Friday, March 30, 2007

Chadwick on Table Talk

I always find it funny when I read propaganda material on how of bad character this Luther guy happens to be. Similarly I find it interesting when I see those non-Lutherans who come quickly to his aid. Then there are Lutherans who are not bothered at all and could not care less what rude thing Luther said or what private devotional practice he exercised etc. etc. blah, blah and more blah. Most of the time, the contoversy is launched from what is alleged to have been said by Luther published in Table Talk. The supposed intent of this is to show ill character in the man with the hope that "his followers" might abandon their cause. This of course, underestimates the basis of why "his followers" appear to be "following him" ie his interpretation of certain Biblical passages. In reality though, these detractors are giving him lots of credit than he deserves, an effect of which they have not anticipated.

Here is what Owen Chadwick says about Table Talk in his book The Reformation, p.74-75
The characteristic memory of Luther is of a man presiding at his own table, with is his colleagues and friends around, arguing with him, or listening to his divinity, his politics and his humour, One of the friends shamefacedly took out a notebook and began to jot down Luther's remarks. The habit spread, and twelve different reporters made collections. Luther sometimes mocked nut neither resented nor forbade these deferential scribes. Twenty years after his death, one of them, Aurifaber, published a collection from a variety of collections . Thenceforth Luther's Table Talk became a classic of the Reformation. Rude and outspoken he might often be; 'Dear husband', said Catherine, 'you are too rude'. 'They teach me to be rude" replied Luther. He was so outspoken that his enemiesleaped to make capital out of the Table Talk. It is unreliable as a source for details of history, particularly when the events occured many years before the date of the reported conversation; and Aurifaber's text was not untouched by improvement or interpolation. But iit is a unique and authentic picture of a man and a divine; he who would understand Luther's person and mind cannot neglect it. It is impossible to apply any epithet to him less than the old classical epithet magnanimous, in its original sense of great-hearted.

I observe that Lutherans are not bothered at all by the assasination of character hurled at Luther, primarily because they are not bound by what Luther said, they are bound by what is in their confession, though some of it were written by him. For after all - Luther himself was both iustus et pecator, just like any other Christian, hence he is treated like any other Church Father, capable of error, respected but no idol.

1And I, when I came to you, brothers,[a] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony[b] of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. - 1 Cor 2

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Secret JBFA teaching of the Apostles

Chris Rosebrough a Biblical Text archaeologist has uncovered what is said to be a fragment of the Apostles' teaching on JBFA. Listen to his report here.

To me the logic of JBFA is very simple by taking key Scriptural declarations - if one confines what Jesus paid for to the ceremonial Law, then that means to say that there are sins that Jesus did not pay for, and to believe that is to deny the testimony of Scripture that says "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" - John 1:29.

To confine the Law to ceremonial or dietary laws is to commit a fatal blunder for in Romans 3:28
28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

The law here is singular it stands for the Torah collectively, the whole that encompasses moral, civil, ceremonial and dietary Laws.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them".

Not for himself, but for those who do not and are not capable of fulfilling them. Sinners me.

A Product of Luther's Libido?

I found this article at The Ark here amusing. It discusses the theory that Protestantism is a product of Luther's Libido. That is ,Luther wanted to be released from the sexual tensions within him so he devised a plan for freedom to marry - the Reformation. It is a really interesting theory and it was propagated by his detractors at that time. However, there are I suspect still those who really believe this theory. So we are a product of his sex drive eh?

The article featured an interview with a Professor of Gender Studies in University of Wisconsin, Prof Merry Wiesner-Hanks. It is an interesting and discussion specially on the way Luther appreciated and praised his wife so much. Wiesner-Hanks believes that Luther had a healthy and robust view of the sexual dimension of life, and for Luther the libido started at the fall.

There is also a discussion on Luther's use of explatives and vulgar talk, something many are offended and have used to attack his character. Here is what Prof Merry said

Rachael Kohn: Merry, much has been made of Luther’s coarse language, his vulgarity, his frequent scatological references. What do you think they indicate about him?

Merry Wiesner-Hanks: Well first of all I think they indicate that that’s the way that people talked in the 16th century, and wrote.

Again, including people like Thomas More or Erasmus, I mean the most highly learned people wrote in what language that we would now think of as vulgar and scatalogical, particularly when they were dealing with things that they saw as powerful or things for which they had powerful feelings. And that of course then comes to include one’s religious opponents, for Luther and for many others, includes his remarks about the Jews, or the Turks, it is the way that Luther talks about the papacy, it’s the way that his Catholic opponents talked about him. So that it’s not specific to Luther, it’s simply that people were perhaps a bit more forthright than we sometimes expect them to be. But it’s not peculiar to him.

