Friday, November 27, 2009

CHARLES HODGE: “Is the Church of Rome a Part of the Visible Church?”

An individual who posts under the name “Interlocutor”, provided a link to an interesting article/review written by the esteemed Reformed theologian, Dr. Charles Hodge (see combox of THIS THREAD). Hodge’s article/review, “Is the Church of Rome a Part of the Visible Church?”, was originally published in the April, 1846 The Princeton Review (pages 320-344 – available online HERE).

This article/review was a response to “Essays in the Presbyterian by Theophius on the question : Is Baptism in the Church of Rome valid? Nos. XL. XII.” These essays were in turn, a response to Dr. Hodge’s July, 1845 article, “Validity of Romish Baptism” (entire article has been republished in Hodge’s book, Discussions in Church Polity – Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 1878, pp. 191- 215, and can be accessed online HERE).

Enlisting impeccable logic and an in depth knowledge of the pertinent data (with a heavy dose of refreshing honesty), Dr. Hodge defends the position that the Church of Rome is in fact a valid Christian church (though, of course, he also argues that doctrinal errors exist in the communion). Dr. Hodge notes: “The real difficulty in the case, is that it is impossible to give any one definition of a church, except in the most general terms, which includes all the established uses of the word.” (Page 326.) He then provides four different uses/senses of the term “church”; concerning the fourth use/sense, he writes:

There is a fourth established meaning of the word church, which has more direct reference to the question before us. It often means an organized society professing the true religion, united for the purpose of worship and discipline, and subject to the same form of government and to some common tribunal. A multitude of controversies turn upon the correctness of this definition. It includes the following particulars. 1. A church is an organized society. It is thus distinguished from the casual or temporary assemblies of Christians, for the purpose of divine worship. 2. It must profess the true religion. By the true religion cannot be meant all the doctrines of the true religion, and nothing more or less. For then no human society would be a church unless perfect both in knowledge and faith. Nor can it mean all the clearly revealed and important doctrines of the Bible for then no man could ne a Christian and no body of men a church, which rejects or is ignorant of those doctrines. But it must mean the essential doctrines of the gospel, those doctrines without which no man can be saved. This is plain, because nothing can be essential, as far as truth is concerned, to a church, which is not essential to union with Christ. We are prohibited by our allegiance to the word of God from recognizing as a true Christian, any man who rejects any doctrine which the Scriptures declare to be essential to salvation; and we are bound by that allegiance not to refuse such recognition, on account of ignorance or error, to any man who professes what the Bible teaches is saving truth. It is absurd that we should make more truth essential to a visible church, than Christ has made essential to the church invisible and to salvation. This distinction between essential and unessential doctrines Protestants have always insisted upon, and Romanists and Anglicans as strenuously rejected. It is, however, so plainly recognized in Scripture, and so obviously necessary in practice, that those who reject it in terms in opposition to Protestants, are forced to admit it in reality. They make substantially the same distinction when they distinguish between matters of faith and matters of opinion, and between those truths which must be received with explicit faith i.e., known as well as believed) and those which may be received with implicit faith; i.e., received without knowledge, as a man who believes the Bible to be the word of God may be said to believe all it teaches, though it may contain many things of which he is ignorant. Romanists say that every doctrine on which the church has pronounced judgment as part of the revelation of God, is a matter of faith, and essential to the salvation of those to whom it is duly proposed. Anglicans say the same thing of those doctrines which are sustained by tradition. Here is virtually the same distinction between fundamental and other doctrines which Protestants make. The only difference is as to the criterion by which the one class is to be distinguished from the other. Romanists and Anglicans say that criterion is the judgment of the church; Protestants say it is the word of God. What the Bible declares to be essential to salvation, is essential: what it does not make absolutely necessary to be believed and professed, no man can rightfully declare to be absolutely necessary. And what is not essential to the true church, the spiritual body of Christ, or to salvation, cannot be essential to the visible church. This is really only saying that those whom Christ declares to be his people, we have no right to say are not his people. If any man thinks he has such a right, it would be well for him to take heed how he exercises it. By the true religion, therefore, which a society must profess in order to its being recognized as a church, must be meant those doctrines which are essential to salvation.
3. Such society must not only profess the true religion, but its object must be the worship of God and the exercise of discipline. A church is thus distinguished from a Bible, missionary, or any similar society of Christians.4. To constitute it a church, i.e., externally one body, it must have the same form of government and be subject to the same common tribunal. The different classes of Presbyterians in this country, though professing the same doctrines and adopting the same form of government, are not all members of the same external church, because subject to different tribunals. (Pages 328-330.)

A bit later he condenses this fourth use/sense down to:

Is a church an organized society professing the true religion, united for the worship of God and the exercise of discipline, and subject to the same for of government and to common tribunal? (Page 333.)

And then adds:

This definition is substantially the one given in our standards. “A particular church consists of a number of professing Christians with their offspring, voluntarily associated together for divine worship and godly living agreeably to the Holy Scriptures; and submitting to a certain form of government. (Page 333.)

Dr. Hodge continues to defend this definition under four more headings which interact with the Scriptures, and then writes:

The next step in the argument is, of course, the consideration of the question, whether the church of Rome comes within the definition, the correctness of which we have endeavored to establish? (Page 336.)

After brief examination of possible (but weak) objections he states:

The only point really open to debate is, whether the Romish church as a society professes the true religion…That by true religion in this connection, has ever been understood, and from the nature of the case must be understood, the essential doctrines of the gospel. (Page 338.)

Now to the ‘meat’ of Dr. Hodge’s defense:

That Romanists as a society profess the true religion, meaning thereby the essential doctrines of the gospel, those doctrines which if truly believed will save the soul, is, as we think, plain. 1. Because they believe the Scriptures to be the word of God. 2. They direct that the Scriptures should be understood and received as they were understood by the Christian Fathers. 3. They receive the three general creeds of the church, the Apostle’s, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, or as these are summed up in the creed of Pius V. 4. They believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. In one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. And the third day rose again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And they believe in one catholic apostolic church. They acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

If this creed were submitted to any intelligent Christian without his knowing whence it came, could he hesitate to say that it was the creed of a Christian church? Could he deny that these are the very terms in which for ages the general faith of Christendom has been expressed? Could he, without renouncing the Bible, say that the sincere belief of these doctrines would not secure eternal life? Can any man take it upon himself in the sight of God, to assert there is not truth enough in the above summary to save the soul? (Pages 340, 341 – bold emphasis mine.)

Indeed Dr. Hodge. He finishes the article/review with:

The most common and plausible objections to the admission that the church of Rome is still a part of the visible church are the following. First, it is said that she does not profess the true religion, because though she retains the forms or propositions in which the truth is stated, she vitiates them by her explanation. To which we answer, 1. That in her general creeds, adopted and professed by the people, no explanations are given. The doctrines are asserted in the general terms, just as they were presented and professed before the Romish apostasy. 2. That the explanations, as given by the Council of Trent, are as stated by Theophilus, designedly two-sided and ambiguous; so that while one class of Romanists take them in a sense consistent with their saving efficacy, others take them in a sense which destroys their value. It is notorious that the thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England are taken in a Calvinistic sense by one class of her theologians; in a semi-Pelagian sense by another class; and in a Romish sense by a third. 3. While we admit the truth of the objection as a fact, viz., that the dominant class of theologians do explain away most of the saving doctrines of her ancient creeds, yet we deny that this destroys the argument from the profession of those creeds, in proof that as a society she retains saving truth. Because it is the creeds and not the explanations, that constitute the profession of the people.

