Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Did Martin Luther Suffer From Neurosis? Some Protestant Biographers Think So

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1) Mark U. Edwards, Jr., in Donald K. McKim, The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), p. 205:

Most scholars freely concede the unusual and perhaps even abnormal aspects of Luther's personality, without accepting the diagnosis that attributes these traits to an underlying psychosis. By most standards, Luther was a neurotic man who, later in life, suffered from bouts of depression. Given all the evidence of productivity, clarity of thought, and ability to work with others, however, it is highly doubtful that he can be properly diagnosed as a psychotic.

2) Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2nd edition, 1914 ), Preface to the Second Edition, p. viii:

Of Luther's early life and development prior to 1517 I have now arrived at a somewhat different conception from that set forth in the present biography. Sturdy as was the Saxon's constitution, a neurotic vein may be detected in his violence of language, in his obsession by the devil, and, one is tempted to add, in that conception of God as a cruel and capricious tyrant, which he himself confessed was repugnant to natural feeling.

3) R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, revised edition of 1997; paperback edition of 2000), p. 78:

Luther's chronic stomach troubles have also been linked to a psychosomatic problem. His neurotic phobias all seemed to go directly to his stomach, destroying his digestion.

4) Michael A. Mullett, Martin Luther (Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, 2004), p. 101:

. . . the kind of extreme scrupulosity that Luther himself had known over trivial offenses . . .

[Overscruposity is considered a neurosis]

Addendum: My Strong Disagreement With Attempts to Classify Luther as a Psychotic, Madman, Demon-Possessed, or Insane

[written in reply to a Catholic who thinks this]

We have some disagreement on Luther. I think he suffered from cyclical depression and overscrupulosity. I don't think he was "nuts," though. Manic-depression or bipolar disorder (even if he suffered from that, and I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility, though I don't positively assert it) is more of an emotional malady than a mental one. One doesn't usually lose touch with reality. It is emotional highs and lows. I minored in psychology and know a little bit about this stuff.

Neurosis is a different thing. We know that Luther was overscrupulous, from the reports of his ridiculously detailed confessions as a Catholic monk. Talking to the devil doesn't necessarily prove anything. Jesus did that. I'm sure many saints have as well. It could possibly be a weird thing, but not necessarily.

I don't see the benefit of arguing that he was nuts. It is only seen as a personal attack. I prefer to stick to his false theology and ideas. That's where the heart of the discussion lies. As for this other stuff, I go with what almost all Protestant biographers believe: he suffered from periodic serious depression and had some other eccentricities.

We need not regard a man as either evil or insincere (let alone nuts or demon-possessed) because he taught some false theology. He was still a Christian.


Related Reading:





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Monday, April 26, 2010

Loving Ourselves as God Loves Us

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Here's something a bit different from my usual writing. It came about on the CHNI forum. One woman was expressing her fears about "measuring up" as a Catholic and of being lukewarm and not fully surrendering to God; not being "perfect," etc. I had a few thoughts on that:

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It's all about God's mercy and love. We are all part of the fall, and we struggle with concupiscence, temptation, and various manifest shortcomings in our lives every day. But God loves us now: not some ideal of what we will be one day by His grace. Therefore, it is foolish for us to have higher standards for ourselves, in order to love and accept ourselves (faults and sins notwithstanding), than God Himself does.

It is the case with most of us that our heads can understand these things, but not our heart. All we can do is truly fall on our faces and rely on God's mercy. If we keep doing that, as a deliberate act of the will, eventually it does indeed filter down to our hearts, and we begin to feel it, too.

Human beings are that way. Many times in life we have to decide to do something because it is right (or true). And so we make an act of the will. If we keep doing that, it becomes a habit. If we keep up the habit it becomes a virtue, and eventually it becomes part of us and is as natural as breathing.

I think that is the case here. We have to keep "conditioning" ourselves that God loves us as we are. We have to get out of the mold or rut we have gotten into, and start looking at things from God's perspective.

You (and anyone else) can do this! And you can because if you know it is right you can decide to start thinking in a different way so it becomes part of your heart in due course. And you can do all this primarily because God gives you the grace and strength to do anything He wants you to do.

Even on a human level we can observe such a dynamic. My wife, for example, had some problems in terms of self-image and what she had often been told in her life before I met her. I rejected these. I told her that they were not true: that she was not what folks thought, in certain aspects. Well, lo and behold, after some years of having her husband positively reinforce her, now she no longer believes those things. It was a matter of reinforcement and thinking about something in a different way.

I see the same thing in my children. Sometimes they don't feel loved (due to discipline) or feel that one is being favored or whatever (typical sibling, children stuff). But we just keep telling them how much we love and admire them for who they are, and eventually it sinks in and they feel better about themselves.

One of my sons in particular had some self-image issues because he was strong-willed and hence, was disciplined a bit more than the others. But he has come out fine. Yesterday, in fact, he just got an award for outstanding service of young people in their churches. Out of 12 parishes, only six young people were given this award (and just one other young man), and there was my son (16yo): one of them. I was so proud I think I busted three buttons on my shirt. And of course my wife felt just as I did. It was wonderful.

That's like God, "rooting" for us and loving us unconditionally. All we have to do is learn to trust in His mercy and love. If we keep doing that, our own opinions will change, too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview for Catholic Books and Gifts / Catholic Free Shipping

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Dave & Judy Armstrong: December 1991: I was a father, a Catholic, and had a driving / delivery job (all new things in that year). My first published article (in The Catholic Answer) was just 13 months away. I had already written by this time my conversion story in Surprised by Truth and portions of my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

Please visit Catholic Books and Gifts and purchase their products. You can see this interview on that website, too.

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1. What influenced you to take up apologetics?

Initially it was exposure to C. S. Lewis in the late 70s that pushed me in that direction. I read Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters and enjoyed them all very much. I was in college at the time and concerned, as an evangelical Protestant, about being able to defend my faith in a rational manner, over against all the secularism that one gets in colleges these days. I wanted to integrate faith and reason; religion and rationality: to love God with my mind as well as my heart, soul, and strength (as our Lord Jesus Himself commanded us to do). But my Christian faith was still forming at that time: having been very secularized and indeed, almost nonexistent for the previous ten or so years.

The next phase was to become acquainted with the historical apologetics of Josh McDowell: his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The name of my old website (1997-2007) and current blog is derived from that book: Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. I was also highly influenced by the Presbyterian apologist Francis Schaeffer in the early 80s. I started reading a lot, doing "Bible research" projects like studying the biblical rationale for the Trinity and deity of Christ, and also learning about heretical sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses and doing outreach to them along with street witnessing: particularly at the Ann Arbor Art Fair all through the 80s.

Also, I got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship in college. From 1985 to 1989 I did campus outreach and evangelism at the University of Michigan, sponsored by my churches. So I was trying to cultivate a "thinking man's evangelicalism" in those years. Once I became a Catholic in 1990, it was natural to progress right along to Catholic apologetics as well. I still do general Christian apologetics, but now I also defend the teachings of the Catholic Church, and especially try to show that they are as grounded in the Bible as any Protestant denomination.

