Monday, October 27, 2014

Blog on a brief vacation

I'm going to put this blog on a brief vacation. I've got a number of posts written with my hand-held ball-point word processor but am needing to take care of a few other details of life for a week or two. Will return soon.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nouwen, 1972. Chapter 1, “Ministry in a Dislocated World”

Chapter 1, “Ministry in a Dislocated World” pp. 1-25

Nouwen tells of a young man named Peter who seems adrift and disconnected. He is not moored to past, future, or family. This, Nouwen says, may describe the condition of many modern people. We find a purpose statement on p. 5. “In this chapter I would like to arrive at a deeper understanding of our human predicament as it becomes visible through the many men and women who experience life as Peter does. And I hope to discover in the midst of our present ferment new ways to liberation and freedom.” So Nouwen divides the chapter into nuclear man’s predicament and liberation.

The nuclear man realizes that the same forces which bring progress may also bring destruction. Psychohistorian Robert Jay Lifton characterizes nuclear man “by (1) a historical dislocation, (2) a fragmented ideology, and (3) a search for immortality” (p. 7).

The nuclear man easily sees destruction on the immediate horizon. It is therefore difficult for him to look to the future rather than the end. This is different from previous generations. “Most Christian preaching is still based on the presupposition that man sees himself as meaningfully integrated with a history in which God came to us in the past, is living under us in the present, and will come to liberate us in the future” (p. 9). With the historical breakdown the message seen is very disconnected.

Nuclear man “has shifted from the fixed and total forms of an ideology to more fluid ideological fragments” (p. 10). These more fluid boundaries allow people to hold self-contradictory ideas at the same time. “Nuclear man no longer believes in anything that is always and everywhere true and valid” (p. 11). Being confronted with the exclusive claims of Christ creates confusion and skepticism.

Nouwen, with Lifton, suggests that man has an innate desire for immortality but finds the ephemeral nature of many pursuits lacking. They are not connected to life and history.

How does nuclear man seek freedom from this prison? Nouwen suggests that he attempts his escape through mysticism or revolution (p. 15).

There is an interest among nuclear men in mind-altering drugs, meditation, and other measures intended to reach a spiritual liberation. This liberation may be seen as stepping away from one’s own unreality into a reality that cannot be grasped.

As we consider the other way, the revolutionary one, the focus shifts. “Here man becomes aware that the choice is no longer between his world or a better world, but between no world or a new world” (p. 17). The nuclear man is thus provoked to activism, hoping to create some sort of ideal world, or at least prevent the world from collapse.

Nouwen suggests that “in Jesus the mystical and the revolutionary ways are not opposites, but two sides of the same human mode of experiential transcendence” (p. 19). It is in the union of the spiritual and physical found in Christ that we are able to connect with history and our world.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2 “The Genus Apotelesmaticum and the Ancient Church”

“The Genus Apotelesmaticum and the Ancient Church” (Loc. 5962)

Pieper asserts that “The Reformed Confessions, just as also the Reformed theologians, ardently affirm their full agreement with the traditional doctrine of the Ancient Church” (Loc. 5962). Thgey assert the communication of attributes as affirmed in Chalcedon. Yet they do not allow for the two natures of Christ to act together. The divine nature acts only in the divine sphere and the human nature acts only in the human sphere. The ancient Church confessed that God did his divine works through the human nature of Christ without any harm (Loc. 5996).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 16, “The Communicants: Private Absolution”

Chapter 16, “The Communicants: Private Absolution” (pp. 120-121)

Private confession and absolution are not commanded in Scripture but have a long and profitable history. The confession gives the penitent sinner opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness in a personal and authoritative way (p. 120). While it is not necessary for a Lutheran congregation to have private absolution it is a good practice. Walther affirms that the pastor may and should ask the one confessing about accusations which have been made, but cannot convict of those. It is a confession, not an inquisition (p. 123). The entire experience is about penitents receiving forgiveness.

In cases of known sin and impenitence the preacher may suspend communion, though he is not able to excommunicate. This is a very serious move and must be done carefully. It is also important that when the pastor proclaims absolution he should do it freely and categorically.

The seal of the confession is absolute (p. 126). The one who hears a confession may never be forced to reveal the sin which God has forgiven.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nouwen, 1972. Introduction, "The Four Open Doors"

Nouwen, Henri J. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. New York: Doubleday, 1972. Kindle Edition.

