Saturday, February 26, 2011

James White Sez on His Webcast That I "Project Abject Looniness" and Have "Absolutely" No "Credibility"

Bishop White has to stop being so negative. It reflects badly on him and his unsavory tactics are becoming over-exposed.


First, let's note the reason why this is taking place. White: the Grand Poobah of Internet Anti-Catholic Protestants (perhaps of all anti-Catholics) has called me names and mocked and ridiculed and insulted (while refusing to engage in ongoing substantive debate) for 15 years. There is nothing new in that, generally speaking. It's his standard modus operandi with folks who disagree with him.

The current outbreak of slander is due to my critiquing his bogus doctorate. I have done this now three times. The second and third were both as a result of his sidekicks again defending his degree on his blog. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't have given it any additional thought or time since my first critique in 2004. Here they are:

James White's "Doctorate" Degree: Is it Legitimate? (vs. James White and Mark Bainter)

Anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist Apologist James White's Bogus, Non-Accredited "Doctorate" Degree Defended Yet Again (vs. Jamin Hubner)


James White Bogus "Doctorate" Issue Redux: Has No One Ever Interacted With His Self-Defense? / White Takes His Lumps from Baptist Peter Lumpkins

This paper is again in response to his stepping-up of the insults. He only hurts himself. If he would simply shut up about it, or stop allowing comrades to engage in knee-jerk defenses of the indefensible, then he wouldn't be faced with three of my four papers. Manning up and rationally defending his positions (like the scholar he falsely claims to be) is apparently out of the question: always has been where I am concerned, since 1995 and our first debate by US Mail, where he performed very poorly, insulted up and down, and fled for the hills when he had no more answers to straightforward logical questions.

His Dividing Line webcast of 22 February 2011 exhibited the by-now classic and timeworn (YAWN) White attack dog tactics. He described the attack portion in his blog announcement for it as "A few comments at the end about . . . some of the looniness currently being seen out on the net." Here is what he said on the public webcast (you can hear it yourself following the link above):

[53:11] But isn't it nice, in this situation, to be able to answer these questions and to do so in a respectful and biblical fashion. And it really strikes me as an amazing example in contrast to the abject looniness that is going on out in the world today, specifically in the Internet.

[53:55] There is another Muslim out there . . . his nickname is grandverbalizer19 . . . [55:00] Some of you know that right now on certain blogs out there in the blogosphere, there is so much libel, slander, bile, hatred, anger, and the number of lies defies the imagination, being thrown about by people . . . the silliest combox comment I've ever seen in the entirety of my life . . . [56:19] This is on Dave Armstrong's blog. Where else, but on good old DA's blog, will you find something as utterly inane as this?!! [laughs] Here it is [quotes the comment made in my combox on 2-21-11] . . . [57:37] . . . on Dave Armstrong's blog, where , of course, they were recycling stuff that is now, what, 1999 or something like that, from a Mormon; it's nowhere near accurate anymore . . . it's been debunked a thousand times before, but it's the best Dave's got, you know, you gotta give the guy credit; he gets refuted and he keeps repeating himself. It's a sad thing to watch. . . . [58:48] Folks, give these people the amount of weight they have earned. Okay? That means someone like a grandverbalizer19, or a Dave Armstrong, or a Peter Lumpkins, or a Ray or Roy, or any of the rest of these people. Give them the credibility they have earned, which is absolutely, positively none. Keep that in mind.

1) It is beyond silly to blast me for every remark made on my blog by people I don't agree with (this person is a Muslim). It's a little thing called "free speech." I know that White has only a dim familiarity with it because he has never allowed any comments at all on his blog. He used to at least claim that he allowed free debate in his chat room, but I was routinely kicked out within minutes by one of his henchmen (usually David T. King) when I dared to show up. I was banned from his buddy Eric Svendsen's discussion board years ago, and from his crony John Q. Doe's blog a few months back. I've had comments deleted in another fellow anti-Catholic, Steve Hays' blog. But I rarely ban people. Even when I do, they are usually allowed back (e.g., Doe sidekick Ken Temple) if they will talk substantively. So, with that background, it is utterly ridiculous for White to make a big deal over this guy's comment (a person I don't know from Adam), as if it has anything to do with me ("Where else, but on good old DA's blog, will you find something as utterly inane as this?"). I get lots of inane comments, but, curiously, they are always from people I disagree with: whether they come from anti-Catholic zealots (White's crowd), or geocentrists, or radical traditionalist Catholics, or atheists. I don't agree with 'em! But they are allowed to express themselves on my blog.

2) White has great fun noting that the ridiculous remark was made on my blog. What he ignores, of course, was my response, made right below the silly comment about White supposedly becoming a Muslim. I wrote: "That's about as likely as Obama joining the tea party. :-)" I considered a stronger statement than that (such as a Hamas member becoming an orthodox Jew or some such), but my usual policy in the face of ludicrosity is one of three things: ignoring it, resorting to humor, or understatement. I chose the third in this instance; but in any event, I clearly disagreed with it. Yet White thinks it is perfectly ethical to make fun of the fact that it appeared on my blog (that allows free speech), as if this proves anything about me, while ignoring my stated disagreement with it, right below it. That would be context; that would actually be fair, and thus, White doesn't do that, because he has not been noted for his emphasis on being fair to my positions or to me personally (there's another example of my extreme understatement).

3) "on Dave Armstrong's blog, where , of course, they were recycling stuff that is now, what, 1999 or something like that, from a Mormon." I wasn't "recycling" anything. As I stated above, I had no thoughts about this stuff at all. I knew nothing about the threads on Peter Lumpkins' blog. I merely happened to check in on White's blog, and I ran across statements about the fake doctorate degree from his buddy Rich Pierce:

We have never hidden this from anyone but have yet to have a single critic actually interact with Dr. White's reasoning for following the path that he did.

This is a flat-out lie, since I did exactly that in 2004, in my first article on the topic, listed above. It is because of the falsehood that I again wrote about it. When people lie, it only gets them into more trouble than the initial issue has already caused them. I have two photographs that were taken by a Mormon. Nothing is inaccurate about them. The Columbia Evangelical Seminary was in this building and this room that were shown in the photos. I had some fun with it; it was obviously semi-humorous. But White has never taken well to any humor at his expense -- while he dishes out a ton of it at others' expense: often involving falsehood somewhere along the line. Here's some more humor. I wrote on Lumpkins' blog tonight:

Proud to be a fellow loon, Peter! . . . I dared to note that White got his "doctorate" by mailing in 100 proof-of-purchase labels from boxes of Cheerios.

White is quite irrational enough to be capable of thinking that I actually literally believe this. :-)

4) White and his followers haven't "debunked" anything in this regard. He has given a rationale for his reasoning in getting a degree from an unaccredited school, but he hasn't shown that his degree is legitimate, or that he has earned the right to call himself a "Dr." as if he is an academic, with all that that entails.

5) I need not respond to his endless personal, merely juvenile rank insults towards me (loony, no credibility and so forth, ad nauseum); I never do. I merely expose them, and they refute themselves. The more extreme the better, from where I sit; he only hurts himself. I have pointed out a few matters of fact in this paper, and how White has distorted them. It's standard White tactics, sad to say. I know: as a persistent target of his for 15 years.

