Sunday, March 28, 2010

What is Meant When Catholics Refer to Scripture (in a Limited Sense) as a "Dead Letter"? (Not What Many May Think!)

By Dave Armstrong (3-28-10)

This all started in comments on my blog from one "Ronnie": an anti-Catholic Protestant apologist. Here are some of his words (in blue) from a previous combox:

Protestants are daily defending Holy Scriptures against Catholics who treat it as any other book. The claim it is dead, confusing, and impossible to understand is part of the typical Catholic apologetic arsenal on the net. Have you defended Scriptures against those charges often? Well, we do it almost on a daily basis. (3-30-10)

I was only repeating what I have read Catholics say on the internet on a number of occasions. . . . In case you didn’t know I used to spend almost 6 days a week debating Catholics on a number of prominent boards. Most of the time it was defending the Scriptures against the most scurrilous charges. I’ve seen Catholics that will not stop at no level to denigrate the Scriptures if it helps to prop up the infallible church. Now you can act all shocked and demand all details, but this came from discussions on a number of forums all on the internet. . . . However, I did do a quick search on the internet and found this in less than 10 seconds:
The Scriptures indeed is a divine book but it is a dead letter, which has to be explained, and cannot exercise the action which the preacher can obtain.

Our Priesthood, by Rev. Joseph Bruneau, S.D.D., p 155, B. Herder Company, 1911 ("nihil obstat" by M.F. Dinneen, S.S.,D.D. -Censor deputatus, "imprimatur" by James Cardinal Gibbons -Archbishop of Baltimore, "Re-Imprimatur" by Michael J. Curley -Archbishop of Baltimore). ]

...(The Bible is) A dead and speechless book.

[Bertrand L. Conway,
Question Box, p 67, The Columbus Press, 1913.]

The simple fact is that the Bible, like all dead letters
, calls for a living interpreter.[The Faith of Millions, by Rev. John A. O'Brien, Ph.D., LL.D., p 155, published by Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 1938, ("nihil obstat" by Rev. T. E. Dillon-Censor Librorum and "imprimatur" by John Francis Noll, D.D. -Bishop of Fort Wayne). ]

We confess that the Holy Scripture is imperfect, and a dead letter
, until it is explained by the Supreme Pontiff, and allowed by him to be read by the laity.

[Roman Catholic Confessions for Protestants Oath, Article XXI, (Confessio Romano-Catholica in Hungaria Evangelicis publice praescripta te proposita, editi a Streitwolf), as recorded in Congressional Record of the U.S.A., House Bill 1523, Contested election case of Eugene C. Bonniwell, against Thos. S. Butler, Feb. 15, 1913.]

It is the Church, the holder of Tradition, that gives life to the
dead letter of Scripture. Experience shows that it is only in the life of the Church, the Bride of Christ, that Scripture, divinely inspired as it is, becomes 'living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword' (Heb 4:12)

[-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture [edited by Dom Bernard Orchard] , 1951 (pg 2) ]

(3-30-10 on my blog)

The phrase "dead letter" usually means that words on a page ultimately have to be interpreted (as Scripture itself says many times). The above examples were not intended to deny biblical inspiration or to "run down" the Bible. Some of the quotes above even mention inspiration in the same context:

The Scriptures indeed is a divine [i.e., inspired] book but it is a dead letter, which has to be explained, . . .

the dead letter of Scripture. . . . Scripture, divinely inspired as it is, . . .
"...(The Bible is) A dead and speechless book." Bertrand L. Conway, Question Box, p 67, The Columbus Press, 1913.

Taken in isolation, this sounds terrible. He, too, means it in the sense of "dead letter" or, in other words, being unable to interpret itself in all cases. So he wrote:

How indeed could a dead and speechless book, that cannot be cross-questioned to settle doubts or decide controversies, be the exclusive and all-sufficient teacher of God's revelation. (p. 67)

He was not denying its inspiration at all. He asserts it twice on the previous page (66). On the next page, he cites the Bible itself, saying that it is difficult to interpret (citing 2 Peter 3:16 and Acts 8:30-31). In my own copy of the newer version of the same book (1929), the author spends three and a half pages in three sections (pp. 64-67) talking about biblical inspiration. The newer version of the above section mentions "the inspired Scriptures" in the previous sentence, and continues:

The Bible itself is but a dead letter calling for a divine interpreter; it is not arranged in systematic form like a creed or catechism; it is often obscure and hard to be understood, as st. Peter says of the Epistles of St. Paul (2 Peter 3:16; Cf. Acts 8:30-31). (p. 76)

It's amazing what a little bit of context will do, isn't it? There is no denial of biblical inspiration at all (that was left for Protestant liberals to do after they became disenchanted with Lutheranism and Calvinism in the late 18th century). All Catholics are saying is that the Bible needs to be interpreted. Since it says this about itself, it should be a completely uncontroversial claim. But so it is, because of the unbiblical doctrine of sola Scriptura.

The Online Etymology Dictionary states: "Dead letter is from 1703, used of laws lacking force as well as uncollected mail." Enforcement of laws is analogous to necessary interpretation of Scripture. The truth can be sitting there, even inspired, but unless it is applied (interpreted, made binding where necessary) it has no "force." That's why Paul lays such a huge emphasis on tradition and the Church, rather than on Scripture alone, as I demonstrated in my last post.

When I said Catholic treat the Bible as any other book I didn’t mean that in the absolute sense. Because I know in a sense it is like any other book. It has written words that you need to read in context of the letter and the time in which it was written, etc. However, I was speaking of like any other book, in that they think the book is dead or a dead letter without an infallible interpreter. The Scriptures tell a different story. They are “God speaking”. They are “active and alive”, they “discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart” they are “spirit and life”, and they “accomplishes what God desires”. This not dependent on the interpretation of the magisterium, but the Spirit of God. (3-31-10)

When John Calvin refers to the views of some on Scripture being "dead" and a "dead letter," he refers to the Libertines (Inst., I, 9:1, 3) and the arguments he makes as a retort, Catholics would agree with.

Martin Luther argues similarly to Calvin (and we agree with him for the most part). When he argued against those who see Scripture as a "dead letter" it is against the Protestant "fanatics" -- not Catholics. He writes:

Although the letter in itself does not give life, yet it must be present and heard and received, and the Holy Spirit must work through it in the heart, and the heart must be preserved in faith through and in the Word.

