Drinking Deeply

Monday, May 28, 2007 at 12:15 PM

Rethinking Memory Verses: Hebrews 4:12

One of the more annoying (but refreshing) aspects of actually reading chunks of the Bible at a time is that you realize that all those great verses that you memorized ages ago aren't really being used in the Bible as you originally thought.

Here's another case.
12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Originally, I thought here the "word of God" referred to the Bible, those 66 books that are spoken of as "God-inspired," and infallible. And certainly, that conclusion is true. Elsewhere the Bible (specifically the Law) is spoken of as reviving the soul () and life-giving. And by having a God who knows all things, it necessarily follows that the Bible will never go out of style and will always be necessary. Thus Timothy is encouraged to preach the Word, in season and out ().

And faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (, though admittedly referring to the preached word rather than a written one).

So it is true that the Bible as we now have it is living and active. It lives and gives life, it is always applicable and necessary for salvation, and it acts, it awakens faith (or it hardens hearts).

But the text itself actually isn't referring to the Bible, and a quick examination of the context makes that clear -

1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.[a] 3For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

"As I swore in my wrath,
'They shall not enter my rest,'"

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works." 5And again in this passage he said,

"They shall not enter my rest."

6Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7again he appoints a certain day, "Today," saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

"Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts."

8For if Joshua had given them rest, God[b] would not have spoken of another day later on. 9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

What is the passage talking about? It's talking about entering God's rest, entering the rest for the people of God, salvation.

And the author of Hebrews doesn't use verse 12 as an encouragement to keep reading your Bible, but instead he uses it as a stern warning.
11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
So what is the author of Hebrews saying? I think v.13 lays down the interpretive lens here -

"And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

To look at that interpreting the word of God I think we see that the word of God isn't used here as Scripture specifically, but it seems more like power. A creative and spoken power which upholds the universe yes, but not really Scripture.

To rephrase and interpret -

Let us strive to enter the rest of God, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience, because we know that God's power is living and active, it searches out everything and can break everything apart. Nothing will ever happen, even in our hearts, without God's knowledge. And one day we will all be called to account for what we do.


Links to this post

Sunday, May 27, 2007 at 8:21 PM

Lord's Day 33

Question 88. Of how many parts doth the true conversion of man consist?

Answer. Of two parts; of [a] the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man.

Question 89. What is the mortification of the old man?

Answer. It is a [b] sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them.

Question 90. What is the quickening of the new man?

Answer. It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, [c] and with love and [d] delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.

Question 91. But what are good works?

Answer. Only those which proceed from a true [e] faith, are performed according to the [f] law of God, and to his [g] glory; and not such as are [h] founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men.

[a]: Rom. 6:4,5,6; Eph. 4:22,23; Col. 3:5; 1Cor. 5:7
[b]: Psa. 51:3,8,17; Luke 15:18; Rom. 8:13; Joel 1:12,13
[c]: Rom. 5:1,2; Rom. 14:17; Isa. 57:15
[d]: Rom. 6:10,11; 1Pet. 4:2; Gal. 2:20
[e]: Rom. 14:23
[f]: 1Sam. 15:22; Eph. 2:2,10
[g]: 1Cor. 10:31
[h]: Deut. 12:32; Ezek. 20:18; Mat. 15:9


Links to this post

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 12:11 AM

TULIP (31) - Is God unfair?

Still thinking through objections, here's another one. To put it in its strongest form I've heard, the argument goes sort of like this -

1. God shows no partiality (Romans 2:12)
2. The Calvinist doctrine of election states that God chooses some for salvation and some for damnation, unconditionally.
3. Thus this demonstrates that God is showing partiality, which is a contradiction.

Now, this is actually a pretty good objection, for the conclusions actually follow from the premises...

if indeed the premises actually are true in the sense that the objector means. And I think a Scriptural examination would demonstrate clearly that the "no partiality" in Romans 2:12 (and related passages) simply means that every one is going to be judged against the same standard, "be perfect as God is perfect."

