Category Archives: Theological

The Ninety-Five Theses

The Ninety-Five Theses

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

luther_95-thesesOut of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to penitence in one’s heart; for such penitence is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward penitence) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep. Continue reading

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Martin Luther on “Righteousness of God”

The teaching of justification by faith alone stands as one of the five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Fide served as the battle cry for the Reformers who declared that a person is saved or justified by faith alone apart from the works of the law. It was Martin Luther who rediscovered this biblical doctrine during his tenure as a lecturer in biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. As he studied, he became convinced that the primary source of Christian theology was not the papal traditions but rather the Bible itself, especially interpreted through the lens of Augustine of Hippo.[1] This discovery eventually lead Luther to rebuild the church from the ground up as in an effort to be faithful to the command of Scripture that the believer is simultaneously a righteous person and a sinner (simul justus et peccator). Thus, the foundation laid by Luther may well be the reason he is attributed with the statement, “Justification is the article by which the church stands and falls.”[2]

Martin Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ changed the course of church history, but what preceded the Reformation was a distinctly different understanding of the meaning “righteousness of God.” Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ served as the catalyst that launched the Reformation. In essence, Luther sought to understand how one martin-luther-statueobtained favor before God. In other words, Luther wanted to know how humanity entered into a relationship with God, one that would save from damnation, death, and hell. Of course, the medieval and Catholic answer to this was the sacraments and the need for intermediaries, such as Mary and the saints. Nevertheless, Luther still wrestled with this as the basis, and it was primarily from how Paul used the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

Luther’s vision of God served as the foundation for what he thought about everything else, especially with the notion of sin and the Law.[3] He knew that people stood condemned before a holy God, and he rejected the notion that people could earn their righteousness.[4] Yet upon his reading of Romans, Luther struggled still with δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

I had conceived a burning desire to understand what Paul meant in his Letter to the Romans, but thus far there had stood in my way, not the cold blood around my heart but that one word which is in chapter one: “The justice of God is revealed in it.” I hated that word, “justice of God,” which by the use and custom of all my teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically as referring to formal or active justice, as they call it, i.e., that justice by which God is just and by which he punishes sinners and the unjust.[5]

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ETS 2015 Reflections

ets-logoLast year I was able to attend my first national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held in Atlanta, Georgia. I have wanted to attend since I was accepted for student membership in 2010, but scheduling conflicts always prohibited my journey. I had to live vicariously through others who attended, listen to their stories about papers presented (and book sales), and follow their journey via Twitter.

I was talking with a friend a few months back who is also attending this year, and he asked about my experience from 2015.

First, it was every theological students dream. There before me on every floor were world-renown scholars in their own discipline. I saw Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology was helpful for me in my early years, from a distance in the book store. I sat a few rows ahead of Bill Mounce who authored the Basics of Biblical Greek textbook that taught me the Greek language. I saw both Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning whose work on Verbal Aspect has dramatically changed how I read the Greek New Testament. I shared an elevator ride with D.A. Carson, saw Doug Moo in the lobby, and watched Tom Schreiner help count votes in the business meeting. I was attending a theological conference with these “heavy-hitters.” Continue reading

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On Politics and the Kingdom of God

Presidential-sealThe political atmosphere in America has been in full swing for over a year now with the potential presidential candidates making a sprint through the primaries with the hope of obtaining the coveted title of “Nominee.” Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two primary candidates in this race and, despite the numerous third party candidates, one of the two will find their place behind the Resolute Desk come January 20.

I was reminded, yet again, how our political ideologies can become our political idols today as I clicked on a news link “guaranteed” to anger me. I watched as the video portrayed the failure of the Bush administration to uncover any WMD’s in their invasion of Iran and the apparent lying made by many in high level positions.

Now there are many possible reasons why the “lying” occurred, and I am in no way defending those in error. It could simply have been a misstatement or a general forgetfulness made by the respondent, or it could have well been lying. The fact that the video shows many months, if not years, between the initial statement could suggest the former, but the human temptation to cover our mistake rather than correcting can also suggest the latter.

