f The Wittenberg Door: November 2014

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Was John Calvin a Murderer?

Was John Calvin responsible for the execution of Michael Servetus? That’s the question Jim McClarty answers over at Reformed Voices. Here’s how it begins . . .

This is a question that shows up in my email from time to time. It's a claim that is leveled by those who seek to besmirch Reformed Theology. Usually, the claim that Calvin was a murderer is an attempt to make all Calvinistic doctrine wrong through 'guilt by association.'

However, historically speaking, the so-called 'Doctrines of Grace' - which go by the nickname of Calvinism - did not originate with Calvin. They are the result of a Synod held in Dort, Holland in 1618/19, after Calvin was long dead. Those of us who hold to Reformed Theology do so not because we are attempting to replicate the theology or ecclesiology of John Calvin, but because we are convinced that the Biblical arguments and conclusions stemming from that Synod are valid and our own exegesis confirms the five points.

If it could be proven that John Calvin was indeed a murderous wretch, it would have no effect on the theology that sprung from the pen of the Reformers. In other words, the 'guilt by association' tactic has no teeth. That being said, let's clear up the history and let the proverbial chips fall where they will.

You can read the entire post here. For a well-reasoned contrary view, I recommend Standford Rives’ article, Servetus & Calvin: Was it Murder by Calvin?

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Today in Church History: E. J. Young

On November 29, 1907, Edward Joseph Young was born in San Francisco, California.

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Westminster Theological Seminary (Th.B. and Th.M.), and the Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning (Ph.D.), Young was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1935. One year later, he joined the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the same year that he was appointed to the Old Testament department at Westminster Seminary. A prolific author, Young wrote commentaries on Isaiah and Daniel, and several other books including An Introduction to the Old Testament, My Servants the Prophets, and Thy Word is Truth. For many years he served as editor for the Westminster Theological Journal and the New International Commentary on the Old Testament. No less remarkable were Young's labors as an Orthodox Presbyterian churchman. He served as the moderator of the General Assembly in 1956, he was a long-standing member of the Committee on Christian Education (for which he wrote several tracts), and for 15 years he served on the committee that produced the first Trinity Hymnal.

Young's varied service to the church was cut short by his sudden and premature death on February 14, 1968. The Presbyterian Guardian memorialized him in these words: "He was second to none in his research depth of the Scriptures, with a reading knowledge of thirty or more languages, ancient and modern. Writing articles for various journals year after year, Dr. Young did not neglect the ordinary reader in his conscientious effort to explain Biblical truth and its relevance as the Word of God. A willing listener and counselor, he was esteemed as a friend by pupils, colleagues, and many others."

--John Muether


Friday, November 28, 2014

John Calvin: One of History's Top Monsters

It was at just about this time 2-years ago that I began to read Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, a guided tour through the mind of a sociopath and, doubtless, the engine of huge amounts of human misery; if it could all be totted-up, Calvin would surely rank near the top of the list of history’s monsters.

The author, Bob Felton, appears to be an atheist from what he writes at his Web site, Civil Commotion. He is most concerned with the influence of religious fundamentalism. Based on what I’ve read of him, his concern seems to be restricted to Christianity. Along those lines, nothing seems to raise his ire more than John Calvin, whom he describes as one of history’s top monsters. I must say, when you look at the evidence, he has me convinced.

Used to be, when I reflected upon the great evils in human history I needn’t look further than the last 100 years. During that time we’ve had more state-sponsored murders than all of human history combined—well over 100 million.

  • Mao Tse Tung - 61.7 million people

  • Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev - 66.7 million people

  • Pol Pot – 1/3 of Cambodia’s population

These are just a few butchers who sacrificed people in mass upon the alter of Communism, an ideology that is necessarily atheistic. But, as Mr. Felton reminds us, we mustn’t forget who is near the top of the “monster” list; a true “sociopath” and “engine of huge amounts of human misery”—John Calvin.

Disclaimer: What follows is very graphic and many may find it disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

For the next three years [after his conversion], Calvin lived in various places outside of France under various names. He studied on his own, preached, and began work on his first edition of the Institutes—an instant best seller. By 1536 Calvin had disengaged himself from the Roman Catholic Church and made plans to permanently leave France and go to Strasbourg. However, war had broken out between Francis I and Charles V, so Calvin decided to make a one-night detour to Geneva.

