Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Evangelicals and the Bible in the Middle Ages

MacKenzie, Cameron.  "Evangelicals and the Bible in the Middle Ages."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  329-348.

What were the arguments for and against the Lollards and their support of Wycliffe and his movement to bring the Bible into a new English translation?  The Oxford Constitutions condemn not only the version of the Bible produced by Wycliffe and his followers, but they challenge the idea that it is wise to translate Scriptures into a different language.

It appears that the chief arguments from both sides were that the Bible contains the words of life, that it should be learned and believed, and that it reveals what we need for salvation.   However, the followers of Wycliffe argued that the Bible should be available in everybody's native language so that each individual could consider it from personal reading and judge for himself.  The argument advanced against making a translation into the vernacular is to protect from an individualization of interpretation, misinterpretation, and the view of salvation that is self-mediated rather than delivered through the Church as God's administrator of grace.  So we can see that the same arguments cut both ways in this dispute.  There was a second argument put forth, indicating that because of the inferiority of the English language and its limited ability to articulate important doctrines it was impossible to translate the Scripture adequately.

The followers of Wycliffe apparently moved to a very populist argument, basically saying that anyone who was a supporter of the Church would be acting out of greed for power, protecting himself rather than bringing the true Gospel to people.  Therefore salvation should take on this character of being mediated through the individual rather than through the Church.  Likewise, in pastors, piety was exalted above purity of doctrine or understanding of Scripture.  From this point of view, it would be appropriate to start a new movement, making the Scriptures as broadly available as possible in the vernacular, regardless of the room for misinterpretation.

The followers of the Church apparently stood with their traditional views and assumed they could stop any objections.

Obviously, the idea of the vernacular has won out.  What are the consequences?  Do we need to look any farther than the modern English paraphrases of the Bible which make serious doctrinal inquiry and understanding next to impossible?  How about the tendency of modern evangelicals to ordain themselves to ministry with little or no training but a commitment to piety?  Looking at it from about 600 years later, what do we think of the outcome?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Origen and the Canon of Scripture

Gard, Daniel L.  "Origen and the Canon of Scripture."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  313-327.

Often when Christians look for the earliest evidence of canonicity they look to Origen, as he made many statements about what was reliable and unreliable in the literature of the earliest Christians.  The difficulty, says Gard, is that Origen did not, in fact, provide us with a comprehensive list of what books were reliable.  He did compare Christian versions of the Old Testament with the Hebrew canon and generally assert that in discussions of faith, Christians should restrict themselves to those books which were accepted by the Jews.  However, especially in writings which came from the Christian period, Origen was indecisive at best.  At different times in his writing career he alternatively accepted and rejected 1 Clement, the Shepherd fo Hermas, and various other texts.

Origen did articulate a principle which has become important to us.  He and many others recognized Hebrews as part of Scripture though he recognized it was not written by Paul  He therefore managed to define apostolicity in writing of the New Testament as being consistent with the doctrine and teachings of the apostles.  Recognizing that Hebrews has a distinctive Pauline flavor, though we do not know who wrote it, it is nonetheless acceptable.  This view also relieves the burden that the author must be one of the Twelve or Paul.  Yet it defends the necessity of Scripture having one message, that message of Christ as delivered to and through the apostles.

This article has an interesting mixture of citations in Greek and in Latin, some translated, some not.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Johann Augustus Wilhelm Neander: Historical Objectivity and the "Religious" Element of Church History and the History of Doctrine

Muller, Richard A. "Johann Augustus Wilhelm Neander: Historical Objectivity and the 'Religious' Element of Church History and the History of Doctrine."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  291-312.

Muller gives an intriguing introduction to the work and life of Neander.  Neander is called "the father of modern church history."  What gave him a title like that?  His approach to church history managed to combine a treatment of major themes of a particular time in history and a discussion of specific individuals during that time in history.  This made for a history which showed the variegations in doctrine and practice in any period of church history, while still tracking major themes and concepts.  This approach stood in stark contrast to other church historians of his time and before.  Another feature of Neander's work that Muller draws out is his insightful personalization of historical interpretation.  He tells why a development in the history of a doctrine has importance to the individual believer in Christ.  This also was not the tendency of his age.

The article makes me more interested in reading Neander's works and works about him.  Any opinions?

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Preparing to Cast Off!



Disputatio: A Needed String to Theology's Bow?

Stephenson, John R. "Disputatio: A Needed String to Theology's Bow?"  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  277-289.

Put quite simply, in this brief article Stephenson points out the decline of theological rigor and disputation in recent years within Christianity.  While we seem willing to hammer out doctrinal stands within the boundaries of our own particular Christian community, when different groups of Christians get together they tend to articulate their points of view but then decide they can get along together regardless of the differences.  

Stephenson observes that it takes a particularly courageous theologian to hold the line on theological distinctives.   It is difficult but necessary to follow the pattern of our ancestors in Christ who would be specific about the disputes we have, would attack doctrines which were not biblical, and would strive for accuracy in biblical interpretation.  To do otherwise is to fall pray to some sort of wishy-washy theological mumbo-jumbo.  

Notice that we also see this watering down of discourse and disputation within political contexts.  Issues are less important than personalities.  Truth is less important than a cultural attitude.

