Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


proofs
A simple argument for using wine in the Lord’s supper

A syllogism any church member can follow when deciding how to vote.

Although the issue of wine in the Lord’s supper is a contentious and complicated one, I believe we can cut through all the hot air and make a compelling case for wine, in just 3 lines:

  1. To the best of our ability, we should conduct the Lord’s supper in the manner instituted by Jesus.
  2. Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper with bread and grape wine.
  3. Therefore, to the best of our ability, we should conduct the Lord’s supper with bread and grape wine.

(2) is a matter of historical fact, so the only premise to push back on here is (1). But how? Certainly we can say there is some fuzziness in the extent of the referent for “do this in remembrance of me”. But fuzziness in defining the outer limits of the sacrament doesn’t affect clarity in defining its inner limits. In terms of the minimal constituents, obviously two of them are unleavened bread being broken, and grape wine being drunk.

Btw, notice the logical corollary of (3):

  1. To the best of our ability, we should not conduct the Lord’s supper without bread and grape wine.

28 comments

  1. David White

    While I’m glad for the modified statement that allows some believers back in the camp, it can do me no good. As a member of a church using juice for communion services in spite of a wine store down the road, this standard still means that I have never partaken of a legitimate Lord’s Supper, only counterfeit ones.

    And surely by the standard you’ve laid out, that is an extraordinary sin, deeply offensive to God. So surely we cannot dismiss as “facile” arguments about the fermentation process of grapes or any such other trivia, because:

    1) If wine is available, the failure to use it renders the Lord’s supper a counterfeit imitation.

    2) Grape juice is not an acceptable substitute

    3) Grape juice becomes wine

    4) Therefore there is a moment at which the fruit of the vine switches from being illicit to licit, and its use constitutes a legitimate Lord’s Supper, whereas its use just prior to that moment would constitute a counterfeit imitation of the Lord’s Supper.

    If that is true, the importance of (4) cannot be a trivial issue. 1 Cor. 11 shows how seriously God takes the Lord’s Supper. And if a monk grabbed the wrong jug with juice that hadn’t aged properly, then God either forgave him for the sin and allowed the Lord’s Supper to be acceptable Him, or else the whole thing was ruined.

    I come at this from the other end. What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper? It is that we would remember Christ’s death, associate the solid food and liquid food with his broken body and shed blood, eat those foods as a symbol of our union with Christ, and thereby proclaim his death to the world.

    Because like the Sabbath, the Lord’s Supper is given to His people for their benefit, not to force another set of regulations on them. The command to “rest” was to allow us a day of physical restoration and communion with God, but the Pharisees erred by assuming the Sabbath was all about what you could and could not do. We should avoid the same error here. The grapes were made for man, not man for the grapes.

    And so when we live in an age where “the fruit of the vine” can be maintained in its original form, and if a church uses it to do all the things I described above, I consider that an entirely legitimate Lord’s Supper.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    So David, leaving aside the issue of sin, which I’ve addressed here, which premise of my argument do you think is false?

  3. Stephen

    At this point, if (1) is to be broadly construed so as to require bread and wine, then why not go further and also claim that a “proper” communion requires the following:

    1) to be done at night

    2) while reclining at a table

    3) in groups of 13 (and only 13!) men

    4) wherein only one person breaks and passes the bread

    5) using only a single communal cup

    6) to be immediately followed by the singing of one (and only one) hymn

    In other words, how do you determine which modalities are essential to communion, and which are historically contingent? For that matter, why not only allow wine that approximates 1 c. ANE wine? I’m no wine expert, but I would expect that just as there are differences between wine and grape juice, there are also differences between 1 c. ANE wine and a modern red / white / pinot / etc.

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    But Stephen, this is merely the objection I addressed in the article. And to be honest, most of it is absurd. Is it really reasonable to think that when Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me”, he meant “get 13 men together for Passover etc etc etc”? Obviously not. So your comment is completely unresponsive to what I have already laid out.

  5. Stephen

    I disagree. Perhaps I wasn’t clear, so I’ll take another stab at this.

    You make the claim that while the “outer” limits are undelineated and subject to debate, the “inner” limits are not. You then define those as follows:

    “In terms of the minimal constituents, obviously two of them are unleavened bread being broken, and grape wine being drunk.”

    That’s neither obvious nor two. If we parse that statement, you have two qualified items of substance (*unleavened* bread and *grape* wine) and one item of form (broken). I’m simply pointing out that you seem to be rather arbitrary in how you select your nouns and adjectives. If you were so inclined, you could have argued for more or less reductionism in your choices. I happen to believe that both the form and substance of communion should correlate with the practice of Jesus, but one must argue for what those forms and substances are. If you’re free to merely stipulate, then others can do the same.

    So far, I think you’ve confined your arguments to the wine. It seems that now you’re extending the argument to include particulars of the bread as well. I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or not.

    You also pointed out in your previous post that 1 c. grape wine was alcoholic simply because there was no other kind. I agree. But that actually undercuts your argument. If the wine being alcoholic is incidental to the practice of communion rather than central, then that opens the door to other categories of the same substance. Christ Himself referred to the contents of the communion cup as the “fruit of the vine” (and He did so hot on the heals of instituting communion). In His day, conditions were such that the fruit of the vine was necessarily fermented; in our day, conditions are such that the fruit of the vine is not necessarily fermented.

  6. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Stephen, I’m happy to reduce the argument to bread and wine without further qualification. I’m not sure how you’re going to avoid saying that those are minimal constituents of the Lord’s supper as performed by Jesus—that’s just historical fact.

    If the wine being alcoholic is incidental to the practice of communion rather than central

    How do you propose to get from:

    * That the grape juice was fermented is historically accidental

    To

    ** That the grape juice was fermented is orthopraxically accidental

    ?

    You’re conflating the two—but isn’t that just a basic category error? Mind you, even if you can somehow make this equivocal argument go through, it doesn’t seem to have any force against the argument I’ve presented in the OP. All you’d show is that grape juice can be legitimate—something I’ve already conceded but found irrelevant to the practice of using it in most churches.

  7. Stephen

    Your willingness to reduce the substance of communion to bread and wine without further qualification is actually a relief, and much appreciated. Simply as a marginal note, in some corners of American Christianity, there’s a movement towards a rather legalistic and ritualized form of “church” (and “communion”) that rather resembles a ANE recreation society. So I’ll certainly breathe easier if that’s out of bounds.

    That being said, I’ll also boil my counter-argument down to a simpler form. I’d like to challenge that “wine” is the fundamental substance of communion (along with bread), and instead introduce the claim that the “fruit of the vine” (grape juice in the literal sense) is the fundamental substance of communion (along with bread; I think we’re both willing to bracket bread for now). After all, it seems to me that wine is a sub-set of grape juice, and not vice versa (i.e. all wine is grape juice, but not all grape juice is wine).

    Just to avoid a charge of circularity, I’m not claiming that grape juice by definition is non-alcoholic. I’m simply pointing out that while 1 c. Israelites didn’t possess the means or the inclination to prevent the fermentation of their grape juice by whatever means (you mention pasteurization in your initial article; refrigeration and the addition of preservatives could also be included), the same cannot be said for 21 c. Americans…or 21 c. New Zealanders…or whomever.

    If that argument goes through, then churches using wine and churches using grape juice are equally legitimate in their theopraxis. Those using wine are perhaps more accurate in their recreation of the conditions of the initial communion according to some measures…but that’s all.

  8. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Stephen, the problem is that I can grant your assertion that “fruit of the vine is the fundamental substance of communion” without it having the slightest effect on the argument in my OP…

  9. Stephen

    I confess, I don’t see how.

    On one hand, you say:

    “…grant your assertion that “fruit of the vine is the fundamental substance of communion” without it having the slightest effect on the argument in my OP…”

    On the other hand, you say:

    “But we do have to use wine…or we’re just not doing the Lord’s supper…”

    As near as I can tell, if you grant the former, the latter doesn’t necessarily follow. There’s absolutely a case where it follows (the fruit of the vine is fermented); there’s absolutely a case where it doesn’t follow (the fruit of the vine is unfermented). But in both cases you would be “doing the Lord’s supper.”

  10. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Stephen, you gotta keep up in this crazy new-fangled world :) I already granted that my initial claim—that the Lord’s cup just is wine—is overstated at best.

  11. David White

    I think I’m confused too; are we in full agreement now? Have we gone from
    1. The liquid for the Cup must be only wine.
    to
    2. The liquid for the Cup should be wine if feasible, and grape juice (or possibly something else) if not feasible.
    to
    3. The liquid for the Cup should be wine or grape juice if feasible, or possibly something else if not feasible?

