Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/31/05)

"Let Jesus be your all in all, and let free grace be the one line in which you live and move. There is no life like that of one who lives in the favor of God. To receive all as a free gift preserves the mind from self-righteous pride and from self-accusing despair. It makes the heart grow warm with grateful love. It thus creates a feeling in the soul which is infinitely more acceptable to God than anything that can possibly come of slavish fear. Those who hope to be saved by trying to do their best know nothing of that glowing fervor, that hallowed warmth, that devout joy in God which come with salvation freely given according to the grace of God. The slavish spirit of self-salvation is no match for the joyous spirit of adoption. There is more real virtue in the least emotion of faith than in all the efforts of legal bondslaves or all the weary machinery of devotees who would climb to heaven by means of ceremonies. Faith is spiritual, and God who is a spirit delights in it for that reason. Years of saying prayers and church or chapel going and ceremonies and performances may only be an abomination in the sight of Jehovah. But a glance from the eye of true faith is spiritual and is therefore dear to Him. 'The Father seeketh such to worship Him' (John 4:23). Look first to the inner man and to the spiritual; the rest will then follow in due course." (Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace [Springdale, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1983], pp. 135-136)

To Whom Much is Given

The Pew Research Center just released the results of some new polling on issues related to religion. A lot of the numbers are discouraging. Considering the Christian background of America, how widespread churches and other Christian influences are, our freedoms, and the technology that exists, for example, these polling results are pathetic. We read:

"Despite the growing national debate over the teaching of evolution, there is little evidence that school discussions of evolution are upsetting to students. Just 6% of parents with children in school say their child has mentioned feeling uncomfortable when the subject of evolution comes up at school. Comparably small numbers of parents say their children have expressed unease when the subjects of religion or homosexuality have come up at their child's school."

What would be influencing these children before they go to school and when they're outside of school? Parents, grandparents, pastors, etc. And if these influences aren't doing much to teach them the truth, the significance of the truth, and how to defend the truth, we can expect the sort of results we see in this recent Pew research.

Three Faiths, One Unhelpful Documentary

A documentary is soon going to be airing on public television. It's titled "Three Faiths, One God". It examines the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It's not difficult to see what perspective the documentary probably is taking when you read the descriptions being released to the press. After a reference to "the crisis of the fundamentalist approach to religious pluralism", we read:

After examining the fundamental crisis that impacts the three religions today, Three Faiths, One God presents a dramatic and moving example of understanding and reconciliation. Judea Pearl, the father of the late Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, has dedicated himself to opening a dialogue between Muslims and Jews to create a better understanding between the two faiths. One of the most touching moments during the interfaith dialogue was a surprise visit by a representative of the Pakistani government who made a public apology for the death of Danny Pearl.

We look in on a Muslim-Christian-Jewish conflict-resolution workshop as they dispel myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes about each other’s faith. The group learns to deal effectively with bigoted comments and behavior and understand the personal impact of discrimination.

We frequently get this sort of media coverage of religion. Nobody who loves Jesus Christ and wants Him to be known and glorified for who He is can agree with the modern tendency to minimize these issues. What the media (and other sources of influence in society) ought to be doing is comparing these religions on the most important issues, without giving much attention to lesser matters of how similar their rituals are or what incorrect stereotypes people have, for example. If the most important issues were examined honestly and intelligently, we would have to come to the conclusion that these three religions are different to a highly significant degree, and we would have to conclude that there is evidence available by which we can determine who is correct and who isn't.

What people like the producers of this documentary ought to be doing is explaining the most important differences between these religions and explaining the evidence for each religion. Compare the Jewish explanations of Messianic prophecy to the Christian explanations. Compare the credibility of the historical material we have on Jesus to the credibility of the historical material we have on Mohammed. Etc. If this documentary was done as I've described, it would be far less ecumenical and far more controversial. But it would have the advantage of being significant, truthful, and helpful. Instead, what we're getting seems to be what we've come to expect from public broadcasting, something largely insignificant, untruthful, and unhelpful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/30/05)

"A thousand books had they lever to be put forth against their abominable doings and doctrine, than that the scripture should come to light. For as long as they may keep that down, they will so darken the right way with the mist of their sophistry, and so tangle them that either rebuke or despise their abominations, with arguments of philosophy, and with worldly similitudes and apparent reasons of natural wisdom, and with wresting the scripture unto their own purpose, clean contrary unto the process, order, and meaning of the text; and so delude them in descanting upon it with allegories, and amaze them, expounding it in many senses before the unlearned lay-people, (when it hath but one simple, literal sense, whose light the owls cannot abide,) that, though thou feel in thine heart, and art sure, how that all is false that they say, yet couldst thou not solve their subtle riddles. Which thing only moved me to translate, the new Testament. Because I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to establish the lay-people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother-tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text: for else, whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again, partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit, whereof thou readest in Apocalypse, chap. ix. (that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry, and traditions of their own making, founded without ground of scripture,) and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such a sense as is impossible to gather of the text" (William Tyndale, Reformation History Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], Doctrinal Treatises, p. 354)

I'm Sure That the Roman Catholic Church Will Discipline These People Any Day Now

When somebody like Benny Hinn does this sort of thing, at least most Evangelicals aren't part of his church and don't support him. But if you're a Roman Catholic, this is what your denomination does on a regular basis:

Sebastiana Magnano has been traveling to the Romanesque church here for years to have a centuries-old metal shackle clamped around her neck.

Like pilgrims through the centuries, she comes for the blessing contained in the mysterious relic, a collar descended from the mystic St. Vicinus, who lived 1,700 years ago....

In rural, Roman Catholic Italy, many people remain very religious, and very superstitious. The two belief systems coexist, tightly intertwined and surprisingly complementary....

The one used now is not said to be St. Vicinus' original but is believed to date to the 8th or 9th century, roughly the same time the church was built....

Tens of thousands of pilgrims come to Sarsina every year in search of a blessing, Father Gabriele said. He repeats the ceremony every few hours, usually on Sundays and sometimes on other days as well. During especially busy periods, such as Lent, he can issue hundreds of blessings a day, he said....

Facing divorce, unruly children, broken hearts, physical illness, lost jobs, they come with hope that a blessing will turn their luck and rid their lives of the negative vibes they believe to be at the root of their troubles.

Father Gabriele, like many priests, is also authorized by the church hierarchy to work as an exorcist....

"A lot of my work here is to help a person make his own personality stronger," he [the priest] said. "This helps people discover through Christ his love. And that way we conquer the devil."...

Paula Schimizzi, 70, traveled 50 miles from her home in the coastal city of Ravenna. She said she and her 80-year-old husband have been getting regular blessings to "liberate" them from evil spells cast by jealous neighbors who envy the family's successful car-repair business.

It's worked, she said, because her son has been protected from the evil and will be able to take over the business. Schimizzi was loading up on bottles of holy water that the church sells, for good measure.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/29/05)

"For though yourself prudent, you endure fools gladly. Otherwise you would not have been moved by senseless men to yield yourself to empty words, and to give credit to the prevalent rumor wherewith godless lips falsely accuse us, who are worshippers of God, and are called Christians, alleging that the wives of us all are held in common and made promiscuous use of; and that we even commit incest with our own sisters, and, what is most impious and barbarous of all, that we eat human flesh." (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 3:4)

After Homosexuality...

Do you remember how opponents of homosexuality said that legalizing homosexuality and homosexual marriage would open the door for the legalizing of other evils, such as polygamy, bestiality, and incest? Do you remember how advocates of homosexuality and homosexual marriage would often dismiss this claim as absurd, suggesting that homosexuality was in a different category, that we could open the door part way without opening it the rest of the way? Jeff Jacoby has an article today about how close we are to opening the door wider to include incest. He writes:

If this had happened to a gay couple, the case would have become a cause celebre. Hard time as punishment for a private, consensual, adult relationship? Activists would have been outraged. Editorial pages would have thundered. Politicians would have called for the prosecutor's and judge's heads.

But Allen and Patricia Muth are not gay. They were convicted of incest....

I wrote about the Muths' case shortly after their conviction, asking why social liberals were not up in arms over it. Where were the people who always insist that the government should stay out of people's bedrooms? That what goes on between consenting adults is nobody's business but their own? That a family is defined by love, not conventional morality or deference to ancient taboos? The voices of "diversity" were nowhere to be heard. Patricia and Allen Muth were one "nontraditional" family it seemed no one cared to defend.

But then came Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court's decision in 2003 that the Constitution protects the freedom of Americans to engage in "the most private human conduct, sexual behavior," when it is part of a willing relationship between adults....

Armed with Lawrence's sweeping language, Allen Muth appealed his conviction....