Secondly, it is objected that Rome Professes fundamental errors. To this we answer, 1. That we acknowledge that the teaching of many of her most authoritative authors is fatally erroneous. 2. That the decisions of the Council of Trent, as understood by one class of Romish theologians, are not less at variance with the truth; but not as they are in fact explained by another class of her doctors. 3. That these decisions and explanations are not incorporated into the creed professed by the people. 4. That the profession of fundamental error by a society retains with such error the essential truths of religion. The Jewish church at the time of Christ, by her officers, in the synagogues and in the sanhedrim [sic], and by all her great parties professed fundamental error justification by the law, for example; and yet retained its being as a church, in the bosom of which the elect of God still lived.

Thirdly, Rome is idolatrous, and therefore in no sense a church. To this we answer, 1. That the practice of the great body of the church of Rome is beyond doubt idolatrous. 2. That the avowed principles of the majority of her teachers are also justly liable to the same charge. 3. That the principles of another class of her doctors, who say they worship neither the images themselves, nor through them, but simply in the presence of them, are not idolatrous in the ordinary meaning of the term. 4. That it is not necessary that every man should be, in the fatal sense of that word, an idolater in order to remain in that church; otherwise there could be not true children of God within its pale. But the contrary is, as a fact, on all hands conceded. 5. We know that the Jewish church, though often overrun with idolatry, never ceased to exist.

Fourthly, it is objected that the people of God are commanded to come out of the church of Rome, which would not be the case were she still a part of the visible church. To this we answer, that the people of God are commanded to come out of every church which either professes error, or which imposes any terms of communion which hurt an enlightened conscience. The non-conformists in the time of Charles II, were bound to leave the church of England, and yet did not thereby assert that it was no longer a church.

Fifthly, it is said we give up too much to the papists if we admit Romanists to be in the church. To this we answer, Every false position is a weak position. The cause of truth. The cause of truth suffers in no way more than from identifying it with error, which is always done when its friends advocate it on false principles. When one says, we favor intemperance, unless we say that the use of intoxicating liquors is sinful; another, that we favor slavery, unless we say slaveholding is a sin; and a third, that we favor popery unless we say the church of Rome is no church, they all, as it seems to us, make the same mistake, and greatly injure the cause in which they are engaged. They dive the adversary an advantage over them, and they fail to enlist the strength of their own side. Men who are anxious to promote temperance, cannot join societies which avow principles which they believe to be untrue; and men who believe popery to be the greatest modern enemy of the gospel, cannot co-operate in measures of opposition to that growing evil, which are founded on the denial of what appear to be important scriptural principles. It is a great mistake to suppose popery is aided by admitting what truth it does include. What gives it its power, what constitutes its peculiarly dangerous character, is that it is not pure infidelity; it is not the entire rejection of the gospel, but truth surrounded with enticing and destructive error. Poison by itself is not so seductive, and therefore not so dangerous, as when mixed with food. We do not believe that those of our brethren from whom we are so unfortunate as to differ on this subject, have a deeper impression than we have either of the destructive character of the errors of popery, or of the danger to which religion and liberty are exposed from its progress. We believe it to be by far the most dangerous forms of delusion and error that has ever arisen in the Christian world, and all the more dangerous from its having arisen and established itself in the church, or temple of God. (Pages 341-344 – bold emphasis mine.)

Dr. Hodge’s last (the 5th) analysis of possible objections is the certainly the harshest; and yet, his criticisms of “popery” only serve to strengthen his overall premise that the Church of Rome is a true Christian church. (And I do wonder if his assessment of the papacy would have been as severe if he had lived in our post-Vatican II era.)

In conclusion, though I certainly differ with our esteemed Reformed author over doctrinal items that he would term “non-essentials”, as well as much of his criticisms concerning the papacy, when it comes to the defense of his basic premise (i.e. that the Church of Rome is a valid Christian church), I find little that I could argue against.

Postscript: Let us hope, and pray, that the hosts of internet anti-Catholic adherents/writers actually take the time to read Dr. Hodge’s informative and reasoned contribution.

Grace and peace,


Monday, November 23, 2009

Big Storm, and a minor blog change

Well, yet another big storm hit our little coastal community Sunday morning (started around midnight). Plenty of high winds (94 mph according to a friend who has a wind gauge/ 85 mph according to a Seattle news station), and plenty of rain. Power went out at 3:30 AM, and did not come back on until late Sunday evening. Spent most of today of cleaning up; but on the whole, the storm was not nearly as bad as the ’07 one. Nice to be back online…

NOTICE: Due to recent spam popping up in some of the comboxes, I have decided to suspend anonymous posting (Rory, you are just going to have to bite the bullet and get a Google account!!! [grin]).

Grace and peace,


P.S. Almost forgot to mention, an Oregon team is going to the Rose Bowl!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Does the Qur’an deny the crucifixion and physical death of Jesus?

A new thread at Catholic Answers, Why Islam denies the crucifixion of Christ, has brought to mind an outstanding book that I have recently read: Todd Lawson’s, The Crucifixion and the Qur’an. I purchased this book because of a keen interest I have had on this topic since the mid-90s.

There is no question the vast majority of present-day Muslims take the position that the Qur’an denies the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (based solely on an interpretation of verse 4.157 that is highly suspect). However, my own personal studies into this issue revealed some very interesting, and important, details few Muslims (let alone Christians) seem to be aware of, namely that the Qur’an itself does not actually deny the crucifixion of Jesus, and that the supposed Qur’anic denial was a post Qur’an/Muhammad development. The following selections I complied during my research contain some of the important data that led me to view the ‘traditional’ interpretation with suspicion:

Islamic scholar, Dr. Mahmoud M. Ayoub wrote:

The Quran...does not deny the death of Christ. Rather it challenges human beings who in their folly have deluded themselves into believing that they would vanquish the divine Word, Jesus the messenger of God. The death of Christ is asserted several times and in various contexts, see for example S. 3:55; 5:117; 19:33. (“Towards an Islamic Christology II”, The Muslim World, Vol. LXX, April 1980, #2, p. 106.)

Another Islamic scholar, Neal Robinson, gleaned the following data from the Rasā’l (‘Epistles’) of the Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity):

Jesus’ humanity (nāsut) was crucified and his hands were nailed to the cross. He was left there all day, given vinegar to drink, and pierced with a lance. He was taken down from the cross, wrapped in a shroud and laid in the tomb. Three days later he appeared to the disciples and was recognized by them. When the news spread that he had not been killed, the Jews opened up the tomb but did not find his mortal remains (nāsut). (Christ In Islam and Christianity, pp. 56, 57.)

Abu Ya’qub Ishaq al-Sijistani wrote:

Without doubt murder and crucifixion were inflicted upon his body. The pronoun (hu) since it appeared at the end of the words ‘murdered him’ ‘qataluhu’, or crucified him is a pointing letter to the spirit (huwiyya) of Jesus. So in this exists the evidence he who suffered death and crucifixion was not the spirit (huwiyya) of Jesus. (Kitab Ithbat al-Nubuwat, Al-Matb’aa al-Kathulikiah, Bierut, Lebanon, 1966, p. 185.)


