Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason Engwer, “faith alone”, justification, imputation vs. infusion…

Last week in the combox of a thread at the Beggars All blog (LINK), I responded (LINK) to a combox post by John Bugay who wrote:

In another vein, T.F. Torrance, in his 1947 work "The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers" has written very convincingly that the generation of Apostolic Fathers from 1 Clement through the next 100 years or so had lost the concept of grace that was taught in the New Testament. (LINK)

I wanted to let John know that I too was aware of, and had read, Dr. Torrance’s above referenced work, hence my post. Jason Engwer, who had made some comments in the same combox (and who was also involved in January, 2004 thread that I referenced), responded to my post to John (the very next comment following mine - LINK), which precipitated a number subsequent posts between Jason and myself in the same combox. There is a fair amount of material that I see no need to repeat here; however, I would now like to respond to the following that Jason posted:

You go on to once again quote some of your comments from our 2004 discussions. As I said earlier, your quotations from that discussion aren't doing anything to advance that discussion or this one. I know what you said in 2004. I was part of the discussion. And you've already linked it. You keep quoting what you said in 2004 while continuing to ignore more relevant issues that you've been neglecting.

I have some difficulties with the above: first, I must sincerely wonder if Jason is accurately recalling the 2004 discussion; for instance, he stated that Eric Svendsen “didn't participate in either of the two Clement of Rome threads”, but he did (as I pointed out, and which Jason later acknowledged). Second, if our 2004 discussion is not “doing anything to advance that discussion or this one”, why does he keep bringing it up? Note the following:

Jason: >>- You ought to explain how Eric Svendsen's "monitoring" allegedly affected your posts from 2004 in any relevant way. He didn't participate in either of the two Clement of Rome threads. And a few of us who were moderators in that forum did participate, and we repeatedly encouraged you to make more of an effort to explain and defend your view.>>

Me: I had been told that I was engaging in “sophistry”, and that if I continued to do so, I would no longer be welcome in the forum. Right or wrong, such comments (and previous banning actions) weighed on my mind. (Oh, and btw, NTRMin do post in the thread I linked to above.) Anyway, the past is past; I do not think that arguing over some of my perceptions from 6 years ago is fruitful; as for the present, the sense of caution concerning the type of moderation that was present back then is completely absent in the confines of THIS forum.

Jason responded to the above with:

I don't know what comment about "sophistry" you're referring to. You still aren't explaining how having such things "weighing on your mind" is relevant.

Once again, I cannot help but wonder if Jason is accurately recalling the 2004 discussions. Here was what I was told by one of the moderators (dtking):

Explain the part in bold. And I'll warn you right now, if you wax sophistic with me, I'm finished with you. I don't care how you turn that language, it is not Tridentine language. (LINK)

And just a bit later:

But this is an evangelical board, sir, and you are welcome to keep your complaints to yourself.

Moving on, Jason wrote:

I haven't argued that Clement of Rome affirms imputation. Rather, I've argued that he affirms justification through faith alone. I explained the distinction in our exchange in 2004. You're repeating an argument I've already addressed without explaining why my earlier response supposedly is wrong.

I think it is important to make note of what Jason actually said above (last week), and what he has left out from our 2004 discussion(s). In one of the 2004 threads he penned:

I also reject your assertion that nobody believed in the concept of imputed righteousness between the apostles and the Reformation. You cited the Evangelical scholar Alister McGrath, but I don't think he addresses some of the earliest church fathers. We can speak in general terms about how a father believed in some form of justification through works. But, in my view, the church fathers sometimes were inconsistent with themselves, including on issues of justification, which means that we can sometimes be misled if we try to find one view that was always held by a father, as if he was always consistent. I'm not convinced that the concept of imputed righteousness was absent during the timeframe in question. (LINK)

And a bit later:

I didn't argue that Clement refers to the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Rather, I argued that he refers to justification through faith alone and contradicts your concept of infused righteousness.

Me: Hence my ‘confusion’ concerning Jason’s position on Clement of Rome; if Clement’s view of “justification through faith alone” in actuality “contradicts” the concept of “infused righteousness”, then what option other than imputation is left? Does not the affirmation that Clement “contradicts” the concept of “infused righteousness” at the very least imply that he held to the imputation of righteousness? Hopefully Jason can clear this up in the near future.

