Saturday, September 23, 2023

Divine Providence In Hard Circumstances

And this put me in mind that I wanted many things notwithstanding all that I had amassed together; and of these, ink was one; as also a spade, pickaxe, and shovel, to dig or remove the earth; needles, pins, and thread; as for linen, I soon learned to want that without much difficulty.

This want of tools made every work I did go on heavily; and it was near a whole year before I had entirely finished my little pale, or surrounded my habitation. The piles, or stakes, which were as heavy as I could well lift, were a long time in cutting and preparing in the woods, and more, by far, in bringing home; so that I spent sometimes two days in cutting and bringing home one of those posts, and a third day in driving it into the ground; for which purpose I got a heavy piece of wood at first, but at last bethought myself of one of the iron crows; which, however, though I found it, made driving those posts or piles very laborious and tedious work. But what need I have been concerned at the tediousness of anything I had to do, seeing I had time enough to do it in? nor had I any other employment, if that had been over, at least that I could foresee, except the ranging the island to seek for food, which I did, more or less, every day.

I now began to consider seriously my condition, and the circumstances I was reduced to; and I drew up the state of my affairs in writing, not so much to leave them to any that were to come after me - for I was likely to have but few heirs - as to deliver my thoughts from daily poring over them, and afflicting my mind; and as my reason began now to master my despondency, I began to comfort myself as well as I could, and to set the good against the evil, that I might have something to distinguish my case from worse; and I stated very impartially, like debtor and creditor, the comforts I enjoyed against the miseries I suffered, thus:-

Evil: I am cast upon a horrible, desolate island, void of all hope of recovery.

Good: But I am alive; and not drowned, as all my ship's company were.

Evil: I am singled out and separated, as it were, from all the world, to be miserable.

Good: But I am singled out, too, from all the ship's crew, to be spared from death; and He that miraculously saved me from death can deliver me from this condition.

Evil: I am divided from mankind - a solitaire; one banished from human society.

Good: But I am not starved, and perishing on a barren place, affording no sustenance.

Evil: I have no clothes to cover me.

Good: But I am in a hot climate, where, if I had clothes, I could hardly wear them.

Evil: I am without any defence, or means to resist any violence of man or beast.

Good: But I am cast on an island where I see no wild beasts to hurt me, as I saw on the coast of Africa; and what if I had been shipwrecked there?

Evil: I have no soul to speak to or relieve me.

Good: But God wonderfully sent the ship in near enough to the shore, that I have got out as many necessary things as will either supply my wants or enable me to supply myself, even as long as I live.

Upon the whole, here was an undoubted testimony that there was scarce any condition in the world so miserable but there was something negative or something positive to be thankful for in it; and let this stand as a direction from the experience of the most miserable of all conditions in this world: that we may always find in it something to comfort ourselves from, and to set, in the description of good and evil, on the credit side of the account.

Having now brought my mind a little to relish my condition, and given over looking out to sea, to see if I could spy a ship - I say, giving over these things, I begun to apply myself to arrange my way of living, and to make things as easy to me as I could.

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, p. 64-67

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Who Are The Seven Angels Of The Seven Churches?

          "As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:20)

          The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, which means that it contains many highly symbolic elements. This is distinct from historical narrative in that most of the details are to be taken literally. The author expresses himself in a way similar to Old Testament writers such as Daniel and Ezekiel. John wrote to the people of Asia Minor in regard to how God was at work in their day and also how He will work to bring things to a glorious end. Chapters two and three of Revelation contain words of Jesus commending the good deeds of the seven churches as well as Him reproving their error, calling them to repentance.

          The passage is unclear as to who precisely the seven “angels” of the seven churches are. Some believe them to be angels appointed by God to act on behalf of the churches. This view would be comparable to what we see in Daniel in which angels represent nations (Daniel 10:13-21). Another point of view in regard to the seven angels is that they are messengers who delivered John's scroll to the churches to be read. That pattern of behavior is not without precedent in Jewish history (1 Maccabees 1:44). A third interpretation as to the identity of the seven angels is that they are bishops, but it would not be wise to put much weight on a debatable text like this one in the context of episcopal development.

          The first view outlined in the previous paragraph seems to more reasonably fit the context of Revelation 1:20 than others. In Revelation, the term "angel" is always a reference to heavenly beings rather than human messengers. That term has the same meaning elsewhere in apocalyptic literature. Angels were portrayed as stars (Isaiah 24:21; 2 Baruch 51:7-11). This may mean that God has given the responsibility of churches to angels, although we cannot speak dogmatically. We know that there is a time in which believers will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). The church has been commissioned by God to provide witness for Jesus.

