Monday, December 28, 2009

A good movie: The Nativity Story (2006)

I saw this movie just before Christmas an I enjoyed it. What really struc me was the portrayal of St. Joseph. In most nativity movies I have seen he is sort of just "there". In this movie he fulfills the traditional role as his family's provider and protector. He brushes off some pick-pockets, for instance. To be honest, I never thought of St. Joseph as a shrewd and capable protector, though I did always think of him as a protector.

Also very interesting is the protrayal of Mary and Joseph's relationship. While not portrayed as a romance, there is some affection and an emotional bond between the two.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Irenaeus' "Against Heresies" and Apostolic Succession

This is from a post a while back on TWEB:

"Apostolic Succession" as typically used by EO and RC apologists here is anachronistic when read back into e.g. Irenaeus or the Scriptures, or other fathers they cite. I will give a thumbnail regarding Irenaeus, the most popular Father used to establish AS as a way to identify the true Apostolic Church.

For Irenaeus, all the apostolic churches taught correct doctrine because they were founded by apostles and faithfully passed down what the Apostles taught--which incidentally was also written down in the Scriptures according to Irenaeus--the true churches could trace their bishops/elders/presbyters back to the Apostles through showing this faithful traditioning from the days of the Apostles down to Irenaeus' day. It was easy to spot the innovations of the various Gnostic sects because their doctrines were contrary to what was preserved by the bishops/elders/presbyters in succession to the Apostles in the Church, and it was equally as easy to show they believed contrary to Scripture. However, Irenaeus apparently assumes that if a Church is in Apostolic Succession, it has the rule of faith, which is similar to the Apostles' Creed and contradicts the Gnostics who also contradict each other. That last is key for Irenaeus, because he often compares the cacophony of the Gnostic doctrines with the homogeneous teachings of the Apostolic Churches.

His system breaks down when one or more bishops/elders/presbyters disagree on what constitutes Apostolic Doctrine and anathematize each other--something which didn't really happen much in his day. It is even worse if groups of bishops/elders/presbyters do this. This causes a breakdown for two reasons. First, if division is evidence against the Gnostics, it is evidence against a group of churches claiming AS. Second, as Irenaeus assumes ipso facto that what the Apostolic Churches teach is the true Apostolic Doctrine, if Apostolic Churches disagree there is now no way to simply say "here is the Church in valid succession to the Apostles because they teach ABC" as could be done in Irenaeus' day. Basically, the schisms of the later Church cause the old wineskins of Irenaeus' AS to burst due to circumstances which did not obtain in his day.

Irenaeus did say that the Scriptures are the same message the Apostles proclaimed, and that they are the ground and pillar of truth.

Against Heresies III 1-2

1. We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed “perfect knowledge,” as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.

2. These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics.

"Tradition" was taught and written down by the Apostles according to Irenaeus. I do not mean by "tradition" here things like praying to the East, but doctrines and dogmas like the Incarnation.

While it is true that St. Irenaeus has a sort of AS which looks like EO AS, it is not really the same. We see that the succession is one of teaching the tradition handed down--and remember that for Irenaeus tradition is written down in the Scriptures and is not another source of revelation. A Christian could have confidence the tradition taught in his church was true because of two factors: The tradition taught is in the Scriptures (Irenaeus has a lot of fun ripping apart the ridiculous interpretations of Scripture offered by the Gnostics, who were the ones who claimed one could not understand the Scriptures without a secret "key") AND that the line of bishops/presbyters/elders could be traced back to the Apostles. This "works" because the Apostolic Churches agree on the tradition. That does not obtain throughout Church history though, because widely acknowledged Apostolic Sees, such as Rome from an EO perspective, lost the "tradition" and so there is no successtion there. Now, since Rome can trace her bishop back to Sts Peter and Paul, she is Apostolic and Rome claims there is a line of teaching back to the Apostles which agrees with her tradition. But it is no longer the case that because a Church is can trace herself back to one or more Apostles that she is therefore Apostolic. Now, maybe there could be councils and majorities of bishops to decide these things--but that is not what St. Irenaeus teaches, that is a later innovation. In other words, reading e.g. EO AS back into Irenaeus is anachronistic.