(cf. similar commentary by Luther; drawn from another source)

Thomas Henry Louis Parker, in his book, Calvin: an introduction to his thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995) writes:

It is true that Scripture can be a dead letter, a letter that kills (2 Corinthians 3:6); but it is dead and death-dealing precisely when it is separated from the grace of Christ and is a mere sound in the ears, leaving the heart untouched. (p. 27)

This is curious that you would claim to agree with Calvin as Calvin is saying something different than the quotes I provided from Catholic sources that you agreed with. From the Catholic perspective it seems the necessary condition to make the Scriptures alive is the interpretation of the magisterium. Calvin is agreeing with my critique of this position even though his target is different. He is essentially saying you cannot separate the word of God(i.e. Scripture ) from the Spirit of God as the libertines were trying to do. Likewise, Catholics call it a dead letter without the infallible interpreter. Calvin and I would say the word of God and Spirit of God are “joined together with an inviolable bond” and therefore the word is always alive accomplishing what God pleases. Jesus himself said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (3-31-10)

And again, we see many other Protestants saying basically the same thing:

The "word" that makes Christian ordinances valid is not the past utterance of God alone, which may remain a dead letter, preserved in the oracles of Scripture or the official forms of the Church, but that word alive and active, re-spoken and transmitted from soul to soul by the breath of the Holy Spirit.

(Marcus Dods et al, An Exposition of the Bible, Vol. VI: Ephesians - Revelation, Hartford, Conn.: the S.S. Scranton Co., 1903, p. 93)

I am not arguing that the Scriptures are a dead letter that somehow 'become' the Word of God in a moment of revelation through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, as some neo-orthodox have argued. These scholars, in my view, have confused the origin of the Scriptures (inspiration) with the spiritual recognition of the Scriptures (illumination). Rather, I hold that the Scriptures are objectively the Word of God, whether or not any individual has come to the place of recognizing them as such. Nevertheless, neither the origin nor the function of the Scriptures can be properly articulated outside of the context of the work of God the Holy Spirit.

(A. T. B. McGowan, The Divine Authenticity of Scripture: Retrieving an Evangelical Heritage, Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008, p. 29)

Therefore, Scripture (graphe) remains a dead letter (gamma) unless the Spirit of Christ intervenes (2 Cor. 3:14-17 . . .).

(Johan Christiaan Beker, Paul the Apostle, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1980, p. 121)

The Bible and the Church must correspond in order to a living Christianity. This can be accomplished, not be regarding the Bible as a dead-letter, a canon of law, a quarry for dogma, but as a divino-human organism filled with the divine grace and the energy of the divine Spirit, which will show its efficiency when apprehended and used by a living faith and a progressive and aggressive church. The Bible is full of light, but the illumination of the Spirit alone can disclose it. The Bible is a storehouse of treasures of doctrine and of life, of which as yet the Church, after nearly nineteen centuries, has but a very inadequate conception.

(Charles Augustus Briggs, in The Presbyterian Review, Vol. V, New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1884, p. 388)

[see also Protestants Christopher Elwood and Ron Hill, Calvin for Armchair Theologians (p. 51) ]

Catholics are not saying anything all that much different. Here is what we teach:

Filled with a new spirit, which has been poured into us by the incarnate Word, we have to adore God in a new way. We have to listen to the Spirit of truth, the life-giving Spirit, who pulls us away from the dead letter. Henceforth we ourselves must live "not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. . . . It is the spiritual understanding that makes the spiritual man, the new man, the free man. Let us, then, reject fleshly servitude as we read Scripture, and let us rather embrace the understanding that liberates.

(Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis: the Four Senses of Scripture, Vol. I, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1998, pp. 259-260)

For the Spirit -- never separated from Christ -- is the sovereign Lord of tradition (both of its content and of the act of communicating it), just as he is Lord of Scripture (which remains a dead letter apart from him) and most definitely Lord of ecclesial office, which we have just described as a prominent form of charism.

(Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-logic: Vol. III: The Spirit of Truth, translated by Graham Harrison, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005 [from 1987 German], p. 319)

111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."

The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.

113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church").

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition)

[See also Catholic George Henry Tavard]

We place more authority in the teaching function and interpretive prerogatives of the Church, but most Protestants also have creeds and confessions and some strong sense of a teaching church (albeit not an infallible one). They have boundaries, too. We see that especially in the Briggs citation not far above. A Calvinist can't deny TULIP and expect to be accepted in good standing in a Reformed congregation. In most instances he will be asked to leave if he is obstinate. He interpreted Scripture wrongly, according to that belief-system and whatever local authority is enforcing it. Lutherans are famous for catechisms. Luther wrote two himself. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion was supposed to serve a similar function.

Since the Catholic Church only infallibly interprets very few biblical passages (just seven), practically speaking, the differences between a Catholic reading Scripture and a Protestant are not that great. Both need to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, have faith that what they are reading is inspired revelation, and be willing to follow what the Bible teaches (doctrinally and morally). The Catholic simply subjects his private judgment to that of the Church, in the case that they disagree with each other.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

John Calvin's Mocking of Michael Servetus's Initial Reaction to His Death Sentence (Burning at the Stake)

By Dave Armstrong (3-25-10)

John Calvin -- whatever his commendable qualities were -- seems to have had a bit of a cruel, sadistic streak. I have noted in another paper how he seemed to be quite pleased in 1555 that the sufferings of (wrongly) condemned men were prolonged by the ineptitude of an executioner ("it is not without the special will of God that, apart from any verdict of the judges, the criminals have endured protracted torment at the hands of the executioner"), and noted condescendingly (in the same situation) how rack torture would be productive of useful information.

It is a particularly outrageous touch that he connects and ascribes this extra torment to the "special will of God." He was at least consistent: this is the sort of horrific conclusion that the denial of human free will inexorably leads to.

In the famous case of the pantheist heretic Michael Servetus, we know that Calvin favored (and indeed actively sought) the man's execution for heresy (a common opinion of those times from Catholics and Protestants and Catholics alike). Calvin at least mercifully tried to have him beheaded rather than burned at the stake. But what I find chilling (and sadly revealing) is his callous account of how Servetus reacted to the announcement of his impending execution:

At first he was stunned and then sighed so as to be heard throughout the whole room; then he moaned like a madman and had no more composure than a demoniac. At length his cries so increased that he continually beat his breast and bellowed in Spanish, "Mercy! Mercy!"