To defend the objection another way, we can turn it upon itself and say "ok say it works against the doctrines of Grace, but what do we make of all these Bible passages that say Israel was chosen apart anything else -

Deut. 6
6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
But this passage is entirely consistent with Calvinism, since Calvinists are just simply saying, "just as God chose a specific people contained in ethnic Israel in the past, now He chooses a people with an unrestricted ethnicity."

And finally, Paul deals with this exact objection in Romans 9 -
10And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-- 12she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
After laying the groundwork for loving Jacob and hating Esau, before they were born, apart from works, Paul raises the objection:

14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

And the way Paul chooses to answer it is quite interesting. He simply brushes it aside and says "no, this is perfectly fair, because God is God!" Or to put it another way, "you can't use your standards of fairness to judge God." This isn't to say that God isn't fair, but that God is fair, and our view of what is fair or not is flawed.

But really, no one can consistently level this objection and still remain a Christian. For if God is truly impartial as some claim He must be, then the reason that I am saved and someone else is not cannot be grounded in God, as He gives everyone the same opportunity, but must therefore be grounded in my own free will. So blessed be God for doing that 99% but thanks for nothing for the 1%. Of course not! Salvation is of the Lord, all the way through. And we all affirm that. There is no grounds for boasting, no work, no merit, nothing that demands anything from God except our sin demanding His wrath. And it's by grace we are saved. And faith, well that's a gift of God as well. And my acceptance of faith? That's a gift too. And my acceptance of the gift of accepting...? Grace all the way down.

Praise be to God, who saves us in spite of our wills.


Links to this post

Sunday, May 20, 2007 at 9:50 PM

Lord's Day 32

Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

Answer. Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude [a] to God for his blessings, and that he may be [b] praised by us; also, that every one may be [c] assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation, others may be [d] gained to Christ.

Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?

Answer. By no means; for the holy scripture declares [e] that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

[a]: 1Cor. 6:19,20; Rom. 6:13; Rom. 12:1,2; 1Pet. 2:5,9,10
[b]: Mat. 5:16; 1Pet. 2:12
[c]: 2Pet. 1:10; Gal. 5:6,24
[d]: 1Pet. 3:1,2; Mat. 5:16; Rom. 14:19
[e]: 1Cor. 6:9,10; Eph. 5:5,6; 1John 3:14,15; Gal. 5:21


Links to this post

Sunday, May 13, 2007 at 3:28 PM

Lord's Day 31

Question 83. What are [a] the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

Answer. The preaching [b] of the holy gospel, and christian discipline, [c] or excommunication out of the christian church; by these two, the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers, and shut against unbelievers.

Question 84. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?

Answer. Thus: when according to the command of [d] Christ, it is declared and publicly testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they [e] receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God, for the sake of Christ's merits; and on the contrary, when it is declared and testified to all unbelievers, and such as do not sincerely repent, that they stand exposed to the wrath of God, and eternal [f] condemnation, so long as they are [g] unconverted: according to which testimony of the gospel, God will judge them, both in this, and in the life to come.

Question 85. How is the kingdom of heaven shut and opened by christian discipline?

Answer. Thus: when according [h] to the command of Christ, those, who under the name of christians, maintain doctrines, or practices [i] inconsistent therewith, and will not, after having been often brotherly admonished, renounce their errors and wicked course of life, are complained of to the church, [j] or to those, who are thereunto [k] appointed by the church; and if they despise their admonition, [l] are by them forbidden the use of the sacraments; whereby they are excluded from the christian church, and by God himself from the kingdom of Christ; and when they promise and show real amendment, are again [m] received as members of Christ and his church.

[a]: Mat. 16:19
[b]: John 20:23
[c]: Mat. 18:15,16,17,18
[d]: Mat. 28:19
[e]: John 3:18,36; Mark 16:16
[f]: 2Thes. 1:7,8,9
[g]: John 20:21,22,23; Mat. 16:19; Rom. 2:2,13-17
[h]: Mat. 18:15
[i]: Cor. 5:12
[j]: Mat. 18:15-18
[k]: Rom. 12:7,8,9; 1Cor. 12:28; 1Tim. 5:17; 2Thes. 3:14
[l]: Mat. 18:17; 1Cor. 5:3,4,5
[m]: 2Cor. 2:6,7,8,10,11; Luke 15:18