Dissenting in Lawrence, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that the decision "effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation." It was a prediction the majority made no effort to refute.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/28/05)

"Most of God's people are contented to be saved from the hell that is without; they are not so anxious to be saved from the hell that is within." (Robert McCheyne, Pastoral Letters [Shoals, Indiana: Kingsley Press, 2003], p. 50)

Comments Section Closed

Due to the recent onslaught of idiots who have spammed the comments section advertising websites that have nothing to do with this blog, I have decided to shut down the comments section altogether. When the spamming first happened, I thought disallowing anonymous comments would take care of the problem. It didn't. The spammers are now registering an account. So, the comments section is now history.

Marty Minto's Replacement

Some of you may remember that Marty Minto had a radio talk show on a Christian station until earlier this year, when he was fired after making some comments about Roman Catholicism surrounding the death of the Pope. The station has had a series of guest hosts since the firing of Minto, including a Roman Catholic host, and the new permanent host will begin this Thursday.

He's Jerry Bowyer. Some of you may have seen him on television, and he's written some material you can find posted online, largely on political issues. (See here and here, for example.) I don't know a lot about Bowyer, but I have occasionally seen him on television. He seems to be knowledgeable and careful in the claims he makes, but I don't think he would tend to be willing to address controversial doctrinal issues in the way Marty Minto did.

We'll see how Bowyer's show develops, but I would expect it to be overly ecumenical, as WORD FM in general is. I hope I'm wrong. I'll be listening to Bowyer's program as I have opportunity, and I may comment on the subject here if it's appropriate.

George Will Corrected on Intelligent Design by an Intelligent Agent

I've often discussed the false claims made about intelligent design by conservatives who are often right on other issues. William Dembski recently wrote a letter to George Will, regarding Will's false argument that intelligent design is untestable. I recommend reading the letter.

Will corrections from such knowledgeable sources change George Will's approach toward this issue? I don't know, but I'm skeptical that it will make much of a change. Proponents of intelligent design are criticized so much, and being out of step with popular scholarly and media beliefs on an issue like this can have a lot of negative consequences. The popularity of evolution in scholarly and media circles may be sufficient to keep somebody like George Will from saying much in criticism of evolution, even if somebody like William Dembski refutes Will's primary professed objection to intelligent design.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/27/05)

"If then it was from the apostles, as we said above, that this custom took its beginning, we must adjust ourselves thereto, whatsoever may have been their reasons and the grounds on which they acted; to the end that we too may observe the same in accordance with their practice. For as to things which were written afterwards and which are until now still found, they are ignored by us; and let them be ignored, no matter what they are." (Dionysius of Alexandria, Letters, 1)

Gagging Scripture With Philosophical Speculations

Jonathan Prejean has posted another reply to me, which apparently is supposed to be his last response, according to another blog entry. As I said before, we'll see how long this resolution lasts. His previous one didn't last long.

Steve Hays has already responded to Prejean. See here, here, here, and here.

Prejean is less antagonistic in his latest response, and he refers to his desire to spend more time with his family. I wish him and his family the best, but the issues involved in these discussions are too significant to let everything go because he's less antagonistic now and makes mention of his wife and daughter. Prejean has spent more than a year arguing against Evangelicalism in public forums. He's been referring to Evangelical apologists as "stupid", "idiots", people anybody "with a brain" wouldn't find convincing, etc. He accuses Evangelicals of having heretical Christology, a false gospel, and invalid churches. I think these recent discussions he's been having with Steve Hays and me have done a lot to show how wrong Prejean is and the implausibility of Roman Catholicism.

In his latest reply, Prejean once again made many vague references to scholarship. I want to remind the readers that Prejean frequently makes these references to scholarship, even saying that his opponents should be citing scholars to support every claim they make on a particular subject, yet he doesn't abide by his own professed standards. I've repeatedly given examples of Prejean's failure to cite scholarship to support his claims and his arguing for positions that no scholar agrees with, and he does these things on issues where he demands scholarly citations from other people. Apparently, he doesn't believe in his own standards, and I don't think we have any reason to believe in them either. Anybody putting forward even a small amount of effort to hold Prejean to his own professed standards can't be satisfied with what they've seen in his writings.

As he often does, Prejean once again changes his standards in the middle of the discussion. After repeatedly making unqualified comments about how I shouldn't cite historical sources who agree with me unless I agree with all of the arguments leading to their conclusions, Prejean has added so many qualifying loopholes that his argument now looks something like Swiss cheese:

"I don't say that you need to understand everything that was in the author's head, but you at least need to know the argument he was making for the conclusion in the cited work before you use him as evidence for the absolutely must make your best efforts to understand what his [Ignatius'] reasons were before you can responsibly cite him....If I think that the citation of pseudo-Isidore wasn't all that important, I might cite him [Thomas Aquinas] and mention the disagreement, but if that's a major part of the argument, then he simply isn't a witness for my case....Same thing I said before: because their [Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria's] reasons don't undermine my argument and/or aren't sufficiently different to suggest that they're endorsing a different conclusion altogether....If they [historical sources] don't mention the arguments [leading to their conclusions], you have to figure them out; that's what scholarship is ordinarily about doing."

Given all of those qualifiers, as well as Prejean's repeated failure to explain his disagreements with every source he cites, he has no reason to continue objecting to my citations. If Prejean can add so many and such wide qualifications, so can I.

Regarding the common ground I have with Prejean, he wrote:

"We can both think that a conclusion is 'probable' for entirely different reasons, which is what you seem to be impervious to understanding."

No, I understand that people can reach the same conclusion for largely different reasons. But the fact that it's possible doesn't prove that it has occurred in the discussions in question here.

When I asked Jonathan about the probability of Jesus' resurrection, I cited the arguments of scholars such as William Craig and Gary Habermas. When I discussed the probability of my interpretation of Luke 24:25, I explained some reasons for why I reached the conclusions I reached. Jonathan and I live in the same country at the same time in history. We cite some of the same scholars (Schaff, McGuckin, Kelly, etc.), and we both consider mainstream standards of historical scholarship credible (multiple attestation is better than single attestation, the value of corroboration from hostile witnesses, etc.). Do Jonathan and I disagree on some issues involved in evaluating probabilities? Surely we do. But are our standards "entirely different"? No.

It's not as if I asked Jonathan whether he thinks the resurrection of Jesus, for example, is historically probable without knowing anything about Jonathan, his background, or the societal context in which our discussion was occurring. I asked Jonathan about these probability questions with a large amount of knowledge about who Jonathan is, what standards he accepts, how terms are commonly defined in the time and place in which we live, etc., and I told him what reasons I had for reaching my conclusions. If he thought his probability conclusions were so radically different from mine that no significant agreement was involved, then why didn't he stop the discussion there instead of letting it progress as it did?

Regarding apostolic succession, Jonathan writes:

"I'm not aware of any group, even heretical groups, that persisted in denying the authority of bishops after Nicaea and maintained historical continuity."

Notice that Jonathan changes the issue from his concept of apostolic succession to "the authority of bishops", and he once again adds the qualifier "after Nicaea", which he didn't include originally. As we'll see later in this article, Jonathan's arguments on issues such as this one depend on beginning with speculative philosophical beliefs that can't possibly be shown to be probable. Without those philosophical speculations, there's no way to justify something like Jonathan's concept of apostolic succession. The concept can't be historically traced back to the apostles as we would historically trace any other concept to a historical figure.

Regarding ecumenical councils, Jonathan wrote:

"If you want to make a case for the orthodoxy of Arianism, be my guest. My point is that there is a continuous body of Christians who operated according to a particular form that they believed to have been established by Christ with the power to dogmatize beliefs. In other words, there are institutions with discernible legal structure maintaining historical continuity. Does it prove anything in and of itself, apart from a theologial paradigm? No, of course not. But for those who have a theological paradigm in which such things are probative, it proves a great deal."

Obviously, I never suggested that I want to "make a case for the orthodoxy of Arianism". Jonathan hasn't explained and justified why he accepts some councils and rejects others, nor has he given us a justification for Roman Catholicism's rejection of some portions of the councils it otherwise considers ecumenical.

The first ecumenical council didn't occur until the fourth century. What would it prove about the beliefs of earlier generations regarding such councils? Not only did that first ecumenical council not permanently settle the dispute it was attempting to settle, but the Arian lapse that occurred after Nicaea was so bad that Jerome could write of it, "The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian." (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians, 19) Did large numbers of people eventually come to agree with councils now considered ecumenical? Yes. And some of those same people reject portions of those councils while accepting other portions.

Jonathan tries to turn this unconvincing historical data into a convincing argument for the authority of ecumenical councils by adding the philosophical presupposition that such historical data would be probative for his view of ecumenical councils. He gives us no reason to accept that philosophical presupposition, and we ought to ask ourselves what reason he could possibly have. Is there any need for God to operate through ecumenical councils in such a way? No. The best Jonathan could argue is that such an approach by God seems appropriate to him (Jonathan), but that sort of philosophical preference isn't equivalent to convincing evidence. If I think it seems appropriate for God to let Protestantism develop so as to further personal responsibility and the value of the individual, for example, such philosophical preferences would do nothing to prove that the development of Protestantism was approved by God. There isn't anything in Jonathan's philosophical speculation that's compelling.

