Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 3, "Zwingli"

Chapter 3, “Zwingli” pp. 92-106

Sasse turns his attention to the fundamental differences between Luther and Zwingli. Since they viewed life through very different lenses they had differences in their understanding of events. On p. 92 Sasse points out Zwingli as a politician. This would color his thinking. Luther, on the other hand (p. 93), was primarily an exegete and professor of theology. Luther was very anti-Aristotelian. Zwingli was “a Thomist for whom revelation can never contradict reason” (p. 93). As a result of this fundamental difference, Luther and Zwingli would necessarily understand theology differently.

How then did Zwingli view the Sacraments? Sasse follows Walter Koehler in asserting that Zwingli did not always hold the same view of the Sacraments. As late as 1523 (p. 95) he held, at least theoretically, to transubstantiation. In June 1523 (p. 96) he does accept some sort of real presence, though it appears to be operating spiritually and not entirely as Lutherans would confess, bodily and substantially. Key to Sasse’s interpretation of Zwingli is his statement on p. 97, “A spiritual understanding of the Lord’s Supper does not necessarily include a figurative interpretation of the sacramental words.” While accepting the Words of Institution it is still quite possible to assert a spiritual or allegorical presence. This is what Zwingli did. He then continued in the same vein as he decided to assert the faithful partaking as the most important part of communion, as opposed to the divine gift.

In this, Sasse says, Zwingli was influenced by Honius, who understood communion as our opportunity to receive Jesus’ pledge and remember his promises. Honius also developed the argument which said “is” meant “signifies” based on other uses of the copula in Scripture. These arguments were promptly rejected by Luther, but took firm root in the work of Zwingli and the other radical Reformers.

These moves of Zwingli associated him more closely with the revolutionary Anabaptists rather than with the conservative Reformation. At last, he reached a view of the Sacrament which was purely symbolic, containing no divine activity. From this point, Zwingli and his followers began to revise the liturgy, replacing the idea of communion as reception of the true body and blood of Jesus with an idea of communion as our expression of faith in the Jesus who makes us one. This set the stage for a great distinction between the conservative and radical branches of the Reformation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter D4 "The Order Observed in Creation"

Chapter D4 “The Order Observed in Creation”

In another very brief chapter Pieper details the idea of God moving from inorganic to organic creation and from simple to complex. All of creation receives its being through God’s action. There is no evidence in Scripture or science of development of organic from inorganic or of more complex from less complex.

Chapter D5 “The Work of the Six Days”

Pieper walks through the high points of the days of creation. He takes a common-sense approach based on a trust in the text. While not making a strong dogmatic argument, among other things he observes that God is the creator of all, that Adam was the first human, of a different nature than the animals, and that the Bible’s account of scientific phenomena is accurate and tends to reflect the view of reality a human perspective would grasp. He then moves on to discuss the views of a twofold (body and soul) or threefold (body, soul, spirit) nature of humans, generally advocating the twofold concept. After a few observations about common questions he says in conclusion that God has created all things for his glory.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 19, "The Great Divide"

Chapter 19, “The Great Divide”

Bonhoeffer dedicates a chapter to Matthew 7:13-23 where Jesus speaks pointedly about dividing the world into those he knows and those he does not know. This great divide is the final judgment. We have already seen that there is a separation between disciples and others. This, Bonhoeffer asserts, is the walking in the narrow way which Jesus introduces. The way is hard, and, we are told (Loc. 2666), it is very hard not to stray. We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus, as he has gone before us.

Some of the challenges we face will be from those opponents rising within our ranks. They look like Christians, they may be prophets or preachers, but they are wolves who attack Jesus’ people. Bonhoeffer suggests we can identify them by watching the fruit they bear (Loc. 2690). Jesus will separate the genuine Christians from the nominal. This will happen even within the body of confessing Christians. Some, says Bonhoeffer, confess falsely without genuine faith. The true Christian is obedient, having his life built on God’s grace.

In the end, Jesus separates his true disciples based on his proclamation of knowing them. Those Jesus knows are his disciples. Others are not.

Monday, July 28, 2014

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Sasse, 1977. Chapter 2, Part 5 - The Fruits of the Sacrament

Chapter 2, Part 5 - The Fruits of the Sacrament (p. 87).

