Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Books by Dave Armstrong: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism


[178 pages. Completed on 23 October 2012; published at Lulu on the same day]
  [cover: Calvinist iconoclastic riot in Lyons in 1562]
 

--- For purchase, go to the bottom of the page ---
 
Subtitle:  

Replies to Exegetical Arguments in John Calvin’s Institutes, Books I-III


TABLE OF CONTENTS


Dedication
Introduction [read in its entirety]

I. Salvation, Justification, Sanctification, and Predestination

 1. Is God the Author of Evil? [read lengthy excerpt on Facebook]
 2. Can Only Regenerate Men Perform Truly Good Works?
 3. Total Depravity: Are the Non-Elect Continually Evil? [read most of it online]
 4. Are All Hearts “Desperately Wicked”?
 5. Perseverance of the Saints: Biblical Disproofs [partial excerpt on Facebook]
 6. Can True Faith Ever be Lost?
 7. Can the Hope that is Allied with True Faith be Lost?
 8. Does God Unconditionally Predestine the Reprobate?
 9. Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace?

II. Visual Images

 1. Non-Idolatrous Physical Images of God in Scripture
 2. “Graven Images”: Extreme and Unbiblical Iconoclasm
 3. Calvin’s Denial of Images as a Teaching Aid

III. Bible and Tradition: The Rule of Faith 

 1. Scripture has Intrinsic Authority, Not from the Church
 2. Church Authority and the Canon of Scripture


IV. The Communion of Saints

 1. Antipathy to Veneration of Saints and Angels [read online]
 2. Saints and Angels, Intercession and Invocation of

V. Penance

1. Satisfaction and Penitential Mortification
2. Redemptive Suffering
3. Mortal and Venial Sins
4. Temporal Punishment After Forgiveness [read online]
5. Indulgences and Distribution of Grace [read short excerpt on Facebook]

VI. Purgatory 

 1. Calvin’s Derisive Rhetoric and Matthew 12:32
 2. Matthew 5:25-26
 3. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
 4. Prayer for the Dead

Appendix of Areas of Calvinist-Catholic Agreement

Antinomianism; Cheap Grace
Apostolic Succession
Church: No Salvation Outside of
Confession and Absolution (of a sort) [read excerpt on Facebook]
Contrition
Deuterocanon
Discipleship
Faith and Works are Both Necessary in the Christian Life
Faith, The (Meaning, “Orthodox Doctrinal Belief”)
Fasting
Foreknowledge is Not Predestination
God: Anthropomorphism / Anthropopathism
God, Glory of: Displayed in, or Shared with Angels
God, Glory of: Displayed in, or Shared with Men
God: Immutability of
God: Providence of / Sustainer of the Universe
Grace Alone; Initial Justification
Grace: Greater Degree or Measure of
Grace: Synergy; Free Cooperation with God’s Grace
Justification and Sanctification: Closely Allied
Law of Moses: not Abrogated or Abolished
Mary: “Blessed Virgin”
Materialism, Scientific (Falsity of)
Natural Theology / Teleological Argument for God
Paganism, Incorporation of Truths from
Saints (Dead), Intercession of
Sanctification [read on Facebook]
Suffering; Taking up the Cross
Theosis; Divinization


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Updated on 17 April 2014.


*****



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Temporal Punishment After Forgiveness: Catholicism vs. John Calvin

King David

[portion of my book, A Biblical Critique of Calvinism]

They endeavor, indeed, to disentangle themselves, but it is impossible. They pretend a distinction between penalty and guilt, holding that the guilt is forgiven by the mercy of God; but that though the guilt is remitted, the punishment which divine justice requires to be paid remains. Satisfactions then properly relate to the remission of the penalty. How ridiculous this levity! They now confess that the remission of guilt is gratuitous; and yet they are ever and anon telling as to merit it by prayers and tears, and other preparations of every kind. Still the whole doctrine of Scripture regarding the remission of sins is diametrically opposed to that distinction. But although I think I have already done more than enough to establish this, I will subjoin some other passages, by which these slippery snakes will be so caught as to be afterwards unable to writhe even the tip of their tail: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” (Jer. 31:31, 34). What this means we learn from another Prophet, when the Lord says, “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness” “all his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned.” “Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive,” (Ezek. 18:24, 27). When he declares that he will not remember righteousness, the meaning is, that he will take no account of it to reward it. In the same way, not to remember sins is not to bring them to punishment. The same thing is denoted in other passages, by casting them behind his back, blotting them out as a cloud, casting them into the depths of the sea, not imputing them, hiding them. By such forms of expression the Holy Spirit has explained his meaning not obscurely, if we would lend a willing ear. Certainly if God punishes sins, he imputes them; if he avenges, he remembers; if he brings them to judgment, he has not hid them; if he examines, he has not cast them behind his back; if he investigates, he has not blotted them out like a cloud; if he exposes them, he has not thrown them into the depths of the sea. (Institutes, III, 4:29)

