God is For Us

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)

This is great news! God is for us, not against us. If a vengeful and wrathful God is what you seek, you must look somewhere other than Christ. For God gave up Christ to be crucified for us as an act of love. The Incarnation of Christ and His subsequent crucifixion and resurrection is all the proof we need that God is definitely for us.

Not only so, but this is the definitive proof that God has given us. We needn't look elsewhere to seek out God. Only in Christ is where He will be found. God does not desire for us to look elsewhere. We do not need dreams. We do not need visions. We do not need to raise someone from the dead, talk gibberish, or experience any other charismatic mania to know that God is for us. He has sent His Son to die for us and rise again, defeating Satan, sin, and death in one fell swoop.

Moreover, it is a surety. God has done it all and continues to do it all. Christianity is not a religion of ladder climbing, where God weighs our good against our bad and then makes an infallible judgment call on the quality of our lives. Whereas good works are very important to Christianity, they are never able to merit us any sort of standing or favor before God.

Instead, Jesus Christ comes to be born in a manger with animals around Him, lives a perfect life fulfilling the law on our behalf, and then dies for our sins and rises again. Continuing into today and throughout history until He returns, He will continue to save people through His powerful creative Word, given to us in the preaching of the Gospel, the Sacraments, and the Office of the Keys which He instituted.

Christ came and lived, died, and rose for you due to nothing good in yourself. (1 Cor 15:1-4, Jer 17:9, Rom 3:10-12)

God is for us.

The good news of this life, death, and resurrection is preached to you. (Rom 10:9-17)

God is for us.

You are forgiven of your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (John 20:23)

God is for us.

He washes us in the waters of Holy Baptism and buries us and raises us in faith. (Rom 6:3-4, Col 2:12, Gal 3:27, Tit 3:5)

God is for us.

He gives us His true body and blood to nourish us, forgive our sins, and deliver to us life and salvation. (Mat 26:26-28)

God is for us.

And best of all, He is for all of us. desiring the salvation of everyone. (1 Tim 2:4-6, 2 Pet 3:9)

God is for us. All of us. Even you.



The Love of God is Found in Christ Alone

Staupitz: Martin, what is it you seek?

Luther: A merciful God. A God whom I can love. A God who loves.

Staupitz: Then look to Christ. Bind yourself to Christ, and you will know God's love. Say to Him, 'I am yours, save me.'

That is a scene from the movie Luther (2003). The young Augustinian monk Martin Luther is terrified of God. He hates God because all Luther sees is judgment and condemnation. Luther knows quite well that he is a sinner.

All of this is to say that Staupitz knew, and the young Martin Luther knew later, that the love of God is found in Christ alone.

There are a few different doctrinal things going on here. There is the love of God, but also there is God's wrath against sin and the topic of children of God. Much of this should be pretty easy to hash out.

First, God's love is found only in Christ and Him alone. More specifically, this love manifests itself in Christ's active and passive obedience on our behalf. St. John writes about this in his Gospel as well as the Epistle of 1 John. There are parallel verses here.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

This famous and oft-quoted verse is telling us not necessarily how much God loves us, but how God loves us. He does so by giving the Son, Christ. To put it in a very simple manner we can say: How does God love us? The answer is, that he gave His only begotten Son. This idea is paralleled in 1 John.

1 John 4:9-10: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In a way, 1 John 4 is even more to the point. How did God love us? "...God sent His only Son into the world...In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son..."

Thus, we see that the love of God is wrapped up wholly in Christ and His work.

That brings us to our next topic: sin and the wrath of God against sin. Let us put it clearly: God hates sin. In fact, God hates those who actually sin. Without Christ and His work, God's wrath abides on us all.

Psalm 5:5: The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.

Psalm 11:5: The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Ephesians 2:1-3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

God hates sin. It is a violation of His Law and sin must be dealt with because God is Holy and Just. Humans are sinners. Based on nothing but us and our actions, God would have nothing but wrath towards us. All of us.

But God loves us. Not because of us, but because of Christ, the atonement for our sins. He loves us in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29).

Two things now must be answered. First, we have to determine who the children of God are. Is everyone a child of God? Christ died for everyone, right? Per Scripture, the answer to that is no, not everyone is a child of God. Yes, Christ died for everyone and yes, in Christ God loves everyone. But the term child of God is reserved for those who receive Christ only.

John 1:12-13: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Here is our clear answer. Those who receive Christ are the children of God. There are numerous other passages in Scripture that speak of the concept of children of God. All of them are speaking only of those who are in Christ. None of them speak of all humanity.

The reason I discuss this topic is because it is quite popular now to say that everyone is a child of God. And per the Scriptures that is not true. It is true that God loves everyone in Christ and Him alone.

The second thing we must answer is the question: Who does God love and who does God hate? The answer is crystal clear: God loves everyone. Far from being a schizophrenic god who loves some and hates the rest, God lavishes His love on humanity on a bloody wooden cross, on which the God of glory died.

This is one of the gravest errors of (Hyper and High) Calvinist theology. In Calvinist theology, they rightly surmise that God's love is paramount at Calvary. Then they proceed to say that God's love bestowed in Christ and Him alone is only for the elect alone, because Christ only died for the elect. Therefore, God has nothing but sheer hatred towards the non-elect.

Protestant Reformed author David Engelsma has went to great lengths to show this is the case in his book Prosperous Wicked and Plagued Saints. It's an exposition of Psalm 73 aimed directly at the mainline Calvinist doctrine of "common grace." Engelsma, along with High and Hyper Calvinist theology, is simply in error here.

Instead of living in the Scriptural tension of Christ dying for the many (His chosen) and the all (total humanity), they erect a God with schizophrenia, making election the paramount decision God made pertaining to just about everything (it's called Supralapsarianism) and then all of God's workings in history are done in order to carry out election. Of course, one of the major drawbacks to this doctrine is that God simply creates billions of people for the sole purpose of damning them for the glory of Himself and the good of His elect.

I can't understand why this doctrine is as it is. There are other areas where Calvinists are more than happy to live in tension and believe Scripture in tension. Amillennialism is one such example. They joyfully talk about the already and the not yet, and speak of how we are living in this tension. Yet when it comes to the atonement, they are unwilling to surrender the golden calf of reason known as the TULIP. When it comes to that, it's black and white. God loves His elect, and He freakin hates everyone else. Damn sinners. Psalm 5:5 applies to those damn sinners, but not to the elect. But wait, aren't we all sinners, even as Christians?

Scripture sums up this tension in the atonement nicely.

1 Timothy 4:10: For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

God is the Savior of all people. This reflects the universality of the atonement spoken of in John 1:29, 1 John 2:2, and numerous other verses. But, He is especially the Savior of believers. This reflects the particularity of salvation spoken of in passages like Matthew 1:21, stating, She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Let us hold fast to the Word of Christ. In Christ, God is loving towards us. Towards all of us. Even the worst of us. Even the best of us. God is love, and this love is Christ.