And it's evident that the same can be said of large portions of the rest of Jonathan's system. He writes:

"I don't consider apostolic doctrine to be literally limited to what the Apostles themselves taught....My point has always been that what Christians believed was the process for developing binding doctrine ought to be the guide for what is apostolic, what Christianity is. Jason thinks that we ought to be looking for what the Apostles literally taught....I take later evidence as more probative than Jason does. It's not a question of 'no other method' existing; the disagreement is exactly on the method....Again, if one has a theological paradigm that looks for an established structure for announcing dogma rather than attempting to root in entirely in what was historically revealed at the time, and moreover a metaphysical reason for looking to the objective presence of God existing today in continuity with a previous communion, then this evidence is highly probative. The real question is whether one ought or ought not be looking for such a thing; that's when Protestantism and Catholicism are purely incompatible....I consider it highly probable that what later Christians accepted as dogma is what Christ intended to convey; you don't."

Jonathan never justified such philosophical speculations in his lengthy discussions with Steve Hays and me. But now he brings them up, without justifying them, just before saying that he's going to stop dialoguing with us.

Notice, also, the vagueness of many of Jonathan's comments. What does it mean for "later Christians" to "accept as dogma"? If Jonathan can claim that an ecumenical council ruling or a papal decree meets such a standard, why couldn't I argue that something else, such as popular opinion or a different type of council ruling, meets the standard? Why couldn't I define "Christians" differently than Jonathan does, so as to arrive at different conclusions? He may add further philosophical principles in an attempt to avoid all of these alternatives, but he can't plausibly claim that all of these philosophical speculations make for a probable case.

When Jonathan refers to post-apostolic Christians accepting something as dogma, he can't be referring to popular reception, because I doubt that a majority of professing Christians have had a view of the Trinity or the eucharist, for example, that Jonathan would consider orthodox. If the meaning of the apostolic revelation was defined by popular belief, then, as I told Jonathan earlier, something like the veneration of images would be part of the apostolic revelation during one generation, but not in another generation.

So, how does Jonathan define "accept as dogma"? In order to get his definition to align with Roman Catholicism, would he say that the doctrine has to be accepted as infallibly defined by a majority of professing Christians? If so, then what if Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and other professing Christian groups would outnumber Roman Catholics in the future? Would something like the Immaculate Conception be considered part of the apostolic revelation today, but no longer be considered part of that revelation in the future, if the percentage of professing Christians who reject it grows larger?

And what if the ante-Nicene church rejects the veneration of images, and thinks it's doing so in obedience to the second of the Ten Commandments? Surely they considered the Ten Commandments binding. Is Jonathan going to argue that something must be "accepted as dogma" in a particular way and not in another way? If so, he can't be getting that conclusion from what the historical Jesus and the historical apostles taught historically. Where is he getting it, then? He has to engage in more philosophical speculation.

Jonathan calls the conclusions drawn from his philosophical speculations "highly probable", yet he repeatedly tried to minimize the reliability of historical conclusions reached by the grammatical-historical method. So, Jonathan wants us to think it's "highly probable" that what post-apostolic Christians accept as dogma was intended by God. He gives no justification for that assertion, and God didn't give us such a system in the Old Testament era, yet Jonathan wants us to think it's "highly probable" that God intended such a system for the New Testament era. Yet, when we use the grammatical-historical method to reach historical conclusions based on testimony from the apostles themselves and their associates, for example, Jonathan repeatedly tries to cast doubt on the reliability of our conclusions. For Jonathan, his unconfirmable philosophical speculations lead to "highly probable" conclusions, but historical examination of the writings of the apostles themselves doesn't. Why should we think that such philosophical speculations carry more weight than the historical meaning of historical documents written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Jonathan writes that "what Christians believed was the process for developing binding doctrine ought to be the guide for what is apostolic". But different Christians have held different views on that subject. Nobody in the earliest centuries defined "developing binding doctrine" the way Jonathan does. The fact that his Roman Catholic system became popular in some parts of the world in later church history doesn't prove that all Christians collectively have believed that the Roman Catholic system is "the process for developing binding doctrine".

And if Jonathan wants to claim that he's referring to something other than the Roman Catholic system, then why is he a Roman Catholic? Whatever system he has in mind for "developing binding doctrine", there is no one system that has always been the majority view among professing Christians. Even if there was, why should we think that the truth is determined by popularity? Not only has Jonathan's system not always been a majority view, but it can't even be shown to have always been a view held by a minority.

I can cite passage after passage in the church fathers in which they refer to how what the apostles themselves taught is our standard, regardless of what later generations, even church leaders, believed: Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 3:1:1, 4:26:5), Cyprian (Letter 62:14, 62:17), Dionysius of Alexandria (Letters, 1), etc. Men like Irenaeus and Tertullian believed that the churches of their day were generally faithful in maintaining the apostolic tradition, so they told people that the tradition could be found in the churches. But such a claim about the historical situation of their day isn't equivalent to a belief that whatever doctrines the Roman Catholic system (or another system) might develop in the future must have been part of the apostolic revelation. To the contrary, what Roman Catholicism would later dogmatize not only was often unknown early on, but also was contradicted.

Tertullian tells us, in a passage I'm going to quote below, that in addition to the teachings of the apostles being passed down, the explanations of those teachings were also passed down. He condemns the concept of a doctrine not being understood by one generation, then being understood by a later generation. Even if we give some room for hyperbole or carelessness in Tertullian's comments, the general thrust is clear. He had no concept of Jonathan's system of dogmatizing something like Purgatory or the Immaculate Conception more than a thousand years after the time of the apostles. Notice that whereas Roman Catholic apologists cite John 16:13 in favor of one generation knowing of a doctrine that an earlier generation rejected, Tertullian cites John 16:13 as evidence that every doctrine was understood by the church since the time of the apostles:

"No doubt He had once said, 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now;' but even then He added, 'When He, the Spirit of truth, shall come, He will lead you into all truth.' He thus shows that there was nothing of which they were ignorant, to whom He had promised the future attainment of all truth by help of the Spirit of truth. And assuredly He fulfilled His promise, since it is proved in the Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Ghost did come down....But here is, as we have said, the same madness, in their allowing indeed that the apostles were ignorant of nothing, and preached not any doctrines which contradicted one another, but at the same time insisting that they did not reveal all to all men, for that they proclaimed some openly and to all the world, whilst they disclosed others only in secret and to a few, because Paul addressed even this expression to Timothy: 'O Timothy, guard that which is entrusted to thee;' and again: 'That good thing which was committed unto thee keep.' What is this deposit? Is it so secret as to be supposed to characterize a new doctrine? or is it a part of that charge of which he says, 'This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy?' and also of that precept of which he says, 'I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ who witnessed a good confession under Pontius Pilate, that thou keep this commandment?' Now, what is this commandment and what is this charge? From the preceding and the succeeding contexts, it will be manifest that there is no mysterious hint darkly suggested in this expression about some far-fetched doctrine, but that a warning is rather given against receiving any other doctrine than that which Timothy had heard from himself, as I take it publicly: 'Before many witnesses' is his phrase. Now, if they refuse to allow that the church is meant by these 'many witnesses,' it matters nothing, since nothing could have been secret which was produced 'before many witnesses.' Nor, again, must the circumstance of his having wished him to 'commit these things to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also,' be construed into a proof of there being some occult gospel....Openly did the Lord speak, without any intimation of a hidden mystery. He had Himself commanded that, 'whatsoever they had heard in darkness' and in secret, they should 'declare in the light and on the house-tops.'...Moreover, they [the apostles] remembered the words: 'Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil;' so that they were not to handle the gospel in a diversity of treatment....Since, therefore, it is incredible that the apostles were either ignorant of the whole scope of the message which they had to declare, or failed to make known to all men the entire rule of faith, let us see whether, while the apostles proclaimed it, perhaps, simply and fully, the churches, through their own fault, set it forth otherwise than the apostles had done. All these suggestions of distrust you may find put forward by the heretics." (The Prescription Against Heretics, 22, 25-27)

And elsewhere Tertullian comments:

"But should Marcion's gospel succeed in filling the whole world, it would not even in that case be entitled to the character of apostolic. For this quality, it will be evident, can only belong to that gospel which was the first to fill the world" (Against Marcion, 5:19)

Such sentiments are found over and over again in the church fathers. Jonathan's concept of how to define the apostolic revelation was absent and widely contradicted in early church history.

Much of what Jonathan considers to have been "developed" as "binding doctrine" by Roman Catholicism was unknown to or contradicted by Tertullian and the churches of his day. The fact that a variety of concepts of an authoritative church and authoritative tradition were advocated among the church fathers doesn't prove that they would have agreed with Jonathan's system.

All that Jonathan is doing is asserting the probability of philosophical speculations that can't be shown to be probable, then he's molding church history around those speculations. The writings of the apostles and their associates are considered largely unclear and subject to allegorical interpretation, while speculations about what it seems fitting for God to do are considered "highly probable". I don't think Jonathan has taken seriously enough the warning of Colossians 2:8.

