Sunday, October 04, 2015

Luther's Practical Advice on Honoring the Saints

Here's a snippet from The Festival Sermons of Martin Luther on the best way to honor the saints.

The entire sermon is an interesting read. Luther goes on to describe the proper way to honor departed saints, as well as offering a few tips on how or if one should pray for the dead (he makes similar comments in the treatise, Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, see my discussion here about prayers for the dead).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Trashing Luther? Ex-Lutheran Instructs "Hyper-Catholics" to Settle Down

This warmed my heart: a "former Lutheran pastor, transitioning to the Roman Catholic Church" has written a blog article entitled, Trashing Luther. The first paragraph states,

Theological hobbyists of a hyper-Catholic sort continue to misconstrue Luther’s “errors.” Oh, I hardly think he was error-free, but (having recently been one) I know Lutherans who pretty much think he was essentially infallible. But I also know Catholics (me having recently become one) who are of the opinion he was devilish at best and, at his worst, out to destroy the Church.

This sort of sentiment won't go over well with Rome's typical on-line self-proclaimed defenders, because most of them are "theological hobbyists of a hyper-Catholic sort." For instance, I found this blog post over on the Catholic Answers forums. In a comment from the thread in which it was posted comes the following:

I have been pretty good at reading about Luther honestly he was extemely anti-Semitic, had a bad anger problem, was self rightous, I have actually wondered if he was mentally ill. He carved scripture into his kitchen table in anger in front of his wife and kids. He also was obsessed with going to the bathroom. I think he was a mad man who was a pawn of northern German Lords, Kings, and Barrons.

That's your typical hyper-Catholic theological hobbyist quote. This person is "pretty good at reading about Luther honestly" and from this lofty tower of kindness and fairness concludes Luther was a mad-man.

You can read about this transitioning Lutheran pastor here and here. This is the sort of ex-Lutheran who thinks:

After a couple decades or more of formal dialogue discussing the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, Lutherans and Catholics officially declared the issue was no longer church dividing.


Catholics admitted that whatever was condemned in the doctrine "faith alone" was not itself the doctrine Lutherans argued. What Trent condemned is condemned, only nobody then actually espoused it. And what Lutherans challenged on works vs. grace, well, it too wasn't what Catholics in fact were saying. This wasn't a clever dodge papering differences. Through years of dialogue on this and other subjects, back to 1965, they came to understand maybe they didn't hear each other so well the first time.

Note the phrase above, "Lutherans and Catholics." Which Lutherans? All Lutherans? The author doesn't say. Indeed, there are other Lutherans that don't think Rome and Lutherans have come to any sort of agreement on justification and they've put together documents like this to explain why.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Roman Catholic commercial video during Papal visit

I noticed this Roman Catholic commercial video being played a lot recently on Fox News.  Seems the timing was to go with the visit of Pope Francis.  (Jorge Bergoglio)

This is a very well done video for the time that it takes.

1.  It assumes "catholic" is the same as "Roman Catholic". (without even mentioning the phrase, "Roman Catholic")
2.  It subtly claims the Roman Catholic Church compiled the Bible.  This is false.  The early church testified, affirmed, discerned, discovered, and put under one "book cover" which texts were "God-breathed"/ inspired.  (2 Timothy 3:16)  They called themselves "catholic" in the sense of "universal" / "according to the whole" / able to grow in all nations and cultures (Revelation 5:9), but it was not the same church doctrinally that today claims the Papacy, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, Indulgences, Marian dogmas, Marian piety, praying to Mary, praying to statues and icons, denial of Justification by Faith Alone at Trent, etc.
3.  It claims Peter was the first Pope.
Many problems with that.  See below in Dr. White's lecture on the Dividing Line.
4.  The mention of "sacred tradition", in addition to the written Scriptures.
5.  claimed 2000 years of an unbroken line of shepherds.

There may be other problems, but those are the 5 that stuck out to me.

Dr. White did an excellent DL yesterday, on Sept. 23, about the current Pope and Papacy:

Take note of the 5 things that Roman Catholics have to prove as true all at the same time in the last half of his lecture.

The closing Scripture verses Dr. White pointed to were from Acts 20:17-32.  Acts 20:32 - "And now I commend to God and the word of His grace, which is about to build you up and to give the inheritance among those who are being sanctified."

Some other things about the Papal visit of Pope Francis.  It seems, from what I have read, that President Obama and/ or the White House staff deliberately invited a bunch of homosexuals, trans-gender activists, and Roman Catholics for abortion, in order to cause this Pope some discomfort, or embarrass him, or give him a message, or protest his views on same sex marriage and abortion.  That is shameful, IMO.  His statement's on homosexuality have been weak and unclear, but as conservative RC's have pointed out, he has not changed church doctrine on that issue.  I can appreciate and respect the Roman Catholic Church's stand against abortion and stand for marriage as one man and one woman, etc.

The current Pope's opposition to the death penalty ( I have never understood that, even for first degree murder, since I started hearing about that from the time of John Paul 2) and leftist views of the borders, illegal immigration, global warming, and capitalism are revealing.

Addendum:  The Debate on the Papacy that Dr. White had with Mitch Pacwa in 1998:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Faith," wrote Luther, “is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith."

I get various questions of tedium throughout the week. Here's a recent one:

Hi James, Do you know where Luther said, "if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith"? It's quoted in Bainton's Here I Stand, but in the references section it just says, "VIII, 361." Do you have any idea what that refers to?

