Saturday, July 30, 2011


The Lord's gifts are unspeakably amazing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The foolishness of God, origins and causes / election--an analogous thought

(I can't find the Becker right now.  It must have taken it somewhere.  So I'll go from memory today because I have a thought I want to put down.)

This still relates to the usefulness of reason in relation to science, causes and origins.

Luther uses the example of your own parentage.  This example does not work as well today because we can do genetic testing.  However, even there a 100% certainty cannot be achieved. I can tell you this because I have adopted children and one submitted to a test of paternity and it came back 99.99% certain.  That seems pretty certain but whatever is not 100% can still be questioned.  So maybe Luther's example works.

So here it is:  just as you cannot be certain as to who your parents are except by their telling you that they are, we can say nothing certain about the origins of the natural world via reason.  This is the limitation of science.  It cannot tell us anything about how things came to be or for what reason, it only can to a limited extent describe how some things work.

What interests me today is this idea that we cannot know who are parents are for sure but that we go by "revelation", our parents "tell" us that we are their children.

Knowing who your biological parents are is a huge deal for every person.  This can especially seen in the cases of adopted children;  they illustrate this point well.  Having been a parent in open adoptions, I have come to conclude that knowing who your biological parents are is a human right.  This goes as far as sperm donors or whatever lengths modern situations may present.  You can have the most wonderful parents and the children may be the most well adjusted and they still need to know who their parents are because it is integral for their knowing who they are themselves.  You are your parents in large measure and if you don't know your parents you miss a good deal of knowing who you are yourself.

It is similar with knowing that  God is your own dear Father in Heaven.  You cannot know it from yourself.  Also you don't know who you are if you do not know your Father in Heaven.  You don't know if you are stuck with your damnable self and left to fend for yourself or if you have a gracious God.  Election works like this, too.  Election says in the positive sense:  you are my child, I knew you from the beginning, in fact, I made you.  I will always love you, you are my own most treasured, valued being in this world.

Election does not mean that people were chosen to not be God's children.  Just as parents don't go around saying to people:  You are NOT my child.  It is the devil who goes around saying:  You are NOT God's child.  Parents just go around cuddling their own children and telling them how much they love you.  They don't go around saying to other people's children:  "You are not my child."

Just a thought on "election" only being used in the positive sense.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reading late on Calvinism

When I was up late reading last night it was this gentleman, I started reading.

He has gone from Calvinism to Saddleback, which I don't know if that's much of a change.

I thought this statement was revealing:

Only a few years ago, I would have proudly labeled myself a Calvinist and I had my arguments in tact to defend my position. I found myself teaching these truths in my pulpit ministry, unwilling to give a universal invitation to anyone who would want to be saved. Rather I qualified my invitations with such phrases as, “If God is dealing with you, then come…” My intent was to avoid “casting my pearls before swine.” I had two basic approaches to defending my incorrect theology. One approach was to run to the familiar proof texts such as Ephesians 1:3-14, John 6:43-46, and Romans 8:28-30. The other was to twist my opponents’ words using human logic. In fact, my first confession would be that Calvinism had a strong appeal to my own appetite for that which was intellectually challenging.

This is what we keep on saying, and is the elephant in the room and no Calvinist I am talking to addresses this:  --the invitation to believe is ALWAYS qualified!

To pride oneself on one's intellect in all this discussion is likely a temptation for all involved.  I thought about it myself.  Why am I always drawn into this.  Is it pride?

I am not sure.  To be honest, blogging is both easy for me (my replies come to me quickly, easily and passionately) but also hard.  After I have written something, this is what goes around in my head:  "You are so stupid.  You have to quit writing.  This is all dumb.  You must stop.  I will stop.  Stop, stop, stop."    This seems pretty schizophrenic.  I don't know what to do with that except to try and cool it at times.

Anyhow, it does seem to me that some Calvinists take joy and pride in simply arguing and I don't have the sense that they are always listening or honest about their answers.  It's like you are some kind of test.  Let's see if we can win this argument against this person.  It comes across very unreal.

Now, this gentleman linked above also has a video with Piper defending having Rick Warren speak at his conference.   I am no real student of either one of these gentlemen, so this is a bit of a tempest in a tea pot for me.  What does strike me is that Piper is not expecting people to have a clear confession of TULIP.  Yea, this is really important, but you know we all have trouble with this.

