"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, November 30, 2009

Puritan Prayer: The Broken Heart

The Broken Heart

No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in Thy sight.
Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart;
praise has been often praiseless sound; my best services are filthy rags.

Blessed Jesus, let me find a covert in Thy appeasing wounds.
Though my sins rise to heaven Thy merits soar above them;
though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell,
Thy righteousness exalts me to Thy throne.

All things in me call for my rejection, all things in Thee plead my acceptance.
I appeal from the throne of perfect justice to Thy throne of boundless grace.
Grant me to hear Thy voice assuring me:
that by Thy stripes I am healed, that Thou wast bruised for my iniquities,
that Thou hast been made sin for me that I might be righteous in Thee,
that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven,
buried in the ocean of Thy concealing blood.

I am guilty, but pardoned, lost, but saved,
wandering, but found, sinning, but cleansed.

Give me perpetual broken-heartedness, keep me always clinging to Thy cross,
flood me every moment with descending grace,
open to me the springs of divine knowledge, sparkling like crystal,
flowing clear and unsullied through my wilderness of life.

-Valley of Vision pg 150

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Herbert: Holy Communion

Not in rich furniture, or fine aray,
________ Nor in a wedge of gold,
________ Thou, who for me wast sold,
____ To me dost now thy self convey;
For so thou should’st without me still have been,
________ Leaving within me sinne:

But by the way of nourishment and strength
________ Thou creep’st into my breast;
________ Making thy way my rest,
____ And thy small quantities my length;
Which spread their forces into every part,
________ Meeting sinnes force and art.

Yet can these not get over to my soul,
________ Leaping the wall that parts
________ Our souls and fleshy hearts;
____ But as th’ outworks, they may controll
My rebel-flesh, and carrying thy name,
________ Affright both sinne and shame.

Only thy grace, which with these elements comes,
________ Knoweth the ready way,
________ And hath the privie key,
____ Op’ning the souls most subtile rooms;
While those to spirits refin’d, at doore attend
________ Dispatches from their friend.

Give me my captive soul, or take
________ My bodie also thither.
Another lift like this will make
________ Them both to be together.

Before that sinne turn’d flesh to stone,
________ And all our lump to leaven;
A fervent sigh might well have blown
________ Our innocent earth to heaven.

For sure when Adam did not know
________ To sinne, or sinne to smother;
He might to heav’n from Paradise go,
________ As from one room t’another.

Thou hast restor’d us to this ease
________ By this thy heav’nly bloud;
Which I can go to, when I please,
________ And leave th’earth to their food.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luther on Thanksgiving

Well, this is Martin Luther on the Eucharist which comes from the Greek meaning "to give thanks." So technically, Martin Luther on the Eucharist is Martin Luther on thanksgiving. I've been studying Martin Luther on the Eucharist (for those who don't know that word, that's "The Lord's Supper" for my Presbyterian friends, "Communion" for my Baptist friends, and that weird snack other Christians have in their worship for my Watermark friends). Luther was careful not to speak of the Lord's Supper as transubstantiation, even though arguing over the mechanics of the Eucharist was not Luther's main concern. (nor is my thoughts on the mechanics exactly like Luther's, though close) Luther believed that a great many benefits come from this means of grace given to the church. Here I will share a few that he identifies:

Luther's primary language about the Eucharist would not be the first concept most other Protestants would associate with the Supper. For Luther, the Eucharist contains with it the forgiveness of sins. Luther explains how he means this in two ways. Luther uses the concepts of pledge and sign.1 As a sign, it signifies the promise of forgiveness given to the believer. As a sure pledge, the Eucharist is assuring to the believer that they have the forgiveness of sins. This is not a resacrifice, but rather the Word coming to the believer to declare this forgiveness, like the word preached.2 When received by faith, the believer has fellowship with Christ.

Fellowship with God and Others
Luther places the “significance or effect of this sacrament is fellowship of all the saints.”3 From this fellowship, all other benefits flow. As Christ has, so His body has in fellowship with him in Christ's life.4 Obvious was the fact that the Eucharist was a fellowship with God through Christ. Luther takes the obvious and fleshes out the meaning of fellowship to also include a fellowship with all other saints. As the church is the body of Christ, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the body, these two things should not be separated. Such a close relationship between the congregated church body and the sacrament led Luther to have reservations about private celebrations and even taking the Super to the sick apart from the worship service.5
Fellowship in the Eucharist is fellowship in the church. Luther brings out the opposite of the fellowship in the Eucharist being “excommunicare” or excommunication. The opposite is “to receive a sure sign of this fellowship and incorporation with Christ and all the saints.”6 To receive the sacrament then is assurance of union with Christ, because union with the Church is union with the body of Christ.

