Monday, October 26, 2015

Australian Lutherans decided not to be like Episcopalians (for now)

I am speaking here of Women’s Ordination (WO) to the Pastoral Ministry.

This October 2015, at the Lutheran Church of Australia General Synodical Convention the proposal for WO did not pass the required two-thirds majority vote.

I wrote “for now” in the title of this post, because the issue of WO has the habit of bubbling back up to the surface from time to time.

I remember back in 2006 at Lutheran Church Australia’s convention that the issue of (WO) was decided then and as the result today as it did then, WO did not meet the requirement.

I could feel the disappointment of those who favour WO so much that I believe some of them need grief counselling because of this result (n.b., I am not being disrespectful here). I mean this in a sympathetic way even though everyone who has been in this blog know that I wrote against WO.

I am against WO because I do not think Scripture or Church History supports it. You can read about my position on this in this blog.

Being against WO is no small thing if you knew where I journeyed before coming to Lutheran Theology. I was for 25 years a Pentecostal and WO in Pentecostalism is no issue, they welcome WO with open arms. Pentecostals do not even talk about if it is right to ordain women, for with them anyone can be ordained if the person is “baptised in the Holy Spirit” without respect for the gender. Gender is no issue but this so-called 2nd baptism of the HS is. Pentecostals are not “catholic” in many levels and in many ways.

Anyway, today I wish to put on my analytical hat and analyse the numbers as reported in the LCAus website. There were 423 registered delegates. 145 voted NO, 269 voted YES. This totals 414. That means we got 9 abstaining.

So let us look at the stats. 34% voted NO, 64% voted YES, 2% abstaining. Now note, if we look at the majority, they are FOR WO. If not for the two-thirds majority rule they would have won already. That rule saved the anti-WO.  The 64% YES vote in terms of people lacked 13 people to tilt their position to 66%.

So 13 people did not vote for YES. That is not a lot of people. Where could pro-WO have gotten these votes? It could be taken from the 145 who voted NO, at least some of them; or they could get all if not some from the 9 people who abstained. So what does this tell both the anti-WO and pro-WO? It says that pro-WO would just need to work a little bit more and they will get it next time but the anti-WO have to be vigilant and work harder. The pro-WO would just need a few more campaigning and lobbying. On the other hand the anti-WO would have to be in the defensive, they would have to be guarded.

I have a question that bugs me. I was under the impression that the LCAus synod sought in prayer the Holy Spirit’s mind on this when they got together in 2006. My question is this – if they sought the mind of the HS in 2006, why talk about it again in 2015? If the synod got their answer in 2006 and the answer was no, why did they have to decide on this again in 2015? I mean does the HS change His mind from time to time? I say this because I was under the impression that they prayed to the Holy Spirit about this. That was the language I heard when they spoke about this issue. So do they actually believe the HS has guided them to this answer in 2015? If so can the people be relieved of any fear of this surfacing again in the future?


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Waltherians consider CF Dub Dub better than Lutheran Scholastics?

That is right dear friends, UOJ Waltherian Huberites consider CF Dubya Dubya, better theologian than Gerhardt, Leyser, Hunnius and more.
Credits: Dr. Ichabod

Well, what can I say but...WOW.

How could you pay homage and so much respect to the guy who has inferior exegetical abilities than Hunnius or Gerhardt? The guy who relied on translations rather than deal with the original Greek and Hebrew? Did the Old Orthodox Lutherans rely on translations? No, they were careful exegetes skilled in the original languages.  How could one lean on Walther rather than the ones who were there in the writing of the Formula of Concord?

Now, Walther could be correct in some area against the Lutheran Scholastics - but that would be an accident, a stroke of luck but not due to skill.

I am skeptical of Lutherans who easily dismiss Old Orthodox Lutherans. Yet today I hear Lutherans who criticise Luther, and even somewhat embarrassed of him when in fact they have not read Luther himself.

Frankly when you survey the things CFW said I would label him as unconscious Calvinist.

You might object to me and say - wait a minute LPC - CFW Walther wrote against Calvinism and criticised Calvinists. Well, you see Evangelicals criticise Calvinism too but their denial and separation of the Holy Spirit from the Word and from the Sacraments make them unconscious Calvinists.

Ever heard of false flags? You could raise the flag of Lutheranism but behind the scene you have another flag in your left arm, the real one, which undermines the one you have raised. Now far be it from me that CFW was a purposeful false flagger. Sincere people could be wrong and could have adopted a position just like the position they have been attacking.