Cross is the name for the piece of wood on which a man is crucified so that the whole population may see him, and what is crucified on it is a dead body...The wood Jesus was crucified on was provided for this purpose by a group other than his own and these people were the ones who crucified him on it openly and manifestly. (The Wellsprings of Wisdom, edited by Paul E. Walker, 1994, pp. 93-94.)

My studies, along with the fact certain verses in the Qur’an affirm Jesus’ death (e.g. 3.55; 5.117; 19.33), convinced me that something was seriously defective with the ‘traditional’ understanding of Jesus’ crucifixion held to by most Muslims. I occasionally shared my research on some message boards in the past, but for the most part, did not make much of an issue out of it. However, after reading Dr. Lawson’s exhaustive book, I am now FULLY convinced that my earlier research was spot-on; as such, I will, in all likelihood, be a bit more forward with my conclusions concerning this important issue in the future.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

“Muhammad was married to a Roman Catholic nun” - Catholic/Jesuit conspiracy theories

I literally cannot count the number of conspiracy theories that attempt to identify almost any so-called “evil” with the Catholic Church, and/or the Jesuits. However, it is the conspiracy theory that the Catholic Church was somehow behind the beginning of the Islamic religion, which may be the most bizarre. I first came across this theory in my early dispensational days (this was the first theological system that I came into contact with shortly after I left the JWs) via a booklet/comic book produced by Jack T. Chick of Chick Publications, with the title, The Prophet, that was given to me by Baptist friend (FYI: Jack T. Chick is a notorious independent Baptist, anti-Catholic, who has produced numerous anti-Catholic tracts, books, etc.).

I was reminded of this ridiculous conspiracy theory earlier today via a link provided by individual on an email list that I belong to. The link was to an YouTube video with the title: Walter J. Veith Islamic - Catholic Connection - Full Lecture. I hesitate to admit that I watched/listened to the whole video (in my defense, I am retired), but I was curious. At approximately the 1:06ff. mark, Mr. Veith stated:

You see, Muhammad was married to a Roman Catholic nun; the whole family was Roman Catholic, and he received these doctrines straight from the pits of the bottomless pit. That’s what the Bible says. So this doctrine started spreading, and they used Islam first to counteract Christianity, later on splitting it up to get rid of the enemies of Christ. Oh, to get rid of Christ’s followers and then get rid of all the enemies of Rome. ( “Islamic - Catholic Connection”, 1:06ff.)

The “doctrines” that Mr. Veith was referring to were from an onscreen projection (displayed in the vide0) of material from a brief article by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (“Mary and the Moslems”), accessed from this website (see also page3), and included the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and Her virginity.

I am truly at a loss for words…

Grace and peace,


Monday, November 16, 2009

Parable of the “wheat and tares” – part 2: I’m not infallible, but…

Wow, who would of thought that this beachum’s simple response of: “The Church on Earth has wheat and tares” (HERE), to set of questions posed by “Rhology”, would produce well over 50 comments in the comboxes of 4 threads!

IMO, the problem stems from a mindset of some of the posters who seem to have embraced what amounts to a “functional” inerrancy of their interpretation(s) of the Bible (at the very least, for this parable), while at the same time denying any infallible interpretation exists. This mindset has led these posters to maintain, with what seems to be a fanatical vigor, that there can be only one plausible/legitimate interpretation of the parable of the “wheat and tares”.

Before I provide some germane selections from a group of Protestant scholars that I believe have offered the most consistent, and Biblical, interpretation of the “wheat and tares” parable (though certainly not the only plausible/legitimate interpretation), I shall post the content of the Gospel of Matthew that gives us the parable [I am doing this primarily for “Rhology”, for him seems to think that the readers of AF either don’t know what we are talking about, or cannot look up of the verses for themselves.] The Word of God:

Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man that sowed good seed in his field:[24] but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away.[25] But when the blade sprang up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.[26] And the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it tares?[27] And he said unto them, An enemy hath done this. And the servants say unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?[28] But he saith, Nay; lest haply while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat with them. [29]Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn[29]

Then he left the multitudes, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Explain unto us the parable of the tares of the field.[36] And he answered and said, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;[37] and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;[38] and the enemy that sowed them is the devil: and the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are angels.[39] As therefore the tares are gathered up and burned with fire; so shall it be in the end of the world.[40] The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity,[41] and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.[42] then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears, let him hear.[43] (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43 – ASV.)

Now, some commentary from a few Protestant Biblical scholars:

In my opinion, the design of the parable is simply this: So long as the pilgrimage of the Church in this world continues, bad men and hypocrites will mingle in it with those who are good and upright, that the children of God may be armed with patience and, in the midst of offenses which are fitted to disturb them, may preserve unbroken stedfastness of faith. It is an appropriate comparison, when the Lord calls the Church his field, for believers are the seed of it; and though Christ afterwards adds that the field is the world, yet he undoubtedly intended to apply this designation, in a peculiar manner, to the Church, about which he had commenced the discourse. But as he was about to drive his plough through every country of the world, so as to cultivate fields, and scatter the seed of life, throughout the whole world, he has employed a synecdoche, to make the world denote what more strictly belonged only to a part of it. (John Calvin, Commentary on A Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. II , in Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume XVI, Baker Book House 1979 reprint, pp. 119, 120.)

Again, the parables regarding the gospel kingdom manifestly bear in the same direction. “The field,” which was to be sown both with tares and with wheat, is “THE WORLD” (ό κόμος) : that is to say, a world-wide kingdom is to be formed, embracing the genuine and the false-hearted subjects of Christ under one visible name ; both are to “grow together until the harvest ;” and the harvest is the end of the world. (David Brown, Christ’s Second Coming – Will It Be Premillennial?, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, pp. 34, 35 – all emphasis in the original.)

The parable of the wheat and tares, which occupies the chief part of these verses, is one of peculiar importance in the present day. It is eminently calculated to correct the extravagant expectations in which many Christians indulge, as to the effect of missions abroad, and of preaching the Gospel at home. May we give it the attention which it deserves!

In the first place, this parable teaches us, that good and evil will always be found together in the professing Church, until the end of the world.

The visible Church is set before us as a mixed body. It is a vast “field” in which, “wheat and tares” grow side by side. (R.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts On The Gospels – St. Matthew, 1860, pp. 146, 147.)

It must be possible, this much we may confidently affirm, to call the church the kingdom…The kingdom as the church bears the features of a community of men. It appears as a house. This character belonged to the Old Testament church for which that of Jesus is substituted, it also finds expression in the very name ecclesia, which designates the assembly of free citizens called together to deliberate and take action in matters pertaining to the commonwealth…The two parables of the wheat and the tares and of the fish-net equally imply the thought that the kingdom is an aggregate of men, though their point does not lie in this thought as such, but in the inevitable intermingling of the good and the bad until the end. The nearest approach to the later declaration about the church occurs in the expression “his kingdom” of Matt. xii. 41. this “kingdom of the Son of man” agrees with the “church of Jesus,” in that both phrases make the kingdom a body of men placed under the Messiah as their ruler. (Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church, Wipf and Stock, 1998 reprint, pp. 150-152.)

