Sunday, January 31, 2010

The times are changing...back?

Tim Robins made a fake-documentary movie in the early 90s following the campaign of a right-wing folk singer called "Bob Roberts."  Parts are pretty funny, but thing I found most funny were his songs.  One of them is entitled "The Times are Chang'in Back."  In other words, it's a political conservative's slant on the famous Bob Dylan song.  I would find it pertinent to some of the trends in both religion and politics over the last 10-15 years. 

When I went to the St. Thomas Aquinas mass today I noticed something very interesting.  Alot of the students would receive the host and then walk past the chalice.  I'm told that this is a new trend.  Apparently, (I'm told!) that they think that this makes them real Catholics- that is, pre-Vatican II Catholics.  I find this odd for several reasons (not least because it does not agree with Christ's institution, but that's an obvious criticism coming from a Lutheran).  Notably, does it occur to them that the reason why that practice began was that the clergy intended to show that they were separate and superior to the laity (it was part of the Cluniac reforms of the 11th century).  Secondly, does it occur to them that because the Magisterium of the Roman Church now commands them to take both elements, that they're actually being bad Catholics by disobeying the Magisterium?  A very odd situation indeed!

Typology and the Mass.

I just came from the annual St. Thomas Aquinas mass at the college I work at.  A thought on transubstantiation and Passover typology.

If Passover is the type of the Mass (as Catholics would no doubt agree) then why would transubstantiation make sense typologically?  Consider this: In the original Passover, we have 4 main elements- the bread, the wine, the flesh of the Lamb and the blood of the Lamb.  From a Lutheran perspective, they correspond to the body (flesh of the Lamb) present in the bread.  The blood is corresponds to the blood of Christ present in the wine.  If you have transubstantiation, then you only have two of the elements and the typological connection is utterly destroyed.  The elements of bread and wine go away, and therefore you are only left with blood and body with their connection to the type of the Passover Lamb.  I think that this is an important point to make in this ongoing debate.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Typology again.

Greg asked me how I would justify typology in light of the fact that there is always a danger of going off the deep end and see things that aren't there.

I agree that this can be a problem. Gerhard uses some typology that I cannot endorse (the oil between the breast of the lover in Song of Songs is not Christ, sorry John!). In order to use typology is a valid way, I would make a couple of suggestions on how to pick up that God is making a typological allusion.

1. The NT shows that everything in the OT was in preparation for Christ.  We therefore can read Biblical Israel, its prophets, judges, kings, priests, Temple, sacrifices and so forth as prefigurations of Christ.  How exactly they are is a more tricky manner.  Greg noted that we should take out lead from the explicit identification of the the NT.  I think that this is correct and there is scarcely a institution or person in the OT who the NT does not explicitly identify in one way or another with Christ.  That's sort of the whole point of John and Hebrew- Jesus is the true ladder to Heaven, the true Jacob, the true Solomon, the true David, the true Moses, the temple, the true mana, the true sacrifice, the true passover.  This also goes, I think, for other texts where there is perhaps a more indirect connection.  For example, Song of Song and Psalm 45 should be read Christologically because Paul says in Ephesian 5 that all Male-Female relationships represent Christ's mystical relationship with the Church.  Because this is the cause, any text about men and their wives can be viewed typologically as prefiguring Christ and the Church.
This does not mean, of course, that there is no room for understanding the text merely as referring to people in as having a relationship in their original context.  Nevertheless, even in their original context they are caught up in a history of God in Christ coming to Israel as its redeemer and therefore should be understood in light of that larger narrative.  All creatures have their reality as actors in the drama of Christ's own narrative.  We are authentic or fake depending on how well we play our role in this drama.
2. The second point is that the authors of the Bible by using a literary phrases or allusions will tie events together.  This is one of most annoying aspect of certain translations of the Bible- notably the NIV.  The assumption of certain is that we are simply being given flat information about some event in the past and therefore the translation of certain passages eliminates a phrase which is an allusion to another passage because the translator aiming at the most smooth rendering of the words.  
As I noted in an earlier post the Bible works typologically and analogically.  In other words, the assumption of the Biblical authors is that there is a primal universal order to reality and there will be a final restoration of that order that will transcend its original glory.  Therefore, everything in reality is related to the eschatological end and the protological beginning. Humans have a certain number of possibilities and they simply, in a sense, repeated them over and over again.  All events in history are therefore tied together analogically and typologically.
Example: What is I Kings trying to say about the reign of Solomon?  Solomon rules over an empire made up of Jews and Gentiles.  His reign is therefore universal, it is like that of Adam and Christ's.  He builds the Temple.  The Temple is a representation of the Garden of Eden (this is quite explicit throughout the Bible and Jewish tradition, more about that in the future).  So, he echoes Adam and he prefigures Christ.  Nevertheless, he marries the king of Egypt's daughter, becoming in a sense subordinate to him and makes the Israelites do forced labor.  So, he is also a new Pharaoh- his reign is a return to Egypt and a reversal of the Exodus.  With all these allusions and analogical similarities, the story of Solomon makes sense.  

The point is that things in the Biblical world are not absolutely individual or mere historical reports, but always derive their meaning from the earlier event or their prefiguration of the eschatological.  This is because reality is defined within the Biblical worldview by the book ends of the protological and eschatological.  This is something that we have lost in our culture because modern secular people do not believe in either.

Ironic Choices.

When I was in Ft. Wayne, they were showing new CPH products and one of them was a book for Middle School kids that is the Catechism in the form a comic book. Paul McCain actually has it on his website right now. It's really good- I took a look at it.

When giving graphic illustrations of different violations of "taking God's name in vain" in the form of "magic or satanic arts" they show the young man looing at a horoscope.

Now, I do not endorse astrology- and I do consider this to be a good illustration of what Luther means within our context (obviously people did other things in the 16th century). Nevertheless, it's a somewhat ironic choice in light of the fact that both Chemnitz and Melanchthon believed in astrology and practiced it. Chemnitz was actually a professional astrologer.

Anyways, it's still good material. I just thought that that illustration was amusing and ironic.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why typological interpretation is good and matters.

There have been some questions about typology and its justification as a form of scriptural interpretation. I would make several points:

1. The NT deals with the OT in a typological fashion. We must follow God's Word as to how God's Word is to be read.

2. If God throughout salvation history is the same God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ, then his former actions must be analogically similar to his later actions- since it's the sameGod, witht he same character, right? Consequently, typological interpretation of Scripture makes perfect sense if you believe God to be the author of Scripture and salvation history.

3. God's activity in the OT is the story of his life in solidarity with Israel through the binding of the different covenants. God always directed these covenants and his activity in relationship to them to there ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus is the surpreme representation of God and Israel bound together in covenant, in that he is both God and man come together not only in the unity of covenant, but in personal union. Therefore, all of God's previous actions in both creation and redemption must be read in light of Christ and pointing to Christ both in the form of rectilinear prophecy, but also in a typological fashion in that God's previous saving actions echoe their fulfillment in Christ.

4. Therefore, if we reject typological interpretation, we automatically fall into Marcionism. There is no other option.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More treasures!

I have gained some new titles in my library over the past two weeks or so.  As I mentioned earlier I finally received the Gerhard volume on Christ, which Dr. Ben Mayes (who gave an excellent lecture on Wednesday!) was nice enough to sign it for me while I was there.  

Beyond that, I found online a facimile copy of Nicalaus Hunnius summary of Christian doctrine.  It's apparently copied from the Cornell library and is interesting for several reasons (BTW, you can get it on Amazon very easily).  First, it was a facimile of a book published in English in 1848 and has an inscription in it from a man who lived in Boston.  Meaning, that being that there was only one German Lutheran Church in Boston at the time, that he probably went to the First Lutheran Church, where my wife attended when she was getting her doctorate at Boston College.  The second interesting thing is that it was published in Loehe's hometown in Bavaria.  What it appears is that this was translated by an associate of Loehe to be used with the German Lutherans or English speaking Lutherans in North American missions.  So it's really cool.

Lastly, for those who have been awaiting it, Repristination Press has finally published the first volume of the Chemnitz-Leyser- Gerhard "Harmony of the Four Gospels."  I bought it at a discount at Ft. Wayne.  

Now, I would agree with Scaer that the Gospels are not supposed to be in linear order, so a harmonization of them is not only impossible, it's pretty pointless.  Nevertheless, what the book are really is is a giant Lutheran orthodox commentary on the Gospels.  Meaning that it should be a gold mine of Scholastic typological-prophetic exegesis of the gospels.  Very neat stuff!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Scaer's Presentation at the Ft. Wayne Conference.

Overall, the Ft. Wayne conference was good. It was very nice to meet some of you in person or see others of you after a few years.