2. What is the hardest part about apologetics? Easiest? The most satisfying? The most disappointing?

The hardest part (and most disappointing) is when you come up against a will or a mind that is immune to argument and reasoning: as with the fringe group of anti-Catholics or many atheists, and some other categories that I won't name! I find that very difficult when I feel that a person has a closed mind because of the environment he is in. It's immensely frustrating. I have seen many times the dynamic of the old saying: "a man convinced against his will retains his original beliefs still." Of course, the Holy Spirit has to break down the will that is opposing the truth. But hopefully, He uses us apologists -- weak vessels that we are -- to help "remove roadblocks" and eliminate groundless objections.

The easiest part of it is doing what I love and showing how falsehoods are untrue. In other words, if the truth is on our side it is a lot easier to defend that than to defend opinions that are false in the first place. It's like being an attorney with a terrible case to try to win: where the person truly seems guilty of the crime.

The most satisfying aspect of apologetics is to see people come into the fullness of the Catholic Church and to observe the joy and enthusiasm they have at that time and thereafter. I work part-time at The Coming Home Network, on their forum, and this Easter we had at least 30 people enter the Church. That's why I do what I do. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. This is what God called me to do with my life. I want to do my part to help Catholics be happier, more fulfilled, and confident in what they believe, so that they can in turn effectively share their faith, and the "pearl of great price" with others. The harvest is ready . . .

3. What is the most common question you find yourself defending?

The basis of Catholic beliefs in the Bible (far and away), and especially the basis of Catholic authority (which gets into the areas of sola Scriptura -- i.e., the Protestant notion of "Scripture Alone" as the only infallible authority -- and the papacy and various aspects of Sacred Tradition). That's convenient for me because that has always been my deliberate emphasis in my apostolate: showing the biblical rationale for Catholic beliefs. One can see that theme in my books. The Bible is the common ground that we share with our Protestant brethren, so if we wish to persuade them, we have to argue from that ground. They don't accept what "some pope said 200 years ago." That is not their authority. But if one makes a solid argument from the Bible, they have to grapple with that; they can't casually dismiss it as what they see as "arbitrary authority."

4. What advice would you give to a person who is struggling with accepting a tenet of their Catholic faith?

I would tell them first to pray about it: ask God to reveal to them that it is true (if indeed it is, and they already suspect that it is or they wouldn't be struggling), since faith is not merely about reason. It is supernatural and a gift from God. Therefore, we have to exercise faith and pray. Secondly, I would direct them to resources (including my own) that can explain exactly what it is we believe as Catholics (catechetics) and how and why we believe it (apologetics). And I usually direct them to free information on the Internet. If they are mightily struggling with one particular thing, then I recommend books that I think can help them to reach certitude, in faith. I feel that solid answers can be given for anything to do with the Catholic faith: if not from my own body of work, then certainly from someone else: including the great saints and Doctors of the Church.

5. What are your thoughts on recent events in our Church, namely with the attacks on Benedict XVI and health care?

I think the Holy Father is being treated abominably. The sexual scandal is not his fault at all. He is probably doing more than anyone else in the Church to stop this horrific abuse from taking place. Yet he is the target. I think the enemies of the Church know full well who to attack if they want to minimize the impact of the Church. But it will backfire, as these attempts always do. It reminds me a lot of how Pope Pius XII is treated over the Holocaust issue. It is estimated that he was responsible for saving 800,000 Jews: a lot more than any secular group, for sure. Yet he is the one who is lied about and pilloried. It is a gross injustice. We need to defend our popes when they are innocent of these absurd charges.

The Church's position on health care is exactly right, in my opinion. It is concerned for availability of health care to all; providing for the poor, but in a way that does not promote either abortion or socialism. The Church favors subsidiarity: things ought to be run on as local a level as possible, and truly helping all people, including the smallest and oldest and weakest among us. The Church, as so often, teaches and preaches a "third way" that is neither conservative nor liberal, in political terms.

6. What are you working on now?

I've been doing some writing on Calvinism, preparing some audio collections on themes (basically reading of Internet papers), and will soon be working on a revision of my book on sola Scriptura, for likely publication with a major Catholic publisher. In the next six months I'd also like to compile books on the biblical evidences for Catholic soteriology (theology of salvation) and Mariology.

7. What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy when not writing books?

I absolutely love the outdoors and travel. We are planning a family trip out west, which will be our third such trip in five years, and it is no small project, starting from southeast Michigan. We camp and take a lot of our own food, to save money, and avoid expensive museums! I'm a nature freak and also an avid music lover and collector (many kinds of music, including classical, and I can play about nine instruments). My third great non-theological love is sports. I still play softball, tennis, ping pong, pool, basketball, like swimming, and have taken up bowling recently. I once went hang gliding, and have been in gliders, small planes, and a helicopter. I also went whitewater rafting on one occasion. I have a daredevil aspect of my personality. I love good movies and documentaries (we watch TV as a family almost every night: strict quality control of what we watch!), and playing chess. I like group discussions and "heavy" dialogues (not just about theology). I love history and philosophy, and they often tie in with my work. And of course I love books of all sorts!

8. Who is your Confirmation Patron Saint, and why did you choose him/her?

It was a little different. I chose John Henry. By that I meant Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, because he was the biggest intellectual / theological influence on my conversion. I had read his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and that put me over the edge. Development remains one of my very favorite sub-topics in apologetics, but it is generally very difficult to discuss, since people often have a poor understanding of it, and confuse it with the heretical "evolution of dogma".

9. What is your favorite book in the Bible? Verse? Biblical figure?

The book is probably John. I love Isaiah in the Old Testament: sweeping, majestic language. My favorite verse is Romans 8:28: "all things work together for good . . . " That's wonderful: a whole philosophy of life right there . . . And my favorite biblical figure (after our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, I suppose) is the Apostle Paul. I love him, and I am constantly thinking about his reasoning and writings in doing apologetics. It is said that Paul could have been the greatest philosopher of his time if he weren't an apostle. I think he is one of the most extraordinary thinkers who ever lived. He's amazing.

10. Name a Catholic person you admire who provides a positive and inspiring model of our faith, and why.

St. Francis of Assisi. I immensely admire him because he was totally committed to God, and had such a beautiful approach to life: a gentleness and holiness and simplicity (of exactly the right sort) that is immediately striking and "draws one in." That kind of complete dedication has always appealed to me, and I should be more than happy to attain one-tenth of the zeal that he had.



