Sunday, April 30, 2006

Questions for Roman Catholics on “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood”

Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ ” (Matthew 26:26, NKJV)

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ ” (Luke 22:19, NKJV)

When Jesus took the bread and said, “This is my body”- was the body of the Lord in two different places, or was it an extension of himself since he was holding himself?

If you were one of the disciples, would you have understood that Christ was holding the substance of his body, while the accidens gave the appearance of bread?

When Jesus gave the disciples the bread to eat, would they have understood it was his body, even though it tasted exactly like bread? Would it be more probable to think that the disciples probably did not take Jesus’ words literally?

Does Christ offer himself in the Lord’s Supper before he is offered on the cross?

In Luke 22 Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” At that moment, is the “cup” also the body/blood of Christ, or is it a figure of symbolic language?

If no, on what basis does one decide that the word “cup” is a metaphor or a symbol, while the wine literally becomes blood? In other words, what interpretive principle decides which is literal and which figurative?

Mark 14:23-24 states that Jesus said the cup was His blood, and they all drank from it. Did Jesus also drink what was actually his own blood? This verse indicates the blood is shed for many- why then would Jesus drink his own blood? Matthew 26:28 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Why would Jesus drink this cup, since he was sinless?

After giving the cup, in Matthew 26:29 Jesus calls the contents of the cup “this fruit of the vine”. Calvin notes, this “plainly show[s] that what he delivered to the disciples to drink was wine; so that in every way the ignorance of the Papists is fully exposed. Well- is it?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Defending O'Hare's Facts About Luther (Continued)

My last blog entry looked at a person willing to defend Patrick O’Hare’s book, The Facts About Luther. Now, readers here have to realize, I’ve been in many discussions with people attempting this- mostly when dialoging with the folks at Catholic Answers. Needless to say, the conversations break down quickly- I’m viewed as a Luther-loving blind disciple who can’t see Luther’s faults rather than a person who has read The Facts About Luther carefully, and pointed out the book’s flawed nature. Generally, I get the feeling Catholics disregard my work on this book rather than critiquing (or even reading) my work on this book. The reason: I think our convictions are probably more the result of our emotional attachments rather than the result of looking carefully at another’s perspective. We’re probably all guilty of this to some extent.

I was pleasantly surprised by the person I recently dialoged with on this issue. Not surprised in a condescending “Ha! I Win!” Rather, I felt a peacefulness and resolution to the discussion- and I gained an incredible amount of respect for this guy. He responded to me (in part) as follows:

I just wanted to let you know that I have re-read Fr O’Hare’s book and gone through your work slowly and carefully. After a lot of contemplation, I must admit that I was wrong and you were right. It seems that many of O'Hare’s primary source quotations are obscure, hard to find, and poorly translated. In conjunction with O'Hare's own speculations regarding the state of Luther's heart, I agree with you that this book cannot be relied upon for an accurate description of the man."


Can we be expected to research the primary source quotes in every book we read? Well, unless you are a professor’s research assistant it's unlikely that this will be accomplished. Especially when you are married with children and time is precious. O'Hare's book flew under my radar due to it's mis-citation of primary sources. I could deal with his aggression toward Luther but I cannot deal with inaccurate quoting.

After the zeal is quelled and more reading has been completed... I must say "thank you" for alerting me to this issue. O'Hare's book it officially dropped from my children's future reading lists.”

This type of response is really all I’m looking for with my work on The Facts About Luther. I’m not asking Roman Catholics to embrace the Reformation and renounce the Papacy when I write on O’Hare’s book. I’m simply appealing to people who have a zeal for accuracy and truth, whatever their theological persuasion, to apply the standard of accuracy and truth to O’Hare’s book.

I greatly appreciated this man re-reading Father O'Hare's book and re-evaluation. I myself have had to do this with books as well. Recently I found a glaring Luther misquote in the famous Protestant book, The Kingdom of the Cults by the late Walter Martin (and re-edited under the supervision of Hank Hanegraff). It was Martin’s error- but yet in the re-editing of the book, Hanegraff missed it as well (For those interested, the misquote is on page 556 in the 1997 edition).

There are a number of excellent Catholic authors who have written about Luther and even some of those who have non-ecumenical concerns have some outstanding documentation- I'm thinking primarily of Hartmann Grisar- an author who's bias I don't like, but whose documentation and "facts" are amazing. His biography of Luther is 6 long volumes- and when I research Luther on particular points I usually consult his work. His analysis of the facts I find flawed- but at least the facts are presented with some accuracy.

It is simply impossible to check every fact in every book we read. The one thing I’ve found with Luther though, is he is prone to be misquoted. It was discussion boards like CARM and interactions with various Catholics that prompted me to do further study on Luther.

Many books when republished are re-edited to reflect proper documentation. TAN Publishers should have done this with O'Hare's book- it would have given the book a little more credibility. The reason they didn't- is probably because it is a difficult undertaking, and would require much time and money. But this should be no excuse- I don’t know what they’re motivations were in re-publishing the book, but I speculate that either they were simply ignorant to the wealth of research on Luther and the inadequacies of O’Hare’s book, or either they knew that O’Hare’s book fed zealous Catholics with emotional propaganda.

Imagine if you will that you had the ability to write as much as Luther did (he wrote probably over 60,000 pages)- and to top it off- whatever you said on the cuff was written down by one of your fans. Imagine also there were drastic paradigm shifts going on your life, as well as a world that faced countless wars and plagues. I would be in big trouble if it were me: those wishing to understand my life would be very confused in some instances. I’m sure what I said on this or that issue on particular points in my life would seem outrageous.

Luther's written corpus is a maze. It's easy to think one has "arrived" at understanding him- only to find that one is stuck in the maze in a dead end. I'm very fond of this quote by the Roman Catholic historian Joseph Lortz:

"The problems of an adequate treatment of Luther are obvious from several points of view. First, Luther is an intellectual giant, or, to use a word from Paul Althaus, an "ocean." The danger of drowning in him, of not being able to come to grips with him satisfactorily, arises from his tremendous output, but no less from his own original style... It sounds banal, but cannot be left unsaid: Luther belongs in the first rank of men with extraordinary intellectual creativity. He is in the full sense a genius, a man of massive power in things religious and a giant as well in theological interpretation.”

On the other hand, I’m not so zealous to think that Luther was perfect. He was a sinner, just like me. He had faults. He made mistakes. He held views I do not agree with. He sinned. This is probably one of the reasons I enjoy his writings though- I’ve always been fascinated by the "artist"- the artist is usually a paradox of greatness and weakness. The artist fly’s to heights of creativity, while at the same time struggling with various issues and weakness.

O'Hare's book misses the mark- and presents a Luther it wants to see, and molds the "facts" around that image. But, Protestant writers do this as well. I don't claim to be a definitive source of Reformation information- but I do desire to be as "Berean" as possible, and check facts as best I can. Not being Lutheran, I think I’m able to claim somewhat of an unbiased perspective. It’s not important for me to defend all of Luther’s particular beliefs. I simply want to understand what they were, not what I want them to be.

There is only one perfect man- Jesus Christ- and there is only one perfect book- the Bible. Everything else is just the writings of a bunch of beggars. We are beggars all- that is true.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Defending O'Hare's Facts About Luther

Most of you reading this blog are familiar with my utter disregard for the book The Facts About Luther by Father Patrick O’Hare. I’ve written about this book often because Roman Catholic laymen repeatedly present it as the definitive biographical source for the life and work of Martin Luther. The following is typical of Roman Catholic sentiment:

For anyone who would like to read a sobering, eye-opening, record-straightening analysis of the life, the thought, and the work of Luther... I suggest a careful read of The Facts about Luther by Patrick O'Hare (published by TAN). This 370 page book enables a clear distinction between the two Luthers - the Luther of panegyric, of romance, and fiction, and the Luther of history and fact. The former appears in the pulpit, in the Sunday school, and in partisan biographies; the latter may be discovered from a careful study of his writings and those of his contemporaries, but above all from his private letters. It's a must read. I realize it's mentioned in this article, however, after having read the entire book and the objections brought against it... I would thoroughly recommend that people read the entire book to gain the full weight of it's primary source arguments.”

This paragraph comes from a Roman Catholic as a response to the reading of my paper *Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture* . After being made aware of my review of O’Hare’s book found in my article *The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part One)* this person went on to say,

There are always going to be non-Catholic articles that criticize Catholic material. Taking isolated quotes from a book that is almost 400 pages long rarely provides the full picture. One of the reasons I liked The Facts About Luther was precicely [sic] due to it's semi-continuous use of primary source documents -- a boat load of which come from Luther and his contemporaries. It was extremely interesting to see Luther accurately explaining Catholic doctrine as a Augustinian monk and then to see him completely misrepresent the same doctrines after his break from the Church. Anyway, I'd encourage people here to look a little deeper at O'Hare's work than a Protestant journal article is willing to go. Only when one has read this piece cover to cover can a proper decision regarding his credibility [sic] be established.”

