Friday, June 28, 2013

Did Jesus drink the Cup of God's Wrath in our place? (More Problems with Penal Substitution)

This article is going to be a quickie. We all know the account of Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46), where Jesus prays, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." In order to support their erroneous doctrine of Penal Substitution, many Protestants have incorrectly assumed that this "cup" must be the 'cup of God's wrath' spoken about a few times in the Old Testament, particularly in Isaiah and Jeremiah (e.g. Jer 25:15). But this is easily disproved. 

The key text to look to is Mark 10:38-39, 
37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
This is the time when James and John request to be honored by sitting at the Lord's right and left in the Kingdom. Jesus responds by saying that this is no small honor, and in fact it comes at a hefty price. Jesus asks them if they will be able to drink the same cup and undergo the same baptism He is about to undergo. This is undoubtedly the same "cup" of Gethsemane. But what Jesus says completely undermines the Penal Substitution reading, since Jesus isn't drinking it in their place, but rather inviting them to drink it as well! The only acceptable reading is that this "cup" is physical persecutions that God's servants must endure, which explains why the Apostles were martyred. Thus, the 'cup of God's wrath in our place' thesis is instantly and elegantly disproved.

There's no way this "cup" could be the Eucharistic cup, and there's no way to read this as Jesus draining the wrath from the cup so that it can be drunk like sweet wine, since both of these require no heroic or challenge about them. (I've actually had Protestants make these kinds of claims.) This is further supported by the fact Jesus speaks of a "baptism" He will endure, which cannot be a water baptism since that already happened. Only the most desperate folks will deny the "cup" and "baptism" here refer to the same thing, physical persecutions.

And even with all that said, the "cup of God's wrath" in the Old Testament was that of physical persecutions as well, and Jeremiah 49:12 gives an interesting insight on the matter: "If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink." This text shows that surrounding nations who were not deserving of the conquering armies had to suffer at their hands, and this corresponds to the fact sometimes God sends sweeping judgments across areas that sometimes include innocent people. The point isn't that these innocent people were taking wrath in place of the guilty, but rather along with. So in this sense, we could also say that Jesus suffered along with us in virtue of His humanity, without suggesting it was in place of us. And the Bible is very clear that Christians suffer for the kingdom, they're not exempt! 
I've never been sure how Protestantism can address the fact that if Jesus suffered and died for us that we still have to suffer and die. That apparently disproves PSub in itself.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Trample upon TULIP

Jimmy Akin wrote an article 20 years ago titled "A Tiptoe through TULIP" in which he set out to briefly cover the 5 Points of Calvinism and basically show how each of them were either compatible or incompatible with Catholicism. The article remains popular to this day, but I feel the need to comment upon it because I feel it's by no means the best Catholicism has to offer. It simply was too soft on the issues. In fact, a Catholic who knows the right things can easily "trample" upon TULIP, which Catholics should be doing if we want to stamp out this heresy. In this article, I'll go through and comment upon where Jimmy (who is a great apologist) could be improved upon, especially since this is a 20 year old article and I'm sure he's improved a lot on his apologetics since then.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In what way did Jesus become "a curse" for us? (More problems with Penal Substitution)

Frequent readers of this blog know that there isn't any good Biblical evidence for the Protestant heresy of Penal Substitution. And because of that, they're forced to desperately cling to whatever they can to attempt to justify their error. One of the few primary texts they appeal to is Galatians 3:13, which speaks of Jesus being made "a curse" for us.

Everyone can agree that it's not enough to just make an assertion, especially on a disputed text. Instead, some actual exegesis must be done and an actual argument must be made. I'll say right off the bat that Protestantism doesn't have a leg to stand on with this verse, so all they can do is desperately assert that "curse" here means something along the lines of Jesus being eternally cut off from the Father and suffering the Father's Wrath. But if that kind of exegesis was valid, then the Arians would win the day when Jesus said "The Father is greater than I," since the Arians can simply insist this can only mean Jesus is inferior to the Father in every way. 

So with the Protestant desperation is clearly established I can go onto show how real exegesis is done. 

First consider the passage in question:
12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” - 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The context is that of justification, particularly noting that the Mosaic Law is not what saves, and that in fact Jesus save us from it. Before saying any more, let's look at Paul's quote from Deuteronomy 21:
22 And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
At first glance this can seem pretty harsh, since the text comes off as implying that Jesus was indeed cursed by God. But the catch is that we cannot just make up our definitions of what "cursed by God" here means. So unless there's a compelling reason to think this curse refers to suffering eternal wrath, then one is not free to simply assert this as fact. 

