1/26/18

An Open Letter to Young People Leaving the Faith

By: David Harris

So you’ve decided that you’re no longer a Christian. You don’t believe the basic tenants of the faith, you now consider its traditions and practices to be a waste of your time and you maintain that you’ve actually felt this way for quite a while – you’ve just now been able to come to terms… to peace with where you stand. You know that you’re family (or perhaps your friends/community/etc.) isn’t happy about this - they don’t understand why you would turn your back on what you’ve been raised in. But in your mind it’s more their problem – after all, you’re only being true to yourself – how you feel, how you believe, how you want to act.

I want to have a discussion with you – not an argument, not a finger-pointing session – just a discussion of this decision and some things that you may not have thought about. Now, truth be told: some things I say will offend you – there’s no getting around that, but to be fair, the very fact that you’ve left your faith offends me a bit. I have to be honest. So let’s both try to have a little understanding and grace. I don’t have any interest in cutting all ties with you because you’re not a Christian, but I obviously will view you in a different fashion. You weren’t born yesterday – you know what the Bible says about those who leave the faith (they were never a part of it to begin with).


I think I’d like to start this discussion by reminding you that you’re not an anomaly. Maybe this is just because I tend to think on a sociological/cultural level. You’re a product of the West and Western Culture. While this traditionally meant that you would be raised in and probably adhere to some stripe of Christianity, it now increasingly means that either you’ll be raised as “nothing” in regards to religious affiliation, or it means that if you did, you’ll statistically abandon that faith in early adulthood. Thus for years, you were “already gone” (to quote Ken Ham). You are part of a larger trend of young people, millennials, who are leaving the church – in droves. Why do I go into this? Because your decision isn’t anything special in a zoomed out sense- I could make a decent argument that you’re just part of a movement within a larger cultural trend that is going increasingly secular.

I know, I know, that doesn’t really matter to you much – I think my even thinking about the cultural trends and how your decision fits in them just goes to my distrust of “going with the flow” in general, and I view your decision as more or less just going with the flow. However, I realize that you are an individual person. You have thoughts, feelings and emotions that I don’t wish to diminish. I am interested in your story, your journey and your ideas and am perfectly willing to listen and discuss them. However, I need to tell you – regardless of who you are and where you’re reading this, I feel that in some way, I know you. You see, I’ve seen you and others like you do the same thing since the time I was very young. It’s almost like clockwork; I wasn’t and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised when I found out that you didn’t believe.  
    
Is my eye-rolling at your abandoning your faith coming from a sense of pride? After all, of the many peers that also grew up in Christian homes around me, almost none maintained a faith beyond high school – even fewer through college, but I did, despite attending one of the most left-leaning and Christian hostile schools around. Instead of giving into the pressures to conform to secular culture I dug in even deeper – every assault on my faith becoming another shovel-full out of the Christian trench I endeavored to dig around myself. By the time I graduated with my Masters degree, I had been beat up real badly, but the enemy had dispersed, my weapon was still in my hand and I was still standing on two feet. Maybe I have reason to be proud? Proud that I stuck it out while others didn’t. I kept praying, I kept reading my Bible and I kept developing a Christian worldview. But no. I have no reason to boast. I sincerely believe that it was God and not me that kept me in the faith – if left up to me, I would have run for the exit. The world is enticing. Illicit sex is fun. Alcohol tastes good. Drugs take away the pain, depression and questions. Swearing makes you feel good about your command of your own tongue. Anger is like taking a pill that makes you feel twice as strong. The problem with all these things is that the next day you feel worse than you did before. No, it was God that kept me in the faith, not me; I understand the enticement.

I’m sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. You don’t even believe what I’m saying. Do you not see how difficult it is to even have a discussion about these things when the common ground you thought you once stood on erodes away? When you don’t believe that God had a hand in any of these things anyway… or do you? Here’s what I’ve observed: For years I’ve watched young people drop their faith like a heavy bag of potatoes – but I’ve known almost none who have done so for reasons that have anything to do with ideas – i.e., are openly challenging the tenants – the foundations of Christian belief. Instead, the abandonment is nine times out of ten associated with a desire to do or act ways contrary to biblical teachings. Usually this is eloquently termed as “I want to do what I want to do.” What is often so puzzling to me is how much those who decide that they want to do what they want to do end up doing so much of what they’ve always done... sorry, that was a bit of a tongue twister – let me clarify this.

Essentially, you want to hold on to the basic tenants of the morality that you were raised in. You still want people to do unto you as you would do to them. You don’t want people lying about you, and you don’t want to be a serial liar about other people. You want to maintain this shroud of Christianity without adhering to the parts that make you uncomfortable. You obviously haven’t given up morality in total – you still, at least it seems, believe in justice in a civil sense – you just don’t want to believe in cosmic justice directed toward you in a personal sense. I guess my overarching question is related to the idea that you want part of the system but not the whole – you want the benefits without the costs.
Why? Why would you accept the practical tenants of the faith you were raised in, yet deny the parts that make you feel guilty?

I think I know why.

You’ve been told by a lot of people that it’s better for you to be honest with yourself than to live a lie – you’re better off “out in the open.” Let me qualify what I think is true about this idea very quickly: You are indeed better off not being a hypocrite – at least in terms of being in the Body of Christ, being involved in ministry – possibly even teaching younger members of the church – the Bible indicates that judgment is worse for those lead others astray. It’s also better not to string others along who think you believe one way when you actually believe another way. However, I find a fundamental problem with telling you that you’re “better off being honest,” and it’s this: you’re not any more honest – you’ve merely become a mirror image of what you were. Whereas before you were a “Christian” but didn’t want to accept personal Christian morality and yield to the commands of the Bible, now you’re secular but don’t want to yield to the commands of secular morality – you still want to hang on to the vestiges of  system that you’ve always lived in. While you may deny this, it’s inevitably true as long as you continue to value any good thing – because all good things come from God, from the convenience of your smart phone to the nurse who went out of their way to make sure you were cared for after your accident, checking on you every half-hour instead of chatting up with her co-workers while you suffered. These may seem unrelated, but they both exist because this culture is founded on Christian principles.
Where am I going with this? I want to think about the more macro results of your decision. The focus on the personal nature of the Christian faith should not be underplayed. I sincerely hope that the abandonment of personal Christian morality will eventually result in a providential return to the Christian faith for you, and it’s possible that right now being “honest with yourself” is how that is to be accomplished. However, I want to briefly consider the rest of us for a moment. As I mentioned above, you are part of a larger trend. While you probably want to hang on to much of Christian morality in a general sense (in other words, you want to be nice and want others to be nice to you; you still want to live in a culture and society framed and founded in Christianity), you’re joining a force within society at large that is damaging and destructive. Where there isn’t adherence to the Ten Commandments then there is a guaranteed greater amount of suffering. More crime, more misery, more death. Look around the world and throughout history if you don’t believe me. The happiest and most prosperous societies are and have always been those that have the most direct interaction with the Christian faith.

A lot of my Christian brothers and sisters might chide me at this point – after all, am I hinting at forcing my morality on others… on you?!

In a way I guess I am, or at least I would. I know that I lack the authority to impose Christian morality on you in most circumstances, but when you’re in my home, you’ll follow God’s rules (by the way, you’re always welcome – don’t misread my tone).

Why? Because what you do affects the rest of us. It affects me, my wife, my family – we would all be better off if you would at least live by the biblical standards of morality. Luckily you’re still dishonest with yourself enough that you follow many of these standards. My point and plea is simple: If you’re going to accept half, why not accept whole? Why deny the parts that make you uncomfortable? You know that you’re life is going to be uncomfortable regardless, right? You may think that you’re just adding freedom to your life, but that freedom’s twin is misery – you will still suffer, it’s just that your only remedy will be either pleasure or misguided self-righteousness (as is found in false religions).  

Look. I’ll always care about you. I’ll always love you. You can always count on me and call on me when you need a friend. But I’m not going to tiptoe around you just because you've changed how you want to live, what you believe or are just having an identity crisis. Instead, how about you tiptoe around me? I know what my morality is and where it comes from - and I'd be happy to welcome you back to it, even if you're just working through everything and aren't sure what you believe. We could talk about it, discuss it and even debate it. I may be a busy guy but I'll make time because you're important to me. 

My friend, you’re an unregenerate sinner. That’s what you’ve always been. But it’s not too late. Repent. Believe the gospel. Come to actually know the One whose death has the power to pay for your sins. You have the benefit of already knowing the Bible. Use it.

Then you won’t care a bit about being true to yourself. You’ll just want to be true to Him.

1/24/18

A Review of "Look Who's Back" by David Wdendt


by Frank Russo

Imagine how one of history’s most notorious mass murderers would react if he awoke in modern day Germany? Imagine no longer for you can now see it for free on Netflix,(although I wouldn't recommend it),.
 
Our erstwhile Furher awakens in 2011 Berlin and is promptly confused. He sees a city that is currently not under siege by Russian forces and a noticeable lack of rubble, his first interaction being with three young soccer holigans who he mistakes for Hitler youth. He wanders away into crowds before the Brandenburg gate where he is mistaken for a Hitler impersonator. What follows is a slapstick comedy and possibly the only funny part of the film. Confronting a mime, taking pictures with tourists and being maced by a German mother taking her child out for a stroll before crashing into a newspaper stand and finding out that the year is 2014.

In a strange turn of events he is found by a struggling filmmaker who believes him to be a method actor. What follows is a tour of Germany where Hitler has “unscripted” as per what the film says, interactions with everyday Germans. This style,made famous by “Borat” and “The Dictator” films, plays out again with forgettable humor. The only scene I can remember from this segment is Hitler's confusion on the new usage of “the n word”. I saw the film 15 minutes ago as of writing this. Of the only non political part of the film that's all I remember. Ohh and he shot a dog.

The Furher and his antics then get a television show where he begins broadcasting speeches to the masses, who find it funny and comedic. This culminates in a film deal, a quick realization that he's the real deal and a twist in which Hitler is shot, but only within the film within the film. He then drives off signing copies of his book while he extrapolates on how the current political situation in Europe suits his purposes over footage of different neo Nazis groups and leaders tainted with the extremist brush. Cue dramatic music.

It wasn't a good film. It had funny parts, but only for those historically astute on the third Reich. It wasn't nearly as vulgar as “Borat” but neither was it as funny as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in “Hold that Ghost”. It was a preachy anti Hitler film that utterly failed to prove its own point.

Let me extrapolate on that. I'm not against anti-Nazi films. I love them. The third Reich rightfully deserves to be loathed. However, this film didn't do that. It's portrayals of German citizens as xenophobes doesn't pass the test. Whenever the topic of immigration comes up they speak of crime and how the immigrants are not making Germany better. The film doesn't show any of this of course but you can find the evidence of that. (Sweden is the rape capitol of Europe, Brussels, Paris, Cologne,). The one neo Nazi they openly interview and insert, (a scripted encounter with an actor), says that he would follow everything Hitler would do ). The attempts to caricature ordinary Germans as Nazis fails. The only only who makes racially charged comments in this film is Hitler, (and it's only once at the end),.

The film also fails in even making Hitler look bad. When Hitler speaks he speaks about how the mass immigration is changing the German character to a point of it being non German. He speaks about poverty, unemployment and how television exists to distract the masses. He seems rational and that's the scary thing. Germans by and large begin to support this “actor” without any real opposition, even in Germany. This is simply a ridiculous idea in the era of scrutiny that exists in the modern era but for the sake of film I'll overlook this nuanced point of everyone loving Hitler because he's “funny” on the t.v.

Everyone is using him for their careers and the money making opportunity he represents and at this point  the filmmaker who discovered him realizes he's really Hitler and grows a conscience, (Nazis being okay as just a joke as opposed to being serious apparently), and confronts him with a gun. He talks about how evil Hitler is and Hitler sagely smiles and extrapolates on how people elected him, (not necessarily true but true in spirit), and how everyone is just like him inside  and that he can't be gotten rid of. He asks if banning elections would make Sawatski, (the director), happy.

What it all comes down to is this, the only argument that this anti-Hitler/anti fascism film puts forth is Hitler himself. His name alone. That’s not an argument for why we should embrace the leftist dream of modern progressives this film obviously supports. I should  like massive immigration of people from nations that hold contrary values to that of one’s own that demand that nation change because Hitler wouldn't like it? Hitler loved Dogs and hated smoking as well. That doesn't mean I should strangle my dog and light one up. If you're going to virtue signal on the merit of one character go all the way. The  fact that this is obviously an allegory for the rise of right wing nationalist leaders in the vein of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, (despite predating the latter it's not too far that leftist fans would use the film as a critique of Trump). The sad fact of the matter is that saying “He's Hitler” isn't a real argument. The Nazis are evil yes, but if a populace is not intellectually engaged and explained to why you're not making a case. For me I was taught about the evils of the Third Reich my whole life until certain negative influences started to poke holes and I asked that one question that can destroy world's. Why?