Sorry, this is not how I make my confession.  I am very certain of what I am saying.    And both asserting and not really asserting is just playing with people.  It's like when the Heidelberg Catechism says:  Yes, the Lord's supper is as if it were real.

Ahem.  What the "h" is that?

Here, I also read this:

In keeping with this view, Calvin sees no need for a common confession of faith for all the Reformed churches. It belongs to the authority of each individual church to formulate its doctrine and order its life according to biblical precepts. In his view the universal church is a kind of federation of confessions. However much the churches have to agree in the essential affirmations of the faith, the confession of each individual church nonetheless retains its specific emphasis.24 Exchange remains an urgent task, as genuine consentire in diversity will only be possible if churches are open to one another and prepared to give account of their affirmations.

Sorry, that is not a confession to me.

Now, I've also read Stuart Wood's article.  It read like a decent summary to me and a valid warning.  Thank you, Stuart.

Why I am doing this on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, beats me, (I am a total idiot), but I won't come back to this until it's late and dark, the soonest.  :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reason is also insufficient in the area of science.

Becker p. 60-63.

Four hundred years before Van til, Luther held that man can have no true knowledge of anything at all in creation by the powers of reason.
... Luther did not deny that reason could discover many things... but he did hold that natural reason, which does not know God, is also ignorant of that which has been created by God (ignorat creaturam Dei).
...Luther did not condemn natural science, although he did ridicule its pretensions to wisdom.
...And yet even in this limited area reason takes more delight in fables and lies than in the truth.
...Now, if human reason cannot deal adequately even with natural science, how can it hope to begin to solve questions about the origin and destiny of the word?  Reason does not know the fact of creation.  Aristotle wrestled with the problem and came to no sure knowledge, although he inclined toward the opinion that the world must be eternal.  At least he insisted, says Luther, that one can neither posit a first nor a last man.  Here human reason is force to stop, for it is just as absurd according to human reason to posit a beginning of the world as it is to assert its existence from eternity.
...Reason, however, consider the biblical account of origins to be absurd.  Luther said that if Aristotle were to read the account of Adam's creation, he would breakout in laughter, and if one were to follow reason, the story of the creation of Eve would sound like a fable.  Commenting on the account of Eve's creation , he writes, "Where will you find a man who would have believed this story of the creation of Eve, if it had not been so clearly handed down to us?"
To know only present phenomena is to know scarcely anything.  Luther asks,  "For what...does a philosopher know about heaven and earth if he does not know where it comes from and where it is going?
...he would not be greatly impressed by modern advances in science.  After looking around, he would soon remind us that we have not yet discovered, by the scientific method, the answers to the important question.  Moreover, without the Christian faith it is impossible to know any part of creation correctly.  Luther says, for example, that on cannot know what a man is or what a woman is unless one is a believer.... All the miseries of married life arise therefore, out of a lack of faith, because one spouse does not recogize the other as a creature of God.

If we recall our Popper, we remember that a theory which is not refuteable is not scientific.  If no test can be designed that could possibly "falsify" it, it is not a scientific theory.  Anything to do with origins and purposes falls into this area.

As a young person, now I am kind of used to it, I used to marvel at the stars and think about how things are either infinite or have a beginning or end.  None of it can be grasped by our mind.  It is completely mind-blowing.

From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Green tomatoes and the grace of God.

In surveying our little garden, this morning, though enveloped in a cloud of mosquitoes, I took a certain pleasure in viewing the developing tomatoes.  Already we have eaten two of them.  The flavor was something considerably more full and nuanced than what we get all winter from the store--a simple, but still great gift.

Then my thoughts turned to what it is like for God to survey his vineyard, to check out the plants and the developing fruit.  What looks and tastes good to him?

Hebrews 13:15.  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.

It came to me that first and foremost it is praise that is the fruit.  

It maybe seems a little cheap to us.  Praise is easy.  Praise is maybe sitting down in a pleasant place with your hymnbook.  It is nothing, it appears.

That's just like faith.  It seems a little cheap to us.  Do nothing and enjoy a marvelous hope anyhow.  Through Christ all the riches have been poured out, all we could need and more.  

Just like the tomato plant:  it is not really doing anything.  It was a seed.  It received water and soil and sunshine and voila it grows tomatos for me.  It does what it was designed to do, naturally, happily.  

