Monday, January 31, 2011

“The Popes Against the Jews,” Part 1

William D. Rubinstein is professor of modern history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He wrote a review of the work, The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism, by David L. Kertzer, a professor at Brown University, which appeared in the journal First Things. I will rely on Rubinstein to set out the scope of what I hope to write about in the coming week or so:
there has until now been no general history of Catholic hostility to the Jews in modern times which argues for the importance of the Catholic Church, especially the Vatican, in engendering modern forms of anti-Semitism.

This gap is not coincidental. Modern “racial” anti-Semitism, emphasizing the ethnic separateness and evil of Jews in European societies, has always been distinguished from premodern forms of anti-Semitism, which were religious in nature, founded in the rejection by Jews of the divinity of Jesus. Although there is widely admitted to be some overlap between the two, post-1870 racialist anti-Semitism, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust, is also almost always seen as categorically different from previous varieties of anti-Semitism, often anti-Christian and “pagan,” and founded in social Darwinist pseudo-science and national xenophobia.

It is the argument of David Kertzer’s The Popes Against the Jews that there was less difference between the two forms than has previously been understood. The author argues for a consistent pattern of Catholic, indeed direct Vatican, involvement in engendering modern forms of anti-Semitism. Professor Kertzer focuses on events that are well-known, such as the Mortara case and the Dreyfus Affair, and on aspects of this question that are less well-known, such as the Church’s response to “ritual murder” charges (the absurd claim, first advanced in the Middle Ages, that Jews murder Christian children at Passover in order to use their blood to bake matzoh) and the thoroughgoing anti-Semitism of much of the Catholic press. Prof. Kertzer skillfully and not unsubtly traces the differences in attitude towards the Jews among the Popes between about 1740 and 1940.
First of all, note what Rubinstein is saying here. Even though it is not subtle, Kertzer’s account is a skillful one. His work is historically accurate, (though note the title of the piece, suggesting that Kertzer’s account is merely one side, the “prosecuting” side.) What follows is a true story, and the events, as they are reported, are not in question, even from First Things, which, in its defense of Roman Catholicism in this regard, has been highly vocal.

History, to my knowledge, seeks to uncover the facts and tell the story of what happened. Even if Kertzer does only tell “the prosecuting” side, Rome has had ample time and space to “tell its side of the story.”

So Rubinstein’s piece here seeks to provide “the other side of the story,” the “defense” of Roman Catholic treatment of the Jews during this time. It seems as if the heart of Rubinstein’s complaint about the work is that Kertzer wasn’t nice to the Roman Catholic Church. He continues:
Although an excellent and well-written piece of historical research, [emphasis added] The Popes Against the Jews goes out of its way to magnify the role of anti-Semitism within the Catholic Church. Indeed, it greatly magnifies the importance of the Jews for the Church, and compounds this by viewing every aspect of the Church's attitude towards the Jews with post-Holocaust eyes.
So, the Jews weren’t high on the radar screen of the official Church. They weren’t a danger to the Church, and so, the Church (meaning the hierarchy) wasn’t paying very much attention to them. And yet, as Kertzer notes, some popes focused keen attention on their posture toward the Jews.

* * *

Norman Davies, in his “Europe, A History” (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) writes about the history of the treatment of the Jews by the Roman Catholic Church, and treatment of the Jews throughout Catholic Europe:
In many Italian cities, walled and gated quarters reserved for Jews had existed at least since the eleventh century. They resulted from the concordance of view between the municipal magistrates, who demanded segregation, and the Jews’ own religious laws, which forbade residence among Gentiles. In Venice, the Jewish quarter was called Il Ghetto, either from a contraction of borghetto or ‘little town’ or from a deformation of the gietto or ‘foundry’ which had once existed there. The name [“Ghetto”] came to be used across Europe. Major ghettos were created in Prague, Frankfurt, Trieste, and in Rome, where the ghetto was maintained from 1536 to 1870….

To escape from the ghetto was no simple matter. Would-be escapees had to defy the laws and customs both of the Gentile and of the Jewish communities, and to risk dire penalties. Until modern times, formal conversion was often the only practical way out (pg 338).
In his First Things piece, Rubinstein defends Roman Catholicism this way:
The Popes Against the Jews ends pointedly with the roundup of over a thousand Roman Jews by the Nazis for Auschwitz. Yet Kertzer never clarifies the connection between the Church’s view of the Jews and the Holocaust. Prof. Kertzer understands perfectly well that the resemblances between the attitudes of the Church towards the Jews and Nazi anti-Semitism are extremely minimal, and, indeed, quite rightly takes pains to point out that “the Nazi goal of a racially purified society . . . is clearly contrary to Catholic theology.” He also, to his credit, warns us “to be careful not to view history backwards.” Most pointedly, he tells us that he does not “mean to suggest that the Roman Catholic Church is alone to blame for the Holocaust. Such a conclusion would be ludicrous.” Nevertheless, the author never actually discusses what Nazism owed to the Catholic Church and its teachings, [emphasis added] which is, of course, precisely nothing.
What is he saying here? It sounds like this: “Even though the Catholic Church had for centuries rounded up the Jews, forced them to live in ghettos and to identify themselves by wearing yellow badges on their clothing, and even though this activity conditioned 20th century Europeans not to be alarmed when Jews did get rounded up and herded off in this way, at least we never tried to kill them. At least Roman Catholic teaching never specifically identified ‘a final solution’.”

In truth, centuries of Roman (and papal) treatment of the Jews provided the deadness of conscience to the spectacle of Jews wearing yellow badges and being rounded up and herded off to the ghettos. If not for centuries of precisely this kind of treatment, the Nazis would not have gotten nearly so far as they did.

Rubinstein seems to want to make that distinction between official Roman Catholic teaching and everything else the official Roman Catholic Church did. It’s the Alias Smith and Jones defense. For all the trains and the banks they robbed, they never taught anyone. Or in this case, For all the mistreatment of the Jews, they never articulated “a final solution” in official Roman Catholic teaching. “No, the Nazis were never taught by way of official Roman Catholic doctrine that it’s ok to kill the Jews. Therefore the Roman Catholic Church is not culpable in any way.”

This is precisely the nature of the Roman Catholic defense of itself.

For those who are interested in looking ahead, James Swan has referred me to his article Luther and the Jews, which looks specifically at some of Luther's writings on the topic of the Jews, and puts them into context.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Underlying Rift

It's not all a White Horse Inn love fest between the Lutheran and Reformed out in cyber space. Some of you are probably aware of the underlying rift between Lutherans (that take their Lutheranism seriously) and the Reformed (those people not afraid to refer to themselves as "Calvinists").

I rarely get involved with this dispute. I'm not a Lutheran, and I don't plan on becoming one anytime soon. On the other hand, I'm not going to spend my sparse blogging time fighting with Lutherans over predestination, the extent of the atonement or the sacraments.

Here's a blog post though for my Reformed friends with time on their hands: Luther & His Tower Experience:

The most dangerous enemy of the Lutheran confessions is not so much Rome who is obvious but Reformed doctrine which is more clandestine.

Here's another similar tidbit from a CyberBrethren comment box:

As a former Calvinist doctrine was a philosophical matter. We were proud to show how well our i’s were dotted and our t’s were crossed. Everything was done in the Divine Council before the beginning of time. Your life on earth was about your gratitude and your glorifying God. The reformed worship is a play of things past, it is not about what is happening in this very moment.

Speaking of CyberBrethren, recently Pastor McCain posted a comment from Doug Wilson he found uplifting. I like Pastor McCain (and his blog), but if I recall correctly, he's not a big fan Calvinism. So, posting a comment from a post millennial federal vision Calvinist was somewhat surprising:

‎Jesus promised us that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church. It is not often noted that the gates of Hades are not an offensive weapon. Hades is being besieged by the Church; it is not the other way around. We need to learn to see that biblical worship of God is a powerful battering ram, and each Lord’s Day we have the privilege of taking another swing. Or, if we prefer, we might still want to continue gathering around with our insipid songs, dopey skits, and inspirational chats in order to pelt the gates of Hades with our wadded up kleenex.” ~ Douglas Wilson

I left this brief comment: If this is the Doug Wilson I’m familiar with, you’re quoting not only a Calvinist, but a post-millennialist. I haven’t seen this quote in context, but for a post-millennialist, of course "Hades is being besieged by the Church."

Pastor McCain responded, "Well whatever he meant by the comment, I thought it was still good. A broken watch is correct at least twice a day."

Well, the next time either I, or one of my fellow Reformed minions quote Dr. Luther’s De Servo Arbitrio on predestination and a Lutheran complains, I’m going to say, “Well whatever he meant by the comment, I thought it was still good. A broken watch is correct at least twice a day.” (:
Doug Wilson is a great writer. I have some serious disagreements with him, but he is an excellent communicator, and highly quotable. Why… even Lutheran pastors quote him!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In the Ghetto

Every once in a while you just come across a topic that's just really, well, larger than life. It's something that's so moving and so mind-boggling that you just have to talk about it.

So I just want to change gears here for a bit -- and talk about something really important, that's just a little bit different, but it's the kind of history that we just can't (or shouldn't) try to avoid talking about. Meanwhile, since I've been serving up "theme music", here's something that kind of can serve as a theme for my next few posts.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Which Writings of Luther Did Hitler Use?

Here's a Luther related discussion maybe someone can help with. I'm interested in finding out which Luther documents Hitler quoted.

