Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda

In the past few weeks I have been made keenly aware that there is an “anti-KJV crowd” among Baptists. That is, they are opposed to the use of the King James Bible. Much of the “anti-KJV” faction flies under the radar with the cloak of opposing “King James-Onlyism.” I ask the fair reader to review the content quotes to which I call attention and judge whether it is directed against KJV-Only (a belief about the King James Bible) or against the King James Bible itself. These examples are found in a post and its replies at SBC Voices titled The “Old Path” Is Not Always the Best Path – The KJV Is a Great Example!

In this article, author Dave Miller takes aim at the idea “old is better” and then sets his sights on the King James Bible as evidence to prove that old is not necessarily better. In his complaint against the KJV, Dave offers four proofs of its inferiority: the KJV is against the revelatory pattern of the original autographs, it confuses rather than enlightens, it was translated before modern advances in textual studies, and it adds to the word of God. These objections are skewed. The 3rd objection is correct as far as it goes, but must be put in context. I will address these four objections presented by Miller, then review and address the anti-KJV crowd directly with their own statements.

1. The KJV is contrary to God’s revelatory pattern. “There was a flowery, formal language available in those days. Classical Greek was used by the educated, but the average man or women spoke Koine Greek.”

For whatever reason, in regard to the revelatory pattern Dave only mentions Greek. It is well on some levels to narrow the discussion to the Greek New Testament, since that is where most of the disagreement about Bible versions lies. But when we speak of the revelatory pattern of the Bible language, Hebrew and Aramaic must also be included. This objection misses the mark on three counts. First, all scholars are not agreed on the extent of the differences between Classical Greek and Koine Greek. Critiquing an argument by R. C. H. Lenski in Matthew 28:1, Robert Dean Luginbill, Department of Classical and Modern Languages at the University of Louisville, writes, “...basing any sort of biblical argument on the premise ‘but this is koine Greek, not classical Greek’ is very wrong-headed.” Second, the language and writing style of the New Testament may all be Koine, but is nevertheless quite varied. Perhaps some might be called flowery or formal, and some might be called common (or even grammatically incorrect). Variation in style and “quality” is also true of the Old Testament. Third, it is more important to recognize Koine not so much as the language of the common man, but more that is was the language the Roman empire had in common.

* More on Koine Greek, Classical Greek and the language of the New Testament HERE.

2. The KJV confuses rather than enlightens. “In addition to the thees and thous, the KJV uses words that are simply confusing because of the way the language has changed over the centuries.”

In themselves the “thees” and “thous” are quite enlightening, once one is taught how to read them. Without any extra teaching, English readers instinctively know it means “you” – but they may not know that these pronouns reflect better the singular and plural Greek 2nd person pronouns. A simple mnemonic shows how easy it is to understand them – “T” is singular and “Y” is plural. Nothing particularly confusing about that.

     What “t” begins, is one, ’tis true;
     When more, then “y”, like ye and you.

“If you are constantly having to correct or explain the words and their meanings, why not use a more accurate Bible?” This is an outrageous suggestion not rooted in fact. Who practices such as the rhetoric accuses, “constantly” correcting and explaining words when preaching or teaching from the King James Bible? Yes, sometimes it is necessary. There are words people don’t know due to them being used in a way we often do not today. These are not that many. On the other hand, all Bibles have words whose meaning is not understood by some readers, regardless of how old or how new they are. It is the duty of the Bible teacher to explain words. If not, what purpose does he serve? We would ask whether the preacher/teacher using more modern Bible versions has absolved himself from the duty to explain words. Are there no words in modern versions that people do not understand?  No words that need explaining? How many know these examples from the NIV without looking them up – cors, filigree, fomenting, Goiim, pinions, porphyry, profligate, resplendent? Please, do not insult our intelligence.

3. Dramatic advances in textual and morphological studies have rendered the KJV archaic. “Since 1611, there have been lots of ancient biblical texts found which give us a textual basis that is much better than the KJV. Morphological studies have advanced our understanding of words, grammar and usage, not only in Greek, but also in Hebrew and its cognates. Simply put, we understand better today what the autographa meant.” “A modern translation is a superior rendering of the meaning of the Word of God than the KJV.”

There have been new textual discoveries since the KJV was translated in 1611, and even technological advancements that are helpful in compiling and collating information. But for all our evolution in this regard, there has also been devolution. For all our progress of modernity, we have lost some of the awe and reverence for the word of God from past centuries. We have more Bible critics and questioners and doubters among scholars and in the pews. The proliferation of books written on words and phrases may offer more interpretations of the Koine Greek. More texts, incorrectly labeled “better” because they are “older,” offer more options, more questions, and more chances to be wrong. Are we better off for the more, or possibly like the man who owns two watches, never knowing what time it is?? What is the fruit of the proliferation of Bible versions? More knowledge? More questions? More faith? More stability? Or less?

One would think that all new discoveries support the findings and followers of Westcott and Hort. Such is not the case. The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism by Harry A. Sturz shares important information in this regard. Sturz is a textual scholar and not a partisan for the Byzantine tradition.

In his book Sturz, among other things, calls attention to some early “Western” texts agreeing with the Byzantine tradition against the Alexandrian, demonstrates Byzantine readings in the writings of the Church Fathers,* and discusses the discoveries of several Egyptian papyri with “distinctively Byzantine readings”. He writes, “Although the reasoning of Westcott and Hort seemed sound at the time they wrote, discoveries since then have undermined the confident appraisal that characteristically Syrian readings are necessarily late (p.55).” Further, concerning the Egyptian papyri he states, “They attest the early existence of readings in the Eastern part of the Roman empire in which the Byzantine and the properly (i.e. geographically) Western witnesses agree and at the same time are opposed by the Alexandrian (p.70).” Sturz concludes, “In view of the above, it is concluded that the papyri supply valid evidence that distinctively Byzantine readings were not created in the fourth century but were already in existence before the end of the second century and that, because of this, Byzantine readings merit serious consideration (p.69).”

