Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BIG NEWS: Watchtower admits they were wrong in January 2013 Watchtower magazine.

I am shocked that this isn't getting more publicity, but I would strongly encourage people to spread this news. In the January 1, 2013 edition of the Watchtower Magazine, the official publication of the Jehovah's Witnesses, they said this in one of their lead articles:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to punish a Calvinist (1 Corinthians 11:32)

I was recently reminded of a punishing passage from St Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians that led me to write a quick apologetics article about it. The verse is 1 Corinthians 11:32, 
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Paul is speaking of those Christians in Corinth who were abusing the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:17-34) and as a result God was inflicting punishments on them, such as illnesses and even death (1 Cor. 11:29-30). What is noteworthy about verse 32 is that Paul says God is chastising these Christians precisely to get them to change their ways so that they will "not be condemned along with the world." This teaching poses a serious problem for Protestant theology, particularly Calvinism, because Justification by Faith Alone teaches that the Christian cannot ever be condemned because they say Jesus was already condemned in their place. 

The only two objections I can foresee is for a Protestant to either argue (1) this condemnation somehow does not pertain to Justification, or (b) that this passage is not speaking of true Christians. But these are mere assertions and they do violence to the plain language of the text. For example, Paul uses terms like "judged" and "condemned," which would have to apply to the forensic categories of Justification. In fact, the phrase "condemned along with the world" can only refer to the damning to hell sentence that the unrepentant world will end up receiving. And if Paul is not talking about genuine Christians, then he cannot be using collective terms like "we" and speaking of chastisement, since chastisement pertains only to adopted children of God. So this verse solidly proves that not only are Christians not justified by faith alone, but that God chastises them when they turn to sin for a very grave reason: so that they will correct their ways and not end up getting damned in the end. (cf 1 Tim. 1:19-20; Rev. 3:19)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Protestants do not worship God.

I have come to a startling conclusion after reading two articles that I recently saw online, and that conclusion is that Protestants do not really worship God. I obviously have to qualify and clarify this statement, since it is a most serious charge, but it centers around the fact Protestants must admit that formal worship is a non-essential Christian teaching. If you stop and think about it, the fact is Protestants cannot agree on how or when Christians should worship, and unless a Protestant denomination wants to take a dogmatic stance, they're forced to take on the repugnant position that it doesn't really matter how or when (if ever!) a Christian should worship.

The first article I want to point you to is called "10 Reasons to be Involved in a Church." Before clicking on the link, just let the title of that article sink in. The impression given off is that while it is a good idea to be involved in a church, it is not something absolutely necessary. In fact, it comes off as seeking a church that suits your preferences, not some objective criteria by which all Christians should approach the issue. The article was written because the author claims only 8% of Protestants in Britain and only 40% of Protestants in America attend a church on Sunday. In other words, attending church is now seen as something purely optional to the Christian life. And this makes perfect sense with the "don't tell me how to be a Christian" mentality that Sola Scriptura causes. Not unsurprisingly, all 10 of his reasons are nothing more than suggestions, and none of his reasons include because Christians must worship God a certain way, such as a formal Liturgy. The closest he gets is saying "corporate" worship provides a "unique joy" that private worship does not. This is precisely why the whole idea of denominations are disappearing and collapsing into to go-it-alone 'house churches'. 

This leads me to the second article, "In Praise of Denominations," in which a popular Reformed blogger is trying to validate the idea that bitter doctrinal divisions within Christianity is a good thing! (1 Cor. 1:10-11) For example, he says Denominations are critical because they provide members with "theological precision," the ability to have Church discipline, intervene in controversy, and provide unity. The irony of his arguments in favor of Denominationalism is that these qualities he seeks to "safeguard" are the very things Denominationalism undermines! He doesn't realize that if a Protestant doesn't like what they see in a denomination, they can move on to one that will preach what they want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3) He doesn't realize that only the Catholic system can truly safeguard these things. It's also important to note that none of the things he sought to "safeguard" included worshiping God a specific way, which one would think should be the most important thing to safeguard. But we can easily see why, and that's because he unwittingly holds that one denomination can be just as good as another, which ultimately means formal worship is a non-essential.

The Church explains that even common sense shows us that it's absurd to suggest one can and should worship God as they please, as if one form of worship was as good as another. And realizing that God should be worshiped in certain ways compels us to seek out that Worship which is in fact the True one. This obviously requires one to find the True Church, which is impossible if Denominationalism is the norm. This practically makes the case for Catholicism in itself! 

