Monday, June 30, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 12, “Revenge”

Chapter 12, “Revenge”

Bonhoeffer now turns his attention to Matthew 5:38-42. What is the Christian’s response to attack? He asserts that all the Old Testament is to be fulfilled, that here we see the Sermon on the Mount applied not only to the decalogue but to the whole of God’s Law. Sadly, he talks about the disciples as those who fulfill the law. Here, the true disciple fulfills the law by laying down his rights and accepting evil. This is the way the “true disciple will prove himself” (Loc. 1966).

Bonhoeffer builds this idea of the Christian not defending his rights upon the foundation that the Church, unlike Israel, is not a political entity. Since it does not operate in the civil realm it will not resist evil. This non-resistance results in the enemy’s attack being in vain. This does not mean we acknowledge the rights others have to inflict harm, but that we do not respond to that force.

Bonhoeffer describes (Loc. 2001) the Reformers’ idea of the individual and the office. For instance, as an individual we would not meet force with force, but as one in the office of soldier we would. His assessment is that Jesus makes no such distinction. Again, Bonhoeffer discusses the idea of the disciple as an individual called out from the community. therefore he finds no place for resisting evil. God is our protector.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 1, Part 5 - Medieval Criticism of Transubstantiation (p. 43)

Chapter 1, Part 5 - Medieval Criticism of Transubstantiation (p. 43)

Sasse contends that the biggest problem with transubstantiation is that it requires a substance to be separated from its “accidents,” or appearance. This was an idea foreign to philosophy and dedicated to explaining a dogma which could not be found explained in Scripture. Therefore, theologians had to engage in additional layers of explanation to make the doctrine plausible. Wyclif countered the idea with a mystical presence, following Berengar. His views were taken over extensively by Zwingli, through acquaintance with Bohemian and Netherlandic influence.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter 2, "The Christian Knowledge of God"

Chapter 2, “The Christian Knowledge of God”

In this chapter Pieper makes a sharp distinction between the knowledge of God available through the Scripture and elsewhere. The Bible presents one true God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is in stark contrast to the other world religions. The pagan polytheism is not allowed for by the Bible, nor is the monotheism in which there is no trinity. This knowledge is not revealed to us anywhere but the Bible.

Pieper reminds us that natural revelation can never give us hope. We are never rescued from a guilty conscience by natural revelation, but only through the Bible’s Jesus, the one who gave himself for our sins. Pieper reminds us of Luther’s portrayals of the hope which comes from the God of the Bible. As opposed to the non-Christian religions, the Bible gives a consistent revelation of God. This is the Christian’s hope.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 11, "Truthfulness"

Chapter 11, “Truthfulness”

Chapter 11 makes comments on Matthew 5:33-37, where Jesus prohibits swearing oaths. This passage and the practice of making oaths has been difficult for the Church to apply. Often in history, “mature” Christians would not make oaths, but others would. Some groups reject all oaths while others reject frivolous ones. Bonhoeffer observes that Jesus made promises before a court of law and Paul often uses oath-like expressions.

Bonhoeffer defines an oath as (Loc. 1903) “an appeal made to God in public . . . invok[ing] the omniscient deity to avenge the truth.” If this is the case, we would have no reason to avoid oaths when we know the truth certainly. Yet swearing an oath may leave open the possibility that the Christian is not truthful when not under oath. Of course, we also do not have exhaustive knowledge or perfect memory of all events, so we are always open to error.

Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:33-37 is finally a claim for truthfulness. Bonhoeffer (Loc. 1941) again makes a distinction between those who genuinely and completely follow Jesus and others, even though the others may in fact believe Jesus. The true disciple, then, is truthful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 1, Part 4 - The Real Presence as Transubstantiation and Concomitance (p. 28)

Chapter 1, Part 4 - The Real Presence as Transubstantiation and Concomitance (p. 28)

In response to Berengar the Church tried to define terms. In what way is Jesus present in communion? Yet on p. 29 Sasse observes that the question of whether a change occurs did not come up. Rather, the conversation was about what kind of change happened. The explanation required theologians to go beyond Scripture. By the 13th century the explanation of transubstantiation was emerging. Sasse discusses the implications of the wording of the dogma, especially as articulated by Thomas Aquinas.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C1, “The Natural Knowledge of God”

Part C “The Doctrine of God”

We know God only because he has revealed himself in a) creation and b) in the Bible.

