Paul's Passing Thoughts

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.

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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.

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