Friday, August 29, 2008

Rhetorically Speaking...

Turretinfan posted a lengthy response to my article that I posted yesterday about whether the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific. While it will take time to sift through his argument and respond properly, I thought I would get one of the minor points out of the way, TF chides me in my usage of the term "begging the question" by claiming that I mislabeled his fallacious questions in calling them examples of the "begging the question" fallacy or plurium interrogationum instead of examples of the petitio principi fallacy.

Both are fallacies of presumption. Both have been called "begging the question" fallacies by rhetoricians. However, there is a distinct difference between the two fallacies. One is a kind of argument, the other a kind of interrogative. Petitio principi is a kind of fallacious argument with certain presumptions built into it. It's English derivative is more appropriately called circular argument or reasoning. The conclusion of the argument is merely a kind of restating of the premiss. In contrast, Plurium Interrogationum is a kind of question with certain presumptions built into it. It's English derivative is complex question. In fact, it might even be fair to say that Plurium Interrogationum is the interrogative form of a petitio principi fallacy.

Another difference between the two is that Petitio principi is always a fallacious form of argument. Plurium interrogationum may or may not be a fallacious form of question depending on whether the presumptions built into the question are based on the context of evidence previously submitted.

Thus, I would submit that Turretinfan's ire at my purported usage of term "begging the question" is misplaced. He was not making an argument at the time, he merely asked questions of "the followers of Vatican 2".

God bless!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Objection: Begging the Question!

Since the time I have been annointed as an apologist in the service of Rome by Professor White, I have been accused at times of reading things into what people write. Unfortunately, it would appear that it is a trait that some Protestant apologists suffer from as well.

Over on Turretinfan’s blog, TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific. He states:

“Question for my readers who follow Vatican 2's proclamation that "the plan of salvation includes" Muslims: Can you see from the example above that zealously following Islam leads to eternal destruction? If so, how do you justify to yourself your church's claim? Can you not admit that your church has erred on this point?”

TF’s brief remarks above grossly distort what the Catholic Church teaches. Moreover, his questions as written as are a prime example of fallacy known as Plurium Interrogationum more commonly known as "begging the question". Simply put, one engages in Plurium Interrogationum when he asks a question which contains a false, disputed or question-begging presupposition as its premise. The obvious example law students are taught is, “Did you stop beating your wife?” The question first presupposes 1) you are married and 2) that some time prior to the question being asked, you beat your wife. Now, the problem is that the form of the question only allows the responder to answer the question two ways. If the responder says ‘yes’ then he has admitted that he has beaten his wife. If the responder says ‘no’, then an ambiguity arises from which the fact-finder or audience can infer that the responder has not stopped beating his wife when in fact the responder in all likelihood is actually stating that he never had beaten his wife in the first place. When such questions are used rhetorically, the writer is hoping to create in the mind of his audience a false impression that someone adheres to a view that they, in fact, do not adhere to. If an advocate used such questions in a court of law, the trial judge would sustain an objection to their use and order such questions stricken from the record.

In the case at bar, Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific when in fact it does not so teach nor has it ever taught that a person who is a zealous follower of Islam can be saved.

Proof of my contention that TF's questions are based on a false premise is as follows:

One of the basic documents of Vatican II is The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church also called Lumen Gentium (LG). At LG 16, it does indeed state that God’s “plan of salvation” include Muslims. Here is the full text as opposed to the snippet offered by Turretinfan:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Emphasis mine).

A close reading of the section states why Muslims are included in the plan of salvation: because they claim to profess a belief in the God of Abraham. A proclamation indicating a belief in God is a step closer to accepting the fullness of His Gospel even if there is much error in what a Muslim may otherwise believe. If we accept that Muslims do in fact believe in the God of Abraham, then such a belief would make them more receptive to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus be saved. As noted above, “Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.”

Scripture, itself, demonstrates that the truth contained in a pagan religion can prepare adherents to accept the Gospel of Christ. After all, did not St. Paul state to the pantheistic Athenians: "For passing by, and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you." The entire pericope may be found at Acts 17:16-34.

Further documentation that TF has misstated the Church's position is as follows:

In Dominus Jesus (2000) a magisterial document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith one may find the following:

"It would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her" (DJ 21).

