Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Real Root of Reza Aslan's Worldview and book, Zealot

This interview of Reza Aslan by Jennifer Danielle Crumpton reveals the real underlying worldview and presuppositions of Reza and his book, Zealot.  Jennifer Crumpton got her M. Div. from Union Theological Seminary, no surprise there, and is ordained in the "Christian Church" (Disciples of Christ) denomination.   Jennifer is a Pastoral Associate of Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan, New York.  This is one of the most liberal of all mainline churches; along with the United Church of Christ and affiliated denominations.  (Hard to say which one is the most liberal.)

She also says she is a blogger and minister to young people, Gen-Xers and Millennials, etc. a "Femmevangelical" (her web-site), and most of what she writes seems to be similar to other post-moderns and Emergent/Emerging church thinking.  She writes for the Huffington Post and other liberal leaning blogs.   If you look further at her web-site and videos on You Tube, it is obviously she is against the complimentarian position of women's roles in the Bible and church and family, and very negative against Patriarchal society in the Bible.  Unfortunately, the past sins of some men against women are being imputed to God and the Bible itself. (Nothing new there either.)

The scholars who have criticized Reza Aslan's book, Zealot, have focused on the fact that his theory that Jesus was a revolutionary against Rome is not new, but not many of them talk about the roots of his worldview in the book, and the separation of "the Jesus of history" vs. "the Christ of Faith".

A roundup of significant reviews of Zealot:

John Dickson - this one seems to me to be the most devastating to Aslan.  (per Denny Burk's blog)
seems like Denny Burk's blog is being hacked, or having problems sometimes, so below is the direct link:

John Dickson

Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition. 

Larry Hurtado  (by way of Ben Witherington III) 

Warning - this link shows Reza Aslan's frequent cursing, dirty language, and bullying on twitter and media outlets, with anyone whom he doesn't agree with. (on the second page)

Aslan is classic liberalism that has come back with a vengence in our society through the Emerging/Emergent church movement and their spokespeople like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Rachel Held Evans.

It is the same classic Rudolph Bultmann type stuff I heard in the liberal United Methodist Church that I grew up, in the 1960s and 1970s.   But the ministers never admitted it until the Lord saved me in 1977 as a teenager, and then, later, in 79-81, when I went and asked them specific questions, I learned where they were coming from.  

The biggest problem is that in sound bite media and Reza Aslan's interviews (like on PBS programs and the Daily Show and Huffington Post type blog/video interviews, and this one above; is his views are "baptized" in the general idea that "The Jesus of History" is separate from "The Christ of Faith", and that seems to be overall worldview of most liberal and modern scholars today - John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, etc. - they don't allow truth of theology and miracles to be brought into history or historical research. Doubt and skepticism toward the gospels and Bible are the takeaway message in our sound-bite culture.
Most people seeing these things (interviews, media videos and blogs) don't care about Reimarus or S. G. F. Brandon, (Though it is good for thoughtful readers to know about that and that those theories have already been dealt with in earlier times); but what dumbs everything down and the basic message that gets spread, is that Jesus existed and was crucified, but beyond that, we cannot trust anything else, because it is suppossedly out of the realm of the canons of historical research to allow miracles or theology into it.

I am still reading the book Zealot, I have probably read 3/4 of it; but to be honest, it is boring!!  Liberalism is boring to me; and before I cull together specific quotes and specific problems, I thought I would give an overview of the basic worldview first.

See also my earlier post about "Understanding John Dominic Crossan". 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Luther: The Prophets have "a Queer Way of Talking"

Here's a Luther quote recently sent to me:
Luther complained about the prophets: "They have a queer way of talking, like people who, instead of proceeding in an orderly manner, ramble off from one thing to the next, so that you cannot make head or tail of them or see what they are getting at."
If you Google the quote, you'll get a number of hits, often without a reference. One helpful reference can be found in Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology (Edinburgh, Scotland: Oliver & Boyd, 1965), 2:33, no. 1. The author states in a footnote:
On the confusing impression which the literarry legacy of the prophets makes on the uninitiated, Luther says, "They (the prophets) have a queer way of talking, like people who, instead of proceeding in an orderly manner, ramble off from one thing to the next, so that you cannot make head or tail of them or see what they are getting at." (I am indebted to Protfessor Eudo C. Mason for this rendering. Trs.) Works, Weimar Edn., XIX, p. 350.
The quote is from WA 19:350, Luther's Lectures on Habakkuk (1526). It was translated into English in LW 19. One should not read this quote isolated from its context. The quote is from Luther's opening statement (or preface) on Habakkuk. The quote reads:

But before beginning with the text, I must pave the way with a general introductory remark. This is necessary and useful for a better understanding not only of this prophet but also of most of the others. For it has been most confusing in the past to hear the prophets speak of the Jewish kingdom and then to break off so abruptly and intersperse remarks about Christ. Everybody who is not familiar with their method regards that as an odd way of doing things, and he supposes that they observe no order but ramble along from one subject to another. This seems incomprehensible to all; people cannot get used to it. It is indeed very irritating to read a book that observes no order, in which statements are so disconnected that they do not fit together and therefore lack proper coherence. All of that may reasonably be expected of correct and proper speech. Thus the Holy Spirit was accused of an inability to express Himself properly, of talking like a drunkard or a fool, of mixing everything together and of delivering Himself of wild and odd words and statements. But it is we who were at fault; we did not understand the speech, and we were not acquainted with the method of the prophets. For it cannot be otherwise: the Holy Spirit is wise, and He also makes His prophets wise. Now, a wise man must necessarily be able to speak well; this can never fail. But to him who does not hear well or is not sufficiently conversant with a language, to him a speech may seem faulty because he hears or understands hardly half of the words. That has been our experience to date with Scripture. That is why we, too, groped in the dark so, aped others, and often missed the mark and arrived at another meaning. As the saying goes: He who cannot hear well, invents well. (LW 19:152).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Was the Qur'an Perfectly Preserved? What about Ibn Masood and Ubai Ibn Kaab?

A classic video by David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi of Acts 17 Ministries, that explores these questions. Worth watching again.  It goes well with Dr. White's chapters on this subject (Chapters 10-11) in his book, What every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur'an

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Roman Catholic Teaching: "Cheating in an examination at school is not sinful unless it brings injustice to others"?

Every so often I come across something that simply seems too ridiculous to be true, like a few weeks ago when the Vatican was said to be offering indulgences to the Pope's Twitter followers (that one turned out to be true). A few days ago, I came across the following on an Internet discussion board, and this one also seemed far-fetched:
"Cheating in an examination at school is not sinful unless it brings injustice to others." From the New Parish Catechism  Imprimatur: Most Rev. Joseph A. Durick, DD Bishop of Nashville.
I inquired about the quote, and this was the answer I was given:
Sorry to say this is not a misquote but the actual quote taken from the new parish catechism. I'll give you also the Nihil Obstat: Rev. Robert J. Hofstetter. Imprimatur: Most Rev. Joseph A. Durick D. D. Bishop of Nashville. Copyright 1973 by Fare Revised 1976. Now as a "Born Again" believer I take lying as a mortal sin because the Word of God declares that no liar will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I am not saying anyone here is calling me a liar but I just want to set the record straight. I don,t know what else to say except I am accountable to the Lord for not presenting the truth. It is what it is.
I Googled the quote and book, but couldn't find any copies available online, so I bought one. Sure enough, the quote is there (p.131). The quote is part of "Lesson 42: The Eighth Commandment" (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor). The lesson goes along rather smoothly until section 5 which explains, "Sins against the Eighth Commandment are serious if damage results from your misuse of the power of speech. If the damage done is less serious the sin is venial." Then in section 6, the quote in question occurs:

6. What is a lie?
A lie is a violation of my neighbor's right to truth. A lie is a distortion of truth.
"Lying is an abominable habit." (Sirach 20:26)
Hyperbole (exaggeration) and telling an untruth as a joke are not necessarily sinful.
Cheating in an examination at school is not sinful unless it brings injustice to others.
Perjury (lying under oath) is the most serious way to violate speech and human trust. Perjury is, therefore, a most serious sin. Teachers and parents are the agents of truth. Television, radio, the press are also agents of truth and are obliged to tell the truth without fiction or exaggeration.

Rev. William G. Martin, The New Parish Catechism, A Complete Course in the Catholic Faith, the Teachings of Jesus Christ (Ill.:FARE INC., 1973), p.131.

"Useful and practical for many uses in the parish"

Nihil Obstat: Rev. Robert J. Hofstetter Censor Librorum

Imprimatur: Most Rev. Joseph A. Durick, D.D. Bishop of Nashville

The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error.  No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.

I've been told that the revised edition of this catechism (1986) is changed at this section. If anyone has a copy of it, please post the changes here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Steps on How to Accept Gay Marriage in a Church

I found this pro-gay marriage in the church article fascinating. It's from someone in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America(ELCA).

Herbert Chilstrom: Gay acceptance and churches Article by: HERBERT W. CHILSTROM Updated: August 3, 2013 - 4:48 PM

Despite the pope's warmhearted words, don't expect immediate change. Instead, be patient.

The pastoral, warmhearted response of Pope Francis to a reporter’s question about homosexual persons quickened many hearts. Was it a harbinger of change in the near future?