* John William Burgon did extensive research in this area, concluding that early church fathers’ quotations support the Byzantine readings over the Alexandrian and that the earliest fathers were acquainted with the Byzantine text.

4. The KJV adds to the Word. Miller points to I John 5:7, as well as the Mark 16 and John 8 pericopes. That the KJV “adds to the Word” is a question of “what” and not “whether”. All translations “add” or “subtract” or both. This is an ongoing manuscript “type” question. One should not imagine that there is one The Greek New Testament – some translucent master copy descended down from heaven with a golden halo hovering above it. All complete Greek New Testaments are redacted –put together from many sources based on certain critical theories about which manuscripts, fragments and uncials are the best preservations of the original texts. It is a deceptive argument to find a text in the King James and claim it “adds to” the Word because it is not in Nestle-Aland. It is similarly false to find a text not in a modern version and claim it “takes away” from the Word because it is not in TBS.

To question the textual basis of modern versions is held firmly out of reach of in the mind of the anti-KJV elitist. Any who would so question are cast out as fanatics, dubbed as KJV-Onlyists, and rejected as throwbacks to a by-gone era. But from John William Burgon to Arthur Farstad—credible Greek scholars and no KJV-Onlyists—have favored the Byzantine text-type over the Alexandrian.

If one gives greater attention to the Alexandrian text-type, he or she will come down on a different side of the question than if one gives greater attention to the Byzantine text-type. In modern times, were we to put scholars on a scale and weigh them, the obesity would favor leaving out the ending of Mark 16, John 7:53—8-11, and I John 5:7. It has not always been so. But might does not make right. Curiously and importantly, though, for all the complaining against the KJV adding to the Word, the complainers are themselves using Bibles that also include these same “additions” to the word of God! I checked the 8 print copies of Bibles that I have other than the KJV (plus the HCSB online). Of these 9 modern versions, 7 leave out I John 5:7. But only two set off the Mark 16 and John 8 pericopes outside the biblical text. And these are the two worst versions that I have – the Revised Standard Version and the New World Translation. All the rest include them. Whether in brackets explained by marginal notes, they include them in the biblical text. So much for this objection, when your own Bible also “adds” to God’s Word.

Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda, Part 2
Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda, Part 3
Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda, Part 4

This day, April 30

George Washington was inaugurated as first president of the United States on the balcony of Federal Hall (the first U.S. Capitol) in New York City on April 30, 1789. The Federal Hall building was demolished in 1812, the same year that Louisiana became a state of the union on April 30. The Louisiana Purchase treaty was signed 9 years earlier, on April 30, 1803.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Koine Greek, Classical Greek and the language of the New Testament

Classical Greek and Koine Greek

All Greek scholars do not agree on how much the same, or how different, are what is called Koine Greek and Classical Greek. There does seem to be general agreement that Koine chronologically followed Classical through the spreading conquests of Alexander the Great. It became a lingua franca (a working language or unifying language) of the empire. It developed into the standard language of commerce and government, and was the language of communication of the people (who often spoke it as a second language).

A. T. Robertson characterized Koine as more practical than academic, the language of life and not of books. He also writes:
"To all intents and purposes the vernacular Koine is the later vernacular Attic with normal development under historical environment created by Alexander's conquests. On this base then were deposited varied influences from the other dialects, but not enough to change the essential Attic character of the language." (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 71).

Critiquing an argument by R.C.H. Lenski in Matthew 28:1, Robert Dean Luginbill, Department of Classical and Modern Languages at the University of Louisville, writes, "...basing any sort of biblical argument on the premise 'but this is koine Greek, not classical Greek' is very wrong-headed." Some of his further explanation includes:

"But there is not enough difference between Homeric Greek, Classical Greek, Hellenistic Greek, and Koine Greek to be worth mentioning (except to say that Homer is all poetry, and poetry is of a different diction in all ages and languages)...It's a real misconception to believe that there is any significant difference between these 'dialects'. As I explain to my students, if they think that there is enough difference between British English and American English to call them 'dialects', then terms like 'Classical' and 'Koine' make sense. These terms really have more to do with style than anything else. Paul quotes several Classical poets (Aratus and Menander) in his epistles, and paraphrases Homer in Acts 17; he surely didn't think that this would cause his readers to go running to a lexicon. All Greek is accessible to all Greek speakers from about 800 B.C. to 800 A.D.

"The meanings of words do have a tendency to change over time. We see this in English. What Washington meant by the word 'gay' is not necessarily what we mean today. That doesn't mean George couldn't read the newspaper tomorrow morning or that we can't read the Federalist papers. And Greek is much more conservative in its shifts than English."

The language style of the New Testament

Koine Greek, including the books of the New Testament display a diversity of styles, making it hard to claim there is some basic "revelatory pattern" of writing styles.

F. F. Bruce:
"Paul, we may say, comes roughly half-way between the vernacular and more literary styles. The Epistle to the Hebrews and the First Epistle of Peter are true literary works, and much of their vocabulary is to be understood by the aid of a classical lexicon rather than one which draws upon non-literary sources. The Gospels contain more really vernacular Greek, as we might expect, since they report so much conversation by ordinary people. This is true even of Luke's Gospel. Luke himself was master of a fine literary literary style, as appears from the first four verses of his Gospel, but in both Gospel and Acts he adapts his style to the characters and scenes that he portrays" (The Books and the Parchments, pp.55-56).

New Bible Dictionary:
"The language in which the New Testament documents have been preserved is the 'common Greek' (koine), which was the lingua franca of the Near Eastern and Mediterranean lands in Roman times." (p.713).

