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Archive for December, 2007

An Atheist Fable: Reopening the Galileo Case

Posted by Tony Listi on December 19, 2007

The following is drawn from Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity.

As historian Thomas Kuhn notes, there were lots of people who proposed and advocated the heliocentric theory, but they were ridiculed and ignored. The scientific data at that time and common sense were against Galileo Galilei of Florence. Most educated people held the geocentric view of Ptolemy, not the heliocentric one of Copernicus (who was never in bad standing with the Church and actually dedicated his 1543 book, in which he advanced his heliocentric theory, to the pope ).

Moreover, it is necessary to keep in mind that Galileo’s contribution to the heliocentric theory was significant but not decisive. His new, more powerful telescope and thus his new observations about the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and the spots on the sun supported Copernican theory. The Jesuit astronomers agreed with the implications of his observations but did not think that they in themselves were enough to prove heliocentrism or shift the balance of evidence in its favor. (Yes, the Church funded and supported scientific research! In fact, there were several Church-sponsored observatories and universities.) Indeed, the greatest astronomer of the era, Tyco Brahe, agreed with the Jesuits that Galileo’s observations were insufficient. So great was Brahe’s reputation that it was only after his death that many astronomers converted to Copernicanism. Judging Galileo by the science of the time, he had theories but no substantial proof for them.

Would it surprise you to know that the pope and Cardinal Bellarmine, head of the Inquisition, were admirers of Galileo when he came to Rome in 1616? Galileo received much fanfare and a celebrity’s welcome with many receptions given by various cardinals and bishops.

Listen to what Cardinal Bellarmine had to say about Galileo’s heliocentric theory: “While experience tells us plainly that the earth is standing still, if there were a real proof that the sun is in the center of the universe…and that the sun does not go around the earth but the earth around the sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather admit that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But this is not a thing to be done in haste, and as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me.” Wow, that sounds reasonable and sensible! The God of the Bible and the God of Reason are one and the same and cannot contradict each other.

Given the inconclusive evidence and religious sensitivities surrounding the issue, Cardinal Bellarmine issued an injunction to Galileo that he should not teach or promote this theory. Galileo agreed to this and obeyed for several years while continuing his experiments. But when Pope Urban VIII assumed the Office of Peter, Galileo thought he could be more open in his advocacy of heliocentrism because the new pope was a scientific progressive who had fought to keep Copernicus’s work from being placed in the index of prohibited books. The new pope was a fan of Galileo’s and actually wrote a poem eulogizing him. But while Urban thought science was very useful for earthly measurements, he did not think it could give knowledge that only God could know (I mean, how could a person of that time know for certain which astronomical body went around the other without a “God’s-eye view,” so to speak?).

Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632. He claimed to have demonstrated the truth of heliocentrism mainly by way of explanation of the tides. The rapid motion of the earth around the sun caused the tides. (Today, of course, we know his “proof” to be dead wrong! The tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, not the rotations or revolutions of the Earth.) There were several problems with the work. First, his tidal theory was questionable even at that time (science is not on solid ground when it uses one mystery to try to solve another). Second, he assumed that the planets moved in concentric circles, even though by that time Kepler had demonstrated that they have elliptical orbits. Third, Galileo embarrassed and mocked the pope in the work. It featured two characters in a dialogue in which one character represented Galileo himself and the other represented the pope. The pope character was named Simplicio, which means “simpleton” in Italian. Fourth, Galileo did not confine his thoughts and observation to the scientific realm. He ventured into theology arguing that the Bible is largely allegorical and required constant reinterpretation to determine its true meaning (As an aside, there is no “true” meaning to any such thing at all if it is to be constantly reinterpreted, especially if such interpretations are contradictory or semi-contradictory.). The Jesuits warned him not to wander into such speculations, but he rejected these admonitions. Lastly, the Protestant Revolution was in full swing and Pope Urban VIII was eager to demonstrate the Vatican’s fidelity to Scripture, and geocentrism was the official position of both Catholics and Protestants. Had circumstances been different the whole Galileo affair might not have happened and the pope might not have allowed the trial to go forward.

Galileo returned to Rome in 1633 to be interrogated by the Inquisition. Church records were found of Cardinal Bellarmine’s injunction that was filed over a decade earlier and that Galileo had not told anyone. Now it seemed to Galileo’s judges that he had deceived the Church and failed to keep his word not to promote heliocentrism. They advised him to confess that he had broken his word with Cardinal Bellarmine and to show contrition. Incredibly though, Galileo asserted that he had not defended heliocentrism: “I have neither maintained or defended in that book the opinion that the earth moves and that the sun is stationary but have rather demonstrated the opposite of the Copernican opinion and shown that the arguments of Copernicus are weak and inconclusive.” Perhaps he made this statement out of frustration, weariness, and nerves. But the inquisitors had every reason to believe he was a liar now too. Such an incident would have destroyed any defendant in a modern court of law. They believed he did hold heliocentric views and demanded that he recant them. Galileo did and was sentenced to house arrest.