Irenaeus ipso facto assumes the Apostolic Churches agree in doctrine, hence even barbarians can learn the capital "T" Tradition, just point to the Apostolic Churches and listen. That does not help the EO/RC use of Irenaeus either, because it is not the case that all Apostolic Churches (churches which have been publicly proclaiming the Tradition and who can trace their origins back to the Apostles) have agreed on all points over time--one of Irenaeus' arguments against the Gnostics. So, the current state of the Apostolic Churches means this particular argument by Irenaeus does not really apply today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Reformation a template for "Climategate"

Well, I for one see a resemblance, if not an identity. Like all comparisons of commonality, this is a little arbitrary, but I hope you will bear with me and "get" the main point.

Tha papacy before the Reformation enjoyed:

1) Being the "default" position, and being locus of religious authority in the West
2) The ability to dictate the terms of debate such that disagreeing with Church dogma came with severe civil penalties in addition to the ecclesial penalties
3) The ability to cut opponents off from the Sacraments, depose emperors (or at least make their lives very, very difficult), tell subjects their oaths of allegiance need not be obeyed etc.

The global warmists before Climategate enjoyed

1) Being the default position and the locus of authority for human generated global warming
2) The ability to dictate terms of debate such that anyone who disagreed with AGW was more or less ostracized
3) The ability to cut opponents off from being published, and from funding for their research.

As I said, the comparisons are not exact, but what I see as the main commonality is the collapse of authority and the resulting inability to control the terms of debate and to deny opponents access to things they want or need. In the case of the Reformation, the printing press took care of 2, and the various protestant princes took care of 3. 2 meant that protestant ideas could spread despite the institutional authority and power of the RCC, while 3 means that there are different churches in Western Christianity now; broadly speaking the Lutherans, the Reformed and the Anabaptists. When these events combined, these reduced 1 to a great degree, such that the pope had to play defense for a century or two and it was no longer a strong argument to say "the pope says...".

In the case of Climategate, the "direction" of the collapse went in a different direction. First, the content of the emails made 1 quite problematic. This means that 2 is gone--it is no longer good enough to simply cite the authority of the global warmists to stop discussion. Nor can the dissemination of the emails be stopped, and they cannot just wave away the dissenter anymore or stop their ideas from getting out. This is mainly due to the Internet. 3 looks like it may be tottering, but I am not sure it has occurred yet. Some signs it has are newspaper accounts which cite warming skeptics in a more respectful, if not sympathetic light. It is probably still more difficult for a warming skeptic to get funding etc. but that may change.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Authority Claims

Although I have written about this before, I would like to make the point again.

In a typical discussion about any controversy between a Lutheran and a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, the RC or EO will just claim apostolic succession means his church is the church. Since his church is the ancient church and the Lutherans are not, Lutheran claims can be given a polite hearing, but ultimately they cannot be true because the Lutherans don't have apostolic succession, which the real church has. In this way, apostolic succession can rhetorically do away with any issue which is difficult for a RC or EO to deal with. Anything the Lutheran says is either his personal opinion or the received personal opinion of someone who is outside the Church while the RC or EO is merely following apostolic succession. So, no headway can ever be made, though as I said the Lutheran may be given a polite hearing.

However, when the Lutheran simply asks "why is your apostolic succession better than (insert alternative apostolic succession)?" the RC or EO has no comeback which can be compelling. This is because it is not logically necessary that if one believes in apostolic succession one will therefore be RC, EO, Armenian, Coptic etc. And since in the vast majority of cases online the RC or EO is arguing from authority either explicitly or implicitly, if he cannot prove his authority there is no reason to take his claim of authority seriously . That is, unless he can show that his authority must be the true authority without appealing to that authority. It is as if I just cited passages from the Book of Concord and then waited for all the RCs and EOs to accept what the Lutheran Church teaches as gospel. (Which it is...) This means the RC or EO has to use (get ready!) private interpretation to determine for himself or prove to another why his apostolic succession is the apostolic succession. Given that much of their polemic is based on a Lutheran's private interpretation as opposed to their mere reception of the teachings of the church in apostolic succession, they are loathe to do so. In fact, in my experience they do not do so but just try and assert that their apostolic succession is the real deal.

Now, I don't think this makes their claims necessarily wrong, it is just that it is a byproduct of their over investment in the argument from authority. Since they have been arguing for years (often in Newmanian fashion) that they are fortunate they do not have to use private interpretation while Lutherans do, the wheels basically come off the cart and they don't have a lot to say, for it turns out they are choosing and judging, too.

