Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Reading List

It was a good year for books.  Re-read Pieper and Elert, and also put Newman and Troeltsch under my belt.  Beyond that, got a lot of research done for my book on Scripture and Tradition.  As always, I invite you to add your own list.  I'm always interested in learning what other people are reading.

1. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine- John Henry Newman
2. An Essay on the Grammar of Ascent- John Henry Newman
3. The Arians of the Fourth Century- John Henry Newman
4. Apologia Pro Vita Sua- John Henry Newman
5. The Case for Christ- Lee Strobel
6. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics- Ross Douthat
7. The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society- Brad Gregory
8. The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture- Christian Smith.
9. Christian Dogmatics vol. 1- Francis Pieper
10. Christian Dogmatics vol. 2- Francis Pieper
11. Christian Dogmatics vol. 3- Francis Pieper
12. The Structure of Lutheranism- Werner Elert
13. Infidel- Ayaan Hirsi Ali
14. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years- Diarmaid Macculloch
15. Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens- Christopher Hitchens
16. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion- David Hume
17. An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding- David Hume
18. A Treatise on Human Nature- David Hume
19 An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals- David Hume
20. The History of Calvinism- Daryl Hart
21. Symbolism: Exposition of Doctrinal Differences Between Catholics and Protestants as Evidenced by Their Symbolic Writings- Johann Adam Mohler
22. Creedo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition- Jaroslav Pelikan
23. The Vindication of Tradition- Jaroslav Pelikan
24.  The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas- Jonah Goldberg
25. Engaging Luther: A (New) Theological Assessment- Olli-Pekka Vainio
26. The Theology of Martin Luther: A Critical Assessment- Hans-Martin Barth
27. Theological Common Places: On Ministry vol. 2- Johann Gerhard
28. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created- Charles Mann
29. Commentary on Luther's Catechism: Baptism and the Lord's Supper- Albrecht Peters
30. The Historical Commentary on the Augsburg Confession- Wilhelm Maurer
31. Introduction to Lutheran Symbolics- J.L. Neve
32. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined- Steven Pinker
33.  The Origins of Papal Infallibility: 1150-1350- Brian Tierney
34. Foundations of Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism- Brian Tierney.
35.  Jesus: An Experiment in Christology- Edward Schillebeeckx
36. The Eucharist- Edwad Schllebeeckx
37. The Shape of Sola Scriptura- Keith Mathison
38. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity- James R. White
39. Tradition in the Early Church- R.P.C. Hanson
40. Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church- Ellen Flesseman-Van Leer
41. The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches, vol. 1- Ernst Troeltsch
42. The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches, vol. 2- Ernst Troeltsch
43. The Absoluteness of Christianity and the History of Religions- Ernst Troeltsch
44. The Christian Faith-Ernst Troeltsch
45. Protestantism and Progress: The Significance of Protestantism for the Rise of the Modern World-Ernst Troeltsch
46. Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, vol. 1- David T. King
47. Defending Faith: Lutheran Response to Osiander's Doctrine of Justification: 1551-1559- Timothy Wengert
48. Was There a Lutheran Metaphysic?: The Interpretation of the Communicatio Idiomatum in Early Modern Lutheranism- Joar Haga
49.  The History of Protestant Theology: Particularly in Germany, vol. 1- Isaak Dorner
50. The History of Protestant Theology: Particularly in Germany, vol. 2- Isaak Dorner
51. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory- Alasdair MacIntyre
52. Holy Writ or Holy Church?: The Crisis of the Protestant Reformation- George Tavard
53. 100 People Who are Screwing Up America- Bernard Goldberg
54. The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World 1830-1930- Stewart Brown and Peter Nockles.
55. The Meaning of Tradition- Yves Congar
56. The History of Theology- Yves Congar
57. The Gnostic Gospels: Elaine Pagels
58. The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation- Berndt Hamm
59. Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God vol. 4)- N.T. Wright
60. Civilization: The West and the Rest- Niall Ferguson

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Response to Dr. Kloha's Response.

On the last post, I noted that Dr. Kloha responded to me and put up a larger response linked in the last post.  I have a couple of points to make about Kloha's defense in general.

1. Claiming that these are merely "lecture notes" is not really accurate in the least.  This is a very fully developed essay with footnotes.  That he wanted to tinker with this piece, I accept.  Nevertheless, I think that if he distributed the piece at the conference or elsewhere, he is responsible for what he wrote in it.  Claiming that they are merely "notes" and therefore he cannot be held responsible for what they say, does not make sense.  The main problem seems to be that he only intended them for a certain audience and people he did not wish to read it got a hold of it.

2. The women's ordination discussion, according to Dr. Kloha, was not something he actually decided to speak on in the conference itself.  For that reason, I cannot fault him in regard to speaking on these things in public.  Nevertheless, that being said, he, again, did distribute the piece and can be held accountable for it.  Again, I think it is very odd that the issue has become the procedure and people getting a hold of his ideas, when the real issue should be his ideas.

3. As noted above, Kloha keeps on describing them as mere "notes."  Nevertheless, he goes back-in-forth on the issue of whether or not they are notes.  Sometimes he claims that they are mere "notes" and so, he cannot be responsible for their content.  Then at other times, he claims that they were in fact a full- blown copyrighted essay and that Pr. Wilken did not have the right to distribute it. So, my question would be: Which is it? 

4.  Dr. Kloha claims that I do not understand the text-critical issue present in the new edition of Nestle-Aland that he is dealing with.  I think I do.  What Dr. Kloha's central concern is is that in light of the Nestle-Aland new edition, it has become clear (at least to Dr. Kloha) that we cannot even pretend that we have an approximate original version of the NT.  I made several points about this 1. We have no reason to think that we cannot approximate the original NT based on our current manuscript evidence, or, at minimum, the same doctrinal content.  2. We have textual evidence for all necessary doctrines.  3. We have the testimony and continuity of the historic Church within which the Word and the Spirit have been active testifying to said doctrines.  4. I developed a logical criterion by which we could identify what Lutheran scholasticism called a Autographa, in light of our current knowledge the historical context of Scripture and textual-criticism.  5.  The main issue is that we have the correct doctrines, not that every single word is the same, something which is more than defensible.  Hence, the text of the NT is not a magical book, with a magical configuration of certain words, which have never changed one iota.  Rather, it is infallible, inerrant, and reliable prophetic and apostolic tradition that has been handed down to us by both the Holy Spirit and fallible human agents.

This nevertheless bring us to the central issue though, which Kloha has not really responded to and ultimately which places him in opposition the historic Lutheran tradition.  Namely, if we reject entirely the notion that we can at the very minimum approximate the original kerygma of the NT, then we fall into a sort of Enthusiasm.  My deep concerns about Dr. Kloha remain because he A. Rejects the idea of there being ultimate criterion in an Autographa.  In fact, he rejects the very notion of the Autographa, it would seem.  B. Constantly appeals to the Spirit and its work in the consensus of the baptized.    

5. In all this, it has not really been my goal to ignore the issues present in modern textual criticism.  My position as outlined in the previous post is a  critically-realistic one.  I recognize the limitations of our knowledge.  Ultimately, though it may not be his intention, I feel that Dr. Kloha's position drifts towards an unfortunate theological anti-realism.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Response and Critique to Dr. Jeff Kloha's Paper Regarding Textual-Criticism and the Inspiration of Scripture.

A few days ago, Rev. Todd Wilken of Issues, etc. fame put up a paper that Jeff Kloha of CSL gave earlier this year in Germany: http://thebarebulb.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/text-and-authority.pdf  The topic was the question of how we relate the inspiration and authority of Scripture to the existence of textual variants in the NT texts.  It seems that there is going to be a new edition of Nestle-Aland and that some great strides have been made in establishing the text of the NT.  The approach of this new edition is apparently significant because it assumes that it's pretty much impossible to get back to the original text of the NT with absolute certainty.  So, the question is raised, what does this do to our understanding of verbal inspiration?  I have a few thoughts and some critiques of Kloha's position.  I would invite Dr. Kloha to respond to my piece and also to correct me where I might have misinterpreted him at any point.  Whereas I agree with Dr. Kloha that it is important to raise these question, I do not find myself in total agreement with him as to how he has resolved them.

