussion about the eucharist with a Roman Catholic priest in the thread here. The first post in the thread is about Irenaeus, but the priest changed the subject to Ignatius, then cited some Biblical passages when asked to defend his interpretation of Ignatius. A lot of subjects have come up, mostly related to a physical presence in the eucharist. Maybe some readers will find the exchange helpful.

Apostolic Succession (Part 14): Some Other Patristic Sources

Qualifications like those we find in Irenaeus and Tertullian are often found in other patristic sources as well. Below are some examples, taken from comments made about apostolic succession or some related issue.

"I know that a difference must be made between the apostles and all other preachers. The former always speak the truth; but the latter being men sometimes go astray....It is for these virtues that I and others have left our homes, it is for these that we would live peaceably without any contention in the fields and alone; paying all due veneration to Christ's pontiffs--so long as they preach the right faith--not because we fear them as lords but because we honour them as fathers deferring also to bishops as bishops, but refusing to serve under compulsion, beneath the shadow of episcopal authority, men whom we do not choose to obey. I am not so much puffed up in mind as not to know what is due to the priests of Christ. For he who receives them, receives not them but Him, whose bishops they are. But let them be content with the honour which is theirs. Let them know that they are fathers and not lords, especially in relation to those who scorn the ambitions of the world and count peace and repose the best of all things." (Jerome, Letter 82:7, 82:11)

"So the faith of the church must be sought first and foremost. If Christ is to dwell in a house, it undoubtedly must be chosen. But lest an unbelieving people or a heretical teacher deface its home, the church is commanded that the fellowship of heretics be avoided and the synagogue shunned. The dust is to be shaken off your feet lest when the dryness of barren unbelief crumbles the sole of your mind it is stained as if by a dry and sandy soil. A preacher of the gospel must take on himself the bodily weaknesses of a faithful people, so to speak. He must lift up and remove from his own soles worthless actions as if they were dust. For it is written: 'Who is weak, and I am not weak?' Any church which rejects faith and does not possess the foundations of apostolic preaching is to be abandoned lest it be able to stain others with unbelief. The apostle also clearly affirmed this by saying 'Reject a man that is a heretic after the first admonition.'" (Ambrose, cited in Arthur A. Just Jr., ed., Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: New Testament III: Luke [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003], p. 149)

"That many times have the clergy erred; the bishop has wavered in his opinion; the rich men have adhered in their judgment to the earthly princes of the world; meanwhile the people alone preserved the faith entire." (Ambrose, cited in John Daille, A Treatise On The Right Use Of The Fathers [London: Henry G. Bohn, 1843], p. 158)

"Thus, and for these reasons, by the vote of the whole people, not in the evil fashion which has since prevailed, nor by means of bloodshed and oppression, but in an apostolic and spiritual manner, he is led up to the throne of Saint Mark, to succeed him in piety, no less than in office; in the latter indeed at a great distance from him, in the former, which is the genuine right of succession, following him closely. For unity in doctrine deserves unity in office; and a rival teacher sets up a rival throne; the one is a successor in reality, the other but in name. For it is not the intruder, but he whose rights are intruded upon, who is the successor, not the lawbreaker, but the lawfully appointed, not the man of contrary opinions, but the man of the same faith; if this is not what we mean by successor, he succeeds in the same sense as disease to health, darkness to light, storm to calm, and frenzy to sound sense." (Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 21:8)

"I know moreover that not only this thing saddens you, but also the fact that while others have obtained the churches by violence, you are meanwhile cast out from your places. For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true Faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you. Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith. Who then has lost more, or who possesses more? He who holds the place, or he who holds the Faith? Good indeed is the place, when the Apostolic Faith is preached there, holy is it if the Holy One dwell there....But ye are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from Apostolic tradition, and frequently has accursed envy wished to unsettle it, but has not been able. On the contrary, they have rather been cut off by their attempts to do so. For this is it that is written, 'Thou art the Son of the Living God,' Peter confessing it by revelation of the Father, and being told, 'Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to thee,' but 'My Father Who is in heaven,' and the rest. No one therefore will ever prevail against your Faith, most beloved brethren. For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should seem to speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment by means of blood-thirsty enemies. And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth. What profit then is the Place to them? For behold they that hold the Place are charged by them that love God with making it a den of thieves, and with madly making the Holy Place a house of merchandise, and a house of judicial business for themselves to whom it was unlawful to enter there. For this and worse than this is what we have heard, most beloved, from those who are come from thence. However really, then, they seem to hold the church, so much the more truly are they cast out. And they think themselves to be within the truth, but are exiled, and in captivity, and gain no advantage by the church alone. For the truth of things is judged" (Athanasius, Festal Letter 29)

"For of a custom there is in any case a single period as cause, whereas of caprices all kinds of ages are the causes. And due causes must always pre-exist before the customs of the gentiles and before human laws. I say human, however, because God, as alone knowing all things before they come into being, can naturally also arrive at them by from the first enacting them as law. Men, however, when they have beforehand discerned something, and when they have first formed ideas of certain events, then and not before lay down laws, or make a beginning of customs. If then it was from the apostles, as we said above, that this custom took its beginning, we must adjust ourselves thereto, whatsoever may have been their reasons and the grounds on which they acted; to the end that we too may observe the same in accordance with their practice. For as to things which were written afterwards and which are until now still found, they are ignored by us; and let them be ignored, no matter what they are." (Dionysius of Alexandria, Letters, 1)

"Wherefore, if Christ alone must be heard, we ought not to give heed to what another before us may have thought was to be done, but what Christ, who is before all, first did. Neither is it becoming to follow the practice of man, but the truth of God; since God speaks by Isaiah the prophet, and says, 'In vain do they worship me, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men.' And again the Lord in the Gospel repeals this same saying, and says, 'Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.' Moreover, in another place He establishes it, saying, 'Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.' But if we may not break even the least of the Lord's commandments, how much rather is it forbidden to infringe such important ones, so great, so pertaining to the very sacrament of our Lord's passion and our own redemption, or to change it by human tradition into anything else than what was divinely appointed! For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered....And let this conclusion be reached, dearest brother: if from among our predecessors any have either by ignorance or simplicity not observed and kept this which the Lord by His example and teaching has instructed us to do, he may, by the mercy of the Lord, have pardon granted to his simplicity." (Cyprian, Letter 62:14, 62:17)

"On which account a people obedient to the Lord's precepts, and fearing God, ought to separate themselves from a sinful prelate, and not to associate themselves with the sacrifices of a sacrilegious priest, especially since they themselves have the power either of choosing worthy priests, or of rejecting unworthy ones....For which reason you must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and almost throughout all the provinces; that for the proper celebration of ordinations all the neighbouring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for which a prelate is ordained. And the bishop should be chosen in the presence of the people, who have most fully known the life of each one, and have looked into the doings of each one as respects his habitual conduct. And this also, we see, was done by you in the ordination of our colleague Sabinus; so that, by the suffrage of the whole brotherhood, and by the sentence of the bishops who had assembled in their presence, and who had written letters to you concerning him, the episcopate was conferred upon him, and hands were imposed on him in the place of Basilides." (Cyprian, 67:3, 67:5)

"My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you, and honor him as you do the Lord. For wherever the lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord....Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord....Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers." (The Didache, 4, 11, 15)

Friday, March 12, 2010

The pope gets a promotion!