Galileo was never charged with heresy or tortured in any way. In fact, his was given over to the custody of the archbishop of Siena who housed him in his palace for months and was then permitted to return to his villa in Florence. He was allowed to continue his scientific work not relating to heliocentrism. The notion that he said, “And yet it does move!” on his deathbed is legend and fiction. There are no reports of this. He died of natural causes in 1642.

According to historian Gary Ferngren, “The traditional picture of Galileo as a martyr to intellectual freedom and a victim of the church’s opposition to science has been demonstrated to be little more than a caricature.
According to historian Thomas Lessl, the Galileo case was an “anomaly,” a “momentary break in the otherwise harmonious relationship between Christianity and science. Of course, considering the scientific opposition to Copernicanism at the time, it seems that the case was also more of a conflict within science than one between science and religion. Galileo’s impetuousness and impudence did not help either.

Posted in Religion and Theology, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

Biblical Evidence for Indulgences and the History Surrounding Their Abuse

Posted by Tony Listi on December 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007
By Dave Armstrong

Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 18:18 “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the
sins of any, they are retained.”

These passages form the biblical basis for priestly absolution (forgiveness),
and broadly speaking, for both papal and Church jurisdiction (by extension, for
the power to impose penance — binding, retaining — and to grant indulgences —
loosing, forgiving). Matthew 16:19 was spoken by our Lord to St. Peter alone,
and is the primary foundation for the concept of the papacy (along with the
preceding verse). Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23 were directed toward the twelve
disciples. From these verses, among others, the Catholic Church deduces the
power and governing jurisdiction of the bishops (in agreement with the pope),
especially in an ecumenical Council such as Trent or Vatican II.

Karl Adam, in his marvelously insightful book, The Spirit of Catholicism,
comments on the Catholic belief in indulgences:

“The Church in virtue of her power of binding and loosing may supplement the
poverty of one member out of the wealth of another . . . All the main ideas
upon which the doctrine of indulgences is based — the necessity of expiation
for sin, the co-operative expiation of the members of the Body of Christ, the
Church’s power so to bind and loose on earth that her action is valid in
heaven — all these ideas are contained in holy Scripture.
So that although the historical form of the indulgence has undergone some
change . . . and may in the future undergo further change, and although the
theology of indulgences has only been gradually elaborated, yet in its
substance the doctrine is in line with the pure thought of the Scriptures.
Here, as in no other practice of the Church, do the members of the Body of
Christ co-operate in loving expiation. All the earnestness and joyfulness,
humility and contrition, love and fidelity, which animate the Body are here
especially combined and manifested.”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 “I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord
Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my
spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man
to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the
day of the Lord Jesus.” {see 5:1-2}

2 Corinthians 2:6-8,10-11 “For such a one this punishment by the majority is
enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be
overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him . .
. Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive . . . in the presence of Christ, to
keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his

St. Paul in his commands and exhortations to the Corinthians is in entire
agreement with the Catholic tenets of penance and indulgences. He binds in 1
Corinthians 5:3-5 and looses in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7,10, acting as a type of
papal figure in 2 Corinthians 2:10, much like St. Peter among the Apostles. He
forgives, and bids the Corinthian elders to forgive also, even though the
offense was not committed against them personally. Clearly, both parties are
acting as God’s representatives in the matter of the forgiveness of sins and the
remission of sin’s temporal penalties (an indulgence). In this as in all other
doctrinal matters, the Catholic Church is grounded in the Bible, takes seriously
all that it teaches, and grapples with all the implications and deepest
wellsprings of Truth to be found within the pages of God’s Holy Scriptures.

Cardinal Gibbons elaborates:

“Here we have all the elements that constitute an Indulgence. First — A
penance, or temporal punishment proportioned to the gravity of the offence, is
imposed on the transgressor. Second — The penitent is truly contrite for his
crime. Third — This determines the Apostle to remit the penalty. Fourth —
The Apostle considers the relaxation of the penance ratified by Jesus Christ,
in whose name it is imparted.”

The doctrine of penance was indisputably believed and practiced by the early
Church, as reputable Protestant Church history reference works admit. It
was firmly established in the early Church, and did not substantially change in
the Middle Ages, but was only developed, like all Catholic doctrines. It was the
subject of much reasoned speculation and discussion among the Scholastics (such
as St. Thomas Aquinas), but it was neither invented nor distorted at this time,
as the above biblical evidence proves conclusively.

As penance is the imposition of (and, it is hoped, voluntary acceptance of)
temporal punishment or penalties for sin, so indulgences are the remission or
relaxation of these same temporal penalties, by virtue of the prayer and
penitence (of various sorts) of others in the Church. The doctrine of
indulgences presupposes both the Communion of Saints and the treasury of
merits, ultimately derived from the Person and work of Jesus Christ, secondarily
through the holiness of the saints and especially the Blessed Virgin.
The Church has the jurisdiction to mercifully dispense these accumulated merits
to those who possess less merit (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). Indulgences are
a logical extension of infused justification and penance, and are essentially
the same as any spiritual or temporal benefit applied to a person due to the
prayer of another. In both cases, one Christian is assisted by the loving act of

The Council of Trent forbade the selling of indulgences, since abuses had become
scandalous in the preceding period, thus agreeing with Luther and the
Protestants on this point, while retaining the doctrine itself (not wanting to
“throw the baby out with the bath water”). In recent decrees on this
doctrine, the Church has stressed that the pious disposition of the receiver of
an indulgence is of foremost and primary importance (similar to the use of
sacramentals, such as holy water).

