Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brennan Manning on New Year's Eve

This morning, I watched some clips and a sermon by Brennan Manning, again because of a Facebook recommendation.  I found very much that was good in the talk and he moved me.  The Facebook friend who mentions him and also listens to him while on the treadmill exercising, says this:

Several times throughout my life, the words of this man have created incredible breakthrough moments in my increasing recognition of God's love for me...and for you. Here's a sample.

What strikes me the most is his truly Christ-centered way of speaking.  We often speak about being Christ-centered.  But there is a difference between speaking about Christ, and about speaking about speaking about Christ.  Manning speaks about Christ.  Manning gives him to each.

Blessings to all my friends in this season of celebration and love, and thoughts and prayers for the New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Star of Bethlehem, ZDF.

The star of Bethlehem, Kepler and planetary motion laws.  Nicely done by the ZDF, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen.

Religion vs. Gospel

While browsing around Facebook this morning I came across the above illustration, as well as the Spurgeon saying below:

He who never seeks the conversion of another is in imminent danger of being damned himself.Charles Spurgeon.

While it would be true that someone who believes in Christ is commanded and motivated to share him with others, the saying is just so harsh and makes everything fall into the Religion side of the chart.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"A More Perfect Heaven" by Sobel / Copernicus and Wittenberg University

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

While making teddy bear clothes this evening (oh, I'm giving away that they don't come from Santa's workshop), I was listening to CBC radio's newscast followed by "As It Happens."  Posted below find the third section, the last 30 min.  It contains two fascinating pieces.

The first one, six minutes in length, discusses the current exhibit in Quebec at the "Museum of Religions of the World" and the use of religious swear words in Quebec.  It is a rather ironic, little interview with the curator.  The second one, the remaining 24 min., are an interview with the author of a book called "A More Perfect Heaven."  The discussion is about Copernicus' life and his revolutionary discoveries.  The interesting part, which the author brings out, a Lutheran from Wittenberg University comes to his town (illegally, no Lutherans allowed in this Polish Catholic town) to get Copernicus' work published, which he succeeded doing, though it was mostly ignored until Galileo wrote about it in Italian.

Wikepedia has this about the man from Wittenberg:  "Copernicus was still working on De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (even if not certain that he wanted to publish it) when in 1539 Georg Joachim Rheticus, a Wittenberg mathematician, arrived in Frombork. Philipp Melanchthon, a close theological ally of Martin Luther, had arranged for Rheticus to visit several astronomers and study with them.  Rheticus became Copernicus' pupil, staying with him for two years and writing a book, Narratio prima (First Account), outlining the essence of Copernicus' theory. In 1542 Rheticus published a treatise on trigonometry by Copernicus (later included in the second book of De revolutionibus)."

Hitchens Who? Funny how real life is.

We live in the wild west.  People drink beer, watch hockey, women scrapbook.  Many golf when it is not winter, which is not much of the year.  Many have horses...

I am stereotyping.  They are dear.  But say to one of them:  "Christopher Hitchens died."  They say:  "Who is that?"  This is why I can't give up my on-line life, though I often wish I did.

Image Detail

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Es kommt ein Schiff geladen"--Advent hymn with translation into English

This is an Advent song we sang often.  I love all things in minor keys, so this was a favorite;  also the imagery and poetic denseness makes it very impressive.

Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen
bis an sein' höchsten Bord, 
Trägt Gottes Sohn voll Gnaden,

des Vaters ewigs Wort. 

Das Schiff geht still im Triebe,
es trägt ein teure Last;
Das Segel ist die Liebe, 
der Heilig Geist der Mast. 

Der Anker haft' auf Erden,

da ist das Schiff am Land. 
Das Wort tut Fleisch uns werden,

der Sohn ist uns gesandt. 

Zu Bethlehem geboren
im Stall ein Kindelein, 
Gibt sich für uns verloren; 
gelobet muß es sein. 

Und wer dies Kind empfangen,
umfassen, kuessen will
muss vorher mit ihm Leiden
gross Pein und Marter viel

Und mit ihm dann auch sterben
und geistlich auferstehn
ewigs Leben zu ererben,
wie an ihm ist geschen.

A ship is driving with a load,
filled to the very top.
It is bearing the Son of God full of grace,
the Father's eternal Word.

The ship moves firmly in its path.
It bears a treasured freight.
Love is the sail.
The Holy Spirit is its mast.

The anchor touches ground.
The ship has arrived on land.
The Word becomes flesh for us.
The Son has been sent for us.

In Bethlehem in the stable
a child is born.
He loses himself for us.
He is to be praised.

Who wants to grasp
this child with joy and kiss him
must also suffer with him
much pain and torture,

and after this, also die,
and rise spiritually with him,
to inherit eternal life,
as happened with him. 

This version is lovely, too.

Interesting on new, building-less, sacramental groups

As conservative groups lose their buildings because of liberal leaderships, interesting things happen.

Athanasius on "The Incarnation of the Word" with introduction by C.S.Lewis

When I took a particular course in religion at Concordia, the instructor recommended this treatise for further reading.  I got around to it eventually, but this was some time ago.  It's time to look at it again.

The introduction by C.S. Lewis is worthy reading all on its own, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Atheists have no songs."

This one is by Steve Martin, the comedian.

I came across this tonight on Facebook, the day Christopher Hitchens died.  He will be missed.  He was often wrong, speaking out bitterly on subjects he was not an expert on, but he had a powerful command of the language and delivered his rants impressively.  I am grieving somewhat.  We will no longer hear his voice on current concerns, however scathing the commentary often was.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Most Famous Man in America/ 2

Henry Ward Beecher: Henry Ward Beecher

p. 355 of  "The Most Famous Man in America."

    "The most important intellectual influence on Beecher in this period was Herbert Spencer, the famed British social thinker who originated the term "survival of the fittest."  Spencer had a talent for stitching together ostensibly unrelated facts and phenomena into broad, over-arching structures--Beecher's favorite sort of thinking.  He was one of the earliest american fans of Herbert Spencer's "conception of gradual development"--the theory that everything--nature, society, individuals--evolves and, if left alone, progresses.  Spenser's all-encompassing, laissez-faire theory of evolution predated Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, but in its raw form it was just as shocking to people raised to believe that truth was eternal and identity was fixed.
     After the war Beecher was increasingly open about his religious liberalism.  In 1867 Ralph Waldo Emerson noted with surprise that "Beecher told me,that he did not hold one of the five points of Calvinism in a way to satisfy his father."  By 1870 Beecher was campaigning to drop the concept of hell, or divine punishment, from the official creed of Plymouth church.  "Love, with its freedom, has taken the place of authority, and of obedience to it, " he argued.  For those who had "ripened" to a "nobler plane," desire was a far more effective motive than fear.
     Those worried that such freedom might be sacrilegious, corrupting, or chaotic were reassured by the example of Beecher's own homey common sense.  "He was one of those men," as the writer Edward Eggleston noted appreciatively, "who connect the past with the future, and make of themselves a bridge for the passage of multitudes."
     Henry was often accosted by strangers, like the young man who sat down by him on a train, asking:  "Mr. Beecher!  Must I believe every word in the Bible, to be a Christian?"  "No!" replied Beecher.  "Well--what them?" asked the bewildered boy.  "You must believe the truth that is in the Bible."

