[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]wonder what Luther would have to say about modern day America if he somehow came back for a visit and spent 10-15 hours surfing the cable news channels and sitting in on the U.S. Congress in session and watching several hours of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) ? … /grin.
This is an interesting question. I suppose my thoughts are that Luther would have quite a bit to say that would be useful to groups like TBN (that’s the Pat Robertson channel, I’m assuming), such as recommending healthy and careful re-readings of the Book of Job. I’m astounded by how little humility these people have when it comes to speaking for God.
On politics, I think there are important ways in which we would have more to teach Luther than he us. Let me explain. Consider the following passage from Luther’s On Secular Authority:
[T]here neither can, nor ought to be any superiors amongst Christians . . . . how can there be superiority [or inferiority] when all are equal, and all have the same right, power, goods and honor? . . . Nature will not tolerate superiors when no one wants to be, or can be, a superior.
Now, this sort of language is going to give virtually every American a warm and fuzzy feeling, which isn’t surprising given that our political values are in many respects the direct descendents of these Reformation values. We can see here that Luther is making a radical break with the hierarchical and authoritarian structure of Catholicism in favor of the profoundly democratic notion that “every man is a priest.” Reading the above, we might expect Luther to favor political equality and at least some form of republicanism, but in fact he does not. It was left to later Protestants, especially the early American colonists, to make these connections. Personally, I view these differences as improvements over Luther, even if we still say that the colonists were often simply taking Luther’s own teachings to their natural conclusions.
However, I think there is an important idea in Luther that we’re increasingly losing sight of, and that’s the classical liberal recognition that liberty and virtue are complimentary values. Unfortunately, that’s a prohibitively long discussion for an internet forum.
/grin … Close enough. Pat Robertson’s 700 Club has been featured on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, but TBN itself is the baby of Paul and Jan Crouch (shudder) who have assembled a conglomeration of some of Christendom’s good, bad, and ugly.
"TBN broadcasts programs hosted by a diverse group of ministries from traditional Protestant and Catholic denominations, Interdenominational and Full Gospel churches, non profit charities, Messianic Jewish and well-known Christian and Mormon media personalities. TBN also offers a wide range of original programming, and faith-based films.
Other personalities featured or have been featured on TBN include: A.R. Bernard, Carl Baugh, Kirk Cameron, MC Hammer, Katy Hudson, Marilyn Hickey, Benny Hinn, D. James Kennedy, Carol Lawrence, Gavin MacLeod, Jay Sekulow, Fulton J. Sheen, Nasir Siddiki, Charles Stanley, Paula White, and Jack Van Impe.
[Add] Joyce Meyer, Robert H. Schuller, and Joel Osteen."
I understand you to mean that the Book Of Job pictures the Christian life as sometimes burdened with trials and difficulties which argues against the claims of some modern day Prophets Of Guaranteed Continual Uninterupted Bliss such as Joel Osteen that pictures the Christian life as a well funded joy ride through life so long as one follows his prescriptions, moreorless. They may not be as bold as the late night radio preacher Sweet Daddy Grace who was fond of saying, “If you love me, send me your money and all will go well with you and yours”, but some of them clearly imply thats what they really mean.
Btw, that “prosperity gospel” up there is not the same as the indulgences sold in Wittenberg back when Luther walked the Earth, but it might be a second cousin? /grin
Also, none of that up there even gets into the area where clearly some of them have a strong desire to become the Main Authority Figure in the lives of their flock.
All my Protestant life I have clung with gusto to the principle that Every Man Is His Own Priest and would never even consider forsaking it. When I first became a Christian they handed me a Bible and said “Read it for yourself and decide what it means” and then they quoted 2 Tim. 3:16-17 to me. That simple passage (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and what they told me has stuck with me all these years.
I am not all that fond of hierarchical and authoritarian theological or political structures, and do not even like the notion of local churches legally connected to a denomination. The Top Dog Elites sitting up there at General Headquarters might decide to start issuing Proclamations one fine day, and the local congregation, if they rebel, might end up losing their infrastructure after they fanned out 1 or 2 million dollars to have it built. I have heard of that happening.
