Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dialogue with a Mennonite on Christian Ecclesiology (Esp. that of the Early Church, and the Jerusalem Council)

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (5-30-12)

This exchange took place on Devin Rose's blog, in the combox of his review of my book, 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura. Phil Wood is a Mennonite, and sometimes calls himself an Anabaptist as well. His words will be in blue. This dialogue is posted with Phil's express permission.

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Devin, as you know by now I’m no fan of Catholic/Protestant apologetic ping pong. I agree with your tack on this one for the first few steps, but part company half way through. It is quite right that Sola Scriptura is biblically untenable. I offer a loud ‘Amen’ to the role of the Church. Even a mainstream Conservative Evangelical scholar such as F.F. Bruce makes a cogent case for the importance of Tradition in ‘Scripture in Relation to Tradition and Reason’ (ed Dewery and Baukham, Scripture Tradition and Reason).

I do think you make a leap though, in assuming that ‘the Church’ is co-terminous with the views of the hierarchy. I’m coming at hermeneutics from below. I believe in a hermeneutic of peoplehood and (with Moltmann) that there is nothing higher than the congregation. The best example I can find of that perspective is found in John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom. I have also developed his theme of the ‘shape of conversation’.

I’m curious how this is squared with the Jerusalem Council in Scripture (Acts 15)? Are you saying that this council was strictly a temporary (and henceforth merely optional) expedient, and that St. Paul preached its results as binding (Acts 16:4), but then as history goes on all that is kaput and we go to a strictly congregational model?

That makes no sense to me. There is also all the scriptural data about Petrine primacy that seems to presuppose an overarching authority of one “super-bishop” and leader of the Church, so to speak. I lay that evidence out most succinctly in my “50 New Testament Proofs for the Primacy of Peter”.

I am somewhat surprised that you should use the example of the Council of Jerusalem. Of Peter, Paul and James it is the latter who takes the lead role. Acts 15:22 makes explicitly shows ‘the whole church’ engaged in the decision-making. 

I followed your link. My overall sense is that you are seeking biblical precedent to bolster the authority claims of a contemporary institution (i.e. it’s anachronistic). Petrine primacy is a phrase from a later period. As far as we know it was Clement of Rome who first used the term ‘lay’ to mean a non-minister in A.D.96. The idea of priestly ordination wasn’t fully complete until the 5th Century (as Herbert Haag points out). 

Congregationalism makes far more modest claims. One of the few passages in the Gospels which mentions ‘church’ (Matt 18.15-20) follows the rabbinic precedent of binding and loosing, focusing on ethical reasoning, pastoral care and conciliation. Where two or three gather together in the name of Christ, there Christ is present (Matt 18.20). I see no mention of clergy or super-bishops.

You didn’t reply to my direct questions; instead heading off onto various rabbit trails, of varying degrees of irrelevance; therefore I won’t answer yours (too busy anyway to get into this in depth today). It so happens that I just cited one of my arguments in the book in another discussion that had to do with the Jerusalem Council. I’ll quote it here again (slightly different from the book, as it is my final manuscript):

74. Paul’s Apostolic Calling Was Subordinated to the Larger Church and Was in Harmony with Peter

Paul’s ministry was not “self-validating.” He was initially commissioned by Peter, James, and John (Gal 2:9) to preach to the Gentiles. After his conversion, he went to Jerusalem specifically to see Peter (Gal 1:18). In Acts 15:2-3 we are told that “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent their way by the church,” they went off on their assignment.

That is hardly consistent with the idea of Paul being the “pope” or leading figure in the hierarchy of authority; he was directed by others, as one under orders. When we see Paul and Peter together in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-29), we observe that Peter wields an authority that Paul doesn’t possess.
We learn that “after there was much debate, Peter rose” to address the assembly (15:7). The Bible records his speech, which goes on for five verses. Then it reports that “all the assembly kept silence” (15:12). Paul and Barnabas speak next, not making authoritative pronouncements, but confirming Peter’s exposition, speaking about “signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (15:12). Then when James speaks, he refers right back to what “Simeon [Peter] has related” (15:14). Why did James skip right over Paul’s comments and go back to what Peter said? Paul and his associates are subsequently “sent off” by the Council, and they “delivered the letter” (15:30; cf. 16:4).

None of this seems consistent with the notion that Paul was above or even equal to Peter in authority. But it’s perfectly consistent with Peter’s having a preeminent authority. Paul was under the authority of the council, and Peter (along with James, as the Bishop of Jerusalem) presided over it. Paul and Barnabas were sent by “the church” (of Antioch: see 14:26). Then they were sent by the Jerusalem Council (15:25, 30) which was guided by the Holy Spirit (15:28), back to Antioch (15:30).

Just one more thing:

Acts 15:22 makes explicitly shows ‘the whole church’ engaged in the decision-making.

Yes, of course; but so what? This is the Catholic model: ecumenical councils make decisions (led and guided by the Holy Spirit), in tandem with the popes who preside and have “veto power.” It’s both/and.

The Council spoke for and to the entire Church. This is the whole point. Paul then proclaimed its edicts (in other regions; in this case, Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey, which was quite a ways away) as binding and obligatory upon all (Acts 16:4: “for observance”). If you want to say James was top dog at the council, fine. Even on that view, he is being a bishop (of Jerusalem), and presiding over a council that makes binding legal decisions, obligatory on all Christians everywhere. That ain’t congregationalism, sorry; it’s not even Presbyterianism [i.e., that form of Church government]. It is clearly episcopal / Catholic ecclesiology.

This precisely contradicts some notion of local congregationalism only. The problem is with your view of ecclesiology, not ours. Hence, you sidestepped the relevant issue and went into diverting side-issues.

Perhaps you didn’t intend to (people often wander off-topic to the detriment of constructive discourse and dialogue), but that was the result.

Dave,as I began by original contribution to this thread by expression disdain for ping pong I’m not going to go down the route of you say black and I say white. I think you’re beating the text into shape to make it serve the truth claims of a clerical elite. I’m a Mennonite writing from a UK and not a US context. Frankly, after thousands of years of Christendom truimphalism we have had enough of hierarchical church structures and forms of argumentation that resort to ‘our bishop is more purple than yours’.

Why comment at all, then, Phil, if you’re not willing to subject your positions to scrutiny and defend them? I don’t write this in any anger whatsoever, but in perfect calmness, and with true befuddlement. I always marvel at people who want to take their potshots at other views; then when challenged back, appeal to a calm, “above the fray” non-involvement ethos, as if their initial comments were not getting involved in the discussion.

So you were involved in this thread, but really not. You entered the discussion but in fact never did . . . I can’t be faulted for simply responding to your critique, in any event.

Hi Dave, I apologize if I was unclear. I’m looking over what I said in my previous comment and I agree with you; it’s inconsistent. I suspect the business of arguing back and forth, point by point would take up more time than either of us have. I’m in something of a cleft stick where this blog is concerned, as Devin knows from my previous comments. Fundamentally I don’t believe apologetics is an appropriate form of Christian communication. I am very much an unreconstructed liberal wishing for the good old days of enthusiastic ecumenism. At the same time, I think it’s important for Christians of different traditions not to retreat into our comfort zones.

