Site Meter
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|


(14 posts)

Lutherans Draw the Line

Monday··2009·11·30 · 4 Comments
I don’t imagine most of the readers of this blog are too interested in the doings of the ELCA. That’s the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or Extremely Liberal Convocation of Apostates—take your pick. Having been Lutheran for nearly the first thirty years of my life, I can’t help but take notice. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the ELCA has declared sodomy to be okey-dokey with them, and will now ordain sodomites, provided the sodomites in question are committed, monogamous sodomites. Well, yes, of course—you have to draw the line somewhere, after all. This is all very interesting, in a hum-drum way, because I’ve been watching this happen since I was a wee Lutheran. (My head was still damp when I first heard the word “liberal” applied to those other Lutherans.) What interests me the most is that every time one of these controversies arises, there is always a “conservative” group in the mix that is shocked and dismayed that this could happen, and feels compelled to leave and join or start another denomination. In this case, I believe I read that someone has averred, “We haven’t left the ELCA; the ELCA has left us!” “Really?” I ask, “and exactly where were you standing when they left you?” (This reminds me of an episode in my youth. You may skip this parenthetic paragraph, if you wish. I was a freshman in high school. I was walking home from somewhere, when a couple of seniors pulled over and offered me a ride. The offer was made with a beer momentarily raised into view, the implication being obvious. Throwing all good sense to the wind—like they really wanted a new drinking buddy in the form of an exceptionally uncool freshman—I got in. To make a long story short, I ended up two miles out of town, hoofing it home. The moral of the story . . . well, I think you get it.) I began thinking that it might be interesting to do a little study of Lutheran history and draw up a chart to illustrate just how long these people were treading water before they noticed the boat had sunk. So I did. The chart that follows is by no means a complete picture of American Lutheranism. It only includes streams that flow into the present controversy. I am sure there are other splinter groups, but I believe all the relevant bodies are represented, and then some. Just don’t cite me in your thesis. I’ve used abbreviations and short forms for the sake of space. If you really need the full names, just ask. The church in blue is my mother church. The red is the bad news. It’s not the acceptance of homosexuality, female clergy, or even theatre attendance or card-playing. It’s something far more insidious than any failure of orthopraxy. The red represents the introduction of higher criticism, which treats the biblical text as a human product rather than the very words of God (I may not have found all the entry points in my quick study, but that just means the picture could be even worse). That is the real problem. The smart theologians who began questioning authority didn’t intend to put a homosexual in the pulpit. They quite possibly considered female clergy, as that idea is quite old. I don’t think they ever intended a wholesale rejection of Scripture, but once they opened that door, there was no reason not to say anything goes. And you know, it really doesn’t matter. Note this well: God doesn’t care what you think about female clergy or homosexuality. He cares what you think of him. Your views on everything else, from playing the lottery to “marrying” your goat, are only reflections of your view of God. He has revealed himself and his will in Scripture, and when you reject his Word, when you ask, “Indeed, has God said . . . ?” you are rejecting him, and you are in as much trouble as you ever will be. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, in a September 9th video message on the denomination’s website entitled Invitation to Conversation, asks, “What shall be our witness? What stories shall we tell?” Call me cynical, but I expect they’ll just keep on making up their own, like they always have. And the good folks who have drawn the line at homosexual clergy? Until they stop creating a god in their own image, unless they turn back to Scripture as the very words of God, and their sole authority, so will they. Related: Gene Veith, A new Lutheran church, gnosticism, and the Bible

Lutheran Baptism

Wednesday··2010·09·08 · 3 Comments
A reader, knowing of my background in the Lutheran church, recently sent me this question (paraphrased): My daughter and I recently attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran church. During the service, the pastor said something that caught our attention. He made a comment in reference to baptism “giving” faith to someone. I am fairly certain that if I asked a Lutheran if baptism saves, he’d say “no.” But how does that correspond with the remark about baptism “giving” faith? My daughter asked me that later, after the service. I didn’t have an answer, and I told her I’d look into it. What would you tell her if she asked you? I can’t speak for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I come from another denomination that is not as high-church as the LCMS, that (I think) does not emphasize the sacraments quite as much, but don’t quote me on that. So I don’t know how a LCMS pastor would explain it. I can only offer the following statement from the LCMS website: Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Before offering any of my own comments, I think it would be best to quote the Lutheran confessions, accepted by the LCMS and, as far as I know, all evangelical Lutheran denominations.* Luther’s Small Catechism: [Baptism] works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe, as the word and promise of God declare. —The Book of Concord, trans. and ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 348–349. The Augsburg Confession: It is taught that Baptism is necessary and that grace is offered through it. Children, too, should be baptized, for in Baptism are committed to God and are acceptable to him. —Ibid., 33. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Baptism is necessary to salvation; children are to be baptized; the baptism of children is not in useless, but is necessary and efficacious for salvation. . . . It is most certain that the promise of salvation also applies to little children. It does not apply to those who are outside of Christ’s church, where there is neither Word nor sacraments, because Christ regenerates through Word and sacrament. Therefore it is necessary to baptize children, so that the promise of salvation might be applied to them, according to Christ’s command, (Matt. 28:19): “Baptize all nations.” Just as here salvation is offered to all, so Baptism is offered to all—men, women, children, and infants. Therefore it clearly follows that infants should be baptized because salvation is offered with Baptism. —Ibid., 178. Luther’s Large Catechism: . . . since we now know what Baptism is and how it is to be regarded, we must also learn for what purpose it was instituted, that is, what benefits, gifts, and effects it brings. Nor can we understand this better than from the words of Christ quoted above, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” To put it most simply, the power, work, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. . . . To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever. —Ibid., 439. The Lutheran link between salvation and baptism should be pretty obvious. Returning to the original question, I don’t see a statement in the confessions explicitly saying that baptism gives faith (although I may have missed it); however, Dr. Mueller (an LCMS theologian), in his Christian Dogmatics, explains: In agreement with the Romanists are all the Romanizing Protestants who claim that Baptism indeed works regeneration, but without actually kindling faith. They thus regard baptismal grace as conferred without a receiving means on the part of man, whereas Scripture teaches very clearly that there can be no regeneration without faith in the forgiveness of sins secured by Christ, John 1, 12. 13; 3, 5. 14. 15; 1 John 5, 1, and offered and conveyed to men by the means of grace the Lutheran Church, on the other hand, teaches correctly that Baptism is a means of regeneration for the reason that it offers and conveys forgiveness of sins and works and strengthens faith through its gracious Gospel offer. All (Romanists and Romanizing Protestants) who deny that Baptism is primo loco [in the first place] a means of justification by faith in the proffered grace intermingle Law and Gospel by making Baptism a means of sanctification, not by faith, but by works. —John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 439. It seems to me that Mueller is working backwards from the assumption that baptism saves, therefore deducing—correctly, if the premise be granted—that baptism gives faith. Lutherans are quick to distance themselves from Catholic baptism, saying that the water, administered by a priest, does not save ex opere operato. The sacrament is always spoken of as water and the Word, the Word making the water efficacious. However, this seems to me that they are still teaching baptismal regeneration ex opere operato, with the difference that the power is in the Word, rather than in the church.† The straight answer is that you probably won’t get a straight, simple answer from most Lutherans. They do believe in baptismal regeneration, but when asked, most will try to nuance their answer so as to avoid sounding Catholic. Most won’t come right out and admit baptismal regeneration, but will rather say that it works faith. If you’re left with any doubt as to the importance of baptism to the Lutheran, it should be revealing to note that pastors will rush to the hospital to administer emergency baptisms on babies who might not survive. This is so important that, in the event that the pastor isn’t available, the Concordia Hymnal includes an Order of Baptismal Service in cases of Emergency that includes the following preface: When a new-born child is in danger of death, the minister should promptly be called to baptize it. In such case he shall use as much of the common Order for Baptism as the circumstances allow. But where the danger is very great, and no minister is within reach, the father of the child, or some other Christian man or woman, may baptize it. But they shall not do so, except in extreme necessity . . . —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960), 429. I have, on several occasions, asked Lutheran pastors about this. When asked what happens to the baptized baby who dies, they will, without hesitating, declare that baby to be in heaven. But what happens to the unbaptized baby who dies? “I can’t say. We have to trust that child to God’s mercy.” * I do not, in any case, refer to the apostate Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I don’t know what they would say, nor do I care. † I don’t mean to imply here that Lutheran baptism is really no different from Roman Catholic baptism, even though, by the language they use, I think they really are asking for it. That would not be fair or accurate.