    To answer your earlier question:

    which premise of my argument do you think is false?

    I would modify (1) to say:

    (1) To the best of our ability, we should engage in those aspects of the Lord’s Supper that are significant and definitional to the sacrament in the manner instituted by Jesus.

    with the corollary:

    (1a) Those elements which are not significant and definitional to the sacrament may be practiced in keeping with general principles of Christian liberty.

  12. John

    “Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper with bread and grape wine.”

    As I pointed out in the other thread, to the best of our knowledge, Jesus instituted the lords supper with wine MIXED with water. The historians say that. Since you’ve decried solo scriptura, the fact that the historic church did that, apparently adds some weight to it.

    How many Protestant churches add water? Probably none. Maybe some Anglicans do, I don’t know.

    You say your church uses grape juice. How’s it going convincing them to change? Frustrating, right? Not going to happen is it? You are in a solo scriptura church, apparently, since you defined anyone who would depart from the tradition as a dishonest fool, practicing solo scriptura. Don’t be surprised when a 7-up lords supper appears. You’re in New Zealand right. You’ve probably heard of the conservatism of the Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church. World renowned as conservatives. That’s where I witnesses the 7-up lords supper. Once you abandon tradition, you are left defenseless. The Sydney Anglicans are strident in attacking tradition, and defending sola scriptura, and this is the end game.

  13. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    David, I think we probably disagree on the issue of (2) versus (3). I would stick with (2).

    (1) To the best of our ability, we should engage in those aspects of the Lord’s Supper that are significant and definitional to the sacrament in the manner instituted by Jesus.

    The problem is, this brings in a very different argument to what I’ve proposed. It would be highly tendentious to simply claim that wine, for instance, is significant and definitional to the sacrament, without further argumentation—which means that your version of the argument would run a lot longer. I’m going for something as simple as possible.

    In essence, I’m saying, “Jesus told us to do what he was doing—so we should copy him as closely as feasible.”

  14. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, I have no problem with adding water to the wine. Indeed, I have no problem revising premise (2) to say “grape wine mixed with water” if that is what the historical evidence indicates. However, notice in the scriptural accounts of the Lord’s supper, it is the “fruit of the vine” which emphasized; water is not mentioned.

    You say your church uses grape juice. How’s it going convincing them to change?

    I haven’t started yet. I thought it might be smart to stress-test my views and arguments here before I risked causing a ruckus in my fellowship.

    Not going to happen is it?

    You have a bad habit of pretending to have a clue about things you don’t.

    Once you abandon tradition, you are left defenseless.

    Yes, I feel so defenseless wearing the full armor of God. You are literally making me laugh. Tradition is man-made and subject to change and error. In 20 years time, churches will probably be appealing to the tradition of accepting gay marriage that they started today. There is only one source of doctrine that remains the same yesterday, today and forever, and that is God’s word.

    But it’s good to know that you think being armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God is as good as being defenseless. It’s nice to see Catholics being honest about what they think of the Bible.

  15. David White

    Well, I think we’ve hit the main points of discussion then. But I’m curious about one other thing. We both agree (I think) that the choice of leavened vs. unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper is not a significant issue. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Jesus also considered grape juice vs. wine just as insignificant.

    What would Jesus or Paul have to have said or done differently in order to make that clear?

  16. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I dunno David. Since they didn’t have grape juice except for a few days during harvest-time, or whenever someone was lucky enough to find ripe grapes to squeeze, it’s hard to imagine they could have anticipated this discussion at all.

  17. John

    “However, notice in the scriptural accounts of the Lord’s supper, it is the “fruit of the vine” which emphasized; water is not mentioned.”

    And? Would you expect a government mandated list of ingredients listed at this point? If everyone culturally knew how wine was drunk, would you expect it mentioned?

    We’ve already noted that it doesn’t mention whether is is fermented fruit of the vine.

    I take it then that you will be asking your fellowship to change to wine with water, since that is where the historical evidence leads.

    I don’t know what kind of church you go to. Big or small. Mainline or independent. Conservative or progressive. I’ve seen them all and witnessed their reaction to suggestion they ought to change. Partly they are all wedded to their local traditions. But mostly, they just don’t care. Unless the pastor has got that particular hobby horse, nobody will really care at all. Like that church that had their 7-up service. Nobody (except me) seemed to bat an eyelid. They lack the philosophical underpinning to care what tradition says about this matter.

    You’ve defined tradition as something man made, or in other words, made up. This is contrary to the very definition of tradition, namely something passed down. In a theological setting, it typically means something plausibly passed down from the beginning.

    As Augustine put it “Those which we keep, not as being written, but as from Tradition if observed by the whole of Christendom, are thereby understood to be committed to us by the apostles themselves or plenary Councils, and to be retained as instituted.” (Ep 118).”

    Even in human terms, imagining that all the churches in the world from the beginning, in a diverse early church would nonetheless follow a certain teaching, if it wasn’t actually from the apostles, means a kind of hyper skepticism.

    In any case, you’ve managed to contradict yourself again within the space of a single paragraph. You’ve stated that if the extra biblical tradition indicates Jesus used water and wine, we should do it. Then you’ve condemned extra biblical tradition as made up, and changing every 5 minutes.

    You need to take a principled and consistent stand on this. Does tradition of the kind handed down from the early church have authority or not?

  18. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    And? Would you expect a government mandated list of ingredients listed at this point? If everyone culturally knew how wine was drunk, would you expect it mentioned?

    I’m simply pointing out that the textual evidence takes priority over the historical, and the textual evidence points to the wine itself as being the key issue. Wine was often drunk mixed with water, but not always. Is there evidence that the Passover cups were always mixed with water? Perhaps you could point me to it if there is.

    I take it then that you will be asking your fellowship to change to wine with water, since that is where the historical evidence leads.

    Assuming the historical evidence is settled as regards the inclusion of water, that is the proposal I will make, yes.

    Partly they are all wedded to their local traditions.

    Wait a minute. Just before you were saying that tradition was the only defense against negative change. Now you’re saying that tradition prevents positive change. Seems like you’re in a eat-your-cake situation here. You need to take a principled and consistent stand on this.

    In a theological setting, it typically means something plausibly passed down from the beginning.

    Well that scuttles 90% of your Catholic tradition, since it is highly implausible that it originated with the apostles.

    Moreover, I am quite puzzled at your complaint about my calling tradition man-made. Are you saying that Catholics regard tradition as the word of God? Those would appear to be the only two options, right?

    Even in human terms, imagining that all the churches in the world from the beginning, in a diverse early church would nonetheless follow a certain teaching, if it wasn’t actually from the apostles, means a kind of hyper skepticism.

    I assume you’re referring to pedobaptism here. But there is no historical evidence for pedobaptism in the first century, and there is good evidence to the contrary.

    You’ve stated that if the extra biblical tradition indicates Jesus used water and wine, we should do it. Then you’ve condemned extra biblical tradition as made up, and changing every 5 minutes.

    You are remarkably clueless. I am not appealing to “extra biblical tradition” on the issue of water and wine. I am appealing to historical evidence. Tradition can be a form of historical evidence, though by nature it is very circumstantial, meaning it can’t support a heavy burden of proof. Moreover, appeals to tradition are frequently question-begging. For example, if your only evidence that the apostles did something is that people 200 years later did it, you’re assuming what you need to prove if you can’t actually trace that practice any further back than 200 AD.

  19. John

    “Wine was often drunk mixed with water, but not always.”

    Ha-ha!! Oinos was often drunk fermented, but not always. Checkmate.

    “Now you’re saying that tradition prevents positive change. Seems like you’re in a eat-your-cake situation here.”

    What I’m saying is, I never saw a church that wasn’t completely and utterly wedded to its traditions. I’ve seen baptist, reformed baptist, Westminster Presbyterian, Anglican, Lutheran, charismatic, independent, whatever, and all of them have zero openness to changing their traditions. Which is odd, because they can’t all be right, yet none are ever convicted to change based on scripture.

    That being the fact of life, (presumably one God is aware of, BTW), the only thing you can hope for realistically, is a church whose traditions are already right.

    I did point out the one exception of when something new arrives on the scene. That’s when an individual pastor acquires a hobby horse.

    Logically then, you need to find a church who doesn’t have its origins in an individual’s hobby horse.

    Tradition is the guardian against error, if the traditions come from the beginning, and they are respected as such.

    Tradition is just inertia, if it’s not from the early church, and people hold to it because they don’t care to change.

    Try and change the tradition in a Protestant church. What you’ll find is, in the main, nobody cares. They won’t object strongly, but they won’t care much either.

    Try and change the tradition in say an Eastern Orthodox Church, and the people will be up in arms. That’s the difference.

    “Well that scuttles 90% of your Catholic tradition, since it is highly implausible that it originated with the apostles.”

    Well, I’m not Roman Catholic, if that’s what you’re implying. But 90%? Really? How would you come to that conclusion? If we just counted things well documented from say the first 4 centuries as “plausible”, Protestantism is way way off. You’ve already found several issues yourself just on the minor issue of what to put in the cup.

    “Are you saying that Catholics regard tradition as the word of God? Those would appear to be the only two options, right?”

    Yes, they do, that is correct. We do too. Actually if you do a search of the phrase word of God in your bible, it only occasionally refers to something written down.

    “But there is no historical evidence for pedobaptism in the first century, and there is good evidence to the contrary.”

    Paedo baptism is one of hundreds of issues that could be brought up. This is not the place, I presume to debate all that (e.g. The crushing silence of why it’s not a hot topic in the early church what age to baptize, which you would expect if people were concerned for their children’s salvation).

    You talk about the historical evidence, but all theological disputes boil down to a lack of historical evidence about what the apostles taught. If you can’t even accept the 2nd century’s testimony then you have completely reverted to solo scriptura, because there is basically nothing external to the NT from the 1st century. Well, there is the Didache, but Protestants don’t even get close to following that.

    But if you’re going to be hyper skeptical about the 2nd century church’s capacity to faithfully hand on the apostolic tradition, what of the canon? How will you trust the 4th century church, which is the first time we find the Protestant canon list in Jerome to get it right? What will you say about the disputed books? Revelation, Jude, 1John that were ignored as late as Chrysostom as disputed? What of 2Peter, which we have zero evidence was known to anybody until the year 200?

    “For example, if your only evidence that the apostles did something is that people 200 years later did it, you’re assuming what you need to prove ”

    What is the fundamental difference between proving somebody did something at around the same time, but not necessarily in exactly the same location or in the same community, compared to proving somebody did something a certain way in exactly the same place and community, but not exactly the same time? We all know 1st century Judaism was not monolithic. In fact I would argue 2nd century Christianity was an awful lot more cohesive than 1st century Judaism. You are pitting geography against chronology, and there is no obvious reason to think the latter trumps the former.

  20. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Ha-ha!! Oinos was often drunk fermented, but not always. Checkmate.

    You’re so eager to declare victory that you’re not thinking clearly. I am talking about textual evidence. The prima facie textual evidence is that what Jesus drank was wine. But there is no textual evidence that it was mixed with water. Moreover, the historical evidence strongly converges on the drink being wine: firstly, we know wine was the norm, and grape juice was generally served to women and children rather than men. Secondly, we know that grape harvest was around June, whereas Nisan falls around March-April—so there wouldn’t have been any ripe grapes to pick and squeeze to make juice. Indeed, it would have been around 9-10 months since the last grape harvest, which means that any grape juice would either have long turned rancid, or become well-aged wine.

    Conversely, you haven’t given us similar lines of evidence to think this wine was mixed with water. You have said that it was a common practice for drinking in general, and that is true. But the Passover was a ritual festival, not a generic meal, so it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusion from common practice and apply it here. You’ve also appealed to tradition, but unless you can show that this was a first-century tradition, that appeal is question-begging.

    As I’ve said, I am in no way opposed to the wine being mixed with water. If it was, it was. I just want more than circumstantial evidence and speculation before I sign my name to this being a key element of the Lord’s cup.

    That being the fact of life, (presumably one God is aware of, BTW), the only thing you can hope for realistically, is a church whose traditions are already right.

    I don’t even know what you mean by “traditions”. Are you referring to the creeds or confessions they affirm? To their practices? Are you talking about “traditions” like singing particular hymns or using particular instruments? I mean, those are obviously open to change, so it’s hard to imagine what reality you’re living in.

    Logically then, you need to find a church who doesn’t have its origins in an individual’s hobby horse.

    This is a plainly tendentious characterization. As if church-planting constitutes a hobby horse. The issue is not who planted the church, but whether the church is faithful to the revealed word of God.

    Tradition is the guardian against error, if the traditions come from the beginning, and they are respected as such.

    A naked assertion wandering hopelessly in search of an argument. Indeed, an assertion which on the face of it is just garbage. I’m not terribly familiar with the Eastern Orthodox, but do you pray to the saints? Do you consider Mary a co-mediatrix and redemptrix? Do you think the bread turns into the literal body of Christ? These are all just absurd traditions. If you agree with me, you show how flimsy your claim about tradition is, since Catholics of course say all these traditions come from the beginning. If you disagree with me, you just demonstrate my point, since these traditions are manifestly opposed to God’s revealed word. Moreover, tradition, unlike written records, is subject to undocumented change on a whim, which often leaves no trace and thus no way to validate its pedigree. You’re pretending something broadly equivalen to Chinese whispers is a “guardian against error”. You’ll excuse me if I just find that comical.

    If we just counted things well documented from say the first 4 centuries as “plausible”, Protestantism is way way off.

    Given the dodgy state of the various churches documented in the Bible, within 30 odd years of their being planted, why on earth should we think that after another 400 years similar things would not have repeatedly happened to send orthopraxy off course? That would be like a historian of 3600 AD pointing to the practice of churches using grape juice, and saying that this was obviously something they did during the Reformation.

    Yes, they do, that is correct. We do too. Actually if you do a search of the phrase word of God in your bible, it only occasionally refers to something written down.

    You’re right—often it refers to the second person of the Godhead; especially in the Old Testament. Could you point me to where in the Bible it refers to practices?

    If you can’t even accept the 2nd century’s testimony then you have completely reverted to solo scriptura, because there is basically nothing external to the NT from the 1st century.

    Of course, I never said we can’t accept the 2nd century’s testimony. I’ve only said that it has to actually constitute valid evidence. Your credulous acceptance of anything written down isn’t very endearing. By that standard we should all be Gnostics.

    Well, there is the Didache, but Protestants don’t even get close to following that.

    “Following” and “regarding as evidence of something” are quite different things. Why should we follow the Didache? Did God write it?

    But if you’re going to be hyper skeptical about the 2nd century church’s capacity to faithfully hand on the apostolic tradition

    Actually, I’m going to start by rationally doubting your question-begging assertion that there even is any kind of significant “apostolic tradition” aside from what is recorded in the Bible. How do you plan to shoulder that particular burden of proof?

    How will you trust the 4th century church, which is the first time we find the Protestant canon list in Jerome to get it right?

    Since the Bible draws no clear distinction between the process of inspiration and the process of canonization, I’m not sure why you think this should be a problem for me. It’s always amusing to see people going back to the “table of contents” objection, but tbh it’s kind of tired out. If you think sola Scriptura requires a table of contents, or that it is somehow self-refuting without one, you need to pick up the burden of proof; not me. I’d be honestly amazed if you could show this without resorting to a strawman of the doctrine.

    What will you say about the disputed books?

    I don’t really need to say anything about them since, in God’s providence, they were included in the Bible. Do you think God wasn’t sufficiently in control of history to get that right?

    You are pitting geography against chronology, and there is no obvious reason to think the latter trumps the former.

    Lol, you’re kidding right? Are you suggesting that travel through time is just as simple as travel through space?

  21. Andrew Duggan

    Not to go all Solo Scriptura, but Isa 1:22 is pretty clear that God considers wine mixed with water like slag on the top of molten silver — contemptible. He specifically uses wine mixed with water metaphorically to express how bad the people of God had become. So it’s really unlikely that God the Son incarnate would use wine mixed with water in his Supper considering what He said about it via his servant Isaiah.

    So go ahead and mix water into your communion wine, as long as you know and are OK with telling Christ he is worthless like slag.

  22. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    The problem, Andrew, is that this is exactly to go all Solo Scriptura. You are taking a metaphor out of one context and applying it as a universal principle for how wine should be drunk. Honestly, it doesn’t even bear refutation, it is so silly.

  23. John

    “I am talking about textual evidence.”

    What textual evidence? Short of coming up with a verse saying Jesus got drunk, I can’t see that there could be textual evidence.

    “firstly, we know wine was the norm”

    You’re still thinking like a modernist where there is a distinction between wine and juice.

    ” and grape juice was generally served to women and children rather than men.”

    Was it? That is a fact as yet not in evidence. We do have a report that women were not given alcoholic wine, but as I’ve pointed out, and as you continue to ignore, that is not the same thing as saying it was not served to men.

    “Secondly, we know that grape harvest was around June, whereas Nisan falls around March-April”

    The latest day for passover is April 30. Grapes can be picked very early spring, depending on variety and depending on your tastes. Here is a northern hemisphere vineyard announcing first shipments on May 7: http://malenaspringgrapes.org . All you’d need would be marginally warmer weather and April 30 is very doable.

    “Conversely, you haven’t given us similar lines of evidence to think this wine was mixed with water.”

    You’ve got the exact same evidence. Some scholar talking about normal practice, and probabilities, combined with a lot of church history. Exactly. The. Same.

    “But the Passover was a ritual festival, not a generic meal, so it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusion from common practice and apply it here.”

    Great, a ritual festival so we can ignore regular normalities. But that defeats your argument on exactly the same grounds. You will find a lot of web sites saying that the Jews did in fact add water to their wine, at least in this time in history. Right now I don’t have time to track down the ultimate source of those claims.

    “You’ve also appealed to tradition, but unless you can show that this was a first-century tradition, that appeal is question-begging.”

    What exactly was the difference between solo and sola scriptura again? There is very close to nothing from the 1st century outside of scripture. So how does sola scriptura function separately to solo scriptura? Basically you’re saying, all of church history is a dead loss as far providing any kind of authoritative interpretation. All you’ve got left is solo. You and your bible under a tree. Yeah, you can read what other people said, but you can ignore it without any kind of regret. That’s solo, pure and simple.

    “”For because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ. But when the water is mingled in the cup with wine, the people [are] made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with Him on whom it believes; which association and conjunction of water and wine is so mingled in the Lord’s cup, that that mixture cannot any more be separated.” Justin Martyr, AD 150.

    Oh dear, it’s deep into the SECOND century though, so I guess it has no value to you. I could quote church fathers from all over the empire and all over the centuries from 2nd on up that say this is the practice, but I guess all the churches with one mind fabricated this practice in unison, and it has nothing to do with what the apostles taught, right?

    “I don’t even know what you mean by “traditions”. Are you referring to the creeds or confessions they affirm? To their practices?”

    It refers to what Augustine referred to, which is the things which all the churches held to since the beginning. Sometimes practices, sometimes beliefs.

    “Do you think the bread turns into the literal body of Christ? These are all just absurd traditions.”

    1Cor 11:29 “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

    Many people have judged differently to you on this, based on Paul in 1 Cor.

    It’s all very well to say that a belief that at least has its origins in scripture, and was believed and taught in every century of church history is “absurd”, but you are way deep in solo scriptura now. On the same level as using 7-up. You’ve interpreted scripture outside of the church’s judgement. Way Outside.

    “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” – Ignatius, sometime before AD 110. Oops, I guess this *might* be just into the 2nd century, so you can ignore ignore ignore.

    “Moreover, tradition, unlike written records, is subject to change on a whim, and often such changes leave no trace.”

    That’s about as plausible as saying scripture could change throughout the empire, in unison, and leave no trace. You can claim it, but then all claims that scripture has been transmitted to us undefiled are rendered naught. You explain to me then. How can it be that the church, as far as Rome in the west and Alexandria in the east and everywhere in between, could be all teaching the same thing in contrary to the apostles by an early date? What mechanism could cause it? Having identified this mysterious force, how do you know it didn’t corrupt scripture?

    “You’re pretending something broadly equivalen to Chinese whispers is a “guardian against error”. You’ll excuse me if I just find that comical.”

    Is it “comical” that Orthodox follow practices outlined in the Didache, a 1st century document, even though that document was actually lost for most of history, lines up with what we still do today? How do you explain that? You can go on with hyper scepticism if you want, but its hardly comical when facts bear out the tenacity of tradition. I realise tradition in Protestant land is not tenacious, because the people devalue tradition as part of their philosophy. But this was not the attitude of the early church. Whether it be Paul’s admonition to “hold to the traditions, whether by word of mouth or letter”, or whether it be a Basil “Among the dogmas and truth that are safeguarded in the Church, some we have from the written teachings while others weve received orally from the Tradition of the Apostles”, the churches that valued tradition didn’t change them lightly. Agree or disagree, it’s not comical.

    “Given the dodgy state of the various churches documented in the Bible, within 30 odd years of their being planted, why on earth should we think that after another 400 years similar things would not have repeatedly happened to send orthopraxy off course?”

    Because there is a vast difference between individual churches (congregations) and THE church, which the gates of hell will not prevail against. You are right up there with Mormons who think the church was dead and buried by the time the first century was finished.

    “That would be like a historian of 3600 AD pointing to the practice of churches using grape juice, and saying that this was obviously something they did during the Reformation.”

    It’s not the same when an anti-tradition church changes things compared to a pro-tradition church. You’re saying that a church that has a proclivity to changing the scriptures should have their scriptures weighed equally to a church that likes to keep them intact. So the Mormon corrupted “Joseph Smith ‘translation’” KJV, with all his corruptions can be weighed equally to other versions in 3600 years time, even though they are aware of the Mormon attitude to changing stuff.

    It isn’t even up for dispute that an Orthodox church service is pretty much exactly the same as it was in the 4th century. I would argue earlier, but its harder to prove that. Scholars wouldn’t even dispute that. That’s plenty of centuries of holding to traditions that is not in dispute. For individual practices, there is plenty of evidence going back into the 2nd century, and even the 1st.

    “Could you point me to where in the Bible it refers to practices?

    Are you denying the word of God refers to practices?

    “I’ve only said that it has to actually constitute valid evidence

    Really, and who gets to decide what is supposedly valid? Your rule of faith is extremely shaky when you apparently need to refer to historical sources to figure it out, but you get to be your own pope in deciding what is valid.

    “Your credulous acceptance of anything written down isn’t very endearing. By that standard we should all be Gnostics.”

    I only accept things from the church. You know, the one you got your bible from. If you don’t accept that as a valid authority for deciding what is scripture is, you might just as well incredulously accept Gnostic writings and label them as scripture.

    “”Following” and “regarding as evidence of something” are quite different things. Why should we follow the Didache? Did God write it?”

    The Didache is evidence for the apostolic tradition. In and of itself, it doesn’t command obedience, but it is one witness among many to what the apostolic tradition is.

    Like how do you know what books are in the NT? Whenever I ask a Protestant this, sooner or later they will end up quoting Athanasius, and his festal letter about the canon. Is Athanasius infallible? No, but he is one witness to these things. That’s why you should be interested in the Didache.

    “Actually, I’m going to start by being completely rationally skeptical that there even is any kind of siginificant “apostolic tradition” aside from what is recorded in the Bible. How do you plan to shoulder that particular burden of proof?”

    Well, Paul said to hold to the oral tradition in 2Th 2:15. I’m not going to pre-judge what I might find in the oral tradition. I’m just going to find out what it is, and hold to it. The burden of proof should be on you, that when I go to the church fathers to find out what the tradition is, that I shouldn’t believe them. That Paul got it wrong, I shouldn’t hold to the oral tradition. The early church was unanimous in this: that there is an extra-biblical tradition, that it came from the apostles, and that we should hold to it. They could be lying, or totally mistaken en-toto, but then they could be mistaken about what books the apostles wrote too. Hyper-skepticism is as caustic to sola scriptura as any world view.

    “It’s always amusing to see people going back to the “table of contents” objection, but tbh it’s kind of tired out.”

    It’s not exactly an objection to make polite enquiry about how you know what the bible is. You can wax forever about the philosophy of inspiration and canonisation, but when the rubber hits the road the question is the same: How do YOU know what the canon is? Who can tell you what it is? Catholic bible? Protestant? Maybe the Ethiopian canon tickles your fancy? Maybe you’d like to add the Book of Mormon onto the end. Where exactly do you find out these things? It’s really a simple question, not needing a long essay.

    What will you say about the disputed books?

    “I don’t really need to say anything about them since, in God’s providence, they were included in the Bible. “

    Oh, they were? So, you’ll take the bigger catholic bible off the shelf of your local christian book store, since… well the disputed books ARE included. Certainly they are included in the vast majority of bibles.

    “Do you think God wasn’t sufficiently in control of history to get that right?”

    So majority rules on canon issues. Gotcha. Perhaps you can convert your church to the longer canon as your next assignment after you’ve solved the wine issue.

    Now answer me this question. Since apparently you can solve the canon problem in one fell swoop of philosophy, “Well, wouldn’t God control history to get it right”, now tell me, why can’t I say, “Don’t you think God was sufficiently in control of history to get the INTERPRETATION right in his church”?

    After all, correct books and correct text is as good as completely useless without the right interpretation. Why ought I to believe God gets the canon right in his church by the mere waving of your philosophical hand, but I ought not believe God gets the interpretation right? Logical consistency demands that I either believe both those propositions or neither together.

    “Lol, you’re kidding right? Are you suggesting that travel through time is just as simple as travel through space?”

    Errrm, yes I am. If I’m sitting in a random church in, oh let’s say Addis Ababa. Is it more likely that what is going on in that church has more in common with what was going on 100 years ago in that same church, or is it more likely to have more in common with what is going on in, oh say, some random church in North Carolina? The answer is pretty obvious, and its not in your favour.

  24. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, this is getting long and pointless. A few responses:

    You’re still thinking like a modernist where there is a distinction between wine and juice.

    Nope, it’s quite sufficient that I simply think like someone who knows that some juice gets you drunk and some doesn’t, and the stuff that doesn’t is only available around harvest time.

    The latest day for passover is April 30 [blah blah blah]

    This is all just pure speculation. You’re not advancing the argument at all. You’re also acting as if I’m opposed to mixing water with wine, which I have explicitly denied.

    What exactly was the difference between solo and sola scriptura again?

    http://bnonn.thinkingmatters.org.nz/whats-the-difference-between-sola-and-solo-scriptura/

    Basically you’re saying, all of church history is a dead loss as far providing any kind of authoritative interpretation.

    As if theologians never disagreed throughout church history. You don’t even have “tradition” until you cherry-pick the theologians you want.

    Oh dear, it’s deep into the SECOND century though, so I guess it has no value to you. I could quote church fathers from all over the empire and all over the centuries from 2nd on up that say this is the practice, but I guess all the churches with one mind fabricated this practice in unison, and it has nothing to do with what the apostles taught, right?

    Actually if it was a widespread practice in the middle of the second century, that lends a lot of weight to it being what Jesus originally did. I have no problem with that. All I asked for was evidence.

    Many people have judged differently to you on this, based on Paul in 1 Cor.

    The question is not whether people judged differently, but whether they judged accurately. We need to assess the exegetical arguments. And the exegetical arguments for transubstantiation are weak at best, while the arguments against are extremely strong. And that’s not even getting into the philosophical incoherence of the doctrine.

    It’s all very well to say that a belief that at least has its origins in scripture, and was believed and taught in every century of church history is “absurd”, but you are way deep in solo scriptura now.

    Pure strawmannery.

    Is it “comical” that Orthodox follow practices outlined in the Didache, a 1st century document, even though that document was actually lost for most of history, lines up with what we still do today? How do you explain that?

    Let’s say that’s true. It doesn’t actually damage my point to concede that tradition can be maintained accurately. Indeed, your example illustrates my argument, which is that without documentation such as the Didache, we cannot have confidence in the pedigree of any given tradition. Mind you, you’ll forgive me if I don’t just take your word for this. Eastern Orthodox and Catholics all have a nasty habit of engaging in historical anachronism.

    Because there is a vast difference between individual churches (congregations) and THE church, which the gates of hell will not prevail against.

    Leaving aside your question-begging implied interpretation of Matthew 16:18, “THE” church is comprised of individual churches. If individual churches go off the rails, that affects “THE” church, because it just is the sum of (possibly aberrant) individual churches.

    You are right up there with Mormons who think the church was dead and buried by the time the first century was finished.

    Poppycock.

    It’s not the same when an anti-tradition church changes things compared to a pro-tradition church.

    Nonsense. The grape juice situation took decades to develop and was met with fierce opposition. Yet if there were no records from that time or earlier as to what was drunk, we might never even know it.

    but you get to be your own pope in deciding what is valid.

    As opposed to you being your own pope in deciding that the Eastern Orthodox church is the true church, right? No double standard there, no sir! Your entire argument is self-refuting.

    I only accept things from the church. You know, the one you got your bible from.

    Nuh uh. The Catholics are adamant that I get my Bible from their church.

    Like how do you know what books are in the NT?

    The recognition of the NT by the NT church is not an issue for me, and I don’t know why you think it is. What you need to show is something like this:

    1. The NT church correctly recognized the NT canon
    2. ???
    3. Therefore, the Eastern Orthodox Church is authoritative in interpreting Scripture

    Might be kinda hard given how logic works, though…

    Well, Paul said to hold to the oral tradition in 2Th 2:15.

    Two problems:

    1. There isn’t any obvious presumption that the contents of this “word of mouth” differed from what he wrote in his letters to other churches.

    2. Even if it did, it isn’t important since he explicitly tells Timothy that Scripture is sufficient for the man of God to be completely competent, equipped, and capable to meet all demands—no tradition mentioned, oddly. You have to make Paul into a self-contradictory idiot for your point to go through.

    So majority rules on canon issues. Gotcha. Perhaps you can convert your church to the longer canon as your next assignment after you’ve solved the wine issue.

    You seem confused about this. You can’t create a majority by bringing in anyone you happen to like. The canon of an apostate church isn’t very interesting to me.

    Why ought I to believe God gets the canon right in his church by the mere waving of your philosophical hand, but I ought not believe God gets the interpretation right?

    That’s a question you’re going to have to duke out with the Catholics. One of you has to be a false church if your question has genuine weight. Personally, I discount the assumption behind it out of hand: to ask it is to imply that God’s word is not clear and sufficient, which is to call God a liar.

  25. John

    “The latest day for passover is April 30″…. This is all just pure speculation. You’re not advancing the argument at all. You’re also acting as if I’m opposed to mixing water with wine, which I have explicitly denied.

    The latest date of passover is NOT speculation. The times when you can harvest grapes is NOT speculation. They overlap. Why you claim they are speculation, we are not told. Neither are we told what this has got to do with mixing water with wine.

    In any case, from my viewpoint it is NOT good enough that you are merely “not opposed” to sound doctrine, any more than it would not be music to my ears that you are “not opposed” to the proposition that Jesus rose from the dead.

    As if theologians never disagreed throughout church history. You don’t even have “tradition” until you cherry-pick the theologians you want.

    That’s why Augustine referred to traditions that all Christendom held to, and not just local traditions. Anyway, you don’t get a canon until you cherry pick sources either. But presumably you think when there is some kind of consensus it means something, RIGHT?

    Actually if it was a widespread practice in the middle of the second century, that lends a lot of weight to it being what Jesus originally did. I have no problem with that.

    OK, now stay with the consistency now. You are saying that it it has a lot of weight that Jesus taught it when we find it widespread in the 2nd century. So when we find Chrismation universal from the 2nd century, will you be consistent now and admit there is a lot of weight that the apostles taught it? Of course we see it in a basic form in Acts 8:14 and 19:6, but we see how the apostles formalised the rite as something done immediately after baptism. e.g. Tertullian: ““Then having gone up from the bath we are anointed with a blessed anointing of ancient discipline, by which people were accustomed to be anointed for priesthood, by oil from a horn from which Aaron was anointed by Moses”, or Hippolytus: ““The neophytes are anointed by the presbyter from the oil consecrated by the bishop. He says, ‘I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ.’ And thus, drying themselves, the individuals are vested, and afterwards are brought in the church.”. Note that this rite was “ancient” in the time of Tertullian. Or Origen: “For all whoever have been anointed with the oil of sacred chrism have become priests, as also Peter says to the whole Church: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9). Therefore you are a “priestly people,””.

    So from Rome to Alexandria, around the year 200, chrismation was universally accepted as the ancient practice, held just after baptism. And it has its roots in scripture. So how are you going to react to this? Just like your alcohol hobby horse, it has a basis in scripture, but it has its form set by tradition and history. Will you fall about in inconsistency again?

    The question is not whether people judged differently, but whether they judged accurately. We need to assess the exegetical arguments.

    Who gets to evaluate these exegetical arguments? You? Tell me, how can it be, that all these native Greek speakers, enveloped in the contemporary cultural background of the time, all interpret it wrong, but you, from New Zealand, brought up on Sesame Street and Kiwi English, are better able to weigh the issues? Purely on a logical basis, aren’t 10 church fathers’ opinions worth infinitely more than yours?

    Furthermore, even if, wonder of wonders, you are more clever than all and sundry in the ancient church, what was God thinking to make a bible so lacking in clarity that nobody could figure it out till the 15th century?

    Supposedly, Protestants argue, historical grammatical exegesis means evaluating what the words meant in their historical setting to the original recipients. But we don’t have to guess that, WE KNOW. We have their writings, we only have to listen and learn. Saying you know what the words meant in their historical grammatical setting, but the people in the historical grammatical setting didn’t, is crazy!

    And the exegetical arguments for transubstantiation are weak at best, while the arguments against are extremely strong.

    How would you know, being a 21st century man, with a 21st century world view? Anyway, I don’t know what that (Roman) word, transubstantiation means to you. What the doctrine means to us, is simply that Jesus meant what he said literally. No complex philosophy here, just believing it literally. Believing Paul literally. Disagree if you will, but believing the text as written is never “weak”.

    Let’s say that’s true. It doesn’t actually damage my point to concede that tradition can be maintained accurately. Indeed, your example illustrates my argument, which is that without documentation such as the Didache, we cannot have confidence in the pedigree of any given tradition.

    So do you have confidence in 2 Peter, as it is first mentioned in 200 AD? Oh, you do because God is in control, is it? But apparently God is not in control of the bible when it falls into heretical hands, like Rome. But then how do you know you are not heretical because you believe in 2 Peter? Or what if you are heretical because you don’t believe in some book that is missing from the canon?

    Leaving aside your question-begging implied interpretation of Matthew 16:18, “THE” church is comprised of individuals churches. If individual churches go off the rails, that affects “THE” church, because it just is the sum of (possibly aberrant) individual churches.

    How many times do have to hear Protestants mouthing that the bible is a fallible list of infallible books. But when you point out that a fallible collection of books must still be fallible, there is stunned silence. I’ve written down the numbers from 1 through 40, and now I have next week’s lotto numbers. The numbers are infallible, but knowing which ones will actually win, is the fallible bit. The overarching description overrides the minutae.

    In the same way an infallible collection of fallible churches is still infallible. The infallibility of the collective results supersedes the error at the individual level. That one person here or there had a different canon list, doesn’t override the collective decision on what the canon is. If you disagree, you have no canon.

    Nonsense. The grape juice situation took decades to develop and was met with fierce opposition.

    Firstly, the grape juice situation is (arguably) not entirely an extra-scriptural tradition, so the fierce opposition (if there was), would not necessarily be because of adherence to tradition, but to scripture. Secondly, we certainly don’t find grape juice in all Protestant churches, not even close. That’s the point. When someone somewhere tries to change a tradition, because they have a hobby horse, at best all they succeed in doing is changing some churches’ traditions. Then when we look back we can see churches differing and surmise that somebody changed something.

    But when ALL churches at a particular point in time do a particular thing, then we have to say, how could this be, if somebody changed it?

    If you don’t like this argument, remember it is exactly the same argument Protestant apologists use when they tell people we should trust the transmission of scripture. Because nobody could change it in all places at once without it leaving evidence in the transmission history. For example we have no extant copies whatsoever of Matthew prior to I think the year 300. You could say, well maybe someone went all around the empire and changed them all. Would that be a good argument? You don’t have proper documentation to deny it, so by your own reasoning, you should probably throw out Matthew because MAYBE somebody changed it, in a time before that documentation exists.

    As opposed to you being your own pope in deciding that the Eastern Orthodox church is the true church, right? No double standard there, no sir! Your entire argument is self-refuting.

    There’s a big difference between my decisions about the Orthodox church and your decisions about valid evidence. Namely that I presuppose that there is a solution to these theological problems in that somebody, somewhere, has authority on these matters in a fashion that could conceivably result in a church with a working and functioning system. You could spend the next 50 years arguing with the grape juice faction, and the water-in-the-wine faction, and never come to any firm conclusions. And that’s before you tackle the other 2000 burning theological problems of the Christian church. How can a church function in such circumstances?

    There’s a good practical reason why, when you go to your church and ask them to use wine, they will ignore you. That’s because it is infeasible on any level, for a church to keep thrashing out all these issues ad-infinitum to the end of days, it would result in nothing but a thousand year war without end.

    So when you are your own pope, happy in the knowledge you are deciding for yourself what is valid evidence, and look at me also looking at evidence for a church, remember your evidence leads to no RULE OF FAITH, for anything but you, and only you, but my search for evidence leads me to a church, and thus a rule of faith for a people of God.

    Nuh uh. The Catholics are adamant that I get my Bible from their church.

    Truth be told, you got it more from Luther than from anybody else, but don’t let me put words in your mouth. You’re weaselling around, slithering trying to escape, tell us where you found out what the canon is. Tell us the source of this revelation. When the Mormon comes to your door, inviting you to pray about their holy books, and witnessing the burning in the bosom they get from them, do you have any answer? Or do you stand there like a stunned mullet?

    The recognition of the NT by the NT church is not an issue for me

    That is stunned mullet response to the Mormon missionaries if ever I heard one.

    1. The NT church correctly recognized the NT canon
    2. ???
    3. Therefore, the Eastern Orthodox Church is authoritative in interpreting Scripture

    Might be kinda hard given how logic works, though…

    What is your logic? Let me see:

    1. Interpret your bible under a tree.
    2. Decide what the bible actually is. (i.e. Not the evil Roman version).
    3. Condemn the churches as heretical who determined what the bible is. (All those church fathers).

    On any sane level, your decision to interpret the bible as the first step, then decide what the bible is, as a logical second step, doesn’t make sense.

    My logic is:

    1. Believe in Jesus.
    2. Find the Church he set up.
    3. See what it says.

    1. There isn’t any obvious presumption that the contents of this “word of mouth” differed from what he wrote in his letters to other churches.

    Firstly, why would I even delve into the cat and mouse game of presuming a-priori what is contained in this oral tradition? Paul’s admonition is not to listen to the oral tradition, make assumptions about whether it is different to the written tradition or not, and then come to a conclusion about whether to follow it or not. He says to hold to it, so I do it. There are no extra words to be inserted into the sentence here. It’s very weaselly for Protestants to play this game.

    Secondly, are there not revelations that are not contained in Paul’s letters? What about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which at this time were being transmitted orally? Was the church to ignore what Jesus said, because it wasn’t written yet? And what about the fact that Thessalonians is usually thought to be one of Paul’s early letters, thus not containing most of Paul’s eventual written wisdom? Was Paul saying to ignore everything he said until he wrote it?

    The answers to these questions are obvious, and we see the hypocrisy, because Protestants argue for historical grammatical exegesis. i.e. The words ought to mean to us exactly what they meant to the original recipients. To the original recipients, clearly the words mean what they clearly say, which is to hold to the oral teachings, that are in fact not written down anywhere. That’s what the words mean. You can go off on some tangent now, claiming that everything he said to them was eventually written, but it has nothing to do with the text here.

    2. Even if it did, it isn’t important since he explicitly tells Timothy that Scripture is sufficient for the man of God to be completely competent, equipped, and capable to meet all demandse—no tradition mentioned, oddly. You have to make Paul into a self-contradictory idiot for your point to go through.

    Let’s think logically now about who is making Paul self-contradictory. What was Paul talking about here? Even Protestants readily assert that Paul is actually referring to the OT scriptures. Clearly the OT scriptures do not teach everything necessary for the Christian church. They don’t talk about baptism. They don’t talk about the Lord’s supper. They don’t talk about new circumcision laws. There’s a ton of stuff they don’t include. So what did Paul mean? Obviously he meant that the scriptures contain enough information to be a Godly man, in the basic sense of moral, upright, and so forth. Even if you want to say Paul was including the very few NT books written at that point in time (which even Protestant scholars never seem to claim), it wouldn’t even be plausible that they contained the full revelation of the entire NT. That is obvious.

    So who is making Paul into a blithering self-contradictory fool? You are.

    Personally, I discount the assumption behind it out of hand: to ask it is to imply that God’s word is not clear and sufficient, which is to call God a liar.

    You seem to have got lost in the woods from your original philosophical claim. Let’s remember what the claim was: we know the canon because God must be sufficiently in control of history to adequately convey it to his church.

    Again, listen to the objection: A perfectly transmitted bible is utterly useless without a correct interpretation. So why ought we assume God would control history so his church has the right text, but not control history so his church has the correct interpretation?

    Logically, I should accept either both of these philosophical claims, or neither of them TOGETHER. There is no logical reason to assume, a-priori, that God must have preserved something so that his church could wrongly interpret it. That would be a stupid thing to do, and assuming God will act stupidly, because some Kiwi assures me it is so, is not a good starting point for apologetics.

    Now if you want to abandon that philosophical claim, and try some other hook to hang your hat on as far as justifying your canon, be my guest. Perhaps you’ll go down the Mormon burning of the bosom next, you’re half way there already. But you don’t give us a reason to assume that there is a church somewhere to look to with the right canon, but wrong interpretation.

    Now please tell me where you got your canon from, in a way that a Mormon missionary can understand.

  26. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    John, most of this discussion about the canon is completely off topic as usual. I get that this is your hobbyhorse, but this thread about the Lord’s supper. So I won’t be responding to most of what you said (although tbh I think it’s mostly pointless anyway; I’ve never had a fruitful discussion with an Eastern Orthodox).

    The latest date of passover is NOT speculation. The times when you can harvest grapes is NOT speculation. They overlap. Why you claim they are speculation, we are not told. Neither are we told what this has got to do with mixing water with wine.

    It’s speculation because you’re just throwing numbers together without regard for their historical place.

    Most scholars favor either April 7, 30 AD or April 3, 33 AD, for Jesus’ crucifixion. That’s well before your May harvest. That said, grapes ripened at earliest in June—believe it or not, agricultural technology has advanced somewhat since the first century, so your modern example is simply jejune. Quoth the ISBE:

    The three principal feasts of the Jews corresponded to the three harvest seasons (Ex 23:16; 34:21,22); (1) the feast of the Passover in April at the time of the barley harvest (compare Ruth 1:22); (2) the feast of Pentecost (7 weeks later) at the wheat harvest (Ex 34:22), and (3) the feast of Tabernacles at the end of the year (October) during the fruit harvest. The seasons have not changed since that time. Between the reaping of the barley in April and the wheat in June, most of the other cereals are reaped. The grapes begin to ripen in August, but the gathering in for making wine and molasses (dibs), and the storing of the dried figs and raisins, is at the end of September.

    So from Rome to Alexandria, around the year 200, chrismation was universally accepted as the ancient practice, held just after baptism.

    Even if the theology of chrismation isn’t bunkum, which looks doubtful at best, what does this practice have to do with my argument in the OP?

    Purely on a logical basis, aren’t 10 church fathers’ opinions worth infinitely more than yours?

    Yes, let’s pretend it’s the church fathers versus me, rather than the church fathers versus exegetical giants like Don Carson or Raymond Brown or Charles Wanamaker. And let’s pretend we don’t have examples of first century churches going off the rails in their theology and practice right after being planted.

    what was God thinking to make a bible so lacking in clarity that nobody could figure it out till the 15th century?

    Talk about begging the question.

    What the doctrine means to us, is simply that Jesus meant what he said literally. No complex philosophy here, just believing it literally. Believing Paul literally. Disagree if you will, but believing the text as written is never “weak”.

    Right, so it’s never weak to think that Jesus is a literal door, or a vine, or that Paul had a literal thorn in his flesh. Gotcha.

    But apparently God is not in control of the bible when it falls into heretical hands, like Rome.

    You’re making some remarkable leaps of logic about what my position entails.

    But when you point out that a fallible collection of books must still be fallible, there is stunned silence.

    Strawmen tend to be silent. Do you think the Jews had an infallible teaching authority to recognize the Old Testament?

    But when ALL churches at a particular point in time do a particular thing, then we have to say, how could this be, if somebody changed it?

    Since I’ve already agreed that the more widespread and early a practice is, the better the chances of its pedigree, I’m not sure why you bring this up.

    There’s a big difference between my decisions about the Orthodox church and your decisions about valid evidence. Namely that I presuppose that there is a solution to these theological problems in that somebody, somewhere, has authority on these matters in a fashion that could conceivably result in a church with a working and functioning system.

    So the big difference is that you rely on your personal opinion about the way theological problems must be solved, and what a “working and functioning” church would look like, and then question-beggingly pick the church that most closely fits your personal predilections. Nice.

    my search for evidence leads me to a church, and thus a rule of faith for a people of God.

    Once again, you substitute in a man-made institution to replace the Bible. The very essence of false religion.

    On any sane level, your decision to interpret the bible as the first step, then decide what the bible is, as a logical second step, doesn’t make sense.

    My logic is:

    1. Believe in Jesus.
    2. Find the Church he set up.
    3. See what it says.

    Ironically, your logic requires you to interpret the Bible as a first step, since that’s a prerequisite of knowing about and believing in Jesus. Your second step also requires you to interpret the Bible in such a way as to believe Jesus set up a monolithic church—an idiosyncratic interpretation if ever there was one. The fact that you can’t see how your objections keep refuting your own position would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    Even Protestants readily assert that Paul is actually referring to the OT scriptures.

    Of course, Paul was quite aware that he too was an author of Scripture. It’s not as if he was excluding the NT from his remark just because he had the OT primarily in view.

  27. John

    Most scholars favor either April 7, 30 AD or April 3, 33 AD, for Jesus’ crucifixion…. believe it or not, agricultural technology has advanced somewhat since the first century

    “the date of the Passover was tied in with the ripening of barley. The actual witnessing of the New Moon and observing of the stand of crops in Judaea were required for the functioning of the religious calendar.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)”

    So here’s what what you now need to have a rule of faith in this matter. For a Protestant to interpret the bible and have a rule of faith in the church, they’ve got to know the year Jesus was crucified (which involves an intimate knowledge of history), they’ve got to know the date of passover that year (so they’ve got to have the weather reports on hand for 30AD so they can guess when the barley ripened), they’ve got to know astronomy so they can know when the moon rose that month, as well as when the equinox occurred. (even if you’re expert you can’t actually know, since observational calculations don’t line up exactly with theory, and if you miss the new moon, the whole passover could shift a month). It wouldn’t hurt to know the solar cycle too to estimate whether it was a hot year for barley. They’ve got to know about ancient vs modern food technology, so they can know when ancient grapes would have ripened compared to modern ones. They’ve got to know about wine making so they can know under what conditions and time constraint wine ages. They’ve got to know the find details of the ancient culture about who would be likely to avoid fermented wine, and what passover customs were in that particular century.

    This sola scriptura thing isn’t really working out for you is it?

    Even if the theology of chrismation isn’t bunkum, which looks doubtful at best,

    I see, something the apostles did might be bunkum. Got it.

    what does this practice have to do with my argument in the OP?

    Because you’ve argued sola scriptura allows referring to church practice and orthodoxy, and you need that to justify fermented wine. Once you allow that in, you can ask the question of how the church is to apply the practice of christmation as found in the bible to the rule of faith in the church, and then look to common practice and orthodoxy.

    Or in other words, you have no hope of being consistent.

    Yes, let’s pretend it’s the church fathers versus me, rather than the church fathers versus exegetical giants like Don Carson or Raymond Brown or Charles Wanamaker.

    There are a few massive intellects who are Jehovah’s witnesses too. Some of them put forward very carefully thought out pieces of exegesis. But so what? A lot of heretics throughout history have had minds the size of a planet.

    There is something unique about the recognised church fathers. Firstly, they operated at a time there was only one church of any size. Secondly, they operated in the church that I think even wide-eyed hyper-skeptics like yourself recognises was the very church the apostles founded, including, in the case of the early fathers, church members who actually met the apostles personally, or even the church fathers in some cases probably met the apostles. Thirdly, even you have admitted that at least sometimes tradition is passed down faithfully, and you admit it means something when we see that tradition early. Fourthly, they were not influenced by 2000 years of past theological arguments, so they are the only ones who certainly read the scriptures without past traditions, so when they agree despite all that, it means something. Fifthly, as clever as the names you just dropped might be, I highly doubt any of them quite devoted themselves to the scriptures and the church as much as someone like a John Chrysostom.

    And let’s pretend we don’t have examples of first century churches going off the rails in their theology and practice right after being planted.

    I repeat again, what happened to one individual church all its lonesome is irrelevant.

    Talk about begging the question.

    Really? Why did it take 15 centuries for you guys to find out that you shouldn’t be baptising infants? Nobody read the same bible as you?

    Right, so it’s never weak to think that Jesus is a literal door

    IF you can find someone who wants to make a serious case that Jesus is a literal door, I wouldn’t accuse them of being weak, no.

    Like any argument about literal vs figurative, you can spend hours in debate about what a literal door is. What is a literal door? The dictionary defines a door as a “means of access”. Apparently if something is a means of access then, it is a literal door. What is a literal thorn? The dictionary defines a thorn as “something that annoys”. This is all compounded by the fact that you don’t and can’t have a 100% full comprehension of the the original language words involved, even if you have the best Greek lexicon in hand, which will merely be a rough reconstruction based on fragments of papyri we happen to dig up.

    You’re making some remarkable leaps of logic about what my position entails.

    You tell us what it entails. You’ve told us you won’t accept the canon from heretics, so apparently you accept it only from those sound in doctrine. So you must know where this holy pure church is. Not an invisible church either, because you can’t ask invisible churches what their canon is. So where is this visible church so that I too can make enquiries about their canon? You need to give me some reasonably clear picture of where its boundaries are too, because I need to go talk to them and find out this stuff. I could tell you if I had to where every Orthodox church is, bar none. How well will you do?

    Strawmen tend to be silent. Do you think the Jews had an infallible teaching authority to recognize the Old Testament?

    Teaching authority? You must think I’m Roman, I’m not familiar with that term.

    Yes the Jews must have had some infallible group of people. Some subset of them infallibly had the canon. Because Jesus assumed they knew the canon, so they must have held that tradition in their collective thinking. But oh no no, this was not to be found just anywhere. The Saducees and Samaritans apparently held to the Pentatuch. Qumran seemingly had all these other books. No, there must have been a visibly true people of God, distinguishable from these other heretics, who you could go ask the infallible canon list. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense that Jesus just assumed they knew what the scriptures were (but presumably didn’t agree with all these heretical groups, right?).

    Since I’ve already agreed that the more widespread and early a practice is, the better the chances of its pedigree, I’m not sure why you bring this up.

    Here’s the problem Mr Sola Scriptura. How do you objectively assess these probabilities? You’ve already conceded they bear weight, because you are hunting around for them to take to your church elders about alcoholic wine. But nobody can say their weighting. One man will say, well most of these church fathers said X, therefore that adds overwhelming weight to one side of these conflicting exegetical considerations over there. Another man will say, I don’t care that much what these church fathers said, if one exegetical argument is even 50.0001% probable compared to the other one being 49.9999% probable, then that outweighs even the entire history of Christendom.

    And you reckon you can get a rule of faith for the church out of this? You can’t, and if there was any debate about it, all you’ve got to do is look at the state of Protestant land from the beginning right up to the point they substituted grape juice for wine.

    So the big difference is that you rely on your personal opinion about the way theological problems must be solved, and what a “working and functioning” church would look like, and then question-beggingly pick the church that most closely fits your personal predilections. Nice.

    It’s not question begging to see Paul admonishing the churches to “agree on everything”, and then see Protestants can’t agree on anything.

    Its plain obvious that to have a church, or indeed any religious institution, it has to have a method for agreeing on a rule of faith. We see in the first paragraph of this response everything you’ve got to agree on before you can even know if you should use wine. That’s one of thousands of issues up for grabs in Protestantland. And its not like you are even happy to agree to disagree on the wine/grapejuice issue either, otherwise this blog article wouldn’t be written.

    Once again, you substitute in a man-made institution to replace the Bible. The very essence of false religion.

    So what proposition do you disagree with? That Jesus set up a church, or that Jesus was God?

    Ironically, your logic requires you to interpret the Bible as a first step, since that’s a prerequisite of knowing about and believing in Jesus.

    It is? How did the church get started believing in Jesus, when they didn’t write the gospel yet?

    The church pre-dated the written account of Jesus. People came to the church, the gospel was passed onto them orally, and this was considered PERFECTLY FINE AND NORMAL. They weren’t wailing about on the floor, crying that the church was man-made, crying that they couldn’t know about Jesus until someone wrote it down. No, they believed the church as the rule of faith, and it was enough.

    And you know what? Nobody since then ever told the church to do anything else. Nobody revoked the church’s status as authoritative custodian of the oral rule of faith. Nobody said at a particular point in time “right NOW, we’ve finished writing it all down, so you can stop pretending you are an authority now”. No, the apostles set up the church with that authority, otherwise the church would have been dead on day one, and it was never revoked.

    Your second step also requires you to interpret the Bible in such a way as to believe Jesus set up a monolithic church

    What does monolithic mean? If you mean we EO all believe the same theology, I say Amen, preach it to me! If you mean we all have the same hierarchy, or the same Pope, or we are one single institution or something along those lines, it simply is not the case. Different major EO churches share nothing institutionally, other than the mutual recognition that we all believe the same thing. So where is that unbiblical or odd?

    Of course, Paul was quite aware that he too was an author of Scripture. It’s not as if he was excluding the NT from his remark just because he had the OT primarily in view.

    If we are talking about 2 Th 2:15, according to the scholars, it is quite likely that 2 Thessalonians is the 2nd book written (after 1 Thessalonians), and possibly (but not certainly) Galatians. Meaning the other 25 books of the NT don’t exist yet. So when he said “hold to the traditions”, he can’t very well have been referring to other writings that contain the Gospel, or Christian doctrine or anything like that.

    It would help then if you were honest then and at least acknowledge that exegetically speaking, 2Th 2:15 means what it seems to mean, which is that Paul is telling the church to hold to the oral gospel. (It would then help if you tell us where this command is revoked).

    If we’re talking about Timothy, it’s highly likely it predates Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so again I have to ask, was Paul saying not to hold to the teachings of Jesus distributed orally? You do acknowledge the early church was not ignorant of Jesus’ teachings right? Was the church completely and fully informed, lacking nothing even without, oh say, the gospel of John? Was nothing whatsoever useful revealed in the Apocolypse of John?

    If you answer any of these questions even remotely honestly, it means your interpretation of Timothy is pure gibberish.

  28. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    So here’s what what you now need to have a rule of faith in this matter [blah blah blah]

    This is jejune. All I needed was Google, and all I did with it was corroborate my original conclusion. Chances are, what was in the cup was wine. I knew that before I went googling.

    This sola scriptura thing isn’t really working out for you is it?

    It’s hilarious that you actually mean Solo Scriptura, given your firm denial that Solo Scriptura is a strawman used by anti-Protestants.

    I see, something the apostles did might be bunkum. Got it.

    Why should I take you seriously when you engage in such flagrant equivocation? The theology of chrismation is not identical with the practice of it. Moreover, it is a practice absent from Scripture.

    Because you’ve argued sola scriptura allows referring to church practice and orthodoxy, and you need that to justify fermented wine.

    Which would be relevant if the Bible instructed us to perform chrismation but didn’t tell us what concoction to use.

    There are a few massive intellects who are Jehovah’s witnesses too.

    And it’s simple enough to compare their arguments with the arguments of people like Carson, and evaluate who is right.

    There is something unique about the recognised church fathers. Firstly, they operated at a time there was only one church of any size.

    I’m not inclined to taking question-begging starry-eyed narratives about the early church seriously.

    I highly doubt any of them quite devoted themselves to the scriptures and the church as much as someone like a John Chrysostom.

    Lol, maybe you should start an official fan club. It’s hard not to notice that your theology is driven by a cult of personality rather than faithfulness to Scripture.

    Why did it take 15 centuries for you guys to find out that you shouldn’t be baptising infants? Nobody read the same bible as you?

    Since there is no good historical evidence that the church was baptizing infants in the first century, and plenty of good evidence that they weren’t, that’s a double-edged sword you might want to put back down before you hurt yourself.

    Like any argument about literal vs figurative, you can spend hours in debate about what a literal door is.

    By your own yardstick, this is just a semantic game, and even Zwinglian Protestants believe that Jesus is literal bread.

    You tell us what it entails. You’ve told us you won’t accept the canon from heretics, so apparently you accept it only from those sound in doctrine.

    Actually, what I said was I don’t accept the canon of a false church. Why should anyone accept the canon of Trent? Even a notable minority of those who voted at Trent recognized that it was bogus.

    Yes the Jews must have had some infallible group of people. Some subset of them infallibly had the canon.

    Remarkable! And who were these people? Tell us more about this mythical group.

    No, there must have been a visibly true people of God, distinguishable from these other heretics, who you could go ask the infallible canon list.

    Well you’ve eliminated the Sadducees, Samaratans and Qumran community. That pretty much leaves the Pharisees, who organized to have Jesus killed, and the Sanhedrin, who convicted him. None of which looks good for your arguments about infallibility or the continuation of tradition without error.

    How do you objectively assess these probabilities?

    You seem oblivious to the fact that your objections can be easily turned around on you with respect to your belief that any given church is the “true” one.

    It’s not question begging to see Paul admonishing the churches to “agree on everything”, and then see Protestants can’t agree on anything.

    Haha, yes, it is question-begging when you assume your own church is the “true” one so as to conveniently ignore that it disagrees with many others, in order to avoid your own standard of judgment.

    That’s one of thousands of issues up for grabs in Protestantland.

    Your habit of begging the question is going from comical to just annoying. Why should I believe it is a problem that Protestants disagree on multiple issues? Why should I not consider it a strength?

    No, they believed the church as the rule of faith, and it was enough.

    A completely tendentious characterization. They believed eyewitnesses, or people close to eyewitnesses, who could show them from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. Since we don’t have eyewitnesses any more, we’d have nothing of any evidential value without their written records.

    Nobody revoked the church’s status as authoritative custodian of the oral rule of faith.

    You can’t revoke something that only exists in your rose-tinted mind. Talk about anachronism.

    So when he said “hold to the traditions”, he can’t very well have been referring to other writings that contain the Gospel, or Christian doctrine or anything like that.

    Something I never suggested anyway. You’re reinforcing my point rather than refuting it. The Thessalonians had been taught by Paul personally. What were they taught? Well, a good guess would be the same stuff he taught other churches by epistle. Was anything left out? Maybe. Was it critical to “making one wise for salvation”? Not if 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is to be believed.

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