I really think this simple argument defangs theirs, though it does not disprove it.

Interestingly, we Lutherans have a stake in this. We do not believe we are sui generis but the inheritors and preservers of the Tradition, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and which is preserved in the Scriptures, as St. Irenaeus said. This Tradition was handed down through the Church, i.e. an institution, and does not come to us apart from the Word. So in many cases we will argue like the RC or EO--the Church has said e.g. Jesus Christ is of the same substance (or ousia) as the Father, and this is the correct interpretation of the Tradition handed down from the Apostles. Anything which differs from this is not part of the Tradition handed down from the Apostles.

Yet it is different, because we believe the Church is gathered around the Gospel proclamation--here in the form of Baptism, there in the form of a sermon, over the hill in the form of a book or a believer's testimony. The Gospel is the "regula fide", not the pronouncements of councils, bishops or popes. For example, Arianism is wrong not because it is implausible or because no one spoke like an Arian before Arius (Justin Martyr had some odd ideas about the Logos.....), but because if Arius was right, their is no longer a Gospel. We know this from the Scriptures and it is clarified because of how the Church prayed and worshiped. So for us, the worship life of the Church points to the Tradition written down by the Apostles, and when it agrees with this written Tradition we can know to a certainty what that Tradition is. I contrast this with the RC and EO way of presenting things--at least online: We don't know anything unless we have an interpreter. Anything you say is unsure because words can mean anything etc.

Which brings me to my final point. I wonder how much of the reliance on authority, and how many converts move from Wittenberg to Rome or Constantinople, because our culture is imbud with and drunk upon post-modernism. If words can literally mean just about anything, then I suppose we do need an infallible interpreter. I just wish he didn;t have to use words to infallibly teach...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

If God cannot be moved by something outside himself, why do I matter to him?

Basically, this thought just came to me. It is an axiom of theology that God is impassible, that nothing external to God "moves" or affects him. This would seem to mean that anything I do for God and my neighbor doesn't matter to God in the slightest. Whether I live or die eternally, or my predecessors, or my family, or my descendants are all beings to whom God is indifferent, as he cannot be moved by their fate.

Now, as a Lutheran I could answer "Well, this same God became man, lived, suffered, died and rose again, and promises eternal life to all who believe this. That is how we know this impassible God of which you speak"

Come to think of it, that is probably why we don't start with grand definitions of God and his properties, such as his impassibility, his glory, his omnipotence etc. We as Lutherans start with the little baby in Mary's bosom--passable, inglorious, weak etc. who grew up and was killed, and yet rose again. I suppose this is a species of the "Theology of the Cross". Most of the time God in his glory, omnipotence etc. are hidden to us, and for all appearances he may even seem to be absent all together at times--picture the Apostles and Mary at the foot of the cross--and yet he is glorious, omnipotent none the less. It is just that in the apparent weakness and wickedness of the world, his glory and omnipotence are not readily seen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Matter of Discipline and Conscience

I suppose that as Lutheran Christians in the USA, we will always be to some degree under the shadow of the RCC on issues such as abortion, so for better or worse, this post is about them and not so much about the LCMS--which as a body is staunchly pro life.

Having said that, I have criticized the RC hierarchy for what I take to be a dilatory approach to those who support abortion. But it seems that there is some movement on this front. In case you haven't heard, Congressman Kennedy was publicly rebuked for his stance on abortion by his bishop. I don't know if he has been formally excommunicated, but it sounds like he will have to either fish or cut bait. This means that, due to the political dynamics of the Democratic Party, he will have to choose between politics and his Church. I do not know what he will choose, or even if he will have to; what I do know is that there comes a time in many lives where one has to follow Christ, or follow one's own path. The first leads to life--not coincidentally--the second to death, again not coincidentally. Let us hope and pray he follows the Lord of life unto life, and not the one who preaches and brings death.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Luther says to form Christ within ourselves

I was reading Luther's treatise on good works, and I found this passage:

Lo! thus must thou form Christ within thyself and see how in Him God holds before thee and offers thee His mercy without any previous merits of thine own, and from such a view of His grace must thou draw faith and confidence of the forgiveness of all thy sins. Faith, therefore, does not begin with works, neither do they create it, but it must spring up and flow from the blood, wounds and death of Christ. If thou see in these that God is so kindly affectioned toward thee that He gives even His Son for thee, then thy heart also must in its turn grow sweet and kindly affectioned toward God, and so thy confidence must grow out of pure good-will and love -- God's love toward thee and thine toward God. We never read that the Holy Spirit was given to any one when he did works, but always when men have heard the Gospel of Christ and the mercy of God. From this same Word and from no other source must faith still come, even in our day and always. For Christ is the rock out of which men suck oil and honey, as Moses says, Deuteronomy xxxii.