According to Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome (and who better qualified to judge?), the devil has taken up residence in the Vatican.

To be sure, this will come as no surprise to Reformed believers. However, it represents a significant promotion. At the time the Westminster Confession was promulgated, the Pope was merely the Antichrist. But in the intervening years the Supreme Pontiff has been rewarded for his diligent service to the dark side by moving up a notch to the top slot. As Cardinal Newman might say, the acorn evolved into the oak.

Irrefutable proof that Calvinism makes God the author of sin

i) According to Calvinism, God is the primary author of the Bible

ii) The Bible repeatedly uses the word "sin"

iii) Ergo, Calvinism makes God the author of sin

As Wesley might say, "Such blasphemy this theory of verbal inspiration, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle!"


"BTW were you kicked off Triablogue?" - Sean Gerety

Apostolic Succession (Part 13): Tertullian

Tertullian probably is the second most cited patristic source on apostolic succession, after Irenaeus. Many of the points I made about Irenaeus could also be made about Tertullian. I won't be getting into a lengthy comparison between Tertullian's beliefs and those of Roman Catholicism, as I did with Irenaeus. Those interested in some examples of how Tertullian's beliefs differed from those of Catholics can find some in my articles here. What I want to do in this post is give some examples of the qualifications Tertullian included in his concept of apostolic succession, qualifications that are problematic for the Catholic appeal to Tertullian on this subject.

Like Irenaeus, Tertullian appeals to a core set of doctrines, none of them unique to Roman Catholicism or contrary to Protestantism:

"Now, with regard to this rule of faith - that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend - it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen 'in diverse manners' by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; then having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics." (The Prescription Against Heretics, 13)

It's worth noting that Tertullian's rule of faith differs somewhat from that of Irenaeus. As the Roman Catholic patristic scholar Joseph Lienhard explains, "The rule of faith has no fixed form; each writer adapted it to his immediate goals and intent." (The Bible, The Church, And Authority [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1995], p. 100) Not only did they differ in their definitions of the rule of faith, but they also differed in whether they appealed to a rule at all. Lienhard notes that Theodore of Mopsuestia "does not appeal to the rule of faith, as Irenaeus did" (p. 58). The Baptist patristic scholar D.H. Williams, writing about the later centuries of the patristic era, comments, "the notion of the Rule has become more broadly construed than in earlier centuries" (Tradition, Scripture, And Interpretation [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2006], p. 76). The historian Eric Osborn, commenting on the rule of faith in Irenaeus, writes, "The content of the rule of faith is entirely theological, without the ethical and ecclesiastical content, which it held in Paul and to which it returned in Augustine." (Irenaeus of Lyons [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], p. 149)

Tertullian is arguing for doctrines that were taught publicly and explicitly since the time of the apostles (The Prescription Against Heretics, 22, 25-27). He gives priority to what the apostles taught, making a point about the Marcionites' gospel similar to what Evangelicals have said about the Roman Catholic gospel:

"I am accustomed in my prescription against all heresies, to fix my compendious criterion (of truth) in the testimony of time; claiming priority therein as our rule, and alleging lateness to be the characteristic of every heresy....But should Marcion's gospel succeed in filling the whole world, it would not even in that case be entitled to the character of apostolic. For this quality, it will be evident, can only belong to that gospel which was the first to fill the world" (Against Marcion, 5:19)

Here are some more examples of Tertullian's reasoning, which is often reminiscent of what we find in Irenaeus:

"But what if a bishop, if a deacon, if a widow, if a virgin, if a doctor, if even a martyr, have fallen from the rule of faith, will heresies on that account appear to possess the truth? Do we prove the faith by the persons, or the persons by the faith?...We, however, are not permitted to cherish any object after our own will, nor yet to make choice of that which another has introduced of his private fancy. In the Lord's apostles we possess our authority; for even they did not of themselves choose to introduce anything, but faithfully delivered to the nations of mankind the doctrine which they had received from Christ. If, therefore, even 'an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel' than theirs, he would be called accursed by us....When, indeed, any man doubts about this, proof will be forthcoming, that we have in our possession that which was taught by Christ....But should they [the heretics] even effect the contrivance [of producing a list of bishops from the apostles], they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner. To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine....Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, 'as many as walk according to the rule,' which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures...I hold sure title-deeds from the original owners themselves, to whom the estate belonged. I am the heir of the apostles....Now, what is there in our Scriptures which is contrary to us?" (The Prescription Against Heretics, 3, 6, 9, 32, 37-38)

He's appealing to antiquity, consistency, and other common evidential concepts. A succession of bishops isn't enough without accompanying apostolic doctrine, and agreement with the apostolic faith is sufficient for those who don't have a succession of bishops.

Evangelicals agree with the apostolic rule of faith as it was often defined by patristic sources, like Tertullian. And Evangelicals are in fellowship with some of the modern groups that claim apostolic succession, like Anglicans. It's not as though we've rejected the core set of apostolic doctrines men like Irenaeus and Tertullian refer to, or have separated ourselves from all of those who claim a succession of bishops, just because we're not in fellowship with some such groups, like Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Tertullian did believe that historical successions carried a lot of evidential significance, and he believed that the widespread acceptance of a doctrine was significant, for example. Those are old arguments that predate Tertullian and predate Christianity. Arguments from succession and popularity have been used by all sorts of groups in all sorts of contexts. Modern Roman Catholics do sometimes selectively appeal to similar arguments, but without the same qualifiers that Tertullian and other patristic sources added.

March of folly

"Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vow of celibacy

Over at TFan’s fine blog, I told a commenter that a young man has no right to take a vow of celibacy. He challenged that contention. So let’s pursue the issue.

1.God has designed most men and women such that we normally have a profound desire to pair off. To find a member of the opposite sex with whom we can share our lives, have a family, and grow old together.

One reason a vow of celibacy is wrong is that such a vow is profoundly at odds with the way God made most of us.

By the way, this is not the same thing as choosing to remain single for some unspecified period of time. This is not about delayed gratification. Rather, this is a vow to remain single for the duration.

2.On a related note, the desire to pair off is complex. It has a physical component, but in human beings it is more than physical. It involves memory, imagination, and anticipation. It also involves a general desire for companionship. Of a husband or wife. As well as children.

It is driven in part by loneliness, or fear of loneliness in middle age or old age.

