Saturday, August 31, 2013

American Lutheran Classics Volume 1 Now Available!

The first volume in the series American Lutheran Classics is now available. It is The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church by George Henry Gerberding. This is a work that every Lutheran should read. In it, Gerberding gives a thorough understanding of how Lutherans view salvation. He talks about Baptism, Holy Communion, Sunday school, Confession, Justification, Sanctification, Christian parenting, and he discusses the subject of revivals at length. This is a great introduction to Lutheranism for those who would like to learn more, and a help for those in the Lutheran church, including pastors.

The book can be found here

The kindle edition is here

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Lutheran Rosary

Here are the two ways to use prayer beads that I recommend:

1.Hold the crucifix and meditate on the cross. Recite John 3:16 or another verse.
2.Continue meditating on the cross until you get to the first large bead
3.At the medal, recall the Holy Trinity
4.Throughout the next beads, meditate on the Ten Commandments, remembering where you have fallen short
5.Meditate on the Apostle's Creed, recalling God's great acts of salvation
6.Pray the Lord's Prayer
7.Meditate on Holy Baptism using Mathew 28:19, Acts 2:38, or another verse about Baptism
8. Meditate on Confession, reciting Psalm 25:11, the Jesus prayer, or another verse of confession
9. Meditate on the Sacrament of the Altar reciting the words of institution
10. End holding the cross, with the invocation and make the sign of the cross

1. Holding the crucifix, say the Invocation and make the sign of the cross;
2. Holding the crucifix, say the Apostles Creed
3. Holding the first bead, say the Our Father
4. On each of the next three beads, say the Jesus Prayer
5. On the chain, say the Doxology
6. On the large bead, say the Our Father
7. On each of the next ten beads, say the Jesus Prayer
8. Holding the chain, say the Doxology
9. Repeat these steps until you have gone through all the beads
10. Holding the medal, say  the Magnificat
11. Holding the crucifix, end with the Invocation and make the sign of the cross

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cyril of Alexandria on the Importance of Having a Divine High Priest

"Seeing therefore that the Law condemneth them that sin and decreeth sometimes the uttermost punishment to them that disregard it, and in no wise pitieth, how was not the manifestation to them on earth of a Compassionate and truly Merciful High Priest necessary? Of One who should made the curse to cease, should stop the condemnation and free sinners with forgiving grace and with the bending of clememcy? For I (He says) am He that blotteth out thy transgressions and will not remember. For we have been justified by faith and not out of the works of the Law as it is written. On Whom then believing are we justified? Is it not on Him who suffered death for us after the flesh? Is it not on One Lord Jesus Christ? Have we not on declaring His death and confessing His Resurrection been redeemed?

If therefore, we have believed on a man like us and not rather on God, the thing is man-worship, and confessedly nothing else: but if we believe that He who suffered in the flesh is God, Who hath been made also our High Priest, we have in no ways erred, but acknowledge the Word out of God made Man: and thus is required of us faith God-ward, Who putteth out of condemnation and freeth from sin those taken thereby. For the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins, as Himself too saith.

Contrasting therefore with the salvation and grace that is through Christ the harshness (so to speak) of the Law's severity, we say that Christ was made a merciful High Priest. For He was and is God Good by nature and Compassionate and Merciful always, and hath not become this in time but was so manifested to us."

-St. Cyril of Alexandria, Tome III Against Nestorius

Cyril of Alexandria, Five Tomes Against Nestorius and Other Works. (Lexington: Createspace, 2013), pp.96-97

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bernard of Clairvaux and Medieval Theology

I took a break from our discussion of Matt Haney's lecture on baptism to discuss the church of the Middle Ages. I was joined by Pastor David Graves to discuss the importance of Bernard of Clairvaux on Luther's thought and the best aspects of Medieval theology which led to the Reformation. We try and dispel the common misconception that the post-Augustinian church was a theological wasteland waiting to be saved by Luther.