Baptism in 1 Peter 3

Following my post earlier this week on the Lutheran doctrine of baptismal regeneration, I thought it would be good to address some of the texts they use to justify it. Offhand, two come to mind: Titus 3:5–7 and 1 Peter 3:18–22. Since I honestly don’t know why anyone would think Titus 3 is about baptism, I’ll go straight to 1 Peter. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. Peter has spent the first part of the chapter admonishing his readers to live righteously, not in order to gain any merit for themselves—“by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Romans 3:20)—but for the sake of the gospel. They are to be prepared, so that when they are persecuted for righteousness, the will be able to give a defense, not of themselves, but of the gospel, “the hope that is in you,” the cause for which they are being persecuted. That hope, that gospel, is that “Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” This is a rather curious passage. It’s hard to say exactly what Christ said or where he went to say it. But that is hardly the point. We are reminded here of the wickedness of man in the time of Noah (see Genesis 6:1–7) and the catastrophic judgment that came upon them for their wickedness. And we are reminded that a chosen few were “brought safely through the water.” Now Peter gets to our point: “Corresponding to that,”—or better, “The like figure” (KJV) —“baptism now saves you.” We need to pause now to consider what the word baptize means. It is a word that, unfortunately, translators have chosen not to translate, so we tend to think of it almost exclusively as water baptism. (This is where Lutheran hermeneutics fail: the presupposition that “baptism” always refers to water, and conversely, as in the Titus 3 passage mentioned above, water always means baptism.) To baptize means to submerge. A sunken ship is baptized. It can mean to cleanse or wash by immersion. It is not always associated with water. Christ, speaking of his crucifixion and burial, said, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50, cf. Mark 10:38–39) This is exactly the baptism spoken of by Peter. So, to summarize in the briefest possible way: The physical salvation of Noah and his family through the flood is an antetype (αντιτυπον, literally a pretype or prefigure, translated “the like figure” in the KJV) of our spiritual salvation through the death of Christ. The flood is the judgment of God. The ark is Christ. Jesus said, “I have a baptism to undergo.” If we “have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), and “raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:5–6; Colossians 3:1), we have gone through that baptism (flood) with him, in him; he is our ark. Therefore, “a few . . . were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” It’s not about water baptism at all. It’s about the cross, and union with Christ, of which water baptism is—and the ark was—a symbol.
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” —Luke 22:19–20 Memo to Dr. Luther and all my Lutheran friends, whom I love: There have been several different understandings of what Jesus meant by taking the bread and saying, “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19) and by taking the cup and saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Was he saying that the cup and the bread were signs of his body and blood, or that they somehow were transformed into the very body and blood of Jesus? It was natural then, and it is natural today, to point to a representation of something and say that the representation is the thing. For example, I look at a photograph of our house and say, “This is our house.” It would not enter anyone’s mind to think I mean that the photograph was transformed into my house. If Jesus stooped down and drew a camel in the sand, He would say, “This is a camel.” The drawing doesn’t become a camel. It represents a camel. We know he used language this way because in the parable of the four soils, he interprets the images of four kinds of people with these words: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy” (Matt. 13:20). He means the rocky ground represents a kind of person. There is nothing modern or strange about this way of thinking, and it is the most natural way to understand Jesus’ words. The cup and the body represent his blood and body. Moreover, if we insist on saying that “this is my body” and “this is my blood” must refer to the physical body and blood of Jesus, what becomes of the statement, “This cup . . . is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20)? Are we to say that the cup is the new covenant in the same way that the cup is the blood? Surely, “this cup . . . is the new covenant” means “this cup represents the new covenant that will be purchased and inaugurated by my bloodshedding tomorrow morning.” Therefore, it seems wise to understand the words “this is my body” and “this is my blood” to mean: “The cup and bread represent my physical body and blood offered up for you in death as a sacrifice for your sins.” —John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (Crossway, 2006), 347–348. This post is among several that have been lost. Thanks to Google and the elephantine memory of the internet, I was able to restore it. I am not able to restore comments to their normal place, so, since this was an unusually good discussion, I have reproduced them below. Christina What of the rest of the passage? What of Jesus' clarification that "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink?" What of the fact that Jesus lost many followers after this meal, followers who just "could not accept" Christ's teachings? Piper's explanation focuses on just one sentence made by Christ when in reality, He said much more that night. David Kjos Christina, Short answer: 1) What of any number of other figurative expressions in the Bible? 2) You're confusing the Lord's last supper in the upper room with the Jesus' Bread of Life sermon in John 6. Longer answer: John 6:48 "I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." 52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" 54 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." Jesus said he was bread, then he said his flesh was food, and his blood drink. Then he said he was bread again. Elsewhere, he said he was the light (John 8, 9), the door and the good shepherd (John 10), and the vine (John 15). Is he really bread? Light? A door? A vine? Are we really branches, or sheep? Finally, that "as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore" is a commentary on the nature of their faith. Regarding the question at hand, it is neither here nor there. Christina Thank you for your reply. I did not mean to imply that the bread of life sermon and the Last Supper were one and the same. Obviously however, Christ's words on the subject are connected. Though Christ used many metaphors in his teaching, he seems to go out of his way to emphasize that this teaching about bread and wine is not metaphorical. As for his followers' deserting Jesus, John 6:60-66 is very, very explicit with the fact that he was deserted for this specific teaching on Christ's flesh and blood: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Jesus replies, "Does this offend you?" This was not a general disagreement in overall beliefs here - the followers found something upsetting about this specific teaching. It seems strange to me that the followers would balk at a simple metaphor if that is in fact what Christ's language implies. Anyhow, I thank you for the commentary and for your response. David Kjos I should assume, then, that you believe that Christ intended his disciples to actually eat his flesh and drink his blood, not to eat and drink bread and wine and understand it metaphorically as flesh and blood. Otherwise, you are admitting it is metaphor. Was Jesus buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven in the flesh, or did his disciples eat him? Something in this equation is figurative. If it isn't food/blood/eat, I'd like to know what it is. (A metaphor, as you apparently don't know, is an analogy drawn between two different things or actions by saying that one is the other, e.g. "I am the door." Compare to simile: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . .") And again, regarding John 6:60ff, your insistence that the response of some to Jesus' teaching in any way interprets the teaching begs the question. Your interpretation depends on the a priori assumption of your interpretation. Your argument can be expressed by the following syllogism: Jesus said a. a was unacceptable to many. Therefore, a means b. How did we get to "a means b"? By assuming it in advance, obviously. The fact that Jesus' teaching offended some is no interpretation of the teaching itself. We are not told, "They understood him to mean _____, and since they couldn't accept it, left him." We aren't told what they thought he meant, only that they couldn't accept it. And even if we were, that would be no indication of the actual meaning of Jesus' words, but only of their understanding of them. David So Jesus can't be present in the bread and the wine? David Kjos David, That's the wrong question. The question is not what can be, but what is. The question is also not is Jesus present, but is the bread and wine actual flesh and blood, or representative of flesh and blood. The point of this post is to answer Lutherans who want to find a middle ground between those two options. The plain meaning of the text eliminates that dilemma. When we read the text literally (recognizing literary form), the metaphor becomes obvious. Can Jesus be present, and if so, in what sense? The answer to that is somewhat complex, and I don't have time to answer that here and now. I suggest consulting R. C. Sproul, Kingdom Feast (particularly lecture 6, The Presence of Christ) for a good answer to that. David Hello David, Paul writes in 1 Cor 10: 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 'participation/sharing IN the blood of Christ', and 'participation/sharing IN the body of Christ'. 