(in Bruce Gordon, Calvin, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, p. 223; cited from Roland H. Bainton, Hunted Heretic; the Life and Death of Michael Servetus, 1511-1553, Boston: Beacon Press, 1960, p. 209)

But lest idle scoundrels should glory in the insane obstinacy of the man, as in a martyrdom, there appeared in his death a beastly stupidity; whence it might be concluded that, on the subject of religion, he never was in earnest. When the sentence of death had been passed upon him he stood fixed; now as one astounded, now he sighed deeply; and now he howled like a maniac, and at length he just gained strength enough to bellow out after the Spanish manner, misericordia! misericordia!
(William Hamilton Drummond, The Life of Michael Servetus, London: John Chapman, 1848, p. 144; primary source information and the original Latin rendering of the above are included in a footnote on the same page)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

1 Timothy 3:15: Was My Take in "The Catholic Verses" the "Worst Exegesis Ever"?

By Dave Armstrong (3-23-10)

A book review blog called Diglotting made the following short "review" (if one can call it that) of my book, The Catholic Verses. I reproduce it in its entirety:

* * * * *

Worst Exegesis Ever
A while back I was reading Dave Armstrong’s The Catholic Verses. What he does is take 95 passages from the Bible and then attempts to show why these passages “confound protestants.” 
One passage he tackles is 1 Timothy 3:15, which says, “…the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” 
This is what Dave Armstrong says about this verse …
Catholics accept this passage at face value: the Church is the ground or foundation of truth; it is infallible; it is specially protected by the Holy Spirit so that it can be the Guardian and Preserver of apostolic tradition and truth and doctrine.
That is pure and simple eisegesis. He is merely reading back what he believes to be true into the text of Timothy. Essentially, he is saying, “Seeing as I am a Catholic, and I believe that the Catholic Church is infallible, when Paul then says that the Church is the foundation of truth, he must mean that the church is infallible.” 
But what in the actual text would even begin to lead one to think that the Church is infallible and guided by the Holy Spirit from falling into doctrinal error and infallibly preserving apostolic tradition? Nothing at all. 
Perhaps the reason Paul called the Church the “pillar and foundation of the truth” is because it is the Church’s job to proclaim the gospel of Jesus (who is “the Truth”).

Additional Comments:

Carl Sweatman

Armstrong’s reading also assumes that Paul has in mind an institutionalised paradigm for church–i.e. a specific entity (read: building) to which all of society comes for healing. I would say that Paul’s view of ‘church’ is the opposite–i.e. the healing (read: believers) is dispersed throughout society.

Jeremy Peterson

Foundations are just where things begin. It doesn’t mean they don’t have faults or cracks – sometimes so severe that the buildings themselves are destroyed because of them.

T.C. R.

Yep! Downright careless and yielding to that anachronistic fallacy. I see more of that certain of thing even among evangelicals. Ha!

I then put in my $00.02 worth (I have added some additional thoughts that go beyond the initial blog comment). I absolutely love these sorts of challenges, because on the spot I came up with an analogical, biblically cross-referenced argument that I don't believe I have ever used or even thought of before (it came to me simply by searching for "foundation" in Scripture).

* * *

I see. I'm curious, then. How do you interpret the following passage?:

Ephesians 2:19-21: . . . you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;

This is also a foundation. Does it, too, have "faults or cracks"? Since Jesus is the cornerstone, are you saying that it can be a faulty foundation, with Jesus included in that? Are the apostles and prophets also fallible when proclaiming prophecy or the gospel or the inspired Bible message? If so, where do we see any hint of that in Holy Scripture? And I assume you are aware that the Church is often described as the Body of Christ as well. So Jesus has a place in the Church, just as He does in the gospel. The two can't be separated. In fact, the "household of God" is indeed the Church, since 1 Timothy 3:15 itself uses the same exact phrase as a synonym for the Church.

Where in Scripture, for that matter, does "truth" ever equal less than the total truth and nothing but the truth? In my more recent book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths I collected 40 passages about "truth" in the NT: showing that it was synonymous with sacred tradition. I don't see where it is taught that it is anything less than pure truth, unmixed with error. That was certainly how Paul conceived his own "tradition" that he received and passed down. The same applies to the biblical synonyms "the faith" and "the commandment" and "the doctrine" and "teaching" and "the message" and (yes) "the gospel" or "good news": all essentially identical with the notion of sacred, apostolic tradition.

Yet when I make a strong Catholic statement on the Church as the "pillar and foundation of the truth" in line with all this other scriptural data, all of a sudden it is laughable and the "worst exegesis ever." But if "truth" is a very strong concept in Scripture, certainly the "pillar and foundation" of same (which the Bible describes as the Church, not Scripture) is at least equally strong, if not even more so.

Of course, you only cited one sentence of what was a nearly four-page section on the verse, so readers get no idea of the overall thrust of my argument, which was (per the modus operandi of the book) a critique of Protestant exegesis and the internal contradictions therein, not a comprehensive presentation of Catholic exegesis. Many people seem to misunderstand my aim in this book, but it is laid out very carefully in the Introduction, so there should be no mystery.

I can grant that the statement you cite is not technically exegesis, and probably should have been worded a bit differently, so that it didn't appear that I was claiming to be doing such. What I was doing there was stating Catholic dogma, which is entirely consistent or harmonious with that passage; not necessarily entirely drawn from it alone, as if every jot and tittle of Catholic ecclesiology is present in 1 Timothy 3:15. Of course it is not. But there is also doctrinal development, and there is a mountain of related scriptural data that we incorporate: some of which I have briefly recounted above.

Nowhere do I claim in the book that I am attempting to do exegesis as occurs, for example, in a Bible commentary written by a theologian or Bible scholar. It's simply not the same thing. But I think I have some valid insights in the book that need to seriously be dealt with, not just dismissed with insults. One must first thoroughly understand that which they are critiquing, and the post and comments here do not convince me at all that this is the case.

I contend, therefore, that it is not so much a matter of my reading into Scripture in one passage, something that is not there in every minute particular, as much as it is a case of non-Catholics omitting (or "reading out") literally dozens of other passages about truth, about the Church, about the rule of faith, and apostolic succession, and tradition, and bishops (and Petrine primacy and the papacy), and councils (particularly the Jerusalem Council), etc. (i.e., relevant data from from cross-referencing and systematic theology).

* * *

Armstrong’s reading also assumes that Paul has in mind an institutionalised paradigm for church–i.e. a specific entity (read: building)

Catholics (as usual) think in “both/and” terms here: there is a notion of the Mystical Body of Christ and also of an institutional Church, and this is entirely biblical. You want an institutional Church in connection with St. Paul? I submit the Jerusalem Council:

Acts 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. . . .
Acts 15:25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, . . . 

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .
Paul thought so much of this institutional council, led by the Holy Spirit, that he went around proclaiming its decrees (which were binding):

Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
What do you make of all that? Maybe you can bless us with some of the “best exegesis ever” to counteract my alleged “worst”. LOL
* * *
Are the apostles and prophets also fallible when proclaiming prophecy or the gospel or the inspired Bible message? If so, where do we see any hint of that in Holy Scripture?
Diglot [the one who wrote the initial post]: I would say that they are fallible. Paul confronted Peter about his hypocrisy as seen in Galatians 2. As Paul said, Peter’s behaviour “was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” That is at least one instance where an apostle was fallible in proclaiming the truth of the gospel message in his life.