The fellowship offered in this union is not merely profit. Luther warned that “There are those, indeed, who would gladly share in the profits but not in the costs.”7 Christ experienced loss and suffering in his life. Now, the church suffers loss and pain and to have fellowship in the body is to have fellowship in suffering. Luther offers the illustration of a man injuring his foot. The whole body bends itself towards the foot and covers it, alleviates stress from it and cares for it for the pain is seen not only on the foot but even on the other end of the body on the face, and “once it is cared for all the other members are benefited.”8

In the Eucharist, Luther sees shared misery. “You must in turn share the misfortunes of fellowship.”9 In this fellowship, the Christian fills in the sufferings of Christ, who no longer suffers in heaven, but His body does on earth. For the continuing repeated suffering of the innocent, the Eucharist is taken repeatedly.10 The call for the partaker is to “help the poor, put up with sinners, care for the sorrowing, suffer with the suffering, intercede for others, defend the truth, and...risk life, property and honor for the betterment of the church.”11

Reminder of Need
The suffering of the body points to the need of grace. “Therefore, we need the strength, support and help of Christ and of his saints.”12 Luther goes so far as to say the Eucharist is not for those of no suffering, misfortune or anxiety, but for hungry, needy and anxious. For proof of the necessity of this condition, Luther goes to the instance of the institution of the Lord's Supper. Christ frightens the disciples with the trials that await Him. He also scares them by the announcement that He will be leaving them and one of their own will betray Him. “When they were thus full of sorrow and anxiety, disturbed by sorrow and the sin of betrayal, then they were worthy, and he gave them his holy body.”13

The Eucharist was instituted for the needy and hungry. The language of Luther echoes Christ's words to the Pharisees that Christ came to call sinners, not the righteous.14 The meaning is not that Christians ought to only come when they need it, but Christians always need the grace of the Eucharist and Christians ought to be made to feel their need of grace. The disciples had the same destiny before Christ spoke to them in the Supper as they did after the meal. The different was not their condition, but their awareness of their condition. “On your part, you ought to be impelled by your own need” to come to the Eucharist.15

If Christians are aware of their need, they will desire to take the Eucharist frequently. Luther speaks of the Eucharist so closely with the preached word that one should not think the Eucharist is some magical granter of grace to him. Rather, the Eucharist is another means of communicating the gospel of Christ to the believer. Proper understanding of the Eucharist is essential in the same way that preaching the gospel rightly is important. The believer should never tire of hearing the Gospel and so should never tire of taking the Eucharist. The problem is “we hardly know any more what purpose this sacrament serves or how it should be used...This is the fault of preachers who do not preach the gospel or the sacraments, but their humanly devised fables about the many works of satisfaction to be done and the ways to live aright.”16 When the preacher reminds the believer of their need for grace, rather than flattering them with pronouncements of their ability to fulfill all duties, then the believer will desire the preached word and the sacrament more frequently.

Strengthening and Gladdening
Because of the sufferings of the church and the sinfulness of humanity, the Eucharist is needed in a positive way (or as Luther puts it: profits). The responsibility to shared sufferings is assumed by the believer, but the believer is not sufficient to meet these demands. Luther takes two of the positive benefits of the bread and wine in the Eucharist from the Scripture's description of the purpose of bread and wine. In Psalm 104:15, the Psalmist writes that God gave “bread to strengthen man's heart” and “wine to make glad the heart of man.”

Luther takes as further proof of the strengthening of the Eucharist Acts 9:18-19, where Paul is given back his sight and then is “baptized and taking food was strengthened.” Luther takes this food as being the Eucharist.17 The strengthening of the Eucharist consists in the forgiveness offered in the Eucharist. Where our sins accuse and attack us, the Eucharist reminds the believer of the payment for sin in the life and death of Christ.

This strengthening results in joy. The wine in the Eucharist communicates the gladdening of the heart of the believer. “Let him go joyfully to the sacrament of the alter and lay down his woe in the midst of the community of saints and seek help from the entire company of the spiritual body.”18 In this sure sign of Christ's love for the person, “The heart cannot but rejoice and be strengthened.”19

Organic Union
The reality of the Eucharist resides in union with Christ. Although Luther begins by using the word fellowship for the relationship between Christ and the believer, it soon becomes apparent that Luther means more than friendly relationship. The union the believer has by faith is one that is more vital, real and organic than mere relationship. Although Reformation theologians assailed the mystics, the sacraments remain a mystical subject. Luther conceives of the union with Christ a believer enjoys illustrated in the Eucharist as “no more intimate, deep, and indivisible union than the union of the food with him who is fed. For the food enters into and is assimilated by his very nature, and becomes one substance with the person who is fed...thus in the sacrament we too become united with Christ, and are made one body with all the saints, so that Christ cares for us and acts on our behalf.”20 The Eucharist enables some understanding of union as we share in the benefits of Christ though vital union.