On the CARM history board, a recent topic delved into Christians in Hitler's Germany. Of course, you guessed it, Luther's comments about the Jews came up, and here are few excerpts:

Since the OP deals with Christians, Hitler, and Germany, I thought I'd ask you whether you considered Martin Luther a true Christian. His writings were a favorite of Hitler, and inspiration in his crusade of persecution against Jews in particular. Anti-semitism is sad.

"Favorite of Hitler" is a bit unfair. Anything that could be used against the Jews by Hitler was "favorite." Hitler wasn't at all following Luther's theology, or a supporter of Luther's theology.

Its no wonder Hitler liked many of Martin Luther's writings some sound like they were written for Hitler himself.

Just curious, in your studies, which writings of Luther did Hitler like? If so, where is this documentation found, and did Hitler use any of the quotes you provided?

Where did I state that I had studied which sayings of Luther Hitler liked? I assumed the poster above me had a point that Hitler must have liked much of what Luther wrote about the Jews because much of what Luther accused the jews of Hitler did too...for example it is historic fact that Hitler wanted to remove the Jews from Germany ..he originally wanted to send them all to Palestine but because of the British and Arab resistance he failed to do this, and that is why he came up with the final solution to the Jewish question .......... Luther wanted the Jews gone too.... or so his writings would strongly suggest....but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!
-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

So when you stated, "Its no wonder Hitler liked many of Martin Luther's writings some sound like they were written for Hitler himself" you really don't know which of Luther's writings Hitler liked, read, or cited in his writings.

Then a bunch of comments from Luther's "On The Jews and Their Lies" was posted with this comment:

You [you'all] decide.

What's the issue to be decided on? There's no denying Luther later in life said some terrible things about the Jews. Do you have some actual issue to decide on?

A Messianic Jew I know calls Luther the "Theologian of the Holocaust."

If that's the "issue" to be decided on, your Messianic friend needs to do a better job with history.

I see many parallells between what Hitler said and did to the Jews with the opinions Luther expressed in his writings...I don't need a written confession from Hitler confirming his liking or disliking of Luther's writings...his acts and words are confirmation enough for me...

So which "act" do you mean?

The systematic ejection of Jews from the Father land is one action I can think of but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

The Jews in Saxony had been driven out of the area by the decree of John Frederick, some years before Luther wrote "On the Jews and Their Lies." To my knowledge, no one "acted" on Luther's words. If you know of some ruler in the 16th century who followed Luther's advice, I'd be interested in knowing who it was. John Frederick had a new mandate in 1543- though severe toward the Jews, it wasn't the result of Luther's writings, if I recall correctly. In 1546, Jews were still living unmolested in the Mansfeld area.

In fact, most of Luther’s proposals in On The Jews and Their Lies are paralleled in the other anti-Jewish literature of the period. Luther was just one voice among a choir of people against the Jews. Luther's writings though against the Jews, were not followed:

The question of Protestant acceptance or rejection of Luther's writings on the Jews is focused on his late, hate-filled polemics. Oberman has pointed out that Luther's close associate, Philipp Melanchthon, ‘was just as unhappy over the harsh writings on the Jews of the late Luther as were some of the leading city reformers.’ The Nuremberg Reformer and disciple of Luther, Osiander... wrote an anonymous apology for Luther's polemics. And Luther's lifelong colleague Justus Jonas used his role as Latin translator of Luther's writings against the Jews to do ‘his utmost to offset Luther's exasperated disenchantment with the mission to the Jews and in the process manages to draw an entirely novel and positive picture of them.’ This selective rejection of Luther is evident in the refusal of evangelical political authorities to follow through on Luther's recommendations. Because Luther was such an authority figure for Lutherans, it is striking that in 1611 when the Lutheran city of Hamburg asked the theological faculties of Jena and Frankfurt an der Oder whether the Jews fleeing from Portugal should have the right to remain in the city, both faculties answered in the affirmative. The Jena opinion self-consciously chose Luther's early, tolerant opinions over his later, intolerant ones. More important for future developments was the fact that Luther's portrayals and recommendations were not incorporated into the Lutheran confessional writings and Lutheran devotional literature. ‘For the decades after Luther's death all the evidence seems to support Lewin's thesis that Luther's late works on the Jews failed to achieve their intended effect’”[Carter Lindberg, “Tainted Greatness: Luther’s Attitudes Toward Judaism and Their Historical Reception,” in Nancy A Harrowitz (ed.), Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 23].

Again, which "act" do you mean?

Would this be the same John of Saxony who was influenced greatly by his personal relationship with Martin Luther and his writings?

It would be your historical responsibility to prove any of John's actions toward the Jews were the result of Luther's influence.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Norman Geisler "reasoned" his way to faith

Rhology sent this over to me after reading my recent aomin entry on Geisler's Chosen But Free. This is from the debate I mentioned. Note Dr. Geisler's answer to the first question, if he "reasoned" his way to faith.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preaching on 2/5/1882, on the passage from John 6:66,

“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” said, The defection in this case was on account of doctrine... The truth was too hard for them, it was not to be borne with. “It is a hard saying. Who can hear it?” A true disciple sits at the feet of his Master, and believes what he is told even when he cannot quite comprehend the meaning, or see the reasons for what his Master utters; but these men had not the essential spirit of a disciple, and consequently when their Instructor began to unfold the innermost parts of the roll of truth, they would not listen to His reading of it. They would believe as far as they could understand, but when they could not comprehend they turned on their heel and left the school of the Great Teacher. Besides, the Lord Jesus Christ had taught the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, and of the need of the Spirit of God, that men should be led to Him, “for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” Here our Lord uttered a bit of old-fashioned free-grace doctrine, such as people nowadays do not like. They call it “Calvinism”, and put it aside among the old exploded tenets which this enlightened age knows nothing of. What right they have to ascribe to the Genevan reformer a doctrine as old as the hills I do not know. But our Lord Jesus never hesitated to fling that truth into the face of His enemies. He told them, “Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Here he tells them plainly that they could not come unto Him unless the Father gave them the grace to come. This humbling doctrine they could not receive, and so they went aside. (CHS, Sermons, 28, 111-2)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Roman doctrines can't be compared with Protestant doctrines

In some comments the other day, it was brought up that in some cases, some Protestant doctrines are closer to Catholic doctrines than they are among themselves. This cannot be, and the charts nearby show why. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have two different "objects of faith." What you have here are the models of how these "objects of faith," and the doctrines themselves, work together. This is to show how they relate. (And these are just to represent concepts of the churches -- they are not intended to be comprehensive).

In the model showing the Churches of the Reformation, salvation is by Christ alone. Christ alone, and Him crucified, is the object of our faith. Explicating this, there is a core of orthodox beliefs, surrounding Scripture, God, Christ, man, sin, redemption, etc. That is, the doctrines explain how Christ effects this salvation. With some small exceptions, these doctrines, especially for the first 100 years or so after the Reformation, virtually all the big and important doctrines were the same among the Protestant churches. Any differences that existed among these churches were to be found not in the core doctrines, but in some of the peripheral ones. (And my list is taken from the order given in many systematic theologies of what is known as "theology proper" -- again, this is not intended to be representative of any one school of thought, but just to be representative of how things worked, in order to illustrate the contrast between how Roman Catholics think of their doctrines, and how Protestants think about doctrines.)

The other chart shows the Roman Catholic view of things. For the Roman Catholic, salvation is "through the Church to Christ." Roman Catholic doctrine is "a seamless garment". It is a whole, an entirety unto itself. There is no extricating any one doctrine from this circle of doctrines. This is what Rome calls "the fullness of the faith" or "the entire deposit of faith." It is also what is believed to be "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Here is how the CCC describes it:
84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."

87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me", the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.
Note that "this Magisterium", while it claims to be "not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant," really has seen the Scriptures over the centuries not for what it is -- the Word of God to be listened to and obeyed. Rather, as Pius XII and others have described it: "theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition." That is, start with this circle, then use the Scriptures (and Tradition) as the source for proof texts.

Scripture is not to be understood as God's Revelation over time to man; for Roman Catholics, what God has revealed is precisely "the circle"; For the Roman Catholic, the object of faith, the "rule of faith" is precisely "the circle," the sum-total of Roman Catholic doctrine today.

Scripture is just one source must be combed through to find texts which might be used, however obliquely ("implicitly"), to support current Roman dogma. What counts for Roman Catholics is this "Entire Deposit of Faith". Even Christ is only one component of this circle, and he is thus part of the background. The "Church Teaching" is in the foreground. "Through the Church to Christ." Yes, Christ's work is essential to the Roman Catholic. But Christ's work is only mediated to you, the individual believer, by the Church's efforts and processes (i.e., through "the Sacraments").

And you, if you are to be a Roman Catholic in a state of grace (which is necessary if, when you die, you are to enter heaven), must accept all at once, all of it, everything that the Roman church teaches, without question, if you are to be a Roman Catholic. This is not "subscription". There are no objections or exceptions. It's all or nothing.

The thing about this system is, the acts of the evil popes are outside of this circle. (This I call "the Alias Smith and Jones defense of the papacy: for all the trains and banks that they robbed, they never taught anyone." That is, their evil acts did not contribute to "the circle"). Abusive priests and the bishops who hide them and give them comfort are outside of this circle.

Roman Catholic theology distinguishes between fides quae, what Aiden Nichols called "the faith of the Church" [which essentially is "what the Roman Church has come to believe over the centuries, and the sum total of what it requires you to believe"], and fides qua, which is the individual's act of having faith.