Baptist pastor Peter Lumpkins (a thoughtful, reflective Protestant not burdened by a ridiculous and irrational anti-Catholicism as White is) was kind enough to write the following about me on his blog:

Dave,

From one loon to another, thanks for logging on ;^). More seriously, I've read some of your stuff. And, you're no loon, I assure. Obviously, we'd have some profound disagreements in certain theological areas. But there is also much in which we could agree.

One thing seemed certain from my brief reading of your material, Dave--you're careful in your language and you appear to disagree with restraint.


I replied:

Thanks for your kind words, and for reading some of my writing.

There is, of course, much we agree on. The irony is that the same is true between White and myself. We could work together against abortion, homosexual "marriage," KJV-only, Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, atheism, liberal theology (of all stripes), defense of the inspiration of the Bible and the Trinity and Grace Alone, etc. I've written about all these things, excepting KJV-onlyism.

But White can never acknowledge any of that (I have, the other way around). And that is because he defined me from the beginning of our interactions (in 1995) as never a Christian at any time (I used to be an Arminian evangelical before I became a Catholic), and certainly not now. Therefore, nothing I do, even when he agrees, can possibly be of any worth.

If there is anything "loony" here (I don't return his insult; I'm being rhetorical), it is that foolish attitude. The devil absolutely loves dividing and conquering. It's one of his most successful strategies.

I have always said that if White is ever to be corrected, it would have to come from his fellow Baptists or even his inner circle. The sad thing, though, is that he seems to respond no more to critique from Baptists than anyone else. He attacks Protestants who disagree with him just as irrationally and unscrupulously as he attacks Catholics like myself.

Curious, though, isn't it, how White regards me as dumber than a doornail (so he says), yet has challenged me three times to an oral debate (in 1995, 2001, and 2007). It seems to be a cyclical thing (he's due again in 2013). So how can this be? Does it mean that he seeks out the very worst opponents he can find? Or does he look for the best, most able opponents?

I always interact with the sharpest opponents I can find, myself, if I am looking for an intelligent, constructive debate.


Look for more obscurantist, sophistical, obfuscatory, paranoid, irrational, insulting replies from White. He always claims to not care about these things, but his extreme replies put the lie to that. He even was perhaps subtly conspiratorial in his webcast, referring to an allegiance of "Muslims, Arminians . . ." against him. He didn't include Catholics, but of course he mentioned me, and people who know me online at all know that I am a Catholic. So it's the grand conspiracy of Muslims, Arminians (he didn't want to say Baptist; that wouldn't sound too good), and Catholics: all motivated by (how did he put it?): "libel, slander, bile, hatred, anger, and . . . lies." That's us, folks! All who disagree with White must be liars and evil people and loons and utterly lacking in all credibility, you see. How could it possibly be otherwise?

Martin Luther would have consented to White being drowned by the local magistrate for sedition and heresy (since he did so with the Anabaptists, on the grounds of their belief in adult believer's baptism). I say he is a fellow Christian and recipient of two valid sacraments (baptism and marriage). But I am supposedly filled with hatred and an inveterate liar, just like all his other critics.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Pope is God" Charge: Similar Examples of Supposed "I Am God" Statements from Protestants Martin Luther and Heinrich Bullinger

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-5iqwjq8-hMk/TWbwqfStxyI/AAAAAAAADTo/fOXx3aVOdJA/s1600/Luther2.gif

2 Peter 1:3-4 (RSV) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

Romans 5:2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Romans 9:23
in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, [17] and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Hebrews 6:4 . . . partakers of the Holy Spirit,

See also: Biblical Evidence for God Sharing His Glory With His Creatures

See the previous related papers:


Debate: The Anti-Catholic "Pope as God" Argument (vs. Paul Mansbacher)

Anti-Catholic Lies and Deceitful Propaganda: Did Pope St. Pius V Claim to be God? Did a Bishop Say Venerable Pope John Paul II Was God?


In the combox for the latter, regular contributor Ben M. came up with links to a lot of great material that will form the heart of this paper. He's the "king of interesting links." I also have quite a bit in my archives, of Luther's statements along these lines.

The argument herein presented is an example of reductio ad absurdum, or (in popular lingo) "it proves too much". If remarks made by popes about speaking for God, etc., are absurdly taken as equations with God, then the same must apply to Protestants who speak in similar terms, including the founder of Protestantism himself, Martin Luther: who actually assumed far more authority for himself (as did Calvin, Henry VIII and many other Protestant leaders; so-called "reformers") than any pope ever dreamt of claiming. I've been pointing this out for over twenty years now.

The fundamental error is inability to understand the range of how language is used, and to grasp the context of the statements themselves, and how they fit into the overall picture of Catholicism.

* * * * *

A Protestant who actually believes this pope-as-God stuff, named Gregory Mathew Kuglin, came onto the combox and expressed himself (on 2-18-11). I appreciated his cordiality, if not his ideas:

Hi Dave,

I found your site through the 'stats' section of my blog. Someone had come from your site, directly to my blog. So I checked it out, and found that you linked to my blog (The Roman Catholic Church's Shame) in your post about the Holy Sees self proclamation of divinity.

I did not know that the commonly used quotation of Pius V is inaccurate. Ill take your word on this one, because admittedly I've never read that book by Barclay, not even Chapter XXVII, p. 218.

Your post however did not touch on the other quotations I posted in the same article. These are from other sources, written at different times.

Even if the popes and those involved in the Catholic system never proposed that the pope "is as God on earth," (papa est QUASI DEUS IN TERRA), as Pope Boniface VIII did, there is still abundant evidence from the Holy Bible, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that the papal position is one totally apart from the God of truth, and is an attempt to usurp his glory.

For example, Paragraph 882 of the Catechism:
The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.
Is this not saying that the pope holds the position, power, and influence of Jesus Christ, God on earth? But the Bible says all things, and every name that is named are under the feet of Jesus (Eph 1:17-22). This would include Peter, and every 'successor' after him.

Then paragraphs 890, and 891 of the CCC mention infallibility. Only one was perfect in faith and morals, and that was and is Jesus Christ, who lived without sin. Peter proved he was fallible when he ignorantly tried to persuade Jesus against conquering sin and death; and Jesus rebuked him as Satan (Mt 16:21-23).

Thank you for link to my blog. Further discussion on any Catholic topic is definitely welcomed by me.

Sincerely,

Greg Kuglin

I replied:

Infallibility has to do with being error-free in proclaiming a doctrine, not being impeccable in morals. This is a common mistake, but a very basic one.

The pope represents Jesus on earth. That no more makes him equal to God than being an ambassador of the United States makes a person the same as the United States.

It's just silly.

You seem like a sensible person. Can't you see the logical distinctions here?

Another esteemed regular on my blog, "Jordanes 551" also commented:

In addition, as for those few times when Catholic theologians have spoken of the pope as "quasi deus in terra," how is that any more objectionable than Psalm 44 (45):7-8, where the Davidic King of Judah, a mere mortal, is addressed with the words, "Thy throne, O God, is forevermore; a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou dost love justice and hate iniquity: therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee, with oil of gladness above thy fellows"? Or Psalm 81 (82):6, where God addresses human, mortal judges with the words, "I have said: 'You are elohim, and all of you, the sons of the Most High."

