Thursday, November 12, 2009

Basic JW apologetics.

Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) are a non-Christian break-off of mainstream Protestantism.

The goal of this post is not to encourage you to indiscriminately confront JWs *, but rather know enough information that you are convinced they are a false and dangerous group.

While most people know that the JWs are famous for their denial of Christ's Divinity (thus the JWs reject the doctrine of the Trinity), not to mention deliberately tampering with certain texts of Scripture, I believe that this issue should be left aside because of its complexity. I am not saying Christ's Divinity is unimportant, but rather I believe there are other fundamental doctrines which are easily disproved and only require basic arguments. [UPDATE June 12, 2010, for more information, please see my newer JW articles dealing directly with the Trinity and Christ's Divinity]

Here is a list of doctrines which I believe can be easily disproved:

The JWs teach Jesus did NOT resurrect in a physical body.
This is a doctrine which many people don't know they teach, but right behind denying Christ's Divinity, it is the most critical. Rather than teaching - as Christianity has done from literally the very start - that Jesus was resurrected in His own body (now glorified), the JWs teach He was resurrected as an "immortal spirit person." The way to approach this is first to realize that it would not be a resurrection by definition if the person's body did not regain it's life, instead it would be something similar to reincarnation. Next, Scripture is very clear that Christ's body was placed in the tomb after death, and on Sunday the tomb was empty, with Jesus appearing to His followers and even having them touch His body! The JW is in quite a bind here, and their common response to this is that Christ's body was dissolved into nothingness while in the tomb. But not only is such a notion nowhere hinted at in Scripture, it makes of mockery of Jesus appearing to people to reassure them and even having people touch Him. His appearance would be essentially that of a phantom-ghost. A few key Scriptural texts to consider are:

Luke 24: 36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

John 20: 26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Acts 2: 29"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

John 2:
18Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The first two texts show Jesus appearing for the main purpose of showing them He was alive again, that he was not a ghost, and that He should be touched. The third text clearly indicates Christ's body did not undergo decay, which directly goes against the JW claim that Christ's body dissolved while in the tomb. Lastly, a very powerful text shows his body was going to be restored at the resurrection, which would be absurd if His body was not actually restored.

The main texts JWs turn to when claiming Jesus resurrected as a spirit rather than in a body are 1 Peter 3:18 and 1 Cor 15:45. These texts merely refer to Christ's resurrected physical body being a glorified body (incapable of future pain or death), these in no way mean Christ didn't have His physical body back - as the NT solidly testifies to.

The JWs teach Jesus is Michael the Archangel.
This doctrine is not advertised much, but it is an official doctrine. This is easily refuted by the simple fact the Bible nowhere equates the two. The JW logic is given as follows, from their book "What does the Bible Really Teach" in the Appendix titled "Who is Michael the Archangel":

God’s Word refers to Michael “the archangel.” (Jude 9) This term means “chief angel.” Notice that Michael is called the archangel. This suggests that there is only one such angel. In fact, the term “archangel” occurs in the Bible only in the singular, never in the plural. Moreover, Jesus is linked with the office of archangel. Regarding the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 states: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice.” Thus the voice of Jesus is described as being that of an archangel. This scripture therefore suggests that Jesus himself is the archangel Michael.
This reasoning is not only quite weak, it is fallacious. The JWs say this evidence "suggests" Jesus is Michael, meaning all they have at most is only indirect evidence for such a bold claim! Next, it is fallacious to argue that the definite article ("the archangel") suggests there is only one, when they immediately turn to a text using the indefinite article ("an archangel") which indicates there are other archangels. This simple fact undermines any claim that there is only one archangel. Lastly, the fact that Jesus is mentioned in the same context as Michael (who's name only appears twice in the NT), without any equation of the two, indicates they are in fact two separate beings.

