Monday, November 30, 2009

The What is more important than the Who

Michael Brown, a minister in the United Reformed Church, critiques Bryan Cross’ Roman Catholic apologetic in “Finding the Bull’s Eye”. (from August of 2008)
http://michaelbrown.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/8/6/finding-the-bulls-eye.html
“Cross accepts Trent’s bulls-eye rather the Reformation’s bulls-eye not because of what it says, but because of who is saying it. Cross says,
“ The very first Christians did not determine which persons were Christ's Apostles by seeing who taught what they themselves thought must have been Christ's gospel. They determined what Christ's gospel was by finding those whom Christ sent, and then listening to their teaching. And the second generation of Christians did not determine which persons were the bishops by determining who believed and taught what they themselves thought was Christ's gospel, but rather by finding those whom the Apostles had authorized and sent, and then listening to their teaching. And the third generation of Christians did the same. That is the way Christ set up the Church.”
But there is a huge problem in Cross’s statement. The apostle Paul said in Galatians 1.8-9: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
The statements of Cross and the apostle Paul are at odds here. Paul says that if the who preaches a different what, he is to be accursed and not followed, and he includes himself and all his fellow holy apostles in that number. That even an apostle was capable of erring in this way is evidenced in Paul’s confrontation with the apostle Peter over the gospel (Gal 2.11-14). The standard of testing is the what delivered once and for all to the saints (Jude 3).
But Cross disagrees with this. He claims that the standard is always the who, not the what. And the who, for Cross, is Rome. In other words, the church gives birth to the gospel, rather than the gospel giving birth to the church, as the Reformers argued from Scripture. “
Michael Brown is right. Reformed Protestants focus on what Paul, Jude, John and Peter were focused on – the truth; the apostles doctrine. The first church in Jerusalem focused on the apostles' doctrine. (Acts 2:42) Roman Catholics focus on the persons, the bishops, and their successors throughout history. What happened when the successors went to Arianism for a while and Athanasius was "against the world"? Athanasius writing to true believers, said, "they have the places (buildings, churches), but you have the faith."
"I know moreover that not only this thing saddens you, but also the fact that while others have obtained the churches by violence, you are meanwhile cast out from your places. For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true Faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you. Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith." (Athanasius, Festal letter 29)
When the apostle says, in Galatians 1:9 “so now I say again”, he was saying “so now I say again, by writing this verse, . . . “ Here is basic Sola Scriptura teaching. “As we have said before” means both in his oral preaching and in verse 8. The writing is God speaking through the apostles. Paul expects the churches to understand his writings. The writings are all we have from the apostles. They are the what. The whos are exhorted to continue to hold to the what, the truth, to guard the deposit ( 2 Tim. 1:14), to remember the words of the prophets and apostles (2 Peter 3:2, Jude 17); to pay attention to the more sure prophetic word, the Scriptures. ( 2 Peter 1:19-21).
Peter, the great who, according to the Roman Catholic Church, did not focus on the who that would succeed him. Instead before he dies, he knows he is going to die soon ( 2 Peter 1:12-15) and he says that by writing this second letter ( see 2 Peter 3:1), he is diligent while he still alive to remind them in the truth (the what; see 2 Peter 1:12). He says that after he is dead, the elect, the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia, Bithynia, (I Peter 1:1) "will be able to call these things to mind." ( 2 Peter 1:15) It is the writings, the Scriptures that "stir up your sincere mind by way of reminder." ( 3:1)
Peter says nothing about any successors or bishops. He calls himself a fellow-elder. ( I Peter 5:1) If the Roman Catholic doctrines and dogmas of the papacy and apostolic succession were the truth, the great apostle Peter, the one who is allegedly the first Pope, would have said something about that in his writings, if it was so important. As it is, he emphasizes the truth, and the writings that believers will have to read after the apostles die, so that they can keep on holding on to the truth.

RCC Credibility Test

From the Catholic News Service:

"A newly beatified nun from the Holy Land could serve as an inspiration for Christians who remain there, said the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.

The Nov. 22 beatification "breathes upon us a new spirit, renews our church and invites us to the happy hope that we ourselves, too, can be saints like her," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, referring to Blessed Soultaneh Maria Ghattas, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

"What the church needs most is the witness of saints," he added in his homily at the beatification, a major step toward sainthood. "Holiness is the sign of the church's credibility.""


Unfortunately, that type of credibility test cuts both ways. Certainly unholy behavior, like clerical pedophilia, would be considered a bad "sign".


Review: Luther's Works, Volume 69


I recently finished reading the latest volume of Luther's Works:

Luther's Works Volume 69, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 17-20 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House,2009).

For those interested in Reformation studies, this book won't reveal anything previously unknown about Luther. On the other hand, for those of you that only know the polemical Luther at war with the Papacy, this volume will introduce you to Luther the preacher. Indeed, one will find references to Luther's battles, but more often this volume demonstrates the heart of a caring pastor who sought to comfort his hearers with the Gospel, as well as exhort them to live each day to the glory of God. Luther gives touching expositions of Christ's prayer for his disciples in John 17. For those people who feed off sparse uplifting daily devotionals, put them away and feed on these deep expositions that Luther preached to a struggling group of believers in turbulent times.

Luther's expositions of the Crucifixion and resurrection of Christ prove exactly what scholar Robert Kolb has said in summarizing Luther's theology: when you say Jesus, you've said it all. Luther doesn't dabble in speculative and philosophical approaches to the text. He takes every ounce of Scripture and points it to Jesus Christ. Each point of the passion narrative isn't a mere historical fact. Each fact has something to do with salvation and the Gospel.

Luther's expositions on John 20:19-31 comprise the final section of the text. The editors put together a series of sermons spanning Luther's entire career on these verses. One can follow the same basic themes through Luther's career as he progressed. While Luther is often charged with contradiction based on his developing theology, one will see that Luther's exposition remained quite consistent on this text. In one sermon, the editors place Luther's sermon notes on one side of the page, and the actual sermon on the other. This shows how closely (or not) Luther followed his own notes while preaching.

There are many other interesting themes throughout the book. What's interesting is that since this book is comprised of sermons, one is not wearied by detailed scholastic theology intended for scholars in ivory towers. Rather, one is given simple expositions of difficult problems the sixteenth century church faced: What is a true church? Is Rome a true church? What about the Anabaptists? Is their preaching valid? Should Christians still confess their sins to another person? If so, who is qualified? What is an authentic call to preach? Who determines it?

Overall, the English translation is quite smooth. The text is devoid of cumbersome or archaic words intended only to be understood by scholars. This volume is thoroughly readable, even for those new to the Christian faith. On the other hand, the text is thoroughly footnoted. Each page has enough footnotes demonstrating the deep care that went in to putting this volume together. Anyone seeking to go deeper in Luther studies has more than enough to keep them busy for a long time. I also appreciated how each page gives the reference back to the Weimar text. The historical introductions are not overwhelming as those in many critical volumes. Often, one will pick up a critical text, and the introduction spans so many pages that one is wearied before getting to the actual text. The editors have done an outstanding job of not overburdening the reader with extensive introductions.

The book can purchased directly from Concordia Publishing House.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Losing Patience with Frank Schaeffer continued....

Here's what Frank Schaeffer sounded like twenty five years ago:

Christianity as Truth Rather than a Religion

Losing Patience with Frank Schaeffer


Here's an interesting recent article: Losing Patience with Frank Schaeffer by Gary DeMar. This article also is very interesting.

Back in the early 1980's, I read through the complete works of the late Francis Schaeffer. Being a young teenager, I probably didn't understand a lot of it. I saw some of the movies as well. My father referred to Dr. Schaeffer as "knickers" because in some of the movies, this is what it looked like he wore. I still recommend Schaeffer's book, How Should We Then Live? even with its flaws, as it is an excellent introduction in making people aware of how philosophy filters down through culture and becomes "normal." Back in the 1980's, Family Radio actually played Schaeffer's lectures on Sunday afternoons. I recorded these when I could. It was quite an odd experience to hear an entire lecture on Thomas Aquinas and philosophy on a station that played multiple hours of barber shop quartet / organ music and Harold Camping.

