Archive for January, 2016

Another scam email

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Scam Laptop Shows Scheming Hoax Deceit And Fraud Online

(courtesy dreamstime.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This is a  scam email I received on 23 January 2016:

Subject: ACCOUNT 7.0 UPDATE
Date: Sat, 23 Jan 2016 07:20:53 +0100
From: Mail iiNet <mveerappan.co@gmail.com>

DEAR iiNet USER,

We have upgraded the security on all account due to complain on identity theft, You are advised to update your account. Click, Updated Page for instant update
Regards,

©2016 iiNet Web, Inc

The indicators of a hoax

Fraud Warning(courtesy dreamstime.com)

 

These hoax indicators are mixed with signs of the real thing. My Internet provider is iinet.com.au. The hoax is from ‘Mail iiNet’ that looks like iinet and is addressed to ‘DEAR iiNet USER’. It is signed, ‘©2016 iiNet Web, Inc’. This reads oh so normal.

BUT, there is a give-away indicator and it is one that should always be checked with unknown and unexpected messages that come from one’s Internet provider or from any other source. Who is the email from? The full address of the person or organisation is, ‘Mail iiNet <mveerappan.co@gmail.com>’ The address in this line gives it away: mveerappan.co@gmail.com. That is not iinet but a scam, hoax, fraud – however you want to put it.

That email address told me it was not from iinet, but was a scam, designed to get me to link to some scam website that was called ‘Updated Page’ for security. Who knows what I would have encountered if I had clicked on ‘Updated Page’, What would have happened to my PC?

There is another indicator of it being a possible hoax. That is found in the incorrect grammar used in the email: ‘We have upgraded the security on all account (sic) due to complain (sic) on identity theft’. These two spelling errors signify it was possibly sent from an overseas and foreign source without knowledge of some fundamental English grammar and spelling.

What to do with the spam email

Computer Monitor Screen ...(courtesy shutterstock)

 

I immediately forwarded it to iinet Provisioning Team at: support@iinet.net.au, advising that ‘this is a hoax email I received re iinet and thought I should advise you of this’.

Then I removed it from my email inbox by choosing the letter j to send it to the junk folder (I use Thunderbird as my email programme).

Be warned!

If an email looks fishy in its title or content, it probably is. Make sure you read the sender’s email address carefully. There you will pick up the hoax or scam email signs in a wrong address. If you have any doubts, forward a copy to your Internet provider and ask if this email is sourced from that provider.

The more emails that come into our inbox, the higher the risk of receiving hoax and potentially dangerous email will be. We can be caught, unless we remain vigilant all of the time.

May you enjoy your computing, while taking the necessary precautions.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 January 2016.

Queensland Senator bullying Queensland MPs

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

(image courtesy clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

How do you think a politician would push her views on abortion? I wrote to her on 5 November 2015 by email to expose what I understood she was doing. The title of my email was, ‘Quit your histrionics[1] and bullying’:

I read the article in the Brisbane Times (2 November 2015) about what you are doing to Queensland State MPs, ‘Greens Senator Larissa Waters wants Queensland MPs to show position on abortion‘.

Please quit this action of bullying Qld MPs. They are big boys and girls who are capable of thinking through the abortion issues themselves.

We already have provision for doctors to abort if there is physical or mental danger to the mother.

It is important that children be protected from conception. You obviously don’t give a hoot about that view. It’s important to safeguard children from murder while they are in the womb. There are life and death reasons for keeping the Qld abortion laws as they are.

It is time for you, a federal Qld senator, to remove yourself from wanting to influence State MPs like this and using the mass media to push your view. What you are doing is engaging in histrionic bullying of MPs with your public demands.[2]

How do you think her office would reply to this kind of personal email from me?

A. Red herring reply from a Senator’s office

I want to commend the Senator’s office for replying to my email because many of the Senators I contact do not get back to me at all. It’s as if my writing to them, for whom I have voted, is a waste of time. However, how did the person in the senator’s office reply? Here it is:

Thank you for contacting Senator Larissa Waters regarding abortion.

Senator Waters respects your concerns and acknowledges your perspective on this issue.

The Australian Greens have been, and continue to be, strong supporters of women’s right to access free, safe and legal termination services.  The Greens believe it’s unacceptable that so many Australian women still struggle to access this basic health service, which is why we will continue to work to improve women’s access to termination services.

Thank you again for contacting Senator Waters to express your views.

Regards,

[staff member’s name]

Office of Senator Larissa Waters [3]

Notice what she missed from my email of 5 November to Senator Waters? She omitted one of my primary emphases that I placed in the email title, ‘Quit your histrionics and bullying’. Not once in this reply did the staff member mention my accusation of bullying of Qld MPs – not once. She avoided it to push Senator Waters’ pro-abortion agenda.

(Herrings kippered by smoking and salting until they turn reddish-brown, i.e. a “red herring”. Prior to refrigeration kipper was known for being strongly pungent; courtesy Wikipedia)

By avoiding the topic I raised of histrionic bullying of MPs, Senator Waters’ office has practised a red herring logical fallacy. What is that? The Nizkor Project explains:

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim (The Nizkor Project 2012. S v red herring).

Therefore, I responded to Catherine Garner via email:[4]

Your response is a red herring logical fallacy. You did not address the issue I raised of Senator Waters bullying Qld MPs about their views on abortion. Please quit it. Bullying in all its forms should not be promoted, let alone practised, by Senator Waters.

1. Politicians among least trusted

Your reply endorses fallacious reasoning. No wonder in 2011, reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, it was found that ‘this year’s Reader’s Digest survey on the most-trusted professions sandwiches politicians between car salesmen and telemarketers, in the bottom three out of a list of 45 vocations’. Politicians were 44 on the list of 45′ (The Sydney Morning Herald 2011). Sadly, journalists were competing with politicians near the bottom of that list at No. 40. In fact, sex workers are at #39, meaning that politicians are less trusted than prostitutes.[5]

How was Senator Waters tackling the views of Queensland MPs on abortion?

B. Politician bullying other politicians

clip_image002(photo of Senator Larissa Waters, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

This federal Greens’ senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters was bullying Qld MPs with some of these emphases, as reported by the Brisbane Times:[6]

1. She was asking Queensland State MPs to declare their position on decriminalising abortion. Why? It was a component of her campaign to expose what she considers is Qld’s ‘outdated law’ that she wants changed. To me, this seems like a predicted technique. She is pushing for a change in Qld State legislation. So what better way to do this than to unmask the politicians’ perspectives on abortion so that she could then attempt to debunk or parade their values for possible ridicule or exposure in their electorates?

However, she is a federal politician and should be leaving State politics to the state political sphere. This doesn’t prevent her from expressing her views. However, she did it in a very public sphere through this article in the Brisbane Times.[7]

2. This was associated with a report in the Brisbane Times that Qld women were travelling interstate to obtain abortions (Mitchell-Whitington 2015). This article claimed Qld women wanting abortions were breaking the law by going south for the procedure. ‘In 2014, Children by Choice referred 77 women interstate, with similar organisations making the same type of referrals so that figure is probably much higher’, claimed Professor Caroline de Costa of James Cook University School of the College of Medicine and Dentistry.[8] De Costa’s contention was that ‘extensive abortion “tourism” from all Australian states to Victoria and overseas (is occurring) in the face of barriers to access to abortion’.

So this Brisbane Times article garnered a pro-abortion response from a Professor of Medicine. Where was the balance? I did not find a right of response from Cherish Life, a right-to-life organisation.

