Tuesday, May 26, 2009

John Calvin vs. “Emotional Exegesis”—Jesus is Michael the Archangel

I am starting a new ‘series’ today under the heading: “Emotional Exegesis”. As the title suggests, this new series will focus on examples of exegesis derived primarily from subjective emotionalism, rather than on objective logical principals.

The first post in this series deals with claim made by modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses that, “Jesus is Michael the Archangel”. I cannot think of one of my 50 plus anti-JW books which does not mention this JW belief in a negative light. A simple Google search reveals the same, as well as the bit more refined Google Book search. But are these myriad of critiques based on solid, sola scriptura, exegetical principles, or, does one sense emotionalism behind the responses? Let’s examine what 3 famous, Reformed theologians, noted for their adherence to the doctrine of sola scriptura, have written.

First, John Calvin:

The twelfth chapter commenced, as we stated in yesterday’s Lecture, with the angel’s prediction as to the future state of the Church after the manifestation of Christ It was to be subject to many miseries, and hence this passage would soothe the sorrow of Daniel, and of all the pious, as he still promises safety to the Church through the help of God. Daniel therefore represented Michael as the guardian of the Church, and God had enjoined this duty upon Christ, as we learn from the 10th chapter of John, (ver. 28, 29.) As we stated yesterday, Michael may mean an angel; but I embrace the opinion of those who refer this to the person of Christ, because it suits the subject best to represent him as standing forward for the defense of his elect people. He is called the mighty prince, because he naturally opposed the unconquered fortitude of God to those dangers to which the angel represents the Church to be subject. We well know the very slight causes for which terror often seizes our minds, and when we begin to tremble, nothing can calm our tumult and agitation. The angel then in treating of very grievous contests, and of the imminent danger of the Church, calls Michael the mighty prince. As if he had said, Michael should be the guardian and protector of the elect people, he should exercise immense power, and he alone without the slightest doubt should be sufficient for their protection. Christ confirms the same assertion, as we just; now saw, in the 10th chapter of John. He says all his elect were given him by his father, and none of them should perish, because his father was greater than all; no one, says he, shall pluck my sheep out of my hand. My father, who gave them me, is greater than all; meaning, God possesses infinite power, and displays it for the safety of those whom he has chosen before the creation of the world, and he has committed it to me, or has deposited it in my hands. We now perceive the reason of this epithet, which designates Michael as the great prince. (Calvin’s Commentaries on The Prophet Daniel, Vol. II, Baker reprint, vol. XIII, pp. 369, 370.)

Second, John Gill:

Another prophecy in Dan. xii. 1, 2, 3. represents the second and personal coming of Christ ; for he is meant by Michael, who is as God, as his name signifies, equal to him ; the great prince, the prince of the kings of the earth, and the head of all principalities and powers. (A Complete Body of Practical and Doctrinal Divinity, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1987 reprint, p. 617.)

And third, Jonathan Edwards:

When Lucifer rebelled and set up himself as a head in opposition to God and Christ, and set himself as a head in opposition to God and Christ, and drew away a great number of angels, the Son of God, manifested himself as an opposite head, and appeared graciously to dissuade and restrain by his grace the elect angels from hearkening to Lucifer’s temptation, so that they were upheld and preserved eternal destruction at this time of great danger by the free and sovereign distinguishing grace of Christ. Herein Christ was the Saviour of the elect angels, for thought he did not save them as he did elect men from the ruin they had already deserved, and were condemned to, and the miserable, state they were already in, yet he saved them from eternal destruction they were in great danger of, and otherwise would have fallen into with the other angels. The elect angels joined with him, the glorious Michael, as their captain, while the other angels hearkened to Lucifer and joined him, and then was that literally true that fulfilled afterwards figuratively. Rev xii. “When there was war in heaven : Michael and his angels fought against the dragon ; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not ; neither was there place found any more heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world ; he was case out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, Banner of Truth, 1979 reprint, p. 606.)

So, it sure seems to me the teaching of the JWs that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, is not nearly as ‘heretical’ as so many adherents of sola scriptura would have us to believe.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

James White’s 1995 essay returns

This week’s first thread was to be on Calvin and his take on Michael the Archangel as the pre-incarnate Christ; however, a post I have recently read from the ‘pen’ of James White has lead me to create a thread in response to his musings. In his 05/16/2009 BLOG POST James wrote:

Years ago in a written debate on the claims of Roman Catholicism I pointed out the bankruptcy of the constantly repeated slogan that states that Rome is the church of the past 2,000 years. The fact that Newman had to create his development hypothesis proves that the claim is empty: the early centuries did not embrace, as part of their faith, so much that defines modern Roman Catholic dogma. I have often pointed to Nicea as a convenient and important date in church history and asked which of the bishops there embraced, as part of the Christian faith, such concepts as transubstantiation, purgatory, the thesaurus meritorum, Papal Infallibility, the Marian dogmas, etc. and etc. Now, we do not have an exhaustive record of every sermon preached by every bishop who was at the Council of Nicea. In fact, we don't even have an exhaustive list of their names, for that matter. But remember, it is Rome's claim that she is the church, the same church, that has existed since Pentecost. She, uniquely, bears Christ's authority. Is this not the claim? So, if it is, then it should follow that this claim could garner positive documentation, correct? We should be able to discern these beliefs in the surviving sermons and records of that period, should we not?

The actual claim is that the same Church our Lord established in the first century, is the same Church we find in communion with the Bishop of Rome today. This does not deny that doctrine develops, for ALL must admit that it does. The doctrine of the Trinity clearly took centuries to develop; the Evangelical “Gospel” took nearly 1500 years to develop! To state that every doctrine that the Catholic Church now embraces was not ‘developed’ by the time of Nicea is a fact all knowledgeable Catholics affirm—the issue that is being avoided is that NONE of the unique doctrines embraced by Evangelicalism can be found prior to Nicea; and in reality, prior to Luther (Wycliffe may be a possible exception), including sola scriptura which James attempts to defend via a selection from an old treatment published back in 1995; James continues his post with:

How can a challenge that notes the evolutionary nature of Roman dogma over time, which stands at complete odds with the claim that Rome is the same church over 2000 years of history, be based upon sola scriptura? We are not told. But we are told that those bishops would have rejected sola scriptura! Really? So when I quote Athanasius not only asserting the sufficiency of Scripture, but demonstrate that he consistently argued for the deity of Christ upon that bedrock of truth, and point out that his actions in opposing the entire ecclesiastical structure of his day (including the bishop of Rome) are utterly incompatible with the modern Roman understanding of scripture and tradition and magisterium, what will be the response? "He's just one theologian" possibly, as Gerry Matatics was want to do in such situations? It is hard to say. But compare the shallow sounding mockery of the sufficiency of the Scriptures found in the last lines with the words of Psalm 119. Compare such Roman-inspired error with Jesus' own view of Scripture. Such empty mockery rings very hollow when compared with the biblical testimonies to the Word's sufficiency.

But let us allow Athanasius, himself at Nicea (though not yet a bishop), to refute this cavil against divine truth. I am grateful to announce that the work on scriptural sufficiency that originally came out in 1995 is coming out again! This work, with chapters by R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Sinclair Ferguson, addresses many facets of this vitally important topic. I contributed a lengthy chapter on the early church's view, and I focused a good bit on Athanasius, starting with the best Rome has to offer in citations from him, then, having provided the relevant context, moving to the positive testimonies he provided. In celebration of the re-release of that book in the near future, I provide that material. Let the reader compare the shallow triumphalism of Rome with a sober discussion of what this early writer actually said, and what he actually meant.

James then provides a somewhat lengthy quote from the 1995 work, but did not give the title: Sola Scriptura! – The Protestant Position on the Bible (James’ essay in the book is, “Sola Scriptura and the early Church”, pp. 27-62).

I have previously dealt with this essay in two older threads here at Articuli Fidei: The 05-22-08 Dividing Line webcast and The 05/22/08 Dividing Line webcast - part 2. James’ DL program seems to have been prompted by a quote from the Baptist patristic scholar D.H. Williams, that I had provided in THIS PRECEEDING POST.

One will notice from the comments sections of the above threads that virtually no response has been given to my reflections; I sincerely wonder if the silence will continue…

Grace and peace,


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The “worship” of Jesus in the Bible

A “team” member, and frequent poster at the Beggars All blog, who goes by the name “Rhology”, started a new thread two days ago with the title: How Roman Dogma Affects a Defense of the Deity of Christ.

The thread begins with:

One major thrust of any biblical defense of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is to point out the places in the New Testament in which He explicitly receives worship.

Rhology then invokes four NT passages, which he believes lends support to his apologia. Three of the four (John 4:35-38; Rev. 19:10, 22:8), in reality, serve to weaken his defense, while the fourth (Rev. 5:11) is open to more than one interpretation.

Though I have previously dealt with the core issues raised by Rhology in his new post (see THIS THREAD), I would now like to expand a bit further on this.

The fundamental ‘problem’ with Rhology’s assertions is the fact that the term proskuneō is used in different senses in the Bible—especially so when one references the LXX (Septuagint). Perhaps the most pertinent verse in the NT is Rev. 3:9 where we read:

Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship (proskuneō) before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (ASV)

Similar instances of the act of “worship” (proskuneō) before the saints of God are found in the OT:

Thus saith Jehovah, The labor of Egypt, and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall go after thee, in chains they shall come over; and they shall fall down (LXX - proskuneō) unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God. (Is. 45:14 - ASV)

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down (LXX - proskuneō) to thee with their faces to the earth, and lick the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah; and they that wait for me shall not be put to shame. (Is. 49:23 - ASV)

And the sons of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down (LXX - proskuneō) at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee The city of Jehovah, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. (Is. 60:14 - ASV)

There is also the instance where Moses states that all the servants of Pharaoh will render proskuneō to him:

And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down (LXX – proskuneō) themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. (Ex. 11:8 - ASV)

As well as the passage Rhology attempts to deflect:

And David said to all the assembly, Now bless Jehovah your God. And all the assembly blessed Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and bowed down (LXX - proskuneō) their heads, and worshipped Jehovah, and the king. (1 Chronicles 29:20 - ASV) [Rhology’s assertion that the above is “not in a religious context”, is just plain silly.]

So, in ending, that Jesus, the long awaited Messianic king, the eschatological “Son of Man”, the great Prince, et al. receives proskuneō should come as no surprise. However, to then deduce that this act denotes an act of worship directed to the one true God, is to jump to a conclusion that has little (any?) Biblical support. Without the regula fidei of the early Church, one is left with little ammunition to support Rhology’s claim that Jesus was worshipped in a full, liturgical sense.

Grace and peace,