1 John 4:9-10: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


Sasse: Destroying the Sacrament

"It seems very difficult, if not impossible, for those who are involved in a great historic decision to recognize its irrevocability. This is especially true of the doctrinal decisions made in the history of the church. It took two generations and long theological and ecclesiastical controversies before the decision on the homoousion doctrine adopted at Nicaea in 325 was repeated and confirmed by the Second Ecumenical Council in 381. In a similar way, two generations had to continue the theological work and the ecclesiastical controversies on the Lord's Supper in the 16th century before the Formula of concord in 1577 reaffirmed the decision of Marburg as far as the Lutheran church is concerned, and thus definitely decided that there is no middle road between Luther and zwingli, but only the choice between the est and the significat. even these decisions did not find general acceptance, and today, 400 years later, attempts are still being made to solve a problem which Marburg has already proved to be insoluble.
The only approach which at times became popular during these four centuries - for it seemed to offer at least a practical solution - was the idea of Zwingli, Bucer, Philip of Hesse, and other politicians: If a doctrinal agreement cannot be reached, there can at least be a mutual recognition and a common celebration of the Sacrament. The history of unions, however, shows that this apparently-practical solution is no solution at all. For, apart from the fact that a common celebration presupposes a common liturgy in which, if it is a real liturgy, the doctrinal differences are bound to appear in a different form, such practical intercommunion leads to a destruction of the Sacrament. For a Sacrament which is a mere rite performed without the necessity of believing a divine interpretation, may be a more-or-less impressive, mysterious action, but it is not the Sacrament of Christ, which is always constituted by the Word - as even the Roman church has not quite forgotten. Here lies the deeper reason why in all union churches - we must include also many Lutheran churches that for practical purposes have accepted the union - the disintegration of the Sacrament is inevitable.
What is still more surprising than the blindness of theologians as regards the definiteness of the decision of Marburg is the fact that even eminent historians do not realize that the controversies which followed Marburg were an aftermath only. There is a widespread conviction, even among serious students of the Lutheran Reformation, that the controversy between Luther and Zwingli was only the prelude to the real discussion that began when the notable mediators, first Bucer, and later Calvin, entered the scene. This view which, even in the case of historians, actually goes back to Reformed convictions concerning the Sacrament, is supported by the fact that, after all, Reformed Christianity is not Zwinglianism, but Calvinism. the immense tragedy of Zwingli's life; his early death in 1531, which was immediately followed by the death of Oecolampadius; the fact that the Reformation in German Switzerland had to be taken over at the time of its worst crisis by men of minor stature, while in Geneva Calvin began to shine like a star of the first magnitude: all this contributed to an underestimation of Zwingli. It seems that not until today does the Reformer of Zurich come into his own again, after the noteworthy editions of his works by Koehler, Farner, and others have inaugurated a new study of Zwingli's theology. 
This statement is, of course, not meant to minimize the significance of Calvin as a theologian, and as one of the most distinguished churchmen of all ages. Eminent as he may have been as a systematic theologian - he was more of a reproductive and systematizing mind than an original thinker - his doctrine on the Sacraments could be understood, as we shall see, by the Lutherans as only another version of Zwinglianism, It was not, as the common opinion is, a misunderstanding on the part of the Lutherans if they rejected it as a new, and even more dangerous, for of Zwingli's doctrine. There is no question that Calvin wanted to give more than Zwingli, being deeply convinced that he was closer to Luther, and that he had found the true via media between the two. This personal feeling, however, can never abolish the fact that even the most conscientious among Lutheran theologians, men who had a very clear picture of what had happened since Zwingli's death in the field of eucharistic doctrine within the Reformed churches, could not find any essential difference between Zwingli and Calvin.we must never forget that Calvinistic influences had meanwhile pervaded the Lutheran churches, and that many lutherans had sympathized with Calvin. and yet his doctrine was rejected by the vast majority of Lutherans. No one can read the report on the colloquy held in 1586 at Montbeliard (a German enclave in France at that time) at the request of the Duke of Wuerttemberg between Beza from Geneva and Jacob Andreae from Tuebingen, and their colleagues, without feeling that either party knew exactly what the other taught. No serious and unprejudiced historian can deny that, rather than misunderstandings, it was conflicting concepts of the Sacrament, as they had become evident at Marburg, that caused the negotiations and discussions of the next two generations to end in the same inevitable failure as at Marburg. Thus, the hopeless controversy was destined to continue, much to the distress of pious souls, and with the most harmful consequences for the churches involved."
Hermann Sasse, This is My Body, pp. 239-241 

Let us remember history. For all the platitudes and insistences of the Reformed church, even today, that they affirm the Real Presence in Holy Communion, they simply do not. The Marburg Colloquy was an eye-opening gathering of the two sides and affirmed that there is no via media between the true bodily presence of Christ in the Sacrament and the denial of the same. Despite the best attempts of Martin Bucer and John Calvin, the great compromisers, the middle way that joins Luther and Zwingli does not exist. Ultimately, where Bucer and Calvin want to have a Real Presence, they both explicitly reject what the Real Presence actually is. The bread is the body of Christ and we receive this in our mouth. at the end of the day, despite Bucer and Calvin's best efforts, they have simply affirmed a version of ramped-up Zwinglianism.

Remember it was John Calvin himself who wrote these statements later in life in the infamous Consensus Tigurinus:

Article 16: Besides, we carefully teach that God does not exert his power indiscriminately in all who receive the sacraments, but only in the elect. For as he enlightens unto faith none but those whom he hath foreordained to life, so by the secret agency of his Spirit he makes the elect receive what the sacraments offer.

Here Calvin flatly rejects the idea that everyone who receives Christ's body and blood actually receives it. In other words, it is by faith that the benefits are received. Nevertheless, nobody receives Christ orally. This is contradictory to the Lutheran stance.

Article 17: By this doctrine is overthrown that fiction of the sophists which teaches that the sacraments confer grace on all who do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. For besides that in the sacraments nothing is received except by faith, we must also hold that the grace of God is by no means so annexed to them that whoso receives the sign also gains possession of the thing. For the signs are administered alike to reprobate and elect, but the reality reaches the latter only.

Once again, Calvin rejects the reception of the body of Christ in the bread and His blood in the wine.

Article 21: We must guard particularly against the idea of any local presence. For while the signs are present in this world, are seen by the eyes and handled by the hands, Christ, regarded as man, must be sought nowhere else than in Heaven, and not otherwise than with the mind and eye of faith. Wherefore it is a perverse and impious superstition to inclose him under the elements of this world.

Calvin here explicitly rejects the Real Presence, even calling it a "perverse and impious superstition."

Article 22: Those who insist that the formal words of the Supper, "This is my body; this is my blood," are to be taken in what they call the precisely literal sense, we repudiate as preposterous interpreters. For we hold it out of controversy that they are to be taken figuratively, the bread and wine receiving the name of that which they signify. Nor should it be thought a new or unwonted thing to transfer the name of things figured by metonomy [modern spelling: metonymy] to the sign, as similar modes of expression occur throughout the Scriptures, and we by so saying assert nothing but what is found in the most ancient and most approved writers of the Church.

Here Calvin aims his darts directly at Luther and the Lutheran churches, calling them all "preposterous interpreters," and insisting that the Words of Institution be taken figuratively.

Article 24: In this way are refuted not only the fiction of the Papists concerning transubstantiation, but all the gross figments and futile quibbles which either derogate from his celestial glory or are in some degree repugnant to the reality of his human nature. For we deem it no less absurd to place Christ under the bread or couple him with the bread, than to transubstantiate the bread into his body

Calvin now equates the Real Presence as taught in Lutheranism with Romanist transubstantiation and calls it "absurd."

These are the thoughts of Calvin, straight from a statement he drew up. The spiritual presence view of Calvin and Bucer is to be rejected by the Lutheran church as nothing more than Zwinglianism with a twist. But at the end of the day, it is the same exact thing. The Calvinist, as well as the Zwinglian, must reject that This (the bread) is My (Christ's) Body. They must by default say that This is not my body. This bread is just bread, inventing slick explanations and redefinition of terms in order to claim that the Real Presence is upheld. Yet, it is not.

