Thursday, May 26, 2005

Semi-Annual NRO Grrrrrr!

I dislike (no surprise) John Derbyshire's views on intelligent design, in which he dismisses cosmological ID as "coffee-break opinionating." And, even though he is not a scientist, he fancies himself an expert on the question of how scientists think.

I disliked his position on Terri Schiavo. Especially repulsive was his desire to have a pint with husband Michael.

I dislike the fact that he is "mildly" pro-abortion, whatever that means—is that were the baby is only "mostly" dead?

And now I dislike his position on stem-cell research.

If the NRO needed a token Protestant, why an Anglican? (and if so, why not someone in the J. I. Packer mold?)

Oh, and he still regularly refers to himself in third-person, as "Derb." Does that bug anyone else? It really pushes my buttons.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

God in the Details

Opponents of Intelligent Design (ID) criticize it as "God in the gaps." This is intended pejoratively, with a meaning that is clear: if a natural explanation is, at the moment, not forthcoming, then it is cheap and easy to claim "God did it." After all, the argument continues, we do science precisely because natural explanations are not forthcoming for all interesting questions.

The "God in the gaps" criticism is most often heard in the evolution debate. Naturally so, for what biological IDers complain about, to a large extent, are in fact gaps. Gaps in the fossil record, and knowledge gaps in the explanation of complexity.

I am not a participant in the evolution debate. If I were, I'd spend my efforts on the question of whether there was sufficient time for evolution, not on the gaps in the fossil record.

But, like I said, that's not my fight. I am in the cosmological ID camp. As you are probably aware, cosmological ID theory is based on two observations about our universe: its fine tuning and its uniqueness. Take either support beam away, and the cosmological ID house falls down.

If there is no fine tuning, then there is no evidence for design.

If our universe is not unique, i.e., if we are but one of perhaps an infinite number of parallel universes, then one can logically posit that our particular universe is fine-tuned only because if it were not, we wouldn't be here to talk about it. The multitude of universes, those that are not fine tuned, being sterile, contain no intelligence pondering why they exist in an ordinary, run of the mill cosmos.

Since there is active research in these areas, cosmological ID is falsifiable.

Cosmological ID abhors the gaps.

The cosmological ID arguments are not "God in the gaps." Quite the opposite: they are God in the details. Perhaps in biology one can claim that it is our ignorance that unreasonably opens the door to ID, but in cosmology it is our knowledge, not our lack thereof, that points to design. It is not the immaturity of cosmology (and physics) but its achievements that pave the way for ID.

Let me give an example.

Here is an abstract from a recent paper published in Astrobiology:
Anthropic Selection for the Moon's Mass
Dec 2004, Vol. 4, No. 4: 460-468

Dr. Dave Waltham
Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom.

This paper investigates whether anthropic selection explains the unusually large size of our Moon. It is shown that obliquity stability of the Earth is possible across a wide range of different starting conditions for the Earth Moon system. However, the lunar mass and angular momentum from the actual Earth Moon system are remarkable in that they very nearly produce an unstable obliquity. This may be because the particular properties of our Earth Moon system simultaneously allow a stable obliquity and a slow rotation rate. A slow rotation rate may have been anthropically selected because it minimizes the equator pole temperature difference, thus minimizing climatic fluctuations. The great merit of this idea is that it can be tested using extrasolar planet search programs planned for the near future. If correct, such anthropic selection predicts that most extrasolar planetary systems will have significantly larger perturbation frequencies than our own Solar System. Astrobiology 4, 460 468.

To summarize: the earth-moon system is fine tuned to produce, just barely, two great benefits: stability and slow rotation. This gives us predictable, moderate climates and favorable (for life) day-night durations (too fast and the winds/earthquakes etc. would be much more violent, too slow and the day-night and pole-equator temperature differences would be too great.) What the author discovered is the moon is big enough to provide these benefits, as it has to be, but on the other hand if it were just a little bigger an instability would result.

He might also have added that if the moon were bigger the tides would be too violent, causing excessive erosion. And if smaller, they would not be as effective at replenishing the ocean with nutrients.

He might have also added that our present knowledge of planetary formation suggests that it is rare for a small, inner, rocky planet to have a large moon in the first place.1

I have no idea if the author is an IDer. He calls his argument anthropic, which could mean that his view is simply that if it weren't so, we wouldn't be here to talk about it, because the planet wouldn't be habitable. However the scientific prediction he makes, that a planet-moon system like ours is rare, is really a prediction of cosmological ID, in my opinion.

In any case, it is an example of fine tuning. And, more to the point, the fine tuning is known to us not because we don't understand something about the earth-moon system, and rotational stability and drag, and climates, etc., but because we know a great deal about these things. It is not a God in the gaps argument, but a God in the details.

Another "ID" prediction

In a similar (though more spectacular, at least to this nuclear physicist) way, I view Hoyle's anthropic prediction in 1952 of an energy level in Carbon as an ID prediction as well, although Hoyle would never have expressed it that way.

It is interesting to review Hoyle's amazing prediction.

Carbon, essential for life, is formed inside of stars. One way is for three Helium nuclei to fuse:

3He4 → C12

The problem is that it requires three helium nuclei to come together, which is of low probability.

Much more likely is a two step process in which beryllium is formed as a stepping stone.

2He4 → Be8
He4 + Be8 → C12

This requires only two nuclei to interact, and even though it requires it twice, it is far more likely than three nuclei being in the right place at the right time.

This is close to an explanation, but the problem Hoyle faced was that the rate of the reaction He4 + Be8 → C12 was not high enough to explain the abundance of carbon.


At this point Hoyle makes essentially an anthropic argument. We are here, as carbon based intelligent life forms, clearly we wouldn't be pondering this puzzle if we weren't, so somehow the carbon gets produced. What would enhance the rate of formation is a previously unknown excited state of C12 at 7.7 MeV.2

Keep in mind the nature of Hoyle's prediction: it was not via the usual scientific route, which would have been to model the details of the physics of the carbon nucleus and show that our present knowledge of nuclear interactions and many-body dynamics predicts the excited state (virtually impossible in 1952). No, he said, in effect, we are here, so the energy level must be here as well.

Experiments looked for and found the level as Hoyle predicted.