So, I’ve “taken isolated quotes” from the book and distorted Father O’Hare’s magnum opus! I believe my assessment of the book to be quite accurate: Father O’Hare presents a Luther who is not only mad, but morally depraved and corrupt. He asserts that Luther in the Wartburg was in close touch with Satan. Luther lived indecently, decried celibacy and virginity, sanctioned adultery, dishonored marriage, authorized prostitution and polygamy, and was a drunkard and frequenter of taverns who preached his theology in the fumes of alcohol in the midst of his fellow revolutionaries. He attributes to Luther a fickle and cunning character, an inordinate impudence, an unbridled presumption, a titanic pride, a despotic nature, and a spirit of blasphemy; Luther was a blasphemer, a libertine, a revolutionary, a hater of religious vows, a disgrace to the religious calling, an enemy of domestic felicity, the father of divorce, the advocate of polygamy, and the propagator of immorality and open licentiousness. (James Atkinson, Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic, 4).

All of these thoughts from Father O’Hare are easy enough to track down from the book. The irony of the charges against my assessment of The Facts About Luther, that I’ve taken “isolated quotes” and distorted O’Hare’s understanding of Luther, is the same charge I would make against Father O’Hare. O’Hare has taken isolated quotes from Luther, often out of context, poorly documented, and presented a gross distortion of Luther’s life. This Catholic then went on to say-

Actually I think Swan is quite even-handed in much of what he says. However, the article is quite short. There is a veritable mountain of info on this subject and thus a lot more can be flushed out. I would also say the same regarding O'Hare's work which was lampooned in no uncertain terms.”

Well, I appreciate the compliment that my review was “even-handed”- but, as usual, what is given in one had is taken away by the other. Though I was “even-handed” I also “lampooned” Father O’Hare. This puzzles me. How could I be even handed if I’m lampooning a work? Surely, if I was making fun of O’Hare’s book I wasn’t being even-handed. I do admit, now I often lampoon O’Hare’s book- I consider it a slanderous, poorly documented, hit piece against Luther with no redeemable value. When I had originally reviewed O’Hare’s book, I wasn’t as emotionally fed up with it. But, as the years go by and Roman Catholics still refer to it as an actual work of historical value, I can’t help but be sadly annoyed.

This Catholic then went on to say:

I'm really an advocate of reading any book (Protestant or Catholic) before allowing ones opinion to be formed by the articals [sic] produced by detractors or advocates. It's only fair and that's the point I was trying to make. I always tend to gravitate to historical works that base their assumptions on primary source documentation (which O'Hare does in abundance). That's why I gave it a favourable [sic] thumbs up. However, I would like to add something else. O'Hare is writing way before the PC culture which has tamed our contemporary authors use of the English language. His language is VERY direct and he does use a lot of barbed comments regarding Luther. His opinion of the man is definitely not hidden behind a veil of ecumenical sensitivity. Despite this, however, he does not go blundering off on tangents and, in fact, has a lazer[sic]-like precision with regard to his line of argumentation. This, plus his avalanche[sic] of primary source documentation make it an interesting read. Not at all the wretched waste of time its been colored as.”

Frankly, for those interested in doing accurate, serious Reformation history, I suggest no one reads Patrick O’Hare’s Facts About Luther- unless of course one is researching Catholic misinterpretation and vilification of Luther- then, by all means, read O’Hare’s book. I know of no serious scholar on Reformation history that takes O”Hare’s book seriously as “history.” I am familiar though with numerous historians that refer to O’Hare’s book as a good example of slanted vilification.

I doubt many Protestants have read O’Hare’s book- but on the other hand, I’m probably not wrong in speculating that this Roman Catholic hasn’t actually read Luther (ad fontes). If he actually has read Luther, I’d be interested in a list of what specific works he’s read. By and large, Catholic laymen do not read Luther’s actual writings-, which is a shame. Catholics should at least read Luther before bashing Luther. Reading a biography of out-of-context quotes is not the same thing as reading Luther. One doesn’t even have to spend money- many of Luther’s writings are available on line for free. I always suggest Catholics begin with Luther’s sermons.

I currently have 3 copies of The Facts About Luther, including a copy from 1916. I’ve unfortunately read the book more than once, and I’ve documented numerous errors by Father O’Hare. A few years ago I challenged a Catholic apologist on these very issue on his reliance on O’Hare’s Facts About Luther for Luther quotes. he did the right thing and deleted O’Hare’s material from his web site. The reason? O’Hare I think O’Hare is prone to mis-citation, and I challenged him on O’Hare’s lack of citation. In other words, one cannot check the context of O’Hare’s Luther quotes in many (or most) instances. When I have checked O’Hare’s Luther quotes, he blunders often. His hatred for Luther clouded his ability to read Luther accurately.

I then offered this challenge to this Roman Catholic supporter of O’Hare’s Facts About Luther:

If you’d like to respond to my treatment of O’Hare in the link offered (Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture)- I would be more than happy to interact with you. Please, by all means, show me where I mishandled O’Hare’s book in this link. You will be the first to attempt to do so. Research Luther's actual writings and compare them to O'Hare's citation of them. I look forward to your work on this.

You can also find some of my work on O’Hare in these links:

*The Facts About Luther (Part One)* .

*The Facts About Luther (Part Two)* A brief response to a Catholic apologist who felt I did not understand one of Father O'Hare's arguments against Luther, nor did I treat Father O'Hare fairly.

*Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part One)* A look at four Luther quotes from O'Hare used by Roman Catholics to prove Luther hatred God's Law. The quotes are given contexts and explanations to prove misuse by Roman Catholics.

*Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part Two)* A look at Luther's understand of the Law and its place in the Christian life as compared to O'Hare's understanding of the same.

*Did Luther Say: Be A Sinner And Sin Boldly?* This paper gives a close look at Luther’s charge to “sin boldly.” The words “sin boldly” are taken out of context by Roman Catholics in order to show that Luther hated good works. Contrarily, it is shown that Luther believed a living faith produces good works. In this link, I take a look at O'Hare's treatment of the "sin boldly" quote.

After being sent on numerous wild goose chases in dialogs with Roman Catholics (you know, those discussion in which an outrageous context-less Luther quote is given by a zealous Roman Catholic), I’ve actually begun keeping an index of O’Hare Luther quotes:

*O'Hare's Facts About Luther: Master Index of Outrageous Quotes * This link is a list of quotes I've either found in cyber-space or my own study of The Facts About Luther. It's one thing to read Luther and critique him- this is perfectly acceptable- and I challenge all to do this. It is quite another thing to read a book that slanders Luther, and then use out of context quotes to prove how awful he was- without ever actually reading a page from Luther's actual writings.

You want to discuss O'Hare's book? Here I am. I hope you enjoy looking up quotes in primary sources- because this is the type of discussion you're getting yourself into. Be prepared to do ad fontes research. Be prepared to spend a lot of time looking up quotes when you don't have a reference. Sometimes tracking down one of O'Hare's quotes can take hours.

The response offered me was a cut and paste section from a Catholic apologetics website. I had actually forgotten this review of my use of Patrick O’Hare’s citations on Luther and the canon:

I’m also quite familiar with you and your discussions with [a Roman Catholic apologist]. He himself provides his reason for deleting certain O’Hare quotes from his site:

But back to James Swan. In his Appendix A he is highly critical of Patrick O'Hare and his book, The Facts About Martin Luther, which, he thinks, "may be the single worst treatment of Luther in print today" (I would love to hear Mr. Swan's opinion as to the worst book about the Catholic Church in print today). This work (like many Catholic treatments of a hundred years or so ago) is very intemperate and lacking in charity towards Luther, and I agree that (for this reason) it is not a very good or objective source (I used to cite it when O'Hare documented his claims from Luther's own words, but no longer do at all -- Mr. Swan commends me for this in the section under consideration, and I thank him for that).

Swan cites him describing Luther as "a victim of fleshly lust and one in constant contact with Satan." I join him in wholeheartedly condemning this sort of slanderous garbage (even though Mr. Swan falsely charges me in his footnote 49: "[The Roman Catholic apologist] creates a picture of a very morally bankrupt Luther") . It never formed any part of my own papers about Luther, even when I did occasionally cite Patrick O'Hare.

On the other hand, several of the main points made in the book (however poorly or polemically expressed) are essentially true. For example, I agree with him when he states about Luther:

He feels abundantly competent, by his own interior and spiritual instinct, to pronounce dogmatically which books in the canon of Scripture are inspired and which are not . . . He . . . believes he has the faculty of judging the Bible . . . (pp. 202-204)

This is clearly true, for instance, in Luther's remarks against Revelation in 1522, that he could "nohow detect that the Holy Spirit produced it." This is referring to inspiration. If the Holy Spirit had no part in "producing" a book, it could not be inspired. Period. And if it were not inspired, it could neither be canonical nor biblical at all (let alone inerrant and infallible). So that particular statement of O'Hare's is accurate and its contents provide a valuable and needed criticism. Luther was judging (parts of) the Bible, and that is ludicrous and offensive enough to anyone who loves the Bible."

