Apologetics for the Masses #366 - 4 Words That Changed the World, Part III

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



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     In the last newsletter, I started my response to the anti-Catholic newspaper article - 4 Words That Changed the World - written by one Pastor Chipley (aka Chip) Thornton of the 1st Baptist Church of Springville (for the complete article: http://biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/491-apologetics-for-the-masses-364-4-words-that-changed-the-world).  I addressed the first 2 of the "4 Words" that changed the world. 

     This week I am going to finish my response to that article by addressing the last 2 of those 4 words.  I'll give you a sentence or two from the article, and then my response, and continue on in that fashion.  To read the first part of my response, see the last newsletter: http://biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/493-apologetics-for-the-masses-365-4-words-that-changed-the-world-part-ii  

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



Pastor Chipley Thornton, First Baptist Church, Springville, AL

     3) metanoia — Tyndale translated the word as repent rather than do penance.  The Roman Catholic Church winced at this word as well, since repent means: a change of mind resulting in a change of heart.  Do penance refers to punishments imposed by a priest after confession (sometimes including donations to the church treasury).  In this word, Tyndale issued another decisive blow to both (1) the authority of the priests, and (2), the (all important) church treasury.


John Martignoni

     Unfortunately, Pastor Chipley is apparently completely ignorant of the actual arguments made on behalf of the Church, and by Tyndale himself, in regard to the translation of this word.  It wasn’t about “donations to the church treasury,” it was about a full scale assault on the Sacrament of Penance...the Sacrament of Confession.  Tyndale, as part of his defense of his translation said this:  

     “Shrift [Confession] in the ear is verily a work of Satan, and that the falsest that ever was wrought, and that most hath devoured the faith.”  

     So, the Church didn’t “wince” because translating the word “metanoia” as “repent” instead of “do penance” was going to hurt the Church’s treasury, the Church “winced” because Tyndale used that translation as the launching point for his attack on the Sacrament of Confession.  The Church winced, because Tyndale was essentially arguing that it was not necessary to confess one’s sins to a priest.  That there is no such thing as temporal punishment due to one’s sins.  That it is not necessary to make reparations for one’s sin by doing penance - i.e., by fasting, by praying, by giving alms to the poor.  None of that was necessary, according to the apparently infallible “Pope” Tyndale. 

     Again, this was not about doing penance by making “donations to the church treasury,” as Pastor Chipley - parroting Protestant propaganda - would have you believe, it was about an attack on the Sacrament of Penance itself.  In fact, Tyndale launched attacks on most of the Church’s Sacraments.  It wasn’t the translation of “4 words” that got Tyndale in hot water with the Church, it was using his translations of those 4 words as the basis for his attack on any number of the Church’s doctrines and dogmas, and particularly on the Sacraments, that got Tyndale in a bad way with the Church.   

     Furthermore, Pastor Chipley has absolutely no understanding of how the Church defines “doing penance.”  He narrowly defines it as “punishments imposed by a priest after confession (sometimes including donations to the church treasury).”  But, how does the Church define it?  Well, let’s see:
     “Penance (poenitentia) designates (1) a virtue; (2) a sacrament of the New Law; (3) a canonical punishment inflicted according to the earlier discipline of the Church; (4) a work of satisfaction enjoined upon the recipient of the sacrament. These have as their common center the truth that he who sins must repent and, as far as possible, make reparation to Divine justice. Repentance, i.e., heartfelt sorrow with the firm purpose of sinning no more, is thus the prime condition on which depends the value of whatever the sinner may do or suffer by way of expiation.”

     That definition is taken from the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia.  Note that “a work of satisfaction” is only one part of the meaning of penance.  Also note, that the “prime condition” for penance is repentance.  In other words, without repentance, doing penance means absolutely nothing.  So, simply translating the word “metanoia” as “repent” as opposed to “do penance,” is not that big of a deal, because for the Church, "doing penance" starts, first and foremost, with repentance.  It is only when you use that “new” translation to then directly attack the Sacrament of Penance that it becomes a big deal.  

     As so often happens, a Protestant takes what he believes a word to mean, or what he decides a word means, and forces that interpretation onto Catholic teaching, which then allows him to take issue with his personal version of Catholic teaching, as opposed to taking issue with what the Catholic Church actually teaches. 