If Hoyle had been an IDer, he could have claimed his prediction as coming from cosmological ID. In a way he did, for (after discovering more anthropic fine tuning in nuclear chemistry) he would famously say: "A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology."3

And so it is for the hundred or so other fine-tuning examples. The more we know, the more the fine-tuning argument is strengthened, not weakened.

God is very much in the details.
1 He might have also pointed out that our moon produces nearly perfect solar eclipses, a rarity for any moon. Although to be fair, this (at the moment) has no known benefit for habitability. It does, however, have a huge scientific benefit.

2 This is essentially because the energy balance of the reaction is simplified. Without that excited state it is hard for the reaction to conserve energy, so it happens less often, and the beryllium is not around for long. As a side "coincidence", the short lifetime of Be8, 10-15 seconds, prevents runaway fusion that would result in early stellar explosions (before life-essential heavy elements are formed), i.e., the instability of Be8 leads to stellar stability. In other words, this represents two fine-tunings: the short lifetime of Be8 for stellar stability, and the fortuitous 7.7 MeV level of C12 that, in spite of the ephemeral nature of Be8, permitted the reaction to proceed at the required rate.

3 Hoyle, Fred, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections", Ann. Rev. Ast. and Astrophys. 20, 1982, p. 16.

New book from a fellow blogger

Fellow blogger Julie Anne Fidler, of Fidler on the Roof, has her first book coming out. "Adventures In Holy Matrimony" is due to be released on June 7. It's a memoir-type of book, about the many, large, bizarre challenges she and her husband faced in the early years of their marriage, and the story of how they came back from the brink of divorce.

In Julie's words:
I wrote this thing because when my own marriage was troubled, I couldn't find any good relationship books that weren't "the white picket fence kind."
Go forth and check it out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Desiring God MP3s

Aaron Shafovaloff has posted links to some John Piper MP3s (for which he has permission).

You can get them here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Saved from What?

I gave a sermon on hell last Sunday. Some have asked about it, so I decided to post it below.

I didn’t come prepared with a joke, but one presented itself. I never, ever, wear a tie, even when teaching the adult Sunday School. This time I wore a tie, although I still wore blue jeans. Anyway, there’s a guy in our congregation who is very formal (and his name is Calvin!!) who always wears a tie, except on this day, he didn’t! So after my introduction, I said: “You’ve probably figured out that my topic is hell. Today I’m wearing a tie, and I happened to notice Calvin isn’t. I think the subject of my sermon just froze over.”

Oh well, guess you had to be there.

Saved from What?


“What is man’s chief purpose?” I am confident that most of us here, apart from perhaps the very young or those just beginning to walk with Christ, would give the correct answer to this catechism question. Man’s chief purpose is to glorify God.

However, I also feel safe in saying that, while we acknowledge this answer both in our minds and somewhat in our hearts, what we are primarily concerned with is salvation; our own and that of our fellow man. In church, as we should, we discuss salvation a great deal. Are you saved? Are your children or parents saved? This is our great concern.

We know, of the saved, what they are saved to. They are saved unto eternal life. But today we want to look at the other side of the coin. Not what they are saved unto, but what we are saved from. Today we ask the question: Saved from what?


Father God, today we look at our salvation, which we acknowledge is a gift of pure grace. We acknowledge with gratitude that this gift came at a heavy price, the blood of our Lord and Your Son Jesus, who died and suffered in our stead. Today we examine not what this unspeakable gift has given us, but what it has spared us. I ask that Your Spirit teach truth through the words your servant. Amen.


You have probably figured out that my message today will on the topic of hell. [NOTE: my extemporaneous joke went here.]

Pastor Mike gave me the instruction to choose a seeker sensitive topic so as not to drive anyone away, so here I am.

I say that only half in jest. About 90 driving miles from where we meet is Northampton Massachusetts, the epicenter the Great Awakening in the 1700’s, the greatest revival in American History. Jonathan Edwards was the great leader of this revival, and his preaching emphasized the reality and terribleness of hell. In his most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Edwards wrote:
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.

Now of course, this frightening message concludes with good news, which we will get to. But Edwards spoke passionately of God’s wrath, and of the reality of hell, to set the stage for teaching on God’s love, holiness, mercy, and glory, those feature we like to hear about. But these “nice” things are cheapened if we neglect the truth that we are not merely saved unto, but we also are saved from.

Far from scaring people from the pews, Edward’s preaching filled the churches of eighteenth century New England to overflowing. The modern church would do well to take this lesson from Edwards: do not underestimate God’s children, they do need messages of simplistic saccharine, they long for the truth of God’s holy word.

So let us examine, in the brief amount of time that we have, what the bible teaches us about Hell. Is it really a place of eternal torment, or is it just symbolic of eternal separation from God? Or, as some evangelical churches teach, is there no hell at all, but annihilation of the souls for those who are not saved? And is hell, if indeed it exists, eternal? These are terrible, awesome questions, and we must turn to scripture for answers.

When we search our bible for teachings on hell, we are immediately struck by this fact: almost all the teaching on hell comes from the mouth of Jesus. Some like to say that the God of the Old Testament is the God of Wrath, and Jesus’ message is all about love. But it is Jesus in the New Testament who teaches us most of what we know about hell.

Maybe Jesus teaches us about hell, because the concept is so awful, that we would discount it if it came from the mouth of even the most revered human prophet. But we dare not dismiss the words of our Lord.

Descriptions of Hell

Hell is described in the bible in various was. A Place of torment. In the book of Revelation as a pit and as a lake of fire. Also, as an unquenchable fire in Mark’s gospel, and as “outer darkness” in Matthew’s.

The question immediately presents itself: are these references images or metaphors, or are they to be taken literally? The answer is clear: we cannot take these references literally, for in our understanding there is no way to reconcile, in a literal sense, a lake of fire and an outer darkness, given that fire produces great quantities of light. So, at least in our understanding of these descriptions, we cannot take, all of them, literally.

However these symbols do tell us something about hell, namely that it is a terrible, terrible place. Whatever reality they represent, it is includes the reality of pain and suffering. Unquenchable fire is not, in any way shape or form, a metaphor for annihilation.

We must also point out that the punishment is physical, not mental. For scripture teaches not only of the resurrection of the righteous, but the resurrection of all men:
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Cor. 15:52)

No, to those who hope that there is no hell, or that hell is the annihilation of the soul, there is too much scripture that teaches otherwise.

Of the images of hell, perhaps the least disturbing is the image of outer darkness. To our minds, that seems, perhaps, a bearable version of hell, and one that might suggest annihilation. Let us take a look at how Jesus used this description of hell. We find it in the parable of the talents, as the punishment for the worthless servant:

"Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 25:30)

The passage vividly indicates that the “outer darkness” is a place where there is utter anguish, represented by weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is important to note what the phrase “gnashing of teeth” represents: as used elsewhere in scripture it represents not remorse or regret, but anger. When Stephen infuriated the Pharisees with his teaching, it is written:
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. (Acts 7:54)

The image Jesus is presenting here is that hell is characterized by a growing anger toward God. This might explain a great mystery: why does Satan, who must know his eternal fate, continue to act in such a self-destructive way? The answer seems to be that without any of God’s restraining grace, fallen creatures simply and utterly hate God, and can do nothing that is not sinful. It is Satan’s nature that carries him along to his inevitable doom, and the nature of those in hell is to hate and curse God, not to seek reconciliation.

Is Hell Separation from God?

Yes and no. It is separation, but not in the sense that we would secretly hope for. The separation is described in the continuation of the passage from Matthew:
31"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
32"All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

"These (goats) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt 25: 31-33, 46)

So there is a separation, but it is the separation of the final judgment. Some will be placed on the left, and some, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, will be placed on the right, although all will be judged for their deeds. In verse 46 the same word, eternal, signifies the duration of the punishment and the duration of life with Christ, although some translations use the word “everlasting” for the second occurrence. There is then no substance to the teaching that hell is of a finite duration.

The kind of separation we would like hell to mean is that the punishment of hell involves a separation from God. We say aloud “the terrible thing about hell will be the absence of God.” At the same time, we say to ourselves, “but that’s a whole lot better than a lake of fire.” Unfortunately, it’s a fantasy. God is omnipresent. There is no place in the universe, even hell, which excludes His presence. We read:
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (Ps. 139:8)

It has been said that if an election were held in hell to cast out one person, it would end in a universal tie with everyone receiving one vote. However, if the rules were changed so that you couldn’t vote for yourself, then the unanimous winner would be God. It is not the absence of God that will make hell unbearable, but his presence. Since the garden of Eden we have wanted to hide from God, his presence making our degradation all the more awful and obvious.

We should not have asked the question “Saved from what?” Instead, the question is: Saved from whom? And the answer is: God Himself. Our salvation saves us from God Himself. From facing the punishment that is due us after we stand before Him, naked, and are charged with every crime we ever committed, every idle thought.

How does God do it?

Naturally we ask, how can a loving God send people to hell? It makes the mind reel. Sometimes people say that God doesn’t send people to hell, they send themselves. And there is truth to that. But that doesn’t really change anything, for we can still ask why does God allow it, or why doesn’t God prevent it?

Some say that a loving God punishes just like a loving parent. And that is also true. God chastises those whom He loves, the bible tells us, and this corrective punishment is indeed analogous to a parent’s punishment of a child. But the punitive punishment of hell is altogether different, and nothing at all like a parent to a child.

The punishment of a parent is, done properly, is:
  1. not in anger
  2. moderate
  3. short-lived
  4. corrective
  5. pointing toward reconciliation.

The punishment in hell is:
  1. in the full presence of God’s anger,
  2. intense,
  3. eternal,
  4. punitive
  5. with no hope of reconciliation.

A parent’s punishment for a child and God’s punishment of the damned, far from being analogous, could not be more different.

In truth, I cannot tell you why God does it beyond the usual explanation that He is a righteous and good God, and because of His own righteousness and goodness, sin must be paid for. In our own courts we recognize a good judge as one who justly punishes, and a bad judge as one who doesn’t. Sin must be paid for, either by the perfect blood of Christ or by the punishment of the sinner. Exactly why that is so is surely tied to God’s holiness which, while we acknowledge, is nevertheless a mystery to fallen man.

Personally I do not struggle with the conundrum of how can God send those he loves to hell. I think the answer lies in what we mean by God’s love. There is a benevolent love, a common grace that God bestows on all, but there is also a special love for his chosen people, those who love Him because they were first loved by Him.

10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
12it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER."
13Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."
14What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (Rom 9:10-14)

It’s a thorny question: does God love everyone unconditionally? The apostle, I believe, gives us the answer: He does not. Although “hate” may not mean what we mean by the word, Paul has clearly distinguished between God’s view for Jacob and His view for Esau.


Today, if you do not know Jesus as your savior, you are in one of three places, roughly speaking.

First, there are those who do not see their own sinfulness. At worst, they would characterize their crimes as victimless. They feel no need to repent, because they don’t believe they do anything wrong, as long as nobody gets hurt.

The second group are those who acknowledge their sin, but they enjoy their sin so much that they have no repentance. They comfort themselves that there is but one life to live, and they are intent on living to the fullest. If someone else gets hurt, well that’s too bad, but to the victors go the spoils.

To these first two groups, I have no good news; the bible tells us that Jesus came not for the righteous and well, but for the unrighteous and sick.

The third group consists of those who acknowledge that they are sinners, know that it is wrong, and yet recognize their own inability to change themselves in any substantive way. It is to this group that I bring the good news. You may lack the faith that gives you assurance, but your repentance is more than a sign, it is proof that you are ready. God brings none to repentance only to cast them aside, all of His good works are finished to perfection. If you feel the need for a savior, but lack faith in Jesus, then pray for that faith. Scripture tells us that it will be given to you as a gift, not mustered from within. Stop burdening yourself with the quest for a faith that you cannot produce on your own, for you bring nothing to your salvation except your sin. Ask God for the faith; He will provide all. Let us pray.


Heavenly Father, we bow down before you and offer a simple prayer for faith. Strengthen the faith of your saints, equip them for the good works you have prepared in advance. And gracious Father, for those amongst us whom you have brought to repentance, we pray that you will draw them closer and provide them the faith through which they can proclaim that their standing before you rests only in the righteousness of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Does God Love Everyone? (Redux)

19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21)
I am giving the sermon at our church this Sunday. Although I have taught adult Sunday School for the past three years, this is the first time I will give the message. I was free to choose any topic (except, I suppose, infant baptism, which I support, but which would be a bit strange to preach about in a Baptist church.) Since the pastor will be gone, and I don?t want to scare any of his congregation away, I have decided to preach on a seeker-sensitive topic: Hell.