Introduction, “The Four Open Doors” (Loc. 82)

In this book Nouwen opens four doors of life to consider what is behind them, realizing that every door in life leads to many more. “The first door represents the condition of a suffering world (Chapter 1); the second door, the condition of a suffering generation (Chapter 2); the third door, the condition of a suffering man (Chapter 3); and the fourth door, the condition of a suffering minister” (Loc. 87). As he wrote this book, Nouwen says he came to a realization that all of life and ministry was finding its focus on the healer who is wounded.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2. “The Practical Importance of the Genus Apotelesmaticum”

“The Practical Importance of the Genus Apotelesmaticum” (Loc. 5848)

In discussing the genus apotelesmaticum Pieper observes that “the first two genera, the genus idiomaticum and the genus maiestaticum, are its necessary presuppositions, so that the Church contends for them in the interest of the third” (Loc. 5848). This third  genus demonstrates that “all actions of Christ are theanthropic and so of a unique, saving, and truly consoling nature” (Loc. 5848). This genus gets its name from the “work” (apotelesma) of the Christ (Loc. 5857). Jesus, true man and true God, remains man and God. His divine nature receives nothing from the human nature (Loc. 5883). Being truly divine and truly human is at the heart of his ability to atone for our sins. Luther’s criticism of Zwingli was largely based on Zwingli’s separation of the natures. By denying the suffering of the divine Zwingli leaves us with a mere man dying for us, which is ineffective. Pieper does observe that many Reformed theologians are inconsistent and admit both divine and human natures in the atonement (Loc. 5910). The desire of God to take on a human nature and thereby be able to suffer as we do has often been treated as a matter of great comfort (Loc. 5935).

Walther, 1906. Chapter 15, “The Communicants: Announcement”

Chapter 15, “The Communicants: Announcement” (pp. 107-119)

Walther now discusses the practice of communicants’ visiting with the pastor to announce their intention to receive communion. This is a duty which should not be neglected. Presenting someone with communion unworthily may harm a person spiritually. Walther also observes (p. 108) that open communion is used by some fanatics as a way to lure people in. On the contrary, all who are to be admitted to the table should be examined, even by a new pastor taking over an existing flock, a practice which causes dissension (p. 108).

The distinction is that preaching is for all but the Supper is for strengthening the repentant person in the faith. Reception without repentance brings condemnation. Certainly the Sacrament is for the regenerate, so is never given to unbaptized people. Those who receive the Sacrament in unbelief find only condemnation (p. 110). Those who receive worthily receive to their great blessing. The work of the pastor is to bring blessing, not cursing. Luther’s guideline (p. 115) was that the pastor should interview every communicant at least once a year. Walther adds, “If possible, the preacher should find out what he needs to know without giving the person the impression that he is being examined” (p. 117).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 9, "Look Out! It's Alive!

Chapter 9, “Look Out! It’s Alive!” (Loc. 1502)

We continue with Socrates’ third meeting of the Christology class. Socrates has read the New Testament as a follow-up to the Old Testament. He has met Jesus. His conclusion is that the Jesus as presented in the New Testament is quite real. While they participants in the class are concerned to learn Socrates’ reaction, maybe a mystical experience, Socrates wishes to discuss Jesus, as that is the goal both of the course and life (Loc. 1520). There were various groups with various reactions. Of them all, Socrates first though the disciples had an unusual reaction because they engaged with a concept of one person with both a divine and human nature. In the New Testament Socrates met this same person whose natures go beyond our reason and logic. The other participants have decided that to believe the two natures in the one person requires blind faith, abandoning reason. Socrates insists that reason can remain intact when contemplating the supernatural.

What Socrates does not understand is where the Christians are, why their lives are not changed by an encounter with Jesus. The class is offended by this question (Loc. 1586). They see Jesus as a good idea, maybe archetypal, but not so much as an historic person. The Bible portrays him as both, which changes the entire paradigm.

Socrates concludes, counter to the professor, that the biblical account is of a real resurrection and real life imparted by the real man who is God, Jesus. He also rejects multiple ways to the same God, a figurative view of the resurrection, and any scenario in which we believe in a falsehood such as an invented resurrection.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2 "The Third Genus of the Communication of Attributes"

“The Third Genus of the Communication of Attributes (Genus Apotelesmaticum)”

“The Reformed theologians and their followers are guilty of burdening the discussion of the communication of attributes with a third genus, namely the so-called genus apotelesmaticum, for they demand that the human nature of Christ be kept apart in its activity or operation from the activity and operation of the divine nature, since the human nature as something that is finite is not capable of being the organ of the acts of the infinite divine nature” (Loc. 5679). Pieper goes on to cite several Reformed theologians in stating that the human and divine natures in Christ are separate. The human nature, not being capable of the divine, cannot participate in divine works. Pieper continues to show implications. “Wherever an official act is to be performed whose performance demands divine omnipotence, there, according to the Reformed view, the human nature as a finite creature cannot cooperate” (Loc. 5697). The human nature of Christ is thus seen as uninvolved in anything miraculous. The genus apotelesmaticum counters that all Christ does he “performs according to both natures, by each nature doing what is proper to it, not by itself and apart from the other nature, but in constant communion with the other” (Loc. 5759).

