Thursday, March 31, 2011

James White's Definition of KJV Only

Jamin Hubner, a member of the AOMIN blogging team, is involved in a debate regarding the definition of KJV only. He notes:

Dr. White identifies at least 5 kinds of King-James Only advocates p. 23-28):

1. "I Like the KJV Best"
2. "The Textual Argument" - Group A (Majority Text advocates), Group B (TR Advocates) Group C (others)
3. "Received Text Only" - TR is inspired or is inerrant by providence of God.
4. Inspired KJV Group - KJV itself is inspired and inerrant (some would also affirm inspiration and inerrancy of TR, and thus also hold to group 3); KJV Alone = Word of God Alone
5. "The KJV as New Revelation" - God re-inspired the AV 1611 text rendering it in English language (thus, Hebrew and Greek texts should actually be changed to reflect KJV readings) (link)

However, as a counter-point, I should be noted that James White also says the following:

One group that would strongly reject the term KJV Only but believe that the Greek texts used by the KJV translators are superior to those used by modern translations would be the Majority Text advocates. (White. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Bethany House, 2009 P. 24)

King James Onlyism is to be distinguished from the scholarly defense of either the Majority Text or the Byzantine Priority Theory. (p73)

This is of interest to me because I like the arguments in favor of the Majority Text but I have never considered myself KJV Only.  It would seem wrong to call me KJV only, given I use other translations.  I just think a normal transmission of the text would naturally yield a majority text.  Why lump me in with people who think the KJV itself is inspired? 

I hope that Robinson/Pierpont's work will one day be expanded to include a broader range if not all Greek manuscripts.  This would provided a better foundation for translating than is available today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How reliable is the Catechism?

I claimed, and still do, that sola scriptura is not responsible for all the doctrinal disagreements between Protestants that my friend and CatholicNick had listed. Rather, I cited varying presuppositions, degree of education, study, spiritual maturity or the sinfulness of the individuals involved as other drivers of doctrinal disagreements. My friend disagreed and reasserted that sola scriptura is the reason. But I had offered an argument, regarding intra-Catholic disagreement regarding free will and predestination. He responded by saying:

“The main problem here is the seeming assumption that these matters must be defined in an "either/or" fashion rather than "both/and." Catholic teaching on matters such as these is often both/and, for example, the Catechism addresses the relationship of freewill and predestination by stating:

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28; Psalms 2: 1-2). For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. (Matthew 26:54; John 18:36; John 19:11; Acts 3:17-18) (Catechism of the Catholic Church 600)

Freewill and predestination are not in opposition because of the nature of God, we humans only perceive that they are opposed due to the limits of our own understanding.”

This I think only extends the problem. First, the statement in the Catechism is not sufficient to resolve the dispute between Catholic Molinists and Catholic Dominicans. Molinists define freedom in terms of contra-causal power. Bob is able to choose chocolate or vanilla. He is not causally determined to one or the other. Dominicans disagree – they assert God’s concurrence with Bob determines what he will do, such that he cannot do otherwise.

It’s one or the other; it cannot be both. The both/and distinction only works when the two do not contradict each other – if there is a contradiction you must use either/or. We are either free in a Molinist sense or we are not and the catechism does not resolve this dispute.

Second, the Catechism states “to God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy”. This echoes Thomas Aquinas’ ‘eternal now’ doctrine. Certainly, Catholics have disagreed with this. Occham and Molina come to mind off the top of my head. The counter argument is that if God views April 1st as now and I don’t, then my perspective is wrong. It’s impossible for April 1st to be now and not now simultaneously. If God thinks April 1st is now, then it’s now. So my view that April 1st is future is God playing an April fool’s joke on me by making me think it’s future when it’s actually now.

Now I think the ‘eternal now’ doctrine is wrong, but my point isn’t to argue that. For my present point, it’s enough for me to note that other Catholics have disagreed with it as well. And it doesn’t seem to matter that they do, because 1) the Catechism is fallible and 2) in this case the Catechism is not underwritten by supposed infallible documents. So the Catechism can’t resolve this one.