Pastor Chipley Thornton, First Baptist Church, Springville, AL

    4) agape — Tyndale translated the word as love rather than charity. The Roman Catholic Church recoiled at this rendering.  Charity has a particular meaning of “doing good works.” Love has a meaning of self-sacrifice without expecting anything in return.  Tyndale rightly recognized that we speak of our love for God, not our charity for God. But something deeper is going on here: Tyndale recognized that — wrapped up in the original meaning of this word — was a vast theological difference: the difference between salvation by faith alone in Christ alone (Protestantism) and salvation by our own works (Catholicism).


John Martignoni

     Pastor Chipley states, “Charity has a particular meaning of ‘doing good works.’”   Therein lies the problem.  Once again, a Protestant is trying to tell a Catholic, what the Catholic means when he uses a particular word.  Yes, “charity” has come to primarily mean “doing good works” in our day and age.  However, in Catholic theology, “charity” means something far beyond just “doing good works.”  Once again, let’s look at what the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia says:

     “The third and greatest of the Divine virtues enumerated by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13), usually called charity, defined: a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for his own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.”

     Charity, in Catholic theology, is “a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for his own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.”  Included in that definition would indeed be “doing good works,” as part of cherishing man for the sake of God, but it is far from the only definition of charity nor is it the most significant or noblest part of the overall definition.  Pastor Chipley’s ignorance of Catholic teaching has again caused him to misrepresent that teaching.

     But, here’s the thing: Tyndale - a Catholic priest who had bought wholesale into Luther’s teaching on sola fide - salvation by faith alone - was motivated to interpret the word “agape” as “love” not just out of some sense of getting the Greek meaning correct; rather, he did it in order to make the Bible say what he thought it should say.  He did it in order to remove anything that might make the Bible say something contrary to the dogma of sola fide.  In other words, he had a pre-set belief and he did what he could to fit the Bible to his belief, as Pastor Chipley essentially admits.  

     Furthermore, Pastor Chipley wrongly asserts that Catholicism teaches “salvation by our own works.”  He should be ashamed of himself.  How easy is it for a supposed man of God to actually pick up a Catholic document, such as the Catechism, go to the index in the back, look under salvation, and see that nowhere - NOWHERE! - does the Catholic Church ever teach anything vaguely resembling salvation by our own works.  Again, shame on him.  


Pastor Chipley Thornton, First Baptist Church, Springville, AL

     A man named Thomas More — hired by the Roman Catholic Church — wrote vigorously against these four words.  Nevertheless, common people were able to read the Bible in their own language, and they acted. A movement swept through England that was already sweeping through Europe: the Protestant Reformation.  This reformation spawned denominations we know today as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans and many others who are having an enormous impact on societies all over the world.  

     Tyndale, sadly, was strangled to death and burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic authorities for his translation.  He lost his life over four words ... but those four words changed the world.


John Martignoni

     "A man named Thomas More," he says.  As if he was just some guy off the street hired by the Church.  He fails to mention that Thomas More was the Lord High Chancellor of England.  A man of great learning and holiness. And, once again, he implies that the Bible had not been translated into English before Tyndale.  Historical error.  Ignorance.  And then he implies that Tyndale's bible is what caused the Deformation to come to England.  How about King Henry VIII breaking with the Pope because he wanted to divorce and remarry?  No, I'm sure that had nothing to do with the Protestant revolt coming to England, right?  

     And I love how he states, quite rightly, that the Protestant Deformation "spawned" all those various denominations (and tens of thousands more) without even a hint of irony in his tone.  As if all these divisions within the Body of Christ is a good and holy thing.  Another historical error is when he states that the "Roman Catholic authorities" killed Tyndale.  No, it was the English authorities under Henry VIII who did so.  Now, there is no doubt that the Catholic authorities concurred with the decision, but they did not carry out the execution.  And, again, he wasn't executed for making a translation, he was executed for heresy.

     Finally, it is indeed sad that Tyndale was executed.  I wish they had allowed him to live to see the bad fruit of the Deformation that he had been a part of - all of the divisions within Christendom that resulted.  Perhaps if he had seen that, he might have done penance. 


Closing Comments

I hope all of you have a great week!  Stay hygienic, and pray that this, too, shall pass!  Remember, fear is not of the Lord...



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Apologetics for the Masses