Saturday, December 30, 2017

Primitive Churches Were Not Governed By A Pope

"The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and before parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters. But as each one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptized, instead of leading them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the presbyters, elected by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community. . .Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord."

Jerome's commentary on Titus 1:7

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Critique Of The Secular Humanist Worldview

  • Discussion:
          -Following are a handful of excerpts (in bold) from a classic humanist manifesto titled, The Philosophy of Humanism, by Corliss Lamont:

          "There are, as I see it, ten central propositions in the Humanist philosophy: First, Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics or attitude toward the universe that considers all forms of the supernatural as myth; and that regards Nature as the totality of being and as a constantly changing system of matter and energy which exists independently of any mind or consciousness. Second, Humanism, drawing especially upon the laws and facts of science, believes man is an evolutionary product of the Nature of which he is part; that his mind is indivisibly conjoined with the functioning of his brain; and that as an inseparable unity of body and personality he can have no conscious survival after death.”

          It is interesting to note how the author of this book capitalizes the word nature. This could be interpreted to have religious connotations. It could even be argued that atheists themselves belong to a religion to which they themselves are their own gods. After all, there are atheist churches. There are atheist missionaries. There are evangelistic atheists who preach their worldview as being the truth. There are atheist circles that consider others who disagree with them as being heretical. Atheism is clearly a belief system with religious tendencies.

          Notice how the quotation above presupposes the validity of scientism, which is the belief that all truth is determined by the science laboratory. However, this view is refuted because there are many truths that exist beyond the realm of science (view full article). Faith and reason walk together. How can atheists be so quick to claim that there is no supernatural realm when they have no tangible evidence ruling in favor of their verdict? If we reduce the thinking processes of the human mind to being random chemical reflexes, then we have no legitimate reason to believe the claims of atheism because we would not be able to trust our own thoughts. Selfhood would be an empty illusion!

          Life without God is meaningless. If the universe came into existence by mere coincidence, and we just so happened to have evolved from a different species of primate forefathers over a period of several billion years, then it would follow that human life has no intrinsic value. The inevitable consequence of eliminating God from the equation of life would be that we possessed no more dignity than the soil, rocks, or other components which constitute the physical and chemical composition of this planet. The universe itself most certainly has no compassion for life. Time would simply progress as we wait for the natural, appointed termination of our physical existence. No afterlife means having no ultimate sense of purpose or fulfillment.

          “I believe that the facts of science offer overwhelming evidence in support of the Humanist thesis of the inseparable coexistence of body and personality. To begin with, biology has conclusively shown that man and all other forms of life were the result, not of a supernatural act of creation by God, but of an infinitely long process of evolution probably stretching over at least three billions years….”

           A Supreme Mind still could have created the universe by means of a giant cosmic explosion of expanding matter to accomplish the formation of animal species through evolutionary processes. Consequently, the "humanist thesis" does not really negate the possibility of supernatural creation. The universe and the human body are so complex that countless factors remain unexplained or unproven. It is completely wrong for one to assert that supernatural intervention in creation has been ruled out. Even if scientists did manage to successfully develop a scientific model that functions without God, proof of unnecessity is not proof of His nonexistence. Moreover, the biblical worldview presents us with a universe that absolutely depends on God for its existence.

          “Humanism believes that Nature itself constitutes the sum total of reality…and that supernatural entities simply do not exist. This non reality of the supernatural means, on the human level, that men do not possess supernatural and immortal souls; and, on the level of the universe as a whole, that our cosmos does not possess a supernatural and eternal God.”

          A concise refutation of naturalism should suffice as an analysis of the above cited excerpt. Naturalism maintains that everything existing emerged from natural properties and causes to the exclusion of supernatural intervention. In other words, this logical framework operates on the premise that all things are physical and are thus dictated by the laws of physics and chemistry. On the contrary, we know that naturalism is false because things such as numbers, moral laws, and information are nonphysical entities. These things transcend the five senses which scientists use to make observations and draw inferences. The elementary concept of free will disproves naturalism because this philosophy assumes that scientific laws and states are literally in control of all things.

          “the scientific concept of evolution…effectively negates the old religious idea of a divine creation of the whole universe.”

           Can something come from nothing? Can meaningful and functional design arise from chaos? Can intelligence arise from non-intelligence? Can rationality arise from non-rationality? Can consciousness arise from non-consciousness?

          “Matter is self-existent, self-active, self-developing, self-enduring. It is auto-dynamic.”

          Is this not a circular argument (matter has power in of and itself because that is how it is)? How can matter be self-existent when it is comprised of finite particles? What infinite source of energy do atoms possess that enables matter able to act of itself without external causes? How can physical matter come from nothing or create itself? How could non-living matter become alive by itself? 

          It would be far more reasonable to believe that an infinitely powerful, all-knowing, and everlasting God set forth all things in an orderly fashion on the basis of His spoken commands. It would be far more sensible to believe in a God who infinitely transcends the boundaries of nature (Psalm 33:4-8). The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).