I would like you to read this old post on the critique of Walther's method and his lack of exegetical abilities.

Fortunately it is only in the USA were Walther is revered -  for example a pastor I interact with, from German origin who migrated to Australia, is as skeptical towards Walther as I am. Another pastor gave snide remarks about the teachings of Walther. I would not be surprised to hear from an American Lutherans tell me that those people are heretics for doubting Walther.

Why is Walther considered the guru of American Lutheranism? Walther's method was to quote Luther, the Confessions and the Lutheran Fathers. In doing so, it gave his would be hearers an air of Walther being faithful to the Lutheran Orthodox tradition. When in fact he was actually mis-quoting them, and in real fact, his position contradicted them! We must remember that when Walther was a disciple of Stephan, Stephan's followers drank with loyal fervour the sayings of Stephan, when Stephan was booted out of the scene, the same unquestioning loyalty simply transferred the Walther.

This is the explanation of Dr. Karl Edwin Kuenzel...(emphasis mine).

... Walther’s method of citing Luther and the Lutheran dogmaticians...  was wrong both in principle and in practice. The problem was that unlike Luther, who stressed the Bible and the study of the Bible, Walther’s positions neither rested directly on Scripture nor did they lead one directly into it. Instead he strongly stressed, to the extreme, the importance of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions and the Lutheran fathers, and certainly much more than he cited God’s Word. Utilizing this format Walther led people to think that the matter under discussion or being presented had been established sufficiently by the quotations from Luther and the fathers; therefore it was unnecessary to study Scripture. This format actually hampered people in their use and study of the Bible. And eventually, it has come to the point where the citation theologians not only quote Luther and the old fathers but now they have also included Walther and others as proof of the doctrinal stand. As pastors, theologians, and theological students took up the study of doctrinal maters in subsequent years the subject of study was not as much a study of the Bible as it was a study of old synodical reports and conference and convention essays. And now quotations from these, not the Bible, are frequently used to support doctrinal positions.
However, it was unsettling to have Walther take a firm stance on a matter citing the Lutheran fathers as his proof, yet not realizing that at the same time his position was in contradiction to what they had written

I think the reason why UOJers hold to Huber's view of Justification is because to them Walther believed it and has already established the issue and therefore, it is settled with no need to unearth (for them) or review the issue. Walther believed it, we should too. Duh?

I tell you what, do you want to be accepted by "confessional" American Lutherans? Pay homage to Walther and quote him too... Lord have mercy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lutherans entertaining a bad idea.

The topic of this post is the ordination of women to the pastoral office.

Women should serve in the church. There should be no question, the question is in what capacity? In what role(s)? The Lutheran Church of Australia this October 2015 will deliberate on the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry. I wonder why I have this suspicious feeling that should it pass (because it failed many years ago), some ministers, in time, would leave this synod.

I have read some arguments favouring the ordination of women. Some interesting arguments do not argue exegetically though they claim that their arguments are based on the text of Scripture. Most of these arguments are theological using Justification of the believer as the ticket for either male or female to vie for the pastoral office. In this post I will use the following lines of thought to establish my case why I do not buy into the idea of ordaining women to the ministry. I will use my training in the Biblical languages to argue exegetically, then historically and lastly behaviourally why ordaining women to the pastoral office renders Lutherans in LCA irrelevant. Amazingly when I was a Pentecostal, this was not a problem for me, why is it a problem now? Hopefully in lining up my exegetical, historical and behavioural reflections will enlighten you why I do not buy ordination of women to the pastoral office.

1. Exegetical.

The best question I believe one should ask exegetically is this - do we have texts from Scripture that women were pastors during the time of the Apostles? What were the terms used by Scripture for pastors and was this applied to any women characters mentioned in Scripture? One line of reasoning I have read is the mention of women in the house churches greeted by St Paul. In other words, since St Paul was greeting these women where house meetings are happening, they say that is proof positive that women were pastoring in the early church. What comes to mind are women mentioned in Romans 16, such as Phebe. She was called a servant of the church in Cenchrea. The word "servant" as used in the KJV  was for διάκονος, this is where we get the word deacon.  This is someone who carries out the orders of another. In fact it means attendant, someone who waits for instructions and carries them out. Yet others in favour of women's ordination latch into this and translates this word as "minister" broadening the significance of the word, thereby arguing that Phebe was a pastor too. This is not correct, the word deaconess is quite narrow, it is one who attends to the poor and distributes money collected for their use.

