Apologetics for the Masses #365 - 4 Words That Changed the World, Part II

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A Response to Pastor Chip Thornton's Anti-Catholic Newspaper Article



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     In last week's newsletter, I shared with you an article that appeared a few years ago in a newspaper called The Daily Home, that serves Talladega and St. Clair counties here in Alabama.  The article was written by one Pastor Chipley (aka Chip) Thornton of the 1st Baptist Church of Springville, which is a town to the northeast of Birmingham. 

     I gave you a week to think about how you would respond to what this guy had to say about the Catholic Church.  This week I am going to start my analysis of this article.  I'll give you a sentence or two from the article, and then my response, and continue on in that fashion.  To read the entire article all at once, as opposed to piece-by-piece, check out last week's newsletter:  Apologetics for the Masses #364

     Pastor Thornton's words will be in italics.  I hope you enjoy.



Pastor Chipley Thornton, First Baptist Church, Springville, AL

    In the early 1500s, God brought forth an Englishman to shake the world for His glory.  His name was William Tyndale. God raised him up to translate the New Testament from the original Greek into English, so that common people could read God’s Word.


John Martignoni

     2 things here:

     1) Since Pastor Thornton is, as a Baptist, a believer in the dogma of Sola Scriptura, then I would have to ask: Where in the Bible does it say God will allow His church to teach error to people for 1500 years, until some guy named Tyndale showed up to correct the church? 

     2) Pastor Thornton is factually wrong.  He is implying that the common people couldn't read the Bible because it had not been translated into English before Tyndale came along.  Well, sorry, but the Bible had indeed been translated into English way before Tyndale came along.  The Preface to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible even says as much.  Here's the quote from the KJV:

      "In like manner, Ulfilas is reported by Paulus Diaconus and Isidor (and before them by Sozomen) to have translated the Scriptures into the Gothic [German] tongue...about the year of our Lord 717; Bede [according to] Cistertiensis, to have turned a great part of them into Saxon [or Old English - the language of England before the Norman conquest of 1066]: Efnard [according to] Trithemius, to have abridged the French Psalter, as Bede had done the Hebrew, about the year 800: King Alfred [according to] the said Cistertiensis, to have turned the Psalter into Saxon...even in our King Richard the second's days [late 1300's], John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen with divers, translated as it is very probable, in that age."

     So, from the King James Bible - a Protestant Bible - we see that Tyndale was indeed not the first person to translate the Bible into English, as Pastor Thornton is trying to make us believe.  There were Old English copies at least as early as 717, and then copies in Middle English - which would have been understood in Tyndale's day - at least as early as the 1300's - 150 years or so before Tyndale! - if not earlier.  Wycliffe's Bible is one example of such.  And, the KJV states that there were "many" English Bibles from that period that were still around in the 1600's, which is when the KJV was written.  Furthermore, is Pastor Thornton not aware that the vast majority of the "common people" could not read regardless of whether the Bible was in English or not? 

     Which leads one to ask: If Pastor Thornton is mistaken in his history - history which is right there in a Bible that I imagine he himself uses - then how can we know that he gets his theology right?  How can we trust him when He says that God raised up Tyndale to translate the Bible into English, when the Bible had been translated into English well before Tyndale was even born?

     And exactly what authority did Tyndale have to translate the Bible as he saw fit? 


 Pastor Chipley Thornton, First Baptist Church, Springville, AL

    Four words Tyndale translated changed the world.

     1) ekklesia — Tyndale translated the word as congregation rather than church. The Roman Catholic Church had — for centuries — held that ekklesia referred to the church as a hierarchical institution that exalted the priesthood (and the Pope), and reduced common people to a lesser status in the Kingdom of God.

     Tyndale’s term, congregation, rightly conveyed the original meaning: that all persons in God’s Kingdom are equal.  That one word crumbled the wall that had been built between the priesthood and the common people.


John Martignoni 

     There are a few problems with what Pastor Chipley says here:

     First, how does he know that Tyndale's translation of "ecclesia" as "congregation", "rightly conveyed the original meaning" of that word?  Who told him that?  Is it in the Bible?  Is that Pastor Thornton's infallible pronouncement, or is that just his private, fallible, opinion...an opinion based on his pre-disposed bias against the Catholic Church?