For the Protestant, there is one object of faith (fides quae): Christ alone. The Protestant acknowledges that there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.... Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

With this foundation in place, then, we "search the Scriptures". As Turretin notes, "Paul appeals to the judgment of believers to prove all things and to hold fast to what is good. John wishes believers to try the spirits whether they are of God. Surely this could not be said if this examination were either impossible or dangerous to them."

In Roman Catholicism, "fides quae" is the entire circle. The object of faith is the entire circle. In Roman Catholicism, there is the entire body of doctrine, "the fullness of the faith" which is what must be accepted. Rome presents its body of doctrine as "a seamless garment," and when you "have faith," that is, when you have "fides qua," it is that entire circle, that entire body of doctrine that you must believe. You must go "through the Church to Christ." You cannot pick and choose among Roman Catholic doctrines on things. You have to swallow the thing whole.

You can't say, "Rome has a pretty good doctrine of 'X'; I'll work toward bringing that knowledge to my church, without bringing the wrong things that Rome teaches into it." It doesn't work that way.

Roman teaching must be accepted in its totality, or rejected in its totality.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Luther: I Have Slain all the Peasants

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "Social Justice":

“I, Martin Luther, have during the rebellion slain all the peasants, for it was I who ordered them to be struck dead. All their blood is upon my head. But I put it all on our Lord God: for he commanded me to speak thus” [Tischreden; Erlanger Ed., Vol. 59. p. 284].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ taught one should thirst after justice, while Luther ordered the death of peasants.

The quote itself has some history, found in English at least since the 1800's. Luther, Exposing the Myth cites "Tischreden; Erlanger Ed., Vol. 59. p. 284." They probably took the quote from this secondary source (It's also possible the quote came from this popular Roman Catholic secondary source). Notice the similarities:

The Tischreden is Luther's Table Talk, a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends, published after his death (it is not something he wrote). There is no such thing as the Erlanger edition of Luther's works, it's Erlangen, referring to the Erlangen Edition of Luther's works. This out of print German / Latin edition of Luther's works was published in the 1800's. The Table Talk was included in the Erlangen edition (volumes 57-62). So volume 59 is indeed The Tischreden.  The quote can be found at the bottom of page 284 of volume 59 continuing on to page 285. The text reads,

This Tabletalk quote was collected by Conrad Cordatus. It's quite possible Cordatus didn't hear and record the comment himself. He is said to have taken Luther's comments from other sources. He later revised his Table Talk notes, making stylistic changes. Because of this, Luther's Works (English edition) includes only a small sampling of those statements compiled by Cordatus. The quote can also be found in WA Tr 3:75 in similar forms, and it has been translated into English in LW 54:180.

No. 2911b: Responsibility for Curbing the Peasants Between January 26 and 29, 1533
“Preachers are the greatest murderers because they admonish the ruler to do his duty and punish the guilty. I, Martin Luther, slew all the peasants in the uprising, for I ordered that they be put to death; all their blood is on my neck. But I refer it all to our Lord God, who commanded me to speak as I did. The devil and the ungodly kill, but they have no right to. Accordingly priests and official persons must be distinguished well, so that we may see that magistrates can condemn by law and can put to death by virtue of their office. Today, by the grace of God, they have learned this well. Now they abuse their power against the gospel, but they won’t get fat from it.” [LW 54:180]
Luther begins by saying that Preachers are "murderers" when they advise those who carry the sword to use the sword. Luther then calls for his own acquittal, because "God commanded" him to say what he did. Was it an audible voice? Hardly- it was Scripture. If one looks back at Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants, Luther states:

Romans 13 [:1] says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Since they are now deliberately and violently breaking this oath of obedience and setting themselves in opposition to their masters, they have forfeited body and soul, as faithless, perjured, lying, disobedient rascals and scoundrels usually do. St. Paul passed this judgment on them in Romans 13 [:2] when he said that those who resist the authorities will bring a judgment upon themselves. This saying will smite the peasants sooner or later, for God wants people to be loyal and to do their duty [LW 46:49].
First, I will not oppose a ruler who, even though he does not tolerate the gospel, will smite and punish these peasants without first offering to submit the case to judgment. He is within his rights, since the peasants are not contending any longer for the gospel, but have become faithless, perjured, disobedient, rebellious murderers, robbers, and blasphemers, whom even a heathen ruler has the right and authority to punish. Indeed, it is his duty to punish such scoundrels, for this is why he bears the sword and is “the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer,” Romans 13 [:4] [LW 46:51].
For in this case a [Christian] prince and lord must remember that according to Romans 13 [:4] he is God’s minister and the servant of his wrath and that the sword has been given him to use against such people. If he does not fulfil the duties of his office by punishing some and protecting others, he commits as great a sin before God as when someone who has not been given the sword commits murder. If he is able to punish and does not do it—even though he would have had to kill someone or shed blood—he becomes guilty of all the murder and evil that these people commit. For by deliberately disregarding God’s command he permits such rascals to go about their wicked business, even though he was able to prevent it and it was his duty to do so. This is not a time to sleep. And there is no place for patience or mercy. This is the time of the sword, not the day of grace [LW 46:52].
Luther then is purported to have stated, "The devil and the ungodly kill, but they have no right to." That is, the peasants don't have a right to kill. Who then does have a God given right to kill? Luther states, "Accordingly priests and official persons must be distinguished well, so that we may see that magistrates can condemn by law and can put to death by virtue of their office. Today, by the grace of God, they have learned this well." That is, clergymen don't have the right to kill anyone, magistrates do. Remember, Luther was a clergyman. Isn't this contradicting what he stated above that killed the peasants? No. He explained that he had exhorted the authorities to wield the sword. His comment about personally killing the peasants is nothing more than admitting he exhorted the authorities to do their God-given job. He ends by saying, "Now they abuse their power against the gospel, but they won’t get fat from it." The immediate antecedent are the magistrates. Here Luther states the magistrates have wrongly wielded the sword against the Gospel.

Taken at face value by someone predisposed against Luther, the comment appears to be Luther admitting his guilt for the peasants demise. Roland Bainton points out, "Catholic princes held Luther responsible for the whole outbreak" of the Peasants War. Here one could find Luther blatantly admitting he ordered the death of the peasants and it was carried out by his demand.

But history says otherwise. Luther's Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants (the very document in which Luther called for the slaying of the peasants) was actually published after the peasants war began. The treatise was delayed, and did not have an immediate role during the war. The German nobility were not spurred on by Luther's words. They were spurred on by the peasants who strove towards anarchy and civil unrest.

But the treatise did have an impact, at least in court of sixteenth century popular opinion. Luther's Works point out, "Indeed, both Catholic and Protestant princes interpreted Luther’s Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants, which had gained wide circulation by the middle of May, as justification for their actions [LW 46:59]. Isn't that fascinating? A document that came out after the peasants were already in the process of being slaughtered became that which justified the killing.

Luther actually penned an open letter explaining his harsh language against the peasants. He once again distinguished the roles of the two kingdoms:
There are two kingdoms, one the kingdom of God, the other the kingdom of the world. I have written this so often that I am surprised that there is anyone who does not know it or remember it. Anyone who knows how to distinguish rightly between these two kingdoms will certainly not be offended by my little book, and he will also properly understand the passages about mercy. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of grace and mercy, not of wrath and punishment. In it there is only forgiveness, consideration for one another, love, service, the doing of good, peace, joy, etc. But the kingdom of the world is a kingdom of wrath and severity. In it there is only punishment, repression, judgment, and condemnation to restrain the wicked and protect the good. For this reason it has the sword, and Scripture calls a prince or lord “God’s wrath,” or “God’s rod” (Isaiah 14 [:5–6]).
The Scripture passages which speak of mercy apply to the kingdom of God and to Christians, not to the kingdom of the world, for it is a Christian’s duty not only to be merciful, but also to endure every kind of suffering—robbery, arson, murder, devil, and hell. It goes without saying that he is not to strike, kill, or take revenge on anyone. But the kingdom of the world, which is nothing else than the servant of God’s wrath upon the wicked and is a real precursor of hell and everlasting death, should not be merciful, but strict, severe, and wrathful in fulfilling its work and duty. Its tool is not a wreath of roses or a flower of love, but a naked sword; and a sword is a symbol of wrath, severity, and punishment. It is turned only against the wicked, to hold them in check and keep them at peace, and to protect and save the righteous [Rom. 13:3–4]. Therefore God decrees, in the law of Moses and in Exodus 22 [21:14] where he institutes the sword, “You shall take the murderer from my altar, and not have mercy on him.” And the Epistle to the Hebrews [10:28] acknowledges that he who violates the law must die without mercy. This shows that in the exercise of their office, worldly rulers cannot and ought not be merciful—though out of grace, they may take a day off from their office.
Now he who would confuse these two kingdoms—as our false fanatics do—would put wrath into God’s kingdom and mercy into the world’s kingdom; and that is the same as putting the devil in heaven and God in hell. These sympathizers with the peasants would like to do both of these things. First they wanted to go to work with the sword, fight for the gospel as “Christian brethren,” and kill other people, who were supposed to be merciful and patient. Now that the kingdom of the world has overcome them, they want to have mercy in it; that is to say, they are unwilling to endure the worldly kingdom, but will not grant God’s kingdom to anyone. Can you imagine anything more perverse? Not so, dear friends! If one has deserved wrath in the kingdom of the world, let him submit, and either take his punishment, or humbly sue for pardon. Those who are in God’s kingdom ought to have mercy on everyone and pray for everyone, and yet not hinder the kingdom of the world in the maintenance of its laws and the performance of its duty; rather they should assist it [LW 46:69-70].