There are clearly disagreements between us. Broadly, I believe we have stumbled over centuries of scaffolding and encrustation where the ‘Council of Jerusalem’ is concerned. The phrase ‘Council of Jerusalem’, is after all a later interpretation of what went on. I am wary of attempts to impose a model (e..g. the Calvinist fourfold ministry) on a 1st Century picture than was almost certainly far more fluid and eclectic than attempts at systematization allow.

My sense of ‘befuddlement’ lies mainly in why it should matter so much to ‘prove’ Petrine Primacy. Is this a way of arguing us back to Rome? What is your objective?

Fair enough. I appreciate the clarification.

I’m as ecumenical as you are, which is why I just completed the book, The Quotable Wesley: presently under serious consideration by a Protestant publisher. There is no fundamental conflict between ecumenism and apologetics, though for some odd reason lots of folks seem to think there is.

Last Friday we had a very friendly discussion at my house with three atheists (one the main presenter) and about a dozen Catholics. That’s about as ecumenical as it gets, I think.

I agree that there was fluidity in early ecclesiology, and stated that in my first book, written in 1996. We would fully expect this, because ecclesiology developed, just as all theology did. That said, the outlines of the later episcopal structure of Christian government is remarkably evident in the New Testament. See my Appendix Two from A Biblical Defense of Catholicism: The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church.

Apologetics is thoroughly biblical, as I have, I think, demonstrated many times. “Contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). “Stand ready to make a defense [apologia] for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul argued and disputed endlessly with Jews and Greeks; he didn’t simply preach. Jesus argued with Pharisees, and engaged and challenged them. Paul defended his Christian views at great length at his trial. It’s all very biblical. In fact, the word apologia is the same one that was the title of Plato’s famous book, detailing Socrates’ defense of himself at his own trial.

My “objective” (since you asked) is to seek truth and follow it wherever it leads. Period. End of story. I defend what I believe to be the fullness of Christian truth (Catholicism) because I think it is better to reside in the fullness than not to: that truth (along with love) is a wonderful, godly end that all should seek with all their might. We all [should] proclaim and defend what we believe in good faith to be true. If I am convinced that the fullness of truth lies elsewhere, then I surely will move to that position, just as I moved from religious nominalism / paganism to evangelicalism, and from that to Catholicism.

It’s all by God’s grace. I proclaim and defend, as an apologist / evangelist. God moves hearts as He wills, and as human free will allows, in cooperation with God’s grace. But (like Paul) “woe to me if I preach not the gospel” because this is my calling.

Is it okay with you if I put our dialogue on my blog (it’s already public here, anyway)? I can include your name or not, as you wish. I think it is an exchange that might be of some value to others. I am a great advocate of putting up dialogues and letting people decide where truth lies.

Dave, you are welcome to include the dialogue on your blog. It may also give me an opportunity to contribute in some more detail on some of the knotty ecclesiology we have touched on. I’ll place your blog on my blogroll. It’s an interesting discussion, partly because I’m not coming at this from a mainstream Protestant perspective. 

As for Apologetics, I entirely agree with your helpful biblical summary. Where I have concerns lies in interface between Apologetics and ecumenism. I have a strong sense, in talking to some Traditionalist Catholic interlocutors, that Apologetics have supplanted ecumenism. As you will gather from my own blog (and blogroll) I have an extensive range of Catholic contacts. My wife Anna is Roman Catholic. I wish you well with the writing. I also have a book in process at present – The Gospel of Slow

I sometimes wonder why I have stuck with this blog for so long. In large part it’s because I have always found Devin gracious and fair. To be honest, some of the discussion has been bruising, because I’m frequently expressing a minority viewpoint. God forbid, five hundred years after the Reformation, that disunity should ever be seen as ‘normal’. Speaking as an Anabaptist can be a painful in-between place – as Walter Klaasen said, ‘neither Catholic nor Protestant’. I believe there is something in that experience of value across the ecumenical spectrum, as all of us encounter a sense of loss and marginality after Christendom.

If you'd like to continue the discussion, that would be great. From where I sit, the "hard questions" I asked about the Jerusalem Council still remain to be dealt with. I'm curious how an advocate of congregational government would answer those. You can always concede that you don't  have any answers to my questions; that's fine, too. :-)

Dave, as I am heading off to Strasbourg tomorrow in connection with Mennonite Central Committee responsibilities, I shall try to keep this succinct. You should be aware that I am a British Mennonite and that there is considerable variety amongst Mennonites in terms of polity. Overall, I think it would be true to say that Mennonites in particular and Anabaptists in general have congregational DNA. Whilst it is true that local congregations are self-governing, strong inter-Mennonite institutions such as the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite Mission Network act as a counterpoint and ensure that congregations have a view beyond the local and are able to act in concert.

Sort of like Baptists or evangelicals, who form overarching associations of varying governing or at least significantly guiding force . . .

I do not believe that there is a single New Testament leadership model. Over the past two thousand years Christianity has existed in many forms - fusions of cultural, pragmatic and biblical concerns. This does not mean that the New Testament is exegetically unintelligible. In response to your suggested 'hard question' I do wonder how you would address the open multi-voiced mutuality of 1 Cor 12-14, for example.

Well, again, that is not responding to my question; it is simply asking a different one of your own (that you think runs counter to my assumptions). But I do directly respond to questions, so here I go:

These three chapters, first of all, indicate a strong central authority, since it is the apostle Paul giving all of these rather obligatory instructions (see, e.g., 1 Cor 11:2 and 23, where Paul refers to traditions he received and delivered, to be followed). At the time, remember, it was simply a letter, and not known to be Scripture. So there is your authority. Paul is writing to the Corinthians, but that is only one church of many that he oversees and guides.

This is apostolic authority, and to the extent that it continues to be a model and binding today, it remains apostolic authority, now encapsulated in Scripture. Peter does the same thing in his letters, and he doesn't even narrow them down to one congregation. Both of those phenomena are strongly indicative of the later more fully-developed episcopacy with a pope leading.

You call this "mutuality". But I see strong central authority far more akin to Catholicism than Anabaptism or wider Protestant sectarianism and denominationalism with a congregational notion of governance. Paul details a clear hierarchy of authority and ("higher") gifts in 12:28-31, mentioning apostles, prophets, teachers: not all fit in every category (is his point in 15:29-30). Thus, hierarchy . . .

Most of the material Paul deals with here has to do with worship practices, which can vary widely according to time and place, and which are not doctrines or dogmas, strictly speaking. Nothing here goes against the Catholic model, so it is mostly irrelevant to our discussion.

Turning to the so-called 'Council of Jerusalem', 

This is one of the curiosities of your view: the reluctance to call a thing what it is. I was unaware that this was some controversial thing (and certainly not a position confined to those who hold to episcopal ecclesiology). For example:

The first council of the Church was that described in Acts 15.

(Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross & E. A. Livingstone, 2nd edition, Oxford Univ. Press, 1974; p. 351: "Council")
The Council of Jerusalem is the name commonly given to the meeting convened between delegates form the Church of Antioch (led by Paul and Barnabas) and the apostles and elders of the Church of Jerusalem . . .

(New Bible Dictionary, edited by J. D. Douglas, Eerdmans, 1962; p. 263: "Council, Jerusalem")

The Bible seems clear enough to me:

Acts 15:6 (RSV) The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 

Apostles and elders gathered together to discuss doctrinal issues and issue binding decrees is not a council? That's odd. What is it then? A pow-wow? A campfire meeting with a singalong? A Sunday get-together after church with (beef) hot dogs?

One of my "hard questions" that you have chosen not to respond to directly was the following:

Paul then proclaimed its edicts (in other regions; in this case, Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey, which was quite a ways away) as binding and obligatory upon all (Acts 16:4: “for observance”). If you want to say James was top dog at the council, fine. Even on that view, he is being a bishop (of Jerusalem), and presiding over a council that makes binding legal decisions, obligatory on all Christians everywhere.

If you want to say it is merely a local council of Jerusalem (F. F. Bruce takes that view), then how is it that Paul acts as he does above, in Asia Minor? How can the Jerusalem Church have jurisdiction over those Christians unless episcopalian government is in place?

Moreover, the biblical text informs us that a letter was written to "the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili'cia" (Acts 15:23). It is written in the language of command (though gently so):

Acts 15:28-29 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: [29] that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

How is it that one local church in Jerusalem (according to your view) can give "binding orders" to other local churches far away? That is nonsensical in a congregational interpretation. But it makes perfect sense with an episcopal or even papal / Catholic view.

I begin by saying that there is no evidence that there was some superior organizational level to which local congregations are accountable. 

I just gave an example (a pretty compelling one, in my opinion) of why I think this perspective is biblically untenable.

There is no indication that this gathering should be be taken as a standing paradigm for wider authority. 

Again, if it shows a "higher" church authority giving binding decisions to Christians over wide geographical areas, then it is a model, by common sense. Otherwise, why is it included in revelation? These things are in Scripture for our instruction. It's not just the council, but also Peter and Paul exercising apostolic (and papal) authority.

In fact the use of the word 'Council' is potentially misleading. We tend to think of 'Ecumenical Councils' and so on. Paul and Barnabas didn't go to Jerusalem to get a ruling on the issue. This was straightforward fraternal contact between two churches over a pressing matter of mutual concern.

That's not what I see in the text:

Acts 15:2 And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

The ruling came in Acts 15:22-29. Paul them "delivered them for observance" in Asia Minor. This is exactly how Catholicism works: an ecumenical council takes place (Vatican II: in my lifetime), and I am to receive the instruction from it in Detroit, Michigan, since it applies to all Catholics.

Elsewhere in the New Testament ethical reasoning (i.e. binding and loosing) is practiced by the local church body rather than by elders or bishops (see Matt 18:15-17). 

That's right. We believe it is exercised by every priest, and that is local. However, there is also a sense in which Peter and his successors can bind and loose for the entire Church. I have detailed many Protestant commentators writing about this, in my book on Catholic ecclesiology. For example:

And what about the "keys of the kingdom"? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or majordomo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. About 700 B.C. an oracle from God announced that this authority in the royal palace in Jerusalem was to be conferred on a man called Eliakim . . . (Isa. 22:22). So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward.

(F. F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1983, 143-144)

In Matthew 16:19 it is presupposed that Christ is the master of the house, who has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, with which to open to those who come in. Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord lays the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so Jesus commits to Peter the keys of his house, the Kingdom of Heaven, and thereby installs him as administrator of the house.

What do the expressions “bind” and “loose” signify? According to Rabbinical usage two explanations are equally possible: “prohibit” and “permit”, that is, “establish rules”; or “put under the ban” and “acquit.”

(Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, translated by Floyd V. Filson, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953, 203-205)

These terms [binding and loosing] thus refer to a teaching function, and more specifically one of making halakhic pronouncements [i.e., relative to laws not written down in the Jewish Scriptures but based on an oral interpretation of them] which are to be 'binding' on the people of God. In that case, Peter's 'power of the keys' declared in [Matthew] 16:19 is not so much that of the doorkeeper, who decides who may or may not be admitted to the kingdom of heaven, but that of the steward . . . . whose keys of office enable him to regulate the affairs of the household. . . . [Isaiah 22:22 is] generally regarded as the Old Testament background to the metaphor of keys here. . . .

(R. T. France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1989, 247)

In the . . . exercise of the power of the keys, in ecclesiastical discipline, the thought is of administrative authority (Is 22:22) with regard to the requirements of the household of faith. The use of censures, excommunication, and absolution is committed to the Church in every age, to be used under the guidance of the Spirit . . .

So Peter, in T.W. Manson's words, is to be 'God's vicegerent . . . The authority of Peter is an authority to declare what is right and wrong for the Christian community. His decisions will be confirmed by God' (The Sayings of Jesus, 1954, p. 205).

(New Bible Dictionary, edited by J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, 1018)

It was a local church that commissioned Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13.1-3). 

That's a partial truth, but not the whole truth. From chapter three of my book, mentioned above:

He [Paul] went to see St. Peter in Jerusalem for fifteen days in order to be confirmed in his calling (Gal 1:18), and fourteen years later was commissioned by Peter, James, and John (Gal 2:1-2, 9). He was also sent out by the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4), which was in contact with the Church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:19-27). Later on, Paul reported back to Antioch (Acts 14:26-28).
Acts 15:2 states: ". . . Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question." The next verse refers to Paul and Barnabas "being sent on their way by the church." St. Paul did what he was told to do by the Jerusalem Council (where he played no huge role), and Paul and Barnabas were sent off, or commissioned by the council (15:22-27),. . . 
In Galatians 1-2 Paul is referring to his initial conversion. But even then God made sure there was someone else around, to urge him to get baptized (Ananias: Acts 22:12-16). He received the revelation initially and then sought to have it confirmed by Church authority (Gal 2:1-2: “. . . I laid before them . . . the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain”); then his authority was accepted or verified by James, Peter, and John (Gal 2:9). . . .

In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul tells the Galatians to reject any gospel that is different from what he presented to them. He preached the truth to them. In the same book, however, he says how this gospel had been confirmed as true by the Church (Gal 1:18; 2:1-2, 9). No opposition between Paul and the apostolic tradition and gospel of the Church is present in these biblical texts. The Church is guided by God to preserve apostolic truth. St. Paul is in communion with this same Church, and obedient to her.

Whatever the unevenness of the biblical text, I believe Congregationalism best expresses the dynamic open process described in 1 Cor 12-14.

And I believe Catholicism best reflects the overall biblical picture (all things considered). I have stated why I don't think 1 Cor 12-14 is decisive for your side.