Links to this post

Friday, May 11, 2007 at 5:38 PM

Book Review: Pilgrim's Progress

Pilgrim's Progress, is an allegory of a Christian life written by John Bunyan, a puritan preacher who wrote a number of books. The book consists of two books, one of them following a character named Christian and the second following his wife and children as they journey in faith and meet a number of dangerous characters and places which are obviously named. Mr. Talkative, Fear-much, Do-Nothing, the Castle of doubting, Valley of the Shadow of Death, and so on. It's a very straightforward read and filled with various Scripture references and personal experiences, and the book I read was end-noted with explanations of a great portion of the symbolism and the like.

Personally, I greatly enjoyed the first book (focusing on Christian) a great deal. It convicted me when it brought forth characters that reminded me of myself, it challenged me to not follow in their steps, it encouraged me with all the trials that Christian faced and how he endured to the end through God's grace. There's much here that I would recommend, for younger and more mature Christians alike. The faith that the character showed in spite of all the trials and the way that he endured through it really challenged me and made me say to myself "man, I wish I had that kind of faith." Since it took on very much an auto-biographical sense, one could see the tears on John Bunyan's face as he wrote it, writing about people falling away to their own shame, people who've had to leave family and friends, who've lived a life of holy fear and were mocked for it. Just humbling.

The second book, while written in a similar style, seemed far more removed from the first. Many of the trials are easily overcome and avoided, and it seems like just a tour of Christian's achievements. This part was far less interesting, but still useful.

My Recommendation: Borrow it, and if you like it, buy it.


Links to this post

Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 11:11 PM

TULIP (30) - Faith, a work?

In contrast to the Doctrines of Grace, the other system of salvation (Arminianism or synergism) is often spoken of by Calvinists as essentially justification by faith and works.

Here's a prime example, Spurgeon says this -
Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works, lifted up; for he always thinks faith is a work of the creature and a condition of his acceptance. It is as false to say that man is saved by faith as a work, as that he is saved by the deeds of the law. We are saved by faith as the gift of God, and as the first token of his eternal favor to us; but it is not faith as our work that saves, otherwise we are saved by works, and not by grace at all.
Of course, all Bible-believing Christians would certainly oppose such a view, loudly saying that one cannot be saved by works, so thus faith cannot be a work. Yet, Calvinists (which include me) like to point out that synergism makes faith a "work." Luther said the same thing in his Bondage of the Will as well. It's spoken of a lot.

Let me try to explain what I would mean by the statement. To head something off, he wasn't saying that all Arminians were damned. He outright rejects that idea elsewhere. I would say the same thing, though I would affirm with him that Arminianism is wrong, and dangerous doctrine.

But let me try to explain the "works" idea a little more.

The biblical position of justification is man is saved by God's free grace alone. We are saved by Christ's works (his righteousness), plus nothing of ourselves. We are not saved by obedience to the Law, nor by anything else that we try to do, but rather we are saved by Christ's righteousness (as he walked the earth), alone.

So why would I agree with Spurgeon when he says that "Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works"? Because if we honestly somehow are choosing God of our free will, then "accepting faith" is something wholly of man and not a gift of God. Some accept, some deny. Why do they accept it? Their free will.

What does this make "faith" (or "accepting faith")? It makes it something that God responds to rather than something God initiates, and ultimately salvation is finally dependent not upon the works of Jesus Christ, but my decision to accept that gift.

One might argue that the decision to accept the gift plays such a small part in the role of salvation that it's not really a "work." But does it really play such a small part? It's certainly a determining factor. Christ's righteousness the determining factor alone (Christ's works alone), but it is my acceptance of Christ's righteousness + Christ's righteousness. Both are necessary for salvation. This makes our justification a mixture of Christ's works and our work. Or, in short, essentially justification by works (our works).

Earlier, Phil Johnson posted a 8 part series on "why I'm a Calvinist, and . . . and why every Christian is a Calvinist of sorts." I would highly recommend it. It makes this point, elaborates it, and points out that actually all Christians are just inconsistent Calvinists.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Conclusion


Links to this post

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 at 11:20 PM

Rethinking Memory Verses: Hebrews 12:4

Hebrews 12:4
4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
In my familiarity with this verse, I had always seen it as waging war against internal sin. Of course that's not wrong. If a hand causes you to sin, cut it off. And the like. Beat your body, make it your slave.