Walther, 1906. Chapter 14, "The Liturgical Customs of Baptism"

Chapter 14, “The Liturgical Customs of Baptism” pp. 100-106

Baptismal services Walther endorses contain many elements. Some are by God’s command, some, though not commanded, were used by the apostles, some have entered into practice since then. The elements commanded by God are to be defended. The others are not required. Those which were not commanded by God but appear in the Bible are normally treated as important customs.

One of the oldest customs (p. 101) is that of giving a name, which parallels the naming at circumcision. Among other customs we find an exorcism, which has been neglected but may be of importance. Walther also mentions sponsors, who should be godly people who will encourage the new believer in the true faith. Emergency baptism should not be required because of the pastor’s unwillingness to come in cases of emergency. The pastor should confirm the emergency baptism promptly.

Above all (p. 106) the baptism is very important and must be treated as such, with all reverence.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 8, "How Odd of God to Choose the Jews"

Chapter 8, “How Odd of God to Choose the Jews” (Loc. 1192)

We rejoin Socrates at the second Christology class. In the past week Socrates has read the Old Testament to learn about the Jewish background of Jesus. Socrates then explains what he has learned of the God Jesus would refer to. Before this, Thomas Keptic states we cannot think of ideas which are not governed by our upbringing, which Socrates roundly rejects.

Socrates considers that there is one true and unknown God. Some in class dispute the claim of the existence of truth, while one student repeatedly quotes Chesterton to the annoyance of the others. Socrates’ desire was to find out about the true God. He hoped to find data wich would guide his pursuit. The reality of evil was a problem in all his models to identify God. The best solution (Loc. 1276) was that God was not all-powerful. The proper service to God was to live an ethical life.

In the Jewish Scriptures Socrates found that there was only one God, perfectly good. He was surprised at the insistence that all others were false. He was surprised at the universal claims, that this was the God of all people. Creation explained an all-powerful God. Socrates also saw that things were willed by God to be good. His goodness is very concrete. He was also struck by the perfect nature of the God who created everything and could govern it all. Yet what is greatest is that God’s will is for the good of his people, not himself. Finally, what struck Socrates the most was God’s revelation of his name as “I am.” His nature is as the subject, that which cannot be observed but which acts.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2. “All Divine Attributes are Communicated to the Human Nature”

“All Divine Attributes are Communicated to the Human Nature” (Loc. 5538)

Pieper now cites a last Reformed objection to the communication of attributes. “Either all divine attributes must be predicated of Christ according to His human nature or none at all, since the divine attributes cannot be separated from one another” (Loc. 5538). This argument is focused on “quiescent” divine attributes, such as eternity, incorporeality, immensity, etc. The most common objection is against eternity. Jesus is referred to as, for instance, eight days old. The distinction made by the Lutherans is that the attributes are communicated to the humanity but not to his flesh. While the Son is eternal his body was born at a particular time. The nature of the Son is not an “either-or” but a “both-and.” Furthermore, Chemnitz and others make Scriptural arguments that not all the attributes are communicated in the same way.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 13, “The Persons to be Baptized”

Chapter 13, “The Persons to be Baptized” pp. 92-99

Walther is very clear as to who should be baptized. He applies it to unbaptized adults who make correct confession and desire it, along with unbaptized children who do not belong to another parish and are brought by parents. The pastor should make certain not to re-baptize people who considered an emergency baptism to be less real.

In cases of non-trinitarian groups which retain the biblical words in baptism, because the Trinity is denied, the person should be baptized again. In cases of unbelieving families the children should not be taken away from parents’ will but if the parents desire to eais the children in the Christian faith a baptism is appropriate.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 7, “Jesus: One of a Kind”

Chapter 7, “Jesus: One of a Kind” (Loc. 1021)

Socrates continues his experience at Have It Divinity School by attending a Christology lecture. He is interested in knowing who Jesus is. Socrates is pleased that the course is a discussion forum rather than a lecture. He prefers dialog and knowing people to the more predictable interactions with books.

