Monday, May 29, 2017

Moral Considerations On Abortion

  • Introduction:
          -From a Judeo-Christian perspective, the fact that cultural liberals are obsessed with depicting abortion as being a woman's right and a personal healthcare choice is wicked. It has been defended with religious vigor. The underlying reasoning for opposition to abortion by Christians is that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. It would be unthinkable to destroy that. 
          -The existence of controversy on this matter pertaining to the birth of children shows that our society does not value human life as it should. It is a rather distorted aspect of our culture. Millions of babies through the decades have been denied a chance at life because of the choices of their mothers. They have been robbed of a chance to reach their full potential in life.
          -The abortion movement is one of the offshoots of the feminist movement, which sought to obtain equal rights for women. Hence, this is the reason that pro-choice advocates proclaim that they want "equal rights" with men. One question worth pondering is, "How free can a person be to make his own choices before they infringe on the rights of other people?"
  • Refuting The "My Body, My Choice" Slogan:
              -The life developing inside the womb has a different body. So the decision is not up to the woman to terminate that life.
              -There are situations in which we prevent people from making decisions with their own bodies such as suicide and substance abuse. We know these things to be wrong.
              -If a baby does not have the "right" to use a woman's body for a period of nine months (it is attached to her through an umbilical cord), then why should an infant have a right to nurse on his mother, since he also depends on her for survival? Using this line of reasoning, why not bother to perform a surgical procedure to end their lives at the whim of the parent?
    • Arguing That Human Life Begins At The Moment Of Conception:
              -When can a fetus correctly be recognized as human life, three hours before birth? When exactly does a fetus transform into a baby? If a fetus is not a baby, then what is it? If the answer is a "glob of cells," then how come it cannot be formally recognized as being a "human," since we are also a "glob of cells?"
              -The claim that an embryo or cell in another stage of development in the womb is not a human is scientifically inaccurate. They all have DNA, 46 chromosomes, a unique blood type, brain waves, and organs that function independently of the mother's body. They all have a human nature, as further evidenced by the myriad of photos of aborted babies. 
              -The only difference between us who are fully grown and the beings found in a woman's womb is the stage of development. However, the stage of development does not determine "how human" a person is. The value of human life is not dependent on how well a human body is formed.
    • What About Cases Of Rape, Incest, And When Life Is Endangered?:
              -Women who were raped by selfish men may feel violated and would thus not want to possess a child (or any object) that brings back terrible memories of such occasions. Neither would families want a product of incest to be born into the world because of the possibility of a damaged reputation, various genetic health conditions, or abnormal bodily features on the baby. But these reasons do not amount to a valid rationalization of the abortion procedure because the scenarios presented at hand still involve the murder of an innocent human being.
              -Despite the fact that the perpetrators of the crimes should be penalized to the maximum extent of the law, that still does not mean that we should murder other people because we have been victimized. It is equally wrong to take somebody's life because he not wanted. Children should be loved, regardless of how they were conceived. The conclusions to these kinds of arguments have been constructed entirely on selfish logical premises.
              -These pro-abortion arguments could actually be used to demean women. The implication of them is that they are unable to overcome negative circumstances in life. We must set aside emotional barriers in order to make rational decisions which are built on the proper application of moral principles.

    Friday, May 26, 2017

    A Refutation Of Christian Mortalism (Soul Sleep)

    • Introduction:
              -Soul sleep is the belief that after a person dies, his soul "sleeps" until the resurrection and final judgment. According to this theology, the souls of people who are in this condition are unaware or unconscious of the things taking place around them. Two positions on the nature of the soul would be the dichotomous (the elements of a man are body and soul) and trichotomous (the elements of a man are body, soul, and spirit) view. 
              -In the Bible, the word "sleep" is used in relation to the word "death," for a corpse indeed appears to our eyes to be sound asleep. A person's body is "sleeping" while his soul is in the location of his eternal destiny. Man is a unity, but that does not mean the elements of his being cannot be separated. The material and immaterial aspects of man are what make him who he is in his entirety.
              -We face judgment with God the moment we die (Hebrews 9:27). Hence, our fate is eternally sealed at them moment of physical death. While some people enter into the presence of God in the heaven, those who were unfaithful to Him in this life will end up in a state of eternal condemnation by God in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). References to the "soul" do not always refer to the immaterial aspects of man (Psalm 42:5; 43:5).
              -There is a temporary heaven and hell that exists until the final resurrection (2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14). In the resurrection, each person's "sleeping" body will be "awakened" and transformed into a perfected, permanent body that will be possessed by each individual for all eternity. People who are accepted into heaven after judgment will be allowed into the new heavens and earth (Revelation 21:1-5). Those in Hades will be thrown into the lake of sulfur and fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
    • For Christians, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23):
              -If we do not have a soul that remains conscious after death, then the force of Paul's words in Philippians of being with Christ as "far better" lose their force. He has nothing to look forward to but a long period of unawareness of personal surroundings until the final resurrection. He speaks of "being with Christ" without mention of losing consciousness after death. 
              -Paul forms a dichotomy between being away from his body and being eternally with God. He clearly believed that there was an incorporeal aspect of man that leaves the physical body after death.
    • The parable of the rich man and Lazarus clearly reveals to us that souls will not cease to be conscious in the afterlife (Luke 16:19-31):
              -The references to the "finger" and "tongue" of the rich man in this passage are obviously figurative, since the mentioned individuals are disembodied spirits. The punishment for the rich man and bliss of Lazarus are still very much real. Much concerning the spiritual realm remains a mystery to we who are alive on this earth.
    • Physically dead tribulational martyrs were fully conscious in heaven (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17).
    • Jesus Christ told the unrepentant thief on the cross that he would enter paradise that same day (Luke 23:39-43).
    • Moses and Elijah were spiritually conscious during the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9):
              -Elijah was assumed into heaven by God, but the presence of Moses poses a problem for soul sleep. He died thousands of years before Christ, yet is here found to be speaking with Christ.
    • Paul was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words (2 Corinthians 12:2-4):
              -The Apostle Paul did not think leaving the body meant a loss of consciousness. We are given no commentary as to how this out of body experience was. It may possibly be a reference to Paul's conversion on a journey to Damascus. Nevertheless, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 is problematic for soul sleep proponents because it shows us that a separation of body and soul does not denote a loss of consciousness. He remained aware of his surroundings despite being separated from the body.
    • Biblical prohibitions against necromancy pose a problem for soul sleep (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:1-12; Isaiah 8:19-20):
              -Why even try contacting dead people if their souls are not consciously existing? Biblical prohibitions against contacting the dead presuppose conscious life after death. These prohibitions would hardly be meaningful or necessary in a soul sleep framework.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    "Lord of The Flies" Theme Reflection

