Monday, June 07, 2010

A Response to Engwer re: Lactantius

Jason Engwer wrote a piece recently on Triablogue which needs some addressing of the errors it conveys. He alleges that Lactantius opposes prayer to the dead, which in an out-of-context reading one might agree with him - but IN context, we see a bit of a different story....

JE states: Lactantius condemned those involved in "prayers to dead men" and "prayers to the dead":

"They [pagans] ought therefore to have understood from the mysteries and ceremonies themselves, that they were offering prayers to dead men." (The Divine Institutes, 1:21)

Mr. Engwer is misleading a bit here. Lactantius is referring to the works of "the poets" who wrote about pagan gods. Context is important. Just a few lines earlier in that same reference we find: "Sallust rejected this opinion altogether, as though invented by the poets, and wished to give an ingenious explanation of the reasons for which the Curetes are said to have nourished Jupiter; and he speaks to this purport: Because they were the first to understand the worship of the deity, that therefore antiquity, which exaggerates all things, made them known as the nourishers of Jupiter. How much this learned man was mistaken, the matter itself at once declares." So, what Lactantius is speaking of here is the deifying of dead men and praying to these dead men as gods.

JE quotes: "But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead, or venerate the earth, or make over their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law." (2:18)

And again, context betrays Mr. Engwer! Just previous to the snippet he quotes is essentially says the same thing as what I demonstrated from the context from Book I, Chapter 21 (above). Let us look at Book 2, Chapter 18 just a bit above where Mr. Engwer has quoted:

"I have shown that the religious rites of the gods are vain in a threefold manner: In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped: then that it is an inexpiable crime to desert the living in order that you may serve memorials of the dead, who can neither give life nor light to any one, for they are themselves without it: and that there is no other God but one, to whose judgment and power every soul is subject."

So, yet again - the context is objecting to praying to other gods and that the images of these "dead men" are being so worshiped. This has nothing to do with the practice of asking the Saints to pray with and for us. If we were to ONLY look at the small little pieces Mr. Engwer points to, then we MAY come to that conclusion - but again - context betrays Mr. Engwer's premise - which he then builds upon...

JE continues: One way in which advocates of praying to the deceased could attempt to dismiss these passages in Lactantius is by arguing that the dead are those who are spiritually dead, not physically dead. Thus, one can pray to those who are spiritually alive in Heaven without falling under Lactantius' condemnation. The physical death of those individuals who are in Heaven is irrelevant, since Lactantius is referring to spiritual death.

Actually, again - based upon the context - Lactantius is speaking of those who are dead but are considered gods by the pagans.

JE: There's no evidence that Lactantius believed in prayer to people who are spiritually alive in Heaven. And scripture, which probably influenced Lactantius on this issue, condemns attempts to contact the dead in general, not just by means of prayer (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Isaiah 8:19, 19:3). It would be absurd to suggest that such Biblical passages are condemning attempts to contact the spiritually dead. Was Moses sinning by speaking with the spiritually dead Pharaoh? Physical death is in view when attempts to contact the dead are condemned. If Lactantius was influenced by such Biblical passages, as seems likely, then he probably had physical death in mind. And though the phrases "dead men" and "the dead" can refer to those who are spiritually dead, they're more commonly used to refer to the physically dead. Those who want to propose that Lactantius had a less common definition in mind bear a heavier burden of proof.

The references to death nearest to the first passage above, 1:21, are references to physical death.

Well, yes - they refer to physical death - but of men whom those pagan poets believed to be gods! Again, Mr. Engwer has missed the point here and has based his argument on a false premise which then leads him to conclusions which are just as false.

JE: And near the beginning of 2:18, we read:

"For He has determined at the last times to pass judgment on the living and the dead, concerning which judgment I shall speak in the last book."

Well again, referencing Book 2, Chapter 18 is regarding the worship of false gods and false religions, namely paganism.

JE: When people speak of God's judgment of "the living and the dead", how are they usually defining "the dead"? Normally, they're referring to God's judgment of those who had physically died prior to that point. Physical death is being referred to. That's what we see elsewhere in Lactantius:

"After these things the lower regions shall be opened, and the dead shall rise again...[quoting another source] 'Rolling along the heavens, I will open the caverns of the earth; and then I will raise the dead, loosing fate and the sting of death; and afterwards I will call them into judgment, judging the life of pious and impious men.' Not all men, however, shall then be judged by God, but those only who have been exercised in the religion of God. For they who have not known God, since sentence cannot be passed upon them for their acquittal, are already judged and condemned, since the Holy Scriptures testify that the wicked shall not arise to judgment....the dead will rise again, not after a thousand years from their death, but that, when again restored to life, they may reign with God a thousand years....Then they who shall be alive in their bodies shall not die, but during those thousand years shall produce an infinite multitude, and their offspring shall be holy, and beloved by God; but they who shall be raised from the dead shall preside over the living as judges." (7:20, 7:22, 7:24)

He's referring to redeemed individuals, people who are spiritually alive, as "dead". Thus, the opening of section 2:18 is including people who are physically deceased, even though they're spiritually alive, among "the dead".