3. This is how Waters is bullying Qld MPs. It was reported that ‘Larissa Waters has begun campaigning to decriminalise the procedure [of abortion] in the sunshine state, with plans to publish where Queensland’s MPs stand on the issue’ (Remeikis 2015). This kind of threat amounts to bullying by intimidation, in my view.

4. This article stated, ‘”The fact that abortion is still a crime in Queensland creates stigma and legal uncertainty for women and for doctors,” Ms Waters said in the letter to the state’s MPs’. So Waters is pushing the stigma and legal side to try to get MPs to declare their hand on abortion so that she will shame them (this is how I see it) about ‘the dearth of access to abortion in Queensland’ (Remeikis 2015).

5. The bullying by shaming continues: ‘Our outdated laws, are hurting Queensland women’. This is guilt by association. If Qld MPs support the current abortion laws they are endorsing old fashioned laws that are hurting women, according to Waters.

6. The guilt by association and bullying continued: ‘Ms Waters said polling shows four out of five voters supported decriminalising abortion, with the Australian Medical Association of Queensland calling the current law “a barrier to a doctor’s first duty – best patient care”’. Not one statistic was quoted by the Brisbane Times or Ms Waters to support this assertion of the percentage of Queenslanders who support abortion. However, elsewhere these are the polling statistics that were not 80% in favour of abortion:

ALMOST two-thirds of Queenslanders support the decriminalisation of abortion, according to an exclusive Galaxy opinion poll.

The poll of 800 voters, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, found 64 per cent believed abortion should be legalised, while 31 per cent disagreed. Five per cent were uncommitted (Miles 2009, emphasis in original).

A year later it was reported:

Image result for clipart research public domain

(image courtesy clipartpal.com)

New independent polling by Galaxy Research reveals Queensland voters are evenly split on whether to “decriminalise abortion”, despite widespread media coverage of the recent Cairns court trial and contrary to recent claims by the pro-abortion lobby that there is 90 per cent support.

The poll, taken after the week-long trial, shows a cautious attitude towards abortion with 29 per cent saying they would not allow abortion “at any stage of pregnancy”. This makes a total of 74 per cent of Queenslanders who would not permit abortion beyond the first trimester, or not at all.

Even support for first-trimester abortions is qualified because half (49 per cent) of Queensland voters do not support abortion for non-medical reasons (that is, social or financial reasons). Of course, it is deemed common knowledge that the majority of the annual 14,000+ abortions in Queensland are carried out for non-medical reasons, something which may shock the general public if they knew.

Catapulting the cause for abortion law reform into media headlines was the trial of a young couple in Cairns during October 12-14. After only one hour of deliberation the jury found them not guilty of the two charges: procuring one’s own abortion and supplying a drug to procure an abortion (McCormack 2010, emphasis in original).

Commenting on this poll, the Australian Christian Lobby stated:

“Despite activist organisation GetUp! reportedly claiming that decriminalising abortion has 90% public support, this new poll shows that 74% of Queensland voters are opposed to abortion past the first trimester,” ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said. “Another important finding is that almost everybody (94%) believes that a woman should receive free independent counseling to enable a fully informed decision. Three quarters of respondents (77%) believed that abortion can harm the mental and physical health of a woman.

“The poll also found that 29% of respondents did not support abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, and that nearly half of those surveyed (49%) said they did not support abortion for non-medical reasons. This is particularly noteworthy considering that the vast majority of abortions carried out in Australia today are not for medical reasons, but for purely for financial or social reasons.

“There is clearly no consensus that abortion laws should be changed except to introduce better safeguards for women such as independent counseling, cooling-off periods and parental consent for girls under 16,” Mr Wallace said (Australian Christian Lobby 2010).

A 2008 survey reported in The Medical Journal of Australia came to different conclusions. It was ‘an anonymous online survey of 1050 Australians aged 18 years or older (stratified by sex, age and location) using contextualised questions, conducted between 28  and 31 July 2008’ and reached the conclusion that there was,

a high level of support for access to early abortion; 87% of respondents indicated that abortion should be lawful in the first trimester (61% unconditionally and 26% depending on the circumstances). In most of the clinical and social circumstances described in our survey, a majority of respondents indicated that doctors should not face professional sanctions for performing abortion after 24 weeks’ gestation.

Conclusions: Our data show that a majority of Australians support laws which enable women to access abortion services after 24 weeks’ gestation, and that support varies depending on circumstances. Simple yes/no polls may give a misleading picture of public opinion (de Crespigny et al 2010).

However, this study did admit that ‘late abortion is especially controversial, although less than 2% of abortions occur at 20 weeks or later. Few data support the belief that Australians strongly oppose women’s access to late abortion, while surveys in the United Kingdom and United States do report opposition’ (de Crespigny et al 2010).

C. Abortion ‘tourism’ is pathetic publicity

passenger airplaneProfessor de Costa of James Cook School of Medicine used a wretched designation for the travelling to another city to have an abortion. She called it, ‘extensive abortion “tourism”… in the face of barriers to access to abortion’ (Mitchell-Whitington 2015). Sarah Colyer (2015) for the Australian Medical Association also used the language of ‘abortion tourism’ and cited Professor de Costa in her article, along with others. In a Media Release for the Australian Medical Association on 26 October 2015, Professor de Costa again repeated the offensive language of ‘tourism’ to obtain an abortion because of the divergence in legislation across Australia: ‘The result of these differences is continuing and extensive abortion “tourism” from all Australian states to

Victoria and overseas in the face of barriers to access to abortion’ (de Costa 2015).

1. ‘Medical tourism’ in action

I find it abominable that any medical doctor or professor could call the killing of an unborn child in abortion to be an example of tourism in action. Wouldn’t travelling interstate to murder somebody be a better description of what goes on?

How do you think others see this view of ‘tourism’? One comment to Colyer (2015) was: ‘The use of the word “tourism” in this article is in the same context as “medical tourism” – where people travel to have procedures or treatment that are not accessible to them locally – either due to availability or cost. The term does not intend to trivialise the treatment, but to describe the act of travelling’ (comment by Sue Ieraci). Another’s response was more provocative, ‘“Tourism’”??? Really???? I find this both an inflammatory and demeaning term to be used in the exploration of a significant health issue’ (Nicole L in Colyer 2015). How does a doctor of conscience with a different view to that of de Costa and others deal with abortion?

I work in Victoria and am always concerned about the welfare and rights of both mother and baby when a woman with an unwanted pregnancy presents. It happens to me very rarely now as I get older.

Unless the mother’s viability is in real danger and there therefore exists the mother’s right to act in self defence of her life, I will not be part of killing anyone. Therefore, I refuse to be involved in a referral for abortion to someone who is not of the same moral belief. i.e. I will break the law in Victoria where my right as a citizen to act according to my conscience has been legislated away as a result of the unfortunate alliance of left wing Victorian Labor politicians of the early 2000s. Emily’s List is a very powerful lobby group in the Labor Party who have engineered legislation which allows the legal killing of babies while in utero until birth. What barbarity! (Paul Jenkinson in Colyer 2015).

I’m with you, Nicole. To describe travelling to have a procedure to kill an unborn child as ‘tourism’ is not only demeaning and abominable but profane,[9] in my view. The abuse of a life given by God (the child in the womb) through killing is vulgar and wicked to redefine as tourism, even medical tourism. What is a nation coming to where a professor of medicine is prepared to publicly go on record as regarding murder of an unborn child as tourism?

This does get down to worldview and scientific issues regarding the commencement of human life.

