Paul's Passing Thoughts

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 21, 2017

Originally published April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you read the transcripts from John Immel’s 2013 TANC Conference sessions if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you watch all 5 of John Immel’s sessions from last year’s 2015 TANC conference if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

Galatians 2:20 in 16 Minutes

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 15, 2015

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 22, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 4 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potter’s House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalog can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question”—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Ok, so last week we only covered thesis 7, and as discussed, sometimes these Reformed guys are as clear as mud. Where the confusion comes in regards Luther’s position on mortal versus venial sin. Per Susan’s contribution last week, we know that Luther and Calvin never left the Catholic Church, and Susan assessed the Catholic position on mortal and venial sin. With that said, what was Luther’s position?

Look, here is the same advice I gave Susan in regard to her research on Jonathan Edwards: sometimes, there is just no way of knowing what these guys are trying to say, so you have to look for the places that can be defined and draw conclusions accordingly. The way Luther goes about thesis 7 could be debated until the second coming. So what’s he saying definitively? Well, let’s go to thesis 12:

In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.

This becomes sufficiently clear from what has been said. For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26), and according to another (Ps. 141:4), »Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds«.

Bingo. That’s pretty clear. For all practical purposes, according to Luther, the deeds of the saved and unsaved alike are all mortal sins. Even if Luther makes room for sins being authentically venial in the subjective Christian life, it makes no difference because mankind cannot do a good deed or any work that would be meritorious before God. In order to be saved, an individual must disavow the possibility of good works and assume every act is a mortal sin.

Susan is in the midst of some very heavy research, and has been sharing some of it with me. At times she will read excerpts from Edwards and there is no way in hades to know what the guy is saying. But, according to the subject, you can draw from what the guy has said in other places and draw your conclusions. And that’s what we are doing here.

While we are on thesis 12, let’s note this:

For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26).

Bingo—that’s the Reformation gospel in a nutshell. You are still a wretched unregenerate sinner, and a perpetual return to the same repentance that saved you keeps you justified. The saving death of Christ is continually reapplied to your life along with His imputed obedience as well. This is what Paul David Trip et al call “A lifestyle of repentance” echo, echo, echo, echo.

And by the way, if you have any complaint at all about the way your church is run, this is what you will probably hear: “Who are you to judge? You should be busy accusing yourself rather than others lest you fall from grace.” And I don’t have a problem with that and nether should you. Why? Well at least they know what Protestantism is about. They are just being good Protestants, it is what it is.

And here’s another thing; I claim a liberty for myself that I think is biblical. I refuse to pass judgement on who is going to hell and who isn’t. Not only is hell a terrible place of eternal torment that I would not literally wish on anybody, but I choose to leave that assessment where it belongs; in the hands of God. Do you know why people want me to draw the hell conclusion from my assessment of true gospel versus false gospel? Here’s why: they want to use that to shut down discussion and subsequent discovery. See, when TANC ministries comes up, they want to say, “Ya, Dohse believes that Martin Luther and John Calvin are burning in hell.” See, that shuts down discussion. But if they tell the truth and say, “Dohse believes the Reformation gospel is progressive justification,” well, now that induces curiosity and discovery.

Listen, who am I to be going around saying that this guy is going to hell and that guy is going to hell? That’s not my place, but the bigger point is that such behavior becomes the topic and not the substantive discussion of true gospel versus false gospel. The former utilizes a jump from presuppositions to conclusion so that the substantive is circumvented. Don’t fall for that garbage.

Let’s now proceed to thesis eight:

Thesis 8: By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

The inevitable deduction from the preceding thesis is clear. For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God, »for God opposes the haughty. Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.

This thesis supplies a couple of major hallmarks of the Reformation. But I better pause here to head off a danger at the pass. Don’t be tempted to think that this point by point assessment of the FIRST Reformation doctrinal statement is redundant. It’s not. In all of this, I am becoming more and more appreciative of Luther’s genius. Throughout this document, Luther is not only putting forth a foundational doctrinal statement, he is teaching people how to think and what to think about the finer points of life. Luther isn’t saying the same things in a different way, he is redefining the elements of collective thinking that are possible exits out of the foundational premise. At the end of this study, one could put together a counter disputation, and maybe I will.

