Don’t Confuse Your Favorite Theologian with Jesus

I’ve finished reading the 61-page Introduction to The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther, a cause for celebration.

Incidentally, I am reading a translation done by O. R. Johnston and J. I. Packer, so if you know those names, I assume they are the ones who wrote the Introduction.

The conclusion emphasized the centrality of denying free will and promoting the concept of monergism in salvation (the idea that God acts alone in saving people; we have nothing to do with it).

Faith is only something God gives you after He regenerates you, they say. Then they say this:

to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other.

Eesh. That makes me cringe all over the place. But they go a step further. Disagreeing with Luther is un-Christian and also, get this, don’t know if you knew this or not, but disagreeing with Luther means you disagree with Jesus Himself.

I’m serious. Here’s the quote:

If the almighty God of the Bible is to be our God, if the New Testament Gospel is to be our message, if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever–is any other position than Luther’s possible?

Double eesh.

Let me answer that question with a very definite “yes.”

Disagreeing with Luther is not disagreeing with Jesus. Statements like this should alert you that you’re dealing with fanboys.

He went through a list of Reformers who held Luther’s views on this issue, including John Calvin, of course. They maintain that all the Reformers, at least the ones they like, all agreed on our inability to have faith and be saved unless God does it all.

One thing all these Reformers, at least the ones they mention, have in common is that they all loved Augustine.

Disagreeing with Luther does not make you disagree with Jesus Christ; it makes you disagree with Augustine. Which is totally fine by the way.

1 John 2:27 says “the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.” If you have the Holy Spirit you don’t need a man to teach you.

If your doctrine is entirely based on a person, you’re not using the Holy Spirit. If you think you need to adhere to Luther or Calvin or Augustine or me in order to know Jesus, you’re out of your ever lovin’ mind.

People can help teach you, but to think you need a person to know Christ is insane. Never, ever elevate a person’s teaching to a level where you think disagreeing with them is disagreeing with Jesus.

Agree with Jesus; to the extent we agree with Jesus is the extent to which we will agree with each other.

This Introduction has entirely creeped me out.

Wrong Doctrine, Mystery, and Faith

The Introduction of Bondage of the Will is summarizing Luther’s words on two main issues of salvation:

1. Can man save Himself outside of God’s willing it and making Him saved? Luther’s answer is no.

2. How can God send people to hell for doing what God made them do? Luther doesn’t know.

On both points, the conclusion is that God does stuff that doesn’t make any sense to us. In fact, God often does stuff that contradicts Scripture.

I kid you not, that’s what the Introduction says: God does things that contradict Scripture. Of course he tones it down a bit to say “it seems” like it contradicts Scripture, but let’s be real here. Luther says stuff that contradicts Scripture is clearly what is being said.

Here’s a quote from Luther:

If I could by any means understand how this same God, who makes such a show of wrath and unrighteousness, can yet be merciful and just, there would be no need for faith. But as it is, the impossibility of understanding makes room for the exercise of faith.

The author of the Introduction then says in the sentence after this quote:

And it is here, when faced with appearances that seem to contradict God’s own word, that faith is tried; for here, reason rises up in arms against it.

I already had trouble with what Luther has said about free will. I already thought Luther contradicts Scripture on any number of points. But to hear him come right out and admit that he does, AND FURTHER, to say that he has to contradict Scripture in order to have faith is unreal.

Let me throw one verse at you to contrast with the two quotes above, one of my favorite verses because it clarifies so much, Romans 10:17:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

According to the Bible, God’s Word, faith means listening to God’s Word, believing exactly what God says.

According to Bondage of the Will, Luther’s word, faith means what you have when what you think disagrees with God’s word or when you don’t understand it.

It’s always amazing to me to watch people believe things and then struggle with how what they believe does not agree with the Bible. This is where “mystery” comes in.