One of the best documents the Church has issued in recent years is Dominus Iesus, in which the Church explained that while Protestants are Christians in virtue of having valid Baptism, it is wrong and offensive to speak of Protestant "churches" in any objective or formal sense. Rather, the more accurate term Rome says to use is "communities," and this is because Protestants lack Holy Orders, which is what defines the visible parameters of the Church. Included in this important fact is that Holy Orders are required for a valid Eucharist, which in turn means the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the formal worship God instituted and how God desires to be worshiped. Thus, to lack the Priesthood makes it impossible to truly worship God. And thus, in a very real (though not all extensive) sense, Protestants do not worship God.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Papacy in the Parable of the Faithful Servant.

I don't remember where I first heard about this argument, but I was surprised that not many Catholics have quoted it when discussing the Scriptural proofs for the Papacy. The argument comes from the Parable found in Matthew 24:45-51 and also in Luke 12:
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
On the 'ordinary level' of this analogy, Jesus is explaining that a Master can put a chief servant in charge to the Master's place while the Master is away. This only makes sense to our everyday experiences, for it would be ridiculous to suggest a wealthy land owner would not put anyone in charge of his workers. But even more than this, the natural mind knows that it makes the most sense to delegate one person as the chief steward, as this hierarchy will be the best way to preserve order and unity. In this parable, Jesus is responding to Peter, who clearly is the spokesman for the rest of the Apostles, and Jesus responds with this Parable speaking of a singular chief steward. This chief steward is even said to have the task of delegating food to the household. This is a beautiful description of the duty and role of the Pope. This is an obvious proof that Jesus entrusted Peter with "more responsibility" that others, and in turn demands those who fill the Papal office have have "more demanded" from them. 

The Eastern Orthodox might say that Jesus was saying all 12 Apostles are signified by the chief steward, but I do not see this as plausible by the fact Jesus is speaking in the singular when He could (and does elsewhere) speak of servants in the plural in the parable just before this (Luke 12:35-40). Plus, it would not correspond to any actual real-life example, for there is no such thing as "master of the house" in plural, since in the real world this structure devolves into factions.

I see no other coherent or plausible alternative interpretation than what I've just given. Sure you can say every Christian can be inserted into this parable, and that's true to an extent, but any attempts to downplay or eliminate the overtones of hierarchy is simply doing violence to the text. The parable is saying Peter is the "master of the house," the chief steward, to which the other 11 are immediately under him, and collectively they run the Lord's House, the Church.

Update: January 26, 2013. 
While I do not have the tools to easily search through what verses the Fathers have commented upon, I found that most of the Fathers who comment upon the Faithful Servant parable speak in general terms about it. But I did find this quote from St Ambrose from the mid 300s:
1. “Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.Not worthless is this servant: some great one ought he to be. Let us think who he may be.
2. It is Peter, chosen by the Lord Himself to feed His flock, who merits thrice to hear the words:Feed My little lambs; feed My lambs; feed My sheep.And so, by feeding well the flock of Christ with the food of faith, he effaced the sin of his former fall. For this reason is he thrice admonished to feed the flock; thrice is he asked whether he loves the Lord, in order that he may thrice confess Him, Whom he had thrice denied before His Crucifixion.
St Ambrose says the ideal figure for the Faithful Servant who feeds the household is St Peter, leader of the Church and given the duty to "Feed Christ's Sheep". This confirms the argument I originally made that this Parable especially applies to Peter.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How could Isaac atone for the sins of Abraham? - More Problems with Penal Substitution

A Protestant I was speaking with brought up Genesis 22 as an example of Penal Substitution, where instead of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, a ram was sacrificed instead. I was shocked that he would use this as an example, for there are some pretty serious errors in that argument. Then I realized this is a great proof against the doctrine of Penal Substitution, so I decided to share my thoughts.

First of all, Abraham was already justified by the time Genesis 22 came around, so to suggest Abraham had to atone for his sins despite being justified is a blatant contradiction in Protestant theology. In fact, Protestants are adamant that James 2:21-24 (talking about Genesis 22:13) is speaking of Abraham's vindication, not his justification, so the sacrifice couldn't have been of a PSub nature. Second of all, this argument suggests that Isaac could act as a substitute for Abraham's sins in the first place, which is impossible because Isaac was a sinner himself (and Sacrifices must be pure). 

So if this situation was not that of Penal Substitution, then this means Sacrifices involving animals can be done for other reasons, such as showing thanksgiving to God. This refutes the idea that just because an animal is slain that it must be taking someone's punishment. And since this famous OT example prefigured the Father sending the Son to be a sacrifice, then this powerful foreshadowing points away from Jesus being a Penal Substitute as well.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Judas refutes Eternal Security (Calvinism)

One of the most powerful arguments to refute the Protestant doctrine of Eternal Security (also known as Once Saved, Always Saved) is the example of Judas. The typical objection these Protestants make is that if someone 'falls away' then they were never really saved in the first place, but this claim (aside from being unbiblical) doesn't work with Judas' example. Some will point to John 17:2 which says Judas was "lost," but this refers to his losing his salvation, as will be shown.  

