Friday, August 04, 2006

Luther, Basil, Michuta, and 1st Century Indians

I’m going to be away from the blog for a few days, so I’m going to leave a few snippets of what I’ve been thinking about. I just wanted to first thank everyone for stopping by. You've all been a blessing to me, whether you wanted to or not.

Item #1 Michuta on Luther
Catholic apologist Gary Michuta has started a new website. I saw Gary a few years ago when he debated James White on the apocrypha. He’s taken up the theme of the validity of the apocrypha on his new site.

When you click on the link for his material on the apocrypha, one of the first things you’ll find is a big picture of Martin Luther and this Luther quote: “ "...[Maccabees] has weight with the faithful, but it avails nothing with the obstinate." Now, what is Gary trying to prove? Does he really think Luther held a lifelong commitment to the canonicity of Maccabees? It’s fairly sad when one of the first items on webpage purporting to provide "truth" is a misuse of a Luther quote.

Gary Michuta gives the reference for this quote as "Martin Luther, Second Liepzig Disputation, July 8, 1519." Now, i'm not the best speller, but it's "Leipzig", not "Liepzig". Also, I don't think you will find this quote in the English edition of Luther's Works. I did a quick check, and couldn't find anything.

The topic of debate on July 8, 1519 was purgatory. Catholic apologetic references point out that Luther challenged the canonicty of Maccabees during this debate. The Luther quote Michuta uses implies Luther accepted the canonicity of the book during the Disputation. I would challenge Gary to produce a context, produce a reference, correct his spelling, or delete the Luther quote entirely from his website. If Gary wants Protestants to take his work seriously, he should at least quote Luther correctly. If he's simply putting out "shock" apologetics and using Luther as a pawn, then I will treat his work accordingly. Perhaps one of my Catholic readers can mention this to Gary. I think it's embarrassing.

Item #2 St Basil on Tradition

I came across this quote in a book I’ve been reading:

Gratian cites an important text from St. Basil’s On The Holy Spirit that claims a mystical and secret tradition coming down from the fathers. Toward the end of the thirteenth century, St. Thomas recognized the existence of such a tradition but did not define its nature. He asserted that the apostles had believed certain things that must be preserved which were not left in scriptures but in the care of the Church through the succession of the faithful.” (John Headley, Luther’s View of Church History, 76).

Sounds Gnostic doesn't it? Secret tradition? Mystical? Yeah, that sounds like the Bible (I mean that with heavy sarcasm). For those of you with the King/Webster Holy Scripture 3 volume set, refer to pages 143-146 in volume 2 for some excellent research on this subject. Webster shows the misuse of Basil by Catholic apologetics, provides context, and clarifies the text. Also check out Colossians 2:8. When I get back, i'm going to write something up on this.

Item #3 Apolonio on the Fairness of God.
It’s been nice having Apolonio Latar around the last few days. He mentioned this:

“…[A] certain religious man in the Americas in the first century who does not know Christ but follows truth the best he can. Does this mean that his ignorance saves him? No. It just means that he is not held accountable for his ignorance. The judgment of this man is God's. *Can* he be saved? Of course, that is certainly a possibility. He may very well have implicit faith (Aquinas).”

Question: Is this part of the plan of salvation put forth in Holy Scripture? It sounds really good doesn't it? It's part of the theology of glory, not the cross. The cross is foolishness. "Glory"theology always tries to work stuff like this out. I mean, it's foolish to think that God would only allow the preached Gospel to reach certain ears throughout history. Certainly, God must offer salvation without the preached Gospel. God is fair guy! Well, i'm Reformed, so I don't have to work out solutions like that put forth by Mr. Latar.


FM483 said...

Apolonia was quoted by James as saying that a man who is ignorant of the Gospel will not be held accountable to God based upon the whether he believes in the atonement of Christ for his sins - that there must be another method for salvation for such a man. This is the question Roman Catholics address with their various teachings and doctrines which go far beyond what the Scriptures clearly teach.

