Monday, January 21, 2019

Does The Roman Catholic Church Have A Deficient View On The Sinfulness Of Man?

  • Discussion:
          -Catholic Nick wrote an article providing evangelistic strategies for fellow Roman Catholics to use in dialogues with critics on the subject of Sola Fide (i.e. justification bu faith alone). This critique begins with an excerpt from the author:

          "First, the Catholic must understand that, in the Protestant mind, man is absolutely saved by his own works apart from faith and God's grace, but because of sin man is now unable to save himself and must have Jesus do those works for man in man's place. Human works alone (apart from faith and grace) are still what save us in the Protestant mind, the only thing that changes is that now Jesus does that work in man's place."

          The Law of God requires perfect obedience. If sin did not exist, then there would be no need for God to show forgiveness to anyone. There would be no spiritual corruption in the first place. There would be no need to speak of "getting saved," as everything would already be functioning in a perfect order. But the fall of man has brought about sin and thus condemnation. God has voluntarily paid an infinite sin debt on our behalf because of His love for us. He saved us because He is gracious. The idea that a man can be saved by keeping the Law (assuming he even has the ability to) would be true only in a hypothetical sense.

          "This is completely contrary to the Catholic understanding of salvation, in which man can only be saved by faith and grace, never by his own works no matter how good those works are."

          The fact that Catholics are required to obtain and maintain their justification on the basis of good works proves that their understanding of salvation is works-based. The concepts of purgatory and the treasury of merit further render the claims of the author unconvincing. In Roman Catholic theology, God gives grace through baptism so that man can perform good works to merit more grace.

          "Without going into detail on each of these passages [Romans 4:1-3, Galatians 3:10-12, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:4-7, and Titus 3:4-5], notice that in the 'plain reading' of these texts, there is no mention of the works in question being 'tainted by sin'. In fact, such a reading would make these texts nonsensical. The only reason given for why works don't save is to prevent boasting. That's it."

          The texts that Nick mentions are quite straightforward, in that they say we are not saved by works of righteousness. We are saved because God is loving and merciful. He has reached out to wretched man because of His love. The contexts of each passage that Nick lists makes mention of our problem of sin. We are not deserving of His salvation.

          The Bible tells us that the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness (Romans 1:18). We have all sinned against Him. We all have a stained record. Therefore, we have all incurred His wrath and judgment. But Jesus Christ offered Himself up as a sacrifice to appease that wrath. He is our propitiation (Romans 3:24-25). Christ is our advocate before God the Righteous Judge (1 John 2:1-2). The Law is what makes us conscious of sin (Romans 7:7). It condemns us. Christ obeyed the Law perfectly in our place (Romans 8:1-4). He took our punishment. We have redemption through Christ's blood (Ephesians 1:7-8). We are purified by placing our trust in His work. He is our reconciliation. His grace is unmerited.

          "Now it is true that the "works" Paul has in mind are "Works of the [Mosaic] Law," which are the 613 individual Commandments found in the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), centered around the Ten Commandments. But even this doesn't change anything, because keeping the Law never did save."

          We can agree with the author that nobody was saved by keeping the Law. Justification has never been by works. Nonetheless, the contexts of Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 nowhere limit "works" as exclusively referring to the Mosaic Law. That is not what the Apostle Paul said.

          "And it is true that all men come into this world dead in sin and separated from God, but even that's not the point behind Paul's repeated 'works don't save' statements."

          It would be proper to allow the reader to decide who has a more reasonable interpretation of Scripture by citing one of those "not by works" passages that the author alludes to in context:

          "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9)

          "Protestants think you are worthy of Eternal Life upon being Justified, but that's not what Paul teaches. In reality, Justification and being Judged worthy of Eternal Life happen at two different times in a person's life - and to confuse the two events and turn them into one event the way Protestants do is a huge mistake."