Well, we wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable by observing that the ship is sinking, that we are in shark-infested waters hundreds of miles from land, that the water temperature will bring on hypothermia and death rather quickly, or that there are no lifeboats aboard.  Better mix up some margaritas instead.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Wedding Address

Heard on August 8, on the occasion of Lizzie and Justin's wedding. 
I am not sure what kind of sermon you wanted, girl friend. I am standing in front of Reverends from the Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran and Free Church.faith. Someone may be disappointed. I will try the "shotgun" approach. I hope at least one of them is satisfied. It didn't help for you to say in your thank you card that you are looking forward to hearing this sermon. the pressure is on. We worship a serious God. He is no-nonsense He is serious about His parties. When he throws one, he makes sure everything is perfect. The lamps are lit and full of oil, the correct garments are worn,the table is set, the wine is plentiful, and everyone there is : well , everyone there is undeserving. and there is joy. The Shepherd and the sheep, the lost coin, the Prodigal Son, all end in parties, and there is joy. As C.S. Lewis put it "Joy is the serious business of heaven." Did you ever notice how many parties in the New Testament signifying salvation are wedding parties? God is a serious God. We all know about the parables of Jesus as he taught. The parable of the sower, the weeds, the sheep and the goats, but what about those parables that were acted out? God is serious about his acted out parables These are the things God taught us as visionary or as actions of others that told us a story or taught us a lesson. Moses struck the rock in the desert twice and was denied the promised land until the transfiguration. God would strike the High Priest dead if the letter of his law was not followed on the precise day of atonement, He had to have the correct clothing, the correct bathing ritual, The sacrificial lamb had to be perfect. The scapegoat could never enter the camp again. When the wandering tribes of Israel camped the tent called the tabernacle where God dwelt was placed in the direct center of the camp. There was the sin of Achan, Joshua circling Jericho 7 times. The way the prophets acted toward Israel. And then of course, there is the the story of Hosea and his bride Gomer. Jesus himself did many acted out parables, such as the amazing circumstances of his birth,the fact that He pitched his tent or tabernacled with us or maybe, as the Cotton Patch Bible put it,He parked his mobile home next to mine, or better yet, as John phrased it with that amazing pronouncement "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." How about the raising of Lazarus, the feeding of the five thousand, the cursing of the fig tree, the stilling of the sea, the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, the walking on the water, the sacraments of the church? These were all acted out parables. However , he left one particular acted out parable unfinished. I think that acted out parable should be called the "Parable of Justin and Lizzie." This is the parable that is out there before the watching world. My wife once called me a model husband. To look that up in the dictionary you will see that a model is a small imitation of the real thing. That might be an insult to me, but it is an incredible thing when you consider the Apostle Paul's command that 'Husbands are to love your wives as Christ loved the church." Your relationship is a model of Christ's love for his people. You see, marriage has its roots in the dirt of creation. It isn't some kind of lofty ideal, or religious concept, or some romantic illusion. Marriage is grounded in the dust of our origin, our being male and female made in the image of God. Marriage is about sex and food and drink and house and home and bed and table and children and community. It embraces the fullness of who we are as human beings - the good, the bad, the ugly. Marriage is about sin and grace and forgiveness and faithfulness. Marriage is the picture or the model of the unconditional love of Christ for his people. You are a model of Christ's love when you chose one who is undeserving, or better yet when your mother thinks they are undeserving. You are a model of Christ's love when you give all you have to provide for your family. You are a model of Christ's love when you warm the car in the morning, make a midnight run to the store to buy a pacifier that was lost, make the coffee, clear the sink, take out the garbage, respect one another's rule on toothpaste and toilet paper. When you are ironing clothes for the uptempth time, changing that diaper, You are a model of Christ's love when at night and its been a very long and trying day, all of a sudden there is a back rub. You model Christ's love when you Lizzie take Justin, or Justin you take Lizzie and you love them without mercy or a severe mercy as C.S Lewis put it, speaking truth. You are a model of Christ's love when you make your intimacy so supreme with no holds barred. ( for you see, Christ knows no boundaries in his relationship to us) that is what we theologians call Grace. You are a model of Christ's love when you know your spouse doesn't merit forgiveness for that sin, any sin,the big ones, the small ones, or even the ones that stab you in the heart, but you seem to remember to forget them anyway. Just as He tells us , to paraphrase Jeremiah, " I will be their God and they will be my people and I will remember their sins no more". You are a model of Christ's love when the bills are due, tempers are high, fear is looming and yet you still rejoice in the fact that you have each other. And maybe that is all you have, but that is enough. You are a model when the romance cools a bit and you remember that Christ love is in that "He gave" . His love is not a feeling, but an action, an action of dying to self and giving to the other. You are a model when the gates of Hell assail and all you can do is stand, yet you stand together. God is a serious God. He is serious about you. He loves you (action) he forgives, but also forgets. God is a serious God God is serious about marraige. It is the fundamental parable of Christ passion. . He loves her to death on the cross. It's the picture of the Church's passion for Christ. The Church drops dead to her life and lives joined to her Groom, to Christ. The church is Christ's Bride, drawing her life from His wounded side as He slept in death on the cross. . It is a great mystery as Paul would say, it is a great thing hidden and now revealed, that husband and wife embracing one other are a sign of this passion of Christ and the Church. You too. In your married life together you are signs for the watching world of what the unconditional, passionate love of Christ for the world is all about. And once you've got Christ in the picture, I dare you . take a look through your Bibles and you'll see it all over the place. As one fellow put it, The sensuous Song of Solomon, which the rabbis kept in a brown paper wrapper until you were eighteen. Now there's the passion of the King for his Bride on their wedding day. How 'bout the prophet Isaiah who said in chapter 61 verse 10: : For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels....As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a briedgroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. Then there is the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus did the first sign that revealed Him to be the creative/redemptive Word. There he changed 180 gallons of washing water into the finest wedding wine at a wedding party that was already three sheets to the wind. You see, God is serious about marriage. You have to understand, Your marraige is a cocktail hour to the great party. You are the pre show to the big show. Or to put it in concert terms, you are the warm up act or "Special Guest" to the starring act. What you see today and what we have witnessed is just a preview of the great picture at the end of the Bible . Lizzie, as you came down the isle you portrayed exactly what the Apostle John witnessed in that great scene . Rev 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This is where heaven is seen as a glorified city, risen Church , processing down the aisle like a bride, being wedded to her bridegroom Jesus and a marriage supper of food and drink that has no end. I recently heard a devotional by Ken Klause of the Lutheran Hour report the following story. "A week or so ago, when I was at the 92nd convention of the International Lutheran Laymen's League (the organization which sponsors these devotions), I came across an article in the Greensboro News & Record. The story told how Danielle Starr and Anthony Mohney were married for one whole day. For one day the couple became husband and wife. Then, on the second day, Anthony died of cancer. The story went on to tell how Anthony's hospice team had planned the wedding and how the businessmen of that wonderful North Carolina community had graciously given everything necessary for the couple to get hitched -- even the rings. The story spoke of how Danielle, who had been told Anthony would soon die of his illness, had assured him, saying, "I'd rather be married to you for one day, than not at all." My first reaction to that story was to cry. It was a beautiful human-interest story. My second reaction to the story was to ask a few questions: Why did they bother? Why did a jeweler give away some expensive rings? Why did the folks who catered the meal offer up their services? Why did the tux people not charge for the rental? Why bother to do any of this if you're sure one of the principals is going to die? These were questions that bothered me -- a lot. Turning from what this very special bride and groom had done, my thoughts went to the Savior. I asked many of the same questions about Him I had asked about the newlyweds. Why did Jesus come into this world? After all, He knew how things would end up. He knew a friend would betray Him; He knew He would be rejected; He knew He would be beaten, whipped, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross. Why did Jesus come if He knew He was going to die? The answer to why the bride and groom got married and to why Jesus entered this world is the same: they were in love. Danielle loved Anthony, and she was willing to suffer a great deal to be with him. The same is true for Jesus. So we could be with Him, Jesus was willing to live, suffer, and die for us. Now, because of what He did, we can be forgiven, saved, and with Him forever. Because of what Jesus did, the story of Danielle and Anthony isn't over. " Justin and Lizzie, I have a request for you . Years from now, when the wrinkles come, when the hair turns gray,- Lizzie, yours will turn from age, Justin, yours will come from teaching a wild eyed 16 year old girl how to drive a standard and parallel park. But when the children are grown and gone, maybe tending to their children and the only sounds you hear in your home are the past echoes of laughter on the walls; Then Justin, I want you to look to Lizzie and say "there is my bride".and Lizzie look to Justin and say, "there is my groom". You see it really isn't over. The best is still yet to come. As I said, God is serious about His parties. Father, thank you for the commitment of Justin to Lizzie. May it last for ever. When things get tough, remind them to run to you, when the times are good, remind them to run to you. Protect them and keep them. And as this world watches these two, may they witness the dance started before the foundation of the earth. And may the world always , always hear the laughter of the redeemed. In Christ's name, Amen 

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Confusions in Law & Gospel: A Study in Prolegomena

Feuerhahn, Ronald R.  "Confusions in Law & Gospel: A Study in Prolegomena."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  259-276.

Law and Gospel confused is possibly one of the most serious hindrances to a good understanding of Scripture.  We have seen this as an important error throughout Church history.  Feuerhahn lays it out in many of its different manifestations throughout history, detailing the salient features of each different misunderstanding.

There is an overall confusion between Law and Gospel.  We could observe that a small child could tell us that the Law is what we must do and the Gospel is what God does for us.  But it takes a very serious theologian to rightly and consistently distinguish the two.  We are bound in our sinful nature to understand and strive after Law.  We want to earn our way.  The Gospel is foolishness.

In the medieval period we see an emphasis on love arising.  The idea was that love was that which justifies.  The opponents to the Augsburg Confession said that "love is the keeping of the Law" (Tappert 127.147, cited in this article on p. 262).  But they also considered that the Law would bring justification.  In this guise, love is the Law, while faith is the Gospel.  The Roman church was asserting salvation by Law rather than Gospel.  They had fundamentally confused the two.

In the 16th Century we see confusion of Law and Gospel in Calvinism.  Feuerhahn asserts that Calvinism gives particular emphasis to Law, namely identifying it with sanctification, indicating that this is the appropriate starting point of theology.  For Luther, the starting point of theology is justification, identified with Gospel.  The Calvinist would see preaching of the Law as fundamental to our seeing our right role in society.  The Lutheran would see the preaching of the Gospel as fundamental to our seeing our right role in society.

Pietism arises rather quickly wherever a genuine grasp of the Gospel exists.  In pietism we typically see a confusion of justification and sanctification.  The heirs of the pietists - the Puritans, Methodists, and Pentecostals - shift from talking about the justification accomplished by Christ on the cross to the regeneration we experience as we believe.  In Pietism the two are separated, while historically they had always been considered synonymously.  This change results in a move to talking about an experiential regeneration which bears fruit, and that fruit ends up being justification.  Here again we have an example of being redeemed by the Law rather than the Gospel.

In the Enlightenment we see a confusion of authority.  This, like Pietism, continues to be a very common confusion.  The distinction drawn here is that of doctrine versus life.  The difficulty is frequently phrased in Latin terms.  On the one side there is an emphasis on the fides quae creditur - the "faith which is believed."  On the other side there is an emphasis on the fides quā creditur - the faith by which something is believed.  Historic Christianity has asserted that both a solid confession of faith must exist and that people need to have faith which believes on that confession.  The Enlightenment tended to make a dichotomy here.  This is where we get people saying that "doctrine divides."  When it is your own personal belief which is important, more important than the confession of faith which you and countless others hold, your salvation is ultimately dependent on your own works, your own understanding, your own concept of what it means to be a Christian.

