Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A look into the mind of one of the most random, crazy people in all the land.

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Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, March 30, 2007

On the Eve of Brother Tagge's Chrismation....A Pause

Scripture of the Day: Galatians 2:16

Icon of the Day: St. Michael the Archangel

I'm writing this post from my friend Michael's apartment in Chicago (and on his laptop). Therefore my normal resources are out of touch. Tomorrow (well, at 8:30 AM today) he will be Chrismated into the Orthodox Church. I have mixed feelings on the issue. I sympathize with him tremendously when it comes to being indignant at the annihilation of the traditions of the church catholic from our synod and the general lack of interest by the laity in the work that the Holy Spirit has done throughout the church's existence. I also sympathize with him concerning doctrinal points that until recently I didn't think could fit within the confines of the Lutheran Confessions (thankfully I was wrong!). However, I regret that he is going to a church that prides itself on its identity and what it perceives as pure white as snow dogma handed down from the Apostles. True, they have authentic apostolic succession, but to me it seems like they are going the direction of the Jews at the time of Christ...worried more about their identity than anything else.

A point of doctrine that I was unaware of until recently was that according to Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff, the Orthodox believe that a theology that has man as sinner and saint simultaneously is incompatible with the ancient church.....but is it? Or is it a thin veil to cover over the problem that the limited view of sin on man's will and nature is incompatible with what is observed in the world....even in Christian nations? To me the whole crux of this issue is sin and the fallen nature of man. Too high a view of man after the fall, and we only need a little help to clean us off and pick us up from falling down and going boom. Too low a view of man after the fall indicates that we are brought back to life, picked up and carried to the nearest house, and pampered while simultaneously having the guy who helped us take over at our job and deal with our problems. I cannot personally accept the Orthodox concept of man as having an inherently free (albeit narrowed and limited) will. Scripture never speaks of this, but does say quite the opposite. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5). "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin" Romans 7:14. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like" (Galatians 5:19-21a). If indeed that passage is talking about not a choice we make, but our condition before we are joined to Christ, then why would it be followed with this passage, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful-nature with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24).

Simultaneously with this emphasis away from the evil of man and the limitations of his will ("But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life"-Romans 7:25) there is an emphasis away from legalistic and forensic language. Why is this? I am not totally against the idea that God renews the relationship between us, and makes it better than before, but with regards to our being made righteous before Him it is faith alone in the sacrifice of Christ. That is the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. "God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses His wrath every day" Psalm 7:11. "However, to the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteous" Romans 4:5. Indeed it is commonly asserted that the Subtitutionary Atonement Model is a view of Anselm and not to be found in Eastern Orthodoxy....indeed that is false. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" 1 Peter 1:18-19.

It would be argued that the fathers never spoke of this...and again incorrect, for St. John Chrysostom's Homily #8 on the "Church and Repentance" says thus: "God is a great lover of man. He did not hesitate to surrender His Son as prey in order to spare His servant. He surrendered His only-begotten to purchase hard-hearted servants. He paid the blood of His Son as the price. O the philanthropy of the Master! And do not tell me again, “I sinned a lot; how can I be saved?” You cannot save yourself, but your Master can, and to such a great degree as to obliterate your sins. Pay attention very carefully to the discourse. He wipes out the sins so completely that not a single trace of them remains." St. Chrysostom speaks of a price of blood...a price from the sin offerings that much if not all of the Old Testament sacrifices were set up to show.

To wit, this is not what I intended to write so much about. I merely wished to state what I view as problems with the Eastern Orthodox positions on key Scriptural and Christian truths. If Orthodoxy is the "fullness of the Gospel" as many attest to (I admit they have understandings that may be synergistic to the West), why would the full pronouncement of the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins be fully expressed only on the day of Easter? Pay attention to all of the pomp and celebration of the Easter speaks of us being covered in the blood of the lamb for forgiveness of sins. Dr. Eugene Smith chronicled his transition from the Eastern Orthodoxy Church to the Lutheran Church (here) and brought up the questions he was posed by a Lutheran Vicar while he was still a priest. 1. Is God a liar? 2. Do you believe you are forgiven from the cross? 3. What's your problem? 1 and 2 were easy (no and yes respectively)...but he was caught off-guard by question 3. What indeed is our problem? If we are forgiven from the cross and God became fully man and suffered for then do we become deified by what we do (even with grace) when Christ clearly did it all for us? What is our problem with connecting to that grace-filled act on the cross? It is this that Orthodoxy cannot deliver for seeks to connect and experience God through prayer and yet it is everyday that I experience God within me....when I'm at prayer or not.

