Monday, September 30, 2019

A Rational Argument For The Existence Of The Human Soul

"In this discussion, many modern scientific thinkers have taken position that consciousness is an illusory faculty created by our neuronal activity. According to this position, our subjective self-awareness is wholly imagined fantasy that has no objective existence:

“Despite our every instinct to the contrary, there is one thing that consciousness is not; some deep entity inside the brain that corresponds to the “self”, some kernel of awareness that runs the show ... after more than a century of looking for it brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for such a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply doesn’t exist.” (Journalist Michael Leminick, Time Magazine)

“We feel, most of the time, like we are riding around inside our bodies, as though we are an inner subject that can utilize the body as a kind of object. This last representation is an illusion ... “ (Atheist author Sam Harris)

“The intuitive feeling that we have that there’s an executive “I” that sits in the control room of our brain ... is an illusion.” (Dr. Steven Pinker)

These thinkers all readily acknowledge that our actual experience of reality seems to fly in the face of their description of it — hence Professor Dennett’s “problem of consciousness.” One would think that in order to draw conclusions about the true nature of this problem they would rely on carefully researched evidence and hard facts before informing us that every experience that we have (or will ever have) — from love and morality to the appreciation of beauty and free will — are fictitious. Here are some examples of what the world of science does actually offer on this topic:

“Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.” (Dr. Jerry Fodor, Professor of philosophy and cognitive science)

“The problem of consciousness tends to embarrass biologists. Taking it to be an aspect of living things, they feel they should know about it and be able to tell physicists about it, whereas they have nothing relevant to say.” (Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize winning biologist)

“Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all.” (Dr. Nick Herbert, Physicist)

Based on these honest assessments of the state of scientific knowledge on this topic one might think that these thinkers — who have a priori drawn conclusions on a subject for which they seem to have little to no evidence — would speak in far more humble and guarded tones. No one seriously suggests that protons, quarks or chemical compounds possess innate awareness. Why then do they suggest that the products of these foundational materials will suddenly leap into self-cognizance? Is this a truly rational position to hold? Exactly how many electrons does it take for them to become “aware” of themselves? Cells do not wonder about themselves, molecules have no identity and a machine — no matter how sophisticated — is imbecilic (without its programmer).

If our decision-making faculty was indeed an illusion of the brain it should be impossible to physically affect the brain through our own willful decisions and yet research has demonstrated that the “I” can and does alter brain activity through the agency of free will as described by Canadian neuroscientist Dr. Mario Beauregard:

“Jeffrey Schwartz ... a UCLA neuropsychiatrist, treats obsessive-compulsive disorder — by getting patients to reprogram their brains. Evidence of the mind’s control over the brain is actually captured in these studies. There is such a thing as mind over matter. We do have will power, consciousness, and emotions, and combined with a sense of purpose and meaning, we can effect change.”

Why then should we not consider the possibility — the one that satisfies our deepest, most powerful and intuitive sense — that the “I” that we all experience is the human soul? And that the reason that science has not discovered its whereabouts is not that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is not part of physical reality as we know it and as such is undetectable and unmeasurable by material means. It is certainly understandable that for those who believe that material reality is the only reality this would be an unwelcome notion. Nonetheless, I submit that in absence of any compelling alternative and with the obviousness of the reality of our self-awareness so manifestly apparent — it is the rational conclusion to draw."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Granville Sharp Rule And Evidence For Jesus Christ's Deity

  • Titus 2:13 Is An Example Of Where The Granville Sharp Rule Is Applied:
          -"In the original Greek, the words for “God” and “Savior” are joined by kai, and the definite article ho is only used once, preceding “God”; according to the Granville Sharp Rule, both God and Savior must refer to the same person, namely, Jesus Christ. The NASB 1977 renders the verse more literally: “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”...The grammatical construction of the Greek makes it plain: definite article + singular noun + copulative conjunction + singular noun = the same person." (Got Questions, "What is the Granville Sharp Rule?")
  • The Granville Sharp Rule Does Not Apply To Things, Plurals, Or Proper Names. Daniel B. Wallace Gives These Pertinent Remarks Here:
          -"In native Greek constructions (i.e., not translation Greek), when a single article modifies two substantives connected by kai (thus, article-substantive- kai-substantive), when both substantives are (1) singular (both grammatically and semantically), (2) personal, (3) and common nouns (not proper names or ordinals), they have the same referent."
  • The Following Excerpt Has Been Taken From The Same Source As The Previous One:
          -"...solid linguistic reasons and plenty of phenomenological data were found to support the requirements that Sharp laid down. When substantives meet the requirements of Sharp’s canon, apposition is the result, and inviolably so in the NT. The canon even works outside the twenty-seven books and, hence, ought to be resurrected as a sound principle which has overwhelming validity in all of Greek literature. Consequently, in Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 we are compelled to recognize that, on a grammatical level, a heavy burden of proof rests with the one who wishes to deny that “God and Savior” refers to one person, Jesus Christ."
  • Dr. James R. White Provides Similar Clarifications Of The Granville Sharp Rule As Follows:
          -"Basically, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word 'and,' and the first noun has the article ('the') while the second does not, both nouns are referring to the same person."
  • Examples Of Granville Sharp Construction Found In The New Testament (Excerpt Taken From James White Of Alpha and Omega Ministries):
          -"Kenneth Wuest in his Expanded Translation brings out the Sharp constructions in a number of other instances. For example, 2 Thessalonians 1:12 reads, “in accordance with the grace of our God, even the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Timothy 5:21: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of our God, even Jesus Christ,…” and 2 Timothy 4:1: “I solemnly charge you as one who is living in the presence of our God, even Christ Jesus,…” All these demonstrate further examples of Sharp’s rule. Not all examples, of course, deal with the fact of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 3:2 reads, τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν, “our brother and fellow-worker,” in reference to Timothy. Philemon 1 contains a similar reference, and Hebrews 3:1 is yet another example. One of the most often repeated examples has to do with the idiom, “God and Father.” Pure Sharp constructions occur at 2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:20, and 1 Thessalonians 3:11. Finally, other examples of Sharp constructions occur at 1 Corinthians 5:10, 7:8, 7:34, Ephesians 5:5, Philippians 2:25, and Colossians 4:7."
  • The NET Bible Has This Footnote:
          -"Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent. Illustrations such as “the friend and brother,” “the God and Father,” etc. abound in the NT to prove Sharp’s point. The only issue is whether terms such as “God” and “Savior” could be considered common nouns as opposed to proper names. Sharp and others who followed (such as T. F. Middleton in his masterful The Doctrine of the Greek Article) demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both “God” (θεός, qeos) and “savior” (σωτήρ, swthr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp’s rule."
  • The NET Bible Has This Footnote On 2 Peter 1:16:
           -"sn The term grandeur was used most frequently of God’s majesty. In the 1st century, it was occasionally used of the divine majesty of the emperor. 2 Pet 1:1 and 1:11 already include hints of a polemic against emperor-worship (in that “God and Savior” and “Lord and Savior” were used of the emperor)."
  • We Know That The Terms "God" And "Savior" Are Both Applied To Jesus Christ In Titus 2:13 Because The Next Verse Says The Following:
          -"who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."
          -Christ is the One who gave Himself up on our behalf as a sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. There is no contextual evidence for the "who" reference in Titus 2:14 being plural.
  • Dr. James White Gives This Commentary On Titus 2:13 (Following Excerpt Taken From The Same Article As White's Other Quotes Above):
          -"It might also be mentioned that verse 14, while directly referring to Christ, is a paraphrase of some Old Testament passages that refer to Yahweh God. (Psalm 130:8, Deuteronomy 7:6, etc). One can hardly object to the identification of Christ as God when the Apostle goes on to describe His works as the works of God!"
  • This Excerpt From The Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary On Titus 2:13 Is Also Relevant Here:
          -"There is but one Greek article to “God” and “Savior,” which shows that both are predicated of one and the same Being. “Of Him who is at once the great God and our Savior.” Also (2) “appearing” ({epiphaneia}) is never by Paul predicated of God the Father (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16), or even of “His glory” (as Alford explains it): it is invariably applied to Christ‘s coming, to which) (at His first advent, compare 2 Timothy 1:10) the kindred verb “appeared” ({epephanee}), Titus 2:)11, refers (1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:8). Also (3) in the context (Titus 2:14) there is no reference to the Father, but to Christ alone; and here there is no occasion for reference to the Father in the exigencies of the context. Also (4) the expression “great God,” as applied to Christ, is in accordance with the context, which refers to the glory of His appearing; just as “the true God” is predicated of Christ, 1 John 5:20. The phrase occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but often in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 10:17, predicated of Jehovah, who, as their manifested Lord, led the Israelites through the wilderness, doubtless the Second Person in the Trinity. Believers now look for the manifestation of His glory, inasmuch as they shall share in it. Even the Socinian explanation, making “the great God” to be the Father, “our Savior,” the Son, places God and Christ on an equal relation to “the glory” of the future appearing: a fact incompatible with the notion that Christ is not divine; indeed it would be blasphemy so to couple any mere created being with God."