'Course, all that is important, but the principle “every man is a priest” has far reaching political ramifications, as you suggested with your phrase “the profoundly democratic notion” in your statement up there in the quote block.
We build upon each other. True I think in all areas of knowledge: science, technology, medicine, space travel, politics, and theology. One man builds a foundation, decades or centuries later other men come along and perfect it, or at least make it better.
I understand the meaning of the words liberty, virtue, and complimentary, but I need some concrete examples of what you mean say applied to 21st century America’s political/economic situation.
Perhaps. Yet hopefully “we ain’t going no where” anytime soon and I have seen threads last 2-3 months. At any rate, “Luther and America” has some far reaching ramifications about issues dear to hearts and minds, and maybe this thread can be used to kick these ideas around a bit. If I am not mistaken Pete is a Lutheran and he might make some interresting contributions.
Anyway, this will be a good place, over the weeks and months, to post ideas and passages that relate to Luther’s principles. Many of the people I respect and read hold that Martin Luther (and the other Protestant Reformers) were the true founders of the American Republic.
Job is some profound stuff, with a lot going on in it. When I picked it up for the first time as an adult, I realized that it’s easily as good (philosophically) as anything from the ancient Greeks during the same period. I read Job as essentially an epistemological text which holds that God’s justice is beyond the ability of human beings to grasp. Extremely short version of my interpretation: the text opens by telling us that Job is a man that was “perfect and upright…and eschewed evil.” When God permits Satan’s offer to test Job’s faith, Job’s friends give several fine and plausible sounding speeches which hold, among other things, to the following general argument: God is perfectly and wholly just. If God is perfectly and wholly just, then all misfortune is punishment for wrongdoing, because a perfectly and wholly just God would not allow the innocent to suffer. Therefore, Job must have done something wrong or evil to deserve his misfortune. It’s noteworthy that these speeches are rather well-argued and persuasive at times. Nevertheless, we know that they are all wrong. Job hasn’t done anything wrong: he’s “perfect and upright.” Job protests his innocence (correctly) and even begins to doubt God’s justice.[SUP]1[/SUP] Finally, God appears and engages in a deeply mysterious conversation with Job, which emphasizes the vast epistemological gap between the universal position of God and the local position of mankind: “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” (38:33)
The upshot as I take it is that people ought to be humble when presuming to understand God or divine justice. Job’s friends make fine, persuasive, and rational speeches, but in trying to understand God by the terms of human justice, they ultimately blasphemed against God and were punished. It seems to me that Paul echoes these ideas in Corinthians: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent,” and “the world by wisdom knew not God” (1:19-31).
[SUP]1[/SUP]I’m going to skip over Elihu, because I’m still not sure what to make of his speech. On the one hand, I’m very tempted to adopt Calvin’s reading of the text (which holds that Elihu’s speech was essentially correct), because Elihu for the most part vocalizes my interpretation of the story’s moral lesson: that it’s vain and dangerous to attempt to understand God through the standards of earthly justice. On the other hand, there is enough controversy over Elihu that I feel it best to pass over him. I don’t think it matters for my interpretation, because I think God’s speech also confirms my interpretation.
[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]I understand the meaning of the words liberty, virtue, and complimentary, but I need some concrete examples of what you mean say applied to 21st century America’s political/economic situation. [/QUOTE]
Hopelessly quick and dirty example, consider the leftist economist Joseph Stiglitz’s discussion of the bank bailouts and the differences in culture between the United States and Japan:
In Japan, the CEO of a major bank would have apologized to his employees and his country, and would have refused his pension and bonus so that those who suffered as a result of corporate failures could share the money. He would have resigned. In America, the only questions are whether a board will *force *a CEO to leave and, if so, how big his severance package will be. When I asked one CEO whether there was any discussion of returning their bonuses, the response was not just no, but an aggressive defense of the bonus system.
Somewhere along the line, Americans stopped expecting people to behave with real and meaningful civic honor in their engagement with the economy.
If I am not mistaken Pete is a Lutheran and he might make some interresting contributions.
That was my upbringing, but haven’t been in a Lutheran church as a member for quite some time. Can’t promise how good my contributions will be, and this weekend is going to be busier than usual for me - walking in a half-marathon on Sunday - but this thread is on my radar screen. Was going to comment this AM, but other things needed doing.