The example you give — with all due respect — has not a whit to do with fallibility or infallibility, because that is a matter of truth claims and preservation of same, not of behavior. Apples and oranges. If I said “2+2=4″ while stealing an apple, the act of stealing would have nothing whatsoever to do with the “non-fallibility” of the mathematical assertion.

Likewise, Peter is not shown to be fallible simply because he was a hypocrite at one point. Some have argued that Paul was, too, since he had Timothy circumcised after the Jerusalem Council that declared it was no longer necessary for Gentiles. He did it (as I understand) because of the Jews around them at the time (in other words, precisely Peter’s shortcoming that Paul rebuked him for).
By the same token, Scripture doesn’t become “fallible” because it was largely written by a bunch of serious sinners (Moses, David, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul).

The gospel is proclaimed not only by our words but also by our actions.

Yes, of course. But truth propositions are logically distinct from actions. Remember, the matter under consideration is the Church as the foundation of truth. Saying Jesus is God or that God created the world or that we are sinners or that it is wrong to steal or lie or that a circle is round or a=a or that I am not you are all true assertions. This is what we’re talking about. If I steal a banana at the supermarket it has no bearing on the truth of the statement “stealing is a sin” (even if I made it at the same time I was stealing). The two do not nullify each other. My action doesn’t change the true proposition. It changes the state of my soul: from being a consistent Christian to (until I repent) being one guilty of serious sin.

Peter’s actions were fallible, so why not his words?

Again, you are mixing apples and oranges. You have your categories all mixed up. Infallibility has a particular meaning and an etymology. Hence,
1. (of persons) liable to err, esp. in being deceived or mistaken.
2. liable to be erroneous or false; not accurate: fallible information.
early 15c., from M.L. fallibilis “liable to err, deceitful.” lit. “that can be deceived,” from L. fallere “deceive.” Fallibility.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
1. absolutely trustworthy or sure: an infallible rule.
2. unfailing in effectiveness or operation; certain: an infallible remedy.
3. not fallible; exempt from liability to error, as persons, their judgment, or pronouncements: an infallible principle.
4. Roman Catholic Church. immune from fallacy or liability to error in expounding matters of faith or morals by virtue of the promise made by Christ to the Church.
This is clearly related to matters of truth or falsity; propositions, teachings, doctrines; as I have stated. What you keep talking about is the different notion of impeccability (a very common Protestant confusion):
1. faultless; flawless; irreproachable: impeccable manners.
2. not liable to sin; incapable of sin.
1531, “not capable of sin,” from M.Fr. impeccable (15c.), from L. impeccabilis “not liable to sin,” from in- “not” + pecare “to sin,” of unknown origin.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Until you start to distinguish these two concepts, then the discussion can’t progress forward. 1 Timothy 3:15 is talking about truth; hence it has (we argue) quite plausible relation to infallibility, once we examine what truth is in Scripture. It’s not talking about sin or perfection or lack of hypocrisy, which are different things.

I was accused of producing the “worst exegesis” ever, yet now I have to go through very basic explanations of logic and category? That is what I find amusing in all this. Words mean things. Truth has a meaning and so does infallibility, and they are directly related. That’s why my take on the passage was indeed relevant and not groundless or ridiculous, as you contended.

And where does it talk about infallibility in 1 Timothy 3:15? I wasn’t talking about impeccability by the way.

What I was saying is that I see no reason to think Peter (or the other apostles) were infallible when proclaiming the gospel or Biblical message (as you claim they were). Nothing in 1 Tim 3:15 teaches that.

You seem to see 1 Tim 3:15 as teaching Peter being infallible in proclaiming the gospel because of your pre-conceived notion of what the “truth” must imply for the people who proclaim it.

Whereas, I see no reason for Peter (or the other apostles) being infallible in proclaiming the gospel or the “inspired Bible message.” And the only evidence that would make me think so would be if they lived out the gospel message in perfection. Peter certainly didn’t do that. But Jesus did, and that is why I believe Him to be infallible in proclaiming the gospel.You may not agree with my reasoning, but that does not really matter, because it is the evidence that I would require to believe that someone is infallible in proclaiming the gospel.

One more thing before I go to sleep for the night. The reason that my responses are “dinkiness” to you is because you haven’t really given me anything meaningful to respond to. I am sure you think you have provided some cogent argumentation but I haven’t seen it yet. I guess I am still trying to find where 1 Tim 3:15 says that the church is “infallible”, as you still have not shown me.

We are done then, having accomplished nothing. You have ignored virtually all of the argumentation I have produced, while I have been dealing systematically and comprehensively with yours. Having done that, you claim that I “haven’t really given [you] anything meaningful to respond to.” Fine. That means we are finished. Where else could we go?

Whatever the merits of any man’s argument, it must at least be dealt with (not ignored) if there is to be any meaningful dialogue. And you simply have not done that. You went off on this rabbit trail of sin and hypocrisy from the start, which has nothing to do with the topic at hand. You can’t see why. I am powerless to show you the error of your ways. You start out with a way-over-the-top insult; I elaborate in great detail, offering a number of supporting arguments, exactly on-topic and relevant to the discussion. But you direct the discussion the way you want it (off-topic rabbit trail) and then say all my additional arguments are meaningless.

It’s great postmodernist-type mush, but hardly a rationally productive discussion. And you prove it is subjective mush by insisting that the criterion for convincing you must be determined by the parameters of the subject matter as you (fallaciously) define it; not as the Bible defines it over and over. Yet you accuse me of eisegesis?!

Wow. I am astonished. In any event, we must amiably agree to disagree and end a futile discussion. God bless you and all here.

Well, I just haven’t found where the Bible defines infallibility “over and over.” Thanks for stopping by.

Like I said, if you do a word study of "truth" and “tradition” and “the faith” and “the commandment” and “the doctrine” and “teaching” and “the message” and “the gospel” / “good news” and ponder the meanings and connection of all of the above, the notion of infallibility of something other than the Bible itself, will, I believe, become very clear to you in due course.
Be well and I wish you and yours a blessed and joyous Easter.