From a Christian worldview we can provide an answer in the brotherhood of all men under our creator. However this film does not have a Christian worldview. In fact if I recall it portrayed Christians negatively though I can not remember the exact moment or scene, (it's a very forgettable movie if not for it's outlandish premise). The issues experienced in Germany were not made up. Inflation, hunger, poverty and national humiliation. Hitler was not an anomaly. In fact he was a logical next step if one looks at history and his sin is no greater or less than the men and women who shared his vision and indeed attempted to carry them out.

The film depicts people as “good” who, while seduced by Hitler’s speeches, would wake up in the end. Hitler and people like him are just evil. But how many people do you think are “like” Hitler? I know I was, possibly still am. Angry, nationalistic and aware. The key difference is Christ who has the power to strip away racial hatred and envy. This film does not have that as it's premise and thus has no room to condemn. In fact if anything it makes a case for Hitler. If people are so easily led by speeches and “Nazis are under our beds” as the closing monologue would have you believe then what hope does this world have without Christ? All one can truly say is that these things will end only when the title character of “Look Who’s Back” is the Messiah.

The language, the blasphemy, the poor message and obvious leftist smear of everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders as a Nazi make this film unwatchable.

1/22/18

How to engage Social Justice Warriors- My experience at Silent Sam

By: Jonathan Harris
If you prefer listening to this true story, click the youtube player below.




Maybe it was Southern heritage, the honor of a family name, or Christian conviction. Or perhaps I just needed to prove something to myself. More than likely, it was a combination of ingredients that motivated me to confront the social justice warriors staging a non stop sit-in below the Silent Sam statue at UNC Chapel Hill. The statue itself, depicting a student enlisted in the Confederate army, had stood for 104 years, originally erected in honor of the 50th year anniversary of the beginning of the War Between the States and paid for by fund-raises sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and university alumni. Though the soldier depicted carries a rifle, it was nicknamed “Silent Sam” since the Canadian sculptor John Wilson purposefully did not include a cartridge box on the soldier’s belt making it impossible to fire the figurative weapon. Sam stands to this day right by the Battle-Vance-Pettigrew building facing North, a symbol of the university students who withdrew from their studies in order to protect their homes, state, and country.

The protestors had already been on campus for a week before I decided to engage them. Listening to local media outlets praise their “noble” stand made me feel sick. I found myself angry with each new report. Is this the America I live in now, where trashing the reputation of brave men defending their homes is considered heroic? What will it mean for my children to grow up in a world where duty, honor, and sacrifice are no longer sacred? I had already been offering up my grievances and advice to the to the most efficient complaint department I knew of—Facebook.

And then something happened—conviction set in. I knew I could write social media posts all day but the protesters would likely never see them, and even if they did they would probably not be convinced by my arguments. I would just be another faceless man behind a screen shining a spotlight on their immaturity and causing resentment toward myself. I would be accomplishing nothing except to solidify their already fool-headed notions. What they needed to see in me was the same thing that I needed to see in them—worth. They were not, as my previous pattern of thought suggested, the enemy—though they were being used by him—and I was not their enemy.

A plan formed in my mind. I would give myself an opportunity to view the protesters as men and women made in the image of God. I would look into their eyes and see humanity even if they could not find humanity in the heroes of traditional Christian America. I could only hope that as we interacted something inside of them would recognize the same intrinsic worth in myself.

And so I set out on a Sunday afternoon with two large packs of sports drinks in tow. I knew the old adage, “You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.” Now it was time to put it to the test. After all, it was better than sitting at home angry! As I approached the Confederate monument I could see about 15 or 20 people loitering in the shadow of Silent Sam. There were a few older folks and a few minorities, but most of the protesters were young caucasians not much younger than myself. The area surrounding the statue was fairly messy, and among other signs attached to the base hung a large black sheet of fabric with white lettering covering up the interpretive plaque. The sign read, “We will not be intimidated by Silent Sam.” Two smaller signs contained the messages, “No Hate,” and “No Fear.”

I walked past a male guitarist singing protest songs toward two student-aged females sitting on a bench. I proceeded to ask if they and their friends would like some Gatorades seeing as the temperature was so hot. They were both appreciative and kind, doubtless miss-taking me as a supporter of their cause. I asked one of them to take a picture of me in front of the statue which she was more than happy to do. I then inquired as to who the organizer of the protest was. They both pointed to a young student seated on a bench with five or six fellow students perched around her in a circle. I approached the group with more excitement than trepidation. The organizer was the same person I had seen on a local news broadcast the evening before. “Perhaps I could reason with her,” I thought? “They look harmless enough?” I interrupted the discussion to ask where I could place the sports drinks I had brought for them. She thanked me and motioned toward a table behind her. I set the drinks down and made my first move.

“Would you mind if I sat with ya’ll and asked a few questions?”

The organizer warmly replied, “Of course, discussion is what we’re all about,” as she moved over to make room for me on the bench.

Smiling, I accepted the offer. I could feel the anticipation as the group silently waited for what I had to say. I started with an opened-ended question.

“Why are you all protesting this monument? I know what the news says, but what is your personal motivation?”

A skinny looking young man with a fair complexion suspected something. He stared into my eyes and in a condescending tone challenged, “What do you think we are protesting?!”

I gently responded, “I assume racism?”

He verified my answer, nodding his head in agreement.

I followed up my inquiry. “If you’re all against racism why not go down the street to Planned Parenthood where three times as many black babies as white babies are being killed right now. Wouldn’t that serve your cause better than protesting something that allegedly happened more than a hundred years ago?”

The cat was out of the bag. I had shaken the beehive and the stingers were coming out. All at once those in the circle frantically interrupted each other trying to catch my attention so as to refute me. It was then I realized the power I wielded. I could effectively select which protestor I chose to engage. Since I was at best a misguided young man and at worse an enemy to the cause of social justice from their perspective, whomever set me straight or humiliated me would be the hero to their comrades. As the one and only villain, I could choose whom the hero to oppose me would be.

To avoid confusion, I pointed toward each student I would engage with. The others quieted down as I listened to each argument for a pro-abortion position. A female student told me that abortion reduces the number of children raised in dismal circumstances. I pointed out that one could also make the same argument for slavery since living conditions under American slavery were superior to tribal living. Another student asserted that a fetus was not a person. I asked why someone who was pro-slavery could not also define a slave as a “non-person?” It was rationally argued that the decision to abort should be a private one made exclusively between a woman and her doctor, without government interference. I inquired why the decision to own a slave could not also be a private one made between a slave master and a slave trader? My intention was to use the protestor’s cartoonish conception of slavery against their “sunshine and roses” view of abortion, thus hopefully encouraging them to second-guess their ethical system. It seemed to be working. At least, they were running out of arguments, or so I thought?

