SuperHyperCalvinisticexpyaladoh! Part Deux

Yesterday I put forth a rather critical post regarding Calvinistic Baptist Pr. Don Fortner's criticisms of universal atonement. In his sermon "If Christ Died for All" he came up with 14 "blasphemies" of universal atonement. I addressed the first two in the first blog. I'll be addressing many more here. The first blog post can be found here:

Part 1 - Hyper Drivel

Don't matter. Either Jesus died for you or not.
The doctrine of universal atonement is blasphemous because:

3. Teaching a universal atonement reduces the wisdom of God to foolishness.

I'm not sure what he's trying to say here, unless it's that Christ couldn't possibly die for everyone because God is omniscient and His plan is always perfect. Thus, since God elected some persons, that means Christ simply couldn't have died for those whom the Father did not elect. This stance is based on the Reformed doctrine of the Pactum Salutis, also known as the Covenant of Redemption. This is a pre-creative covenant in which the Father, the Son, and the Spirit make a covenant to carry out the plan of redemption. In short, the Father elects people, the Son comes and atones for them, and then the Spirit regenerates them in due time.

Mr. T pities you, Pr. Fortner.
OK, so I get the Pactum Salutis. It fits nicely in the Calvinistic system. But to say that a universal atonement reduces the wisdom of God to foolishness, is, well, foolishness. Especially in light of Holy Scripture.

In this case, the Calvinistic rationalism has gotten the best of Pr. Fortner. Instead of simply turning to Holy Scripture and believing what is written, he instead decides to erect emotional arguments against the traditional and proper Christian stance of universal atonement. So you disagree with it, we get that. You're entitled to be wrong and to be a hyper Calvinist. But really, "universal atonement reduces the wisdom of God to foolishness?" Come on, you can do better. Which you actually did in #4.

4. Teaching a universal atonement is a denial of the justice of God.

This is a tougher one to deal with. Why is this so? Because this is the classic Calvinist "double jeopardy" argument. It goes something like this: If Christ paid for a person's sins, then that person cannot go to hell, because that would make God unjust for punishing that person's sins twice - once on Christ and then again on them.

But...what if a person rejects Christ? What if they despise the Lamb who died for them? Then what? The Calvinist says this is not possible. Scripture says otherwise.

The double jeopardy argument makes a lot of logical sense but in the end it's nothing more than an unnecessary logical leap that is not required by the text of Holy Scripture. Mainly, because it ends up denying Holy Scripture in some places, and that's just not good.

5. Teaching a universal atonement reduces the omnipotence of almighty God to impotence weaker than the will of man!

Yeah, if you're talking about Pelagianism, sure. I can get on board with this criticism if it's aimed in that direction and in that direction only.

To be succinct, a universal atonement in itself does not lead to those conclusions. Sorry, Pr. Fortner, you've made a false argument here.

Lutheranism teaches a universal atonement. But we're also monergists and God's saving grace actually saves in Lutheranism.

6. Teaching a universal atonement asserts that the immutable God is, after all, fickle, mutable, and changeable.

Uh...no it doesn't. Pr. Fortner here again makes a leap of logic and connects God's foreknowledge or foreordination with the atonement and surmises something like this:

God ordained everything.
God elected the elect and no one else.
Therefore, Christ only died for them and no one else.

Or else He's not immutable. And stuff.

Sorry, but the argument doesn't flow and is unscriptural to boot. God is immutable. Truth. Christ died for everyone. Truth. Believe it, it's just Scripture.

7. Teaching a universal atonement robs God of his glory in salvation.

You see where these arguments all head to? They're aimed at free-will theologies and synergism. All of them. Of course, this makes every argument Pr. Fortner erects false, because universal atonement does not require synergism. His sermon would be better off aimed at Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, not universal atonement.

So, does universal atonement rob God of His glory in salvation? No, not at all.It grounds salvation -all of it- in the work of Christ alone. It also grounds condemnation -all of it- in man alone.

Hmm...isn't that what Lutheranism teaches? Yeah, thought so.

8. Teaching a universal atonement denies the satisfaction of Christ.

No, no, no it doesn't. What denies the satisfaction of Christ is adding something to His work. Of course, the high Calvinist defaults back to Owen's trilemma (see first post) here.

We teach that the atonement in itself is sufficient and effective for everyone universally. It must be given to you through Word and Sacrament to be received by faith alone, however.

The high Calvinist counters that it is Christ's death plus nothing that brings the elect and only the elect to faith and repentance. We agree here for the most part. Christ's death saves. Plus zero. But it must be received. You know, by Holy Baptism, the preaching of the Gospel, and the true body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. And stuff.

The high Calvinist ultimately cuts out the means of grace as effectual; making grace completely unmediated, or only sometimes mediated - but only to the elect. It also raises questions about justification by faith alone.

9. Teaching a universal atonement affirms that there are multitudes in hell for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died in vain!

Yes, there are multitudes in hell for whom Christ died. That does not make His death in vain. That argument has always fallen on deaf ears to this guy, even as a Calvinist. It's sort of a silly canard based on emotion again.