John Calvin's Disgust Over Genevan Morals, Betrayal, Lutheran "Beasts," Etc. / Inflated Self-Comparison to King David

By Dave Armstrong (3-23-10)

From: John Dillenberger, editor, John Calvin: Selections From His Writings, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co. [Anchor Books], 1971, p. 47:

[I]f Luther has so great a lust of victory, he will never be able to join along with us in a sincere agreement respecting the pure truth of God. For he has sinned against it not only from vainglory and abusive language, but also from ignorance and the grossest extravagance. For what absurdities he pawned upon us in the beginning, when he said the bread is the very body! And if now he imagines that the body of Christ is enveloped by the bread, I judge that he is chargeable with a very foul error. What can I say of the partisans of that cause? Do they not romance more wildly than Marcion respecting the body of Christ? . . . [Letter to Martin Bucer, 12 January 1538]

* * *

From: Jules Bonnet, editor, Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Letters, Part 1, 1528-1545, volume 4 of 7; translated by David Constable; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983; reproduction of Letters of John Calvin, volume I [Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858], p. 449:

[C]ertainly I am abundantly tormented when I am thinking and meditating on our concerns; for, as usual, I have to wrestle in darkness with hypocrisy. [Letter to Viret, 12 February 1545]
* * *

From: Paul Henry; translated by Henry Stebbing, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer, Vol. II, London: Whittaker & Co., 1849, p. 68 (from 1547):

I am ashamed to preach the Word here among you, where such horrible disorders are taking place; and were I to follow my inclination, I should pray God to take me from this world. I would not live three days amid the vanities by which I am surrounded. And shall we still boast that we have established a reformation! . . . I know not indeed whether God may not send the executioner among us, refusing as we do to hear the admonitions of his mouth: yea, there is reason to fear that he is preparing to raise his armed hand. But this is not said to excite resistance against him, but that we may confess our misery, and no longer harden ourselves in sin. . . . let the clergy labour more diligently to cleanse the churches of their impurity . . .

* * *
Author Paul Henry observes (pp. 313-314):

Calvin rightly said, that if the church was everywhere disturbed, in the case of Geneva it was tossed to and from like the ark in the deluge. . . . Before the commencement of the decisive year 1555, we hear him pouring out his deep sighs, and expressing, like Melanchthon, his wish to die [Calvin to Wolf, Jan. 1555]: he uttered the same feelings at a somewhat later period [Ed. Laus. Ep. 216, Oct. 10, 1555]
* * *

From: Jules Bonnet, editor, Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Letters, Part 2, 1545-1553, volume 5 of 7; translated by David Constable; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983; reproduction of Letters of John Calvin, volume II [Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858]:

Their wickedness has, however, reached such a pitch, that I hardly hope to be able any longer to retain any kind of position for the Church, especially under my ministry. My influence is gone, believe me, unless God stretch forth his hand. [Letter to Viret, 14 December 1547] (p. 149)

But while our brethren are persecuted by open enemies, we ourselves must needs be troubled by those of our own household. [Letter to Monsieur de Falais, 19 December 1547] (p. 150)

Our affairs are in no better condition. I do not cease to press upon them, but I cause them to make little or no advancement. I am now returning from the Senate; I said a great deal, but it is like telling a story to the deaf. May the Lord restore them to their right mind. [Letter to Viret, 23 December 1547] (p. 151)

I have not yet made up my mind as to what I am finally to do, beyond this, that I can no longer tolerate the manners of this people, even though they should bear with mine: and withal I do not understand why they object to my severity. [Letter to Viret, 26 December 1547] (p. 151)

We have inspired some fear in our men, and nevertheless there is as yet no appearance of amendment. Such is their shamelessness, that they devour with open and regardless ears all our clamours; finally, the diseases of many are incurable. For, thus far we have essayed almost all methods with no success. [Letter to Farel, 28 December 1547] (pp. 152-153)

My grief prevents me from saying anything of the dreadful calamity that hangs over so many churches. [Letter to Farel, 30 April 1548] (p. 164; the editor adds: "the Swiss Churches were a prey to the most grievous dissensions, and appeared further removed than ever from that era of unity and peace which Calvin never ceased to invoke for them")
In their madness they even drew idolatry after them. For what else is the adorable sacrament of Luther but an idol set up in the temple of God? [Letter to Martin Bucer, June 1549] (p. 234)

* * *

From: Thomas Henry Dyer, The Life of John Calvin, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1850:

Writing to Bullinger on the 18th of September, 1554, Calvin says: "Meanwhile I am attacked by our neighbors in a way which it is too little to call atrocious. The preachers in the Bernese territory denounce me from the pulpit as a heretic even worse than the Papists. The more violently anyone assails me, the more he is favored and protected; meanwhile, I hold my tongue, but God will look down from heaven and avenge me." In another letter, dated the 15th of October [1554], addressed apparently to an old friend, but whose name Beza has suppressed, Calvin thus describes the abuse to which he was subjected: ". . . Dogs bark at me on all sides. Every where I am saluted with the name of 'heretic,' and all the calumnies that can possibly be invented are heaped upon me; in a word, the inimical and malevolent among my own flock attack me with more bitterness than even my declared Papist enemies." (p. 316)
Calvin thus disburdens his grief in a letter to Bullinger [January or February 1555]: "No sooner have we obtained a little quiet in Geneva, than the Bernese council absolves not only those who had denounced me for a heretic, but sends forth raging enemies against me and the church -- nay, we are even accused as criminals . . . Among other things, they have forbidden their subjects, by public edicts, to take the communion with us. Wonder no longer at the barbarity of the Saxons, when the church is thus distracted out of hatred to a man who would have sacrificed his neck a hundred times to purchase peace. But nothing afflicts me more painfully than that by such signs God plainly foreshadows his wrath. Well, if it will appease their hungry wrath, let me be sent into a tedious exile." ( p. 319)

Calvin . . . addressed a remonstrance to the Bernese council, in which he says: ". . . this affair is connected with private hatred against myself, . . . Many in your territories blaspheme against predestination more than is allowed even among the Papists." [4 May 1555] (p. 322)

In a letter to Farel in August, 1557, he says: "With regard to [Joachim] Westphal [a Lutheran] and the rest, it was difficult to follow your advice and be calm. You call those 'brothers,' who, if that name be offered to them by us, do not only reject, but execrate it. And how ridiculous should we appear in bandying the name of brother with those who look upon us as the worst of heretics!" And in another to Bullinger about the same time we find: "You shall judge how dexterously I have treated the Saxons. . . . I know that I shall excite the hatred of them all . . . I have, indeed, not hesitated cheerfully and fearlessly to provoke the fury of those beasts against me, because I am confident that it will be pleasing to God!" (pp. 336-337)

[W]riting to Schaling, a pastor of the church of Ratisbon, in April, 1557 he says: "It is, indeed, to be lamented, that we who profess the same gospel should be distracted by different opinions on the subject of the Lord's Supper, which ought to be the chief bond of union among us. But what is by far more atrocious, we contend with as much hostility as if we had no Christian connection; and the greater part of those who differ from us, I know not from what impulse, boil over as intemperately against us as if our religion were wholly different. . . . the importunity of your countryman, Westphal, dragged me into an odious dispute. Yet I have diligently restrained whatever bitterness he extorted from me, lest he should involve others beside himself; and I shall always take care that the churches shall not be torn and divided through my fault, nor that any one shall be injured by me, unless he professedly attacks me."

