Monday, May 19, 2014

What Is Self-Deception? (Greg Bahnsen's Doctoral Dissertation)

"Self deception involves an indefensible belief about one's beliefs. That is, S perpetrates a deception on himself when, because of the distressing nature of some belief held by him, he is motivated to misconstrue the relevant evidence in a matter and comes to believe that he does not hold that belief, although he does. When he holds a belief that is discomforting, the self-deciever simultaneously brings himself to believe that he does not hold it, and toward the end of maintaining that unwarranted second-order belief he presses into service distorted and strained reasoning regarded the evidence which is adverse to his desires. He not only hides from himself his disapprobated belief, but when he purposely engages in self-deception he hides the hiding of that belief as well."1

1.  Greg L. Bahnsen, A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception (USC Doctoral Dissertation [Philosophy], June 1978), p. 48 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

John Wycliffe's Defense of Scripture's Sufficiency: A Middle-to-Modern English Translation

I have never attempted a translation like this before, but I have always wanted to. Below, I have a copy of John Wycliffe's comments about the sufficiency of Scripture, but as far as I know, they're only available in Middle-English. Fortunately, for those who only have access to the Middle-English version, I have translated it below. 

Regarding the important subject of Scriptural sufficiency, there is not a whole lot of written material from John Wycliffe to work with. But I hope my own translation at least clarifies one important aspect of Wycliffe's argument, namely, that the sufficiency of Scripture is defended best against Christ's enemies when it is presupposed. Wycliffe writes:
The fend sekiþ many weyes to marre men in bileve, and to stoppe bodily þis, þat no bookis ben bileve. For ȝif þou spekist of the Bible, þanne seyen Antecristis clerkis, how provest þou þat it is holy wryt more thanne annother writen book? Here we seyen, as Crist seith, that kynrede of hordom sekiþ signes. And þerfore men moten use cautels, and axe hem questiouns aȝen, whether Crist lefte his gospellis here for to counforte his Chirche. And ȝif thei seyen that he dide, axe hem whiche ben þes gospels, and hem we clepyn holy wryt. And þus we axen of oþir partis þat trewe men clepyn hooly wryt. But, for Cristen men schulde speke pleynly to Antecrist, we seyen that hooly wryt is taken on þree maneres comynly. On the firste manere Crist him silf is clepid in the gospel holy wryt, whanne he seiþ þat þe writynge may noȝt be fordon þat þe Fadir haþ halwid and sent into the world. On the secounde manere holy wryt is clepid truþis þat ben conteyned and signyfied bi comyn biblis, and þes truþis may noȝt faile. On þe þridde maner holy wryt is clepid bookis þat ben writen and maad of enk and parchemyn. And þis speche is nouȝt so propre as the first and the secunde. But we taken of bileue þat þe secunde writ, of truþis writen in the book of lyf, is holy wryt, and God seiþ it, and þis we knowen by bileve. And as oure siȝt makeþ us certyn of þat þing þat we seen, so oure bileue makiþ us certyn þat þes trewþis ben holy wryt. ȝif holy wryt on the þridde manere be brent or cast in the see, holy writ on the secunde manere may noȝt faile, as Crist seiþ. In Dei nomine, Amen.1

Below is my translation (which might also be the only modern-english translation available today):
The Enemy seeks many ways to damage faithful men, and to stop this bodily, that no documents within are believed. For if you speak of the Bible, as the clerks against Christ say, "How do you prove that this Scripture is more holy than another written book?", here we say, as Christ has said, that "a generation of whoredom seeks [after] signs."2 And therefore men argue with caution, and often ask them questions, whether Christ preserved his gospels here for the comfort of his Church; and if they say that he did [preserve his gospels here for the comfort of his Church], ask them "Which are these gospels?," and  "Which ones do we call Holy Scripture?", and therefore we inquire of other divisive groups that [which] true men call Holy Scripture.  
But, for Christian men who should speak plainly to those against Christ, we see that Holy Scripture is commonly considered [sufficient] according to three manners:
On the first manner, Christ himself is called [thus] in the gospel of Holy Scripture, when he says that "the Scripture cannot be corrupted, that [which] the father has sanctified and sent into the world."3  
On the second manner, Holy Scripture is called "truths that are contained and signified by common books"; and this truth cannot fail.4
On the third manner, Holy Scripture is called "books that are written and made of ink and parchment"; and this description is not so special as the first and the second.5   
But we of faith consider that the second writing—of truths written in the book of life—is Holy Scripture, and God says it, and this we know by faith; and as our sight makes us certain of that thing that we have seen, so our faith makes us certain that these truths are Holy Scripture. If Holy Scripture on the third manner is burned or cast in the sea, Holy Scripture on the second manner cannot fail, as Christ said. 
In the name of God, Amen. 