When the Donatists undertook to excommunicate all persons known to be evil, and in the case of traditores, who had given up copies of Scripture to be burned during persecutions, were unwilling ever to restore them to the church connection, Augustine wrote against their views a great number of treatises, in which he constantly appealed to this parable [i.e. wheat and tares], as showing that good and evil persons must dwell together in the church. He says the Donatist bishops would reply, “It does not refer to the church; the Lord said, the field is the world, not, the field is the church.” But Augustine would say that the world means the church. (John A. Broadus, Commentary On The Gospel of Matthew - An American Commentary on the New Testament, Issue 1, ed. Alvah Hovey, page 300 – bold emphasis mine.)

Concerning purging the tares out of the field, or casting men out of the church, there is no difference between me and those whom I oppose in the present controversy. (“Qualifications for Communion”, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, The Banner of Truth Trust 1984 reprint, p. 468.)


The parable of the “wheat and tares” begins with: “the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man that sowed good seed in his field” [v.24]. As we later learn, the “man” is our Lord, Jesus Christ, the King of this “kingdom of heaven” (i.e. kingdom of God), the same kingdom spoken of in Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45, that starts out as a “stone”, and becomes a “mountain” that fills “the whole earth”.

We are told “his field” is a mixed “field” containing both wheat and tares; and that this “field” is “the world” (Greek: κόσμος) [v.38]. Then we are informed the tares in “his field” (which is called “his Kingdom” in v. 41) are going to be removed by angels at the “end of the world” (Greek: αιŵνός).

So, the “kingdom of heaven” = “his field” = “the world” = “his kingdom”. That many Biblical scholars equate this kingdom/field/world/kingdom with the visible Church, sure seems to be the logical (and Biblical) choice (at least to this beachbum).

Grace and peace,


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Modern day Donatists: “wheat and tares” parable is not referring to the visible Church

In the combox of a November 11, 2009 THREAD at Beggars All, I responded to the individual who posts under the name “Rhology” after he raised questions about unity and the Church:

>>Why is that reasonable? Isn't it the RC position that you have all this unity and the truth on your organisation's side?>>

Me: The Church on Earth has wheat and tares. (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

Rhology responded with:

Christ's parable of wheat and tares refers not to the church but to the world. (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

And our old “friend”, TurretinFan, posted:

Augustine says: "He said, "The field is the world;" He said not, "The field is Africa."" (Letter 76) (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

A bit later, Matthew Bellisario entered into the dialogue, and wrote:

St. Jerome and St. Augustine applied a symbolic interpretation of the text to the Church, and those within it, including pastors and bishops. Other Church Fathers and writers reference the passage as the sewing of heresies in the Church. (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

Rhology and TurretinFan in subsequent posts attempt to defend their view that the parable of the wheat and tares is not referring to the visible Church, while Matthew argues to the contrary, even citing the following from John Calvin:

It is an appropriate comparison, when the Lord calls the Church his field, for believers are the seed of it; and though Christ afterwards adds that the field is the world, yet he undoubtedly intended to apply this designation, in a peculiar manner, to the Church, about which he had commenced the discourse. (Accessed online 11-14-09)

I would never have thought that one would get the following response from Rhology:

Can the passage be interpreted symbolically as referring to the Church?

Sure, it CAN be. The question is: Is it correct to do so?

And the answer is no, it can't.

And whoopie - you know how to read Calvin. MB, do you believe we consider Calvin to be infallible? Yes or no? (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

There, I think I have now provided enough background for my subsequent rebuttal (if some feel more is needed, please feel free to read the entire original thread, and comments).


TurretinFan (hereafter, TF) has abused yet another Church Father—this time it is St. Augustine. The upcoming quotes from Augustine were provided by TF after he wrote:

Rhology's interpretation in this case is "the field is the world." This is the one infallible interpretation of the "field" that exists, not because Rhology said it but because Scriptures say it.

But your claim that the fathers thought that the field is something other than the world, is interesting. I notice that you haven't provided much documentation - just an ambiguous fragment from Chrysostom. (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

Now the Augustine quotes:

Augustine says: "He said, "The field is the world;" He said not, "The field is Africa."" (Letter 76)

"For the field is the world — not only Africa; and the harvest is the end of the world — not the era of Donatus." (Answer to Petilian the Donatist, Book III)

"For it is the Church which the Son of man has sown as good seed, and of which He has foretold that it should grow among the tares until the harvest. For the field is the world, and the harvest is the end of time." (Letter 93) (Accessed online 11-14-09.)

Now, do any of the above quotes contain the statement that the field/world is NOT the visible Church? Clearly, they do not. And if TF had read a bit more of Augustine’s writings on the Donatists he would have discovered that Augustine does in fact equate the field/world with the Church, and that it was his Donatist opponents who denied this.

In Letter 76 (Augustine to the Donatists) we read:

Hear, O Donatists, what the Catholic Church says to you: “O ye sons of men, how long will ye be slow of heart? why will ye love vanity, and follow after lies? “Why have you severed yourselves, by the heinous impiety of schism, from the unity of the whole world? You give heed to the falsehoods concerning the surrendering of the divine books to persecutors, which men who are either deceiving you, or are themselves deceived, utter in order that you may die in a state of heretical separation: and you do not give heed to what these divine books themselves proclaim, in order that you may live in the peace of the Catholic Church. Wherefore do you lend an open ear to the words of men who tell you things which they have never been able to prove, and are deaf to the voice of God speaking thus: “The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession”? “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘ And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to thy seed,’ which is Christ.” And the promise to which the apostle refers is this: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Therefore lift up the eyes of your souls, and see how in the whole world all nations are blessed in Abraham’s seed. Abraham, in his day, believed what was not yet seen; but you who see it refuse to believe what has been fulfilled The Lord’s death was the ransom of the world; He paid the price for the whole world; and you do not dwell in concord with the whole world, as would be for your advantage, but stand apart and strive contentiously to destroy the whole world, to your own loss. (Letters of St. Augustin, trans. J.G. Cunningham – NPNF 1.343 – bold emphasis mine.) [An online version can be accessed HERE.]

How could anyone question that Augustine in Letter 76 equated the world with the Church?

Next, from Book III of Augustine’s Answer To the Letters of Petilian the Donatist we read:

For if you cling most firmly to what I urge on you with all my might, that every one is cursed who places his trust in man, so that none should make his boast of man, then you will in no wise desert the threshing-floor of the Lord on account of the chaff which either is now being dispersed beneath the blast of the wind of pride, or will be separated by the final winnowing; nor will you fly from the great house on account of the vessels made to dishonor; nor will you quit the net through the breaches made in it because of the bad fish which are to be separated on the shore; nor will you leave the good pastures of unity, because of the goats which are to be placed on the left when the Good Shepherd shall divide the flock; nor will you separate yourselves by an impious secession, because of the mixture of the tares, from the society of that good wheat, whose source is that grain that dies and is multiplied thereby, and that grows together throughout the world until the harvest. For the field is the world, — not only Africa; and the harvest is the end of the world, — not the era of Donatus. (Trans. J.R. King - NPNF 4.597, 598 – bold emphasis mine.)