I also came across this same snippet from Bainton here:

According to Roland Bainton's biography of Luther, Here I Stand, Luther wrote at one time: Faith is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. Bainton's citation for this purported Luther quote is simply VIII, 361. I do not know what this refers to, so if anyone could comment below and let me know where it comes from, it would be much appreciated.

I actually went through Bainton's use of Luther on this some time back: Did Luther Believe in Saving Faith? I originally cited the quote from Bainton many years ago in my review of Luther's famous "sin boldly" statement. As I recall, only one defender of Rome ever challenged me for not quoting Luther directly (kudos to him for catching this).

Bainton cited WA 8:361. The comment from Luther is found translated into English in a 1521 sermon on Luke 17:11-19. In that context, Luther states the following:
See, this is what James means when he says, 2, 26: "Faith apart from works is dead." For as the body without the soul is dead, so is faith without works. Not that faith is in man and does not work, which is impossible. For faith is a living, active thing. But in order that men may not deceive themselves and think they have faith when they have not, they are to examine their works, whether they also love their neighbors and do good to them. If they do this, it is a sign that they have the true faith. If they do not do this, they only have the sound of faith, and it is with them as the one who sees himself in the glass and when he leaves it and sees himself no more, but sees other things, forgets the face in the glass, as James says in his first chapter, verses 23-24.
[This passage in James deceivers and blind masters have spun out so far, that they have demolished faith and established only works, as though righteousness and salvation did not rest on faith, but on our works. To this great darkness they afterwards added still more, and taught only good works which are no benefit to your neighbor, as fasting, repeating many prayers, observing festival days; not to eat meat, butter, eggs and milk; to build churches, cloisters, chapels, altars; to institute masses, vigils, hours; to wear gray, white and black clothes; to be spiritual; and innumerable things of the same kind, from which no man has any benefit or enjoyment; all which God condemns, and that justly. But St. James means that a Christian life is nothing but faith and love. Love is only being kind and useful to all men, to friends and enemies. And where faith is right, it also certainly loves, and does to another in love as Christ did to him in faith. Thus everyone should beware lest he has in his heart a dream and fancy instead of faith, and thus deceives himself. This he will not learn anywhere as well as in doing the works of love. As Christ also gives the same sign and says: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13, 35. Therefore St. James means to say: Beware, if your life is not in the service of others, and you live for yourself, and care nothing for your neighbor, then your faith is certainly nothing; for it does not do what Christ has done for him. Yea, he does not believe that Christ has done good to him, or he would not omit to do good to his neighbor. [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 3:1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 71-72].
Elsewhere in The Sermons of Martin Luther, Luther states:
This is what St. James means when his says in his Epistle, 2:26: ‘"Faith without works is dead." That is, as the works do not follow, it is a sure sign that there is no faith there; but only an empty thought and dream, which they falsely call faith. Now we understand the word of Christ: "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness." That is, prove your faith publically by your outward gifts, by which you win friends, that the poor may be witnesses of your public work, that your faith is genuine. For mere external giving in itself can never make friends, unless it proceed from faith, as Christ rejects the alms of the Pharisees in Mat. 6:2, that they thereby make no friends because their heart is false. Thus no heart can ever be right without faith, so that even nature forces the confession that no work makes one good, but that the heart must first be good and upright.  [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 2:2 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), p. 308].

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Piper's Intro to new book on Sola Fide by Tom Schreiner

A Prayer for Justice against the evil in this world - Psalm 94

From the Australian group, "Sons of Korah".   I just discovered this group recently and I am impressed with their musical skill and that they have done many of the Psalms, and they are all very wedded to the text of Scripture.  The song covers Psalm 94:1-11.  I don't know what their church background or specific theology is, but so far, of the songs I have listened to, they seem very good.

Psalm 33:1-3 - "play skillfully" (verse 3) to the Lord with a shout of joy !

Psalm 94

"O LORD, God of vengeance

God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth,
Render recompense to the proud.
How long shall the wicked, O Lord,
How long shall the wicked exult?
They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.
They crush Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger
And murder the orphans.
They have said, “The Lord does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”
Pay heed, you senseless among the people;
And when will you understand, stupid ones?
He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see?
10 He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke,
Even He who teaches man knowledge?
11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
12 Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O [j]Lord,
And whom You teach out of Your law;
13 That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not abandon His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
15 For judgment will again be righteous,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
16 Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
18 If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
19 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
20 Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
One which devises mischief by decree?
21 They band themselves together against the life of the righteous
And condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The Lord our God will destroy them.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Calvin's Surprise: There is No Salvation Outside the Church

I recently came across one of Rome's defenders presenting the following quote from John Calvin's Institutes: "...beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, . . ." (IV, 1:4) and conclude that Calvin surprisingly believed just like Rome does: there is no salvation outside the Church.  Did Calvin retain an alleged "Roman Catholic" belief? Is this a surprising belief of John Calvin's?

There is no Surprise
The notion of extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no ‎salvation) may sound Roman Catholic, but properly speaking the phrase is not their sole property. Contrary to what they assume, Rome does not own church history. What is their property is how they currently understand the phrase as expressed in their authoritative documents (see below).