If the Roman Catholic system is consistent with what Jonathan thinks God should have given us, isn't it possible that the Roman Catholic system came from the minds of men thinking like Jonathan rather than from the mind of God? Maybe we should look to the revelation God has given us, where God Himself has spoken. And there He doesn't give us the Roman Catholic system, nor does He give us anything that would inevitably grow into that system, if we interpret the apostolic revelation as we would any other historical source. Was God silent about the system of authority He wanted us to follow when He gave us a public revelation, leaving us to find it by independent philosophy instead? Who can claim to know so much about God's purposes as to conclude that it's probable that God would use something like the Roman Catholic system?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/26/05)

"I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ." (Ignatius, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, 4)

Jonathan Prejean's Demand That His Opponents Prove a Universal Negative

Jonathan Prejean has posted another response to me at his blog. He still isn't telling us how we can get more meaning from scripture with an approach other than the grammatical-historical method. Instead, he keeps demanding that those who don't agree with him prove a universal negative. We're supposed to prove that no other method exists rather than him proving his assertion that there is another method. Since I don't know of any other method, I'll wait for him to prove his assertion. He hasn't done so yet, and it doesn't look as if he ever will.

Prejean writes:

"Plenty of people agree with the apostolic succession being 'publicly verifiable,' as it is a matter of historical record that ecumenical councils were used to resolve theological disputes."

And there were Arians who held councils to settle disputes, other groups have held councils that Roman Catholicism rejects, there are portions of the ecumenical councils that are rejected by Catholicism, etc. What does the fact that some councils were regarded as settling some disputes prove? Prejean isn't making a case. He's trying to give the appearance of having an answer without actually giving one.

As far as apostolic succession is concerned, I answered Prejean's claims on that subject on Greg Krehbiel's board. Prejean changed his argument in the middle of the discussion by first claiming that the concept was universally accepted all along, then claiming that it was universally accepted "after Nicaea". I challenged that claim as well, but Prejean decided to end the discussion by telling me that I wasn't understanding him. He never gave a defense of his false claims about apostolic succession.

And how does Prejean reach his conclusions about apostolic succession, ecumenical councils, etc.? Through the grammatical-historical method. Or does he want to say that we can interpret the documents allegorically? If he's going to say that we can only interpret the Biblical documents allegorically, then how does he know that? He's already said that he doesn't know it by means of popularity, so he can't appeal to the popularity of allegorical interpretation. And if popularity doesn't make the case, then he can't cite it to prove the authority of ecumenical councils either. Where, then, is Jonathan getting his unsubstantiated conclusion that we're to apply one method of interpretation to the Biblical documents and another method to these other documents he's citing to support his theological conclusions? Just saying that the documents are different in some way isn't enough. He has to explain why the difference leads to his conclusion. He doesn't explain it, because he can't. He just makes assertions without evidence.

"This is exactly what I mean by the astrological method; it's not a commonly shared premise that the GHM is a limit on ascertaining apostolic theology, so it's an idiosyncratic use of a commonly-accepted method to use the GHM in this way."

So, Jonathan, you have no objection to astrology? You just object to limiting the interpretation of planetary movements to astrology's method? You're willing to accept astrology, as long as it's accompanied by other methods of interpreting planetary movements? No, you reject astrology. Your astrology analogy has been shown to be false, so now you're redefining it. But your redefinition doesn't make sense.

Again, if you want us to believe that there's another way of interpreting the words of Jesus or Paul, for example, then you need to prove that assertion rather than demanding that people like Steve Hays and me prove a universal negative. Nobody is obligated to believe in a second method of interpreting Jesus and the apostles just because they can't prove that a second method doesn't exist under a rock on the back side of Neptune. If we're only aware of one method, and you claim to have another, it makes no sense for you to repeatedly refuse to prove your proposed second method while demaning that we prove a universal negative.

"The point is that it has insufficient objective certainty to justify Jason's stance that only what is 'ascertainable' is binding."

I don't know what you have in mind, since you aren't giving us many details. What would qualify as "sufficient objective certainty"? If the grammatical-historical method is giving us probabilities, and you aren't giving us any other publicly verifiable method, then any probability, however low, is better than the nothing you're giving us.

"What is 'ascertainable' by the GHM is more or less bare possibility; beyond that, it is a subjective question as to what is 'probable,' 'likely,' and whatnot....My point is that he is imposing subjective, not objective, criteria as a binding limit on theological speculation, and that is unwarranted."

So, the historicity of the Holocaust is just "bare possibility"? Its probability is "a subjective question"? Nobody denies that some subjective elements are involved. But many objective elements are involved as well. Are you suggesting that deciding on an issue such as whether Jesus was Jewish or whether He had twelve disciples is similar to deciding on your favorite flavor of ice cream?

In our discussion on Greg Krehbiel's board, you said:

"I think there are reasonably objective historical ways to identify a Christian community entirely apart from theology."

So, if historical conclusions are just "bare possibility", and viewing them as probabilities is a "subjective" matter, then why did you refer to "reasonably objective historical ways"?

What about your views of apostolic succession, the Christology of Cyril of Alexandria, what the ecumenical councils taught, etc.? Since those are historical matters that you approach with the grammatical-historical method, should we think that your conclusions on those issues are "bare possibility" and "subjective"?

"Moreover, that determination also implicitly includes a determination on what counts as evidence for particular interpretations, and Jason's use of the GHM as a limiting factor excludes evidence that many people consider persuasive for meaning."

Your latest reply repeatedly refers to what "many people" believe. But stating that many people believe something, without giving us reason to believe it, isn't a sufficient argument.

"Evidence is cited for arguments, not conclusions. The corollary is that citing someone as evidence means that you agree with their conclusions and their reasons for the conclusions."

If you claim that nobody before the Reformation believed in justification through faith alone, that's a matter of what conclusions those people held, not the arguments that led them to their conclusions. I can respond to your false assertion about conclusions without having to address the arguments that led these people to their conclusions.

"This means that if you don't know a person's reasons for a conclusion, you can't cite that person as evidence."

Evidence for what? It depends on what's being discussed. If the issue under discussion is whether anybody in a particular timeframe held belief X, then we cite people who held belief X, regardless of whether they had different reasons for holding that belief. What you've done in our discussion is change the subject from whether people believed in justification apart from baptism to whether they believed in justification apart from baptism for the same reasons I do. I'm not the one who claimed that I must be able to show that other people agreed with my arguments. You're the one who suggested that standard. Many of the historical sources don't even mention what their arguments are. Even when there are disagreements over arguments, there can be some overlap, despite the differences. If a Baptist arrives at justification apart from batism by means of Biblical passages A, B, and C, whereas a Presbyterian arrives at the doctrine by means of passages A, B, C, and D, I don't conclude that their agreement must have no significance just because it isn't complete agreement.

"Contrary to Jason's assertion, I never cite a source without a reasonable basis for thinking that I know why they are making the statement (if it's an older source, that always means that I have a qualified secondary source backing up my interpretation), and I never cite a source whose reasons for a conclusion contradict my own. If I do, please call me on it; it's culpable negligence."

What's the relevance of a secondary source if the secondary source has no way of knowing the original source's arguments? What secondary source do you have who can state all of the arguments that led John the Baptist to his conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah? Nobody knows every consideration, every thought process, etc. that led John the Baptist to his conclusions. Do we have to know all of his arguments in order to state that we agree with him about Jesus' Messiahship? No. Likewise, we don't have to know every one of Ignatius' reasons for believing in the deity of Christ in order to say that we agree with him that Jesus is God.

Your reasoning here is absurd, Jonathan, and I've never met another Roman Catholic who has said that he agrees with your standard. I frequently see Catholics claiming agreement with historical sources without knowing the arguments that led those sources to their conclusions or without agreeing with all of the sources' arguments. Catholics will claim agreement with a church father on a Marian doctrine, for example, even if that church father relied in part on a spurious apocryphal document to reach his conclusion.

Do you agree with all of Thomas Aquinas' arguments for the papacy, such as his citation of forged documents? Must you therefore say that you and Thomas Aquinas don't share a common belief in the papacy? Should we ignore the arguments the two of you have in common, since the two of you differ in some arguments?

In your last reply to me, you said that you can claim agreement with the allegorical method of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, even if you don't agree with all of the details of their allegorical method, as long as you have "a reason" for disagreeing with them:

"I don't disagree with them without having a reason for doing so."

Well, I also have "a reason" for disagreeing with Presbyterians on baptism, for example. Yet, you tell me that I can't claim agreement with them on justification through faith alone. So, why can you disagree with Athanasius and Cyril in some details, yet claim agreement with them?