'is it' is estin. Paul could have used a different term if he wanted to convey signifies, but he doesn't. He looks to me to be convinced (but misled you might say) that the churches of the saints were participating IN the body and IN the blood. How are you going to explain that away? In greek it can be translated as 'is it not the blood' and 'is it not the body' and no other translations seems to be available. You ask in what sense can Jesus be present? We say, 'in with and under'. It is a mystery, but that doesn't make it any the less implausible. what is implausible, is that Jesus would institute anything as solemn as this communion, and it clearly was, and it was his last act with the apostles, with the words that He has used, that translate freely from the Greek, and have it seen as a mere memorial. This IS my body. 'Is' could have been said as 'signifies', there are alternatives. Would Jesus have it that we battle over the word 'is'? It is clear, but it is spiritual. We see things in a physical sense, our minds battle against spiritual things. 'Is'! No it can't be. How can this bread, this wine, be 'is'? I became a Lutheran in 1993 and it has taken me until this year, to finally agree with Luther. My understanding HAD to be based on scripture, but it also had to be based on whether or not 'is' should be seen as 'signifies' or 'is' as in 'it is hot'. The following is from The guy may be RC, but I don't see his reasoning as being anything but impartial. 'From a linguistic perspective I would consider it problematic to represent the Greek word esti in English with the word "signifies." Esti (which sometimes appears with a nu after it as "estin") is just the Greek equivalent of "is." It's the verb "to be" in the third person singular form (present tense, active voice, indicative mood), and it would translate as "(he/she/it) is." Esti works just the same way that "is" does in English. In both languages, the verb "to be" can be used to signify existence (as in "God is") or predication ("the grass is green") or equivalence ("Bruce Wayne is Batman"). It can also be used literally ("Jesus is the Son of God") or figuratively ("King Herod is a sly fox"). The latter seems to be a special case of equivalence. We do see passages in the New Testament where esti is used figuratively. For example, in Revelation 17:9 John is told, "the seven heads [of the beast] are seven mountains on which the woman is seated." The word for "are" here is "eisi(n)" which is just the plural form of "esti(n)," the way that "are" is the plural of "is." Here we have a figurative use of "is," and the seven heads do signify seven mountains. However, I would resist translating eisi as "signifies." That's not what the word means in Greek. What it means is "are." It's being used to convey the idea of signification, but that's its connotation rather than its denotation. It would be legitimate to use the connotation of a word as a translation if the receptor language can't express the same thought any other way (e.g., in languages that don't have the verb "to be"), but if the receptor language (English in this case) has exactly the same usage of exactly the same verb (it does) then the thing to do is translate the word according to its actual meaning, which is "is." To render esti in English as "signifies" is not actual translation. It's paraphrase. Paraphrase is warranted when actual translation is impossible or when it would be misleading, but when the receptor language accomodates a straightforward translation, it should be used. We otherwise run the risk of the translator's own biases distorting the message in the original. Whenever possible the original should be presented to the reader in the receptor language, and he should be allowed to determine the connotation of what is being said.' Your thoughts? David Kjos David, Having been raised Lutheran, I'm fairly familiar with the Lutheran position, and the confusing "in, with, and under" language. But you're still missing the point. There is no question about the correct translation of words here. The word is "is." We know that. If there was no "is" (or other form of "to be"), we could not call it a metaphor. Translation is not the issue. The issue is interpretation. The literary form in this case, a is not a, is metaphor. To ignore that is to fail to interpret literally. David Hello David, I thought I did get the point, hence the long reply regarding what 'is' is. This is not a case of a drawing or a photograph representing anything. The confusing 'in with and under' is a way of describing the mystery of how God works through bread and wine. Sacrament itself is based on the greek mysterion, recognising that we can't understand how such a thing as 'This is my body' is to be understood to be fulfilled. John Piper admits it when he says: 'Therefore, it seems wise to understand the words "this is my body" and "this is my blood" to mean: "The cup and bread represent my physical body and blood offered up for you in death as a sacrifice for your sins." ' He doesn't know. He's applying human wisdom to something unfathomable. 'Is' is used by Jesus Christ, not 'signifies', not 'represents', not 'is a picture', not 'is a drawing'. We say, let God be God, when we hit things that are beyond our puny wisdom. For John Piper to write 'it is wise to understand . . .', he is placing human wisdom onto a simple 'is', because we don't get it. 'to ignore that is to fail to interpret literally'. That 'is' means 'is' is a failure to interpret literally? Interpreting 'is' as 'represents' is not a literal interpretation. David Kjos David, I have stated very clearly that I know what "is" means. But words don't stand alone. When the verb "to be" is placed between two distinctly different nouns, that is a metaphor, and we do not insist that the one thing actually is the other. This is what it means to interpret literally. We have to recognize the literary genres and devices used by the author: simile, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, etc. If you don't do that, you are not interpreting literally. If you persist in ignoring the metaphor here, I'll have to assume that you believe Jesus is made out of wood, steel, or maybe fiberglass, and has hinges on one side and a lock on the other, because he said "I am the door," and "am" means "am." But it goes without saying that such an interpretation is obtuse. It is not interpreting literally; it is, in fact, failing to interpret at all. If you don't like "represents," that's fine; there are other, possibly better, ways it could be expressed. How the metaphor should be interpreted may be open for debate, but what absolutely cannot be denied is the fact that it is a metaphor. David Hello David, Sorry I haven't replied earlier, other things ... Where do you get 'to be' from in the scripture surrounding 'This is my body'? 