          So, a person who is justified in the sight of God is not necessarily entitled to heaven? That statement is ridiculous, as well is it illogical. If an individual is converted to Christianity and one day later just so happens to die in a vehicle accident, then would he or she not be allowed into the kingdom of God at that point? Was that person not saved? Is that person automatically going to hell for potentially not getting a chance to greet a neighbor or feed the poor?

A Response To Catholic Nick On Colossians 2:14

  • Discussion:
          -Catholic Nick wrote an article in which he parallels Colossians 2 with Ephesians 2 and argues against a "Protestant" understanding of Colossians 2:14. Following are excerpts from the author along with a critique of specific claims:

          "Given the above, it is pretty obvious that "canceling the certificate of debt with its legal demands" means essentially the same thing as "abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances". That is, the Mosaic Law was canceled, abolished, fulfilled, etc, (all terms the NT uses) through Christ's death on the Cross. This is an undeniable theme throughout the NT (e.g. Acts 13:38-39)."

          First of all, it is not enough to say, “Look at those two passages. They are parallel. Therefore, they are saying the same thing.” Ephesians 2 contains an element that the Colossians passage does not have. Paul is working to unite Jews and Gentiles. That is the whole point of Ephesians 2:15. That portion of it is missing from the Colossians passage.

          The author fails to understand Colossians 2:14 in its immediate context, which is most certainly speaking about our debt of sin. Christ suffered the penalty for sin on our behalf on the cross. He cancelled out our sentence of death when He made atonement. We are no longer under condemnation for that reason. Nick is correct in saying that the Jews and Gentiles were separated, but denies what is taught in terms of our justification in this passage. Moreover, the metal nails and the wooden cross are vividly representative of Christ's propitiatory work.

           Nick is correct when he says that the phrase ("certificate of debt with its legal demands") can be understood as "blotting out the handwriting." However, it is best that words be translated in their respective contexts. This is true especially with phrases that are not used very often. Colossians 2:14 in no uncertain terms addresses justification before God in terms of our sin. Most words have a semantic range of possible meanings.

          "I would say appealing to Colossians 2 is terrible for Protestants for a few reasons. My favorite reason is that the reference to "being dead in trespasses but made alive" (Col 2:13; Eph 2:5) is speaking of inward transformation. This passage is clearly talking about Justification, which Protestants say is purely legal in nature and by Imputation, yet Paul says it is about being made spiritually alive."

          Contrary to the claims of the author, justification being legal in nature (the process of Christ taking our place in order to pay our debt) does not exclude regeneration of the heart. In other words, the concept of inward renewal is not incompatible with a forensic justification framework. The two are not mutually exclusive. Justification is never separated from the work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. We would only seek to maintain that specifically the declaration of us being righteous (justification) is not based on our good works. We are made alive in Christ by faith, as Ephesians 2:5 says. Nick assumes that texts which speak of internal transformation are about justification, but they are associated with other aspects of salvation such as regeneration.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Does Exodus 32:30-32 Support The Treasury Of Merit?

"...First, note that there is no mention of-not even a slight allusion to-any treasure of merit to which someone can contribute and from which other people can draw. All this passage does is portray Moses as being willing to engage in great sacrifice on behalf of his people.

Here is the backdrop: Though the most blatant idolaters in the nation had already been put to death by the sword for their sin of idolatry with the golden calf, Moses knew that the nation as a whole was still guilty before God. The fact is, God had made a covenant with the nation as a whole, and the nation as a whole now bore collective guilt for this breach of the covenant (see Joshua 7).

Moses, therefore, wanted to make things right by seeking to make atonement (literally, "cover" the sin) for the people (Exodus 32:20). Moses seems to have assumed that the penalty for their sin would be death, as is often threatened in the law (28:43). Moses informed God that if He did not forgive forgive the people (removing the death penalty), he wanted to have his name removed from the book God had written (32:22).