As part of the sermon I will look at the puzzle: How can God send those He loves to eternal torment? My answer: He doesn't. Send people that He loves, that is. You see, I don't believe that the bible teaches anywhere that God loves everyone, and in fact, as I've blogged before, (generating tons of hate mail*) I think it clearly teaches that He doesn't love everyone, so there is no conundrum.

While not a proof text, it seems to me that the passage from 1 John above speaks to this matter.

We assume John is writing to believers, those who love God. His message, in simplest terms, is that if you do not love your brother (which I take to mean a fellow believer) then you do not love God. You supposed love for God is a lie.

Notice, however, that John writes that we love (God, and by extension our brothers) because He first loved us.

The word "because" points to more than a prerequisite, it points to a cause. It is not only required that God love us before we love Him, it is the source of our love.

The question is whether God's love is always effectual, sometimes effectual, or never effectual (in causing us to love God back.)

Suppose God loves everybody. Then:
  1. God's love is always effectual:    everyone loves God
  2. God's love is never effectual:    who knows?
  3. God's love is sometimes effectual:    some people love God

(1) leads to universalism. (2) makes John a liar in v. 19. (3) is the best interpretation in this scenario, although we are left with troubling notion of God's love being effectual "sometimes."

Suppose God does not love everybody. Then:
  1. God's love is always effectual:    some people love God, exactly those whom He loved first
  2. God's love is never effectual:    who knows?
  3. God's love is sometimes effectual:    some people love God

Here (2) and (3) suffer the same problems as in the "God loves everybody" case above. Choice (1), however, strikes me as being consistent with everything else we find in the bible. God chooses some, and his choosing is always effectual. We respond, in time, with love for God. And one necessary sign of that calling, John is telling us, is that we love our brother.

* In the original debate, most of the Reformed argued that God loves everyone, although He offers only "saving love" for the elect. This universal love is not the prevenient grace of Arminians, which although non-existent at least has the virtue that by all appearances it is worthy of the mantle "universal", for it (mistakenly) postulates potential salvation for all. No, the universal love for many Reformed is merely that God does not make life as miserable as possible for the non-elect:
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt. 5:45)

Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." (Acts 14:17)
Indeed, who could argue otherwise? By measures of the pleasures of this world, the wicked often do quite well.

I argued that you can call this love if you like, but I would not use that term, preferring the more accurate common grace. This so-called love offers little to the recipient other than an infinitesimal calm before an eternal storm of agonizing punishment. If I am non-elect, I would greatly prefer the prevenient grace of the Arminians to the universal love of certain Calvinists.

This universal love was offered by some Reformed as mitigating the clear but unpleasant teaching of scripture that God hates (e.g., Rom. 9:13). Yes, God hates, some agreed, but He also loves those He hates. People can hate and love a person can they not? Perhaps, for what that is worth. Although the analogy, even if superficially valid, ultimately breaks down, for which human can say to another "I love you, but because I also hate you I will subject you to eternal torture in the fires that don?t consume, and there is no possibility of reconciliation or escape." This, however, is what God is said to do with those He hates and loves.

Friday, May 06, 2005

National Center for Science Education: Faked photos in textbooks are ok, as long as they affirm dogma

The pro-evolution National Center for Science Education has put together suggested answers to Icons of Evolution author Jonathan Well’s Ten Questions to ask your Biology Teacher. Wells is a biological intelligent design proponent, and the questions were designed to challenge biology teachers in areas where Wells thinks evolution is vulnerable to criticism.

One of NCSE's answers is absurd. (Another is almost as bad.) The question is about the famous peppered moths. Their changing color in response to a changing environment (industrial pollution darkening the trees with soot, rendering an advantage to darker moths) is a longstanding example of adaptation. In turns out, however, that the pictures were faked. This leads to Well's question:
Q: PEPPERED MOTHS. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection -- when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?
And the NCSE response:
A: These pictures are illustrations used to demonstrate a point - the advantage of protective coloration to reduce the danger of predation. The pictures are not the scientific evidence used to prove the point in the first place. Compare this illustration to the well-known re-enactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. Does the fact that these re-enactments are staged prove that the battle never happened? The peppered moth photos are the same sort of illustration, not scientific evidence for natural selection.
The answer is horrible, regardless of your view on evolution. The pictures are not genuine, but they are justified as a sort of "Gettysburg reenactment" in a science textbook. It is hard to imagine the NCSE could have come up with a worse answer if they tried.

The correct answer, from their perspective, should have been: the fraudulent pictures represent a sorry episode in the history of science and should be expunged and replaced with legitimate photos demonstrating adaptation.

I am on a crusade to maintain a clear distinction between cosmological intelligent design, which holds that the fine-tuning in cosmology is evidence for design, and biological intelligent design, which holds that some biological systems are too complex to have arisen through evolution. I'm tilting at windmills: the biological IDers have co-opted the generic phrase "intelligent design."

Monday, May 02, 2005

My book is out in print "for real."

My novel, Here, Eyeball This! has been out in electronic format and in print via "Print On Demand" (POD). It is has now been released as a paperback by the Canadian publisher, Saga Books. All the relevant information is in the frame on the left.

Against my own better judgment I am starting to outline my next novel. I know so much more about writing now--I'm hoping this one will go much smoother.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Lesson 21: Preparing for the Reformation

Salvation by the Church

We are in the "high middle ages." Salvation by the church, which had been creeping in, reaches its climax. The Roman Catholic Church becomes a perfect expression of an imperfect idea. This idea, made manifest in the sacramental system, can be expressed this way: Salvation is by grace alone, but grace is available through the church alone. The Catholic Church never said that salvation was not by Jesus Christ, but rather you needed the church to avail yourself of God's grace. The saving gospel medicine comes from above, but can only be administered by the church.