"Having thus summarized the general characteristics of New Testament Greek, we may give a brief characterization of each individual author. Mark is written in the Greek of the common man. ...Matthew and Luke each utilize the Markan text, but each corrects his solecisims, and prunes his style... Matthew's own style is less distinguished than that of Luke -- he writes a grammatical Greek, sober but cultivated, yet with some marked Septuagintalisms; Luke is capable of achieving momentarily great heights of style in the Attic tradition, but lacks the power to sustain these; he lapses at length back to the style of his sources or to a very humble koine. ..."Paul writes a forceful Greek,with noticeable developments in style between his earliest andhis latest Epistles...James and I Peter both show close acquaintance with classical style, although in the former some very 'Jewish' Greek may also be seen.The Johannine Epistles are closely similar to the Gospels in language...Jude and II Peter both display a highly tortuous an involved Greek...The Apocalypse, as we have indicated, is sui generis* in language and style: its vigour, power, and success, though a tour de force, cannot be denied." (p.715-716).

Roger Hahn claims "Some of the most sophisticated Greek to be found in the New Testament is in the book of Hebrews."

"Most NT writings fit the conversational category, though there are some that lean toward either end of the spectrum. The 'mainline' group is represented by (most of) Paul and Matthew. On the edge of conversational, but leaning toward vernacular are Revelation, Mark, John, and 2 Peter. On the other side, leaning toward literary, are Hebrews, Luke-Acts, James, Pastorals, 1 Peter, and Jude." -- Rodney J. Decker, Assistant Professor of Greek and Theology at Calvary Theological Seminary in Kansas City

* Unique

Baptist History Vindicated, a Book Review

Baptist History in America Vindicated: The First Baptist Church in America, a Resurfaced Issue of Controversy, the Facts and the Importance, Joshua S. Davenport. Canada: The Baptist Colportage Press, 2012. 46 pp. Paperback.

Baptist History in America Vindicated is a recent contribution to the field of Baptist history, specifically "which church is the first Baptist Church in America". It may be ordered for $6 postpaid from the author. Contact information can be found HERE.

Wondering whether you need one more book? The first question of the skeptical purchaser may be, "Why does it matter?" Before reading Baptist History in America Vindicated, I formulated 3 reasons why I believe that it matters. It matters to historical accuracy, intellectual honesty and denominational identity. I was satisfied that the author addressed all of these reasons in his booklet.

Josh Davenport is a Baptist pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Spencer, Iowa, a promoter of Baptist church planting in Iowa and an avid researcher of Baptist history. He writes clearly and logically leads the reader along to his conclusion. After an introduction about the genesis of this work, the author presents his matter in four chapters: The Issue, The Facts, The Importance, and his Conclusion.

For a number of years there has been a question over whether of the churches in Newport or Providence, Rhode Island are the oldest church in America. Davenport sides with the Newport Church and lays out his reasons. The author gives four categories of facts, three of which are historical and one theological (i.e., if the Providence Church cannot validly be considered a Baptist Church, it cannot be the first Baptist Church). Next he follows with four reasons why it is important. These touch my interests and add another which I had not considered -- "Historic Influences on American Principles is at Stake (pp. 36-38)." In this latter point, Davenport does not diminish the contributions of Roger Williams to American principles, but identifies the influence of John Clarke and the First Baptist Church of Newport as a lively source from whence these principles flowed again and again to other Baptists -- who in turn influenced a nation for the right of religious liberty, or as John Clarke's RI Charter puts it: "full liberty in religious concernments."

This book is valuable addition to a subject shrouded in confusion. It is short on "primary sources." That is because there are hardly any primary sources. In lieu of that, Davenport recommends greatest historical credence be given "those closest to the situation (p. 32)." I could wish that contents, bibliography and index had been added, but in a brief work such as this it is only a minor inconvenience. There is more I want to say, but will rather urge you to get the book and see for yourself. I might approach a few things differently, but I give a hearty "thumbs up" recommendation to this booklet.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Petra by Burgon

It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.

Excerpt from Petra by John William Burgon, circa 1845

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rethinkin' Our Thinkin' Sacred Harp booklet

My new booklet, Rethinkin' Our Thinkin': Thoughts on Sacred Harp "Myths', is now available.

Rethinkin' Our Thinkin' is a review and reassessment of some of the prevailing views of Sacred Harp and its history. I suggest some reasons why these views should be corrected and updated. Pick up a copy today at Redland singing or tomorrow at Pine Grove. Or contact me about ordering a copy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Divine retribution may be slow but is always sure

“Though the mills of God grind slowly;
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting,
With exactness grinds He all.”

"Retribution" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (via Friedrich, Freiherr von Logau; Sextus Empiricus)

George Jones...

stopped loving her today. George Jones, who Russell Moore called the Troubadour of the Christ-Haunted Bible Belt and CNN labeled the King of Broken Hearts, passed from the walks of life this morning into the great beyond. He was 81 years old. I believe I remember stories of him singing at a young age in his mother's Pentecostal Church here in southeast Texas. He often seemed torn between two worlds.

I thought it fitting he died on Shakespeare's birthday. I don't know how much Jones had in common with Shakespeare, but in country music terms he sure had a way with words.

Shakespeare’s birthday

William Shakespeare’s birthday is April 26 (today). has provided Shakespeare’s Novel Neologisms We Still Use in honor of the occasion.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dean Burgon and Textual Criticism

John William Burgon was possibly the chief detractor of the work of the Revised Version of the Bible in the 1880s. Burgon disagreed with a number of decisions that were made, especially of the translators not following the rules laid out for them. Frederic G. Kenyon's story of The Revised Version (1881-1895), though sympathetic, acknowledges the same thing. The Dean Burgon Society has printed four book by Burgon. Also books by Burgon are available electronically on Google Books at the links below.

The Revision Revised: Three Articles Reprinted from the Quarterly Review London: John Murray, 1883
The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established, London: James Parker and Co, 1871
The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, London: George Bell and Sons, 1896
The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established, London: George Bell and Sons, 1896

11 Books related to the history of the King James Bible

The 11 books below are related to the King James Bible's translation and history. Some are mostly historical and mainly neutral in the "Bible Version Wars". Some are not. All make good reading.