No wonder why later Lutheran pastors and theologians regarded Calvin's theories as more dangerous than Zwingli's.

Let us hold fast to the words of Christ.



Sasse: The End of Marburg

In his outstanding book entitled "This is My Body," Hermann Sasse writes the following regarding the end of the Marburg Colloquy of 1529.


"Nothing shows more clearly than the Marburg Articles that the doctrinal difference concerning the Lord's Supper is not, as Zwingli and his friends believed, a difference in one point of doctrine only -and a minor one at that- since  it is not an article of the Creed. Luther was right when from the very beginning he saw that, as the Words of Institution are the Gospel itself, a difference in the understanding of the Sacrament must reveal nothing less than a difference in the understanding of the Gospel. If he did not realize this in the atmosphere of the last days at Marburg, the reason was that he interpreted the Articles according to his theology, and took it for granted that Zwingli, in accepting the terms, also agreed with the content. Hre failed to see, as many Lutherans later in their discussions and negotiations with Reformed theologians also have failed to see, that Zwingli's theology, and later that of Calvin, allowed for a far more flexible use of theological terms.

The versatility of Zwingli and his friends and successors is not, as in the case of Bucer, determined by their characters; it is rather a different understanding of Christianity. Koehler has repeatedly called our attention to the fact that the controversies on the Sacrament between the Reformers were instrumental in creating the concept of what Bucer called ratio Christianismi, the essence of Christianity. The idea belongs to the humanist interpretation of the Christian faith. Erasmus distinguished between those vital truths of the Bible which are sufficient for Christian piety, and questions and answers which should not be discussed. Erasmus connected this distinction with the interpretation of the Bible, the single passages of which are often understood differently. While for Erasmus, who remained a faithful son of the Roman church, the church and ecclesiastical tradition were the final authority in defining what is essential and what not, for Zwingli this authority was, of course, Holy Scripture. For him the Word of God was clear and sufficient, provided the Holy Spirit enlightens the hearer or the reader. Thus, he himself was absolutely sure about his understanding of John 6 as the key to the understanding of the Words of Institution, without asking whether perhaps the difficulty of a literal understanding of these words had not driven him to John 6 as a possible means of avoiding that difficulty. Whatever the more-or-less unconscious motive of always resorting to John 6:63 may ha ve been, Zwingli was deeply convinced that he, and not Luther, followed Scripture.
How, then, is it to be explained that he was prepared to recognize Luther as a brother in the faith, in spite of what he regarded as Luther's grave error? The answer is that for him the Sacrament, and the doctrine on the Sacrament, did not belong to those essentials of the Christian faith concerning which there must be unity within the church. In contradistinction to Luther, the understanding of the Gospel on which there must be unanimity is independent of the understanding of the Lord's Supper and of the Sacraments in general. The Sacrament for Zwingli is not part of parcel of the Gospel; it is an ordinance of Christ, to be performed by Christians. This performance may have some effect on the soul of the faithful, insofar as the 'sign' makes the Word of the Gospel clearer. But the Sacraments can never be means of grace in the strict sense. They only signify the grace which has been given without them, as he puts it in Art. 7 of his Fidei Ratio:

"I believe, indeed, I know, that all the sacraments are so far from conferring grace that they do not even convey of distribute it."

Here lies the deepest reason for the for the differing attitudes of Luther and Zwingli, not only toward the Sacrament as such, but also toward the doctrine, that is, the understanding of the Sacrament. If the Sacrament, though performed by man, is an act of God, and if this act (as other passages of the Lutheran Confessions indicate even more clearly) is more than a sign, namely, an instrument by which God gives something, then the denial of this character of the Sacrament is nothing less than a destruction of the Sacrament. The Sacrament is either a means by which God gives His grace, or it is no Sacrament at all - at least, not in the sense in which the church for 1500 years, since the days of the apostles, had understood the Sacrament. Nothing can conceal the difference between churches for which the Sacraments are instruments of divine grace and churches which deny this.

The most important result of Marburg was that the difference became unmistakable clear. For Luther the right understanding of the Sacrament as a means of grace, the understanding of the Words of Institution in their simple, literal sense, was an ecclesiastical article of the Christian faith. He never demanded the acceptance of a theological theory. His doctrine on the ubiquity of the body of Christ, or any other theological attempt to explain the mystery, was not even mentioned. The suggestion which he made after the colloquy, and which was meant to settle the controversy, shows what he regarded as essential and what not, namely, the confession that
"the body and blood are truly, that is, substantively and essentially - though not quantitatively, or qualitatively, or locally - present, and are given."

The disagreement concerning this question caused Luther to refuse the fraternal handshake and recognition as a brother in the faith to Zwingli at the end of the colloquy. He did not do it lightheartedly, as is shown by his attempts to save the union after the breakdown of the discussions. He had to take this stand because nothing less was at stake than the Word of God, the Sacrament of Christ, and thereby the existence of the Church. Not the existence of a Lutheran church; Luther was never interested in that. Denominations in the modern sense had not yet come into existence after the unity of Western Christendom had failed. The question for Luther was whether or not the Sacraments, as a means of grace, and whether the Sacrament of the Altar, as the Sacrament of the true body and blood of Christ, were rooted in the Gospel and therefore essential for the Church. He could not but answer this question in the affirmative. A church without the Sacrament as real means of grace was for him a church without Christ, who had instituted Baptism as a washing of regeneration and the Supper as the Sacrament of his true body and blood. This is the reason why he could not recognize Zwingli as a brother in the faith.


Whether such assumptions are necessary presuppositions for an understanding of the Word of God, as Zwingli believed, or whether they are philosophical prejudices which prevent the true understanding of God's Word, as Luther was convinced, that is the question which at the time divided the two Reformers and their followers. It is a questions which cannot be answered by a compromise. This was seen quite clearly, not only by Luther, but also by Zwingli. There is no via media between est and significat. It shows the greatness of Zwingli in contrast to Bucer, Calvin, and all prophets of a middle road between Wittenberg and Zurich. Whatever shortcomings he may have had, he was a clear thinker. The issue between Luther and Zwingli was a question of faith, and therefore, a question of conscience. While, in other points, as the Marburg Articles show, he could yield in a way which seems to indicate that either he did not fully realize the seriousness of the questions involved, or he acted as a politician, here the point was reached where he could not give in. It is of no avail to ask who is responsible for the failure of the colloquy, which Luther had anticipated from the outset. As believing Christians we shall have our personal convictions as to who was right and who was wrong. The church historian can only state the fact that each one was bound in conscience to follow his understanding of the Word of God.

The issue between Luther and Zwingli, between the Lutheran and the Reformed churches of the 16th century, was solely whether the two doctrines on the Sacrament were theological opinions which could and should be tolerated in one and the same church, or whether they had to regard one another as heretics, which made altar -and church- fellowship impossible. While Zwingli regarded Luther's view as wrong, he was prepared to tolerate it because, in his opinion, the question of the Sacrament did not belong to the essentials of the Christian faith. He found, in this respect, many followers in the Reformed churches; however, in the 16th century, as a consequence of the bitter controversies, other Reformed theologians denied the possibility of such intercommunion. Luther, on the other hand, never had any doubt that the denials of bodily presence and bodily eating in the Sacrament was a heresy that made intercommunion impossible. As he left Marburg, hoping that the other side would eventually see this heresy, and accept the Real Presence in the sense of his last suggestion, so during the following decade he left nothing undone to win over as many as possible of those who in the days of Marburg had stood against him. However, when he saw that all his attempts were in vain, and that the old heresy appeared in new forms, he had to repeat his no of Marburg, as he did in his Short Confession shortly before his death:

Hermann Sasse, This is My Body, p. 227-232, 236-237

There you have it, straight from the historical account as given by Hermann Sasse. In Sasse's account, we can glean many truths, especially from a Lutheran perspective.