The JWs teach 1914 AD is when Jesus returned.
This doctrine is foundational to JW theology, and without this doctrine the Watchtower (the JW officials) would have no authority whatsoever. The JWs teach that in 1914 AD, Jesus was installed as King of Heaven and this event marked the beginning of the end-times. As part of this end-times scenario, they teach God gave authority to a special group of people, "the Governing Body," who head the JWs and are seen as God's mouthpiece on earth. The biggest problem with this teaching is that the Bible nowhere teaches it, no such dates are given nor is such a teaching even foretold. The JWs reasoning is given in their book "What does the Bible Really Teach" in the Appendix, speaking on the vision in Daniel 4:10-16 the JWs reason:

... the vision served notice that this ‘trampling of Jerusalem’ would be temporary—a period of “seven times.” How long a period is that?
Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that three and a half times equal “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” “Seven times” would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days. But the Gentile nations did not stop ‘trampling’ on God’s rulership a mere 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall. Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of “a day for a year,” the “seven times” would cover 2,520 years.
The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, “the appointed times of the nations” ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King.
First, notice how the JWs have to use a lot of 'gymnastics' to come up with 2,520 years. The Bible is not a 'code book' with secret data hidden in it which then must be manipulated to reveal a secret message. This makes the JW "calculations" already dubious, even childish. They are essentially forced to draw from various texts, written for very different times and purposes, to eventually come up with the magical number 2,520. Notice next what the JWs conclude when the value of 2,520 days doesn't seem to work, they say "evidently" this must mean the period is a lot longer, which means they are building key teachings off of speculation. Lastly, their calculations require them to count from the year 607 BC, but the Bible nowhere gives us this date. They derive this date from secular history texts, yet this fails because they have had to leave Scripture and rely on uninspired worldly documents. This is further compounded in light of the gymnastics and digging through Scripture just to 'derive' 2,520 years, now they must leave Scripture entirely to come up with 607 BC.

The JW argument also requires a total apostasy for it to work, but that is plainly against the promises of Christ to always be with the Church, which is in fact His Body.

The JWs teach Jesus is not to be prayed to.
This is more of a 'quickie', nothing major in itself, but can combined with other texts used to support the Divinity of Christ (this topic is outside the scope of this article). The JWs teach only Jehovah (i.e. God the Father) is to be prayed to, and the logic behind this is simple: only God should be prayed to. Examining the Bible, there is a text which directly supports prayer to Christ. It comes from the conclusion of Acts 7, where St Stephen is getting stoned for preaching the Gospel. I will quote from both a mainstream Christian Bible translation and the JW Bible Translation:

59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. (NIV Bible)

59 And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.” And after saying this he fell asleep [in death]. (New Word Translation, JW official translation)
Clearly, Stephen was praying to Jesus, asking for something very important, that Jesus would accept his soul into Heaven. What is also noteworthy about this text is that Stephen is talking to the "Lord" in verse 59 and 60, that is indeed the Greek term used in both cases. The plain reading of this indicates Stephen is talking to the same person in both verses. But the JWs do something sneaky here. The term "Jehovah" never appears in the Greek anywhere in the New Testament, only the word "Lord." However, the JWs claim that since Jehovah is God's name, that substituting "Jehovah" where the New Testament uses "Lord" is acceptable. The fact is, it's not acceptable and done without warrant. It is a first class example tampering with the Scriptures. But Christians can actually use this tampering to their advantage. Since Jesus is frequently called "Lord" in the New Testament, the JWs must break their rule about the term "Lord" and not translate it as "Jehovah" when it is used in reference Jesus. This leads to problems when Jesus is called Lord and clearly in reference to God (the classic case is in Romans 10:9, 13, where Jesus is called "Lord" but it is referencing an Old Testament passage, Joel 2:32, where God is the "Lord" in question.) In this case of Acts 7:59-60, using the JW translation, the first occurrence of "Lord" is Jesus, but the second occurrence of "Lord" is translated as Jehovah. This form of "translating" is unacceptable, but it is clear that it was done to deflect away from making Jesus appear too much like God.

The JWs teach the soul is not immortal.
This doctrine is important to the JWs and also ties into other doctrines as well (e.g. physical resurrection). The JWs teach that the soul is nothing more than the body's life force, and at death it simply ceases to exist in the same sense a dead battery no longer has any electrical charge. A few powerful texts showing souls to continue after death are:

Mat 17: 1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

Rev 6: 9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" 11Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
These texts are fairly straightforward. The first show two Old Testament giants, Moses and Elijah, appearing and talking to Jesus. The second text talks about Christian martyrs who were looking down from Heaven and talking with God. These are hardly situations where the soul ceased to exist once they left the body.