God does use human agents, He always has. What was different here is that the Church guaranteed, monopolized, and effectively restricted those human activities. For example, God has to regenerate any believer. He may or may not do it at the time a person is baptized. The Catholic Church teaches that God will regenerate in a properly conducted infant baptism. To reiterate:

  • The Church administers baptism to infants, which brings regeneration
  • The Church administers confirmation, through which the believer is strengthened by the Holy Spirit
  • The Church administers the Eucharist, through which the believers are further strengthen to enable them to continue
  • The Church, via Confession, administered forgiveness and required penitence
  • The Church, through Extreme Unction, administered the transition of one’s soul to heaven

The Roman Catholic Church had essentially abandoned Augustine's view of the visible and invisible church. The Protestants would recover this idea. Recall that the visible church is the set of professing Christians (of any denomination.) Among this group we find both believers and unbelievers. The invisible church is the set of true Christians. The Catholic Church, by guaranteeing salvation through the sacramental system, had essentially declared that the invisible church could be made visible. In other words, they had no concept that any Catholic in good standing would not get into heaven (and that any non-Catholic could), although they may (probably) would have to spend time in purgatory. Protestant churches cannot make any such guarantee (which is not to say that Protestants do have a means of assurance, as we’ll talk about later.)


The Catholic Encyclopedia says this about purgatory:
Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

Temporal Punishment

That temporal punishment is due to sin, even after the sin itself has been pardoned by God, is clearly the teaching of Scripture. God indeed brought man out of his first disobedience and gave him power to govern all things, but still condemned him "to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow" until he returned unto dust. God forgave the incredulity of Moses and Aaron, but in punishment kept them from the "land of promise" (Num., xx, 12). The Lord took away the sin of David, but the life of the child was forfeited because David had made God's enemies blaspheme His Holy Name (II Kings, xii, 13, 14). In the New Testament as well as in the Old, almsgiving and fasting, and in general penitential acts are the real fruits of repentance (Matt., iii, 8; Luke, xvii, 3; iii, 3). The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, can. xi) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God.

Venial Sins
All sins are not equal before God, nor dare anyone assert that the daily faults of human frailty will be punished with the same severity that is meted out to serious violation of God's law. On the other hand whosoever comes into God's presence must be perfectly pure for in the strictest sense His "eyes are too pure, to behold evil" (Hab., i, 13). For unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death, the Church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory.
The Catholic doctrine of purgatory supposes the fact that some die with smaller faults for which there was no true repentance, and also the fact that the temporal penalty due to sin is it times not wholly paid in this life. The proofs for the Catholic position, both in Scripture and in Tradition, are bound up also with the practice of praying for the dead. For why pray for the dead, if there be no belief in the power of prayer to afford solace to those who as yet are excluded from the sight of God? So true is this position that prayers for the dead and the existence of a place of purgation are mentioned in conjunction in the oldest passages of the Fathers, who allege reasons for succoring departed souls. Those who have opposed the doctrine of purgatory have confessed that prayers for the dead would be an unanswerable argument if the modern doctrine of a "particular judgment" had been received in the early ages. But one has only to read the testimonies hereinafter alleged to feel sure that the Fathers speak, in the same breath, of oblations for the dead and a place of purgation; and one has only to consult the evidence found in the catacombs to feel equally sure that the Christian faith there expressed embraced clearly a belief in judgment immediately after death.

Old Testament
The tradition of the Jews is put forth with precision and clearness in II Maccabees. Judas, the commander of the forces of Israel, "making a gathering . . . sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (II Mach., xii, 43-46). At the time of the Maccabees the leaders of the people of God had no hesitation in asserting the efficacy of prayers offered for the dead, in order that those who had departed this life might find pardon for their sins and the hope of eternal resurrection.

New Testament

There are several passages in the New Testament that point to a process of purification after death. Thus, Jesus Christ declares:

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12:32)

According to St. Isidore of Seville these words prove that in the next life "some sins will be forgiven and purged away by a certain purifying fire." St. Augustine also argues "that some sinners are not forgiven either in this world or in the next would not be truly said unless there were other [sinners] who, though not forgiven in this world, are forgiven in the world to come.”

A further argument is supplied by St. Paul:

11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Cor, 3:11-15)

While this passage presents considerable difficulty, it is regarded by many of the Fathers and theologians as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved. This, according to Bellarmine, is the interpretation commonly given by the Fathers and theologians.


A problem that develops is how to shorten ones time in this temporary hell, the answer that develops is indulgences, the sale of which we will see plays a large role in the early stages of Luther’s debate with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines an indulgence this way:

An indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due, in God's justice, to sin that has been forgiven, which remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive.

The Catholic Way of Salvation

The problem with the Catholic way of salvation: baptism, confirmation, confession, etc. is that while the Church claimed that salvation was of grace alone, the penitential system made so, that in practice, it was quite something other than grace.

Ironically, the penitential system asked for works to be done to restore a person who had fallen from grace. Yet the bible tells us that, even in good-standing, these works bring no merit:
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:10)

Interestingly enough, the develop of the penitential system met be partly due to an error made by Jerome when he produce the definitive Latin translation (the Vulgate). Mistranslating the Greek, he rendered the word properly translated as "repent" to "do penance." Thus, for example,
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt 4:17, NASB)

is rendered in the (Catholic) Douay-Rheims as
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17, DRB)

One historian has said this: While the doctrine of Grace Alone (sola-gratia) survived the middle ages, the Augustinian doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace did not. But this only serves to point out the problems with the Catholic doctrine, for it represents a self-inconsistent blend of doctrine. Without predestination and irresistible grace, you cannot logically maintain grace-alone other than a fiction, for you have necessarily introduced requirements for man: man must choose, man must respond positively, mad must do penance. At best the system is grace "assisted."

The Church in the Wilderness

The question arises: Where was the invisible church during this period where the Catholic Church consummated her new gospel?

First of all, we must acknowledge the church would never vanish from the earth.

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the LORD .
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. (Jer. 31:33)

God has made a covenant with His people, which would preclude His people from vanishing from the face of the earth. So where were they?

Well, some were in the Roman Catholic Church. For the most part, there was no critique of the church at the time, and in most places there was nowhere else to go. It may be easy for us, as twenty-first century to say that the church had obviously slipped into error, but it was much harder for those close to the situation. As always, while we today, thanks to the providential work of the Reformers, proudly proclaim sola fide, or justification by faith alone, we must always remember that while we are indeed justified by faith alone, we are not justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

A few movements outside of the church did have some success, most notably the 12th century Waldensian movement. This was started by a rich merchant by the name of Peter Valdo from Lyon (1140-1217) who sold his possessions and began a movement called sometimes called “the poor of Lyon” to reflect the fact that its adherents lived simple lives (often going barefoot) preaching a very simple New Testament message of the gospel and salvation. They ultimately faced persecution by the Catholic Church (they had anti-cleric message to go along with the gospel) under the Inquisition and fled into the Alps, surviving up to the Reformation which they readily supported while at the same time declining to join any Protestant denomination.