Most of all, what we should take from this is that for Lutherans, the Real Presence is the Gospel given to us in visible form. We do not agree with Zwingli, the Reformed churches, and most of all modern American evangelicalism, that the Holy Sacrament of the Altar is a secondary matter of the Christian faith. Anything that involves the Gospel is primary and cannot be compromised. Thus, as Zwingli and the modern Reformed church would like to claim Luther and the Lutherans for their side as one greater whole, we cannot agree.

We do not agree with the Reformed churches and their offspring that the Sacrament is secondary and that we should overlook errors on this matter for the sake of union. We take St. Paul's warning in 1 Corinthians very seriously. This means that Lutheran churches cannot in good faith offer the body and blood of Christ to those who deny that it is the body and blood of Christ.

Moreover we cannot, as Luther did not at Marburg in 1529, offer the right hand of fellowship to people and churches that we see as having a grave error regarding the Gospel.

Where Zwingli and modern ancestors of the Reformed church see Holy Communion as a secondary, we see it as being of first importance. Where people may cry that we must stick to Christ alone regarding the fundamentals, we reply that this doctrine is in fact part of that. It is part and parcel of the Gospel and of Christ alone. Not to mention, it is paramount regarding the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Here we stand. We can do no other.

This is My Body.



It is very commonplace in many churches today to use the men and women of the Bible as examples of morality and goodness to encourage us to be more moral and better people.

Is this the purpose of the Bible and these examples?

Let us in fact look at the examples.

1.     Adam and Eve. Walked with God, then doubted Him. Blamed each other. Sin entered the world.

2.     Noah. Got drunk. Lay uncovered.

3.     Lot. Hangs out in the city gates of Sodom. Offers his daughters to lustful gay men.

4.     Moses. Temper problem. Murdered Egyptian. Was not permitted to enter the promised land.

5.     Abraham. Lies to the Pharaoh about Sarah.

6.     Sarah, does not trust God, laughs, offers her maidservant to her husband to sleep with. To this day we have the radical Muslims because of them. Heirs of Ishmael.

7.     Jacob, the deceiver. Lies and steals the birthright.

8.     David. Man after God’s own heart. Lusts after Bathsheba, another man's wife. Uses his kingly power to bring her to him and commit adultery with him. Tries to cover it up. Can't cover it up, so he has her husband murdered. Numbered the census not trusting God. Adulterous man. Was not permitted to build God’s temple because he was a man of war with blood on his hands.

9.     Solomon. Wise but thousands of wives.

10. Samson. Strong but lusted after women and was a spoiled brat. Told his parents what to do.

11. Jonah the Prophet. Self-righteous, hated the Ninevites. Acted like a baby when he didn’t get his way. Tried to hide from God.

12. Hosea, who takes a prostitute as his wife.

13. Paul. Murdered Christians.

14. Peter. Lied three times. Compromised the Gospel by not eating with Gentiles. Paul had to oppose him to his face.

15. The disciples who fled before Jesus' crucifixion.

16. Etc.

Multiple more examples could be given. 

You see, God has put these examples in Scripture to encourage those of us who are broken.  

There is this false idea--the theology of glory--that says we "get better morally" once we become Christians. This false idea says that becoming more like Christ is to be "morally better."

But to become more like Christ is to become more dependent upon Him. 

We never get past our need of forgiveness.

The Gospel is Good News for the Christian, too.

Even if we don't see ourselves in the examples above, none of us obey God's Law perfectly.

None of us love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

None of us love our neighbor as ourselves.

None of us repent perfectly.

Jesus Christ obeyed God's Law perfectly for us. 

Jesus Christ was baptized with a baptism of repentance for us because our repentance is never perfect.

Jesus Christ loved the Father with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength, and His neighbor as Himself.

God did everything for you through Jesus Christ, in His righteous life, death, and resurrection.

Your sins are forgiven. Regardless of how you feel.

Jesus Christ† is for you.

"He Who knew no sin became Sin for us, so that, in Him, we might become the Righteousness of God."


Get the Babies Wet - It Saves

For many years, I took a Baptist stance on Baptism. First of all, I was raised with that belief. Second of all, I never really questioned it since I was taught it from childhood. Third of all, even when I started digging into various theological authors as well as Scripture, I never bothered with Baptism, because I had always thought that infant baptism was just a Romanist carryover. Thus, no need to question the topic of Baptism. I thought it was a non-issue and that Christian churches following Scripture only dunked believers after a credible question of faith.

Then I read some guys I shouldn't have. The Reformed authors I read made some sense, but no more than the Baptist authors that I read. This is mainly due to the continuity of the covenant idea that Reformed authors import in order to justify paedobaptism. I don't think that argument is necessarily bad, but it's not a slam dunk case for paedobaptism either. I think that is why there are Classic Calvinists who baptize infants and there are also Calvinistic Baptists, who hold to the sovereignty of God in salvation and the TULIP and all that stuff, but will only Baptize professing believers.

Thus, whereas I was still firmly a Baptist, I now at least understood that some evangelicals can make a case for paedobaptism and at the very least stopped seeing the doctrine as nothing more than a Romanist error that carried over into the Reformers.

But what about all those churches that held to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration? After all, the doctrine is a huge heresy in Reformed as well as Baptist circles. It's considered heretical because in their theology, it adds to faith alone, hence mingling works into justification and thus salvation by extension.

So how did I ever end up Lutheran? I was an unlikely candidate to jump to Wittenberg, that is for certain.

To put it simply, I re-examined all of the passages in the New Testament that spoke of water and baptism and simply read them and compared them to what different churches believe. By different churches, I mean the big ones like Rome and the East, and the Lutherans, and the Reformed, and the Baptists. I wanted to have a clear understanding of Baptism and what it is.

To begin with, the Baptist understanding of Baptism has holes in it. Every passage in Scripture that links Baptism directly to salvation must be interpreted in a manner that is different than what the text plainly reads. Usually this is done by saying that the Baptism spoken of in those passages is a reference to "Baptism of the Holy Spirit." Essentially, this "Baptism" is accomplished by God at the moment of belief. In other words, this Baptism of the Holy Spirit in Baptist theology is nothing more than when the Holy Spirit indwells a person and they are saved. Hence, in an instance like Romans 6:3-4, the passage could be read as those who believe. They are the ones baptized into Christ. That interpretation certainly fits their theology. Hence, all the Scriptures that speak of Baptism and link it to salvation end up speaking of Baptism of the Holy Spirit and not "Water Baptism."

To prove this doctrine, the Baptists will go to passages that speak about faith and say that because of the faith passages, the Baptism passages can't be speaking about water Baptism. I am not going to rehash that interpretation as to why it is wrong, because I already did. It can be found here: Faith - Baptism Likewise, how do these interpretations that there are multiple baptisms jive with St. Paul in Ephesians 4:5? Not to mention, how do they connect with passages that link water and the Word, or water and Spirit? Normally, the pat Baptist answer here is to eliminate Water Baptism from the passage altogether, thereby making water nothing more than a symbolic reference to something else. Sometimes it refers to being cleansed figuratively by the Spirit and other times it can even refer to the amniotic fluid that a baby is born from.