One of the more memorable moments of the whole encounter came next. A male student asked me, “What if I go out one night, get drunk, forget about protection, and have sex with a girl I don’t know? I don’t want her to be punished with a baby.”

I wanted to cry. “There is a better way,” I encouraged him. “My wife and I are Christians. We chose to abstain from having sexual intercourse until we said our marriage vows a year ago. If we had an accident, our child would be born into a stable home with two parents who loved each other.”

It was like the world had stopped. A miracle had occurred. A full second of silence. The look in the young man’s eyes told me he had no idea what I was talking about. As I scanned the faces in the circle I felt as if I could read their thoughts. “Is what he described even possible?” I sensed them saying internally. “Who does that anymore?” their awkward expressions seemed to query.

Out of the corner of my eye I could tell the pale looking man was visibly angry. Years ago a street preacher told me about how he used hecklers to draw a crowd. Engaging with a bully draws an audience and spreads the message, especially as listeners contrast the message of the bully with that of the preacher. Bullies aren’t generally looked upon favorably. I pointed at the pale looking male student who had been trying to interrupt repeatedly.

“Even if abortion does target black communities,” He forcibly contended, “This monument is racist, so why would you support it?”

Previously, I had evaded a similar argument that got lost in the cross fire of discussion to which I responded with a passing remark that identified me as a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and hence a likely Silent Sam supporter. It was now up to me to defend the Confederate memorial. Fortunately, I had already contemplated what I hoped to be an unexpected and effective response. The stated contention of the social justice warriors was that memorials to Confederate soldiers were monuments to slavery and by extension racism. The problem with this state of affairs was the offense such displays formed in students. I knew there were two primary problems with this interpretation. First, there are no interpretive markers or plaques on any Confederate memorial that say anything positive about racism or slavery. Second, it is the way someone is conditioned to think about a statue that causes offense, not the statue itself. If I could motivate the protestors to question their conditioning based on the meaning behind the interpretive plaque, I may be able to introduce them to a paradigm that not only made sense of Confederate memorials, but perhaps reality itself. I responded.

“I have three grandfathers who fought for the Confederacy. Two of them were killed during the war. They were dirt poor farmers, owned no slaves, and had a choice to make. Either defend their families, homes, and property, or watch them get destroyed by Federal troops. The local church where the family records were kept was burned by Sherman’s men, and it was not until recently that we were able to even trace our genealogy because of it. When I see this statue, I don’t see a statue to politicians or governments, but to soldiers. And while this statue is meant to honor the students of UNC, I think about my grandfathers and their sacrifice when I look upon it.”

I sensed a small amount of empathy as I ended my short speech. Millennials, such as myself, are accustomed to associating victimhood with virtue. To even ponder the plight of a Confederate soldier in victim terms was an immense accomplishment toward challenging their conditioning.

Not everyone was positively affected however. The student who had challenged me was gaining color in his previously pale face. He started rambling about an article in The Atlantic on Robert E. Lee. I informed him of Dr. Brion McClanahan’s refutation of the article. He told me that secession was treason. I countered by citing the ratification agreements. He asserted that a Confederate statue killed someone in Charlottesville two weeks earlier. I asked how we could even have a rational discussion if it was ok to attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects. This particular argument he did seem to realize was not a very advantageous one, but not to be undeterred, he moved on to yet another attack. Alexander Stephens, the vice-president of the Confederacy, believed whites were superior to blacks. I asked him if he was in favor of tearing down monuments to Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman since they felt the same way. To this remonstrance he astonishingly declared with defiant indignation, “No, Sherman is a hero and should have killed all the Southerners!” This did not go over well with his friends, who at this point seemed more interested in converting me than destroying me. One of them advised him to cool off and listen, a prescription he did not take, instead opting to leave in a furious huff.

By this time the number of protestors listening to our discourse had swelled to as many as twenty including additional students, members of the community, and what looked like professors. It became necessary for me to repeat the statement about my family more than once as newcomers to the discussion would ask the same questions. I found it especially interesting that as audience members heard me repeat myself, they started creating exceptions for me in their attacks on Confederate memorial supporters. One female student emphatically said, in the presence of the other protesters, “Confederate soldiers fought for hate,” then glancing at me continued, “Except your ancestors.” She wasn’t being sarcastic either. No one said “KKK go away” to me. No one called me a Nazi. I was finally something Southerners have always desired to be—human. A misguided human in their eyes perhaps, but human nonetheless.

Then something unexpected happened. Whatever rapport I had gained I felt was lost in one instant. Wanting to challenge the protestor’s assumptions further I queried as to why the interpretive plaque on the base of the monument was covered by a large sign? My intention was to demonstrate that the original purpose for the monument’s existence was incongruent with the prevailing opinion of the social justice warriors. A fresh face I did not recognize toward my left blurted out, “It’s covering the chair!”

“The chair?” I thought to myself. “What’s so significant about a chair?” I asked the young man to please explain what he meant by his statement.

“You know there’s an engraving on the base of the statue don’t you?” He queried in a tone which resembled the way an adult explains something obvious to a child.

“Yes of course,” I responded. “A young lady in a flowing robe represents the State of North Carolina. She is busy compelling a student to arise, leave his books, carry a sword, and defend her.”

He could not muster his words fast enough. “And who do you think made the chair the student is sitting on?” He stammered.

With a perplexed look I ventured an answer. “The sculptor?”

“No. Who do you think made chairs one hundred years ago?”

I was lost, but still attempted an answer. “Furniture makers?”

“No, slaves!”

“Ok?” I said with a quizzical look. “Even if that is true, which I am skeptical of, why is that relevant?”

He pressed further. “Do you know how much it hurts minority students to have to walk past a statue depicting a chair one of their ancestors likely made?”

“This man cannot be serious,” I thought to myself. “This has to be one of the worst arguments I’ve ever heard, but he seems dead serious about it.” I opted to try to lighten the mood with what I thought was a little humor.

Replying I said, “Well, It seems like a fairly well made chair to me. I think if my great grandfather had made it I would be proud!”

Little did I know it, but I was starting to dig my own grave with some of the students as my refusal to take the argument before me seriously came across as insensitive.

“Slaves built this entire campus!” the young man cried in an elevated tone.

I made what I perceived to be my check-mate move. “So why don’t we tear down the entire campus while we are at it?”