The professor greets each member of the class and all introduce themselves. The professor is interested in “the Christ-event” and does not consider that a term loaded with cultural baggage. Socrates explains that he does not know anything of the terms of Christology. From the term AD Socrates begins asking about the lordship of Christ. The class finally agrees that Jesus taught love. This does not seem revolutionary. Eventually it comes out that the majority view of Christianity is that Jesus is the supreme God. Jesus claimed deity, his followers accepted that claim, and much of the world became convinced. Socrates asks if the members of the class accept the claims. If not, they should not consider Jesus wise or good.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2. “In the Second Genus the Divine Attributes are Not Separated from the Divine Essence”

“In the Second Genus the Divine Attributes are Not Separated from the Divine Essence” (Loc. 5023)

“Against the Lutheran teaching of the communication of divine attributes to Christ’s human nature Reformed and Roman Catholic theologians have raised the following objection: If the divine attributes belong as communicated attributes also to the human nature, then the Lutherans teach a separation of the divine attributes from the divine essence” (Loc. 5033). The argument then is that the human nature is converted into the divine. Pieper observes that a denial of communication doesn’t permeate the Reformed camp, as they all want “a real communication of the Person of the Son of God to the human nature” (Loc. 5033). He explains that the human nature itself does not change but that the attributes which that nature possesses change.

An important application of this idea is that the divine is not present apart from the presence of Christ. For instance, the body and blood of Christ are not present in all bread and wine but only in consecrated bread and wine.

Pieper also points out (Loc. 5129ff) that they communication of attributes is not reciprocal, despite the demands of Reformed logic. In the state of humiliation Jesus is fully divine and fully human.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 12, “The Administration of Holy Baptism”

Chapter 12, “The Administration of Holy Baptism” pp. 86-91

Walther’s comments on baptism begin with a defense of some variation in the wording used. For instance, some would object to inserting the word “God” as in, “God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.” This kind of variation in the words of the rite do not make it invalid. However, Walther prefers the pastor stay as close as possible to the wording in Matthew 28.

Baptism is performed in the authority of God. The pastor performs the act of God, giving this washing to man.

What of the water? On p. 88 Walther quotes that water is required, not some other substance, but that it does not need to be any special water.

Baptism can be practiced by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. The Greek verb indicates a ceremonial washing, not an immersion.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 6, “How to Be Comparatively Religious”

Chapter 6, “How to Be Comparatively Religious” (Loc. 765)

Socrates has just attended a comparative religion lecture at Have It Divinity School. He was unable to ask questions in class so turns to fellow student Bertha Broadmind. Socrates chose not to question the professor because he appeared ready with any answer but not to have worked with questions.

In particular, Socrates does not like Professor Shift’s attitude toward Christians who have made up their minds, “fundamentalists.”

Bertha does not entirely understand Socrates’ hesitation as she views being “liberal” as a positive. Socrates questions the term which she ties to thinking religions are all equal. Socrates says it should be possible to be open-minded and still decide one religion is right. Bertha disagrees, saying we should never be closed-minded. Socrates demonstrates that she has an interest in truth. He then discusses religions, showing that in their tenets, major religions disagree about what God is.

The root question seems to be what the essence of religion is. In the inquiry, a religion is an ultimate concern. Socrates can apply this to religions as well as philosophies and some political commitments. Bertha would like it to be more specific but the discussion is inconclusive. Socrates suggests that true religion may be of divine rather than human origin.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2. “The Communicated Divine Honor”

“The Communicated Divine Honor” (Loc. 4851)

When considering divine honor Pieper observes that “some Reformed theologians at this point set aside their principle that ‘the finite is not capable of the infinite’ and ascribe to the human nature of Christ divine honor” (Loc. 4851). He thus receives divine honor though not other attributes of deity. Pieper views the honor of the man Jesus to be divine and that to be self-evident as Jesus is presented as Son of God AND Son of Mary, receiving worship as one person. Pieper cites numerous Lutheran theologians as insisting that the man Jesus has divine honor, not as, for instance, a ruler’s garments are honored but as the ruler is honored. It is also inconsistent to allow some communication of attributes but not all.

