Monthly Archives: October 2017

The Rank Hypocrisy of the ‘Why Doesn’t God Do Anything About Evil’ Crowd

Every time something awful happens and some wretch does something terrible to innocent folk there is always a chorus of voices raised in protest, complaining that God ought to do something, and why, by the way, doesn’t he.

David Hume was the loudest of these screechers, opining at the end of the day that ‘if God is good he is not God; and if God is God, he is not good’.

What the poor syphilitic Scotsman failed to admit, or recognize, along with all of his modern disciples, is that God has granted ALL of us free will.

Our exercise of that free will is the problem, not God.  And we love our free will, when it’s ours.  We just don’t like it when someone besides us exercises theirs.

So, for instance, Bob wants to go out and get drunk and drive home, and does so because he’s free to do so.  And on the way home he runs Randy down.  Randy was minding his own business but Bob was exercising his free will to be an absolute piece of human garbage.  And so he was.   Randy suffered the consequences of Bob’s free will.  But of course Randy too is a friend of free will, since only hours earlier, he had followed a girl from her dorm room to a park where she was going to jog.  Overcome with desire, because he had seen her many times before, Randy raped her and left her for dead.  Because, you know, free will.

Free will… it opens the door to every evil and is the worst and best of all God’s gifts to wretched selfish humanity.  Or more precisely, the use of free will is the greatest gift God has given to wretched humanity.

Free will exists because God wishes us to be free, and not puppets.  How we choose to use our freedom is completely in our hands.  But the minute someone uses theirs in a way contrary to our wishes, we blame God (whilst enjoying our own free will to the fullest).

It is hypocrisy.  It is rank hypocrisy to denounce God whilst exercising the freedom he has granted.  Instead of denouncing God, denounce the one who exercised her or his free will to do evil.  Denounce yourself.  Because when all is said and done, you’re the one who has taken the good gift of God and destroyed it.

The next time some piece of filth guns down a bunch of folk remind yourself that he has distorted a good gift of God: choice.  And when you’re screeching about ‘a woman’s choice’ remember your own opposition to choice in the hands of the terrorist and recall that your own choices haven’t always been what anyone outside your own head would call good; and stop blaming God, and start blaming the totally depraved wretch who did the deed you despise.

Damnable Idolatry

Google Hates the Reformation

In a move showing remarkable veneration for one of the most pivotal events in human history, internet search giant Google marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by not making any mention of it at all on its home page.

The corporation, which often pays homage to significant birthdays, holidays, and historic milestones by changing its familiar header for the day, stated Tuesday that the Reformation anniversary was much too important to celebrate with juvenile clip art. “We’re just a web search company,” a spokesperson told reporters. “We thought a silly video about Halloween was much more our speed.”

“We’re talking about the 500th anniversary of one of the most significant events of all time,” they added.

“Besides,” the spokesperson added, “modern ideas we claim to embrace, like individualism, freedom of expression, and personal responsibility for educating one’s self, all stem from the Reformation. Why should we demean such a significant event with a simple Google Doodle?”

True fact.

Those Were The Days…

From there Elisha went up to Bethel, and while he was on the road, some small boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Hurry up, baldy!’ they shouted. ‘Come on up, baldy!’  He turned round and looked at them; and he cursed them in the name of Yahweh. And two bears came out of the forest and savaged forty-two of the boys.  From there he went on to Mount Carmel and then returned to Samaria (2 Ki. 2:23-25 NJB).

Those were the days…

Essays of Interest Related to the Reformation

‘Let Your Women Keep Silence in the Churches’. How Women in the Dutch Reformed Church Evaded Paul’s Admonition, 1650-1700, by Mirjam De Baar and others on women and the Reformation, here.

And more, on Calvin here.

On Luther here.

And on Tyndale here.

The Best Thing You’ll Read On Luther Online Today or any Day in Many Months

Simeon Zahl

My two cents on Luther on 31 October 2017:

I’ve spent so much of the past ten years reading, thinking with, and writing about Martin Luther’s theology, and teaching his thought at three universities. But I confess at this point I have very little interest in the idea of Luther, or in hagiography, or in his specific denominational legacy, or in his personality, or in his politics, or in his insults or his beer or whatever. And I disagree with about half of his main insights, and that’s before we even get to the hateful stuff.