But Calvin's fame in Geneva preceded him. Farel, a local reformer, invited him to stay in Geneva and threatened him with God's anger if he did not. Thus began a long, difficult, yet ultimately fruitful relationship with that city. He began as a lecturer and preacher, but by 1538 was asked to leave because of theological conflicts. He went to Strasbourg until 1541. His stay there as a pastor to French refugees was so peaceful and happy that when in 1541 the Council of Geneva requested that he return to Geneva, he was emotionally torn. He wanted to stay in Strasbourg but felt a responsibility to return to Geneva. He did so and remained in Geneva until his death May 27, 1564. Those years were filled with lecturing, preaching, and the writing of commentaries, treatises, and various editions of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

The horror.

For further information on the atrocities committed by John Calvin, I recommend the expose John Calvin: Servant of the Word. And, If you’re interested in the Servetus affair, Was John Calvin a Murderer? is a fine resource.

Also recommend is the article article The Real Murderers: Atheism or Christianity by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason, from where I derived numbers above.

--The Catechizer


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Separatist

The one side [the Reformers] laboured to have ye right worship of God & discipline of Christ established in ye church, according to ye simplicitie of ye gospell, without the mixture of mens inventions, and to have & to be ruled by ye laws of Gods word, dispensed in those offices, & by those officers of Pastors, Teachers, & Elders, &c. according to ye Scripturs. The other partie [the Church of England], though under many colours & pretences, endevored to have ye episcopall dignitie (affter ye popish maner) with their large power & jurisdiction still retained; with all those courts, cannons, & ceremonies, togeather with all such livings, revenues, & subordinate officers, with other such means as formerly upheld their antichristian greatnes, and enabled them with lordly & tyranous power to persecute ye poore servants of God.

These were radical words when written in the early part of the seventeenth century. They described a movement whose members were known as “Separatists.” To be a Separatist in King James I’s England was punishable by imprisonment or even death.

On the run, the author and the others who yearned to worship God according to the Scriptures fled England to the more tolerant Netherlands. Here they remained for 12 years, enjoying their freedom granted by the Lord.

Being thus settled (after many difficulties) they continued many years in a comfortable condition, injoying much sweete & delightefull societies & spirituall comforte togeather in ye wayes of God . . . So as they grew in knowledge & other gifts & graces of ye spirite of God, & lived togeather in peace, & love, and holiness; and many came unto them from diverse parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation.

A Change in the Winds

But times changed. As war with Catholic Spain loomed on the horizon, England pressured its Dutch ally to drive out the Separatists. But where could they go that they could preserve their English heritage and language, be able to remain the king’s subjects, and still worship according to their conscience? There was an answer, but one that would be accompanied by great peril.

all great & honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted ye dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible . . . Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable. They lived hear but as men in exile, & in a poore condition; and as great miseries might possibly befale them in this place, for ye 12. years of truce [the truce between Holland and Spain] were now out, & ther was nothing but beating of drumes, and preparing for warr, the events wherof are allway uncertaine.

So it was, after many more hardships and trials, that the author of these journal entries, William Bradford, and 101 other Separatists set sail for America.

On this Day of Thanksgiving, may we not forget the gratitude we owe these Pilgrims, and to the gracious God who established this nation upon the principles of freedom, justice, and liberty. May God continue to sustain this nation, and may He bless and keep His people all over the world.

--The Catechizer


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Prayer

This prayer is abridged from George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789.

May we all unite in rendering unto God our sincere and humble thanks—
For His kind care and protection of the people of this country,
For the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have enjoyed,
For the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,
For the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge, and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And may we also unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him—
To pardon our national and other transgressions,
To enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually,
To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed,
To protect and guide all nations and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord,
To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science,
And generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Rich Tradition of Thanksgiving

Our nation has inherited a long, rich tradition of thanking God for his blessings.

In 1541 Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his men conducted a service of thanksgiving for the abundant food and water they found along the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle.

In 1564 French Huguenot colonists settled in the area of Jacksonville, Florida, and “sang a psalm of Thanksgiving of God.”

In 1607, when the Jamestown colonists arrived in Virginia, they immediately erected a wooden cross and gave thanks for their safe passage across the ocean.