......it is clear from this passage that God rejected Moses's offer and promised to punish the sinners themselves by premature death (Exodus 32:33,34). This indicates that no human being can atone for the sins of another. The prophets often spoke of individual responsibility for sins (Jeremiah 31:29, 30; Ezekiel 18; 33:10-20)....

Clearly, then, this passage provides no support for any so-called "treasury of merit" from which those in need can draw by indulgences. Such an idea is completely foreign to the context."

Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, p. 160-162

Friday, January 18, 2019

Certainty And Knowledge In A Postmodern World

“If true human knowing depends on perfect, exhaustive knowing, we are consigned forever to ignorance because, whether in this life or the life to come, we will never be omniscient. . . . But that immediately suggests that the standard is too high. If you expose the relativity of human knowledge by appealing to a standard of omniscience, it’s an artificial standard. In fact, the first question I want to ask my postmodernist friends is, ‘How do you know that postmodern relativism is true?'”

Don Carson, "Can We Be Sure of Our Interpretation?," The Gospel Coalition, 12/28/18

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Is Paul's Letter To The Laodiceans A Lost Book?

        "When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea." (Colossians 4:16)

        Liberal critics of the New Testament sometimes make reference to this text from Colossians in their attempts to prove that books of the Bible have been lost. If the canon of Scripture is incomplete, then what happens to the doctrine of inerrancy? What can be said regarding the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Laodiceans? Skeptics have brought up a letter which bears that name.

        This nineteen-verse letter is essentially a collection of short excerpts from the canonical Pauline writings. It does not contain any new teachings. It does not contain any new commandments from God. It does not contradict anything found in the New Testament. It does not negatively impact Scripture. The writing style is by no means exceptional. In short, this letter is completely harmless. It does not alter the message of God.

        Most scholars believe that this Letter to the Laodiceans was originally written in Latin during the fourth century. It is generally regarded as a forgery. The textual basis for it is poor. No existing Greek copies of the New Testament contain it. The church father Jerome made mention of this letter and considered it to be a counterfeit document. It was never widely thought of as inspired Scripture. As to why this letter was written, all that we can really do is speculate. 

        It does not qualify as a lost book of the Bible. But what about the circulated letter that Paul spoke of in Colossians 4:16? Some have identified it to be either Ephesians or Philemon, which is a reasonable solution. Whatever the case, we can rest assured that God has given to us everything He intended us to have. Even if we do not have Paul's circulated letter, it does not follow that there are books missing from the canon of Scripture. The doctrine of inerrancy does not require us to have in our possession every written text by an apostle or prophet.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Catholic Apologists And The Greek Word Trogo (“Eat My Flesh” John 6)

"Catholic Apologists and the Greek Word Trogo (“Eat my flesh” John 6)“Catholic Answers” says the following about the Greek word trogo :”The Greek word used for “eats” trogon is very blunt and has the sense of “chewing” or “gnawing. This is not language of metaphor. Bob Sungenis says “There is simply no logical reason to switch form the more generic phago (eat) to the more praphic trogo (chew). Apparently, Rome's apologists believe the word “chew” cannot be the language of metaphor because it is simply too graphic or vivid to be anything other than the literal truth. Not so the more mundane “eat,” which as Sugnenis points out, can be used metaphorically. Keating himself simply asserts—without proof—that such is “not the language of metaphor.” But why not? Is there something intrinsically literal about the word “chew” in English or in Greek? If you think it through, virtually any word in any language can be used metaphorically no matter how graphic or vivid it may be. In fact, the more vivid and evocative the word, the more it lends itself to being used as a metaphor. Apparently they don’t know well what a metaphor is. Metaphor: “A picture is a thousand words”. In a metaphor real objects or physical events represent something else. A metaphor is a colorful expression used for literary effect which may be a word or phrase that departs from literal language. The purpose of metaphors is: add color and vividness, attract attention and make abstract or intellectual ideas more concrete. All things being equal, one could just as easily make the case that Jesus chose the more vivid “chew” precisely because it was more conducive to metaphor. “Chew” may simply be a more graphic metaphor than “eat.” Some say contextual rather than non-contextual usage is the primary criterion for determining whether or not trogo is metaphorical in John 6."