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Saul Talking With (Dead) Samuel Is Problematic For Soul Sleep Theology

"Seventh day Adventism does not believe anything of a person survives death except in the memory of God. They believe the essence of a person is “soul”, the thing they say comes into existence when a person breathes. When they cease to breathe, that “life force” goes away, and the soul dies. Life ceases, and the body decays. God remembers the person, but nothing immaterial or material remains.

First Samuel, however, challenges the Adventist out-of-context defense of the non-biblical doctrine of “soul sleep”. In fact, 1 Samuel 15:34-35 compared with 1 Samual 28 shockingly contradicts the Adventist worldview.

In 1 Samual 15:34-35 we are told Samuel would not see Saul again until the day of his death. These words proved to be prophetic: “Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Sam. 15:34–35).

The grammar above is important. In the second sentence we read, “Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death.” Grammar dictates that a pronoun (his) must refer to the last noun named—Saul. This is a consistent rule of grammar; the word “his” cannot refer to the name Samuel, because the name Saul is the noun that immediately precedes the pronoun. In technical terms, “Saul” is the antecedent of “his”. In other words, we could accurately read this sentence, “And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of Saul’s death.”

As we read 1 Samuel 28, we learn that on the night of the very day Saul died (Jewish days began at sundown and lasted until the next sundown), he went to the medium of Endor and asked her to “bring up” Samuel who had already died. The context suggests that Saul believed that if the medium of Endor really did call up Samuel, it would actually be the prophet speaking from the grave.

The chapter tells the story of Samuel appearing, to the witch’s shock and fear, and delivering the prophecy to Saul that he would die “tomorrow”. Samuel said, “Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 28:19).

Saul did die during the battle with the Philistines before the next sundown, fulfilling 1 Samuel 15:34-35. Samuel, who had already died, nevertheless saw Saul on the day of Saul’s death. In fact, he not only saw him, but he prophesied to him and let him know that he would die in a battle with the Philistines that Israel would lose.

Adventists say that Saul saw an evil spirit impersonating Samuel. This interpretation, though, denies the words of Scripture. Furthermore, only God could have known the day of Saul’s coming death. An evil spirit would not have given an accurate prophecy; it had to be God’s prophet Samuel speaking from the grave the infallible words of God.

Furthermore, when one studies the whole of 1 Samuel 28, the passage never suggests that Samuel had any personal, direct knowledge of what was currently troubling Saul. Samuel simply told Saul the message God gave him to say."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Commentary On So-Called "Deliverance Ministries"

I know of no polite way to respond to this kind of teaching. It is unmitigated nonsense. Nowhere in sacred Scripture is there to be found the slightest hint of this kind of demonic diagnosis. These teachings cross the line into the sphere of magic and result in serious harm to believers who are duped by them. Sadly, too much concern with Satan and demons means that we focus less of our attention on Christ. That must please Satan, and it is certainly not pleasing to God.

The Scriptures indicate that Satan can oppress us, assault us, tempt us, slander us, and accuse us. But a Christian who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit cannot be possessed by a demon. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). If a person indwelled by the Holy Spirit can at the same time be sovereignly controlled by an evil spirit, then our redemption is meaningless.

All this emphasis on Satan and demons tends to distract us from another very real menace, our own sin. Yes, there is a Devil. There are real demons. But there is also the reality of sin. Satan may be our accomplice in our ongoing sin, but we cannot pass the blame and responsibility for our sin to a controlling demon. We do not have to be possessed by a demon to get drunk. There is enough abiding wickedness in us to do it all by ourselves. We can never say, “The Devil made me do it.” We can say that we are tempted, incited, or seduced by Satan, but not that we are controlled or coerced by him.

There are two serious problems with the view that our sins are the result of controlling demons. The first is that we yield to the temptation to take no personal responsibility for our sin. How can we be responsible if in fact we are not able to resist? Second, we are lured into thinking that we are powerless without the aid of the deliverance minister. We are encouraged to think that we are not really guilty and that we are actually helpless without a minister with special powers of deliverance. This negates the entire biblical concept of sanctification. It is surely unbiblical to teach that we cannot lead lives pleasing to God unless some so-called expert on deliverance comes to our side. Therefore, I say with all urgency that believers must turn away from those who teach such things. Indeed, we should run for our spiritual lives.

Monday, September 23, 2019

1 Corinthians 10:3-4 Is A Problematic Passage For Roman Catholic Transubstantiation

        "They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:3-4)

        This passage of Scripture is relevant to Roman Catholic transubstantiation because it affirms that Jesus Christ is our source of spiritual nourishment. He is our spiritual food. He, the substance, is the same substance that is made mentally present by faith at the meal of the New Covenant.

        Transubstantiation does not involve the eating and drinking of Christ in a "spiritual" manner. That language is distinct from Roman Catholic dogma. Transubstantiation takes place when the priest pronounces the bread and wine to be Jesus Christ's actual body and blood (the change is not in the accidents, but substance).

        What matters in Roman Catholic theology is the participation in that physical substance. But this is directly contrary to the way that the Scriptures speak concerning the participation of those ancient people in the meal and water (during the Exodus).

         The Israelites "ate" and "drank" Christ, which must be spiritual and not physical because no transubstantiation took place during the Old Testament. We partake of Christ in the same spiritual way that the Old Testament Jews did: by faith.

Does Matthew 25:31-46 (Parable Of The Sheep And Goats) Refute Justification By Faith Alone?

        First of all, it should be noted that the context of Matthew 25:31-46 is about the quality of faithfulness. It is not about justification or how one gets right with God.

        Secondly, works are not being prescribed as criteria for salvation in this passage. Rather, they provide descriptions of who belongs in either one of two categories: sheep or goats.

        The former group experienced genuine conversion of heart which results in the performance of good works, whereas those in the latter group simply did not care for the things of God.

         Jesus Christ was addressing matters from a general standpoint, not giving specific ordinances or rituals that we must observe in order to earn God's favor. The Lord points to our works in judgement because they serve as convictable evidence of our obedience to Him.

         There is an element of grace alone present in Matthew 25:34 ("...blessed by My Father..."). The kingdom of heaven was prepared by God as a result of His kindness and mercy. This inheritance was prepared for us long before we were even born ("before the foundation of the world"). This is clearly not a matter of earning our way into heaven by good works. The concept of justification by faith alone goes hand in with grace (Romans 4:16).

         God will certainly reward believers for their good deeds. On the other hand, the reception of eternal life is a free gift that He gives. The works that we do perform are a result of His divine grace. Justification is not by works of righteousness which we have done (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are to place our trust in Christ's work alone for salvation.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Examples Of Medieval Expositors Who Used "Faith Alone" In Their Commentaries On Romans

"...a number of Latin commentators echoed the Pauline language of faith alone (sola fide) when commenting on justification in the book of Romans. Examples include Cassiodorus (ca. 485-583),26 Lanfranc of Bec (ca. 1003-1089),27 Bruno of Cologne (1032-1101),28 and Robert of Melun (ca. 1100-1167).29 A survey of these medieval commentators suggests that they limited their understanding of justification primarily to the remission of past sins only.30 Nonetheless, it is significant to note that the Reformers were not the first to use the phrase sola fide in their interpretation of Romans."31

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 138

Early Church Evidence For Sola Fide

"The fourth-century writer Marius Victorinus (who converted to Christianity around 355), says of Paul's teaching in Galatians: "Therefore righteousness is not from the law; that is, justification and salvation come not from the law but from faith, as is promised."13 Commenting on the book of Ephesians, he says of God's grace, "He did not give back to us what was merited, since we did not receive this by merits but by the grace and goodness of God."14 Later he adds, "The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not from your works, but it is God's grace and God's gift, not from anything you have deserved."15 And again, "Only faith [sola fides] in Christ is salvation for us."16

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 66

7th Century BC Stamp Bearing Name Of King David's Son Unearthed In Jerusalem

"The less than half-an-inch sealing was uncovered by an Israeli teen volunteer at City of David excavation site.

A minute stamp seal from 2,600 years ago bearing the name of King David’s son was recently found in an excavation site in Jerusalem, the City of David Foundation announced Sunday in a press release.

The seal, believed to be used by the highest ranking ministers in ancient Jerusalem to sign documents, bears the Hebrew name and title, “Adoniyahu by appointment of the house,” (“Asher Al Habayit”) and appears numerous times in the Bible under different kings in each of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

The phrase appears for the first time on the list of ministers of King Solomon, the Foundation said.

“This tiny stamp seal has immense meaning to billions of people worldwide,” said Doron Spielman, Vice-President of the City of David Foundation.

The personal signet dates back to the era of Solomon's Temple in the 7th century BCE and “is another link in the long chain of Jewish history in Jerusalem that is being uncovered and preserved at the City of David on a daily basis,” Speilman added.

The name Adoniyahu was given to one of King David's sons as mentioned in the Book of Kings. It is also mentioned as one of the Levites in the days of Jehoshaphat, and finally in the days of Nehemiah as one of the “Heads of, the people…” (Nehemiah 9:16).

Eliyahu Yanai, City of DavidThis unearthed bulla is approximately one-centimeter-wide (less than half an inch), and according to the type of writing that appears on it, dates to the 7th century BC in ancient Jerusalem.

The unearthed seal is approximately one-centimeter-wide (less than half-an-inch), and based on its calligraphy, dates as far back as the Kingdom of Judah during the 7th century BCE. These types of stamps were small pieces of tin used in ancient times to sign documents, and were meant to keep the letters closed en route to their destination, the City of David Foundation said.

The item was discovered as part of excavations that began in 2013 underneath Robinson's Arch at the foundations of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It was uncovered last month by teenage volunteer Batya Offen."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why Bible Translation Is So Important

The Bible is one of the oldest and most popular books of all time. But is it just a book, or is it much more?

We believe that the Bible is God’s Word to us — something that everyone should be able to understand in a language and form that clearly speaks to their hearts. But approximately 2,000 languages* around the world are still waiting for a translation project to begin.

When people finally get Scripture in their own language, lives often change in amazing ways. People are transformed as they discover Jesus Christ and enter into a right relationship with God.

That’s why [groups such as] Wycliffe Bible Translators exists — to help speakers of these remaining languages get the Bible for themselves. And we won’t stop until all people have God’s Word in a language they understand.

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation:

More than 1,500 languages have access to the New Testament and some portions of Scripture in their language.

More than 650 languages have the complete translated Bible.

At least 7,000 spoken or signed languages* are known to be in use today.

At least 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible in their language — that’s more people than the entire continent of Africa!

More than 2,500 languages across 170 countries have active translation and linguistic development work happening right now.

Approximately 2,000 languages still need a Bible translation project to begin.

Pope Gregory The Great: “(Christ) In The Mystery Of The Holy Sacrifice Is Offered For Us Again (Iterum)”.

                                           By John Bugay of Triablogue

While we’re talking about the “Eucharist”, it’s striking that most individuals who turn (or return) to Roman Catholicism say they do so because of the Eucharist. Thinking that Rome somehow teaches what Christ taught and what the earliest church taught, they neglect the convoluted history and practice of this “sacrifice”, which, contra Chris Castaldo, has a long history of being viewed as “Christ is re-sacrificed at the Mass”.

Chris Castaldo says: “Misnomer Two: Catholics teach that Christ is Re-sacrificed at the Mass”

This is perhaps the most common misconception. If I had a dime for every pastor friend whom I’ve heard say that the Mass is a repetition of the cross, I just might have enough money for a cappuccino at Starbucks. … Catholic doctrine teaches that the Mass “renews” or “re-presents” the cross; but it doesn’t “repeat” it. Catholics assert that in a mystical and sacramental sense, the Mass is the cross, the once and for all offering of God’s Son continued through time. For those of you who enjoy grammar, it’s like an ingressive aorist: an action that has been completed and is also ongoing. It is, if you will, like a golf put [sic]… When I swing my putter at the ball, the initial contact is the “put.” At the same time, the action of the ball rolling toward the pin (and in my case, past the pin) is also the “put.” [sic] The put has happened and it’s happening. So the sacrifice of Jesus is completed (hence informed Catholics know how to explain Jesus’ words “it is finished”) and it is also ongoing. Personally, this is one of two or three tenets of Catholicism that I find most troubling; but it is what it is, and we evangelicals only benefit from getting it right.

Castaldo should stick to “puting” and drinking Starbucks. And as I mentioned in a previous post, he should also approach Rome’s doctrines more critically, and be less willing to chastise Protestants for not understanding things for which Rome itself has been all over the map.

This notion that Christ is re-sacrificed at the Mass is an old one, and it is a western, eventually supremely Roman position. Edward J. Kilmartin The Eucharist in the West (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press ©1998, 2004), describing Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397 A.D.) notes:

On the question of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, Ambrose provides an example of the difference of the orientation between the Eastern and Western traditions. The Greek fathers of the fourth-century Antiochene tradition based the sacrificial character of the Eucharist on the concept of anamnesis: the commemorative actual presence of the one and unique sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The third-century bishop of Carthage [Cyprian], as was noted above, did not follow this interpretation. Ambrose also omits the Greek concept of commemorative sacrifice… (18)

Ambrose’s theology of eucharistic sacrifice which stresses the active presence of Christ as High Priest as well as the active co-offering of the liturgical assembly under the leadership of the presiding priest adheres to the Western theological tradition. An individualistic concept of eucharistic sacrifice is discernible not only for the ecclesial aspect [“it is precisely the liturgical assembly that is the subject of the offering of the eucharistic sacrifice”] but also for the Christological dimension of the sacrificial act. The idea that each individual Mass has a value in itself as a kind of new act of Christ performed in and through the sacrificial offering of the Church derives from the experience of the mystery of the Eucharist. It is nourished by the typical Western way of thinking which is focused on the individual and concrete event, and disinclined to speculate about the relationship of the once-for-all historical sacrifice of Christ to the eucharistic sacrifice.

Ambrose’s doctrine of the somatic presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine was borrowed from the fourth-century Antiochene tradition. But, as we have noted above, it was not “received” within the Platonic horizon of thought of the Greek theologians. However, his teaching on this subject, thus separated from its natural Platonic horizon, became the viable—and eventually triumphant—option in the Latin Church of the early Middle Ages over against the “spiritualized” interpretation of the content of the sacraments of the body and blood linked to the Augustinian tradition. Likewise Ambrose’s teaching about the Christological aspect of the eucharistic sacrifice shows no signs of the influence of the Greek notion of commemorative sacrifice. This fact, which proves that Ambrose’s “reception” of Greek eucharistic theology was only partial, is indicative of the difficulty which the Western theological mindset has traditionally experienced in its attempts to grasp the Greek notion of commemorative sacrifice.

By the end of the sixth century this Greek concept, which could have served the interests of a more balanced theology of the eucharistic sacrifice, was no longer present to the Western tradition. At the same time the tendency of the Western theology of eucharistic sacrifice toward postulating a complete disjunction between the historical sacrifice of the cross and the eucharistic sacrifice received additional support from Pope Gregory the Great’s saying that “(Christ) in the mystery of the holy sacrifice is offered for us again (iterum)”. This text is one of the earliest that refers to Christ being “newly” offered. Supported by the authority of Gregory [the Great!] it became an important proof text for the notion that the sacrifice of Christ is repeated in each Mass in an “unbloody way.”

At the same time this perception of the eucharistic sacrifice as first and foremost a liturgical repetition of the once-for-all sacrifice of the cross also had the unfortunate effect of obscuring the notion of the active participation of the faithful in the sacrificial activity. The earlier Latin theology, as noted above, viewed the eucharistic liturgy as a constellation of gestures and prayers in which the liturgical activity of the faithful constituted an essential ingredient for the realization of the eucharistic sacrifice. In the later development, however, the eucharistic sacrifice was more narrowly defined as the offering of the one victim through the ministry of the priest. Therefore the laity were understood to participate, not in their own right, but through the ministerial service of the presiding minister.

This new theology of the eucharistic sacrifice provided a building block for the practice of the private Mass which came about due to a number of pastoral and devotional concerns. The transference of the system of stational churches from Rome to the regions beyond the Alps necessitated the confinement of altars honoring martyrs to just one church. The Eucharist was celebrated on these altars in accord with the axiom: martyrs are honored by being buried under altars; altars are places for celebrating the eucharistic sacrifice. Initially the simultaneous celebration of Masses on these altars together with the Mass at the high altar was practiced. But in view of the eucharistic sacrifice as a new offering of Christ, the celebration of such Masses became more frequent. Also, the practice of Irish missionaries of privately celebrating Mass on their missionary excursions in the Frankish lands exercised considerable influence on the development of the private Mass. It was justified on the ground that where the priest is there Mass can be celebrated. Also, in the Frankish milieu the question of exchange of material goods for spiritual goods, monastery lands and other foundations for spiritual blessing, led to the employment of the Mass as the most favored spiritual good to be involved in the “holy commerce.” (21-23, emphasis added)

So can you deny that this is some sort of “explicit de fide teaching” of the Roman Catholic Church? Probably they can and will deny that. But can you deny that it was the overwhelming practice of the Western (i.e. Roman) church through the vastest portion of church history? Nah.

What should Chris Castaldo’s role be? Chastising Protestants because they don’t care to understand this whole convoluted history? Or explaining how Rome’s preoccupation with itself and its own glories caused corruptions galore through the history of the church?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Problems With Penal Substitution Or Just Another Case Of Roman Catholic Sophistry?

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick published an article where he attempts to use Luke 2:22-24 as an argument against penal substitution. Following are his remarks alongside with a critique:

         "First, the Protestant notion of the Cross & Atonement (what they call "Penal Substitution") is that a sinner's guilt is 'imputed' to an innocent substitute, which then takes the death penalty in place of the sinner. But in this case, what was Mary's (grave) "sin" here that had the death penalty hanging over Her head, which She had to then transfer onto two turtledoves? The obvious issue here is that Mary had given birth to the Messiah, Jesus. But this certainly was not a sin in any sense. Thus, Mary's sacrifices couldn't have been about imputing the guilt onto an innocent animal substitute, much less was the animal receiving the death penalty. Thus, an animal being killed in sacrifice should not be assumed to be modeling Penal Substitution."

          Nick seems to notice something true in the text, but then he takes matters too far. Not all sacrifices in the Old Testament were for specific moral sins. Many sacrifices were for ceremonial uncleanness. This has to do with the tabernacle and God’s presence among His people.

          Human bleeding and death are a consequence of the fall. The world has been corrupted by sin. We cannot be cleansed before a holy God without a substitutionary sacrifice. The ceremonial sacrifice is nonetheless connected to our moral disobedience, which is why it still requires death.

          "That said, a Protestant might object at say that this Mary situation doesn't affect Penal Substitution at all, since some sacrifices weren't about atoning for sin but rather simply about ritual purification. While there is truth to this claim, this Protestant "objection" actually backfires. The passage which Luke is referencing is Leviticus 12, a short chapter on childbirth ritual purification. The plain fact is, Leviticus 12:6-7 explains it as "a turtledove for a sin offering, and the priest shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood." Notice the explicit mention of "sin offering" and "make atonement". This is yuge because it means the sacrifice Mary had offered was not something distinct from the standard "sin offering" which Leviticus 4-5 tells us about. In other words, this is clear proof that "sin offering" and "making atonement" don't need to involve Penal Substitution."

          Leviticus 12 does refer to ritual purification, but that does not mean that it is completely divorced from moral disobedience. Atonement for sin is still necessary because the ritual uncleanness comes from our own fallen disobedience. It would be quite a mistake to always link individual sins to individual sacrifices. The world is fallen in general because of our own sin.

          "Note that Leviticus 12-15 are about various types of ritual purification, not having to do with guilt for actual sins, yet all involving "sin offering" to "make atonement". Also noteworthy is that these purification chapters come, right before Leviticus 16, which is the Day of Atonement ritual (centered on purification)."

          Leviticus 16 records Moses warning his brother Aaron to not violate the code of holiness by offering strange fire, lest he undergo the same fate as his sons Nadab and Abihu. The two were struck down brutally by God (Leviticus 10). The aversion of divine wrath can clearly be seen in Leviticus 16. The prescribed rituals were indeed related to propitiation.

          The guilt which is a result of sin is transferred from the Israelites to the animals themselves. Their innocent blood was shed by priests on account of the people. Jesus Christ expiates, cleanses, and removes our sin from us. The Day of Atonement prefigured His work on the Cross.