A Textual History of the King James Bible, David Norton. Cambridge University Press (February 2005), ISBN: 0521771005. 402 pages

A Visual History of the King James Bible: The Dramatic Story of the World's Best-Known Translation, Donald L. Brake. Baker Publishing Group (February 2011), ISBN: 080101347X. 283 pages

In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture, Alister McGrath. Anchor (February 19, 2002), ISBN: 0385722168. 352 pages

King James, His Bible, and Its Translators, Laurence M. Vance. Vance Publications (October 20, 2006), ISBN: 0976344815. 172 pages

The Authorized Version of the English Bible (1611): Its Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives, F. H. A. Scrivener. Wipf & Stock Publishers (March 31, 2004), ISBN: 1592446345. 322 pages

The Coming of the King James Gospels, Ward S. Allen and Edward C. Jacobs. University of Arkansas Press (June 1, 1995), ISBN: 1557283451. 420 pages

The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism, Donald A. Carson. Baker Book House (1979), ISBN: 0801024277. 128 pages

The Men Behind the KJV, Gustavus S. Paine. Baker Publishing Group (February 1988), ISBN: 0801070090. 212 pages

Translating for King James: Notes Made by a Translator of King James's Bible, Ward S. Allen. Vanderbilt University Press (January 19, 1994) ISBN: 0826512461. 172 pages

Translating the New Testament Epistles 1604-1611: a Manuscript from King James's Westminster Company, Ward S. Allen. Vanderbilt University Press by University Microfilms International (1977), ISBN: 0835702871. 319 pages

When The KJV Departs From The "Majority" Text, J. A. Moorman. The Old Paths Publications, Inc. (October 21, 2010), ISBN: 1568480989. 202 pages

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Burgon on the Scriptures

"...while you read,--safe from the risk of interruption...and with every faculty intent on your task,--try, as much as possible to go over the words as if they were new to you; and watch them, one by one, so that nothing may by any possibility escape your notice. Do not slumber over a single word. Nothing can be unimportant when it is the HOLY GHOST who speaketh. It is an excellent practice to mark the expressions which strike you; for it is a method of preserving the memory of what is sure else soon to pass away.

"And next, be persuaded to read without extraneous helps of any kind...

"But then, though you are entreated not to have recourse to the notes of others, you are as strongly advised to make brief memoranda of your own: and the briefer the better. Construct your own table of the Patriarchs,--your own analysis of the Law,--your own descent of the Kings,--your own enumeration of the Miracles. A pedigree full of faults, made by yourself, will do you more good than the most accurate table drawn up by another: but if you are at all attentive and clever, it will not be full of faults.--You will perhaps make the parables 56 instead of 30: you will have gained 26 by your honest industry. Nay keep a record of your difficulties, if you please; or of anything which strikes you, and which you would be sorry to forget. But, as a rule, it is well to write little, and to give your time and thought to the record before you...

"...Feel persuaded that details, seemingly the driest, are full of GOD. Remember that the difference between every syllable of Scripture and all other books in the world is, not a difference of degree, but of kind. All books but one are human: that one book is Divine!"

From a sermon by John William Burgon

Matthew, Chapter 11

Matthew Dow was a successful businessman who fell on hard financial times. He counselled with his pastor at the First Church in order to find help on how to move forward. Pastor Smith gave him some rather unusual counsel. He advised Matthew to take his Bible and go to the beach. Take a lawn chair recliner, lay down and open the Bible in your lap. Let the vesper sea breezes blow across the pages of your Bible until they come to a final resting place. Then look at that page for the message God has given. Somewhat skeptical, Matthew remembered only a week before that Pastor Smith had preached on the servant's rejoinder to Naaman about dipping seven times in Jordan. So he loaded up his Bible and his lawn chair and headed off to the beach to hopefully get a message from God.

Not long after this, Pastor Smith saw Matthew in town. He was driving a new car, dressed in a new suit, with all appearances of success once again. The pastor asked his parishioner how he was doing and whether he had taken his advice. 

"Oh, yes," replied Matthew, "things are really looking up." 

"What did God say?" queried the pastor. 

Matthew explained, "Well, after the breezes died down and the pages stopped turning, I looked down and saw it..."

"Matthew, Chapter 11."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

15 observations about the Gospel

For me shorthand, or the short answer for "what is the gospel" has always been that the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. That is a true, but all 15 observations below indicate it is much more complicated than that.

1. The gospel, in some sense, begins with John the Baptist (Mark 1:1). But it was preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8), and can also be called everlasting (Revelation 14:6).
2. The gospel can include a memorial story of a woman anointing Jesus with oil (Matthew 26:13).
3. The gospel can be preached (Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 1:17; 15:1).
4. The gospel belongs to the kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:14-15).
5. The gospel includes and/or belongs to the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
6. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Acts 20:24 ).
7. The gospel can be obeyed or disobeyed. (Romans 10:16; II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17).
8. The gospel can be received and "stood in" (1 Corinthians 15:1)
9. The gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
10. The gospel can be hid to them that are lost (II Corinthians 4:3-4).
11. The gospel is unique and unalterable (Galatians 1:6-8)
12. The gospel is the word of the truth (Colossians 1:5).
13. God by the gospel calls us to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Thessalonians 2:14).
14. Jesus Christ brings life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10).
15. The eternal word of the Lord is preached unto us by the gospel (I Peter 1:25).