Addendum #1
This quote can also be found in the following English form:
"It was I, Martin Luther, who slew all the peasants in the insurrection, for I commanded them to be slaughtered. All their blood is upon my shoulders. But I cast it on our Lord God who commanded me to speak in this way."
 Dr. Michael Brown includes this form of the quote in his book, Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire, p. 102. He documents it as:
This link is dead, but it can be found here. It's to an article originally published in the 1950's. The author documents the quote as "Martin Luther, Werke, Erlangen edition, vol. 59, p. 284." I suspect the quote was probably taken from Peter Wiener's Martin Luther, Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor (London: Hutchinson Co. 1945, p.49).  Wiener states,
Perhaps the one and greatest chance in Germany's history to have a revolution of the people, to force the Junkers to give in, to have a democracy based on Christian principles—was squashed, by Martin Luther. The common people sank back into a pitiful state—at least those poor wretches who survived. Germany was a battlefield, disunited, more oppressed than ever by the ruling classes. At this moment the Reformer thought it appropriate to exclaim with pride: “It was I, Martin Luther, who slew all the peasants in the insurrection, for I commanded them to be slaughtered. All their blood is upon my shoulders. But I cast it on our Lord God who commanded me to speak in this way” (E59, 284).
I have my suspicions that Wiener took the quote from Roman Catholic historian Johannes Janssen. His version of the quote states, 
It was I, Martin Luther,' he said many years later, 'who slew all the peasants in the insurrection, for I commanded them to be slaughtered; all their blood is on my head. But I throw the responsibility on our Lord God, who instructed me to give this order. Collected Works, lix. 284,285.
None of these sources mention that the text is from a Table Talk entry.

Addendum #2 (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2011. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

You become like what you worship

My last article here on the will of Allah being higher than the moral nature of Allah , and questions and comments by TUAD, caused me to think more about this, because the article at 9 Marks ministries about evangelism with Muslims also came into the picture; and wrestling with the struggle of those three different approaches to evangelism/apologetics/polemics/debate/friendship evangelism with Muslims.

Civilization Sharia, creeping Sharia, stealth Jihad

“Because I’m an expert and they are not.”
Ebrahim Moosa
Associate Professor of Islamic studies, Duke University

see his comments and context in the video below:

Not only is this pretty arrogant, and similar to Bart Ehrman’s “trust me, I’m the expert” type of argumentation as regards NT scholarship and textual variants, as Dr. James White has pointed out; it is also similar to Muslim reactions when one starts getting deeper into discussions about details in the Qur’an or the Hadith or Islamic issues.

It reminds of the same thing that many Arabic speaking Muslims told me when I was preaching the gospel to them from the NT; and also quoting from an English Qur’an in pointing out inconsistencies, contradictions and basic apologetic issues. Especially that the Qur’an affirms the previous revelations (OT and NT) as from God and true (5:44-48; 5:68; 10:94; 2:136; 29:46); and yet, contradicts them in content and meaning.

They would say: “You don’t understand the deep meaning of the Arabic word.” And “you must go talk to my sheikh” or “come and see the Imam”

Then they would not return my phone calls and then they would avoid me; after we had several good meetings in a hospitable and friendly environment around Arabic coffee or hot tea and fruit, pistachios, roasted pumpkin seeds, shish kebab and rice, pita bread and hummus, cucumber salad, Tabouli, and many other wonderful middle eastern cuisine.

Because Islam is more than a spiritual religion about worship and God; it is a socio-political-military-economic system that controls every area of life; eventually in witnessing to Muslims, politics and laws about punishing criminals and military issues always comes up, many times brought up in conversation by Muslims themselves. They interpret all of our politics and social trends in the west as “Christianity” because their politics and social trends of their cultures are part and parcel of Islam.

This article and video is very interesting about “civilization Jihad” or “creeping Sharia” or “stealth Jihad”.

The laws about lying and deception are clearly a part of Islam.

Everyone should watch the video and read this article at the site

They discuss this book, Sharia, The Threat to America

This part from the article is very significant:
“How could the Professors both have gotten this all so wrong? The answer might be found, once again, in shariah. According to Shafi'i fiqh, as stipulated in the ‘Umdat al-Salik, lying is not only sometimes permissible for a Muslim but actually obligatory.

Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveler), section r8.0, "Lying". Section r8.2, entitled "Permissible Lying," cites the 11th century Islamic scholar Abu Hamid Ghazali:
"When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible....and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory." See also the Qur'anic verses 16:106 and 66:2. See also "Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination," by Ebrahim Moosa (June 2005) in which he argues that Ghazali's work has lasting relevance today.

Moreover, deliberately misleading infidels holds a special status in Islam and goes by two forms: taqiyyah (deceit or dissimulation) and kitman (lying by omission). Because the defeat and conquest of infidels by jihad is an explicit obligation defined in Islamic law, deceit, dissimulation, and outright lying to infidels in the execution of jihad is also obligatory.

Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller), o9.0 (pg. 599), "Jihad" says:
"Jihad means to war against non-Muslims..." and is scripturally commanded in a number of Qur'anic verses, including 2:216 "Fighting is prescribed for you," 4:89, "Slay them wherever you find them," and 9:36 "Fight the idolators utterly."
This is the complete opposite of what Prof. Moosa told his listening audience during this interview. In response to a listener's question, Prof. Moosa said: "...under no circumstances is any Muslim allowed to lie, because lying is a major sin. And you cannot even lie to a non-Muslim. You cannot lie to a non-Muslim. You cannot lie to a Muslim." “

“The Reliance of the Traveler (Umdat al Salik): A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law” ( Sharia in Arabic = شریعه ; Shariat in Farsi = شریعت )

But in Muslim cultures, the ability to “outwit” and trick and deceive the other person is a very highly admired quality, as long as the person doing the deception doesn’t get caught.

Do Muslims trick and lie and deceive, because they worship a god who is the best trickster, liar, schemer, deceiver?

Allah is the best of deceivers” (Qur’an 3:54, 8:30; 10:21)

وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ

Qur’an Surah 3:54 - “And (the unbelievers) schemed/deceived and tricked, and Allah too schemed and tricked, and the best of schemers/tricksters/deceivers is Allah.” (my translation) See all ten English translations. A few come close, but none of them bring out the full significance of the Arabic word, مکر (deception, trickery, guile)

Especially since the context of Surah 3:54 is the crucifixion of Christ – it is seen as a deception by Allah, along with Surah 4:157-158, that Allah tricked the Jews into thinking that they had crucified Jesus. That means also that all the Christians, and pagan Romans also were deceived. (Yet, the Qur'an claims that the followers of Al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) were full of integrity, helpers of Allah, and believers in Allah, and that Allah would never trick the believers, hence there is a big contradiction in the Qur'an and Islamic theology on this point. (see Surah 5:111; 61:14. Muslims read their theology back into the previous Scriptures. They think the disciples of Jesus were Muslims. Surah 61:14 even says that the believers in Islamic monotheism, the way they interpret who the original followers of Jesus are, (they have to assume that they did not believe in the crucifixion, yet in reality they did; and they assume that they and the first 6 centuries the true believers did not believe in the Deity of Christ, no Trinity; oops, that doesn't work!) The true believers became the "uppermost" - victorious. That contradicts the first 6-7 centuries of Christian history. ) That also means that this deception dominated history for 6 more centuries until Islam came later and “set the record straight” with “40 lonely Arabic words in one verse”. ( I first heard the emphasis on “40 lonely Arabic words" from Dr. James White)

Maybe this is why conspiracy theories are big in the Muslim world. They project onto the west what they know to be true in their own culture and politics. Many Iranians have told me that they think that behind closed doors, the Ayatollahs in Iran, later, Ahmadi Nejad, earlier Saddam Hussein in Iraq (until he got caught) and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (or Ronald Reagan, pick the leader at the time period) and Tony Blair were together plotting and scheming how to control the world.

We become like in character what we worship. Those who worship false gods become like them. Psalm 115:8

Worshiping the true God of the Bible transforms our character into true goodness, the moral character of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (see also Romans 8:29; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:21-24; Colossians 3:1-17; 2 Peter 1:4)

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV, 2010)

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18, NASB)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ( 2 Cor. 3:18, ESV)

“keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. . . Set your mind on things above . . . ( Colossians 3:1-3)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Duties of the Lay Catholic on Matters of Doctrine

The Catholic Encyclopedia relates the duties of lay Catholics as concerns matters of doctrine:

As to doctrine

The body of the faithful is strictly speaking the Ecclesia docta (the Church taught), in contrast with the Ecclesia docens (the teaching Church), which consists of the pope and the bishops. When there is question, therefore, of the official teaching of religious doctrine, the laity is neither competent nor authorized to speak in the name of God and the Church (cap. xii et sq., lib. V, tit. vii, "de haereticis"). Consequently they are not allowed to preach in church, or to undertake to defend the Catholic doctrine in public discussions with heretics. But in their private capacity, they may most lawfully defend and teach their religion by word and writing, while submitting themselves to the control and guidance of ecclesiastical authority. Moreover, they may be appointed to give doctrinal instruction more or less officially, or may even become the defenders of Catholic truth. Thus they give excellent help to the clergy in teaching catechism, the lay masters in our schools give religious instruction, and some laymen have received a missio canonica, or due ecclesiastical authorization, to teach the religious sciences in universities and seminaries; the important point in this, as in other matters, is for them to be submissive to the legitimate teaching authority.