Thursday, April 22, 2010

Biblical Evidence Against Double Predestination From Lack of Parallelism in Descriptive Terms for the Damned + Non-Calvinist Exegesis of Romans 9


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Hats off to blog regular Maroun for citing a great argument of this sort in an open forum combox, from St. John Chrysostom, who wrote:

Of what honor, of what blessedness are these words? And He said not, Take, but, “Inherit,” as one’s own, as your Father’s, as yours, as due to you from the first. For, before you were, saith He, these things had been prepared, and made ready for you, forasmuch as I knew you would be such as you are.
And in return for what do they receive such things? For the covering of a roof, for a garment, for bread, for cold water, for visiting, for going into the prison. For indeed in every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that. For surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not for this only, but the one to be loosed, the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But He, being gracious, requires only what is within our power, or rather even less than what is within our power, leaving to us to exert our generosity in doing more.
But to the others He saith, “Depart from me, ye cursed,” (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), “into the everlasting fire, prepared,” not for you, but “for the devil and his angels.” For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, “Come, inherit the kingdom,” He added, “prepared for you before the foundation of the world;” but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, “prepared for the devil.” I, saith He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but “for the devil and his angels;” but since ye cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. And not in this way only, but by what follows also, like as though He were excusing Himself to them, He sets forth the causes.
(Homily 78 on Matthew 25:1-30; NPNF 1-10]

This put in my head the idea of doing a Scripture study of "prepare" and "called" and "predestined" and other similar terms, in relation to heaven, to see if these are ever used in a parallel fashion of hell as well, so that there is an equivalence: "prepared (etc.) for heaven" / "prepared for hell." Matthew 25 shows that this is not the case. What do other related passages teach us about this?

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[all Bible passages: RSV]

Green highlighting = allusions to heaven or election
Blue highlighting = "prepare" motifs
Red highlighting = hell or damnation motifs


Matthew 25:34, 41 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world';. . . [41] Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels';



Matthew 20:23 He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

Mark 10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.

John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; [28] and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [3] And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 17:2-3 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

Acts 13:46, 48 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. . . . [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

We see precisely what the Catholic Church -- and Orthodoxy and Lutheran and Arminian and Wesleyan Protestantism -- teaches, and what Calvinism rejects: God didn't select the damned from all eternity; they judged themselves by rejecting the gospel, making themselves "unworthy of eternal life." But those who would attain eternal life were ordained or predestined to that, though not without their free will consent.


Romans 1:6-7 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; [7] To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: . . .

Romans 2:6-8 For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.

Note the lack of equivalent descriptions: to the elect God will "give eternal life." But for the reprobate "there will be wrath and fury": a more neutral description that doesn't on the face of it seem to imply predestination from all eternity.


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, we see a lack of parallelism: the fate of the damned is more passive in relation to God's hand in it, whereas the predestination of the elect is the positive "free gift of God".


Romans 8:28-30 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 9:23-24 in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Romans 11:2, 5 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . . . [5] So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

1 Corinthians 1:2, 9 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: . . . [9] God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:24 . . . those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, . . . (cf. 7:20-22, 24; Eph 4:1, 4; Col 3:15; 1 Thess 4:7; 1 Pet 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 2 Pet 1:3)

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,"

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. [5] He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,

Yet Galatians 1:6 shows that this call and grace is not irrevocable or irresistible; i.e., not ordered by God apart from our free will, since it can be deserted: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel".


Ephesians 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. [5] He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace [8] which he lavished upon us. (cf. 1:9, 11-12)

Ephesians 1:17-20 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Colossians 3:12 . . . God's chosen ones . . .

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The latter passage might be interpreted as implying the possibility of being predestined to damnation, and indeed this is logically possible, but it doesn't necessarily follow from this language. In the absence of positive assertions elsewhere in Scripture of predestination to damnation (along with positive ones about election: see, e.g., Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29-20; Eph 1:4-5; Rev 13:8 elsewhere in this paper) , it is more plausible to interpret this as simply saying, "God did not do x in our case" -- theologically extrapolated in light of the absence of cross-reference corroboration to, "God does not do x."


2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, [8] inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

The damned are in that horrible state not only because of the fall of Adam and Eve and God's decree from all eternity, but precisely because they did "not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Judgment as to whether one is saved or not is consistently rendered on this basis in Scripture. I found, in fact, 50 passages asserting this notion; this not only asserts aspects of Calvinism and TULIP, but also the sola fide doctrine of larger Protestantism. Cf. Heb 5:9: "he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him".


2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [14] To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

This is very interesting insofar as the calling seems to take place at the time the confession is made, rather than from all eternity; there can be different senses of "call" in the Bible, as with most words, but it is fascinating that "eternal life" seems directly tied with individual acceptance rather than God's predestination. Again, we see the mysterious paradoxical existence of free will alongside predestination. Both are asserted in Scripture, so the Bible student must accept both; not rule one out because some man-made tradition dictates it.


2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago,

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappado'cia, Asia, and Bithyn'ia, [2] chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: (cf. 2:4, 9)

1 Peter 5:10 . . .
the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . .

Jude 6-8 And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; [7] just as Sodom and Gomor'rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. [8] Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones.

Behavior and rejection of God is the cause for damnation, not a predestined decree by God that made it impossible for the fate of the damned to be otherwise.

2 Peter 2:1, 15 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.. . . [15] Forsaking the right way they have gone astray . . .

This contradicts Calvinism all over the place (a very fitting thing for the first Catholic pope to do!). If these are people who never were saved (as a Calvinist would say), then how can it be stated that Jesus "bought them"? That would refute Limited Atonement, since Jesus only "buys" those who are indeed saved and of the elect, and Perseverance as well, since they were bought by Jesus but yet later denied Him. Secondly, they are here sentencing themselves and in effect casting themselves into hell (with free will and post-Fall rebellion against God), rather than God decreeing and ordaining and predestining and deciding that from all eternity.

They were once "in" the "right way," otherwise they could not be described as "forsaking" it. Nor can one go "astray" from a state one was never in. Peter states in 2:17 that "for them the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved," but this is not the same as saying it was predestined for eternity that they should go there. This is one of many many cases where the Bible teaches one thing, Calvinism another. Later in the chapter, Peter makes a very strong denial of Perseverance of the Saints and Irresistible Grace:


2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. [21] For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. [22] It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

These people escaped "the defilements," meaning they were in good graces with God by means of Jesus' work. They went from a "bad" state to a "good" one. They left their "vomit" but then later returned to it. When Peter says "they are again entangled in them and overpowered," it is yet more proof that they were in the pool of the saved and the justified, but went back to their old ways. If indeed this was not possible: that no one can ever go from one state to the other, then the very words "again" and "escaped" and "turned back" comparisons of one state over against another (with these folks having been in both camps) would be perfectly senseless; literally nonsense. But we can't accuse inspired Scripture of that, so it must be Calvinism that is the nonsense.

While we're on the theme of additional disproofs of Calvinism, here is another refutation of Limited Atonement:

Acts 3:26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.

God doesn't select just a few for His elect and let the others go to hell by His non-action. He desires to save "every one".


Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

Revelation 17:8 . . . the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world . . .(cf. 17:14: "called and chosen and faithful")

There is no "book of death," as if that were predestined from all eternity, too. There is only a "book of life": positive predestination for the elect, but not predestined reprobation, or negative predestination (or, double predestination).

See also the biblical use of "elect" -- referring to those who will be eschatologically saved and attain heaven, but never applied to the damned (Matt 24:22, 24, 31; Mk 13:20, 22, 27; Lk 18:7; Rom 8:33; 11:7; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet 1:10).