Prior to this in Book II, Augustine, yet once again, equates the world with the Church:

…according to the saying of the Lord, “It is not for you to know the times, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and even in the whole earth.” Here you have the origin of the name “Catholic.” But you are so bent upon running with your eyes shut against the mountain which grew out of a small stone, according to the prophecy of Daniel, and filled the whole earth, that you actually tell us that we have gone aside into a part, and are not in the whole among those whose communion is spread throughout the whole earth. But just in the same way as, supposing you were to say that I was Petilianus, I should not be able to find any method of refuting you unless I were to laugh at you as being in jest, or mourn over you as being mad, so in the present case I see that I have no other choice but this; and since I do not believe that you are in jest, you see what alternative remains

You look at the tares throughout the world, and pay no heed to the wheat, although both have been bidden to grow together throughout the whole of it. You look at the seed sown by the wicked one, which shall be separated in the time of harvest, and you pay no heed to the seed of Abraham, in which all nations of the earth shall be blessed…Why then is baptism, given by men like these, held valid among you, and the same baptism of Christ not held valid, by whatsoever men it may be administered throughout the world? You see, in fact, that you are separated from the communion of the whole world in so far as this, that you are not indeed all drunk, nor all of you covetous, nor all men of violence, but that you are all heretics, and, in virtue of this, are all impious and all sacrilegious.

But as to your saying that the whole world that rejoices in Christian communion is the party of Macarius, who with any remnant of sanity in his brain could make such a statement? But because we say that you are of the party of Donatus, you therefore seek for a man of whose party you may say we are; and, being in a great strait, you mention the name of some obscure person, who, if he is known in Africa, is certainly unknown in any other quarter of the globe. (Trans. J.R. King - NPNF 4.554, 555 – bold emphasis mine.)

Once again, contra the Donatist’s, Augustine equates the “whole world” with the Catholic Church.

And from Augustine’s lengthy letter (93) to Vicentius:

In like manner it is said, on the one hand, “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” because of the tares which are throughout the whole world; and, on the other hand, Christ “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” because of the wheat which is throughout the whole world.

The love of many, however, waxes cold because of offenses, which abound increasingly the more that, within the communion of the sacraments of Christ, there are gathered to the glory of His name even those who are wicked, and who persist in the obstinacy of error; whose separation, however, as chaff from the wheat, is to be effected only in the final purging of the Lord’s threshing-floor

Therefore it is the same Church also which within the Lord’s net is swimming along with the bad fishes, but is in heart and in life separated from them, and departs from them, that she may be presented to her Lord a “glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle.” But the actual visible separation she looks for only on the sea-shore, i.e. at the end of the world, — meanwhile correcting as many as she can, and bearing with those whom she cannot correct; but she does not abandon the unity of the good because of the wickedness of those whom she finds incorrigible…(Letters of St. Augustin, trans. J.G. Cunningham – NPNF 1.394 – bold emphasis mine.)

So, in one sense, Augustine can say that the Church is in the world, and yet, in another sense the world is identified as the visible Catholic Church. Calvin agrees with Augustine on this issue—once again, here is the quote from Calvin:

In my opinion, the design of the parable is simply this: So long as the pilgrimage of the Church in this world continues, bad men and hypocrites will mingle in it with those who are good and upright, that the children of God may be armed with patience and, in the midst of offenses which are fitted to disturb them, may preserve unbroken stedfastness of faith. It is an appropriate comparison, when the Lord calls the Church his field, for believers are the seed of it; and though Christ afterwards adds that the field is the world, yet he undoubtedly intended to apply this designation, in a peculiar manner, to the Church, about which he had commenced the discourse. But as he was about to drive his plough through every country of the world, so as to cultivate fields, and scatter the seed of life, throughout the whole world, he has employed a synecdoche, to make the world denote what more strictly belonged only to a part of it. (John Calvin, Commentary on A Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. II , in Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume XVI, Baker Book House 1979 reprint, pp. 119, 120 - bold emphasis mine.) [An online version can be accessed HERE.]

And not just Calvin, but also Jonathan Edwards:

Concerning purging the tares out of the field, or casting men out of the church, there is no difference between me and those whom I oppose in the present controversy. (“Qualifications for Communion”, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, The Banner of Truth Trust 1984 reprint, p. 468.) [An online version can be accessed HERE.]

And finally, some thoughts from a commentary on Matthew:

When the Donatists undertook to excommunicate all persons known to be evil, and in the case of traditores, who had given up copies of Scripture to be burned during persecutions, were unwilling ever to restore them to the church connection, Augustine wrote against their views a great number of treatises, in which he constantly appealed to this parable [i.e. wheat and tares], as showing that good and evil persons must dwell together in the church. He says the Donatist bishops would reply, “It does not refer to the church; the Lord said, the field is the world, not, the field is the church.” But Augustine would say that the world means the church. (John A. Broadus, Commentary On The Gospel of Matthew - An American Commentary on the New Testament, Issue 1, ed. Alvah Hovey, page 300 – bold emphasis mine.)

So I ask, which interpretation are you going accept? Will you side with Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, and Broadus, or with the modern day Donatists?

Grace and peace,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Luther: “I honor the Roman Church”

Many of the threads here at Articuli Fidei challenge some of the internet activity that enters into the dark realm of what I have termed, “anti-Catholic mischief.” I define “anti-Catholic mischief” as flawed polemical contributions produced by individuals who believe/maintain that the Catholic Church is not a Christian church (I will never apply the term to one who acknowledges the CC as a Christian Church, no matter how much that individual may disagree with Catholic dogma).

What I find quite interesting is the fact that one of the most vehement critics of the Catholic Church, after years (20+) of polemical attacks, could state the following:

I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy. (Martin Luther, from his sermon on Matt. 21:42, D. Martin Luther’s Werke, Vol. 47.425* – also known as the Weimar edition; English trans. from What Luther Says, p. 126.)

Luther’s comments brought back to my mind some thoughts penned by one of the most esteemed Reformed theologians American has produced:

Romanism retains the supernatural element of Christianity throughout. Indeed it is a matter of devout thankfulness to God that underneath the numerous grievous and destructive errors of the Romish Church, the great truths of the Gospel are preserved. The Trinity, the true divinity of Christ, the true doctrine concerning his person as God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever; salvation through his blood, regeneration and sanctification through the almighty power of the Spirit, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life, are doctrines on which the people of God in that communion live, and which have produced such saintly men as St. Bernard, Fénélon, and doubtless thousands of others who are of the number of God’s elect. Every true worshipper of Christ must in his heart recognize as a Christian brother, wherever he may be found, any one who loves, worships, and trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as God manifest in the flesh and the only Saviour of men. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 1981 Eerdmans reprint, pp. 135, 136 - bold emphasis mine.)

Thanks be to God that a good number of Evangelicals over the course of the last few decades have been able to jettison an anti-Catholic mindset, and enter into constructive dialogue with their Catholic brothers.

Grace and peace,


*A PDF version of D. Martin Luther’s Werke, Vol. 47, can be accessed online HERE.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Scripture and Tradition: the early Church Fathers and patristic scholarly consensus vs. TurretinFan

Earlier today, TurretinFan (hereafter TF) published the 11th installment of his anti-Catholic polemical series Perspicuity of Scripture Contra Bellisario. TF, in essence, sums up his view of the early Church Fathers concerning Scripture and Tradition with:

Unfortunately, Mr. Bellisario does not understand that the quotation defeats his position, not mine. We appeal to tradition just as Irenaeus did. We don't do it because tradition is a separate source of infallible authority, but because folks like the Gnostics and Roman Catholics think that it is. We show that they hold neither to Scripture nor Tradition, preferring their own inventions to both.