Pieper explains (Loc. 4957ff) that this is the essence of the genus maiestaticum, that Jesus has divine attributes (majesty) in his human nature, not as an accessory but as an integral part of his being.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 11, “The Requirements of Public Preaching”

Chapter 11, “The Requirements of Public Preaching” pp. 60-85

The task of preaching is of paramount importance. Walther lists seven critical elements.
  1. God’s pure Word
  2. Correct application
  3. Proclamation for salvation
  4. meet special needs
  5. timely
  6. orderly
  7. not too long

It is good preaching that keeps people in church. Failure to attend to preaching brings guilt on the pastor. Sermons require hard work. Walther, citing Luther, on p. 62 lists numerous failings which pastors are prone to develop by not handling God’s Word rightly.

Beginning on p. 63 Walther discusses different rhetorical uses of sermons. He confutes the belief that every sermon must address every issue. Rather, the text must rule the message.

As Walther unpacks his initial list of seven critical elements in the sermon the recurring theme is to proclaim God’s Word to God’s people in a way they can understand, convicting of sin and encouraging in salvation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 5, “Are Miracles Unscientific?”

Chapter 5, “Are Miracles Unscientific?” (Loc. 586)

We find Socrates and his friend Thomas Keptic leaving a lecture of Science and Religion. Socrates is disappointed because he would like to have asked the professor some questions. Specifically, he would like to know about the truth claims of the developments he heard about. This is certainly more important than the time of the statements.

Socrates speaks with Professor Flatland, asking him whether miracles happen and how we can know. The professor shows that belief in miracles is typical in prescientific ages but disappears in more scientific ages. Socrates wants to know why lack of belief in miracles indicates that they do not happen. The professor says that science itself has disproved miracles so its opinion is authoritative. Socrates does not see it as impossible, for instance, that demons would use germs to attack people.

The professor asserts that since science has shown how many things can operate without need of miracles it will eventually show how everything is non-miraculous. Socrates demonstrates that this is more of a religious idea  than a scientific one. The professor next tries to define all amazing things as miracles, which Socrates will not accept because it is so nonspecific.

Socrates demonstrates then that miracles do make logical sense. They go beyond normal events but are not logically impossible.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2, “The Communicated Omnipresence in the State of Humiliation and Exaltation”

“The Communicated Omnipresence in the State of Humiliation and Exaltation” (Loc. 4675)

Pieper tells us, “According to Col. 2:9, divine omnipresence was imparted to the human nature in the very moment when the fullness of the Godhead began to dwell bodily in Christ” (Loc. 4675). Jesus has all the abilities of divinity even dwelling in humanity. Pieper discusses the rejections of Jesus possessing omnipresence. First, it can blend the ideas of humiliation and exaltation. Yet the Scripture pictures Jesus as incarnate both in humiliation and glorification. Second, it could mean Jesus was not really human. Yet the man Jesus did not always use his divine authority. He was able to choose what to do or not do.

Beginning at Loc. 4749 Pieper makes an argument that Calvin would assert Christ remaining present in heaven while being on earth. This suggests the presence of both natures in heaven and on earth. Luther’s affirmation was that Christ was consistently present according to both natures. According to Luther (Loc. 4819 et passim) John 3:13 refers to Christ being divine and human in heaven and on earth. As to Jesus having both natures available, “if He can be united with God into one person without His becoming a phantasm, there is no danger of His becoming one by His being on earth and in heaven at the same time” (Loc. 4841).

Walther, 1906. Chapter 10, “The First Visitation by the Pastor”

Chapter 10, “The First Visitation by the Pastor” pp. 54-59

Walther’s expectation is for prompt and meaningful visitation. “If the new preacher has entered his office, then it is his duty to use the first weeks or months, in part, to visit all families and individuals who belong to his parish, in order to get to know them personally” (p. 54). The preacher first visits those who cannot attend worship, then everyone else. This shows pastoral care and concern.

Walther cautions against the pastor allowing members of the congregation to warn him about other members (p. 56). He should also guard against forming a small inner circle. All the members of the parish are of value. The pastor should also speak well of his predecessor (p. 58).

If there is a school, the pastor should be involved, seeking that the teachers should be capable and the students well cared for (p. 58). Notice this book was written with the assumption of private, parish education.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kreeft, 2002 Chapter 4, “Candy Confessions”

Chapter 4, “Candy Confessions” (Loc. 451)

Socrates discusses his wisdom with Bertha Broadmind, observing that the oracle about him said nobody was wiser than he and that he knew that he knew nothing. The causal link that his wisdom was “because” he knew nothing was a later deduction.

Introduced to candy, Socrates is ready to confess progress, though he is told of health risks so wants to explore the wisdom of candy eating. At issue is the definition of good. Why would we choose something bad? Socrates’ default is that we do it from ignorance (Loc. 490).