But what about cases in which the Catechism is underwritten by supposed infallible documents? My friend uses the example of the Mass. Well, first off, if we limit the scope to only issues Rome has infallibly defined, we pair the list down quite a bit – I am guessing only a handful of items would remain. And that would go to my original point that most of the theological disagreements were not caused by sola scriptura.

The remaining items that are infallibly defined by Rome (and not also by scripture) are all examples of Rome causing division where scripture does not, because infallible definitions are affixed with anathemas.

A kinder, gentler anathema?

I had claimed, and still do, that Rome’s anathemas needlessly divide the body of Christ; far more than sola scriptura does. For example, Rome (not scripture) anathematizes those who think indulgences are worthless. So Rome causes divisions that scripture alone does not.
This is not just in theory but in practice. Joseelcarpintero commented in a way that lumped me in with the unsaved false teachers in 1 John 2:19. And that’s not the only time people have tried to scare me into the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, Rome is not the only group to anathematize me. With everyone thinking they alone have found the one true way, the only thing I know to do is turn to Christ and put my trust in Him.

Now consider the reverse. I don’t consider joseelcarpintero a false teacher. I don’t know him but I hope that he is trusting in Christ for his salvation. So which is causing division, sola scriptura or Rome’s anathemas?

My friend tried to soften the blow of anathema by saying:

“Anathema is actually a very formal, fancy and public way of showing that X person incurred latae sententiae or automatic excommunication. The Anathema itself was done away with in 1983. Excommunication, however, remains. Keep in mind that excommunication does not damn one to hell - it is simply a formal state of being way out of communion with Rome and is very severe because if one is totally out of communion with Rome, one is out of communion with Christ.”

And also:

“this is not a judgment against the person's heart and mind. It is a judgment against the person's actions in relation to what the Church, under the guidance/protection of the Holy Spirit (God), has stated.”

But to cause division, one does not need to be God and condemn his opponents to hell. Rather, by not treating ones opponents as Christian, they cause division. So Rome’s anathemas do cause division. Think about it – Rome calls councils ecumenical, even if they don’t include Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. That’s division. Rome considers itself the one true church to the exclusion of all others. That’s division. Catholics threaten Protestants with hell. That’s division.

It should be clarified that Trent’s anathemas do not simply mean you can no longer attend mass but you can go across the street to an EoC or Protestant church and we will still consider you Christian. An anathema is a curse. Consider Paul’s use of anathema in Galatians 1:9:

If any one preach to you a gospel besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.

Consider the formula of Rome’s old anathema ceremony:

"Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N-- himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate” (link)

That’s division.

Now perhaps modern Catholics have a new and softer understanding of anathema or have even layed down a power inherent to the apostolic office. That’s good but not relevant because it’s anachronistic to apply a novel understanding of anathema to either Paul or Trent.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Dallas Cowboys are on the Clock

The Cowboys have the 9th pick in this year’s draft. Their biggest needs are safety and offensive line. Unfortunately, there are no safeties or offensive linemen rated that high and you don’t really want to reach for a guy with the 9th pick. So the Cowboys decision this year is tough.

It could be simplified if a few guys fall to them. That would include DT Marcell Dareus, CB Patrick Peterson or probably even DT/DE Nick Fairley. Depending on his health, DT/DE Da'Quan Bowers probably joins this list.

If OLB Von Miller falls he would be interesting, but it’s not a lock to take him. We already have two good outside line backers and as frustrated as I was with Spencer last year; I am far from done with him. Worse, Miller may simply be too small for a 3/4 defense. Sure he can pass rush, but what if they run at him? WR A.J. Green makes no sense at all, even if he falls to 9. Even if we cut Roy Williams there’s just no room for him and won’t be so long as Miles and Dez are around. As talented as Green (or Julio Jones for that matter) may be, you need to do better than a 3rd WR with the #9 pick.

Most mock drafts have the Cowboys taking CB Prince Amukamara. I would be OK with that pick, since Terrence is getting up there. But it doesn’t fill a pressing need and I doubt Prince would start year one.

Some mock drafts have the Cowboys picking DE J.J. Watt. That to me would be more of a business decision than an upgrade. If you resign Spears, you don’t need Watt. I doubt Watt will be as good a run stopper as Spears was or as good a nickel pass rusher as Bowen. So did we improve?