In conclusion, the reader ought to note that Jonathan has now written an even larger amount of material in response to me and in response to Steve Hays and others, but still hasn't made a case for Roman Catholicism. He tells us that we shouldn't limit our interpretation of the words of Jesus and the apostles to the grammatical-historical method of interpretation, but he doesn't make a case for any other method, and he keeps demanding that we prove a universal negative. Yes, it's true, there might be another method somewhere in the mind of a farmer in South Dakota or inside the heart of an angel flying above the skies of Pluto. We can't prove that no other method exists in such places. But until Jonathan Prejean produces a convincing case for a second method, we'll work with what we have, not with the pixie dust of Jonathan's unpaid IOUs.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/25/05)

"Do you know who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England?..It is the devil..Ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. Where the devil is resident — there away with books and up with candles; away with Bibles and up with heads; away with the light of the gospel and up with the light of candles; yea at noondays; down with Christ’s cross, up with purgatory pickpurse; away with clothing the naked, the poor, and impotent, up with decking of images and gay garnishing of stocks and stones; down with God’s traditions and His most holy word..Oh! that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel!" (Hugh Latimer, cited in Reformation History Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], Heroes of the Reformation, p. 104)

Probabilities Are Better Than Possibilities

Jonathan Prejean has posted another article at his blog responding to me. He writes:

"And how often do I cite the arguments of Karl Keating or Patrick Madrid as evidence for my arguments? Oh, wait, that's right; I don't! See, it's that 'cite as evidence' part that you don't seem to get."

You've been inconsistent on this issue. Here's what you said in our discussion on Greg Krehbiel's board:

"I don't agree with anybody if I don't agree with his argument."

You're changing your standard in the middle of a discussion again. And even if you had only been referring to a need to agree with sources we cite as evidence, that argument would be erroneous as well, and it would be an argument that you aren't consistent with. You don't agree with all of the arguments of the historical sources you cite as evidence for your position. You frequently cite historical sources with whom you disagree on some issues, without even attempting to explain why you disagree with them. In many cases, you can't possibly know what reasons the sources had for reaching their conclusions, because they didn't tell us. Yet, you suggested that I couldn't cite such sources in support of my position, since I couldn't show that they agreed with my arguments. If that standard is to be applied to me, it ought to be applied to you as well.

"There are some views (your own, for example) that are so presuppositionally circular and immune to criticism that it would be almost impossible (if not actually impossible) to construct an argument convincing to you."

An argument for what? I'm convinced by arguments for Jesus' resurrection, the authorship attributions of Biblical books, etc. If you had similar evidence for Roman Catholicism, I'd be convinced by it. You don't have such evidence.

"And specifically, I demonstrate that your arguments against Catholicism are circular and question-begging as well, that you aren't appealing to some externality that is ordinarily persuasive to people outside your cognitive fortress."

So, when I refer to concepts like the earliness of a source and multiple attestation, such historical standards "aren't appealing to some externality that is ordinarily persuasive to people outside my cognitive fortress"? Is the absence and widespread contradiction of Roman Catholic doctrine in early church history something that "doesn't appeal to some externality that is ordinarily persuasive to people outside my cognitive fortress"? Since you're the one claiming to have a historical revelation that can't be publicly verified by commonly accepted standards of historical research, and you repeatedly refuse to even put forward a case for Roman Catholicism, I would say that you're the one who isn't appealing to people outside of his "cognitive fortress".

"When you, for example, use the GHM as a reductionist criterion for meaning in the Bible, when there's no reason to think that it would be accurate when used as such a criterion, you've got problems."

What I've said is that if there's meaning in the Bible beyond what we would ascertain through the grammatical-historical method, then that additional meaning needs to be demonstrated, not just asserted. Your response so far has been to complain that I'm limiting people to the grammatical-historical method, but you never give us any reason to think that there's an additional method we should be using. I'm not preventing you from giving us evidence for another method. You just refuse to produce it.

"We can, to some extent [arrive at theology through the grammatical-historical method]. There's just no reason to think that we will be able to do so at some predetermined level of certainty."

Once again, you've been inconsistent. In a previous reply to me, you said:

"If you're trying to get theology out of them [the Biblical documents], this is a non sequitur. You would only approach them as historical documents if you wanted to get historical information out of them. Whether that would bear any resemblance to the theological meaning is entirely inscrutable by historical methods."

In a previous reply to Steve Hays, you said:

"I have no reason to even *suspect* that there is some independent way to get at divinely revealed meaning apart from the Church; Evangelicals just assume that there is and argue from this perceived necessity to the existence of a method."

What was the purpose of your astrology analogy if you don't have any objections to attaining theology through the historical method I've described? If you were only objecting to the lack of certainty in my method, then why would you compare my method to deriving astrological conclusions from planetary movements? Do you consider astrology probable, but just not certain enough? No, you don't. You don't think that astrology even gives us probable conclusions, much less certain conclusions. Your false analogy to astrology assumes a rejection of deriving theology from the historical method, just as we can't derive astrology's predictions from planet movements.

But now you acknowledge that we can get theology from figures like Jesus and Paul using the grammatical-historical approach. You've shifted your criticism to "some predetermined level of certainty". Aside from the fact that you've changed your argument, what "predetermined level of certainty" did I advocate?

You keep shifting back and forth between saying that we can't get theology from my method to saying that we can get theology from it, but without sufficient certainty. How do you know what the sufficient certainty level is?

"Conversely, there's no cause to think that theological methods that accept other evidence are false on their face."

That's not the issue. The issue is whether we have reason to accept those other methods. The other methods would have to be considered rather than rejected as "false on their face" just because they're other methods. I never argued that other methods should be rejected just because they're other methods. You're burning a straw man.

"you're asserting (without argument) that the GHM is the only 'certain' method, when it's not even clear that it is a 'certain' method in the way you're asserting it (much less the only certain method)."

Where did I refer to the grammatical-historical method as "certain"? I've repeatedly said that historical conclusions are probabilities, not certainties. But there's a difference between the probability of the Holocaust and the possibility of a bodily assumption of Mary. You aren't giving us any reason to think that Roman Catholicism is even probable, so I don't need a "certain" method in order to have a method that's better than what you're offering.

"I've said clearly: you get that additional meaning by the manifested faith of the Church. Pick up a copy of the Catechism if you're interested."

I wasn't asking whether you think the Roman Catholic denomination gives us additional meaning for the apostolic revelation that isn't ascertainable through the grammatical-historical method. I'm aware that you think that your denomination does give us such additional meaning. I was asking you to give us convincing evidence for your conclusion. All you've done is reassert a conclusion for which you have yet to give us a justification.

"Plenty of scholars will admit that they lack sufficient information to draw firm conclusions on matters like this or disagree with the certainty asserted by other historians."

Again, you're not addressing the issue I raised. The issue isn't whether historians disagree on some elements of a historical figure's theology. Rather, the issue is whether historians think they can arrive at some probable conclusions about a figure's theology through the grammatical-historical method. And they do. Yet, at times you've told us that we can't arrive at theology through that method. But at other times, you'll acknowledge that we can get theology from my method, then complain that my method doesn't give us enough certainty. And after you complain about my method, you don't give us any alternative that would give us any higher level of certainty.

Apparently, what you're now arguing is that we can arrive at some of the apostolic theology through the grammatical-historical approach, but to differing degrees of probability and without certainty that the apostolic theology is ascertainable only through that method. But I never disputed either of those points. I never denied that historical conclusions are a matter of probability rather than certainty, that historians disagree with each other, etc. I also never denied that other methods of ascertaining the apostolic theology are possible. What I've said is that I'm not aware of any other such method (in the context of public verifiability). I've asked you for evidence of another method, but you keep refusing to make a case.

"I'm arguing exactly that we can't ascertain their theology with the degree of certainty you're asserting"

Earlier in your latest reply, you referred to me claiming to have a "certain" method. Now you're referring to me claiming to have a "degree of certainty". Which is it? What I claimed is differing degrees of probability. For example, Paul's authorship of 1 Corinthians is more probable than Peter's authorship of 2 Peter. I don't claim that either one is a certain conclusion of the historical method. If you want us to believe that you have some better method of publicly verifying a system, then make your case. All that you've done so far is complain that my method doesn't produce enough certainty and complain that I haven't proven a universal negative by showing that no other method exists. But the probabilities that my method gives us are better than your failure to give us any publicly verifiable method.

"Of course I assume things; we all have to assume things in forming models, but I don't assume any of the things you assert (at least if you mean it to be assuming my conclusions)."

There's a difference between a necessary assumption and an unnecessary assumption. The fact that some truth claims are necessary for forming a model doesn't mean that any truth claim can be made. You can't just begin with the unjustified assumption that the church is infallible, for example, then claim that your assumption is "axiomatic" when it's questioned. That's what you did, even using the word "axiomatic", in the discussion on Greg Krehbiel's board.

"Here's a novel idea: read a book!"

Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria wrote many hundreds of pages of material. Telling me to "read a book" doesn't explain how you're defining their allegorical method. For example, neither of those men advocated the doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary. How would you go about moving from their allegorical interpretations on an issue such as Christology to arriving at the conclusion that Mary was bodily assumed to Heaven?

"OR provide a coherent reason for disagreement."

I cited examples of historical sources agreeing with me about justification through faith alone without those sources having explained their arguments leading up to their conclusion. You said that was insufficient. But now you've changed your standard. You're now claiming that I can cite historical sources I disagree with as long as I "provide a coherent reason" for disagreeing with them. If I can cite historical sources with whom I disagree on some issues, then what's your complaint about the sources I cited earlier? Some of them don't explain their arguments leading to their conclusion, so we don't know whether I agree with their arguments. And I have coherent reasons for disagreeing with the other sources where I disagree with them.

Are you going to claim that there's no possible coherent explanation for disagreeing with a Presbyterian view of baptism, for example? If my explanations are to be considered incoherent because you disagree with them, then I can say that your explanation for why you disagree with Papias about premillennialism, for example, is incoherent, since I disagree with it.

"Ever hear of ecumenical councils? That's not the same thing as popularity."

All that you're doing is pushing the question back a step. How do you know that the councils you consider ecumenical are correct in their teachings? If these councils are "not the same thing as popularity", then you can't cite their popular reception as the reason for following them. What's your reason, then?

In closing, I want to remind the readers that I've provided a method of publicly verifying the apostolic revelation, and my method leads to probable conclusions, even by the admission of Jonathan Prejean and other critics. In contrast, Prejean hasn't given us any publicly verifiable method that adds any doctrines to what would be attained through my method. Instead of giving us something better, he complains that my method doesn't give us more certainty, and he complains that I haven't proven a universal negative by showing that no other method is available. If Prejean had a convincing case for another method, don't you think he would have produced it by now rather than repeatedly refusing to do so?

Another Good Response to Prejean

Steve Hays has posted another good reply to Jonathan Prejean. Here are two of the most significant parts:

"Since when did I—or Engwer, for that matter—ever rest my case for the GHM [grammatical-historical method] on 'resolving the problems of epistemic fallibility?"

"So where the original revealed meaning is indefinitive, the church can upgrade that indefinitive meaning to something definitive. Hence, the input is less than the output. The definitive meaning is not the original revealed meaning, but something above and beyond the original revealed meaning—a surplus sense, which cannot be directly extracted from the original, but is supplied by the church. What we have here is a de facto doctrine of continuous revelation by another name."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/24/05)

"But if we choose to apply this principle so extravagantly and harshly in our capricious imaginations, we may then make out God to have done anything we please, on the ground that it was not impossible for Him to do it. We must not, however, because He is able to do all things suppose that He has actually done what He has not done. But we must inquire whether He has really done it. God could, if He had liked, have furnished man with wings to fly with, just as He gave wings to kites. We must not, however, run to the conclusion that He did this because He was able to do it." (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 10)

Jonathan Prejean Should Have Stayed in Retirement

As I said in a previous article, Jonathan Prejean's recent claim to be "retiring" from "proselytizing" was about as credible as the "resolutions" of Dave Armstrong. Prejean has begun responding to Steve Hays again, without addressing many of the issues he ignored in his previous discussions with Hays, and he begins his latest reply with the following comments:

"As someone who just loves teaching, I can't bring myself to abandon any teaching endeavor if there's any chance that I might actually present the lesson more effectively."

Anybody who has read Prejean's previous replies to Hays and Prejean's posts in response to me at Greg Krehbiel's board will know that Prejean's claim about how he "loves teaching" is absurd. Prejean repeatedly refused to defend Roman Catholicism. He repeatedly refused to answer questions about his arbitrariness and double standards. But now, within a few days of "retiring", he's back with more arbitrariness and more double standards. He writes:

"To put it into perspective, the Evangelical use of the GHM is no more convincing to me than an astrologer's use of planetary motion. I have no reason to believe that the application of a proper observational method (such predicting planetary orbits based on gravitational calculations) would have any utility in the area of predicting the future. Essentially, the argument repeated by Hays, Jason Engwer, and Frank Turk is equivalent in my mind to 'my astrological calculations are based on absolutely reliable planetary motion calculations; even you have to use planetary motion calculations, you know!' Well, yeah, but I don't use them to predict the future, so why does that my matter?"

And he summarizes his own approach as follows:

"I have no reason to even *suspect* that there is some independent way to get at divinely revealed meaning apart from the Church; Evangelicals just assume that there is and argue from this perceived necessity to the existence of a method....By contrast, I use grammatical-historical methods where they are reliable (viz., discerning the meaning of a human author trying to communicate directly with another human recipient) to empirically observe what hermeneutical method was actually used and deemed reliable by Christians of the past, which I would argue is exactly the Alexandrian Christological hermeneutic of Ss. Athanasius and Cyril. In identifying who is and isn't a Christian, I am not using any particular vaporous or subjective criterion (which 'correct belief' would be); it is simply based on the records we have of a relatively well-identified population from a sociological perspective....On the contrary, I don't even attempt to rehabilitate Origen's allegorical method; I doubt both its accuracy and its metaphysical premises. Ss. Athanasius and Cyril clearly provided a corrective to Origen's exegetical method, and it is this method that I endorse."

Prejean often acts as if he's representing what Catholics in general believe, then he proceeds to use argumentation that you never see other Catholics using. How often do we see Karl Keating or Patrick Madrid, for example, taking the approach Prejean has taken? When's the last time you saw a Catholic Answers tract argue along the lines of Prejean's claims about phenomenology, the Christology of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, etc.? Keep in mind that Prejean told me, in our discussion on Greg Krehbiel's board, that I can't claim to agree with other people unless I agree with all of their arguments leading to their conclusion. Yet, Prejean claims to agree with Roman Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox and others) who don't use his argumentation to arrive at their conclusions.

Prejean's astrology analogy is ridiculous. Prejean has acknowledged, in a previous discussion with me, that it's historically probable that Jesus rose from the dead, spoke the words recorded in Luke 24:25, etc. Words have meaning. What Jesus spoke in Luke 24 has meaning. If that meaning includes theology, as it does, then we can arrive at theology by means of the sort of historical method I, Steve Hays, and others have described. Deriving theology from Luke 24:25 is not equivalent to deriving astrological predictions from planetary movements. That's why Prejean's fellow Catholics will often take the same sort of historical approach I, Steve Hays, and others have taken in order to argue for various doctrines. If Prejean thinks that the historical Jesus can be shown to have historically made a comment about God, yet that comment about God can't have theological implications that are ascertainable apart from "the Church", then he's arbitrarily putting a limit on the grammatical-historical method. No historian would claim that we can't historically ascertain the theology of Athanasius or the theology of Martin Luther, for example. So, why can't we arrive at the theology of Jesus or Paul through the historical-grammatical approach? Is Prejean going to argue that we can ascertain their theology through a historical method, but we can't determine that we ought to agree with their theology unless "the Church" tells us so?

If Prejean wants to argue that there might be more meaning to Jesus' words than we can attain through the grammatical-historical approach, then he needs to show us how we get that additional meaning rather than just asserting that it exists. As I told him repeatedly in the discussion at Greg Krehbiel's board, it's not our responsibility to prove a universal negative. If Prejean wants us to think that the historical Jesus was teaching something beyond what we can ascertain through the grammatical-historical approach, where's his evidence?

Prejean repeatedly assumes his definitions of the church, who is a Christian, what the correct Christology is, etc. without giving any specific justification. He asserts such theological conclusions and claims to be getting them from the historical record, yet he turns around and criticizes Evangelicals for thinking they can arrive at theology through the historical record. And he doesn't explain what this correct allegorical method of Athanasius and Cyril is. Did Athanasius and Cyril interpret every passage of scripture in an identical way? Does Prejean agree with every argument of Athanasius and Cyril? (Remember, Prejean told me that I can't claim agreement with somebody unless I agree with every one of his arguments leading to his conclusion.) How does Prejean go about applying the allegorical method of Athanasius and Cyril to arrive at conclusions such as the papacy and the Immaculate Conception? If the method doesn't necessarily lead to such doctrinal conclusions, then where is Prejean getting those doctrines? How does he know that he should be following the scriptures in the first place, which he would need to know before looking for a way to interpret them? If he's going to say that he knows that the Christology of Athanasius and Cyril is correct because it became popular, then he's contradicting what he told me about popularity not being the determinitive factor. So, how does Prejean know what the correct Christology is?

I would expect Steve Hays to write a reply to Prejean as well, and I expect him to make some of the same points I've made. And Prejean will reply with more arbitrariness and double standards. I also expect him to change his standards in the middle of the discussion, as he so often does. Add a qualifier you didn't mention previously, claim that you agreed with your opponents all along on an issue where you actually disagreed with them, etc. He'll continue to try to put forward an image of being confident in his conclusions, even though he has no reason to be confident. With Prejean, it's more about appearances than substance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/23/05)

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.
(John Donne, "A Hymn to God the Father")

Just Several Hours of Suffering?

I recently heard a caller on Albert Mohler's radio program pose an objection to Christianity that I often hear from critics. He asked why we should think much of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, since He spent so little time on the cross and in the sufferings leading up to the cross.

