Friday, June 6, 2014

The Launch of the New

I will no longer be updating this blogger site, because has been relaunched. The site loads much faster and is much easier to follow than the previous site, and you can easily follow the RSS feed. The site includes contributors other than myself as well.

Check it out.

Bible Teachings: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Joseph Stump

This book is a short and basic treatment of Christian doctrine. Stump wrote this book to be used in Sunday Schools and confirmation classes, and it serves well in new membership courses and other catechetical contexts. In this work, Stump overviews all the basics of Christian teaching including: God, the Trinity, the Bible, the Two Natures of Christ, Old Testament Prophecy, Justification, and Sanctification. Scripture is used extensively throughout this book to defend each point.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Historicity of the Resurrection: A Response to Atheist Claims

A listener pointed me to some comments from an atheist on his blog, and asked me to give a response. This brought the program today into the realm of apologetics as we discussed some of the reasons for believing that the resurrection of Jesus is an actual historical event.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Are God's Commandments Burdensome?

1 John 5:3—“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

In a recent post, Tullian Tchividjian addressed this verse, due to its seeming contradiction to other statements in Scripture which make it apparent that the Law is indeed burdensome (Acts 15:2, Gal. 3:10, James 2:10, Deut. 27:26). How can it be said that the Law is not burdensome when the Law requires perfect obedience, which no one can render? Tchividjian gave the following answer:

"The answer, though incredibly profound, is actually quite simple. Though the commandments are indeed burdensome, that burden has been laid on the shoulders of another. Jesus Christ, who demands that we be perfect, achieves perfection in our place. Jesus Christ, the culmination of the Old Testament story, fulfills the Old Testament laws. That same weight that threatens to break our backs actually did crush our savior. The weights that we bear every day are simply aftershocks of our human attempts to save ourselves. The weights we feel are a phantom; they’ve already been taken to the cross, carried up the Via Dolorosa on Christ’s back. We are free. We are, in Christ, unburdened."

According to Tchividjian, the commandments of God are not burdensome because Jesus bore their punishment on himself. On the Meet the Puritans blog, Danny Hyde responded to Tchividjian’s post, arguing that this though the theology in Tullian’s argument is valid, it is misapplied to this text. Hyde writes:

The right doctrine—Christ’s vicarious obedience and suffering justifies us from the burdensome curse of the law.
The wrong text—the newborn child of God’s has a newfound joy in sanctification.

Hyde purports that the text does not speak about Jesus’s fulfillment of the Law, or about his vicarious atonement, but about the joy and delight believers have in God’s commandments. He then cites Calvin who says regarding this text:

"the law is said to be easy, as far as we are endued with heavenly power, and overcome the lusts of the flesh. For however the flesh may resist, yet the faithful find that there is no real enjoyment except in following God. It must further be observed, that John does not speak of the law only, which contains nothing but commands, but connects with it the paternal indulgence of God, by which the rigor of the law is mitigated. As, then, we know that we are graciously forgiven by the Lord, when our works do not come up to the law, this renders us far more prompt to obey, according to what we find in Psalm 130:4, “With thee is propitiation, that thou mayest be feared."

Hyde then writes that Tchividjian completely misunderstands the text, and that his interpretation would render the text:

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and since Jesus loves the Father he loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that Jesus love[s] the children of God,when because we he love[d] God and obey[ed] his commandments. For this is the love of God, that he kept his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome to us because Jesus took their burden."

Hyde’s argument fails on a couple levels. First, he falsely argues that obedience to the Law does indeed become easy for the believer apart from the reality of Christ’s fulfillment of it. While it is indeed true that the Christian is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16), and that the Law begins to be fulfilled in us through love (Rom. 8:4), the Law continues to accuse the Christian (Rom. 7:14-25). If the Law requires perfect obedience, and the Christian remains a sinner, then the Law itself never becomes easy for the Christian to obey. Both the non-Christian and the Christian are unable to perfectly fulfill the Law of God. Only Christ has obeyed God perfectly. To argue otherwise is to pit this text against other Scriptural realities.