          Even if the seven angels in Revelation 1:20 were a reference to bishops, the New Testament does not demand a specific structure of leadership in the church. In other words, while churches are seen to be governed by pluralities of elders (Acts 14:23), this idea is not applied in a strict or exhaustive manner. Consequently, there are acceptable differences in how church government can be arranged. A church could temporarily assign a role of first among equals to one elder for the sake of convenience in resolving matters. That in and of itself is not a problem.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Has The Church Always Had An Ordained Ministerial Priesthood?

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to interact with a number of assertions made by Nicholas Senz about the origin of the Roman Catholic priesthood. His approach is not one that deals with exegetical questions but works backward in history to the first century. Following are quotations from the author followed by a critique of such claims:

          "The Didache invites us to “break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.”

          Nothing in this excerpt from the Didache requires us to understand the eucharist as being a sacrifice in a propitiatory sense. In fact, it can be understood in the sense of offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. That theme is not unknown to the New Testament (Hebrews 13:15). The Didache speaks of us consuming Jesus Christ spiritually, not in the cannibalistic manner required in order for it to show belief in transubstantiation.

          "St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote of the Eucharist, “For there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice.”

          Ignatius uses that terminology because he echoes the words of Christ spoken during the Last Supper as well as the Old Testament sacrificial system. It is not because he believed in transubstantiation. It is not enough to demonstrate that a particular church father believed in some mystical presence of Christ in the eucharist or that He is identified with the communion elements in a transcendent way. The real presence is not synonymous with transubstantiation.

          "St. Justin Martyr wrote that Christians “in every place offer sacrifices to [God], that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist.”

          Note how there is no literal transformation process specified in Justin Martyr. Christ is merely identified with bread and wine in a mysterious way. One does not have to physically consume the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ in order to describe the communion elements as being more than common bread and common wine.

           Offerings included the giving of alms, bread, and wine. These were spiritual sacrifices rooted in the realities to which the communion elements themselves pointed. The alms were given to support the poor. Participation in the communion meal with a rightful state of heart reflects our inward gratitude for Christ's propitiatory work on the cross. Eusebius of Caesarea spoke of sacrifices of remembrance. 

          "Likewise, the Fathers were clear that it is only priests and bishops who offer the Mass."

          The Encyclopedia Britannica has these excerpts on the origin of the Roman Catholic priesthood:

          “A priesthood developed gradually in the early Christian church as first bishops and then elders, or ‘presbyters,’ began to exercise certain priestly functions, mainly in connection with the celebration of the Eucharist. By the end of the 2nd century, the church’s bishops were called priests (Latin: sacerdos)… The development of eucharistic theology resulted in a further emphasis of the priest’s supernatural powers and qualities…” (

          “Although the term ‘priest’ (Greek hiereus) refers to the entire Christian people, it is given to no church office in the New Testament. First appearing in the 2nd century, the office is associated with the establishment of the eucharistic sacrifice, over which the priest was called to preside. No doubt the development of the monarchical episcopate also contributed to the emergence of the priesthood…” (

          Cambridge Theologian William Perkins contended that offerings were made by all the faithful, not exclusively priests or bishops: 

          "...the fathers’ sacrifice was offered by the whole church, being the oblation of all the faithful. “We all,” says Justin, in dialogo cum Triphone, “how many soever we be that are called after the name of Jesus Christ, are made truly the priests of God, as He Himself testifies, saying that everywhere He would have pure and acceptable sacrifices offered Him.” And this is also proveable out of Augustine, Contra Faustum, lib. 20, cap. 18."

          There are certainly statements in regard to the communion elements being connected to or associated with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. However, there is no straightforward, clear-cut explanation of how the symbols of bread and wine and the realities that they represent correlate. There were different degrees of realism present throughout the church father's writings. While it would be incorrect to say that all of the church fathers held to the elements of the Lord's Supper as being "mere" symbols, it took several hundred years for Roman Catholic eucharistic theology to reach a full stage of development. Paschasius Radberts (785-865) explicitly articulated the doctrine of transubstantiation (without using that specific word) in his book titled On the Body and Blood of the Lord.

          "But if the Mass is a sacrifice, then those offering it clearly are priests. And if the Church from its earliest days has understood the Mass to be sacrificial, then likewise it has understood presbyters and bishops to be exercising priesthood."

          Is it not lovely how these people do not have to prove their doctrine from Scripture because if it comes from the Roman Catholic hierarchy, it cannot be argued? It can be said that this author is just whistling past the graveyard because he does not try to offer even a shred of evidence from the New Testament that there was an ordained ministerial priesthood. Further, church "fathers" were capable of superstition and re-imagining what Scripture actually said. At most, patristic statements amount to evidence that men believed certain ideas to be apostolic teaching, not that they actually are.