Pete, I think this thread can be a slow “work in progress” and that it might endure for a goodly spell. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on the interesting subjects that I feel certain this thread could produce.
In the context of your quote up there, Pat Robertson and perhaps some on TBN would represent people that were short of proper humility and this shortage has led them to speak for God in areas where they had no authority to speak for God. For example, as I recall, twas Pat Roberson that announced to America that Hurricane Katrina was the judgement of God upon America for her various sins. Clearly Pat Robertson does not have the authority to speak for God on any subject, Pat has the right to speak on any subject, but not the right to speak for God on any subject. ( Imo, Pat would do Christendom a better service if he restricted his speaking to preaching exactly what the New Testament says. In Health, But Not Always in Sickness - Top 10 Pat Robertson Gaffes - TIME )
Your position is that one of Luther’s messages to Pat Robertson and to some on TBN would be to admonish them to seriously re-read the book of Job paying special attention to it’s central moral lesson, namely that “people ought to be humble when presuming to understand God or divine justice” and stop “trying to understand God by the terms of human justice?”
For example back to Hurricane Katrina, it would be impossible for men to know what was in the mind of God when He sent or permitted Katrina to strike New Orleans, and since they cannot know, all men should be humble in their attitudes and not attempt to explain God’s reasons for the misfortunes that have plagued the world since the beginning of time? (With the exceptions, imo, where men merely repeat what God Himself has explained in the Scriptures regarding His reasons for sending misfortunes upon men in certain instances, eg. upon Egypt.) Other than such instances, all men should bookmark Job in their Bibles and write the word Humility on the bookmark?
I think if human men actually took Luther’s advice and seriously heeded the book of Job, we would see entirely different kinds of posts in Faith And Beliefs Forums across the web.
Gone, in *Faith And Beliefs Forums, * would be human criticisms of God with regard to the rages of nature and the rages of human beings.
If men actually did what Luther (echoing the book of Job and Paul) says they should do, then men would be taking one important step toward building a foundation for exercising faith in God, namely they would stop sitting in judgement upon a Being that they do not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend with regard to such of His works as discussed in the book of Job.
In my mind, your concept of liberty and virtue being complimentary [mentioned in your post up-thread] is going to lead us to the idea of the necessity for individual freedom and a necessity for enough time so that a learning process can occur, and from there on to the question: ** “Can the state make men good?” ** … /grin My answer is going to be No!
Note to myself for future use (or to any interested readers)
See the link below for a very lengthy reference source specifically on Elihu:
( Page flipper at the bottom of each page. Several pages on Elihu)
David Baird on The Education Of Job The Education of Job
The link up there takes you to Baird’s Conclusion quote, at bottom of page over at Baird’s site.
"It is little wonder that men fear God and that those who think on God hold Him in awe. These closing words of Elihu direct his hearers to the next and greatest of the speakers in the Book of Job, Yahweh Himself. Elihu’s contribution to the education of Job has ended. He has laid the groundwork for Yahweh’s intervention. Elihu’s speeches, while not perfect, were superior to those of the three friends and have taken Job out of himself and into a lofty contemplation of the Lord of heaven and earth. Without Elihu’s participation Job could have been ill-equipped to receive the humbling words of the Almighty. There is no place for spiritual arrogance or pride when seeking answers or relief from God.
Job is now ready to accept the unequivocal utterances of Yahweh"
Elihu’s Monologues - Introduction
This lengthy study starts here:
This link takes you to page one. The Education of Job
I agree with all of your comments above, with one exception, and your summary of my own position is also accurate. If you’re re-reading Job now, notice how well argued are the opposing positions in the text by Job’s three friends. The dialogue somehow manages to tackle in a relatively few pages some of the most profound problems in theology: are we justified by faith alone, or by works also? Is the suffering of the innocent consistent with a just God? To what extent can we know God through reason?
Plato, as great as he was, typically reduced Socrates’ opponents to straw men. There are really only a few cases where an opponent of Socrates gives him a real fight (e.g. Callicles from Gorgias), but the Jobian dialogue presents the opposing positions in their full force, dealing with them head on. It’s really a masterpiece of literature and philosophy.