"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation" (DJ 22).

Likewise, Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), wrote:

"Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Qur'an, but he is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Mohammed. There is also mention of Mary, his Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology [doctrine of God] but also the anthropology [doctrine of man] of Islam is very distant from Christianity." (Emphasis added) See, pp. 92-93.

I would also note that Catholic apologists have addressed the premises raised in Turretinfan's rhetorical questions. For example, David Armstrong, a noted Catholic apologist, addresses the premises of the questions written by Turretinfan on his educational blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism here.

Thus, the underlying premise of TF’s rhetorical questions to Catholics is misleading and simply untrue. To restate: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT A PERSON CAN BE SAVED THROUGH ADHERENCE TO ISLAM.

With the above statements in mind, I, a follower of the proclamations of Vatican II, would simply answer TF’s rhetorical questions with an objection and trust that such an objection will be sustained by you the audience, acting as the trier of fact.

I ask Turretinfan as a brother in Christ to correct the false impression his questions give his audience in regards to what the Catholic Church teaches.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Asperges Me...Part One: Superstitions

"The spell lies in two words," replied Wamba--- "'Pax vobiscum' will answer all queries. If you go or come, eat or drink, bless or ban, 'Pax vobiscum' carries you through it all. It is as useful to a friar as a broomstick to a witch, or a wand to a conjurer. Speak it but thus, in a deep grave tone,---'Pax vobiscum!'---it is irresistible---Watch and ward, knight and squire, foot and horse, it acts as a charm upon them all. I think, if they bring me out to be hanged to-morrow, as is much to be doubted they may, I will try its weight upon the finisher of the sentence.

From Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Chapter 26.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May the Heavenly Father bless this work, and by it, for His honor, achieve much good for the salvation of souls. ~ Father Heinrich Theiler

I had indicated in an earlier post that I would offer a piece defending the presentation of Nick Hardesty aka PhatCatholic made in an debate between him and Turretinfan where the parties debated the following resolution:

RESOLVED: That the application of Holy Water is an effective means for stopping demonic forces.

When I first set out to write this paper, I thought it only necessary to put before the reader some biblical texts and several quotes from the works of the Early Church Fathers corroborating PhatCatholic's arguments pertaining to the efficacy and benefits of Holy Water and to refute Turretinfan’s argument that the practice of using Holy Water was merely a superstitious innovation of some nameless medieval monk. After all, while this Calvinist talking point is often raised in discussions involving the Catholic faith, it also one that can be easily refuted from the writings of St. Hippolytus, St. Serapion, St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, all of whom lived much earlier than the Dark or Middle Ages. However, once I had done my research and sat down to actually write it, I soon realized that it would not be enough to address the matter in that manner. Hence, the long delay.

The problem is twofold. First, the resolution itself is not worded correctly. The Catholic Church has never taught that Holy Water IS an effective means for stopping demonic forces, only that it MAY BE efficacious. To be more precise, the Catholic Church has never taught that the use of any sacramental, such as Holy Water, will always produce the grace they signify ex opere operato. Rather, whatever efficacy to be derived from the use of a sacramental is due to the devotion of the user of the sacramental (ex opere operantis) or from the power and prayers of the Church itself (ex opere operantis ecclesia).

Thus, while Mr. Hardesty very adequately expressed how Holy Water has been efficacious throughout the history of the Church and demonstrated through Scripture how sacramentals were used in both the OT and NT, he faced the impossible task of attempting to affirm a resolution which the Catholic Church, itself, has never taught.

Since I believe that the underlying premise contained in the resolution is flawed, I will not attempt to defend the resolution as it is presently constituted. Rather, I will endeavor instead to show how Holy Water may be an effective means for stopping demonic forces.

