Monday, May 12, 2014

Sola Scriptura, the Canon, and Roman Catholicism

Dr. White and Dr. Michael Kruger, President and Professor of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.,  discuss Sola Scriptura, the Canon, and Roman Catholicism on the Dividing Line, back on January 7, 2014 on the Dividing Line.  They listened to a call from a Lutheran to the "Catholic Answers"radio program and then discuss.  I embedded this Dividing Line and discuss some basic canon issues over at my other blog.

"Sola Scriptura", the Canon, and Roman Catholicism 

Anyone commenting must demonstrate they have listened to the whole Dividing Line program first. (smile)

And read my other comments at my other blog, called "Apologetics and Agape". (smile)

Friday, May 09, 2014

Luther: It is easier to live as a Protestant, but better to die as a Catholic

I was sent the following quote from a Roman Catholic website:
The quotation, “it is easier to live as a Protestant but better to die as a Catholic,” is ascribed variously to Martin Luther or one of Luther’s wavering followers. One reason it is better to die as a Catholic, for someone not convinced about going straight to heaven, is the ability to take advantage of the special sacraments for the sick and dying, as recommended in the epistle of James (5:14-15), for healing and/or the forgiveness of sins.
There are various versions of this saying: "It is good to live as a Protestant but better to die Catholic." "It is good to live as a Protestant, but it is good to die as a Catholic." "For a man to be happy in this world and the next, he must live a Protestant and die a Catholic." The saying appears to be based on an old proverb: Katholish ist gut sterben."—"It is good to die Catholic."

Older generations of Roman Catholic apologists used Luther's death for polemical purposes. One of Luther's earliest opponents described Satan dragging Luther to hell. Denifle put forth an image of Luther as glutton and drunk, and these abuses (along with a myriad of others) led to his death. Some even contend Luther committed suicide. For instance, here's a 1907 review on anti-Luther historian Heinrich Denfile's book on Luther describing the deaths of Protestants:
Death often reveals the secrets of the human heart. It manifests the hidden feelings of joy or sorrow, peace or despair. Luther always feared death. He envied the very beast because it "fears no king or master, neither death nor bell, nor the devil, nor the wrath of God." His death was very mysterious, but certainly not the death of a saint. Many of his most prominent followers had the same sad experience. Dollinger enumerates a long list of them. A Protestant theologian describes them well when he says: "They became like the heathen, vain, melancholy desperates, and they closed their lives with fear and trembling. Others facing death returned to the Catholic Church." "There were many of them," again says a Protestant author, "who could never console themselves with Protestantism, indeed, some despaired in their sadness, and gladly returned to the Catholic Church." It happens frequently that Protestants become Catholics on their deathbed, but in the hour of death no practical Catholic becomes a Protestant. That fact proves the truth of the old proverb: "Katholish ist gut sterben."—"It is good to die Catholic." How beautiful was the death of the great convert, Frederick Leopold, Count of Stolberg, who having received the last sacraments said to his children: "Children, let us sing to the Lord and be happy." And to his wife he said: "I have come much nearer to the goal." When she answered: "God may spare you to us," he, dying, folded his hands, lifted his eyes toward Heaven and replied: "Oh, could I but say, 'Lord as Thou wilt,' but I would rather die, for death is my gain. Oh, do not pass by, but take my soul with you." In order to die well we must live well. To die the death of a Catholic we must live the life of a Catholic. The best preparation for a happy death and life everlasting, for all those who have a calling, is a religious life.
This reviewer points to the old proverb: "Katholish ist gut sterben."—"It is good to die Catholic." Denifle uses this old proverb in his book on Luther as well.  In an old book from the early 1800's James Doyle, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare, used the saying:
It is not unusual to find the old Protestant who for years has been as regular an attendant at church as the sexton, and in some cases the sexton himself when he has closed his accounts with this world, and has no more to expect from the parson, to send for the priest, in order to settle with him the affairs of that other world to which he is about to depart: it has passed into a proverb with a certain class amongst us, that for a man to be happy in this world and the next, he should live a Protestant and die a Catholic.
Interestingly, the saying has been applied to Melanchthon's mother's death and also Melanchthon's death, not Luther's. This old Roman polemical work states: "The end of life not being to amass riches, I might simply refer the author to Melanchton. He said to his mother, who desired to become a Protestant: 'If it is best to live a Lutheran, it is preferable to die a Catholic.'" Melanchthon's biographer Clyde Manschreck though notes "There is no evidence that Melanchthon tried to persuade his mother to forsake Catholcism nor indeed was there any reason to do so, for Melanchthon considered himself a reformer within the church."  This old Lutheran newspaper from 1897 ascribes the quote to Melanchton;s death:


Melanchthon Did Not Say It: The approaching 400th anniversary of Philip Melanchthon's birthday brings to mind an old falsehood, invented by an enemy of the Reformation, which still occasionally appears in Roman Catholic papers; namely, that in his last moments he said to his mother, who was near his bedside, "It is good to live as a Protestant, but it is good to die as a Catholic." To nail this slander it suffices to mention that Philip died April 29,1560, when his mother had been long at rest, for she died in 1529. To attend him on his deathbed her dost must therefore have risen from the grave. Besides, how could it be better or more agreeable to the flesh, for that is what it meant, to live a Protestant as one of the minority with loss of reputation and honor and often in peril of death, while the Pope's adherents kept, humanly speaking, on the safe side with the great majority; and how again can it be better or more comfortable to die a "'Catholic'' when their most devoted members are taught to believe that they cannot enter into the saints' rest until they shall have served out their time in the fires of purgatory while the Protestant confidently hopes is that, as the Bible teaches, he will go, immediately after his departure, to be with Christ? At that time it was certainly more convenient to live a "Catholic'' and it is always more comfortable to die as a Protestant in the joyous hope of an immediate entrance into everlasting rest.
This spurious sentence appears to be neither from Luther or Calvin. Whomever first said it, I can't think of any plausible reason why either Luther or Melanchthon would say it. What we do have though are these words from Luther's Small Catechism:

The Seventh Petition: But deliver us from evil.

What does this mean?

Answer: We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven. Amen.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Luther: The substance of Christ’s teaching is unimportant?

I was recently sent  link to a website named The Twelve Tribes. The web site doesn't easily give up information as to who exactly they are. They appear to be some sort of quasi-Messianic Jewish group that practices flee the organized church, and  if Wiki is correct, they have quite a sordid past. A good example of the confusion of what this group believes can be found in this pdf they put together. The website has a lot of anti-Luther and anti-reformation propaganda.

In an article entitled, Martin Luther: Did He Pass the Litmus Test? they make the following statement and present a quote from Luther:
Luther firmly believed in and relied upon the Bible as the source of truth. In his study of the epistles of the Apostle Paul he had come across verses which had given him the understanding that only through faith in Christ’s redeeming passion does the Christian receive salvation. Luther’s perception of the gospel was this: Christianity consists entirely in the belief in Christ; the substance of Christ’s teaching is unimportant. Or in his own words, “The Gospel does not teach us what we must do or leave undone, but says: God has done this for you, has made His Son flesh for you, has had Him gone to death for you” (unterrichtung wie sich Christen in Mosen sollen schiicken, vol. XVI, p. 367).
Documentation
Twelve Tribes* documents the quote as  unterrichtung wie sich Christen in Mosen sollen schiicken, vol. XVI, p. 367. This is a reference to Weimarer Ausgabe: WA 16:367. In English, the reference is to How Christians Should Regard Moses, 1525 (LW 35:162). This treatise is one of Luther's expositions on law and gospel. Luther writes against those who would erect following Mosaic law a requirement for salvation.