Back to the Introduction:

Everything that God reveals about Himself transcends man’s comprehension; every doctrine, therefore, must of necessity terminate in mystery, and man must humbly acquiesce to having it so.

This is completely false. If everything God reveals is revealed to make no sense, then why did He reveal it? What’s the point of God revealing things if even after revealing it we don’t understand it?

God reveals things to be understood; that’s kind of the point of revfelation. The secret things belong to God; the things that are revealed belong to us.

Are there aspects of what God says that leave us with wonder and further questions? Certainly, but to assert that every doctrine God reveals leaves us sitting here not comprehending things is just nuts.

It’s mind boggling when theologians come to see that the Bible doesn’t say what they believe, that they don’t use that opportunity to change what they believe. Oh no! On the contrary, they get busy saying how the Bible is wrong or unclear.

They then use their non-sensical doctrine that the Bible disagrees with to be a sign of mature faith! You have faith when you have no clue what you’re talking about!

The Bible says faith is hearing God’s word. Faith is not what you have when you don’t understand God’s Word. God said stuff to be understood. Understanding God’s Word is actually what Faith is.

“By faith, all the people in Hebrews 11, sat around wondering at the mystery of what God told them to do.” Not what it says.

By faith, all the people in Hebrews 11, did exactly to the letter what God said because that’s what faith is: understanding and acting on exactly what God says. Faith does not show up in mysterious unclearness and uncomprehendingness.

If faith means trusting God when you’re clueless, then Romans 10 is out. I sincerely would mistrust anyone who told me faith is what you have in confusion. “I don’t understand anything, but oh well, guess I’ll push through and just believe.” That’s not faith.

Faith is unshakable confidence that God speaks truth and regardless of what I believe, think, or prefer, what God says is true, right, and understandable and then acts on it.

I fail to see how Luther’s understanding of faith would foster spiritual growth. Luther’s end of faith is complete confusion, not certainty–all doctrine terminates in mystery. That has to mean that the more you grow, the less you know. That’s just crazy.

Grace and Free Will

The other day I wrote a post about the long standing Christian tradition of opposing grace with human effort.

Human effort is the opposite of God’s grace. If you do stuff, you can’t have any relation with God’s grace.

Therefore, the people who emphasize grace the most are the ones who say they don’t do anything.

This explains why Calvinist doctrine, summed up with TULIP, are referred to by them as “the doctrines of grace.”

Calvinists go whole hog on this issue. They don’t think we do one thing on our own. Every single molecule of creation is always doing exactly what God tells it to do. Therefore, you don’t do anything. In their mind, this is why their doctrines are “THE doctrines of grace.”

The Introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will (yes, I’m still reading the Introduction), says:

The denial of ‘free-will’ was to Luther the foundation of the Biblical doctrine of grace, and a hearty endorsement of that denial was the first step for anyone who would understand the gospel and come to faith in God.

The author goes on to say that Erasmus (the guy Luther argues with in Bondage of the Will) thought people had an ability to do a small thing to be saved, we had something to do with it, not meriting our salvation, but there was something we did to initiate it.

Luther says “No.” There’s nothing we contribute. Salvation is of grace. If we did something then God owes us salvation, and God does not have to pay anyone for services rendered.

This is funny. Read the quote above again.

Did you see it?! Luther says heartily denying free will is the “first step” in coming to faith in God! Isn’t that something I have to do to get saved then Marty?!

This is where this whole “there’s no free will” argument just gets ridiculous.

Luther goes on to say that people who think they are saved by work and effort at least put a high price on salvation. Erasmus, who thinks it’s only a little thing we do to get salvation, treat salvation as though it’s cheap.

OK, but if people who do a lot for salvation hold salvation highly, and people who do a little to get saved value salvation cheaply, then please tell me how people who don’t think you do anything to get saved value salvation!

I’m still in the Introduction and I’m about to lose my mind.

Jonathan Edwards and Being Saved by Works

Jonathan Edwards is considered by some to be America’s greatest theologian. I don’t know about that.