'Is' does not correspond with 'to be' ... there's a line there but I won't take it:) In regard to Jesus' I am statements, he continues beyond I am the door, by explaining the metaphor e.g. No-one comes to the Father except through me. ditto with Light, Shepherd, etc. Jesus also says, 'I am working', which is clearly not a metaphor, and nor does he need to explain it to the disciples. He explains metaphors. Please don't suggest I am a fool because I disagree with you. Like yourself, there have been many from both sides of the coin (about HC) who we would both admire for their faith,and works, even if there are aspects about their understanding that we might disagree with. To suggest that I am of such a low intelligence that I cannot recognise an obvious metaphor is indicative of frustration on your part. I get the same from premillenialists. David Kjos David, I haven't suggested you're a fool, and if I do, it won't be for disagreeing with me; it will be for being unteachable. What I have done is attempt to correct your ignorance. I also have not suggested that you are "of such low intelligence" that you cannot recognize an obvious metaphor; my impression, i.e., that you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge one, is actually much less complimentary than that. Now, obviously you need a little grammar lesson: English conjugation of "to be" Infinitive: be Present Participle: being Past participle: been 1st person singular: I am/was 2nd person singular: you are/were 3rd person singular: he/she/it is/was 1st person plural: we are/were 2nd person plural: you are/were 3rd person plural: they are/were "I am working" is not a metaphor. The structure of a metaphor is subject [to be] predicate nominative. "Am working" is the predicate; "am," in this case is an auxiliary, or helping, verb. In a metaphor, [to be] is the lexical, or main, verb. That structure is what indicates a metaphor. Whether or not they are explained--and they usually are not--they are metaphors. "This is my body/blood" has the structure of a metaphor. Is it? Unless you believe that the bread of the Lord's Table is actual muscle from the incarnate body of Jesus, and the wine is actual blood from his veins, you must answer, "Yes, it is a metaphor." Then, you can go on to consider how the metaphor is to be taken. David Hello David, Thank you, sincerely, for your reply. I am going to take some time to construct a reply, so please don't think me rude for not giving you a fuller response right now. David Hello David, I agree that we are not dealing with actual muscle and blood, and therefore, to consider Jesus statements as metaphor is a natural and logical response. Before I go any further, and possibly waste our time, what do you believe occurs with Holy Communion? Do you agree with Calvin? or Zwingli? or some other understanding. Piper holds that Jesus Christ's body and blood are experienced spiritually when the bread and wine are eaten. Is this your understanding? David Kjos David, I agree with Zwingli's position as far as I understand it. I'm not aware of any significant difference between Calvin and Zwingli on this, though there might be. Calvin said that Christ consecrated the bread and wine as symbols of his body and blood, and so I believe. In his Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, he wrote This is my body. As to the opinion entertained by some, that by those words the bread was consecrated, so as to become the symbol of the flesh of Christ, I do not find fault with it, provided that the word consecrated be understood aright, and in a proper sense. So then, the bread, which had been appointed for the nourishment of the body, is chosen and sanctified by Christ to a different use, so as to begin to be spiritual food. . . . Christ declares that the bread is his body. These words relate to a sacrament; and it must be acknowledged, that a sacrament consists of a visible sign, with which is connected the thing signified, which is the reality of it. I would further stipulate that Christ's body and blood are metonymies (a figure similar to metaphor) for his death. That is, there is no unique value in the actual flesh and blood of Jesus--it is no different from yours or mine, and to think otherwise is papist superstition. So the spiritual benefits of the Lord's Table are through faith in the substitution of Christ for us on the cross. The sacrament is the symbol of Christ's death. Our participation in it is the symbol of the reality expressed in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." David Hello David, Zwingli: "To eat the body of Christ sacramentally, if we wish to speak accurately, is to eat the body of Christ in heart and spirit with the accompaniment of the sacrament...You eat the body of Christ spiritually, though not sacramentally, every time you comfort your heart in its anxious query 'How will you be saved'...When you comfort yourself thus, I say, you eat his body spiritually, that is, you stand unterrified in God against all attacks of despair, through confidence in the humanity he took upon himself for you. But when you come to the Lord's Supper with this spiritual participation and give thanks unto the Lord for his kindness, for the deliverance of your soul, through which you have been delivered from the destruction of despair, and for the pledge by which you have been made sure of everlasting blessedness, and along with the brethren partake of the bread and wine which are the symbols of the body of Christ, then you eat him sacramentally, in the proper sense of the term, when you do internally what you represent externally, when your heart is refreshed by this faith to which you bear witness by these symbols" (Zwingli's Fidei Expositio in "Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries pp.190-191). Z rationalises; there is no action by God. Calvin (from: also wrote: "We begin now to enter on the question so much debated, both anciently and at the present time--how we are to understand the words in which the bread is called the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. This may be disposed of without much difficulty, if we carefully observe the principle which I lately laid down, viz., that all the benefit which we should seek in the Supper is annihilated if Jesus Christ be not there given to us as the substance and foundation of all. That being fixed, we will confess, without doubt, that to deny that a true communication of Jesus Christ is presented to us in the Supper, is to render this holy sacrament frivolous and useless--an execrable blasphemy unfit to be listened to." Calvin admits the necessity of the presence of Christ. Paul writes 1Cor 11: 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern the body [Christ] rightly. If Z is right, what on earth is Paul writing about? He's clearly mad! How could simple bread and wine cause a person to 'eats and drinks judgment if he does not discern the body rightly'? David, the early Christians were accused of cannibalism by the Romans because of these words and their belief regarding them. They were killed for not withdrawing their belief. It wasn't until the 13th century that the RC invented their belief of physical change. The didache states: You must not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized in the Lord's name. For in reference to this the Lord said, "Do not give what is sacred to dogs". Sacred? Baptised? for a memorial? The didache also states: On every Lord's Day--his special day--come together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. Anyone at variance with his neighbor must not join you, until they are reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled. For it was of this sacrifice that the Lord said, "Always and everywhere offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is marveled at by the nations." Why confess your sins prior to the Lord's Supper, why reconcile with your neighbour, why is it called a 'sacrifice' by us, if it is JUST a memorial? It is incredible, that such simple words, in Greek, or Aramaic, or English, 'This(is) my body' can't be accepted at face value. How much more simpler could my Lord Jesus have put it? David Kjos David, I'm not going to defend Zwingli, as I don't know him well enough to know that I want to. Since I never quoted him in the first place, you're wasting your time refuting him here. And the Didache--seriously? I think we had best stick to Scripture. I only quoted Calvin because you asked if I agreed with him; I looked up what he said regarding the text in question so I could answer your question accurately. Now, I haven't said that Christ is not present. As we gather together to "do this in remembrance of [him]," what could be a more perfect example of the reality of Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst"? Certainly he is present, but it is a spiritual presence. The presence of Christ will always be spiritual until he returns in the flesh (this is a fact dictated by the indivisibility of the two natures of Christ). You ask, "How could simple bread and wine cause a person to 'eats and drinks judgment if he does not discern the body rightly'?" Remember, as I said in my last comment, not only are bread and wine symbols for body and blood, body and blood are symbols for death: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). When one does not rightly discern (understand) the death of Christ and what it accomplished, i.e. the atonement, he brings judgment upon himself. It is akin to taking the Lord's name in vain: the Lord will not hold him guiltless who does so. Final points: We don't believe, and I haven't said, that the Lord's Supper is just a memorial, so I won't go down that trail. The Romans accused the Christians of cannibalism because they misunderstood the words "this is my body" in the same way papists do, which is similar to the way you are understanding it. Finally, we do take the words "this is my body" at face value. What in the world can you mean by that, having already admitted that "body" is not actual meat? I think I've covered what that face value is. I think I've gone as far as I care to go with this. If you really want to understand this, I encourage you to get Sproul's Kingdom Feast, which I recommended above. If you still don't get it then, I'm sure I can't help you. David Hello David, Take care. Enjoyed the debate.--In Christ David