The second problem is that while Hyde contends that there is no basis contextually to assume that the atonement and righteousness of Christ are in the background here, John begins his entire argument with precisely this in mind. Before John gets into his argument about the necessity of the love of God, the love of neighbor, and right doctrine, he states: “If we say we have no sin (present tense), we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:8-9). Before expounding upon God’s commandments for the Christian, John makes it abundantly clear that perfectionism is an impossibility, and that continual forgiveness is an essential aspect of the Christian life. This forgiveness then is in the background of the rest of John’s argument. John does not have to explicitly state “Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly on your behalf,” for that to be a reality which stands behind this text. It is the work of Christ which is the basis for the forgiveness propounded by John which serves as an important introduction to the rest of his argument.

To further expound upon this text, let us look at the rest of the context, which explains exactly what John is referring to here:

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:1-5)

John does argue that the Christian will love God and will begin to obey his commandments. The commandments, in context, consist in the love of God and “overcoming the world.” What is important to note is that John then points believers back to their faith. God’s commandments are not burdensome—why? Because we have overcome the world. How have we overcome the world? Faith. Believing the Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The commandments of God are not burdensome because we have faith in the Gospel. And what exactly is that Gospel that we have faith in? The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Faith means that the commandments are not burdensome precisely because Jesus has satisfied God’s judgment upon the human race. Through faith, one is forgiven. If one is then forgiven, the Law no longer becomes a burden. The commandments are not burdensome, because the penalty has been paid and our failures and shortcomings are forgiven. We now can follow God’s commandments without any fear of condemnation. It is only because our imperfections and sins are covered by the blood of Christ that the Law then becomes the joy of the Christian.

Ultimately, the picture of obedience that this text paints is not one of continual beating of the flesh, constant struggle, rigorous discipline, etc. but of joyful obedience through faith in the Gospel. This really fits much better with Luther’s view of good works, wherein the believer joyfully serves one’s neighbor without fear of condemnation, than that of the Puritanical tradition with the like of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. Having spent time under the preaching and teaching of those in the Puritan tradition, I can say with confidence that such preaching makes the commandments far more burdensome than John contends in this passage. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Distinction Between Law and Gospel Part 5

On today's program I finished my response to John Frame's article on the distinction between Law and Gospel. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Joshua Genig's Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy

On today's program, I addressed a recent article published in First Things (which can be found here), in which former LCMS pastor Joshua Genig explains his reasons for joining the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Why Should Churches Have Liturgy?

“There is no point in repeating words every week that have no meaning to me.” That’s a sentiment often heard surrounding the use of liturgy in the church service. In a way, the statement is correct. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for using lengthy prayers to somehow gain favor with God, because their heart was not involved in their supplications. However, such a disinterested vein repetition need not accompany the use of the liturgy when we understand the meaning and purpose of what is being said. Martin Luther criticized the use of Latin in the church services of the Middle Ages because the people could not understand what was being said. We do the same thing today if we do not explain the meaning of the words and customs that we use. There are several reasons why the use of liturgy is particularly helpful and important for the church. I will outline three below:

It’s Biblical.
Most of the contents of the worship service are taken directly from Scripture. The worship service opens with the invocation: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The Trinitarian address is used in this manner in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus gives the disciples the great commission. When we begin the service in this way, we are confessing that it is God who is bringing us together in the congregation, and that it is God who is working during the service. The next element of the worship service is confession and absolution. This is also a Scriptural practice, as we are called by God to confess our sins (1 John 1:9), and pastors are called to forgive sins (John 20:22-23). The various canticles that are often sung during worship services are taken directly from Scripture, such as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), and the Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32). A liturgical service also has three Scripture readings, and sometimes a Psalm reading. Hearing and reciting liturgy is hearing and reciting the Word of God!