Walking by Faith

"Whenever the Lord enables us to walk by faith, we enjoy a comfortable hope.  But when he leaves us to encounter the assault of the adversary, and the corruptions of our own hearts, and with nothing but our reasoning powers to combat them, however much our reason or souls have been enlightened in the knowledge of spiritual things, we have but a sorry, gloomy, doubting time of it: and we are made to know that it is not by any power that we have that faith can be brought to our rescue." -- Samuel Trott

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Theist commends An Atheist Defends Religion

An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off with Religion than without It, Bruce Sheiman. New York: Alpha/Penguin Group, 2009, 239 pages. ISBN 9781592578542, $14.95.

This book is a welcome relief from anti-religious diatribes such as The God Delusion by atheist Richard Dawkins. Unlike those books, An Atheist Defends Religion is written by an atheist who sees religion as a valuable asset to society even though he does not embrace it. Unlike those atheists who want, when they have reached the top of the hill, to push the prophet and the priest down to their demise, Sheiman believes the world is a better place because of religion (pp. ix-x).

The back cover describes the author as "an atheist who wants to believe in God." After reading the book, I would describe Bruce Sheiman as "an atheist who does not want to believe in a random chaotic world without purpose."

The book is designed to reach "the 'moderate majority' of religious America: people who are not militant atheists or literalist believers; people who accept that science and religion are essential for a fulfilling life (p. vi)."

Sheiman is a committed atheist who accepts the prevailing theories of science, big bang evolution, and so forth. He does not defend any particular religion, though it is clear that he believes the enlightenment of the present world arrives mostly through the progress of Christianity.

There are a few defects in the book, but they do not greatly obstruct its usefulness. An Atheist Defends Religion has neither index nor footnotes/endnotes. Both would be helpful. After defining fundamentalism as a form of extremism (chapter 6), I was disappointed that Sheiman throws all theists who believe in a literal creation into the "fundamentalist theism" pot (pp. 145, 148) -- a pot of crackpots, radicals and extremists -- even though there is great diversity of belief and action within this group.

The end of the book reveals a slightly different view and conclusion than one might expect from the title. This work is not only a defense of religion, but an attempt to move the fringes toward a compromised middle where science and religion co-exist -- "a Third Way, a compromise path between two polar opposites (p. 219)." In Sheiman's Third Way equation, there is no room for militant atheists like Richard Dawkins or fundamentalist Bible believers who will not believe the evolutionary origins of science. It may forecast a milquetoast world toward which we move -- one in which freedom of speech is jettisoned for the tolerance of toleration and the fringes are repudiated as hate-speakers and incarcerated as evil-doers. This is not the author's intent, but could be an adverse side effect of such as vision.

I cannot accept his proposal, though I enjoyed the book and consider it worth reading. It will make you think. It is also a conversation the brightest conservative Christian thinkers need to engage.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Verses not highlighted or underlined

A few weeks ago I heard someone comment that "we need to go back and read the Bible verses that aren't underlined or highlighted." I like that! 

Why do we need to read the verses that aren't underlined or highlighted?

That is a way of saying that we need to be thorough in our Bible study. We often become attached to certain statements we have "underlined or highlighted," favorite verses and pleasant topics that attract our attention. But we may be skipping over those verses that are less exciting, more difficult, more time consuming, or, God forbid, something we don't want to hear or think about. 

Get all you can out of the verses that are underlined or highlighted -- but don't forgot about the wealth of the rest of the material that God has revealed in His Word. It is ALL God's Word. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. We need it all to get the whole picture, to understand the fullness of God's revelation to us.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

7 inspiring and amusing quotes about books

"I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense." -- Harold Kushner

"If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Classic - a book which people praise and don't read." -- Mark Twain

"If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it." -- Toni Morrison

"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." -- Haruki Murakami

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." -- Groucho Marx

"I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget." -- William Lyon Phelps

Friday, April 19, 2013

9 Work-related readings

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

7 Things Pastors Should Teach Those in the Marketplace
A Christian baker refuses to make cake for same-sex wedding and now faces charges
A Christian Work Ethic – A Word For the Ambitious
Christian woman wins landmark religious discrimination case over wearing cross at work
How to Procrastinate at Work: A Complete (Research-Based!) Guide
The Christian Work Ethic (Ephesians 4:28)
The Relationship Between Your Ministry and Your Occupation
What Makes Work “Christian”?
Which Vocations Should Be Off Limits to Christians?

House of Horrors

Kirsten Powers correctly chided her profession when she wrote We've forgotten what belongs on Page One. Since then much brutal information continues to come out about the abortionist Gosnell's "House of Horrors". 

* "Specimens" (i.e, babies) were delivered into toilets
* Seven infants killed after being delivered alive
* Infant beheadings
* Remains of the 47 babies kept in containers filled with formaldehyde, including
* Cut-off feet of babies preserved in jars
* A blind look-the-other-way Planned Parenthood

And so forth.

In The Blaze, Billy Hallowell highlighted the defense lawyer's gruesome description of abortion by dismemberment. Why would a lawyer defending the abortionist Gosnell possibly "offend" the jury with this information? According to Hallowell, “his rationale was clear, as the lawyer explained that his client’s alleged horrific actions presented to the court on Monday are consistent with what one would expect to see in a 'normal' abortion procedure.” They are supposed to think, "Not much difference, eh."

Pro-abortionists cannot comfortably condemn Gosnell's heinous acts. Why? It's too close to home. The act they approve 10 minutes earlier is hard to condemn 10 minutes later. The silence of the media, most often favoring a woman's right to choose, is understandable, even though despicable; the silence of the lambs is deafening.

In Our shameful dereliction of duty in the Rusk County News, Matthew Prosser puts it this way: " believe abortion rights to be so sacrosanct that they cannot acknowledge Gosnell’s crimes because it might lead to a curtailing of those rights. In short, preserving a woman’s right not to be pregnant is more important to them than preventing infanticide."