Lutheranism versus Calvinism

Yesterday I happened upon the following excerpt from Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. As a Lutheran-turned-Calvinist, I found it particularly interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I saw the truth of it. The difference seems to be conveyed best by saying that the Reformed Christian thinks theologically, the Lutheran anthropologically. The Reformed person is not content with an exclusively historical stance but raises his sights to the idea, the eternal decree of God. By contrast, the Lutheran takes his position in the midst of the history of redemption and feels no need to enter more deeply into the counsel of God. For the Reformed, therefore, election is the heart of the church; for Lutherans, justification is the article by which the church stands or falls. Among the former the primary question is: How is the glory of God advanced? Among the latter it is: How does a human get saved? The struggle of the former is above all paganism- idolatry; that of the latter against Judaism- works righteousness. The Reformed person does not rest until he has traced all things retrospectively to the divine decree, tracking down the “wherefore” of things, and has prospectively made all things subservient to the glory of God; the Lutheran is content with the “that” and enjoys the salvation in which he is, by faith, a participant. From this difference in principle, the dogmatic controversies between them (with respect to the image of God, original sin, the person of Christ, the order of salvation, the sacraments, church government, ethics, etc.) can be easily explained. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Baker, 2003), 177. Also yesterday, as it happened, I had done something I normally do not do: study a text without reading Calvin. So, with Bavinck in mind, I looked up both Luther and Calvin on Genesis 11:30. Luther wrote: But Sarai was barren; she had no child (11:29, 30). The Scriptures (here) report that Sarai (Sarah) had no children. This shows that at that time children were regarded as precious gifts of God, for the text represents Sarai’s barrenness as a great affliction. So the almighty God chastened this saintly man (Abraham) with this great tribulation as he lived in this sin-cursed world in which we all (by our sins) are deserving of hell. The wicked (meanwhile) had many children and a large generation, while Abraham’s marriage was without issue. But this was more than a mere trial of Abraham, for it also demonstrated very convincingly God’s adorable mercy, power and faithfulness, for barren Sarai, when she had become old and was beyond the years of bearing children, received a son, from whom there came a great people. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Genesis Volume I, trans. J. Theodore Mueller, (Zondervan, 1958), 203–204. and Calvin: But Sarai was barren. Not only does he say that Abram was without children, but he states the reasons namely, the sterility of his wife; in order to show that it was by nothing short of an extraordinary miracle that she afterwards bare Isaac, as we shall declare more fully in its proper place. Thus was God pleased to humble his servant; and we cannot doubt that Abram would suffer severe pain through this privation. He sees the wicked springing up everywhere, in great numbers, to cover the earth; he alone is deprived of children. And although hitherto he was ignorant of his own future vocation; yet God designed in his person, as in a mirror, to make it evident, whence and in what manner his Church should arise; for at that time it lay hid, as in a dry root under the earth. —John Calvin, Commentary on the Genesis, Volume I (Baker Books, 2009), 337–338. This text, at least, corroborates Bavinck. While Calvin interprets it as a mirror of God’s glory, Luther sees God’s purpose for Abraham.