There are only a few passages I could find in my fairly comprehensive scriptural survey that imply that God predestines the damned to their fate:


Romans 11:7-10 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, [8] as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day." [9] And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; [10] let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever."

This language of "hardening," I have explained adequately, I think, in several past papers, showing that it is pungent Hebraic idiomatic language for God's Providence. He utilizes men's sin for His purposes and plan, but it doesn't follow that He Himself hardens anyone apart from their own previous free will decision (or that He ever is the author of sin and evil). See:

Supposed Contradiction Between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 (God or Satan as Cause?)

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. [atheist] "DagoodS")

Reply to a Calvinist Critique Concerning the "Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart" (vs. Colin Smith)

Even beyond the argument from use of biblical language and anthropomorphic language with reference to God, this cannot logically apply to predestination from eternity anyway, unless it is applied to a supralapsarian scenario, whereby God predestined even the fall of man (rather than it being a free choice). Supralapsarianism is rejected by the majority of Calvinists throughout history. Many Calvinists claim that even John Calvin rejected it (my position is that he was indeed a supralapsarian).

If it is an eternal decree of hardening, it had to apply to the state of man before the fall, because at that time he was good, since God created him good. But this would entail a good God after a good creation deliberately decreeing that certain of his good created men would be damned. They were created to be damned. This would clearly make God the author of evil and cast serious doubts on His character as a loving, merciful God and His justice. That is supralapsarian, and we can readily see why even most Calvinists, historically, and presently, reject it.

The same Scripture cannot apply to infralapsarianism because after the fall, the whole of humanity was in sin and fallen; therefore, men (all men) already were hardened and He couldn't have chosen from the whole group to harden some. If they already were in such a state, then God couldn't have decreed that some should attain to that, unless He had in fact decreed it before the fall ever took place, or (more accurately, if we want to get technical) as applied logically to pre-fallen man.


Romans 11:28-32 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. [29] For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. [30] Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, [31] so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. [32] For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (cf. 1 Peter 2:8)

This looks like a very difficult passage for a Calvinist to explain according to his system. The Jews are described as "enemies of God" insofar as they largely rejected the gospel. Yet they are also described as of the elect, since "the call of God" is "irrevocable." If this call of God can never be affected by free will, then it looks like Paul is here teaching that all Jews will be saved, since they are elect and chosen. But we know that to not be the case. Therefore, Paul's type of language and idiom must somehow explain his thought otherwise. To top it off, he says that "God has consigned all men to disobedience" (that is, they all fell). That doesn't work with Calvinism, either, because according to them, He only consigned some to that. Nor does having "mercy upon all" fit into the Limited Atonement schema. For the Calvinist, God doesn't even desire of decree mercy for all; He does so only for some: the elect.

The Great Calvinist Bible Argument: their favorite by far, and one trumpeted endlessly, is Romans 9. Here is the portion that Calvinists employ to defend their theological system of TULIP:

Romans 9:6-24 But it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." [8] This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants. [9] For this is what the promise said, "About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son." [10] And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, [12] she was told, "The elder will serve the younger." [13] As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." [14]What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." [16] So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy. [17] For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." [18] So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. [19] You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" [20] But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me thus?" [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? [22] What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

This seems very strong and invulnerable, but it is also almost unique in the Bible, in its pattern of argument or presentation, as we can see from all the other scriptures collected above. Is there a way to exegete this in a fashion that is consistent with a non-Calvinist interpretation of predestination and election, over against the distinctive Calvinist doctrines of TULIP?

One possible (and to me, quite plausible) way of providing a non-Calvinist take of Romans 9 came from Protestant apologist James Patrick Holding, drawing in turn from scholar Marvin Wilson's Our Father Abraham, and the notion of Hebrew "block logic". Wilson's writings include A Workbook for New Testament Greek: Grammar and Exegesis in First John and Dictionary of Bible Manners and Customs (with highly respected Evangelical scholars Edwin Yamauchi and R. K. Harrison). Holding writes:


Let me state further that Wilson's "block logic" comment is further substantiated by points made in Pilch and Malina's Handbook of Biblical Social Values, which describes the ancient mind as one practiced in dualistic thought. Put another way, there is no "middle ground" where neutral value is assigned, and expressions are made in terms of "black and white". I would add that Wilson is far from my only source; nor are Pilch and Malina, as indeed in the same article I go on to relate the matter to Ecclesiastes, based on solid OT scholarship. . . .
Hebrew "block logic" operated on similar principles. "...[C]oncepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension -- and often illogical relation -- to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic." Examples of this in practice are the alternate hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God, or by Pharaoh himself; and the reference to loving Jacob while hating Esau -- both of which, significantly, are referred to often by Calvinist writers.
Wilson continues: "Consideration of certain forms of block logic may give one the impression that divine sovereignty and human responsibility were incompatible. The Hebrews, however, sense no violation of their freedom as they accomplish God's purposes." The back and forth between human freedom and divine sovereignty is a function of block logic and the Hebrew mindset. Writers like Palmer who proudly declare that they believe what they read in spite of what they see as an apparent absurdity are ultimately viewing the Scriptures, wrongly, through their own Western lens in which they assume that all that they read is all that there is.
What this boils down to is that Paul presents us with a paradox in Romans 9, one which he, as a Hebrew, saw no need to explain. "..[T]he Hebrew mind could handle this dynamic tension of the language of paradox" and saw no need to unravel it as we do. And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at "face value" as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text.
. . . as we have noted, expression in extremes is not a characteristic of Hebrew thought alone.
Second and more importantly, Paul was a Hebrew; he quotes from sources in Hebrew . . . and communicating in Greek changes neither of these points. Indeed, lingusitic studies by such as Casey indicate . . . that bilingual interference points to Paul preserving his Hebrew linguistic and thought-forms, even as he communicates in Greek. . . .
It remains that Paul is not making a logical argument, any more than God made one (or had to) before Job. Indeed, the example of Job points to what I am talking about, and what Wilson otherwise relates: The Hebrews had experienced God personally at Sinai; it would be absurd to come to such people and say (for example), "You need the logic of the kalam cosmological argument to prove that God exists." . . . Romans 9 is no "answer" at all in the Western sense; like the book of Job, it is God from the whirlwind saying, "That's none of your concern."
. . . I agree that mercy and compassion -- the offering of covenant kinship and consideration -- are free. It is once we are within that relationship that rewards and punishments begin to come into play . . . Nevertheless this does not prove in any sense that God did not create people with certain characteristics that suited His purposes. . . . And yes, there does remain a contrast, in my view, between mercy and hardening: It is the stark contrast between covenant concern and non-covenant disregard. And yes, the will of God is to decide who He enters into kinship relationships with. But no, this still doesn't eliminate characteristics as a factor in God choosing people for specific assignments; and it does not eliminate free choice of humans as a factor in salvation . . .