Anyways, those are my extremely limited thoughts on Fortner's #3-9 reasons. Most of his arguments are aimed at Pelagians, not universal atonement. Unless he's a sheer rationalist...

Oh wait...


SuperHyperCalvinisticexpyaladoh! Part 1, and Stuff.

No Christ for you! Heathen!
I came across some Don Fortner stuff. If you don't know who Don Fortner is, he is a Calvinistic Baptist machine gun of a pastor. I came across a sermon by Pr. Fortner entitled "If Christ Died For All." In it, he proceeds to fire off 14 "blasphemies" of universal atonement. But before we go any further, I have to add a disclaimer.

***Don Fortner is not normative of Reformed Theology. The majority of our Reformed brethren reject his teaching to an extent. Pr. Fortner is a very high, or even hyper, Calvinist.***

So, from the outset it is only fair to point out that I am not going after the classically Reformed here. Not even close. The teaching I am going after here is something other than Calvinism, to be sure. So here we go.

I also write this as someone who used to lean in this direction a bit. So, although I'm certainly not the authority on hyper Calvinism, I am familiar with the argumentation employed by Calvinists in this regard and hope to be a help to Confessional Lutherans who may not be aware of Calvinistic thought and theology.

The doctrine of universal atonement is blasphemous because:

1. The teaching that Christ died to save all men makes man his own savior.

This is a common argument that comes from the higher Calvinistic circles. The problem with this argument is that it never gets out of its own faith tradition. That is to say, many Calvinists assume that there really are only two branches of theology that everything boils down to: Calvinism and Arminianism. And when they talk about Arminianism, they generally mean Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism.

It's John Owen, yo!
In short, the Calvinist usually applies Owen's trilemma here. Basically, Owen postulates that Christ either died for some of the sins of all people (Who teaches that?), all of the sins of all people (Classic Christian atonement), or all of the sins of some people (Definite Atonement).

So lurking beneath the surface here is this assumption that Calvinist John Owen postulated and that Calvinists are quick to point out has never been logically refuted and cannot be.

However, the postulate doesn't cover all the bases, so to speak. It assumes either a Calvinistic or Arminian atonement theory.

The Calvinist assumes that if Christ death was effectual, then it must by definition save everyone universally for whom it was intended; and not only save them at Calvary, but also bring them to final glorification and the eternal state. Since we know that not everyone ends up glorified, they put two and two together, and voila, limited atonement for the elect alone.

The other option, they surmise, is that if Christ died for everyone He didn't actually save anyone at all, and you're left with a universal atonement that only makes man savable dependent on the will of man making it effectual.

So this is where Pr. Fortner gets this stuff. The whole idea of universal atonement is blasphemous rests on these presupposed Owenist assumptions.

Enter Confessional Lutheranism. We affirm both universal atonement as well as monergism. To the Calvinist, especially the high Calvinist, this seems like nothing more than a mumbo-jumbo of contradiction.

But what they fail to see is the objective monergism of Confessional Lutheranism. To them monergism means that the Spirit is completely independent of means and the Spirit just runs around randomly. They may give lip service to the means of grace, but in reality they only half affirm them. (I refer to hyper and very high Calvinism here) Want to know where they get that idea? It's based on a misinterpretation of John 3:8.

And you know, John 3:16 really says "For God so loved the world that He hates most of it..."

Christ died objectively for the whole human race collectively at Calvary. He distributes this perfect saving work temporally via His means of grace. This would be the Word of God preached, given in absolution, and given to us in water, bread, and wine in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

It's not a potential salvation. Our's is not an Arminian atonement nor a potential one. It's an effectual one, distributed to us by means. We affirm penal substitution just as the Calvinists do. However, our monergism is objective. God delivers that salvation to us in time. It's Christ for you. Right here and right now. And this speaks volumes to the assurance of our salvation.

2. Teaching a universal atonement reduces the love of God to nothing.

This statement is really nothing more than foolish triumphalistic tripe. I'm not even completely sure where Fortner is going with this one. Perhaps he is implying that if God loves everyone equally and unconditionally, it means nothing.

That idea, if that's where he is headed, has no grounding in Scripture though.

God hates you because Christ didn't die for you. Heathen!

There certainly are a few passages in Scripture that state that God hates. Of course God hates evil. No one disputes that. The problem with this scheme is that they start with election and then read all of God's actions through election. Right at the beginning of their theology is the idea that God elected some and reprobated others; for His glory of course.

This is a mistake and a prideful one at that. Yes, Lutherans affirm election. Yes, we affirm that election is a cause of salvation. Yes, we affirm that election came before the foundation of the world. But to put election first before everything in God's mind and make God's election the primary reason as to why God carries out all His works is a form of the theology of glory. Where election should humble us, the high Calvinists go digging into God's decrees and end up making their own election the thing that drives everything that God does!

I do not mean to infer that our Calvinistic brethren are not Christ-centered, for that would be a foolish error on my part. However, in high Calvinism, election is central, the sovereignty of God is central, and God's hidden decrees rule the day. In Lutheranism, we look to the revealed Christ hanging on the tree for us and risen from the grace for us; not to decrees that are hidden to us.

Jesus Christ revealed to us is central to everything. You want to see God? Look to Christ. You want to know what God is like? Look to Christ.

There are numbers 1 and 2 on Fortner's fortnight of universal atonement blasphemies.


St. Michael and All Angels - Sep. 29

September 29th is St. Michael and All Angels Day, or Michaelmas. The color around the main banner has been changed to white, to represent this day.

The Scriptures for St. Michael and All Angels are as follows:

Old Testament

Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's...20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! 22 Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3

10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.


Revelation 12:7-12

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers[a] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Holy Gospel

Luke 10:17-20

17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

And on this day we pray:

O everlasting God, whose wise planning has ordained and constituted the ministry of men and angels in a wonderful order, mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve you in heaven, so by your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen


Huggin' The Tree

The Holy Scriptures have a lot to say about trees. They're spoken of figuratively quite often throughout the Bible. Good trees bear good fruit; bad trees bear bad fruit. And so on. Trees are also spoken of literally in Scripture. Zaccheus climbed a sycamore tree to see Christ as He was passing by. Then Zaccheus said the sinner's prayer after coming forward to the altar call while singing "Just As I Am" the 8th consecutive time.

Speaking of decisional regeneration and the sinner's prayer...

The Scriptures also talk about some more important trees. Like the tree of life, or tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Or the cross.

Galatians 3:13-14:  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

1 Peter 2:24: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The true tree of life is the cross on which the Savior hung.

So if you want to hug a tree, hug the cross. More specifically, embrace the Savior who hung on that tree.


Chump Change Lawless Donkishness

Lutherans are Gospel people. Always gonna be Gospel people. We're Evangelical Catholics. We're Orthodox, but not Eastern, Catholic, but not Roman, Evangelical, but not Protestant.

We emphasize the Gospel to the point where a lot of folks outside of Lutheranism think we're antinomianians. Heck, there are some within Lutheranism who are antinomian and decry anyone else who dares exhort anyone over anything.

But let's not throw the baby out with the baptismal water!

It is good that we are focused on the Gospel and then...well, more Gospel. I would rather be labeled antinomian than a legalist. Chances are, I've correctly understood the Gospel then.

We're all about grace coming to us in Word and Sacrament. Because those drive everything for us. They give us Christ, who alone merits salvation at Calvary and through His rising from the dead. We preach that Christ alone saves us, apart from anything else. He gives us this one-sided monergistic saving work in His Word, given to us through preaching, absolution, water, bread, and wine. We keep the main thing the main thing.

Christianity is not about being a moral do-gooder.

But, let's not overreact to the unfortunate destruction of many churches by the foolishness of Pietism.

I'm not going to get into the minutiae of this "Great Sanctification Debate" as it was labelled some months ago. I understand the concern of some people within Lutheran circles of using the words "progressive sanctification." I get that.

Let's just say that I'm on board with men like Prs. Cooper and Surburg on this one. Neither one of them is teaching works righteousness. Neither one of them is saying that we need to do all sorts of introspective navel-gazing to determine if we really are a Christian. Don't believe me? Look at Pr. Cooper's blogs regarding Paul Washer. (http://justandsinner.blogspot.com) Neither of them are saying we are sanctified by the law. The law can't do that. These guys are Confessional Lutheran Book of Concord pastors, not Pietists. Many of the accusations against them were false and misguided. Both of them are faithful Lutheran Gospel men. Both of them are all about the Gospel. And I'm not a pastor, so I'm definitely not looking to stir up an old debate.

I am of the opinion that the Confessions support them in a very solid way, however.

What do our confessions say?

Epitome, VI, 1: Since the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning the third use of the Law, namely, whether it is to be urged or not upon regenerate Christians. The one side has said, Yea; the other, Nay.

Epitome VI, 3: We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be urged with diligence, not only upon the unbelieving and impenitent, but also upon true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified by faith.

Epitome VI, 8: Accordingly, we reject as a dogma and error injurious to, and conflicting with, Christian discipline and true godliness the teaching that the Law in the above-mentioned way and degree is not to be urged upon Christians and true believers, but only upon unbelievers, non-Christians, and the impenitent.

Epitome - Third Use

Solid Declaration VI, 1-5: Since the Law of God is useful, 1. not only to the end that external discipline and decency are maintained by it against wild, disobedient men; 2. likewise, that through it men are brought to a knowledge of their sins; 3. but also that, when they have been born anew by the Spirit of God, converted to the Lord, and thus the veil of Moses has been lifted from them, they live and walk in the law, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning this third and last use of the Law.

For the one side taught and maintained that the regenerate do not learn the new obedience, or in what good works they ought to walk, from the Law, and that this teaching [concerning good works] is not to be urged thence [from the law], because they have been made free by the Son of God, have become the temples of His Spirit, and therefore do freely of themselves what God requires of them, by the prompting and impulse of the Holy Ghost, just as the sun of itself, without any [foreign] impulse, completes its ordinary course.

Over against this the other side taught: Although the truly believing are verily moved by God's Spirit, and thus, according to the inner man, do God's will from a free spirit, yet it is just the Holy Ghost who uses the written law for instruction with them, by which the truly believing also learn to serve God, not according to their own thoughts, but according to His written Law and Word, which is a sure rule and standard of a godly life and walk, how to order it in accordance with the eternal and immutable will of God.

For the explanation and final settlement of this dissent we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that although the truly believing and truly converted to God and justified Christians are liberated and made free from the curse of the Law, yet they should daily exercise themselves in the Law of the Lord, as it is written, Ps. 1:2;119:1: Blessed is the man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law doth he meditate day and night. For the Law is a mirror in which the will of God, and what pleases Him, are exactly portrayed, and which should [therefore] be constantly held up to the believers and be diligently urged upon them without ceasing.

For although the Law is not made for a righteous man, as the apostle testifies 1 Tim. 1:9, but for the unrighteous, yet this is not to be understood in the bare meaning, that the justified are to live without law. For the Law of God has been written in their heart, and also to the first man immediately after his creation a law was given according to which he was to conduct himself. But the meaning of St. Paul is that the Law cannot burden with its curse those who have been reconciled to God through Christ; nor must it vex the regenerate with its coercion, because they have pleasure in God's Law after the inner man.

Solid Declaration - Third Use

So, in short, I don't need to pontificate much here. The Lutheran Confessions are pretty clear. We affirm the third use of the law. We are not antinomians. We affirm the new obedience of the believer. We affirm that the life of a Christian should be one of repentance. (Luther's first thesis, anyone?) As our Confessions say, the Law is for the believer too.

In a very big way, I am glad that we get called antinomian sometimes because we are all about the Gospel given in Word and Sacrament. It's good and proper to be all about the Gospel. But let's stop overreacting to the grievous error of Pietism. Our Confessions are clear, the believer is also to live a life of repentance and walk in obedience to Christ. St. Paul, St. John, and St. Peter all exhort Christians repeatedly in Scripture. Yes, of course the Gospel is center, the Spirit is the driving agent behind this all, and the Word and Sacrament ministry is at the fore. But they still don't stop with exhortation.

Something about a baby and some water. Or something.

The Calvinist Schutzstaffel

Recently a post written by my friend Chad Bird was featured on the popular evangelical blog The Gospel Coalition. It is a beautiful summary of our Lord working through humble means to bring life and salvation in the most unlikely of circumstances. Here we see our Lord offering his flesh and blood, the very elixir of immortality, to the lambs for whom he died, despite the fact that they were Nazi war criminals.


Enter right on cue the Calvinist Schutzstaffel! This elite force of storm-troopers, the five-point SS, exists to squash out the uniquely Lutheran purity and comfort of the genuinely "evangelical" faith wherever it may be found. They refuse to let the scandal of the incarnation go too far, protecting the delicate honor of the Sovereign Cosmic Führer.

In the comment section of the Gospel Coalition blog, CSS "Dave" goes off on all cylinders, beginning with a quote from Chad Bird's article:

"But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie. They are condemned because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross and earned a place for them in heaven."

No-one for whom Jesus endured hell on the cross and for whom Jesus earned a place in heaven will reject him - John 6:44 John 6:37 John 6:39.

"But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie."

This statement is completely untrue. We stand condemned already if we do not believe in Christ BECAUSE we are sinners, and being a sinner is sufficient to condemn us.

All sin is punished by God. Either Christ atoned for our sin on the cross, or we will pay for it ourselves. If we are in the former category, then we will repent and believe.

Christ did not die for everyone one in general and no-one in particular. He laid down his life for his sheep.

Christ did not die to potentially make salvation possible, but to secure salvation for those he came to save, and he utterly succeeded in this mission.

Also, the bread and wine of the Lord's table is NOT the body and blood of Jesus.

This article manages to seriously mangle some really important truths.

The tragedy of the situation is that I used to be a "Dave". It is only by God's grace that I was led, in my case, back to Wittenberg, where Christ's body was broken and blood shed for sinners, even the naughty ones, and placed upon the lips that believe and confess in repentant faith.


False Dichotomous Smoking Devices

This morning I was blessed, fascinated, saddened to come across yet another theologically liberal Emergent blog. I'm sort of a glutton for punishment in this regard. I follow things like this because I like to see what some of these folks in these strains of left-wing theology are saying. The blog I found today was nothing more than a quote from a book by John A. Sanford. I have always been of the opinion that it is best to keep up on what others are saying and teaching who are outside of my main group of people and influence. Of course, in this case, that would be things outside of Confessional Lutheranism. I am a Confessional Lutheran by choice, of course, and that means I am unashamed to hold to the teachings and doctrines laid out in Scripture and summarized by the Lutheran Confessions, namely, the Book of Concord.

I'm not a Lutheran pastor, so I'm going to keep my hat out of the ring on the latest big thing running through online Lutheran circles: paedocommunion. So, I'll just say that I am not in favor of paedocommunion because I think the Confessions don't allow for it. I think guys like Todd Wilken are in the right on this one, and Mr. Wilken has been very vocal and critical of the paedocommunion advocates lately on facebook and over at his blog The Bare Bulb. It's best to let our clergy sort these things out. And that's that.

But I came across the Emergent Village Voice blog at Patheos this morning and found this absolute gem of a quote.

The problem is not that Paul is such a bad person, but that he was an historically conditioned personality who, however inspired he might have been in certain respects, did not go beyond the prevailing collective opinions with regard to the psychological problem of the persona and the Shadow. Jesus was sufficiently conscious that he was able to transcend the collective thinking of his time. Paul was not able to do this. It is unfortunate that the Church elected to follow the admonitions of Paul rather than the teachings of Jesus in this regard. But that was inevitable. Given the general level of consciousness of the Church, it was certain that the teachings of Jesus would be disregarded, and the words of Paul would be followed, for this is where people were at that time. Nevertheless it is unfortunate for a great deal of psychological damage could have been avoided had the teachings of Jesus been followed with regard to the dynamics of human personality." (John A. Sanford, Evil: The Shadow Side of Reality, pp. 75-76.)

Patheos, Emergent Village - Jesus vs. Paul

The link to the blog where I found the quote is given above. This short quote actually contains a lot of information that tells us about the errors of the Emergent Church "conversation," as they like to call it.

1. "The problem is not that Paul is such a bad person, but that he was an historically conditioned personality..."

The opening statement of the quote conveys one of the Emergent presuppositions that is in error. They read the bible through culture. What I mean by this is that instead of Scripture being God's Word then as it is now and will be forever, it's more of a culturally conditioned document that we are allowed to update to conform to what our culture's values are today. So, they would argue that St. Paul wrote in a specifically Jewish culture then, but we're not in that culture anymore. So there are many statements in St. Paul that are not true for us today; such as St. Paul's very clear complimentarian stance regarding the roles of men and women. Things are different in our culture they say, so we are free to take an egalitarian stance on the topic.

2. "It is unfortunate that the Church elected to follow the admonitions of Paul rather than the teachings of Jesus..."

Here is another whopper of a statement. The author argues in essence that Christ was able to transcend culture but St. Paul was stuck in his. Therefore, what Jesus taught and what St. Paul taught were different and even opposed to one another.

Here we have a major false dichotomy implied in this statement. Do you see it? It's all over the quote from Sanford's book.

Sanford argues that Christ transcended culture and St. Paul didn't; therefore, St. Paul taught things very different from Jesus Christ, and we need to be following what Jesus said -the red letters- and not what St. Paul said.

But this is false. It forces a false choice. There are other options here. How about the fact that St. Paul was the chosen Apostle of Christ to the Gentiles (Acts 9, anyone?) and that St. Paul's epistles accurately and properly interpret the words of Christ?

St. Paul didn't change the teachings of Christ, nor did he teach something different. He expounded on them accurately and properly. So when Sanford says that "It is unfortunate that the Church elected to follow the admontions of Paul rather than the teachings of Jesus" he is erecting a strawman and a false dilemma. The answer is: Yes, both. We follow the teachings of Jesus and of St. Paul, precisely because they are in the same ballpark. St. Paul accurately and properly gives us doctrine, just like Jesus did. They're not opposed at all.

3. The entire statement denies the inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, and authority of Scripture.

In short, the author is claiming that St. Paul is just plain wrong sometimes. Jesus transcended culture and St. Paul didn't. And the church is in error to follow the teachings of St. Paul over against the teachings of Christ. So, St. Paul is wrong, pretty much. He may have been right in that culture, but he's not anymore.

The statement actually calls into question the entire Scriptures. If St. Paul is in error, so is St. Peter. After all, St. Peter called St. Paul's epistles Scripture (2Pet 3:16). And if St. Paul and St. Peter got all sorts of things wrong and couldn't transcend culture, then how do we know that St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John didn't do the exact same thing? You know, they wrote the Gospels where we read most of what Christ said. So why not say the authors of the Gospels were culturally conditioned too and they were wrong?

In short, why believe anything in Scripture at all? Why not say the whole thing is culturally conditioned and can be rejected and/or tweaked to fit what our culture says is correct now days, including the red letter words of Christ, which were recorded and written by culturally conditioned men?

So stop playing Jesus vs. St. Paul Emergents. Stop the false dichotomies. The whole argument betrays what you really think about Scripture and Christ as well. You may say you love Jesus, but the Jesus you love is an invention because you ultimately reject the authority of the Holy Scriptures that tell us about Him and are given to us by inspiration.

Your foolish statement proves way too much, as it were. It's a joke.

Put that in your false dichotomous pipe and smoke it.


Polluted Righteous Toxicity

The Pharisees again. Jesus had a lot of interactions with them, didn't He? The Pharisees were the leaders of the day in Judaism. Yet they had it all wrong. The Holy Gospel reading this Sunday concluded with this verse:

St. Luke 16:15: And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Are these Pharisees or Orthodox Priests?
Jesus once again has some strong words for the religious leaders of the day.

Some people today have proposed that the Pharisees were being rebuked by Christ just for being hypocrites, not for their actual law-keeping works.

This isn't really the case, however. Jesus repeatedly rebukes them for being hypocrites, but also for following the law as the way to righteousness.

Jesus rebukes them here for being those who justify themselves before men, yet in reality, their works are an abomination before God. Sort of sounds like Isaiah, doesn't it? If you're not familiar with the verse to which I refer, here it is:

Isaiah 64:6: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. The KJV renders it 'filthy rags.' Our deeds are incapable of righteousness. Our deeds cannot justify us.

We may try to be outwardly righteous. We may appear outwardly righteous. But we aren't. Our works are an abomination because they can never conform perfectly to God's Law. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but we never do. And we never can. We're sinners. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. But we never do this perfectly either.

The folly of the Pharisees is that they thought this was the way to righteousness. They missed the entire point of the Law and the Prophets. The entire point of the Law and Prophets was standing right in front of them, rebuking them!

The Pharisees perceived righteousness was polluted, because the Pharisees were, just like us, sinful in thought, word, and deed. Their God was too small. And their religion was toxic. It was condeming because it failed to trust Christ, but rather tried to earn the Father's favor by doing good.

It is true, however, that we must be righteous. But is this accomplished by our law-keeping or obedience? No, it can never be. The entire point of the Law and the Prophets stood in front of the Pharisees, rebuking them. That Christ is our righteousness. You must be righteous, but only He is.

Hence, the cross, the grave, and the resurrection. For the Christ has taken our sin on Himself and risen for our justification; to declare us righteous as heirs of His Kingdom, for all who believe.

2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Romans 3:21-26: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

It's all about Jesus from start to finish. So don't be like the Pharisees and have your own polluted righteousness and toxic false religion of working to earn something before God.

Jesus already earned everything that is necessary. He did it all alone, by Himself. And He did enough to save everyone.

Receive your Savior.


Chemnitz: Who Receives Christ?

Here is a short excerpt from Martin Chemnitz's excellent work "The Lord's Supper."

"In the eight place, when the ancients disputed concerning the participation of unworthy communicants in the Supper, they very clearly showed what the ancient church thought regarding the substance of the Lord's Supper, that is, what is present and distributed in the celebration of the Lord's Supper together with the bread and the wine, and that this is not received only spiritually by faith but also in the mouths of the participants. For those who eat unworthily eat judgment to themselves, and it is certain that their soul is not spiritually through faith eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ. For to eat and drink spiritually is to embrace Christ by faith, so that we draw life from Him and thereby became participants in Christ and in all His benefits unto righteousness and salvation. The question therefore is what is distributed to the unworthy in the Lord's Supper, and what they receive when they eat, since it is certain that they are not spiritually eating the body and blood of Christ. Many of the adversaries feel that only the external signs are distributed to the unworthy and only the elements of bread and wine are taken into their mouth. But Calvin and his followers see that the words of institution very strongly oppose this notion. For Christ did not make a twofold institution of His Supper, one for the worthy and another for the unworthy, so that to Peter the words do indeed mean: 'Take, eat; this is My body,' but to Judas the words are different, namely: 'Take, eat; this is only plain bread.' But He says in general to all who come to the Supper: 'Take, eat; this is My body.'

Thus when Paul writes to the Corinthians, among them there were many who were eating and drinking judgment to themselves, he does not vary the words of institution, so that he says to the unworthy: 'Take, eat and drink; these are only bare symbols of bread and wine.' And Calvin concedes that in the use of the Lord's Supper not only are the external symbols of bread and wine offered to all who eat, both worthy and unworthy, but at the same time also the body and blood of Christ. But he holds that the body and blood of Christ are not received by all, but only by the believers. Now if this is understood to refer to the spiritual reception through faith unto salvation, then it is true. But Calvin extends this also to the sacramental reception, so that what those who eat unworthily in the Lord's  Supper receive in their mouth is not the body and blood of Christ but only bread and wine.

But the words of institution in no way sustain this meaning. For if because of the words of distribution Calvin is forced to concede that in the sacramental distribution the body and blood of Christ are offered to all the participants in the Supper together with the symbols, then it is most manifest that in the institution there are, so to speak, not only words of distribution but also words of reception or participation: 'Take, eat, drink.' And these words: 'This is My body, this is My blood,' do not refer only to the words of distribution ('He gave it to them') but more properly pertain to the words of reception: 'Take, eat, drink; this is My body, this is My blood.' Therefore the Son of God says in general to all who partake of this Supper, whether they eat worthily or unworthily: 'What you are receiving, eating, and drinking, this is My body and My blood.' For the genuineness and integrity of the sacraments does not depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of either those who distribute or those who receive, but it rests solely on the divine institution. Therefore in 1 Cor. 10, where Paul is disputing about those who provoke the wrath of God because they participate at the same time at the table of the Lord and the table of demons, he is saying in a comprehensive way that the cup of blessing which we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ and that the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ. Moreover, in this passage Paul speaks very clearly not only of the distribution but also of the reception or participation. Therefore the substance of the Lord's Supper, which does not consist only of the external symbols but also of the very body and blood of Christ, as it is offered and distributed to all who partake at the Supper, whether worthy or unworthy, is thus also received by all. For the distribution and reception are joined together: 'He gave it to them saying, 'Take, eat, drink; this is My body, this is My blood.'' But the salutary use or benefits accrues only to the believers. The unworthy eat judgment to themselves, as Mark says, namely, that they all drank from the cup concerning which Christ pronounced: 'This is My blood,' but not all of them did this in memory of Christ. For Judas drank judgment to himself."

