8/19/19

Gnesio Philippist Calvinists and Stuff

Oh the Calvinists. So much misinformation and bearing false witness. I'm not sure if their foolishness is intentionally misleading or just misinformed. I'll assume the latter to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Lutherans and Calvinists have been linked together in many ways since the days of the Protestant Reformation. Suffice it to say, from a Lutheran standpoint, we do not believe the same things as the Calvinists, nor are we very close to believing the same things; much less be in communion together.

Here is a prime example of Calvinist misinformation, which, if a person were to do an historical study of what actually happened, would immediately see that this misinformation is just plain wrong.

The recently deceased Reformed pastor and theologian R.C. Sproul stated the following:

While discussing the Reformed doctrine of predestination in his book Chosen by God, Sproul gives a list of theologians in history who affirm predestination and those who deny it. He states: "We cannot determine truth by counting noses. The great thinkers of the past can be wrong. But it is important for us to see that the Reformed doctrine of predestination was not invented by John Calvin. There is nothing in Calvin's view of predestination that was not earlier propounded by Luther and Augustine before him." (Sproul, p. 167) So far, so good. The early Luther, while as yet an Augustinian monk in the Roman Church, did hold to double predestination. No Lutheran should dispute that, since Luther is quite clear that he did. He (Luther) did, however, hold to a doctrine of single predestination later in life, which the Calvinists cannot bear to admit in many cases. However, that is not what this post is about. Rather, it is Sproul's next statement that throws up all sorts of misinformation.

He continues, "Later, Lutheranism did not follow Luther on this matter but Melanchthon, who altered his views after Luther's death. It is also noteworthy that in his famous treatise on theology, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote sparingly on the subject. Luther wrote more about predestination than did Calvin." (Sproul, p. 167)

Nope. Wrong. Incorrect. The part of the statement to which I refer is Sproul's claim that Lutheranism followed Melanchthon and not Luther on this matter. This is simply false. It is well documented that this is not the case. The most important documentation that refutes Sproul's statement is actually our Lutheran Confessional documents the Epitome of the Formula of Concord and the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord. In fact, these documents were written in view of Melanchthon's compromising and synergism, among other controversies that had crept in to the Lutheran church.

Indeed, the Evangelical Catholic Church (Lutheran) did struggle with this issue in the 16th century. The same issue popped up in the United States in the 19th century, with the first president of the Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther, staunchly defending the classic and Confessional Lutheran stance on predestination and monergism.

Back to the 16th century. From the years 1555-1560, the synergistic controversy was fought in the Lutheran churches. The wavering and compromising Melanchthon had written that there are three reasons people are saved. Per Melanchthon, these three are the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the nonresistance of a person's will. It is this third reason put forth by Melanchthon that is a problem, since it teaches synergism.

Against Melanchthon, there were the Gnesio, or genuine, Lutherans, who espoused the biblical form of monergism, even opposing Melanchthon. Sadly, one of the Gnesio Lutherans in the monergism camp named Matthias Flacius, over-reacted and ended up teaching error regarding original sin, saying that original sin is the very substance of fallen humanity, which would cause God to be the author of sin.

Enter the Formula of Concord. The first two articles of both the Epitome and the Solid Declaration are on Original Sin and Free Will, respectively. The first article regarding Original Sin corrects Flacius' error while also strongly upholding the Biblical doctrine of Original Sin. The Epitome states, "We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man's nature and original sin. This applied not only when he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin [Ge 1:31], but it also applies to the way we have that nature now after the fall. In other words, we distinguish between the nature itself (which even after the fall is and remains God's creature) and original sin. This distinction is as great as the distinction between God's work and the devil's work." (Ep: I, 2)

Here is a clear rejection of Flacius' error.

However, the Epitome also states, "On the other hand, we believe, teach, and confess that original sin is not a minor corruption. It is so deep a corruption of human nature that nothing healthy or uncorrupt remains in man's body or soul, in his inward or outward powers [Ro 3:10-12]" (Ep: I, 8)

The Epitome and the Solid Declaration have much more to say about Original Sin, but this will suffice for the purpose of this blog.

Likewise, the Formula of Concord also formally adopted Luther's -not Melanchthon's- view of the will of man.

