Saturday, September 11, 2010

10 Quick Things Every Evangelical Should Know

In no particular order...

- The phrase "faith alone" appears in the Bible only once, in James 2.24: "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."

- The exact 66 book canon used by Protestants as their Bible did not exist until the 16th century. No theologian, bishop, or Christian group claimed the exact combination until Protestants created it. Protestants made their canon by removing books and portions of books which had been universally accepted as part of the Bible for centuries.

- Martin Luther, hero of Bible-defending Protestants, in addition to removing books such as Wisdom and Tobit, also attempted to remove the New Testament books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation from the canon. In his famous German translation, he took them out of order and placed them at the end with a note that he didn't think they were Scripture.

- Although his translation of the Bible into German is often hailed as a break-through in bringing the Scriptures into the venacular, Martin Luther's was not the first - the Catholic Church had already made at least 18 different full translations of the Bible into German.

- Prior to the 16th century, no Christians anywhere had ever conceived of the Church apart of the concept of apostolic authority and succession, as Protestants do.  (Aside from, of course, heretics such as the Gnostics.)

In addition to the Scriptures themselves, which bear witness to apostolic authority and succession, extra-Biblical Christian writings as early as within the 1st century bear witness to the fact that the apostles passed their authority on to successors who passed it on to others, and that the Church was visibly built around such authority.

- The doctrine of sola scriptura is found nowhere in Scripture. In fact, the opposite is taught: "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by letter." (2 Thess 2.15)

- Nowhere does the Bible say that either baptism or the Lord's Supper are to be taken as merely symbolic. Metaphysical claims are made regarding both without any qualification (e.g. Romans 6Matthew 26.26-27).

- Though all evangelicals today reject the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, Protestant Reformers Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin, and even the later John Wesley, actually agreed with the Catholic Church that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.

- Though many evangelicals criticize the Catholic Church's Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), Jesus specifically gives his disciples the power to give and withhold forgiveness in John 20.22-23: "And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'"

24 comments:

  1. Interesting. But if Jesus had brothers, and Mary was married, she could not have been married. It doesn't say that she was a virgin later in life in the bible.

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  2. I meant to say she could not have been a virgin...

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  3. Hello Brantly and Krista!

    I was just browsing your blog and I am wondering, what is the ultimate purpose for it? What is your goal for the blog? Why are you writing it?

    Jenna (your cousin)

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  4. Great list! Although, for the fifth one, what about Greek Orthodox?

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  5. Anon,
    Well then why did all those people still believe in Mary's perpetual virginity? It's because the Greek word that gets translated 'brothers' today is a much broader term than our word is. The Church doesn't have an dogma on the issue, but there have been two explanations in Church history from very early on: (1) those are cousins, or (2) those are children of Joseph from a previous marriage.

    Jenna,
    We could talk some time, that would probably be better. Also, a lot of people have been asking recently, so I think I'll be writing something up on the blog as well sometime soon.

    CM,
    Orthodox maintain apostolic authority and succession.

    Everyone, thanks for the comments.

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  6. If Jesus had brothers, why, on the cross, does he entrust his mother Mary to the apostle John? (Jn 19, iirc).

    The position that Jesus' "brothers" were cousins was maintained in the ancient church most vigorously by St. Jerome (+420) in a treatise called Against Helvidius, and it became the default understanding in the West. In the East, Epiphanius of Salamis (+402) contended in the Panarion (sec 78) that Jesus' "brothers" were Jesus' stepbrothers, Joseph's children from a prior marriage. Not so impossible either way; certainly in the Greek OT "adelphos" means much more than blood brother, and given high mortality rates in the ancient world it's altogether likely Joseph could have had kids from a prior marriage.

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  7. Speaking as a husband and father, if I had married Mary knowing what Joseph knew, I can't imagine wanting sexual intimacy with her after she gave birth to Jesus.

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  8. @kkolwitz...This has to be one of the most insightful comments I have ever read. We get so caught up in philogical and philosophical issues that we forget basic, down-to-earth matters. I agree with KKolwitz. If I had been Joseph, I would have been humbled just to be along for the ride.

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  9. @kkollwitz and @Magister Christianus = I agree! I had never thought of it that way (although, I am a woman...so I don't think about these things from a male perspective anyway)...but what a powerful insight.