I also became aware of his son's work, Franky Schaeffer (as he was affectionately known back then). I read some of his books as well. Somewhere I have a cassette tape of Franky which I really should upload. Franky was an angry and funny version of his father, and it was a lot easier for me to understand what he was talking about. As I got older, I lost touch with Franky's career. I assumed he was still trying to make movies, and still was angry at Evangelicals, trying to get them to do... something.

I distinctly recall the evening I ran across a book by Frank Schaeffer in Barnes and Noble. I had no idea he had left evangelicalism for the Orthodox Church. I read a good chunk of the book that evening, but didn't purchase it. I recall how he leveled quite an assault on the Reformation and his upbringing. Oh well, Schaeffer was Orthodox... another "conversion story" to make some money with. Everyone likes a good story.

Since then, I've read a few things here and there with how liberal Frank has become. As DeMar explains "now [Schaeffer] beats a drum for Barack Obama and a new revolution. There’s no neutrality. Frank used to write for evangelical publishers. Now he is a frequent contributor to the ultra-liberal Huffington Post." He also documents some rather strong statements Frank has made about his parents via Os Guinness:

In Frank’s own words, his parents were “crazy for God.” Their call to the ministry “actually drove them crazy,” so that “religion was actually the source of their tragedy.” His dad was under “the crushing belief that God had ‘called’ him to save the world.” Because of this, his parents were “happiest when farthest away from their missionary work.” Back at their calling, they were “professional proselytizers,” their teaching was “indoctrination,” and it was unclear whether people came to faith or were “brainwashed” and “under the spell” of his parents. Frank’s own arguments in their support, he now says, were a kind of “circus trick.”

It appears Frank is still... Frank. It's the same angry / sarcastic / funny approach. DeMar absolutely nails Schaffer: "Frank writes that he is “no longer proselytizing” (xiv). Nonsense. As he wrote in 1982 in the subtitle to his book A Time for Anger, neutrality is a myth. He’s just proselytizing for a new faith." This indeed the truth. Schaeffer never stopped proselytizing, which is exactly what his books on Orthodoxy were.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pope Leo: The 95 Theses was Written by a Drunken German


Here's a first. I'm going to defend statements said to have been made by Pope Leo in 1518 about Luther. "After some investigation Pope Leo X dismissed Luther as 'a drunken German' who 'when sober will change his mind'"[source]. You can find probably a hundred or more different web pages saying the same. I can recall hearing sermons and lectures mentioning this. Is there credible proof Pope Leo actually said this? No, there isn't.

Philip Schaff provides our first clue as to its non-authenticity as saying the utterance was "reported to have been said":

Pope Leo X was disposed to ignore the Wittenberg movement as a contemptible monkish quarrel; but when it threatened to become dangerous, he tried to make the German monk harmless by the exercise of his power. He is reported to have said first, “Brother Martin is a man of fine genius, and this outbreak is a mere squabble of envious monks;” but afterwards, “It is a drunken German who wrote the Theses; when sober he will change his mind.” Schaff, P. History of the Christian Church (7).

Who "reported" it? Schaff doesn't say. The next clue comes from John Warwick Montgomery. Montgomery says the statement "is of doubtful authenticity" and also locates the primary source:

"When Luther's Ninety-Five Theses were forwarded to Rome and were read by Pope Leo X, a tradition credits the Pope with saying: 'These have been written by a drunken German. He will feel differently when he is sober.'* This statement is of doubtful authenticity, but it reveals an initial reaction on the part of Luther's theological opponents: Luther need not be taken seriously from an intellectual standpoint." *Tischereden, 2635 a and b, in the standard critical Weimarer Ausgabe (WA) of Luther's Works. Luther commented: 'Ita alii omnes me a principo alto supercilio contemnebant.' Source: John Warwick Montgomery, In Defense of Martin Luther (Milwaukee:Northwestern Publishing House, 1970), p.116

Montgomery locates the source as being from The Table Talk, entry 2635. The entries 1950 to 3416 are in WA, TR 2 and 3. They are Luther sayings from the years 1532 and 1533. They were collected by Conrad Cordatus, but this doesn't mean he actually wrote them down. This entry, nor many of those from the Cordatus collection are in the current edition of Luther's Works. The editors explain:

"In addition to taking notes of his own at Luther’s table, Cordatus assembled notes made by others and incorporated them into his own collection. Later he revised all the notes in his possession for the purpose of making stylistic improvements. Unfortunately this removed them a step further from what was actually said at table, and on this account a relatively small sampling was selected from the Cordatus collection for this edition." [LW 54:169].

So, the originator of this saying turns out to be none other than Luther himself. But, the actual text wasn't written by Luther, who mentioned it many years after the fact, nor does the text in question come from a collection of pure pedigree. One wonders how Luther could even know of such a statement from the Pope.

There are a few helpful references available to help track down the Table Talk entry. These references from older sources still use the archaic word "Dutchman" instead of "German":

Luther himself says, "When my first positions concerning indulgences were brought before the pope, he said, ' A drunken Dutchman wrote them; when he hath slept out his fumes and is sober again, he will then be of another mind."(Tabletalk) [Source]

Luther elsewhere gives a different account of the matter:—" When my first positions (he says in his Table Talk) concerning indulgences were brought before the pope, he said, ' A drunken Dutchman wrote them ; when he hath slept out his sleep, and is sober again, he will then be of another mind.' In such sort he contemneth every man." [
Source]


The actual Table Talk entry is found in the old book The Familiar Discourses of Dr. Martin Luther. What I find interesting is that I thought this old English edition of the Table Talk was the typical one that circulated in the 1800's and 1900's. However, the other versions I have don't include this saying, nor is this volume set up like the other early English versions. Here is the entry:

"THE Pope, in one day, made thirty Cardinals, which were met beyond the Tyber, and received in great state by many thousands of horsemen; all the cannon roared for joy in a glorious manner. Then came our Lord God also thereunto with thunder and lightning, which so affrighted them that (as Pasquillus writeth), in the Church, the little child fell out of the arms of God's mother, and ascended up into Heaven, fearing it should, with the rest, be made also a Cardinal. On the same day, a priest, saying mass at the alter, lost the consecrated oblate, and for fear spilt the cup, at which accident the Pope cried out aloud, and said, one of these Cardinals will prove a poison and pestilence of the Romish stool, which accordingly fell out shortly before the Gospel was brought again to light.

When my first positions concerning indulgences were brought before the Pope, he said, a drunken Dutchman wrote them; when he hath slept out his sleep, and is sober again, he will then be of another mind. In such sort he contemneth every man" [
source].

It's no wonder the entirety of the entry is never quoted. The first paragraph is quite obscure. Perhaps a better English translation could be rendered. Then comes the actual quote, like a disjointed fragment stuck onto the preceding paragraph.

Did the Pope actually say this? The evidence suggests the quote is probably spurious. Did Luther actually say this? That is a bit more probable, but the source documents are not completely trustworthy. Should this quote be used in Luther materials? Probably not.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If I were Speaker Pelosi's bishop, I'd probably do things differently

Scott Windsor sets himself over a bishop of the RCC:
All I can say is that if I were Speaker Pelosi's bishop, I'd probably do things differently. I'm not her bishop and this is his responsibility, not mine. It is scandalous - I wholeheartedly agree with you on that, but this is NOT a matter of infallibility so to try and bring that up under this topic is diversionary. As I said, I really agree with you on this particular matter and I wish her bishop would take a firm and public stance with her especially in light of her public stance.

