Friday, November 14, 2008

The BoC lied about Augustine...

This is the charge that Dan Woodring of Beatus Vir is making against the BoC, (and perhaps the reason why he became an RC) .

You will find his charges in the post Lutheranism: Only Half of the Gospel. Here is the snippet...

The day I stopped being a Lutheran was when I realized that the Book of Concord lied about what Augustine and the Catholic Church taught on Justification. I realized I could not subscribe to a book that was untruthful. Why couldn't they make their case, and say "We disagree with Augustine" and present the Roman Catholic view accurately and make their case without distorting the position of their opponents?

His charge is worth discussing and is worthy of serious thought. Asside from that, I have never heard such a charge before, it is new to me and interesting. Note I do not know everything, if someone can show me why his charge should not be taken seriously, let me know since that is the purpose of the discussion. It is interesting because it entails an exercise on BoC exegesis. Lastly, I wish to answer the charge. My answer will need further development (I have to admit), but all I need is to cast reasonable doubt on the charge.

I asked Dan if he can cite in the BoC wherein it explicitly misrepresented Augustine or the Fathers on the subject of Justification. The best he could come up was this...

"We know that that what we have said agrees with the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, with the holy Fathers Ambrose, Augustine, and many others, and with the whole Church of Christ, which certainly confesses that Christ is the propitiator and the justifier."

(you will find it in the comments here)

This is found in the Apology of Augsburg III(Love and Fulfilling the Law), 268.

We have a few questions: What is the meaning of the phrase "what we have said"? Did this refer to those things in Article III, Article II, or those things inclusive from the start? For Dan ,I believe this meant all of the things said thus far... at a minimum, perhaps Article II(Justification).

This raises several nuanced questions with my answers, what is yours?

1. What does it mean to subscribe to the BoC ?Is it verbatim subscription?
I for one do not consider the BoC inspired, I consider only Scripture is inspired. I examined the claims of the BoC against Scripture and I find its exposition accurate. Further, I do not subscribe to the words per se, but I subscribe to the meaning of those words. Thus I subscribe to the intent or semantics of those words. The BoC is not another set of Laws to me.

2. How should the BoC be read?
I read it paying particular attention to its context and the intent of the writer, i.e. content. For example, I have spotted Luther in the Large Catechism, quoting Scripture from memory and his reference was wrong.

So in this regard, I wish to answer the charge against the alleged lying performed by the BoC in AP III, 268.

1.) First let me note what its says i.e. what it asserts. Technically, 268 is not explicitly saying that the Fathers believed in Reformation Justification in toto like the Augsburgians do. Look again at the statement - it asserts that the Fathers believed that Jesus is the Propitiator and Justifier. Now, tell me, is there a Church Father that would deny this? Ask ourselves as reasonably as we can, would Augustine or Ambrose deny this - that Jesus is the Propitiator/Justifier?

2.) The assertion belongs to a whole swag of sentences and belongs in the paragraph which started in 262. Read it here for yourself. Notice it argues for the good thing called - faith (in the Christian sense), that faith produces a confession, that the Church ends its prayers in an appeal for the sake of Christ, that faith apprehends the promise of reconciliation, it quickens, that the Law cannot be observed without Christ etc. Proper hermeneutics says that the statement should be understood within its context and the domain of that context, it is safe to assume, is that paragraph and not necessarily beyond it. The question that one should ask is this...Would Augustine or Ambrose object to the statements made in this paragraph? I suggest NO.

The burden is with Dan to show that the Fathers denied this.