Chapter C1, “The Natural Knowledge of God”

Aside from knowing about God through the Bible, we can know something of God by natural revelation. We can see this revelation through God’s creation, which shows his marks. We also see God through his operation in nature and history. Features of our world such as seasonal cycles, a life cycle for a person, and even national history point us to order, not chaos. Pieper also considers that we have a built in perception of the divine as we automatically assume good and bad to exist. We also expect consequences to flow from actions. In a world without God this would not happen. As a result, says Pieper, one must be very irrational and determined to be an atheist. What conclusions can be derived from natural revelation? First, natural revelation will not bring salvation. It is incapable of showing the redemptive love of Christ. Second, natural revelation is very helpful in creating ordered society, particularly including a receptivity to God’s Law and Gospel.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 10, "Woman"

Chapter 10, “Woman”

In chapter 10, Bonhoeffer continues his discussion of the Sermon on the Mount with Matthew 5:27-32. He continues to emphasize the exclusive nature of Jesus’ claims. When we follow Jesus we must renounce ourselves, including men’s desires for women. Lusting after a woman is an act of unbelief.

What of Jesus’ command to remove an eye or hand that causes us to sin? Because Jesus gave no further explanation to his disciples, Bonhoeffer also gives no explanation.

The topic of marriage, divorce, and remarriage also arises in this passage. Bonhoeffer observes that Jesus takes a high view of marriage, discouraging divorce and prohibiting remarriage in cases of adultery. Bonhoeffer compares Matthew 19:8 and Jesus’ statement that divorce is permitted because of hardness of hearts. Jesus upholds the chastity of his people, whether married or unmarried.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 1, Part 3 - The Real Presence as Conversion (p. 17)

Chapter 1, Part 3 - The Real Presence as Conversion (p. 17)

The dogma of the Real Presence received much more discussion. Beginning with Paschasius Radbertus writing in 831 (p. 18) discussion about the nature of Christ’s presence began. While Radbertus suggested real physical presence of the very body and blood of Jesus as born of Mary, Ratramnus and others would affirm that the change was specifically to the post-resurrection body and blood. Ratramnus also affirmed that the elements remained bread and wine but became the “image” of the body and blood. There is some lack of clarity in the discussion, but it did serve, if not to define the doctrine, to start the process of definition.

In hindsight, Sasse says (p. 19), Ambrose seemed to advocate a physical change while Augustine had more of an inclination toward a symbolic change. Yet the idea Augustine had of a symbol’s change is not akin to Zwingli’s view. To the ancients, a symbol is “filled with reality” (p. 23).

Sasse points out (p. 25) that while we might like to leave the issue by saying that Christ is really present, the contention is whether he is really present in his body and blood. This is an area which Lutheran and Reformed churches do not agree on. The debate is important and stems from the 11th century and Berengar, who advocated a spiritual view of Christ’s presence. He rejected the bodily presence as a logical impossibility and was (p. 26) the first to interpret the “is” in the consecration as “signifies.” This drove the Church to define the Real Presence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter B16, “Holy Scripture and Exegesis”

Chapter B16, “Holy Scripture and Exegesis”

Pieper bases his understanding of exegesis on the fact that Christian doctrine is laid out in passages which are entirely clear in meaning. Yet there is an important place for the trained exegete, someone who is a specialist in biblical interpretation. The exegete has a primary task of leading people back to Scripture. This is what Luther said his work was. In every generation we need people who can know and do four things.