Thus, suffice it to say, my Baptist presuppositions were rocked to the core. Eventually I came to realize that the Holy Scriptures, nor the early church and the Fathers, do not teach the Baptist doctrine of Baptism.

Yet, I was still stuck in Reformed world. So, I embraced the Reformed Covenantal view of paedobaptism. But this has holes that might be even bigger. It's much easier to simply say that Baptism (and the Eucharist for that matter) is just a picture and deny all efficacy altogether of the ordinance (what we call a Sacrament). Reformed Theology wants to have the cake and eat it too. They want to affirm, along with St. Peter, that Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (1 Pe 3:21). They want to say that Baptism does something for the infant. And they answer that it makes the infant part of the Covenant Community and then subsequently works into the assurance and sanctification of the infant later in life. Not to mention, the Reformed simply cannot affirm what the Scriptures plainly say about Baptism simply because to do so would annihilate the precious L and P in the TULIP. In my mind, however, if it does not do something in a salvific manner, what is the point? So I stayed Baptist, despite agreeing to an extent with the Reformed Covenant stance on paedobaptism.

Enter Lutheranism. (Yes, I looked at Rome and the East too, but this is already getting too long, so I will forego those two. Suffice it to say that I rejected those churches for other reasons.) Lutheranism gave me a clear and concise answer to Baptism, all the while upholding sola fide. (See the link above) Lutheran Theology gives us a clear and plain reason to Baptize infants that is completely biblical and does not need to extrapolate from Genesis 12-17 and the Abrahamic Covenant. I'm not saying there are no correlations there, of course. Certainly St. Paul makes this link in Colossians 2:11-12. Not to mention, Lutheranism affirms another doctrine that I was 100% convinced is taught clearly in the Scriptures: Election. Yet, in passing from Reformed Theology to Lutheranism, I did have to relinquish the Calvinist doctrine of reprobation or double predestination. That one was also difficult, but in the end, I have come to realize that this too is what Scripture teaches on the topic: single predestination, precisely as the Lutheran Confessions hold (See: Solid Declaration - Election)

That dirty heresy of baptismal regeneration (as I was always told), I was coming to realize, is true. Why? Because the Bible clearly teaches it. It is plain as day. One has to read a presupposed theology into the Bible in order to deny it.

The explanation is so simple that many people reject it because it's just far too simple. All you need to know are two very important theological truths. The easy argument goes like this.

1. All people, including infants, are sinful. Therefore, even our infants need to be saved.(Rom 5, Ps 51) This is called the doctrine of original sin. Denying this doctrine leads to numerous other enormous errors. Ultimately, the Gospel itself is undermined.

2. Baptism buries us and raises us with Christ (Rom 6, Col 2), and saves us (1 Pe 3).

3. Conclusion. Baptize infants. They need it. It's pure Gospel promise for them. The work of God given to them through the means of grace that Christ instituted.

That's it. Simple and to the point. We do not need a long extrapolated argument of covenant continuity (Calvinist Covenant Theology). Likewise, we err when we reinterpret clear and plain didactic teachings to be symbolic or figurative (Baptists, Dispensationalism). Ironically, the Dispensational Baptists interpret the book of Revelation literally and clear didactic teachings symbolically or figuratively. Seems backwards to me.

Done. Your kids need it. It saves them. Not only is this argument simple and almost too easy, it's 100% biblical. Not to mention, it's what the Church has always believed. For instance, the Council of Carthage in 253 AD took infant Baptism for granted and instead debated if the Baptism should take place on the 8th day like circumcision. There was no debate over Baptism in the early church. Certainly with a core doctrine like Baptism, you would expect to see all sorts of theologians and pastors protesting paedobaptism. Nobody did.

Likewise, if this clear and plain reading of Baptism is correct and the Scriptures are not a big puzzle on this topic, then it is the gravest of sins for a Christian parent to withhold Baptism from their children. Such is equivalent to withholding Jesus and His pure Gospel from them.

If there are Baptist readers here, one objection might be that getting an infant wet does nothing. This objection is empty and vain. To answer that, I will leave a link to Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism below. Read and enjoy!

Small Catechism - Baptism



JW/Watchtower. Christian or Not?

Are the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Watchtower, a Christian church? This is a topic worth looking into considering the Watchtower is getting to be a fairly big organization in the United States. And after all, they are awfully good at going door to door and pitching their church to people. They are also a very educated body in what they believe. Likewise, the Watchtower has produced their own translation of the Scriptures, replete with their theology written into it - but that is another topic for another day.

To answer this question, we simply must look at what the Watchtower believes about the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, what do they believe? From their own site (http://www.jw.org) they state the following:

We follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and honor him as our Savior and as the Son of God. (Matthew 20:28; Acts 5:31) Thus, we are Christians. (Acts 11:26) However, we have learned from the Bible that Jesus is not Almighty God and that there is no Scriptural basis for the Trinity doctrine.—John 14:28.

Thus, in their own words, the Watchtower believes that Jesus is not God but rather only the Son of God. They also reject the Trinity, claiming there is no Scriptural basis for the belief. They also claim to be Christians, as their own words indicate.

Thus, the Watchtower is a group worth looking at. It's also quite nice that the Watchtower clearly lays their beliefs on the table and are not sketchy about them. For that, we can be thankful.

The Watchtower has spilled tons of ink trying to point out that the Trinity is not a correct belief, and in fact is a lie. They state on their website: "Neither the word “Trinity” nor the concept is found in God’s Word." Then they proceed to defend this belief with some Scriptures such as Colossians 1:15.

The first part of this argument is a non-argument. Yes, we know the word Trinity is not in the Bible. So what? Does that falsify it? The word "eschatology" is not in the Bible either, but the Watchtower has a decided eschatology revolving the Kingdom of God, and so on. The second argument regarding the concept is their real argument. In short, they are simply arguing that the Trinity is not taught in the Holy Scriptures.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has given a rock solid answer to this and can be found here:

In essence, Koukl points out that based on John 1:3, Jesus is either fully God or He is not God at all. He cannot be what the Watchtower wants Him to be.

The Witnesses' belief of course, is nothing more than a rehashing of the ancient heresy of Arianism. The bigger problem with the Witnesses' belief here is that it completely trashes the atonement of Christ and as such, turns the Watchtower into a religion of works.

The argument simply goes like this: If Christ is not God, the atonement is insufficient in itself, because only God can forgive sin. And since God forgives sin based on the work of Jesus Christ, Jesus must be fully God, since only God can make an atonement that is worthy of forgiveness of sin. In other words, the atonement must be absolutely perfect and only God is perfect. If it is anything less than perfect, it's worthless, since then God could not forgive sin on its basis. Hence, for the atonement to be the basis of our Christian faith, Jesus must be God.

I'm not going to get into all the texts that show the Deity of Christ or ones where Jesus Himself says He is God, or ones where the Apostle Paul or Thomas say He is God. The Witnesses' have snappy pat answers for those. Not good ones mind you - and they're all ripped from context, misinterpreted, or re-translated to fit their theology, but they do have answers.

In summary, the Watchtower has an atonement that is useless, leaving the individual Watchtower believer to simply do their best, and then maybe God will save them for their following of Jesus. But if God is perfect, and the atonement was made by someone other than Almighty God, the atonement is not perfect. Hence, based on Watchtower theology, nobody will be saved - if they flesh their theology out to its conclusion.