I thought I had won, and perhaps in a few of the protestor’s minds I had. But what came next knocked me off my figurative feet. Standing behind the circle was a middle age woman with blonde hair. Almost shouting she proclaimed, “White privilege exists just as much today as it did back then! Black students still don’t have the same opportunities as whites and Silent Sam continues to represent this fact!”

“What are you talking about?” I said, with some degree of bewilderment. “Of course they have the same opportunities. If anything they have more opportunities through things like affirmative action!”

I quickly learned that technically right and strategically right were two very different things. A sea of rolling eyes and audible scoffs sounded as my comment “triggered” half my audience. About ten protestors exited the conversation. I was beginning to think I would lose everyone when suddenly a middle-aged hipster-looking man carrying a stack of hymnals drew the protester’s attention. I asked an older gentleman, who had taken a position beside me, who the newcomer was. It turned out that a number of different religious groups had taken it upon themselves to support the protest by bringing food and beverages to the students and holding religious services beside the statue. In this case, it was a local Quaker pastor with members of his congregation offering moral approval for the now even more vindicated protestors.

Most of the students declined to participate and as a result side conversations began to form as the singing commenced. I quickly found myself in a conversation with the elderly man and a middle-age woman. The man asked me what at first seemed to be an irrelevant question. “Why do miscarriages take place?” Judging from the smirk on his face, I did not think his question was of a biological nature. I recalled averting his attempts to enter the abortion discussion earlier, but now it was time to face the music.

“Well, as a Christian,” I started off, “I believe as a result of the Fall of Adam nature itself bears a curse. Miscarriages are ultimately a result of sin.”

The old man hung his head and laughed for what seemed like an eternity. “Is something funny about that?” I asked.

Catching his breadth he responded with a shake of the head, “Yeah! You’re worse off than I thought.”

It later occurred to me that my major crime was not that I opposed removing Confederate monuments, but the fact that I was an outspoken Christian. The Confederacy may be offensive to social justice warriors, but I felt most disdained when opposing abortion, favoring traditional marriage, and holding to the doctrine of original sin.

The middle-aged blonde haired woman, who had only arrived on the scene in time to hear my apparently distasteful comments on affirmative action, possessed what I only know how to describe as “indignant curiosity” as she proceeded to half lecture and half interrogate me on my knowledge of the history of race-relations. To her credit, when I answered her questions she did listen, which was reason enough for me to stick around.

As the singing had ceased and our discussion progressed I noticed an audience forming once again. Six protestors sat around me in a semi-circle making arguments, asking questions, and trying to win me to their point of view. The main argument I kept hearing repeatedly was that Silent Sam represented white supremacy because in 1913 Julian Carr asserted in the dedication speech that after the war Confederate soldiers had, “saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South,” and that he had, “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady.” Fortunately, I had read the dedication speech before attending the protest and was prepared for the debate. I knew better than to try to defend the speech itself. Though the detestable phrases seem to be more like off-handed remarks in an address of over 3,200 words, a little poison can ruin even the best looking beverage. Instead I made two basic arguments. 1) If we tear down Confederate monuments, we also have to tear down Union ones if we are to be consistent. 2) To claim the erectors of the monument did so for the purpose of white supremacy is simply prejudicial conjecture since they left no such evidence on the interpretive plaque.

After agreeing with the group that Julian Carr’s comments were repulsive, I proceeded to ask why the union garrison did not help the poor half-beaten black lady? Looking around at confused looks I explained. “If you keep reading the speech, after the portion about him whipping the black woman it says that ‘she rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 600 [I miss-spoke, though no one noticed. It was actually 100.] Federal soldiers.’ Carr goes on to say that he ‘performed the pleasing duty [whipping her] in the immediate presence of the entire garrison.’”

To some defenders of Dixie my method may have appeared rather curious. Why would I begin my response by highlighting the dreadful nature of the very affair the protestors are using to bring down the monument? It’s actually rather simple. The social justice warriors were enraged and nothing I said would be capable of assuaging that rage. What I could do however is try to channel their rage, and in so doing show where such anger would lead. The Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer called this form of argument “taking the roof off” since it is meant to expose a bad argument by showing its unseen related consequences.

I followed up my statement with a question. “Why would the union garrison fail to punish Mr. Carr?”

The middle-aged woman confidently spoke. “It was a racist time in our country’s history. That’s why this monument must come down!”

“There it was!” I thought with exhilaration, “An acknowledgment that Federal troops may also have possessed racist tendencies.” I saw my opening and I went for it.

“I believe you are right. This monument was erected during the progressive era when “Birth of a Nation” was popular and Ota Benga, an African pygmy, was on full display in the “Monkey House” at the Bronx Zoo.” The North’s “treasury of counterfeit virtue” was losing money fast. I continued. “In fact, if we take a look at Abraham Lincoln and some of the early republican party’s state platforms we will see a great many racist statements there as well.”

No one seemed to want to argue these points with me. If anything, there was agreement. So I determined to drive my argument in all the way with a question. “If we are going to take this monument down, should we not also take down the Lincoln memorial?”

Turning my gaze to a curly brown-haired student on my right I heard, “Isn’t your argument a slippery slope fallacy?”

“No,” I started off, “A slippery slope would be if I told you that taking this monument down would also mean we necessarily would take the Lincoln memorial down. What I’m saying is the same argument you are using to take this monument down could sufficiently be used to take the Lincoln memorial down.”

The point seemed to have gotten through. He followed up with another question. “Ok, so let’s take the Lincoln memorial down. But first let’s take this one down. Do you agree?”

“No,” I answered once again with a half chuckle. “I’m not really for taking either down.”

“But clearly you admit that they’re both racist don’t you?” the curly haired student pressed.

“No, I merely stated that if you charge Silent Sam with the crime of being erected for the purpose of white supremacy, you could also charge the Lincoln memorial with the same crime.”

“But Silent Sam was erected because of white supremacy! Didn’t you hear what Julian Carr said?” the young student shot back.

One of the things I noticed when I first arrived at the protest was that select quotes from Julian Carr’s speech were readily available, while the interpretive plaque was purposefully covered up. I now had an opportunity to use this circumstance to further my second major argument.

“Let me ask you a question,” I gently stated. “Do you know there’s an interpretive plaque underneath the sheet covering the monument’s base?”

“Yes,” the curly haired student replied, wondering where I was going.

“Do you know what the plaque says?” I inquired.

None of the six protestors surrounding me seemed to know.

“It’s a shame we cannot just read it right now isn’t it?” I said with a smile that betrayed a hint of sarcasm.

