Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Beggars All and James Swan: from bad to worse...

James Swan of the Beggars All blog, on 04-05-15, added "Addendum #2" to his recent thread (link), that I commented on in my last post here at AF (link).

He begins "Addendum #2" with the following highly subjective opinion:

The response was written by an ex-defender of Rome (if I recall correctly) with whom this blog has interacted with over the years. Of my interactions with this blogger, I've noticed the imprecise defining of theological positions (the very thing I'm being accused of with his latest response).

James certainly has the right to share his opinion(s) with us, but I hope he realizes that such subjective opinions will not carry much weight with informed readers. Before moving on to his ONE example of my supposed "imprecise defining of theological positions", I would like to point out his statement that I was "an ex-defender of Rome" is "imprecise". What precisely does he mean by "Rome" ??? Does he mean the Rome of the historic Roman empire ? Does he mean the "Roman Church" as understood by Martin Luther, in distinction from the Papacy ? Does he mean the Bishops of Rome, in distinction from the official documents of the historic "Catholic Tradition" ? Does he mean the Roman Catholic Church as a separate denomination from the hundreds of other Christian sects ? (Hope everyone realizes that I am using the above questioning as a hyperbolic function.)

James then wrote:

For instance, in our previous interaction, the blogger thinks Luther held the "Roman church" is a true church, but failed to account for Luther's important distinction between the Roman church and the papal church. He used a quote without a context (that when read in context, demonstrates the distinction).

In our earlier "interactions", James had the decency to refer to me by name, but now, I am just "the blogger" (condescension ?). Be that as it may, I find the phrase, "the blogger thinks Luther held the "Roman Church" is a true church, to be "imprecise", and this because it gives one the initial impression that Luther himself did not believe that the Roman Catholic Church of his day retained enough truth to still be considered a Christian church; that this is something I just 'think' he held to. Thankfully, James does clear this matter up in an older post of his; note the following:

Mr. Waltz is accurate: the particular quote he utilized does point out that Luther did not deny the Roman church was a Christian church: "I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy."

It seems that James' charge of imprecision has nothing to do with whether or not the quote I provided was accurate, for he agrees with me that, "Luther did not deny the Roman church was a Christian church"; which, for the record, was EXACTLY what I was attempting to convey in my original post (link). With this in mind, I think it is important ask why James believes that my quote is "out of context" if the distinction (the fact the Luther separated the Papacy from the "Roman Church") he obsesses on is not included ? (I suspect that I am not the only one who believes that no less than five specific threads on this issue, plus the "Addendum #2", lies within the realm of obsession).

In my 'book', for a quote to be construed as "out of context", the quote would have to convey a meaning that is in some sense untrue. Since James has clearly stated that the quote I provided "is accurate" and conveys the fact that, "Luther did not deny the Roman church was a Christian church", I find little value in his charge.

Further, I would argue that if one obsesses on the distinction that Luther believed the Pope/Papacy to be the "Antichrist" (something pretty much everyone who has knows anything about Luther's beliefs is quite aware of), while leaving out his belief concerning the "Roman church", the odds of misconstruing Luther is much greater. [Ask yourselves this: how many times have you come upon the quote that I provided in my post, in treatments on Luther from authors who write from an anti-Catholic position ? Compare those rare instances with the number of times one finds reference(s) to his position on the Pope/Papacy.]

Before moving on to rest of James' "Addendum #2", I would like to provide a quote from the first of James' five threads on this issue:

Since Rome officially anathematized the Gospel at Trent, I don't consider her part of the Catholic Church. The debate on this amongst the reformed still goes on. In fact, it was debated by James White and Douglas Wilson: ARE ROMAN CATHOLICS ARE BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST? . Here would be a good example of something I part company with Luther on, and even many of my Reformed friends. I don't think the papacy can be extracted from the Church of Rome and still have the term "Church of Rome" make sense. (link)

Am I the only person who finds it a bit strange that James has "part[ed] company with Luther on, and even many of my Reformed friends", on an issue he has spent so much time documenting ???

