Friday, February 29, 2008

The Knowledge of God, Doctrine of God, Part B

Isaiah 40:27-28: The Incomprehensibility of God

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.” (Isaiah 40:27-28)

Despite the belief of the pagan idolaters that God would not notice their sinful ways (assuming that He was just another finite deity), God not only knew of everything that happened, His knowledge was and is incomprehensible.

Many philosophers of theology today believe that man’s reason by itself can come to conclusions about the extent of God’s attributes. William Lane Craig, a popular philosopher and apologist, is an example:

“Some readers of my study of divine omniscience, The Only Wise God, expressed surprise at my remark that someone desiring to learn more about God’s attribute of omniscience would be better advised to read the works of Christian philosophers than of Christian theologians. Not only was that remark true, but the same holds for divine eternity.”1

Contrary to this, Scripture says that God in His fullness is incomprehensible. That is, though He can be known as He covenantally relates to His creatures2, He cannot be fully fathomed by the human mind:

  • “Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3)

  • “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

  • “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?” (Romans 11:33-35)

  • “…He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

  • (Job 5:9, 9:10-12, 11:7-11, 42:3, Psalm 139:6, Ephesians 3:19, Philippians 4:7, etc.)

Knowledge of God’s incomprehensibility gives us a sense of reverential awe in our worship of Him.

Isaiah 40:6-8: The Immutability of God

“A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” ” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Unlike the things of the created order which change with time and eventually die out, God is immutable or unchanging. Since all of His attributes relate to one another3, He cannot change His own attributes since to deny one would mean a denial of all the others. This is why Scripture says that “[God] cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13):

  • “I say, ‘O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days, your years are throughout all generations. Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.’” (Psalm 102:24-27)

  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

The greatest example of the immutability of God’s attributes is seen in His moral character. God’s holiness and righteousness is not above Him (as though there were something higher than Himself to whom He must obey) nor is it below Him (as if He could capriciously break His own promises and commandments). Instead, His righteousness flows from His unchanging and unchangeable nature as righteous:

  • “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25)

  • “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7)

  • Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments. You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness and exceeding faithfulness.” (Psalm 119:137-138)

  • “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

  • (Deuteronomy 32:4, 2 Samuel 22:31, Ezra 9:15, Psalm 18:30, 25:8, 116:5, 143:10, Isaiah 6:3, 45:21, Matthew 5:48, Revelation 15:4, etc.)

In fact, Scripture explicitly states that it is impossible for God to sin because of His immutability:

  • God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)4

  • Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” (1 Samuel 15:19)

  • “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

  • “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,” (Titus 1:1-2)

  • “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” (James 1:13-14)

  • “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:17-18)

Compare this to a prayer to the Assyrian gods who (like all pagan gods of the world religions) were completely untrustworthy:

“Oh! That I only knew that these things are well pleasing to a god!

What is good in one’s sight is evil for a god.

What is bad in one’s own mind is good for his god.

Who can understand the counsel of the gods in the midst of heaven?

The plan of a god is deep waters, who can comprehend it?

Where has befuddled mankind ever learned what a god’s conduct is?

…O Lord, my transgressions are many; great are my sins.

…O god whom I know or do not know, (my) transgressions are many; great are (my) sins… The god whom I know or do not know has oppressed me; the goddess whom I know or do not know has placed suffering upon me;

Although I am constantly looking for help, no one takes me by the hand;

When I weep they do not come to my side…

Man is dumb; he knows nothing;

Mankind, everyone that exists – what does he know?

Whether he is committing sin or doing good, he does not know.”5

The gods’ wills, motives, and actions, whether good or evil, were totally unpredictable and untrustworthy. However, our God is called a “Rock” (Gen. 49:24, Deut. 32:3, Psalm 18:2, Isaiah 44:8, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 3:11, etc.) in that He is trustworthy, both morally as well as physically to save.

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing…”

-Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Isaiah 48:17-19, 22: The Holiness of God

“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, and your offspring like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence…There is no peace for the wicked,” says the LORD.” (Isaiah 48:17-19, 22)

Corollary to God’s immutable righteousness is His infinite holiness. Holiness primarily speaks of God’s “otherness”. He is different from His creation not in degree but in kind, or in other words, He is “set apart” from all that was created. God is perfectly righteous, being set apart from all else (Mark 10:18), and hates the taint of sin which He, because of His immutable nature, must punish and destroy (Habakkuk 1:13, Revelation 21:27). Thus, we are to be holy because He is holy:

  • “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44-45)

  • “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’” (Leviticus 19:2)

  • Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

  • “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;” (1 Peter 1:14-15)

  • “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3)

  • (Leviticus 20:7, 26, etc.)

This attribute of God is captured vividly in Isaiah’s vision:

“In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”” (Isaiah 6:1-7)

God is merciful, but when He displays His holiness so that it will be known, the results are terrifying:

“Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 5-7)

God is called holy constantly throughout Scripture, and this serves as a reminder of the standard to which we are commanded to conform to though we as sinners cannot do so (Romans 3:9-20, 23). In fact, this is the very basis of why Christ had to serve as our substitute, accepting God’s wrath for our sins upon Himself, so that God might be both just and the justifier of the ungodly (Romans 3:26).


1 William Lane Craig, Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001), p.11.

2 That is, as He condescends to our knowledge.

3 To quote John Frame: “God’s attributes are not abstract qualities that God happens to exemplify. They are, rather identical to God himself. That is sometimes called the doctrine of divine simplicity. For example, God’s goodness is not a standard above him, to which he conforms. Rather, his goodness is everything he is and does. It is God himself who serves as the standard of goodness for himself and for the world. He is therefore his own goodness. But he is also his own being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, and truth. These attributes, therefore, are concrete, not abstract; personal, not impersonal. Each describes the whole nature of God. So to talk of God’s attributes is simply to talk about God himself, from various perspectives.” –John Frame in K Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton, editors, Revelation and Reason (P&R: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2007), pp.115-116.

4 Dr. Robert Morey notes: “But what about the few passages in Scripture that speak of God’s “repenting?” (See Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:11, 35.) Do these pose any problem to the doctrine of the immutability of God?

First, we have already stated that the immutability of God concerns the being of God. None of the passages in question speak of a change in God’s nature, but rather describe some act of God. Second, all of these passages describe a change in God’s works in terms of His revelation, relationship, or attitude toward man…

First Samuel 15 is a perfect example of the difference between God’s being unchanging in His nature while being capable of change in His relationship to men. In verses 11 and 35, the Lord “repented,” i.e., changed His revealed mind or will concerning Saul. Since Saul had rejected God’s Word, God now rejected Saul’s kingship, and David has to be anointed king in his place (v.26). But lest we assume that God can change in His nature, Samuel adds in verse 29 that God,

…will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man that he should repent (KJV).

Thus in the same chapter where we are told twice that God “repented,” we are also told that God never repents! The liberal theologian will jump at this and cry “contradiction.” But we doubt that the author of 1 Samuel 15 was really so stupid as to compose so blatant a contradiction. Instead, Samuel is reassuring us that the Lord is unchanging in His being and nature even when He changes the revelation of His will or His attitude toward man. The NASV and other modern versions simply translate that God “regretted” or “grieved” instead of “repented.” In this way, it can be clearly seen that it is God’s attitude which is spoken of and not His essence or nature.” (Morey, op. cit., pp.104-105)

5 An Akkadian prayer as quoted in P. Andrew Sandlin, ed., Creation According to the Scriptures (Chalcedon Foundation: Vallecito, CA, 2001), pp.121-122.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Knowledge of God, Doctrine of God, Part A

The Knowledge of God

The Doctrine of God

Isaiah 40-48, “The Trial of the False Gods”


“The Scriptures are abundantly clear that the knowledge of God is the goal of salvation (John 17:3) and the Christian life (Philippians 3:8-10). Indeed, the failure to know God will be the basis of divine judgment when Christ returns in glory (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Thus if we fail in our lifetime to come to a saving knowledge of the one true God who has revealed Himself in Scripture, we will forever be cut off from that knowledge.”1

The fountain of every man’s worldview, the lens through which a man views himself, others, and the universe itself, is his view of “Being.” That is, what is ultimate reality? What is it that binds the universe together and gives it order? Is it the material universe itself? Is it the eternal principles of chaos and order? Is it a pantheon of deities? Or perhaps only two who are at odds with one another? Is it the realm of eternal Forms which orders the chaos of matter? Maybe it is an impersonal ‘it’? Or, is it the Triune God of Scripture?

One’s view of ultimate reality has overriding implications for his/her “epistemology,” that is, one’s theory of knowledge, how one can come to “know” something is true. So, before we can ask the questions: how do I know that God exists, how do I know that the Bible is true, how do I know that Jesus was the Son of God, how do I know that He rose from the dead, am I a sinner on my path to destruction, and if so, how can I be saved?, we must first start with the issue of ultimate reality.

For the Christian, the Triune God revealed in Scripture is that eternal, ultimate reality. In order to delve further into an evaluation of worldviews, we must find out who God is, what He is like, and His relationship to the material universe. The last topic will be discussed in more detail in the next lesson, but for now, let us consult the very words of God spoken through the Prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 40-48: The Trial of the False Gods


The book of Isaiah was written by Isaiah ben Amoz who lived during the reigns of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh and was the contemporary of the Prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Though Isaiah starts off by condemning the morals of the people of Jerusalem (chs. 1-5), the first half of the book (chs.1-39) is mostly concerned with what was causing great anxiety at that time, the rise and expansion of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians used a more trained and organized army, an ingenious novelty at the time, to decimate their opponents in battle. They were unstoppable, or at least, that is what the kings of Judah believed. With this unbelief in God’s providential shield, the kings made alliances with Assyria for protection, and the people sought out idolatry and sorcery in hopes of getting as much divine favor on their side as possible. As a result, Israel and Judah both incurred God’s displeasure.

The first 39 chapters end with the destruction and exile of the northern kingdom, Israel, and Assyria’s failed siege of Jerusalem:

“Hezekiah prayed to the LORD saying, “O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God”…Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.” (Isaiah 37:15-20, 36)

Afterward, dignitaries are sent from the Babylonian king, Merodach-baladan, and King Hezekiah shows them the gold in his palace, an event that will not be forgotten by the kings of Babylon in the coming years (39:1-4). Isaiah then gives word from the LORD of the coming exile of Judah by the Babylonians (39:5-8).

However, chapters 40-66 are of a more positive attitude beginning with “Comfort, O comfort My people” (40:1). Though Judah will be taken into exile for her sins, God promises to return the believing remnant to Zion, bringing to remembrance His covenant faithfulness. In the process of doing this, He tells them of the folly of their idolatrous ways (which resulted in their punishment) by reminding them of who He is and comparing Himself with the gods of the heathen nations. It is in this context that we start our study of the doctrine of God.


Isaiah 43:8-13: The Unity, Eternality, and Aseity of God

“Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and the deaf, even though they have ears. All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled. Who among them can declare this and proclaim to us the former things? Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified, or let them hear and say, “It is true.” ” (Isaiah 43:8-9)

God calls out both the people of Israel (i.e. those who are spiritually blind and deaf to God’s Word) and the heathen nations to assemble before God for judgment. God is about to bring charges against them for their idolatry, and He tells them to bring forth witnesses that will testify to the accuracy of the predictions of pagan oracles so that the idolaters might be declared “not guilty” of worshipping false gods.

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:10-12)

God, acting as Prosecutor, calls Israel as a witness to His power over those who trust in pagan gods (Exodus 7-14, Isaiah 37:14-38, etc.). In reality, God informs us, there are no other gods. There was no being that came before Him (because He has eternally existed and nothing existed other than Himself prior to creation) and there will be no deity after Him (because nothing comes into being apart from Him). In other words, unlike the gods of the gentiles who are “formed,” created, came into being, or standing in genealogical relationship to one another, He alone is eternal and has no beginning.

There is another aspect of this passage relating to His unity and eternity that should not be missed. Notice the language that God uses for Himself: “I am He.” This phrase is used multiple times throughout Isaiah and found three times here counting the phrase “I, even I, am the LORD.” This harkens us back to Exodus 3:14.

Short Excursus on Exodus 3:13-15

“Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” (Exodus 3:13-15)

This was when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush and commissioned him as His prophet to lead Israel out of Egypt. When Moses asks for God’s name, God replies, “I AM WHO I AM” or just “I AM” and tells Moses to say that “The LORD” (Hebrew: Yahweh) sent him. The translation for Yahweh is “HE IS.” Thus, when God speaks of Himself, He says, “I AM,” but when we speak of Him, we say, “HE IS.”

This short name is full of significance given ancient near-east culture. In our Western society, a name doesn’t mean that much; it is simply an identifier of your person. But in the ancient near-east, a person’s name spoke much about him and/or his origin (e.g. Genesis 25:24-26, Matthew 1:21). To quote Greg Bahnsen:

“1. ‘I am Who I am’ is the verb ‘to be’ found in the imperfect tense in Hebrew. The imperfect tense indicates uncompleted action, thus involving an ongoing reality. When names are formed from this tense they are distinguishing a constantly manifested quality. The name speaks of God’s self-existence: God is. He did not come to be…He exists of Himself without prior cause or present dependence: He always is. We might understand it as signifying: ‘I am simply because I am,’ or ‘I am being that I am being.’

2. The name speaks of God’s unlimited duration: He is the eternal ‘I Am.’ The repetition of the verb (‘I am/ I am’ in ‘I am that I am’) emphasizes uninterrupted continuance and boundless duration. When biblical characters give their names, they generally relate themselves to their father who gave them being (e.g., Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:7; Matt. 4:21)…But God always is, and of Himself. He has no beginning…

3. The name speaks of His sovereign self-determination. God determines from within His own being. ‘I am that I am.’ As the Absolute One, He operates with unfettered liberty. He is not moved by outward circumstances nor resisted by countervailing forces. Consequently, this name speaks of God’s absolute and unchangeable constancy. He is not subject to change in character or determination, because He is not subject to change in Himself as the Absolute One.”2

Thus, God is “a se,” Latin for “of oneself.” God’s attribute of aseity means that He self-exists. He is the only eternally uncaused Being in contrast to everything else which is part of the created order. He is without beginning and has “life in Himself” (John 5:26) in contrast to the pagan gods who (although they don’t actually exist) were formed from and have their being in the chaotic cosmos. Take the gods of the Babylonians for example:

The gods were frightened by the Flood,

and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu.

The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall.

Ishtar shrieked like a woman in childbirth…

The sea calmed, fell still, the whirlwind (and) flood stopped up.

I looked around all day long--quiet had set in

and all the human beings had turned to clay!

The terrain was as flat as a roof…

I offered incense in front of the mountain-ziggurat.

Seven and seven cult vessels I put in place,

and (into the fire) underneath I poured

reeds, cedar, and myrtle.

The gods smelled the savor,

the gods smelled the sweet savor,

and collected like flies over a (sheep) sacrifice…

[A god speaking] ‘The gods may come to the incense offering,

but Enlil may not come to the incense offering,

because without considering he brought about the Flood

and consigned my people to annihilation.’ ”

-The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI3

Comparing the Flood account in Genesis with that of Gilgamesh, Raymond Dillard and Tremper Longman note:

“The contrasts are equally compelling, however, most notably in the conflict between the gods and also their own fear when the flood waters rise. Indeed, the whole idea of a flood turns out to be a bad idea for the gods since they depend on the sacrifices of human beings for food. When Utnapishtim offers his sacrifice, the text says they gather around ‘like flies.’ ”4

The false gods of the heathen were dependent upon the universe for their existence and man’s worship for their sustenance. In stark contrast, our God depends upon nothing but Himself for His continuing existence and does not need the praise and sacrifices of men.

God’s Unity, Eternality, and Aseity in the Rest of Scripture

The rest of the Scriptures agree together with one voice declaring that God is the only eternally self-existing Being:

A. Unity

  • “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4)

  • For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5)

  • (1 Kings 8:60, Isaiah 45:5, 14, 21-22, Jeremiah 10:10, John 5:44, Romans 3:30, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:5-6, 1 Timothy 2:5, James 2:19, etc.)

B. Eternality

  • The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, ‘Destroy!’ ” (Deuteronomy 33:27)5

  • “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

  • Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

  • (Genesis 21:33, Job 11:7, Psalm 41:13, 106:48, Romans 1:20, 16:26, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:12, 7:3 (applied to Christ), Revelation 1:8, 22:12-13 (applied to Christ) etc.)

C. Aseity

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3)

  • “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;” (John 5:26)

  • “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;” (Acts 17:24-25)

  • “…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

  • (Exodus 3:13-15, Isaiah 41:4, 44:6-7, 48:12, John 8:58 (where Christ applies the “I am” saying of Yahweh in Isaiah to himself), Colossians 1:16-17, etc.)

God’s unity, eternality, and aseity are perhaps the most important of God’s attributes since all of His other attributes flow from them, and it is this aspect of God that greatly differentiates Christianity from all the other religions of the world.


1 Dr. Robert Morey, Exploring the Attributes of God (World Bible Publishers: Iowa Falls, IA, 1989), p.1.

2 Greg L. Bahnsen, Pushing the Antithesis (American Vision: Powder Springs, GA, 2007), p.69.

4 Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2006), p.52.

5 By calling God “the eternal God” in contrast with the gods of the pagans, he is not simply saying that God cannot die since the gods of the pagans were immortal as well. Instead, the only contrast that could be made in calling God “eternal” as opposed to the pagan gods who weren’t would be not to contrast the future but the past. In contrast to the gods of the pagans that had a beginning, God had none.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Knowledge of God, Intro, Part B

Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:8-17


1 Peter is one of the “catholic epistles” or general letters. That is, they were not written to a specific local church or person like most all of Paul’s were, but rather, they had a general audience in mind. Specifically, this letter was written to the Christians in what is now western and central Turkey (1 Peter 1:1-2). His specific interest, apparently, is to exhort the Christians there to keep the faith (1:3-5, 13-16) in the midst of persecution (1:6-7, 2:19-20) and to remind them of the glory that has been reserved for them through Christ (1:4, 9).

The letter touches upon several issues: a.) an exhortation to holiness (1:14-19) and love (1:22-23) because Christ died for them and the Holy Spirit renewed their souls (1:18-21, 23-25), b.) a reminder that God has purposed and will not fail to protect His church, his chosen people (2:4-10), c.) an exhortation to be on their best behavior before men and especially before governmental authorities even if they are unjust (2:11-20) for Christ, the perfect Law-abider, who Himself was unjustly punished, is our example (2:21-25), and d.) an exhortation for wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love and honor their wives (3:1-7) which now brings us to our passage of focus.

Verses 8-9

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (vv.8-9)

When he says “all of you,” he is referring to all of the previous hearers who were exhorted to be holy and reminded of God the Father’s will for them, Christ’s death and victory for them, and the Holy Spirit’s renewal of their souls (not just the husbands and wives of vv.1-7).

He calls them all to be holy and loving, repeating Christ’s teaching to return a blessing for every curse thrown at them. For by enduring the hatred of others for the sake of Christ, they will receive a reward in heaven:

  • “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

  • “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

Verses 10-12


In some translations (as shown in the NASB above), Old Testament citations are placed in capital letters. Here, Peter is supporting his exhortation to holiness with a quotation from the Psalms (Ps. 34:12-16). By his use of it, Peter is showing that the LORD1 will bless and answer the prayers of those who practice and pursue holiness.

Verses 13-14

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,” (vv.13-14)

Peter teaches a general principle found throughout the Hebrew wisdom literature that those who do good are, in general, not hated or hunted as criminals are. However, the general principle does not always apply especially when it comes to unbelievers’ irrational hatred of God and his Anointed (Acts 4:25-26, cf. Psalm 2:1-6).

Again, we see that Peter is quoting the Old Testament, this time the Prophet Isaiah:

“For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:11-13)

Against the cry of the Israelites to make an alliance with Assyria (lest, as it was feared, they be destroyed by it), God rebukes them and tells them not to fear Assyria, the greatest enemy of God’s people, but rather, they are to fear Him and regard Him as holy. Peter is making an analogy to his hearers’ own time in which the persecutors of God’s people threaten their very existence. He is exhorting his fellow believers not to fear their persecutors, but instead, they are to fear and sanctify2 Yahweh.

Verse 15

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (v.15)

This is a loaded verse, and so, we’ll take it one part at a time.

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”

The apostle calls upon his hearers to sanctify, i.e. separate from all else, regard as holy, and revere above all else, Christ in their hearts. It is a call to fear Christ in holy and humble reverence as the Lord who has begun His reign with His triumph over death and the powers of darkness and will consummate His reign when He returns. By commanding Christ to be sanctified “as Lord” after his citations of the Psalm and Isaiah, Peter is meaning to connect the LORD of Psalm 34 and Isaiah 8 with the Lord Jesus:

  • “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good?” (Psalm 34:11-12)

  • “It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:13)

  • “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15)

We are to hallow and fear Christ through both thought and deed for He is Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. In order to withstand the attacks of the world, whether physical, spiritual, or intellectual, the Christian must start by fearing God:

  • “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’ ” (Job 28:28)

  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” (Psalm 111:10)

  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7; cf. 20-29)

  • “In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs…The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:9, 13)

Moving on:

“…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…”

The words Peter uses here for “a defense” are “pros apologian” from which we get the term “apologetic” and “apologist”. It is a legal term for a defendant’s rebuttal against charges in a court of law. Likewise, the term, “logos, or “account,” is also a legal term which refers to a defendant’s testimony and reasons for not being guilty. Peter calls upon the believer to defend the faith when someone asks you why you believe in your hope that is Christ. The role of apologetics was considered by the apostles to be essential:

  • “And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean”…So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you…” (Acts 17:19-20, 22-23)

  • “When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying, “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.”” (Acts 21:40, 22:1)

  • “For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward...holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” (Titus 1:7, 9-11)

  • “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

To the apostles, apologetics (i.e. the defense of the gospel) and Scriptural knowledge go hand-in-hand with evangelism and proper behavior:

  • “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God…Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:3, 7-11, 15-16)

  • “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Colossians 1:9-12)

  • “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:2-3)


“…yet with gentleness and reverence…”

The apostle tells our ancient brethren to perform their defense of the gospel in kindness (“gentleness”) toward those who ask, and as we shall see, also toward those who persecute the saints. Lastly, our defense is to be such that it honors God (“reverence”). In short, we are to be gentle in manner but strong in defense. As the Apostle Paul said:

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” (Ephesians 4:14-15)

Verses 16-17

“…and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” (vv.16-17)

Peter keeps emphasizing the necessity for holiness in the Christian life. By being persecuted and punished unjustly for the sake of the Kingdom of God, the persecuted saints bring glory to God and fulfill their appointed role on earth.


Two authors commenting on Peter’s words write:

“[T]here is a three-step progression in this passage, a three-step approach to apologetics that Scripture gives us and that is absolutely essential. (1) We are first to have firmly resolved in our minds that even though there may be attacks and persecution, Christ is on the throne. Jesus is Lord, and we must establish that in our own hearts. (2) We are to do apologetics in the context of those attacks; we are to defend the faith, making plain the truth of the gospel, the hope that is in us. This can be done only as we explicitly rely on Scripture. This will, inevitably, take us beyond and around issues of bare theism3, to the centrality of Christ. (3) We are to do this with gentleness and fear. That is, we should not be threatened, nor will we be, if we remember who is in charge of the universe, who is really in control.” (emphasis in original)4

Along with faith and holiness, theological knowledge and apologetics are a necessary part of the Christian life mandated by the apostles and in desperate need in this day and age. These things need to be taught in our churches and in our homes so that we may glorify God through the proclamation of His Word just as the Apostle Peter commanded the ancient Christians.

[All Scripture quotes are from the NASB, emphasis mine.]

For Further Reading:


1 i.e. Yahweh, the covenant name for the God of Israel

2 i.e., “regard as holy”

3 More on “bare theism” in later lessons.

4 K Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton, editors, Revelation and Reason (P&R: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2007), p.9.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Knowledge of God, Intro, Part A

Introduction: The Necessity of Theology and Apologetics

1 Peter 3:8-17, “A Ready Defense”

The Problem

We now live in a day and age in which theological ignorance is at its highest in centuries despite the fact that the Bible and scholarly works are more readily available and literacy rates are higher than ever before.

This does not just apply to the unbelieving world, it also applies to the majority of God’s people in America. Most American Christians believe that all they need to do once they become Christians is to “trust Jesus”. This is a very ignorant belief which is contrary to the commands of God:

  • You shall teach [the words and laws of God] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:7-9)

  • “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:10-13)

  • “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

As Jerome (5c.) would have said, “Ignoratio scripturarum, ignoratio Christi” (trans.: ignorant of Scripture, ignorant of Christ.).

Unbelieving attacks against the faith have now become a seasonal thing with an ABC “Special” every Christmas attacking the Virgin Birth and a History Channel documentary every Easter attacking the Resurrection. But it doesn’t stop here. There are also the constant subliminal attacks on the faith from the media which propagandize non-Christian worldviews. As a result of the widespread ignorance within the church and heightened attacks upon the faith from outside the church, the apostasy rate among our people in general and especially our youth is at its height. Josh McDowell calls the present group of American Christians “The Last Christian Generation” due to our failure to teach theology and equip our people to defend the faith. He estimates that only about 33% of all of our children will keep their faith after college. One online Christian news-site reports:

“Focus on the Family's Teen Apologetics Director Alex McFarland has been involved in youth ministry for the last 16 years. He says students are generally ill-equipped to fend for their Christian faith because they lack a good understanding of the facts behind Christianity – scientific, historical, or logical.

According to McFarland, “Teens have a sincere child-like faith but have not been exposed to good apologetics," which he says is “so necessary to being able to defend their faith.”

He warns parents, “I have counseled with many a distraught, even heartbroken, family, who spent 18 years raising a child in the ways of God only to have that faith demolished through four years at a secular university.”

Studies have shown that when students lack good defenses, their faith erodes. And two-thirds will forsake Christianity by their senior year of college. On the other hand, solid faith helps students in all aspects of life.”1

Instead of actively filtering the material they receive like they should have been taught to, Christian students in college are being passive sponges simply accepting unbelieving thought as if it were “objective” fact from “scholars”. Christian leaders and parents should have known that this would happen from Israel’s example:

  • “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.” (Isaiah 5:13)

  • “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)

The age of the “simple-believer” is OVER. The church MUST go beyond the slogans and fads and the “feel-good” teachings we are used to and move on to the “solid food”:

“Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:1-3)

The Solution

The prescribed method for combating this unbelief is not to put our heads in the sand by completely isolating ourselves from it (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) or pretend that it isn’t there, but rather, we are to fulfill the mission of the church by defending the “knowledge of God”:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

This is accomplished by utilizing and teaching the words of Scripture:

  • “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:12-17)2

  • “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:11-14)

  • “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 105:97-105)

  • “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-16)


2 The description that Paul gives here is that of a Roman soldier. While all of the components listed here are absolutely necessary, the only way for a soldier to stop his opponent from attacking him is to defeat him using the offensive weapon given to him, his sword. Today’s Christians practice godliness to a large degree and have faith, but because of their theological ignorance, they aren’t equipped to fight back against unbelief. They have left their spiritual sword on the bookshelf. How can an army win a battle if its soldiers aren’t equipped with any weapons?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Papal Primacy by Klaus Schatz

I’ve mentioned this book for some time now, and I wanted to take a large number of quotes from it in order to not only show that the vast majority of the early church did not accept Papal Primacy but also to answer the arguments of Roman Catholic apologists who argue that they did. Lastly, as Schatz shows, the original church structure in ancient Rome was not that of one head bishop for a city but that of many bishops (testifying to the equality of a presbyter and a bishop) ruling over their respective house churches in the same city.

[I will note that if the publisher feels that I am quoting too much of this book, then please leave a comment in the combox of the latest post and I will edit this post leaving only the most important quotes.]

All quotes are taken from Klaus Schatz, Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1996).

“The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably ‘no.’” (pp.1-2)

“If we ask in addition whether the primitive Church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer.” (p. 2)

“Nevertheless, concrete claims of a primacy over the whole Church cannot be inferred from this conviction. If one had asked a Christian in the year 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last word in questions affecting the whole Church, he or she would certainly have said no.” (p. 3)

“However, he [Clement of Rome] is not named as the author of the letter; instead, the true sender is the Roman community. We probably cannot say for certain that there was a bishop of Rome at that time. It seems likely that the Roman church was governed by a group of presbyters from whom there very quickly emerged a presider or “first among equals” whose name was remembered and who was subsequently described as “bishop” after the mid-second century.” (p. 4)

[On the letter, 1 Clement:]
“But it would be going too far to deduce from this that the Roman church had formal authority or precedence over other churches, as was too hastily done by Roman Catholics in the past. First, even if this admonition calls on the authority of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, it remains within the context of the universal fraternal solidarity of Christian churches, even though it is spoken to a sister church that had gone astray.” (p. 5)

[On Ignatius of Antioch’s “Letter to the Romans”:]
“However, this kind of juridical-constitutional interpretation can scarcely correspond to the ideas of Ignatius’s contemporaries.” (p. 6)

“It is within this context that we can discover, beginning in the late second century, the first attempts on the part of the Roman church to assume responsibility for the whole Church. We can observe on the one hand that these first initiatives encountered resistance and ended in failure. Rome did not succeed in maintaining its position against the contrary opinion and praxis of a significant portion of the Church. The two most important controversies of this type were the disputes over the feast of Easter and heretical baptism. Each marks a stage in Rome’s sense of authority and at the same time reveals the initial resistance of other churches to the Roman claim.” (p. 11)

“In the course of this controversy Stephen must have claimed to be the successor of Peter in the sense of Matthew 16:18. This is the first known instance in which Matthew 16:18 was applied to the bishop of Rome.” (p. 13)

“Firmilian’s letter is a sustained polemic against Stephen and his arguments in favor of the validity of heretics’ baptism. The seventeenth chapter contains the expressions “who contends that he has the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were established” and “who claims that through succession he has the see of Peter,” both directed against the Roman bishop. These claims are rejected, but not formally because in principle no individual bishop, not even the bishop of Rome can make such a claim. Instead, the appeal to Matthew 16:18 is said to be unjustified in this instance because Stephen, by recognizing heretics’ baptism, is “introduce[ing] many other rocks,” that is, he is betraying the unity of the Church and thus acting contrary to the sense of Matthew 16:18 (and thus of the Petrine succession).” (pp. 13-14)

[On Cyprian’s letter to Pope Stephen:]
“Instead he writes to Stephen that he does not desire to impose his own position on anyone because every bishop is independent in the governing of his church and is answerable to God alone.” (p. 14)

[On Cyprian’s high praise of Rome under Cornelius and the controversy involving the two Spanish bishops:]
“The issue here was the ‘acknowledgment of a higher authority belonging to Peter’s successors that cannot be adequately described in juridical terms. In principle, the Roman bishop had no greater authority than any other bishop, but in the hierarchy of authorities, his decision took the foremost place.’ On the other hand, Cyprian regarded every bishop as the successor of Peter, holder of the keys to the kingdom of heaven and possessor of the power to bind and loose. For him, Peter embodied the original unity of the Church and the episcopal office, but in principle these were also present in every bishop.
For Cyprian, responsibility for the whole Church and the solidarity of all bishops could also, if necessary, be turned against Rome. There is a striking example of this from the same period involving two Spanish bishops, Basilides and Martial. During the persecution they had not sacrificed to the idols, but like many other Christians they had bribed officials to obtain “certificates of sacrifice” (libelli). As a result, they had lost credibility in their congregations and had been expelled. Nevertheless (in Cyprian’s opinion by misrepresenting the facts) they succeeded in obtaining recognition from Stephen of Rome. Cyprian reacted immediately by calling an African synod to warn the two communities to reject Stephen’s decision and refuse to readmit the two bishops. Unfortunately we do not know how the matter was resolved.” (pp.20-21)

[On the Synod of Sardica which Pope Julius called for and both emperors convoked:]
“The council collapsed at the very beginning. First the eastern, anti-Athanasian bishops should not be allowed to take part, but their demand was rejected. They insisted particularly on the autonomy of East and West, asserting that the West should not interfere in eastern disputes and vice versa.” (p. 24)

“The immediate historical results of Sardica should be distinguished from the longer term effects. Its decisions were not immediately carried out even in the West, let alone the East. The Canons of Sardica, falsely dubbed “Nicean” in Rome from the early fifth century onward, were the initial cells that would slowly germinate throughout almost a thousand years to bloom around 1200 under Innocent III: they were the germs of Rome’s exclusive juridical competence in causae maiores, that is, in everything having to do with bishoprics or bishops (removal, translation to another diocese, resignation, and so on).
It is true that later, when the development of the primacy had gone far beyond Sardica and the “Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals” in the ninth century had introduced a great many more direct rights of interference by the apostolic see, Sardica was adduced to establish a concept primacy that leaned more toward subsidiary and was structured more within the synodal system. After the eleventh century it was practically forgotten. Its fuzzy reasoning in comparison to later theories of primacy, its statement that it was creating a new right (rather than recognizing an existing right resting on Christ’s institution), and finally the fact that we never hear of a single appeal based on its principles – all these factors made Sardica appear to be a most inappropriate witness to the tradition” (pp.25-26)

[On Appeals to Rome by Deposed Bishops:]
“Strictly speaking, Rome is not yet established as a genuine court of appeal because it is not the Roman bishop himself who makes a new decision in the case. Rom is only a reviewing authority to see to it that the appeal (to a different synod) is carried out.” (p. 25)

“The further course of the Arian controversy seems to present the picture of a conflict in which Rome by no means prevailed; in fact, it appears that Rome did not even make an energetic and deliberate attempt to counteract the increasing deviation from Nicea.” (p. 26)

[On Basil’s Opinion of Damasus:]
“Rome often lacked both competence and adequate information about the difficult problems of the East, nor did it have any real ability to carry through on its decisions. The Church Father Basil had something to say about that: he found that Rome too readily gave letters of communion to bishops even if they were separated from each other. He complained especially about bishop Damasus, calling him proud and arrogant, handing down judgments from his high horse without really understanding the complicated relationships in the East: ‘What help is there for us from Western superciliousness?’” (pp. 26-27)

“It remained true, nevertheless, that the Roman church not only exercised no leadership in the East in normal times, but also that serious ecclesiastical divisions and conflicts could by no means be quickly resolved by appeal to Rome.” (p. 27)

[On Chrysostom’s Appeal to Rome:]
“The Roman bishop was not really expected to apply authoritative measures since he was in no position to take such actions in the East, especially against imperial power; instead, the hope was that he would give aid in the form of moral expressions of solidarity and by issuing warnings, writing to other bishops, and requesting new councils. It also happened that the letters were sent to all the important sees in the West at the same time; so when Patriarch John Chrysostom was banished from Constantinople in 404 he wrote to the bishops of Rome, Milan, and Aquileia.” (p. 28)

“It is true that Rome was more modest in its dealings with the East. Here even Leo the Great made no claim to be able to make laws; in the East the pope is only custos canonum, the guardian of the conciliar canons.” (p. 30)

[On Augustine’s Oft *Mis-cited* Quotation:]
“In the case of North Africa it is interesting to note the attitude of a self-confident and organizationally intact Church toward Rome. The saying of Bishop Augustine of Hippo (396-430), Roma locuta, causa finite (“Rome has spoken, the matter is settled”) was quoted repeatedly. However, the quotation is really a bold reshaping of the words of that Church Father taken quite out of context.…Both the context of this statement and its continuity with the rest of Augustine’s thought permit no interpretation other than that Rome’s verdict alone is not decisive; rather, it disposes of all doubt after all that has preceded it. This is because there remains no other ecclesiastical authority of any consequence to which the Pelagians can appeal, and in particular the very authority from which they could most readily have expected a favorable decision, namely Rome, has clearly ruled against them.” (p. 34)

“The African Church was even more determined to defend its jurisdictional autonomy. Councils at Carthage in 419 and 424 forbade any appeals to Rome…The North Africans reacted by providing a court of appeal even for ordinary presbyters from their own bishop’s verdict to the North African council at Carthage. That appeared to satisfy the requirements of justice. In turn they took a firm stand against Roman intervention…” (p. 35)

“Therefore the North African bishops forbade any ‘ultramarine’ appeals. In contrast to Sardica, they applied this prohibition even to bishops. This particular decision had been preceded by a similar case involving a bishop who had fallen out with his congregation but was protected by Rome; at that, even Augustine of Hippo threatened to resign. From now on, the only court of appeal was to be the North African council at Carthage. This case was to be brought up repeatedly in future as an example of resistance by the episcopate of a national Church against Roman centralism.” (p. 36)

[On Leo’s Influence at Chalcedon:]
“The question whether “Peter has spoken through Leo” meant for most of the council fathers the letter of Leo had formal or merely material authority is, in this either-or form, too simply put. Certainly one cannot read out of it an unconditional formal authority, and definitely not an “infallibility” of papal teaching documents. Leo’s letter was by no means accepted without discussion of its content, and it created serious difficulties for some individual fathers. This, in fact, was not contrary to Leo’s instructions, which called for agreement based on discussion and accommodation among the fathers. It is true that he did not consider the rejection of his letter a possible solution, but that was because he was convinced that he was clearly teaching the traditional faith.” (p. 44)

[On the 28th Canon of Chalcedon:]
“Rome’s opposition to the canon was a complete failure as was its objection three centuries later to the separation of Greece and Illyricum. Here it was strikingly clear that Rome could not have its way in questions of Church organization in the East, at least not as long as the common interests of the Byzantine Church were against it. In spite of Roman resistance, Constantinople became the second see, if only because the patriarchs of Antioch and especially Alexandria were weakened by the dominance of monophysitism in their regions. It is true that in times of tension Rome continually repeated its protest against the ecclesial rank of Constantinople (for the last time in the eleventh century under Leo IX), and recalled the unalterable and eternal ordering of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. But that did not change the reality, and when otherwise good relations with Constantinople were in place or had been restored, Rome abandoned its protests and at least kept silence about Constantinople and its rank.” (p. 48)

[On Pope Vigilius:]
“The result was a schism in the West, where the pope was accused of having surrendered Chalcedon. A North African synod of bishops excommunicated the pope, and the ecclesial provinces of Milan and Aquileia broke communion with Rome. (Milan returned to communion only after fifty years; for Aquileia the breach lasted one hundred and fifty years, until 700). The bishops of Gaul also raised objections. The Spanish Church did not separate from Rome, but throughout the early Middle Ages it refused to recognize this council. The authority of the papacy in the West had suffered a severe blow with regard to dogma as well.” (p. 53)

[On Pope Honorius:]
“…for it is an undisputed fact that must be maintained against all attempts to water it down that the council and the subsequent popes clearly condemned Honorius as a heretic. In other words, they were absolutely convinced that a pope could fall into heresy.” (p. 55)

[On the Pope’s Jurisdiction:]
“Instead, in 733 he removed Illyricum and Greece, as well as lower Italy and Sicily, which were still under Byzantine jurisdiction, from the Roman patriarchate and placed them under the patriarch of Constantinople. This action could not be reversed, in spite of all papal efforts from that time until the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870), not even when peace was otherwise restored to the Church. Even the eastern Church leaders who were otherwise partisans of Rome did not think of acceding to Roman claims in this matter.” (p. 56)

[Concerning the Photius Incident:]
“However the remarkable events that followed showed how little internal acceptance these statements found within the Byzantine Church. Bishops complained to the emperor that he was permitting the church of Constantinople to be subjected to the Roman church as a maidservant to her mistress.” (p. 58)

[On the Council of Constance:]
“This is readily understood also from the fact that John XXIII owed his authority to the very principle to which the fathers of the Council of Constance appealed, namely the emergency power of a council over the pope.” (p. 107)

[On the Council of Basel:]
“The majority remained in Basel and decided to issue a dogmatic definition of strict conciliarism as a general and unconditional superiority of a council over the pope. This was the decree, Sacrosancta, which defined the following to be true:
1. A general council is above the pope.
2. The pope cannot dissolve or interrupt a council, nor can he transfer it to another place.
3. Anyone who denies these truths is a heretic.
Since Eugene IV denied these “truths” he was deposed as a ‘heretic.” (p. 110)