I’ve read the book and believe that others who feel they should post here no-holds-bared criticisms of O’Hare SHOULD ALSO HAVE READ THE BOOK! Doing so without being willing to admit an actual reading of the material is a demonstration of the worst sort of partisan apologetics. When people get caught doing this it’s warranted to shine a light on this type of behavior (especially with regard to people who post their anti-catholic stuff all over these forums). That was my point. Do I think O’Hare’s book has something to offer… as [a Roman Catholic apologist] still believes… YES. I’ve already alluded to the non-PC tone of O’Hare and I grant the same response as [the Roman Catholic apologist] in regard to this type of thing… it tends to create more heat than light. Was I providing dissertations on O’Hare? Nowhere. Have I at least read Luther and O’Hare? Yes. And given that you have discussed much of this extensive subject with [a Roman Catholic apologist] (who is more qualified than I)… well… rather than pointing out what he has already said to you, I’ll provide our listening audience with the appropriate link where [a Roman Catholic apologist] provides replies to your work:

Luther's Outrageous Assertions About Certain Biblical Books (Reply to James Swan's Paper on Luther & the Canon).

At least you’ve done your readings… and for that I commend you. It’s a much needed example for people on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant dialogue.”

If I wanted to discuss this question with a roman Catholic apologist , then I would be doing so with him on his blog or my blog. With the words cited above, the book is “very intemperate and lacking in charity towards Luther, and I agree that (for this reason) it is not a very good or objective source.” I don’t know how this helps the case at all in establishing Father O’Hare’s credibility, when it's admitted the book is not a “very good or objective source.” If this catholic (and apologist) really believe O’Hare’s book is credible though lacking in charity, they’re both mistaken- and the links I’ve posted prove this. Pick a page and some quotes. Let’s look at the “facts”. That would mean one would have to be willing to do research on the book.

It is too vague to say, “several of the main points made in the book (however poorly or polemically expressed) are essentially true.” As I’ve studied O’Hare’s book, I am repeatedly shocked with how poorly the “facts” are presented. The example given on Luther’s early attitude toward Revelation is a good example. If O’Hare was so familiar with the “facts” why did he leave the following out?

Luther completely rewrote the preface to Revelation, with a tone that takes the book as Scripture. Even in the earlier 1522 version, Luther explains that his opinion is not to be binding: “About this book of the Revelation of John, I leave everyone free to hold his own opinions. I would not have anyone bound to my opinion or judgment,” and also, “let everyone think of it as his own spirit leads him.” Similar to the other antilegomena Luther says, “Many of the fathers also rejected this book [Revelation] a long time ago…” The editors of Luther’s Works add: “The canonicity of Revelation was disputed by Marcion, Caius of Rome, Dionysius of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, and the Synod of Laodicea in A.D. 360, though it was accepted by others as Eusebius reports…. Erasmus had noted in connection with chapter 4 that the Greeks regarded the book as apocryphal.”

My paradigm suggests understanding Luther’s view of the canon demands approaching him from two perspectives:

1. Luther’s perspective on the canon as a sixteenth century Biblical theologian
2. Luther’s personal criterion of canonicity expressed in his theology

O’Hare misses both, but rather paints a picture of Luther that is grossly distorted- leaving out all of the essential facts- including the main fact of his own Roman Catholic dogma: The issue of the canon was not settled (for Roman Catholics) until Trent. The New Catholic Encyclopedia has honestly pointed out,

According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.”

If the New Catholic Encyclopedia is correct, Luther had every right within the Roman Catholic system to engage in Biblical criticism and debate over the extent of the Canon. His was not a radical higher criticism. The books he questioned were books that had been questioned by previous generations. He was not so extreme as to engage in Marcion-like canon-destruction. Luther translated the entirety of Bible, and published it.

Of course, this catholic didn’t actually engage me in a line-by-line discussion of The Facts About Luther. I offered this challenge to him: Go ahead and quote a Roman Catholic apologist to me if you wish. If you think O’Hare’s book is credible, why is it that when I go and look up the “facts” (i.e. the Luther quotes), I find them to be cited out of context or distorted?

In regard to whether or not someone should read O’Hare before discussing him, I would point out that I’m familiar enough with Jack Chick’s reputation so as to not waste my time with his writing against the Roman Catholic Church. I admit, reading a text before commenting on it is good etiquette. On the other hand, one shouldn’t have to waste their time with notorious books of nonsense. This is the classification of Father O’Hare’s book. Given the “fact” that even a Roman Catholic apologist says its not an objective source- why in the world would you want people to read it? This logic escapes me. If I wanted people to learn about competition in sports, I would not direct them to pro-wrestling.

Monday, April 24, 2006

re: LUTHER- What every *honest* RC apologist should know...

Ok- I’m waiting for the dust to settle on this one, and then I’ll probably jump in:

re:LUTHER - What every *honest* RC apologist should know...

I’ve found that if I immediately jump into a discussion like this, the conversation stops quickly.

Many thanks to my friend hilasterion for his comments throughout the thread.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Berating Calvinism: One Book, One Disgruntled Charismatic

Have you ever seen the movie “Meet The Parents”? Remember how tortuous it was to watch the character played by Ben Stiller? In every scene, something goes wrong, to the point that at times you wonder if you can actually watch the movie. Well, that’s similar to the feeling I got reading Dave Hunt’s chapters in the book, Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views (Oregon: Multnomah Press, 2004). With each turn of the page, Dave Hunt made one bad argument after another.

Dave Hunt’s chapters are difficult to read. He shows himself totally at a loss to understand the view he’s trying to defeat. Was it a fair debate? Not really. Hunt really is not qualified to debate on this subject. His only qualification is his popularity as an author. In regard to presenting a coherent opposing view, many others could’ve probably done much better. On the other hand, I’m thankful James White took the time to respond to Dave Hunt. This book serves as an excellent tool to point out the muddled thinking masquerading as Biblical truth put forth by many non-Reformed writers.

Recently a devoted charismatic-pro-word-of-faith gentleman named Victoryword read this book and asked for opinions about it. Mr. Victoryword is no fan of Dave Hunt (to Hunt’s credit, he’ll have nothing to do with the ‘word of faith’ movement). Victoryword offered this assessment of the book. First he quotes James White saying:

This chapter has provided us with one of the clearest examples of tradition overthrowing the text of Scripture. Mr. Hunt believes firmly in libertarian free will. He refuses to accept the fact that there is a general call of God that goes out to all men (we preach the gospel to all men, not knowing who the elect are, for we have not been given that ability) and a specific call that results, unfailingly, in justification and glorification (Romans 8:30).”

With his tradition in place, Hunt falls upon the text of John 6:44 ... (p. 89)

Then Victoryword offers his analysis:

"[James White] accuses Hunt of using "tradition" to overthrow a text (libertarian free will) but then he refutes Hunt's so-called tradition by his own brand of tradition (general call of God) On page 90 he cites Spurgeon and Hodge (the two Charles) to undergird his beliefs."

This is a classic example of selective citation. Victoryword would have you believe that White simply accuses Hunt of using tradition rather than exegesis, and then uses a tradition of the “general call” and an appeal to the non-biblical authors Spurgeon and Hodge as his defense. Such of course, is not the case. Pages 63-73 of the book are White’s scriptural presentation of Man’s inability and deadness in sin. Victoryword would have to go through these pages and pull out the “tradition” that dictates the interpretation of White in the many verses used. He did not do this, nor do I think he would be able to do so in a coherent Biblical way.

Primarily, the selected text above is White’s response to Hunt’s interpretation of John 6. Hunt had said, “The Father’s drawing cannot contradict the scores of verses that call all to repent and come to Him and testify that this is possible” (page 87-88). White had previously pointed out the Greek in John 6:44 reads, oudeis dunatai elthein: ‘There is no one able to come’ to God. What would cause Dave Hunt to reject these explicit Greek words? Tradition. These words cannot mean what they say because Hunt’s tradition says they can’t.

Victoryword left out this statement from White on page 89: "Why is the clear testimony of Scripture, as we have presented it, so offensive to man's religions? Spurgeon was correct:.....[cut]...We Conclude with the words of Charles Hodge...." Note the words, "as we have presented it". Hence, the refutation that White offers is not a tradition of "Spurgeon or Hodge," but rather the exegesis and argumentation previously offered about the deadness of man in sin. White’s use of Hodge and Spurgeon is to answer the question why some, holding to the tradition of Dave Hunt, find Reformed theology offensive.

As to these charges, which I made in a shorter form, Victoryword responded:

"First, I did not want to spend a lot of time typing. I don't have OCR software so I cannot scan the pages, and if I did then the posts become too long and most people whose internet forum attention span is like mine stops reading at a certain point. I said all of this to say that I intentionally left nothing out. My only point is that White calls Hunt's belief in "free-will" a "tradition" but then he refers to the Calvinist phrase, "general call" which is not used outside of Calvinist circles, thus his own appeal to tradition. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. And it is easy for me to show that the phrase "general call" is a tradition - you won't find the phrase used any where in Scripture."

So, the thrust of Victoryword’s comments now shifts to the term “general call.” To make this term a “tradition", Victoryword must look up the material White presents and then see if the theological term is merely being used as an unbiblical tradition or as a description of a biblical concept. Another error in his thinking is that a word must be found in the Bible to make it Biblical. But, concepts are also found in the Bible- these are noted by the use of theological terms.