After listening to Dr. Scaer's lecture yesterday on "God as a Secondary Fundamental Doctrine" I felt I had to make a response. Now, though I am critical of what Dr. Scaer said, bear in mind that I have up most respect for him and think he's one of the greatest living Lutheran theologians.

Nevertheless, a couple of things need to be said in response.

1. Scaer's understanding of Sedes Doctrinae is not accurate or correct. It does not marginalize certain parts of the Bible or say that they do not matter. The entire point of the concept of Sedes Doctrinae is that there are certain passages that have a greater ability to illuminate other passages by way of the analogy of faith. It is not that they don't matter. I frankly don't see how you can get around this! Certain passages are simply clearer than others- how do you argue with this? Furthermore, if you believe in plenary inspiration, you necessarily hold that if God is the author of both, and that logically implies that the clearer passes have the ability to illuminate the less clear.

2. Homelogena vs. Antilogena. Scaer wanted to eliminate the use of this distinction and exegetical practice of orthodoxy of stating that doctrines cannot be established by the Antilogena and that the Homologena must have interpretive priority.

Again, unless you follow the Reformed and chalk up all knowledge of the cannon to the inner testimony of the Spirit (something Scaer would no doubt criticize) then you're stuck with the distinction. I would also note that it's very helpful in dealing with issues like Millennialism (i.e. in Revelation) and post-baptismal sin (in Hebrews).

Not only that, there is a catholicity to this approach in that it was the practice of the ancient Church, revived under the Reformers.

3. Now here's my main beef: His treatment of fundamental and secondary fundamental doctrines.

Scaer's main problem (as I noticed in Ziegler's presentation, this appears to be a difficulty with the other members of the faculty) is that he works from the paradigm of "central doctrines" as a way of understanding dogmatics.

The "Central Doctrines" paradigms of studying dogmatics came out of the 19th century and assumes that different theologians of Protestant orthodoxy can be understood by identifying the "central doctrine" in their theology and adducing each part of dogmatics from that principle. For Lutherans, justification, for Reformed, election.

This is of course how people did dogmatics in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, but it's not how the Lutheran or Reformed Scholastics did theology.

In Protestant orthodoxy, as Richard Muller has demonstrated, the two "princples" were the Triune God and his Word. This makes sense as the "principle" of theology because if there is a Word of God, then there is a God. Furthermore, if there is a God, and if we know something about him, then he must have a Word. So each principle is mutually supporting. Without said principles, there is no theology. It would be like trying to do math without numbers (Gerhard uses this analogy in the prolegomena).

Dogmatics was then divided up into Loci each of which was independantly of each. In each dogmatic section, the principles was investigated. In other words, a central doctrine was not identified and then a whole system was then created. Rather, each represents a separate investigation of an individual doctrine found in the Bible.

Scaer's difficulty is that since he interprets Lutheran scholasticism's methodology from the perspective of "Central Doctrines."

This leads him to wrongly conflate the "principle of theology" with theology's "fundamental doctrine."

A word on "fundamental" and "secondary fundament" doctrines. This is a distinction from early in the period of orthodoxy by Nicolaus Huinnius. It is not meant to identify the "principle" of theology. The goal is rather the question who can be identified as Christian and who the Lutheran Church can be in fellowship with.

Huinnius concludes that the most fundamental doctrines are Justification by Faith and also, Christ, the Trinity, the Law and the knowledge of sin. If you don't believe in these, then you're not a Christian. There are then secondary fundamental doctrines, namely Biblical authority, and the sacramentals.

If a person doesn't hold to or distorts the secondary doctrines, they can still be Christians (by the skin of their teeth!), but the Lutheran Church cannot be in fellowship with them. The Church cannot tolerate distortions of the means of grace, the things that create faith in the fundamental doctrines in the first place. Therefore, says Huinnius, Lutherans can say that the Reformed are technically still Christians, but we can't be in fellowship with them.

As you can observe, Huinnius' distinction doesn't have anything to do with the principle of theology or the starting point of theology. What it has to do with is the basis of being a Christian (Christ alone) and what basis Confessional Lutheran can enter into fellowship with other Christians (Lutheran or otherwise).

Therefore, Scaer, believing in the central doctrine theory of understanding Lutheran Scholasticism has distorted this principle by wrongly identifying the "principles of theology" with "fundamental doctrines." These are not the same thing and neither do they do not pretend to be.

Of course Gerhard and the rest of them think that everything centers on Christ and the goal of theology is to expound Christ. That what Gerhard says in both the first and fourth sections of his systematic theology. He says that Christ is the center and goal of the Scriptures.

Even what he says about the principles of theology is Christological because he says that the principles of theology are God and his written Word.

Jesus is the eternal Word and present as God's Word in the form of his humanity and in Scriptures. He is the principle which unites the two principles of theology. This was never in doubt.

This being said, I am of course grateful to Scaer for his presentation and enjoyed much of what he had to say.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hats off to Ben Mayes, Richard Dinda, and CPH!

The new Gerhard volume is fantastic- so hats off to those involved in the project.

Dr. Mayes told me in August that the new volume on the person of Christ was better than Chemnitz's The Two Natures in Christ.  Though I was initially somewhat skeptical, he was correct!

Way to go!

Thesis for Judaism and Islam Paper.

I started my essay today for the March symposium at Boston College.  My basic argument is that Luther attack Judaism and Islam not as separate religions, but as heresies within the Church.  Not only is this the attitude of most Medieval authors who Luther inherits his knowledge of these religions from (he also personally encountered Jews), but his concept of the orders of creation is instructive.

According Luther everyone in the world is part of the orders of the creation.  Now an even more interesting point (that Oswald Bayer has turned me on to) is that this includes the estate of the Church.  Of course not everyone is part of the fellowship of the true Church and therefore saved- nevertheless, they are within the order regardless.

Now, Luther is not trying to say and neither is Bayer trying to attribute to him religious universalism or some sort of heresy like that.  

The point is actually quite the opposite: Christianity is the original faith and every other religion is simply a corruption within the visible Church.

Remember, humanity was established in a true Church by God's not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (according to Luther's understanding, God did this to establish a form of external worship) and this was corrupted by the fall.  True religion was then reestablished by the protoevangelium, but this promise was also corrupted by subsequent generations.  Nevertheless, you wouldn't have any other forms of false religion without the establishment of true religion in the beginning- just like you wouldn't have distortions of marriage or the state without divine establishment of those orders.  

This would partially explain his attitude towards Judaism and Islam as heresies, not something entirely foreign.  Treating them like separate religions would be to say that the Christianity was one religious reality among many.  

This is largely the attitude of most modern people.  I suspect this has not a little to do with why they think that there are many paths to God.  

In other words, modern people have a big category: "Religion."

What's religion's function for modern people?: Get people in contact with God.

Within this then, there many religions.  Christianity is one of them and therefore it becomes one valid path to God among others.  

If we follow Luther on this (and Bayer), then there would only be one path to God (the gospel) and then a bunch of distortions of it.

At the end of the day, there would be no room for universalism.  Anything other than the gospel would just be a more or less unauthentic version of it.  There would be the gospel- and then corruptions of it by degrees!

Off to Ft. Wayne.

I'm heading for Ft. Wayne tomorrow for the theological symposium. Hope I run into some of you there.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

More Luther on Islam.

Luther comes up with a number of arguments against Islam.  I think most of them work pretty well.  What I find most interesting is how Luther is more keen of the use of reason in these arguments than in previous debates.  At one point he says that you can't believe in Islam because it's irrational.  This isn't necessarily a different attitude than with his debates with Zwingli.  There the question is whether the articles of the faith are trans-rational, not whether they are irrational.  Clearly Luther thinks that faith must not be absurd or illogical, even if it is above human reason.

So here are some of his arguments:

1. Islam doesn't have any real miracles attesting it.  There are a couple of miracles attributed to Mohammed, but they're mostly private ones and of a somewhat dubious nature.  For example, when he apparently cut the Moon in two with his fingers (I'm guessing it didn't stay cut in two in light of the view from my window at this point).  Luther says that this is too absurd to believe.  Most modern Islamic scholars think that what is being talked about is a metaphorical splitting of the prophet's heart.

The interesting point here (that could also be made about Joseph Smith) is that when someone tells us that they've spoken to God, we're just supposed to believe them without any proof.  Interesting.

2. There's no real continuity with the Old and New Testaments.  Now Luther's point here is that the Church since the time of Adam and Eve was always defined by the gospel, but now (according to Islam) somehow that's changed and it's supposed to be defined by the Law of Mohammed.

Now, this might not be a good argument to use against a Muslim, but the point works I think when discussing matter with Christians or even possibly Jews.  