1) trust Scripture as God’s Word
2) know that Scripture is clear
3) urge people to turn to the Bible
4) uncover wrong interpretation

Pieper speaks in detail of the practices of modern exegetes who go about their work unwisely. For instance, he talks about attempts to explain clear passages by using unclear ones, or to let theological preconceptions override the clear meaning of passages from the Bible. The responsible exegete starts with the clear passages and uses them to explore those which are less clear.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 9, “The Brother”

Chapter 9, “The Brother”

Now Bonhoeffer comments on Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus’ words about hatred, anger, and murder. Once again he states (Loc. 1786) that Jesus’ disciples can fulfill the law because they trust it as Christ’s word. The law Jesus restates here is about murder. Bonhoeffer rightly says that Jesus expands the definition of our “brother” to include all those with whom we have contact. He views anger as an attack, regardless of the provocation (Loc. 1802). This hinders our worship, says Bonhoeffer, because it prevents us from seeking God rightly. At least at this point, Bonhoeffer speaks as though worship is our performance for God, not God’s act of giving us grace. The only way we can worship God is by being reconciled with our brother. It is this serving of our brother (Loc. 1838) that denies ourself, takes up the cross, and allows us to “find the fulfillment of the law.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 1, Part 2 - The Eucharistic Sacrifice (p. 14)

Chapter 1, Part 2 - The Eucharistic Sacrifice (p. 14)

In the Middle Ages, until the early 13th century, the idea of the mass as a sacrifice was only rejected by those who rejected the entire mass. This view of the priesthood and sacrifice was handed down from the earliest period of Christianity and was readily understood by people from either a pagan or Jewish background. The people would bring offerings which were then presented to the Lord. Where Sasse views the Church going wrong is in laying the gifts, including bread and wine, on the altar, suggesting to some that the church is offering the body and blood of Christ to God. This view has taken root in the Roman Liturgical Movement (p. 16) and has not basis in Scripture. This serves as an important part of the background of the Reformation.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter B15, “The Authority of Scripture and the Confessions”

Chapter B15, “The Authority of Scripture and the Confessions”

The Lutheran Confessions are also called “symbols.” Pieper asks how the confessions and the Scriptures interact. Lutherans have normally not set the confessions alongside Scripture as a second norm. Yet the way in which ministers assent to the confessions is significant. Pieper details two ways of subscribing to the confessions, the quia and the quatenus. Under a quia subscription (“because”), the individual agrees to the confessions because they reflect Scripture accurately. This, Pieper says, is the appropriate view. The quatenus (“so far as”) subscription allows selective rejection of parts of the confessions.

Pieper details various ways in which a quatenus pledge may appear.

1) The confessions are essentially correct about chief doctrines. This allows the subscriber to pick and choose what level of accuracy is meant, as well as what the chief doctrines are.

2) The confessions are binding if they speak to an actual doctrinal dispute, but not otherwise.

3) The confessions are accurate when interpreted correctly. This allows the interpreter to change the meaning at will.

4) We follow the spirit of the confessions.

A quia pledge talks only about the doctrinal matters, not subsidiary discussion. Pieper supports this wholeheartedly.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 8, "The Righteousness of Christ"

Chapter 8, “The Righteousness of Christ”

Bonhoeffer here calls his disciples to hold to Christ’s righteousness. His righteousness consists in fulfilling God’s Law. Against those who think Jesus came to destroy the Law, Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Bonhoeffer points to some of the consequences of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law. he says (Loc. 1707) that we must hold to the law and follow Christ. The two cannot be separated. They must be done together. We are bound, then, to the Old covenant law, just as the Pharisees were, but by following Jesus we have a better righteousness.

How then does Bonhoeffer see our relation to Jesus? He says (Loc. 1745) that he is the one who validates the law, showing that we are to obey as he does. The righteousness we then receive is that which belongs to Jesus. It is a gift of God, received as we follow Jesus.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sasse, 1977. The Medieval Origin of the Eucharistic Dogma


Sasse sets out to analyze Luther’s view of the real presence of Christ in communion. He does this because of the Lutheran confession that both Gospel and Sacrament deliver forgiveness. To a greater or lesser extent Lutherans have attempted to recapture the vitality of communion. Sasse begins his analysis by drawing a picture of the Medieval background, then discussing Luther’s development of the doctrine and finally visiting the life of Lutherans since the 16th century.