In 1619, English colonists at Berkeley Hundred in Virginia decreed that the day of their arrival, December 4, “shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, held a feast to celebrate the harvest and thank the Lord for his goodness—the feast we now remember as the “First Thanksgiving".

In 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress designated December 18 of that year a day “for solemn Thanksgiving and praise” for the Patriot army’s victory at Saratoga—the first national day of thanksgiving.

In 1789 President George Washington proclaimed November 26 to be a day of thanksgiving for God’s blessings and for the new United States Constitution.

It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that the country got a regular national Thanksgiving Day. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” Succeeding presidents followed Lincoln’s example. In 1941, Congress passed a law officially declaring the fourth Thursday in November as America’s Thanksgiving Day.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Monday, November 24, 2014

Today in Church History: John Knox, Scottish Reformation

On November 24, 1572, Scottish reformer John Knox died in Edinburgh.

Born in 1514, Knox trained for the priesthood and was converted under George Wishart, an early martyr of the Scottish Reformation. While pastoring in St. Andrews, Knox was imprisoned after Wishart's death and served for 19 months as a galley slave. After his release he pastored in England until Mary Tudor ascended the throne, when he escaped to the continent, where he studied under John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger. Knox described Geneva as "the most perfect school of Christ on earth since the apostles," and during his exile he developed his defense for rebellion against idolatrous magistrates and female sovereigns. Upon his return to Scotland in 1559 he led in the development of the Scottish Reformed Church, introducing Reformed worship in his Forme of Prayers and Presbyterian polity in his Book of Discipline. In addition, his Scottish Confession, approved by the Scottish Parliament in 1560, was the confession standard of the Church of Scotland until it was superseded by the Westminster Standards in 1647.

Knox's secretary, Richart Bannatyne, recorded the passing of the "Thundering Scot" with these archaic words (recorded in the Presbyterian Guardian, November 4, 1935):

On this manner departed this man of God, the lycht of Scotland, the comfort of the kirk within the same, the mirror of godliness, and patrone and example of all true ministeris, in puritie of lyfe, soundness in doctrine, and bauldness in reproving of wickitness, and one that cared not the favor of men (how great soever they were), to reprove their abuses and synis. In him was sic a myghtie spreit of judgement and wisdome, that the truble never came to the kirk sen his entering in publict preiching but he foirsaw the end thereof, so that he was ever reddie a trew counsall and a faythfull to teich men that wald be taught to tak' the best and leive the worst.
--John Muether

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The First Thanksgiving and Indeed-La

From Forgotten English . . .

Indeed-la: The exclamation of a whining Puritan. Shakespeare uses the phrase, the right use of which has not been previously explained. (James Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, 1855.)

The First Thanksgiving

American folklore historians generally consider the first Thanksgiving dinner to have taken place in the fall of 1621 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The early Puritan celebrations were anything but lavish, focusing on restraint in contrast to the overindulgence of today.

Many of the dishes now consumed at this most American of meals were not part of the first holiday meal, including sweet potatoes, yams, and white potatoes, which would be introduced later from South America.

As the settlers were near the Atlantic, cod and other ocean fish, eels, mussels, claims, and crabs were standard fare, and so corn-on-the-cob, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie would also have to wait for later times. It was not until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving, that this date was established.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Thought of the Day: The Gospel in a Word

Here’s the gospel in a word: imputation. It’s Christ’s righteousness (His perfect keeping of the Law) being imputed (transferred) to His people, and their sins being imputed to Him (which He bore on the cross). Men can only stand before God when clothed in Christ’s righteousness—and this was accomplished by God descending to man (in Christ), not man ascending to God (through works).

--The Catechizer

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Slavery in Ancient Israel – Part Three (Conclusion)

In Part 2 we learned that slavery was for the benefit of the poor and was voluntary. We also learned that it was the last resort for the impoverished, and that before the poor had to sell themselves into servitude, God had made many provisions for their care.

In this post we’ll look at the issue of daughters being sold as slaves by their fathers ( Ex. 21:7–11).

If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. (vs. 7)

We must remember that the Middle East of 4,000 years ago was a tough place to live. Difficult decisions had to be made in order to ensure the survival of a household. One such decision would be to “sell” a daughter either to payback a debt and/or to ensure her survival by joining her to a wealthy family. Although “sold,” they were not slaves, which is why they were not released after seven years like the men were.