Through some logical inquiry, Socrates is able to determine that sin is a real thing and consists of disobeying what God wants. He then wants a more thorough understanding of “this God of yours” (loc. 511). Bertha makes some brief explanations and says that people who admit sin is real have a very bad idea. Socrates does not see a necessary problem with God being both loving/forgiving and just/punishing. We find out then about Bertha, in Socrates’ words, “you agree with the Bible when the Bible agrees with you, but not when it doesn’t” (Loc. 525). How can she prove that God forgives? The only authority on that point is the Bible, which also teaches that God is just and judges.

By the end of the discussion Socrates is no longer identifying evil strictly with ignorance. People are able to choose evil which they understand.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2 “The Communicated Omnipresence and the Lord’s Supper”

“The Communicated Omnipresence and the Lord’s Supper” (Loc. 43778).

Reformed theology asserts that Luther devised communication of attributes to make his view of the Lord’s Supper work. Yet Luther maintained the real presence based on the Words of Institution. “Indeed, Luther declares that the doctrine of Christ’s Person, in particular that of the communication of attributes, is not really a part of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, so far as the Scripture proof for the real presence of Christ’s body in the Sacrament comes into question” (Loc. 4401). Luther’s view was that Christ has a local, illocal, and repletive presence as he may choose. Pieper makes clear (Loc. 4454) that the Lutheran view of ubiquity does not mean Jesus is bodily present in all things but only where he says he will be.

Pieper goes on to discuss the fact that there is broad agreement among Lutherans about communicated omnipresence. There have been some suggestions especially of Chemnitz breaking with the view, but those are based on inaccurate views of the historic documents. Pieper quotes Chemnitz extensively to demonstrate his view.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 9, “The First Sermon by the Pastor”

Chapter 9, “The First Sermon by the Pastor” pp. 50-54

Walther observes two important functions of the pastor’s first sermon, “1. what it [the congregation] is to expect from the one it has chosen; and 2. what he expects from it” (p. 51). The preacher will want to diverge from the pericope at least enough to present the new relationship being formed. The congregation needs to know of the pastor’s care as well as the pastor’s expectations from the congregation.

Walther suggests that it is wise to use the assigned pericope (p. 53). Yet he gives a variety of other suggested passages. Above all, the pastor will always preach Law and Gospel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 3, “Was Jesus a Fundamentalist?”

Chapter 3, “Was Jesus a Fundamentalist?” (Loc. 339)

Socrates finds that he is already registered for his courses at Have It Divinity School. One of the courses is “Fundamentals of Demythologizing,” about which he asks his friend Bertha Broadmind. She explains that the course is about leaving fundamentalism, which she defines as “basically narrow-minded thinking, forcing everything into rigid, preconceived little categories” (Loc. 343). The topic of Christianity then arises. Socrates asks Bertha if she is a Christian and what that is. She does not answer his question, but explains she is a religion student, may seek to be a minister, and is not a fundamentalist. Bertha rejects fundamentalism because it teaches only a few are saved, which is the valid conclusion of the logic at work. Yet Bertha will not give a reason why she rejects the conclusion. She wishes to stop the conversation while Socrates wants to continue to the conclusion so as to know what fundamentalism is and why it is wrong.

Socrates pursues the source of information and finds that Bertha’s assumptions about fundamentalism are based on broad polls rather than consulting reliable and knowledgeable sources. He finds that Christianity is based on Jesus, the reliable authority. Socrates then insists on gathering what Jesus said about life, getting the information before interpreting it.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2. “The Mode, or Manner, of Christ’s Omnipresence According to His Human Nature”

“The Mode, or Manner, of Christ’s Omnipresence According to His Human Nature” (Loc. 4044)

Opposition to Christ’s human nature in communion with omnipresence is due to “fear of the notion of a local extension of Christ’s body or His human nature” (Loc. 4044). The accusation against Lutherans is that of ubiquity, saying Christ is bodily present in all places. However, Lutherans affirm Christ’s bodily presence only in communion, according to his own word.

Pieper goes on, beginning at Loc. 4106, to describe ways Jesus is described as present in Scripture. First, he has a “praesentia localis” when he is in a location, such as a manger, a boat, etc. We also find when Jesus appears after the resurrection that he can come through solid material. We also find hits of this in John 8:59 and Luke 4:30. This is an “illocal” or “definitive” presence. Pieper observes at Loc. 4148 that the Reformed object to this view. However, it cannot be overcome without neglect of several Scripture passages. We also conclude that since Christ is human and divine, the humanity remains present wherever God the Son shows himself. This Pieper calls the “praesentia supernaturalis et divina” (Loc. 4188).