To say Calvin retained the "Catholic" belief of of extra ecclesiam nulla salus would be akin to saying something like Calvin retained the "Catholic" belief in the communion of saints. Some of the main Reformed confessions comment on extra ecclesiam nulla salus. It wasn't that they were retaining a Roman Catholic belief, they were commenting on an expression used throughout the history of the church.

The Belgic Confession states:
We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it; maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them. And that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers, according to the word of God, to separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the Church, and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God hath established it, even though the magistrates and edicts of princes were against it, yea, though they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore all those, who separate themselves from the same, or do not join themselves to it, act contrary to the ordinance of God. (Belgic Confession, Article 28)
The Westminster Confession of Faith states:
The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
So, if extra ecclesiam nulla salus  is a surprising belief of Calvin's, it certainly shouldn't be surprising to someone with a basic grasp of Reformed theology. It appears it's Rome's defenders and those who seriously read their materials who qualify as the surprised.

John Calvin: There is No Salvation Outside the Church
The above alone serves well enough to demonstrate the folly of presenting Calvin's statement as surprising. On the other hand, exploring Calvin's view is interesting as well. Calvin did indeed say there is no salvation outside the visible church in book IV of the Institutes:
The Visible Church as Mother of Believers
But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title “mother” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matthew 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation, as Isaiah [Isaiah 37:32] and Joel [Joel 2:32] testify. Ezekiel agrees with them when he declares that those whom God rejects from heavenly life will not be enrolled among God’s people [Ezekiel 13:9]. On the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true godliness are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem [cf. Isaiah 56:5; Psalm 87:6]. For this reason, it is said in another psalm: “Remember me, O Jehovah, with favor toward thy people; visit me with salvation: that I may see the well-doing of thy chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, that I may be glad with thine inheritance” [Psalm 106:4-5 p.; cf. Psalm 105:4, Vg., etc.]. By these words God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church. 
Taken at face value,  John Calvin is saying that in order to have salvation, one must be in the visible church in order to have salvation. My comments below are primarily based on two studies:

David N. Wiley, "The Church as the Elect in the Theology of Calvin, " [Timothy George, ed. John Calvin and the Church (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990, 96-117]

Dennis W. Jowers, "In What Sense Does Calvin Affirm 'Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus'?" [Eddy Van der Borght, Garard Mannion, ed. John Calvin Ecclesiology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011)  50-68].

Wiley provides an interesting analysis of the developments of Calvin's view of the church in the different editions of the Institutes and other writings. He identifies election as basic to Calvin's understanding of the church with "an increasing tendency" to "stress the visible church" (p. 96). He notes Calvin's preface to the King of France that the church need not be visible to exist:
Our controversy turns on these hinges: first, they contend that the form of the church is always apparent and observable. Secondly, they set this form in the see of the Roman Church and its hierarchy. We, on the contrary, affirm that the church can exist without any visible appearance, and that its appearance is not contained within that outward magnificence which they foolishly admire. [Battles translations 74].
Wiley notes that this sense of invisibility was later downplayed in later editions of the Institutes (p. 103). The author then demonstrates that Calvin came more and more to speak of the importance of the visible church, still with election as the foundation of the church. Wiley (p. 106) cites Calvin's Catechism of the Church of Geneva (1542) [Calvini Opera, 6:39-41 (pdf)]:
93 M. What is the Church?
S. The body and society of believers whom God hath predestined to eternal life.
96 M. In what sense do you call the Church holy?
S. All whom God has chosen he justifies, and forms to holiness and innocence of life, [Romans 8:29-30] that his glory may be displayed in them. And this is what Paul means when he says that Christ sanctified the Church which he redeemed, that it might be a glorious Church, free from all blemish. [Ephesians 5:25.]
Q100 M. Can this Church be known in any other way than when she is believed by faith?
S. There is indeed also a visible Church of God, which he has described to us by certain signs and marks, but here we are properly speaking of the assemblage of those whom he has adopted to salvation, by his secret election. This is neither at all times visible to the eye nor discernible by signs.
In regard to the visible church, the 1543 version of the Institutes is cited as stating we are "commanded to hold this visible church in honor and to keep ourselves in communion with it" (p. 108).  Of the 1559 Institutes, Wiley views Calvin as saying in essence that the church is the ordinary means of bringing "the elect to their salvation" (p. 110). When Calvin appealed to extra ecclesiam nulla salus Wiley states, "properly speaking he means not outside the visible church but outside the church of the elect" (p. 110). Wiley makes such a statement (that appears to contradict what Calvin explicitly stated) because he argues the ultimate foundation of the church is election.  Overall, Wiley presents an interesting overview of the development of Calvin's view of the visible church, noting that Calvin knew that the church existed beyond the visible Genevan church as God's invisible elect scattered throughout the world.