It is difficult to reconcile a passage like this with the declarations before quoted, or to consider it as sincere. (p. 337; italics in Dyer)

Although in this letter Calvin appears very desirous of obtaining the concurrence and co-operation of Melanchthon, he speaks very slightingly, not to say contemptuously, of him, in a letter addressed to Sleidan, on the very same day. In this, he says, "How far I should congratulate myself on Philip's agreeing with me on one point I know not, when in the chief heads of doctrine he either sells himself to the philosophers and opposes the truth, or, lest he should excite the anger of certain persons against him, cunningly, or, at all events, disingenuously conceals his opinions." [Ep. 183, Aug. 27th 1554] (p. 339)

In a letter to Bullinger in February, 1558, Calvin says: "The unhappy issue of the conference at Worms does not trouble me so much as Melanchthon's levity is odious and vexatious to me." (p. 344)

[I]n a letter to Bullinger in May, 1560, we find Calvin expressing his intimate agreement with him, and remarking that there was nothing to be hoped for from "the apes of Luther." . . . in another letter to an anonymous correspondent about the same time, he says: "Luther's apes -- for he left but few imitators -- unless one immediately agrees with them when they utter the name of Wittenberg, are raising great disturbances every where. When the Consensus of our church with that of Zurich was published, I had not the slightest apprehension that Westphal would make it an occasion of controversy. I was then compelled to embark in the contest, to tame the beast's ferocity. Afterward I was surprised to find that many were infected with the same fury. But I think that I have so exposed their ignorance, and their wicked calumnies, that all persons of common sense will despise their pride and vain boastings." (p. 345)
* * *

From: Bruce Gordon, Calvin, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, p. 233 (Letter to Johannes Wolf, 25 December 1555; further primary source information on p. 364, footnote 1: accessible at amazon's "Look Inside" function):

Believe me, I had fewer troubles with Servetus and have now with Westphal and his like than I have with those who are close at hand, whose numbers are beyond reckoning and whose passions are irreconcilable. If one could choose, it would be better to be burned once by the papists than to be plagued for eternity by one's neighbors. They do not allow me a moment's rest, although they can clearly see that I am collapsing under the burden of work, troubled by endless sad occurrences, and disturbed by intrusive demands. My one comfort is that death will soon take me from this all too difficult service.

* * *

From: Preface to the Commentary on the Psalms, 1557:

Now, if my readers derive any fruit and advantage from the labor which I have bestowed in writing these Commentaries, I would have them to understand that the small measure of experience which I have had by the conflicts with which the Lord has exercised me, has in no ordinary degree assisted me, not only in applying to present use whatever instruction could be gathered from these divine compositions, but also in more easily comprehending the design of each of the writers. And as David holds the principal place among them, it has greatly aided me in understanding more fully the complaints made by him of the internal afflictions which the Church had to sustain through those who gave themselves out to be her members, that I had suffered the same or similar things from the domestic enemies of the Church. For although I follow David at a great distance, and come far short of equaling him; or rather, although in aspiring slowly and with great difficulty to attain to the many virtues in which he excelled, I still feel myself tarnished with the contrary vices; yet if I have any things in common with him, I have no hesitation in comparing myself with him. In reading the instances of his faith, patience, fervor, zeal, and integrity, it has, as it ought, drawn from me unnumbered groans and sighs, that I am so far from approaching them; but it has, notwithstanding, been of very great advantage to me to behold in him as in a mirror, both the commencement of my calling, and the continued course of my function; so that I know the more assuredly, that whatever that most illustrious king and prophet suffered, was exhibited to me by God as an example for imitation. My condition, no doubt, is much inferior to his, and it is unnecessary for me to stay to show this. But as he was taken from the sheepfold, and elevated to the rank of supreme authority; so God having taken me from my originally obscure and humble condition, has reckoned me worthy of being invested with the honorable office of a preacher and minister of the gospel. . . . necessity was imposed upon me of returning to my former charge, contrary to my desire and inclination. The welfare of this church, it is true, lay so near my heart, that for its sake I would not have hesitated to lay down my life; but my timidity nevertheless suggested to me many reasons for excusing myself from again willingly taking upon my shoulders so heavy a burden. At length, however, a solemn and conscientious regard to my duty, prevailed with me to consent to return to the flock from which I had been torn; but with what grief, tears, great anxiety and distress I did this, the Lord is my best witness, and many godly persons who would have wished to see me delivered from this painful state, had it not been that that which I feared, and which made me give my consent, prevented them and shut their mouths. Were I to narrate the various conflicts by which the Lord has exercised me since that time, and by what trials he has proved me, it would make a long history. But that I may not become tedious to my readers by a waste of words, I shall content myself with repeating briefly what I have touched upon a little before, that in considering the whole course of the life of David, it seemed to me that by his own footsteps he showed me the way, and from this I have experienced no small consolation. As that holy king was harassed by the Philistines and other foreign enemies with continual wars, while he was much more grievously afflicted by the malice and wickedness of some perfidious men amongst his own people, so I can say as to myself, that I have been assailed on all sides, and have scarcely been able to enjoy repose for a single moment, but have always had to sustain some conflict either from enemies without or within the Church. Satan has made many attempts to overthrow the fabric of this Church; and once it came to this, that I, altogether feeble and timorous as I am, was compelled to break and put a stop to his deadly assaults by putting my life in danger, and opposing my person to his blows.. . . During the whole of this lengthened period, I think that there is scarcely any of the weapons which are forged in the workshop of Satan, which has not been employed by them in order to obtain their object. And at length matters had come to such a state, that an end could be put to their machinations in no other way than cutting them off by an ignominious death; which was indeed a painful and pitiable spectacle to me. They no doubt deserved the severest punishment, but I always rather desired that they might live in prosperity, and continue safe and untouched; which would have been the case had they not been altogether incorrigible, and obstinately refused to listen to wholesome admonition. The trial of these five years was grievous and hard to bear; but I experienced not less excruciating pain from the malignity of those who ceased not to assail myself and my ministry with their envenomed calumnies. A great proportion of them, it is true, are so blinded by a passion for slander and detraction, that to their great disgracers they betray at once their impudence, while others, however crafty and cunning, cannot so cover or disguise themselves as to escape being shamefully convicted and disgraced; yet when a man has been a hundred times found innocent of a charge brought against him, and when the charge is again repeated without any cause or occasion, it is an indignity hard to bear. . . . If they were open and avowed enemies who brought these troubles upon me, the thing might in some way be borne. But that those who shroud themselves under the name of brethren, and not only eat Christ’s sacred bread, but also administer it to others, that those, in short, who loudly boast of being preachers of the gospel, should wage such nefarious war against me, how detestable is it? In this matter I may very justly complain with David, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me,” (Psalm 41:9.) “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company,” (Psalm 55:12, 13, 14.) . . . Nor was it enough that I should be so inhumanly treated by my neighbors. In addition to this, in a distant country towards the frozen ocean, there was raised I know not how, by the frenzy of a few, a storm which afterwards stirred up against me a vast number of persons, who are too much at leisure, and have nothing to do but by their bickering to hinder those who are laboring for the edification of the Church. I am still speaking of the internal enemies of the Church—of those who, boasting mightily of the gospel of Christ, nevertheless rush against me with greater impetuosity than against the open adversaries of the Church, because I do not embrace their gross and fictitious notion concerning a carnal way of eating Christ in the sacrament; and of whom I may protest, after the example of David, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war,” (Psalm 120:7.) Moreover, the cruel ingratitude of all of them is manifest in this, that they scruple not to assail both in flank and rear a man who strenuously exerts himself to maintain a cause which they have in common with him and whom therefore they ought to aid and succor. Certainly, if such persons were possessed of even a small portion of humanity, the fury of the Papists which is directed against me with such unbridled violence, would appease the most implacable animosity which they may bear towards me. But since the condition of David was such, that though he had deserved well of his own people, he was nevertheless bitterly hated by many without a cause, as he complains in Psalm 69:4, “I restored that which I took not away,” it afforded me no small consolation when I was groundlessly assailed by the hatred of those who ought to have assisted and solaced me, to conform myself to the example of so great and so excellent a person. This knowledge and experience have been of much service in enabling me to understand The Psalms, so that in my meditations upon them, I did not wander, as it were, in an unknown region. My readers, too, if I mistake not, will observe, that in unfolding the internal affections both of David and of others I discourse upon them as matters of which I have familiar experience.