3.) I argue that the 268 clip forms part of Melanchton's rhetorics. For example when we are illustrating a point, our point is not in the minutae but in the overall thrust the statement is making. Hence, in saying "Good men, indeed, will easily judge these things", he was not implying he has interview all good men around the world. That is not his point, not in the details but what is reasonable to assume. Further he also used the phrase "many others" in the paragraph, and the phrase "we know what we said agrees". These phrases are rhetorical elements. To illustrate, I know certain things, and what I know, you as a reader do not necessarily know. I also could be wrong in what I know to be consistent with facts. For Melanchton, what is contained in the paragraph flows from the assertion that the Church has always made - that Jesus is Propitiator/Justifier. For him, this is what it means[at least those in the paragraph, or Article III ] to make such confession about the Christ. I argue that 268 forms part of Melanchton's rhetorics to show that what was just said (at a minimum) on Love and Fulfilling The Law, the Scripture (I believe for sure) and the Fathers would not assail.

On those 3 points I suggested above, I believe the charge is flawed.

[PS. Welcome if you are a visiting from Boar's Head Tavern]


Paul McCain said...

Just ignore the man. Woodring was a failure as a pastor and the only way to affix "blame" for his burn-out in the ministry was for him to assume all of Lutheranism is wrong. Ignoring him is the kindest thing that can be done at this point.

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Paul,

I appreciate your comment.

I do not know the man but I thought his charge was unfair.

I examined the BoC on justification against Scripture and I am satisfied with its exposition, that is why I adopted the confession.

I should think I do not need my faith to be validated by the Fathers ( that would be a bonus but not mandatory).


William Weedon said...

I disagree with my friend, Pr. McCain, on his assessment of Dan's ministry and his motivation for coming under the Roman obedience. But I also vehemently deny Dan's words about the BOC lying about St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. I think you hit the nail on the head, Lito: the BOC is affirming that we are saved by divine mercy and grace and that these fathers are prime witnesses to that apostolic teaching in the fourth century. There are others who witness just as well, of course. I think particularly of St. John Chrysostom who frequently employed even the phrase "faith alone." Reading the fathers themselves is a great curative to the Roman and Orthodox propaganda. No, the fathers were by no means infallible (and they admit such readily!), but especially when they are treating of the key justification texts in Romans, Galatians, Philippians and such, they clearly swing to the Lutheran, rather than the alternative, side.

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Will,

Thanks for dropping in.

One of the things that impressed me with Lutherans is their frankness or brutally honest way of dealing with Biblical issues. For example, Lutherans admit their lack of knowledge about some hard questions. This is different when I was in Evangelicalism, over there you are to be embarrassed if you have no answer. Lutherans would rather admit lack of knowledge rather than venture an answer which is wrong and misleads people. They talk when Scripture talks and shut up when Scripture has no word.

So in that tradition I am willing to feature Dan's charges; I believe we have nothing to fear nor hide.

Actually I was reminded of John Chrysostom when I was thinking of this and most of what I know he said about justification I learned and read from your blog.

It seems to me that Melanchton was arguing from the fact that the Church has always asserted Jesus is the Propitiator/Justifier. All of the things he argued and said were and elaboration of what that assertion entails or is implied in the Christian's life.


Dan Woodring said...


I want to thank-you for putting forth your answer in such a clear and straight forward manner. Your response was well thought out. Of course, I still disagree with it, but at least I am clear about what you are saying. Thank-you for taking the time on this. (And I don't intend to fault you for past post which have not been as clear to me. I think it is largely due to cultural differences or just not checking grammar, of which I am as bad as anyone I know)

I want to say to my friend Paul, that he is at liberty to ignore me all he wants, he is at liberty to vehemently disagree with me like my other friend William. He is not, however, at liberty to judge me uncharitibly without knowing my heart or motives. To take that liberty, is to be a failure as a Christian. Paul, you are better than this.

LP, You make two points that I want to address:

Your chief point that the citation in question refers to only a smaller part of the article, and is not meant to mean that Augustine agreed with the Lutherans on all points regarding justification. I believe that the force of using Augustine here is to validate the entire Lutheran position as the (supposedly) true catholic and ancient understanding of the Church. This, as you know, is the constant refrain of the confessions. For example:

From the Augsburg Confession, conclusion to part one:

1] Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times...

from the Augsburg Confession Conclusion:

This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. (would not Augustine be one of those "writers").

