The Problem With Far Too Many People Today Is That They Believe They Get to Define Christianity. They Don’t.

I don’t care who you are or who you think you are or how important you think you are: you don’t get to redefine Christianity so that it matches your self-deceptive notions of what it is so that it matches what you want it to match. Whether you’re on the left, or right, or right in the middle.
Christian faith stands defined. You don’t get to.  And the very fact that you think you have the right to define it just shows how very, very, very far away from it you actually are.

No One Really Believes They’re Being Cannibals at the Lord’s Supper

Because no one really believes they’re literally eating the body and blood of Christ.  Oh sure, they say they are- but they don’t truly really think they’re chewing flesh and drinking blood.  Because that’s cannibalism.  And no one really believes they’re being cannibals when they take the Lord’s Supper.

When all is said and done, every Christian is a Zwinglian.

You Can Stop Trying to Convince Me That Xmas Is Acceptable- It Isn’t

And the reason is as simple as can be explained in two sentences.  The latter the most important:

The problem with the x = Chi explanation that so many love to spew from their keyboards during this season is that the general public knows NOTHING of it, or Greek.  And, most importantly of all, all they see is an x, and in Greek, x is Xi, not Chi.

If you’re going to foist a ridiculous pseudo-explanation on the public in an attempt to justify laziness in abbreviation, please, at least learn enough Greek to know the difference between χ  and ξ .  Otherwise, you just look silly.

It’s moratorium on false abbreviations season.

A Happy Thanksgiving to One and All

Have a pleasant and relaxing day filled with family, friends, and most of all, a mind remembering the whence of your good fortune.

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine:
Domine, exaudi vocem meam:
Fiant aures tuae intendentes,
in vocem deprecationis meae.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine:
Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est:
et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo eius:
speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem:
speret Israel in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia:
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israel,
ex omnibus iniquitatibus eius.
Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

The ‘Defense’ of Johannes Oecolampadius

‘Defense’ literature was exceedingly common in the early years of the Reformation, as the Reformers had to ‘defend’ their departure from the corrupt Church of Rome while maintaining their adherence to historic Christianity.  Indeed, most ‘Apologetic’ literature (which is what the term meant in the time) was a demonstration that the Reformers hadn’t departed at all from the truth, Rome had.

Johannes Oecolampadius’ contribution to the genre is an example of both the clarity of his thought and the ease with which he presents those thoughts.  you can download the entire book here (in PDF, in, of course, Latin).

For other of Oecolampadius’ works see the right nav panel under ‘Reformation Texts’.

Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural, and Practical Perspectives

The conversation about the relationship between women and men and their roles in the Christian life and the church has evolved, but the topic continues to inspire debate and disagreement.

The third edition of this groundbreaking work brings together scholars firmly committed to the authority of Scripture to explore historical, biblical, theological, cultural, and practical aspects of this discussion. This fresh, positive defense of gender equality is at once scholarly and practical, irenic yet spirited, up-to-date, and cognizant of opposing positions. In this edition, readers will find both revised essays and new essays on biblical equality in relation to several issues, including the image of God, the analogy of slavery, same-sex marriage, abortion, domestic abuse, race, and human flourishing.

The table of contents is available at the link above.  I advise potential readers to take a careful look at it so they have a good idea of what they’re getting into.

I also advise potential readers that the present book has appeared in two previous editions, the first of which at least (I can’t find any copies of the second edition) had a quite different subtitle.   The full title of the first edition was ‘Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy’. I’m glad they changed the subtitle of the book when they added essayists and editors and expanded the treatment.  The previous subtitle was just simply off-putting and to be fair a bit misleading.  The present subtitle is both more accurate and more welcoming.

Yes, dear friend, red flags all around these days with that title.  It had several different editors and was considerably shorter.  I mention those details to point out that the third edition is, for all intents and purposes, a wholly different book.

I also need to mention the fact that this is the sort of book that will provoke all kinds of discussion and disdain from those corners of the internet where books are not read before they are debated and anger is the only criteria for the presumption of competence to comment.  To put it more briefly, this book will provoke lots of rage among those who have never and will never actually read it for themselves.

To be fair, this volume is not altogether convincing and there are parts of it that are just plain wrong.  But there are a lot, and I mean a lot more places where it is right and those with the intelligence and ethics to actually read carefully will be rewarded richly thereby.

The essays in this volume touch on some of the most angrily debated hot button issues of the day.  But they do it with a level of fairness one rarely sees on the right or the left.  Take, for instance, the essay by Ronald Pierce on same sex marriage.  Readers may or may not agree with his conclusions but there is simply no one who is fair minded who can accuse him of being biased or of misrepresenting a view he does not hold.  Indeed, Pierce’s essay is a model of fairly and equitably presenting both sides of an issue without either judgment or hostility to one position or the other.  More people writing on the topic of same sex marriage and homosexuality should be like Pierce.

Other exceptional chapters are penned by Gordon Fee (who is always fantastic), Cynthia Long Westfall (one of the best scholars of our day), Stanley Porter (whose essay titled ‘Gender Equality and the Analogy of Slavery’ should be turned into a book length treatment), and Alice Mathews (who provides perhaps the perfect capstone to the book).

This really is a lovely volume, and it provides much grist for the mill regarding the relations of the sexes, without being sexist, demeaning, or talking down to anyone.  More of these kinds of discussions are sorely needed and people then allowed to adopt a view which they can hold without being condemned for it.

Some will absolutely hate this book.  Without even reading it.  Those who read it may not love it but they will not dislike it, because it is the kindest, fairest, most level-headed multi-essay thematic volume produced on the subject of the Bible and the sexes (and sexuality) in a VERY long time.

Theological Anthropology, 500 Years after Martin Luther

Now out, from the inestimable Christophe Chalamet et al,

Theological Anthropology, 500 years after Martin Luther gathers contributions on the theme of the human being and human existence from the perspectives of Orthodox and Protestant theology. These two traditions still have much to learn from each another, five hundred years after Martin Luther’s Reformation. Taking Martin Luther’s thought as a point of reference and presenting Orthodox perspectives in connection with and in contradistinction to it, this volume seeks to foster a dialogue on some of the key issues of theological anthropology, such as human freedom, sin, faith, the human as created in God’s image and likeness, and the ultimate horizon of human existence. The present volume is one of the first attempts of this kind in contemporary ecumenical dialogue.

It sounds tremendous.  A review copy is on the way.

Ralph Keen’s Keen Insights: ‘A Luther, or a Tetzel’

A Luther or a Tetzel?

Martin Luther and Johann Tetzel are historical figures who’ve acquired a mythic status in which they might represent contrasts and tensions in our world. The Dominican exchanged spiritual benefits for cash, the Reformer saw those benefits as gifts freely given to the unworthy—which in his view was pretty much all of humanity. (Hard to dispute that observation!) Indulgences were certificates that cost money and meant nothing—at least in Luther’s view. And while Luther saw grace as freely given, the cross that’s borne in this life puts a cost on the gift. Grace isn’t earned, but if you have it, you’re going to pay for it in some way.

Sometimes I feel like a Luther in a world of Tetzels. (I feel like Melanchthon more of the time, but I digress.) So many people want the certificate, the assurance, the product of some transaction or another; and thus we gradually become the sum of our credentials. Ours is a status culture in which external bragging points are the markers, rather than a merit culture in which there’s much pain and certainty of satisfaction is always elusive. Naturally the theological tension has been translated to the worldly plane because, in the words of Ciccone 1985, we are living in a material world.

It’s vexatious and enervating to see our society so fixated on externals, so eager to boast of symbols that serve as disguises for the absence of substance behind them. It’s been decades in the making, and I’ve been a participant in the culture, but either I’ve become more sensitized or it’s become more toxic, or both. Maybe I’m becoming a hippie. Or Socrates. Not really a Luther. Perhaps I’m just being worn down by the materialistic self-interest that rules us these days and I really need next week’s break. –  Ralph Keen

Zwingli on the Source of War: Atheism

In 1522, on May 16th to be precise, Zwingli published his ‘anti-war’ book Ein göttlich vermanung an die ersamen, wysen, eerenvesten, eltisten Eydgnossen zü Schwytz, das sy sich vor frömden herren hütind und entladind, Huldrichi Zwinglii, einvaltigen verkünders des euangelii Christi Jhesu and in it he writes, towards the beginning while describing the source of conflict-

How does it happen that we Christians who are united by such powerful agencies have much greater quarrels than unbelievers? And how does it happen that in a Confederacy in which until now a fraternal love prevailed, for the sake of foreign lords violent quarrel has arisen? Answer: Real piety, by which is meant true worship and prayer to God, has disappeared among us, as St. Paul writes to the Romans [Rom. 1:28–31]: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.” From these words of Paul we learn that all these evils which he enumerates arise when we desert God, do not fully recognise Him, do not look up to Him, do not place our whole trust in him, but on the contrary despise Him and regard him somewhat as we would an old sleeping dog.

War comes when God is forgotten!  That’s Zwingli’s stunning observation.  I recommend that you get hold of the book and read it.  It’s fantastic and indeed the editor of the English edition of Zwingli’s works writes in the introductory preface

… what [Zwingli] says about war is worthy of republication by our Peace Societies, and they are entirely at liberty to use this translation.*

The combatants in Israel and Gaza (and in other conflicts around the world) may think that they are doing something grand and good and great and helpful but war is never any of those things.  War is atheism and those who perpetrate it are, practically speaking, atheists because war is rejection of and denial of God.

*The Latin Works and The Correspondence of Huldreich Zwingli: Together with Selections from His German Works, Volume 1 (S. M. Jackson, Ed.), p.130.

Karl Barth was Right – Theologically – About Self Defense: The Potential Murderer is not the Actual Murderer- the Actual Murderer Is

Barth wrote (and it’s long but worth it)

On further consideration, it is not so ‘natural’ as it appears that even in respect of one’s own life force should be met by force, agression by aggression, disorder by disorder. To hit back when I am struck is a very dubious defense against the danger in which my assailant has brought me. My life is not actually helped by my doing this, whether physically or spiritually. Strictly speaking, does not the real emergency arise when I enter the cycle and become an aggressor in turn? We may consider the process in its simplest form. An unfriendly word is spoken to me by another. I feel that I may and should respond to his unfriendliness in terms at least as unfriendly. I do so. Yet I cannot conceal the fact that in so doing I do not find the pleasure I desired but only succeed in making myself disagreeable. On a realistic view, what I achieve in this self-defense does not uplift but degrades even myself. I ought thus to be restrained even by the necessary protection of my own life.

We have also to consider, however, the life of the assailant. In the fact that he thinks he should attack me, whether in word only or more seriously, he shows that he for his part believes that he is in some serious need. He may be wrong so far as I am concerned. That is to say, he may have no good reasons for venting on me his illhumour, sorrow, loneliness, disappointment or want, and especially for doing it in such a way that I am exposed to danger by his more or less serious attack. Yet I do not put myself in the right in relation to him by hitting back and therefore adding to the distress in which he thinks he finds himself. For all I know, the distress which has caused his highly irregular attack upon me may be much greater, or may weigh on him much more heavily, than that which he has inflicted on me by his attack. For all I know, my resistance, however justifiable, may increase his distress. I may thus provoke him to greater injustices, and thus plunge him into even greater distress, making things worse for him instead of better. By my defensive action, I shall certainly do something similar or even worse to him than he does to me by his act of agression. The New Testament is surely right in treating both the attacked and the attacker on the same level as all blatant transgressors of the command, and in setting the attacker on the same level as the beggar or borrower, who in his own way is also an attacker but to whom the attacked is still under an obligation. It is surely closer to life than all the assertions of the right of self-defense so easily adduced as self-evident. Surely the more important thing is that we should constantly ask ourselves whether it is really fitting to close the fatal cycle with an act of self-defense, or whether the need which is already at work in the attacker, and which he threatens to inflict, or has already inflicted, on the attacked, cannot be met along different lines from those of retaliation. Ought we not at least to postpone, to put in second place, all the considerations which might finally lead us to the resolve to meet force with force?

If all this is true, and in any sensible discussion the command of God according to the Gospel will surely be taken into account, then it is obvious that the question of killing the attacker as the ‘ultima ratio’ of what is called self-defense can arise only on the extreme margin. Is it not a most serious matter if I not only meet invective with invective, or blow with blow, or an attack upon my possessions or those of others with a most powerful counter-attack, but reply to a threat on my own life or that of others by forestalling the attacker and putting him to death? Do I really prevent the danger to my life or that of others by killing the aggressor  And what do I do to him in making this final venture, in extinguishing his life with my own hand, in removing him ‘from the land of the living,’ as though he belonged to me and I were his judge?

Schlatter’s reasoning (Christliche Ethik, 1914, p. 133) has a reassuring solidity: ‘Since he who seeks to destroy the life of another forfeits his own, he who kills the attacker in defense of life, whether his own or that of another, acts in the service of the justice of God as the executor of the punishment ordained by Him according to the same rule by which society would put the murderer to death if he were successful in carrying out his will.’ On certain presuppositions this may well be true of a necessary and right action of this nature. But as a general and binding direction it is an astonishing over-simplification from the pen of a New Testament scholar like Schlatter.

Have we not first to mention that the command of God does not initially point us in this direction, that it does not give us any authority over the life of the wrong-doer, that it does not make us his criminal judge? How can the voice of Christian ethics assert itself in this sphere if it does not dare, without establishing any absolute law, to make plain the true order of the enquiry in which self-defense and killing in self-defense cannot possibly the first word but only the tenth at the very earliest? I certainly can and should wish to be protected in the possession and enjoyment of my goods, honor, freedom and finally and especially body and life, but not in all circumstances or with all means, since none of these possessions constitutes a supreme good with an absolute right to be maintained. The killing of the assaliant is a final and most terrible means of protecting this possessions. Does their preservations really demand this? For in the last analysis, I cannot even know the need which drove him to snatch at my goods and therefore to attack me. And to defend myself I must range myself alongside him under the dubious slogan of self-protection, and finally under the even more dubious claim that it must be either he or I, under which he already stands as my assailant. Furthermore I have in fact to kill the killer before he actually becomes a killer, so that he is only responsible for the the will to do it whereas I must bear responsibility for the actual deed. If I do what is ultimately envisaged in cases of so-called self-defense, I must always give consideration to these restraining factors. — CD III.4, pp. 430-42.