I am unaware of any lay Catholic apologetics ministry that faithfully practices its craft according to these requirements.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Allah's will is higher than His nature

"If on the day of judgment God passes the evil people into heaven, and the good people into hell, then we would not have a right to question, because this is the way of God, and He is above all of our comprehension." Imam Al Ghazzali, "one of our best theologians" (quoted by Abdullah Kunde in a recent debate, beginning around 9:18 in the last section, questions and answers. See below.)

Here is an excellent debate between Muslim Abdullah Kunde and Christian Samuel Green: It gets to the heart of the issues of the differences between Islam and Christianity. Islam believes the Qur’an is “the savior”, not a person. Islam teaches that what man needs most is guidance and laws and dos and don’ts in order to control people and make a moral and clean and right society, with the right worship of Allah. Really, in consistent Islam, it not just the Qur’an that is “savior” of society, but it is Islamic law, which derives from the Qur’an and the Hadith and others sources. (see below) The most important thing that drives Islam's goals of conquering the world for Allah is instituting external laws to improve society, in their view, not freedom from sin and guilt and salvation from the wrath of God. In order to conquer the world for Allah, the sensual rewards in paradise were added for fighting and dying in Jihad (struggle)/Qatal (fighting) against the unbelievers. Those sensual rewards are what motivated the Muslims to fight and seek to conquer the world.

Yet, Abdullah Kunde confessed that no Islamic government consistently follows Islamic law; not Saudi Arabia (Sunni version), and not Iran (Shiite version). (The two supreme examples of governments that would claim they are following the Sharia law and creating a just and good society.)

If the Muslims have no example of this "utopia" here on earth; then why should we trust that they would be able to accomplish this in the west? Of course they cannot. People are too wicked and sinful and lots of sin goes on in the Muslim world secretly. External laws cannot change the heart. But the good news is that Christ can change the heart. (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:1-21; 2 Cor. 5:17; Galatians 5:22-23)

Christianity teaches that man cannot clean himself up and that what humans need most is salvation from their sins. God Himself comes and saves by the incarnation of Christ and His atonement on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection proves that His atonement was true and that He truly was and is the eternal Son of God who became flesh and lived and taught and allowed sinful men to crucify Him and He turned away the wrath of God by His powerful atonement and sacrifice; and He satisfied the justice and holiness of God by becoming the sin offering and guilt offering. "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29; see also I John 2:2; Revelation 5:9 and 7:9; Isaiah 53)

Abdullah Kunde is one of the better Muslim debaters, in my opinion, because he is calm and respectful and doesn’t play any tricky word games (like Ahmad Deedat and Zakir Naik) or get angry or make too many ad hominem or emotional arguments or “guilt by association” type of arguments. He seems really sincere, but, of course, he is sincerely wrong.

Debate: Savior of the World, Jesus or the Qur'an?

Sam Shamoun provides some excellent responses to Abdullah Kunde’s arguments:

I wish that I had learned the Hadith well when I first started witnessing to Muslims, 27 years ago. At that time, there was no internet, and the 9 volume book set of Sahih Al Bukahri was expensive and hard to come by, let alone trying to purchase also the other sets of Hadith. Thanks to the internet, Christians can now research and see the Hadith complete collections of Sahih Al Bukhari, Sahih Al Muslim, and Malik Muwatta; and partial collections of Sunan Abu Dawood also. The media focuses only on the Qur’an, but there are many things in Islamic theology and jurisprudence (Legal basis for Sharia law includes not only the Qur’an, but the Hadith, Tafsirs (commentaries), Tarikh (Islamic History) and Sirat (biography of the prophet of Islam, Muhamamd.)

Sam Shamoun - Response to Kunde - Part 1

Shamoun Response to Kunde – Part 2

Shamoun Response to Kunde - Part 3.

“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah's Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success.” Qur’an Surah 9:111 Hilali-Khan

Most of the other versions of the Qur’an in English also say that this promise is “binding” on Allah. This is very interesting. This is probably why is the common Islamic belief that no one can know if one will go to paradise except for dying in Jihad. That is the only guarantee of “salvation” in Islam.

Shamoun concludes: (in his response in part 1)
“However, if Allah isn't under any necessary obligation to save anyone and doesn't have to commit to keeping his promise or fulfilling his obligation to his servants then this means that Allah is a lying, deceitful, capricious deity who cannot be taken at his word. Such a god cannot be trusted and is unworthy of being worshiped.”

Indeed, it seems one of the fundamental differences between the God of the Bible and the god of Islam is that the God of the Bible wills and acts according to His good and holy nature; whereas the god of Islam’s main principle is His will power to do whatever He wants, and His will is over any kind of obligation to act according to a good and holy nature. That is, Allah can go back on His promise and not be faithful, if He wants to. The Holiness of God is emphasized more in the Bible, whereas in the Qur'an, the emphasis is on the will power of Allah. Although Abdullah Kunde admitted that Allah does not sin and does not lie; Muslims don't spend much time explaining how that can be in the light of Qur'an 3:54 - that Allah is the very best of deceivers/ schemers and that one still must put the power of Allah's will above any promise to be faithful and above His character of holiness and goodness.

The debate shows that Muslims clearly misunderstand the Trinity and the distinction between one substance and three persons, and other things like the voluntary sacrifice of Christ, the promise of God for eternal life, the guilt of all humans because of sin in Adam.

They call the doctrine of the Trinity “illogical and a contradiction” because they fail to see the Oneness of God in His nature/substance/essence and the Three-ness of God in His persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They hear our explanations with their physical ears, but they cannot hear the truth spiritually. ( John 8:43)

Muslims struggle with understanding the redemption that God provided in Christ. They call the sacrifice of Christ for our sins an injustice. They think that we believe that God (the Father) forced Jesus to pay for our sins; whereas the truth is that Jesus, the eternal Son, freely and voluntarily laid down His life for us. (John 10:18)

Why do Muslims think that a promise from God that He makes to us; makes Him somehow lower than man and less powerful, if God Himself is faithful and honest and cannot lie? That would be an interesting discussion and debate to have; about the nature of God, the character of faithfulness, truthfulness, the issue of lying, and the trustworthiness of God’s word and promise.

The Muslims seem to think that God cannot be obligated to fulfill His word of promise to us; for that would make Allah somehow lower, or less powerful. What if God is by nature faithful and cannot lie? (see Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:13-20; I Corinthians 1:9; I Thessalonians 5:24; Lamentations 3:23-24) The Hebrews 6 passage tells us that God could not swear by anything higher than Himself. His character and nature is above any kind of capricious will that Allah has in Islam. God swears by Himself, because His character and nature is perfect and faithful and true.

But the God of Islam had to add a law to Himself to order Himself not to do any injustice or oppression:

“Abu Dharr reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said: My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another.” Sahih Al Muslim Book 032, Number 6246

Allah had to command Himself, just like he commands humans to not do any oppression or injustice. Interesting. His capricious will is more foundational to his character, than a holy and good nature.

The Al Ghazzali statement about judgment day that Abdullah Kunde quoted was very interesting indeed! Al Ghazzali see a Muslim web-site dedicated to him (1058 – 1111 AD, born in north east Iran, in the city of Tus in the Khorrasan province.) is still considered one of the most famous and respected Muslim theologians of Islamic history. He is like Augustine for Christians, Luther and Calvin for Reformed Christians.

Abdullah Kunde quoted it at the end on the last video section of questions from the audience:

"If on the day of judgment God passes the evil people into heaven, and the good people into hell, then we would not have a right to question, because this is the way of God, and He is above all of our comprehension." Imam Al Ghazzali, "one of our best theologians"

I am still trying to track that quote down. I hope to find it someday. I have heard many Muslims say this in the past 27 years, and since Abdullah Kunde affirms it, I have no doubt that Al Ghazzali wrote something like that, and that this is very deep in the psyche of Muslims as to how they see Allah.

If all Muslims agree with that statement that it is Islamic theology and not much disagreement; then that is enough for anyone not to want to become a Muslim, for it reveals the arbitrary and capricious nature of Allah and that His capricious will is above His nature/character and any promise or word to be faithful to that promise that He would give to believers.

But the God of the Bible cannot lie and is faithful to His promises. God's will never contradicts His nature. The true God is both pure and holy and good and Sovereign. In the Bible and Christianity, the true God, His will proceeds from His nature and does not contradict it. We can rely and trust on a perfect holy and good and faithful and loving God. That is good news!

Titus 1:2
God cannot lie.

James 1:13-14
God cannot sin, and is not tempted by sin.

I guess that is why Muslims do not really have real peace in their hearts, for they know that Allah can "outwit" / deceive / trick them on the final day. “Allah is the best of deceivers/schemers/tricksters" (Quran 3:54; 8:30; 10:21)

Yet, Jesus promises true peace (John 14:27, Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 5:1-11) and eternal life to those who repent of their sin and trust in Him. (John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 20:30-31; Acts 2:38; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10, many other verses).

Dr. White makes an excellent point in addition to Sam Shamoun’s response number 2 to Abdullah Kunde:
“If you are going to say the Federal Headship of Adam or the imputation of sins to Jesus in His sacrifice are "illogical," then say the same thing about the corresponding beliefs in Islam.”