          "This "their purification" detail is noteworthy within this discussion because some Protestants have tried to use this passage as proof that Mary was a sinner and needed cleansing. But because the term "their" is used, it then means that Jesus is now part of this sacrificial ritual, and we know that Jesus was certainly without sin. So if Jesus was undergoing it yet had no sin, then it means Mary didn't necessarily have sin just because She was also undergoing this purification. Many Catholic theologians have noted that Jesus and Mary followed the Mosaic Law even though they weren't strictly bound to certain parts (Gal 4:4-5). Catholic apologist Joe Heschmeyer speculates: "I suspect that the two spotless birds represent Jesus [sin offering] and Mary [burnt offering] – who, like the birds in Leviticus 12, are innocent, yet brought under the Law for the good of sinners."

          All this proves is that Mary and her household was faithful to the Law. If Jesus Christ was sinful, then that would mean He is not qualified to bear our sin in the first place. Christ had no biological father. The point in asking why Mary needed to offer a pair of turtledoves or young pigeons is to illustrate how she is nowhere in Scripture elevated in the manner that Roman Catholics do with her. She is just like every other woman.

           If Mary herself was undefiled by sin, then there would have been no reason for her to make any sacrifice in the first place. Her undergoing a ritual of purification would have been simply redundant and arbitrary. The idea of Mary being sinless is unscriptural and has no practical theological necessity.

          "Third, this Luke passage actually mentions two liturgical rites. Above we only looked at the cleansing after child birth ritual. The other ritual is the consecration of the first-born, which we'll look at now. I want to start by noting that the term "firstborn" is tied to the priesthood and true worship....The instructions for consecrating the first born come as part of the Passover instructions, Exodus 13:1; 13:11-15, also restated in Numbers 18:15-16. The term used for consecrating the firstborn son is "redeemed" (a term associated with sacrificing/atoning e.g. 1 Peter 1:18-19; Heb 9:11-15) by paying a small 'temple tax'. So by this, it could be said that Mary and Joseph were Jesus' redeemers. Haha!"

           Certainly, the worship of God was a part of the sacrificial system. However, atonement was front and center by the constant shedding of animal blood.

           The firstborns are targeted because it is a general biblical principle that the first fruits are given to God. A substitute was required because He did not want the Israelites to practice child sacrifice. It does not have anything to with penal substitution. At times, sacrifices can be expressions of worship. This provided for the priests and Levites. The Apostle Paul picks up on this language in Romans 12 where he teaches that believers should offer themselves as sacrifices for worship. It is a sacrifice of worship. This not a denial of penal substitution in the Old Testament. It is just teaching that at times sacrifices were simply expressions of worship. The laws pertaining to the priesthood, tabernacle, sacrifice, etc., were ceremonial.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Early Church Evidence For The Deity Of Christ

The oldest surviving sermon of the Christian church after the New Testament opened with the words: “Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God, as the judge of living and dead. And we ought not to belittle our salvation; for when we belittle him, we expect also to receive little.”

The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ . . . or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.”

The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.”

The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!”

Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ.

[Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 173; emphasis added.]

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Religion Is A Product Of Evolution?

          "Dow is by no means the first scientist to take a stab at explaining how religion emerged. Theories on the evolution of religion tend toward two camps. One argues that religion is a mental artefact, co-opted from brain functions that evolved for other tasks.

          Another contends that religion benefited our ancestors. Rather than being a by-product of other brain functions, it is an adaptation in its own right. In this explanation, natural selection slowly purged human populations of the non-religious.

          “Sometime between 100,000 years ago to the point where writing was invented, maybe about 7000 BC, we begin to have records of people’s supernatural beliefs,” Dow says (

          To preface, the idea of religion evolving over an enormously long timespan is incompatible with the Judeo-Christian framework. According to Genesis 1-3, religion started with the worship of the true God. However, mankind rejected God and worship deteriorated into the worship of creation. God is Creator and not a product of evolution.

          Secondly, there were no psychologists alive to even observe the behaviors of any alleged hominins.

          Thirdly, nobody really seems to be discussing how atheism and naturalism evolved.

          If religion developed gradually to meet various emotional or adaptive requirements for continued survival, then what brought about that need?

          If our senses and intuition bring us into contact with reality, then would not religious belief connect us with God who actually exists?

          Even if it could be proven that a few religions were the product of evolution, that would still not prove all religions had the same origin or falsify the existence of God.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Were the Earliest Christians Only Concerned About Oral Tradition?

First, early Christianity was not an oral religion. Sure, traditions of Jesus were transmitted orally, but this is not the same thing. We cannot confuse a medium of transmission with a mentality (or disposition) of early Christian culture. I have argued elsewhere that early Christianity was a religion of textuality, even if most its adherents were illiterate (as were most people in the ancient world). For more, see my Question of Canon, 79-118.

Second, the authors represented in the Apostolic Fathers were obviously literate. Not only were they producing written sources, but they show awareness of (and interact with) other written sources. Indeed, the letter exchanges in early Christianity were rapid and extensive (see such exchanges in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians as one example).

So, if these authors were quite textually oriented, why should we assume they mainly drew on oral tradition? Of all the people in early Christianity likely to be influenced by written texts, it would’ve been these authors!

Third, by the time these authors wrote in the second century, earlier generations of Christians had already exhibited significant interactions with written texts. For instance, the authors of Matthew and Luke seemed to know Mark (and possibly Q) and interacted with these writings textually. John may have known the texts of the Synoptics. And all of these Gospels interacted with the text of the OT.

So, if first-century Christians interacted often with written texts, then why would we assume Christian writers in the second century only used oral tradition?

Fourth, a number of times the Apostolic Fathers actually mention that they know of written Gospels! As just one example, Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis and wrote around 125AD (see inset picture!). He tell us plainly about the written gospels of Mark and Matthew:

The Elder used to say: Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he [Peter] remembered. . . . Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.

What’s particularly noteworthy is that Papias received his information directly from “the Elder” who is no doubt “John the Elder” he mentions elsewhere as a follower and disciple of Jesus himself. Thus, although Papias is writing around 125 AD he is actually referring to a much earlier time when he received this tradition, probably around 90AD.

Here, then, is the key point: Papias attests to the fact that at the end of the first century, one of the primary ways Christians were receiving Jesus tradition was through written gospels, two of which were named Matthew and Mark (!). This fact alone should challenge the notion that only oral tradition can/should explain all citations in the Apostolic Fathers.

In sum, there’s little doubt that oral tradition still played a role in the second century and beyond. But, the evidence above suggests that there’s little reason to prefer oral tradition as the default, catch-all explanation for the Gospel tradition in the Apostolic Fathers.

On the contrary, the “bookish” nature of early Christianity, and its deep textual identity, suggests that we should be open to the idea that these authors—at least sometimes—knew and used written Gospel texts.

Friday, September 13, 2019

God Will Provide A Way

         "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

         The Apostle Paul reminds us that God will assist us during times of temptation. We are assured that He will provide a means of escape from temptations to sin. This does not mean that God will make matters easier or more bearable for us, but that He will sustain us. He will empower us to endure temptation by His all-sufficient grace.