Desire and Hope
Christians, for Luther, should be seen frequently coming to the table. When one considers that greatness of the gift of the sacrament, given by Christ, what would restrain the believer from coming? Although Christ left the means of encounter with Him by the Word by way of the ear, so too did Christ leave a means of encounter with Him by way of the eyes and the hands. The desire of believers to come into the presence of their Savior should be evident. So obvious was this to Luther, that if one was known to be frequently absent from the table, they ought not to be considered a Christian.21 If Christ instituted the Supper to remember Him with “the very words, 'as often as you do it,' imply that we should do it often.”22 If one is truly a Christian, how often should they wish to remember their Savior? If rarely or never, are they truly a Christian?
Ultimately, the Eucharist is comforting. “We see now how necessary this sacrament is for those who must face death, or other dangers of body and soul, that they not be left in them alone but be strengthened in the fellowship of Christ and all saints.”23 When the need compels the believer to the table, the Eucharist comforts them. For the needy, it is “pure, wholesome, soothing medicine.”24

Luther ends one of his treatises on the Eucharist with this imagery: “Baptism leads us into a new life on earth; the bread guides us through death into eternal life. And the two are signified by the Red Sea and the Jordan, and by two lands, one beyond and one on this side of Jordan.”25 Luther here compares the former pre-Christian life to Egypt. In Egypt, God's people were under slavery. To free them from this, God led the Israelites through the Red Sea, paralleling (as Peter and Paul also pick up on) Christian baptism. After being freed from slavery (Egypt with the Jews, Sin and Death with Christians) now God's people are fed with bread (manna from heaven for the Jews, Eucharist for the Christians). The bread is a sign of God's care and sustaining in between lands, no longer in Egypt, but not yet in the Promised Land.
The Eucharist represents the continual, sustained nature of faith. Though every believer has a point of entry into the Christian life, they also have the time after to live within. The food for the journey is the Gospel of Christ pictured by body in bread and blood in wine. Therein is the sustaining and joy of the Christian. Therein is the suffering and comfort of fellowship for the Christian. Therein is the reminder of need and the promise of forgiveness. Because all these benefits are exhibited in the Eucharist, the benefit of hope is given to those who partake of the bread and wine. For Luther, the Eucharist is no mere rite, but the visible word of the Gospel.


1 Martin Luther. “Luther's Larger Catechism.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959), 449
2 Martin Luther. “Luther's Larger Catechism.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959), 450.
3 Martin Luther. “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods, 1519.” Luther's Works: Volume 35: Word and Sacrament I. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 50
4 Martin Luther. “Luther's Larger Catechism.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959), 452
5 Harry Boonstra. “Home Communion” Reformed Worship. Issue #13. retrieved at: http://www.reformedworship.org/magazine/article.cfm?article_id=44
6 Martin Luther. “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods, 1519.” Luther's Works: Volume 35: Word and Sacrament I. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 51
7 Ibid., 57
8 Ibid., 52
9 Ibid., 54
10 Ibid., 55
11 Ibid., 57
12 Ibid., 55
13 Ibid., 56
14 Matthew 9:13
15 Martin Luther. “Luther's Larger Catechism.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959), 454
16 Martin Luther. “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods, 1519.” Luther's Works: Volume 35: Word and Sacrament I. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 56-57
17 Ibid., 53
18 Ibid., 53
19 Ibid., 54
20 Ibid., 59
21 Martin Luther. “Luther's Larger Catechism.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959), 451
22 Ibid., 452
23 Martin Luther. “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods, 1519.” Luther's Works: Volume 35: Word and Sacrament I. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 65
24 Martin Luther. “Luther's Larger Catechism.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959), 454
25 Martin Luther. “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods, 1519.” Luther's Works: Volume 35: Word and Sacrament I. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 67

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Troubling Declaration

A new statement is making the rounds called "The Manhattan Declaration." It affirms, with Christians from diverse backgrounds (Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical) 3 points of public policy:

1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

While some of the content certainly has validity in a certain context, I think the document itself is a sign of what's wrong with American Evangelicalism. Yes, I'm picking on Evangelicals since the statement has gained some Evangelicals supporters (James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Timothy George). But this is troubling for the following reasons:

1. These manifestos/declarations are becoming a flavor of the month. Remember "The Evangelical Manifesto"? Of course not. It was a flimsy "vision statment" rather than a confessional document. It speaks in perceptions and generalities. The London Baptist Confession, the Westminster Confession, the 39 Articles, and the Augsburg Confession have been in use for hundreds of years. The Evangelical Manifesto is a year old and no one remembers it (nor should).