Part of the Muslim argument is that the OT and NT were real and legitimate revelations of God, and that they were corrupted by additions and then Mohammed then appeared and reformed everything and the Koran is then totally uncorrupted.

The first problem with this is historical.  There's too much manuscript evidence that demonstrates that the texts of the OT and NT were not corrupted to take any those arguments seriously (for example, there only four minor difference between the Dead Sea version of Isaiah and the MS version).  On the other hand, the Koran has a dubious history.  It was only written down 20 years after Mohammed's death and one Hungarian scholar has shown that up to two-thirds of it has been borrowed from the OT, NT, Gnostic Gospels, Greek wisdom sayings and Persian religious texts.  To make matters worse, recent archaeological evidence from Yemen of all places, has uncovered early Islamic graves with version of the Koran in them that don't match up with the current version.  So, in actuality, the situation is the opposite of what Muslims claim it is.

The second difficulty is conceptual coherence.  So, what we're supposed to believe is that instead of having a God who faithfully preserves his Word from paradise to the last judgment, is in a God who allows total corruption of his earlier revelations and a total apostasy of the people of God, and then in a kind of deus ex machina move, sends Mohammed?  Even more strange, is that he was faithless in all those other situations, but now some how has become faithful in preserving the Koran.  Of course, the Mormons would have us believe the same thing, which in my mind is just as unconvincing.

3. Luther notes Mohammed doesn't tell us anything reason doesn't already tell us about God.  Meaning, if he only got that far, God didn't really talk to him.

In other words, Mohammed said murder and lying was bad, and that God existed and that there was one God.  Anyone can figure this out on their own- so why a need for revelation?  According to Luther, God's grace (as well as things like the Trinity and Incarnation), can only be known by is own revelatory act.  

I think point two and three are particularly important.  The ultimate thing that proves Christianity is God's grace and his faithfulness to his Word.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Francisco's argument about Luther and Islam.

I'm almost finished with the Francisco book.  It's really very good.  His basic argument is 1. That much like Oswald Bayer, Francisco believes that the basic framework of Luther's theology is the threefold orders of creation (Church, State, Household).  2. Because this is the case, we can understand Luther's critique of Islam within this framework.

Therefore, according to Luther, Islam is bad because:

1. It corrupts the gospel-which has defined the Church since the Fall and the giving of the protoevangelium and replaces it with works righteousness.  It therefore corrupts the first estate, the Church.

2. It destroys other states in unjust wars and corrupts the use of violence by building empires.  Here it corrupts the second estate, the state.

3. Muslim (according to Luther) divorce at will.  They also engage in polygamy, which although God permitted at certain times in salvation history, he does not really approve of ultimately.  Therefore Islam corrupts the third estate, the household.

Ratio et Mysterium.

Now that I've argued that Christian belief is not just something we take a leap of "faith" (in a convention sense of the word, not the NT version) to believe in, but is simply a historical fact, we should ask some other questions and clarify the ultimate relationship between faith and reason.

The first point that should be made is that by claiming that the Christian faith is a historical "fact" I am not suggesting that the claims that the Christian religion makes are any less paradoxical or mysterious.  My main argument in the previous post was that the authoritative sources of the Christian faith were historically provable as valid- it was not that the propositions contained in the Christian faith 1. Have to be believable in terms of the bar of human reason.  2. Are rationally understandable in and of themselves.

My attitude on this point is the same as the Lutheran Scholastics (notably Johann Gerhard) who's approach goes back to both Martin Luther and St. Thomas Aquinas.

First, the Lutheran Scholastics as I showed in previous posts have arguments proving the truth of the Christian faith.  They didn't have any trouble with the idea that the sources of the faith were rationally provable.  

George and Mike made a good point in an earlier post that part of the the reason why modern people are afraid of giving rational proofs of their faith is because they are afraid that secretly it's really not true after all and placing it the realm of the rational would open it for falsification.  In any case, Christianity cannot avoid this since it is actually a religion about history- not a form of mysticism.  That being said, there should be proofs of the authoritative sources behind the Christian faith.  As I have argued below, the real proof of the Christian religion is the resurrection and one can adduce the authority of all Christian doctrine from that fact.  This is totally in keeping with Jesus own claim that the "Sign of Jonah" would be the one proof of this Messiahship and everything else he claimed.  So, my argument I think is good exegesis also.

The second point strikes at the actual propositional content of the faith.  Is it reasonable?  Aquinas would say something like this: The content of the faith is rational and can be worked with reasonably.  Nevertheless, it take the foothold of faith and the knowledge of revelation to get up to that level of knowledge- but once you're there, you can use reason to understand it.

Luther would go a different direct, as would the Lutheran Scholastics.  Although sources of the faith are rationally provable as true, the propositional content is above reason.  God is not bounded by human reason and cannot be understood by it.  Every proposition of the faith is trans-rational.  So, how God could be God and then a human being is a mysterium that cannot really be picked apart rationally.  Neither can it be understood how there can be one God and three persons- or how something can be bread and also the body of Christ or how a human body can be in multiple places at once and eaten by people Sunday after Sunday for 2,000 years and not run out.  These are great mysteries and paradoxes.  One is right to call them the "mystery of faith."

Nevertheless, they are knowable.  Augustine's distinction here of "knowledge" and "comprehension" is helpful.  So for example, I can know what infinity is or even, let's say, a trillion is.  Nevertheless, I can't really totally wrap my mind around it.  It's too much for me to think of in and of itself.  Nevertheless, I have knowledge that it is a reality and what it is.  I think we can say the same of the mysteries of the faith.

Do you buy this?  Let me know.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Natural theology presentation not a big hit.

My presentation was not a hit. I think that they didn't really care. That's actually one of the most disappoint aspects of teaching at the undergraduate level I've found. You can come up with exciting propositions and ideas, and most of them are just forced to be there and they don't care.

I did have two responses. First, one young woman wanted to know why Paul was so homophobic (I had them read Romans 1- I explained to her that Paul is not homophobic even if he thinks that homosexual practice is wrong. I then gave a long explanation of how ancient people thought about homosexuality and how it was invented as an idetity in the later 19th century).

The second young woman couldn't defeat my argument about the rationality of supernatural revelation, but said that it seemed too rational. She then said that she believed in Christianity because she has "faith" by which she means irrational belief that makes her feel good.

I think this shows that even the ones who have some Christian belief like the idea of the irrationality of faith because it gives them an out. In other words, if God gets a little too scary-like if he would start to judge me or something- then I can always have the power to put aside my irrational decision to believe in him, or more likely, irrational decide to believe in a God that I like better. A Christian theology with a robust natural theology and which claims that its claims of supernatural revelation are provable, does not allow that possibility. Therefore it's too frightening to contemplate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Presentation for My Class Friday.

In my intro to theology course, I do an entire day usually on natural theology. I do not do this because I believe that I can convince people with natural theology arguments. If we are in bondage to sin, we can't think our way into the Christian faith. Faith is trust, not merely the knowledge of historical facts- God attaches a Word of Law or Promise to those facts and of trust in that word is faith.

Nevertheless, pre-modern Christian theologians (notably Lutheran ones as well) offered proofs of God's existence and the truth of the Scriptures. For the Lutheran ones, the point was not that the Christian faith could attract converts with the right "knockout" arguments. Rather, it was that Christian truth was a kind of public knowledge and not just private truth. As public knowledge, it was as true objectively as anything else.

All my students think that faith is unverifiable belief that makes you feel good. They hold that they can either not take it seriously on the one hand or on the other hand, use Christianity as a make-believe game that can give them a God who will be a giant therapist who will fulfill all their psychological needs. I try to disabuse them of this idea by showing the rational validity of the Christian faith using the tradition of both natural theology and historical apologetic arguments.

Below, I have written something new which I'm going to use in class tomorrow.

I have offered proofs of the resurrection of Christ and then drawn out the implications of it for the truth of the entire Christian creed. I'd like some feed back. I think this is a pretty knock out argument overall- but I could be wrong.

Part 1: The resurrection.

How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?

1. The witnesses to the resurrection were women according to the Gospels. Because ancient people were sexist, women were considered to be bad witnesses and their testimony was not admissible in court. Therefore, the Gospel writers never would have invented stories about women discovering Jesus tomb empty or seeing angels. Therefore, Jesus’ tomb being empty on Easter morning is a historical fact.

2. Both Matthew’s Gospel and contemporary Jewish sources claim that the Jews believed that Jesus’ followers had stolen the body. This means that the Jews at the time of Christ acknowledge that the tomb was empty.

3. The early Church began in Jerusalem, where Jesus was buried, and was disliked by the authorities. If the tomb had not been empty, why did the authorities simply go to the tomb, open it and display Jesus corpse to end the preaching of the apostles? Since they did not, the tomb must have been empty.