(Emphasis added)

The link can be found here:

It seems incongruent with his other writings, as well as with Lutheranism in general. I think there is something idiomatic going on there, but I am not sure. If someone can enlighten me, I would appreciate it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Faith, works and synergy

If faith is the gift of God, as Christ and the Apostle say, then where is the synergy when someone gives us unrighteous pukes a "free gift" as St. Paul said?

Sanctification is synergistic and that is where our works in faith "fit"--however sanctification is not trust in the promises of God, it is not passing from death into life, which is faith. So faith, in the sense of our adoption as sons, in the sense of God granting us the Holy Spirit, is not synergistic--it is pure grace. To put it succinctly, when an infant is baptized, where is the synergy? When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, where was the synergy? When Jesus raised the widow of Nain's son, where was the synergy?

There was no synergy, because those things are examples of God's gracious acts on his creation.

That is how we receive faith, by an act of God upon us and not by our striving. That is how we are justified by faith alone, and not by works of the law. There is no synergy because, as St. Paul says, we are dead in trespasses and sins and raised to life by the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation--just like Lazarus was dead and was called to life through Christ's word. The only synergy is that we, as new, living beings in Christ, willingly cooperate in serving God and our neighbor.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Than which fewer wiser things have been said on any discussion board....

EO negative theology would be a lot more convincing if it weren't so concerned about terms and definitions yourselves, and didn't demand that everyone adopt your exact way of saying things.

UPDATE: Link fixed

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

If you want to be the Church, deny the Augsburg Confession!

From Cyberbrethren:

“The Commission for Theology advises the Council of the EKD not to accept the Augsburg Confession as a primary confession in the EKD fundamentals.” The Commission is co-chaired by Michael Beintner (Münster) and Professor Dorothea Wendebourg. The vote was unanimous and agreed to by the EKD Council, which affirmed its readiness to continue strengthening the bonds of the EKD. Instead of accepting the Augsburg Confession, a document that both Lutherans and Protestants in Germany agree “has been the core confession of all of German Protestantism from 1530 to 1806″ (Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, Münster), the Council referred dissenters to its 2001 adoption of “Church Fellowship in Evangelical Understanding” (KneV). There it states that the EKD does not seek to form “a canonical church, like her member churches,” since the EKD already is [the] church in the fullest sense of the word. Perhaps mindful that KneV was German Protestantism’s response to the Vatican’s August 2000 document “Dominus Iesus,” which affirmed the primacy of the Roman Church over all other “ecclesial communities,” EKD President Hermann Barth stated, “Measures by which the EKD must first become the church are not necessary, since she is already it in the theological sense, since church fellowship is church.” The EKD reaffirmed it’s continuing commitment to the Leuenberger Konkordie.

So, if someone is already the Church, what do they need with the Augustana? Put another way, it seems that the EKD (Evangelische Kirche Deutchland?) has no need for the primary Evangelical confession, which makes one wonder why they consider themselves "Evangelical".

I am really beginning to think that Liberal Protestantism is becoming so unhinged from any semblance of history or tradition they they are becoming--funny! I don't really mean that in a glib way, it is as if we were playing the game "how far can they go?"

Apparently, quite far. Think about it, the ultimate end of being Evangelical is to deny the doctrines of the Evangelical Church are binding, the ultimate end of being Christian is to deny Christ (UCC, others on the way), the ultimate end of studying the Scriptures is to deny the Scriptures (modern critical theory). All the while, they are "church", because they say they are, and all that matters is a few specific words and some scholarly mambo-jumbo.

It is actually pretty funny if you think about it, though in a tragic way.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I think if he was called "Pastor Polanski" or "Father Polanski" there would be no celebrities asking for clemency, and there would be a lot of talk about "protecting the children" from sexual predators. It seems that for many of our betters, it doesn't matter what you do so much as who you are. A Christian? Throw the book at him! A gifted "artiste"? Hey, the girl was a bit mature anyway....and it was only sex.

