Reformation Day Isn't Dumb...But Your Post Sure Was...

Reformation Day is dumb. That is the title of a recent blog post over on the patheos network posted by Jonathan Ryan, a former Presbyterian who says:

"As many of you recall, I just resigned my Presbyterian ordination back in April. It was not an “I’m angry at Evangelicals” decision. It was a deeper, more profound reconnection with the Catholicism of my youth. While I’ve not “taken the Tiber plunge” just yet, much of my system of Christian thought is now fully Catholic."

So, from the outset, Mr. Ryan, who describes himself as a novelist, blogger, and columnist, lays out his hand on the table. He's a Roman Catholic, or at the very least, heading in that direction at a very fast rate.

Awesome, fair enough. There are worse places to head to than Rome. Within Rome you will find a high view of Scripture, a high view of grace, and a high view of the Sacraments, even though they have too many of them. :P

Mr. Ryan's blog post can be found here, by the way:

Reformation Day Is Dumb

After Mr. Ryan's introduction, the shenanigans start to fly. He mixes truth with opinion, strawmen, and bait and switch techniques.
The Bait...

"Luther saw (rightly) the rampant corruption in the Papacy, that had become mired in local political intrigue."

So, the author starts by making Luther look like a good guy. He saw the corruption within Rome and wanted to address the issues. The author admits openly that there was rampant corruption within the Papacy at the time. And really, this is not really historically debatable. There was, and Luther confronted it.

The author continues later in the article, saying, "Does this mean that the Protestant Reformers didn’t have a good reason for questioning the Church? No. In fact, as we’ve already discussed, they did."

So then, we have an author who agrees that the Roman Church at the time needed overhaul. So far so good.

It's everything else he writes that is the problem...
Nonsense Commences...

Here is where he starts dropping the ball in serious fashion. I quote, "Still, I’m always amazed at how people think Luther was a lone voice in the wilderness. That just isn’t so. Many voices in the church were rising against the sinful practices rampant in the church at the time."

Well, I don't think we would dispute this either, to be honest, not to mention, I don't think many of us think that Luther was a lone voice in the wilderness. Sure, perhaps there are people who think that. But does that mean Reformation Day is dumb? Hardly.

I look in vain through this article to find any reasons the author actually gives as to why Reformation Day is dumb. All I can find is completely unrelated opinions and sloppy argumentation.

The only thing I can find is the typical worn out Roman Catholic argument regarding unity. But this is nothing more than a facade. Unity in what? Allegiance to the Pope? Rome is not as united as they would have us believe.

He quotes a conversation he had with a Protestant pastor friend of his: “You know, I think I’ve got it, celebrating Reformation Day is like celebrating a divorce. Maybe it was necessary, but not something you really build a holiday around. And, I can’t help thinking that God isn’t a huge fan of what happened after the Reformation.”

Ah...I got it now. These guys don't understand what Reformation Day is. Are Mr. Ryan and his friend really that obtuse? Apparently so.

The conclusions and ideas of the author don't make any sense. In short, he twists history in some ways after laying a true historical foundation. That, at best, is shoddy scholarship and misunderstanding, and at worst, is dishonest. In the best case, he should have never posted the blog. In the worst case, he's bearing false witness against his brothers.

"I always find it interesting that my Protestant friends who go on about “The Bible Alone” tend to skip large parts about the passion God has for the unity of His people."

"Jesus dedicates a long prayer to Christian unity and tells the disciples that, “All men will know you’re my disciples by the love you have for one another.”

"The problem is, the Reformers set a torch to an already volatile political situation. The early Reformers didn’t break from the church until the political pressure became too much. All of them did so with great reluctance and with sadness. Certainly, most of them didn’t celebrate it. They knew, deep down, they might have done more damage than good."

These statements reveal his faulty conclusions. What is he trying to tell us here?

1. He is telling us that division for the sake of truth is wrong. Unity is more important, even if that unity pitches some grievous false teachings and massive corruption.

2. Deep down the Reformers knew what they did was wrong and it is nothing to celebrate.

3. Protestants don't take the unity passages of Scripture seriously.

All three of these assumptions and ideas given by the author are completely foolish. The first one, to quote a phrase from the author, is "profoundly unbiblical." Holy Scripture nowhere encourages us to tolerate corruption or false teaching for the sake of unity. If anything, we are to confront it and get rid of it.

The second one is nothing more than a nonsense opinion. The author is telling us that he knows the Reformers knew they were doing something wrong. I don't think the author gets it here. At all. Martin Luther and the other Reformers were not happy about leaving the Roman Church. That's totally not the point. Luther was kicked out by the Pope for challenging corruption. Surely the author knows that. Luther did not want to leave the Church. The Pope did not want to hear what Luther had to say and excommunicated him. They liked their corruption too much, evidently. Johann Tetzel, anyone?

