Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inerrancy as a necessary presupposition to proclamation.

Inerrancy is a necessary presupposition of the Church's activity of proclamation.  This one of the major contradictions I find in the theology of people like Elert and Forde and in the conservatives in the ELCA.
Namely, if Forde is correct and proclamation of the Word gives absolute certainty of salvation, how is it that someone can claim that it’s not inerrant? In other words, I’m only saved because of certain historical events. To allow Scriptural history to be on the same level as all other history is to place it into the realm of probability. All history that we know, is in fact, merely probable. We have sources, we weigh evidence. But the Word and the Sacraments tells us that these things absolutely happened Pro me. So, if we believe that we are justified, Christ’s own history and therefore that of the whole Bible must be absolutely unquestionable. If not, then we are forced to say that Christ “probably” “died for our sins” and “probably rose for our justification.” Similarly, with the law, we “probably” “have all sinned” and “probably” “fallen short of the glory of God.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What happened to Wittenberg Trail?

I was trying to go to Wittenberg trail the other day and it's gone!  This is really strange.  It just disappeared.  Does anyone know what happened to it?

What's especially interesting is that that's where I met my wife.  If it hadn't been for that very small window where it did exist, we wouldn't be married now.

Can you imagine a Lutheran version of Back to the Future?  "Marty, we got to kept Wittenberg trail open- otherwise your parents won't meet!  I'm sending you back to 2005!"

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leupold on Genesis 44:33: You've got to be kidding me!

I was looking at a number of commentaries regarding different exegetical opinion on certain passages. My hope was to improve the manuscript of my book further by adding on to it. So, I was looking at the very old commentary by H.C. Leupold on Genesis, particularly Genesis 44. In this text, Judah offers himself as a subsitute for Benjamin. What does Leupold say about it: don't use this text for a sermon, it's no good for sermons.

Are you serious? I mean, Jesus' ancestor offers himself as a substitute for another, and you say you can't find anything to preach on in this. Seriously?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kingly Mediation: More from my book manuscript

This is a description of the fulfillment of kingly mediation that comes in the OT prophecies of the Davidic Messiah.

Kingly mediation would find fulfillment in that God promised David that he would place a son of his on his throne "endure forever before me" and "your throne will be established forever" (2 Sam. 7:16). This was a fulfillment of Israel's prophecy to Judah that eternal kingship would come from his line (Gen. 49:10).[1] Much like Josiah death as a representative of the sins of Israel, Judah offers himself as a substitute for his brother Benjamin earlier in the narrative of Genesis (Gen. 44:33).[2] Just as Isaiah prophesies about the fulfillment of the prophet like Moses, he also emphasizes the fulfillment of the Davidic Messiah. The Davidic Messiah, much like the figures prophesied to fulfill priestly and prophetic mediation, takes on divine qualities. He is described as "Immanuel" (7:14) that is, "God with us." In chapter 9, he is also described as "great light." This is more than reminiscent of the Servant of YHWH in chapter 49, being described as a "light to the nations," that we earlier connected with the divine kavod. Later, in the same chapter he is described as "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (v. 6). The adjectives "Mighty" (בֹּ֔ורגִ) and "Everlasting" (same word with "Father" Hebrew, אֲבִיעַד) are only predicated of YHWH elsewhere in the Old Testament.[3]
There also might be connection between the Messianic figure of chapter 9 and the Angel of YHWH. The LXX translates the verse not as "Wonderful Counselor" but rather as the "Angel of Great Council."[4] There is little in the Hebrew text that would definitely suggest this translation, nevertheless, it is highly suggestive that Second Temple Jews connected these texts with the other texts that we have previously discussed that connect the Messiah with the Angel of YHWH.
This divine identity of the Messiah is suggested elsewhere in the prophets. Ezekiel describes the situation thus: "'My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd" (Ezek. 37:24, Emphasis added). Earlier, God states that he will shepherd Israel: "I will shepherd the flock with justice" (34:16). Though text does not appear to explicitly teach a divine Messiah, what seems to be implicit is that because there is only one shepherd, God and the Davidic Messiah, are one person.[5] It should also be noted that Ezekiel's prophecies of the Messiah are connected with the coming of a new covenant ("I will make a covenant of peace with them" 34:25, an "everlasting covenant" 37:26) and the divine act of cleansing from sin ("I [will] cleanse you from all your sins" 36:33), which connect it to the prophecies of Isaiah 53, 61, Jeremiah 31 and Daniel 7, 9.
Moving on to Isaiah chapter 11, the Davidic Messiah is described as "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit" (11:1). This is very similar language to what we find elsewhere in the Old Testament. We read in Jeremiah 23 that the David Messiah who is also referred to as a "Branch" (v. 5). His name will be "The LORD Our Righteousness" which again, suggests a divinity. The language of "Branch" and "Shoot" is remarkably similar to that used in Isaiah 53: "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground" (Isa 53:2). The common wording of these passages suggests then that the "Branch" is the same person as the Servant. On a typological level as well, it also makes sense that the Davidic Messiah would be connected with the Servant, who acts as a new Passover lamb for a new exodus. Previously, in the case of Judah and Josiah, the Davidic line has acted as a substitute for others.
The description of the "Shoot" coming "out of dry ground" also appears to connect Isaiah 53 both with Isaiah 7 and Genesis 2. We are told that Adam was taken from the ground before it had rained on the earth (Genesis 2:6). This makes the Davidic Messiah a new Adam in that he takes over Adam's position in Genesis 1:28. Similarly, we are told in Isaiah 7 that "Immanuel" will be born of a "virgin."[6] Ground that has not been watered might very well be a metaphorical way of talking about virginity.[7] This not only connects the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 7, 9, 11 to the Servant songs, but also connects them to the protevangelium ("seed of the woman" being strongly suggestive of virgin birth, as we noted earlier), but also the prophecies of Daniel 7, 9, 10, which we have previously suggested have a direct connection to the Servant songs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So much for Biblical minimalism....

Ever since I can remember I have heard from the Biblical minimalist school say that there was no evidence of a Davidic kingdom-or at least that there was a very small one, with a small capitol. Of course, then there was an inscription found in Northern Israel with the name of the House of David on it- far, far away from Jerusalem (meaning it couldn't have been small as some of them claimed!). But now there's more evidence!

I just found this online. Interesting news report confirms a very large ancient Davidic kingdom:

The significance of this extraordinary find is that it provides new proof of the existence and power of the Davidic monarchy, the Israelite state that it led, and the more than 3,000-year-old Jewish presence in Jerusalem. These new discoveries, along with those of a previous dig in a different area of the city of David, contradict contrary Palestinian claims that the Jews have no claim to the area. They also debunk the assertions of some Israeli archeologists who have sought to portray the kingdom of David and Solomon as an insignificant tribal group and not the regional empire that the bible speaks about. Indeed, Mazar believes that the strength and the form of construction required to build these structures correlates with biblical passages that speak of Solomon’s building of a royal palace and of the Temple with the assistance of master builders from Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon). Moreover, contrary to those who speak of the Jewish presence in the city as a passing phase in ancient times, the discovery of Jewish seals, which speak directly of an Israelite state, proves that what Mazar has found are not the remains of a Jebusite fort conquered by the Jews but rather of a great city built by David and his son Solomon.While finding ancient Jewish artifacts as well as the traces of Solomon’s city in Jerusalem may seem nothing out of the ordinary, for the last century and a half, a great many academics and intellectuals have attempted to put down the existence of the ancient Jewish kingdom — which has always served as a symbol of Jewish nationhood — as a religiously-inspired fiction. This deconstruction of both biblical literature and history has sought to undermine the very idea of the historical truth about ancient Israel as well as the notion that Jewish nationhood had its roots in the past. This has been put to use by anti-Zionists and Arabs who have thought that if they could destroy the idea of King David’s existence as a historic figure, they could delegitimize modern Israel. Thus, Palestinian propagandists and the Palestinian Authority itself, which has steadfastly denied any Jewish connection to the Old City, the Temple Mount, or even the Western Wall, have copied revisionist scholarly work doubting Jewish history and incorporated that work into their negotiating position about the city’s future. The Muslim religious authority that controls the site of the Temple Mount has vandalized the area, destroying a treasure trove of antiquities in the ancient place because they fear that any find that betrays the Jewish origins of the place will undermine their fallacious claims that seek to portray Jews as foreign occupiers in their own ancient capital.