Luther always viewed the Sacrament as of great importance, granting God’s forgiveness to all who believe that Jesus gave himself, body and blood, for us. This sacrament gathers us into unity with one another and unity with God. The literal physicality brought Luther into conflict with Zwingli and other more radical reformers. Sasse will continue his dicussion in that vein as he moves into a much briefer chapter 3.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Part D - The Creation of the World and of Man

Part D - The Creation of the World and of Man

Chapter D1, “The Record of Creation”

Our authentic account of creation appears in the Bible, which presents itself as an authority and which can be trusted in other areas where we have more witnesses. This is a very brief chapter.

Chapter D2, “The Definition of Creation”

The Bible’s view of creation, as opposed to other traditions, is that the pre-existing God created everything out of nothing. All things other than God are created. God did not need pre-existing material, but was able to create all his materials. Again, a very brief chapter.

Chapter D3, “The Hexaemeron”

This term refers to a six day period in which God accomplished creation. Some theologians shorten the time to show God’s ability. Some make the time longer to agree with scientific speculation. The Bible’s clear testimony is that these were the same kind of days we know of now. There is no need to alter the record so as to defend God.

The segment on creation continues, but we will pick it up again later.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 18, “The Disciple and Unbelievers”

Chapter 18, “The Disciple and Unbelievers”

In Matthew 7:1-12 Jesus talks about judgment and the condemnation which we may be tempted to place upon others. He also calls us to ask the Father eagerly for good things. Bonhoeffer sees a sharp shift between Matthew 6 and 7, with Jesus changing the focus to the Christian’s interactions with unbelievers. Because Christ’s disciples have received gifts from the Lord, they might expect to sit in judgment. Jesus excludes this idea.Why is this? Bonhoeffer asserts that the Christian does not have the privilege of judgment because it is only Christ who can see accurately. On the contrary, the job of the Christian is to love and care for the unbeliever.

In our effort to care for unbelievers, Bonhoeffer cautions us against using human means and coercion to make converts. This, he suggests, is what Jesus views as “casting pearls before swine” (Loc. 2603). Rather, we look to the Lord, allowing his Word to work or not work as God pleases. This motivates the Christian disciple to prayer for his neighbors. It encourages our dependence on God.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 2, Part 4 - The Real Presence (p. 79)

Chapter 2, Part 4 - The Real Presence (p. 79)

Throughout his adult life Luther always held to the Real Presence. With no biblical argument for a symbolic view he would not change his position. However, he did begin to refuse transubstantiation. The Bible refers to the consecrated bread as bread. Yet Luther did not use the term consubstantiation and it has only been applied to Lutheran doctrine by a few authors. Sasse spends several pages detailing Luther’s arguments for a real, bodily, substantial presence of Jesus’ body and blood in communion.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C8, “God’s Essence and Attributes (De essentia et attributis divinis)”

Chapter C8, “God’s Essence and Attributes (De essentia et attributis divinis)”

Pieper observes that God’s attributes are categorized in a number of ways. The arrangement is largely irrelevant, but the attributes are very important. Furthermore, we need to remember that God is one. In his essence he is one entity. The three persons of the Godhead have identical attributes which they always use together. Further, all the attributes work together. Yet we divide them to consider each individually. Pieper warns against our tendency to view God as a heap of attributes or to view one without the others. Those attempts always go awry.

Pieper divides the attributes of God into two categories. These are the quiescent attributes, which remain within God and not the world, and the operative attributes, which relate to this world. Sometimes we also see the former as “negative” in that they do not apply in the world, and “positive” in that they do apply in the world.

A) Negative Attributes
1) Unity of God - one in nature
2) Simplicity of God - not able to be classified by parts
3) Immutability - never changes in essence or attributes
4) Infinity - God is not limited by time or space
5) Omnipresence - always present and working everywhere
6)Eternity - God lasts forever and is outside of time

B) Positive Attributes
1) Life
2) Knowledge
3) Wisdom
4) Attributes of Will, such as holiness, justice, truth, etc.

Pieper discusses all these attributes in some detail during this lengthy chapter. He particularly discusses how the positive attributes do not appear identical in humans and in God. As always, his wealth of biblical references can well lead to further study.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 17, "The Simplicity of the Carefree Life"

Chapter 17, “The Simplicity of the Carefree Life”

In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus tells his disciples not to be concerned about possessions but to lay up treasure in heaven. He also tells them their eye is the lamp of the body. If their eye is single, focused rightly, they are full of light. Jesus then warns against serving God and riches.

Bonhoeffer tells us that we are in the light only as we look entirely to Christ, nowhere else. He goes so far as to say that Jesus’ work cannot penetrate a heart which is closed (Loc. 2421). It is, then, only through our having our eyes focused solely on Jesus that we can be his disciples.

