Tuesday, March 27, 2007

John Lennon's Short-Lived Intense Interest in Evangelical Christianity

The image “http://www.poster.net/lennon-john/lennon-john-imagine-4900118.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I thought I knew just about everything there is to know about the Beatles, but I had never heard this before. According to well-known Christian writer / author Steve Turner ("John Lennon's Born-Again Phase"), this occurred in April-May 1977. Lennon had shown considerable interest in several of the TV evangelists and even started announcing to friends that he was "born again." Apparently, Yoko Ono played a key role in making sure this was simply a (typically) passing interest, by strenuously arguing against the belief that Jesus was God incarnate, etc., and continuing her interest in various false religious practices and beliefs.

This is fascinating and a bit eerie on a personal level, because it happened at exactly the time I seriously devoted myself to Jesus as His disciple, in my evangelical conversion (what I described as being "born again" at the time). A big influence on John Lennon in this regard was Franco Zeffirelli's magnificent film, Jesus of Nazareth, that also made a huge impact on me in early April of 1977 (I mentioned that in my conversion story in Surprised by Truth). How sad that John didn't choose to continue this newfound path. I knew he had been raised as some sort of Anglican.

I also recall reading an article about John Lennon in the newspaper within a few weeks of his murder, where Lennon said he was reading the Gospels and really understanding what Jesus was saying for the first time. I've always hoped that this indicated some spiritual commitment or at least avid interest, such that he might have been saved in the end. If this article is correct, and Lennon turned away from Christianity and became fairly hostile (an instance of the gospel "seed" falling on "rocky soil"), then it is a good sign that he was still willing to read and ponder the words of Jesus, shortly before his death. God has mercy on every soul. God knew John didn't have long to live. We can only hope and pray.

We all have to decide Whom we will serve, and no one knows when their time on this earth will come to an end. Today is the day to commit yourself to Jesus Christ if you have not yet done so. I believe that the Catholic Church preserves the fullness of Christian truth and moral teaching. But even if you are not in a place where you can accept the teaching of the Catholic faith, I urge you to commence or renew your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now is the time. God gives all the grace for repentance and ultimate salvation. Jesus died on the cross so that we could obtain eternal life.

But you (like John Lennon) can decide to act upon this cross-enabled grace or not. God gives you that freedom because He is not interested in forcing people to follow Him and enter into the Kingdom and joy. Don't wait! And whatever you do, don't turn away from what you know is the truth, for then your soul is in exceedingly great danger of hellfire. Not popular or fashionable words these days, but true nonetheless, and if I didn't proclaim this message in its fullness I would be lax in my duty as a Catholic Christian evangelist.

If you're on the fence, or in a miserable place in your life; if you are in despair; now is the time for you to decide to follow Jesus and be His disciple. He's calling you. Will you answer the call and act upon it?

Monday, March 26, 2007

On the Curious Scarcity (Online) of Distinctively Lutheran Apologetics


I had this exchange with several Lutherans on the Three Hierarchies blog, starting here. Color codes:

Josh S. = blue
Eric Phillips = green
Joel = purple
Pirate = orange
BWL = red

I'm still searching for a Lutheran blog that does apologetics and actually likes to interact with Catholics (and preferably not anti-Catholic). Does anyone know of any?

Dave, I'm pretty sure that by your standards, any genuine Lutheran is going to be anti-Catholic, just like anyone who actually subscribes to Trent will of necessity be anti-Lutheran. Our churches exist in mutual anathema.

OK, I don't want to turn this into another protracted Dave vs Josh war, so that's enough of that.

A "genuine Lutheran" is, of course, one who consistently accepts traditional Lutheran beliefs (basically, LCMS and WELS these days, and perhaps some traditionalist European species), whether anti-Catholic or not. Luther and Melanchthon were both anti-Catholics but also had significant pro-Catholic elements in their beliefs.

A Lutheran apologist would be one who defends Lutheran distinctives (just as I defend Catholic distinctives), and who attempts to provide rational reasons for Lutheran distinctiveness and preeminence among Christian belief-systems, and to incorporate the mind and intellect into the Christian witness in Lutheran form.

I am having the greatest difficulty finding this. Are things that bad in Lutheranism that y'all don't have a single active Lutheran apologist on the Internet, whereas Catholics can name many dozens who are defending Catholicism in such a way?

*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***

I was referred to one blog, but that person said he doesn't want to do any debates at all, but simply provide Lutheran stuff for Lutherans. I asked him if he knew of any sites along the lines of what I seek. He said he didn't. So I have asked here, because CPA and I have had excellent dialogues in the past (but he said he is doing relatively less apologetic-type discussion now).

I find that astounding, but also a striking fact of the preeminence of Catholicism and the uniqueness of the distinctively Catholic outlook on Christianity.

. . . anyone who actually subscribes to Trent will of necessity be anti-Lutheran. Our churches exist in mutual anathema.

That may be true of Lutherans (and the Confessions describe us as the Antichrist, as I recall), but it is not true of us. See my paper: The Catholic Understanding of the Anathemas of Trent and Excommunication.

As everyone knows, the Catholic Church has rapidly developed a more ecumenical approach, especially since World War II. That is not, unfortunately, true of LCMS. So the Catholic is faced with the fact that the more traditional Lutherans tend to be anti-Catholic, whereas relatively more ecumenical Lutherans tend to be less consistently traditional (or "orthodox") Lutherans.
If I had a blog, I would do that sort of thing when it came up. If I do get one some day, I'm sure you'll find it.

If you're looking for a professional Lutheran apologist, though--meaning someone who does it full-time and makes his living that way--I don't know of any. Come to think of it, you're the only professional Roman Catholic apologist I know of, and there are way more RCs than Lutherans in this country.
I'm not sure Lutherans need any full-time professional apologists to convince inquirers of the truth of their doctrines the same way that Catholics seem to need them. It's enough for Lutherans to quote chapter and verse, since, as St Athanasius says, "The holy and divinely inspired writings are sufficient of themselves alone to make known the truth."

I am having the greatest difficulty finding this. Are things that bad in Lutheranism that y'all don't have a single active Lutheran apologist on the Internet
It's not that things are bad. First, since we regard other Christian churches as actual churches where Christ is truly present, stealing their sheep is not a priority. Second, the theologians in our churches are pastors. Running apologetics websites for arguing with Roman Christians isn't a high priority for them. Third, as Joel said, when your doctrines are simply based on Scripture rather than medieval mythology, complex scholastic re-imaginings of Aristotle, and a mid-20th C rewriting of history in the vision of Newman, they do not look as patently absurd to most Christians and thus do not require a full-time professional to defend and discuss them.

Dave, the question is not whether Roman Catholics think Lutherans are going to hell. These days, it seems like even atheists have a hard time getting into the Catholic hell. It's whether or not Lutheran doctrines are rejected by the papacy, and they still are. You can't be a faithful Roman and affirm the doctrines in the Book of Concord. Period. That's what the anathema's about.

You call me an "anti-Catholic" because I think the official doctrines of the papacy are contrary to Scripture and the Gospel, as though I could think anything else and call myself "Lutheran." Yet, you cannot be a Catholic without likewise affirming that Lutheran doctrine is contrary to God's Word and the Gospel, but you are "ecumenical?" Give me a break.
* * *
You call me an "anti-Catholic" because I think the official doctrines of the papacy are contrary to Scripture and the Gospel,

Nope; I call you "quasi-anti-Catholic" primarily because of your manifest prejudice and secondarily because you can't describe Catholic theology accurately to save your life, which is equally obviously a function of your prejudice, that brings on the inaccuracies.

Mere honest theological disagreement has nothing to do with the label "anti" -- at least as I use it (in line with many many Protestant sociologists and historians).

Come to think of it, you're the only professional Roman Catholic apologist I know of

You've never heard of, for example:

Karl Keating
Jimmy Akin
Scott Hahn
Mark Shea
Pat Madrid
John Martignoni
Tim Staples
Steve Ray
Al Kresta
Marcus Grodi
Peter Kreeft
Thomas Howard ??

I'm flattered if you know of me and not any of these, but I'm quite surprised if so.

As for apologetics in general, all Christians, it seems to me, are commanded to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15 being the classic "proof text"). Paul did it constantly, and he tells us to imitate him. Christians have often played the games of pietism and/or fideism throughout history, but it's not a biblical approach if by this all apologetics is intended to be excluded altogether, because the latter is so prevalent in Scripture, particularly in Paul.

That doesn't mean everyone specializes in it, but it does mean that the biblical command cannot be simply dismissed as of no import in the Christian life, and it means that all Christian groups ought to have those who specialize in such things, just as every other occupation has its experts and practitioners.