To Make a Long Story Short

Thursday··2012·02·02 · 1 Comments
Quite a while ago, I received an email asking about my conversion from Lutheranism to Reformed theology. I’ve decided to post my answer here. Why did I move from Lutheranism to Reformed theology? That’s a long story. First, I should say that I am not Truly Reformed®. I subscribe to the “Five Solas” (salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone), and am soteriologically Calvinistic, but I am not necessarily Reformed-kosher on the covenants or eschatology, and I am credobaptist. I didn’t move directly from Lutheranism to Reformed theology. That theological journey began with difficulties I had with a couple of areas of Lutheran doctrine. One of those was Lutheran sacramentalism—consubstantiation in the Lord’s Supper, and paedobaptism, especially baptismal regeneration. The other was soteriological—I became increasingly Arminian as (I think) a result of contradictory practices in my church. While Lutheran soteriology is essentially monergistic (though a bit muddled on that count), the evangelistic methods of my church were distinctly revivalist. I was pretty confused, and became a devout synergist. Sometime in the mid-eighties, I began listening to John MacArthur on the radio. I didn’t know he was a Calvinist at first, or I probably wouldn’t have listened long. By the time I caught on to his Calvinism, I was already hooked on his expository preaching, something I had never heard before. Through his ministry, my mind was opened to at least consider the claims of Reformed theology. As my synergistic and legalistic prejudices fell away, and as I learned to study the Bible without those presuppositions, the doctrines of grace became clear and undeniable. I wasn’t particularly happy about this. I suppose it was my pride that struggled against it. Accepting the fact that I had played no part in my conversion was difficult, but worse still was the embarrassment of having argued loudly and at great length against Calvinist “heretics” for several years—and now I was one. But, by the grace of God, I got over it, and now rejoice in the assurance that can only come through knowing that salvation is all—really all—by the sovereign will of God, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and that nothing—truly nothing—can ever separate me from the love of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. —Romans 8:28–30 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. —John 6:37–40

Why Do Lutherans Ignore Calvin?

Monday··2012·10·01 · 1 Comments
This post is directed toward a very tiny audience: the genuinely evangelical Lutherans who (maybe) read this blog occasionally. (I know you’re out there; I see you following on Facebook.) Please note: this isn’t really a challenge as much as it is a sincere question. Also, I realize that my perception is based on my limited experience only, so any corrections will be considered. In my experience, having been raised Lutheran and attended a Lutheran Bible school, Calvin seldom mentioned among Lutherans, and when he is, it is only to point out his errors.* On the other hand, Calvinists constantly refer to Luther, and hold him in high esteem. Furthermore, Luther himself is known to have thought highly of Calvin. I read both Luther and Calvin, and it seems to me—as it does to Calvinists in general—that both were of the same mind on most things, including, I dare say, much of what we call the “Doctrines of Grace,” commonly known as the “Five Points of Calvinism.”† One need only read The Bondage of the Will to see that. Returning to the original question, why, then, do Lutherans ignore Calvin? I ask because (of course) I what to know. But I also ask because I’d like to see a better understanding of my monergistic faith by Lutherans. At the risk of channeling Rodney King, “Can we all get along?” Let’s be honest: we’re not getting along, at least not in anything more than a superficial way, and I blame you, the Lutherans. I know how you think. Luther is The Man, and Lutheranism is The Way, and the rest of us are regarded with generous condescension. I know this because I was once one of you. I know too well the sad tones in which it is said, “He’s a good man, but he’s a Calvinist.” And when I hear that said in that tone, and see the knowing nods, I know there will never be a Lutheran involved in a Together for the Gospel-like event. You’ll promote a semi-Pelagian like Billy Graham (even though Baptists get the same sorry condescension), but you won’t go near a Calvinist. That leads me to a sad conclusion: maybe you think Calvinism is another gospel, or something like it. If that’s the case, I wish you would come right out and say so, and be done with it. I’ll trouble you no more. But I don’t think your opinion is that extreme; I only think you act like it is. I write this out of a real sense of sorrow over this division between myself and people I have respected and loved. When I left the Lutheran church, I did not lose respect for those I left behind. The road I have traveled has been guided by a devotion to Scripture, and Scripture alone. I learned that from Lutherans, with whom I still desire fellowship. Real fellowship, that is, not the kind you have with a little brother that your parents forced you to take to the movies. It’s a real fellowship that involves real discussion between equals, with the assumption that we’re both on the same side. To do that, of course, you’re going to have to step outside your Lutheran ghetto. You’ll have to stop ignoring Calvin. * Not all Lutherans are guilty of this. I have reliable reports of a Lutheran pastor in my state whose bookshelves are loaded with Calvin. † A Lutheran evaluation of the five points of Calvinism. I don’t think the author gets everything just right, but he’s pretty much on the mark.

Where Are the Lutherans?

