Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Closet Romanists - Attack of the Catholic Lutherans


Let's face it....I have no life. Because I have no life, I tend to spend my time being a dork. Being a dork, I tend to spend time cruising the internet looking up interesting topics. Today, I spent some time looking up the Society of St. Polycarp and several of its members on google. What I found, to be frank, urined me off. Here is why:

The Society is seen often as a "Romanizing" movement within Lutheranism. I have a theory about that. 1. Those Lutherans who call it Romanizing don't bother turning the mirror of logic back onto themselves and think, "hey, maybe I'm a crypto-Calvinist/crypto-Evangelical!" 2. Reading is not a gift when they analyze the rule of the Society. 3. High Church worship and practices are seen as legalistic because they have too many rules. And my favorite, 4. The Confessions obviously say ___________(fill in the blank) and therefore their rule is wrong in their opinions.

I will analyze each point in turn, after a general comment. Yes, it is true that many members of the society leave and join the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church. Yes it is true that we are high church and proud of it. Yes it is true we focus our attention on those who have gone before us in the faith. If you see anything in these last two points that is not Lutheran or a mark of a free Christian, you need to do a bit more meditating on this issue. It is not that cut and dry. Why some leave Lutheranism is beyond me to some extent. To say, however, that they must not think justification is not important is just absurd. Many times they have understood the broader meaning of salvation and communal rconciliation which even we confess, but don't have the "stones" to actually say (or for that matter, act on it). One could also ask the question, "hey, maybe if we didn't have our heads in our respective crevasses, we might have actually been able to understand one another before they left....no, I'm right and they're wrong!" If it sounds like I'm being a little snippy...I am. For too long have I read many people's blatanly ignorant opinions with regard to their brothers' and sisters' actions with narry a thought to analyzing our own little opinions and actions with such severity. Truly we are all Christians....we treat even those in our own Confession as potential heretics!

Thus, my first point begins: 1. The term "closet Romanist" is a loaded term, implying and assuming several things, namely; A. Rome (or the East) is inherently evil. B. Many of Rome's teachings are unbiblical and hence, not to be practiced (true, yet debatable). C. The Papacy is the office of the Antichrist. Several problems with point 1: A. Nonsense, it is inherently Christian even though it has its faults, just like any other denomination, even faults which are quite major (the muddling of justification - leading to Purgatory and Rome's version of invocation, the altered nature of the Ecclesium, the application of Aristotelian logic to areas it doesn't belong, etc.). B. See A...one could (and I have and will) argue that some of Rome's practices are actually good and acceptable (or matters of opinion), but their understanding and confession of them is wrong. The East's understanding and confession is difficult to grasp, but their practices and understandings are quite similar to ours (which is an opinion I know many don't share with me...but it's my opinion and I can defend it, so there :-P). Our problem is that we often use reason with regard to comparing Confessional statements and think if a word doesn't mean the exact same thing, they're heretics...way to pit rather than atually compare two differing ideas and concepts, hence bringing in western reasoning of paired opposites (and we chide the Protestants and Rome for doing the same thing!). With this reasoning, Alexandria OR Antioch would have been the order of the day in the ancient Christological controversies...not an agreement between the two, so there is precedent for actually comparing and synthesizing rather than ripping apart and overlaying. C. The Papacy is indeed an office of the antichrist...though last year on Ash Wednesday (or around that time), I wrote a piece where I slammed those Christians who didn't accept infant baptism (and hence properly understand grace) as antichrists. Going to either extreme never helps....and simply identifying the spirit of the antichrist in their doctrines doesn't mean everything they say is evil or bad...Satan would have no followers if he worked this way (no, I'm not saying other Christians aren't saved, I'm saying that through sin guided by his infernal nastiness, doctrines have differed and thus there is truth muddled with error)!