2. This is a stand for the Law as exercised in civil society. The question is: why should anyone listen to this statement? The first use of the law is testified to also in Natural Law. Honestly, civil government does not need special revelation. This also explains how Christians should live their lives ethically...to the world. Why should the world listen? First the Law must drive the sinner to Christ and His Gospel before they are conformed to the will of God in the Law. This is the cart before the horse.

3. This is a broad testimony to the Law in practice. This is not a stand for the Gospel. It wants to affirm something with broad "Christian" support, so the gospel is ignored.
The absense of the gospel displays the concern of evangelicals as moral and ethical, not...well...evangelical. Do we believe the world is evil? If so, they will abort their babies, marry and divorce who they wish, and persecute religious minorities. That's what evil people do. Is our message: how to be a better reprobate? Or is our message: The Law reveals our deep and desperate need of redemption in Christ? If we want a declaration of the Law, then I'm happy to wait for a declaration of God's wrath against sin. That's a good place to begin. Let that be the delcaration of the year, followed the next year by a declaration of propitiation in Christ. I'll sign those documents.

Are we as passionate for the repentance of sinners to Christ as we are for marriage amendments, abortion legislation and secular people being nice to religious people?To quote my pastor: "The deepest most pressing need in the world today is the gospel." Not civil law. Not ethics. Not winning the culture for the church and making it safe for the whole family. The most pressing need is death and resurrection, and the world needs to be told it needs to die before it is told it needs to live a resurrected life. Evangelicalism needs to learn to confess and declare the right things:

"Heb 10:22-23 - Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts of the Day on Union

A few quotes to contemplate this morning regarding the pecular biblical doctrine of union with Christ. This doctrine describes the nature of what it means to be "ἐν Χριστῷ" or "In Christ." Paul tells us the strange mystery that "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3) I've expounded on the doctrine elsewhere (Part 1, Part 2)
This is merely an opportunity to reflect on some ways others have talked about this union with Christ. Warning: Though you may have heard "union" language before, the reality of the doctrine is much more fleshly than we may be comfortable with:

"Christianity is grounded in the living union of the believer with the person of Christ" -John Williamson Nevin

"The Church is in Christ as Eve was in Adam" -Richard Hooker

Heidelberg "Q20: Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?
A. No. Only those are saved who by a true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all His benefits."

in Q49: "we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that He, our Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself."

It is "a carnal or flesh union. By his incarnation the Son of God became one with us, sharing our nature...He came truly to brother us...Our union with Christ is therefore based on Christ's union with us." -Sinclair Ferguson

Westminster Larger Catechism "Question 69: What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?

Answer: The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and: Whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him."

"We know, moreover, that [Christ] benefits only those whose Head he is, for whome He is 'the first born brethren' and who, finally, 'have put on him'. This union alone ensures that, as far as we are concerned he has not unprofitable come with the name of Savior." -John Calvin Inst. 3.1.3

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is the Gospel about me?

From a great interview with Michael Horton in Christianity Today:

Q: In The Gospel-Driven Life you use news as a metaphor. Why?

Horton: I stole it from the apostles! Their dominant metaphor for the gospel message is "good news." The content is that God has done all the saving, no thanks to us. Someone asked Martin Luther what we contribute to salvation, and he said, "Sin and resistance!"

The gospel is not even my conversion experience. If somebody asks me what the gospel is, I'm not going to talk about me; I'm going to talk about Christ. All of the testimonies we find from the apostles' lips are not testimonies about what happened in their hearts. They are testimonies about what happened in history when God saved his people from their sins. That's the gospel. Although the gospel makes all sorts of things happen inside of me and gives me the fruit of the Spirit, the gospel itself is always an external word that comes to me announcing that someone else in history has accomplished my salvation for me.

Someone comes with instructions and says, "Here's what your life could be like if you do x, y, or z." Good news is, "Let me tell you what has happened!" The gospel is not good instructions, not a good idea, and not good advice. The gospel is an announcement of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Q: You also say it's not "a personal relationship with God" or "making Jesus your Lord and Savior." What do you mean?

Horton: I realize that those are deeply held, personal convictions among many evangelicals. But everyone has a personal relationship with God. You start with Genesis and work your way to the Book of Revelation—everyone has a relationship with God. In Romans 1-3, Paul says Gentiles have a relationship with God, even when they are engaging in idolatry. The question is whether the relationship is with a father, who has justified and adopted his heirs, or with a judge.

