Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Oil of Gladness.

I was looking over a section in the Gerhard volume on Christ on the the name "Jesus Christ" for my fourth chapter.  

I like Gerhard's suggestion as to why Christ is called "Christ" that is, "anointed."  He states that whereas the mediators of the OT were anointed with literal oil, Christ's humanity is anointed by both the Holy Spirit (the mediator of the Incarnation) and also the fullness of divine glory (genus majestaticum).  He of course cites Psalm 45, which is cited and applied to Christ in Hebrews 1.  I'm very fond of that text and used it at my wedding: "You have been anointed above your brothers with the oil of gladness."

Anyways, I don't think that Gerhard is engaging in fanciful typology here.  Remember, the point of anointing people with oil in the OT was to imitate the divine glory.  "Kavod" does quite literally means to "shine" or "glow" (among other things).  The mediators represented the covenants which bound God and humanity together.  Hence they represented both parties.  The glow makes them resemble God's hypostatized glory, which we know from the NT is the pre-incarnate Christ and his self-donating presence with Israel in the Temple.  This presence represented divine solidarity with Israel by his literally giving himself to them.  It prefigured the Lord's Supper, wherein God again donates himself to us as a sign of his love and forgiveness.  

The mediators represent this solidarity as well.  Not only should be look to the oil, but one can also see this phenomenon in the golden clothing of the high priest.  One can also point to the glowing face of Moses in Exodus 33.

Ultimately, Christ shows himself to be superior to the mediators of the OT.  Not only is his glory double, in that he is anointed twice (with the Spirit and his own divine attributes), but he also is the true God and the true man.  By contrast, the mediators of the OT merely represented them.  Theirs was but a shadowy glory, where Christ is God's kavod come in the flesh.  He also to the only authentic human being.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Does the Office of Ministry Evaporate?

Here's a fairly good discussion of the office of ministry as a permanent call by Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckhart:

I've been having a debate on the question (elsewhere on the internet) as to whether the office of ministry some how evaporates if one doesn't have a congregation. My argument would be in agreement with Eckhart, namely, if it has been bestowed on you in the past, it doesn't some how go away if one doesn't have a congregation. If that was the case, then we would have to ordain someone every time they switched congregations.

I would qualify this by saying that one needs to be validly called to exercise said ministry in a particular congregation or perhaps missional setting. Just because one has the office doesn't qualify one to decide when and where one can exercise the office. There must be an actual body which God the Holy Spirit mediates the call to a specific setting. Hence, people who just decide to set up churches on there own without a call are wrong to do so.

Teaching false doctrine would of course also invalid one's ability to exercise ministry- so those who teach false doctrine should be removed. Nevertheless, if they repented and taught the truth, they could again exercise ministry without being re-ordained.

Does anyone object to this?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Justification and Rome.

There's an interesting discussion by Klement Preus here:

Having attended a Roman Catholic university for my doctorate, I must say that there is a massive incomprehension regarding the Lutheran doctrine of justification, as well as what's at stake in it in the minds of Roman Catholics.

In general, Roman Catholics assume that what's at issues whether or not grace is necessary for salvation. They define grace as a kind of divine power which makes us capable of living better. What they believe is that Lutherans are essentially ignorant and think that for Catholics there's no grace involved in justification or perhaps too little. They then go on to assume that if they can prove to you that they believe that no one can be saved without divine help, then all of your objections will some how go out the window.

If you read the text of JDDJ, this is basically the assumption throughout the whole document. When they're not pretending that the same words mean the same things in the different traditions (often times they will use "justification" "faith" or "grace" as if we agree what those things mean), the assumption is that Lutherans and Catholics agree that no one can be saved except by grace. Problem solved!

I would cite two major problems with this.

1. Grace is a meaningless concept if it does not involve a strict monergism. In other words, if I claim that grace is necessary to salvation, but then say that free will has a little something to contribute, it makes grace effectively meaningless within my system of theology. Why? Because without my contribution the whole thing would fall apart. For this reason, there is no functional difference between whether I did the whole thing on my own or I just did a little bit. At the end of the day, it all depends on me and hence I still have a reason to trust in myself. If I have a reason to trust in myself, then I am still curved in on myself and am not oriented towards the external grace of God.