To summarize, Catholics believe that sin causes a cosmic disturbance and is a
direct insult to God, our Creator, and that it also perpetuates destructive
tendencies and practices in the individual and disastrous results within the
Church and the human community. Sin effects a breach in our “friendship”
with God, which requires some sort of reparation.
Penance and indulgences are complementary aspects of the thoroughly biblical and
harmonious Catholic system of theology wherein actual, infused justification (as
opposed to merely imputed, forensic, or declared justification) takes place. If
indeed, God’s goal is to free us of sin in this life — as Catholics believe —
then the expiation and elimination of sin is of the utmost importance: hence the
doctrine and practice of penance.

Past Abuse of Indulgences
Bertrand Conway writes of the controversial history of indulgences:
“Catholic historians — Gasquet, Pastor, Janssen, Michaels, Paulus — have
frequently mentioned the abuses connected with the preaching of Indulgences in
the Middle Ages. The medieval pardoner . . . was often an unscrupulous rascal,
whose dishonesty and fraud were condemned by the Bishops of the time. We find
orders for their arrest in Germany at the Council of Mainz in 1261, and in
England by order of the Bishop of Durham in 1340. To indict the Church for these
abuses . . . is manifestly dishonest . . .

“It is comparatively easy today to get monies for any charitable enterprise, for
we can appeal to thousands by letter, post, radio or the daily press. In the
Middle Ages, when men wished to build a church or support a worthy charity, the
Bishop or Pope granted an Indulgence, which first of all called upon the people
to approach the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, and then ‘to lend a
helping hand’ in some special work of charity. The Council of Trent, following
the Councils of Fourth Lateran [1215], Lyons [1245 and 1274] and Vienne
[1311-12], condemned in express terms ‘the wicked abuse of quaestors of alms,’
and, because of the great scandal they had given, ‘abolished their name and use.’
“While Catholics believe that the building of St. Peter’s in Rome was a matter
of interest to the whole Catholic world, they heartily condemn with Grisar and
Janssen [Catholic historians] the manner of financing the Indulgence, and the
exaggerations of the preachers in extolling unduly its effects and privileges.

“No one believes today the calumnies against Tetzel’s character. Luther did not
speak the truth when he asserted that ‘Tetzel sold grace for money at the
highest price.’ As both Pastor and Grisar point out, we must carefully
distinguish between Tetzel’s teaching with regard to Indulgences for the living,
and Indulgences applicable to the dead. With regard to Indulgences for the
living, his teaching, as we know from his Vorlegung and his Frankfort Theses,
was perfectly Catholic . . .
“‘As regards Indulgences for the dead,’ Pastor writes, ‘there is no doubt that
Tetzel did, according to what he considered his authoritative instructions,
proclaim as Christian doctrine that nothing but an offering of money was
required to gain the Indulgence for the dead, without there being any question
of contrition or confession. He also taught, in accordance with an opinion then
held, that an Indulgence could be applied to any given soul with unfailing
effect . . . The Papal Bull of Indulgence gave no sanction whatever to this
proposition. It was a vague scholastic opinion, rejected by the Sorbonne in
1482, and again in 1518, and certainly not a doctrine of the Church’ (History of
the Popes, vol. 7, 349). Cardinal Cajetan at the time condemned Tetzel’s
opinion, and taught that ‘while we may presume in a general way that God is
willing to accept Indulgences for the dead, we have no certainty whatever that
He does so in any particular case. That is the secret of God alone.’ In 1477
Pope Sixtus IV had expressly taught that the Church applies Indulgences for the
dead ‘by way of suffrage,’ for the souls in Purgatory are no longer subject to
her jurisdiction. They receive Indulgences not directly, but indirectly, through
the intercession of the living.”

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Archaeological Evidence Supporting the Credibility and Accuracy of the Bible

Posted by Tony Listi on December 19, 2007

Old Testament

The Ketef Hinnom Amulets
In 1979, a team of Israeli archaeologists discovered two tiny silver scrolls/amulets, the oldest extant pieces of the Hebrew Bible. These amulets were dated to the 7th c. BC and had the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24-26. This discovery cast doubt on skeptical theories that the Torah was written much later by scribes who learned their monotheism from Zoroastrian priests in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile.

The Merneptah Stela
In 1896, a seven foot slab of black granite was discovered in a temple in Thebes, Egypt. It was erected by Pharaoh Merneptah, son of Ramses the Great. The stela was dated to 1209/1208 BC and reads “Israel is laid waste; its seed is not.” This discovery definitely proves, contrary to some skeptics, that a people known as the Israelites existed and were known in Egypt.