I am quite aware of Episcopal and Presbyterian objections to a congregational approach. There is clearly, for example, evidence of the influence of the Jewish synagogical model on early churches. So, I am not arguing that the New Testament is a 'flat' text. There is, for example, clearly a change of temperature with the Pastoral Epistles.

I'd love to see how you would reply to my arguments above.

Behind the scenes of our discussion is a broader question that relates to change and continuity in the Christian tradition. Is it possible for example for the church to 'fall' so that restitution is required. Luther drew back from that position but the Radical Reformers carried in through. 

Luther was more correct. It is biblically, historically, and logically absurd to posit a Church that initially was in God's grace and then entirely fell away. Most of the biblical arguments for this position of mine is detailed in my book on the Church and papacy (I can send you a free PDF if you like), but there is some in a dialogue I had with a Lutheran.

Whatever the variations in the biblical record, we continue to argue strongly that what the Church became under Constantine was an aberration. 

Not at all. There was a lot of caesaropapism in the east, but the papal model is already strongly indicated in the Bible (my 50 NT Proofs that you passed by without comment), so that Church history merely develops that kernel

This is why Anabaptists regard our peace testimony and open, congregational process as in some sense, a 'looping back' to Christian origins. I offer two reflections on restitution by way of starting points for further discussion [one / two].

I read those; thanks. I didn't see much of direct relevance to this discussion, though.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Debate with a Protestant on Aspects of my Book on "Sola Scriptura," Mary and Revelation 12, and Peter and Paul

 By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (5-28-12)

This was on a public Facebook discussion thread on a friend's Facebook page, underneath mention of a review of the above book of mine by Devin Rose. Greg Still describes himself as a ""skeptical Pentecostal" and is a former Catholic. His words will be in blue. A few things are not included here because I didn't have time to reply to them, but you can read everyone's full comments in the initial thread (if you are on Facebook).

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I have a Lutheran "friend" who insists that The Church (meaning his church) is the ultimate interpreter of scripture. He thinks that an individual cannot properly read/understand scripture without the aid of The Church and its creeds.

Oddly, he also believes in Sola Scriptura. (He cannot be accused of being consistent)

This is perfectly consistent. Most Protestants don't deny the usefulness; even necessity of the Church and creeds. They only deny that any church or tradition is infallible. Only the Bible is that. This is what sola Scriptura means: "the Bible is the only infallible and final authority." But of course in practice that means: "I am the final authority, since I ultimately interpret the infallible Bible as I see fit and can dissent against any church if necessary to preserve truth as I see it." That is filled with difficulties and self-contradictions, as I show in my book.

Luther himself appealed to Church tradition and authority. The only problem is that he reserved the right to disagree with what the Church says. Protestantism is always [in the final analysis] a self-defeating proposition, in terms of authority, anyway you slice it.

I simply asked, "Which Church?" In reply he answered, "The one that follows the Bible most correctly".

"Uh huh, and how will I know which Church follows the Bible most correctly if I am not able to read and understand it for myself?"

He never has answered this adequately, insisting that the individual cannot interpret scripture without the aid of "the Church".

When dealing with Tradition, I must point out that the RCC uses " bait and switch". Yes, the Bible speaks of the "traditions" of the apostles and elders. But the RCC adds to these the accumulated traditions of 2000 years, some of which I find to be simply distracting, and some I find to be anti-biblical.

So here's the "rub". Someone might respond to this post attempting to use the Bible to prove that the traditions of the RCC are reliable reflections of apostolic faith. They will expect me, an individual, to be able to discern from scripture the truth of the RCC - which brings us back to the same argument - whether or not an individual can discern from scripture which teachings and/or traditions are an accurate reflection of apostolic doctrine.

We do, after all, have the words of the Apostles. It seems that their letters should be given the most weight over any ecclesiastical tradition.

Lots of issues here I don't have time [at the moment] to delve into fully. My specialty is "biblical evidence for Catholicism" and I have writings on my blog (almost 2500 posts) about all the major bones of contention. Nothing is "anti-biblical."

For example, Mary's Assumption is not directly asserted in Scripture. Yet it is not contrary to anything in Scripture, and indeed there are parallels in some respects: Enoch being translated to heaven; Elijah going to heaven in a chariot, Apostle Paul being taken up to the third heaven; possibly in body. In other words, an assumption (or a bodily resurrection after death) is entirely possible and consistent with what we know in Scripture.

But sola Scriptura is directly contradicted in Scripture, and there are things (like the canon of Scripture) that are not present in the Bible at all. Zip, zero, zilch, nada.

Strictly speaking, this book of mine is not doing "biblical evidence for Catholicism". Rather, it is critiquing one of the pillars of Protestantism: sola Scriptura, and showing how it is not biblical. I make reference to tradition and so forth, but within this larger context and purpose. Several other books of mine show how Catholic tradition is completely harmonious with, and usually (not always) directly or explicitly supported by the Bible.

In other words, this book is saying, "we don't believe your system of
sola Scriptura because it is unbiblical, and we're showing you why." It's purpose is not, "we believe in x, y, z Catholic doctrines because of biblical passages a, b, c, etc." Other books of mine do the latter.

The irony of your book is that you use the Bible as your ultimate authority to defend the Catholic teaching that the Church, not the Bible, is the ultimate authority.

Do you see the problem here?

Yes: in your comment, which is neither factual, nor logical. First of all, I'm not using the Bible as the "ultimate authority"; only as an authority that Protestants and Catholics agree upon. It is smart in dialogue to start with a common premise and then move on to disagreements. I do that here, and often elsewhere. I show that the Bible does not teach sola Scriptura. I could do that if I were an atheist. My own beliefs have no necessary connection to the logic of that at all. I could argue that "the Koran doesn't teach that elephants fly through the air." To say that shows nothing [necessarily] about what I believe.

Nor is "Catholic teaching" what might be called sola ecclesia. It is not at all. Our view is that Bible-Church-Tradition are all of a piece: a "three-legged stool" of authority. But the Bible is inspired, whereas Church and tradition are infallible, so in that sense the Bible is "higher"; but in terms of authority all three are in play, and harmonious. You simply miscomprehend the Catholic view of the Bible and authority. You're not alone; many millions do so.

I was raised Catholic - went to parochial school, and considered being a priest. Sorry, but I know Catholicism, and it cannot be supported Biblically. It must rely on the supposed "authority" or "infallibility" of the Church.

Sorry, you clearly don't: at least not in these respects, because you have made a number of factual errors. Of course it can be supported biblically. I show that again and again in my writings. Not only can it be shown, but it can be demonstrated that Catholicism is far more in harmony with all of Scripture than any form of Protestantism.

May I post this discussion on my blog? I can do so with or without your name.

The whole "authority/infallibility" argument fails with two words, WHICH CHURCH?