What, pray, did Christ perform for us if the punishment of sin is still exacted? For when we say that he “bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Pet. 2:24), all we mean is, that he endured the penalty and punishment which was due to our sins. This is more significantly declared by Isaiah, when he says that the “chastisement (or correction) of our peace was upon him,” (Isaiah 53:5). But what is the correction of our peace, unless it be the punishment due to our sins, and to be paid by us before we could be reconciled to God, had he not become our substitute? Thus you clearly see that Christ bore the punishment of sin that he might thereby exempt his people from it. . . . The passages which we have quoted above say expressly that the terms on which God receives us into favor are these—viz. he remits all the punishment which we deserved by pardoning our guilt. . . . In short, if we are freed from guilt by Christ, the punishment consequent upon guilt must cease with it. (III, 4:30) 

Since Calvin wants to cite a lot of Old Testament passages in this portion of his work, I will cite three that contradict his erroneous and characteristically too-sweeping interpretation of what he presents. These show that sometimes temporal punishment or chastisement still occurs after God has forgiven or pardoned:

Numbers 14:17-24 [RSV] And now, I pray thee, let the power of the LORD be great as thou hast promised, saying, [18] `The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.' [19] Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray thee, according to the greatness of thy steadfast love, and according as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." [20] Then the LORD said, "I have pardoned, according to your word; [21] but truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, [22] none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the proof these ten times and have not hearkened to my voice, [23] shall see the land which I swore to give to their fathers; and none of those who despised me shall see it. [24] But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.

Deuteronomy 32:48-52 And the LORD said to Moses that very day, [49] "Ascend this mountain of the Ab'arim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho; and view the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel for a possession; [50] and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; [51] because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Mer'i-bath-ka'desh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you did not revere me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. [52] For you shall see the land before you; but you shall not go there, into the land which I give to the people of Israel." (cf. Num 20:10-12)

2 Samuel 12:13-14 David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. [14] Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die." (cf. ch. 24) 

Oddly enough, after his statements above that go too far and bring him in conflict with Scripture, Calvin becomes much more nuanced and “arrives” at a view not unlike the Catholic one in these matters of penance and chastisement:

Had they observed, what certainly they ought not to have overlooked, that there are two kinds of divine judgment, they would have seen in the correction of David a very different form of punishment from that which must be thought designed for vengeance. . . . For the sake of distinction, we may call the one kind of judgment punishment, the other chastisement. . . . By divine punishment, properly so called, let us then understand punishment accompanied with indignation. In judicial chastisement, he is offended, but not in wrath; he does not punish by destroying or striking down as with a thunderbolt. Hence it is not properly punishment or vengeance, but correction and admonition. The one is the act of a judge, the other of a father. When the judge punishes a criminal, he animadverts upon the crime, and demands the penalty. When a father corrects his son sharply, it is not to mulct or avenge, but rather to teach him, and make him more cautious for the future. (III, 4:31) 

We Catholics are well aware of this rather obvious scriptural distinction, and Calvin was smart enough to realize and grasp this. He even treats one of the most compelling Catholic prooftexts in this regard: King David’s case (2 Samuel 12:13-14 above) at some length:

The sons of God are beaten with rods, not that they may pay the punishment due to their faults, but that they may thereby be led to repent. . . . Thus, when he rejected Saul from the kingdoms he punished in vengeance (1 Sam. 15:23); when he deprived David of his child, he chastised for amendment (2 Sam. 12:18). (III, 4:33)