Later in section 2:18, just before the comment on prayers to the dead, Lactantius refers to the dead again:

And again, the section refers to dead men being worshiped as gods/deity so what Mr. Engwer is doing, continually throughout this treatise is ignoring the context which denies his conclusions. I'm not going to go through every citation, for they all do the same as I've already shown above.

Continuing a bit further down...

JE asks: Do Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox pray to the physically dead? Yes, they do.

In this same section of Lactantius, he tells his readers that we should:

"direct our eyes to that quarter to which the condition of their nature has directed, and that we may adore and worship nothing except the single deity of our only Creator and Father...the spirits which preside over the [pagan] religious rites themselves, being condemned and cast off by God, wallow over the earth, who not only are unable to afford any advantage to their worshippers, since the power of all things is in the hands of one alone, but even destroy them with deadly attractions and errors; since this is their daily business, to involve men in darkness, that the true God may not be sought by them."

He's not trying to direct his readers toward prayer to God and spiritually alive humans and angels. Rather, he seems to want them to pray to "nothing except the single deity of our only Creator and Father...the true God". Not only does Lactantius condemn prayer to the physically dead, but he also suggests that God alone is the proper object of prayer.

Here Mr. Engwer gets SO CLOSE to pointing to the truth when he points out the "except the single deity..." condition for adoration and worship, but fails to make the connection that what Lactantius is objecting to is not the praying with the Communion of Saints to join us in our petitions but rather he objects to deifying dead people and worshiping them as gods. Neither Catholics nor Orthodox worship saints as gods.

JE posits: A possible objection to the interpretation I've laid out is Lactantius' comment above about "deadly" attractions. The attractions in question are spiritually
deadly. Thus, when he goes on to refer to "the dead", he may be referring to the spiritually dead, not the physically dead.

No, Lactantius is referring to physically dead people - but again, his objection is to worshiping them as gods - not in petitioning them to join us in our petitions to the One, True God.

JE concludes: There are a few problems with that argument. First, though references to death in the surrounding context are some of the evidence relevant to how we interpret Lactantius, they aren't the only line of evidence I've cited. The other factors I've mentioned above would have to be taken into account as well. Second, references to physical death are more prominent in the section of Lactantius under consideration, even though the concept of spiritual death is present to some extent. Third, "deadly" is a different term than "the dead". Fourth, the earlier reference to prayers to the dead in 1:21 has references to physical death in its nearest context and probably is referring to the physically dead. Thus, there's precedent for reading 2:18 in that manner. A reference to praying to the physically dead in 2:18 makes more sense conceptually and in light of all of the contextual factors involved.

Mr. Engwer, repeats his earlier mistake of equivocating Book 2, Chapter 18 as dealing with praying to saints when in actuality it refers to praying to "dead men" whom are being treated as deities, or gods - which is NOT the practice or belief of Catholics (as much as some non-Catholics would like to attach that belief to us, it is not our belief).

In Christ,
Scott<<<

Primary Source

19 comments:

  1. From Mr. Engwer's response:
    JE: Notice the qualifiers he adds, as if prayer to the dead is acceptable as long as it doesn't include those qualifiers. Lactantius doesn't say that, and his context doesn't suggest it.

    I responded on Triablogue with:
    sw: Yes, his context DOES suggest this. You may have turned a blind eye to the context, even after quoting some of it, just to further a bigoted agenda, but the context most certainly does state the prayers to the dead men he objects to are these dead men spoken of by the poets who have been deified by them. It is NOT a blanket statement against asking the Communion of Saints to join us in our prayers to God.

    sw: I will add, I use the term "bigoted" because Mr. Engwer's approach to this is intolerant of the Catholic interpretation of Lactantius - and such intolerance is, by definition, bigotry.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  2. Scott Windsor wrote:

    "You may have turned a blind eye to the context, even after quoting some of it, just to further a bigoted agenda, but the context most certainly does state the prayers to the dead men he objects to are these dead men spoken of by the poets who have been deified by them."

