Why is the Pope Called “Pontiff?”

I came across this snippet in a commentary by John Walvoord, I do not know enough to validate its accuracy, but thought it was intriguing enough to look into. Here is his quote:

Crowns in the shape of a fish head were worn by the chief priests of the Babylonian cult to honor the fish god. The crowns bore the words ‘keeper of the bridge,’ symbolic of the ‘bridge’ between man and Satan.

This handle was adopted by the Roman emperors who used the Latin title Pontifex Maximus, which means ‘major keeper of the bridge.’ And the same title was later used by the Bishop of Rome. The pope today is often called the pontiff, which comes from pontifex.

I have come across one Catholic source that says pontifex means “bridge builder,” but they include nothing about fish gods.

The Latin Vulgate translates “high priests” of the Jewish religion as pontifices (plural) or pontifex (singular). This is more likely due to the already accepted notion of pontifex referring to a church leader when the Vulgate was being translated.

I have verified that early Roman Emperors after Christianity became the official religion, used the title.

I also came across an article talking about the pope’s hat that looks like a fish’s head, which is traced back to the Babylonian fish god, Dagon. It goes something like this:



popeheadThe problem with such things is that, although there may be a grain of truth in the pagan origins of much Catholic tradition, there is also a lot of conspiratorial witch hunting.

A lot of Evangelical commentators during the 1950’s had a field day with Catholicism, including My Boy, Harry Ironside, who said the pope is “the direct successor of the high priest of the Babylonian mysteries and the servant of the fish god Dagon, for whom he wears, like his idolatrous predecessors, the fisherman’s ring.”

Certainly there are threads of continuity with pagan religion, I find that to be undeniable. To say this is “direct succession” might be a stretch. However, it has more to do with Dagon than direct succession with the Apostle Peter.

In the end, there are many reasons I am not Catholic. This is one more.

C. S. Lewis Was No James Bond, But He Did Know His Christianity

Big news came out that C. S. Lewis was once a “secret government agent” for Britain’s MI6 in the early years of WWII.

This sounds much more exciting than the reality. It boils down that Lewis did a lecture on Norse literature broadcast to the inhabitants of Iceland to win over the Icelanders to the British cause of knocking out Germany.

So yeah, not exactly James Bond, and, quite frankly, rather click-baitish headlining.

Anyhoo, in the excitement over Lewis, his quotes are popping up around the internets. A great one of which I was reminded of:

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable,
I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

This claim seems rather silly in our day. Christianity has become all too comfortable. Our most famous preachers bask in the glow of celebrity, whereas the famous preachers of the past sometimes basked in the glow of the burning stake they were tied to.

Evangelical believers think the best proof of a Christian testimony is how suburban looking we are. How well our kids are doing. How “smoking hot” our wife is. How big our church is. How many cups of coffee we drink before church. How we use our phone to read the Bible, etc.

I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong about any of those things, but when we make material success proof of spiritual success, we do miss the boat.

When Christianity is done right, the spiritual takes priority over the physical. This often shows itself through physical cost.

As the believer learns more about new life in Christ, he disentangles himself from the cares of the world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. What man esteems, God despises.

Yet we continue to kid ourselves that the American Dream is also Jesus’ dream for us. We continue to find justifications for our carnal, flesh-focused minds as we drift into lukewarm apathy.

We use our apathy as proof of our supposed contentment. What we have is not actually biblical contentment, but rather worldly comfort.

C. S. Lewis, the definer of mere Christianity, knew Christianity had a cost, that it messed with life, that it was the great destroyer of comfort.

I wonder what we’ve lost in the last 50 years that he saw?

4 Point Book Review of Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God Is Within You”

Tolstoy wrote this book in 1894 in Russia. This was not a pleasant time to be in Russia. Tolstoy did not like what was going on, and how he did not get thrown in jail for vocalizing his displeasure is beyond me. My wife, who knows such things, tells me it’s because he was already such a celebrity there. The book was banned in Russia and was originally published in Germany.

This book is about Christian Pacifism. Tolstoy believes Christians should all be non-violent and expresses this point in rather heated language, ironically enough! Although he quotes the Sermon on the Mount a lot, he seems to have missed the bit about sin in thought, not just action.