For more on this sort of analysis of Hebrew "block logic" and Hebrew thought in general, see:


The Hebrew Mind vs. the Western Mind (Brian Knowles)

Hebrew Thought Compared to Greek (Western) Thought (N'tan Lawrence)

The Bible Idea of Time: How Archaic Hebrew Thought Is Constructed Differently than Our Thought Today (Kerry A. Shirts)

Biblical Paradox: Does Revelation Challenge Logic? (David Basinger, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1987, 205-213)

St. John Chrysostom interpreted this passage in a non-Calvinistic fashion also:


Paul says this in order not to do away with free will but rather to show to what extent we ought to obey God. We should be as little inclined to call God to account as a piece of clay is."

(
Homilies in Romans 16, NPNF 1 11:467)

God does nothing at random or by mere chance, even if you do not understand the secrets of his wisdom. You allow the potter to make different things from the same lump of clay and find no fault with him, but you do not grant the same freedom to God! . . . How monstrous this is. It is not on the potter that the honor or dishonor of the vessel depends but rather on those who make use of it. It is the same way with people - it all depends on their own free choice."

(Homilies on Romans 16.46; NPNF 1 11:468)

Methodist commentator Adam Clarke provides another plausible non-Calvinist take on Paul's mention of Jacob and Esau:


Verse 12. The elder shall serve the younger] These words, with those of Malachi, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, are cited by the apostle to prove, according to their typical signification, that the purpose of God, according to election, does and will stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; that is, that the purpose of God, which is the ground of that election which he makes among men, unto the honour of being Abraham's seed, might appear to remain unchangeable in him; and to be even the same which he had declared unto Abraham. That these words are used in a national and not in a personal sense, is evident from this: that, taken in the latter sense they are not true, for Jacob never did exercise any power over Esau, nor was Esau ever subject to him. Jacob, on the contrary, was rather subject to Esau, and was sorely afraid of him; and, first, by his messengers, and afterwards personally, acknowledged his brother to be his lord, and himself to be his servant; see Gen. xxxii. 4; xxxiii. 8, 13. And hence it appears that neither Esau nor Jacob, nor even their posterities, are brought here by the apostle as instances of any personal reprobation from eternity: for, it is very certain that very many, if not the far greatest part, of Jacob's posterity were wicked, and rejected by God; and it is not less certain that some of Esau's posterity were partakers of the faith of their father Abraham.
. . . Verse 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay] The apostle continues his answer to the Jew. Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jer. xviii. 1, &c., that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as he in his infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honourable and another to a less honourable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces? For the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work upon the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. It was not fit for the more honourable place in the mansion, and therefore he made it for a less honourable place, but as necessary for the master's use there, as it could have been in a more honourable situation. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation-to build and to plant it; is it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. The reference to this parable shows most positively that the apostle is speaking of men, not individually, but nationally; and it is strange that men should have given his words any other application with this scripture before their eyes.
Verse 22. What if God, willing to show his wrath] The apostle refers here to the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to which he applies Jeremiah's parable of the potter, and, from them, to the then state of the Jews. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath-persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle's time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle.
(Clarke's Commentary)

***

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lively Debate on Sola Scriptura and the Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture With Two Protestants in the CARM Chat Room


This took place in the wee hours of the morning on 9 April 2010, in the CARM chat room. The Protestant organization CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) runs what is probably the largest theological discussion forum on the Internet.

For some reason (probably boredom), last week I got in the mood to do some live chat on theology again. I used to do this quite a bit when I first went online in 1996 (on the old Compuserve Religion Forum), but I haven't done it for years (nor do I frequent discussion forums anymore: having long since become fed up with all of them: even Catholic ones, due to the low level of both ethics and substance). I had gotten into some good discussions the night before, and so went back again and got into this rip-roarin' spontaneous discussion about one of the fundamental issues that divides Catholics and Protestants.

Diane S is the head moderator of all the CARM forums, and second in authority after the Big Cheese, Matt Slick. She is an evangelical of some sort. Thomas is a Presbyterian (PCA) seminarian and card-carrying Calvinist. Diane gave me permission to post this and even did some work to dig up the transcript and send it to me, at my request (many thanks).

I think this was an absolutely classic, textbook case of the shortcomings of the Protestant position on sola Scriptura, and illustrates how it is ultimately self-defeating. I won't summarize what happened here, but I will say that the general thrust of my argument is one that I have used in the past, especially in one exchange with two of the most zealous anti-Catholic Protestant apologists from way back in 1996, and a fictional dialogue of mine:


Dialogue on the Alleged "Perspicuous Apostolic Message" as a Proof of the Quasi-Protestantism of the Early Church (vs. Eric Svendsen and James White)
Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura ("Bible Alone")

You'll see the same exact dynamics and modes of thinking occurring here. As I have argued many times, I consider sola Scriptura a viciously self-defeating position. I think that was (with all due respect to my worthy and cordial opponents) demonstrated in this exchange better than I could ever argue in a 100 papers or ten books on the topic. There is nothing like seeing advocates of a fatally flawed position try to defend it. I give 'em an "e" for effort.

See also the highly related papers:


* * * * *

MitchLeBlanc So Dave, what are you general opinions on sola Scriptura?

DaveArmstrong I think sola Scriptura is unbiblical, unworkable, and self-contradictory


Diane_S
oh brother, here they go. Yawn

MitchLeBlanc
Interesting =)
DaveArmstrong hey, I was asked! I didn't start the Protestant-Catholic disputes!!!

MitchLeBlanc And Diane, what are your thoughts on sola scriptura?


Diane_S as for your sola Scriptura statement,
yawn again. I think you know already my thoughts: the exact opposite of the Roman Catholic. Big surprise!

MitchLeBlanc Had I known, I'd not have asked. =(


DaveArmstrong He is a rather direct fellow, ain't he? He knows what one key dispute is, though. I think it is central to everything.


MitchLeBlanc Perhaps you and Dave should dialogue on this?


Diane_S of course it is authority;
the only real debate; the rest is just gravy

DaveArmstrong I've written a book about it, and more papers about it than anything else, and I have over 2500 online


Diane_S Diane is not going to debate sola Scriptura in a chat room at 1 AM


DaveArmstrong LOL
And I ain't gonna beat up a woman in a chat room at 1 AM LOL

MitchLeBlanc Because Dave is here?


Diane_S but I do invite Dave to call the radio station, number to the left. Matt [Slick] will correct all of Dave's errors :)

MitchLeBlanc Diane, Dave just implied that he could beat you up. I think that means theologically. Thoughts?


Diane_S I taught Matt everything I know, I think Matt can handle that for me, :)


DaveArmstrong I don't call [in] where a "debate" is controlled by one party. Debates have to take place in neutral territory.


Diane_S after all, I have more important work to do, like dealing with trolls, moderating forums, and chatrooms
and on and on

MitchLeBlanc Dealing with trolls is more important than talking to Dave? =(


Diane_S I leave the easy stuff, like debating Catholics to Matt
:)

MitchLeBlanc You've spent four lines of text being snarky to Dave, those lines could have contained arguments!


DaveArmstrong Mitch is quite the provocative one.


Diane_S Dave does not want to debate Diane;
he has been there and done that, years back

MitchLeBlanc Did you refer to yourself in the third-person?


Diane_S he is afraid to debate me, :)
hehehehe

DaveArmstrong what's your belief, Mitch?


MitchLeBlanc I am an agnostic, good sir.