Mr. Bellisario would like to read into Irenaeus a modern Roman Catholic view of tradition, but Irenaeus himself doesn't say what Rome says. Irenaeus does not claim that tradition is necessary in order to understand Scripture: he ascribes that error to the Gnostics. Irenaeus acknowledges (as we do) the reality of tradition, but does not make it infallible, as Mr. Bellisario would wish. (Accessed online 11-07-09.)

“Unfortunately”, TF, yet once again, has misread a Church Father. Note the following:

There was, however, another aid which he looked upon as of the most certain and most important utility, so far as it extended, and that was the baptismal creed, which he regarded as infallible for leading to the right sense of Scripture upon fundamental points, and according to which he thought all Scripture ought to be interpreted. [I.ix.4] It is evident, therefore, that he regarded the tradition of the Church, to that extent, as divine and infallible. (James Beaven, An Account of the Life and Writings of S. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and Martyr, 1841, p. 139 – bold emphasis mine.)

For the record, James Beaven was not a Roman Catholic (I have added “Roman” to Catholic for TF), but TF is most certainly an anti-Catholic; with this in mind, whose assessment of Irenaeus would one discern to be the least polemical, and most objective?

Moving on, I would now like to comment on the issue of the perspicuity of Scripture as a whole. With TF, I too believe in the perspicuity of Scripture—Scripture clearly teaches baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, apostolic succession, et al.—you see, my position on this issue is fundamentally the same as Irenaeus, Athanasius, and so many other Church Fathers. Yes, Scripture is CLEAR, but only to those who embrace the Catholic regula fidei. Everyone has, in essence, a regula fidei which governs their interpretation of Scripture—the Arians created a regula fidei, the Socinians created a regula fidei, the Lutherans created a regula fidei, the Calvinists created a regula fidei—yes, everyone has a regula fidei, and for some, it is a regula fidei created, and held to, by but one individual.

Though many do to not realize it, the regula fidei that one embraces is inextricably linked to church authority. One Reformed author recently articulated this very important connection:

Unlike modern Evangelicalism, the classical Protestant Reformers held to a high view of the Church. When the Reformers confessed extra ecclesiam nulla salus, which means “there is no salvation outside the Church,” they were not referring to the invisible Church of all the elect. Such a statement would be tantamount to saying that outside of salvation there is no salvation. It would be a truism. The Reformers were referring to the visible Church…The Church is the pillar and ground, the interpreter, teacher, and proclaimer of God’s Word…The Church has authority because Christ gave the Church authority. The Christian who rejects the authority of the Church rejects the authority of the One who sent her (Luke 10:16). (Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, pp. 268, 269.)

Now admittedly, for some, their “church authority” is themselves, but I think most would agree that Mathison had in mind ‘confessional’ churches. Mathison maintains that “the Church” has real authority, while at the same time holding to the perspicuity of Scripture; he believes, as do I (and the early Church Fathers), that the two are not mutually exclusive. Mathison’s view was cogently expressed by none other than John Henry Newman back in the 19th century—note the following, which Newman addressed to his Anglican friend Dr. E. B. Pusey:

You have made a collection of passages from the Fathers, as witnesses in behalf of your doctrine that the whole Christian faith is contained in Scripture, as if, in your sense of the words, Catholics contradicted you here. And you refer to my Notes on St. Athanasius as contributing passages to your list; But, after all, neither you, nor I in my Notes, affirm any doctrine which Rome denies. Those Notes also make frequent reference to a traditional teaching, which (be the faith ever so contained in Scripture), still is necessary as a Regula Fidei, for showing us that it is contained there; vid. Pp. 283-431; and this tradition, I know, you uphold as fully as I do in the Notes in question. In consequence, you allow that there is a two-fold rule, Scripture and Tradition; and this is all that Catholics say. How, then do Anglicans differ from Rome here? I believe the difference is merely one of words… (John Henry Newman, Certain Difficulties Felt By Anglicans In Catholic Teaching Considered, vol. 2, pp. 11, 12.)

Once again, Scripture is CLEAR, but only for those who have embraced the true regula fidei. This was THE view of the majority of the early Church Fathers, and has been recognized as such by a consensus of patristic scholars; the following are but a few selections from this overwhelming consensus:

The fathers of the church spoke as they did because they regarded themselves as interpreters of the Scriptures. Therefore they are not to be made a substitute for the Scriptures; nor can the Scriptures be understood apart from the authoritative interpretation which tradition places upon them...if tradition is primitive, Protestant theology must admit that ‘Scripture alone’ requires redefinition. (Jaroslav Pelikan, Obedient Rebels, Harper & Row: New York, N. Y., 1964, p. 180 – bold emphasis mine.)

The divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as opposed to human writings; and the oral tradition or living faith of the catholic church from the apostles down, as opposed tothe varying opinions of heretical sects—together form one infallible source and rule of faith. Both are vehicles of the same substance: the saving revelation of God in Christ; with this difference in form and office, that the church tradition determines the canon, furnishes the key and true interpretation of the Scriptures, and guards them against heretical abuse. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 1981 ed., vol. 3, p. 606 – bold emphasis mine.)

Several publications by evangelicals have argued that the doctrine of sola scriptura was practiced, though implicitly, in the hermeneutical thinking of the early church. Such an argument is using a very specific agenda for the reappropriation of the early church: reading the ancient Fathers through the leans of post-Reformational Protestantism…Scripture can never stand completely independent of the ancient consensus of the church’s teaching without serious hermeneutical difficulties…the real question, as the patristic age discovered, is, Which tradition will we use to interpret the Bible? (D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism, pp. 229, 234 – bold emphasis mine.)

Perhaps the most important aspect of the rule of faith is that it gives us what the Church conceived to be ‘the main body of truth’ (to use Irenaeus’ phrase). The Scriptures are, after all, a body of documents testifying to God’s activity towards men in Christ. They are not a rule of faith, nor a list of doctrines, nor a manual of the articles of a Christian man’s belief. In the rule of faith we have a key to what the Church thought the Scriptures came to, where it was, so to speak, that their weight fell, what was their drift. This interpretation of their drift was itself tradition, a way of handling the Scriptures, a way of living in them and being exposed to their effect, which, while not an original part of the Christian Gospel, not itself the paradosis par excellence, had been developed from the Gospel itself, from its heart, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as an essential part of the existence of the Christian faith in history…

We cannot recognize the rule of faith as original tradition, going back by oral continuity independently of Scripture to Christ and his apostles. But we can recognize it as the tradition in which the Church was interpreting Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and as such claim it as an essential ingredient of historical Christianity. (R.P.C. Hanson, Tradition In The Early Church, pp. 128, 129 – bold emphasis mine.)

The first clear attitude to emerge on the relation between Scripture, tradition and the church was the coincidence view: that the teaching of the church, Scripture and tradition coincide. Apostolic tradition is authoritative but does not differ in content from the Scriptures. The teaching of the church is likewise authoritative but is only the proclamation of the apostolic message found in Scripture and tradition. The classical embodiment of the coincidence view is found in the writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian.