I agree that one must ask "which Church is the one true Church mentioned in the Bible?" We can demonstrate that the Catholic Church goes historically back to Christ, and has consistently espoused true Christian doctrine. We're the ones who keep apostolic morality: things like no divorce and no contraception. No other major body has done so. If you want apostolic morality and doctrine, you have one choice. That's a major reason why I became a Catholic, by the way. I was sick of Protestant compromise on crucial moral issues.

Since you brought up the supposed "Assumption of Mary" 

[comment added now: I brought it up merely in passing, after having already stated that I was busy; never intending to have a complete discussion on a side issue to the main topic]

let us deal with that. You suggest that because a thing did happen to others (Enoch, Elijah etcetera) that it could have happened to Mary. That's a poor argument for the idea that Mary was assumed.

Angels came down many times in the O.T. and a couple of times in the NT. Should we then say that Moroni visited Joseph Smith?

Certainly, if Mary had been assumed, the Bible would have mentioned something about it - for it would have occurred during the apostolic era. And if the Apostles wanted the saints to "venerate" her, they would have mentioned SOMETHING about it? But, no. Catholic apologists take a few words that Jesus spoke to John on the cross, "behold thy mother", and add to it a dumpster-full of tradition. 

Like I said, I am busy today and don't even have time for this. Now we're off on the rabbit trails of Mary and the pope, so you can avoid the bottom-line issue and subject of my book: the falsity of sola Scriptura.

Briefly: the Bible does mention the "woman clothed with the sun" in heaven (Rev. 12:1). Her child is clearly Jesus (Rev 12:5). Doesn't take a rocket science to figure out that this is Mary, and she is portrayed in quite a glorious state in heaven. If you want more Catholic perspectives on this (and Mary as mediatrix and intercessor and spiritual mother), see my Blessed Virgin Mary web page.

Did the apostles ever pray the rosary? Where did that arise? Did they even ONE TIME adocate [sic] prayers to Mary? Yet millions of Catholics are trusting these prayers to be efficacious and meritorious.
Nice try at bringing in a million different topics at once. Classic tactics used against Catholics all the time. It doesn't work with me. I never get diverted from the topic (esp. not if I am already busy with something else). I've written about all this stuff. If you are serious about hearing the Catholic side, the papers are there for you. But the scattershot approach to discussion suggests a lack of seriousness to me. 

[nevertheless I deal with Mary and Revelation 12 at some length below because he would not cease discussing Mariology]

Asking saints to intercede is dealt with on my Saints, Purgatory, and Penance page.

Or let us address your argument (in your book) that Peter had authority over Paul at the Jerusalem council.

It NEVER says anything like that. This is made of whole cloth. Both Peter and Paul gave testimony, but it was James who stood and gave the final word, not Peter.

You want to bring up one of the arguments in my book. Very well, then. Rather than cynically portray what I said, and denying it with no substance, let's let readers see what I actually wrote. Here is the entire argument #74 (a few minor differences from the book since this is from my last manuscript):

74. Paul’s Apostolic Calling Was Subordinated to the Larger Church and Was in Harmony with Peter

Paul’s ministry was not “self-validating.” He was initially commissioned by Peter, James, and John (Gal 2:9) to preach to the Gentiles. After his conversion, he went to Jerusalem specifically to see Peter (Gal 1:18). In Acts 15:2-3 we are told that “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent their way by the church,” they went off on their assignment.

That is hardly consistent with the idea of Paul being the “pope” or leading figure in the hierarchy of authority; he was directed by others, as one under orders. When we see Paul and Peter together in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-29), we observe that Peter wields an authority that Paul doesn’t possess.
We learn that “after there was much debate, Peter rose” to address the assembly (15:7). The Bible records his speech, which goes on for five verses. Then it reports that “all the assembly kept silence” (15:12). Paul and Barnabas speak next, not making authoritative pronouncements, but confirming Peter’s exposition, speaking about “signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (15:12). Then when James speaks, he refers right back to what “Simeon [Peter] has related” (15:14). Why did James skip right over Paul’s comments and go back to what Peter said? Paul and his associates are subsequently “sent off” by the Council, and they “delivered the letter” (15:30; cf. 16:4).

None of this seems consistent with the notion that Paul was above or even equal to Peter in authority. But it’s perfectly consistent with Peter’s having a preeminent authority. Paul was under the authority of the council, and Peter (along with James, as the Bishop of Jerusalem) presided over it. Paul and Barnabas were sent by “the church” (of Antioch: see 14:26). Then they were sent by the Jerusalem Council (15:25, 30) which was guided by the Holy Spirit (15:28), back to Antioch (15:30).

You make bald statements of denial; I make solid biblical arguments.

You, of course, know that Paul withstood Peter to his face for his hypocrisy on this very issue. Obviously Paul did not recognize Peter as having "papal" authority over him.

The Peter vs. Paul hypocrisy argument proves nothing because it is irrelevant (hypocrisy being distinct from authority). A person can have full authority and be a flaming hypocrite. For example, Republican ads against President Obama show him to be a hypocrite in a number of ways regarding what he has promised and what he has done. Assuming their correctness, they show he is a hypocrite, but they have no effect on his authority. He remains the President, and has that authority till we boot him out in November. apples and oranges. 

I note in this paper that Jesus upheld the authority of the Pharisees, even though they were hypocrites (Matthew 23:2). This flimsy, misguided objection proves nothing whatever regarding Peter's primacy or supposed lack thereof.

I asked if I could post your words in this dialogue on my blog? It is already public here, but it is a courtesy to ask. . . .
If you don't reply, I will assume it is okay to post the dialogue on my blog. I will post everything you say except for your last long reply, because I don't have time to reply to all that, and a dialogue includes both sides.

Lastly: is the Catholic Church a Christian organization? Or is Catholic theology in its entirety to be defined as not Christian? I no longer debate anti-Catholics (those who deny the first thing and assert the second) as a matter of policy.

[both of these questions were ignored]

Certainly, if Mary had been assumed, the Bible would have mentioned something about it.

By Protestant reasoning, "certainly, if sola Scriptura were true, the Bible would have mentioned something about it". But it never does, which is the topic of my book. That doesn't stop Protestants from making an entirely non-biblical, anti-biblical concept the very foundation and bedrock and pillar of their authority structure. They do it anyway. Then, having done that, they demand that we adopt the same illogical reasoning with regard to Catholic distinctives like Mary's Assumption.

We never claimed that absolutely everything has to be explicitly laid out in Scripture, precisely because the Bible never teaches this. That is your game, and thus your burden to defend, not ours.

Your statement above is classic. You believe this firmly, yet the Bible never states such a thing. Thus, you supposedly appeal to the Bible itself with a completely non-biblical idea that can't be found there. Then you try to bind Catholics to this silly notion: so now you are arbitrarily applying an arbitrary tradition of men to us, as if we have to play by those rules . . . We think logically and biblically, so no dice!

I am not the one bringing up different issues. You have brought up Mary and Peter as defences of Catholicism. I have responded to them.

I never said Paul was Pope. Where did you get that?? I said Paul never recognized Peter as pope.

