Daily Archives: 17 Oct 2019

Latomus and Luther- The Debate: Is every Good Deed a Sin?

V&R have now published a new work in the Refo500 Academic Series.  And I’m very excited about it because Luther’s ‘Against Latomus’ is one of his very best books.

Who was Jacob Latomus? What did he write in the series of lectures to which Luther penned an answer in 1521, an answer which is now so central to many interpretations of the great reformer? And how is the reading of that answer affected when it is preceded by an interpretation of what Latomus wrote?The study goes through the most important parts of Latomus’ treatise against Luther (1521). The aim is to identify Latomus’ theological convictions and thus to pin down who and what Luther was up against. The second and major part of the book is a reading of Luther’s pamphlet against Latomus (1521). Parallels are drawn with Latomus’ theology in order to facilitate as much as possible an appreciation of the differences between the two.The comparison between the two theologians shows that they speak completely different languages and that their viewpoints do not square at all. Basically their ways depart in their understanding of God’s word and how it is communicated to man. This generates two ways of perceiving the matter of theology, and of speaking theologically –: and prevents mutual understanding. Latomus cannot understand Luther’s view of the autonomy of God’s word and the special character of proclamation, and hence a theology which is incompatible with natural reason. Even though he accepts a division between a natural and a supernatural rationality, and thus admits that natural reason has a limit, he grants the very same natural reason an important role in the ascent of cognition towards revelation. Everything else – such as Luther’s theology – is a dehumanization of the human being. Luther, on the other hand, regards Latomus’ theology as a result of the impulse in sinful man towards ruling and controlling the word of God with his own inadequate natural abilities. In Luther’s eyes that proclamation of Christ, which in the shape of a human being comes to man in contradiction of everything human, here disappears in the twinkling of an eye.

For many it seems that Latomus, the foe of Luther, appeared as though out of no where.  But as is often the case in matters historical, there’s a lead up, a back story, to the events we are familiar with.  To change metaphors, the great historical iceberg called the Latomus affair is mostly submerged and the only part most see is the exposed point rising above the surf where Latomus and Luther enter battle.

The present work is an examination of the backstory, the submerged part, of the history of Latomus.  Beginning with a debate Erasmus was involved in shortly after his arrival in Leuven and moving forward as that debate unfolded (on theological methodology and the investigation of good works and sin) till the arrival of Latomus on the scene, our author sets the stage.  Eventually Luther enters the fray (as was his regular custom; i.e., where there’s a theological fight, Luther wants a piece of it).  And that, as they say, is when the stuff hit the fan.

Latomus was compelled to respond to Luther and he does so in relationship to many of the chief heads of theology.  Surprising no one, then, Luther attacks.  Once Luther has set the ground rules of scriptural interpretation, as he sees those issues, he goes to the heart of the debate:  are good works actually sinful works?  And here we have the central issue addressed:

Here for the first time we see a difference in the understanding of sin in Luther and Latomus. Latomus would never say that the justified man had sin as his everyday companion, as does Luther. That is why he cannot accept the presence of concupiscentia as a sin, but only a punishment. According to him the righteous man is devoid of sin until in concrete cases he is tempted to commit minor sins of commission, the so-called peccata venialia. Even though they are concrete separate sins, they remain nevertheless minor, because they are committed by one who is otherwise righteous, and Latomus would never think of saying that the righteous commit peccata robusta. In his ears that would be a contradiction.

Furthermore, and quite insightfully, we are informed that

The point therefore is that the truly righteous are not justified in themselves by their own goodness or righteousness, but only by Christ’s righteousness, in faith in Him. There is nothing of their own they can abide by and be safe in their relation to God. It is all nothing. No one, to look back briefly at what has been said in this section, is given a gift by the grace of God (acceptum donum gratiae) (WA 8, 79,32–33), which makes him righteous in himself and by nature (cf. WA 8, 69,4–6), and which he can present to God. Nobody has “through the grace of God” (per gratiam dei) (WA 8, 80,6–7), anything he can muster in this life and before God’s judgement, anything by dint of which “we can safely set aside His mercy as well as His judgement”. If we believe we do, we trust in ourself instead of God, and according to Luther that leads to the opposite of true good deeds.

Luther’s argument continues to the end of the work, giving Luther the last word (and the loudest) and thereby making sure that Luther’s viewpoint is the viewpoint which readers too should adopt.

When it comes to debates about faith and good works; sin and evil deeds, and all of the theological subheadings associated with those themes our author makes clear the importance of each.  This is a valuable and useful work.

The volume concludes with a helpful bibliography.  And this review ends with a helpful bit of advice: read this book.  It clarifies more than it obscures and answers more questions than it raises.  And for an academic monograph that’s quite an accomplishment.

One of the Few Things Barth Got Right Was the Hermeneutical Circle

Which he got right from Paul-

The natural person has no room for the gifts of God’s Spirit; to him they are folly; he cannot recognise them, because their value can be assessed only in the Spirit. The spiritual person, on the other hand, can assess the value of everything, and that person’s value cannot be assessed by anybody else. For: who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his adviser? But we are those who have the mind of Christ.  (1 Cor. 2:14-16)

Like it or not, Paul’s assertion that only those gifted with the Spirit understand the gifts of the Spirit is true.  Dwelling outside the hermeneutical circle doesn’t mean one is a bad historian.  But it does mean one is a terrible theologian and a worse exegete.  All protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Just Like Robert Jeffress and Franklin Graham!!

And everyone else endorsing White’s heresy.

The Folly of Contending With God’s Decrees of Election or Reprobation

Foolish men contend with God in many ways, as though they held him liable to their accusations. They first ask, therefore, by what right the Lord becomes angry at his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomever he pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge. It therefore seems to them that men have reason to expostulate with God if they are predestined to eternal death solely by his decision, apart from their own merit. — Calvin

God is God, for Calvin, and free to decide whatever he wants to decide and if you don’t like it, well, too bad.  The universalists hate that so much that for them God elects everyone to salvation (in spite of the complete absence of any such notion in Scripture) and the angry atheists hate that so much that they attack a God which they don’t believe in (which is, by all accounts, more an indication of madness or mental illness than anything else).

God is God and he can indeed do whatever he wants.  And, truthfully, if you think God should do what you want instead of what he wants you really are quite unhinged.

Luther: On Atheists

There was mention of a citizen of Wittenberg who was an atheist and who confessed publicly before the town council that he had not received communion for fifteen years. To this Dr. Martin Luther said, “We’ve been sufficiently forbearing with him. After a couple of admonitions I’ll publicly declare that he’s excommunicated and is to be treated like a dog. If in view of this anybody associates with him, let him do so at his own risk. If the unbeliever dies in this condition, let him be buried in the carrion pit like a dog. As an excommunicated person we’ll turn him over to the civil laws.”  –  Luther’s Table Talk

I love Luther’s honest forthrightness.  Sure, he was wrong about some stuff but you just can’t ever accuse him of pandering or equivocating and these days I find that refreshing.

Was he harsh?  You bet.  But so far as he was concerned there was something harsher- death and hell.  He was trying to keep people from experiencing the latter since the former was inevitable.  This makes him miles superior to the likes of Warren and Rob Bell and the other array of self-aggrandizing self promoters.

Paula White: Pentebabbleist Heretic

She’s at it again, spewing her pentebabbleist rubbish:

@RightWingWatch tweets

Presidential spiritual adviser Paula White says Christians “are mandated by God” to send thousands of dollars to help Jim Bakker build a new TV studio and their donations will be counted by “a Department of Treasury in Heaven” that will determine their eternal reward.

Calling all suckers.  Calling all suckers.

From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed

Coming soon from V&R

How ancient texts could and could not be changed has been in the focus of vibrant scholarly discussions in recent years. The present volume offers contributions from a representative group of prominent scholars from different backgrounds and specialties in the areas of Classical and Biblical studies who were gathered at an interdisciplinary symposium held in May 2015 at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the first part of the volume Ancient Scribal and Editorial Practices, the authors approach ancient scribal and editorial techniques in Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources concerning classical and biblical texts, their textual criticism, and editorial history. The second part Textual History of the Hebrew Bible focuses on scribal and editorial aspects of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible. The third part Writing and Rewriting in Translation deals with a variety of writings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, and Patristic texts in various languages (Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian), focusing on issues of textual criticism and translation technique. The volume contains an especially rich assortment of contributions by Georgian textual scholars concerning ancient editorial practices and ancient Georgian translations of biblical and patristic texts. This collection of papers provides insights into a variety of different areas of study that seldom come into contact with each other but are clearly in many ways related.

The Great Apostasy

When the American Church abandoned all talk of sin, death, and hell it signed its own death warrant.

Without those core realities, as understood so well by Christian theology until the Enlightenment, the Church was transformed into nothing more than a social club like the Lion’s Club or the Rotarians.

Without those core truths, Christianity has nothing unique or special to offer men and women who are now convinced that the worst thing they can be is merely ‘unkind’ rather than damned and depraved.

