3 Problems With Luther’s Opinion of James

Earlier I wrote about Martin Luther’s problem with the book of James. Luther wants justification to be by faith only. James disagrees with Luther. This led Luther to say the following:

“Therefore St James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it . . . The epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the Papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest…Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove . . . I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.”

I would like to make several points about this quote.

First, he says James has “nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.” This is a common attack on James, probably from people copying Luther. James only mentions Jesus Christ twice. He makes no mention of resurrection, Gospel, the cross, or any other Gospely words.

The reason is not because James doesn’t know the Gospel or is somehow opposed to it (his half-brother was the Messiah, people!). The reason is because he’s writing to a group of people, Jewish Christians, who already think they are saved and yet are showing no signs of conversion.  He is writing to defeat easy-believism. He wants people to know that even demons believe! Faith isn’t the whole story.

James is an epistle intended for an audience in our day as well. James is very practical. People don’t like practical; we like the theoretical. We’d rather theoretically believe we are saved than actually have to practically live as though we were. James knows our state today; it was the same state of religion in his day. There is nothing new under the sun.

Secondly, Luther says James gives us trouble because “the Papists embrace it alone.” Most of the push-back I’ve received about questioning justification by faith alone, has been phrased in fears of Catholicism. I have been accused of being Catholic and of dragging my church back into Catholicism. I find this ridiculous.

I am not Catholic. I feel creepy just going into Catholic type places. I am not telling anyone to become Catholic. I don’t want you to light candles, do holy water things, do hand motion kneeling things, baptize babies (which Luther did despite his “by faith alone” bluster), or any other man-made, humanly devised rituals that accomplish nothing but feelings.

Accusing people of becoming Catholic, or undoing the Reformation, for questioning the unbiblical idea of justification by faith alone is merely the modern day political response of your enemy politician being Hitler. I recommend some more thought on the issue rather than a flippant dismissal and fearmongering about being Catholic.

Here’s a little historical fact for you: James was not Catholic.

Third, Luther says “some Jew” saw Christian faith and said ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.” Notice what Luther did to James’ quote. Luther says James “urges works alone.” Did you get that? Did James ever say people were justified by works alone? No he did not.

The main problem with Luther’s theology appears to be a habit of putting “alone” in places where no one put “alone.”

This is where you know Luther is getting carried away. He’s just making stuff up now. He made up that Paul said we were justified by faith alone, which Paul never said. He made up that James said we were justified by works alone, which James never said.

Slightly rephrasing quotes is quite common in Christianity, and other areas as well. Get original quotes, not people’s quotations of quotes. Go to the source. James and Paul don’t say what Luther says they say. Read the Bible. Seriously. Read the Bible. Check what you hear with Scripture. Test the spirits.

Luther was right to question the Catholic Church, particularly on their idea that you need the Catholic Church, its priests, and systems to get right with God. You don’t. Kudos to Luther for sticking his neck out to fight that fight.

But Luther is just a guy and just as fallible as a pope, which amounts to a lot fallible. I am also fallible. Here’s some news: you are fallible too.

Our job is to read Scripture and help each other understand more and more of it. To assemble together to encourage one another to good works, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.

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Why the Church is Talking About Healing so Much

My last few posts have been about Charismatic Healing doctrines. I am hearing Christians talk more and more about healing these days, which got me thinking.

Back in the 60’s-70’s the Charismatic emphasis was on love and happy thoughts, Hippies for Jesus and Jesus People.

In the 80’s Charismatics emphasized speaking in tongues.

In the 90’s it was all about prosperity and wealth.

Now it seems Charismatics are pushing physical healing.

The emphasis did not exclude the existence of these other things, they all go together, but there were definite emphases.

Most of these, with the exception of tongues, since I can’t think of why that was specifically there then, are a direct reflection of culture.

Hippies were big around Jesus People time, we promised getting high on Jesus and not on drugs. Wealth was big around the US’s booming economy followed by recessions and uncertainty. It is no surprise that in our day of constant talk about universal health care and the expense of medical treatment, that the church is pushing free health care by the Spirit.

The church is simply using what flesh people want and then promising those same flesh benefits.

Does it work? The charismatic church has been the largest growing segment of Christianity in the last 50 years, and it’s not even close.

It’s no surprise that if you want to attract people, promise them their fleshly desires at no charge.

Unfortunately, the filled churches are talking about flesh experiences so much, they rarely get around to spiritual teaching.

The church has sold our birthright for a bowl of pottage.

If only the Bible had a warning about how dumb that is.

We should all be in a state of mourning for the condition of the church today.

Definitions of Sola Scriptura Undermine Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura, the idea that the Bible is our sole source for spiritual truth, is a fine idea, not actually applied by anyone ever.

We should uphold Sola Scriptura as our aim, yet honestly admit that much of our doctrine is based on other stuff.

In fact, many who hold to Sola Scriptura have never reada the whola thinga. How, pray tell, do you claim to base all your doctrine on a book you’ve never read, let alone endeavored to understand?

“My doctrine is based on the Bible,” say all manner of people who disagree with each other on basic doctrines.

How can this be true? Is the Bible this open for interpretation? Is it that confusing? Or are people using other things to decide what they believe?

Peter does say the scriptures contain many things hard to be understood. Above that, people twist them all out of proportion. (You can read Peter’s take on that here.)

The Bible does need to be interpreted, but the authors had one intent in mind and it would serve us well to discover that.

But that’s hard. So we fall back on other authorities while still maintaining the veneer that we hold Sola Scriptura.

Check out these definitions of Sola Scriptura that come right out and say Sola Scriptura isn’t actually a thing other than in word.

By Sola Scriptura Protestants mean that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source for all doctrine and practice (faith and morals).

There is one word in there that shoots this whole definition to pieces. Did you catch it? The word is “primary.” Primary implies secondary. Primary means there are other sources. It just does. Words mean things. Something cannot be primary and absolute at the same time. They cancel each other out. So, this is either an incredibly accurate definition of Sola Scriptura based on practice, or it’s bad writing.

Get a load of this definition I saw. This one cracked me up

For the Reformers, “Scripture alone” did not mean “Scripture all by itself.” Rather, Scripture was “alone” as the only unquestionable religious authority, not the only religious authority.

Oh, that’s too much, you guys are killing me. Sola doesn’t mean Sola. Again this is either a really honest definition recognizing reality, or it’s bad writing. I think it’s actually being honest. They know Sola Scriptura is just words without meaning, because they just denied the meaning with their words.

Again, Sola Scriptura is a nice idea, but no one does it. There are some who at least admit as much.

We don’t like Sola Scriptura because it puts the Bible in the hands of the reader, which is out of our control, and who knows what they will come up with.

If you let people find out what the Bible says, they’ll probably disagree with you and cause problems. So it’s best to leave the door open for other authorities so you can smash those who veer out of the way. Welcome to Church History.

Sola Scriptura: it’s a nice idea that no one does. Feel free to be the first.

The Tithingman

Church services are not always the most thrilling events. Everyone knows this, especially pastors who are in charge of such events. You can’t be on your A Game all the time.

You all have it pretty easy today. Most periods of church history had much longer church services. Marathon sermons and prayers that took up a large portion of your Sunday.

What’s a pastor to do if church services are boring and they last a long time?

Invent a new church office: The Tithingman.

The Tithingman’s job was two-fold.

First, he made sure people actually showed up to church. If he caught you somewhere other than church on a Sunday, or saw you walking through town, he’d jump out and drag you into church. How he did this while being in church himself is still beyond my mental capacities.

Secondly, he made sure people in church were behaving, or as was more likely the case, not sleeping. He was given a long stick. One end was sharp and the other had a softer thing on it, like a feather or rabbit’s foot.

A Tithingman and his stick of discipline. Amen.

The Tithingman would go ahead and whack a sleeping man or an unruly child. Women got the soft end and a little nudge. Either way, they woke up. If you persisted in your disrespect to the church, the Tithingman had the right to punish you, often with time in the public stocks.

Although we often look back at history as darker times and people who were backward, the Tithingman seems like a really good idea. I’m all for it.

Always Doubt “Prominent” Theologians You’ve Never Heard Of

I’m reading a book written to show that Muslims, Jews, and Christians should all be able to get along since we all hold Abraham highly. We just need to agree on Jesus and everything will be fine.

The book is written by a Muslim, so the majority of the book is written to disprove the idea that Jesus Christ was actually God in the flesh.

If Christians would stop saying Jesus was God, then Jews and Muslims and Christians would be at peace.

One slight problem: if Christians did that there would be no Christianity. Christ being God is kind of our thing.

While attempting to disprove the deity of Christ, the author pulls up many texts and theological books to cast doubts on the person of Christ.

This is not my first theological book I’ve ever read. I’ve been around a while now. I’m adept at spotting signs that a guy is puffing up a weak point.

One tactic he uses frequently is in quoting a theologian (always one who is doubting the divinity of Christ) he says “noted theologian” or “prominent theologian.”

I’m a well-read Christian. I am familiar with all prominent and noted theologians. I’ve heard of just about everyone. If I haven’t heard of them, trust me, they aren’t noted or prominent.

In fact, those are superfluous words. If a theologian is prominent or noted, people would already know them. “Prominent” means “immediately noticeable, widely known.” If you have to inform us he’s prominent, then he isn’t prominent.

This is by no means unique to this particular author. I’m sure the reason he does this is because he’s writing primarily to a non-Christian audience who wouldn’t know a Christian theologian if he smacked them in the face (not that a Christian theologian would ever do that). But I’ve seen this many times, and never once have I read it about a theologian I’ve heard of.