Original source of citation unknown

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Is Wisdom 2:12-20 A Messianic Prophecy?

  • Discussion:
           -Roman Catholic apologists, in their zeal to defend the veracity of the Apocrypha, will sometimes make the following claim in regards to the Book of Wisdom:

           "Wisdom 2:12-20 is one of the clearest passages that point to a person who would call himself Son of God, who would be put to death by jealous people."

           Then, the author of the quoted excerpt goes on to parallel that text from the Book of Wisdom with various passages from the four gospels. This was done in an effort to prove that the seven additional books that the Roman Catholic Church has included in its version of the Old Testament canon are of divine origin. What has been claimed about Wisdom 2:12-20 by some seems to be reasonable on a superficial level, but the text falls far short of being a messianic prophecy when it is examined in context. A key part of this passage is cited as follows:

           "For if the upright man is a son of God, he will help him, and save him from the hands of his adversaries." (Wisdom 2:18, The Apocrypha: An American Translation, by Edgar J. Goodspeed)

           The context was originally about the wicked, the persecution of the righteous, and the vindication of God’s people. This pious literature is similar to the Book of Proverbs. Christ in an ultimate sense fulfills the themes of Wisdom 2:12-20. He is the ultimate righteous man who suffers and is vindicated. He did that on our behalf on the Cross. He rose bodily from the grave.

          However, Wisdom 2:12-20 was not written originally as a prophecy. The same themes can apply to anyone else who faithfully serves God. This is distinguished from a passage such as Isaiah 53 in that it points out a Servant who suffers on behalf of His people. Wisdom 2 is talking about a righteous man, not Christ Himself. To take similarities and claim prophecy in this case is pure eisegesis.

          Even granting the premise that Wisdom 2:12-20 speaks of the coming Jewish Messiah, that does not require us to accept it as inspired or canonical. The statements could easily have been gleaned from the canonical books of the Old Testament. In fact, the Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote on this passage:

          "[2:12–5:23] From 2:12 to 5:23 the author draws heavily on Is 52–62, setting forth his teaching in a series of characters or types taken from Isaiah and embellished with additional details from other texts."

           There were many pieces of Jewish literature at this point in history that spoke of the coming Messiah in light of the Old Testament. Roman Catholics would reject many of those as canonical. Consider, for example, the book of 1 Enoch. This work was even cited as Scripture by some of the early church fathers, yet Roman Catholics do not accept it as canonical Scripture.

            The author of Wisdom was obviously well-acquainted with the Old Testament, but that factor does not in and of itself prove the book to be inspired. The authors of the New Testament never treated Wisdom 2:12-20 as if it were a messianic prophecy, which would be ironic. Bruce M. Metzger writes,

            "Whether the author here has in mind some contemporary Jewish martyrdom known to him, or whether he drew upon the stories in the Books of Maccabees for a generalized description of suffering for the Jewish faith, cannot be determined. He may also have been influenced by Glaucon's description in Plato's Republic of the binding, scourging, and crucifixion of the perfectly just man who is esteemed to be unjust. In both cases the parallel to Christ is more apparent than real."  (Introduction to the Apocrypha, p. 76)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Toxic Masculinity?

"We take a young man and kick his father out of his life, send him to school where he has mostly women teachers, barrage him with negative messages about masculinity, then turn him loose at college where we treat him like a guilty-until-proven-innocent rapist, and after all that, we blame "masculinity" when he goes off the rails despite the fact that he spent a lifetime bathed in femininity. Unsurprisingly, the more women try to change masculinity, the more negative and toxic it actually becomes."

John Hawkins, “The More Young Men Are Bathed in Femininity, the More 'Toxic Masculinity' You Will See

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Romans 10:9 Proves Jesus Is God Almighty

          "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)

          The Greek term kurious (in English, it means "lord") does not always refer to deity. It is used in reference to God, but can certainly be used as a formal way in addressing a person. In the case of Romans 10:9-10, it can be argued that the Apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ God.