The boy pondered this for a moment and then asked "Now, about the Incarnation?  Why do I need to believe in that?"  Beecher quickly sketched his views.  "I see, now what about conversion?"  they talked until the train reached the station.  the young man took his leave, saying, "Mr. Beecher, you have laid my ghosts."  "I hope they will never rise again," replied Beecher.

We are getting towards the end of the book.  Beecher has been preaching in Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York, for a long time, becoming a fixture on the scene, writing columns for the newspaper and influencing politics.  He also struck up a friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson and he said that he absorbed what Emerson wrote, digested it and also preached it in digested form.   He was actively involved in some revolts before the time of John Brown.  The dilemma with John Brown seems to have sobered Beecher and he spoke more circumspectly after this time.  We see, however, here that he has moved away from the strict Calvinism of his father, the gut-wrenching requirements for a genuine conversion, which is more than understandable.  But while he has shifted in this way, and has got involved with politics, and so on, and perhaps had several extra-marital affairs as he became famous, we see that he is now going in the direction of abandoning scriptural authority in way that lets him interpret it to his liking, beginning with the discarding of the concept of "hell".

I am not really familiar with Puritan/Calvinist sermons but just judging them by the titles, one could perhaps not even fault Beecher for wanting to speak about love, rather than fire and brimstone.  The message of "freedom" resonates with some of the things Luther wrote about freedom in Christ.  However, this is a freedom which comes after and even transcends the fear of hell and punishment.  My Judge is also my Savior, but he is still Judge.

It seems to me that Beecher made a similar change within the church to Emerson's change outside of it, both revolting against a very doctrinal Puritan Calvinism.  This all seems regrettable because it gives "doctrine" a bad name, as if it could not be good, right and wholesome.

With this throwing out of Calvinist doctrine seems to arise not a better grasp of true doctrine, but a liberalism which suits everyone's worldly hopes.   For a good stretch of it, I empathize with Beecher, but he seems to go from one extreme to the other missing the right foundation doctrinally in each instance.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From "The Most Famous Man in America" re: slavery and abolition

Reading the book on Henry Beecher is making me think about issues of conscience, civil disobedience, the temporal government and the extent to which it should be obeyed, and the role of the "church" in matters of justice, even if it wades into politics.  We know, of course, Luther's strict and famous distinction between the kingdoms.  This must always be held in mind.  But this distinction did not prevent him from decrying various societal ills and doing his best to "reform" the church and society.

The "Most Famous Man in America", pp. 246-248.

Some antislavery ministers countered Onesimus's story with opposing Scripture, such as Deuteronomy 23:15, God's injunction to Moses:  "Thou shalt not deliver to his master the servant which is escaped from his master to thee."  But most of the clergy followed Paul's ambivalent example, preaching obedience to the Fugitive Salve Laws while admonishing the slaveholders to voluntarily reform.  For the first time, however, a significant number of ministers went whole hog for slavery... 
"Then it was that I flamed,"  Henry said.  the rage he felt toward cowardly businessmen and callous slave owners was dwarfed by his contempt for these clergymen.  to the argument that the apostle Paul sanctioned the fugitive Slave laws, Henry responded that he might accept that claim--if slaveholders followed Paul's instructions by receiving their runaway servants as Christians and family members, educating them, encouraging them to marry and own property.  Of course, Henry noted, that would essentially spell the end of slavery.  In one notable speech Henry hammered home the absurdity of the biblical justification with an imitation of a runaway slave sauntering back into his master's house, "with his broad, black, beaming face," and greeting the shocked whites with a warm, "How d'ye do, my brother? and how d'ye do, my sister?'"
Henry's scriptural and legal arguments were padded with name-calling, motive impugning, and detailed accusations of hypocrisy and immorality  but he was careful to make a distinction between sin and sinners, between the "Slave Conspiracy" or the "Slave Power"--that is, the legal system of bondage and its major public defenders--and the average citizens of the South.  It was a distinction that would remain central to all of Henry's antislavery arguments, although often lost in the vituperation of his language...
It didn't take long for Henry to draw the fire of the leading mercantile mouthpiece, the conservative Journal of Commerce...  Hallock attacked liberal ministers in general, and the Independent and its anonymous "star contributor" [Henry Beecher] in particular, "for prostituting their professions and their pulpits and the Sabbath day to the preaching of Free-Soilism: and other poisonous "Ultraisms."  How dare these fanatics use the pulpit--which businessmen paid for--to denounce their patrons and preach politics."  The role of the clergy was to lead their congregants to personal piety.  Period.  Anything outside the church door was beyond their purview.
"Clergymen ought to understand that while they attend to the proper duties of their calling they will be respected, honored, and beloved,"  Hallock concluded, "but that if they descend to the arena of politics, their black coats will most likely be rolled in the dirt."  Any congregation that didn't want the filth of politics in their midst ought to fire the troublemakers, he suggested.  After all, what would fix a misguided minister faster than snatching away his "bread and butter?"
For some time now, Henry had been drifting fro theology towards practical moral matters, but the fight with the Journal hardened this move into a manifesto.  The Holy Gospel, he averred, is merely medicine for the sick soul.  "It has no intrinsic value as a system.  its end and value are in its power to stimulate the soul, to develop its faculties, to purify the emotions,"  he declared.  Christianity did not exist for the glory of God, he insisted, but for the pleasure and health of mankind.  Nowadays this therapeutic view of religion so thoroughly dominates American culture that it is almost impossible to imagine how shocked people were by Henry's words.
By contrast, Beecher claimed, the Journal of commerce promoted a "Coward's Ethic."  Such men wanted a Gospel "that will snatch away their sins while they are asleep;  some chloroform gospel."  Just what, Henry inquired sarcastically, did the Journal of Commerce consider a suitable topic for discussion in church?  After all, her observed, many modern sins were not mentioned in the Bible.  Should we not preach against drunkienness or swindling or gambling simply because they were not specifically forbidden in Scripture?
Perhaps the problem was merely a matter of distance?  Men like Gerard Hallock gladly gave money to send missionaries to the Far East, Henry noted, yet "a Turkish harem is a cradle of virgin purity" compared with the slave pens of the american south.  "Will the Journal tell us how many leagues off a sin must be before it is prudent and safe for courageous ministers to preach against it?"
... Back and forth they went, citing Scripture and secular law, with each paper reprinting the entire debate in special supplements.  Nasty as it was, the long clash rendered a great public service, challenging common prejudices, laying out statistics, detailing legal ordinances, examining every aspect of the problem.  It also gave a well-needed boost to the struggling Independent.  Subscriptions were increasing at double the previous rate, with hundreds of new readers every week.
... Suddenly Henry was a genuine celebrity, whose colorful sayings and doings were being picked up by newspapers across the country.  Not everyone agreed with Henry Ward Beecher, and nobody agreed with everything he had to say.  But everyone wanted to hear it. 