The House of David Inscription
On July 21, 1933, a basalt stone, written in Old Aramaic that mentions explicitly the House of David was found at Tel Dan in Northern Israel, near the foot of Mt. Hermon. It was dated to the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 8th c. BC and also refers to events recorded in the Old Testament Book of 2 Kings. This discovery contradicts skeptics, such as Israel Finkelstein and Thomas L. Thompson at the University of Copenhagen, who claimed biblical figures such as King David and Solomon never really existed historically.

The Moabite Stone/Mesha Stela
In 1868, F. A. Klein discovered a stela written in Moabite around 930 BC. It reads, “I am Mesha, son of Kemoshmelek, the king of Moab, the Dibonite…. And [the god] Chemosh said to me, ‘Go, take Nebo against Israel and I went by night and fought against it…. And I took from there the altar-hearths of Yahweh, and I dragged them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel built Jabaz and dwelt in it while he fought with me and Chemosh drove him out from before me.”

It thus mentions Israel and its God and closely mirrors the Bible, i.e. 2 Kings 3:4-5, “Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheepbreeder, and he regularly paid the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams. But it happened, when Ahab died, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. At Tel Dan in 1993, French scholar Andre Lemaire discovered that “House of David” appeared in line 31 on the stone.

Again, this discovery contradicts the claim that King David never existed and correlates with events testified to in the Bible

Pharaoh Shishak/Shoshenq’s Victory Lists
Archaeologists have long known about the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq and his conquests from the carvings on the temple of Amun at Karnak. This Pharaoh and his exploits can also be found in 2 Chronicles 12 of the Bible, in which he ravages Jerusalem, Rehov, and Megiddo, and Hazor.

In 2003, scientists at Tel Rehov in Israel used carbon dating to confirm that Shoshenq’s lootings took place in the 10th c. BC and that the cities that the Bible mentions Shoshenq conquering actually existed when it said they did. This included the cities mentioned in the Book of Joshua: Beth-Horon (10:10), Gibeon (9:3), Megiddo (12:21), and Gaza (10:41).

Samaritan Ostraca
In 1910, archaeologist G. A. Reisner found 63 potsherds in Samaria with Old Hebrew script on them written in ink called ostraca. They are dated to around 784-783 BC, contain ancient commercial records, and 30 of them name the clan or district of 7 of the 10 sons of Manasseh as well as two daughters of Zelophehad, all of which are mentioned in Joshua 17:2-3.

The Seal of Baruch
In 1975, a bulla or clay seal was discovered in Israel. Written in Old Hebrew, it was dated to around 600 BC and authenticated by Israeli archaeologists. It reads, “Blessed of God, son of Neriah, the scribe.” This is very likely the seal of Baruch mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah: “In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah…. Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote down in the scroll, at Jeremiah’s dictation, all the words which the Lord had spoken to him” (Jer 36:1,4). The fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign is estimated to be around 605 BC, corresponding with the time period of the seal.

In 1996, a second and similar seal was found but with a thumbprint as well.

These discoveries again provide further evidence that the people of the Bible are not fictional characters but actually lived as historical figures.

The Ebla Tablets
In 1964, Italian archaeologists from the University of Rome excavated a palace at Tell Mardikh in northern Syria. Inside they found a library of thousands of cuneiform tablets dating from around 2300 BC. Written in Sumerian and Akkadian, they reveal laws, customs, and events that are in harmony with the Book of Genesis. They also explicitly mention the five undiscovered cities mentioned in Gen 14:8, including Sodom and Gomorrah, that skeptics said never existed.

The Siloam Tunnel (or Hezekiah’s Tunnel)
In 1838, a 1750 foot long tunnel was found in Jerusalem. In 2003, Israeli and British scientists tested the organic material within the plaster lining of the tunnel to date the tunnel to around 700 BC. The researchers published their findings in the September 2003 issue of Nature.

According to 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30 (and perhaps verses 2-4), a great tunnel was built during the reign of Hezekiah (727-698 BC) to cut off Assyria’s water supply (who Israel was at war with) and secure their own supply. Again, Scripture seems to match up with science, archaeology, and history.

The Nuzi Tablets
In 1925 at Nuzi in Northern Iraq, 4000 cuneiform tablets written in Akkadian were found and dated to 2300 BC. They describe customs parallel to those written in the Book of Genesis, such as a barren wife giving a slave (such as Hagar in Gen 16) to her husband (Abram) to produce an heir OR a father choosing a bride (like Rebekah in Gen 24) for his son.

This proves skeptics wrong who have called certain practices in the Bible cultural anomalies.

Evidence for The Exodus

Amarna Letters
In the late 19th century, a series of cuneiform letters dictated by the Pharaohs Amenhotep III (c. 1391 BC) and Tutankhamen (1330 BC) were discovered. It tells of groups of foreigners that were brigands or “disenfranchised peoples on the outskirts of society.” To the clean-shaven Egyptians, the bearded Jews of the Bible probably would have counted as uncivilized riffraff.