    Brantly - as always, I love reading your blog!

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  10. Hello,
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  11. Thank y'all...that remark is probably evidence of my Catholic imagination ;)

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  12. Wow, so much wrong with this. James 2 is talking about someone who claims to have faith, but doesn't live it out. This is no faith at all. It's not talking about works playing an active role in our justification. Quote the whole chapter for context.

    Apocrypha weren't even declared officially scripture by the RCC until 1546. Many early Church fathers, notably Jerome, denied their inspiration. Also, they're never quoted in the NT by Jesus or anyone else.

    The bible is not our ONLY authority, it is our HIGHEST authority. Tradition must be in harmony with the scripture, being totally subject to it. Communion and baptism are traditions because they are biblical. Real presence and saving-baptism are not.

    Where does scripture bear witness to apostolic succession?

    The bible does not mention Mary's virginity after Jesus, let alone her sinlessness. Assuming those things are true simply because the bible is silent on the issue is illogical. You have to trust in tradition ABOVE scripture to believe that.

    A little bit of common sense and some research shows how out of context all this stuff is.

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  13. JZ
    Thanks for your comment

    You wrote:
    "James 2 is talking about someone who claims to have faith, but doesn't live it out. This is no faith at all. "
    James 2 does not say that faith unaccompanied by works is no faith at all, it says that it is useless. Both faith and works are needed.

    You wrote:
    "Apocrypha weren't even declared officially scripture by the RCC until 1546. Many early Church fathers, notably Jerome, denied their inspiration. Also, they're never quoted in the NT by Jesus or anyone else."

    NO part of the canon was dogmatically declared by the Catholic Church until the council of Trent. However, there were local councils of bishops at the end of the 4th century that ruled that the current Catholic canon is the correct one. From that point onward, there was universal agreement of what the Scriptures were without any distinction. All Bible printed contained the current RCC canon. What you call the Apocrypha (a term which was first applied to those books by Protestants in the 16th century) was held to be a part of the normal Old Testament.

    Yes, some Church Fathers (though not all) questioned the canonicity of some of the books that Catholics accept that Protestant reject, but there was disagreement among the Church fathers regarding the canonicity of many books, including books such as Esther, Hebrews, and Revelation. Yes, Jerome, a priest, questioned the canonicity of some of the books that were later rejected by Protestants, but even he ultimately decided to go with the ruling of the Church at his time, which was that they were Scripture.

    The deuterocanon (as the books in question are often called, though they are really just a part of the normal canon) is not directly quoted by any NT writers, though there are many allusions. But the NT doesn't quote from many other OT books (e.g. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Kings, Ecclesiastes, etc)

    Also, you didn't actually respond to what I said in the post, which was to say that the exact Protestant canon did not exist until the created it.

    You wrote:
    "The bible is not our ONLY authority, it is our HIGHEST authority. Tradition must be in harmony with the scripture, being totally subject to it"
    The scripture I quoted from 2 Thess makes no distinction, and there are no places in Scripture that teach what you are saying.

    You wrote:
    "Real presence and saving-baptism are not [biblical]."
    Read the passages I referenced in the post regarding this, and, as I said, you will find metaphysical claims made about both baptism and communion without any qualification. Otherwise show me a verse that says that either are merely symbolic.

    You wrote:
    "Where does scripture bear witness to apostolic succession?"
    Paul has passed his authority on Timothy and Titus, and he asks Titus to further pass his authority on (see Titus 1.5ff).

    You wrote:
    "The bible does not mention Mary's virginity after Jesus, let alone her sinlessness. Assuming those things are true simply because the bible is silent on the issue is illogical. You have to trust in tradition ABOVE scripture to believe that."
    Yes, the Bible is silent on those issues. But if the Bible is silent, then how is going with Tradition on those issues putting Tradition above Scripture? Tradition would only be above Scripture if it trumped something in Scripture, which it is not doing in either of these cases since the Bible is silent regarding them. For example, I might believe that gravity accelerates at 9.8 m/s^2 from reading a science textbook. Now, Scripture is silent on the issue. If I go with the science textbook, I am not putting it above Scripture.

    Also, I'm not quite sure what's illogical about following Tradition, particularly as it is interpreted by the Church.