But as I've been reading Hebrews, I don't think that's the meaning of the verse here at all. Instead, I see it as an encouragement in our struggle against a sin-filled world.

Where do I get that? Well, context.

Hebrews 11 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, detailing the Hall of Faith. These people acted in faith and conquered nations, shut the mouths of lions, so on. They were persecuted, sawn in two, and so on. It's really awesome, in the fullest sense of the word.

Hebrews 12 (from which we get the verse) thus begins -
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Note specifically verse 3, which lays the reason for verse 4.
"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."
What are we not to grow weary of? Of our "struggle against sin." But what sin here? The context tells us that it's not really our sin, but the sin that comes from sinners which led to hostility against Christ and eventually the shedding of his blood. It's because Christ had endured such sufferings without losing heart that we are able to do the same. We endure persecution, struggle, even considering such persecution discipline (next few verses), all for the sake of Christ.

God grant strength. I can't endure on my own. Teach me Your ways and grant me Your power. For Your glory I pray. Amen.


Links to this post

at 12:33 AM

Reading Deeply

Another series of posts that I've found incredibly encouraging and edifying, and a bit challenging as well.

Douglas Wilson continues his blogging ways. Here he posts on the need for hard words to break hard hearts. And here he posts on the need to have a doctrine that lives its life out. Challenging!

Al Molher gives us an excellent list of ten great Christian biographies.

John Macarthur gives us some excellent suggestions for doing church. We're lay ministers and servants, not observers! May it not be for me!

And Phil Johnson follows that up with a biblical basis for such a model.

Team Pyro always comes up with writing that's convicting and challenging. This post was on the need for pastoral oversight in doing apologetics, this post was on the importance of propitiation (*ding 10 dollar word!). Here's a quote from the second post.
God's mercy is not some maudlin sentiment that causes Him to forget about His holiness and set aside His righteous anger against sin. The demands of righteousness must be fully and completely satisfied if God is ever going to forgive sin. He cannot and will not simply overlook sin as if it didn't really matter.

In other words, the gospel is not only a message about the love of God. It is that; but it is not only that. The true gospel magnifies His justice as much as it magnifies His love.

When was the last time you thought of the gospel as a message about divine justice?
The Internet Monk gives some suggestions for giving money to people on the street. What do you guys think?

And what was incredibly challenging for me, Team Pyro put up this post on the need for applying sermons, rather than just saying "that was nice." Yeah, guilty as charged.

I'm also reading Pilgrim's Progress. More on that later.

Ting, one of my (former? Is he still? I go hear him preach) pastors has started a blog and started with a critique of Dawkin's bestseller, The God Delusion.


Links to this post

Monday, May 07, 2007 at 12:11 AM

Lord's Day 30

Question 80. What difference is there between the Lord's supper and the popish mass?

Answer. The Lord's supper testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin [a] by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are ingrafted [b] into Christ, who, according to his human nature is now not on earth, but in [c] heaven, at the right hand of God his Father, and will there [d] be worshipped by us: - but the mass teaches, that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins though the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshipped in them; so that the mass, as bottom, is nothing else than a [e] denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

Question 81. For whom is the Lord's supper instituted?

Answer. For those who are truly sorrowful [g] for their sins, and yet that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities [h] are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly [i] desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and [j] drink judgment to themselves.

Question 82. Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?

Answer. No; for by this, the covenant of God would be profaned, and his wrath [k] kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the christian church, according to the appointment of [l] Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons, by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.