2. The grace of God is a meaningless concept of it is not primarily an external judgment of God which I place my faith in. I say "primarily" because the Formula of Concord claims that the term "grace" sometimes means sanctifying grace in the NT. Interesting enough modern interpreters have not been so generous. According to Kittel's Wort-Buch of the NT, the word never means anything other than a forensic verdict.

In any case, the point is that grace radically reorients the self. By trusting in God's external judgment of grace, I look away from myself and to God. This restores the original relationship of receptivity that is natural to creator and creature.

This is why the Augustinian schema effectively doesn't work either. Even if I do posit monergism, but then say that it leads to my meritorious behavior and from there to salvation, then I'm stuck trusting in myself. Though I am intellectually claiming that God is doing all the work, I nevertheless existentially look to my own merits as a source of my relationship with God. In this I am still curved in on myself and dead in my sins.

Ultimately, what Roman Catholics don't understand is that the justification that the Reformation posited was justification by faith, not merely justification by grace (as Gerhard Forde has noted). The Catholic system is full of grace. And the end of the day though, it cannot allow for faith in the sense what we Lutherans have. The Catholic position cannot help but posit that we look to something other than the grace of God as an ultimate source of trust, whereas the Lutheran position looks to Christ alone.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Genus Maiestaticum and the Reformation Breakthrough

Oswald Bayer in his work on Luther claims that the Reformation breakthrough wasn't necessarily the discovery of sola fide in and of itself, but rather a certain relationship between sola fide and the external Word. Bayer states that Luther discovered that the event of God coming to us as grace was identical with the event of the minister of the Word saying "I absolve you."
This suggests that Luther resolved in a unique way what I have previously referred to here as the "Augustinian dilemma." Augustine taught two very difficult to coordinate things: 1. In the anti-Donatist writings he taught that the visible Church and the means of grace absolutely guaranteed the presence of divine grace. 2. In the anti-Pelagian writings, he taught that salvation depended on the divine act of predestination and that everyone who received the means of grace aren't necessarily saved. The tension is created by the fact that the presence of grace in the visible Church doesn't necessarily translate into the guarantee of salvation. It brings about the question of how in light of predestination we really know if God is on our side. Since then the west has split up on this basis. On the one hand, the Reformed took Augustine's doctrine of grace at the expense of his doctrine of the Church, whereas the Catholics took his doctrine of Church at the expense of his doctrine of grace. Obviously this isn't true for every theologian (Jansen and Thomas Aquinas are hardcore predestinatarians) but it's generally the case.

Part of this also relates to Augustine's view of Christology. Like Leo after him, Augustine definitely emphasized the distinction between the two natures. This translates into his doctrine of the Church and the sacraments. Much as Christ's two natures are divided, so too are the visible and invisible Church, as well as the visible means of grace and God's invisible working of grace.

Both the Reformed and the Catholic Church buy into this in different ways. The Catholic Church holds that because the risen Christ isn't present everywhere or definitely tied to certain visible means, it's the Church's job to bring the gap. We can see this in the teaching office. Because the Word doesn't automatically authenticate itself by the presence of the risen Christ, the Pope brings the gap between Jesus in heaven and us on earth. The current pope puts it this way in some of his writings: when the ascension happened, the "head" of the totus christus was detached and so in order to replace it, Peter must exercise Christ own office until he comes. In the Lord's Supper, Jesus is in heaven, so how can he come down? He comes down because the priest is given certain powers by virtue of his ordination to bring him down. The Reformed follow this same logic and with the lack of a priest to draw him down from heaven, they are stuck with the assumption that it has to either be just a symbol or that we have to go up to him.

In both cases, the idea of grace becomes distorted. The Catholic assumes that redemption is a possibility offered in the presence of Christ in the visible Church. We then need to use our free will to tap into that possibility. For the Reformed, the visible means of grace actually tell us nothing. Faith is really a "sign" that one is elect. It is a correspondence to God's gracious decree, not trust that takes hold of God's tangibility in Word and sacrament.

This brings us to Luther. His breakthrough (which I would date around 1518-19, this is subject of another post) recognized that the Word "I absolve you" was identical with God's own gracious presence. This relates to what Martin Chemnitz would later call the "Genus Maiestaticum"- the claim that Christ possesses the fullness of divine glory according to his humanity. For Luther, just as the flesh of Christ the concrete manifestation of God and his gracious disposition towards humanity ("and there is no other God!" as the hymn states), so to the sacraments whereby God's gracious disposition towards us are made manifest are also the direct presence of God in, under, and with the elements.

This resolves the Augustinian dilemma in a highly paradoxical manner. How does one know that they are predestined? By receiving the Word. The Word itself is identical with God in Christ. To receive God is to know what God thinks of us. This means also that God's own predestinating act is identical with the event of coming to faith via Word and sacrament. Only existence apartment from and outside the sphere of the Word could make one uncertain of God's judgment in our favor. This accounts for the somewhat paradoxical description of God's action in predestination in Luther and the Formula of Concord. God in Word and sacrament makes it absolutely clear that he desires all to be saved. Nevertheless, for those who receive him in Word and sacrament, he gives an absolute guarantee that he will save them. In other words, this desire of all to be saved doesn't not merely exist as a possibility, but as an actuality for those who receive God's own being in the Word and sacrament. Nether is the offer limited. Because that is the case, then it must be an act of divine predestination. Otherwise, the person would have to have a measured faith in anticipation of whether one might fall away or not. But God in Christ has completely surrendered to us and given us absolute certainty. There is not other God lurking around, secretly wishing our demise. Hence, God not only desires all to be saved, but actually makes certain of those who come to faith that he has chosen them from eternity.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why were Adam and Eve Naked?

In the history of Christian thought, the question of why Adam and Eve were naked has been more significant than one might think. There have been a couple of options. First, Augustine didn't really have a positive explanation for it. Negatively though, he argued in The City of God book 11, that it was possible for them to be naked because of the lack of lust within them. Prior to the Fall, he argued, there would have been a perfect self-mastery and composure. This means that people wouldn't have really been all that interested in sex in and of itself. It would have been a something purely interesting for the sake of procreation. Being the Platonist that he was, he generally thought that erotic desire was best directed towards "the Good" which he of course identified with God. After the Fall, our first parents had to put on clothing to hide the visible manifestations of the lust the felt for one another. The human person became a microcosm of the macrocosm. Just as the universe was in revolt against God, so too our bodies are now in revolt against us.

The second option is that of some recent biblical interpreters who seem to follow an Irenean understanding of the Fall, though from my reading of Ireaneus, this is not a position that he explicitly took. In this understanding, prior to the Fall human beings are like children and therefore, much like children in a lot of the ancient world, do not wear clothing. In this scheme, the Fall leads to us putting on clothing and becoming adults. Hence sin for some of this commentators leads to greater moral maturity and agency.

Both of these position are of course problematic. Augustine is of course correct about the lust of the flesh and the fact that our bodies are fallen, but he is wrong (as Melanchthon notes in the Apology) to think that the desire of man and woman for one another is from the Devil. Similarly, the view that Adam and Eve are like children has all the same problems that both Irenaeus and Hegel have. By making Adam and Eve childlike, Irenaeus did come up with a rationale for the Fall, but he also made us less culpable. Hegel made sin necessary for our self-consciousness and for God's. Hence, it again is not that blame-worthy. It is a felix culpa on steroids.

In order to answer this question in a more satisfactory manner, let us examine the concept of "bodies." When he's not developing strange tritheistic Hegelian heilgegeschicte schemes, Robert Jenson has developed an interesting definition. Many different things can be bodies, of course. Within the human world, in which we are relational beings, who have both a spiritual and physical natures. Since we are inherently relational, our bodies are our personal availability to one another.

In light of this definition (which to me seems to cohere well with the biblical understanding of human ontology), the nudity of Adam and Eve take on a meaning different from earlier ones we encountered. If Adam and Eve have received all things from God as one who gives them life and freedom (Gen. 1:28), then they are nude because of their perfect freedom to be available to one another. As "lords of all," they are capable of being servants to one another. In other words, within the freedom of perfect faith, they are totally free to completely surrender to another and therefore be perfectly available.

Sin is what makes them clothe themselves. The Bible describes them as being ashamed. This coheres with their need for self-justification under sin. They cannot believe themselves to be "very good" any longer. They must conserve themselves and hold themselves back due to their sin. Without the perfect freedom of faith, they cannot be perfectly available to one another or to God. They must be in rivalry with one another and they must self-justify before God. They must in a sense "cover" themselves before his judgment.

Christ reverse this in the nudity of the cross. He first fully exposes the depth of human sin, both by dying at the hands of sinful men. Their need to reject God's judgment and thereby self-justify is so strong that they must go so far as to kill God himself. On the cross, Jesus also reveals God reaction to sin. There is no more covering up before divine judgment as in Genesis 3. There is full exposure before all.

At the same time, he makes himself as a redeemer from sin perfectly available to all by exposing his body to all: "when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself." He continues this in the sacrament of his body and blood, "this is my body given to you for the remission of sin, etc." He thereby creates a new tree of life on the cross and reverses the Fall.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

News Flash- Harrison Not Technically President Until September

Let's hope that Kieschnick doesn't try to push through Cap-and-Trade in the meantime. Wait...sorry, wrong election.

More on Peter's Lombard's Understanding of Election: Was Lombard the First Ockhamist?

I've moved on from book 1 of the the Sentences to book 2. Book 2 is on the doctrine of creation, just as book 1 was on the doctrine of God. Both have remarks about predestination.

As I noted, there doesn't appear to be the Lutheran paradox of the dual universality of grace and the particularity of election in Peter. This was even more strongly confirmed by his remarks on Paul's statement "God wills all men to be saved." He follows one interpretation of Augustine on this point. Augustine had several. In one version, Augustine said that God meant all "sorts" of men to be saved. So African, white, and Asian. This is of course not what the verse says at all. Augustine's second interpretation which Lombard cites and agrees with is that God wills all (meaning the elect) to be saved. That is, he "all that are saved are ones that he wills." This even sillier.

Moving onto book 2, Lombard describes the fall of the angels. Satan could not have been a sinner from the beginning- since God does not create evil. Some authors of the period apparently thought that God had created Satan to "make sport of him." They relied on the old Latin version of Job where there is a reference to God "making the dragon so that he might make sport of him." I assume, though I haven't done this research, that this is a translation of those passages where God says that Leviathan is his pet- in other words, Satan isn't being referred to there, but probably some sort of pre-historic animal that was still around at the time of Job.

Anyways, Peter agrees with Augustine that angels were created good, yet they had not been confirmed in the good. Humans are the same way. Adam could sin even though he was morally perfect. In heaven when we too are confirmed in the good, we won't be able to sin. Similarly, it doesn't appear from Scripture that the good angels are ever going to fall away, so it's logical that the situation with them is the same. Most Lutheran theologians have followed Augustine on this point.

Now, according to Augustine and Lombard as well, there was a sort of moment after the angels creation when they could choose God and be confirmed in the good- meaning they would receive the ability to never fall away- or for them to be proud and revolt. Satan and his angels choose the later, whereas the good angels choose the former.

But why did some choose one course and not the other? Augustine and the Master of Sentences agree it had to do with grace. God had predestined the good angels to be confirmed in the good and therefore gave them grace to this end. He didn't predestine the bad angels so hence they fell away. They weren't capable of doing this because God refused to give them grace.

Now this may sound very unfair on God's part, but Peter insists (against Augustine it seems- since he provides no proof text, and I don't recall this from the discussion of the fall of the angels in book 9 of City of God) that the bad angels could have at least chosen not to fall. I suppose it would be like saying that they could have chosen to at least put the car in neutral and not reverse. Without grace, they couldn't have chosen forward drive. Lombard now goes a step further: If they had at least chosen to stay in neutral, God would have rewarded them with grace and given them them the ability to move towards confirmation in the good.

Now, here's the problem. Peter doesn't think human beings have the ability to do what is within them for gaining grace. He's quite clear about this. But do we see at least the beginning here of the "do what is within us" to gain grace that Luther rejected? Perhaps, but that would take more research. At the very least, it seems that Lombard accepts the logic of this position that got Ockham into trouble to certain extent.

Matt Harrison's Acceptance Speech.

This is wonderful. Watch it. We've been waiting so long for this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Harrison Wins!!!! Thank God!!!

Congratulations to Matthew Harrison on winning the presidency of the LCMS. We are grateful to God that he has answered our prayers and has seen to your election!

LCMS Convention Thus Far.

My wife and I are jumping out of our skins about the convention.  How and in what way, I'm not willing to post on the internet.  Depending on the outcome of the presidential election today, I might have something more to say soon.  Just let me encourage everyone to pray hard.  This vote may have a large effect on the future of confessional Lutheranism in this country.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Presidential Vote on Tuesday

I guess the vote is on Tuesday.  Pray that it turns out well.


This is Blank.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Peter Lombard vs. John of Damascus: Round 2: Predestination!

Now, I found a spot where the Master of Sentences is better than the Damascene: the doctrine of predestination.

Remember that 90% of Peter's Patristic quotations are from Augustine.  So, more or less, he takes over Augustine's position on predestination as well as other things.  For Peter, there is a distinction between predestination and foreknowledge.  Augustine talked a little bit about this, but mainly this distinction was more strongly developed by his student Prosper of Acquitaine.  Prosper's position was that God merely foreknew those who were going to be damned by their own efforts, whereas he actively predestined the redeemed.  This is also Peter's position and Aquinas' also, though Aquinas is a bit more hardcore in thinking that God really, really does intend certain people to be damned.

Now, this isn't from a biblical Lutheran perspective the absolute best position one can have, since there is no explanation of God's firm intention that all be saved, even if for whatever reason he chooses not to predestine everyone (for some reason).  Nevertheless, it's better than John's view, which is that predestination is merely foreknowledge of who will use their free will to accept God's offer of redemption.

For the most part this was the Patristic position prior to Augustine.  In the west, it was also a live option after John Cassian's Institutes, which poplularized semi-Pelagianism and also monasticism.  In fact, if you read Anselm's book about predestination, that's pretty much his position as well.  It also didn't help that some of Pelagius' books floated around under the name of Jerome.

Two main factors play into the weakness of eastern theology on this point.  First, is the early Patristic struggle with Gnosticism and later Manichean dualism.  In both systems, creation and human responsibility are denigrated.  Hence they had a violent reaction to this and countered it with a strong claim of human free will and the rejection of the doctrine of predestination.  The second factor was the lack of a Pelagian controversy in the east, which led to not much thinking on the topic.  

If you talk with EO people they have all kinds of sophisticated ideas about the divine Trinity, attributes, and the Incarnation, but basically very little to say about human sin.  To this day this is a fairly banefully underdeveloped aspect of EO theology.  I remember talking in class with an EO student when I was in my doctoral program and I outlined their view of free will to her- saying I didn't agree with the eastern view.  She was somewhat surprised and said "oh, I didn't realize there was a difference between us and the west- so what's the western view of free will and predestination?"  The classroom erupted into laugher.  Of course we weren't denigrating her (she didn't take it that way either), rather it was funny because it was a such a strong point of controversy. 

Of course, the answer that predestination is merely foreknowledge is not very helpful.  First, even if there weren't a ton of biblical statements that clearly teach predestination, there's the problem of logic.  So, if it's all about your free will, why doesn't God give everyone the same opportunities to exercise it?  The ancient Jews yes- the ancient Aztecs not so much.  Secondly, how is it possible for God to simply passively foreknow a thing in the first place?  In other words, if God is the antecedent cause of every cause and the determiner of time, how could he just passively know something that he had no causal relationship to?

This last point is a problem for those who reject double predestination- I being one of them.  How is it the case that God doesn't cause the sin of sinners, when he is their antecedent cause?

The answer is: who knows.  Scripture is quite clear that God is not the cause of sin, he only foreknows it.  How this can be the case, is beyond our comprehension.  We must simply trust that this is the case.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Presbyterians Ok Gay Clergy, for some Reason- I'm Unclear

I guess the Prebyterians have joined the ELCA and are ordaining homosexuals:

Interesting stuff.

From a purely pragmatic perspective (of course, there's the whole thing about this violating the immutable will of God, but I think we all agree about that part!), I sort of don't get why they did it.

I mean, most mainline Protestants don't functionally believe in God. If they did, they wouldn't believe that the truth was a wax nose that they could mold as you like (See: Hanson, Bishop Mark). They would be reverent about how they handle the Bible. But they're not. So the only thing I can conclude is that they functionally don't believe in God as an ontological reality.

So, if you functionally don't believe and your goal is to simply perpetuate the institution (for some reason- I have some ideas), then why do something to make the institution unpopular among people who are really comitted to it? I mean, do you think that the marginal, already secularized people in the PCUSA are really ones paying the bills? No, of course not, it's the firebrand, Evangelical types (of which there are many!). So, why alienate them for the sake of 4% of your members? It makes no sense.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Note on Lombard's Misreading of the Damascene.

In one of the passages that Peter Lombard quotes the Damascene, he is puzzled how John can claim that the Father, Son and Spirit are one God, just as "Peter, John and Paul" are three men and a single human nature. He resolves the contradiction (because even in spite of the fact that he has Abelard's Sic et Non, he still holds the the late Patristic claim that the Fathers cannot contradict one another!) by saying that John means this merely analogically.

Actually he doesn't. But there's no contradiction anyways-let me explain.

John holds the same ontology as the Cappadocians. The Cappadocians held an Ultra-Realist ontology. "Realism" in the medieval sense, is the idea that there are "Real" universals- like "catness" for cats or "humanness" for humans. The alternative view is "Nominalism," which holds that universals are nominal, namely, we see a bunch of stuff that looks similar and then we give it a common name. So, there are only individual cats, but no "catness" apart from our words.

"Ultra Realism" holds that there is a single human substance- just as all universals are in fact single substance (one can see the problem with this view, that is, it might be taken to encourage pantheism). So, "Peter, Paul, and John" are a single entity, because all humanity is a single substance. Every time, claimed Gregory of Nazianzus, a new human being is born, a new accident on that substance comes about.

This makes the Incarnation rather interesting, because, in a sense, when Christ is deified and ascends to the right hand of the Father, so does the rest of the human race. Bear in mind that those who used this ontology the most had Origenist influences (namely, the two Leontiuses and Gregory of Nyssa- hence universalism wasn't a problem for them). At the beginning of Book 4 of De Fide Orthodoxa, John states that it's possible to say that all humans have ascended and all are redeemed, since our very nature sits at the right hand of God already. He then states that we cannot go that far though, because the 5th ecumenical council has rejected and condemned the heresy of Origenism.

Anyways, since "Peter, Paul, and John" are a single entity, even if they are different persons, they are similar to the Trinity. Gregory of Nazianzus (who BTW, is the one who uses this analogy) states that they differ from the Trinity because there is a greater abundance of accidental qualities between them. If one erased these, then they would be a unified into undiscernible difference. Of course the Trinity lacks accidental qualities (having an existence that is not distinct from essence as Aquinas would put it), but it is distinguish by way of differing relations.

Now, this means that (contrary to what a lot of modern theologians claim) that the Cappadocians aren't saying anything different than Augustine. It's just that Augustine has a different ontology and therefore expresses himself differently. He can't use certain analogies like the three men, because in his mind they are really, three entities, something they are not for the Cappadocians. In fact, in De Trinitate he pretty much rejects this analogy as one would expect.

Certain modern theologians (notably, Jenson, Moltmann, Pannenberg) want to say that the Trinity is made up of three different subjects, and that Augustine everyone else in the western tradition turned from the pure doctrine of the Cappadocians and is now pretty much Modalist as a result. But that's not right, because they're interpreting the concept of person as a modern person, and aren't taking into consideration the ultra-realist concept of being. Hence, Jenson, for example, has endorsed Tri-Theism with statements like "God is what happens between Father, Son, and Spirit." This is highly problematic from the perspective of historic Christian orthodoxy and not what the Fathers of the Church taught either.

Peter Lombard vs. John of Damascus: Round 1.

I've been reading Peter Lombard's Sentences, which have for the first time been published in English. It's actually sort of weird that it's taken this long, though I suppose most anyone who was interested in them probably could read Latin.

Anyhow, as those of you who've read my banner know, I wrote a M.A. thesis comparing Luther to John of Damascus and therefore I'm very familiar with his work De Fide Orthodoxa. De Fide Orthodoxa was used very widely in the west. Aquinas makes many references to it in the Summa and Luther knew it. Chemnitz quotes it a great deal in Loci Theologici and also in the Two Natures book.

What it seems like to me is that Lombard is trying to write a western version of John's work- though I would need more historical proof to prove this. The point of John's work is basically the same as that of Peter's. It's a text-book summarizing the theology of the Fathers on the various loci of theology. Also, the books are structured the same way. Book 1 is Trinity, Book 2 is creation, Book 3 is Incarnation, Book 4 is sacraments and last things. Now granted this is the structure of the Creed as well, but Peter probably had John in mind since he obvious read John's work in that he quotes him. He quotes him infrequently, but he does so nevertheless. In terms of percentage, according to the translator (and simply reading it, you would get this impression also), 90% of the quotations are from Augustine.

So, how do the Sentences compare with De Fide Orthodoxa? Well, I'm only through the first book at this point, (whereas I have of course read all of John) so I can't make a complete judgment.

I will say that John has a much more sophisticated Trinitarian theology than does Peter in some respects. For example, in terms of interpreting certain Trinitarian texts in the NT John has much more sophisticated intellectual tool box given to him by the Cappadocians. So, for example, John interprets Jesus' statement "I am in the Father and the Father is in me" to be a statement about Perichoresis. For those unfamiliar, this is the idea that each person of the Trinity dwells in the other, that is, inner penetrates the other. Peter, following Augustine (who as I recall from my reading of De Trinitate about 7 years ago!) does not have the idea, interprets the statement as simply an affirmation of the unity of divine substance, which, if taken in the wrong way, could lead back to Modalism- which was of course always the biggest heresy in the west. Of course, it's not a bad way of interpreting it and if you're not a Modalist, then you can probably get away with understanding that way. But it's definitely not as good as the Cappadocian/Damascene explanation.

Another interesting piece is how the statement "the Father is greater than me" is interpreted. Following Augustine again, Peter interprets the statement to be a reference to the human nature of Christ. This is fairly typical of western Christology, which, following Leo the Great, tries to divide the two natures. Again, as a Lutheran, who follows Cyril, John has a much better answer, namely, that the Father is greater than the Logos in the sense of origin. That is, he has priority insofar as he is the fount of divinity. His person is of course not greater than the person of the Son. This again follows the interpretation of the Cappadocians, and, I think, is better because it avoids dividing the person of Christ.

In order to be fair to both of them, I will periodically report on how Peter continues to do. So far, I think the Damascene has won this round.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Critique of the Roman Catholic Marian Doctrines: Pt. 2

This one is for Greg Jackson. May my blatant rejection of the Catholic Marian doctrines make you believe that I'm secretly a Catholic all the more.

Beyond these brute facts of Scripture and extra-scriptural doctrinal history, Mariolatry does not adhere to the logic of the faith (typus doctrinae, see 2 Tim 1:13). In other words, it is a negation of the biblical and reformational concept of sola gratia understood as divine favor and consequently lacks coherence with the other articles of the faith. We can observe that this is true in several ways. First, Mary declares in the Magnificent "my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Lk 1:47). If Mary did indeed rejoice in God as her savior, then logically we may infer that she needed a savior. But if she was not subject to original and actual sin, then this statement would be false. Furthermore, Scripture teaches that all persons are fallen. Paul (among others) asserts this several times (Rom 3:23 and numerous others) that "all have sinned." If that is so, then logically the predicate "all" (which Paul and the other New Testament writers qualify in relationship to Christ alone) would also apply to Mary.

