You Can't Account for Nuthin' Yo

It's time that I, as a Confessional Lutheran, tip my cap to some Calvinists. After all, I used to be a pretty dogmatic one. In my opinion, one thing the Calvinists do better than us Lutherans is apologetics involving atheism. They're much more involved in that sphere, and I think they do an excellent job of it.

There are two basic types of Christian apologetics approaches. The first one is called evidentialism or empiricism. That is to say, people look at all the visible evidence and argue for the existence of God. Or, in more general terms, they argue for the existence of intelligent design, or a Creator. Some Calvinists argue in this manner. R.C. Sproul would be a good example. The formidable Christian apologist William Lane Craig would be another example, although Craig is clearly not a Calvinist.

The other - and in my opinion better - apologetic approach toward athsism is called presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositionalism cuts directly to the heart of the matter in places where evidentialism fails.

Evidentialism surely has its place in apologetics; especially where evidentialism argues for Christ and not just for some random "god." Arguing from the historicity of the resurrection would be one such example.

The reason presuppositionalism is proper when doing apologetics with atheists is that evidentialism fails. We can present all the evidence in the world and we're going to point out that it points to the existence of God, while the atheist is just going to interpret the evidence in a different manner.

The bottom line is that since we both will look at the same evidence and argue for different conclusions - we must look directly at the root of the worldviews. If the atheist is going to try to force a "burden of proof" on us, and ask for irrefutable empirical evidence, well, they can't offer any either. And in effect, this "burden of proof" demand is nothing more than a silly canard. We can give them all the proof they need but they'll deny it. Not only that, but they're actually making the same claim, just in a negation sort of way. To put it bluntly, we have every right to ask for "burden of proof" too. In short, these demands are nonsense. We both will look at the evidence and come up with what our underlying worldview says the evidence means. That's just human nature. Then they'll fall back on science. Well, Christians aren't against science, you know. The irony of it is that the atheist really has no basis whatever for using science or logic or reason or mathematics. Of course, they use such things and they are right to do so, because the laws of logic, mathematics, and science are absolute. As an example, 1+1=2 in all times for all people.

But therein lies the folly and internal disaster of atheism. They can't account for any of these things. Their worldview does not allow for it.
Are the laws of mathematics absolute and unchanging? Well, yeah, they are. What about logic? That's the same too. So when the atheist attempts to say that the laws of logic and mathematics are societal conventions, they've committed a major error in one of two directions. First, they could be admitting without realizing it, that the laws of mathematics and logic can change, because people change. And if we invented these as conventions in the first place, what happens when someone comes up with a new convention? That's silly of course, and the atheist would say as much. The other problem is that they could be asserting that human reason is absolute in its deductions. But herein lies a massive double-edged sword. Yeah, human reason changes and sees things differently about different things and such. That's true. But human reason did not create the laws of mathematics or logic. We discovered them perhaps, but they already existed and were already absolutely true.

So, what made those laws absolutely true? Why are they like that? The atheist has no answer. In fact, the atheist ultimately cannot account for anything. The Christian does and can.

Presup. It's what's for dinner.


Feel Good Tree Huggin Hibbity Dibbity

What is the purpose of Christianity? What is it about? Who is the central figure?

If you listen to your general run of the mill evangelical testimony now days, Christianity is something vastly different than what Scripture purports it to be.

Not so long ago, I had the privilege of hearing numerous testimonies at a church at which I am not a member. I like hearing testimonies. The majority of them were stories about how their lives have changed due to the ministry of the church. Marriages have been saved, people have been set on a course to financial freedom, and lives have been changed. Other testimonies focused on how good something made them feel, or how they just could feel the Spirit moving. All of that is good, of course. Lord knows He saved my marriage once upon a time, and He continues to uphold us by His hand of providence and grace.

But none of that is really Christianity.

The thing that saddened me is that not once did someone say anything about Christ crucified and the forgiveness of sins. What about the resurrection? Pfft. Not to be found. If an outsider were in attendance, they would without doubt come away from those testimonies thinking that Christianity is a self-help program to get your life on track. But can't they get self-help from the culture around them? Well, yeah, they can. You don't need Christ for that.

If this is the case; that Christianity is something to get your life on track, we're still all dead in our sins. And that's a huge problem of eternal proportions.

If this is the case; that Christianity is something to get your life on track, the best "Christians" out there are the best motivational speakers, psychologists, and shrinks.

If this is the case; that Christianity is something to get your life on track, Dr. Phil, Oprah, and other secular anti-Christian self-help gurus are the new Apostles. Perhaps we might throw Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen into the mix here too, but they're anti-Christian as well.

Nobody wants to hear that they are a wretched sinner. Nobody wants to hear that they can do nothing to save themselves. Nobody wants to hear that Christianity is not a self-help program, because at our core we are sinful selfish beings. Our first question usually is "what's in it for me?" And Christianity ends up with a whole ton of people within the walls of the church who have no clue what Christianity is. This is a horrific shame.

Your quality of life, materially and relationally speaking, might get better as a Christian. But it might get worse. But you're forgiven. God has saved you, is saving you, and will save you. He gives you Himself in the Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.

But it's OK, most people surmise. Because, you know, we all believe in Jesus. But which Jesus? Who is He? What has He done? Why, oh why, is the Good News not proclaimed over and over? Why are we not partaking of the Lord's Supper more often?
Michael Horton

Reformed author Michael Horton puts it well:

“Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we've never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. "God loves you" doesn't stir the world's opposition. However, start talking about God's absolute authority, holiness, ... Christ's substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably.” 

Houston, we have a problem. The Church is not doing her job. People believe these self-help messages and feel good testimonies because that is precisely what they have been taught in the church.

People are looking for God in themselves and the change in their lives. But that's not where God is, according to Scripture. He's on the cross, dying for you. He's in the grave. He's risen from the grave for you. He's in His Word, given to you. And He is in His Sacraments; those places where He promises in His Word that He will be.

Christianity is not a religion of how much God changed my life or of how much I am doing for God. It's a religion (And please, please, please don't tell me Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship. That's a massive false dichotomy.) of Christ saving you. At Calvary, rising from the grave, in His Word, and in His Sacraments.

Because you...are a sinner. And you need forgiveness continually.

Why don't we hear that at most churches? Because they've exchanged the truth (even though they usually know this truth...it gets brushed under the rug) for some lies. That's why.


Water, Washing, Baptism, Spirit, Word

It might be kind of simple, and I might be a Simpleton (I've been called worse), but what I am going to propose here is pretty simple, clear, and really nothing new. In fact, the entire Christian church held to these things from the days of the Apostles up until the radical Anabaptists of the Reformation era. By the way, in case you didn't know, the Anabaptists were heretics who denied original sin, among other things.

So sit back and read as I propose some pretty simple things.

1. The word water, when used in Holy Scripture, actually means water. That is to say, it means H2O.

So, when Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about being born again by water and the Spirit, Jesus actually means "water and the Spirit."

St. John 3:5: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Water and the Spirit go together here. It is a "both/and" deal, not two separate things. It's not talking about the amniotic fluid of birth. It's talking about water and the Spirit. Water means water.

You don't really need to go looking for alternative interpretations here. The amniotic fluid interpretation is silly, although those who would deny any sort of baptismal efficacy entertain it, because, you know, it simply can't mean the obvious here. The passage just is not allowed to be talking about baptism, despite the numerous other texts that say the same thing in various different forms.

So then a purely figurative and spiritual interpretation gets concocted. Advocates of this one like to point back to Ezekiel 36.

Ezekiel 36:25-27: I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This interpretation is better than the amniotic fluid one, but it's still a bit of gymnastics, used solely to fit into particular theologies. But why can't water mean water here as well? I mean, yeah, for sure there is a spiritual component to John 3:5 as well as Ezekiel 36:25. No one disputes that. But then again, that's why the word "Spirit" is there, because the Holy Spirit is connected to the water.

So what is the problem now then? Water can't be water because this is spiritual? Does that mean God does not use material things to save the material world? If that is the case, that's Gnosticism. I mean, Christ is a man and all. He's material.


2. The word washing, when used in Holy Scripture, actually means washing. And washing is done with water.

Just as John 3:5 speaks of water and the Spirit, Titus 3:5 speaks of washing and the Spirit.

Titus 3:4-7: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The phrase used is "washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." This passage sounds just like "unless one is born [regeneration] of water [washing] and the Spirit [Holy Spirit]."

I mean, am I missing something here?

3. Baptism, when spoken of in Scripture is a washing with water most often, because that's what the word actually means.

Yes, there are examples when Jesus uses the word baptism to refer to the cross. But that does not give us a good reason to eisogete the texts every place it's pretty obviously talking about baptism.

There is yet another parallel passage to John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 that says the same thing.

Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Here you go, same thing: Repent and be baptized [water]...for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And there are others that speak of baptism, which includes water, actually doing something. The short list includes Romans 6:3-4, Ephesians 5:26, Colossians 2:12, Galatians 3:27, 1 Peter 3:21, and so on.

The essential elements in a baptism are water and God's Word. This Word is given to us by Jesus in the Great Commission:

St. Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Now I simply ask you this: Does the Holy Spirit work through the Word? If you're any sort of orthodox Christian, the answer to that is yes, the Holy Spirit works through the Word.

What is baptism? Is it not a washing of water with the Word? Do we not baptize people in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? Is it not into the Name of the Triune God that we are baptized?

At this juncture, it's very clear. If you are denying the efficacy of baptism as a means of grace through which God works, you're just flat out denying Scripture. The same Spirit who inspired the Holy Scriptures is very clear. So clear, in fact, that we are given passage after passage about baptism doing things to us that save us. It hits us from multiple directions in order to be clear. It says "water and the Spirit." It then says "washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." Then, "be baptised...and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." And on and on and on we go.

Oh...it violates faith alone I hear you saying? Only if you have the wrong definition of baptism and erroneously turn it into a work. The way in which Holy Scripture describes baptism tells us that it cannot possibly be a work. I'm not going to go into this, because I wrote a blog on that topic a couple months ago, found here:

Faith Alone and Baptism go together

I propose simply this: Holy Scripture is very clear on this topic, and baptism is God's work done TO you, not your work given to God. Water means water, washing means washing, and baptism means baptism.

Where in Christianity is water used? Baptism, right? So, when Scripture repeatedly talks about water and washing, why do some theologies deny the obvious and plain meaning of Scripture.

It doesn't fit their presuppositions, that's why.


All Saints Day - November 1

November 1 we celebrate All Saints Day.

Old Testament:

Psalm 34:1-10

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! 4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Isaiah 26: 1-4, 8-9,  12-13, 19-21

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

8 In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

12 O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. 13 O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance.

19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. 21 For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.


Revelation 21:9-11, 22-27

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

The Holy Gospel:

St. Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


O Almighty God, by whom we are graciously knit together as one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Jesus Christ, our Lord, grant us so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we may come to those unspeakable joys which you have prepared for those who unfeignedly love you; through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reformation Day - October 31

October 31 is the day we celebrate the truth that thundered forth in the Reformation. October 31, 1517 was the day that Martin Luther hammered the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, challenging the corruption and abuses of the Roman Church.

Old Testament:

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”


Romans 3:19-28

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 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. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Revelation 14:6-7

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The Holy Gospel

John 8:31-36

 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.


Almighty God, gracious Lord, pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your grace and truth, protect them and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all enemies of your Word, and bestow on the Church your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen