Thursday, January 31, 2008

For a good friend…forgiveness of post-baptismal sin/s in the early Church.

A frequent poster here at Articuli Fidei (Rory) and myself were recently having a conversation concerning the development of doctrine and the boundaries that each of us would be willing to accept for discerning between legitimate and illegitimate development. For instance, I said I would be very uncomfortable embracing infant baptism as a legitimate development if the apostles did not baptize infants. I was then asked if I knew of any significant changes in Church doctrine and/or practice which might pose a similar ‘problem’ and mentioned the forgiveness of post-baptismal sin in the early Church. Rory seemed a bit skeptical as I rattled off from memory my take on this particular development, so I have decided to create a brief post outlining some of the specifics.

For the sake of brevity (and a certain laziness on my part), I am going to limit all of the following quotes from one source: Kenan B. Osborne’s (O.F.M.) Reconciliation & Justification – The Sacrament and Its Theology (Paulist Press – 1990).

In this chapter [“In The Patristic Period”] we will consider the emergence of a ritual of reconciliation as we find it documented in the pages of church history. Remarkably, it is not until the middle of the second century that there is a clear indication in the available data of such a ritual. Nonetheless, even from the middle of the second century onward there are, at first, only scattered historical data which indicate the way in which the early patristic church through a ritual isolated, repelled and negated sin. At the height of the patristic period, i.e. in the fifth and sixth centuries, one finds a clearer picture of both the theology and of the liturgy of reconciliation in this period of church history.

One must keep in mind that in the history of this sacrament there has not been an organic development. One generation’s practice did not, at times, lead smoothly into the next generation’s practice. From the patristic period to the twentieth century, there have been several “official” positions of the church as regards the ritual of this sacrament
. (Pages 52, 53.)

The post-apostolic age up to Hermas (c. 140) provides no identifiable references to any ritualized practice of reconciliation…E. Bourque, among many others, notes that in this sub-apostolic period there was a general tendency toward rigorism (enkratism), so that, once baptized, the Christian was seen as someone who ought never to sin again. Post-baptismal sin was not something which Christians of that era took for granted. (Page 53.)

It was Hermas (c. 140), a lay person apparently connected with the church at Rome, who first clearly mentions the possibility of a penitential rite for serious sins committed after baptism. Whether he had initiated something hitherto unknown in the church, or whether he is propagating something that was already present, is controverted. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that in Hermas’ writings we see the following: a.) After baptism there is one and only one possibility for reconciliation with the church b.) This reconciliation is ecclesial and has a public quality about it…Hermas’ writings affect the discipline of the church for centuries. In the west, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Pacian, Leo, and Gregory the Great, to name only a few, clearly attest to the unrepeatability of penance. In the east, the Alexandrians, Clement and Origen, echo this discipline of unrepeatability…It is only through the influence of the Celtic approach to penance, in the early middle ages, that there is a change in this discipline.

One should also note that in both east and west, during the entire patristic period, there was (a) no “confession of devotion” as we find it in later ages, (b) no private confession, such as that of a later age, and (c) no confession of venial sin.
(Pages 53, 54.)

In spite of some unclarity in the writings of Hermas, we can say that a public form of reconciliation, which could be received only once in a lifetime, became the “canon law” of the entire church, both east and west, for the next nine centuries. (Page 55.)

The rest of the chapter (pages 55- 83) is devoted to citations (and commentary) from the writings of various Church Fathers in support of the above claims. There is also a brief discussion concerning the tria capitalia, the sins of apostasy, adultery, and murder, which some Fathers excluded from the list of sins that the one time (only) rite of reconciliation could forgive, and as such, treated these three as “unforgivable” (post-baptismal) sins.

Let the comments begin…

Grace and peace,


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mormonism and Margaret Barker - Part 4

This fourth installment of my MMB series will delve into the following “observation” from my initial MMB post:

Fourth observation – Barker teaches that much of the Bible has experienced significant corruption, and many important “other” Scriptures have either been suppressed or lost.

Certainly the later portion of the above is a definitive part of LDS apologetics, theology and the LDS Scriptures. However, Barker’s first premise has some significant criticisms within the historical setting of the LDS paradigm. Though a few LDS authors have embraced many of the assessments associated with the “higher-criticism” of the Bible, such views are at odds with some prior LDS presidents, apostles and scholars. It would literally take an entire volume to give full justice to this issue, but with that in mind, I shall limit myself to the following selections, which should (IMHO) prove to be satisfactory in establishing some credence to my assertion:

Such dissecting as this [higher criticism] can have but one general result—death of reverence for the Bible; death of faith in it, as the revealed word of God. The authenticity of the Bible by it is left doubtful; for while this method of criticism succeeds, with those who affect it, in proving that Moses is not the author of the five books for so many centuries accredited to him, it fails to tell us who is the author of those books. This Higher Criticism tells us that there are two and perhaps more, authors of the book of Isaiah's prophecies; that the last twenty-seven chapters were not written by the great Hebrew prophet whose name the book bears; but it fails to tell us who is the author of them. Nor can it be determined even when the unknown author lived. The same is true as to the other books of the Old Testament upon whose authenticity this system casts its shadow. The system is wholly destructive in its tendencies; it unsettles everything, it determines nothing, except that everything with reference to the authenticity, time of composition, inspiration, and credibility of the Old Testament is indeterminable. “It leaves everything hanging in the air,” says one able critic of Higher Criticism. “It begins in guesses and ends in fog. At all events the result leaves us in a hopeless muddle, and, when that is the only thing settled, the proposed solution is self-condemned.” (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol.2, pp.6, 7.)

It is here where it can be proclaimed as the voice of the western hemisphere proclaiming the sublime truth that God did not leave himself without witness among the races and nations of men that inhabited the western world. It is here that its importance is felt as the voice of sleeping nations speaking as out of the dust to the whole world, not only vindicating the quality of justice in God, in that he did not leave the inhabitants of the western hemisphere to perish in ignorance of himself and the plan of life and salvation which had been ordained for the redemption of mankind; but also in that it bears witness to the world that the collection of books known as the Bible is the word of God, authentic, credible, and binding upon the consciences of men. It is a Witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the truth of the Bible, which in value far surpasses all the evidences discovered in Egypt, the valley of the Euphrates, the Sinaitic Peninsula, and the land of Palestine throughout the nineteenth century. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol.2, p. 23.)

What a testimony we have here for the truth of the Bible! What a number of its incidents are here confirmed! The Higher Criticism questions the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, but here is an entry made in an ancient record in America at least 575 years B.C., attributing the authorship of five books to Moses, specifying that they gave an account of the creation of the world and also of Adam and Eve, "who were our first parents;" so that there can be no question as to this record brought by Lehi's colony from Jerusalem to America being identical with the Pentateuch of our Bible. In addition to the incident of the creation, and Adam and Eve, this entry upon the Nephite records also confirms the Bible narrative concerning Jacob and also of Joseph, his son, who was sold into captivity and taken to Egypt. Reference is made also to the subsequent exodus of Israel from the land of Egypt. Mention also is made of the prophets and their prophecies in this record, making special mention of the name of Jeremiah. Some of the writings of Jeremiah were also included in this record. The first Nephi also makes special mention of Isaiah by name, and describes in what manner he read from his writings upon the plates of brass, to his brethren. And what is better yet, he quotes, in his record, many passages from the prophet Isaiah. At this point it is well to call attention to the fact that the Higher Criticism holds that the book of Isaiah in our Old Testament is composite; that is, it claims that it is composed by at least two, and perhaps by seven different authors; that the last twenty-seven chapters certainly were not written by Isaiah. The best answer that can be made to these claims, on the part of those disposed to defend the Isaiah authorship of the book of prophecies which bears that prophet's name, is to say that from two hundred years B.C. the authorship of the prophecies, as they now stand in the Bible, have been attributed to Isaiah. But here is testimony, in this first book of Nephi, which shows that as early as 550 years B.C., a certain collection of prophecies in a record taken from Jerusalem, are attributed to Isaiah; and what is best of all a transcription is made from these prophecies into the Nephite record, which corresponds to chapters 48, 49, 50, 51 and 59, and also fragments of chapter 29; being a very large amount of the very part of Isaiah's prophecies of which the authenticity is questioned. Here are at least five of the twenty-seven chapters in dispute accounted for and fragments of another, while of the first part of the prophecies of Isaiah there is a transcription into the Nephite record corresponding to chapters from two to fourteen; so that so far as the authenticity of the book of Isaiah's prophecies is concerned, and the five books of Moses, the Book of Mormon is the most important of all witnesses. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol. 2, pp.25-27.)

After he had completed his ministry in Judea, the resurrected Messiah appeared among the Nephites, in fulfillment of his promise to their fathers by the prophets. He announced his divinity, taught them the gospel, conferred divine authority upon certain men whom He chose among them, authorized the establishment of the Church for their instruction and development in righteousness. He taught them every moral truth which He had imparted to those living on the eastern hemisphere. He fulfilled all the prophecies relating to him up to this point in the Jewish scriptures, which their fathers had carried with them from Jerusalem. He assured them of the reality of life beyond the grave, and, in a word, planted here the whole system of truth which makes for the salvation of men, and is called the fulness of the everlasting gospel. The Book of Mormon gives a voice to the ruined cities and half buried monuments upon this land of America. It confirms all the revealed truths made known in the Jewish scriptures. In sustaining the truth, inspiration and authenticity of the Bible, the Book of Mormon is more valuable than a thousand Rosetta Stones; it is superior to all the clay tablet libraries found in old Babylon and Egypt….(B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol.1, p.364.)

The present position of “higher critics” is, that the Hexateuch, as they call it, is composed of, at least, four independent documents: The Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly Code, which, for the sake of brevity, they call J, E. D, and P, respectively. The Yahwist and the Elohist documents may, they think, have been written some time between 800 and 700 B.C. The Deuteronomist they assign to some year between 650 and 625 B.C. The date of the Priestly Code they give as any time between 525 and 425 B.C. Some of the critics hold, however, that the entire Pentateuch belongs to some time after the Babylonian exile. The five books of Moses were, accordingly, not written by Moses, but by authors who lived much later, and by editors who pieced their work together the best they could. There were a number of such editors. Wellhausen found traces of, but Kuenen thought would answer the purpose. [p.261] Nephi refers to the five books in question as “the Books of Moses.” That is his testimony to a skeptical world. Thus, the Book of Mormon confirms the Bible at a time when so-called higher critics are doing all in their power to destroy the belief in the divine authority of the Scriptures. It is a ‘new witness’ as President B. H. Roberts so aptly has called it, for the authenticity of the Bible. It claims no other position in sacred literature. It is the ‘stick of Ephraim,’ joined to the ‘stick of Judah,’ according to the word of the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:15-19) (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4, p.260.)

DURING the second half of the nineteenth century there was a determined effort launched on the part of certain scholars to tear asunder and destroy the authenticity of the holy scriptures. They were influenced by the same spirit which prompted the organic evolutionists. This plan has been called “Higher Criticism,” but in reality it should be called "destructive criticism." The advocates of this theory assumed to have the wisdom by which they could discover, without Urim or Thummim, but by their own wisdom, a difference in style in the various books of the Bible. This difference they proclaimed was discovered within paragraphs as well as in chapters of the various books. Moreover, they taught that in many of the books, particularly the five books of Moses and Joshua, Isaiah and others, there was evidence that indicated that parts could not have been written at the time indicated by these books, but at some later date. In this manner of criticism unknown writers had to be provided to take care of these theories. Some of the passages, like that dealing with Isaiah's prophecy naming Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-4), they maintained were written by authors after the prophetic events had taken place. To their way of thinking even God could not predict the birth of a man over one hundred years before he was born. In the Book of Genesis they thought they discovered combinations of writers, and that the account of the creation and of Adam's advent in the Garden of Eden was in conflict with itself. These critics were not like the prophets of old of whom Peter speaks: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21.) These learned men do not claim to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost, but by their scientific training they have spoken and given utterance.

In their contention, through their uninspired skill, they maintain that they were able to discover that the five books of Moses were not the works of Moses. So they concluded to give these books to several authors living at various times. Genesis, said they, was compiled by some enterprising scribes hundreds of years later. So the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua had to be assigned to writers of various and later times. Moreover, their doctrine was that the stories of creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam's fall, recorded in Genesis, were taken from the myths and legends of the Assyrians and Babylonians. It was the accepted view at that time that “the Mosaic age was outside the scope of written records.”

In addition to this severe criticism of the Pentateuch these critics assigned the Book of Isaiah to three, at least, different writers. The entire study was, of course, speculative, and could be nothing more. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 490 – 491.)

However, from the competent advocates of Biblical authenticity, we may make a brief summary. We have learned:

That writing and record keeping, from the archaeological discoveries were long anterior to Abraham.

That many parts of the Bible formerly considered legendary and mythical, have been confirmed by archaeological research.

That many events recorded in Genesis, previously viewed skeptically, are now confirmed by records that have been discovered.

That Moses did not get the accounts of the Garden of Eden, the fall, the flood, from Assyrian or Babylonian sources.

That the “four accounts,” J., E., P. and D., are without any foundation in fact.

That there is no sound and justifiable reason for dividing the Book of Isaiah among two or three authors, and placing a great part of it as late as the sixth or fifth centuries B.C.

That the earliest religion known was not worshiping multiple gods. The worship of idols and multiple gods came later, contrary to what is written in every school textbook on ancient history at the present day. The earliest religion was the worship of one God.

That the so-called “higher criticism,” which is destructive criticism, is based on “unsound assumptions,” that are unreliable.

Above all of this, members of the Church have double assurance. We have the word of the Lord that Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name. Chapters called in question by these critics are found, or quoted in part, in the Book of Mormon. The Five Books of Moses were in possession of the Nephites on this continent, and therefore Deuteronomy or any other part could not have been written after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Our Savior quoted constantly from Isaiah, and the books of Moses and other parts of the Old Testament. In his conflict with the devil in the wilderness the Savior gave all three quotations from Deuteronomy. After his resurrection, when talking with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, it is written: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27.) Later when he met with the disciples in an upper room, it is written: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me." (Luke 24:44.) This quotation the destructive critics should memorize:

And it came to pass, that the begger died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:22-31.) (Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 513 – 514.)

And the surprising thing that the Scrolls show us that the text of the Bible has not been so much altered—for actually they show that it has been on the whole preserved with astonishing integrity—as mutilated by the removal of material from the original…By furnishing us with older texts of the Bible than any heretofore known, they show very clearly that present misunderstanding of the scriptures are not due to corruptions of the text but rather to serious omissions and deletions. (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, 1967 ed., p. 26.)

Ancient American prophets, six hundred years before Christ, foresaw the coming of Columbus and those who followed. These prophets saw the establishment of the colonies, the War for Independence, and predicted the outcome. These prophecies are contained in a volume of scripture called the Book of Mormon. This sacred record, a companion to the Holy Bible which it confirms, is an added witness to the divine mission of Jesus as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. How I wish every American and every living soul would read the Book of Mormon. I testify to you that it is true. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.50-51.)

[Note: all bold and underline emphasis in the above quotes are mine.]

One should also take note of the following collection of essays by Dr. Sidney B. Sperry:

Now, I sincerely wonder to myself if the future generations of Latter-days Saints will embrace the methodologies of the liberal higher critic school of thought (which certainly includes Margaret Barker), or if they will perhaps give greater stock to what their presidents, apostles and former scholars of renown have said…

Grace and peace,