I fail to see why being punished for raping a 13 Y.O. girl--something he plead guilty to to--is of so little import that we can just forget about it. Unless you happen to be of the wrong tribe, of course!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Apologitis is a fairly common ailment on religious blogs which discuss interfaith issues. If you have any two of the following symptoms in a thread, you probably have apologitis:

1) You feel compelled to respond to every critique of your religion such that you spend hours discussing minutia, because everything must be defended. Typical examples are arguing about how your opponent is arguing, and quick, ill thought out responses which, after you read them, even you can see are full of question begging and poor reasoning but never retracted or clarified. But SOMETHING had to be said!

2) You will not retract an obviously false argument because it will hurt your "team". Examples are, when the facts are against you, simply state your opponent does not understand what you are saying about your incredibly deep and nuanced tradition, despite the fact it is a valid critique and the critique does show some tension in your beliefs. This is often used as evidence of the density of your opponent, and that he needs homework assignments. These homework assignments are best when they are thick tomes full of obscure language. This re-enforces the point that your opponent does not understand you and your incredibly deep tradition, as only the knowledgeable can really "get" the source you have assigned, which will clear everything up as soon as they are read.

Another tactic is to feign fatigue because your bovine opponent cannot deal with your rapier-like wit and argumentation. At all times, it is critical to insure the light of reason is shown to be 100% on your side, while anything your opponent says is so obviously wrong only a simpleton could possibly believe it and deny the luminescence of the Truth(tm).

3) You act passive-aggressive toward your opponent in an attempt to look superior. Examples are trying to get the last word explicitly by constantly posting to exhaust your opponent, or implicitly by posting an aggressive argument and offering to let the opponent get the last word out of the bigness of your hart; combined with the statement about the obvious dullness of your opponent.

4) You claim that what ever criteria your tradition has for determining truth is applicable for any other tradition. When cornered, you simply appeal to the obvious truth of the epistemological structure your tradition uses. Examples are Roman Catholics citing Roman Catholic traditions as if they are self evident or wild claims that "the Church" has stated something which "the" Church has not, or Protestants simply citing their confessional documents and/or the peculiar interpretations of Scripture of said tradition as proof.

The cure is Christian humility.

1) If your tradition depends on a single pet argument you have, you need to find a new tradition because it is a weak and easily refuted tradition.

2) As a corollary, if your tradition depends on you to defend it, find another tradition for the same reason.

3) A little intellectual honesty goes a long way. If someone does not accept the same authority you do, that authority is pretty useless for convincing anyone, no matter how many times you post it and pretend the truth is obvious. Also, any tradition which is not brand new will have something going for it, so don't pretend otherwise either actually or rhetorically.

4) Rhetorical games make your argument look weak. If you don't have the time to post, it is almost always better to just say so and not try and gain the upper hand with a faux magnanimity. Alternatively, if someone is a jerk, just stop posting and don't feed the troll--see 1 and 2 above.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pseudointellectual Dreck

I am watching History International and I learned the following:

1) The Nag Hammadi writings portray Mary Magdalene as a sort of proto-feminist heroine because she spoke up against St. Peter, who said Jesus would never teach such knowledge to a woman.

2) A modern scholar can read the minds of e.g. St. Athanasius and state with a straight face that he wanted to suppress gnosticism because he felt threatened by the gospel of finding God from self reflection. As everyone knows, salvation extra nos cannot possibly be true, because we are the center of everything and have divinity within us.

3) The Madonna and child imagery is just taken from Egyptian mythology--apparently no one ever thought to portray a mother and child without referencing Egyptian mythology.

4) Christians apparently didn't have a single new idea--everything was pinched from the pagans in the neighborhood.

5) Muslim conquerors were humane compared to others, especially the notoriously viscous Byzantines.

Itching ears, indeed.

Come to think of it, I suppose liberal Christianity does indeed have ancient roots.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why does the pastor say "I" during absolution?

Here is what I think is happening during Absolution. The pastor says "I" because he is in Christ's seat when he gives absolution, because when he does so he acts in accordance with Christ's command and his word of promise.

As to why we need absolution during out life here on earth, we have to do it again not because we necessarily flop back and forth between salvation and damnation, but because we sin--we are sinners as touching our sinful acts and desires and justified as touching our relationship with the Father through Christ. Because we are both at the same time, we still struggle with the sin we were born with and into. The more we grind Adam into dust, the more Godly our acts.

Finally, keep in mind that the objectivity of what is going on is important to Lutherans--it is important we believe the minister when he says our sins are forgiven, because without belief we cannot benefit from the promise of absolution God is iffering through Jesus Christ via the minister.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

At what point would a pro abortion stance automatically excommunicate us?

This is something which ranckles me a little bit. You see, the LC-MS and the RCC, as well as the EOC have strong positions against abortion--it is simply a sin, though I think the EOC and LC-MS will permit an abortion in the case of the mother's life being at risk--I am not sure abou tthe RCC.

Now, I am not aware of any prominent LC-MS politicians which hold to a pro abortion point of view, though if they exist the same critique would apply to them. And if there are some, I would hope they are not as radical as Nancy Pelosi, Rudolph Giuliani and the recently deceased Edward Kennedy. For that reason I will concentrate on those three prominent RC politicians.

Each one is committed to a "pro choice" view, which is defined as intrinsically evil by the RCC. (And I am not really picking on the RCC here, it is just that I am more familiar with their "pro choice" public figures). I am not sure about Giuliani, but both Pelosi and Kennedy are and were in favor of public funding of abortion, which means I have to pay for acts which I believe are intrinsically evil. So, given that, how does Nancy Pelosi get a papal audience, receive communion and otherwise get to go around and parade her RCism in public and yet maintain a firm commitment to an intrinsically evil act? Edward Kennedy did more or less the same, and received a full RC burial, and was for all appearances a member of the RCC in good standing. Giuliani was, to my knowledge, specifically instructed not to receive communion by the cardinal. But if that is not true, the same critique applies to him.

So, what gives? how can one publicly maintain support for an intrinsically evil act and remain in communion with the Church? I always though public, flagrant sin was a cause for excommunication. Perhaps I am missing something.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ELCA off the cliff

When I heard the news, I wasn't surprised, and only a little disappointed. I mean, it is not like orthodoxy was flourishing before now. The trends have been clear for a long while. And anyone who cannot see that the Scriptures do not permit a homosexual lifestyle is doing theological sophistry. If you want to allow things the Scriptures forbid, don't say your doctrine is based on the Scriptures and admit you disagree.

What will be the effect? The ELCA has by this action proclaimed openly what many have said about her before, she is just another post-modern, culture affirming liberal Church. Less liberal than some, to be sure, but that will change over time. By being in fellowship with so many, how can she speak for American Lutheranism? What do they bring to the table which the UCC does not?

Of course, I hope and pray that the people and clergy in the ELCA "fix" this, but I don't think the problem is gay ministers, but that there is functionally no doctrinal authority except the hierarchy itself. In other words, there is a lot to fix.


This is really interesting if it pans out. It appears that a freak tornado went through Minneapolis during the events described above, and shredded some tents and knocked the cross off a church used by the convention when the vote was to be taken.

Symbolism abounds. :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

The President says I am a sinner....

"President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans."


I don't think my religion should determine my politics per se, but I find it offensive that the President of the United States would basically call me unethical because I don't think the government is an efficient, or I daresay, ethical distributor of health care resources for the nation. We are supposed to care for our neighbor, but the government taking resources from one and giving it to another does not make the one whose resources are taken more "ethical", nor does it make the one doing the taking more ethical. Government is force, and necessary, but it is not necessarily a force for ethoical good.

In fact, I think this kind of government moralizing and doctrinizing is what got the LCMS started. "All you fuddy-duddy Lutherans better get with the program and unite with your Reformed neighbors and stop hanging on to your narrow doctrines...."


It gets worse:

""We are God's partners in matters of life and death," Obama said, according to Moline (paging Sarah Palin...), quoting from the Rosh Hashanah prayer that says that in the holiday period, it is decided "who shall live and who shall die.""

I don't find this comforting at all, not one little bit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This made me think of pomo worship

When I saw this video, I immediately thought of "contemporary worship". I know that isn't totally fair, but that is what came to mind with all the "relevance" and "packaging" and being "easy to follow".


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When the facts are on your side....

I see a pattern in how any critique of RCism is dealt with by RC apologists. Let's suppose I wave 1 Clement 32 under an apologist's nose:

"Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, "Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven." All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And 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."