    You're ignoring what I wrote against that argument. Again, Lactantius twice chose similar phrases ("prayers to dead men", "prayers to the dead") to describe what he had in mind, and his focus both times was on the dead in general. He didn't use other phrases available to him that could have been used to express the focus you're suggesting, such as "prayer to false gods" or "prayer to the dead as if they're God". You aren't explaining why he repeatedly focuses on the dead status of the recipients of the prayers. If you think there's nothing wrong with praying to the dead, why would you repeatedly focus on the dead status of the recipients of prayers?

    I gave you an example of a somewhat similar comment on a different subject, a comment Aristides made about homosexuality. You haven't responded to that example. Here's what Aristides wrote:

    "By reason of these tales, O King, much evil has arisen among men, who to this day are imitators of their gods, and practise adultery and defile themselves with their mothers and their sisters, and by lying with males, and some make bold to slay even their parents." (Apology, 9)

    Do we assume that Aristides is only condemning such practices if done by people as "imitators of their gods"? When he refers to "lying with males", do we assume that he's only condemning homosexuality when done in pagan religious contexts? Or that he's only condemning it when it's done outside of marriage, for example? No, despite the immediate context of pagan religions, and despite the fact that the homosexual activity in question did occur outside of marriage, we conclude that homosexual activity in general is being condemned. Not only is that the prominent view of Christianity in general at the time when Aristides lived, and not only is it the view of the sources that would have most influenced Aristidies on the issue (such as scripture), but it's also the most natural way to interpret his choice of words. If his focus was on pagan homosexuality or the fact that the sex was outside of marriage, then he could have said so. But a broad phrase like "lying with males" is most naturally taken as a condemnation of homosexual acts themselves, regardless of whether they take place in a pagan religious context or outside of marriage. If he meant something like "lying with males in a pagan context" or "having sex outside of marriage", he could have said so. But he chose to focus on the homosexual nature of the sex instead.

    Similarly, as I argued in the previous threads I linked in my initial response to you, the Christianity Lactantius had lived in and the sources that would have influenced him (primarily scripture) viewed God alone as the proper recipient of prayer and sometimes condemned any attempts to contact the deceased. And Lactantius repeatedly chose terminology suggesting that he had the dead in general in view, not just false gods or some other narrower category that would be consistent with Roman Catholicism. When somebody who comes out of Lactantius' context repeatedly uses such broad language about prayer to the dead, the most natural interpretation isn't to conclude that he had your qualifiers in mind. The fact that he shows no concern for adding such qualifiers suggests that he didn't come from a perspective like that of a modern Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

    And you'll have to explain in more detail why my "agenda" allegedly is "bigoted". Would you say the same of yourself when you disagree with a Protestant, agnostic, or Mormon on an issue? If not, why?

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  3. sw: "You may have turned a blind eye to the context, even after quoting some of it, just to further a bigoted agenda, but the context most certainly does state the prayers to the dead men he objects to are these dead men spoken of by the poets who have been deified by them."

    JE: You're ignoring what I wrote against that argument. Again, Lactantius twice chose similar phrases ("prayers to dead men", "prayers to the dead") to describe what he had in mind, and his focus both times was on the dead in general. He didn't use other phrases available to him that could have been used to express the focus you're suggesting, such as "prayer to false gods" or "prayer to the dead as if they're God". You aren't explaining why he repeatedly focuses on the dead status of the recipients of the prayers. If you think there's nothing wrong with praying to the dead, why would you repeatedly focus on the dead status of the recipients of prayers?

    sw: I have not ignored your argument, I have stated that you have ignored the context of Lactantius - wherein your thesis is thwarted.

    JE: I gave you an example of a somewhat similar comment on a different subject, a comment Aristides made about homosexuality.

    sw: Well, you've got one thing right, it's a "different subject!" It's also a "different context" and a diversion to the subject at hand. The answer is quite simple though, in being "imitators of their gods" they are still practicing things OUTRIGHT CONDEMNED by Scripture! There is no outright condemnation of communion with the Communion of Saints and asking them to join us in our prayers to God. Again, to drive the point home, "lying with males" (homosexuality) is flatly condemned by Scripture in numerous places so your point of Aristides is moot.
    (breaking here)

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  4. (continuing...)
    JE: Similarly, as I argued in the previous threads I linked in my initial response to you, the Christianity Lactantius had lived in and the sources that would have influenced him (primarily scripture) viewed God alone as the proper recipient of prayer and sometimes condemned any attempts to contact the deceased. And Lactantius repeatedly chose terminology suggesting that he had the dead in general in view, not just false gods or some other narrower category that would be consistent with Roman Catholicism. When somebody who comes out of Lactantius' context repeatedly uses such broad language about prayer to the dead, the most natural interpretation isn't to conclude that he had your qualifiers in mind. The fact that he shows no concern for adding such qualifiers suggests that he didn't come from a perspective like that of a modern Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

    sw: Origen, a contemporary of Lactantius writes of angels interceding and petitioning on behalf of those on earth to God. He makes direct reference to St. Raphael interceding for Tobit and Sarah and Jeremiah appears to Judas Maccabees, delivering to him a golden sword - Jeremiah, by this time, was long "dead." You can see these references for yourself in "Origen on Prayer" Chapter VI