[a]: Heb. 7:27; Heb. 9:12,26; mat. 26:28; Luke 22:19,20; 2Cor. 5:21
[b]: 1Cor. 6; 1Cor 17; 1Cor 12:13
[c]: Heb. 1:3; Heb 8:1ff
[d]: John 4:21,22,23; Col. 3:1; Phil. 3:20; Luke 24:52,53; Acts 7:55
[e]: Isa. 1:11,14; Mat. 15:9; Col. 2:22,23; Jer. 2:13
[g]: Mat. 5:3,6; Luke 7:37,38; Luke 15:18,19
[h]: Psa. 103:3
[i]: Psa. 116:12,13,14; 1Pet. 2:11,12
[j]: 1Cor. 10:20ff; 1Cor. 11:28ff; Tit. 1:16; Psa. 50:15,16
[k]: 1Cor. 10:21; 1Cor. 11:30,31; Isa. 1:11,13; Jer. 7:21; Psa. 50:16,22
[l]: Mat. 18:17,18


Links to this post

Thursday, May 03, 2007 at 8:47 PM

Responding to avalanche 1

Email I just sent off to some Roman Catholics in response to their original email (which is here)

I finally have started replying.

Ok, I'm going to be linking various sources as well as writing a lot. Let me promise you that I'm not just copy-pasting, but I've actually read each word that the articles I'm linking to includes, as well as tried to confirm the point by other sources. (Though I guess if they're all dependent upon one another, it's just one mass self-deception... haha).

Once again, thank you for this original email. I'm going to try to respond to it now, finally. More to come.

1 Timothy 3 detailed in this post, where I try to answer all your objections and give a positive presentation for the sufficiency of Scripture. What follows is a first attempt at getting caught up and responding to what you've written.


So, we ask, "Are there any indications from Paul's writings that there are these unspoken assumptions as to what Timothy already has when Paul states that scriptures are able to make him complete?" As far as I can see, the answer is a resounding YES! The Pauline epistles are chock full of references to paradosis--usually translated as "tradition"--and other teaching that Paul handed down orally to the individual churches he visited (2 Thes 2:15, 2 Thes 3:6, 1 Cor 11:2, etc.). When he wrote letters, he wasn't repeating everything that he had taught them; he was mostly elaborating on specific points, clarifying disputes, and providing exhortation. If sola scriptura was really the foundation of the Christian faith, then his letters should have been bristling with references to this pivotal doctrine that all essential teachings are one day going to be written down in inspired form, and that his followers should be sure to get their hands on a collection of these writings just as soon as they were compiled. On the contrary, time and again, Paul emphasizes the importance of the unwritten doctrines he had communicated to the churches before writing any of his letters, without giving any indication that all the essentials will one day be written down by an inspired author. When Paul tells Timothy that scripture is able to make him complete, surely it is reasonable to suppose that he is assuming that Timothy already has the apostolic teaching handed on to him by Paul.
Regarding Tradition as you speak of, quoting verses isn't sufficient to demonstrate your point. We both agree that these traditions existed, but what were they? How would you deal with the fact that Paul entrusts these traditions to entire churches, and encourages people to circulate the letters, implying that these traditions were all over the region. What happened to the rest of the churches and their traditions? How did everything get collected at Rome? And I do see Paul telling them to hold fast to the Gospel repeatedly, which is what I would say the NT emphasizes.

The Canon
As Charlie and I reiterated on numerous occasions, a belief in sola scriptura presupposes that the corpus of scripture is known for sure. By the definition of sola scriptura, that corpus could only be known for sure if it is attested to in scripture. But scripture nowhere says what documents comprise scripture. Therefore, you need some outside source to tell you which books are in the Bible. Since an essential element of faith and morals is coming from an outside source, sola scriptura isn't true.
Now, given this was a few weeks back, and if you'd like to clarify this a little bit in light of what we discussed the previous weeks, you're welcome to, but let me see if I can respond here.

I don't view the canon of Scripture as separate from Scripture itself. Namely, the canon exists because God inspired Scripture. What is Scripture is what God inspired. And I believe Scripture itself is sufficient to give me a sufficient knowledge of that canon, but not necessarily an infallible one. My knowledge can grow and mature over time, just like my knowledge of the doctrine of God grows and matures over time.