Our country has become callous. Perhaps the "House of Horrors" will reach into our heart and soften it. A baby in the womb is a life that ought to be nurtured and protected both by the mother and by society.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Shelton Speaks

An old divine one day, who had fought through many a battle for the souls of men, sat down and wrote to a young preacher in these words, "Never represent faith as being an act so SIMPLE that the work of the Spirit is not needed to produce it." Yet this is what is being done all over Christendom today. The majority of evangelists for the past hundred years have manifested a zeal for God which is not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2).

Out of this preaching of the simplicity of the way of salvation, there has grown up today in our midst the doctrine of "BELIEVINGISM," which ignores Holy Spirit conviction and sets aside Bible repentance, and leaves the poor sinner resting upon a faith of his own that has no foundation. Out of the doctrine of "Believingism" has grown the stepchild of "DECISIONISM," a practice which is even more shallow and more deadly in its effect upon poor unawakened sinners. This has all grown out of one fact -- man's blindness as to WHO he is by nature, WHAT he is by nature, and the JUDGMENT he is under. In other words, man is failing to know and understand THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY -- which is laughed at, made fun of, and denied in practically all religious circles of today -- is the underlying cause of the shallowness and mistaken conception of God's way of salvation.

L. R. Shelton, Copied from The Baptist Waymark, July-September 1998, p. 4

2 explosions and 3 letters

I don't try to keep abreast with all the news on my blog, because others have so much more time to do it and do it so much better. Two explosions -- in Boston, Massachusetts and West, Texas -- are in the news, as well as letters containing poison.

I posted on the Boston Marathon explosions elsewhere, but just want to make a few brief comments. First, my our prayers continue to go out to those who were injured, to the families of those killed, and to the city which is recovering from this jolting experience. According to Yahoo News, there has been a breakthrough in the case. The FBI has two suspects. They have released photos of these suspects and are asking for the public's help in identifying them.

A suspect has been arrested in connection with 3 poison letters sent to governmental officials, including the President of the United States.

In the small central Texas town of West, a fertilizer plant explosion rocked the town last night. Early reports suggested up to 15 dead after fire and blast at West Fertilizer Company. Some of the firefighters who first responded to the fire are still missing. There is no indication of foul play; this is probably just an industrial accident. The total amount of injured is comparable to those injured in Boston.

O God, our help in ages past, 
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home...

O God, our help in ages past, 
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guide while troubles last,
and our eternal home! 

(Isaac Watts)

Bible resources online

Some resources I've found online for olde English Bibles:

Bishop’s Bible (1568)
Coverdale Bible (1535)
Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible (1582)
Ealry English Bibles
Geneva Bible (1587)
King James, text of the first edition online in images
The Matthew Bible (1537/1549)
Tyndale Bible (1525)
Wycliffe New Testament (1395)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

3 Men and a King

Lesson: Daniel 3:1-30

A few thousand years ago three Hebrews had to either obey an earthly despot or the ruler of heaven and earth. Daniel recorded it and it comes down to us as what most of call the 3 Hebrew children and the fiery furnace.

From Exodus 20:1-5 And God spake...Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them
Daniel 3:5 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up

Nebuchaddnezzar, king of Babylon and most powerful ruler of his time, required his subjects to worship a golden image that he made. Eternal God Jehovah, creator of heaven and earth,  required having no other gods and not bowing down before any image. The 3 Hebrew children -- called Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego by the Babylonians -- were subjects of Nebuchadnezzar and servants of the most High God. They knew God's law and instinctively knew they ought to obey God rather than a man; that when in conflict God's law must be preferred over man's.

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were not careful to answer the king -- meaning not that they lacked precision, as we might use the word most often, but that they were not full of care, were not afraid, and did not quake before King Nebuchaddnezzar. They gave a simple, honest and unflinching answer, "We will not serve thy gods. We will not bow before thine image." Their answer was founded in two principles. God is more powerful than Nebuchaddnezzar, and God has more rights over them than Nebuchaddnezzar. It might not be their highest desire to be cast into a furnace of fire. It was their highest desire to obey God. Though Nebuchaddnezzar had rights over their bodies as his subjects, God had more rights over their bodies and souls as creator, lawgiver and universal king. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were convinced of the power of God. He was able to deliver them. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were convinced of the providence of God. He would deliver them. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were convinced of the wisdom of God. Whether He would deliver them was not the basis of their act of defiance of Nebuchaddnezzar. They acted and stood upon what was right -- we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image.

Daniel 3:26b-28 Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

The preceding example of a firm resolution for the truth of God is glorious and exhilarating  We might well stop there. But consider briefly the work of God in delivering the 3 Hebrew children. This devotion is a bright testimony of God's regard for His servants, a wonderful reminder of the words of Peter, "He careth for you." God was with them in the fire. This display is an awesome revelation of God's power over the fire. Fire in all its rage is a devastating foe of man. It is a mere flicker in the mind of God. That which by nature would have quickly consumed His children was made impotent before them. Finally, this deliverance is an enduring reminder that God is omnipotent and that the greatest powers on earth must bend before His will.  The only damage the fire discharged was to kill Nebuchadnezzar's men and destroy Nebuchadnezzar's bonds.God "changed the king's word," an act which none on earth had either the fortitude or the ability to do.

Praise God whose mighty hand, saved His children and changed the man, Who o'er their bodies ruled, he thought; Whose plans by God were brought to naught. How are the mighty fallen, before the sovereign Lord; And poor servants lifted up, by His gracious Word!

11 Quotes, varied and miscellaneous

"Matthew 7. Jesus isn’t saying don’t judge; He is saying be careful how you judge, especially when judging follow believers (read verse 2 carefully). Besides this, Christians have a right and responsibility to judge what God has already judged."