Dennis Jowers tackles Calvin and extra ecclesiam nulla salus head on. His basic argument is that "Calvin does teach that faith in Christ and membership of the visible church are prerequisites of salvation" but "he does so with considerable nuance and disowns some of the most harshly exclusivistic conceptions of the impossibility of salvation outside the church" (p. 50). Jowers presents an argument alluded to by Wiley, that the visible church is the normal means of bringing the elect to salvation. On the other hand, there are exceptional cases: "unbaptized infants, children who die in their infancy and adults on the margins of the visible church" (p. 54). These may not use the normal means. There are those though who are not included as obtaining salvation outside the church: "Calvin, then, is no advocate of the 'wider hope' as to the salvation of the unevangelized, which became fashionable in the nineteenth century" (p. 64).
Calvin articulates a version of the classic Christian conviction, extra ecclesiam nulla salus, then, that neither closes the kingdom of God to those who lack access to the church's sacraments nor expands the sense of ecclesia so radically as to render persons who have never heard the gospel, intra ecclasiam for the purpose of salvation. Calvin charts something of a via media: allowing for the salvation of persons relatively isolated from the visible church without blunting the radicality of Reformation Christianity's exclusive claims. (p. 65)

Rome: There is No Salvation Outside the Church
It is true that Rome adheres to a version of "there is no salvation outside the church" (extra ecclesiam nulla salus), and by that, they mean... the Roman Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
But this statement has further qualifiers, so that being "outside the church" really isn't what one would think it plainly means. It ventures into the radicality mentioned by Jowers:
The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."
And also:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
Some years back we documented how the American infallible Magisterium (Catholic Answers), held out the hope that atheists could be saved:
It’s also possible for a person to die in God’s friendship even if the person didn’t consciously know God during life. Someone could, through no fault of their own, be unaware of God or not have ever been given sufficient evidence that they concluded God is true, through no fault of their own, and if they otherwise cooperated with his grace, then God won’t hold their ignorance of him against them. So, it’s possible for an atheist to be saved, it’s still through Jesus Christ and through God’s grace, but they can still die not knowing God and still be on their way to heaven as long as they otherwise cooperated with his grace.
But was this the same Roman Catholic Church that Calvin knew? Calvin was probably more familiar with the Roman Catholic Church that said things like this:
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (The Council of Florence,
Denzinger 714).

While Rome's defender mentioned no overt intended purpose other than the surprise value of Calvin's comment, such similarities between Rome and Calvin may be an intended polemic beyond surprise.  Calvin may be being presented to suggest that he agrees with distinctive Roman beliefs that modern Protestants do not. As demonstrated above, the Protestant tradition to which Calvin belongs doesn't find extra ecclesiam nulla salus surprising at all. Along with Calvin, I seriously question the Christian pedigree of those people who see no need to be a member of a visible church. Like the later Reformed confessions, the church is the normal means God uses to nurture his elect. Louis Berkhof points out,
It is very important to bear in mind that, though both the invisible and the visible Church can be considered as universal, the two are not in every respect commensurate. It is possible that some who belong to the invisible Church never become members of the visible organization, as missionary subjects who are converted on their deathbeds, and that others are temporarily excluded from it, as erring believers who are for a time shut out from the communion of the visible Church. On the other hand there may be unregenerated children and adults who, while professing Christ, have no true faith in Him, in the Church as an external institution; and these, as long as they are in that condition, do not belong to the invisible Church. Good definitions of the visible and invisible Church may be found in the Westminster Confession. (Systematic Theology, 627)
The extra ecclesiam nulla salus of Calvin and Rome are in essence quite different. If the analysis of Jowers is correct, Calvin's view has a narrow scope of people saved outside the church, whereas Rome ventures into a severe radicality. The surprising belief is not that John Calvin held to extra ecclesiam nulla salus, but rather that Rome has qualified the statement in such a way as to make it say it's opposite: outside the church there is salvation for just about everyone.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Luther vs. Reformed Theology: On Losing Salvation and the Sin of Unbelief

Some years back I did a blog entry entitled, Did Luther Believe Salvation Can Be Lost? In that entry, I noted the following Luther quote:
Even if he would, he could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins, so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because he cannot deny himself if you confess him and faithfully cling to him in his promise. But as for contrition, confession of sins, and satisfaction, along with all those carefully devised exercises of men: if you rely on them and neglect this truth of God, they will suddenly fail you and leave you more wretched than before. For whatever is clone without faith in God’s truth is vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit [Eccles. 1:2, 14]" [LW 36: 60].
An interesting historical analysis of this quote can be found here. A Lutheran recently left a portion of this quote in the comment section under the same entry stating,
Having graduated from a Lutheran seminary, this is the position of the Lutheran Church. It is different than Wesleyism in the sense that it does not teach that one loses their salvation because of sin, but that sin may have such an effect on a person that one may lose their faith, thus, coming to a place of unbelief!
I'm bringing this up simply to point out a significant difference between Luther and Reformed theology that is often overlooked from the Reformed side.  Note the following difference between Luther's quote, the Lutheran comment, and the following from R.C. Sproul. Note how Sproul connects the sin of unbelief to limited atonement:
However, the overwhelming majority of Christians who reject limited atonement also reject universal salvation. They are particularists, not universalists. They insist on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. That is, only believers are saved by the atonement of Christ. If that is so, then the atonement, in some sense, must be limited, or restricted, to a definite group, namely believers. If Christ died for all of the sins of all people, that must include the sin of unbelief. If God’s justice is totally satisfied by Christ’s work on the cross, then it would follow that God would be unjust in punishing the unrepentant sinner for his unbelief and impenitence because those sins were already paid for by Christ.
See also, this comment from Dr. Sproul. This is popular Reformed argumentation.  Note A.W. Pink's construction of it:
If ALL the sins of ALL men were laid upon Christ, then the sin of unbelief was too. That unbelief is a sin is clear from the fact that in 1 John 3:23 we read, "And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ." Refusal to believe in Christ is, therefore, an act of flagrant disobedience, rebellion against the Most High. But if all the sins of all men were laid upon Christ (as it is now asserted), then He also endured the penalty for the Christ-rejector's unbelief. If this be so, then Universalism is true. But it is not so. The very advocates of the view we are now refuting would not affirm it. And therein may be seen the inconsistency and untenableness of their teaching. For if unbelief is a sin and Christ did not suffer the penalty of it, then all sin was not laid upon Christ. Thus there are only two alternatives: a strictly limited Atonement, availing only for believers; or an unlimited Atonement which effectually secures the salvation of the entire human race.
See also John Owen's construction of the argument.