            In the novel titled "Lord of The Flies," which was authored by William Golding, a choir of boys got sequestered on an island due to a plane crash. The setting of this fictional work took place on a vacant island during World War Two. In other words, a large group of British boys who participated in a choir were unable to reach their originally planned destination because of a forced plane landing during the Second World War. Because of this tragedy, this group of boys needed to learn how to properly fend for themselves. The choir needed to function as a whole in order to survive because there was no source of bodily nourishment being provided by responsible adults who worked to maintain the health of the economy. The book "Lord of The Flies" attests to the depths of human depravity. The formation of societal values and any degree of success is entirely dependent on the compromise of individuals who work together for the sake of the common good.

            A large group of choir boys from England were separated from the world on a small island by the ocean due to a plane crash and thus needed to learn how to establish a civilized, well-organized assemblage of people in order increase the probability of prolonged survival or getting rescued. But the boys failed to grasp the severity of their life-threatening situation. For example, most members of the choir became so preoccupied with hunting wild boars that they repeatedly failed provide fuel for the rescue fire and thus missed an opportunity to get rescued by a war ship that passed by the island. Most of them viewed life on the island as solely an opportunity for constant entertainment. Their reasoning was based on the fact that no adult figures were present on the island to govern their decisions each day. Most members of the British choir instantly developed the false notion that they could do whatever their hearts desired. Consequently, no formal structure of societal function was formed on the island. There was no submission to authority. There was no standard of certainty, consensus, or organization. The meaning of obedience was completely forgotten. The distinction between good and evil became blurred because of the continual reluctance to submit to an authority. Their starting behaviors paved the road to moral corruption and built a foundation for the household of death. This is what happens when people fail to recognize the weights of accountability on their shoulders when placed in a position to make moral or rational choices in life independently.

            As the time the boys thrived on the isolated island became lengthier, the overall moral character of the choir members also began to deteriorate. Most of them began to act purely animalistic in nature. The character named Ralph, who was originally supposed to function as the leader appointed by the crowd, possessed a conch which was representative of authority. However, most members of the British choir either willfully ignored the call of his conch or took his words of reason as a joke. In other words, they ignored the voice of their conscience by rebelling against rightly ordained authority. They eventually became so rebellious to authority that they wrongly revoked his position of authority by replacing him with another main character named Jack, who was cruel, savage, and immoral. He directly influenced the crowd of boys to create a tribe that functioned apart from Ralph's lawfully given authority. They even painted their own faces as a means of covering their actual character. They appointed Jack because he suited their desires to partake of their own selfish lifestyles. Each individual boy wanted to go his own way. The boys reached a point where they no longer cared about appearing visibly in the sight of civilization again. They acted in the manner they did because their consciences were seared with a hot iron. We need to recognize that morals decline as people refuse to submit to rightful authorities and fail to recognize the needs of others. What all the boys in the novel needed was to get rescued. They needed to return back to their regular life patterns at home and look to taking on a career. But this could only be made possible, if the boys decided to focus on the welfare of each other.

