Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Does James 2:24 Teach That We Are Justified By Faith And Works?

        "You see then how a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24)

        The Scriptures emphatically declare that works cannot justify us in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul says that we are justified "apart from works" and that God justifies people who "do not work but believe" (Romans 4:2-8). He elsewhere says, "not by works," (Ephesians 2:8-9), "not by works of righteousness which we have done," (Titus 3:5-7), and we are saved, "not according to our works" (2 Timothy 1:9). So the text of James 2:24 cannot be teaching us that justification is merited in part by our good works. The surrounding context of this verse, as well as the rest of Scripture, plays a key role here.

        In context, James clearly occupies the word justify to mean vindication, or proven. He does not argue against justification by faith alone, but rather, a salvation that stands without any good works to accompany it. In other words, one's lifestyle must be consistent with his profession of faith. Faith will express itself in good works because the heart has been regenerated by the Spirit of God. If our Christian testimony is not supported with evidence of good character, then the unbelieving world will have no reason to deem our witness for Christ trustworthy or reliable.

        What James is saying is that we demonstrate the reality of our faith by good works. Are we going to merely talk the spiritual talk or actually going to walk the spiritual walk (James 2:14-17)? Are we only going to be hearers of the Word or doers of the Word (James 1:21-22; 26-27)? The question that James addresses is, "Can such faith save a man?" It is not enough to mentally accept the fact that God exists (James 2:19-20). Therefore, James distinguishes between two different kinds of faith. The demons acknowledge that whatever God says is the truth, but are not in fellowship with Him because they lack trust.

        Works are the product or result of a genuinely saving faith. A converted heart by definition will result in a changed life of holiness. James 2:18 especially echoes this theme ("a man may say...show me...I will show you..."). The language of vindication is also found in James 2:24 ("You see then..."). James provides two biblical examples to illustrate his point on the relationship between faith and works (James 2:21-25). The faith of Abraham and Rehab was tested and shown to be true. Faith was "perfected" in that it reached its design or end. An analogy is employed to make the point that faith and works cannot to be separated from each other (James 2:26). The Christian walk is one that glorifies God.

        James is not hereby discussing themes such as the blood of Christ or how one gets right with God, as does Paul (Romans 5:1-11). James occupies the term "justify" in the sense of vindication, which is employed in the same manner elsewhere throughout Scripture (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:29; 16:15; Romans 3:4). He focuses on Genesis 15:6 from an evidential perspective. The Apostle Paul in Romans and Galatians deals with the universal scope of man's depravity and condemnation by God's Law, whereas James addresses the narrower scope of hypocrisy within the church. Paul focuses on justification "in His sight" (Romans 3:20; 4:2).

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On The Reliability Of The Text Of The New Testament

"About the middle of the last century it was confidently asserted by a very influential school of thought that some of the most important books of the New Testament, including the Gospels and the Acts, did not exist before the thirties of the second century AD.16 This conclusion was the result not so much of historical evidence as of philosophical presuppositions. Even then there was sufficient evidence to show how unfounded these theories were, as Lightfoot, Tischendorf, Tregelles and others demonstrated in their writings; but the amount of such evidence available in our own day is so much greater and more conclusive that a first-century date for most of the New Testament writings cannot reasonably be denied, no matter what our philosophical presuppositions may be.

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians." Somehow or other, there are people who regard a `sacred book' as ipso facto under suspicion, and demand much more corroborative evidence for such a work than they would for an ordinary secular or pagan writing. From the viewpoint of the historian, the same standards must be applied to both. But we do not quarrel with those who want more evidence for the New Testament than for other writings; firstly, because the universal claims which the New Testament makes upon mankind are so absolute, and the character and works of its chief Figure so unparalleled, that we want to be as sure of its truth as we possibly can; and secondly, because in point of fact there is much more evidence for the New Testament than for other ancient writings of comparable date.