    JE: And you'll have to explain in more detail why my "agenda" allegedly is "bigoted". Would you say the same of yourself when you disagree with a Protestant, agnostic, or Mormon on an issue? If not, why?

    sw: Well first off, your agenda is bigoted for you position is expressly anti-Catholic and you accept nothing which would support the Catholic understanding of Lactantius, that's bigotry (I explained that already). Secondly, I do not limit a Protestant, agnostic or Mormon solely to my interpretation of a given writing. In this case, I accept that you interpret Lactantius the way you do - all I'm doing is pointing out the CONTEXT of Lactantius which betrays your thesis. My approach to you is not one of bigotry, but one of compassion, attempting to let you see beyond the anti-Catholic view of Lactantius.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  5. Scott Windsor wrote:

    "The answer is quite simple though, in being 'imitators of their gods' they are still practicing things OUTRIGHT CONDEMNED by Scripture! There is no outright condemnation of communion with the Communion of Saints and asking them to join us in our prayers to God. Again, to drive the point home, "lying with males" (homosexuality) is flatly condemned by Scripture in numerous places so your point of Aristides is moot."

    The fact that they did other "things OUTRIGHT CONDEMNED by Scripture" doesn't tell us what Lactantius meant when he condemned them for praying to the dead. As I documented in my last response to you, he criticized those who pray to the dead "or" commit other sins he mentioned. The other sins don't have to be present in order for prayer to the dead to be wrong, according to Lactantius.

    And you're assuming that prayer to the dead isn't condemned by scripture. I've argued that scripture does condemn it, in threads like the ones I linked above.

    You write:

    "Origen, a contemporary of Lactantius writes of angels interceding and petitioning on behalf of those on earth to God. He makes direct reference to St. Raphael interceding for Tobit and Sarah and Jeremiah appears to Judas Maccabees, delivering to him a golden sword - Jeremiah, by this time, was long 'dead.'"

    You're changing the subject. Prayer by the dead isn't the same as prayer to the dead. And prayer to angels is a different issue than prayer to the dead. The themes you're referring to in Origen were addressed by me in my discussion with Christine, a Roman Catholic, which I linked above. Apparently, you didn't read my exchanges with her. I've already addressed the sort of material you're citing from Origen, and I documented that Origen opposed prayer to the dead. I also cited evidence for opposition to prayer to the dead in the Bible and ante-Nicene sources other than Origen.

    You write:

    "Well first off, your agenda is bigoted for you position is expressly anti-Catholic and you accept nothing which would support the Catholic understanding of Lactantius, that's bigotry (I explained that already). Secondly, I do not limit a Protestant, agnostic or Mormon solely to my interpretation of a given writing. In this case, I accept that you interpret Lactantius the way you do - all I'm doing is pointing out the CONTEXT of Lactantius which betrays your thesis."

    In other words, you think that your opponents' interpretations are wrong, and you argue against them. You "accept" that I interpret Lactantius differently than you do, but then you tell me that I'm wrong and argue against my interpretation. Why are we supposed to believe that my behavior is different than yours in a way that makes my approach "bigoted", whereas yours isn't?

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  6. I will just deal with the bigotry statement for now, and the rest in a bit. I used the word, but now I'm also allowing you to derail the discussion with this off-topic defense of my use of the word. So, I'll respond separately to this and later I'll respond "on-topic" to your Lactantius thesis...
    In other words, you think that your opponents' interpretations are wrong, and you argue against them. You "accept" that I interpret Lactantius differently than you do, but then you tell me that I'm wrong and argue against my interpretation. Why are we supposed to believe that my behavior is different than yours in a way that makes my approach "bigoted", whereas yours isn't?