The Church Fathers, from what I could find, didn't comment on this text in detail, but they were clear that this did not mean Jesus was in any sense spiritually cursed by God nor that Jesus endured the Father's wrath. Instead, the Church Fathers maintained that the 'curse' here was the curse of a humiliating death, and that's where the Biblical data points to also. This is plainly what Deuteronomy 21:22-23 is talking about, a capital punishment for grave sinners. And this makes perfect sense in light of the fact this style of execution took place a few times in the OT (Josh 8:28-29; 10:26-27), and the lesson is that crucifixion is a humiliating way to die. The implication is that anyone who suffers that way must be under God's displeasure. Thus, in short, Jesus 'became a curse' in that He endured a humiliating death by crucifixion. But there's more.

Now we can turn back to Galatians 3:13-14 and draw out a few key details. First note that Paul says Jesus "redeemed" us from the curse of the Law, meaning His work functioned as a redemption, a pay-off price, and not a transfer of punishment. This is crucial and not an irrelevant detail. So, reading the grammar properly, Jesus endured the curse of crucifixion, and this functioned as a redemption price that offset/paid the price of another curse, the curse of the Law.

Next notice why Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law: so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles. This indicates that the real problem at hand was that the Law was preventing salvation from reaching the Gentiles, and thus the Law had to be addressed. And thus Christ's death functioned as a way of breaking down the Mosaic Law, and not about some generic taking of the Father's Wrath for mankind's sins. Consider the following paralle texts: 
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Notice the three-fold theme in each text: redemption, the Mosaic Law being removed, so that adoption can result. Basically, the Mosaic Law (Covenant) was violated by Israel's unfaithfulness, and as a result this was stalling God's plan to fulfill His promise to Abraham, namely that he would be spiritual father of the Jews and Gentiles. Since the Law was violated, it had to be atoned for, and that's what Christ's death accomplished as far as being "under the Law" was concerned. 

Now consider the anti-type motif, where Jesus is prefigured in the OT stories but in the opposite way you'd expect. For example, John 3:14 says: “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This recalls Numbers 21:4-9. Clearly, Jesus doesn’t correspond directly to a serpent (of all possible animals, since the serpent corresponds to Satan!). So this means Jesus can be prefigured in a way contrary to how Jesus should be seen. Now consider Deuteronomy 21:22, which says: “if a man has committed a crime punishable by death,” yet clearly Jesus didn’t commit a civil crime punishable by death, so the full horror of this statute wouldn’t even technically hold it’s force (an innocent man being unjustly killed undermines the statute). Not to mention, the statute is not saying that a person hung on a tree has the Father pouring out His wrath on their soul, suffering hellfire at that moment. And surely this law was not originally written and understood to mean some day the Messiah would be murdered by Crucifixion by a foreign army. Thus, there is good reason to see Jesus being 'cursed' as sort of unjust curse or anti-curse, since the whole point of this penalty was for the State to condemn truly guilty people, and Jesus should never have had to endure this. And this anti-type lens is further proven by the fact that every time the Apostles publicly preached on the subject of the Crucifixion in Acts, they always made a sharp distinction between Jesus being unjustly killed and hung on a tree by the Jews, versus God's vindication in rescuing and resurrecting Jesus for the injustice (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 3:10; 5:30-31; 10:39-40; 13:28-30).

I think this just about covers the main bases. I believe this approach I've taken completely invalidates the desperate claim that the term "curse" necessitates that Jesus was spiritually cursed and cut off from the Father. If Protestants want to push that error, they'll have to address these points I made, and I don't think they can.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When Jesus said "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" was Jesus suffering the Father's Eternal Wrath? (More problems with Penal Substitution)

I have said for a long time that one of the strongest arguments against Penal Substitution is the fact that nowhere does the Bible state that Jesus suffered the Father's Wrath. And this is especially true when we examine the very place we'd most likely expect to find it, in the Crucifixion accounts in the Four Gospels. Instead, what we see plainly conveyed is that Jesus was falsely accused and put into the hands of wicked men who murdered Him by crucifixion. Obviously, God foresaw that this monstrous crime would take place, but in love He sent His Son to earth anyway, and God turned this monstrous crime on it's head, making it a means of Salvation.