God doesn't owe us anything (Job 41:11). If Jesus suffered for us for several hours, that would be several hours more than He owed us.

Sometimes one specific action will define how a person is perceived. And that can be appropriate. If a person gives his life for somebody else, for example, that may be only one action, but that one action has major implications. Still, even though one action can be important, the way we live day after day, month after month, year after year also will define us. We can be perceived by one big thing we do, but also by a lot of smaller things. A parent's love for a child, for example, can be seen in thousands of small things that are done over a span of years (providing clothes, fixing meals, giving medicine, buying presents, teaching, etc.).

Jesus humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5-8) through about 30 years of human life, in a woman's womb, as a child obeying His parents, and as a carpenter earning a living. All of this occurred before He even began His public ministry. His ministry resulted in His being rejected and ridiculed by a lot of people, even His own family (John 7:5). He knew you and every other person He came into the world to save. He didn't just see your beauty and your positive characteristics. He also saw your ugliness, your weaknesses, your ignorance, stupidity, selfishness, carelessness, lust, hatred, and everything else. He knew the thoughts you would have that you don't want anybody else to know about. He knew about the sins you would commit, your bad judgments, your hypocrisy, your ingratitude, and everything else you don't want anybody to know about. He was better than you. He is better than you. He always will be better than you. He isn't dependent on you, and He's never owed you anything. He loved you anyway, and decided to give you what you could never attain yourself.

The gift of eternal life is a gift involving an eternal commitment. Christ paid an eternal price. He promises to be with those who trust Him (Matthew 28:20), to never leave them or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5), to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25), to love them with an everlasting love (Psalm 107:1). We deserve Hell, and we're given Heaven. God has given us a redeemed, eternal relationship with Him, a commitment that involves countless thoughts, actions, kindnesses, and blessings. Calvary is the greatest example of God's love, but the preparations for it and the consequences of it involve far more than just several hours of physical suffering surrounding the cross.

"If you are indeed a believer, you are one with Jesus, and therefore you are secure. Do you not see that it must be so? You must be confirmed to the end until the day of His appearing [1 Corinthians 1:8], if you have indeed been made one with Jesus by the irrevocable act of God [Romans 11:29]. Christ and the believing sinner are in the same boat. Unless Jesus sinks, the believer will never drown. Jesus has taken His redeemed into such connection with Himself that He must first be smitten, overcome, and dishonored before the least of His purchased ones can be injured. His name is at the head of the firm, and because He cannot be dishonored, we are secure against all dread of failure. So, then, with the utmost confidence, let us go forward into the unknown future, linked eternally with Jesus. If the men of the world should cry, 'Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?' (Song of Solomon 8:5), we will joyfully confess that we do lean on Jesus and that we mean to lean on Him more and more. Our faithful God is an ever-flowing well of delight, and our fellowship with the Son of God is a full river of joy. Knowing these glorious things, we cannot be discouraged. No, rather we cry with the apostle, 'Who shall separate us from the love of...God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?' (Romans 8:35-39)." (Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace [Springdale, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1983], pp. 132-133)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/22/05)

"it is entirely by the intervention of Christ's righteousness that we obtain justification before God. This is equivalent to saying that man is not just in himself, but that the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation, while he is strictly deserving of punishment." (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:11:23)

Doctrine and a Dying Man's Consolation

Regarding the topic of my last post, I highly recommend reading this article written several years ago by Michael Horton.

The Two Great Commandments and Doctrine

Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal priest, recently had an opinion piece in the online edition of the Indianapolis Star, in which he argues for the idea that we shouldn't be so concerned with ideas (doctrine). His article can be summed up in his line stating that "Unfortunately, right opinions add little to human welfare." He says nothing about the first commandment, the commandment to love God. Even as far as the second commandment is concerned, does he think that doctrines such as our accountability to God, future rewards and punishment, and the love and peace offered by the cross of Christ have little effect on how people live their lives and whether they get involved in something like drugs, alcohol, or poverty in the first place?

The sort of mindset displayed in Ehrich's article is commonplace today. It's one of the reasons why there's so much poverty, disease, ignorance, and other problems in the world today.

"Our concern with truth is an inevitable expression of our concern with God. If God exists, then he is the measure of all things, and what he thinks about all things is the measure of what we should think. Not to care about truth is not to care about God. To love God passionately is to love truth passionately. Being God-centered in life means being truth-driven in ministry. What is not true is not of God. What is false is anti-God. Indifference to the truth is indifference to the mind of God. Pretense is rebellion against reality, and what makes reality is God. Our concern with truth is simply an echo of our concern with God....There is no separating God and truth, as if one can put relationship against truth. 'God is' precedes 'God is love,' and 'God is' has content and meaning. God is one thing and not another thing. He has character. His nature has contours that define him. Concern with the true God, who is not created in our own image, is at the bottom of a truth-driven life....Loving truth is a mark of the God-entranced world-view. It is obedience to the first and great commandment [Matthew 22:37-38]." (John Piper, A Godward Life [Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1997], pp. 106-108)

"The truth gives an eternal foundation on which to build one's life. This, in turn, gives us great security in our pilgrimage through life. Such security is the springboard to a lasting joy. I believe that in its attempt to win a hearing, the contemporary pulpit has been guilty of depriving our generation of lasting joy. They have had the responsibility of feeding a people craving for solid meat, but perhaps not realizing what they are craving for, they have kept feeding them dessert. It may have given the people instant satisfaction, but it has left them unhealthy and not really able to be salt and light for Christ in this world." (Ajith Fernando, The Supremacy of Christ [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1995], p. 112)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/21/05)

"For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 2:3)

Jonathan Prejean and the Missing Case for Catholicism

It seems that my discussion with Jonathan Prejean at Greg Krehbiel's board has come to a close, and Steve Hays has written a lot of replies to Prejean at his blog, without Prejean having made much of an effort to interact with what Hays said. Prejean never made a case for Roman Catholicism, he never refuted the arguments put forward for Evangelicalism (he chose to end the discussions on passages like Luke 24 and Galatians 3 rather than proceed with them), and he frequently set up arbitrary standards and contradicted himself from post to post. Those reading Steve Hays' earliest responses to Prejean should notice that Prejean would repeatedly ignore large portions of what Hays wrote, often claiming that there was nothing there to respond to or that he agreed with Hays, even when he didn't agree.

In his last post on the thread at Greg Krehbiel's board, Prejean accused me of being fideistic. Another Roman Catholic there accused me of being too rationalistic. I'll let the reader go through that thread and the threads at Steve Hays' blog and decide for himself who was making a publicly verifiable case for his beliefs and who was acting more fideistic.

Prejean says that he's "retiring" from "proselytizing" people like me and Steve Hays. Isn't it odd to call something "proselytizing" when you repeatedly refuse to make a case for your system, even when asked? Do I think Prejean is truly retiring from the sort of apologetic efforts in which he's been involved in the past? No. A better word than "retirement" would seem to be "retreat". I expect him to be back. But he wants more time to try to come up with better arguments. (Prejean's decision to "retire" probably is about as lasting as Dave Armstrong's "resolutions".) In the meantime, he names men like Karl Keating, Phil Porvaznik, and Dave Armstrong as examples of Catholic apologists whose work he recommends and who have already refuted the likes of me and Steve Hays. That's a fitting end (temporary end, I imagine) for Prejean's apologetic efforts. He leaves us with the arguments of Keating, Porvaznik, and Armstrong. We've been there before, and we've been unimpressed.

So long, Jonathan. Enjoy your retreat.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/20/05)

“He was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh, and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that He was truly born of a virgin, was baptized by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed to the cross for us in His flesh….And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be Christians.” (Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 1-2)

A Skeptical Equivalent of "The Passion of the Christ" and Other Skeptical Myths

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article about a documentary that denies the historical existence of Jesus (Notice what sources the Times goes to in order to get a response to the documentary. I guess the Baptist janitor who cleans their offices was on vacation.):

The 39-year-old Angeleno has made an hourlong documentary titled "The God Who Wasn't There." In it, the former born-again Christian argues that the biblical Jesus never lived, but is a mythological figure like Paul Bunyan.

Initially released theatrically June 17, the documentary grew out of Flemming's research for a fictional thriller-in-progress titled, "The Beast." In that film, which he hopes to release next year, a teenage Christian discovers that the Jesus she fervently believes in never existed.

"My position is that's the most likely scenario," the filmmaker said.

Asked why he chose to question Jesus' existence instead of his divinity, Flemming said: "I think that the idea that an individual could be the son of a god is already so ridiculous it doesn't need to be debunked."

To promote the movie, Flemming places it squarely in the company of other headline-making exposes: " 'Bowling for Columbine' did it to the gun culture. 'Super Size Me' did it to fast food. Now 'The God Who Wasn't There' does it to religion…. Hold on to your faith. It's in for a bumpy ride."...