God can save any person in any way He desires. However, our knowledge of salvation is restricted to what God has told us in the Holy Scriptures. What can we say regarding the fate of pagans? First of all, St Paul points out that every man has a conscience, whereon the Law of God is written. Every person knows basic right and wrong, as demonstrated in the history of mankind and established governments. Every culture is based upon the Law of God as reflected on the conscience of men, as imperfect as it may be. St Paul makes this point in Romans 2:15 and the very next verse says that this knowledge will be the basis by which unbelievers will be judged on the Last Day! God does not grade on a curve, as in the American school system. God demands absolute perfection in keeping His Law in thought, word,and deed. In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus Himself explains the Law of God in this fashion,concluding in Matthew 5:48 that absolute God-like perfection is required. Paul states that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23).Every person is born dead in their transgressions, their iniquity inherited from Adam(Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:5). Thus, all nonbelievers will perish since they fail the perfection required for eternal life through the keeping of the Law. The beauty for Christians is that they have already been judged and like unbelievers they too were found guilty of sin, except that the atonement of the Son of God has cancelled their debts and consequently they are no longer subject to the wrath of God. Instead, believers, by Grace through Faith are viewed as absolutely perfect on account of the blood of Christ which clothes them. They wear the Robe of Christ's Righteousness, as symbolized in Revelation chapter 7, verses 9 through 17. This is the Good News for believers who eagerly await the reappearance of their Great God and Savior.

Frank Marron

FM483 said...


I read the section in "Holy Scripture" volume II by Webster. It was very enlightening. Apparently Basil himself always appealed to written Scripture as the final authority on matters, even what he referred to as "apostolic traditions". The fact that such "traditions" only dealt with secondary matters of custom and practices is revealing. Whether we immerse a person 3 times in Baptism rites or turn toward the East in prayer makes no difference to me. Who cares? If this is the stuff the Roman Catholic Church keeps referencing as "unwritten Tradition", they can have it!

Frank Marron

Oddball Pastor said...

With regards to Apolonio's comments, I think we can agree with him that people are nort condemned based on what they do not know about God. Rather they are responsibl for how they respond to what they do know. That is where Romans 1 comes in. Romans 1 is quite clear in saying that people invariably distort the truth of God. They always have. There is no reason to be optimisitc about people's responses now.

So the fact is that , sincere intentions aside, no one actually comes to God apart from being drawn to Him, and that is always through Christ. "Implicit faith" is always deficient because of our nature.

Really we see a betrayal of Catholic belief that people deserve top be saved. Hence God must go to all manner of lengths to make sure we are not held responsible for our faults. As if sending His Son wasn't enough, now he has to do an end run around our nature.

Strangely enough, if "Irresistable Call" were used as a measn of geting around our nature, it would render us automotons in Latar's eyes.


FM483 said...

Oddball Pastor,

In your first paragraph you referred to Romans chapter 1 where Paul presents a brief history of civilization and how men have always worshipped false idols rather than the true God as revealed in Scripture. Thus the history of civilization has been a spiraling downward path to a depraved mind when God gives men what they think they need rather than what they really need. This is true and believers are privileged when disciplined by God(i.e. made disciples). Whenever God gives people what they want it results in catastrophe! That is why believers pray “Thy will be done” and “If it be Thy will”!

Your statement that people are only responsible for “what they know and respond to this knowledge” is interesting. The Scriptures say that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23) and all men were born in iniquity(Ps 51:5) and all hearts are evil and deceitful(Jer 17:9; Matt 15:19). Notice that such Scripture does not excuse anyone! Hence, using the analogy of faith, that Scripture interprets Scripture (not any RC “magesterium”), one can see that every human being knows basic right from wrong(Romans 2:15), with the Law written on their consciences, and yet all sin and are therefore imperfect and destined to damnation. Everyone has rejected God’s will and substituted their own.