Well now, that seems pretty straight forward--we are saved by faith and not works--even our godliness and works done in purity of heart. So, Clement seems to have taught something like justification by faith alone, which is a torpedo amidships for accusations of Luther's "innovation".

Well, no, if you ask an RC apologist.

You see, Clement is RC, so he must agree with the current position of the RCC.

I think this is besides the point.

If I argued that Trent said justification by faith alone is the true doctrine of justification, RC apologists would not bother with "The writers of Trent are RC, so an RC interpretation is the correct one", they would argue from the words of Trent themselves. And they would be right, and it would be trivial to show I am wrong since justification by faith alone is explicitly condemned.

What I am getting to is this, there is an old lawyer saw that goes something like this:

"When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When neither is on your side, change the subject and question the motives of the opposition."

I submit that when an apologist, be he RC, EO, Lutheran or whatever, argues from generalities to make what is written mean something quite different from what seems to be the natural sense of what is written, he tacitly admits he does not have the facts on his side. I think something like this is going on with this Clement quote--the RCs have tacitly admitted the facts are on not their side, so they change the subject to "If Clement is RC he agrees with us..." This is a common tactic in my experience.

I also think pope St. Clement did teach something very like justification by faith alone.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Just to catch up first, I was unemployed for a bit, but I found work so it looks like my family and me will be OK. I would like to thank the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and everyone for their prayers. I have never been unemployed before and I have to say it is a very stressful experience. We had some money saved but with little or no income, which means the "burn rate" is rather frightening. We were spiritually sustained by our congregation as well as friends and family. Thank God it is over, and I hope and pray for anyone who has to go through such a stressful period.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why posting has been light

I recently lost my contract, and I am looking foe more work. Until I find it, I will not be able to post too much.

Prayers are appreciated.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Epistemological Modesty

I saw this here:

Epistemological Modesty [Jim Manzi]

Most of what I write about can be summarized in the following four sentences by David Brooks:

The correct position is the one held by self-loathing intellectuals, like Isaiah Berlin, Edmund Burke, James Madison, Michael Oakeshott and others. These were pointy heads who understood the limits of what pointy heads can know. The phrase for this outlook is epistemological modesty, which would make a fine vanity license plate.

The idea is that the world is too complex for us to know, and therefore policies should be designed that take account of our ignorance.

Which is fairly humbling, and not the greatest advertisement in the world for reading any of my essays.

I think the same applies to theology. There are a lot of "pointy headed" theologians who's ideas and teachings undermine key theological truth by layering on precept over precept--Bishop Spong is one famous example. There are examples in all churches I am familiar with. In fact, I think there is a good case that much of the Reformation was a reaction against the "pointy heads" who had some rather elaborate theories about justification for one. Well, if our theories are rally completely novel, such as "development of doctrine", then there is a really high chance that we do not respect pour own ignorance of divine things and end up rejecting what was revealed by God. Now, this is not to say that theology is useless, just that the "pointy heads" should be careful lest their theories supplant what we have received through divine revelation. In fact, I was subjected to this when I was an apologist against skeptics: my arguments began to supplant my faith in Christ, he became more of an idea I could hang other ideas around instead of the Lord of Life come to save me. Of course, my arguments were impeccable, though!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Is the Pope still Catholic?

An interesting statement by Pope Benedict:

"Luther, the pope had told his audience, had been right to insist in sola fide, that a believer was justified by faith alone!"

Now, before we get too excited, here is how the pope defined faith:

"The pope defined faith as 'identification with Christ expressed in love for God and neighbour'. Such love fulfilled the law. Being justified meant simply being with Christ and in Christ. Christ alone was sufficient."

Depending on what "identification with Christ" means, there may be something significant here. Lutherans believe the faith by which we are saved is that we believe and take as our own what God has promised in Christ. This faith is the gift of God the Holy Spirit given through the preached Gospel. I can't place my finger on it, but it does seem to me that the pope's definition of faith is a different one, and it seems to me that it is centered on "identification with...".

This may cause some e-apologists heads to explode though:

"Luther had correctly translated Paul's words as 'justified by faith alone', the well-known sola fide, Benedict affirmed, as reported in the newspaper."

This translation was a famous "scurrilous interpolation" by Luther who only wanted to import his subjective, private judgement into the translation of the Bible, according to more than one RC e-apologist I have read.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009