The Hatshepsut Chapel
Historian Robert Stieglitz of Rutgers University argues that the carvings on a chapel of Egyptian Queen Maakare Hatshepsut refer to the expulsion of a group of “foreigners amongst them”-a reference that closely mirrors Numbers 11:4, which states that the Israelites fleeing Egypt included “a mixed multitude” and not just the Israelites.

The Habiru
In 1887, more cuneiform tablets were discovered in Egypt, written by Canaanite scribes in Akkadian. They are the correspondence between vassal kings in Canaan and the Egyptian pharaohs around 1330 BC. They mention a people known as the “habiru” attacking cities in Canaan and causing trouble in Egypt itself. The letters contain eerie similarities with the biblical accounts of the Jewish conquest of the region of Canaan. For instance, the vassal Abdu-Heba of Jerusalem writes to the Egyptian pharaoh that “the Habiru sack the territories of the king” and insists that “if there are archers [sent] this year, all the territories of king will remain (intact); but if there are no archers, the territories of the king, my Lord, will be lost!”

New Testament

The Pontius Pilate Inscription
In 1962, an Italian archaeologist found inscription at Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel south of Haifa, the center of Roman administration of the region at the time of Christ. It reads, “Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

This discovery proved that Pontius Pilate actually existed, for no such hard evidence existed until then.

Posted in Religion and Theology, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Creation and Genesis-6 Days?

Posted by Tony Listi on December 16, 2007

Fundamentalists often make it a test of Christian orthodoxy to believe that the world was created in six 24-hour days and that no other interpretations of Genesis 1 are possible. They claim that until recently this view of Genesis was the only acceptable one-indeed, the only one there was.

The writings of the Fathers, who were much closer than we are in time and culture to the original audience of Genesis, show that this was not the case. There was wide variation of opinion on how long creation took. Some said only a few days; others argued for a much longer, indefinite period. Those who took the latter view appealed to the fact “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8; cf. Ps. 90:4), that light was created on the first day, but the sun was not created till the fourth day (Gen. 1:3, 16), and that Adam was told he would die the same “day” as he ate of the tree, yet he lived to be 930 years old (Gen. 2:17, 5:5).

Catholics are at liberty to believe that creation took a few days or a much longer period, according to how they see the evidence, and subject to any future judgment of the Church (Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis 36-37). They need not be hostile to modern cosmology. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “[M]any scientific studies . . . have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life forms, and the appearance of man. These studies invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator” (CCC 283). Still, science has its limits (CCC 284, 2293-4). The following quotations from the Fathers show how widely divergent early Christian views were.
Justin Martyr

“For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years [Gen. 5:5]. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression ‘The day of the Lord is a thousand years’ [Ps. 90:4] is connected with this subject” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 81 [A.D. 155]).
Theophilus of Antioch

“On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it” (To Autolycus 2:15 [A.D. 181]).

“All the years from the creation of the world [to Theophilus’ day] amount to a total of 5,698 years and the odd months and days. . . . [I]f even a chronological error has been committed by us, for example, of 50 or 100 or even 200 years, yet [there have] not [been] the thousands and tens of thousands, as Plato and Apollonius and other mendacious authors have hitherto written. And perhaps our knowledge of the whole number of the years is not quite accurate, because the odd months and days are not set down in the sacred books” (ibid., 3:28-29).

“And there are some, again, who relegate the death of Adam to the thousandth year; for since ‘a day of the Lord is a thousand years,’ he did not overstep the thousand years, but died within them, thus bearing out the sentence of his sin” (Against Heresies 5:23:2 [A.D. 189]).
Clement of Alexandria

“And how could creation take place in time, seeing time was born along with things which exist? . . . That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: ‘This is the book of the generation, also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth’ [Gen. 2:4]. For the expression ‘when they were created’ intimates an indefinite and dateless production. But the expression ‘in the day that God made them,’ that is, in and by which God made ‘all things,’ and ‘without which not even one thing was made,’ points out the activity exerted by the Son” (Miscellanies 6:16 [A.D. 208]).

“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first and second and third day existed without a sun and moon and stars and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? . . . I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance and not literally” (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:1:16 [A.D. 225]).

“The text said that ‘there was evening and there was morning’; it did not say ‘the first day,’ but said ‘one day.’ It is because there was not yet time before the world existed. But time begins to exist with the following days” (Homilies on Genesis [A.D. 234]).

“And since he [the pagan Celsus] makes the statements about the ‘days of creation’ ground of accusation-as if he understood them clearly and correctly, some of which elapsed before the creation of light and heaven, the sun and moon and stars, and some of them after the creation of these we shall only make this observation, that Moses must have forgotten that he had said a little before ‘that in six days the creation of the world had been finished’ and that in consequence of this act of forgetfulness he subjoins to these words the following: ‘This is the book of the creation of man in the day when God made the heaven and the earth [Gen. 2:4]'” (Against Celsus 6:51 [A.D. 248]).

“And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day . . . and of the [great] lights and stars upon the fourth . . . we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world” (ibid., 6:60).

“For he [the pagan Celsus] knows nothing of the day of the Sabbath and rest of God, which follows the completion of the world’s creation, and which lasts during the duration of the world, and in which all those will keep the festival with God who have done all their work in their six days” (ibid., 6:61).