The phrase "making Jesus Lord and Savior" does not appear anywhere in Scripture (any more than does "personal relationship"). It assumes we are the ones who make God something. It is hard to imagine a Jew saying he made God his liberator and Lord in the Exodus. No. God made the Israelites the recipients of his saving and lordly work. So we don't make God anything; it is he who makes us his people. The Good News is not that Jesus has made it possible for you to make him Lord and Savior. The Good News is that he has actually saved and liberated you, and that he is your Savior.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Interesting Quotes from Catholics

More quotes from Latin writers that might lead me to think that Roman Catholicism is a recent invention:

"[Universal] bishop is “a word of proud address that I have forbidden….None of my predecessors ever wished to use this profane word [‘universal’]….But I say it confidently, because whoever calls himself ‘universal bishop’ or wishes to be so called, is in his self-exaltation Antichrist’s precursor, for in his swaggering he sets himself before the rest.”

-Pope Gregory the Great

HT: Riddleblog

"Sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities [philosophers and human arguments] as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scripture as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church [the theologians] as one that may be properly used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets, who wrote the canonical books, and not on any revelations (if there were any) made to other doctors."

-Thomas Aquinas. Summa (1. Q1. 8)

Silly me thinks that Gregory wasn't for Papal Supremecy, merely Papal Primacy and that Thomas Aquinas has a doctrine approaching Sola Scriptura. Of course that can't be right because those are Orthodox and Protestant doctrines that have no basis in history whatsoever ;)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interesting Quote

Dear Sir-

The wishes expressed, in your last favor, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, at least in his exclamation of `mon Dieu! jusque à quand'! would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Dæmonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5 points is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a dæmon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin.

- Thomas Jefferson responding to John Adams' appeal to become a Calvinist.

HT: Riddleblog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hymn: It is Finished

Jonathan Evans was a Congregational minister who penned this hymn, variously called "It is Finished" for its contemplation of those words and "Hark! the voice of love and mercy" for the first line:

Hark! the voice of love and mercy
by Jonathan Evans

Hark, the voice of love and mercy,
Sounds aloud from Calvary!
See, it rends the rocks asunder,
Shakes the earth and veils the sky!
“It is finished, It is finished,”
Hear the dying Savior cry.

“It is finished,” O what pleasure,
Do these charming words afford.
Heavenly blessings, without measure,
Flow to us from Christ the Lord.
“It is finished, it is finished,”
Saints the dying words record.

Finished all the types and shadows,
Of the ceremonial law;
Finished all that God had promised;
Death and hell no more shall awe.
“It is finished, it is finished,”
Saints from hence your comfort draw.

Tune your harps anew, ye seraphs;
Join to sing the pleasing theme;
Saints on earth and all in heaven,
Join to praise Immanuel’s name.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Glory to the bleeding lamb!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Credo-baptists in Reformation

Interesting discussion on Reformed Forum with a Reformed Baptist Pastor about Credo-Baptists during the Reformation and the differences that arose between Anabaptists, Particular Baptists, and General Baptists. Interesting to get a handle on their different approaches to the state and baptism:


Friday, November 13, 2009

Herbert: Prayer

Prayer (I)
by George Herbert from "The Church"

PRAYER the Church's banquet, Angels' age,
____God's breath in man returning to his birth,
____The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner's tower,
____Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
____The six days world-transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear ;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
____Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
____Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
____Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
____The land of spices, something understood.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Peter Kreeft a Catholic heretic?

An interesting passage from "The God Who Loves You" by Peter Kreeft.

[From the Chapter: The Twelve Most Profound Ideas I Have Ever Had]:

"7. The gift of God's love is ours for the taking.

I am a Roman Catholic. But the most liberating idea I have ever heard I first learned from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German Lutheran bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there was no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point, which was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about "justification by faith" and its consequence, which Luther called "Christian Liberty" or "the liberty of a Christian" in his little gem of an essay by that name...

The point is amazingly simple, which is why so many of us just don't get it. Heaven is free because love is free. It is ours for the taking. The taking is faith. "If you believe, you will be saved." It is really that simple. If I offer you a gift, you have it if and only if you have faith to take it.

The primacy of faith does not discount or denigrate works but liberates them. Our good works can bow also be free - free from the worry and slavery and performance anxiety of having to buy Heaven with them. Our good works can now flow from genuine love of neighbor, not fear of Hell. nobody wants to be loved merely as a mean to build up the lover's merit pile. That attempt is ridiculous logically as well as psychologically. How much does Heaven cost? A thousand good works? Would 999 no do then? The very question shows its own absurdity. That absurdity comes from forgetting that God is love."

-Peter Kreeft. The God Who Loves You. pg 23-24.