1. Why do we posit Inspiration and what is its Theological Significance?:  This is an issue not really addressed by Kloha at all.  I think that we should clarify this a bit because there seems to be a lot of confusion on this.  Below, I give my own take on the issue which I think is faithful to history, Scripture, and the Lutheran confessional tradition.

To begin with, it should be observed that as Fracis Pieper points out, Jesus is himself the Lord of the Scriptures.  The Scriptures are Jesus' Word and the goal of Scripture is to witness to Jesus.  This is true of both the Old and the New Testaments.  In the OT, the pre-Incarnate Christ spoke with Moses and the other prophets.  The pre-Incarnate Christ authorized prophesies about his coming.  Belief inspiration in the OT is not something that people are supposed to be blindly follow.  It is something to be proven based on whether or not the prophet inculcated faith in the true God and whether or not what they said came true (Deut. 17).  In order to validate their prophesies concern the distant future, God fulfilled small prophesies that would come true relatively soon.  If these prophesies came true, then it was likely the other one would as well.  All the OT prophets were further validated by Jesus, who was the supreme fulfillment of all prophecy.  Not only did he literally fulfill the OT Scriptures, but he further validated their authority by affirming their writings as the Word of God and then demonstrating that he was both Messiah and God by rising from the dead.  Beyond this, he also authorized the Apostles to be infallible teachers of the Church ("those who hear you, hear me" "I will send you the advocate and he will lead you into all truth").  Their infallible testimony would serve as the basis of Church teaching until the end of time ("you will be my witnesses.. etc" "what if he remains until I come?").  Hence, the OT as accepted by the majority of Jews (the canon of the Pharisees) it in the time of Jesus was validated, and the teaching of the Apostles as they wrote them down or had their immediate followers write them down were invested by Jesus as being inspired and infallibly authoritative for the Church until the end of time.

For this reason, from the beginning, the Church held that the apostolic kerygma was in fact an infallible and inerrant authority.  In the first century, what the Apostles taught in their oral teaching and their writings (or those writers whom they had authorized) was considered authoritative for the faith and life of the Church.  By the second-century, we have the writings of the Apostles called "Scripture" by various Patristic authors.  Finally, in around the 4th century, there were a number of local synods (Council of Hippo, etc.) which were called to reject a number of texts that had been used alongside those of the Apostles.  According to these councils, in order for a text to be canonical it had to 1. be used by the Church in its public worship universally (i.e. the Spirit had commended it to the believing community)  2. It had to be from the Apostles, whom Jesus had authorized as infallible teachers of the Church.  It should of course not really disturb us that many people in the early Church used other texts (1 Enoch, Shepherd of Hermas, etc.).  When they did, they violated Jesus command and promise that infallible witness would only be found in the mouths of the Apostles and those they had authorized. 

Moreover, as we can observe, in determining what is revelation and the written Word of God, we judge on the basis of both an objective principle and a subjective principle.  On the one hand, we believe the Word of God by the work of the Spirit active in the proclamation of the Church.  We also recognize that there are many spirits and that we may be tempted by them (or our own heart) into believing many things that are false.  For that reason, we do not believe everything that is proclaimed and which finds a place in our hearts, but we test the proclamation of the Church and the works of the Spirit against what can be historically determined has come down from the Apostles ("test all things...etc.", "If an angel of light teaches you another gospel...etc.").  Recognizing both the objective and subjective principle distinguishes the historic Lutheran understanding of the canon (as well as the Patristic) from that of the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed traditions.  Both of the latter groups rely on the Spirit inner testimony almost exclusively to establish the canon.  In the case of the Catholics, through Spirit's work in the magisterium (heart of the Pope and Bishops), in the case of the Reformed, in the hearts of individual believers.  By contrast, for the Church Fathers and for Orthodox Lutherans, the canon is both recognized by the work of the Spirit and historically testable.

For this reason, Eusebius and other Church Fathers made a distinction between what they referred to as the Homologoumena and Antilegomena.  The Homologoumena refers to books that the have a uniform attestation from the Church that they have come down from the Apostles.  The Antilegomena are texts that have mixed attestation- some said they were from the Apostles and others not.  Such a distinction was revived during the Renaissance by the Humanists, and was taken over by the Lutheran and Reformed theologians of the 16th and 17th century.  That being said, it was applied in different ways.  For Luther and Chemnitz, for example, the Antilegomena was largely illegitimate.  Whereas Luther kept it in his German NT as an appendix, Chemnitz advocated throwing it out entirely.  Later Lutheran Scholastics generally view the Antilegomena as canonical, but not scriptural.  Hence, the rule obtained that dogmas could only be established by a sedes doctrinae in the Homologomena.  Nevertheless, it could still be witnessed to (secondarily) by sedes found in the Antilegomena.  A similar use of the Apocrypha obtained (which the Lutheran Scholastics cite fairly regularly).  This was the case, even though the Apocrypha was not merely uncertain (as was the Antilegomena), it was by all accounts absolutely not the Word of God, since Christ had only affirmed the canon of the Pharisees which of course did not include the Apocrypha.  It was of course nonetheless recognized that there was much in the Apocrypha that agreed with and could witness to the truth of the Word of God and for this reason it was read and cited.

Again, these distinction show why historic Lutheranism (and the early Fathers) thought of Scripture as inspired.  Scripture is reliable prophetic and apostolic tradition.  The content of Scripture is authoritative because it has been authorized by Christ and recognized through historical investigation and by the inner testimony of the Spirit to be the inerrant witness which Christ authorized.  This approach to Scripture as capital "T" tradition can be observed in the first volume of Martin Chemnitz's Examination of the Council of Trent, where among the seven forms of valid tradition, Scripture itself constitutes one category.

2. Verbal Inspiration?: The Reformers (and the later Protestant Scholastics) spoke of Scripture as being verbally inspired, meaning that God through his Holy Spirit and by his providence in human history, had worked things out so that he himself actually chose the very words used in Scripture.  Despite 19th and 20th century attempts to make Luther into a gospel-reductionist, there are numerous passages where he refers to the words and grammar of the Bible as being the product of the Holy Spirit.  Of course with the Reformers themselves, this approaches tends to be more assumed and only occasionally spoken about.  It is generally not systematically developed.  According to Otto Ritschl, the first person to systematically develop the conceptual basis of the doctrine was Matthias Flacius.  See my writing on him and his ideas about Scripture here: http://www.amazon.com/Understand-Sacred-Scriptures-Matthias-Flacius/dp/0982158629/ref=la_B00CQ2TDJY_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386340781&sr=1-2

This description is how inspiration works is a little different than how inspiration was understood by the Medieval theologians.  For example, Thomas Aquinas thought that God had imprinted the human minds of the authors of Scripture with the ideas that he wanted them to convey, but had allowed them to select their own words.  Part of the point of this was to suggest that God's truth was primarily something intelligible, rather than sensible (a linger Platonism!) and so, in a sense, one could move up and past the letter and into the intelligible realm of the  Spirit.  Another part of this theory of inspiration was that it was attempting to take the Bible as a human document written by autonomous human beings seriously, while at the same time recognizing it as divine revelation.  It should also be observed that this theory of Scripture did not mean that the Medieval theologians viewed the Bible as anything less than inerrant.  Prior to the late 17th century, the Christian tradition was fairly unanimous that the Bible was inerrant, even if inspiration was conceptualized in a variety of ways.

By contrast, the Reformers held to verbal inspiration, not just an inspiration of ideas.  In the case of Luther, one suspects that this is an outgrowth of his belief in the sacramentality of the Word.  In other words, God was not to be encountered above his Word.  Neither were the sacraments signs pointing above and beyond themselves to God's invisible workings.  The Lutheran est and capax translated into a belief that in the concrete words and grammatical constructions of the Bible, one encountered the very Word of God.  The Word of God was not a word above the word of the Bible, but in, under, and with its human language.

