Friday, June 24, 2011

A Lutheran Pastor Shows the Need for the Catholic Church

Steve Martin (the Lutheran blogger known as “Old Adam,” not the actor/comedian) has been talking with a motley crew of us Catholics in the comments here about how Lutherans can know which Books are in Scripture. Steve directed me to a talk his pastor, Mark Anderson, gave on the subject.

I listened to it last night, and was pleased to say that I agree with probably 80-90% of what Anderson had to say. First off, he recognized that the importance of understanding the question of authority:
The question of authority, which is really the question, that’s where it all starts. And that’s where it has been percolating since the Reformation. The question of authority has not been resolved in the Christian church. That’s the question that’s wide open, and that accounts for a lot of the diversity and the multiplicity of churches, and denominations, and so forth. This is the problem that has not been solved. It continues to fester, and be chronically part of our life as Christians.
The question of authority isn't important so we can know who has “power” or who gets to be “boss.” Instead, Pastor Anderson defines the question of authority like this:Where do we go finally for resolution of doctrinal problems? Where do we go finally for resolution of theological questions? Who determines what the meaning of Jesus Christ is?As Anderson noted, we see this appeal to ecclesiastical authority in the New Testament, whenever Paul opens his letters by declaring himself an Apostle (which was constantly: Romans 1:1, 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, and Titus 1:1). Paul begins by reminding everyone he's an Apostle, because it means that they have to listen to his message. They can't just say, “I don't interpret the Old Testament that way," or “when I heard Jesus say that, that's not the interpretation I took." Personal interpretation of Scripture and of the words of Jesus must submit to Paul's Apostolic authority.

So the question of who has valid authority today is the question. Before you can know whether you're living in accordance with “the Gospel,” you need to know what the Gospel is. And Christians will gives you probably thousands of different contradictory answers, from “just be a good person,” to “believe in Jesus, and how you live doesn't matter” to everything in between. We're told that we need to be a part of the visible Church to be saved, or (as Harold Camping has been teaching) that membership in the visible Church is a mark of your damnation.. So those wanting to live out the Gospel need to know, “Who can I trust?” And as Pastor Anderson notes, Protestantism still can't answer that simple question, five hundred years on. We'll get to why that is in a bit.

I. How the Early Church Handled the Question of Authority

Anderson noted that the early Church faced this problem as well. Here's how he described the fourth-century Church, and its similarity to Protestantism today:
The Church Fathers sat down and said: ‘We’ve got to do something about this. We’ve got “orthodoxies” which are heretics all over the map. Nobody knows how to talk about Jesus. Nobody knows exactly what the Gospel is.’ And it’s hard for us maybe to appreciate that completely, but all we have to do is look to the current state of affairs in the Christian Church, the multiplicity of congregations and denominations, points of view, to realize it is up for grab. And it doesn’t help to just stand up and assert more loudly what you believe to be the Truth. I mean, hollering – the proclamation of the Gospel is not a shouting match. The loudest voice isn’t necessary the one that’s gonna win - or should.
And Pastor Anderson even conceded that this problem was solved by the very episcopacy which he rejects, saying:
I don’t think there’s been anyone who’s been more critical of the move towards episcopacy than I have. But anyone would be a fool to look over two thousand years of Christian history, and not recognize that many of the Bishops of the ancient Church played a pivotal role in seeing to it that the doctrine of the word of God was adequately protected, and faithfully proclaimed. In fact, it was largely due to many of their ministries that we have what we have today in terms of Christian orthodoxy and Scripture.
So the early Church was faced with this problem, but had a solution. The Church authorities (the episcopacy) settled the dispute. Anderson even goes further, acknowledging that “the papal see becomes a logical extension of Apostolic authority taken about as grand of heights as you can get.” Now, I'd dispute this characterization somewhat (the pope's authority is actually far less than that of the Apostles, and less than what Mormonism's leadership claims for itself), but his core point, that Apostolic Succession was viewed in the early Church as continuing through all the Bishops, but particularly the Pope, is absolutely true. And this solved the question of Authority, and this preserved the Gospel intact. And yet Protestants today, including Anderson himself, refuse to accept this solution. So instead, they're left with no answer, and no agreement on what the Gospel even is.

This becomes remarkably clear with the canon of Scripture. Pastor Anderson praises the early bishops for settling the canon: but he rejects their canon. You wouldn't know this from his talk -- he talks about them settling “the New Testament canon” -- but the Church didn't settle “the New Testament canon,” it settled the entire canon of Scripture, period. Old and New. In fact, the early Church was quite adamantly opposed to the heretics who dreamed that there was one God of the Old Testament and one of the New, and were fervently insistent that there was one God, and one Deposit of Faith.