I agree with your statement that “no one actually comes to God apart from being drawn to Him”. Recall the words of Jesus Christ in John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you,…” and John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” and John 6:44 “No one can cometo Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

You have an interesting point that there seems to be a tendency to advance the thinking that people “deserve” to be saved. The Scriptural viewpoint is that it is all due to the Grace of God, His attitude towards sinners on account of Christ.: Many such discussions always end up with the ultimate question: “why are some saved but not others?” My Calvinist brothers and sisters emphasize the Sovereignty of God in attempting to answer that question. That is to say, since God is Sovereign, He has the absolute right to predestine some to salvation and others to damnation. This is 5-pt Calvinism and I can understand how such a conclusion is arrived at if one insists on having logical answers to such questions. The Lutheran position is that Scripture does not clearly answer this question and Lutherans will not go beyond the clear teachings of Scripture. Lutherans believe that Christ atoned for the sins of the world, even though not all men are saved. Only those who passively receive the gift of the forgiveness of sins and the Righteousness of Christ through faith are saved. In Martin Luther’s treatise “The Bondage of the Will”, he contends that although men have “free will” in the temporal realm, in the spiritual realm all they can do is sin since they are in bondage to sin, death, and the devil. Consequently, all that men can do spiritually is to reject the free gift of salvation. They cannot logically grasp salvation. It is a free gift and inheritance that comes through Word and Sacrament. Lutherans do not attempt to answer all paradoxes in Scripture, but instead focus on the centerpiece of God’s revelation: the Gospel. Man only knows what God has revealed in His Word. Therefore we know that God desires all men to be saved(1Tim 2:4) and thus it is our own fault if we perish. God gets all the credit for our salvation and man gets all the blame for damnation. Why some reject the gift of salvation is part of the unrevealed will of God and man should not question the Creator(Romans 9:20).

Frank Marron

Oddball Pastor said...

The point behind saying that people are only responsible for what they know is not meant to excuse any one; just the opposite. Romans 1 is clear that all people have acess to a true knowledge of God which they nevertheless inevitably corrupt. That universal access is the reason all people are without excuse.

Any denial of Christ that might come later merely consitutes a confirmation of what is already true.

Saying that peopel are not repsonsible for what they do not know simply avoids the idea that we condemn people for not beleiing in a Jesus they might never hear of.

The optimisitc assumption that Apolonio seems to harbor is that people will not twist the knowledge of God. That seems unduly optiimistc given teh biblical data. Alternatively he may believe that they may sincerely seek after God as He is. But that's not true. People seek after a god of their own preference, whic means they seek after an idol.

Only if called by God will people seek Him.

This I say by way of clarification, in case things were unclear previously.

centuri0n said...

Frank: the dumbest thing I have ever read in my life is the accusation that reformed/Calvinist advocates think people "deserve" to be saved -- as if God's choices are based respect of personal dignity. If you can indicate where in Oddball's comments he says anything resembling your objection, I'll retract my statement that the accusation is dumb.

FM483 said...