“The first seven days in the divine arrangement contain seven thousand years” (Treatises 11:11 [A.D. 250]).

“God produced the entire mass for the adornment of his majesty in six days. On the seventh day, he consecrated it with a blessing” (On the Creation of the World [A.D. 280]).

“Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six-thousandth year is not yet complete. . . . Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years. For the great day of God is limited by a circle of a thousand years, as the prophet shows, who says, ‘In thy sight, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day [Ps. 90:4]'” (Divine Institutes 7:14 [A.D. 307]).
Basil The Great

“‘And there was evening and morning, one day.’ Why did he say ‘one’ and not ‘first’? . . . He said ‘one’ because he was defining the measure of day and night . . . since twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day” (The Six Days Work 1:1-2 [A.D. 370]).
Ambrose of Milan

“Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent. . . . The nights in this reckoning are considered to be component parts of the days that are counted. Therefore, just as there is a single revolution of time, so there is but one day. There are many who call even a week one day, because it returns to itself, just as one day does, and one might say seven times revolves back on itself” (Hexaemeron [A.D. 393]).

“It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19-20 [A.D. 408]).

“With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation” (ibid., 2:9).

“Seven days by our reckoning, after the model of the days of creation, make up a week. By the passage of such weeks time rolls on, and in these weeks one day is constituted by the course of the sun from its rising to its setting; but we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them” (ibid., 4:27).

“[A]t least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar” (ibid., 5:2).

“For in these days [of creation] the morning and evening are counted until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!” (The City of God 11:6 [A.D. 419]).

“We see that our ordinary days have no evening but by the setting [of the sun] and no morning but by the rising of the sun, but the first three days of all were passed without sun, since it is reported to have been made on the fourth day. And first of all, indeed, light was made by the word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness and called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening and morning, is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was and yet must unhesitatingly believe it” (ibid., 11:7).

“They [pagans] are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of [man as] many thousands of years, though reckoning by the sacred writings we find that not 6,000 years have yet passed” (ibid., 12:10).
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

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Heisman Winner Tebow Might Have Been a Victim of Abortion

Posted by Tony Listi on December 15, 2007

So how many Heisman winners has abortion killed? How many Martin Luther Kings? How many Mother Teresas? How many Winston Churchills?
Pro-abortion people have no idea what they have done.

read more | digg story

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“Certainty” of Eternal Life? (1 John 5:13 & John 5:24)

Posted by Tony Listi on December 14, 2007

By David Armstrong on Jan 3, 2006 

John 5:24
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. ”

The word for “believe” is pistuo (Strong’s #4100). It includes in its meaning obedience, not mere mental assent. Thus it is contrasted with disobedience (apitheo) in Jn 3:36, as if it were a synonym for obedience (cf. 1 Peter 2:7, using the same two Greek words). Thus, this would apply to classic evangelistic verses such as Jn 3:16, Rom 1:16, 4:24, 9:33, and 10:9. Kittel, in his Theological Dictionary of the NT (abridged, p. 854) states about this sense of pisteuo:

“as ‘to obey.’ Heb. 11 stresses that to believe is to obey, as in the OT. Paul in Rom. 1:8; 1 Th 1:8 (cf. Rom. 15:18; 16:19) shows, too, that believing means obeying. He speaks about the obedience of faith in Rom. 1:5, and cf. 10:3; 2 Cor 9:13.”
Therefore, since “believe” also contains an obligation of obedience and perseverance, those things aren’t excluded from Jesus’ remarks; therefore He didn’t intend His utterance to be understood as an indication of instant salvation and assurance of eternal life. This is the typical Hebrew drawing of strong contrasts as well. It doesn’t negate the place of good works. In fact, five verses later Jesus refers to the Judgment. And how does He speak about it?:

“. . . those who exercised faith alone, to the resurrection of life, and those who did not rely on faith alone, to the resurrection of judgment. “(Jn 5:29)

Well, not quite; this is the ESV, the Evangelical Standard Version, which is an unauthorized one. The verse actually reads in the RSV:

“. . . those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Jesus again needs a crash course at Campus Crusade or Inter-Varsity, in how to properly present the Gospel, so people can get saved. But they would probably turn Him away at the door.

Armstrong’s Critic: “Now, why do you think this changes the promises of Jesus in John 5:24?”

It doesn’t “change” it; it has to be harmonized in an overall consistent Christian theology, to be correctly interpreted in the first place.