Now for my summation of the 2004 JUSTIFICATION thread:

In the opening post of the thread I attempted to explore the issue of why some prominent Evangelicals refused to accept/endorse the ECT document “The Gift of Salvation”. I went on to provide selections from R. C. Sproul’s book, Getting the Gospel Right, wherein he delineated his reason(s) for rejecting the document, and asked this queston: Is Sproul correct on this? Is the doctrine imputation vs. infusion an “essential”?

A good portion of the rest of the thread pertained to either attempts to ‘prove’ that I had somehow misread Dr. Sproul, or attempts to ‘prove’ that the Roman Catholic Church, the ECT document “The Gift of Salvation”, and the “Joint Declaration” document on justification, teach a “false gospel”. In the end, I sincerely believe that much of what I presented was not adequately addressed, and I suspect that whether or not one agrees or disagrees with me on this will depend on one’s presuppositions, with the anti-RCC crowd taking the position that I was thoroughly refuted, while those who maintain the RCC is still a Christian church opting for my reading of the material.

FYI: Jason has recently participated in two other threads that are germane to some of the issues touched on above; the following are the links to those threads for those who may be interested:

Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

How Evangelical Pastors Can Make Former Catholics Feel Welcome in Their Church

I have been reading through those threads this afternoon, and may have some comments to post once I have finished both of them.

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do the Shi’ites believe there are “lost surahs”?

Ken Temple and our Muslim friend, thegrandverbalizer19, touched on the issue of whether or not the “Shiites believe in some lost surahs?” The following selection provides a bit more context:

Do you know what the Mirza A. Kazem Beg article and Edward Sell were getting at by “Shiite sources” ? Apparently the The Shiites believe in some lost surahs? Where they say Muhammad gave his mantle to Ali, so that Ali should have been the first Khalif, right? (LINK).

I would like to begin my exploration into this matter by pointing out that the largest Shi’i (Shi’a) sect, the Twelver (or Imami), rejects the supposition there are either missing surahs or ayat (i.e. verses) from the established Uthmanic Qur’an. From the introduction by Hujjatul Islam Ayatullah Allama Haji Mirza Mahdi Pooya Yazdi in Ahmed Ali’s translation of the Qur’an we read:

The overwhelming majority of scholars of all schools of thought in Islam, agrees to the fact that the Holy Qur’an as it is now in our hands was rendered in writing under the command and the personal supervision of the Holy Prophet himself, and no addition, omission or alteration whatsoever ever took place in it. But there are a few traditionists of the Sunni as well as the Shia schools who influenced by the letter of the traditions more than reason and the historical facts, on account of some narrations, have held a different view that some omissions and alterations have taken place after the Holy Prophet, before the official assent was given to the present version by the Third Kalif. The advocates of this view, never succeeded in establishing any doctrine to this effect. (The Holy Qur’an, S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali; Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1988, p. 25a.)

And from the online “A Shi’ite Encyclopedia”:

Belief of Shia in the Completeness of Quran A Wahhabi contributor mentioned that Shia believe Quran is not complete. My answer to this matter is:

"Glory to (Allah), this is a big slander! (Quran 24:16)."

Shia do NOT believe that Quran is *missing* something. There are few weak traditions which might imply to the contrary. Such reports are rejectedand unacceptable if they want to imply such a thing.

It is interesting to point out that there are numerous traditions reported in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim which allege that many verses of Quran are missing. Not only that, but also they these Sunni reports allege that two chapters from the Quran are missing one of them was similar to chapter 9 (al-Bara'ah) in length!!! Some Sunni traditions even claim that the Chapter al-Ahzab (Ch. 33) was as lengthy as the Chapter of Cow (Ch. 2)!!! The Chapter of Cow is the biggest Chapter of the present Quran. The traditions inside Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim even present some of the missing verses. (Some of these traditions will be mentioned in the following articles with full references.). Yet, fortunately Shia never accuse the Sunni brothers and sisters of believing that the Quran is incomplete. We say that either these Sunni reports are either weak or fabricated.