So, the moral of this story is that Calvinists should careful with Luther, and also be prepared for a long and tedious discussions with Lutherans on the extent of the atonement, and the meaning of the atonement.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Do You Have the Gift of Discernment? The Gift of Discernment in 1 Cor. 12:10

I posted this a few years ago (8/19/12), but after some recent encounters with some well-meaning Christians, I've decided to bring it back to the front of the blog. The following paper was written for a seminary requirement (and actually graded by a fairly well-known and respected Reformed theologian).


Do You Have the Gift of Discernment?
I've been in a number of conversations with Christians convinced that the Holy Spirit has endowed them with the gift described in 1 Corinthians 12 as "the distinguishing of spirits," or, sometimes referred to as the gift of discernment.  Sometimes I wonder if the claim to such a gift is simply a ploy for recognition. Or perhaps it's a type of hubris or spiritually immaturity. I'm often tempted to simply dismiss such people as violating Paul’s exhortation in Galatians 6 to boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is possible, though, that sincerity is that which motivates such an assertion. Couldn't it simply be zeal for the purity of doctrine or the protection of the church that leads someone to claim this supernatural gift? Perhaps they've heard a sermon or been to a Bible study exhorting the seeking out and nurturing of spiritual gifts. Perhaps friends have noticed and encouraged their seeming ability to rightly discern spiritual issues. Perhaps a church leader has blatantly told them they have the gift of discernment. If any of these positive scenarios are true, if someone indeed has the gift spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:10, the fault would not be admitting to it (whether boastfully or not), rather it would be not using the gift for the benefit of the church.

How should such claims to spiritual discernment be understood in the church today? Can one know if the claim is Biblically valid today? These questions cannot be addressed until related issues are scrutinized. How has the church understood this gift, and is there a consensus view? Is this gift something particular only to the infant church or has it been given throughout the centuries? What role did it play in the early church, and if still extant, what role would it play today?

What is the "Distinguishing of Spirits" According to the Early Church?
Paul doesn't explain what this gift is, nor do the Scriptures elsewhere explicitly offer any divine commentary as to what it entails. That is, the Bible doesn't say elsewhere, "This is what Paul means by the distinguishing of spirits." One may be tempted to think the earliest extra-biblical writers could provide the needed illuminating commentary or explanation. Weren't they closest in historical position to the divine authors? This is a fallacy. Simply because one is nearer in history does not mean an interpretation is necessarily more accurate. The writings of the church fathers do not provide any determining clarity. From these extant writings, often the gift is simply mentioned along with the other gifts without detailed elaboration or interpretation.(1)

In an obscure letter, Augustine refers to it as an ability to answer extra-biblical theological questions. In responding to questions related to how martyrs are able to help those who make requests of them, Augustine is convinced martyrs have abilities from the grave but he does not know exactly how these powers work. He explains that simply because he lacks understanding, this does not mean there isn't someone given the discerning of spirits who could address the issue with precision.(2)  In a secondary way, Augustine argues elsewhere that knowing Scripture will put Christians "on the alert for discerning of the spirits" in regard to false doctrine. (3)  Chrysostom blatantly speaks of the cessation of the supernatural gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. The gift of the discerning of spirits functioned to tell God’s Word apart from "soothsayers… addicted to Grecian customs." (4)

Luther and Calvin on the "Distinguishing of Spirits"
During the Reformation period, Luther saw the supernatural gifts as "necessary in the primitive church, which had to be established with visible signs on account of the unbelievers… But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue." (5) Some of these gifts, though, have been transformed and still function. (6)   Tongues became the public reading of Scripture. Prophecy became "the ability to rightly interpret and explain the Scriptures, and powerfully to reveal therefrom the doctrine of faith and the overthrow of false doctrine." (7) He similarly alludes to 1 Corinthians 12:10 as demonstrating the ability of the early Lutherans to "handle and interpret Scripture skillfully." (8)

Similar to Luther, Calvin held there was a sense in which certain gifts still functioned even if not in the precise way they did at inception. In The Institutes Calvin admits to a cessationist view of miracles (IV:19,18). (9)   Elsewhere he refers to 1 Corinthians 12:10 as the active gift of interpreting God's word and something not to be surrendered to the papists. Calvin explained, though, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians that the discerning of spirits during the apostolic age was "a clearness of perception in forming a judgment as to those who professed to be something." Calvin states:

"It was a special illumination, with which some were endowed by the gift of God. The use of it was this that they might not be imposed upon by masks, of mere pretences, but might by that spiritual judgment distinguish, as by a particular mark, the true ministers of Christ from the false." (10)