What I do know is that Jonathan Edwards is a Calvinist of the first order. John Piper credits much of his Calvinistic preaching to Jonathan Edwards.

If you want Calvinist doctrine; read Jonathan Edwards.

Calvinism teaches that man does not have free will. That God ordained before your birth whether you would go to heaven or hell. You have nothing to do with it. The only people who believe the Gospel are people God previously regenerated.

I don’t know if Edwards went for all that, but many modern Calvinists who worship at the feet of Edwards certainly do.

That being the case, I was shocked to read the following quote from Jonathan Edwards the Preacher by Robert Turnbull. Quote is on page 98.

“The only hope of escape [from eternal punishment] is by the free gift of salvation from God. This cannot be won by man’s efforts, but if one is violent in seeking salvation and diligent in fulfilling all the duties God has prescribed, there is the probability that God will give him saving grace–although, of course, He is not bound to do so. Therefore be violent for the Kingdom.”

Did you catch that? Let me quote one part for emphasis:

This cannot be won by man’s efforts, but if one is violent in seeking salvation and diligent in fulfilling all the duties God has prescribed, there is the probability that God will give him saving grace

This is as unbelievable sentence. Not only does it make no theological sense, I’m not even sure it makes common sense. Words cease to mean things when used like this.

It’s just like the Westminster Confession–God has ordained everything that comes to pass, but He’s not the author of sin. He ordains everything but He doesn’t ordain sin? So does He ordain everything or not? Calvinists are famous for making bold statements that are completely undermined in the next sentence. If you question this, they’ll just tell you you’re dumb and it’s all a “mystery.”

Edwards is going all out Pelagian with this one. I wish people would actually read the theologians they so admire. I guarantee you’ll admire them less after a while! Which is perfectly fine because you’re supposed to be following Christ and adhering to His word anyway.

Later on the same page, the author says about the above quote, “Such discourses Edwards claimed were the ones most remarkably blessed.”

The appeals that worked were the ones that were completely contrary to his Calvinist doctrines. In other words, Edwards was a Calvinist until he wanted results. He pragmatically chucks Calvinism to get the numbers!

The author of this book is a huge fan of Edwards. It was close to a hagiography. So I was doubly stunned when I read this page.

I have never met a Calvinist who was a consistent Calvinist. Calvinism makes no sense and everyone knows it. Even Jonathan Edwards knew it. He was man enough to admit it, and sleazy enough to drop it in order to manipulate people.

God bless us, every one.

Augustine and the Crusades

I am not a fan of Augustine. I think he did more damage to the church than any other human being. The odds that he’s a saint are minuscule, in my occasionally humble opinion.

Focusing in on just one area of his heretical ideas, here’s a quote from a new book entitled Crusaders by Dan Jones. The quote is from page 46-47.

“[Augustine} understood that once Christianity had swapped the status of renegade cult for that of imperial creed, the tenets of faith would have to be made compatible with the demands of an empire built for war. In City of God Augustine put up a robust defense of Christianity’s place within the Roman state, arguing that “the wise man will wage just wars . . . it is the injustice of the opposing side that lays on the wise man the necessity of waging just wars.” Elsewhere he suggested four clearly identifiable conditions under which a war could be considered just: It was fought for a good cause; it’s purpose was either to defend or regain property; it was approved by a legitimate authority; and the people doing the fighting were motivated by the right reasons.”

This rationale, according to Dan Jones, was the foundation for the Roman Catholic Church to do the Crusades.

The Crusades are one of the ugliest chapters in Church History. Any book on the Crusades will leave you shaking your head in disbelief at the stuff done in the name of Christ.

Clearly the church of the day was not listening to Christ, the Bible, or anyone who had the Holy Spirit. They were listening to Augustine, however.

Before Christianity was the official religion of Rome, it was a tiny little cult that was constantly beaten on. With official status came entanglement in politics.