All, if I mistake not, now see what view the Lord had in chastening David, namely, to prove that murder and adultery are most offensive to God, and to manifest this offensiveness in a beloved and faithful servant, that David himself might be taught never again to dare to commit such wickedness; still, however, it was not a punishment designed in payment of a kind of compensation to God. In the same way are we to judge of that other correction, in which the Lord subjects his people to a grievous pestilence, for the disobedience of David in forgetting himself so far as to number the people. He indeed freely forgave David the guilt of his sin; but because it was necessary, both as a public example to all ages and also to humble David himself, not to allow such an offense to go unpunished, he chastened him most sharply with his whip. We ought also to keep this in view in the universal curse of the human race. For since after obtaining grace we still continue to endure the miseries denounced to our first parent as the penalty of transgression, we ought thereby to be reminded, how offensive to God is the transgression of his law, that thus humbled and dejected by a consciousness of our wretched condition, we may aspire more ardently to true happiness. (III, 4:35) 

Frustratingly, often when Calvin expresses a view that is scarcely different from the Catholic perspective, he doesn’t realize it, and continues to think that Catholics believe something fundamentally different. Sadly, this is a general tendency in historic Protestant exegesis and dogmatic theology. Frequently, Calvin prefers to war against a straw man of his own making, rather than admit agreement with Catholics.

In this instance (analyzing his treatment of David’s punishment), arguably it is a case of a “distinction without a difference.” Calvin wants to split hairs and call this “chastisement” rather than “temporal punishment.” That’s fine, but it is what it is, whatever one calls it, and Catholics conceptually agree with him, for the most part. Our “temporal punishment” or “satisfaction” or (more broadly) “penance” is roughly the same as what he (and we) would call “chastisement.”

But Calvin, wishing to always paint Catholicism in the worst light, and missing many relevant distinctions in Catholic theology, caricatures our position on penance as equivalent to divine wrath or vengeance, which is properly applied only to reprobates, on their way to hell. Nice try, but no cigar . . .


* * * * *



Friday, October 12, 2012

Total Depravity: Are the Non-Elect Continually Evil? (vs. John Calvin)



[my Bible citations: RSV]

Of how little value it is in the sight of God, in regard to all the parts of life, Paul shows, when he says, that we are not “sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves,” (2 Cor. 3:5). He is not speaking of the will or affection; he denies us the power of thinking aright how any thing cam be duly performed. Is it, indeed, true, that all thought, intelligence, discernment, and industry, are so defective, that, in the sight of the Lord, we cannot think or aim at any thing that is right? To us, who can scarcely bear to part with acuteness of intellect (in our estimation a most precious endowment), it seems hard to admit this, whereas it is regarded as most just by the Holy Spirit, who “knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity,” (Ps. 94:11), and distinctly declares, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). If every thing which our mind conceives, meditates plans, and resolves, is always evil, how can it ever think of doing what is pleasing to God, to whom righteousness and holiness alone are acceptable? (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, 2:25)

 . . . such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. (II, 3:5) 

Calvin interprets these passages in hyper-literalistic fashion. The language of the Psalms is often proverbial (in other words, it makes general observations, which admit of exceptions: sometimes very many). Elsewhere, Scripture indicates that things are not nearly so dire and hopeless as Calvin makes out, regarding “the thoughts of men”:

Proverbs 12:5 The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are treacherous.

Proverbs 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, the words of the pure are pleasing to him. 

Using Genesis 6:5 as a pretext for asserting universal evil thoughts of all men is rather silly, as plainly seen in the passage’s context. Three verses later it is shown that the statement was not an absolute universal: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Likewise, Genesis 6:9 asserts: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.”

God adds seven more people (Noah’s wife and his three sons and their wives: see 6:10; 7:7) to His roster of exceptions to Calvin’s alleged universal state of mankind in Genesis 7:1: “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.”

Moreover, the following two verses clearly prove that the language cannot be interpreted literally, since if so, the second would contradict the first (and the second is one of Calvin’s “prooftexts” for total depravity):

Genesis 8:20-21 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. [21] And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 

The same dynamic applies to other passages classically used by Calvinists and other Protestants in order to claim that everyone was absolutely evil and could do no good. Context shows that the passages utilized were never intended in the first place to teach such things.