It was as if they were a minority that continued to hear the Shepard’s voice even as the official church seemed to drown it out with her own salvific plan. Some have identified the Waldenses with the “wilderness” church of Revelation.

Discussion Question: If you were a good and faithful Catholic, would you have supported the Inquisition?

The Great Papal Schism

In 1378, the Roman Catholic Church split when the King of France decided that he did not like the Italian Pope and elected one of his own. The Great Papal Schism lasted for 68 years, during which time two popes claimed authority.

In 1309, Pope Clement V moved the papacy and his residence to Avignon, a city just outside French territory on the Rhone River. This allowed Phillip the Fair, King of France, to exert a great deal of influence over the church.

In 1377, Pope Gregory XI returned the papacy to Rome. After Gregory died, an Italian Pope was elected. However, the French were were unwilling to recognize the new pope, so they elected their own, who ruled from Avignon.

Western Europe was divided over which pope to support. Of course France supported the Avignon pope. Along with France were Sicily, Scotland, and Portugal. On the other side, Rome supported the Roman pope, as did Poland, Hungary and Germany. Finally, between 1414 and 1418, the Council of Constance was successful in healing the Schism. The confusion, without question, caused some to question the authority and wisdom of the Catholic Church.

Forerunners of the Reformation

John Wycliffe (ca 1330-1384), born near Richmond (Yorkshire), was an Oxford professor who attacked some Roman Catholic doctrine, especially the doctrine of Transubstantiation. He also advocated a saving, personal faith and an independent church. He never, so it seems, advanced to the point where he proclaimed Justification by Faith Alone, but it is clear that his view of salvation was much closer to that which Luther and the other Reformers would formalize.

Wycliffe also had a very strong view of scripture and proclaimed its inerrancy and authority both explicitly (whatever scripture says) and implicitly (whatever scripture, through sound exegetic deduction, can be said to imply.) Thus, while the bible never states that God is three persons of one substance, the fact that the Trinity is derived from the bible renders that doctrine binding to the conscience of all Christians. Wycliffe’s idea was adopted by the Reformers, and we read in the great Reformed Confession of Westminster:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WC I.VI)

Wycliffe gained prominence in 1374 during a prolonged dispute between Edward III, king of England, and the papacy over the payment of a certain papal tribute. Both king and Parliament were reluctant to pay the papal levies. Wycliffe wrote several pamphlets refuting the pope's claims and upholding the right of Parliament to limit church power.

In 1376 Wycliffe enunciated the doctrine of "dominion as founded in grace," according to which all authority is conferred directly by the grace of God and is consequently forfeited when the wielder of that authority is guilty of mortal sin. Wycliffe did not state explicitly that he considered the English church to be sinful and worldly, but his implication was clear. On February 19, 1377, he was called before the bishop of London, William Courtenay, to give account of his doctrine. The interrogation ended when the nobleman John of Gaunt, who had accompanied Wycliffe, became involved in a brawl with the bishop and his entourage. On May 22, 1377, Pope Gregory XI issued several bulls accusing Wycliffe of heresy. In autumn of the same year, however, Parliament requested his opinion on the legality of forbidding the English church to ship its riches abroad at the pope's behest. Wycliffe upheld the lawfulness of such a prohibition, and early in 1378 he was again called before Bishop Courtenay and the archbishop of Canterbury, Simon of Sudbury. Wycliffe was dismissed with only a formal admonition, however, because of his influence at court.

After the Great Papal Schism began, Wycliffe's views became much more radical. In various writings such as De Ecclesia, De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae, and De Potestate Papae he rejected the biblical basis of papal authority, insisted on the primacy of Scripture, and advocated extensive theological reform. That same year Wycliffe and certain Oxford associates defied church tradition by undertaking an English translation of the Vulgate, or Latin Bible, completed c. 1392, a remarkable achievement for its time considering it was several generations before the age of printing and about a century and a half before the first printed English version of the New Testament by William Tyndale.

In De Eucharistia Wycliffe repudiated the doctrine of transubstantiation. This bold declaration caused such a furor that John of Gaunt withdrew his support. Standing his ground, Wycliffe in 1380 began to send out disciples, called Poor Preachers, who traveled the countryside expounding his egalitarian religious views. The preachers found a ready audience, and Wycliffe was suspected of fomenting social unrest. He had no direct connection with the unsuccessful Peasants' Revolt in 1381, but it is probable that his doctrines influenced the peasants. In May 1382, Courtenay, now the archbishop of Canterbury, convened an ecclesiastical court that condemned Wycliffe as a heretic and brought about his expulsion from Oxford. Wycliffe retired to his parish of Lutterworth.

After Wycliffe died on December 31, 1384, his teachings were spread far and wide. His Bible was widely distributed by his followers, called Lollards. Ultimately Wycliffe's writings strongly influenced the Bohemian religious reformer John Huss (Jan Hus) in his revolt against the church. Martin Luther also acknowledged his great debt to Wycliffe. In May 1415 the Council of Constance reviewed Wycliffe's heresies and ordered his body disinterred and burned. This decree was carried out in 1428.

In its most developed form, Wycliffe's philosophy represented a complete break with the church. He believed in a direct relationship between humanity and God, without priestly mediation. By a close adherence to the Scriptures, Christians would, Wycliffe believed, govern themselves without the aid of popes and prelates. Wycliffe denounced as unscriptural many beliefs and practices of the established church. He held that the Christian clergy should strive to imitate evangelical poverty, the poverty of Christ and his disciples.

Lesson 20: The Rise of the Papacy in the Medieval Church

The Fall of Imperial Rome

During the glory of Rome, we have the notion of Pax Romana, describing the longest period of enforced peace in the history of the western world. (There was a time when people hoped for a Pax Americana, but nobody talks about that anymore.) Nevertheless, the Imperial Roman Empire came down in the fifth century, as barbarians with superior military strength began crossing the borders. As they began to eat away (and ultimately occupying) territory, the ultimate doom of the empire was inevitable.