If you want other references of this kind, ask Weedon. He knows them by heart, and if my memory is correct, he compiled a list with his Eastern Orthodox friends.

In the interest of honesty and truthfulness, why didn't the Lutheran Confessors just say:

Look, we know that what we teach on justification is contrary to the Tradition of the Church. We realize that Augustine taught something different on Sola Fide, the merits of good works, original sin, etc. We understand that it is extremely difficult to substantiate our position through the Church's past teachers and fathers. But gosh darnit, we read the Bible and have discovered the true Gospel. We don't claim the support of any church father or any ancient tradition or canon. We don't need to. We got the Bible, and are convinced that it teaches our position. After all, church fathers have been in error before.

Be that as it may, you have placed the burden on me of showing that Augustine differed from the BOC. I would say that the burden is on you to show that the claims of the confession are truthful. But since the bible says to bear one anothers burdens, I will take this one for you. (I've actually wanted to document my findings regarding the use of Augustine in the BOC, so I am glad to do so.) But as you know, this documentation will take some effort and time, and I beg your patience as I work on it.

Lastly, you spoke of what it means to subscribe to the BOC. There are, of course, differing views on this. I, as you may have guessed, no longer have an opinion on the matter. I can say that I took it very seriously (which I know you also do) and, from my former point of view, my subscription included not only the doctrines, but also the formulations, from which I was not willing to depart "even a fingers breadth." (as it says in the preface to the BOC.) Unconditional, to me, meant no conditions. Not exegesis. Not the form of the argument. And etc. My ordination vows did not allow me to exclude exegesis, formulation, argumentation from my subscription. Not a single loophole was afforded me.
You may argue that such a view is wrong, but like I said, it doesn't matter to me anymore.I realize that you wouldn't "fit" in the Missouri Synod, nor do I know whether or not your church is even in fellowship with Missouri.

I said that the day I realized that the BOC lied about Augustine was the day I could no longer be a Lutheran. You are making the argument that even should you agree with me on this point, it wouldn't really matter toward your being a Lutheran. I will grant you this point because I do not believe that this argument about Augustine, if proven to be true, will require everyone to abandon Lutheranism. Nor do I wish to imply that I abandonned Lutherism for this reason alone. So there you go, even if I convince you, you don't have to become a papist like me.


But I would like to ask a question, unrelated to St. Augustine. You said, "I for one do not consider the BoC inspired, I consider only Scripture is inspired. I examined the claims of the BoC against Scripture and I find its exposition accurate." Wait. Two questions.

1. How do you know whether or not you are understanding the Scripture for what it really means, and are not interpreting it according an analogy of faith you learned from the BOC?

2. If you examine the claims of the boc against scripture, and only accept those claims because they are in agreement with Scripture (which in your case, I presume, includes all the doctrinal claims), I just wonder, of what value is any kind of confessional subscription at all? Isn't the Bible enough?

I realize these are off topic, and if you prefer to address them another time, that is fine with me.

All the best,

Jim Pierce said...

Dan writes,

"I said that the day I realized that the BOC lied about Augustine..."

Dan, that is a pretty strong claim. You would have to know the motives of those writing the BoC in order to know they lied; and given your words to Pr. McCain above concerning judging charitably, I would think you will want to afford the same sort of charitable judgment for Luther, Melanchton, and Chemnitz.

Furthermore, you aren't going to be able to find evidence that the writers of the BoC intended to lie within the Lutheran Confessions. I think it is safe to say that you are better off retracting your statement that a lie has been told. You might be able to make a case that the writers are mistaken, and it could be that you are mistaken in your interpretation of the text.

Any way, my point is over the charge that a "lie" has been told. I don't see how you can prove a lie was intended. You may be able to prove a mistake may have been made, but that is certainly not to be confused with an intent to deceive.


Past Elder said...

Well I'll be double dipped. As a Tiber swimmer myself, except I swam out, I guess I gotta jump in.

