Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spiritual Abortion?

Just came across this on the Catholic News Service. Don't have much to say except it is just bizarre?

"Accepting Jesus into one's heart but not bringing him into the world through good works is a "spiritual abortion," said the preacher of the papal household.

Offering an Advent meditation to Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials Dec. 19, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said all Christians are called to share spiritually in the motherhood of Mary by allowing Jesus to be conceived in their hearts and born into the world through acts of love and self-sacrifice.

As with a physical pregnancy, he said, there is the possibility of one conceiving but not giving birth "because, in the meantime, the fetus dies of natural causes or through human sin."

"One who accepts the word without putting it into practice conceives Jesus without giving birth to him," Father Cantalamessa said." Source

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

When I first start interacting with online Catholics a few years ago, I was surprised by their low view of scripture. In fact, some Catholics I have met have an almost hostile stance towards the bible. For people confessing to be Christians, this was a red flag (among many).

Nowadays, this low view of scripture from so many Catholics is easier to understand. I see the issue as a problem of two masters. In this case, Catholics can’t serve both the scriptures and the magisterium.

Sure, most Catholics will give lip service to the authority of scripture. But that authority is soon subjugated to a secondary role when the topic of sola scriptura comes up.

As I said, the low view of scripture amongst Catholics was a red flag for me from the beginning. And for this reason, “Catholics Quotes on the Bible” has been a favorite series of mine.

With that, I leave you with a new quote:

"If Almighty God had in the Bible or elsewhere told us that this book contained the whole of Christianity, we should be on good ground. If Christ Himself had written the book and set it forth as a text-book, so to speak, of His religion, we could rest securely in it, and have no need to inquire farther. That the Bible is not a book, like the Koran for instance, set forth by the founder of the religion as its authoritative exposition, is in fact the fundamental weakness of Bible Protestantism. If Christ had intended His religion to be propagated and preserved by means of a book, can any conceivable reason be urged why He should not have written one? Of His ability to do so there can, for the Christian, be no question."

-Plain Facts for Fair Minds (1895)
(with imprimatur)

Friday, December 26, 2008

References That Miss The Mark

Here's some of those obscure Luther passages that led me on a good 'ol wild goose chase:

"Imputed righteousness led Luther to say such absurd, ridiculous things as the following: "One and the same act may be accepted before God and not accepted, be good and not good." "The gospel is a teaching having no connection whatever with reason, whereas the teaching of the law can be understood by reason . . . reason cannot grasp an extraneous righteousness." [in Hartmann Grisar, Luther, vol. 1 of 6 (tr. E.M. Lamond, ed. Luigi Capadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 2nd ed., 1914, pp. 216-217; from Commentary on Romans]" [source]

It's fairly ironic how I wound up with the above. I was actually reseaching some pro "word of faith" (WOF) citations of Luther. One of the WOF pages citing Luther linked over to this, which is more-a-less the same as the source above. So, I wanted to see the context of these "absurd, ridiculous things." First, I went and pulled out Grisar's Luther Volume 1, and yes, these quotes are there. Then, I went and got my two copies of Luther's Commentary on Romans (both have similar content, but also some unique content not found in the other). And, then, well, a lot of hours went by. I basically read through my entire Kregel edition of Luther's Commentary on Romans- then I began trudging through the Concordia edition.Then, I gave up looking for the contexts of these "absurd, ridiculous things." I found some similarities, but nothing exact enough to warrant a context.

Hartmann Grisar is typically precise with his references, so I went back and took a closer look at what he stated. After going through many citations from Luther's commentary on Romans, Grisar states:

Thus the outlines of the strongest assertions which [Luther] makes later as to the imputing of the righteousness of Christ are already apparent in his interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans. Christ alone has assumed the place of what the Catholic calls saving grace. He already teaches what he was to sum up later in the short formula : "Christ Himself is my quality and my formal righteousness," or, again, what he was to say to Melanchthon in 1536: "Born of God and at the same time a sinner; this is a contradiction ; but in the things of God we must not hearken to reason." His Commentary on Romans prepares us for his later assertions : "The gospel is a teaching having no connection whatever with reason, whereas the teaching of the law can be understood by reason . . . reason cannot grasp an extraneous righteousness and, even in the saints, this belief is not sufficiently strong."1 "The enduring sin is admitted by God as non-existent ; one and the same act may be accepted before God and not accepted, be good and not good." "Whoever terms this mere cavilling ("cavillatio") is desirous of measuring the Divine by purblind human reason and understands nothing of Holy Scripture."2

1 " Opp. Lat. exeg.," 23, p. 160. By "saints," Luther means the
pious folk who follow his teaching.

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 2, p. 420 (in the year 1519).

The reason I couldn't find the contexts of these "absurd, ridiculous things" is because I don't think they are found in Luther's Commentary on Romans, nor does Grisar say they are. Grisar cites Luther's Commentary on Romans typically as "Schol. Rom." Note, the references above are from "Opp. Lat. exeg" and "Werke". If I recall correctly, neither of these sources contained Luther's Commentary on Romans at the time Grisar's Luther 1 was published. My Kregel edition notes the Romans Commentary was published in 1908, and this was the edition Grisar used (The Ficker edition). In footnote 2, the date "1519" should've tipped me off, as Luther's work on Romans dates from a few years earlier.

I'm not exactly sure what particular Luther documents these quotes are from, as I haven't had a chance to do further investigation. This is again what happens when one doesn't do good research, but rather does a cut-and-paste of someone else's work- and then to make matters worse, actually goes and publishes the material. After citing these same Luther quotes and Grisar, the same author states in his book, Martin Luther:Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise , "In the same Commentary on Romans, completed five years before he was excommunicated (1516), he goes onto what might be regarded as morbid and bizarre heights, when discussing damnation and predestination." One wonders if the author of these words read or owns Luther's Commentary on Romans, and more importantly, one must ask if the contexts of these alleged "absurd, ridiculous things" really bear out the statements are indeed as claimed. Perhaps it is more true that the person making this charge is guilty of an absurd and ridiculous unverified conclusion.

Here are my copies (Yes, some people actually still have the books in question!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Revelation 12:1-6 Who is the Woman?

I have been blessed (or perhaps "spoiled") to have Rev. Richard Kuiken as my senior pastor for the last 10 years. He has been senior pastor of the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church for over twenty years.

Today we had a full church for our Christmas service. Rev. Kuiken selected Revelation 12:1-6 as his text to preach on. I found the sermon quite appropriate to post on this blog, as Revelation 12 serves as one of the primary Marian prooftexts for Roman Catholic apologetics. The MP3 of the sermon can be found here. Just who is the woman in Revelation 12? Is it Mary? Is it the church? Listen in to Reverend Kuiken's sermon to find out.

Revelation 12: 1-6 The Woman and the Dragon
1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thanks to Carrie for the great Christmas banner. If I recall last year, an unscrupulous blogger swiped it and put it on his own blog. Well, no big deal... if that blog wasn't creative enough to make their own banner, then they are free to steal the good ideas over here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Luther Goes "Word of Faith" (Part One)

I was sent the Luther quote below being used by Word of Faith (WOF) advocates, asking that I take a look it it and determine if it is being misused. As my notes have gotten rather long, I've decided to put together a few blog entries to cover it. The controversy surrounds the WOF teaching that man, in some sense, becomes, (or is) a god.

The Luther quote states:

This is what I have often said, that faith makes of us lords, and love makes of us servants. Indeed, by faith we become gods and partakers of the divine nature and name, as is said in Psalms 82,6: "I said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High." But through love we become equal to the poorest. According to faith we are in need of nothing, and have an abundance; according to love we are servants of all. By faith we receive blessings from above, from God; through love we give them out below, to our neighbor. Even as Christ in his divinity stood in need of nothing, but in his humanity served everybody who had need of him. Of this we have spoken often enough, namely, that we also must by faith be born God's sons and gods, lords and kings, even as Christ is born true God of the Father in eternity; and again, come out of ourselves by love and help our neighbors with kind deeds, even as Christ became man to help us all -------Luther, Martin The Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. II (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House), pp. 73, 74

For those of you with the Baker set of Luther's sermons, the quote is found in volume one which actually contains two volumes of Luther's sermons. If you pull out volume II as the reference suggests, you won't find the quote.

The actual context of Luther's sermon is easy enough to find on the Internet, but it doesn't really set the issue to rest as to the differences between WOF and Luther on "the image of God." What the context does do, is demonstrate at least one major difference between WOF teaching and Luther that should at least be noted, since it addresses what Luther's point actually was. I found it quite ironic that those using quotes for propaganda don't really care what the point in context is, even if it disagrees with the position they espouse. No, it's enough some phrase sounds remotely like what they believe, so it's put forth to make a point it didn't intend to.

Many WOF advocates (if not most) hold to some form of a prosperity gospel- that being somehow affiliated by nature with God entitles one to material and spiritual blessings both here and now. Establishing being affiliated with God, either in essence or nature, serves as a divine guarantee of God's favor- health and wealth. One needs but speak God's promises into existence. I've watched enough of these guys on TV to be familiar with their mantra.

Luther though did not hold this, but rather affirmed that the Christian is to be the servant of all, and this is brought out forcefully in the context. "love makes of us servants," "through love we become equal to the poorest," "According to faith we are in need of nothing, and have an abundance; according to love we are servants of all," "By faith we receive blessings from above, from God; through love we give them out below, to our neighbor."

Luther did not expect health and wealth as the normal Christian path. Being conformed to the image of Christ means suffering. This would be one of Luther's typical paradoxes- spiritually Christians are given the great priceless and eternal gift of salvation, but temporarily they should consider themselves servants of other people, not seeking riches. Luther one time stated, "Wealth is the most insignificant thing on earth, the smallest gift that God can give a man," and "God usually gives riches to coarse fools whom he grants nothing besides."

For Luther, suffering was inevitable for followers of Christ, not health or wealth. "Whoever professes that he is baptized and is glad to be called by the name of Christ should be convinced that he is no better than Christ, his Lord. For such a person must be conformed to the image of the Son of God. If Christ wore a crown of thorns, we should not expect people to place wreaths and roses on our head."

Our crosses though do not save us. Luther posited what he called the theology of the cross as a presupposition of life as dying and rising under the cross. The expectation of suffering is in the course of Christian service (as opposed to a theology of glory seeing a life of grandeur in the papacy and Rome). Luther also noted that the only proof for salvation is the promise of God, not a successful (or failing) Christian life. This stands in opposition to a theology of glory that would find God’s promises given to those who earn it by their works.

This type of coherent theology is 180 degrees different than Word of Faith thinking. In a future blog entry, I'm going to continue looking at this quote, and give my thoughts on Luther's use of the "image of God."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Johann Eck's 404 Theses, 1530

The Book of Concord website has posted Johann Eck's 404 Theses, 1530. The text is put forth in multiple page links, so make sure to hit the "next" button.

I can't promise it will be a fun read, as the website explains:

"The style of this document is a bit difficult, since what Eck is doing is recounting, with separate paragraphs, the alleged errors of his opponents, at different times, in differing circumstances, on a wide variety of topics. Eck's assertions are a mixture or rumor, myth and fact, generally asserted with no citations and nearly always taken completely out of context. This is a work of propaganda more than theology. He pauses to interject comments and then moves on to his next set of assertions, or theses."

I actually own a copy of John Eck's Enchiridion of Commonplaces: Against Luther and Other Enemies of the Church, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979).

I have found that the study of what Luther's Catholic opponents wrote gives quite a helpful and broader understanding of the Reformation. The website agrees and states,

"Reading through Eck's accusations is an illuminating exercise, since it presents the points at which Rome was disagreeing with Luther and illuminates the depth of the Roman Catholic misunderstanding of the position of the Lutherans."

Unfortunately, most of this Catholic material like Eck's was not as popular when first written, so much of it remains obscure and hard to track down. Many printers were reluctant to publish Catholic material (it just didn't sell as well, and many of them did not want to print Catholic material), and Rome did little to support (or close to nothing) in helping those writing against Luther.

The same lack of material is true of some of the other Reformers- Try locating actual volumes from Melanchthon, Zwingli, Bucer, etc. Google Books has been of great help in getting more of this material available, but before that, my searches for some of this material didn't get very far.

When compared though with Luther, one sees the impact his writings have had- as so much of them are (and have been) available for a long time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"There was one Gospel for 1500 years in both the East and West, and it was not Protestant in any way" ?

There's a thread over on the CARM boards in which one of those "I'm going to join the Roman Catholic Church" announcements was put up. In the thread, a Roman Catholic made the following statement:

The "biblical Gospel" is the Catholic Faith. Once again, I shall remind you (for perhaps the 100th time now) that there was no Evangelicalism nor Protestantism prior to 1517. There was one Gospel for 1500 years in both the East and West, and it was not Protestant in any way.

Statements like this carry assumptions that often don't get challenged. For instance, what was the official Roman Catholic teaching on justification in 1517 or previously? What was the official definition of that "one Gospel"? If there was one consistent biblical gospel taught by the Roman Church, evidence of it should be easy to document. I challenged this particular Catholic to provide such evidence, and well, let's just say a week or two has gone by, and I'm going to shut off the lights and lock up.

The confusion of the Roman Catholic Church on this issue can simply be seen by looking at two 16th Century Roman Catholics previous to Trent. Alister McGrath discusses Gasparo Contarini and Paolo Giustiniani as an example of the confusion over justification during this time period. Both men were members of a group of Paduan-educated humanists. McGrath notes that Giustiniani chose to enter a local hermitage to have sin expiated (a retreat from the world), while Contarini remained "in the world" believing salvation can't mean such a retreat. Both men corresponded with each other. McGrath states:

The Contarini-Giustiniani correspondence is of importance in that it illustrates the doctrinal confusion of the immediate pre-Tridentine period in relation to the doctrine of justification. Giustiniani was convinced that it was necessary to withdraw from the world and to lead a life of the utmost austerity in order to be saved, whereas Contarini came to believe that it was possible to lead a normal life in the world, trusting in the merits of Christ for salvation. But which of these positions represented, or approximated most closely to, the teaching of the Catholic church? The simple fact is that this question could not be answered with any degree of confidence. This doctrinal confusion concerning precisely the issue over which the Reformation was widely held to have begun inevitably meant that the Catholic church was in no position to attempt a coherent systematic refutation of the teaching of the evangelical faction in its crucial initial phase. (Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Third Edition) [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005], 311.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Recent Silly Stuff...

Look out those of you commenting on blog posts, a Catholic apologist iis threatening to bring legal action against suspicious commenter's on his blog:

"There is also the possibility of pursuing federal charges, too, if the person(s) persist(s). Jonathan Prejean and Paul Hoffer are both attorneys. I'm sure they'd be happy to advise me as to how I would go about seeking legal measures."

Classic! Maybe I'll be sued as well for mentioning it. Hey, it's a tough economy... (Hint, use the "delete comment" button instead).

Also, Dr. Art Sippo has been recommending a particular Luther biography which is supposed to be the "bomb" so to speak.... So I tried to track it down, and I could only find one used copy for a measly one hundred thirty five bucks. I find it hard to believe any information on Luther at this stage in the game should cost that much. Hint to Art Sippo fans: there are plenty of good Luther biographies for under $135.

And lastly, I'm sure many would not find this silly, but I can't help but shake my head at what happens with bad theology when it is taken to its logical conclusions. Check out this quick MP3 clip of Tim Staples explaining the makeup of the Eucharist if someone feels "ill" (to put it nicely) after partaking.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I came across this recent post over at Catholic Answers:

What are the contexts and primary sources of the infamous Luther quotes?
We've probably just about all seen some of the infamous Martin Luther quotes flying around the Internet. "Sin boldly," "Christ committed adultery," etc. I'd like to ask the Protestants, Catholics and anyone else here with information on this for the ORIGINAL documents the infamous quotes come from. If anyone here also has the contexts of some of them, the paragraphs preceeding and following these quotes, would you mind copying them down here? I want to know what to make of these various statements by Luther, and I can't do that without their original contexts and citations from the primary documents so I can check them up. If anyone has information on this, I'd greatly appreciate hearing from you. Thanks a lot!

I've posted this, because it's such a rare occurrence to see such a question or interest posted by a Roman Catholic, and I have to give this person the "two thumbs up" for such an endeavour. With the Internet now, a large portion of primary materials can be located, so hopefully the days of "The Facts About Luther" are over.

The post went on to suggest this blog as a place to find such materials. In regard to "sin boldy," information on this can be found here. Information on "Christ committed adultery" can be found here.