It’s Historic.
I studied the early church fathers in college, and I will never forget one of the experiences I had reading the third century writer St. Hippolytus. I was looking through one of his books for a paper I was writing, and I came across a section where he discussed what the early Christian worship services looked like. Hippolytus discussed how the Communion service began with the words: “The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.” This is exactly what liturgical churches say even today! When we use the liturgy, we come to realize and express that we are part of the same church as those who have lived throughout the centuries. We see ourselves as part of God’s great story in gathering his church together, and leading us by his Spirit!

It Reflects Heavenly Worship.
The book of Revelation gives us a taste of what worship in heaven looks like. John explains how the twenty-four elders surround the throne of God wearing white robes, and they have a song that repeats itself: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8). The congregation of angels and saints also are said to repeat certain words together, such as “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 6:12). The worshipping community also often prostrate themselves, falling to the ground, to express the holiness and greatness of the God they worship (Rev. 6:14). When a liturgical church uses robes, singing, corporate readings of praises to God, and practices kneeling during different parts of the service, she is reflecting the very worship we will all experience in heaven. Worship is not simply a picture of heaven, but when we gather together to praise our Lord, heaven and earth meet! God is with us, and so are all the angels and saints crying: “Holy, holy holy is the Lord God Almighty!”

The Distinction Between Law and Gospel Part 4

On today's program, I continued to critique John Frame's article on the Lutheran distinction between Law and Gospel. On this show, I addressed the positive use of the Law in the life of the believer. I talked about the necessity of the third use of the Law, and why that does not contradict a strict distinction between God's two words of command and promise. I also briefly discussed the New Perspective on Paul at the end of the program.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Distinction Between Law and Gospel

I have been behind on updating this blog, since I now use as my primary blog. There are a few updates to give for those who have not kept up with the site. I released a series of three podcasts in response to John Frame's critique of the traditional Lutheran Law and Gospel distinction.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I also recently released C.F.W. Walther's The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel as volume 7 in the American Lutheran Classics series. It can be found here. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sources and Methods of Theology

On today's program I was joined by Pastor Daniel Emery Price and Pastor Lewis Polzin of Boars in the Vineyard to discuss the first chapter of Henry Eyster Jacobs' work A Summary of the Christian Faith. We talked about the different branches of theology, the role of apologetics, and the relationship between Scripture and tradition.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Justification and the Christian Life: A Response to Steve Lawson

On today's program I responded to a recent lecture by Calvinistic Baptist pastor, Steve Lawson from the 2014 Shepherd's Conference. The lecture was on sanctification in the Christian life, and I showed why his approach is mistaken. This led into a discussion of justification and its centrality in the Christian life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two Kinds of Election

On today's program I answered listener questions about the Lutheran doctrine of election as a follow up to the discussion about Arminianism last week. I spent time looking the Formula of Concord's discussion of the topic, the relevant Scripture texts, and Pieper's Christian Dogmatics

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Conditional Election and Prevenient Grace

On today's program I answered two listener questions. The first had to do with the idea of prevenient grace in Arminianism and Lutheranism. This led into a discussion of the intuitu fidei approach to election that developed in the scholastic period. I then dealt with some common proof texts for Arminianism.

Here is the program.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Summary of the Christian Faith

"A Summary of the Christian Faith" is Henry Eyster Jacobs' magnum opus. It is a systematic theology of the Christian faith written in a catechetical format from a Confessional Lutheran perspective. The work is written in a series of questions and answers on various doctrinal topics. Throughout the work, Jacobs defends his views through use of Scripture and the Lutheran fathers. This text is readable enough to be studied by the layman but with enough depth to teach the learned pastor and scholar."