The chapters in this book are often broken into substantial segments. In making blog posts I will favor smaller units.

Chapter 1, “The Medieval Background” pp. 10-61

Part 1 - The Medieval Origin of the Eucharistic Dogma (p. 10).

From the earliest days, Christians have celebrated the Eucharist. It did not become a matter of official dogma or contention for a very long time. On p. 10 in a footnote Sasse reminds us that doctrines are regularly reflected in practice within the liturgy before they are defined as dogmas. The dogmatic definitions arise when there are times of dispute. The first record of controversy appears in the 8th century, when it was implied (Nicaea II, 787, Sasse p. 11) that the elements in communion were not images or symbols, therefore were not potentially icons. This view of Real Presence was retained in the East, affirming that Jesus is bodily present. The view remained as well in the West without dogmatic statement until the 11th century, when Real Presence was firmly established.

Sasse, 1967

Sasse, Hermann. This Is My Body: Luther's Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (Revised edition). Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1977.

Pieper, 1968. Chapter B14, “The Use of Scripture in Deciding Doctrinal Controversies”

Chapter B14, “The Use of Scripture in Deciding Doctrinal Controversies”

Pieper now asks what the bible is useful for. In his view the Roman church considers it inadequate without the interpretation of the pope. The Scripture, however, views its teachings as being useful for all churchly controversies. At issue, says Pieper, is the fact that often two rules have been neglected. First, the question at issue (status controversiae), is often neglected. Second, people often fail to treat concerns using the passages of Scripture which most clearly pertain to the debate. If those two principles are followed there should not be need for outside resources and authority in resolving disagreements. This does not mean that all Christians are equally pastors or spiritual leaders. It does mean that before God they have the same tools in their toolbox.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 7, "The Visible Community"

Chapter 7, “The Visible Community”

Bonhoeffer continues with a look at Matthew 5:13-16. Jesus describes his disciples as salt, light, and a city on a hill. as salt, the disciples are of immense value, giving the world something it needs to survive. Bonhoeffer observes (Loc. 1628) that Jesus in effect gives his work to his disciples. The disciples reach out to the whole world, while Jesus’ work is with Israel. He further affirms that Jesus does not use an imperative but an indicative. The disciples are the salt. This is their identity. Likewise, the disciples are light, that which can be seen. they do not try to become light, but they let the light shine. We do not try to become a secretive community or hide our good works. We merely live those works out in our community. It is these good works that draw attention. People do not so much notice us but they notice the good works. People do not even see God (Loc. 1680) through the good works, but when they see our good works they praise God. God, then, is the great author of our works, bringing glory to himself.

Sermon from 5/25/14 "What Is This New Teaching?"

Acts 17 - Paul provoked by  the shows of religion in Athens, the many shows of religion which miss the mark of God’s Word.
I hope we are also provoked. I am about every time I turn on Christian radio or TV.
 people like Osteen who ignore the idea of sin altogether and leave you in charge of your own salvation by thinking positive thoughts
 people like Charles Stanley and John Piper who mix law and gospel, leaving an unclear picture of what the good news really is
 people who think good morality is Christianity
 people like T.D. Jakes who deny the Trinity but are considered Christian by so many in our society
 some sort of Oprah-ized religion of what feels good or what moves your spirit
This kind of foolishness ought to provoke us. It should drive us back to the Bible to tear their unbiblical arguments to shreds and throw them out like so much confetti at a parade, to be swept up and disposed of.

But what do we allow to tickle our ears?
 study of college students raised in Christian homes identified them as “therapeutic moralistic deists” - do the right thing, be good people, do what feels good, and figure that some sort of divine force will keep everything running just fine, though probably won’t ever interfere with our lives.

This should upset us. It should really upset us. But the fact is, there’s that therapeutic moralistic deist inside each and every one of us, lurking there, waiting to escape, waiting to persuade us that we can work out our own salvation, that Jesus is not intimately involved in all that happens in our lives, waiting to attack our world through us.

What did Paul do when he was confronted with false religion in Athens?

1) Preach the truth - there is one God, trinitarian, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has judged sin and taken the penalty for sin upon himself, giving us new life freely through belief on the risen Lord Jesus.

2) Try to persuade others - don’t give up, don’t give in!

3) Live the Gospel. What will our world try to do to us? We live in light of Jesus’ work for us anyway.

Jesus, and only Jesus, is the one who has taken your sins upon himself.
Jesus, and only Jesus, is the one who has risen from the dead.
Jesus, and only Jesus, is the one who will judge the world in the last day.
Jesus, and only Jesus, is our living hope.

This is the Gospel, plain and simple. Are we going to hold it up? May the Lord provoke each and every one of us to lift the cross high in our lives, our communities, and our world, wherever the Lord leads us.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter B13, “The Original Text of Holy Scriptures and Translations”

Chapter B13, “The Original Text of  Holy Scriptures and Translations”

Having dealt with inspiration and infallibility Pieper turns his attention to translations of the Bible. Because the Scripture is straightforward and readily understandable, in translation the meaning also emerges. The Church has always prepared translations so believers can read God’s Word in their own language. Although it is quite possible to trust in Jesus without being aware of such a thing as a Bible, the Christian wants to learn more of God’s Word. Pieper suggests that one has to attempt distortion in order to translate major doctrines wrong. God’s Word is plain to understand. We can also have confidence that the Lord speaks through translations in an authoritative way. He compares several different translations and their treatment of doctrines to demonstrate that God speaks clearly in the Bible, whether the original or a translation.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 6, “The Beatitudes”

Chapter 6, “The Beatitudes”

Bonhoeffer will now turn his attention to Matthew 5-7. In this chapter, dealing with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 he draws a sharp distinction between the “disciples” and the “people.” All are identified with Israel but only these near Jesus have responded to his call. Bonhoeffer draws an immediate “us vs. them” picture. How does Jesus see these disciples? They have entrusted their lives to him and are dependent. They will also serve as Jesus’ messengers. This, Bonhoeffer considers, will create enmity. Jesus calls them blessed. He makes startling promises to his disciples, promises he does not make to his other followers.

1) Those who renounced all will possess the kingdom. The true disciples are heirs of God’s promise. They especially receive the promise of the cross.

2) Those who mourn by giving up peace and prosperity receive God’s comfort. The true disciple bears sorrow for Christ, willingly, without weariness.

3) Those who renounce their rights and refuse to protect themselves inherit the earth through Jesus’ cross.

4) Those who lay aside their own righteousness, seeking Christ’s righteousness, will receive it.

5) The merciful receive mercy. This requires a love for the lowly and outcast.

6) If our hearts are pure and undefiled we see God.

7) As we make peace by enduring suffering we are sons of God.

8) Suffering for a just cause makes us recipients of God’s kingdom.

Jesus then reminds his disciples, the true ones, that they are blessed. I think Bonhoeffer has gone badly astray here. First, the perfect man is Jesus, not the “true” disciple. Second, he binds believers to a mechanistic works righteousness. This book is becoming a disappointment.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kilcrease, 2013. Chapter 13, “The Mystery of the Work of Christ, part 4”

Chapter 13, “The Mystery of the Work of Christ, part 4”

In this final chapter, Kilcrease talks about Christ’s descent to inferos and his work in the prophetic office. The Formula of Concord sees Christ’s descent into hell as the start of his exaltation. In 1 Peter 3;18-22 the descent happens after Jesus is made alive again, hence after the humiliation is ended. It is to be noted that the victor’s parade is made through the conquered territory. The descent into hell is considered central enough that it appears in the Apostles’ Creed, which has Roman roots, as does 1 Peter. Another feature of note is that Jesus proclaims his victory in prison, a place where the condemned await further punishment. This does not offer a chance at repentance or release. Rather, it confirms the condemnatory nature of hell. Jesus, the victor, descends to proclaim the finality of hell.