My point 2: Our rule is clearly posted and referenced, yet complete noobs have mis-read it and misapplied it MANY times over. Even the WELS have misread, or attempted to mislead a questioner with regard to our society (even deigning to put the question under "Romanizing Lutherans," how "Reformed" of them :-D). First and foremost, I do not speak for our society. I speak for myself and myself alone. To be in the society one must accept a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. Section 7 of our rule simply says that the Virgin Mary is to be recognized as the Ever Virgin Mother of God (it was brought to my attention by a Lutheran vicar that technically Mary is not referred to as Ever Virgin in the German translation which is what Pastors are to accept...I guess we get extra credit points ;-D) and recognize that she prays for the church. It DOES NOT FOLLOW that we advocate that we are to invoke her, and anyone who says this is completely overextending the meaning of the section in our rule. It basically is there to see whether or not you think the church dropped the ball on the Virgin for nearly 1800 years. If your confident that we know better, now, be my guest. I like to think I'm not smarter than the church fathers. Now, while I DO invoke her and the other saints, I have a clear and Confessional (and several other Lutherans do, or at least bandy the idea about) understanding of such an invocation. Again...the society does not endorse my view....but what allows me to have that view will be discussed later in this post. Maybe when we decide to seriously analyze our Romophobia (or Orthophobia) we can actually figure out what is going on with the doctrine in Scripture, tradition, our Confessions, and against denominational lines. IN SHORT - if you have trouble reading our rule properly I will have trouble caring about your response.

My point 3: Depending on if you think the Holy Spirit dropped the ball throughout the history of the church, your opinion will be different here (yes, I am implying that those who advocate against high church liturgy and ecclesiology are denying that fundamental aspect of the faith...those who advocate for low church or a change in church practice are not necessarily in this camp....I have more respect for the latter). We retain the high church view, because again, if you think you're smarter than St. Gregory the Great, St. Basil the Great, etc., show us that you can contribute as much to our practice and tradition and we'll make you St. _____________ the Great! Could these "the Greats" been wrong? Yes, in some things (Fr. Weedon mentioned on his blog that St. Gregory the Great argued against venerating icons...personally I would say he erred there), but wholesale no. Could you be right? Yes...but now the tricky thing is arguing for it and letting the Holy Spirit convict if you are right. To simply throw out liturgy and the church's tradition is basically to say to the church triumphant that what they did and thought was good for them, but we've got contemporary music and 45 minute - 60 sermons now that deal with how to live my best life now or how to have a better sex life in my marriage (how often to you hear the Trinity invoked in these churches btw? You often don't...you hear "God" and "Jesus," but usually only when there's a gospel presentation with an altar call, with the occassional smattering of the "Holy Spirit"), and also to tell the Holy Spirit that organic growth and change are not hip or cool anymore...we want punctuated equilibrium!

And finally, my point 4: Many people know what the Book of Concord says. Really? Why then do I commonly read that it condemns prayers for the dead...when it actually doesn't (Ap. XXIV [XII] p. 96)? Many people think that the church triumphant doesn't pray for the church on earth. Really? VERY WRONG. The problem with this one is that there are discrepencies between how certain Luther and Melancthan are. Luther is somewhat skeptical in the Smalcald Articles (Part II, Article II, p. 26), while Melancthan grants its certainty in the Augsburg Confession (Article XXI). In fact...Luther goes on to say in paragraph 26 that we should not hold fast and feast days for the saints........except we do have feast days for them! What is going on here? Historically speaking, the practice of invoking the saints is quite ancient (a history channel show I saw one night indicated that it existed in Judaism at the time of Christ - if this is true, it would most likey have been a pharisaical practice as they would have been trying to defend the resurrection of the dead against the Saducess) and is present in softcore form in the OT (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), as well as being present in the Shepherd of Hermas and Tobit(with reference to angels being invoked). Luther is CLEARLY DEFINING THE GOSPEL. In his clear deffinition he is showing us what to do when someone says YOU MUST practice adiaphora for your salvation, namely, to take the complete opposite position. ALSO, the doctrine of invocation in the west became extremely heretical when the treasury of merit for the saints was developed to deal with those Christians suffering for the temporal price for their sins in Purgatory...and this is why in the Apology Melancthan jumps into discussing the ATONEMENT and therefore, in that context, 1 Timothy 2:5 is indeed violated. However, for simple prayer (i.e. the older form of invocation), no such atonement context exists....so the use of 1 Timothy 2:5 in discussion as a response is just silly. Of course it could be brought up that we're not sure the saints hear us in Heaven....to which I respond, "yes, Melancthan is trying to argue against the invocation of Rome because of the mingling of the atonement with the practice." Melancthan, as a trained Scholastic would use this reasoning and try to go as counter to his opponents as possible...that is a common philosophical tactic (and who says Lutherans don't use reason ;-)). Also, one could argue that because it doesn't have the promise of Scripture, we cannot be sure of it, hence it does not come from faith, and hence, is a sin....again, see the previous answer. If it is not clear in Scripture and is a "practice," then it falls under Adiaphora....so if you say I can't do it...I'm going to say I can as my Christian duty because it does not conflict with the chief article (Justification) if properly understood....the gate swings both ways.