So yeah, let's stop trying to authoritatively peer into the souls of the Reformers and tell us what they were thinking.

The third one is a strawman. Now I will agree that too many Protestants use division as a badge of honor. I will give you that one Mr. Ryan. But speaking for traditional Reformation Churches, I will not concede that at all.

See, we Lutherans (and Reformed) take our Holy Scripture very seriously. We hold it to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God - just like you Romanists do, by the way. We see that there are many truths contained within that are non-negotiable. Why, oh why, would we desire unity over GOD'S truth? Do we desire unity? You bet we do, because Jesus' prayer for unity is part of that truth contained in Holy Scripture.

So what if there were other voices in the Roman Church calling for Reform at the time? The sad fact of the matter is, all of those other voices didn't have the guts to stand up for truth and instead succumbed to corruption and error. Men like Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Zwingli saw truth as greater than false unity around error and corruption. They were the ones who actually took a stand.

But we argue, on Scriptural grounds, that unity must be in the truth. We must be intolerant of false doctrine. We must be intolerant of corruption. And when churches refuse to fix their corruption and false teaching - like medieval Rome - Reform is necessary.

Reformation Day is a celebration of truth, not of division. We rejoice that God worked through Luther and others to bring the truth of His Holy Word to us. We rejoice that God worked through Luther and others to fight the horrible corruption of the time. By the way, in case you've been following, Rome has never repented of their doctrine of indulgences and salvation for sale. You can get one by following the Pope on twitter now. Or so I hear.

We get it man. You don't like Reformation Day. The least you could do is tell that you don't like it because you're a Roman Catholic. That would be fine. But posting an article that argues from a stance of foolishness while trying in vain to hide behind a few historical facts doesn't work. Baiting and switching and then moving on to nothing but opinion and strawmen doesn't work either.

So this Halloween, I'm dressing up as Luther. My wife and all my kids are dressing up as things completely unrelated to the Reformation. And we're going to walk around the 'hood and get us some candy; knowing that we are hid in Christ.

You ought to take the blog down. It's embarrassing to the well-thought Roman Catholics I know. This article, as it is written, is a joke. You're a novelist, blogger, and columnist. Get rid of the clown shoes and the big red nose, be a man, and either take the thing down or rewrite it and make it better. As it reads right now, it's kind of an embarrassment. Surely you know better.


Hidden God? Revealed God? Glorified God? Or What?

Martin Luther
John Calvin
With Reformation Day being two days away on October 31, our churches (and this blog!) adorned in red and Reformation Sunday being last Sunday where we bellowed out hymns such as "A Mighty Fortress," publicly read Holy Scripture from Romans 3:19-28, and received the Body and Blood of Our Lord, it is a good time to address some differences between Calvinists and Lutherans.

Luther's hammer thunders into the door of the Wittenberg church; putting the Roman Church on notice for its corruption, mainly involving indulgences. The 95 theses are posted, and in time the Gospel given in Holy Scripture is proclaimed boldly and clearly in Christendom.

Interesting topic, this. In fact, it is one of the main topics that separate the Lutherans and the Calvinists. Of course the sacraments are another large one. If you want to see just how far apart the Lutherans and Calvinists are historically, check out the Consensus Tigurinus (Calvinist) and The Saxon Visitation Articles (Lutheran).

Both can be found on the Book of Concord site.

Consensus Tigurinus (1549)

Saxon Visitation Articles (1592)

The Consensus Tigurinus is very clear that the Lutheran views on the Lord's Supper are heretical; although Calvin does not refer to the Lutherans specifically. Read Articles 21-25 in the Consensus Tigurinus to see this.

The Saxon Visitation Articles specifically address errors within Calvinism.

In short, those who would try to reconcile the two camps and say that they teach pretty much the same thing and the differences are minor are in error here. The Prussian Union sought to unify the Continental Reformed and the Lutheran churches in Germany, but this was foolish to do. The Prussian Union was directly influential in the formation of the Missouri Synod in fact, as many Germans immigrated to the United States.

This brings us to a major difference in thought in the Calvinist and Lutheran camps. Let us begin by stating from the outset that both camps are purely monergistic. That is to say, God alone saves, by Himself, apart from our cooperation; although both camps do of course affirm that we do cooperate with God as a result of being saved, but certainly not in order to be saved. How we view that monergism is different, but nevertheless, we both affirm God alone saves through no effort or cooperation of our own.

One major difference we can point to between the camps is how we view the hidden God, the revealed God, and the glorified God. Our major point of focus is different in these matters.

For the Calvinist, the material principle(s) behind their entire theology is the glory of God. Let's be clear: the glory of God is huge. Of course we Lutherans have no problem with the glory of God!