         A noteworthy point should be extracted from this text: every potential urge to wrong God or neighbor has been experienced by mankind. We are not alone. Our times of temptation are not hopeless or unconquerable. Thus, we have reason to be encouraged. God is faithful. He is greater than all of our temptations.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Topical Scripture Cross Reference Study On Sanctification

  • Sanctification Involves The Lord Conforming Believers To The Image Of His Son Jesus Christ:
          -"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28)
          -"This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:11)
  • This Growth In Holiness Is A Consequence Of Being Filled With The Holy Spirit:
          -"to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
          -"...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
  • The Holy Spirit Works In Us So That We Can Please And Glorify God:
          -"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
          -"But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
  • Believers Gradually Become More Like Christ As They Continue In Their Daily Walk With The Lord Who Consecrated Them:
          -"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22-25)
  • The Process Of Sanctification Involves Human Effort:
          -"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Does Leviticus 19:20-22 Support Roman Catholic Confession To A Priest?

  • Discussion:
          -Sometimes Roman Catholic apologists will cite Leviticus 19:20-22 in an effort to give credence to their dogma of confessing sins to an ordained ministerial priest with the intention of receiving forgiveness from God. This argument is elaborated on by a Catholic source as follows:

          "Leviticus 19:20-22: A man who committed adultery had to bring a guilt offering for himself to the door of the tent of meeting (holy place where the ark of the covenant, which contained God’s true presence was kept). But then it adds “And the priest shall make atonement for him …before the Lord for his sin…and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven.” (see also Leviticus 5:5-6) The priest could not make atonement if he were not aware of the man's sin. He is acting as a mediator for the repentant sinner."

          First of all, it should be noted that this text says nothing regarding auricular confession or priestly absolution. Rather, sinners were simply to bring their guilt offerings (which were temporary coverings for sin) for the priest to make atonement. The priests managed the particulars of the Mosaic system. They supervised faithfulness to the Law. The priests presented gifts and animal sacrifices according to God's commandments.

          In offering up sacrifices for the sins of people, priests were to announce the means by which God chose for forgiveness. They were only doing as God instructed them. This is similar to how Christians under the New Covenant clearly communicate the gospel and proclaim the way that God has chosen to offer forgiveness for our sins (1 Peter 2:5-9). The sacrificial system of the Old Covenant pointed to the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Besides, it is not as though Roman Catholics bring bloody animal sacrifices each time that they go to the confessional.

          There is no evidence in the Old Testament that the Jews were supposed to get their sins absolved by a priest or even confess sin to them. Even if the latter happened, the point remains that Christ abrogated the Levitical priesthood. His sacrifice has done away with the Law. We have direct access to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22). An ordained ministerial priesthood has been cancelled out by His everlasting High Priesthood. We must place our trust in His work alone for salvation. While the confession of sin is very much a biblical concept, there is no basis for receiving the forgiveness of God by confessing sins to a mortal man.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Revelation 2:23 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

        "And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." (Revelation 2:23)

        It can readily be deduced from this text that Jesus Christ is a divine self. He is the One who rewards people according to their deeds. He is our Judge. We are accountable to God because He is our Creator.

        Furthermore, Christ's right and authority to judge us is rooted in His omniscience. He is divine in the same sense as the Father and Holy Spirit are divine. He is God incarnate. The Lord has fully comprehensive knowledge of everything.

        Jesus Christ searches the hearts and minds of people. He knows everything about us all. Another point which has significance here is that Christ in this passage quotes Jeremiah 17:10. God Himself in the verse from the Book of Jeremiah is speaking. Nonetheless, Christ makes a formal application of those exact attributes to Himself.

        Thus, we see that from Revelation 2:23 that Jesus Christ is God. He is not a created being. Noteworthy cross references for this passage would include 1 Chronicles 28:9 and Matthew 9:4.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Against Claims Of The Four Canonical Gospels Having Anonymous Authorship

        One claim raised to undermine the credibility of the four canonical gospels is that they were not written by the traditionally ascribed authors. Rather, unknown people during the end of the first to early second centuries created embellished records of Jesus Christ ministering and performing miracles. However, there are no good reasons for us to dismiss the four gospel narratives as being circulated legends or myths.

        First of all, any and all available manuscripts of the four gospels have the same titles designating their respective authors. All copies of Matthew have the same name. All copies of Mark have the same name. All copies of Luke have the same name. All copies of John have the same name. The titles of the traditionally attributed authors are present on all of the manuscript copies of the gospel narratives.

        Secondly, we have no early Christian rejection of the traditional authorship of the four gospels. A few examples of patristic support would include Irenaeus, Papias, Tertullian, and the church historian Eusebius. There exists no other tradition which conflicts with conventional claims of authorship.

        Thirdly, the four gospels are named after relatively unimpressive individuals. Matthew was a tax collector. Luke was not even an apostle. If the four canonical gospel narratives were forgeries, then it would have been far more probable that the authors used names of better known people such as Peter or Thomas. After all, that is the pattern we observe amongst heretics who produced their spurious works during the second and third centuries.

        Fourthly, if the four gospels were forgeries, then how come the authors did not simply make up an easier path to worship God? Why would the early Christians follow a way of life that would result in them being persecuted? Even the Jews allowed sacrifices to be offered to the Roman Emperor.

        How come the four gospel narratives contain embarrassing details regarding the twelve apostles? For instance, Peter denied Jesus Christ three times in a row (Luke 22:54-62). Matthew records Christ calling Peter Satan and a stumbling block (Matthew 16:23). Judas betraying Him to the chief priests and students of the Law also serves as a perfect example of embarrassing details. Paul prior to his conversion persecuted Christians. If the four gospel narratives were forgeries, then we should not expect their authors to incorporate such shameful and humiliating details regarding these people.

        Even if it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the original canonical gospels were anonymous, that point by itself would still not rule out traditional authorship attribution. Professor Michael J. Kruger provides these insightful comments:

        "For one, this did happen from time to time with Greco-Roman biographies. We do have examples of formally anonymous biographies, so this would not have been unheard of (e.g., Lucian’s Life of Demonax, Secundus the Silent Philosopher, Lives of the Prophets, Arrian’s Anabasis, and Sulpicious Severus’ Life of St. Martin ). But, Armin Baum has suggested another, and even more fundamental reason. Baum has argued that the Gospels were intentionally written as anonymous works in order to reflect the practice of the Old Testament historical books which were themselves anonymous (as opposed to other Old Testament writings, like the prophets, which included the identity of the author). Such a stylistic device allowed the authors of the gospels “to disappear” and to give “highest priority to their subject matter.” Thus, the anonymity of the Gospels, far from diminishing their scriptural authority, actually served to increase it by consciously placing the Gospels “in the tradition of Old Testament historiography.”

Thursday, September 5, 2019


"Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future."

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, Transgenderism: A Pathological Meme

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Review Of Candida Moss' The Myth of Persecution

First, although a strawman is attacked, it's a strawman that's also hoisted by some popular Christian leaders and commentators. The "myth" of the title is that of "unrelenting persecution" in the earliest years of the church. [21] In contrast, my view has been stated before as follows:

This is a standard argument, but in need of some fine-tuning. The most important martyrs are those of the time of Jesus and shortly thereafter.

Admittedly there are few examples of this sort of martyrdom that we may point to -- records of church tradition are our only source for the martyrdoms of many of the Apostles; our best witness is actually Paul himself, who testifies that he persecuted the church with "zeal" -- using a word used to describe the actions of the Maccabbeans who killed when needed to clean things up.