And yet, that's just it.  This joy of faith is just what makes God happy.   It is the big, ripe tomato.

The trust we bear to God, is exactly what he wants.  The fullness of the heart resounds in praise and thanksgiving.  This is the pleasing fruit of lips who confess Christ.

Sixth Commandment continued

We should live decent and disciplined lives.

95.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and do not belong to yourselves?  For you have been bought with a high price;  therefore,  praise God with your body and in your spirit, which both belong to God.

96.  Phillipians 4:8.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is decent, whatever is lovely, whatever sounds beautiful, if there be any virtue or anything praiseworthy--think about such things.

97.  Matthew 5:8.  Blessed are those with a pure heart;  because they will see God.

98.  Psalm 51:12.  Create in me, God a pure heart, and give me a new and certain Spirit.

99.  Psalm 63:7.  When I go to bed, I think about you;  when I awaken, I talk about you.

Natrual knowledge is always legalistic

Becker p.  53

But the natural knowledge of God is always a "cognitio legalis", a law knowledge.
[Luther:] They [the heathen Romans]  know better how to govern external things than St. Paul and other saints   Therefore the Romans also had glorious laws and statutes.  For reason told them that murderers should be punished, that thieves should be hanged, and how inheritances should be distributed.  All this they knew and did in a splendid and orderly way without any counsel or instruction fro the Holy Scriptures or the apostles...  Although it was godless kingdom and persecuted the Christians bitterly, yet they ruled by reason and were respected by everyone.  They kept the peace.  At their time there was peace, and the world was open.  This was an earthly, rational government.
Cato and Aesop and Cicero, and even the hated Aristotle, are better teachers of morals than their scholastic theologians.  Of the pagan philosophers he said,  "As far as their moral precepts are concerned, one can find no fault with the industry and the diligence of the heathen".
He recognized that from a sociological and political point of view the works and attitudes of the heathen might be called good.  But from a theological point of view a man without the Holy Spirit is wicked, even if he is adorned with all virtue.  Against the argument that reason is able to effect the most beautiful virtues and therefore cannot be under the devil, Luther says that the devil rules even in the best of our virtues.  All the most admirable and most useful things in the world are damned by God.
p. 55.
Moreover, this knowledge of the law, excellent as it may be in itself, often leads men to pride and presumption.  Coupled inextricably with this knowledge of the law is a legalistic concept of salvation.  man naturally believes that he will be saved by "being good."  A modern "philosophical defense of the Trinitarian-theistic faith"  defends the righteousness of God by saying, "God's nature, then, is one which expresses itself in making the kind of world where some men go to heaven for obedience and some go to hell for disobedience."  It is precisely this sort of theology that Luther rejects.  "What good does it do you," he asks, "if all you can say is that God is gracious to the pious and punishes the wicked?"
[Luther]  This pernicious opinion about the law, that it justifies, sticks very tenaciously to reason, and by it the whole human race is held so securely that it can be freed from it only with difficulty.

Human reason insists on making a tradesman out of God and says, "If I obey him, I will be in favor."  In proud presumption reason seeks to strike a bargain with God and says, "if you will give, I will give."  In this opinion both monk and Mohammedan agree. Both of them think that if I do this or that work, God will be merciful to me;  if I do not, he will  e angry.
... Man cannot free himself from such a quid pro quo (this in exchange for that).
... Speaking of his own life in the monastery, Luther said,  "The holier we were, the blinder we became and the more purely we worshiped the devil."  The heathen were guilty of a similar sin.

From there we get further exploration of the familiar themes of falling either into pride or despair.  Even the heathen falls into despair in the light of this law.

This section brings back to me vaguely other very strongly worded statements about the unholy alliance between reason and works-righteousness.  This is why, and which context, "reason" is the "whore".  It can only give you the law and will make you "naturally" trust in the law.  Reason cannot give you undeserved mercy in Christ, a gracious God.  The "quid pro quo" trading system is not the same as the blessed exchange of my sins for his purity.  It wants to trade my merits for a little bit of heaven.

This does not work because it robs God of his being God and gracious.  It offends right against the first commandment.

God's word is enough and the thing needful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reason cannot tell us what we need to know.