If He called them gods to whom the word of God was addressed (and the Scripture cannot be broken), dost thou say of him to whom Christ hath given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and granted unto him royal power as steward of the House of David and servant of the King, "Thou blasphemest," because it has been said of him that he is like God on the earth?

1) Martin Luther, Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, compiled by E. Mueller, translated by P. Anstadt, York, Pennsylvania: P. Anstadt & Sons, 1899, p. 335:

[John 10] 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy ; and because thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken;

36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sandtified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.

38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Nature knows that there is a God who helps, but who that God is, she knows not. Christ has God's work, and speaks God's word, yet the Jews can not know him through their reason.

I said, Ye are gods.
In Exodus xxii. 28, the judges (Elohim, not Jehovah,) are called gods on account of their office, because they sit in God's stead and are God's servants; so also all Christians are called gods, as Christ here shows from Ps. lxxxii. 6.

2) Heinrich Bullinger [16th century "reformer"], The Decades of Henry Bullinger, vol. 5, edited by Thomas Harding, Cambridge University Press, 1852 , p. 95:

For this cause ministers are called saviours: they are said to convert men: their word is called, not the word of man, but the word of God; he which despiseth them, seemeth to despise God himself. It is also said, that they themselves do bind and loose, and retain and forgive sins. For Abdias the prophet saith, that saviours shall ascend into the mount Sion; which many interpret of the apostles. Paul, pleading before king Agrippa, and rehearsing the words of God which came unto him in a vision, . . . Moreover, the apostle to the Thessalonians [1 Thess 2:13], "We thank God (saith he), because when ye had received of us the word of the preaching of God, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the word of God, which worketh also in you that believe." Again [1 Thess 4:8]: "He therefore that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who hath even given you his Holy Spirit." For the Lord saith in the gospel: luke x. "He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me." [Lk 10:16; cf. Matt 10:40; Jn 13:20]

3) Martin Luther, Against the Spiritual Estate of the Pope and the Bishops Falsely So-Called (July 1522):

I now let you know that from now on I shall no longer do you the honor of allowing you - or even an angel from heaven - to judge my teaching or to examine it. For there has been enough foolish humility now for the third time at Worms, and it has not helped. Instead, I shall let myself be heard and, as St. Peter teaches, give an explanation and defense of my teaching to all the world - I Pet. 3:15. I shall not have it judged by any man, not even by any angel. For since I am certain of it, I shall be your judge and even the angels' judge through this teaching (as St. Paul says [I Cor. 6:3 ]) so that whoever does not accept my teaching may not be saved - for it is God's and not mine. Therefore, my judgment is also not mine but God's.

(From: Martin Luther, Luther's Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (volumes 1-30) and Helmut T. Lehmann (volumes 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (volumes 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (volumes 31-55), 1955. This work from Volume 39: Church and Ministry I (edited by J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann); pages 239-299; translated by Eric W. and Ruth C. Gritsch; excerpt from 248-249)

4) Martin Luther, Against Henry VIII, King of England (15 July 1522):

Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell.

(From: Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 3rd ed., 1884, 15)

Ye will have Luther as a she-bear in your way and as a lioness in your path. He will attack you on all sides, and will give you no rest until he has broken in pieces your iron necks and brazen foreheads, either for your salvation or for your destruction.

* * *

For my teaching is in no particular contradictory, nor can be contradictory, because it is Christ's.

(From: online translation, translated by E. S. Buchanan, and published in New York by Charles A. Swift in 1928. It is hosted on the Project Canterbury Anglican website)

5) Martin Luther, Reply to the Answer of the Leipzig Goat (1521):

I have said repeatedly: Assail my person if you will, and in any way you will; I do not claim to be an angel. But I will allow no one to assail my teaching with impunity, since I know that it is not mine, but God's. For on this depends my neighbor's salvation and my own, to God's praise and honor.
(From: Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Co. and the Castle Press, 1930; reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982 , Volume 3, 293-294; translated by A. Steimle)

***

Sunday, February 20, 2011

James White Bogus "Doctorate" Issue Redux: Has No One Ever Interacted With His Self-Defense? / White Takes His Lumps from Baptist Peter Lumpkins


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The beautiful campus of James White's alma mater, where he got his "doctorate"

For some reason, Rich Pierce, associate of active Reformed Baptist anti-Catholic apologist James White, recently saw fit to bring up this issue on White's blog. Perhaps it was because of this recent thread on Baptist pastor Peter Lumpkins' blog. "Shamgar" who replied in it is White defender Mark Bainter, below. Lumpkins has been critical of White and his associate writers in a series of articles (one / two / three / four / five / six / seven), and that is a naughty no-no, leading inexorably to the inevitable personal attacks for which White is so notoriously infamous. Therefore, White and his minions of followers are starting to fight back. Bishop White, on his Twitter page, sent Lumpkins a Valentine on 2-14-11:

Just amazed at the vitriolic hatred and irrationality of Lumpkins and company---wonder what prompted this eruption of their anger?

And again on his blog (2-21-11):

The current spate of angry and vile (let alone loony and dishonest) attack being hosted by Peter Lumpkins seems to be related in large part to vengeance over the exposure of Ergun Caner. It is a sad comment on the state of the church that speaking the truth can be so costly!

White always eventually pulls out the paranoid "hatred" and "dishonesty" cards, as I have noted in the past (just do a search of "hate" or "hatred" or "dishonest" on his blog and see the numerous examples that will come up). All who oppose him are obviously the enemies of God, etc., and so they must be motivated by hatred and love of falsehood and the urge to deliberately lie and deceive, rather than love and sincerity and love of truth. That's why he will call his opponents "Alexander the Coppersmith," just as he is currently doing with regard to fellow Baptist Peter Lumpkins.

Here is the brief aomin article in its entirety:

Of Doctorates and Eternity
[2-17-11]

Every now and then I like to remind our critics of how the doctorate issue began. The first post in this series was by Dr. White who was the first to raise the issue, (late 1997). We have never hidden this from anyone but have yet to have a single critic actually interact with Dr. White's reasoning for following the path that he did. Take a look for yourself and get informed.

Pierce's statement: "We . . . have yet to have a single critic actually interact with Dr. White's reasoning for following the path that he did" -- is untrue. I have done so two times at length, myself, and I believe others have, too, though I can't speak for them. I know what I have done. And as usual, my reasoning was ignored by both White and his defender Jamin Hubner.

I guess that's why Pierce can pretend that no one has interacted with White's stated rationale for why he feels he has a legitimate doctorate (because he fled from my critiques, so that they were quickly forgotten in his circles, for that reason). Mr. White no more possesses a doctorate than I do. But I certainly interacted with White's reasoning and defense. I can still remember today what they were and how I responded to them. It's one thing to say that no one has overthrown or refuted a piece of reasoning (which is subjective), but quite another to claim that no one has even attempted to do so (which is an objective claim of fact).

