Paul's Passing Thoughts

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.”

Greetings from the Potters 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.

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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.

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.

Does Protestantism Require Church Membership for Salvation?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 30, 2015

PPT HandleIt most certainly does, but the reason church membership is required by the Protestant faith is far more scandalous than that one symptom. We will start with the core gospel of the Protestant religion, and then see how required membership in the local church is efficacious to its gospel.

How “Christians” that are far removed from the original Protestant tradition function is no defense for its official Reformed gospel. Protestants can’t have it both ways though they try. They excuse what Luther and Calvin taught because not all Protestants function by every jot and tittle. But on the other hand, they deem other religions as false based on their original statement of faith. Obviously, no Protestant will give a Buddhist a pass for one second because, “Not all Buddhists believe the exact same things that Buddha believed.”

By and large, the problem is that most Protestants really don’t know what the Protestant gospel is, and when they are confronted, they choose to defend their investment in it for whatever reason. At least one reason follows: investing in the truth is hard work. Protestantism, like many other religions, propagates the farming-out of their faith to the experts. Of course, that is very ill advised.

First, we will look at a summary of the Protestant gospel, and then establish the summary with specific citations. The core principle is progressive justification. This is the idea that salvation is a process and not a onetime passing from death to life. This fact about Protestantism surprises many Protestants. Many tout “once saved always saved,” but that’s not what the Reformers taught at all. They taught that the justified state was a progression from definitive justification to final justification, and the process in the middle is subjective justification. The process in the middle is really progressive justification, but many Reformed scholars deny that in the face of insurmountable evidence. In fact, the title of chapter 14 in book 3 of the Calvin Institutes is, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” In other words, justification is present continuance; it’s not a onetime finished event.

As we will see, the institutional church established by the church at Rome circa 4th century is deemed as God’s institution that oversees the progression of justification for God’s people. Unless you are a member of a local church, your salvation cannot progress from point A to point B. Remember, the Reformation did not really seek to replace the “Mother Church,” but rather sought to reform it. Luther, Calvin, nor their mentor St. Augustine ever officially left the Catholic Church. Luther and Calvin had a dying devotion to Augustine until the end who is an official Doctor of Grace in the Catholic Church until this day.

Foundational to Protestantism is the idea that Christ’s death served two purposes for sin: an unconditional forgiveness of past sin, and a conditional forgiveness for “present sin” and future sin. The condition for receiving forgiveness for “present” and future sin was membership in the local church signified and confirmed by water baptism. They didn’t teach baptismal regeneration directly, but taught that forgiveness of present and future sin can only be received in the church, and only water baptism made someone a true member of the church:

“Wherefore, our initiation into the fellowship of the church is, by the symbol of ablution, to teach us that we have no admission into the family of God, unless by his goodness our impurities are previously washed away” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.20).

“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).

“…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).

“. . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead” (Luther’s Works: American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955, vol. 34, p. 163).

“. . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ. is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners” (Ibid, p.164).

“For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually” (Ibid., p.190).

“Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured” (Ibid., p.191).

Hence, notice that there is no distinction made between sins committed as unbelievers and sins committed as believers. Sin is sin and needs a perpetual forgiveness in order for the “believer” to remain justified. The only difference is unconditional forgiveness (sin committed as an unbeliever) and conditional forgiveness, i.e., you can only receive forgiveness as a member of the local church.

Also note the shocking assertion, usually attributed to Catholic priests, that pastors/elders have the authority to grant forgiveness for present and future sin.

paul

Bible Interpretation, the Rapture, and the Problem with Salvation

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

Children of the Reformation are crippled in their ability to understand the Bible because of the Reformation’s salvation/justification prism. In other words, we have a very strong tendency to interpret every verse through the prism of eternal salvation. This makes weak sanctification/kingdom living part and parcel with Reformation history. In fact, the Reformation gospel makes sanctification a mere extension of justification. There is justification, and that “experienced subjectively” (sanctification) and then “final justification.” Their words, not mine.

Hence, in the Bible, rewards in context of sanctification are seen as the reward of salvation. The attempt to make the reward salvation while claiming salvation by faith alone becomes a convoluted theological mess. Complicating the matter are many Bible passages that, in fact, seem to say that we obtain final salvation through perseverance. This is because our minds have been trained to interpret Scripture through a singular salvation prism.

“Singular salvation.” That is a point in and of itself. How many Christians think there is only ONE salvation? All save a few. How many think salvation and redemption are the same thing? All save a few. Salvation is the new birth; redemption is the salvation of the body when Christ comes to claim what is His. Seeing the two as the same thing creates a plethora of interpretive problems, and there are many other examples that could be cited.

And far from being the least of these interpretive problems is the idea that salvation is both gift and reward. The Reformed get around this by categorizing works into two categories: faith alone works that aren’t really works per se, and works that are really works. Yes, salvation is a gift, but it is also a reward for doing your part to obtain salvation via faith alone works. Key to understanding this concept is the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event. By doing gospel works, or faith alone works grounded in the “salvation event,” the works of Christ are imputed to your sanctification and “subjective justification” is kept properly on track until “final justification.”

Doing your part to keep your salvation isn’t works salvation because it is a prescribed faith alone work. If you do A, Christ will do B, and you get to keep your salvation. In Reformed circles that usually includes partaking in the “means of grace.” Since it is “the means of grace” it is not works. This usually includes formal church membership, “putting yourself under the authority of godly men,” sitting under Reformed preaching, partaking in the Lord’s Table, and “deep repentance” for sins that separate you from grace, etc.

The result is a missing, and massive kingdom living construct. Also missing is an understanding of any kind of gravity concerning kingdom living. How we participate in sanctification has no implications other than salvation. Until the recent resurgence of the Reformed gospel that makes final salvation the consequence of sanctification, kingdom living was relegated to mere fire insurance.

So, what is the point of this post? Christians must relearn and cultivate an understanding of incentives regarding kingdom living. One is present life more abundantly, peace, assurance, and blessings. The eternal ones are a little bit more difficult to understand, but sound pretty cool:

Daniel 12:3 – And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

This is some kind of eternal reward for the soul winner. Other such eternal rewards can be found in the seven letters to the assemblies in Revelation. But like I said, the present rewards are easier to understand and have immediate benefits. At any rate, again, this is a body of wisdom that needs cultivation.

Let me SUGGEST another one. Not that it will do any good, but let me state that this is just an idea I am putting out there for consideration. Here, I will repeat it again, knowing that the attempt is futile, but nevertheless,

THIS IS JUST AN IDEA I AM PUTTING OUT THERE FOR CONSIDERATION.   

con·sid·er·a·tion

kənˌsidərˈāSH(ə)n/

noun

Careful thought, typically over a period of time. “a long process involving a great deal of careful consideration” synonyms:   thought, deliberation, reflection, contemplation, rumination, meditation;

NOT DOGMA.

Here is my thought. The rapture is a reward for suitable kingdom living. When the rapture happens, not everyone left behind is lost. Is that screaming I hear in the distance? Probably. What in the world would give me such an idea? Let me share:

Revelation 3:10 – Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. [Present reward?] 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. [Present reward?] 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. [Eternal reward?] Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Obviously, the hour of trial coming upon the world is the tribulation period. Here, being saved from that hour seems to be a reward (crown) for perseverance. You have two choices here: the reward is either the rapture or salvation. No? What am I missing? It wouldn’t be the first time that rapture was reward and didn’t include all of the saved (see “Enoch”).  Also, Paul spoke of a reward for those “who have loved his appearing.” This is the “righteousness” crown (2Timothy 4:8).

What about all of the indifference among Christians concerning the rapture? What about all of the indifference regarding the New Testament call to be continually looking for the Lord’s unexpected and imminent return? Could this indifference stem from a fundamental ignorance in regard to sanctification?

There are many Christians in our day who reject the rapture, so should they expect to be a part of it? Is it some kind of secondary truth that is optional?

This is an attempt, perhaps a lame one, to get Christians to think more deeply about kingdom living and our present calling. Just food for thought. We need to challenge each other to think beyond orthodoxy. We need to set our kingdom living on fire.

paul

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