Regardless of what side of the divide you fall on...make Christ your God and be subservient to Him and His cross.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son +, and to the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word"

Funny Links of the Day:
-The Sentinels have ONE weakness.
-Okay...this is kinda lame.
-Annoying but cool.
-Thankfully he wasn't a St. Louis Cardinal.
-Really cool.......and useless trick.

Scripture of the Day:
Old Testament-Exodus 4:19-31
New Testament-Gospel according to St. Mark 15:16-32
Psalms-Morning: Psalm 38
Evening: Psalm 126 and 102

Icon of the Day: See to the left.

Belated Feast of the Annunciation: This is indeed a time of great joy in the fast of Lent. While we are called to repentence by the sufferings of Christ and his eventual death on a cross (of course, not outside of the context of Easter which all of Lent leads to), it is a nice respite from the focus on Christ's suffering with a preview of his birth! Lo in the season of the remembering of the mystery of Redemption we have a day to think ahead to the season which focuses on the mystery of the Incarnation. The feast is based on the biblical account in the Gospel according to St. Luke 1:28-38 where the archangel St. Gabriel informs the Blessed Virgin Mary that she will become the Theotokos....the mother of God. Her willingness to be submissive to the Father's will is a witness to all of us that while suffering follows from being a Christian, we are redeemed by Christ and take to heart the words St. Peter wrote, "but even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed (1 Peter 3:14)." The feast is usually celebrated on the 25th day of March (9 months before Christmas), but this year it took place on the 26th because (unknown to me before I read Father Weedon's blog) it is a feast of Lent, and Sundays are "in" Lent, not "of" Lent. On those years when the 25th falls on a Sunday, it is moved to the next weekday. Next year I think it takes place on Good Friday.

The prescribed Scriptures for the feast are:
Old Testament-Isaiah 7:10-14
Epistle-Hebrews 10:4-10
Gospel-Gospel according to St. Luke 1:28-38

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eastern Orthodoxy Comments: Reloaded

Scripture of the Day:
Old Testament - Genesis 39:1-23
New Testament - The Gospel According to St. Mark 10:13-31
Psalms: Morning - Psalm 38
Evening - Psalm 126 and 102

Icon of the Day: St. Augustine - "Doctor of Grace" (I know that today is not his feast day, but he factors heavily in the discussion with Eastern Orthodoxy that I have had with several people.)

Grace, mercy, and peace! As many readers here will know there has been a recent discussion with two of my best friends who are Orthodox over what I had written in the "Sola fide.....really?" post. The contention is that my statement concerning the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of salvation included works in the final equation. While the debate was never over whether the faith we have or even the works God prepares for us are a result of grace, it was over how God sees us justified when we are judged (if indeed this is the initial disagreement). For starters, the Orthodox position as I have rediscovered it is OFFICIALLY the same as the Lutheran view....salvation is achieved by faith intimately tied to works which flow from salvation....the source of which is grace (getting something you don't deserve). The Lutheran view is split apart into different categories so that what St. Paul exposited in his Epistles could be better understood without being taken and twisted into heretical and damaging practices. We believe faith is a free gift of grace and that this faith justifies you (makes you righteous before God the Father) and that INTIMATELY tied to this and flowing FROM the grace and faith is works of charity which is the progress of our sanctification. We even disagree that faith will not be given to the unrepentent! We might disagree with the terms "synergy" or "monergy" in this regard, but either way, our soteriology is almost identical overall.

However, disagreement still abounds, particularly in the area of the fall of man from grace. First of all, I don't even know anymore what the Orthodox church teaches on the subject as it is akin to nailing Jell-O to the wall! Bishop Kalistos Ware states in "The Orthodox Church (2 ed.):" The image of God is distorted by sin, but never destroyed; in the words of a hymn sung by Orthodox at the Funeral Service: ' I am the image of Your inexpressible glory, even though I bear the wonds of sin.' And because we still retain the image of God, we still retain free will, although sin RESTRICTS ITS SCOPE (emphasis mine). Even after the fall, God 'takes not away from humans the power to will - to will to obey or not to obey Him'." So you might think they teach that the human nature is tainted....and while Father Matusiak uses this metaphor with "tarnished silver" which Christ came to polish, he even says blatantly (I mean almost verbatim)that humanity is "inherently good." You might think he is simply a parish priest who is incorrect on this issue (kind of a major point for even a parish priest to be wrong about), but this man is the Orthodox Church in America's head press people (I believe that was his position).