His next response:

You have not proven that I caricatured White. That is your own misperception. I will not respond to this charge any more so if you want to continue to make the accusation, that's your business. I won't be reading it.

A "general call" cannot be proven by the Bible. God's will is for everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Eze. 18:32; 1 John 2:2; John 3:16; and many more), so God does not put out a general call so that only those preselected will respond. It is illogical, stupid, does not make any sense and cannot be supported by clear passages of Scripture, thus the reason that White has to misquote Scripture and cite he two Charleses to undergird his point.

You are right. Free-will is not found in the Bible, yet a lot of Calvinists ask, "show me where the phrase 'free-will' is found in the Bible." You guys want your cake and eat it too.You may have the last word. Can't promise to read it but I am sure that someone will. Take care.”

The interested reader can pick up the book and determine who is reading it accurately. Victoryword’s denial of my assertions against his mis-handling of the text is not the same thing as a refutation of my assertions of his mis-handling of the text.

His misreading of White and Debating Calvinism aside, I wonder if he even understands the term “general call”. The paradigm simply asserts that the invitation to salvation is indiscriminate. The Bible exhorts all men to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). God commands all people to repent (Acts 17:30). In 1 Corinthians 5:20, Paul tells us that Christians are Christ’s ambassadors, and that through our proclamation of the gospel, the call to repentance and belief is made. God calls men to faith by the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 10:13-15).

The question Victoryword should spend time considering is that asked by Paul in Romans 10: “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” The call to repentance and faith must be given. Those who have not heard the gospel cannot believe, because they have not heard it: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Paul then notes the Jewish people have no excuse, because the entire testimony of the Old Testament was a proclamation of the Gospel. Thus, the term “general call” is nothing other than the proclamation of the gospel that goes out into the world.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Catholic, But Not Roman Catholic

I'm sure most of the people stopping by this blog are familiar with the work of Jason Engwer from Ntrmin. Recently I was looking through some files on my computer and came across Jason's series, Catholic, But Not Roman Catholic. This is an excellent compilation of quotes from the patristic writers showing that they understood the faith once delivered to all the saints quite differently than modern Roman Catholics.

Ntrmin provides a downloadable version of this series:

Searchable Download Version!

If you spend a lot of time studying church history, and if you spend time dialoging with Roman Catholics, I strongly suggest downloading this series. The download version is laid out nicely with a searchable index on many topics- If you're a bit of chicken on downloading documents- you can also view the material as web pages:

How to Read the Series
Patristic Index
May-June 02 Archive
July-Sept 02 Archive
Oct-Dec 02 Archive
Jan-Mar 03 Archive
Apr-May 03 Archive
Concluding Thoughts from Jason Engwer

Friday, April 21, 2006

John Calvin's View of the Lord's Supper

And now, John Calvin's view of the Lord's Supper- a position that wasn't always well received by later Reformed theologians. Hodge called it “Peculiar”. Dabney called it “strange, incomprehensible, and impossible.” William Cunningham called it, “unintelligible invention.”

Calvin’s position is probably closer to Luther’s, but he incorporates the concerns of Zwingli as well.

Calvin agreed with Zwingli: the doctrine of Christ’s ascension must be very central in our understanding of the Eucharist. Therefore he disagreed with Luther’s ubiquity & communicatio iddiomatum. (Zwingli stressed the Ascension of Christ: He is risen, ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ said he was going to depart, therefore transubstantiation is idolatrous and a violation of the apostles creed).

Calvin agreed with Zwingli: A central place must be given to faith as the reception of blessing in the Lord's Supper. Some of the later Lutheran theologians were not stressing faith enough as the avenue of blessing in the reception of the Supper.

Calvin agreed with Luther: The Lord’s Supper must primarily be seen as a gift that God gives to his people. The Supper is not primarily something we do, but is primarily something God does for us in the gift of his Son.

Calvin agreed with Luther: There must be a stress of the vital importance and centrality of the body of Christ in our redemption. Our salvation is accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ’s body. We are united to Christ, including his body and blood by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Calvin held that Christ is the only food for our souls. We are nourished spiritually by Christ just as our bodies are nourished by the visible signs of the bread and wine. While we cannot truly grasp the mystical, unseen yet real union of Christ with believers, God demonstrates it in the visible terms of the believer's participation in the Lord's Supper. Clearly Calvin believed that the Lord's Supper was more than just a memorial or an empty sign, but would not agree with Luther regarding the physical presence of Christ around the elements.

Calvin sees the Lord’s Supper as “a visible word.”(an Augustinian phrase). What God says in the preached word, he shows in the visible word of the sacrament. This is strongly similar to Luther's understanding of the "word of God".

The visible word assures us that Christ is ever with us, forgiving us, and encouraging us in growth. The elements (bread and wine) speak of our spiritual nurture in Christ- our spiritual development in him. It is a nourishing sacrament- it nourishes us with Christ. The nourishment is Christ himself. Bread and wine represent the invisible food that we receive from the flesh and blood of Christ. Christ is the only food of our soul.

We need to use the sacrament to be strengthened. Just as we receive the bread and the wine, so, by faith we receive the body and blood of Christ to the nourishment and strengthening of our body.

Calvin holds that when we receive the bread and wine by faith, we receive the body and blood “with” the bread and the wine. Calvin not going as far to say that the body is always “in” the bread and the wine (this is where Calvin is not going with Luther). He goes along with Luther though in holding that what we need is Christ and his flesh and blood which are for our salvation. God has promised Christ to us in the visible word, just as he has promised Christ to us in the spoken word. Just as the spoken word offers Christ to us (if we receive him by faith), so the visible word offers Christ to us (if we receive him by faith). Luther would say God does more than just offer Christ in the Lord’s Supper, he actually gives Christ in it. Calvin, in effect, is willing to get close to Luther’s point.

A question arises: If Calvin says that Christ is truly offered and given in the supper, but that Christ is not “in, with, and under” the bread, how is Christ given? If Calvin wants to stress the importance of the ascension, how is it possible that Christ who is in heaven at the right hand of God can be the Christ that we will meet actually in the sacrament?

Calvin would answer: There is a great mystery here. This mystery of Christ’s secret union with the devout is by nature incomprehensible. But we can say, Christ descends to us both by the outward symbol and by his Spirit that he may truly quicken our souls by the substance of his flesh and his blood; he who does not perceive that many miracles are subsumed in these few words is more than stupid.

But what is the miracle?

Calvin would answer: Somehow in the mystery of the Lord’s Supper by the power of the Spirit, Christ does not come down from Heaven but we are taken up to heaven, and there we commune with our ascended Lord himself.

Here is a helpful explanation from Calvin of his position from the Institutes, IV.17.1, (hopefully simplified with my commentary):

God as our loving parent, provides the spiritual food of the Lord’s Supper for our nourishment:

"After God has once received us into his family, it is not that he may regard us in the light of servants, but of sons, performing the part of a kind and anxious parent, and providing for our maintenance during the whole course of our lives. And, not contented with this, he has been pleased by a pledge to assure us of his continued liberality. To this end, he has given another sacrament to his Church by the hand of his only begotten Son, viz., a spiritual feast, at which Christ testifies that he himself is living bread, (John 6: 51,) on which our souls feed, for a true and blessed immortality. "

The bread and wine are “invisible food”, supplied to the Christian to “sustain and preserve” us in the life we have spiritually been born in to by his word:

"First, then, the signs are bread and wine, which represent the invisible food which we receive from the body and blood of Christ. For as God, regenerating us in baptism, engrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption, so we have said that he performs the office of a provident parent, in continually supplying the food by which he may sustain and preserve us in the life to which he has begotten us by his word."

Christ is our only food. It is only by “partaking of him” that we gather strength to live this life:

"Moreover, Christ is the only food of our soul, and, therefore, our heavenly Father invites us to him, that, refreshed by communion with him, we may ever and anon gather new vigour until we reach the heavenly immortality."

Our union with Christ is beyond our ability to fully understand. God explains it to us with the visible elements in terms we can understand:

"But as this mystery of the secret union of Christ with believers is incomprehensible by nature, he exhibits its figure and image in visible signs adapted to our capacity, nay, by giving, as it were, earnests and badges, he makes it as certain to us as if it were seen by the eye; the familiarity of the similitude giving it access to minds however dull, and showing that souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine."

The Lord’s Supper was given to assure us of Christ’s atonement for us, and for us to “feel” assured:

"We now therefore, understand the end which this mystical benediction has in view, viz., to assure us that the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us, so that we may now eat it, and, eating, feel within ourselves the efficacy of that one sacrifice, - that his blood was once shed for us so as to be our perpetual drink."