As for the one exception:
[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]With the exceptions, imo, where men merely repeat what God Himself has explained in the Scriptures regarding His reasons for sending misfortunes upon men in certain instances, eg. upon Egypt.[/QUOTE]
We’re probably going to simply disagree here. Following Luther (as I understand him), I feel the need to distinguish between God as he actually is in himself, and God as we finite human beings experience him. To quote Luther directly: “In the Scripture you must often take the rule into account that Scripture speaks of God as we feel him to be. For as we feel him to be, so he is for us. . . . Thus when Scripture says that God is wrathful this means nothing else than that we feel he is wrathful.” In other words, human concepts such as “wrathful” cannot possibly explain the real truth of God. It’s the (inevitably inadequate) attempt of our finite minds and language to explain how God was experienced.
OHHH, please; Luther was reacting to the practice of ‘indulgences’ and the lack of popular knowledge and how the Roman Catholic Church of the day had strayed so far from Scriptural Truth. Luther’s main study was law as well as Scripture interpretation. Different day and different age. Luther would probebly cry at what the heresy level has come into the Church both Roman Catholic and Protestant.
Going to try to dip my toe in what is shaping up to be a really good thread. Thanks J.A and Jack!
Luther was informed by and informed his times. The renewed emphasis on classical languages and sources - philosophical and Biblical - had formative influence on Luther’s views and were the context and means by which he grew and presented them. While it was not his initial purpose, his presentation-advocacy of his views affected his age and beyond. I know, du-uhh!
Indulgences were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, except Luther probably didn’t, at that moment, see the camel or expect what followed. His 97 Theses were theses he proposed for a possible debate; he seemed not to think they would resound much beyond his academic circle (Wittenberg wasn’t exactly the bright center of the 15th Century academic universe).
Aack! Running out of time!
Luther’s view of authority - ecclesiastical and civil - was formed by his times and experiences, and evolved throughout his life. The murderous perfidy of the Council of Constance affected his thinking, though he was not yet born. What he saw in Rome while there on Augustinian Order business affected his thinking. The way in which Leo X and his cousin Clement VII handled the dispute that grew out of the 97 Theses did likewise. Not sure when what J.A quoted from was written, but the Peasant Revolt, which drew somewhat from Luther’s writings also swung Luther back toward recognizing a need for properly firm civil government.
I’ve not read extensively about Luther. E. G. Schwiebert’s Luther and his times (1950) is quite good, though he may understate some Luther’s late in life comments about Jewish people (or maybe I’m not remembering Schwiebert well on that). Schwiebert spends considerable “time” helping his readers understand the historical context into which Luther was born. Schwiebert’s Luther and Eric Metaxas’ bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are kind of the standards by which I presently consider reasonable thoroughness in a biography.
I’m not up on all the detail of Luther’s time and the Reformation, but it was not only a “protestant” reformation; the Catholic Church got a wake-up call, and there C
h was a Catholic reformation as well. Every once in a while, God stirs up the Church (I mean neither protestant nor Catholic, but THE church) as they get either lazy or lukewarm, or actually turning in the wrong direction. I think we are about due for another “reformation” - or at least, a church wide revival (II Chronicles 7:14) “If MY people who are called by MY Name . . .”
Yeah I am thumbing back through Job these days. I, as a non-philosopher, had never before considered the book of Job as a philosophical work containing points and principles of interest to such as Plato and Socrates. Thats interesting to know, I suspose sooner of later all serious thinkers end up facing the same major issues and problems.
(Callicles from Georgias? I never even heard of that cat! I would have guessed: "A Metal-Rock Band ♫♫ somewhere in Europe, ha.)
Here are my very short observations on some of the issues you referenced:
“Are we justified by faith alone, or by works also?”__J
The New Testament Pauline doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is strong enough to be inarguable for a man that accepts the truth of 2 Tim. 3:16-17, and also the book of James is strong enough to establish that any man who is in fact justified by faith alone is going to have some good works as evidence of his faith.
