Friday, November 30, 2012

Surprised By C.S. Lewis... ?

"To be frank, American Evangelicalism’s infatuation with Lewis is in many respects somewhat odd. For here is a pathologically populist movement with a penchant for Big Tent Revivalism, an obsession with liturgical innovation, a deep-seated suspicion of ecclesiastical tradition, and a raw nerve about the doctrine of justification, falling head-over-heels for a tweed-jacketed, Anglo-Catholic Oxford don—a curmudgeonly liturgical traditionalist who was fuzzy on the atonement, a believer in purgatory, and, as we shall see, whose views on Scripture, Genesis, and evolution position him well outside of American Evangelicalism’s standard theological paradigms. All of that is to say that Lewis was not “just like us”—any of us—and if we would do him justice, we must be prepared to be surprised by Jack."

Monday, November 26, 2012

The irony of Jason Stellman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism

It is ironic that Jason claims he was more into "systematics" and exegesis and systematic theology than church history; yet does not seem to use the principles of systematic theology, exegesis, and progressive revelation very well.  It is possible that Jason discussed Luke 1:67-79, Galatians 2:21; 3:21 somewhere else, but I did not find any evidence of that at the things I have read and listened to that relate to these issues.

I was following some of the com box discussions that Jason participated in at the Called to Communion web-site over the past couple of years.  I have taken the time to read Jason Stellman’s “I fought the Church, and the Church won” and listen to his testimony of why he became Roman Catholic and also listen to responses from Dr. White and Turrretinfan and also a Lutheran response here.   

I am looking forward to more of Dr. White and Turretinfan’s response.

Stellman basically says that Roman Catholicism is “biblically obvious, and historically compelling, and philosophically necessary”.  Personally, I don’t see anything Biblically obvious about Roman Catholicism at all; and it is not very compelling historically, if one takes the time to examine all the relevant data of church history. Notice I wrote “relevant data” – this means I am not claiming one has to know all the details of church history, but there is a certain minimum of basic overview and flow of early church history and relevant passages in the early church fathers that one should be familiar with.  It appears that Jason slept through church history or daydreamed or was blinded by his dismissal of church history when he should have been paying more attention.  It seems to me that when Jason admitted that he thought church history was boring in seminary; and he thought that the early church fathers were “stupid”, well, now we understand why he fell for the Roman Catholic argument for itself using history and philosophy.  

Stellman also claims Roman Catholicism is “philosophically necessary”.  This seems to be the starting point of all Roman Catholic apologetics that is winning Protestants and evangelicals, even though they will not always admit this. 

Philosophy is what Bryan Cross always seems to start with and he uses philosophy more than exegesis in his arguments for Rome.  It is only philosophically necessary, it seems, in their minds, if one puts that particular philosophy and presupposition first – that there is this compelling need for an infallible interpreter on this earth to solve all disunity and interpretive struggles that the church has all through history. (which even that presupposition and dogma does not accomplish anyway either.) 

They accuse us Protestants and evangelicals of “drawing a bulls eye target and then drawing a circle around it”, but that is exactly what they do in their defense of Rome.  That is not a “tu quoque”  argument because I don’t think Biblical Protestants do that anyway.  But Roman Catholic apologists do just that.

 That idea today in Roman Catholic apologetic methodology is first drawn as a target on paper and then the Roman Catholic apologist draws his circle around that presupposition and interprets everything in the past, both Biblically and in church history, in the light of that philosophy and dogma, which only appeared in the Middle ages and was only dogmatically declared by the Roman Catholic Church in the year 1870. 

I am amazed that Jason Stellman tossed and turned and lost sleep over Luke 1:6 about Zacharias and Elizabeth’s righteousness and that he claimed to be more into systematics than church history, when he doesn’t seem to apply principles of progressive revelation and systematics to Luke 1:6.  Did Jason also loose sleep over Noah in Genesis 6:8-9 or Job in Job 1:1 or Abraham in Genesis 26:5 ?

