Sunday, November 29, 2009

Signing the Manhattan Declaration?

In case no one has heard yet, the Manhattan Declaration, is a statement by Christians (mostly in USA) that affirm

1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

Quite a number of well known US Christian personalities have signed it. On the other hand, I looked at the list of Christian leaders who signed the document and wonder why I see no one from the Lutheran synods who has signed this.

An interesting aspect is that I heard well know USA apologist like Dr. James White of AOMin and Christian leader such as Dr. John MacArthur would not like to sign this document. Not because it is wrong, but because the Catholics and the Orthodox are there and these denominations do not affirm JBFA.

I like to sign the document. No, I am serious, this document looks good. The thing that prevents me from signing it is the line...

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered...

The word Evangelical is the one that makes me hesitate.

Lutherans are supposed to be Evangelicals, in fact they invented the word themselves! It first started with them. Unfortunately, I do not know what that word means now or how that word is used today, it has now been modified, hi-jacked if you will. Evangelicals are more Revivalistic than evangelical. I am not sure if I should be identified the term as it is used today. Someone said the Evangelicals are so wide, they cover from people of the likes of theologian R.C. Sproul to the faith healers like Benny Hinn.

Now that is a worry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where Luther and Calvin are different

In one interchange - Brett, a dear Internet friend, quoted this passage from Galatians 3.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of
you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

When I was a Pentecostal, I was taught that "baptism" mentioned in v.27, was not water baptism but "Spirit baptism". By this they mean, when I gave my heart to Jesus, or when I got converted, made a decision etc. that was when I got baptized into Christ. Pentecostals, being baptistic, separate the HS from water baptism, because they do not believe water baptism does anything. Hence, they separate the HS from where He is found. This has impact when you are doubting your Christianity. Because by this, Pentecostalism makes you look at your sincere commitment, sincere decision etc. Thus, this makes you look at some mystical experience, yet even if you do and are able to point at one experience, you are not certain if that is the one that the Bible describes. You are uncertain still.

Another idea I see is this verse in Gal 2:

20 I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me

I wondered, when did Paul die with Christ, how could he say this? I now answer my own question this way: at his Baptism.

Here is IssuesEtc feature on this.

Note what Luther says when attacked by the devil with doubts about his Christianity, he says to the devil: I am Baptized.

Luther pointed to the Means of Grace that happened to him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Madam Huldah, faith is justificaton - Luther

A dear friend, Brett Meyer has been sharing with me for sometime now Luther's Sermon on Galatians 4:1-7, found here. It is about time to feature some snippets of this sermon but note that the highlights are mine, for my own thinking and perhaps that of the reader's too.

8. Do you ask: "What then am I to do? How shall I make myself good and acceptable in person to begin with? how secure that justification? The Gospel replies: "Hear Christ and believe in him, utterly despairing of yourself and resting assured you will be changed from a Cain to an Abel and then present your offerings." just as faith is proclaimed without merit or work on your part, it is also bestowed regardless of your works, without any of your merits. It is given of pure grace. Note, faith justifies the individual; faith is justification. Because of faith God remits all sins, and forgives the old Adam and the Cain in our nature, for the sake of Christ his beloved Son, whose name faith represents. More, he bestows his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit changes the individual into a new creature, one with different reason and different will, and inclined to the good. Such a one, wherever he is, performs wholly good works, and all his works are good; as taught in the preceding epistle lesson.

9. Then nothing else is necessary to justification but to hear and believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. But that is not a work of the natural man; it is a work of grace. He who presumes to attain justification by works, only obstructs the way of the Gospel, of faith, grace, Christ, God and all good. On the other hand, nothing but justification is necessary to render works good. The justified man and none other does good; all he does, being justified, is good, without distinction of works. Therefore, the order of man's salvation, the beginning and the sequel, is first to hear and then believe God's Word as supreme, and then to act. Thus shall man be saved. He who perverts this order and acts accordingly is certainly not of God.

10. Paul prescribes this order where he says (Rom 10, 13-15): "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?" Christ teaches us to pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest; that is, faithful preachers. When they come they preach the true Word of God. Hearing it, we are enabled to believe, and such faith justifies us and renders us godly; then we call upon God and do only good. Thus are we saved. So then, the believer shall be saved, but he who works without faith shall be damned. Christ says (Mk 16, 16), "He that disbelieveth shall be condemned;" here works avail nothing.