My understanding of the Orthodox view of the Fall and how it has affected humanity is thus:
1. The image of God was tainted/distorted but not destroyed or removed.
2. Man's communion with God was severed by the effects of Adam's disobedience.
3. Man still has free will to choose good actions, but is unable to come to God because of the barrier of sin.

Bishop Ware states: "Many western Christians used to believe that whatever a person does in the fallen and unredeemed state, since it is tainted by original guilt, cannot possibly be pleasing to God." I should start by stating that this point of Bishop Ware's is correct to a point, but he does NOT address something inherent in the action of those who are still fallen and without Christ, and that is that any action, even good is done not for the glory of God, but usually for their own glory or for the remediation of their guilt at seeing suffering of people they can help. Who being fallen says to themselves when helping to give to charity, "I hope this glorifies God?" Father Matusiak said in the radio interview that Christ is our ultimate model......well, yes he is........and he is also our victorious king, because as was stated by another caller, "if Christ's sacrifice was part of the model of his life only....what example did the sacrificed bull show the ancient Israelites?" The answer is that Christ demonstrated not just the consequences but the just punishment for sin. He graciously took our place, and this is the point of the substitionary atonement model. Scripture? Yes: Romans 3:21-26, 1 John 2:2 ("sin sacrifices" are spoken of in Leviticus and needed the shedding of blood from a clean animal).

But you might think, this wasn't the focus of the first post, and you would be right. But what I'm trying to show here is that to focus only on the Christus Victor model undermines the central idea of man as INHERENTLY or "BY NATURE sinful and unclean." Bishop Ware does not deny that the Substitutionary Atonement model is held by the Orthodox, merely that it is not emphasized. He says that the Orthodox do not "feel less happy about compositions of the later Middle Ages such as 'Stabat Mater'" which focus on Christ's human suffering. In this regard, Lutherans don't overemphasize either model, but fully embrace both! For to emphsize Christus Victor is to emphasize Christ's divinity over his humanity and to emphasize the Substitutionary Atonement model is to emphasize Christ's humanity over his divinity. God the Son became limited (though not sinful) man and died in man's place, went through life with men and experienced our triumphs and tragedies, and ultimately took his earthly throne atop a tree to not only reunite man with God, but to take our place as suffering and dying because of the tree in Eden.

Why does the Substitutionary Atonement Model show that man is inherently sinful and evil? Well, it makes sense out of Christ's suffering and the writer of Hebrews words that "Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many..." (9:28). I was challenged to find a Scripture passage which states that man's image has been destroyed. This is perhaps an unfair question, as was my comment, for we do not know FOR SURE what God's image really is.

Some Biblical Passages Supporting Total Depravity:
-In Genesis 8:21, God states that man's heart is evil from its youth.
-Ecclesiastes 9:3 states, "Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead."
-Ephesians 2:3 states that "in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
-James 5:17: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. "

St. Augustine said in Chapter 58 of "On Nature and Grace": "Observe also what remark he adds, by which he thinks that his position is confirmed: "-->No will,"--> says he, "-->can take away that which is proved to be inseparably implanted in nature."--> Whence then comes that utterance: "-->So then you cannot do the things that you would?"--> Galatians 5:17 Whence also this: "-->For what good I would, that I do not; but what evil I hate, that do I?"-->Romans 7:15 Where is that capacity which is proved to be inseparably implanted in nature? See, it is human beings who do not what they will; and it is about not sinning, certainly, that he was treating,—not about not flying, because it was men not birds, that formed his subject. Behold, it is man who does not the good which he would, but does the evil which he would not: "-->to will is present with him, but how to perform that which is good is not present."-->Romans 7:18 Where is the capacity which is proved to be inseparably implanted in nature? For whomsoever the apostle represents by himself, if he does not speak these things of his own self, he certainly represents a man by himself. By our author, however, it is maintained that our human nature actually possesses an inseparable capacity of not at all sinning. Such a statement, however, even when made by a man who knows not the effect of his words (but this ignorance is hardly attributable to the man who suggests these statements for unwary though God-fearing men), causes the grace of Christ to be "-->made of none effect,"-->15-1268--> since it is pretended that human nature is sufficient for its own holiness and justification."