Walther, 1906. Chapter 8, “The Examination and Ordination of a Candidate”

Chapter 8, “The Examination and Ordination of a Candidate” pp. 44-50

The call to ministry is not validated by an ordination. The ordination precedes a call, or at least an ordination exam does. Walther views the ordination as very important since it affirms that the call will be issued to an appropriate person. Elders should be carefully examined (1 Tim. 3:10, 2 Tim. 2:2), as Walther observes on p. 44. Walther quotes numerous other theologians who assert the ordinand must be questioned well to evaluate doctrine, ability to communicate doctrine, and a godly life.

On p. 47, based on the qualifications of doctrine, Walther condemns “the so-called licensing system.” Either people are fit for the pastoral office or not.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 2, "Progressing Away From Progress"

Chapter 2, “Progressing Away from Progress”

Socrates has wandered to “Have-It Square” where he meets a divinity student, Bertha Broadmind. Socrates is surprised by automobiles displacing the pleasure of walking. Upon finding hat most people would not continue their work without pay, Socrates equates them with slaves. He is perplexed by the lack of freedom which labor-saving devices have created. He also identifies progress as the new god. Yet this new god does not value beauty. People live in ugly but expensive surroundings and go to visit beautiful areas rather than building beautiful places.

The conclusion is that progress is not making beautiful things. It is not making people happier. It does not put people in control of their world. Socrates goes on to discuss wisdom and knowledge. He finds that people value wisdom but pursue knowledge in the name of progress.

The discussion turns to progress. Socrates views progress as a move toward what is perfect, i.e., the god. His interlocutress, Bertha, views deity as always changing. Rather than progressing to a clear goal, we live in an undefined hope.

Disappointed, Socrates asks if the divinity school deals with eternal truth. The answer is hopeful, but indistinct. Yet it leaves him ready to continue his investigation.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2 “The Second Genus of the Communication of Attributes (Genus Maiestaticum)"

“The Second Genus of the Communication of Attributes (Genus Maiestaticum)" (Loc. 3666)

In opposition to the communication of attributes, “Reformed theologians demand that an unbridgeable chasm should be established between the divine attributes of the Son of God and His human nature, because, as they say, Christ’s human nature cannot be invested with divine omnipotence, divine omniscience, and other attributes of the deity without its being destroyed” (Loc. 3666). Their intention is to avoid making humanity into deity, something of which they accuse Lutherans. Pieper affirms that the underlying issue is the Reformed assertion, “Finitum non est capax infiniti” (Loc. 3704). He counters that the very identity of the Christ is an exercise of the infinite dwelling in the finite. An attempt to deny the genus maiestaticum can “actually destroy Christ’s divine nature” (Loc. 3742). Pieper brings in numerous biblical arguments for the human Christ having a divine nature.

Pieper discusses the limitations of Jesus as well, how he is weak, weary, and suffering. “Scripture explains this fact by pointing to the office which Christ had to perform on earth among men and for men” (Loc. 3834). Jesus limited his omnipotence as needed to execute his saving office. Pieper classifies omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence all in the same way, meaning that the Son of God does have all those divine qualities. All are asserted in Scripture. This cannot be denied, though some of the implications may be open to debate.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 7, “The External Arrangements of a Call”

Chapter 7, “The External Arrangements of a Call” pp. 40-43

Walther cautions against the pastor “being a hireling” (p. 40). The congregation should spell out its commitment to care for the pastor. The pastor should also be forthright about financial need and desires. The pastor who is well cared for financially has the ability to concentrate more fully on the work of the ministry.

Walther suggests (p. 43) that the salary be arranged by others, including other ministers. This allows him to be less involved in the idea of employment compensation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Chapter 1, “From Hemlock to Have It”

Chapter 1, “From Hemlock to Have It” (Loc. 96)

Socrates awakens in the basement of a library at Have It University, 1987. He looks for those who were with him at his death. In an interchange with the janitor he questions whether he is in the Isles of the Blest. He then finds he is in a library. After some investigation he finds a registration slip indicating he is enrolled in the divinity school.