My experience tells me such hopes are unrealistic.

I became a Lutheran bishop in Minnesota in the mid-1970s. It wasn’t until then that I began to meet members of our Lutheran congregations who were gay and lesbian. Among them were graduates of our Lutheran colleges and children of some of our most prominent parish pastors.

They told their stories — tales of heartless rejection and accounts of persistent faith. I listened and asked questions.

It was a step.

It was a full two years before I wrote a pastoral letter to all of the more than 600 ordained ministers on our roster in Minnesota. I urged them to do as I had done, to get acquainted with gay and lesbian members of their churches and to give them pastoral care.

It was a step.

Over the next decade, I carved out time to study carefully the handful of Bible passages that refer to same-sex behavior. Eventually, I came to believe that all of them addressed homosexual abuse and rape. I had seen none of this among the growing number of homosexual Lutherans I had come to know firsthand.

It was a step.

In 1987, I was elected the first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the fourth-largest Protestant denomination in the United States. By now the issue had bubbled up into a national crisis. Along with other denominations, the ELCA was seeking to develop a policy on gay ordination, gay marriage and related questions.

Each attempt at a resolution failed.

In the meantime, in 1991, I urged the 65 regional bishops of the ELCA not to bring disciplinary action against parish pastors who felt free in conscience to bless homosexual pairs who came for an affirmation of their relationships.

It was a step.

After I retired from office in 1995, the ELCA continued to wrestle with these matters. Finally, in 2009, more than three decades after my first encounters with gay and lesbian members, the national assembly of the ELCA, by a two-thirds majority, affirmed those in faithful, lifelong same-gender relationships and allowed congregations to call a homosexual pastor who is in that kind of partnership.

It was a step.

In the four years since then, a small but growing number of the nearly 10,000 congregations in the ELCA have opened wider their doors to these fellow believers.

It is a step.

In a hierarchal organization like the Roman Catholic Church, where such decisions are made by a small coterie of cardinals in Rome, the process of change could drag on for far more than three decades. And the outcome can only be surmised.

In the meantime, many of us — Lutherans, Roman Catholics, other Christians and non-Christians — give thanks for the kind and understanding words of Francis.

It is a step.

------ Herbert W. Chilstrom, of St. Peter, is former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Reformation Caused People to Abandon Celebrating the Lord's Supper?

Here's a new one (at least for me) from the CARM discussion boards: Look What Happened when the "Reformers" Protested against the True Church-
I've pointed this out in the past but never realized the "Reformers" recognized this problem. When they changed Christ's ancient teaching of the pillar and foundation of the truth, they recognized that many of their disciples stopped celebrating the Lord's Supper.
The proof given consists of statements from Luther's Large Catechism (bolded emphasis from the CARM post):
In conclusion, since we have now the true understanding and doctrine of the Sacrament, there is indeed need of some admonition and exhortation, that men may not let so great a treasure which is daily administered and distributed among Christians pass by unheeded, that is, that those who would be Christians make ready to receive this venerable Sacrament often. 40] For we see that men seem weary and lazy with respect to it; and there is a great multitude of such as hear the Gospel, and, because the nonsense of the Pope has been abolished, and we are freed from his laws and coercion, go one, two, three years, or even longer without the Sacrament, as though they were such strong Christians that they have no need of it; 41] and some allow themselves to be prevented and deterred by the pretense that we have taught that no one should approach it except those who feel hunger and thirst, which urge them to it. Some pretend that it is a matter of liberty and not necessary, and that it is sufficient to believe without it; and thus for the most part they go so far that they become quite brutish, and finally despise both the Sacrament and the Word of God.
First, from a personal contemporary perspective, I belong to a Protestant church in which the sacrament of Holy Communion is taken quite seriously and is well-attended by the congregation. The sacrament is observed typically once a month, though in two stages. The week before the celebration, part of the service is dedicated to preparing for the upcoming Lord's Supper and parishioners are exhorted to continue prayerfully preparing during the week. In other words, however unimportant this Roman detractor thinks all of Protestantism regards the sacraments, my experience does not support any such contention; and by extension, all those churches that are in solidarity with my church share a similar seriousness in regard to Holy Communion.