If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. (vs. 8)

These girls were purchased to be secondary wives (concubines), which was a common practice at the time (Gen. 16:3, 22:24; 30:9, 36:12; Judges 8:31). If, however, she displeased her husband, he had to allow her to be “redeemed” (Lev. 25:47-54) either by herself or by a family member. He cannot sell her to foreigners, for they would not recognize her rights under Israelite law.

If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. (vs. 9)

If the master is purchasing her to be a bride to his son, he must treat her like a daughter and accord her with the associated respect and honor.

If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. (vs. 10)

If the husband takes another bride, he must still provide for her as he previously had, including conjugal rights.

If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money. (vs. 11)

Finally, if the husband fails to meet his responsibilities in caring for her, he must release her without gaining any compensation in return.


We see in the above passages laws put into place to help a family survive and to help a poor girl better her lot in life by marrying into a wealthy family. Moreover, we see that the laws are actually for the protection of the girl and disallow any type of exploitation.

--The Catechizer

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Slavery in Ancient Israel – Part Two

In Part 1 we learned how foreigners became slaves and how they were treated. In this post we'll take a look at Hebrew slaves. A few things to note regarding Hebrew slavery:

  • The slaves were treated differently (better) than foreign slaves. Reason being, the Hebrews were God's people. Like a king who favors his children over his subjects, so God favors His children over pagans.

  • It was a voluntary institution.

  • It was for the benefit of the slaves.

The Care of the Poor

Slavery was the last resort for the poor. Before the poor had to sell themselves into servitude, God made provisions for their care:

  • The people were to lend money to the poor (Deu. 15:7-8, 11).

    It's interesting to note that the reason for this law was not just to help the poor; it was also to help cultivate a generous heart in the giver and to help stave-off the love of money (Deu. 15:9).

  • Lenders were not to charge interest or sell the poor food for a profit (Lev. 25:36-37).

  • Borrowers were released from their debt every seven years (Deu. 15:1-2).

  • Farmers were to only reap their harvest for six years; the seventh they were to let the poor pick their food from it (Ex. 23:10).

  • Farmers were also not to cultivate the edges of their crop or pick-up fallen fruit so that the poor gather them and be feed (Lev. 19:9-10, 23:22; Deu. 24:19).

  • Every third year the tithe of the people was given to the poor (Deu. 14:28-29).

Hebrew Slavery Benefited the Slaves

When, despite the provisions discussed above, an Israelite found himself in dire straights, he still had recourse: voluntary slavery. This option allowed the poor to maintain not only their physical wellbeing, but also their dignity (i.e., they worked for what they received, instead of becoming a beggar). Listed below are a few other benefits to the slave:

  • The servitude was initiated by the slave and he was the one who received proceeds of the sale; he was also to be treated well and not like a slave, but as a hired worker or a temporary resident (Lev. 25:35-43).

    It should be noted that forced slavery was punishable by death (Ex. 21:16; Deu. 24:7).

  • They were released after six years of service (Deu. 15:12).

    The slave had the option of remaining in his masters house; however, this was completely voluntary. To ensure that the slave was not being coerced, he and his master would have to go before the judge prior to the slave becoming a lifetime servant (Ex. 21:5; Deu. 15:16).

  • When released, the slave was provided with goods so that he wouldn't be poor (Deu. 15:13-14).

In Part 3 we'll conclude with what is generally considered most troubling aspect of ancient Israel’s slavery: daughters being sold as slaves by their fathers.

--The Catechizer

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Slavery in Ancient Israel – Part One

Slavery in Old Testament (OT) times was very complex and differed greatly from the chattel slavery practiced in the United States and elsewhere. A pitfall we modern observers must avoid is that of anachronistic thinking (i.e., reading today’s sensibilities into ancient cultures). Instead, we must take time to study the Scriptures to find out the “hows and whys” of the practice.

As I’ve indicated, this is a very complex issue. For example, the term “slave” (sometimes translated “servant”) is applied to a broad range of people in the Scriptures. Here are a few examples:

  • The patriarchs, prophets, and kings of Israel are often referred to as slaves of God (Ex. 32:13; Lev 25:55; 1 Sam 3:9; Ezra 9:11)

  • The people comprising Judah and Israel are called slaves of their kings (1 Sam 17:8; 29:3; 2 Sam 19:5; Gen 27:37; 32:4)

  • The Hebrews refer to themselves as slaves when addressing Moses and the prophets (Num 32:25; 1 Sam 12:19)

  • Christians are referred to as slaves of Christ (Eph. 6:6; Col. 3:22)

For a more detailed study of the issue of slavery in the Bible, I recommend the following resources from A Christian Thinktank:

In OT times, there were two broad groups of slaves: Hebrew slaves and foreign slaves. I think it’ll be helpful to take a high-level look at each group.

Foreign Slaves

“Foreign” in this context refers to someone who is not Hebrew. There were two ways foreigners became slaves of the Hebrews:

  • Their nation was conquered—When the Hebrews were going to lay siege to a people, they would first give them the opportunity to surrender. If they did, the people would become vassals of the Hebrews (Deut. 20:10–11); although the men were sometimes used as conscripts (2 Sam 20:24, I Kings 9.15), they were not slaves in the normal sense of the term. Instead, it was more like Jews being ruled over by the Romans (i.e., the Jews were vassals of Rome).

    As an aside, Israel was not allowed to attack countries in lands that the Lord had not given them (i.e., outside of the Promised Land), unless they were first attacked (Duet. 2).

  • They were sold—The Hebrews were allowed to buy (not take) slaves from pagan nations (Lev. 25:44–45).

Foreign slaves were well treated by the Hebrews, although without some of the rights enjoyed by Hebrew slaves (more about that later). Here are a few:

  • They did not have to work on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:9).

  • They were not to be injured severely or killed (Ex. 21:21-27).

    Two notes regarding Ex. 21: In verse 21 the term “his property” is used; this indicates that a foreign slave is in view because the term would be inappropriate if applied to a Hebrew.

    Notice that the slave’s rights are on par with those of the freemen; also consider Due. 25:1–3, 2 Sam. 7:14, and Prov. 13:24 where freemen are likewise punished with beatings. This indicates a level of humane treatment that was unheard of in other slave states.

  • Runaway slaves were granted right-of-refuge and not allowed to be extradited back to their foreign owners; in addition, they were allowed to live in whatever town they wanted and were not to be oppressed, even though they were foreigners (Deut. 23:15-16).

  • If the slave belonged to a priest, he could eat “the holy gift,” something that most Hebrews were not allowed to do (Lev. 22:11).

  • The women could be taken as wives with the corresponding rights and privileges, including the right to freedom should she be divorced (Deut. 21:10–14).

  • Reminding the Hebrews that they were once slaves, God commanded them to love their foreign slaves and to treat them fairly (Lev. 19:34–35; Deut. 10:19).

In the next post for this series well take a look at Hebrew slavery, so stay tuned for part two!

--The Catechizer

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Moral Confusion—Slavery vs. Abortion

Most people’s moral reasoning has been crippled by Relativism. Because of this, it can be very difficult to get people to think deeply about any issue—and it’s almost impossible to get them to reflect seriously upon the most important moral issue of our day—abortion.

When discussing this matter, it helps get people thinking when you replace abortion with an already-settled moral issue. Here’s an example using Rudy Giuliani’s remarks during the 2008 Republican presidential debates. But, in order to make the analogy more clear, we’ll move the debate back to the year 1860, and swap Giuliani for Lincoln.

Moderator: Let me ask Mr. Lincoln, do you want to respond to this? Because it seems like across the room here, this strong, unrelenting anti-slavery position. You seem to have a nuanced position on this. Many people think you're pro-slavery. Could you define it in a couple of seconds?

Abraham Lincoln: Sure. This is a very, very difficult issue of conscience for many, many people. In my case, I hate slavery. I would encourage someone to not take that option and enslave Africans. When I was a member of the House of Representatives, I encouraged emancipations.

But ultimately, since it is an issue of conscience, I would respect a slaveholder’s or slave-trader’s right to make a different choice.

But ultimately, I think when you come down to that choice, you have to respect a slaveholder’s or slave-trader’s right to make that choice differently than my conscience.

We cannot even conceive of Abraham Lincoln being this morally confused. When it came to the issue of slavery, the greatest moral issue of his time, Lincoln understood that there was only one question that needed to be answered: Are black folks human beings?

And when this new principle [that African Americans were not covered by the phrase "all men are created equal"] -- this new proposition that no human being ever thought of three years ago, -- is brought forward, I combat it as having an evil tendency, if not an evil design; I combat it as having a tendency to dehumanize the negro -- to take away from him the right of ever striving to be a man. I combat it as being one of the thousand things constantly done in these days to prepare the public mind to make property, and nothing but property of the negro in all the States of the Union.

From Abraham Lincoln’s last debate with Stephen Douglas, 1858

What makes the analogy work is the question of humanity: for Lincoln, as mentioned, Are blacks human beings? If so, then there is no justification for their enslavement. If not, then do with them what you will—no justification needed.

For us, Are the unborn human beings? If so, then there is no justification for abortion. If not, then do with them what you will. This is the question with which we must press those in favor of abortion. All others are secondary.

--The Catechizer

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Today in Church History: B.B. Warfield, Princeton Theological Seminary

On November 5, 1851, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield was born outside Lexington, Kentucky.

The son of a prosperous horse and cattle breeder, Warfield developed interests in science before studying at Princeton College and Princeton Seminary. A brief pastorate in Baltimore preceded his appointment at Western Seminary in Pittsburgh. After teaching New Testament there for nine years, he was offered a chair in theology at Princeton Seminary in 1887, succeeding A. A. Hodge.

During his 34-year tenure at Princeton, where he taught over 2700 students, Warfield was a prolific writer and long-time editor of the Presbyterian Review, the Presbyterian and Reformed Review, and the Princeton Theological Review. In those pages he took on mysticism, naturalism, Pentecostalism, perfectionism, and rationalism, as these movements threatened the Presbyterian church. He vigorously defended the verbal inspiration of Scripture against his antagonist, Charles A. Briggs of Union Seminary in New York. Calvinistic orthodoxy lay at the heart of all of his work. "Calvinism is just religion in its purity," he wrote. "We have only therefore to conceive of religion in its purity, and that is Calvinism."

The last of the great Princeton Theologians died on February 16, 1921. Warfield's passing was a great blow to the seminary and church, as a younger colleague, J. Gresham Machen, described in letters to his mother:

Princeton will seem to be a very insipid place without him. He was really a great man. There is no one living in the Church capable of occupying one quarter of his place. To me, he was an incalculable help and support in a hundred different ways.

Dr. Warfield's funeral took place yesterday afternoon at the First Church of Princeton . . . It seemed that the old Princeton " a great institution " died when Dr. Warfield was carried out.

-John Muether


Monday, November 03, 2014

New Roman Catholic Bible—Same Old Problem

From the Wittenberg Door archives...

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been hard at work on a new translation of the Bible. From what I’ve read much of the changes are innocuous, like changing the word “booty” to “spoils of war” and “cereal” to “grain.” One alteration, however, is quite consequential:

One change may set off alarms with traditionalists, in a passage many Christians believe foreshadows the coming of Christ and his birth to a virgin. The 1970 version of Isaiah 7:14 says "the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."

The 2011 text refers to "the young woman" instead. It elaborates that the original Hebrew word, almah, may, or may not, signify a virgin.

Here are the verses impacted by the change as translated in the NASB:

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

21) "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

22) Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:


Matt 1:21 – 23

According to Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon, almah can refer to “damsel, maid, virgin.” The Greek word is partheos, which Strong’s Greek Lexicon renders, “a maiden; by implication, an unmarried daughter:--virgin.” As you can see, the Greek word used by Matthew clearly means virgin.

Of course, common sense also dictates that that the prophecy is about a virgin. If you’re a prophet in search of a job and the star accomplishment on your resume is that you predicted a young women would have a child, then you had better get used to food stamps. And can you imagine Matthew arguing for Jesus’ messiahship down at the local pub, “Guys, I’m tell’n ya, it’s really him! His mother was a young women. A YOUNG WOMEN! What else could it mean?”

Not only is Rome pulling the Scriptural rug out from beneath the doctrine of the virgin conception, they’re also challenging the Bible’s authority.

God doesn’t err
The Bible is God’s book
Therefore, the Bible doesn’t err

For Rome to be right, then Matthew must be wrong, for clearly the book of Matthew affirms that the prophecy is about a virgin. But of course, this is just a new chapter in an old story—Rome versus the Bible. And as always, God’s Word is subordinated to her councils, magisterium, traditions, and pontiffs.

--The Catechizer