1.  Wycliffe, J. (1871). Select English Works of John Wyclif. (T. Arnold, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 186–187). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
2.  Matthew 12:39
3.  John 10:35-36. It's interesting that his first point presupposes that Jesus' words, however they have been preserved and passed down through the ages, are unquestionably authoritative. In John 10:35-36, Jesus is quoting the Scriptures in order to identify the unquestionable authority of the Father's words with his own words and actions. Therefore the words of Scripture are as authoritative as Jesus' words and actions, and vice-versa.
4.  By this I think Wycliffe means that the truth-claims within the Scriptures are validated by all sorts of external evidences, even those found in "common books" that are accepted and approved by scholars of his day.
5.  By this I think Wycliffe is describing the reliability of the manuscripts, and his argument is based on the well known fact that they were written down with ink and on parchment (as apposed to other, much less reliable, materials).

Saturday, May 17, 2014


[INQUIRY]  I pray you, now, to explain how it is that the bread remains bread after consecration, for many declare that if they had believed thus, they would never have observed the ceremony as they have done.

On a subject of this nature, we must attend to the words of Scripture, and give them absolute credence. And the words of Scripture tell us that this sacrament is the body of Christ, not that it will be, or that it is sacramentally a figure of the body of Christ. Accordingly we must, on this authority, admit, without reserve, that the bread, which is this sacrament, is veritably the body of Christ. But the simplest layman will see that it follows, that inasmuch as this bread is the body of Christ, it is therefore bread, and remains bread, and is at once both bread and the body of Christ. Again, the point may be illustrated by examples of the most palpable description. It is not necessary, but, on the contrary, repugnant to truth, that a man, when raised to the dignity of lordship or prelacy, should cease to be the same person. The man, or the same substance, would remain, in all respects, though in a certain degree elevated. So we must believe that this bread, by virtue of the sacramental words, becomes, by the consecration of the priest, veritably the body of Christ, and no more ceases to be bread, than humanity ceases, in the instance before supposed; for the nature of bread is not destroyed by this, but is exalted to a substance more honoured. Do we believe that John the Baptist, who was made by the word of Christ to be Elias, (Matt. 11) ceased to be John, or ceased to be anything which he was substantially before? In the same manner, accordingly, though the bread becometh the body of Christ, by virtue of his words, it need not cease to be bread. For it is bread substantially, after it has begun to be sacramentally the body of Christ For thus saith Christ, “This is my body,” and in consequence of these words, this must be admitted, like the assertion in the eleventh chapter of the gospel of Matthew, about the Baptist: “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias.” And Christ doth not, to avoid equivocation, contradict the Baptist, when he declares, “I am not Elias.” The one meaning that he was Elias figuratively, the other, that he was not Elias personally. And in the same manner it is merely a double meaning, and not a contradiction, in those who admit that this sacrament is not naturally the body of Christ, but that this same sacrament is Christ’s body figuratively.
Concerning the assertion made by some hardened heretics, that they would never have celebrated the ordinance had they believed this, it would, indeed, have been well for the church, and have contributed much to the honour of God, if such apostates had never consecrated their accident, for in so doing they blaspheme God in many ways, and make Him the author of falsehood. For the world God created they straightway destroy, inasmuch as they destroy what God ordained should be perpetual—primary matter—and introduce nothing new into the world, save the mendacious assertion, that it pertains to them to perform unheard of miracles, in which God himself certainly may have no share. In fact, according to their representations, they make a new world. What loss would it have been, then, if heretics, so foolish, had never celebrated an ordinance, the proper terms of which they so little understand, and who are so ignorant of the quiddity of the sacrament they observe and worship?