These factors can vary in their intensity. They can vary over time. The physical component may be stronger in youth (although that’s not necessarily the case), while the emotional component may be stronger in middle age–give or take.

A 20-year-old man may, in good conscience, take a vow of celibacy. At the time, he may be quite sincere.

Suppose he’s a seminarian. He enjoys the companionship of other seminarians. And he has time.

But the world may look very different at 40 than it did at 20. A sense of social isolation. A sense that time is running out. He’s approaching a point of no return, beyond which he can’t make up for lost opportunities. He lacks the emotional compensations he had at 20.

Imagine how he feels as offers premarital counseling to star struck couples. As he observes how they hold hands and gaze longingly into each other’s eyes.

Imagine how he feels as he watches young kids jump into the waiting arms of parents, while he returns “home” to an empty house. He has no one in the world to call his own. No one who calls him her own. He’s not a part of anyone. No one is a part of him.

Or suppose, 5 years after he takes his vow, everything is going hunky-dory until he falls in love with a woman. He didn’t plan for that to happen. But suddenly his world looks very different. And he can’t put things back together the way they were before he met her.

It’s possible for him to outwardly keep his vow of celibacy. But there is now a lack of inner consent.

Moreover, this was always a purely artificial and self-imposed duty. Not like a marriage vow. Not something you owe to anyone else. And it’s not driven by a God-given desire for self-fulfillment.

Oh, yes, the church of Rome says a priest is making his vow to God, but that has no divine authorization. It’s no more a vow to God than a human sacrifice. A pagan may intend his human sacrifice for his god or gods, but the transaction is imaginary.

Such a vow is deeply presumptuous. An affront to God.

Needless to say, this also takes a toll on ministry. How many celibate priests are whisky priests? Even if keep their vow, they pay for it in another department.

"Hasty generalizations"

I'm reposting a comment I originally made over at Beggars All in response to a Catholic disputant:

Alex said...

“The double standard requires that we only focus on the short comings of the perverse members of the Catholic Church who violate her teachings...and to further the violence towards intellectual honesty, we are also required to fallaciously attribute such immoralities to the entire Church via hasty generalizations and faulty moral reasoning despite said Church's opposition to those very immoralities.”

Except that Alex is comparing the incomparable. In Protestant theology, Protestant doctrine is separable from the Protestant organizations (e.g. denominations, seminaries, colleges) which institutionalize its doctrine. If, say, a Protestant institution were corrupted, that wouldn’t logically reflect on Protestant theology inasmuch as there was never a one-to-one correspondence in Protestant theology between our doctrines and the particular organizations which institutionalize our doctrines. Protestant institutions come and go. The theological tradition is portable.

By contrast, Catholic theological tradition is inseparable from its institutional identity. The “one true church.” Hence, everything sticks to the Roman church.

If the Roman Church has policies which promote various forms of abuse, then that indicts the institutional church. Likewise, if the Roman Church, in the face of abuse, engages in a cover-up, then that also indicts the institutional church.

Apostolic Succession (Part 12): Irenaeus And Roman Catholicism

Before I move on from Irenaeus, I want to address his beliefs in general, not just his view of apostolic succession. Roman Catholics claim him as one of their predecessors, and they often cite his alleged agreements with them. How likely is it that Irenaeus would agree with Catholic claims that doctrines like the sinlessness of Mary and Purgatory are apostolic traditions always held by the church and passed down in unbroken succession?

Not everything I'm going to mention below is meant to be a contradiction of Roman Catholic teaching. But it is worth noting if Irenaeus rejected a particular Catholic argument for a doctrine or didn't discuss the doctrine in contexts in which he might have mentioned it, for example.

In previous posts in this series, I discussed some of Irenaeus' beliefs that are problematic for Catholicism, such as his apparent ignorance of a papacy and the non-papal reasons he gave for believing in a form of Roman primacy. What I want to do in this post is address some examples not discussed earlier in this series.

Unlike many Roman Catholic clergymen, including many bishops and even some Popes, Irenaeus held a high view of the historicity of the Bible and its traditional authorship attributions. David wrote some of the psalms (Against Heresies, 1:14:8), John wrote 2 John (Against Heresies, 1:16:3), Isaiah wrote Isaiah 43 (Against Heresies, 3:6:2), Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Against Heresies, 4:2:3), etc. Irenaeus viewed scripture as perfect and harmonious (Against Heresies, 2:28:2-3), often referring to some of the most doubted passages of scripture as historical, a view of scripture widely rejected among modern Catholic clergymen and in Catholic scholarly circles. What would Irenaeus think of such Catholic leadership and the failure to correct and discipline the people involved in such errors?

He interpreted scripture as referring to a young earth (Against Heresies, 5:28:2-3, 5:29:2; Demonstration Of The Apostolic Preaching, 19).

He was a premillennialist (Against Heresies, 5:30:4). The historian Eric Osborn notes that premillennialism, which Catholicism has traditionally rejected, had a high place in Irenaeus' theology: "Millenarianism is for many a foreign body in the thought of Irenaeus, and only at the end of the fifth book [of Against Heresies] does this teaching emerge; but it is needed to fulfil the hope which springs from the recapitulation of all things....Irenaeus' eschatology is not an embarrassing postscript but a necessary consequence [of other theological concepts in Irenaeus' thinking]...chiliasm [premillennialism] is a prelude to incorruptibility" (Irenaeus Of Lyons [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], pp. 99-100, 139, 251).

Irenaeus refers to public confession of some sins (Against Heresies, 1:13:5, 1:13:7), but says nothing of the Catholic practice of private confession to a priest.

While some Catholics cite Luke 16:19-31 as evidence of Purgatory, Irenaeus thought the rich man in that passage was in Hell (Against Heresies, 2:24:4, 4:2:4-5). We know that Jesus went to Paradise on the day of His crucifixion (Luke 23:43), and Irenaeus refers to all believers going to the same place until the time of resurrection. He also identifies this place as the place where Paul went in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. Irenaeus refers to all believers going to Paradise until the time of the resurrection (Against Heresies, 5:5:1, 5:31:2). Purgatory isn't just absent from his view of the afterlife. It's contradicted.

Roman Catholicism refers to the "urgency" of baptizing infants in order to be sure of their salvation, even though they might be saved apart from baptism (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 1261). Irenaeus, however, seems to have believed in universal infant salvation, and not on the basis of baptism (Against Heresies, 4:28:3). (Concerning arguments for infant baptism in Irenaeus, see here.)

Jesus is referred to as Mary's "first-begotten" more than once (Against Heresies, 3:16:4; Demonstration Of The Apostolic Preaching, 39), a phrase that could refer to an only child, but is more naturally taken as a reference to the first of more than one. Eric Svendsen discusses some other passages in Irenaeus that likewise carry the implication that Mary ceased to be a virgin sometime after Jesus' birth (Who Is My Mother? [Amityville, New York: Calvary Press, 2001], pp. 101-102).