For example, I now believe that the longer ending to Mark is what Mark originally wrote and God-inspired, though previously I was dubious about it. Similarly for other textual variants, as better research and older sources are unearthed, my knowledge of what is God-inspired increases. It doesn't mean that the canon changes, but simply my incomplete knowledge of it becomes more complete. And it's certainly possible for my knowledge to be wrong here, but I can have a sufficient knowledge of the canon, just like those who lived in the days of Jesus had a sufficient (but not infallible) knowledge of what was God inspired. Jesus holds them accountable to this repeatedly, "is it not written?" I think God now today holds you and me accountable in the same way. We have a sufficient knowledge of Scripture, sufficient enough to condemn us should we disobey. We don't have an infallible one, just like the Jews did not.
Your response was always, "But scripture is self-attesting!" To me, this could mean two things: either every line generates such warm, fuzzy feelings in anyone who reads it with an open mind and an honest heart that there is no doubt (which we both agreed, with all due respect to sacred scripture, is not the case), or scripture says what it is. But we also both agree that the Table of Contents is not a scriptural document. Therefore scripture does NOT say what it is. When we brought up these points, you declared that your position was nonetheless tenable because scripture says that "the Word of God will not fail" or something like that (I'm not sure where it says this, but I'll take your word for it). Even if we take your assumption that "Word of God" refers only to the written Word, I still don't see how this guarantees that the particular Table of Contents in your Bible is the right one. Sure, based on "the Word of God will not fail," it is internally consistent with sola scriptura to say that no scriptural document will ever be irretrievably lost (as countless ancient manuscripts have been), and arguably even internally consistent (if you are a really zealous interpreter) to say that the true canon will continue to exist among a least some group of Christians somewhere in the world at all points in history. However, this is a far cry from saying that scripture self-attests to the canon of your Bible and self-attests against that of mine.
Hmmm, let me try to clarify. I was ambiguous simply because I didn't know the answer sufficiently. Yeah, horray for being challenged. Self-authenticating means that the Bible is the Bible because of it's nature of being God-breathed. I cannot place my ultimate trust on what is canon and what is not upon a council, because that would be taking man's word over God's Word. (ahaha). That said, I do see God's promises to preserve His Word through His people. His sheep hear His voice and accept it as the voice of God and not of man. Well, as I see the remnant preserved through the Reformers, I thus accept their testimony against yours =p. Thus we have to settle this on a theological ground, through I do have some more points to make for now.
Your basic assumption here seems to be that, until Rome muddied the waters by adding the deuterocanonical Apocrypha to its canon in the 1500s, all Christians from the time of the apostles had used one and the same canon. Only if this is true could you, with a strained overextension of "the Word of God will not fail," argue that the scripture "self-attests" to its contents by implicitly guaranteeing the universal integrity of its canon throughout history.
(snip brief history of the canon)

Regarding the apocrypha, it's an issue I'm willing to discuss, but I think our discussions would be better served moving on. I will make a few points, which you're welcome to respond to, but I'll move on.

The apocrypha are never quoted, and you point out that other books are never quoted either, but that isn't the same. The other books are already clearly accepted (except by the Sadducees, but Jesus clearly quotes the rest of Scripture so their position isn't in contention). The apocrypha is what was in contention. And though there are books that are more or less apocryphal in some senses (some books are now accepted by the Greek Church but not the Roman one, correct?), they seem to stand or fall as in groups.

Regarding internal testimony, Jesus speaks of the death of the righteous (Luke 11:51), from Cain to Zechariah, while Zechariah isn't the latest man of God to be killed timewise, but is the last person to be killed if we look at it from the perspective of the Jewish canon, which has 2 Chronicles last.

I don't see what is wrong with accepting God's providential ordination of the Jews who accepted the Protestant canon for their OT. If they had accepted some of the apocrypha I think the Protestant canon would be different.

And two contradictions have been pointed out repeatedly, I'd like to hear what you think of them: From this site.

What is more, these books have historical errors. It is claimed that Tobit was alive when the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 B.C. and also when Jeroboam revolted against Judah in 931 B.C., which would make him at least 209 years old; yet according to the account, he died when he was only 158 years. The Book of Judith speaks of Nebuchadnezzar reigning in Nineveh instead of Babylon. [Judith 1:5, I can't find a reference to the Tobit case]

Finally, Protestants reject apocrypha for the contradictions in theology (as we see it) to the NT, prayers to the dead most specifically in 2 Macabees 12:43, and justification by works in Tobias 4:11, 12:9 . You're probably more familiar with these things than I am. That's a theological issue though, so will have to come later.