The there is the issue of Priscilla in Acts 18:26. Some argue that the "fact" (it is alleged) Priscilla was mentioned first in Romans 16:3, that shows that Priscilla had a dominant role between her and her husband Aquila. If one looks when these two people are named in Scripture, and we argue on the basis of first mention as being important, this argument is shot down. For in 1 Cor 16:19, in the Greek NT, Aquila was mentioned first. Now was Priscilla really mentioned first in Acts 18:26? Only if you go by an eclectic Greek NT Text, this is NOT so in the Textus Receptus(TR). In Acts 18:26, Aquila was mentioned first!  Six times Priscilla was mention in Scripture, and using your eclectic Greek NT, 3 times Priscilla comes first and other times Aquila comes first thrice. Not so in the TR, we get 4 times Aquila coming first and only twice did Priscilla get mentioned prior to Aquila. If we follow this idea, then the Women's Ordination people appears to interpret Scripture by brute force.  If carries no solid conclusion.

Then there is the allegation that Priscilla taught Apollos on her own in the home church setting! There is no such text in Scripture I can find that Priscilla ever taught anyone without Aquila being there. Such suggestion is more imagination than exegesis. You would have to have a very active imagination to suggest that Priscilla taught Apollos on her own (without the presence of her husband).

I dare say that indeed, those who promote women's ordination on the basis of house churches found in Acts are letting their imagination run wild - going forward where Scripture is silent.

So let us go back to the words used by the Bible to refer to pastors. We can name two - the first we have is episcopos επισξοπος  were we get the title Bishop or Overseer and then the word prysbeteroous πρψβετερους where we get the word Elder or Presbyter. The first word occurs in 1 Tim 3. We can rule out that St Paul ever had in mine women to be Bishops here. The reason is that he used the pronoun he, and referred to this office as a person having one wife etc. All we need is to deal with the text of Scripture and it ought to be obvious that he had no idea that this could be an either male or female role.

The other one we need to deal with is the word elder or presbyter. Now, there was the office of old widows mentoring the younger women apparently this can be found in Ellicott's Commentary.   This is where this word might be applied to a woman. It is like an order in the Church. In other words, a woman who is by reason of age is a senior in the church whose job is to be a spiritual mentor to the younger women specially the younger wives. I am getting ahead of myself in discussing the historical aspect of this post, but more of that later. When St Peter and St Paul addressed the church, they used the masculine form of presbyter. Note that St Peter considered himself also as an elder in 1 Pe 5:1.

The last word is that of pastor - poimen (ποιμήν) - which is from the word "shepherd".  In Eph 4 is the only place I know where this word occurs. However, it is attached to the idea of eldership. For example St Peter in 1 Pe 5:1 instructed his fellow elders to "shepherd" the flock of God. Most of the time, that title is reserved for Jesus - who is the Good Shepherd - the real Pastor of the Church. Since Jesus is male, by analogy, elders shepherding God's people from the male population fits the parallelism well. Besides, the job of herding sheep in Bible times was never regularly performed by women. It is unlikely that St Peter had women elders too in mind when he said this about shepherding God's people.

2. Historical.

We have no surviving tradition of women holding the office of pastor in any known ancient Christian denominations from either the West or the East. I think this is a fair statement. It is probably of significant consequence. For there there is plenty of evidences of women in the priesthood of pagan cults. Correct. The pagans had no qualms in having women lead them in their religious affairs. In Ancient Egypt and Greece, women had already been in the forefront of religious leadership. It stands to reason that since pagans have female goddesses, it is natural that their priest who should mediate between the goddess and the people would be a woman akin to the goddess itself. See for example in the Eleusinian Mysteries. It is possible that this is one of those matters that made Christianity different from pagan religions - that of not having female leadership.

Then there were mention of women attending the altar around 400-500 AD. It is usually in and around a male presbyter who has become a heretic. So sure you will find some women who performed the role of priest in the churches but they were congregations with suspicious orthodoxy. You can find inscriptions of women being called presbytera but that does not mean they presided over the church as shepherd for as we said, there were these elderly women in church whose job was to teach younger women.

The most brief treatment of this issue is found here in a Christian History Institute Article.