He says nothing of the sinlessness of Mary, but asks, "And who else is perfectly righteous, but the Son of God, who makes righteous and perfects them that believe on Him, who like unto Him are persecuted and put to death?" (Demonstration Of The Apostolic Preaching, 72) He interprets John 2:4 as a rebuke of Mary for her "untimely haste" (Against Heresies, 3:16:7).

Irenaeus writes about the power of God to deliver people from death, and he cites Enoch, Elijah, and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2) as illustrations of people who were "assumed" and "translated", but he says nothing of an assumption of Mary (Against Heresies, 5:5).

While Catholics often argue that the ark of the covenant is a type of Mary, Irenaeus sees the ark as a type of Jesus and says nothing of applying the concept to Mary as well (Fragments, 48).

He suggests that some slaves of Christian catechumens were ignorant in "imagining that it was actually flesh and blood" that Christians consume in the eucharist (Fragments, 13). Irenaeus describes the eucharist as consisting of two realities, one that comes from Heaven and another that's from the earth, just after referring to the preconsecrated bread as earthly (Against Heresies, 4:18:5). He refers to the eucharist as an example of drinking wine, the same substance that people will drink in Christ's future kingdom (Against Heresies, 5:33:1), after the eucharist has served its purpose (1 Corinthians 11:26). He does describe the eucharist in a manner that could be interpreted as referring to a physical presence of Christ, and all of the passages I've cited above would be consistent with a spiritual presence, but transubstantiation isn't the best explanation for his view. As Eric Osborn notes, Irenaeus has been interpreted in many different ways on this issue over the centuries (Irenaeus Of Lyons [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], p. 134).

Revelation 5:8 is often cited in support of prayers to the dead, but Irenaeus sees the prayers in that passage as directed to God (Against Heresies, 4:17:6-4:18:1). He says nothing of praying to the dead or angels, but instead speaks of prayer as if it's something directed to God: "Nor does she [the church] perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art; but, directing her prayers to the Lord, who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into did the Word give to the people that very precept as to the making of oblations, although He stood in no need of them, that they might learn to serve God: thus is it, therefore, also His will that we, too, should offer a gift at the altar, frequently and without intermission. The altar, then, is in heaven (for towards that place are our prayers and oblations directed)" (Against Heresies, 2:32:5, 4:18:6).

In the context of describing the erroneous beliefs and practices of heretics, Irenaeus disapprovingly mentions that they venerate images "after the same manner of the Gentiles". The way in which they venerate images is no different than what Roman Catholics do. No Roman Catholic would disapprove of venerating an image of Jesus this way, but Irenaeus does disapprove of it: "They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles." (Against Heresies, 1:25:6) It seems likely that Irenaeus was part of the ante-Nicene consensus against the veneration of images.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries"

"Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries"

The pink priesthood

Some comments I originally posted over at TFan's fine blog:

steve said...
I'd just note that this circles-the-wagons reaction is symptomatic of what make the priestly abuse scandal possible and prevalent in the first place. Instead of defending underage youth from predatory priests and corrupt bishops, the first instinct of many "good" Catholics is to defend the institutional church.

SATURDAY, MARCH 06, 2010 12:55:00 AM

steve said...
Christopher said...

“Not all priests are homosexual...”

You’re burning a straw man.

“If this whole issue is about priests and the priest scandal…”

Actually, it’s not. There are parallel examples involving nuns (e.g. Nazareth House).

“The Lutherans and other groups with married clergy also had this problem, but not in as many numbers…”

Which goes to the central issue. Is there a pattern of abuse? Is there a systematic cover-up?

“The USA has always had a rabid stream of anti-catholicism…”

Making allowance for your tendentious choice of words, Catholicism incites “anti-Catholicism” due to the way in which the church of Rome and its followers conduct themselves.

“It should be painfully obvious that the arguments used against priestly celibacy from the standpoint of non-biblical arguments are very weak and flimsy…”

It should be painfully obvious that you ignore evidence to the contrary. (e.g. Goodbye, Good Men by Michael Rose).

True, that’s not the only problem. There’s the underlying problem of false Catholic dogmas.

“Celibacy has biblical support in that many great saints and God Himself while on Earth followed it.”

You fail to draw elementary distinctions between what is voluntary and what is mandatory, what is permissible and what is obligatory.

“I find this use of several events on one side to be offensive and possibly will backfire on those making the argument.”

Maybe you should redirect your offended feelings at the institution which perpetuates abuse.

And when we see a pattern of abuse (scandal in the US, scandal in Ireland, Nazareth House, &c.), then the cumulative evidence points to profound institutional rot from top to bottom.

SATURDAY, MARCH 06, 2010 10:06:00 PM

steve said...
Christopher said...

“I used Ted Haggard as a decidedly non-Catholic example.”

An example of a closet homosexual who didn’t belong in Christian ministry.

“I just don't like the sexual scandal with Catholic priests (which is the one that has received the most press of all the sexual scandals in all Christian bodies) as evidence that their stand on celibacy is wrong.”

The fact that you don’t like it does nothing to obviate the evidence.

“Indeed, would you like a person with homosexual tendencies to marry a woman/man whom he/she does not really love, or would you like them to remain in a life of celibacy? Obviously marriage and fornication is forbidden, and so for them, celibacy is all there is.”

i) If you’re still discussing clergy, then you’ve set up a false dichotomy between married homosexual clergymen and unmarried homosexual clergymen. But those are obviously not the only available alternatives.

What about heterosexual married clergymen? And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with heterosexual unmarried clergymen as long as it’s voluntary.

One of the obvious problems with a “vow” of celibacy is if you change your mind.

ii) You’re also presuming that homosexual attraction is indelible. Why do you assume once a homosexual, always a homosexual?

“There have been good monks who have been homosexual (Seraphim Rose is an example from the ROCOR tradition) and yet lived celibate and chaste lives.”

You and I have no common ground on this issue:

i) Homosexuals should never enter the Christian ministry.

ii) Moreover, you have an idiosyncratic notion of Christian identity and sanctification if you think a man can be a holy homosexual.

“If however, you would use an unfortunate incident to argue against Rome as a whole and even on the basis of clerical celibacy I will staunchly denounce such a move.”

We’re not discussing “incidents.” We’re discussing patterns. Don’t you know the difference?

One royal flush is an incident. Five in a row gets you a pair of concrete galoshes.

“It is no different than my pointing to evangelical pastors who have internet pornography and who are married and quote Romans 1 to them as can "go both ways" (if you'll excuse the pun).”

You might as well say that we shouldn’t do a background check when we hire a new church treasurer. After all, you don’t have to be a bank robber to embezzle church funds. Therefore, we shouldn’t bother to screen out applicants with convictions for bank robbery–since even if we did, that’s no guarantee that someone with a spotless record won’t succumb to temptation.