The JWs teach only 144,000 will be in Heaven.
This is an important doctrine because many non-JWs don't realize that the great majority of JWs don't believe they will be in Heaven! Yes, the great majority of JWs believe they will be rewarded in the next life by being given a home on a new earth, and will be a distinct place from a select 'few' who will be in Heaven, immediately in God's presence. They teach only 144,000 faithful JWs (nobody really knows who or how one is among this number) will be in Heaven, and they take this from Revelation 7:14, but upon careful reading it is shown to be a symbolic number indicating perfection: It is derived from taking 12,000 of each of the 12 tribes of Israel. What is more important is that immediately after this, Revelation 7 says:

9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."

Rev 19: 1After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
This plainly indicates there is a number no man can count that will be in Heaven, in God's presence; a direct contradiction to the JW claim. The JW "response" is that this great crowd is not really in Heaven but merely indicates they are an approved people. This is special pleading; grasping at straws. Likewise, they claim the great crowd mentioned in Rev 19:1 is not the same great crowd; again special pleading.
On top of this, the JWs teach only the 144,000 can partake in Holy Communion, but there is absolutely no Biblical basis for this. The Bible gives no hint that only a subset of Christians can partake, directly casting doubt on JW credibility.

The JWs teach serving in armed forces is un-Christian.
As part of their approach of 'standing out' among other religions, notably Christianity, the JWs teach one should not participate in politics at all, nor server in the armed forces. Because there is no such Biblical text that forbids this, the JWs take a philosophical and indirect approach, arguing Christians shouldn't kill others and thus military service is forbidden. But does the Bible argue like this? The short answer is 'no'. The Bible forbids killing in the form of murder, but not for purposes of judicially imposed death penalties or self-defense (Romans 13:1-5). Even more significant are the texts which directly speak of soldiers and commanders coming to accept the Gospel - with no indication they must quit their job (Lk 3:14; Mat 8:5-13). A good example is from Acts 10, dealing with Cornelius the Centurion (a general in charge of 100 soldiers), where he accepts the Gospel without the slightest indication his career is inherently contrary to God's ways. JWs will often push hard on the emotional/philosophical argument mentioned above, but the plain Biblical evidence refutes them.

As stated in the beginning, these arguments are more for convincing you that the JWs are a false religion, and the examples above should sufficiently damage the credibility of their organization that any fair minded individual will realize the Watchtower is not God's Spokesman on earth.

For more help, see some of the great JW Apologetics Articles hosted by Catholic Answers.

* It is not a good idea to invite JWs into your home unless you really know what you are doing, otherwise you endanger yourself spiritually (as well as other family members who might be in the room). They rely on many deceptive tactics, including tampering with Scripture, misquoting sources (even Catholic ones) and even lying about what they believe.

Monday, October 19, 2009

2 Timothy 3:14-17 and Sola Scriptura

It's been a long time since I posted anything new, that needs to change! I'm not the type that is able to post something new every day, or week, (or even month,) but I really shouldn't go this long without posting.
I did have a few articles in the works, but they kept getting put on the shelf until later. Sadly, I'm not posting one of those articles now, but (God Willing) I should soon.

Anyway, some good news! Here is an amazing article on Sola Scriptura which I came across, it is definitely one of those articles you need to bookmark. In this article, Kevin does a masterful job at showing how a Catholic should address 2 Timothy 3:16f when brought up by a Protestant as a Sola Scriptura proof-text.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 and Sola Scriptura

Also, here is an (old) article I wrote on The Westminster Confession on Sola Scriptura

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Calvinists who DENY the imputation of Christ's Obedience.

While this title probably wont shock many (confessional) Calvinists today - because they know there are so called "Calvinists" who do reject the imputation of Christ's Righteousness - I would bet most reading this have never heard of the group I'm thinking of. Of all the "Calvinist" groups you might be thinking of when reading this, I'm not going to be talking about the "liberals," "N.T. Wright and the New Perspective," or even "Federal Vision." I'm well aware of those groups, and I know the uproar among confessional Calvinists by what they see as a blatant rejection of a key aspect of Sola Fide. So who is left?