Yet it only took me a few scrolls through my Facebook feed to find, you guessed it, an article of the Obama administration/Clinton campaign/Trump campaign caught lying over an extended period of time. Continue reading

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On the Passing of Jan Crouch

Jan-Crouch-TBNThe Christian Post reported this morning the news that Trinity Broadcasting Network’s (TBN) co-founder Jan Crouch passed away this morning after suffering a massive stroke.

For those unaware, Crouch established TBN with her late husband Paul Crouch in 1973 and it quickly became one of the leading “Christian” television networks. Let the reader understand: TBN espouses the heretical doctrine of Word of Faith theology, most commonly known as the Prosperity Gospel, or the Health and Wealth Gospel. TBN has lead the way in spreading this false gospel across the globe, and the Crouch family has allowed these false teachers to pontificate this message in order to acquire a vast wealthand solidify their kingdom upon this earth.

It was a peculiar feeling I had when I read of Crouch’s illness yesterday and her passing this morning. When her husband died a few years ago I had the same feeling. Part of me desires to celebrate because she is no longer able to spread a false gospel message, although her empire still exists. We are told both not to rejoice over the death of the wicked since God does not (Ezek 33:11; cf. Pros 24:17–18)[1] but there also seems to be time when one should rejoice (Prov 11:10; cf. Rev 18:20), although perhaps this is more linked with wicked rulers who oppress those who dwell in their Kingdom. Continue reading

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Friedrich Schleiermacher: An Appreciation

In my Advanced Hermeneutics seminar last October I found myself researching Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern hermeneutics. I researched his early years, Kantian influence, and the hermeneutical circle that he, and subsequently others, used frequently. His impression upon the discipline of biblical hermeneutics is far-reaching and is even seen behind the veils of interpretative methods today.

Schleiermacher was born on November 21, 1768 in Breslau, Prussia where his father served as a chaplain of the Reformed Church to a regiment in Silesia.[1] A very bright individual who was the product of a Moravian Brethren upbringing, he desired to receive a broader education than he was receiving at the time. At fourteen he began to doubt aspects of the Scripture. As a student at a boarding school in Pless there arose within him a strange skepticism towards the genuineness of the ancient authors of the Bible and they, as a result, began to seem disjointed and unreal to the young scholar.[2]

After his promotion to Barby in 1785 to study philosophy his doubting eventually lead him to turn to liberal Protestantism to acquire the answers he desired. He wrote to his father that he could no longer believe the Son of Man was the true eternal God, his death a vicarious atonement, and an eternal punishment for those who could not attain faith in Jesus.[3] After receiving permission from his father, Schleiermacher transferred to the University of Halle where he immersed himself in Kant, Greek philosophy, and the famous writers of the early church to the period of the Reformation. After he passed his theological exams in 1796 he spent six years preaching at a hospital in Berlin and two years as the court preacher at Stople. Eventually he traveled back to Halle and accepted a position as professor of theology at the University of Halle, only to leave and return to Berlin to preach at Trinity Church and lecture at the University. Continue reading

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Reading John Owen

admin-ajaxMy time at Louisiana College shaped my theological mind profoundly. I was most influenced by my professors during my time in the halls of Guinn. These men opened an entire world of theological dialogue that I was unaware even existed. I began hearing the names of Douglas Moo, D.A. Carson, Francis Schaeffer, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, John MacArthur, Thomas Schreiner, John Goldingay, John Sailhamer, William Carey, N.T. Wright, Albert Mohler…and the list could continue for some pages. I began to read some of these men and it proved both laborious and rewarding.

I remember either hearing or reading the story of how John Piper devoted himself to one particular theologian.

When I was in seminary, a wise professor told me that besides the Bible I should choose one great theologian and apply myself throughout life to understanding and mastering his thought. This way I would sink at least one shaft deep into reality, rather than always dabbling on the surface of things. I might, in time, become this man’s peer and know at least one system with which to bring other ideas into fruitful dialogue. It was good advice.

The theologian I have devoted myself to is Jonathan Edwards.[1]

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