MONDAY, MARCH 08, 2010 12:21:00 AM

steve said...
Christopher said...

“I don't think you and I are tracking at all. I made the statement about Seraphim Rose because he was a practicing homosexual who stopped and repented, becoming a monk.”

The thought is father to the deed. Murder in the heart. Adultery in the heart. Sin begins in the mind. A sinful action is merely the outward expression of sin.

There’s more to holiness than self-restraint. There is also a process of inner transformation.

“Whether he had homosexual urgings is another biological matter.”

You seem to think homosexual urges are reducible to biology. What do you base that on? Are murderous urges reducible to biology?

“You are not always how you act…”

We may not act on how we feel, but we do what we do because we are what we are.

“The statement about Ted Haggard still stands: He was a closet homosexual who was married and fooled many. He should not have entered the Christian ministry in your mind because of his passions which he obviously could not control.”

Homosexuals don’t belong in ministry. Rather, they need to be ministered to.

“One of your married clergy in Protestantism who has the problem you think a majority of monastics and priests have.”

i) I never put a figure on the percentage of homosexual clergy in the Catholic church.

ii) However, you also act as if heterosexual and homosexual urges are morally equivalent. They’re not.

Heterosexual urges are natural. By contrast, homosexual urges are inherently sinful. It isn’t merely homosexual activity which is sinful. Homosexual attraction is sinful.

“I also said nothing about not doing background checks on church treasurers...that's a completely asinine reductio ad absurdam.”

To the contrary, you act as though, since both homosexuals and heterosexuals commit sexual sin, that sexual orientation is irrelevant to one’s pastoral qualifications.

So, by that logic, since bank robbers and non-bank robbers both commit property crimes, we shouldn’t discriminate in hiring bank robbers.

“I merely pointed out that the logic does not follow, and you jump all over me, positing opinions I never expressly said nor hold.”

It’s pursuing the logical implications of your position.

“I merely pointed out that the logic does not follow, and you jump all over me, positing opinions I never expressly said nor hold.”

You seem to think you’re entitled to opine in public, but be immune to opinions to the contrary. Sorry to burst your bubble.

“Therefore, those who have homosexual tendencies who partake of a life of celibacy are better off than those who don't.”

Once more, you treat homosexual identity as if that were indelible. Why?

“But the other problem with a vow is that you still follow it, just as Paul did in Acts 18:18, and I hope you do with your marriage vows (something God did not institute btw).”

Wrong. You fail to draw an elementary distinction between lawful vows and unlawful vows. There is no obligation to carry out an unlawful vow. Put another way, there can never be a moral obligation to do wrong. Do you think Jephtha was duty-bound to sacrifice his daughter?

In the OT, vows were not unconditional. Some vows could be annulled by a responsible party.

A young man has no right to take a vow of celibacy.

TUESDAY, MARCH 09, 2010 4:50:00 PM

steve said...
BTW, William Ames, in his _Conscience: With the Power and Cases Thereof_, has a discussion of the difference between lawful and unlawful vows.

Also, good commentaries on the Pentateuch discuss conditions under which a vow can be nullified.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2010 5:54:00 PM


I see that Matthew Bellisario has done a post on "Self-abuse."

What's ironic about this is that it got started when I did a post on John-Paul II whipping himself as a spiritual exercise. Armstrong then did a post not only defending self-flagellation, but he even went so far as to spooftext self-mutilation (cutting oneself).

So, according to Armstrong, Bellesario, et al. if an adolescent touches himself in the "wrong" place, that is "self-abuse," but if he whips himself bloody or crawls on his bare knees up a flight of stony steps, that's an act of supererogatory merit.

Autoeroticism is intrinsically evil and disordered, but physical self-harm is commendatory as long as this is a "spiritual" exercise.

I guy named Cory also raised some objections. Unfortunately, he doesn't offer any arguments to respond to. Just assertions.

I already dealt with the "lust" objection, both practically and exegetically. Of course, I could always be wrong, but no counterargument is forthcoming from his end.

He also lodges a last-ditch appeal to tradition. But tradition, at best, has an advisory role, not an executive role. Indeed, he's obviously quite selective in his own appropriation of tradition on various issue.

Everything is traditional. Gnosticism is traditional. Docetism is traditional. Arianism is traditional.

There's also his assumption that, in this context, sexual fantasies always involve a strange woman. Well, that's a very revealing assumption.

What about a married serviceman on a 6-month tour of duty overseas? Is it wrong for him to fantasize about his own wife?

We can debate that, but my immediate point is that a scenario like this doesn't even occur to Cory.

Likewise, does he think single men should read the Song of Solomon? What about single Christians–male or female. Should the Song of Solomon be part of their canon?

If they read it, won't that appeal to their imagination? Indeed, isn't the imagery designed to have that effect?

Apparent or actual contradictions?

One of the popular objections to theological paradox is that once we admit the existence of theological paradox, we can’t distinguish an actual contradiction from an apparent contradiction.

I’ll just make a few basic observations:

1. One problem with this objection is the assumption that you can determine reality by what you deem to be certain unacceptable consequences. If you think that paradox leads to unacceptable consequences, then that’s a reason to reject paradox.

However, reality isn’t all that deferential to our prejudicial dictates. For example, apparent inconsistencies are a commonplace of human experience. So it’s not as if reality was structured to eliminate the possibility of apparent inconsistencies–at least from the vantage-point of human observers.

2. We have sufficient reason to believe a paradox in case we have sufficient reason to believe each individual proposition which taken together comprise the set of propositions.

3. Apropos (2), to ask whether we have a criterion to distinguish an apparent contradiction from an actual contradiction is the wrong question to ask. After all, there are many situations in life where we have no criterion to distinguish the two. So, both in principle and practice, that is not a rational demand.

Rather, we should ask whether we have sufficient reason to believe an apparent contradiction is merely apparent or actual.

4. Apropos (3-4), we have sufficient reason to believe an apparent contradiction is merely apparent in case we have sufficient reason to believe each individual proposition.

Conversely, we have insufficient reason to believe an apparent contradiction is merely apparent in case we have insufficient reason to believe one or more of the individual propositions.

Crampton on perspicuity

I'm posting some things I said in recent email regarding Crampton's view of perspicuity vis-a-vis his incompetent review of Anderson's book:

Given a Scripturalist epistemology, the Bible is simply unknowable. In toto. Not even an object of knowledge. In part or in whole.

So Crampton is in no position to invoke the perspicuity of Scripture when, on his view, we can't actually know a single verse of Scripture, or know if that sensory object we perceive is a Bible rather than a bathtub.

In addition, Crampton's version of perspicuity conflates two distinct issues.

There's a rudimentary difference between claiming that:

i) Something is a clear medium of communication

And claiming that:

ii) What is communicated is clear

A speaker may be a clear communicator, yet the truth he communicates may be difficult or obscure.