We should stop and look at the sovereignty of God at play. God raised up Pharaoh for the purposes of bringing him down. Likewise he raised up Rome, it would seem, for the purpose of providing the infrastructure and stability needed for the rapid growth of the church. Then He brought Rome down—and ironically the "feeble" and army-less church would not only survive Rome's collapse but would end up conquering the conquerors, as many of the barbarians converted to Christianity.

Consider, for example, the case of Alaric, a leader of the Visigoths, pushed by the Huns and later followed by Attila the Hun. Alaric invaded Rome (for the second time) more-or-less unopposed in 410, an event that shocked the western world and is generally regarded as the end of the Roman Empire. It was a bishop with no military power that persuaded Alaric to leave. Likewise Attila the Hun, known as the “Scourge of God”, stood (in 452) on the road to Rome, with no opposition before him, when Pope Leo the Great left Rome, marched out to meet Attila and, in words that sadly have not been preserved, persuaded him to spare the ancient capital.

In 476 the barbarian Odoacer deposed the last (and by now impotent) western emperor and became, in effect, emperor himself. This would be the final nail in the coffin of Imperial Rome.

Later we find the barbarian King Theodoric (c. 454 – 526) become a Christian—so much so that he was the recipient of a false accusation of being an Arian heretic.

So Imperial Rome fell, and it is said of Imperial Rome that she tyrannized the bodies of been though the sword she wielded.

She was replaced by something even more powerful, an empire with not one but two swords: an ecclesiastical sword and a political sword. The rulers of this empire tyrannized the bodies and the souls of men. In that sense they were twice the tyrant of many of the Roman emperors—most of which, in the later empire, were tolerant in religious matters.

The Rise of Ecclesiastical-Political Rome

As we will see, the tyranny on the souls of men will be made manifest in the doctrine identified by the Latin phrase: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. It translates as "Outside the Church, there is no salvation." Now it should be pointed out that the statement, as it stands, is correct. It is a question of whose church are we talking about? There is indeed no salvation outside of Christ's church. However, this was in reality a pernicious code phrase meaning there is no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church. Why is such a statement tyranny? For the simple reason that men, especially the pope, had (and still has) the power of membership in the Roman Catholic Church. If your membership was revoked, your salvation was lost. The pope literally held salvation in his hands.

So the Catholic Church (from this point on, "Catholic Church" always means the Roman Catholic Church) had an ecclesiastical sword of awesome power—the very power of salvation. It also had a political sword of great power, but this sword it wielded indirectly. Officially, the state held that sword. But the state would be under the control of the Catholic Church. It was the state who executed, but it was the Catholic Church that pronounced the death sentence. It is this slight indirection that allows the Catholic Church to maintain the fiction that she never executed anyone, even during the Inquisition. (The Inquisition was a tribunal, presided over by Dominican friars, who were charged with rooting out heresy. Those suspected of heresy were brought before the tribunal and given a chance to recant. If they didn’t, they were handed over to civil "puppet" authorities, because "the Church never sheds blood.")

Papal Authority

We have discussed the general rise of the authority of the Bishop of Rome, whom henceforth we will call the pope. As we discussed in a previous lesson, non-Catholics generally regard Leo the Great as the first pope, at least in the modern sense of the word. For he was the first to use a misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18 as biblical support for his divine authority.
"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matt. 16:18)

In a sense, three errors were committed that lead to the rise of the papacy.
  1. A mistaken belief in the supremacy of Peter
  2. The misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18
  3. The invention of apostolic succession

Paul, not Peter, was the greatest Apostle

At first this must sound a little silly--arguing about who is greater than whom. But what is really silly, but understandable in today’s society, is to dogmatically proclaim that all apostles made contributions of identical value. They did not, and it should be obvious that such is the case.

Peter was a great and godly man, and a great leader, and was loved dearly by Jesus. But it was Paul, not Peter, who was the New Testament Moses. Paul wrote most of the New Testament. Paul explained the life and ministry of Jesus more comprehensively than any other inspired writer. Paul founded more churches than any other apostle, engaged in more missionary work than any other apostle, and who, in the book of Romans, provided us with the most thorough (inspired) doctrine of salvation. It was Paul who made two substantive visits to Rome. Peter probably made one short visit to Rome and probably, like Paul, was martyred there. What Peter did not do, and what some Catholics still believe, is spend twenty-five years in Rome as bishop.

Misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18

The misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18 can be stated this way: Catholics see "only Peter" in the passage. But it was not Peter the man that would be the rock upon which the church would be built, but Peter in faith confessing in the Lordship of Christ two verses earlier:
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16:16)

Peter, here, is the archetype Christian: one who believes and confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, and Our Lord and Savior. Upon this "model" as it were, the church will be built. Catholicism sees only the man Peter, not the confessor Peter, and thereby elevates Peter well beyond Christ's intent. In effect, the position of the Catholic Church is that, at this moment in time, Christ has delegated to the Apostle Peter the power over salvation.

Amazingly, just a few verses later, just after Catholics say Jesus bestowed upon Peter the awesome power of salvation, the first pope makes a serious error:

21From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (Matt. 16:21-23)

The possibility that shortly after Peter was divinely appointed to a papal throne he was then called "Satan" by Jesus makes the mind reel.

(Note: some Protestants believe that Jesus isn’t even referring to Peter when he uses the word rock, which is feminine. That is probably not true. Jesus was probably referring to Peter throughout Matt. 16:18, but, as stated, not Peter the man but Peter the archetype Christian because of his previous, powerful confession.)

Invention of Apostolic Succession

The mistakes of exaggerating the importance of Peter and in misinterpreting Matt. 16:18 would be bad enough, but what the institution of the papacy requires is that Peter, who they believe held, through the keys of the kingdom, the power of salvation, passed along that god-like authority to subsequent Roman bishops. Even if you agree that Jesus abrogated his authority to Peter, nowhere in scripture is a successor to Peter mentioned, or even alluded to, a fact acknowledged by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church must find her support for apostolic succession not in scripture, but tradition, a subject we will talk about later.

The Investiture Struggle

One manifestation of the rise of papal power can be seen in what is know as the investiture struggle. This can be stated simply: Should the pope crown the king, or should the king crown the pope? (And who should ordain bishops?) This was a battle concerning the supremacy of church or state.

