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theology

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“Didaskolos” by Bertil Gärtner, Part 1, in “Women Pastors?”edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

Didaskolos: The Office, Man and Woman in the New Testament

Gärtner’s chapter begins by asking and answering a question “Does the New Testament contain any direct teaching about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes” (27). Such a statement suggests that he will demonstrate that there is a verse, somewhere, that specifically teaches about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry. After all, his claim is that one can unequivocally say that yes, the New Testament does contain such direct teaching. As we explore this chapter, we will return to this question a few times and ask whether Gärtner’s claim is correct.

Gärtner states that the ministry must be set into a larger New Testament context. Addressing 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12, intriguingly again pointed to as the apparent proof against women pastors, he states that a view that teaches that those verses are “intended to correct some irregularities” at the time of the writings of the letters “does not correspond with the material Paul presents” (27). To prove this, he notes that in 1 Corinthians, Paul “deals with a number of questions which have been put to him by the congregation” (ibid). He uses the example of eating meat sacrificed to idols and says that Paul “places the question in the larger context” because it “is considered in relation to the doctrine of God as the only God…” (27-28).

Expanding on the context, Gärtner appeals to the choosing of the apostles, Jesus’ conception of marriage and creation, the Christian as new creation, and heresy in Corinth  in order to make his argument that women are excluded from the ministry. We’ll briefly sketch out his argument. Jesus’ apostles, Gärtner argues, are all men (29). He notes that these apostles are “leaders of the new people of God,” something important we will consider below. He also states that “although the most esteemed women… who were part of the closest circle of disciples, were present in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, it was only the apostles themselves who were invited to be present at the Last Supper… By immemorial custom both women and children shared in this dinner fellowship. Yet, this is the time that Jesus breaks that tradition and gathers only the twelve around Him” (ibid). Regarding Jesus’ concept of marriage and creation, Gärtner walks through Matthew 19:3ff in which Jesus discusses marriage (30-31). The Christian as new creation Gärtner states, after pointing to texts talking about the Christian as new creation, that “in the life of the church, the true relationship between male and female can take place” (31). Regarding Heresy in Corinth, Gärtner paints an image of the Corinthians as seeing themselves getting direct revelation from God and having everything spiritualized such that people could set above “the fundamental command of fellowship and love to the neighbor.” Then, he states that Paul teaches that “salvation rests upon creation” and that the “office” (he doesn’t, on p. 33, specify which one or the definition thereof) “is related to the order of creation; and according to the order of creation, the human race is divided into man and woman” (32-34).

There are already a number of interesting issues to explore in Gärtner’s essay. First, the question of what “office” he is referencing throughout is quite relevant. Though it is possible to divert conversation in important issues by constantly punting to definitions, the notion of “office” is a central aspect of Gärtner’s argument so far, yet it remains undefined. We do not find him providing his own definition of ordination, as Hamann did, and so are left to simply guess exactly what he means by the word throughout the essay. As Hamann found in trying to define ordination and the ministry, it is extremely difficult to find the modern idea of what a pastor is in the New Testament (Hamann ultimately admitted his own definition could not be found therein). But because Gärtner is so focused on showing that women may not hold the “office,” one must ask what that office itself is. One would not find the answer in Gärtner’s essay. The closest he comes is by stating it is the “office of the ministry” (27). Second, Gärtner’s admission that the apostles are leaders of the new people of God is particularly on point because one of the arguments against using Junia (Romans 16:7) as an example of a woman leading is that apostles are merely ones sent by God (turning the Greek literal than using it as it is throughout the NT, as an office. Gärtner here concedes this point, and so the fact that Junia was a woman apostle overthrows his entire position.

Third, Gärtner’s argument about only the Twelve being at the Last Supper is not part of the biblical text. Indeed, he even says that women were not invited to it, specifically (31). Yet in the accounts of the Last Supper, there is no such clear exclusion. Gärtner’s point relies upon an argument from silence, excluding those who were not explicitly mentioned. Yet if we used the exact same kind of argumentation, all kinds of contradictions in the NT occur. For example, Mark 16:5 mentions only one young man (angel) at the tomb of Jesus. Gärtner’s methodology would insist that this would entail there was only one angel. Yet Luke 24:4 and John 20:12 each state there were two. But if we use the lack of explicit mention to exclude those not mentioned, as Gärtner does in relation to the Last Supper, we have a direct contradiction in the Bible. Of course that is a poor argument for a contradiction, because having two angels means that at least one was present. The silence regarding the second angel does not exclude his presence in the tomb. Similarly, just because no women or children or other followers of Jesus are explicitly mentioned in the accounts of the Last Supper (though Matthew and Mark both use the generic term “disciples” and then mention specifically the Twelve as for sure being there, thus making it rather clearly open to others being there as “disciples” who had helped prepare for the Passover), one cannot exclude them any more than one could seriously charge Mark and Luke with a contradiction. Another way to think about it is this way: All of the Twelve were Jewish. Does this mean that pastors must be Jewish? After all, it is quite clear that no Gentiles were among the Twelve. So Jesus only invited Jews to dine with him at the Last Supper, suggesting that no Gentiles may be pastors, right? No. Gärtner wouldn’t agree, I’m sure, but then his point about the Twelve being men must also be conceded as incidental.