Picking up his phone, the curly-haired protestor proclaimed, “I got it here. It says, ‘To the Sons of the University who entered the War of 1861-65 in answer to the call of their country and whose lives taught lessons of their great commander that duty is the sublimest word in the English language.’”

“There you have it,” I announced. “Duty. Duty, is the reason the Silent Sam memorial was erected.”

“Then why was it put up in 1913 when black people were being lynched around here?!” the middle-aged woman frantically declared.

My retort was direct. “The South was poor after the war and it took years to save up enough money to erect many of these monuments. They were erected by the children of those who came home injured or did not come home at all in an effort that future generations would not forget their sacrifice.”

The discourse took a turn at this point and rather than discussing the interpretive plaque we conversed about the merits of nationalism, sacrificing for one’s country, and the curly-haired student suggested I read “A People’s History of the United States,” by Howard Zinn.

When we finally came back to the subject of the monument I asked my first set-up question. “Where do you think the best place to go would be if you wanted to know what this monument stood for? Don’t you think the interpretive plaque would carry the intentions of the erectors more accurately than anything else?”

I could sense frustration mounting in more than one of the protestors. The  middle-aged woman’s face turn read again. “Why don’t you get it!” She rang in defiance. “These men were racists! This monument was meant to intimidate blacks! It was a racist time! It offends black students! We need to take it down!”

Figuratively speaking, it was now time to set my argument’s phaser from stun to kill. “If the purpose of the monument was to intimidate black people, then why didn’t the erectors simply put racially offensive statements on the interpretive plaque?”

Like clockwork the elderly man quickly replied, “They’re not going to put something like that out there for people to read. No one would accept it if that was the reason.”

“So you mean to tell me that in a thoroughly racist culture, the racists who erected this monument were not able to print a racist message on the interpretive plaque because it would offend all the racists?” I admit, exposing the foolishness of this position did cause me to feel my oats perhaps a little more than I should have as a Christian.                   

For the second time that afternoon there was a small moment of silence. The elderly man looked temporarily paralyzed, trying to think of how to respond. In the mean time a student to my left asked me why I would not want the monument to come down given that it offends people. I answered her question but deep down I knew the reason for my coming was complete. I informed her that there were people like me who would be offended if it came down. I also said that the reason for such offense is not because of the monument itself, but because of how some people are conditioned to think about the monument. I made it clear that I would rather help correct the conditioning than rip down a piece of history.

After this it was getting dark and I rose up to say goodbye to my new-found friends. As the crickets were chirping and the lightening bugs flashing I shook the hands of five of the protestors who were left speaking with me, with one of them offering me a hug. I gave each of them a card with my blog address on it which contained some of my writings on Southern history and most importantly to me, a Christian gospel presentation. No one refused my cards. As I made my way past tables of food and students studying in lawn chairs I noticed two protesters, one male and one female, who were part of the earlier conversation that afternoon. Walking up to them I offered my cards which they readily accepted, and then a unexpected thing happened. Both of them profusely thanked me for coming and proceeded to compliment me. As the female student nodded in agreement, the curly haired male student said he respected my beliefs and enjoyed the conversation. I reciprocated his kind words, and as we looked at each other I know we both recognized something deeper in our shared experience than mere arguments or political positions. We saw humanity. We saw value. We saw intrinsic worth in each other.

With a smile on my face and joy in my heart I walked through campus to the parking garage I had left my truck in. Not only had the Lord allowed me to defend his servants and my heroes, but I had been able to expose a group of 25-30 social justice warriors to a Christian pro-Southern conservative who was not a Klansman or a neo-Nazi. I had to wonder if they ever expected to really meet someone like me, even though I am just one of many who feel the same way.

The next day I noticed a comment on my blog from one of the protestors who had visited my website. It read, “Thanks for talking with us at Silent Sam yesterday. I see now that an evangelical viewpoint seems to be an anchor for you. I grew up (mostly) in the Presbyterian church but my dad's death changed all that (long story!)”

Going to her social media page I noticed this public statement about our conversation.
Today a Baptist seminary student showed up at Sam, bringing Gatorade and a highly self-referential opinion about the statues (i.e. "My great-grandfathers fought, they weren't bad people"). Many of us talked with him (he wasn't waving a flag so he just sat down with us) and I'm glad to say there was no ugliness whatsoever. I'm not sure his mind was changed--and I don't know if anyone's mind can be changed by a few hours of conversation--but I know that communication and listening are at the heart of true healing.
For once, I agree with this social justice warrior. Talking to the protestors with a listening ear was not a waste. After all, it was better than sitting at home angry!

1/20/18

A "white boy" profiled by cops?

Just to clarify- My point is that it’s very hard to take potential cases of discrimination from a personal incident and then claim that it is a sufficient bases in which to justify a belief in widespread systematic discrimination. If this were true my story alone would prove systematic discrimination against those of European descent. When I say I don’t discount stories of discrimination I’m saying they may very well be stories of discrimination, but they don’t always necessarily have to be for the purpose of ethnicity, and even if they are which is possible, they don’t necessarily prove systematic wise spread discrimination.

1/18/18

Sola Scriptura in the Early Church

By: Jonathan Harris

In an age of rampant skepticism and misinformation concerning the origin of the Bible, it is of vital importance for the church to understand not only the process of canonization, but the early church’s view on the authenticity of the books canonized. There is no doubt that any believer who interacts on any level in the world today will sooner or later  be asked the question, “Where did we get the Bible?” The modern assumption held by most individuals as a result of pop-fiction and modern academia is that the church itself simply “chose” through counciliar process to arbitrarily compile the books we know today as the Old and New Testaments. This of course erodes the foundation of Christianity itself, making the faith equivalent to every other man-made religious system. It is more than a little ironic that the stalwarts of the Christian faith in the early church (the very group of men accused of tampering with and/or choosing the text of Scripture) were the very ones contradicting this assertion, instead holding to what has come to be known since the reformation as sola sciptura. This work is dedicated to vindicating the doctrine for which they stood, thereby arming the modern Christian with an answer to give to those who would carry such faulty assumptions concerning the sacred cannon.

The canon of Scripture was not determined authoritative by a “more” authoritative establishment, namely the church, but was confirmed by the church as an entity already possessing supreme authority over the institution that verified its reliability. The Scriptures, in their original characteristic, are not made a standard by any humanly devised system of veracity, but stand in judgment themselves over any such system.The Scriptures are self-confirming and have been treated universally as such by Christians, including those of the early and patristic periods. It is the aim of this work to demonstrate, using historical evidence, that the early and patristic church believed in a self-confirming and authoritative canon that they themselves sat in judgment underneath. The early church believed in sola scriptura.