But as I study brevity, I will be satisfied with a single passage, one, however, in which as in a bright mirror, we may behold a complete image of our nature. The Apostle, when he would humble man’s pride, uses these words: “There is none righteous no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes,” (Rom. 3:10–18). Thus he thunders not against certain individuals, but against the whole posterity of Adam—not against the depraved manners of any single age, but the perpetual corruption of nature. His object in the passage is not merely to upbraid men in order that they may repent, but to teach that all are overwhelmed with inevitable calamity, and can be delivered from it only by the mercy of God. As this could not be proved without previously proving the overthrow and destruction of nature, he produced those passages to show that its ruin is complete. (II, 3:2) 

This is a prime example of what I just described. Romans 3 is often cited by Calvinists, following Calvin (above). It’s one of their favorite prooftexts. Romans 3:10-12 is itself a citation that St. Paul took from the Psalms:

Psalm 14:1-3 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. [2] The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. [3] They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one. 

The very next Psalm is (amazingly enough) entirely devoted to “good people”:

Psalm 15:1-5 O LORD, who shall sojourn in thy tent? Who shall dwell on thy holy hill? [2] He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart; [3] who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; [4] in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; [5] who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. 

Even two verses after Psalms 14:3, King David writes that “God is with the generation of the righteous” (14:5). In the very next verse (14:4) David refers to “the evildoers who eat up my people.” Now, if he is contrasting the evildoers with His people, then obviously, he can’t possibly be implying that everyone is evil, so that there are no righteous folks at all to be found.

The anonymous psalmist in 112:5 refers to a good man (Hebrew, tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly (11:23, 12:2, 13:22, 14:14, 19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Psalm 14:2-3. References to righteous men are innumerable (e.g., Job 17:9; 22:19; Ps 5:12; 32:11; 34:15; 37:16, 32; Mt 9:13; 13:17; 25:37, 46; Rom 5:19; Heb 11:4; Jas 5;16; 1 Pet 3:12; 4:18; etc., etc.).

Jewish idiom and hyperbole of this sort appears in many other similar passages. For example, Jesus says:

Luke 18:19 No one is good but God alone. (cf. Mt 19:17)

Yet He also said:

Matthew 12:35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure. . . . (cf. 5:45; 7:17-20; 22:10) 

Jesus is drawing a strong contrast between our righteousness and God’s, but He doesn’t deny that we can be “good” in a lesser sense. Psalm 53:1-3 provides a similar example, almost identical to Psalm 14. Again, we see other proximate Psalms refer to the “righteous” or “godly” (e.g., 52:1, 6, 9; 53:4; 55:22; 58:10-11).

Romans 3:11 states, “no one seeks for God,” and in Psalms 14:2, God looks “to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God.” This is again hyperbolic language, and we know this because many passages teach us that many men did seek after God (e.g., Deut 4:29; 1 Chr 16:10-11; 22:19; 2 Chr 11:16; 15:12-13; 30:19; Ps 34:10; 69:32; Prov 28:5; Is 51:1; 55:6; Jer 50:4; Hos 3:5; Amos 5:6; Zeph 2:3; Zech 8:21-22; Acts 17:27).

Quite obviously, then, it is not the case that “no one” whatsoever seeks God. Passages that seem to be utterly sweeping need to be understood in terms of literary genre, immediate context, and in light of other relevant and related Bible verses.

The Bible is God’s inspired and infallible Word. It is completely self-consistent and always harmonious with itself. But Calvin’s prior theological system that he brings to Scripture would cause it to massively self-contradict. Since we believe in faith that this isn’t possible, false tenets of Calvin’s system need to be discarded, in cases where it causes this unworthy result.

The above illustrative example shows how Calvin’s exegetical reasoning fails, and does violence to Holy Scripture, rightly understood. Once again, the Catholic understanding is demonstrated to be far more in line with the Bible.


*****


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Ronald Knox Bible to be Available Once Again (Baronius Press)

Msgr. Ronald Knox (1888-1957) 

From the Baronius Press descriptive page:

With a distinct style, it . . . has been highly praised for its freshness of approach, for its poetic language and for the ease with which it may be read. Its style has succeeded in giving meaning to passages which in earlier versions have been difficult to understand.