There are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part. The best and most important of these go back to somewhere about AD 350, the two most important being the Codex Vaticanus, the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome, and the well-known Codex Sinaiticus, which the British Government purchased from the Soviet Government for £loo,ooo on Christmas Day, 1933, and which is now the chief treasure of the British Museum. Two other important early mss in this country are the Codex Alexandrinus, also in the British Museum, written in the fifth century, and the Codex Bezae, in Cambridge University Library, written in the fifth or sixth century, and containing the Gospels and Acts in both Greek and Latin. Perhaps we can appreciate how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation if we compare the textual material for other ancient historical works. For Caesar's Gallic War (composed between 58 and 50 Bc) there are several extant mss, but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some goo years later than Caesar's day. Of the 142 books of the Roman History of Livy (59 BC-AD 17) only thirty-five survive; these are known to us from not more than twenty mss of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of Books iii-vi, is as old as the fourth century. Of the fourteen books of the Histories of Tacitus (c. AD 100) only four and a half survive; of the sixteen books of his Annals, ten survive in full and two in part. The text of these extant portions of his two great historical works depends entirely on two mss, one of the ninth century and one of the eleventh. The extant mss of his minor works (Dialogus de Oratoribus, Agricola, Germania) all descend from a codex of the tenth century. The History of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) is known to us from eight Mss, the earliest belonging to c. AD 900, and a few papyrus scraps, belonging to about the beginning of the Christian era. The same is true of the History of Herodotus (c. 488-428 BC). Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest mss of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.

But how different is the situation of the New Testament in this respect! In addition to the two excellent mss of the fourth century mentioned above, which are the earliest of some thousands known to us, considerable fragments remain of papyrus copies of books of the New Testament dated from ioo to 200 years earlier still. The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, the existence of which was made public in 1931, consist of portions of eleven papyrus codices, three of which contained most of the New Testament writings. One of these, containing the four Gospels with Acts, belongs to the first half of the third century; another, containing Paul's letters to churches and the Epistle to the Hebrews, was copied at the beginning of the third century; the third, containing Revelation, belongs to the second half of the same century. A more recent discovery consists of some papyrus fragments dated by papyrological experts not later than AD 150, published in Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and other Early Christian Papyri, by H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat (1935). These fragments contain what has been thought by some to be portions of a fifth Gospel having strong affinities with the canonical four; but much more probable is the view expressed in The Times Literary Supplement for 25 April 1935, `that these fragments were written by someone who had the four Gospels before him and knew them well; that they did not profess to be an independent Gospel; but were paraphrases of the stories and other matter in the Gospels designed for explanation and instruction, a manual to teach people the Gospel stories'.

Earlier still is a fragment of a papyrus codex containing John 18:31-33, 37-38, now in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, dated on palaeographical grounds around AD 130, showing that the latest of the four Gospels, which was written, according to tradition, at Ephesus between AD 90 and loo, was circulating in Egypt within about forty years of its composition (if, as is most likely, this papyrus originated in Egypt, where it was acquired in 1917). It must be regarded as being, by half a century, the earliest extant fragment of the New Testament.

A more recently discovered papyrus manuscript of the same Gospel, while not so early as the Rylands papyrus, is incomparably better preserved; this is the Papyrus Bodmer II, whose discovery was announced by the Bodmer Library of Geneva in 1956; it was written about AD 200, and contains the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John with but one lacuna (of twenty-two verses), and considerable portions of the last seven chapters.19 Attestation of another kind is provided by allusions to and quotations from the New Testament books in other early writings. The authors known as the Apostolic Fathers wrote chiefly between AD 9o and 16o, and in their works we find evidence for their acquaintance with most of the books of the New Testament. In three works whose date is probably round about AD 100 - the `Epistle of Barnabas, written perhaps in Alexandria; the Didache, or `Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, produced somewhere in Syria or Palestine; and the letter sent to the Corinthian church by Clement, bishop of Rome, about AD 96 - we find fairly certain quotations from the common tradition of the Synoptic Gospels, from Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews,l Peter, and possible quotations from other books of the New Testament. In the letters written by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, as he journeyed to his martyrdom in Rome in AD 115, there are reasonably identifiable quotations from Matthew, John, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and possible allusions to mark, Luke, Acts, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Hebrews, and 1 Peter. His younger contemporary, Polycarp, in a letter to the Philippians (c. 120) quotes from the common tradition of the Synoptic Gospels, from Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, i Peter, and i John. And so we might go on through the writers of the second century, amassing increasing evidence of their familiarity with and recognition of the authority of the New Testament writings. So far as the Apostolic Fathers are concerned, the evidence is collected and weighed in a work called The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, recording the findings of a committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology in 1905.

Nor is it only in orthodox Christian writers that we find evidence of this sort. It is evident from the recently discovered writings of the Gnostic school of Valentinus that before the middle of the second century most of the New Testament books were as well known and as fully venerated in that heretical circle as they were in the Catholic Church.20 The study of the kind of attestation found in mss and quotations in later writers is connected with the approach known as Textual Criticism.21 This is a most important and fascinating branch of study, its object being to determine as exactly as possible from the available evidence the original words of the documents in question. It is easily proved by experiment that it is difficult to copy out a passage of any considerable length without making one or two slips at least. When we have documents like our New Testament writings copied and recopied thousands of times, the scope for copyists' errors is so enormously increased that it is surprising there are no more than there actually are. Fortunately, if the great number of MSS increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small. The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.

To sum up, we may quote the verdict of the late Sir Frederic Kenyon, a scholar whose authority to make pronouncements on ancient mss was second to none:

The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."

F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Is The Roman Catholic Eucharist Logical?

  • Roman Catholic Teaching On Transubstantiation:
          -"In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out." (CCC # 1364)
          -"By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity." (CCC # 1413)
          -"Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. I watched and listened as the priest pronounced the words of consecration and elevated the host. And I confess, the last drop of doubt drained away that moment. I looked and said, "My Lord and my God." As the people began going forward to receive communion, I literally began to drool, "Lord, I want you. I want communion more fully with you. You've come into my heart. You've become my personal Savior and Lord, but now I think You want to come onto my tongue and into my stomach, and into my body as well as my soul until this communion is complete." (Scott Hahn, Rome Sweet Home)
  • A Logical Critique Of Roman Catholic Transubstantiation: 
          1.) Why would somebody eat human flesh and drink human blood? Is not cannibalism a sign of divine judgment (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57; Ezekiel 5:10)?

          2.) Scripture defines the "gospel" as believing from the heart in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). How come the eucharist is never included in a biblical presentation of the gospel message? How come the earliest church creeds mention nothing about Roman Catholic transubstantiation as being an essential article of the Christian faith?

          3.) How does the alleged power of transubstantiation not imply that the authority of the parish priest is superior to that Jesus Christ? Does he somehow become the creator of the Creator?

          4.) If we must interpret the bread of life discourse in John 6 literally because our Lord Jesus Christ had stated six times to "eat His flesh and drink His blood," then why must we accept what Catholics say when they claim that the term "thousand years" in Revelation 20 is symbolic, yet repeated six times, in support of amillennialism? How does repetition translate into literalness?

          5.) Did not Jesus Christ literally say that all who eat His flesh and drink His blood will receive everlasting life (John 6:54)? Would that include unrepentant pagans and atheists? If we are going to be consistent with the literalist interpretation of the Bread of Life Discourse, then should people who eat Christ's flesh and drink His blood (i.e. consecrated elements of the Mass) never physically hunger and thirst again (John 6:35)?

          6.) If Jesus' use of the Greek term "phago" (meaning to gnaw, chew, indicates a slow process) in John 6:54-58 decisively proves that we must interpret His words literally, then how come the disciples did not start consuming His flesh and drinking His blood right away?

          7.) Given the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, where the substance of the wine is changed into the blood of Christ while retaining its accidental properties of wine, how does Rome reconcile the spiritual reality of the eucharist with the physical needs of the world, such as blood shortages?

          8.) What biblical basis exists to justify the notion that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of the Mass are "one in the same" (CCC #1367)? How can this be? What Scripture teaches that the work of Christ is "ongoing" (CCC #1405)? Why would the atonement sacrifice of Christ need to be "re-presented?"

          9.) If the host is truly the literal body of Jesus Christ, then should we expect that the bread wafer never becomes stale, moldy, or goes through the process of decomposition (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27)?

          10.) Would a Roman Catholic priest be willing to consume the consecrated elements, if he knew that they had been saturated in poison prior to the instance of transubstantiation?

          11.) Did not Jesus Christ specifically instruct us to serve a cup of wine with the bread during communion (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:27-29)? How come the Roman Catholic Church was not consistent with apostolic practice from the twelfth century until changes were made during the Second Vatican Council in 1970? 

          12.) The Roman Catholic Mass was organized and carried out completely in the Latin language from 1570 to 1965, leaving the average attendee clueless as to what was being said and done by the parish priest during the worship gatherings. After the change in procedure by the pope, the first Catholic congregations to hear the services in their vernacular tongue were the Irish. Note, however, that the Apostle Paul spoke negatively in regard to speaking in an unknown tongue in the context of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:19). If leaving spoken tongues in the church undeciphered was not a good idea by reason of such bringing about no edification, then why would it have been reasonable for the Church of Rome to conduct all its worship services in Latin? Why were they all conducted in a language that no one could understand in the first place?

          13.) If transubstantiation is true, then how is it that the Corinthian Christians, who had abused the Lord's Supper by treating it as a mere feast, had managed to become intoxicated with the wine (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)? Where was the change in substance that time? How can the accidents of bread and wine exist without their original substance after transubstantiation?

          14.) If "this is my body" and "this is my blood" literally means that the bread and wine were transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ, then does "this cup is the new testament" literally mean that the literal cup becomes a literal covenant (Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:25)? In the New Testament, the word "is" does occur with the meaning of "this is representative of" or "this symbolizes" (Matthew 13:20; Galatians 4:26).

          15.) If the Lord's Supper was truly a Mass service, then how could Jesus be sitting there at the same time proclaiming the bread and wine to be His literal flesh and blood? He would be sitting in a chair while holding Himself up in the air with His own two hands. Would we not have an illogical scenario of Jesus Christ offering Himself for our sins prior to the appointed time of His crucifixion?

          16.) If the human body of Christ is located in heaven at God the Father's right hand, then how can it be at the same time in thousands of different places at Masses across the globe?

          17.) If transubstantiation took place during the Lord's Supper, then would that not imply Jesus Christ had two physical bodies? Does this mean that there are multiple bodies of Christ? If each wafer becomes Christ, then does this imply a multiplicity of Christs?

          18.) If the communion wafer is supposed to look identical after transubstantiation into the literal body of Christ, then why not also believe a religious leader when he claims to have the ability to transform us into inanimate objects such as iron (our appearances remain the same, yet our substances are drastically altered)? Should we believe the pope if he had just so happened to pronounce an ex-cathedra statement declaring that priests have the ability to transform squares into triangles, or both (without a perceptible change)?

          19.) Though transubstantiation and transgenderism are radically different issues, both share glaring similarities in logic. Both operate on the assumption that things are not as they appear. Both do not align with what we observe in the natural world. The nature of the communion elements and the nature of a person's gender do not correspond to what they actually are. The DNA/chemical composition is ignored: it's what I say it is, even though it it has all the qualities of something else. The bread and the wine of communion still look, smell, and taste like bread and wine. How does one account for this lack of consistency?

          20.) How do advocates of transubstantiation explain the fact that Jesus Christ ate the same bread and drank from the same cup that the Church of Rome claims became His actual body and blood (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:7-16)? Did He eat His own flesh and drink His own blood? Why would Christ need to do so when He was already sinless (Hebrews 7:26-27)? Did not Jesus Christ say that He used figurative language on the night of the Last Supper (John 16:25-30)?

          21.) If the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation was taught in the church from its inception, then how come the issue was not discussed at the Jerusalem Council where the consumption of blood was frowned upon (Acts 15:20; 29; 21:25)? If the leadership who convened had actually believed in this teaching, then would they not have clarified that the blood of Christ was of a different or sacramental nature in order to avoid possible confusion?

          22.) If transubstantiation is true, then how can we know whether the apostles were not simply misled by their senses when they saw the resurrected Christ?

Happiness According To Scripture

        Many people, including Christians, have wondered what it means to find satisfaction in life. In fact, most have never encountered the rightful source of our happiness, which is God Himself. Our service to Him ought to ignite pleasure and joy. It is quite possible that these individuals have undergone disease, ill-treatment, or simply yearn for an inherent sense of dignity. Whatever the case, the gospel can alleviate us of sorrows prompted by physical, psychological, and spiritual problems (Philippians 4:19). It will help the person who desires righteousness to view the glass as half full rather than half empty in life. The gospel liberates the confined soul by enabling the mind to rest assured in the fact that God is ultimately in control of life and He will resolve our troubles in eternity. What does it mean to have true happiness? Where should our happiness originate? How we answer these questions determines what we focus on in life.

        Happiness is the pleasurable emotion which occurs when a person is satisfied overall. It is a feeling of delight, gratitude, assurance, appeasement, and consolation. Happiness is a feeling of purposefulness. It is a feeling of livelihood. Happiness is a feeling of perseverance (James 1:3-4). Happiness is a feeling of confidence. It involves trust. It involves faithfulness. Scripture occupies the words happiness and joy synonymously. It recognizes no distinction between the meanings of both words. They are inextricably united (Psalm 68:3; 144:15). Thus, being joyful is the same as being happy. It involves being glad. It involves rejoicing, even during times of hardship and heartache (Romans 5:3-5). It entails praising the God who has lovingly set the universe in order. True happiness as defined according to biblical principles involves glorifying God, especially knowing that He has reconciled us to Himself from iniquity through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The foundational aspect of happiness is that it is strictly a gift (Romans 14:17). If God is for us, then who or what can be against us? Is not the love of God everything?

        Should our joy be determined by external circumstances, or should it be centered on a divine person? Indeed, the truth shall set us free (John 8:31-32). Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light (John 14:6). God's Word is the truth by which the innermost part of our being is sanctified (John 17:14-17). It is our worldview that shapes our perception of reality. If we love, know, and serve our Creator from the heart, then we know that we belong to Him (1 John 2:3-4). If we believe from the heart that God had resurrected the Christ from the grave, then we shall be justified in His sight. It is through receiving the message of the gospel that we have been deemed children of God. It needs to be believed with all our heart. It is to be received through the mind because it is the gateway of the heart. God sustains us through moments of pain, desolation, distress, and suffering.

        Scripture informs us of two different, diametrically opposed kinds of happiness. One springs forth from engaging in fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), whereas the latter comes from partaking in fleshly desires (Hebrews 11:25). Allowing sin to have dominion over our lives is futile, and dangerous to the soul (Galatians 6:7-9). It is unprofitable for us. Fulfilling sinful lusts can only result in feeling finite, temporary satisfaction. Sin is defined scripturally to mean the breaking of God's commandments (1 John 3:4). It is a failure to live up to reality. It is a failure to appreciate the good things that God has designed for us. It is pointless to continue living in a sinful lifestyle because it can never satisfy the longings of the human soul. That is actually selfishness and idolatry. We cannot resort to a finite source to quench a longing that demands infinite fulfillment. We cannot have lasting happiness and fulfillment apart from God. Joy is not a byproduct of holiness, but rather is holiness itself (Psalm 1:1-3; Matthew 5:2-12). It can only be found in serving God according on His terms.

        God is the ultimate source of our happiness, but not everything that happens in life will bring us into that state of being. There are other emotions which are appropriate in other contexts such as sorrow and grief. Our ultimate sense of joy is centered on and finds its basis in Jesus Christ. We are set free from sin through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. God is worthy of our time and dedication. If we are known by Him, we will be spending eternity with Him. We should be striving to be holy as God Himself is holy. Godliness is exemplified in thought, word, and deed. Sin can never result in lasting happiness or fulfillment. It is not a psychological but supernatural bliss that God gives to those who love Him. It will not be fully brought to realization until we enter the eternal state. Our hearts need to be made right with God in order to experience this kind of happiness.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Consistent Atheism Thought Out Hypothetically

"Then I learned that all moral judgments are “value judgments,” that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ I even read somewhere that the Chief Justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured it out for myself – what apparently the Chief Justice couldn’t figure out for himself – that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any ‘reason’ to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring – the strength of character – to throw off its shackles…. I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable ‘value judgment’ that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others’? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a high’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me – after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self."