Becker, p. 42

For Luther and for anyone to whom the greatest question in life is "How can I find a gracious God?"  and whose sense of sin is overpowering, so that he cannot have any real peace of mind until he has found the certainty of forgiveness, such unstable knowledge of God is of little use.  Luther saw no profit in knowing God as Aristotle knew him, as "a being separate from his creatures and contemplating his creatures within himself," and so he asks, "What is that to us?"  the god who is known to reason on rational grounds Luther calls a Philosophical, Aristotelian God, and he says of this God, "He means nothing to us."  (Nihil vero est ad nos.)  To a long and learned defense of the existence of God based on rational arguments, Luther might well have answered, "Yes, yes, brother, what what of it?  Even if we could prove beyond question that there is a God, we would still not know what we need to know."  

p. 46

In seeking an understanding of Luther's position in this matter, it is necessary also to remember that for Luther the important question is never this:  "Is there a God?"  to ask that question, for Luther, constitutes the kind of blasphemy of which no honest man would make himself guilty.  What man needs rather is an answer to the question, "Is God my God?  Does he love me?  Does he care for me?
Luther writes:  Therefore it is not enough, and cannot be called a worship of the true God, if we worship him as the Mohammedans and Jews and the whole world without God's Word and faith boast--that they worship the only God, who made heaven and earth, and so forth.  Up to that point you have come to know neither his divine essence nor his will.  That there is a God, by whom all things were made, that you know from his works,... but God himself, who he is, what sort of divine Being he is, and how he is disposed toward you--this you can never discover nor experience from the outside (das kannst du nicht von auswendig ersehen noch erfaren). 
This ties into the Bondage of the Will.  In matters of the gospel and true knowledge of God we are blind as bats.   Blind, deaf, dumb, dead, ignorant.  Since we don't know it, we can also not chose it.  Once we hear the gospel proclaimed, however, it has its powerful effect of giving us hope.  Even then it is a scandal and it is the Spirit who draws us.

In other matters-- such as the law--though limited, there is a light of reason which operates of its own accord, but it tells us nothing we really need to know about God.

From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Natural theology: God is not just

Becker, p. 39,40.

In a comment on Psalm 129:4 Luther writes that it is necessary that the Word assure us that God is just, because when we look at the way the world is governed, God seems to be completely unjust.  He favors the godless with wealth and prosperity and power, and the heretics win fame and the approval of the populace.  To be God is to be omnipotent..., omniscient...  To be God is also to be perfectly good, and as such God ought to want no evil to exist...  "This argument of Epicurus and people like him," says Luther, "is plainly unanswerable."
..."Aristotle comes wholly to this conclusion, that, even if he does not call God shameful, yet he lets God be ignorant of all things, so that God knows and sees none of our affairs, and thinks of nothing except himself and delights in nothing but the contemplation of his own Being.... But what kind of God is this, and what good is he to us?"
Luther goes on to say the Holy Ghost diverts us from this stumbling-block when he assures us in the Word that God is just.  We are not to judge by what we experience in the present, but only to believe what God tells us about the future.
When Luther here in his own words repeats the argument of Epicurus, he plainly indicates that this is a very natural conclusion of the very same reason which has from other evidence concluded that there is a God.
So we see how far reason gets us:  it tell us that there is a God and it tells us that there is no God or he is not good, which precludes him from being God.

Poor Cicero, having had no revelation to work with went from a good beginning to a bad end with his theology.

p. 41. 
(Quote Luther)  [Cicero]... yet, even though he comes to this conclusion, nevertheless he is overwhelmed by the vacillations of his speculations, so that at times this opinion is not firmly held and it seems to slip through his fingers.  For this argument about infinity is so strong, that the place of religion is again torn out of our reason when we see this natural world overwhelmed by various calamities.

p. 42, Becker concludes this treatment with this sentence:

Luther did not disparage the natural knowledge of God because it was rational, but because it was unstable and incomplete. 

 From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Luther and probability vs. certainty of faith.

This Becker is important.

p. 37.

While it is clear therefore that Luther did not deny that there was such a thing as natural theology and an objective revelation of God in nature, and while he did not consider the so-called "proofs" unworthy of notice, yet he laid little stress on this natural knowledge for several reasons.
First of all, Luther recognized, as do all those who understand this problem, that at best a rational approach to the knowledge of God can never go beyond a high degree of probability.  But to Luther the commonly accepted rule, "Probability is the guide of life" would have been an abomination in the area of religious knowledge.  Luther says that the very essence of unbelief is that men say,  "I do not know.  I am not sure."