John Warwick Montgomery is an exceptionally distinguished Lutheran apologist but he is not active on the Internet that I know of, and he doesn't appear to write much concerning defense of Lutheran distinctives. I see one such book in his bibliography: In Defense of Martin Luther (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing, 1970). See also his website.

Gretchen Passantino is a Lutheran I have known about for over 20 years, who has done a lot of general apologetics; not sure if she (formerly with her late husband Bob) defends Lutheran distinctives much, either. That's specifically what I am looking for.

Paul L. Maier is another who does mostly general Christian apologetics.

I defend general Christianity, too, and do a great deal of that sort of apologetics (especially against atheists and cultists), and I also defend Catholic distinctives.

Yet, you cannot be a Catholic without likewise affirming that Lutheran doctrine is contrary to God's Word and the Gospel, but you are "ecumenical?" Give me a break.

Sheer nonsense. Lutherans are fellow Christians who are in error on various points. of course I am ecumenical, just as my Church is, and as Pope Benedict XVI is.

After all, Lutheran pastor William Weedon cited his words from 1993:
Even a theology along the lines of the concept of apostolic succession, as is in force in the Catholic and the Orthodox Church, should in no way deny the saving presence of the Lord in the Evangelical [i.e., Lutheran] Lord's Supper.
Who said this? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in a letter to the Lutheran Bishop of Bavaria, Johannes Hanselmann in 1993.

It can be found in print in the volume Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: the Church as Communion by (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It is on page 248.
I think the pope is pretty well-acquainted with what the Catholic Church holds, or, more specifically, what individual Catholics are allowed to believe about other Christians. Are you saying that you know more about that than he does? Pastor Weedon commented: "From everything I've know about Benedict, I do not believe he's the sort to prevaricate."

Note that the words of the pope do not necessarily imply that he believes Lutherans have the Real Presence. But they are undoubtedly ecumenical and respectful, in sharp contrast to, say, the quasi-anti-Catholic ravings of Josh, or, for that matter, The Book of Concord:

"The Mass in the papacy must be regarded as the greatest and most horrible abomination . . . it has been the supreme and most precious of the papal idolatries . . .
If there were reasonable papists, one would speak to them in the following friendly fashion:

Why do you cling so tenaciously to your Masses?

1. After all, they are a purely human invention. They are not commanded by God . . . Christ says, 'In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men' (Matt. 15:9).

. . . 3. . . . one can be saved in a better way without the Mass. Will the Mass not then collapse of itself -- not only for the rude rabble, but also for all godly, Christian, sensible, God-fearing people -- especially if they hear that it is a dangerous thing which was fabricated and invented without God's Word and will?

. . . 5. The Mass is and can be nothing else that a human work, even a work of evil scoundrels . . .

Accordingly we are and remain eternally divided and opposed the one to the other. The papists are well aware that if the Mass falls, the papacy will fall with it. Before they would permit this to happen, they would put us all to death.

Besides, this dragon's tail -- that is, the Mass -- has brought forth a brood of vermin and the poison of manifest idolatries.
(Smalcald Articles [1537], Part II, Article II: The Mass, from The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore Tappert, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House / Muhlenberg Press, 1959, pp. 293-294)
So in the papal realm the worship of Baal clings -- namely, the abuse of the Mass . . . And it seems that this worship of Baal will endure together with the papal realm until Christ comes to judge and by the glory of his coming destroys the kingdom of Antichrist. Meanwhile all those who truly believe the Gospel should reject those wicked services invented against God's command to obscure the glory of Christ and the righteousness of faith.

(Apology of the Augsburg Confession [1531], Article XXIV: The Mass, Book of Concord, ibid., 268 )
This is the basis upon which the early Lutherans forbade masses in their territories, and on which they justified stealing thousands of Catholic Church properties. Gotta chase that old devil and the idolatries of Baal-worship out of Christian lands, after all, even if it means stealing, theft, and plunder! Anything goes, fighting papist evil and utter corruption of Christianity!

This is clearly where Josh's quasi-anti-Catholicism derives (not to mention Luther's own frequent anti-Catholic inanities and propagandistic lies about his former Church. It's Lutheran heritage.

But Catholics don't speak in such ridiculous terms. Even Trent didn't condemn Protestant denominations or "Reformers" by name; it simply condemned errors. Individual Protestants and denominations may or may not hold those today. But in any event, you are regarded as our brethren in Christ, and we do not mock your religious services the way you (officially) mock and deride and despise ours.

Individual Lutherans can and do, of course, act in an ecumenical, charitable fashion, but they do so in the teeth of passages such as these in the Confessions they profess to follow in their entirety.

Isn't that what Lutherans are supposed to do? I hope I am wrong. Maybe Lutherans can -- are allowed to, within an "orthodox Lutheran" framework -- interpret such texts as non-binding and capable of more favorable explanation, after nearly 500 years of reflection.
There's something distasteful about going around looking for a fight. No Lutheran should engage you unless he thought he was specially called to do that sort of thing, otherwise he would be casting his pearls before swine, so to speak. (Sorry, no offense!) As you know, these issues have been gone over at length before, e.g.: The Augsburg Confession. Response: The Roman Confutation. Response to that: The Apology of the Augsburg Confession. Etc. To paraphrase the man whose sight Jesus restored, "I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would you hear it again? will ye also be [Luther's] disciples?
It's the quintuple posting RC apologetics in threads that have nothing to do with RC that makes you so endearing, Dave.
Right.

You might find the two Lutheran apologetic sites below of interest:


Thanks, BWL. My faith in humanity and intellectual confidence within Lutheranism is restored! For a second there, I thought y'all had gone pietist and fideist . . .

Those do look excellent indeed. Thanks for directing me to them. Now if we can get over the significant hurdle of the ones who run these sites being cordial even when they are critiqued . . .
If they can both defend their Lutheran distinctives under scrutiny with some decent arguments and remain amiable and friendly, they will have my eternal respect and admiration.

I have found that those things (among any denomination) are about as rare online as hen's teeth. So anyone who can buck the trend and the fashion truly has my sincere respect.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Should a Christian Ever Contribute to a Mosque Building Fund? / Early Christians & Jewish Synagogue & Temple Worship

The image “http://aarweb.org/syllabus/syllabi/w/watts/20060316/REL302_files/2TempleModel1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The early Christians, following Jesus' example, continued to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, even during times of animal sacrifice (Acts 3:1), and also at synagogues.


This exchange was with "Grubb", a Protestant regular on my blog. His words will be in blue.
My cited words will be in green. His cited words will be in purple.

* * * * *

A friend of mine sent me an article [link], and I was wondering what y'all thought. If you don't feel like reading it, in a nutshell it says there's a RC Church in Germany that is planning to give money to Muslims to help build a Mosque in the same town. A collection is being taken (or was taken) with the money going to the Muslims to help build their place of worship.

It seems to me that we're called to love the lost in a way that draws them to Jesus not in a way that facilitates them turning away from Jesus.

In the end I think it was only 400 or 500 Euros, but does this really seem wise? Is this a rogue priest, or does the RCC approve of this? What do y'all think?

I have no problem with it, viewed as a gesture to facilitate inter-religious and ethnic harmony. As stated in the article:
"All that matters to me about them is keeping peace in the area," Meurer remarked. "We don't pray together there. We get to know each other, which is possible only at get-togethers like that."

. . . "It's simply a nice gesture by Mr Meurer," said Rafet Ozturk, DITIB's coordinator for interreligious dialogue. "We're pleased, of course. Even very pleased."
I don't see it as any different than, say, if a Buddhist neighbor of mine had their house burned down, that the neighborhood chipped in to help.

Doing this doesn't necessarily imply religious agreement or compromise; I think that may be the fallacy you are laboring under, in objecting to this act.

*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***



"All that matters to me about them is keeping peace in the area," Meurer remarked.

How about the fact that they're headed for a Christless eternity? That should matter infinitely more than keeping peace in the neighborhood.

[I]f the Vatican spoke out publicly about this now it might cause a huge issue; but it seems as though they should establish a policy not to help facilitate false religions in any way in the future.

I believe we're sending mixed signals if we say, "Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me' and 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him'" but then turn around and help build a place to worship a false god. What did they do in the Old Testament? They tore down places to worship false gods. Now I'm not saying we should go OT, but at the very least we shouldn't help expand the kingdom of darkness.

Make no mistake, some people will be converted to Islam in the Mosque Meurer helped build. How will he defend that when he stands before the judgment throne? The words, "All that matter(ed) to me about them (was) keeping peace in the area" will ring very hollow.