The Watchtower is not a Christian theology or a Christian Church. In fact, it is really not very different from all other World Religions that deny the Deity of Christ. Historically, it is a product of the Second Great Awakening in the United States. The Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, were founded in the same era. We see historically, that all of the major new branches of Christianity so-called that began in the Second Great Awakening have a decided tendency to elevate man to a level where the Bible does not put him. The Enlightenment and Rational Humanism are partly to blame here. When these things sneak in, humanist theology and the power of the human will and works are the end result. In this manner, the Watchtower fits the bill, right along with the Mormons and the adherents of the abhorrent doctrines of Charles G. Finney.

The Jehovah's Witnesses may be a religion and a church, but they are not a Christian one.



Is God omnipresent, or His right hand isn't?

One of the arguments used against Eucharistic real presence is that the right hand of God is in some local place in heaven (away from us) and Christ's humanity is now there so He can't possibly be with us in His body and blood in the Eucharist.

Let me address here the issue of the right hand of God. Those who make these assertions do indeed affirm the omnipresence of God. They affirm Christ being God is omnipresent in His divine nature.

So what is the problem?

The problem lies in saying the right hand of God is at some local place. Why? Assuming right hand of God is "a part of God" we have the problem now of saying the right hand isn't omnipresent. And if we go by that then not all of God is omnipresent. And if God isn't fully omnipresent, then how can Christ according to His divine nature be as such?

So such arguments, though aim to undercut the presence of Christ's humanity with us in means of grace, actually undercut the presence of Christ's divinity with us as well.

And ultimately, it undercuts the divinity of God overall. The major attribute of God is His omnipresence.

That includes His "right hand."


Limited atonement functionally isn't Monergism

Saying Christ died for you if you believe in Him is problematic and is actually what drove me away from the limited atonement view (even when I used that argument back in the days I used to affirm such a view).

There is no if in Christ dying for you. Regardless that it is affirmed here by those who affirm Christ died only for the elect that faith is gift of God, not of ourselves, the moment you make Christ died for only those who believe, you attach faith as a condition for Him dying for you. And that is a real problem since the gospel invitation is itself believe He died for you to be saved.

More, it is a problem since it makes faith looks like it earns Christ's death for you, though no one of this view holds to faith does that. But having the if condition on Christ dying for you creates a real problem there.

Can't believe a gospel that is merely hypothetical for you either. We are told to believe the gospel preached to us. Paul said the gospel he preached that was first heard and received unto salvation is indeed Christ crucified for you. He didn't say Christ died for only if you believe. Nor did Christ and His other apostles.

Putting the if condition ironically is in its own way synergism with a vengeance. And folks, who affirm limited atonement, hold to it to avoid any form of synergism. But can't avoid it in practice if you make Christ's death for you only if you believe.

It puts the assurance back on you rather than in Christ crucified. And worse, it is simply not biblical. Better to let Scriptures speak: Christ died for all, all men, world, whole world, those who denied Him,  etc.



Very recently Pope Francis (Frank the Hippie Pope) has been at it again, seemingly questioning the possibility of (certain) Lutherans being permitted to partake of the Eucharist with Roman Catholics. Given that this idea is severe error, I wanted to address the seriousness of this error.


Recently the Hippie Pope visited a Lutheran church in Rome and was asked questions after his visit. A distraught Lutheran woman asked him if it is possible for her, a Lutheran, to partake of Holy Communion with her husband, who is a Roman Catholic. Francis correctly said it was not his authority to permit it, but nonetheless seemed to open the door to the possibility, quoting friends who had said "we both believe in the Real Presence," and saying that it could help sustain us on the way.

Now, I do not wish to make light of this Lutheran woman's sadness and concern. For almost a year I had felt the pain of not being able to partake of the Holy Supper with my wife. I am thankful and give praise to God that she embraced the Lutheran faith and now she, with my whole family, partakes with me together.

But the thing to do, instead of making light of our serious differences with the Roman Catholics--and other heterodox bodies within Christianity--is to set an example for the articles of the Gospel by continuing to commune only with those Lutherans that we are in fellowship with.

In fact, the Pope's words have caused great alarm within the borders of his own Vatican City. Many Roman Catholics are concerned that this could change the very meaning of the Eucharist. So, not only is Rome concerned, but as a Lutheran I am concerned as well that my fellow Lutherans do not succumb to this temptation to partake with Roman Catholics.


There is a common error that is currently present in many churches within the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod when it comes to our understanding of Holy Communion. Some well-meaning pastors have taken their understanding of pastoral discretion on the Eucharist, but have run with it, even though the very nature of pastoral discretion should be rare exceptions. A recent survey showed that close to 50% of our parishes allow anyone who believes in the Real Presence to partake with us. Not only is this a problem because it goes against the Missouri Synod's official position on the Supper, but these folks also are going against their own denomination.

For example, Rome officially does not allow its parishioners to partake anywhere other than a Catholic parish--although they allow them to partake at an Orthodox church if there is not a Catholic church nearby. However, I do not know of *any* situations where an Orthodox bishop has allowed a Catholic to commune at an Orthodox church. And likewise, although Rome offers the Orthodox Eucharistic hospitality, the Orthodox church does not permit its faithful to partake anywhere else other than an Orthodox church.

So, all around, even when Eucharistic hospitality is offered, *all* those churches that practice closed Communion--Lutherans, Catholics, and Orthodox--end up being only permitted or accepted to partake of Holy Communion at their own churches.

But why is this so?


On the surface, the idea of inter-communion sounds nice and loving. After all, being excluded from Communion makes someone feel like they are "out" or not part of the "group." Closed Communion sounds so unloving, right?

But I dare say that those churches who allow inter-communion, or the folks that desire it, do not understand the meaning of Holy Communion.

You see, Holy Communion is much more than simply the Real Presence. Indeed, it is union with Christ's Body and Blood, vertically speaking--***but it is also union with the Church, the Body of Christ.***

***This includes unity in doctrine.***

In other words, for a Lutheran to commune at a Catholic church would be to say that we accept that the Pope is the vicar of Christ; to say that justification is a process; to say we accept purgatory; to say we accept the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary; to say we believe the Mass is a sacrifice we offer to God for the sins of the living and the dead; and a whole host of other doctrines we absolutely REJECT as Lutherans.

We cannot pretend that these doctrines do not matter.

It is for this reason that our Confessions have made clear that we do not have fellowship with Rome. Solid Declaration Rule and Norm 7 clearly states:

" . . . we have abandoned the papistical errors and idolatries, and can have no fellowship [communion] with them, and also . . . we know, and can think of, no way for coming to any agreement with the Pope concerning them."

 Likewise, the Missouri Synod has stated several times in its Synodical documents from the CTCR that pastors should only ordinarily commune those from Lutheran churches with which we have fellowship. It has likewise stated that since the very meaning of Communion is "agreement in the Gospel and all its articles, [that] it is inappropriate to commune at non-Lutheran altars."


Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as the Most Blessed Sacrament of comfort for those who partake of it. It is faith in the Words "given for you, for the forgiveness of sins" that receives the benefits of this Most Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus nowhere instituted the Sacrament to give us benefits by simply gazing at it, or applying its benefits to those who do not partake by mouth, or who have already died.

The Sacrament is not something we do for God.

The Sacrament is the Most Blessed Gift that God gives to us.

In this sense, it is vital that we partake with only those churches that have preserved the Sacrament as Christ instituted it, rather than with those that have perverted it.

Whether Rome has the Sacrament or not (there are some Lutherans who differ on this question), *all* Lutherans agree that Rome has perverted the Sacrament.