            What happened to the boys on the lost island was that they never dedicated time to any form of self-reflection. Hence, they were completely unwary of their darkened hearts. Most members of the choir became so perverse in their morals that they ended up killing a female sow that was nursing piglets. Only moments after the kill, one of the boys portrayed the stabbing of the female pig's rear as being a sexual reference. Not only is the murder of a nursing mother considered as an incomprehensibly evil action to all rational people, but it is also beyond the minds of most people to liken a female animal to a woman. On the night of the same day there was a thunderstorm, and there was a wicked feast being held in praise of the successful hunting. Simon peered through the bushes of the jungle at the tribal chanting and had an illusion of the maggot infested boar head talking to him. It told him to relinquish to the brutal ways of the tribe, nevertheless he refused to succumb to the evil enticements. The decomposing boar head clearly resembles the work of the devil at hand in the hearts of mankind. The other main characters Simon and Piggy were murdered for not conforming to the corrupt values of the island tribe. Members affiliated with the tribe later kidnapped the twins Sam and Eric so that Ralph would have no means of support. They attempted to murder him the next day by lighting the island on fire. The scenario described in the story line of "Lord of The Flies" clearly reveals the inevitably disastrous results of refusing to work together for the sake of the common good. The poor formation of a societal structure on the island clearly enhanced the careless, selfish, and abominable side of the choir members. The shattering of the conch symbolized the destruction of authority. Indeed, we have the same tendency in our fallen nature to act in the same manner as that of a spoiled child who knows nothing of disciplinary action.

            The novel titled "Lord of The Flies" gives thinking readers valuable insight into the ramifications of failing to form a society with morally sound values. The theme of this fictional work strives to give us the impression that we need to work for the common good in order for society to continually survive, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. In order to be successful, we need to submit to members of authority. The choir boys on the island never bothered to listen to the handful who tried to form an organized civilization on the island because of inherent selfishness. They wanted to have things their own way, which reveals their internal sense of evil. Just as the choir boys began their quest for survival on the island in a disorganized manner, they ended up getting rescued in the same manner. The island was ablaze because of the tribal attempt to hunt down Ralph, the boys were all filthy from covering up their faces, and were running to the shore in a savage manner when adult figures finally arrived on the island to save them. They were caught in the middle of acting as if they were savages who had never been exposed to the light of civilized life. It would be better for us to continually heed to the voice of reason, lest we end up in a state of hopeless anarchy as the British choir boys on the island did and perish.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28?

                                                                     By James Swan

    Have you ever been in a discussion in which it was asserted that Martin Luther added words to the Bible?

    Here Are Some "choice" comments from the depths of cyber-space:

    "Martin Luther ADDED words to the Bible that were not there. When he was confronted with this sin of adding to the Bible he replied: "Bacause Dr. Martin Luther will have it so!" This man was one ego-maniac with delusions of popehood." [Source]

    "Romans 3:28 states, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (NKJV). Martin Luther, in his German translation of the Bible, specifically added the word "allein" (English 'alone') to Romans 3:28-a word that is not in the original Greek. Martin Luther reportedly said, "You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word alone in not in the text of Paul…say right out to him: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,'…I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin or the Greek text" (Stoddard J. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp. 101-102; see also Luther M. Amic. Discussion, 1, 127). This passage strongly suggests that Martin Luther viewed his opinions, and not the actual Bible as the primary authority--a concept which this author will name prima Luther." [Source]

    "By September 1522, Luther had translated the New Testament into his version of the German Bible. It is to be noted that Luther taught a false doctrine that man was saved by faith alone, and upon his own recognizance and without any authority, he added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28, ... thereby ignoring all of the verses which admonish anyone not to add to or take away from, the Holy Word of GOD. He displayed his inflated ego and total arrogance, when he wrote the following regarding his addition:"If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightway, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so: Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil's thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom."Amic. Discussion, 1, 127. Demonizing again! My My, tsk tsk, such language Dr Luther, and didn't he elevate himself above everyone on earth?This is the example set by the first Protestant, for his version of the command of Jesus Christ of, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:36-40)." [Source]

    "...Luther insists on his own (in effect) absolute infallibility. In defending his addition of the word "alone" to Romans 3:28 ("faith alone"), Luther railed: Thus I will have it, thus I order it, my will is reason enough . . . Dr. Luther will have it so, and . . . he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole of Popery. (O'Connor, 25; Letter to Wenceslaus Link in 1530)One wonders whether Luther uttered these absurd sentiments with a smile on his face, or with tongue in cheek. In any event, such boastful, essentially silly and foolish rhetoric is not uncommon in Luther's voluminous writings." [Source]

    The arguments above are fairly simple: Luther simply inserted the word “alone” into Romans 3:28. Luther is painted as outrageous: he shows a total disregard for the sacred text, simply making it say what he wanted it to.

    How to respond:

    1. First, locate the context.

    The main text of Luther used for these type of comments are his Open Letter on Translating (1530). Luther says in the introduction:

    “…there has been much discussion about the translating of the Old and New Testaments. It has been charged by the enemies of truth that the text has been modified and even falsified in many places, which has startled and shocked many simple Christians, even among the educated who do not know the Hebrew and Greek languages. It is devoutly to be hoped that with this publication the slander of the godless will be stopped and the scruples of the devout removed, at least in part. Perhaps it may even give rise to more writing on such questions and matters such as these. Therefore I ask all lovers of the truth to take this work to heart seriously, and faithfully to pray to God for a right understanding of the divine Scriptures, to the improvement and increase of our common Christendom.”