The completeness of Quran is so indisputable among Shia that the greatest scholar of Shia in Hadith, Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn al-Husain IbnBabwayh, known as "Shaykh Saduq" (309/919-381/991), wrote:

"Our belief is that the Quran which Allah revealed to His Prophet Muhammad is (the same as) the one between the two covers (daffatayn). And it is the one which is in the hands of the people, and is not greater in extent than that. The number of surahs as generally accepted is one hundred and fourteen ...And he who asserts that we say that it is greater in extent than that, is a liar."

Shi'i reference: Shi'ite Creed (al-I'tiqadat al-Imamiyyah), by Shaykh Saduq, English version, p77. (

Now, it seems that some individual Shi’ites take a contrary position; some have even forged both complete surahs and ayat, and then attempted to introduce them as corrections to the Qur’an. However, one should not confuse such feeble attempts with the official position of the Twelvers. Some of these attempts at interpolation are discussed in the two following essays:

Shi’ah Additions To The Koran”, by William St. Clair Tisdall, The Moslem World, Vol. III, No. 3, July, 1913, pp. 227-241. (Online PDF version)

The Recensions of the Qur’an”, by Rev. Canon Sell, 1909. (Online PDF version)

Anyway, thought I would provide my “two-cents” to the ongoing discussion; perhaps others have more to add on this issue.

Grace and peace,


Monday, April 19, 2010

A book recommendation

Dialogue between Ken Temple and our Muslim friend, thegrandverbalizer19 (hereafter GV19), is continuing at a fairly steady pace in the combox of the Bible prophecy: is the rise Muhammad and/or Islam foretold? thread. My participation in the ongoing discussion has been a somewhat limited one—without going into any depth on my reason(s) for this, I shall merely point out that I believe I approach most of the issues that Ken and GV19 are discussing from differing presuppositions. All this has brought back to mind the book from the above downloaded image: Muslims and Christians Face to Face, by Kate Zebiri (LINK to publisher and LINK to book details and price comparisions).

I read this book a number of years ago and was impressed with Dr. Zebiri’s balance, candor, and expertise. IMO, this book is a must read for anyone engaged in and/or interested in dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

If Ken, GV19, or anyone else in the near future obtains this book, I would like to begin a new thread to discuss it.

Grace and peace,


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fulfilling a promise to Pastor David King

This last Thursday evening, I was having difficulty getting to sleep, so I got out of bed and jumped onto the internet. After checking my blog, I signed onto James White’s “Prosapologian” chat room and began to interact with a couple of other visitors. We were having a friendly discussion concerning some Reformed systematic theologies (Charles Hodge and W.G.T. Shedd to be specific), when ‘out of the blue’ Pastor David King (aka: Skyman`) made his presence known. The theme he wanted to discuss was me, and on a very personal level. He called me a “liar”, “hypocrite”, “unstable”, and a few other things not worth repeating. I attempted to deflect the open hostility, and during the course of that attempt, (once I got David to calm down just a little), David expressed one of the primary reasons for his current disdain for me: on a few occasions prior to the publication of the joint (with William Webster), self-published, 3 volume work, Holy Scripture – The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, I had “praised” some of the work that David had shared with me; but then, I later criticized parts of the published work.

Now, David is absolutely correct on this, though I do not understand how this makes me a “liar”, “hypocrite”, and “unstable”. I mentioned to David that I have never been critical of the entire work, but only of certain conclusions/premises; and that just this week in the combox of a thread at James Swan’s Beggars All blog, had explicitly said that part of his contribution was “solid”. He told me that he did not “believe me”, and I replied that I would type up a thread on this issue and post in here at AF no later than the following Monday. Here is what I posted at BA:

Me: For the record, I have never said that William’s and David’s 3 volumes are “awful”, and/or “horrendous”; in fact, I think David’s treatment of the Biblical doctrine is [sic] of Scripture is solid (though it presents nothing ‘new’).

>>I assume you have Pastor King's book. Can you demonstrate the material is sub-standard?>>

Me: Depends on how one interprets “sub-standard”. Here is the rub James, I have yet to see W/K’s work cited by any patristic scholar since its publication. Now, does that make it “sub-standard”—personally, I believe that in and of itself, is [sic] does not; however, when this is coupled with the fact that a primary thesis of the work is at odds with a consensus contemporary, Protestant, patristic scholars, I must in good conscience say that in scholarly circles, the work is “sub-standard”. (LINK.)

I would like to delineate a bit further on what I believe to be “solid”, and then, what I consider to be “sub-standard”.

Pastor King is solidly Reformed (and not just in his soteriology); he subscribes to the Westminster Standards, and when he took up his pen to defend the Biblical doctrine of Scripture, it is from the Reformed perspective; the very sub-title of his volume on this, A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scritpura (vol. 1 of the 3 vol. set), is certainly accurate—and, for the record, once again, his presentation is quite solid. Personally, if I had to pick just one modern-day volume to represent the Reformed position on Scripture, I would choose G. C. Berkouwer’s Studies In Dogmatics – Holy Scripture (Dutch ed. 1967; English ed. 1975); but with that said, I would have no problem recommending David’s work to anyone interested in the Reformed perspective.

Next, I also think one should acknowledge the efforts of David and William as the editors of vol. 3, which is a collection of selections from the early Church Fathers (up to the time of John of Damascus) concerning how they viewed Scripture—they have done their English speaking readers a great service in providing up-t0-date English translations of the Greek and Latin, a few of which appear, at least to my knowledge, for the first time in English.

However, I believe that the sub-title of this 3rd volume, The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, is not entirely accurate. As I have documented here at AF on more than one occasion (see A.N.S. Lane’s essay referenced and linked to on the right side bar, as well as the posts I linked to in my previous thread), the consensus of modern-day patristic scholars is that the sola scriptura principle of the early Church Fathers (some prefer the term prima scriptura) is not identical to that of the magisterial Reformers of the 16th century. So, while the 3rd volume is a good source for the non-scholar, it needs to be supplemented in order to get the more complete picture of the early Church Fathers view of Scripture. (I could add much more on this issue, but I would just be repeating what I have already posted in the past.)

Summation: if you are interested in a passionate, polemical defense of sola scriptura from the somewhat narrow perspective of the Reformed position (which, btw, is not entirely monolithic concerning the teachings of the early CFs on SS), then by all means purchase David and William’s 3 vol. set—but for me, Christendom is much larger than just our Reformed brothers in Christ, and as such, I believe that one should give a serious ear to the scholarly efforts of the patristic scholars I have referenced here at AF.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Which and/or whose sola scriptura ?

I am delaying work on other thread projects to address, yet once again, the issue of sola scriptura. I have already produced 34 previous threads on sola scriptura here at AF, but it seems that if a given topic is not on ‘this weeks front page’, it is either forgotten or ignored, as evidenced by comments that have been made in THIS RECENT THREAD over at James Swan’s Beggars All blog.

In the above referenced BA thread, I urged others to read the 34th installment (Scripture and Tradition) of my Sola Scriptura series.

But judging from comments that have been made subsequent to that request, it seems that few (if any) of the BA readers have taken the time to read the post; there may also be some conflicting notions concerning what is meant by sola scriptura. To clear up any possible confusion, I would like to suggest that one must distinguish between the doctrine of sola scriptura, as formulated in the 16th century by the magisterial Reformers, and the principle of sola scriptura which does not include the polemical qualifications of the 16th century doctrine. When the consensus of patristic scholars (SEE THIS TRHEAD for examples) state that “the notion of sola Scriptura” did not exist in the ante-Nicene Church, they are referring to the very specific doctrine of sola scriptura formulated in the 16th century by the magisterial Reformers, and NOT the principle of sola scriptura. As there exists many differing views/formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity which range from the ‘neo-modalism’ construct (e.g. Rahner/Barth) to the ‘social’ concept (e.g. Brown, Erickson, LaCugna, Plantinga), so too with the principle of sola scriptura, which vary from “a Catholic sola scriptura principle” (see Catholics and the material sufficiency of Sacred Scripture for examples), to the ‘bare-bones’ principle of sola scriptura embraced by many non-creedal Evangelicals.

And further, just as the doctrine of the Trinity has undergone significant doctrinal development since the 2nd century, so too has the principle of sola scriptura; as such, one needs to refrain from the temptation to read back into the earlier theologians/writers the much later developed formulations (i.e. anachronism).

I sincerely hope that I have cleared up at least SOME of the confusion on this issue.

Grace and peace,