Some background is necessary. Sola Fide is the Protestant doctrine that through faith the sinner is formally credited with Christ's Righteousness, this takes place at Justification (where God legally declares the individual to be in good legal standing before Him). This Righteousness consists of two components, popularly termed Christ's "active obedience" and "passive obedience." The "active obedience" consists of Christ's perfect obedience to the Law, while the "passive obedience" consists of Christ's suffering the full punishment due to your sins.
Luther famously referred to this situation as the "Great Exchange," where Christ's perfect obedience to the Law was credited to your sinful account (making your account look as if you had been perfectly obedient), while your sin and guilt was credited to Christ's sinless account (who then received the punishment due, though He was never personally guilty of sin). That's Sola Fide in a nutshell.

While Catholics dogmatically reject the above description, because we don't believe it is found in Scripture, that is not the topic of this post.

Just when I thought I had see all the various definitions of Sola Fide, I came across a blog advocating something I never imagined. This blog was run by a Calvinist who denied the imputation (crediting) of the "active obedience" of Christ. I invite you to check out the link and especially read the brief (but very insightful) articles he wrote and linked to. He does not deny Christ lived a life of perfect obedience, that is a common misunderstanding, he simply denies this life of perfect obedience to the Law is imputed to the sinner and thus has no role in the sinner's Justification.

This Calvinist alleges that there were disputes early on in the Reformation, especially in England, where Protestants could not agree on whether or not Christ's active obedience played a role in justification. (There was no dispute regarding Christ's passive obedience, all sides agreed it played a role in justification.) This dispute was especially brought out in the drafting up of two major Protestant confessions, the Anglican 39 Articles and the Westminster Confession. The "Majority" crowd held that Christ's active obedience did play a role in justification, while the "Minority" crowd denied this. This Calvinist states that historical records show that a compromise was reached when these Confessions were drafted, the areas talking about justification would be deliberately stated vaguely enough that both the Majority and Minority view would be acceptable.

I looked up both Confessions myself, and I can see how this would be possible, though I have to admit sometimes the wording seems to favor the Majority view. However, what really convinced me that the wording was deliberately vague is when I looked up what the London Baptist Confession (1689) had to say. The LBC basically took the Westminster Confession (1646), word for word, and made slight modifications towards the Baptist view (e.g. the Westminster commanded infant baptism while the LBC explicitly denied it). One of the modifications, which I never noticed before, was very subtle but clearly no accident. Compare the Westminster and LBC on their chapters regarding justification:
Westminster Ch 11: I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

London Baptist Ch 11: 1. Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ's active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.
Notice how the wording is virtually identical until this last point. It is especially significant that the LBC explicitly made the distinction between active obedience and passive obedience, where as the WC did not. This to me is clear evidence that there was such a dispute and that the WC was deliberately vague on this point.

What I as a Catholic find fascinating about the Minority view is how much I agree with it's reasoning for rejecting the concept of active obedience. The Scriptures simply nowhere state that Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law in our place. The Minority view is adamant and sees the few texts popularly given as evidence (e.g. Romans 5:19) as simply falling well short of evidence for active obedience, especially in key contexts discussing justification (e.g. they point out Romans 3:21-26 is concerned only with Christ's death, with no mention of active obedience). The main difficulty I see for the Minority view, looking at this as if I were Protestant, is how they explain Adam was justified since active obedience is not required and he obviously didn't need sins forgiven. From a Catholic perspective, the main problem remaining with the Minority view is that it affirms Christ's passive obedience (suffering and death) came in the form of Penal Substitution - which is a view of the Atonement which Catholics deny as unBiblical (see my Penal Substitution debate for more information).

Not only is this fascinating to me, but I believe it is a hopeful sign of a future reconciliation of Protestantism back to the Catholic Church, because the Minority view is in many ways "halfway" there (considering, as Luther put it, Sola Fide is the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls). While I've always been aware of the Majority view, I see the Minority view as a way of building a sort of bridge because "half" of the definition of Sola Fide has been addressed.

A final but very relevant point, though I don't think needs to be discussed too much at the present moment, is to note how Sola Scriptura failed in this regard to lead two groups of Christians to agree on what "the truth" was, and how Sola Scriptura ultimately cannot settle disputes like this. From a Catholic perspective, to deny Christ's active obedience is a huge blow to Sola Fide, because to deny it effectively refutes Sola Fide for the (great) Majority of Protestants (especially Calvinists and Lutherans).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Penal Substitution - Post Debate Comments

This post is where people are free to ask any questions or make any comments about the Penal Substitution debate between Turretin Fan and myself. I'll try to answer all questions (so long as they are within reasonable parameters).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – Affrimative Concluding Essay

Affirmative Concluding Essay

Affirmative Concluding Essay

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

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Was Jesus damned in your place?