    The first section of the treatise is actually fairly angry, sarcastic, and humorous. Luther shows himself fed up with his Papal critics. His anger was fueled against them for an ironic reason- they rallied against his translation, while at the same time utilizing it for their own new translations. A strong Papal critic of Luther (Emser) did just that:

    “We have seen that scribbler from Dresden play the master to my New Testament. I will not mention his name again in my books, as he has his Judge now, and is already well-known. He admits that my German is sweet and good. He saw that he could not improve upon it. Yet, eager to dishonor it, he took my New Testament nearly word for word as it was written, and removed my prefaces and notes, replaced them with his own, and thus published my New Testament under his name!”

    2. Put this context into the quotes being misued.

    With this context in mind, point out that Luther was blasting away at his Papal critics:

    “If your papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word sola (alone), say this to him: "Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he says that a papist and a donkey are the same thing." …For we are not going to be students and disciples of the papists. Rather, we will become their teachers and judges. For once, we also are going to be proud and brag, with these blockheads; and just as Paul brags against his mad raving saints, I will brag against these donkeys of mine! Are they doctors? So am I. Are they scholars? So am I. Are they preachers? So am I. Are they theologians? So am I. Are they debaters? So am I. Are they philosophers? So am I. Are they logicians? So am I. Do they lecture? So do I. Do they write books? So do I.”

    “I will go even further with my boasting: I can expound the psalms and the prophets, and they cannot. I can translate, and they cannot. I can read the Holy Scriptures, and they cannot. I can pray, they cannot. Coming down to their level, “I can use their rhetoric and philosophy better than all of them put together. Plus I know that not one of them understands his Aristotle. If any one of them can correctly understand one preface or chapter of Aristotle, I will eat my hat! No, I am not overdoing it, for I have been schooled in and have practiced their science from my youth. I recognize how deep and broad it is. They, too, are well aware that I can do everything they can do. Yet they treat me as a stranger in their discipline, these incurable fellows, as if I had just arrived this morning and had never seen or heard what they teach and know. How they do brilliantly parade around with their science, teaching me what I outgrew twenty years ago! To all their noise and shouting I sing, with the harlot, "I have known for seven years that horseshoe nails are iron.”

    “Let this be the answer to your first question. Please do not give these donkeys any other answer to their useless braying about that word sola than simply this: "Luther will have it so, and he says that he is a doctor above all the doctors of the pope." Let it rest there. I will from now on hold them in contempt, and have already held them in contempt, as long as they are the kind of people (or rather donkeys) that they are.”

    One can almost feel Luther’s anger towards his Papal critics. They discredited him as a doctor of theology, a degree he earned in a rather quick period of time, and his academic abilities were above most. Indeed, he had done the work necessary to be taken seriously. His critics criticized his German translation while at the same time stealing it for their own translation- this infuriated him, and rightly so.

    3. Luther's actual reasoning for using "alone" in Romans 3:28

    This is the sad part about those who use Luther's Open Letter On Translating against him. He actually goes on to give a detailed explanation of why he uses the word "alone" in Romans 3:28. In the same document, in a calmer tone, Luther gives his reasoning for those with ears to hear:

    “I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text -- if the translation is to be clear and vigorous [klar und gewaltiglich], it belongs there. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had set about to speak in the translation.”

    Luther continues to give multiple examples of the implied sense of meaning in translating words into German. He then offers an interpretive context of Romans:

    “So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of the languages alone when I inserted the word solum in Romans 3. The text itself, and Saint Paul's meaning, urgently require and demand it. For in that passage he is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine, namely, that we are justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law. Paul excludes all works so completely as to say that the works of the Law, though it is God's law and word, do not aid us in justification. Using Abraham as an example, he argues that Abraham was so justified without works that even the highest work, which had been commanded by God, over and above all others, namely circumcision, did not aid him in justification. Rather, Abraham was justified without circumcision and without any works, but by faith, as he says in Chapter 4: "If Abraham were justified by works, he may boast, but not before God." So, when all works are so completely rejected — which must mean faith alone justifies — whoever would speak plainly and clearly about this rejection of works will have to say "Faith alone justifies and not works." The matter itself and the nature of language requires it.”

    4. Previous translations of the word “alone” in Romans 3:28

    Luther offers another line of reasoning in his “Open Letter on Translating” that many of the current Cyber-Roman Catholics ignore (and most Protestants are not aware of):
    “Furthermore, I am not the only one, nor the first, to say that faith alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others who said it before me.”

    Now here comes the fun part in this discussion.

    The Roman Catholic writer Joseph A. Fitzmyer points out that Luther was not the only one to translate Romans 3:28 with the word “alone.”

    At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 [1909], 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.

    Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

    Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

    Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

    Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

    Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

    John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

    Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).

    Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

    Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

    To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):

    Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).

    Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).

    See further:

    Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.

    Marius Victorinus (ep. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).

    Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”). Migne Latin Text: Venire quippe debet etiam illud in mentem, quod scriptum est, In hoc cognoscimus eum, si mandata ejus servemus. Qui dicit, Quia cognovi eum, et mandata ejus non servat, mendax est, et in hoc veritas non est (I Joan. II, 3, 4). Et ne quisquam existimet mandata ejus ad solam fidem pertinere: quanquam dicere hoc nullus est ausus, praesertim quia mandata dixit, quae ne multitudine cogitationem spargerent [Note: [Col. 0223] Sic Mss. Editi vero, cogitationes parerent.], In illis duobus tota Lex pendet et Prophetae (Matth. XXII, 40): licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere Dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intelligatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur; tamen postea Joannes ipse aperuit quid diceret, cum ait: Hoc est mandatum ejus, ut credamus nomini Filii ejus Jesu Christi, et diligamns invicem (I Joan. III, 23) See De fide et operibus, Cap. XXII, §40, PL 40:223.

    Source: Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361.

    Even some Catholic versions of the New Testament also translated Romans 3:28 as did Luther. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), “allein durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.”

    Sunday, May 14, 2017

    Tradition In The Early Church

    [Tertullian] insisted that Christians must not pick and choose doctrines according to their whims; their sole authorities were the apostles, who had themselves faithfully transmitted Christ’s teaching. Both [Tertullian and Irenaeus] on occasion described this original message as tradition, using the word to denote the teaching delivered by the apostles, without any implied contrast between tradition and Scripture. (p.36)

    On the other hand, Irenaeus took it for granted that the apostolic tradition had also been deposited in written documents. As he says, “what the apostles at first proclaimed by word of mouth, they afterwards by God’s will conveyed to us in Scriptures.” (p. 37-38)

    Did Irenaeus then subordinate Scripture to unwritten tradition?…. his real defense of orthodoxy was founded on Scripture. Indeed, tradition itself, on his view, was confirmed by Scripture, which was “the foundation and pillar of our faith.” Secondly, Irenaeus admittedly suggested that a firm grasp of “the canon of truth” received at baptism would prevent a man from distorting the sense of Scripture. But this “canon,” so far from being something distinct from Scripture, was simply a condensation of the message contained in it. … The whole point of his teaching was, in fact, that Scripture and the Church’s unwritten tradition are identical in content, both being vehicles of the revelation. (p. 38-39)

    [Tertullian] was emphatic that no secret tradition existed, and that it was incredible that the apostles did not know, or failed to pass on, the revelation in its entirety. (p. 40)

    Like Irenaeus, Tertullian is convinced that Scripture is consonant in all its parts, and that its meaning should be clear if it is read as a whole. But where controversy with heretics breaks out, the right interpretation can be found only where the true Christian faith and discipline have been maintained, i.e. in the Church. The heretics, he complained, were able to make Scripture say what they liked because they disregarded the regula. (p. 40)

    It was the Bible, declared Clement of Alexandria about A.D. 200, which as interpreted by the Church, was the source of Christian teaching. His greater disciple Origen was a thorough-going Biblicist who appealed again and again to Scripture as the decisive criterion of dogma. The Church drew her catechetical material, he stated, from the prophets, the gospels and the apostles’ writings; her faith, he suggested, was buttressed by Holy Scripture supported by common sense. “The holy and inspired Scriptures,” wrote Athanasius a century later, “are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth”; while his contemporary, Cyril of Jerusalem, laid it down that “with regard to the divine and saving mysteries of faith no doctrine, however trivial, may be taught without the backing of the divine Scriptures…. For our saving faith derives its force, not from capricious reasonings, but from what may be proved out of the Bible.” Later in the same century John Chrysostom bade his congregation seek no other teacher that the oracles of God; everything was straightforward and clear in the Bible, and the sum of necessary knowledge could be extracted from it. In the West Augustine declared that “in the plain teaching of Scripture we find all that concerns our belief and moral conduct”; while a little later Vincent of Lerins (d. c. 450) took it as an axiom the Scriptural canon was “sufficient, and more than sufficient, for all purposes.” (p. 42-43)

    Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis. (p. 46)

    J.N.D Kelly, "Early Christian Doctrines"

    Does John 10:34 Support The Mormon Teaching That Men Can Become Gods?

              Mormons interpret the phrase "you are gods" in John 10:34 (which is a citation of Psalm 82:6) to mean that we can become gods in the afterlife. This idea goes hand in hand with their teaching on celestial marriage.

              Jesus Christ never said, "You are able to become gods." Taken out of context, this minuscule phrase reads, "You are gods." This is in the present tense, which makes the Mormon interpretation inconsistent because Mormon theology does not teach that human beings who are present on earth are gods. Rather, it is a doctrine of Mormonism that men can become gods in the afterlife. Mormonism does not teach that Mormons are gods while alive here on this earth.