So the proofs are not without value.  There is inherent knowledge.  The heathen, too, can know something about the law of God, the existence of God and the goodness of God.  BUT he cannot be sure of anything.  And probability just does not cut it in the area of religious knowledge.  You don't know that you have a gracious God this way, that your life has any meaning or that God is willing to help you.

Faith is a God-created certainty and assurance.  He says,  
Properly speaking, faith is that which endures in extreme evils and holds fast to the Word of life and in this way conquers all the might of the devil, all terrors and all dangers, through which it enters with glory and confidence into eternal life.
Even the most ardent defenders of natural theology will generally agree that such a firm and settled assurance cannot be found in natural theology.
Luther saw that natural theology can maintain itself only with the greatest difficulty.  Long before the antinomies of Kant were announced to the world, Luther had already laid down the rule:
No reason is so firm that it can not again be overthrown by reason.  There is no counsel, no matter how wise, no thing, no edifice, no matter how magnificent or strong, which cannot again be destroyed by human counsel, wisdom, and strength.  And this can  be seen in all things.  Only the Word of God remains to all eternity (Solum verbum Dei in aeternum manet).

I'm not really familiar with the antinomies of Kant, and I should be looking it up.  Here they are.  Interesting.  One could learn more about that.  Anyhow, we see the limits to such intellectual pursuits.  We can be sure of nothing, even science.  (Science makes truth claims, but it is always being tested and changed.  What kind of truth is it?)  Only the revealed word can have any certainty. -- Wow.

p. 38.

Precisely because he rejected "probability" as the enemy of faith, he considered the natural knowledge of God to be of limited value.  "The right faith," he says, "is complete trust of the heart in Christ."
But the natural knowledge of God is by its very nature subject to doubt, and human reason can never come to a sure knowledge of God.  but sure knowledge is what we must have, if we are to have peace of conscience.  This, to Luther, was always basic to the whole problem.
It is just at this point that Luther parts company with neo-orthodoxy and its emphasis on the unreliability of the natural "proofs."  Up to this point there is a certain similarity between Luther's thought and that of Kierkegaard, although, so far as I know, Luther never said that the proofs were "harmful" to faith, as Kierkegaard did.  But the new fashion in theology has reduced all religious knowledge to the level of natural theology, at least so far as intellectual certainty is concerned.  Emil Brunner, for example, says that when the church seeks for certainties she is doing something that always turns out to be disastrous.  For that reason he opposes the concept of divinely inspired, and therefore "infallible,"  doctrine.  He calls upon the church to recognize the "element of untruth which clings to every human formulation of divine truth" and the fact "that in our hands the divine revelation is always mingled with error and arrogance."  
[However]  For Luther the doctrines of faith were infallible and certain.  He would have criticized the spirit of intellectual doubt and uncertainty that neo-orthodoxy has introduced into the church much more severely than he criticized the vacillations of Cicero and the heathen.

 From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern
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Luther and Proofs from Natural Theology

Becker, p. 26.

Contrary to the approach of neo-orthodoxy, Luther held that the fault for man's failure to know God and to read the record correctly lies not at the doorstep of the revelation, whether in the works or in the Word, but in the depravity of human nature.

It would be difficult, for example, to imagine Luther agreeing with the views of John Hutchison, who writes,

"Concerning their subjective or persuasive force, it may be pointed out that the arguments, while they tend to sustain the faith of those already convinced of belief in God, are seldom convincing to those without that faith. It is characteristic of genuine proof that it communicates conviction to minds hitherto unconvinced.  What kind of proof are they which lack this quality?  It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they are covertly circular, assuming what they ought to conclude."

...  He [Luther]  would never have asked, as Hutchison does,  "What kind of proofs are these which lack this quality?"  He just did not think that way.  Instead Luther would has asked, "how fallen, how blind, and how wicked is man, that he can not and he will not see what God has so clearly and so graciously revealed!"  In the final analysis, Luther and Hutchison and neo-orthodox theologians agree that natural man is without sure and certain knowledge of God, but they would undoubtedly disagree vehemently on the premise on which that conclusion is built.  Neo-orthodoxy would say that man lacks faith in God because no revelation has taken place.  Luther would say that man lacks sure knowledge because he refuses the revelation.  In spite of everything that has been written since Kierkegaard became the fashion in theology, the "proofs,"  for Luther, have a great deal more validity than is commonly supposed.  This is not difficult to establish.