Fair enough, you're not her bishop, but it doesn't stop there.
1) Where do you get off criticising a member of the Roman clergy? You're a layman, aren't you? What authority do you have to correct someone who works directly for the Magisterium?
2) You're conceding that your church doesn't do what it should in terms of enforcement of its doctrine. Doesn't that put its actual commitment to that doctrine in serious question? Isn't this "faith" w/o works?


The REAL topic here is the overall authority of the Church, not the authority of individual bishops over individual sheep in their flock.

And the overall church hasn't done anythg to remedy this situation, despite its high profile.
What should an outside observer thus conclude? It's pretty obvious - for all her high-sounding talk about abortion, when it comes to ppl in power, she fears human power and the criticism of men rather than God.


Now, is valid apostolic authority a guarantee that every bishop will do the right thing in every situation? No, it is not.

Is it closer to a guarantee that SOMEONE in the church will eventually do the right thing, given hundreds of chances over the course of decades?
Is it closer to a guarantee that the Pope himself, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, wouldn't go ahead and allow the Eucharist to be served to Pelosi at a Mass he attends?
If it doesn't mean that, what does it mean in real life? You can SAY they have that authority, but if they never use it, you don't really know, do you? It's just as if they didn't have it. And that's been one of the major points in our discussion. You say the Magisterium is infallible and all that, but they won't infallibly tell you what they've infallibly taught. For that matter, they won't UNOFFICIALLY tell you what they've infallibly defined.
You say the Magisterium has authority to bind and to loose, yet when faced with the awesome power (not to mention the nearly unlimited rhetorical and analytical skills) of the weak-minded and big-mouthed Speaker of the House, who is clearly in serious sin even according to lax Roman standards, the Magisterium does...nothing. If it does nothing, it's the exact same as if it can do nothing. It's nothing.

Luther: A Church With Corrupt Leadership Can Still Be a True Church


For the sake of clarification, here's a quick follow-up to an early entry, Luther: I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy. Here Luther explains how a church with corrupt leadership can still be a true church.

Yet often the office and Word remain also among the unbelievers and the godless, as it has happened among the heretics and in the papacy. Although the pope with his followers fights against Christ and His Gospel and makes glosses on the Gospel and Sacrament according to his own head and opinions, nevertheless they have the office of preaching and retain the text of the Gospel, of Baptism, of Christ's Supper, all of which is the ordinance and work of the Holy Spirit. Now insofar as the office of preaching and the Word of the Gospel and of the Sacraments (which is the Holy Spirit's ordinance) are present complete and unaltered, to that extent there follow forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and all that Christ through the office of preaching and the Word gives and has promised to give, even if unbelievers and godless people have and exercise the office and Word.

Therefore, consider well to what extent the Holy Spirit is there and to what extent the Holy Spirit is not there. If the Holy Spirit's ordinance is kept, then the Holy Spirit is there. If, however, the Holy Spirit's ordinance is not retained, then the Holy Spirit is not there. If the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments are administered as the Holy Spirit has ordained and instituted it, then the Holy Spirit is there, even if he who preaches and baptizes is unbelieving and godless with respect to himself—yes, even if a donkey preaches, as it happened with Balaam's donkey (Numbers [22:28], 2 Peter 2 [:16] ). Balaam himself was a godless man and abandoned the right path. Nevertheless, he made a glorious prophecy and preached God's Word stoutly. The evangelist John says of Caiaphas that he did not prophesy of himself, but because he was the high priest that same year (John 11 [:51]). And Scripture says of Saul that the Spirit of God fell upon him and he prophesied among the prophets, so that the people marveled about it and said, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10 [:111).

We must pay attention not so much to the person as to the office, for the office remains even if some persons are godless and misuse the office.You ought not to look at the person but at the office and Word. Now to the extent that the person deals with the Word and carries out the ordinance of the Holy Spirit, to that extent the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, and everything good is there. However, insofar as the person deals with you without the Word and disrupts the ordinance of the Holy Spirit, to that extent the devil and everything evil is there. God has not based His office, Word, and ordinance on our person, righteousness, and worthiness, but on Himself. If it were based on our person and righteousness, then we would never be sure of the gifts of God, nor could we be certain of the forgiveness of sins and our salvation.

So make this distinction and say: A human being can have the Holy Spirit in two ways: first, for himself and for his person, so that the Holy Spirit through the Word enlightens, sanctifies, justifies, and saves that person, even if the person is not in the office and does not have the task of governing with the Word. This is the best and most blessed way to have the Holy Spirit. Second, one can have the Holy Spirit neither for himself nor for his person but for the office, just as wicked pastors, sectarian spirits, and heretics may have the Holy Spirit not for themselves (so as to be saved), but for their office that they carry out, because the office is not of human beings but of Christ, who places the office upon human beings and commands them to serve others with it. This is a dangerous way to have the Holy Spirit, according to the passage of Matthew 7 [:22-23]: "There will be many who say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? Have we not cast out devils in Your name? Have we not done many deeds in Your name?' Then I will declare to them, `I never knew you.Depart from Me, all you evildoers."
[LW 69:354-355]


The question of course is this: in the Roman church, is the Word of the Gospel and of the Sacraments (which is the Holy Spirit's ordinance) present complete and unaltered? Maybe in Luther's mind they were to some extent, but not in mine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Warwick Montgomery on Luther's Harsh Language

From his own day to the present, Luther has often been pictured as a coarse and brutal man — as (to employ the phrase of a former colleague) a "wild bull of the theological pampas." On confronting his Ninety-Five Theses Leo X is supposed to have said, "These have been written by a drunken German." And the humanists of Luther's time, when they broke with him, frequently treated him as an uncultured, violent controversialist. Similarly, the contemporary humanist philosopher-historian Will Durant flatly asserts that Luther "was guilty of the most vituperative writing in the history of literature." It is true that Luther was of peasant stock and always retained the earthiness characteristic of his Saxon origin; but he was at the same time a scholar who earned the highest academic degree of his day (Doctor of the Sacred Scriptures), who spent his life as a university professor, and whose learning and cultural interests are beyond dispute. In actuality, Luther's literary "vulgarity" was not peculiar to him but was a common phenomenon of the time, and only by refusing to see Luther in historical context can Shirer's argument be sustained. As Roland Bainton has well pointed out: "Luther delighted less in muck than many of the literary men of his age.... Detractors have sifted from the pitch-blende of his ninety tomes a few pages of radioactive vulgarity."

Source
: John Warwick Montgomery, In Defense of Martin Luther (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1970) p. 144.

Lessons in the Use of Language from Mark Shea and Luther

Here are a few lessons from Roman Catholic apologist Mark Shea and Martin Luther on how to use the Bible to say what you really mean:


Mark Shea:

That reminds me. Periodically, I will use a... coarse word when it seems to me to be apt. My profound moral guidance in this is St. Paul who, in the course of majoring in majors in the his battle with the Circumcision Party, opted not to major in minors by fretting that he wrote the Greek equivalent of "s**t" when he said "Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil 4:8) The word politely translated "refuse" has an earthier and more organic meaning. He also recommended that the Circumcision guys go all the way and castrate themselves (Gal 5:12). Strong language that. But nobody wrings their hands about how Paul is "a bad witness". RHIP, I guess. [Source]

Martin Luther:

“Was [Jesus] abusive when he called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, an offspring of vipers, hypocrites, and children of the Devil?… The truth, which one is conscious of possessing, cannot be patient against its obstinate and intractable enemies.”