          ''A careful analysis of both the natural and the social sciences shows, in the first place, that we do not attain something that is to be called ‘absolute’ truth, but rather what John Dewey cautiously describes as ‘warranted assertibility''

          If there are no absolute truths, then a.) scientific laws are subjective, b.) no point in education because truth is subjective, c.) the concept of certainty is illusionary, d.) no such thing as crime because nobody can definitively declare an action to be evil, e.) no such thing as human rights, and f.) reality itself becomes an illusion. If there are no absolute truths, then there is no reason for us to believe in the arguments in favor of atheism and no point in Corliss Lamont teaching humanism in books. A society that functions consistently on a moral relativistic worldview will be characterized by utter heathenism and barbarism.

          “For Humanism no human acts are good or bad in or of themselves. Whether an act is good or bad is to be judged by the consequences for the individual and society.”

          Secular consequentialism is the ethical system which maintains that the morality of an action is dependent on its results. In other words, this worldview judges the morality of actions in accordance to their conclusions (not in the action itself). But this method of moral discernment is quite perplexing. What constitutes the authentic definition of good? Who gets to determine the meanings of good and evil? Good for who? What about bad personal motives that just so happened to produce positive consequences for other people? What about the fact that we cannot predict the outcomes of our actions before we act? From whence would morality come from in the first place?

          ''The Humanist refuses to accept any Ten Commandments or other ethical precepts as immutable and universal laws never to be challenged or questioned. He bows down to no alleged supreme moral authority either past or present…But we can say…some ends justify some means. In getting at the ethical significance of a means-end situation, it is always necessary to be specific and inquire,‘Does this particular end or set of ends justify this particular means or group of means?''

          It is unsurprising that atheists openly reject the notion of objective moral laws, since they are living in rebellion to the God who created them. The above quoted statements are symptomatic of a puffed-up heart. If individuals get to determine their own moral law codes, then what happens when they contradict each other or themselves? How would such a scenario not render the idea of building a civilization impossible?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Never Hesitate To Do That Which Is Good

"You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Response To Tim Staples On Sola Scriptura And 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  • Defining The Issues:
          -Popular speaker, director, and former Protestant turned Catholic apologist Tim Staples wrote an article titled According to Scripture with the intention of revealing fundamental problems with appealing to Scripture as the final court of authority in spiritual matters. In his article, Tim raises objections to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as a proof-text for Sola Scriptura, stresses the role of extra-biblical oral tradition in the church, charges that the Protestant position on biblical authority is "contrary to reason" because it "is a textbook example of circular reasoning," and that the canon by definition needed to be assembled by an infallible authority (Roman Catholic Church). Though this proficient Roman Catholic apologist truly desires to spread the gospel, we should never treat a person's sincerity as a standard for guaranteeing accuracy in argumentation. The objective behind writing this article is to reprove a number of weak and misguided assertions of conventional Roman Catholic apologists against Sola Scriptura.
  • The Following Excerpt From Tim Staple's Article Is A Perfect Example Of Roman Catholics Misrepresenting The Doctrine Of Sola Scriptura:
          -"If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!" That belief, commonly known as sola scriptura, was a central component of all I believed as a Protestant. This bedrock Protestant teaching claims that Scripture alone is the sole rule of faith and morals for Christians."
  • Explaining The Biblical Doctrine Of Sola Scriptura:
          -The doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the only infallible spiritual standard for the Christian church. Other rules of faith such as catechisms, creeds, customs, and commentaries may be used, insofar as they agree with the principles of Scripture. All uninspired authorities are to be subjugated to the judgment of the written Word of God because it is inspired by Him. This explanation constitutes the classical Sola Scriptura doctrine as upheld by the Protestant Reformers. Thus, it is highly inaccurate for Roman Catholic apologists and theologians to portray Protestants who subscribe to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura as "having a sole rule of faith" or "Bible only Christians." It is also erroneous for Tim Staples to say that we only accept "explicit approval" from the Bible, since we acknowledge that it provides us with principles of discernment to apply in our daily lives. The Bible is not the only authority, but is the ultimate standard of authority for Christians to use.
  • Presenting The Case For Sola Scriptura From 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
          A.) The Origin Of Scripture:
          -All Scripture is inspired by God. In other words, the Holy Spirit moved through the apostles and prophets as they recorded His teachings (1 Peter 1:16-21). In fact, the Greek word for inspired, which is theopneustos, literally means "God-breathed."

          B.) The Purpose Of Scripture:
          -The purpose of Scripture is to convict the conscience of sin, confront error, and preach righteousness. Notice the surrounding context of this epistle: 1.) The coming of false teaching (3:1-13), 2.) Paul was about experience martyrdom (4:6-7), and 3.) This was the Apostle Paul's last epistle. Contextual evidence points us to one infallible rule of faith: Scripture. The context mentions no other inspired "rule of faith."