Will we next help build abortion clinics to keep the pro-abortion crowd peaceful? If you say, "Murder occurs in an abortion clinic, we'd never support that", I'll ask, "What occurs in a Mosque?" Surely spiritual murder occurs there. Their goal is to get one to believe in something that will lead to everlasting death. Isn't that worse than killing the body?

Building a place of worship is different than rebuilding a home. Helping someone rebuild a home doesn't in any way, shape, or form put forth the notion that you support their false religion. Helping them build a place of worship could.

I see. So if you are a plumber and a Muslim calls you to fix their toilet at the mosque, you refuse because that would mean you are supporting the religion of Islam?

If you put in windows or do roofing, you refuse to work on any mosque or synagogue or Buddhist temple, on grounds that you are thereby helping people go to hell?

How about if you are a fireman, and the local mosque is burning down. You say, "let it burn; that way people won't go to hell"?

Let's make it even simpler. The local mosque sponsors a night where Christians and Muslims can get to know each other and each other's religion better. You won't go because setting foot in the mosque means you support Islam, even though you are going there to explain and share your Christian faith?

The apostle Paul went into the synagogues and argued (apologetics) and proclaimed the Gospel. Why should you not go into a mosque and do so? I did this myself one night, in a Christian-Muslim group discussion. I defended Christianity with a Protestant friend of mine. I was also very friendly with the Muslims. They're not my enemies. They are fellow human beings in need of salvation like everyone else.

So you think the ecumenical outlook has difficulties; yours clearly involves far more absurdities, once scrutinized closely. And it is all based on the false premise I already mentioned.

Jim Scott IV added:
Historically in the really really old days the Church did try as much as possible to limit the proliferation of non-Catholic/Christian houses of worship but even then they allowed some of them to be built and this was way before Vatican II, my friends.

In fact in once case a local bishop seized a Jewish Shul from the local Jews and transformed it into a Church and the pope himself forced the bishop to fork over the money to build the Jews a new Shul.

So this is not new or unreasonable or unbiblical.
You're jumping to a lot of false conclusions when I've barely even espoused my ecumenical views. Slow down turbo. Christians must hang out with unbelievers; we're not called to practice the "holy huddle". Jesus hung out with unbelievers. Jesus went where unbelievers were. Paul went where unbelievers were . . . possibly even their places of worship. Going to a Mosque on a Friday night to preach the Gospel or to establish inroads for later preaching is fine. I'm not suggesting we build Christianville and never hang out with the lost. All of what I've said in this paragraph is Biblical and defensible. So you and I don't disagree on the fourth and fifth paragraphs you wrote, and your sixth paragraph is erroneous based on our agreement.

Your first three paragraphs are interesting food for thought. In the '80s JPII called RCs to quit their job if they worked in the nuclear arms field, because they were building weapons of mass destruction. Would he discourage building nuclear weapons but allow building mosques? Discourage what destroys the body but allow what destroys the soul? What's the difference between a nuclear bomb and a mosque? A nuclear bomb can do serious damage but may never be used; a mosque can do serious damage, but we KNOW it will be used. It seems as though JPII would have been against building a mosque since he was against building WMDs; and if he was against building one, I'm sure he'd be against funding one. I didn't agree with JPII, but it certainly will be interesting to see how you'll justify not building WMDs but allow building mosques.

Should a Christian donate to an abortion clinic in order to promote peace with pro-abortionists?

Hey Ben [Jim],

Long time no talk to. I hope you're well.

If I understood the first part of your comment, the RCC did try to hinder non-Christian "churches" from being built. Allowing some to be built is far different than helping pay for them. If anyone doesn't believe that, give money to the next topless bar being built in your area. Allowing it to be built would be hurtful; paying for part of it (even if done to help promote peace and inroads for witnessing) would be excruciating.

The last example you cited doesn't really apply here, does it? The Bishop stole their Shul and was forced to pay it back by building a new one. Meurer's parish didn't steal anything from the Muslims to whom they gave money.

it certainly will be interesting to see how you'll justify not building WMDs but allow building mosques.

That's simple. Things can be used for both good and evil. Use of nuclear arms is almost always evil, I would argue; however, deterrence as a concept is not completely ruled out by the Church. A nuclear weapon sitting there in a warehouse or a bunker is not intrinsically evil.

Say a monster from outer space attacked earth and we had such a weapon to use against it. This would not be evil; therefore the weapon itself (just like a gun or a knife) can be used for good or evil and is therefore not intrinsically evil. Killing noncombatant civilians wantonly, however, is evil, as part of traditional just war doctrine.

I'd have to see what JPII said exactly about workers in the nuclear field. It could be that he simply urged non-cooperation in a general sense, while not going the further step and saying that it would be intrinsically evil to participate in any way whatsoever. I don't know unless I see the exact quote you refer to. Anyone who pays taxes to the federal government contributes to nuclear arms, since it is part of military defense.

Helping to build a place of worship is not directly participating in any evil, either, and there is truth and falsehood in virtually any religion. It's not pure evil by any stretch of the imagination, like, for example, an abortion clinic or a Nazi death camp (which amounts to the same thing as the abortuary). That would be an absolute situation of the type you describe, in my opinion.

But one does not participate in false religious teaching in so doing. That's your fallacy and false premise. Muslims are going to build a mosque in any event, and worship there. If Christians want to help them as a gesture of good will, then that is constructive for purposes of inter-religious and ethnic harmony. It doesn't imply that we agree with the teachings. But we show that we respect their right to worship as they please, and acknowledge that their faith is just as important to them as ours is to us. That is part of charity. As long as we don't deny anything we believe, nothing wrong is done.

My reductio was, of course, that if you claim no one can help build a mosque in any way, shape, or form, without cooperating in false and pernicious religious doctrine, then how could anyone even help maintain or repair such a structure in any fashion?

Either you have to agree, by virtue of the reductio, that your position is too extreme, and must be discarded or greatly modified, or if you disagree, you must explain the essential difference between the two scenarios, and at what hypothetical point involvement in a non-Christian religious building becomes material participation in sin and false doctrine, etc.

Good luck . . .

You made a much better case than I thought you would; you frequently surprise me . I believe there's a fundamental difference between who's money we take (i.e. who we do jobs for) and to whom we give our money (i.e. what we support). When Paul was making tents, did he only make them for Christians? Not likely since he was working in an unbelieving land. Did Daniel work for a "believing" king? Not initially (he may have believed later on). So there's Biblical precedence in working for people who are unbelievers and possibly making things that we know will be used for evil. Paul may have made a tent for someone he knew was going to worship Baal in it; and Daniel may have been required to oversee the building of a non-Jewish temple early in his career.

Giving money is usually done for one of three reasons (there may be more, but I didn't want to actually try to come up with every reason we give money ) :

1) Stuff we need (house, car, electricity,... )

2) Stuff we want (soccer ball, tv, RAZR, soda, movies,... ) and

3) Stuff we support (charities, service organizations, churches, ... )

I know there are reasons that may not fit neatly into one of these, but generally this is how I classify my money spending.

With groups 1 and 2, we don't generally have the luxury of specifying things we support. I NEED electricity, but there's only one provider in my town, so I buy it from him. I want a soccer ball, but publicly held corporations don't specify their stand on Christianity.

But when I choose to give my money to someone or something, it's usually to help that person/thing in a time of need or to show direct support. I don't generally give money to people who ask on the street but do offer to buy them a meal because that's what they need. That way the money doesn't go to something I disapprove of (like crack). I give money to my church, because I support it. I give money to the Pregnancy Support Services Center (helps pregnant women avoid abortions). My brother gives money to Christian Children's Fund, because he loves what they're doing (so do I, but there's only so much money to give).

Is there anything you willfully give your money to that you don't support?

I have no problem with any of this so far. Presumably you are getting to my questions . . . I want to see what you say to those.

I do NOT give money to the Democrat Party, abortion clinics, N.O.W. (the feminist group), or Islamic building funds. Not even in the interest of peace, because it's too easy to construe building a relationship with support. The "They were going to do it anyway" defense is a very weak one. When my daughter moves out, I'll help her buy her first vehicle...unless it's a motorcycle. I will NOT contribute to a vehicle I think is very dangerous. She may buy it anyway, but I won't support it by giving money to help. Democrats are going to do what Democrats are going to do with or without my $500 just as Muslims were going to build their mosque with or without Meurer's money. But I don't give Democrats money to improve my relationship with the liberals in my office. I do other things to promote relationships and good will with those guys. And THAT is what I think Meurer should have done; come up with something else.

