Category Archives: Theology

That Monster, the ‘Biblical Critic’


Is the Biblical critic a dangerous, devouring beast?  A good many think so: at least a good many have an impression to that effect, which is a quite different thing from thinking. Nevertheless, impressions often carry people farther than intelligent opinions; and just because a mere impression, in seven cases out of ten, is untruthful, and because it cannot give a rational account of itself, and therefore does the more mischief,—it needs to be dealt with.  —  Marvin R. Vincent, That Monster, the Higher Critic (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1894).

That’s the opening paragraph of a delightful little booklet from 1894 which defends biblical criticism as a necessity for a proper understanding of the text.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s the ideal antidote for your Fundamentalist friends.

‘On the other hand, there are schismatics…’

Luther, after describing those who have a legitimate calling to ministry, writes

On the other hand, there are the schismatic spirits. They have no calling to the ministry, and they would do well to stay home in the corner. Instead, they push themselves in everywhere and try to be the only ones that shine, with everyone listening to them and watching them.

All they really want is to be famous, and they preach only so long as they have a following and need fear no danger.

But just make them stand up like real preachers, who have been commissioned for the ministry and keep on shining in public without letting wind and weather frighten or silence or extinguish them. Then they would soon make themselves scarce, and you would not find anyone at home.

So the dear office of the ministry must get it from both sides. Either those who should perform it neglect it, or those who have not been commissioned for it want to perform it.

He Is Not Wrong

Theology 101: Maybe I’ve spent too much time in 19th century theology, but it seems to me that the evangelical obsession with masculinity, femininity, egalitarianism, complementarianism, conservatism, progressivism, and sexuality feels like a decidedly anthropocentric turn. – Michael Svigel

Nope, not wrong at all.

When Calvin thinks Your Thinking is Substandard…

Only let it be understood, that the image of God which is beheld or made conspicuous by these external marks, is spiritual. For Osiander (whose writings exhibit a perverse ingenuity in futile devices), extending the image of God indiscriminately as well to the body as to the soul, confounds heaven with earth. He says, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, placed their image in man, because, even though Adam had stood entire, Christ would still have become man.

Thus, according to him, the body which was destined for Christ was a model and type of that corporeal figure which was then formed. But where does he find that Christ is an image of the Spirit? I admit, indeed, that in the person of the Mediator, the glory of the whole Godhead is displayed: but how can the eternal Word, who in order precedes the Spirit, be called his image?

In short, the distinction between the Son and the Spirit is destroyed when the former is represented as the image of the latter. Moreover, I should like to know in what respect Christ in the flesh in which he was clothed resembles the Holy Spirit, and by what marks, or lineaments, the likeness is expressed. –  Calvin

Modern Christian Piety

In most instances it’s impossible to distinguish between Christian piety and pop psychology today; so little of Christian piety is actually Christian.  Or even pious.

Signs of the Times

Just to be crystal clear, such persons are not Christians.  As Jesus himself noted

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

‘Did God Really Say…’

People have been substituting what they want to think for what God said since the garden of Eden. I don’t imagine that will ever change.

‘I think….’ is the exact equivalent of the Serpent’s ‘did God really say…’.

Barth’s “Einführung in die evangelische Theologie: Text und Anmerkungen”

Barth’s little ‘introduction’ annotated.

Die «Einführung in die evangelische Theologie» gehört zu den meistgelesenen Büchern Barths. In der wissenschaftlichen Erforschung seiner Theologie fristet sie dagegen ein Schattendasein. Dem begegnet diese erste ausführlich annotierte Textausgabe. Sie dokumentiert, dass es sich hier um weit mehr handelt als um eine erbauliche, altersmilde Abschiedsvorlesung. In einem umfangreichen Anmerkungsapparat verortet dieser Annotationsband die «Einführung» in den zeitgenössischen Debatten, deckt Bezüge zu anderen Schriften Barths auf, zeigt Gesprächszusammenhänge, Entwicklungen und Spannungen, legt biblische Fundamente frei, erläutert unverständlich gewordene Wendungen und geht Zitaten wie Anspielungen nach. Dies ermöglicht eine kontextuelle und vertiefte Lektüre und vermittelt instruktive Einblicke in Barths Theologie.


If Christians aren’t opposed to injustice, hatred, and cruelty, what are they opposed to?  If Christians aren’t for justice and love and kindness, what exactly are they for?

No Amount of Prayer…

Can help a person who will not listen to God.  ‘Hear, O Israel’ is the first commandment- all the rest depend on heeding it.  A person who will not hear cannot be helped, no matter how much they may want to be.

When To Imprecate and When to Be Silent

A christian for the sake of his own person neither curseth nor revengeth himself; but faith curseth and revengeth itself. To understand the same rightly we must distinguish God and man, the person and the cause. What concerneth God and his cause, we must therein have no patience, neither must we bless; as for example, when the ungodly persecute the Gospel, the same toucheth God and his cause, as then we are not to bless, nor to wish thereunto good success, but rather we ought to curse and maledict the persecutors and their proceedings.

These are called faith’s cursing, which, rather than it would suffer God’s Word to be suppressed, and heresy maintained, wisheth that all creatures went to wreck; for through heresy we lose God himself.

But the persons ought not to revenge themselves, but to suffer all things, and according to Christ’s doctrine and the nature of love, to do good to our enemies.  —  Martin Luther

Silence in the Face of Evil

Let me say this as clearly as possible- no Christian can stand by quietly while evil is happening. Period. Full stop. If they do, there are serious doubts to be had about their Christianity. It is, for them, either an empty claim or worse, a pretense.

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.


God is love, but love is not god.

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?

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

Christians in America In One Image

Where the claim never matches the reality.