Why Sharia (Islamic law) should never be allowed in the west:

Abdullah Kunde also revealed why the west should never allow Sharia law to be introduced - Christians, who are Dhimmis under Sharia law, cannot evangelize Muslims, and Kunde he admitted that it is a rule that Christians cannot build new churches. (based on the Pact of Umar or Omar)see here about The Pact of Umar, second Khalif of Islam; died in 644 AD The Pact of Umar, is also the basis for not allowing any evangelization in the Muslim world. see another article here on the pact of Umar and other "dhimmi" verses from the Qur'an and Hadith This along with the second class status of being “dhimmis”, and having to pay the Jizeye tribute tax of submission to the Islamic state (see Surah 9:29), eventually led to the complete disappearance of Christians and Jews in some places in the middle east and North Africa. Over the centuries Christians have fled and immigrated to get away from the unjust and harsh treatment of the Islamic Ummah. The small minority communities that have survived to today are constantly under attack, killed, and churches are being burned. (Iraq, Egypt) This also happens a lot where the Islamic community wants to enforce its will on the Christian populations, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia). The largest surviving community of descendants of these Christians in the Middle east are the Coptic church in Egypt, who are constantly persecuted.

What an unjust religion! This exposes the ultimate Islamic agenda in the west. There is no real freedom of thought, or of religion in Islam. “If any one leaves the Islamic faith, kill him.” This is what the Hadith says. see Sahih Al Bukhari 9:84:57 They should not be allowed to have Sharia compliant options in the west, as this leads to a slow takeover of western culture. If Muslims are given the freedom and chance again, they will seek to force westerners to Islam the way they did in early history of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa and Persia, and then not allow evangelism or conversions of Muslims to become Christians, and not allow any new churches to be built.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Official Interpretation of Private Interpretation and Other Observations on Blogosphere Lay-Catholicism

In his nuanced exposition of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Dulles, Professor at Fordham University and Professor Emeritus at The Catholic University of America, discusses the inevitable (and appropriate) use of private interpretation after official pronouncements by the Magisterium:

After the Magisterium has spoken, theologians play an indispensable role in giving effect to its pronouncements. Just as they took part in preparing the way for the pronouncements to be made, so too they inform the public about what has been decreed and in doing so interpret the documents. Every papal or conciliar definition or condemnation leaves a certain margin for interpretation, so that private judgment has to complete what public pronouncements left unstated. John Henry Newman insisted on this point in his defense of the Vatican decrees on papal primacy and infallibility. Once a thesis or treatise is censured, he writes, "theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success, but that demonstration is not de fide." Newman considers this process of theological sifting a necessary safeguard, protecting the faithful against the "fierce and intolerant temper" of those who would brush aside theological distinctions and burden the consciences of the faithful with exorbitant demands. (Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith [Sapientia Press: Naples, FL, 2007], 42-43)

The significance of the quotation will not be lost on those familiar with lay-Catholic arguments on the subject. As we are often told by various lay-Catholic apologists, the use of private interpretation is unbiblical and leads to doctrinal chaos--a great spiritual evil. However, here we are told by an official representative of Catholicism that private interpretation has its place in rightly handling the public pronouncements of the Magisterium, and that it even plays a positive preventative role--inoculating the faithful against "exorbitant demands." While effective epistemological objections can be raised against the standard lay-Catholic argument above, it seems sufficient to note that the role of private interpretation cannot, on Catholic terms, be unbiblical in an unqualified sense. If Dulles is correct, and we have every reason to believe he is an official representative of Catholicism given his relevant qualifications, then the traditional texts leveled against this Protestant hermeneutical assumption are being interpreted too broadly; they strike at both Protestant and (official, authoritative) Catholic notions of private judgment. The lay-Catholic objection to private interpretation must either be abandoned or qualified. For the latter, however, it is difficult to conceive of a way in which an interpretation of a text like 2 Peter 1:20 could be seen to apply only to Protestant private interpretation, and not to the private interpretation discussed by Dulles.

I recommend Cardinal Dulles' work. Indeed, as a general matter, I think most Protestants interested in Catholicism should spend far less time reading and engaging lay-Catholic apologetic blogs and far more time reading and engaging the official works of the Magisterium and their approved scholars. The lay-Catholic convert industry, of which the lay-Catholic blogosphere is a definitive part, merely represents a conservative sociological trend. As Dulles warns, such movements may or may not properly represent the official teachings of the Magisterium:

The sense of the faithful should be carefully distinguished from public opinion in the Church, which is not a theological source attributable to the Holy Spirit, but merely a sociological fact. Public opinion may be correct, but it often reflects the tendencies of our fallen human nature, the trends of the times, and the pressures of the public media. (Ibid., 45)

Indeed, as more of us have come to see, a study of mainstream and approved Catholic scholarship shows a disparity between blogosphere Catholicism and official Catholicism (e.g. Dulles approvingly cites Raymond Brown, a scholar often dismissed as too "liberal" by conservative lay-Catholic apologists). The post-Vatican II sensibilities of the modern Magisterium cannot be found in the basic fundamentalist and evangelical sensibilities of blogosphere converts to Rome.

Consider as well how the informal hierarchy of the Catholic conversion industry functions. Acceptance into its authoritative ranks differs decidedly from entrance into the authority structure of the official Magisterium. In official Roman Catholicism, authority is transmitted via the appropriate form and application of Apostolic Succession. This naturally leads to the promotion of long-time insiders to the faith. In the conversion industry, authority is a function of the kind of conversion manifested (which necessarily excludes persons with a history of life-long Catholic commitment). The more spectacular, with respect to emotional gravity, and the more dramatic, with respect to prior involvement in Protestantism, the greater the authority of the convert to represent the (singular) core value of the movement. As such, those with a prominent voice in blogosphere Catholicism might very well be (and almost always are) completely unqualified to speak for Catholicism in any official capacity. For all their superficial attempts to cultivate an air of intellectual sophistication, Catholic sites such as Called to Communion represent little more than unauthoritative shrines to a selection of conversion narratives. Fellow converts will undoubtedly find such self-centered glorification of the cult of celebrity emotionally satisfying, as, by all accounts, they have imported and applied their evangelical altar-call sensibilities to their new faith community. But for those of us attempting to understand and engage official Roman Catholic belief and practice, nothing seems as fruitless as studying such narratives and interacting with their authors. In terms of official doctrine, they have no more standing than any other set of lay-Catholic opinions.

The natural outgrowth of such circumstances is, of course, the multiplication of situations like the one sketched above--where a popular lay-Catholic apologetic is found to be incompatible with official Roman Catholic teaching. Beyond responding to its effects on unwitting Protestants, there seems to be no value in rigorously engaging a movement that produces such arguments, since faithful adherence to the denomination it promotes would inevitably result in jettisoning many of the very arguments used to arrive at it in the first place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quick Update

For those of you wondering (and hoping) when my "Luther, Exposing the Myth" project will be finished, I probably have another fifteen or so quotes to go. What I've done so far can be found here: "Luther, Exposing the Myth": a Response. I realize these posts are yawners in many respects. These posts aren't even primarily about Luther. They are primarily about how poor some Roman Catholics are at history. The same religion that says "to be deep in history is to cease being Protestant" is quite inept at Reformation history. Each of the quotes has history. It's not just the author of "Luther, Exposing the Myth" that cannot read quotes in context. Simply Google search the quotes and you'll find a whole host of Romanists who haven't got a clue. I'm very appreciative of my co-bloggers. Since they post on other subjects, this freed me up to do a project like this.

I've actually taken some time off from Romanism these past few months. I haven't even been listening to Catholic Answers (I think I've heard just about every "answer" at this point). I'm also involved with taking seminary classes. That, along with a job, family, and church responsibilities leaves sparse blogging play time. This also why I haven't posted too much over at aomin, and kept up with Iron Sharpens Iron.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, thank you. Without the help of my co-bloggers, I probably wouldn't have kept it going.

Rules of order


We as a federation of churches declare complete subjection and obedience to the Word of God delivered to us in the inspired, infallible and inerrant book of Holy Scripture. We believe and are fully persuaded that the Reformed Creeds do fully agree with this Word of God and therefore do subscribe to the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort. We acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the supreme and only Head of the Church. This headship is exercised in the churches by His Word and Spirit through the God-ordained offices, for the sake of the purity of doctrine and the holiness of life. The churches of the federation, although distinct, voluntarily display their unity by means of a common confession and church order. This is expressed as they cooperate and exercise mutual concern for one another. Since we desire to honor the apostolic command that in the churches all things are to be done decently and in good order (1 Cor. 14:40), we order our ecclesiastical relations and activities in the following articles covered under the following divisions:
Ecclesiastical Offices (Articles 1-15);
Ecclesiastical Assemblies (Articles 16-36);
Ecclesiastical Functions and Tasks (Articles 37-50);
Ecclesiastical Discipline (Articles 51-66).

I. Ecclesiastical Offices

Article 1

Christ has instituted three offices in the church: minister of the Word, elder and deacon.

Article 2

The duties belonging to the office of minister of the Word consist of continuing in prayer and in the ministry of the Word, administering the sacraments, catechizing the youth, and assisting the elders in the shepherding and discipline of the congregation.

Article 3

Competent men should be urged to study for the ministry of the Word. A man who is a member of a church of the federation and who aspires to the ministry must evidence genuine godliness to his Consistory, which shall assume supervision of all aspects of his training, including his licensure to exhort, and assure that he receives a thoroughly reformed theological education. The council of his church should help him ensure that his financial needs are met. (See Appendix 1.)