There are a lot of bad theologians out there and a ton of false information. Be skeptical of quotes from “prominent” and “noted” people.

–Written by Jeff Weddle, prominent moron

Sunday Sabbath and Letters From Jesus

The Catholic Church, like many churches, have invented their fair share of new doctrines. Convincing people to buy into these new doctrines was not always easy.

One of the ways employed several times to convince people was to suddenly find or receive a letter from Jesus Christ telling people to do exactly what it was the Catholic Church had been telling people to do! Pretty handy.

There was one letter, received from heaven, telling people that Sunday was the Sabbath day and should be a day of rest.

Although Constantine had made Sunday the official day for Christian worship (although it was hard to tell who he was actually telling people to worship), tying in Jewish rules of rest into Sunday’s was a much later idea.

Initially, Sunday Sabbath didn’t catch on too well. Until, lo and behold, Jesus done wrote us a letter!

Here are the contents of Jesus’ letter from heaven telling people to not work on Sundays.

                 A LETTER OF JESUS CHRIST.

WHOSOEVER worketh on the Sabbath-day shall be cursed, I command you to go to church, and keep the Lord’s Day Holy, without doing any manner of work. You shall not idly spend your time for bedecking yourself with superfluities of costly apparel, and vain dresses for I have ordained a day of rest.  I will have that day kept holy that your sins be forgiven you.  You shall not break my commandments, but observe and keep them, write them in your heart, and steadfastly observe that it was written with my own hand and spoken with my own mouth.  You shall not only go to church yourself, but also send your men-servants and your maid-servants, and observe my words and learn my commandments; you shall finish your labour every Saturday in the afternoon by six o’clock, at which hour is the preparation of the Sabbath.  I advise you to fast five Fridays every year, beginning with Good Friday and continuing the four Fridays immediately following, in remembrance of the five bloody wounds which I received for all mankind.  You shall diligently and peaceably labour in your respective callings, where in it hath pleased God to call you.  You shall love one another with brotherly love; and cause them that are baptised to come to church and receive the Sacrament, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and to be made members of the Church, in so doing I will give you a long life and many blessing; and your land will flourish and your cattle bring forth in abundance; and I will give unto you many blessing and comforts in the greatest temptations, and he that doth to the contrary shall be unprofitable. I will also send hardness of heart upon them till I see them, but especialy upon the impertinent and unbelievers. He that hath giving to the poor shall not be unprofitable, remember to keep holy the Sabbath day, for the seventh day I have taken to rest myself.  And he that hath a copy of this my own letter, written with my own hand, and spoken with my own mouth, and keepeth it without publishing it to others shall not prosper; but he that publisheth it to others, shall be blessed of me, and though his sins be in number as the stars of the sky, and he believe in this he shall be pardoned; and if he believe not in this writing, and this commandment, I will send my own plagues upon him, and consume both him and his children, and his cattle. And whosoever shall have a copy of this letter, written with my own hand, and keep it in their houses nothing shall hurt them, neither lightning, pestilence, nor thunder, shall do them any hurt, and if a woman be with child, and in labour, and a copy of this letter be about her, and she firmly put her trust in me, she shall safely be delivered of her birth.

The letter didn’t go over too well. But it does show the growth of the idea that Sunday was the Sabbath and that Jewish laws must be kept on that day.

Anytime someone has to get “new revelation” to prove their point, you can rest assured they are making stuff up. Don’t fall for it.

For more information on the subject of Sunday, check out this book I am currently reading.

Sixteen Precepts for Attaining Knowledge

Thomas Aquinas, a rather intelligent individual, was once asked how one should go about attaining knowledge. Here are his 16 pointers, all worthy of reflection. Keep in mind he was a monk with all stereotypical monkish behaviors. Not sure you need to go to that level, but in general, there is sound wisdom here.

1. Advance up the streams, and do not all at once plunge into the deep: such is my caution, and your lesson.

I bid you to

2. Be cautious of speech,

3. Slower still in frequenting places of talk:

4. Embrace purity of conscience,

5. Pray unceasingly,

6. Love to keep to your cell if you wish to be admitted into the mystic wine-cellar.

7. Show yourself genial to all:

8. Pay no heed to other folk’s affairs:

9. Be not over-familiar with any person, because over-much familiarity breeds contempt, and gives occasion to distraction from study.

10. On no account mix yourself up with the sayings and the doings of persons in the outside world.

11. Most of all, avoid all useless visits, but try rather to walk constantly in the footsteps of good and holy men.

12. Never mind from whom the lesson drops, but

13. Commit to memory whatever useful advice may be uttered.

14. Give an account to yourself of your every word and action:

15. See that you understand what you hear, and never leave a doubt unsolved:

16. Lay up all you can in the storehouse of memory, as he does who wants to fill a vase. ‘Seek not the things which are beyond thee’.