In light of what is certain to be the acquittal of a murderer in Wisconsin, this seems particularly timely.

There is Nothing Christian About CBMW

In fact, the collective is a cult and its leaders deceivers. They are driven by a nastiness seldom seen by those calling themselves Christians.

Their goal is to turn women into slaves under the guise of Christian teaching, but like Satan they are pretending to be angels of light whilst actually being agents of darkness.

No one who is actually Christian can or should support the cult. Period.

Understanding God’s Incomprehensible Providence

zwingli453We struggle and waver in the matter of Providence. When It presents Itself before our eyes so plainly that we are forced even against our will to see It, regard It, and execute Its commands, we yet bid ourselves to hope for results according to our own desires.

This recklessness sometimes goes so far that it promises us the treasures of the Indies even in spite of the Deity. But however we clamor and whatever we devise, the plans of God remain unchanged. Tyrants scheme, and restless peasants, far less skillful and happy in plotting than they, also scheme, the one to strangle the sprouting germ of the Gospel, that the boundless extortions with which they keep up every lewdness and luxury may not be brought to light, nor the distinction between right and wrong be seen, lest the wiles of their crooked lives and words be discovered, and they be no longer able to cover up their violence with the name of righteousness, if ever the people understand what force and right are; the others to see how under pretense of championing the Gospel they can aim at unrestrained wantonness rather than at the liberty of a free man.

Does not greed urge them on as much as it did Balak and Balaam? But what purpose will finally succeed? Certainly not Balak’s, however much he rages and fears for his kingdom, for the camp of Israel will be safe under the protection of the Lord; nor the purpose of Balaam boiling with greed, for the Gospel of Christ seeketh not wantonness nor wrong. But the purpose of the Lord will be victorious, in accordance with which He has determined to cleanse His Church of the worst rubbish, not to introduce it therein.*

*The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, (Vol. 2, p. 231).

Huldrych Zwingli On The Problem With Pseudo-Scholars

Illustration: Daniel Lienhard/Flyer Reformierte Kirche Kanton Zürich

Illustration: Daniel Lienhard/Flyer Reformierte Kirche Kanton Zürich

They are so ignorant as to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in their essence, substance, divinity, power, that they do not know what you mean when you speak of one and understand all three; and their lack of knowledge is accompanied by such recklessness that what they are extremely ignorant of they all the more violently drag under suspicion.

Or they are so willingly and knowingly impious that they assail with the depravity of a perverted heart what they see is done rightly and piously, and since they despair of accomplishing anything in open warfare, they make an underground attack, alleging a fear that we are too much inclined sometimes towards the Father, sometimes towards the Son. To all such I say, κλαίειν, “fare ill.”

The Church of Spectators

The Church in the West treasures worldly acceptance and approval more than it treasures the fullness of the Gospel. It is a Church whose heart fibrillates with excitement and whose knees grow weak with joy whenever its virtue signaling to our dominant secular Liberalism is met with praise.  It is also why the Church rarely squanders its treasure on any message that might run afoul of such approval in any truly alienating way.

The essay in which this nugget appears is excellent.  Read the whole.

‘Prayer Changes Everything’… Um, No, It Doesn’t

People, even well meaning preachers and theologians, will sometimes repeat phrases that sound good but when thought over aren’t all that good, or true, after all.

For example, people say, quite regularly- ‘prayer changes everything’, or in a variant form, ‘prayer changes things’.  Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true.

God changes things, prayer, as a human act, as an act of approach to God, and petition to God, can only REQUEST change.  It itself CHANGES nothing.

Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find any passage at all in the Bible which suggests that prayer changes anything.  The closest you’ll come is a passage like Ex 32:11-14 (where Moses prays for Israel and God changes his mind and doesn’t wipe them out).  Even there, though, it is God who changes his mind.  Moses doesn’t change it- or the impending disaster.

God is sovereign.  He changes whensoever he wishes whysoever he wishes and then He himself changes what he wills.  Prayer isn’t a magic talisman that can be waved and things changed thereby.

When someone tells you ‘prayer changes things’ gently correct them by reminding them that it is God who holds power, not a human act.  And if that doesn’t work, remind them that Jesus taught us to pray ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.

Anxiety: An Observation

Everything in our society aims to create anxiety in us. Politicians want us anxious so we become xenophobes and turn to them for protection and the media wants us anxious so we will tune in and watch their shows and our workplaces want us anxious about losing our jobs so we’ll show up and Madison avenue wants us anxious about how we look so we’ll buy stuff. But Jesus says ‘be anxious for nothing…’

I choose Jesus’s way.