11. Now, observe what people commonly do and say. "Yes,"' they tell you, "I expect to become godly. Yes, we must be godly." But if they are asked what we are to do to accomplish it, they go on to say, "Indeed, we must pray, fast, attend Church, abstain from sin, and so on." One will enter a monastery, another some order. One will become a priest, another will don a hair-garment. One will punish himself in a certain way, and another in another way. They are like Cain and do the works of Cain. Personally they are as at first--without justification. They but assume an external change, an alteration of works, clothing, condition and habits. They are really apes, assuming the habits of saints but remaining unholy. Unmindful of faith, they rush along with their good works toward heaven--as they imagine--torturing themselves.

Relative to them, Christ in the Gospel (Lk 13, 24) says: "Strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able." And why not? Because they do not recognize the narrow door. It is faith. Faith humbles one, reduces him to nothing, until he must despair of all his good works and cleave only to God's grace; for that he must forsake all else. But the Cain-like saints imagine good works to be the narrow door. Hence they do not humble themselves. Nor do they despair of their good works; no, lading themselves with the cumbersome bundles of their collected deeds, they strive to pass through the door. They will pass as the camel with his great hump passes through the eye of the needle.

12. Mention faith to them and they scoff and laugh, saying: "Are we Turks or heathen that we must first learn what faith is? Is it possible that our multitude of monks, nuns and priests do not know? Who can be ignorant of what believing is when even they who openly sin know its meaning?" As if having finished with faith, they imagine they must henceforth devote themselves to works. As before said, they regard faith of slight importance; for they do not understand that it is our sole justifier. To accept as true the record of Christ--this they call faith. The devils have the same sort of faith, but it does not make them godly. Such belief is not Christian faith; no, it is rather deception.

13. In the preceding epistles we have heard that to be a Christian it is not enough simply to believe the story of Christ true--the Cain-like saints possess such faith--but the Christian must without any hesitancy believe himself one to whom grace and mercy are given, and that he has really secured them through baptism or through the Holy Supper. When he so believes, he is free to say of himself: "I am holy, godly and just. I am a child of God, perfectly assured of salvation. Not because of anything in me, not because of my merits or works, am I saved; it is of the pure mercy of God in Christ, poured out upon me." To such extent will he appreciate God's precious mercy, he cannot doubt that it renders him holy and constitutes him a child of God. But he who doubts, disparages to the utmost his baptism and the Holy Supper, and censures as false God's Word and his grace in the sacraments.

14. The Christian should entertain no fear--he should not doubt--that he is righteous and a child of God through grace. Rather he needs to entertain anxiety as to how he shall endure steadfast to the end. There is where all fear and anxiety are due. For while he assuredly is given to possess full salvation, it may be somewhat doubtful whether or no he will steadfastly retain it. Here we must walk in fear. True faith does not hang upon works nor rely upon itself; it relies only upon God and his grace. Grace cannot forsake the individual so long as reliance continues. But he knows not how long it will continue. Should temptation force him to lose his confidence, grace also will fail. Solomon (Ecc 9, 1) says: "The righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; whether it be love or hatred, man knoweth it not; all is before them." He does not say it is uncertain at present, but in the future,because man knows not whether he will withstand the attacks or temptation.

15. When the Cain-like saints hear the doctrine of faith, they cross themselves, both with hands and feet, and exclaim: "God forbid! How could I call myself holy and righteous? How could I be so egotistical and presumptuous? No, no; I am a poor sinner." You see how they make faith of no value to themselves, and so must regard as heresy all doctrine based upon it. Thus they do away with the whole Gospel. These are they who deny the Christian faith and exterminate it from the world. Paul prophesied concerning them when he said (1 Tim 4, 1): "In later times some shall fall away from the faith." The voice of faith is now silenced all over the world. Indeed, faith is condemned and banished as the worst heresy, and all who teach and endorse it are condemned with it. The Pope, the bishops, charitable institutions, cloisters, high schools, unanimously opposed it for nearly four hundred years, and simply drove the world violently into hell. Their conduct is the real persecution by Antichrist, in the last times.

16. Tell them what the prophet says in Psalm 86, 2: "Preserve my soul; for I am godly"; and Paul's words in Romans 8, 16: "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God;" and they reply: "Yes, but the prophet and the apostle did not mean by these statements to establish a doctrine or leave an example of what others may claim. They were enlightened and their holiness was revealed to them." Similarly, they construe every passage relating to the subject as not doctrinal in design, but exhibiting a remarkable miracle, a special prerogative of certain individuals not to be possessed by every believer. This explanation is a mere invention of their own minds. Themselves unbelievers, tasting not the Spirit, they think no one else should so believe or taste. By such conduct--their own fruits--they may be clearly identified as thorns and thistles; not as Christians, but as enemies and destroyers of Christians, and persecutors of the Christian faith.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Pacman did it again

He surprised us. He showed amazing athletic abilities.

