Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, when we celebrate our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and is proclamation by the people as King. While prayerfully thinking about this event, it occurred to me that Jesus Himself knew that some, perhaps most, of those cheering him as King today would want him to be crucified by Friday. Since he was aware of his fate, and he is also fully human, it definitely adds to the "drama" if you will: Despite the support he was receiving, despite all he had done in his ministry, despite the fact that as Son of God he had an "out" from anything he wanted to avoid, he went flint faced to his death on the cross even though he knew the costs. I think this is why this holiday is sort of bitter-sweet, The Cross will always cast a shadow over all the hosannas.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On unity

If you are not in fellowship with a Church, any talk of theological unity is pretty meaningless.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Missing organic relationships between Reformation churches

I keep hearing about Luther spawning new churches. The problem is that I cannot find an organic relationship between Lutherans and e.f. the Anabaptists, except on the most tendentious grounds. For instance, it is not at all clear to me that the Zwinglians and Calvinists broke off from the Lutherans.

Any information or sources about this?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Atheists acting like Children

Sometimes atheists critiques of Christianity (or religion in general) amount to a child sayng "poo poo" and waiting for the adults to react. It is, in fact, one of the reasons it is difficult, if not impossible, to have any useful dialogue with an atheist. (HT Extra Nos) Consider this:

"When I'm accused, 'Why are you going after easy targets, the fundamentalist nutbags, why don't you take on the real theologians?', well, the real theologians like Pope Nazi [that would be the current occupant of the chair of St. Peter ed.] believe in miracles.'

Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, was conscripted into Hitler Youth, as were all German boys, when he turned 14.

'It's just surreal and completely gives the lie to the claim that the sophisticated theologians should look down on fundamentalist wingnuts. They are all the same."

"I can give you a devastating argument against religion in two words," Williams said in his introduction. 

'Senator Fielding.' Richard Dawkins said his IQ is lower than an earthworm, but I think earthworms are useful."

Har dee har har har. So, to critique religion Mr. Dawkins is allowed to dehumanize another man who happens to believe in Creationism. All par for the course for the morally and intellectually "superior" atheist--Stalin--a famous atheist--would approve I am sure. Just snuff the useless worm out as he just gets in the way.

And this from one of his acolytes:
"Broadcaster Phillip Adams and Melbourne ethicist Leslie Cannold urged atheists not to be too strident or fundamentalist as it could alienate moderate believers who shared their aims for a more secular society."
Ah yes, the rationalist/fundamentalist atheists. From the article it is clear that most speakers just mocked religion. As i said, this is th ebiggest tool in the atheist toolbag. Mockery has a place, but when it predominates it more or ess shows that there is really not too much of an argument behind it.

There was one commenter who said something which rang a bell:

"Melbourne atheist philosopher Tamas Pataki attracted little applause for suggesting the organised atheist movement was taking on the appearance of a religion 'with its priests, apostles and disciples, and this is the worst that could happen'."

Yup, just another religion, only this one asserts there is no god and the universe is ruled by heredity and necessity instead.

I wonder if Mr. Dawkins (and his most vociferous friends) has the stones to critique a Muslim theologian, say in Iran, the same way he does pope Benedict. After all, all believers in miracles are the same, right? I mean, he is so much smarter than all us rubes, and Muslims believe in a host of miracles. So when will he bring his mockumentary to someplace where Christianity is not the default religion and have a go? I think I know why. And I ask this because of his childish "critique" of Christianity. If all you can do is act like a child, then you are only going to preach to the choir, aren't you?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Calvin's theology is radically different from Luther's even if they sound the same

The more I read of Calvin, the more I see that it is really a different animal from Lutheranism--even of some concepts overlap. I don't mean to simply condemn Calvin and Calvinists, of course. It is just that the difference is plain every time I read his writings. For one, he is far more likely to say that something cannot be true because it offends reason than Luther was or than Lutherans in general are. Having said that, he is not as rigorously rational as I have believed. I don't get the sense that his rigorous logic gives way to mysticism or symply not resolving paradoxes, I mean that he is rigorously logical when it suits his philosophical axioms but he is quite willing to abandon strict logic when his axioms call for it. An example was his claim that the stone at the tomb rolled away when Jesus walked out, and then rolled back after he left, only to roll away again to show the empty tomb. (Calvin Institutes IV 17:29)

In any case, to my knowledge Lutherans have always taught that the Son, i.e. the eternal second person of the Trinity, is eternally begotten by the father throughout all time, not as a sort of one-time event before time. In this Lutherans more or less what historic Christianity teaches. However, Calvin has his doubts:

I hope the pious reader will admit that I have now disposed of all the calumnies by which Satan has hitherto attempted to pervert or obscure the pure doctrine of faith. The whole substance of the doctrine has, I trust, been faithfully expounded, if my readers will set bounds to their curiosity, and not long more eagerly than they ought for perplexing disputation. I did not undertake to satisfy those who delight in speculate views, but I have not designedly omitted anything which I thought adverse to me. At the same time, studying the edification of the Church, I have thought it better not to touch on various topics, which could have yielded little profit, while they must have needlessly burdened and fatigued the reader. For instance, what avails it to discuss, as Lombard does at length, (lib. 1 dist. 9,) Whether or not the Father always generates? This idea of continual generation becomes an absurd fiction from the moment it is seen, that from eternity there were three persons in one God.
(Calvin, Institutes I 13.29) [emph. added]

The eternal generation is not questioned so much because it is unbiblical as because it is absurd.

In my opinion, Calvin's admittedly uneven application of reason leads him down some theological dead ends, such as making Christ a person out of two natures, double predestination and his denial of the Real Presence, or the effacasy of Baptism. He is a little fuzzy on assurance--i.e. can or will a believer know he is elect, but even when he does speak of assurance he has a tendency to emphasize the quality of one's faith.

On all these points he differs from Lutheranism.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My son is reading...

Green Eggs and Ham, all by himself!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On the Lack of Context in Luther Quotes

Misquoting Luther actually has a long history in RC polemics, as James Swan has amply documented. In the previous thread on Luther, there was a lot of Sturm und Drang but little if any interaction with the context of Dave Armstrong's Luther citations. I asked him several times to explain if his citations of Luther support his comments about how Luther felt, and he responded by citing completely different sources to support his contentions. Not only that, but one of his readers, Adomnan, cited by him in that thread, stated this:

You, Dave, accurately quote Luther saying A. Swan digs up the texts where Luther said A (or some other text he sees as related), and notes that he also said B, C, D and E, the "context" of A. Swan then claims that because Luther said B, C, D and E, none of which contradict A, it follows that he didn't say, or didn't mean, A.
This is false on the face of it and, in my opinion, deserves no response other than perhaps a curt dismissal.
Keep in mind this was quoted approvingly by Dave Armstrong.  According to Adoman, only "A" matters. Nothing else is context if Mr. Swan thinks it is related. Indeed it cannot be related because according to Admonan, context can never make "A" mean "Not A".  That is a childish and naive view of how language works. We do not understand verbal communication by having a dictionary handy, nor do we ignore rhetorical devices such as irony, exaggeration etc. By ignoring context we only increase the likelihood that we will get something wrong.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Does Calvin teach infant faith is impossible?

Interestingly, Calvin does not deny infants can have faith. At first blush, it appears Calvin has it in mind that faith=knowledge of the will of God. This would be normally impossible fo ran infant. But like a green shoot coming up through the asphalt, Calvin seems to abandon his rationalism when he argues against the Anabaptists:

But how, they ask, are infants regenerated, when not possessing a knowledge of either good or evil? We answer, that the work of God, though beyond the reach of our capacity, is not therefore null. Moreover, infants who are to be saved (and that some are saved at this age is certain) must, without question, be previously regenerated by the Lord. (Institutes IV 16.17)

While in this particular section he goes on about the elect, as he is wont to do, none the less he states that an infant can have faith not based upon the understanding of the infant (Compare Institutes II 2.16-17) but as a sort of mystery. Indeed, he states that John the Baptist leaping in the womb is proof not of a special dispensation of God, but that God himself has shown infants can have faith.

Given this, can a reformed Baptist really be Calvinist?