Did the disciples steal the body?: No, because……

1. They would not have had the ability. They would have been no match for the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.

2. The Gospels tell us that they believed that Jesus had been a failure and were depressed about it. They would therefore not have had the right psychological state of mind to steal the body.

3. They had no incentive to steal the body. Their proclamation of the resurrection led to poverty, torture and ultimately death.

Jesus’ tomb was not only empty, but Jesus appeared to the disciples because…..

1. Since grave robbery in the ancient world was common, it would have taken an empty tomb plus appearance to convince them that Jesus was risen.

2. Jesus appearance to his disciples contradicts what Jewish people in the first century thought the resurrected life was like. Not only is he a physical being (the general assumption was that natural life would simply resume), but he could appear and disappear at will. He could also walk through walls.

3. They did not make up the resurrection appearances, because they would again had not incentive to do so. Their preaching of the resurrection led to all of them (except for John) being put to death.

They did not hallucinate the resurrected Jesus because…..

1. Second Temple Jews had no concept of a resurrection of the Messiah in the middle of history. People can only hallucinate what they already know or have an unconscious expectation of. They would not have had any such expectation.

2. If they had hallucinated Jesus, they would have hallucinated him being welcomed into heaven, like other figures of the period (i.e. exalted Patriarchs like Enoch).

3. Jesus did not appear to them individually, but rather in groups. People in groups cannot hallucinate someone doing the same things at the same time.

4. They do not use Greek words which are used in other literature of the period to describe visionary experiences.

5. The Apostle Paul, who was a persecutor of the Church, was converted by an appearance of the resurrected Jesus. He then suffered death for his confession of faith. There is no other way to explain his conversion other than the actual resurrection of Jesus.

Part: The objective truth of the Christian Faith.

1. If Jesus rose from the dead (as we have proved above as a historical fact), then God put a stamp of approval of all that he taught.

2. If that is true and Jesus claimed to be God, Jesus is demonstrably God.

3. Jesus also claimed that the Holy Spirit and his Father were God. Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection verifies the doctrine of the Trinity.

4. Jesus claimed that all of the prophets wrote about him and that the OT was the Word of God. Therefore, because he rose, all these claims are also objectively validated.

5. Jesus claimed that his Apostles were infallible witnesses. The Apostles and their disciples wrote the NT. Therefore the inspiration of the NT is also objectively true.

6. Since the resurrection of Jesus verifies the witness of the Apostles and Prophets, what they taught is objectively and historically true.

7. What the Bible taught is summarized in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the first six great Ecumenical Councils (and the Book of Concord!). Therefore, they are all objective true.

Tell me what you think.

Please Pray for Haiti!

Please pray for Haiti. I'm reading that possibly half a million people are dead. My wife and I going to be sending a check to LCMS world relief to help out. I would encourage you to so also or if you are not LCMS, your own Church's relief program or the Red Cross, which has run out of supplies at this point I'm told.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adam Francisco on Islam in Luther.

I'm going to be taking a break from Loscher and studying Luther's response to Islam through Adam Francisco's study.  Not only am I interested in the subject, but I have to give a paper at Boston College in two months on Luther's understanding of Islam and Judaism.  I'll start writing probably some time next week and share some excerpts.

Thanks for your prayers!

Colloquy interview went very well.  I passed.  So, again thanks to everyone who was concerned, especially Mike and Maggie.

Colloquy interview today!

I have my colloquy interview today at the Michigan district's office.  I'm certain it will go well, but prayers would be appreciated.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Atheist objection of the existence of evil is a contradiction.

Atheists claim that the existence of evil contradicts God's existence.  This is itself a contradiction and an absurdity.  If God doesn't exist, there is no eternal standard of good and evil, to judge something as evil.  Consequently, no evil exists that can contradict God's existence.  Ultimately all Atheists are saying then is something very banal and irrational: things I don't like exist (because what more can evil be then "stuff I don't like" in a Godless universe) and so God doesn't exist.  Because existed, he would only allow realities that I like.  How childish.

In any case, humans are aware of evil pretty universally, meaning that they are aware of God, whether or not they like it.  This means two things.  Namely, that God clearly exists, but also why he allows evil or why he created a universe where evil (which comes about via the free will of angels and humans) could exist in the first place, is a great mystery.  Clearly free will can't be the whole answer, since God could have created humans or angels in such a way that they would always use their free will correctly (as it is in heaven!).  

Nevertheless, God has redeemed us from all evil in the cross of Jesus.  And if he created a world in which evil was possible and then suffered its worst effects for our sake, then we can't very well complain about it.  Even if he didn't redeem us, we would still be his creatures and that would be that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

David Chytraeus' Proof of Christian Teaching.

David Chytraeus (a contributor to the Formula of Concord) offers the following proofs of the truth of Christian teaching:

"1. The miracles characteristic of God's nature and omnipotence; for instance, the raising of dead people, the holding back of the sun's course, and the like, by which only Christian doctrine has been confirmed;

2. The universal experience of all the devout in their daily calling on God and practice of penitence;

3. Antiquity;

4. The clear and manifest prophecies about very important manners; about the will of God and the coming of Christ; about the course and vicissitudes of governments, all of which occur exactly as they have been foretold;

5. The actual genus of doctrine which reveals matters hidden and unknown to human reason;

6. The remarkable preservation of the Church;

7. The hatred of the devil over against this doctrine;

8. The course of the teachers and restorers of the doctrines which is continued from the very beginning of the Church;

9. The continuous course of the years of the world, a course which has been preserved elsewhere at no time;

10. The entire knowledge of the Law of God;

11. Teaching of marriage and chastity, which teaching also only Christian religion has preserved inviolate;

12. The blood of all martyrs;

13. The punishment of those who blaspheme and persecute;

14. The testimonies of the Scriptures: "You received it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers," 1. Thess. 2; "No prophetic teaching has come by the human will but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," 2 Peter 1, etc."

Chytraeus certainly uses some interesting proofs.  Do you think that these are viable or not?  I'd be interesting in hearing. 

The present ELCA as secularized Pietism.

I've been reading the Loscher book (Timoetheus Verinus) against the Pietists and have come to some interesting conclusions regarding the present state of the ELCA.  I think authors of the translation thought it would be useful to WELS and LCMS Pastor having to fight off some of the negative effects of American Evangelicalism on their congregation.  The irony is of course that the Liberalism is merely a more rationalistic form of Pietism (Schleiermacher was after all a Pietist who then read Kant!).
Having once been a member of the ELCA and having many friends in it still, I know the people very well and their mind set.  What is interesting about them (by this, I mainly mean the left wing of the denomination- there are multiple factions, more on that later), is that they perceive themselves to be either on the cutting edge of progress or simply coming to turns with the irrefutable arguments of modernity.  Modernity (by which I mean the culture of the modern west that emerges after the peace of Westphalia and that continues to dominate North American culture, even with onset of post-modernism) provides arguments  (like evolutionary biology, the historical critical method, individual autonomy being the highest good, the progress of civilization) that just can't be refuted.  What's best is for the Church to simply accept the bad news that the Christian metanarrative isn't totally true and work on making Christian values the best representatives of secular western values.  Hence the obsession with diversity or homosexual activism- among other strange obsessions.  It's little know outside the ELCA, but the ELCA leadership is also for some unusual reason obsessed with the Palestinians.  When I was in seminary I knew a number of people who went over to Israel in order to serve as human shields.  Why this conflict (perhaps because there Palestinian Lutherans?), is beyond me- but I digress.
Anyways, now that we've established what they accept the question is why do they accept it.  Part of this seems to be me to be tied up in simply wanting to look good and be accepted into American culture.  If you go to the big ELCA cathedral in downtown Minneapolis, it looks Episcopalian and there are flags from all nations in the stained glass window.  The people who originally went there were of course not from all nation- they were Swedish- and they were peasants, not WASPS.  But they wanted to be good Americans and seem like they were WASPs, so everyone would accept them.  WELS and LCMS people historically just wanted to practice their religion and be good "Old" Lutherans as they were called in the early 19th century so they were less tempted by this (although not totally free from the temptation either- a little on that in a future post!).  After all, you have Franz Pieper writing a systematic theology in German in the 1910s and 20s- 70 some years after the LCMS moved to the English speaking United States.  The emphasis among the LCMS theologians (Pieper being the chief example) was on founding schools- not just for evangelism (which it later claimed to be the rationale for)- but as Pieper put it, to shield orthodoxy Lutheran children from the Reformed cultural influence in the US.  A good goal.  But you also see my point.
In light of studying Pietism in general the Verinus Timeotheus in particular is the second major factor as to why the ELCA accepted modernism was the influence of Pietism.  Part of the reason behind this is that the majority of the Lutheran immigrates who made up the ELCA's predecessor bodies were Pietists, whereas this was less the case in the WELS and LCMS (though the WELS actually had a rather large number of Pietists, in fact it was originally a Pietistic group, which some what explains its quasi-sectarianism and its strange doctrine of the Church).  Why do I say this?  Well, let's look at the characteristics of Pietism that Loscher notes.  Bear in mind, these were only doctrines of certain Pietists, the ones he was arguing against.  The movement was wide and different groups within it.  In fairness, this should also be said of the ELCA.  Below, I am mainly arguing about its left-wing which controls most of the Church government:

1. Some Pietists said that people from non-Christian religions could be saved- so does the left of the ELCA.

2. Pietists believed in double justification.  In other words, justification was dependent on sanctification.  The two main theological schools in the ELCA hold something like this as well. Gerhard Forde and his followers held that the cross inspires faith which satisfies God's demand in the law (though one is imputed with the forgiveness of Christ, it is actually faith fulling the law which makes one holy in God's sight).  On the other side, the "Evangelical Catholics" hold to the Finnish school of Luther interpretation, that mystical union and the indwelling Christ make one holy before God.   According Loscher, certain Pietists also liked this model.

3. Millennialism- Pietists believed in a literal millennium were Christ would rule on earth.  The present ELCA is obsessed with political activism which is a secularized form of Millennialism.  Through government poverty programs, the UN, and all the rest, many of them believe that we can build the kingdom on earth (some of them have said things like this to the effect of this or that we can build it to a point, and then Jesus will come back and complete of efforts).   

4. Pietists rejected closed communion.  So does the ELCA.

5. Pietists were willing to relativize all doctrinal differences, hold that those who taught heresy were just as good Christians because of their holiness in living.  The ELCA will compromise anything to enter an ecumenical agreement.  If you look at their list of days celebrating different figures in the history of the Church in the hymnal- you get weirdos like Julian of Norwich (probably because she calls God "Mother" at one point of her book of visions) and Grundvig, who taught that the NT was not authoritative (only the Apostles Creed for some reason!) and that once you went to hell, you had one last chance to get out.

6. The Pietists taught that there is no difference between the priesthood of all believers and the office of ministry.  The ELCA uses the line from Galatians "there is neither male nor female, etc.." to justify the ordination of women.  Again, this also presupposes that there is not difference between the office of ministry and the priesthood of all believers, since the priesthood of all believers and not the office of ministry is what the verse is about.

7.  Now here's an interesting one that I would never have expected (thought it makes total sense in light of Pietist principles as I will explain below).  Christian Thomasius, a Pietist leader and theologian wrote a book saying that Christians were only subject to the natural law (that is the moral law, not the civil or ceremonial law), but that sodomy (by which I assume he means homosexual acts, not just homosexual rape as it has come to mean in the past 30 years or so) and incest do not violate the natural law.  The present ELCA allows each synod(for Missourian, this would be the equivalent of district) to do as it like regarding homosexual practice.

8. The Pietists claimed that the word "Lutheran" was sectarian.  They also claimed that the Symbolic writings (the Book of Concord) were unnecessary and that the Book of Concord was a "shame book."  The present ELCA gives lip service the Lutheran symbols but really has very little use for them.  Most reject total acceptance of the confessions (quia subscription).  They call the LCMS and other confessional Lutheran "sectarian" (I've heard this on numerous occasions).  They also describe confessional Lutherans as "confessional fundamentalists."

9. The Pietists were not keen on the inerrancy of the Bible- neither is the ELCA.  Again, Lutherans who accept the doctrine of the historic Church (going back to the NT and beyond) are "Fundamentalists" who believe in a "paper pope."

Now, I think it's fair to say these some pretty interesting parallels.  The next question we should ask is, what's the red thread running through these theological propositions.  My answer would be "Enthusiasm."

"Enthusiasm" means literally "God within."  It assumes that God is given to us in some non-external, something that is not objectified or concrete. 

In other words, you can see why women's ordination and gay marriage would make sense to people who also reject the inerrancy of the Bible.  What's at stake in both cases his concrete realities and whether or not they matter.  For women's ordination and gay marriage, the claim is that there is something spiritual that transcends the fact that the people don't have the right body parts for what they want to do.  God's concrete order established in the beginning (whether that be of Adam as the first minister of the Word and Eve as the first Church as Luther says, or one man and one woman in marriage) doesn't matter, because the essence of ministry doesn't have anything to do with a concrete external order of creation which God has established.  In the same way, there is a spiritual "essence" to the Bible which makes it irrelevant whether every word of it is true or whether one can strictly identify with the Word of God.  Again, for them, there must ultimately be a Word of God above the Word of God!

One could of course use other example, like the claim that doctrines don't matter or acceptance of open communion ("spiritual" unity matters, concrete doctrinal and intellectual agreement doesn't!), but I think that we get the point.

Ultimately, this all goes back to a rejection of the central truth of the Christian faith- namely the Incarnation and the work of Christ.  The Lutheran claim in particular is that the fullness of divine glory is alone to be found in, under, and with, the flesh of the Incarnate Christ (genus maiestaticum).  It is not to be found elsewhere.  Consequently, it may be observed, that the ELCA is not compelled to hold their position by the supposedly "knockout" arguments of modernity (of which their are none) but rather by a theological commitment to secularized Pietistic enthusiasm.  

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Why the gardener?

At the end of John, Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener.  Why?  Because Jesus is the second Adam and is resurrected in a garden.  Adam was a gardener and therefore Jesus appears to Mary as a gardener in a new Eden.  As Luther said (echoing Irenaeus), if sin began in a garden, it had to end in one also.

The fulfillment of the Passover liturgy in the Gospels.

Not only does John tell us that Jesus has fulfilled the Day of Atonement, but the Passover as well.  This comes out in some interesting ways when read against the background of Rabbinical literature.  Although it is somewhat later than the Gospels, (I personally believe) that Rabbinical literature accurately preserves much of the the customs of Judaism of the time of Christ.  Of course, we should also be cautious about this and recognize that the Mishnah presents an idealized view of the Temple and its ministrations.  
First, Jesus being pierced through the heart is very interesting.  John emphasizes that the day Jesus died was the day of preparation for the Passover.  This does not conflict with the Synoptic Gospel which merely state that Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples on the night on which he was betrayed, not that it was necessarily the day that other people were celebrating it.  In any case, if this is so, then Jesus would have been on the cross, according to John, at the precise time that the Passover Lambs were being slaughtered.  According to Rabbinical literature, Lambs killed for the Passover were slaughtered at the time of Christ by being pierce through the heart and then letting the blood be drained.  The parallel then with Jesus is obvious.  Some have also noted that Lambs were often roasted on cross beams that resemble the cross.
What is most interesting to me is the parallel between the passion narrative and the Passover liturgy that has been handed down to us.  First, I will make a historical and exegetical move that I think is not only theologically justifiable (God is the author of Scripture, so we can read each passage in light of the whole Bible), but historically as well.  It would be my contention that John when he wrote his Gospel was completely aware of the other Gospels and intended his Gospel to be read in light of the other ones.  Here I of course go against the consensus of NT scholarship since Bultmann, but I think it justifiable.  
Why do I think this?  A number of reasons.  1. John wrote his Gospel long after the Synoptic Gospel had been written and therefore its is highly unlikely that he would not have known them.  As Richard Bauckham showed in A Gospel for All Christians, it is absurd to think that the Synoptic Gospels (or John for that matter) were written for individual communities and therefore would have been circulated immediately.  2. As Richard Bauckham also shows in Jesus and the Eye Witnesses, John is aware of the Petrine witness present in Luke and Mark, since he uses the literary technique of "inclusio of eye witness."  The inclusio of eye witness is a literary technique of the first and second centuries AD, where the author would make the first and last disciple (Bauckham uses various philosophers' biographies to make his point) mentioned in the biography the person who served as the eye witnesses to story being told.  Mark has one involving Peter, Luke has one involving Peter and then a wider one involving the women disciples of Jesus, whom Bauckham thinks are Luke's primary source (BTW, Matthew doesn't have one!).  John has one with Peter- meaning he acknowledges the Petrine witness in the Synoptic tradition that he is well aware of- but then makes his own (the beloved Disciple) wider than Peters, meaning he both is acknowledging, commenting on and expanding on the Petrine witness.  If that is correct (which I think I have made a strong historical and theological case for), then John intends his passion narrative to be read in light of and in conjunction with, the Synoptic Gospels.
Back though to the Passover liturgy.  The Passover liturgy in the first century (as far as we can tell!) had 4 parts.  Each part involved a separate cup to be drank and a prayer to be said.  Bear in mind, this is why the Disciple kept on falling asleep in the garden, they had consumed alot of wine!  (Wine in antiquity was frequently watered down, but still that's alot).  Anyways, it tends to be the consensus of scholars (Joachim Jermias has not been rejected on this point) that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on the third cup, the "Cup of Blessing."  There is further evidence of this from Paul's remark in 1 Cor. "is not the Cup of blessing that we bless . . ." referring to the cup used in the Lord's Supper.
If that is the case, then what is interesting is that there is no fourth cup after the institution of the Lord's Supper in the Synoptic Gospels.  Well, one could say, there is no first and second either.  Nevertheless, we're really not told what happened before the institution of the Sacrament (except for what the conversation was about), but we are told what happened afterwards.  Mark tells us that they sang some hymns- which is what you were supposed to do in the 4 part liturgy after the fourth cup.  But then, it seems that there's no fourth cup, since it would probably be mentioned along with the hymn singing activity.  There's further evidence also.  Remember, Jesus says that he won't drink of the "fruit of the vine" until he drinks it anew in the kingdom of God.  This would mean that he won't drink the fourth cup.
Now, what does John tell us that's unique?  When Jesus is on the cross about to die, he does finally drink the fourth cup.  He asks for a drink and he consumes wine on the cross.  Read in light of the other narratives, we discern several things.  First, the kingdom (as Chemnitz might say, the "kingdom of grace") comes when Jesus has fulfilled the Father's will by dying for our sins.  Secondly, it means that the cross completes a new Passover liturgy and therefore the new exodus from sin, death, the devil and the law.  After all, you need sacrificed body and blood to enact the new Passover.  Jesus' body and blood as they are presented to us in the Lord's Supper are sacrificed body and blood, in that in the OT sacrifice meant the separation of blood from the body of the animal (see Lev. 17).  In this, the cross along with the meal of the New Testament, complete one event of the New Passover and the new exodus.  

Friday, January 8, 2010

The restoration of the divine image in the Church

Another section of an article I'm writing.

The God-Man Christ Jesus is the restoration and completion of the true image of God in humanity. We are to be "conformed the image of his [God's] Son" (Rom. 8:29) as "lord of all" and "servant of all." One gains this by faith in the gospel, given to us in Word and sacrament. The Gospel of John makes this clear in the most dramatic fashions by highlighting the fact that we Jesus lay dead on the cross and was pierced by the spear of the Centurion out of his side came water and blood (Jon. 19:34-5). As several scholars have noted, the water would indicate the sacraments of Baptism and blood the Lord's Supper. To bolster this, we should note that John observes in his first epistle that the water and the blood with the Spirit are that which witnesses to Jesus (1 Jon. 5:6). In this, we can see that the reception of justification arises from Jesus' death mediated through the means of grace.
The gospel not only justifies us, but sanctifies and restores the image of God within us (Col. 3:10). Several scholars have also noted that Jesus lays incapacitated in a similar manner to Adam as Eve came out his side. We might also note the parallel to the story of creation in that this event occurs on the sixth day (Friday), the day of the creation of humanity and therefore presumably the day that Eve was taken from the side of Adam.
Christ's self-giving in the form of the gospel therefore recapitulates the relationship between male and female, therefore the relationship between the Father and the Son. He restores humanity to its original life by giving the same promises of life and freedom that our first parents received. In the gospel, Christ gives us freedom from the law and therefore the restoration of dominion (Eph. 2:6 paralleling Gen. 1:28b) and the promise of eternal life by the power of his resurrection (Rom. 6:5 paralleling Gen. 1:28a). By his self-giving in the form of the gospel's promise, we receive ourselves as justified sinner via Word and sacrament, just as Eve received herself from Adam's self-giving, and as the Son in eternity received himself from the Father's infinite being. In this, we can come to recognize why the New Testament uses the metaphor of the bride of Christ as well as the body of Christ, for the Church. The Church is the possessor of God's full self-donation in the gospel, just as the Son possesses all that is the Father's, and the woman is derived from and receives the man's own body as her own in marriage. The Church therefore possesses the restored divine image of righteousness not as an abstract quality, but rather as a relationship to the Son's own full self-giving that continues until the last day in the form of Word and sacrament. Such a relationship in turn expresses itself in the freedom for self-giving in the form of vocation within the world. The Church therefore receives all from the Son, so that it can give all in the world. In this, the Church also engages in an act kenosis until the end of time when it receives God's own glory much like Christ in his resurrection (Dan. 12:3, Rom. 8:14-7, 30, 1 Pt. 4:9-11). By this, it displays the narrative image of the Son which it has received, that is, the image of death, resurrection and glorification.

Jesus' death in John and the Day of Atonement.

More on my reading of John.

John emphasizes that Jesus' death was a fulfillment of the day of atonement in Leviticus 16. A couple of different things suggest this. First, Jesus dies between two others, one on his left and right. This is highly reminiscent of the two angels on the ark of the covenant. Jesus is, in effect, the blood of the second goat being place on the mercy seat. He is also the scapegoat which was cast out of the city as I noted in an earlier post. This pattern of being placed between two angels is also repeated in the tomb scene. When the tomb is entered, two angels are at the left and right of where his body lay. This symbolism was noticed by a significant number of Patristic authors. It also connects well with the Paul's remark in Romans that Jesus has become "our mercy seat." That is, the place on top of the ark of the covenant where the blood was placed on the day of atonement. It is also the place where YHWH was enthroned and hidden under a cloud of incense which the High Priest is supposed to light on fire when he enters the Holy of Holies. His glory is therefore hidden sub contrario. Jesus also calls his death in John "being lifted up" and "being glorified"- that is, an enthronement. This makes sense because it is a means of him casting out the "ruler of this world." So, just as the cover the ark was the place where God's glory was both concealed and propitiated by blood, so the cross is also.
This symbolism is futhered by the term used for Jesus' seamless garment: "kiton." This is the term used for the High Priest's garment on the day of atonement in the LXX version of Leviticus 16. So, from this all this, we can surmise that John views Jesus as the true sacrifice, High Priest, and divine presence (kavod).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Epiphany Stuff: My take on the Star of Bethlehem.

Because it was Epiphany yesterday, there has been some conversation around my house regarding the nature of the Star of Bethlehem and therefore I thought I'd write a post arguing my position on the story of the Magi. I don't hold my position dogmatically, neither do I intend to offend anyone. This is just what I make some historical sense of the story.

1. It's not entirely clear to me (contrary to what some commentaries and textbooks insist) that the Magi were Gentiles. Magi just means Babylonian (regionally, not ethnically) wiseman/astrologer. Why would Babylonians be particularly interested in the birth of the Messiah? That is to say, they wouldn't be, so they were probably Jewish astrologers from Babylon or somewhere in that area. Also, there's some rather significant evidence that Babylon was home at the time of Christ to more Jews than were actually living in Palestine. I've heard as high a number as 6 million, whereas the Palestine is thought to have contained anywhere from 1-4 millions Jews in the first century. Also, Babylon was a major cultural center of the Jews. The Babylonian Talmud has equal weight among Rabbinical scholars to the Palestinian one.

2. I'm pretty convinced that the Star of Bethlehem was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that happened in 7 BC. Saturn was a symbol of the Jews in ancient astrology and Jupiter was a symbol of kingship. If the two planets came together three times, ancient astrologers probably would have taken notice (especially Jewish ones), which explains why the Magi came from the East. Also, it would cohere with the other things we know about the birth of Jesus. It was at a time when there was a census. There appears to have been a census started by Augustus in 9 BC that was moving East and might have come to Palestine in 7-6 BC. Also, we're told that it was at the time that Herod was king of Judea, which was according to Josephus before 4 BC.

3. Now this doesn't mean that I think that we have to come up witih a naturalistic explanation for these things or I don't believe in the power of God to make a supernatural light in the sky or something. I just think that explanation makes more sense for the following reasons.

4. First, people seem to read the text as saying that the Magi followed a wandering star. Read it closely. It says nothing of the kind. What happens? Well, we're told that Magi show up in Jerusalem and ask Herod about the birth of the king of the Jews. Why would they do that if they were following a star? Why wouldn't it just lead them to Bethlehem? Well, because if you read the text closely, they weren't following a star. What they say is "We saw his star in the East." Meaning they saw it when they were in Babylon, but not now. Hence them needing directions.

5. If I'm correct, this makes the story make more sense. They see the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. They head for Jerusalem, assuming that a child has been born in the court of Herod who is currently king of the Jews. Herod then directs them towards Bethlehem. The alternative is problematic not least becuase one comes to ask the question: Why would God lead them to Herod? So, that he could tell them that there was a Messianic pretender threatening him, so that he could try to kill him with fairly grizzly results? I think not. Again, that's not what the text. It says not that they followed a star to Jerusalem, but merely that they saw it in the east and the showed up at Jerusalem, the most logical place to go.

6. Now the text says that on the way to Bethlehem, the "star" reappears and the leads them directly to the correct house in which Jesus was. This appears to be the only part of the journey directed by the star. Again, this would make perfect sense because although they would have known from the messianic prophecy that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, they would not know specifically in what house.

7. This I think makes the most sense as an interpretation of the text, I'd be interested in hearing your response. Again, I don't hold this position dogmatically. I just think that it makes the most sense from the story we're given by Matthew.

Gerhard Finally in!

I made the foolish mistake when ordering the new volume of Gerhard back in October to put down the street name of the apartment that my wife and I had recently moved out of. So, we waited and waited and waited, and the book never came. But low and behold, it came today after I called CPH and explained to them the foolish mistake I made. I'm actually at the beginning of the Loscher book against the Pietists right now- so I don't know what I'm going to do! Abandon Loscher for the instant gratification of Gerhard? My wife thinks I should go for Gerhard, but I'm skeptical. While I work on school stuff today, I'll have think about it and decide.

BTW, it's on the person and work of Christ, which as some of you all are aware is the Loci that my doctoral disseration and masters thesis focused on.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Being "cast out" in John.

As part of my personal Bible study right now, I'm reading John.  Jesus states in chapter 12 that the ruler of this world will be "cast out."  The next verse says "he said this in order to indicate the sort of death that he would die."  The Greek word used is interesting because it is used both for exorcisms and in discussing the scapegoat in the LXX version of Leviticus 16.  Also note that one of John's themes is that believers in Jesus are "cast out" of the synagogue.  In chapter 9, we are told that the man born blind was also "cast out" of the synagogue for his witness to Jesus.  In other words, Jesus' death is an act of being cast out of the community of Israel.  It is also an atoning act, just like the "casting out" of the scapegoat.  Jesus' being "cast out" ironically casts out Satan.  
In a world of darkness, the light is always treated in this manner.  Jesus is the true Word of God (John 1) and therefore the truest witness to God.  He is superior to Moses, who communicated with God, but was not really God in the flesh the way Jesus was.  The Church is the true witness and therefore conforms to the image of the Son.  Just as the Son was "cast out" so too the Church will be cast out of the human community- in particular, true Christians will be "cast out" of the synagogue for their true witness to the light.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trinitarianism's coherence with the doctrine of creation and sola gratia

Another excerpt from a article I'm writing.

The character of the Christian God is more highly unique than it is often appreciated to be when juxtaposed to the gods of modern Judaism and Islam. The gods of the two other great monotheistic traditions mirrors perfectly both of these religions of the law's concepts of salvation. The god of post-Rabbinical Judaism[1] stands out against the Christian God as a solitary monarch. As a solitary monarch, he is not by nature a gracious giver or perhaps he has limited this to the one time of affair of creation (possibly, also his act of sustaining creation). In that he is by nature a solitary monarch, the divine-human relationship must be based on law and not self-giving. Being solitary, he is not a giver by nature. Rather, he like any other monarchs holding on to his power, must enforce his will by the demanding submission. He does this through the teaching of Torah and the tradition of the elders found in the Mishnah and Talmud.[2] His human subjects' role is simply to submit and thereby gain his favor by their obedience. If we substitute the word "Koran" for "Torah" the theology of Islam is essentially the same.[3] As we shall see, in both cases, the rejection of Trinitarianism in favor of Unitarianism goes hand-in-hand with a belief in salvation by the law.
By contrast the Christian God’s own inner life is constituted by the receiving and giving of glory and love. In other words, God is by nature a gracious giver and a self-donator in his eternal being. His acts of giving in time are also rooted in his prior nature as a self-communicating giver in eternity. The Father eternally gives his entire being to the Son (Jon 1:1-5, Heb 1:1-5) and creates all things to end of glorifying him (Jon 8:54, 17:5, Phil 2:9-11). The Father is infinite and therefore he may give of himself infinitely and remain himself. His self-giving is therefore rooted in his infinity and glory. Due to their infinite glory in eternity, the Son and the Father are free to fully give the fullness of their being in the dual procession of the Spirit. In his Incarnation and earthly life the Son is therefore free to give all glory to the Father (Matt 11:25, Jon 17:1-5). In time, the Father then exalts the Son and the Spirit glorifies the Father through creation’s worship of the Son (Jon 16:4, Gal 4:6, Phil 2:9-11, Heb 13:15, Rev 4-5).
God's own self-giving in eternity therefore go hand-in-hand with his activity in creation. Contrary to the claims of Judaism and Islam, a God who was not already a giver would never create and sustain the world. Being a non-relational being, it simply would not be in his character to do as such.
This also coheres with the shape that salvation takes in Christianity. For the Christian, God who is self-giving in eternity gives himself to his creatures in time through the Incarnation. Indeed, the Lutheran claims in the doctrine of the genus maiestaticum that he holds nothing of himself back in this event. Heinrich Bornkamm notes this is built into the very structure of Luther's thought because for him “God’s nature is based on giving.”[4] As we noted in the first section, the Incarnation is the logical out working of the nature of the unilateral promise of the gospel. The God of the Old Testament who promises Abraham his own death if he does not bless him, must donate himself completely to his people by giving himself over to their condition in order to fulfill that promise and take the death they deserve upon himself. This means that the idea of the gospel as a unilateral promise is rooted in God's own Trinitarian character. God is also, of course absolutely sovereign over his creatures and is therefore by nature a God of law as well.[5] His character as almighty and sovereign in himself (and over against his creation!) as well as self-giving and self-communicating means that the law and gospel are rooted in God's own eternal character as God. The divine-human interaction on the basis of the law and the gospel is the precise thing that one would expect out of the Triune God of the Bible.
In light of the coherence of the Christian claim that God who is by nature giving gives freely in the form of creation and redemption, the Jewish and Islamic claims regarding God's character appear more and more incoherent. The claim of these two traditions is that a god who is not by nature relational or giving, spontaneously becomes relational and giving by making the world seem strangely inconsistent. The incoherence deepens when we are told that in redemption that god has again reverted to his non-giving nature by insists that humans first meet his demand before he redeems them. One series of divine acts appear highly inconsistent with the others. In a similar manner, they gives the distinct impression (while being emphatically denied by both groups) that God is in a sense less than ultimate. He who cannot give of himself is clearly lacking in something. That is to say, if I have a limited supply of a thing, then I must hold on to what I have. A God who is not eternally self-giving is therefore a God who is limited in that he is limited in what he can give. By contrast, the fullness of God's Trinitarian glory makes it clear he is infinite and lacking in nothing. He can give all and still have infinitely more.

David Bently Hart on Self-donation and the Trinity

". . . the very act of kenosis is not a new act of God, because God's eternal being is, in some sense, kenosis: the self-outpouring of the Father in the Son, in the joy of the Spirit. Thus Christ's Incarnation, far from dissembling his eternal nature, exhibits not only his particular propurium as the Son and the splendor of the Father's likeness, but thereby also the nature of the whole Trinitarian taxis. On the cross we see this joyous self-donation sub contrario, certainly, but not in alieno." Hart as Eastern Orthodox shares much in common with Lutherans regarding the commuicatio idiommatum.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Imago dei, again.

Section of a new article I'm writing.

In Genesis 2, this further expresses itself in the freedom for the other within the human community, and not merely with the regard to piety towards God. Focusing in more closely on the sequence of events of the sixth day, we are told that Adam is first given the promise of life within the garden (Gen. 2:15), he is also given dominion over the animals by being granted the act of naming them (v. 18-19). Being given this dominion, he is thereby also free to enter into relationship without losing himself. He possesses all therefore he is in no need of holding himself back from relationship. Relationship will not represent competition for him, but rather freedom for service and love. He is therefore free to receive the woman (v. 21). And he fittingly begets her from his own side. As such, he expresses the divine image of power and glory giving rise to self-giving and love. It is therefore also fitting that the Apostle Paul states that there is an analogy between the Trinitarian relationship between Father and Son and man and woman:
"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God . . . For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man . . . In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God" (1 Cor. 11:3, 8-9, 11-13, Emphasis added).

The word "head" (κέφαλη) can of course (as many have noted) may also be translated as "source."[1] In this context, it would appear that Paul means it in both senses. He is on the one hand insisting on male headship by appealing to the protological relationships between man and woman, while at the same time insisting that this headship/source relationship mirrors that of the inner life of the Trinity.
This is strongly illustrative. The Father is glorified and obeyed by the Son (Jon. 17:1) not because the Son is inferior, but because in an eternal act of self-surrender, the Father has given the fullness of his being and glory to the Son (Heb. 1:3) thereby freeing him to a respond in an act total self-giving. In the same way, male headship is based on the male having given of himself to bring about the woman in the protological marriage (Gen. 2:21-3, 1 Tim. 2:1-11). Elsewhere, Paul notes that Christian marriage restores this relationship of self-giving. The male headship in the Christian marriage is based on the male standing as an image of Christ: "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:23-4). The male's headship, just as in the case of Christ's headship, is based on being the one who takes the initiative of giving of himself fully to the other, which in turn as we noted earlier, gives the freedom to wife to fully give herself to the husband. This occurs through the loving service of the husband to the wife and his self-sacrifice to her. Possessing fully her husband's self-giving, the wife is then free to honor, glorify and love him. In this, they become mutually united in love and glorification. We can observe this in Adam act of glorification of the woman, which stands in analogy to the Father's love and glorification of the Son (Mt. 3:17,17:5, Mk 1:11, Lk 3:21): "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, for she was taken out of man" (Gen. 2:23 Emphasis added).
In this, the inner life of the Trinity finds its expression in the relational dimensions of the divine image of holiness and righteousness in man and woman together. In the vocational relationship marriage, male and female in the state of original justice mirrors the source and the begotten image of the Father and the Son. Similarly, the mirror the unity of love and glorification in the Holy Spirit. This is not, it should be emphasized, an attempt to revive medieval speculations about vestigia Trinitatis. Rather we are merely working out the relational dimensions of the divine image as holiness and righteousness. If the life of faith, as Luther has insisted, is the righteousness, and if this righteousness is the image of God spoken of in Genesis 1, then it must necessarily take on relational and Trinitarian dimension as it does within the eternal divine being. As lord of the entire world, man is free to surrender himself to other. In order to exercise such freedom, there must be an other to surrender to. Such is the role of woman in the original creation and in Christian marriage.
Furthermore, it should also be noted that it is merely an analogy with the eternal life of God. Humans are not active as God always is, but rather passive. We return to Paul ending remark in the passage above: "But everything comes from God" (v. 13). Eve passively receives her reality from God's creative act. Similarly, the man is made completely inert in that he falls into a "deep sleep" just like Abraham in Genesis 15 when he received the unilateral promise of justification (compare Gen. 2:21 with Gen. 15: 15). Human are therefore only passive in their relationality, whereas each person of the Trinity is mutually active in their subsistence in begetting or procession. For this reason, such vocational relationship comes from the life of faith, that is, the vita passiva.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flacius' works to be published this year in English.

Check out this website:

I wrote Wade Johnson about how the translation project was coming.  It appears that Magdeburg Press will publish two of Flacius' works this year in English for the first time.  The most import of which is the Clavis Scripturum.  This was the first Lutheran text to exclusively deal with the problem of hermeneutics.  It should be almost as interesting as the Gerhard Loci Theologici which CPH has been publishing.  

2009 Reading List.

Here's my 2009 reading list.  If anyone else want to share their own, I would be interested in reading it.

1. Martin Luther: Vol. 1- Martin Brecht
2. Martin Luther: Vol. 2- Martin Brecht
3. Martin Luther: Vol. 3- Martin Brecht
4. 1 and 2 Kings- Peter Leithart
5. A House for My Name: Old Testament Survey- Peter Leithart
6. From Silence to Song- Peter Leithart
7. Solomon Among the Post-Moderns- Peter Leithart
8. Against Christianity- Peter Leithart
9. The Baptized Body- Peter Leithart
10. The Promise of his Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter- Peter Leithart
11. The Keys to the Kingdom- Peter Leithart
12. The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God- R.N.C. Hanson
13. Arius in Heresy and Tradition- Rowan Williams
14. Jesus Teaches the Church: The Discourses of Matthew- David Scaer
15. James Apostle of Faith- David Scaer
16. The Sermon on the Mount: The Church's First Statement of the Gospel- David Scaer
17. The Glory of the Lord: Vol. 1- Hans Urs Von Balthasar
18. The Glory of the Lord: Vol. 2- Hans Urs Von Balthasar
19. The Glory of the Lord: Vol.3- Hans Urs Von Balthasar
20. The Glory of the Lord: Vol.4- Hans Urs Von Balthasar
21. The Glory of the Lord: Vol.5- Hans Urs Von Balthasar
22. Concordia Commentary: Luke, Vol. 1- Arthur Just
23. Concordia Commentary: Luke, Vol. 2- Arthur Just
24. The Ongoing Feast- Arthur Just
25. Concordia Commentary: Matthew 1-11- Jeffrey Gibbs
26. Concordia Commentary: Daniel- Andrew Steinmann
27. Concordia commentary: Revelation- Louis Brighton
28. Augustinianism in Modern Theology- Henri De Lubac
28. The Mystery of the Supernatural- Henri De Lubac
29. A Brief Catechism on Grace and Nature- Henri De Lubac
30. Corpus Mysticum- Henri De Lubac
31. Medieval Exegesis Vol. 1- Henri De Lubac
32. Medieval Exegesis Vol. 2- Henri De Lubac
33. Medieval Exegesis Vol. 3- Henri De Lubac
34. The Bible- Karen Armstrong
35. God is not Great- Christopher Hitchens
36. The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the Renaissance- Anthony Gottlieb
37. Loci Theologici, Vol. 1- Johann Gerhard
38. Loci Theologici, Vol. 2- Johann Gerhard
39. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln- Dorris Kerns Goodwin
40. Luther on Thomas Aquinas- Denis Janz
41. Luther and Late Medieval Thomism-Denis Janz
42. The Age of Reform- Steven Ozment
43. The History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3- Philip Schaff
44. American Theocracy- Kevin Philipps
45. What did Luther mean by Religion- Karl Holl
46. The Cultural Significance of the Reformation- Karl Holl
47. Distinctive Elements in Christianity- Karl Holl
48. The Reconstruction of Morality- Karl Holl
49. Calvin in Context- David Steinmetz
50. The Unaccomedated Calvin- Richard Muller
51. A Summary of the Christian Faith- David Chrytaneus
52. Diaskepsis Theologica- Nicholas Huinnius
53. Liberal Fascism- Jonah Goldberg
54. Is there a meaning in this text?- Kevin Vanhoozer
55. A New Look at the Formula of Concord- ed. Robert Preus.
56. A Generous Orthodoxy- Brian McLaren
57. Justification- N.T. Wright
58. Jesus and the God of Israel- Richard Bauckham
59. Concordia Commentary: Leviticus- John Kleinig
60. American Gospel: Religion in American Public Life- Jon Meacham
61. A New Look at the Lutheran Confessions: 1529-1537- Holsten Fagerberg
62. A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 and 2 Samuel- Peter Leithart
63. The Mystery of Christian Worship- Odo Casel
64. Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence- Charles Gieschen
65. The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel- C. F. W. Walther
66. A Short History of the Catholic Church- Hans Kung
67. You become what you worship: A Biblical theology of Idolatry- G.K. Beale
68. John Adams- David McCoullough
69. What's So Great About Christianity- Dinesh Desousa
70. The Christian World: A Global History- Martin Marty
71. Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture- Peter Leithart
72. A History of Early Christian Doctrine Vol. 1: Jewish Christianity- Jean Danielou
73. A History of Early Christian Doctrine Vol. 2: Hellenism and the Spread of the Gospel- Jean Danielou
74. A History of Early Christian Doctrine vol. 3:The Origins of Latin Christianity- Jean Danielou
75. Mao: The Untold Story-Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
76. Mohammed: A Biography-Karen Armstrong
77. The Trinity- Karl Rahner

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tertullian on Angelomorphic Christology.

According to Danielou, Tertullian was not keen on Angelomorphic Christology.  This makes sense in his mind because from what we can tell from the sources, there was a heretical Jewish-Latin Christianity which thrived before the 3rd century in the west.  The tendency of this form of sectarian Jewish Christianity was 1. Modalism or 2. Anglomorphic Christology.  The later tended to see Jesus as an incarnation of a high Angel (such as Michael or Gabriel).

The Apologists of course had no trouble with the idea of Jesus as the Angel of the Lord in the OT, but they existed in a different polemical situation.  Furthermore, they did not understand this to exclude the divinity of Christ (as Tertullian's opponent thought it did- though again, they tended towards modalism and subordinationalism themselves).

This would explain why Augustine had such a trouble with the notion of Angelomorphic Christology.  Not only was it an aspect of his Anti-Arianism, but it was part of his inheritance from early Latin theology.