With regard to the points touching the truth of the belief, that this sacrament is bread, let heretics be on the watch, and summon up all their powers; for He who is called Truth, teaches us (Matt. 6) to pray that he would give us our daily, or supersubstantial bread. And according to Augustine, on this passage in our Lord’s sermon on the mount, by daily bread, Christ intends, among other happy significations, this venerable sacrament. Are we not, then, to believe, what would follow, viz. that if the sacrament for which we pray is our daily bread, then in the sacrament there must be bread? In the same manner the apostles recognised Christ with breaking of bread, as we are told in Luke 24. And Augustine, with the papal enactment, De Con. Dist. III. non omnes, tells us that this bread is this venerable sacrament. Or are we to doubt its following, that the apostles having known Christ in the breaking of this bread, therefore that seeming bread must have been bread? Our apostle, likewise, who takes his meaning from our Lord, calls this sacrament the bread which we break, as is manifest in 1 Cor. 10, and often again in the following chapter. Who then would venture to blaspheme God, by maintaining that so chosen a vessel could apply erroneous terms to the chief of the sacraments,—especially with the foreknowledge that heresies would take their rise from that very subject? It is impossible to believe that Paul would have been so careless of the church, the spouse of Christ, as so frequently to have called this sacrament bread, and not by its real name, had he known that it was not bread, but an accident without a subject; and when he was besides aware, by the gift of prophecy, of all the future heresies which men would entertain on the matter. Let these idiot heretics say, and bring sufficient reason to prove their statements, what this sacrament, which their falsehoods desecrate, really is, if not the holy bread. As was said above, Christ, who is the first Truth, saith, according to the testimonies of the four evangelists, that this bread is his body. What heretic ought not to blush, then, to deny that it is bread?
We are thus shut up, either to destroy the verity of Scripture, or to go along with the senses and the judgment of mankind, and admit that it is bread. Mice, and other creatures, are aware of this fact; for according to philosophers, they have the power of discerning what is good for them to eat. Oh, if believers in the Lord will look on, and see. Antichrist and his accomplices so strong as to have power to condemn and persecute even unto death, those sons of the church who thus yield their belief to the Gospel, yet certain I am, that though the truth of the Gospel may for a time be cast down in the streets, and be kept under in a measure by the threats of Antichrist, yet extinguished it cannot be, since he who is the Truth has said, that “heaven and earth shall pass away, but that his words shall not pass away!” Let the believer, then, rouse himself, and demand strictly from our heretics, what the nature of this venerable sacrament is, if it be not bread; since the language of the Gospel, the evidence of our senses, and arguments that have in their favour every probability, say, that so it is. For I am certain, that even heathens, who make their own gods, are perfectly aware of what they are in their own proper nature, though they pretend that a portion of divinity is bestowed upon them supernaturally by the highest God of all. The believer, therefore, hesitates not to affirm, that these heretics are more ignorant, not only than mice and other animals, but than pagans themselves; while on the other hand, our aforementioned conclusion, that this venerable sacrament is, in its own nature, veritable bread, and sacramentally Christ’s body, is shown to be the true one.[1]

[1] De Wycliffe, J. (1845). Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe. (R. Vaughan, Ed.) (pp. 138–141). London: Blackburn and Pardon.

John Wycliffe & Great Flatterers of the People

Also friars show not to the people their great sins stably, as God bids, and namely to mighty men of the world, but please them, and glozen,e and nourish them in sin. And since it is the office of a preacher to show men their foul sins and pains therefore, and friars take this office, and do it not, they be cause of damnation of the people. For in this they be foul traitors to God and ekea to the people, and they be nurses of the fiend of hell. For by flattering and false behestsb they let men live in their lusts, and comfort them therein, and sometimes they pursue other true preachers, for they will not glozec mighty men, and comfort them in their sins, but will sharply tell them the sothe;d and thus mighty men hire by great costs a false traitor, to lead them to hell And ensample men may take how friars suffer mighty men, from year to year, to live in avowtrie,e and covetousness, and extortious doing, and many other sins. And when men be hardened in such great sins, and will not amend them, friars should flee their homely company; but they do not thus, lest they lose worldly friendship, favour, or winning; and thus for the money they sell men’s souls to Satan.[1]

e flatter
a also
b commandments
c flatter
d truth
e adultery
[1] De Wycliffe, J. (1845). Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe. (R. Vaughan, Ed.) (pp. 229–230). London: Blackburn and Pardon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