              Psalm 82 speaks of divinely appointed human judges, who would "die like men" (Psalm 82:7). In John 10, Christ was simply pointing to the fact that the Jewish teachers of His time were fatally erring in their doctrine. They were doing so in the same manner as the judges of Psalm 82 erred. Christ was criticizing the grave doctrinal errors of the scribes and Pharisees who constantly challenged His teachings. He referred to them as being "whitewashed tombs" (Matthew 23:37) and said that their father was the devil (John 8:44).

              There is only one God. Isaiah 43:10 says, "...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." Isaiah 44:6-8 says, "Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any." Thus, we cannot become gods in the afterlife. There is no one like Him in existence. While it is true that Christians will eventually receive perfected, glorified bodies in the eternal state, the fact still remains that we cannot become gods.

    Friday, May 12, 2017

    No Archaeological Evidence Supporting The Book Of Mormon

            The Church of Latter-day Saints, which is traditionally known as the Mormon Church, is notorious for its claims regarding a total apostasy. This world religion claims to be a restoration of lost spiritual truth. It is argued that Christianity drifted into a complete state of corruption and that biblical revelation has also been lost. The Mormon Church claims that Joseph Smith, its founder, had received special revelation from God in Palmyra, New York, to start a completely new religion to recover the original teachings of the Christian religion. This group claims that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from Golden Nephi Plates.

            There is abundant historical evidence for the ancient cities, rivers, nations, leaders, and events that are recorded in the Bible. This religious text accurately identifies ancient cities. It confirms the antiquity of different religious customs and ways of life. The original languages used in the process of recording the Bible into manuscript form were used in Israel and the Greco-Roman world for centuries (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). As for the text of the New Testament, it has thousands of manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts backing it up. Bible translations are not simply translations of translations, but are translated directly from the best manuscripts available. It is consistent with world history and does not contradict archaeological finds. 

            The Book of Mormon is rejected in toto by historians and archaeologists. Globally famous scientific research and educational institutions such as the Smithsonian Institute and the National Geographic Society have come to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is essentially a worthless guide when it comes to archaeology. There is no evidence existing whatsoever for the cities, or even names found on inscriptions, to support the Book of Mormon. The material is simply the product of one's own imagination or forgery.

             The Book of Mormon has no standard to verify its accuracy because the “Angel Maroni” supposedly took the Golden Nephi Plates from the hands of Joseph Smith. Not only does the world not have the Golden Nephi Plates to examine, but the Book of Mormon also contains thousands of verbatim quotations, including translation errors, from the 1611 King James Version peppered throughout its pages. It has been estimated that 27,000 words have been reproduced from this translation and incorporated into the text of the Book of Mormon. How could this be when Mormonism claims that the entire text can be dated before A.D. 421? How does this process of translating "reformed Egyptian" into the English language appear identically as if one is translating Koine Greek to English?

            "...compare Isaiah, chapter 53 in the King James translation of the Bible with Mosiah, chapter 14, in the Book of Mormon. This reveals that the King James translation has been copied almost word for word. Also compare Matthew, chapter 6, verses 1 through 23, with the Photo-reproduction No. 11, of page 482 of the 1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon. Here the King James translation has been copied even using the word "which" for "who" which was perfectly proper at the time of the King James translation but not so in 1830 when the Book of Mormon was written. On this page 482 of the Original Edition the words, "Father which" occurs seven times, but in later editions of the Book of Mormon, but "which" has been changed to "who" (See 3 Nephi 13:1-18)." (Arthur Budvarson, The Book of Mormon: True or False?, p. 25)

            Furthermore, there have been approximately four thousand alterations to the Book of Mormon since it was originally published in A.D. 1830. Moreover, there is no known evidence for the language called "reformed Egyptian," which was the language that Joseph Smith supposedly translated from the Golden Nephi Plates into the Book of Mormon. This language remains completely hidden from Egyptologists. Any notion of ancient Hebrew people living on the ancient American continent is foreign to the pages of history.

             The earliest Christian writers after biblical times make no mention of any uniquely Mormon doctrines. One can read through the writings of early Christians such as Ignatius of Antioch, Clement, Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Polycarp, and others only to find no mention of any peculiarly Mormon doctrines. We find no mention of any major articles of the Mormon faith such as polytheism, polygamy, celestial marriage, temple ceremonies, or any other distinctive. We do not even find an inkling of the coming of a complete apostasy of the church in the volumes of writings produced by the earliest Christians. If the Mormon Church today is the prototype of the original churches of the first century, then we should find mention of distinctly Mormon doctrines in every corner of the early church. But this is certainly not the case.

    Sunday, May 7, 2017

    We Walk By Faith; Not By Sight

              "So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

              In context, the Apostle Paul is exhorting the Church of Corinth to not be focused solely on the earthly aspects of life. He places greater emphasis on the things of the supernatural, transcendent realm of God the Creator. We should not center our lives around worldly passions because the things of this world are fading away. It is to be our desired purpose to serve Him faithfully. That is what God wills and recognizes for our lives.

              The phrase "walking by faith" is a reference to how we should conduct ourselves in this life. It describes how our lifestyles ought to be in Christ. When we walk by faith, we are considering the possible eternal consequences of our actions. We are looking through a lens of faith into the future. Walking by faith entails having the courage to stand for the things of God.

              To walk by faith means to continually entertain the things of God. Those who obey God are promised heavenly rewards. Those who reject Him will stand eternally condemned. To walk by faith requires acting against the corrupted whims of society. We live according to His moral precepts. Christians need to focus on the unseen realities of this world. That would be God Himself and our eternal destinies. 

              The bema seat was an elevated platform in which victors in athletic contests would be rewarded with crowns. That imagery is used here in regard to Christians being rewarded by Christ for their service to God. The true nature of our ministerial work will be brought to light on that day. It will be shown for what it really is. Works done with selfish or impure motives will be cast aside. Those works will not be grounds for receiving praise from God.

    Saturday, May 6, 2017

    Peace Is Perfection

              The promotion of peace in our world is a fight that takes place daily. However, human beings have the inherent tendency to act contrary to such principles by provoking other people to anger and despair. As a result of our fallen nature, Jesus Christ became incarnate so that He could enter into this world to make the perfect, final propitiatory sacrifice to God for our salvation. Because of the sacrificial work of His only begotten Son, God has appointed members of His church to be ambassadors to spread the good news, followed by repentance and a life of holiness. Some plant the seeds of conversion; others water to provide spiritual nourishment for weak souls. God is the One causes the growth on the foundation of the Christian religion, which is Jesus Christ. We can promote peace in this world by spreading the message of salvation to the lost and by revealing clemency to those who wrong us.

              Giving others an understanding of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ will stimulate their knowledge of Him as being the Prince of Peace. Christ taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He has also instructed Christians to love their enemies. We have been called to love the Lord our God with all of our mind and all our heart. We should emulate His example on the Cross by giving up ourselves for other people who are in need. When we serve others, we are also serving Jesus Christ. The foundation of peace is mercy. The two concepts are inseparable. They presuppose the existence of each other. Peace and mercy spring forth from the fountain of love. In order to promote tranquility, we must always find ways to become reconciled as much as can possibly be done. We promote peace by preaching the gospel because its heart pumps on the Blood of Peace.

              We must choose to be merciful as Christ instructed us. It is vital for us to be merciful, whether we be insulted by words or physically injured by enemies. Us repaying evil for evil never works because of the continual intensifying of hatred, jealousy, wrath, and bitterness. If people refuse to be reconciled with each other because of vituperative actions or words, then such disputes can infect the minds of other people in ways we never imagined. How can we thrive if there is a constant state of bitterness and anarchy? Only through a state of peace can we see things in life clearly. It therefore helps us to maintain a sense of rationality. Life makes sense because of peace. We find true and lasting peace in Christ. Having peace is a commandment of the Lord our God. Christ is merciful to us when we implore His mercy through our prayers. Mercy is an underlying component of peace. It is a built on the foundation of lovingkindness.

              Promoting peace is an essential aspect of Christian ministry. In fact, it is a necessary element for human survival. Consequently, we need to ask ourselves how what we can do to promote a peaceful environment. We also need to know how to maintain a state of peace within ourselves and others. We can do these things by preaching the gospel of everlasting life to lost sinners, reflecting on the moral principles taught therein, and by being merciful to those who work to harm us. Helping others to understand that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace would equip them with the knowledge necessary for growing the seeds of His teachings in the minds of inquisitive people. We must be merciful as Jesus Christ taught us to be, even if people continually work to hurt us physically or mentally.

    Friday, May 5, 2017

    Is Confession Of Sins To A Priest Biblical?