          The reference to confession found in verse nine alludes to Deuteronomy 30:14. Confession with the mouth signifies openly acknowledging our allegiance to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and our Savior. The fullness of our being rightfully belongs to Him. Christ is the second Person of the Triune God. The outward expression "Jesus is Lord" is a parallel to the Jewish Shema prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4). The New American Bible has this excerpt on Romans 10:9-11:

          "To confess Jesus as Lord was frequently quite hazardous in the first century (cf. Mt 10:18; 1 Thes 2:2; 1 Pt 2:18–21; 3:14). For a Jew it could mean disruption of normal familial and other social relationships, including great economic sacrifice. In the face of penalties imposed by the secular world, Christians are assured that no one who believes in Jesus will be put to shame (Rom 10:11)."

          Christians who resided in Rome were at higher risk of persecution because citizens were expected to confess Caesar as Lord. The divinity of Jesus Christ was a direct challenge to the lordship of the Roman emperor. So, understanding the historical context in which Paul was writing sheds more light on how Romans 10:9 points to Jesus being God.

          In Romans 10:6-10, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Providing some background on this passage from the Old Testament makes plain the apostle's rationale for using it. In listing off to the Israelites the conditions which God required of them upon inheriting land, Moses stated his message was simple to grasp. His audience, therefore, would be without excuse. God's commandments were in their hearts and in their mouths. The blessings of the covenant were inseparable from the faithfulness of the Jews to God.

          In Romans, the Apostle Paul utilizes terminology from Deuteronomy and expounds in a New Testament context. He points us to Christ, who took on human flesh and rose bodily from the grave. These events have been fulfilled. In the Old Testament, people experienced Christ and His Gospel through faith. They longed for the coming Redeemer. Paul speaks of the righteousness that comes by faith (Romans 10:6). It is with the heart that one believes and is justified (Romans 10:9-10). Man proclaims Christ with his mouth.

          Romans 10:13 is a quotation of Joel 2:32. Paul believed Jesus to be his Lord in the same sense as God the Father was his Lord. Christ is called Yahweh in verse nine. This is undoubtedly a problem for groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. In their New World Translation, the word "Lord" ("kurios" in Greek) is oftentimes rendered as Jehovah. However, that term was not used by biblical writers (nor has any support from known Greek manuscripts). Moreover, the Greek term is not translated as Jehovah in texts such as Romans 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, 1 Peter 3:15, and Revelation 22:21. That point highlights inconsistency in the New World Translation. The Watchtower Society's emphasis on "Jehovah" as the divine name is misguided. If the Greek word kurios was translated in a consistent fashion, then Jesus Christ would also be called Jehovah.

          Why does Paul say that God raised Christ from the dead? Jesus is God incarnate. He took on human flesh. He is both fully human and fully divine. He exercised both human and divine attributes throughout His earthly ministry. Christ was crucified for our transgressions. His divine essence is not what passed away. Rather, a divine Person in His human flesh died. He did not set aside His divinity by taking on human flesh. The Father raised Christ from the grave (Acts 2:32; Galatians 1:1). The Son raised Himself from the grave (John 2:19; 10:17-18). The Holy Spirit raised Him from the grave (Romans 8:11). All three persons of the Trinity brought about the resurrection.

Is The Multiverse Theory Reasonable?

"A true scientific explanation, says Davies, is like a single well-aimed bullet. The idea of a multiverse replaces the rationally minded ordered real world with an infinitely complex charade and makes the whole idea of "explanation" meaningless. Swinburne is just as strong in his disdain for the multiverse explanation: "It is crazy to postulate a trillion (causally unconnected) universes to explain the features of one universe, when postulating one entity (God) will do the job."

Antony Flew, There Is a God, pg. 119