Martin Chemnitz, The Lord's Supper, p.171-173


Perfect God, Imperfect People

(This is another answer to a question submitted to me via AllExperts)

"How could a perfect God create such imperfect people?"

This is a very common philosophical question asked throughout the ages. I will try to shed some light from the Lutheran Christian perspective.

The Greek word translated "perfect" (teleios) has a sense of "complete" and "finished". The Hebrew equivalent (Tamam) shares this meaning as well as having a sense of "fullness" "innocence" "wholeness" and "health". Thus "perfect" could be thought off as fully and completely conformed to God's design. The "perfect" person is not "half-baked" or "flawed" but is rather God's finished "magnum opus", the cherry on top of his creation, the apple of his eye.

Now, after the Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Theologish, I will speak plain English.

Man was created perfect.

After God made all the rocks, trees, birds, reptiles and so forth he said things were "good". After he made man, things were "very good". Creation was "perfect". Adam and Eve were created perfect. When sin entered the world, this perfection was lost. (This was the work of man and Satan.) The creation was no longer perfect.

Mankind was no longer perfect.

All human beings are now born with the sinful imperfect nature inherited from Adam. Jesus Christ, fully God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the flesh of the Virgin Mary, becoming fully man. He became the "second Adam" the first person of the second creation, the new heavens and the new earth.

Jesus was perfect.

He lived the perfect life of obedience. He died the perfect death of sacrificial love. As he died on the cross he said "It is finished!". (In Greek this is Τετέλεσται, from teleios, which means "perfect".) In Baptism, God covers you with the perfection of Jesus. Those who believe in Christ have their sin, flaws, and imperfection washed away. Because we were united to the death of Jesus, we will also be united to his resurrection.

God looks at his church as perfect.

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Ephesians 5:25-28

When we finally get to die and leave behind these imperfect, half-baked, sickly old bodies of ours, Christians will be given new perfect bodies in the new creation, the heavens and the new earth.

We will be perfect.

"For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

      " Death is swallowed up in victory.
        O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting? "

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:53-57


AA is For Denial

A Confessional Lutheran blog about AA!!! What is the world coming to? But wait, isn't AA for people that aren't in denial anymore and have come to the realization that they are alcoholics?

OK, OK...AA doesn't stand for Alcoholics Anonymous in this instance. Here it stands for the Age of Accountability.

The Age of Accountability is a doctrine commonly found in baptist churches, or at least in baptist-type churches. The doctrine essentially states that a child or infant is guaranteed heaven due to innocence until they are old enough to understand who Christ is and make a decision one way or the other. Or, in more Calvinistic versions of this, the infant is saved by grace alone until they are old enough to make a choice to reject Christ. Therefore, all infants and children who die before the age of accountability are elect.

This doctrine sounds awesome. It really does. I would love to think that every single infant and child dying at a very young age is automatically elect and inherits the Kingdom. And I even hold out hope that they are elect and do inherit the Kingdom.

Baptism is for you and your children. And forgives sins. Acts 2:38
The problem is, Scripture does not teach this doctrine. It's just not in there, unless you remove three very important doctrines of the Christian faith. Keep in mind, as I point out the problems with this doctrine, I am aiming mostly at the Semi-Pelagian and Pelagian American Christianity and not at the Calvinistic Baptists. (Although I believe them to be in error as well)

The first core Christian doctrine that the Age of Accountability denies is original sin.

The Augsburg Confession speaks to original sin in this way:

Augsburg Confession, II, 1-3

1 Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with 2 concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

3 They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

This is to say, that all humanity is conceived and born sinful and that original sin is something that makes us guilty. We are guilty in front of God because we are sinners.

This orthodox and catholic doctrine of original sin does not mesh with any sort of age of accountability doctrine. Yeah, pretty much not at all.

The age of accountability says young children (and the mentally infirm, I should add) who cannot yet understand who Christ is and cannot thus make a decision are innocent. Original sin says not so. These two doctrines cannot coexist. One is true, the other is false.

This doctrine also denies the depravity of man. Original sin is either outright denied or redefined to what amounts to a denial.

Holy Scripture has a few things to say to this topic as well, such as:

Psalm 51:5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 5:18: Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

These three Scriptures, among others, teach original sin. We are a condemned race, not a race born innocent. Adam was created innocent, but we are not born good.

Get it? Your children are sinners. Even in the womb. They need grace just as much as every other person. Ever.

So, speak God's Words to them. Teach them. Baptise them. They need grace. They are not innocent, despite what we may think or how cute they are. They're sinners. Why invent a doctrine that gives them a free pass, contrary to biblical teaching, when the grace of God is right there to be administered to them at the font? That's just rank gambling with your children, based on your opinion that your children aren't sinners. I mean, come on! Stop being so dense, whip out your KJV, ESV, or NIV, (but you better not whip out The Message. That thing is a joke) read what baptism does, recognize what God's Word so clearly says it does, stop fighting the blatantly clear words of Scripture because of your tradition that you are afraid to say is wrong, stop being a heretic like the Anabaptists of the Reformation era who openly denied original sin, and bring your kids to Holy Baptism. The grace is the water! And your kids need it.

The second core Christian doctrine that is denied by the Age of Accountability is that faith is a gift of God's grace given to recipients thereof.

In short, to the Age of Accountability supporters, faith means two other things other than one-sided divine gift of grace. It means,

  • A choice of the will.
So, instead of God being able to give the gift of faith to whoever through the means of grace, a person must first be able to understand and articulate who Christ is, why they're a believer, and so on.

The first thing the AA folks object to is that faith being a one-sided divine gift of God violates the will and the right to choose of the individual. Hmm...right to choose...where else have I heard that argument? Oh, never mind, off the topic. In short, unless the person can choose to be saved, they can't be saved by God giving faith.

The Age of Accountability has a natural bedfellow in this. Her name is decisional regeneration. Usually she consists of coercing the wills of sinners to make a choice for Jesus, try Him out, ask Him into your heart, or say the sinner's prayer.

This is more or less rationalistic humanism masquerading as Christianity in a sense. The cult of choice, the triumph of the human will, as it were.

So, to fill heaven and because they love babies (don't we all?), they concoct the Age of Accountability doctrine. Because they simply aren't old enough to choose to have faith. And they're just so cute. And innocent. And stuff. Which brings us to the next problem:

  • Faith requires a certain amount of cognitive ability.
Thus, their definition of faith being a free will choice ultimately defaults to faith also requiring a certain amount of cognitive ability and understanding. This of course rules out infants and the severely mentally infirm.

Gotta know enough to be able to choose. Said Scripture nowhere.

This definition of faith is pure rationalism. Who are they to say that God cannot grant faith in Christ to an infant or a small child? Really? God can't do that? Because, you know, God actually created faith in infants in Scripture. There really are examples of that. But no, God can't possibly do that! It violates the infants freedom of choice! Those little sovereign infants. Just like us and our sovereign wills. See how foolish this gets?

In their scheme, no, He can't, because they don't have the necessary ability to choose Christ and God won't just give faith as a gift apart from the person making a choice. God's not allowed to violate the will, they say. Well, that's fair, sure. But what the heck is wrong with God doing the most loving and gracious thing for them possible and saving them by granting them faith as a gift of grace?

The third problem denied by the Age of Accountability doctrine is an invention of alternate ways of salvation.

The Holy Scriptures tell us that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. They don't even hint at any other way. Making a dogma out of something that is another way of salvation is silly when Scripture is silent. This is exactly what the Age of Accountability doctrine does. Infants, young children, and the mentally infirm are incapable of choosing to have faith. Thus they don't have faith. They are saved by ignorance and innocence. It may be grace, but ignorance and innocence are not faith. So why isn't grace giving what grace gives in this case, namely, faith in Christ?

In short, the Age of Accountability doctrine comes up with an alternative means of salvation for those who can't choose to have faith. Age of Accountability folks are banking on their children being saved by a manner of salvation that Scripture never talks about. That. Is. Super. Duper. Dangerous.

That's because, to be clear, the Age of Accountability doctrine is false teaching based on a humanistic misunderstanding of faith. ALL false teaching is dangerous, and this is no exception. As opposed to a gift of God, it becomes the triumph of the human will; of the choice of man.

I call it false teaching. Is that unfair? No, because it is false teaching and baptist churches are dead wrong for teaching this false doctrine. Does this mean our baptist brothers and sisters are unsaved? No, of course it does not mean that. Yet it is still important to get our doctrine correct. And in this case, they get it wrong in a large way.

Regarding the nature of faith, the Scriptures say:

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Philippians 1:29: For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.

Acts 11:18: When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 5:31: God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

2 Timothy 2:25b-26: God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Faith in Christ is a gift of grace, as is repentance, which involves faith and contrition. As it is a one-sided divine gift, God can and does work it in whoever. Age is no obstacle for the Triune God, nor is cognitive ability or lack thereof.

This is the biggest reason why we baptise infants in the Lutheran Church. We hold to the orthodox and catholic doctrine of original sin. As such, your children stand condemned apart from faith in Christ. Grace, however, works faith as a gift of God. Baptism is a means of grace. Why stake your children's salvation on a doctrine that is nowhere taught in Scripture and gamble with their eternal salvation when Scripture tells us about all the glorious things baptism brings to us? Why would we ever want to deny our children that? Seriously. To deny our children baptism is to deny them grace, deny them Christ, and deny them God's good gifts given in the washing of regeneration; the washing of water with the Word.

Keep your fonts full and your infants wet.