For the nature of the truth, thus conveyed, is completely distinct from the nature of the medium.

Gödel's incompleteness theorems may be models of logical clarity, yet they'd be wholly unintelligible to a non-mathematician.

On a related note–isolated ideas or individual propositions might be lucidly clear even though their logical interrelation is less than clear or even opaque.

An Arminian dilemma

The ever-estimable James Swan has done a post on the problem of evil. I’m going to seize on one insight:

“If I knew in advance that a person was going to get in their car by their own choice, and while driving down the road strike and kill someone, and I let them do it, I share responsibility. It's actually a severely culpable responsibility because I knew and they didn't.”

I think this point merits elaboration. From a human viewpoint, if I know that somebody is in danger, and he does not, and my advance knowledge of the danger equips me to allay the tragic outcome, then don’t I have a duty to prevent the outcome?

Even if I didn’t foreknow the outcome, if it were just a probable outcome, would it not be incumbent on me to take preemptive measures?

Suppose, instead of a reckless driver, I know that a falling tree will kill a bystander unless I intervene. The tree is not responsible. And the bystander is not responsible.

In that situation, I’m the only responsible party. Since the bystander is oblivious to the threat, he can’t step out of the way in time.

In that situation, I don’t simply share responsibility with the bystander, but I shoulder the entire responsibility. If I fail to act on my advance knowledge, then I’m culpable. And, what is more, I’m solely to blame.

If he’s an innocent bystander, then I can hardly excuse my own role in the outcome on the grounds that I merely “allowed” it to happen. For allowing it to happen is the very thing that’s culpable in this situation.

On the other hand, suppose the victim is not an innocent bystander. Suppose he’s a serial killer. And I know that. With that in mind, I let the tree fall on him and crush him to death.

I’m still responsible for the outcome. But am I blameworthy? No. To the contrary, I’d be blameworthy if I saved the life of a serial killer.

There are, of course, differences between divine and human obligations. But that just complicates the Arminian objection to Calvinism. Indeed, it generates a dilemma for the Arminian.

To the extent that the Arminian accentuates human analogies, he inculpates the Arminian God in evil.

To the extent that the Arminian accentuates the disanalogy between divine and human obligations, he exculpates the Calvinist God.

Traces of the Trinity

One leading features of human experience is memory. And this, in turn, can generate a rather paradoxical psychology.

Say a middle-aged man has a fond childhood memory. Not only does the adult remember where he was and what he was doing as a boy, but he also remembers what he was thinking and feeling at the time.

This creates a nested, dual consciousness. He is now conscious of what he was then conscious of.

This also raises some vexed questions of personal identity. In one sense he’s the same person. These are his memories, and not the memories of somebody else he is telepathically accessing.

Yet he’s obviously different in some respects from his boyish counterpart. And not just physically.

Although I’m using the example of memory, we could, in principle, extend this in the other direction. Suppose the 10-year-old boy can foresee his 50-year-old counterpart. In that event, the younger self could be aware of what his older self was aware of. Mutual awareness.

In some respects this is analogous to the Trinity. Of course, no creaturely comparison is going to be identical with God. But there are various ways in which the world represents God. Concrete illustrations of the divine nature.

Apostolic Succession (Part 11): More Of Irenaeus' Standards

Irenaeus explains that a succession of bishops isn't enough, but must be accompanied by moral and doctrinal standards:

"From all such persons [corrupt church leaders], therefore, it behoves us to keep aloof, but to adhere to those who, as I have already observed, do hold the doctrine of the apostles, and who, together with the order of priesthood, display sound speech and blameless conduct for the confirmation and correction of others....Where, therefore, the gifts of the Lord have been placed, there it behoves us to learn the truth, namely, from those who possess that succession of the Church which is from the apostles, and among whom exists that which is sound and blameless in conduct, as well as that which is unadulterated and incorrupt in speech." (Against Heresies, 4:26:4-5)

Irenaeus' concept of apostolic succession carries such qualifications with it and would have to be balanced with other arguments and placed within a hierarchy of authorities. Just as a parent or government official can be disobeyed if he commands something contrary to what God has commanded, so also bishops have a qualified and subordinate authority.

Earlier this year, Dave Armstrong responded to this passage in Irenaeus:

The Christian moral standard [citing 1 John 3:9 and 5:18] is extremely high. We would fully expect men to fall short of it, and they do. But in any event, St. Irenaeus alone does not decide the criteria of bishops: the Church ultimately does that....

Jason has, as usual, distorted what St. Irenaeus actually taught here. First of all, he is talking about priests ('presbyters'), not bishops. In the quotation above that I brought out, he contrasts them with the episcopate, which is the bishops....

As I have shown, Irenaeus was not referring to bishops in the passage under consideration, but to priests. But if a bishop did become a heretic, then any Catholic would be within his rights to avoid him, too: of course. (sources here and here)

Saying that "St. Irenaeus alone does not decide the criteria of bishops" tells us what Dave believes. But it doesn't reconcile Irenaeus with Catholicism.

We know that the early patristic Christians held church leaders accountable to a much higher moral standard than we would later see in the history of the papacy and Catholic bishops in general. Polycarp approved of the removal of a presbyter from the Philippian church, reasoning "if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen" (Letter To The Philippians, 11). Some of the patristic sources speak of how particular sins render a man unqualified to serve as a bishop. We know that some Roman bishops attained their office by means of such sins or remained in office while committing them. For moral standards applied to the episcopate that would disqualify some of the bishops of Rome, see the following examples: Cyprian, Letter 63:1-2; Peter of Alexandria, The Canonical Epistle, 10; Apostolic Constitutions, 8:47:30-31.

And Dave is wrong about what offices Irenaeus was referring to. As Philip Schaff explains:

"the wavering terminology of Irenaeus in the interchangeable use of the words 'bishop' and 'presbyter' reminds us of Clement of Rome, and shows that the distinction of the two orders was not yet fully fixed" (History Of The Christian Church, 2:4:46)

Robert Lee Williams writes:

"Tradition from the apostles is preserved [according to Irenaeus] by the successions of 'presbyters' (3.2.2), present bishops in solidarity with the ancient ones of the post-apostolic period." (Bishop Lists [Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2005], p. 136)

In the section of Irenaeus under consideration (Against Heresies, 4:26:2-5), Irenaeus refers to "those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles" (4:26:2). His focus earlier in his treatise had been on bishops, so it would make more sense for him to refer to bishops here than to refer to a lower office. He goes on, "Such presbyters does the Church nourish, of whom also the prophet says: 'I will give thy rulers in peace, and thy bishops in righteousness.' [Isaiah 60:17]" Presbyters and bishops are being equated. Earlier, Irenaeus had referred to "the succession of presbyters in the Churches" (3:2:2), and he goes on in the next section to name bishops, including the bishops of Rome, in the context of succession (3:3:3-4). In a letter to the Roman bishop Victor, Irenaeus refers to "the presbyters before Soter, who presided over the church which thou now rulest. We mean Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus." (cited in Eusebius, Church History, 5:24) He's referring to Roman bishops as presbyters.

