Category Archives: Theology

In Which Zwingli Explains Why He Published his Sermon on ‘The Choice of Food’

zwingli_schriftenBecause his enemies were misrepresenting the oral presentation, Zwingli expanded and published it.

I have therefore made a sermon about the choice or difference of food, in which sermon nothing but the Holy Gospels and the teachings of the Apostles have been used, which greatly delighted the majority and emancipated them. But those, whose mind and conscience is defiled, as Paul says [Titus, 1:15], it only made mad.

But since I have used only the above-mentioned Scriptures, and since those people cry out none the less unfairly, so loud that their cries are heard elsewhere, and since they that hear are vexed on account of their simplicity and ignorance of the matter, it seems to me to be necessary to explain the thing from the Scriptures, so that every one depending on the Divine Scriptures may maintain himself against the enemies of the Scriptures. Wherefore, read and understand; open the eyes and the ears of the heart, and hear and see what the Spirit of God says to us.

»What is Human?« Theological Encounters with Anthropology

The present volume is the result of an interdisciplinary project within the Department of Theology at Aarhus University. The project was related to the research programme: “Christianity and Theology in Culture and Society: Formation – Reformation – Transformation”, running from 2012–2016 at the Institute of Culture and Society, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University. The idea was to bring together scholars from all disciplines of Theology at Aarhus University in order to stimulate and coordinate disciplinary and interdisciplinary research cooperation. One substantial fruit of this endeavor can be found in the form of the present volume.

The front matter can be read here.  With thanks to V&R for the review copy.  Stay tuned for more.

It’s Time For Christianity to Say ‘This is Who We Are: Take it Or Leave it’

The chief weakness of Christianity is and always has been its sometime willingness to acquiesce to the demands of society in order to find acceptance, ‘tolerance’, or whatever.  From time immemorial, as soon as the Church has agreed to the world’s terms, it was weakened.   As Adolf von Harnack noted, the Church’s mission was to go into the world but instead the world came into the Church (in the era of Constantine the Foul), and that was when disaster struck.

In our own time churches are caving in to the cravings of culture and ‘giving the people what they want’ instead of what they need- the Gospel.  Nothing could be less appropriate, or less Christian.

Accordingly, it really is time for Christianity to say to the World: this is who we are, this is what we believe, this is how we behave, and if you don’t like it or want no part of it, good riddance.

Enough of the pandering and the whining and the capitulating; enough of the lying!  The Church needs to be the Church and remember that as the Bride of Christ the very gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.  Why, then, should a whiny Millennial?  Or a sniveling ‘seeker’?

Church, just be the Church, and to Hades with those who demand you surrender.  The world needs the Gospel.  The Gospel doesn’t need the world.  Pastors need to be Pastors, not capitulaters.

The Unwavering A-Theism of Pastor Robert Jeffress

In what should rank as one of the more ironic facts of modern politics, prominent Christian leaders and a record number of self-proclaimed evangelical voters supported for president a man of undisguised cruelty and unmatched narcissism. Indeed, for some evangelicals, those qualities worked in President Trump’s favor. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a megachurch in Dallas, explained that he did not want as president “some meek and mild leader or somebody who’s going to turn the other cheek.” What he wanted, Mr. Jeffress said, was “the meanest, toughest S.O.B. I can find to protect this nation.”

Since humility is so out of fashion as to almost have been forgotten, it’s worth making the case for how to rightly understand it, to articulate why humility is not only an essential Christian virtue but also, as my breakfast companion understood so well, an essential civic one.

Read the entire essay here, and if you ‘self identify’ as an ‘Evangelical’ you may want to reconsider, since in reality many of its leaders are, from a purely practical perspective, a-theists.  God doesn’t come into their reckoning.  And that is the opposite of theism.

In our day being the Pastor of a mega-church isn’t so much a sign of God’s blessing as it is that said pastor operates in the spirit of Antichrist.  Indeed, it is no stretch to suggest that Luther’s excoriation of the Papacy in his day and of his day can also be leveled at the mega-pastors of today.  Especially Jeffress.