Oddball Pastor,

I don't mean to repeat myself, but are you sure, based upon Holy Scripture,that Romans chapter 1 says that all people have access to the truth? I went back and read that chapter and it says that all men have a basic knowledge of right and wrong and that there is a Creator, since the majesty of creation testifies to His existence. Jesus Christ is the TRUTH, not the general awareness of right or wrong due to the Law being imprinted on mens' consciences or the order and majesty of creation. Paul is merely saying that even with basic knowledge of right and wrong, men still insist upon creating foolish idols for their god, and the history of the world demonstrates that fact. The only way a man can know the true God is through His Word. The ancient nation of Israel was supposed to be a missionary people of God to the world,but they turned inward on themselves instead. The reason missionary activities today are critical is for the same exact reason, as Jesus commands in Matthew 28.Christians are to go into all the world,baptizing and teaching. The reason men are condemned from the start is not because they all have access to the truth, but because they are all born in iniquity(Ps 51:5,...), sin inherited from Adam(Romans 5:12). The fact that all men, even to this day, are surrounded by information of the true God, especially the Gospel, and reject the message, isn't the primary reason for their damnation. All men are damned from the start, contrary to popular beliefs. Many people cannot believe a tiny infant is doomed from birth. Although God certainly isn't limited, I myself only know what He has revealed to me in His Word. I am limited and base my beliefs upon what God has told me in the bible. The question frequently arises concerning the fate of aborted children or those who die during birth. I leave them in the hands of a Merciful and Just God. God can save any person anyway He wishes. But my knowledge is limited to His Word, which tells me that Jesus is the only way to the Father,that all who believe and are batized are saved while only unbelief damns anyone. Hence, I am not absolutely certain that infants who die during an abortion are saved. However, based upon the Word of God, I am certain that all baptized children inherit the Kingdom! I do know that little children can have saving faith, because this faith is not synonymous with mental reasoning familiar to adults. In fact, saving biblical faith makes no commonsense to educated men. Nicodemus, in John chapter 3, demonstrates how confused even learned religious leaders of the day were when confronted with the necessity to be "born again".

Returning to the original topic, you are correct that a denial of Christ merely demonstrates the depravity which has always been resident in the heart of man. The Grace of God in Jesus Christ is so profound that there are disagreements within Christianity over the role of man in his salvation! One need only peruse the exchange between myself and Apolonia on this website to see the proof of this. The "Old Adam" within each person simply refuses to believe that he cannot contribute towards his salvation even one percent! This is illustrated by the Theologian of Glory who cannot properly distinguish between Law and Gospel. He reads every verse as a challenge to himself to achieve righteousness. This person always belittles the cross of Christ by concentrating on himself rather than Jesus. Listen to most sermons and they will prove this: they concentrate on the sinner rather than the Savior.

Frank Marron

Oddball Pastor said...

Hi Frank,

Let me compare what you heard me say with what I said.

I said: "Romans 1 is clear that all people have acess to a true knowledge of God which they nevertheless inevitably corrupt."

You heard: "Romans chapter 1 says that all people have access to the truth"

The differnece is that I have not sai d"the truth" as though that ncluded th egospel. I said that "true knowledge of God". That doesn't imply any particualr extent. But defining extent is not the issue. The issue is that all people have access to some true knowledge. Whatever little it may be, people distort it. My conclusion is that there is no reason to be optimistic that poeple who are unfaithful with a little knowledge wil be anythign else with more. I believe this to be faithful to both Jesus and Paul.

I believe you have misunderstood me.

FM483 said...

Oddball Pastor,

In order not to misquote you,here is what you said in the last post:

"Romans 1 is clear that all people have acess to a true knowledge of God which they nevertheless inevitably corrupt."

I understand this sentence but am not sure that I can find bible passages which substantiate it. On the other hand, I find clear passages of Scripture which state that Christ wishes no man to perish and that He has become reconciled with the entire world through the death of His Son on the cross(1Tim 2:4; 2Cor 5:19). The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 stresses the importance of missions to announce the Grace of God in Christ Jesus. Nowhere do I see clear verses which say all men have access to the true knowledge of God because if they did, they would know about Jesus Christ, the ultimate communication from God.

Frank Marron

Oddball Pastor said...

Frank: "I understand this sentence but am not sure that I can find bible passages which substantiate it."

That would be Ro. 1:20 and context.

Frank "Nowhere do I see clear verses which say all men have access to the true knowledge of God because if they did, they would know about Jesus Christ, the ultimate communication from God."

Again Frank you need to drop the "the" beofre truth. Any knowledge of God that He Himself provides is true knowledge. Ro. 1:20 says he does reveal somethign of himself through Creation. As that is self-revelation, it is true knowledge of Himself. It is available to all. It is not exahustive of Who God is, or of His truth. It is however sufficient to condemn should it be corrupted. And it is, inevitably so.