Why we should look at history for this question? It is because the same way we treat the Canon of Scripture. For example it is known that St Paul wrote a letter to the Laodecians. What if suddenly historians found a papyri purporting to be that letter of St Paul? Are we going to rip our New Testament and make room for this letter to be included in our NT? I venture, no Christian will do such a thing. The reasons is that there is no tradition stating or which evolve to this effect that St Paul's letter to the Laodecians is Scripture. Therefore because we do not have clear evidence first from Scripture that women served as pastors (no question, the served as deacons!) neither from history (other wise we would see them operating in church, when we got born into this world of which we know the church is older than us) then in this counts it is deviant to to ordain women now in the pastoral office.

3. Behavioural.

Let us face it women are numerous in church than men. Let us for the sake of argument we ordained women into the pastoral office. Then yet again, that is one more reason for men to abdicate their duty and console their conscience leading them to further laziness, cowardice and indifference to the call for ministry. As a man, I know how to reason and make excuses. Hey wait there is one keen woman here who wants to do the work, problem solved, just let her do it just like she does at home. We go sit in the couch and watch TV.

I cannot pin point what are the motivations of these present male ministers advocating for women in the pastoral office - is it really because they see it in Scripture? I am finding it hard to believe this because most arguments I have seen were either dramatical, emotional or bereft of fair even handed exegesis. Or something else is motivating this, perhaps a hero complex?  Yeah sure ladies, I will advocate for you to be in the pastorate, I will be your hero, we got equal rights in the church too.

Often times I see Roman Catholic apologists hurling insults at Lutherans along this line - how dare they say they are more catholic than us Romans?

Well, when the Lutherans start ordaining women into the pastorate - I'd say they have left catholicism itself. They lose their right to claim a return to the catholicism that is Biblical and Evangelical. Certainly such a synod is not catholic anymore.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Westcott-Hort Axiom on Textual Criticism Does Not Pass Statistics

I was with the King James Version of the Bible when I first believed. Sometime in the late 1980 I started toying with other versions of the Bible. One of the most disgusting versions I have come across is the NIV, so I am sorry if you are a fan of this Bible translation, as I am not.

However through the years I let NASB, NRSV and now ESV hang around my library and when I was pastoring  I even preached from these.

Now that I have more time, I have recently in the last couple of weeks studied a bit this matter of Textual Criticism.

I process of copying Biblical text by the ancients was an extremely and complex human activity and the axioms of Westcott and Hort people are very simplistic and do not account the physics of this writing process.

Let me give a few examples of why for a trained mathematician the following axioms must be rejected. Now we know that these textual criticism axioms are not like mathematical axioms that are self evidently true. TC axioms are not like this of course but these TC axioms are not even scientific.
Here are the axioms I reject.

1. Manuscripts are to be weighted not counted.
Now what is the rational of this? Well we can say that simply because it is many does not mean it came from the original. Now this may be true, but that depends on what is being copied and the nature of that document being copied. If you forgive me, I feel this is quite stupid when applied to the New Testament. Right now, all them modern versions come from Alexandrian type manuscript. Yet there are more than 5000 copies of Byzantine manuscripts.  Here statistics wins. Why do we have many copies of Byzantine and no inundation of copies of Alexandrian? It is because the ancients believed the Byzantine source is most reliable, it is the one worth copying and the Alexandrian is not.

2.  The shorter reading is to be preferred.
Now to be frank, before this axiom, there is another axiom that prevails - the more difficult reading is to be preferred. In the modern translations besides KJV and NKJV, since they base their text from Alexandrian type manuscripts, all the readings that are short have been preferred. This presupposes the scribal writer has the tendency to add text. Again, this does not work. Humans are the ones copying these text, not like computers, so they struggle with lighting and tiredness; so they are likely omit words or phrases when they are tired. Sure there may be a double checkers but the process we know is not air tight, therefore the longer reading is to be preferred.

More later.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why I believe Calvinists are not catholics (small c)

Definitely Calvinists are not Roman Catholics. That is something I think they are proud about. I suggest they are not even catholics (note that Romanism started 600AD roughly, all Christians before that were catholics - universal), and I suggest that is not something to be proud about. In fact that is something one should worry about (if one is a Calvinist).

Let me explain.

Well, if we take a typical Calvinist, we assume he would subscribe to the T.U.L.I.P. principle and would be an adamant promoter of Limited Atonement(LA). Here is the problem - the Nicene Creed.