Article 4

At the conclusion of such training, a student must approach his Consistory to become a candidate for the ministry of the Word, which shall arrange for his examination at a meeting of the classis of which his Consistory is a participant. No one shall be declared a candidate for the ministry until he has sustained an examination at a meeting of this classis, in the presence of his Consistory, of his Christian faith and experience, of his call to the ministry, of his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, both in the original languages and in English translations, of the Three Forms of Unity, of Christian doctrine, Christian ethics and church history; of the Church Order, and of his knowledge and aptitude with regard to the particular duties and responsibilities of the minister of the Word, especially the preparation and preaching of sermons. Upon sustaining this exam in the presence of his Consistory and with the concurring advice of the delegates to this meeting of classis, his Consistory shall declare him a candidate for the office of minister of the Word. (See Appendix 2.)

Article 5

A man who is not a member of a church of the federation who seeks candidacy shall place himself under the supervision of a Consistory which shall make provision for his candidacy examination. (See Appendix 2.)

Article 6

The lawful calling to the office of minister of those who have not previously been in that office consists of:
First, the election by the council of one who has been declared a candidate according to the regulations prescribed herein, after having prayed and received the advice of the congregation;
Second, the examination of both doctrine and life, which shall be conducted to the satisfaction of the delegates to the classis of which the calling church is a participant, according to the regulations adopted by the federation (see Appendix 3);
Finally, the public ordination before the congregation, which shall take place with appropriate instructions, admonitions, prayers and subscription to the Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form of Subscription, followed with the laying on of hands by the ministers who are present and by the elders of the congregation, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form.

Article 7

Those who are already ordained ministers within the federation may be called to another congregation in a manner consistent with the above rules, without the examination or the laying on of hands. Any minister receiving a call shall consult with his current council regarding that call. He may accept the call only with their consent. Upon receipt of proper credentials from the church he last served, he shall be installed with the use of the appropriate liturgical form and shall subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form of Subscription.

Article 8

A minister who has been ordained in a church outside the federation shall not be admitted to serve in a church within the federation without an examination conducted to the satisfaction of the classis, according to the regulations adopted by the federation, whereupon he may be declared by classis eligible for call by his sponsoring Consistory. (See Appendix 4.)

Article 9

A minister of the Word is bound to the service of the churches for life and may change the nature of his labor only for weighty reasons, upon approval by his supervising council with the concurring advice of classis.

Article 10

Each church is to provide adequately for the minister of the Word and his family while he is serving that church, and should contribute toward the retirement and disability needs of its minister. Those who have retired from the active ministry shall retain the title and dignity of the office of minister of the Word.

Article 11

When for weighty reasons and in exceptional circumstances a pastoral relationship has been irreconcilably broken, and a minister of the Word or the council of the congregation he is serving desires to dissolve their pastoral relationship, that dissolution may occur only when all the following conditions have been met:
a. this dissolution shall not occur for delinquency in doctrine or life, which would warrant church discipline;
b. this dissolution shall occur only when attempted reconciliation, with the involvement of both the church visitors and the classis, has been unsuccessful, resulting in an intolerable situation;
c. this dissolution shall occur only with the concurring advice of the classis;
d. the council's provision for the adequate congregational support of the minister and his family shall require the concurring advice of the classis.
The council of the congregation with which the pastoral relationship is dissolved shall announce his eligibility for call. This eligibility shall be valid for no more than two years, whereafter he shall be honorably discharged from office.

Article 12

The council shall present to the congregation nominations for the offices of elder and deacon. Only male confessing members who meet the biblical requirements for office and indicate their agreement with the Form of Subscription shall be nominated by the council. Prior to making nominations, the council may give the congregation opportunity to direct attention to suitable men.

Article 13

Elders and deacons shall be elected to a term specified by the Consistory, and upon subscribing to the Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form of Subscription, shall be ordained or installed with the use of the appropriate liturgical form before entering upon their work.

Article 14

The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

Article 15

The duties belonging to the office of deacon consist of continuing in prayer and supervising the works of Christian mercy among the congregation; acquainting themselves with congregational needs; exhorting members of the congregation to show mercy; gathering and managing the offerings of God's people in Christ's name, and distributing these offerings according to need; and encouraging and comforting with the Word of God those who receive the gifts of Christ's mercy. Needs of those outside the congregation, especially of other believers, should also be considered as resources permit. The deacons shall ordinarily meet every month to transact the business pertaining to their office, and they shall render an account of their work to the Consistory.

II. Ecclesiastical Assemblies

Article 16

Among churches belonging to the federation, three assemblies shall be recognized: the Consistory, the classis and the synod. Classis and synod are broader assemblies that exist only when meeting by delegation. Only the Consistory is a continuing body.

Article 17

In all assemblies only ecclesiastical matters shall be transacted, only in an ecclesiastical manner.

Article 18

The proceedings of all assemblies shall begin and end with prayer.

Article 19

In every assembly there shall be a chairman, assisted by a vice-chairman. It is the chairman's duty to state and explain clearly the matters to be dealt with, and to ensure that the stipulations of the Church Order are followed and that every delegate observes due order and decorum in speaking. In all delegated assemblies the above named functions shall cease when the assembly adjourns.

Article 20

In every assembly there shall be a clerk whose task it shall be to keep an accurate record of the proceedings. In the broader assemblies the clerk shall serve for a term to be specified by the body. Between broader assembly meetings, the clerk shall perform his duties under the supervision of the next convening Consistory.

Article 21

In each congregation there shall be a Consistory composed of the minister(s) of the Word and the elders, which shall ordinarily meet at least once a month. The Consistory is the only assembly in the church(es) whose decisions possess direct authority within the congregation, since the Consistory receives its authority directly from Christ, and thereby is directly accountable to Christ.

Article 22

When a congregation is organized within the federation, this shall take place under the supervision of a neighboring Consistory and with the concurring advice of the classis.

Article 23

When the deacons meet together with the Consistory, the body is referred to as the council. The council shall exercise such duties described in the Church Order or such duties delegated to it by the Consistory. The council shall operate under the authority of the Consistory.

Article 24

Although congregations are distinct and equal and do not have dominion over each other, they ought to preserve fellowship with each other because they are all united with Christ, the spiritual and governing Head of the church. Congregations manifest this unity when they meet together in the broader assemblies.

Article 25

Those delegated to the broader assemblies shall be seated only with properly signed credentials, and each delegate shall have only one vote. In the broader assemblies only those matters that could not be settled in the narrower assemblies, or that pertain to the churches of the broader assembly in common, shall be considered. All such matters shall originate with a Consistory and be considered by classis before being considered by synod. No broader assembly shall have the power to depose an office-bearer or otherwise exercise church discipline, since these powers belong to the Consistory.

Article 26

A classis shall consist of neighboring churches whose Consistories delegate two of their members with proper credentials to meet at a time and place determined at the previous classis meeting, within the next twelve months. If three Consistories in the classis deem it necessary that a classis meet earlier than the regular time determined, the Consistory charged with convening the meeting shall determine when and where the meeting is to occur. The churches shall take turns providing a chairman and acting as the convening church.
Furthermore, the classis shall inquire of each Consistory whether Consistory and deacons' meetings are held, the Word of God is faithfully preached, the sacraments are faithfully administered, church discipline is exercised, the poor are cared for, and God-centered schooling is promoted; and whether the Consistory needs the advice and help of the classis for the proper government of the church.
Each classis shall inform the other classes regarding matters of mutual concern by forwarding its minutes to them in a timely manner.

Article 27

Each Consistory of the classis shall invite two experienced office-bearers appointed by classis, either two ministers or a minister and an elder, to visit the council once every two years, who shall give account of their visit to the classis. These visitors shall inquire whether the office-bearers faithfully perform their duties, adhere to sound doctrine, observe in all things the adopted order, and properly promote as much as lies in them, by word and deed, the edification of the congregation, including the youth, to the end that these visitors may fraternally admonish those office-bearers who have in anything been negligent, and may by their advice and assistance help direct all things unto the peace, edification and greatest profit of the churches.

Article 28

The churches shall meet as a synod at least once every three years. Each Consistory shall delegate two of its members to this meeting. Each synod shall determine a time and place for the subsequent synod and shall authorize a Consistory to convene that synod. If a majority of the classes deem it necessary that a synod meet earlier than the regular time determined, the Consistory charged with convening the meeting shall determine when and where the meeting is to occur.

Article 29

If any assembly complains of having been wronged by the decision of another assembly, it shall have the right to appeal to the broader assemblies. An individual's appeal must proceed first to the Consistory, and only then, if necessary, to a broader assembly. All decisions of a broader assembly are to be received with respect and submission, and shall be considered settled and binding, unless it is proved that they are in conflict with the Word of God or the Church Order. Consistories who are convinced that they cannot comply with a decision of a broader assembly because it does not agree with the Word of God cannot be compelled to do so, provided that they state to the classis the points at which the decision of the assembly disagrees with the Word of God. If a Consistory refuses to comply with the final decision of the synod and a subsequent synod rules by majority vote that submission in the matter is essential for the unity of the churches, the congregation is no longer eligible for membership in the federation.

Article 30

Having availed herself of the avenues for appeal, a church through its Consistory may withdraw from the federation at any time by submitting a written statement to the classis to which the church belongs.

Article 31

If any church member complains that he has been wronged by the decision of a narrower assembly, he shall have the right to appeal to the broader assemblies. Until a decision is made upon such appeal, the church member shall conform to the determination and judgment already passed.

Article 32

Any church may be admitted into the federation provided that its office-bearers subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity and agree with this Church Order, and its minister sustains an examination by the nearest classis, according to the regulations adopted by the federation. Any such church shall be provisionally accepted into membership in the federation by the classis, pending ratification by the following synod.