That the church would even presume that she should crown the king is a sign of how things had gone wrong. It is a sign that the church looked favorably upon the idea of a theocracy—and this is a serious error. (Today some conservative Christians support the notion of a theocracy—it remains a serious error.)

In Old Testament times, of course, Israel was a theocracy. But in the New Testament, we see two things that tell us that the time of theocracy is over.

The first is that the New Testament we are told to obey (secular) rulers:
1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Rom 13:1-2)

The second and more important reason is that Christ tells us that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36.) We are not to fight with secular authorities; Christ even rebukes Peter when Peter takes that approach at the time of his arrest.

How did Christ’s kingdom come to be, under the medieval Catholic Church, "of this world?" Well, for the most part people asked for it. People viewed the church as a preferred ruler, even on matters of state, and the state accepted the invitation.

This was unique to the west. In the east, the czars won the investiture struggle, and they remained in authority over the eastern church. And in Islam, the two parts are united in the Sultanate.

Three Important Popes

At this point, we examine three medieval popes who contributed substantively to the rise the papacy.

Gregory VII (Hildebrand) 1075-1089

The investiture struggle reached its climax under Pope Gregory VII and his battle with (German) King Henry IV (who had succeeded to the throne at the age of six). Over the investiture controversy, Henry IV deposed the pope, the pope in return excommunicated the emperor.

What happened next was astounding. Not only did Gregory excommunicate Henry, he freed the people from any obligation to submit to Henry’s civil authority. In effect, he established as a rule of law that the king had to be a Christian in good standing, and since Henry, having been excommunicated, was no longer a Christian, he could no longer rule. In response, Henry adopted a brilliant strategy. In 1077 Henry, having been excommunicated, stood barefoot in the snow, outside the papal palace, begging for forgiveness. Gregory was between a rock and a hard place. He was obligated by church law to forgive and restore any person with a sincere outward appearance of repentance, and not many men had ever looked more sincere than Henry. But if he forgave Henry, he was certain that Henry would use his restored power against him.

That’s exactly what happened. The pope forgave Henry and restored him to the church and his throne. Henry returned the favor by exiling Gregory. Nevertheless, and important and non-biblical precedent had been established: according to the Catholic Church and contrary to scripture, people were not subject to the authority of their rulers unless the church sanctioned that authority.

Innocent III 1198-1261

Under Innocent III, Papal authority reached its highest level. And under Innocent we see the seeds for the later Protestant Reformation being sown, for under Innocent the way to salvation changed from the biblical gospel: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31), to a gospel that is unrecognizable.

Innocent III presided during the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and may scholars agree that this is where papal authority reached its apogee, while at the same time (and not coincidentally) the Catholic Church sank to her lowest level, completely instituting her own way to salvation.

Innocent III commanded Crusades, presided over the introduction of the seven sacraments and the sacramental system, including making confession to a priest necessary, and instituted the penitential system.

Two of the sacraments are not relevant for this discussion. These are "holy orders", i.e., related to the ordination of priests, etc., and marriage.

The other five are:

  • Infant Baptism
  • Confirmation (at age 12)
  • The Eucharist (Lord’s supper of transubstantiated elements)
  • Penance
  • Extreme Unction (Last Rites)

What is so wrong with the sacramental system? The problem can be stated this way: if you did what the church instructed, and followed the sacramental system from womb to tomb, it essentially guaranteed salvation. You would likely spend time in purgatory, but you were baptized as an infant, confirmed at 12, partook of the Lord’s supper, confessed your sins to a priest, performed acts of penance, received Extreme Unction, and were buried on holy ground, you were on your way to heaven.

This represented such a grave distortion of the gospel that it is basically unrecognizable as related in anyway whatsoever to the scripture. What the Fourth Lateran Council under Innocent III tells you to do in order to be saved bears no resemblance to what Paul tells the Philippian Jailer.

Boniface VIII 1294-1303

Under Boniface VIII we find the most dramatic and blatant assertion of papal power. In 1302, Boniface issued the Papal Bull know as Unam Sanctum, which declared that submission to the pope was required for salvation.

Unam Sanctum begins this way:
Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins

And ends with these amazing words:
Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

It should be noted, that, to the extent possible, the Roman Catholic Church views Boniface as something of an embarrassment.

Although bold in words, Boniface was weak in power, and was effectively deposed by King Philip. Because of his arrogant pronouncements yet ignominious end, it is said of Boniface: "he crept in like a fox, reigned like a lion, and died like a dog."

The Councils of the Church

There are many councils of the church. It is helpful, I think, to have a summary that tells us which ones, as Protestants, we accept.

325, I Nicea, Arius is a heretic—Son of one sunstance with Father—Nicene creed

381, I Constantinople, Reiteration of Nicea—divinity of Holy Spirit

431, Ephesus, Condemnation of Nestorius (Jesus is two distinct persons)—Mary “mother of God”

451, Chalcedon, Condemnation of of Eutyches

553, II Constantinople, Condemnation of 'Three Chapters'

680-681, III Constantinople, Condemnation of monothelism (Jesus had two wills)—condemnation of Pope Honorius

787, II Nicea, Images/Icons worthy of veneration (but not worship)

869-870, IV Constantinople, Ended schism of Photius

1123, I Lateran, Confirmed Concordat of Worms

1139, II Lateran, Compulsory clerical celibacy

1179, III Lateran, Determined method of papal election

1215, IV Lateran, Transubstantiation—confession and communion at least yearly

1245, I Lyons, Declared Emperor Frederick II deposed

1274, II Lyons, New regulations for papal elections (essentially the modern rules)

1311-1312, Vienne, Suppression of the Templars

1414-1418, Constance, End of great schism

1431-1445, Basel/Ferra Florence, Nominal reunion with Constantinople

1512-1517, V Lateran, Condemned schismatic council of Pisa

1545-1563, Trent, Condemned Protestant reformation—sacred tradition—denounced justification by faith alone and Sola Scriptura

1869-1870, I Vatican, Papal Infallibility

1962-1965, II Vatican, Liturgical renewal (native language) – social concerns – protestants as “separated brethren”

Well, we can agree with the first four, and probably the next two, but the instituting of image veneration in the seventh council (II Nicea) in some sense marks the point where the Catholic Church really began to diverge.