DaveArmstrong I am kind to nice ladies, and slaughtering them in a debate is ungentlemanly. I would never do that.


Diane_S Dave, seriously,
you should call the station, has been a while, you and Matt could talk. I'll bet people will enjoy the debate or discussion, not formal debate

DaveArmstrong I don't do that, never have. I did the one Paltalk with Matt. I tried to get him to do a live chat afterwards, and he declined.


Diane_S no, he didn't decline;
the two of you could not agree to the terms

DaveArmstrong I don't debate anti-Catholics anymore, anyway, as a matter of principle and policy and stewardship.


Diane_S already then
. Well we were prepared to give an answer, but not typing in chat at 1 AM. You should visit earlier evening

DaveArmstrong I'll have to come in earlier. Usually [I am] watching TV with the family. Tonight I was at a late Easter / birthday party


Diane_S well, this room is just starting to get people, we had another chat, moved to this room and not many here yet


MitchLeBlanc Dave are you a Catholic apologist in that you defend Catholicism against critics or are you also a theistic apologist?


DaveArmstrong I do both Mitch. I have lots of posted dialogues and debates with atheists.


MitchLeBlanc What are your favored arguments?


DaveArmstrong for theism?


MitchLeBlanc Yes sir.


DaveArmstrong I like cosmological, teleological [theistic arguments] the best, I think; I've even explored the ontological argument a bit.


MitchLeBlanc Cool.
Any particular version of the Cosmological argument Dave?

DaveArmstrong Kalam is cool. I like William Lane Craig a lot. But I also like how Alvin Plantinga argues (and he doesn't even think that the cosmological argument succeeds).


MitchLeBlanc Righty-o


DaveArmstrong I haven't done much of that in the last few years, but I really wanna do some critiques of deconversion stories again. When I did that with John Loftus' deconversion I thought the man would explode, he got so angry.


MitchLeBlanc Haha!


DaveArmstrong That is fun: take apart these stories that atheists think are so compelling. I've yet to find one that is that, by a long shot . . .


Diane_S
you wanna see angry; visit our forum atheism section

DaveArmstrong I can imagine. I've seen it all with the atheists.


Diane_S there are 50 at a time viewing that forum and talk about angry;
keep me busy

MitchLeBlanc Dealing with atheist arguments would surely be more fruitful of an endeavor.


DaveArmstrong But on the other hand I've had some of my most fun and challenging debates with atheists. You gotta find the friendly, respectful ones.

thomasjg did it demonstrate that deconversion is a myth? :)


Diane_S liberals and their politics and the atheists;
such fun :)

DaveArmstrong you should shut it down if they are acting like jerks. Hats off to you though.


Diane_S well we moved them all to their own forums, so Christians not forced to post on those boards

DaveArmstrong I do the philosophical discussion off and on, time-permitting.


MitchLeBlanc Diane, have you engaged with atheist arguments of substance at all?


Diane_S our politics section
and atheism section [are] busy; didn't used to be that way

DaveArmstrong Deconversion would be a myth for a Calvinist, yes . . .
it shows that these people were almost always ignorant of basic things in Christianity. That was certainly true for Loftus.

Diane_S it is not a "myth"
-- it is Scripture Dave, 1 John 2:19

thomasjg deconversion would be untrue for a consistent biblicist...:)
Regeneration is not reversible .. we can't be unborn

Diane_S Amen thomas
:)

DaveArmstrong there is plenty in Scripture about falling away from the faith


Diane_S "if they had been of us, they would have remained"
or, "they'll be back" :)

thomasjg Dave there is covenantal language used in scripture that demonstrates the dual aspects of the Covenant of Grace.
Those are usually misread by those that are not covenantal :)

DaveArmstrong Galatians 5:1,4 . . . stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.


1 Corinthians 9:27
but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.


Diane_S um Dave, you are posting verses that are evidence of the RCC being off;
yoke of slavery

DaveArmstrong 1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.

1 Timothy 5:15
For some have already strayed after Satan.

Hebrews 3:12-14
Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


Diane_S come on Dave, you know the answers to that


DaveArmstrong what answers?


thomasjg I graduate RTS next year and am pastoral intern for the next year here local


Diane_S to those verses;
if they fall away

DaveArmstrong I'm glad to be "off" if by that you mean following what Scripture teaches. May I be off the planet to do that!


Diane_S they were never of us to begin with
and Christians do sin........obviously

thomasjg Dave: your answer to that lies in a proper exegesis of Galatians 4:8-11


Diane_S I am talking about the verses to obeying law


DaveArmstrong that ain't what it sez. Gal 5:4: they fell away from grace. You say they never had it. I'll follow Paul, thank you.

thomasjg Dave: again... I would risk presupposing that you are not covenantal


DaveArmstrong Heb 3:12-13, "fall away from the living God." You and Calvinists say they never were with God in the first place. I'll follow the Bible, not false traditions of men.


Diane_S thomas, Dave is Roman Catholic apologist


thomasjg ahh, then he is inconsistent in his covenantalism;
no disrespect

DaveArmstrong Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy . . .


thomasjg Dave Jesus loses not one...


DaveArmstrong of course He doesn't. They lose themselves.


thomasjg well that would be impossible for then Jesus would not be doing the will of the Father


DaveArmstrong 2 Peter 2:15,20-21 Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, . . . For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them

thomasjg for it is the Father's will that he lose not one.
Remember, all given will come.. and of those that come He loses not one. Again, covenant inclusion is on two levels.. those that profess and those that actually are; the two not being mutually exclusive. Ask Ishmael :)

DaveArmstrong I know the Calvinist arguments pretty well, I think. I just spent the last eight months critiquing Calvin's Book IV of his Institutes and then writing a 388-page book about Calvin. I'm in a debate right now on my blog about TULIP.


thomasjg then explain to me the dual aspects of the Covenant of Grace as it now sits with Christ as a second Adam having fulfilled the Covenant of Works


DaveArmstrong could you rephrase that in English, Thomas?


thomasjg Dave: I am sorry I thought you were familiar with the Calvinist arguments :)

DaveArmstrong but they mean different things by the same thing oftentimes. I was just writing about this yesterday in my latest blog post.

thomasjg I would say anthopocentric autonomy would be more apt to fit that branding :)

DaveArmstrong what is your denomination, thomas?

thomasjg I am Presbyterian (PCA); Confessional...Westminster [Confession]; Covenantal and Calvinist

DaveArmstrong Okay. Are Arminians Christians?

thomasjg sure many are

DaveArmstrong doctrinally?

thomasjg psst... there are some Calvinists that are not...

DaveArmstrong can one reject all five points of TULIP and still be a Christian?

thomasjg qualify the rejection..

DaveArmstrong as in the Remonstrants at Dort in 1619?

thomasjg I would say the remonstrants of Dort were more in line with heretical teaching

DaveArmstrong so they aren't Christians?

thomasjg as was stated by the Synod; I would say that a willful rejection of biblical truth is a mark of an unbeliever..

DaveArmstrong who determines what biblical truth is?