Despite his erroneous objection that Irenaeus was referring to some lower office rather than bishops, Dave wrote, "But if a bishop did become a heretic, then any Catholic would be within his rights to avoid him, too: of course." Irenaeus doesn't limit the standard to whether a bishop is a heretic, much less a heretic by modern Roman Catholic standards. Rather, Irenaeus refers to sound teaching without specifying whether he has something like Dave's concept of heresy in mind, and he refers to moral standards that the bishop must meet. Evangelicals would argue that modern Roman Catholic bishops have erred in their teaching to a large degree, and many Catholic bishops, including a lot of Popes, have been morally unfit. As we'll see in some later posts in this series, other patristic sources also held bishops to standards like those of Irenaeus or qualified their concept of apostolic succession in some other way.

Irenaeus was writing less than a century after the apostolic era, and he was arguing for a faith consisting of core beliefs that were held by every church he considered Christian, beliefs that had been taught explicitly, had been taught consistently, and were maintained by bishops who met high moral standards. Every one of those criteria just mentioned is weakened or absent in a modern system like Catholicism. The modern Catholic bishop is much further removed from the time of the apostles, requires his people to accept far more than the core set of beliefs Irenaeus referred to, acknowledges that many churches he considers Christian reject some of his alleged apostolic traditions, claims that doctrines like the papacy and the assumption of Mary were taught implicitly rather than explicitly in the earliest generations, has to acknowledge that even some Roman bishops rejected modern Catholic beliefs, and comes from a long line of morally corrupt predecessors.

An Evangelical can agree with much or all of what Irenaeus says about the standards he applies to such issues, yet not expect himself and other modern Christians to live according to all of Irenaeus' conclusions. Those conclusions depend largely on a context that no longer exists.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rejoinder to Crampton

James Anderson's rejoinder (PDF) to Gary Crampton's review of his book.

Response to Crampton

James Anderson responds to Gary Crampton's review of his book.

Godawa on Superman Returns

Superman Returns, written by Dan Harris and Jerry Siegel, returns to the comic hero’s religious mythology. Superman is likened to deity throughout the film The recurring thematic phrases ‘I have sent you my only son’ and ‘The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son’ refer to Superman’s metaphorical link with his father, Jor-El (an obvious derivation of a name of God in Hebrew: El). While not exactly orthodoxy Christian doctrine, this relational incarnation is certainly derived from Jesus’ own words, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son’ (Jn 3:16), and ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9).

“A bad guy compares Superman to Prometheus and the gods, and ultimate bad guy Lex Luther responds jealously, ‘The gods are selfish beings, who don’t share their powers with mankind,’ thus expressing the spiritual hubris similar to the original sin in the Garden. In response to Lois Lane’s claim that ‘the world doesn’t need a savior and neither do I,’ Superman flies her up into the stratosphere, where we hear the prayer-like cacophony of billions of people in need of his saving powers ringing in his ears. Like an omniscient deity, Superman compassionately replies to Lois, ‘Every day I hear people crying for one,’” B. Godawa, Hollywood Worldviews (IVP, 2nd ed. 2009), 64-65.

Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens, the brother of Christopher Hitchens, traces his journey back to Christianity.


Here is part of a letter (with minor edits) that I wrote recently.

1. Background

A few weeks ago I read an online article in Christianity Today which said the late Pope John-Paul II used to practice self-flagellation to draw him closer to Christ.

I blogged on that. I pointed out that this is characteristic of a masochistic strain in Catholic piety. And I did a little satire.

Not surprisingly, some Catholic bloggers got riled up. Mind you, they weren’t offended by self-flagellation. They were only offended by the fact that I satirized this masochistic practice.

One of them tried to justify the Catholic practice of self-flagellation by appealing to the ancient Near Eastern convention of donning sackcloth. For example, he quoted Isa 32:11, and used that example to justify Catholic self-flagellation.

So I did a little post on that as well. I quoted from Oswalt’s standard commentary on Isaiah (1:585). As Oswalt notes, this mourning ritual involves an element of nudity.

I then raised the question of whether, if a Catholic is going to use this verse as a prooftext for self-flagellation, that would also justify nudity.

Once again, the Catholic bloggers got riled up. Yet all I did was to apply their own prooftext in a Catholic context. They are the ones, not me, who think this is relevant to Christian piety.


At this point, “WRISTWATCHER80” entered the fray. He accused me of lacking “basic Christian charity,” and “mockery to the oneness of the Body of Christ,” as well as “referr[ing] to other Christians as the ‘enemy’ because they understand the minutia of the mechanics of salvation differently than” I do.

But these accusations raise a number of questions regarding his own moral consistency and theological priorities.

i) I don’t think that theological differences between Calvinism and Catholicism are reducible to “the minutia of the mechanics of salvation.”

I don’t think issues involving sola fide, the sufficiency of the atonement, condign merit, congruent merit, the cult of the saints, the intercession of Mary, the treasury of merit, the veneration of relics, &c., represent theological minutiae.

To the contrary, Catholic theology comes close to representing a completely different religious system. Although Roman Catholicism has some residual traces of Christian theology, it has introduced so many fundamental errors that we’re dealing with core articles of the faith.

If “WRISTWATCHER80” is, indeed, a communicant member of a Reformed denomination, then his elders need to counsel him on the fundamentals of the faith.

ii) Apropos (i), one of his problems is his evident sympathy for Roman Catholic theology. For instance, he said “I was recently exposed to JP2’s theology of the body and it is very tough on how our sexuality should be geared towards marriage and away from sin/carnal lust. Or what about Humane Vitae? It stresses that the acceptance of birth control is related to the sexual objectification of women.”

I think he tipped his hand at that point.

iii) There is also the glaring problem of double standards. He faults me for lacking Christian charity, yet he tells me that I’m “obviously a bitter, angry and hateful man.” He also compared me to the infamous Fred Phelps.

So he doesn’t live by his own standards. He accuses me of lacking charity, yet he’s blithely uncharitable in what he says about me. This is rank hypocrisy.

iv) He also has a very latitudinarian view of who a Christian is. Speaking for myself, I operate with the Presbyterian criterion: I regard someone as a fellow Christian if he can offer a credible profession of faith.

I don’t view someone as a Christian simply because he calls himself a Christian.

For example, I’ve encountered Arminians who tell me that, as a Calvinist, I worship the devil. They say the God of Calvinism is worse than the devil. And that’s what I worship.

Well, how am I supposed to view an Arminian who says that? What level of spiritual affinity is left at that point?