By the way - Even in Catholic circles the identity of the Woman of Rev. 12 has been in dispute.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
It is true that commentators generally understand the whole passage as applying literally to the Church, and that part of the verses is better suited to the Church than to Mary. But it must be kept in mind that Mary is both a figure of the Church, and its most prominent member. What is said of the Church, is in its own way true of Mary. Hence the passage of the Apocalypse (12:5-6) does not refer to Mary merely by way of accommodation [108], but applies to her in a truly literal sense which appears to be partly limited to her, and partly extended to the whole Church. Mary's relation to the Church is well summed up in the expression "collum corporis mystici" applied to Our Lady by St. Bernardin of Siena. [109]

Cardinal Newman [110] considers two difficulties against the foregoing interpretation of the vision of the woman and child: first, it is said to be poorly supported by the Fathers; secondly, it is an anachronism to ascribe such a picture of the Madonna to the apostolic age.

I note that Cardinal Newman recognizes that the Madonna figure is an "anachronism" to the apostolic age. That is, the apostles never regarded Mary as a "Madonna".

I do not have a copy of the Confraternity version with me at present, but I do distinctly recall reading the footnotes of it regarding Rev 12. The writer said that the application to Mary was "useful" but that the Woman represented the church.

Personally I think the Woman represents the Church at the last age, and the "manchild" represents a certain group within her who, like Christ and with Christ, will rule the world with a rod of iron.

The fact that the woman has "other children" indicates that this is not speaking of a "Virgin Mary". (Rev 12:17)

You just plan to keep going on, huh (knowing I am busy)?

I must respond to a few things, at least. Yes; in past treatments of the topic I have taken the view that the passage has a dual application: to Mary and the Church (and Mary as a figure of the Church). That is quite common in Scripture. I did this in my first book, which was completed 16 years ago this month, so that is nothing new with me.

However, the part specifically about giving birth to the child (who is Christ) must be about Mary, I contend, if it is about Christ, because Jesus was not a product of the Church, since He preceded it and initiated it. Therefore, that part is specifically talking about Mary. The Bible never uses a terminology of Jesus being a "child" (Rev 12:5) of the Church. He is the child of God the Father (His Divine Nature) and of Mary (as a person with both a Divine and human nature). The Church is "of Christ"; Christ is not "of the Church"; let alone its "child." Those categories are biblically ludicrous and indeed almost blasphemous.

Your interpretation of "male child" is incoherent. "Rule all nations with a rod of iron" is clearly hearkening back to the messianic passage Psalm 2:7-9, which is again reflected in Rev 19:15 (absolutely about Jesus). It's true that there is a secondary application along your lines in Rev 2:27, but you still have to deal with the phrase "caught up to God and to his throne" (Rev 12:5; RSV). That can't mean "the twelve thrones" referred to in Matt 19:18 (cf. Lk 22:30; Rev 4:4; 11:16) because it says "his [i.e., God's] throne." Only Jesus is connected directly with that, because He is God.

And so we see Jesus (unlike any created men) sitting on God's throne (Matt 19:28; 25:31; Heb 1:8; Rev 7:17; 22:1, 3).

Therefore, this proves that Rev 12:5 is referring to Jesus alone, and thus, His mother in this particular passage must be Mary, since it cannot be the Church, per the reasoning above. Other parts of the entire passage also have an application to the Church, as the Catholic Church continues to teach today.

You want to bring up Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Bad choice, since he was my main theological influence in becoming a Catholic; I've had a large web page about him for 15 years, and a 448-page book of his quotations coming out in a few weeks (I mentioned it this very day on my Facebook page). In my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (p. 200), I cited his words from 1875 ("Letter to Pusey"):

What I would maintain is this, that the Holy Apostle would not have spoken of the Church under this particular image, unless there had existed a blessed Virgin Mary, who was exalted on high and the object of veneration to all the faithful. No one doubts that the 'man-child' spoken of is an allusion to our Lord; why then is not 'the Woman' an allusion to his mother?

Exactly! And precisely as I argue . . .

Revelation 12:17 is no problem since it can either be an instance of the dual meaning of "Church" or Mary as a spiritual mother in a different sense (tying into the same John at the cross receiving Mary as his "mother"). We accept the dual application. It is you who are denying the Marian application, which doesn't fly in light of the exegesis and cross-referencing that I have shown you.

And if it is Mary in this passage (as well as the Church), then we have an indication of both her veneration and glorification in heaven, akin to the Assumption (whereas you claimed there was nothing in Scripture at all about it: as if the Assumption were solely an arbitrary tradition of men, like sola Scriptura is :-).

I never said "absolutely everything has to be explicitly laid out in scripture". This is a straw man. 

Is that so? You stated:

"Certainly, if Mary had been assumed, the Bible would have mentioned something about it - for it would have occurred during the apostolic era. And if the Apostles wanted the saints to "venerate" her, they would have mentioned SOMETHING about it?"

BUT if there is a MAJOR DOCTRINE of the church, then the scriptures must surely say SOMETHING about it. 
Yes, and I showed that it does: by analogy (Enoch, Elijah, and Paul's experience in the second heaven), and the data of Revelation 12, just discussed. Therefore I have demonstrated "SOMETHING about it." You just disagree (on inadequate grounds). I showed implicit grounds, which is what you want, since you deny that you require explicit grounds. Therefore, I succeeded in my task, according to your challenge. I provided what you asked for. It continues to be the case, on the other hand, that sola Scriptura is entirely absent from the Bible and massively contradicted in it at every turn. So you hang by your own false premise, whereas we are not harmed at all by it because we reject it as unscriptural in the first place.

Moreover, you made the statement (referring to biblical proof):

"Did the apostles ever pray the rosary? Where did that arise? Did they even ONE TIME adocate prayers to Mary?"

I have papers about the Rosary and intercession of the saints, too, showing that there is nothing contrary to Scripture in these practices.

For the last time, I have to do other things (I've already taken up another 75 minutes), so I can't answer your typical laundry list of 1001 Protestant objections. But I have dealt with all of them in various papers and books, including a book about Mary that I will send you in a message (pdf).

God bless,



Monday, May 21, 2012

The 27 Greatest Woody Guthrie Songs (One CD)

By Dave Armstrong (5-21-12)

I've been wanting to put this collection together for many years. Anyone who wants to understand American folk music, the dust bowl, the folk revival of the 50s and 60s, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, the 1930s and the Great Depression, the political liberalism and unionism of two or three generations ago, the hobo phenomenon, the "Okie Migrations," and singer-songwriters in general, will need to listen to and appreciate Woody Guthrie (1912-1967).