I would hope that anyone reading the title of this post would consider the suggested question nothing short of blasphemy. For those who don't know, there are Christians who do give an affirmative answer to this question. While you might be thinking this is some fringe group, you will probably be shocked to find the groups who affirm this are Protestants of the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) traditions.

The following quotes are from well respected Protestant teachers, going all the way back to Luther Himself:

When Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it was the scream of the damned — damned in our place (John Piper, Desiring God Blog 3-18-14)
At 3 o’clock that dark Friday afternoon, the Father turned His face away and the ancient, eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down like a million Soddoms and Gomorrah’s.  In the terror and agony of it all, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Thabiti Anyabwile, What does it mean for the Father to Forsake the Son? Part 3)

We should remember that Christ's suffering in His human nature, as He hung on the cross those six hours, was not primarily physical, but mental and spiritual. When He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," He was literally suffering the pangs of hell. For that is essentially what hell is, separation from God, separation from everything that is good and desirable. Such suffering is beyond our comprehension. But since He suffered as a divine-human person, His suffering was a just equivalent for all that His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell.
Boettner, Loraine. “The Reformed Faith.” Chapter 3.)
To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God's wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God's own beloved Son.
In this lies the true meaning of the cross.
(MacArthur, John. “The Murder of Jesus.” Page 219.)