Fourth, Gärtner’s point about the new creation is to merely assert his point: that male and female are most exactly expressed in the church. But of course verses like Galatians 3:28, also Pauline, point to the reality that such distinctions as male and female in the body of Christ are not germane. Yet even if one disagrees with me on that point, Gärtner does nothing to make this aspect of his argument anything more than an assertion. Fifth, Gärtner does little to demonstrate that the heresy in Corinth is that which he asserts, and even less to show that even if he is correct that it all goes back to an kind of charismatic overthrow of the order of creation, that that has anything to do with women pastors. He simply assumes his readers will make a connection for him. But there doesn’t seem to be any relevant connection between his notion of the alleged heretical teaching at Corinth and that of women pastors. He doesn’t even argue for it. Sixth, allowing for the heresy in Corinth to be part of the interpretation actually works against him, because, as has been argued, it certainly seems possible that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is part of that heresy that Paul then argues against.

Thus far, context has done little for Gärtner.

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Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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“The New Testament and the Ordination of Women” by Henry P. Hamann, part 2 in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

See Part 1 of this chapter here.

The New Testament and the Ordination of Women by Henry P. Hamann Part 2

Section III

Hamann notes that “One might get the impression that the prohibition of female leadership in the church is something of an arbitrary opinion of the apostle…” (21). He argues that, instead, “Paul’s views on this matter [women in the church] are embedded in his theology of creation, the fall of man, and the redemption through Jesus Christ” (ibid).

First, I would note that I believe Hamann is deeply mistaken here in adding the issue of gender roles into the basics of the Gospel. By placing gender roles on the same level as creation, the fall, and redemption, Hamann is dangerously close to adding to the Gospel and taking away from the Lutheran doctrine of Christ alone. He is confounding the Gospel by making it equivalent to the demand that women stay silent (however qualified) in the church.

Second, how does Hamann justify this claim? He does so by arguing that 1 Corinthians has a whole theology of “the place of woman,” borrowing heavily from Peter Brunner. Effectively, by weaving together 1 Corinthians 11, Genesis 2, and Ephesians 5 with Paul’s thought, he argues that “head” must mean some kind of structure of authority (21, 22). Interestingly, Hamann’s own reading seems to undercut this interpretation because he goes on to say that “woman is ‘from’ man” (21), an interpretation that fits better with the typical egalitarian reading of “head” as “source.” Genesis 3 is taken to show that woman is to submit to man because the fall of humanity didn’t occur until “it also became the sin of Adam.” Yet in Genesis 3, we see that each of the players is held accountable, despite trying to shift responsibility. Hamann’s analysis here does little to support the notion that head = authority, and a clearer reading of the account would be source. After all, in Genesis 2, which Hamann seems to take to support his position, woman is taken from man, as Hamann himself states. But that would make man a source of woman, would it not? Moreover, multiple studies of the Greek seem to suggest that “source” is a more natural reading of the text. See here, here, or here for example. Thus, Hamann’s exegesis is critically mistaken on the meaning of the term kephale.

Section IV

Hamann provides responses to two objections in this section. First, the objection that “the church is inconsistent in prohibiting the ordination of women while allowing women a whole host of other activities which are just as contrary to the apostolic directive as the pastorate” (24). His counter-argument is to say that the things like singing or speaking “would not fall under Paul’s rule” (ibid). But of course this is to simply make an assertion. He nowhere provides any reason for narrowing the prohibitions to ordination, and as noted in part 1 of this review, he himself admits his definition of “ordination” is nowhere found in the New Testament. Thus, Hamann has simply made an invented definition that he then asserts is Paul’s true meaning, without providing any exegetical reason for limiting the scope of his reading of the Pauline prohibitions. I believe this objection carries for a number of reasons, most simply because Hamann fails to provide any reason to narrow the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and thus makes it a verse he cannot consistently read literally. And, as noted, Hamann simply asserts the contrary without argument.

The second objection Hamann notes is that some would argue complementarians ought to expand the scope of their prohibitions by “protest[ing] against women taking up positions of authority in non-ecclesiastical spheres, in society and in politics” (24). Remarkably, Hamann’s response to this argument is to say that “if anywhere, then at least in the church Christians should insist on the role of women which fits the created order. Not every development in the world can be changed or even challenged by the church, but a witness to the proper state of affairs can be given by what goes on in the church. And the complaint of the prophet may not be so far off the mark: ‘My people–children are their oppressors and women rule over them’ (Isaiah 3:12)” (24-25). That’s right, Hamann simply states that the church can’t stop everything, and his clear implication is that women ought not hold such positions of authority. This certainly allows for a more consistent position, but it is one that means, apparently, no woman can hold authority over men. It is the enshrinement of patriarchy in the church and the world at large. That is what Hamann explicitly affirms.

Hamann then notes various roles women may have in the church. Interestingly, one of these includes the “baptizing those who have been approved by the pastor… and the dispensing of the cup at the Lord’s Supper” (25), despite Hamann explicitly having “the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” as part of his invented definition of ordination (14). Inconsistency looms time and again, and Hamann is not the only one guilty of it in this volume, as we shall see in posts to come.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The New Testament and the Ordination of Women” by Henry P. Hamann, part 1 in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

The New Testament and the Ordination of Women by Henry P. Hamann

Hamann begins with a quote from the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Theses of Agreement: “Though women prophets were used by the Spirit of God… 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14 prohibit a woman from being called into the office of the public ministry for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacrament…” (13). Already, I am left wondering what Hamann and the Lutheran Church of Australia thinks prophets are/were. Anyway, Hamann goes on to state, interestingly, that these words were “formulated in the early 1950s,” a time, he apparently thinks, at which point “agitation about and for female ordination had hardly begun” (13). It is possible Hamann simply means within the specific branch of American Lutheranism he inhabits, but he doesn’t say that. In any case, women were ordained in the United States in the 1800s across multiple denominations. Looking into church history, it is easy to find women ordained throughout time.

That introduction aside, I’d like to simply focus on the meat of Hamann’s argument, which is, one would think, the exegesis of passages of Scripture. One would then be mistaken. Rather, Hamann’s focus is rather 4-ish theses, which he does little more than provide proof texts for rather than deep exegesis. We will look at them individually.