This world, however, is full of material goods. Jesus himself had some. Bonhoeffer suggests we can find our heart and its desires by seeing what our treasure is. If our treasure is Christ and his kingdom we are looking to him. So should we simply enjoy the material blessings of God? Bonhoeffer rejects this idea, as material blessings compete for our hearts. Rather, we look to God alone for all our supply, including daily provisions. Looking ahead and preparing for the future is failure to trust God. Being true disciples takes away our anxiety, as we see the Lord provides all our needs.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 2, Part 3 - Communio sub una and sub utraque (p. 71)

Chapter 2, Part 3 - Communio sub una and sub utraque (p. 71)

There was disagreement between Luther and the Bohemians as regards offering the cup to the laity. For some time, while the Bohemians insisted on both, Luther accepted the communion in one species as valid communion. By 1522 Luther was more interested in requiring that the chalice be available to all the congregation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C7, “Ecclesiastical Terminology and the Christian Knowledge of God”

Chapter C7, “Ecclesiastical Terminology and the Christian Knowledge of God”

The Christian faith is, in the final analysis, highly practical. God has made peace with man. How do we receive that and live it out? Pieper asks about the purpose of very specific theological and churchly terms which some have said lead to a jargonization of the Church. While these specific terms are not strictly necessary they may well be valuable due to their clarity and specificity. He then discusses seven which he considers most important.

1) Trinity - the specific term for the one God who exists in the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2) Person - the specific individual within the Godhed, as opposed to a mode of operation, attribute, etc.

3) Essence - There is one divine essence. All three persons of the Trinity share the same essence. Pieper doesn’t mention it, but this is really simply a translation of the Greek verb of being. It signifies the state of being God.

4) Consubstantial - being of one essence. Again, this describes how the persons of the Trinity share their essence.

5) Filioque - used to describe the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son as well as from the Father. The term was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western Church in 589. The idea is clearly present in Scripture.

6) circumincessio - immanence - the three persons of the Trinity, having one essence, interact together in complete unity because of the shared essence.

7) opera divina ad intra - divine works within the Trinity / opera divina ad extra - divine works relating to the world. We observe that the divine works relating to the world can be addressed as belonging to the realm of one person of the Trinity bu those ad intra are not distinguished as to the source.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bonhoeffer, 1937. Chapter 16, “The Hiddenness of the Devout Life”

Chapter 16, “The Hiddenness of the Devout Life”

How is the Christian’s life of subjection to God described? In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus tells his disciples that their fasting is to be seen by God. When fasting, they are to prepare themselves for life as they always would otherwise.

Bonhoeffer observes first that the Lord assumes disciples are planning to fast. It is by fasting and other self-renunciation that we die to ourselves. In this way we discipline our flesh so the old man has no rights. This may be a practice we would like to avoid, but Bonhoeffer reminds us that our discipleship separates us from our world and its pleasures.

There is a danger, which Bonhoeffer acknowledges, of trying to replace Christ’s sufferings with our own. This moves the locus of our salvation from Jesus to ourselves. We avoid that but still practice our self-denial.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 2, Part 2 - Criticism of the Roman Mass: Opus Operatum (p. 65).

Chapter 2, Part 2 - Criticism of the Roman Mass: Opus Operatum (p. 65).

Luther was likely one of the most conservative Reformers. His development of ideas was slow and appeared piecemeal. On p. 66 Sasse says that Luther gave up opus operatum, then the sacrifice element of the mass, then communion in only one kind (element), then transubstantiation. Whenever possible, he kept what he could unless Scripture demanded otherwise. As an example of Luther’s development, Sasse traces his statements on the Mass as our offering a sacrifice to God. He is careful to discuss the practice and its implications. In the end, he concludes that we are unable to and unworthy of offering any acceptable sacrifice to God, but that God gives us every good gift. This is a more clear and focused rejection than we see in the more radical Reformers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C6, “The Trinity and Human Reason”

Chapter C6, “The Trinity and Human Reason”

Each person of the Trinity is a full and complete expression of the Godhead. This is, in fact, a logical impossibility. Yet it is precisely what the Bible teaches. Pieper details two ways that we attempt to explain the Trinity. First, though there are many natural analogies of three in one, all of them break down. Nature certainly bears God’s fingerprints, but never his unique and trinitarian nature. Second, we cannot adequately analyze the doctrine by considering special characteristics of the persons. This always results in some god other than the one of the Bible. We are left, then, with the biblical narrative and nothing else.