If we take the Supper by faith in Christ and faith in his work of redemption, it will be nourishing to us:

"This is the force of the promise which is added, "Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you," (Matth. 26: 26) The body which was once offered for our salvation we are enjoined to take and eat, that, while we see ourselves made partakers of it, we may safely conclude that the virtue of that death will be efficacious in us. "

When we take the Lord’s Supper, it is Christ’s way of renewing us as those in a covenant relationship with him, it’s his way of confirming it to us:

"Hence he terms the cup the covenant in his blood. For the covenant which he once sanctioned by his blood he in a manner renews, or rather continues, in so far as regards the confirmation of our faith, as often as he stretches forth his sacred blood as drink to us."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Understanding Luther, Zwingli and Calvin on the Lord’s Supper (Part 3)

"Zwingli, with tears in his eyes, said he would rather be on friendly terms with Luther and Melanchthon than with any other two men."


The written debate between Luther and Zwingli led to the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, where Luther and Zwingli met face to face. Luther and Zwingli agreed on 14 articles of doctrine. They disagreed on point 15: The Lord’s Supper.

The fifteenth points reads:

"Although we are not at this time agreed, as to whether the true Body and Blood of Christ are bodily present in the bread and wine, nevertheless the one party should show to the other Christian love, so far as conscience can permit, and both should fervently pray God almighty, that, by His Spirit, He would confirm us in the true understanding."

Source: Clyde Manschreck, Melanchthon: The quiet Reformer (New York: Abingdon Press, MCMLVIII), 171.

Not many Lutherans will tell you about the 14 points Luther and Zwingli agreed on! Even in that 15th article, there was some agreement:

-The mass was not a sacrifice

-Both Luther and Zwingli rejected transubstantiation

-Both Luther and Zwingli held the bread and wine should be given to communicants

-Both Luther and Zwingli agreed in theory in a sacrament of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, and that every Christian needed to partake spiritually of the body and blood of Christ.

In the last point, Zwingli seems to be acquiescing to Luther. He does seem to recognize there is something given by God in the Lord’s Supper, but as the discussion unfolded, harmony between the two Reformers did not come.

There was disagreement: Is there a bodily presence of Christ? Luther tried one last time for harmony with Zwingli: “Jesus is present in his body essentially and substantively, but not qualitatively, quantitatively, or locally.” Luther in this statement is appealing back to his medieval training. He is saying, “Let’s say Christ is really present in his body in the bread, but let’s not get that presence there in such a way that it could conceivably be an object of worship.” Zwingli said no. The formulation is still too close to the Roman notion of transubstantiation.

Luther and Zwingli, though agreeing on majority of points of doctrine, ultimately disagreed on the Lord’s Supper. The Zwinglians pushed for the Lutherans to accept them- it is reported that Luther at one point considered doing so- but was advised by Melanchthon not to- because it would impede any future union with Roman Catholics sympathetic to the Reformation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Understand Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin on the Lord's Supper (Part Two)

Luther's Written Debate with Zwingli

Between 1526-1528 Luther and Zwingli debate via written exchanges. Luther stresses the Lord's Supper as God’s gift of the Son to us, Zwingli stresses the Lord's Supper as our act of remembrance and loyalty to Christ. The following is a brief synopsis of their dialog.

Luther criticizes Zwingli:
Zwingli is too rationalistic: he doesn’t really believe what the Word of God says (“This is my body.”) Luther understands Zwingli to be saying, “This signifies my body” and is insisting on submitting what we find in the Bible to his own human reason. Luther finds Zwingli to be in error like Rome- allowing "reason" to dictate doctrine. Luther therefore viewed Zwingli as not really being freed from the Roman bondage by his rationalizing of the Scriptures.

Zwingli responds:
Luther is being too mystical; he is refusing to use his mind. The words of the Bible have to be interpreted in the whole context of what it says. Accusations of being a rationalist is refusing to think. For instance, Jesus said “I am the door”….well? Is he really a door? Luther has contented himself with a mystical approach to scripture. Luther has allowed his doctrine of the Lord’s Supper to become too objective. He planted Christ in the elements and has not given enough place to faith. Whatever blessings that come through the Lord's Supper come by faith.

Luther responds:
Zwingli is too subjective. He has not given enough stress to God’s gift. God’s promise is to give his own Son to be a blessing to us through the use of the Supper. Zwinlgi has failed to realize there really is a “communion” that occurs in the Lord’s Supper.

Luther grants that it is true that unless there’s faith one doesn’t receive the blessing of Christ; but since Christ is present by the appointment of God, one who receives the elements receives Christ. If one receives him without faith, one receives condemnation. Luther holds we have to stress the communion between Christ and the believer.

Luther posits Zwingli had not given enough stress to the body of Christ in our salvation. He feels Zwingli’s position will logically lead to a denial of the cross and the incarnation. Zwingli’s stress on “spiritual realities” leaves no place for the body of Christ as the key to our redemption. Christ has promised that just as He died upon the cross in his body and blood to redeem us, so he continues to strengthen us by his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. This is the way he continues to be our savior and mediator. We are never freed from the need of the body and blood of Christ. The Lord’s Supper ministers it to us to be built up in the faith.

Zwingli responds:
Luther is forgetting that the Bible says the body of Christ was taken up into heaven. It is not on earth. Zwingli focuses on Christ's ascension, and says Luther does not give the ascension its proper place. Christ cannot be present, “In, with, and under the bread” because he has ascended.

Luther responds:
Luther offered the explanation of "Ubiquity". When Christ was glorified, his two natures (human, divine) began to share attributes (communicatio idiomatum= the communication of properties). With the Lord’s Supper, Luther is interested in the divine quality of omnipresence: The glorified Christ becomes omnipresent not only in his divinity, but also in his humanity…the humanity of Christ is so glorified in heaven, that it takes on the divine attribute of omnipresence. Therefore the body of Christ can be everywhere at once. Since it can be everywhere at once, it can be in the Lord’s Supper. Luther still holds Zwingli to be just a rationalist: he doesn’t want to believe the body and blood can be everywhere at once- he doesn’t really believe the Gospel.

Luther would reason, “Don’t say, ‘The body is at the right hand of God.’ Where is God’s right hand? It is every part of Him. The very phrase “right hand of God” supports ubiquity, not Zwingli’s position.

Zwingli responds:
Luther’s doctrine of ubiquity undermines the true humanity of Christ, the very thing Luther wanted to defend and maintain. If you have a human body that is everywhere…is it really a human body?


Monday, April 17, 2006

Understanding Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin on the Lord’s Supper (Part One)

In my discussions with Lutherans, this is one of the major disagreements between us. Yet, how many actually understand exactly what Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin held on the Lord’s Supper, where they agreed, and where they disagreed?

The following is based on my notes from a class on Reformation history.

The Most Controversial Issue of the Early Reformation
The Lord's Supper was the most controversial and most divisive issue in the 16th century. It was the most emotionally charged issue. The reasons why:The issue touched the common people- it wasn’t an abstract issue. The minute you begin to change the worship service and the mass and how it was conducted, the lives of common people are involved . The changing of the actual practice of the Mass became a crucial moment in the beginning of the Reformation.

Common people had been convinced the Mass was at the heart of their salvation. Preaching was less important, while the mass was primary. The Mass took place on a high alter. Two great miracles were held to take place on this altar:

1. Transubstantiation (bread and wine miraculously changed into the body and blood of Christ); the bread and wine were no longer present. The substances change, only the accidens remains (this was an Aristotelian distinction).

2. The second miracle was the sacrifice of Christ. In some sense Christ is sacrificed anew for the turning away of the wraith of God and for the covering of sins.

The bread at times was put on display (as the body of Christ) in a showcase, where people could come and worship Christ.

Taking the elements meant that one was literally receiving the body and blood of Christ, and this made a difference in you: Christ in you, the hope of glory. (They thus, “had a personal relationship with Christ”!).

The Eucharist had been theologically defined at the 4th Lateran council (1215). The council defined 7 sacraments, and transubstantiation. This made it easy for Roman Catholics to respond to the Protestant challenges on the mass: they can point to an ecumenical council’s ruling. The Reformers were much stronger in the area of Justification, where no council had yet ruled.

Because the Reformers held to Sola Scriptura, they found the issue of the Lord’s Supper important because it was instituted by Jesus Christ, and it needed to be understood faithfully and fully, when he said, “this is my body.”

Areas Where All The Reformers Agreed About the Lord’s Supper ( a negative statements of belief against the Roman Catholic Church by the Reformers)

1. Rome had not given enough stress to the importance of faith. In Rome's position, as long as you don’t oppose the grace that works through the sacraments, one can receive grace. This is called “ex opere operato”= “by the work it has been worked”. As long as you don’t resist the grace of God that comes through the sacraments, that grace will be efficacious and productive. The Reformers say a loud “no!” to this. In order to receive the benefits of the sacraments, they held you must receive them by faith. If you don’t come to them with faith, you receive nothing.

2. All the Reformers rejected the concept of a Eucharistic sacrifice. They all held this was a primary error. The Eucharist is not something we offer to God, but God offers to us. We are not doing a good work to please God, but he is offering something to help us.

3. The error of Transubstantiation: what happens on the alter is not a miracle of changing the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Christ in the form of the bread should not be worshipped.

The Positions of Luther and Zwingli on The Lord’s Supper

The Reformers differ due to their different perspectives.