The "Distinguishing of Spirits" Post-Reformation
Likewise admitting cessation after the apostolic age, John Owen (1616-1683) held, "the gift of discerning spirits has ceased, since no pretense to prophetic gifts is any longer asserted 'unless by some persons phrenetical and enthusiastical, whose madness is manifest to all.'"(11) John Gil (1697-1771) saw the gift as the previous ability to "discern the hearts of men, their thoughts, purposes, and designs, their secret dissimulation and hypocrisy" (12) and no longer functioning. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) likewise understood the gifts had ceased. In his The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God he exhorts his readers to test the spirits, noting the Spirit was now working differently:

"However great a spiritual influence may be, it is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of Christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the Christian church. Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do." (13)

John Wesley (1703-1791) likewise held the gift of discernment was "The discerning - Whether men be of an upright spirit or no," (14) but held this gift along with the others only ceased later in history when "a general corruption both of faith and morals infected the church- which by that revolution, as St. Jerome says, lost as much of its virtue as it had gained of wealth and power." (15) John Darby (1800-1882) on the other hand contrarily held "The discerning of spirits is not that of a man's condition of soul - it has nothing to do with it. It is the knowing how to discern, by the mighty energy of the Spirit of God, the actings of evil spirits, and to bring them to light if necessary, in contrast with the action of the Spirit of God." (16)

Echoing back to Owen and Edwards, B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) held the apostolic gifts were given for the authentication of the apostolic message. After the deaths of those imparted with these gifts, the gifts ceased. Warfield considered the discerning of spirits "among the extraordinary items." (17) He states,

"How long did this state of things continue? It was the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apostolic age- although no doubt this designation may be taken with some latitude. These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles." (18)

The "Distinguishing of Spirits" in the Present
The rise of Pentecostalism (including both heretical and orthodox factions) breathed new life (and confusion) into the notion of the continuation of the gifts in their fullness. Jack Hayford holds, "Discerning of spirits is the ability to discern the spirit world, and especially to detect the true source of circumstances or motives of people."(19) Derek Prince says the gift gives the ability to "lift the veil that covers the unseen spiritual world," "enables us to see as God sees," "protect us from deception," and to "diagnose people’s problems and so help them."(20) Joyce Meyer says some people believe the gift is "the discerning of divine spirits, as when Moses looked into the spirit realm and saw the 'back' of God, or when John was in exile on the isle of Patmos and had a vision of the resurrected Jesus."(21) Examples of such sentiment, differing in scope and content, have ample representatives.

Contemporary non-Reformed conservative voices tone down their interpretation of the extent and efficacy of the gifts. Billy Graham denies that prophecy in the sense of new revelation is occurring today, but explains, "We are to exercise the gift of discernment because many false prophets will appear… Thus the Christian must have those who can distinguish between false and true prophets."(22) For Graham, certain people are singled out by the Holy Spirit and gifted specifically with discernment. Contrarily, in his book Living the Extraordinary Life, Charles Stanley avoids citing 1 Corinthians 12 entirely while confidently laying out an entire method for any Christian to develop discernment. One need only regularly practice a few simple steps.(23)  Discernment ceases to be an extraordinary gift despite the title of the book.

There is therefore no shortage of explanations in broad Christendom as to what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 12:10. The explanations produced by the church throughout the centuries run the theological gamut. In summary, at least three basic explanations have been given throughout the centuries. First, the gift was only given to the early church to discern true and false prophets before the completion of the canon. Second, the gift functioned as the first view suggests, but now post-canon completion functions differently. Third, the gift functions today supernaturally to those whom the Spirit gives it.

Exegetical Considerations of 1 Corinthians 12:10
The feminine noun "discernment" (διάκρισις) in 12:10 is found also in Hebrews 5:14 and Romans 14:1. In each of these verses, it functions along the lines of "differentiation."(24) It is related to the verb "judge" (διακρίνω) used in 1 Corinthians 14:29. There Paul gives instructions for what the Corinthians were to do after a prophet spoke: "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." Paul does not explicitly say that those who "pass judgment" are gifted with the discerning of spirits, nor does his comment exclude such a gift among specific people in the Corinthian church. All Christians are responsible to listen to the prophet discerningly (1 John 4:1), but, as Leon Morris states, "the ability to distinguish between spirits shows that to some was given a special discernment in this matter."(25)

To what does the word "spirits" (πνεύματα) refer, to a prophet, the message of that prophet, or both? In 1 Cor. 14:32 the word refers to the prophet being in control of his prophecy. It was not uncontrolled supernatural ecstasy. The person with the gift of discerning of spirits in 12:10 is someone who can discern the truthfulness or deviousness of that prophecy, or "spirit" of the prophet and prophecy. This has led some commentators to hold that false prophets were not simply false on their own accord. Rather, they were false because of either demon-possession or evil spirits ("the spirit of antichrist" as described in 1 John 4:1).(26)   In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Paul describes these people as Satan's servants masquerading as servants of righteousness. The person who was gifted with special discernment therefore, could recognize the actor behind the mask.

