Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Refutation of Limited Atonement Part 5

Here's the program.

On today's podcast, I finished my series on Limited Atonement. I responded to a lecture titled "Limited Atonement and Hard Texts" by pastor Mathew Haney. I dealt with arguments from John 17 and the nature of propitiation. I also discussed universalistic texts from 2 Peter and 1 Timothy. If you haven't heard the other programs, here are the other parts of the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

I also mentioned that someone started a petition to send to James White for him to debate me on the extent of the atonement. If you would like to see that feel free to sign it here.

Update: I was made aware that something happened with the audio in this podcast. I fixed the mistake (mostly) and reuploaded the file. There are a few seconds where the audio gets weird around the 8:30 mark, but it gets back to normal.

Osiander and the Finnish Interpretation of Luther

When I published my article "A Lutheran Response to Justification: Five Views," (which can be found here) I was suspected by some of being guilty of the teaching of Osiander, which was condemned by the Formula of Concord. This is due to my adherence to certain themes of the Finnish interpretation of Luther; namely, that Luther's soteriology is participationist rather than purely juridical. I argued that justification is not a bare declaration wherein Christ's righteousness is passed to the believer in the heavenly Law-court, but it involves the reception of the person of Christ. In other words, Christ's attributes are not separated from His person. One does not receive Christ's righteousness without receiving Christ Himself.

I want to clear up some misconceptions, since my upcoming book "The Righteousness of One" is highly indebted to the Finnish school of thought. In my view, Luther teaches that Christ is present in faith. Faith receives Christ's person, and based on this mystical union, the believer is declared righteous by the righteousness of Christ. I agree with much of what Mannermaa has done in finding a doctrine of theosis in Luther, but I disagree with him on some major points. There is not an exact identification of justification/theosis in Luther's thought, but they are related concepts, and both important to his theological project.

First, let me clarify that I disagree with much of what has been done by figures other than Mannermaa in this school of thinking. Karkkainen, for example, conflates justification and theosis, so as to neglect important reformation themes, such as the imputation of Christ's righteousness which are central to Luther's thought. For Karkkainen, "Justification for Luther means primarily participation in God through the indwelling of Christ in the heart through the Spirit." (One With God, 59) I think we would do better to take Luther's own word for it when he defines justification as the fact that "through faith we receive a different, new, clean heart and that, for the sake of Christ our mediator, God will and does regard us as completely righteous and holy." (SA 12:1)For Luther, there is a real participation in God through the indwelling Christ, but this is not to be equated with justification itself.

It's argued by many in the Confessional Lutheran camp that the Finnish interpretation of Luther is essentially a modified form of Osiander's theology. It is also argued by the Finnish writers that the Lutheran Confessions depart from Luther's teaching that Christ is present in faith, placing mystical union as subsequent to justification, rather than vice versa. I don't think such a strict division exists between Luther and the Formula on this point.

The Formula does not condemn what is proposed by Mannermaa as Luther's teaching on mystical union. What is condemned is the teaching of Osiander that one is justified based on the indwelling divine nature of Christ. Contrary to this, Luther teaches that justification comes as a result of both natures of Christ, primarily through his life giving death and resurrection. The other false teaching of Osiander, as condemned by the Formula, is that believers are in any sense justified by their own works. That's why the majority of Article III argues, not against mystical union, but against the contention that justification is based on the renewal or good works of the sinner. Look, for example at III.35:

"Therefore, even if the converted and believers have the beginnings of renewal, sanctification, love, virtues, and good works, yet these cannot, should not, and must not be introduced or mixed with the article of justification before God, so that the proper honor may be accorded to our Redeemer Christ ad (because our new obedience is imperfect and impure) so that the consciences under attack may have a reliable comfort." (FC SD III.35)

The point here is that justification is not based on infused love, virtues, or good works inherent in the believer. Neither I, nor Mannermaa, have taught this. It may be argued however that mystical union is, in the Formula, always a result of justification, rather than a prior or simultaneous reality: "this indwelling is a result of the righteousness of faith which precedes it." (FC SD III.54) Note that what is rejected is the idea that this indwelling that is a result of justification. It is rejected that the Osiandrian sense of indwelling, the infusion of virtues and love, precedes faith, because this would result in a righteousness based on works. That doesn't mean that indwelling of the person of Christ in faith must be subsequent to justification. It does not deny that Christ gives his whole person to the believer in justification. In fact, the Confessions reject the notion that "not God but only the gifts of God dwell in believers." (FC SD III.65)

It is worth noting that the Article III of the Formula says, "For any further, necessary explanation of this lofty and sublime article on justification before God, upon which the salvation of our souls depends, we wish to recommend to everyone the wonderful, magnificent exposition by Dr. Luther of St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, and for the sake of brevity we refer to it at this point." (FC SD III.67) This gives the Galatians commentary a semi-Confessional status, since the Lutheran fathers agreed unanimously to point to this text as a correct exposition to justification. It is the Galatians commentary of Luther which has in fact served as the basis for the Finnish school of thought. In my own reading of Luther's Galatians commentary, it seems undeniable that Christ is present in faith, and that justification involves the receiving of Christ's person as righteousness.