I observed that many of these vulgarites often used to put Luther in wicked light were quoted from Table Talk and historians have pointed out that these were not necessarily also the words of Luther for they were written by his dinner guests - his students. Later I will post what one historian says about the Table Talk.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hannity Hannitized

I do not have FoxTel, so I go to Fox News online. I do not know much of Mr. Sean Hannity of Hannity and Colmes. Apparently he is Conservative in his politics and a practising RC Christian and is an advocate for birth control methods. He was criticized and taken to task by Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer of HLI

The RCC says that Birth Control is sin but according to Hannity this is much better for non-RCs than abortion. Looks like he is advocating two rules for humanity which the RCC is saying not so, for if RCC considers Birth Control a sin, it means it is a sin whoever commits it. When Hannity asked the reverened Fr. Euteneuer if he would be served communion in Fr. Euteneur's church, the good Father said - NO! Hannity should at least be a good RC and believe, teach and confess what his church teaches and not run as a public heretic (Fr. Euteneuer's words, apparently one can be private heretic in the RCC which can also happen in Protestant Churches). The good Father is right in denying him Communion but I think too that Hannity thinks that the RCC is wrong in condemning Birth Control.

However, in this development, there was a Fr. Morris who spoke in favor of Mr. Hannity found in HLI web site, or at least disagrees with Fr. Euteneuer's method of correction here

I note though the reply of Fr. Euteneuer giving the reasons why he engaged Hannity in public correction. I was glued to the end of one of the paragraphs, where Fr. Euteneur said...

I might also add that in doing so I have fulfilled my duty as a priest which is a requirement for my salvation.

Those were his italics, not mine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Life Coach?

I was in a party a couple of years back. Since the host happened to be a Christian, there were lots of pastors in the party, so they sat me there at the table with a handful of pastors around. So I got to talking and exchanging pleasantries. I normally like to listen than talk, don't wonder, I am really like that!

Anyway, I had a could talk with the pastor beside me, he has a growing congregation in the city where the party was being held. So in the middle of the party, we got to talk about contact numbers and better yet we exchanged calling cards, business cards that is. I looked at his card and at one face of the card was his pastoral title, and location of his church etc, but I happened to flipped the card over and it said there that he was a life coach. It says that he is available for consultation on how to get your life organized, in order and successful. Life coach. Hmmm, interesting.

That passed. I was in another meeting and again with some pastors. Same thing happened, I exchanged calling cards with one fellow I met. I flipped over his card and there again - a Life Consultant of some title like that.

I got to thinking, if a pastor wants to burn out and run his time so thin he is counselling people one after another, then that is what he should bill himself - a Life Coach and present the Bible as the manual for successful living. Pretty soon, he would be so flooded by people wanting to see him for consultation he has to hire a secretary. No doubt the church will grow, but I got bad news. Don't think it is growing because of the Gospel, because the notion that the Bible is there for successful living...well that is not the Gospel. That is a baby boomer understanding of the Bible and Christianity. The ancient Christians knew no such a thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Trusting in Scripture...alone - a gift

I am sure we have heard a lot on the "Lost Tomb of Jesus". The documentary which I have not seen myself has been upsetting some and not because it seemed to be true but the pathetic amateurish scholarship found there.

However, my gig is tangential to that. I am more and more getting convinced that in the same way that in Eph 2:8-9 says that faith is a gift, I am also convinced that believing in the testimony of Scripture alone.... is a gift too! What prompted me to entertain this idea is based on lessons I have learned from my friends who deny Sola Scriptura. However, today that idea got re-inforced when I listen to the excellent treatmeant of Pr. Tom Baker on his program Law and Gospel found here. In this program, Pr. (Dr.)Baker was reacting on the "Lost Tomb of Jesus". I highly recommend for your listening edification.

To jump ahead - the point is John 20:24-29. Pr. Baker says that he had no desire to appear rational to the world because our faith is foolishness to them, appealing to material evidence is a "milky" was of defending the faith. Rather, the lesson is found in Thomas' experience, in that passage there Jesus said to him - "blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe".

Come home now to where we live. We have no evidence that Jesus' death was for our sins, only Scripture says that. We were not there at that time and place. You find no proclamation of that except from Scripture. Hence, since believing the Gospel promise is a gift and since that promise is in Scripture alone and in no other evidence, then believing Scripture is a gift too, absolutely it is.

It is futile exercise to look for hope somewhere else or even withing what is in ourselves, if the Scripture promise does not suffice, nothing else will.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

real caths

Jaroslav Pelikan in his book The Riddle of Roman Catholicism p. 47 has this to say...

Hence the Reformation was indeed a catholic movement. If we keep in mind how variegated medieval catholicism was, the legitimacy of the reformers' claim to catholicity becomes clear. With men like Augustine and Bernard on their side, the reformers could well protest against the usurpation of the name "catholic church" by their opponents. A leading irenic and orthodox theologian of the seventeehth century, Johann Gerhard (4. 1637) spoke for all the reformers when he said:
If the papists want to prove the truth of the name "catholic" as applied to their church, let them demonstrate that the dogmas of their church are catholic, that is, that they are in conformity with the catholic writings of the prophets and apostles!...
If the papists want to deny us the name "catholic", let them demonstrate that we have seceded from the catholic faith and that we deny the mystery of the Trinity

Not a new "Protestant" gospel, then, but the gospel of the true church, the catholic church of all generations, is what the Reformation claimed to be espousing. Substantiation for this understanding of the gospel came principally from the Scriptures; but whenever they could, the reformers also quoted the fathers of the catholic church. There were more to quote than their Roman opponents found comfortable. Every major tenet of the Reformation had considerable support in the catholic tradition.