So with the New Testament, as Pastor Anderson notes, we have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but there were other contenders as well: Anderson lists: the “‘Gospel’ of Peter, we have the ‘Gospel’ of Thomas, what’s called the Protoevangelium (the ‘first Gospel’) there are other ‘Gospels’: the ‘Gospel’ of Barnabas, the ‘Gospel’ of James, that were not included in the New Testament.” It's upon the authority of these Catholic bishops, at the Council of Carthage, that we trust that which Books are Biblical, and which are not.

Yet look at what the Council actually decided. You can find Canon 24 of the Council of Carthage right here (that's Calvin College's version). In the same breath, it establishes the Old and New Testament. They're not even separate canons. You can't say, “I think the Book of Hebrews is Scripture because Canon 24 of the Council of Carthage says so,” but then say, “I don't care what Canon 24 of the Council of Carthage says, I don't think 1 Maccabees is Scripture.” (Luther was at least consistent, and felt comfortable rejecting both 1 Maccabees and Hebrews, James, Revelation, etc.). So if you care about believing what the early Church believes, then start using a Catholic Bible. Start giving the episcopacy and particularly the papacy which the early Church gave. Conversely, if you don't care about believing what the early Church believes, or think you know more about the Gospel then they do, then don't pretend otherwise.

So what Pastor Anderson is saying is mostly all true: we should look to the early Church, we should let the Church authorities settle theological disputes, etc. But where he goes wrong is that he doesn't practice what he preaches, or he'd be Catholic. To understand how he goes wrong, look to Luther.

II. The Role of Luther

Pastor Anderson's description of Martin Luther is remarkably revealing. There were three comments he made which are worth drawing out. First:
[Luther] never assumed that the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t Christian. That’s what you hear today. That’s what you get from radical Protestants, the non-denominational sectarians who just wipe everybody out with one swoop. Luther was part of the tradition: it’s the tradition that nurtured him, he was baptized as a Roman Catholic, he was brought up in the traditions of the church, it was in that Church that he heard the Gospel, that he wanted to be a follower of Christ, that he wanted to give his life in service, in the monastic life.
So Luther doesn't begin by saying that the Church is the “Whore of Babylon” or “Synagogue of Satan.” That craziness all comes later. At the start, the Reformation was genuinely intended to be a Reform, not a Revolt. Luther started out trying to help the Church as best he knew, out of a genuine love for the Catholic Church. On this point, we agree 100%. But then what happens? Pastor Anderson says:
As the gap widens [between Luther and the Church], as Luther finds that the papal see is not very responsive, does not want to be responsive to him, they’re more interested in, as he said, fleecing the hide of the German sheep” than they are in dealing with these important theological matters, Luther moves away, more and more, from Tradition, he moves towards Scripture. He finds himself having to defend himself, more and more, not so much based upon Church Fathers, but upon Scripture alone, and he discovers that – that works. There’s plenty of ammunition without having to go anywhere else. And this is where the various Protestant groups within the Reformation begin to catch fire.
So despite a well-meaning start, Luther's hit two bumps in the road. First, the reforms he suggests aren't immediately accepted, and his own ideas don't seem as brilliant to the pope as they do to him, and Luther gets impatient, and then embittered (hence the hurling of insults about fleecing the German sheep, and many more far worse). Eventually, of course, the Church mulls over many of Luther's proposed reforms, and accepts a number of them. But some of them were legitimately bad ideas, and some were unfaithful to the Gospel that this very Catholic Church was pledged to protect. This second point is a bigger bump: Catholics begin telling him that many of his ideas are contrary to clear Church teachings, commemorated in specific Councils.

So what's Luther's response? Besides hurling insults, it's too look for what Anderson calls “ammunition.”  When he finds that while he can't defend some of his ideas from Christian Tradition, he can use certain verses of the Bible to make it sound like he's right.  And “ammunition” is the perfect word here, because Luther used Bible verses as weapons, as do the various other Reformers and Radical Reformers championing a thousand contradictory views (until they eventually picked up actual weapons). So Luther turned to sola Scriptura not because Scripture says so (It doesn't), but because it means he doesn't have to concede he's wrong, when he doesn't feel like he's wrong.

But despite his growing animosity towards Catholicism, Pastor Anderson reminds us that Luther still wanted to come to peace, but on his own terms. He describes Luther's position as this:
“The authority of the papal see is not sufficient because popes have erred, Councils have erred in the past. Let’s all agree, we can have a pope, we can have bishops, but let’s all sit under the authority of Scripture, so that we’re not taking the opinions of men, and making them binding on the consciences of people.”
That seems pretty accurate to me. But here's the problem: the pope didn't (and doesn't) view himself as above Scripture. He simply understood the Gospel to mean something different than Luther did.  And if Luther disagrees with the bishops, and with the pope, on the meaning of Scripture, you have to side with the episcopacy/papacy if Church authority means anything.  If the Church is only in charge if you happen to agree, She's completely powerless.  If a shepherd only gets to decide where the sheep go if the sheep happen to agree, the shepherd is worthless.

So if Church authority means anything, faithful Christians have to side with the Church's view of the Bible over Luther's.  If they don't, then they can't complain when Rob Bell comes along as the newest Luther, proposing a view of the Gospel rejected by the Church.

But subjecting the Church to the Bible is even more troubling from a Lutheran perspective. Anderson said of the Lutheran view of Scripture:
Lutherans, as I say, have elevated Scripture, and we say it is to the point of saying, “It is the final word in all matters of faith and life.  It is the final Authority in all matters of faith and life.”
But it's precisely because Luther rejects the authority of the popes and Councils that there's no basis on which to say what the proper canon of Scripture is. If you can't agree on which Books are in the Bible, how can the Bible be your rule of faith?  So instead of solidifying the basis of Scripture, Luther ironically undermines Scripture completely.


III. The Situation Today

Pastor Anderson notes that the result of the Reformation and the advent of sola Scriptura is perpetual schism, with each person becoming their own pope, saying that the Bible means x, and being accountable to no one:
But what happened in this radical Protestantism of the Reformation? The fleshly pope was replaced with a paper pope. Why? Because they understood that if we’re gonna dump the whole system of ecclesiastical structure, then what do we use to order our life? We use the Bible. Okay, that was a misunderstanding of Luther. Has it been tried? Oh yeah, look around. We are at the point in the splintering of Protestantism, particularly radical Protestantism, where virtually every congregation, and every preacher up front with his Bible, or her Bible, becomes an authority on the word of God unto itself. It is radical congregationalism, splintered congregationalism. There is no helpful witness there, in terms of the great scope of the Church’s life and thought across the generations.
I agree, except that rather than a misunderstanding of Luther, it's the unavoidable result of his thought.  We see this in every Protestant denomination that's taken sola Scriptura as its mantra: every single one.  At some point, it's like those defenders of Communism who kept just imagining that it was being implemented wrong: the problem isn't the implementation, the problem is the idea itself.  Even Pastor Anderson's own local church is evidence of this, as Steve informs me that they're thinking about splitting away from the ELCA.  Constant schism and a drive towards congregationalism is the end result of Protestantism wherever it's tried.

Now, Pastor Anderson is rightly disgusted with those preachers who take a posture of:
“Don’t you dare question what’s being taught today, because it’s coming right out of the Bible. You might have a question, but don’t bring it up, because after all, I’m teaching the Bible, this is no theology, there’s no doctrine being taught here, I’m just teaching straight out of the Bible. You’ve got a problem, you’ve got a problem of God.”
He actually goes much, much further than I would, and declares this “Christofascism,” and compares these Christians to bin Laden and the Taliban. But again, while I agree with him, I don't see how he can pretend that Lutherans are immune from this.  The comment that began the dialogue with Steve Martin was his claim in the comments here that Lutheranism “proclaims the [G]ospel in its purity,” and that now “that I am free from all the spiritual navel gazing and Christian progressivism, I don't think I could ever return to Rome or go to an Evangelical church where there theology is basically the same as Rome's (a lot of God and a little of me).”  And so it's gone: he's resisted any distinction between “the Gospel” and “Lutheran theology.”  In this way, Luther himself “becomes an authority on the word of God unto” himself.

So while I think Anderson correctly diagnosed the problem, he doesn't see the depth of it. He still imagines this can be cured if only people became Lutheran, or understood Luther's message better. There were two heartening things which Anderson said towards the end of his talk, in talking about his encounter going to a the Catholic Cathedral in Milan:

  1. He went in dripping with anti-Catholic prejudice.
  2. He was surprised to discover that the beautiful artwork was Biblical scenes, and that it was possible that these peasants were actually expressing a faith in Jesus Christ.  He concluded, “I could see how this arena of worship could be a powerful statement of Biblical faith.
One of the major things that we have to get over in this debate is the unseen anti-Catholicism.  The particular form it generally takes is an assumption by non-Catholics (and ex-Catholics) that they knew what the Catholic Church really teaches, either based upon a parish they used to attend, or some books they've read about (not by) Catholics. Acknowledging this bias, and then allowing one's self to be open to having it corrected is beautiful, and should inspire us with hope.

Conclusion

Let me leave you with what I think are two of Pastor Anderson's stronger points.  First, that Scripture should never “be read apart from the common life of the Church.”  That's a simple argument for Tradition.  Second, he said, “How dare we write off 1500 years of Christian witness, because it does not suit our narrow interpretation of the word of God? And that is what is dividing the Christian Church as we speak.

Of course, as I've said before, anyone taking seriously what Pastor Anderson (or, for that matter, Luther) says about the dependence of Scriptural interpretation upon the Church will find that they'll have a very hard time defending such common Protestant doctrines as:
  1. Baptism is just symbolic (that is, it's not regenerative, and the Holy Spirit doesn't actually cleanse us through it);
  2. The Eucharist is just symbolic (it's not actually the Body and Blood of Christ); 
  3. Justification is just forensic (we're declared righteous by God, but we're not actually made righteous through the Holy Spirit); and 
  4. The Bible is composed of the 66-Book Protestant canon.
So the hurdle isn't that Anderson doesn't understand the problem, or even that he can't speak to what Christianity ought to be doing.  The problem is simply that he's just not doing it

40 comments:

  1. So many times hearing a protestant seriously address the problems within protestantism I feel like I am watching the Wheel of Fortune where the word or phrase is obvious to everyone but the contestant who then takes another spin.

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  2. You've hit on one of my weaknesses: I love game show bloopers.

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  3. This is pretty insane. I'm really trying to figure out what this guy thinks answers all those questions he defined the question of authority with. It seems like he got so busy beating up every Protestant answer that he forgot to answer the question himself. Nice work.

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  4. Bravo! I always enjoy reading your posts, but these last few have been excellent. Having grown up in one of those anti-Catholic Protestant denominations, I wholeheartedly agree with what you're saying. My wife and I have had many talks about the plethora of denominations and how each one does not seem too different from another, especially when you cut out "high church" ones like Lutherans and Episcopals.

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  5. Joe,

    Nice blog post! Very thorough.

    I disagree with a few points.

    (and I must admit that I will ahve to go back and reread. I worked a double shift today and I am very tired, so I will have to take another run at it)

    You talked of Luther hurling insults. That happened from both sides. And Luther never threatened to kill anyone over these disputes as Rome did with Luther. He was branded a heretic and could legally be killed by anyone representing the Roman Church, or not. (that is why he was captured and taken to Wartburg Castle for protection)
    I mention this so no one will get the mistaken notion that the Pope was completely innocent in all that took place. These are facts. look them up.

    Sure Luther had big problems with the Catholic Church accepting money for the forgiveness of people's sins. (the fleecing the hide of the German sheep remark). Wouldn't you? Nothing could be worse for people than the false notion that paying money or vernerating relics will gain one anything towards their salvation.

    Many good things have come out of the Roman Church! We don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. But Luther saw wrongs and attempted to right them, and was thrown out of the Church and was almost killed for his efforts. (as John Hus was burned at the stake about a century earlier)

    So that is why we don't trust sinful men to be the authority OVER Scripture. But we trust in that Word, alone.

    Just for starters.


    By the way. I have a long list of Roman Catholics who said wonderful things concerning the gospel.

    (it's on my site)

    And by the way, we are equal opportunity bashers when it comes to speaking out against our own denomination whenever they are unfaithful to the Word. We probaly speak out against our own way more than we speak out against anyone else.

    We are constantly engaged in reforming the church because sinful men are constantly redefining the gospel.

    More later.

    Thanks.

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  6. Old Adam, in your next post could you please comment more directly on the issue of authority that's raised here?

    As Robert Ritchie points out, a lot of questions were raised in this sermon, but answers weren't really forthcoming.

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  7. and reforming your church with what authority? are you saying you also "kick people out" because they are unfaithful to teachings?

    "But Luther saw wrongs and attempted to right them, and was thrown out of the Church and was almost killed for his efforts. (as John Hus was burned at the stake about a century earlier)

    So that is why we don't trust sinful men to be the authority OVER Scripture. But we trust in that Word, alone"

    However: "We probaly speak out against our own way more than we speak out against anyone else.

    We are constantly engaged in reforming the church because sinful men are constantly redefining the gospel."

    hmmm... sounds like something which a Church with roots back to the fathers and apostles might be responsible for

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  8. I appreciate the time you devoted to my class discussion (not a sermon). I commend the following article to you, especially the early section on Lutherans and authority.

    Rev. M. Anderson

    http://crossalone.us/2006/SacramentalRequirementNo.pdf

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  9. scredsoxfan2,

    Huh?

    I didn't get your point.

    We don't throw anyone out for defending the Word.

    We rarely throw anyone out, but when we do it's because they are poisining the congregation and are disruptive.

    Sticking up for the work of Christ and criticizing the acceptable and encouraged practice of buying the forgiveness of sins for yourself and others is disruptive, I'll admit it. But that's the kind of disruption that sorely needed and overdue.

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  10. Do you mind putting his argument in your own words, pastor a? I'm having trouble catching the support for his assertions.

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  11. His comments are clear enough and they certainly represent my position.

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  12. oldadam,

    You said you are engaged in constantly reforming the church. How exactly does this occur?

    How can you reform a church with no structure? How do you know if men are redefining a gospel if you have no authority to say what the Gospel is? of course people are "redefining" the gospel in ALL forms of protestantism that accept Sola Scriptura, because there is no authority to even define what the gospel IS

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  13. btw, the church recognized the improper doctrine of those completing these acts of indulgences, clarified, and corrected them precisely because the Church had the authority to do so. To me, this is just another example of the Church recognizing the sinful within and yet also their need for forgiveness as well.

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  14. Always happy when churches (of any stripe) get back to Christ and His gospel.

    I do believe that Luther played a large role in that (as did others).


    I'll repeat something for you, RP, the authority for us (Lutherans) rests in the Word, alone.

    That is Christ. Preaching about Christ. The Sacraments. And the Bible.

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  15. When Paul corrected Peter,(Galatians 2:11-20) he didn't say "Well, Jesus picked you...I will defer to you." He brought Peter back to the Word of God (Christ Himself). To Peter's credit (and God's credit), Peter relinquished the law, and trusted what Paul said.

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  16. Pastor Anderson,

    Sorry, I just assumed it was a sermon. I've corrected "sermon" to "talk." It's late around these parts, so I'll take a look at the link you provided tomorrow and get back with you soon. In Christ,

    Joe.

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  17. you can't, or haven't beyond the broad definition that it is something Christ centered, define the Word, alone, that you say is your authority. therefore, any man can interpret something as the Word and proclaim it, since you haven't and cant define it, even if it's heresy (ie Mormonism) as the Word an you really have NO authority to say it isn't the Word because you couldn't define what the Word (which everything rests on) was to begin with.

    Really you can't deny that a Great Apostacy didn't take place. I mean Luther may have been just one trying to correct the Great Apostacy which he saw, but just wasn't chosen as Joseph Smith was or given the book of mormon to complete the Word...

    do you see this HUGE gaping hole? it doesn't seem like it. Btw, how do you know Galatians is true and a part of the word?

    furthermore you have no authority whatsoever to reform or say anyone is non Christian or to say that you're glad someone has gotten back to the Gospel because you NEVER defined what that gospel is. It seems like you're falling into the, well we just know it when we see it argument... so is each Lutheran the individual judge (not in an eternal salvation sense) of whether someone is preaching the gospel? that's a pretty high bar, we better all start studying Greek, Hebrew, and Latin because it seems like the unlearned clearly can't see what the Gospel is...

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  18. and yes, it seems i'm the only morning person of the group! :)

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  19. scredsoxfan2,

    No..you can't.

    We have no trouble discerning what is of God.

    Off to work :D

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  20. We have no trouble discerning what is of God.

    One wonders who the "we" is of this sentence. If it means all Christians we have the small problem that it's obviously false since that group contradicts itself on the point. If it means some subgroup -- how do we know?

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  21. I have no trouble knowing what is of God and what is true because I follow 2000 years of teaching of the Holy Catholic Church. I know that Lutherans, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, and all other non-Catholic denominations have some, but not all of the truth. I know every non-Catholic denomination also is saddled with a large number of errors, in particular the 4 Joe mentions in his conclusion.
    Bill

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  22. Contrary to "common Protestant ideas," Lutherans believe
    1.) That baptism washes away sins (see Luther's catechism).
    2.) That Christ is present in the Eucharist. (They believe in 'consubstantiation,' that Christ is also present in the bread and wine, not 'transubstantiation,' that the Eucharist IS christ, no longer bread and wine.)
    3.) That what Catholics call 'justification' is called 'sanctification,' which grows through fidelity, which in turn is part of 'fides' (faith). (See the joint Vatican-Lutheran world Federation Declaration on Justification.)
    4.) That the 'Apocrypha,' the Deuterocanon, while not to be considered part of the infallible Bible, is useful for reading (een in the liturgy.)

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  23. oldadam,

    i may have misunderstood you. what were you refering to when you said "no...you can't"

    How do you reject mormonism? let me quote to you from Mormon.org how they uphold Luther and Calvin to argue for the great apostacy which you certainly reject: "Centuries later, inspired people, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, recognized the practices and doctrines had been changed or lost and tried to reform the churches to which they belonged. But without the authority of the appostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, His gospel and the Church could not be returned to their original form."

    My question is simple: how do you know that the Book of Mormon is not the Word?

    Secondly, how is your grasping of Luther's arguments (and defending of Luther) more "Christ" centered than the defense of a Church which was established by Christ?

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  24. Don,

    I know we see eye-to-eye on Baptism (we've actually been discussing that in the comments on one of the last posts). But at least one of those four a-historical doctrines are held by seemingly every Protestant denomination.

    To address your other points:

    2) The Church Fathers didn't believe in Consubstantation. They denied it remained ordinary bread and wine. Additionally, whereas Lutherans view Christ's inhabiting the species of bread and wine as temporary (He's only present during the liturgy, as I understand it), the early Church didn't think this, either. They would take the Eucharist to the sick.

    3) I recognize that the gap between Lutherans and Catholics on justification is far smaller than many people realize. But to the extent that gap exists, it's important to recognize that forensic-only justification is a genuine theological novum which doesn't predate the Reformation in any visible way.

    4) Even if they hold a high view of these Books (which I think varies more by congregation and individual), they reject that they're inspired Scripture, even though the Synod of Hippo, the Council of Carthage, etc. were quite clear on this point. If someone said that they reject the canoncity of the Gospel of Luke, but still find it to be an "edifying" Book, you wouldn't say, "Close enough." That breach with the Church would be egregious, particularly if Scripture is a (or the) source of doctrine.

    So my point wasn't the Lutherans hold to all four of those views (they do hold to three), or that the Lutheran view is 180 degrees opposed. It's that they break from what is clearly the Traditional view of the Church, and in doing so, adopt a novel position. And if novelties are permitted on things as central to Christianity as the Eucharist, the Bible, and justification, then on what grounds can we oppose any other novelties?

    To put it differently, I don't see principled grounds upon which one can oppose Rob Bell and Creflo Dollar for their rejection of the Gospel as understood by the Church for 2000 years, without also opposing Martin Luther for his reject of the Gospel as understood by the Church for 1500 years. So if there's room for Luther in the 16th century, why not room for the 'latest Luther' in the 21st century, with some new take on the Gospel to throw out how the Gospel has always been understood?

    This view strikes me as taking a low view of the Holy Spirit's work in preserving "all Truth" (John 16:13) and "all things" (John 14:26) in the Church "forever" (John 14:16). If man constantly needs to rediscover (or reinvent) the Gospel, in what sense is the Church forever lead by "the Spirit of Truth" (John 14:17)?

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  25. I don't want to be rude. But that is not clear enough. Compare the plain language and straightforward arguments of Joe's post to the vague abstractions and mystifying clouds of words thrown around in that piece. This is not because Joe isn't smart enough to use 50 cent words, but rather because he isn't afraid putting his argument in the light of plain language. If you aren't afraid of your argument, put it in plain language yourself rather than making us unpack all this cloudy fluff of verbiage.

    Or, as the greatest writer of the 20th century put it when writing about similar language in political speech:

    "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

    "While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

    The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship."

    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

    Then again, maybe I just can't read

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  26. The gospel is this: Our (your) sins are firgiven for Jesus' sake.

    That's the gospel.

    The Word of God contains His Law, and His gospel. It judges and conicts and drives to Christ.

    This Word (law and gospel) is in the Bible, but not only in the Bible.

    When the Word is used to convict people of their sins and then the gospel is announced, that is Christianity.

    You don't need certain people touched by other certain people to make the Holy Spirit effective in a person's life. God, through His Word of law and gospel is MORE than capable of accomplishing His will through His Word.

    You don't don't believe that, and that's fine.

    We do. Our reasons for believing the way we do are fully grounded in Scripture.

    Mormons wouldn't know the gospel if it hit them in the face. They deny the pure gospel and rely on their works in addition to Jesus'. And they deny that Jesus is fully God. That's why they are not a Christian church.

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  27. old adam,

    to be fully grounded in Scripture you need to define (and yes I mean list) Scripture. Otherwise, i can say the Book of Mormon is scripture and then use that to validate my arguments. Your contrary argument would be well the Book of Mormon isn't Christ centered, a fancy way of say but I don't believe its Scripture

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  28. and did you just deny sola scriptura?

    "This Word (law and gospel) is in the Bible, but not only in the Bible"

    also, it seems like you rely heavily upon Luther and his writings, but he's neither God nor Scripture. Is he just your "Pope?"

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  29. and if you think Catholics believe this:

    "You don't need certain people touched by other certain people to make the Holy Spirit effective in a person's life."

    you may want to actually consider reading what the Catholic church teaches in the Catechism and not based on what someone TOLD you we believe

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  30. i meant to say that you were infering that Catholics think that you need to be "touched" by a priest to make the Holy Sprit effective, then you ought to do some reading on what the RCC actually beleives

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  31. Oh, but that is what Luther did when he took matters into his own hands rather than putting faith in the working of Christ. "God, through His Word of law and gospel is MORE than capable of accomplishing His will through His Word ... We do (believe that)"; if you did, if Luther did, you would be Catholic today :) It is also why you have rejected the truth of transubstantiation. You do not see it with your own eyes, therefore it is not true and feel justified to negate the truth that was held from the very beginning up to 500 years ago. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). Even Jesus Himself held firm and repeated to those in disbelief that they must truly partake of His flesh and blood. He rebuked those who held the belief you do today. Many walked their own ways rather than accepting this hard teaching of His.

    All of this is a lacking of faith and trust in the Word and Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all the truth; rather than humbly submitting himself to the guidance and works of God, Luther relied on his own works (though not intentionally at first), and created his own parallel Church which immediately began to crumble (which quite annoyed him too.) In separating himself from the one Church (and this was ultimately a personal choice he made himself), he not only delayed the reforms on what he was correct concerning those in the Church who were not following the true teaching of the Christian Church at that time (i.e. those who were going against the teaching of the Church by selling indulgences), he also created heresies directly and indirectly through his own 'opinion of man' on the matters he was wrong by choosing to go his own way rather than relying on God. If only protestants stopped relying on their own works and opinions, and relied on the works of Christ that He set in motion with assurance of guidance and indefectibility of the truth ("powers of death shall not prevail against it.")

    Yes there are protestants today who still claim to the label Catholic, but reject some of the teachings of Christ's Church all the same. Just as consubstantiation is not a teaching of Christianity, ordained women 'presbyters', same-sex 'marriage', using artificial contraception, and 'right' to murder children are not teachings of Christianity. These and other heresies that many Christians hold never will be the teaching of Christianity. This is the faith handed on to us by the King of kings Himself. Only through His grace are His promises fulfilled and Truth maintained in the Church He initiated.

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  32. scredsoxfan2,

    I thought that Catholic doctrine held that the Sacrament of Holy Communion was ONLY valid when presided over and the host consecrated bt a properly ordained priest in historic succession.

    Am I wrong?

    And I thought that the authority that we have discussing, only comes from the office of the Pope?

    Am I wrong?

    I thought that Catholics believed that priests, bishops, cardinals and popes possess special spiritual grace that the lay person does not have.

    Am I wrong?

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  33. Steve,

    I think Cary's point is that you're conflating specific gifts passed through the laying on of hands (see Luke 4:40, Acts 8:18, 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6, Hebrews 6:2, etc.) with the ability of the Holy Spirit to move within each of us. In Christ,

    Joe

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  34. I know that in our church, anyone can preside over the Sacrament of the Altar (even though the almost always does it, for good order).

    We believe Christ is reaklly present in the Sacrament, because of His Word of promise.

    I thought that in the Catholic Church, there is NO Sacrament unless the priest has consecrated the host. A lay person could absolutely not do it.

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  35. Pastor Anderson,

    I read the article you linked to, thought about it, gave it some serious thought, prayed on it, and have responded here:

    http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/06/answering-lutheran-objections-to-church.html


    Old Adam,

    It's true that the Eucharist can only be consecrated by a priest (which you'll find was the practice of the Church from the very beginning). For more on the distinction between the sacramental priesthood and the priesthood of all believers, see:

    http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2010/12/old-and-new-testament-priesthood.html

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  36. Joe, You certainly deserve credit for the thorough - albeit slightly uncharitable - rendering of your critique of my class and the comments of Burgess. However, it is readily apparent that you have misconstrued my description of these historical\theological matters as indicating I am prescribing a return to episcopal authority but refusing to go there myself. I was describing not prescribing. My faith rests on the grace of Christ Jesus alone and His promises - all other ground is sinking sand.

    Thank you again for your thoughtful replies. This is my final post. May God bless us all.

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  37. Pastor Anderson,

    If I've been uncharitable to you, I'm truly sorry, and I ask your forgiveness. I appreciate your contributions to the discussion, and long for the day (either here or hereafter) where we can see the Truth through the same eyes. God bless you.

    Joe

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  38. 1. Baptism is just symbolic (that is, it's not regenerative, and the Holy Spirit doesn't actually cleanse us through it);
    2. The Eucharist is just symbolic (it's not actually the Body and Blood of Christ);
    3. Justification is just forensic (we're declared righteous by God, but we're not actually made righteous through the Holy Spirit); and
    4. The Bible is composed of the 66-Book Protestant canon.

    Lutherans have the same problem as Roman Catholics with those who deny these statements. While individual Lutherans may deny them (just like Cafeteria Catholics deny things) the Lutheran Confessions affirm them.