I’m not saying that all Arminians speak this way. But some do. And I don’t feel any spiritual kinship for those who do.

3. Military metaphors

“WRISTWATCHER80” also accuses me of calling other Christians the “enemy.” That, however, is a distortion of what I actually said. Here is what I actually said:

“Every apologist for every theological tradition acts as though the distinctives of his particular tradition all-important. He treats the debate as a battle to the death. Take no prisoners. Give no quarter to the enemy.”

a) Notice, first of all, that I was using metaphors: “battle to the death…take no prisoners.”

Needless to say, Christian apologists don’t literally engage in mortal combat or execute POWs.

b) I’d also add that Scripture itself is studded with military metaphors (e.g. Rom 13:12; Eph 6:10-24; Phil 2:25; 1 Thes 5:8; 2 Tim 2:3-4). So there’s nothing inherently wrong with using military metaphors.

c) In addition, I was discussing the approach of Christian apologists in general, which I can easily document. Just spend sometime on the internet reading Catholic apologists, Arminian apologists, Eastern Orthodox apologists, &c.

4. Satire

Sometimes I use satire. Is that wrong? Well, the Bible uses satire. The parable of Pharisee & the tax-collector (Lk 18:9-14) is satirical. Christ’s malediction in Mt 23 is rife with satirical jabs against the Pharisees. Leland Ryken has a whole chapter (14) devoted to Biblical satire in his Words of Delight: A Literary introduction to the Bible.

5. Sexual metaphors

“WRISTWATCHER80” is offended that I used a masochistic metaphor to lampoon the masochistic practice of Catholic self-flagellation.

However, the Bible itself is loaded with sexual metaphors to depict truth and falsehood, piety or impiety.

The language and imagery (sometimes quite graphic) of spiritual adultery or spiritual prostitution is a stock convention of the OT prophets, viz. Isa 57:3-9; Ezk 16; 23; 43:7-9; Jer 2:20,23-24; 3:1-23; 13:26-27.

Indeed, there’s a complete book of the OT devoted to this metaphor: Hosea

Jesus uses the same metaphor: Mt 12:39; 16:4.

And John, in the Apocalypse, makes extensive use of this metaphor, (e.g. Rev 14; 17-19; 19:1-2).

Conversely, the Bible also uses positive sexual metaphors –although that’s far less common (e.g. 2 Cor 11:2; Rev 14:4).

So there’s nothing inherently wrong with using sexual metaphors to depict truth and error, piety and impiety.

6. Reformed theology

In addition to Biblical precedent, Reformed theologians traditionally apply Biblical metaphors involving spiritual adultery or prostitution to the church of Rome and her representatives. Let’s take just three examples:

i) The Geneva Bible (1560/99)

Here are some footnotes from the historical Geneva Bible, concerning the “whore of Babylon”:

Rev 14:8: By the which fornication; God is provoked to wrath, so that he suffereth many to walk in the way of the Romish doctrine to their destruction.

17:3: The beast signifieth the ancient Rome; the woman that sitteth thereon, the new Rome which is the Papistry, whose cruelty and blood shedding is declared by scarlet.

17:12: That is, arising with their kingdoms out of that Roman beast; at such time as that political Empire began by the craft of the Popes greatly to fall.

18:23 The Romish prelates and merchants of souls are as Kings and princes; so that their covetousness and pride must be punished; secondly their crafts and deceits; and thirdly their cruelty.

ii) John Gill

Here are some comments from Gill’s exposition of Revelation, regarding the “whore of Babylon”:

Rev 14:8 Rome Papal, called Babylon the great, Re 16:5 and so the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac and Arabic versions, read here; and the Romish antichrist is so called, because that city was famous for its pride and haughtiness, for its tyranny and cruelty, and for its idolatry; and indeed its name, which signifies “confusion”, well agrees with the Papacy, which is a confused mixture of Judaism, Paganism, and Christianity: so Rome is called Babel in some ancient writings of the Jews {o}, where some copies read “Babel”, others read “Rome” ; and Tertullian, who wrote long before the appearance of the Romish antichrist.

Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication,.... These are the ten kings, who being of the same mind, and of one religion, the Popish religion, gave their power, strength, and kingdom to the beast, Re 17:12 and have been enticed by the whore of Rome to commit spiritual fornication with her; that is, idolatry, to worship, as that church enjoins, idols of gold, silver, brass, and wood, the images of the virgin Mary, and other saints; hence this whore appears to be no mean strumpet, but one of great note, and in much vogue, being sought after and made use of by the great men of the earth; “and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication”; that is, the inhabitants of the Roman empire, or earthly minded men, mere carnal persons, have been drawn into idolatrous practices by the allurements of the church of Rome; such as riches, honours, pleasures, lying miracles, and great pretensions to devotion and religion; whereby they have been intoxicated as men with wine, and have been filled with a blind zeal for that church, and the false doctrines and worship of it, and with madness and fury against the true professors of religion.

iii) Turretin

And here is Turretin on the same subject:

…Papal Rome; as that she would intoxicate and fascinate the nations and kinds of the earth with the golden cup of her fornications (Rev 17:2; 18:3); that they would commit fornication with her, that she would make merchandise and gain souls (Rev 18:13)…that she would glory in her infallibility and majesty as “a queen, who would see no sorrow” (Rev 18:7)…the seat which they call apostolic should not only become apostate, but would degenerate so greatly from her pristine piety as to stand forth the mother and mistress of all supervisions and harlotries in the Christian world and the cause of persecutions against the holy martyrs of God, and would be the seat of Antichrist himself. Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R 1997), 3:134

Now, even if we disagree with the traditional Reformed interpretation of Revelation at this juncture, we don’t have to view this description as prophetic of the Roman Church to think the description is applicable to analogous institutions or representatives thereof in church history. Something can be analogous without its being prophetic.

If, for example, we prefer the “modified idealism” of Reformed scholars like Beale and Poythress, this language would still be applicable whenever we’re dealing with an analogous situation in church history–be it the medieval church or the modern church. Or the state. Or Islam. Or Christian cults. And so on and so forth.

If “WRISTWATCHER80” is, indeed, a member of a Reformed church, then the onus lies with him, not with me, to justify his repudiation of traditional Reformed discourse.

As a general proposition, when pastors preach through books of the Bible that address spiritual immorality, don’t they also treat these passages as cautionary statements which apply to the modern church? That Christians should consider these passages to be warnings, not merely to ancient Jews, who are dead and buried, but to our own circumstances?

So I can’t see anything intrinsically wrong with the use of satire or sexual metaphors to depict modern truth and error, or piety and impiety, in comparable situations.

I’d also add that when Catholics treat clergy, or religious orders, as sacrosanct figures, their attitude creates the sort of sort of cover that generates the widespread scandals involving predatory priests, abusive nuns, complicit bishops, &c.