Evolution as election?

My favorite seminary prof. at Luther Seminary Steven Paulson gives a lecture to be found here:

(it's the one on sexuality) where he suggests that evolution is a doctrine of election. Since animals compete to see who will survive, it is a doctrine of election based on the law. I make a similar point in my upcoming article on vocation- new creation occurs like old creation, purely by grace.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Natural Theology: Argument from Cause.

Back to natural theology.

On Tuesday I had my student debate intelligent design vs. theistic evolution (atheistic evolution, in light of the premise of the class, was not an option open to them).  

Anyways, one of them asked me (the sole non-religious girl in the class) when I said I thought that there was no contradiction between good science and good philosophy and Christian theism, asked me how I could say that.  I went back to natural theology and noted arguments from design and from cause.

Now came the typical question: "If you make the argument from cause, who caused God?"

I explained to her that first, one could not say that there was an infinite series of causes in the universe because that would mean that the universe was infinite (only an infinite universe could have an infinite series of causes).  We know very well from modern astronomy and physics that this isn't the case.

Secondly, God is not a casual agent like other casual agents, that is, a link on the change of cause.  Rather, he is the infinite and necessary cause the serves as the foundation of every cause.  
Similarly, every cause is not like every other cause.  Every cause is derived from a cause greater than itself.  My parents are great than I am.  The earth and it's environment which are the necessary conditions for my parents, as well as all other life to exist, are great than them as well.  Finally, the whole universe, which serve as a basis of the earth, its laws, its environment, etc. is great than it.  It is a cause in the sense that earth is dependent upon it. 

If this is the case, then the whole universe must be casually dependent upon something greater than itself.  If what it is dependent upon is great than itself, it must be an infinite and timeless being.  Why?  Because this being must be greater than time, in that he made time.  Therefore he must be timeless.  Similarly, he must be greater than space and the only thing greater than space is infinity.

So, logically, the universe must be casually dependent on an infinite and timeless being.

Friday, February 19, 2010

19th century Lutheran Theologians in favor of Angelomorphic Christology.

I found a list in Hoenecke of 19th century Lutheran exegetes who supported Angelomorphic Christology. I'm including it in a footnote in my book. Here it is for all of you as well:

Adolf Hoenecke, Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics, vol. 2 (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2009), 170-3.

Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Die Offenbarung des heiligen Johannes, 2 Vols. (Berlin : L. Oehmigke, 1849-1851), 1:66.

Carl Friedrich Keil, Bibelsk commentar over Genesis (Christiania: Cammermeyer, 1870), 126.

Karl Kahnis, Die Lutherische Dogmatik, Historisch-Genetisch Dargestellt, 3 vols. (Leipzig, Dörffling und Franke, 1861-68), 1:396-7, 399.

Gottfried Thomasius, Christi Person und Werk, 2 vols. (Erlangen, A. Deichert, 1886-88) 1:77.

Friedrich Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, 6 vols. (Stuttgart: Samuel Gottlieb Liesching, 1854-81), 2:19, 194.

Wilhelm Rohnert, Die Dogmatik der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche, (Braunschweig: H. Wollermann1902), 145.

Does "Angel" mean "Person"?

Michel Barnes has argued (following Jean Danielou) that the word "Angel" in the OT and Jewish tradition before the Rabbis often carried the "theological freight" that the word "Person/hypostasis" did in post-Nicene Christian discourse. This is a very helpful suggestion, especially for those like myself and Charles Gieschen, who follow the Church Fathers and the Orthodox Lutheran dogmaticians in holding the Angel of YHWH to be the second person of the Trinity.

Read Barnes' two articles on Angelomorphic pneumatology here:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Original sin anyone?

More on evil.

My wife just told me that she asked her history class about how many of them believed that people are basically good. Eveyone raised their hand, with one exception. A LCMS woman who my wife and I have taken to church with us.

I mean, really? Do you guys ever watch the news?

Hoenecke on Evil.

I'm done with Hinlicky and back to Adolf Hoenecke, who I was taking a break from. His systematic theology is very interesting. It's much more learned and critical of the 17th century tradition than Pieper's is, though basically the results are the same.

Interesting piece on evil.

Question: Does God will evil?

Before you answer too quickly, consider this: God sustains the evil person while they do the evil act. Furthermore, God eternally foreknew the evil act and didn't prevent it.

So, does God will evil?

Hoenecke has an interesting answer and one I think to be close to Luther's in Bondage of the Will.

Considered as an individual act- that is, in and of itself- God does not will evil. Neither does God somehow cause people to will in evil ways. But God does will a certain providential plan that incorporates the evil act. The evil act is a key aspect of God's plan. So, though does not will evil as an individual act, he wills and allows certain evil actions as part of his larger plan.

What do you all think of this? Is he going too far towards Calvinism?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The eschatological fulfillment of the priesthood.

Here's another section of my book. This is the end of the section on priestly mediation. I discuss Old Testament prophecy of the fulfillment of the priesthood. Remember this is a rough draft, so I haven't worked out all the bugs yet.

The priestly mediation was not successful throughout the Old Testament. The mediation of the priesthood could not hold off the exile. Furthermore, the priesthood could not by its own ministrations communicate holiness, but rather was dependent on God's presence and justifying power. Beyond the texts in Leviticus we have examined where God lends his holiness to Israel, in Zechariah 3, the Angel of YHWH purifies the high priest Joshua so that cult will be able to function. All this suggests that the Angel of YHWH, which we have seen is identical with the divine kavod present in and enables the cult, also functions as a heavenly high priest (a widely held belief among the Jews of the Second Temple period[1]). He is a heavenly high priest, just as he also functions as a prophet speaking to the Patriarchs (Gen. 18, 22) and a heavenly king, leading the armies of YHWH (Exod. 23, Josh. 5, Dn. 10). Daniel 10:4 suggests that the Angel of YHWH, who here is pictured dressed in the robes of a high priest,[2] is at the same time is the leader of YHWH's heavenly armies (v.20). He effectively posses the dual roles of a heavenly priest and king. This is figure also appears to be identical with the "one like a Son of Man" in Daniel 7. As Fletcher-Louis notes, the Son of Man must be a high priestly figure, because he undoes all the impurity in creation (symbolized by the mixed animals that come from the sea) by coming on "clouds" (reminiscent of clouds of incense that the high priest "rides" in entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement) while entering into the divine presence.[3] He is also given universal dominion (v. 14) a prerogative of the Israelite king/Messiah described in Psalm 2:2, and a position held by the protological high priest Adam in Genesis 1:28. This figure must also be identified with the divine kavod, because he comes on the glory cloud which is a sign of the divine presence from elsewhere in the Old Testament (see Exod. 40, 1 Kgs 7-8) and because as a human figure he is pictured in an almost identical way as the vision Ezekiel has of the divine kavod in Ezekiel 1-2.[4] All these prophetic visions bear a striking resemblance to the figure that appears in the Psalm 110, who refers to a heavenly figure who is both the "lord" (v. 1) at right hand of God and also a "priest after the line of Melchizedek" (v. 4).
Not only does the Old Testament suggest that there is a parallel between the earthly high priest and a heavenly high priest who is the Angel of YHWH/kavod, but it predicts an eschatological fulfillment to priestly mediation as we saw hinted at above. We are told in Numbers 25:13 that God has promised the Levites an eternal priesthood.[5] Nevertheless, as was clear from earlier texts, the priesthood is under the Sinaitic covenant just as much as the rest of Israel. If so, then their failure and sinfulness would logically disqualify them to possess a perpetual priesthood as it did with the house of Eli in 1 Samuel. To maintain the promise of eternal priesthood, God must act to purify creation and the make the priesthood function in a final eschatological act.
Such an implicit eschatological expectation becomes more explicit in the writings of the later prophets. In Malachi 3:3, we are told that God himself will come to purify the sons of Levi. The text also tells us that God himself will come to his Temple to purify it in the form of the Angel of the Lord: "Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger [or "Angel"] of the covenant, whom you desire, will come" (Mal 3:1, Emphasis added). This connects with the expectation of the return of God to Zion, found in Isaiah 40 and Ezekiel 37-39. In Zechariah 3, we are told that the Angel of YHWH's purification of the high priest prefigures (v. 8) God's eschatological action of redemption: "I will remove the sin of this land in a single day"(v. 9).
The descriptions of the actions of the eschatological high priest are scattered throughout the Old Testament in a variety of interconnected texts. As we have already noted, the Servant of YHWH in the later chapters of Isaiah is identified as the new Passover lamb, necessitated by the new exodus. He is, as we have also suggested, identified in chapter 49 and 63 with the Angel of YHWH and the kavod. This identification is deepened by the description of the Angel of YHWH Isaiah 63:9 as possessing both robes soaked in blood (Isa 63:2) and the role of the divine warrior (v. 1-5), much like Leviticus' portrayal of the high priest. As was previously noted, the Angel of YHWH is also said in v. 9 to be afflicted with the afflictions of the people in order to redeem them. This therefore identifies him with the afflicted Servant of chapter 53. In the same way, atonement lead to the a universal Jubilee. We are told that the Servant announces such a Jubilee in Isaiah 61 and that he "justifies" many in 53.
Isaiah 53, 61, and 63, find an intertextual echo in Daniel 7 and 9. The kavod, is described as functioning in Daniel 7 as a universal and heavenly high priest coming to God's throne to enact a universal Day of Atonement. If the Son of Man comes to God's throne, he must have like the earthly high priest on the Day of Atonement have an offering to make to God. Like the suffering Servant, he therefore implicitly makes "intercession for the transgressors"(Isa. 53:12) by this offering. The Son of Man is also exalted to the divine throne in the same manner as the Servant, who after his sufferings has "portion among the great" (v. 12). In light of the New Testament's identification (which we will examine below) and these striking parallels, we must posit that this text is suggesting that the Son of Man is the same person being spoken of in Isaiah 53 as the Servant.
Daniel 9 is also highly suggestive of this parallel. We are told that: "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy" (Dn 9:24). Seventy "sevens" or "weeks" (as the KJV translates it) represent the fulfillment of ten Jubilees (Lev. 25). The number appears to suggest not an actual timeline, but rather symbolically convey a supreme and definitive Jubilee. The finality of this Jubilee is deepened by the statement that in this period there will be an "end of transgression" and establish "everlasting righteousness." The agent of this transformation must be a divine and heavenly high priest (described as the Son of Man earlier), since God alone can bring "everlasting righteousness." This also parallels the "year of the Lord's favor" of Isaiah 61 enacted by the Servant. The seventy weeks (or as it is restated "sixty-two sevens and seven-sevens, i.e., sixty nine sevens, that is, a "seven" before ultimate fulfillment) will culminate in the coming of the "the Anointed One, the ruler" (v. 25).
This prince or anointed one "will confirm a covenant with many" (v. 27) which will end sacrifice. The confirmation of this covenant is presumably is tied up with a new order of redemption. Because of the universal Day of Atonement and a supreme Jubilee, sacrifice for the sake of atonement will no longer be necessary. The anointed one is therefore also identical with the Servant who is a "covenant to the nations," the "Angel of the covenant" of Malachi 3 and the prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18. He is indeed like Moses, in that he also mediates a covenant. Lastly, since this covenant is tied up with "ending sacrifice" and bringing "everlasting righteousness" (i.e. forgiveness and sanctification) it must be thought to be identical with Jeremiah's "New Covenant." This parallel is suggested by the fact that Daniel at the beginning of the chapter is reading a scroll of Jeremiah (v. 2). Part of God's promise to Jeremiah regarding the new covenantal order is that Israel will never lack a priestly mediator to stand before him (Jer. 33:18). This finds fulfillment in the announcement that the anointed one will be "will be cut off and will have nothing" (v. 26).[6] This again directly parallels the fate of the Servant of Isaiah 53 (who is also "cut off" v. 8), and implicitly the Son of Man of Daniel 7 (who as we saw, has an offering to offer the "Ancient of Days"). For this reason, the anointed one must be both the heavenly high priest, who is the Angel of YHWH/kavod, and the eschatological suffering Servant who brings about a "New Covenant" through his earthly vicarious suffering and death. In a word, this must be the "seed of the woman," whom we know to be Christ.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Knowledge by participation? Or, are the Finns on to something?

This occurred to me while receiving communion yesterday.  I was thinking about why for Melanchthon it wasn't that big a deal to let go of exact language regarding what was going in the Lord's Supper, whereas for Luther denial of the real presence the worst theological crime possible.  In the same, I was thinking- why isn't there a doctrine of unio mystica in Melanchthon?

For all my criticism of the Finns, I do think that they're on to something.  This is true even if they ultimately execute take a particular idea too far or draw too many conclusion out of it.

So, Luther and Melanchthon ultimately do agree about justification as forensic, as I argued last time.  Furthermore, this is very clear from the historical record.  Beyond this, they both agree that justification is prior to faith even and creates faith.  Consequently, claiming that unio mystica is in fact the same as justification or simultaneous with it is out.

I will agree though that there is a difference between them in how they conceive how the divine-human relationship through faith is conceived.  This is what I think the Finns are picking up on and then distorting somewhat.  Nevertheless, it leads them to a valid insight that for Luther is fundamentally participatory, whereas for Melanchthon it is not.

Allow me to explain.

Melanchthon studied Aristotle as a young man.  This was not the Aristotle of the Scholastics, but he was studying Aristotle in the Greek.  He believed that Aristotle could serve as the basis of the program of study at Wittenberg.  Most importantly though he bought into Aristotle concept of language and knowledge.

According to Aristotle, we know things by having them impressed on our intellects.  This makes an imprint or copy in your mind.  To know a thing isn't participatory per se.  It means having the effect impressed on you.

Let's think about justification then.  If God tells me through the preacher "Your sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus" and I believe it, is actual presence of Jesus in that faith required?  Not exactly.  Perhaps I need the Holy Spirit to move me to accept it, but that's it. 
What has to happen, is that that piece of information about Jesus did simply has to be impressed on my mind so that I know it.

In the same way, what's the point of Jesus being present in the Lord's Supper if you hold this theory of knowledge?  In other words, if assurance of justification as something impressed on your intellect is what your looking for, why not just make the Lord's Supper a means whereby the person of Christ is present and impresses upon your intellect the information that "Jesus died for your sins."  Eating flesh and blood then don't matter a hill of beans!  And in later life, (for example in Loci Communes 1555), that's about all Melanchthon was willing to affirm about the Supper.

Now, let's move to Luther.  Luther is a man of the Bible, but he has also studied Aristotle (though in Latin translation).  He's also been greatly formed by monastic piety.  These are both important factors.

First, in the Bible, knowledge is always participatory.  For example, the word "know" means have sexual intercourse (as we all know).  Nonetheless, it also means the act of epistemic comprehension (as it would in English).  This is why God uses sacraments throughout the Bible.  Eating means knowing, because it means participating in the object of knowledge (hence the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil- having participating in disobeying God one will now really know evil!).  That is to say, knowing a thing is really getting it in you.  That's the only way you know it.

Monasticism had worked similarly in Luther's day.  The idea that one would enter into the suffering of Jesus by taking up the cross.  We can see this in Luther's early writings.  He believed that Christian should enter into the suffering of Jesus and have their ego destroyed.  Suffering what Jesus suffered, you would really know Jesus and become like him.

We can see this Biblical and Monastic piety reflected in his later theology.  This is the entire basis of his method of theology.  Meditation, prayer, suffering, is all about experiencing God in this way.  Unless God breaks you down and you "suffer divine things" then you can't know God.  If you can't know God, then you really can't be a theologian.

Later, after the Reformation breakthrough Luther retains this idea to the extent that knowledge of justification means being "baked into one cake with Christ."  Receiving the real presence of Christ in faith, he becomes the thing which impresses itself on the intellect of the believer.  He uses the Aristotelian description of form/matter to suggest that Christ is present in the act of faith and imposes himself directly by his presence on the person's mind: "Christ is the form of faith."  Faith is a "ring, Christ is the jewel."  Receiving Christ with faith, means knowing Christ by mystical union.  Christ is of course still for us before he is in us, and therefore FC is correct that for Luther justification is prior to mystical union.  