Here are what I consider his best songs in their superior and best-sounding versions: all available on albums from 1997 or later. The sound on all these particular recordings / remasters, is excellent (especially considering how old the originals are); the only exception being #27, which is a little "scratchy" -- but not all that bad (and who doesn't love the old "crackling vinyl" sound once in a while, for old time's sake?!). They fit on one CD, clocking in at around 78 minutes:

1. So Long, It's Been Good to Know Ya (recorded on 26 April 1940)

2. Do Re Mi (26 April 1940)

3. Blowin' Down the Road (26 April 1940)

4. I Ain't Got No Home (26 April 1940)

5. Dust Storm Disaster (26 April 1940)

6. Pretty Boy Floyd (26 April 1940)

7. Dust Bowl Refugee (26 April 1940)

8. Tom Joad (26 April 1940)

9. Dust Bowl Blues (26 April 1940)

10. Vigilante Man (26 April 1940)

11. Talking Dust Bowl Blues (26 April 1940)

12. Dust Pneumonia Blues (3 May 1940)

13. Hard Ain't it Hard (16 April 1944)

14. Philadelphia Lawyer (19 April 1944)

15. Grand Coulee Dam (19 April 1944)

16. The Great Historical Bum (19 April 1944)

17. Worried Man Blues (19 April 1944)

18. What Are We Waiting On? (19 April 1944)

19. This Land is Your Land (25 April 1944)

20. Hobo's Lullaby (25 April 1944)

21. Jesus Christ (25 April 1944)

22. 1913 Massacre (24 May 1945)

23. Pastures of Plenty (April 1947)

24. Ramblin' Round (April 1947)

25. Hard Travelin' (1947)

26. Oregon Trail (1947)

27. Roll On, Columbia (1947)

Album Information:

1-12 Dust Bowl Ballads (2000)

13-15, 17-19, 21 My Dusty Road (box set: 2009)

16, 20, 23-24 This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 (1997)

22, 25-26 Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3 (1998)

27 Columbia River Collection (download, 2011)

* * *

Friday, May 18, 2012

Books by Dave Armstrong: "The Quotable Wesley"

[288 pages. $18.99 list price for the paperback. Completed on 2 May 2012. A contract with the Protestant / Wesleyan publisher Beacon Hill Press was signed on 17 December 2012. Published on 1 April 2014. Portrait by William Hamilton (1788) that I used on my original back cover (see below) ]

[cover design by Robbie Knight]

-- for purchase information, go to the bottom of the page --


Dedication (p. 3)

Introduction (p. 5) [read below]

Brief Biography of John Wesley (p. 9) [from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911]

Bibliography and Abbreviations (p. 15)

Quotations (p. 19)

Index of Topics [see below]


I have long felt an immense admiration for John Wesley, as a person of extraordinary “missionary zeal” and devotion to the gospel and Christianity: the man who is said to have delivered more than 40,000 sermons, and traveled more than 250,000 miles on horseback (almost the distance to the moon). As an apologist and (to some extent) evangelist myself, Wesley’s sterling example has always been a great inspiration.

My background is broadly Wesleyan / Arminian, and I was raised initially in the United Methodist Church, though I hasten to add that in those days (up to age ten) I was quite ignorant of theology. In any event, my subsequent evangelical (and “moderately charismatic”) Protestant theological and spiritual development was not all that different from what Wesley or Methodism would teach. I even had an uncle (very sadly murdered at age 40) who was an Anglo-Catholic priest.

I entered the (Roman) Catholic Church in 1991. I mention this only for the sake of “full disclosure.” My intention is to present Wesley’s full theology and spiritual outlook, as a detached editor (as much as one can possibly be). I’m simply being open and honest upfront about my own possible biases.

John Wesley (it may surprise some to discover) never ceased being an Anglican. My own favorite writers are all either lifelong or initial Anglicans (C. S. Lewis, John Henry Cardinal Newman, G. K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Thomas Howard). John Wesley is also among these Anglican writers and thinkers that I respect so much and love to read.

My first goal in my selection of Wesley’s writings is to provide the reader with Wesley’s theological views as he expressed them, and to locate (to the best of my ability, in my editor’s judgment) the most representative and best-expressed portions of his writings in order to fulfill that purpose.

The second, lesser aim (in harmony with the first) is ecumenical. Much of what Wesley held and expressed can be enthusiastically accepted by those from a wide spectrum of Christianity: Arminians, Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, Baptists, charismatics and non-denominational Christians, or self-described “evangelicals.” Even Calvinists (the traditional opposition to Wesleyans / Arminians) disagree mainly on a relatively small number of theological points.

In a broad sense, the theology and thoughts of John Wesley are treasures for all Christians. He was a great man, whose thinking and teachings ought to be more widely known and appreciated; and that is my third goal in compiling this book.

The quotations are categorized into 245 topics (see the Topical Index at the end), with entries drawn from the entire range of Wesley’s writing: his famous journal, letters, treatises, tracts, biblical commentary, and the “Minutes” of various Methodist conferences (dominated by Wesley, and certainly reflective of his own views). They are arranged chronologically within the categories, with dates (to the day, where known) and primary and secondary bibliographical documentation.

My sincere hope is that readers will benefit from these quotations from Wesley as much as I have in finding and sharing them. May his evangelistic zeal and Christian integrity and “heart for God” spread like wildfire.