D. Conclusion

This article commenced with a Qld example of a Qld federal Senator, Larissa Waters, who was pressuring (bullying was my language) Qld MPs for their views on abortion so that she could pressure them to decriminalise abortion in Qld.

What was her purpose? She wanted to prevent ‘medical tourism’ by which a pregnant woman would travel to another state or territory to have her abortion – the killing of her unborn child.

The Brisbane-based ‘Children by Choice’, states that the organisation ‘is proud to have the support of our three patrons – Senators Claire Moore, Sue Boyce and Larissa Waters’. So that nails Senator Waters’ colours to the mast. She’s a promoter of abortion and her bullying Qld MPs to obtain their views on abortion seems to be to pressure them into providing evidence that her pro-abortion side can use to manipulate Qld laws for pro-abortion change to decriminalise abortion.

I find the tactic abominable that she has used.

Works consulted

Australian Christian Lobby 2010. Qld polling challenges pro-abortionist claims (online), 29 October. Available at: http://www.acl.org.au/2010/10/qld-polling-challenges-pro-abortionist-claims/ (Accessed 10 November 2015).

Colyer, S 2015. Call to end “abortion tourism”. MJAInSight[10] (online), 26 October. Available at: https://www.mja.com.au/insight/2015/41/call-end-abortion-tourism (Accessed 11 November 2015).

de Costa, C 2015. Advances in fetal medicine outstrip abortion law reform. The Medical Journal of Australia: Media Release (online), 26 October. Available at: https://www.scimex.org/__data/assets/file/0007/57355/Abortion-Laws_MJA_Media-release.pdf (Accessed 11 November 2015)

de Crespigny, L J; Wilkinson, D J; Douglas, T; Textor, M & Savulescu, J 2010. Australian attitudes to early and late abortion. The Medical Journal of Australia (online), 193 (1), 9-12. Available at: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/193/1/australian-attitudes-early-and-late-abortion (Accessed 10 November 2015).[11]

McCormack, L 2010. QUEENSLAND: 12 per cent swing in favour of protecting unborn. News Weekly, November 13. Available at: http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=4491 (Accessed 10 November 2015).

Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2015. Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/ (Accessed 11 November 2015).

Miles, J 2009. Two thirds support abortion law change: poll. The Courier-Mail, September 15. Available at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/two-thirds-support-abortion-law-change-poll/story-e6freon6-1225773035076 (Accessed 10 November 2015).

Mitchell-Whitington, A 2015. Outdated Queensland abortion laws creating a ‘tourism’ of women travelling south. Brisbane Times (online), October 26. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/outdated-queensland-abortion-laws-creating-a-tourism-of-women-travelling-south-20151023-gkhbe6 (Accessed 11 November 2015).

Oxford Dictionaries 2015. Oxford University Press. Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/ (Accessed 11 November 2015).

Remeikis, A 2015. Greens Senator Larissa Waters wants Queensland MPs to show position on abortion. Brisbane Times (online), November 2. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/greens-senator-larissa-waters-wants-queensland-mps-to-show-position-on-abortion-20151101-gko8sy.html (Accessed 10 November 2015).

The Nizkor Project 1991-2012. Fallacies (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 11 November 2015).

The Sydney Morning Herald 2011. Australia’s most trusted: sex workers trump pollies in public confidence stakes (online), June 22. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/australias-most-trusted-sex-workers-trump-pollies-in-public-confidence-stakes-20110622-1ge82.html (Accessed 10 November 2015).

 

Notes


[1] ‘Histrionic’ means being ‘excessively theatrical or dramatic in character or style’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v histrionic):

[2] I sent this to Senator Waters’ email address: Senator.Waters@aph.gov.au.

[3] The staff member sent this email on 10 November 2015 from email: Senator.Waters@aph.gov.au.

[4] I do not make my personal email available on this ‘Truth Challenge’ website.

[5] I did not include this last sentence in my email to Waters’ office.

[6] Remeikis (2015).

[7] Ibid.

[8] This professorship is confirmed in the MJA InSight (Colyer 2015).

[9] I am using ‘profane’ as meaning ‘to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt: desecrate; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use’ (Merriam-Webster 2015. S v profane).

[10] This is a Medical Journal of Australia publication.

[11] There was no pagination for this online edition.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 January 2016.

I fell for an email hoax

Friday, January 8th, 2016

an attack happened here by Andy_Gardner

The hoax email sounded so plausible

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have been warning people on this homepage since 2013 about the damage done by hoax email and misinformation on the Internet.

However, on 7 January 2016 I was a sucker to such an email myself. When I woke up to its content and origin, I deleted it immediately. This is how it happened.

Hoax email content

I received an email with a heading that incorporated UPS [United Parcel Service]. Since I have lived in the USA, I knew of the extensive delivery of packages by UPS. The email stated that a UPS package was unable to be delivered to me and that I should pick it up at my local UPS agency. There was an attachment that gave the details.

What caused me to query such a statement in my mind was that I live in Australia and do not know of a local UPS agency. UPS is a USA based agency that has a worldwide distribution network.

What made it sound plausible was that it gave a delivery number and there was an attachment that I attempted to open. It was then that I realised this was a hoax with a nasty intent. My virus protector kicked in with a scan.

I immediately looked at the sender’s email address and it had no connection to UPS.

Confirmation of evil intent

I went searching to find if this kind of hoax had been experienced by others. Snopes.com confirmed the fraudulent nature of this email:

#We have become aware there is a fraudulent email being sent that says it is coming from UPS and leads the reader to believe that a UPS shipment could not be delivered. The reader is advised to open an attachment reportedly containing a waybill for the shipment to be picked up.
This email attachment contains a virus. We recommend that you do not open the attachment, but delete the email immediately.
UPS may send official notification messages on occasion, but they rarely include attachments. If you receive a notification message that includes an attachment and are in doubt about its authenticity, please contact customerservice@ups.com.
Please note that UPS takes its customer relationships very seriously, but cannot take responsibility for the unauthorized actions of third parties (snopes.com 1995-2016, ‘Package Delivery Virus’).

address book

The UPS offers this warning on its website, ‘New Fraudulent Email Circulating’. It stated:

View Examples of Fraudulent Emails

Please be advised that UPS does not request payments, personal information, financial information, account numbers, IDs, passwords, or copies of invoices in an unsolicited manner through email, mail, phone, or fax or specifically in exchange for the transportation of goods or services. UPS accepts no responsibility for any costs or charges incurred as a result of fraudulent activity.

In its preventive work to fight fraud, UPS recommended this approach:

Help Us Prevent Email Fraud

errors

If you suspect someone is fraudulently claiming to be UPS, let us know. Email us at fraud@ups.com. Reporting fake or bogus emails helps us in our fight against criminal activity.
UPS is a global company with one of the most recognized and admired brands in the world. Occasionally, fraudsters take advantage of UPS’s reputation by using our name or services to target your personal and sensitive business information. By creating tempting downloads and attractive websites, fraudsters can lure you to links that prompt you to enter sensitive information or download malware — malicious software such as viruses or spyware. While UPS is not liable for the actions of third parties, we are working to prevent and detect fraud where possible (Fight Fraud, 1994-2016. United Parcel Service of America Inc).

Unfortunately, I had deleted the email I received before I was able to report it to UPS. In fact, it was only after deletion that I investigated what UPS recommended that I should do.

Criteria for identifying email and Internet hoaxes

The Australian government has online help with its article, ‘Recognise scam or hoax emails and websites’ (Department of Communications and the Arts).

WikiHow has a valuable article on How to Spot an Email Hoax or Phishing Scam. This article deals with:

# Understanding Phishing

# Spotting the Hoax

# When Not to Reply (Most Times)

# Hoax-Proofing Yourself and Your Family Questions and Answers

Alert

On 7 January 2016, I learned these criteria from the mistakes I made:

1. If the wording of the heading of the email sounds strange, it probably is and warning bells should be ringing not to open it.

2. I should have recognised this as I’ve had nothing to do with UPS and knew of nobody who was sending me a parcel via UPS. My three overseas books from the UK had arrived in the last few days and I knew they were coming through Australia Post.

3. Then look at the email address of the sender. Is it an email with which you are unfamiliar or is it a variation of a familiar email, but with some contamination?

4. If so, do not open the email but go searching the hoax sites (see below), using the exact wording of your email content, to investigate if this is a phishing method that has been used previously and is being used on you.

5. If possible, advise the reputable source that may be associated with the hoax email so that it knows of this contamination of its product.

Beware of those email fraudsters

Many people are falling victim to circulating Internet and email hoaxes about various subjects. I got caught myself yesterday. We are all vulnerable to these con men and women on the Internet who want our money and to ruin our computers and reputations through spreading viruses.

Many of these hoaxes can be checked out at various sites on the Internet that investigate possible hoax emails and Internet smears. These are the ones I use regularly:

#Snopes.com;

#Urban Legends;

#Hoax-Slayer; and

#TruthorFiction.com.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 January 2016.

Is there no ‘Scripture alone’ in early church fathers?

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

(courtesy Reformed on Pinterest)

By Spencer Gear PhD

‘Sola Scriptura’ is the teaching that the Bible alone is the only supreme source of authority in spiritual matters for the Christian. This has been a contentious issue between Protestants and Roman Catholics since the time of the Reformation. Generally, historians date the Protestant Reformation to 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his ’95 Theses’ to the All Saints Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on 31 October 1517.

(Martin Luther, shown in a portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder, initiated the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Portrait courtesy Wikipedia)

 

The Reformation’s ending can be placed anywhere from the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, which allowed for the coexistence of Catholicism and Lutheranism in Germany, to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The key ideas of the Reformation were ‘a call to purify the church and a belief that the Bible, not tradition, should be the sole source of spiritual authority’. The new power of the printing press enabled these ideas to gain publicity and exposure to a wider audience. (history.com Reformation)

This sixteenth century schism in the European Roman Catholic Church was triggered by Luther (Germany) and other reformers such as John Calvin (France & Switzerland), Huldrych Zwingli (Switzerland), Theodore Beza (Switzerland), Thomas Cranmer (England, martyr) and John Knox (Scotland). There were even earlier promoters of reform with Peter Waldo (Waldensian, Lyons, d. 1205), John Wycliffe (England, d. 1384) and Jan Hus (Czech, d. 1415). But it was to Luther that the start of the Reformation schism can be attributed.

One of the key doctrines of the Protestant Reformation was sola scriptura, which is Latin for ‘scripture alone’. Lutheran theology explains:

In other words, if you can’t back it up with scripture, then it probably shouldn’t be part of the Christian faith and life.

The slogan Sola Scriptura developed out of the perception that certain Christian teachings and practices—especially some teachings and practices formulated during the medieval period of Western Christianity—had little or no Biblical basis….

On the other hand Sola Scriptura in Lutheran form is not against tradition per se.  While some brands of Christianity might insist that if it’s not in the Bible then it’s not Christian, Lutheran theology understands that a tradition is allowable when (a) it is not contradicted by scripture, (b) it serves a purpose that is scriptural, and (c) it is not enforced as a pre-condition for Christian unity.

It is nonetheless possible to assert the principle of Sola Scriptura in a manner similar to the bumper sticker that says: “The Bible Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It.”  However, a Lutheran theological approach resists simplification.  For Lutheran Christians, reading the Bible does not mean setting aside critical thinking skills.  Instead, the Lutheran understanding of Sola Scriptura includes certain rules for thought.

These rules for thought include:

  • Understand that the Bible is the manger in which Christ is laid.· Be aware that some books of the Bible are more central than other books of the Bible.
  •  Recognize that Scripture interprets Scripture.
  • When reading and hearing the Word of God, discern Law and Gospel (Dr Hans Wiersma, Lutheran Theology: An Online Journal, 2011).

There were 5 solas of the Reformation:

clip_image002[4]

(image courtesy Christian Worldview Journal 2016)

Those five solas are: grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and glory to God alone.

We have a need to flesh out the details and significance of the meaning of sola Scriptura.

A. Meaning of sola scriptura

Jennifer Hay of Catholic Answers states that ‘The most common Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that it has splintered the Church. Thousands of Protestant denominations exist today, each one claiming to interpret Scripture by the guidance of the Holy Spirit…. We find that sola scriptura did not work in the early Church any better than it has in the last 500 years, because it is unworkable’ (Hay 2009).

Note that this interpretation by Hay is an example of pragmatism: It did not work in the early church or now. Surely, that is not the best way to test the validity of a teaching. ‘Was it taught by Scripture and was it affirmed by the early churches?” would seem to be a better approach to determining the content of sound doctrine.

Protestant theologians Gordon Lewis & Bruce Demarest[1] explain how this situation developed:

During the medieval era Roman Catholic theology became corrupted with the doctrine of salvation by works, the veneration of relics, the idea of a treasury of merit, and the sale of indulgences. Abuses such as these led to the protest movement known as the Reformation. Guided by the themes sola scriptura [Scripture alone], sola gratia [grace alone], and sola fide [faith alone], the Protestant Reformers forged a return to the teachings of the Bible as the primary authority….

With the Protestant Reformers, we affirm that although there are many sources of theological knowledge, there is but one inerrant, final authority: sola scriptura. In seeking to integrate biblical truth with other knowledge, we constantly face, for example, the issue of whether the biblical or the scientific has priority. The liberal tradition tended to accommodate the biblical to the psychological or philosophical in order to communicate to contemporary society. Natural theology corrected scriptural theology.[2] In the process, the essence of revealed truth was lost. We must adapt our communication of theology to our generation but be alert to the great danger of accommodating the message to its errors. As Fulton J. Sheen once said, “He who marries the spirit of the age will become a widower in the age to come” (Lewis & Demarest 1987:50, 34).

Leading Protestant and Calvinistic pastor, John MacArthur Jr’s, explanation is:

The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty (MacArthur 2015).

Wayne Grudem, another Calvinistic Protestant theologian, explained its meaning, ‘The Bible alone is the Word of God written. There are no other written words of God anywhere else in the entire world. And the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God written. Every single bit of this book in the original documents has a fundamentally different character from every other bit of writing in the entire world’ (Grudem 2000).

This view does not go down well with Roman Catholics. Joel Peters is so opposed to it that he has written an article for Catholic Apologetics, ‘Twenty one reasons to reject sola scriptura’. Of the Reformation, Peters wrote, ‘The Protestant Reformation was not a reform in the true sense of the word, but rather it was a revolution – an upheaval of the legitimate, established religious and civil order of the day’ (n. 1).

B. Roman Catholic position on authority

It was at the RC Council of Trent (meeting 3 times between AD 1545 and 1563) that it was affirmed that

the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament–seeing that one God is the author of both –as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession (The Council of Trent, The Fourth Session).

Then the Council proceeded to identify the books of the Bible. These included the Old Testament (39 books), Apocrypha or deutero-canonical (14 books), and the New Testament (27 books).

The Council of Trent’s response to the Reformation avowed the authority in the Roman Catholic Church of written books of the Bible (including Apocrypha), unwritten traditions alleged to have come from Christ to the Apostles – dictated by the Holy Spirit – and transmitted to the church through apostolic succession. This tradition is preserved in the Catholic Church, which is really the Roman Catholic Church. ‘Catholic’ has come to mean (1) ‘Roman Catholic’ but it also (2) is ‘connected with all Christians or the whole Christian Church’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. s v catholic). Catholic, meaning all Christians, refers to the body of Christ and not to all who nominally take their religious association as ‘Christian’.

How would a contemporary Roman Catholic respond to those promoting sola scriptura?

C. Roman Catholic outlook

This is one example of a Roman Catholic who promoted his cynical view in an online Christian forum: ‘You are the one that brought up Augustine. The claim made by funnymentalists like pope Rudd[3] (and many other anti-Catholic “ministers”): that the Early Church Fathers were sola scripturists is ludicrous. There is no point in flooding the thread with more ECF [early church fathers] quotes disproving the false claim’.[4]

His contorted understanding continues: ‘”Only doctrines explicitly grounded in the teaching of the Bible are trustworthy.” This concept is self-destructive, and is not found in scripture. Unless you can find a scripture that explicitly says this, which you can’t, then you must re-phrase it to say: “Only doctrines explicitly grounded in the teaching of the Bible are trustworthy, except this one”’.[5]

D. Early church fathers’ views [6]

Is this true or false that the early church fathers (ECF) did not teach sola Scriptura? My response was to ask:[7] What about this kind of evidence from the early church and these church fathers’ views of Scripture?[8] The following is only a limited list of samples of statements from the ECF. For more, see the article by James White, ‘Sola scriptura and the early church’ (White 2009).

1. Theophilus of Antioch (ca 115-181).[9]

‘It would be acting according to demonic inspiration to follow the thinking of the human mind and to think there could be anything divine apart from the authority of the Scriptures‘ (Pascal Letter 401).[10]

2. Irenaeus (ca 120/140-200/203)[11]

Saint Irenaeus.jpg(Irenaeus, engraving in Lyons, France, courtesy Wikipedia)

In Against Heresies (written ca AD 185), he stated, ‘If they had known the Scriptures, and been taught by the truth, they would have known, beyond doubt, that God is not as men are; and that His thoughts are not like the thoughts of men’ (Kirby 2015, Against Heresies 2.13.2, emphasis added). In addition,

If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit; but we, inasmuch as we are inferior to, and later in existence than, the Word of God and His Spirit, are on that very account destitute of the knowledge of His mysteries (Kirby 2015, Against Heresies 2.28.2).

Also, ‘we have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith‘ (Kirby 2015, Against Heresies 3.1.1).

3. Tertullian (ca 155-222)[12]

‘If it is nowhere written, then let it fear the woe which impends on all who add to or take away from the written word’ (Against Hermogenes, ch 22).

Writing of the prophecies in Isaiah and the Psalms concerning Christ’s humiliation, he wrote: ‘It is right that His conduct be investigated according to the rule of Scripture’ (Against Marcion 3.17).

Robert Preus found that in Against Heresies, Irenaeus ‘cites Scripture no fewer than 1,200 times’ (Preus 1979:360).

4. Origen (185-232)[13]

(Origen, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

In writing about the Holy Spirit, Origen wrote of, ‘those Scriptures alone which were inspired by the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Gospels and Epistles, and the law and the prophets, according to the declaration of Christ Himself’ (De Principiis 1.3.1).

Origen’s context was explaining details about people who had received heavenly words from God in order to uproot and demolish kingdoms. His interpretation for the young and others who might be discouraged was, ‘If we seek to bring these words up to the Savior according to the worthiness of the Word and according to the truth, it is necessary to take the Scriptures as witnesses. For without witnesses, our interpretations and exegeses are unfaithful’ (Jeremiah, Homily 1.7(3)].

In explaining ‘the unity and harmony of Scripture’ and after explaining the agreement of all parts of Scripture with each other and comparing with those ‘well taught in God’s harmonies’, he used this comparison:

Those who are not skilled in hearing the harmony of God in the sacred Scriptures think that the Old is not in harmony with the New, or the Prophets with the Law, or the Gospels with one another, or the Apostle with the Gospel, or with himself, or with the other Apostles. But he who comes instructed in the music of God …. For he knows that all the Scripture is the one perfect and harmonised instrument of God, which from different sounds gives forth one saving voice to those willing to learn’ (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Bk 2).

5. Antony of Egypt (ca 251-356),[14]

‘One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: “The Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words”’ (Athanasius, ‘Life of St. Anthony’ 16).

6. Athanasius of Alexandria (ca 298-373),[15]

Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpg(St Athanasius of Alexandria, image courtesy Wikipedia)

‘For although the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth – while there are other works of our blessed teachers compiled for this purpose, if he meet with which a man will gain some knowledge of the interpretation of the Scriptures, and be able to learn what he wishes to know’ (Athanasius, Against the Heathen, i.e. Contra Gentiles, 1.3).

‘These [Old & New Testament canonical books] are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these’ (Athanasius Letters 39.6).

‘Wherefore it is good and needful for us to pray that we may receive the gift of discerning spirits, so that every one may know, according to the precept of John, whom he ought to reject, and whom to receive as friends and of the same faith. Now one might write at great length concerning these things, if one desired to go into details respecting them; for the impiety and perverseness of heresies will appear to be manifold and various, and the craft of the deceivers to be very terrible. But since holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us, therefore recommending to those who desire to know more of these matters, to read the Divine word’ (Athanasius, Ad Episcopus Aegypti et Libyae 1.4). Following this statement, Athanasius addresses the Arian heresy where the Arians were proposing a Creed to replace the Nicene Creed. So, Athanasius was urging his readers to counter false teaching with the sufficiency of Scripture. The authority of Scripture does not negate the need for the Christian gift of discerning of spirits.

Writing on how to deal with heretical teaching, Athanasius wrote concerning ‘the notorious Aetius, who was surnamed godless’. This person, who did not discover

any mania of his own, but under stress of weather has been wrecked upon Arianism, himself and the persons whom he has beguiled. Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture (Athanasius, De Synodis 1.6).

There is more than ample evidence from Athanasius that he appeals to the sufficiency of divine canonical Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments to declare the Christian truth. In these alone do Christians find that which is sufficient for godliness. However, this does not pre-empt the need for teachers who use the gift of discernment and interpret the Scriptures. There also are other valuable writings, but the Scriptures are the divine standard of Christian religion.

7. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca 315-386)[16]

‘For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures’ (Catechetical Lecture 4.17).

So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to you by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures…. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith (Catechetical Lecture 5.12).

8. Basil the Great of Caesarea (329-379)[17]

In his work on morals, Basil wrote:

What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if “all that is not of faith is sin” as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin (Ascetical Works, The Morals, Rule Eighty, Cap. 22).

In another publication, he wrote: ‘We are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of the Scripture’ (On the Holy Spirit, ch 7, p. 34).

Basil wrote, ‘The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject what is foreign‘ (Moralia 72:1).[18]

Elsewhere, he wrote, ‘Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth’ (To Eustathius the physician, Letter 189.3).

9. John Chrysostom (ca 347-407)[19]

File:Johnchrysostom.jpg(John Chrysostom, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons 2014)

 

‘Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learned what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things'(Homily 13, 2 Corinthians 7:1).

‘If anything is said without Scripture, the thinking of the hearers limps. But where the testimony proceeds from the divinely given Scripture, it confirms both the speech of the preacher and the soul of the hearer’ (Commenting on Psalm 95).[20]

‘Sacred Scripture, though, whenever it wants to teach us something like this, gives its own interpretation, and doesn’t let the listener go astray…. So, I beg you, block your ears against all distractions of that kind, and let us follow the norm[21] of Sacred Scripture…. Not to believe in the contents of Sacred Scripture, and introduce instead other views from one’s own reasoning, is in my opinion to bring great peril to those rash enough to attempt it’ ’ [Homily 13 (13) on Genesis, pp 175-176].

It was Chrysostom who affirmed the canon of Scripture, ‘We, for our part, who have been fortunate enough to benefit from the rays of the sun, should obey the teaching of Sacred Scripture; let us follow its canon, place its wholesome doctrines within the recesses of our minds’ (Homily 5, Genesis, p 74, italics in original, bold emphasis added). Let us ‘place our credence in Sacred Scripture and heed what is told us there’ (Homily 13, Genesis, pp 177-178).

He continues his emphasis on the accuracy of Scripture, even down to a single syllable: ‘Let us act so as to interpret everything precisely and instruct you not to pass by even a brief phrase or a single syllable contained in the Holy Scriptures. After all, they are not simply words, but words of the Holy Spirit, and hence the treasure to be found in even a single syllable is great’ (Homily 15, Genesis, p 195).

How does a Christian separate the false from the true? Chrysostom had this penetrating insight: ‘As a trusty door, Scripture[22] shuts out heretics, securing us from error, in whatsoever we desire; and, unless we damage it, we are unassailable by our enemies. By means of it, we shall know who are pastors and who are not’ (Homily 58 on John).[23]

10. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)[24]

(St Augustine in his study by Sandro Botticelli, 1494, Uffizi Gallery; image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

‘What more can I teach you, than what we read in the Apostle? For holy Scripture sets a rule to our teaching, that we dare not be wise more than it behooves to be wise; but be wise, as himself says, unto soberness, according as unto each God has allotted the measure of faith. Be it not therefore for me to teach you any other thing, save to expound to you the words of the Teacher, and to treat of them as the Lord shall have given to me’ (De bono viduitatis 2).[25]

Augustine continued his emphasis on the importance and authority of Scripture: ‘Let us therefore give in and yield our assent to the authority of Holy Scripture, which knows not how either to be deceived or to deceive’ (De Peccatorum 1.33).

Augustine continues his emphasis on the superiority of Scripture over other worldly information:

‘But just as poor as the store of gold and silver and garments which the people of Israel brought with them out of Egypt was in comparison with the riches which they afterwards attained at Jerusalem, and which reached their height in the reign of King Solomon, so poor is all the useful knowledge which is gathered from the books of the heathen when compared with the knowledge of Holy Scripture. For whatever man may have learnt from other sources, if it is hurtful, it is there condemned; if it is useful, it is therein contained.  And while every man may find there all that he has learnt of useful elsewhere, he will find there in much greater abundance things that are to be found nowhere else, but can be learnt only in the wonderful sublimity and wonderful simplicity of the Scriptures’’ (City of God and Christian doctrine 42.63).

In a letter to Jerome, he wrote:

I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it (Letter to Jerome 82.1.3).

These early church fathers had a very high view of the authority of Scripture.

E. Summary of early church fathers on Scripture

What do these early church fathers teach us about sola scriptura and the authority of Scripture? This is a synopsis of the above information from their publications:

clip_image004 There is nothing ‘divine apart from the authority of the Scriptures’ (Theophilus of Antioch)

clip_image004[1] Know the Scriptures to be taught by the truth (Irenaeus);

clip_image004[2] ‘The Scriptures are indeed perfect’, being spoken by the Word of God and his Spirit (Irenaeus);

clip_image004[3] The will of God comes through the Scriptures which are the ground and pillar of the faith (Irenaeus);

clip_image004[4] Woes come to those who ‘add to or take away from the written Word’ (Tertullian);

clip_image004[5] Christian conduct is investigated according to whether it conforms with ‘the rule of Scripture’ (Tertullian).

clip_image004[6] ‘Scriptures alone which are inspired by the Holy Spirit’ (Origen);

clip_image004[7] The worthiness of the Word of truth of which the Scriptures are ‘witnesses’ (Origen);

clip_image004[8] ‘The harmony of God in the sacred Scriptures’ is seen in ‘all the Scripture’ which ‘is the one perfect and harmonised instrument of God’ (Origen).

clip_image004[9] ‘The Scriptures are enough for instruction’ (Antony of Egypt);

clip_image004[10] While there are other helpful works, ‘the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth’ (Athanasius);

clip_image004[11] ‘In these alone, the Old and New Testaments books, ‘is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these’ (Athanasius);

clip_image004[12] ‘The holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us’. It is the Divine word (Athanasius);

clip_image004[13] ‘Divine Scripture is sufficient above all things’ (Athanasius);

clip_image004[14] If speaking about the holy mysteries of the Christian faith, ‘not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures‘ (Cyril of Jerusalem);

clip_image004[15] Salvation does not depend on ingenious human reasoning by ‘on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures’ (Cyril of Jerusalem);

clip_image004[16] Every part of the contents of the Creed needs ‘confirmation out of Holy Scripture’ (Cyril of Jerusalem);

clip_image004[17] The articles of Faith are not composed by human beings but are ‘collected out of all the Scripture’ which ‘make up one complete teaching of the faith’ (Cyril of Jerusalem);

clip_image004[18] The mark of a faithful Christian (soul) is to fully accept ‘the authority of the words of Scripture’ and not rejecting or making additions (Basil the Great of Caesarea)

clip_image004[19] Disregard what a person teaches you, but inquire from the Scriptures all these things’ (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[20] Human thinking ‘limps … if anything is said without Scripture’ (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[21] ‘The divinely given Scripture’ confirms the speech of preacher and soul of the hearer (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[22] ‘Let us follow the norm [canon] of sacred Scripture’ and not introduce other views from one’s own reasoning (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[23] Christians ‘should obey the teaching of Sacred Scripture’, follow the canon of Scripture, place their credence in Sacred Scripture and pay attention to what it says (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[24] Do not pass by a brief phrase or single syllable ‘contained in Holy Scriptures’ because they are ‘the words of the Holy Spirit’ and there is great treasure to be found in even a single syllable (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[25] ‘Scripture shuts out heretics, securing us from error’. By means of Scripture ‘we shall know who are pastors and who are not’ (Chrysostom);

clip_image004[26] ‘Holy Scripture sets a rule to our teaching’ (St Augustine of Hippo);

clip_image004[27] Yield assent ‘to the authority of Holy Scripture, which knows not how either to be deceived or to deceive’ (St Augustine of Hippo);

clip_image004[28] The useful knowledge from the books of the heathen is poor ‘when compared with the knowledge of Holy Scripture’ (St Augustine of Hippo);

clip_image004[29] Of the writers of the canonical books of Scripture, ‘the authors are completely free from error’ (St Augustine of Hippo).

F. A flashy Roman Catholic retort

Jennifer Hay gives this pragmatic response to sola scriptura: ‘The most common Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that it has splintered the Church. Thousands of Protestant denominations exist today, each one claiming to interpret Scripture by the guidance of the Holy Spirit’ (Hay 2009).

This is not a biblically based position nor is it one that has a strong historical affirmation from the early church. It is driven by expediency.

G. Conclusion

How do I answer the question posed by this article? Is there no ‘Scripture alone’ or sola scriptura in the early church fathers? The evidence gained from the early church fathers is that they had a high view of the authority of Scripture, even using this language:

flamin-arrow-small The scriptural authors are completely free from error;

flamin-arrow-small Holy Scripture sets a rule for our teaching;

flamin-arrow-small Scripture helps determine error from truth and thus shuts out heretics;

flamin-arrow-small Yield assent to the authority of Scripture;

flamin-arrow-small A faithful Christian accepts the authority of Scripture;

flamin-arrow-small Christians should place their credence in the canon of Scripture;

flamin-arrow-small The Scriptures are perfect;

flamin-arrow-small All Scripture is the one perfect and harmonised instrument of God;

flamin-arrow-small In the Old and New Testaments books alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness and nothing must be added to or taken from these.

flamin-arrow-small Let us follow the norm [canon] of sacred Scripture.

Sola scriptura – Scripture alone – as the Reformation standard of teaching and of life for the Christian is found in the teachings of the early church fathers. One has to be promoting another agenda to ignore such teaching.

Works consulted

Beeke, J R et al 2009. Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, Lake Mary, Fl: Reformation Trust Publishing (a division of Ligonier Ministries).

Fisher, G P 1913. History of the Christian Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Foakes Jackson, F J 1924. The History of the Christian Church from the Earliest Times to A.D. 461, 6th ed. Cambridge: J Hall & Son.

Grudem, W 2000. Do we act as if we really believe that “the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the word of God written?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (online), 43(1), March. Available at: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/43/43-1/43-1-pp005-026_JETS.pdf (Accessed 19 October 2015).

Hay, J 2009. Did the early Christians subscribe to sola scriptura? An early misunderstanding. This Rock (online), 20(4), April. Available at: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/did-the-early-christians-subscribe-to-sola-scriptura (Accessed 20 October 2015).

Jackson, G L 2007. Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant. Glendale, Arizona: Martin Chemnitz Press.

Kirby, P 2015. Irenaeus of Lyons. Early Christian Writings, 10 October. Against heresies. Available at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/irenaeus.html (Accessed 10 October 2015).

Latourette, K S 1965. Christianity Through the Ages. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Lewis, G R & Demarest, B A1987. Integrative Theology, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House).

MacArthur, J 2009. The sufficiency of the written Word, in J R Beeke et al, Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, 71-90. Lake Mary, Fl: Reformation Trust Publishing (a division of Ligonier Ministries).

MacArthur, J 2015. What does sola Scrptura mean?[26] Ligonier Ministries (online), August 07. Available at: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-sola-scriptura-mean/ (Accessed 19 October 2015).
Preus, R D 1979. The view of the Bible held by the church: The early church through Luther. In N L Geisler (ed), Inerrancy, 357-384. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. Part of it is available online HERE.

The Catholic Encyclopedia 2012. © K Knight. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/ (Accessed 20 October 2015).

White, J 2009. Sola scriptura and the early church, in J R Beeke et al, Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, 17-38. Lake Mary, Fl: Reformation Trust Publishing (a division of Ligonier Ministries). Part of it is available online HERE.

Notes

[1] At the time of writing this systematic theology text, Lewis & Demarest were professors at Denver Seminary. In 2012, it was listed as an inter/multidenominational school.

[2] The footnote at this point was: ‘L. Harold DeWolf. The Case for Theology in a Liberal Perspective (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), 19-41’ (Lewis & Demarest 1987:338, n. 20).

[3] This seems to be referring to William (Bill) J Rudd, senior pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Muskegon, MI. See: http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2012/08/resurrected_calvary_christian.html (Accessed 19 October 2015).

[4] Christianity Board, ‘Name a really bad doctrine that needs retiring’ (online), 11 September 2015, kepha31#191. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/20155-name-a-really-bad-doctrine-that-needs-retiring/page-7 (Accessed 19 October 2015).

[5] Ibid.

[6] With all of the following citations, the emphasis in bold has been added.

[7] Christianity Board op cit., OzSpen#195.

[8] The following list of church fathers who promote the importance of Scripture is obtained mainly from the Eternal Word Television Network, which is an American TV network that presents 24/7 Roman Catholic programming. Available at: https://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/TRAD.TXT (Accessed 19 October 2015).

[9] Lifespan dates are from Philip Schaff, ‘Theophilus of Antioch’, in History of the Christian Church, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.iv.i.html (Accessed 6 January 2016).

[10] This has to be from a secondary source as the primary document is no longer extant. Available at: https://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/TRAD.TXT (Accessed 6 January 2016).

[11] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. S v Saint Irenaeus).

[12] Lifespan dates from Latourette (1965:48).

[13] Lifespan dates from Catholic Encyclopedia (S v Origen and Origenism).

[14] Dates from Christian History 2008. Antony of Egypt. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/innertravelers/antonyegypt.html (Accessed 20 October 2015).

[15] Fisher (1913:122).

[16] The Catholic Encyclopedia (2012. S v St. Cyril of Jerusalem) (Accessed 20 October 2015). Foakes Jackson (1924:324, n. 2) wrote: ‘Cyril of Jerusalem, A. D. 346, speaks of the wood of the True Cross’, thus confirming the era in which he lived.

[17] Lifespan dates are from Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015. S v Saint Basil the Great. Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Basil-the-Great (Accessed 31 October 2015).

[18] I have only been able to locate this in a secondary source at ‘Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers’, justforcatholics.org. Available at: http://www.justforcatholics.org/a186.htm (Accessed 4 January 2016).

[19] Lifespan dates are from the Catholic Encyclopedia (2012. S v St John Chrysostom).

[20] Available in Jackson (2007:20).

[21] Chrysostom’s term for ‘norm’ was canon.

[22] Here he is speaking of the Old Testament.

[23] In Newman (1838:387-388).

[24] Lifespan dates are from Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015. s v Saint Augustine, available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine (Accessed 31 October 2015).

[25] Meaning, ‘Of the good of widowhood’.

[26] This article is based on MacArthur (2009).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 April 2016.

How to Cut Christ out of Christmas

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

https://charlespaolino.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/manger.jpg?resize=492%2C369

(Nativity scene, courtesy Charles Paolino, public domain)

 By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you wanted to pollute Christmas and distort its true meaning, how would you do it? It has been done all around the world for centuries with the Santa Claus commercial phenomenon.

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(courtesy www.marines.mil)

How did the legend of Santa Claus begin? According to history.com,

the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick….

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas) (www.history.com 2016. S v Santa Claus).

A.  A special Christmas attraction

Here is how a local business in northern Brisbane, Qld., Australia, took the Christ out of Christmas – for commercial reasons. This is one way that this shopping centre advertised the season and how to support its enterprise.[1] The event had been promoted by this shopping centre, MarketPlace, at Warner Qld, for a couple of months. It was advertising that on December 15, 2015, the ‘Car-istmas Giveaway closes on Friday at 5pm! Zoom zoom in for your remaining chances to enter’. It was giving away ‘a Mazda 3 Maxx’, supplied by a local Mazda dealer. It promoted, ‘Or 1 of 20, $100 MarketPlace Gift Cards. Simply spend $15 or more in any’ store there or $50 in Aldi or Woolworths. It advertised some ‘Car-istmas give away conditions of entry’.[2]

B. What had this business done with Christmas?

I was concerned with how the ‘Christ’ in Christmas had been replaced by ‘Car-ist’, so I wrote this email to the management of MarketPlace Warner on 17 November 2015, with the subject heading, ‘Your sacrilegious attack on Christ’:

Centre Management
MarketPlace Warner

Dear management members,

Since I live in North Lakes, I read your full-page advertisement in the North Lakes Times, November 12, 2015, p. 12. As a marketing ploy, the advertisement had the heading, ‘CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway’. I have now seen your link online at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/car-ristmas-giveaway-second-draw/

I write to object strongly to the way you have desecrated the name of Christ for commercial purposes. You may have thought ‘CAR-ISTMAS’ was an attention-seeking headline, but I as a Christian am offended by what you have done to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a special season of the year for the Christian community for the celebration of Christ’s birth, not for a marketing grab to eliminate Christ from the season, which is what your MarketPlace advertisement has done.

I urge you to quit this sacrilege immediately. If you tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?

I added this P.S.: Sacrilege is ‘an act of treating a holy thing or place without respect’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v sacrilege). I also included my home phone number.

C. Response: ‘We are all Christians here’

The next morning (18 November 2015), I received a courteous phone call from a woman in the office of MarketPlace Warner, saying, ‘We are all Christians here’. Interesting that she included, ‘all’. I took this to mean ‘all in management’. I urged her to get the management to remove the emphasis of this advertising immediately. She did not respond to my gentle request. However, the advertising in the North Lakes Times continued the following week with ‘Car-istmas’ on 19 November 2015 (p. 8):

On 18 November after the phone call, I sent this email to MarketPlace Warner:

Dear management staff,

Thank you for the phone call I received this morning about my email from yesterday regarding the sacrilege of your use of CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway in promotion of MarketPlace.

However, my disappointment with the phone call is that no attempt was made to admit that you got it wrong and that CAR-ISTMAS takes the CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS and you will eliminate such a sacrilegious statement from your present advertising.

I commend MarketPlace for its nativity scene at a time when such are disappearing from shopping centres.

This is how MarketPlace Warner advertised on its homepage at Christmas 2015:[3]

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Notice the emphasis. The ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting (online) is with Santa and not with the nativity scene. So much for ‘we are all Christians here’! If they were, Christ should have received a more prominent place.

The woman who phoned told me that MarketPlace Warner has a large nativity scene at the centre, which she said was more than I would find at most other centres. As a result of this conversation, I checked on what was displayed at my local Westfield Shopping Centre, North Lakes, and found a very small nativity scene (near the NAB Bank entrance to the mall), but there was no wording to say what it represented. Instead, Santa was large as life near the food court and he had children lined up with parents for the children to be photographed with Santa.

D. Newspaper letter’s censorship

I adapted the letter sent to MarketPlace Warner in a letter-to-the-editor, North Lakes Times. My letter, sent on 17 November 2015, with the heading, ‘Sacrilege at Christmas’, read:

I read the full-page advertisement for MarketPlace Warner, with the heading, ‘CAR-ISTMAS Giveaway’ (North Lakes Times, Nov 12, page 12).
I object strongly to the way MarketPlace has desecrated the name of Christ for commercial purposes. It may have thought ‘CAR-ISTMAS’ was an attention-seeking headline.
I as a Christian am offended by what this business has done to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a special season of the year for the Christian community for the celebration of Christ’s birth, not for a marketing grab to eliminate Christ from the season.
I urge MarketPlace Warner to quit this sacrilege immediately. If it tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?

How do you think the North Lakes Times published this letter? Here is a Print Screen copy that appeared in the North Lakes Times, 26 Nov 2015, ‘Conversations’, p. 8, with the changed heading, ‘Reason for the season’:

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1. The nature of the editing

Notice what the North Lakes Times did with my letter. It censored the last paragraph which read, ‘I urge MarketPlace Warner to quit this sacrilege immediately. If it tried that approach with Muhammad at the time of Ramadan, could you imagine the response?’

2. Is this an important issue?

Is this a trifling issue? Have I made a mountain out of a mole hill? I don’t think so, for this primary reason. Jesus told Christians:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:13-16 NIV).

a. Salt and light are indispensable

SaltIn the world of the first century and extending to the twenty-first century, salt has the qualities of a sharp taste and preservative power. It is this latter quality, ‘the potency of salt as an antiseptic, a substance that prevents and retards decay, upon which the emphasis falls here, though the subsidiary function of imparting flavor must obviously not be excluded (see Lev. 2:13; Job 6:6; Col 4:6)’. The negative function of salt is seen in how it combats deterioration. Christians should be in seen in action against moral and spiritual decay (Hendriksen 1973:282). Why would a woman in the office at a reasonable sized shopping centre own up to, ‘We are all Christians here’, if it were not for my challenge to that centre? As of 2 January 2016, there had not been one letter of opposition published by the newspaper to the content of my letter.

The qualities of light should be self evident in exposing the darkness. In Scripture, we see light associated with true knowledge of God (Ps 36:9, Sun Rays 4cf Matt 6:22-23), goodness, righteousness and truthfulness (Eph 5:8-9); joy, gladness, true happiness (Ps 97:11; Isa 9:1-7). From Eph 5:8 we know that Christians are ‘a light in the Lord’. Believers are reflections of Christ who is the true light (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46). Jesus’ words were, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12 ESV).[4]

I consider I was being salt and light in action in exposing the censorship of Christ at Christmas, all in the name of commercialism. This is engaging in the ministry of cultural apologetics. The Colson Center for Christian Worldview has stated that cultural apologetics involves the ‘working to transform the rhythms and practices of our culture – including the culture of our Christian communities – to reflect the beauty and desirability of Christ’ (‘Cultural Apologetics’).

E. Conclusion

What lengths will a significant sized business go to promote the commercialism of Christmas and take Christ out of Christmas?

MarketPlace Warner decided to attract customers to its shopping centre for Christmas 2015 by engaging with a local Mazda car dealership to put customers in the draw to win a motor vehicle if customers would make a certain amount of purchases. Of course, there was advertising chosen to promote this commercial venture that was designed to attract people to that shopping centre.

In doing this, MarketPlace Warner deliberately downgraded the Christ of Christmas to replace him with the Car of Christmas. This is sacrilegious marketing, in my view. In spite of the claim by an administrative staff member that ‘we are all Christians here’, I wouldn’t know that from the nature of the Christmas advertising in the full-page advertisements in the North Lakes Times (Nov 12, 2015, pp 12-14 and Nov 19, 2015, pp 8-9). There were half-page advertisements that I noticed on 10 Dec, 2015, p. 8 and 17 Dec, 2015, p. 2.

When I submitted a letter to the editor of the North Lakes Times, it was published, but the newspaper censored the portion when I compared it with what would happen if it did a similar thing to Muhammad at Ramadan.

The end result is that this message was nowhere to be found in the promotion of Christmas by MarketPlace Warner on its website or in the commercial (full page advertisements) in the North Lakes Times. This kind of proclamation was excluded, ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’ (Luke 2:10-11 NLT).

You may say, of course it would be eliminated because that is not a viable message to sell goods at Christmastime. That’s my very point. Christmas is not a time for commercialism but for declaring Messiah’s coming into the world, becoming flesh, and this led to the provision of salvation to come through his sacrificial death on the cross (Matt 26:28), available to those who put their faith in Jesus.

Works consulted

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Notes


[1] Facebook. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/marketplacewarner/posts/534421553374133?fref=nf (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[2] MarketPlace Warner 2015. Available at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/file/2015/11/MPW-CARISTMAS-GIVEAWAY-2015-TERMS-CONDITIONS.pdf (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.marketplacewarner.com.au/merry-christmas-from-the-team-at-marketplace-warner/ (Accessed 1 January 2016).

[4] These Scriptures and emphases were supplied by Hendriksen (1973:284).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 January 2016.