Here are my two papers:

James White's "Doctorate" Degree: Is it Legitimate? (vs. James White and Mark Bainter)


Anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist Apologist James White's Bogus, Non-Accredited "Doctorate" Degree Defended Yet Again (vs. Jamin Hubner)


At least Mark Bainter was willing to do some back-and-forth at the time of my first paper (9-16-04). That's more than we can say for Bishop White.

Related articles:

Alpha and Omega Founder James White Purchases a Bogus doctorate from a Non-Accredited Diploma Mill (Theodore P. Letis, 3-4-02 [PDF])

James White's Public Defamation of Letis and His Refusal to Apologize (20-page PDF)

Theological Degrees: Vision University, Trinity Bible College, Columbia Evan. Seminary (DegreeInfo, 9-17-03)

Why Accreditation is Important (Jimmy Akin, 1-20-05)

A Question About Credentials (Nick Norelli, 11-2-07)

As the World Turns . . . Postscript Mr. James White (A. M. Mallett, 9-13-10)


Dr. Paul Owen, a real scholar, in the thread mentioned near the top, has given a good capsule summary (2-14-11) of White's dishonesty with regard to his credentials, and his overall pretense in how he presents himself:

I would just like to point out a few things relative to this thread.

1. Why are White's defenders not pointing out how un-Christlike it is to refer to another Christian as Alexander the Coppersmith? [Owen himself has often been called this by Bishop White] Is that kind of absurd name-calling appropriate? He always pulls this label out of the hat when dealing with people who strike close to the core of his rather thin ego.

2. White has made a habit of debating scholars who work in fields of real expertise, and presuming with a bit of self-study that he is up to the task. Taking on Bart Ehrman on textual criticism is a perfect example of this. Having done my Ph.D. work under Larry Hurtado (one of the top text-critics in the world), I know enough to appreciate what a specialized discipline this is. White does not work in this specialized field, and has published nothing in the scholarly arena (his KJV Only work does not count) relevant to the study of the text of the NT. He does not present his research in scholarly forums and conferences dealing with text-criticism, nor does he work directly with ancient manuscripts (looking at a few artifacts for an hour or so while touring Ireland on a apologetics trip does not count).

3. White's doctorate certainly is an issue. I was one of the first people to confront him about this, back in 1997, when I learned that he was taking this route. Getting a doctorate from a school like Columbia Evangelical Seminary is misleading, because people who don't know better will presume that his work would match up to what is required in genuine, accredited programs. It obviously does not. The Forgotten Trinity would most certainly NOT be accepted by any stretch of the imagination at any accredited doctoral program. It reflects a very unsophisticated approach to the subject, and a complete and utter lack of familiarity with, well, basically all of the primary and secondary texts that are relevant to this area of Christian doctrine. Nowhere will one find Plantinga, Torrance, Barth, Boff, Rahner, Volf, Moltmann, Zizioulas, etc. etc. in White's research. His topic is far too broad to qualify for doctoral work, and is light years away from real credible scholarship. A thesis like that would be laughed out of the room, not only at places like the University of Edinburg where I studied, but any evangelical doctoral program in America. It's time that White and his followers start being honest about his lack of genuine academic credentials, since his doctorate would not be viewed as a legitimate theological credential were he being considered for hiring, rank or tenure at any accredited school in this country.

As to the Mormons, since I work in this area directly, I can definitely attest that White is not taken seriously by them, for many reasons, not least of which being his claim to have a legitimate doctoral degree, which flies in the face of all objective evidence. There are many scholars at BYU who have earned their theological degrees at Harvard, Duke, Brown, UCLA, etc., and they certainly know the difference between a genuine academic credential and a correspondence school diploma.


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The entrance to the hallowed (ivy-less) hall[s?] of Columbia Evangelical Seminary

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Simultaneous Assertion of Realism and Symbolism in St. Augustine’s Eucharistic Doctrine

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The great Church father (who lived from 354-430) made many statements about the Eucharist that have been traditionally seized upon as evidence of his adoption of either a purely symbolic (Zwinglian) or Calvinistic notion of the Lord’s Supper.

These are often unfortunately interpreted within the framework of what has been called the “dichotomous tendency” in Protestantism, whereby things are set against each other and opposed, when they need not be. Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott explains:

The Eucharistic doctrine expounded by St. Augustine is interpreted in a purely spiritual way by most Protestant writers on the history of dogmas. Despite his insistence on the symbolical explanation he does not exclude the Real Presence. In association with the words of institution he concurs with the older Church tradition in expressing belief in the Real Presence . . .

When in the Fathers' writings, especially those of St. Augustine, side by side with the clear attestations of the Real Presence, many obscure symbolically-sounding utterances are found also, the following points must be noted for the proper understanding of such passages: (1) The Early Fathers were bound by the discipline of the secret, which referred above all to the Eucharist (cf. Origen, In Lev. hom. 9, 10); (2) The absence of any heretical counter-proposition often resulted in a certain carelessness of expression, to which must be added the lack of a developed terminology to distinguish the sacramental mode of existence of Christ’s body from its natural mode of existence once on earth; (3) The Fathers were concerned to resist a grossly sensual conception of the Eucharistic Banquet and to stress the necessity of the spiritual reception in Faith and in Charity (in contradistinction to the external, merely sacramental reception); passages often refer to the symbolical character of the Eucharist as ‘the sign of unity’ (St. Augustine); this in no wise excludes the Real Presence.

(Ott, 377-378)

Other patristic scholars (including Protestant ones) concur:

His thought [on the sacraments] has been widely studied but has not always been expounded in an unequivocal manner. Here as in other instances, it is necessary to keep in mind the various aspects of the dogma which he illustrates and defends. Thus . . . his insistence on the ecclesiological symbolism of the Eucharist does not obscure his explicit affirmations of the real presence (the bread is the Body of Christ and the wine is the Blood of Christ: Serm. 227; 272; In ps. 98, 9; 33, 1, 10) and of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist (De civ. Dei 10, 19-20; Conf. 9, 12, 32; 13-36).

(Johannes Quasten, vol. 4; St. Augustine chapter (VI) written by Agostino Trape, 449-450)
There are certainly passages in his writings which give a superficial justification to all these interpretations, but a balanced verdict must agree that he accepted the current realism . . . One could multiply texts . . . which show Augustine taking for granted the traditional identification of the elements with the sacred body and blood. There can be no doubt that he shared the realism held by almost all his contemporaries and predecessors.

(J. N. D. Kelly, 446-447)

[Augustine] at the same time holds fast the real presence of Christ in the Supper . . . He was also inclined, with the Oriental fathers, to ascribe a saving virtue to the consecrated elements.

(Philip Schaff, History of the Church, vol. 3, chapter 7)

Schaff (the renowned Protestant historian, who was certainly no partisan of transubstantiation!) had in the previous two pages just shown how St. Augustine referred to symbolism in the Eucharist as well, but he honestly admits that the great father accepted the Real Presence “at the same time.”

This is precisely what Catholics maintain. Facts about Christian doctrinal history, and who believed what, are facts, whether we agree with them or not. Schaff (as always) is honest enough to present them, even when he (as a Protestant) disagrees on a doctrinal level.

