Category Archives: Theology

Truth in Art

Cette caricature calviniste contre l’Eglise romaine, l’une des plus fameuses, répond parfaitement au principe qui veut que l’image parle à tous, surtout à ceux qui ne maîtrisent pas la lecture, et que le sens s’impose à chacun indépendamment du texte. L’exemple est tout à fait probant ici, le texte étant en hollandais. Nous n’en comprenons pas moins ce qui se joue: le triomphe de la Parole de Dieu (et des réformateurs qui la prônent) sur l’Eglise catholique et ses pompes.⠀

Deux groupes d’hommes se font face dans une vaste salle. Le centre est occupé par une balance à plateaux, dont l’un, chargé d’un unique volume, vient jusqu’à terre, du côté d’hommes vêtus simplement. Ils sont calmes. On comprend immédiatement qu’il s’agit des réformateurs et on reconnaît d’ailleurs parmi eux Calvin de profil, discutant posément avec un individu un peu rond, qui pourrait figurer Luther. Tout à fait à leur gauche, mis en valeur et un peu isolé, est sans doute Théodore de Bèze, observant la scène les mains jointes. Il semble avoir provoqué la scène dont nous sommes témoins. Le gros livre dans la Balance est évidemment la Bible, symbolisant la Parole de Dieu et se passant de tout adjuvant pour assurer sa victoire.⠀

Leurs vis-à-vis revêtus d’habits sacerdotaux catholiques hésitent entre la stupeur et l’agitation. On distingue parmi eux un évêque, des cardinaux entourant le pape coiffé de sa tiare et assis sous un dais, un personnage à côté de l’évêque, peut-être le grand adversaire de Bèze au début du XVIIe siècle, Saint François de Sales, et des religieux. Tous contemplent le plateau chargé des symboles de l’Eglise catholique (les clés de Saint-Pierre, la tiare pontificale, un gros volume renvoyant soit aux Pères de l’Eglise soit à la Somme théologique de Thomas d’Aquin et deux religieux dont l’un est agrippé aux chaînes retenant le plateau), impuissants à faire pencher le fléau de leur côté. ⠀

VAN BEUSECOM, Martinus, XVIIe siècle (?)⠀ ©Musée historique de la Réformation, Genève. Exposé au MIR, salle de la Polémique⠀

Blessed Zwingli: On The Fiction of Purgatory and the Reality of Hell

zwingli_squirtI believe that the figment of purgatorial fire is as much an affront to the redemption of Christ freely granted to us as it has been a lucrative business to its authors. For if it be necessary by punishments and tortures to expiate the guilt of our crimes, Christ will have died in vain and grace will have lost its meaning. Can anything more wicked be imagined in Christianity? Or what sort of a Christ do they have who wish to be called Christians and yet dread this fire, which is no longer fire, but smoke?

But that there is a hell, where the unbelievers, disobedient and public enemies are forever punished with Ixion and Tantalus, I not only believe, but know. For when the Truth [Christ] speaks of the universal judgment, He asserts that after this judgment some will go into everlasting fire. [Matth. 25:41]. After the universal judgment, therefore, there will be everlasting fire. Hence the Anabaptists cannot cover up with His [Christ’s] word their error, that ’ôlam, or “for ever” does not extend beyond the general judgment. For in this passage Christ is speaking of everlasting fire that will burn after the judgment and will torment the Devil and his angels, and the ungodly who despise God, and the savage men who suppress the truth with falsehood and do not mercifully and faithfully aid the necessities of their neighbor.

So take that you feckless and godless pagan universalists (and no wonder you never read Zwingli.  Or Calvin.  Or Luther.  Or Scripture).

Get Off My Back, Calvin…

It behooves us to conform ourselves to His example, striving to do good to those who are unworthy of it, just as He causes his sun to shine on the evil and the good. Thus hatred and Christianity are things incompatible. I mean hatred towards persons—in opposition to the love we owe them. On the contrary we are to wish and even procure their good; and to labour, as much as in us lies, to maintain peace and concord with all men. –  John Calvin

Stop pointing your finger at me…  Ok, fine. Geesh.  It’s your death-iversary anyway so I’ll not argue with you this time.

Quote of the Century

@Svigel — Theology 101: The American evangelical churches have almost totally failed to teach their people how to think carefully and critically about sources, authorities, and discernment of logical and rhetorical falacies. What happened to loving the Lord our God with our minds?

Quote of the Day

The Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai. The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life. Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them. – Cardinal Cupich

Charles Hodge: American Reformed Orthodox Theologian

Most scholars of Reformed orthodoxy devote little attention to the nineteenth century, and most students of nineteenth century Reformed thought bypass the influence of Reformed orthodox ideas on their subjects. Aligning himself with Reformed theology in nineteenth century America, Charles Hodge’s writings are an ideal place to bring such studies together. Hodge’s American context and Reformed identity illustrate the persistence and change of Reformed ideas in a post-Enlightenment context. Encompassing philosophy, science, and theology, Ryan M. McGraw traces the development of Hodge’s ideas with an eye both to Reformed orthodoxy and to American thought.

The Church in the Genevan Confession of John Calvin

calvin_bookWhile there is one only Church of Jesus Christ, we always acknowledge that necessity requires companies of the faithful to be distributed in different places. Of these assemblies each one is called Church.

But in as much as all companies do not assemble in the name of our Lord, but rather to blaspheme and pollute him by their sacrilegious deeds, we believe that the proper mark by which rightly to discern the Church of Jesus Christ is that his holy gospel be purely and faithfully preached, proclaimed, heard, and kept, that his sacraments be properly administered, even if there be some imperfections and faults, as there always will be among men.

On the other hand, where the Gospel is not declared, heard, and received, there we do not acknowledge the form of the Church. Hence the churches governed by the ordinances of the pope are rather synagogues of the devil than Christian churches.*

Bam!  Take that, Francis!  And Pentebabbleists!  And Emergents!

*Calvin: Theological Treatises (p. 31).


“There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.”  –  G.K. Chesterton

Martin Luther: On Mother’s Love

You say that the sins which we commit every day offend God, and therefore we are not saints. To this I reply: Mother love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness on a child, and so the love of God toward us is stronger than the dirt that clings to us. Accordingly, although we are sinners, we do not lose our filial relation on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of our sin.  — Martin Luther

[The context is Luther’s argument with those schismatics who believe salvation, once obtained, can be lost].

Ben Sira’s Advice on Friendship

Some smart stuff from ben Sira-

6:7-10 If thou wouldst get a friend, try him before thou takest him, and do not credit him easily. For there is a friend for his own occasion, and he will not abide in the day of thy trouble. And there is a friend that turneth to enmity; and there is a friend that will disclose hatred and strife and reproaches. And there is a friend a companion at the table, and he will not abide in the day of distress.

Yup. All true.

6:14-16 A faithful friend is a strong defence: and he that hath found him, hath found a treasure. Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend, and no weight of gold and silver is able to countervail the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality: and they that fear the Lord, shall find him.

Yup, again, all true.

12:8-9 A friend shall not be known in prosperity, and an enemy shall not be hidden in adversity. In the prosperity of a man, his enemies are grieved: and a friend is known in his adversity.

Word, Sirach, word.

37:1-2, 4-6 Every friend will say: I also am his friend: but there is a friend, that is only a friend in name. Is not this a grief even to death? But a companion and a friend shall be turned to an enemy. … There is a companion who rejoiceth with his friend in his joys, but in the time of trouble, he will be against him. There is a companion who condoleth with his friend for his belly’s sake, and he will take up a shield against enemy. Forget not thy friend in thy mind, and be not unmindful of him in thy riches.

It sure happens sure enough.