In this sense, they do not have the Sacrament with the pure institution of Christ. Christ never instituted a Sacrament that we can offer for the sins of the dead.

Christ instituted the Sacrament for those who are alive and who know they are sinners who need forgiveness. For those who have faith in His Words that this is His Body and Blood given for forgiveness.


I encourage my fellow Lutheran brethren to respect the care of our Missouri Synod (or WELS or the AALC) when it comes to our Eucharistic discipline. As we can see in the above, we give witness to the Gospel by doing so.

The Gospel is all that matters. And all of its articles matter.

Please don't give in to the temptation of unionism. There can be no unity without unity in the doctrines of the Gospel.

I am thankful to our Savior† for the Most Blessed Sacrament as He instituted it for us!


Starbucks. Who Cares?

American Christians love to perpetuate on all sorts of irrelevant felt needs and causes that are completely silly. The whole Starbucks fiasco is just the latest of these.

In case you haven't heard, Starbucks has decided to use plain red cups this holiday season.

Starbucks Holiday Cups

There are a few vocal Christians out there who are protesting this and claiming that Starbucks is waging a war on Christmas. First of all, they're not. Second of all, if they were, they have a right to do so. Third of all, who cares?

This is yet another example of Christians engaging in conspiracy theory nonsense. Granted, it's not a big conspiracy theory like the Illuminati is taking over the world or something like that, but in the end, it's the same sort of idea.

Why should we expect Starbucks to patronize Christianity? Is Starbucks a Christian enterprise? Last I checked, it's not. Even more so, why should we expect any business in the public realm to be forced to patronize Christianity?

Not to mention, it's not like Starbucks is making cups that say "Jesus sucks" or something like that. Come on, it's a plain red cup. If you don't want to buy Starbucks, then don't buy it.

We have no right to go off on Starbucks for plain red cups any more than Starbucks can tell us that we can't say Merry Christmas to them while buying their product.

As much as the far left agenda is going completely bonkers these days; the far right conspiracy theorists are just as bad.

The moral of the story is that this very vocal small minority of Christians are pretty clueless when it comes to public policy and the rights of businesses.

But what is even worse is that this very small vocal minority is clueless when it comes to what Christianity is all about.

It's about Christ crucified for the forgiveness of your sins, given to you objectively in Word and Sacrament. Not about red cups and not about some grand conspiracy.

Ignore these silly people. Their thought process and causes are about as valid as the far left.

Yeah, I said it. Same coin, different side.


Make It Say What You Want!

Let's face it. A person can make the Bible say and mean what they want it to. It's really not that difficult. Unfortunately, the most common idea in 20th and 21st century American theology is that every individual Christian should get to interpret the Bible for themselves. Not only that, but also that this is the proper manner in which to read and interpret God's Word. We hear all too often of the idea that one person's interpretation is just as good as the next person's. We've even extrapolated this idea further and people have downplayed the importance of attending church. Many people refuse to attend church at all, instead favoring a do it yourself sort of approach. I don't know what else to call this other than completely wrong. Christians are not islands unto themselves, free to make Scripture say whatever they would like it to - all the while claiming the Holy Spirit's guidance on their own little divine revelations into the proper meanings of Holy Writ, not caring one wit that their ideas and interpretations are nowhere near what Christianity has always taught and believed.

This is precisely why the Christian Church has creeds and confessions of faith. Not to mention, this is the reason the Church has had numerous ecumenical councils in the past.

The three great ecumenical creeds are a great place to start regarding core fundamental Christian teaching. If a person or church denies anything in these three creeds, a red flag should be raised immediately. If you can't affirm these three great creeds, call yourself something other than Christian. They are in essence saying that they, based on their own personal interpretation of Scripture, know certain things and doctrines in Scripture more accurately than the great fathers of the church who convened and agreed upon these great creeds. Imagine if that person were there, present at those councils. Perhaps the great fathers of the church would sway them, who knows.

One common objection that people bring up here is that they only need Scripture and the Holy Spirit, not the creeds. But this objection completely misses the point. The creeds are summaries of core fundamental doctrines that Scripture teaches. True, they are not Scripture itself, but they tell us what the Scriptures actually teach.

The idea of me, my Bible, and the Holy Spirit in a corner actually denies the Bible and the Holy Spirit. It ends up being all me. Both the Bible and the Holy Spirit point a person to Christ, and Christ is to be found in His Word and His Sacraments. This the Bible explicitly states. Moreover, this idea of Christianity that is so popular is actually a rejection of Christianity as well as a rejection of the gifts that Christ gives us. In other words, it's not Christianity at all. It is nothing more than a self-serving individualism that happens to like Jesus - just not the historic one. So it really doesn't like Jesus either on some level.

What Christian rejects the three ecumenical creeds as false? Well, none should. The creeds are core doctrine. If you reject the Apostle's Creed, you reject the most basic teachings of Christianity. If you reject the Nicene Creed, the same thing applies. If you reject the Athanasian Creed, you reject the Trinity and that puts you outside of Christianity and salvation altogether.

But we know better because we've got the Holy Spirit, right? Well, don't you think the Holy Spirit also guided these great fathers of the faith who formulated the creeds? Or do you think they were just hearing from themselves, or worse, evil spirits?

If you are unfamiliar with the three great ecumenical creeds, you can find them here: BOC: Creeds

To summarize here, there is simply no room for interpretation on many core doctrinal teachings of the Christian Church. You don't need to convene your own ecumenical council of me, myself, and I in the corner of your basement, waiting for "God" to talk to you personally and tell you how it really is. In fact, that path is decidedly antichrist. It always leads a person away from core teachings, not towards them.

Just look at the fruits of this idea. Denial of original sin. Denial of the virgin birth. Rejection of the Trinity, usually aligning with some ancient heresy or another. Dualism that separates the natural from the spiritual resulting in a rejection of the Real Presence and of Baptismal Regeneration and ultimately the Incarnation of Christ and the Gospel itself. Not to mention when the Bible gets interpreted by people who flat out admit they are not Christians. Muslims and Atheists do this all the time. We could go on and on.

This idea needs to be outed for what it is: Antichrist. Time has shown us that this leads to nothing but bad theology and usually a rejection of Christianity itself.



Tertullian the Montanist as your supposed Trail of Blood Baptist

There's some documented Trail of Blood Baptist views of Tertullian.

In On Baptism, Chapter 1, he wrote:

"Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life!"

In Against Marcion, Book I, Chapter 28, he wrote:

"And what will happen to him after he is cast away? He will, they say, be thrown into the Creator's fire. Then has no remedial provision been made (by their god) for the purpose of banishing those that sin against him, without resorting to the cruel measure of delivering them over to the Creator? And what will the Creator then do? I suppose He will prepare for them a hell doubly charged with brimstone, as for blasphemers against Himself; except indeed their god in his zeal, as perhaps might happen, should show clemency to his rival's revolted subjects. Oh, what a god is this! everywhere perverse; nowhere rational; in all cases vain; and therefore a nonentity! — in whose state, and condition, and nature, and every appointment, I see no coherence and consistency; no, not even in the very sacrament of his faith! For what end does baptism serve, according to him? If the remission of sins, how will he make it evident that he remits sins, when he affords no evidence that he retains them? Because he would retain them, if he performed the functions of a judge. If deliverance from death, how could he deliver from death, who has not delivered to death? For he must have delivered the sinner to death, if he had from the beginning condemned sin. If the regeneration of man, how can he regenerate, who has never generated? For the repetition of an act is impossible to him, by whom nothing any time has been ever done. If the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, how will he bestow the Spirit, who did not at first impart the life? For the life is in a sense the supplement of the Spirit. He therefore seals man, who had never been unsealed in respect of him; washes man, who had never been defiled so far as he was concerned; and into this sacrament of salvation wholly plunges that flesh which is beyond the pale of salvation! No farmer will irrigate ground that will yield him no fruit in return, except he be as stupid as Marcion's god. Why then impose sanctity upon our most infirm and most unworthy flesh, either as a burden or as a glory? What shall I say, too, of the uselessness of a discipline which sanctifies what is already sanctified? Why burden the infirm, or glorify the unworthy? Why not remunerate with salvation what it burdens or else glorifies? Why keep back from a work its due reward, by not recompensing the flesh with salvation? Why even permit the honour of sanctity in it to die?"