There is nothing about the Great Commission, or about God's desire to see all peopel come to Himelsf that in anyway contradicts the above staement by me.

You are misunderstanding me.

FM483 said...


You are correct inyour statement that everyone has access to truth as expressed by Paul in Romans chapter 1. This truth is sufficient for everyone to know of the existence of God. As you point out, unfortunately most peoplein history have ignored this truth, that there is a God, and substituted their own version of a god based upon the own imaginations, as demonstrated in the histotiesof Egypt,Greece, and Rome. I know this only because I have the specific revelation of Truth in the Holy Scriptures. In chapter 2 of Romans Paul makes the case for the Law of God being imprinted upon everyonefrom birth - basic knowledge of right andwrong. This conscience awareness explains how people are without excuse even more so than the fact of the majesty of creation which surrounds us. Your original statement that people "have sccess to a true knowledge of God" is what bothers me. You are correct when you state that people have always ignored even the basic knowledge they have about God. Most people do not understand this thinking because everyone isborn totally depraved spiritually and whatever knowledge they have is severely distorted and grossly misunderstood. I do not think that everyone hasfull access to God as your original statement claimed. Just consider history and even the current world situation. Other than knowing there is a difference between killing an animalversus ahuman being, the evidence wouldindicate that is the extent of spiritual knowledge in man. Of course, in India this isn;t even believed since they worship animals. I see no reason that you can claim that people have had full accessto the knowledge of God through the evidence of his existence in creation. The evidene of ancient and modern history is against such a claim.

Oddball Pastor said...

"I do not think that everyone hasfull access to God as your original statement claimed."

I never made that claim. I always said that all people have access to true knwoledge of God, not full knowledge of God. Whatever hey have, be it little or much, if it comes from God, is true knowledge.

You admit that people do have enough true knowlede of God that they shold be able to acknoeldge his existence (though you shold add that tehy should be able to recognise at least some of his attributes). That's all I have said.

FM483 said...

Oddball Pastor,

My exchanges with you have prompted me to actually think about the biblical message! As a rational thinking and hopefully logical person, the biblical point of view is that all are born in sin and are spiritually depraved. So, logically, this says there is no possibility to repent and come to the knowledge of the true God - for any person. All are destined to eternal damnation regardless of how they live their lives. As a 21st century American this seems strange and unfair and I can see where all the religions of the world have created idols of the true God in order to justify themselves. These religions are all Law based, emphasizing the outward works of men rather than their heart condition. After re-reading Romans again, Paul is criticizing fallen man for not acknowledging there is a God, as revealed in nature, the cosmos, and through his conscience. The fact that it appears "unfair" to me is because I am still "in Adam" and still sin, and even my thought processes bear this out. It is difficult to think biblically and to see that from God's persepective there are only 2 people on earth: Adam and Christ. Either a man is "in Adam" or "in Christ". Through Baptism men are moved from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God's beloved Son. For unbelieving adults this can occur later in life through hearing the word of Christ(Romans 10:17) prior to even baptism. It is all mysterious and sometimes goes against reason and common sense. However, the longer one begins to think along biblical lines the more it even makes sense, because even the mind is renewed to become conformed to the Word of God rather than human reason. This is the New Creation(in Christ) within who is generated through the Word and is Holy Spirit led. Thus, for those who have not read or heard the message of God's wrath(Law) and His promises(Gospel), all they have to go by is their reason and logic, resulting, from a Christian perspective, strange and weird religions.This biblical message "simul justus et peccator" sounds strange to people, but that is what the bible continually maintains: believers are simultaneously saint and sinner.

Frank Marron

Frank Marron

Oddball Pastor said...


I am glad that you've had a chance to go over things again. I hope that you have expereienced that greatness of the gospel in a refreshing way.

I have enjoyed the exchange, myself.

Blessings to you.