Another example for point 4: The Lutheran Confessions are against monasticism, since monastics are "works righteous." Well so are Protestants who think their works please God by virtue of them doing them (thus again, confusing grace and the idea that God is pleased with you as a Christian because you are being conformed into the image and likeness of His Son, not because you've done something sanctimonious and cool)....what's your point? In actuality the Confessions defend monasteries when properly understood. Perhaps in our sex-crazed society, we should be advocating a form of monastic life to our young kids, more of whom than not I think you'll find are (to quote Emerging pastor Mark Driscoll) "bangin their girlfriends." A close reading of the Confessions show that it isn't as cut and dry as we like to think it is....in fact, what it really means to even have a quia subscription to them is in question. Here's what I mean: We are to accept that the Confessions are a faithful exposition of the Scriptures....I do. Does this mean though we are to accept the historical assertions with regard to the fathers? Does this mean we are to accept the thinly veiled opinions of the writers? Does this mean I am to be a "Confessional fundamentalist" even though, I Lutherans are not "Scriptural fundamentalists?" Does this mean I have to accept the reasoning for doctrines if understood in the context above (Melancthan grants the saints pray for us on the basis of 2 Maccabees 15:14 which he regards as Scripture, and doesn't mention Revelation!!!)? What is the relation of the 7 Ecumenical Councils to the Book of Concord...and are we bound to them over the Confessions?

To conclude: STOP throwing around the term "Romanizing Lutherans" as if it is necessarily a bad thing (after all, Rome reads the Scriptures and places great emphasis on the Eucharist, albeit with a false understanding...therefore, am I "Romanizing" if I do this in my church? Absurd!). It is a label meant to incite terror in the hearts of people who might actually listen to people like us. Come let us reason together and stop acting as though we're trying to sheep steal from each other...we're in the SAME SYNOD FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! We are saying nothing contrary to the Scriptures or the Confessions, and if we are, in love, let us discuss these issues as Christians, not bitter enemies. Save your wrath for Satan, not your brothers and sisters who might disagree with you in Christian freedom. However, to make dogmatic statements about matters which can actually be argued several ways from Scripture, are not central to the chief article, the Trinity, or the Sacraments, and are not fully supportive of your position from the Confessions is dishonest or ignorant, and hence, if you say that in matters of adiaphora I am bound to accept one way or else I'm "not Lutheran," then I believe I will go against your view on the basis of my Christian duty (and with "real Lutheran" precedence).

I know, I've probably ticked off some people....if you got ticked off, you should actually think about why you got ticked off...you may not like WHY you got ticked off on careful analysis. If you want to discuss WHETHER something I have mentioned is NOT adiaphora (invocation of saints, worship - there are Lutherans who hold that worship is not adiaphora, etc.), fine! Let's do it without the barstools in the backs. Let us discuss such matters in Christian love and humility, particularly during this season of Lent which focuses the church's minds on the foundation of our faith....the Passion of Our Lord and our delivery from the bondage of sin and death.

The Real Presence in the Fathers...Dr. White Still Can't Get it

Festival: St. Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria (d. 326AD) (from 1731 Lutheran Almanac)
Writing of St. Alexander: Epistles on Arianism and the Deposition of Arius
Old Testament: Job 30:16-31
New Testament: The Holy Gospel According to St. John 9:1-23
Psalms: Morning - 5
Evening - 27; 51

My video responses to Dr. James White on St. Augustine not withstanding, it seems as though he is intent on ignoring what his Roman Catholic opponent William Albrecht is saying with regard to St. Ignatius of Antioch and his view of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. I am pretty sure I have heard William mention that he is defending the Eucharist (meaning the Real Presence) with regard to the writings of St. Ignatius....and explicitly that he is NOT defending transubstantiation. Dr. White has, however, ignored when William has said this and explicitly mocks William in his "Dividing Line" (found here) by saying something along the lines of, "Ignatius believes as I do, that means he was Roman Catholic and accepted transubstantiation." Of course, such is utter nonsense.

Let us set the record straight. What were the Father's views on the Eucharist? Let us let the late and sainted Jaroslav Pelikan speak on the issue: "Yet it does seem 'express and clear' that no orthodox father of the second or third century of whom we have record either declared the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist to be no more than symbolic (although Clement and Origen came close to doing so) or specified a process of substantial change by which the presence was effected (although Ignatius and Justin came close to doing so). Within the limits of those excluded extremes was the doctrine of the REAL PRESENCE (emphasis mine). Fundamental to the doctrine was the liturgical recollection (anamnesis - transliteration from Greek) of Christ. It was, according to Justin Martyr, a 'recollection of [Christ's] being made flesh for the sake of those who believe in him' and of 'the suffering which he underwent' to deliver men from their sins and from the power of evil. But in the act of remembrance the worshipping congregation believed Christ himself to be present among them. That he was also present among them apart from the Eucharist, they affirmed on the basis of such promises as Matthew 18:20, which Clement of Alexandria applied to matrimony, an Matthew 28:20, which Origen cited against Celsus as proof that the presence of God and of Christ was not spatial. Yet the adoration of Christ in the Eucharist through the words and actions of the liturgy seems to have presupposed that this was a special presence, neither distinct from nor merely illustrative of his presence in the church. In some early Christian writers that presupposition was expressed in strikingly realisting language. Ignatius called the Eucharist 'the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins,' asserting the reality of Christ's presence in the Eucharist against the Docetists, who regarded his flesh as a phantasm both in the incarnation and in the Eucharist; Ignatius comined the realism of his eucharistic doctrine with a symbolic implication when he equated the 'bread of God' with 'the flesh of Jesus Christ,' but went on to equate 'his blood' with 'incorruptible love (emphasis mine).'" Jaroslav Pelikan, "The Christian Tradition Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), pp. 167-168.

It seems to me that to say that Ignatius was being symbolic in his view of the body and blood of Christ in his letter to the Romans is to miss the point in his letter to the Smyrnaeans where he is QUITE explicit: "They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes (7:1)."

In fact it is interesting that Docetism is the order of the day where this quote comes up. Clearly Dr. White accepts the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Why then would a real physical presence be out of the ordinary? Oh wait...Jesus COULDN'T have possibly meant that the bread was literally His flesh and the wine literally His blood, because He was right there giving it to them. Of course...getting back to my rant against WOTMR on mysticism: if you think that the finite cannot contain the infinite you will ultimately fail to fully appreciate the incarnation, the Sacraments, and salvation in general. Everything becomes purely intellectual...Jesus is only figuratively God....the Sacraments are merely physical ordinances with no mystical tie to God.....Christianity pushes the 3rd use of the law over the Gospel.....did I miss the Gnostic memo here? Who's calling who "docetic?"

Well, Dr. White claimed that Roman Catholics are somewhat docetic for holding doctrines initially espoused by docetists....the one he brought up was the ever virginity of the Virgin Mary. Of course, the fact that early orthodox fathers held to that as well is inconsequential to this discussion...or the fact that most if not all of the Reformation fathers (even Calvin!) accepted it (as well as the title Mother of God - there's that pesky incarnational consistency thing again)....and even interpretations of Ezekiel 44:1-3 indicate that the Virgin had only one child. Of course, there's also the point that Christ gave the care of His mother (type of the church) to the Apostle St. John (type of the Apostolic teachings) which would have been unheard of if she had other children by Joseph....but hey, Jesus must have been a rebel!

All I can say is...thank God for the Eucharist and that taste of Heaven which it brings us!

"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." - 1 Cor. 11:23-26 NIV

"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands" - St. Augustine, Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This Literally Has Nothing to do with Christianity...Only Catianity

Mysticism and the Emergent Church - Or, What I Did NOT Say Against WOTMR

Festival of St. Dionysius (martyred ~303AD): First Bishop of Augsburg, Germany
Old Testament: Job 21:1-21
Psalms: Morning - 34
Evening - 25; 91


"At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely: "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written 'he who through faith is righteous shall live." There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered Paradise itself through open gates." - Martin Luther
Alright. For the record: Here are some things directed towards WOTMR which I did NOT say with regard to mysticism. I did not give assent to all forms of mysticism and decry all forms of rationalism. Such was not and was never my intention. Let me be, perhaps, more clear. We cannot use our reason to know God, we know God through our faith. To confuse the two is to confuse gnosis and pistis. Too often I hear (or have heard) statements from not just Mr. Todd Friel and WOTMR, but from many Evangelicals who think that there is a certain amount you have to "know" to be saved, or some amount of concret knowledge. Why? If you can learn and are not mentally retarded, an infant, or elderly and infirm, you should learn about God because that is one of the things your brain was designed for. However, the problem comes into play with regard to this confusion of pistis and gnosis in Evangelical circles. We are to have faith like a child and as such, children are to grow, but does this mean that you are saved by spiritual puberty???
Here is an example of what I mean: Billy and Jean have a child. The child lives till the age of 2 when suddenly he dies of a genetic malady. You as a pastor tell the parents that the child is in Heaven, because he was not yet at the "age of accountability"(apparently God's justice and the child's original sin are inconsequential). Being a solid Sola Scriptura Bible-believing church, your members are keen to ask you great questions...Billy asks you where in the Bible the "age of accountability" is. What do you tell him? It of course, is not in the Bible (at least not explicitly), and thus is a matter of tradition, particularly western rationalism. You have no way of assuring Billy and Jean their child is in Heaven because you as a solid Bible-believing church do not practice infant baptism because it is not clear in Scripture. ISSUES FOR EVANGELICALS: Why did you trust the "age of accountability" tradition and not the "infant baptism" tradition?
Another example: Your high school youth group is learning about the Bible and one of your bright students asks why you don't take the Words of Institution literally. Being a solid Sola Scriptura Bible-believing church, you have no room for pesky grammatical nonsense in God's Word that contradicts plain reason, so you explain, in a manner that would make John Locke proud, that the "finite cannot contain the infinite." ISSUES FOR EVANGELICALS: Is John Calvin the 13th Apostle? How does his view of the incarnation seem to match in idea (though not necessarily in wording) the doctrines of the heresiarch Nestorius? Why did the church condemn his teachings in 431AD? Are you basically limiting God's omnipotence to enter into His creation?
Another example: Francine has had an abortion, and has been devastated by the experience. She comes to you, the pastor, with tears in her eyes and sorrow in her heart. She asks how she can be sure God has forgiven her. Being a solid Sola Scriptura Bible-believing REFORMED church, you have no guarantee for her forgiveness, because you cannot be sure she is in the elect (in fact, her teen pregnancy would be a sign of sin, and a shunnin' would be in order). Because of her sinful actions, you are almost certain that she is not in the elect, and therefore you preach to her, but wonder if such would do any good as she has attended your church all of her young life. ISSUES FOR EVANGELICALS: How can you wish her the peace of Christ? How are the actions of a merciful God apparent if an act of extreme sin indicates that someone who has been under the continual influence of the Gospel is not actually saved by your theology? How does this square with how Christ treats those who have sorrow for their sin, regardless of whether they know the truth or not? Is your attitude of justice with little compassion towards those who sin a possible reason she got the abortion in the first place (don't laugh this last one off, I think you'll find it occurs in these situations).
All three of these examples demonstrate a fundamental point in my last post. All three deal with ways Christians mystically interact with God by faith. The first deals with Holy Baptism, the second with Holy Communion, and the third with Holy Absolution. Such actions are mystical rites that are done by the whole church in communion with one another. Simultaneously, there are other, appropriate mystical and ascetical practices Christians can and should do. What do I mean by this? If mysticism is the interaction with that which is ultimately mystery, than anything involving interaction with God is mysticism. Prayer is itself mystical....why? I know a Christian's prayer is answered by God and that He hears it....why? The Holy Spirit intercedes for me....why? "He just does." That "He just does" is itself a silent assertion of a mystery (in other words, you aren't going to figure it out with your gray matter) which we interact with as Christians...and is hence, "mysticism." An ascetic practice which has become quite big in the Evangelical churches is fasting practices. Fasting though is something that the "Roman Catholic" or "Eastern Orthodox" churches do...hence they are bad because they are works righteousness. If that is your attitude, such shows your utter inability to actually use the reason you would esteem so highly, as Christ Himself says that it is not if you fast but WHEN you fast (Matthew 6:16-17)
The fact is that for many Evangelicals, the quote I used from the "Berean Call" in my last post emphasizes a fundamental point. God is transcendant (true) and totally "separate from His finite creation" (there are those interesting words "separate" and "finite" again), which is only a
half-truth. In actuality God is transcendant and separate with regard to His essence...but He shares His energy with His finite creation in the Godman Jesus Christ. This same Christ we are connected to by faith and whose blood we find the forgiveness of sins in. To view this any differently is to see God as a judge in eternity deciding who He will have mercy on and who He will consign to Hell....since we have no free will in spiritual matters before conversion, your lot in eternity is a crapshoot with the majority of mankind burning in Hell for eternity all because God decided to be merciful to only a few...so much for a loving God whose glory is shown in salvation! In all, such a view is similar to Zeus who has human passions and foibles, yet who is random in who he favors. If you're a Hercules...you're set...if your a Promethius, watch out!
Such views of God as an angry judge are what drove St. Martin Luther to desperation amidst the works righteousness of the Middle Ages which saw God as completely unmerciful....even Jesus Christ was an awful judge with no mercy...to get to Him you had to go through the Virgin who had to appease her angry son. Such a view of both God and the Virgin are appalling when you stop and think about it. Yet without the Virgin's role in prayer in Evangelicalism (who say they honor her yet I've seen Judas get more mention)....you still have the view of God as an angry judge who is wrathful towards sin and who shows mercy on those who either are in the elect or who please Him by their actions (depending on which heretical view you go with). What, are Protestants afraid that if we focus on God's love first and His wrath towards sin second that people will go around being hippies? I'd rather have someone who is confident in God's love as revealed at the cross than I would with a return to the superstitious Medieval theology of God's tempertantrum and unmerciful nature.
Similarly though...what I said was not a defense of the Emergent Church. The Emergents pursue mysticism with little or no insight into the nature or theology of the mysticism they
embrace. They use the eastern liturgy...but do they acknowledge the Real Presence or a clergy?
If not, then they're being illogical and are only doing it to emotionally "feel" God...not mystically
or "sacramentally" feel or feed on God. They use lectio divina, but do they know the ultimate meaning of the text in the reference to Christ, or is it still about "what God is telling me?"
It somewhat surprises me that Christian universalism is not rampant within Emergent circles...though I could be wrong about this. The problem with them is two-fold: 1. They lack a clear confession of doctrine within the historic framework of the church. and 2. They are political or ideological and they bring this to Christianity which they thus change so that suddenly Christ has absolutely no justice with regard to sin...but He'll punish those hateful Republicans between bong puffs.
Both extremes of Christianity are bad...if I had to take my pick, I'd be an atheist! On the one hand Protestantism generally pushes for fundamentalism...a view of Scripture as the literal Word of God (funny, I thought Jesus was the Word of God...should I worship my Bible??) and thus place scripture on a pedestal even the Reformers weren't willing to give it....that of being above God. Of course a general background in the history of the canon and our tranlsations somewhat shoots down the idea of fundamentalism...but hey, it's all they have since they reject the efficacy of the sacraments! For fundamentalists Sola Scriptura is the sole source and norm for doctrine (with reason thrown in there to, though not mentioned explicitly) and anathema to all tradition, because tradition is Roman Catholic, and that means funny hats, and hence, evil (come on, the Pope wears a hat INDOORS!). On the other hand you have the Emergents who are the blind trying to drive the racecar during the Indie 500...devoid of direction or goal, they wander aimlessly, using jargon from philosophy or politics that sounds snazzy. They'll use rhetoric while the Evangelical Protestants use logic....neither, when taken to their extremes are good for Christians who are supposed to live with paradoxes (i.e. God is three in one, Jesus is true God and true man, etc.).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Way of the Master vs. Saint Athanasius the Great on Mysticism

Old Testament: Job 17:1-16
New Testament: The Holy Gospel According to St. John 7:14-31
Psalms: Morning - 22
Evening - 107; 130

Link to the Show: February 20th, 2008 Hour 1

I was flabbergasted by this broadcast! There are times when WOTM gets things right and other times......BUZZZZZ. Such was the case this time around. Guest host David Wheaton was discussing the "ancient/future movement in the church." Basically within the hour, he takes non-stop slams at ANYTHING mystical....for those of you who might have issues with St. Ignatius of Loyola or Meister Eckart, don't feel left out! If you use a mystical liturgy (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, etc.), use prayer labrynths, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayers, "Ancient images," the Jesus Prayer, etc....you are unbiblical and wrong. Here's why! Many in Evangelicalism today are getting fed up with the shallowness of it all (it took them THAT long eh?) with regard to not doctrine so much, but practice. People my age want to actually experience "genuine" Christianity that goes beyond doctrinal statements and dry Bible studies and focus on prayer, service to others, and deeper more spiritual connections to Christ. Rather than talk about how they can do that...apparently the order of the day was to take another swipe at "Early Church Fathers" (I'm not kidding, Wheaton put quotes around them MANY times), Roman Catholicism, and "Eastern mysicism." In fact even St. Augustine was treated as only "he might have some good things to say."

These Christians want to return to the practices of the early church (100-~600AD [why Ignatian exercises got into Wheaton's hit-list escapes me as he is MUCH later than 600AD])...but Wheaton has one better...."return to the Bible!" Of course it's that simple...after all, most sermons are nothing more than what a text means in its context (and Jesus is where?), as are Bible study and apologetic curricula. No, I think that it isn't the Bible that's missing...it's the "authentic" (quite a good word I'd say) concept of communion with God. Of course, to be ENTIRELY consistent, Wheaton would also have to give up doctrinal positions and statements of the early church councils. If he's willing to give up the term "Holy Trinity" and "Holy Incarnation," then I at least would think he's being consistent. Of course what this really shows is that when you divorce the Scriptures from their historic reading, you end up lacking apostolic teaching authority. After all, St. Polycarp (celebrated tomorrow) of Smyrna wasn't "inspired by God to write a book of the Bible"...no, but he did know an apostle and was taught by him...so I think that gives him some credibility...WAY more than we do today being separated by 2000 years from the events in the Bible. I think Evangelicals are getting tired of an ephemeral spirituality that separates Christ from daily life in a real way that He Himself has promised us.

This also shows that individuals who lead churches or who do theology with that understanding of Scripture and history show that they haven't figured out that words can change meaning. It isn't JUST the context of the text or a minor historical fact that can put it all together in meaning, when YOU are reading it and what background YOU have will influence how YOU read it. If it were all self-explanatory, the best trained scholars wouldn't be disagreeing over major points of doctrine. Words like, "symbol" which have changed in meaning since the time of Christ are a good example of such, as they are commonly read by Evangelicals with an Enlightenment mindset, not an ancient Jewish one!

Indubitably though, the TRUE weakness of (Protestant, not Catholic) Evangelicalism comes in THIS quote from Wheaton who quotes Tom McMahon of the "Berean Call": "Catholic mysticism is thoroughly subjective and experiential...like its parent, Eastern mysticism...it claims that God can neither be known nor understood, through human reason, but only experienced subjectively through various techniques. It is the antithesis of what the Bible teaches in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now and let us reason together," saith the Lord.' Furthermore, the goal of mysticism is union with God, the merging of one's soul unto God. This is an impossibility...that reveals mysticism's pantheistic and panentheistic roots: that God is everything and is in everything. No, God is infinite and transcendant; absolutely separate from His finite creation."