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  14. Look at the context of James. He's talking about those who claim to have faith but no works to show for it. Nowhere else in scripture does it say that works have a part in justification. Galatians 2:21, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Nothing else is necessary. Only true faith, which, by it's very nature, will precede works.


    The Jews accepted those other unquoted books as scripture, but not the apocrypha. And the Jews are entrusted with the OT revelation. They don't accept it, Jesus didn't, and neither should we. "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God," (Rom. 3:1-2).

    The one who assembles the authoritative scripture does not inherit the authority of scripture. The lesser is blessed by the greater. If the Church created the bible, instead of the other way around, then you imply that the Church is greater than the bible. Simply not true.

    "The scripture I quoted from 2 Thess makes no distinction, and there are no places in Scripture that teach what you are saying."

    The whole of scripture points AWAY from relying on man's revelation. A bulk of Jesus ministry was carved out for chastising Pharisees who added stringent laws to the scripture. Don't sew the veil back up by getting rid of the power of the cross. Jesus' sacrifice was enough.

    "you will find metaphysical claims made about both baptism and communion without any qualification. "

    Yes, Jesus also called Peter "Satan". You can't take every claim at it's literal value. Jesus said Himself that by doing this [communion], you're announcing the Lord's death until He comes. Not to mention cannibalism was against God's law. On baptism, the verse you quoted in Romans 6 is ANYTHING but literal. He talks about baptism as a funeral service for our old self, walking in new life with Christ. Are we regenerated by that? Of course not, Christ's sacrifice does that. Baptism is a picture of that salvation; a circumcision for the new covenant. Remember the Judaizers who thought that circumcision imparted some kind of justification? Paul told them to cut it all the way off in Galatians 5:12, because it was such a ridiculous claim. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, only necessary for being fully obedient as a Christian.

    Simply because Paul passed on authority does not give the Church authority on all truth. That's a bold jump. In fact there's incomplete historical data to even show a Papal succession.

    I simply said it's illogical to claim something is true simply because "the bible is silent on the issue" and "the Church says so". Mary was a sinner and admits that she needs a savior. (Luke 1:46)Why does a sinless woman need a savior? What role does she have in our salvation? None. Nothing in the bible ever suggests otherwise.

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  15. Ehh, you're website said my comment was too long, and I lost the whole thing. So I'm not retyping.

    The bottom line is, I have no problem with tradition as long as it is in harmony with scripture. You have to jump through a lot of hoops and ignore a lot of scripture to believe in a lot of Catholic teaching.

    Sinless Mary? Then why does she need a savior in Luke 1:46?

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  16. JZ -

    Perhaps you will be interested in some of my recent posts at my blog. Although Brantly did an excellent job, I take a slightly different approach to the issues at hand that I think you might find interesting or helpful.

    Here is a post on Sola (not Solo) Scriptura: http://driscollwatch.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/online-content-review-sola-scriptura/

    Here is a post on Mary's Perpetual Virginity:http://driscollwatch.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/sermon-review-marys-perpetual-virginity/

    I hope you'll visit my site and continue to read what Brantly writes each week.

    God Bless

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  17. JZ -

    Also, the Catholic Church does not teach that Mary was sinless independent of the Salvific Work of Christ. Rather, it teaches that Christ's sacrifice was applied to Mary retroactively. Although we are saved by ordinary means, God's plan included Mary to be saved in an extra-ordinary way.

    Mary's savior was Jesus Christ, just like your savior and my savior is Jesus Christ.

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  18. You make some good points in that article and I want to look into it more.

    However, bigger than the issue of "who has authority" is the simple concept of being in harmony with the scriptures. Any authority should be in complete agreement, shouldn't it?

    Even before I was a Christian, I couldn't reconcile Catholic teachings with what I found in scripture, as hard as I tried. My eyes were opened when I read the Bible for myself, the reason for the Reformation in the first place. What I had been told about God my whole life seemed completely different when I opened scripture.

    I would be Catholic. If I didn't own a bible.

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  19. I've never heard that teaching of Mary's sinlessness retroactively before, but I'd like to see a source.

    In any case, it's definitely not in the Bible. What about her sinless conception?

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  20. JZ,Thanks for your response.

    You wrote:
    "Galatians 2:21, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Nothing else is necessary. Only true faith, which, by it's very nature, will precede works."