From a historical perspective, I would direct this Roman defender to Steven E. Ozment, The Reformation in the Cities: The appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975). He should particularly read chapter 2: Lay Religious Attitudes on the Eve of the Reformation.  On page 17, Ozment describes historians that spoke against a lively religious piety in the late Middle Ages. For instance, one French scholar saw in a particular French region "only external, formalized religiosity among laymen."  He notes a lack of enthusiasm in the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist (p.18). After noting the irregularity of those faithfully going to confession, he states, "Irregularity is also found to mark lay reception of the Eucharist, despite large numbers of participants at Easter and other festive occasions, when attendance was much more diligently enforced" (p. 19). Ozment then states:
"A study of piety in late medieval Germany has reported very similar results. There, even the threat of force did not prevent many from staying away from Easter communion as well as 'voluntary' communion during the year. In 1480 in the diocese of Eichstätt, fewer than one hundred persons are recorded to have received communion at times other than Easter" (p.19).
Roman Catholic historian Joseph Lortz notes similarly:
Within the whole system the reception of holy communion played a very small part. Universally the power of this opus operatum above all others fell into the background of the spiritual economy. In general, people received only the strictly obligatory Easter communion after the likewise obligatory two confessions. (Communion was obligatory, moreover, on pain of imprisonment and corporeal punishment.) And even then there was relatively great neglect of this minimum. There were repeated admonitions from synods that this once yearly communion must not be neglected. But these admonitions were in vain. [Joseph Lortz, The Reformation in Germany Volume 1 (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968), p. 123]. 
But perhaps the best response to this Roman defender was offered by another CARM participant:
Hebrews 10: "24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." 
So, who had "changed Christ's ancient teaching of the pillar and foundation of truth" when the epistle to the Hebrews was written? Interesting that the apostles encountered similar behavior even before the great and powerful Oz, oops, I meant the great and powerful, all-authority Roman Church came into existence.
This CARM contributor makes a good point, a good biblical point. There were those people even during the lifetime of the Apostles and the writing of the New Testament that "gave up" the blessing of meeting together as a church. And of course, there's Paul's description of the abuses during the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11). It's no surprise to me that the writer to the Hebrews and Paul both exhorted the early church on basic points of fellowship and sacraments, nor am I surprised Luther did the same. If the apostles needed to exhort the church, why would we assume those that came after the apostles would not need to as well?

And Now... The Date for the Assumption of Mary...

...from the private musings of Taylor Marshall: What is the Historical Date for the Assumption of Mary:

"So I’m suggesting that Mary was assumed about A.D. 63 when Herod’s temple was finally finished. This temple did not have the true Ark of the Covenant – because Mary was the true Ark of the Covenant enshrined not in the Herodian Temple, but in the Temple of the Catholic Church. So the Assumption of Mary is a sort of “pre-tribulation” sign occurring before the seven years of Roman-Jerusalem gridlock culminating in the end of the Mosaic age – the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Spiritual Gifts and Cessationism

Doug Wilson interviews Mark Driscoll on Spiritual Gifts and Cessationism... two Reformed guys, two perspectives:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Remembering the Assumption of Mary

On the Death of Mary: Why the Infallible Interpreter Still Needs to be Interpreted

10/16/2011 - James Swan
As I've understood Roman Catholicism, it isn't determined one way or the other that Mary died. A Roman Catholic is free to believe either. Catholic Answers founder Karl Keating states, 
The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did in fact die [Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 273].

Against this "almost universal consensus" is none other than Patrick Madrid. Of Revelation 12:1-8 he states, 

This passage also shows us a vision of Mary, queen of heaven, and hints at her Assumption. The gift of suffering no corruption in the grave and of being 'caught up' into heaven while still alive is perfectly in accordance with Scripture [Patrick Madrid,Where is That in the Bible? (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2001), pp. 71-72].

Against this "almost universal consensus" is also the New Catholic Answer Bible:

If indeed she was free from sin, then it follows that she would not have to undergo the decay of death, which was the penalty for sin [The New Catholic Answer Bible (Kansas: Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005) Insert F2].

On the other hand, there are Roman Catholic web pages like this stating the following:

In any case, it is at least a sententia certa (a certain teaching) that our Lady died before being raised and assumed into heaven. This is the clear and explicit tradition of the West and is maintained in a slightly less-clear (and more metaphorical) manner also in the East.

The confusion stems from the magisterial teaching of Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus. Some say he did not explicitly state that Mary died. Some Roman Catholics read this "infallible" pronouncement and state:

This certitude that Mary in fact died and was believed by the Roman Catholic Church to have died before her bodily assumption is nicely addressed by Pope Pius XII when he states in section 17 of Munificantissimu Deus...  in quoting an historical source that  "Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: 'Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself."