Thoughts? I think he is wrong about the Protestant and Catholic agreement (or else someone owes Ridley, Latimer, De Bres, Cranmer, etc. a big apology for that whole burning at the stake thing). But if he really believes it, that prompts 3 possibilities: 1) Kreeft was being clever and vague - not use of "alone," even though he cites Luther. 2) Kreeft didn't understand what he was saying and has moved past it (thus his popularity among Catholics today) 3) Kreeft is an uncalled out heretic (Romanly speaking):

Monday, November 09, 2009

Guess the Heretic!

Some Protestants and Catholics misrepresent the doctrine of justification by faith as some entirely novel invention of Martin Luther. This is said by Roman Catholics to imply that no one before him had ever had the audacity or pure evil intentions to declare such a thing. And it is said by some non-Catholics to dismiss the church pre-1500 as irrelevant and to dismiss the idea of tradition having any proper role in aiding exegesis. But what if part of your exegesis of Scripture had to answer this question: "Has anyone before 1800, or 1500, ever interpreted this passage this way? If not, what do you have access to that they don't that would inform such a difference in interpretation?" Certainly, the doctrine of justification by faith in Luther and Calvin is more developed, but it is not novel:

"All effort of human argument must be postponed where faith alone is sufficient...the righteousness of faith, by which we are justified [consists in] that we believe in him whom we do not see, and that, being cleansed by faith, we shall eventually see him in whom we now believe." -Julian of Toledo, Bishop of Toledo (circa 7th Cent)

"[Justification is] thou art not only righteous, but art called 'righteous' a righteousness that justifies...The righteousness of God consists in his not sinning, but the righteousness of man consists in his being forgiven by God." -Bernard of Clairvaux, Catholic mystic (circa 14th Cent)

"God who does make the unclean clean and who by taking away sins does justify the sinner without works." -Ildefonsus of Toledo, Bishop of Toledo (circa 7th Cent)

"The beginning of human salvation comes from faith...which when it is in Christ, is justification to the believer." -Hincmar of Reims, Bishop of Reims (circa 9th Cent)

"We, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to Whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen" -Clement of Rome, presbyter/bishop? of Rome (circa 1st Cent)

"A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are work of the law these are not based on hte foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God." -Origen, early church theologian (circa 3rd Cent)

"No one has been so foolish as to say that merits are the cause of the divine act by which God predestines...There would indeed be injustice if the effects of predestination were rendered as a debt which is due, and not given by grace." -Thomas Aquinas, Latin Theologian (circa 13th Century) *

"We believe that man is justified by faith, not by works...we understand the correlative of faith, namely the righteousness of Christ, which faith, performing the function of a hand, grasps and applies to us salvation." -Patriarch of Constantinople Cyril Lucaris, Greek Orthodox's highest bishop (circa 17th Cent.)

"no one, [Paul] saith, is justified by works, in order that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be shown. He did not reject us as having works, but as abandoned of works He hath saved us by grace; so that no man henceforth may have whereof to boast...the whole work is accomplished not of works but by faith." -John Chysostom, Greek preacher (circa 4th Cent)

*[Update: I do realize Thomas has an Augustinian idea of justification as "making righteous" but included him because the statement by itself without the identifier would be most often identified as sounding Lutheran/Reformed rather than Thomistic. Hence the title "Guess the heretic." This is only meant to show the seeds, not the full fruit of justification. The same premises that lead Thomas to his doctrine of presdestination lead Luther to his doctrine of justification. I mean no more.]

Saturday, November 07, 2009

De Bres on Church Authority

Guido de Bres was one of the principle authors of the Belgic Confession. Recently, I found an excerpt on a blog from an episode of his life that bares interest. In May, Guido was tried before the Spanish Inquisition. When Guido was asked to recant his beliefs, based on the authority of the officials of the Church, Guido replied:

"I still hold the same position that I did at the time when by quick testimony from the Word of God, you made me appear to be contrary. As I have said, I am not stubborn, and do not prefer my judgment to the judgment of the Church. But I do certainly prefer with clear thinking and just cause the ancient and early Church in which the Apostles set up all things according to the ordinance of Christ. I prefer that to the church of our time which is loaded with a vast number of human traditions, and which has degenerated itself in a remarkable way from the early Church. With good reason, I say, I hold to that which the Apostles first received. For Jesus Christ, in Revelation 2, says to those in Thyatira that they should beware of the profound trickeries of Satan, to beware of false doctrine. He says, “I will put on you no other burden, only that which you have already, hold fast to this until I come.” He would not have spoken thus if it would have been necessary to receive all the novelties which the Roman church has fabricated and daily put forth as a divine commission. Indeed, I honor greatly the learned and holy persons who have preceded us, but especially the Apostles and Prophets, and their testimony is certain and indubitable."

Guido was executed by hanging on May 31, 1565.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thinking through Motivation in Sanctification

What is our motivation to change?

Definition/Clarification of terms.