More than a prophet

Click the link at the bottom of this post if you're interested in viewing a theological essay I wrote for a 2014 course on Holistic Mission at the Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical & Cultural Studies

I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for Rev. Wesley Baker of Peru Mission and the training we all received from him in this course. His philosophy of mission is incredibly thorough, practical, and theologically engaging. I'm also not the only student who walked away thinking his teaching was priceless, even though the Trinity House Institute offered it for an extremely reasonable price. (For more about that, check out the institute in the link above.) For my essay, click the link below.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A World Turned Downside Up

Frightening omens had shaken the heavens and earth in Jerusalem. For three hours the sun turned dark at noon. There were earthquakes in the evening and the morning. Were the foundations of the earth giving way? Were the mountains about to slip into the heart of the sea?
Reports of the resurrection of Jesus began to spread quickly throughout the city. Even stranger tales were spreading. Resurrection rumors were everywhere. Many saints were raised from the sleep of death and left their tombs to walk the streets of the Holy City, appearing to many (Matt 27:52–53). Jesus himself was seen by over five hundred witnesses at once (1 Cor 15:6). What did these reports mean? Was death itself a phantom? Had a door been torn open in the impassible boundary between life and death? A report circulated that the veil of the temple was torn in two. That veil marked the sacred boundary of holiness between God and man. It was death to trespass this veil. Was the way to life and to the presence of God now opened to man without fear of death? The followers of Jesus heard that Mary Magdalene had seen a vision of angels at the tomb of Jesus that recalled the ancient Holy of Holies (John 20:12). Could a woman now see into the most sacred precincts? Could someone once so defiled by demons have a holy vision? Did it no longer matter that only men and priests in former times could peer into these sacred mysteries. Has the priesthood now jumped the gender line to include women, too?
Soon thereafter the Holy Spirit descended upon the Jewish pilgrims who had come from many nations to the temple in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Language barriers suddenly disappeared. Everyone heard the gospel in his own tongue (Acts 2:6). At last a vision was given to Peter challenging him to see that all nations have been made clean (Acts 10:15). All his life Peter had kept strictly to kosher law. Did the deep divisions between clean and unclean now no longer matter? God showed Peter that no man should be called unholy or unclean (Acts 10:28). Is there no distinction any longer between the circumcised and the uncircumcised? If ritual barriers have dissolved, do racial divisions matter any longer? Does God accept an Ethiopian eunuch and a Roman centurion in the same way he accepts a Jew? Have national borders been set aside so that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, or even Scythian? Will God respect no difference in class any longer, dissolving the deep resentments separating bond slaves and freemen? The people begin to sell their possessions to distribute to any who have a need. Is there to be no scarcity any longer? Are rich and poor, who constitute the great civic divide, now brought together by some new reality in the spiritual world?
All the customary and ancient boundaries and borders seem to pass away. How can we orient ourselves any longer to these new and startling realities of a world where death itself has been made to die?
Jesus taught us to expect something like this. He said so many things that defined the kingdom of heaven as nothing less than a complete upheaval. He said that we should sell all we have in this world to secure riches in heaven. He said the first would be last and the last first. He said the greatest in the kingdom was the servant of all. He gave thanks that the kingdom was revealed to babes and not to the wise of this world. He admonished us to lose our lives in order to find them. He taught that the meek rather than the strong would inherit the earth. He said we should count ourselves blessed when men revile and persecute us; we should rejoice when all manner of evil is spoken against us. He said that persecution on earth means great treasures in heaven. He even said we should love our enemies. In sum, he was teaching us new ways to dream. He was instructing us in the imagination of resurrection power. In this strange new world publicans become evangelists (Matt 9:9), whores become virgins (Luke 7:36–50), thieves become alms-givers (Eph 4:28), and the chief of sinners becomes the chief apostle to the nations (1 Tim 1:15).
So vivid were these new realities that people began to do most unaccustomed things. In fact many did sell everything they owned and laid it at the feet of the apostles to distribute to those who had need. To have no fear of death or any recognition of scarcity was new to everyone. Somehow it was like a return to the world before the fall of man in the garden. These new horizons recalled the time when the earth brought forth abundantly for all and death was as yet unknown. It was like the Garden of Eden when God and man walked together in intimacy and joyful delight.
The law of Moses foresaw these days. Moses gave land allotments to all the tribes of Israel except the priestly tribe of Levi. He gave them no inheritance because the Lord’s priesthood was their better portion (Josh 18:7). There was a Levite in the early church named Barnabas. This man had bought and owned a piece of property that he sold and laid the money at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36–37). The Levite Barnabas had become a Levite indeed. But Barnabas was not the only one selling his property. Many were doing so in light of the new age that had dawned. It was as though all of God’s people were priests. Everyone was satisfied that the Lord was his portion. And just as Moses had wished that all the people of God might share in the spirit (Numb 11:29), even so now the Holy Spirit of God descended on all and filled everyone (Acts 2:4). Now all of God’s people were prophets, even as Moses had wished.
What was this new and radically democratic world where distinctions of ritual sacrament and race and sex and sanctity and national identity seemed no longer to matter? What had happened to cause the very foundations of Jerusalem to tremble? All social and civil and sacred and class boundaries were suddenly dismantled and disassembled. A new community began to form where all shared the same simple supper. Whether from east or west, all ate the same bread and drank the same cup. It was a supper that expressed the equality of all those who needed the Savior. The cross, it seemed, was the great leveler of men.
What could possibly cause such upheavals? Was all of this because someone had come back from the grave and many, too many to deny, had seen him? Who could have imagined such a new world?
But then even stranger things began to happen. The believers began to understand that signs and wonders were not supernatural but altogether natural to God’s world. All that in former times had been thought to be natural was in fact subnatural.
The apostles of Jesus first showed the way to the new world. They began to do the miraculous works of signs and wonders. They healed the lame. They cured the demonically oppressed. They even raised the dead. The power of the risen Jesus was working through his apostles in resurrection power.
The wonders were so glorious that suffering itself was recalculated. The same opposition Jesus encountered was raised again against his disciples. Peter and John were arrested by the Council and beaten for speaking openly in the name of Jesus. But the apostles left the Council rejoicing. They rejoiced that they were given the grace to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. What was this power by which they rejoiced in suffering, embracing the shame of their suffering like Jesus?
Likewise, Paul and Silas came to Philippi, where they too were arrested and severely beaten and left with bloody wounds. Afterwards they were taken to a dungeon and pinioned in wooden stocks. But in the midst of their cruciform suffering, they prayed and sang praises to the Lord (Acts 16:19–34). The bleeding apostles sang for joy. Even until midnight they praised God. What was the power that caused these men to rejoice in such suffering? Who could believe such things? Paul and Silas knew that God always takes suffering and brings forth glory. It was the way they who had died to their own lives were now living in Christ. It was Christ living through them. So they praised God in anticipation of the glorious deliverance he would work. They knew he would intervene to save them by resurrection power.
So at midnight God sent an earthquake. The chains fell off. The prison doors all opened (Acts 16:26). But no one moved from his place. God was calling the prisoners of Philippi to constitute a new community of faith. Even the jailer asked what he should do to be saved. Only the Lord God of resurrection would begin his church in Philippi with prisoners in a dungeon who had come to know a new life of liberty in Christ. The witness of suffering always led to glory. Christians by their increasing thousands were ready to embrace the cross and suffer even unto death that others might thereby come to know the power of Christ’s resurrection. They understood that by much tribulation we enter the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22). They learned to recalculate suffering in view of the gospel glory that was promised thereafter. They embraced imprisonments, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, cold, and exposure, danger in the wilderness, danger in the sea, danger in the city, and all manner of toil and hardship (2 Cor 11:23–28) and called it all “momentary light affliction” unworthy to be compared to the “eternal weight of glory” prepared for them (2 Cor 4:17). It was redemption’s comic turn. Death lost its sting. The grave lost its victory. Redemption brought forth joyful singing. Lamentation gave way to laughter.

As the Savior had taught, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). And the wheat fields of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world, were now white for the harvest. The apostles of Jesus went forth as sowers of seed. These faithful ones went forth weeping and bearing precious seed. But according to the resurrection promise, they understood they would surely return with shouts of joy, bearing their seed with them.1

1.  Gage, W. A. (2011). Return from Emmaus: The Resurrection Theme in Scripture (pp. 86–89). Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Warren A. Gage.