Other Roman Catholics reading the same document declare:

However, the definition infallibly declared by Pius XII does not explicitly state that the Blessed Virgin suffered death: "We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

These interpretive snippets demonstrate an ironic flaw in Romanism: even their alleged infallible dogmatic pronouncements are open to interpretation. We need to continually remind Roman Catholics about this when they argue that they have some sort of superior certainty that non-Romanists do not. Roman Catholics sometimes say that if one lacks an infallible interpreter, one is left with private interpretation (as Patrick Madrid call it, "a blueprint for anarchy"). But what this often assumes is that the actual infallible pronouncements don't need to be interpreted... but they do! One never escapes private interpretation, so when Roman Catholics raise the issue, the double standard needs to be exposed. One may respond that it really isn't that important whether Mary died or not. That individual Roman Catholics quibble over it is no big deal. Actually though it's simply one more example of a much bigger problem. For instance, on the fundamental issue of what are, or are not, the very Words of God, Catholics are not unified.  

Joel Osteen Tweets, Luther Responds

This is a clever idea, but the truth is, Luther mixed substance in with his occasional outbursts of insulting rhetoric. He did not simply insult his opponents as the link below suggests:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When Lutherans Typically Receive the Gift of Faith From God

Last year I posted briefly on the gift of faith and Lutheranism. I found the following comment from a Lutheran blog quite interesting:
Faith is a miracle. For most of us, that miracle started in our baptism. There at the baptismal font, God put his name on us and made us his children. He put his claim on us and took us for his own. There in the blest baptismal waters, Christ’s holy blood washed away our sins. The Holy Spirit was given to us, the Spirit who creates and nourishes saving faith in us, and keep us in the one true faith our whole life long. In my own case, for instance, I was baptized as an infant and raised in the church, and I cannot remember any time in my whole life when I did not believe two things: 1) The Bible is God’s Word; and 2) Jesus is my Savior. My story is but one of a countless number of examples of how God’s gospel promise, delivered in Holy Baptism, does the job. It works. It works faith in the Christian believer, sustained by an ongoing life in Word and Sacrament. What is this faith? It is not just a mere intellectual belief that there is some sort of a Higher Power up there. That is not saving faith. No, faith, biblically speaking, is much more specific and substantial than that. When we’re talking about faith, we’re talking about faith in the one true God–the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has revealed himself to us in Holy Scripture, in the preaching and teaching of the gospel.
I post stuff like this for my Reformed brethren. While the Reformed church I am a member of does baptize children, I've never heard anyone in my church claim the gift of faith was given to them during their baptism as an infant.

From a Reformed perspective, the word "faith" has deep and nuanced meanings throughout the New Testament. In regard to soteriology, I'm fond of Ephesians 2. There Paul describes the universal plight of humanity by singling out the testimony of the Ephesians. Formerly, like all of humanity, they were dead in their transgressions and sins. But by grace they were saved through faith, and that not of themselves- it is the gift of God. That's the paradigm I find expressed in the Scriptures. I don't see any sort of construct that infants have been given some sort of faith at baptism, simply waiting to be acted upon by their own wills.

Recently Acquired: John Calvin's Sermons on Timothy and Titus (Facsimile of 1579 Edition)

A dear friend gave me an unexpected gift a few days ago: John Calvin's Sermons on Timothy and Titus (Facsimile of 1579 Edition).  The book is huge, and after I saw the price on Amazon, this may be the most expensive book in my personal library.

Luther vs. Lutheranism on Baptism?

I was sent a link to the following: Luther vs. Lutheranism by Chris Pinto. The link is to an mp3 broadcast:
LUTHER VS. LUTHERANISM Chris discusses the modern day Lutheran Church and their teachings on baptism. Is baptism required for salvation? Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ..." (Mark 16:16) Lutherans take this to mean that immersion in water is quite literally what is required. Does this amount to works salvation? And more importantly, is this teaching consistent with the doctrines of Martin Luther himself? Was Luther a Lutheran?
I've never heard of Chris Pinto before. He appears to be some sort of baptist with strong leanings toward the KJV and dispensational prophecy studies.  He describes himself in this broadcast as "a defender of Martin Luther and the Reformers overall... whenever somebody thinks they've got some bad info on Luther or Calvin they usually send it to me." He describes as well his efforts to save the historical John Calvin from the hands of modern-day "neo-Calvinists." I'm not exactly sure what he means, but I would speculate he may ascribe to the theory that Calvin was not a Calvinist in the same sort of way Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt, and a number of other non-Reformed evangelicals have interpreted Calvin. Again though, I know almost nothing about Mr. Pinto, other than listening to this one broadcast and skimming his website.

In this brief broadcast, Pinto takes on the notion that Lutherans generally and confessionally believe water baptism is essential for salvation while Martin Luther did not. This exploration is mixed together with another question: Did Martin Luther believe water baptism saves? That these two questions are mixed together made his presentation confusing and unhelpful. Perhaps this was due to time restraints, but shouldn't the treatment of such a complicated theological and historical topic be handled more carefully?