There is more to quote of Pelikan too but space and time does not permit in this instance, yet inspite of Pelikan's move to Eastern Orthodoxy in his later years, I have no knowldege that he has retracted this positive evaluation of the Reformers. Let me know if you do.

According to Pelikan and to the Reformers
...for the church is truly catholic and apostolic when it relied upon biblical teaching, and it became sectarian when it admitted human opinions into the body of its teaching

In light hearted conversations, I have heard of orthodox Protestant theologians/pastors quip - "we are the ones that are catholic, it is they that added the Pope". For Pelikan, this seems to be true.

But more to the point, what makes someone, a something? Is it the sign on the bill board? When speaking about human beings, the Christians were identified by their confession, hence, the Creed, or what they truly believe in. Back home there is a home grown religious group, and the group's name when translated in English is "The Church of Christ". In their apologetics, they would often ask hearers (and to reinforce the faith of their members) - "who is the real church of Christ? Well, no other than us, can you not see that that is our name, we are called by that name and because we are called by that name, we are what we are called?"

Begs the question, doesn't it? Actually there is a false premise, "we are called by that name" is not true, for in actuality it is "we call ourselves by that name".

You can apply this same type of analysis to the most obvious case in Christendom.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

St. Clement & JBFA

In the First Letter of St. Clement to The Corinthians we have these words on Chapter 32

Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him.129 For from him130 have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.131 From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, "Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven."132 All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

As can be seen from this quote St. Clement believed and taught JBFA as well. Clearly he says we are not justified by ourselves, this completely negates anything in us - our good works or following or "doing" any commandments, even works brought about by the "purity" of heart.

Now some will jump and probably point out to me - hey look at Chapters 33-35 where he talks about works, as if St. Clement just contradicted himself! Yes he does talk about works, but Chapter 32 as preamble eliminates any works as source of justification instead it speaks of faith through which God has justified all men and I quote but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Chapters 33-35 should be read in context - and what surrounds the discussion. Proof of this is in looking at Chapter 36 where all gifts are given by God to us for the sake Christ.

St. Clement in my thinking was following the Apostle Paul in his exposition like that in Romans. After discussing the free grace of God in justifying us in Christ in Romans 3,4,5, St. Paul talks about holiness , and good works in Romans 6. To me this is one example of a convincing evidence that what the Reformers taught was not new, but was believed by the early Christians before.

I noticed that St. Clement quotes a lot from the writings of OT and NT, and this was writen in Koine Greek, I hope to read it in that language for practice one day.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Looking Eastward the revival of EO?

They say that Club L has a lot more in common with Constantinople than with Rome, for that reason, those who leave Wittenberg move to there rather than Rome.

Here is an article that asks if this might be just the century of Orthodoxy.

Over at Pr. Weedon's blog, one will see an entry on the subject of looking or moving eastward from Dr. Heinhere.

First of all, I often wondered what gives when one leaves Club L, and Dr. Hein's comments strengthened my suspicion, what goes is "sola fide", or justification by faith alone (JBFA) in favour of ancient practice or dogma.

So over in that article I read the commented posts and I was surprized that some EOs do believe that their tradition have always believed in "sola fide".

Here is what one lady said, Anastasia said
We Orthodox also believe that justification is by nothing but Grace, through nothing other than faith.

Here is another one from a gentleman named Chris
It was in the Orthodox Church, not in the Lutheran Church, that I learned what "by grace alone, through faith alone" means, and I could not have joined an LCMS congregation if I did not believe that the same Gospel was being proclaimed there that I had received in Orthodoxy.

BTW, for my RC friends, I also recommend the article of Pr. Weedon on Patristic Choosing and Picking Over there he quotes from Augustine on how Augustine set aside the dogmas of Cyprian - it is a bit funny how Augustine said it. You just got to read it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Death does not trump life

You know I started to ride a motorcycle to work and being a rider, I get to worry about my vulnerability and my finitude. I think you will know what I mean by those words.

I was listening to Pr. Todd on the Invocation of the Saints here. Towards the bottom of that interview, he said something profound, profound to me anyway that it held me stunned for a few minutes. He said this...
The life of the saint begins where your life ends and Christ's life picks us. The life of the saint begins in Holy Baptism, when God gives faith in Christ alone, and that life does not end; that life can not be touched by death.

Death is not a transition, there is no doubt about it, death is an END. It is an end to one thing but it is not a beginning. It is an end to this life of sin in the flesh, a life that was really over and done with when Christ put it to death in His body at the Cross.

While I listened I knew the truth of what he said was Biblical, that principle may be found in Col 2: 11-14. But there was so much Good News, I could hardly contain it, I felt like like worshiping God at that moment. Praise the Lord.