It's important to see this in the LC also.  This is why he states that Baptism is a literal death and resurrection.  One doesn't really have the promise of baptism based on Christ's death unless one literally participates in it.  

Finally, we can see in this perspective why the real presence in the blessed sacrament of the altar was so important to Luther.  It is as Sasse said, the "Gospel is the sacrament and the Sacrament is the Gospel"!  One does not have Christ in the sacrament present and giving himself to you to be known, then you do not know him and his present self-giving reality.

Colloquy Denied.

I just received a letter that my application for colloquy has been denied.  Reason: They did not believe that the academic program that I had studied in constituted one headed for ordained ministry.

Let us follow Luther's explanation of the 8th commandment and put the best possible spin on this.  Clearly my M.A. is not an M.DIV, but it was received from a seminary and the courses I took could be incorporated into an M.DIV if I had decided to do this (at Luther Seminary, the overwhelming majority of all the students in my classes were getting M.DIVs).  

At best then, this is a technicality.  The good spin on it is that the committee did not quite understand this.  From what I've heard from other people, there might be other reasons why they made this decision, but again, I do not know.  It is my duty to speak well of my fellow human being as best I can, so for this reason I will not speculate either.

This being said, I perhaps am being called by God to look other direction regarding my career.  There is still a road to ordination if I want to take it, but it is considerably harder.  In any case, I know that God provides for my every need and is always doing what is best for me.  

Friday, February 12, 2010

Splitting Hairs: Luther and Melanchthon on Justification

More on Hinlicky.

Hinlicky's account of the distinction between Luther and Melanchthon on justification is rather unsatisfactory in my mind.  

First, I find several remarks that he makes rather odd.  Like, for example, stating that German scholarship on Luther has failed to see that distinction between Luther and Melanchthon on justification- for whereas Luther believes justification is forgiveness and imputation plus renewal, Melanchthon just thinks its imputation.

Well, actually German scholarship has been dominated (since Karl Holl) with this particular idea.  The idea itself comes from Pietism and holds that Luther believed in something like Pietistic renewal, whereas Melanchthon corrupted justification into pure imputation.  This then becomes the position of orthodoxy which were were rescued from by Spener (thank goodness!). 

Hinlicky changes the sorry a little bit.  He's fascinated by the spell of the Finns and he's now taken over this into their new version of this narrative.

In the Finnish version of the Pietist/Luther Renaissance narrative, Luther believed in mystical union so much that he collapsed justification into it.  Melanchthon had a more prosaic mind and unfortunately held to a mere forensic justification.  This was accepted by the Formula of Concord and all Lutherans since have been duped into believing in forensic justification.  

Couple of points.  Hinlicky compares pre-reformational Luther quotations (1518) to Melanchthon of Loci Communes 1555.  In other words, these are apples with oranges.  What about the Disputations on Justification of the 1530s?  Doesn't Luther say there, when asked by Melanchthon to define justification, say "it properly means the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of righteousness" (i.e. it's purely forensic!)?  Why yes he does.

Jim Nestingen does a similar thing in a few articles when he compares Luther's statements about the law of the early 1520s, to Melanchthon's of the 1530s.  He uses this to claim a distinction between them on the doctrine of the law.  But in one case, Luther is fighting the Church of Rome.  In the other, Melanchthon is fighting Agricola.  Why don't you compare Melanchthon's later statements to Luther's statement in the Genesis commentary, Galatians commentary or Antinominian Disputation?

This also relates to Hinlicky's other claim that there is not ordo salutis in Luther of law first and then gospel.  Problem: First, if you believe this, then why didn't you cite a single text proving this?  Secondly, again, reading the end of Galatians commentary when he describes the function of the law in the Christian's life or Antinomian disputations, this doesn't make sense.  If you read those, it sounds very much like there is a ordo salutis of repentance based on the law and the faith in the gospel.  It also, really, really sounds like accepts a third use of the law.  

What about mystical union?  Yes, of course Luther emphasizes it more, but it was an emphasis of Lutheran orthodoxy as well- remember them?- those Melanchthonian infected theologians who ruined the whole tradition?  Want theosis?  Gerhard says that it was the reason for the Incarnation!  He states this also that the beginning of Sacred Meditations, quoting St. Athanasius.  He also says it alot in the new translation of the Theological Commonplaces Exegesis IV.

Argument of the Finns is that mystical union and justification are conflated, something the FC denies.  But how could it be any different?  After all, Luther says in the Large Catechism that we are justified before we ask for forgiveness.  In other words, the pronouncement of the promise is that our sins are already forgiven and that's what causes faith.  If justification there already before faith is created, how could one conflate the mystical union (which is a result of faith) with something that happens before faith?

Lastly, Hinlicky states that both Melanchthon and Luther believe in forensic justification in the sense that both believe that one is not saved for one's own sake, but on account of Christ.  Then how can there be a distinction on forensic justification between them?  In other words, it all comes down to how you use words.  If by justification, you mean standing as righteous before God, then you've just denied that Luther believed that renewal had any to do with rigtheousness before God and that in the end justification for Luther doesn't really also involve inner renewal.  If you simply mean the whole redemptive process, then again, Melanchthon also believes in sanctification- so where's the distinction?

The truth of the matter is, that Luther and Melanchthon had difference on free will and the Lord's Supper.  Otherwise, the differences are matter of emphasis, not teaching.  Bergt Hagglund showed this a long time ago.  He demonstrated that all this was a fiction of modern German Luther scholarship after Holl.  Lowell Green has also admirably shown this in How Melanchthon helped Luther Discover the Gospel.   As far as I can tell, there is zero difference on the question of justification.

What do covenantal sacrifices tell us about Christ?

Scott Hahn has noted that covenantal sacrifices symbolize the content of the covenant. In a section of my book on atonement, I suggest that the covenant sacrifices of the OT tell us a great deal about Christ. After all, they should since they are all fulfilled in Christ (see 2 Cor. 1:21!):

"The covenantal signs that occur through sacrifice or quasi-sacrificial ritual, therefore tell us a great deal about the coming of the Messiah whom they symbolize. These covenantal ceremonies also represent the covering of humanity's shame through sacrifice (Gen. 3:21), the renewal of creation and universal peace through an act of sacrifice (8:20,9:12-17), the promise of the death of God himself (15), the coming of the holy seed (17), a father offering his only son in the form of sacrifice (22), the offering of a substitute (Gen. 22, Exod. 13) and the death and resurrection of a beloved son (Gen. 22, 35, 45, the whole Exodus narrative)."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trinitarian Metaphors: Barth vs. Luther.

I'm presently reading Paul Hinlicky's book Paths Not Taken.

When reviewing Barth's descriptions of the Trinity and Luther's, it occurred to me that the two theologians use very different metaphors to describe the Trinitarian life.  Barth's description is "unveiled, unveiler, unveiling."  Luther's is "speaker, word spoken, hearing."

Barth's metaphors have to do with seeing, Luther's with hearing.  This makes sense in light of how they understand divine revelation.  Barth views divine revelation as the unfolding of a single subject (God) in an act of revealing himself in time.  He does this by echoing his eternal decision to be "one who loves in freedom" in the temporal narrative of Jesus.  This temporal narrative is "unveiling" is further echoed in "Jesus, Bible and proclaimed Word" which echoes the Father, Son and Spirit, as "revealed, revealer, revealing."  Barth's view of revelation is essentially analogical.  Analogy has to do with a kind of visible similitude between things and therefore envisions human knowledge (following Aristotle) as a kind of intellectual vision.