My buddies and I were offended while watching the fight. We detected a slight cockiness and that annoyed us.

Cockiness is not something we accept in our culture. Flaunting your gifts and abilities is an offensive trait. True enough Manny does not have false humility either, but he does not have to be cocky. We do not tolerate such none sense and shame on him if he develops such a trait.

Fortunately The Age did not notice what we detected, maybe because they are accustomed to it and comparatively, his was mild. Here is the article.

When faith is removed

The last post has caused me to think much about how Revivalism has made a mess of the doctrine of JBFA, such that faith as a concept has been turned to a form of works.

Because of this, people who first cried sola fide i.e. JBFA proponents, now get allergic to any slight hint or suggestion that faith could ever be a condition for justification, even though they are taught that faith (in the Atonement of Jesus) itself, is a gift and a condition created by the HS through the means of grace and hence, not a condition they can arrive at themselves.

Consider now Ephesians 2:8-9.

8For(Q) by grace you have been saved(R) through faith. And this is(S) not your own doing;(T) it is the gift of God, 9(U) not a result of works,(V) so that no one may boast.

Let us chop off any suggestion of faith in this verse. It now reads...

For by grace you have been saved not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I leave you to think about the implication of this version.

Indeed some make faith a form of works, but if you stick to the Biblical teaching, goodness, if you believe the Gospel story, what has your faith got to do with it, since it simply receives the story! Scripture says if you are saved by grace through faith, you got nothing to boast.

Conversely, if you have a faith that can boast, it is faith that is not founded on the story. Surely that is the case. So why be allergic to faith? Such faith boasting faith, means you got a Gospel that is not THE Gospel.

Let us do it in elementary logi, if you have faith (let this be A), you got nothing to boast (let this be B), then Ephesians 2:8-9 says, i.e. A => B. Therefore NOT B => NOT A. Say your condition is a condition of boasting, then you do not have the faith described by Ephesians 2:8-9. Oh you do have faith, but it is not in the Gospel.

So in as much as faith can be looked at as a form of works, I do not have to be allergic to it in the discussions, because Scripture uses it. We did not invent the words and statements in the Bible, the HS did.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maier's Paper

Dr. Ichabod is sponsoring a discussion on Maier's paper "A Summary Exposition of The Doctrine of Justification By Grace Through Faith".

I am interested in such discussions primarily because justification is something I have been quickly ushered out of when I first believed as a Pentecostal. They have a notion of "being born again" but have no clue what justification is, when asked.

I believe Maier's paper is a finely written paper. It is a fair and good critique of Pieper's "overstatements", and based on my observation that term - "overstatements" is an appropriate label to use as to what has happened. Maier says

It appears, however, that some of the synodical fathers particularly in using and defining the expression “objective justification” (or “objective reconciliation”) have made certain overstatements which have created semantic difficulties and may in our day give rise to misunderstanding of New Testament teachings regarding justification, reconciliation, and related doctrines

Maier is spot on, it has created semantic confusion (I dare say) in the discussion of a so important topic. Here is an example from Pieper:

Now, then, if the Father raised Christ from the dead, He, by this glorious resurrection act, declared that the sins of the whole world are fully expiated, or atoned for, and that all mankind is now regarded as righteous before His divine tribunal.
[emphasis mine]

Huh? Righteous? You mean the Muslim and the Atheist and what nots, who do not believe in Christ, are righteous before God's eyes, before they believe? Hang on, they presently do not believe in Christ so - they are now righteous even without faith in Christ? That sounds a bit universalistic to me.

Maier praises and gives credit to Pieper where he spoke consistently with Scripture but likewise, Maier points out where Pieper overstated his case. This overstating is also something I find in a few of the venerable C. F. W. Walther's essays.

I know Pieper and Walther are holy church fathers of Lutheranism in America. However, I doubt if these people, had they been living today, would feel bad about your disagreeing with them.

As I was reading this - one of the titles of the Lord - Redeemer came into my mind and how appropriate that title is for Jesus. I think in that title we get all the doctrine of justification implies and in great precision. Redeemer as a title denotes the truth that he is the payer of the sinner's sins; it also denotes the ransoming of the sinner from the punishment of God.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Purgatorial musings

HT: Carrie, Acroamaticus

See the HT. I have been looking at interchanges on this subject. One thing that attracted me is this book:

Hungry Souls:
Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory
By: Gerard J.M. Van Den Aardweg

What got my attention is that this is purported to be written by a Luther dude. It says:

After a week of hearing ghostly noises, a man is visited in his home by the spirit of his mother, dead for three decades. She reproaches him for his dissolute life and begs him to have Masses said in her name. Then she lays her hand on his sleeve, leaving an indelible burn mark, and departs...