Moreover, in light of the Augustinian notions of human agency and causation which the Reformers generally shared with one another (both Lutheran and Reformed), this by no means eliminated the reality of the Bible as a human book.  Human beings are both free in the sense that no force outside somehow manhandles them into doing what they do, and bound, in that they are shaped in their inner impulses by God's creative and sustaining acts (this would include both his general casual concurrence and his miraculous supernatural intervention).  This is the very Augustinian distinction that Luther makes in the Bondage of the Will between the "necessity of immutability" and the "necessity of compulsion."  God, in inspiring the authors of the Bible, did not manhandle them into saying what he wanted them to say.  Rather, through his providence and the supernatural creative power of his Spirit, the authors of Scripture were shaped into the sorts of persons who would want to write what God wanted them to write, in the words that he would want them to write in.  They did what they wanted to do, namely, choose the words that God wanted.  God's supernatural action of inspiration therefore supervened on the very human action of composition.

As Richard Muller points out, recognizing this determinate freedom with which the inspired authors worked was important for the Reformers and the later Protestant Scholastics because they had inherited from both the later Patristic authors and the Medieval theologians an aversion to the notion that inspiration meant a loss of consciousness and the onset of a sort of mania that would be more characteristic of pagan prophets.  In fact, early one many quarters of the early Church accepted this manic notion of prophecy, until the Montanist heresy of the 2nd and 3rd centuries discredited it.  Many of the early Apologists even use the language of the Greek poets that speak of Prophets being inspired by the gods to speak as a harpist plucks the string on a musical instrument.  Generally speaking (except for some extreme cases in the books of Judges and 1 Samuel) one does not find prophets in Scripture prophesying in this manner. 

3. Problems Raised by Kloha Regarding the Tradition Doctrine of Inspiration:  Kloha's difficulties with the traditional theory of inspiration are twofold.  First, is the issue of textual criticism.  There are a lot of manuscripts and a lot of variants.  This tends to be more true of the NT, than the OT, in that the Jews had considerably tighter rules about copying manuscripts than early Christians did.  Because this is the case, we apparently face a problem that did not come up during the 16th-18th centuries when people just assumed that the Textus Receptus was the original text (As a side note: I'm not certain this is entirely the case.  As Richard Muller points out with regard to the Protestant Scholastics in general, they were aware of divergences in the textual tradition and did try to make arguments about the difficulties in certain texts-even if their knowledge was considerably more limited than our own regarding the scope of the problem!  He concludes that it is a mistake to call them "pre-critical" in their exegesis.  Similarly, if you sit down and read the Chemnitz-Leyser-Gerhard's Harmony of the Four Gospels, one will observe that they authors recognize the Greek, Syriac, and Latin texts as separate witnesses to the purity of the original text, and attempt to navigate the texts meaning through comparing them.  But I digress).  For this reason, it's hard to say that we absolutely have the original text in all its details.  If we buy into the idea of verbal inspiration (which I think Scripture requires us to do!), then there is no absolutely certain verbally inspired text before us.  It is no help to say that the textual variation don't change any doctrines.  Perhaps we will find variation that will threaten our doctrinal position in the future!  So how do we cope with this?

The second issue is the one of the original (autographa) vs. the copies (apographa).  Historically, Lutheran theologians claimed that the original text was the directly inspired one, and then the copies were inspired derivatively insofar as they mirrored the original.  This makes total sense.  Similarly, people assumed that the authors of the Bible simply wrote a single copy (under the inspiration of the Spirit) and then people copied it and then it came down to us in more or less the shape of its original form.  But, the simple fact is that this isn't how people wrote texts in the ancient world.  People would dictate several copies of the text they were preparing.  They would then often read the text out loud to a patron or to an audience that would suggest changes or revisions.  Hence, Kloha claims, the "original" is something of a fiction, since there very well may have been multiple half-revised originals.  Similarly, if after finishing all their revisions, Luke or Paul dictated the final text to several scribes and so there were several originals (not just a single one as our ancestors supposed) which was is the inspired one?

These are all good question to ask and I am happy that Dr. Kloha has raised them.  That being said, I do not think he does a very good job resolving these problems and I believe I can offer some alternative solutions.

4. The Issue of the Original Manuscripts: When Kloha brought up the issue of the original manuscripts in his paper, I must confess that I was rather surprised by it.  Though I knew the information that he spoke of regarding the nature of ancient composition, it hadn't occurred to me that anyone would consider this a problem.  That being said, he does raise an interesting issue.  If Luke revised his Gospel a number of times, did inspiration finally kick in the final draft or was it operative earlier?  If there were four original copies of the Gospel of Luke, were all of them inspired?  From this, Kloha seems to conclude that there is no original manuscript to judge subsequent manuscripts by- just a bunch of different texts that could be called "originals" (autographa).  My question would be, would this not suggest that there was no there-there?  That is, is there no original revelation that we can judge subsequent proclamation on the basis of?  If there is no there-there, what should our standard for judging doctrine be?  For this reason, we must make an argument about what we can identify "back there" as a criterion and not simply throw up our hands and speak of a "plastic text" as it appears that Kloha does.  

First, I would suggest that Kloha hasn't really shown at all that an "original manuscript"(autographa) is a fiction.  Rather, he has merely shown that we need to be more nuanced in our definition of what constitutes an "original."  Obviously, even the 17th century Lutheran Scholastics knew that it was quite possible that Luke did not write his Gospel in one sitting and so, presumably, there was a half-Gospel of Luke at some point of the composition process.  Nevertheless, even if there were multiple versions and drafts, there was indeed a point when Luke stop tinkering with it and it was finished.  Also, when the Apostles wrote their letters, it may be that they had them written and rewritten, but there was a point when they were done and they actually did send them.  In both cases, those multiple copies of the final draft which they completed were the autographa.  Hence, even if there were four manuscripts of the original version, they were indeed the completed text and can be the criterion which subsequent versions can be judged (to the extent that we think we can get back there!).

But of course, the question still remains, were the other non-revised versions the Word of God and verbally inspired?  If we follow our supposition that inspiration comes from Christ's promise to guarantee the infallibility of the Apostles and those whom they authorized, the answer has to be yes, absolutely!  Why then would be prefer the final draft over the original drafts, if both were equally inspired?  For a couple of reasons.  First, although Luke may have said what he said differently in earlier drafts, it was still a statement of the same inerrant Apostolic truths, just said in different words or perhaps having few truths.  In that God supernaturally acted through the authors of Scripture in a way that supervened on the natural process of composition, multiple drafts or the use of the suggestions from others who heard earlier drafts, by no means negates the inerrancy or inspiration of such a writing process.  Since Luke (for example) says that he investigated sources to write his Gospel like any other historian of the era, we must assume that he went through the other normal stages of composition that were current in his culture.  If we suggest otherwise, not only are we contradicting what Luke says about how he wrote, but we are coming quite close to re-introducing the Montanist manic concept of inspiration.

Hence, even if there were multiple drafts that were all inspired and inerrant, we should look to the final draft as the autographa not because it is more inspired than the earlier drafts (which are lost to us anyways), but because God has in the final draft told us through Luke everything he wants to tell us.  The same analogy might obtain for the individual books of the Bible when compared with the whole Bible.  Individual books of the Bible are no less the Word of God than the whole Bible.  Nevertheless, God willed the writing of more books because he had more things to tell us.  Hence, it we must base our doctrine on all the books of the Bible, not just Jonah or Romans.  Similarly, half completed or half revised texts of the Biblical authors are simply half and incomplete versions of the fullness of what God wants to tell us through those works.  In themselves, they are no less in inspired and inerrant texts.

Finally, should we be worried that there were three or four final drafts, and so, there might have been differences between them?  I would say no.  Since they were all inspired by God, they would all have the same content and we have no reason to think that they in fact did not all have the same wording.  Moreover, even the most radical critics probably wouldn't say that among the final drafts of Paul's Letter to the Romans that there was a version where humans were actually justified by the works of the law and not faith.  No one thinks that Luke had a final draft where there were four persons of the Trinity and homosexuality was OK. 

5. The Issue of Textual Variants:  The issue that Kloha brings up regarding the existence of a significant number of textual variants is largely a non-issue for a number of reasons.  The first point that I would make is that these textual variant are for the most part largely meaningless.  They are misspellings of words, or sentences that a written in various ways with the same propositional or historical content.  Moreover, no variation threatens an article of the faith, although there are certain sedes doctrinae for given doctrines that have been called into question due to textual criticism (the Johannine comma, etc.).  The examples that Kloha uses vindicate this point.  For example, based on manuscript evidence from the Old Latin version, it might have been that in the original Magnificat was spoken by Elizabeth and not Mary.  Well, so what?  Again, none of this effects any of the articles of the faith.  Nevertheless, Kloha asks "Well, what if we find manuscripts that do?"  And it's a good question to raise.  He doesn't really seem to address it in a meaningful way though.  He does talk a lot about the work of the Spirit in preserving the Church, which is good, but this only happens in connection with concrete texts and propositional truth claims.  Otherwise, the Church has nothing to proclaim and so too, the Spirit will not do its work. 

There are several other points that should be made.  First, asking if we found manuscripts that would destroy the faith as we know it is like asking "What if we found Jesus' body?"  Many people consider one of weaknesses of orthodox Christianity that it's truth or falsehood is dependent on a series of historical facts.  I would make the counter-argument that it is in fact one of its strengths.  As we observed earlier, we believe the faith because of an objective and subjective principle.  The Spirit within our subjectivity testifies to the truth and gives us the gift of faith so that we can see the truth insofar as it is presented to us objectively.  The truth that the Spirit testifies to our inner being through concrete historical and physical realities (Word and sacrament).  Since our faith is actually connected to (though not wholly dependent on) facts that are subject to proof or disproof, it checks the natural human impulse to make a God in our own image and to believe what makes us feel good is true.

Secondly, much like the resurrection has a massive amount of evidence in its favor, so too the manuscript evidence for our texts is extremely good.   In fact, we quite literally have an insane number of manuscripts.  For this reason, it is virtually impossible that we will find manuscripts that will discredit any of the articles of the faith. That every text that supports the articles of the faith was somehow fabricated is impossible.  Similarly, because the Holy Spirit has always been working in the Church, we have evidence that the same truths have been taught in the Church from the beginning in (approximately!) the same form (read Ignatius of Antioch, or books four and five of Irenaeus' Against the Heresies!).  When the Church Fathers did error, it was largely (though not exclusively) because they had weird interpretation of texts we know from our canonical Scriptures or they introduced non-apostolic traditions into Church teaching (Tertullian's love of 1 Enoch and the Shepherd of Hermas, etc.).

Throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit has preserved the Word and the articles of the faith even in extremely dark times.  Indeed, if one knows about their respective historical contexts, both Nicaea and Augsburg were theological miracles.  If the Word and sacraments are present (as they have always been) there will always be a small group confessing the true faith (at least in its fundamental form).  For this reason, the work of the Spirit through the Word is liken fittingly by Cyprian as a spring of water that moves throw an aqueduct.  At its source, it is pure.  But over time, as it moves through the aqueduct, it can become polluted and so we need to go back to the spring to find out what the pure water is really like.  For hence, the proclamation of the Church when it bases itself on the Scriptures (the pure spring) is derivatively proclaiming the same Word of God (aqueduct water).  Both are the Word of God, but the Word of God written and directly inspired (Scripture) serves as a check out the Word of God confessed and proclaimed (churchly tradition).  All of this is the work of the presence of the Word in its content historical form and the Spirit's animating power.

For this reason, I do find that Francis Pieper's analogy (Kloha attributes this to another author whom I am certain used it, but it was originally Pieper's analogy) between the function of the original revelation of the Scriptures in the life of the Church and the laws of the state of Missouri being in effect even if no one can find the original bill passed by the state legislature, to be quite apt. The Word has always been around in the life of the Church and has sustained the life of the Church. It has also served the purpose of checking additions to the apostolic kerygma. Even if one cannot find the original copies, or even if someone copied down the laws using slightly different wording, the principles of legislation embodied in it would still be around and in effect. Kloha dislikes this analogy because he says that it makes the Bible into a "legal" and "propositional" document.  Whereas I agree with Dr. Kloha that the Bible is centered in the gospel and not the law, I would also note that the whole Bible is not capable of being reduced to the living effectiveness of the gospel.  It is also contains many propositions and laws that God wishes us to believe and obey.  The only question is: do we read those laws and propositions as things that condemn us because we refused to believe and perform them, or, conversely, are they things that we are free to believe and do?  Moreover, the living power of the gospel would be meaningless without its propositional content.  Faith would have no object without propositions.  

Beyond this point, the recognition that there is continuity of the Church due to the proclamation of Word and sacrament is one of the reasons why I find Kloha use of the distinction between the Homologoumena and Antilegomena problematic.  Historically, Lutherans have gone different ways on this.  As I noted earlier, Luther and Chemnitz largely wanted to reject there being much of any validity in the Antilegomena, whereas the later Lutheran Scholastics merely wished to place the weight of the canon in the Homologoumena.  I find myself sympathetic with the later approach.  I can find nothing in the  Antilegomena which is not in the Homologoumena.  This does not of course make the Antilegomena (with absolute certainty) the Word of God written and inspired.  Rather, insofar as it has a mixed testimony from the early Church, it should generally be treated as the Word of God confessed and proclaimed.  For this reason, it may only witness to dogmas established by the Homologoumena, it must not establish them by unique sedes doctrinae.

By contrast, Kloha takes an iconoclastic stance (something I have detected in the writings of other faculty members at CSL) and wishes to categorize Antilegomena as "stuff we throw out."  In fact, he wishes to extend said principle to textual variants found in the Homologoumena that lack a scholarly consensus.  They are not to be used as a basis for doctrine or to be proclaimed in the Church until there is a scholarly consensus as to their validity. 

Whereas I agree that we should not establish doctrine using verses that textual criticism has demonstrated are not from the original text, or, for that matter, base an entire theological conclusion on a contested text, I would object to this overall approach for a number of reasons.  First, truth by consensus is a very poor principle.  Consensus is quite often wrong.  Hence, Kloha's suggestion that we should follow both the consensus of the baptized and the scholarly communities in sorting out these difficulties is faulty, and, I would suggest, implies an authority of the visible Church to say what is and what is not the Word of God based on its own inner impulses rather than by theological principles or historical facts.  I am quite certain that that is not what he intends to say, but such a stance implies this.

Secondly, I again, do not consider these textual variation to represent much of a real problem for establishing dogma within the Church.  The sedes doctrinae which have been called into question are usually icing on the theological cake.  The doctrines can be proven using other verses.  Moreover, instead of tabling them until there is a "scholarly consensus", a more helpful approach (in fact, the one I use in my own book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Self-Donation-God-Contemporary-Lutheran/dp/1620326051/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_d_2) would be for the theologian or exegete to simply make an argument in favor of their preferred textual variant and let others decide if their argument is sound.  For example, I do this in my writings on Christology with John 3:13 (Textus Receptus version) as a proof-text for the absolute omnipresence of Christ's human nature.  I of course don't need this text to prove Christ's absolute omnipresence (there are other sedes), but I believe there is a strong case to be made for the Textus Receptus version of the verse.

6. Propositional Exposition and Unnecessary Provocation: The last two issues I want to deal with in the piece are Kloha's aversion to propositional exposition of Scripture and the example of this that he cites from CRTC's report on women's role in the Church.  In the report, the verses in 1 Corinthians regarding women's silence in the Church are used in order to set down ecclesiastical policy in the present.  Kloha holds that because the CRTC wants to make the verses applicable to our current situation, they end up distorting them.

First, Kloha rightly observes that not every passage in the Bible is understandable or applicable to us in our current situation.  Similarly, he decries the tendency of ripping Bible passages out of their original setting and making list of "inspirational" verses .  I completely agree with him on this point.  I can't tell you how tired I am of reading on someone's FB wall "I have plans for you says the Lord" (which has to do with God's covenant fidelity to Israel, and not God promising to make your love-life or career better!), or, hearing the passage about love from 1 Corinthians read at weddings!

Nevertheless, when it comes to the section on the silence of women, I (along with most LCMS theologians) think that Kloha is wrong in his exposition of the passage.  Paul is quite clear in it that it is his intention to instruct the Corinthians on something that is more than merely contextual.  That being said, I do not have the space to go through the passage and prove my point.  What I think it is important to highlight is that Scripture does contain within itself general principles that are to be followed in how we conduct ourselves.  Similarly, often times when Scripture is addressing specific situations, in most cases we can certainly abstract general principles for our current situation.  If we could not do this, then we would be left with virtually no basis for conducting ourselves apart from our own caprice- since most everything in the Bible is addressing a specific and historically contextual problem.  Kloha certainly decries this latter way of operating as characteristic of the ELCA, but he does not do an adequate job showing how his tendency to appeal to the amorphous work of the Spirit or a (somewhat) radical canonical criticism does not lead in a similar direction.  Moreover, yet again, Kloha has a weird aversion to propositional truth that is highly reminiscent of mid-20th century continental Lutheranism (I am thinking of Ebeling and Bultmann here).  Although God's Word has other dimension to it beyond the merely propositional, as we noted above, without propositional truth the "Word-event" (Ebeling) of proclamation is largely empty. 

The last point I will make in this very long post is that the use of the 1 Corinthians verses as his example was unnecessarily provocative.  Although I have been told by many people that Dr. Kloha agrees with the synod's understanding of Scripture on the issue of the role of women (and I have no reason to doubt them), it should not go unnoticed that Dr. Kloha has used an argument regarding these verses that is common to persons who advocate women's ordination.  Certainly there are other passages that one can appeal to regarding synod's policy (even if you don't think this one works!).  But my question would be: Considering the baggage that this passage has in our circles, why be unnecessarily provocative in using it?  This is especially case considering Dr. Kloha's important position within the hierarchy of the seminary and the synod.  Why give the impression that you buy in part into the arguments made by those who dissent from the synod's position?  This is very puzzling indeed.

Update: Dr. Kloha has responded here: http://concordiatheology.org/2013/12/toward-fruitful-conversation-follow-up-from-listening-to-gods-word/

Friday, November 8, 2013

Open Erollment: Apply to Take Courses with Christ School of Theology or the Institute of Lutheran Theology Today!

As many of you are aware, I teach courses for the Institute of Lutheran Theology and Christ School of Theology.  We have open enrollment, so check out our course offerings for next semester.  I will be teaching the course on the history of Reformation theology.  Hope to see you there!


Friday, October 25, 2013

A Critique of Cascione's Critique of Rydecki

This morning I awoke to see that a friend had forwarded a piece to me from Jack Cascione ("Rydecki and the Sacerdotalists attack Objective Justification" http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/reclaimnews/conversations/topics/317) in which he responds to Paul Rydecki's "Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace."  I'm not certain where it came from (probably from his list-serve), but it looks like something that will probably make an appearance in the Christian News at some point.  I think that there are many strengths to the piece, but I also think that Cascione has misread Rydecki on several levels and so it might undermine the credibility of his critique.  Below I want to examine the strengths and weaknesses of his points.

1. "Sacerdotalism": Wrongly, I think, Cascione has read his own crusades against what he perceives to be a creeping "sacerdotalism" into Rydecki's position.  This is something that he has oddly accused William Cwirla and myself of (among others in the LCMS).  As I see it, there has been an increase in people emphasizing the importance of the office of ministry in the LCMS, particularly among the Gottesdienst group (including my old pastor, Karl Fabrizius).  This is largely a reaction against low-Church American Protestantism, which tends to denigrate the office of ministry.  I don't see this as an attempt at rejecting Walther, but restoring his original insights (at least in the case of the Gottesdienst group).  That being said, I do see James Heiser as unfortunately going an extra step by seeing the entire Waltherian project as fundamentally flawed from the beginning.  I would of course view certain interpretations of Walther to be problematic- not least the Otten/Cascione theory of hyper-congregationalism (something prevalevant in the LCMS in the mid-20th century).  Nevertheless, in terms of the available options, Walther's position is probably the best in its fundamental principle that the Church is to be found in Word and sacrament ministry, which means that all churchly authority must be rooted in the individual congregation (i.e., those gathered around Word and Sacrament).  I find Kurt Marquardt's treatment of Church and Ministry particularly helpful in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Confessional-Lutheran-Dogmatics-Fellowship-Governance/dp/B004NTZJ50/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382702830&sr=1-1&keywords=Confessional+Lutheran+Dogmatics%2C+Church

In any case, then, what is going on, even in the ELDoNA, is not really a sacerdotalism, at least as Lutheranism would historically reject such a doctrinal stance.  Historically, the sort of sacerdotalism that would be problematic for Lutherans would be one in which ordination gives a special character to the person (this is rooted in the Augustinian and Latin North African theory of the sacraments), so that person becomes a sacrament themselves.  Though Lutherans in the 19th century certainly did flirt with something close to this (think Stephan, among the others referred to as belonging to the "German Puseyism"), but it would be hard to find many that went all the way.  Stephan probably came the closest in his belief that the validity of the means of grace depended on him.  Loehe came close to this, but didn't go all the way.

Whereas Cascione may think that this is what motivates Rydecki, I very seriously doubt it.  People always read their own theological concerns into others.  For example, when Cascione read my book, he tended to interpret it in terms of the interests and theological debates which the readership of the Christian News were engaged in.  And frankly, in writing my work, I was little interested or engaged in any of these discussions.  So, this tended to lead to something of a misinterpretation of my book on a number of points.

In Rydecki's case, there seems to be a number of thing going on.  First, there is the unique weirdness of the WELS history, particularly with its relationship to the doctrine of Objective Justification- something unparalleled in the LCMS or ELS.  As originally an outgrowth of a Pietist mission society, there is a stronger strain of Pietism leftover in that denomination than in the LCMS or the ELS.  Moving towards an orthodox understanding of election and justification with the theology of Hoenecke, there were always periodic Pietistic revolts against Objective Justification.  In reading the literature that was intended to crush these revolts, one notices that the more the Pietist side rejected the claims about OJ, the more the orthodox party would up the ante by hardening the language of objectivity and universality.  Again, they did so in language unparalleled in LCMS or ELS literature, as far as I can tell.  The nadir of this is probably the Kokomo statement, which was even rejected by Kurt Marquardt for its rather poor wording.  In fact, the whole thing sounded like a kind of Barthian universalism- even if this was quite obviously never the intention.  Hence, for the Pietist sorts who rejected OJ, it was very easy to use such poor language to confuse laypeople into believing that the WELS was teaching universalism (which is absurd).  Such revolts against the WELS leadership and its supposed "universalism" serve as a kind of master explanation and symbol for everything going wrong with the synod.  Despite Rydecki's association with the Gottesdienst crowd because of his advocacy of liturgical worship (among other things), I think one can hardly understand his motivation as having to do with an imaginary sacerdotalism.  It probably has more to do with his anger with the WELS leadership over things like Church-growthism and his use of the the issue of OJ (with which they have been forced to so strongly identify themselves because of the weird history of the WELS) as a symbol of everything else he thinks is wrong with the denomination.

2. "Limited Atonement":  Beyond wrongly accusing Rydecki of sacerdotalism, Cascione misfires a bit on the issue of limited vs. unlimited atonement.  Cascione seems to suggest that Rydecki doesn't really believe in an unlimited atonement, since he does not believe that forgiveness is prior to and therefore creates faith: "Rydecki should have titled his paper, “Why Christ Did Not Die for the Sins of the World.”

There is some truth to this and much untruth.  First, just to clear up a mistake that Cascione makes through the piece: Objective Atonement and Objective Justification are actually two separate things.  Objective Atonement means that Jesus has died for all sins, Objective Justification means that God the Father has received this atonement and responded to it by pronouncing a universal word of forgiveness and thereby sending the Holy Spirit to channel this message through the resurrection of Christ and the means of grace.  Cascione unfortunately misinterprets the doctrine at times (though not always) as mere universal atonement, which would not be correct.  Moreover, as Cascione also notes, Rydecki repeatedly states that he believes in Objective Atonement- and I see no reason to doubt this.

The truth in what Cascione says would be that a rejection of an Objective Justification paired with the orthodox doctrine of election would logically imply a limited atonement.  In other words, for Rydecki, much as in Calvinism, one has an atonement that is sufficient for the sins of the world.  Nevertheless, since there is no universal declaration of forgiveness (which the elect subsequently respond to with faith), logically, the promise can only be good for the elect and not for everyone else as well.  The negative effect of this is that since the universal promise isn't actually sincere except for the elect, one is driven back to the quality of one's faith to discern their election.  The only difference between Calvin and Rydecki then would be that for Calvinism election happens logically prior to atonement in God's order of decrees, whereas for Rydecki it happens afterwards.  

Part of the answer to this dilemma is that this rejection of Objective Justification wasn't meant to be coordinated with the doctrine of election.  Those who rejected OJ in the Norwegian, Ohio, and Iowa Synods also rejected election.  In their understanding, God gave a universal decree that he would absolve sin "if" people would believe.  Therefore, those who chose "not-to-not" resist divine grace would gain the judgment of justification and election subsequent to their belief.  Hence, as is easy to observe, without the pairing of election and Objective Justification, one is left either with a Calvinistic limited atonement or the intuitu fidei heresy.  In both cases, one cannot speak the gospel as an unconditional promise, but must ultimately drive people back to the quality of their faith as either a condition of salvation, or as a sign of a secret election. 

To be perfectly clear: Rydecki intends neither position- but not because this isn't the logical implication.  One of the difficulties with his particular style of doing theology is that he tends not to think very deeply through the implications of his own claims.  Case-in-point: As I have pointed out in the past, (and will touch on again below), his rhetoric of conditions placed on justification implies a belief in free will.  Why complain (as he rather frequently does) that people are not being forced to apply Christ's saving work to themselves, unless you actually think they can by their own free choice?  In pointing this out though, Rydecki asserts that I have falsely attributed to him a position which he does not hold.  Nevertheless, I never said that he held such a position.  What I said is that his way of formulating the doctrine of justification implied such a position, even if he did not hold such a position explicitly.  There is a difference.  In writing on theology, Rydecki largely lists off Bible quotations and theologians from the period of High Orthodoxy with little sense that there is a kind of internal coherence to the articles of the faith, or that, perhaps, theological terminology is not always univocal, but changes over time.  It never seems to occur to him that he must think through the implications of what he is teaching, rather than asserting such-and-such a doctrine because he can make a series of quotations say what he wants them to say.

Another example: At present the Intrepid Lutherans have an article up about how Huber sounds like statements made by certain Syncon theologians ( http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/2013/10/whose-line-is-it-anyway-concerning.html).   Well, so what?  If they were using the words in exactly the same manner, that might be a meaningful criticism.  But of course they aren't (and no serious theologian or historian thinks they are!), and, in fact, the Syncon theologians (Walther among them) taught a doctrine of election directly opposed to that of Huber.  So what's the argument again?- they sound the same so that's sort of damning or something?  Similarly, Walther discusses Huber's position in the Baier Compendium and rejects it in favor of Luther's in Bondage of the Will.  All of this then falls apart and indeed reveals itself to be a deeply superficial way of dealing with not only the doctrine of justification, but a deeply weird and flawed theological and historical method.  To put it very bluntly: If I wrote a journal article that used such logic, it would not be accepted for publication.  If I had a written a graduate paper in my doctoral program that used such logic, it would have received a non-passing grade.  But on the Internet, people can say whatever they want, I suppose.

3. Justification as an Analytic or Synthetic Judgment: For all his faults as a theologian, Albrecht Ritschl came up with an extremely useful way of grouping different doctrines of justification in his classic work Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versohnung.  He did so on the basis of the Kantian distinction between the analytical (a judgment that one gains by analyzing a thing "it is raining") or something that can be known a priori (categorically, it must either raining or not raining-one knows this prior to experience).  Properly speaking, Rome holds a analytic view, because God declares people righteous insofar as they have appropriated infused grace.  Pietism did as well, which is one of the reason that Karl Holl (a Swabian Pietist and student of Ritschl) wanted to make Luther's view into something analytical rather than synthetic.  By contrast, the Reformation assumed that God declared people righteous before examining them.  The declaration itself actually gave them the righteousness they needed (Christ's) and created the faith to appropriate it. 

If we are to use Ritschl's terminology, Cascione quite clearly places Rydecki into the analytic category.  In doing this, I think he's onto something here.  One of the more odd aspects of how Rydecki conceptualizes justification is that he pictures the sinner somehow actively appealing in the heavenly courtroom to the "the throne of grace."  Cascione writes (quoting Rydecki):

Here is another quote where Rydecki again has justification dependent on the action of the sinner. “Second, that justification occurs in the divine courtroom, not without the accused fleeing in faith to the Throne of Grace, not before the accused flees in faith to the Throne of Grace, but simultaneously with this ‘fleeing’ or this ‘forensic appeal.’ This present-tense (that is, concurrent with faith) absolution and justification is perfectly in keeping with the language of the Augsburg Confession:”
As Cascione rightly observes, this reverses the proper relationship between the proclamation of grace and the action of the sinner.  Grace comes and the sinner believes in the promise.  If there's nothing to believe in already, then there can't be any faith.  End of story.  As Kurt Marquardt has pointed out, the language of Objective and Subjective Justification developed during the Silver Age of Orthodoxy precisely to deal with a kind of confusion that could arise from the doctrine of justification by faith (a confusion which Rydecki has unfortunately reproduced!). In other words, to be justified one must believe that they are justified. But if one is only justified by faith, then one would asking someone to believe something that wasn't already true. To solve the problem, Calov observes in his commentary on the Augustana that prior to our faith, God announces his unilateral forgiveness (Objective Justification), which we subsequently appropriate by faith (Subjective Justification). 

Rydecki seems to have solved the problem in a different way than Calov, by creating an in-between state wherein the sinner believes in God's grace, but somehow doesn't have it yet.   Cascione also rightly points out that it is also a very bizarre way of thinking about faith in relationship to the knowledge of grace.  That is to say, somehow the sinner knows of and therefore logically trusts that God's grace exists, but this doesn't count as faith until he makes some kind of "appeal."  Beyond the logical problem of calling something that is faith not-faith, this theory also makes the mistake of conceptualizing the sinner as having an active part in his own justification.  That is, the sinner actively chooses to appeal to the gospel ("the throne of grace") and then God subsequently makes his judgment about the sinner based on the sinner's action.  This is utterly contrary to how Scripture, Luther, and the Lutheran Confessions think about faith.  For Orthodox Lutheran theology, faith is not an active choosing of the possibility of divine grace, but a passive receiving of it as a present reality.  This is why Luther refers to the life of faith as the vita passiva.  It is also no good to claim (as Rydecki doubtless would) that one can only make this active appeal because the grace of God has worked this capacity in us.  Even if this work is produced by God, it drives the sinner back to themselves in looking for assurance in an internal quality of faith in themselves- not in the unilateral word of grace proclaimed over them.  In fact, this is really more like the Augustinian/Thomistic position that God crowns his own works within us.  As a result, the distinction between law and gospel becomes the distinction between doing the Ten Commandments and doing the work of faith. 
Therefore, Rydecki's "appeal to the throne of grace" theory fails because: A. It logically implies either limited atonement or intuitu fidei.  B. Conceptualizes the sinner as active, rather than passive coram Deo.  C. Places the sinner in a extremely odd position of somehow being in a state of believing the gospel, but not having appropriated divine grace.  D. It turns justification from a synthetic judgment into an analytic judgment by insisting that God only justifies subsequent to the sinner's active appeal to the gospel, rather than conceptualizing God's forensic act as something which prompts the sinner to have faith.  Again, we observe  that Rydecki, unfortunately, may not have really thought through the implications of his own ideas.
4. Failure to understand the sacramentality of the Word:  Again, one of the major difficulties with Rydecki's position is a failure to understand the effective nature of the means of grace, or to understand the Word as something sacramental.  Cascione brings up a quotation from Luther (during his battle with Osiander over absolution) which deals with Objective Justification:

“Even he who does not believe that he is free and his sins forgiven shall also learn, in due time, how assuredly his sins were forgiven, even though he did not believe it. …A king gives you a castle. If you do not accept it, then it is not the king’s fault, nor is he guilty of a lie. But you have deceived yourself and the fault is yours. The king certainly gave it.”
In his paper, Rydecki's answer to the use of this quotation is quite revealing.  He states that this is about the Office of the Keys, and not about Objective Justification.  Cascione states that it, of course, is about Objective Justification- and he's correct.  Nevertheless, I think one can do better than Cascione's mere assertion that Rydecki is wrong.  What Rydecki fails to see is that because the Word is sacramental, the Office of the Keys is identical with God's own eternal act of justifying the world "in Christ."  Being in contact with the Word of absolution, means also being in contact with God's action of the justification of the world "in Christ."  Of course, apart from Christ, God is still active in his Word of law and wrath- but being in contact with the Word of absolution is identical with being in contact with God as the justifer of the world.  Failure to recognize or appreciate this is basically a failure to understand the coherence of Lutheran sacramental theory with the communication of attributes within the hypostatic union.  Just as Christ's divinity is present in and through his humanity, so too are God's own eternal decrees present in and through the means of grace.  Claiming that they are not is to repeat a mistake present in the Medieval tradition (after the manner of Peter Lombard) and in later Calvinism of distinguishing between the "will of the sign" and "will of good pleasure."
Ironically then, Cascione does not see that the "sacerdotalism" which he so abhors is actually the key to defeating Rydecki's theory of justification.  He tends to apply the term to those who hold that the word of the pastor is identical with the Word of God in absolution- or, at least, the in the case of William Cwirla and myself, that is how he has applied the term.  Nonetheless, if there is an Objective Justification that does not degenerate into a hazy universalism (as it is in the imagaination of Rydecki and his followers), it must be channeled through the means of grace, administered by those called to ministry.  Conversely, if ministers of the Word are authorized to proclaim the gospel as the very presence of God's salvation, then it must be grounded in the prior reality God's own universal and objective justification.  Indeed, if this were not the case, how is it that Jesus could announce unilateral forgiveness to sinners?  How could Paul indiscriminately tell the Romans whom he had never met that they were God's justified and elect?  It is because God has justified the whole world and authorized a sacramental Word through which he channels this justification.  Indeed, as Oswald Bayer has pointed out, the real "Reformation breakthrough" was not Luther's discovery of justification by faith alone, but rather the sacramentality of the Word.  That is to say, the Reformer came to recognize that the words "I absolve you" by the minister were in fact identical with God's own judgment.  Justification by faith was merely a consequence of this. 

In keeping with this, Luther makes this observation in his letter to the Nuremberg city council regarding the question of the general absolution.  As he states, the proclamation of the gospel is the proclamation of a universal absolution:

"We cannot censure of reject general absolution for this reason: the preaching of the holy gospel itself is a general absolution in which the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to many people in the congregation publicly or to a single person alone, either publicly or privately. For this reason, although not all believe the absolution, it is not to be rejected. For every absolution, whether it takes place in a communal or individual setting must still be understood to demand faith and to help those who accept it..."
He goes on:"....as the gospel proclaims forgiveness to everyone in the whole world and excepts no one from the universal [proclamation]." WA Br 6: 454, 5-17.

Friday, September 6, 2013

First Review of my Book.

September 4, 2013
The Self-Donation of God: A Contemporary Lutheran approach to Christ and His Benefits” by Jack Kilcrease
Reviewed by Jack Cascione

The Self-Donation of God: A Contemporary Lutheran approach to Christ and His Benefits” by Jack Kilcrease, is a new publication by Wipf & Stock, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene OR 97401. Kilcrease, an LCMS layman, recently earned his Doctorate from Marquette and is an adjunct professor at Aquinas College and the Institute for Lutheran Theology.
After he began reading Jack D. Kilcrease’s book Herman Otten decided he didn’t have the time to give it a thorough review. So he asked me to review it for him. With a wall of books on doctrine and exegesis I rarely pick up a book on doctrine for casual reading unless directed by the requirements of a sermon, debate, Bible study or research for writing. Most of my reading lies in exegetical interests.
With an average of five footnotes on each of his 10 by 7 inch, 310 pages in small print with notoriously small Pieperian quotes, I believe Kilcrease actually read the 1400 volumes in his 35 page Bibliography. He should also considered publishing two if not three different books rather than squeeze all this information into one edition.
After reading his book (and it took a while) would I buy it? The answer is absolutely yes. However, my answer is based on self-interest. Also, do not read Kilcrease’s book without a highlighter and a pencil. He does not include an index or list of Scripture verses. The book is so condensed careful reading, and at times re-reading, is required. More than a third of every page consists of quotes from other authors. I averaged about four highlights per page and wrote notes to myself about every third page.
As a reviewer, I count Chemnitz’s “Two Natures of Christ” one of the ten greatest books written by man; therefore Kilcrease’s approach to Christology was of particular interest. Based on my expectations his book had strengths, weakness, surprises, and question marks.
Let’s begin at the beginning. The first 130 pages were the most difficult. Suddenly on page 131 he becomes a different writer, but I had to finish reading the book to find out why.
He begins with an 8 page endorsement of the Doctrine of Inspiration similar to those found in the Concordia Commentaries, to which he and most of the Concordia writers do not refer again after the introduction. In other words, the Doctrine of Inspiration does not direct his theology. He certainly agrees with it, but his interests lie elsewhere.
Worship, redemption, atonement, and liturgy are his dominant themes, the current conservative Lutheran chic recoiling from the entropy of the Church Growth Movement.
Kilcrease begins with a review of Christology in the Old Testament followed by the New Testament and engages in 130 pages of the most extensive citations of parallels, allusions, analogies, symbolism, typologies, comparisons, and allegories I’ve ever read by a Lutheran writer and he does it very well. Page after page he enumerates parallels under the chapter titles, “Mediation in the Old Testament Part 1,” and “Part 2,” “Christology and Atonement in the New Testament Part 1,” and “Part 2,” and “The Mystery of the Person of Christ Part 1,” and “Part 2.” The following are just five of the hundreds of allusions in his book:
“In the tabernacle the seven planets appear to be represented by the seven lamp stands.” (Page 25)
“Revelation 4:3 places this rainbow behind Christ and therefore sees Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of peace with creation.” (Page 30)
“In fact, one is careful to tell us that the place where Jesus was crucified also had a garden (i.e., in reminiscence of the garden-temple) nearby: ‘Now in the place where he was crucified there was garden.’” (Page 71-2)
“Christ lying dead on the cross is reminiscent of Adam asleep giving birth to Eve out of his side.” (Page 73)
“Just as they were driven east out of the garden (Gen 3), so Israel is driven east out of the garden land (Gen 11).” (Page 124)
Later, I realized that my difficulty in reading the first 130 pages was that I could not identify a narrative or storyline because Kilcrease is actually cataloguing parallels. I found the parallels a valuable resource to illustrate a sermon or discuss in a Bible class or include in a devotion or in an article. The first 130 pages could be published separately and expanded with more explanation under the title “Prophetic Parallels about Jesus from the Bible,” though I doubt this was the author’s intent.
The collection of all these parallels into one volume is worth the price of the book. But, “Why so many? He couldn’t possibly record them all. For example He didn’t include parallels relating to Jacob’s marriage to an ugly woman, Jacob’s selection of speckled sheep, or Joseph’s explanation of the Butler’s and the Baker’s dreams. The answer must be that Kilcrease couldn’t resist quoting a good parallel when he saw one, and then another, and then another.
While he lists all these parallels Kilcrease offers a theological defense for the preincarnate Christ in the Old Testament (page 18), Moses as the mediator of the law (page 21,) and the preincarnate Christ as Mediator of the Gospel (Page 22). He then gives a remarkable discourse on the threefold office of the preincarnate Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King in the Old Testament (Pages 25-50).
Kilcrease’s source (Page 21) for Moses meaning “son” in Egyptian, (Dozeman, 2009) should be Cassuto’s Exodus (1951), who is not included in the bibliography. A Jewish exegete, Umberto Cassuto’s scholarship surpasses Whellhausen and Keil-Delitzsch. The point is that Kilcrease’s book would benefit from a more thorough exegetical development of his theology.
Kilcrease cites (Page 30) Daly (1978) for his source on relating circumcision to a bloody sacrifice. However, Cassuto writes, “Surely a bloody-bride-groom are you to me, meaning, I am delivering you from death—indeed, I am restoring you to life—by means of your son’s blood; and your return to life makes you, as it were, my bridegroom a second time, this time a blood-bridegroom, a bridegroom acquired through blood.” (Exodus Page 60-61) On page 135 Cassuto relates the blood of circumcision to the blood of the Passover. Cassuto also sees every manifestation of the Malach YHWH, the Angel of the Lord, (one of Kilcease’s major themes) as the presence of God in the Old Testament.
Again, my point is that Kilcrease tries to cover too much territory without sufficient exegetical support.
Cassuto, arguably the most significant Hebrew writer and scholar since the Masoretes, who labors endlessly to defend the veracity of the text against the Documentary Hypothesis, knows nothing of Christ, and refuses to explain who “He” is in Genesis 3:15. Here is perhaps my greatest disappointment with Kilcrease. He does not sufficiently expound the protoevangelian, the first Gospel, a term he cites on numerous occasions. In order to have validity, the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy must be anchored in Genesis 3:15. This was Kilcrease’s opportunity to break down the verse word by word, trace the words through the Old and New Testament, cite its historical usage in the church, explain who confessed it, who rejected it, relate it to other doctrines, and validate all of his parallels about Christ in the Old Testament.
Kilcrease’s attempts to construct a unified theology out of his outstanding array of parallels are less than convincing. Parallel’s make thin soup. Page after page he resorts to caveats instead of affirming absolutes such as: “have suggested (Page 73),” “reminiscent of Adam (Page 73),” “if Jesus (Page 73),” “Christ is portrayed (Page 82),” “the scene contains overtones (Page 84)” “John evokes several intertextual echoes (Page 85),” “this passage echoes the portrayal (Page 85),” “it may be inferred (Page 103),” etc. These are only a sampling of Kilcreases indefinite doctrinal propositions. Layered on top of these numerous allusions is a steady drum beat for liturgy and liturgical worship such as “Creation is therefore a liturgical narrative of divine glorification.” (Page 97) I confess; I am guilty; I have never worshipped God as I should.
The catalogue of parallels with Christ are worth the price of the book but the first 130 pages lack sufficient development and is layered with too many themes including atonement, redemption liturgy and worship.
For this writer, Kilcrease’s most significant offering in the first 130 pages, perhaps an innovation, was his theme of Jesus as Prophet Priest and King in the Old Testament. This whole section would be well suited as a separate book with broader attestation from the Early Church, the Reformers, various traditions, and Hebrew scholars.
Suddenly on page 131 another Kilcrease emerges. He is clearly more confident, at ease and exact about his subject. The caveats in the first part of the book fade away and Kilcrease starts writing with more and more certainty. In the second half of the book he quotes Luther, the Confessions, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Melanchthon, Pieper, and many other Lutheran Reformers. He argues against Calvin, Zwingli and others, why they are wrong, why the Lutherans were right, supplies abundant proof texts from Scripture and develops one theme at a time. He addresses the views of numerous 20th century theologians including Bultmann, Harnack, Pannenburg, Elert, Wingren and so many others I can’t name them all. There is continuity, theme, plot and pros and cons. Before I knew it, I had read 60 pages rather than struggle with10 pages a day in First Kilcrease.
In Second Kilcrease it becomes evident that he is skilled in analyzing, condensing, and explaining the theological positions of other theologians. His adroit summary of various Christological controversies was great reading. Here again his book is worth the purchase price, if for no other than his rare ability to give a concise and clear explanation of complicated issues. I wish I had his book before covering the second volume of Pieper at the seminary. At times I thought I was reading Pieper. He takes the reader with absolute confidence through the three genuses. One would have preferred that he had covered even more of the many issues in Christology than he did. You guessed it. He should write another book titled “A Review of Christology.”
He gives an informative examination of the Catholic position on the virgin birth. Otten will appreciate his defense of Isaiah 7:14 (Page 134). One wishes for a similar treatment of Gen. 3:15.
Perhaps His review of Christ’s threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King, in the New Testament in relation to the Trinity is his own contribution. I don’t have enough familiarity with the subject. While rejecting Gustaf Aulen’s views on Christus Victor, Kilcrease embraces Aulen’s motifs on Christ’s conquest, substitution, and revelation in the threefold office. Kilcrease writes,“…when properly understood each office of Christ correlates to an atonement motif.” (Page 200) This was new for me.
Kilcrease does a high wire act tracing the Doctrine of Atonement through the threefold office of Christ in relation to the Trinity. That’s what I said, and I understood him. For example he writes: “Because the threefold office and action of reconciliation expresses the unity of Triune agency in creation and redemption, each office and work of reconciliation corresponds to a person of the Trinity.” (Page 208) This was fascinating to say the least and deserves further attention.
As strong as Kilcrease is in Christology he is surprising short on the Doctrine of Justification. He argues against self-justification throughout the book. However, where he discusses redemption or redeemer on nearly every page, justification lacks attention. He brings up justification on pages 140-141, 248-49, and 255-58. There is a brief mention of imputation, reconciliation and baptism. When he does expound the Doctrine of Justification it lacks the depth and insight he gives to redemption and atonement.
On balance the New Testament (KJV) does not use the word “Redeemer.” “Redemption,” appears 11 times and “redeem,” and “redeemed,” appear 11 times and “atonement,” just one time. However, “justification,” “justify,” “justified,” appear 41 times. “Righteous” and “righteousness” appear 144 times. Kilcrease gives the same curtsy to objective and subjective justification at the end of the book that he gave to inspiration at the front of the book. To what do we owe this lack of balance?
Most likely, Kilcrease, who is highly influenced by the Fort Wayne faculty, is following Fort Wayne’s admiration for Greek Orthodoxy and the Early Church. David Scaer gives Kilcrease a glowing forward and Kilcrease quotes him at least 20 times in his book, including many quotes by Just, Gieschen, Richard Mueller, Marquart, also Gibbs from St. Louis.
There are a few things I question about Kilcrease’s views. He states that theologians of glory seek righteousness “through knowing and doing.” (Page 106) That’s a broad statement. “Doing” yes, but how else can I gain righteousness except by knowing Scripture?
Forgiveness as an ability smacks of Sacerdotalism when he writes, “Not only are the disciples given the ability to forgive in Jesus name…” (Page 194) Isn’t the “ability” to forgive given through the word alone, and is not a spiritual gift in the individual?
He infers that John 6 is addressing the Lord’s Supper when he writes, “He does so by literally giving the sacrificed substance of his being on which they are to masticate. This flesh and blood is something living (John 6:53-58).” He then cites FC SD Article 8; CT 1035 “On the Person of Christ” while Article 7 is on the Lord’s Supper, not Article 8. (Page 194)
When he finally discusses Christ’s propitiation it is in terms of Evangelical excess rather than expounding the most important synonym for justification in the Apology. (Page 212)
I think it is speculation to suggest that Adam possessed what we understand to be “the divine righteousness of faith” before the fall. Kilcrease will need more evidence from Scripture to expound on the nature of Adam’s faith. (Page 147)
The Doctrine of Inspiration should be the primary source to which Lutherans look for relevance before they enlist the support of tradition, church history, and ritual.
This review is a cursory examination of an important book and subject to the limitations of this writer. Our advice is, “Buy this book and read it for yourself.” It will be an important addition to any pastor’s library and Lutheran discourse on the Two Natures Christ. Kilcrease is sure to be quoted in many future Lutheran works.