LUTHER: We are saved not by our work but God’s. Our works of righteousness will not save us, but God’s work of righteousness in Christ will. This influences Luther in all his work.

Luther evaluates the medieval teaching on the Lord’s Supper: he sees the central error of Rome as the Eucharistic sacrifice, because it teaches that we offer Christ again to God, and that by our offering God is pleased with us and blesses us. Luther condemns this as works righteousness, and therefore a denial of the gospel.

Luther says we must understand the Lord’s Supper as something God does for us. God in this sacrament gives us a gift: Christ himself. Therefore Christ is present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine.” When we receive the elements we literally receive Christ. This isn’t transubstantiation, but an elaboration of what is in the promise of God: it’s better understood as Consubstantiation: the substance of the body of Christ is received with the substance of the bread, which builds us up in faith and commitment to Christ.

Ulrich Zwingli shared similar concerns with Luther on the Lord’s Supper, in that both knew the Roman Catholic concept was in error. Luther’s position was based on a critique of the Eucharistic sacrifice, which he understood to be ultimately works righteousness. This was what Luther thought to be Rome’s key error. Zwingli though saw transubstantiation as the key error of Rome, but agreed with Luther on Rome’s error of works righteousness.

Zwingli’s position against the Roman Catholic Church:
The idea of a repeated sacrifice of the actual Christ was abhorrent to Zwingli. He reasoned, “you couldn’t have a sacrifice of Christ if Christ were not present, therefore the primary error of the Roman Catholic Church is transubstantiation.” Therefore, do away with transubstantiation, because it leads rapidly to idolatry. The error of idolatry is to focus on earthly things, not heavenly things: this was the error of the medieval church, it calls to bread, rather than to Christ, it calls to the alter and the actions of priests, instead of to heaven and the action of Christ. Therefore get rid of the idea that Christ is miraculously called down to the alter and re-sacrificed. Zwingli stressed the ascension of Christ: Christ is risen, ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ said he was going to depart, therefore transubstantiation is idolatrous and a violation of the Apostles Creed.

Zwingli’s position on the Lord’s Supper
Zwingli held the Lord’s Supper is a memorial; a pledge of allegiance. What is received in the supper is by faith, therefore let’s exercise our faith: remember Christ and rest in his accomplished work. Through the Lord’s Supper let’s testify to the world that we belong to Him. Zwingli saw the Lord’s Supper as a “wedding ring”: the wedding ring isn’t the marriage itself; it is only a reminder of a relationship that exists.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Common Misunderstandings of John 3:16

(My church has an extended newsletter called "Echoes From The Plains" it puts out bi-monthy. I usually submit an article on simple apologetic issues. The following is from January 2005).

Isn’t it uplifting to meet another Christian where you least expect to? Maybe you’re at your job, and you strike up a conversation with a coworker you don’t know very well. Eventually, you (or they) say something that leads to, “Hey, are you Christian?” “You know, I thought there was something different about you!” Here you thought you were alone in your faith at your job, school, or commute to work. Take to heart our Lord’s words, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). This is a wonderful gift of God’s providence. The next question that most often arises is, “Where do you go to Church?” Here, unfortunately is where an “apologetic” situation may occur. Remember, Apologetics is simply a term for “defending the faith” (1 Pet. 3:15). How could the inquiry of where one attends church lead to defending the faith when you’re talking to another Christian?

I take great joy in answering the above question: “Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church.” Now, the majority of Christians in the United States do not attend Reformed churches. I would venture to say a great many Christians have no idea what the word “Reformed” refers to. “What’s a Reformed Bible?” “What did your church reform from?” I enjoy the opportunity to explain why the word “Bible” is a foremost attribute of our church. As succinctly as I can, I then explain our heritage as a Reformed church. These are great opportunities. Most often they lead to an invitation to our services, or at least the giving of our web-page address. Now, this cordial exchange isn’t always the norm. I have at times come into contact with other Christians who know some of the distinctives of Reformed theology, or at least have a presupposed idea of what they think they are: “Your church is Reformed? …You aren’t one of those Calvinists are you?” By the tone of the question and the introduction of the term “Calvinist” I am immediately put on the defensive. It becomes time to provide an answer as to why I believe what I believe.

In situations such as these, it has been said to me more than once, “You Calvinists don’t really believe what the Bible says. It says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). You Calvinists believe that God chooses a select few people against their will to be saved, and then sends billions to Hell. But God’s word clearly says in John 3:16 that He loves everybody, and everybody has a chance to be saved.” I wish I could say that I’m simply presenting an imaginary caricature. Such is not the case. I have heard these words repeated by family, close friends, and acquaintances. All appeal to John 3:16 as the definitive verse that says, “Case closed: Reformed theology is unbiblical.”

How does one respond to charges like these? First, any answer you give should be done with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). I have “bit my tongue” on more than one occasion, as comments directed towards my Reformed beliefs have been degrading or insulting. There’s no need to return fire with fire. The person you’re talking with more than likely has never been to a solid Bible-based Reformed church, or has ever read a positive presentation of the doctrines of grace. This is your opportunity to open up the Bible, and simply let it say what it says, in context.

The first thing to point out is that John 3 begins with a strong statement of our lack of choice in salvation. Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Pharisee Nicodemus. Jesus tells him “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again”(v.3). Like physical birth, spiritual birth is not a choice we make for ourselves. Jesus says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit…the wind blows wherever it pleases” (v.7-8). Recall that earlier John has written that we who believe “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13, NAS).

Secondly, Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (v.15, NIV). Now it’s important to look closely at what this verse says, and doesn’t say. It says that those who believe may have eternal life. Does it say that every single person who has ever lived has the ability to believe? No. Recall the conversation that Jesus just had with Nicodemus. The Spirit of God chooses who will believe. Only those that believe will look up to the Son for their salvation. We are also told elsewhere in Scripture that there are no God seekers (Romans 3:11), that man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), and that unregenerate man is unable to do anything God pleasing (Romans 8:5-8). Surely, unregenerate man by his own ability, looking to Jesus for salvation would be a God-pleasing act. The Bible though informs us that this will never happen, unless the Spirit first “blows wherever it pleases.”

Finally we arrive at John 3:16. John uses the term “world” throughout his gospel and his three letters. One cannot simply assume that each time the word “world” is used it means every single human being who will ever live. One has to allow the context to determine how the word should be understood. We’ve already seen how the verses preceding speak strongly against understanding the term as “every single individual.” Look ahead to John 3:17. Jesus says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” One has to ask, is every single person who has ever lived saved? The Bible says no. Jesus describes those who are condemned because of their disbelief (John 3:18). John then, is not using the word “world” all-inclusively. He is referring to all those who believe, those whom the Spirit has given birth to. John later tells us in Revelation 5:9 explicitly who this “world” is: “Because [Christ was] slain, and with [His] blood purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” But doesn’t John say “whosever” believes can have salvation? As Dr. James White has pointed out, “Anyone familiar with the text as it was written [in Greek] knows that the literal rendering of the passage is ‘in order that every one believing in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ The verse teaches that the giving of the Son guarantees the salvation of all the believing ones.”[i]

After presenting a consistent exposition of John 3, why won’t my non-Reformed acquaintances accept what the Bible clearly says? Some will. I have had close friends rally against Reformed theology with all their might, only to acquiesce to its truth years later. Others though will not. The reason? Tradition. The non-Reformed interpretation of John 3:16 stated above is well entrenched in our evangelical culture, and it is a tradition not based on the consistent exegesis of Scripture. One must rely though on God’s word to do its work. I know from experience: I was the person who quoted John 3:16 to Calvinists many years ago. Praise God for his Spirit that blew into my heart, and continues to guide me through His word.

[i] James White, The Potter’s Freedom, (New York: Calvary Press Publishing, 2000), 194.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Be Nice To Catholic Apologists" Thursday #4

Well, Dave’s at it again:

Just For the Record: James Swan’s Odd Behavior


I hadn't realized Dave posted another link... recall, "Be Nice To Catholic Apologist" Thursday puts up links from the Catholic perspective so readers can judge for themselves if their writings are being distorted.

There is humor in Dave's continued "record" making, but i'm going to try and continue being nice. Well, let’s change the record on the turntable and put some better things on:

"Be Nice To Catholic Apologists" Thursday

"Be Nice To Catholic Apologists" Thursday (Revisted)

"Be Nice To Catholic Apologists" Thursday #3

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Believe in The Resurrection Because…..Sola Scriptura

An ancient philosophical statement posits, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This has never been a problem for me, I’ve been plagued with self-introspection my entire life. I constantly find myself evaluating my actions and motives. Why do I do what I do? Why do I say what I say? I’ve often sarcastically pondered that the “unexamined life” is probably a lot more carefree and fun.

Introspectively, I’ve even asked myself why I am a Christian. It’s always been hard for me to believe anything. As a child, I never believed in Santa or the Easter Bunny. As a TV watching adolescent, I wasn’t persuaded by reports of Bigfoot, U.F.O.’s, or the Loch Ness Monster. In college I was trained in skeptical philosophy to question everything. Even as a Christian, I wasn’t worried about the “Y2K” scare that swept through Christendom in 1999. I’m not on the lookout for the rapture or the mark of the beast. I think people at those big healing rallies are not really being healed. How is it that I believe in Christ? I’m a skeptic at heart. How is it I believe God came to earth as a man, suffered and died, and was raised on the third day, for my sins? Similarly, I have a feeling perhaps some of you wonder why, or if, you actually believe in Christ. You may even think, “If Jesus would just appear to me, I would believe without question.” Is this so? I don’t think so.

In John 20:24-29 we read about the disbelief of one the close companions of Christ: Thomas. After the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lord appeared to some of his disciples. When Thomas heard about alleged “Jesus sightings”, he (in Jim Swan fashion) said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week after this famous statement, the resurrected Christ appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

This passage shows that the roots of disbelief and faithlessness are deep within the heart, even with those who experienced Christ in person, like Thomas. John Calvin commented that Thomas was not only slow and reluctant to believe, but even obstinate. That is, Thomas was stubborn and determined in skepticism. What’s going on here? Is this an historical account of the conversion of Thomas? Is seeing Christ in the flesh the antidote for skepticism?

No. A close study of Thomas in the New Testament reveals that John 20:24-29 is not recording the conversion of Thomas. Thomas was a Christian before his obstinate disbelief demanding to see the very nail scarred hand of Christ. Earlier in John 11:16, Thomas is prepared to die with Jesus at the hands of the Jews. In John 14:4-5, Jesus explains he’s going to “prepare a place” for his followers.” Thomas asks, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus responds, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Note, Jesus says to Thomas: “You do know me, and the Father.” This strong affirmative statement settles the state of Thomas’s soul in my mind. Thomas was a Christian before his skeptical demanding to see the nail scarred hands of the Lord.

How does one make sense then of the faithlessness of Thomas in John 20? After seeing the resurrected Christ, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Matthew Henry says Thomas said this from being ashamed of his incredulity. Thomas realized he should have known better. Calvin says, “The faith which appeared to be destroyed was, as it were, concealed and buried in his heart.” In other words, John 20:24-29 presents a backslidden Christian, not an unregenerate heart. Thomas had faith, but it had become buried by his sinful stubbornness and lack of faith in God’s word.

What in this experience of Thomas would provoke Thomas to call Jesus “God”? Was it by touching the nail-scarred hands of the Messiah? Calvin says that this experience only “awakened Thomas from sleep”. Faith is not born from the experience of seeing or touching Christ, but is born and then continually nurtured by the Word of God. Calvin notes,

“For it was not by mere touching or seeing that Thomas was brought to believe that Christ is God, but, being awakened from sleep, he recalled to remembrance the doctrine which formerly he had almost forgotten. Faith cannot flow from a merely experimental knowledge of events, but must draw its origin from the word of God. Christ, therefore, blames Thomas for rendering less honor to the word of God than he ought to have done, and for having regarded faith — which springs from hearing, and ought to be wholly fixed on the word — as bound to the other senses.”

Jesus goes on to tell Thomas in John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now, None of us has seen Christ in the flesh. How then does one achieve this state of “blessedness”? Do you muster up all your willpower to believe? Do you get yourself hypnotized into believing? The answer is found in the next verse: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30).

Like Thomas, the reason any of us believes is because the Holy Spirit has enabled us to do so (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8-10). Our strength to believe comes from the Word of God. We are to feed on it. It is that which nurtures our faith- to take us from being the normal “doubting Thomas’s” we are to the affirming believer that emphatically states, “My Lord and my God!” If you have trouble believing, chances are, you are not being nourished enough by the Word of God.

Some find certainty for faith in the way they feel. Those who state in song, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart” will probably be disheartened when they don’t “feel” so “saved” at certain points in their lives. This approach looks for certainty of faith in a dead end direction. Relying on one’s feelings can only lead to despair. For the song to be correct, it should say, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives because the Word of God says so.”

I believe in the resurrection because the Bible tells me so. Elaborate evidences and arguments to “prove” the resurrection may be interesting, and even helpful to one’s faith. I’ve heard many arguments and read more than a few books about “proving” the resurrection by scientific method or rational argumentation-but they will never create or sustain faith. As a Christian, I’ve had my ups and downs. Those periods in which I found myself furthest in disbelief were those times I wasn’t being fed by the Scriptures. Nourish yourself on the word of God this Easter. Experience for yourself God’s very voice. The saying “The unexamined life is not worth living” is the wisdom of man. Only the examined Bible will make life worth living.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why is "Soul Sleep" So Important for a Seventh Day Adventist?

The question that I’ve been thinking about is of a systematic nature: Why is ‘soul sleep’ so important to a Seventh Day Adventist?

I actually started a CARM discussion on this found here. I asked: what role do 'soul sleep' and the mortality of the soul play in SDA theology? In other words, why is holding to these particular beliefs important for an SDA? I find the answers and discussion very interesting.

Two links were given that have some helpful information:

Of course, I expected an SDA to respond, “It’s important because the Bible teaches it.” This of course, misses the nature of the question. I included this paragraph with my question: “I'm not looking for the obvious answer: "We believe these doctrines are important because they are taught in the Bible." At this point in my "fact finding" the question of the Biblical-ness of these doctrines is not the question.”

This didn’t stop zealous Adventists from giving the answer anyway:

“…holding to said belief is important to adventists because they believe it is biblical, and because they believe it to be biblical, it is important to them...”

“I believe it to be biblical.. and anything biblical is important to me.. It's that simple...Not sure what answer you were expecting.”

I am SDA, I really don't know what [Ellen G. White] says about this topic, but I know what the Bible says, for what I read is clear for me, that the person who dies, just go the the grave, the next time thise person open his or her eyes will be at the resurrection, resurrection for eternal life, or resurrection of condemnation John 5:29 "and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation…”

The answer appears to be more complicated than I had expected. A few responses made bold assertions:

Soul sleep is of utmost importance for SDA theology. If soul sleep goes, so does everything else. This is why they are so hard headed about it. too much to lose.”

Soul sleep is actually a core doctrine of Adventism. Without it, nearly all Adventist theology would crumble.”

Helpful responses to my question can be found here:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Luther’s Understanding of “Soul Sleep” (Part Three)

This will be the third installment of my examination of the Seventh Day Adventist usage of Martin Luther. Previous entries can be found here:

The Seventh Day Adventist Luther: Soul Sleep and the Immortality of the Soul(Part One) :A look at the use of Luther’s notion of ‘soul sleep’ and a refutation of Adventists who hold Luther believed in the mortality of the soul.

The Seventh Day Adventist Luther (Part Two) : Do Adventists appeal to Luther to show the validity of ‘soul sleep”? A look at selective citations from Luther found in Adventist web pages.

In this entry, I’d like to take a look at Luther’s understanding of ‘soul sleep.’ Soul sleep’ is the idea that after death the soul ‘sleeps’ until the final resurrection. The soul is said to hibernate until the resurrection- when it is then awakened and reunited with its body.

Did Luther believe this? The answer is yes, speculatively. He did so in somewhat undogmatic terms, always cautioning his readers that we don’t have full understanding of this subject. At times he says things that contradict ‘soul sleep’- his was not a dogmatic conclusion. Luther knew that describing the state of the dead was speculative theology. The state of the dead was prone to wild speculation during his time. He would not join in to such folly.

This can be seen early in his career in a letter to Nicholas von Amsdorf (January 13, 1522). Luther responded to the question of what happens to the soul after death. Note how Luther responds cautiously:

Concerning your “souls,” I have not enough [insight into the problem] to answer you.  I am inclined to agree with your opinion that the souls of the just are asleep and that they do not know where they are up to the Day of Judgment. I am drawn to this opinion by the word of Scripture, “They sleep with their fathers.”  The dead who were raised by Christ and by the apostles testify to this fact,  since they were as if they had just awakened from sleep and didn’t know where they had been. To this must be added the ecstatic experiences of many saints. I have nothing with which I could overthrow this opinion. But I do not dare to affirm that this is true for all souls in general, because of the ecstasy of Paul,  and the ascension of Elijah and of Moses (who certainly did not appear as phantoms on Mount Tabor). 

Who knows how God deals with the departed souls? Can’t [God] just as well make them sleep on and off (or for as long as he wishes [them to sleep]), just as he overcomes with sleep those who live in the flesh? And again, that passage in Luke 16 [:23 ff.] concerning Abraham and Lazarus, although it does not force the assumption of a universal [capacity of feeling on the part of the departed],yet it attributes a capacity of feeling to Abraham and Lazarus, and it is hard to twist this passage to refer to the Day of Judgment.

I think the same about the condemned souls; some may feel punishments immediately after death, but others may be spared from [punishments] until that Day [of Judgment]. For the reveler [in that parable] confesses that he is tortured;  and the Psalm says, “Evil will catch up with the unjust man when he perishes.” You perhaps also refer this either to the Day of Judgment or to the passing anguish of physical death. Then my opinion would be that this is uncertain. It is most probable, however, that with few exceptions, all [departed souls] sleep without possessing any capacity of feeling. Consider now who the “spirits in prison” were to whom Christ preached, as Peter writes:  Could they not also sleep until the Day [of Judgment]?  Yet when Jude says concerning the Sodomites that they suffer the pain of eternal fire, he is speaking of a present [fire]."[LW 48:360-361]."