Here, he defines “pride.” What is that according to Luther, and frankly every Reformer after him? Pride, according to Luther, is the heart of sin: “Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere.” Here we see two major epistemologies or metaphysical hermeneutics of the Reformation: First, the common man cannot only do anything that would find favor with God, the common man cannot know reality. Second, every truth has a counter truth. Said another way, opposites define each other. In Plato’s theory of forms, reality descends from the immutable objective to the mutable and shadowy subjective. Ascent to the objective begins by finding those things that are immutable in the subjective shadow world.

plato-forms

For Plato, that was math among other things, but along this same line of epistemology is dualism, or what’s called “co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts.” Do you see this in thesis 8? It’s pride and humility. We also refer to this as the either/or hermeneutic. There is no in-between, it’s either/or. There is no taking pride in what you do without being prideful. There is no taking of satisfaction from a job well done; you are either humble or prideful.

And, this is also key, what is humbleness’ key attribute? Right, fear; specifically fear of condemnation…”For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God.”

Your only chance of getting into heaven in the end is doubts that you will. Luther and Calvin both equated eternal security with damning pride. Tullian Tchividjian once joked that Presbyterians differ from Baptists because Presbyterians don’t call each other “brothers” because no one knows for certain whether that’s the case or not. The joke bought the house down, but as the saying goes, the truth in a joke is what often makes it funny.

Once again, this is also right out of the Calvin Institutes:

Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, who is kindly offered to us, and comes forth to meet us: he will number us among his flock, and keep us within his fold. But anxiety arises as to our future state. For as Paul teaches, that those are called who were previously elected, so our Savior shows that many are called, but few chosen (Mt. 22:14). Nay, even Paul himself dissuades us from security, when he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12). And again, “Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee,” (Rom. 11:20, 21). In fine, we are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all (CI 3.24.6).

As we have discussed before, Calvin’s election construct has three categories: the non-elect, the temporary elect, and those who persevere. No one knows whether they make it or not until they are revealed as such in the final judgement. This is known as “final justification when the sons of God are made manifest.” Apparently, they are made manifest by their “accompanied good works” which were really performed by Jesus and not them. This aversion to eternal security is also demonstrated by the likes of John Piper:

There is danger on the way to salvation in heaven. We need ongoing protection after our conversion. Our security does not mean we are home free. There is a battle to be fought (John Piper: Bethlehem Baptist Church Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Elect Are Kept by the Power of God October 17, 1993).

Of course, the apostle John’s stated purpose for writing the book of 1John directly contradicts this idea. Let’s move on to thesis 9:

Thesis 9: To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.

For in this way men become certain and therefore haughty, which is perilous. For in such a way God is constantly deprived of the glory which is due him and which is transferred to other things, since one should strive with all diligence to give him the glory-the sooner the better. For this reason the Bible advises us, »Do not delay being converted to the Lord.« For if that person offends him who withdraws glory from him, how much more does that person offend him who continues to withdraw glory from him and does this boldly! But whoever is not in Christ or who withdraws from him withdraws glory from him, as is well known.

Luther here has a problem with the idea that good works can be performed by the unbelieving or believing and such works do not condemn, but are merely dead works that cannot earn merits for justification. This now brings us to what the Reformers believe is the sole purpose for all existence: God’s glory. Any concession that man can do anything good robs God of glory.

Man can indeed do good works, but in regard to the unsaved, it is true that in the end that only results in less condemnation, but Luther isn’t even willing to conceded that. If people can do good works resulting in less condemnation—that robs God of glory. Furthermore, it removes fear of condemnation from some works which also robs God of glory.

This is why Luther’s disputation is said to be the cross story versus the glory story: any glory not given to God is claimed by man; hence, the glory story, or the story of man. It can’t be a story about God and man, All glory must be granted to God. You are either living in the cross metaphysical narrative or the glory of man metaphysical narrative.

Thesis 10: Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

This I prove in the following way: Scripture does not speak of dead things in such a manner, stating that something is not mortal which is nevertheless dead. Indeed, neither does grammar, which says that »dead« is a stronger term than »mortal«. For the grammarians call a mortal work one which kills, a »dead« work not one that has been killed, but one that is not alive. But God despises what is not alive, as is written in Prov. 15:8, »The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.«

Second, the will must do something with respect to such a dead work, namely, either love or hate it. The will cannot hate a dead work since the will is evil. Consequently the will loves a dead work, and therefore it loves something dead. In that act itself it thus induces an evil work of the will against God whom it should love and honor in this and in every deed.

This thesis makes another argument against the idea that good works can be performed by mankind, but they are dead works in regard to justification. If mankind can perform a good deed, if mankind is competent, if mankind has some sort of ability, then why would that not include the ability to choose? This speaks to the Reformed doctrine of total inability. The Reformed continually claim this doctrine as uniquely Reformed and contrary to all other religions throughout history. This is not true; in fact, the total depravity of mankind coupled with determinism of some sort has been the overwhelming norm from the beginning of time. We delved into this historical fact in our Romans series (lessons 55-64).

What I would like to focus on in this thesis is Luther’s mention of grammar and the “grammarians.” What is a grammarian? A grammarian is someone who studies world linguistics. A grammarian also studies the connections between linguistics and the interpretation of reality. By and large, a grammarian is going to take a literal approach to interpreting reality; ie., things are as they appear. Another way of stating it: reality can be understood empirically. Hence, man can reason and understand reality.

This is going to be my subject at this year’s conference. The Reformers did not hold to a literal interpretation of realty. Obviously, St. Augustine was heavily steeped in allegory. This is what most Christians don’t understand: the Reformation was about the interpretation of reality itself, and how the Bible should be used for that purpose.

The Reformers didn’t reject biblical grammarianism, but made it secondary to the redemptive view of reality, or the idea that all of reality should be interpreted by “the gospel.” If the use of grammar leads to a redemptive outcome, wonderful. If it doesn’t, you use allegory to insure a redemptive outcome. The Reformed therefore often claim to be grammarians which is blatantly disingenuous. And look, the Reformed camp is not the least bit shy about all of this. We can see in this thesis how Luther was willing to use the grammar for the outcome he desired. In essence, he is saying: look, if the simpleton grammarians even think that something dead cannot contribute anything to life, how much more should we believe it as well?  

And look, the Reformed camp is not the least bit shy about all of this. In his book, “Uneclipsing The Son,” by John MacArthur confidant and rumored heir apparent Rick Holland, he states that “bad grammar makes good theology” (page 39). The who’s who of American evangelicalism endorsed the book, and John MacArthur wrote the forward. As should be surmised by the title, the book is an in-your-face Gnostic treatise. The whole eclipsing the sun motif is a well-traveled illustration in Neo-Platonist/Gnostic circles. In the forward, MacArthur makes shocking statements that include the following idea: the subordination of God the Father and the Spirit to the Son.

If one does not interpret the Bible as a grammarian, all bets are off. While the Catholics made printing the Bible illegal, the Protestants merely took away individual interpretation and made biblical knowledge “the Gnosis.” Also, here is an aside: why did Christ emphasize the new birth to Nicodemus? The guy was “the” teacher in Israel and had never even heard of the new birth. Why? because Judaism was saturated with Gnostic philosophy and the infusion of divinity into a mortal being was unthinkable. The guy’s very name even reflects the Gnostic politic: nico; victory; demus; people; or, victory over the people. The most prominent Gnostic sect of the day was the Nicolaitans which means “victory over the laity.”

Now, next week, we are going to use theses 11 and 12 as an introduction to thesis 13 and following where Luther gets into the foundational position of free will according to the Reformation. We have heard lots of discussion about freewill for many years; next week, we will define the issue.

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 13, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 3 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

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Let’s start out with an interpretation prism that just struck me this week. Have you ever thought about this? Think about it: all of Reformed doctrine developed during the Reformation presumed a church state. That means the doctrine itself was tailored for an outcome that required oversight by the state. So, if Luther came back from the dead and visited the church today he would be delighted in regard to the doctrine being taught, but would be absolutely aghast that the church is functioning without the state enforcement of orthodoxy. When Luther is showed the carnage of today’s church in this scenario, he says in the modern vernacular, “Duh, there’s no enforcement of orthodoxy. The patients are running the Psych ward!”

In other words, the doctrine presupposes bad behavior necessarily restrained by the enforcement of orthodoxy, and by the way, that’s exactly how Calvin ran Geneva. So, what we have today is a Protestant doctrine designed for a theocracy functioning in a representative republic. Just a thought, now let’s move on to thesis 7.