There is clearly Biblical precedence for working for unbelievers and possibly even working on unbelievers' places of worship as a job. But I don't believe there's Biblical precedence for voluntarily giving money to build an unbeliever's place of worship. I'm not saying because it's not in the Bible we can't do it (that's a whole 'nother conversation ); but rather that they didn't appear to do it in Moses' or Jesus' day, so we may want to follow their lead.

Here was the weakest part of your argument: ...there is truth and falsehood in virtually any religion. It's not pure evil by any stretch of the imagination... Actually that's the biggest danger in any false religion. If they taught one has to always lie, beat people up, and cheat on his spouse, that would be an easy religion to convert people away from. But when Satan blends his lies with God's truth, it makes it infinitely more dangerous. Not too many would fall for "Grubb's religion of lying, cheating, stealing, and spouse abuse", but billions have fallen for Islam. If misleading billions to hell by blending truth and lies isn't pure evil, I don't know what is.

Again, wasn't there something else Meurer could have done with the 500 Euros that would have showed good will? Sponsoring the first "get together" would have been an excellent idea.

If you show me an instance where Jesus or Paul clearly gave money to the building of an unbeliever's place of worship, I'll concede Meurer was right.

They did even more than that: they worshiped at the Temple and at synagogues. The Jews didn't even accept the Trinity (so they were like Muslims in that regard). Jesus continued to worship at the Temple and synagogues; so did Paul.

I believe there was a mandatory tithe or something of that sort, that supported the priests. Jesus in all likelihood continued to pay that, so He supported non-Christian worship practices and buildings.

Jesus even commanded His disciples to obey what the Pharisees taught (Matt 23:2-3), and Paul acknowledged the high priest's authority even when he was being persecuted by the Jews (Acts 23:2-5), and called himself a Pharisee (Acts 23:6).

Jesus highly commended the faith of the Roman centurion, who wasn't even a practicing Jew, let alone a Christian.

Is that enough for you to make you concede, even if you refuse again to answer my rhetorical questions?

Let readers judge who has the better argument: I continue to answer your questions; you ignore mine, and now I offer explicit biblical support for my position.

I presumed you deduced my answers from my comments just as I deduced your answer from your comments. When I asked if you'd ever give money to help build an abortion clinic, you didn't answer with a simple 'No'. You said, "It's (a nuclear bomb) not pure evil by any stretch of the imagination, like, for example, an abortion clinic or a Nazi death camp (which amounts to the same thing as the abortuary). That would be an absolute situation of the type you describe, in my opinion." If you don't say otherwise, I'll assume I deduced correctly from this that your answer would be 'No' to helping build an abortion clinic.

Likewise, when I wrote, "I believe there's a fundamental difference between who's money we take ... and to whom we give our money... When Paul was making tents, did he only make them for Christians? Not likely since he was working in an unbelieving land. Did Daniel work for a 'believing' king? Not initially (he may have believed later on). So there's Biblical precedence in working for people who are unbelievers and possibly making things that we know will be used for evil. Paul may have made a tent for someone he knew was going to worship Baal in it; and Daniel may have been required to oversee the building of a non-Jewish temple early in his career.", I presumed you would deduce that I don't have a problem with helping build or maintain a non-Christian place of worship.

But if you want it point blank: I would not refuse to work on their toilet, their windows, their roofing, and I would put out a fire.

Why would I answer rhetorical questions? Those are questions that not only don't require an answer, but the asker usually doesn't WANT an answer.

That's not how my own socratic method works at all. The whole point is that questions are asked so that the other guy's premises are challenged and he is made to reflect further on their implications and how they can be either defended or discarded as inadequate.

They did even more than that: they worshiped at the Temple and at synagogues. The Jews didn't even accept the Trinity (so they were like Muslims in that regard). Jesus continued to worship at the Temple and synagogues; so did Paul.

I looked up every instance of worship, worshipped, and worshiping in the NIV NT and didn't see any instance where Christians worshipped with Jews or unbelievers. Obviously it's true that Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, and the others taught in the synagogues, and before the resurrection worshipped with Jews, but did they necessarily worship with them in the old Jewish way after the resurrection? See below for a little more on this.

I believe there was a mandatory tithe or something of that sort, that supported the priests. Jesus in all likelihood continued to pay that, so He supported non-Christian worship practices and buildings.

I'm not going to concede based on "I believe there was a mandatory tithe or something of that sort, that supported the priests". Why wouldn't Jesus continue to go to synagogues and pay the temple tax? The old covenant hadn't been replaced yet. That wasn't done until the Resurrection, right? If worshipping in synagogues and paying money to support Jewish priests is such a good idea, why did the early church stop doing it? They stopped doing it, because to worship along side of unbelievers can be very distracting at the least and soul damaging at the worst. Apparently hanging out with Jews didn't help Peter much, since he went back to some of the old ways which is why Paul confronted him.

Jesus even commanded His disciples to obey what the Pharisees taught (Matt 23:2-3), and Paul acknowledged the high priest's authority even when he was being persecuted by the Jews (Acts 23:2-5), and called himself a Pharisee (Acts 23:6).

Are you trying to build a case for us to continue to be under Jewish teaching? So a Rabbi walks into a RC church and says, "According to our law, you should give me all the money in the offering plate" and the priest says, "According to Matt 23:2-3 we're to obey the Rabbi; hand over the money." Is that how it works in the RCC today? Cause if it is, I'm thinking about getting a Rabbi costume and going to the nearest RC church this Sunday . Just so y'all know, that was intended to be humorous, and I did make myself laugh out loud. I'm pretty sure that's not how it works. In Acts 4:18-20, "Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Obeying authorities instituted over us and Pharisees when they teach accurate Godliness has no bearing what so ever on whether we should voluntarily give money to support false religions.

Jesus highly commended the faith of the Roman centurion, who wasn't even a practicing Jew, let alone a Christian

Not really sure you want to be making that argument Dave. That Roman centurion may not have been a Christian when he road out to meet Jesus, but he may have become a follower that day. This would actually support the PT (Protestant) position, salvation by faith alone. He hadn't done the sacraments, been baptized, or done any other act, but Jesus may have considered him a believer. By the very definition, he was a believer. Jesus told him his son would recover, and he believed and had faith in Jesus.

Again, this has nothing to do with whether one should give money to support a false religion. If the Centurion didn't become a Christian that day, do you think Jesus said, "Here's 10 denari, go build an alter to worship Baal. I hope we can be at peace and will try to preach the Word to you later."? Do you think Jesus ever saw people worshipping Baal and said, "We should give them some money to improve our relations, so that we may have peace with them and tell them the truth, because peace with them is all that matters to me"? That conversation isn't in the English Standard Version of the Bible I read.

It's not in yours either, because when Jesus saw the lost, he went to them and said, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10b) and "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11b) And Paul said, "I preached that they should repent and turn to God" (Acts 26:20b) and "what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." (Acts 17:23) And Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matt 10:34) and "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division" (Luke 12:51). Peace is enjoyable, desirable, and should be sought; but it is NOT as Meurer said "all that matters".

None of the passages you cited even remotely indicate that it's a good idea to willfully give money to a false religion. In fact if you read some of the questions I pretended Jesus or Paul asked, you would see how absurd it is to believe anything they did would encourage us to freely donate money to a false religion. Again, isn't there something else Meurer could have done to build good will between his church and the Muslims? Dave, you and I could probably think of ten things within 30 minutes if we tried that would build good relations without giving the money to the mosque building fund.

You may think I danced all around your iron-clad defense, but I did say, "If you show me an instance where Jesus or Paul clearly gave money to the building of an unbeliever's place of worship, I'll concede Meurer was right." My statement may not be accurate enough, since I was really addressing the 3rd way we spend money (willfully to support something). None of the passages you mentioned did that. In fact, in my opinion, none of them even remotely hinted at that.

Here's my last point, Kant's Moral Imperative basically asks: Would it be good if everyone did this? Some might say, yes, because we might have much better relations with Muslims world wide. Some might say, no, because we might have a lot more Muslim churches world wide. I fully believe we can improve relations with Muslims without donating to their building funds. This website is an example of how RCs and PTs have improved relations, and to the best of my knowledge Dave hasn't sent a check to my church's building fund. Or is that check in the mail Dave?

I would not refuse to work on their toilet, their windows, their roofing, and I would put out a fire.

Good. So now the question is, as I stated earlier:

. . . you must explain what the essential difference is between the two scenarios, and at what hypothetical point involvement in a non-Christian religious building becomes material participation in sin and false doctrine, etc.