And he wrote in On the Resurrection of the Flesh, he said,

"Now such remarks have I wished to advance in defence of the flesh, from a general view of the condition of our human nature. Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God."

So as we can see here, he affirmed the Trail of Blood Baptist views of baptismal regeneration and Eucharistic presence.

Oh wait, both are complete opposite of what Baptists believe!

Folks need to stop parroting that woefully inaccurate book Trail of Blood  with claims like Tertullian and the Montanists (who he identified himself with) held to their views when the opposite is true.

Like, seriously.

Here we stand.

Eastern Orthodoxy and Original Sin

I recently had a nice amicable conversation with a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. From the outset, I admit that I am no expert on Eastern Orthodoxy, but I do believe that they certainly have some excellent insights in Christian theology. But their doctrine of sin is not one of them.

If I am understanding correctly, sin in Eastern Orthodoxy is what happens when we act contrary to God. In other words, people are not sinful by nature and only become sinners when they actually sin. The East rejects the classic Christian doctrine of original sin in favor of what they call Ancestral Sin.

Naturally, our conversation came back to the topic of infants. Moreover, it led to the topic of justification and righteousness. And these are the arenas where it seems to me at least, that Eastern Orthodoxy drops the ball.

The person I was discussing this topic with asserted that to be a sinner, a person must have knowledge and choice of the will. This necessarily excludes infants. He also went on to make the claim that becoming righteous is also through a choice of the will. This also necessarily excludes infants. And there is the problem.

Infants, in this person's (EO) theology, are neither righteous nor unrighteous; neither sinner nor saint. Yet they all go to heaven. And that's fine, I don't have a problem with universal infant salvation. But there must be a basis for it, wouldn't you think? And here is where the man I was chatting with had no answer.

The first thing I posited to him is that only justified persons will enter heaven, and to be justified is also to be righteous. Thus, I questioned on what basis infants can be righteous and justified. Keep in mind, he had already asserted that infants are neither righteous nor unrighteous. He then questioned whether infants need justification at all.

So he wants universal infant salvation apart from justification and righteousness.

Here is where the person with whom I was chatting had no answer. He would not go the obvious route, because to do so would be to affirm that Luther had it right and deny the EO stances on righteousness and justification.

In other words, infants, just like the rest of us, must be imputed and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. The only alternative to this stance is that there are people in heaven that are neither righteous nor unrighteous. There are people there who are saved by innocence apart from justification.

Or, perhaps we could concoct a different path to salvation apart from the blood of Christ. I don't know, but I do know that the guy I was chatting with could not answer any of this.

Perhaps this is not an official stance of the Eastern Orthodox, but given their rejection of concupiscence, this stance makes sense in light of Orthodoxy.

Eastern Orthodoxy: Still one big (functionally Pelagian) mystery. Don't fall for the smells and bells and beautiful iconography of the East. It's still a works religion at its core.

Perhaps some persons who are more knowledgeable of the East can comment here.



Arminianism is Soft Works Righteousness

For those of you who are not aware, once upon a time the Reformed Church had a Synod that convened at Dordrecht (1618-19). At this Synod, traditional Reformed Theology was questioned. In response to the Remonstrants, the Synod formulated the 5 points of Calvinism. Thus, on one side there were the Calvinists (Classic Reformed Theology), and on the other there were the Arminians (the Remonstrants).

Now, some of our more classical Arminian (read: not Pelagian like much of American evangelicalism) friends have been claiming the term monergism as something that applies to them.

This is completely untrue.

In their own words, I will show how this is patently false. Here is an article from August of 2009 on the Evangelical Arminians website. The article can be found here: Arminians and Monergism

In the article, the author attempts to show how Arminians are grace alone, faith alone, monergistic people. His own words betray him.

The article starts with a valid concern. Calvinists do indeed often charge that Arminianism believes that man must make a move first and then God will make His move second. This is a valid concern. Arminianism teaches no such thing. Pelagianism does teach that though. Yet, Arminianism is not Pelagianism.

Yet, Arminianism ends up in the same place.

In the author's own words, here it is.

"After being enabled by the Spirit, the response of the sinner is passive. The sinner must stop resisting, repent of their sins, and place their faith in Christ. This gift, like any gift, is not irresistible. The sinner must accept the unmerited gift of God. Once this is done, following the plan of the Father, the Spirit joins the sinner to Jesus and thus begins the Savior’s relationship with the sinner."

"This is the part of Arminianism one could call synergistic, the acceptance of the gift of salvation, and it is nothing to be scared of because it is Biblical. The process of salvation is monergistic. He enables, He convicts, He draws, and He calls. Once the sinner places their faith in God, He is the one who justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies the sinner; just as He had predestined to do (Romans 8:29-30) because the work of Christ on the cross was made for our atonement. Calvinists cannot seem to get past this synergistic aspect, but it is the Biblical view of salvation. (Acts 16:30-31, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc)."

There it is. It's all God...but you must accept it. If you must do something to accept it, how is it all God? In other words, God does everything to save you, but you, as an individual, must make a positive choice to accept this gift. How is this monergist at all? Well, it's not. Monergism means "one work." There is no monergism where there is the formula that "God does it all, but..."

There is no "but." No "you must choose." No "you must accept."

In other words, Arminianism, even the classical variety, slips in that one little thing that we must do in order to be saved.

There is no way around it, Arminianism is a soft form of works righteousness. Anything that gets slipped in that we must do in order to be saved, as something that comes from our will, is works. There is no way around it.

To put this simply, it is 100% God and His works that save us. If we add in anything that we must do to the equation, we enter the realm of synergism and thus works righteousness. Arminianism falls into tat category. And yes, if we say that we must accept Christ in order to be saved, we are falling back on our own work.

Calvinism has its own issues, but this is not one of them.




I was talking with an evangelical friend of mine about how even the early church was not clear on the Gospel sometimes. I mentioned the apostle Peter and how the apostle Paul rebuked him publicly for not being clear on the Gospel.

My friend said, "Well, Peter was not clear on the *application* of the Gospel."

The statement was said in passing, but it got me thinking as to how stark the differences are between Lutheranism, which is the 200-proof Gospel, and the rest of Christianity. 

You see, for us Lutherans, the *application* of the Gospel *is* part of the Gospel, because if the Gospel does not *apply* to *me* in space and time, then it is not good news for *me*.

It is all about pastoral care.

It is about comfort and assurance.

If it is only general categories, then I am still left with doubt.

This is why the Sacraments are pure Gospel for us. They are the Gospel applied in space and time. They are not secondary. They are part of the Good News that Jesus applies His forgiveness to *me*.

We find the Revealed God in Jesus Christ as for us in Word and Sacrament.

For *me*.

For *you*.