Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Baptism dialogue

Dr. Gene Edward Veith's Cranach blog, that great spot for cultural debate, is currently featuring an excellent thread on baptism. The television show, Lost, spurred the discussion, but that show was soon lost in the discussion of what baptism really accomplishes.

Instead of focusing on what I said, I'd like to feature key dialogue and responses. I am not trying to highlight my witty responses (as if), but I want to remember how to address very common objections made by those who have decided that God cannot possibly work faith in the hearts of baptized infants and children. I made these same claims for nearly 20 years before looking more closely at scripture.

Below is the dialogue, so far. I've left off monikers because that would detract from the discussion. Keep in mind that this discussion took place on a confessional Lutheran website, Dr. Gene Edward Veith's Cranach Institute blog, so it is natural that the Lutherans would rise to the defense of their practice infant baptism as a way that God works to create saving faith. I want to post this as an educational tool for explaining my faith in Christ as full substitutionary atonement for the sins of all with no strings attached, my faith in God to work through His Word and the Holy Spirit to draw us to Himself, creating and sustaining faith and my faith that we are powerless to save ourselves and are very capable of rejecting God's gift to us.

Point A: I agree - Instead of being the response to a repentant heart and faith in Jesus Christ, baptism was depicted on "Lost" as some kind of magical ceremony where salvation is conferred on the recipients by going through "religious" actions. Why any Christian would be happy about this is beyond me. I know the Lutherans at this site have no problem with infant baptism, but I sure do.

Point B: Speaking as one of those Lutherans, we do NOT believe that baptism is just the response from the heart. As if the heart is the source of faith. Is the Word of God, the message of the Gospel, a response from the heart? Or is it the external stimulus that God uses to create that faith in the heart? We believe that what makes Baptism effective is, in the words of Luther's catechism, "not simple water only, but the Word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such Word of God in the water."

Furthermore, according to 1 Peter 3:21, "Baptism now saves you." I don't understand how other Christians, while having other theologies about it, can dare say--as I've heard it said in Reformed baptismal rites--that "baptism does NOT save you." Baptism saves not as a magical rite. But when we are given remission of our sins, are buried into Christ's death, raised with Him, and when we "put on Christ"--that saves--and that's what happens in Baptism (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3, Gal 3:26-27). Infants can't believe? Neither can unregenerate adults. But Baptism is the beginning. Afterwards, just as infants can love and trust their parents, they can certainly love and trust God.

Point A
: You don't have to be baptized to be saved. You're saved by grace through FAITH. Unregenerate adults believe and then are regenerated. "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Baptism is a public declaration of the regeneration that has already occurred when one trusts in Christ.

You left out part of the "baptism now saves you" scripture - the part about it being the pledge of a good conscience toward God. Until repentance occurs, the conscience isn't good. How can an infant repent without the capacity to acknowledge sin? It can't.

Luther was making a heroic effort to escape the bad doctrine of the Roman Catholic sacramental system where grace is dispensed by merely performing a ritual. He made a great start, but didn't go far enough.

Point B
: So infants can't have faith?

Ps 8:2 (cf. Matt 21:16)
"Out of the mouth of infants and suckling babes You have prepared praise for Yourself."

Ps 22:9-10
"Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb."

Matt 18:6
"... these little ones who believe in Me ..."

Luke 1:44
"For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy."

Hebr 11:23,24:
"By faith Moses when he was born..."
"By faith Moses when he had grown up..."

Lutherans do not deny that the saving benefits of baptism are received by faith. We simply believe by the witness of the Scriptures that God gives infants faith as easily as He gives stubborn old adults faith.

Point B
: 1 Peter 3:21-22 reads, "There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him."

This means that baptism is not the washing of dirt from the flesh but the cleansing of the conscience so that we can now come to God with a clear conscience despite our sinful nature. This happens through Christ's death and resurrection, not by anything that we do.

Point B
: What I think I hear some saying on this thread is, "Some human ritual can't save us. Faith alone saves." And, as a confessional Lutheran, I respond: AMEN!

Absolutely right! The Sacraments do not save "ex opera operato" (by the doing of the work). They save because of the promise of God.

And God attaches all sorts of promises to the washing waters of baptism!

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is promised in baptism. Further, it is promised to "you and your household." That would involve even little babies! And let's not forget what Paul says to Timothy, "from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures." Exaggeration? Not if you read the passage as the Church has from its very beginning.

One passage Luther thought was important in this was Titus 3:5ff, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

Is this apart from faith? No, of course not. If baptism saves... If it is a washing that regenerates... If it gives the Holy Spirit... If it is for the forgiveness of sins, then surely God gives all of these gifts in Baptism through the gift of faith that comes in Baptism.

Baptism is not some human ritual that gets us a get out of hell free card. It is God's washing us through water used in accord and with God's Word. It makes us children of God, just as Jesus teaches Nicodemus in John 3.

Point A: Interesting scriptures.

So how do you discern which infants truly have the faith to warrant baptism? Do you mean to tell me that all the infants being baptized in all the churches that practice infant baptism are going to spend eternity with God? I seriously doubt it. If not, then it isn't really the baptismal ceremony which saves them at all. It has to do with whether or not God has predestined them to be justified through faith in Christ.

Point B
: Please read the text from 1 Peter a bit more closely, perhaps in the greek if you are able, and take note of how the language flows and what refers to what. (BTW, The idea that either faith or repentance is just an intellectual exercise is not biblical). But back to the text, Peter says "baptism now saves you". Ok, therefore, the matter is settled, baptism is a means by which God has chosen to apply his grace to us. It does not come to us *because* we do something, anything, as if we could obligate God to act, or do something because we are doing our part. Rather, we come to God's promise to act, to save, in this way, and He acts, because He is faithful. Our actions do not and cannot make anything happen. We come, as Luther said, as beggars, and wait in faith for Him to act as He has promised and through the means He has chosen.

But now to your attempt to misread the phrase that follows saves. Literally it reads, "not the removal of dirt of the flesh, but the *answer/promise* of a good conscience before God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" Please note the way in which the word, which you take to be a human *pledge", does not mean that at all. It is not *my* pledge, but rather God's promise of a good conscience. (what, after all would God care if I pledged Him a good conscience? This makes no sense at all. The only one who can ease the burdens of my conscience is Christ). How? "Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ". What does this mean? That God, being satisfied with Christ's work on the cross for me, has *baptized me into Christ* (note the voice-passive in Romans 6, something is BEING DONE TO ME), and because of Christ's resurrection, we know that the work is done, sin is paid for and we, along with Christ, arise to a new life. I have a good conscience, NOT because I pledge something to God, but because God has promised me that in Christ, the one into whom I have been baptized, I have been saved, rescued, delivered from the condemnation which I deserved.

The ironic thing about those who think that Luther did not go far enough from Rome's magical thinking, actually mimic the same kind of thought when they disconnect God's grace from the means. Then all we know about God and his work is that he somehow, in some way, falls upon us for no rhyme or reason, or worse, they stumble into Rome's more serious errors, in which they claim that God's spirit will act upon us *because* we have pledged, repented etc...that is salvation comes to us because of something we do, rather than man dependent on God's faithful work, which He has tied to his means. Rome and these folk answer the question why some are saved and not others in the same way...(not because of God's grace), something man does...makes a decision, applies himself to grace, etc.

Point B: I think that some are confusing faith and belief. We can believe something or not, but we cannot have faith. Even the language is such that faith is not something we can do. It is not a verb, not an action. It is given to us, worked in us by the Holy Spirit.

You may believe, but do you always? If you search your heart, don't you have to admit that sometimes you doubt? If there are times that we don't believe, does that mean that we don't have faith? And if it means that we don't have faith, does that mean that we are not saved?

I think the answer is that we often doubt because we are human, but we still have faith and still are saved because faith is a gift from God, not something that we do for God. Faith comes with Baptism, when we receive the Holy Spirit. We can reject the gifts God gives in Baptism, but we cannot obtain those gifts by any action on our part.

Point A: The events that took place when Peter visited the household of Cornelius indicate the the Holy Spirit is received prior to baptism, and that in the early church some measure of belief in Christ was required before someone was baptized.

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Point B: "Do you mean to tell me that all the infants being baptized in all the churches that practice infant baptism are going to spend eternity with God? I seriously doubt it."

Unfortunately, your statement here is true. Not all of those who were baptized as infants will spend eternity with God. Similarly, not all of those who participate in an altar call or pray the sinner's prayer will spend an eternity with God either.

The sad fact is that many who once had saving faith will reject that faith and turn from God to their sinful rejection of Him again.

A person's faithlessness to God does not negate His faithfulness to him or her in His doings. The fact that a pig, once washed, rolls around in mud again, does not negate the efficacy of the first washing.

Can you discern with confidence whether an adult person has true faith or not when he is standing at the precipice of the baptistry? He or she may be faking their faith - or, as was the case during childhood, he or she may be going forward simply because all of his or her friends are getting baptized.

The fact that some are baptized without faith does not negate the wonderful gifts that God gives in baptism to them that receive them in faith - forgiveness of sins, life and salvation - Christ as clothing, a burial with Him, a participation in His death, &c.

Point B
: Someone early in this thread wrote about their "conversation" with the TV:
"Seal the deal. You're getting so close to presenting the Gospel! Go all the way! Come on, tell her the Gospel, tell her that baptism won't mean anything until she repents and seeks the mercy of Christ!" I'm sorry, the Gospel is what, exactly...? The Good News is that I have to save MYSELF?

Point B
: You have misinterpreted Acts 10 & 11. Peter clearly saw the reception of the Holy Spirit prior to baptism as quite strange...which is why he hurries to get them baptized! This is NOT the NT norm.

The NT norm can be deduced from these verses...

In our baptism, God does the following:

1) forgives our sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16)
2) washes us clean (Eph 5:25-6; Titus 3:5)
3) buries us with Christ (Rom 6:3-4)
4) clears our conscience (1 Pet 3:21; Heb 10:22-3)
5) gives us the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7; 1 Cor 6:11)

In short, in our baptisms, God saves us.

Point B
: We Lutherans confess, together with the Church, spread throughout time, that we believe in "one Baptism for the remission of sins." The Spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters, and God says, "Let there be light."

How can simple water accomplish these things?

"Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So [Naaman] turned and went away in a rage."

"And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"

Baptism is not simply water only, but water comprehended in God's command and connected to God's Word.

Point B: "So how do you discern which infants truly have the faith to warrant baptism"

That's the whole point. You can't discern. You can't discern in adults either. None of us is able to create saving faith on our own, even those of us who could speak the words might not "really" mean it in our hearts (anyone heard of chronic altar calls responders?).

You can deny that God cannot possibly create saving faith in the heart of an infant at baptism, but that doesn't make your denial into truth. There is no mention of age limits in scripture, regarding baptism. Please consider taking Jesus at His Word. God's Word guarantees this in baptism:

become a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19);

be born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5);

have his sins forgiven (Acts 2:38) and washed away (Acts 22:16);

be baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4);

become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17);

put on Christ (Gal. 3:27);

be cleansed and sanctified by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:25-26); and

be saved by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)

We cannot possibly save ourselves due to sin. That is why God sent us an atoning sacrifice for our sin. He washes us new in baptism and sustains our faith through the Holy Spirit, the Word and holy communion (I imagine you might deny that, too.)

I do agree with you that not all baptized infants (or adults) will be in heaven. It is very possible to lose one's faith after being saved through sin and rejection of God's Word. The burden falls onto the parents to make sure that the child is raised in God's Word, but ultimately any soul can choose to reject God. They just can't choose to be saved - the Holy Spirit does that.

Good discussion all.

Point B
: It never ceases to amaze me how people who supposedly believe in the authority of Scripture can miss the point that Scripture clearly, unambiguously, and without any possibility of misunderstanding (save by letting a purely human philosophy which precludes God acting by way of means)say concerning baptism as a means by which God bestows the Spirit and- not to put too fine a point on it- saves us.

2 Peter, of course, asserts that last in so many words.

Of course we're saved by faith- and faith alone. Faith in the promise God makes in baptism! Substituting a purely human piece of works righteousness "the sinner's prayer" (as if there were any other kind!) or a "decision for Christ" (as if those "dead in trespasses and sins were capable of making such a decision) or "asking Jesus into one's heart" (as if one could do so if He were not already there) is hardly an improvement on the locus Scripture gives for the incorporation of a new believer into the Body of Christ: "the washing of water thorugh the Word."

No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born again. How are we born again? "Of water and the Spirit." How much more plainly could Jesus have made the point? And by the way, folks, we'd better hope that infants can have faith. Otherwise they're damned! No infant "prays the sinner's prayer!" Conversely, what more eloquent testimony could there be to salvation by grace alone than infant baptism- the baptism of one who can contribute literally nothing of his own! Baptism- unlike the "sinner' prayer" and other such wretched works-righteousness, is God's act, not ours. And that's why infants- the best qualified of all candidates for admission to the Kingdom- are brought to Jesus in the Lutheran tradition, and why we refuse to be numbered among those who forbid them to come.

Who, of all possible candidates, are most qualified to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? "Unless you become like little children... (Greek: infants). To say that Scripture doesn't clearly teach the baptism of infants, and specifically baptismal regeneration, is possible only by completely ignoring what Scripture says, and presumptuously superimposing one's own rationalistic philosophical presuppositions on the text, allowing it to dictate in typical Reformed Evangelical fashion what God's Word is going to be allowed to say by human philosophical presuppositions!

Hey, guys. It's not a surprise that that the Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century were the first Christians in history to question the validity of infant baptism (even Tertullian urged only that it be delayed until the child could "take in something of the mystery-" that being the very mystery today's baptismal rationalists reject). It's not a surprise that the separation of baptism from the gift of the Holy Spirit and of faith and of salvation is a relatively recent development in church history. It's an innovation, a novum... and a rationalistic heresy.

Jesus doesn't mince words. Neither do His apostles. And they leave no doubt as to what they unanimously taught: baptism saves. It's where God locates His offer of salvation. Granted,
people who hear the Gospel proclaimed are brought to faith by it, and merely have God's promises confirmed (and the gift of His Spirit strengthened) in baptism. Granted, people who believe, but in good faith misunderstand Scripture's clear and consistent teaching about baptism, still are believers, and are still saved. Augustine's dictim applies here: "It is not the absence of baptism, but contempt for it, which condemns." But nobody who understands the biblical teaching, and still declines to be baptized, can possibly be a believer.

Sure, Cornelius believed before he was baptized. Nobody has suggested that the Spirit *only* works through baptism! But where people believe through the proclaimed Word, they are still directed to God's promise in baptism! And it never ceases to amaze me how the rationalist

Point B: miss the point that it was precisely the unusualness of the separation of the gift of the Spirit from baptism in Acts 8 (the Samaritans) and Acts 10 (the Gentiles)which draws the attention of the Apostles to the subsequent bestowal of the Spirit- and the point that both groups are fully acceptable to God in Christ.

The testimony of Scripture is plain and consistent: baptism saves. It is a means thorugh which the Spirit is bestowed. It is meant for infants, too- and if it's not the means by which infants believe, then infants cannot believe, and so are lost.

To deny that baptism saves is the sheerest rationalism, and the utter repudiation of the teaching of Scripture as universally understood through the first sixteen centuries of the Christian era- and still understood today by those who value the testimony of the Word above that of human philosphy and rationalistic presumption.

Point B
: Though not a viewer of "Lost," I'm pleased to hear that sacramental theology has found its way onto the tube. The last time I saw a good sacramental discussion on TV was a great episode on the Lord's Supper on "Northern Exposure."

This blog discussion has been great, though like the Alito confirmation hearings, it is divided mostly along partisan lines. That tends to happen when dogma runs ahead of exegesis.

As a professor of mine once said, "The opposite of an error is not the truth but the opposite error." Seeking to avoid the Roman ditch of opus operatum, radical Protestantism drove straight into the oppostie ditch of fideism and synergism, tossing out both the baptismal bath water and the baby. (Classic Calvinism also baptizes infants, albeit for different reasons than does Lutheranism.)

"Sola fidei" does not mean bare faith in faith (fideism), but faith in the promise of salvation won in the death/resurrection of Jesus which is offered, delivered, and applied to the individual by the external Word, with Holy Baptism at the fore. Faith and its external object are always together.

In addition to the verses amply cited by others extolling Holy Baptism as the gift and work of the Triune God and not simply our act of testimony and obedience, I would add these words from our Lord:

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16)

Notice that Jesus keeps faith and baptism together as one. Note also that there is no temporal sequence implied - both "believes" and "is baptized" are aorist participles describing the one who will be saved. Note finally that "is baptized" is an aorist passive participle. Baptism is something done to you, not something you do.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt 28:19-20)

The mandated activity of "discipling" ("make disciples" is the only imperitive in this verse!) is accomplished by "baptizing" and "teaching." Again no temporal sequence is implied by the two present active participles in this verse. They are simply the two activities that go into the one divinely mandated activity of "making disciples." Infants are baptized into teaching; adults and older children are taught into Baptism. Same result, either way.

For a Lutheran, Holy Baptism applied to an infant perfectly depicts the central article of the justification of a sinner by God's grace (undeserved kindness) through faith (trust in the promise of salvation in Christ) for Christ's sake.

As for "infant faith," Luther refused to speculate on things he could not know. Who can really know what an infant trusts? Baptism gives the person, whether infant or adult, something tangible to trust. It's nice to know that Christ died to save the world. It's even better to know in Baptism that He died "for you." The words "for you" require all hearts to believe.

I'll even dare to speak personally. (Yes, Lutherans have personal testimonials too!). I was baptized when I was five weeks old, was nurtured in the Liturgy, catechized by my parents and pastor, etc. As a result, I do not have a single conscious moment in my life when I did not know and trust Jesus Christ as my Savior. That's why I can't relate to "Amazing Grace" when it sings "I once was lost but now I'm found." I have to believe from the Scriptures that I once was lost, but I have no such memory or experience. I've always been found in Jesus.

Point B: I'd like to add that I spent 20 years, as an evangelical, questioning my own infant baptism. All because evangelicalism taught me that one must CHOOSE to be baptized. I even kept my own children from the saving waters of baptism - but not the saving grace of God's Word, which saved them anyway - because of my own doubts. I finally relented to have them baptized, reassuring myself that they had finally chosen it at ages 9 and 7, due to the continual request of my former old-school ELCA pastor. (I say old-school because the rest of the staff had thrown out Lutheran doctrine and education for Baptist teachings and curriculum.) How great was my joy, and how deep regret, to be convicted by the Holy Spirit that God had already acted for me in providing a way of salvation and that it was never up to me. The validity of my first baptism in the triune God immediately came rushing at me. We have a jealous God who created us, loves us, sustains us, provides salvation for us and seeks us out.

This is the joy of the gospel that Madre spoke of earlier. The gospel is the good news that we are saved through no action of our own. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God proclaim. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to draw us to the Father. For anyone to think that they can choose to believe has to spend a lot of energy denying God's omnipotence. Lutheran doctrine and practice has shown me a picture of God that is unimaginably more powerful, terrifyingly holy and relentlessly loving that any picture of God that evangelicalism ever showed me.

This thread has been very helpful to me. We should always be ready to give account for the joy that is in our heart!

I would like to add that I think the debaters maintained civility. For myself, I need to work on presenting my case of what scripture says without using labels that might inflame and detract from my point. Sometimes, though, labels appear to be necessary to explain myself. I'm still working on that.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The 8th Commandment

The Large Catechism
by Dr. Martin Luther
Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau
Published in:
Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books
of the Ev. Lutheran Church.
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 565-773
Part 8

The Eighth Commandment:Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Over and above our own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we have yet another treasure, namely, honor and good report [the illustrious testimony of an upright and unsullied name and reputation], with which we cannot dispense. For it is intolerable to live among men in open shame and general contempt. Therefore God wishes the reputation, good name, and upright character of our neighbor to be taken away or diminished as little as his money and possessions, that every one may stand in his integrity before wife, children, servants, and neighbors. And in the first place, we take the plainest meaning of this commandment according to the words (Thou shalt not bear false witness), as pertaining to the public courts of justice, where a poor innocent man is accused and oppressed by false witnesses in order to be punished in his body, property, or honor.

Now, this appears as if it were of little concern to us at present; but with the Jews it was quite a common and ordinary matter. For the people were organized under an excellent and regular government; and where there is still such a government, instances of this sin will not be wanting. The cause of it is that where judges, burgomasters, princes, or others in authority sit in judgment, things never fail to go according to the course of the world; namely, men do not like to offend anybody, flatter, and speak to gain favor, money, prospects, or friendship; and in consequence a poor man and his cause must be oppressed, denounced as wrong, and suffer punishment. And it is a common calamity in the world that in courts of justice there seldom preside godly men.

For to be a judge requires above all things a godly man, and not only a godly, but also a wise, modest, yea, a brave and bold man; likewise, to be a witness requires a fearless and especially a godly man. For a person who is to judge all matters rightly and carry them through with his decision will often offend good friends, relatives, neighbors, and the rich and powerful, who can greatly serve or injure him. Therefore he must be quite blind, have his eyes and ears closed, neither see nor hear, but go straight forward in everything that comes before him, and decide accordingly.

Therefore this commandment is given first of all that every one shall help his neighbor to secure his rights, and not allow them to be hindered or twisted, but shall promote and strictly maintain them, no matter whether he be judge or witness, and let it pertain to whatsoever it will. And especially is a goal set up here for our jurists that they be careful to deal truly and uprightly with every case, allowing right to remain right, and, on the other hand, not perverting anything [by their tricks and technical points turning black into white and making wrong out to be right], nor glossing it over or keeping silent concerning it, irrespective of a person's money, possession, honor, or power. This is one part and the plainest sense of this commandment concerning all that takes place in court.

Next, it extends very much further, if we are to apply it to spiritual jurisdiction or administration; here it is a common occurrence that every one bears false witness against his neighbor. For wherever there are godly preachers and Christians, they must bear the sentence before the world that they are called heretics, apostates, yea, seditious and desperately wicked miscreants. Besides the Word of God must suffer in the most shameful and malicious manner, being persecuted blasphemed, contradicted, perverted and falsely cited and
interpreted. But let this pass; for it is the way of the blind world that she condemns and persecutes the truth and the children of God, and yet esteems it no sin.

In the third place, what concerns us all, this commandment forbids all sins of the tongue whereby we may injure or approach too closely to our neighbor. For to bear false witness is nothing else than a work of the tongue. Now, whatever is done with the tongue against a fellow-man God would have prohibited, whether it be false preachers with their doctrine and blasphemy, false judges and witnesses with their verdict, or outside of court by lying and evil-speaking. Here belongs particularly the detestable, shameful vice of speaking behind a person's back and slandering, to which the devil spurs us on and of which there would be much to be said. For it is a common evil plague that every one prefers hearing evil to hearing good of his neighbor; and although we ourselves are so bad that we cannot suffer that any one should say anything bad about us, but every one would much rather that all the world should speak of him in terms of gold, yet we cannot bear that the best is spoken about others.

Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.

Those, then, are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but proceed to assume jurisdiction, and when they know a slight offense of another, carry it into every corner, and are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another's displeasure [baseness], as swine roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout. This is nothing else than meddling with the judgment and office of God, and pronouncing sentence and punishment with the most severe verdict. For no judge can punish to a higher degree nor go farther than to say: "He is a thief, a murderer, a traitor," etc. Therefore, whoever presumes to say the same of his neighbor goes just as far as the emperor and all governments. For although you do not wield the sword, you employ your poisonous tongue to the shame and hurt of your neighbor.

God therefore would have it prohibited that any one speak evil of another even though he be guilty, and the latter know it right well; much less if he do not know it, and have it only from hearsay. But you say: Shall I not say it if it be the truth? Answer: Why do you not make accusation to regular judges? Ah, I cannot prove it publicly, and hence I might be silenced and turned away in a harsh manner [incur the penalty of a false accusation]. "Ah, indeed, do you smell the roast?" If you do not trust yourself to stand before the proper authorities and to make answer, then hold your tongue. But if you know it, know it for yourself and not for another. For if you tell it to others, although it be true, you will appear as a liar, because you cannot prove it, and you are, besides acting like a knave. For we ought never to deprive any one of his honor or good name unless it be first taken away from him publicly.

False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved. Therefore, what is not manifest upon sufficient evidence no one shall make public or declare for truth; and in short, whatever is secret should be allowed to remain secret, or, at any rate, should be secretly reproved, as we shall hear. Therefore, if you encounter an idle tongue which betrays and slanders some one, contradict such a one promptly to his face, that he may blush thus many a one will hold his tongue who else would bring some poor man into bad repute from which he would not easily extricate himself. For honor and a good name are easily taken away, but not easily restored.

Thus you see that it is summarily forbidden to speak any evil of our neighbor, however the civil government, preachers, father and mother excepted, on the understanding that this commandment does not allow evil to go unpunished. Now, as according to the Fifth Commandment no one is to be injured in body, and yet Master Hannes [the executioner] is excepted, who by virtue of his office does his neighbor no good, but only evil and harm, and nevertheless does not sin against God's commandment, because God has on His own account instituted that office; for He has reserved punishment for His own good pleasure, as He threatens in the First Commandment, -- just so also, although no one has a right in his own person to judge and condemn anybody, yet if they to whose office it belongs fail to do it, they sin as well as he who would do so of his own accord, without such office. For here necessity requires one to speak of the evil, to prefer charges, to investigate and testify; and it is not different from the case of a physician who is sometimes compelled to examine and handle the patient whom he is to cure in secret parts. Just so governments, father and mother, brothers and sisters, and other good friends, are under obligation to each other to reprove evil wherever it is needful and profitable.

But the true way in this matter would be to observe the order according to the Gospel, Matt. 18, 15, where Christ says: If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. Here you have a precious and excellent teaching for governing well the tongue, which is to be carefully observed against this detestable misuse. Let this, then, be your rule, that you do not too readily spread evil concerning your neighbor and slander him to others, but admonish him privately that he may amend [his life]. Likewise, also, if some one report to you what this or that one has done, teach him, too, to go and admonish him personally if he have seen it himself; but if not, that he hold his tongue.

The same you can learn also from the daily government of the household. For when the master of the house sees that the servant does not do what he ought, he admonishes him personally. But if he were so foolish as to let the servant sit at home, and went on the streets to complain of him to his neighbors, he would no doubt be told: "You fool, what does that concern us? Why do you not tell it to him ?" Behold, that would be acting quite brotherly, so that the evil would be stayed, and your neighbor would retain his honor. As Christ also says in the same place: If he hear thee, thou host gained thy brother. Then you have done a great and excellent work; for do you think it is a little matter to gain a brother? Let all monks and holy orders step forth, with all their works melted together into one mass, and see if they can boast that they have gained a brother.

Further, Christ teaches: But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. So he whom it concerns is always to be treated with personally, and not to be spoken of without his knowledge. But if that do not avail, then bring it publicly before the community, whether before the civil or the ecclesiastical tribunal. For then you do not stand alone, but you have those witnesses with you by whom you can convict the guilty one, relying on whom the judge can pronounce sentence and punish. This is the right and regular course for checking and reforming a wicked person. But if we gossip about another in all corners and stir the filth, no one will be reformed, and afterwards when we are to stand up and bear witness, we deny having said so. Therefore it would serve such tongues right if their itch for slander were severely punished, as a warning to others. If you were acting for your neighbor's reformation or from love of the truth, you would not sneak about secretly nor shun the day and the light.

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.

Thus we have now the sum and general understanding of this commandment, to wit, that no one do any injury with the tongue to his neighbor, whether friend or foe, nor speak evil of him, no matter whether it be true or false, unless it be done by commandment or for his reformation, but that every one employ his tongue and make it serve for the best of every one else, to cover up his neighbor's sins and infirmities, excuse them, palliate and garnish them with his own reputation. respecting our neighbor, Matt. 7, 12: Whatsoever ye would
that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

Even nature teaches the same thing in our own bodies, as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. 12, 22: Much more, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary; and those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. No one covers his face, eyes, nose, and mouth, for they, being in themselves the most honorable members which we have, do not require it. But the most infirm members, of which we are ashamed, we cover with all diligence; hands, eyes, and the whole body must help to cover and conceal them. Thus also among ourselves should we adorn whatever blemishes and infirmities we find in our neighbor, and serve and help him to promote his honor to the best of our ability, and, on the other hand, prevent whatever may be discreditable to him. And it is especially an excellent and noble virtue for one always to explain
advantageously and put the best construction upon all he may hear of his neighbor (if it be not notoriously evil), or at any rate to condone it over and against the poisonous tongues that are busy wherever they can pry out and discover something to blame in a neighbor, and that explain and pervert it in the worst way; as is done now especially with the precious Word of God and its preachers.

There are comprehended therefore in this commandment quite a multitude of good works which please God most highly, and bring abundant good and blessing, if only the blind world and the false saints would recognize them. For there is nothing on or in entire man which can do both greater and more extensive good or harm in spiritual and in temporal matters than the tongue, though it is the least and feeblest member.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Saint or Sinner or both?

One thing that caused me to leave American Evangelicalism in search of a true Bible-based church was my utter despair at realizing that I was not becoming the kind of Christian that Ted Haggard and Bill Bright said I should be. I was being taught that after several years of Christianity, that sin in my life should be decreasing. In fact, I was taught I was no longer a sinner; I was saved! Something magical should have happened to me, if I was truly saved, and I should look more like a saint at my age.

Thankfully, God had still planted the seed of faith in me and I did not give up. Increasingly strange doctrinal changes at my former church basically forced me out of the door and we were without a church home! Interestingly, we had put our daughter in a private school the year before and did know of one place to turn: the confessional Lutheran church that ran the school. My daughter had been bringing home strange ideas (Bible is God's Word, women are not called to be pastors, Jesus is really present at communion, baptism saves even infants, etc) from her teacher, Mr. Olmanson, for a year and I decided to turn to his church for help. I had been reading the WELS Q&A site during that year to learn more about those strange ideas that were being taught to my daughter. Obviously, God's Holy Spirit spoke to me through God's Word and reassured me that my daughter was being taught scriptural truths.

Over the course of the next couple of years, three resources helped me understand what scripture truly teaches regarding justification and sanctification, beyond the Bible instruction classes taught one-on-one by my pastors, were offerings from Craig Parton and Rev. Todd Wilken .

One on one (or group) Bible instruction classes can be found at any good confessional Lutheran church; it is their hallmark. The classes are really a condensed version of catechism. In our church, even catechized parents take the classes to refresh their memories and be the lead teachers of their own children. As it should be! Luther himself said that it is the head of the family's responsibilities to instruct the children in the faith.

As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

Craig Parton's article on the teaching of Bill Bright in his latter years, From Arrowhead to Augsburg: Bill Bright in the Light of the Lutheran Confessions, classically illustrates the common journey from saving yourself to being saved by God.


Recently, Mr. Bright informed those who read his "Bright Side" newsletter that he and others in the Crusade leadership would embark on a forty day vigil of fasting and prayer. Friends and supporters were urged to send prayer requests.

After forty days of denial, the long expected report came. Others within the circle of Campus Crusade leadership, such as Vice-President Steve Douglass, according to the "Bright Side," got "into the Jet Stream of what Bill was praying for...." And what did the "Jet Stream" of the Lord reveal to Dr Bright?

Well, I'm personally still a bit unclear what the Jet Stream did say, at least initially. Of greater importance is what the God of the Burning Bush, who terrorized Moses, Isaiah, and Luther with His holiness, whose Word leveled Saul of Tarsus to the ground, whose law demands perfect obedience to all His commandments, did not say to Bill Bright. The Jet Stream did not speak to Bill Bright about his sin. Didn't need to. As Bright put it in the "Bright Side, "Since I learned how to breathe spiritually many years ago, I frankly do not have that much to confess."2

Let me see if I've understood correctly. After enough years of "spiritual breathing" your sins decrease. One enters an experience where sins of heart, word and deed (of both commission and omission) are numerically reduced.

Bill Bright's approach to the Christian life appears to be, strangely enough, classically medieval. Only certain terms are altered; the content remains thoroughly Roman. The "ladders of ascent" (prayer, fasting, penance, etc.) developed by the monastic orders in great detail during the Middle Ages (and which were well known and practiced aggressively by the young Luther) now reappear in our day under different phrases like "spiritual breathing."

Luther, however, provided an entirely different answer to questions of sin:

Thou, my Lord Jesus, art my Righteousness; I am Thy sin. Thou has taken from me what is mine and hast given me what is Thine. Thou has become what Thou wert not and madest me to be what I was not. Beware of your ceaseless striving after a righteousness so great that you no longer appear as a sinner in your own eyes, and do not want to be a sinner. For Christ dwells only in sinners. See C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law & Gospel, trans. W. H. T. Dau, p. 110 (St Louis, 1929).

Bill Bright and other victorious life teachers of the past century say that over the course of your life you should succeed in slaying more and more sins through "spiritual breathing" and other such ladders. Luther, on the other hand, came to actually welcome his sins, in one sense, allowing them to drive him daily to Christ, the "only ladder to God." (See Luther, Against the Heavenly Prophets, St. Louis ed., XX, esp. p. 199 ff.). The Christian life, wrote Luther, is a life of continual repentance. Luther's search ended with finding a Christ ready to save even the sinning Christian. Luther discovered that Christ had no interest in, and offers nothing to, righteous people. It is not surprising then that the old Lutheran service of the Divine Word requires the confession of sin in the first sentence of public worship In the service. Well, second sentence really. "Amen" is the first sentence.
The Issues, Etc. interview by Pastor Todd Wilken of Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of the 12,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO was a most insightful listening experience! In the interview, Ted Haggard had much to say about how true Christians should be sinning less and less as they mature. He also openly ridiculed families who, as part of family prayer or table grace, ask for forgiveness for unknown sins. The Original broadcast was on 9/12/05.It was repeated on 9/13/05 with added commentary and listener call-ins. It was rebroadcast with commentary - part I and part II

Finally, from the WELS website comes this helpful question and answer post:

Question: My question is about sanctification. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory" and the confessions state that the work of the Holy Spirit is to "begin and daily to increase holiness on earth" through the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins. (from the third article of the Creed). The Bible also says though that if you break only one of God's laws you are guilty of breaking them all. How can we be increasing in holiness if, while we still have our earthly bodies, we still sin and each sin is like breaking all of God's commandments? Doesn't each sin we commit set us right back to square one? Is there really anything other than "square one" on this side of heaven?

: Just as the Apostle Paul stated so passionately and eloquently in Romans 7, this side of heaven I will always have my sinful nature rebelling against any inclination to serve my Savior. That sinful nature prevents me from offering perfect love to God and neighbor. And, as you (and the inspired author James) mentioned, since any breaking of the law of love in effect shatters the whole package of the law, that just proves the utter futility of any idea of working my way into God's favor. If the purpose of my sanctified life were to make God love me more or to earn - even in the minutest detail - my salvation, it would be a hopeless failure. Then indeed with every sin I would be back to square one - day after frustrating day! How thankful we can be that we don't have to earn our way past "square one," but our justification is absolutely perfect and complete in the substitutionary life, death and resurrection of Jesus. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). When it comes to our standing before God, we are way past "square one." We are to the finish line in absolute perfection because the perfect righteous life of Jesus has become our record. We have nothing to prove to God!

Nor is that the purpose of my life of sanctification. It isn't to prove anything to God or to achieve some degree of perfection this side of heaven. The purpose of sanctification is simply to let our light shine to the glory of my Father and to the service and salvation of my neighbor. It is the freely offered love by which we seek to delight in our Father just as in Christ he delights in us. In that, I can grow - even though I will certainly be dragging along my sinful nature kicking and screaming in opposition every step of the way. If I cannot grow in such sanctified living, then the following encouragement Paul gave to the Thessalonian Christians is meaningless. "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

So, to answer your question, we can indeed grow past "square one" in sanctified living - even though our fruits of faith will forever be imperfect because of our sinful nature. But just as with all our sins, the imperfections are forgiven in Christ. God therefore chooses to delight in the thank offerings of his children. Moved and empowered by the gospel in Word and Sacraments, we can grow in such sanctified living day by day.

So, now I know that I am both a saint and a sinner. I find great comfort in knowing I am still a sinner. It helps me both laugh at myself and take my sins very, very seriously. I have never felt freer in Christ, knowing that I am a sinner, will be on my deathbed and that Jesus Christ paid the price for my sins. Operating from this point of view is my only hope at being a saint. Only by clinging to the cross of Christ as a sinner can I hope to do anything resembling a saint.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm not a heretic! Thank God!

Augustine refuting a heretic

A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.
From Latin - means I believe

The Three Ecumenical or Universal Creeds

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic* Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

* catholic means "universal" and is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Athanasian Creed

Written against the Arians.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Why do we say creeds? To remind ourselves of what we believe. Christians commonly recite creeds to remind themselves that they do believe in the Trinity and that over the centuries false teachers have tried to lead Christians astray from the Trinity. Creeds are our reminders of what scripture teaches. The three main creeds are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. The creeds seem as important today as hundreds of years ago when false teachings abounded. Even today, there are Christian churches denying the trinity.

This quiz has been going around the blogosphere and is educational:

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.

And from the Terrible Swede...

Here's some information about the 'Heretic Quiz'

The Council of Chalcedon 451 A.D

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only-begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”

Apollarianism: Doctrine of Apollinaris* of Laodicea and his followers: He opposed Arianism but still denied XP had a human soul.

Pelagianism: Doctrine of Pelagius. A lot of stuff here. We as Lutherans reject all forms of this.

Donatism Schism: Remember it's the Word of God combined with the elements and not the man reciting the words. I struggle with this one sometimes.

Docetism: The heresy that Christ only apparently suffered and not really suffered. Cousin to Arianism.

Arianism: This one's a big one! In my words: "It's a denial of God interacting in the physical world that He created."

Adoptionism: The XP was adopted into being the Son of God. A denial of our ecumenical creeds.

Gnosticism: Another big one - it comes in many forms. For instance if you have someone ask you, "Do you know the secret name of God?" BS. Yeah, they're a gnostic. (BTW, the answer is: 42).

Monophysitism: this one affirms only the divine nature of XP.

Monarchianism: I'm simplyifing this one too much: it's a denial of the Trinity.

Socinianism: Another denial of the Trinity.

Nestorianism: Denies that there is no communion between the two natures of XP. The Reformed have this problem.

: An odd one indeed.

Modalism: This is simlar to Monarchianism.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Madre's Missive: Just give Jesus a chance...

Madre is at the LCMS Symposium in Fort Wayne, IN this week. She reports from an excellent presentation on the doctrine of justification. She writes...

Now there's some bad bumper-sticker theology. Literally. It's a bumper sticker I saw that has been stuck in my mind since Saturday night.

I'm sitting here at the Fort Wayne Symposia listening to some really great presentations on Justification and it's mind-boggling how different the Lutheran doctrine of Justification is from what other denominations teach. Some people, like most American Protestants, that we are saved when we recite the oh-so-Biblical "sinner's prayer" and take Jesus up on His offer and invite Him into our hearts. Read on...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Extra Nos: A Religion to Make Us Happy?

I've been getting to know a very good blogger (i.e. posts things that interest me!), Mr. L.P. Cruz keeps the blog, Extra Nos: it is outside us. Be sure to read Extra Nos: A Religion to Make Us Happy? While there, check out his investigations into Lutheran doctrine.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XV is up

Vicar Charles Lehmann hosts Lutheran Carnival XV with help from Leo the Great and no help from me. I am sorry to say that this is the very first carnival I've missed, if memory serves.

Monday, January 09, 2006

We were sinful from a zygote...

I was listening to Pastor Todd Wilken's Issues Etc. interviewing Dr. Lamb of Lutherans for Life. Dr. Lamb said something that struck me. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says in Psalm 51:5:

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
~Psalm 51:5

Dr. Lamb said that Jesus didn't begin as a baby in the manger; he began as a zygote. He began as a one-celled human being in Mary because that is where our sinfulness begins. Jesus' redemptive process had to begin at that point.

I never thought about it like that before.