"This is our teaching, faith, and confession on this subject: in spiritual matters the understanding and reason of mankind are <completely> blind and by their own powers understand nothing, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 2:14..." (Ep: II, 2)

"Likewise, we believe, teach, and confess that the unregenerate will of mankind is not only turned away from God, but also has become God's enemy. So it only has an inclination and desire for that which is evil and contrary to God, as it is written in Genesis 8:21, 'the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.' Romans 8:7 says, 'The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.' Just as a dead body cannot raise itself to bodily, earthly life, so a person who by sin is spiritually dead cannot raise himself to spiritual life. For it is written in Ephesians 2:5, 'even when we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ.' And 2 Corinthians 3:5 says, 'Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.'" (Ep: II, 3)

"For without his grace, and if He does not grant the increase, our willing and running, our planting, sowing, and watering (1 Co 3:5-7) -are all nothing. As Christ says <in John 15:5>, 'apart from Me you can do nothing.' With these brief words the Spirit denies free will its powers and ascribes everything to God's grace, in order that no one may boast before God (1 Co 1:29[2 Co 12:5, Jer 9:23]). (Ep: II, 6)

These Confessional statements are a clear rejection of Melanchthon's synergism and a clear affirmation of monergism. The Formula of Concord has much more to say on these topics, especially in the Solid Declaration. If the reader would like more information, go to http://www.bookofconcord.org or pick up a copy of the Book of Concord; the Epitome and the Solid Declaration are the last two Confessional documents in the book. I heartily recommend the Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord edited by Rev. Paul McCain. It can be found and purchased at http://www.cph.org.

Hence, it should be quite clear to the serious student of history and reader of the Lutheran Confessional statements that R.C. Sproul's statement that Lutherans follow Melanchthon and not Luther is in error. Frankly, we follow Scripture alone, but we happen to agree far more theologically with Dr. Martin Luther than we do with the wavering and compromising Philip Melanchthon after Luther's death.

I find it hard to believe that these statements and issues still exist in Calvinist circles and it makes me wonder why. Lutherans are not synergists, at least not Confessionally. Per Scripture, as well as the Book of Concord, we are monergists.

Not only that, but we also strongly affirm predestination. However, we affirm, with Scripture, that predestination and election pertain to believers, not unbelievers. If the reader would like to see what the Lutherans believe regarding predestination, read the Epitome XI and the Solid Declaration XI.

Nope, sorry R.C., we disagree with the post-Luther Melanchthon in the strongest manner possible.

+Pax+

8/12/19

The Eucharist Also Gives *Bodily* Healing. Here's How.

The Eucharist gives forgiveness of sins.

And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

Yesterday when I partook of the Sacrament of the Altar, I was especially aware of my weakness in body and soul. I have plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and I was in a lot of pain. I am also divorced, and I still feel the pain of that, not to mention my own sinfulness.

All of the above made me aware yesterday as I partook of Christ's Body and Blood that His Flesh and His Blood not only give spiritual healing and forgiveness, but also physical healing.

The Resurrection is physical, and our resurrection is physical.

Christ restores all things, and He gives that pledge and testament by giving to us His Body and Blood in His Holy Supper.

And the priest after distributing says the following:

"May this true Body and true Blood of Christ preserve Thy body and soul unto everlasting life."

*Body* and soul.

Romans 8 speaks of the hope in the redemption of our *bodies*.

This fat man with plantar fasciitis in his left foot will be healed on the last day.

This broken man with his heart broken and his sins ever before him will see restoration and eradication of his sin nature on the last day.

We thank You, Lord, that You have refreshed us with this most salutary Gift.

Lord, now lettest Thy servant depart in peace. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.

This nightmare of a life is almost over.

And our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.

But even now we get a taste of the restoration of all things in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Therefore with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious Name.

Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.

And Christ comes to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, giving us His Body and Blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins, and giving us a foretaste of the inheritance which is to come.

The inheritance where all death, pain, and sorrow will be wiped away forever.

The inheritance where everything will be restored.

The inheritance where this nightmare will be over, and it will be as if only a dream.

Now we see through a glass darkly, but soon we will see face to face.

And when we see Him, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.

And he who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.

This Blessed Hope is realized in His Holy Supper, as He continually comes to us and for us.