The great Protestant Bible scholar F. F. Bruce has written about the Ronald Knox version:

"[It] has the overwhelming advantage of being the work of a man who had an uncanny instinct for getting the right word or the right phrase in any given context. . . . Knox was a master of English style. . . . Never did a translation read less like a translation.

. . . a most readable edition of the English Bible.

(History of the Bible in English, New York: Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 1978,  208, 212)
 
For more information, see the Baronius Press web page, Knox Bible: Literary and Reverent.


****

Monday, October 01, 2012

John Calvin's Antipathy to Veneration of Saints and Angels vs. Explicit Biblical Evidences of Same


[complete sub-section from Chapter Seven of my book, A Biblical Critique of Calvinism]

It may be proper here more particularly to attend to the subtleties which superstition employs. In revolting to strange gods, it avoids the appearance of abandoning the Supreme God, or reducing him to the same rank with others. It gives him the highest place, but at the same time surrounds him with a tribe of minor deities, among whom it portions out his peculiar offices. In this way, though in a dissembling and crafty manner, the glory of the Godhead is dissected, and not allowed to remain entire. In the same way the people of old, both Jews and Gentiles, placed an immense crowd in subordination to the father and ruler of the gods, and gave them, according to their rank, to share with the supreme God in the government of heaven and earth. In the same way, too, for some ages past, departed saints have been exalted to partnership with God, to be worshipped, invoked, and lauded in his stead. (I, 12:1)

For it is plain that the worship which Papists pay to saints differs in no respect from the worship of God: for this worship is paid without distinction; only when they are pressed they have recourse to the evasion, that what belongs to God is kept unimpaired, because they leave him λατρια. [latreia] (I, 12:2) 

Calvin neglects to see that the Bible often refers to honor given to notable or saintly human beings (and gives no hint whatsoever that this detracts from adoration and worship of God). This is an analogy to Catholic veneration. We seek (and our commanded) to imitate or emulate the saints as holy models (1 Tim 4:12; Heb 6:12; 13:7; Jas 5:10-11; 1 Pet 5:3), just as St. Paul repeatedly urged imitation of himself (Rom 11:14; 1 Cor 4:15-16; 11:1-2; Phil 3:17; 4:9; 1 Thess 1:6-7; 2 Thess 3:7-9; 2 Tim 3:10-14).

Honor is a widespread New Testament motif (Rom 12:10). We are to honor our parents (Eph 6:2), widows (1 Tim 5:3), elders (priests or bishops) in the Church (1 Tim 5:17), all men), and the emperor (1 Pet 2:17). King Asa and King Hezekiah were both honored after their deaths:

2 Chronicles 16:14 [RSV] They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer's art; and they made a very great fire in his honor. (cf. 21:19, showing that this was a general practice)

2 Chronicles 32:33 And Hezeki'ah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the ascent of the tombs of the sons of David; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. 

How is it, then, that Calvin thinks we cannot honor and venerate fellow human saints, because they are dead, and since this allegedly is invariably identical (in the minds of those doing it) to worship of God (i.e., idolatry and replacement of what belongs to God alone)? Just because these men no longer walk the earth, it doesn’t follow at all (per Hebrews 11) that they are no longer worthy of honor and veneration.

St. Paul makes it clear that imitating him is in complete harmony with the notion of imitating Christ, whom Paul is imitating (see, e.g., Eph 5:1: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children:): "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1); "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord . . ." (1 Thess 1:6).

It's not an “either/or” scenario in the Bible. But in Calvin’s mind, it is. He clearly is not thinking biblically when it comes to veneration of saints. He refuses to make necessary distinctions, and collapses categories together that are clearly separated in the Bible and in Catholic theology.

When Christ repels Satan’s insulting proposal with the words, “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” (Mt. 4:10), there was no question of λατρια [latreia]. For all that Satan asked was προσκὺνεσις (obeisance). In like manners when John is rebuked by the angel for falling on his knees before him (Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9), we ought not to suppose that John had so far forgotten himself as to have intended to transfer the honour due to God alone to an angel. But because it was impossible that a worship connected with religion should not savour somewhat of divine worship, he could not προσκὺνει̑ν (do obeisance to) the angel without derogating from the glory of God. True, we often read that men were worshipped; but that was, if I may so speak, civil honour. The case is different with religious honour, which, the moment it is conjoined with worship, carries profanation of the divine honour along with it. (I, 12:3) 

We are not to – must not! -- adore and worship anyone but God. This is what the Catholic Church has always taught. But we can and should also honor and venerate saints and angels. No one need merely take our word on that. A clear indication of this in Holy Scripture is Joshua’s veneration of the angel who commanded the Lord’s army:

Joshua 5:13-15 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" [14] And he said, "No; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped [shachah], and said to him, "What does my lord bid his servant?" [15] And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so. 

This Hebrew word shachah (Strong’s word #7812) is translated 99 times in the King James Version (according to Young’s Concordance) as “worship” in the Old Testament, including passages that refer to exclusive worship of God:

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship [shachah] no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 

But it also can refer to bowing or crouching (53 instances), obeisance (nine times), and prostration (four examples). Thus, here it is applied to the veneration of an angel, with no disapproval in the inspired text.

This goes beyond even the Catholic distinction between dulia and latreia, that Calvin roundly mocks as absurd, since the same word is applied to fundamentally different actions: thus potentially leading to far more confusion than Calvin thinks Catholic distinctions of words and actions lead to. Why, then, does he not go after the inspired Bible writers with the same vehemence that he reserves for his anti-Catholic zeal?

Moreover, "worship" is used in a wider (literary) sense of showing reverence or obeisance to men of authority (in this instance, a king), in the following passage (in KJV, for illustration):

1 Chronicles 29:20 And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped [shachah] the LORD, and the king. 

The RSV has: "worshiped the LORD, and did obeisance to the king," but it is one Hebrew word applied to both. A similar passage to Joshua 5:13-15 occurs with a different Hebrew word, qadad (Strong’s #6915):

Numbers 22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed [qadad] his head, and fell on his face. 

Like schachah, this word can also denote veneration or reverence of creatures (see, e.g., 1 Sam 24:8; 1 Ki 1:16, 31: obeisance to the king), while at the same time it can be applied to worship or adoration of God, in the same outward gesture of bowing down before Him:

Exodus 12:27 you shall say, `It is the sacrifice of the LORD's passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he slew the Egyptians but spared our houses.'" And the people bowed [qadad] their heads and worshiped [shachah].

Exodus 34:8 And Moses made haste to bow [qadad] his head toward the earth, and worshiped [shachah]. 

In fact, King Saul venerated [both shachah and qadad] – and talked to -- the prophet Samuel after his death:

1 Samuel 28:14 . . . And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed [qadad] with his face to the ground, and did obeisance [shachah]. 

This is almost the most explicit conceivable biblical evidence (from Hebrew words and what is described in the passage) for veneration of creatures that can be imagined. He is venerating a dead prophet (not even an angel this time), and the two Hebrew words used to describe what he did are both applied many times to adoration of God.

Now, Calvin is fond of regarding purely Old Testament arguments as antiquated and of no import in the Christian age. Therefore, to persuade Calvinists of the force of this argument, we (preferably) need to find a corresponding or analogous New Testament linguistic argument, having to do with the veneration / worship question. Some indication exists, that this is the case.

One relevant Greek word along these lines is pipto (Strong’s word #4098). It means, literally, “fell” or “fall down”. We see many instances where it is applied (as a reverent gesture) to divine adoration or worship of God (proskuneo is Greek for “worship”: Strong’s #4352):

Matthew 2:11 and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down [pipto] and worshiped [proskuneo] him. . . .

Matthew 17:5-6 He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." [6] When the disciples heard this, they fell [pipto] on their faces, and were filled with awe.

1 Corinthians 14:25 . . . falling [pipto] on his face, he will worship [proskuneo] God . . .

Revelation 4:10 the twenty-four elders fall down [pipto] before him who is seated on the throne and worship [proskuneo] him who lives for ever and ever . . .

Revelation 5:8 . . . the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down [pipto] before the Lamb . . .

Revelation 5:14 And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down [pipto] and worshiped [proskuneo]. [the “Lamb”: 5:13]

Revelation 11:16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell [pipto] on their faces and worshiped [proskuneo] God, 

Calvin brought up (I, 12:3) the passages about St. John being “rebuked by the angel for falling on his knees before him (Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9)” as a counter-argument against generation of saints. Likewise, we can note the related passage of Acts 10:25, where St. Peter discourages Cornelius from worshiping him, since he is a man. All three of those passages contain both pipto and proskuneo. Calvin also argued in another chapter:

. . . there is nothing to which we are more prone than to prostrate ourselves before them in stupid adoration, and then ascribe to them the blessings which we owe to God alone. Even John confesses in the Apocalypse (Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9), that this was his own case, but he immediately adds the answer which was given to him, “See thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant: worship God.” (I, 14:10)

Here is a New Testament text with a related word (prospipto), having to do with the jailer, after Paul and Silas prayed in prison and an earthquake resulted:

Acts 16:29 . . . trembling with fear he fell down before [prospipto] Paul and Silas, 

As in the verses above, we observe both fear and falling down, but (quite interestingly) there is no rebuke or clarification from Paul and Silas that they were but men. Proskuneo doesn’t appear (the word that would prove it was attempted worship or adoration). This is, then, arguably an instance of veneration of Paul and Silas, due to the supernatural event that showed them to be very special men.

Another passage with a different word used, implies possible veneration of an angel:

Luke 24:4-5 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; [5] and as they were frightened and bowed [klino] their faces to the ground . . . 

Both fear and a bowing or prostrating gesture are, in the Bible, presented as characteristic in encounters with angels. Once again, proskuneo is not present in the passage, and here, as in Acts 16:29, the women were not told to get up, as if they had done anything improper. This is (arguably, plausibly) because they were venerating the angel and not adoring or worshiping, which would be impermissible.

We thus can rightly conclude, in light of all these fascinating passages, that God (unlike Calvin) doesn’t seem to think that human beings are so breathtakingly stupid and ignorant that they can’t (or very often cannot) tell the difference between creatures and God, or between veneration and adoration / worship.

Therefore, He didn’t see fit (in inspiring those who wrote his revelation to man) to even bother to use a different word for the two in Hebrew; and even in the New Testament, the gesture (falling down) was no different for veneration than it was for adoration. According to Calvin, this causes confusion and idolatry, but according to Catholicism and the Bible, people generally have enough discernment to know the difference between the two.

The dichotomy that God is concerned about is between the true God (Himself) and false gods (as represented by material idols); not between veneration (where it is properly due) and worship reserved for Him alone: as if the former is completely forbidden and wicked.

Calvin (agreeing with the Catholic Church) rightly condemns the detestable idolatry of worshiping false gods, but his mistake is to equate altogether permissible biblical veneration with this rank idolatry of serving other “gods” beside the one true One. This is one of the fundamental errors of the so-called Protestant “Reformation,” and we see how completely false and unbiblical it is.

God knew what He was doing. I submit that John Calvin often did not, and the sad thing is that his erroneous teachings (which aren’t all of them, but a great number) have led millions of souls into various dangerous theological and spiritual errors and deprived them of spiritual aids and beliefs (such as veneration of saints and angels) that could have helped them to become closer to God and to better withstand the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (Dave Armstrong): Introduction

 

The present volume is a follow-up or “Volume II” to my previous book, Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (Lulu, 2010). That work, for the most part, was devoted to comprehensive (often literally line-by-line) replies to Book IV of Calvin’s magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion: the portion devoted largely to ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the Church.

A little less ambitious and more specifically focused this time, I’ll be replying only to biblical arguments from Calvin in Books I-III, in all instances where he takes a position that is contrary to Catholic viewpoints (I need not quibble with him when we agree): and I’ll be answering primarily from Scripture alone.

The idea is to “fight fire with fire,” so to speak: to challenge Calvin on his own presumed ground and “home field” of alleged superiority of biblical argument, over against Catholicism, which is supposedly (so Calvin states innumerable times) unable to sustain an argument for itself based on the data of the revealed theology of Holy Scripture.

Every Protestant worth his salt feels that the Bible is the area where he excels and can overthrow the alleged “false doctrines” of the Catholic Church. Committed, educated Protestants, to their credit, are, on the whole, very familiar with the Bible, and often put Catholics to shame in this respect. But it’s high time that Catholics begin to vigorously contest these endlessly reiterated stereotypes about Catholicism having no biblical support.

Catholics tire of routinely being regarded as “unbiblical” or even “anti-biblical” Christians. I’ve always maintained (throughout my 32 books and nearly 2,500 Internet posts) the shocking notion that Catholicism is, in fact, far more thoroughly “biblical” than any particular brand of Protestantism.

I don’t expect anyone to simply accept my opinion when I assert this. I aim to demonstrate it in this book, by answering and “doing exegesis with” John Calvin. I am not expecting it to be easy (Calvin was a very clever debater and dazzling exegete, who failed – when he did -- mainly because of the multitude of false premises with which he began). It takes a huge amount of laborious effort to refute Calvin. He is more than equipped to keep any debater who differs with him well-challenged and “on their toes.”

On the other hand, I have no doubt that the Catholic arguments can and will easily prevail in the head-on confrontation with Calvin’s “Reformed” theology and the exegesis he utilizes in order to establish it. I know that because of my experience in writing the previous related book. Calvin’s exegesis is by no means irrefutable or unvanquishable.

His argumentation – brilliant though it often is – suffers from a systematic unwillingness to let the entirety of Scripture speak for itself. I know (from firsthand experience with Book IV) that he quite often picks and chooses what he wants from Scripture, for his polemical purposes, while ignoring other equally relevant portions.

Unfortunately, this has been a strong tendency in Protestant exegesis and systematic theology (and especially apologetics aimed to counter Catholicism) ever since -- though everyone, including Catholics, is prone to this sort of bias.

Taking on John Calvin’s exegetical arguments in this fashion will, it is hoped, demonstrate the persistent fallacies and falsehoods (from the Catholic perspective) that are frequently found in his writing, and illustrate at least some ways to refute and overcome them.

Catholics regard Calvinists and other Protestants as brethren in Christ, and rejoice over the many important beliefs that we hold in common. At the same time, the Catholic apologist’s task is to answer objections to Catholicism that arise in these quarters, and to present what we feel are superior alternative opinions.

Nowhere is this “battle” more lively and crucial than regarding Holy Scripture: God’s inspired, infallible revelation: held in the highest esteem by both parties. However much we disagree, we’ll always agree that theological positions must be in harmony with the Bible. If not, they must be rejected.

I'll be using, once again, the (public domain) translation of Institutes of the Christian Religion by Henry Beveridge, produced for the Calvin Translation Society in 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; reprinted by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 1995, and available online at the wonderful Christian Classics Ethereal Library site.

I will generally follow the structural format of the previous book on Calvin, including an Appendix of Areas of Calvinist-Catholic Agreement. When I am vigorously contesting another theological viewpoint, I nevertheless want to also maintain an ecumenical spirit and note significant areas where Calvinists and Catholics agree, or largely agree (as I did in Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin and my volume about Martin Luther, as well).

Oftentimes, these facts are poorly known or understood by many of those in both parties. With almost equal frequency, Calvinists mistakenly think that Catholics disagree with them on various points, when in fact, we agree. It works both ways: Catholics often inadvertently mischaracterize various Calvinist or other Protestant beliefs as contradictory to the Catholic faith, when they are not so. We have more in common than many (probably most) of those on either side realize.

Thus, it is necessary (for the sake of total honesty and factuality – not to mention charity) to make note of agreement, even in the midst of an effort mostly devoted to critiques of another viewpoint, and defense of our own.

Lastly, I should note that in my 2010 book, Biblical Catholic Salvation (Lulu, 2010), I devoted about a hundred pages to a biblical refutation of the five points of the classic Calvinist soteriological “TULIP” (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints; along with related issues of free will, double predestination, and personal assurance of salvation).

For the most part, I won’t revisit those counter-arguments here (neither in all the particulars, nor in their overall scope), since I don’t like to repeat material that is already present in other books of mine. I’ll be engaging in much more specific counter-exegesis of Bible passages; rather than focusing on “grand themes”  (i.e., more so biblical than systematic theology).

My overall critique of Calvinism (notwithstanding the title of this volume) must be viewed as presented in its totality in the trilogy of books including this one, Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin, and Biblical Catholic Salvation. Each stands on its own, as far as it goes, but my “complete” Catholic counter-argument (biblical or otherwise) to Calvinism and John Calvin is found only in all three, viewed as a set or trilogy.

Perhaps in the future, there will be further related titles, but for now, these three make up my collective “case” against Calvinism in particular (from among the various strains of Protestant theology).


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