The force of my argument rests in the fact that it is impossible to be an Apostle if one is not a true believer in the first place. (This causes problems for Reformed church leadership as well.) If the Protestant position were correct, the Bible could only have said Eleven were Apostles, despite the fact it plainly says Jesus chose Twelve (John 6:70). Further, the Bible is very clear that Judas was sent out by Jesus with the other Eleven to perform the same miracles (e.g. cast out demons) and preach the same Gospel (e.g. Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 10:1-4). If that wasn't enough, Acts 1:17 says Judas "was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry," and Acts 1:24-25 records the replacing of Judas by Matthias, when Peter says they need a person to "take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside." Clearly, Judas was considered a genuine Apostle and thus was (originally) saved.

Nearly every time Judas is mentioned, his infamy traces to one thing: his future betrayal of Jesus, not some non-converted status he had the whole time (e.g. John 6:71). It is only in John 13 where we see Satan "entered Judas," indicating Judas consented to the betrayal, but up until then Judas was not possessed by Satan. Next, look what the Scriptures say that turns the heat up even more on the Protestant position. In John 13:18, Jesus quotes an OT prophecy in regards to Judas, "But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'" To share bread with someone in the Hebrew mindset indicates an intimate relationship; something impossible if Judas was never a believer to begin with. But that's not all, most of us forget to look up the prophecy Jesus is quoting (hat tip to Joe for this), which happens to be Psalm 41:9, which says: "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." What a new picture emerges after reading this! Indeed, the idea that Judas was so close to Jesus up until then shows just how serious and enormous the betrayal was, since the worst betrayals are those from the people closest to you. Jesus even calls him 'friend' at the moment of betrayal (Matthew 26:49-50)! This is unthinkable if Judas was never saved to begin with.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A convincing proof that Protestants don't really believe in Sola Scriptura (Romans 4:3)

Protestants (particularly Calvinists) believe that "the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself," meaning that whenever there is a 'dispute' on a given text of Scripture there will necessarily be another verse somewhere in Scripture that speaks more clearly on the matter so as to definitively settle the 'dispute'. An irony here is that while this principle is not taught in Scripture, it is employed throughout the history of Catholic exegesis, while on the flip side it's really the Protestants who are the ones that deny it! This post will prove this beyond a doubt by taking a brief look at how Protestants ignore this principle on one of the most important verses in the Bible, Genesis 15:6.

St Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:3 to show that Abraham was justified by faith. Protestants take this verse and interpret "faith was reckoned as righteousness" as saying that Abraham's faith was akin to that of an 'empty hand' that had nothing of value to it, but instead it 'reaches out' and takes hold of "Christ's Righteousness". They say that any other interpretation turns faith into a work and thus undermines the Gospel. Not only does the plain reading of the verse suggest no such interpretation, using the principle of Scripture-interprets-Scripture refutes this as well. Most people don't know that Genesis 15:6 is actually quoted three other times in the New Testament, but this is important for exposing the Protestant bias:
Romans 4: 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

Galatians 3: 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you, doeth He it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 6 Even as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” 7 Know ye therefore that those who are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached beforehand the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

James 2: 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
These texts explicitly show the faith Abraham had in Genesis 15:6 was a robust, God-glorifying faith, which God counted as inherently having the quality of righteousness. It was a faith that included hope, grew strong, and was active, rendering Abraham "faithful" in his walk with God. The astonishing thing is, Protestant scholars and apologists routinely ignore these texts when "interpreting" Genesis 15:6. Something's up. Clearly, if Protestants really believed in Sola Scriptura this would not be happening, but in order to salvage Sola Fide they must sacrifice their trust and reliance on the clear teaching of God's Word.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Untapped potentional in Romans 3:4? (Sola Fide)

I need to explore this more, but I think I've come upon another very devastating argument against the Protestant understanding of Justification. Protestants have been very adamant that the term "Justify" (dikaioo in Greek) means "to declare righteous," specifically in a legal context, and have pointed to various passages to support their claim. But it seems as if one passage that I'd expect them to appeal to - Romans 3:4 - has been routinely neglected, and I can only think of one explanation for it. 

In this verse we read: "Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written, 'That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and prevail when thou art judged.'" Here Paul is quoting Psalm 51:4, which happens to use the term dikaioo, and which also seems to be in a forensic context (since the word "judged" appears here). You would think Protestants would be all over this, but I don't recall them appealing to this text (favoring other proof texts instead), and I think I know why. Looking closely, you notice that the term dikaioo here is speaking of God Himself being justified, which means this obviously cannot mean "declare righteous"! The only option then is that dikaioo, in this ever so important junction in the Book of Romans, must mean something akin to "vindicate," just as Protestants claim James 2 must be using dikaioo to mean "vindicate". If this holds up, this is very bad news for Protestant exegesis, because Romans 3:4 would thus dictate how we read dikaioo in the context of Romans 2-4. And if Paul is speaking about "vindication" in these chapters, then there goes the Protestant understanding of justification up in smoke.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Should Protestantism be against The Law?