A lot of people talk about trading down to the mid to late first round and getting another 2nd round pick. That makes sense to me. We do have plenty of needs. With a later first round pick we could get the best available tackle from Soldier, Costanzo, Tyron Smith or Carimi. Then with two second round picks we could get a safety and guard. Other needs would be an inside linebacker given Brooking is in his last year and Lee has been injury prone. We could also use a corner to develop under Newman, another DE if we get rid of Spears, another RB if we get rid of Barber and another WR if we get rid of Roy Williams.

Still I wouldn’t trade way the number 9 pick. Call me crazy, but if Cam Newton was sitting there at 9, I would grab him. How often are the Cowboys going to have a top ten pick? Even with the same basic squad as last year, they do better because of an easier schedule. Plus if they can play like they did under Garrett rather than Wade they probably are already back in the playoff hunt. So this pick is a once in a decade thing, unless they don’t have a succession plan for Romo. Just remember what it was like between Troy and Tony. Tony is 30. What are we going to do after him? Cam is not ready to start just yet but in his third under Garrett, he would be pushing Tony for the job. One of the main reasons Green Bay won the super bowl this year was they drafted Rodgers before they needed him and let him develop slowly as opposed to throwing him to the wolves. Let’s do the same with Cam. If you have a good QB, you can win the super bowl. If you don’t, good luck. Drafting Cam gives us a shot at winning a super bowl for the next 12 years. Can you say the same about J.J. Watt?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Divisions: Severity and Cause

A Roman Catholic friend of mine posted a list of teachings Protestants cannot agree upon due to sola scriptura. (link)  Along with the list were these comments:

“The following is a ‘open’ list of teachings (subject to further expansion) which Protestants cannot agree upon due to the doctrinal relativism caused by Sola Scriptura. Though many Protestants today would “solve” this problem by tossing a lot of these into the “non-essential” category, I believe the doctrinal issues I’ve mentioned have been clearly seen to cause division among Protestants…

…As a Catholic, it is easy for me to treat this list as a “checklist” of sorts. All I have to do is go down each point and reference the matter in the Catechism. The Catechism is chock full of Bible citations, references to the Church Fathers and council documents, etc. wherein I can read the reasons behind why the Church teaches what it does on these matters.”

‘Division’ does not mean the same thing to Protestants and Catholics. Typical, ‘infallible’, Catholic documents (decisions of ecumenical councils or ex cathedra statements by the Pope) anathematize dissenters. But this is not the case with Protestants; it’s not like credobaptists anathematize paedobaptists. We worship separately and organize separately due to practical difficulties. But we consider all true believers as part of the Body of Christ. So while lists of disagreements may seem like sola scriptura is causing divisions in the Church, really the very reverse is true. Rome’s anathemas of dissenters on doctrinal matters causes real divisions.

Paul speaks of non-essential doctrinal differences in Romans 14: 1-10.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

Note that Paul himself takes a side by calling one side weak and the other strong in the faith. But he doesn’t just blast the weak. He doesn’t even want them to doubt their inaccurate views; he tells them to be fully convinced in their own minds. What he does not want is divisions over non-essentials, because God will make the weak stand, and we all serve the same Lord and we are all individually accountable to God.

But Rome anathematizes those who say indulgencies are useless (Council of Trent, Chapter 21). We could ask Rome the same question Paul asks: why do you judge your brother?

A second point here is that the argument assumes that sola scriptura is the cause of all disagreements among Protestants. But then how do we account for disagreements among Catholics? Catholics can’t just look up all disagreements in the catechism and find the truth. Not all topics are addressed and of those that are, not all positions are supported by sources supposed to be infallible by Rome. Often Catholics disagree among themselves. For example, one of the items on the list is freewill/predestination. But when the Molinists and Dominicans disagreed on this topic and asked the Pope to decide it, he did not. So sola scriptura was not the cause nor was the Pope the solution. Rather disagreements often stem from either varying presuppositions, degree of education, study, spiritual maturity or frankly, the sinfulness of the individuals involved.

Some disagreements among Christians will probably not be resolved this side of the grave. In other areas I think significant progress can be made with the right approach; which must be founded on scripture alone.