Definitions

    “The term canon transliterates the Greek κανoν (kanon), which in turn derives from a Semitic word for reed (used to measure length by).” The Greek word is used in Galatians 6:16 to refer to the “rule” of faith in Jesus Christ. A “canon is the closed list of books that was officially accepted retrospectively by a community as supremely authoritative and binding for religious practice and doctrine.” The Christian canon therefore is codified in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments that convey the rule of faith in Jesus Christ. The term “Scripture” simply refers to the “written word” and parallels this definition. For the purposes of this work the word canon, Scripture, and Bible—which literally means “book”—will be used synonymously.

The Process of Canonization

One of the greatest sources of confusion concerning the cannon stems from conflating the process of canonization with the authority of the canon. Modern academia tends to assume that process gave rise to authority, when in reality authority gave rise to process. The church did not grant the Scriptures their authority by compiling them. Rather, the authority of the Scriptures themselves legitimized the process the church took in recognizing them as such. The early church believed the canon existed independent from and ontologically over the church.

The first century church already possessed the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In Acts, Paul commends the Bereans for “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” The only source of Scripture readily available to the Bereans would have been the Septuagint (a Greek translation dating from 100-250 B.C.). Jesus and the apostles both repeatedly cited the “Law and the Prophets” as the standard of faith. Christianity was a continuation of Judaism, and therefore held to the sacred writing of the Jews hence rejecting the apocryphal writings of the intertestamental period. As affirmed by the Jewish community through such examples as Judas Maccabeus list of canonical books in 164 B.C., the Old Testament canon was closed after the prophecy of Malachi (433-424 B.C.). Scholarly groups such as the Masoretes “meticulous and careful scribal practices ensured that the received text of the Old Testament was handed down almost unchanged.”

While the no known original autographs of New Testament Scripture are known to still exist, we do have “nearly 25,000 manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts . . . among these are nearly 5,800 Greek manuscripts . . . which is over three times as many as for the Iliad.” The sheer volume of available manuscripts allows scholars to confidently reconstruct the autographs thereby easily solving most issues concerning variant readings. Furthermore, no church counsel—due to geographical transmission and manuscript abundance—could have physically eradicated a biblical text it disagreed with.

There are four basic groups of New Testament fragments organized by the material used in their transmission: The papyri, the uncials, the minuscules, and the lectionaries. The papyri were written in Greek and date from the 2nd through 7th centuries (there are currently ninety-nine fragments in existence); there are three hundred uncials dating from the 3rd to 11th centuries; 2,800 minuscules (the earliest of which date from the 9th century); and 23,000 lectionaries dating from the 6th century and later. These texts have been broken down into significant manuscripts and through the process of comparing and contrasting (textual criticism) have been used by modern translators to gain an accurate sense of the originals.

The power and control available to the early church was unlike the modern Roman Catholic establishment and cannot be compared with it. Christians were undergoing waves of persecution and heresy on an everyday basis. The religion was spreading fast organically. Christians universally viewed the church as an endeavor controlled by the Holy Spirit, not a private powerful group of men. It wasn’t until the 5th century that Rome consolidated significant power: in part because Rome was the political capital and in part because other regions of Christendom were in turmoil.

It was the occasions of persecution and heresy that drove the church to recognize the cannon in its early days. The rise of Gnosticism was the chief threat. Valentinus’s heretical teaching on the Trinity left many in the church wondering how the Bible ought to be interpreted. In Rome, toward the middle of the second century, Marcion, organized his own cannon in which he excluded the “Law and the Prophets” as well as three out of four of the gospels. The church felt the need to respond to these errant teachings. Then “on February 23, 303 . . . [Rome] posted an edict banning Christian worship . . . [and] church officials were ordered to hand over their sacred books for burning.” Not only did the church need to defend the canon, but they needed to preserve it in order to maintain the faith.

The New Testament was not accepted in one moment as a finished work. This is obvious simply from the construction of the canon itself. Each book was written for a different reason, audience, location, and over a span of time (A.D. 44-49 to A.D. 94-96). For example, Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke (A.D. 60-61) and Acts (A.D. 62) to Theophilus as a history, Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience (A.D. 50-60), Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, wrote many personal and corporate letters much of the time in reaction to issues individuals and churches were having (A.D. 49-50 to A.D. 66-67) , etc. The early church never assumed that the canon was suddenly revealed from heaven in a final form. They believed instead that God progressively used fallible men to accomplish His purpose in both authoring and preserving the canon.

The majority of the canon was actually received and accepted early on, but because the church was spread out and the circulation of different letters made their way to different regions at different times, there arose some contested books. One of the earliest lists of Canonical books is referred to as the Muratorian Fragment and was “written in about 170. [It] lists the four Gospels, Acts, the Pauline epistles, I and II John, Jude, and Revelation. Hebrews, James the two epistles of Peter, and III John are not included.” “In the fourth and fifth centuries there came to be general agreement in the Greek and Latin churches about the extent of the New Testament canon.” The final expression of canonical reception came when Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria in A.D. 367, published the canon containing the same books used today by protestant churches (and Catholic up until the Council of Trent in A.D. 1545).  Three key councils around the time of Athanasius’s publication helped confirm and solidify the books contained in the New Testament. The Council of Laodicea in A.D. 363, The Council of Hippo in A.D. 393, and the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397, all applied what are commonly called the “tests of canonicity” to demonstrate what was and what was not from God. The first test was that of orthodoxy. Did the book or group of books contradict the rule of faith? The second test is referred to as Apostolicity. Can the work be traced back to an Apostle or someone connected to the Apostles? The third test is called the test of universality. Does the work apply to the church as a whole? It is because of these tests that the books commonly referred to as the Apocrypha failed to make their way into the Biblical Canon. As Athanasius stated:
There are other books outside these, which are not indeed included in the canon, but have been appointed from the time of the fathers to be read to those who are recent converts to our company and wish to be instructed in the word of true religion. These are the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, the so-called Teaching of the Apostles [Didache] and the Shepherd. But while the former are included in the canon and the latter are read, no mention is to be made of the apocryphal works. They are the invention of heretics.
As is demonstrable, the council participants were not seeking to establish a canon of their own, but rather to recognize a canon that had already been given.        

What the Bible Says About Itself

The process of canonization is a testimony to the early church’s incapability of strong-arming itself into a position of acting as the Bible’s authority. There was no way for the early church to eradicate texts it thought undesirable or build a consensus toward totalitarian control if the desire had been there. Councilmen viewed themselves as truth affirmers, not makers. They simply believed what the Scripture said about itself.