T. David Gordon is a conservative modern day Reformed scholar and is friends with big name Reformed scholars such as John Fesko and R. Scott Clark. In a 2009 book The Law is Not of Faith, which included essays by various conservative Presbyterian theologians, Dr Gordon wrote an essay that included some important comments on Saint Paul's use of the term "Law" in his Epistles. These comments were so revealing that I was surprised hardly anyone raised an issue about them, and in fact I'm surprised they were even published in the book. 

Since the time of the Reformers, Protestant scholars have interpreted "works of the Law" to be works done under God's eternal law when God made a perpetually binding Covenant of Works with mankind, starting with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Thus, in Paul's frequent use of the term "Law" in his Epistles, nomos in Greek, Protestants have historically said Paul is speaking of the Covenant of Works. But Gordon objects to this thesis, and in doing so undermines the entire foundation from which Protestants derive the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. Fortunately, this essay is available on his website, so those interested can read it for themselves. I will limit this post to quoting just the most important parts of Gordon's thesis. 
Few contributions to Pauline studies in the last several decades are more important than the now widely-recognized lexical reality that for Paul, [ho nomos] means “the Sinai covenant,” far more consistently than it means anything else. As Douglas J. Moo has said: “What is vital for any accurate understanding of Paul’s doctrine of law is to realize that Paul uses nomos most often and most basically of the Mosaic law.”14 That is, Paul uses the term very differently than the term later came to be used in Christian theology, ordinarily to denote something like God’s demand. Again, Moo is right to correct this notion:
As we have seen, the Reformers, as most theologians today, use “law” to mean anything that demands something of us. In this sense, “law” is a basic factor in all human history; and man is in every age, whether in the OT or NT, confronted with “law.” What is crucial to recognize is that this is not the way in which Paul usually uses the term nomos.
In no place is this distinctive use of nomos more obvious than in Galatians 3:17: “This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward [i.e. after Abraham], does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.” Note here that what is distinguished is the two covenant administrations spoken of throughout Galatians 3 and 4, covenant-administrations that are historically inaugurated 430 years apart from each other. (Pages 14-15)
In brief, what conservative Reformed scholars Gordon and Moo have admitted is that the Reformers and Protestantism as a whole completely butchered and misunderstood a crucial word/concept of Paul's teaching on justification. The Reformed tradition, with all its great minds and exegetes, has failed to understand a most basic tenet of Romans and Galatians, and in doing so has invented a new theology and new Gospel. Since nomos does not mean "God's demands in general," but rather the "Mosaic Law," this means that the Covenant of Works has no place in Paul's theology and instead projected onto the text! Realizing this, Reformed scholarship is now approaching a cross-roads where any Reformed scholar wanting to save their scholarly reputation must be honest enough to admit Protestantism has been wrong on this point from the beginning, and as a consequence admit Sola Fide is wrong as well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Did Christ die for everyone or only a select few? (Calvinism & 1 John 2:2)

Since Reformed Protestants (Calvinists) do not believe that Jesus died on the Cross for the sake of all mankind, but rather only a select few (a doctrine called Limited Atonement), one passage often used to refute this error is 1 John 2:1-2,
Jesus is the propitiation for our sins,
and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Taking this plainly, Jesus die for all men, meaning Limited Atonement is refuted and thus so is Calvinism. But since Calvinists can't go down without a fight, they must somehow explain this text. The best they've come up with is saying that the term "world" here does not mean all mankind, but rather "only the select few" or "only the elect Gentiles". But they have no good reason to assume the term "world" here is to be restricted like that. In fact, there's a strong case to be made that John was clearly not speaking of "world" in a restricted sense (hat tip to this Catholic for showing me this), and that can be shown by how Saint John repeatedly uses the Greek word for "world" (Kosmos) in his First Epistle. Consider the 22 other occurrences in the Epistle: 
Chapter 2: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 

Chapter 3: 1 The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. ... 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. ... 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

Chapter 4: 1 Beloved, test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ... 3 This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. ... 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. ... 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. ... 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

Chapter 5: 4 Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? ... 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
It's great that John used the term Kosmos so many times since it gives us a better idea of what he possibly could have meant, including a possible meaning of "select few". But using a simple substitution, try inserting "select few" or "select Gentiles" into these texts. The only text that would remain coherent is 1 John 4:14, but that doesn't prove an alternative definition. Thus, the Calvinist attempt to restrict the term "world" fails. While Kosmos is not used the exact same way in each verse, these acceptable definitions completely permit a universal atonement reading of 1 John 2:2.