Socrates’ discussion partner, the library janitor, suggests he go about his philosophical inquiries but not ask too many questions. Socrates agrees this was problematic before. They part, allowing the janitor to do his cleaning and Socrates to pursue his answers.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2. “The Abstract Terms in the First Genus”

“The Abstract Terms in the First Genus” (Loc. 3648)

Pieper quotes the Formula of Concord, “Because in Christ divinity and humanity are one person, Scripture, on account of this personal union, ascribes also to the divinity everything that happens to the humanity, and vice versa” (Loc. 3648). The Reformers were very specific that in Christ God does suffer.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 6, “The Conditions of a Call”

Chapter 6, “The Conditions of a Call” pp. 31-39

On p. 31 Walther lists seven conditions that he thinks must be stated by a congregation if he wishes to call a Lutheran pastor. “1. That it wants to be served as an orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran congregation; 2. that it therefore confesses the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be God’s Word; and 3. that it publicly confesses the symbolical writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church . . . that it wants: 4. to conform to the confessional ceremonies of the orthodox Lutheran Church; 5. to introduce pure church and school books; 6. to announce in advance for the holy Supper; and finally, 7. in general to give free course to the Word of God . . . “

Walther then reminds that the pastor should promptly acknowledge receipt of a call document even if not immediately accepting or rejecting it. If the congregation is not orthodox it is appropriate to reject the call. On p. 33 he observes, “The essence of an orthodox congregation is not in its name but in its confession of pure doctrine.” Likewise Walther admits that there may well be genuinely Lutheran congregations and pastors who are not calld “Lutheran” but are in doctrinal conformity.

On p. 35 Walther details a rather long list of ideas and practices upon which Lutherans differ. He encourages pastors that these should not be used as a test of what makes for a true Lutheran congregation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kreeft, 2002. Socrates Meets Jesus - Introduction

Kreeft, Peter. Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Kreeft was inspired to write this book by Kierkegaard’s observation that Socrates and Jesus were history’s two greatest teachers. He took courage to write by the fact that disciples of Socrates met with disciples of Jesus in Acts 17. He will couch the discussion in a setting he calls, “Have It Divinity School,” and will trust that the reasoning God gave all humans and especially Socrates will enable him to find the truth of God even in a heterodox divinity school.

Pieper, 1968, vol. 2 “The First Genus of Communication of Attributes (Genus Idiomaticum)”

“The First Genus of Communication of Attributes (Genus Idiomaticum)” (Loc. 2675)

Nestorianism separates the human from the divine in Christ, denying suffering and death to the divine nature. In Loc. 2691 Pieper draws a strong connection between Nestorius and Zwingli, who attributed Jesus, suffering only to his human nature. Pieper goes on to illustrate this separation in Zwingli and others.

Counter to this, “it is Scripture itself, and not human speculation, that predicates of the Son of God human birth and suffering and death” (Loc. 2728). He goes on to bring a number of arguments that the Scripture must rule in our understanding. Luther’s argument (Loc. 2764) is that the Scripture discusses God in the person of Christ suffering and dying. We are not at liberty to separate Christ.

Pieper defines this doctrine “as follows: Because the divine and human nature of Christ constitute one Person, the attributes, belonging essentially to only one nature, are always ascribed to the whole person, but the divine attributes according to the divine nature, and the human attributes according to the human nature. In dogmatics this genus is known as the genus idiomaticum” (Loc. 2826). In short, the attributes of each nature belong to the entire person. In general, when pushed, Pieper observes that most theologians will affirm the genus idiomaticum though they will often deny it in their writings. Denying it separates Christ into two persons, neither effectual for salvation.

Walther, 1906. Chapter 5, “The Valid, Legitimate Call to the Pastoral Office”

Chapter 5, “The Valid, Legitimate Call to the Pastoral Office” pp. 21-30

Walther asks two questions about the call. First, is it valid? In other words, do those extending the call have a right before God to do so? Second, is it legitimate? In other words, was it “arrived at in a correct way” (p. 21)?

Walther affirms that a local congregation has the authority to extend a call. He gathers a variety of sources, all Lutheran, affirming the same.

For a call to be legitimate it should not be obtained by any sort of deception or trickery. The call should be issued by Christians who gather to call their bishop. Walther does distinguish (p. 24) between the call of God without means, an internal call, and the call of God issued through his people, a visible call. The visible call essential confirms the invisible.

Is it appropriate for a person to put himself forward to receive a call? On p. 25 Walther seems to think so, but it is not appropriate for the person to put himself forward forcefully. There should be no coercion.

If a man was called and finds he was unworthy Walther reminds him to repent and continue in the call. If a call was issued it should be a permanent call, not a temporary one. The pastor gives himself for the church congregation. The congregation gives itself for the pastor.