But in fact we can broaden this argument further: persecution did not automatically equal martyrdom, and this is yet another reason why Christianity should not have thrived and survived. As Robin Lane Fox writes, "By reducing the history of Christian persecution to a history of legal hearings, we miss a large part of the victimization." [Fox.PagChr, 424] Beyond action by authorities, Christians could expect social ostracization if they stuck by their faith, and that is where much of the persecution Fox refers to came from - rejection by family and society, relegation to outcast status.

It didn't need to be martyrdom -- it was enough that you would suffer socially and otherwise, even if still alive. DeSilva notes that those who violated the current social values (as Christians indeed did) would find themselves subject to measures designed to shame them back into compliance -- insult, reproach, physical abuse, whipping, confiscation of property, and of course disgrace -- much more important in an honor-and-shame society than to us. And the NT offers ample record of such things happening [Heb. 10:32-4; 1 Pet. 2;12, 3;16, 4:12-16; Phil. 1:27-30; 1 Thess. 1:6, 2:13-14; 2 Thess. 1:4-5; Rev. 2:9-10, 13].

Candida Moss is a New Testament scholar, but like so many of even those, she has not yet caught up to the data when it comes to the dealings with a deviant movement in an agonistic society. Nearly after the thinking of a fundamentalist, The Myth of Persecution (hereafter MP) consistently presents the matter as though death and martydom were the only forms of persecution to be concerned with. More nuanced scholars, and better practiced Christian apologists, do not engage in this strawman. Moss and the Christians she addresses do. (We'll see why she bothers, at the end of this review.) Thus for example, she says:

"Scholars of early Christianity agree that there is very little evidence for the persecution of Christians. Although there are references to the deaths of Christians in the writings of the early church, these are vague and often exaggerated." [16]

Are they? Perhaps they are; I've not looked into the issue much, having had no need, but if they are, Moss' arguments aren't the ones that will compel the conclusion. Beyond that, as can be seen, the equation made here is clearly, "persecution = deaths," which is, as noted above, an extremely simplistic understanding of the matter. (Less often, Moss' words imply that only the state can persecute; but most of what would have been experienced by the Christians as social deviants would have been from their immediate social ingroups.)

One thing Moss does get right is that certain types of death were considered honorable, which does substantially affect the argument re, "why would they die for a lie"? [17] That's one reason I adopted a more nuanced form of the argument some years ago.

Another semi-strawman addressed by Moss is that Christian martyrdom was somehow "unique" and that Christians invented the concept. I have to admit that I have never heard this one before myself, and though it was apparently a view held by an authority no less stellar than the historian Glen Bowersock [24], it seems to rest on a matter of semantics and a reputed degree of expression, combined with a new use of the word "martyr" by Christians. Whatever the virtues of those arguments may be, it is certainly not an argument we would have used here.

With that, we can briefly discuss now Moss' case for mimesis, and it is a rather poorer one than we have seen from others of the same school. It should be noted to start that Moss admits that the concept of dealing with death with nobility, honor, and dignity reflected the common mores of the social world of the Bible. [41] But Moss forgets this lesson almost immediately, saying only a few pages later that "early Christians borrowed or adapted ideas about noble death..." [56] Later she refers to such elements in the death of Polycarp. [65]

Huh? If dying nobly was a commonplace virtue of their world, then why do we need to theorize "borrowing" or "adapting"? Wouldn't real life, historic Christians strive for the same virtues? And wouldn't real accounts of them doing so be the ones most likely to be featured for the purpose of exhortation? So it is, for example, in her analysis of the martydom of Polycarp [63f], Moss manages to claim as parallels things that would be perfect commonplaces in an agonistic setting, and the rest of the parallels aren't much better, as she argues it was all put together to imitate Jesus.

But now to a more serious point. I have noted that all mimetic theorists have to engage in some level of dishonesty to make their case. We saw this with Thomas Brodie in the last review, and we actually find worse from Moss, in the form of outright misinformation. For example, she reports on the story of Polycarp's martyrdom:

"Before his arrest, hearing rumors of persecution, Polycarp goes outside the city."

Um, yes. Just assuming for the sake of argument that this was the full story (it isn't), let's think about that. If Polycarp were a Christian, and he wanted to imitate Jesus, going outside the city would have been a way for him, as a historical person, to honor Jesus by way of imitation. Moss apparently hasn't figured out that what she thinks an author can invent, a real person like Polycarp can actually DO, and for the same reason.

But like I said, that's assuming for the sake of argument. I might point out, though, that there's more to the story than Moss tells the reader, which shows that her claim of a parallel is more reliant on her own description than on the story itself:

But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom.

In other words, this isn't at all like what happened to Jesus. Jesus was led out of the city to be executed, for the dual purpose of having his execution beside a public road AND to avoid the ritual pollution of a death by crucifixion within the city's precincts. Polycarp, who wanted to stay in the city, had to be persuaded to leave, apparently for the purpose of taking him out of harm's way -- as shown by the fact that he gets off to another home when he hears he's on the verge of being caught. For Moss to claim this as a parallel, while also NOT relating the whole text, is the height of dishonesty.

Just as dishonest is this claim by Moss: "[Polycarp] is betrayed by someone close to him..." We're supposed to think Judas mimesis, right? Not so:

And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths [that were there], one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household.

So in other words, this wasn't a "betrayal" in the Judas sense -- a disloyal follower turning the leader in for a reward. This was another victim, one who "betrayed" only in the sense of, "gave him away" -- and that under torture. Does Moss tell her readers any of this? No, she does not, and one is compelled to ask why.

The one decent parallel Moss offers is that in which Polycarp, like Jesus, rides into town on a donkey. But this of all things is exactly the sort of intentionality Polycarp would want to engage -- showing that he was a man of peace, and a follower of Jesus in that.

It's also worth noting some examples of how Moss engages in what I call Kummel Karps, after the Biblical scholar Werner Kummel, whose main standard for making an objection to the historicity of the text was that he was capable of thinking it up, in some cases after apparently having ingested non-culinary mushrooms. Moss follows this tradition well, as for example she argues that Luke's version of Jesus in his Passion has him looking more noble, while Mark's version has Jesus looking "desperate and in need of comfort." [59]

Um, no. For one thing, in the social world of the Bible, proper emotional display was part and parcel of expressing yourself honorably, even if you didn't happen to feel that way. In other words, just because Jesus SOUNDS "desperate and in need of comfort" doesn't mean he actually was. For another, Moss relies on some rather poor and outdated scholarship to arrive at her conclusion about Mark's Jesus; apparently no one told her that Jeremias' "abba = childlike" thesis has been thoroughly debunked. For another, the cry of "dereliction" at the cross, quoting as it does Ps. 22, is actually an allusion to that Psalm's triumphant end, in essence, Jesus doing a Schwarzenegger "I'll be back" impersonation. Beyond that, Moss detects the wrong reason for Luke to have a more businesslike tone (Jesus "knelt down, and prayed") versus Mark's more dramatic approach (Jesus "threw himself on the ground and prayed"). Luke is writing to Theophilus, who is most likely a Roman magistrate who'd ask Luke to save the drama for his mama, whereas Mark reflects an oral performance by Peter, done honorably (see Whitney Shiner on this). Moss' supposition of an "editorial program" is right, but for the wrong reasons. Beyond that, her claim that "Luke's changes to Mark's Gospel revolutionize our picture of Jesus" is more than a little silly, since it doesn't make Mark's account go poof and vanish.