My boast is that I have injured no one’s life or reputation, but only sharply reproached, as godless and sacrilegious, those assertions, inventions, and doctrines which are against the Word of God. I do not apologize for this, for I have good precedents. John the Baptist [Luke 3:7] and Christ after him [Matt. 23:33] called the Pharisees the “offspring of vipers.” So excessive and outrageous was this abuse of such learned, holy, powerful, and honored men that they said in reply that He had a demon [John 7:20]. If in this instance Latomus had been judge, I wonder what the verdict would have been! Elsewhere Christ calls them “blind”[Matt.23:16], “crooked,” “liars,” “sons of the devil” [John 8:44, 55]. Good God, even Paul lacked evangelical modesty when he anathematized the teachers of the Galatians [Gal. 1:8] who were, I suppose, great men. Others he calls “dogs” [Phil. 3:2], “empty talkers” [Tit. 1:10], “deceivers” [Col. 2:4, 8]. Further, he accused to his face the magician Elymas with being a “son of the devil, full of all deceit and villainy [Acts 13:10].” [Source]

My own 2 cents: I don't use the language Shea argues for. Our culture still has a remnant of taboo placed upon particular words. Further, I don't wish to offend a weaker Christian by a particular language liberty. Finally, I don't enjoy the use or overuse of particular scatological words, so I avoid them. Maybe when I was 15, I thought I was cool saying a bad word. Now, those who perpetually use profanity remind me of a junior high school child with a vocabulary lacking maturity.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Warning Signs that a Lutheran Pastor or Layperson is Headed Toward Rome

Luther: What is Law? (Part 2)

Previously, I asked Roman Catholic blogger Ben to provide a 100 word summary statement on Luther's understanding of Law and Gospel. I do this because using less words forces one to really see if the position under scrutiny is being comprehended. Ben recently summarized the general Protestant attitudes towards the commandments with the following:“He, therefore, that saith he loveth the law is a liar, and knoweth not what he saith.” - Luther, Commentary on Galatians 3:23. I challenged Ben to at least briefly explain Luther's view on Law and Gospel.

Here is my 100 word summary statement on Luther's Law and Gospel:

Law and gospel is a key organizing distinction in Luther’s theology. The Christian needs both, but they should be sharply distinguished. The function of law is to convict of sin. It is an expression of God’s holiness, showing us how far we have fallen from his righteous standards. It directs one toward repentance, and to a recognition of helplessness, and to seek God’s mercy. The gospel is purely a word of grace, mercy, and promise: the righteousness of Christ reckoned to our account alone provides mercy and salvation. It does not contain commands or threats, only the promises of God.

Ben then provided his:

I found it almost impossible to give what I consider a halfway reasonable summary of Luther’s ideas on Law and Gospel in the specified 100 word target range (you might notice I went a wee bit over). And what I do give will undoubtedly be unsatisfactory, but it will have to do. PrĂ©cis, especially of a notoriously complex subject such as this, just ain't my forte! Anyway, fwiw, here’s my summary draft:

A distinction between Law and gospel forms the dominate theme in Luther’s theology. Both are contrasted sharply. For Luther, the Law is objective, and functions merely to inculcate in fallen man, clearly and unambiguously, a sense of his utter sinfulness and inability comply with the commandments, and thus become / remain righteous before an infinitely just and holy God, whose standard always remains absolute perfection. The Law of itself saves no one. Indeed, it leads only to a paralyzing fear of divine wrath. Luther himself evidences this throughout his writings by constant reference to his own “terrified conscience”.

The Gospel, on the other hand, is the infinitely merciful God’s remedy for man's paralysis, for his “terrified conscience.” It is mercy unspeakable, wholly undeserved. It is the “good news” par excellence.

Unlike the Law, however, the Gospel functions subjectively. Its central purpose: to allay all fear, terror, and dread of eternal punishment in those willing to apprehend it by “faith alone.”

As a result, the sting of conscience (i.e., the necessary and unavoidable consequence and immediate temporal punishment due to sin) no longer retains its former power over the sinner. For, by his acceptance of the gift of salvation through the Gospel, the sinner immediately and irrevocably secures his destiny to eternal bliss. To be sure, his conscience may still trouble, but it can no longer terrify. For now he has “assurance” that “no sins have it in their power to damn him, but only unbelief.”

Put another way: For Luther, the Gospel can only suggest, but never impose (as did the Law) a definite standard of moral perfection such that the believer’s “assurance of salvation” can be affected. For ultimately, all his sins, regardless of gravity (idolatry i.e.) are completely (by default) “covered” by the infinite merits of the God-man Jesus Christ. His simple Gospel message of unconditional pardon and forgiveness of all sins has only to be “received” or “accepted.”

Commandments and good works, demanded under the Law, play no role whatsoever toward salvation under the Gospel. Indeed, all such works and commands Luther deemed antithetical to the very nature of the saving Gospel, which for him, could never be merited or “earned,” but only “received.”

To be sure, extreme interpretations of Luther’s teachings, notably those of Nicholas Amsdorf, held that all good works were “pernicious to salvation.” However such extreme views appear to be absent Luther’s writings. Luther was no antinomian. On the contrary, he clearly recognized the importance of both good works and observance of the commandments (though never for salvific merit), and often encouraged his followers to faithfully practice and observe both. Without constant preaching and correction however, good works neither flow automatically from saving faith, nor remain with it.

Finally, although it is undeniable that Luther himself did, on occasion and for reasons of expedience, counsel against the keeping of certain commandments, nevertheless, it should be noted that even his most severe critics (Denifle and Grisar) failed to find in any of his extensive writings incontrovertible evidence of a direct and wholesale disregard for either good works or the Ten Commandments.


Here is my evaluation of Ben's synopsis:

I found it almost impossible to give what I consider a halfway reasonable summary of Luther’s ideas on Law and Gospel in the specified 100 word target range

Thanks for providing a summary statement. Concise summary statements are typically hard work. It means that one thoroughly has digested the position in review. I always shoot for summary statements with less words, because it forces me to get to the heart of a particular issue. It's extremely easy to present a lot of words, and yet still miss the heart. What I would've done if I had constructed the statement you did on Law and Gospel, would be to take each paragraph, and boil out the point, and do this until I had a shorter concise summary statement. I respect the fact that you at least tried to accommodate my request. That being said, here are the points in which I think you aren't being accurate:

A distinction between Law and gospel forms the dominate theme in Luther’s theology.

I would revise this to specifically state it forms one of the dominant theme in Luther's theology. There are other crucial themes (like the Theology of the Cross) that similarly comprise the scaffolding of Luther's thought.

For Luther, the Law is objective, and functions merely to inculcate in fallen man

I can appreciate the use of the term objective. I think that's a helpful description. However, the corpus of Luther's writings do not support the sole function of the Law as merely inculcating...a sense of his utter sinfulness and inability comply with the commandments. I would disagree with the use of the word "merely", because even if your synopsis was accurate, "merely" can carry with it the connotation "this is simply all it can do, and lacks value as a created entity." This may appear to be quibbling, but it does contradict what you say in your last two paragraphs. If the Law "merely" does as you suggest for Luther, why and how did Luther "clearly recognize the importance of both good works and observance of the commandments" and "and often encouraged his followers to faithfully practice and observe both"? Obviously for Luther, it did more than you "merely" suggest.

True indeed, Luther can speak negatively about the Law, thus giving the impression that it simply is like a black plague looking to condemn its victim to death. If one only concentrates on specific negative statements from Luther about the Law, one could even paint the picture of an antinomian Luther (which you've done in the past, and also recently here on this blog). You later rightly repudiate the notion. I could produce scores of quotes from Luther on the value and use of the Law. Even last night, in the current volume of LW, I came across Luther saying, "We must prove ourselves before the world. How? By keeping the other commandments as well: 'You shall honor your father and mother' " (LW 69:330). Most striking of course are the Catechisms Luther wrote and his positive estimation of the the Ten commandments.

The Law of itself saves no one. Indeed, it leads only to a paralyzing fear of divine wrath.

This is accurate in terms of soteriology, and should be qualified as such. But in Luther's theology, something like the First Commandment can be both Law and Gospel at the same time. Thus it can produce the negative inner feeling you suggest. On the other hand, it can also produce the promise of the Gospel. Review Luther's Catechisms.

The Gospel, on the other hand, is the infinitely merciful God’s remedy for man's paralysis, for his “terrified conscience.” It is mercy unspeakable, wholly undeserved. It is the “good news” par excellence.

This is true as far as it goes, but lacks clarification as to exactly... why? Note in my summary statement, I wrote: "The gospel is purely a word of grace, mercy, and promise: the righteousness of Christ reckoned to our account alone provides mercy and salvation." Here, I captured the essence of the good news according to Luther: the work of Christ in fulfilling the Law becomes mine by accepting words of grace, mercy, and promise.

Unlike the Law, however, the Gospel functions subjectively.

The Gospel according to Luther also has an objective nature in its proclamation via the preached Word and sacrament. Like the Law, it only pierces the heart subjectively. That is, both Law and Gospel have their subjective experience based on the state of the heart.

Its central purpose: to allay all fear, terror, and dread of eternal punishment in those willing to apprehend it by “faith alone.”

Had you clarified "gospel" earlier, this would make more sense. The fear, terror, and dread is not being able to meet God's righteous standards revealed in the Law by those with such an inner disposition to despair. This Gospel is not simply the absence of fear, terror, and dread of eternal punishment. It is the rejoicing in the fact that Christ fulfilled the Law in my place, and His righteous becomes my righteousness. This is a great joy, more along the lines of receiving a gift of infinite value.

As a result, the sting of conscience (i.e., the necessary and unavoidable consequence and immediate temporal punishment due to sin) no longer retains its former power over the sinner.

"Immediate temporal punishment" is thinking in terms of Roman Catholicism, and should be removed (recall, the exercise is to try to present Luther's understanding in a sense absent of our preconceived theologies). True, if my righteousness before a Holy God is the righteousness of Christ, no sin can separate me from God. Christ was punished in my place. A fall into sin that tries to convict a regenerated heart of loss of salvation, is, as Luther often explains, lies of the Devil. On the other hand, Luther had a strong belief in confessing sins, and implied throughout his writings is that a genuine believer works hard to avoid sin. The idea that a "fall into sin" would not cause a believer grief is absent from Luther's theology. It would cause grief, not out of fear of loss of salvation, but because sin is an offensive to God. It shows a lack of love and respect for the work and gift of Christ. It would be similar to hurting a spouse, or one you love.

Your synopsis could lead to one thinking Luther held to wanton lawlessness, reminiscent of the old jingle joke: "Free from the Law, oh blessed condition, I can sin all I want, an still have remission." In actuality, the changed life, and the life that avoids sin function in Luther's thought to prove we do love God. Further, Luther's doctrine of the Two Kingdoms would explain that while a sin might not have eternal consequences in the loss of salvation, it still may be subject to temporal punishments by the state, and God has set up the rulers of this world for this very purpose.

For Luther, the Gospel can only suggest, but never impose (as did the Law) a definite standard of moral perfection such that the believer’s “assurance of salvation” can be affected

In a sense. It misses Luther's notion that acknowledging, loving, and fulfilling the Law perfectly was the work of Christ, and by imitating Him, it's a sign that faith is actually present (LW 69:329- "Just as Christ did not seek His own benefit and advantage, so we should seek our neighbor's benefit and advantage. The works done for our neighbor show that we have faith in God and love for our neighbor").

Luther was no antinomian. On the contrary, he clearly recognized the importance of both good works and observance of the commandments (though never for salvific merit), and often encouraged his followers to faithfully practice and observe both. Without constant preaching and correction however, good works neither flow automatically from saving faith, nor remain with it. Finally, although it is undeniable that Luther himself did, on occasion and for reasons of expedience, counsel against the keeping of certain commandments, nevertheless, it should be noted that even his most severe critics (Denifle and Grisar) failed to find in any of his extensive writings incontrovertible evidence of a direct and wholesale disregard for either good works or the Ten Commandments.

Very good. All in all, I think you're on the right the right track here, and had I not known it was you who wrote these last last paragraphs, I would've never guessed it was you. In fact, I would question whether or not you actually think it's true. When I compare it to other comments you've recently made, as well as comments you've made in the past, I wonder if you're just saying what I want to hear.

After doing all this evaluation, I then boil it down to a 100 word summary. I go for what's most important:

Ben errs in the following ways. He says Law and Gospel is Luther’s dominant theme. Actually,it is one of a few dominant themes. Luther did not “merely” hold the Law convicts of sin, nor does it only lead to a paralyzing fear of wrath. Ben contradicts this by later noting Luther’s positive use of Law. Ben says Luther’s Gospel can only suggest, but never impose (as did the Law) a definite standard of moral perfection. Actually, the Gospel standard of perfection for Luther is higher: a Christian is to become Christ to His neighbor, proving and validating his faith.

As to whether or not Ben understand Law and Gospel, I think he does, though my evaluation, if taken seriously, would help him. On the other hand, I question if he understood it before he actually had to sit down and write it out. If he did understand it previously, I can't imagine why he summarized the general Protestant attitudes towards the commandments with the following: “He, therefore, that saith he loveth the law is a liar, and knoweth not what he saith.” - Luther, Commentary on Galatians 3:23. Only the regenrated heart would love the Law of God.

Ben would also benefit from a study of Luther's exhortations to Christians to be Christ to their neighbors:

“We now come to consider good works. We receive Christ not only as a gift by faith, but also as an example of love toward our neighbor, whom we are to serve as Christ serves us. Faith brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you to your neighbor with all your possessions. These two things constitute a true and complete Christian life; then follow suffering and persecution for such faith and love, and out of these grows hope in patience. You ask, perhaps, what are the good works you are to do to your neighbor? Answer: They have no name. As the good works Christ does to you have no name, so your good works are to have no name. Whereby do you know them? Answer: They have no name, so that there may be no distinction made and they be not divided, that you might do some and leave others undone. You shall give yourself up to him altogether, with all you have, the same as Christ did not simply pray or fast for you. Prayer and fasting are not the works he did for you, but he gave himself up wholly to you, with praying, fasting, all works and suffering, so that there is nothing in him that is not yours and was not done for you. Thus it is not your good work that you give alms or that you pray, but that you offer yourself to your neighbor and serve him, wherever he needs you and every way you can, be it with alms, prayer, work, fasting, counsel, comfort, instruction, admonition, punishment, apologizing, clothing, food, and lastly with suffering and dying for him. Pray, where are now such works to be found in Christendom?” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:34]

“Whoever does not receive salvation through pure grace, before performing any good works, will most assuredly never secure it; and whoever turns his good works to his own advantage and endeavors to help himself by them and not his neighbor does no good works to begin with.” [What Luther Says 3:1504.]

“…Christ teaches us rightly to apply the works and shows us what good works are. All other work, except faith, we should apply to our neighbor. For God demands of us no other work that we should do for him than to exercise faith in Christ. With that he is satisfied, and with that we give honor to him, as to one who is merciful, long-suffering, wise, kind, truthful and the like. After this think of nothing else than to do to your neighbor as Christ has done to you, and let all your works together with all your life be applied to your neighbor. Look for the poor, sick and all kinds of needy, help them and let your life's energy here appear, so that they may enjoy your kindness, helping whoever needs you, as much as you possibly can with your life, property and honor. Whoever points you to other good works than these, avoid him as a wolf and as Satan, because he wants to put a stumbling block in your way, as David says, "In the way wherein I walk have they hidden a snare for me," Ps. 142, 3. But this is done by the perverted, misguided people of the Papists, who with their religious ceremonies set aside such Christian works, and teach the people to serve God only and not also mankind. They establish convents, masses, vigils, become religious, do this and that. And these poor, blind people call that serving God, which they have chosen themselves. But know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it a child, wife, servant, enemy, friend; without making any difference, whoever needs your help in body or soul, and wherever you can help in temporal or spiritual matters. This is serving God and doing good works. 0, Lord God, how do we fools live in this world, neglecting to do such works, though in all parts of the world we find the needy, on whom we could bestow our good works; but no one looks after them nor cares for them. But look to your own life. If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the Gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right, and that you have not yet tasted of Christ's benevolence and work for you.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1: 111]

“Again you say: What about the doctrine of good works? Shall this amount to nothing, or is it not a beautiful, praiseworthy thing, when a man endeavors to keep the commandments, and is obedient, chaste, honorable and truthful? Answer: Yes, surely; all this is to be done; it is also a good doctrine and life, provided it is left in the place where it belongs, and the two doctrines are kept distinct, how a man becomes pious and righteous before God, and how and to what end he is to do good works. For although it is necessary to teach the doctrine of good works, at the same time, nay, even before this also must be carefully taught (so that the doctrine of the Gospel and of faith be kept pure and unadulterated), that all our works, however good and holy they may be, are not the treasure and merit, by which we become acceptable to God and attain everlasting life. But it is this alone, that Christ goes to the Father and by his departure merits this for us, and gives and communicates to us his righteousness, innocence and merits; and so begins in us a kingdom that we, who believe in him, are redeemed by his power and Spirit from sin and death, and shall live with him forever. It must not be a righteousness that continues only here upon earth and then ceases; but a new righteousness, which endures forever in the life beyond with God, just as Christ lives and reigns above forever.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 2:147]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Luther: What is Law? (Part 1)

Over on another blog post, Roman Catholic blogger Ben has been dropping Luther bombs in the comment box but keeps missing the intended targets. He's ventured into Luther's understanding of Law and Gospel. Ben says, "Luther was clearly a very confused, very disturbed man. He did untold damage to the Church and to European society with his insane ravings and his immoral shenanigans." He's posted a mass of Luther-related rhetoric, some of it from Denifle's Luther and Lutherdom, a book that even many Roman Catholic scholars repudiate.

I'm not sure if Ben even understands what Luther means by Law and Gospel, so I've asked him in his own words, to provide a summary of Luther's understanding of it. I've asked him to provide a 100 word summary, minus rhetoric and polemic, to the best of his ability, as honestly as possible, to attempt to summarize Luther's position, from Luther's perspective. He shouldn't even quote Luther, but simply define his position. I often do this when I get in to a detailed discussion with someone. Before you try and tear down a position, it's always good to at least understand it.

In order to help Ben, here's a good chunk of Luther's sermon from John 20:21-29, found in LW 69:329-332 on the Law. In the following text, you read just how confused, disturbed, and immoral Luther actually was with his insane ravings.

YOU have heard today the first part of the Gospel, in which we are shown how we should conduct ourselves toward God. What now follows is how we should conduct ourselves toward our neighbor. When He appeared to them for the second time, He said: "Have peace! Just as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you" [John 20:21]. Of this we wish to speak. It is said that when we preach of faith we are forbidding good works. We have never preached that. Christ, in His life, never did a good work in order to become righteous, and yet He did good works all the time. From the time He was born of the Virgin Mary He was always righteous, from the very beginning of His birth. Everything that Christ did on earth He did to serve us. He did all His works for us and for our sake.

Now we come to the same place. "Just as My Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." [Jesus says:] "How has He sent Me? He has sent Me in such a way that I take upon Myself the Law, death, hell, sin, etc., even though I have not deserved it, but I have done it for your sake. Now you also, do as I have done today." If I come to acknowledge and to love the Law, I fulfill the Law entirely, and that happens out of or through faith. Faith brings everything along with it, [faith] that says, "I have a gracious God." [Jesus says,] "As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you." There is no command there. As I have done, do likewise; if you do not do it, that is a sign that no faith is yet present."

St. Peter also admonishes us in this respect when he says,
Satagite fratres, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure through good works" [2 Pet. 1:10]. It is the things that we should do for our neighbor that are good works and are called good works by St. Peter. Just as Christ did not seek His own benefit and advantage, so we should seek our neighbor's benefit and advantage. The works done for our neighbor show that we have faith in God and love for our neighbor. However, we become neither righteous nor saved by them. Faith takes away all works, as St. Paul says in Romans 13 [:8]: Nemini quicquam
, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law."

Thus we must prove ourselves before the world. How? By keeping the other commandments as well: "You shall honor your father and your mother." If there is secular authority over me, I must obey it. I do this not in order to be saved or to earn heaven thereby; rather, I know that Christ was obedient, though He had no need to be, and did it for my sake. Therefore, I also want to be obedient for the sake of Christ and the good of my neighbor, and do it solely to prove my love. Obedience to parents must flow out of pure love, not to earn something by it or because the Law demands or commands it, but rather I should be free and certain in the promise that God freely made to me and freely gives to me. Thus I should do the works in such a way that I cast them out to be plundered—whoever gets hold of something can keep it. This is how the apostles admonish us to good works, not to become righteous or saved through them but to show that we are Christians.


-snip-

Cursed be that life in which someone lives for himself and not for his neighbor. And on the other hand, blessed be that life in which one lives not for himself but for his neighbor and serves him with teaching, with rebukes, with help, as it may be. When my neighbor errs, I should rebuke him; if he cannot follow me immediately, then I should wait patiently for him, as Christ did with Judas, who carried the moneybag of the Lord and had the duty of coming to the help of the poor; he always wandered from the path like a dog, yet Christ was patient with him and admonished him often, though it was no help.

Faith always speaks like this: "Christ has done that for me; why should I not for His sake also do all things freely?" Furthermore, the things we do for God are not called good works, but rather the things that we should do for our neighbor—those are good works. Whoever is a regent should not think that he is therefore a king or mayor, [nor] that he may earn heaven thereby; nor should he seek his own advantage, but he should serve the congregation, so that my flesh may be tamed and it may serve my neighbor. I take a wife and make myself captive. I do this so that I will not stain or shame the wife or daughter of my neighbor. Before, I ran wherever I wanted; now, I am captive and must be satisfied with one woman, etc.

First, [Jesus] says, "Have peace;' that is, toward God. Second, "Have peace;' that is, toward my neighbor. God demands nothing of us other than (faith and love (that is, [love] toward our neighbor); and the [works] that are useful to our neighbor are good works indeed. God grant us His help that we may love our neighbor. Amen.



Addendum
As an example for Ben of how to do a 100 word summary statement, here would be my short synopsis of law and gospel according to Luther:

Law and gospel is a key organizing distinction in Luther’s theology. The Christian needs both, but they should be sharply distinguished. The function of law is to convict of sin. It is an expression of God’s holiness, showing us how far we have fallen from his righteous standards. It directs one toward repentance, and to a recognition of helplessness, and to seek God’s mercy. The gospel is purely a word of grace, mercy, and promise: the righteousness of Christ reckoned to our account alone provides mercy and salvation. It does not contain commands or threats, only the promises of God.

Notice I didn't cite Luther, nor did I get caught up in tangents. For instance, you won't find Luther discussing the third use of law (like Calvinists do), but it's implicit in many of Luther's writings that a Christian could use the law to direct one to holy living (see the Luther quote above). Also Luther would strongly reject antinomianism, or that conversion does not produce a changed life. But most often, Luther uses the law negatively as that which shows a Christian his failure, and this drives him to seek grace and strength from the gospel.

Here are a few helpful links presenting a basic overview of Luther's Law and Gospel:

Steven Paulson, Luther For Armchair Theologians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004) Chapter two: Law and Gospel: God's Two Words.

Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), Chapter 19: Law and Gospel.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adventures in the Catechism

This is another one of those instances in which the interpretation needs to be interpreted. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

460
The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

78 2 Pet 1:4.

79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.

80 St. Athanasius, De inc., 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.

81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57: 1-4.

Batman Unmasked


At the last two Islam debates in Queens New York, I spotted a few Team Apologian T-Shirts being worn. At the earlier debate in May, my friend pointed to a guy wearing the shirt and said, "You've finally become a rock star." This past time, I ventured over to a guy wearing the shirt and jokingly said, "I'm much better looking in person." I do appreciate that someone supports aomin by purchasing the shirt. I admit though, it is an odd experience to see a complete stranger wearing a T shirt with your own face on it.