Available here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Importance of Liturgy

On today's program I was joined by Dr. Curtis Leins, the assistant presiding pastor of the AALC, and professor of Church History and Liturgics at the American Lutheran Theological Seminary. He discussed his studies in liturgics, why churches should not abandon the liturgy, and various other topics.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Introduction to Eastern Orthodoxy

I began a discussion on Eastern Orthodoxy, giving some of the history and basic differences between the Eastern and Western church. This is the first part in a series of shows that will deal with the unique teachings of the Eastern Church.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Two Kinds of Righteousness with Dr. Joel Biermann

On today's program I was joined by Dr. Joel Biermann, associateprofessor of systematic theology at Concordia Theological Seminary inSt. Louis. We discussed the controversy surrounding "two kinds ofrighteousness" and its place in Lutheran theology.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Limited Atonement in the History of the Church

On today's program I answered a listener question about limited atonement in the history of the church. I discussed the early church, the middle ages, and the Reformation. I made the argument that limited atonement is absent from the early and medieval church with the exception of Thomas Gottschalk.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Overview of the New Perspective on Paul

On today's program I addressed the movement known as the "New Perspective on Paul." I gave an overview of the movement, detailing the views of the four major figures: Krister Stendahl, E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N.T. Wright.  I gave a brief critique of the major ideas involved in the movement, and pointed to helpful resources.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Response to JD Hall on Infant Baptism

I was joined by Daniel Price of Boars in the Vineyard to discuss a recent argument against a Lutheran view of baptism by Pr. JD Hall on his program Pulpit and Pen.

The article Hall critiqued is found here

Andrew Taylor has written a helpful three part response:

Part 1                Part 2                Part 3

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

St. Francis of Assisi

I was joined by Fr. David Graves of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wartburg, Tennessee to discuss St. Francis of Assisi. We discussed Francis' life, misconceptions about him, and how he is important for the contemporary church.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Discussion with Daniel Price on the Charismatic Movement

On this week's program, I did a follow up to the Michael Brown interview with Pastor Daniel Price. We talked about Pastor Price's history in the charismatic movement, his transition into Lutheranism, and some worries we have about contemporary charismatic theology and practice. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Interview with Dr. Michael Brown

I was going to wait until next week to upload my latest podcast, but due to all of the controversy surrounding Dr. Brown's recent appearance on Benny Hinn's program, I thought it would be better to release it right away. I talked with Dr. Brown about the charismatic movement, the reasoning behind his appearance on Benny Hinn, and many other topics.

And be sure to listen to our follow up program next week!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What to Expect from Just and Sinner in 2014

2013 has been a great year. We launched the new website and the publishing house. This was also the first full year of podcasting. Many of you have helped us immensely with your prayers, encouragement and financial support. Thank you for all of your help!

2014 is going to be an even greater year. We have many new ventures lined up, and here are some of the things that you can expect:

More books in the American Lutheran Classics series. Some books you can look forward to are Francis Pieper's Conversion and Election, and Henry Eyster Jacobs' excellent Systematic Theology text A Summary of the Christian Faith (in two volumes) and David Henkel's Response to Joseph Moore the Methodist which is a defense of the historic Lutheran view of Baptism.

A new book series by Just and Sinner Publications, which is a reprinting of The Lutheran Commentary Seriesedited by Henry Eyster Jacobs. These volumes cover the entirety of the New Testament and represent a Confessional Lutheran approach to Holy Scripture. 

Two more books that I am writing will be released this year Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, and The Great Divide: A Lutheran Evaluation of Reformed Theology

Our publishing house will be putting out the first of our original books which is a study on the book of Genesis, written for congregational use. This will be the first of a series of books for Bible Study. 

I will be writing two original books: one on the doctrine of sanctification, and another in response to the recently published book on limited atonement From Heaven He Came and Sought Her. The first is in the works, and one or both of these books will be finished by the end of the year.

More programs on a variety of theological topics and a number of great guests will be featured. 

The publication of a new theological journal titled The American Lutheran Theological Journal, which I will be working on with a number of other Lutheran pastors and theologians.

I also plan to expand the work of Just & Sinner into the area of video production. The ideas are still in the works at this point but expect videos to either be featured online or for sale on DVD.

At least one debate with someone from a differing theological perspective.

We are excited about all that is coming up this year, but we can't do it without your help! Please consider becoming a regular contributor, and help us get the resources out into the world.