We'll leave aside that Vatican II Catholicism is more a repudiation of Roman Catholicism than anything coming out of the Reformation without so much as a mention.

Instead, let's ask two questions.

1. How do you know whether or not you are understanding the Scripture for what it really means, and are not interpreting it according an analogy of faith you learned from the RCC?

2. If you examine the claims of the Scripture against the RCC, and only accept those claims because they are in agreement with the RCC, I just wonder, of what value is any kind of Scripture at all? Isn't the RCC enough?

L P Cruz said...


Thanks also for a level-headed response.

re: your need for some time to show Augustine's deviation from BoC, do not worry. There is no hurry.

On this issue however, I believe, it should not be hard in some sense because Augustine and the BoC spoke of topics that are not congruent with each other. I suggest you confine on the topic of justification.

But at any rate, Dan, it would prove irrelevant. I say this because the trust of the BoC's arguments is not confined to Augustine's. Note in 268, the first appeal is to the Scripture. It is more important to show that the BoC is wrong in its treatment of Scripture.

Also Dan, it is not a matter of taking burdens at this point because in the rules of debate, it is incumbent on you to show where the BoC lied. I say this because it is you who is making the charge. I on the defense, only have to show reasonable doubt, you on the other hand must show beyond reasonable doubt that the BoC lied.

Dan, I am interested in the formula used in your ordination. As you know I am from an Australian Synod. My synod is only an associate member of LWF and an associate member of ILC. So I am not sure regarding the pulpit fellowship. However, Dan, I should have thought that you should have examined the BoC in all aspects that you required before you went in for your ordination vows. For example, you required that it be Augustine 100% compliant but the BoC is an open book for you to read and check in its assertions. I for one only require that it be accurate in its handling of Scripture. For it to be compliant with the Fathers is a good thing but Scriptural adherence for me is mandatory. At the end of the day and at the last day, Jesus said it is his words that will judge us. I can not present to him the words of Luther or Augustine.

On this regard I do not think the LCMS and its leaders have short changed you. When it ordained you, it was giving you the benefit of the doubt that you had done the homework and assumed you knew what you were doing.

Nevertheless, you are to be commended in leaving because you can no longer confess the same things as your Synod; only that they should be released from any suggestion they took part in misleading you. I was ordained by the AOG here, and I returned my credentials to them long before I became a Lutheran because of priciples and methods they used that I believe were incompatible with Scripture, so I can appreciate when one leaves a denomination that ordained him.

Just a side note, the LCMS and the internet helped tipped me over to the Lutheran confessions but I have my own mind and I use some tools (I studied NT Greek/ OT Hebrew in uni) to help me see what the arguments are and what is going on with the text. Hence, my pastors friends in my Synod, does not come to me and cannot come to me and say - you'd better believe the BoC whether you understand it or not or you are damned. They got to do better than that.

Which now leads me to your questions.

1. How do you know whether or not you are understanding the Scripture for what it really means, and are not interpreting it according an analogy of faith you learned from the BOC?

Because I can read it in the original text and I can follow what is going on in the arguments. I follow a concept of testing hypothesis and logical principles like reduction absurdum etc. I check a proposed interpretation against the text. Even the analogy of faith has to have a Biblical basis, thus even Law and Gosple Hermeneutic has to pass Scripture (eg. Gal 3:24). I personally can not simply rely on an authority like the Fathers because it entails the same thing -- exegeting them. Hence, for example if a Father proposes an intepretation - it is incumbent upon me to consider his evidences against the text of Scripture (test his hypothesis) - hence it can be rejected if there are evidences that it mishandled the text etc.

2. If you examine the claims of the boc against scripture, and only accept those claims because they are in agreement with Scripture (which in your case, I presume, includes all the doctrinal claims), I just wonder, of what value is any kind of confessional subscription at all? Isn't the Bible enough?