Mr. Pinto never specifically cites a Lutheran confession on the topic, but does cite a Lutheran blog article, Does Baptism Save? in order to outline the Lutheran position. He states that "the modern Lutheran confession is a belief in water baptism for salvation." I found it curious that even in the Lutheran blog article he cites, careful consideration was not given to the following statement found in that blog article:
Those who do not baptize children often raise questions at this point about how a Lutheran explains the baptized child who ages to be a pagan or atheist adult or other similar scenarios. Lutheranism would never propose that the adult who rejects Christ would be saved because of their having been Baptized. For a Lutheran, it is not contradictory to say that a baptized child is saved at one point, then rejects his Baptism and his Lord later in life, resulting in the loss of salvation as long as he does not repent.
Pinto cites Luther once and concludes Luther was not a Lutheran on the issue of baptism. He cites "Luther's own writings" using the anthology, What Luther Says by Ewald Plass. The specific entry is #145 (found on page 54 in volume 1 of my 3 volume set):
145 Faith Saves without Baptism Not Baptism Without Faith
A person can believe although he is not baptized; for Baptism is no more than an external sign to remind us of the divine promise. If one is able to get Baptism, it is well. Then one should take it, for no one should despise it. But if one were not able to get it or one were denied it, he is nonetheless not damned provided that he believes the Gospel. For where the Gospel is there Baptism also is and everything a Christian needs, because damnation follows upon no sin except unbelief alone. This is also the reason why the Lord says: "He that believeth not shall be damned." He does not say: He that is not baptized; but is silent about Baptism. For Baptism is useless without faith. It is like a letter to which seals are attached but in which nothing has been written. Therefore he who has the signs (which we call Sacraments) and not faith has seals only, seals attached to a letter without any writing. (W 10 III, 142 - E 12, 196 - SL 11, 953 f)
Pinto concludes that Luther's views on baptism are much like his own and what modern evangelicals believe. He mentions a few examples from the Bible of those who were saved either without or previous to baptism (the thief on the cross, etc.). He says he agrees with Luther that "water baptism is not necessary for salvation."

Contrary to a comment left about this show, the quote cited via Plass was not "one Luther quote pulled out of 55 volumes of Luther's writing." The context for the quote though does indeed exist in an English translation, but not in LW. In can be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 2, 1: 195-208, with the exact quote on page 204 (Day of Christ's Ascension into Heaven, Second Sermon, Mark 16: 14-20, 1522). The sermon can be found on-line here. In the context Luther is recorded as blatantly saying "Faith alone, of itself, without any works, as the Word of God here clearly says, brings us salvation, and works help nothing at all toward righteousness or salvation." He then explains that baptism is an outward sign that is accompanied with God's Word to strengthen our faith. That's about the extent of the discussion on baptism in this sermon. In other words, the statement from Luther used by Pinto is more of a passing comment than a detailed explanation of Luther's view.

I can certainly understand how Mr. Pinto read this quote cited by Plass and concluded he and Luther were on the same page. On the other hand, this brief quote from Plass certainly doesn't completely describe Luther's view, and if indeed Mr. Pinto has What Luther Says he should be aware of the rather complex view outlined by Plass (18 pages consisting of two columns on each page!). The question then I would have for Mr. Pinto is whether or not he really agrees with the entirety and complexity of Luther's view, or simply the one quote he used. For instance, the very next entry in What Luther says is entitled, "Yet Baptism is Valid Even Though Not Believed." The entry after that is entitled "For Faith is Not of the Essence of Baptism." Luther's sermon cited by Pinto comes from 1522. Citing Luther correctly on baptism really requires (especially for someone like Pinto) to look into Luther's writings after he became engaged in disputes with Anabaptist theology. My gut is telling me that Mr. Pinto really isn't familiar with Luther and therefore should not be commenting on whether or not contemporary Lutherans are at odds with Luther on baptism. Lutherans have every right to be suspicious of  his historical conclusions until he proves in some way that he actually understands the two positions he is comparing and contrasting. That he didn't cite any Lutheran confessions, and that he only could cite one Luther quote from an anthology makes me suspicious of his conclusions, and I'm not even a Lutheran. [In a follow-up broadcast, Mr. Pinto basically confirms my suspicion that he has little knowledge of Lutheranism. I've yet to hear anything from Mr. Pinto as well demonstrating any sort of familiarity with Luther's writings].