    Look at the verse you yourself quoted here. It says that if righteousness could be gained BY THE LAW, Christ died for nothing. It isn't talking about good works, but the Mosaic Law. Two different things.

    You wrote:
    "The Jews accepted those other unquoted books as scripture, but not the apocrypha. They don't accept it, Jesus didn't, and neither should we."
    Which Jews? Where and when? Who represents the Jews? Lots of different Jews held a lot of different books to be canonical.

    You wrote:
    "The one who assembles the authoritative scripture does not inherit the authority of scripture. The lesser is blessed by the greater. If the Church created the bible, instead of the other way around, then you imply that the Church is greater than the bible. Simply not true."
    I agree. The Catholic Church teaches that the magisterium is a servant to the Word of God. I didn't say that the Church created the Bible. Something is Scripture from the day it is written. But the Church does have the authority to definitively tell us what is and what is not Scripture. (If not, how did you arrive at your canon?)

    You wrote:
    "The whole of scripture points AWAY from relying on man's revelation."
    You clearly do not know what Tradition is. Tradition is not 'man's revelation.' The Catholic Church teaches that the Word of God has been passed on in 2 forms: in written form (Scripture) and orally (Tradition). When Catholics quote "Tradition" they are referring to the Word of God. Yes, Tradition comes to us through humans, but so does Scripture. The Holy Spirit uses humans to transmit the Word of God to us in both forms.

    You wrote:
    "Don't sew the veil back up by getting rid of the power of the cross. Jesus' sacrifice was enough."
    Catholics do not deny the power of the cross! We absolutely believe that Christ's work on the cross is enough.

    continued...

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  21. ...continued from above

    You wrote:
    "Not to mention cannibalism was against God's law. "
    You clearly have no idea what transubstantiation is. Too long to explain here though, you can look it up in the Catechism.

    You wrote:
    "On baptism, the verse you quoted in Romans 6 is ANYTHING but literal."
    Where does it say that it's not literal? That is something you are adding to the text. Can you show me one verse that says that baptism is to be taken only as symbolic?

    You wrote:
    "Remember the Judaizers who thought that circumcision imparted some kind of justification? Paul told them to cut it all the way off in Galatians 5:12, because it was such a ridiculous claim."
    Circumcision isn't baptism. Can't apply what Paul says about circumcision to baptism.

    You wrote:
    "Baptism is not necessary for salvation, only necessary for being fully obedient as a Christian."
    Jesus himself says that baptism is necessary in John 3.5: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

    You wrote:
    "I simply said it's illogical to claim something is true simply because "the bible is silent on the issue" and "the Church says so"."
    I still don't see what's illogical about that.

    You wrote:
    "Mary was a sinner and admits that she needs a savior. (Luke 1:46)Why does a sinless woman need a savior?"
    Mary does not say that she is a sinner. God is still her savior because it is still by God, by his grace, in view of the merits of Jesus, that she is preserved from sin (see Ineffabilis Deus for the exact definition of the Immaculate Conception). Please understand RCC teaching before you criticize it.

    You wrote:
    "What role does she have in our salvation? None. Nothing in the bible ever suggests otherwise."
    I'm not sure what this has to do with her perpetual virginity or her sinlessness.

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  22. JZ -

    Thanks for the compliment. I hope you'll ponder the article and leave some comments. We have nothing to lose by trying to discover truth.

    As for the retroactive application of the salvific work of Christ... The one who first explained the doctrine that way was a Franciscan theologian named John Duns Scotus. As for the rest of your comment, I will have to write up a post on my website about it sometime, I guess. I invite you to keep checking back, although I warn you, I don't have much time on my hands at the moment and it could be months before I post anything on the subject. In the meantime, I believe Brantly has a wonderful post on the Immaculate conception that you might ponder.

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  23. "What role does she have in our salvation? None. Nothing in the bible ever suggests otherwise."

    Suppose she had, in her exercise of free will, declined to have it be done unto her according to God's word?

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  24. Hi Brantly,
    You wrote "The phrase 'faith alone' appears in the Bible only once, in James 2.24: 'You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.'"

    What about the verses,
    "for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory." (Eph. 2, 8-9)? What do they really mean, then?

    Thanks!

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