In modern Ecumenism the same problem exists with fides quae and fides qua.  I find Feuerhahn's distinction between this and the enlightenment to be a bit unclear.  Yet he divides his survey to distinguish among the Enlightenment views, Ecumenical views, and a modern confusion between "external" and "internal" views of faith.  Yet it is not clear to me what the distinctions are which Feuerhahn considers important.

So what do you think?  Did he label it right?  

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Laying on of Hands

Nagel, Norman. "The Laying on of Hands." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  243-257.

What is this anointing, this laying on of hands, we see in Scripture as God's servants are appointed to God's service?  Is it the hand that is important?  Does it matter where you put the hands?  

We see in the Old Testament the Lord uses his "hand" to make prophets, save Israel, make the heavens.  What is this hand of the Lord?  Is this the same way the Lord has people lay hands on people to anoint the to ministry?  What do we make of Jesus?  Nobody laid hands on Jesus to anoint him for ministry.  And he called and named his apostles.  He blew on them.  He did not lay his hands on them.

In the Book of Acts we see the apostles laying their hands on people who are appointed for certain tasks.  This has apparently become the norm in the early Church.  It happens over and over.  And when Paul instructs Timothy he reminds him of his receiving gifts through the laying on of hands.  He also commands him about laying hands on others.  It seems by this time there is not only an assumption that laying on of hands is important in appointing someone  ministry, but that it confers some sort of power or authority.

Nagel traces the custom of laying on of hands through Church history.  It is consistently used for ordination, and is consistently done by someone who has already been ordained.  There is not an idea of self-ordination in the historic Church.  And ordination almost always has included the laying on of hands.

Nagel asks if it is necessary that the laying on be of hands, whether it can be of other body parts, feet, fingers, maybe a hug.  Yet this is not the example our Lord has given us.  In Scripture we see a norm of the laying on of hands which seems to confer authority.  It places the recipient of the laid on hands in the special position of a pastor, elder, leader in Christ who is able to exercise the gifts of ministry.  This is something we should value.  It was important enough to the Holy Spirit that he gave us many clear examples of it.  

Friday, September 18, 2009

Viva Vox Evangelii: A Necessary Course Correction

Asendorf, Ulrich (tr. Schulz, Klaus Detlev). "Viva Vox Evangelii: A Necessary Course Correction." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  229-241.

This was one of the more challenging articles I have read in a while.  I'm not sure if it has to do with the writing style or possibly the translation.  Maybe it has to do with the content and organization.  But I didn't find myself following it well.

Here's what I got.  Luther's theology viewed the Word of God as that which is proclaimed, an heraldic call.  He would understand that the proper medium for use of the Scripture is in preaching.  This was a radical departure from Scholasticism.  It has influenced our view of Scripture and biblical scholarship since the time of Luther until recent times.

In more recent generations the rise of biblical scholarship which asserts itself in the historical-critical method has eroded this proper use of Scripture.  Possibly the idea of studying Scripture in order to systematize it into topical theologies would be a similar approach, which departs from the use of Scripture as that which confronts us with the power of God.  The historical critical method and other such scholarships seem to use Scripture as that which should be studied and dissected, though not apparently to any purpose other than the study and dissection itself.

Assendorf spends a good portion of the article explaining how Luther viewed Genesis 3.15 as foundational to all Scripture in that it forces the reader to understand the Bible in terms of Christ's atonement for sin.

It appears that the final analysis is that the Christian Church has tended to depart from this view of the Scripture which was rightly held by Luther. 

I don't know if I followed this article adequately to report it well.  Hope I did.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Face of Christ as the Hope of the World: Missiology as Making Christ Present

Weinrich, William C.  "The Face of Christ as the Hope of the World: Missiology as Making Christ Present." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  215-227.

Weinrich evaluates the Scripture to see what the normative result is of people following Christ.  He concludes in this article that the longer people are believing in Christ the more they see the job of the Christian as bringing a living knowledge of Jesus into every situation.  As we look to Jesus we see that Jesus is becoming evident through our work.  We become less engaged in social change and more engaged in seeing Jesus working in society, changing it.  We see that the mission of the Church is to proclaim Jesus as lord over all heaven and earth.

I would highly recommend a close study of this article as it pulls many biblical threads together, pointing to a wide variety of passages of Scripture throughout.  Great reading for a church leadership board or individual interested in seeing what the Bible has to say about cultural and societal change. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Than Leader, Administrator, and Therapist: The Scriptural Substance of the Pastoral Office

Wenthe, Dean O. "More Than Leader, Administrator and Therapist: The Scriptural Substance of the Pastoral Office." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  199-213.

Among the various challenges to the Church in our generation, Wenthe suggests that the redefinition of the pastoral ministry is possibly the greatest.  He kicks off this article by listing several challenges to the Church, all of which have tried to redefine the authority of Scripture, the role of men and women, and the nature of political life as viewed by the Bible.  Yet since all these other challenges seemingly admit that they are challenging a traditional understanding of Scripture, they are easily dealt with.  Recent moves to redefine what the pastor does as a civic leader, an administrator (like a CEO) or an organization, or a member of the "helping professions" have not given any clear indication that they are overturning a biblical philosophy of life.  Yet by redefining the role of the pastor in such a radical manner this move undermines the specific tasks of ministering in Word and Sacraments which God has given to pastors.

Wenthe observes that the language used about and among pastors seems more like the discourse of marketing, administration, and counseling than it does a discourse of theologians.  We have become more interested in the values our society puts on the church than in having a Church that influences society.

Wenthe lists six ways in which our society has influenced the Church to her detriment.  
  1) a value of a transactional view of salvation - I repent so God saves me
  2) address of the felt needs of the community rather than the real needs
  3) emphasis on the importance of individual autonomy rather than family, ecclesiology, and community
  4) allowing people to be insatiable in their desire for those felt needs in #2.
  5) desire for novelty
  6) emphasis on the abstract rather than the concrete

The article ends with a critique of the psychotherapeutic model of Christian counseling, suggesting that it encourages pastors to use their counseling methods rather than the Scripture, calls to repentance, and proclamation of forgiveness with biblical exhortation to a godly life.

So how did he do?  I think Wenthe nailed a lot of what is weakening our Church right on the head.  How do we respond to this kind of situation?  Do we roll over and play dead?  Do we fight back?  What tools do we use to fight back?  Our Lord has provided mighty weapons in the battle against the spiritual forces of evil in this world.  Let's use those weapons.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Church in the Twenty-First Century: Will There Be a Lutheran One?

Marquart, Kurt.  "The Church In The Twenty-First Century: Will There Be a Lutheran One?" All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  181-198.

Okay, a nit-picky note before I get started.  In titles, capitalize verbs.  Some titles in this book have not capitalized the being verb, which remains a verb.  In titles, don't capitalize prepositions or articles unless they are the first word of the title.

Now, moving along . . .

Marquart asks a very important question.  What does it mean for a particular church body to survive?  We know that God has promised that the Church will always survive.  Until the return of our Lord in judgment there will be a people called by his name, gathering around Word and Sacraments.  That isn't in question.  The question Marquart asks, though, is a little different.  Will the Lutheran church survive?  To answer that question he needs to define both survival and the Lutheran church.  

What makes the Lutheran church Lutheran is its confession.  We are people who have bound ourselves in accordance with the historic creeds of the Church.  We have gathered around the specific body of writing in the Book of Concord.  This is what defines a Lutheran body.  If people cast off this historic set of confessions they are no longer Lutheran in any real sense.  We have been seeing that kind of a move for several hundred years.  People are embracing anything but the truths articulated in the Book of Concord and continue to call themselves Lutheran.  Marquart would argue that the name "Lutheran" on the sign in front of the church building does not make one Lutheran.  We can retain the sign and cease to be what the sign indicates.  This is not survival, even if the pews are full.

Marquart spends the bulk of his article analyzing ideas which have passed muster within various Lutheran groups in recent history.  He also observes the neglect of rigorous teaching in the historic creeds.  His conclusion is that much of what is called Lutheran is, in fact, not Lutheran.  It has already started to pass away, to be replaced by broad evangelicalism which does not have a distinctively Lutheran flavor, which is not founded on historic creeds but rather on feelings and pragmatism.

So what are you seeing?  Are churches departing from their historic foundations?  Maybe your church has done so already.  Maybe it's happened so thoroughly and so long ago you aren't sure what the historic foundations are.  Do we have something to return to?  I sure hope so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A time for beginnings

Today is the day I officially consider "New Year's Day."  My school classes begin.  I've been on an academic year schedule now in one role or another for 40 years, so it just seems that the start of school is what denotes a new year.  Here are a few things I need to remember today.

1) Though I have seen this class material lots of times, my students have not.  What is old hat to me is new to them.  It may be new and interesting, new and perplexing, new and easy, new and difficult - regardless, it is new. 

2) Even though some of my students were with me last year they are not exactly the same people I remember them as.  They have changed.  I have changed.  And my understanding of them is imperfect at best.

3) Thirty years from now some of my students may remember the subject matter I teach them.  Most of them will not.  My teaching, while it is centered on subject matter, ultimately deals with more important issues, such as integrity, the way we approach a challenge, how to tie one branch of learning to another, and living in relationship with others in an academic setting.  Thirty years ago few of today's students will face a Latin sentence to understand.  They will, however, face situations in which they have to make wise decisions based on the data they see.

4) In teaching my classes I am loving and serving my neighbor, who needs my good works.  I am doing this because my Lord and Savior has loved and served me. 

Lord, help me to love and serve my neighbor as you loved and served this world, giving yourself for its greatest need.  May I be faithful with what you have given me so my neighbors can receive what you would give them.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

The Question of Theosis in the Perspective of Lutheran Christology

Green, Lowell C. "The Question of Theosis in the Perspective of Lutheran Christology." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  163-180.

Theosis is the point of view that in salvation the individual is in some way deified.  Some have recently claimed that Luther points to a version of theosis in his view of the atonemtn.  Green reviews the history of theosis, the way this relates to traditional Lutheran views of Christology, and how a doctrine of theosis moves us to be theologians of glory rather than theologians of the cross.

Green discusses theosis in Greek paganism, observing that it seems to be a very common view of life and salvation.  He moves to the early Church and observes that, contrary to the first five centuries of the Christian era being a high point in the life of the Church, in fact during this time Christians entered into all sorts of heresies, including a neo-Platonic view of theosis.  These weaknesses in theology have existed throughout Church history.  Continuing into the Medieval Church we see the same sort of mysticism and radical fanatical movements.  All these views of theosis are centered in the idea that by man's work it is possible to draw near to God and prove ourselves worthy before him.