The most common passage quoted when discussing biblical authority is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” What is it that makes men “equipped for every good work?” It is not the church’s authority, but rather Scripture itself. The word “inspired” literally means, “god-breathed.” The New Testament’s authority comes as much from God as the Old Testament’s “Thus Saith the Lord,” comes from God. Commenting on this statement Dr. James White explains, “It is both a positive statement, asserting the supremacy and uniqueness of the Word, and a negative one, denying the existence of any other rule of authority on the same level.” A second passage for consideration is 2 Peter 1:21 which states, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In context, Peter has just finished explaining his experience on the mount of transfiguration. He then switches gears to let his audience know in verse 19 that there is a word “made more sure” than even his own personal experience, and that word is revealed in verse 21 as the Scriptures themselves. The reason the Apostle Peter trusted the Scriptures over his own experience was because the Scriptures were given by God and not subject to ones “own interpretation.” The men who were used to write the canon Peter tells us were “moved (or “carried along”) by the Holy Spirit.” There are numerous additional passages attesting that there exists no higher authority than the Word of God. It is this view that was assumed by the early church, and because of it the Scriptures must authenticate themselves, since to put them under the authority of any man or group of men would be to fundamentally change their nature.

The Church Fathers Speak

Regardless of all the issues church fathers disagreed on, there is at least one dogma that boasts universal acceptance. The early church believed in sola scriptura. If ever there was a conspiracy, it was a conspiracy to establish the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice.

“Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235 A.D.) was the most important third century theologian in the Christian Church in Rome.” He was the disciple of Irenaeus: a disciple of Polycarp, who knew well the Apostle John. Hippolytus wrote an incredible amount of Christian material most notably the Refutation of All Heresies. He died as a martyr in 235 A.D. under the persecution of Emperor Maximinus Thrax. Hippolytus had this to say about the cannon.       
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source.... Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn.
The exclusivity of Hippolytus’s statement is noteworthy. He does not give any credence to the church or “tradition,” instead outlawing them as refuges by which to escape from sola scriptura.

Athanasius (ca. 296-298 –  373 A.D.), mentioned previously for compiling an accurate list of canonical books, served as the archbishop of the church in Alexandria and played a leading role at First Council of Nicaea for opposing Arianism. Athanasius was also persecuted in five separate exiles spanning a seventeen year time span. “St. Gegory of Nazianzen called him ‘pillar of the Church’” for his invaluable work against heresy. Here is what he had to say about the authority of the Scriptures: “The tokens of truth are more exact as drawn from Scripture, than from other sources.” Obviously it is clear what authority Athanasius stood upon as he fought the heresy of Arianism. “The sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth.” It is ironic that someone who took such a prominent role in the First Council of Nicaea likewise had this to say concerning councils. “Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things.” By “all things,” it is apparent Athanasius is including “councils.”

Another stalwart against Arianism was Basil of Caesarea (329 or 330 – 379 A.D.). Labeled among the Cappadocian Fathers and influential in championing the Nicene Creed, Basil was also involved in making his mark on early monastic life as well as succeeding  Eusebius as the Bishop of Caesarea. Although there are no doubt issues which many modern Protestants may disagree with Basil on, he would have no qualms about sola scriptura.
We ought carefully to examine whether the doctrine offered us is conformable to Scripture, and if not, to reject it. Nothing must be added to the inspired words of God; all that is outside Scripture is not of faith, but is sin.                                
Basil could not have been clearer. Not only is Scripture of the highest authority, anything deviating from it is sinful. The Nicene Creed was therefore only a support beam for the Scripture, not a replacement for or an assistant to them.

On a separate occasion, Basil had this to say to a Christian widow.
Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.
This may surprise many modern Catholics. One of the “Doctors” of the church believed that a bishop is of no help in individually applying the Scripture. Basil did of course believe in the office of  pastor, but he considered it the layman’s responsibility to examine what was being taught and compare it to Scripture.

Concerning the Hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them; and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided.

Another influential bishop was Basil’s brother Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395 A.D.). Gregory was also a champion of Trinitarian theology and participated in the synod at Ancyra, the Synod of Antioch, and the First Council of Constantinople. Today he is considered a saint in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism. Gregory’s views match those of his brother: “We make the Holy Scriptures the canon and the rule of every dogma; we of necessity look upon that, and receive alone that which may be made conformable to the intention of those writings.” Everything, from Gregory’s point of view, must be “conformable” or “made to fit” into the “intention” of the Bible. This would mean everything that deviates from it is illegitimate.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 – 444) was a very influential bishop in the patristic period of the church. Often referred to as Pillar of Faith or Seal of all the Fathers, Cyril served as the Patriarch of Alexandria and was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus. Cyril, one of the most powerful forces in the Christian world at the time, even rubbing shoulders with the emperor, had much to say about sola scriptura.
Let us then speak concerning the Holy Ghost nothing but what is written; and whatsoever is not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spoke the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Let us therefore speak those things which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say.
Notice the humility in which Cyril offers us his statement. He wished to constrain himself to only speaking that which was found in Scripture. Why? Because:
Concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.
In other words, Cyril sought to restrain himself from dogmatically forwarding any opinion found outside of Scripture for the simple reason that salvation depends on Scripture. What else is of importance? Notice also how Cyril places the Scriptures above even human reason.

Lastly, it is important to examine St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.), perhaps the most respected man in all of church history excluding the Apostles themselves. St. Augustine’s words ring true in the corridors of Christianity of every age.
Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t ... look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture.
Augustine demonstrates what can be considered to be great humility. His desire is for Christians to look to Scripture, not to him. It is telling what the great theologian says about the relationship of Scripture to the church. “The canon has been established for the Church.” This statement simply implies that it was not the church that established the canon, but rather the other way around. The church would have no authority if it wasn’t for the canon—the canon of Scripture given by God.

Conclusion

    As has been demonstrated throughout this work, the church viewed the Scripture as the self-authenticating word of God relying on no higher power than itself. First the process of canonization was examined and it was demonstrated that the early church did not have the option available to destroy variations in the text it disagreed with. Secondly, the early church’s goal was to preserve, as instruments of God, what was recognized by God as Scripture. Thirdly, the canon bears in itself the doctrine of sola scriptura. Fourthly, the early and patristic church fathers were unified in extolling the viewpoint Scripture has about itself. They placed themselves under its authority, not the authenticity of Scripture under theirs.

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