In one of his sermons Luther observed:

If the natural law were not written in the heart and given by God, one would have to preach a long time before the conscience would be touched.... But because it is previously written in the heart, although it is dark and completely faded, it is reawakened by the Word, so that the heart must confess that what the commandment says is right:  that one should honor a God, love and serve him, because he alone is good and does good not only to the pious but also to the wicked.

It is evident that Luther would sooner have agreed with the Platonic doctrine of anamnesis than with the dictum of Aquinas, "There is nothing in the intellect which is not previously in the senses."  

end of quoting Becker

This whole thing is totally fascinating to me because it comes up again and again.  When talking with Atheists, the question of morality relates to this.  Can you live moral lives without God?  (The last atheist I talked to had a slogan:  Be good without God!)  The teaching and the usefulness of proofs of God's existence ties in and how often have we disagreed on that.  My doctrine professor for one person insisted that they can do nothing in advancing faith.  I had told him that I found the cosmological proof cogent and he said:  "That's because you believe already."  I didn't like the answer.

Then there is also this new book on Natural Law which we have started and should dovetail here.

I am also quite glad that there could be things in the intellect which have not been first in the senses.  Aquinas was so smart but he messed so many things up.  There we hit again the limits of reason.

From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The foolishness of God, the place of reason in the theology of Martin Luther

The Foolishness of God: The Place of Reason in the Theology of Martin Luther

"The foolishness of God"  by Siegbert Becker came in the mail a couple of days ago, a used book from Amazon.  It came highly recommended by Larry Hughes and I think James Swan also liked it.  So far it is an easy, well-organized read.  I've read the first two chapters and the last chapter.

I will quote a bit from page 11, which received the most high-lighting so far.

Neo-orthodoxy's distinction between faith in Christ and faith in statements, or 'faith in a book,'  is artificial and contrary to reason.  By rejecting "propositional revelation" and making the Bible only a "record of" and "witness to" revelation, the neo-orthodox theologians drain faith of its intellectual content.  They make it little more than an emotional response to a "divine self-disclosure"  which takes place not through the words of Scripture, though possibly in conjunction with them.
Emil Brunner, for example, says that:  "faith means to be gripped by the Word of God [by this he does not mean the words of Scripture];  it means that a person submits in the very center of his being, in his heart, to Him to whom he belongs, because He has created him for Himself....  But this does not mean an intellectual understanding, but a personal encounter." [emphasis added]
The false antithesis which Brunner sets up here is one against which we must always be on our guard.  In positing such a sharp distinction between "intellectual understanding" and "personal encounter" (as some call it "total commitment"), neo-orthodoxy betrays its Calvinistic and Zwinglian roots.
The Formula of Concord teaches that the assurance of our faith is to be based on the fact that God's grace and the promise of the gospel are universal and that this promise is made in all earnestness by God.  Since Calvinism rejects the universality of the gospel promise, a consistent Calvinist can never find assurance in that promise.  Instead, he seeks it within the experience of his conversion, or, in neo-orthodox terms, in his "personal encoutner" with God, who speaks directly to the heart.   
Luther, on the other hand, always exalted the Word.  The Holy Spirit, according to Luther, does not wish to deal with us other than through the spoken Word and the sacraments.  The faculties of human reason are therefore necessary to grasp and to understand what the Word proclaims." 

The questions in my mind are:  who are the neo-orthodox?  What was and happened with their teaching?  How does the paradox about the use of reason in understanding God parallel this question of relating faith in Christ vs. word, and the false dichotomies which have been set up by some.  Have these false dichotomies risen from liberalism or Calvinism, or are those two somehow related?  Does the theology around a "living word" clash with the revealed word in scripture?

So much.  