I understand sola scriptura to mean of prime authority but not only the authority. Creeds have values because they are summaries of scripture but creeds must satisfy Scriptural faithfulness first. For example the Apostle's Creed is a summary of Scripture. But we know that the Arians and the Modalists can subscribe to the words of this creed and put their own spin on the text of the Creed necessitating the formulation of the Nicene Creed.

Let me go back to the Fathers. Augustine is one of the many mentioned in the BoC and I am wondering why the emphasis on him? In the BoC, invariably Ambrose is mentioned with him, which I believe judging on the quotes in the internet, this guy I believe taught what the BoC also taught. The only one I have examined in great detail so far is Clement of Rome, and in this regard, I am satisfied that he taught what the BoC implied. Here is my argument, found here...

Lastly, I think we are underestimating Luther and Melanchton if we think they are not familiar with the Fathers. Luther can even quote Canon Law better than Cajetan. Also I think they would have been stupid to purposely mislead their readers in painting the Fathers to be JBFA proponents without attending support. I donot believe these men are stupid enough to pull the wool over the eyes of their readers.

So, I am siding with Jim, you can atleast prove they are mistaken but I do not think they lied. I of course will wait with patience your proof/documentation.


L P Cruz said...

Oops, I just saw the reply of P.E. and I believe they are points that should be well taken.

Indeed Dan, even if I can be charged of using my own fallible mind to interpret Scripture. The same can be applied to anyone, they are using their own fallible minds to judge that the RCC is correct.

The thing though is that when called upon by God, we will present what we deemed to be correct in front of God.


Dan Woodring said...


The flaw in your logic is the idea that it is impossible to know what the intention was of those responsible for the Lutheran Confessions. It is possible to know, through deductive reasoning.

There are three plausible possibilities:

1. The confessors understood Augustine's doctrine on grace, and presented his doctrine inaccurately in the BOC. (no intention to deceive)

2. The confessors misunderstood Augustine's doctrine of grace, and presented his doctrine inaccurately. (again, no intention to deceive)

3. The confessors understood Augustine's doctrine of grace, but presented his doctrine inaccurately in the BOC. (intention to deceive).

Allow me to provide an analogy:

Mother asks her only daughter Sally, "Did you take the cookie from the cookie jar." Sally did take it, but replies, "Why no, I didn't take the cookie from the cookie jar." You have a similar set of options:

1. Sally understood the question and spoke the truth.
2. Sally misunderstood the question, and answered mistakenly. (but with no intention to deceive)
3. Sally spoke deceptively.

Option 1 cannot be true because she did, in fact, take the cookie.

Option 2 cannot be true because it is clear from her answer that she understood the question, and she herself knew whether or not she had taken the cookie.

Option 3 is the only possibility left.

So when it comes to Augustine, I can assert the the "BOC lied", meaning it's framers, based on these two facts:

1. Their presentation was not the truth about what Augustine taught.

2. They understood what Augustine taught, which can be seen from additional writings and the record of history.

If I am wrong about either one of those, then you can say that my arguement is flawed.

Jim Pierce said...

Hi Dan,

You wrote, "The flaw in your logic is the idea that it is impossible to know what the intention was of those responsible for the Lutheran Confessions."

No. That would be a stronger argument than the one I presented in which it is implied that it is possible they lied, but unlikely given the evidence.

Just to be clear, the quote you provided from the BoC does not demonstrate a lie. At worst you might have found a mistake, but I think it is more likely you are misunderstanding the text.

The three options you present supports my argument. If we accept your options for the sake of argument, it is more likely intentional deceit is not involved.

We could add two more perfectly valid options to your three though:

1) The reader is mistaken in his interpretation of the text;

2) The reader is purposely misrepresenting the text.

I am sure even more valid options could be presented, but again, the odds are the side that no deceit is involved.

The "cookie stealing" analogy doesn't work, since the interrogation of "Sally" reveals she is making a claim contrary to a fact. In this case, you haven't proven a fact regarding the BoC. You have provided an opinion regarding the intentions of the writers of the BoC.