Pieper divides modern theology and its speculations into two categories. First, some will fall into unitarianism, depicting one God but three different powers or wills. Another group will so classify the persons of the Trinity that they become tritheists.

In the end we have a biblical account which cannot be adequately analyzed or understood by our reason. Yet, trusting that God has inspired his Word and has shown himself trustworthy, we accept and receive this Word.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 15, "The Hiddenness of Prayer"

Chapter 15, “The Hiddenness of Prayer”

In chapter 15 Bonhoeffer discusses Jesus’ teaching on prayer from Matthew 6:5-8. He considers Jesus’ act of teaching his disciples to pray as indicating that prayer is not a natural activity. We can pray and not find God’s blessing. Christians pray to the Father through the mediation of the Son. This is how we know our prayers are heard and answered.

How do we go to pray in secret? Bonhoeffer says (Loc. 2292) that we need to hide our prayers in such a way that we don’t pray from our will but from God’s will. We “do this by letting Christ alone reign in our hearts, by surrendering our wills completely to him, by living in fellowship with Jesus and by following him.” This standard, of course, bases the efficacy of prayer solely on our level of discipleship.

Bonhoeffer next reviews the Lord’s Prayer as “the way Christians must pray” (Loc. 3307, emphasis his). In his commentary Bonhoeffer does picture prayer as expressing dependence on God for all we need, with our central concern being God’s holiness.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 2, “Luther in His Early Period (1517-1524)” - Part 1 - The Source of Luther’s Doctrine on the Lord’s Supper (p. 62).

Chapter 2, “Luther in His Early Period (1517-1524)” - Part 1 - The Source of Luther’s Doctrine on the Lord’s Supper (p. 62).

Sasse observes (p. 62) that the Lutheran Reformation and its work with the Lord’s supper sprang from Medieval discussions. Possibly even without knowing it, the Reformers are influenced by their backdrop. Luther arose as the great theologian and liturgist of his time.

While Luther didn’t deny the real Presence, he did say that celebrating a Mass without communicants, as was the Roman custom, was not appropriate. As early as 1519 he was writing about communion and, even in that early time, affirmed the Real Presence and that the body and blood of Christ was distributed to communicants.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C5, “The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament”

Chapter C5, “The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament”

Many through history have questioned whether the trinity is present in the Old Testament. Pieper affirms that the trinity is present, though not presented as clearly as in the New Testament. The argument takes a few steps, but it is present.

First, the Apostles and Jesus demonstrate the doctrine of the son and the Spirit using the Old Testament (Matthew 22:41ff, cf. Ps. 110:1). We especially note Hebrews 1, which demonstrates the divine person of the Messiah by using six Old Testament passages. The Messiah is clearly a divine person. The Old Testament is also clear that the Holy Spirit has a divine personality. Pieper cites Genesis 1:2; 6:3; 2 Samuel 23:1-3; and Isaiah 63:10 in particular.

Because the Son and Spirit are identified as divine persons, along with the Father, it is natural to think of the Trinity when God speaks of himself in the plural or where there is a threefold expression of worship or prayer.

Pieper does a good deal of biblical exegesis in this chapter as he surveys the idea in the Old Testament.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 14, "The Hidden Righteousness"

Chapter 14, “The Hidden Righteousness”

Bonhoeffer moves on to comment on Matthew 6:1-4. He sees a sharp shift between Matthew chapters 5 and 6. If left with chapter 5 the disciples might develop a triumphalistic attitude and ignore care for the world, having been set apart as God’s extraordinary people. But here Jesus tells his disciples to practice their good works “in secret.” Since the good works are in secret, Bonhoeffer asserts (Loc. 2205) that they must not be visible for the sake of visibility. Rather, we even hide our good works from ourselves, only looking to Jesus. He says (Loc. 2218) that “we must be unaware of our own righteousness.” Our discipleship, then, is something which consists of looking to Jesus alone.

Bonhoeffer makes some disturbing statements (Location 2231) regarding discipleship. “All that the follower of Jesus has to do is to make sure that his obedience, following, and love are entirely spontaneous and unpremeditated . . . Christ’s virtue, the virtue of discipleship, can only be accomplished so long as you are entirely unconscious of what you are doing.” As he concludes the chapter, he lapses into decision theology and salvation by works, saying, (Loc. 2249), “Who can live a life which combines chapters 5 and 6? Only those who have died after the old man through Christ, and are given a new life by following him and having fellowship with him.”