Kelly also noted that this state of affairs was generally true of the Church fathers (not just Augustine):

It must not be supposed, of course, that this ‘symbolical’ language implied that the bread and wine were regarded as mere pointers to, or tokens of, absent realities. Rather were they accepted as signs of realities which were somehow actually present though apprehended by faith alone.

(Kelly, 442)

St. Augustine’s symbolic language can be synthesized with his “realistic” language, because realism can co-exist with symbol while retaining its realism. The symbolic language can also (and indeed often does in Augustine) refer to other, more communal aspects of the Eucharist that complement (but are not contrary to) the “Real Presence” aspect of it. So there are at least two ways in which this can be explained as consistent with Catholic theology.

The simple fact of the matter is that Augustine speaks in both ways. But we can harmonize them as complementary, not contradictory, because Catholics, like Augustine himself, think in terms of “both/and” rather than the “either/or” outlook so prevalent in Protestantism. Thus, when some Augustinian symbolic Eucharistic utterance is found, it is seized upon as “proof” that he thereby denied the Real Presence.

This is neither logically compelling, nor scholarly, since there are also a great many of his statements that clearly indicate his belief in the literal, real physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the priesthood: all of which makes no sense without sacrifice, and the efficacy of the Mass (as well as other prayers) for the aid of the dead in purgatory, etc.

Either St. Augustine contradicted himself, changed his mind, or else the Catholic “take” on the situation is correct. The communal (“symbolic” if you will) aspects of the Sacrifice of the Mass, to which Augustine refers, are totally consonant with Catholic theology, and are discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1359-61, #1372, #2643).

The Bible takes the same approach. For example, Jesus refers to the “sign of Jonah,” comparing Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish to His own burial (Matthew 12:38-40; Lk 11:29-30). In other words, both events, although described as “signs,” were literally real events. Jesus also uses the same terminology in connection with His Second Coming (Matthew 24:30-31): a thing that is believed by all Christians to be a literal, not a symbolic occurrence.

Moreover, Jesus’ language of “sign” is very literalistic when He describes “terrors and great signs from heaven” (Lk 21:11), in the context of “earthquakes” and “famines and pestilences,” and when He refers to “signs in sun and moon and stars” (Lk 21:25).

In the Jewish and biblical understanding signs are not merely symbolic and abstract; they are concretely real (e.g., Jn 2:23: “they saw the signs”) and visible (Jn 4:48: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”; Lk 17:20: “signs to be observed”). They are usually something that one does (Mk 13:22; Lk 23:8; Jn 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2, 14; 9:16; 11:47; 12:18, 37, etc.).

Likewise, this holds true in St. Augustine’s eucharistic thinking. The language of “sign” and “symbol” does not nullify his eucharistic realism.

St. Augustine also believed in adoration of the host and the Sacrifice of the Mass, causing further conundrums for the Calvinist who seeks to claim his as a forerunner:

Commenting on the Psalmist's bidding that we should adore the footstool of His feet, he pointed out that this must be the earth. But since to adore the earth would be blasphemous, he concluded that the word must mysteriously signify the flesh which Christ took from the earth and which He gave us to eat. Thus it was the eucharistic body which demanded adoration.

(Kelly, 447)

As to the adoration of the consecrated elements: This follows with logical necessity from the doctrine of transubstantiation, and is the sure touchstone of it. . . . Ambrose speaks of the flesh of Christ “which we to-day adore in the mysteries,” [Ps 98,9] and Augustine, of an adoration preceding the participation of the flesh of Christ.

(Schaff, History of the Church, Vol. 3, Chapter 7)

The self-same Christ Who was slain there is in a real sense slaughtered daily by the faithful, so that the sacrifice which was offered once for all in bloody form is sacramentally renewed upon our altars with the oblation of His body and blood.

(Kelly, 454; further sources: Ep. 98:9; cf. C. Faust, 20,18; 20:21)

John Calvin, in his 1537 treatise, On Shunning the Unlawful Rites of the Ungodly, and Preserving the Purity of the Christian Religion (in Beveridge and Bonnet, vol. 3, 383, 386-387, 393), thought eucharistic adoration was “abominable Idolatry,” where “bread is pretended to assume Divinity, and raised aloft as God,” “atrocious and insulting,” “all prostrate themselves in stupid amazement,” like “worship of the Statue at Babylon,” a “sink of pollution and sacrilege,” and an example of being “enchanted by a kind of dull and magical murmur!” He offered equally scathing criticisms of the Sacrifice of the Mass:

[T]he mere name of Sacrifice (as the priests of the Mass understand it) both utterly abolishes the cross of Christ, and overturns his sacred Supper which he consecrated as a memorial of his death. For both, as we know, is the death of Christ utterly despoiled of its glory, unless it is held to be the one only and eternal Sacrifice; and if any other Sacrifice still remains, the Supper of Christ falls at once, and is completely torn up by the roots . . .

Will it still be denied to me that he who listens to the Mass with a semblance of Religion, every time these acts are perpetrated, professes before men to be a partner in sacrilege, whatever his mind may inwardly declare to God?

. . . Taking the single expression which gives the essence of all the invectives which the Apostle had uttered against Idolatry -- that we could not at once be partakers at the table of Christ and the table of demons -- who can deny its applicability to the Mass? Its altar is erected by overthrowing the Table of Christ . . . In the Mass Christ is traduced, his death is mocked, an execrable idol is substituted for God -- shall we hesitate, then, to call it the table of demons? Or shall we not rather, in order justly to designate its monstrous impiety, try, if possible, to devise some new term still more expressive of detestation? Indeed, I exceedingly wonder how men, not utterly blind, can hesitate for a moment to apply the name “Table of Demons” to the Mass, seeing they plainly behold in the erection and arrangement of it the tricks, engines, and troops of devils all combined . . . I have long been maintaining on the strongest grounds that Christian men ought not even to be present at it!

. . . will you represent the Supper under the image of a diabolical Mass? Will you persuade us that in an act in which you ignominiously travesty the death of the Lord, you observe his Supper, in which he distinctly exhorts us to shew forth his death?

(Ibid., 383, 386-388)

Since St. Augustine believed in these things, these accusations all to apply to him as well. Yet Calvin and many of his followers maintain the pretense that it is not the case. Calvin always wants to lambast the Catholic Church. He refrains from “scolding” and condemning all the Church fathers who believe basically the same. All we can do is document the actual state of affairs.

Adoration is precisely directed towards the consecrated Host; otherwise it can be directed towards the non-physical Father in heaven at any time. Eucharistic adoration is specifically that directed towards the Incarnate Christ substantially present in the consecrated elements: the “eucharistically substantiated” Christ.

By definition it involves, then, a host that was bread and wine that was wine, but which are both transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. St. Augustine makes this crystal-clear (downright undeniable). Here is the key passage, from his Exposition on Psalm 99:8 (“NPNF 1,” vol. 8):

“O magnify the Lord our God” (ver. 5). Magnify Him truly, magnify Him well. Let us praise Him, let us magnify Him who has wrought the very righteousness which we have; who wrought it in us, Himself. For who but He who justified us, wrought righteousness in us? For of Christ it is said, “who justifies the ungodly.” Romans 4:5 . . . “And fall down before His footstool: for He is holy.” What are we to fall down before? His footstool. What is under the feet is called a footstool, . . . in Latin Scabellum or Suppedaneum. But consider, brethren, what he commands us to fall down before. In another passage of the Scriptures it is said, “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” Isaiah 66:1 Doth he then bid us worship the earth, since in another passage it is said, that it is God’s footstool? How then shall we worship the earth, when the Scripture says openly, “You shall worship the Lord your God”? Deuteronomy 6:13 Yet here it says, “fall down before His footstool:” and, explaining to us what His footstool is, it says, “The earth is My footstool.” I am in doubt; I fear to worship the earth, lest He who made the heaven and the earth condemn me; again, I fear not to worship the footstool of my Lord, because the Psalm bids me, “fall down before His footstool.” I ask, what is His footstool? and the Scripture tells me, “the earth is My footstool.” In hesitation I turn unto Christ, since I am herein seeking Himself: and I discover how the earth may be worshipped without impiety, how His footstool may be worshipped without impiety. For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eats that flesh, unless he has first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord’s may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping.

The entire thrust of his argument has to do with “what is the footstool that God says we can worship?” It is clearly something physical, having to do with the earth. But Augustine notes that we are not to worship the earth. So Augustine brilliantly connects God to the earth by noting the incarnation: “For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary.”

Then he says that Jesus gave us “that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation” and concludes that the footstool is the eucharistic elements that become Christ’s body and blood; therefore can be worshiped as God, even though they have an earthly connection, precisely because of the incarnation.

Then he denies that it is a sin to so worship and adore, and goes further and says it is a sin if we do not. Therefore, it is unarguable that this is unmistakably eucharistic adoration: the very thing that Calvin detested as an idolatrous abomination.

There can be no middle ground on this matter: St. Augustine must be accepted as a full-fledged Catholic or not at all. But Protestants (particularly Calvinists) want to ignore or overlook these “outrageous” Catholic elements in Augustine’s doctrine and make out that he was almost like a Calvin in the 4th century, with regard to the Eucharist. It’s not true; it is manifestly, plainly untrue.

Catholics, too, think that the Eucharist is a sign, just as Augustine did (Catechism of the Catholic Church: #1333-1336, 1412), and a memorial (CCC #1099, 1362-1366), even, indeed, a foretaste or sign of the Resurrection (CCC #1000) and an analogy to the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus (CCC #1347). Obviously, then, the notion of “sign” is not, for us, as for Augustine, intrinsically contrary to substantive presence, as if it wipes it out, like the relationship of water to fire, etc., or a zero-sum game.

We can explain Augustine’s language of both signs and his more literal language, as a harmonious package. Calvinists (who want to claim him as one of their own in this regard) cannot. They must deny or “spiritualize away” his more literal, substantive, “Catholic-sounding” statements. And so on and on the debate goes, with this sort of dynamic almost always present.

Calvinists may disagree with St. Augustine because of these “Catholic” beliefs and admit that Calvin wrongly includes him among the non-idolater “real Christians” -- or else continue to futilely maintain that Augustine was more like Calvin in this regard than like St. Thomas Aquinas. If it is contended that Augustine had a mystical / spiritual-only view of the Eucharist, his views on adoration and sacrifice must still be faced.

Eucharistic adoration has no place in the Calvinist system. If Augustine believed in that, then he should be rejected as any sort of precursor to Calvin at all. But Calvin nevertheless believed that Augustine did not accept either the Sacrifice of the Mass or adoration of the consecrated Host, or some sort of close precursor to transubstantiation. He claimed that St. Augustine was completely on his side:

Since the advocates of this spurious dogma are not ashamed to honour it with the suffrages of the ancients, and especially of Augustine, how perverse they are in the attempt I will briefly explain. Pious and learned men have collected the passages, and therefore I am unwilling to plead a concluded cause: any one who wishes may consult their writings. I will not even collect from Augustine what might be pertinent to the matter, but will be contented to show briefly, that without all controversy he is wholly ours. The pretence of our opponents, when they would wrest him from us, that throughout his works the flesh and blood of Christ are said to be dispensed in the Supper—namely, the victim once offered on the cross, is frivolous, seeing he, at the same time, calls it either the eucharist or sacrament of the body. . . . For by interposing the expression, in a manner, he declares that he was not really or truly included under the bread. . . . in comparing the presence of the flesh to the sign of the cross, he sufficiently shows that he has no idea of a twofold body of Christ, one lurking concealed under the bread, and another sitting visible in heaven.

(Institutes, IV, 17, 28)

[I]f the question relates to the approval of the fiction of sacrifice, as imagined by Papists in the mass, there is nothing in the Fathers to countenance the sacrilege. They indeed use the term sacrifice, but they, at the same time, explain that they mean nothing more than the commemoration of that one true sacrifice which Christ, our only sacrifice (as they themselves everywhere proclaim), performed on the cross. . . . Hence Augustine himself, in several passages (Ep. 120, ad Honorat. Cont. Advers. Legis.), explains, that it is nothing else than a sacrifice of praise. In short, you will find in his writings, passim, that the only reason for which the Lord’s Supper is called a sacrifice is, because it is a commemoration, an image, a testimonial of that singular, true, and only sacrifice by which Christ expiated our guilt.

(Institutes, IV, 18, 10)

It’s an uphill battle to try to maintain such a view, as it was for Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, who eventually ceased co-opting St. Augustine for their purposes because they realized that their views differed from his.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Beveridge, Henry and Jules Bonnet, editors, Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Vol. 3: Tracts, Part 3, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1983.

Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge for the Calvin Translation Society in 1845, from the 1559 Latin edition; reprinted by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 1995; available online.

Kelly, J. N. D., Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper, revised edition of 1978.

Ott, Ludwig, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, edited in English by James Canon Bastible; 4th edition, translated by Patrick Lynch, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974; originally 1952 in German.

Quasten, Johannes, Patrology, four volumes; fourth volume edited by Angelo di Berardino and translated by Placid Solari; Allen, Texas: Christian Classics, 1950.

Schaff, Philip, editor, Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1 (“NPNF 1”), 14 volumes, originally published in Edinburgh, 1889, available online.

Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, New York: Charles Scribner's sons, 1910, eight volumes; available online.


Monday, February 14, 2011

John 6 and Lack of Faith in the Physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as a Parallel to Doubting Disciples

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[Chapter Four of my book, Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology]


St. Peter (before his transformation after Pentecost) lacked faith in Jesus’ power over the natural world (Luke 8:24-25) and so he couldn’t walk on the water like Jesus did (Matt 14:24-33). Many Protestants likewise stumble over the miracle of the Eucharist. “Doubting Thomas”: one of the twelve disciples, had trouble accepting what Jesus said about His Resurrection (a supernatural thing involving His Body).

Most Protestants have difficulty accepting in faith Jesus’ word in John 6 and at the Last Supper, regarding the Holy Eucharist (also a supernatural thing involving His Body). Likewise, the doubting disciples in John 6 said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (6:60) They wouldn’t accept His teaching, because it was too “hard” for them. And so they “drew back and no longer went about with him” (6:66).