Context
After comparing two public sermons from heaven (Exodus 19-20; Acts 2), Luther makes the following comment:
Now the first sermon, and doctrine, is the law of God. The second is the gospel. These two sermons are not the same. Therefore we must have a good grasp of the matter in order to know how to differentiate between them. We must know what the law is, and what the gospel is. The law commands and requires us to do certain things. The law is thus directed solely to our behavior and consists in making requirements. For God speaks through the law, saying, “Do this, avoid that, this is what I expect of you.” The gospel, however, does not preach what we are to do or to avoid. It sets up no requirements but reverses the approach of the law, does the very opposite, and says, “This is what God has done for you; he has let his Son be made flesh for you, has let him be put to death for your sake.” So, then, there are two kinds of doctrine and two kinds of works, those of God and those of men. Just as we and God are separated from one another, so also these two doctrines are widely separated from one another. For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God, and not—as in the case of the law—what we are to do and give to God. Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 35: Luther's works, vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (162). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Conclusion
The typical problem with quoting Luther's How a Christian Should regard Moses  to prove Luther was some sort of antinomian is that the document is being taken out of its historical context. Luther directed this treatise towards those like the enthusiasts (Andreas Karlstadt, and the Sacramentarians, etc.). Luther had men in mind who were attempting to introduce Mosaic law into the civil code. This provoked Luther to not only refute such civil notions but to put forth a sharp distinction between law and Gospel  in which the Gospel was expounded upon in relation to the law. Christ has fulfilled the law and has given His people the Gospel.

The Twelve Tribes article goes on to state:
To Luther the teachings of Christ were not important because all that he knew about works was that they were of no benefit or merit in regard to salvation. By this thinking, he reduced the gospel to only the redeeming and atoning sacrifice of Christ on behalf of sinners. It became the gospel of going to heaven. However Christ and His apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore to the apostles the teachings of Christ were very important, because teaching others to keep the commandments of Christ would establish His kingship or the Kingdom of Heaven.
The confusion groups like Twelve Tribes have with Luther is that they typically operate with a gospel that has law mixed into it and then judge that Luther is antinomian. They never take the time to figure out where the law fit into Luther's theology. Even the context of the Luther quote would have helped them, had they actually read, for Luther goes on to state: "For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God, and not—as in the case of the law—what we are to do and give to God." Luther’s theology indeed has a place for the Law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. Most recently an exposition on Luther and the law has been put out by Concordia- Edward Engelbrect's Friends of the Law: Luther's Usoe of the Law for Christian Life. The author demonstrates that Luther adhered to what later theologians described as a "third use of the law."

Luther held that grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved. God judges a man by Christ’s perfect works which are imputed to a sinner, and that sinner is seen as completely righteous. This does not though mean: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Salvation is unto good works. Good works are not unto eventual justification. We are saved in order to perform good works, not by performing them. Luther held that faith is a living faith, and it shows its life by what it does. For Luther, we are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. Luther defines good works as those “works that flow from faith and from the joy of heart that has come to us because we have forgiveness of sins through Christ.” Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.

* It's possible that the Twelve Tribes website took their article on Luther from here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Luther's "Epistle of Straw" comment according to the Twelve Tribes

I was recently sent a link to an exposition on Luther's "epistle of straw" comment put together by a website entitled, The Twelve Tribes. The web site doesn't easily give up information as to who exactly they are. They appear to be some sort of quasi-Messianic Jewish group that practices flee the organized church, and  if Wiki is correct, they have quite a sordid past. A good example of the confusion of what this group believes can be found in this pdf they put together.

The Luther-related link from Twelve Tribes is anti-Reformation propaganda and devoid of the Gospel. Here are a few thoughts as I read through the article:

1) "It is a well-documented fact that Martin Luther is quoted as having said that the book of the New Testament called James was an 'epistle of straw.'"

What they fail to point out is that the comment only appears in the original 1522 Preface To The New Testament. Luther later retracted the comment (along with some others) when he revised his Preface to the New Testament. For anyone to continue to cite Luther’s “epistle of straw” comment against him is to do Luther an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind. For more information, see: Six Point's on Luther's Epistle of Straw.

2) "newfound doctrine" "According to his revelation" etc.

The author of this article is claiming that justification by faith alone was revealed by revelation to Luther, but in essence is claiming that what was revealed to Luther was not correct. Luther is portrayed sort of like Joseph of Smith of Mormonism.  This is akin to how some Roman Catholics have argued against Luther.

3) "What bothered him so much about the words of James? He did not like what James said about faith and works. It did not go along with his newfound doctrine, 'saved by faith alone.'”

This partly correct. Luther held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James. Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution between James and Paul , it is probably the case that the question of James’ apostleship outweighed it. Luther's questioning of James included the book's status in Church history, and it’s internal evidence as to its apostolicity. For Luther, James was the writing of a second century Christian, therefore not an apostle nor an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Did Luther simply arrive at this conclusion without a basis? No. Throughout his career, he maintained a position that echoed other voices from church history. This trumped any type of harmonization between Paul and James. For more information on this see: Luther and the Canon of Scripture and Six Point's on Luther's Epistle of Straw.