"If the potter understands his art, what matters the ignorance of the clay?" -- Charles Spurgeon

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” -- variously attributed to T. H. Thompson, John Watson, James M. Barrie, and Plato

"The best translation of the Bible is of no value unless the one who owns a copy will read it consistently and systematically." -- Copied

“The desire to communicate and be understood as widely as possible often comes directly into conflict with the desire to impress. This gives many people an incentive not to be clear, because what they have to say does not amount to much, and so the more clearly it is expressed the more obvious that fact will be.” -- Bryan Magee

“Without the Spirit we can neither love God nor keep His commandments.” - Augustine

“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” - Corrie Ten Boom

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Our theology should always result in fulfilling the clear commands of Scripture. If the result of any of our theology leads us to not trust in God, not witness, not love our neighbor, then we are missing something." -- David Carrel

"Bachelor's wives and maid's children are well taught.” -- Heywood, 1546

"Life is what you learn while you live it." -- copied

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Brief Review of a Brief Book

Born Guilty? A Southern Baptist View of Original Sin, Adam Harwood. Carrollton, GA: Free Church Press, 2013. ISBN 9781939283023. 38 pages, paperback.

Hot off the presses and in the heat of controversy, Born Guilty tackles the difficult question of whether an individual is guilty in God's sight before he or she is "morally capable" of understanding what sin is. The author is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia and quite capable of addressing his subject. Harwood moves in the "Traditional" soteriological camp of Southern Baptists that asserts a middle ground position between Calvinism & Arminianism and seeks to stem the rising tide of Calvinism within the Convention.

The booklet is small, but should not be dismissed for its brevity. The author is able clearly, concisely and amicably to propose his view and make valuable this work. Born Guilty is one in a series by Free Church Press "focusing on biblical, theological and moral issues facing today's Christians. Though not stated in the book itself, the idea is to provide a quick overview and a compact study for lay members. Speaking of this series on his blog, Peter Lumpkins writes that the intent is to give "a brief summary of the subjects the series addressed" and that the audience intended is "people in the pew, neither pastors nor others with theological backgrounds." 

The book resides contextually as part of a controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention. It is nevertheless not limited to that utility, but will be beneficial to others not in the SBC and will add to the overall information in the broader soteriological/original sin debate. Calvinists will not likely applaud this new arrival, whether they find it a challenge to be answered or more evidence of what some of them have termed semi-Pelagianism. Some "Traditionalists" will prefer their position of "born guilty yet safe until they reach the age of accountability," a position well established among most non-Calvinist missionary Baptists. Others will welcome this as a clearer refutation of the original sin of Calvinism than their complicated series of leaps to hold all Adam's descendants guilty while assuring an eternal home in heaven for all infants who die.

Are infants born sinners? Are they born guilty? Harwood answers the last question with an unqualified "no" and the first with a "yes". The bulk of the book is about 2 dozen pages of Harwood's view positively presented while negating the "original sin" theory. The heart of the author's presentation is an exposition of Romans 5:12-21, which he calls "the most important text when considering the guilt of Adam's sin (p. 5)." Harwood also chronicles some theology and history favoring his position on Adamic guilt. Two appendices follow: A. Article 3 (the Fall of Man) from three editions of the Baptist Faith and Message,* 1925, 1963, and 2000; B. A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation. This booklet contains endnotes, but neither "Contents" nor "Index" -- both of which would have been helpful. I also found the use of italics for the main contents of the book an aesthetic negative.

The design of Born Guilty is to set forth the effects of sin on Adam's descendants while answering the problem of hereditary guilt from Adam. Harwood's conclusion is clear and resounding: "we become transgressors who are guilty and under condemnation for our sin only when we attain moral capability and first commit--knowingly commit--a sinful thought, attitude or action" (p. 4) and "If we are not guilty of Adam's sin, then a primary commitment of Calvinism is rendered unnecessary for sound biblical theology (p. 25)."

A few places in the booklet left me confused and wishing for more explanation. For example:

First, it seems that Harwood limits the views of original sin to only two -- "Do we receive from Adam a sinful nature or Adam's guilt? (p. 3)" But these are not mutually exclusive, and both are held systematically by Calvinists and not a few "Traditional" non-Calvinistic Baptists.

Second, in a list of Scriptures proving that individuals are accountable for their own sins, the author includes the judgment of the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 12) and the death of David's and Bathsheba's baby because of David's sin (2 Samuel 12). These accounts may not speak directly to Adamic guilt. But I wanted Harwood to resolve the inclusion of those passages (pp. 12-13), which appear to be punishment of one for the actions of another (which seems to contradict the point of that list).

Next, the author discusses the views of the three SBC Presidents during the development of the 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statements. He inserts a curious reference to a statement by Paige Patterson. Though I do not doubt that Patterson's view likely accords with Harwood's, the supplied quote falls short of saying so (p. 22) and left me wondering why the author didn't include a direct statement of Patterson's theology.

Finally, Harwood includes and refers to the statements on the fall of man from the 1925, 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Messages. What he leaves unexplained, though, is how the 1925 article -- "his [Adam's] posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation" (p. 30) -- coincides with his view and whether the 1963 revision represents some discontinuity in the SBC view of inherited guilt and original sin. The 1925 statement does not say the same thing as the 1963 and 2000 statements, and does not support the view which the author is advancing.

Some self-absorbed theologians may disdainfully discount this brief volume. Certainly if one is looking for a weighty theological tome, this is not the one. If you want to delve more deeply the subject of the condition of infants, consider Harwood's The Spiritual Condition of Infants: a Biblical-Historical Survey and Systematic Proposal for a statement of the "Traditional" Southern Baptist view.** But if you want to get an overview of one non-Calvinistic understanding on the issue of original sin and inherited guilt -- and one that is up-to-date with current controversy -- you can be informed by Born Guilty. Though I don't agree with the author's conclusion, I recommend his book as an insightful argument contra the Augustinian/Calvinistic view of original sin.

When I purchased this book I found it available in several venues, but ordering directly from Free Church Press was the most economical option (IOW, the best price!).