These both reject the Gnostic claims to a secret tradition supplementing Scripture. Apostolic tradition does not add to Scripture but is evidence of how it is correctly to be interpreted. This tradition is found in those churches which were founded by the apostles, who taught men whose successors teach today. These apostolic churches agree as to the content of the Christian message, in marked contrast to the variations among the heretics. It is important to note that it is the church which is the custodian of Scripture and tradition and which has the authentic apostolic message. There was no question of appealing to Scripture or tradition against the church. This is partly because the apostolic tradition was found in the church but not just for this reason: the Holy Spirit preserves the church from error and leads her into the truth. The real concern of Irenaeus and Tertullian was not with the relation between Scripture and tradition but with the identity of ecclesiastical with apostolic teaching. Any exposition of their teaching on Scripture and tradition which fails to show this is to that extent defective. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey”, Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, pp. 39, 40 – bold emphasis mine.)

The ‘ancillary view’ is Lane’s term for the sixteenth-century Protestant view, in which tradition functions as an aid, but not a norm, for the interpretation of Scripture…In spite of claims to the contrary, the Reformers did not return to the ‘coincidence view’…The Reformation posited a degree of discontinuity in church history… (Richard Bauckham, “Tradition In Relation To Scripture and Reason”, in Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, ed. Drewery & Bauckham, p. 122.)

So, TF’s read of the early Church Fathers, or that represented by the above patristic scholars; TF’s regula fidei, or that of the Catholic Church? IMO, the answer to both questions is perspicuous.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”

I have been blogging a little over 2 years now. One of the reoccurring themes I have discerned in the ongoing dialogue between Catholics and Evangelicals is the concept of “faith alone”. I am convinced that many on both sides of the ‘Tiber’ misunderstand and/or misrepresent each other’s position on this issue. In this post, I am going to present a Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”.

From the Vatican approved document, ANNEX TO THE OFFICIAL COMMON STATEMENT, we read:

C) Justification takes place “by grace alone” (JD 15 and 16), by faith alone, the person is justified “apart from works” (Rom 3:28, cf. JD 25). "Grace creates faith not only when faith begins in a person but as long as faith lasts“ (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th.II/II 4, 4 ad 3).The working of God’s grace does not exclude human action: God effects everything, the willing and the achievement, therefore, we are called to strive (cf. Phil 2:12 ff). “As soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit...” (The Formula of Concord, FC SD II,64f; BSLK 897,37ff). [Document accessed online, 11-05-09 – bold emphasis mine.]

From Joseph Fitzmyer’s commentary on Romans 3:28:

At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 [1909], 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.

Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).

Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):

Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).

Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).

See further:

Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.

Marius Victorinus, In ep. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).

Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”).

The phrase also occurs in the writings of Pelagius, Expositio in ep. Romanos 3:28 (ed. A. Souter, 34 [PL 30.663B-C, 692D; PLSup 1.1129]), who argues against sola fides. But his argument shows that the phrase was already current. [Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans - A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, (New York: Doubleday, 1993) pp. 360-361.]

So, as the above evidence demonstrates, there is a Catholic sense to the phrase “faith alone” (even though the exact phrase itself is not in the Bible); but, on the other hand, there is also a sense to the phrase “not by faith alone” (which IS in the Bible): “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Along with Sacred Scripture, the Catholic Church affirms and embraces both concepts.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TurretinFan’s misguided polemical outburst

I am beginning to wonder if there are two separate individuals who post under the name “TurretinFan” (hereafter TF). There is the TF who is calm, collected, articulate—the TF that produced the indexes of online Church Fathers collections, and substantive reflections on Reformed theology; then there is the tempestuous, agitated, confused TF—the TF who produces all the anti-Catholic mischief…I dedicate the rest of this post to the latter TF.

Earlier today TF responded to my November 2, 2009 thread with this emotional post.

TF wrote:

Roman Catholic David Waltz has chimed in with his two cents on the exceedingly minor issue of whether or not Athanasius might have been mocking Liberius when he (Athanasius) mentioned "the eunuchs of Constantius" (link to Waltz's piece). I had even stated in my original post, "But that's an aside." (link to my original post). I take the time to respond because Waltz's post raises some further tangential issues that are worthy of note.

TF is certainly welcome to his opinion as to what constitutes an “exceedingly minor issue”, but I personally believe TF has gone beyond the realm of something “exceedingly minor” when he attributed St. Athanasius with the charge of “mocking Liberius”.

Waltz's main point is probably correct, while his approach thoroughly disreputable. He titles his piece "TurretinFan thinks that Athanasius was mocking Liberius" despite the fact that my actual comment in the aside was merely "it is not unreasonable to think that Athanasius is actually using this passage to mock pope Liberius." The fact that Waltz feels compelled to change my position to a stronger claim regarding Athanasius and Liberius, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s reflect a bit on the above assessment: is it “unreasonable to think that” TF actually believes “Athanasius was mocking Liberius” when he himself makes the claim that “it is not unreasonable”? Is it irrational to come to such an assessment? Does the title of my thread actually make “a stronger claim regarding Athanasius and Liberius”? IMO (H omitted for TF), the answers are clear on these questions.

Rather than beginning his article by addressing Athanasius and Liberius, Waltz immediately attempts to change the argument again to being about whether Athanasius accepted Sola Scriptura, something we've already demonstrated from Athanasius' own writings even on those rare occasions when Waltz has attempted to venture out of the secondary sources (scholars who agree with the conclusion Waltz favors become for the moment "patristic scholars of the highest caliber") into the primary sources.

I have chosen to use secondary sources on the issue of whether or not “Athanasius accepted Sola Scriptura” because it is all too apparent that TF has NO respect for my 25 plus years of study into the Church Fathers. And for the record, the patristic scholars (Jaroslav Pelikan, Philip Schaff, Richard Bauckham, and D. H. Williams) that I cited IN THIS THREAD are certainly of a higher caliber than King, Webster, and White. And let us not forget the respected, though non-patristic, Evangelical scholars (Albert Outler, J. I. Packer, Robert D. Preus) I also cited who are in agreement with Pelikan, Schaff, Bauckham, and Williams. (But perhaps, TF is of the opinion that his own patristic scholarship exceeds them all.)

Eventually, Waltz actually gets around to discussing the matter.

Indeed, after a whopping 1 ½ sentences, I finally get to the point!!! [GRIN]

On the whole, I think Waltz is correct in believing that the editor wished to suggest that the "confession of Peter" might be an allusion to Liberius, rather than suggesting that Liberius was one of Constantine's eunuchs. The reason for thinking this is actually not the reasons that Waltz gives, but from the fact that at this point in the history of Liberius, Liberius had not yet Arianized. That came a few sections later (see Arian History, Part V, Section 41).

Notice that we have NO quote(s) from what I actually wrote in my post—there is a good “reason” for this: I gave NO reason(s) why I believed that the editor “wished to suggest that the ‘confession of Peter’ might be an allusion to Liberius, rather than suggesting that Liberius was one of Constantine's eunuchs.” TF pulled this one out of the air.

However, Waltz's argument itself is quite unconvincing. He refers the reader to section 36 of the history, which praises Liberius prior to Liberius' lapse. The fact that Athanasius praises Liberius at one point doesn't preclude him from mocking Liberius latter.

The section from Athanaius’ pen that gave rise to the supposed “not unreasonable” suggestion from TF that Athansius “mocked Liberius” occurred before the temporary lapse of Liberius. As such, TF’s above construct is nonsensical.

What might change Athanasius' attitude? the less-than-praiseworthy actions of Liberius.