“I believe the pope is the masked and incarnate devil because he is the Antichrist. As Christ is God incarnate, so the Antichrist is the devil incarnate. The words are really spoken of the pope when it’s said that he’s a mixed god, an earthly god, that is, a god of the earth. Here god is understood as god of this world. Why does he call himself an earthly god, as if the one, almighty God weren’t also on the earth?
“The kingdom of the pope really signifies the terrible wrath of God, namely, the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. Therefore Christ says that he who reads this should mark it well. To be sure, it’s very exasperating that after Christ’s revelation a man should lift himself up above God in the church. If this had happened among the heathen before the revelation of Christ it wouldn’t have been very remarkable. That’s why we have been so diligently warned about this deadly pestilence by Daniel, Christ, Paul, Peter, and others. In spite of this, we Christians were so stupid that we asked for all the pope’s commands.

Substitute ‘Furtick’ or ‘Jeffress’ or ‘Osteen’ or ‘Jakes’ for ‘pope’ and you see the point.

‘And He Descended into Hell’…

So says the Creed.  But is the Creedal statement Scriptural?

Here’s what Scripture says-

ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν (1 Pet. 3:19)

Accordingly, the creed is wrong on this point. Scripture says nothing about a descent into either ‘sheol’ or ‘hades’. Rather, Jesus went and preached to those ἐν φυλακῇ . What that is and where is of course a matter of discussion, but ‘hell’ is just that, an interpretation.

What is the Church?

From the Geneva Catechism:

M. What is the Church?
S. The body and society of believers whom God hath predestined to eternal life.

Outside the Church there is no salvation, nor any of the saved.  Outside the Church are only the damned.

Churches, Publicity Stunts, and Their Ignorance of Scripture

We’ve all seen the stunts churches pull for media attention; from the gas card giveaways to the helicopters dropping Easter Eggs and all the other plots and schemes to garner media publicity.  Evidently the people behind these schemes are utterly ignorant of the Sermon on the Mount- which – by the way – applies to Churches as much as to individuals:

‘Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win human admiration. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.  But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you. — (Matt. 6:1-4)

Take note: if it’s publicity you seek, that’s just exactly all you’ll get.

He is Not Here, He is Risen!

Let the reader understand…  [This is a subtle theological point having to do with the ‘flesh profiting nothing].

A Video On Christian Discourse

‘Sickness’ is the New Evil

Read this fantastic essay in Diesseits, which begins-

Für den aufgeklärten Geist ist klar: Das Böse gibt es nicht. Nicht, dass wir nicht von Bösem betroffen wären: üblen Krankheiten, übler Nachrede, Gesinnung, üblen Aboverträgen, Naturkatastrophen oder Kriegstreibereien. Aber das sind nicht Folgen eines substantiellen Bösen, das in der Welt als eigene Macht wirksam wird und sich darin formiert. Es sind halt Krankheiten, moralische Defizite, Erziehungsmängel, gierige Managementpraktiken, Folgen der Plattentektonik oder Auswüchse des – wahlweise westlichen oder allgemein despotischen – Imperialismus.

„Krank“ ist das neue Böse

Wo Luther noch allenthalben den Teufel persönlich am Werk sehen konnte, diagnostizieren wir Krankheit. Krank ist das neue Böse. (Während Krankheitsbefunde nach wie vor in maligne und benigne unterteilt werden.) Und das Sprachspiel der Pathologie hat jenes des Bösen abgelöst. Wer etwas Böses sagt oder schreibt, ist krank. Wer rassistisch ist, hat ein krankes Menschenbild. Aboverträge mit Kleingedrucktem sind die Folge eines kranken Kapitalismus. Naturkatastrophen der Selbstschutz des Planeten, gegen das ihn krankmachende Virus Mensch. Kriege die Folge kranken Machtstrebens.

This is fine theology.  (The bold emphasis is mine).  And it’s true – for all intents and purposes people aren’t ‘evil’ anymore, they’re ‘sick’.

History

Die historiche Frage geht uns als solche nichts an. – Emil Brunner

[HT- Emil Brunner on the twitter].