VII. The Canon and 1 Corinthians 12:10
Some explicitly link the gift of discerning spirits to the forming canon of the New Testament. The function of the gift was to determine which writings were actually theopneustas:

"[T]hese New Testament prophets certified to the congregation what was and what was not a divinely inspired document. In the interest of clearness let us visualize a congregation of Believers assembling in a remote, out of the way village. Into that assembly comes two manuscripts, both purporting to be written by Paul but one of them a forgery. What means would they have of detecting a cleverly written forgery? Did God leave them to their own discernment? Fortunately this was not the case otherwise they would have been open to all manner of deception. Apparently what would have happened in that congregation was that the local prophet would hear both manuscripts read. The document that was written by Paul would, by the prophet, be declared as from Paul and the forgery would be branded a forgery." (27)

While this anonymously published interpretation is certainly neat and tidy, it is read into the text rather than exegeted from the text. The factor of the canon, though, must be placed somewhere in this discussion. If indeed the canon is closed, the purpose of particular revelatory gifts becomes crucial. Richard Gaffin insightfully reminds his readers that the continuation of prophecy beyond its foundational period "would necessarily create tensions with the closed, finished character of the canon."(28) If the discerning of spirits is linked with the gift of prophecy, then it either does not now function as it did during the period of Inscripturation or it does not function at all.

VIII. Strengths and Weaknesses of Taking a View on 1 Cor. 12:10
The gift of the discerning of spirits had the same goal as the other gifts described: the common good of the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 12:7). While all the gifts were different, they each individually served to unify the church and protect the apostolic message 1 Cor. 12:1-7). If Paul intended the gift of the discerning of spirits to be linked with prophecy, the gift no longer would have any use, even if it still did exist. One difficulty for those taking this view is navigating through 1 Corinthians 12: Have all the gifts mentioned in verses 7-11 ceased? Perhaps one could almost argue affirmatively, save the one hurdle of the "gift of faith" mentioned in verse 9. On what basis does one determine that an entire listing of gifts save one no longer functions today? This isn’t an impossible problem to overcome. Exegetes distinguish it from the gift of faith given to every believer (Eph. 2:8-10). Perhaps some would be so bold to conclude this extra measure of faith in 1 Cor. 12 is no longer given by the Spirit. Was it something special related to the forming church that is no longer needed? Perhaps though, the easiest solution for someone taking this view is to simply affirm it as an exception to the list of gifts.

For modern-day charismatics believing the gift still functions today as it did when first given, that there's such diversity as to what they posit the gift entails should provoke suspicion. Because these representatives see the gift as pointing to something beyond the mundane, there are no rules as to the function of a supernatural gift in a charismatic paradigm. If the Spirit is understood to be working in an extraordinary way, the gift can refer to whatever one wants it to.

Perhaps the most attractive view are those who attempt to navigate a middle path seeing the gift as being transformed into something other than it’s original function. They likewise face a similar problem to those who think it ceased entirely: on what basis does one determine that a gift functions differently later in history? Have some of the gifts been transformed, and why only some? Can it properly be designated the same gift in its transformed state?

IX. Conclusion
God has expressly stated that He does not want the church to be ignorant on the issue of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1). The gifts were not Biblically described as optional add-ons for the Church. Rather, the gifts demonstrated the work of the Spirit in the church and helped build her. Despite her gross sin, even the Corinthian church was described as not lacking any of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 1:7). Paul wished to visit the Roman church to impart to them a spiritual gift to strengthen them (Rom. 1:11). The question therefore as to the identification, existence, nature, and purpose of the gift of the discerning of spirits is of no little importance. If God has gifted the church with the discerning of spirits and the gift still functions presently, we would do well to vigorously seek it out. If it was something specific to the apostolic church, a gentle response to those claiming its service needs to be prepared with either rebuke or gentleness, depending on the person.
Given the scope of interpretations throughout history, the exegetical difficulties of 1 Corinthians 12:10, and the logical problems of consistently maintaining any of the views briefly outlined above, what sort of response may be formulated to someone claiming the gift of discerning spirits?

The first response would be to point out the difficulties of achieving any sort of certain view as to the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:10. In essence, this is an exhortation to humility. One can appreciate a desire to discern and stop error or heresy from entering the church. This though need not be rooted in a supernatural ability. It can just as easily be the result of Christian maturity. The response therefore is to point out that humility in regard to difficult passages coupled with Christian maturity is enough to look at spiritual situations appropriately.

In this age of post-inscripturation, the second response should be to direct people back to the Scriptures. That is, if one wants to have a certain Holy Spirit-driven discernment of truth from error, savingly knowing and believing the Bible itself would be the means of accomplishing this goal. This places our faith back into God's word rather than any sort of subjective experience as the determiner of truth. Such passages as Acts 17:11 and 1 Peter 3:15 serve as a solid basis to build discernment on. Here discernment becomes a result of sanctification rather than a sudden supernatural experience or feeling of special knowledge given by God to an individual.

This would mean that those in the ministry would primarily and typically have the most discernment on spiritual matters. This does not though rule out that laymen can likewise attain a healthy level of spiritual discernment. One need not be a minister or even an apostle to say in the face of error: "Even if we or an angel from heaven preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" One need only be faithful to placing the supernatural word of God into the heart and allow it to naturally transform and renew the mind.

1.See Origen's (184-254) comments in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VII, 1-2 Corinthians, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: Intervaristy Press, 1999), 122, "It is a spiritual gift, therefore, by which the spirit is discerned, as the apostle says: 'Test the spirits, if they are from God.'" Clement of Alexandria (150 – 250) refers to it as an attribute describing "the perfect man or those who have experienced an aspect of deep Christian truth" [The Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 2, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 433-434]. Henceforth all references to the Ante-Nicene Fathers are designated ANF. Tertullian (160-225) describes how the Spirit and His gifts were taken from the Jews and given to the church [ANF 3, 445-446]. Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270) mentions the gifts as describing the orthodox faith [ANF 6, 47], though this writing may be spurious. Augustine simply mentions the gift in passing [The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 197, 346; III, 63, 94; IV, 267; VII, 98]. Henceforth all references to the Nicene and Post-Fathers are designated NPNF.