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 1, Part 7 - The Great Struggle of the Late Middle Ages (p. 56).

Chapter 1, Part 7 - The Great Struggle of the Late Middle Ages (p. 56).

It became clear by the late Middle Ages that the Sacrament was controversial. Especially in Bohemia a desire for more frequent communion arose. At the same time there were moves to reject the explanation of transubstantiation and replace it with another explanation, that of symbolic presence. Divisions increased and the theological landscape was clouded by the piety which had not yet begun to distinguish Law and Gospel (p. 60). The stage was thus set for Luther’s Reformation.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C4, “Objections to the Unity of the Godhead”

Chapter C4, “Objections to the Unity of the Godhead”

Pieper now discusses four objections to the unity of God. First, since Christ talks about the Father as the ‘only true God” it may be assumed that Jesus is some kind of subordinate. On the contrary, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of one essence. The Son is also the only true God.

A second objection says that since the Father is the source of the Son and that the Father and Son are the source of the Spirit there must be subordination. This is not necessarily so. Even in natural things it is not always the case, and Scripture clearly considers the three persons as unified.

The third objection Pieper states is that the Bible teaches subordination because the Father accomplishes tasks through the Son or the Spirit. yet agency does not necessarily require subordination.

A fourth objection is that Jesus says in John 14:28-29 that the Father is greater than the Son. yet Pieper considers this to be Jesus’ statement of his status before the Father during his time in a state of humiliation. It does not refer to his permanent nature.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bonhoffer, 1937. Chapter 13, “The Enemy - the ‘Extraordinary’”

Chapter 13, “The Enemy - the ‘Extraordinary’”

What is it that allows the Christian to deal with his enemies? What allows the disciple to be perfect as God is? As he comments on Matthew 5:43-48 bonhoeffer draws some conclusions.

The Christian does have enemies, or rather, there are people who view Christians as enemies. Christ’s disciples treat all people as friends but not all will reciprocate. Unlike national Israel, the Church does not remove enemies from the land. Jesus’ disciples are left to overcome the enemy by love.

Jesus is specific about how the Christian loves an enemy. It is done by blessing, by doing good, by praying for those who would oppose us. this, Bonhoeffer observes, is exactly the way Jesus has treated his people. This love convicts the enemies of Christ of their sin and calls them to repentance.

This character of love Bonhoeffer identifies as the “extraordinary” (Loc. 2135). We are not special because of any quality but love for God and neighbor. We engage in acts of love for our enemies, which by itself makes us perfect in love.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sasse, 1977. Chapter 1, Part 6 - Eucharistic Piety, Devotion, and Practice (p. 48)

Chapter 1, Part 6 - Eucharistic Piety, Devotion, and Practice (p. 48)

Sasse pauses to point out the importance attached to the doctrine of the Eucharist. While we may spend much time in analysis, we need to realize the doctrines arose from real concerns of real people struggling with real problems. The liturgy and the practice of the Sacrament was heart and center of the life of the Church. In the Early Church all the saints would gather and receive communion in a closed environment. It was integral to receiving God’s mercy. As the Middle Ages began, communion became less private and more a matter of corporate piety. Eventually, to protect against disrespect to the present Lord, it became generally an event that only the priesthood would participate in. Yet it remained the center of worship. the host becomes an article of veneration rather than God’s gift of food (p. 54).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pieper, 1968. Chapter C3, “The Trinitarian Controversies”

Chapter C3, “The Trinitarian Controversies”

Although modernist theology has said that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed in church councils, it is laid out clearly in the Scriptures as well as in Fathers before the Council of Nicea. Pieper sets out to detail arguments against first, those who would deny three persons in the Godhead, and, second, those who deny one essence of God.

Pieper identifies Unitarianism with its other titles, Monarchianism and Anti-Trinitarianism. He also observes that Monarchianism is divided into Modal or Dynamic forms. Modalists hold God as being one, revealing himself in different forms at different times. The persons of the Trinity, then, are simply different roles. Dynamic monarchianism holds Jesus to be a man like any other, but empowered by the indwelling spirit of the one God. To counter the Unitarian claims the Church has normally used three proofs: 1) The names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indicate separate persons. 2) each person is represented as carrying on actions. 3) The three are referred to in Scripture as separate persons.

On the other hand, Tritheists and Subordinationists both assign different natures, or types of being, to the persons of the Godhead. This denies the unity of the Godhead. Pieper builds a biblical case for the unity of the Godhead, with three persons, one nature, working together.