Here is the program.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Wrong Use of Biblical Languages

"Pastor, what does Scripture mean when it says 'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them'?"

"Well, don't trust the English translations. If you knew Greek you would know that what it really means is 'If you tell people the Gospel, it is in light of the fact that God has already forgiven their sins.'"

"Pastor, what does Scripture mean when it says 'Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins?"

"In Greek all that means is that baptism is done because of the forgiveness of sins. It doesn't actually bring forgiveness."

"Pastor, what does Jesus mean when he says 'this is my body'?"

"If you knew Greek grammar, you would know that really means 'this represents my body.'"

I have heard these types of exchanges far too often, where a questioning layperson is told not to ask questions about the Biblical text because they do not know the original languages. The implication here is that one must simply trust the pastor's interpretation of the Biblical text because he knows Greek, and  the congregants don't. This quickly stops the laity from thinking that they have any right to interpret the Scripture, because they don't have the knowledge or education that the pastor has.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think a knowledge of the original languages is helpful. I think it can be a great aid to pastors and theologians who are studying the text of Scripture. I study Greek, and I would encourage anyone in the ministry to do so regularly. We can't abandon the languages and fall into some sort of naive KJV only fundamentalism which places one particular English translation over the original text. But, think about this for a minute. There are more translations of the Bible in English than any other language. It seems like every few years there is some new translation that people are touting as the greatest English Bible. Those who try and challenge doctrine by having to go to the Greek text when difficult passages arise have an issue here. They are often challenging every single English translation of the Greek text. That's a scary place to be in, because essentially what the pastor is saying is: I know Greek better than all of the teams of translators that got together over hundreds of years to make these English translations.

And the texts the define the use of the sacraments are the ones which often fall victim to this misuse. I can't even count the amount of times I've heard people claim that Acts 2:38 doesn't mean what it says because of a mistranslation. But, if this is a bad translation, why does every major English Bible say the same thing? Don't you think someone would have figured it out by now? This is the same thing with Matthew 16 and John 20 which speak of the Apostles' ability to forgive sins. It's said that in Greek, the meaning is totally different than what the clear implication is. And again, this goes against every major English translation of the New Testament.

This does also tend to be the approach of many who deny gratia universalis (universal grace). It's said that the phrase "God is the Savior of all people" in 1 Timothy 4:10 for example, should be translated something akin to "God is the Lord over all people" or "God is the caregiver of all people." Again, this goes against every major English translation.

So here is a question that we all need to ask ourselves when doing this: If a verse seems to disprove your theological beliefs, and you translate it in some way that doesn't fit with any of the dozens of major English translations of the Bible, and that unique translation just happens to fit your own theological biases, could it be that it is in fact you who are in the wrong? Could you be reading your own preconceived theological convictions back into the text?

I have also found this same argument to apply to the historical context of various Biblical texts. "Historical context" can often be an excuse to avoid the clear implications of text that deal with such controversial issues as women in leadership and homosexuality. The same can be said for the approach that many take to the New Perspective on Paul. It is an unavoidable conclusion that with this approach to the Pauline text, one cannot truly understand Paul without a prior understanding of Second Temple Judaism. Now, I don't want to deny the usefulness of understanding the historical context of the Biblical text. Scripture is not a set of abstract truths divorced from history. However, if we trust that God inspired the Word, and gave it as the only infallible guide for faith and practice, shouldn't we trust that he gave us the necessary historical information to be able to discern its message? It's not as if he let the church remain in ignorance until contemporary archaeological discoveries were made. New historical research can certainly guide and enlighten certain aspects of the Biblical text, but we can trust that it's primary message can be discerned without it.