    There isn't any "in other words" here, MY statement is that I presented CONTEXT which betrayed your thesis! This whole discussion about bigotry is nothing but an attempt to side-track the discussion which you've already lost - and you lose it because you're not dealing with the objections. You lose it because you're continuing to topic-jump and distract the reader from the REAL topic at hand. I said I accept that you believe you've interpreted Lactantius correctly, and then I provided context from the very same work of Lactantius which, at the very least, allows for a Catholic interpretation of Lactantius. If you are willing to accept this fact, then I will withdraw the accusation of bigotry. If you do not allow at least for an alternative interpretation based upon the additional facts - then you merely prove my case of bigotry. The choice is yours.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  7. Scott wrote:

    "This whole discussion about bigotry is nothing but an attempt to side-track the discussion which you've already lost - and you lose it because you're not dealing with the objections. You lose it because you're continuing to topic-jump and distract the reader from the REAL topic at hand."

    You're the one who raised the bigotry issue. And you have yet to justify it. My disputing an unreasonable accusation that you raised doesn't prove that I'm "attempting to side-track the discussion". I also responded to you on the points you made about Lactantius, which is why you have to tell your readers that you'll respond to me on those issues in "a bit".

    You write:

    "I said I accept that you believe you've interpreted Lactantius correctly, and then I provided context from the very same work of Lactantius which, at the very least, allows for a Catholic interpretation of Lactantius. If you are willing to accept this fact, then I will withdraw the accusation of bigotry."

    Historical conclusions are about probability. The issue isn't what's "allowed for" in the sense of being possible. Rather, the issue is what's probable. Do you consider my interpretation probable? No. And I don't consider yours probable. So, why should we think I have an "agenda" that's "bigoted", whereas you don't?

    ReplyDelete
  8. >> sw: This whole discussion about
    >> bigotry is nothing but an
    >> attempt to side-track the
    >> discussion which you've already
    >> lost - and you lose it because
    >> you're not dealing with the
    >> objections. You lose it because
    >> you're continuing to topic-jump
    >> and distract the reader from
    >> the REAL topic at hand."
    >
    > JE: You're the one who raised
    > the bigotry issue.

    sw: Yes, and I explained myself already too. I think I should make my "list" of things Prot apologists use, up pretty close to the top of that list will be the "you're as bad as we are" argument.

    > JE: And you have yet to justify
    it.

    sw: Well, yes - I did.

    > JE: My disputing an unreasonable
    > accusation that you raised
    > doesn't prove that I'm
    > "attempting to side-track the
    > discussion".

    sw: Your focus on a minor and distractive point is quite telling, if not "proving" my point.

    > JE: I also responded to you on
    > the points you made about
    > Lactantius, which is why you
    > have to tell your readers that
    > you'll respond to me on those
    > issues in "a bit".

    sw: Do I detect sarcasm there? Yes, in "a bit" I will be responding. This is not the only forum I host, and BattleACTS has occupied much of my attention today, plus I'm "on call" at work and have had to answer several issues there. I'm not sure why I need to justify THAT at this point, but there you have it.

    You write:

    >> sw: I said I accept that you
    >> believe you've interpreted
    >> Lactantius correctly, and then
    >> I provided context from the
    >> very same work of Lactantius
    >> which, at the very least,
    >> allows for a Catholic
    >> interpretation of Lactantius.
    >> If you are willing to accept
    >> this fact, then I will withdraw
    >> the accusation of bigotry."
    >
    > JE: Historical conclusions are
    > about probability. The issue
    > isn't what's "allowed for" in
    > the sense of being possible.
    > Rather, the issue is what's
    > probable. Do you consider my
    > interpretation probable? No. And
    > I don't consider yours probable.
    > So, why should we think I have
    > an "agenda" that's "bigoted",
    > whereas you don't?

    sw: Bigotry is not about probability, it's about acceptance. I accept that is your interpretation/belief on the matter, you refuse to accept an alternative (Catholic, specifically) interpretation. I even offered "historical" evidence contemporary to Lactantius - that too is not accepted. That is bigotry, plain and simple. Now I'm not going to continue the bigotry discussion, we disagree. I accept that we disagree on this point, you seem to have trouble looking in the mirror.

    In Christ,
    Scott<<<

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  9. Scott wrote:

    "Bigotry is not about probability, it's about acceptance. I accept that is your interpretation/belief on the matter, you refuse to accept an alternative (Catholic, specifically) interpretation."

    You're comparing your acceptance that I believe something with my not adopting your belief as my own. That's a false comparison. You accept that I believe something, then you reject that belief. Likewise, I reject your belief. Why should we believe that I have an "agenda" that's "bigoted", whereas you don't?

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  10. Since when did disagreement = bigotry?

    That seems to be a gross misuse of the word.