Here are four points from this book, which I will begin with a verse he quotes to make his point:

  1. “The Kingdom of God is within you”
    This is Tolstoy’s main point: we belong to God’s Kingdom, we are that Kingdom, therefore, we don’t need man’s kingdoms. Tolstoy is pretty much an anarchist. He says Christians should resist mandatory military service, taking oaths, voting, and even paying taxes. He sees no point for human governments, as they are merely self-feeding power structures that oppress the masses. I guess I can’t disagree to a certain extent, but God did establish authority on earth that we are to honor and pay taxes to, but he skips those verses. It appears as though he thinks Christians, by obeying God, can reform society and create the actual Kingdom of God. Although a popular view of his time, two massive World Wars ended this doctrine quite soundly.
  2. “Resist not the evil.”
    This phrase is from Luke 17:21. Tolstoy says this verse is the foundation of all Christian pacifists. He gives a brief history of Christian Pacifism, which was interesting, and how all these movements based their beliefs on this verse. I do think this verse gets short-shrift in Christian thinking today. We too quickly want to bomb people and shoot them. I imagine “resist not the evil” actually meant “resist not the evil.” Although Tolstoy might go too far in his application, this verse ought to impact our doctrine to some extent.
  3. “An eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”
    Although this was a law for the Old Covenant, Tolstoy argues that Jesus Christ’s commandment to love your enemy replaces this old law. Therefore, capital punishment and all forms of self-defense are out the window. We are to love, regardless of what someone does to us. We are to do unto others as we would have done unto us. Love fulfills the law. He also repeats “Thou shalt not kill” and thus, there should be no war and no armies. All soldierly killing is against God’s law. Any attempt to sidestep and defend military killing is more evidence of the church’s collusion with temporal powers.
  4. “Worshipers in spirit and in truth”
    Not only is Tolstoy against political authority, he is also against clerical authority. He views the church as being in cahoots with the government–just another power and money hungry institution dumbing down people to do their will rather than God’s. I have sympathy with his point, but once again, he overstates the case and misses many verses that weigh-in on this subject. He has no use for the church, not just the Russian church, which was entwined with the Russian political authority, but all church, no exceptions.

In the end, Tolstoy is one angry man. He does have some legitimate grounds for his anger, but I think he devised an angry philosophy, found six verses that backed it up, and wrote a book. Some of this book reads like a diatribe, which a modern-day editor would have limited extensively.

Tolstoy lived in a rough time and I empathize with him. I do think he’s more right than he is wrong, and I do think he was trying to help, but he’s just too sloppy with his reasoning, too idealistic in his hopes, and too narrow in his usage of Scripture. The deeper irony of the book is that he, as a rich man of influence, can get away with standing up to the government! If he were a peasant, his book never would have been written, let alone published, nor would he have lived! As much as I appreciate his stance against evil, I don’t think it’s rooted in reality, nor in Scripture.

This is the kind of book I’d recommend, except that I fear people would think I totally agree! I don’t! But he does raise valid points we don’t consider enough in our endeavors to follow Christ. For that, I thank him for making me think about it.

4 Point Book Review on Augustine’s “The Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love”

The Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, And Love was written by Augustine, who isn’t one of my favorite theologians. Augustine was trained in philosophy, so his writing is very philosophical.

I am not a philosophically minded person. I do not care about the deep, intricate cogitations of people’s brains that much, not even my own. Augustine will drill a subject to death, talking in circles, and going on and on and on. It’s writers like him that necessitated the invention of people called “editors.”

Although this was not light reading, it wasn’t the worst of the stuff I’ve read by Him. Here are four points I took away from this book:

  1. The Title
    Any book that has “enchiridion” in the title is going to be a piece of work. Enchiridion is an actual word, even though it’s not in my spell-checker. I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary and it was there. It is from the Greek en– which means in, and the Greek word cheir meaning hand. In hand. The idea is that it is a handbook or manual. Huh, who knew. I also added a comma after Hope that is not in the original title. My wife tells me all lists should include a comma before the and, otherwise the last two things would be lumped together by the and. It makes me feel better that, although he philosophizes better than me, I can still correct his grammar. The book had little to do with faith, hope, or love and I have no idea why he called it this.
  2. Original Sin
    Augustine is fixated on Original Sin and has some rather strange views attached to it. Original Sin is the fault of sex. Augustine, in his Confessions, had a long, sordid sexual history. After he slew that beast, he tended to speak of sex as always being bad. Even marital sex was bad in his mind. Sex is what transfers Original Sin, therefore, sex has to be bad. He also thinks that kids are responsible for their parents’ sins, since the parent’s sex transferred their sin. He’s also somewhat convinced that kids are guilty for all their forefathers’ sins. His logic on sex would have to lead him there. He is very weird on this issue.
  3. Baptism
    I do not agree with his take on baptism, most of which comes out of his strange views of Original Sin, especially in the area of infant baptism. Infant Baptism, according to him, releases babies from Original Sin, but not any sins they do on their own. There are zero verses on this. He also completely botches the doctrine of baptism in relation to Jesus Christ, saying that Jesus will baptize with water and the Spirit, which of course the Bible never says. But he makes an effort to quote the Bible having said this, which I do not like. Several times he referenced verses that did not say what he said they said. I hate that.
  4. The Church Forgives Sin
    Augustine believes the Church is the only place you can go to remove your sins. I find this unbiblical. He even says that the man who does not believe the Church remits sins has committed the Unpardonable Sin. Wow. Surprisingly (sarcasm), he has zero verses on that one either. Since he puts more stress on baptism than he does on faith, and only the Church can properly baptize, the Church is the only place to get sins remitted.

I am not, and never have been, a fan of Augustine. He is considered to be the Father of the Catholic Church and also of the Reformed Church. Calvin’s Institutes are merely a recitation of Augustine’s writings. I disagree with Augustine’s views on predestination, non-elect babies going to hell, and various other Calvin-hijacked doctrines on this issue.

For instance, when trying to answer the Bible’s claim that God “who will have all men to be saved” when we know all men are not saved, says this:

We are not on that account to restrict the omnipotence of God, but are rather to understand the Scripture, “Who will have all men to be saved,” as meaning that no man is saved unless God wills his salvation; not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will, but that no man is saved apart from His will, and that, therefore, we should pray Him to will our salvation, because if He will it, it must necessarily be accomplished.”

Uh, no.

It’s a nice theory, but it’s not what the common sensical reading of the verse says. This is the kind of stuff that drives me insane.

Augustine is a philosopher and writes like one. Unfortunately, he starts with philosophical conclusions and picks and chooses verses that he thinks backs up his philosophy. I do not see him as a theologian, but a philosopher borrowing some God talk.

10 Facts About 1 John 5:7

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

This is 1 John 5:7 as it reads in the King James Bible. Most modern translations do not include this verse, or at least put a footnote telling you it isn’t original to the Greek. Although you will find some who will defend its inclusion, most believe it is a later addition. Although this verse will always cause debate, here are some facts about it:

  1. This verse is known as the Comma Johanneum, which is Latin for John’s Comma where “comma” means a short clause. You know it’s important if there are Latin words involved.
  2. This verse does not appear in any Greek text until the 1500’s. An earlier 10th century Greek text has it as a marginal note.
  3. The first debates in the Early Church were mostly about trinitarian theories. If this verse were in the original text, it would show up all over the place in the writings of the Early Church Fathers as a nail in the coffin, proof-text extraordinaire. Some defenders of this verse will attempt to show Church Fathers quoting the verse, but reading the quotes shows that none of the Fathers actually do.
  4. This clause might be from a fourth century Latin homily that made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the New Testament of Erasmus, and into the King James..
  5. “Saint” Augustine, who loved to argue about the Trinity (he wrote a large book originally titled, On the Trinity, as well as a commentary on 1 John), never once mentions this verse.
  6. This passage is so famously controversial, it even gets a mention in Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  7. Isaac Newton even mentioned this controversy when he wrote, “In all the vehement universal and lasting controversy about the Trinity in Jerome’s time and both before and long enough after it, this text of the “three in heaven” was never once thought of. It is now in everybody’s mouth and accounted the main text for the business and would assuredly have been so too with them, had it been in their books.”
  8. Various popes have gone back and forth on the accuracy of the Catholic Bible regarding this text. The last known papal statement on it (June 1927 by Pius XI) said it was open to dispute. The Jehovah Witness’ Bible (New World Translation) does not include it.
  9. Translations that do not contain 1 John 5:7 are not inherently anti-trinitarian and one should back off that notion right quick. The fact that this verse is not in early Greek manuscripts does not mean the Trinity is not a true doctrine. The Trinity is an extracted doctrine nowhere explicitly defined or defended in the Bible. The Trinity is a doctrine based on many verses in the Bible that logically lead to a trinitarian conclusion.
  10. The fact that there is a verse in some Bibles that is not original, should not shake your confidence in the Bible. Instead, it should raise it. There are people who study things and are careful with the Word of God. There are no extraneous bits in there that have snuck by us without study. The existence of the controversy over this verse should make that point clear.

The Danger of Putting Faith Over Love

If a person sees that the Bible puts love above faith, this will get that person off several hangups:

  1. You will stop obsessing about whether you believe all the “right things”
  2. You will then stop trying to argue people into submission to your beliefs
  3. You will then take an actual interest in helping them, not just forcing them to submit
  4. You will look outward to love God and others, no longer obsessing over your own righteousness or sinfulness
  5. You will no longer view your spiritual growth as merely marked by “stuff I don’t do any more”
  6. You will see that the call to love is hard
  7. You will be humbled rather than puffed up with self-righteousness

The Reformers, the first people in Church History to put faith over love (not that all the rest had love first), became very academic. They put philosophy into their religion, which then caused them to philosophize about original sin and total depravity and other things the Bible doesn’t say.

As they made everything academic, faith became known as “agreeing with what we say.” Spiritual growth was about conforming to your group and avoiding your group’s pet-peeve sins.

This made for very angry people. Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake for not agreeing with his doctrine. The only way a guy could do that is if he put faith above love! (I believe this is also why the Roman Catholic Church torched people as well. Although they did not put faith over love, they put their church over love.)

Faith became an intellectual pursuit. We judge whether people are believers by whether they agree with my doctrine. God judges whether we love Him.

Luther once said, “Faith, therefore, is a certain obscure knowledge.” Augustine said, “To believe means simply to affirm in thought.” And, “The certitude of faith is a kind of beginning of knowledge.”

Faith is then academics. Faith is knowing the right stuff. The problem is that the “right stuff” is different depending on whom you ask! Bring in burning stakes and church splits!

When we put faith first, we will put “agreeing with me” as our standard. When we put love first, well, then how you love others shows whether you love God.

Which is easier:

  1. To feel smugly satisfied in your understanding of God, or
  2. To love your neighbor as yourself

The Reformers thought the Catholic Church eliminated faith by works (religious ritual), and they were right in revolting against that.

Unfortunately, their answer was to repeat “Faith! Faith! Faith!” By doing so, they wanted to eliminate works. Although a fine attempt, it leads into the other problem, known as antinomianism–I can do what I want because I believe.

Certainly Luther, Calvin, and Augustine never went to antinomianism, but that’s only because they were horribly inconsistent. They knew works had to be in there somewhere, but they couldn’t figure out where. So, they simply told people to do good works, without ever explaining why, other than to stay humble or a vague appeal to “God’s glory.”

James did a fine job explaining faith and works. So did Paul. If you stick with them, you see that good works always equal love. Love is always the root of faith, the stuff by which faith works.

Where Praise and Criticism Come From

Found a good quote from C. S. Lewis about praising God. Lewis explains how he struggled with God asking for praise so often in the Bible. What’s up with that?

When people ask for praise it’s because they are arrogant and needy. Is that what God is? Lewis went on to think that praise is something you naturally do when you like something.

The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers praising their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.

But Lewis also then noticed something about the character of the ones giving the praise.

I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.  The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read.  the healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal:  the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all.

Praise came from humble and balanced people. God isn’t asking for praise because He needs it; He asks for praise because it means good things from those who can do it.

Yes, God is infinitely deserving of praise, but we’re too stupid to know it. People who do praise God have figured something out. By seeing the bigness of God, they have also seen their smallness.

Humility is a great virtue. Humility means good things are going on in a person. Lewis sums up by saying:

Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.

Lewis grants that there are times when you can’t praise, when things are “intolerably adverse.” But they are rare occurrences.

If we are too quick to criticize, it means there are things wrong inside us, we are not internally healthy. People who always find fault with what others are doing, people who always hate a movie when others all liked it, one who can never be kept happy, is in a bad place spiritually.

Can you be humble enough to compliment something, or do you have to be a snob and show your superiority?

Praise is something that flows from a heart that sees how happy we are to have a God like ours. A proper view of Him, His salvation, His faithfulness to His Word, changes our view of life and all that it is as well.

Humble people praise; proud people tear down.

This is meaningful to me because I find fault too quickly.

See, I did it again. Ah, yes.