A Lutheran minister, no believer in Purgatory, is the puzzled recipient of repeated visitations from "demons" who come to him seeking prayer, consolation, and refuge in his little German church. But pity for the poor spirits overcomes the man's skepticism, and he marvels at what kind of departed souls could belong to Christ and yet suffer still...

Hungry Souls recounts these stories and many others trustworthy, Church-verified accounts of earthly visitations from the dead in Purgatory. Accompanying these accounts are images from the "Museum of Purgatory" in Rome, which contains relics of encounters with the Holy Souls, including numerous evidences of hand prints burned into clothing and books; burn marks that cannot be explained by natural means or duplicated by artificial ones.

Now think about this for a moment. So, God allows souls in Purgatory to bop up and down, visit earth and speak to people like this Lutheran pastor? And rather than this Lutheran pastor going to Scripture and rejecting his experience, no, he gets to become and Enthusiast.

Precisely, what kind of departed soul who belongs to Christ and yet suffer still.

When Saul visited the Witch of Endor, Samuel apparently appeared to him. Consulting mediums is not something God approves. I guess my point is that this pastor should have gone with his first impression, that these are demons coming to help spread false doctrine.

I do not believe Purgatory is Biblical for a very simple reason - If Jesus did not pay it all, Jesus did not pay it at all. (J.K. you might recall this is a Baptist quote). No matter what RC teaching on it happens to be and how nuanced their presentation of it happens to be, it is a spurious doctrine that has immense impact on the doctrine of justification.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

So now what?

What do I do now?

Yesterday felt surreal. I was in a daze as I drove myself to the uni. The project that began almost 6 years ago has finally reached the finish line. The one big mistake I made, getting into a doctorate program in logic, finally culminated, is now off my hair. I submitted my dissertation/thesis. Now it is in the hands of examiners. We'll see what they say later.

I was one of the lucky ones in that my supervisor allowed me to take a problem and run with it. Other times, it is not that way. Normally, the supervisor has a line of research topics and you come on board with him. But my supervisor whom I lovingly called "Prof" watched and guided me like a father, standing behind me, urging me on, yet often looking ahead for me, telling me where to turn and what to expect when I do. He did not give me vague directions. That is the difference, my Prof was a master logician and mathematician. When he gives directions, they are always specific, unless he wanted me to learn things by myself. He gave me no philosophically hazy comments.

So meet my Prof.

There is something providential with my relationship with (Emeritus) Prof. Crossley that I now realize. When I was finishing my undergrad in Manila, my logic teacher took us to a seminar where I sat down and listened to this Oxford man give a lecture on some esoteric topic relating algebra to logic (if I recall). I could not recall what was said really, I did recall the tall lanky gentleman with a beard writing on the black board. Little did I know some 30 years later he would be my supervisor. I wondered about this turn of events and I am still mesmerized of how providence (I would say the Lord) cooked this up. I owe this man a lot for my education and the Lord for his mercy. I told the Lord I would not be studying again but I went back on my word, so this thesis was punishment for braking my vows. I have been disobedient yet, the Lord has mercy.

Well that thesis project was a part of my life for more than 5 years. I toiled, went through highs and lows, deprived myself of job offers, deprived of sleep, deprived of rest and recreation, left me with dreams of formulas, left the missus on her own watching TV, she sometimes went to bed on her own while I was tied to the desk typing till 2AM. One time I noticed sleeping on a problem and waking up with those symbols banging on my head. I would say, "honey, just one more theorem to prove, just one more proof and I am done", not true. No wonder some maths geeks go nuts and become mental. It can crack damage the brain. So this thing pre-occupied my life, I was at a loss when I submitted the dissertation yesterday. So I think I owe the missus also for my education since she felt the effect of this project, the sad effect, the part that hurt.

I feel like I was going through some withdrawal symptoms. I was disoriented wondering, so what do I do now? It was for sure a journey, so where do I go now?

Lord Jesus, thank you for letting me submit, you must have thought of me as being silly when I enrolled 6 years ago. I love you for your mercy towards me, I do not deserve it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

So it is our fault again?

I heard someone said that the demise of Evangelicalism is due to the Baby Boomers.

Why is it our fault now? We are the market, it is not our fault if the marketeers attract us and customized their product for our consumption, is it?

Go easy on us baby boomers. Most of us have aging parents, and many of us are caring for those who have gone before and those who are going after us. Most fellow baby boomers I know are in this situation. Many of us are gradually becoming mourners, burying their loved ones if not their friends. Like me, they have nothing for their retirement.