Now I know Reformed people claim to subscribe to the Nicene Creed, but they do not really know what that implies. I find this specially true for Baptistic Calvinists. As typical I have found them to put their own spin on what the Nicene Creed. Case in point, the Nicene Fathers were not re-baptizers - remember the line " we believe in ONE baptism, for the forgiveness of sin"? A Baptistic Calvinists can not affirm that, since if you were baptized as a baby, you will be re-baptized by them once more, so  right there Calvinists of Baptistic bent are out of catholicism.

Yet there is more and so I come now to their affirmation of LA. In the Nicene Creed  we have one line which Lutherans affirm - on Jesus we confess - "who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;"
The phrase "who for us men" - means all of humanity that was how the Nicenes understood that phrase, so if you believe in LA, you can not affirm the Nicene Creed - for LA says that Jesus did not die for the whole human race, he only died for the elect - which is of course only a subset of the human race.

One has to really warp this passage of the Nicene Creed if confession to it and affirmation of LA is to be maintained. The two are incompatible.

So a question , if Jesus did not die for the whole world - that means he did not die for all men, then what happened in the incarnation? That is, we can ask this question - when Jesus became man, did Jesus leave behind the humanity of the non-elect - since after all according to LA, he was not meant to die for them anyway so did Jesus assume the humanity of these people whom he would not die for in the first place? No Calvinists I have asked dared answer this question, all I hear are just evasions. Clearly in the Scripture it says - he tasted death for every man - Heb 2:9.

Calvinists and UOJ are alike - and here is their fallacy - they conflate the Atonement with Justification. They both think that when one is Atoned for, one is automatically Justified as well.

As far as I know, only Lutherans who believe in Justification By Faith Alone, are the ones who make this distinction between Atonement and Justification properly and mediated by the Means of Grace.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Thoughts on the "Western Wall"

The Western Wall is the wall known as the Wailing Wall, where Rabbinic Jews in Israel come to pray. It is specially now called the "Western Wall" to emphasise the "fact" that it is the western wall of the 2nd Temple. Indeed many of Jewish faith use this term to highlight this idea.

I would like to express my opinion as to why I do not believe this wall is part of the 2nd Temple. I do not mean any dis-respect to those who disagree with my opinion, they are entitled to their beliefs just as I am.

Now, there are evidences from historians and archaeologists who do not believe this wall is part of the last Temple. I admit they are a small number. I won't go into those evidences, for example that the wall was actually the wall of Fort Antonia and it used to be a Christian dump site, etc. Josephus an eye-witness of the 70 AD destruction by the Romans, wrote that the Temple was completely destroyed.

As a Christian, I will however offer my reason why I disbelieve that the "Western Wall' is part of the 2nd Temple. The reason is Jesus Christ - Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said in Mk 13:And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Think of that for a moment,  that statement is very very crucial to your faith - be you a Christian or of another persuasion. Jesus said that no stone will be left upon another -  now if that wall is indeed part of the 2nd Temple and is even the western side of the Temple, then Jesus' prophecy failed and so Jesus is found to be a false prophet. He said no stone will be on top of another and yet there is that wall - a part of the Temple standing. So he is a false prophet and thus a false Messiah. This then mean also that the whole Christian faith crumbles, for we believe in a person who just lied and falsely prophesied to us. Did you get it?

Now, we have Josephus himself a non-believer of Christ who as a historian and eye-witness of the 70 AD destruction of the Temple by the Romans testified indeed that the whole Temple was completely destroyed.

Now assume for a moment if you come from Jewish persuasion and admit that the "Western Wall" might not be a part of the Temple, then Jesus' prophecy came to pass and that means he is worth pursuing. However I doubt and am pessimistic if the Jewish authorities in Israel will change their minds about this - the reason is that asserting the "Western Wall" to be part of the Temple is also asserting that Jesus is a false Messiah and that justifies ignoring the claims of Jesus of Nazareth.

If the real location of the Temple is not in the "Western Wall", then Jews and Muslims can give up the fight for  the control of this area.  Everybody wins.

As a Christian, we have no care of any Temple at all, at least I for one do not care. The reason again is Jesus and what Apostle Paul said - Jesus said in Jn 4:21 that we will not worship in any mountain nor in Jerusalem and in Mt 12:6  he said -- But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.    Then the Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor 6:19 that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Won't it be a shame if WWWIII began based on a false belief of a holy site?