 Such men wanted a Gospel "that will snatch away their sins while they are asleep;  some chloroform gospel." This is the phrase that is embedding itself in my mind. It reminds me of Pres. Harrison's comment in "Christ have Mercy" regarding the Lord's supper.  We can be in danger that while holding the pristine doctrine of the real presence, we fail to see it as the reality among ourselves, that we have been formed into one body, the physical reality of our communal life. Also in baptism, we have been baptized altogether. 

But we are also reacting against those who in their zeal for "social justice" have let God's Word go and put the Gospel light of forgiveness of sins under the cover. Still forgiveness of "un-real" sins or forgiveness while you are "asleep", just becomes an idea and irrelevant as such. 

Once more: Luther and anti-Semitism

Just to have this here, and in case it gets deleted or abused, I will paste what I wrote on Naked Pastor about Luther's so-called anti-Semitism.  A man who goes anonymously by "Godless Monster" in a discussion about sin and the Ten Commandments, in his infinite fair-mindedness, felt it pertinent to quote all the most vicious sections of Luther on "The Jews and their Lies" to me at great length. (--Great argument to support your line of thinking, Godless Monster!)  NP, himself had to weigh in, not with a moderating comment restraining Godless Monster, but to say that he had read the thing in "seminary" of all places.  Anyhow, in spirit of thinking that explaining might help, I posted all the below, which received no other comment than "Luther is a turd."  Which is fine.  Luther is a "turd."  He said worse about himself.

Dear NP and dear GM: I will set things aside and make a long answer to this, especially since this comes up often. I could make it short, but please take it as my love and respect for you, that I will try and answer it as thoroughly as I can.

Firstly, we note that we have gone off topic, which was to show that we should look at our own sins, of which our own heart as well as the written down law accuse us, invariably, and that the Christian message is that forgiveness can be had for those. Free for the taking. But now we have wandered again to look at the sins of others.

Secondly, we note that the last commandments are not about making women chattels, but they naturally lead into the Sermon on the Mount, that simply the matter of the heart, such as coveting and scheming are already sins, not just the outward doing. Many a person consoles himself with his justification based on not having murdered anyone,  etc. How many times is it said, that people don’t need to go to church because they have not committed any heinous crimes, and that, yet, in the same sentence as saying the people in church are all hypocrites. (Something gives again.)

Thirdly, we note that the moral law which we know about, and which is summarized in the  Ten Commandments and which we learn as children and adults from the catechism, has nothing to do with Luther’s so-called anti-Semitism.

Fourthly, as a German by birth and a Lutheran by confession (not that they go together; most Germans are secular, or Roman Catholic and what goes as Lutheran is really a Forced United church with Reformed. Real German Lutherans I have only met among those who emigrated to America a very long time ago) I do feel called to make some kind of defense of what is being alleged here. I do not take it personally, but since I have looked into it, I will try to set things into context, which is only fair.

Fifthly, the document quoted a great length above, is nowhere found in any teachings or confessions or catechisms of the “Lutheran” church. Luther wrote hundreds of books and thousands of sermons and who knows how many pamphlets. He was such a giant in his own time, that he commented or was asked to comment on just about anything. Everything he said at table  was written down, the visitors thought it so important it should not be lost. Obviously, not all of it is kosher or confessional. The pamphlet  "On the Jews and Their Lies"  was written very late under a certain set of stresses and not promulgated much or far, nor included in any important collections. It is a nasty piece of work that would not edify anyone. So sadly, now those who want to denigrate biblical teaching love to drag this out and plaster it all over in detail, as we see displayed here.

Sixthly, regarding the quoting of this: if this is such nasty business, someone tell me why those who oppose historical Christianity and confessional teaching need to spread this far and wide? What is the purpose? To have a smear campaign? To victimize Jews all over again?–Why roll in the mud? If it is so objectionable, why quote it at length, why read it in seminary? Have you nothing better to read and post?

Seventhly, Luther gets dragged in for every single thing people like to imagine. Under the communists he was the leading communist, under the Nazis he was the leading Nazi. Under Naked Pastor, he becomes the first Naked Pastor… We only had him invoked quite recently.

The the substance of the issue:

1. A man who deals with these issues with passion to detail and with incredible depth is an American Reformed Christian, James Swan, on his blog, He is neither Lutheran nor German. His work has become the debunking of all the ways Luther is abused in current discussions and apologetics of various kinds. He has collated much material on this particular matter here:

2. For those who want to read some writings of Luther which people of various denominations find valuable, James had in interesting link to a collection available free online, here:

The above is material from people who know what they are talking about. I will use up one more comment box to deal with it from my own reading and understanding.

  1. This has been my own reading:

    1. Brecht’s Luther Biography in three volumes is according to James Swan the currently definitive one:
    It is quite a project and I am about 50% through.

    2. “The Jews of Germany, A Historical Portrait” by Ruth Gay. This was a book I picked up used in an Edmonton Cafe/bookshop. It traced this history of the Jews and various streams of anti-Semitism through the centuries and millennia. It was extremely interesting to see the whole set of issues in their full historical development.