I hope this helps clarify some of my positions on this issue. I affirm sola fide, the imputation of Christ's righteousness, Christ's active and passive obedience, and all the other traditional themes associated with justification in the Lutheran tradition. I am trying to clarify this, since some seem to think that my association with the Finnish school of thought has led me to an unorthodox approach to justification. If you are interested in this issue, take a look at Kurt Marquart's essay "Luther and Theosis," which agrees with my position on the issue.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Heresy and Heterodoxy

Here's the Podcast.

On today's podcast I discussed the question of heresy and heterodoxy. I defined the difference between these two terms, and talked about examples of both in the ancient church and contemporary theology. I argue that we should utilize the Sola Scriptura principle when defining false doctrine as heretical.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Presuppositional Apologetics

Here's the program

On today's program, I discussed apologetic methodologies, with a primary focus on presuppositionalism. I gave a brief history of apologetics, outlined the differences between presuppositionalism and evidentialism, and gave some critiques of both positions.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Were the Prohibitions of Homosexual Relationships Purely to Encourage Procreation?

It's been a while since I have written on this, but I wanted to continue the series I began on common arguments against Biblical sexuality. I have been responding to this image.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Claim: That was when the earth wasn't populated. There are now 6.79 billion people. Breeding clearly isn't an issue anymore!

This claim is made in response to the statement that "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." It is purported by the pro-homosexual interlocutor that this creational institution applied only to a society in need of increased population, and thus is irrelevant to contemporary culture. This claim is often made in regard to both the creation narrative, and the governing Laws of Israel. Supposedly encouragement or allowance of homosexual relationships would inhibit God's plan for Israel by limiting procreation.

There are a couple of points to be made to this claim. To begin, examine the first claim, that the creational institution of marriage is only relevant to an unfilled creation. This statement begins with the assumption that there is something of a temporary nature about the institution of marriage. It is a conditional provision based on the population of the earth. Apparently, when the population of the world got to a certain point, this institution could be altered.

Scripture does not, however, place marriage in such a context. In Paul's theology, there is an eternal meaning behind the divine institution of marriage which extends itself beyond mere procreation. He writes,

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:26-33

In Paul's view, there is a connection between the marriage of a husband and wife, and the relationship between Christ and the church. This is not incidental, but marriage was created with such redemptive intent. Christ and the church have a relationship with one another that is pictured in marriage. It is important to note that there is both a great functional and ontological divide between Christ, and his church. This is why marriage, similarly, involves two parties with both ontological and functional differentiation. Just as the church cannot become divine, or be substituted for another institution, so also the wife cannot become a male or be replaced by someone of the male sex. Just as Christ's role and the church's role are fundamentally distinct, so are the roles of two spouses in the marriage covenant.

In this manner, it is clear that marriage, in the Biblical model, is broader than procreation; it is a profound mystery (sacramentum) which portrays the relationship between Christ and is bride. It is not arbitrary or subject to alteration due to the development of culture.

The second part of this argument is that the Israelites established bans on homosexual practice so that procreation would be encouraged. Such a small nation, seeking power in the ancient near east, needed heterosexual marriage and even polygamous marriage for it's population to grow, along with its religion and political power. There is one major problem with this argument; ancient homosexual practices, such as pederasty in ancient Greece, did not exist apart from heterosexual marriage and procreation, but as a secondary sexual experience. Thus, homosexuality would likely not have any direct affect on procreation.

There are other, more profound problems with homosexuality than simply the fact that it results in less infants being born; it denies God's creational institution, and distorts what God instituted as a picture of the gospel, and thus the gospel itself.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Review of "On Being a Theologian of the Cross" by Gerhard Forde

I have written a review of Gerhard Forde's work On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518. It can be found Here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Roman Catholic Gospel Paradigm

Here's the program.

On today's program I discussed a lecture I was sent by Jason Stellman on "Gospel Paradigms". In this lecture, he argues that the Roman Catholic gospel paradigm fits the New Testament data better than the Prostestant paradigm. This lead to a discussion of issues as various as James 2 and justification, sola scriptura in the early church, and the development of dogma in Roman Catholic theology.