Are there Scriptural arguments in favor of a view of theosis?  Green discusses Psalm 8s.6, Galatians 2.20, and 2 Peter 1.4, observing that while they can be used in some way to point people to a view of theosis that is not their most sensible interpretation.  2 Peter 1.4, however, causes more difficulty.  Interestingly enough, in Luther's writings, including his lectures which deal with 2 Peter a good deal, he hardly makes mention of 2 Peter 1.4, never in defense of theosis.  It appears that Luther did not view salvation as happening through any sort of deification, but quite the opposite, that it happens by God humbling himself to die as a man in man's stead.

So what of the claims that the believer participates in the divine nature?   In Luther, the believer never loses his identity even in light of the indwelling of God.  The change is not a change of being, but a change of relationship.  There does not appear to be any credible evidence that Luther thought man was deified in salvation.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stodgy? Dignified? Respectful?

I was doing some work outside the house yesterday afternoon, work involving one of my least favorite tools - a paintbrush.  Since we live in a neighborhood with a bit of foot traffic, and since it was a nice day when people would tend to have windows open in their houses and cars, I was expecting to hear a bit of noise.  I could hear radios and televisions, dogs barking, people talking at a yard sale down the block.  Kind of a nice sort of neighborly afternoon sound montage.

I heard someone calling, "Sweetheart?"  Once it was repeated a few times and I realized it seemed to be coming from near where I was, I turned around to see what was going on.  A lady I had never seen was standing in the street at the end of my sidewalk, calling me.  Apparently she hadn't managed to find the street sign on the corner, closer to her than to me, indicating that the cross street was Tenth Avenue.  She wanted to know where she was so as to tell someone on her cell phone.

I wonder if other people dislike having strangers call them by pet names?  I had initially automatically tuned it out because the voice calling "sweetheart" was not someone who would have that familiarity with me.  I typically would only respond to a name like that from a few people.  But as I thought about it, more and more, when I talk with a telephone customer service person, I am called "honey" or "sweetie."  

While I have nothing against friendliness, the fact is, unless you live in my household you really shouldn't call me any of those names.  I have a name and you may use it.  If you don't know my name, since I'm an adult male, last I knew the traditional way of addressing me in English would be "sir."  If I'm not dressed nicely, maybe you'd want to call me "mister."  If you are an adult female and I don't know you or don't think it appropriate to address you by name I'll call you "ma'am."  If you are quite young, I might call you "miss."  It just seems polite.

I've got a call to make to an insurance office.  There's a young lady there who always calls me "honey.'  I'm tempted to call her "snookums" or something like that when she calls me "honey."  Then again, that might simply lead her to think she is being appropriately friendly.

So what's the deal?  Am I really that oddly out of place? 

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Luther, Newman, and the Punctiliar Church

Neuhaus, Richard John. "Luther, Newman, and the Punctiliar Church." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  153-161.

In this article, Father Neuhaus points out some difficulties in the arguments of Bishop John Henry Newman against Luther as the representative of Protestantism.  Newman's understanding of Luther's view of justification was that it was separated from the Catholic sacramental view of life.  He viewed Luther as having articulated a theology in which the individual spiritual perception of Christ in your heart was more important than the historic facts of Christ's death for sin, his resurrection to new life, and the impartation of new life to you through Word and Sacraments.  Neuhaus suggests that Newman's work does not show a great deal of evidence of having read and considered Luther carefully, as he confuses Luther with the radical reformers, including those of a later date.

Neuhaus does, however, point out in Newman's defense that Luther as a Catholic understood life and godliness through a Catholic lens.  He viewed life sacramentally.  And Neuhaus suggests that Luther would not have been able to sustain his views without the Catholic framework for thinking.  He observes that particularly when believers devalue the historic Church and the reality of the sacraments they very quickly take on a faith which is subjective and weak.

Father Neuhaus closes his article with pleas that believers all together focus on the historic faith and strive for unity in historic orthdoxy.  He manages to come a little short of begging that Lutherans and all Protestants come to join Rome.  Yet his intention is clearly to demonstrate that the Roman view of the sacramental life is a very important feature of the dedicated Christian life.  My observation is that a genuinely sacramental view of life does serve to pull the believer away from subjective and self-centered faith.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Future of a Tradition: Luther and the Family

Lindberg, Carter. "The Future of a Tradition: Luther and the Family."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 2000.  133-151.

In the years before Luther the family had been devalued by Church and society.  Luther's teaching put a great value on marriage and family.  It is within the context of a family that we start to understand sin, forgiveness, and God's forbearance.

In medieval thought the celibate life was considered to earn merit for salvation.  It was not uncommon to consider all sexual activity to be unclean, though priests routinely violated their vows of celibacy, had children and concubines.  At the same time, priests did suffer from the guilt of their sinful behavior.

Luther brought liberation by observing that marriage is a biblically good thing.  Yet he emphasized that marriage involved caring for the household, bringing up children, and living in joy and respect together in community.

Lindberg details many of Luther's reflections on the blessedness of marriage and the care which God has given family members for one another.  A recurring theme is the way marriage and family reflect God's care for us, which is undeserved on our part.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Is Your God? Luther on God's Self-Localization

Kleinig, John. "Where is (sic) Your God?  Luther on God's Self-Localization."   All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 2000.  117-131.

The interpretation of biblical passages which seem to declare God's presence is often a challenge.  We confess that God is omnipresent.  Yet in the Old Testament he is depicted as living at the tabernacle and later at the temple.  How do we reconcile these concepts?  Luther worked with this concept a good deal in his later years.

God's omnipresence seems masked in the Bible.  Though he is everywhere he does not make himself equally accessible everywhere.  We see this from before the Fall, when Adam had certain times and places where God would visit him.  In a stark contrast, Cain is sent out away from God's presence.  He is therefore a wanderer, a fugitive.