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going out on a limb

This will offend some and I don't want to be too hypocritical, but this is coming to me today:

Steve  and I have been commenting on a site called the nakedpastor where the author of many pictures and cartoons illustrates the problems he and other have and have had with the "church".  Some of it reminds me of i-monk, which I've always enjoyed.  And the discussion, though often vigorous, was usually gracious and constructive.  Many people there witness to the "post-evangelical-wilderness" but have not given up on faith or Jesus Christ. They know they must have him and his grace or they might as well expire.  There was always that which we could share.  Michael  Spencer was also always very forthright and transparent with his readers while being gentle.  This was incredibly refreshing and his greatest strength.

I don't get that same sense at the nakedpastor.  There is some transparency attempted with the commentary on the pictures but it usually is guarded in some way, questions are not answered directly.  One does not get the sense that we are on a quest for truth together, rather that truth is individual.  Yes, No?  Or we need to just listen more to ourselves and our spirit and God's Spirit and not be manipulated?  Maybe that's it.   I find the ambiguity  distressing.  I like to think for myself and speak honestly.  Surely, I am a posterchild for this.  Yet, I also have something to confess.

There is a way of being "prophetic" and a way not not being "prophetic" at all.  Yet, I sympathize with those who struggle with their faith and with what they have experienced and how they feel they have been abused.  Abuse should be exposed.  All manner of abuse should be exposed and the blogger exposes some.  I am with him there.  There we are on the right track.

I am trying to listen with an open mind, though, and hear the pain.  Still, the answer is decent, Christ-centered,  scriptural, teaching about sin and forgiveness, and love and truth.

The other thing I am reminded of, is a piece by CBC radio "Tapestry"  not too long ago on one of Daniel Dennett's attacks on Christianity by focusing on disillusioned pastors.  This was a very sad piece to me.  In a way what came out of it for me was:  if you don't believe anything, then just get out of the arena.  You cannot help anyone.  Is this too harsh? And it is not about you and your disillusionment.  And yet, also, compassion for those who lost faith.  Very much.  (I commented on the much commented on show and received a lot of thumbs down, one of the most rated comments.  10 thumbs up and 31 thumbs down.)

What Dennett asserts at the end is preposterous.  Since "real scholarship" shows how everything is "wrong" about the Bible, practically, everyone is found in a hypocritical and soul destroying situation.  Well, you are wrong there Mr. Dennett.

(The whole subject of pastors "losing faith"  also relates to recent discussion with the Reformed on whether one can lose one's faith, the famed doctrine of "perseverance of the saints".  Their answer would be:  he never had faith to start with.  I think these former pastors would tell you differently.  I am suggesting, however, what their idea of what "faith" might have been was too anemic.  See Bror on this, today.  Also the summary on the first commandment.)

Apologetics and comparative religious studies, however, need to be done and making clear statements "metaphoric" unnecessarily  or fitting clear texts into your system and twisting them on the way must be stopped (Calvin).  The theology of glory must be given up for the theology of the cross.  The Law and Gospel must be cleanly distinguished.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Sixth Commandment

You shall not violate the marriage union.

[I chose to go this way, because "adultery" is only one way of doing this.]

We should fear and love God so that we live clean and decent lives in both words and deeds and that each one love and honor their marriage partner.

93.  Matthew 5:  27-28.  You have learned that it was told the people of old:  You shall not commit adultery.  but I say to you:  whoever looks at a woman and desires her, he has already broken marriage with her in his heart.

94.  Hebrews 13:4.  Marriage is to be kept in honor by all, and the marriage bed remain undefiled.  The Lord will judge the immoral and adulterer.


This is one way we know Jesus is Lord.  He knows our hearts.  Faith is cradled there and from it all other things flow.

but help him in every physical need

...but help him in every physical need.

89.  Ephesians 4:32.  Be friendly towards each other from a sincere heart, and forgive one another, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

90.  Matthew 5:44.  But I say to you:  love your enemies;  bless those who curse you;  do good to those who hate you;  pray for those who insult and persecute you.

91.  Romans 12:18.  As far as it is possible and the matter lies with you, be at peace with all people.

92.  Matthew 5:9.  Blessed are the peacemakers,  because they will be called the children of God.


by the grace of God; so help us God.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fifth Commandment

You shall not kill.

We should fear and love God so that we cause no harm to our neighbor's body but are of assistance to him in any physical needs he may have.

You shall not kill.

81.  Genesis 9:6.  Whoever sheds the blood of man, his blood shall also be shed by men;  this is because God has made man in his image.

82.  Proverbs 24,8.  He who predetermines to hurt others, him you shall call an evil person.

We should not harm our neighbor's body.