Past Elder said...

Sally did take it.

The problem is, in that to which you wish to analogise, you don't know that Sally did take it.

Roman ecclesiology in nuce et in ovo:

The Roman church is the true church founded by Jesus Christ on the Petrine Ministry and the bishops in communion with it because the Roman church, which is the true church founded by Jesus Christ on the Petrine Ministry and the bishops in communion with it, says it is the true church founded by Jesus Christ on the Petrine Ministry and the bishops in communion with it.

L P Cruz said...

Just to let everyone the problem of knowing is dealt with in what is called (at least in my field) epistemic logic.

In the analogy of Sally, the one relating has super-knowlegde (because it is a hypothetical situation) but in actuality the one asking Sally does not know the truth.

Anyway the thread is not about Sally, the whole point is that we may assert X but if X does not have an evidence Y, then X remains a suggestion, an opinion.

In my readings of the BoC and specially my favorite the AP, it never came accross to me as proving its point because it is thorough goingly Augustinian all the way. It proved its point because of what Scripture said, that is more what I got.


Jim Pierce said...

Hi Lito,

Yes, I understood that the person setting up the hypothetical has "super knowledge" as you called it; but what I should have been more clear over is that Mr. Woodring's analogy fails because of question begging. In short, the analogy fails because it is already assumed "Sally" has stolen prior to setting up Sally's statements. Another way of saying this is that the three conditions of the analogy, as set up by Dan, don't make sense unless a context is first provided.

In case I am not making sense let's examine the following three hypothetical statements:

1) Joseph lied to the police.
2) Joseph may have inadvertently, and unbeknownst to him, lied to the police.
3) Joseph didn't lie to the police.

Those three statements will make little sense to anyone without a context. Indeed, the only way to determine the truth of any one of the statements is to determine if, in fact, Joseph lied to the police. We can only come to such a conclusion with prior knowledge of facts that show us he indeed did lie. But we don't have such prior knowledge; therefore we can't determine the truth of any of the conditions presented. In fact, we can't even begin to eliminate 2) and 3) above unless we first assume, implicitly or explicitly, the truth of 1). This is what Dan has done with his analogy.

I should have been more clear in my posting yesterday, but I was extremely tired and not thinking clearly. :)

Past Elder said...

That's what I bloody said -- you know "Sally took it" on one side of the analogy, but not on the other, therefore there is no analogy.

So hell yes, it's an epistemological questioning of your ontological situation. Or as we say on the street, how do you know that?

God bless me sideways.

Jim Pierce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L P Cruz said...


Agreed, the thing to prove is the thing asserted which is begging the question.

As PE said in his witty way (funny guy he is), how the heck do you know that?

God bless me too bottom side up (LOL).

PS. I read somewhere that Alistair McGrath dealt with Augustine's iustificare in his book Iustitia Dei

Paul McCain said...

Apparently I've ruffled a few feathers with my remarks. That's ok.

Let's lay it down here plainly, folks.

I see no point in pursuing baseless, silly accusations from a man who has abandoned his Lutheran Confession, hitched his star to the Papal wagon and is now, as per the usual, lobbing in potshots at Lutheranism from his newly found church, from a blog that allows him to exercise himself, if you will pardon the pun, in self-justification of his departure.

The facts simply are these, and if Mr. Woodring does not like these things being said, then he would do well to stop attacking the Lutheran Confessions.

Mr. Woodring persistently has severe problems in the ministry. He was, in my opinion, in no emotional state to make a decision to "solve" his problems by ditching his confession. But apparently it was easier to do that than to deal with the other issues.

I see no point however in indulging him even by entertaining his accusations, taking them seriously and giving them "play" here or elsewhere.

The best thing we can do, and should do, is ignore the man. That is what St. Paul says to do in Romans 16:17. It's time we do that, and simply speak to Mr. Woodring the words he needs to hear at this time: Repent, and believe the Gospel.