2. NPNF III, 549-550. Augustine recommends John the Monk who was purported to have extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.

3. NPNF VII, 499.

4. NPNF XII, 168-169.

5. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, ed. J. J. Pelikan (Philadelphia: fortress Press, 1955), 374. Henceforth, all references to Luther’s Works are designated LW.

6. LW 14,36.

7. Martin Luther, The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther vol. 4.1-2, John Nicholas Lenker, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 213.

8. LW 40, 250.

9. "Calvin sets forth an embryonic cessationism. Conceiving of prophets as those who have a 'particular revelation,' he observes that '[t]his class either does not exist today or is less commonly seen.' However, after provisionally holding out the possibility that there could be contemporary prophets, Calvin slams the door shut by pointing out in regard to the offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist that '[t]hese three functions were not established in the church as permanent ones, but only for that time during which churches were to be erected where none existed before, or where they were to be carried over from Moses to Christ.'" [Philip A. Craig, "And Prophecy Shall Cease, Jonathan Edwards on the Cessation of the Gift of Prophecy," Westminster Theological Journal Volume 64 no. 1 (Spring 2002): 164.

10. John Calvin, Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Corinthians Part One (Forgotten Books, 2007), 326-327.

11. John Owen, The Works of John Owen vol. 4 (London: Richard Baynes, 28, Paternoster Row, 1826), 302. “These gifts are not saving, sanctifying graces—those were not so in themselves which made the most glorious and astonishing appearance in the world, and which were most eminently useful in the foundation of the church and propagation of the gospel, such as were those that were extraordinary and miraculous.”

12. John Gil, Commentary 1 Corinthians 12:10.

13. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (London: J.R. and C Childs, Bungay, 1835), 265.

14. John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818), 448.

15. Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918), 8.

16. John Darby, The Present Testimony and Original Christian Witness Revived in Which the Church’s Portion and the Hope of the Kingdom vol. VIII (London: R. Groombridge & Sons, 1856), 154.

17. Warfield, 5.

18. Warfield 6-7. Warfield also discusses and refutes the view that the gifts gradually died out around the time of Constantine, thus lasting for three centuries (6-21).

19. Hayford, J. W., & Curtis, G. Pathways to Pure Power: Learning the Depth of Love's Power, a Study of first Corinthians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994), Libronix electronic edition.

20. Derek Prince, Called to Conquer: Finding Your Assignment in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2010), 50.

21. Joyce Meyer, Knowing God Intimately: Being as Close to Him as You Want to Be, (New York: Time Warner Book Group, 2003).

22. Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 146-147.

23. Charles Stanley, Living the Extraordinary Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 175-178.

24. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 949.

25. Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 169.

26. F.W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), 267.

27. Anonymous, “The Angels of the Seven Churches (Rev. 1:20),” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 91 (October 1934): 439-440.

28. Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979), 100.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shocking Beliefs on Martin Luther: Not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported

Here's one I came across from the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther article. Under the heading, "Luther believed that the Bible wasn’t always literally factual," the article states, "He also argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported. [Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, pp. 79-80].

Which events? The article doesn't say, but since these are the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther," is the thrust to assume the worst?  The intent reminds me of the Luther quote Patrick O'Hare used in The Facts About Luther: "Job spoke not as it stands written in his book, but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable"(p. 207). Whichever Martin Luther O'Hare had in mind, it wasn't one based on his actual written statements about Job.

While no actual Luther quote about Job is given, The article cites "Luther’s Works," "Vol. 54, pp. 79-80." The documentation  appears to refer to the English version of Luther's Works. Vol. 54 is a collection of Table Talk comments. Unfortunately, one of the most popular sources for quoting Luther is by using comments from the Table Talk. It is, in actuality, not something Luther wrote but is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written. For a list of Table Talk versions in English, see this link.

No. 475: On the Authorship of the Book of Job Spring, 1533
“Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation. Nevertheless, the things reported actually happened. They are like the plot of a story which a writer, like Terence, adopts and to which he adds characters and circumstances. The author wished to paint a picture of patience. It’s possible that Solomon himself wrote this book, for the style is not very different from his. At the time of Solomon the story which he undertook to write was old and well known. It was as if I today were to take up the stories of Joseph or Rebekah. The Hebrew poet, whoever he was, saw and wrote about those temptations, as Vergil described Aeneas, led him through all the seas and resting places, and made him a statesman and soldier. Whoever wrote Job, it appears that he was a great theologian.”
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 54, pp. 79–80). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

I'm not exactly sure what the Shocking Belief  is supposed to be in the above Table Talk context.  In all the instances I've checked in which Luther spoke of Job or quoted the book of Job, he referred to him as a historical figure and treated the events that transpired in his life as actually occurring. When the Shocking Beliefs article states Luther "argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported," Luther above is reported to have said, "the things reported actually happened." Perhaps the Shocking Belief is supposed to be that Luther is reported to have said, "Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation."

I guess it's within the realm of possibility that by "event" this second-hand statement is meant. If that's the case, it really isn't all that shocking. In terms of building a case on it, it's a Table Talk comment, which in fairness to Luther,  should only serve as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.