Note above, for Luther, the soul does sleep, but he does make exceptions. As Paul Althaus explains, “Some Bible passages do compel Luther to make certain exceptions to the rule that the dead sleep. God can also awaken them for a time- just as he allows those of us here upon the earth to alternate between waking and sleeping. And the fact that they are asleep does not hinder souls from experiencing visions and from hearing God and the angels speak” [Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 415].

Above, Luther says “It is most probable, however, that with few exceptions, all [departed souls] sleep without possessing any capacity of feeling.” Elsewhere though he says, “It is true that souls hear, think, see after death, but how they do it we do not understand” [Source: Ewald Plass, What Luther Says III:384]. Luther thus made contrary statements that even in death, the believer still consciously knows God and serves Him. This can be seen in a comment made in his last lectures on Genesis:

For how is Abraham a servant of God after his death? Will God not be able eventually to forget Abraham? Today he certainly still serves God, just as Adam, Abel, and Noah serve God. And this must be carefully noted; for it is divine truth that Abraham is living, serving God, and ruling with Him. But what the nature of that life is, whether he is asleep or awake, is another question. We do not have to know how the soul rests. It is certain that it is alive.” [LW 5:74].

Ewald Plass says Luther held “paradoxical, if not, incongruous, conclusion” on the state of the dead [What Luther Says III: 385]. He cites this comment from Luther’s last lectures on Genesis:

But now another question arises. Since it is certain that the souls are living and are in peace, what kind of life or rest is this? But this question is too lofty and too difficult for us to be able to define it. For God did not want us to know this in this life. Thus it is enough for us to know that souls do not go out of their bodies into the danger of tortures and punishments of hell, but that there is ready for them a chamber in which they may sleep in peace.

Nevertheless, there is a difference between the sleep or rest of this life and that of the future life. For toward night a person who has become exhausted by his daily labor in this life enters into his chamber in peace, as it were, to sleep there; and during this night he enjoys rest and has no knowledge whatever of any evil caused either by fire or by murder. But the soul does not sleep in the same manner. It is awake. It experiences visions and the discourses of the angels and of God. Therefore the sleep in the future life is deeper than it is in this life. Nevertheless, the soul lives before God. With this analogy, which I have from the sleep of a living person, I am satisfied; for in him there is peace and quiet. He thinks that he has slept barely one or two hours, and yet he sees that the soul sleeps in such a manner that it also is awake.”[LW 4:313].

But what of those who reject Christ? Do they go to immediate damnation? Luther again responds cautiously, noting he is undecided when they receive punishment:

“…[W]hen the ungodly die, whether they have departed long ago, before the coming of Christ, or today, after Christ has been revealed, they go simply to damnation. But we do not know whether their damnation begins immediately after death; for it is written (Rom. 14:10) that all will have to stand before the judgment seat, and John 5:29 states: “Those who have done good will come forth to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

Accordingly, we should remember that after Christ the bosom of Abraham has come to an end and that all the promises about the coming Seed have been fulfilled. We have other and far more glorious promises that were given us by the Son of God, who became incarnate, suffered, and was raised again. If we do not believe these, we are condemned forever. But I am unable to say positively in what state those are who are condemned in the New Testament. I leave this undecided.”[LW 4:316].

His writing on the subject also vacillates. Commenting on the departed Urbanus Rhegius, Luther says, “We are to know that he is blessed and that he has eternal life and eternal joy and participation with Christ in the heavenly Church. For now he has learned, seen with his own eyes, and heard those things which he here in the church on earth explained according to God’s word” (Source: WA 53:400; Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 415]. Also speaking of another departed person, “Sickness carried him off to heaven to our Lord Jesus Christ” [Althaus, 415]. Althaus notes that Luther held time was irrelevant from the eternal perspective. For those who die, their awakening from “soul sleep” is felt as immediate. Luther says, “Here you must put time out of your mind and know that in that world there is neither time nor a measurement of time, but everything is one eternal moment” [Source: WA 10III, 194; Althaus, 416].

What can be concluded of Luther’s view? I would assert the following: Luther’s position on this subject is undogmatic. He considers the subject speculative theology. Hence, his opinion doesn’t always add up.

What can be said of Seventh Day Adventist usage of Luther on this point? I suggest they incorrectly present a dogmatic Luther who uses “soul sleep” to refute purgatory and saint worship, which I maintain is not the case. To use Luther correctly, they should at least note Luther’s opinion was speculative and undogmatic. He didn’t approach the text of Scripture with the same certainty on “soul sleep” they do. Luther doesn’t even have the same theological motivations for the doctrine of “soul sleep” that the Adventists do. What motivates the Adventists on this doctrine? What motivated Luther? These seem to be crucial questions for anyone wishing to use Luther as an authority.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Seventh Day Adventist Luther (Part Two)

This is a continuation of my examination of Seventh Day Adventists using Luther to establish their doctrines of ‘soul sleep’ and the mortality of the soul. Part one can be found here: The Seventh Day Adventist Luther: Soul Sleep and the Immortality of the Soul(Part One)

In part one I took a look at a discussion thread started by an Adventist, and also an Adventist web document named Martin Luther and William Tyndale on the State of the Dead. I contacted both authors to let them know I would be taking a look at their historical material on Luther. I have been hopeful that the author of the web document would respond- he hasn’t…. yet. But the Adventist who started the discussion did. In a blog back he stated:

Interesting conclusions you have drawn but as a Seventh-day Adventist and the one who started the thread about Luther and "soul sleep" I do not put Luther above what he was. In other words I am not appealing to Luther to establish any Adventist credibility. I support what Luther said in manmy[sic] things and disagree on others. "soul sleep" and moratilty[sic.] of the soul is Biblical.”

One has to simply ask then, why bring up Luther at all? Why should his opinion matter? Elsewhere in the same discussion he also stated:

Amazing to think that it is now about 500 years since the great reformer gave us so much light about the gospel.”

"It does not matter what I say or what even Luther says. I quoted this to show everyone that the Protestant reformers believed in the Bible.”

My point stands: Luther is being used in an attempt to give validity to the Adventist position. Simply because this Adventist denies this does not mean he’s not doing it. If this isn't the case, why bring up Luther?

In part one I demonstrated that some of the historical information being utilized by these Adventists was not accurate. I would further point out that some of the information they use is being selectively cited. In the web document Martin Luther and William Tyndale on the State of the Dead, the author cites Hugh Kerr’s book A Compend of Luther’s Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1943). Kerr’s book is a helpful, short, anthology of Luther citations. Chapter 11 deals specifically with Luther’s eschatology- not though, in detail. The Adventist web document provides this Luther citation from Kerr’s book:

We should learn to view our death in the right light, so that we need not become alarmed on account of it, as unbelief does; because in Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep, which brings us release from this vale of tears, from sin and from the fear and extremity of real death and from all the misfortunes of this life, and we shall be secure and without care, rest sweetly and gently for a brief moment, as on a sofa, until the time when he shall call and awaken us together with all his dear children to his eternal glory and joy. For since we call it a sleep, we know that we shall not remain in it, but be again awakened and live, and that the time during which we sleep, shall seem no longer than if we had just fallen asleep. Hence, we shall censure ourselves that we were surprised or alarmed at such a sleep in the hour of death, and suddenly come alive out of the grave and from decomposition, and entirely well, fresh, with a pure, clear, glorified life, meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the clouds . . .
Scripture everywhere affords such consolation, which speaks of the death of the saints, as if they fell asleep and were gathered to their fathers, that is, had overcome death through this faith and comfort in Christ, and awaited the resurrection, together with the saints who preceded them in death.—A Compend of Luther's Theology, edited by Hugh Thomson Ker[sic.], Jr., p. 242

Now, I realize I have yet to directly tackle Luther’s view of soul sleep. But if I were quoting this book, I would make sure to read all the Luther citations on Luther’s understanding of the soul after death that Kerr provides (which are only a few). Had the author wanted to use this compend to establish Luther’s view, one wonders why he didn’t begin with the citation found one page before (241):

It is true that souls hear, perceive, and see after death; but how it is done, we do not understand… If we undertake to give an account of such things after the manner of this life, then we are fools. Christ has given a good answer; for his disciples were without doubt just as curious. ‘He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,’ (John xi.25); likewise: ‘Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s,’ (Rom. Xiv.8)… ‘The soul of Abraham lives with God, his body lies here dead,’ it would be a distintion which to my mind is mere rot! I will dispute it. One must say: ‘The whole Abraham, the entire man, lives!’ – Conversations with Luther, pp.122 f.”

Source: Hugh Kerr, A Compend of Luther’s Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1943), 241

Now, one has to deal with information that contradicts one’s own position. The Adventists have to deal with the citations from Luther that also denies their position on soul sleep. The next blog entry will look specifically at Luther’s understanding of the soul at death.