Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Here's a quote from Luther to ponder this New Year's Eve:

"For through much practice, I have now come to the point (God be praised) that I am just now really beginning to believe that God is the Creator of heaven an earth. Everyone now and at all times understands, has understood, and will understand this text all too well- except for myself alone and a few other poor sinners and fools, like Moses, David, Isaiah, and such people (among whom I can only boastfully place myself by saying: Nos poma natamus ["I am floating along with the other apples"] - [that is,] like horse dung among apples). These people consider God to be a man of wonders and say that His creation  is nothing but wondrous works. Yet very few see God's wondrous works, though everyone sees His creation and cannot help but grasp and feel it, as St. Paul says in Acts 17 [26:-27]. However, I, too, am one of the course fellows who do not yet comprehend His creation and (as I said), I have just begun to believe this, so that, as an old student and a doctor now almost at the end of my days, I must rightly wonder at how the people in our time know everything that the Holy Spirit knows as soon as they have so much sniffed at a book. Yet they go off on their way and see nothing of the things God does daily before our eyes, which are both terrifying and comforting. They give it no heed, as if it were all a charlatan's trick. Through Adam's sin human nature has fallen so far from God and His image- that is, from knowing Him [cf. Col. 3:10]- that we do not understand our own body and life, how wonderfully these are daily created, granted, and preserved by God. Therefore, is it any wonder if we are obstinate, stubborn, utterly blind, and [insensible] logs toward His other wondrous works, which He reveals to us in all creatures, besides our own body and life?" [LW 60:119]


Martin Yee said...

Hi James,

Wish you a Happy New Year! I am really thankful for all your blogs which are so helpful.

Just asking out of curiosity - why are you still not a Lutheran when you seem to know much more about Luther and his teachings than most of us Lutherans? It really baffles me. I am not trying to be funny, but would like to hear your reservations on being a Lutheran.


Martin Yee

James Swan said...

Hi Martin,


I do check in on your blog from time to time, and I enjoy it. I've also had it linked on my sidebar for a while now.

At some point this month I may put up something in regard to your question pertaining to my reasons for not being Lutheran. I have something in draft based on Rev. McCain's recent post on the Reformed:

I'm not sure when or if I'll be posting it. Given that no one really interacted with what I posted on Cyberbrethren, I may simply just let it go.

I assume if I was a Lutheran, I'd get a lot more support from the Lutheran cyber-community. as it stands, I'm probably barely tolerated or mostly ignored. I've spent the great portion of my life not fitting in anywhere, so that my blog is a bit of a square circle makes perfect sense, at least to me.

Martin Yee said...

Hi James,

Thanks for kind reply. I do greatly admire your integrity and the tenacity to get to the bottom of things.

Speaking as an Asian, all these theological ragings are very bewildering to us, many who who are first generation Christians. That is why many of my fellow Asians are turned off by theological discourses/debates and instead follow the ways of pop Evangelicalicism.

Just like you I also get ignored in elite cyber Lutheran blogs. But mine is due to my lack of knowledge to engage meaningfully as I am still a novice. Some of the elite Lutheran bloggers seem pretty arrogant to me too.

But your blog does plays an important role as it seeks to present things fairly and not based on myths or stereotyping. It is inspiring to me. But human nature is such people prefer the distorted, the scandulous and sensational.

For me, I feel closer to the Reformed than the RC, unlike some Lutherans. I think we have much more in common. But again it is bewildering to me that the Reformed are also split into major camps in theology. I am more comfortable with the Mike Horton, Roy Clark, Tullian and company group. The Westminster Seminary in California and the Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia folks do not seem to see eye to eye on many issues. I have read John Frame's scathing critiques on some of Mike Horton's writings. Why is it so? Where can I read up on what caused this deep schism. Which side are you on and why? I really wish to learn more.

I do read Reformed Theological writings too and am interested in Covenant theology etc. Do keep up the good work which you are doing in such humilty and often seems so thanklessly.