    3. This one is a Canadian book, on which I have only got a slow start “The Nazis and the New Religions”

    4. “The Fabricated Luther”, which I have blogged through:
    There are other books, which connect more or less and these are the blog posts I have made myself on the subject:

    To summarize the main points from my own mind:

    1. The Jews had for some time been relegated to living in ghettos, one notable one being the Frankfurt ghetto. They lived in unfair conditions for some time. They were not “emancipated” and were not allowed to live as others were suffering under restrictions of where to live and what kinds of occupations to engage in. This state of affairs also arose because of their own needs of keeping a Jewish butcher, synagogues, springs and pools for ritual bathing, schools, hospitals, having a rabbi, etc. The Holy Roman Emperor even forced them to wear the first sign of exclusion, the yellow circle.

    2. Because Jews could not live in the empire like other individuals they seemed to engage in much money lending. Money lenders are never popular and the situation during Reformation times were recently exacerbated by the concessions a Jewish advocate for Jews gained from the Emperor. What Josel of Rosenheim was able to gain was that Jewish lenders were able to extract higher interest rates from their clients than before, with the end result that they could pay more taxes to the Emperor. This worked for everyone involved except for the average, poor Christian peasant, artisan, etc. who was in any kind of debt. As one would imaging this did not endear the Jewish population who became viewed as heartless blood suckers, not unlike the current outrage of the world against Wall street and the clout of financial institutions. More could be said about Jewish influence at the courts of princes, etc. because of their financial savvy. This would make them both needed for advice but also easily despised. So, there is a whole lot of politics involved.

    3. During the Reformation many Jews were baptized and became Christians, specifically “Evangelical” Christians (as the Lutherans would call themselves). These baptisms were sometimes viewed with suspicion, as they were thought to be often insincere and done for worldly not spiritual reasons. Luther, therefore, while he befriended and supported Jewish converts himself, also warned other pastors that they carefully examine any potential converts for honest intent.

    4. During the Reformation, many intense and thorough debates were held regarding Biblical content, translations, texts, and meaning. Some of these debates were had with Roman Catholics, and some of them were had with Jewish Rabbis. As the learning of the original languages had recently blossomed (as we know Luther translated the entire Bible into German), we know that Luther also had his battles with the Rabbis who did not want to acknowledge scripture passages that were to him clearly Christ-centered and Messianic, such as “the virgin will conceive”, etc. This was a very hot topic for him and his annoyance at intractable Rabbis was significant. So when he speaks against “the Jews”, it is at times simply against rabbinic scholarship, or lack thereof, as he viewed it, as well as malintent leading simple Christian people into confusion and error.  Ever Luther was out to protect the "simple".

    5. In terms of Jewish conversions to Christianity, we have another huge issue arising: converts are often very zealous for their new religion and not very charitable toward the one they have departed. In the Jewish context they are then viewed as “apostates”. (Thus here on NP our “deconverted” atheists are often the most “anti-Christian” in their speech of all.) So it happened that there was a man, named Anthony Margaritha, a convert from Judaism, who wrote a very scathing book about Jews and their customs. From this book, The Whole Jewish Faith, Together with a Thorough and Truthful Account of All the Regulations, Ceremonies, and Prayers Both for Family and Public Worship, as Observed by the Jews throughout the Year, with excellent and Well-founded arguments against their Faith Luther got many of his opinions of what goes on in Jewish communities. The worst kinds of accusations, including ritual slaughter of Christian children, were included.

    6. During Reformation times, expulsions of Jews had become the way to deal with the perennial “Jewish question”. Previously Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain had cruelly expelled all their Jewish citizens in the most heartless way. The Jews were forced to sell all their goods and were not even able to transfer to proceeds into gold to take with them, as gold represented the riches of the country. Most of the families perished at sea and other ways. But still expulsion was seen as the merciful way of dealing with the issues, as opposed to straight annihilation. Extremely sad chapter in history.

    To summarize this section, no one here is covered in glory, sad to say. The hysteria over the Jews and their practices was considerable, the rumors abominable, their sincerity questioned, and Luther, though he otherwise often advocated for and pleaded with the Jews to put their trust in their own “cousin”, as he would say, and believe in Jesus Christ, was at one point carried away to write this awful piece. This runs contrary to many other things he said and wrote and to his usual more laissez-faire approach (the Word ran its course while he drank beer). Occasionally, he said things to help the princes with their polictics and this would include the advice on when to use force.

    However, there is no one to really try and explain this properly, and I am probably not up to the task. And the Holocaust was such a horror, that any attempts at explaining anything look like misguided in the first place. Still, some Roman Catholics delight to make Luther look like the devil incarnate; I can see why Jewish individuals would not be inclined to be charitable; and atheists often work at making Christians look like the barbarians they occasionally were and are. And yet, as we began, again, as per usual, nobody wants to look at the faults that they bear themselves.

    In terms of the Nazis: their use of Luther was manipulative and propagandizing. Their aims had to do with eugenics arising out of a completely different ideology. Eugenics is really an anti-Christian movement. Supposedly, because of Christianity we have coddled the weak and interfered with natural selection, ruining our genetic pool, so we have to get rid of the undesirables, beginning with forced sterilizations. The churches can be faulted for not saying more sooner and more effectively, but they were themselves not anti-Semitic in heart or speech, at least not in a significant way. Some pro-Nazi people were put in place to run things and some people obviously fell in step with them. Dissidents themselves were quickly, easily and systematically dispensed with with along with the infirm and the Jewish population.

    When Hitchens, et al. try to pin the Nazi ideology on Christianity they are poorly informed and very irresponsible with history. Nazi ideology arose from completely (COMPLETELY) different quarters. This bears reading up on more.

    I’ll quit here. Luther’s business with the Jews does not impact what we confess about Jesus Christ. There is no benefit or point to keep rehashing his stupid pamphlet.

    To the contrary: Jesus is a Jew. We believe in a Jew. We have a Jewish God. This is how God communicates.

    I am not sure that I should post all this as I am not sure that anybody really wants to know it and I am probably just inviting a bunch of derision, getting accused of defending something indefensible. I am not defending the pamphlet at all. I personally could not, in the past, understand how someone like him could write such a thing. It seemed out of character with everything else. I needed to set it into some kind of context and this is how I did it for myself. I just don’t want anyone to miss the genuine gospel so clearly articulated during the Reformation because of this oft-mounted assault on credibility and reputation.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Current Reading/ Henry Beecher

In the vein of getting context for Emerson, Hawthorn, Abolition movements and Beecher family, I have this book out from Concordia  library on  "The Most Famous Man in America", the Pastor Henry Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe of "Uncle Tom's Cabin".

The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

It is most fascinating and thorough.  I feel that I am getting a really good view of what a number of contexts were the first part of the 19th century America, for example the differences in settings between Boston, New York and the frontier in Indiana.  It is interesting to note that the religious feeling was quite intense everywhere, but represented mostly by Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches.  Henry Beecher's own Calvinism was of a variable sort.  He did not like to be pinned down on intricacies of Reformed doctrine.  He tended to weasel through doctrinal examinations but was accepted anyhow for his charismatic preaching and engaging rhetoric, deep thinking and empathetic views.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Emerson and me

Lately, I have tried to supplement my education by reading some of the American writers, with whom I have been woefully unfamiliar.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is not my friend, seeing that he had some unorthodox ideas about faith.  He did rebel in a way against New England spirituality, and again, I have no exact clue what may have been some issues there.  Of course, I have my suspicion that it has something to do with theology which came after Luther and if I got Emerson in my hands, I would simply send him to the Book of Concord...   :)

I got this book from the library, which might help me a bit:  "Ralph Waldo Emerson A Profile Edited by Carl Bode."  The book is both entertaining and heavy at the same time, employing some delicious language.  Here is a quote which my husband and I had a good laugh at last night, since we  have all made this observation frequently before.  Men have this endearing habit of solving all the worlds problems easily when they sit together.  It invariably happens especially when there are no women around to interject some inconvenient reality.

Emerson's good sense was so strong that it always seemed to be specially awakened in the company of those who were most in sympathy with his loftiest thinking.  Thus, when "the radical philosophers"  were gathered one evening at his house, the conversation naturally turned on the various schemes of benevolent people to reform the world.  Each person present had a panacea to cure all the distempers of society.  For hours the talk ran on, and before bedtime came, all the sin and misery of the world had been apparently expelled from it, and our planet was reformed and transformed into an abode of human angels, and virtue and happiness were the lot of each human being.  Emerson listened, but was sparing of speech.  Probably he felt, with Lamennais, that if facts did not resist thoughts, the earth would in a short time become uninhabitable.  At any rate, he closed the seance with the remark:  "A few of us old codgers meet at the fireside on a pleasant evening, and in thought and hope career, balloonlike, over the whole universe of matter and mind, finding no resistance to our theories, because we have, in the sweet delirium of our thinking, none of those obstructive facts which are the practical reformer the moment he takes single forward step;  then we go to bed;  and the pity of it is we wake up in the morning feeling that we are the same poor old imbeciles we were before!" 

My husband is a good man, he smiled right away in recognition.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

The latest CPH order

My newest package of books from CPH arrived last week.

One of the books I ordered was the "My First Hymnal".  It is a beautiful book with lovely illustrations.  If I had children at the house still, I would use it every day.  Absolutely.  I am thinking we are on the right track here with this book, but have felt for a long time that we almost, also, need a graded curriculum and accompanying audio CD's.

Luther, the graphic novel is amazing with tons of details but not information overload.  I would highly recommend it.  Must have, especially at $9.99.

I also checked out another size of Lutheran Study Bible to see how I like its type and feel, but now that I use my laptop for many things, I think I might get the e-version for myself.

The Story Bible  is a very large book with a huge number of engaging illustrations.  Someone I shared it with thought it was similar to a coffee table book.  Well, yes, the pictures caught me first, too.  But there are also other features such as highlighting related vocabulary, questions about the story and a prayer.  Very nice work.  Children's Bibles, I have often found in the past, are books that adults who are not well versed in Bible stories can use to familiarize themselves with the many characters and events.   So this Bible could work really well for an entire family.

So much for now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blogging slow down

Dear Friends:  what happened to this blog?  It's been two weeks, or so.

Mostly, after going through Flannery O'Connor's letters, I have been reading some authors I never read before:  Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson I don't like as much as Hawthorne, and the whole Isolationist and Transcendental scene is problematic to me, as far as I can know it and understand it, at this point.  Still, it seems good to me to know what they were about.

I also did a little bit of translating for James Swan, here.  It is always great fun for me to translate some Luther. The original sermon was found here.  It might be worth looking at in its entirety some other time.  It is a worthwhile treatment regarding faith and love. Basically, faith needs to be exercised in love, or it will be weak and gradually go out altogether.  Still, we cannot be saved by our having love but only by trusting in Christ's work.

Today, it snowed for the first time this winter.  This was no surprise and we are ready for it,  having enjoyed a long and wonderful fall.  I pray everyone will stay safe on winter roads and drive carefully according to the conditions.

Also, I've got into the habit of going swimming regularly and am hoping I can keep up the habit when it gets to be really cold and a person neither feels like going out or getting wet.

So much for today.  :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Series with Christopher Hitchens at American Jewish University

A number of videos I was looking at which related to God and science in one way or another.

I wasted a good part of the day looking at videos such as above.  Here are some of the ones I thought were pretty interesting.  What I still don't understand is how none of the prominent people say anything about the sheer impossibility of random mutations producing anything like the living world we see.  Berlinski is the best to point this out.  Most of the videos have other segments as well.  I also was surprised at Francis Collins' dismissal of intelligent design as, "what if it's wrong and it is just God of the gaps."

There is another set of videos with Hitchens about eternal questions, which I thought was good but haven't finished viewing.  I'll paste after.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Discussions with Atheists

What have I been up to?  I just finished this video on a debate with several atheists, including Richard Dawkins and several theists including William Craig in Mexico.  It is almost two hours long.

What I don't understand is how Dawkins keeps getting away with saying that the wonderful process of natural selection could produce the complexities we observe.  What is it exactly we are trying to get at in these debates?   Was this basically a debate about philosophy, then?

As usual, I find that atheists get quite rude in their language.  They cannot content themselves with making their argument.  Part of the argument is always that the opposing side is arrogant, condemning, hateful, lazy and stupid.  I had myself a little battle here this week, that went somewhat that way.  And the language gets ratchet up immediately once you disagree with Dawkins or natural selection.

In the video below there is a speaker Sean Stephenson, a very encouraging man.  He also made an extremely cogent comment toward the end of the debate above.  He also has a cute aside at Richard Dawkins in this talk below.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


While driving around today, I listened to CBC radio, 740 AM dial, as I usually do in the car when by myself.  I enjoyed this episode on mid-life quite a bit.  Rarely, does this subject get treated in a thoughtful manner although it is a rather jarring time of life, often Job-like, as the psychiatrist mentions.

The first comment on the website regarding the show asks: "What about women?"  It is a good question.  The program did not deal with women, at all.  But we can't have everything at once.  This was a good episode.  Perhaps, we can have another on women.

Having Christian faith would, of course, add a completely different dimension to this, yet.  I would not want to go through this without prayer and song, faith and faith community.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Richard Dawkins at Costco

Never have I paid any money for a book by Richard Dawkins.  Once someone lent me one of theirs but I only read several chapters.  Somehow he is not very readable; he drones on and on, though some of the information was essentially interesting to me.  I think there is a pedantic way of demonstrating that we are all pretty stupid, that somehow puts me to sleep.

Today, I looked a new book by Richard Dawkins at Costco. It pictured a man on the edge of a magnificent canyon, perhaps the Grand Canyon--quite breathtaking.  The title is, you have probably seen it, "The Magic of Reality.  How we know what's really true."  This, in spite of my limited reading of the man, seems to me to be vintage Richard Dawkins.  When we see a wonderful waterfall we don't have to fall down and worship a Creator, we can be just as awed at "Reality".   It's awesome, even without God, or something like that.  We have all heard him go on how stupid it is to believe in God, the spaghetti monster, blabla.  People must be cured of their idiotic mindset. The title is so very true to form.  Still we should be awestruck by the "magic" of reality.  Shouldn't he use a different word from "magic."

I opened the book and read two pages at random.  Often this random reading of some sentences indicates the overall quality of the book to me.  I generally know if I will like it or not.  What I found left me literally laughing out loud in the isle.  It took me some time to calm myself.  It was tremendous.

So I'll tell you what did I get:  "Was there a first human?  Well, no, there was no first human that we can say."  It is hard to explain says Dawkins but picture this:  "Take a photograph of yourself and then put one on top of your father and then on top of that of your grandfather and when you do this at length and your stack is about three miles long, you will have a picture of you ancestor of how ever many eons ago.  You can see this picture when you turn the page."  Well, of course, we have to turn the page to see our ancestor, the first human, though there is no such thing--it turns out it is a fish!!! Yikes!

Ok, we knew that Richard Dawkins thinks that somehow by some direct line of descend over a long period of time we turned from fishes into humans.  Even I can't say how God made fishes or humans, but we are supposed to get from this demonstration (for idiots) that there was no First human being.  Somehow, somewhere we became human, just like "a baby imperceptibly turns into a toddler".  You can't tell what day it ceased being a baby and what day it began being a toddler.

A FISH TURNING INTO A HUMAN BEING IS LIKE A BABY TURNING INTO A TODDLER!  Did I just read this?  This is the great famous, so very serious about his atheism, has to lecture the whole world about how stupid they are to believe in God, Richard Dawkins telling me this?

I could not contain myself.  You think we are fools but the most humble among us can see the ridiculousness of this.  It does not look good.  It reads like stand-up comedy to me.  But I know you are dead serious.  This makes it even more comic.

Thanks for the laugh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Norman Nagel's podcasts

Under this heading you get all the podcasts produced at Issues, etc. with Norman Nagel.  Totally worth listening over and over, again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let's go shopping at CPH

Flannery's letters

As I said, after the fiction, I am getting around to the letters of Flannery O'Connor.

Today, I underlined this:

I don't think you should write something as long as a novel around anything that is not of the gravest concern to you and everybody else and for me this is always the conflict between a attraction for the Holy and the disbelief in it that we breathe in with the air of the times.  It's hard to believe always but more so in the world we live in now... I can't allow any of my characters, in a novel anyway, to stop in some halfway position.  This doubtless comes of a Catholic education and a Catholic sense of history--everything works toward its true end or away from it, everything is ultimately saved or lost. Haze is saved by virtue of having wise blood;  it's too wise for him ultimately to deny having wise blood;  it's too wise for him ultimately to deny Christ.  Wise blood has to be these people's means of grace--they have no sacraments.  The religion of the South is a do-it-yourself religion, something which I as a Catholic find painful and touching and grimly comic.  It's full of unconscious pride that lands them in all sorts of ridiculous religious predicaments.  They have nothing to correct their practical heresies and so they work them out dramatically.  If this were merely comic to me, it would be no good, but I accept the same fundamental doctrines of sin and redemption and judgment that they do.
... Haze knows what the choice is and the Misfit knows what the choice is--either throw away everything and follow Him or enjoy yourself by doing some meanness to somebody, and in the end there's no real pleasure in life, not even in meanness.  I can fancy a character like the Misfit being redeemable, but a character like Mr. Shiftlet as being unredeemable.  (letter to John Hawkes, Sept. 13, 1959)

It is the part about the "half-way" position which grabbed me, but also the "self-made" religion without sacraments.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Flannery, my new friend

If I've seemed a little distracted from my blog, it is due to travelling but also due to the reading of Flannery O'Connor.

I have finished all her fiction and am working on the "Occasional Prose" and "Letters."  Actually, it was Samuel Scoville who has kindly put me onto her, and for a change, my husband and I have been enjoying some American short stories and short novels.

Here is a great blog titled "If Flannery had a blog", with wonderful quotes and stories.  This is a great place to start to get an idea of what she is about.

Flannery O'Connor was a Roman Catholic writer with overtly religous themes.  She makes you think deeply to figure out what the story, life, and your life is about.  She also surprises you with dramatic turns of events, which are often shocking but revealing.

Sam likes to say that Flannery O'Connor showed him that religion can "smart and be smart".  He also thought that as  Lutheran I might have more in common with her than I would expect, which has turned out to be true. Thanks, Sam.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide."

Such a wonderful hymn so simply and lovingly sung.  "Lord Jesus Christ with us abide."  It is contained in the new LSB, Lutheran Service Book, # 585.

Our preacher at the anniversary service this weekend in Medicine Hat referred to it.  We enjoyed a special gathering this weekend for a Lutheran congregation's 100th anniversary.  I love this hymn, but can't recall that we have ever sung it in a service.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


This is the second time in the past month that I have heard about and met people who were drawn to the Hare Krishna's through their shelters during the hippie years.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Catechism Seminar for Pastors and Evangelists in Africa

See Lutherans in Africa.

The Gospel is proved by the fact that it has survived in spite of so many enemies.

Becker, p. 178 and 179.

Luther was convinced that only the Holy Ghost, working through word and sacrament, can bring men to faith and an acceptance of the Christian gospel.  Therefore we would expect him to lay little stress on Christian evidences.  But the fact is that he does not reject this approach completely.  He says, for example, that the Bible is proved to be the Word of God by the fact that while the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans  and many others have tried to destroy it, it has nevertheless survived all its enemies.

Luther sees one of the strongest proofs for the truth of the gospel in the very opposition that it engenders.  The mark of true and divine promises is that they disagree with reason, and that reason does not want to accept them.  There is no more certain sign that something is of God that that it is against reason and above our way of thinking.  The gospel is a preaching which offends men--not only men of no consequence, but the holiest, the wisest the most pious and most powerful men on earth.  When the fury of the tyrants and the heretics and the scandal of the cross come to an end, it is a certain sign that the pure doctrine of the Word has been lost.

"Paul holds that if it is preached with undisturbed peace, this is a certain sign that it is not the gospel.  On the other hand, when the world sees that the preaching of the gospel is followed by great tumults, disturbances, offenses, divisions, etc, it considers this to be a certain sign that the gospel is a heretical and seditious doctrine.  Thus God puts on the devil's mask and the devil puts on God's and God wants to be recognized under the mask of the devil and the devil is to be rejected under the mask of God."

Thus it is evident that if our gospel were received peacefully, it would not be the true gospel.

In evaluating these arguments, however, we must note that these evidences are entirely Biblically based and oriented.  They are merely variations of the scriptural test of the fulfillment of prophecy  (Deuteronomy 18:21 f;  I Kings 22:28;  Isaiah 41:22f).  The Savior had said that his words would not pass away (Matthew 24:35).  The fact that the Bible has survived all the concerted attacks of the centuries fulfills this prediction.  Moreover, the Bible says that the unconverted man will always consider the gospel to be foolishness (I Corinthians 2:14).

From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern Publishing House ( All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Confession and Absolution

While we were gone, we visited some friends in another city.  My friend is a new Lutheran and deeply appreciative of all that has been given to her in the pure gospel and good theology.  It was an incredibly pleasure to meet her in person and talk and worship together, a great gift from God for both of us.

I have found that new Lutherans are such an incredible source of inspiration and joy as they cling to Jesus with all that is in them.  My friend will not go one single Sunday without receiving the Lord's Supper.  She will not go one single Saturday without going to Confession and Absolution.  She wants grace and more grace and all she can receive after decades of starvation.

She invited me to go with her to Private Confession and Absolution, as I had said to her before that this never seems to come up in any sermons with any of my pastors and I'd never been availed myself of the practice, though I have frequently read about it in Luther and how incredibly important the practice was for him.

On occasion, over the years, I have also palpated the words for this in the catechism and in the hymnal and felt that this would be a good thing.  At times, pastors in other congregations who are my friends will talk about their own "Father's confessors", and their practice of going to Confession and Absolution.  It always moved me deeply to think that these shepherds have this practice for themselves.

So, I was ready and since we had talked about this in generalities before, I had actually hoped that something like this might transpire.  In my old age, I am not as easily terrified as when younger, so I looked forward to it, as long as the pastor was ok with it.  The pastor asked me some things about my home congregation and my own pastor, and we established some rapport.  etc.  We followed LSB, p. 292.  I cried a little bit, but oh well.

What do I think of it now? I think it is wholesome to spend some time thinking about, talking about, and confessing your own sins, since we much more readily want to rehash everybody else's.  It is good to spend some time on the commandments and the penitential psalms.  Secondly, it was a blessing to actually have someone who will be dedicated to listening to you.  This is really quite a gift.  We talk so much, but there is so much hot air and so much inconsequential noise that we don't often get to the bottom of things.  And then there is the most important thing, the absolution, this time with your own name in the same sentence as  God's.

It's not that I don't know that God forgives, and forgives even me, and I don't have peace as a result of this knowing, but God has given me the gift of a shepherd and a brother who will personally deliver this message to me.  This is something special that God also wants me to have.  And this is what Jesus sent out the apostles especially for:  to forgive sins.  (John 20)  We keep forgetting this.

I can see that this is also good for the pastor.  He will get to know his people this way and be able to preach more appropriately.

Issues, etc. has some interviews on the subject.  John Pless of Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, also has posted a related paper titled:  "Your pastor is not your therapist."  Here is another paper on the subject.  Here is a good personal story on the subject.  I stole the gorgeous Rembrandt from the last link.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Well, now it's October and I should be finishing the Becker.  If you are interested you might like to have a look at my pictures, as I was able to enjoy a very interesting holiday with my husband looking up relatives, as well as Facebook friends.  We drove down the coast of Washington state and Oregon returning via seeing the mountains of the coastal region.

The reading material along the way consisted of reading the collected works of Flannery O'Connor, American novelist and short story writer.  She has been mentioned much among my Facebook friends and she has certainly been a great discovery for me and my husband.  She rounded out the American experience for us.  The theology behind the stories made for great food for thought and discussion along the way.

Mount Hood on the South Face

Mount Hood's North Side with Orchards


From the lighthouse at Cape Disappointment

Oregon coast with rain

Astoria, Oregon

Mount Rainier at Paradise

Mount St. Helens from the closest observatory

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pastor Nadarkhani

It really is quite incredible. Last week, a convicted murderer, Troy Davis, was finally executed in the United States, and it seemed as though the entire British (and EU) Establishment arose to denounce the barbarism. Even Pope Benedict XVIappealed for clemency. 
Yet today, Iran is scheduled to hang a Christian pastor for 'apostasy', and the collective silence from our scurvy politicians, trappist churchmen and hypocritical media is positively deafening.

From here:

My prayers are with all Arab brothers and sisters and have been for some time.  May the Arab spring serve freedom and the Gospel of Christ.  May the Lord have mercy on this man and his family and grant all strength in these trials.  May his good and gracious will be done also in Iran.

Human Rights Watch has this on the situation in Iran and some facts about Nadarkhani.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blogging in September

We need to finish the Becker, but there won't be much blogging possible in September.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Grieving" interfered with by "fanatical belief in the afterlife"?

On a blog where I have lately been commenting frequently, the topic was this given by the blogowner:

I remember during my clinical pastoral education studies watching a short film about a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I remember he had a wife and some teenaged children. In the face of his certain death he became fanatical about his belief in the afterlife and insisted that his family not be sad because he wasn’t really dying but transferring to a better place. They weren’t allowed to be sad or cry, even after he died. He insisted. We were shown the film as students because it was obvious the man was coping with his suffering by adopting a posture of denial with belief for its engine. It was sad to watch him and his family unwilling or unable to process their grief. Tragic.
This is what I wrote:

I have thought about this all morning because grief is still very acute in our house.
Anyone who has lost a child, and ours was 18 years old, knows that this grief will never be entirely over. I did not understand this about people previously. There is an elderly couple in our congregations whose son dropped dead in gymn class at the school where the father was school principal. He was the couple’s only son (there are two daughters). This must be how many decades ago now? When all the special days come and anniversaries of this and that everything is as raw as ever. Before it happened to us I would watch this from the outside and wonder why they are still not over this. Why the hugging and crying with other members in similar situations? I truly thought that this should be over by now.
But when someone is missing every Christmas, Easter, Birthday, death anniversary, Mother’s day, etc. they are still missing again and again, each time. The only thing is to be with people and get some distraction and companionship.
Our dead have been burned into our heart and brain and body. Our feelings for them, the things they said and did, the cars they drove, the clothes they wore, the pleasures and pains they had, the hugs they gave, the way they smelled… It is wired into us now, somewhere in the neurons. It does not go away. It is part of us, and the pain will be there.
It’s good to talk it out and cry it out, but it can’t be programmed.
And at the time of death and funeral, it may not at all be the right time. Then we need every bit of strength we can muster. I refused to cry then because crying gives me headaches and a headache puts me into bed and I could not afford to be in bed. Plus, there were hundreds of mourners, many young and inexperienced people and you end up being there for them. There was no time for grieving then. And every bit of spare energy was called upon for other things.
People looked at this and thought it was unnatural. They wanted to talk me through Kuebler-Ross. Good grief! We have all heard this a thousand times.
When the pastor came over, we just did a liturgy from the hymn book, the Apostle’s creed, the Lord’s prayer. What a relief to just fall back on that. What a gift. That’s all that was needed. “The Lord be with you.” “And also with you.” Amen.
Please, don’t make me cry.
But on Monday, I cried. It was a really good cry. I was with a women I did not know well, but she also lost a child and we walked along the North Saskatchewan river and sat on a bench in the sunlight and looked at downtown Edmonton. And we shared our difficulties and I cried. There was a time and a place and person. And this also was a gift. It could not be planned.
Others benefit from other things. I am just telling how it goes for me.

We are not really discussing the belief in the afterlife and resurrection here, though my guess is that to the blogowner it is simply a myth.  But since he likely does not believe in the afterlife and even though he calls himself a pastor, he needs to have some kind of view on the subject.  And this is what comes out.

And what is the pastor's purpose?  To facilitate the grieving I don't need him.  To tell my psychological platitudes I don't need him.

Just wanted to hang on to this item.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Place of Reason in Apologetics

Becker, p. 168-176, quoting:

After having heard Luther's scornful and vehement denunciation of the use of reason in the defense of Scripture, it is a little surprising to hear him insist, as he did at Worms, that he would bow to the dictates of sound reason.  It is still more surprising to find that he repeatedly castigates his opponents as irrational and senseless fools.

...While Luther believed that it was ridiculous and downright blasphemous to presume to defend Scripture with rational argumentation, yet he also believed that it was perfectly proper to point out the logical weakness in the attacks made on Scripture whenever the opportunity to do so presented itself.  In his controversies with his adversaries he says a number of times,  "This reason itself is forced to admit."  It is evident that Luther did not place a great deal of confidence in such a procedure, but there is scarcely an opponent against whom he did not use this approach.

In the same way he often pointed out logical weaknesses in the arguments of the Anabaptists.  Some of the Anabaptists had insisted that the children who were brought to the Lord Jesus for his blessing were not children age-wise, but "children in respect to their faith."  In regard to this interpretation Luther says,

But whoever has a little reason will see that the devil has possessed the Anabaptist completely, for they, in the name of all hangmen, characterize the children as being without reason, but they themselves are not only without reason, but they are completely insane and foolish, since they do not want to let those who are "carried in the arms" be children, as the text clearly says.

...At the end of the treatise Against the Heavenly Prophets Luther has a chapter entitled,  "Concerning Mistress Hulda, Dr. Carlstadt's clever Reason, in this sacrament."  In this chapter he endeavors to show that the arguments of Carlstadt are not logically sound, and that they become ridiculous if applied in analogous situation...  It must be noted throughout that Luther is not seeking to establish the truth by reason, but to show that the arguments of Carlstadt are weak.  If they are consistently followed to their logical conclusion they will always end in nonsense.

The papists are to be attacked in the same way as the Mohammedans.  Commenting on the pope's prohibition of marriage on the part of priests and his claim to be above Scripture, Luther once said,

That senseless, asinine pope has dealt so crudely that it would have been possible to lay hold of him with the judgment of reason even if we did not have Scripture.

Toward the end of 1519 the faculty of Louvain issued a condemnation of the Ninety-Five theses and of some other works by Luther.  In reply, Luther says that the learned faculty at Louvain argues like a bunch of old women, who say,  "It is so!  It is not so!  Yes! No!  You are wrong!  I am not wrong!"  He complains that they use neither reason nor Scripture against him, but only the feelings of their own hearts and their own opinions.   They answer him simply by reasserting the very things which he attacks is as untrue, and therefore they are guilty of begging the question.  Here again Luther uses an argument which he does not allow anyone to use against the Scriptures.  And then, having pointed out the logical fallacy in the university's chain of reasoning,  Luther adds what was for them the crowning insult, that this is "forbidden even by Aristotle."

...It is clear that Luther did not believe that the Christian church had a monopoly on folly and irrationalism, and he knew that unbelievers could be just as foolish and irrational in their arguments as Christians.  While he would never have written a book on the reasonableness of Christianity, he might conceivably have been the author of one with the title "The Irrationalism of Unbelief".  Philosophy will fulfill its proper role in the church when it serves to destroy the "pretensions of speculative reason."

As we have said,  Luther was certainly not averse to the use of reason in debate with unbelievers.  He warns against the use of reason in the doctrine of justification, in matters of conscience, and in regard to satisfaction, remission of sins, reconciliation and eternal salvation.  But

at other times, whenever you must, outside of this doctrine of justification, debate with Jews, Turks, and sectarians about the wisdom, or the power, or the attributes of God, then use all your skill, and be a subtle and sharp a debater as you can be, for then you are in a different kind of argument.

Such disputations with Jews, Mohammedans and sectarians are possible because many things are clear in the light of natural reason.  Not every point of doctrine could be argued on this ground, for there are many things that are not clear in the light of nature.  Many of these, however, are clarified in the light of grace.  But even in the light of grace not every problem is answered.  For a solution to the problems that remain unilluminated by the light of grace we must wait for the light of glory in heaven.


From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern Publishing House ( All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.