This discussion can continue, but the fact remains that there seems to be a correlation in traditions between emphasis of a view of the atonement based on Scripture and the view of the fall of man. Let us reason together!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son +, and to the Holy Spirit! Amen.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Salve Regina

Funny Links of the Day:
-Darwin LOLed!
Scripture of the Day:
Psalms - Morning: Psalm 84
Evening: Psalm 42 and 32
Icon of the Day: The Crowning of the Theotokos (see discussion below).
One major problem in Lutheranism, and in fact most Evangelicalism today is that any reference to the Most Holy Virgin Mary is usually as just some other person in Scripture, maybe some more attention is paid via lip service since she was the vessel that God chose to send His Son to earth through. However, a cohesive Mariology should follow from a cohesive, historical, and Scriptural Christology. Remember, all the saints, particularly Mary are to point us to Christ!
Perhaps a reader could better direct me as to when the title of "Queen of Heaven" was either openly or implicitly denied by the majority of Lutherans. This title seems appropriate, not by treating her as equal to God, but by giving her the position that Revelation gives the woman who gives birth....that of the Queen Mother who had high honor but no real power compared to the king.
To be continued.....!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sola Fide.........Right?

Funny Links of the Day:

Light Sabre Fight of the Year!

Halo 300

High Mullet

Cat on a Keyboard vs. Howard Dean Fighters

Let's thank Jesus that He didn't allow this game to be made.

Final Mullet

Ah Dilbert, how true to life you are.

Holy Scripture of the Day: Old Testament - Job 34:10-33

New Testament - Gospel According to St. John 11:17-37

Psalm - Morning: 119:73-80

Evening: 121:6

Icon of the Day: Adam naming the Animals

Justification, what's the big deal?: Many might wonder what the big deal fact many might wonder what justification even is. The fact remains that we are saved from eternal death and hell (separation from God, the source of life and light) by being justified (we are made "right in the eyes of God") by faith alone. What other options are there? The only way mankind can be saved is to obey the law, and since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, no one can keep the law perfectly because of Adam's Original Sin (Romans 3:22-24, 5:12-13). The good news though, in fact, the Gospel itself, is that the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, came down and became man in the form of Jesus Christ (or in the Hebrew Yeshua Messiah), born of the most blessed Virgin Mary, lived a perfect life, suffered through beatings, mockery, betrayal, and eventual crucifixion. But after he was laid in a tomb, God the Father rose Jesus from the dead.

Because of Christ's sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection, forgiveness of all of our sins is made available for ALL mankind. However, it is not applied to all mankind without faith. Now some would argue that faith alone is not what saved us, but works inspired by faith and the grace of God are what saves us (i.e. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics). While this view is incorrect, it is not nearly as horrific as those who feel they have to do good works to earn God's favor and forgiveness, for even the best Roman Catholics will argue that even the good works we do are totally by the grace of God and they would not agree (at least today) with sola gratia. A common Scripture cited is in James where the people who do not do good works are admonished that faith which does not lead to works does not justify them. But in the context of other letters focusing on faith alone as justifying (i.e. Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.) the author is pointing to the lack of fruit as being indicative of dead faith. True saving faith will lead to works, all by the grace of God. Remember, grace is "getting what you don't deserve" (conversely, mercy is defined as "NOT getting what you deserve"), and we deserve nothing more than to understand that because of sin, we are separated from the most Holy God and justly deserve nothing but eternal damnation for our unholiness. However, because of God's love, He took the punishment for us on the cross.....punishment for ALL of our sins. Now, we only have to deal with the consequence on earth, that is death, but we die to go into eternity in paradise with our Heavenly Father!

In closing, I chose the icon above of the Passover meal to illustrate what two church fathers wrote about salvation (many thanks to what Father Weedon left here, which contains many church father quotes defending the Lutheran solas). St. Basil the Great wrote, "Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ" (Homily on Humility). St. John Chrysostom wrote, "For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law" (Epistle to Titus).

In the Passover, the houses that did not have blood on the doorpost lost their firstborn, but when the angel saw the doorposts with blood on it, he passed over them. The blood is the blood of the sinless lamb, which we have an analogue for in Holy Baptism when the blood is covering us (Galatians 3:26-28, 1 Peter 1:18-19). Because of this gift, death does not have victory over us, and we partake of the glorious Holy Eucharist as a victory meal for the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:12, 1 Corinthians 11:26)!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son +, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and will be forever. Amen.