Article 33

Whereas it is the sole right of a congregation to hold title to its property, the ownership of all property, real and personal, held by a congregation of this federation is vested exclusively in that congregation, and title shall be taken in its name alone. Each congregation shall have exclusive control over all of its temporalities, nor shall the exercise of its property rights, through the decisions of its Consistory, be subject to the supervision of the broader assemblies, nor shall the broader assemblies have the right to revise those decisions. The broader assemblies of the federation shall not attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation, whether or not such congregation remains within, chooses to withdraw from, or is removed from the federation.

Article 34

Churches are encouraged to pursue ecumenical relations with Reformed congregations outside of the federation which manifest the marks of the true church and demonstrate faithful allegiance to Scripture as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. Each church is to give an account of its ecumenical activities to classis. Fraternal activities between congregations which need not be reported to classis may include occasional pulpit exchanges, table fellowship, as well as other means of manifesting unity.

Article 35

The churches of a classis may, as a group, enter into ecumenical relations with an individual church or group of churches such as a classis or presbytery. The classis shall keep synod informed of such ecumenical relations, thereby honoring our federative bond.

Article 36

The federation may enter into ecumenical relations with other federations by synodical decision. Such a decision with respect to ecclesiastical fellowship shall require ratification by a majority of the synodically-approved Consistories in the federation. Such a decision with respect to church union shall require a two-thirds vote of a synod and shall require ratification by two-thirds of the synodically-approved Consistories in the federation.

III. Ecclesiastical Functions and Tasks

Article 37

The Consistory shall call the congregation together for corporate worship twice on each Lord's Day. Special services may be called in observance of Christmas Day, Good Friday, Ascension Day, a day of prayer, the national Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, as well as in times of great distress or blessing. Attention should also be given to Easter and Pentecost on their respective Lord's Days.

Article 38

The Consistory shall regulate the worship services, which shall be conducted according to the principles taught in God's Word: namely, that the preaching of the Word have the central place, that confession of sins be made, praise and thanksgiving in song and prayer be given, and gifts of gratitude be offered.

Article 39

The 150 Psalms shall have the principal place in the singing of the churches. Hymns which faithfully and fully reflect the teaching of the Scripture as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity may be sung, provided they are approved by the Consistory.

Article 40

At one of the services each Lord's Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity, with special attention given to the Heidelberg Catechism by treating its Lord's Days in sequence.

Article 41

The covenant of God shall be signified and sealed to the children of confessing members in good standing through holy baptism administered by the minister of the Word in a service of corporate worship, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form. The Consistory shall properly supervise the administration of the sacrament, which shall be administered as soon as feasible.

Article 42

Adults who have not been baptized shall receive holy baptism upon public profession of faith, with the use of the appropriate liturgical forms, and be thus accepted as members. They shall be obliged to persevere in the fellowship of the church, not only in hearing God's Word, but also in partaking of the Lord's Supper.

Article 43

Baptized members who have been instructed in the faith and who have come to the years of understanding shall be encouraged to make public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Those who wish to profess their faith shall be interviewed to the satisfaction of the Consistory concerning doctrine and life, and their public profession of faith shall occur in a public worship service after adequate announcement to the congregation and with the use of the appropriate liturgical form. Thereby baptized members are accepted into full communion in the congregation and shall be obliged to persevere in the fellowship of the church, not only in hearing God's Word, but also in partaking of the Lord's Supper.

Article 44
Persons coming from denominations other than those with which we have ecclesiastical fellowship shall be admitted to communicant membership only after the Consistory has examined them concerning doctrine and life. The Consistory shall determine in each case whether public profession of faith shall be required. Their names shall be announced to the congregation two weeks prior to reception, in order that the congregation may have opportunity, if necessary, to bring lawful objections to the attention of the Consistory.

Article 45

The Consistory shall supervise participation at the Lord's Table. No member shall be admitted to the Lord's Table who has not first made public profession of faith and is not living a godly life. Visitors may be admitted provided that, as much as possible, the Consistory is assured of their biblical church membership, of their proper profession of faith, and of their godly walk.

Article 46

The Consistory shall ordinarily administer the Lord's Supper at least every three months in a service of corporate worship, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form. This administration shall conform to the teaching of God's Word and the regulations of ecclesiastical order, in such a manner as is most conducive to the edification of the congregation.

Article 47

The church's missionary task is to preach the Word of God to the unconverted. When this task is to be performed beyond the field of an organized church, it is to be carried out by ministers of the Word set apart to this labor, who are called, supported and supervised by their Consistories. The churches should assist each other in the support of their missionaries.

Article 48

Scripture teaches that marriage is designed to be a lifelong, monogamous covenantal union between one man and one woman. Consistories shall instruct and admonish those under their spiritual care who are considering marriage to marry in the Lord. Christian marriages shall be solemnized with appropriate admonitions, promises, and prayers, under the regulation of the Consistory, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form. Ministers shall not solemnize marriages that conflict with the Word of God.

Article 49

A Christian funeral is neither a service of corporate worship nor subject to ecclesiastical government, but is a family matter, and should be conducted accordingly.

Article 50

The Consistory shall maintain accurate membership records which include names and dates of baptisms, professions of faith, marriages and deaths of members of the congregation.

IV. Ecclesiastical Discipline

Article 51

Since Christian discipline is spiritual in nature and exempts no one from trial or punishment by the civil authorities, so also besides civil punishment there is need of ecclesiastical censure, that God may be glorified, that the sinner may be reconciled with God, the church and his neighbor, and that offense may be removed from the church of Christ.

Article 52

In case anyone errs in doctrine or offends in conduct, as long as the sin is of a private character and does not give public offense, the rule clearly prescribed by Christ in Matthew 18 shall be followed.

Article 53

Secret sins from which the sinner repents after being admonished by one person in private or in the presence of two or three witnesses, shall not be made known to the Consistory.

Article 54

If anyone has been admonished in love by two or three persons concerning a secret sin and does not repent, or if he has committed a public sin, the matter shall be brought to the Consistory.

Article 55

Anyone whose sin is properly made known to the Consistory, and who then obstinately rejects the Scriptural admonitions of the Consistory, shall be suspended from all privileges of church membership, including the use of the sacraments. After such suspension and subsequent admonitions, and before proceeding to excommunication, the impenitence of the sinner shall be publicly made known to the congregation, the offense explained, together with the care bestowed upon him and repeated admonitions, so that the congregation may speak to him and pray for him. This shall be done in three steps. In the first, the name of the sinner need not be mentioned, that he be somewhat spared. In the second, the Consistory shall seek the advice of classis before proceeding, whereupon his name shall be mentioned. In the third, the congregation shall be informed that, unless he repents, he will be excluded from the fellowship of the church, so that his excommunication, if he remains impenitent, may take place with the full knowledge of the church. The interval between the steps shall be left to the discretion of the Consistory.

Article 56

If these steps of discipline, having been carried out in a loving manner, do not bring about repentance, but rather harden the sinner in his ways, the Consistory shall proceed to the extreme remedy, namely, excommunication, in agreement with the Word of God and with the use of the appropriate liturgical form.

Article 57

The restoration of a sinner whose sins are public, or have become public because the admonition of the church was despised, shall take place upon sufficient evidence of repentance, in such manner as the Consistory shall deem conducive to the edification of the church. Whether in particular cases this should take place in public shall, when there is a difference of opinion about it within the Consistory, be decided with the advice of two neighboring churches of the classis.

Article 58

Whenever anyone who has been excommunicated desires to become reconciled to the church by way of penitence, it shall be announced to the congregation in order that, insofar as no one can allege anything against him to the contrary, he may, with profession of his repentance, be publicly reinstated with the use of the appropriate liturgical form.

Article 59

Mature members by baptism who are delinquent in doctrine or life shall be admonished and, if they persist, shall be excluded from the church of Christ. The advice of classis must be sought before proceeding to such exclusion.

Article 60

Members by baptism who have been excluded from the church and who later repent of their sin shall be received again into the church only upon public profession of faith.

Article 61

When a minister, elder or deacon has committed a public or gross sin, or refuses to heed the admonitions of the Consistory, he shall be suspended from his office by his own Consistory with the concurring advice of the Consistories of two neighboring churches. Should he harden himself in his sin, or when the sin committed is of such a nature that he cannot continue in office, he shall be deposed by his Consistory with the concurring advice of classis.

Article 62

Included among the gross sins, but not to the exclusion of all others, which are worthy of suspension or deposition from office, are these: false doctrine or heresy, public schism, public blasphemy, simony, faithless desertion of office or intrusion upon that of another, perjury, adultery, fornication, theft, acts of violence, habitual drunkenness, brawling, filthy lucre, in short, all sins and gross offenses which render the perpetrators infamous before the world and which in any other member of the church would occasion excommunication.

Article 63

The ministers, elders and deacons shall exercise mutual censure regularly, whereby they exhort one another in an edifying manner regarding the discharge of their offices.

Article 64

Those who seek membership in another congregation shall request in writing that their current Consistory send to the receiving Consistory an official letter including pertinent membership information and testimony concerning doctrine and life.

Article 65

No church shall in any way lord it over other churches, and no office-bearers shall lord it over other office-bearers.

Article 66

These articles, relating to the lawful order of the church, have been so drafted and adopted by common consent, that they ought to be observed diligently. If it be found that God may be more honored and the churches better served by changing any article, this shall require a two-thirds vote of a synod and shall be ratified by two-thirds of the synodically-approved Consistories of the federation prior to the next synodical meeting, after which meeting they shall take effect.