83.  Matthew 5:21-22.  You heard that it was said to the people of old:  you shall not kill but whoever kills, he shall be liable to judgment.  But I say to you:  whoever is angry with his brother, he is guilty of judgment and whoever says to his brother:  'Racha', he is guilty to be brought to council;  but who ever says:  'You fool', he is guilty of the fires of hell.

84.  1 John 3:15.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that a murderer will not have eternal life.

85.  Proverbs 24:17.  Do not rejoice in the fall of your enemy, and your heart not be glad in his misery.

86.  James 3:14-16.  But if you have bitter enmity and rancor in your heart, do not be proud of that, and do not lie against the truth;  because this is not the wisdom which comes from above, but wordy, human and from the devil;  because where ever there is envy and disunity, there is disorder and simply and evil thing.

87.  Romans 12:19.  Do not take your own revenge, my loved ones, leave it be, giving room to God's wrath because it is written: "Vengence is mine;  I will repay, says the Lord."

88.  Jeremiah 9:8.  There false tongues are murderous arrows;  with their mouth they speak in a friendly manner to their neighbor, but in their heart they are lying in wait for him.



Dear Lord Jesus, have mercy, we are all undone.  Our hearts are murderous pits.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pastor Fisk on "Where are the Lutherans"

Watch it.  It's long but it's good.

New blog

Rev. Glenn Schaeffer has started a blog on missions!

Sasse on reformed on baptism from Pr. H. blog

Luther and Natural Law

I'm supposed to lay paving stones, but such slave labor is not my favorite thing and thus have detoured myself to a new book.  "Natural Law:  a Lutheran Reappraisal."

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This book contains a collection  of essays on the subject by a number of current authors, some of whom or their families I know via Facebook.  The world has shrunk and scholarship is amazing.

The essay I just finished is titled:  "Luther's Pragmatic Appropriation of the Natural Law Tradition" by Thomas D. Pearson who is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas.  It delineates what Luther rejects and affirms in the Natural Law Tradition.  Apparently, he makes quite a mish-mash out of it over the course of his career, yet it becomes clear that he does believe in the existence of something called "natural law". (p. 49).  The essay finishes with this summary:  "Ultimately, Luther creates a new account of natural law morality:  instinctive, not rational;  provisional, not ontologically secured;  pragmatic, not divinely commanded;  chastened by sin, not robust with natural human possibilities.  When Luther invokes natural law, it is with a different insight than that supplied to him by the classical natural law tradition." (p. 63).

So much for that.

Fourth commandment cont.

2.  Similarly to the masters, such as a)  the authorities

73.  Romans 13:1,2,4.  Everyone live in subjection to the authorities,  which has the power over him.  For there is no authority which has not been given by God;  where ever there are authorities they have been instituted by God.  Whoever puts himself against the authorities is resisting God's order;  however those who resist will receive their judgment.  Because it is a servant of God to your own good.  So if you are doing evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword for no reason;  the authorities are a servant of God, an exacter of punishment  for those who do wrong.

74.  1 Peter 2:17.  Give honor to everyone, love the brothers, fear God and honor the king.

75.  Matthew 22:21.  Give to Ceasar what  is Ceasar's and God what is God's.

76.  1 Tim. 2, 1-3.  So I admonish you, that firstly one make petitions, intercession and thanksgiving for all people, for the king and all in authority, in order that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and decency.  For so to do is good and pleasing to God, our Savior.

b) to teachers

77. Hebrews 13:17.  Obey your teachers and follow them because they are watching over your souls in a way for which they will be accountable, so that they may do it with joy and not with complaints, which would not serve you.

78.  1 Thess. 5:12-13.  We ask you dear brothers that you will respect those who labor over you and lead and admonish you in the Lord.  Love them all the more because of this work and be peaceable.

c) to the Masters/Lords

79.  Ephesians 6:5-8.  You servants obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart as to Christ, not alone to please men but as servants of Christ, so that you will fulfill the will of God from your heart and gladly.  Think about this, that you are serving the Lord and not man;  and know that each one who does good will receive his reward from the Lord whether he be a slave or a free man.

80.  1 Peter 2:18.  You servants be subject to your masters with all respect, and not only to the ones who are good and gentle, but also to those who act strangely.