Diane_S um thomas that was great

thomasjg now an unknowing rejection of doctrine can be debated

Diane_S that was good too; glad thomas is here

DaveArmstrong see how Calvinism bores folks and they leave? :-)

Diane_S no, it is late; that is why they are leaving. Me toooooooooo. Night folks

thomasjg Dave do you know what the perspicuity of scripture is ?

DaveArmstrong who determines what biblical truth is?

Diane_S God Bless, say hello to your family Dave

DaveArmstrong nitey nite; will do; you too

thomasjg Scripture does... it is self attesting :) Remember Sola Scriptura :)

DaveArmstrong why couldn't Luther and Calvin agree on baptism, then? Why did they both have Anabaptists killed for beliving in adult baptism?

thomasjg ohh wait... you are sola ecclesia :)

DaveArmstrong no, I am "three-legged stool"

thomasjg and clarity does not necessitate agreement

DaveArmstrong third time now: who determines biblical truth; biblical orthodox doctrine?

Diane_S I have to answer; supposed to be gone
DaveArmstrong LOL. Couldn't sleep huh?

thomasjg Scripture does for the third time now, not fallible man :)

Diane_S this question gets on my last nerves; wakes me up. Dave, when You stand before God who will be with you?

DaveArmstrong Scripture does not. Protestants disagreed on baptism from their very beginning, and never have been able to resolve their differences. Scripture Alone is not enough. They can't do it.

thomasjg so who is right.... Orange or Trent?

Diane_S hello; when you stand before God, who is with you?

DaveArmstrong I ain't gonna change the topic because you guys have no answers to my hard questions.

Diane_S I am answering

thomasjg Actually Scripture is enough... according to scripture..?

Diane_S the reason it is the Word of God is because that is what you will be judged by; you are fallible, so are we; God's word is not. That is your answer

thomasjg Who determines when the church is lacking truth?

DaveArmstrong Scripture is materially sufficient. It does not, however, bring folks to agreement simply because it is inspired and infallible. History has shown this. What does Scripture teach about baptism then?

Diane_S who said we all have to agree on everything?
DaveArmstrong Paul: "one faith, one baptism, one Lord"

Diane_S wrong; he praised the church for their disagreements, because why?

thomasjg Dave for the second time... Who determines when the church is lacking truth?

DaveArmstrong he [Paul] repeatedly refers to "the truth" and "the doctrine" and "tradition", etc.

Diane_S he sure does

thomasjg Dave the perfect has come and it is not the RCC :)

Diane_S and I answered you about 6 years ago on this

DaveArmstrong I asked who is it that determines what is biblical truth. People disagree. How do we know what the truth is?

thomasjg It is Scripture alone

Diane_S "if even "we" or an angel give you a different gospel, let them be eternally condemned

thomasjg Dave lets go for three times... Who determines when the church is lacking truth?

Diane_S the apostles were subject to the Word of God

DaveArmstrong Luther sez this, Calvin sez that. Zwingli sez a third thing. They anathematize each other. Luther and Calvin have Anabaptists drowned for believing what every Baptist believes today (adult baptism).

Diane_S the "we" are the apostles

DaveArmstrong I asked the question, that has not yet been answered. I don't go down rabbit trails.

Diane_S it is your answer

thomasjg this pope said that... this pope issued a papal bull.. this pope later recognized it as greed...

Diane_S men are not going to agree. They are not; period

thomasjg you cannot appeal to agreement

DaveArmstrong exactly, my point [Diane], but men have to interpret Scripture.

thomasjg so let's go for four

Diane_S individuals stand before God

DaveArmstrong they can't agree; therefore, the common man doesn't know which school to follow

thomasjg Who determines when the church is lacking truth... can you please answer?

Diane_S the answer I gave you above that you rejected last time

DaveArmstrong not until I am answered [will I answer your question].

Diane_S individual names written in the book of life; God gave His word to us

thomasjg hehe.. you mean you cannot answer without supporting sola Scriptura. It is a classic failing in the RCC view :) When the church errs the word of God has the final say

Diane_S the RCC uses "development" of doctrine as their excuse for disagreement; beliefs changing

thomasjg hence Sola Scriptura :)

Diane_S we gave you the answer: men are going to disagree till the day they die; and you know that Catholics also disagree

thomasjg But the word of God never changes :)

DaveArmstrong so the Scripture determines what is the biblical doctrine?

thomasjg Actually yes... it is the only rule of faith and life

Diane_S Jesus did say "all things will pass away, but my Words will never pass away"

DaveArmstrong then why can't Protestants agree?

thomasjg Why can't Catholics agree?

DaveArmstrong where does Scripture say it is the only rule?

thomasjg and by Catholics I mean RCC

Diane_S same place it says the RCC is the only rule, :)

thomasjg err Catholics

Diane_S you can paste it here :)

DaveArmstrong another unanswered question? You guys are walking caricatures of evasiveness

thomasjg there was no RCC, not even a bishop in Rome when early councils of elders were called.
Dave: you have Yet to answer the question.


DaveArmstrong is there a way to cut-and-paste this dialogue to my blog? This is classic

Diane_S Dave for pete's sake, if the Bible said there was final authority in the RCC, we would all be there :)

thomasjg and seek to use your falure to accept our answers as an excuse..

Diane_S and not arguing

thomasjg Dave: 5th time now.. Who determines when the RCC is lacking truth?

Diane_S do you think a Christian seeking to follow Christ, should go against what they read in God's word?

DaveArmstrong and what does that word say about the Eucharist and baptism? You tell me, since you claim to know

thomasjg rabbit trail. Come on Dave. Man up my friend. Say it.

DaveArmstrong You say follow the Word, I say, okay, tell me what that Word teaches about a, b, c. You evade

Diane_S we can tell you what we believe that God has revealed in His word

DaveArmstrong okay, please do

thomasjg Dave: we are on the topic of what is our final authority..

DaveArmstrong . . . about baptism

Diane_S that you should believe and be baptized and we do and are

thomasjg and you cannot answer simply

DaveArmstrong infants?

thomasjg Dave: strawman; rabbit trail; lets ask again shall we?

DaveArmstrong no it's not. If the Bible is so clear, then we will know this. I'm only following your method.

thomasjg Who determines when the RCC is lacking truth?

DaveArmstrong I won't be led astray from the conversation.

Diane_S well, show me the verse that says infants were baptized?

thomasjg The Bible is clear.

DaveArmstrong Diane is at least answering some things

Diane_S if you go to the family verses, doesn't do it for me

DaveArmstrong so you say the Bible rules out infant baptism?

Diane_S however, it is a non issue Dave, for me

thomasjg Diane: that is a rabbit trail meant to divide.. and not answer

DaveArmstrong even Thomas disagrees with you. You two can't even agree, and you're here telling me the Bible determines all these things for the honest seeker?

thomasjg The Bible states exactly what we are to believe converning baptism

Diane_S since a RC doesn't believe it will ultimately save the child anyway, I didn't baptize my infants

thomasjg Diane: he should answer the question at hand

DaveArmstrong there are verses where families are baptized; almost certainly including children. Calvin makes an elaborate argument from the analogy of circumcision, that I think is excellent

thomasjg Dave: rabbit trail.

