Alpha & Omega Ministries

Road Trip DL: About Asking Your Debate Opponent to Actually Interpret a Bible Verse

We took the time today to go back over the controversy that has developed when I asked my debate opponent Saturday afternoon to tell us what one of the key texts on the atonement (and in my opening statement) actually means, and he refused to do so. I played the audio of the exchange, put the text on the screen, and we invested an hour and 15 minutes on the topic (after some introductory topics). Not sure if we will be able to squeeze another show in this week, as I am teaching at GBTS Thursday through Saturday.
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Purgatory Debate – 2/17/2024

In February of 2024 James White and Trent Horn did two, back to back debates at First Lutheran Church in Houston. The first night was on sola scriptura, and the second on purgatory. It was the conjunction of these two debates that was most informative and useful. We invite our viewers to listen to both debates and compare the assertions concerning the “deposit of faith” and “apostolic tradition” in the first with the argumentation in defense of purgatory in the second. It is very enlightening!
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Road Trip Morning Dividing Line

We lost our server for the first 14 minutes, but ol’ got us back up and running. Pierre, our LDS listener, called in, prompted once again to defend our Arminian friends by yesterday’s program responding to Dr. O’Guin’s attack on “Calvinism.” Always interesting to listen to a discussion with Pierre on soteriological issues, always coming back to sola scriptura.

The Dividing Line will be LIVE at 11:30am EST

Started off with the outrageous, racist rants of “His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop Talbert Wesley Swan II” (straight from his wikipedia page) and his swinging the club of “white supremacy” at anyone or anything, logic, rationality and truth notwithstanding. Then we considered the advice of the left edge of evangelicalism’s fall into the morass of cultural confusion, this time

John Owen’s Usage of Thomas Aquinas, Part 3

This is a follow up to Part 1 and Part 2 in this blog series where I will go through the works of John Owen detailing where he has mentioned Thomas Aquinas. I hope that this series is helpful.In this third part, I would like to look at two different types of usage. First will be a couple of disagreements in which Thomas is mentioned alone, not in a list of others. Second, there are what appear to be a few points of agreement, one where Thomas is mentioned alone and another among a few others. Also note that these first three posts do not deal with Owen’s usage of Aquinas in the Hebrews volumes. I believe I will begin working through those in part 5.As I mentioned previously, there are 20 of the 36 works that do not have any mention of Thomas Aquinas (not even in editorial footnotes). And from the other 16 books there are only 36 mentions of Thomas Aquinas. The first two parts covered 11 of those 36 mentions and this post will cover an additional 4. At this point, the 15 mentions of Aquinas only span 8 books. Counting the 20 without mentions, this is 28 of the 36 books which we will have covered by the end of this post.Mentions of Thomas Aquinas where Owen disagreed with himIn “Owen’s Works, Volume 03, Part 1 – Pneumatologia”, Owen offers a disagreement with Thomas regarding the means of revelation.1. Prophecy: The distinct outward manners and ways of revelation mentioned in the Scriptures may be reduced to three heads: 1. Voices; 2. Dreams; and 3. Visions.And there are two incidental adjuncts of it: 1. Symbolic actions; and 2. Local movements.The schoolmen, following Aquinas, 22. q. 174, a. 1, commonly reduce the means of revelation to three heads, for there are three ways by which we come to know anything — 1. By our external senses; 2. By impressions on the fantasy or imagination; and 3. By pure acts of the understanding.So God revealed his will to the prophets in three ways —1. By objects of their senses, such as audible voices;2. By impressions on the imagination in dreams and visions;3. By illustration or enlightening of their minds.But because this last way expresses divine inspiration, I cannot acknowledge it as a distinct way of revelation by itself — for it was absolutely necessary to give an infallible assurance of mind in the other ways also.In “Owen’s Works, Volume 12 – The Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated”, he relates a discussion between Franken and Socinus regarding “a twofold religious worship”. Owen, of course, disagreed with the assertion by Thomas Aquinas that the same worship is due to an image of Christ or a crucifix that is due to Christ.XIX: The next argument of Franken, whereby he brought his adversary to another absurdity, had its rise from a distinction given by Socinus about a twofold religious worship;—one kind whereof, without any medium, was directed to God; the other is yielded him by Christ as a means. The first he says is proper to God, the other belongs to Christ only. Now, he is blind that doth not see that, for what he doth here to save himself, he doth but beg the thing in question. Who granted him that there was a twofold religious worship,—one of this sort, and another of that? Is it a sufficient answer, for a man to repeat his own hypothesis to answer an argument lying directly against it? He grants, indeed, upon the matter all that Franken desired,—namely, that Christ was not to be worshipped with that worship wherewith God is worshipped, and consequently not with divine. But Franken asks him whether this twofold worship was of the same kind or no? to which he answered, that it was because it abode not in Christ, but through him passed to God. Upon which, after the interposition of another entangling question, the man thus replies unto him: “This, then, will follow, that even the image of Christ is to be worshipped, because one and the same worship respects the image as the means, Christ as the end, as Thomas Aquinas tells us, from whom you borrowed your figment.” Yet this very fancy Socinus seems afterward to illustrate, by taking a book in his hand, sliding it along upon a table, showing how it passed by some hands where truly it was, but stayed not till it came to the end: for which gross allusion he was sufficiently derided by his adversary. I shall not insist on the other arguments wherewith on his own hypothesis he was miserably gravelled by this Franken, and after all his pretence of reason forced to cry out, “These are philosophical arguments, and contrary to the gospel.” The disputation is extant, with the notes of Socinus upon it, for his own vindication; which do not indeed one whit mend the matter. And of this matter thus far.Mentions of Thomas Aquinas where Owen agreed with himIn “Owen’s Works, Volume 10, Part 2 – The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”, Owen brings up an objection to free Grace that is made by Arminians in his day. Looking back over this one, Owen actually does mention Thomas here as being in line with Augustine and Calvin’s objections to the matter.Chapter 21: First, That which is now by some made to be a new doctrine of free Grace is indeed an old objection against it. That a non-necessity of satisfaction by Christ, as a consequent of eternal election, was more than once, for the substance of it, objected to Austin by the old Pelagian heretics, upon his clearing and vindicating, that doctrine, is most apparent. The same objection, renewed by others, is also answered by Calvin, Institut. lib. 2, cap. 16; as also divers schoolmen had before, in their way, proposed it to themselves, as Thom. 3. g. 49, a. 4. Yet, notwithstanding the apparent senselessness of the thing itself, together with the many solid answers whereby it was long before removed, the Arminians, at the Synod of Dort, greedily snatched it up again, and placed it in the very front of their arguments against the effectual redemption of the elect by Jesus Christ. Now, that which was in them only an objection is taken up by some amongst us as a truth, the absurd inconsequent consequence of it owned as just and good, and the conclusion deemed necessary, from the granting of election to the denial of satisfaction.And, finally, in “Owen’s Works, Volume 10, Part 1 – Display of Arminianism”, Owen is discussing God’s secret and revealed wills and how there must be some distinctions. This section starts with a quotation that can be found in Thomas and Owen also agrees with how Thomas says that the revealed will can only metaphorically be called God’s will as it is a sign of His will.Chapter 5: “Divinum velle est ejus esse,” 130 say the schoolmen: “The will of God is nothing but God willing;” it does not differ from his essence “secundem rem,” in the thing itself, but only “secundem rationem,” in a relation to the thing that is willed. The essence of God being a most absolute, pure, and simple act or substance, his will can only and simply be one; we ought to make neither division nor distinction in it. If what signifies God’s will was always taken properly and strictly for the eternal will of God, then the distinctions that are usually made about it, are distinctions about the signification of the word, rather than the thing itself.In this regard, these distinctions are not only tolerable, but necessary, because without them it is utterly impossible to reconcile some places of Scripture that are seemingly repugnant to one another. In the 22nd chapter of Gen, verse 2, God commands Abraham to take his only son Isaac, and offer him for a burnt-offering in the land of Moriah. Here the words of God declare some will of God to Abraham, who knew it ought to be performed, and thought little but that it should be. Yet, when he actually addressed himself to his duty, in obedience to the will of God, he received a countermand in verse 12, that he should not lay his hand upon the child to sacrifice him. The event plainly manifests that it was the will of God that Isaac should not be sacrificed; and yet notwithstanding, by reason of his command, Abraham beforehand seemed bound to believe that it was well-pleasing to God that he should accomplish what he was enjoined to do. If the will of God in the Scripture is conceived of in only one way, then here is a plain contradiction. Thus God commands Pharaoh to let his people go. Could Pharaoh think otherwise? No. Was he not bound to believe that it was the will of God that he should dismiss the Israelites at the first hearing of the message? Yet God affirms that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not allow them to depart until God had showed his signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. To reconcile these and similar places in Scripture, the ancient fathers and schoolmen, along with modern divines, affirm that the one will of God may be said to be diverse or manifold with regard to the various ways by which he wills things to be done, and in other respects. Yet, taken in its proper signification, God’s will is simply one and the same. The common distinction between God’s secret will, and his revealed will, is such that all the other distinctions may be reduced to these two; and therefore I have chosen to insist upon it.The Secret Will of God is his eternal, unchangeable purpose concerning all things which he has made, to be brought to their appointed ends by certain means. He himself affirms that “his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure,” Isaiah 46:10. Some call this the absolute, efficacious will of God, the will of his good pleasure, which is always fulfilled. Indeed this is the only proper, eternal, constant, immutable will of God, whose order can neither be broken nor its law transgressed, so long as there is neither change nor shadow of turning with him. Jas 1.17The Revealed Will of God does not contain his purpose and decree, but our duty – not what he will do according to his good pleasure, but what we should do if we would please him; and this will, consisting of his word, his precepts and promises, belongs to us and our children, so that we may do the will of God. Now this, indeed, is to< qelhto >n rather than to< qe >lhma – that which God wills, rather than his will – but what we call the will of a man is what he has determined shall be done: “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life,” says our Savior, John 6:40; that is, this is what his will has appointed. Hence it is called “voluntas signi,” or the sign of his will. It is only metaphorically called his will, says Aquinas; 131 for inasmuch as our commands are the signs of our wills, the same is said of the precepts of God. This is the rule of our obedience, the transgression of which makes an action sinful; for hJ aJmarti >a ejstia, “sin is the transgression of a law;” such a law is given to the transgressor to be observed. Now, God has not imposed on us the observation of his eternal decree and intention (his secret will); and as it is utterly impossible for us to transgress or frustrate it, we would be unblamable if we should. A master requires of his servant to do what he commands, not to accomplish what he intends, which perhaps he never revealed to him. No, the commands of superiors are not always signs that the commander would have the things commanded actually performed, but only that those who are subject to his command are obliged to obedience, as far as the sense of that extends. “Et hoc clarum est in praeceptis divinis,” says Durand,132 etc. – “And this is clear in the commands of God,” by which we are obliged to do what he commands. Yet it is not always his pleasure that the thing itself, in regard to the event, should be accomplished, as we saw before in the examples of Pharaoh and Abraham.Footnote 130: Aquinas, p. q. 19, ar. ad. 1.Footnote 131: Aquin., q. g. 19, a. 11, c.

Live Feed Link to White/Horn Purgatory Debate

Calvinist James White and Roman Catholic Trent Horn will debate the doctrine of Purgatory. At the start of the Reformation, the question of Purgatory was front and center. After all, it was an indulgence that helped one escape Purgatory to which Martin Luther objected in the 95 Theses. Protestants argue that the finished work of Christ on the cross is sufficient for salvation. Roman Catholics argue that without a purging of sin, one cannot enter into the presence of God. Who is right?
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Live Feed Link to White/Horn Sola Scriptura Debate

Calvinist James White and Roman Catholic Trent Horn will debate the “formal principle” of the Reformation, sola scriptura, or Scripture Alone. From Luther on, Protestants have argued that the Bible is the only “God-breathed” revelation that can provide sufficient knowledge of God and His salvation. Roman Catholics argue that the Tradition is equally valid and important as a source. The disagreement on sources has led to a host of other disagreements. Who is right? Both speakers are the top apologists in their fields, so this debate promises to be both interesting and important.
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Pre-Debate Road Trip Dividing Line from Houston

Most of my readers are familiar with BaptistFire.com, the conservative Baptist website that is, sadly, likewise rabidly anti-Reformed, grossly one-sided, and anonymous as to who is involved in promulgating its articles. Well, a number of folks have gotten together to launch www.StrangeBaptistFire.com, a website which will debunk the constantly misleading, imbalanced, and often easily refuted materials posted on BaptistFire.com. Now,

Road Trip DL: Francis, Cernovich, then Back to Carl Trueman and Development of Doctrinal Expression

   Over the last few years I’ve focused on current popular Catholic apologists, that is, those whose names you may hear on Catholic Answers, or find on The Journey Home. In order to be familiar with Catholic argumentation, the best way to do so is to actually hear them make their own arguments and interpretations of Catholic doctrine.    I purchase their

John Owen’s Usage of Thomas Aquinas, Part 2

This is a follow up to Part 1 in this blog series where I will go through the works of John Owen detailing where he has mentioned Thomas Aquinas. I hope that this series is helpful.In this second part, I would like to look at a couple of different types of usage that we find. First will be some cases where there is an editorial footnote that mentions Thomas Aquinas. Secondly, there will be a mention of a story that Thomas wrote about. Again, note that these first two posts do not deal with Owen’s usage of Aquinas in the Hebrews volumes. I believe I will begin working through those in part 5, I believe.As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, 20 books out of the 36 works do not have any mention of Thomas Aquinas (not even in editorial footnotes). And from the other 16 books there are only 36 mentions of Thomas Aquinas. The first part covered 5 of those 36 mentions and this post will cover an additional 6.Mentions of Thomas Aquinas in Editorial FootnotesIn “Owen’s Works, Volume 03, Part 1 – Pneumatologia”, we have the following mention in Chapter 5. In a discussion of “disputes managed by some of the ancients” which Owen saw as “altogether needless”, the editor refers us to where both Aquinas and Ambrose discussed this. The context does make it appear that Owen had Aquinas in mind here as you can see from the footnote.The same work is assigned to both as causes of a different kind — it is assigned to the Holy Spirit as the active, efficient cause, who by his almighty power produced the effect. And the disputes managed by some of the ancients (350) about “de Spiritu Sancto” and “ex Spiritu Sancto” were altogether needless; for it is his creating efficiency that is intended. And his conceiving is ascribed to the holy Virgin as the passive, material cause; for his body was formed of her substance, as declared before. And this conception of Christ was after her solemn espousals to Joseph, and that was for various reasons; Footnote 350: For example, Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Third Part, ‘Treatise on the Incarnation,’ q. 32, point 2. Reply to Objection 1: Christ’s body, through not being consubstantial with the Holy Ghost, cannot properly be said to be conceived “of” [de] the Holy Ghost, but rather “from [ex] the Holy Ghost,” as Ambrose says (De Spir. Sanct. ii.): “What is from someone is either from his substance or from his power: from his substance, as the Son who is from the Father; from his power, as all things are from God, just as Mary conceived from the Holy Ghost.”And in “Owen’s Works, Volume 03, Part 2 – Pneumatologia”, Owen mentioned the schoolmen and there is a footnote defining what Scholasticism is and who some of them were.Schoolmen: Scholasticism is a method of critical thought taught in medieval universities in Europe c. 1100-1700. Practitioners were called “scholastics” or “schoolmen.” They included Aquinas, Anselm, Abelard, Scotus, Bernard of Clairvaux, et al.In “Owen’s Works, Volume 10, Part 1 – Display of Arminianism” we have two mentions in Chapter 14 of Aquinas in footnotes only (later we will see him mentioned in the text along with other footnotes to the Summa).In this first one, Owen stated that Diego Alvarez demonstrated something the schoolmen “universally consented to this truth” about. And in the footnote, it is just stated that Aquinas’ commentaries were often used in opposition to Molinism.So certain is God of accomplishing all his purposes, that he confirms it with an oath: “The LORD of hosts has sworn, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,” Isaiah 14:24. And indeed it would be a very strange thing if God intended what he foresees will never come to pass. But I confess this argument will not be pressing against the Arminians, who question that prescience of God. Yet, they should also observe from the Scripture that the failing of wicked men’s counsels and intentions is a thing that God is said to “deride in heaven,” as in Psalm 2:4. He threatens them with it. “Take counsel together,” he says, “and it shall come to nothing; speak the word, and it shall not stand,” Isaiah 8:10. See also chapter 29:7-8. And shall they be enabled to recriminate, and cast a similar aspersion on the God of heaven? No, surely. Says St. Austin, “Let us take heed that we are not compelled to believe that Almighty God would have anything done which does not come to pass.” 149 The schoolmen have universally consented to this truth, also, as shown by Alvarez, Disput. 32, pro. 3. 150 Footnote 150: Probably Diego Alvarez (1550-1635), who represented the Dominicans in a dispute concerning the heretical teachings of the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina (from whom ‘Molinism’ arose, c.1558). A debate ensued (Congregatio de Auxiliis) that didn’t end until 1607 when the Dominicans and the Jesuits agreed to disagree. By decree of the Inquisition in Dec 1611, intended to keep the peace between these two factions, no book could be published pro or con about efficacious grace without the consent of the Holy See. That prohibition lasted through most of the 17th century – although Thomas Aquinas’ commentaries were often quoted by the Dominicans in opposition to Molinism.In this second example from Chapter 14, the Summa is given as an example where Aquinas was citing Augustine and discussing how the number of the elect is set. It would appear that Owen does have Aquinas in mind by the language used by Owen and that provided in the editorial footnote.The article is clear that the object of this predestination is some particular men chosen out of mankind; that is, it is an act of God that concerns some men in particular. It is taking them aside, as it were, from the midst of their brothers, and designing them for some special end and purpose. The Scripture also abounds in asserting this truth, calling those who are so chosen a “few,” Mat 20:16 – which must denote some certain persons; and the “remnant according to election,” Rom 11:5; those whom “the Lord knows to be his,” 2Tim 2:19; men “ordained to eternal life,” Acts 13:48; “us,” Rom 8:39; those whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life,” Rev 21:27. All of these verses and various others, clearly prove that the number of the elect is certain – not only materially, as the Arminians say, that there are only so many [unspecified persons], but formally also: they are these particular persons and no others, which cannot be altered. 160 The very nature of the thing itself so demonstrably evinces it, that I wonder that it could possibly be conceived of under any other notion. To apprehend an election of men that is not circumscribed to particular persons, is such a conceited, Platonical abstraction, that it seems strange for anyone to dare profess to understand that there can be predestination, and yet none are predestined; an election, and yet none are elected; a choice among many, and yet none are left or taken; a decree to save men, and yet salvation by that decree is destined for no one man – either in deed or in expectation.161 In a word, asserting that there can be a purpose of God to bring men to glory, which stands inviolable, even though no one ever attained the purposed end, is such a riddle that no Oedipus can unfold it.Footnote 160: Aquinas Summa Theologica, Quest 23, Predistination; Art. 7 Obj. 3: Augustine says (De Corr. et Grat. 13): “The number of the predestined is certain, and can neither be increased nor diminished.” I answer that, The number of the predestined is certain. Some have said that it was formally, but not materially certain; as if we were to say that it was certain that a hundred or a thousand would be saved; not however these or those individuals. But this destroys the certainty of predestination; of which we spoke above (Article 6). Therefore we must say that to God the number of the predestined is certain, not only formally, but also materially. It must, however, be observed that the number of the predestined is said to be certain to God, not by reason of His knowledge, because, that is to say, He knows how many will be saved (for in this way the number of drops of rain and the sands of the sea are certain to God); but by reason of His deliberate choice and determination.Mention of story that Thomas Aquinas wrote aboutIn both “Owen’s Works, Volume 08 – Sermons to the Nations” (Sermon 1) and “Owen’s Works, Volume 10, Part 1 – Display of Arminianism”, we see that Owen related a story that Thomas wrote about. As his wording is quite similar in both volumes, I will just cite from Volume 10, Chapter 11 below.It is true, indeed, that some of the ancient fathers, before the rising of the Pelagian heresy, had so put on Christ, as Lipsius put it, that they had not fully put off Plato. They unadvisedly released some speeches seeming to grant that various men before the incarnation, who were living “according to the dictates of right reason,” might be saved without faith in Christ. This is well-shown by the learned Casaubon in his first Exercitation on Baronius. But let this be accounted part of that stubble which shall burn at the last day, with which the writings of all men who are not divinely inspired may be stained. It has also since (and what has not?) been drawn into dispute among the wrangling schoolmen. And yet (which is rarely seen) their verdict in this particular almost unanimously affirms the truth of it. Aquinas tells us a story of the corpse of a heathen that was to be taken up in the time of the Empress Irene and her son Constantine; he had a golden plate on his breast, in which was this inscription: “Christ is born of a virgin, and I believe in him. O sun, you shall see me again in the days of Irene and Constantine.” But the question is not whether a Gentile believing in Christ may be saved, or whether God revealed himself and his Son extraordinarily to some of them. For shall we straiten the breast and shorten the arm of the Almighty, as though he might not do what he will with his own? The question is whether a man may come to heaven by the conduct of nature, without the knowledge of Christ,? This is the assertion which we condemn as a wicked, Pelagian, Socinian heresy. We think it was well said by Bernard, “That many laboring to make Plato a Christian, prove themselves to be heathens.”

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