     Second, the Catholic Church has indeed held for centuries - about 20 of them - that the Church is hierarchical.  You know why?  Because that is what the Church received from Jesus Christ, and which the Bible corroborates.  In John 21:15-19, we see that Peter is appointed the shepherd of the Church, by Jesus Himself.  Were all of the people appointed by Christ to shepherd the Church?  No.  In Matthew 16:16-19, we see that Peter is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, by Jesus Himself.  Were all of the people given the keys of the kingdom of heaven?  No.  In Acts 1:20, we see that Judas, as did all of the Apostles, had an "office" (the KJV says "bishopric"), and so when the officeholder died, a new one had to be appointed.  Did all of the people have offices, or bishoprics, in the Church?  No.  In Acts 6:1-6 we see deacons ordained by the Apostles.  Were all the people ordained deacons?  No.  In Paul's 1st Letter to Timothy, we see him talking about the qualifications for bishops.  Were all the people ordained bishops?  No.  In James 5:14, it talks about calling for the "elders" of the church.  Obviously a group of men that had been set apart for a special role in the church.  Were all the people "elders" of the church?  No.

     In other words, the Catholic Church teaches that one aspect of the church founded by Jesus Christ, is that it is indeed hierarchical, and the Bible fully supports Catholic teaching on this matter.  Now, the Catholic Church does indeed teach, and it has always been so, that all are equal in the eyes of God, but as the Bible very clearly shows, there are different roles and different functions for different people in the church (also see, for example, 1 Cor 12:28-29 and verses 4-11 of that same chapter).  Furthermore, the Bible clearly shows that there were people rebelling against the priesthood in the 1st century, just as they did in Korah's Rebellion centuries earlier (Jude 11; Numbers 16), and just as Pastor Thornton appears to be doing in our century.  If there were no hierarchy, then what is this 1st century Korah's Rebellion that Jude is talking about?  Why does Paul tell Timothy "command and teach" unless there was a hierarchy and Timothy had been set in a position of authority over the people in his charge?  If there is no hierarchy, then why are some people ordained - through the laying on of hands - and others are not?  Pastor Thornton's words make no sense.

     Finally, I would ask, if Tyndale is right, then why does Pastor Thornton pastor the First Baptist "Church"?  Why isn't it the First Baptist "Congregation"?  And, why is he set apart as the pastor?  Is everyone in the congregation equal to him in his role as pastor?  Can anyone in the congregation get up and preach on Sunday?  Can anyone in the congregation lead a Bible study?  Can anyone in the congregation make decisions about expanding the congregation building or order more Bibles for the congregation or decide to have the congregation's parking lot repaired, or any other such decisions?  Do all of the "common people" of the congregation have the exact same standing in the congregation as Pastor Thornton?  Are they all equal with Pastor Thornton? Or, is Pastor Thornton set apart from the congregation in certain things?  And, in Pastor Thornton's Bible, does it say in Matthew 16 that Jesus will build His "church," or His "congregation"?  In Matthew 19, does it say to take a dispute between two Christians to the church or to the congregation?  In 1 Tim 3:15, does his Bible say it is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth, or the congregation?  Just curious...


Pastor Chipley Thornton, First Baptist Church, Springville, AL

    2) presbyter — Tyndale translated the word as elder rather than priest. The Roman Catholic Church frowned at this word. It preferred priest in order to uphold the authority of the priesthood over common people. Tyndale rendered it elder, which meant a leader of a congregation (who typically was older).  Tyndale knew that priest is a different word in Greek (hiereus). This was another Scriptural blow to Catholic tradition, which gave priests (and the Pope) non-Scriptural authority.


John Martignoni

     First, I would ask, if Pastor Thornton is aware that the English word, "priest," is essentially derived from the Greek word, "presbyteros," or presbyter?  Second, I would ask, what exactly was the "non-Scriptural authority" that "priests (and the Pope)" had? He makes this broad claim, but gives absolutely no examples or evidence to back up his claim.  Is he just repeating propaganda about the Catholic Church that he has been taught, or can he give some specifics?  Third, do the elders in the Bible have any authority over the "common people" in the "congregation"?

     I would also ask Pastor Thornton, if he has any authority over the people in his church (I mean, congregation - i.e., "the common people")?  And, finally, I would once again ask, who exactly was it that imbued Tyndale with the authority to interpret the Bible and have that interpretation be made "infallible" by Pastor Thornton and others?


I am going to stop there for this week and I will cover the final 2 "Words That Changed the World" in the next newsletter.


Closing Comments

     I hope all of you have a great week, and I pray this Lenten season will be one of great spiritual renewal and growth for all of you!



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Apologetics for the Masses