Culture

The more ’emancipated’ culture became, the less it emphasized reverence. – Emil Brunner

On Sex and Sexuality: Male and Female Created He Them

The finest treatment of the theological meaning of sex and sexuality, and the dreadful effects of the Fall on our perceptions of that reality can be found in Chapter 15 of Emil Brunner’s ‘Man in Revolt‘ (though a better translation of the German title would be ‘Man in Contradiction’).

In his chapter on the subject of what it means to be a sexual being, Brunner brilliantly demonstrates the significance of sexual longing and the estrangement which attends it.  You could do no better if you want to understand the topic from the point of view of Christian theology, I assure you, than to read it.

More Evidence that Emil Brunner Was the 20th Century’s Greatest Theological Mind

‘It is the Christian’s duty, in whatever economic order  he may be living, to swim against the current…’   — Emil Brunner

Martin Luther: On Adultery

What Luther noted seems especially needed to be heard these days-

Adultery includes all unchastity. …

And especially needed nowadays-

Married life is not a subject for jest, but an excellent estate. God bestowed upon it all the goods of the earth, as is written in Gen. 1 [:28]. He honored it so highly that he reposed everything in it; for what he is concerned with here is that people should be raised up. Therefore, let each one see to it that he remains with his wife and vice versa, and that both keep their bodies pure, not only outwardly but also that you may not set your heart upon another. They shall “become one flesh,” it is said [Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:6], and this they do on account of the first commandment: Fear God! What you must say is: Even though I do have chances to kick over the traces, nevertheless, since God says, Fear me! I will not do it. Even though the emperor will not find it out, God who is above me will. Therefore say, O my God, grant me grace that I may not fall and that I may keep my marriage pure.

Luther sums up-

This means that you are to live chastely in your marriage, in body, words, gestures, and heart. That’s why God gave to each his wife.

People need to pay attention.  Luther’s right.

Why Are there ‘Lutherans’ and ‘Calvinists’ and ‘Wesleyans’ But Not ‘Zwinglians’?

Because Zwingli taught his followers to exalt God alone.  A lesson the Lutherans and Calvinists and Wesleyans must have missed.

This is the fountainhead of my religion, to recognize God as the uncreated Creator of all things, who solely and alone has all things in His power and freely giveth us all things. They, therefore, overthrow this first foundation of faith, who attribute to the creature what is the Creator’s alone. For we confess in the creed that it is the Creator in whom we believe. It cannot, therefore, be the creature in whom we should put our trust. – Zwingli

Nor, it should be added, after whom we name ourselves.

Quote of the Day

The face of death, and nearness of eternity, did much to convince me what books to read, what studies to prefer and prosecute, what company and conversation to choose. It drove me early into the vineyard of the Lord, and taught me to preach as a dying man to dying men. — RICHARD BAXTER

The Bible Doesn’t Call us to Apologize, It Calls Us To Repent

Have you ever noticed that the Hebrew and Greek equivalent of our notion of ‘I’m sorry, I apologize’ is nowhere to be found in Scripture?  Or that you’ve never noticed any story in the Bible that features some character or other going to someone and saying ‘I’m sorry I did that’?  That’s because ‘apologizing’ is meaningless.  It changes nothing, it effects nothing, and it restores nothing.

Instead, Scripture calls us to repentance, which isn’t a mere feeling of sadness for some wrong done but an actual change of behavior.

If people change their behavior after they’ve done a wrong, then they’ve done the right thing.  But if they merely utter a few words and then continue to behave the same way as before, they’ve not done a single meaningful thing.

Any sorrow that doesn’t lead to real repentance is false.  No matter how much the wrongdoer may sound off with words like ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I apologize’.  If you are really sad that you’ve hurt someone, change your behavior and don’t do it again.  Otherwise, you haven’t repented at all and you aren’t even really sorry.

On Theology: An Observation

The best theologians aren’t innovators, they are renovators.

Divine Permission: Or, Why Do We Do Things God Doesn’t Wish Us To Do?

“Permission is an act of governing Providence, by which God does not employ hinderances which no finite agent can overcome, or knows how to overcome, to restrain rational creatures, inclining themselves of their own accord to sin, from an evil forbidden by the law, but, for just reasons, permits them to rush into sins, Ps. 81:12; Acts 14:16; Rom. 1:24, 28.” – Quenstedt.