In this post I will go over the Crucifixion accounts in the Four Gospels, along with a brief look at how the Crucifixion was preached in Acts. I will show that nobody in good will and fairness can claim to find any reasonable proof for this Protestant heresy in the place it should be most clearly taught.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Catholic Grand Slam against Protestantism

In baseball, a Grand Slam is when the batter hits a home run while the bases are loaded, resulting in an instant score of 4 home runs. Using that analogy, have come across 4 devastating quotes against Protestantism (and even Eastern Orthodoxy) coming from the Third Ecumenical Council, the Council of Ephesus (431AD). As I present the quotes, it will become clear from the significance of the things taught that one must take a stand and conclude either this Council was orthodox and Catholic or heterodox and untrustworthy.

Quote #1 - 
Forasmuch as the divinely inspired Scripture says, “Do all things with advice,” it is especially their duty who have had the priestly ministry allotted to them to examine with all diligence whatever matters are to be transacted. (Letter to the Synod in Pamphylia)
First off, credit goes to Joe and his excellent Catholic apologetics blog for finding this quote. The quote "Do all things with advice" comes directly from the deutero-canonical book of Sirach 32:19, and the footnote on this text quotes famous Protestant historian Philip Schaff who agrees that this Ecumenical Council plainly saw this book as divinely inspired Scripture. But Protestants say that this book is for sure not inspired Scripture and they threw out this book.

Quote #2 -
Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the Only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the Unbloody Sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his Holy Flesh and the Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the Life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his Flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving, as also he said to us: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood. (Second Letter of Cyril to Nestorius)
This quote contains three powerful statements that should make any good Protestant cringe. First, St Cyril describes the Mass as the "Unbloody Sacrifice," meaning the Mass is a Sacrifice and re-presents the same sacrifice of Calvary but only in an 'unbloody' manner, the very thing Catholic Dogma teaches. Second, St Cyril says that the Eucharist is Christ's actual flesh and blood, not mere bread symbolizing Christ's flesh. Third, at the end of this quote Cyril quotes John 6:52-53, saying that this refers to the Eucharist. But Protestants cannot affirm any of these things, and in fact hold them as hallmarks of a false church. 

Quote #3 - 
Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to to-day and forever both lives and judges in his successors.  The holy and most blessed pope Cœlestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod, which the most humane and Christian Emperors have commanded to assemble, bearing in mind and continually watching over the Catholic faith. For they both have kept and are now keeping intact the apostolic doctrine handed down to them from their most pious and humane grandfathers and fathers of holy memory down to the present time (Session III)
This quote plainly says that there is no doubt and that it is known by all that Peter was the prince and head of the apostles and leader of the Church, and that Pope Celestine was Peter's successor and rules in his place. This quote is an abomination for both Protestants and Eastern Orthodox for obvious reasons: if the Papacy is true, both of those groups are in deep trouble! Eastern Orthodox love to espouse that the Papacy is the worst heresy ever, even worse than Arianism and Nestorianism. And yet nobody at this Council noticed the worst heresy ever being spouted right off in front of them! They must pick whether this Council taught heresy here or whether the Catholic Church is right. The truth is plain for those who want to see it.

Quote #4 - 
If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh let him be anathema. (Anathema #1 against Nestorius)
If anyone does not agree that in a real sense that Mary is the "Mother of God," then they are embracing heresy. Of course, this dogma has been widely misunderstood to mean Mary created/produced the Trinity, but all it means is that Mary bore and gave birth to the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son. There are many Protestants who disagree with this dogmatic teaching and do not believe Mary is "Mother of God" and consider this a major heresy and blasphemy.

In the end, the Protestant really has to decide whether the Church went completely in heresy this early on in Church history or not. These teachings are too significant to sweep them under the rug or cherry pick the Council's teachings. This Council provided a benchmark for all Christianity at the time as to what was orthodox and what wasn't, so to claim heresy effectively entails the whole visible Church went apostate. I know many Protestants will try all kinds of fancy tricks to get around this, but really this isn't a hard issue to address. Catholics have no problem taking these things at face value as they're plainly taught, and we affirm these things even today. 

Either take Christian history seriously or don't. I would just hope that Protestant seminaries would be honest enough to admit that this Council sounds nothing like what any Protestant denomination would ever teach.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Romans 4:6-8 crushes Calvinism (Faith Alone)

I'm convinced that Romans 4:6-8 is the most powerful text against Calvinism, and if Catholics utilized this one text I believe there would be astronomical success in their apologetics. While I've written about this before, I want to focus on one thing in particular because I cannot emphasize enough how powerfully this verse crushes Calvinism. Here is Paul in Romans 4 (quoting Psalm 32:1-2):
5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the
blessing of the one to
whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.
I have color-coded this text to help get the point across. When Paul says "just as David speaks of counting righteousness," this means David is speaking of the same crediting of righteousness that Paul just talked about. But David doesn't use the phrase "counting righteousness" in Psalm 32:1-2, and instead he speaks of "lawless deeds forgiven" and "not counting sin". This means that for Paul, "counting righteousness" is synonymous with "lawless deeds forgiven," which is also synonymous with "not counting sin". Simply put, when a persons sins are forgiven, God does not regard that person as a sinner any longer, and in fact God regards them as righteous. Using the analogy of a shirt with a stain on it, after I clean the stain I could either "not reckon a stain on the shirt" or, equivalently, I could "reckon cleanliness to the shirt," and I'd be saying the same thing. The only difference is perspective, similar to asking if the glass is reckoned as half full or is reckoned as half empty.
Once you recognize that "counting righteousness" is synonymous with "not counting sin" (meaning forgiveness), you can now proceed to hammer the Calvinist on the issue of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Since the two phrases are equivalent, then it's impossible that "crediting righteousness" refers to "imputing Christ's righteousness," because you'd then have to read "not crediting sin" as referring to "imputing Christ's righteousness" as well, which makes little grammatical sense. How does transferring Christ's righteousness to your account come out of the phrase "not count sin"? It doesn't. 
And speaking of "not counting," since the word "count" is the same in both phrases, this means it must carry the same meaning. So when the Protestant thinks "count" means something along the lines of "transferring," so that the text is interpreted as "transferring [Christ's] righteousness," this fails when "transferring" is carried over to David's words, for then David says "the Lord will NOT transfer sin." How can a person who's sins the Lord will NOT take away be a Blessed man? He cannot be a Blessed man if his sin remains, and thus "count" cannot mean "transfer" in either case. Rather, the only definition that makes sense is to read "counted" as simply "regards as," and this gives a coherent interpretation of each phrase: "regards as righteous" and "does not regard as a sinner". Thus, the imputation of Christ's righteousness has no place in this crucial justification text.

The beauty of this passage is that it goes right to the Calvinist's favorite place in the Bible, Romans 4, and it turns their interpretation on it's head. No need for James 2:24 since Romans 4 does the job and does it quite well.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What's stopping you?

One question all Protestants need to ask themselves is what is stopping them or any other Protestant they know from going off and independently starting their own denomination. Most Protestants simply don't think about it, but every Protestant who has gone off and started his own church obviously has pondered this question and recognized their 'right' to do this. Ultimately, it reveals a fatal flaw in their system, and that flaw is that ultimately nobody is subject to anyone else. In fact, a well-informed Calvinist I spoke to recently came right out and said he doesn't submit to anyone but Scripture. But how is another Protestant going to stop him from believing this? I don't see a principled way out of this dilemma. And how can a Protestant truly accept texts like Acts 16:4 and Hebrews 13:17, along with the Pastoral Epistles, I truly don't know. I don't think they can. (So much for Protestantism being Biblical.)

This is one of those issues that the more informed Protestants like to keep hushed because it would completely expose the absurdity of their system. A lot of them know that they cannot challenge the 'pastorship' of even their most bitter enemies, because they know what would happen to their own claims to authority. And so they parade around as if their most bitter enemy with even less 'credentials' than themself is still entitled to be regarded as a pastor. When I've confronted Protestants on this issue, they'll often try to get around it by claiming their pastor was ordained by some board of elders or at a Protestant seminary, as if this sufficiently answered the question. But all they're doing is taking the question one step back to who authorized the board of elders or who authorized the seminary. Ultimately, it will always come down to a group of self-appointed pastors who made themselves into a board of elders or who founded the seminary, and acted as if their self-appointed authority was true authority. It's no different than a random dude starting his own mega church. It happens all the time. But the Catholic sees right through all this. The Catholic sees that this is one of the biggest hoaxes foisted upon the world.

In the end, this Protestant mindset ultimately says the visible Church isn't held together by anything concrete, since a person can break off into schism or heresy and be just as much part of the visible Church as anyone else. With this moral, doctrinal, and ecclesial relativism in full swing, the "visible Church" thus goes from something concrete to something abstract, and thus a self-refuting concept (since an abstract thing cannot be visible). And by this point you can realize that just thinking about such a world-wide hoax like this is exhausting. No wonder our society is so much in shambles when this kind of "logic" is running rampant.