[BTW, the debate referenced by James is now available on YouTube: LINK.]

James then wrote:

I would argue that the Watchtower's view of faith in relation to works, and faith and its relationship to the righteousness of Christ (Luther's "great exchange") are fundamentally different than what Luther held to. So in his present criticism, the blogger equates Luther's view of sola fide and the Watchtower's alleged view of sola fide, without actually presenting Luther's view of sola fide and comparing it to what he purports the Watchtower believes. Nor have I come across anything from the Watchtower in which they actually attempt to explain Luther's view in comparison to their own view.

I am anything but an 'expert' on "Luther's view of sola fide"; but, I am somewhat of an 'expert' on the Jehovah's Witnesses current (and past) take on this matter. With that said, I do not recall EVER stating that the JWs current understanding of sola fide is identical (the same) to that of Luther. (Though not an expert on Luther, I am aware of at least three very important distinctions: the relationship between baptism/baptismal regeneration and faith; the issue of whether or not one who has been justified by faith [alone] can fall into unbelief; the unique JW 'two class' distinction.) With that said, I would argue that James has completely missed the point I was attempting convey: JWs currently believe that one is justified by faith [alone], not by some faith and works construct—works/obedience, "simply demonstrates that their faith is genuine".

James then focuses on only one the three selections I provided in my post; the one, which of course, can be most easily distorted. Interestingly enough, he even gets the document I quoted from wrong, attributing it to the 1988 2 volume document, Insight on the Scriptures, not the 1971 document I actually quoted from, Aid to Bible Understanding. Though the document Insight on the Scriptures, borrows without any change a considerable portion of the material found in Aid to Bible Understanding, the two are separate, distinct works. For instance, the last selection he provides from "This document", is not to be found at all in Aid to Bible Understanding. Since the content of the two documents does not represent any change in the JWs position on faith [alone], I will relegate his error to sloppy referencing.

James also posted:

"Missing is any discussion of Christ taking upon himself the sin of the world..."

If James thinks that JWs reject the clear Biblical teaching found in John 1:29 and 1 John 2:2, et al. ("Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"; "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" - KJV), he is grossly mistaken. The affirmation of this teaching is found is dozens of JW documents, including both the Aid to Bible Understanding and Insight on the Scriptures (see the contributions in both documents under the "ATONEMENT" section).

[BTW, I sincerely wonder if James, an avowed Calvinist, believes that Jesus, the Lamb of God, has taking upon Himself the sin/s of the "unregenerate" ???]

James ends his opinionated piece with:

I'm not entirely sure of the motivations of this blogger, but the application of equivocation to distinct theologies leads me to wonder if this particular person has embraced some form of a universal Fatherhood of God and theBrotherhood of Man approach to Christian theism (or perhaps theism in general).

Since I do not believe that the JWs current understanding of sola fide is identical (the same) to that of Luther, the charge of "equivocation" is baseless. As for "the motivations of this blogger", I wanted to clear up some misconceptions concerning the theology of the sect I was born into, and have kept a keen eye on throughout my life. [BTW James, what are your "motivations" ???]

Though much more could be related, I shall end my reflections on James' charges for now. I sincerely hope that others than James and myself have some shared interest in the issues that have been touched on...

Grace and peace,



guy fawkes said...

I am actually a bit surprised Swan didn't dismiss you because your were not using "original sources".
I am not sure what he means by "original sources" but he sure says it a lot when he wants to discount anyone who speaks ill of Luther ( why? Swan is not even a Lutheran ).
Perhaps Swan reads old documents in the original German. I don't know. Do you?

David Waltz said...

Hi Guy,

I am pretty sure that Mr. Swan is not fluent in German, so he relies on English translations for his interpretations of Luther.

As for Mr. Swan's religion, he is a member of the "Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church", which is one of the schismatic churches in the United Reformed Churches in North America denomination—a denomination of some "110+ churches"—which split from the Christian Reformed Church in 1996. (See this LINK for more info on the URCNA.)

Grace and peace,