Missouri Synod Lutheran Gene Veith asks, Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism? Anthony Sacramone, “former Calvinist who is now a Lutheran,” attempts an answer. My impression is that Sacramone might not be the best example of a “former Calvinist,” describing himself as “someone baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, literally a former altar boy, who left the church about five minutes after his confirmation, but who returned to the faith in his 20s only to attend Wesleyan churches and, finally, to join Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York (and leave after eight years).” It seems he never really picked up what Calvinism is all about. However, concerning the question, “Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism?” he does find the answer—he just doesn’t recognize it as the answer: “Calvinism also offers some of the more potent expository preaching you will hear. Where are the Lutheran Spurgeons or Martyn Lloyd-Jones?” Well, there you have it, on the nose. Where are the great Lutheran expositors? I was raised in evangelical Lutheran churches, and I can’t recall a single expository sermon.* I didn’t even know what exposition was until I found Grace to You on the radio. Where are the Lutheran John MacArthurs? Along with that, there has been, in the last decade or two, an explosion of Calvinist publishing. Where are the Lutherans? Your answer is in those questions. Jesus promised to build his church, and by the particular means of preaching. “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13–14) Show me a Lutheran church that features systematic biblical exposition, and I’ll show you a living, growing church. Put that kind of Lutheran on the radio and in print, and you’ll see some Lutheran influence. * That is not to say I never heard biblical preaching—I surely did—but a twenty-minute textual devotional, however doctrinally correct, is a poor substitute for a full exposition of the text, especially when the exposition is only one volume in a whole-book exposition.

Lutherans Are Better than Charismatics (proof #2)

The Lutheran denomination in which I was raised was formed in 1962 by a splinter group from the merger of its parent denomination with one of the largest liberal denominations (those interested can an illustrated history here). It was a church formed by evangelical Christians who were willing to fight for truth, and never mind the cost. Over the years, we watched as the mainline Lutheran denominations grew more and more liberal. There were more mergers. The rest of Christendom was watching, too. When I and my friends identified ourselves as Lutherans, we often had considerable explaining to do. Non-Lutheran Christians, quite reasonably, assumed we were apostate. Most had no idea there were any Bible-believing Lutheran churches left. So we explained, wearily, but willingly. The Lutheran church was a mess, and not just a few fringe elements. We, the evangelical believers, were the fringe. The vast majority of nominal Lutherans had never heard the gospel. The vast majority of nominally Lutheran pastors were not preaching the gospel. So we spoke out against the apostates who had bastardized the title of Lutheran. Evangelical Lutheran pastors wrote books with titles like The Church’s Desperate Need for Revival and Who Has Stolen My Church? We loudly called out and separated from heresy and apostasy. I am no longer Lutheran, but the battle for evangelical Lutheranism goes on, and there are heroes, men who lead the fight, knowing they are the scant minority, but soldiering on. That’s how it should be, isn’t it? In contrast, there is the charismatic movement. In this movement, there is a scant minority of evangelical, doctrinally grounded believers who virtually refuse to acknowledge the vast scale of heresy and apostasy of the movement, pretending it to be a fringe problem, hardly worth addressing. And so they remain silent. They remain silent, until an outsider says what they won’t. Then, they become angry. They are outraged and offended, and demand the right to be left alone to manage their own house. As if! But it isn’t their own house, not really, not if they claim to be members of the body of Christ. I don’t remember any Lutheran outrage at Baptists who pointed out the apostasy of Lutheranism at large. I remember grieving because it was true. Every Christian on the planet has a right and, I dare say, a responsibility, to call out heretics and apostates in the church, wherever they are. Mature Christians will bless, not curse, those who do.

That Kind of Lutheran

I love Lutherans (the truly evangelical kind, that is). The foundation of my faith was built by Lutherans, and that heritage is precious. But not all evangelical Lutherans are of the same cloth. While all Lutherans, to some degree, frustrate me (as I'm sure I do them), some are intolerable. Recent unpleasant encounters have provoked the following. There is a kind of Lutheran that is mostly unlike Lutherans I have known in the past (but, as I am learning with sadness, not much unlike the majority). He is obsessed with the sacraments and violently antinomian. Counseling those who struggle with assurance of salvation, he says, “Look to your baptism.” This is not merely an error; it is a dangerous heresy. His tunnel vision concerning law and gospel is such that, confronted with the imperatives of Scripture, he cries, “Law! Law! Be gone!” He settles in comfortably as simul iustus et peccator, ignores Romans 6 (except to mistake the opening verses as proof of baptismal regeneration), and never joins Paul in his Romans 7 struggle. Don't be that kind of Lutheran. The apostle was clearly simul iustus et peccator, but clearly not complacent about it. The same man who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” also wrote “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness.” He dared write, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” without contradicting ““for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Paul understood “The proper distinction between law and gospel” better, I dare say, than Luther or Walther, yet he unequivocally exhorted believers to do without fear of muddling the gospel. So have many Lutherans I have known. If you must be Lutheran (and, I know, you must), be that kind of Lutheran.

Hypostasis and the Real Presence

In the previous post, the reason was given for the burning of the English Reformers under Queen “Bloody” Mary: their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Their conflict was with the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which claims that, in the Mass, the bread and wine are substantially changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. I try not to make unfair connections between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, but the implications of this for Lutherans are unavoidable. Lutherans teach that the Lord’s Supper “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and drink” (Small Catechism) and that “the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form of bread and wine” (Augsburg Confession, Article X). They are careful to distinguish their doctrine from the Roman, using the language of “in, with, and under,” but that doesn’t avoid the problem of the two indivisible, inseparable (Definition of Chalcedon) natures of Christ, divine and human—fully God, and fully man. Most Lutherans—most Christians of any stripe, for that matter—probably have not considered this, but while God the Father is omnipresent, the Son, being incarnate, is not. He took on human flesh at the incarnation, and ascended bodily into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34). Consequently, he cannot be physically present with us, and therefore, neither can he be spiritually present, because of the hypostatic union of his divine and human natures. In short, Christ cannot be divided. He, fully God and fully man, is either here or there. He cannot be both. This is by no means a new or controversial doctrine. It was settled by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, long before the Roman Catholic apostasy, more than one thousand years before Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation, and is accepted by all orthodox Christians today, including Lutherans. It is the reason that both the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation must be rejected. The Council of Chalcedon: Serious Theologians in Funny Hats Addendum: “Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the Holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved; It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine thereby bodily received, or unto any corporal presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here: it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”—Rubric at the end of the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 46–47.

Not Even In, With, and Under

As previously posted, the primary offense of the English Reformers was their denial of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. They were responding, of course, to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Following that post, I explained why the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation must also be rejected. It was interesting, then, to encounter Archbishop John Hooper rejecting the Lutheran language (without so identifying it) also. The following is from Hooper’s A Brief and Clear Confession of the Christian Faith. I believe that all this Sacrament consisteth in the use thereof: so that without the right use the bread and wine in nothing differ from other common bread and wine, that is commonly used: and, therefore, I do not believe that the body of Christ can be contained, hid, or inclosed in the bread, under the bread, or with the bread; neither the blood in the wine, under the wine, or with the wine. But I believe and confess the very body of Christ to be in heaven, on the right hand of the Father (as before we have said), and that always and as often as we use this bread and wine according to the ordinance and institution of Christ, we do verily and indeed receive His body and blood. . . . I believe that this receiving is not done carnally or bodily, but spiritually, through a true and lively faith; that is to say, the body and blood of Christ are not given to the mouth and belly, for the nourishing of the body, but unto our faith, for the nourishing of the spirit and inward man unto eternal life. And for that cause we have no need that Christ should come from heaven to us, but that we should ascend unto Him, lifting up our hearts through a lively faith on high, unto the right hand of the Father, where Christ sitteth, from whence we wait for our redemption. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 95–96.

A Loophole in Sola Scriptura?

Trying to hunt down another Luther quotation (because you can’t be too careful, e.g., the so-called “battle quote”), I came across this gem. Apologies to my Lutheran friends—I don’t do this to annoy you, really. That’s just an added bonus. In the second place, this is an important consideration: No heresy endures to the end, but always, as St. Peter says, soon comes to light and is revealed as disgraceful. So St. Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres and their like [II Tim. 3:8f], whose folly is finally plain to all. Were child baptism now wrong God would certainly not have permitted it to continue so long, nor let it become so universally and thoroughly established in all Christendom, but it would sometime have gone down in disgrace. The fact that the Anabaptists now dishonor it does not mean anything final or injurious to it. Just as God has established that Christians in all the world have accepted the Bible as Bible, the Lord’s Prayer as Lord’s Prayer, and faith of a child as faith, so also he has established child baptism and kept it from being rejected while all kinds of heresies have disappeared which are much more recent and later than child baptism. This miracle of God is an indication that child baptism must be right. He has not so upheld the papacy, which also is an innovation and has never been accepted by all Christians of the world as has child baptism, the Bible, faith, or the Lord’s Prayer, etc. You say, this does not prove that child baptism is certain. For there is no passage in Scripture for it. My answer: that is true. From Scripture we cannot clearly conclude that you could establish child baptism as a practice among the first Christians after the apostles. But you can well conclude that in our day no one may reject or neglect the practice of child baptism which has so long a tradition, since God actually not only has permitted it, but from the beginning so ordered, that it has not yet disappeared. For where we see the work of God we should yield and believe in the same way as when we hear his Word, unless the plain Scripture tells us otherwise. I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace. It is a work of wrath from which to flee, as other plagues also are works of God, but works of wrath and displeasure. —Martin Luther, Concerning Rebaptism [source]. In a nutshell: Infant baptism is not found in scripture, but it must be right because God “permitted it to continue so long, [and] let it become so universally and thoroughly established”—never mind that it only became “thoroughly established” in the apostate Roman Catholic church. Then, with no sense of irony, “I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace.” Luther was a great and brilliant man, but he was also a man of many contradictions.

Two Reformation Branches

Steve Lawson compares the German and Swiss Reformations: While Reformation fires were spreading throughout Germany, similar sparks were igniting in Switzerland. Nestled in the Alps, this loosely confederated nation was to play the pivotal role in the historic events of the Protestant movement. If a reformation is measured by its end rather than by its beginning, the Swiss reform movement was even more far-reaching than that which was birthed in Wittenberg. What caught fire in Switzerland soon extended to France, England, Scotland, Hungary, and Holland. Even parts of Germany adopted the teaching of the Swiss Reformers more fully than that of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. . . . Finally, the Reformation flourished in Switzerland because the country was a refuge for many believers fleeing persecution in their homelands. The Huguenots of France and exiles from Scotland and England escaped to safety in Switzerland. There they sat under biblical preaching by Swiss teachers with strong Reformed convictions. When the political climates changed in their native lands, these persecuted believers returned home and took with them the teaching of the Swiss Reformers. By this gathering and dispersal, the Swiss Reformation spread farther and wider than that of even Germany. . . . In many regards, the two major branches of the Reformation in Europe—the Lutheran movement in Germany and the Reformed movement in Switzerland—were much alike. Both were founded on the absolute authority of Scripture alone—sola Scriptura—in opposition to the tradition and leadership of Rome. The difference lay in the application of biblical truth to the church. At this point, the Swiss Reformers broke further from the Roman Catholic Church than did the Lutherans. This is to say, the Swiss leaders were more strict than the Germans in their interpretation and application of Scripture. Luther, for example, felt that the church could practice whatever was not contrary to the Bible, allowing for a smaller departure from the practices of Rome. With this understanding, the German Reformers first tried to reform the church from within. But the Swiss Reformers, including Ulrich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Calvin, chose to pursue only what is set forth in Scripture. The result was a more decisive break with Rome, an effort to bring reform from outside the Catholic Church. Another contrast between the German and Swiss movements had to do with their chief emphases.* Luther made justification by faith the article on which the church stands or falls. But the Swiss Reformers—who certainly preached this cardinal doctrine—were zealous for a more all-encompassing truth, namely, the sovereign grace of God in man’s salvation. Philip Schaff writes: “The Swiss theology proceeds from God’s grace to man’s needs; the Lutheran, from man’s need to God’s grace.” Consequently, Zwingli and Calvin subordinated every doctrine to the eternal predestination of God in sovereign grace. Luther clearly believed in the sovereignty of God in salvation and treated it as a part of the gospel of grace. But the Swiss Reformers treated God’s sovereignty as the first principle of Christian thought and emphasized it more prominently. In this sense, the Swiss had a higher trajectory than the Germans in their preaching and writing. While the Lutherans stressed sola fide (“faith alone”), the Swiss Reformers stressed soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”) more than even sola gratia (“grace alone”). Grace, they stressed, is the highest means to the ultimate end of God’s glory. —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 427–429. * See also “Lutheranism versus Calvinism.”.


Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

Westminster Bookstore

  Sick of lame Christian radio?
  Try RefNet