What is “Changing” or spiritual progress?: Not mere behavior modification, but modification based on changed affections. As Owen defines it: “cleaving unto God in all powers and affections of our minds.” (John Owen. Duty and Grace of Spiritual Mindedness, 382)

Practical consideration: How is a Christian given hope in the midst of unending struggle? What motives and encouragement exist for the Christian?

Pastorally, how do we respond to:
1)The Christian who wants to change but faces difficulty.
2)The professed Christian who does not want to change.

Possible Answers considered

Does one persevere in growth...

A) For Salvation? (-some Arminians, Roman Catholics)

One cannot be told that a Christian can have a salvation that is taken away due to their works. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) Although sanctification is necessary in salvation (Rom 6:22), it is not by works (Acts 26:18), just as salvation and justification can in no way be merited by Christians (Rom 3:20, 4:2-6; Titus 3:5-7; WCF 16.5)

(John 10:28, Romans 8:29, 8:35-39, Phil 1:6. Westminster Confession Ch 17.)

B) For Assurance? (-many Puritans)

Although salvation cannot be taken away, profession is not equivalent to possession.

1Jn 2:3-5 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him. (See also 2 Peter 1:5-10)

If we not only do not keep his commandments (as we will only do partially, and imperfectly) but also have no desire to keep his commandments, to love the law of God as a revelation of God's nature, then we cannot know that we are His. Yet, although this is a better answer than A, this is a standard of measurement, and not a proper motivation. Assurance as motivation can bring questions of the means of salvation, rather than the presence of love as evidential of salvation. Assurance then is an effect, a benefit of spiritual growth, not a singular motivation.

There is a difference between effect/evidence and motivation. Although “assurance” is a better answer than “salvation,” assurance is a benefit rather than a motivation for changing. Assurance as a motivation can bring questions about the means of salvation.

C) For Reward? (-many Free Gracers, pop Christian psychologists)

This could be an improper motivation. “Reward” is a vague term and could be false if it views spiritual growth as merely following the law, viewing the law as a merit-reward system. Although “reward” is a word and concept used in Scripture, it is not placed as a motivation apart from the Giver and is usually by means of gracious covenant (merited by Christ). Temporal and eternal blessing is function of the gospel, not the law. (Gal 3:10-13) Also, if the gift/reward is removed, what motivation does the believer have left? This would reveal a service to “the creation rather than the Creator.) (Romans 1:25) Therefore motivation should not be set upon a rewards-system (cf. Gal 3:11; Heb 11:13-16, 26)...unless we mean...

D) For God in Christ as our reward.

“there is, though not an absolute perfection, yet a blessed degree of heavenly mindedness to be attained, and therein the nearest approach unto glory that in this world we are capable of” (John Owen. Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. 382) [Col 3:2-5]

By heavenly mindedness, Owen is not meaning mere reward but Reward, using Colossians 3, which directs us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is.” Heavenly mindedness is Christ-mindedness, a reflection on God in Christ as the delight and reward of man, (Gen 15:1 KJV; Ps 33:1; modeled in Heb 12:2, John 6:47-65) that makes the law of God a delight (Ps 1; Rom 7:22), seeing God's will (1 Thess 4:3) as our greatest good. The chief end or purpose of man is stated as being glorifying and “enjoying” God (West. Catechism Q1). This too is not perfected but begun in this life. (Ph 4:4, Psa 16:5-11)

In this way, the motivation is a reward, drawn by love. The “why?” is answered in revealing Christ to the believer. Sanctifying grace, too, is irresistible to the degree that Christ is seen and draws the believer. Our ultimate answer to why we persevere in spiritual progress is: because we love Him. (2 Cor 5:14; Eph 3:17-19; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 Thes 3:5, etc.) So not by the Law (Gal 3:10-13, “The law was never ordained of God to convey grace or spiritual strength unto souls of men.” Owen Dominion), nor our wills in will-worship (Col 2:20-23), but by apprehending and experiencing Christ.


Here, the answers may be compared to a marriage. Does one do acts of love for a wife because A) she will leave you if you don't B) you are assured of her love for you C) she returns the favor or D) because you love her. All may be motiations at one time or another, but all are subservient to D.


The job of the pastor in counseling motivation towards spiritual progress, which ought to be understood as a change in affections (“cleaving unto God in all powers and affections of our minds.” as Owen describes it), the goal is a revealing of Christ in His Person, Work and Beauty that we may love Him, as motivation, sustenance, growth in affections and power unto spiritual growth.