Second, as the resolution was worded, Turretinfan was provided an opportunity to disparage the Catholic Church’s use of Holy Water (although in fairness to him, he did so in an irenic and courteous manner) by claiming that the practice is merely a superstitious medieval innovation:

“There is simply no mention of the practice of using holy water against demonic forces in either Scripture or the early fathers. It is a superstition based on the mistaken assumption that water consecrated by Catholic priests is “holy,” it is not. The concept of “holy water” is a medieval innovation. It is also based on the mistaken assumption that demons are repulsed or afraid of holy things. They are not. Satan even goes about disguised as an angel of light. They must, however, submit to the authority of God, which is why Michael invoked the Lord’s authority in his argument with the Devil (see Jude 9). Furthermore, we may have boldness against the devils, for we are promised that if we resist them, they will flee from us (see James 4:7). Thus, we need not be afraid, and resort to talismans or the like to protect us from the power of the devil.”

From the Conclusion from Turretinfan’s Opening Statement posted on January 5, 2008 found here.


“American baseball players are notorious for their superstitions. Some always enter the batters box the same way, and some have a “lucky” way of digging in their spikes before each pitch. We can write these superstitious traditions off, because we know that it takes strength, speed, and a good eye to be a baseball great, not drinking exactly three ounces of water before warming up with two bats of the same weight. Even if we like the superstitions, we expect baseball managers to play the numbers, not rely on talismans.

In this debate we’re posed with something similar. PhatCatholic (PC) has attempted to defend a resolution that the application of Holy Water is an effective means for stopping demonic forces. It is a superstition (or, at a minimum, PC cannot establish otherwise), and we don’t have a valid basis for accepting it.”

From Turretinfan’s Conclusion to the Holy Water Debate posted January 25m 2008 found here.

Here, we see Turretinfan bandy the word “superstition” about like Wamba, the fool, in the Walter Scott novel, Ivanhoe bandied the phrase “pax vobiscum” about (See, Chapter 26). However, unlike the brave jester, Turretinfan used his “superstition” to close doors rather than to get them opened. By asserting that the use of Holy Water was merely a superstition, Turretinfan foreclosed Mr. Hardesty from presenting any anecdotal evidence in support of the proposition. It matters not whether St. Bede or any other saint used a sacramental to dispel demons-the practice is superstitious, or worse, pagan or demonic. It matters not that Mr. Hardesty could place before the reader the testimony of an army of exorcists or bring to the marketplace of ideas a whole array of miraculous events connected with Holy Water-they, too, would be dismissed as superstitious.

While such a tactic may be a great debate strategy, it is a poor theological one. After all, wasn’t the point of the debate to discuss the efficacy of Holy Water? By labeling the practice as “superstition,” Turretinfan played to his Protestant audience’s prejudice rather than address the argument head on; which is, “Does God use the physical things of this world as a means to impart His grace to us, His children, to help protect us from the Evil One and his minions?"

Turretinfan’s assertions that he understands the Catholic doctrine with respect with Holy Water notwithstanding, it was apparent to me that his understanding is based merely on a Protestant myth. The claim that practice of using Holy Water is no different than a person using carrying a lucky rabbit foot or a magic talisman, demonstrates actual ignorance of the Church’s teaching about sacramentals. However, Turretinfan can hardly be blamed for following one of the hoary old traditions of his Calvinist elders for it has been a long and venerable custom in certain Protestant apologetic and controversialist circles to label the devotional practices of Rome as a repackaging of the superstitious practices of pagans.

Here are some examples:

From the Rev. Rufus Wheelright Clark’s book, Romanism in America. Boston: J.E. Tilton, 1859 (found here) :

"In issuing the present work, a present want is met. From the beginning of its foothold, as the following pages will show, Rome has steadily advanced in the United States. Wily as ever, it in general adopts a more courteous policy than abroad; it appears meek and shorn of its hideousness ; but circumstances show that it only hides its aim. Occasionally a feeler is put forth, or an imprudent priest heedlessly reveals its purposes. Recent events in our own midst, where a single foreign priest has introduced anarchy into one of our public schools, and with characteristic impudence has endeavored to ride over the rights and laws of Americans, not only illustrates the spirit of Rome, but calls attention anew to this arch enemy of the Republic.