Official Roman teaching is cognizant of this objection and has stated (echoing the reasoning of the fourteenth century theologian Duns Scotus[1]) that preservation from original and actual sin constitutes being "redeemed in a more exalted fashion" by the merits of Christ.[2] Nevertheless, this is not cogent reasoning in light of the fact that they are positing Mary as a concrete subject was never in her actual existence in need of a savior. Part of the difficult here appears to rest on assumption of their Realist (opposed to a Nominalist) ontology wherein Mary is caught up in and represents a universal of human nature which is subject to original sin, even if she as an individual is not.[3] Nevertheless, if she, as the New Testament suggests (Mk 3:21, Lk 1:47, Jn 2:5) was simply an ordinary woman who was subject to the curse of original and actual sin, then she is the true model of the faithful Church of God. She is the sinner who is indwelt by God himself and justified by his "favor."

The second problem with the Marian doctrines from the Evangelical Lutheran perspective is the question of Enthusiasm. Just as the Pope and the Roman magesterium in general insists that it possess holiness and teaching authority on the basis of the Spirit apart from the Word,[4] so too Mary gained her preservation from sin and therefore her redemption from the Immaculate Conception[5] which happened apart from the Word. In Luke's account though, Mary trusts in the angel's Word that tells her that God is favorable to her (Lk 1:38). In connection with his rejection of Enthusiasm, Luther held that Mary had conceived through the hearing of the Word in faith.[6] The text itself clearly vindicates this view. The conception occurred only because Mary believed the Word of God and gave her ascent to the explanation of the angel: "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her" (Lk 1:38, Emphasis added). As we have seen, this cannot be construed as being the meritorious cause of her conception, but rather is the proper response of faith to a divine promise by a sinful human being. It means that she as the model of the true Church which faithfully listens to God's Word and trusts in it.

Hence this also parallels the Roman Catholic/Evangelical Lutheran divide regarding teaching authority.[7] Whereas the according to the Roman teaching, Mary possesses infallibility and perfection as a predicate of her being, so too does the Church and her magisterium. Truth and righteousness are predicates of the Church, given to it by the Spirit operating apart from the Word. Both the Church and Mary, in this conception, indeed receptive to what it comes to her from without (truth and grace), but this is obedience the result of an infused righteousness. By contrast, the Evangelical Lutheran claims that Church is always sinful and therefore must trust in an alien righteousness (iustitia aliena)external to it. It always needs God as "savior." Therefore the true Church, living the life of the vita passiva harkens to the Word of God and receives Christ in her inner being through unio mystica (Mk 3:34, Jn 14:23, Gal 2:20). This occurs through the external Word and the means of grace alone.

Apparently NOT a popular topic

Sorry that I haven't posted in a few days. I was at my in-laws house for the 4th and was distracted. I have a new post on the Marian doctrines for later in the day.

Anyways, guess the LCMS presidential race wasn't as popular a topic as I suspected. I'll be interested to see what happens in this coming week and maybe say something about it. I pray for the future of our denomination.

In the meantime, according to some, I'm a secret Roman Catholic- because I teach as an adjunct at a Catholic school. My professors at Marquette would doubtless be very surprised in light of my debates with them over JDDJ.

Very funny stuff. Take a look here:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Self-Giving Trinity.

From Peter Leithart, Deep Comedy: Trinity, Tragedy and Hope in Western Literature (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2006), 89. 

Leithart writes: "To put it another way, the trinitarian life is a rhythm of self-giving and return within the life of God.  Trinitarian life is a life given over and returned as glorified life.  The Father loves and submits to the Son, and the Son to the Father, and the Son to the Spirit, and so on.  But this self-giving of one Person to the others is always met with a return gift: the Father's gift of Himself to the Son is met with the Son's gift of Himself to the Father.  "Self-sacrifice" is met with a returning of the self gift that eternally and ever refreshes and renews the triune fellowship.  Gift and return, we might say, are simultaneous in the life of God, since the Father who gives the Son in the Spirit is in the Son who returns the gift to the Father in the same Spirit.  There is not even a moment of "stasis" or death, since "resurrection" life is offered back from the moment the original life is offered."