True friends are hard to find. Friends for the moment are Legion.

Something to Remember on Mother’s Day: God is Your Highest Priority

Zwingli once observed

300px-Ulrich_ZwingliSince the Gospel has been preached frequently in these years, many have therefore become better and more God-fearing, but many on the contrary have become worse. And since there is much opposition to their bad opinion and plans, they attack the Gospel, which attacks the good cannot endure but oppose.

From which reason the bad cry out saying: “I wish the Gospel were not preached. It sets us at variance among ourselves.” Here one should not yield for that reason, but should keep close before his eyes what Christ says, Matthew 10:32: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth (understand by this, peace with the godless or sinful): I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

In these words Christ gives us strength not to consider the vexation of those who will not be convinced of the truth; and, even though they are our nearest and dearest, we are not to be worried, if they separate from us, as he says later, Matt. 10:37: “Whosoever loves father and mother more than me, he is not worthy of me; whoever loves his son or daughter better than me, he is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take his cross and follow me, he is not worthy of me.”

That’s worth remembering on this, and every, day.

#Bam: Calvin on Predestination

Worth citing fully from the Institutes:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny; but it is greatly caviled at, especially by those who make prescience its cause. We, indeed, ascribe both prescience and predestination to God; but we say, that it is absurd to make the latter subordinate to the former (see chap. 22 sec. 1). When we attribute prescience to God, we mean that all things always were, and ever continue, under his eye; that to his knowledge there is no past or future, but all things are present, and indeed so present, that it is not merely the idea of them that is before him (as those objects are which we retain in our memory), but that he truly sees and contemplates them as actually under his immediate inspection.

This prescience extends to the whole circuit of the world, and to all creatures. By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death. This God has testified, not only in the case of single individuals; he has also given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, to make it plain that the future condition of each nation lives entirely at his disposal: “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance,” (Deut. 32:8, 9).

The separation is before the eyes of all; in the person of Abraham, as in a withered stock, one people is specially chosen, while the others are rejected; but the cause does not appear, except that Moses, to deprive posterity of any handle for glorying, tells them that their superiority was owing entirely to the free love of God. The cause which he assigns for their deliverance is, “Because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them,” (Deut. 4:37); or more explicitly in another chapter, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you,” (Deut. 7:7, 8).

He repeatedly makes the same intimations, “Behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them,” (Deut. 10:14, 15). Again, in another passage, holiness is enjoined upon them, because they have been chosen to be a peculiar people; while in another, love is declared to be the cause of their protection (Deut. 23:5). This, too, believers with one voice proclaim, “He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob, whom he loved,” (Ps. 47:4). The endowments with which God had adorned them, they all ascribe to gratuitous love, not only because they knew that they had not obtained them by any merit, but that not even was the holy patriarch endued with a virtue that could procure such distinguished honor for himself and his posterity. And the more completely to crush all pride, he upbraids them with having merited nothing of the kind, seeing they were a rebellious and stiff-necked people (Deut. 9:6).

Often, also, do the prophets remind the Jews of this election by way of disparagement and opprobrium, because they had shamefully revolted from it. Be this as it may, let those who would ascribe the election of God to human worth or merit come forward. When they see that one nation is preferred to all others, when they hear that it was no feeling of respect that induced God to show more favor to a small and ignoble body, nay, even to the wicked and rebellious, will they plead against him for having chosen to give such a manifestation of mercy? But neither will their obstreperous words hinder his work, nor will their invectives, like stones thrown against heaven, strike or hurt his righteousness; nay, rather they will fall back on their own heads.