In Mt 7:21 Jesus states:

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (cf. Mt 5:20, 16:27, 25:31-46, Lk 18:18-25)

A similar idea occurs in 1 Jn 5:13:

“. . . you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
But two verses later, he writes:

“And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”

Obviously, this is conditioned upon whether the request is according to the will of God or not, as the previous verse indicates (“if we ask anything according to his will he hears us”). So the seemingly absolute statement is qualified by another statement. Thus, much of 1st John, as the Gospel of John, is written in a sort of proverbial, or idealized language. E.g., 1 Jn 5:18:

“We know that anyone born of God does not sin . . . ” (cf. 3:6,8-9)

Of course, believers sin all the time. In proverbial literature, the intention is not absolute and all-encompassing, without exception, but rather, common-sense observation of what usually accompanies a certain state or condition. Thus, John is saying that “those in Christ do not sin,” or, more accurately, “the essence of the person in Christ is righteousness; sin is contrary to the essence of a Christian.” Thus, also, he is expressing the thought, “those who believe in Christ will be saved and will have eternal life; those who do not will not be saved.” Those are general truths, but it is much more difficult to apply them to individuals, and this is expressing something different from absolute subjective assurance of the individual. In fact, John “contradicts” 1 Jn 5:18 (above) in 1 Jn 1:8:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

But in fact it is no contradiction, because proverbial literature is not meant to be interpreted in such absolute, airtight terms. In the book of Proverbs the classic example is where it says “answer the fool” in one verse, and in the very next it says, “don’t answer the fool” (i.e., different situations dictate a different response, in prudence).

I have an old Thayer’s Lexicon of the NT and here is how he defines the faith mentioned in John 5:24: “to believe and embrace what God had made known either through Christ or
concerning Christ (p. 512)”

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New Peer-Reviewed Study Finds ‘Warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence’

Posted by Tony Listi on December 14, 2007

By EPW Blog Monday, December 10, 2007
An inconvenient new peer-reviewed study published in the December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Climatology.

Climate warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence:
Climate scientists at the University of Rochester, the University of Alabama, and the University of Virginia report that observed patterns of temperature changes (‘fingerprints’) over the last thirty years are not in accord with what greenhouse models predict and can better be explained by natural factors, such as solar variability. Therefore, climate change is ‘unstoppable’ and cannot be affected or modified by controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, as is proposed in current legislation.

These results are in conflict with the conclusions of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and also with some recent research publications based on essentially the same data. However, they are supported by the results of the US-sponsored Climate Change Science Program (CCSP).

The report is published in the December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society [DOI: 10.1002/joc.1651]. The authors are Prof. David H. Douglass (Univ. of Rochester), Prof. John R. Christy (Univ. of Alabama), Benjamin D. Pearson (graduate student), and Prof. S. Fred Singer (Univ. of Virginia).

The fundamental question is whether the observed warming is natural or anthropogenic (human-caused). Lead author David Douglass said: “The observed pattern of warming, comparing surface and atmospheric temperature trends, does not show the characteristic fingerprint associated with greenhouse warming. The inescapable conclusion is that the human contribution is not significant and that observed increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases make only a negligible contribution to climate warming.”

Co-author John Christy said: “Satellite data and independent balloon data agree that atmospheric warming trends do not exceed those of the surface. Greenhouse models, on the other hand, demand that atmospheric trend values be 2-3 times greater. We have good reason, therefore, to believe that current climate models greatly overestimate the effects of greenhouse gases. Satellite observations suggest that GH models ignore negative feedbacks, produced by clouds and by water vapor, that diminish the warming effects of carbon dioxide.”

Co-author S. Fred Singer said: “The current warming trend is simply part of a natural cycle of climate warming and cooling that has been seen in ice cores, deep-sea sediments, stalagmites, etc., and published in hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed journals. The mechanism for producing such cyclical climate changes is still under discussion; but they are most likely caused by variations in the solar wind and associated magnetic fields that affect the flux of cosmic rays incident on the earth’s atmosphere. In turn, such cosmic rays are believed to influence cloudiness and thereby control the amount of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface and thus the climate.” Our research demonstrates that the ongoing rise of atmospheric CO2 has only a minor influence on climate change. We must conclude, therefore, that attempts to control CO2 emissions are ineffective and pointless. – but very costly.

Now on the web at
Contact: Dr S Fred Singer, President, SEPP 703-920-2744

If TAMU student:

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Arctic Sea Ice Re-Freezing at Record Pace, says NASA

Posted by Tony Listi on December 13, 2007

Melting and now freezing again?! Just like the past natural cyclical history of the ice in the Arctic?! Go to the site (an environmentalist one too!) and see the dramatic NASA picture of just how much ice refroze in a matter of 2 months!! Why are people so concerned (at least outwardly; How many of them practice what they preach?) about this fraud alarmism??? Clark, I expect a reply if you really have the open-mindedness characteristic of a true person of Reason. 

Arctic Sea Ice Re-Freezing at Record Pace
After Record Summer Melt, Recovery Still Lags

12.12.2007 9:38 AM

By Dan Shapley

The record melting of Arctic sea ice observed this summer and fall led to record-low levels of ice in both September and October, but a record-setting pace of re-freezing in November, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Some 58,000 square miles of ice formed per day for 10 days in late October and early November, a new record.

Still, the extent of sea ice recorded in November was well shy of the median extent observed over the past quarter century, as the image from Nov. 14 (above, right) shows. The dramatic increase in ice is evident, when compared to the record-low amount observed Sept. 16 (below, right). In both images, 100% sea ice is shown in white, and the yellow line encompasses the area ion which there was at least 15% ice cover in at least half of the 25-year record for the given month.