To summon again the spirit of national freedom, and to remind American citizens of the spirit and object of Roman tyranny and superstition these pages are now given to the public." (Preface)

Of course, what better way is there to show Rome’s tyranny and superstition than by making a diatribe against Holy Water:

"The use of holy water is also a pagan as well as Romish rite. In both systems it is regarded as possessing great efficacy. On entering a Romish church, you may observe a stone basin containing water, into which the faithful dip their fingers and cross themselves. The process by which the holy element is imparted to the water, and the uses to which it is applied, are supremely ridiculous. After being prepared by the priest, by making signs and breathing upon it, and casting into it a little fine powder, it is used for a great variety of purposes. It is sprinkled upon houses, furniture, horses, mules, dogs, and sheep ; upon the clothes of the living and the coffins of the dead. It is supposed to bless every thing that it touches. The ignorant and superstitious are taught to believe that this water purifies the atmosphere, heals diseases, drives away evil thoughts, gives strength to resist temptation, expels Satan and wicked spirits from the house, and secures the presence of the Holy Ghost.

In Rome, on a certain day, the horses and mules of the city and surrounding country are gayly decorated, and brought before the Church of St. Anthony, to be sprinkled with holy water by the priest. A small sum is paid to the priest for every animal that he sprinkles, and the people are made to believe that unless their animals are thus sprinkled, they will die during the year, or meet with some accident or great calamity. In order to keep up the delusion, the pope annually sends his horses to be sprinkled. Now, the common-sense spectator will naturally ask, Whence this silly and ridiculous custom? Where is the doctrine found that a little water sprinkled upon a beast will save his life and protect him from accident? Not in the Bible, certainly — not in the teachings of the primitive Christians. It is simply a heathen custom transferred from paganism to Romanism." (Pages 145-146)

The Rev. J.J. Smith in his book, The Impending Conflict between Romanism and Protestantism in the United States. New York: E. Goodenough, 1871 (which may be found here), likewise assaults Catholic doctrine by denigrating the use of Holy Water:

"And now the question arises, From whence did this silly practice [of using Holy Water] come? Surely not from the Bible. Not a single passage can be adduced from the word of God to support such a blasphemous ceremony. What then was its origin? The answer to this question is plain. It came from heathendom, the cesspool of religious abominations. It has no higher origin. It is a Pagan rite, that should have been left for only heathens to practice, instead of being incorporated among the rites of the Church to disgrace her service." (Pg. 190)

The same author goes on to say a little later:

"But what shall we say of Roman Catholics, who profess to be enlightened by the rays of divine truth, following so closely in the footsteps of ignorant and superstitious heathens, who are groping their way amid the darkness of idolatry? Romish priests, who ought to know better, and who ought to be heartily ashamed of this Pagan superstition, are found, by prayers and ceremonies, making holy water, for the ignorant, superstitious devotees of their faith, to carry to their homes, to be placed in their rooms, or under their pillows, and to sprinkle on their persons and about their dwellings for the purpose of protecting them from heathen influences, just as heathens do; but that they should sanction this Pagan rite by carrying it to the ridiculous extent of sprinkling the dead, is truly astonishing.

The heathens had their holy water because they had nothing better. They had by tradition received a knowledge of their defilement, and their consequent need of purification, and consequently, in their blindness, they applied to the creature instead of the Creator. As water was the great purifier for physical impurities, it was readily conceived that by the infusion of a supernatural quality through the ceremony, and prayer of consecration by a priest or some divinity, it then would cleanse the soul.

This idea has been well nigh universal in heathen lands. We meet with it in ancient Egypt. They had their sacred Nile, which was regarded with the same superstitious reverence by them as the Ganges was by the Hindoos. This was what made the plague by which the waters of the Nile were turned to blood so great a calamity to Pharaoh and his people. The Thibetians, in their worship of the Grand Lama, have among their rites the use of holy water prepared and used very much as in Hindostan. Mahomet, who, in forming a new system of religion, drew largely on Paganism for materials, did not forget their holy water. Accordingly the waters of the well Zem Zem were consecrated to religious purposes, which it is affirmed are not only efficacious for curing many bodily diseases, but also for healing all spiritual disorders, and even procuring an absolute remission of sins. This water is conveyed by pilgrims in bottles to all parts of the Mahomedan dominions, to protect them against all manner of evil.