Here are a few recent personal similar tidbits.

First, my good friend Algo sent this one over to me from the Envoy boards:

Do professional anti-Catholics (Swan, White, etc.) tend to think that Catholicism did not exist prior to the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in the fourth century or do they tend to hold the position that Catholicism was valid but simply went "off the rails" at some point prior to the Reformation? I ask because amateur apologists argue the former incessantly, but I'm wondering if the "big boys" concede the Catholic Church's existence from the Apostolic era and focus on other issues in their efforts to undermine the Church.-Randy + † + Tiber Swim Team - Class of '79

I am not a professional apologist, or a professional anti-Catholic. I'm a guy with a full-time job, with family and other responsibilities. As a matter of fact, compared to some of you who visit the blog (I had around 100 blog comments on Monday), I spend very little time on-line. I'm not on-line because I'm busy elsewhere. I know some of you are supposed to be at work WORKING, but you're reading blog articles and commenting. Stop that, it's stealing from your employer.

I'm just a guy with a blog. I make no income from the blog, nor do I think I deserve any. I don't link over to Paypal like some Roman Catholic bloggers do, who think they deserve money (they don't deserve money, some of them are just guys with a blog or a website- most guys sitting in front of the computer writing blog or Internet articles doesn't deserve your money).

Second: Tim Enloe recently commented that my blog has Anabaptist tendencies, and was lacking a coherent Reformed worldview. I responded here, but this goes along with the previous tidbit. I wouldn't go so far as to say the blog is "ministry". I enjoy the subjects I write about, and I consider it a hobby. I try to do everything to the best of abilities to the glory of God, even my hobbies. It's a Reformed paradigm at work, so to speak.

Third: Here's a nugget from a Roman Catholic on the CARM boards:

As a certain Lord James Swan is very found of pointing out: Arguments that can be turned back on the one making the argument and used against them are invalid.

I've never claimed the title "Lord". I'm not even sure why this guy referred to me as such. I don't post on CARM often, but obviously I either interacted with him in the past, or he reads the blog. On the other hand, I have made the argument he points out, and I don't even take credit for the point. I got it from Dr. White, who has made the point repeatedly.

Fourth: I get e-mails from people I don't know, frequently. Here's a recent snippet:

"Hello, I came across your blog about the Reformation and I just wanted to point out that it seems like it is missing many facts. It appears to be that you've put your faith in Martin Luther, but have chosen to ignore the many evil things he taught. His writings seem to be totally ignored if not suppressed by those who have raised him as a guiding light in the history of Christianity."

As to placing my faith in Luther, I'm not even a Lutheran. Luther was just a man, and a sinner, just like you, just like me. His righteousness or holiness before God was Christ's righteousness, the only righteousness that will pass God's standard. I am committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:28, 4:5; Gal. 3:11), as well as the only infallible source of God's revelation extant today: the Sacred Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-17), as were the Reformers.

Fifth: My co-blogger Alan sent this over from Articuli Fidei:

I'm seriously reading that thread over at Beggars all, and 'Loling'. I assume the owner of the blog is embarrassed by Rhology's 'dullness' (to put it mildly). But he won't say anything because he probably doesn't want to throw him under the bus. (plus traffic doesn't hurt).

I'm not embarrassed by anything my co-bloggers post. I picked them all specifically because I was impressed by their writing and materials, as well as their commitment to the faith. If I don't comment on something, it's usually the case I'm too busy to get into it. This even happens with my blog posts. I can't always keep up with the comments.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Circle the wagons!

In order...

Me: Why is that reasonable? Isn't it the RC position that you have all this unity and the truth on your organisation's side?

David Waltz: The Church on Earth has wheat and tares.

Me: Christ's parable of wheat and tares refers not to the church but to the world.

Matthew Bellisario: Really? Where did you get your definitive interpretation from? ... Where did God tell you that this passage only refers to the world Rhology (sic)? Sources please.

Matthew the Evangelist: Matthew 13:24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 “But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Matthew Bellisario: Rhology, once again we can why you are a Protestant. It is because you are truly ignorant of the Scriptures. It is plain to see that you don't understand the many levels of Sacred Scripture. Do you not understand symbolic interpretation?

Matthew Bellisario: The fact is, this Scripture can be interpreted symbolically as referring to the Church.

Matthew Bellisario: Come on Rhology, yes or no? Can the passage be interpreted symbolically as referring to the Church?

Matthew Bellisario: So Rhology, is your interpretation of this passage infallible? There is the one interpretation that you subscribe to, and all others are wrong, correct? Calvin was wrong, St. Augustine was wrong, St. Jerome was wrong, St. Chrysostom was wrong? Their interpretations were not infallible, but yours is, correct?


The entire thread that begins with this interaction is a carnival of buffoonery. As if "the field is the world" is not itself a symbolic interpretation! Disappointingly, David Waltz has joined in the cacophony, but didn't even bother to include the Matthew 13 text.
I just reproduced some of this to show the circle-the-wagons-at-all-cost mentality of some our RC friends. If they were interested in honestly defending their position from the thrust of my original statement, there are other biblical psgs they could try to use. Their parade of mockery and missing the point shows their motivations are less than above board.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poll - What was the "field" in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13)?





Starving for the Catholic faith


I bought a product from Catholic Answers a few months back, and they've been spamming me for support ever since. Here's a recent excerpt from the desk of Karl Keating:

"As you know, Catholic Answers is the largest apologetics organization in North America."

"If you could make a monthly pledge right now, we would be even more secure as we meet the needs of millions of Americans who, as I mentioned earlier, are starving for the Catholic faith more than ever before. Click here to make your pledge or send your donation."


I didn't realize that in the age of the Internet, satellite TV, and mass media publications via the big chain bookstore in town, people were starving for information about the Roman Catholic Church. Why not just go to the official Vatican website? Here you can get Rome's official answers, and not the interpretations of those answers by the largest apologetics organization in North America.

And besides, for free I've got the Internet insights of a host of Roman Catholic apologists bookmarked in my favorites.

America isn't starving for information about anything. We're a culture over-stuffed with enough information that's only a mouse click away. It's like saying the obese family that regularly goes to the all-you-can-eat restaurant can't find any food. Perhaps one could argue the all-you-can-eat stuff isn't good food, so we need Catholic Answers to serve the gourmet feast of information. If that's so, then all those Catholic websites I've bookmarked are.... not healthy food.

On a related note:

Catholic apologist John Martignoni only wants 10 cents a day:

"If just 1 in 10 of you will respond to this email, I could cut out one or two of my part-time jobs (I currently work 5), hire some full-time help, and invest in some equipment which would drastically increase our evangelization efforts by drastically increasing the amount of apologetics materials we can develop."

"I don’t know of any other organization that reaches so many people with the truths of the Catholic Faith on such a small budget, nor one that raises money the way we do – asking for such a small amount, only through email, and only twice a year. I hope those facts, along with the results of the work we do, will be enough to persuade you to support our mission – to spread the truths of the Catholic Faith and to save souls for Christ and His Bride, the Church."

Of course, the oddest plea for support comes from this guy. To send him a 100% tax-deductible donation for what appears to be his for-profit business, you send the donation to John Martignoni, who does run a not for profit business. Martignoni then forwards the money to the other guy. Well, this might be worth it, because contrary to the work of Catholic Answers, this Romanist states:

"I think it is accurate to say that I offer the most wide-ranging, comprehensive selection of Catholic apologetics available online (for free: no one pays a cent to read my blog), in addition to my books. It's been literally a constant labor of love for over twelve years now, since I began my website in early 1997."

If you're itching to send him some $$, you can send it directly to him via Paypal. But keep in mind his website states in all caps, "DONATIONS THROUGH PAYPAL (NOT TAX-DEDUCTIBLE)". So to send him the 100% tax deductable donation, make sure it gets filtered first through Mr. Martignoni.