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  11. I've already answered this, Grifman, and I have accepted that Engwer and I disagree. Engwer intolerantly does not accept the possibility of a Catholic view here and in fact attacks the Catholic view without accepting there ARE other views out there AND other ECFs which come out in explicit support of praying to the Saints. The bigotry discussion is moot now, the more you or Engwer attempt to keep stirring THAT pot the more you're proving the point of using distraction from the REAL point here. Do you guys LIKE to have such invalid arguments rubbed in your faces?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Scott said:
    "Engwer intolerantly does not accept the possibility of a Catholic view here and in fact attacks the Catholic view without accepting there ARE other views out there AND other ECFs which come out in explicit support of praying to the Saints."

    Again, that's a misuse of the word "intolerant". Engwer could be very wrong, he could be very right, but continuing disagreement with you does not make him intolerant, any more than you are intolerant by disagreeing with him. You say that you call Engwer "bigoted" because his approach to Lactantius is intolerant of your/Catholic interpretation. That's not, no matter what you say, by definition, bigotry. That's disagreeing!

    He might be WRONG about the evidence you cite above, but being wrong /= intolerance, any more than disagreement /= bigotry. If Engwer were attacking Catholics that would be intolerance or bigotry but so far all I see him doing is attacking Catholic beliefs, just as you are attacking Protestant beliefs. If Engwer is intolerant, then so must you, but your own logic.

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  13. Scott writes:

    "Engwer intolerantly does not accept the possibility of a Catholic view here and in fact attacks the Catholic view without accepting there ARE other views out there AND other ECFs which come out in explicit support of praying to the Saints."

    If I don't acknowledge that there are other views, then what view am I criticizing? As I explained earlier in this thread, historical conclusions are about probability, not possibility. Affirming that one view is likely, whereas another is unlikely, isn't equivalent to saying that the less likely view isn't even possible.

    Here are some things I wrote in response to you last week:

    "Scott's assumption that Lactantius meant to condemn only a narrower category, as if praying to other dead men outside that category would be acceptable, is a less natural way of reading the text....Thus, when Lactantius condemns prayer to the dead without the qualifiers that Scott wants to add to that condemnation, the most natural conclusion to reach is that he was condemning prayer to the dead in general, not just if the dead are false gods or with some other such qualification attached....When somebody who comes out of Lactantius' context repeatedly uses such broad language about prayer to the dead, the most natural interpretation isn't to conclude that he had your qualifiers in mind."

    When I say that one interpretation is more natural than another, that isn't equivalent to saying that other interpretations aren't possible or don't exist. I've already corrected you on this point, but you keep repeating your error.

    And I haven't denied that there are "other ECFs which come out in explicit support of praying to the Saints". One of my recent posts on prayer at Triablogue is titled The Significance Of Later Patristic Support For Prayer To The Dead.

    You write:

    "The bigotry discussion is moot now, the more you or Engwer attempt to keep stirring THAT pot the more you're proving the point of using distraction from the REAL point here."

    Nobody has been stopping you from addressing what we've said on other points. But if you bring up a false accusation of bigotry, don't complain if you're criticized for it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am rehashing this one more time for Mr. Engwer...
    > JE: Scott Windsor recently wrote
    > a response to my post on
    > Lactantius and prayer to the
    > dead. He writes:
    >
    >> sw: So, what Lactantius is
    >> speaking of here is the
    >> deifying of dead men and
    >> praying to these dead men as
    >> gods.
    >
    > JE: Notice the qualifiers he
    > adds, as if prayer to the dead
    > is acceptable as long as it
    > doesn't include those
    > qualifiers. Lactantius doesn't
    > say that, and his context
    > doesn't suggest it.

    sw: All the context suggests is that it is improper to deify those dead men, period. Mr. Engwer THINKS he has something and continues to focus upon the non-issue of Lactantius' use of "dead men" in this passage. Anyone who objectively reads the passage can clearly see the focus is NOT upon the prayers but on the fact that the pagans turn to these "dead men" as gods. THAT is the focus and anything else is nothing short of a diversion.

    > JE: Apparently, Scott didn't
    > read my previous discussion
    > of Lactantius with Christine,
    > which led up to the post to
    > which Scott has responded. I'll
    > repeat an analogy involving
    > abortion that I cited in that
    > discussion.
    }} Professing Christians didn’t
    }} normally have abortions in
    }} antiquity, so the earliest
    }} Christian condemnations of
    }} abortion are primarily given in
    }} the context of criticizing
    }} non-Christians. And other
    }} activities that Christians
    }} didn’t normally participate in
    }} would be mentioned along
    }} with abortion. It doesn’t
    }} follow that abortion is wrong
    }} only if done by non-Christians
    }} or only if accompanied by
    }} those other activities.
    > Similarly, when Lactantius
    > condemns prayer to the dead,
    > without telling us that it's
    > wrong only with the qualifiers
    > Scott has mentioned above, we
    > don't conclude that he meant to
    > condemn it only when those
    > qualifications are in place.