You say -
The Jewish custom had some effect on eastern Christians writers, many of whom either accepted this official Pharisaic canon or else some combination of the Pharisaic canon and what is now the Catholic canon. Most of the western Christian writers continued using the same Septuagint canon as always. The first recorded time that a group of bishops met to discuss the question of the canon was in Hippo in 393 AD, followed a short time later by the Council of Carthage in 397 AD. Both times, the North African bishops declared canonical the current Catholic list. In 405, Pope Innocent I privately affirmed this decision in a letter to another bishop.
From what I understand, the Council of Hippo and Carthage have different lists than the council of Trent

William Webster writes:
Those councils actually contradict the Council of Trent on an important point. Firstly, Hippo and Carthage state that 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras are canonical. They are referring here to the Septuagint version of 1 and 2 Esdras. In this version 1 Esdras is the Apocryphal additions to Ezra while 2 Esdras is the Jewish verion of Ezra-Nehemiah from the Jewish canon. The Council of Trent however states that 1 Esdras is actually Ezra from the Jewish canon and 2 Esdras is Nehemiah from the Jewish canon. Trent omits the Septuagint version of 1 Esdras. Secondly, Hippo and Carthage state that Solomon wrote 5 books of the Old Testament when in actuality he wrote only 3.
Certainly you would say they don't contradict, but whatever the case, it seems clear that they don't agree with Trent at least.

Finally, quotations from early church fathers that demonstrate they believed in Sola Scriptura. Emphasis and brief explanation added.

Cyril of Jerusalem -
This seal have thou ever on thy mind; which now by way of summary has been touched on in its heads, and if the Lord grant, shall hereafter be set forth according to our power, with Scripture-proofs. For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures.
(A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845), The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril 4.17).

Cyril emphasizes that his own words carry no authority unless proven by the Holy Scriptures. If an extra scriptural tradition existed as you claim, he would be dead wrong, as there were doctrines that could be proven from Tradition but not necessarily Scripture.

But take thou and hold that faith only as a learner and in profession, which is by the Church delivered to thee, and is established from all Scripture. For since all cannot read the Scripture, but some as being unlearned, others by business, are hindered from the knowledge of them; in order that the soul may not perish for lack of instruction, in the Articles which are few we comprehend the whole doctrine of Faith...And for the present, commit to memory the Faith, merely listening to the words; and expect at the fitting season the proof of each of its parts from the Divine Scriptures. For the Articles of the Faith were not composed at the good pleasure of men: but the most important points chosen from all Scriptures, make up the one teaching of the Faith. And, as the mustard seed in a little grain contains many branches, thus also this Faith, in a few words, hath enfolded in its bosom the whole knowledge of godliness contained both in the Old and New Testaments. Behold, therefore, brethren and hold the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your hearts (Ibid., Lecture 5.12).
Notice here, he points out that "the whole knowledge of godliness" are proven from the Scriptures, and he also speaks of holding to "traditions," which clearly demonstrate that these traditions is exactly the whole of the Bible, taught by word of mouth to these people. He makes clear that this faith is taught as tradition and is proven from Scripture.

I would say that this meaning of tradition is what many references to tradition are referring to.

Gregory of Nyssa:
The generality of men still fluctuate in their opinions about this, which are as erroneous as they are numerous. As for ourselves, if the Gentile philosophy, which deals methodically with all these points, were really adequate for a demonstration, it would certainly be superfluous to add a discussion on the soul to those speculations, but while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet (dogma); we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Hendrikson, 1995), Second Series: Volume V, Philosophical Works, On the Soul And the Resurrection, p. 439).
What is the rule for every dogma? The Holy Scriptures. And they alone.

Basil the Great, the bishop of Caesarea from 370 to 379 A.D.
Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Hendrikson, 1995), Second Series: Volume VIII, Basil: Letters and Select Works, Letter CCLXXXIII, p. 312)
Scripture is said to be sufficient, no need of Basil's assistance even.