* The doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention
** This is representative of some other non-Calvinistic Baptists as well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

3 Purveyors of Persecution

The three churches in the previous post -- Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican -- each defends itself as the true church by citing historical continuity back to the apostles. Even if that were true, there is a simple matter that must rend them from the lineage of the church built by the carpenter's son of "not many wise, not many mighty, and not many noble," but rather the weak, base and despised. These three "universal" churches not only fought one another, but also universally persecuted and murdered any simple Christians whose faith did not align with their pronouncements.

The Inquisition, or Inquiry on Heretical Perversity, refers to any of the judicial institutions from the 1100s to the 1800s within the Roman Catholic Church which hounded "heretics".  Punishment ranged from imprisonment, banishment, and torture to death (usually a quite horrific one). Some modern historians have tried to revise this view of the Inquisition. But it's stain cannot be erased. The Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 declared what was already practiced, stating that secular authorities "shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled" to exterminate all heretics that the (Roman Catholic) Church pointed out to them in their jurisdiction. The oft revered "Saint" Thomas Aquinas believed that obstinate heretics should "not only to be separated from the Church, but also to be eliminated from the world by death." Persecution by the Catholic Church is no mere spectre of the dark ages. For example, the state of Croatia (named after the Roman Catholic "Croats") was formed in 1941. The Serbs in Croatia, who were Eastern Orthodox, were given three options -- convert to Roman Catholicism , be exiled, or be executed. This was no empty threat, but was at least carried out on women and children in Prebilovici. In 1965 the Roman Catholic Church issued "Dignitatis Humanae" (part of the Vatican II Council) which "declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom," repudiating centuries of Roman Catholic practice otherwise.

Orthodox Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081--1118) persecuted and punished Paulician and  Bogomil "heretics". One of his last acts in life was to burn at the stake Basil, a Bogomil leader condemned as a heretic by Patriarch Nicholas III. The Coptic Christians in Egypt suffered under the Byzantine Empire. The Melkite Patriarchs, whose leadership encompassed both spiritual and civil matters, massacred those they considered heretics. Another example of Orthodox persecution can be seen during Patriarch Nikon’s reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. The dissenters were persecuted, either finding it necessary to flee the country, or else submit to torture and burning at the stake. Even in recent years there are reports of the Russian Orthodox Church aligning itself with Vladimir Putin  in his government-sponsored persecution of Catholics.

Anglicans were later getting in the game than the older Catholic and Orthodox churches, but they plied the trade quite well. Who does not know of the violent war of Anglican against Catholic in England? And laws such as the Uniformity Act of 1662 and the Blasphemy Act of 1650 enforced the dominance of the Church of England and chastised religious dissenters. The sad case of Edward Wightman, the last person in England burned at the stake for heresy (1612), stands as a testament to their zeal against religious "heresy".

Yes, the Reformers wielded the sword to spread their religion, and time would fail me to speak of the wild excesses of the Radicals at Munster. But these are the three that are blowing the long horn for their catholicity, continuity, consensus, existence, and succession. The continuity of these so-called churches is the continuity of the growth of an acorn into a giraffe -- a kingdom not of this world seduced by the kingdoms of this world. What simple reader cannot detest such desultory connection and see & know that a church making converts by the sword has fully departed from the "my church" of Jesus Christ of the New Testament both in theology and practice? Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.

Another Problem of Ecclesiology

Last year I wrote a reply to Daniel Wallace's post on The Problem of Protestant Ecclesiology. I subscribed to notification of replies on that thread. Over a year later Wallace is still facilitating much tooting of the long horn of those in support of the apostolic succession of either the Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican churches. This subject is approached with a great deal of pride, based on antiquity, universality, and consensus. History proves they're not as old as they think, at least not in the sense of a proven apostolic succession or resemblance to the New Testament church. The fact that there are three of them (and many more) demonstrates that talk of universality and consensus is also cheap.

Many appeals are made to the church fathers. Each seems to see this as an almost unassailable position. In reality church fathers are embraced and discarded according to their affinity to a particular tradition. Augustine for Catholics, Anselm for Anglicans, Peter of Sebaste for Orthodox, none of which would likely embrace Coptic Saint Samuel the Confessor. And Arius is a church father as well, regardless of who doesn't want to claim him! Alternately some are revered as church fathers and then anathemized, or vice versa.

The appeal to traditional interpretations of "the church" should be compared to traditional interpretations of the elders of Israel, and then compared to the example of Jesus and his Apostles. They accepted and believed the Old Testament canon while rejecting the traditions and interpretations that had grown up from the "Israel fathers".

These churches may claim that their doctrine (in exclusion of the others) is semper eadem (always the same) or quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus (what has been held always, everywhere, by everybody). Once you exclude as churches everybody who does not always agree with you, I suppose it is easy to claim this is true. One among the Orthodox wrote that "Every church believes the same thing while leaving room for regional differences in praxis." But this reveals they in fact don't believe the same thing, unless they don't believe what they practice. Friendship and acquaintances with Roman Catholics exposes one to wide diversity of theology and practice, regardless of what "the church" says they believe.

The ecumenical councils are accepted as examples of an exercise of church consensus, continuity and infallibility. Yet, there were disagreements in the councils, on which councils are ecumenical and on which portions of the councils are to be accepted. Of the early ecumenical councils, Oriental Orthodoxy recognizes only the first three, Eastern Orthodoxy seven and Roman Catholicism eight. Consensus is not achieved by achieving consensus, but by excommunicating those who deny the consensus. Might makes right and vae victis (woe to the vanquished ones)!

Comparison of the growth of the acorn of the New Testament church into an oak tree reveals some things that have grown into a giraffe. Praying to the dead, the veneration of images, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the monarchical papacy and such like expose a different creature to our sight. But "none of this moves them" who are reinforced by their church's infallibility. But hold on, in the next post we will investigate a stain attached to all these churches which they cannot wash away, try as though they might. Even babes recognize, despite all rhetoric to the contrary, that something doesn't add up to New Testament Christianity here!