Diane_S but I have no problem with those that do :) . That is my answer

thomasjg we are talking about authority

DaveArmstrong the Bible says that baptism saves; it is certainly a hugely important issue to understand biblical truth on that

thomasjg Dave lets go for 7 times I have asked..

Diane_S nah; you don't even really believe that Dave

thomasjg Who determines when the RCC is lacking truth? 7 times and no answer.. I can tell you.. Scripture does

Diane_S since a Catholic is not guaranteed heaven if they are baptized or are you? :)

DaveArmstrong what does it state about baptism, Thomas? Good, now we're getting somewhere

Diane_S answer Thomas

thomasjg The Bible states exactly what God has revealed we are to believe concerning Baptism... There.. Now.. who determines when the Rcc is lacking truth?

Diane_S please answer Thomas, Dave

DaveArmstrong Yes, of course, all Catholic beliefs must be consistent with Scripture. They are. One of the major themes in my apologetics is demonstrating that.

thomasjg so then where they are Not the church is in error?

DaveArmstrong and what is that Thomas? What does it state [about baptism]?

thomasjg and that would mean that the church is only as true as it conforms to the Word of God.. and that the Scipture is the ultimate authority.. Sola Scriptura. Thanks Dave

[later note: this is not sola Scriptura at all. To say that Catholic doctrine must agree with Scripture and to hold that Scripture is the only infallible ("ultimate") authority are two completely different things. Thomas absurdly collapses them into one, and so he thinks that to assert one is automatically to assert the other, which is utterly false]

DaveArmstrong I'm not talking about the RCC. The topic has been from the beginning the Bible as the standard of truth. I am only following your own presuppositions.

thomasjg now to answer regarding Baptism...

DaveArmstrong infant, non-regenerative? (Calvin). Infant, regenerative (Luther)? Adult, non-regenerative (Baptist)? Adult regenerative (Churches of Christ)? No baptism (Quakers, Salvation Army)?

thomasjg Specifically.. The Bible states that Baptism is a sign and seal of the new covenant... it replaces circumsicion and as a sign represents an outward act signifying an inward reality... as a seal it represents the covenantal promises of God and is not ties therefore to the time of the application.. as a sacrament is for the Church and since the new birth is an act of the Spirit alone it cannot be regenerative. There you go :) short answer

DaveArmstrong that's simply what Calvin thinks. Even Diane doesn't agree with that. Yet you two tell me the Bible is so clear, including on baptism. Luther disagrees. He thinks it is a sacrament of regeneration. The Anabaptists disagreed (which is why Luther and Calvin had them killed).

thomasjg Calvin's thought are only as good as the Scripture :) The Westminster Confession is worth nothing if it does not accuratly summarize what Scripture teaches..

DaveArmstrong so this illustrates my point perfectly. You merely give me one interpretation from one Protestant school. Others disagree. And that goes back to my question: how do we determine which interpreter to choose? Why should Calvin be superior to Luther?

thomasjg and again the perspicuity of scripture does not necessitate agreement..

DaveArmstrong granted. How does one choose who to believe?

Diane_S and why should the RCC be superior to Luther or Calvin? That is the point. Christians disagree

thomasjg since we see the RCC in error and disagreement throughout history

DaveArmstrong the problem is competing schools all appealing to a perspicuous Scripture.

Diane_S and so?

thomasjg but scripture is the same..

Diane_S right thomas

thomasjg it never changes that what truth is..

DaveArmstrong back to the RCC again. I'm not talking about "RCC." I'm disputing your opinions. The old, tired techniques don't work with me.

thomasjg that which corresponds to reality..

Diane_S and I am telling you it is supposed to be that way Dave. We are each to study on our own

thomasjg the RCC would not have liked the Bereans :)

Diane_S love the Lord your God with heart, soul and mind; we are to use our mind

DaveArmstrong I use more Scripture in defending my beliefs than any Protestant I have ever come across.

Diane_S the Holy Spirit teaches us

thomasjg Dave: then you must not have come across many

Diane_S have you ever changed your mind on what you believe? Of course you have. That is how He made us

DaveArmstrong I have a 445-page book of virtually all Scripture, showing that Catholicism is biblical and true.

Diane_S yes in your opinion right now. That could change

thomasjg Dave and I have 66 books that are 100% scripture that disagree :)

DaveArmstrong so why am I to believe Calvin's take on baptism over Luther's and the Anabaptists? Did I miss an answer to that?

Diane_S you have to be convinced in your mind Dave. You are no different than Thomas or I. You simply agree with whoever you agree with. Since I am not permitted to say the Rcc, I won't. hehehe

thomasjg and what [sic] should I believe the RCC in light of 1054

DaveArmstrong so the Bible is crystal clear but it is okay to disagree, which demonstrates precisely that the clearness of the Bible is not sufficient in and of itself to resolve the disputes; yet you cling to that anyway, despite the vicious self-contradiction.

thomasjg and in light of Orange / Trent

Diane_S wrong

DaveArmstrong right

Diane_S the Scripture is clear; we are not. We are fallible. How can the fallible know the infallible? Takes time, study, prayer

thomasjg only by the Spirit

DaveArmstrong but we can disagree; that is fine. It's the new Protestant "quest for uncertainty" that is presently quite fashionable.

Diane_S spiritual growth

thomasjg There is uncertainty in the RCC

DaveArmstrong Luther and Calvin said those who disagreed with them were damned. You guys say, "ah, who cares? We can't reach an agreement anyway; that is the human condition."

Diane_S so, who cares what they said? What does the Bible say? I started it with the bottom line Dave

thomasjg Dave you would have to actually qualify that

DaveArmstrong they can know the infallible by being led by the Holy Spirit, just as the Jerusalem Council was (acts 15:28).

Diane_S it wasn't a rabbit trail

thomasjg that blanket statement is dishonest :)

Diane_S I am not going to place my eternal soul in the hands of other men

thomasjg It is ok.. since Dave agrees.. Dave said and I paraphrase... the Bible gets the last word

Diane_S we have to study ourselves; we are judged as individuals. I believe you believe your church is right

thomasjg It is the Scripture alone that will ultimately determine a lack of truth in the RCC.

DaveArmstrong The Bible is materially sufficient. Every true doctrine must be in harmony with it. That is not the same as saying that every doctrine must have explicit biblical proof.

Diane_S but you could be wrong, :)

thomasjg it is ok ... I am now content since Dave ultimately agrees with us

Diane_S it is God's opinion that matters

[ . . . deleted off-topic diversion about the term "Roman Catholic"]

DaveArmstrong can I post this on my site? But I haven't figured out how to copy it.

thomasjg but Dave all in love it has been a pleasure :)

DaveArmstrong the pleasure was mine . . .

thomasjg night guys and gals

Diane_S if you people are going, I will log out

DaveArmstrong Nitey; can I paste this?

Diane_S to copy Dave, highlight and use ctrl c

thomasjg God's blessings in all!

DaveArmstrong this is classic: one for the ages.

Diane_S doesn't seem that interesting