In fairness to Mr. Pinto, there are other comments from Luther about faith saving rather than sacraments:
It cannot be true, therefore, that there is contained in the sacraments a power efficacious for justification, or that they are “effective signs” of grace. All such things are said to the detriment of faith, and out of ignorance of the divine promise. Unless you should call them “effective” in the sense that they certainly and effectively impart grace where faith is unmistakably present. But it is not in this sense that efficacy is now ascribed to them; as witness the fact that they are said to benefit all men, even the wicked and unbelieving, provided they do not set an obstacle in the way—as if such unbelief were not in itself the most obstinate and hostile of all obstacles to grace. To such an extent have they exerted themselves to turn the sacrament into a command and faith into a work. For if the sacrament confers grace on me because I receive it, then indeed I receive grace by virtue of my work, and not by faith; and I gain not the promise in the sacrament but only the sign instituted and commanded by God. Thus you see clearly how completely the sacraments have been misunderstood by the theologians of the Sentences. In their discussions of the sacraments they have taken no account either of faith or of promise. They cling only to the sign and the use of the sign, and draw us away from faith to the work, away from the word to the sign. Thus, as I have said, they have not only taken the sacraments captive, but have completely destroyed them, as far as they were able. (LW 36:67)
Furthermore, St. Paul says in Rom. 14[:23], “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” How, then, can the sacraments give grace to unbelievers who in all their works and ways do nothing else than sin so long as they do not believe. Indeed, how can they remove the obstacle if they remain in that unbelief which makes all that they do sin, as St. Paul here states? Yet they teach that faith is not necessary in order to receive the sacraments and grace and, condemning me, they condemn these clear passages of Scripture. For the same reason, St. Paul quotes in Rom. 1[:17] and Heb. 10[:38] the saying of the prophet Habakkuk as one of the chief articles in all Christian teaching when he says, “The righteous shall live by his faith” [Hab. 2:4]. He does not say that the righteous shall live by the sacraments, but by his faith, for not the sacraments, but faith in the sacraments, gives life and righteousness. Many receive the sacraments and obtain from them neither life nor godliness, but he that believes is godly and will live. That is also the meaning of Christ’s saying in the last chapter of Mark [16:16], “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” He puts faith before baptism for where there is no faith, baptism does no good. As he himself afterwards says, “He who does not believe will be condemned,” even though he is baptized, for it is not baptism, but faith in baptism, that saves. For this reason, we read in Acts 8[:36f.] that St. Philip would not baptize the eunuch until he had asked him whether he believed. And we can see every day that wherever in the whole world baptism is administered, the question is put to the child, or the sponsors in his stead, whether he believes, and on the basis of this faith and confession, the sacrament of baptism is administered. (LW 32:13-14)
 Moreover, St. Paul says (Rom. 10[:10]) that, “A man believes with his heart and so is justified.” He does not say that it is necessary that he receive the sacraments, for one can become righteous by faith without the bodily reception of the sacraments (so long as one does not despise them). But without faith, no sacrament is of any use, indeed, it is altogether deadly and pernicious. For this reason, he writes in Rom. 4[:3] that, “Abraham believed, or trusted, God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” or godliness. This Moses had previously written in Gen. 15[:6] and it was set down in order that we might know that nothing makes us good and righteous except faith. Without faith, no one can have any dealings with God, nor receive his grace. (LW 32:15)
For the word can exist without the sacrament, but the sacrament cannot exist without the word. And in the case of necessity, a man can be saved without the sacrament, but not without the word; this is true of those who desire baptism but die before they can receive it. (WA 38:231)
These sort of quotes though need to be balanced by Luther's interaction with Anabaptist theology. The Anabaptists seized on Luther's theology here and thus often devalued the sacraments. Luther then argued for the "indissoluble relationship of the sacraments to faith" as Paul Althaus explained. See his overview in The Theology of Martin Luther, pp. 348- 352.  If Mr Pinto reads this blog entry, I would direct him as well to the treatment of Luther's view of baptism found in the same book, pp. 353-374.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Latest Volume of Luther's Works (LW 75) and How Did Luther Preach?

The latest volume of Luther's Works in English arrived a few days ago: Luther’s Church Postil (LW 75, sermons for the church year). It's wonderful to finally have a contemporary critical English edition of the Church Postil. In my own dabblings in Reformation studies, using the older English translation of the Church Postil sometimes presents more questions than answers. The Church Postil went through various emendations and editions, some approved by Luther, some not. The previous version available in English compiled by John Nicholas Lenker "presents translations that, at more than a century in age, are often innacurate and stilted. In addition, it is difficult to start from Lenker and find one's place in the Weimar edition" (LW 75:xxviii). While I've enjoyed using Lenker over the years, LW 75 will bring needed clarity in researching Luther's writings for those of us using the English language.