Gerry Matatics also needs some support, because unlike Catholic Answers, Gerry defends real Catholicism:

"I don't believe anyone else in the entire country does quite what I do full-time, traveling and speaking about real Catholicism and exposing counterfeit catholicism, and does it as much, and yet as inexpensively, as I do. I’m hoping I can interest one hundred recipients of this letter in each sending a sacrificial $100 donation, thus enabling me to raise the $10,000 (100 donors x $100 each) that I need to continue and complete my megatour this fall."


By the way, if you enjoy what I do and want to make a donation, click here and here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Luther: I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy


Here's a tidbit from David Waltz. He cites this Luther quote against "individuals who believe/maintain that the Catholic Church is not a Christian church":

What I find quite interesting is the fact that one of the most vehement critics of the Catholic Church, after years (20+) of polemical attacks, could state the following:

I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy. (Martin Luther, from his sermon on Matt. 21:42, D. Martin Luther’s Werke, Vol. 47.425* – also know as the Weimar edition; English trans. from What Luther Says, p. 126.)


Mr. Waltz also linked to the Weimar edition here.

I have a copy of the actual source he utilized: What Luther Says. The entire entry says a bit more. It reads:

Catholic Church
See also Church, Papacy

LUTHER always recognize an essential difference between Catholics and papists, between those who held the one, universal (catholic) faith of the children of God in Christ and those who accepted the perversions of this faith by the papal hierarchy. To the leaders of this hierarchy the Reformer does not hesitate to apply Matt. 21:42. They are the builders who have rejected the Stone, Christ.

368 Roman Catholic Church vs. the Papal Hierarchy
I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God's Word and Baptism, and is holy. But the Roman court, the pope, who is the bishop in this court, is the devil's bishop and the devil himself, nay, the filth with which the devil has defiled the church.1 (W 47, 425- E 44, 296 - SL 1112)

Luther makes a distinction between the Roman church and the papal hierarchy (see What Luther Says, entry 370). The editor, Ewald Plass goes on to say, "while scoring papal innovations, Luther never ceased to confess indebtedness to the Church of Rome and to regard it as a Christian organization... Between the Church of Rome and the Lutheran Church a relation exists similar to that which once existed between the Jewish Church and the apostolic Christian Church..." (What Luther Says, Vol. 1 p. 128). Plass cites Luther stating:

"We ourselves confess and concede that they are in the right church, have the office which was given by Christ, and which the apostles gave them as a heritage- the office to teach, baptize, administer the Sacrament, absolve, ordain, etc.. ... We allow all this to be right and do not call the office in question, although they do not want to admit that the same obtains among us. In fact, we confess that we have received these things from them, as Christ Himself came from the Jews according to His birth and the apostles found the Scriptures among the Jews" (Ibid.).

Plass then quotes the following from Luther explaining about believers within the Roman Church:
"All of you are certainly baptized, especially in childhood, with the true Baptism of the ancient church, as we are; and those who, thus baptized, lived for seven or eight years and then died before understanding the spiritual adultery of the pope's church were certainly saved and are still saved. This we do not doubt at all. But when they grow up and hear, believe, and follow the lies of your devilish innovations, they become the devil's harlots together with you and fall away from their Baptism and their Bridegroom, as happened to me and others" (Ibid.).

Plass points out that Luther believed despite the papacy, salvation was possible for adults as well , but this not because of the papacy (see entry 374). Within even the papacy God preserved a remnant (see entry 3216, 3217) by His own power.

In entry 375, Plass quotes Luther on why he could refer to the Roman church as "holy":

"Thus, we, too, nowadays call the Roman Church holy and all the bishoprics holy, although their faith has been undermined and all the bishops and their servants are godless. For God rules in the midst of His enemies (Ps. 110:2); again, Antichrist sits in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4), and Satan is present in the midst of the children of God (Job 1:6). Therefore, even though the church is 'in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,' as Paul says in his Epistle to the Philippians (2:15), even though it is in the midst of wolves and robbers, that is, spiritual tyrants, it nevertheless is the church. Although the city of Rome is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, yet Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the reading (vox) and text of the Gospel, Holy Scriptures, the ministry, the name of Christ, and the name of God remain in her. Those who have made these their own have them; those who have not done so are not excused, for the treasure is there."

And finally, Plass explains that Luther held it was not easy to find "the treasure" in the papacy "because they have turned the Gospel, the light of liberty, into a law of correct living. Thus they have externalized and formalized Christianity."

Plass also cross-references this section to Luther's comments on the papacy. Luther's scathing comments on the papacy go on for a number of pages. For instance:

3238 "Come Out of Her, My People" (Rev. 18:4)Can anything more horrible be said than that the kingdom of the papists is the kingdom of those who spit at Christ, the Son of God, and crucify Him anew? For they do crucify Christ... in themselves, in the church, and in the hearts of the faithful. ...Therefore let everyone who is honestly given to piety flee out of this Babylon as quickly as possible, and let him tremble at the very name of the papacy. For so great are its impiety and its abomination that no one can express them in words; they can be discerned only by eyes that are spiritual."

I actually posted a similar blog article on this topic a few years back: Luther: The Infallible Church Declared The Contents of Scripture?
Luther's opinion appears to be in part that since the Roman Church was given the Scriptures, Sacraments, etc., that in that sense it is a Christan church (see also his reasoning above). However, these elements functions quite independently from the Roman magisterium. No analogy is perfect, but if I had to describe Luther's position I would do so like this: The Roman church is like a pristine ship that's been commandeered by pirates. The ship still functions, but it's crew is in bondage to her captors. Perhaps some of the crew mutinies and joins the pirates. Others though, maintain allegiance to her rightful captain.

Since Rome officially anathematized the Gospel at Trent, I don't consider her part of the Catholic Church. The debate on this amongst the reformed still goes on. In fact, it was debated by James White and Douglas Wilson: Are Roman Catholics Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ? . Here would be a good example of something I part company with Luther on, and even many of my Reformed friends. I don't think the papacy can be extracted from the Church of Rome and still have the term "Church of Rome"make sense. Ironically, I would argue similarly as Luther did, that even though the Israelites were given such things like the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-4), their rejection of Christ cuts them off from the church. In the same way, a rejection of the Gospel by the Roman Church cuts them off from the church (Galatians 1:8-9).

Addendum
The contexts of the Luther quotes above cited by Plass from W 47, 425 are scheduled to be translated into English in a forthcoming volume of Luther' Works [4.9 Matth. 18-24 in Predigten ausgelegt / Sermons on Matthew 18-24 (1537-1540). Aland 477.WA 47:232-627]. The quotes appear to be from an exposition of Matthew 21.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Luther removed books from the Canon" - a few replies


The claim is often made that Luther removed books from the Canon, with respect to the Deutero-Canonicals. For example, Scott Windsor says:
You have only that what you have received FROM US (minus a few books which Luther chose not to include).
Then he goes on to defend the decree of the Council of Trent as the infallible decision of the Roman Catholic Church on its Canon of Scripture. I'm sort of wondering about this.

First, it's not as if Luther is our only source or influence for the Canon of Scripture.
And he wasn't anything like a Protestant Pope. Why do Roman Catholic apologists constantly make this mistake? Does their pride keep them from accepting correction? This kind of question pops up all the time - "Luther and Calvin lied to you"; "Calvin wasn't a credobaptist; why are you?" Please, you're only making yourself look really stupid.

Second, how can we tell the Roman claim apart from the Eastern Orthodox claim of the same?

Third, the Council of Trent didn't really finish the job.
See: Here
Finally, Luther was dead by 1546. Didn't the relevant vote (which got 44% approval of all present, the rest being nay or abstentions) take place in April 8, 1546? How could Luther remove books from the "infallible Roman Canon of Scripture" post-mortem?