Now, can any one fail to see from whence Rome obtained her idea of holy water, and her teachings respecting its efficacy to heal diseases, expel devils, and cleanse the soul ? It must certainly be admitted that she has not only borrowed this nonsensical practice from Paganism, but that she has, in this respect, followed remarkably close in its footsteps. She has, to a great extent, substituted holy water in the place of the Holy Ghost.

The Bible, which so expressly and pointedly condemns the whole system of image worship as held by Rome, and which must ever in its teachings oppose the use of holy water, or any other Pagan rite that would in any measure usurp the prerogatives of the Holy Ghost, can never be held by Romanists in the high estimation it deserves. Hence her opposition to the Bible." (Pgs. 192-195)

Now lest the reader believes that this phenomenon was a 19th century affectation:
"The use of holy water is purely pagan; and the pagan aspersorium is exactly the same kind of vessel as the Catholic churches use; and it occupies, in the Catholic Church, the same position which it occupied in the pagan temple. Do you happen to know how the Catholic priest makes holy water ? It is enough to make a sane man wonder whether he is dreaming or not, when he sees so many intelligent men and women pretending to believe in this monstrous superstition of holy water.

The priest bends over the vessel which contains the water, mutters some cabalistic words (in Latin, of course), traces the sign of the cross with his finger on the face of the water, three times, puts his lips to it, saying : "Receive thou the Holy Spirit" — making it "blubber" with his breath — makes other motions with his hands over it, pours oil into it, in the form of a cross; also another liquid, in the same form: then holding both vessels in his right hand, he pours the uniting liquids into the tub, in the same cross-like form; sprinkles a white powder into it, and in the end, pronounces it holy, after having washed his hands in it." (Emphasis added)

From, Watson, Thomas E. The Roman Catholic Hierarchy: The Deadliest Menace to American Liberties and Christian Civilization. Thomson, Ga: Jeffersonian Pub. Co, 1915, pg. 61. Also found at Google Books here.

And of course how can one leave out the inimitable Loraine Boettner who offers these heady insights in his book, Roman Catholicism:

"There are certain benefits, however, which in a way seem to accrue to the Roman Church as it conducts its ceremonials under the veil of a dead language. Most importantly, it adds to the air of mystery that surrounds its service, and helps set the priest apart from the people as a man with special wisdom and special powers. Every priest at times has to bless the “holy water” with which Roman Catholics sprinkle themselves, and which is sprinkled on various objects to purify and consecrate them. The prayer by which it is done intimates that its object really is drive out devils out of this common water, and indirectly keep them from the people who are sprinkled. Probably not one priest in a hundred really believes that, and it doubtless would seem rather crude and awkward to go through the ritual in English. But they do not seem to mind doing it in Latin." (Pg. 277) (Emphasis added)

And later,

"Fraud is practiced in the Roman Church, not only in exhibiting relics of the saints, but also in attributing supernatural powers to them. ... Many priests have little or no faith at all in relics, even though it is part of their work to recommend them and to supervise their use by the pious faithful. Priests who have been to Rome for any length of time lose any reverence they may had for such things when they see the shameless traffic that is carried on in that city in bits of bones and pious objects of all kinds. ... The amazing thing about this whole business is that presumably intelligent and educated Roman Catholics, clerical and lay alike, even in an enlightened country such as the United States, either tacitly accept such relics as genuine or fail to denounce them for the gross superstition that they know them to be.

Closely akin to the subject of relics is that of “Holy Water,” so-called, which is nothing more than ordinary water with a pinch of salt added and blessed by a priest. A holy water font is found just inside the entrance of every Roman Catholic church. That is another empty superstition from the Dark Ages, borrowed from paganism, and introduced into the church in the ninth century. Pagan temples in Rome had holy water stoups or basins long before they were introduced in the Christian churches, and all of those entering were expected to sprinkle themselves." (Pg. 292) (Emphasis added)

Quotes taken from, Boettner, Loraine. Roman Catholicism. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973.

Now by making the charge of superstition, none of these gentlemen had to actually address the theology behind sacramentals. After all, why let the facts get in the way of good ghost story, even when that ghost happens to be the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, the charge of superstition is just that, a charge. As a jury is instructed in a court of law, an indictment is not proof. It is merely a claim that must be proved by at least the requisite weight of evidence.

G.K. Chesterton addressed this Protestant tactic of labeling Catholic doctrines as superstitions in an essay titled The Protestant Superstitions, which was published in his book, titled, The Thing (found here):

“It is hardly a final refutation of Spiritualists to prove that they believe in Spirits; any more than a refutation of Deists to prove that they believe in Deity. Creed and credence and credulity are words of the same origin and can be juggled backwards and forwards to any extent. But when a man assumes the absurdity of anything that anybody else believes, we wish first to know what he believes; on what principle he believes; and, above all, upon what principle he disbelieves.” (Emphasis added)

Mr. Chesterton goes on to say:

“But why a man should accept a Creator who was a carpenter, and then worry about holy water, why he should accept a local Protestant tradition that God was born in some particular place mentioned in the Bible, merely because the Bible had been left lying about in England, and then say it is incredible that a blessing should linger on the bones of a saint, why he should accept the first and most stupendous part of the story of Heaven on Earth, and then furiously deny a few small but obvious deductions from it-- that is a thing I do not understand; I never could understand; I have come to the conclusion that I shall never understand. I can only attribute it to Superstition.” Ibid.

I submit, dear reader, that it is the notion of Holy Water that Turretinfan presented in his debate with Mr. Hardesty that is superstitious, and not the Catholic practice itself. Now that I have made the charge, I will attempt to follow Mr. Chesterton’s advice and lay before you why I believe so. To do so, I will need to first lay a foundation by discussing the Catholic belief in sacramentalism in the next installment.

God Bless!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jouer à la Baisse (Part One)

I'll give you one last aphorism for your book, Goldfinger: "Never go a bear of England." ~James Bond

Over on Turretinfan’s blog, he has written an article titled: Wisdom Chapter 14-Test of Irony that appears to be an attempt at a counter-strike against my previous post here on this blog as well as the comments in his commbox concerning the irony of a Calvinist who professes a belief in the notion of sola scriptura citing two passages from St. Paul’s epistles alluding (I unfortunately used the term “quote”) to passages contained in the Deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom of Solomon as support of the notion of the superiority of Scriptural revelation. After restating Wisdom 14:1-31, which is actually a part of a lengthier polemic against pagan idolatry, Turretinfan unleashes the following salvo:

“Now I ask you which is more ironic: that I (not believing this passage to be the Word of God) accept this passage as generally true, or that others (believing this passage to be the Word of God) nevertheless claim that the prohibition on idols did not last for ever (as stated in verse 13) but ceased after the Incarnation. Which is more ironic, that I believing this to be uninspired believe it teaches the truth (generally) or that they believing it to be inspired nevertheless do not follow its teachings, but make and use in worship images both purporting to be of God and of holy men?”

At first, when I saw TF’s article, I was surprised that he would so unfairly mis-characterize Catholic doctrine pertaining to the use of statues of saints and Our Lord Jesus Christ in connection with the Church's devotional practices. Then after a moment, something else registered and I could not help but laugh at the hidden irony contained in TF's article.

Here is a man who goes by the nom de guerre “TurretinFAN” (emphasis mine) quoting a passage from the Deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom ostensibly to smear Catholics for using statues or pictures of saints and Christ in their sanctuaries and in their devotional practices which also condemns people who engage in "fan" behavior. For you see, the word “fan” or “fanatic” is derived from the Latin word “fanaticus” which was the name given to a person who enthusiastically engaged in the orgiastic temple rituals and temple prostitution of the Romans and the Greeks, acts which are condemned at Wisdom 14:12 and 14:22-31 as perverse rituals and acts of fornication which the author of Wisdom states sprung from the practice of idolatry. Thus, by speculating that he could condemn Catholicism for engaging in allegedly hypocritical and idolatrous acts with his reference to Wisdom 14, TF condemns his own hypocritical and idolatrous actions by his self-characterization as Turretin's fanatic as well!

Now lest I am not clear here, I am not accusing TF of idolatry. In fact, I deny that the Catholic devotional practices he attacks in his article are idolatrous. There are distinct differences in the conduct described in the trope at Wisdom 14 that Turretinfan cites to and the Catholic devotional practices involved in honoring its saints, the most obvious is that we do not worship our saints. But it seems to me that if one is going to misrepresent Catholic devotional practices as idolatrous, that person should come to the table with clean hands and not be engaging in conduct which could also likewise be construed as idolatrous based on the way he is reading Wisdom 14.

I hope to discuss the literary device of irony in Scripture, and will try to provide a more substantive answer to TF's rhetorical questions in the very near future.

God Bless!

(Updated from the original post 8:39 am 08/11/2008)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Protestant Proving the Superiority of Scriptural Revelation by Quoting from the Deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom of Solomon

Over on the "Thoughts of Francis Turretin" the ever anonymous Reformed Protestant Turretinfan discusses the epistemological priority of Scripture over general revelation. First, Turretinfan quotes from Volume 1 titled "Preliminary considerations" of Carl Ferdinand Howard Henry's six volume series titled, God, Revelation and Authority: God Who Speaks and Shows. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1999:

"The scriptural revelation takes epistemological priority over general revelation, not because general revelation is obscure or because man as sinner cannot know it, but because Scripture as an inspired literary document republishes the content of general revelation objectively, over against sinful man's reductive dilutions and misconstructions of it." Ibid. at p. 223.

Turretinfan than goes on to offer two passages from the letters of St. Paul:

What is general revelation? It is the revelation discussed here:

Romans 1:18-23
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

This is in stark contrast to special revelation, which is the kind of revelation discussed here:

Hebrews 1:1-4
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Does anyone else find it ironic that the proof texts for the notion that Scriptural Revelation has priority over general revelation that Turretinfan, a Protestant who follows the dictates of John Calvin, offers the reader are two passages where St. Paul is quoting from the Deuterocanonical book of Wisdom of Solomon (Rom. 1:18-23=Wisdom 13:1-9; Hebrews 1:1-4=Wisdom 7:26)?

Friday, August 01, 2008


Once again, I am over at Beggars All where there is a discussion posted over the "alleged perspiciuty" of the Catholic Magisterium . Basically, the argument is that Catholics claim that the Magisterial writings are clearer than Scripture. Well, I will attempt to address that point in the very near future (pushing my other projects aside for a little while longer) but the first point that needs to be addressed is whether the Bible even teaches that there is a Magisterium.

In the comment section, one gentleman who goes by the handle Jugulum states:

"So, I reject as silly the idea that we inherently require an infallible interpreter, or that having one gets us further than perspicuous Scripture would. That's a big part of my interaction with Alexander.

Going on from there, God still could have given us something like the Magisterium as an aid, of course. And I can see how an authoritative tutor could be helpful. But I am not even remotely impressed by Catholic arguments that God did--I don't see the Biblical or historical foundation."

I replied and suggested to him that the existence of a magisterium is biblical and cited to Deuteronomy 7:12.

Then Augustinian Successor, who we have commented on before here, then chimes in and states the following:

[Deuteronomy] 17:12 says ...

"And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel."

It talks about a kind of a "Magisterium" in the nation of Israel???

Let's take a close look at the preceding verses:

"If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left."

And now let's pick two key words form the verses: sentence and law. What do these words tell us? Legal matters. Not doctrinal matters. Futhermore, Israel was a theocracy where both civil, judicial, theological matters intersect. The Roman Catholic Church despite its claim to the two swords of spiritual and temporal authority is not a theocratic state." (See here)

Here was my response:

So what is your point? I have provided to you a passage which clearly demonstrates the existence of the OT equivalent of a magisterium and to escape the import of it, you engage in eisegesis! Let's put those two words back into their historical and Scriptural context rather than apply modern-day notions to them.

Rather than pick out two words to support your claim, let's look at some other texts of the OT and see how your analysis of Deut. 17:8-12 holds up.

At Ex. 18:13-27, we find Moses establishing a court system to interpret the Law because he got overwhelmed with people coming to him to settle their disputes AND MAKING THEM "KNOW GOD'S STATUTES AND HIS DECISIONS." Ex. 18:15 explicitly says that people were coming to Moses to "INQUIRE OF GOD."

