Six Arguments for Pacifism Answered

Jesus Cleanses the TempleAndrew Fulford in his excellent little book Jesus and Pacifism gives six common arguments pacifists use for “absolute non-violence.”

  1. The Cycle of violence: violence always provokes further violence and never really solves anything.
  2. The Limits of human knowledge: human beings can never truly determine the guilt of another person, and so coercive judgment can never be verified as just.
  3. The Immorality of punishment and vengefulness: the very idea of retribution and vengeance are immoral and barbaric.
  4. The Unloving character of violence: violence is inconsistent with the virtue of love.
  5. The Utopian character of violence: violence can never truly achieve real justice or common good, even while claiming that it can.
  6. Hierarchy as intrinsically dominative: any sort of hierarchy is unjust intrinsically, and thus so too for one person to punish someone under his or her authority.

Fulford writes that all these arguments do not assume that at one point violence was okay, but now it is wrong. Instead they “imply that non-violence has always been ethically obligatory.” The value of this list is that it helps the reader easily spot which argument is being used by a pacifist. Next time you are arguing a pacifist try to decide which argument is being used. He also does a good job of keeping these arguments before the reader as he unfolds his own argument that pacifism is wrong.  Continue reading

Dr. Packer on Inerrancy

JIPACKEROne of the great benefits of reading older churchmen is the experiential knowledge they can bring to bear on various topics. Dr. J.I. Packer has been around a long time and has seen a lot. In his book Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life, he writes about some of the changes he has seen in his lifetime toward God’s Word. In the midst of this he gives an apologetic for why he uses the word “inerrancy.” I have friends who believe the term “infallibility” is enough. I sympathize with this position. It should be. But unfortunately men are twisted and therefore precision is often necessary.  He wrote this in 1996.

Once I too avoided the word inerrancy as much as I could, partly because I no wish myself to endorse the tendencies mentioned, and partly because the word has a negative form and I like to sound positive. But I find that nowadays I need the word. Verbal currency, as we know, can be devalued. Any word may have some of its meaning rubbed off, and this has happened to all my preferred terms for stating my belief about the Bible. I hear folk declare Scripture inspired and in the next breath say that it misleads from time to time. I hear them call it infallible and authoritative, and find they mean only that its impact on us and the commitment to which it leads us will keep us in God’s grace, not that it is all true.

This is not enough for me. I want to safeguard the historic evangelical meaning  of these three words and to make clear my intention, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, to receive as from the Father and the Son all that Scripture when properly interpreted, that is, understood from within, in terms of its own frame of reference, proves to be affirming. So assert inerrancy after all. I think this is a clarifying thing to do, since it shows what I mean when I call Scripture inspired, infallible, and authoritative. In an era of linguistic devaluation and double-talk we owe this kind of honesty to each other.

The Bloodless Speculation of Liberal Scholars

Dale Ralph Davis’ commentaries are some of the best expository commentaries out there. They are not technical commentaries, but pastoral, designed to help the Christian grow in his understanding of Scripture and how to apply Scripture. But that does not mean he is unaware of the technical arguments that dominate most commentaries. He often takes on the liberal scholars. It might come as a surprise to my readers but some scholars think Moses did not write the five books of the Bible, but rather they were compiled over many centuries by various authors who contradict each other. It may be equally surprising that liberal scholars believe many of the historical books, such Joshua and Judges, were written late or at least severely edited late (600-400 B.C.) or that Isaiah was written by several different authors at different times with many of his prophecies being written late. In short, liberal scholars have rejected the traditional authorship of many books of the Bible, have removed many elements of prophecy by dating them late, believe the Bible contradicts itself at places, and that many books were edited by later men to change the meaning.  Here is a a wonderful answer to this nonsense from a footnote in Davis’ commentary on Joshua. Right before this footnote, he says that Joshua was written specifically to remind the Judges generation to be faithful to the Lord.