Section 1

Hamann’s first thesis is “The New Testament gives no support at all for the ordination of women” (14, emphasis removed). Such a thesis is indeed a universal negative that is doubly affirmed. It’s not just no support; Hamann suggests there is no support at all. How does he arrive at this thesis? First, he defines ordination “as authorization and commissioning to do the work of a pastor or minister of the church, a task involving control and pastoral care of a congregation, the public independent teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the public carrying out of the task of announcing the absolution or, on occasion, the retention of sins” (14). I can hardly wonder why Hamann is then able to claim the NT doesn’t support the ordination of women: after all, there is nowhere in the New Testament where anyone is ordained thusly. But Hamann is quick to add, “Offices exactly corresponding to this definition cannot be shown to have existed in the New Testament…” (ibid). The understatement here is palpable. Hamann would be unable to come up with a single instance of any such office anywhere in the New Testament whatsoever. So he sustains his argument by punting it, pointing to Acts 20:28 instead as a “direction like that [of his view of ordination]” (ibid).

Thesis 1, then, is flatlined from the beginning because the author himself admits he can’t even affirm his own definition of ordination is found in the New Testament… only that it might have a “direction” pointed towards his definition. But Hamann doesn’t actually exegete any texts to support that his definition of ordination is the way the New Testament was pointing. He simply assumes it, and believes his readers will go along. Of course, he later states “No woman appears in the NT as carrying out an independent pastoral charge, as defined above.” Well of course not, because his definition by his own admission doesn’t appear in the NT.

Where Hamann does interact with the NT texts that are brought up to show that his initial claim is false, he is either ignorant of or ignoring serious studies that contradict his conclusion. For example, regarding Junia, who appears in Romans 16:7 as an apostle who is a woman, he states simply “A number of editors… get the name ‘Junia’; however, there seems little likelihood that they can be right, and the masculine ‘Junias’ of the RSV is the right translation…” (14). What basis does he have for saying there is little likelihood that those unnamed and uncited editors (who cannot therefore be looked up to see what their arguments are) to be right? The English translation, the RSV, uses Junias. Never mind that the NRSV has Junia in the text, should we really be looking at English translations as our basis for making an exegetical point about the translation of a contested word in the text? Absolutely not. As multiple studies have shown, the name Junias does not exist in the ancient world, and is therefore an invention of editors, unlke the name “Junia.” Eldon Jay Epp, in Junia: The First Woman Apostle notes, quoting Bernadette Brooten:

To date not a single Greek or Latin inscription, not a single reference in ancient literature has been cited by any of the proponents of the Junias hypothesis. My own search for an attestation has also proved fruitless. This means that we do not have a single shred of evidence that the name Junias ever existed. (44)

Think about that for a moment. Hamann is willing to dismiss those who translate the name as Junia, which is what the Greek seems to state, because he prefers the masculine Junias for theological purposes. But the name Junias has not “a single shred of evidence” of ever having existed in the ancient world. Hamann, however, doesn’t interact with serious studies of the name Junia. Instead, he simply asserts that because an English translation of his choosing uses Junias, that doubt is cast upon those who believe Junia is the proper reading. Such is apparently the best exegetical support he can find. To be frank, it may very well be, because, again, the invention of Junia as male is just that: an invention, and one that can be demonstrated by studying the Greek and contemporary sources. Moreover, even the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament uses “Junia” rather than having the alleged name Junias or its supposed longer root name.

Hamann believes, however, that the formidable challenge of Junia can be simply dismissed (despite our demonstration that it cannot). He does, however, believe that Galatians 3:28 might provide a stronger argument against his thesis. In dealing with the text, however, he simply says that “the declaration of [v. 28]… has to do with the oneness of all those who are in Christ, infants included… Believing and baptized women do not suddenly cease to be women” (15). Apparently, for Hamann, oneness in Christ means that women are still women (okay so far, I suppose) and that apparently means women cannot be pastors. But how does that actually follow from the Galatians text? It doesn’t, though as we will see below, Hamann, like many complementarians, simply imports his interpretation of other passages (specifically 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 2 Timothy 2:11-14) into Galatians 3:28. Galatians 3:28 gives no indication of role differentiation in the body of Christ between men and women. But complementarians like Hamann must have it there, so they get it from outside the text–indeed from an entirely different letter–and bring it to the text. This isn’t exegesis, it is a theological assumption layered onto the text.

Given that Junia provides a direct contradiction of Hamann’s point, and that Hamann himself admits that his definition of ordination isn’t actually found in the New Testament, and that Galatians 3:28 is simply dismissed, I believe it is fair to say that his first thesis fails.

Section II

Hamann next states his second thesis: “there is specific NT prohibition of the ordination of women” (16). The first problem with this thesis is that his definition of ordination, as he stated and admitted above, is unsustainable from the biblical text. So because his definition of ordination, as he himself says, “cannot be shown to have existed in the New Testament,” (14) it would be impossible to use the New Testament to exclude anyone from such a position. Nevertheless, he presses on. For the sake of engagement, we will hereafter simply assume that Hamann’s definition of ordination is wrong and simply let ordination mean pastoral office.