From Sola Scriptura! ch. 2 by James White "Sola Scriptura and the Early Church"

Basil of Caesarea -
Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. (Schaff and Wace, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Sereies II (Grand Rapids.: Eerdmans, 1980) VII:23)
Tradition or church is not what decides, but Scripture.

Augustine -
What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought... Therefore, I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher. (Augustine, De bono viduitatis)
Scripture fixes doctrine.
Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures. (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3)
The voice of Jesus is said to be contained in the Scriptures.
If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and the Gospels, let him be anathema (Augustine, Contra litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6. Migne (PL 43:351)
Anything outside of Scripture, anathema.

For indeed the holy and God-breathed Scriptures are self-sufficient for the preaching of the truth (Athanasius: Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione) [Mickey: I can translate the Greek supplied!]
No comment necessary.
But since holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us, therefore recommending to those who desire to know more of these matters, to read the Divine word, I now hasten to set before you that which most claims attention, and for the sake of which principally I have written these things (Athanasius, Ad Episcopos AEgyptiae)
Let this, then, Christ-loving man, be our offering to you, just for a rudimentary sketch and outline, in a short compass, of the faith of Christ and of His Divine appearing usward. But you, taking occasion by this, if you light upon the text of the Scriptures, by genuinely applying your mind to them, will learn from them more completely and clearly the exact detail of what we have said. For they were spoken and written by God, through men who spoke for God. (Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei)
These three all demonstrate clearly that he believed in the sufficiency of Scripture for teaching and all things.

In response to the Arians -
Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in the divine Scripture. (Athanasius, De Synodis, 6)
No comment necessary.

Yike, this is long. Sorry. But you guys started it! =D haha. Another avalanche to come.


Links to this post

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 at 5:56 PM

TULIP (29) - Why does He still find fault?

Another objection when dealing with God's absolute sovereignty (which I've previously described and defended here and here) is that it's not right for God to hold us responsible for something that we didn't have free will in doing.

Of course, this is exactly what Paul's objector says in Romans 9 when dealing with the fact that it's God who has mercy and God who hardens hearts. I've also made similar remarks when "defining free."

I'd like to add one more thought.

Within the Bible itself, there are cases where unthinking things (animals and a tree) are held responsible for their actions. By held responsible, I mean they were punished for what they did (or did not do). This clearly refutes the assumption that one must have free will in order to be held responsible.

Case 1: Genesis 9:1-6
1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

After rescuing Noah, God reaffirms His faithfulness and now extends all living things as food for Noah when previously it was just green plants(v.3), warning against eating flesh with blood. And then v.5 is my focus - "And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man."

What is God saying to Noah? Noah's lifeblood (and all man's by v.6) is sacred. Not to be shed by anyone else. This includes animals, "from every beast." Clearly here, God is holding animals responsible for disobedience to His commands, even though one would argue (correctly, I would say) that animals cannot think and reason like men do. That they don't have "free will."

Yet, in spite of the obvious lack of "free will." God holds them responsible.

Case 2: Exodus 19:12-13
12And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain."
Moses is up on the mountain where God is giving the Law, and He gives this law as well to Moses, warning the people of Israel to not even touch the mountain. He then gives the punishment for touching such a mountain, death by stoning or arrows.

And then we get to the clincher. Not only is this a command for thinking rational beings like people, but it's one for unthinking beasts as well.
v13No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.'
Once again, unthinking beasts are held responsible. No trace of free will needed.

Case 3:Mark 11:12-14;20-21
12On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.
(irrelevant parts to my point snipped)
20As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21And Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered."
Here we see Jesus seeking fruit from a fig tree. But he doesn't find any, and the text even tells us that "it's not the season for figs" (v.13).

Does the tree have free will? It wasn't even the season for figs. Yet Jesus, righteous and just by definition, perfectly obedient to His Father's wishes, righteously and justly curses the tree for failing to meet God's demands. No free will required.

So the assumption "moral responsibility presupposes free will" fails biblically. Not only is it never stated, but it's clearly refuted. We're held responsible because God chooses to hold us responsible. May He have mercy on our souls, as there's no where else for us to turn.


Links to this post