          C.) The Results Of Using Scripture:
          -Scripture "thoroughly" equips the man of God for "every good work," not most or just a few good works. It addresses everything we need to know about a life of godliness, with principles of application. Scripture contains everything necessary for salvation. Scripture alone is therefore sufficient for the Christian church to use as the final court of authority in spiritual matters.
  • Listing The Four So-Called Major Dilemmas Of Using 2 Timothy 3:16-17 As A Biblical Defense Of Sola Scriptura (In The Words Of The Author):
          -"First, it does not speak of the New Testament at all...Second, 2 Timothy 3:16 does not claim Scripture to be the sole rule of faith for Christians...James 1:4 illustrates the problem...Third, the Bible teaches that oral Tradition is equal to Scripture...Finally, 2 Timothy 3:16 is specifically addressed to members of the hierarchy. It is a pastoral epistle, written to a young bishop Paul had ordained..."
  • Evaluating The Evidence Provided Against The Citation Of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 As Being Supportive Of Sola Scriptura:
          -The first Roman Catholic objection is absurd because it would be just like concluding from the phrase "all ex-cathedra statements are inspired by God" that all official papal decrees are inspired "only up to a certain point in history." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is not discussing the scope of the canon, but rather the purpose and origin of Scripture. The Apostle Paul was speaking of Scripture as a category. Nobody can limit the scope of inspiration as recorded in 2 Timothy 3:16 to the Old Testament, since the context itself places no such limitation. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul had the future in mind as he mentioned the coming of false teachers.
          -The second Roman Catholic objection to the Protestant citation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as biblical justification for the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fails because if Scripture equips the man of God for every good work, then it logically follows that it is the final, sufficient rule of faith for Christians to use in spiritual matters. Can anybody produce a list of "good works" that cannot be found in Scripture? What else can "every good work" mean?
          -The third argument is absurd because it is based on circular reasoning. The author has not proven that the traditions spoken of by Paul were uniquely Roman Catholic dogmas (click here for full discussion).
          -Neither does James 1:4 illustrate what the author of the article is trying to prove (interpreting "every good work" in 2 Timothy 3:17 to mean that Scripture is sufficient is just as nonsensical as interpreting "perseverance...perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" in James 1:4 to mean that all a person needs is patience to be perfected). This rebuttal does not work because the context of 2 Timothy 3 is directing the reader to the rule of faith (Scripture), whereas James 1 concerns the application of the principles found within that infallible guide. So Tim Staples has actually misapplied the message found in James 1:4 to 2 Timothy 3:17 because he has confused the meaning of both contexts. If Roman Catholic apologists insist on using this argument against the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, then it would logically follow that they would have to add "patience" as an additional infallible standard of authority to their "three-legged stool!"
          -As for the final quibble raised in the cited excerpt from Catholic Answers above, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says, "The man of God is perfectly accoutred out of Scripture for his work, whether he be a minister (compare 2 Ti 4:2) or a spiritual layman." The New American Bible Revised Edition renders "man of God" as "one who belongs to God." This objection is absurd at face value. Why would Scripture function as a sufficient rule of faith for leadership, but not also for the average Christian in the pews?
  • Addressing The Charge Of Circular Reasoning:
          -Tim Staple's charge of Sola Scriptura being circular reasoning has already been addressed here and here. Tim Staple's attempt to escape the charge of circularity on behalf of the Church of Rome is unsuccessful because arguing for the Church's infallibility by saying "Jesus said so" is based on the Roman Catholic Church's interpretation of texts such as Matthew 16:18-19. It is merely ASSUMED by the author of the article at Catholic Answers that the Roman Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ. The end result of Catholic logic on this matter is: "It is thus because Rome said it is thus."
  • Addressing Canon Issues:
          -Tim Staples maintains that Sola Scriptura is an untenable theological position because an infallible authority (Church of Rome) supposedly needed to determine the canon of Scripture. The author of the article further asserts (correctly) that the Bible does not contain an inspired table of contents. However, it needs to be understood that 1.) The church merely recognized the canon of Scripture (more details), 2.) That there has always been a general consensus as to which books belong in the New Testament canon, 3.) Roman Catholics do not have an inspired "table of contents" specifically identifying which oral traditions are inspired, 4.) The authors of books such as Job and Hebrews are unknown, yet still made into the canon, 5.) The Jews successfully assembled an Old Testament canon without the aid of the Roman Catholic Church, 6.) That appealing to extra-biblical sources (date, authorship, doctrinal consistency, tradition, non-Christian works etc.) to affirm scriptural texts is not problematical for Sola Scriptura because that it not what it condemns, and 8.) That it was not until the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. that the Church of Rome had finally canonized its canon (more details here). The Christian church is built on the infallible testimony of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). It has survived throughout the centuries only because of the sanctifying, miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Addressing The 33,000 Protestant Denominations Myth:
          -The 33,000 Protestant denominations claim is a blatant lie (see this article for more details). Why then are the folks at Catholic Answers still propagating this as an argument against Sola Scriptura? The following excerpt from the conclusion paragraph of the article at Catholic Answers reveals how these folks care nothing what the Bible says, "...the Church is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith, morals, and discipline."