But there remains no theologian I learn more from or I am more keen to teach. In the end if I am honest I am interested in Luther as a kind of artist who at his best transmuted his personal sufferings into theological ideas that can inform an utterly compassionate vision of Christianity as a religion of honesty and mercy for suffering and screwed up human beings. At his best – and he was very often not at his best – Luther remains unsurpassed here.

If I wanted to boil what I think has been most worthwhile for me down to a few points, on this quincentennial day, they would be these:

1. As a theologian, I return again and again to Luther’s theological method, especially his highly dynamic and creative way of transmuting his own sufferings and experiences into theological insight on behalf of others, in dialogue with Scripture. In this again I think he is usefully understood as a kind of artist or poet rather than simply as a thinker or exegete, and I think this is part of what Kierkegaard meant in his journals when he called Luther an ‘extremely important patient for Christianity’. As Luther puts it, ‘in tribulation [the exegete] learns many things which he did not know before; [likewise,] many things he already knew in theory he grasps more firmly through experience’ (WA 3:44; LW 10:49). We can seek to follow this method without having to agree with what Luther actually concluded at any given point. And I do personally think that a dose of this kind of experientialism, done well, is what theology today needs more than anything.

2. Luther’s account of the persistence of sin in the Christian in the later parts of Against Latomus is probably the darkest such account we have anywhere in the tradition, and in this it is enduringly profound. ‘[T]he motion of anger and evil is exactly the same in the godly and the godless, the same before grace and after grace’ (WA 8:91; LW 32:207). Luther argues at one point here that the way that sin persists in Christians is quite precisely analogous to the way that physical death persists: its ‘reality’ and ‘substance’ is unchanged, but its ‘sting’ is taken away. In this he is taking a major strand of Christian tradition and turning it up to eleven. In practice, the account in Against Latomus can and should function as a kind of firewall of divine mercy for Christians who feel like failures; there is no circumstance it cannot encompass. These bits of Against Latomus are not all that Luther had to say on the subject of the Christian life but they are the parts that have stood out the most to me over the years.

3. Luther’s distinction between Law and Gospel, loosely held and experientially/affectively understood, remains one of the most powerful diagnostic tools for making sense of what people I see around me actually do in their lives – all the anxious striving – and why it so rarely feels like ‘enough’, and for explaining the power of Christianity as a clear-eyed but utterly compassionate response to this. It is a shame that this aspect of his thought which pastorally-speaking has dated so little in 500 years (in our cultural moment of performancism and overwork) has been so misunderstood in recent theology.

4. The theology of the cross, as expressed with such simplicity and depth in the Heidelberg Disputation, seems to me to match the reality of life as it is very often actually experienced by human beings in the world, better than any other such category I have come across. ‘God can be found only in suffering and the cross’ (proof of thesis 21). Whatever their tradition (or anti-tradition), students always respond to this extraordinary text, which (with the Disp. Against Scholastic Theology) is I think the paradigmatic example of Luther’s art.

Other people can talk about his theology of the Bible, his view of the sacraments, his relationship to modernity and authority and all the rest, but for me these are the reasons I continue to be interested in the legacy of Martin Luther in 2017.

The Necessity of Reformation: A Free E-Book

Get it here.  Even though it has nary a chapter on Zwingli….  (crazy).

Pope Francis and his Reformation Day ‘Fire Sale’ on Indulgences

The Roman Catholic Church is celebrating Reformation Day in style, by offering thousands of hot deals on indulgences for the forgiveness of the temporal punishments for sin in purgatory.

A crazed-looking Pope Francis ran an infomercial throughout the day Tuesday, marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by offering hourly lightning deals on high-quality, official indulgences granted by the Roman Catholic Church.

“Tetzel would be rolling in his grave if he could see the kinds of deals we have for you today!” Pope Francis said in the infomercial, which was rolling around the clock as the Pope broadcast from Vatican City. “We’ve got indulgences for gossip, we’ve got indulgences for lying—heck, we’ve even got indulgences for fornication! All at rock-bottom prices! And if you buy in bulk, you’re going to save, save, save!”

Pope Francis hawked the Roman Catholic wares all day long, enthusiastically pitching the indulgences as a great gift for birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

“But wait, there’s more!” Francis said later in the afternoon. “If you buy right now, you’ll get the value pack on indulgences, plus you’ll get a SECOND value pack—absolutely FREE! That’s right! So call now, don’t wait, we only have a few lines open so get your order placed right now!”

At publishing time, Pope Francis had begun a live demonstration of the indulgences, showing how he could commit a minor sin and immediately have its punishment removed through one of the official Catholic products.

To All The Facebookers and Tweeters Talking about the Reformation Today…

giphy

Lyndal Roper’s Live Lecture on Martin Luther

November 1, at 6 PM (UK time)-

When Luther was close to death he reportedly exclaimed: ‘Living I was your plague O Pope, Dead I will be your Death.’ 

This lecture marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his famous 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. It will focus on the passions that drove Luther throughout his life, including the use of images by the artist Lucas Cranach to create a distinctive visual style to convey his message.

Today is the Last Day to Take Advantage of the Greatest Commentary Sale Ever

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

From now through the end of the day you can purchase the entire Commentary for $100.  Yup.  You read that right.  For the next 9 days you can acquire the entire Commentary in PDF format for half price.  How?  Just by clicking my PayPal Link.  It’s that simple.  It really is an exceptionally useful work for the layfolk in your life (even if it isn’t aimed at academics).  Here’s what a couple of layfolk think:

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This commentary set is written and designed exactly for the average person. The person who hasn’t spent years in book learning and writing papers. Rather, it’s for a person who feels a yearning to know a bit more so they can grow spiritually and intellectually in the faith. The average person might not know where to start on the journey. This set does it beautifully. – Doug Iverson

***

I am a Christian and a Bible Study Teacher at my church. I have been in church all of my life, but I found it difficult to take on the teaching responsibilities of a Senior Adult Ladies Class. Although I have read the Bible, there are many things that I do not understand. I also was worried because the ladies in my class are “Studiers” of the Bible and the thought crossed my mind “What can I teach these ladies that they do not already know?” As you can see from my comments, I was wondering how “I was going to do it” instead of wondering how “God would do it”!

But when you teach it, you have to go deeper than just reading. I believe that God wants us to continue to go deeper each time we open the Bible. One of the references I use for my studies are the books written by Jim West “For The Person in The Pew”. Jim can take a complicated set of scriptures and bring the meaning into clear view. Every time that I start a new Bible study, I order one of his books. We just finished the book of Revelation and his book was helpful in taking the complicated and making it simple.

Jim has a way of wording his explanations of the scripture in such a way that it makes you want to read deeper and then just watch and see what God can do! Jim is a gifted person and I am glad that God has blessed his life so that he could in turn bless mine.

Sherry Liles
Knoxville, TN

From the Life of Zwingli, the Greatest of the Reformers

zwingli_bioAt ten years of age Zwingli was sent to Basel to study and then to Bern and Vienna (at around fifteen years of age) where he earned a Bachelor’s degree. By 1506 he had earned a Master of Arts at Basel’s famous University and then shortly after celebrated his first Mass at his hometown before moving to Glarus to take up his priestly office. It was while he was in that picturesque village that Zwingli poured himself into his studies of the Bible, led by the urgings of Erasmus, who was then the leader of learning in Switzerland and across western Europe. According to his own testimony, it was in 1515 that the ‘reformatory’ spirit began to stir in his heart so that when he moved to Einsiedeln (in 1516) to serve the congregation there, he was already pursuing the beginnings of Reformed thought.*

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*Jim West, “Christ Our Captain”: An Introduction to Huldrych Zwingli (Quartz Hill, CA: Quartz Hill Publishing House, 2011), 12–13.

Selderhuis on Luther: The Best Bio of Luther Written in a Generation

Pick up a copy here.

Signs of the Times

Signs of the Times

The Truth About those Theses…

The Theses of October 31, 1517, were not so much heretical in content as presumptuous in that a mere monk had an opinion at all.*

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*Quirinus Breen and John T. McNeill, John Calvin: A Study in French Humanism, 73.

A Reformation Day Zwingli Gallery

Because

 

Signs of the Times

The Dumbest ‘Holiday’…

Zwingli: On the Proper Relationship of Church and State

zwingliIn the Church of Christ government is just as necessary as preaching, although this latter occupies the first place. For as a man cannot exist except as composed of both body and soul, however much the body is the humbler and lower part, so the Church cannot exist without the civil government, though the government attends to and looks after the more material things that have not to do with the spirit.

Since, then, two particularly bright lights of our faith, Jeremiah and Paul, bid us pray to the Lord for our rulers that they may permit us to lead a life worthy of God, how much more ought all in whatever kingdom or people to bear and to do all things to guard the Christian peace!

Hence we teach that tribute, taxes, dues, tithes, debts, loans, and all promises to pay of every kind should be paid and the laws of the state in general be obeyed in these things.