Luther's theology works on the basis of hearing.  In other words, God's agency manifests itself through the law which is present and visible through all creation.  Human can observe how the world works and see what God's legal will is.  They can also see this in the horrific act of judgment that God causes to take place in salvation history.  Nevertheless, God promises his grace and enacts under his act of judgment and under act of weakness.  The supreme one is the cross.  We are told that Jesus is God and that the cross is an act of grace.  Nevertheless, all we see is weakness (a weak, beaten and dying Christ) and condemnation (i.e. a symbol of Israel's sin and continuing exile).  Contrary to this, we hear "surely he was the Son of God" and "today you will be with me in paradise."  Consequently, revelation's hiddenness is transcended only by hearing the Word.  Proper knowledge of God is set against analogical and visible knowledge of God, and placed in the realm of hearing. 

 It therefore makes sense that Luther views God primarily in terms of hearing rather than vision or unveiling.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Did the Apostles Establish the Canon?

One of the thornier problems the Reformation had to deal with was why is the canon the canon?  In other words, how can we claim sola scriptura, when the Church established he canon?  There were a number of answers, but the most interesting comes from Chemnitz in the Examination of the Council of Trent.

First of all, we should note that Chemnitz does acknowledge the inner testimony of the Spirit that the Scriptures are the Word of God.  But this does not necessarily tell us exactly what is in the canon and what's not.  That is to say, one can theoretically preach the Word of God, that is, the Apostolic testimony, without having the canon of Scripture.  In fact, that's what people did before the Apostles deposited the faith in the form of writings.  As a result, a Christian living in the post-Apostolic era cannot hear the Word of God without hearing the content of the canon.  Nevertheless, he is also faced with the historical problem with what is from the Apostles and what is not.

Therefore, early Lutheranism argued that clear historical argument could be made and had to be made about what belonged in the canon.  This was fairly simple with regard to the OT.  Jesus had acknowledge it as inspired and that pretty much settled it.  The NT was a little more tricky.  Everyone in the 16th century agreed that it was the Apostolic Tradition that was authoritative.  Jesus told the Apostles that he would lead them into "all truth" by sending the Holy Spirit.  Those who heard them heard Jesus.  So what they said was infallible.  The Roman Catholics said that this extended to the Pope, college of Bishops and unwritten tradition.  The Reformers said just the written tradition, i.e. the NT.  But which books go in the NT and which don't?  How do we know something for sure comes form the Apostles?  Didn't the Church just decide what came from the Apostles?  

No, says Chemnitz in part I, the Apostles themselves established the canon!

How does this work?

Well, claimed Chemnitz, when Paul said in I Timothy that "all Scripture is God-breathed" he meant the Gospels also and the other Epistles, because they had been written before he wrote in the late 60s.

I didn't used to think this was a good argument, but I've changed my mind and think that dating the Synoptic gospels from the 50s makes sense.  

How do we know Paul knew them?  Because Luke used Matthew and Mark to construct his Gospel and Paul knew Luke and his writing activity.  

Luke, Mark and Matthew are all self-consciously writing Scripture.  Luke imitates the LXX's style.  Matthew structures his writing on Torah.  Mark view himself as writing a shorten form of Matthew for the unbaptized (more on how I've reached these conclusion in a future post).  Paul also claimed to have the Holy Spirit in I Cor. and to have a divinely revealed gospel (Gal. 1).  So, he here not only establishes the OT, but also Mark, Matthew, Luke, Acts, and his own Epistles.

Let's go beyond Chemnitz and move to Peter's witness in 2 Peter.  I'm going to be basing myself on David Scaer here.

In 2 Peter, Peter attests that he saw the transfiguration in chapter 2.  He quotes Matthew's Gospel and then says "we have a sure word of prophecy."  Scaer argues that this is Matthew's Gospel that he is referring to, since he just quoted it.  At the end of the Epistle, he notes that Paul's Epistles have already been collected into a collection and have circulated.  This was probably done by Onesimus, the slave from Philemon, who later became a Bishop (this is probably the reason that letter is included!).  Anyways, he says that they are hard to understand (this I think demonstrates that this is actually Peter.  A author writing as Peter would not have made Peter say this) and that people distort them "like other Scriptures."  In other words, Paul's letter are Scripture as well!  

So, Peter establishes a canon also: Paul's Letters and Matthew.  We can also count his own letters and also the Gospel of Mark, which with its Petrine inclusio is clearly authorized by him and written on the basis of his testimony.

Lastly, we turn to John.  John obviously considers his own writing authoritative.  As Bauckham shows, he portrays himself as the ideal witness in his own Gospel.  In his Epistles he writes authoritatively and in Revelation, he claims he received the book by a Revelation of Jesus Christ, God's Angel.

Beyond this, as I noted in an earlier post, Bauckham has shown that John uses a Petrine inclusio in his Gospel and therefore acknowledges Luke and Mark (who also have one and are based on Peter's testimony) as being authoritative.  

One can also note that in the early Church it was commonly thought that he named the books that were supposed to be the canon.  Louis Brighton thinks that this is plausible and says that he was allowed to live so long because he would "remain" that is remain as a witness "until I come"- that is come in the form of the final canonical Scriptures.  Luther also believed this.

Again, I used to think that this was not very convincing, but if you read Irenaeus in the 2nd century, basically the canon he acknowledges is the one we have.  He also claims he received the Apostolic tradition from Polycarp, who received from John.  It's pretty unlikely that Polycarp messed with the tradition either- so I think it's beyond a doubt in my mind that this in fact is true.  John before he died really did name what books were Apostolic and belonged in the canon.  

But let's just pretend that's not the case and see what we have if we go on purely written attestation form the Apostles as what's in the canon.

Paul: Synoptic Gospels, Acts, his own Epistles.

Peter: Matthew, Mark, 1 and 2 Peter, Paul's Epistles.

John: Gospel of John, Epistles of John (1,2, 3), Revelation, Luke, Mark.

Now, that pretty much covers it, except, Hebrews, James, Jude.

Interestingly enough, Lutherans have included these books in what is called the Antilougomena.  The idea being that there are books that are universally attested (Gospels, Act, Paul, I John, I Peter) and then ones that have mixed attestation (Hebrews, 2 Peter, Jude, James, Revelation, 2 and 3rd John).  Lutherans have taught that these books are of secondary canonicity.  

In any case, Lutheran have not rejected these books because of their lack of attestation, but rather have said that one merely has to interpret them in light of the books that are better attested.  Also, one cannot establish articles of the faith on the basis of these books.  This is helpful in dealing with the millennium in Rev. 20 and the statement in Hebrews that makes it seem like you can't repent after baptism.  

If my reasoning is correct though, this number that is consider Antilogemena clearly can be moved down to Hebrews, James and Jude.  

Divine Immutability.

Piotr Malysz, whom some of you might or might not know has put up on his online journal an exchange we had over divine immutability last year. It's an interesting debate I think.

Find it here:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Luther's resolution of the contradiction of Augustinianism.

The western theological tradition is simply one long footnote to Augustine in the way that the history philosophy is a footnote to Plato.  Reformed theology and Roman Catholic theology are then, simply two poles of the same tradition.  Benjamin Warfield once famously said "Calvinism is Augustine's doctrine of grace, at the expense of his doctrine of the Church, Catholicism is doctrine of the Church at the expense of his doctrine of grace." 

Augustine's career is divided into three main controversies 1. Manichean controversy, over the goodness of creation 2. Donatist controversy, over the reliability of the means of grace 3. the Pelagian controversy, over original sin and the sovereignty of divine grace.

In Augustine's formulations, there is an unfortunate contradiction which he never really resolved between his doctrine of the Church and his doctrine of grace.  First, he claimed to the Donatists that where the Church and its sacraments were, there was a divine certainty of the presence of grace.  Secondly, to Pelagius and his followers, he said that all humans lack the freedom to accept grace and that God's grace was sovereign in who he gave grace to.  But if so, how is it that everyone who comes into contact with the means of grace are not saved?  Also, if so, why do the sacraments and the Church matter?

One can go one of two ways on this.  First, one can say that the external means of grace are irrelevant and that they only serve a purpose to confirm grace if you've already become aware that God has elected without means.  This is highly problematic because it makes the means of grace unnecessary or perhaps necessary in a secondary sense.  It also creates the question, how do I know that I have been elected if I receive such election apart from means?