This should be an encouragement to those laity who earnestly seek to understand God's Word. I know it can be frustrating when you are constantly told that Scripture can't be understood unless you learn a language or read ancient documents that you don't have either the time or the energy to study. Honestly, if you have a few good English translations at your side, and you take the time to compare them to one another, you have all the tools you need to understand the meaning of the Bible. The apostles themselves were content quoting from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) rather than the Hebrew text itself. While certain nuances of the text and syntax can only be found by using the text in its original language, or by studying the history of the Ancient Near East, the doctrinal teachings of the Old and New Testaments are clear enough in any major English translation that there is no need to doubt your ability to understand the text.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Introduction to my Book

Review of Matthew Levering's "The Theology of Augustine"

Augustine is undoubtedly the most prolific and influential writer in the history of the Western church. He is one theologian who Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists alike cite as a primary influence on their varied theological traditions. Because of this fact, treatments of Augustine since the Reformation have often taken on a polemical tone, trying to place him into whatever theological framework one holds to. In this way, Augustine's ecumenical appeal has been both his greatest asset and the greatest hindrance to an honest investigation of his writings.

Levering's work does not engage in theological polemics. Though himself a Roman Catholic, he does not try to fit Augustine into any particular theological mold but engages Augustine as an independent theologian in his own right. Treatments of Augustine have often suffered from two primary deficiencies: either they try to explain too much in a single volume becoming rather garbled and inaccessible, or they paint him as a one sided theologian, centering on a single aspect of his thought. For the Calvinist writer, he has been viewed as the ultimate predestinarian; for the Roman Catholic the defender of the Roman Church against the schismatic Donatists; and for the Lutheran tradition, an early voice for justification by faith. Levering avoids these extremes by centering his work on seven distinct works of Augustine. Rather than trying to encapsulate everything taught by Augustine (which is impossible for a work this size) or centering on works that deal with the same topic, this approach allows Levering to be both balanced and comprehensive in his interpretation.

The seven works which Levering focuses on are: On Christian Doctrine, Answer to Faustus a Manichean, Homilies on First John, On the Predestination of the Saints, the Confessions, the City of God, and On the Trinity. With On Christian Doctrine, Levering demonstrates Augustine exegetical method which involves the confession of the historical reality behind the Biblical narrative, as well as the typological and allegorical nature of the Biblical texts. This allows Augustine to remain historically grounded while affirming the unchanging truths of the Christian faith. Augustine's response to Faustus is an extremely helpful work to include in this volume because it succinctly shows both how Augustine responded to his Manichean past, and how he, as a catholic Christian, approached Old Testament revelation. Augustine's commentary on 1 John may seem like something of a random selection in this work, as it isn't a primary work discussed  in contemporary theological dialogue, but Levering has an important reason for including it in this work. If there is any unifying theme in Augustine's theology it certainly isn't predestination or justification by faith, but love. Levering uses this work to demonstrate the complexity and predominance of love as the essence of the Christian life. This includes love toward God and creation in a rightly ordered fashion, and Augustine is even willing to employ the principle of love as a hermeneutic. The final smaller work Levering deals with in this book is On the Predestination of the Saints. If I were to write this book, I would have likely chosen another work like On the Spirit and the Letter, which focuses on the priority of divine grace against the Pelagians rather than predestination per say, but that may be due to my own theological biases. Levering treats this work honestly, demonstrating that Augustine is concerned with the providence of God over human salvation while denying that God is active in predestining evil actions.

The final three chapters in the book are the most beneficial, as they overview Augustine's three theological masterpieces: The Confessions, The City of God, and On the Trinity. The final two works are quite a challenge to get through due to their length and the seeming tangential nature of many of his arguments. Levering offers a helpful overview of the arguments and content of these books. This allows new readers of Augustine to read through these works with the overall context and purpose of Augustine's writing in mind.