We are to see Christ Who is the supremely beautiful, living, Good, joyful, glorious, and the summum bonum, and our motivation, in our best moments. If we truly are regenerate, we cannot help but change and make progress moving towards the object of our worship, adoration and love in so far as He is thought of and seen by the believer, even though He is clouded by our lack of perfect sight. We become like what we love and worship. Why do we spiritually grow in love for others? Because He first loved us in Christ. Why are we faithful, and not adulterous? Because God is faithful to us in Christ. Why are we truthful, for God is truthful to us in His promises.

To encourage, the aim of a pastor would not be to send them to their bare works, but to the object of their heart. A regenerate heart cannot remain completely cold to the Savior placed before them. The challenge is to place the Savior before the believer and cultivate a desire created by the vision and experience of Christ.

Appendix Implications:

How Christ is seen: Christ must be seen to compel progress in the Spiritual life. Christ is seen in the Scriptures (Luke 24, John 6) in the Supper (1 Cor 10:16; 11:24-26), in Preaching (1 Cor 1:21, Romans 10:14-15) and in prayer and meditation. (Ps. 69:13; Luke 6:12)

So not by the Law (Gal 3:10-13, “The law was never ordained of God to convey grace or spiritual strength unto souls of men.” Owen Dominion), nor our wills in will-worship (Col 2:20-23), but by apprehending and experiencing Christ through the Means of Grace as the means of grace take on significance as a place to receive Christ, not a mechanical method.

Effects/Benefits of spiritual growth: Although the true motivation is love, the effects are multiple such as believers manifesting their thankfulness (Ps 116:12, Ps 116:13; 1Pet 2:9), strengthening their assurance (2 Pet 1:5-10; 1Jo 2:3, 1Jo 2:5), building up the church (Mat 5:16; 2 Cor 9:2), proving wrong the enemies of the church (1Pe 2:15), and glorifying God (Joh 15:8; Phi 1:11; 1Pet 2:12). (cf. WCF 16.2)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Luther and Media

Reformed Forum had an interesting discussion of Luther and media. The discussion of Luther and publishing leads to a discussion of blogging (shorter than books, expressing ideas in a few paragraphs) and Twitter (thoughts limited to 140 characters). Carl Trueman makes some good points on how the less space is given to a topic, the less meaningful the treatment becomes.
I'm finding blogging to be true to his pronouncement. Blogging has helped me advance my own thinking and clarifying my ideas especially with feedback. Yet, the short medium often disallows, and discourages thoughtful interaction. (for example, my short incomplete post on a frustration with a disregard for the Old Testament led to unintelligible comments and my post on how not to argue, which seems to be a symptom of how our thought has been shaped by shorter media.) Our ability to give time to consider a lengthy argument in modern media forms has nearly disappeared. This is why we do not track with 30-minute sermons, or understand the Bible in larger sections than a verse or two at a time.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Westminster Confession Surprises

Many people from as diverse backgrounds as John Piper (Baptist) and J.I. Packer (Anglican) have praised the Westminster Standards as, in the case of Packer, “the greatest summation of the faith in English” to, in the case of Piper, “perhaps 98% agreement in my faith.” The Westminster Standards contains much that every Christian ought to hold dear: The Trinity, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, etc. It also holds some particularly Calvinistic truths: The Eternal Decree of God determining election, the total depravity of man, the perseverence of the saints, which still endear it to Calvinistic Baptists like Piper and Calvinistic Anglicans like J.I. Packer.

Yet, I also find it kinda funny, because I sometimes hear believers praise the Westminster Standards (The Confession and Shorter and Larger Catechism) which contain things that might fit into Piper's 2%, or be why Packer is not Presbyterian but Anglican, but I wonder if they know it. In studying the Westminster Standards, I've found several things I had not considered before. All but a couple, I have accepted and still consider myself comparing the last couple to Scripture to see if they are faithful in their interpretation. Some of the teachings that might hit us as peculiar:

Those in authority in the church are to be considered as “father” and “mother.” (LC 124)

Sacraments become effectual means of salvation by the Holy Spirit. (LC 161)

Only approved or ordained men ought to preach the Word (LC 158)

Outside of the visible church "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (WCF 25.2)

Those taking the Supper in faith truly feed on Christ. (LC 170)

Those who doubt should especially take the Supper. (LC 172)

Baptism rightly administered and received confers the grace which it promises. (WCF 28.6)

The Supper rightly administered and received conveys the grace which it signifies. (WCF 29.7-8)

The pope is the antichrist. (WCF 25.6 – original language, struck by the OPC and PCA)

Making any image of any Person of the Trinity is forbidden by the Second Commandment (LC109)

The Third Commandment forbids not taking a required oath in God's name, if by a lawful authority. (LC 113, WCF 22.2)

The Fourth Commandment forbids recreation on the Sabbath (LC 117)

Christians ought not marry unbelievers or papists (WCF 24.3)

Only adultery or willful desertion are grounds for divorce (WCF 24.6)