Thesis 7: The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

This is clear from Thesis 4. To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

In the second place, it is clear from the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 143:2), »Enter not into judgment with thy servant«, and Ps. 32:5, »I said: I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.« etc. But that these are not venial sins is clear because these passages state that confession and repentance are not necessary for venial sins. If, therefore, they are mortal sins and »all the saints intercede for them«, as it is stated in the same place, then the works of the saints are mortal sins. But the works of the saints are good works, wherefore they are meritorious for them only through the fear of their humble confession.

In the third place, it is clear from the Lord’s Prayer, »Forgive us our trespasses« (Matt. 6:12). This is a prayer of the saints, therefore those trespasses are good works for which they pray. But that these are mortal sins is clear from the following verse, »If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses« (Matt. 6:15). Note that these trespasses are such that, if unforgiven, they would condemn them, unless they pray this prayer sincerely and forgive others.

In the fourth place, it is clear from Rev. 21:27, »Nothing unclean shall enter into it« (the kingdom of heaven). But everything that hinders entrance into the kingdom of heaven is mortal sin (or it would be necessary to interpret the concept of »mortal sin« in another way). Venial sin, however, hinders because it makes the soul unclean and has no place in the kingdom of heaven. Consequently, etc.

Ok, this thesis is about as clear as mud. But in context, this is how I interpret it, and by the way, most Reformed scholars agree: everything a believer does is evil whether it appears good or bad by human standards. Let me get to the crux here: if any person saved or unsaved thinks they can do a good work that God would look upon and say, “That’s a good deed, it won’t save him/her, but the deed in and of itself is a good deed” that’s mortal sin; ie., condemning sin.

Hence, a Christian is in a state of perpetual sin of the mortal type. Believing such, and attending every good work with fear is venial or forgivable sin. Saving faith is the belief that Christians are under condemnation. This is what the Reformed mean by the Christian life being lived out “subjectively.”

Good and bad things happen and we don’t really know what’s really good or bad or who is doing it or what kind of good or bad works they are.

Let me explain: first, as we saw in the other theses, what appears good to man is really evil, and what appears evil is really good. Man can’t even judge good from evil. For example, man sees suffering as bad, but all wisdom is hidden in suffering. Secondly, we have no way of knowing whether God is doing the work or we are doing the work. Remember Luther’s old and rusty hatchet illustration from last week? So, you just kind of live out your life subjectively, and whatever happens is ok just so you realize that anything initiated by you is evil, and what appears to be good might be a manifestation of Christ’s righteousness or one of your evil works by virtue of the fact that you did the work. Either way, you have no way of knowing as you are “living out justification subjectively” or what is known as “subjective justification.” The key is to live your life in fear that you might come to believe that you can do anything that has merit with God.

Do we have examples of this in our day? Sure we do. How often have you heard a professing Christian say, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it! It was the Holy Spirit who did it!” Often, you can even see the fear in them that someone will believe they did the work. This also relates to other people. I once had a congregant (a financially poor single mother) tell me that a person who gave them a car didn’t really give them the car (and I am talking a new car by the way), but rather it was the Holy Spirit who gave her the car. You see, if you concede that someone else can do a good work, that is also saying you can do a good work, and that’s mortal sin. Here is another one: “Jesus did it THROUGH me.” What’s that? That’s Luther’s old rusty hatchet, right? Like a hatchet, you are completely passive and God just picks you up and starts whacking away on stuff.

Where do people get this in our day? Right here—you are looking at it. The Heidelberg Disputation 1518 practically applied in 2015.

We are going to look at thesis 7 in a little more detail, but first, let’s get another big picture; let’s address this idea of perpetual condemning sin and the traditional Reformed remedy. We are going to call on our good friend John Calvin to help us with this. Obviously, if Christians swim in the waters of condemnation, there needs to be a remedy, so let’s go to a trusty Reformed commentary:

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

So, daily we ask forgiveness for mortal sin (that which removes us from grace), and this “ALONE” keeps us in the family of God. But wait, did you know there is only one place where you can get that ongoing forgiveness? Let’s again consult John Calvin to find out where that place might be:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).

This is what the crux of the Reformed gospel is: a perpetual justification for perpetual condemnation. Do we have present-day examples of this? Sure we do; specifically, the interpretation of 1John 1:9 by many in Presbyterian and Baptist circles.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The idea that this verse proffers a continued repentance for “present sin” is fairly common in Protestant circles of all stripes. Of course, this boils down to keeping yourself saved via repentance. How is that not works salvation? But at any rate, it begins with this idea that Christians dwell in constant mortal sin that needs continued forgiveness.

Here is another example from real life: Susan was at the grocery store and ran into an old friend who is a member of a mainstream evangelical Baptist church. Somehow, the subject got onto alter calls, and Susan wondered aloud why churches have alter calls. Here was the lady’s answer: “Well, I guess people have sin in their lives that needs confession.” Why do people need to go to church to get that forgiveness? Again, we may be far away from 1518, but that doesn’t mean the fruit falls far from the tree my friends.

Let’s now look at some of the finer points of thesis 7.

To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

We begin the finer points with misplaced fear. Biblically, there is to be no fear of condemnation; in fact, love and fear of condemnation are mutually exclusive:

1John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Christians do not fear eternal condemnation because there is “NOW no condemnation” for those who believe (Romans 8:1). In contrast, Luther, as well as Calvin, cited fear of condemnation as the primary motivator of the Christian life. Luther has stated it here in thesis 7, but Calvin was a little more to the point:

Certain learned men, who lived long before the present days and were desirous to speak simply and sincerely according to the rule of Scripture, held that repentance consists of two parts, mortification and quickening. By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment. For when a man is brought to a true knowledge of sin, he begins truly to hate and abominate sin… By quickening they mean, the comfort which is produced by faith, as when a man prostrated by a consciousness of sin, and smitten with the fear of God, afterwards beholding his goodness, and the mercy, grace, and salvation obtained through Christ, looks up, begins to breathe, takes courage, and passes, as it were, from death unto life. I admit that these terms, when rightly interpreted, aptly enough express the power of repentance; only I cannot assent to their using the term quickening, for the joy which the soul feels after being calmed from perturbation and fear. It more properly means, that desire of pious and holy living which springs from the new birth; as if it were said, that the man dies to himself that he may begin to live unto God (CI 3.3.3).

This quotation by Calvin also revisits the doctrine of mortification and vivification that we discussed in prior lessons. But the main point for citing this text from the Calvin Institutes is to show that THE primary motivator of sanctification according to the Reformers was, and still is condemnation and fear of future eternal judgement.

Just please let that sink in for a while. You can’t chalk this up to a secondary disagreement with the heroes of the Protestant faith, this is the heart and soul of their soteriology. Granted, biblically, Christians are to fear present consequences in this life, and that is one of the motivators for Christian living. This is Moses’ “blessings and cursings’’ that apply to believers and unbelievers alike. However, for unbelievers, while a moral life does lead to blessings in this life, it only results in lesser condemnation in the end. For the Christian, it’s more and more life unto life. Christ came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. But, also, “judgement begins in the household of God” right? Remember Ananias and Sapphira? That event made the assemblies “fear” which actually spurred growth in the assemblies. But this is not a fear of condemnation. That kind of fear stifles love.

So let that sink in as well. Love cannot thrive in the midst of condemnation and the fear thereof. Why is the institutional church so messed up? Are you beginning to see why? Susan and I were talking about something for our grandchild to do this summer and the idea of VBS came up. I shot the idea down; for better or worse, I have studied all of this long enough to know I do not want my grandson anywhere near an institutional church that considers itself Protestant. What’s the alternative? Well, not a lie because it’s the only game in town. Christians need to get busy building true Christian communities.

But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.

We could discuss the fact that the Bible plainly states that it is perfectly ok to take satisfaction in a job well done, but the bigger and finer point is the either/or interpretive prism that is a hard fast rule in Protestant teaching. We sometimes call this the either/or hermeneutic. This concept saturates Protestantism. You can’t please yourself and God, you either totally please yourself or totally please God. You can’t be confident enough to do a job well and take satisfaction in it without being arrogant; you either have NO self-confidence, or you are making yourself God—it’s either/or with no in-between. There is no balance.

Of course, this is the Platonist aspect of Reformed theology and is the natural result of the dualism philosophy that Platonism is based on. Furthermore, I strongly suspect that it all flows from the knowledge of good and evil doctrine first presented to Eve. I think that is a whole wide open frontier of research that hasn’t been explored yet.

So, tonight we only covered thesis 7 and will continue with thesis 8 next week.

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