After the Fall, God gives sacrifices and the sign of his presence.  He further gives specific places for worship in the time of the patriarchs.  When he establishes the tabernacle and the feasts he makes more specific times and one specific place for worship, that time for participation in God's special presence.  

After analyzing these comments about God's presence we see that God's people know God can be found as he has revealed himself in the Scripture.  God institutes worship which is pleasing to him.  And he has promised always to be found in certain ways.  These ways are always accompanied by visible signs.  He is always accessible in sacrifices and circumcision in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, after Jesus' ascension, we see that Jesus is in fact the culmination of the place of worship.  We therefore confess that wherever Jesus has revealed himself in Word and sacraments we can look to him in faith.  Therefore we rightly consider the church assembled in Word and sacraments as the place to meet with God.  This is coming into the specific real presence of our Lord and Savior.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Wedding Feast at Cana and the Christological Monomania of St. John

Schuchard, Bruce G.  "The Wedding Feast at Cana and the Christological Monomania of St. John."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 2000.  101-116.

Schuchard asks about the possible significance of John's specific statement of the "third day" for the wedding feast at Cana.  Did John have a particular reason in mind for this mention other than simply stating chronology?  Schuchard thinks John does.  He finds in this account a parallel to the account of creation in Genesis.  He also finds in this portion of the Gospel (1.19-2.11) a parallel to the entire Gospel of John, a time involving four narrative "journeys" to Jerusalem which correspond with the four days mentioned in John 1.19-2.11.

In this pattern of concentric circles of revelation, we see that the wedding feast would correspond with Jesus' third trip to Jerusalem for Passover as well as the third day on which Jesus rose from the dead.  This is the wedding feast at which Jesus provides the superabundant wine, the very best which can be imagined.  This wine, as we see if we consider the idea of the resurrection from the dead, is the blood of Jesus given for the life of the world.  This is in fact what we need and can never attain to outside of the resurrected Christ.

This article gives an interesting and thoughtful analysis of the Gospel of John from a literary standpoint.  I have never seen these patterns in John myself, but Schuchard brings up numerous scholars who have seen them.  I'm afraid we often become so intent on seeing what one sentence in Scripture says that we forget to explore the big picture God has given us throughout an entire book.  But we know the first one to put forth his opinion seems right until other evidence is examined.  Is Schuchard right?  Anyone ready to contradict him?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


An irony - I guess it could happen in regard to almost anything.  When looking for President Obama's school speech as audio so as to hear the delivery the first place I tried gave me a Trojan virus which I'm working on cleaning off my computer.  

"You're looking for audio of your president.  Do you trust this source?"

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Critique of President Obama's Public School Speech 9/8/09

I've read over a transcript of President Obama's speech to public schoolers.  I do think it is appropriate that a political leader should address groups of the people.  Just as it would rarely be controversial for a mayor to address the students in a school or throughout a city, there really shouldn't be anything so controversial about a president finding a way to address students in schools throughout the country.

When addressing a "captive audience" (school as captivity, that's an interesting thought) it is important to speak clearly and accurately.  These students have few ways of making meaningful responses.  They are, by and large, not of voting age yet either.  Let's look at some of the important philosophical elements of Mr. Obama's speech.

In the introduction, he says, "I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, and supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working, where students aren't getting the opportunities that they deserve."  This assumes that the government has primary responsibility for education.  This has become a cultural assumption which our president has reinforced in this speech.  Unfortunately, feeding more of this assumption to children, reinforcing the efforts of teachers to promote the supremacy of government in educating and shaping culture, is something we have come to expect of our governmental leaders, despite all the evidence that government leadership in education is one of the worst things that has ever happened to any culture.

President Obama then turns to the responsibility of students to be good and diligent students.  One wonders, of course, what makes for a good student.  Maybe he'll tell us.  It appears as I read on that the good student will become a successful person in society.  Score one!  I freely grant that you are more likely to achieve worthwhile goals if you work diligently and don't give up.  I do observe that all the emphasis is on what you do at school, but that seems appropriate for a speech given in a school intended to motivate students in their school life.  I do find it interesting, though, that the arbiter of success in life seems to be achievement in school subjects.  He also depicts the worst outcome of dropping out of school - you then give up on your country. You may become a second class citizen.  What of people whose vocations don't require a strong academic orientation?  Well, like Mrs. Obama's parents, maybe by hard work they can manage to send their children to the best schools so their children can become success stories.  I sure hope Mrs. Obama's parents themselves are a success story.  I don't know, but it appears they got at least some things right.  Maybe they were successful even though they didn't attend much school?

As we approach the end of the speech, it appears more and more that the job of students is to become good citizens through their hard work.  We do school work for our country.  We try to learn so we can be loyal and patriotic.  We find our greatest love in love for our country.  This theme of service to your country was quite troublesome to me.  Especially when the speech was accompanied by the proposed study guide which apparently led students to make conclusions and assertions about how they can essentially devote their lives to their country, I find the whole affair quite distasteful.

I guess I should let this serve as a reminder that the schools are really government schools.  They are public in that they are funded from public funds (i.e., taxes), that they exist to further the values and commitments of our government, that they have never been about academics or honesty, but always about forming compliant citizens.  So this is exactly the kind of emphasis we should expect in a speech from a high governmental official addressing his school students.  How can you be all you can be?  By giving your life and devotion to your government's ideals.

There are times I'm really glad to be a Christian homeschooler.  I get to bring my children up and point them toward different ideals, first as a Christian family, then as a family with a vital life centered around home, rather than around government.

Matthew 5:48 - A WORD OF GOD Sanctification: Whole or In Part?