I contend that there is no essential difference between maintaining a building and helping to pay for it. In both cases you are contributing to the continuance of a building that teaches what you regard as a false religion. I don't see any difference. In one instance you are contributing labor (which is exchanged for money) and in the other, money. What's the difference?

Your position is that you somehow are agreeing with or sanctioning the false religion in so doing. I don't think that follows. Your task is to either show how there is a difference between the two scenarios (fixing stuff and giving money), or to grasp that one is not embracing a false religion in doing either act, in which case you have conceded your entire original point of view.

Obviously it's true that Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, and the others taught in the synagogues, and before the resurrection worshipped with Jews, but did they necessarily worship with them in the old Jewish way after the resurrection?

Yes; I showed you already how Paul described himself as a Pharisee and recognized the authority of the high priest. That was after the resurrection. Christians continued to worship in the old ways until (at the very least) the council of Jerusalem and (more definitively) the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. For example, Paul "and his company" are described as worshiping at a synagogue:

13: Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphyl'ia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem;
14: but they passed on from Perga and came to Antioch of Pisid'ia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
15: After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it."

(Acts 13:13-15)
The sabbath day was, of course, Saturday. Paul and his friends were not only worshiping at the synagogue, but were actually invited by the "rulers" to preside over the service. The text records what Paul said, and then we learn:
42: As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next sabbath.
43: And when the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
44: The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of God.

(Acts 13:42-44)
Acts 18:4 tells us that Paul "argued in the synagogue every Sabbath", seemingly implying that he was worshiping there, too.

Acts 18:8:

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household . . .
According to Acts 3:1 (right after the Day of Pentecost):

Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
The notes in my RSV explain that the ninth hour was 3 PM "when sacrifice was offered with prayer (Ex 29.39; Lev. 6.20; Josephus, Ant. xiv.4.3)."

Acts 2:46 described the early Christians:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts,

Obeying authorities instituted over us and Pharisees when they teach accurate Godliness has no bearing what so ever on whether we should voluntarily give money to support false religions.

But I deny that one is doing that by simply helping to build a mosque. That was the whole point of the reductio argument of fixing the toilet in a mosque, etc. You said you would do that, but you haven't shown how that is any less "participating in false religion" than contributing money.

I deny that either scenario is supporting a false religion! First of all, not all in Islam is false. Muslims, still, e.g., have children and frown upon contraception and cohabitation and fornication. In all these ways they do far better than most Protestants and Catholics, so they preserve those truths that Christians have largely forsaken.

Secondly, such gestures can be classified as diplomatic acts of charity. The Muslim knows it doesn't mean that the Christian believes in Islam, but the act creates good will and harmony: a most desirable end indeed.

"If you show me an instance where Jesus or Paul clearly gave money to the building of an unbeliever's place of worship, I'll concede Meurer was right." My statement may not be accurate enough, since I was really addressing the third way we spend money (willfully to support something). None of the passages you mentioned did that. In fact, in my opinion, none of them even remotely hinted at that.

I've now shown with several examples, Christians after Pentecost (including Paul, Peter, and John) worshiping in the regular Temple services or at synagogues. Now, almost certainly both the Temple and the synagogues had some sort of money collection (rabbis and priests had to eat and have some sort of shelter and clothing, after all).

So all they had to do was contribute to that and therefore they would be contributing to the religion of Judaism, which denies the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection of Jesus, and other aspects of Christianity, though it also agrees with much of what we believe (and I would argue that Christianity is a consistent development of the OT and OT Judaism, and that Jesus did not even overturn the Law; only modified it and taught a different application -- Matt 5:17-20).

One could easily argue that post-Christian Judaism takes a far lower view of Jesus than Islam does. After all, Islam regards Jesus as a prophet, whereas the early Jews after the resurrection thought he was a false prophet, false Messiah, and possessed by a demon. Therefore, the early Christians supported a (partially) false religion (Judaism) by not only money but also direct participation in its worship services.

Ergo: it is completely biblical to partially support the building of a mosque with a financial contribution, since this is a lesser participation than what the early Christians like Paul, Peter, and John did when they worshiped with Jews, and to a religion that takes a higher view of Jesus than Judaism itself does.

Case closed. Your objection has now collapsed in ruins, and on the basis of the Bible alone. Isn't "Bible only" religion fun???

This website is an example of how RCs and PTs have improved relations, and to the best of my knowledge Dave hasn't sent a check to my church's building fund. Or is that check in the mail Dave?

In fact, my last charitable contribution was to a local inner-city Protestant ministry in Detroit called Joy of Jesus. I donated our old van (not worth much at all, and on its last legs, I hasten to add) to a place that re-sells it and gives the money to a charity of one's choice.

That is a good example, because I am contributing to a Protestant group that is doing important work that I agree with (inner-city evangelism and restoration). Part of that is, no doubt, proclaiming the Protestant gospel of "faith alone" and sola Scriptura, etc., but that doesn't mean I shouldn't contribute because I don't agree with every jot and tittle. That is rarely the case.

There are largely good and true things (e.g., Protestantism), partially good and true things (Judaism and Islam), mostly bad things (political liberalism, secularism), and wholly evil things (abortion and the abortion establishment).

I would say that one could donate in good conscience to the largely good and true things and partially good and true things.

It is rare to be able to have complete consistency in such matters. For example, I think abortion is absolutely evil in all cases. But George W. Bush (and his father) think it is permissible (or should be legal) in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. I disagree with that, but between Bush and Kerry, the choice was clear who to pick (and the Catholic Church allows one to make those choices).

By your strict, illogical mentality, I was, therefore, supporting the evil murder by abortion of a child conceived in rape, in voting for President Bush. But in my opinion, that is a classic case of voting for the "lesser of two evils." Politics is like that. So is life in general, oftentimes (probably more than most of us would care to admit).

So I would help a Muslim in a material sense, without compromising my religious beliefs in the least.

We know the Jews worship the same God as Christians do; so to attend a church where they were preaching genuine Godliness isn't a problem. We agree that Jesus didn't come to replace the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17-19), so sitting with Jews who were learning about the LORD was acceptable. But I'm pretty confident Paul didn't partake of any sacrifices after his conversion. I presume none of the Apostles did since Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. There would have been a definite distinction between the way the Jews worshipped and the way the Christians worshipped even if they did sit in the same "service".

You still haven't shown that they unnecessarily donated money. You presume they did, but you haven't shown it. You can't declare victory based on circumstantial, unsubstantiated, unprovable evidence. I guess you CAN since you seemed to do so, but one shouldn't.

You claim my argument is inconsistent, but I'll restate it one more time. If it doesn't make sense, we may just have to agree Grubb doesn't make sense. The job one works on doesn't require consent or support. My company (a retail company) analyzes sales by department. I think they should analyze sales by items. But I write programs that show them sales data by dept. Am I supporting their decision by writing the program? No, I'm trading my programming skills for their money. In this situation, I'm not supporting their business decision.

When I GIVE money to someone without expecting to get anything back, I'm showing support. You gave a van (a very nice gesture indeed) to the inner city organization and support what they're doing. If you didn't support their mission, you'd have given your van to another organization. I don't give my "charitable" money to organizations I disagree with. Without expecting to get anything back to what do you give money that you DON'T support? Even if you don't like PTism in its entirety, you do support what that inner city group is doing. Right?

Try this experiment: sell a charitable organization a $10,000 van; and give a different charitable organization a $10,000 check. Would the two charities say the same thing about you? No!! The 1st would say, "Dave's ok. He sold us this van for $10k. Nice guy." The 2nd would say, "Dave is amazing!! He gave us $10k. That's 10 THOUSAND dollars!! He must REALLY love the work we're doing!!" And even if you didn't support what they were doing, you must see that some (maybe even most) could construe that you do. Don't you agree there's a difference in the two scenarios?

I've asked this three times or more now. Couldn't Meurer have come up with a better way to spend 500 Euros (like sponsoring the first "social" or helping needy Muslims pay their electricity bill) without donating the money to the mosque building fund?

I understand that laying bricks to build a mosque and giving 500 Euros to help build a mosque are both materially participating in building the mosque. I didn't want to pause the conversation without that being known.

The huge hang-up I have (and the place where I think the two are different) is that one is simply trading money for services without showing any intellectual ascent to their ideology and the other is (or at the very least can appear to be) supporting the organization's cause or showing that one believes in the cause of the organization. To RCs who don't attend church regularly, they might say, "I suppose the church is ok with Islam now. It's come to this, has it?" and be discouraged. But if the money had been used to pay a needy Muslim's power bill, he a) would never hear about it, or b) would realize the church is helping the lost.