This book is simply the best introduction to Augustine that is available. Levering's work is extremely accessible without sacrificing theological depth. The lay reader may get somewhat lost in the final chapter on the Trinity, but that is due to the speculative nature of Augustine's work rather than Levering's writing which is extremely lucid on such a profoundly complex topic. If you are interested in reading Augustine, or you are teaching a seminary/college course on his thought, this book is highly recommended. Don't however, let this be a replacement for reading the works of Augustine themselves, which have so many treasures that no treatment of his thought could capture them all.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Response to False Claims Made About Me

I was informed by  few of my readers that James White mentioned me on his podcast, and I initially just wanted to leave it alone. But after enough questions about it, I decided to listen. Because of the false nature of the claims made, I felt that I needed to make a response.  This is the quote from White's program:

"Evidently I was a big meany, from what he said on his blog... I'm a big meany because I actually used Greek... I guess that was just very mean of me to do that that I dare ask Mr. Cooper to do that. But the problem was, I just assumed that he would be able to do that. I assumed that if you were making the kind of assertions that he was making that you would be able to deal with the language directly in that way."

He does this while comparing me to some KJV only conspiracy theorist that Chris Rosebrough wants him to debate. Dr. White seems to be under the impression (maybe not, but it comes off that way) that I am just some random blogger with no theological training. I do in fact have two theology degrees, and am currently working on a second Masters degree. I have also been accepted into a PhD program at the London School of Theology, and I am a published author. I also serve a congregation here in southeast Iowa. I'm not sure if White knows this, but my podcast is played on Rosebrough's station "Pirate Christian Radio."

The claim that I called White "a big meany" for using Greek is a flat out lie. I don't know who said this to him, but whatever communication happened over this was false. I never called White anything on my blog, or in my podcast. I never criticized him for using Greek, nor did I ever state that I can't deal with the Greek text. What is possibly being referred to is the fact that I mentioned on my podcast, in response to him, that he often uses Greek on his program, and I don't for the sake of my listeners who don't know Greek. He didn't listen to the program, but still shouldn't make claims about it without checking the facts. I would urge everyone to listen to the response I made. I thought that I dealt with this issue without resorting to insult or name calling, but simply dealt with the arguments.

I don't desire to have a grudge against a brother, and I would like this to be resolved so that we can both move on to other things. I ask that Dr. White would publicly apologize for his public misrepresentation so that we could reconcile and agree not to engage in false accusations in the future.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Response to Matt Haney Part 3

On today's program I continued my response to Matt Haney's lecture against a Lutheran approach to baptism. I dealt with Haney's exegesis of texts such as Acts 2:38 and Romans 6.

Here is the program.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Response to the Recent Exchange with Dr. White

I did a second program this week so that I could respond to the comments made by Dr. White about me on his program The Dividing Line. I didn't want to skip out on the continued response to Matt Haney this upcoming week.

Here's the program.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Universal Atonement in 2 Peter 2:1

Response to Matt Haney Part 2

This week's program is a continued response to Matt Haney's lecture against a Lutheran understanding of the sacrament of baptism.

Listen here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Response to Matt Haney

Reformed Baptism preacher Matt Haney of Illbehonest ministries recently gave a lecture on baptismal regeneration. He called out Lutherans specifically in this message as heretics and preachers of a false gospel. After numerous requests to respond to this lecture, I am beginning a series of programs in response to this.

Here is the first program.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

American Lutheran Classics

I am going to be publishing a series of books under the title "American Lutheran Classics." I will be taking some Lutheran works (primarily 19th century), updating some of the language, giving citations of Scripture and the Confessions where absent, and changing the Scripture references to ESV. The goal is to have these works available for lay and congregational use, as a cheap and easy way to be introduced to Lutheran theology. Unfortunately, the editions that are currently out of these works are poorly formatted and are often just photocopies of older editions.

I am going to be self-publishing these through CreateSpace, which is owned by This will allow me to keep the prices down, so that these works will be more affordable than many of the Lutheran works out there. 

The first book I am working on is "The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church" by G.H. Gerberding. I am open to suggestions for other works you would like to see in this series. I am in the process of editing this work, and will keep you updated as to when it is finished and available. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Regulative Principle of Worship

On today's program, I discussed the Reformed regulative principle of worship. I went through some of the basic arguments for this position and demonstrated why I believe them to be flawed.

Here is the program.