One of the best analyses I’ve seen about this “eucharistic unbelief” comes from the great Catholic writer Romano Guardini:

Should they have understood? Hardly. It is inconceivable that at any time anyone could have grasped intellectually the meaning of these words. But they should have believed. They should have clung to Christ blindly, wherever he led them. They should have sensed . . . that they were being directed toward something unspeakably huge, and simply said: we do not understand; show us what you mean. Instead they judge, and everything closes to them.

(The Lord, translated by Elinor C. Briefs, Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1954, 206)
Jesus’ closest followers are hard-pressed, but He does not help them. He forces them to a decision of life or death; are they ready to accept the fullness of revelation, which necessarily overthrows earthly wisdom, or do they insist on judging revelation, delimiting its ‘possibilities’ from their own perspective? . . . Jesus turns to the remaining hard core: ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ . . . Still not a word of help, only the hard, pure demand for a decision . . . They do not understand either, but struck by the power of the mystery, they surrender themselves to it. They are dumbfounded but trustful; at least most of them . . .

Apparently there is no genuine belief without battle. Every believer worthy of the name must sometime undergo the danger of scandal and its trial by fire . . . It was the shock that probably shattered Judas’ faith, the other eleven saving themselves only by a blind leap of trust to the Master's feet . . . Here is the steepest, highest pinnacle of our faith (or the narrowest, most precipitous pass through which that faith must labor) . . . faith’s supreme test . . .

Jesus desires that men receive and make their own the gift of His vital essence, strength, His very Person as fully and intimately as they receive and assimilate the strength and nourishment of bread and wine. He even adds that the person who is not so nourished cannot possess ultimate life.

(Meditations Before Mass, translated by Elinor C. Briefs, Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1955, 164-167)

This is faith. We don’t have to understand everything to the nth degree. Faith and spirituality are not science, where everything is mind and rationality and empiricism, and the supernatural is ruled out by definition and methodology and presupposition alike. There is always a leap (actually science requires many “leaps” as well, where absolute knowledge is lacking, but that is another story). Christianity in general is like that.

Christianity requires belief in a number of things difficult to grasp and accept, but we accept them based on the authority of revelation. Doubting Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus could rise from the dead, even though Our Lord had often predicted it in the presence of the disciples. He had to see it for himself.

It is striking how Jesus is merciful and understanding enough to appear for Thomas’ sake. He knew his faith was weak, and so He offered a little “extra” to help him along. Thomas had an overly empirical mindset (he had said he had to put his finger in Jesus’ side, then he would believe: John 20:25). So Jesus, condescending to the limitations of the overly skeptical mentality, allowed him to do that (20:27).

This results (rather dramatically) in Thomas calling Jesus “God”: one of the most remarkable instances of proclamation of the divinity of Jesus in the New Testament (20:28). But after all this, Jesus nevertheless says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (20:29). He came to Thomas because he was weak, but at the same time He made it clear that this would not be the norm, and that believers would have to exercise faith and not demand empirical proof.

Some Protestants will argue that Jesus was frequently misunderstood, and usually didn’t correct people’s misperceptions. Thus, they contend that John 6 is an instance of this: that Jesus was merely speaking metaphorically and the hearers didn’t get it.

But it is simply untrue that Jesus didn’t correct misunderstandings. He did on many recorded occasions; for example: John 3:1-15 (Nicodemus and the meaning of “born again”), Matthew 13:36-51 (explanation of the parable of the tares), Matthew 15:10-20 (what defiles a man), Matthew 16:5-12 (metaphorical use of leaven), Matthew 17:9-13 (parallel of Elijah and John the Baptist), Matthew 19:24-26 (camel through the eye of a needle and rich men), Mark 4:33-34 and Luke 8:9-15 (meaning of parables in general), Luke 24:13-27 (Jesus’ teaching about Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus), John 4:31-34 (metaphorical meaning of meat), John 8:21-32 (His own divinity), and John 11:8-15 (sleep as symbolic of death).

Let’s examine some examples of this theme of Jesus correcting misunderstandings, in more depth. In John 10:1-19, Jesus gives a parable of the sheep and the good shepherd (10:1-5). Then in verses 6 and 7b we read:

This figure [paroimia; “parable” in KJV] Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, . . .

Jesus goes on to expound and clarify and elaborate (10:7b-18). He doesn’t merely repeat for emphasis, as in John 6. Therefore, this is a counter-example. Another one is the entire chapter 16 of John, where the disciples did not understand, and Jesus explained at length to clarify, and then they did understand (italics added to highlight my point):

John 16:1-33 "I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. [2] They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. [3] And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. [4] But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. [5] But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, `Where are you going?' [6] But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. [7] Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. [8] And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: [9] concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; [10] concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; [11] concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. [12] "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [16] "A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me." [17] Some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, `A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, `because I go to the Father'?" [18] They said, "What does he mean by `a little while'? We do not know what he means." [19] Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, `A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'? [20] Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. [21] When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. [22] So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. [23] In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. [24] Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. [25] "I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. [26] In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; [27] for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. [28] I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father." [29] His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! [30] Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God." [31] Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? [32] The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. [33] I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

This is, then, a counter-instance of Jesus explaining to His disciples when they didn’t properly comprehend or were confused or troubled. With an entire chapter devoted to such an occurrence, we can hardly deny that the Gospel of John contains this motif. Jesus would explain things to His disciples (if not always to the masses or the hyper-skeptical Pharisees). And in John 6 it was disciples who were questioning:

John 6:60-61, 66 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” [61] But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?. . .” [66] After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

Yet Jesus did not explain; He merely repeated with more “in your face” force. And it is the only recorded instance (other than Judas) of any of His disciples ceasing to follow Him. The plausible reason is because He knew that they were questioning and would not have accepted any further explanation anyway. We know this from hard evidence:

John 6:64 “But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.

This theme appears elsewhere in John, too:

John 8:27, 43-47 They [the Pharisees] did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. . . . [43] Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. [44] You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. [45] But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. [46] Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? [47] He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.
John 12:37-40 Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; [38] it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" [39] Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, [40] "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them."

In other words, Jesus is emphasizing that some people don’t “understand” because they don’t want to: they lack faith; they can’t “bear” His word, and they are burdened with undue skepticism and led by the devil, the father of lies. This is what happened in John 6 with those disciples who left Him. It’s a theme in the Synoptic Gospels as well:

Matthew 13:13, 19 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. . . . When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.

Luke 5:21-22 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” [22] When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?”

Jesus often explained and corrected His disciples who misunderstood and who were willing to listen. Therefore, John 6 makes sense only in terms of interpreting it as an instance where it was not an innocent misunderstanding (mistaking a supposed figurative discourse for a literal one), but rather, a deliberate refusal to believe (understanding but not accepting).

These were disciples who would have had the teaching explained to them in greater detail if only they were willing. They were not, and the difficulty of this teaching was enough to make them split for good. Many Protestants today believe the same thing that made these former disciples forsake the following of Jesus. And that ought to give them very serious pause indeed.

These former disciples left precisely because they refused to believe Jesus. If it had been a misunderstanding, Jesus certainly would have explained to them (as He did on many other occasions, as shown above), had they been open. His not explaining proves that it was a refusal to believe what was made quite plain (His literal Body and Blood in a eucharistic context).