We know the Jews worship the same God as Christians do

They do? Then why do they object to us? Where's the beef? The beef is, of course, precisely over the nature of God, because we say Jesus is God and they think that is blasphemous. Our God has three Persons. Theirs has one. Their God is essentially the same as the Father in the Trinity, but that is not the same God, because there is no God the Son or God the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, if you think the Jewish God is the same -- enough to allow for common worship -- then you would have to think the same about Jehovah's Witnesses and the Christadelphians (Arian groups). Would you worship with them? Would you help build a Kingdom Hall?

But I'm pretty confident Paul didn't partake of any sacrifices after his conversion. I presume none of the Apostles did since Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

That's exactly what Peter and John did in Acts 3:1, as I already showed you. They went to the Temple service that was specifically for sacrifice.

You still haven't shown that they unnecessarily donated money. You presume they did, but you haven't shown it.

I don't have to have it in black and white. Jewish services like any other would have collections. Since I've shown that early Christians participated in such services it is not unreasonable at all to assume that they most likely contributed financially. And there were tithes and taxes, too.

But it doesn't matter anyway because to actually participate in a non-Christian service is to give it far more sanction than to simply give money for building a building where such a service is conducted. The person is right there worshiping with the others!

And Islam has a higher view of Jesus than Judaism does, as I explained already too. Judaism has falsehood just as Islam does. And both contain truth.

When I GIVE money to someone without expecting to get anything back, I'm showing support.

When I worship with someone in a religion that has just rejected the Messiah and the Son of God (as the early Christians did), I am showing more "support" even than giving them money.

Try this experiment: sell a charitable organization a $10,000 van; and give a different charitable organization a $10,000 check. Would the two charities say the same thing about you? No!! The 1st would say, "Dave's ok. He sold us this van for $10k. Nice guy." The 2nd would say, "Dave is amazing!! He gave us $10k. That's 10 THOUSAND dollars!! He must REALLY love the work we're doing!!" And even if you didn't support what they were doing, you must see that some (maybe even most) could construe that you do. Don't you agree there's a difference in the two scenarios?

Yes, of course. But we're not just talking about different forms and levels of giving; also in this discussion is the question of whether acts of charity imply sanction or agreement with the religion of the one that is helped.

I say it (rather obviously) does not necessarily. You seem to think that it does. It's the falsehoods in the religion that you object to, so you don't want to give any money at all. I am saying that you can give money for reasons other than supporting the religion. It doesn't necessarily imply religious agreement at all.

Couldn't Meurer have come up with a better way to spend 500 Euros (like sponsoring the first "social" or helping needy Muslims pay their electricity bill) without donating the money to the mosque building fund?

See, now this is exactly what I am talking about. You use the value judgment "better." I don't see much difference. The Muslim knows that the Christian doesn't accept Islam anyway, and doesn't think otherwise just because he chipped into a building fund. The Christian (unless he is a liberal, indifferentist, wishy-washy type) knows this. Everyone pretty much knows.

I have no problem whatsoever with someone (like you) deciding as an individual, in good conscience, that he shouldn't contribute to such a fund. But it is a matter of conscience and not a moral absolute; this is where we differ. When you try to apply your own feelings on the matter to others and say they are wrong, you go astray, because you do so on insufficient grounds (and as it turns out, contrary to the relevant biblical examples).

The huge hang-up I have (and the place where I think the two are different) is that one is simply trading money for services without showing any intellectual ascent to their ideology and the other is (or at the very least can appear to be) supporting the organization's cause or showing that one believes in the cause of the organization.

This is your fallacy. It doesn't follow that one supports the religious view in so doing: not in its entirety. I used my own example of donating to a Protestant inner-city charity. As a Catholic I wouldn't agree with everything they do. In my mind I was donating to the inner-city work. That is the good cause I feel that I am furthering.

Same thing with Islam: one could give to a building fund on the grounds that this keeps Muslim kids on a morally straighter path; it promotes at least monotheism (and that is what Judaism is too); good family values, basic moral teachings ("do not steal," etc.) and so forth. One is supporting those things and showing charity towards a non-Christian neighbor.

Very few things in concrete, day-to-day life are absolutely clear-cut, morally and metaphysically perfect without any error or sin in them at all. We've discussed before on this blog how we all buy goods made in China. Well, China (a Communist country) has slave labor and forced abortions and atrocious persecution of Christians and other religions. We definitely help to keep that system going by massive purchases of their goods. It very well might collapse but for our huge financial support (while Taiwan, a civilized country, isn't even allowed into the United Nations, if I recall correctly).

You do that, I do it. I would venture to guess that 99.9% of people in America have items in their house that are made in China. Do you plan on getting rid of all that and not buying any more? Why do you keep supporting an evil, anti-religious governmental system by buying their products? You'll do that but you wouldn't give a dime to a mosque fund for pious Muslims to worship in?

This is a good example, I think, because it shows the complexity of cause and effect, and how we are all involved in such situations and how it would be quite difficult to be perfectly consistent.

Then there are the host of companies that fund the abortion industry. If we all stopped buying any products or using services that did that, or stopped watching TV shows that use these advertisers, etc., we'd have to make massive lifestyle changes. Abortion is absolutely evil. Yet virtually all of us are helping it to continue by unwitting purchases of products from companies that promote it. And every person who votes for pro-abortion politicians keeps the killing legal and societally- and legally-sanctioned.

It goes on and on. How about hospitals that perform abortions? Do you make sure that you go to one that doesn't? Etc., etc.

To RCs who don't attend church regularly, they might say, "I suppose the church is ok with Islam now. It's come to this, has it?" and be discouraged.

Ignorance will be with us till the end of time. The thing to do is to educate the ignorant and explain things; not cave in to the ignorance by not doing something that is perfectly acceptable just because they don't understand it.

"Jeb Protestant" asked:

Would you give money to the local Masonic lodge? Would you give money to the JWs [Jehovah's Witnesses] to help build a "kingdom hall"?
I wouldn't, personally. My reasoning would be that they are both corruptions of Christianity. But Islam is a different religion altogether and doesn't entail that sort of "false advertising." I have argued, remember, that this is a matter of conscience. I wouldn't say it is absolutely wrong to contribute to these either, but I wouldn't do it myself. Grubb, on the other hand, seems to be arguing that it is a matter of absolute right and wrong, and that one sanctions the religious beliefs of the group one contributes to, in so doing. I deny this, and my "fixing the toilet and the roof" examples were designed to show the difficulty of maintaining that point of view.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Did Martin Luther Deny the Canonicity of Esther?

The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger/7262/1966/200/728524/elbe.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The Elbe River in Germany


Martin Luther's words will be in green.

* * * * *

There is a famous citation from Luther: "The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe [river]". Or are these really the words of Luther? Apparently this is indeed a misquote. The John Aurifaber version of Table-Talk, translated by William Hazlitt, available online, reads in its section XXIV: "The third book of Esdras I throw into the Elbe."

Mea culpa on behalf of all those (including yours truly) who have wrongly used this false citation in the past or present. Falsehood of any sort (whether inadvertent or not) does no one any good. Mine was an honest mistake. And as we shall see, scholars have done the same. it is one of those errors that got passed down through history.

This one erroneous citation doesn't mean, however, that Luther didn't denigrate and even deny the canonicity of the book of Esther (only this particular "proof" was -- by all appearances -- a botched citation at some point in the textual history; the question of who made the error will be further discussed below). For the very same section of Table-Talk also includes the following words from Luther:


I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities. The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets; though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains.


Even this quotation, however, gives support to the accuracy of the second mention of Esther above, as genuine ("Oh, how fond they are of the book of Esther, . . ." -- from LW, 47:156 -- cf. above: "The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets"). It gives a correlation to a statement of Luther that does quite arguably question the canonicity of Esther. Luther also wrote in Bondage of the Will:

[T]hough I could rightly reject this book [Ecclesiasticus], for the time being I accept it so as not to waste time by getting involved in a dispute about the books received in the Hebrew canon. For you poke more than a little sarcastic fun at this when you compare Proverbs and The Song of Solomon (which with a sneering innuendo you call the “Love Song”) with the two books of Esdras, Judith, the story of Susanna and the Dragon, and Esther (which despite their inclusion of it in the canon deserves more than all the rest in my judgment to be regarded as noncanonical).

(LW 33:110)

Here is a second rendering:
Though I might with justice repudiate this book [Ecclesiasticus], yet for the present I receive it, so as not to lose time by entangling myself in a dispute about books received into the Jewish canon. You are somewhat biting and derisive yourself about that canon, when you compare the Proverbs of Solomon and the Love-song (as with a sneering innuendo you term it) to the two books of Esdras and Judith, and the History of Susanna and of the Dragon, and the book of Esther (though they have this last in their canon; in my opinion, however, it is less worthy to be held canonical than any of these).

(
The Bondage of the Will, J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston translation, Grand Rapids: MI: Revell, 1957, Reprint October 1999, 143)
So now we have the evidence of Luther saying he is an "enemy" of Esther; wishing that it "had not come to us at all" and that it is "less worthy to be held canonical" than "Esdras and Judith, and the History of Susanna and of the Dragon": books universally regarded by Protestants as non-canonical.
Many Protestant interpreters, like F.F. Bruce, the great Bible scholar, have no problem recognizing that Luther regarded Esther on the same plane as the "apocryphal" 2 Maccabees, based on the Table-Talk citation seen above:
. . . Luther manifested a special animus against 2 Maccabees . . . It is noteworthy that he shows his exercise of private judgment here by including Esther under the same condemnation as 2 Maccabees.

(The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988, 101)
Indeed, even The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, no shill for nefarious Catholic apologetics ("Esther, Book of", Vol. II, 1007), states:
The Attacks upon the Book:

The opponents of the Book of Esther may undoubtedly boast that Martin Luther headed the attack. In his Table-Talk he declared that he was so hostile "to the Book of Esther that I would it did not exist; for it Judaizes too much, and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness." His remark in his reply to Erasmus shows that this was his deliberate judgment. Referring to Esther, he says that, though the Jews have it in their Canon, "it is more worthy than all" the apocryphal books "of being excluded from the Canon."
Remarkably, another 1823 translation of Bondage of the Will literally reverses the judgment at the end (thus directly contradicting the versions in Luther's Works and the recent J.I. Packer translation):
Perhaps the clearest way to come to a conclusion is to read the old Henry Beveridge translation of the this [sic] Tabletalk [sic] utterance:
". . . and the Book of Esther, though they have this last in their canon, and according to my judgment, it is much more worthy of being there, than any one of those that are considered not to be in the canon."

[my emphasis added]
This version was translated by Henry Cole in 1823. Here also is the additional translation of The Bondage of the Will (also from 1823) of Edward Thomas Vaughan:
. . . and Esther. This last, however, they have received into their canon; although, in my judgment, deserving, more than all the rest, to be excluded.
Vaughan comes down on the side of Luther's Works and Packer / Johnston, though in a footnote he tries to apply this mention of "Esther" to only additional chapters of it not accepted by the Jews. In any event, that is three translations that read one way, and one that reads another, completely opposite way (what we might call "pro-Esther").
Two Protestant co-authors wrote about the mistaken "Esther" in the quote at the top of this paper:

Soon after the publication of this article, I became aware , that Esther was here a mistake for Esdras; and this by the verse quoted. The error stands in all Aurifaber's editions of the Tabletalk; his text is taken by Walch, and from Walch I translated.
(Source: Thomas Carlyle, Sir William Hamilton, Life of Martin Luther [link] Michigan: American Book Exchange, 242)

So the error is a result, not of sinister "anti-Luther" Catholics, but of Joannes Aurifaber and Johann Georg Walch: respectively the Protestant writer and later compiler of Table-Talk.
Carlyle and Hamilton's book was published in 1879. So it was possible for one of them (Hamilton) to make this mistake 333 years after Luther's death, because it was still that prevalent, due to a mistake somewhere along the line in the transmission of Table-Talk. This Protestant author also made the innocent mistake. The author, Sir William Hamilton, explains and justifies (to some extent) his mistake:
As to my error; I may say in excuse, if excuse be needed, that at the time of writing the article, not only was I compelled to make the extracts without any leisure for deliberation; but I recollected, though the book was not at hand, that Luther, in his work on the Bondage of the Will, had declared that Esther ought to be extruded from the canon, -- a judgment familiar to every tyro even in biblical criticism . . . Esther, I thus knew, was repudiated by Luther, and among his formulae of dismissal, the preceding recommended itself as at once the most characteristic and the shortest.

(Ibid., 242-243)
The same writer (in context) definitely opines that Luther "repudiated" Esther and thought (on the basis of the passage we considered above) that it "ought to be extruded from the canon."

In one fell swoop, then, we see that the notion of Esther's non-canonicity as Luther's own, is again supported, and the charge of mis-citation is shown to be ultimately the fault of Protestant biographers of Luther and compilers of his primary works, and those later biographers following them, rather than of Catholics. Hamilton writes on page 248:
In various of his works, and from an early to the latest period, Luther denied the canonicity of St. James' Epistle.
He proceeds to give several proofs of his assertion.

The example of Esther is thus seen as merely one example of many, of biblical books that Luther felt free to judge wholly based on his subjective opinion. This folly flows from his prior erroneous presupposition, as described by the respected Lutheran scholar and Luther expert Paul Althaus:
He thereby established the principle that the early church's formation and limitation of the canon is not exempt from re-examination . . . the canon is only a relative unity, just as it is only relatively closed. Therewith Luther has in principle abandoned every formal approach to the authority of the Bible. It is certainly understandable that Luther's prefaces were no longer printed in German Bibles.
One may characterize his attitude in this way: The canon itself was, as far as Luther was concerned, a piece of ecclesiastical tradition and therefore subject to criticism on the basis of God's word.

(The Theology of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, 85, 336)
Such an attitude is perfectly capable of being intelligently, rationally critiqued, and not just by Catholics. As I showed in my previous article on Luther and the canon, even very prominent Lutherans like Martin Chemnitz and C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and current-day Lutheran apologist John Warwick Montgomery. Catholics have plenty of good Protestant company in this regard of Luther's view of the biblical canon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reply to Two Lutheran Pastors on Fundamental Misconceptions Regarding the Catholic Position on the Death Penalty

The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger/5276/441/320/292694/images-1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Lutheran pastor Paul T. McCain wrote in his post Papal Bull-oney:
The Vatican needs to spend more time dealing with homosexuals and child abusers in it clergy ranks, and the lousy theology that infests most of its institutions of higher learning in this country, than pontificating on how to deal with mass-murderers and tyrants.
And in comments below it (responding to a fellow Lutheran who thought he was being a bit too harsh:
The Vatican has long experience appeasing kings, emperors, dictators and what-not. Perhaps you are falling into the trap of naievete?
And:
The Vatican's position is contrary to Sacred Scripture which makes it abundantly clear that the state has been given the power from God to wield the sword and execute criminals. That's the issue here. There is a long history of the Vatican doing things that directly contradict Holy Scripture.
He cites fellow Lutheran pastor William Weedon in agreement. The latter stated:
I just read a piece where the Vatican has denounced the execution of Saddam Hussein. The argument was simply that it was punishing one crime by committing another.

. . . To the government God has given the sword, and its task with that sword is to punish evil doers. That is not by any stretch of the imagination to suggest that the government has never abused the sword entrusted to it. It has indeed, time and again. And when it does, the Church is perfectly right to call the government to repentance. But what the Church can never do is insist that the government govern by the sword of the Spirit entrusted to HER.
In comments below his post, he adds:
I'm quite sure of the government's right to exercise capital punishment; the Sacred Scriptures are utterly clear on the point. Nevertheless, I am not sure of how wisely the government always exercises that right.
But of course the Catholic Church has not denied that the state has such a right and jurisdiction. It simply holds that the exercise of the death penalty is required in only very few extraordinary circumstances. In other words, the emphasis is greatly on Pastor Weedon's point in his second sentence immediately above. The Church has not taught that capital punishment is intrinsically evil.

Pastor McCain continues in his combox thread:
Neither Pr. Weedon or I are insisting that every government must exercise its right to execute criminals. What we are both saying is that it is the teaching of God's Word that governments have the authority to wield the sword to execute justice. To declare otherwise is to violate Holy Scripture and as Lutherans, it is also a violation of our Confessions to which we are bound because we confess them to teach what Scripture teaches.
Since the Catholic Church has not denied such authority, it is a moot and irrelevant point.
. . . for Lutherans what is "out of bounds" according to the Biblical doctrine we confess in the Book of Concord is any suggestion that the state is not given the authority to wield the sword to execute criminals.
Yes, and for Catholics. The only difference is a quantitative one and a disagreement as to how necessary it is to use the death penalty, or how often. To imply that the Catholic Church has denied any such right by states at all is beyond silly. We haven't condemned all war altogether or use of a police force, etc. The Catholic Church has not asserted pacifism.
The death penalty is not sinful and a person can in good conscience enforce it and use it.
Exactly.
I personally believe that justice requires it in certain circumstances.
So do I, and I am as orthodox and as loyal-to-the-pope a Catholic as one could find. I think Saddam Hussein's execution was one such well-deserved and just instance. I am allowed to believe this as a Catholic.
That's why we were both less than impressed with the Vatican's comments, since they directly conflict with the teaching of Holy Scripture.
Let's see if this is the case. What Rev. McCain links to, and what he is responding to is the following:
"An execution is always tragic news, reason for sadness, even in the case of a person who is guilty of grave crimes," the Holy See's spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a statement released by the Vatican press office.

Earlier in the morning, Lombardi made similar comments on Vatican Radio.

"The position of the Catholic Church — against the death penalty — has been reiterated many times," the spokesman said in the statement, referring to the Vatican's overall opposition to capital punishment.

"Killing the guilty one is not the way to rebuild justice and reconcile society," the spokesman said. "On the contrary, there is the risk that the spirit of revenge is fueled and that the seeds of new violence are sown."

(Vatican Denounces Saddam's Execution as 'Tragic', 12-30-06)
Now, is this statement saying that no state has the power of the sword, or that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, or that it can never be done in any circumstance (all of which would indeed be quite contrary to Holy Scripture)? No.

What was stated was that it was "tragic" and a "reason for sadness" which should be true of any execution. It is not an occasion for joy. We should pray for such a person's soul. Capital punishment is viewed from the larger perspective of an overall culture of life, and from the possible reactions to such instances: "the risk that the spirit of revenge is fueled and that the seeds of new violence are sown." I don't see how this is at all contrary to Scripture (unless one cynically reads into it what is not there in black and white). The article goes on:
The Vatican's top official for dialogue between religions, Cardinal Paul Poupard, said: "We pray to the Lord and for the dead and the living so that this will not become an occasion for new violence."

"We are always sad when men take lives which belong to the Lord," Poupard told the Italian news agency ANSA.
The same analysis applies to this. How are any of these thoughts inherently "anti-biblical"? More objectionable, however, is the next citation:
In an interview published in an Italian daily earlier in the week, the Vatican's top prelate for justice issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, said executing Saddam would mean punishing "a crime with another crime."
I think this goes too far myself, and uses inappropriate, objectionable language. But what this Cardinal stated is not official Church teaching: that somehow this (let alone every) instance of capital punishment is a "crime"; i.e., evil in and of itself (though arguably the term doesn't necessarily mean that).

In any event, a man's thoughts deserve to be accorded the respect of being interpreted within his overall thought. Cardinal Martino's is easily sought out in an Internet search. For example, the article: Death Penalty is Cruel and Unnecessary. What can we find here as to Cardinal Martino's position on the question of the "intrinsic evil" of the death penalty or the inherent right of states to use it? Quite a bit:
Actually, capital punishment falls within the boundaries of legitimate defence.

. . .
Church teaching on capital punishment

There are many misconceptions regarding the position of the Catholic Church on the issue of capital punishment. Many state — and accurately — that the Church has never absolutely banned the death penalty.

. . . Developments in Church teaching

Evangelium vitae affirms the Catechism's teaching, but takes it even further by enumerating conditions under which it would be morally acceptable. Given the development of most penal systems in our day, the Holy Father states that the nature and extent of punishment "ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society" (n. 58). Then, he adds: "Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are rare, if not practically non-existent" (ibid).

While affirming the principle set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the use of bloodless means, Evangelium vitae, released only three years after the Catechism, would necessitate an adjustment of the Catechism's language on this subject. Thus, on 9 September 1997, among the adjustments announced, one of the most significant concerned new language regarding the death penalty, specifying that Catholic tradition has allowed for use of the death penalty only when the identity and responsibility of the condemned is certain and capital punishment is the only way to protect the lives of others.

In keeping with Evangelium vitae, the new edition, while not excluding capital punishment absolutely, limits its application to the following conditions: only in cases where the ultimate penalty of death is justified in order to secure the common good (but such cases today are very rare, if not practically non-existent); there must be a full determination of the guilty party's responsibility and identity; the death penalty must be the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor; if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means. There is an important change in this latter condition: the original text which read "public authority should limit itself (to bloodless means)" was changed to "will limit itself to such means".

Nowhere in these comments is it asserted that the death penalty is intrinsically evil or that the state can never exercise it. Quite the contrary. Therefore, Pastors McCain and Weedon have misrepresented Catholic teaching in their polemical thrust of trying to show the great superiority of the Lutheran "two kingdoms" concept: which itself has huge difficulties (problems never more clearly seen than in the political philosophy of the Nazis and the passive, docile reaction of the German populace to it, precisely because -- it could plausibly be argued -- they were told that religion and state were entirely separate entities altogether).

The Lutheran two kingdoms notion is itself hopelessly confused and inadequate. Pastor Weedon writes:

The papacy across the years has had a fatal tendency to confuse the two - and there was certainly a time when the Bishop of Rome claimed that both swords and kingdoms were his by virtue of being Christ's vicar upon earth. The Lutheran Church's clarity on this perennial and vexing question needs to be heeded more.
Why, then, did Martin Luther and his right-hand man and successor Philip Melanchthon adopt a "State Church" model of ecclesiology right from the beginning: appealing to the Lutheran princes to preside over their churches rather than the Catholic bishops? This led to all sorts of silly and foolish political-religious situations such as any "region's" religious affinities (hence the people within the region) being determined by what the ruler believed:
    In 1556 the Pfalsgraf, Otto Heinrich, declared the doctrine of Luther to be the exclusive religion of the land. But his successor, Frederick III, only three years later, established Calvinism as the State religion. His son, Ludwig, however, in 1576 brought Lutheranism in again, and banished from the country all Calvinist ministers, teachers and officials. In 1583 the pendulum swung back once more, and Ludwig's brother Johann re-established Calvinism. Thus the unhappy people, in the space of less than forty years, were compelled to change their religious faith four times, to say nothing of the original change from Catholicism to Protestantism!

    (John Stoddard, Rebuilding a Lost Faith, New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1922, 98)

If that is not mixing church and state, what is? Luther and Melanchthon also played a lot of verbal games and mental gymnastics in determining, e.g., that the Anabaptists were "seditious" (thereby allowing the civil government to execute them on secular grounds). Let's look at a few of their statements (and those of historians) along these lines:
"Were it not for the princes and lords," says Luther, "we could not stand much longer. Let us then pray for our Elector, that he may be able to preserve the Church."

(Martin Luther, cited in Johannes Janssen, History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages, 16 volumes, translated by A.M. Christie, St. Louis: B. Herder, 1910 [orig. 1891], Vol. V, 286; citing Werke, Halle edition, 1753, J.G. Walch, editor, Vol. I, 2444)

In Lutheran Europe civil courts became the only courts, secular power the only legal power. Secular rulers appointed Church personnel, appropriated Church property . . . The Church became subject to the state. The Lutheran movement, which thought to submit all life to theology, unwittingly, unwillingly, advanced that pervasive secularization which is a basic theme of modern life.

(Will Durant, The Reformation, [volume 6 of 10-volume The Story of Civilization, 1967], New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957, 377)

Luther . . . despised the common people . . . Luther had to transfer to the state most of the authority that had been held by the Church; therefore he defended the divine right of kings.
      The hand that wields the secular sword is not a human hand but the hand of God. It is God, not man, who hangs, and breaks on the wheel, and decapitates, and flogs; it is God who wages war.

    In this exaltation of the state . . . lay the seeds of the absolutist philosophies of Hobbes and Hegel, and a premonition of Imperial Germany.

    (Durant, ibid., 448; citing Weimar Ausgabe edition of Luther's Works [Werke] in German, 1883, Vol. XIX, 626)

Melanchthon had afterwards abundant reason to regret his appeal to secular power . . . Hence his exclamation: "If only I could revive the jurisdiction of the bishops! For I see what sort of Church we shall have if the ecclesiastical constitution is destroyed."

(Hartmann Grisar, Luther, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, 6 volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917, Vol.VI, 270; citing Bretschneider, editor, Corpus Reformation, Halle, 1846, Vol. II, 234; letter to Camerarius)

Here, as elsewhere, Lutherans have no grounds to be condescending of serious Catholic attempts to harmonize the realms of the civil government and the Christian kingdom of God, and to promote a larger culture of life. And they have a responsibility to better understand it before setting out to blast it on their blogs with pictures of baloney, etc. They might be better served by concentrating their vigorous condemnations on things like the ELCA's official pro-abortion position, rather than distorting crucial, fundamental details with regard to the Catholic Church's attempt to promote a culture of life by making the death penalty as rare an event as possible.

END