Absolution p. 15
Alcohol 15
Anabaptists 16
Angels 16
Anglicanism 17
Anglicanism: Faithfulness to17
Anglicanism: Opposition to Separation and a New Denomination 20
Anglicanism: Persecution of Anglican Methodists 23
Anointing the Sick with Consecrated Oil 25
Antinomianism (Falsity of) 26
Apocrypha (Deuterocanon) 27
Apostolic Succession 27
Arminianism 27
Atonement 28
Atonement, Limited (Falsity of) 28
Atonement: Universal 32
Authority, Obedience to 35
Baptism 36
Baptism and Being “Born Again”36
Baptism and Justification 38
Baptism and Original Sin 38
Baptism and Salvation 38
Baptism, Infant 39
Baptismal Regeneration 40
Beatific Vision 41
Bishops 41
Bishops, Liberal or Nominal 41
Bishops (Opposed in Methodism) 42
Blessings (Priestly) 42
Bowing (at the Name of Jesus) 42
Buffoonery and Fools 42
Calling (Wesley’s) 43
Calvin, John 43
Calvinism: Criticisms of 44
Catholicism (Roman); Catholics 46
Celibacy and Singleness 48
Cheerfulness (and Christianity) 49
Child Killing 50
Christian 50
Christianity and Secular Knowledge 52
Church, The 53
Clothing 54
Communion, Holy: Daily Reception 54
Communion, Holy: Means of Grace 55
Communion, Holy: Preparation and Fitness for Reception 57
Communion, Holy: Real Presence 58
Communion, Holy: Transubstantiation (Falsity of) 58
Communion, Holy: Weekly Reception 59
Concupiscence 59
Confession 59
Confirmation (Rite) 59
Conversion 60
Demoniacs 61
Dialogue and Argument 62
Ecumenism; Religious Tolerance 65
Education, Methodist 70
Education, Secularization of 72
Election, Conditional 72
Election, Unconditional (Falsity of) 73
“Enthusiasm” (Opposition to) 74
Eucharistic Adoration (Wrongness of) 79
Eucharistic Sacrifice 80
Evangelism and Preaching, Lay 80
Examination of Conscience; Self-Examination 82
Experience, Religious 82
Extreme Unction (Falsity of) 84
Faith 85
Faith Alone (Falsity of) 87
Faith and Justification 87
Faith and Reason 88
Faith and Salvation 90
Faith and Works 90
Faith: Bold and Confident 94
Fasting 94
Fathers of the Church 95
Free Will 98
Friday Abstinence 100
Gifts, Extraordinary: Cessation of 101
God 101
God: All-Holy 103
God: Eternity of 103
God: His Providence 103
God: Just Judge 105
God: Omnipotence of 106
God: Omnipresence of 106
God: Omniscience of 107
God: Outside of Time 108
God: Sovereignty of 108
God: Sustainer of Creation 109
God: Will of 110
Gospel 110
Gossip 111
Government 111
Government, Church 112
Grace 114
Grace: Degrees or Greater Measure of 115
Grace, Falling Away from (Apostasy) 115
Grace, Irresistible (Falsity of) 120
Grace, Means of 121
Grace, Prevenient 123
Hades; Sheol; Paradise; Intermediate State 125
Happiness 127
Hardening of the Heart 128
Healing, Miraculous 128
Heartfelt Conversion; Wholehearted Devotion to God 130
Heathens and Salvation 133
Heaven 133
Hell 133
Henry VIII (and His Destruction of Church Buildings) 135
Holiness 135
Holy Days 135
Holy Spirit 135
Holy Spirit: Being Filled With 135
Holy Spirit, Indwelling of 137
Holy Spirit: Testimony and Witness of 138
Jesus Christ 140
Jesus Christ: Creator 141
Jesus Christ: Divinity of 141
Jesus Christ: Savior and Redeemer 141
Jesus Christ: Sustainer of Creation 142
Jews and Salvation 143
Joy 143
Judgment of Nations 144
Justification 144
Justification and Absolute Assurance of Pardon; Fiducial Faith 146
Justification and Being “Born Again” 147
Justification and New Birth 147
Justification and Present Assurance 147
Justification and “Receiving the Holy Spirit” 148
Justification and Regeneration 148
Justification and Sanctification 148
Justification by Faith 149
Justification by Grace Alone 151
Justification, Imputed 152
Justification, Infused 154
Kingdom of Heaven 156
Kneeling and Bowing 156
Latitudinarianism 157
Law and Gospel 158
Law, God’s 159
Lent 160
Lots, Casting of 160
Love 160
Luther, Martin 161
Man, Purpose of 162
Marriage: Not a Sacrament 162
Mary 163
Mary: Perpetual Virginity of 163
Merit 163
Methodism 163
Methodism: American 165
Methodism: Danger of Liberalism and Nominalism 167
“Methodist” (Title) 167
Miracles 168
Miracles, Cessation (Falsity of) 169
Miracles, Demonic 170
Miracles: Unreasonable Demand for, as Proof of Methodism 170
Moravians 172
Music (Superiority of Melody to Harmony) 172
New Birth 174
New Birth and Sanctification 177
New Birth: Wesley’s Own 178
Nudity (in Art) 186
Ordination (Holy Orders); Priesthood 187
Original Sin 188
Orthodoxy (Correct Beliefs) 189
Peace of God 193
Peer Pressure 193
Pelagianism; Works Salvation (Falsity of) 194
Penance 195
Perfection (Entire Sanctification) 195
Perseverance, Unconditional (Falsity of) 202
Polemics; Controversy 203
Popes; Papacy 204
Popularity (in Old Age) 205
Prayer 206
Prayers for the Dead 207
Prayers, Extemporary 208
Prayers, Formal 209
Preaching 209
Preaching and Opposition (Riots, Etc.) 211
Preaching in the Fields 212
Predestination: Conditional 217
Priests 217
Private Judgment 218
Purgatory; Preparation for Heaven in the Afterlife (and This Life) 218
Puritans 220
Quakers 221
Reading 223
Reformation, Protestant 223
Regeneration 224
Repentance 225
Reprobation: Unconditional (Falsity of) 225
Reproof; Rebuke 229
Revival 230
Revolution, American 232
Rewards in Heaven 233
Riches; Love of Money 233
Righteousness of Faith 235
Rule of Faith 235
Sabbath 238
Sacraments 239
Saints, Communion of 239
Saints, Honoring of 240
Saints, Intercession of 240
Salvation 240
Salvation and Invincible Ignorance 241
Salvation: Assurance of Final (Falsity of) 242
Sanctification 245
Sanctification and Salvation 248
Satan and His Demons (Fallen Angels) 248
Schism; Separation 252
Scripture and Learning 253
Scripture and Patristic Interpretation 253
Scripture: Chapter Divisions 254
Scripture, “Difficulties” in 254
Scripture: Formal Sufficiency 254
Scripture: Hermeneutics (Interpretation) 254
Scripture, Inspiration and Infallibility of 255
Scripture: Material Sufficiency 256
Scripture: Old Testament 256
Scripture: Unreasonable Demand for Explicit Proof Texts 257
Self-Defense 257
Sin 258
Sins, Forgiveness of 258
Slander 258
Slavery 260
Society and Christianity 262
Soul 262
Spirit (of Man) 262
Suffering 263
Talking 265
Temptation 266
Tongues, Gift of 266
Total Depravity 266
Tradition, Apostolic 267
Traditions of Men 268
Trinity, Holy 268
Trust in God 269
Truth 269
Unconditional Election (Falsity of Calvinist Version) 271
War 272
Whitefield, George (Calvinist Differences) 272
Works and Grace; Co-Laborers with God 273
Works (in Grace) and Salvation 276
Worship 278
Worship, Methodist 278
Writing 279
Zeal (Christian) 282


John Wesley's Belief in an Intermediate State After Death

John Wesley's Espousal of Prayer for the Dead

John Wesley on Scripture and Patristic Interpretation [Facebook thread]

John Wesley Regarded Luther's Commentary on Galatians (Emphasizing "Faith Alone") as Blasphemy [Facebook thread]

John Wesley Was Opposed to Experiential "Enthusiasm"? Yes, He Was [Facebook thread]

Wesley's Reductio ad Absurdum Argument Against Calvinist Unconditional Election [Facebook thread]

John Wesley's Remarkable Tolerance Towards Catholics (Ecumenism) [Facebook thread]

John Wesley Explains Exactly What He Means by Perfection or Entire Sanctification [Facebook thread]

John Wesley on the American Revolution [Facebook thread]

John Wesley's Remarkable Observation About Christianity and Secular Learning [Facebook thread]

John Wesley on Polemics and Controversy [Facebook thread]

Methodist Education in 1768 [Facebook thread]

John Wesley: Unconditional Reprobation is Contrary to God's Justice and Mercy [Facebook thread]

Wesley on Sanctification and Salvation [Facebook thread]


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Last revised on 18 July 2015.