4) "Martin Luther taught that salvation is by faith alone, thus anything else that might be expected from a believer would be heresy, or works salvation. Yet, the book of James explains just the opposite concerning salvation. So, of course, rather than doubt the authenticity of his own personal revelation about faith, he doubted the Bible."

This is a caricature based on a false understanding of Luther, James, Paul, and the Gospel itself. Luther held that grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved. Christ’s perfect works are imputed to a sinner, and that sinner is seen as completely righteous. This does not though mean: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Salvation is unto good works. Good works are not unto eventual salvation. We are saved in order to perform good works, not by performing them. Luther held that faith is a living faith, and it shows its life by what it does. For Luther, we are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. Luther defines good works as those “works that flow from faith and from the joy of heart that has come to us because we have forgiveness of sins through Christ.” Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. For more information on this see this link. Particularly note the appendix in which I provide many citations from Luther proving that Luther understood the proper distinction between faith and works.

5) "Martin Luther was one who was famous for his “fiery invective” and coarse language. So, of course, he would not like that part in the Bible where it condemns men who, “With the tongue praise our Lord and Father, and with the same tongue curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness."

If one goes through the 100 or so volumes of Luther's writings, the amount of scatological language is slight in comparison to the whole. For a brief synopsis of this see this link: Martin Luther's Volatile Language.

6) "For I am unable to pray without the same time cursing."

For context, See: Luther: I am unable to pray without at the same time cursing 

7) "So, we see a religion full of gluttony, drunkenness, and even murder in the name of God, by people (including Martin Luther himself)"

There is no historical evidence that Luther was a glutton, drunkard or murderer. See: PBS Presents “Facts” That Luther Advocated Drunkenness and Promiscuity and Luther a Murderer?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Future of Protestantism - Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders, Carl Trueman, and Peter Escalante

I watched the whole thing; but I admit I fell asleep here and there for 5 minutes or so. I think I went back and listened again to the parts I missed.
I am trying to understand Peter Leithart.
He was tried for heresy (it seems, if I understand it rightly, basically, of being accused of aspects of the “Federal Vision” – that infant baptism justifies and regenerates – and aspects of something similar to the New Perspective on Paul that seem to be adding the merit of works for final salvation and not distinquishing between justification and sanctification), within the last couple of years, but was exonerated.
Go to the Aquila Report and search under Peter Leithart and you can find the details.  (There are several other articles there on the heresy trial of P. Leithart.)
But the main prosecutor, Jason Stellman, later became a Roman Catholic. (very ironic)
Leithart seems to say that Roman Catholicism is part of the same body of Christ and the people are brothers and sisters as they were baptized with the same Trinitarian baptism. Leithart seems to be arguing the same kind of thing that Doug Wilson argued in his debate with James White, “Are Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters?” (see at http://www.aomin.org) – Wilson says something like “grab them by their baptism”.
I think Peter Escalante was wrong at 1:28:00 where he says that Francis Turretin said that the RCC was a church, just deformed, but has word and sacrament, etc.
Turretinfan provides evidence to the contrary:
No one mentioned directly the anathemas of the Council of Trent on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
In this video, Leithard emphasizes:
1. Ecumenical meetings, Unity, John 17 – getting together locally to foster unity and discussions with Roman Catholics
2. Seemed to say that Transubstantiation could be an opinion, but not a dogma ( ?? !!!)
3. Liturgy
4. Sacraments
5. Eucharist/Lord’s supper has to be celebrated every week
Carl Trueman said that J. Gresham Machen’s view was that theological liberalism was not Christianity, but that RCC is a distorted form of Christianity; and that the Reformers did not re-baptize anyone who converted from Rome to the Protestant faith.
Trueman was good in emphasizing the Word/Scriptures/preaching/teaching and pastoral implications of helping the average person understand the issues, by not confusing them with too much ecumenism.
They needed to have James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and John Bugay of Triablogue and John McArthur, R. C. Sproul, and William Webster there to make the discussion more lively.