    BTW Lutherans do NOT believe in consubstantiation. This is an oft repeated fallacy. Lutherans do not believe that they bread and body are any more distinct or separate than the human flesh and divine nature is in the Incarnation. The bread is the body of Christ; the wine the blood of Christ -- we do not speak to how. We depart from transubstantiation because we believe it adds on to Scripture how this presence is defined but not necessarily because it is wrong; only inadequate and distorted. We simply say it is the Body of Christ from when the words of Christ say "This is My Body" and until it is consumed as is the intent of Christ in establishing the Sacrament.

    Lutherans do affirm "justification is just forensic (we're declared righteous by God)" but this is not the sum total of the images or ways in which Scripture affirms justification. Lutherans certainly do affirm that we become, under the guidance of the Spirit gifted to us in Baptism, the people God declares us to be by our baptism into Christ (holy and righteous) and that our whole life as the baptized is the living out (Paul said working out) of this salvation in daily life (showing forth mercy, sacrificial service, and the love of Christ)...

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  39. Pastor Peters,

    I'm delighted to get your perspective on this. I recognize up from that those four points are just "common Protestant doctrines," not necessarily Lutheran ones. My point was that the implications of taking Pastor Anderson's approach would be far-reaching within Protestantism generally.

    I understand you as saying that Lutherans reject all four points: "Lutherans have the same problem as Roman Catholics with those who deny these statements." My understanding was that (3) and (4) are both accurate summaries of what Lutherans believe. Here's how I understand each one, so correct me if I'm wrong:

    (1) We're in agreement on regenerative Baptism. I've actually used the Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene to make the case for Baptismal regeneration in the past.

    (2) Instead of "consubstantiation," perhaps I should have said "sacramental union"? Either way, it appears to hold to two beliefs which are rejected by the Fathers: (1) that the bread and wine remain after consecration, and (2) that the Eucharist ceases to be the Body and Blood of Christ after the Liturgy. The Church, from Her earliest days, has always rejected those two propositions.

    And the Formula of Concord does say that this view means that "the papistical transubstantiation may be rejected." So I think Lutherans classically do say that the Apostolic and Patristic understanding of the Eucharist is wrong, not merely inadequate or distorted.

    (3) You do a good job of showing both that we disagree, and that this disagreement is nearly meaningless. I agree on both points -- I take C.S. Lewis' view, that it's like arguing which side of the scissors does the cutting. If good works done out of faith are considered to be part of faith (the "obedience of faith" mentioned in Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26), then there's a sense in which we're saved by faith alone (although perhaps a misleading sense, given how most people equate "faith" with mere "belief").

    Nevertheless, Luther viewed the nuances of our understanding of justification as the primary doctrine justifying (if you'll pardon the horrible pun) his refusal to stay in the Church. I think it's a difference of inches, not miles, but I also think that to the extent that Luther willingly deviates even inches, he's unable to show that the early Church takes his view. More than that, many Protestant scholars now take this point: it was the Calvinist Alistar McGrath who labelled this innovation as “a genuine theological novum” in Iustitia Dei-- although he agrees with the innovation, he recognizes that it wasn't the consistent view of the Church.

    (4) We've had some trouble in this comments thread determining how Lutherans understand the canon of Scripture. Perhaps you'd care to take a stab at that question? One thing is clear, though: to the extent that Luther rejected the inspiration of the Old Testament Deuterocanon and New Testament "Antilegomena," he was going contrary to the consensus of the Church. And it seems to be on this foundation alone (codified at Council) that a true Bible can exist. I view Luther's take as destroying the foundation of Scripture (after all, why not reject the Book of James?), but I'm open to hearing the other side.

    God bless you,

    Joe.

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  40. In my last comment, I mentioned that the Fathers rejected two Lutheran claims about the Eucharist: (1) that the bread and wine remain after consecration, and (2) that the Eucharist ceases to be the Body and Blood of Christ after the Liturgy. The Church, from Her earliest days, has always rejected those two propositions.

    I did a three-part series on the Fathers on the Eucharist if you're interested, One, Two, Three, but as it relates here:

    Irenaeus tells us that after the consecration, what had been bread "is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist," not that it is both common bread and (temporarily) the Eucharist. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that "what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the body and the blood of Christ." St. Gregory of Nyssa says that just as through metabolism, bread and wine become our body and blood, so too does the consecration of the Eucharist turn the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, instantaneously: "not that it advances by the process of eating to the stage of passing into the body of the Word, but it is at once changed into the body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, 'This is My Body.'"

    St. Ambrose said, "Perhaps you will say, 'I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?' And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed." Finally, there's the practice of bringing the Eucharist to the sick, which demonstrates a belief that it remained the Real Presence after the Liturgy.

    Again, God bless you. I'm thankful that this discussion has been two-sided, and I hope it's as spiritually for you as it has been for me.

    Joe

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