The second solution is to say that the means of grace are effective to the extent that people accept them and that humans have free will to either accept or reject them.  Hence they are efficacious as people want them to be.  This again is problematic because it doesn't take original sin very seriously.  It also takes away assurance, because one is instantaneously faced with the problem of how well they have performed the task of being properly receptive to the means of grace.

We can see where this went in western theology.  Reformed thought went the former direction and Roman Catholicism went the other way.  This wasn't just a development at the Reformation either.  Going back to the first Eucharistic controversy during the Carolingen renaissance you have the beginning of both traditions.

How then does Luther over come the problem?

Solution is to accept that the event of proclamation of grace in Word and Sacrament are in fact identical with God's electing act.  In other words, to be in contact with the means of grace is identical with being in contact with God's eternal act of election.  To believe that the word is "pro me" then is to enter into that sphere where the divine will to elect works salvation.  To be apart from it, is to be with the hidden God.  The hidden God is in fact the price that we must pay for this.  To collapse the temporal act of the giving of grace in Word and Sacrament into God's eternal act of election is to accept that God acts in a very different manner to those outside of that sphere.  It is in fact to accept the inexplicable paradox that God is both serious about saving all and that he only elects a few.

The resolution is therefore not a resolution in the sense of tying up all lose ends.  It is to resolve things in favor of the preached Word.  At the same time it opens up the yawing abyss of the hidden God. 

Is the gospel a promise or imperative or proposition?

More on Hinlicky.

Hinlicky attacks Oswald Bayer.  Bayer claims that in considering the promise of the gospel one must be careful to follow two rules.  In this, Bayer believes he is following Luther and considers these rules at the heart of his Reformation breakthrough.  

Regarding the promise of the gospel, one must not turn the promise into an imperative.  The gospel is not a commandment, it does not tell you to do anything.  Secondly, the gospel is not a proposition.  Hinlicky, dismisses these claims by stating 1. That there is such a thing that is an "Evangelical imperative."  Paul says that his congregations should live a new life because of what Christ has done.  This is not the law, but rather the gospel- the second use of the gospel, rather than a third use of the law.  Here he takes a page from Werner Elert who rejected the third use of the law in his book The Christian Ethos and essentially replaced it with the category of "Evangelical imperatives."  This category apparently involves fun and happy law that doesn't demand, but invites.  So, in other words, law that isn't law!  Secondly, regarding the propositional content, Bayer doesn't want to ground belief in the promise by a speculative knowledge of the promissory agent.  Clearly though, Hinlicky says, we must know who the promissory agent is- namely, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.

Some thoughts.

First, I don't know how a person can be thought to be a Lutheran theologian and think that the promise of the gospel is translatable into a imperative.  I mean, imperatives are fine and good, they are the law.  Law has its threefold function in the Christian life.  That's good.  But the gospel is purely a promise.  I don't get where Hinlicky wants to go with this.  If we start talking about "Evangelical imperatives" then we go down the road that either mixes law with gospel or on the other hand, kid ourselves about whether or not demand is law.  Demand or imperative (as gentle as it may be) is always a threat and an accusation.  Let's just be honest about that!

Secondly, Hinlicky's second criticism is a little bit more on target.  But I still don't think he's getting what Bayer is driving at.  On one level, one could say that what Bayer is saying is false.  Obviously the promise of the gospel is about someone, Jesus Christ and his relationship to me which he has established by his cross and empty tomb.  These things are propositionally true.  Even if you existentialize these things, the promise given to me really expresses something propositionally true.  So, on this level, Bayer would be wrong.

Nevertheless, I think Hinlicky is missing the point and I don't think that what Bayer means by propositional content is merely that there is propositional content to the promise of the gospel.  Rather, Bayer's point is that the Word of the gospel cannot be translated into a generally true proposition about God secured ahead of time.  The gospel is always "pro me." Here, Hinlicky acknowledges Bayer's concern as being valid, but then doesn't pursue Bayer's concern to its logical conclusion. 

What would this be?

As I read him, Bayer is reacting against the Barthian tendency of using analogy to make the gospel in a stepping stone into God's hidden majesty.  In other words, Barth finds that the Word of the gospel is universal and therefore concludes that everyone is elect and that there is no God of wrath or a hidden God.  There is a transcending of all of God's temporal activity, which is in actuality divided between wrath and grace, and a collapsing of the divine will into a will of grace.

As Gerhard Forde points out in The Law-Gospel Debate, this more or less secures God's hidden being "pro me" above the his Word of promise prior to the event of proclamation.  In other words, through analogy, it secures the generally true proposition for me that God in general is "gracious."

In terms of the activity of proclamation, this has the practical effect making the gospel into a law.  For Barth, the main point is law.  God has elected us in Jesus, therefore we should act like it and correspond to his grace.  In proclamation, there is no breaking through the relationship of wrath and hiddenness to establish the word of the gospel "pro me" as with Luther.  We are simply informed of what God is in general (love) and then told to conform it (i.e. by obeying the law).  The preaching of the gospel doesn't change our relationship to God in any way.  We're just told what the situation is and then what we have to do because of it.

Luther with his doctrine of deus absconditus and the division of divine agency is the inexplicable paradox of law and gospel, refuses any such synthesis.  The word of the gospel then is said "pro me" and does not transcend the conflicts in divine agency, thereby giving us a transparent vision of the inner divine life.  For this reason, the gospel cannot be a proposition about God's being in general.  In this sense, Bayer is correct.  What gospel tells me is about God's activity of toward me- it does not tell me a propositional truth about God's being in general.  If it did, it would not be the gospel as a promise about God's grace towards me, it would be a general statement about God.  A general statement about God would have the existential effect of bidding me to conform to the general reality of God- in other words, it would be more law.  It would not be the event of God giving himself to me in the form of promise.  It would be a new demand.

Is Christ known through his benefits?

Paul Hinlicky (whom some of you might known, I had a somewhat acrimonious controversy over Scripture and Tradition with last year on the LOGIA website in response to a piece I had written criticizing his views- full disclosure) has written a series of pieces on Lutheran Christology here:

In this piece, Hinlicky criticizes "Lutheran" theologians like Bultmann and Tillich for making Christology a function of soteriology. They do so on the basis of the young Melanchthon's statement in Loci Communes 1521: "Christ is known by his benefits." Hinlicky's alternative is to see the event of justification as a function of what one says about Christology.

A couple of things about this.

1. First things first. Bultmann and Tillich are Lutheran theologians? I guess they might have attended Lutheran Churches. Frankly, John Calvin was more in line with historic Lutheranism than these fellows. I mean, at least he believed in the Trinity, right?

2. Is making Christology a function of soteriology such a bad thing? My question would be, how else would one formulate a Christology?  In other words, the entire point of Christology is soteriology.  Unless we are willing to engage in abstract speculation about whether or not the Incarnation would have happened without the Fall (like Osiander, Irenaeus and Dun Scotus), then there is no point to the Incarnation other than rendering infinite satisfaction to the Father in the form of active and passive righteousness and deifying out nature by the power of his resurrection (here I follow the historic Lutheran position of the two greatest Lutheran theologians, Luther and Gerhard).

Secondly, Hinlicky makes a category mistake here. He confuses the reductiveness of their theological formulations for the starting point of their theological propositions. In other words, Bultmann and Tillich have weak and pathetic concepts of what Christ does for us so they have weak and pathetic concepts of Christ. For them, he basically doesn't have to really be God, because at the end of the day all he really does is change our existential self-understanding. This is simply a continuation of Schleiermacher's tradition, where again, all Jesus really needed to do was communicate his God-consciousness.

If your starting point is he saves us from "sin, death, the Devil, hell and the law" then we will not have a reductive Christology at all. In fact, this is the classical basis of the great Fathers of the Church's Christology. Read Athanasius' On the Incarnation of the Word. Christ, argues Athanasius, must be God, because he saves us from sin, death and the Devil. He must be God because he deifies us- by which he merely means that he facilitates the "corruptible putting on the incorruptible." We look to what Christ does, and therefore conclude who he is. He is a human being, who does what only God can do. Therefore he must be true God and true man in one person.

This way of doing Christology not only possesses catholicity, but as Johann Gerhard shows, goes back to beginning of creation, in that this is the starting point of Christology with the protoevangelium. Only a man would be the "seed of the woman." Only God could "crush the Serpent's head."