The argument hinges on the clear distinction between how Jesus talked to open-minded and closed-minded people, and between how He talked to disciples and the masses. Jesus (like all good preachers and evangelists) would put people on the spot, demanding a profound, selfless allegiance:

John 10:34-39 Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; [36] and a man's foes will be those of his own household. [37] He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; [38] and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

John 12:30
He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

John 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Catholic apologist Bertrand L. Conway elaborates:

We must remember that Christ, like every good teacher, made two sorts of answers to men who objected to His teaching. If they did not understand His meaning, He explained His doctrine more fully. In this way He explains . . . the possibility of the rich man being saved (Matthew 19:24-6), the fact of Lazarus' death (John 11:11-14), the idea of freedom (John 8:32-4; cf. John 4:31-4; 8:21-23). When His hearers understood His teaching but refused to accept it, He repeated His teaching with even more emphasis. Thus, He insisted upon His power to forgive sins, when the Scribes accused Him of blasphemy (Matthew 9:2-7), and insisted on His being Eternal, when the Jews said He was not yet fifty years old (John 8:56-8).

(The Question Box, New York: Paulist Press, 1929, 251)

It’s beyond ludicrous to think that Jesus would have allowed anyone to stop being His disciples based on a misunderstanding of supposed figurative or symbolic language for literal. He would have corrected them and the problem would have been resolved. But instead He chose not to. That makes no sense. But not explaining because He knew it would be futile, makes perfect sense, is consistent with His behavior in other such scenarios, and is far more plausible than the alternative.

The disciples were constantly misunderstanding Jesus, and He corrected and educated them over and over. Why should this be any different, if in fact it were a misunderstanding? They were true disciples, who were stumbled by this particular teaching, since it was a difficult one (as all admit), and it made them turn hostile out of disenchantment.

We know that Jesus knew this about them because of what He said: “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:61; meaning, of course, that they did, because He knew their hearts and was asking a pointed, provocative question). And isn’t it interesting how their questioning is described?:

John 6:64 “But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.

Language of not believing and betrayal is not applicable to misunderstandings. Therefore, it makes no sense to think that He let them stop being His disciples based on a misunderstanding rather than hardness of heart. Neither Jesus nor John in giving details communicated in terms of “you do not understand” (a problem of comprehension or the mind), but rather, He said they “do not believe” and John says He knew who “would betray him,” which is referring to the will and faith and lack of belief in Jesus: very different things indeed.

Jesus tells His disciples what His parables mean, but not the larger crowds. This is explicitly stated in Matthew 13:10-11 and Luke 8:9-10. And note that the “disciples” were not just the Twelve, but included also at least the “seventy” mentioned in Luke 10:1 ff.: sent out to preach the gospel and heal the sick (10:9) and to cast out demons (10:17), by the express power of Jesus (10:19-20).

Jesus “rejoiced” upon their enthusiastic report and thanked His Father, “that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes . . .” (10:21): language quite similar to the parables being understood by disciples and not all the masses at large.

If we “fast forward,” then, to John 6, who is being referred to? It is “His disciples” (three times: 6:60-61, 66). Jesus revealed the inner secrets and deeper teachings of the gospel of the kingdom to His disciples. That is who these people are.

Therefore, He would surely have revealed this teaching to these disciples who deserted Him if they had merely misunderstood it. But He did not.

Therefore, plainly it wasn’t a matter of His teaching not being understood or comprehended, but a matter of it being rejected (as the text expressly asserts in 6:61, 64), because He always explained the deeper meanings to His disciples, and these folks were His disciples.

He didn’t have to explain in this instance because it was a matter of not accepting what was understood, rather than not understanding what needed to be accepted. After all, being betrayed or abandoned even by the twelve didn’t stop Jesus from explaining all things to them, when in fact they misunderstood. Peter was the leader of the disciples all along, and Jesus knew he would deny Him, but that didn't prevent Him from sharing more deeply with Peter than any other disciple.

Therefore, He would have gone on to explain things properly and in more detail (until they “got” it) to the disciples of John 6 who deserted Him because they couldn't accept the Real Presence and eucharistic realism. But He didn’t, precisely because He knew that they understood and were hardhearted.

When Jesus knows that (speaking generally now), He explains no further, but challenges (e.g., Matthew 23 and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees), or falls silent (as in most of His trial). And that is what happened in this instance. The argument from parables against the Catholic interpretation of John 6 thus falls flat; it collapses in a heap.

These disciples refused to (willed not to) believe and exercise faith (as Abraham did, when he didn’t understand God’s purposes). They were like Doubting Thomases. And what they rejected was eucharistic realism: exactly as Protestants today do. It requires more faith than symbolism or mystical, spiritual presence. They didn’t yet have it, and they decided not to try to stick around in order to get it. They had had enough.

Often, belief in the Real, Substantial Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist or transubstantiation, is the first thing a Catholic ditches, on the way out of the Catholic faith. Many, sadly, have the skeptical outlook of the former disciples of John 6. This flies against the Bible itself and the overwhelming consensus of the greatest teachers in the early Church.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

God's "Valentine" to Us (Bible Passages on God's Love, Mercy, and Compassion)


[RSV]

Deuteronomy 7:8 but it is because the LORD loves you, and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 23:5 the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.

Deuteronomy 32:9-12 For the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. [10] "He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. [11] Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, [12] the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him.

Deuteronomy 33:3 Yea, he loved his people; all those consecrated to him were in his hand . . .

1 Kings 10:9 . . . the LORD loved Israel for ever . . .

2 Chronicles 9:8 Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them for ever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.

Psalm 4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

Psalm 31:19-21 O how abundant is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for those who fear thee, and wrought for those who take refuge in thee, . . . [20] In the covert of thy presence thou hidest them from the plots of men; thou holdest them safe under thy shelter . . . [21] Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me

Psalm 52:8 . . . the steadfast love of God . . .

Psalm 89:33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness.

Psalm 97:10 The LORD loves those who hate evil; he preserves the lives of his saints;
he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 103:3-5 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, [4] who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, [5] who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Psalm 146:8 . . . the LORD loves the righteous.

Proverbs 3:12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Isaiah 43:4 . . . you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, . . .

Isaiah 49:15-16 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. [16] Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands; . . .

Isaiah 51:16 . . . I have put my words in your mouth, and hid you in the shadow of my hand, . . .

Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 62:4-5 . . . the LORD delights in you . . . [5] . . . as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 63:7,9 I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. . . . [9] . . . in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;

Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Jeremiah 32:38-41 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. [39] I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. [40] I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. [41] I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

Hosea 2:19 And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.

Hosea 3:1 . . . the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods . . .

Malachi 1:2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. . . .

Matthew 18:14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (cf. Lk 13:34)

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 14:21,23 He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. . . . [23] If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

John 16:27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father.

John 17:23 . . . thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 2:20 . . . the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), [6] and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Ephesians 5:2 . . . Christ loved us and gave himself up for us . . .

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

2 Thessalonians 2:16 . . . God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,

1 Timothy 2:3-4 . . . God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Titus 3:4-5 but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, [5] he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, . . .

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

James 5:11 . . . the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

1 John 3:1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God . . .

1 John 4:8-11 . . . God is love. [9] In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. [10] In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:19 We love, because he first loved us.