    sw: No, I didn't read Mr. Engwer's previous discussion with Christine - but that doesn't change the fact that Mr. Engwer is changing the focus of Lactantius in what I perceive to be a deliberate attempt to focus upon an anti-Catholic (and anti-Eastern Orthodox) agenda which is precisely why I called him upon this! THE focus, I REPEAT, is on the DEIFYING of these "dead men" and praying to them AS GODS. Regardless of what Mr. Engwer may have said which led to this particular discussion, that does not detract from the FACT that he's taking words out of context and imputing a subject matter into the discussion which Lactantius was NOT discussing!
    (Continued below...)

    ReplyDelete
  15. (Continuing...)
    sw: I have also, since writing the above, gone over to Triablogue and read through the exchange between Jason and Christine. Christine responded quite well and tried to keep Jason on task. She brought out many similar points which I have and also quoted and cited several other ANFs who also supported the "Communion of Saints" tradition of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. That being said, this discussion is between Jason and myself - I'm not going to go and respond to a previous conversation, and a rather long one at that. Let Jason's arguments with me stand or fall on their own merits and if he's too tired or lazy to respond to my comments directly then I accept his concession now.

    > JE: Scott goes on:
    >> sw: So, yet again - the context
    >> is objecting to praying to
    >> other gods and that the images
    >> of these "dead men" are being
    >> so worshiped. This has nothing
    >> to do with the practice of
    >> asking the Saints to pray with
    >> and for us.
    >
    > JE: He's repeating more
    > arguments I addressed in my
    > earlier exchanges with
    > Christine. As I explained in
    > those threads, Catholic prayers
    > to the dead involve more than
    > "asking the Saints to pray with
    > and for us". And even if they
    > only involved what Scott
    > describes, they would still be
    > prayers to the dead.

    sw: Mr. Engwer states: "If Catholicism or Orthodoxy were the one true church, handing down an apostolic tradition of praying to the dead throughout church history, we wouldn't expect the sort of opposition to the practice that we see among the earliest patristic Christians." And we DON'T see the sort of objection which Mr. Engwer is seeing! Engwer's eisegetical problem is his imputation of anti-Catholic thought when clearly Lactantius is not speaking out against the Catholic "Communion of the Saints" tradition - and has invented a straw man of praying to "dead people." Again, Lactantius is about treating these "dead men" as "gods."

    > JE: Scott writes:
    >> sw: Well, yes - they refer to
    >> physical death - but of men
    >> whom those pagan poets believed
    >> to be gods! Again, Mr. Engwer
    >> has missed the point here and
    >> has based his argument on a
    >> false premise which then leads
    >> him to conclusions which are
    >> just as false....

    >> sw: Well again, referencing
    >> Book 2, Chapter 18 is regarding
    >> the worship of false gods and
    >> false religions, namely
    >> paganism.
    >
    > JE: Scott repeatedly makes such
    > points in his article, as if I
    > was unaware of these things. But
    > I quoted some of Lactantius'
    > references to gods and paganism
    > in the post Scott is responding
    > to,

    sw: Quoted, but dismissed as relevant.

    > JE: ...and I addressed the
    > objections he's raising in my
    > earlier exchanges with Christine.

    sw: Again, I am not going to respond to the discussion between Engwer and Christine, and there's no need. Engwer wishes to distract this reading of Lactantius into a condemnation of the Catholic tradition of praying to the Saints, but that is NOT what Lactantius is addressing here! I repeat, he's objecting to praying to these "dead men as gods." Beyond that is eisegesis, the imputation of thoughts not contained in the original based upon presuppositions.

    In Christ,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  16. Scott,

    You've repeatedly asserted that your interpretation of Lactantius is correct, but without interacting with what I said on the subject. I cited Lactantius' choice of words in two different passages in which he discusses prayer to the dead. I explained why I interpreted those words as I did. I explained that he didn't refer to the qualifiers you've added to his words. I've given parallel examples of how we interpret similar passages in other sources in the same manner as I've interpreted Lactantius. You aren't giving us any reason to think that I'm wrong.

    You write:

    "I repeat, he's objecting to praying to these 'dead men as gods.'"