3. For these reason, I do not think we can escape saying that "Christ is know by his benefits."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Back to working on my atonement book.

Now that I've have a the paper on Luther, Islam and Judaism done, I have some time to start slow work on my book on atonement. I'm using a 100 page missing chapter from my dissertation (my advisor said scrap it, so I didn't use it) and then final constructive chapter which was about 80 pages long. I'm re-writing and editing it. There's alot of things I want to say which the committee wouldn't have gone for (they were unhappy enough with many of my theological proposals!). So, I look forward to getting this done by the end of the semester and maybe start looking for publishers.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teaching Luther next semeter.

I was just contacted by my department head. I guess I'll be teaching a Luther course next semester. I'm very excited about it. I'm going to be working on a syllabus for it. I have alot of texts I'd like to work through. We'll what I have time for.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Apocalyptic Luther.

Remember I said yesterday that Luther became very apocalyptic in his old age. This apocalypticism centered on his belief that his opponents were attacking the orders of creation and therefore were manifestations the final apocalyptic break.

Luther also believed that the end of the world was coming because it based on an apocaphal saying the prophet Elijah, he thought that the world could only last 6,000 years. He did calculations and discovered that the world had 50 years to go. I have taken the preface to the tables that Luther created on this subject and reproduced them below. You can read Luther's actual chart of world history up to his time here:

Much thanks to Lutheran Wiki for translating all this.

Title of the work: Supputatio Annorum Mundi

The remarks of him, of whom one said, he was the student of the prophet Elijah:
(Burgensis in Part I, Distinctio 3, Chap. 4 Scrutinii.)
The World Will Exist for 6000 Years.
Two Thousand Empty.
Two Thousand of the Law.
Two Thousand of the Messiah.
These are the six days of the week before God.
The seventh day is the eternal Sabbath.
Ps. 90:4 and 2 Pet. 3:8: A thousand years are as a day.
I prepared this calculation of the years of the world for my personal use, not that it should be a chronicle or book of history, but that I would have it as a table before my eyes, in order to examine the times and years of the histories which are recounted in the Holy Scriptures, when I myself would want to recall how many years the patriarchs, judges, kings, and princes lived or ruled, or after what period of time they followed each other. There is therefore no reason for me either to praise or disparage [this calculation] with many words. For to me it was not a concern as to what kind of, or how much, use it may yield to others, especially since so many chronicles or histories are available and are multiplied daily. I am satisfied with the fruit which I derived from this calculation in the process of calculating. Let those, who wanted it to be published – then I made a copy of it to see for those asking – or those, who will read it, see whether they are doing something which is worth the effort, when they themselves read it. It really does not matter to me whether it remains or disappears, and it really is not a great concern whether or not it gives others satisfaction.
The [1532] chronicle of [Johannes] Carion and Philip [Melanchthon] is clearly the first, and a very good example, of the calculation, which I am also following, in which the entire course of the years is divided very beautifully into six millennia. One thing I dared in the history of Joram, of the kings of Judah, under Elijah and Elisha, where I counted twenty years more than all other writers of chronicles have done. This should be my fault or diligence; the reason will be given at its place.
For the chronicle of Eusebius, which is taken from the Septuagint, which in Genesis chap. 5 (as Jerome in the “Hebrew Questions” recounts) translates ‘two hundred’ instead of ‘one hundred’ (perhaps because they took the singular MEATH for the plural MEOTH), introduced this error—the others I ignore—to all chronicles before our time, so that they have 1249 years too many. In fact, having exceeded the sixth millennium, which they call the sixth age, they count the aforementioned years as the seventh millennium, which they call the seventh age. But about Eusebius is less to complain, who in reality, as Jerome writes, was an admirable and very diligent man; we complain about all other historians, and they complain among themselves, that they have no support for the exact calculation of the years. Therefore, having set these things aside, in this work I have wanted to take this calculation primarily out of the Holy Scriptures, upon which we certainly and trustingly can and should base ourselves. The Scriptures, however, have it in the following manner:
Sections of the Calculation of the years from the creation of the world:
1656 [years] up to the flood. Genesis 5.
367 [years] up to the call of Abraham. Genesis 11 & 12.
430 [years] up to the exodus from Egypt. Exodus 12. Galatians 3.
480 [years] up to the temple of Solomon. 1 Kings 6.
158 [years] up to the end of the line of Solomon. 2 Kings 11 & 2 Chronicles 23.
291 [years] up to the captivity of Zechariah [Jechanja]. 2 Kings 24 until the end.
11 [years] of Zedekiah. 2 Kings 24.
70 [years] of the devastation of the Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36. Ezra 1.
46 [years] up to the beginning of the [seventy] weeks in the second year of Darius. John 2:20.
483 [years] or 69 weeks until the death and resurrection of Christ. Daniel 9. 7 years of the last week, in which the covenant is strengthened and the law is done away with in the middle of the week. Daniel 9. The years of Christ which follow are in and of themselves clear.
Otherwise also in this way:
1656 [years] up to the flood. Genesis 5.
292 [years] up to the birth of Abraham. Genesis 11.
425 [years] up to the birth of Moses.
80 [years] up to the Exodus from Egypt.
480 [years] up to the temple of Solomon.
158 [years] up to king Joash and the end of the line of Solomon.
291 [years] up to the captivity of Zechariah.
11 years of Zedekiah until the destruction.
70 years of the devastation until Cyrus.
46 years until the second year of Darius, that is the beginning of the [seventy] weeks.
483 years or 69 weeks until the death of Christ.
7 years of the last week.
I have absolutely no doubt at all concerning all of these sections of the calculation. Therefore the sum as well can not be placed into question, except for one part, of which is from the end of the destruction to the beginning of the [seventy] weeks, or from Cyrus up to the second year of Darius, about which I want to say a few things, which persuade me.
In John 2:20 the Jews say to Christ: “This temple was built in 46 years, and you will destroy it in three days?” Through these words it is sufficiently certain that more than 46 years went by between the first year of Darius and Cyrus, and the completion of the temple. For from the seventh chapter of Ezra [6:15] it is clear that the temple was completed, not in the second year of Darius or the forty-sixth year after Cyrus, when the Word of God went out through Haggai and Zachariah at the beginning of the weeks, but in the sixth year of Darius. So there are four years in addition to the forty-six mentioned, and there are fully fifty years from Cyrus until the completion of the temple. This circumstance alone raises a question concerning those four years, otherwise all is certain and sure. This question arises because of the uncertainty of the years of the Persian kings. For historians disagree with each other, not only concerning the years of Cyrus, but also of Darius and others.
I will (foolishly) offer my thoughts concerning these four years in public; let him who wants to or can suggest and judge better. Daniel, in the 5th and 6th chapters, lets Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian reign each by himself alone, when he says [5:31] that Darius the Mede followed Belshazzar in the Chaldean kingdom, and he does not then add Cyrus. The same idea is also to be found, when he says [Dan. 6:28]: “Daniel was mighty in the reign of Darius, and also in the reign of Cyrus, the Persian.” Not as though it would thereby be false that Cyrus had ruled at the same time as Darius, as it is the way of the Scriptures, when one reads that the sons reigned with the fathers; rather, that one must make a distinction between the government of Cyrus with Darius, and the government of Cyrus alone. I say this for this reason, because it appears necessary to me at this place that the first year of Cyrus (2 Chronicles. 36 [v. 22] and Ezra 1[v.1]) be understood as the first year that Cyrus reigned alone after Darius. In this way two years will be eliminated from the four years, which are too many, and only two years remain in question, which I would like to eliminate in this way:
Since in great empires and kingdoms, especially when they are new, one’s plans happen slowly and with great resistance, before they are put into practice, it just could have happened that the edict of Cyrus was sent out only toward the end of the first year, so that one year thereby is eliminated. Accordingly it appears as necessary, that at least one year transpired as well for the outfitting of the Jews, in which they, after the edict was issued, prepared themselves for the return, rather for taking possession of Jerusalem, so that one could say, that it would have gone well and they themselves worked very quickly, if they, at the end of the second year, or in the third year of Cyrus, began to build. So the remaining two years disappear, and the text in John 2, that the temple was built in 46 years, remains. Of course, I know what I myself could also say against it, but that does not bother me that much.
Those who wish to do so are able to include the two years of Darius the Mede in the seventy years of the devastation, but I would rather place them after the seventy years. For after Belshazzar was killed, and his kingdom was transferred to Darius the Mede, the Jews were then actually freed and the prophecies of Jeremiah fulfilled. This is why during these two years there was made a great effort to send the Jewish people, already freed everywhere, back to their land; this is where Daniel and his men labored much.
However, let those who do not like this offer something better or demand everything in the harshest way: we will say that it is insignificant if the entire calculation is sure and there remains doubt in only two or four years. For if until the end of the world all occurs as described, except for two or four years, the faith and the church are in no great danger; we shall be able to ignore four years with a good conscience in so great a thing, that is, in the course of the entire world.
Only of that do I want to remind him, who lets himself be reminded, that I hold fast and unmovingly to the opinion that the beginning of the weeks is clearly to belong in no other place than in the second year of Darius Longimanus, so that he knows that he himself makes fruitless effort who thinks to dispute or argue with me over this subject. After all, I have (as I said) made this calculation for myself alone, and am ready to tolerate with the greatest equanimity, if someone else works out another for himself or for others. I base myself upon the Holy Scriptures alone. That is why I am obligated to reject, although very regrettably, Philo, who at one place places within the weeks of Daniel eighteen years too many. And it really does not matter to me where Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Maccabees and others are placed; however, I place them, but I am not very concerned, whether in the right place or differently, in that for me the years of the weeks hold undamaged and entirely sure their course among them.
So will I also be obligated to deviate from Metasthenes by twelve years. For if the calculation of Metasthenes and the number of the Assyrian kings should be affirmed, it necessarily would follow that Sanherib came to Jerusalem in the second year of Hiskia, which is impossible. For in the sixth year of Hiskia, Salmanasser took all of Israel away to Assyria, 2 Kings 17 [18:9-12], and Sanherib first came to Jerusalem in the fourteenth year of Hiskia, 2 Kings 18[:13]. This point convinced me not to despise the historians altogether, but to prefer the Holy Scriptures to them. I used them [the historians] in such a way that I would not be forced to contradict the Scriptures. For I believe that the God who speaks truth speaks in the Scriptures, but that in the histories very good people offer their best diligence and reliability (but as human beings), or at least that the copyists may have erred.
D.M. Luther's Chronicle or Calculation of the Years of the World