* * *

From: John Dillenberger, editor, John Calvin: Selections From His Writings, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co. [Anchor Books], 1971, p. 76:

I am carefully on the watch that Lutheranism gain no ground, nor be introduced into France. The best means, believe me, for checking the evil would be that confession written by me . . . [Letter to Heinrich Bullinger, 2 July 1563]

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John Calvin's Sanction of Torture and Belief that Extra Torment Caused by an Inept Executioner was the "Special Will of God"

By Dave Armstrong (3-23-10)

[Calvin's own words will be highlighted in blue]

From: Williston Walker, John Calvin: The Organiser of Reformed Protestantism, 1509-1564, New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons; The Knickerbocker Press, 1906 [a non-Catholic work], pp. 353-355:

The Comparets, who were in the city prison, were now examined with cruel torture to force from them the acknowledgment of a conspiracy . . .

Calvin's share in these events was not official. The trials and condemnations were the work of the civil authorities. His participation in the struggle was none the less real . . . He expressed satisfaction that torture would probably wring from two of the prisoners the information desired. [To Farel, Opera, xv. 693. Eng. trans. Letters of John Calvin (Phila.) Vol. iii. 206. "Before ten days we shall see, I hope, what the rack will wring from them."] In spite of his aversion to cruel deaths, which has already been noted, he saw a special act of God's judgment in the prolongation of the sufferings of the Comparets through an unskilfulness on the part of the executioner which the Genevan government rebuked by the banishment of that official. [Ibid.; Opera, xxi. 610] He felt that the authorities had been, if anything, too moderate in their action. [To Bullinger, Ibid., xv. 684] It is Calvin in his hardest and most unsympathetic mood that here expresses himself; but it should be remembered in explanation that he had suffered for years almost to the shipwreck of a work which he believed to be even more that of God than his own at the hands of the party the destruction of which he now witnessed with such satisfaction.

* * *

From: Hugh Young Reyburn, John Calvin: His Life, Letters, and Work, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914 [a non-Catholic work], pp. 202-205:

One of the two men, Comparet, who had been arrested, was condemned on 27 June [1555] to have his head cut off, his body quartered, and the sections exposed in different places according to custom. His head with one quarter of his body was fastened to the gibbet referred to. . . . the younger Comparet was simply beheaded. The executioner did his work so clumsily that he added needless pangs to the victim's agony, and the Council punished him by dismissing him from his office for a year and a day. Calvin, on the other hand, wrote to Farel on 24 July, "I am persuaded that it is not without the special will of God that, apart from any verdict of the judges, the criminals have endured protracted torment at the hands of the executioner." [Opera, xv. 693] . . .

It was determined to get the truth out of him [Francois Daniel], and Calvin wrote to Farel on 24 July [Opera, xv. 693], "We shall see in a couple of days, I hope, what the torture will wring from him." . . .

Although he was neither consulted as to the torture, nor was present when it was applied, Calvin certainly approved of it. . . .

It is unfortunate for Calvin's reputation that he should have thought the use of torture justifiable under any circumstances, and it is still more unfortunate that he commended the use of it to prove that which was evident. . . . All that was proved was a sudden flare-up on the street created by the reckless folly of some half-intoxicated Libertines. Nevertheless, the Council acted as if the rioters had been the agents of a carefully-laid scheme of revolution.

* * *

Georgia Harkness, in John Calvin: The Man and His Ethics (New York: Abingdon Press, 1931; reprinted 1958; a non-Catholic work) , reiterates much of this information (pp. 47-49); several times seemingly almost citing (paraphrasing) Walker (as relatively "lazy" biographers are too often wont to do). She mentions Calvin's letter to Heinrich Bullinger, of 15 June 1555 and "Opera, xv, 675 f" and writes:

It is easy here, as in the Servetus case, to say that Calvin was inhumanly bloodthirsty. In fact, he received a good deal of contemporary criticism from the other Swiss churches for his part in the affair . . . Unofficially, he was certainly responsible in no slight measure, for he approved the action of the Council and felt that the authorities had been, if anything, too lenient toward the offenders. (pp. 48-49)
* * *

Probably the most well-known recent Calvin biography, by William J. Bouwsma (John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait, Oxford Univ. Press, 1988; non-Catholic), never mentions either the Comparet brothers or the Libertines in its index or in its entire text. I had to go back to obscure works from 1906 and 1914 and 1931 to find details on this sad incident. Francois Wendel, in his Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1963 (yet another non-Catholic book), only briefly mentions the incident on p. 100, but to his credit, he openly details, in depth, many similar unsavory proceedings, on pp. 81-101.

There continues to be an ongoing double standard: to always highlight Catholic sins of this sort, from this period, while downplaying or ignoring the same exact sins when committed by prominent Protestants. That double standard is precisely why I present posts such as this one on my blog: to set the record straight and disclose the full truth. I present Calvin as he was: "warts and all" and I also show that he agrees with us in many areas, too (recently I documented 50 such areas). Truth is truth.

About all most Protestants are aware of in this regard (if even this much) is Calvin's advocacy of the death penalty for the pantheist Michael Servetus (the famous Protestant / Calvinist "scandal"). There is much more than that.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Biblical Evidence for Musical Instruments in Worship

By Dave Armstrong (3-22-10)

John Calvin's extreme position that music in worship is rank idolatry is wrong in light of the following biblical data.