We don't have to wait for the last day to experience this. We experience it now, as Christ comes to us in His Supper.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

8/3/19

Unrepentant Christians?

There are, unfortunately, some theologies out there that affirm the existence of an unrepentant Christian. Some branches of dispensationalism do this, separating the number of saved persons into carnal Christians and spiritual Christians. Some proponents of this view, Zane Hodges being one example, go to such an extreme that a person who has accepted Christ may fall away to such a point that they totally reject Him and become completely anti-Christian, yet still be saved the entire time.The topic can be tricky, because it is God who brings a person to repentance, and God will do this in his own manner, by His Word. However, I think the Scriptures speak pretty clearly on this topic.

One massive stumbling block to the doctrine of repentance and the biblical report is the doctrine of once saved always saved; or in Reformed Theology, the Perseverance of the Saints. These doctrines generally state that a person who is saved by grace will always stay saved, no matter what. In American Evangelical circles (i.e. Baptist), once a person has made a decision for Christ, they are saved for all eternity with no chance of ever falling away and being lost. the Reformed version of this argues that God will bring the elect person back to repentance in His time.

But is this the biblical report? I do not think it is, although I have much greater sympathy for the Reformed version than I do the American Evangelical version, since the Reformed version at least affirms the necessity of repentance.

I think we can look at three passages and see what Scripture has to say on the topic. Two of the three passages are from Jesus, and one is from the book of Hebrews.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus speaks of the Tower of Siloam and repentance. The passage can be found in St. Luke 13:1-5. Twice, our Lord says, "...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (v. 3, 5) Hence, Christ says that no repentance ends in death. Clearly He is also not speaking of physical death.

The second passage, also from the mouth of Christ, is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, found in St. Matthew 18:21-35. Christ concludes the parable with the following words: "Then his master summoned him and said to him, you wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from the heart." (v. 32-35) Here we see Christ being very clear that a servant who does not forgive will not be forgiven. Unless the servant repents.

Finally, we have in the book of Hebrews the following warning: "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:26-27) Strong words.

We should be able to see quite clearly that a person who does not repent is not in a state of grace. They are unsaved. This applies to non-believers as well as persons that were previously believers. An unrepentant Christian is an oxymoron. An unrepentant person is not a Christian. They are unsaved; not in a state of grace.

Luther writes, in the Smalcald Articles, "It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, ... and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8If we say that we have no sinwe deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (SA III, III, 43)

The Lutheran Church has always taught that repentance is needed for all sin, for everybody. Repentance has two parts. They are contrition and faith. The Augsburg Confession states:

"Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance." (AC XII 1-6)

Here, in these two quotes from the Lutheran Confessions, we see the proper use of both the Law and the Gospel. Contrition is a Godly sorrow for sin, both original and actual. This is a function of the Law. Faith is a function of the Gospel, which receives the good gifts of God; namely, the forgiveness of sins via Word and Sacrament.

As we can see, per the Scriptures and the Confessions, there is no such thing as an unrepentant Christian who is in a state of grace.

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. St. Matthew 3:2

+Pax+

7/28/19

Nonsense and Paradox!!!

I had a really hard time swallowing Lutheranism for a very long time. This time occurred, of course, before I became a Lutheran. You see, the Lord has given me what you would call a very logical and analytical mind. I'm always searching for the reason behind the reason. I like everything to make perfect sense on a logical level. I have an undergraduate degree in Physics, and once upon a time I taught high school Physics and Mathematics. Those two disciplines make sense! You can work out how things function, and come to an unchangeable answer; written in stone. 2+2 is always 4, according to the rules of addition. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and so on.

Coming into an interest in theology, I applied this methodology to Scripture. I remember vividly in years past my coming out of the closet (no, not like that, ya perv) moment theologically speaking. After months of pouring over the Scriptures and trying to make it all make sense (logically), I proudly announced that I was a 5 point Calvinist. The TULIP all fit together in a nice little system that made sense to me. If the Father elected some, the Son by logic must have only atoned for those same people, and the Spirit, by logic, must only regenerate those same people as well. And of course, it makes no logical sense that God, in His infinite wisdom, would even bother trying to save anyone else but those same people; the Elect of God.

It all made perfect sense logically. It made God nice and neat. The Trinity was in perfect unity in my mind.