A misreading of what St. Athanasius wrote might accomplish the trick..

In fact, Waltz doesn't make reference to the important fact of Liberius' lapse, something that would have seemed helpful to his case, had he been aware of it. The quotation we are addressing is in section 38, after the praise of Liberius in his first state, but before the actual lapse of Liberius in section 41: "But Liberius after he had been in banishment two years gave way, and from fear of threatened death subscribed." (Athanasius, Arian History, Part 5, Section 41)

Nice try; but, in addition to reading parts V and VI of “History of the Arains” Monday morning, I have read volume IV of A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church – Second Series, cover-to-cover, twice now, and I have also come across the attempted misuse of Liberius’ temporary lapse in at least a dozen anti-Catholic books that I own, and have read. With that said, I fail to see how in any sense the temporary lapse of Liberius “is helpful” in defending St. Athanasius against the charge of “mocking Liberius”.

Why doesn't Waltz mention Liberius' lapse?

First, it is such common knowledge among those who have spent even a tiny amount of time on this issue, and/or period of the Church, that I felt no need to bore my readers. Second, I linked to, and urged my readers to read all of V and VI (which contains the temporary lapse) in my post.

It's hard to believe that Waltz is unaware of it, after studiously researching the context of the quotation provided.

Indeed, and yet it sure seems that is what you would like your readers to believe; hmmmm…what’s up with that?

A more likely explanation is that Waltz is invested in a theory that Athanasius never opposed Liberius (see his prior comments here), and consequently Waltz does not want to acknowledge Athanasius' opposition to Liberius. After all, in the present post Waltz states: "This appears to be yet another ill-conceived attempt to portray St. Athanasius as an opponent of Liberius ... ."

Let’s be very clear on this matter, though I do not believe that St. Athansius was ever in opposition to Liberius, I have VIRTUALLY NOTHING AT STAKE that would preclude me from changing my position on this matter if there existed solid evidence to the contrary—I am not a professional apologist.

What makes Waltz's argument worse is that Waltz actually provides a quotation from Athanasius that proves that Athanasius was not a papist: that Athanasius was not someone who viewed the pope as the universal head of the church...

My oh my TF, have I ever said that St. Athanasius “viewed the pope as the universal head of the church”? I suspect that you know that I have not, at the very least you know that I did not do so in the post of your current polemic. Bad form TF…

What is the jurisdiction of the Roman bishop according to Athanasius? Is it the whole church? No, it is "Romania," that is to say the Roman empire (not the country we call "Romania" today).

St. Athansius held to pretty much what most Eastern Christians still affirm to this day: Rome held a jurisdiction/position of honor—first among equals.

So, while we thank Waltz for bringing some additional light to the matter of Liberius' lapse and Athanasius' opposition to that lapse…

Other than your personal opinion, we have seen nothing in your post that suggests St. Athanasius actually opposed Liberius (let alone “mock” him).

I do not wish to bore my readers, but I think TF needs to read for himself what St. Athanasius actually wrote about Liberious’ temporary lapse:

But Liberius after he had been in banishment two years gave way, and from fear of threatened death subscribed. Yet even this only shews their violent conduct, and the hatred of Liberius against the heresy, and his support of Athanasius, so long as he was suffered to exercise a free choice. For that which men are forced by torture to do contrary to their first judgment, ought not to be considered the willing deed of those who are in fear, but rather of their tormentors. They however attempted everything in support of their heresy, while the people in every Church, preserving the faith which they had learnt, waited for the return of their teachers, and condemned the Antichristian heresy, and all avoid it, as they would a serpent. (“History of the Arians” Part V.41 – NPNF 4.284.)

Now, TF, can you honestly read the above and still maintain that St. Athanasius was opposing Liberius?

Grace and peace,


Monday, November 2, 2009

TurretinFan thinks that Athanasius was mocking Liberius

Ignoring the fact that patristic scholars of the highest caliber reject the notion that St. Athanasius embraced a Protestant version of sola scriptura (nor ANY early Church Father; see THIS THREAD for examples of the scholarly consensus), TurretinFan (hereafter TF), continues to advance the theory. And it is not just his attempts to portray St. Athanasius as a proponent of SS that is troubling, TF also supports the notion that St. Athanasius attempted to “mock pope Liberius.” From the 6th installment of TF’s ongoing diatribe directed at Matthew Bellisario we read:

5) Athanasius was not unaware of the passage about the Ethiopian Eunuch. Let's see what he thinks of it:

The Eunuch of Ethiopia indeed, though he understood not what he read [Acts 8:27], believed the words of Philip, when he taught him concerning the Saviour; but the eunuchs of Constantius cannot endure the confession of Peter [FN: Matt. xvi. 16, allusion to Liberius? vid. Hard. Conc. t. 2. p. 305 E.], nay, they turn away when the Father manifests the Son, and madly rage against those who say, that the Son of God is His genuine Son, thus claiming as a heresy of eunuchs, that there is no genuine and true offspring of the Father.

- Athanasius, History of the Arians, Part V, Section 38

As the editor notes, it is not unreasonable to think that Athanasius is actually using this passage to mock pope Liberius. (Bold emphasis mine.)

This appears to be yet another ill-conceived attempt to portray St. Athanasius as an opponent of Liberius (for another such attempt, and critique, see THIS THREAD).

If TF had only taken the time to read the full context surrounding his above selected quote, he would have discerned (if but a bit of objectivity is applied) that if St. Athanasius was in fact alluding to Liberius (I believe that he was) when referring to the “confession of Peter”, he was doing so in a positive, supportive sense!

I urge everyone to read, in their entirety, parts V and VI of St. Athanasius’ Historia Arianorum (pages 282-287 in volume IV of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers -second series; online access HERE). If one takes the time to do so, one will discover that St. Athanasius clearly extolled Liberius, and did not “mock” him at all. Note the following selection:

But as it would seem, like madmen, having fixed themselves in the bonds of impiety, they are drawing down upon their own heads a more severe judgment. Thus from the first they spared not even Liberius, Bishop of Rome, but extended their fury even to those parts; they respected not his bishopric, because it was an Apostolical throne; they felt no reverence for Rome, because she is the Metropolis of Romania ; they remembered not that formerly in their letters they had spoken of her Bishops as Apostolical men. (Athanasius, Historia Arianorum, Part V.35 – NPNF 4.282 – bold emphasis mine.)

Plotting against St. Athanasius, the emperor Contantius (an Arian supporter), “sends a certain eunuch named Eusebius” to Liberius in an attempt to persuade him, “to subscribe against Athanasius, and to hold communion with the Arians.” In part V.36, Liberius soundly rebukes Eusebius, and it is this rebuke that Athanasius, a bit later (V.38) references as “the confession of Peter”.

No, St. Athanasius did not “mock pope Liberius”; rather, he praises Liberius, and the “Apostolical throne” that this Bishop of Rome sat on.

Grace and peace,


ADDENDUM: Just in case TF believes that the “editor” (A. Robertson) supports his view (i.e. that St. Athanasius was attempting “mock pope Liberius”, I think it is important to point out the actual note referenced was John Henry Newman’s (though the English translation was that of Miles Atkinson). Newman’s notes and the original edition in HTML HERE; PDF version HERE, and HERE.

Interesting enough, TF has listed the PDF version in his Library of Fathers – Index Page.