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Basic Structure of Luther's Thought.

Writing this piece on Luther's view of Judaism and Islam has given me new appreciation for Oswald Bayer's thesis that the basic structure of Luther's thought is not law/gospel or the theology of cross. All of these are true and important elements in his thinking, but they are not the deep structure. Rather, it is the orders of creation- the Church, the Family and the State as the contexts of God's interaction with the created order.

This is an important insight and I think that we would have avoided many problems in 20th century Lutheranism if this fact was recognized.

This also helps us make sense of the connection between the doctrine of creation and the gospel. The gospel basically defined the order of the Church from Genesis 3:15 onward. Attacking the gospel then (as Luther believed that the Papacy, Islam, Judaism, Anabaptism, Antitrinitarianism, the the Peasant who revolted were doing) was then also an attack on creation. It meant that the Devil was at work and God was holding him back until the final apocalyptic break wherein these orders would no longer function and Christ would finally return in glory.

I think that the last point is important to make because their has been something an abiguity in Lutheranism in the 19th and 20th century about the doctrine of creation. Part of the trend is to denigrate creation by identifying it with the old realm of law and therefore saying "well it's for the time being, we have to put up with it, but those who have the gospel have done away with partially." This is the attitude of people like Ed Schroeder and some of the Seminex people. It is also the attitude of much of the ELCA hierarchy who thinks that they are following Luther. Those who have the gospel, in this thinking, have transcended creation and law, thereby making the order that God has established irrelevant.

The point is though, that the gospel re-affirms creation. The gospel is part of God's establishment of creation, along with the law. An attack on creation by the forces of darkness is also an attack on the gospel, and vice versa. Any attempt to change God's order (as we have seen in the last few years) is an attack on God and is demonic. The old Luther's thinking, as hateful and bombastic as it unfortunately could become, actually has much to offer us on these points. When he worries about the overturnig of creation by demonic forces, we see the same thing today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Double Sacrifice?

More on the Mass.

Since Vatican II, in an attempt bring the Eastern Orthodox Churches to Rome, the Roman Catholic Church has adopted the Epiclesis into their liturgy.  What does this do the the theology of sacrifice?  Before we get to that, for those in our audience who are unaware, let's explain the distinction in Eastern and Western consecration theology.

The Eastern Church and the Western Church have historically disagreed with how the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus.  According to the East, the Holy Spirit does it when you pray for it to do so.  This happens when the Priest says the Eucharistic prayer or Epiclesis.  The Eucharistic prayer, combined with the total action of offering, giving and receiving brings about the real presence.  This was pretty much what people thought as far as we can tell in the early Church from about the 2nd century to the 4th or 5th.  Johann Gerhard in Lutheranism actually endorsed the view that the Epiclesis did it(unfortunately, and strangely in light of the fact that Luther removed the Eucharist prayer from the liturgy).  The West, St. Ambrose, developed a theology of the moment of consecration.  In other words, when the Priest actually says the words of institution, then it becomes the body and blood of Christ.  Lutherans more or less buy into this, that is, the idea that the elements are consecrated by the word of Jesus' promise and not a prayer that Jesus never commanded, even if differences between consecrationists and distributionists still persist (I'm pretty staunchly a consecrationist, but more on that later).

After Vatican II, as I mentioned, the Catholics in order to get the Orthodox back with them re-wrote the liturgy and made the idea of the Epiclesis the thing which transformed the elements.  Of course their was an Epiclesis before, but it was the words of instituion which were understood to make the difference.  Now that the Epiclesis is back as the catalyst for the real presence, this means a kind of double consecration of the elements and bizzarely long liturgy.  In any case, it seems to me that it also means that a new layer of sacrifice and human initiative was actually add to their doctrine of the Eucharist.  Let me explain.

Listening to the liturgy this is what you get:  Priest tells God (God is always being addressed BTW- the congregation aren't really even addressed with the words of institution, God the Father is!) that he's brought the elements of bread and wine and that they're a kind of offering that the Priest and apparently the congregation through the Priest are also making.  Why God is supposed to be interested in this (especially because he did not sanction any such offering and we know how that has a tendency of turning out in the Bible!) is not entirely clear.  So, there's the first sacrifice.  This wasn't in the pre-Vatican II liturgies.  Then the next stage.  Because we come and offer these element to God, God is supposed to now send his Holy Spirit on them and make them the body and blood of Christ.  Now, let's be fair, it doesn't say anything about meriting this by the offering and I'm absolutely certain that if you talked to a Catholic theologian that he'd say that no merit is involved in get the Holy Ghost to come and do this.  But here's the deal: It creates a situation were the divine-human relationship enacted by the Eucharist is a matter of human initiative and human movement towards God through an initial act of sacrifice, that is, an offering the Eucharistic elements.  

Now that the elements have been transformed into the body and blood of Christ, the Priest speaks the words of institution to God the Father (for some reason that is unclear) and then offers up the congregation with Christ by their prayer and by their participation in the elements.  Here's a really interesting aspect that changed with Vatican II.  Before then, Trent and Aquinas had stated that the sacrifice of the Mass was identical with that of the cross, but how they didn't know how.  The 20th century German Monk Odo Casel argued (based on his belief that Christianity was an Jewish version of the Greek Mystery cults) that time and space stops and we are transported back in time to the crucifixion so that we can participate in it.  This then got into Vatican II.  So, the congregation is capable of going back in time and participating in Christ's redemptive act as one person with him.  This is sacrifice number two.

Many liberal Lutherans have argued that Vatican II made Catholicism acceptable enough to entertain fellowship again.  What I find interesting here is that the opposite is actually the case.  Catholicism has in a sense simply doubled up on the theology that we found so problematic in the 16th century.