Chris Leland, a spokesman for the Focus on the Family Institute, an educational unit of the evangelical Christian organization, has seen the film and decries the scholarship that Flemming uses to argue against a historic Jesus....

Father Thomas Rausch, a Jesuit priest and professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has not seen the film. But, he said, "I don't know any serious scholar who questions the existence of Jesus."...

Historian Richard Carrier, the atheist author of "Sense and Goodness Without God," said he had been "agnostic" about the existence of Jesus until Flemming interviewed him for the film. Now, he said, "I think that more likely than not, Jesus did not exist."

Considering the absurdity of Carrier's arguments in the past and his willingness to take a ride in so many different skeptical boats, his advocacy of the position that Jesus didn't exist shouldn't surprise us much. But it is somewhat surprising, since the argument that Jesus didn't exist is so absurd that we would expect even somebody like Carrier to resist it. (For answers to Carrier's arguments, see Glenn Miller's site, J.P. Holding's, this article by David Wood, and this page at the same web site. For a defense of Josephus' having mentioned Jesus in his writings, see the article by Christopher Price here. Price addresses the objection mentioned in the L.A. Times article, regarding Origen's not mentioning the Josephus passage.)

If we go to the web site promoting the documentary the L.A. Times is referring to, we read (see here and here):

Your guide through the world of Christendom is former fundamentalist Brian Flemming, joined by such luminaries as Jesus Seminar fellow Robert M. Price, professor Richard Dawkins, author Sam Harris and historian Richard Carrier....

The DVD also includes special audio commentary tracks with Richard Dawkins (A Devil's Chaplain), Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle) and The Raving Atheist (

The Jesus Seminar and Richard Carrier aren't particularly credible historical sources. I suppose that men like Dawkins and Harris would be commenting on the existence of God, not the historical evidence for Jesus' existence. These people have some significant credentials and some knowledge of the subject matter, but their conclusions are so unsupported by the evidence and so often out of the mainstream of contemporary scholarship. You have to wonder how well Brian Flemming would be able to defend his beliefs under scrutiny. He may not be as ignorant as the ignorant Christians he's criticizing, but he ought to know that his characterizations don't reflect all Christians. And if Flemming can't refute the arguments of the more knowledgeable Christians, then criticizing the less knowledgeable ones doesn't accomplish much.

A lot could be written in response to the claims of Flemming and his sources, and a lot is written in response to them in the links I've provided above. But, as a general summary, the comments of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona illustrate why denying the historicity of Jesus is untenable. Their focus is on the resurrection of Jesus, but they address issues in the process that are applicable to Jesus' existence in general:

In fact, many critical scholars hold that Paul received it [the creed of 1 Corinthians 15] from the disciples Peter and James while visiting them in Jerusalem three years after his conversion [Galatians 1:18-19]. If so, Paul learned it within five years of Jesus' crucifixion and from the disciples themselves. At minimum, we have source material that dates within two decades of the alleged event of Jesus' resurrection and comes from a source that Paul thought was reliable. Dean John Rodgers of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry comments, "This is the sort of data that historians of antiquity drool over."...

On the state of Resurrection studies today, I (Habermas) recently completed an overview of more than 1,400 sources on the resurrection of Jesus published since 1975. I studied and catalogued about 650 of these texts in English, German, and French. Some of the results of this study are certainly intriguing. For example, perhaps no fact is more widely recognized than that early Christian believers had real experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus. A critic may claim that what they saw were hallucinations or visions, but he does not deny that they actually experienced something....

roughly 75 percent of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historical fact....

Likewise, to claim that we cannot rationally believe Jesus rose because the New Testament authors were biased toward Jesus is to commit the genetic fallacy. Such an argument fails to address the data they provide. The prominent New Testament historian N.T. Wright comments, "It must be asserted most strongly that to discover that a particular writer has a 'bias' tells us nothing whatever about the value of the information he or she presents. It merely bids us be aware of the bias (and of our own, for that matter), and to assess the material according to as many sources as we can."...

New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, who served as an editor for and contributor to a large scholarly work on the Gospels, provides four reasons why more was not written on Jesus in his time: "the humble beginnings of Christianity, the remote location of Palestine on the eastern frontiers of the Roman empire, the small percentage of the works of ancient Graeco-Roman historians which have survived, and the lack of attention paid by those which are extant to Jewish figures in general."...

What we have concerning Jesus actually is impressive....

let's take a look at Julius Caesar, one of Rome's most prominent figures....Only five sources report his military conquests....If Julius Caesar really made a profound impact on Roman society, why didn't more writers of antiquity mention his great military accomplishments? No one questions whether Julius did make a tremendous impact on the Roman Empire....

Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus' ministry and execution. Tiberius is mentioned by ten sources within 150 years of his death: Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, and Luke. Compare that to Jesus' forty-two total sources in the same length of time. That's more than four times the number of total sources who mention the Roman emperor during roughly the same period. If we only considered the number of secular non-Christian sources who mention Jesus and Tiberius within 150 years of their lives, we arrive at a tie of nine each....

miracle accounts in other religious writings are unanimously inferior in historical credibility to the New Testament reports of the appearances of the risen Jesus. They are not usually multiply attested, and the records are normally very late when compared to the time the miracle was supposed to have taken place. The first reports of these miraculous events were written long after the time when the alleged events took

[quoting Craig Blomberg] "A careful reading of the patristic evidence suggests that indeed the vast majority of early Christians did believe that the type of information the Gospel writers communicated was historical fact, even as they recognized the more superficial parallels with the mythology of other worldviews"

(The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2004], pp. 52-53, 60, 70, 125, 127-128, 170, n. 27 on p. 327)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Through Faith They Still Speak (8/19/05)

"I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare....We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place." (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 80-81)

Psalm 90:4 and the Church Fathers

In a previous article, I referred to the patristic belief in a young earth and the fact that some of those fathers associated their young earth view with eschatology. That eschatology is usually premillennialism, another doctrine rejected by untraditional traditionalists. I want to give some examples.

Michael Green writes:

"This verse, Ps. 90:4, became, in the second century, the main proof-text of chiliasm, the doctrine that Christ would reign for a thousand years on earth at the parousia. This belief became almost an article of Christian orthodoxy from the time of the writing of Revelation to Irenaeus.” (2 Peter & Jude [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1987], n. 3 on p. 39)

As early as The Epistle of Barnabas in the first half of the second century, we see an association between a young earth and eschatology:

"The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation thus: 'And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.' Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, 'He finished in six days.' This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, saying, 'Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years.' Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. 'And He rested on the seventh day.' This meaneth: when His Son, coming again, shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day." (15)

Irenaeus wrote:

"For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: 'Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.' This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year." (Against Heresies, 5:28:3)


"And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day 'on which God rested from all His works.' For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they 'shall reign with Christ,' when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for 'a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.'" (On Daniel, 2:4)

Cyprian wrote:

"It is an ancient adversary and an old enemy with whom we wage our battle: six thousand years are now nearly completed since the devil first attacked man....the divine arrangement containing seven thousand of years" (Treatise 11; Preface, 2; On the Exhortation to Martyrdom, 11)

Commodianus wrote:

"We shall be immortal when six thousand years are accomplished." (Writings, 35)

Victorinus wrote:

"And in Matthew we read, that it is written Isaiah also and the rest of his colleagues broke the Sabbath -that that true and just Sabbath should be observed in the seventh millenary of years....Wherefore, as I have narrated, that true Sabbath will be in the seventh millenary of years, when Christ with His elect shall reign." (On the Creation of the World)


"Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years. For the great day of God is limited by a circle of a thousand years, as the prophet shows, who says 'In Thy sight, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day.' And as God laboured during those six days in creating such great works, so His religion and truth must labour during these six thousand years, while wickedness prevails and bears rule. And again, since God, having finished His works, rested the seventh day and blessed it, at the end of the six thousandth year all wickedness must be abolished from the earth, and righteousness reign for a thousand years; and there must be tranquillity and rest from the labours which the world now has long endured." (The Divine Institutes, 7:14)

Augustine, who once was a premillennialist, wrote:

"Those who, on the strength of this passage [Revelation 20:1-6], have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period, a holy leisure after the labors of the six thousand years since man was created, and was on account of his great sin dismissed from the blessedness of paradise into the woes of this mortal life, so that thus, as it is written, 'One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,' there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years; and that it is for this purpose the saints rise, viz., to celebrate this Sabbath. And this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God; for I myself, too, once held this opinion." (City of God, 20:7)

Robert Bradshaw also cites Hilary of Poitiers, Firmicus Maternus, Sulpicius Severus, Tyconius, and Gaudentius of Brescia. Brian Daley refers to Julius Africanus holding a similar view (in Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 239).

It should also be noted that we see possible reflections of this concept in patristic passages where it isn't stated as explicitly as it is in the passages quoted above. Justin Martyr, for example, cites Psalm 90:4 with regard to the millennial kingdom (Dialogue with Trypho, 81), and elsewhere he refers to the earth as young (First Apology, 31).