The false gospel of fluffy bunny love whereby the ethical positivism of people like Norman Vincent Peale has taken the place of the Gospel of the Cross and the purging fire of authentic redemptive love. And as a consequence, sin reigns in human hearts.

The false has replaced the true and damnation awaits.

All because the Church thought that it must change to please the world instead of refusing to do so and standing firm against the secularizing impulses of the tares pretending to be wheat.

To be sure, authentic Christianity will survive. But its adherents will be few in number.

Christianity Continues its Downward Plunge While Those With ‘No Religious Affiliation’ Are On the Rise

The secularization of America is continuing at an ever increasing pace.  If you’re wondering why this is happening, just ask yourself where you and your family will be on Sunday Morning.

Free in Open Access from De Gruyter: “Sceptical Paths: Enquiry and Doubt from Antiquity to the Present”

Download it here.

Sceptical Paths offers a fresh look at key junctions in the history of scepticism. Throughout this collection, key figures are reinterpreted, key arguments are reassessed, lesser-known figures are reintroduced, accepted distinctions are challenged, and new ideas are explored.

The historiography of scepticism is usually based on a distinction between ancient and modern. The former is understood as a way of life which focuses on enquiry, whereas the latter is taken to be an epistemological approach which focuses on doubt. The studies in Sceptical Paths not only deepen the understanding of these approaches, but also show how ancient sceptical ideas find their way into modern thought, and modern sceptical ideas are anticipated in ancient thought. Within this state of affairs, the presence of sceptical arguments within Medieval philosophy is reflected in full force, not only enriching the historical narrative, but also introducing another layer to the sceptical discourse, namely its employment within theological settings.

The various studies in this book exhibit the rich variety of expression in which scepticism manifests itself within various context and set against various philosophical and religious doctrines, schools, and approaches.

Something to Remember, Always

Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side. Do not be bold of tongue, yet idle and slack in deed. (Sir. 4:28-29)

Follow the Sixteenth Century Society Conference on Twitter

Via this hashtag-

‪#‎scsc2019‬

And note, this is the 50th anniversary of the society, so there should be some excellent papers.  Tune in!

“Wir klagen uns an…” : The Stuttgart Confession

Foto: J.D. Noske/Anefo/CC-BY-SA-3.0-NL. Martin Niemöller gehörte zu den Verfassern des Stuttgarter Schuldbekenntnisses.

Foto: J.D. Noske/Anefo/CC-BY-SA-3.0-NL. Martin Niemöller gehörte zu den Verfassern des Stuttgarter Schuldbekenntnisses.

Deutschland, 1945. Die Städte liegen nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg in Trümmern, die braunen Parolen vom »Endsieg« sind verhallt. Wie sollte die evangelische Kirche auf diesen Zusammenbruch reagieren – eine Kirche, die sich in Teilen mit der nationalsozialistischen Sache gemein gemacht hatte? Am 19. Oktober 1945 unterzeichneten protestantische Bischöfe und Kirchenpräsidenten in Stuttgart ein Schuldbekenntnis, das gleichzeitig einen Neuanfang signalisiert. Damit ernteten sie vor 70 Jahren einen Sturm der Entrüstung.

It is a very fine essay and it concludes like this:

Nach Ansicht des Zeitgeschichtlers Oelke hat die Stuttgarter Schulderklärung darüber hinaus eine immense Langzeitwirkung. Das Dokument stehe am Anfang einer Kette von Beschlüssen, die das demokratische Denken tief im Protestantismus verankert haben. Diese demokratischen Ansätze habe es in der regimekritischen »Bekennenden Kirche« noch nicht gegeben. Außerdem habe die evangelische Kirche ihre »Wächterfunktion« entdeckt, mit der sie seitdem die Politik kritisch begleite.

Sad News: Elijah Cummings Has Died

Mr Cummings was an absolute dynamo and his work for civil rights has been decades long.  So few are of his stature, caliber, or decency.

May he rest in peace.

New From Sheffield Phoenix

Sheffield Phoenix Press is pleased to announce a new publication: David Willgren (ed.), God and Humans in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond: A Festschrift for Lennart Boström on his 67th Birthday. The List Price is £70 / $90 / €80 and the Scholar’s Price is £32.50 / $47.50 / €37.50.

You can order the book from our website, https://www.sheffieldphoenix.com, or from your bookseller.
(ISBN 978-1-910928-62-2)

God and Humans in the
Hebrew Bible and Beyond

Edited by David Willgren

In 1990, in his important study The God of the Sages: The Portrayal of God in the Book of Proverbs, Lennart Boström tackled the issue of how the sages viewed their God and God’s relationship with the world. In honour of Boström, and in line with that study, this Festschrift takes up this issue anew. A number of international specialists, including James Crenshaw, Göran Eidevall, Mark A. Throntveit, and Antti Laato, discuss various aspects of how God and humans are portrayed in the Bible.

The first section of the book focuses on notions of God. There is a fresh look at monolatry in the Hebrew Bible, and at God’s faithfulness in Paul’s soteriology. The second section deals with humans, featuring, for example, two articles on Psalm 8.5, one with a focus on the Hebrew Bible, and the other reading the psalm through the eyes of women in Myanmar. There is also an article on angst in wisdom literature.

The third section brings God and humans into dialogue, looking at how various interpretations of suffering in the psalms shape the view of the divine–human relationship, or how God and humans relate to each other in books like Jonah and Ruth. The fourth and last section of the book focuses on God and God’s people, where new proposals are presented on the roles played by Zion and by the ten commandments.

This volume presents stimulating and up-to-date engagements with its theme, an excellent resource for scholars of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Series: Hebrew Bible Monographs, 85
978-1-910928-62-2 hardback
Publication October 2019.
xx + 341 pp.

Bullinger on the Notion of Transubstantiation

We do not acknowledge any transubstantiation to be made by force of words or characters; but we affirm, that the bread and wine remain as they are in their own substances, but that there is added unto them the institution, will, and word of Christ, and so become a sacrament, and so differ much from common bread and wine, as we have said in place convenient.

And

Now it is evident and plain, that after consecration there remaineth in the sacrament the substance of bread and wine; and herein we need no other witnesses than our very senses, which perceive, see, taste, and feel, no other thing than bread and wine.

Amen.

Fun Facts From Church History: While Luther Was Away, Karlstadt Did Play

According to the editor of Luther’s works (English),

After October 13, 1521, masses were no longer celebrated in the Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg; on October 17, Karlstadt presided at a disputation where it was, proposed that all masses be abolished. On other occasions he expressed himself about images, etc., in such phrases as: “Organs belong only to theatrical exhibitions and princes’ palaces”; “Images in churches are wrong”; “Painted idols standing on altars are even more harmful and devilish.”

He wasn’t wrong.  But those remarks didn’t calm things down.  On the contrary-

The impact of such ideas and sentiments upon a student body and a populace which had seen their famous professor publicly burn the volumes of canon law and even the papal bull which excommunicated him, inevitably led to demonstrations, some hilarious, others destructive. On October 5 and 6, 1521, a crowd of students jeered and threatened a monk of St. Anthony who had come to Wittenberg to collect alms for his order.  On November 12, the prior of the Augustinian cloister complained to the elector that some monks who had left the cloister had joined forces with citizens and students to stir up trouble for the monks who remained faithful, and that he himself hesitated to appear on the street for fear of being attacked.

Reports of extreme measures and consequent unrest in Wittenberg gave Luther such concern that he determined to pay a secret visit to Wittenberg in his assumed character of “Junker Georg,” wearing a beard and the trappings of a knight. Traveling by way of Leipzig, he arrived in Wittenberg on December 4, 1521, lodging at the home of his colleague, Amsdorf, where he was able to confer with a few of his most intimate friends. After a stay of three days, when rumors of his presence began to spread, he departed as quietly as he had come, reaching the Wartburg by December 11.

I like Karlstadt.  Sure, he went crazy eventually and joined the 16th century equivalent of the Montanists (Pentebabbleists), but early on, like Tertullian, he was super fun.

Sad News: Ulrich Luz Has Died

How sad.  His massive commentary on Matthew is one of the best ever written.  Not to mention his many other works.

Der bekannte evangelische Theologe und Neutestamentler Ulrich Luz ist am 13. Oktober im Alter von 81 Jahren gestorben. Dies teilte die Theologische Fakultät der Universität Bern mit. Die Universität verliere einen «innovativen, international angesehenen Forscher und engagierten Lehrer», der Generationen von Theologen und Pfarrerinnen geprägt habe, heisst es in der Mitteilung.

Der im zürcherischen Männedorf geborene Luz studierte evangelische Theologie in Zürich, Göttingen und Basel und habilitierte mit einer Arbeit über Apostel Paulus. Kurze Zeit war er Pfarrer in Zürich-Seebach. Von 1980 bis zu seiner Pensionierung war Luz Professor für Neues Testament an der Universität Bern. Zu seinen Forschungsschwerpunkten gehörte das Matthäus-Evangelium, zu dem er einen vierbändigen Kommentar schrieb.

Etc.  May he rest in peace.