One of the most frustrating things I've dealt with using Lenker is trying to determine the actual date of many of the sermons presented, and if a sermon underwent any editing and by who. For instance, I've noted that many Roman Catholic sources have taken quotes from Roth's version of the Church Postil. The introductory material in LW 75 documenting Luther's interaction with the shortcomings of Roth's version confirmed to me how carelessly Luther has been documented by some polemical Roman historians (and some Protestant researchers as well). In fairness to any historical figure, it would seem to me one would want to rely on the version of any particular writing that the author held to be the version they preferred. The editors of LW 75 chose to utilize the mature form of the Church Postil, noting the variants. The introductory material in LW 75 explaining the history of Church Postil was a helpful reminder that when someone says "Luther said..." one needs to use care and caution.  

I've noted in the past how much I enjoy reading Luther's sermons. Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes recently provided a short synopsis of  Luther's preaching style: Tools in Luther's Homiletical Toolbox. For those of you in the preaching ministry, take a moment to skim through the article, and then track down some of Luther's sermons online.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Understanding John Dominic Crossan

I am still working through Reza Aslan's book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  When I finish it, I hope to write some blog articles and comments on the substance of the book.   The ghosts of classic liberals like Reimarus, Adolph Von Harnack, Rudolph Bultmann, F. C. Bauer, Walter Bauer and modern "Jesus Seminar" type liberals like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, the late Robert Funk, Raymond Brown, and John P. Meier,  James Tabor, and Geza Vermes are all through his book; and the end-notes/works cited/bibliography are full of this stuff. In that sense, Aslan's book is nothing new; and will probably be a "flash in the pan". But many younger people, bloggers, skeptics, and atheists today are reading this book.   It it interesting for me, because Aslan has become a famous western Iranian, and just knowing his material is helpful in my ministry with Iranians.  Therefore, I wanted to read Zealot, as I had also already started his other book, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.  I got it in English and Farsi to improve my language skills.

A lot of Aslan's experiences and thinking are typical for westernized Iranians that fled the Iranian Islamic Revolution, lead by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.  Aslan was 7 when his family fled the Iranian Revolution; and he says that his family was very nominal Muslims and enthusiastic atheists.  He says his mom prayed when no one was looking, and maybe a Qur'an could be found in a drawer hidden away; and for the most part, his father tried really hard to scrub Islam and religion from his family.  Many Iranians go that route when they flee Iran and come to the west.  I have meet many Iranians like this here in the USA.

In order to get a grasp on what Aslan really means, one needs to understand John Dominic Crossan.

Dr. White debated Dr. Crossan on the Bible - this one is worth ordering here. Debate Title: "Is the Bible True?"  I love Dr. White's comment he has made several times over the years about J. D. Crossan, "He is the nicest heretic you will ever meet."  (something like that)

Dr. White and James Renihan also debated John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg:

William Lane Craig on John Dominic Crossan:  (this is a very good and I think WLC nailed this.  Similar to J. Greshem Machen calling out Liberalism as another religion and not Christian at all.) 

The book that WLC mentions, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?  (A Debate between John Dominic Crossan and William Lane Craig; edited by Paul Copan)  I read this years ago; and it was good to pull it out and go through some of it again.

Here is a very interesting doctoral dissertation for Southern Seminary by Tawa J. Anderson on John Dominic Crossan's theology. I found this very helpful in getting a better overall handle on understanding John Dominic Crossan.  (the first couple of pages are blank, so scroll down to start reading it.)

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Helpful chart that compares the Judaizers with Roman Catholic system of salvation

William Webster on Roman Catholicism's teaching on Salvation and Justification.

The entire article by Webster is very good; I just wanted to highlight this helpful chart, which shows the similarity between the Roman Catholic system of salvation and justification with the Judaizers of the book of Galatians, that Paul says twice are accursed for teaching a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:4; 2:21), because they added the merit of good works to Christ's final work of redemption on the cross, as more conditions for justification.   Man's responsibility is faith alone in Christ alone.    Good works are the necessary result of true faith and justification, (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26), but good works are not conditions that one must fulfill in order to earn one's final justification.

1. Belief in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God
2. Circumcision
3. Become a Jew
4. Sacrificial System
5. Priests
6. High Priests
7. Altars
8. Feast Days
9. Laver of Water
10. Dietary Regulations
11. Candles
12. Incense
13. Shew Bread
14. Keep the Ten Commandments
15. Tradition of the Elders

Note:  I had trouble getting the chart to come out exactly right; but I guess this is close enough.


Roman Catholicism
1. Belief in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God
2. Baptism
3. Become a Roman Catholic
4. Sacrificial System
5. Priests
6. High Priests
7. Altars
8. Feast Days
9. Font of Holy Water
10. Dietary Regulations (Until recently)
11. Candles
12. Incense
13. The Eucharist Wafer
14. Keep the Ten Commandments 
15. Tradition of the Church Fathers