Kilcrease now turns to speak of Jesus as the final prophet. This is the end of his reversal of the Adamic curse, for here he restores the voice of God which was rejected in Eden. It is through the Word that God created and sustains all. It is the living Word of God, Jesus, the prophet, who brings restoration over against the devil and his false words.

Final Comments

Kilcrease's book was full of interesting ideas. He has an extensive bibliography and does interact with an impressive number of authors. He also engages in some significant exegesis, and generally engages the Scripture well. With that said, I must confess the book was difficult and frustrating to read. There were many typographic and grammatical errors. Spelling inconsistencies, especially in foreign language phrases, caused me to wonder if Kilcrease understood what he was attempting to quote. This is an area where I tend to be critical, as a classicist. Yet any competent editorial assistance would have clarified the meaning of much of the book. I also found that there were many statements of logical necessity. Not all followed necessarily from the stated data. This cast doubt on the strength of the overall argument. Finally, I found myself confused about the basic point of the book. The thesis did not jump out at me, nor could I find one emerging as I read. All in all, a disappointing experience.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pieper, 1968.

Chapter B12, “The Integrity of the Biblical Text”

Pieper observes that through a long and complex textual history the Bible text has remained very consistent. With or without vowel points the Hebrew text traditions are stable. In the New Testament, even despite purposeful corruptions, the text is consistent. Pieper discusses various ways the New Testament would become corrupted, including accidental errors, attempts at grammatical or stylistic improvements, glosses, clarifications, and attempts at harmonization. Despite this, and even the noteworthy disputes over the textus receptus versus the modern scholarly editions, the various traditions can be used together quite easily. Pieper discusses at length the debates over 1 John 5:7-8 and observes that the doctrines are well preserved in other passages of Scripture, as well as in quotations from the Fathers.

The more we study the New Testament text the more reliable it appears.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 5, “Discipleship and the Individual”

Chapter 5, “Discipleship and the Individual”

Beginning from Luke 14;26, bonhoeffer describes Jesus’ call. He maintains that Jesus’ call to deny our families indicates we come to Jesus as individuals. We are called individually, not in community, so we are isolated in order to fix our eyes solely on Jesus. This makes a radical change in life and cuts the ties to this world. We need Jesus as our mediator and cannot look to anything in our world as a substitute. Our relationship with God the Father and with other people, then, is mediated by Jesus.

Bonhoeffer admits that not all people leave all their goods behind. he alleges Abraham as a rare and unusual case, because he left everything behind when God called him.

Do we live out the Christian life alone? Bonhoeffer says we don’t as we are given the church as our visible brotherhood.

I continue to get a mixed signal from Bonhoeffer. It seems here we are to leave all community, yet at the same time embrace the community of the Church. One wonders what he thinks serves as a means to call people to faith in Christ.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Kilcrease, 2013, Chapter 12, “The Mystery of the Work of Christ, Part 3”

Chapter 12, “The Mystery of the Work of Christ, Part 3”

Because Jesus is the king of all, Kilcrease says, he is able to lay down his authority and serve as a priest, the servant of all, who enables people to receive forgiveness and approach God. The Messianic promises of the Old Testament could well indicate both a king and priest. Jesus serves as both.

As priest, Jesus is the one who brings sacrifice, giving his very life to bring praise to God, atonement for our sins, and to confirm the gospel, welcoming all who believe into fellowship and worship. Kilcrease describes these three functions in detail, first Jesus bringing praise, then Jesus as the atoning sacrifice, finally Jesus as the one who enables his people to worship God.

Kilcrease especially deals with objections to Jesus’ substitutionary atonement. many of the objections are dealt with in considerable detail. He also gives a good amount of detail as he discusses Jesus as the one who gives us covenantal access to God in worship. The arguments are detailed and likely worthy of further study.