But, the problem was, I found myself justifying numerous verses and passages in Scripture to fit this logical system. I could give numerous examples straight from Holy Writ. 1 Timothy 4:10 is a good one to use.

1 Timothy 4:10b: "...we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."

The Calvinist wrenches and claws at this verse, finding alternative interpretations of it in order to avoid the obvious and plain conclusion that Christ died for all people universally. They will say (some of them) that if this teaches a universal atonement for all humanity indiscriminately, then the whole TULIP falls apart, because due to logic, predestination can't be true, neither can irresistible grace be true, and so on. The Calvinist surmises that one cannot logically hold to both an unconditional election of grace and a universal atonement at the same time (save for the Amyraldians, or 4 point Calvinists), for this would put the Trinity at odds with each other and make God illogical. Not only so, but the doctrine of predestination so clearly found in Scripture must by necessity be double. That is to say, that if God predestined a specific number of people to be saved, then by logical necessity, He must also have predestined by rest to hell by His non-choice of them to be saved. Or, in higher versions of Calvinism, He predestines them to hell by His direct action. This is all to say, that while all Calvinists hold to a doctrine of double predestination, some believe that God is passive in His reprobation, others believe that He is active. The recently deceased Calvinist author and pastor R.C. Sproul, in his book Chosen by God, has a chapter entitled "Double, Double, Toil or Trouble," in which he argues at length that predestination, by logical necessity, must be double. It cannot be any other way in the Calvinist mind. The also deceased Calvinist author Gordon Clark was so bent on logic that he posited ideas such as that God is logic (his idea of the logos of John 1:1), and also that Christ was and is two persons, because he surmised that the Council of Chalcedon did not go far enough in defining their Christology. Personally, I think Clark was a rank heretic, but I digress.

I never considered Lutheranism for a long time because the theology held to tensions in Scripture that the logical thinker simply has a very difficult time abiding. We know, as Lutherans, that we strongly affirm the doctrine of predestination as laid out in the Scriptures. This is to say, we affirm, with Scripture, that God predestines a specific finite number of persons to be saved, and He does this by His own choice apart from anything in us and apart from looking through time and seeing who will choose Him. This predestination is God's choice alone, and the number of the predestined to be saved cannot change, because it is based on God's sole determination.

But He also says, in Scripture, that He desires to save every person universally. Say what? No! That can't be! It doesn't fit logically!

But He also never says, in Scripture, that He has predestined or elected the rest of humanity to be damned. There is no such biblical category as the "non-elect." What? No! But it has to be that way! It's logic!

But He also says, in Scripture, that Christ died for all humanity universally, and that this atonement was effective for everyone.

But He also says, in Scripture, that baptism now saves you and that people can and do fall away from grace and are lost.

I see, in retrospect, that this particular use of logic as a means to fit the Word of God into a Systematic Theology is a sinful use of a gift of God. That is to say, when we are using our logic and reasoning as a hammer to have to explain away plain and clear passages of Scripture, we are using a good gift that God has given us - the ability to think logically - in a sinful manner. We are in essence saying that our reasoning and logic trumps what God has so clearly spoken.

Far from being some sort of triumphalist idea that we Lutherans believe God and you rationalists don't, this is simply agreeing with what God has said. Who are we to question Almighty God? To do this is not to exegete Scripture properly, but is, to put it simply, a ploy of Satan to make us question "Did God really say?"

I hated the paradox. I hated that God seemed to say both things sometimes and didn't clearly lay out a Systematic Theology for us that fit Him logically into my brain. Lutheranism was very hard for me to accept, but at the end of the day, as Christians, God is true and we are sinners. Lutheranism affirms this and allows Scripture to speak on its own apart from our logical and rational attempts to fit it into a system.

The problem is, when our Systematic Theologies end up saying something that is the opposite of what Scripture tells us, it is not the Scriptures that are wrong, it is our theology.

The Old Adam, the sinner that all of us are, lives on in us, even when we do theology and read the Scriptures. It's true. We are sinners and beggars in need of God's grace.

Scripture doesn't contradict, but it does give us a lot of paradox. We are simply to say amen, let it be so. God has spoken, are we are to believe every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Lutheranism has answers to this. It's found in the affirmation of paradox, but also in the paradigm of law and gospel. But that is a topic for another time.

+Pax+