Every time the church gets tied in with politics the church loses. Massively. Before long the church is doing evil things in the name of Christ.

Please read church history. Please keep the church out of politics and politics out of the church. Christianity operates better as an oppressed faction than a ruling party.

Please read Augustine and find out how much insanity in Christianity came from his deranged head.

Please read the Bible. Read and understand and you’ll never listen to Augustine, go crusading, mix politics and religion, or have any level of earthly success, which is always the foundation of eternal, heavenly success.

Let the reader understand.

Reformation Day Reminder

Today is Reformation Day, the alleged date that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the Wittenberg church’s door.

Luther was certainly right to have a problem with the indulgences of the Catholic Church and call them out on their profiteering.

As with most reactionary responses, it went to an equally ridiculous extreme. Luther invented the concept of Sola Fide, which refers to being justified by faith alone.

The only problem is that the only time the Bible mentions “faith alone” is in James 2:24

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

So, you are now left having to choose between Sola Fide or Sola Scriptura. Faith Alone or Scripture Alone? Choose carefully, because it can’t be both!

Guess which one Luther chose? You guessed it: he went with his pet doctrine over Scripture.

“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.”
–Martin Luther

This Reformation Day, take some time to reflect on your faith. How much is based on Scripture and how much is based on defending doctrines that your guys hold? How much of the Bible do you need to throw away to maintain your doctrine? Is your faith consistent with Scripture? Do you know the Scriptures well enough to answer that question? If not, don’t you think you might want to figure that out before you stand before God and give an account?

Don’t worry about reforming the church; reform your own faith.

Evangelical Christians and Politics

I am reading a book called, The Evangelicals. It is a history of the Evangelical movement within American Christianity, particularly the political involvement they have gotten into over the years.

It’s a 600 page book. The first 200 pages dealt with Wesley through Billy Graham. The last 400 is from Billy Graham to today. It has bogged down tremendously.

One fascinating thing that stands out to me is how ridiculous, from a historical perspective, church leaders look when they get involved in politics.

Politics is driven by fear. There are HUGE problems, so vote for us to solve them. If they solved them; you wouldn’t need them anymore! So, they never get around to solving issues, just changing them and freaking everyone out along the way so they get votes.

When the Church, which is allegedly filled with people with eternal hope, gets involved in temporal squabbles heightened by fear, they look really stupid.

This is especially true when they fall for predictions about the future. There have been so many “threats” to us that should have wiped us out. But none of the major fears ever developed and predictions, predictably (!), fail.

What happened was Evangelicalism, which originally just meant people who were focused on the Gospel (the “evangel” part of Evangelical), got wrapped up with politics. Billy Graham solidified the movement. He thought he was doing the right thing at the time. Richard Nixon broke his heart.

The church got sucked into Republican politics with the Moral Majority and so forth in the 1970’s-90’s. They got carried away and got used, while America continued to remain firmly nowhere near Evangelical ideals.

So, the church learned its lesson. It got tired of being lumped in with rightwing nutjobs. Which brings us to today.

While reading this book about the roaring 70’s-90’s Republican Christian Might, a debate over the Social Gospel erupted.

The Social Gospel, often called Social Justice, Movement is nothing more than leftwing nutjob thinking.

The lesson the church apparently has learned from our losing with the Right, is to join the Left.

I fully expect that in about 40 years all these church leaders fired up over the new leftwing Social Justice stuff will look just as ridiculous as the rightwingers of the 70’s look to us now.

Allow me to posit a theory.

Perhaps the lesson the church should have learned from the disastrous Moral Majority days, is not to shift from the Right to the Left, but rather to stay out of the world’s fray to begin with.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, come out from among them and be separate. What fellowship has light with darkness? Set your affection on things above and not things on the earth. Not falling for the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke out spiritual growth.

Maybe something like that. You know, like, what the Bible says and stuff.

Just a theory.