    • Defining The Issues:
              -The Church of Rome teaches that in order to obtain God's forgiveness of "mortal" sins, we must confess them to an ordained, ministerial priest in a small room called a confessional booth (CCC # 980). According to the Roman Catholic Church, this practice and water baptism are absolutely necessary for the salvation of our souls (CCC # 1257; 2020). Roman Catholicism further maintains that Jesus Christ gave the twelve apostles the authority to absolve sins confessed to them. The primary biblical support for this concept is John 20:23. 
              -The premise of this teaching is elaborated on by the claim that apostolic authority was passed on to apostolic successors (i.e. Catholic bishops and priests of future generations). Roman Catholics are required by Rome to embrace the practice of confessing mortal sins to a priest, under penalty of anathema. This teaching of confessing sins to a priest is also found in Eastern Orthodoxy, but the focus of this article is mostly the Roman Catholic Church.
    • Confession To A Ministerial Priest Is Contrary To Biblical Teaching:
              -The New Testament Scriptures are silent about an ordained ministerial priesthood. Never do we see the Greek word "hiereus," which is the Greek word for priest, filling in the role of any New Testament church offices. Instead, we are told that all Christians have been called to be priests (biblical references where the Greek word "hiereus" is used) who offer spiritual sacrifices to God under the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10). We give ourselves up by serving God through the preaching and living in accordance to the principles of the gospel.
              -In the Bible, we see that confession of sin took place in the presence of the offended individuals (Matthew 3:6; 18:15-17; Mark 1:4-5; Acts 19:18-19; James 5:16). In the New Testament, confession of sin was never done privately, as is the manner of style found within the modern Church of Rome. It was a public act for all members of the church to see and hear. The most primitive Christians confessed their sins to another. In Scripture, we always see people praying directly to God for mercy (Psalm 32:5; Matthew 6:9-12; Acts 8:20-22; Luke 18:13-14). 
    • Do Matthew 16:19 And John 20:23 Support The Notion That We Must Confess Our Sins To A Priest (And That They Have The Power To Forgive Our Sins)?:
              -These verses say nothing about the confession of sins. These passages say nothing about apostolic authority being passed on to future leaders of the Christian church through apostolic succession. In the New Testament, we never see the apostles acting as if they had been given the authority to absolve sins. In fact, the New Testament epistles mention nothing about having opportunities to get forgiven for sins as a result of private confession to a priest. Matthew 16:19 and John 20:23 do not even limit the ability of "binding and loosing" or "forgiving and retaining sins" to the leaders of the church.
              -The "keys" represent the authority to proclaim the salvation of converts and the condemnation of sinners (Luke 10:16). The keys are knowledge of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:52). The door of salvation is opened to those who accept the message of the gospel, whereas the door of condemnation is opened to those who reject the salvific message of the gospel (Acts 14:27; Romans 1:16). This passage is definitely within the context of the Great Commission, which is defined as the mission of preaching of the gospel to the world through the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49). 
              -In the Book of Acts, converts such as Paul and Cornelius received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They rejoiced as a result of hearing the proclamation of eternal salvation. But notice how the Lord Jesus Christ instructed His original disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they encountered cities who rejected them for preaching the gospel message (Matthew 10:14-15; Mark 6:11; Acts 13:51). This is a perfect way of applying the principle of "loosing," or announcing the condemnation of sinners. Today, we serve as ambassadors for Christ by performing the ministry of reconciliation through the preaching of the gospel and conversion of perishing souls (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Christians have been authorized to declare the terms of forgiveness as provided by the gospel. John 20:23 is a more declarative or judicial way of sending the disciples into the world to declare the message of salvation.
    • Sins Have Been Forgiven Or Have Already Been Forgiven?:
              -The Greek structure of John 20:23 is rare. The first pair of verbs found in this passage, which are "forgive" and "retain," are in the present tense. In the same verse, both of the second pair of verb phrases ("are forgiven"; "are retained") are in the perfect tense, which points to an action that happened in the past but is still taking place. The grammatical structure of John 20:23 strongly suggests that God responds accordingly to a man's reaction to the gospel being made known to him before the proclamation of that decision to accept or reject the message of salvation. It is simply a proclamation of what God has already done in response to a person's decision to either accept or reject the gospel. This verse seems to read, "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins HAVE ALREADY BEEN (or "shall have been") forgiven." Jesus simply gave His disciples the authority to proclaim the forgiveness of people who were already justified in the sight of God. We simply announce and confirm what God has already done through the words that He has given us.
    • Background Information On The Historical Development Of Auricular Confession:
              -The early Christians viewed confession as a public matter. It was specifically pertinent to grave sins against other people. Confession of sin could only be done once to an offended party. The early church did not see sins forgiven through a priest through judicial absolution when confessed. It was not until the end of the second to early third centuries that we begin to see penances being introduced into the Christian church as a means of obtaining forgiveness of sins from God. Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the concept of confessing sins privately to a priest did not begin in the Western church until the seventh or eight centuries:

               "…During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the “private” practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on [i.e., from the seventh century], the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament… " (CCC #1447)
    • The Words Of Church Historian J.N.D Kelly:
              -“With the dawn of the third century the rough outlines of a recognized penitential system were beginning to take shape. In spite of the ingenious arguments of certain scholars, there are still no signs of a sacrament of private penance (i.e. confession to a priest, followed by absolution and the imposition of a penance) such as Catholic Christendom knows to-day. The system which seems to have existed in the church at this time, and for centuries afterwards, was wholly public, involving confession, a period of penance and exclusion from communion, and formal absolution and restoration—the whole process being called exomologesis.” (“Early Christian Doctrines,” p. 216)
    • Information From The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia Online:
              -“Great difficulty is caused by varying terminology and practice during the lengthy time expanse under consideration. The word “penance” was used to designate both the entire sacramental procedure and the satisfaction performed by the penitent… Though confession was a necessary presupposition to reception of the Church’s sacramental Penance, it is not always certain what sort of confession was required… But to repeat, documents of the patristic period are difficult to interpret on this score, and unanimous agreement has not been reached among scholars."
    • The Words Of Roman Catholic Priest S. B. Smith, D.D., In His “Notes on the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore” (October 7-21, 1866):
              -"Public confession was practiced during the first ages of the Church. Yet it was restricted generally to sins that were public, or at least publicly committed. Not infrequently, however, secret crimes and sins were openly avowed. This was a voluntary confession on the part of the penitent. However, public confession soon gave rise to various abuses, and was consequently abolished under Leo I., in 459.” (Chapter XVII, paragraph 52, #237, page 208)