Or is the description of their righteousness the result of grace and faith in God and in His coming Messiah? (which is what doing systematics - putting Genesis 15:1-6 together with John 8:56-58, Romans 4:1-16, and Galatians chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 would reasonably cause us to do.)

The statement about Abraham in Genesis 26:5 is the result of his faith in the Lord and the promised Messiah to come from his own seed, explicated for us in Genesis 15:1-6.  This faith comes before his good deeds in circumcision in Genesis 17 (and clearly explained by Paul in Romans 4) and before his obedience in Genesis 22 (which is what James means in James 2:14-26).  As the reformers said, “we are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not stay alone” – it results in good works and fruit and change and deeper levels of repentance.  But as Turretinfan and Dr. White pointed out, all this righteousness is still a relative righteousness – it means basically that “they were true believers, and their faith was demonstrated by their righteous lifestyle”.  Noah was righteous, but he was only righteous because he first received grace. (Genesis 6:8-9 – notice he first gets grace, then is able to walk before God in righteousness.)  Later, Noah gets drunk (Genesis 9:20-21), so even the OT is showing us that no one is righteous, not even one.”  (Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:9-23)  Lot is saved from Sodom and Gomorrah and is called “righteous” in 2 Peter 2:7-8; yet his daughter’s get him drunk and commit incest and fornication with him, gross sins.  So, even though they were relatively righteous compared to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they were not perfectly righteous in order to merit salvation.  Rather, Lot was a true believer, saved by grace, and justified by faith in the Lord.  (from 2 Peter 2:7-9, it seems that Lot was a true believer; but there is no evidence that his daughters were, given their behavior; but Scripture is otherwise silent about them, as far as I can tell.)  The Old testament constantly shows us that no one is perfectly righteous and that the sin nature is still deep within the heart, and comes out in sinful behavior even after God judges the world and wipes out the evil people in the flood; and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Job is also called “blameless” and “walking in the fear of God”.  (Job 1:1)  Does that mean he was justified by his own righteousness and goodness?  No, obviously – because the rest of Job is showing that he had an unrighteous attitude (showing he was not blamelessly righteous in that sense) in demanding that God has to come down and explain to him why he was made to suffer.  Job’s attitude was refined through suffering – that is sanctification.  The book of Job shows us that Job’s own righteousness did not justify him, but his faith in God and the hope of the resurrection seems to point to the Messiah to come, in Job 19:25-26; and his repentance in Job 42:1-6 was because he already was a true believer.      

Jason Stellman claims to have been more of a systematic theologian kind of guy; yet he gives no hint of actually doing systematics in the way he treats Luke 1:6, at least in the interview on the Called to Communion Podcast. 

Systematic theology is looking at the other relevant passages that would explain Luke 1:6 –

Does not proper systematic theology immediately bring to mind these very clear verses from Paul in teaching contexts about the nature of grace alone for salvation and faith alone for justification?

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Galatians 2:21

This verse clearly shows us that Luke 1:6 does not mean that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous in themselves by keeping the law blamelessly and that that goodness would be counted as merit in order to get them into heaven.  The coming of the Messiah and His redemption was what all OT saints were looking forward to.  (Genesis 15:1-6; 12:3; 22:18; Galatians 3:6-8; 14-16)

“Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”  Galatians 3:21-22

Galatians 3:21 shows us that the law was never given in order to give us life – that we could attain eternal life by obeying it’s commands. 

Why doesn’t Jason Stellman keep reading in Luke?  Why doesn’t he look at the context of Luke chapter 1 and follow the Scripture passage to Luke 1:67-79 and see that more is said about Zacharias’ faith, and his faith is clearly related to his son John the baptizer and his ministry to pointing to salvation, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins, and the ministry of pointing to the Messiah – to prepare the way of the Lord.  Notice the repetition of the word salvation and the whole Messianic implications of his prophesy.

Zacharias’ faith was in the Messiah to come:

Luke 1:67-79
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:  “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us ;  
In the house of David His servant— 
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
Salvation from our enemies,
 And from the hand of all who hate us;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
 And to remember His holy covenant, 
[see Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 22:18 and Galatians 3:6-8, 14-16]
          The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; [allusion to Isaiah 40:3-5] 
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
 With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, 
[Jesus as the light of the world who would settle in Galilee of the Gentiles - see Isaiah 9:1, John 7:52 and John 8:12; see also Matthew 4:12-17 as to why Jesus settled in Nazareth]  
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
[quoting Isaiah 9:2, which points to the Messiah being the light of the world and the son who is given to us, the Mighty God, the prince of peace, the wonderful counselor.  See Isaiah 9:1-7. ]
To guide our feet into the way of peace.  
[this alludes to the “prince of peace” in verse 6 of Isaiah 9 and Micah 5:2-5.] 

(Luke 1:67-79 with my emphasis and comments)

That Zacharias mentions salvation so much, and that John the baptizer’s ministry would give the people the knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of their sins, shows that in some way, Zacharias was the blessed man of Romans 4:7-8 and Psalm 32, being justified by faith alone, and that his deeds of obedience were the result of his faith. 

Isn't that a better example of understanding progressive revelation, the NT fulfillment of the OT, exegesis, and systematic theology?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Luther Added the word "only" to Romans 3:20 and 4:15?

I was sent this link from Catholic Answers (ht: Algo)- Was Martin Luther's revision of the Bible a return to the "true Bible" of the early Church? This link comes from their "Quick Questions" section:

Was Martin Luther's revision of the Bible a return to the "true Bible" of the early Church?

Full Question

A non-Catholic co-worker claims there were early Christian councils that upheld the 66 books of the Old Testament, but the Catholic Church suppressed them, and it was Martin Luther who finally stood up to the Church and reclaimed the true Bible for Christians. Is there any truth to his statement?


No. There were no early councils that endorsed the 66 books Protestants honor (check the facts in your local library). The current canon of Scripture was affirmed at the Council of Rome in 382 under Pope Damasus, which included all and only the seventy-three books Catholics honor today. This canon was repeated at Hippo and at Carthage (A.D. 393 and 397, respectively) and has been repeated ever since.
It was Martin Luther who tossed out the seven books considered canonical since the beginning of Church history. He also rejected the epistle to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation. He also called the epistle of James "an epistle of straw" because James 2:14–26 conflicted with his personal theology on good works. He also added the word (in his German translation) only in Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:15, and he inserted the word alone in Romans 3:28.

Peggy Frye

Almost all of the assertions in Peggy Frye's answer have been responded to before. For instance, on the Council of Rome, see this linkthis link or this link. On Hippo and Carthage, see this interesting tidbit here and here. As to Luther "tossing" out books from the Bible. see this link. As to the "epistle of straw" see this link. As to Romans 3:28, see this link.

What interested me was Peggy's assertion,"He also added the word (in his German translation) only in Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:15." This sentence appears to be a version of another sentence.

Romans 3:20
I certainly didn't find the word "only" in Luther's rendering of Romans 3:20 from online sources. Luther's German Bible reads, "darum daß kein Fleisch durch des Gesetzes Werke vor ihm gerecht sein kann; denn durch das Gesetz kommt Erkenntnis der Sünde." This other online Luther Bible reads similarly. I'd like to offer Peggy the benefit of the doubt that perhaps an earlier version of Luther's translation contained the word "only" in Romans 3:20, but I didn't come across sources (yet) confirming it.

In The Bondage of the Will, Luther states, "For this also must be observed, that just as the voice of the law is not raised except over those who do not feel or acknowledge their sin, as Paul says in Romans 3[:20]: “Through the law comes knowledge of sin,” so the word of grace does not come except to those who feel their sin and are troubled and tempted to despair" [LW 33:137] (cf. LW 35:241, "By works of the law no one becomes righteous before God"). My gut tells me Peggy simply mis-remembered something she read previously. But, I'm certainly open to correction from either Peggy or Catholic Answers. Maybe she found it here, or here, or here.

Romans 4:15
That something she read previously may have been Patrick O'Hare's Facts About Luther. Father O'Hare states, "Romans IV, 15; 'the law worketh wrath,'' he translates, 'the law worketh only wrath,' thus adding a word to the text and changing its sense." Luther's translation reads, "Sintemal das Gesetz nur Zorn anrichtet; denn wo das Gesetz nicht ist, da ist auch keine Übertretung." Father O'Hare is certainly correct as to the way Luther translated the verse.

On the other hand, is the sense of the meaning changed by using the word "only"? Luther states in The Bondage of the Will, "Again, since the law is the power of sin [I Cor. 15:56] in that it serves only to reveal and not to remove sin, it makes the conscience guilty before God, and threatens it with wrath. That is what Paul means when he says: “The law brings wrath” [Rom. 4:15]. How, then, could there be any possibility of attaining righteousness through the law?" [LW 33:271]. Or as he states elsewhere,
The Law cannot restore the soul, for it is a Word that makes demands on us and commands us that we shall love God with all our hearts, etc., and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37, 39). It damns him that does otherwise and pronounces this sentence upon him (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26): “Cursed be everyone who does not do all the things written in the Book of the Law.” Now, it is certain that nobody on earth does that; therefore the Law comes in due time with its sentence and only grieves and frightens the souls. Where no help is provided, it presses them so that they must despair and be lost forever. St. Paul therefore says (Rom. 3:20): “By the Law comes only knowledge of sin,” and (Rom. 4:15): “The Law brings only wrath” [LW 12:164].
I would certainly be interested in any Roman Catholic explaining why the way Luther rendered the verse changes its sense (as Father O'Hare argues).  In the context of Romans 4, the Law certainly is bringing only wrath. Perhaps it's because Father O'Hare believed the works of the law aid justification. If that's the case, Luther responds:
Paul excludes all works so completely as to say that the works of the Law, though it is God's law and word, do not aid us in justification. Using Abraham as an example, he argues that Abraham was so justified without works that even the highest work, which had been commanded by God, over and above all others, namely circumcision, did not aid him in justification. Rather, Abraham was justified without circumcision and without any works, but by faith, as he says in Chapter 4: "If Abraham were justified by works, he may boast, but not before God." So, when all works are so completely rejected — which must mean faith alone justifies — whoever would speak plainly and clearly about this rejection of works will have to say "Faith alone justifies and not works." The matter itself and the nature of language requires it.
"But," they say, "it has an objectionable tone, and people infer from it that they need not do any good works." Dear me, what are we to say? Is it not much more offensive when Paul himself, while not using the term "faith alone," spells it out even more bluntly, putting the finishing touches on it by saying "Without the works of the Law?" And in Galatians 1 (as well as in many other places) he says "not by works of the law." The expression "faith alone" may perhaps be glossed over somehow, but the phrase "without the works of the law" is so blunt, offensive, and scandalous that no amount of interpretation can help it. How much more might people learn from this that "they need not do any good works," when they hear this teaching about the works themselves stated in such a clear strong way: "No works", "without works", "not by works"! If it is not offensive to preach "without works," "not by works," "no works," why is it offensive to preach "by faith alone"?

Still more offensive is that Paul does not reject just ordinary works, but works of the law! One could easily take offense at that all the more and say that the law is condemned and cursed before God, and so we should be doing nothing but what is against the law, as it is said in Romans 3: "Why not do evil so that there might be more good?" This is what one Rottengeist of our time began to do. Should we reject Paul's word because of such "offense" or refrain from speaking freely about faith? Dear me, Saint Paul and I want to offend like this, for we preach so strongly against works and insist upon faith alone just so that people will be offended, stumble and fall, that they may learn that they are not saved by good works but only by Christ's death and resurrection. Knowing that they cannot be saved by their good works of the law, how much more will they realize that they shall not be saved by bad works, or without the law! Therefore, it does not follow that because good works do not help, bad works will; just as it does not follow that because the sun cannot help a blind man to see, the night and darkness must help him to see.

I am amazed that anyone can object to something as evident as this. Just tell me: Is Christ's death and resurrection our work, that we do, or not? Of course it is not our work, nor is it the work of any law. Now it is Christ's death and resurrection alone which saves and frees us from sin, as Paul writes in Romans 4: "He died for our sins and rose for our justification." Tell me, further: What is the work by which we take hold of Christ's death and resurrection? It cannot be any external work, but only the eternal faith that is in the heart. Faith alone, indeed all alone, wihtout any works, takes hold of this death and resurrection when it is preached through the gospel. Then why all this ranting and raving, this making of heretics and burning them at the stake, when it is clear at its very core that faith alone takes hold of Christ's death and resurrection, without any works, and that his death and resurrection are our life and righteousness? As this fact is so obvious, that faith alone conveys, grasps, and imparts this life and righteousness — why should we not say so? It is not heretical to believe that faith alone lays hold on Christ and gives life; and yet it seems to be heresy if someone mentions it. Are they not insane, foolish and absurd? They will admit that it is right but they brand the telling of it as wrong, though nothing can be simultaneously right and wrong.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The McDurmon Preston Debate on 70 AD (1)

Back in July (2012) there was a formal debate between Hyper-Preterist (HP) Don Preston and Partial-Preterist (PP) Joel McDurmon. I've been waiting to find a reasonably priced offering of this debate. I recall it was broadcast live for an outrageous price, so no thanks, and Preston's website offers it for around the $35 (also, no thanks). I recently discovered McDurmon's organization is offering the audio along with an e-book, and the total that I was billed was $18.71. While still a bit too much for a few mp3's, along with the e-book I figured the price was getting closer to the realm of sanity.

So last night I put the debate on, sat back and listened to Mr. Preston's opening presentation.  He speaks quickly and throws out a lot of Bible verses, so unless you're actively listening and attempting to keep up, the presentation quickly turns into a guy speaking fast that throws out a lot of Bible verses, none of which will appear to make any sense (this presentation reminds me of this old comment from Gerstner).

So this morning I put Preston's presentation back on, and have tried to slow it down a bit to at least try to figure out what he's talking about. I just stopped the mp3 at about 3 minutes in to look up a passage he used, Acts 24:14. Preston says the verse states, "I believe all things that are written in the law and the prophets that there is literally about to be the resurrection of the just and unjust" (emphasis mine). Popular translations however render this passage:
[NIV]14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
[NAS]14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve [a]the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; 15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
However, Young's Literal Translation does render the passage, "there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous."

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Ken Gentry has put together an explanation of the grammar of this text in response to the Hyper-Preterists: Acts 24:15 and the Alleged Nearness of the Resurrection and his revised entry here (the revised entry is more extensive). Gentry states, "Hyperpreterism seizes upon the word mellein (from the Greek: mello) and argues that it should be translated 'about to.' " He counter-argues, "...syntactically when mello appears in conjunction with a future infinitive (as here in Acts 24:15) it indicates certainty." He presents far more argumentation than this, but this suffices.

I'm going to attempt to work through this debate, time allowing. Seeing that I'm only 3 minutes in, I calculate the entire process should take at least 7 years, which I'm going to refer to my own personal tribulation (with no rapture in sight).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Luther on Origen, Jerome, and Augustine

Here's an interesting Luther comment from his commending preface to a book by Johann Brenz:
But the gift of God that I particularly love and revere in you [Brenz] above all the rest is that you emphasize the righteousness of faith so faithfully and purely in all your writings. For this article is the head and cornerstone that alone begets, nurtures, builds, preserves, and defends the Church of God. Without it, the Church cannot remain standing for a single hour, as you know and perceive. That is why you insist upon it as you do. For no one can teach correctly in the church or resist any adversary successfully, unless he has grasped this article or, as Paul calls it, "the sound doctrine" [Titus 2:11], one who, as the same Paul says, "holds fast to the doctrine" [cf. Titus 1:9 Vg]. For that reason, I wonder more and more, and almost with indignation, how it is that St. Jerome earned the title "doctor of the church" and Origen that of "teacher of the churches next after the apostles,"since you will not easily find three lines teaching the righteousness of faith in either author, nor could you make anyone a Christian from the collected writings of both —to such an extent do they wander about with their allegories of events or are captivated by the pomp of works. And St. Augustine would not have been any different, if the Pelagians had not finally engaged him and driven him to the righteousness of faith. From this struggle and engagement he emerged as a doctor of the church in truth — nearly the only one after the apostles and earliest fathers of the church. [LW 59:288]
You can buy LW 59 here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dave Hunt Update

Some years back, an Arminian friend signed me up to Dave Hunt's Berean Call newsletter. This was actually back before Hunt had actually learned Reformed theology by osmosis overnight. Even before Mr. Hunt became an expert on Calvinism, I was never much of a fan of his work, even his work on Roman Catholicism (although, if I recall, He actually won this Roman Catholic debate because his opponent didn't even seem to know it was supposed to be a debate: mp3 link) .

That being said, I've got nothing personal against the man. I still get the Berean Call faithfully every month. Dave no longer writes actively for the newsletter, and hasn't for quite a while. In fact, I don't think he's able to write at all. The recent Berean Call explains:
As most of you know, Dave Hunt had his 86th birthday in September. He is presently in a nursing care facility here in Bend, Oregon. Some months ago, Dave had a stroke, and though his vital signs are good, the Lord’s warrior and watchman is no longer “standing on the wall” or able to swing the “sword of the Spirit” as he once did. Ruth spends half of her 24-hour days ministering to her champion, a challenging care-giving task that she assumes with joy. Please continue to pray for Dave and Ruth as they see the Lord using them in new and different ways that are certainly no less fruitful as they glorify Him daily. Pray also for their children as they have the opportunity to minister to their parents as never before. The wonderful thing about knowing the Lord is that whether He provides the opportunity for us to minister to others, or we become the opportunity for others to minister to us, spiritual fruit is produced and God is glorified.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Luther on Cyprian of Carthage (on the Bishop of Rome)

Here's a Luther tidbit from LW 59:275 (You can buy LW 59 here):

"I know a great archbishop, whom I shall not name,* who had a high opinion of St. Cyprian, the holy bishop and martyr, and read a bit in his books [to arm himself] against the Lutherans, intending thereby entirely to overthrow them. But when it was pointed out to him that in the books of the same St. Cyprian it is written that the holy Christian Church is found not only in Rome but in every corner of the world, he said, 'If I had known that Cyprian taught that, I would have had his books burned as those of a heretic.' And when the passage in the book was shown to him,** he threw Cyprian and his book away and would no longer read the heretic."

*Probably Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz

 **Cyprian of Carthage was renowned as a scourge of heretics, but he was equally renowned for his view that the apostolic authority conferred on Peter was shared equally by all bishops and that the bishop of Rome had no right to call himself "bishop of bishops" and exact obedience from all the rest. The passage Luther has in mind was probably On the Unity of the Church 4-5 (PL 4:499-502; ANF 5:422-23), but the point is made elsewhere as well (see, e.g., the acts of the Seventh Council of Carthage [PL 3:1053-54; ANF 5:565]).

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Revolutionary Reformers?

Have you ever read the Roman mantra that Luther and his colleagues were radicals that split the church? You know... that they were hard-headed radicals that wouldn't play nice with Roman authority? Well, here's a different spin on things compliments of a footnote in the recent edition of Luther's Works-
"In the interest of peace in the empire, moreover, Luther and his Wittenberg colleagues were prepared to make major concessions to the jurisdictional authority of the Catholic bishops. Accordingly, at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, Melanchthon, acting with the full knowledge and support of Luther and the Saxon government, offered restitution of the jurisdiction of the Catholic bishops over the Evangelical congregations on the condition that the bishops ordain Evangelical priests and recognize the legitimacy of Communion in both kinds, clerical marriage, and the Mass in German. This offer remained on the table through all the failed attempts of the 1530's and 1540's to find a peaceful solution to the religious divisions in the empire" (LW 59:276).

Justification: The doctrine upon which the church stands or falls... Revisited

Some years back I posted a blog entry that examined whether or not Luther really said that justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls (that entry can be found here).

The recent edition of Luther's works (LW 59) gives the following footnote on page 288:
18 On justification by faith as "the article by which the Church stands or falls," see Commentary on the Psalms of Degrees (1532-33/1540), WA 40.3:351 (LW 66); cf. Commentary on Psalm 117 (1530), LW 14:37; Disptation for Palladius and Tilemann: On the Works of the Law and of Grace (1537), WA 39/1:205.2-5 (LW 60).
1. The first reference can be found here, WA 40.3:351." "quia isto articulo stante stat Ecclesia, ruente ruit Ecclesia"—"Because if this article [of justification] stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses" (ht: Justin Taylor for the translation). "LW 66" refers to a forthcoming English translation of this treatise.

2. "Commentary on Psalm 117 (1530), LW 14:37." This refers to volume 14 of Luther's Works in English. This page states,
My main reason for doing this is to move and instruct all who need it, to search out and deal with the core of our Christian doctrine, wherever it may be found throughout the Bible. And the core is this: that without any merit, as a gift of God’s pure grace in Christ, we attain righteousness, life, and salvation, and that there is no other way or path, no other means or effort, that can help us to attain it. Every day I experience only too well how insistently the devil assails this core in an effort to wipe it out. And although tired “saints” consider it unnecessary to keep at this matter—they imagine that they know it inside out and have learned all there is to know— still I know how wrong they are, and that they know absolutely nothing about the importance of this point. If this one teaching stands in its purity, then Christendom will also remain pure and good, undivided and unseparated; for this alone, and nothing else, makes and maintains Christendom. Everything else may be brilliantly counterfeited by false Christians and hypocrites; but where this falls, it is impossible to ward off any error or sectarian spirit. This I know indeed, and I have experienced it so often that without this teaching I could never refute what either the Turks or the Jews believe.
3." Disptation for Palladius and Tilemann: On the Works of the Law and of Grace (1537), WA 39/1:205.2-5" can be found here.  "(LW 60)" refers to a recent English edition of Luther's Works, but this appears to be an error. This treatise is not found in LW 60.

Karl Barth has an interesting overview of the saying here. He provides a good amount of references, but concludes: "The well-known description of the doctrine as the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae does not seem to derive from Luther himself, but it is an exact statement of his view."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Refuting the Hard Arguments of Your Enemey

In the recent edition of Luther's Works, I came across a bit of practical common sense that most of us probably know, yet the way Luther articulated it really made it clear. I think it's a good dose of practical advise for apologists.

 In 1530 Luther wrote a preface to a book written in the previous century by a Christian man who had been in slavery to the Muslims for 20 years. At this time in history, the Muslims were a dire threat to the West, yet very little accurate information on Islam was readily available. Luther had a deep interest in understanding Islam, and had read as much as he could get his hands on. He complained that many of the books refuting Islam "eagerly pick out the most shameful and absurd passages from the Koran, which provoke hostility and are able to move the multitude to hatred" (LW 59:258) while ignoring or concealing "the good passages" in the Koran. Why? Because these are harder to refute. The author of the book Luther wrote the preface for gained Luther's respect because,
 "...he narrates [the details of Islam] in such a way that he not only recites their evils but also sets their best parts alongside, and he preaches those things in such a way as to rebuke and scold our people by comparison with them. Yet he does not approve of them as if they were pious deeds, but he refutes them with courage and vigor, inasmuch as was possible at that time. Indeed, these are sure signs of a candid and sincere heart, which writes nothing from hatred but tells everything from love of the truth. You see, whoever does nothing but find fault with his enemy, denouncing his shameful and absurd aspects, does more harm to his case than good. What is easier than to denounce the manifestly shameful and dishonorable things (which, in any case, refute themselves)? But to refute the good and honorable things, after taking away their splendor, is what benefits one's case; this is what removes stumbling blocks and strips the false form off the angel of light [cf. 2 Cor. 11:14], making him odious by virtue of his own turpitude and his robbery of the light." [LW 59:258-259]
The book by the way, was George of Hungary, Book on the Ceremonies and Customs of the Turks. I searched around a bit a couldn't find a free link, so if anyone can come up with a link, I'd appreciate it. For $35 you can read it here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mark Shea's " excellent and well-researched blog-post"....

...well, so said a comment left on Mr. Shea's recent: The Immaculate Conception: Enter the Subtle Doctor: Duns Scotus. Unfortunately, Mr. Shea keeps repeating the same bogus stuff about Luther:

After this, there wasn’t much of a quarrel in the Church. Most people happily celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (promulgated in 1476) and the controversy died down (although there were holdouts among some Dominicans, who stuck with Thomas’ theology on Mary’s holiness right up until 1854). But for the average Catholic it was a settled matter that the Church had arrived at a clearer understanding of Scripture by seeing just how full of charis Mary really was when the mysterious angelic greeting “Kaire, Kecharitomene!” gave her a title as pregnant with meaning as her womb (Luke 1:28). Indeed, even early Reformers like Martin Luther had no problem with the doctrine:

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin. (Martin Luther, “Sermon on the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527)

It really is amazing how self-proclaimed e-pologists put out stuff they've never actually bothered to look up.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rise Up O Men of God !

Rise Up O Men of God
Words originally written by William P. Merrill, 1911.  (* see comments at the end)

Music by Phil Keaggy

Rise up O men of God, 
Have done with lesser things. 
Give heart and soul and mind and strength, 
To serve the King of Kings, 
To serve the King of Kings. 

Rise up O men of God, 
His Kingdom tarries long, 
Bring in the day of brotherhood, 
And end the night of wrong, 
And end the night of wrong. 

Rise up O men of God, 
The Church for you doth wait. 
Send forth to serve the needs of men 
In Christ our strength is great, 
In Christ our strength is great. 

Lift high the Cross of Christ, 
Tread where His feet have trod, 
As brothers of the Son of Man, 
Rise up O men of God, 
Rise up O men of God. 

Rise up O men of God, 
Have done with lesser things. 
Give heart and soul and mind and strength, 
To serve the King of Kings, 
To serve the King of Kings.

I honestly don't know the background of this hymn, but it appears to have written at a time (right before World War 1) when Liberal Christianity was making headways and a liberal post-millennialism and "bringing in the kingdom" was an influential force in western culture.  Hence, the phrases about "His Kingdom tarries long" and "bring in the day of brotherhood" and "the church . . . sent forth to serve the needs of men".  If the author's intended meaning of those phrases were some kind of liberal "bring in the kingdom" through good works, social gospel, and political action, then I disagree with that of course; and repudiate that message.  I did a minimum amount of searching on the internet, and it does seem like the author was a liberal theologian and pastor and was part of a pacifist peace movement.  Beyond that, I don't know how liberal or orthodox he was.  

But I think that the phrases and words by themselves can also have a more Evangelical Biblical meaning, by seeking to glorify God by abiding in the true vine, Jesus Christ (John 15:1-16); walking with the Lord; by the preaching of the Biblical gospel and for men to stand up and be committed and love their wives and children and be committed in a local, Biblical church; reach out to neighbor; be men of prayer and engage our culture and support or go in missions; then that is the meaning and spirit with which I post this. 

And it is really good music also!  

Prayer:  (Adapted from Matthew 6:9-13)
"Father in heaven, Your name is already Holy; You are already Holy!
May Your name be treated as holy in my heart and life and in Your people's hearts and lives in the Biblical churches;  May Your kingdom come and be spread on this earth through the gospel being preached and lived out; and may Your moral will be done, as it is done in heaven . . . May Your Word spread and run rapidly and be honored (see 2 Thess. 3:1-3) We need Your grace and power and a fresh filling of Your Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:13-25)  Help us guard our hearts against sin, pride, lust, jealousy, anger, selfishness; Let us not into temptation; deliver us from evil; for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, Amen! "