To this principle of a free covenant, moreover, the Israelites are recalled whenever thanks are to be returned to God, or their hopes of the future to be animated. “The Lord he is God,” says the Psalmist; “it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves: we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,” (Ps. 100:3; 95:7). The negation which is added, “not we ourselves,” is not superfluous, to teach us that God is not only the author of all the good qualities in which men excel, but that they originate in himself, there being nothing in them worthy of so much honor. In the following words also they are enjoined to rest satisfied with the mere good pleasure of God: “O ye seed of Abraham, his servant; ye children of Jacob, his chosen,” (Ps. 105:6). And after an enumeration of the continual mercies of God as fruits of election, the conclusion is, that he acted thus kindly because he remembered his covenant. With this doctrine accords the song of the whole Church, “They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them,” (Ps. 44:3).

It is to be observed, that when the land is mentioned, it is a visible symbol of the secret election in which adoption is comprehended. To like gratitude David elsewhere exhorts the people, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance,” (Ps. 33:12). Samuel thus animates their hopes, “The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people,” (1 Sam. 12:22). And when David’s faith is assailed, how does he arm himself for the battle? “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causes to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts,” (Ps. 65:4).

But as the hidden election of God was confirmed both by a first and second election, and by other intermediate mercies, Isaiah thus applies the terms “The Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel,” (Isa. 14:1). Referring to a future period, the gathering together of the dispersion, who seemed to have been abandoned, he says, that it will be a sign of a firm and stable election, notwithstanding of the apparent abandonment. When it is elsewhere said, “I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away,” (Isa. 41:9), the continual course of his great liberality is ascribed to paternal kindness. This is stated more explicitly in Zechariah by the angel, the Lord “shall choose Jerusalem again,” as if the severity of his chastisements had amounted to reprobation, or the captivity had been an interruption of election, which, however, remains inviolable, though the signs of it do not always appear.

All of which is why it’s not very helpful or wise to get bent out of shape when surveys about the ‘decline of Christianity’ say this or that.

No, You Don’t Know Everything

From Luther’s meal chats-

Master Philip examined a student in Anthony Lauterbach’s home. He was a schoolmaster in Stargard, and when he answered thoughtlessly Philip said, “Do not answer so abruptly and burst out so heedlessly, for there are more things we do not know than there are things we know.”

Luther remarked in connection with this, “Jonas once claimed that he knew everything in the Holy Scriptures and was angry at me because I didn’t let this claim pass unnoticed. But I know there are many things I don’t know. I have preached for twenty-five years and still don’t understand the verse, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ [Rom. 1:17].”

Word, Martin. Word.

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.

What is War? Karl Barth’s Answer



Or, more thoroughly,

Unterdessen hat gerade die überhandnehmende kalte Sachlichkeit des militärischen Tötens, das Raffinement und die massenhafte Wirkung, zum Teil auch die Abscheulichkeit seiner Methoden, Instrumente und Maschinen und seine Ausdehnung auf die feindliche Zivilbevölkerung dafür gesorgt, daß, wer Krieg sagt, wissen müßte, daß er damit schlicht und eindeutig töten sagt: töten ohne Glanz, ohne Würde, ohne Ritterlichkeit, ohne Schranke und Rücksicht nach irgendeiner Seite. Der Ruhm des sogenannten «Soldatenhandwerkes», das eben heute beiläufig zum direkt oder indirekt ausgeübten «Handwerk» eines Jeden geworden ist, kann in unseren Tagen nur noch von den Resten jener alten, schon damals fadenscheinigen Illusionen leben. Es wäre schon viel gewonnen, wenn man sich angesichts der Tatsachen endlich ganz nüchtern dazu bekennen würde, daß, was auch der Zweck und allenfalls das Recht des Krieges sein mag, sein Mittel heute jedenfalls ohne Hülle und Scham dies ist, daß nicht nur Einzelne, nicht nur irgendwelche «Heere», sondern die ganzen Völker als solche sich gegenseitig mit allen Mitteln ans Leben wollen. Die Möglichkeit der Atom- oder Wasserstoffbombe hat eigentlich nur noch gefehlt, um die Selbstenthüllung des Krieges in dieser Hinsicht vollständig zu machen.  — Karl Barth, KD III/4, 518f