    Repeating that assertion doesn't demonstrate it to be true. The "as gods" qualifier is being added by you. Neither passage in Lactantius mentions it. As I explained before, if he had no objection to praying to deceased individuals, but instead was only concerned about praying to false gods, then he could have said something like "pray to false gods". Instead, his focus was on the dead status of the recipients of the prayers in question. What you want us to believe is that in both passages, Lactantius chose to mention an issue he wasn't concerned about (the dead status of those being prayed to) while not mentioning what he was concerned about (the false god status of those being prayed to). As I explained before, that's not the most natural way to take his comments. People usually don't put their objection to a practice in terms of subject A when it's actually subject B that they object to and subject A is something they consider acceptable. You're turning the passage on its head. You want us to believe that Lactantius meant to refer to something he didn't name and didn't intend to refer to what he did name. A phrase like "dead men" or "the dead" can include false gods, but it isn't limited to false gods if taken in its most natural sense.

    ReplyDelete
  17. > Scott,
    >
    > You've repeatedly asserted that
    > your interpretation of
    > Lactantius is correct, but
    > without interacting with what I
    > said on the subject. I cited
    > Lactantius' choice of words in
    > two different passages in which
    > he discusses prayer to the dead.
    > I explained why I interpreted
    > those words as I did. I
    > explained that he didn't refer
    > to the qualifiers you've added
    > to his words. I've given
    > parallel examples of how we
    > interpret similar passages in
    > other sources in the same manner
    > as I've interpreted Lactantius.
    > You aren't giving us any reason
    > to think that I'm wrong.

    Yes, I did (see below)

    > You write:
    >> "I repeat, he's objecting to
    >> praying to these 'dead men as
    >> gods.'"
    >
    > Repeating that assertion doesn't
    > demonstrate it to be true. The
    > "as gods" qualifier is being
    > added by you.

    Jason,
    If you were paying attention to my first response to you, I quoted the CONTEXT of your out-of-context snippets. Since you seem to have forgotten (and can't just go back yourself to the first response) I will repost it and highlight what you SHOULD have seen then and should NOT have left out previously:

    "Sallust rejected this opinion altogether, as though invented by the poets, and wished to give an ingenious explanation of the reasons for which the Curetes are said to have nourished Jupiter; and he speaks to this purport: Because they were the first to understand the worship of the deity, that therefore antiquity, which exaggerates all things, made them known as the nourishers of Jupiter. How much this learned man was mistaken, the matter itself at once declares." So, what Lactantius is speaking of here is the deifying of dead men and praying to these dead men as gods.

    The last time I looked up the word "deity" it meant "a god," thus I stand by what I said initially AND SUPPORTED INITIALLY BY PROVIDING THE CONTEXT!

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  18. Scott wrote:

    "If you were paying attention to my first response to you, I quoted the CONTEXT of your out-of-context snippets."

    You'll have to explain how you get from:

    - Lactantius mentions "understanding the worship of the deity" in 1:21.

    To:

    - When Lactantius condemns prayer to the dead in 1:21 and 2:18, he's only condemning prayer to dead men who are false gods, not prayer to the dead in general.

    Your assertion, which you have yet to justify, is problematic. For one thing, Lactantius discusses more than one subject in the surrounding context of the two passages I cited, so singling out the phrase you've singled out doesn't prove that he could only have been addressing that subject. Secondly, if he believed that prayer is to be offered only to God, as the evidence suggests, then he could consider prayer to the dead a misunderstanding of "the worship of the deity". Thus, he would consider your Catholic practice of praying to the dead a misunderstanding of the deity as well. Third, even if his focus is on false gods, he can use arguments that have implications for other subjects. As I documented in my example from Aristides cited above, we often draw implications about early Christian moral standards from what the early Christians said about pagan religions and their gods. Similarly, if Lactantius condemns pagans for praying to dead men, then that has implications for prayers to the dead among later professing Christians.

    I ask again, if Lactantius believed in praying to the dead (or was undecided on the issue), so that his only objection to the pagan practice was that they were praying to false gods, then why did he refer to "dead men" and "the dead"? Why didn't he, instead, use a phrase like "pray to false gods"? According to you, there's nothing wrong with praying to dead men.

    To get around Lactantius' comments, you could add a qualifier to at least one of his terms. You could assume that he meant "pray" in a qualified sense, such as "pray with worship". Or you could assume he meant "dead men" in a qualified sense, such as "dead men who are false gods". But Lactantius made the comment twice, and he didn't include either qualifier either time, and the context doesn't suggest we should include such a qualifier. The context allows for such a qualifier, but it doesn't render it probable. Your reading of Lactantius is similar to how a modern homosexual who claims to be a Christian could dismiss the passage I cited from Aristides. Would you find such a dismissal convincing? I'm not asking whether you approve of homosexuality or think that it's condemned in other sources, like scripture. Would you find such a reading of Aristides convincing? I wouldn't.

    ReplyDelete

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