So....God is absolutely separate from His creation. Who is Jesus Christ then? He is the Word of God MADE FLESH. God becomes our brother in the incarnation! That's EXACTLY why when we say the Nicene Creed, it has been customary to bow at the statement: "Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." We mystically partake of Him through faith! We mystically partake of Him when we eat His flesh and drink His blood in the Eucharist! We are reminded of when we were buried with Him in Baptism! To deny mysticism as completely as has been done is an affront to the root of Christianity, and in love we must correct our brothers, pointing out the importance of the incarnation with regard to our salvation...and hence, the writings of the church fathers, not as infallible men, but as men who preserved and died for the faith delivered from the Apostles.

Since the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was ardently defended by St. Athanasius, who also defended the mystical practices of the dessert hermits such as St. Anthony of the Desert...perhaps we should ask the question, "What Would Athanasius Do?" We don't give up doctrine by taking up mysticism...it is an expression of that truly and foundational doctrine of Christianity...that God became man and died for our sins so that we might live forever! And of course...mysticism is "works righteousness to earn our salvation" to quote Wheaton....what utter NONSENSE!

Biblical verses on mysticism: "I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 NIV

"Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." - 2 Peter 1:4 NIV..if "participate in the divine nature" isn't a mystical union with God...I don't know WHAT is.

"For he "has put everything under his feet."Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." - 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 NIV

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:5

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Response to Dr. James White Continued

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My Response to Dr. James White on You Tube

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Born to Hell....Called in Christ

Old Testament: Job 13:13-28
New Testament: The Holy Gospel According to St. John 6:22-40
Psalms: Morning - 119:73-80
Evening - 121; 6

This entry is not made to be a treatise on Predestination and Free Will. This is simply to put an idea out into the public sphere for discussion. As I know there are Lutherans, Calvinists, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic who may perchance happen to read this blog, this could be a good place to throw around commentary on my idea (or perhaps understanding).

First of all...because of some debate which eventually involved Dr. James White on You Tube (it was very brief...I will post my responses to him here soon), I have become increasingly interested in the discussion of how the change John Calvin did to the person of Christ (denying the Communicatio Idiomatum - specifically that the divine nature of Christ can communicate divine attributes to the human nature of Christ) and how this affects both the sacraments and the paradox between predestination and free will.

My understanding thus far is that God does indeed have just wrath towards the sin of mankind, yet He also loves us because we are creations in His image and we were supposed to be His children. The Father sends Christ, who calls ALL men to repentence and salvation through His incarnation, perfect life, death, and resurrection. Both send the Spirit who makes the call and atonement of Christ effectual in those whom He calls. God calls through means (preaching of the Gospel, Absolution, Baptism, and the Eucharist) and in this manner He "elects" those who are given these means. Those who are not brought to faith do not do so, not because God genuinely desires that they be saved, but because He does not force them to love Him. The salvation of the person who faith is made in does not choose Christ (though I know that McG has brought up that St. Gregory of Nyssa mentions in a catechetical writing that our rebirth in Christ is the choice we DO get, if McG or Fr. Weedon if he is familiar with it [or anyone else for that matter] could elucidate and provide their thoughts, it would be helpful).

Mainly...my point is this: God earnestly desires all to be saved. God earnestly gives grace to all so that all may come to Christ who are called by the Spirit through the means of grace. Those who are saved are saved purely out of God's grace (including the psychological experience of "choice-making" we experience), while those who are condemned are condemned because they rejected the call/election. This involves what the Orthodox Study Bible calls a paradox of God's sovereignty with man's will (Romans 9:19-21f). Once we become Christians, our will becomes free because in the person of Christ...the human nature is total including the flesh, soul, and will....following the Cappadocian Fathers ("what is not assumed is not redeemed").

Alright...I just want to toss that out there for some thoughts....from a Lutheran standpoint are there any improvements with how I could say it? From a Calvinist perspective...am I missing something that Calvin might actually teach concerning the nature of the atonement or the person and work of Christ? From the Orthodox/Roman Catholic perspective....comments?