The record melting of Arctic sea ice this summer was widely viewed as a harbinger of global warming, though unusual wind patterns played a role and many factors affecting fluctuations in Arctic ice are poorly understood by scientists. Still, so much ice melted that the fabled Northwest passage opened for the first time in history, and the melting broke a record, set just two years ago and by a country mile, that at the time was seen as unprecedented and worrying.

The area of persistent open water north of Alaska and eastern Siberia, according to NASA, is unusual for this time of year, though not unprecedented. This area was also largely free of ice in November 2002 and especially November 2006.

Here’s how NASA explains the record re-growth of ice over that 10-day period in October and November:

“Record sea ice growth rates after a record low may sound surprising at first, but it is not completely unexpected. The more ice that survives the summer melt, the less open water there is for new ice to grow. When summertime ice extent hits a record low, on the other hand, large areas of open water provide room for the ice to grow once temperatures cool off enough. While summer warming of the upper ocean surface can cause wintertime sea ice regrowth to lag initially, as the fall season progresses and sunlight weakens, the rate of energy loss from the ocean increases. That heat loss coupled with a large area of open water creates ideal conditions for sea ice to form rapidly over large areas.”

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The History of Sola Scriptura (Revised)

Posted by Tony Listi on December 11, 2007

In this discussion, I would like to focus only on the history of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and what it means to the Protestant. I appreciate your charitable cooperation in confining your comments to these subjects alone.  Surely Protestants have some appreciation for history, no?

I would like to know the answers to the following questions: Historically, who held this belief of sola Scriptura? When did these believers live? Who were the very first people to hold this belief? When in history did these first believers live? etc.

As far as I know, the first people to hold the doctrine of sola Scriptura, or something like it, were the early (first four centuries AD) heretics such as the Arians. They believed this because they couldn’t trace the doctrine further back than their leader Arius (d.c. 336). And except for these heretics, early Christians did not believe in sola Scriptura. In fact, strictly speaking, such a doctrine was impossible: there was no commonly defined “Scripture” to which one should “only” refer until 397 AD when the canon was created by the Church. Additionally, Bibles were not plentiful or capable of being mass produced. The Gospel was preached, not handed out. If the first 400 years worth of Christians, those closest to the time and culture of Christ and the Bible’s authors, did not believe in sola Scriptura, why should today’s Christians?

The Church Fathers (e.g. St. Augustine, Origen, Irenaeus, etc.) certainly did not hold this view. They always appealed to the history of doctrine and apostolic succession, which for them were always the clincher and coup de grace in their arguments against heretics.

With this past history (or, more appropriately, lack thereof) in mind, one can conclude that the doctrine of sola Scriptura, for all practical purposes, was created by Martin Luther (and thus widely adopted because of him) in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, a whole 15 centuries after the life of Christ.

The implications of this fact of history for the Protestant are quite interesting and profound. He would have to believe that all Christians from the time of St. Peter up until the time of Luther were all dead wrong in not accepting the doctrine of sola Scriptura. That’s a long time and a lot of people weighed against Luther’s conscience and “plain reason.” In fact, it seems as if the Protestant, to hold true to sola Scriptura, must despise all of historical precedent and the opinions of his spiritual ancestors (like a modern American liberal actually), at least selectively on particular important issues, which they are also the ones they disagree with Catholicism on. Additionally, he would be conferring greater authority on one man, Luther, than 15 centuries of consistent Christian thought and tradition on this issue going back to the very beginning of the Church. You tell me, does this seem plainly reasonable?

Now, I am open to objections to this account of history. Tell me why it is wrong and cite your historical sources for me, if you would be so kind. No groundless conspiracy theories please.

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Renewal of Christian Ethics and Devotion in Public vs. Modern Western Culture

Posted by Tony Listi on December 9, 2007

This is such a great overview of current modern Western culture with regard to morality and religion, how we arrived at this culture through liberal Protestantism and secular philosophy, and the need for a renewal of Christian ethics, devotion, and activism in the public sphere.

When Everything is Permitted
by Wolfhart Pannenberg
Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 80 (February 1998): 26-30.

It is a striking oddity of our modern circumstance that the subject of morality and ethics is assumed to be a matter of public significance, while the subject of God is thought to be an esoteric matter of interest to theologians and “people who go in for that sort of thing.” It was not always so, and it is very much worth asking how we arrived at this present circumstance, and what might be done about it.

Today’s public talk about moral values is usually framed in terms of a search for a moral consensus that is no longer self-evident-indeed that to many people is not evident at all. The search for a moral consensus based on a common human nature has, for some time now, replaced the social function of religious belief, which was long thought to be the indispensable foundation of social peace. For most of history, unity of religion was deemed essential to the unity of society and culture. That assumption was shattered in the religious wars in Europe of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a consequence of the wars of religion, precisely the opposite conclusion was drawn: Social peace requires that religious beliefs, and disagreements over religious beliefs, be determinedly disregarded. Although established religion continued for some time in most of Europe, religion no longer served its earlier function. In the place of religion, concepts of human nature became fundamental in theories of society and public culture.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American Culture, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »