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Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
The matter of confessional subscription is much more complicated than many would imagine. Even when we have taken it to the point where we say quia instead of quatenus. We know that quia subscription entails holding to the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions because they are in full agreement with Holy Scripture. But what about when we deal with a matter whose ground of authority is something else?
This is all the more interesting when we look at the nature of the passage in question, the Fourth Commandment. This is one of those odd passages that trip people up. Kind of like "This sentence is false." Is it? Or St. Paul's divinely inspired statement that his advice is not from the Lord. Well, now it's recognized as Scripture, so is it binding despite his caveat? Or is his statement that it is not from the Lord binding?
When we get to Luther's exposition of the Ten Commandments, this is shaky territory. For in 1525, Luther wrote a treatise called "How Christians Should Regard Moses." In it he stated emphatically that "The law of Moses binds only the Jews and not the Gentiles." That Luther includes the Decalog in this statement is clear in his proof of the statement from the preamble to the Decalog "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt." Luther reasons that since God brought the Jews and not the Gentiles out of the land of Egypt, this law was binding on only the Jews. He says that we will regard Moses as a teacher, but will not regard him as a lawgiverunless he agrees with both the New Testament and the Natural Law.
So how are we to read Luther's statement that "we have three kinds of fathers presented in this commandment: fathers by blood, fathers of a household, and fathers of the nation" (Large Catechism, 158)? Think of how complex the claim is here, in light of the 1525 treatise. If this was given to the Jews and not the Gentiles, then the Jews were told that the leaders of the nation were to be received as fathers. To know whether this was also true of the Gentiles requires knowing the New Testament and Natural Law. As to the New Testament, Matthew 23:9 tells us to call no man father. Now even in the New Testament, it appears that exceptions are made (e.g. 1 Tim 5:1, Phil. 2:22). When I check my concordance for the term "kings", there is little to suggest that the kind of filial affection that Luther speaks of is appropriate. If Moses binds Jews and not Gentiles, then it seems odd to me that Luther is in a position of authority to bind us to feel a certain way toward our rulers, a way at odds with the tone of the New Testament as a whole.
Further, the Large Catechism was composed as a series of sermons. Now whatever Luther's strengths, I think it unwise to regard him as a great political philosopher when he speaks of the nature of political authority. His statement of how government arises from paternal authority is an argument from Reason, or Natural Law. Yet it is not a good argument. It is the argument that Robert Filmer later developed in Patriarchia, which was demolished by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government. I'm not easily going to believe that I should hold that this little argument Luther dashed off for a sermon is better than Locke's argument. Especially when I look at how slipshod the argument is. Where are the citations of Scripture. If authority matters so much, why doesn't Luther reference someone's well-known discussion? Given Luther's own statements about the nature of authority, I don't see how you can argue that this is binding. Luther makes a statement in one sermon, and for the rest of history this is supposed to determine how Lutherans act, or even feel, toward the state? Let me just say that we don't have a good history on this one. (Visit the Simon Wiesenthal center if you imagine we do.) Does subscription mean that not only the Scriptures, but the Natural Law also, has been read properly?
If authority is the issue, then does not loyalty to the most basic authorities require us to scrutinize the new authorities each time we accept a new one? If St. Paul's apostolic authority wasn't supposed to forestall the Bereans from scrutinizing his work, should Luther ever escape such scrutiny? St. Paul even suggests that after the Galatians accepted his teaching they could use it to judge what he would later teach. Scrutiny does not end. To say that we are going to follow a man who himself challenged authority, and accept his statements on political authority where he fails to use his authorities carefully. If the "fathers" who came before are to be honored, why not include citations from Aquinas or William of Ockham? We're supposed to feel as if our civil rulers are fathers while ignoring the teachings of the church fathers on matters of church and state? It would be odd to reject all the authorities Luther rejected and then take a pre-Reformation understanding of our Lutheran forebears. As if we can reject church councils even where they clearly deliberated, yet we must accept even more occasionally written pieces from the early days of our own church as if the men who wrote them had a charism of infallibility.
I got into the Lutheran position by scrutinizing the Evangelical doctrine under which I grew up. According to some, perhaps I wasn't supposed to do so. Yet the training I was given in confirmation class told me otherwise. A good bulk of my movement toward Lutheranism has been through submission to what I was taught. If I wasn't being a good Lutheran in my process of becoming Lutheran, I can still claim that I was being a good evangelical. And remain one. I've been convinced by argument that the major Lutheran distinctives are true, despite the fact that most Lutherans I spoke with during that time couldn't argue their way out of a paper bag. Most of them didn't have any sense of how to make an appeal to outsiders. The best arguments I found by reading. And the fact that many arguments are convincing doesn't mean that every argument is convincing. I didn't end up in Lutheranism because I thought the Reformers were somehow magically gifted to be the only accurate readers of Scripture for all time. There is no good argument that I should accept the positions that are merely asserted and have never been argued well. Especially where they are arguing not Scripture, but speculations regarding Natural Law.
[I have removed personal references from this post at the request of the one formerly named in it.]
1:09 am Pacific Standard Time
Saturday, February 24th, 2007
In my late high school and early college years, I did a stint at Calvary Chapel. Calvary prided itself on being non-denominational. It eschewed Systematic Theology. Heavy readers there were few, and made to feel odd. But I would say that people who did read tended either to like Spurgeon or Finney, two men who would likely not have accepted each other as Christians.
I saw many conversations where people would talk about how they or someone else was assured of their salvation until someone brought up a warning passage in Scripture, of the form 'No this, thats, or the others will enter the kingdom of heaven.' This brought questions to my life. Perhaps I was safe from certain of the sins, but all of them? The list was broad. And should I feel safe if I merely refrained outwardly? Or should I give the sin list a Sermon on the Mount reading? It was clear in these conversations that those who read the warning passages were convinced that anyone who did these things and still expected to go to heaven because of the Gospel was deluded.
In other conversations, someone would have run into a warning passage, perhaps the above, or perhaps how we will not be forgiven if we don't forgive. They would ask questions as to how those applied. A good solid grace answer would be given. Then the individual would leave, and I would hear the response, "Man, so-and-so just really doesn't have a handle on the finished work of Christ on the cross!"
Well, this puzzled me. One day the warning passages excluded these people from heaven; another day Christ's death could save them despite them. Over time, I discerned a pattern to this. The leader would just be on whatever side the questioner was not. This allowed the leader to lead by correcting the questioner. If the questioner brought up a warning passage, the leader could bring up the finished work of Christ on the cross. If the questioner brought up the work of Christ, the leader reminded the questioner of the warning passages. There was no other rhyme or reason to this.
When I discovered Systematic Theology, and especially the distinction between Law and Gospel, I was able to recover the assurance I had lost earlier. I was able to return to my previous conviction that Christ's death could get me into heaven despite my sin, or flabby repentance. Let's be clear about this. There are probably not very many people who imagine that Christ's death didn't pay for all the sins of those he suffered for. What goes into question is whether faith in that is enough to keep the connection despite sins.
I still think more subtle forms of the Calvary dynamic exist even in Lutheran churches. Let's imagine a case where a pastor says that chocolate ice cream is sinful. He talks about the body being a temple, and how we are to avoid all appearance of evil, and chocolate cakes are called "devil's food" and some advertisements for chocolate say "sinfully rich." So even the pagans know this. What will happen if the layman who enjoys chocolate argues the case that this is not sinful? "Well, obviously I've struck a nerve," will be the pastor's likely response. "My preaching of the Law hit home. Otherwise why would you be so upset?" Lots of reasons. Preaching false doctrine might be one.
Being able to learn some Systematic Theology, where you allow one text to enlighten your view of what another text means, where certain texts can limit the possible meanings of other texts, was a lifeline to me. Any pastor who imagines that I should be willing to shed this so that I listen to whatever he is proclaiming today with a naive mind is going to be disappointed. I'm not going to quake just because the pastor is angry. I'm not going to be comforted just because the pastor feels like being a comforter. Any message preached today has to fit with an understanding reached previously. (This is even the case for Peter's Pentecost Sermon and Paul's Mars Hill address. So don't try to pit divine initiative against it. It won't work.) Even where past views have been in error, it takes convincing, not mere asserting, for me to arrive anywhere.
The Calvary Chapel way of talking about this at least had the advantage that it used the term "understanding." These things can finally be understood. I thought I understood their teaching on the finished work of Christ. I thought I understood their teaching on the warning passages. Those understandings were in conflict and required a resolution. At least I retained the conviction that a resolution might be possible.
When our theology goes bad, the pastor seems to claim that finally nobody understands anything. That Calvary Chapel was right. The solution was not to try to understand these things. The solution was to flip-flop. Be a legalist one day and an antinomian another. And don't try to figure out which one is right today. Let some other poor wretch bring the question to the pastor so he or she can be wrong today. And nod your head when the pastor delivers the opposite answer as if it were a new revelation.
11:04 am Pacific Standard Time
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007
I took a class at Gordon-Conwell called Historiography. Among other things, we had to read a lot of well-chosen journal articles on the subject. My favorite was a piece by Albert C. Outler titled Theodosius' Horse [from Church History, Vol. 57 (1988)], about how Alexandrine Christianity might have triumphed but for the emperor being thrown fatally from his horse. But there was another piece that also had a pithy point to it. Two academics were discussing places to visit in a major world city. One was drawn to some archives he would rarely have an opportunity to visit. Another wanted to see a newly built music hall. The first questioned this choice. Why would he want to go there, given the choice? The answer given was that "I am an historian, not an antiquarian." What had drawn the historian to his vocation was living humanity.
Now what I loved about that answer was that it drew two things together simultaneously. If the man had been other than an historian, we might have imagined that his choice had a different meaning. "Why would I want to look at the dead past in some dusty archives?" But it was clear that to him the past was not dead. It was living. Yet there were times when the currently living would win out on sheer vivacity.
There are a couple errors that can be made. One is to ignore the past. We will likely do this if we imagine that whatever is happening now is the height of what has ever happened. The irony is, the belief that this is so is self-perpetuating, even when it is false. How come? Because if we think the past has nothing to tell us, we won't study it. And when we haven't studied it, we won't know anything that it can tell us. As with many things, exposure leaves us wanting more. But lack of exposure leaves us satisfied that we have missed little.
The second error is to allow the past to swamp the present. We can put all the pomp available into a Fourth of July celebration without asking whether or not we are free today. No. Those Founding Fathers did what they did so we could have a beautiful holiday for all time. The proper approach to the Eighteenth Century is to create museum exhibits concerning it. "But don't touch that!"
The past holds much wisdom. We ignore it to our own hurt. But its wisdom has to be appropriated. It cannot just be locked up safely so that nobody can touch it. The danger is not that we will tarnish it. The danger is that we won't learn from it.
1:37 pm Pacific Standard Time
Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
My old friend Kepler has alerted me to a program called the Gender Genie which determines from vocabulary whether a given piece was written by a male or by a female. I submitted a bunch of my writing to it, and am thankful to announce that I am solidly male (Except when I'm writing about Cro-Mags. I probably use the word "If" too much.). It is interesting to see what pieces get what kinds of results. I seem to be most male when I'm angry and fighting.
Well, I wondered how Martin Luther's section from the Large Catechism on the Fourth Commandment would come out. This is a passage I have never liked. In part because the tone seems so scolding. I figured taking a scolding tone might pull a piece of writing toward a female vocabulary. I was right. In bold are the results.
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)
Female Score: 8313
Male Score: 6751
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!
Katie wrote the passage! I have scientific proof!
4:10 pm Pacific Standard Time
Saturday, February 17th, 2007
I just ran into an online article on Bishop Schori's being "boycotted" (the journalist's term) by some African bishops who refused to commune with her. I wished to comment on one section of the article.
Jim Naughton, canon for communications at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., which accepts gay relationships, criticized the archbishops for making a sacrament a point of protest.
"Imagine if every believer, everywhere insisted on knowing the views of every other worshipper in a church on all the hot-button issues of our time before they would agree to go to Eucharist," Naughton said. "When you don't attend a Eucharist because you disagree with the views of the people who are attending with you, you make it seem that the Eucharist is about you. It is not about you. It is about God."
What is wrong with this question?
First I want to note that I agree with some of Naughton's assumptions. In the case he imagines, we have a real problem. We will probably rarely ever see a celebration take place. And when we do, it will be a situation like in the old joke, "The last two sane people in the world are me and you. And I'm not so sure about you."
Second, the Lord's Supper is more about God than it is about us. Some Lutherans even insist that Lord's Supper is a more appropriate title than Eucharist, because Eucharist means thanksgiving, something we do, which is a much lesser thing than what God is doing. It would be like calling someone's dinner party a "Thank the Host" celebration. Thankfulness is a good thing, but now suddenly it looks like your act of thanking takes precedence over the host's giving of the dinner.
But is it altogether true that the Lord's Supper has no horizontal component to it? St. Paul speaks otherwise. He says that it is possible to come together for the worse rather than the better (1 Cor. 11:17). Divisions are part of this, and he says that they are unavoidable (1 Cor. 11:18-19). So everyone pretending that they are in full fellowship is not what is called for.
We are given advice not to eat with professing Christians who are immoral in this world (1 Cor. 5:11). Now this may be based upon an ancient idea of what table fellowship entails. It signifies approval. So some would say, "That is cultural. We need not follow that any more." To an extent, I agree. Yet the Table of the Lord brings with it much of that culture. God has made this form of ancient table fellowship timeless. He shows His acceptance of us here.
So how are we to apply this? Each individual on his own judgment? Probably not. I think this had to do with a congregation acting as a single unit. They will not embody this command perfectly. They won't always know who is guilty of what, nor perhaps should they. What they are trying to avoid is putting a stamp of approval upon scandalous behavior. Where there is public scandal, the Holy Ministry should step in and suspend table fellowship until the matter is dealt with.
This is what the bishops have done. They have seen an instance of behavior which is deeply scandalous, especially to congregations in Africa. When they say they are not in full fellowship with bishop Schori, they are making a public statement to their own congregations back home that they do not approve Schori's public stance. And let this be clear. Some might think that Schori is not herself guilty unless she participates directly in the sins in question. But St. Paul reserves harsher judgment for those who approve of such behavior than those who practice it (Romans 1:32). For as he says in the seventh chapter of Romans, some who sin agree with the Law, but are too weak in the flesh to follow it. So they are not to be charged with sin, since it is not they who do it, but their indwelling sin. Yet to offer public approval to sin is to disagree with God's Law, and that publically. I am happy to receive communion next to a repentant homosexual. By repentance I don't mean successful amendment of life, either. I mean a Romans 7 believer, who would do the good, but finds him or herself doing the opposite. But I am not comfortable receiving it under a bishop who condones homosexuality.
I can assure Jim Naughton that I could receive the Supper with all kinds of people with all kinds of views. I will allow my pastor to get wind of any public scandals. He will probably choose his battles. If he chooses them unevenhandedly, where it seems to follow a political party line, then I'm willing to hear the argument from Naughton. I may not agree with it, but I will respect the form of argumentation. And perhaps at times I will say to the pastor, "Pastor, this is starting to look uneven. If we're going to break fellowship over this, we'd better address that too, or leave it undone." For this is a public proclamation. As a canon for communications, Jim Naughton should consider what the African bishops have really communicated to their flocks back home.
If Naughton and Schori were right about their views on homosexuality, I would still hope they could see some of this. The Africans are being scandalized whether homosexuality is a sin or not. That scandal doesn't go away by wishing it away. Naughton and Schori are worried about scandalized homosexuals in the U.S. and Europe. They know their behavior is symbolic to their constituents. They know that when a bishop approves of homosexuality that the homosexual community feels affirmed by it. This is not merely between the bishop and God. If we really existed that independently of each other, this would not be a discussion in the first place. Naughton wishes us to retain a symbol of unity under the guise that the Supper does not communicate such unity, so that afterwards he can go out and brag about the unity which supposedly does not exist. To quote C.S. Lewis, "It was a political statement. That is, it was a lie."
3:29 pm Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, February 15th, 2007
I was a congregational President some time back, and got a crash course in church polity, a subject about which I had had little interest in up to that point. Well, after seeing how crucial it is, I wish to write about it. Not to rehash anything that happened, as upsetting as some of it was, so much as to suggest some areas of undeveloped territory. Some of the problems we had may have had less to do with people insisting on their own way, though there was some of that, and more to do with not having a good way of meshing our different ruling documents.
I don't remember the exact wording of our Constitution and By-Laws, but as to standards, they may well have matched the ones that the LCMS suggests as a guideline: "The Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice." So far, so good. Later we had another statement. It may also have been like the one Synod suggests: "In addition to principles laid down in Scripture and in the constitution and bylaws of this congregation, accepted parliamentary procedures such as Robert's Rules of Order shall be followed."
I have no gripe about these. Some will note a raging debate over use of the word "Inerrancy" in such a Constitution. I am an Inerrantist, but I don't understand the debate with relation to a church Constitution. In fact, this current discussion might explain why. Until we have it clear how a doctrinal statement is to be integrated with polity, such an Inerrancy statement might make no more sense for a congregation than it would for a kennel.
My own frustration came when I would see the procedures laid out in Robert's Rules of Order take precedence over broad Biblical teaching. Robert's Rules are nice and specific. Most of the time, it is clear exactly what they entail. The Bible has more of a tendency to be broad in many places. Where it is specific, church members are likely to side with the Bible, since they can plainly see the conflict, and know the Bible is the greater authority.
But what if something broader comes into conflict with a by-Law? What if the pastor sees some wolf-like behavior in a Voters' Assembly, but it is not his turn to speak according to Robert's Rules? Were Robert's Rules written to specify how a pastor can be a shepherd?
My point here is not to say that we need yet another By-Law that says the pastor can speak whenever because he is a shepherd. (Well, that might help, too!) But we do need to consider how to address the difference in genre between the two kinds of writings. I think we run into this kind of problem any time we have authoritative writings of different forms. It takes a different kind of mind to use each. There needs to be some formation that allows us to juggle appropriately. Perhaps some training.
Most people learn how to follow parliamentary procedure in the middle of the mess. They come into a parish council or Voters' Assembly, and learn how to follow it from watching others who have been there before. I think there has to be some kind of play council. Sort of like a Model United Nations. Where we run scenarios from other churches that are not the ones blazing in our own. This might help people develop a mind for how church government should go. Perhaps there would be coaches who could evaluate performance. People would be more likely to listen when the correction is not over an actual issue they have a stake in.
I think perhaps such meetings would be a great source of information as to how procedures can be followed in ways at variance with the counsel of the Scriptures. A "Parliamentary Procedure for Lutherans" could be developed over time, as ways were developed to avoid conflicts between Biblical teaching and parliamentary procedure. Now some will say, "As long as there are sinful people in the world, you have to expect that." True enough. But sometimes people are worse not because they would refuse to be better, but because they are blind to how the truth applies in a given case. And people might be more willing to learn to see if we teach them in an enviornment that is not already ugly.
I would think that maybe this would work best if congregations in a given area would take their new slate of candidates for office, and compile a list. Each church could take a certain number of candidates from each congregation, so the members would "practice" governing with people outside their own congregations. They could then walk in feeling like they had done this somewhere else and knew what was or was not expected behavior. Perhaps there could also be training where a "council" made of "actors" went through a script, one with intentional mistakes in it to train people to catch them. Mistakes both of order and of Scripture.
What do my readers think?
12:26 pm Pacific Standard Time
Tuesday, February 13th, 2007
Last night I thought more of my Cro-Magnon guy. I was thinking of his language. Arguing the theological grid behind my speculations is too time-consuming to do. Rest assured, I know there are tensions and problems with this picture. I am not committed to it, and even think your reservations may prove fatal. But that is true of just about any picture I can come up with from Richard Dawkins to six literal days six thousand years ago.
My Cro-Magnon guy has a funny combination of a more ape-like emotional tone to his speech, yet a clarity of thought in his language that we lack. His speech is precise, but relates to matters about which we have a limited vocabulary. Hunting. Gathering. Social status. Ceremonial matters. All the details of cuts of meat as they can be had in his world with a stone knife.
He would look at our world and be flabbergasted. He would not envy us. Not even our steak houses. He would see everything that they did wrong. The eating is too unceremonious. And there was no fun of the hunt preceding it. He would think we were like the women who stayed home while the men hunted. Why are we proud of this?
His own speech has retained ape-like emotional qualities. It is very expressive that way. But being a human, he has added on imitation of many other animals. He considers himself the sum of many of them.
He can have a long conversation with his canine friends. An hour and a half spent that way is not considered wasted time. They will likely pay it back. But that's beside the point. It is enjoyable.
After reading this, you may have a sense that there is a lot to learn from this guy. Yet if you met him, he would blow your expectations yet again. You would have an idea of what you wanted to learn from him. He would spend most of his time talking about something else. Perhaps something trivial. You would walk away disappointed, but remind yourself that you would see him again and perhaps it would go better. Then for the next ten years you would be unpacking what he said and why, and your life would be changed by it.
Too bad he's gone. I hope there are campfires in heaven where we can hang out with him.
1:02 pm Pacific Standard Time
I used to hear non-Christians say things like, "Why should you need heaven if you live a good and full life?" When I was younger, this was a bit intimidating as a question. Not convincing, really. But intimidating. It sounded like a high self-esteem answer. Now I'm not so sure of even that.
I think as humans, we're pretty flexible in our psychology. When we find we have great limits imposed upon us, like a short future, after some wrestling, we come to terms with it. Why? Because we don't want to spoil what's left over through grief.
Yet if our faith is true, then perhaps we are refusing to mourn nearly as much as we might. If we ourselves were not limited in time, we might be able to walk through a graveyard and mourn over each loss. We might feel the loss of those born in past centuries or millennia. It might be a good spiritual exercise to attempt this.
I like thinking of the coolest of the Cro-Magnons. I recently took a test through the National Geographical Society in which I found what overall group my Y-Chromosome comes from. My haplotype report says "You are a direct descendant of the people who dominated the human expansion into Europe, the Cro-Magnon". You might think, "Wait! Cro-Mags. Evolution. Everyone is, according to that theory, descended from them." No. This is more recent human history, around 30,000 years ago. A part I feel comfortable committing to, whether or not man evolved. On the other hand, more than 90 percent of the world's extant male population is descended from them.
So I like picturing one of my Cro-Magnon ancestors, after he painted in one of the caves in France, petting his dog or wolf. Some canines may have been domesticated tens of thousands of years before this point. He has some rudimentary oral tradition of the Genesis stories. I go with Alexander Heidel's speculations. The Babylonian stories were a corruption of such oral tradition. The Biblical stories followed as a polemic against the corruption, but used much of the imagery of the Babylonian stories in reverse. Who knows what the original form was? But let us say he had this, and was looking for the coming Victor over death.
Perhaps we should mourn the absence of this individual. Perhaps his loss is a true loss to the race. He may have had a wisdom in him that would change any room into which he walked. Send your troubled teenager to this man, and within minutes, much that bothers you would go away. (Though it would be replaced by much else that would be difficult for you to handle!) There may be aspects to his social culture we cannot even imagine. Aspects we would long to be part of if we saw them.
I lament that we cannot sit around a fire with this man telling stories. I cannot wait to see those who sleep in the dust awakened. It is not merely our relatives we should long to see. We should long to see all that we did not miss. All that we forgot to miss. There is much of the dead past that will be a great part of our future happiness. You may have a future best friend who died in 13,214BC. (If I'm right about animals, his dog will be there, too.) If we are the early Christians, there will be yet others who forget that you are to be resurrected, and regard YOUR future presence in heaven as speculative, even if you regard it as very real. But Jesus will not be leaving humans behind just because we forgot to think of them. The whole tragedy of the fall was visited on his body. There was, in a sense, sweat and blood from ancient times falling from that body. And those ancient times will also receive new life. And they will be a great source of our future happiness.
1:14 am Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, February 8th, 2007
I just found another thing to be thankful to God for. I am thankful that in his revisiting of Old Testament Law in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not up the ante on the Fourth Commandment. If Jesus had closed every last loophole on that commandment, can you imagine your own childhood? Who would not at one time or another have run into an unscrupulous adult using the commandment to buttress their own authority? Even if your own childhood was free of such adults, many more adults in your life would have been under the reign of abusive authority. And the effects show for life.
I wish that Martin Luther had followed his lead and left the Fourth Commandment out of both the Small and the Large Catechisms. Or if he were to have expanded on them, I wish he had gone the route of Saint Paul and emphasized the promise of the commandment. There is, thankfully, discussion of that promise in the Large Catechism. But Luther's expansion has always seemed ill-conceived to me compared to Saint Paul's.
10:26 pm Pacific Standard Time
Wednesday, February 7th, 2007
[The words in italics below are taken from a recent comment by Pastor Paul McCain.]
I have been reflecting on the conversations I've been a part of here, and on the comments being made by others. I would like now to just leave you with these final thoughts. I remain deeply concerned that there is at work here a serious misunderstanding about the proper place of the life of good works to which we have been called in Christ, and which have been prepared for us to walk in. I really didn't, and probably still don't, fully understand or appreciate the context out of which are writing or what you have gone through personally that brought you where you are. I regret that our exchanges produced such animosity, and I'm sorry for any part I might have played in it. Perhaps the internet is not the best forum for these sorts of discussions where we cannot see the effect of what we are saying or be fully accountable for our words. I would like to encourage you to continue to grow in your knowledge of Christ and His mercy toward you, and in His freedom to work toward all the beauty that He would fulfill in you for the blessing of those around you.
I think it is probably best for everyone if I take these words at face value. I want to comment on them a little (Okay. More than a little. I see that now that I've written the whole thing!), just to clarify where I am.
We have had a bunch of discussions going on that could be put under the general rubric of obedience. There was the matter of Kobra's music. There was the matter of the Third Use of the Law. There was the matter of Mortal and Venial Sins. There was the matter of Bonhoeffer. In my mind, while these were related, they should have been taken separately, if for no other reason than there could be an array of ways people could answer them. If you asked a bunch of educated Lutherans what they thought on these issues, they wouldn't cleanly separate into one party that said 'Yes' to all issues and one party that said 'No', even if you could find such people at the poles. When John Halton brought up Bonhoeffer, especially, I felt like we were in new territory. I didn't think, "Since McCain believes in Third Use, he must like Bonhoeffer." I did think, "John and I are able to have a very civil, if heated, discussion here. But my disagreement with Bonhoeffer is on a completely different level than my disagreement with McCain." All this to say that I'd rather not have Pastor McCain imagine that every discussion had as its starting point his run in with Kobra.
I am not against good works, and never have been. I am against certain ways of speaking about them. And then there are some ways of speaking about them that I refuse to adopt myself, though I would not condemn others for using them. I've made it a personal habit to dump words from my vocabulary that either cause confusion, or bring in a package deal of assumptions where I only agree with part of the package. I would really rather not affirm or deny the Third Use. When I read the confessional discussion, I find the Solid Declaration saying much I could agree with. But when I was 19, I was in a Christian bookstore, and another customer suggested I read a particular piece of writing. It is available here. This framed a Christian ethic with a different emphasis. Now, I think the writer did not understand Lutheranism sufficiently. (Nor would I want to be under such an ethic without a Lutheran understanding of "Law"anarthrous, without the word "the" before iteven where the author gets "the Law" well. I need to know there is Gospel whenever I break Law, whether the Law of Moses or the Law of Christ.) But much of what he charged it with is true in some cases. It was not true of the Lutheranism I was taugh in my undergraduate years. Dr. Charles Manske had done doctoral work in ethics, and his presentation seemed pretty immune from the charges in the piece I've linked to. I don't present the linked piece as a superior piece of theology, but as a great raiser of important questions.
I agree with Pastor McCain about the internet not being the best forum for these sorts of discussions, if by "these sorts of discussions" he means church discipline in cyberspace. My own opinions on this were formed in another altercation on another blogger's site where the blogger asked opinions of what her friend should say to her husband who was supposedly planning to go to a bachelor party that had its final stop at a strip club. Now, I found myself alone in this discussion. I was coming up with defenses for the guy. I didn't intend in any way to defend strip clubs, though that is how some of my Lutheran bloggers took it. It took me some time to figure out what was wrong with the discussion. I finally boiled it down to the Eighth Commandment. I said we were not even sure that such a situation was accurate, as we had only heard about it second-hand. Now when I wrote this, I did it with some trepidation. I didn't know the situation for myself. What if the guy really was a sleazebag? But I was vindicated after a few hours when the original blogger came forth and said that she had gotten the story wrong. She was angry that of all the bloggers, I was the only one who had questioned the appropriateness of the venue to discuss such a matter. And she was angry at the others for pietistically jumping onto the bandwagon of condemnation. What was worse, the man in question was a reader of her blog, who was very upset by what was said about him. Well, this set my default position for those accused on a blog. I may sometimes end up factually in the wrong when I back someone up. But I think that is less dangerous than watching innocent people hung out to dry. There are many protections for the accused in an actual church trial that go away when we are not face-to-face. Most situations where judgment is involved require a culture with generations of wisdom behind them to go well.
If you don't believe this, try visiting some newly grown Reformed church where former Wesleyans try to recreate Calvinist church discipline ex nihilo. Yikes! Run away! Anybody's grandmother could see that certain situations need to simmer because all the truth hasn't come out yet. But someone always thinks that they can clean up the church by following the methods detailed in some 1649 monograph they just read over the weekend. Well, blogosphere discipline is similar. We don't even have a full generation to know what we're working with. Until we do, I don't think it should be used to do much on a serious personal level.
I do, however, still think that the internet is a great venue for discussing doctrine. It would be best, however, if that could be done without bringing personal attacks or judgments on character into the discussion. But it does have some advantages over traditional text that make it an amazing instrument. Though I'm with Neil Postman. Technology "giveth and it taketh away." It isn't all a plus.
I will likely still post on some of the doctrinal issues. I do not want to be taken as personally challenging Pastor McCain when I do so. His silence will not be taken as an unwillingness to fight for his doctrines. (He may wish to find someone else to do so who can keep the personal issues out of it.) He is still welcome to post responses whenever he wishes. Though I would prefer not to see earlier posts from his blog pasted in as responses. While it saves him effort, it is easy for me when I don't know it was previously written to read portions of his comments as if they were direct responses to things said in my posts when they were not. Newly written responses, however, are still welcome.
At this point I would rather not give or refuse to give, receive or refuse to receive, an apology. I think personal things of that nature should probably be done in person. Some day, perhaps, that can happen. But to be honest, I find any personal slights to be of minor importance compared to the doctrine. Which will burn in my mind worse? Thinking someone said some harsh things to me in the heat of battle, or wondering whether our confessions make statements that nobody is able to support, and on matters of utmost importance? I'd rather continue a fight, albeit on a less personal level, than have everyone suddenly become nice without bringing more light onto the subject.
In the meantime, though, I'll take it that hostilities have ended, at least with meother bloggers can decide for themselves where they are with things and I won't fault them one way or the otherand I won't be trying to stir things up again. I won't initiate stirring anyway. Not on a personal level.
2:20 pm Pacific Standard Time
Tuesday, February 6th, 2007
"I see that Mr. Ritchie is now in the process of delivering himself of opinions about the Scriptures that simply do not conform themselves to the pattern of sound words that we have in the Lutheran Confessions, and also questioning the authority and accuracy of those Confessions. I have no interest in participating in the kind of post-modern search for truth that begins by throwing out all authorities and questioning all authorities. Others may, and I wish them well."
This statement is interesting on many counts. Huckleberry has already pointed them out. I'll quickly restate some of what he said and then move deeper.
First off, Pastor McCain characterizes what I am doing as a "throwing out of all authorities and questioning all authorities." This seems to be meant as an equivalent to what he said above about my having opinions about the Scriptures that do not conform themselves of the "pattern of sound words" that we have in the Lutheran Confessions.
The term "pattern of sound words" comes from First Timothy, where Timothy is admonished to "Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 1:13 ASV).
First I would like to point out that it is interesting that McCain uses this phrase in a context where he speaks of authority. For the LCMS Commission on Doctrinal Review has faulted him in his use of this term in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. A Reader's Edition Under point 22, the commission said:
In introductory comments to FC Ep II (page 495), the editors express the opinion that "We should stick to the pattern of sound doctrine and refrain from introducing novel ways of speaking about Bible teachings. We should use the very words and phrases used in the Lutheran Confessions to explain the Bible. It is very unwise to take timetested words explaining one thing and use them to explain another. This only leads to confusion and error." This impulse toward "repristination" is not the emphasis of the article itself, and distorts the meaning. The editorial comment in question is inadequate and misleading, because it misrepresents the content and argument of FC Ep II.
Apparently there are authorities who agree that McCain is capable of misrepresenting the content and arguments of otherseven the Lutheran Confessions.
I will not here ask whether McCain considers the commission itself to have authority over him. But I would like to ask one thing. If McCain thinks that it is "unwise to take timetested words explaining one thing and use them to explain another," then is it not therefore unwise to take the timetested words "pattern of sound doctrine" which referred to the teachings of St. Paul himself and apply them to something else, namely the Lutheran Confessions?
The irony here is that the heart of my argument WAS the doctrine of St. Paul. I was asking whether what the Confessions taught about King David followed the teaching of St. Paul. In other words, I was asking whether they "followed the pattern of sound doctrine." Apparently I'm not even allowed to ask that question without running the risk of being on a postmodern search for truth.
McCain's attitude on authority is un-Lutheran. At the Diet of Worms he said "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reasonI do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each othermy conscience is captive to the Word of God." Now his opponents did not believe that councils were capable of error. It would be odd if after making a break from the Roman Church based upon the idea that a council could err, Lutherans would then say that their own confessional writers were incapable of error. If they are capable of error, then the search for truth, THE REFORMATION SEARCH FOR TRUTH, must use Scripture and plain reason. Surely Pastor McCain knows that Postmodernism is not characterized as a bunch of laymen who believe in Scriptural authority arguing the meaning of the Scriptures. If that is postmodernism, however, I'm all for it. May we have more of it. When I walk into Starbucks, may I see Christians with Bibles on the table loudly arguing.
Again, if McCain's attitude could be applied to the confessional writers, then wouldn't it make more sense just to accept the Roman Magesterium and get it over with? If McCain thinks laymen are incapable of reading the Bible for themselves, then why should we believe Luther or the confessional writers did so accurately? Every argument he has thrown at me has a corresponding argument that a Catholic could have thrown against an early Lutheranassuming that the Lutherans were wrong about the perspicuity of Scripture in matters of salvation. But if they were right, then McCain's understanding of the relationship between the confessions and Scripture is wrong.
Luther invited his opponents to show him where he erred. But he insisted they use Scripture or plain reason, not past church writings. We are not in some new position where our guys stood in a unique relationship to God where they were kept from all error such that we could speak of their writings and Scripture interchangeably. If such a relationship existed, I am more inclined to believe I would find it in the early church.
11:07 am Pacific Standard Time
Monday, February 5th, 2007
I see that Pastor McCain has broached the topic of King David and his alleged mortal sin. McCain suggests that David illustrates this idea. This at least allows me to choose which direction to argue, since it is not clear from the confessions whether King David illustrates or proves the doctrine.
In order to prove the doctrine, Scripture would need to say explicitly that King David lost the Holy Spirit when he sinned. Then we could point to him and say, "See. King David lost the Holy Spirit when he sinned." Yet even there, I would have questions. Is this exactly the same in the Old Testament as in the New? Are we to expect no differences in how the Spirit works among his people?
I would like to suggest that anyone who thinks the Old and New are alike here read 2 Corinthians 3. The Corinthians are a letter of Christ, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Cor. 3:3). Paul contrasts the ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:9) with the ministry of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3.7-8). And he says that when Moses is read, a veil lies on the hearts of those who hear (2 Cor. 3:15), but when the person turns to the Lord, who is the Spirit, the veil is taken away, and they are transformed through beholding the glory of the Lord. Now, to say that we keep the Spirit by avoiding manifest sins is odd. For avoiding sins would mean avoiding doing what is condemned in the Law, which we know through reading the Law. Yet Paul says the letter, or the Law, kills (2 Cor 3:6). So we are to stay alive through something that kills? We're supposed to keep the One who tells us we are saved freely by doing the same things we would do if we had to work for salvation? No. That idea is foreign to the text.
When I read the Scriptures, I see a certain amount of discontinuity between Old and New Testaments. First there is the matter of receiving the Spirit. St. Paul asks, "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 2:2-3 KJV). So in the New Testament, the Spirit is received through hearing. According to St. Paul's reasoning, how we received the Spirit, and how we continue in the faith must be of one piece. We cannot receive the Spirit freely through hearing at conversion and then later be made perfect through another means. And given that that other means was an Old Testament means, I think that the burden of proof now rests on the one who wishes to argue that whatever is true in the Old Testament is true of the New. Even the Judaizers recognized that there was something New going on. But they said that we must see the Old Testament as binding on all other matters. St. Paul says no to this.
Now there are warning passages in St. Paul's letter. But they don't seem open to the same kind of pernicious misuse as the confessional statement. As St. Paul says, "Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). I'm afraid that giving people a list of gross sins to avoid is to put the cart before the horse. If you walk in the Spirit you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. That is a promise. And the works of the flesh are manifest. That is, they are openly obvious. To say, "We're going to make a list of obvious things since nobody can see them" is to say that manifest doesn't mean manifest. St. Paul paints a picture of the behavior of the unregenerate. It should be taken as a whole. That kind of living, taken as a whole, is a mark of the absence of the Spirit. But we don't keep the Spirit by avoiding such works. We avoid such works by walking in the Spirit. And St. Paul, when he says that we remain in the way we got in, seems to imply that walking in the Spirit means maintaining contact with the Word.
To say that we keep the Spirit by avoiding sins falls into the very error St. Paul combats in Romans. When he says that Abraham is saved through faith and not through works, he says it is to exclude boasting. But if we keep the Holy Spirit by avoiding manifest sins, then the one who is saved can tell the one who is lost, "You know, the reason I'm saved and you're not is that I avoided sin better than you did."
So, before posting anything longer on the matter of King David's mortal sin, I want to know the structure of the argument in brief form. If King David's fall into sin merely illustrates Biblical doctrine, where is the doctrine found which it illustrates? Is this an Old Testament doctrine or a New Testament doctrine? If an Old Testament doctrine, then how do we know it applies to us? If a New Testament doctrine, then why use an Old Testament saint as a paradigm case?
Part of the reason this always struck me strange is that I was a Calvinist before I became a Lutheran. Now I think there are some very good reasons to be Lutheran on these points rather than Reformed. But some of the arguments the Lutheran side advanced when I was Reformed were much more convincing to me than others. I would just love to see you assert the King David example with a Calvinist armed with a full battery of verses on Perseverence of the Saints. You would quickly find that you needed to have a much more solid example with which to prove your point. Yes, such verses are out there. But you don't do Lutheranism any favors by asserting your point without Biblical evidence.
6:42 pm Pacific Standard Time
A picture just appeared in my mind. It was occasioned by Pastor McCain's citation of Jesus telling the woman taken in adultery to "Go and sin no more." I think this passage is quite germane to what is going on in the blogosphere on this issue. If such a passage applies to this situation, I wonder who the players are.
Let's see. If Kobra is to "Go and sin no more," then that makes Kobra the woman taken in adultery. Only what Kobra was caught in was not adultery, but listening to one Eminem song. And who caught him? Pastor McCain. So we should imagine Pastor McCain dragging Kobra before Jesus saying, "We caught this man listening to an Eminem song. What are you going to do about it?"
I have to imagine that whatever Jesus would say to Kobra, he would have some words for McCain, first. I'm not sure what these words would be. But they might go something along the lines of, "If I didn't bite when adultery was the trap, do you think I'll bite when listening to a given song is? Do you learn nothing from what you read?"
If anyone imagines this is a novel application, it isn't. In any case, I find the "Go and sin no more" an odd verse to pull from the passage when it comes shortly after "Let he that is without sin cast the first stone." The entire pericope was intended to be a lesson in the dangers of selective application of the Law. Yet someone can still, in the midst of his own selective application of the Law on others, quote from the passage.
If the original hearers were as stupid as we are, I can imagine that for the rest of her life, that woman was surrounded by the same circle of people, pointing fingers at her, saying, "You know he said, 'Go and sin no more'!" But the center of the passage was about refraining from something else. No, not judging. Not exactly. But there is something about the artificial manufacturing of situations to make someone the bad guy that should be recognized for what it is.
11:12 am Pacific Standard Time
Friday, February 2nd, 2007
Over at Cyberbrethren (My readers can search for the link themselves if they so wish.), Pastor Paul McCain has posted a reply to a comment made on my blog. Somewhere in this, someone failed altogether to read. Either Pastor McCain or his friend has seriously misread a comment. I'm inclined to think McCain, since he had earlier been on this comment thread. Here is how McCain introduces his quote:
"A friend recently pointed me to an assertion made by a person who claims that the best way for a preacher to really impress on people the nature of the Gospel as total grace and complete gift is by telling them something like this:"
This is already inaccurate. First off, the original blog post was concerning assurance of salvation of a Christian on his deathbed. And I was demonstrating through that that certain ways of speaking could be deadly if used there. Second, the commenter, Larry from Kentucky, was explaining how if you "freshen that up a bit and liven it with a fresh turn of Gospel words...push it a bit so the Gospel bursts out of it with something like [the part McCain quoted] THEN the lawyers come crawling out of the woodwork and the accusation of antinomianism or similar fly." Well, he was certainly right about that one!
Next comes the actual quote from the comment on my blog. The quote was:
"Even if, and especially if, you not only don't get better but even grow worse, you will get to go to heaven for Christ's sake."
Now, what article of the faith are we talking about here? Getting into heaven. Justification. Our theologians have said that when the subject is justification, the necessity of good works is to be excluded from the discussion altogether. Not to exclude it makes us guilty of Majorism, the error of George Major who said that "Good works are necessary to Justification." [see F. Bente's Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions, section "The Majoristic Controversy."] Major tried to worm his way out of heresy charges. He tried to say that by necessary, he meant necessary evidences. But the Lutherans insisted that his language was never appropriate, as anybody who read such would conclude that good works were necessary as a cause of Justification, or perhaps to maintain it once it began freely. They said that no amount of explanation made Major's statement good. For any explanation that would make the words acceptable would really make them say the opposite of what any reader would understand.
What was interesting was that around the same time, Nicholas Amsdorf himself made a pretty broad statement in the opposite direction. He said that good works were injurious to salvation. Now with an explanation, his words could also be made reasonable. He meant that in the article of Justification, good works were injurious if we relied upon them. This was correct. Amsdorf's lack of nuance bothered many, including his friends. But reactions also tended to show who was on what side. Melanchthon, who had been falling into error himself, said that Amsdorf's words were "filthy speech." Yet Amsdorf's words were really an abbreviation of one of Luther's statements: "Good works are detrimental to the righteousness of faith, if one presumes to be justified by them." What was the upshot of this? Nothing. Amsdorf's friends said that nobody who knew the context worried that Amsdorf was in error. Some wished he had been more careful. But he was never formally charged with error. George Major, however, was.
We can learn something valuable here. Care needs to be given to words. But more care needs to be given to keep good works out of the subject of Justification than to stress their necessity to the Christian life. The brazen statements of free justification can be taken as having an appropriate context, but perhaps requiring more careful explanation for a larger public. The supposedly more careful statements of the necessity of good works, however, are seen as inherently damaging and unable to be made acceptable.
How are Larry's words to be understood? I think there is a very Lutheran way of taking them. They are meant to address the trembling conscience. The one like Larry's who had been under Southern Baptist preaching for years and worried incessantly about salvation. So why does he talk about the person becoming worse? Should that be normative? Yes. "WHAT?!? But the Holy Spirit sanctifies! You're denying that God changes people!" No. I'm not. The point is, such a statement as Larry's is addressed to the person's perceptions. Let's say we are talking about a normative Christian. Not a Christian who is much better or worse than the going rate. Just an average one, if such could be found. What happens under preaching? The conscience becomes more sensitive. What the person thought were good works start to look like sins. How so? Let's just take the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps the person never cheated on his wife. Perhaps on conversion he threw away pornography. Is he better? Not in his own eyes. Before he was not an adulterer. Now he is. For he has looked upon a woman in lust. Such a Christian may try to exercise him or herself in the commandments. What then? Improvement? No. Sin finding opportunity in the commandment produces more sin (Romans 7:11). "Oh, but this is pessimistic. The person gets like this and then hears the Gospel and tries again." No. The person does not hear the Gospel, because the Gospel has always been conditional. Christ died for sinners, but he didn't die to save an individual who doesn't have faith. And without works, the faith must be false. And the individual sees no works. "Well, he can just choose to do them!" No. Not real ones. For the individual must be sure of Justification for any Sanctification to be genuine. "But this is just bad evangelicalism. This is the worry of a few." No. Our theologians recognize this, too.
As Edmund Schlink says, "In presenting the wealth of the effects of divine grace in regeneration and the new obedience, the status of man is again called into question." And "Since the regenerate man and his new obedience in this age remain imperfect, the regenerated man is not only in the law, but also under the law. There, however, he sees all his works as sin." [From Edmund Schlink, The Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, pp. 116-124] Pastor McCain wants to blame such perceptions on evangelicalism, not noticing that they are endemic to Christianity. The Law-Gospel-Law sermons he prescribes call the status of man back into question without giving him a word of grace that can cover it. The man now sees all his works as sin, and McCain thinks that this must be because they really are sin, willful sin, a planned spree. Don't tell the individual in such a case that he will still go to heaven! What do you want him to do? Sin more?
McCain goes on: I wonder what Bible people are reading that might lead them to make such false comments like this. Jesus Christ said to the woman whom he had forgiven, "Go, and sin no more." And Saint Paul asks, "What then shall we say? Shall we sin more so grace may abound? May it never be!" Where did anyone counsel more sin here? The only possibility is that McCain read the "especially" to mean that we would get more justification by doing more sinning. No. In context it was obvious that Larry meant something more like, "Even if, and especially if, you not only don't [appear in your own eyes to] get better but even grow worse, you will get to go to heaven for Christ's sake." From the Majoristic controversy, we learn that our church thinks such statements have their place. They need context, to be sure. But when it is not the person speaking, but the person quoting, who removes the context, that is surely not our fault. This is almost more as if someone were not attacking Amsdorf, but Luther himself, by quoting Luther, and leaving out what Amsdorf left out, and saying that was what Luther had said.
He goes on: "Combatting the error of pop-theology in American protestantism is not served by falling into errors like this. It is disturbing to see people who, sadly, hardly know what they are talking about, saying such absurd things like this." Given his neglect of context, it is clear that McCain is the one who doesn't know what he's talking about. Given how what Larry says matches what Edmund Schlink describes, it is clear that Larry from Kentucky does know of what he speaks. He learned the art of distinguishing Law and Gospel from the Holy Spirit in the school of experience. Hard experience. More McCain: "Tragic. It's no wonder we have some who claim the name Lutheran running about assuming they can behave like swine and still claim to be Christian." Hmmm. Let's see. Because an evangelical like Larry from Kentucky sees that people fear the doctrine of Justification, there are Lutherans who behave like swine. Oh, that makes sense. Somebody tell the evangelicals that they are supposed to wallow longer in legalism so that Lutherans won't behave like swine. More McCain: "And what a fearful thing to but consider that those who live in accord with this false theology will enter an eternity of unending punishment in hell." How does this happen? The poor conscience finally sees that Christ's righteousness is enough to save, apart from any consideration of good works. This will lead to hell. How? McCain must actually be guilty of Majorism here. He must think "Good works are necessary to salvation." Okay, I'm kidding (I hope.). I'll put the best construction on things. McCain cannot read. "Woe to the faithless shepherds who would lead Christ's sheep astray with such false teaching." At his worst, Larry from Kentucky is an Amsdorf. Only given that he included more context to his statement, I don't even think he can be called that. But let's say for the sake of argument he is an Amsdorf. Our guys would have credited him for making it that far despite Southern Baptist teaching. And they would suggest reading his statements in context.
I suspect the real trouble here is that we have a Lutheran who is guilty of Majorism wrongly charging an evangelical with being a heretic because he sounds like Amsdorf if you quote him out of context, a context within which he sounds more like Luther.
5:27 pm Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, February 1st, 2007
"When I say that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is against morality, I am not trying to say that it replaces one form of morality with another. (How many times, alas, we read that Christian morality is superior to all others. This is not even true. We find honest and virtuous people, good husbands, fathers, and children, scrupulous and truthful people outside Christianity, and more perhaps than there are Christians.) Revelation is an attack on all morality, as is wonderfully shown by the parables of the kingdom of heaven, that of the prodigal son, that of the talents, that of the eleventh-hour laborers, that of the unfaithful steward, and many others. In all the parables the person who serves as an example has not lived a moral life. The person who is rejected is the one who has lived a moral life."
[Jacques Ellul The Subversion of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1986) p.71.]
11:26 pm Pacific Standard Time