Christ died in our place and in our stead - and He received the very same outpouring of divine wrath in all its fury that we deserved for our sin. It was a punishment so severe that a mortal could spend all eternity in the torments of hell, and still he would not have begun to exhaust the divine wrath that was heaped on Christ at the cross. This was the true measure of Christ's sufferings on the cross. The physical pains of crucifixion - dreadful as they were - were nothing compared to the wrath of the Father against Him. The anticipation of this was what had caused Him to sweat blood in the garden. This is why He looked ahead to the cross with such horror. We cannot begin to fathom all that was involved in paying the price of our sin. It's sufficient to understand that all our worst fears about the horrors of hell - and more - were realized by Him as He received the due penalty of others' wrongdoing. And in that awful, sacred hour, it was as if the Father abandoned Him. Though there was surely no interruption in the Father's love for Him as a Son, God nonetheless turned away from Him and forsook Him as our substitute. ( Ibid., Page 220-221)
Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God's anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. ... ... Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man. (Calvin, John. “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Book 3:Chapter 16:Section 10)
The penalty of the divine law is said to be eternal death. Therefore if Christ suffered the penalty of the law He must have suffered death eternal; or, as others say, He must have endured the same kind of sufferings as those who are cast off from God and die eternally are called upon to suffer. (Hodge, Charles. “Systematic Theology.” Vol. 2, Part 3, Ch 6, Sec 3)
Luther: ‘Christ himself suffered the dread and horror of a distressed conscience that tasted eternal wrath;’ ‘it was not a game, or a joke, or play-acting when he said, “Thou hast forsaken me”; for then he felt himself really forsaken in all things even as a sinner is forsaken” (Werke, 5. 602, 605) (Packer, J.I. “The Logic of Penal Substitution.” footnote 44)
So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” - “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. (Luther, Martin. “Treatise on Preparing to Die.”)
The physical pain of the crucifixion and the [psychological] pain of taking on himself the absolute evil of our sins were aggravated by the fact that Jesus faced this pain alone. … Yet more difficult than these three previous aspects of Jesus' pain was the pain of bearing the wrath of God upon himself. As Jesus bore the guilt of our sins alone, God the Father, the mighty Creator, the Lord of the universe, poured out on Jesus the fury of his wrath: Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin that God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world.(Grudem, Wayne. “Bible Doctrine.” Page 253-254)
“What prevents us from seeing God is our heart. Our impurity. But Jesus had no impurity. And Thomas said He was pure in heart. So obviously He had some, some experience of the beauty of the Father. Until that moment that my sin was placed upon Him. And the one who was pure was pure no more. And God cursed Him. It was if there was a cry from Heaven – excuse my language but I can be no more accurate than to say – it was as if Jesus heard the words 'God damn you', because that's what it meant to be cursed, to be damned, to be under the anathema of the Father. As I said I don't understand that, but I know that it's true.” (R.C. Sproul. Together for the Gospel. April 17, 2008. Louisville, KY. Session V - The Curse Motif of the Atonement. Minute 55:01)
“Hell is all about echoing faintly the glory of Calvary. That's the meaning of hell in this room right now. To help you feel in some emotional measure the magnificence of what Christ did for you when he bore not only your eternal suffering, but millions of people's eternal suffering when His Father put our curse on Him. What a Saviour is echoed in the flames of hell. So that's what I mean when I say hell is an echo of the glory of God, and an echo of the Savior's sufferings, and therefore an echo of the infinite love of God for our souls.” (John Piper. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 8 – The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell. Min 40:00)
“This moment in Mark chapter 15 [i.e. “My God, my God”], it is this moment, it is what takes place in this moment that delivers us from hell. This agony, this scream, is what delivers all those who turn from their sin and trust in the Savior from hell. On the cross, Jesus experienced hell for us. He experienced hell for us, bearing God's wrath and eternal punishment. And because He did, Heaven awaits all those who turn from their sin and trust in Him. He screamed the 'scream of the damned' [i.e., “forsaken me”] for us. Listen, this scream should be our scream. … This scream should be my eternal scream. He takes upon Himself my sin, the wrath I deserved for and against my sin, He screams the 'scream of the damned' for me.” (C.J. Mahaney. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 11 - The Cry From the Cross. Min 46:35)
“There are four ways that you can measure the love of God in Christ heard in the 'scream of the damned' … and all four of them are infinite, and they all point to the infinite value of the 'scream of the damned'. Now it's bigger than this, and the quote you just heard from 'Spectacular Sins' is my effort to get at it. Hell exists, sin exists, Heaven exists, cross exists, everything exists to magnify the worth of the 'scream of the damned'. Everything. That's the point of the universe.” (John Piper. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 12 - The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and New Earth. Min 00:15)
The quotes are very clear, these famous Protestant pastors and theologians believe Jesus received the punishments which the sinner deserved, including both physical death and hellfire. They teach God the Father poured out His wrath on His Son Jesus, which means Jesus underwent the equivalent of hell and was effectively damned as a sinner is damned.
Why would someone affirm such a blasphemous teaching? What most don't know is that Jesus getting damned in our place is the heart of Sola Fide. That's right, the doctrine of justification by faith alone requires this. Sola Fide teaches that by faith the sinner receives the righteousness of Christ, while acknowledging Christ received the punishment the sinner deserved. This teaching of Jesus getting damned in place of the sinner is popularly termed "Penal Substitution." If this doctrine is false, then Sola Fide collapses. Martin Luther realized this, and all other Protestant theologians since then recognized this as well.
The root of the problem is the starting assumption that Sola Fide is true, because once that is assumed, whatever doctrines are necessary to hold up Sola Fide will have to be affirmed in turn. If this means the Father damned His Beloved Son, then (as we have unfortunately seen) there will be people who have little trouble believing this.
While we could spend time refuting this abomination from Scripture, our Christian consciences should be a sufficient guide in telling us something this outrageous and blasphemous cannot be true.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – Negative Concluding Essay

Penal Substitution Debate – Negative Concluding Essay
This final essay will first examine the responses my opponent gave to my cross-examination questions, while the remainder of the essay will be a summary of my thoughts of the entire debate.
1a) My first question sought to find out what Scriptural evidence could be offered in support of the notion God poured out His Wrath on Jesus (as described by the various respected Reformed pastors). My opponent's proof texts were as follows:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – Answers to Questions from Negative

Penal Substitution Debate – Answers to Questions from Negative

Affirmative Answer to Question 1

Nick’s first question was a puzzling question. Rather than cross-examining me on positions I had advocated, he asked me to defend the teachings of Hodge, Boettner, MacArthur, Calvin, Luther, Luther again, and Grudem, not all of which are particularly systematic (while those who are have extensive defenses of their own on this subject).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Questions from Negative

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Questions from Negative


What Scripture teaches about Christ's sufferings directly impacts the validity of Penal Substitution, because if Christ didn't receive the proper type and degree of punishment which the elect deserved then the doctrine is unworkable and thus false. The following quotes from various respected Reformed sources describe the sufferings Jesus deserved and underwent:

Penal Substitution Debate – Answers to 5 Questions from Affirmative

Penal Substitution Debate – Answers to Questions from Affirmative

Response from Negative to Question 1
The First Question begins by asking why I don't accept the various proofs put forward by you for penal substitution. I feel it necessary to quote part of the first question:
When I [Turretin Fan] present something that would support penal substitution you claim it’s not talking about God’s wrath being appeased, but something else. I see no consistent standard being applied from your side, so that I could see how to persuade you to accept that the atonement sacrifice (Christ) does turn away God’s wrath through suffering the punishment (death).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Affirmative Questions to the Negative

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Affirmative Questions to the Negative

Question 1 from Affirmative

In your opening statement, you described the penal substitution position as: “God's Wrath (due to sin) must be legally satisfied (i.e. sin cannot go unpunished) in order for sinful man to be forgiven and justified.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Negative Rebuttal - Penal Substitution Debate

Penal Substitution Debate – Negative Rebuttal Essay
By Nick
1) I will first deal with the Affirmative Constructive Essay. It seems to me that in that essay my opponent (this term I use in the context of a formal debate, not in the pejorative sense) was more focused on proving the Biblical truth that atonement was necessary, rather than the specific doctrine of Penal Substitution. Because of this, most of the essay was written broadly enough that I as a Catholic would find little to object to. Given this, I will now call attention to the few parts I feel do require some commentary.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate - Affirmative Rebuttal Essay

Penal Substitution Debate - Affirmative Rebuttal Essay

By Turretin Fan

Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate - Affirmative Constructive Essay

--> Penal Substitution Debate - Affirmative Constructive Essay
By Turretin Fan
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate - Negative Constructive Essay

Penal Substitution Debate
Negative Constructive Essay
By Nick
Penal Substitution is grounded on the Protestant notion that justification is a legal event. As such, God must deal with sin in a legal manner, which (to Protestants) means sin cannot go unpunished without violating the very integrity of God's Holiness and Justice. God's Wrath (due to sin) must be legally satisfied (i.e. sin cannot go unpunished) in order for sinful man to be forgiven and justified. The “penal” aspect consists of both the temporal and eternal punishments due to sin which are to be punished in the guilty party, while the “substitution” aspect consists in the sinner's guilt being imputed (transferred) to the account of another, a substitute, in this case Jesus Christ, who then receives the punishment the sinner deserved. The Resolution of this debate sums up this concept: God imputed the guilt of the sins of the elect to Christ. In other words, the Wrath the elect deserved for their sins was instead poured out by the Father onto Jesus.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Penal Substitution (Atonement) Debate!

I am pleased to announce that a Reformed Protestant Apologist named "Turretin Fan" has agreed to debate me on a very important theological issue: The Atonement.
The classical Protestant view of the Atonement is popularly termed "penal substitution" (penal meaning punishment), a teaching which I as a Catholic believe is an incorrect view of the Atonement (and thus not taught in Scripture).

The agreed upon resolution, schedule and rules for the debate are as follows:

Resolved: God imputed the guilt of the sins of the elect to Christ.
Affirmed: Turretin Fan
Denied: Nicholas E. (Nick)

Debate Start: Jan 4.

1. Affirmative Constructive Essay and Negative Constructive Essay - Due Jan 18.
2. Affirmative Rebuttal Essay - Due Feb 1.
3. Negative Rebuttal Essay - Due Feb 15.
4. Affirmative Cross-Examination Questions to the Negative - Due Mar 1.
5. Negative Cross-Examination Answers and Negative Cross-Examination Questions to the Affirmative - Due Mar 15.
6. Affirmative Cross-Examination Answers to the Negative - Due Mar 29.
7. Negative Concluding Essay - Due April 12.
8. Affirmative Concluding Essay- Due April 26.

Debate End: April 26.

All Essays are 5k words maximum, while each of the 5 Questions are 1k words maximum. The word limits include any citations and quotes.

(1) Each person will post their own essays on their own blog. The opponent can then cut & paste the opposing response.

(2) Comment boxes for our Essays will be closed.

(3) Citing church documents, theologians, and other such references is allowed, though the opponent is not necessarily bound to defend any claims other than his own.

(4) Formatting essay text (ie size, bold, underline, italics, etc) is allowed.