More examples of Kummel Karps can be found in Moss' take on Polycarp's martyrdom. One section of the analysis consists of a series of inane questions such as, "Does it seem plausible that the Jewish members of the audience squeezed past the other members of the crowd and jumped the barrier [at an arena] in order to collect firewood from nearby businesses?" [98] Um -- yes. Perhaps Moss could stand to watch a few soccer riots and get an education; one tends to get jaded living in academic ivory towers and all.

But then again, she also reports the story incorrectly anyway, even as she this time actually quotes it: "This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it." Note: Moss incorrectly indicates that Jews alone went to gather wood, when it is actually said that Jews especially did so, which eliminates the Karp about Jewish members particularly "squeezing past". There is also nothing to suggest they needed to jump a barrier. (I also wonder whether the Jews were actually shop owners who were happy to contribute wood, rather than people in the arena, which would also render Moss' Kummel Karp moot.)

Perhaps the most laughable portion of MP is Moss' treatment of Tacitus' account of the fire of 64 AD, and the resulting blame assigned to Christians. Moss begins by taking the tack of the Christ myther, pretending that there must be some problem because Tacitus is writing about an event that happened 50 years earlier. Then she raises a Kummel Karp that the use of "Christians" of people in 64 AD is anachronistic -- which is based not on evidence, but on Moss' presupposition that it just can't be that way. Finally, she all but accuses Tacitus of simply making the blame up as it "reflects his own situation around 115." [139] This is imagination, empty accusation, and wishful thinking at work -- not careful consideration or respectful treatment of the evidence.

I couldn't finish without this howler from Moss, which I collected from another reviewer of MP: "The canonical Acts of the Apostles ends before Paul even gets to Rome...” [77]

Really? Is Moss' Bible missing Acts 28?

And so, why does Moss bother with all of this, anyway? The answer lies in the sort of naivete that is borne of passive-aggressive self-righteousness. Apparently a number of Christians see fit to invoke the spectre of marytrdom in the early church as a talking and rallying point. Having debunked this Sunday School mythology, Moss naively supposes that with a wave of her Tinkerbell wand and a clapping of her shoes together, she will be able to shut off that "dialogue-ending language" [13] spigot so we can "seek compromise and resolution" instead of snap at each other,and the maybe become "more compassionate," have a less "polarized view," [14] and all sit down and watch Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood together. Ha, ha, ha. Of course, it doesn't occur to Moss that it's a very simple matter to appeal to the few certifiably historical instances of martyrdom that remain after that, including many in more modern times; or beyond that, to just "act the martyr" on some other basis, as members of many groups, even atheists, are prone to . Candida Moss, meet John Loftus. She probably should, so that she can get a grip on just how fruitless it is, in fact, to "seek compromise and resolution" with certain parties.

In the end, MP is a fairly desperate attempt to debunk a myth that probably didn't need much debunking in the first place.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ignatius Of Loyola And Submission To The Roman Catholic Church

          "To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed." (Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Thirteenth Rule)

          Irrespective of whether or not we interpret Ignatius as using hyperbole, it stands to reason from the above excerpt that he taught unconditional surrender of the intellect and will to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is the Magisterium that pronounces the allegedly infallible dogmas we are to embrace unquestioningly; dissenters are anathematized. This excerpt from Lumen Gentium provides us with additional commentary:

          "...the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated."

          Consider this excerpt from Est Sane Molestum Apostolic Letter by Pope Leo XIII:

          "To scrutinize the actions of a bishop, to criticize them, does not belong to individual Catholics, but concerns only those who, in the sacred hierarchy, have a superior power; above all, it concerns the Supreme Pontiff, for it is to him that Christ confided the care of feeding not only all the lambs, but even the sheep [cf. John 21:17]."

          Consider this excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Religious Discussions:

          "By a decree of Alexander IV (1254-1261) inserted in “Sextus Decretalium”, Lib. V, c. ii, and still in force, all laymen are forbidden, under threat of excommunication, to dispute publicly or privately with heretics on the Catholic Faith. The text reads: “Inhibemus quoque, ne cuiquam laicae personae liceat publice vel privatim de fide catholica disputare. Qui vero contra fecerit, excommunicationis laqueo innodetur.” (We furthermore forbid any lay person to engage in dispute, either private or public, concerning the Catholic Faith. Whosoever shall act contrary to this decree, let him be bound in the fetters of excommunication.)

          Scripture does tell us to submit to figures of authority. God has ordained the existence of various authoritative offices for our own good. We should obey our leaders to the extent that their decisions are sound and godly. However, the Roman Catholic Church requires a level of allegiance that simply cannot be substantiated on scriptural and logical grounds. The pope requires the submission of both intellect and will in all situations. It is not good enough to simply obey. Hence, we see that the Roman Catholic Church actually wields a significant amount of power over its adherents.

          The Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society is known for thought control. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden by their church government to obtain blood transfusions. They have regulations as to what they can even look up on the internet. Mormonism is another perfect example of a sect whose government has established all sorts of legalistic rules and regulations. For instance, Mormons are forbidden to drink coffee and tea. In the same vein, the Church of Rome has dietary regulations on various holidays as a requirement for salvation. What all three groups have in common is that adherents are made to obey an authoritarian leader. The hierarchies of these three sects claim to play an indispensable role in the salvation of their followers. All sorts of harsh and arbitrary rules are imposed on these deceived people.

          There are drastic, unfortunate consequences of submitting to an organisation that requires unconditional submission. The New Testament gives us the liberty to individually choose whatever days to observe and foods to eat in thanksgiving and glory to God. No self-proclaimed pastor has the right to dogmatically impose rules that can be found nowhere in Scripture. The Apostle Paul called out Peter for potentially splitting the Christian church as he ceased eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-16). Even the most godly and intelligent ministers and theologians can make serious blunders in matters related to faith and morals. 

           If we uphold the principle of Sola Scriptura, then it follows that we have an objective standard by which leaders are held accountable for their actions (Acts 17:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:16). God is the only One who we owe unconditional submission of the intellect and will (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29; James 4:7). It is to Him alone that all will give an account for their deeds performed in the body on Judgement Day.

Is Earth Just A Pale Blue Dot In A Huge And Hostile Universe?

"Response #1: “I agree that the universe is hostile to life. But how does that make the case against God? Doesn’t the existence of a planet like Earth, that overcomes the statistically impossible odds of existing in such an unfavorable universe – especially given the level of fine-tuning that is required for a planet to support life – demonstrate the need for Divine intervention? The odds of a planet like Earth, supporting the life that it supports, is more than just statistically improbable. It’s miraculous. Why wouldn’t the existence of a planet like ours demonstrate the existence of a Divine Creator?”

Response #2: “OK, imagine finding yourself in a vast desert stretching for hundreds of miles in every direction. As you walk in this huge wasteland, you discover a stone. Examining it closely, you find that something has been written on it. The words appear to be freshly scribed in dried blood: “Help! I have been kidnapped, and I am being held hostage a mile from here in a small red shack. Please contact authorities!” Should we ignore the stone and toss it back to the ground along with all the millions of other stones in this huge desert? Why should we consider this stone to be anything special? After all, this is just another stone among millions. They’ve been here a long time. Can you see why it doesn’t really matter how big the desert is, how many stones there are, how long the stones have been out here, or how old the desert is? This stone is special. It bears the hallmark of design and intelligence. It begs us to investigate further and to find the author. In a similar way, it doesn’t really matter how big the universe is, how many planets there are, how long the planets have been out here, or how old the universe is. Our little pale blue dot is special. It bears the hallmark of design and intelligence. Can you see why it begs us to investigate further and to find the author of life?”