A number of biblical critics would smile at such a naive proposal. To take the book of Joshua as unified entity at such an early date stretches credulity to say nothing of credibility. For them the hypothesis is too simple and too early. But evidence is not lacking for an early date…Simplicity is, in my book, a plus; the more complicated an explanatory critical theory becomes, the less probability it holds of being correct, since every additional element inserts new (frequently uncheckable) variables into the problem. Multiplying the variables in a theory multiplies the uncertainty of their describing the true course of events. Whether for a book or a chapter, the customary critical proposals inspire less confidence than the naive one. For chapter 22 [of Joshua], someone will hold we have Gilgal tradition and a Shiloh tradition-these may have been in conflict originally. Of course, a Deuteronomic editor contributes his material, and a Priestly hand adds his touches-nor must we forget another post-exilic redactor. Someone else will speculate differently. There are no controls; it is sheer guesswork. What’s more, it seldom makes any difference (except to place question marks after the reliability of Scripture).

The real problem with such bloodless speculation is that, after having done it, its practitioners strangely enough do not bother to tell us what their literary monstrosity has to say to the flock of God. The problem with most commentaries of such genres is that they can in no way nourish the church in godliness. Do they provide technical help-linguistic, archaeological? Yes. But to them the Scripture is not warm. It is an artifact from the past, not an oracle from God. Nor should they wonder if the church finds all their furrow-browed, pin-the-tail-on-the-tradition-center activity next to useless.

To sum up: the liberal theories on Scripture are wrong, far-fetched, impractical, and lack that affection that comes when a scholar believes they are dealing with God’s Word and not an “artifact” to be studied.

Vatican II on Scripture

One of the common ideas in the current ecumenical climate is that Vatican II altered or at least has the potential to alter the relationship between Protestants and Roman Catholics. There were major changes made at Vatican II, particularly liturgical changes and softening of the RC Church’s stance towards those outside the church. But many central assertions remained. One of the greatest divides, if not the greatest, between Roman Catholics and Protestants is the authority of the Bible and the authority of tradition. Vatican II did not alter the Roman Catholic Church’s view on tradition and Scripture. Here are some quotes from Vatican II

The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church.

Sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

It is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything that has been revealed. So, both sacred tradition are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence.

Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, which is committed to the Church.

Matthew Barrett comments on these quotes saying,

While the document goes on to say, “this teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it,” Vatican II cannot meant this in the way that the Reformers did, for it then says this teaching office “draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” So while this teaching office may serve the Word of God, it originates from the one holy deposit along with Scripture and must be equally revered as God’s Word.

There is debate in Roman Catholic circles about what all of this means. But that is largely irrelevant. The institution of Roman Catholicism is built on tradition plus Scripture. In the end, unity is impossible if one group accepts two divinely received sources of authority and the other group accepts only one and rejects the other.

Perfect and Complete in All Respects

 

Holy BibleI believe that in the coming years the fundamental battle in the church will be over the authority, sufficiency, necessity, and clarity of the Bible. Is the Bible the final, absolute authority or can we look to tradition, ancient cultures, or other types of revelation as equal to or even superior to God’s Word ? Is the Bible sufficient for man’s salvation and to understand how to live a godly life or do we need tradition, science, psychology, or personal revelation from God? Is the Bible necessary to be saved and live a holy life or can men “who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – achieve eternal salvation?” Finally, is the Bible clear enough on how man is saved and how he may live a godly life or do Christians need another source to clean up the Bible for them?

Because I see this as a key front in the war on the Christian faith I have been slowly accumulating books and articles on the Scriptures from those who agree with my Protestant, Reformed convictions and from those who do not.  I have also been reading the various confessions and catechisms to see what they say about this. In my reading I found this wonderful explanation of the sufficiency of Scripture in Belgic Confession Article 7. All the bold is mine.

We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one– even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says- ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects. Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else. For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,” and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”