James Swan said...


My blog is really the result of engaging Roman Catholicism on Reformation history rather than on any deep studies into Lutheranism. that's how it was born. I became interested in Roman Catholic citations of the Reformers, so I began looking them up.

I think its obvious I have a respect for the Lutheran tradition, including some Lutherans that may not look to approvingly on the Reformed tradition. If I do get around to finishing my post in draft, I'll go into this in a bit more detail. I'm far more interested in Rome's version of the Reformation that sparring with Lutherans over doctrine and differences. I'm fond of saying, "choose your battles". I have limited time, so there's only so much I can get into, and that's why even some of those who comment here may not get a response.

As to "elite Lutheran bloggers" I'm not exactly sure who fits in that category. I've had cordial sparse interactions with Rev. McCain over the years. I appreciated that he recently sent me a complimentary copy of Franz Poset's book to review. I assume he checks my blog from time to time. He certainly doesn't like Calvinism. This does not mean though I can't learn a thing or two about either Luther or Lutheranism from him.

That said, if McCain or other Lutherans don't visit here, that's fine as well. I blog because I like to, not because I'm looking for followers or to become a professional blogger. As to your blog, I do find the content interesting, far more than many of the other more established Lutheran blogs, that's why I link it off my sidebar.

As to the in-house debates among the Reformed, that's another area I don't spend a lot of time in. Of course, if the issue is important enough, I'll indeed take a stand. I'm not familiar with Frame's critique of Horton. I've gleaned insight from both men. I tend to also hold to "chew the meat and spit out the bones." Simply because I might not agree down the line with either Horton or Frame, this doesn't mean everything they say is wrong. I know some of my blogging friends have really gone after Horton, and rightly so. On the other hand, Horton has valuable insight into the American culture I live in. He played a significant role in helping me understand the fundamentalist dispensational evangelicalism I grew up with. I've also enjoyed Frame's work on presupositionalism. As I see it, within all the traditions there's infighting. For instance, you need only to spend some time on the Luther Quest discussion board to see how well some Lutheran pastors interact.

Thanks for reading this blog. I certainly respect what you do, and where you do it. Being a blogger in North America is somewhat like being just another act in a bigger circus. Your blog reminds me to pray for the Christians in Asian countries.

Martin Yee said...

Hi James,

Thanks for the kind explanations. Over here in Asia we lack good teachers to explain things properly to us. But cyberspace has helped in some ways.

By the way, the blog is not mine. It was started by my friend Samuel Wang. He asked me to contribute when I am free and I did more than he expected. Samuel Wang has a sharp theological mind. Recently he wrote his ordination paper on Lutheran hermeneutics in the context of Postmodernism which is pretty remarkable. If you give me your email I can email the softcopy to you. I am trying to find a site to host his ordination paper. It is no point hosting it on our blog as there are very few visitors.

Do you have any friend that I can write to to understand Reformed Theology properly? I find that Calvin like Luther is often misrepresented if we read or ask the wrong people or blogs. I wish to get proper Reformed answer to one of Jack Kilcrease's post on his blog

I grew up worshipping idols and visiting temples. That was my past. Now I really wish to learn properly our Christian faith from responsible and good people like you.

Thanks again.

James Swan said...


I can answer basic questions as to Reformed doctrine, time allowing.

My recommendation would be to track down R.C. Sproul's materials, like "What is Reformed Theology"?

For a really helpful theological book, get the revised edition of A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology. That book covers just about everything

Also, I'm very fond of Dr. James R. White ( He has a number of resources on Reformed theology, including video debates. If you're looking to chat with someone in real time, visit Dr. White's chatroom (follow the link on the site). I'm in there often, as is Dr. White, and a number of very informed Reformed people.


Martin Yee said...


Thanks for your guidance. It is greatly appreciated. Also thanks for the side link to our blog on yours.