Here is where we begin to diverge however. The Calvinist tends to see the glory of God through all of God's hidden decrees that He carries out through time and space. This is to say, they tend to hold up the absolute sovereignty of God, His divine election to salvation (and reprobation too), and His foreordination of all things as the foundation of their entire theology. God is glorified through these things.

Due to their doctrine of double predestination, most Calvinists see the Pactum Salutis (Covenant of Redemption) of the Father the Son and the Spirit as the foundation of everything. It's important to note that not all Calvinists affirm the Pactum Salutis.

Thus, the glory of God in Calvinism is located primarily in the hidden God. God the Father decreeing all things, the Father, Son, and Spirit making a covenant to elect (Father), redeem (Son), and regenerate (Spirit). Thus, you have three petals of the TULIP right there, with the other two being logical necessities based on some texts in Scripture.

It's a very attractive, logically rigorous, and sensible system. Calvinism is very linear. It starts in eternity past and has the Triune God working our His plan and foreordination through time as He governs by His absolute sovereignty and providence. Sounds good right? So why do we Lutherans disagree with it?

Very simple: The hidden decrees of God are *hidden.* Why would we make the material principle of our whole theology the hidden decrees of God? In Lutheranism, that constitutes a theology of glory, as Christians try to peer into the hidden mind of God, true as the decrees may be. Supralapsarianism in particular is a big time theology of glory as it places God's decree to elect right at the beginning of everything.

Yes, the Holy Scriptures do talk about decrees of God. Yes, the Holy Scriptures do speak of many of these things that the Calvinists are high on. But, in Lutheranism, if you begin your theology in hidden decrees, you end up wrong about some things.

So, what is the material principle in Lutheran hermeneutics? Where do Lutherans locate the glory of God? Easy, it's in Christ, the revealed God. God has chosen to keep many things hidden to us, but He has chosen to reveal Christ to us.

In this way, Lutheran theology is not linear as Calvinist theology is. It's better described as a theology that starts at the cross and ripples out like waves on a lake in concentric circles. Jesus is in the middle.

Instead of beginning with a covenant of redemption and the sovereignty of God, we begin with Christ. We begin with what the Triune God has revealed to us tangibly and visibly in time and space: the God-man Jesus Christ, given for you at Calvary and given to you objectively by His Word and Sacrament. Instead of wondering about hidden decrees, we have baptism, the preaching of the Gospel, and the Lord's Supper, which are all objective means of grace through which the Spirit works; and the Spirit works via these means of grace all the time. We don't need to look to some separate act of grace apart from the means. The whole of salvation is mediated; including regeneration.

Let's be clear, the Calvinists do not reject the means of grace. I am not saying that. In fact, the Continental Reformed actually have some very "Lutheranish" tendencies. That said, they're not close enough to be in communion with them. In fact, John Calvin himself said something that sounds Lutheran in practice regarding God's predestination being hidden and Christ being revealed. So it would be unfair to say that Calvinists are not Christ centered Christians.

God does decree. Yeah, that is true. But God does us one better: He gives us the revealed Christ in time and space, dying at Calvary for you and rising from the grace for you. That work is given to us objectively as a one-sided act of divine grace in Word and Sacrament for you.

God is most glorified not in His decrees, not in election, not in His sovereignty, but...wait for it...

On the cross, dying for you.

Right there ----------------------------------------------------------->

Is where God is most glorified.

Hence, the Saxon Visitation Articles of 1592, addressed specifically to the Calvinists:

The False and Erroneous doctrine of the Calvinists On Predestination and the Providence of God.

1. That Christ did not die for all men, but only for the elect.

2. That God created the greater part of mankind for eternal damnation, and wills not that the greater part should be converted and live. 

3. That the elected and regenerated can not lose faith and the Holy Spirit, or be damned, though they commit great sins and crimes of every kind.

4. That those who are not elect are necessarily damned, and can not arrive at salvation, though they be baptized a thousand times, and receive the Eucharist every day, and lead as blameless a life as ever can be led.

And there you have it in a nutshell.

We should rejoice for our Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ, for they preach a purely gracious Gospel. Yet we should also pray and strive for unity in the truth with them. As of right now, that unity does not exist, and the hidden vs. revealed God is a big topic in this discussion.

Let us keep the lines of communication open with our Calvinist brothers; especially our Continental Reformed Calvinist brothers. But let us not sacrifice truth in the process. We do not teach the same thing.


Truth Can Be Very Difficult. But Truth Is Still Truth!

Why are you a Christian? If you ask your usual Christian that question these days, you're likely to get an answer that speaks heavily about God changing their life, saving their marriage (He saved mine), or bailing them out of depression. These folks are sincere, of course, and we have no reason to suspect they are not Christians; barring directly heretical beliefs concerning fundamental doctrines.

God changing your life isn't a good reason to be a Christian though. It sure sounds like it sometimes. We fallen humans like things that change us for the better. We're selfish people at our cores. Who doesn't want to have a change for the better? But can't Dr. Phil or Oprah do that for us? There are a lot of self-help programs out there that will improve your life and bring a change for the good.

To be sure, it's good that God changes lives. Don't get me wrong here. But that is not a good reason to be a Christian. Christianity first and foremost is not a self-help program; much less is its key tenet a bunch of do-gooders who make the world a better place by their righteousness.

The reason we ought to give is that we are Christians because Christianity and its claims are true.
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
~ C.S. Lewis ~

This of course leads us down the doctrinal highway. Christianity is a Confession, and I am not talking about the sacrament of Penance here.

What is truth? Truth is Christ. And with Christ come a plethora of doctrines about Christ. It's not enough to say "I just love Jesus." Well, who is Jesus? What has He done for us? How does He come to us in grace? All of these questions are of the utmost importance. Truth is something that both unites as well as divides. How many different religious groups, sects, and cults believe in Christ and say they love Him?

Let's see. There are...Baptists, Calvinists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, Methodists, Arminians, Presbyterians, Emergents, Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Muslims.

And that list doesn't get us very far. But it does show something very important: What churches teach about Jesus is of utmost importance. What churches teach about how Jesus comes to us is of utmost importance. What churches teach about how man is reconciled to God is of utmost importance.

You see, it's a massive cop out of epic proportions to fall back on "well, none of us have it all figured out." That statement may have some truth to it, but it's a fallacy that gets used in poor ways. That phrase is generally used by doctrinal minimalists such as the theologically liberal Emergent Church conversation. What they more or less mean is: Let's all just love each other, despite our differences. After all, we all love Jesus! This is why some leaders within the Emergent movement even try to glean truth from other religions such as Buddhism.

Doctrine is vital.

It's no secret to many people that I left a baptist church not so long ago. I withdrew my membership and became a full-fledged Confessional LCMS Lutheran. Those who know me well, know that I am not a church hopping type of guy. In fact, I despise church hopping. People who do that treat churches as products. They see churches the same way as they see various brands of food at Wal-Mart.

That's not me, like, at all. So, why did I leave the Baptist church and become a Lutheran? Is it because I think that all the people at the Baptist church are unsaved? Well, no, I don't think that at all. I have many good friends there whom I respect and consider my brothers in Christ.

I'm certainly not going to go into a full fledged break down of all the denominations, churches, and other religions who have a doctrine of Jesus. I believe there are many children of God in many of the churches that I listed; sans Islam, Mormonism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

So, why leave a church where I believe there are many truly saved persons? Simply put, because it is clear to me that the doctrines which they teach on very important matters of the Christian faith are in serious error.

Where to begin...

Baptism. It was impossible for me to have my children baptised at the Baptist church. And if Scripture is correct about the things that baptism actually does, then my kids desperately need it. So do yours, by the way.

The Lord's Supper. I find the Baptist view of the Lord's Supper to be crass and unbelieving. Yes, I know that is a bold statement and might get me in trouble, but that's how I see it. They deny what it is, just as they deny what baptism is.

Finney - Decisional Regeneration's Biggest Name
Decisional Theology. Although they would affirm grace alone through faith alone, they define faith differently. In short, one is saved when they make a decision. Because of this, altar calls exist and other shenanigans that are unbiblical.

Dispensationalism. I'm not even going to go here.

Anyways, those are some reasons as to why I left. Are those good reasons? Is the Pope Catholic?

It's not unloving to call out doctrinal error. It's not unloving to take a stand for truth. It's not unloving to call false teachings what they are. It's actually very loving. Just because a church has some truth and many of the people there are in Christ does not give us a free pass to tolerate false doctrine on core Christian things.

It was very difficult to leave the church I left. I did not do it without tons of thought, prayer, and sleepless nights. It was tough.

Let us end with this: If you don't believe your church to be teaching properly on the person of Christ, the Sacraments, who Christ is, what He has done, and how He comes to us in grace, what the heck are you doing there? These topics are essentials. They're vital.

Christianity is not all about me and my doing stuff for God. It's not about my works. It's not about my decision. It's not about coercing others to make decisions. It's not about me at all.

It's 100% about Jesus Christ. And we had best go where that truth about Him is preached in Word and administered in Sacrament properly. As St. Peter said to Jesus:

St. John 6:68-69: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

By the way, this statement came on the heels of Jesus saying:

St. John 6:53-56:  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Go where the truth is. I firmly believe that historical, objective, Christian truth is found in Lutheranism.

Lord, you have the words of eternal life.


Furtick Speaks it into Existence. Wake Up People.

There are a lot of big shot "rock star" pastors these days. A lot of them. There is Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Joyce Meyer. Those are four big names and are very easily identified by the majority of orthodox Christian believers as false teachers. Their teachings are pretty obviously false directly on the face of it.

A newer guy on the block who is moving his way up to rock star status in the preaching world is Steven Furtick. You've probably heard of him. He pastors Elevation Church in North Carolina which has well in excess of 10,000 members.
Pr. Steven Furtick
It's not popular now days to criticize anyone for anything. It's viewed as unloving, and truth be told, I'm generally not too concerned with that on the blog. The three of us here tend to stick to Confessional Lutheran stuff. That said, I have a lot of friends outside of Confessional Lutheranism in both the real world and in cyberspace. Furtick is popular - and he is not as obviously heretical as the others.

A recent article has come out regarding Furtick building a 1.7 million dollar home. While I do believe that he may indeed be fleecing the flock and using it for his personal gain here, I am not going to criticize Furtick for having money. Nor am I going to be harsh for Pr. Furtick having a huge church with a ton of members. Heck, I'm happy for the man in that regard. That's not the point of this post.

Rather, I would like to point out some of the things Furtick believes that have come straight from his mouth. He is a Southern Baptist by name, but he really isn't by practice. I will argue here that Pr. Furtick is heading very quickly down the same Word-of-Faith heresy road as the aforementioned Osteen, Dollar, and Meyer. He's certainly not all-in on Word-of-Faith, but he's already accepted one of the major tenets.

Pr. Furtick released a short video that spoke about his rituals that he uses before he preaches. In it, much of Furtick's theology is revealed. And, as you may not expect, it is chock full of Word-of-Faith nonsense. It's not by any stretch of the imagination classical Southern Baptist theology of the Calvinist or Arminian stripe.

Here is the video. Just watch it. The discerning ear will have horns going off continually and red flags flying.

Furtick - Activating Your Faith

However, I would like to specifically address some of the things Pr. Furtick says in the video.

At the 1:19 mark, he begins to describe his "ritual" which he is "superstitious" about. No, I'm not going to pick on those words. That's just how he describes it.

The first thing that should throw up some red flags is that he uses speaking the Word out loud to "activate" different parts of his body. He claims it is very important to speak these words out loud in order to create an atmosphere of God's Word around him. Through this process, Pr. Furtick says that he becomes bold and established, and from God's Word coming from his mouth, his faith is activated.

To keep it short and allow the video and Pr. Furtick's words to speak for themselves, let's just leave it at this: The claims Pr. Furtick is making, that speaking the Word vocally activates faith, builds up an atmosphere around you, and so on, are nothing short of "speak it into existence" theology. This has more in common with metaphysical mind science cults than it does with Christianity. And this is a core doctrine of the anti-Christian Word-of-Faith cult.

This is NOT Christian teaching. This stuff is dangerous. Pr. Steven Furtick is essentially a quasi Word-of-Faith teacher dressed up in Southern Baptist clothes.

This is a soft form of ex nihilo (out of nothing) creation. What's next? Now that our words are little packets of power that speak things into existence, should we now try to speak material things into existence and claim that the Word says we can do that? Wait a second, I think I've heard that before. The problem is, only one guy can create things out of nothing and it's not Pr. Furtick.

His name is YHWH. Ever heard of Him???

The Blessed Virgin: a sweet and pious belief

After a short discussion with some Lutherans online who are still a little bit tense at the rather Catholic beliefs concerning the Blessed Virgin I have decided to venture down that dark path of mariology! I will produce a short series on the biblical and traditional case of Mary. I will let you know the conclusion now that is prevelant within the Lutheran tradition: it is a private belief not a dogmatic one.

 ... stay tuned until I finish the post. ... oh yeah ... that doesn't mean I don't want you stop tuning in after I make the post. I know the use of 'until' can be rather confusing for some.


Feast of St. James the Just, the Brother of our Lord - October 23

Today is the Feast for St. James the Just who according to the Scriptures is also referred to as the brother of the Lord (Gal 1:19; Acts 12:17). He served as bishop in the church of Jerusalem according to early sources. According to the Scriptures it seems that St. James was not a disciple of Jesus until after the resurrection. 

The Gospels record that he did not believe his brother, but St. Paul mentions him as one of the witnesses of the risen Christ. He also had an important delegating role according to Luke during the council of Jerusalem. Lastly, he is traditionally concerned the author of the disputed (antilegomena) writing the Epistle of James.

According to Protoevangelion of James, St. James was the son of Joseph, and not a blood-relative of Jesus. For the Jewish reader this would not be a very shocking revelation since they would use the word brother (adelphos) to refer to many different relations such as brother, step-brother, brother-in-law, cousin, etc.

Eusebius says the following concerning St. James:
Then James, whom the ancients surnamed the Just on account of the excellence of his virtue, is recorded to have been the first to be made bishop of the church of Jerusalem. This James was called the brother of the Lord because he was known as a son of Joseph, and Joseph was supposed to be the father of Christ, because the Virgin, being betrothed to him, was found with child by the Holy Ghost before they came together, as the account of the holy Gospels shows. But Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem.
Eusebius, Church History, Chapter 1

The piety of St. James is apparent by the testimony of various fathers of the church. Such is the brother of the Lord to live a life of humility and pass into the next in the same manner. Eusebius also has the following to say concerning the death of St. James:
But after Paul, in consequence of his appeal to Cæsar, had been sent to Rome by Festus, the Jews, being frustrated in their hope of entrapping him by the snares which they had laid for him, turned against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem had been entrusted by the apostles. The following daring measures were undertaken by them against him. Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of all the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Saviour and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man who, on account of the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, was esteemed by all as the most just of men, and consequently they slew him. Opportunity for this deed of violence was furnished by the prevailing anarchy, which was caused by the fact that Festus had died just at this time in Judea, and that the province was thus without a governor and head.
Eusebius, Church History, Chapter 23

Thus we commemorate the brother of our Lord.

Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, Shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect, LSB)


Silly Rationalist, Faith is for Infants

The question of infant faith is one that is hotly discussed on occasion. On one side you have the more historic and traditional forms of Christianity and on the other you have newer expressions of the Christian faith. These newer expressions are commonly found in America, since the theology tends to fit with American ideals.

Anyhow, I digress slightly. The situation at hand is the topic of infant faith and the rationalistic stance that ends up contradicting Scripture.

Evangelicalism now days essentially accepts a definition of faith that involves knowledge, assent, and trust. This definition is more or less accepted across the board. Of course, they then proceed to reason that infants cannot have faith. To be more clear, infants are incapable of faith since they do not have the required cognitive ability to fulfill the knowledge and the assent parts in particular. This of course leads to the idea that infants are innocent before God simply because they are unable to have faith and thus get a free pass.

This, to be clear, is unbiblical and sloppy theology - despite having a grain of truth mixed in there.

First of all, we need to determine what faith is. After that, we will move on to address the capacity and ability for faith. Of course, the Scriptures will be informing our conclusions.

Faith is, first and foremost, a gift of God Himself, given by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the classic text that teaches this. Thus, the first problem the rationalistic interpretation of faith runs into is that if faith is a gift of God, can't He give it to anybody? Would anybody include infants? Certainly it does.

The underlying problem here is that if we dig a little below the surface a little bit, we uncover the idea that God giving faith to an infant violates that infant's right to choose. In other words, the infant - and every other person - must be able to choose faith by an act of the will. Since infants are incapable of understanding and making an informed decision, they are therefore incapable of having faith.

A denial of infant faith strikes at God's ability to give a gift to whoever He will.

So, who has the ability to have faith? I suggest that the standard American Evangelical definition misses the point completely. In their view, the ability to have faith comes from understanding and proper discernment of Christ and His work for you. Biblically, the answer is far different. No one is able to have faith naturally because we are all sinners and universally hate God. However, God can give that gift of faith to everyone through the means that He has ordained; namely, Word and Sacrament. Faith depends on God's giving, not on man's cognitive ability. This is no small difference.

Bring Me your kids!
Finally, we have the witness of Holy Scripture. The Psalmist David trusted in Christ at his mother's breasts (Psalm 22). John the Baptizer lept in the womb for joy when Mary the Theotokos and Elizabeth, the mother of John, crossed paths.

This should convince a person that infant faith is at least possible. But this is not all. We have the numerous words of Christ recorded for us in the Gospel accounts.

St. Matthew 18:1-6: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

St. Matthew 19:13-15: Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

St. Mark 10:13-16: And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

St. Luke 18:15-17: Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

2 Timothy 3:14-15:  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

I include the passage from 2 Timothy 3 here because the word used in the original language for "childhood" (child, KJV) is βρέφος (brephos). This word means an infant. It can mean an unborn child in the womb or a newborn. This word is used in Luke 1:41 when John leaps in the womb of Elizabeth. It's also used in the aforementioned St. Luke 18:15. The word for "infants" there is the same.

In St. Matthew 18:6, Jesus directly says that "little ones" (μικρός, mikros, "small, little") believe in Him. And causing these little ones to sin isn't exactly good.

In short, the American Evangelical has a pretty glaring contradiction. We can express it in a syllogism, if you will.

1. You must have faith like a child. (Scripture)

2. Children cannot have faith. (Evangelicalism)
Conclusion: You must be completely ignorant and have no faith, since "faith of a child" means "no faith." (Children cannot have faith, per them)

This would be a means of grace.
It's not a small problem. Scripture is clear. Faith is a gift of God that He gives by grace. If faith is a supernatural gift, knowledge and cognitive ability have nothing to do with who can receive it. Scripture is clear that infants do have faith in.

Not only can God give infants faith by His grace, but we as parents are obligated to bring our children to Him, and He promises to work in them.

The biblical conclusion is that infants have faith all the time, because God gives infants grace all the time via the means of grace that are administered by the Church. You know, because an Almighty God can do those sorts of things.

And stuff.


St. Luke - October 18

October 18th is the day we celebrate St. Luke, author of the Gospel According to St. Luke and the Book of Acts.

St. Luke

Old Testament

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. 4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Isaiah 43:8-13

Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! 9 All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”


2 Timothy 4:5-11

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.

Holy Gospel

St. Luke 1:1-4

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

St. Luke 24:44-53

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and[c] forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.


Almighty God, whose blessed Son called Saint Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul, grant that the healing medicine of your Word and the sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen


Baptismal Regeneration in the Early Church Father

I feel the need to return to the topic of baptism and the Early Church Fathers. After a discussion with a Baptist today I felt the need to respond with this blog post. He said that baptismal regeneration was a doctrine that developed (paraphrase) and wasn't apostolic in origin. I have produced a succinct survey of the Fathers which shows that contrary to what this Baptist had hoped, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is most certainly apostolic and Catholic. My purpose for writing this will follow in the next post where I consider the issue of Baptismal Regeneration and Infant Baptism. I suggested that Infant Baptism is necessary requisite of Baptismal Regeneration which this post will argue is Catholic (universal) in the Fathers.

The undisputed letter of Clement often entitled I Clement or the Letter to the Corinthians says nothing of baptism despite many wonderful exhortations. This letter speaks neither negatively nor positively to the efficacy of baptism. The only possible inference can be made is when Clement quotes the Prophet Ezekiel regarding the ministers of grace and repentance.

The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance; and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it … Wash you and become clean; put away the wickedness of your souls from before my eyes; cease from your evil ways, and learn to do well; seek out judgment, deliver the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and see that justice is done to the widow; and come, and let us reason together.
1 Clement, Chapter 8

However this would be at best an inference that presumes the efficacy of baptism and that is not what this post is intending to do. Clement also turns to the prophet and psalmist King David who in Psalm 51 says: “You shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; You shall wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. You shall make me to hear joy and gladness” (1 Clement, Chapter 18) Later Fathers would see this as a shadow or what happens in baptism just as Ezekiel 36 would be, but since this is not explicit it will simply be cited and left alone.

While the next writing has traditionally been attributed to Clement and will be referenced here it is safe to say it wasn’t of his authorship. The author will remain unknown and the dating may range anywhere from the late first century until the middle second century. Despite this it is still an example of an early Christian writing of the patristic period. When “Clement” speaks of Christian holiness he presents a dichotomy of either serving Christ or serving mammon, and then says it is impossible to serve both. He then cites Ezekiel to say that even the righteous saints of old Noah, Job and Daniel could not deliver their children from captivity and that we can only hope for this by doing the will of Christ. He reminds the reader of their baptism, and this baptism must be kept holy. He says:

Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness?
2 Clement, Chapter 6

Despite the off-hand statement by Pseudo-Clement about keeping our baptism holy and undefiled he does not say anything about the efficacy of baptism. He does say many things about holy living, repentance, doing the will of God, and turning from evil. He speaks much to the conversion of our soul in this sermon.

The next father to consider will be Ignatius who wrote a series of letters to different churches as he travelled to Rome to be executed. His writings represent a sense of orthodoxy which would emerge in western Christendom. The writings date from the early second century; they are generally recognized as authentic (110 AD). He wrote to the churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna; he also wrote a letter to Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna. Ignatius was a bishop of Antioch which was of the seat of St. Peter and also a city very close to the early rise of Christianity.
The following are some of the statements made by Ignatius to the Ephesians, Phillipians, and Polcarp:

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, 18

This creedal statement about Christ states very clearly that Christ was born and baptized that he might purify the water. This is not an explicit statement about baptism, that is warranted, but considering the baptism (βαπτίζω) means to wash, it is fair to infer that this cleansing and purifying of water is a reference to water. This is also supported by his other statements and the other Fathers.
“Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!”
The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 6

This statement reminds me of St. Paul who in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Romans reminds them that they were buried and risen with Christ in baptism. He reminds Polycarp that his defense is his baptism: “Let your baptism endure as your arms.” While Baptists may infer that this means your proclamation of your salvation/faith/saving those words have no foundation in Scripture while St. Paul’s (“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”) and St. Peter’s (“baptism now saves you”). Until the Baptist can find a passage of Scripture that says baptism is a profession of faith I will side with Scripture and the Fathers who call it a saving act, our defense, our arms.

“…baptism, which is administered that we should have fellowship with the death of the Lord.”
Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 1

This is a very succinct statement, but does not offer much outside the context of his other letters and the orthodoxy of the day. It again is reminiscent of St. Paul who spoke to the Romans “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3 ESV). 

Nevertheless, it does state that baptism is administered to have fellowship with the death of Christ. This doesn’t say sign/symbol or profession or any other Baptist cliché, as such it should be taken at face value. I am suggesting that Ignatius means what he says.

Polycarp is the Bishop of Smyrna that Ignatius wrote to and is also the disciple of the Apostle John. His close tie to the apostles is a testament to the Catholic faith which was passed down by the apostles. Sadly he says nothing about baptism either negatively or positively. Many inferences could be drawn concerning his pastoral letter/sermon to the Philippians but it is best to let the issue remain silent concerning Polycarp. He smoke neither positively or negatively against the issue of baptism, but it would be fair to suggest that Ignatius and Polycarp were in doctrinal communion concerning the close relationship between their churches.

This epistle is traditionally attributed to the travelling partner of St. Paul.  Instead it seems more appropriate to date this as a contemporary of Ignatius and Polycarp rather than the apostle to the gentiles. A conservative dating of his writing is the late first century to the early third century (80-140 AD).

In Chapter 11 of his epistle he contrasts figures of Israel with Baptism and the cross. Concerning baptism he writes

Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water [of baptism] and the cross. Concerning the water, indeed, it is written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that baptism which leads to the remission of sins, but should procure another for themselves.
Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11

He says that the baptism Israel received was different than the baptism which we receive as Christians. Ours leads to the remission of sins, whereas the water of theirs is different. Barnabas continues to extol the conversion that occurs in baptism. Interestingly he is addressing adults who believe, and as Christians we could confess that faith alone does save, as such these men most certainly are saved. Nevertheless, in accordance with what the Scriptures say, Barnabas still extolls that when they descend in the water, they rise forgiven. There is no language of profession of faith, or sign/symbol, but rather it is like Ananias speaking to St. Paul who already believes and yet says “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16 ESV). Barnabas says:

Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time: then He declares, I will recompense them. But now He says, Their leaves shall not fade. This means, that every word which proceeds out of your mouth in faith and love shall tend to bring conversion and hope to many. Again, another prophet says, And the land of Jacob shall be extolled above every land. Zephaniah 3:19 This means the vessel of His Spirit, which He shall glorify. Further, what says He? And there was a river flowing on the right, and from it arose beautiful trees; and whosoever shall eat of them shall live for ever. Ezekiel 47:12 This means, that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit. And whosoever shall eat of these shall live for ever, This means: Whosoever, He declares, shall hear you speaking, and believe, shall live for ever.
Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11

Barnabas says “we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit.” This is something that Lutherans would call a clear description of what Baptism does, it works faith, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation by the Word of God with Water.

Epistle to Diognetus
This epistle unfortunately speaks neither positively nor negatively to the sacrament of baptism.

Again there are no remaining works from Papias on Baptism. The fragments which we have do not speak to the Sacrament of Baptism.

Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr like the other fathers speaks to the efficacy of baptism quite explicitly in his Apology and in his Dialogue with Trypho. Concerning the Apology he says:

Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
First Apology, Chapter 61

He specifically says that we are converted are regenerated by water (namely Baptism) and he speaks to the Word of God which accompanies this water, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then he continues to cite the Gospel according to John where our Lord says “, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Such birth from above comes by grace and the powerful working of God in Baptism.  
In his next writing, his dialogue with Trypho the Jew he says:

But there is no other [way] than this—to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins; and for the rest, to live sinless lives.
Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 44

Justin says there is no other way to be acquainted but by baptism. He is clearly advocating an apostolic and biblical understanding which as St. Peter would agree says … baptism now saves you.

Irenaeus can rightly be known as the heresy basher. Despite his famous work Against Heresies, he doesn’t speak negatively to Baptism but rather supports the various views which can be known as the Catholic (universal) doctrine concerning Baptism. He is recorded saying:

"‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]" (Fragment34 [A.D. 190]).

Irenaeus makes it abundantly clear that we are purified through baptism. We are made clean by “the sacrament water and the invocation of the Lord.” He says that we are spiritually regenerated. Like Justin Martyr he cites the gospel of John reminding that to be born from above / born again it is through water and spirit.

He also says

“Thus there are as many schemes of redemption as there are teachers of these mystical opinions. And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian ] faith.” Against Heresies, I.21.1

In the first writing he contrasts the opinions of heretics with the orthodox. Concerning the latter he says that there are some "instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole faith.”

What more can I say then what Irenaeus has already clearly stated in his writing Against Heretics?

I will try and write more later on, but for now this should suffice to say, as Irenaeus says, the Catholic faith teaches that baptism does save.