Hamann of course cites the two texts thought by many to exclude women from the pastoral ministry, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Now, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is perhaps an interpolation, which would immediately exclude it from any meaningful discussion of the biblical text. But supposing it is original to the text, Hamann and others’ interpretation still faces difficulties. After all, in the very same letter, Paul writes about women praying (1 Corinthians 11), but the passage being pressed tells women to be silent. This apparent contradiction can only be resolved in a few ways, and it should be unsurprising that excluding women from the office of the ministry is not one of the consistent ways to do this. First, as already noted, it could simply be that the 14:34-35 is an interpolation, so the apparent contradiction which seems fairly strong simply didn’t exist in the original text. Second, Paul could be concerned, as he is in the rest of this section, with orderliness in worship. Thus, women, who were often uneducated in the ancient world, may have been interrupting worship with questions, and so are instead being told to go ask their husbands at home the questions they have instead of interrupting. Third, the passage could be part of the method of quotation-refutation: Paul is quoting the Corinthians their own position so that he may refute it with what follows (see here for a lengthy defense of this position). If any of these is correct, then Hamann’s use of the text fails.

But think if Hamann is correct. If he is, then Paul is clearly stating here that women must be silent in churches. Do women stay silent in your church? If you’re in the LCMS, or a different complementarian body, are women allowed to read from Scripture; do they sing the hymns; do they respond in prayer; do they say “amen”? All of these would be women not being silent. But the verse itself says “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (ESV). I don’t see anything there about allowing women to sing, give praise, respond, or pray! So any churches which allow these things are contradicting their own literal reading of the text. This demonstrates another difficulty with such a reading: even those who affirm what they say are a literal reading cannot follow the text. Moreover, it would mean Paul contradicts himself. So 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be used to exclude women from the pastoral ministry.

1 Timothy 2:11-14 is an interesting selection, because Hamann leaves off verse 15, which in almost every version I know of is interpreted as a continuation of the clause in verse 14. Why Hamann leaves it off is up for speculation, though I can’t help but thinking it is because it is an extremely difficult verse and his interpretation is already strained. Anyway, here Hamann enters perhaps the most exegetical portion of his essay as he argues that the speech being used is authoritative teaching (17-18). What is interesting is that these verses can easily be affirmed by those who are for women in the ministry as their literal meaning-women not speaking authoritatively. Why? Because cultural context is important. Craig Keener, an eminent New Testament scholar, notes that there are 4 ways of dealing with 1 Timothy 2 here:

(1) Read all other Pauline passages in light of a not-very- literal interpretation of this one (so most traditional interpreters);

(2) Read this passage as applying to a specific situation (so most evangelical egalitarian interpreters);

(3) Argue that Paul moved from an egalitarian to a nonegalitarian position; or

(4) Deny that Paul actually wrote 1 Timothy (the view of many scholars, though not of most evangelical scholars).

Keener goes on to note that Paul frequently addresses specific situations in his letters, and argues that this passage is one of those times. He cites numerous reasons why this would be the case. In this same letter, Paul notes that some have been deceived by silly myths (4:7)- it is entirely possible that women were among those deceived and so are being silenced to stop the spread of heretical or pagan ideas in the church–a plausible, temporal tactic to stop false teaching until it can be corrected or rebutted. What’s interesting is Hamann himself admits that this is the cultural context of the letter, stating that “women were quite prominent in heathen cults” (19). That’s exactly the point, and the cultural context is important, but generally ignored, as far as interpreting the text is concerned, by Hamann. Most importantly, though, it is worth saying that once again complementarians fail to read this passage in the literal way they wish, because they always qualify it in some sense. Even if this is a direct command from Paul, Keener notes, we do not follow all of his direct commands, such as drinking wine to help with stomach ailments (5:23). But why not? Selective readings of the text is the easiest way to answer this.

Hamann does attempt to argue that the notion of “authority” in this passage is that of teaching authority, but his position places him against many, many biblical scholars. Instead, the concept of authority restricted in this passage seems to be that of authority taken up wrongly. Yet even if Hamann is correct, his interpretation, as already shown, is strained at best.

Now, we’ve seen that Hamann’s reading of these passages fail because they cannot be reconciled with the rest of Pauline teaching or because they are inconsistently literal. If one reading of a biblical text allows for a consistent reading that can be applied to all situations, that one ought to be preferred. Thus, the egalitarian reading is to be preferred, and Hamann has failed to demonstrate his second thesis.

We will examine the rest of the chapter in my next post on the book.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

A Brief Biblical Proof for Women Pastors – with Alice Guinther

A picture of my wife, the Reverend Elizabeth Wartick. Source: “Living Lutheran,” (Published by the ELCA: Chicago) March 2018 issue, page 27.

God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28, ESV)

In this list, Paul ranked various gifts in the church in this way 1) Apostles 2) Prophets 3) Teachers (etc…)

P1. There are biblical examples of women prophets in both the Old and New Testaments. (eg. Judges 4:4; Exodus 15:20; Acts 21:9)
P2. In the ranked list, the spiritual gift of prophet is ranked above that of teacher, a role that we find biblical examples of women filling this role.
C1: We therefore find women in higher ranked roles than the role of teacher. Therefore, it is biblically correct for a woman to be a prophet.
P3. But women cannot teach because we believe the bible says so. 1 Timothy 2:12 states that a woman cannot have authority over a man, and teaching is having authority.
P3.1 But the role of prophet is higher-ranked than teaching.
P3.2 According to the Bible women have held the God ordained/blessed role of Prophet, and that is ranked higher in Paul’s list than teacher. Being a prophet is having authority; women had authority over men as prophet. But how can that be, if women are not to have authority over men?
C2: Women cannot both have authority over men as prophet, and not have authority over men as (lower ranking) teachers (law of non-contradiction). Woman cannot both have/not have authority. Ǝx: Wx [Ax & ~Ax] (there exists an x such that x is a woman [x has authority AND x does not have authority])
C3. It is incoherent to claim that a woman may not have teaching authority, because it has been shown that women can have the higher authority of prophet.
C4. Therefore women may teach.

Q.E.D.

Co-Author Credit:

I wrote this with significant help and insight, including major revisions and entire construction of multiple premises/conclusions (as well as all symbolic logic) from Alice Guinther.

Alice Guinther holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado Boulder, Where she is the department assistant for Journalism and Media Studies. She is a published artist and illustrator, and has a review published in Priscilla Papers.

SDG.

Remembering Bonhoeffer, 2018: Bonhoeffer was Not an [American] Evangelical, but he was an Evangelical Lutheran

Today is the anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the Nazis, April 9, 1945. As I hope to do each year, I’d like to share a brief thought on Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy on this date.

Bonhoeffer and Evangelicalism(s)

One of the ways that Bonhoeffer is most frequently abused is by the assumption or argument that he was an evangelical, particularly of the American variety (eg. inerrancy and the like). In honor of the day of his death, I’d like to continue to disabuse people of that notion and instead note that he was actually a 20th century German Lutheran influenced by (but not uncritically accepting of) Neo-Orthodoxy. Here are some of his words about the creation account, specifically Genesis 1:6-10, from “Creation and Fall”:

Here the ancient image of the world confronts us in all its scientific naivete [my fault for lack of correct letters]. To us today its ideas appear altogether absurd. In view of the rapid changes in our own knowledge of nature, a derisive attitude that is too sure of itself is not exactly advisable here; nevertheless in this passage the biblical author is exposed as one whose knowledge is bound by all the limitations of the author’s own time. Heaven and the sea were in any event not formed in the way the author says, and there is no way we could escape having a very bad conscience if we let ourselves be tied to assertions of that kind. The theory of verbal inspiration will not do. The writer of the first chapter of Genesis sees things here in a very human way. [DBW 3:47-48].

Of course, as always, Bonhoeffer’s words must be understood in a much wider context than they are presented here. It is almost never a good idea to read even whole paragraphs from Bonhoeffer in isolation, because his thought is so dense that it cannot adequately be presented in sound bites. Those quotes which often are used as sound bites are either fabrications (eg. the “Not to act is to act…” quote that has yet to have an actual source found) or the exceptions (and even then I’d be very careful). Bonhoeffer throughout this work demonstrates that the Genesis is God’s Word but he means it in a sense that is very aligned to Luther, though not necessarily Lutheranism: that it is God’s Word because it ultimately teaches us about God and Christ. He strongly argues that God remains God and that God’s Word creates and brings life, but he does not demand that the text of Scripture meet his own modern standards of scientific accuracy and even suggests that yes, it would be silly to think it could.

So no, Bonhoeffer is not a modern evangelical, though he certainly was evangelical in the sense that it was used before the modern use: that of the evangelical Lutheran church. Though many (conservative) Lutherans would reject much of his thought, I’ve yet to encounter a thinker as wholly Lutheran among modern thinkers to date. He was a wonderful–dare I say, beautiful–man who applied his incredibly deep theology to his life, even unto death.

I thank God for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
(February 4, 1906- April 9, 1945)

-4/9/1945
-4/9/2018

Bonhoeffer on American Christianity

dietrich_bonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer has been criticized by people from many angles. Some criticize him for being too liberal; others, for not being liberal enough. Yet it is interesting to read what the man himself had to say, and indeed his words make it clear that he was, in fact, in that rather lonely area in the middle where answers cannot so easily be given to “simple” questions.

I’ve been reading through Bonhoeffer’s collected works, and came across yet another quote that struck me. He studied in New York at Union Theological Seminary for a year, and in Volume 10 of his collected works, Barcelona, Berlin, New York 1928-1931, there exists his report on his time there. In that report (itself undated, though sometime in 1931), he noted that the seminary had many students and teachers entirely dedicated to socialization and thus secularizing Christianity. The problem was that they reduced Christianity to a message of social justice.

On the other hand, Bonhoeffer was also critical of several aspects of American Fundamentalism, and would certainly be critical of the same today.

In a particularly insightful section, he notes difficulties of both the religious “right” and “left” (however unhelpful those categories are. He wrote:

The theological spirit at Union Theological Seminary is accelerating the process of the secularization of Christianity in America. Its criticism is directed essentially at fundamentalism and to a certain extent also at the radical humanists in Chicago; such criticism is healthy and necessary. But the foundation on which one might rebuild after tearing down is not able to support the weight. The collapse destroys it as well. A seminary in which numerous students openly laugh during a public lecture because they find it amusing when a passage on sin and forgiveness from Luther’s de servo arbitrio [On the Bondage of the Will] is cited has obviously, despite its many advantages, forgotten what Christian theology in its very essence stands for. (DBW 10, 309-310).

Thus, Bonhoeffer can be seen here noting that both ends of the theological spectrum have difficulties. He expands on his issues with “fundamentalism” elsewhere (see, for example, Creation and Fall), but here he only hints at it needing some correction. On the other hand, he also notes that it is all too easy to fall into the trap of turning Christianity into a club of social programs, rather than getting the heart at Christian theology. And for Bonhoeffer, that heart is most certainly Christ and living our lives out in light of God’s work.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ecumenism and Lutheranism – Reformation 500

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of what is hailed by many as the start of the Reformation: Luther’s sharing his 95 Theses. I’ve decided to celebrate my Lutheran Protestant Tradition by highlighting some of the major issues that Luther and the Lutherans raised through the Reformation period. I hope you will join me as we remember the great theological (re)discoveries that were made during this period.

Ecumenism and Lutheranism

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Franz Hildebrand, two German Lutherans in the early 20th Century, wrote a catechetical statement in response to the question: “Why are there so many churches?”-

We are really supposed to be one church. In the midst of our incredible divisions we urgently seek communion among all Christians. It will only be possible for us humans ever to have it if we keep waiting and believing [in Christ] who is faithful to his church. (Cited in Schlingensiepen, 80, cited below)

Bonhoeffer and Hildebrand’s response is brief, but shows key aspects of ecumenism that we can continue to seek today. The first point is to realize that the true church of Christ ought to be one both in spiritual and in temporal reality. The second point is that we remain divided, but seek such unity. The third point is eschatological: we must realize that no human efforts will succeed in uniting the church; instead, we hope for Christ’s return to bring about the ultimate unity of His Church.

Elsewhere, Bonhoeffer points out that ecumenical movements must never disregard that real differences in belief and doctrine and practice exist among the present day church. Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer followed his own catechetical statement and urgently sought unity and communion among all Christians. Ecumenism does not mean ignoring all differences or agreeing they don’t matter; instead, we acknowledge our differences and seek to find unity where it does exist.

The church body to which I belong, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has recently made an ecumenical statement that both acknowledges continued difference and shows points of unity with the Roman Catholic church: the Declaration on the Way. I believe this document is an important one, particularly as we continue to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The ultimate prayer for ecumenism, I believe, is “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

Sources

Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance translated by Isabel Best (New York: Continuum, 2010).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Please check out my other posts on the Reformation:

I discuss the origins of the European Reformations and how many of its debates carry on into our own day.

The notion of “sola scriptura” is of central importance to understanding the Reformation, but it is also hotly debated to day and can be traced to many theological controversies of our time. Who interprets Scripture? 

The Church Universal: Reformation Review–  What makes a church part of the Church Universal? What makes a church part of the true church? I write on these topics (and more!) and their origins in the Reformation.

The Continuing Influence of the Reformation: Our lives, our thoughts, our theology– I note the influence that the Reformation period continues to have on many aspects of our lives.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Too much friendship? A response to Desiring God’s “More than BFFs”

Complementarianism is the theological belief that men and women have different roles in the church and home and that these roles are ordained by God. Some have turned complementarianism into a system that controls every aspect of life. Few places make that more clear than some of the major websites that support that theological system. One of these sites, Desiring God, had an article entitled “More than BFFs: When Friendship Goes Too Far.” I could not believe what I read as I went through that article, and felt a response was necessary.

In this article, written by Kelly Needham, the main point is that friendship or friends may “take the place of God in your heart” and that we ought to defend ourselves from having friendships that do that. What I think the article reveals, in fact, is that some applications of complementarian theology lead to control beliefs that cause fear even in relationships that should be comforting.

Needham gives examples of relationships that, in her opinion, have gone too far. These examples are indicative of what is to come. The first is of a pair of friends who complement each other well–one is organized, the other is not, etc. They grow to be best friends. When one of the friends’ husbands gets a job that requires them to move, the other is devastated. Needham writes that the friend’s “despair was difficult to hide.” The second example is of roommates in college (?) that get along so well that they do almost everything together and others joke that they’re “joined at the hip.” The third example is of a woman who is shockingly (I say this tongue-in-cheek) single at 30 years old! She finds a younger woman who is eager to have her as a mentor and jumps on the opportunity. Later, when she gets asked on a date, she hesitates to say yes because she’s worried it could have an impact on her friendship.

What do you get from these examples? The first is a close friendship in which a woman is unhappy to see her best friend move away. The second is a close friendship in college. The third is a woman who doesn’t immediately jump on every man who asks her on a date, and one of those reasons is because she has a friendship she doesn’t want to change.

Well, Needham does see something nefarious here. She writes:

What do all these stories have in common? In each case, a friend became something more.

I honestly re-read the beginning of the article at this point the first time through because the wording seems to imply a sexual relationship here. But no, what Needham means is clear immediately following these words: “Kara wasn’t just a friend; she became Maddie’s other half. Allison wasn’t just a roommate; she became Leslie’s place of belonging. Ashley wasn’t just a mentee; she became Shelby’s purpose and mission in life. These are all examples of friendships that had gone too far.”

At this point, I had question marks floating in front of my eyes. What is going on here? Needham, it seems, believes that these friendships are too close. We must be wary, she argues, that our friendships don’t get too close. We don’t want to replace God with our friends:

While we may be aware of our tendency to look to spouses, children, money, food, careers, and houses to find fulfillment, many of us have assumed friendship is immune to the same kind of temptation. Since same-gender friendships are necessary for our spiritual health, it’s easy to assume they pose no threat to our walk with God. But idolatry is always dangerous to our souls, no matter how harmless the idol may seem at first glance.

Yes, on this complementarian mindset, we must not only fear that our spouses or children might give us fulfillment, we may also discover that friends could do the same thing! There is an almost conspiratorial feel to the whole article that only gets worse as it continues. We can’t have “BFFs,” apparently, because “the world’s model BFF is, by all accounts, a functional savior — someone who rescues you from the instability and trials of life, someone with whom and to whom you belong, who is committed to you ‘forever.'” We wouldn’t ever want to have a friend forever, now, would we? But then the article truly goes into a kind of sadly comedic territory.

The whole article’s point is that we must be fearful and vigilant that we may tend to replace God with friends in our lives. So, one may reasonably ask, how will I know if I’m doing that? Fear not! Needham has given us the means to determine when this may be the case. She offers a list of “Warning Signs.” She writes, “How can you know if a friendship is threatening to take God’s place in your heart? Here are a few questions you could ask about your relationship…”

What do these warning signs include? Well, before we look specifically at them, I want you to take the time to once again think about the main point of the article in question: it is an argument that you’re replacing God with your friends. So, presumably, if the “warning signs” are accurate, these are things you ought to be doing with God, right? After all, it’s hardly replacing God if you’re doing something with a friend that you don’t do with God. So, be sure to replace “friend” with “God” in warnings on the site. In fact, I went ahead and picked a couple out to do it for you to show how, frankly, silly this is:

Do you experience jealousy when your [God] spends time with others?
Have you lost interest in other [Gods]? Do you lack a desire to make new [Gods]?
Do you feel free to “speak for” your [God] with others?
Do you have frequent sleepovers, often preferring to share the same bed?
Do you use nicknames or special language with each other?
Are you more physically affectionate toward this [God] than other [Gods]? Are you physically affectionate in a way that makes others uncomfortable?

Some may think I’m being unfair here. After all, Needham can’t mean that these things are what we ought to be doing with or for God, right? I mean, I’m sorry, but I don’t really want to be physically affectionate with God in a way that makes others uncomfortable. But no, Needham makes it quite clear right after the list of warnings:

If you answered yes to some of these questions, it is worth considering whether your friend is becoming, or has become, something to you only God should be.

Yes, in the world of this particular brand of complementarianism, it is problematic to have a sleepover with your besty because, after all, you ought to be having a sleepover with God in which you use special nicknames for God and are physically affectionate with God.

I really don’t know a better way to rebut the claims in this article. It is, frankly, ridiculous. But this is the kind of thing that some (and yes, I am emphasizing some) complementarians believe we all ought to be doing. We must watch out for the dreaded friendship that becomes too close. We must take care in all our relationships to never cross that invisible boundary where we may idolize other people. And no, I’m not saying we could never make another person into an idol or a new God. But the language of this article and the paranoia it engenders towards friendships is devastating. Moreover, the examples used at the beginning are all perfectly reasonable. After all, does Needham really believe that friends ought not to be deeply saddened when their friends move away, or that a woman ought to always accept every request for a date if there is no objection to the character of the man (okay, she might be intentionally saying that last one)?

I think this article is deeply damaging, and shows yet another example of how complementarianism turns itself into a controlling doctrine that seeks to dominate every aspect of an individual’s life.

Source

Kelly Needham, “More than BFFs” accessed 7/16/17.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Read other posts I’ve written on complementarian theology.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Perspicuity of Scripture in the Lutheran Reformers: Reformation 500

785px-Bible_and_Lord's_Cup_and_Bread2017 marks the 500th anniversary of what is hailed by many as the start of the Reformation: Luther’s sharing his 95 Theses. I’ve decided to celebrate my Lutheran Protestant Tradition by highlighting some of the major issues that Luther and the Lutherans raised through the Reformation period. I hope you will join me as we remember the great theological (re)discoveries that were made during this period.

Perspicuity of Scripture in the Lutheran Reformers

Luther himself wrote on perspicuity in no uncertain terms:

[T]hat in Scripture there are some things abstruse, and everything is not plain–this is an idea put about by the ungodly Sophists… I admit… that there are many texts in the Scriptures that are obscure and abstruse, not because of the majesty of their subject matter, but because of our ignorance of their vocabulary and grammar; but these texts in no way hinder a knowledge of al the subject matter of Scripture. (Luther, The Bondage of the Will, 110, cited below)

So far as I know, Luther did not change his stance on the perspicuity of Scripture. As the Reformation continued, however, it became clear that such a stance might not be appropriate regarding the entirety of every declaration of Scripture. Lutheran reformers qualified perspicuity, noting that it applied only to that which pertains to salvation.[1] Heinrich Schmid, in his Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (translated 1875) compiles quotations from the major early Lutheran reformers to outline what Lutherans taught. Regarding perspicuity, Schmid notes:

If the Sacred Scriptures contain everything necessary to salvation, and if they alone contain it, they must necessarily exhibit it so clearly and plainly that it is accessible to the comprehension of every one; hence the attribute of Perspicuity is ascribed to the Sacred Scriptures… But whilst such perspicuity is ascribed to the Sacred Scriptures, it is not meant that every particular that is contianed in them is equally clear and plain to all, but only that all that is necessary to be known in order to salvation is clearly and plainly taught in them… it is also not maintained that the Sacred Scriptures can be understood without the possession of certain prerequisites [such as the language, maturity of judgment, unprejudiced mind, etc.].(Schmid, 87-88, emphasis his)

Schmid’s summary of Lutheran doctrine in the Reformation period sounds different from what Luther taught in The Bondage of the Will, but he shows from direct citations that this is the direction Lutherans moved in regarding perspicuity. To whit, Gerhard:

It is to be observed that when we call the Scriptures perspicuous, we do not mean that every particular expression, anywhere contained in Scripture, is so constituted that at the first glance it must be plainly and fully understood by every one. On the other hand, we confess that certain things are obscurely expressed in Scripture and difficult to be understood… (quoted in Schmid, 89)

Quenstedt:

We do not maintain that all Scripture, in every particular, is clear and perspicuous. For we grant that certain things are met with in the sacred books that are very obscure… not only in respect to the sublimity of their subject-matter, but also as to the utterance of the Holy Spirit… (ibid, 90, Quenstedt goes on to deny that there are doctrines that are so obscure that they “can nowhere be found clearly and explicitly”)

Hollaz:

The perspicuity of Scripture is not absolute, but dependent upon the use of means, inasmuch as, in endeavoring to understand it, the divinely instituted method must be accurately observed… (ibid, 91)

The whole section clarifies and explains the earliest Lutheran teaching regarding perspicuity of Scriptures, and it is clear that it is acknowledged that not every single text is plain, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit, among other things, is required to understand Scripture rightly, and that plain passage of Scripture are to be used to interpret those which seem obscure.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, this shift in perspective on perspicuity happened due to the very real differences on some major doctrines within the Protestant movement itself. If every single statement the Scriptures made about  doctrine were so clear, how could such divisions exist within a movement that was upholding sola scriptura? The answer was that perspicuity applied to that which is essential for salvation, and that shift in perspective can be observed in the writings of the Lutherans listed here.

What applications might this have? The first is that the many attempts by Christians to argue for their own doctrinal perspectives simply by appealing to the perspicuity of Scriptures fails. To argue that someone else denies perspicuity of Scripture because they disagree on certain doctrinal positions is an abuse of the doctrine of perspicuity of Scriptures. It also shows an incapacity to show one’s own point clearly from the Scriptures themselves. A second application is that it acknowledges some of the difficulty in understanding Scripture rightly.

The doctrine of perspicuity is a major aspect of Reformation theology. It should not, however, be over-generalized and abused in the way that it has, unfortunately, often been used.

[1] In researching this post, I noticed that the Wikipedia page on the clarity of Scripture has been edited to suggest without qualification that all Lutherans hold to the notion that “Lutherans hold that the Bible presents all doctrines and commands of the Christian faith clearly. God’s Word is freely accessible to every reader or hearer of ordinary intelligence, without requiring any special education.” The citations provided to show that all Lutherans hold to this teaching are not to any of the early Lutheran reformers, nor are they citations of the Book of Concord; rather, they are references to two sources published by a publishing house of one form of American Lutherans. These sources are from 1934 and 1910, respectively, and not in the Reformation period nor do they, so far as I can tell, speak for all Lutherans. Given the evidence cited above from Quenstedt, Gerhard, and the like, I find it hard to believe such a claim could be substantiated.

Sources

Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will in Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation edited by Rupp and Watson (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1969).

Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Please check out my other posts on the Reformation:

I discuss the origins of the European Reformations and how many of its debates carry on into our own day.

The notion of “sola scriptura” is of central importance to understanding the Reformation, but it is also hotly debated to day and can be traced to many theological controversies of our time. Who interprets Scripture? 

The Church Universal: Reformation Review–  What makes a church part of the Church Universal? What makes a church part of the true church? I write on these topics (and more!) and their origins in the Reformation.

The Continuing Influence of the Reformation: Our lives, our thoughts, our theology– I note the influence that the Reformation period continues to have on many aspects of our lives.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Indulgences are Worse than Useless: Reformation 500

Martin Luther2017 marks the 500th anniversary of what is hailed by many as the start of the Reformation: Luther’s sharing his 95 Theses. I’ve decided to celebrate my Lutheran Protestant Tradition by highlighting some of the major issues that Luther and the Lutherans raised through the Reformation period. I hope you will join me as we remember the great theological (re)discoveries that were made during this period.

Indulgences are Worse than Useless

Luther’s critique of indulgences was a typical (for him) combination of insight and invective. He sought to clearly condemn not just the sale of but also the use of indulgences, which means parts of his critique remain quite relevant today. Here we will draw primarily from Luther’s explanations of his 95 theses.

Luther argued that the pope actually has no power over purgatory and, moreover, that if the pope did have this power, he ought to exercise it:

If the pope does have the power to release anyone from purgatory, why in the name of love does he not abolish purgatory by letting everyone out? (81-82, cited below)

The question cuts straight to he heart of the system in which the pope is exalted as having power over souls in purgatory. It is clear that Luther did not at this point denounce the doctrine of purgatory. What his point is directed at instead, is the claim that the pope does have such power. After all, if the pope does have such power, then why would he not simply release all the souls from purgatory immediately, thus granting a most generous and wonderful reprieve? The fact that the pope of Luther’s time did not do so and was in fact selling indulgences for coin spoke volumes about the doctrine itself and the need for reformation.

But the point still has relevance today, as one might ask the question: if the pope today currently has the power over purgatory, why does he not simply release all those who are suffering there? One possible answer might be because it is just that people undergo such suffering or bettering of themselves in purgatory that they might truly be, er, reformed. But then the question of the two kingdoms comes to mind. After all, such a response effectively strips the pope of the power that has allegedly been granted him, for if the spiritual benefits of purgatory are so great, why does he ever exercise the power he is said to hold? The argument can proceed indefinitely in a circle, which seems to show that the initial point is valid.

Luther, however, did not stop there. Rather than questioning the power of the pope to grant indulgences, he also noted the great spiritual harm such indulgences do:

Indulgences are positively harmful to the recipient because they impede salvation by diverting charity and inducing a false sense of security… Indulgences are most pernicious because they induce complacency and thereby imperil salvation. Those persons are damned who think that letters of indulgence make them certain of salvation. (82)

Indulgences, by granting pardon from sin or the consequences thereof, produce a false sense of security of salvation that may lead rather to damnation. For once one believes that because someone else has told them future or past sins are paid for by some collection of merit of others, they may believe that they are forgiven, when they have not confessed and repented of that sin to God. Thus, a false sense of security is gained, but in reality the person may be condemned, not having received full and free forgiveness of their sins.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Please check out my other posts on the Reformation:

I discuss the origins of the European Reformations and how many of its debates carry on into our own day.

The notion of “sola scriptura” is of central importance to understanding the Reformation, but it is also hotly debated to day and can be traced to many theological controversies of our time. Who interprets Scripture? 

The Church Universal: Reformation Review–  What makes a church part of the Church Universal? What makes a church part of the true church? I write on these topics (and more!) and their origins in the Reformation.

The Continuing Influence of the Reformation: Our lives, our thoughts, our theology– I note the influence that the Reformation period continues to have on many aspects of our lives.

Source

Quotes from Luther are from Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Abingdon, 1950). It appears as though Bainton was either translating directly from a German edition or paraphrasing Luther.

SDG.

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