* * * * *

With regard to musical instruments in a context of worshiping God, we have the model of David and others of his time worshiping God with harps, tambourines, etc.:

Psalm 33:2 (RSV) Praise the LORD with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!

Psalm 71:22 I will also praise thee with the harp for thy faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to thee with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. (cf. 57:7-9; 81:1-2; 92:1-3; 108:1-3; 144:9)

Psalm 150:1-5 Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
[2] Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his exceeding greatness!
[3] Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
[4] Praise him with timbrel and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
[5] Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Many of the Psalms mention "stringed instruments" and in one case, "flutes" at their start, implying (or so it seems to me) that the Psalm was accompanied by instruments (e.g., Psalm 5: "To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David"; Psalm 6: "To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments . . ."). Therefore, John Calvin's contention that a Psalm can only be properly sung is not even consistent with what the Psalms themselves teach (see also Psalms 4, 54-55, 61, 67, 76; cf. Hab 3:19).

We also have the evidence of the extensive musical instrumentation accompanying the ark of the covenant (where God was specially present, in a way somewhat like eucharistic presence at the Mass), as described in 1 Chronicles 15. There is no hint of disapproval in the text, as if this was something frowned upon by God as idolatry:

1 Chronicles 15:14-28 So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. [15] And the Levites carried the ark of God upon their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD. [16] David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brethren as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. [17] So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Jo'el; and of his brethren Asaph the son of Berechi'ah; and of the sons of Merar'i, their brethren, Ethan the son of Kusha'iah; [18] and with them their brethren of the second order, Zechari'ah, Ja-a'ziel, Shemi'ramoth, Jehi'el, Unni, Eli'ab, Benai'ah, Ma-asei'ah, Mattithi'ah, Eliph'elehu, and Miknei'ah, and the gatekeepers O'bed-e'dom and Je-i'el. [19] The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals; [20] Zechari'ah, A'zi-el, Shemi'ramoth, Jehi'el, Unni, Eli'ab, Ma-asei'ah, and Benai'ah were to play harps according to Al'amoth; [21] but Mattithi'ah, Eliph'elehu, Miknei'ah, O'bed-e'dom, Je-i'el, and Azazi'ah were to lead with lyres according to the Shem'inith. [22] Chenani'ah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. [23] Berechi'ah and Elka'nah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. [24] Shebani'ah, Josh'aphat, Nethan'el, Ama'sai, Zechari'ah, Benai'ah, and Elie'zer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. O'bed-e'dom and Jehi'ah also were to be gatekeepers for the ark. [25] So David and the elders of Israel, and the commanders of thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of O'bed-e'dom with rejoicing. [26] And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. [27] David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers, and Chenani'ah the leader of the music of the singers; and David wore a linen ephod. [28] So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.


2 Samuel 6:2-5 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Ba'ale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. [3] And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abin'adab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahi'o, the sons of Abin'adab, were driving the new cart [4] with the ark of God; and Ahi'o went before the ark. [5] And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. (cf. 1 Chron 13:8)

1 Chronicles 16:37-42
So David left Asaph and his brethren there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister continually before the ark as each day required, [38] and also O'bed-e'dom and his sixty-eight brethren; while O'bed-e'dom, the son of Jedu'thun, and Hosah were to be gatekeepers. [39] And he left Zadok the priest and his brethren the priests before the tabernacle of the LORD in the high place that was at Gibeon, [40] to offer burnt offerings to the LORD upon the altar of burnt offering continually morning and evening, according to all that is written in the law of the LORD which he commanded Israel. [41] With them were Heman and Jedu'thun, and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures for ever. [42] Heman and Jedu'thun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jedu'thun were appointed to the gate.

1 Chronicles 23:5 four thousand gatekeepers, and four thousand shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments which I have made for praise.
1 Chronicles 25:6 They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God.
2 Chronicles 5:12-14 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jedu'thun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with a hundred and twenty priests who were trumpeters; [13] and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever," the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, [14] so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

Note that the glory of the Lord filled the temple in response to the praise of musical instruments and voices; thus it was pleasing to God. See also:

2 Chronicles 7:6 The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD which King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD -- for his steadfast love endures for ever -- whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets; and all Israel stood.

2 Chronicles 29:24-28 and the priests killed them and made a sin offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel. For the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel. [25] And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king's seer and of Nathan the prophet; for the commandment was from the LORD through his prophets. [26] The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. [27] Then Hezeki'ah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. [28] The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

2 Chronicles 34:12 And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set Jahath and Obadi'ah the Levites, of the sons of Merar'i, and Zechari'ah and Meshul'lam, of the sons of the Ko'hathites, to have oversight. The Levites, all who were skilful with instruments of music,

Nehemiah 12:35-36 and certain of the priests' sons with trumpets: Zechari'ah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemai'ah, son of Mattani'ah, son of Micai'ah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph; [36] and his kinsmen, Shemai'ah, Az'arel, Mil'alai, Gil'alai, Ma'ai, Nethan'el, Judah, and Hana'ni, with the musical instruments of David the man of God; and Ezra the scribe went before them.

[cf. Judith 16:2; 1 Maccabees 4:54; 13:51]

In all passages where cymbals are mentioned, it is in the context of a religious ceremony. For example:

1 Chronicles 16:4-5 Moreover he appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. [5] Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechari'ah, Je-i'el, Shemi'ramoth, Jehi'el, Mattithi'ah, Eli'ab, Benai'ah, O'bed-e'dom, and Je-i'el, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals,

1 Chronicles 25:1 David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service certain of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jedu'thun, who should prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. . . .

Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel;

Nehemiah 12:27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

If musical instruments used to worship God were okay and approved by God then, they didn't suddenly become evil in the new covenant. If it wasn't (necessarily and always) idolatry then, it wasn't, by the same token, after Jesus, either. Idolatry resides in the heart, which is why an argument that a musical instrument is always idolatrous in a church setting is absurd. One can't possibly logically arrive at that conclusion (from the biblical data).

Moreover, there is an essential difference between judging voices alone to be appropriate or aesthetically pleasing and proper for a church service, minus instruments (as was apparently the case in the Catholic Church up until the early Middle Ages), and contending (as Calvin did) that any instrument used at church must be idolatrous and absolutely forbidden on those grounds.

It's the difference between musical and liturgical aesthetics and positive legalism or prohibitions based on an additional factor (supposed intrinsic idolatry). The first thing doesn't contradict the Old Testament record of instruments used in praise and worship; the second does. Since God doesn't contradict Himself, the entire "no instruments at church because they are idols" argument must, therefore, be abandoned.