Olson, Thomas L.  "Matthew 5:48 -- A WORD OF GOD Sanctification: Whole or In (sic) Part?"  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 2000.  79-100.

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus commands believers to be "perfect."  They are to be as God is perfect.  In what way does God require "perfect" sanctification?  Most Christians confess that they will never be perfectly holy, at least not on this earth.  So we tend to say that sanctification is partial, never complete.  Yet Jesus seems clear in his demands.  What will we do?  According to Romans 6:14, the believer is no longer under law but under grace.  Does this make us "perfect" and "complete," all appearances to the contrary?  Certainly the repentant sinner strives for sinlessness, but not in respect to the Law.  We cannot be sinless in respect to God's Law, but we can be faithful in respect to Christ.  Maybe this is what makes us "perfect?"

Olson delves into a Hebrew word study based on Deuteronomy 18:13.  He uses a good deal of Hebrew text, which I can unfortunately not read.  The thrust of Olson's argument in this portion of the article is that God's making people perfect is rightly applied to those who faithfully follow God, describing their relationship with God but making no reference to their relationship with other people.  The idea is a vertical relationship, not a horizontal one.

Olson's conclusion, then, is that in salvation, in being recipients of God's washing through baptism into Jesus' name, we are by nature "whole" "perfect" and "complete."  The relationship we have through Christ's purchase of us, exclusive of the horizontal relationships we have with this world, makes us complete.

Olson rules out a concept of "progressive sanctification" because it indicates we will grow in our holiness as time goes by.  He equates this with the idea of "progressive justification" which would require us to earn our own justification.  Rather, he indicates that sanctification is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit, is applied to us at one time, and we then, as Christians, pray to know God's truth better.  Yet that increasing knowledge of God's truth does not make us any more sanctified.  It simply tends to bring our behavior and horizontal relationships more into line with the vertical relationship which Jesus has addressed by his death on our behalf, thus justifying us and declaring us to be holy and complete.

So what do you think?  We all seem to have this idea that sanctification has an ongoing element.  Is this a needless splitting of theological hairs?  Does Olson manage to make Matthew 5:48 and other passages work this way when they would not make sense otherwise?

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Prayers for before and after meals

Ever get tired of coming up with something interesting to pray when it's mealtime?  

This from Luther's Small Catechism - an encouraging prayer for before and after a meal. 

Start out with Psalm 145.15-16 "The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing."

Say the Lord's prayer, then add, "Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen."

Now here's where it gets interesting.  We are in such a habit of eating and running.  How about prayer after a meal?  He includes that in his Small Catechism too.

Quote Psalm 136.1, 25; 147.9-11.  "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever.  He gives food to every creature.  He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.  His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love."

Say the Lord's prayer, then add, "We thank You, Lord God, heavenly Father, for all Your benefits, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.  Amen.

What do table prayers like this assume?  First, they assume that a meal is a holy assembly in which we thank God for all his blessings.  The giving of thanks is not taken lightly.  And we realize that in the Lord's Prayer we are really praying for every kind of situation we might face.  Maybe the Lord will bring something to mind during our mealtime that we realize is addressed in the Lord's Prayer.  We also see that the idea is to start and end the meal together.  A meal is a chance for a family to gather.  It's a wonderful appointment.  Finally, see how almost all the giving of thanks and declaration of our dependence on God comes from Scripture.  We pray not primarily in our words but in the very words of God.

Who ever said prayers you memorize aren't a good thing?  They can be full of well-thought-out content and express dependence on our Lord rather than on ourselves.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Divine Name in Holy Baptism

Gieschen, Charles A. "The Divine Name in Holy Baptism."  All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 2000.  67-77.

How are we to understand Jesus' command that baptism is "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28.19)?  Gieschen explores the use of "the Name" in Scripture.  On the surface, we may understand the use of the genitive case (which gives us the idea of "of" in English) to specify possession.  This is the name possessed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  But Gieschen thinks the Scripture goes farther than that.  He explores texts, beginning with Old Testament evidence and then moving to New Testament evidence indicating that where the divine name is used it always implies God's specific presence in power, coupled with God's intent to accomplish something.  

Gieschen demonstrates convincingly that in Scripture, when the Name of God is applied to people, they are effectively sealed with his protection.  This is particularly clear once we get to the book of Revelation, for instance, 3.12, 14.1, 22.4, and 7.2.  God's seal indicates his protective care on his people.  He also concludes that this idea of the application of God's name helps us understand uses of the "Name" in Matthew, for instance, 18.5, 18.20.  

It appears from Scripture that God's name bears power and authority.  It somehow seems appropriate that we realize God is able to work supernaturally through the means he chooses, which may include proclamation of his name as the name bearing his authority when used according to his promises.

Back to posting!

I've been away from posting for a while during a flurry of activity around our house as well as the labor involved in making sure everything is orderly for school to begin.  It's good to sit down with the book I've been reading "just for fun" and write up an article summary.  Hopefully I can get a little bit ahead and keep feeding these synopses out.  I do welcome all sorts of discussion.  I know I don't draw as many great minds together as some of the blogs out there, but we can bat ideas around anyway.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Re: [Cap'n Salty's Long Voyage] Re: Update on remodeling

Man, I keep accidentally posting things to the blog then removing them.  Well, now everyone who has read the blog knows where we are on getting ready to put the house on the market.  Why don't we keep things in this spiffy neat order while we continue to live in a place?

By the way, if you can find someone like the "Perry" I referred to, do it right away!  He's a Christian gentleman who has truly found his vocation as a handyman.  I don't think there's a household repair issue he can't deal with.  He works for himself but it is clear that he is working for his neighbor who needs Christ's servant ministering to him.