When Moses set up this system of judges, he retained authority at the pinnacle, so he could “teach them the statutes and the decisions, and show the Israelites the way in which they must walk and what they must do.” [BTW, the word halachah which is the name given to the precepts of the Oral Torah comes from the word “to walk”] (Ex. 18:20) Moreover, Moses chose able men from all the people, who feared God, who were trustworthy, and who hated bribes and then placed such men over the people as their rulers. These rulers were to judge the people at all times; every great matter they were to bring to him, but any small matter they were to decide themselves. (Ex. 18:21-22) Scripture records that Moses did choose his judges from the people and “they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.” (Ex. 18:25-26) Note, that the Scriptures here does not differentiate between religious matters and civil or criminal matters, only matters of great and small. Since all of the statutes were from God, the Israelites considered them all to be religious matters.

At Numbers 11: 14-17, we find God telling Moses to gather seventy men from the elders of Israel and bring them to Him. Once gathered, God would take some of the spirit which was upon Moses and confer it upon the men so that they would be able to judge the people and the people would know that God gave the elders the right to judge them.

Note the two examples given where God Himself intervened. At Num 15:34-35, a man broke the Sabbath gathering sticks. Since the Law was not plain as to the punishment, the matter was brought to Moses who was then told by God to stone the man. Now is this an example of a doctrinal matter as opposed to a legal matter? Perhaps, in light of the preceding passage which demonstrates the difference between venial sins and mortal sins (Num. 15:27-31), I guess one could construe as such.

However, at Numbers 27:1-11, we see a matter of inheritance being brought before Moses. One would think that a probate matter would be a legal matter, right? God Himself made a statute and ordinance that the daughters of Zelophehad could inherit.

The OT doesn't distinguish between the two.

In the first chapter of Deuteronomy we find Moses having a conversation with the sons of Israel who he asked to “choose wise, understanding, and experienced men, according to your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.” The sons of Israel complied. He then charged the men chosen to judge to hear the cases both small and great alike between brethren and judge righteously for the judgment is God’s. Only cases that were too hard to decide were to be brought to Moses. (Deut. 1:13-18). Again, nothing here distinguishing between legal matters and theological matters;

Now let's look again at Deuteronomy 17:8-12. If this was purely a legal matter as you suggest, why does verses 9 and 12
reference the Levitical priests as well as the judges? And Note how both the priest and the judge's authority had equal weight. Furthermore, look at the similarity of language here "thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee" and what Jesus says about the Pharisees at Matt. 23:3 "to practice and observe whatever they tell you." The Moses seat at Matt. 23 was the seat of authority given to the judges in the OT.

We see this repeated in Scriptures elsewhere. At 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 that King Jehoshaphat went out among the people, from Beer-sheba to the hill country of Ephraim, to bring them back to God. To insure that they did not relapse, he appointed judges in the land in all the cities of Judah. At verses 6-7, he repeats what Moses said when he appointed judges, "Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD; he is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the LORD our God, or partiality, or taking bribes." At verse 8 Jehoshaphat then appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, “to give judgment for the LORD and to decide disputed cases.” Their seat was at Jerusalem. He then sets forth their duties which included rendering judgment in disputes concerning bloodshed, law, commandments, statutes, and ordinances. (Verses 9-10). Again, judges were given authority to decide religious matters.

In the book of Ezra 7:25-26, Ezra was to appoint judges and magistrates and "whoever who will not obey the Law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed." Was the "Law of your God" here civil law or divine law that was being enforced?

Perhaps you would like to take another tack here? I have used Scripture alone here to demonstrate the existence of a kind of OT magisterium. We have not even discussed what is contained in the Oral Torah or archaelogical findings yet. Now of course, you can argue about whether this OT magisterium was infallible or bears the same characteristics of the magisterium that exists in the Catholic Church, but you can not argue that 1) it did not exist, nor 2) that was not authoritative, nor 3) that its decisions, both civil and ecclesiastical, were binding on the people.

God bless!"

Now that we have established the fact that the OT does teach the notion of a Magisterium, the next thing we will need to do is establish whether the NT teaches that there is one as well. I will tackle that issue next.

Anyone care to comment?