Sunday, August 29, 2010

Luther on Works

Paul Althaus is considered to be the authoritative Luther scholar around. I got the following Luther quotes from his book The Theology of Martin Luther. Listen to what Luther says about the role of works...

True faith is not idle. We can therefore, ascertain and recognize those who have true faith from the effect or from what follows. WA 39I, 114; LW 34, 183

Works are a certain sign, like a seal on a letter, which makes me certain that my faith is genuine. As a result if I examine my heart and find that my works are done in love, then I am certain that my faith is genuine. WA 10III,225.

Love is evidence of faith and gives us firm and certain confidence in the mercy of God; thus we are commended to make our calling certain by good works (II Peter 1:10). WA 39II,248.

Works assure us and bear witness before men and the brethren and even before our own selves that we truly believe and that we are sons of God in hope and heirs of eternal life. WA 39I, 293.

I went to Althaus' book after I listened to some pastor being interviewed. Clearly, according to Althaus, Luther considered the certainty of salvation as partially dependent on this new obedience. It is sad when Lutheranism is portrayed by its own adherents as if it was antinomian. Luther, the name from which the denomination got its name, was none of that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Theologians can learn from Computer Scientists

I am a multi-lingual individual, I speak C++, Java, SQL, Perl, TCL, PHP, Scheme etc. ( all programming languages, LOL).

In programming languages, they have a concept called "reserved words". When you program, the programming language (any one of them!) allows you to name your own variables, constants, class names and function names. You are allowed to go for it! However there is a caveat, you are not allowed to use the programming language's reserved words. These words are solely for the use of the programming language because its semantics is locked in. You are not allowed to use these reserved words for your naming of variables, constants, class names and function names.

For example, in Java, if you say this...

int return;
Java will trap you and won't move further in its analysis of your code (hence, we say it won't compile). The reason is that you have used the reserved word return to name your integer variable. That word is reserved for Java. You did something illegal.

I think the Bible does the same. Right now I can identify a couple of words that are "reserved words" by Scripture. One of them is "justification" and the other is "predestination".

The Bible exclusively uses these words in reference to believers in the Gospel of Christ only. It does not use it any other way.

If you can identify some more, let me know.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Theology of Pronouns

I am just thinking out loud. I just noticed something.

Scripture uses pronouns such as "we", "us", "our". Getting this wrong spells the universe of difference and can slide you down to errors of mega proportion.

1. Type I error: When Scripture uses "we/us/our" to refer to human beings collectively, but one interprets it as a reference to believers. With this error, no one could ever be a believer and the Scripture can never be availed of for comfort.

2. Type II error: When Scripture uses "we/us/our" to refer to believers, but one interprets it as a reference to human beings collectively. With this error, everyone is a believer and whatever Scripture says, nothing matters, since every one is a child of God hence, comforts the one in their sins.

In my study, Old Lutheran JBFA (repeat I mean BoC JBFA teaching), gets the above correctly and delineates between the two ways Scripture uses the above pronouns. I may be called biased but honestly, the BoC is a respectable document. I would prefer to read it second to the Scripture and I even prefer to read it rather than the works of Synodical Fathers. One should stop circling the wagons.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Turn

It is my turn to do a public seminar. No, it is not formally a public lecture which Australian universities, following the British tradition, constantly offer and I enjoy attending.

I am to give a small talk about my proposal for the use of a particular technique in the field of agent technology for people researching in AI and Agents. Though this is a seminar addressed to the academics in the that field, in Australia, it also functions like a public seminar. It is free for people to attend if they are interested. It does not matter what their background might be, it is offered free to any who might just fancy to listen. At the end of the talk, it is customary for the presenter to give 15 minutes for question and answers and this is where things get interesting. Since it is a type of public gathering, you would not know where the questions would be coming from and so I expect to be taken to the barn for a bit of whipping, i.e. my ideas will be challenged and put to the test in a cordial and gentlemanly manner. In this process, either my ideas or the questioner's ideas get taken seriously or simply dismissed as the prating of a fool.

It is not for the sensitive and the big ego.

Some of my blog readers (who formerly got me in their blog roll now no more) do not understand why I do not consciously moderate the blog. It is because it is in that spirit of public lecture that this blog is being run.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

What Theologians can learn from Mathematicians

Theologians of the systematic kind (you know who) love to do deductions. The problem is that in their business of deduction, they have hidden axioms which may not be axioms at all.

Mathematicians on the other hand are not legally allowed to make deductions if the step does not conform to a deduction rule or is not supported by an axiom. So what are axioms? They are propositions that are self evidently true. For example in human logic, P v ~P (P or Not P) is an axiom (now to mess up your mind a bit, there is one logic system where this is not an axiom, think about the implication of that for a moment). This is evidently true, right? It is obvious a thing cannot be white and not white at the same time, etc.

Good Systematic Theologians stay with their axioms and proper exegesis. The axioms in systematic theology are gathered or sourced from Scripture. This is why I find it astounding when a systematic theologian does not do exegesis first, but rather wants me to go by rapid conceptualizations and make deductions from there. Statements in Scripture are axioms because God defines them to be God's Word and God's Word is true.

From what I have seen good Lutheran theologians stick close to their axioms(Scripture), and those who don't, ergo, are bad. For example, the BoC refuses to conclude there is double predestination though it affirms that God predestines believers. Logically the BoC may be thought of as strange in this regard. However, the BoC refuses to go the deductive route of asserting double predestination because the word "predestine" is only found in reference to believers and never in connection with un-believers. Hence, they are staying close to the statements of Scripture, their axioms. It just sound and responsible scholarship to be that way.