Faith is the foundation and means of our justification and good works are the evidences and fruits that our genuine faith produced, otherwise the New Testament is destroyed
as a hopeless contradiction, that is to say, Paul and James must be harmonized else one can hang up Christianity as contradictory nonsense.
Moreover, its not difficult to see why a N.T. writer [James] would insist that a “faith” without any good works would be a dead faith IE a false faith and no faith at all.
( /grin … Btw, I recall reading long ago that Luther once refered to the book of James as a “right strawy epistle” but I think he later came around to the above view?)
“Is the suffering of the innocent consistent with a just God?”__J
The truth is the words “human” and “innocent” are genuine oxymorons. Adolph Hitler was once a cuddly “innocent” baby. From our limited human perspective Hitler at age 2 had not yet murdered and burned up 6 million human beings. But I cannot give up the Omniscience of God: God saw the life of Hitler not unfolding in gradual progression, but rather as one completed whole unit. On this truth-reality of perfect justice based upon complete knowledge, perfect justice would demand the immediate destruction of the entire human race. (Very important point: The correct and just demands of perfect Justice was satisfied here: Rom.3:21-28. Thereby leaving Love, Mercy, and Grace free to began the gradual millenniums long process of redeeming the fallen race of men.)
I include myself and all men in that up there. At age two I was guilty, in principle, of all crimes known to man. The only reason I did not grow up and actually commit those crimes was because of God’s mercy and grace. The only thing about me or any human that is innocent is the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account, what Paul called “credited righteousness” in Rom.4:18 through Rom.5:2 IE Christ’s righteousness and His innocence was imputed or credited to us.
“To what extent can we know God through reason?”__J
My view is: If we didn’t have the Scriptures as our guide, and had only our reason’s capacity to analyze the natural world of men and things as our means of knowing God, that we’d end up mostly ignorant of the true God. For example, one man looks at the huge vicious wars going on within the insect and animal world and concludes that the true God is a warrior killer.
Another man looks at the huge number of endless acts of love and kindness going on throughout the world and concludes God is nothing but love and kindness.
My view is the Scriptures give us the proper balance, the true God is both a Warrior [“The Lord is a Warrior” Ex. 3:15] and a Lover of humanity [John 3:16], that is to say, the Sovereign God is loving and compassionate in His character but He is not a wimpy pushover that will not stand His ground against men who demand the right to do evil at their whims therby destroying or making more difficult the advancement of the New Testament’s Love-Mercy-Grace solutions to humanity’s problems and delimmas.
In the war between Evil and Love, Love wins, but Love is not a wimp and Love’s Warrior will do whatever it takes to stop evil [eg. World War II] from becoming institutionalized and over-powering or making more difficult the advancement of the New Testament’s Love-Mercy-Grace solutions throughout the Earth. On the big picture we’re gaining ground, Christendom started out with a mere handful in the 1st century just a short 2000 years ago, we now have over 2 billion world wide, and the human race is just in it’s infancy, we’re only in kindergarten, historically speaking.
We might end up disagreeing here, but maybe not?
Its true I can never completely understand the Being of God and can never fully understand His attributes, at least not in my present state (our sinful natures are totally removed before God’s people enter Heaven), and maybe not even fully in the next life in Heaven. I would hate to have the job of proving true, from the Scriptures or from reason, the propostion: “At some point we will know all there is to know about God.” … ( I’ll pass on that job.)
Take for example His attribute of Love:
[“God is love” I John 4:8]
I can never know and understand fully the Love of God. In order for me to be able to do that I would have to know and understand everything God knows and understands, thats true because His knowledge of Himself is connected into one whole unit. That means all His attributes such as Love, Mercy, Grace, Holiness, Infinitude, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Unchangeableness, etc are connected and have a relationship to each other, so that God is by nature a consistent Being.
It is utterly impossible for me to fully know and understand all the above and that which I listed is just a small fraction of all that makes up the Being of God. And again, it may well be that no human beings will ever come to know in all of Eternity, all there is to know about the Being of God. (All this is true with regard to His wrath as well, 'course His wrath hath an end on the time line, but His Love never does end, thats cheerful news.)
Now here comes the elements I feel most concerned about:
God has made it very easy for me to understand enough about His attrubute of Love so that I can do a decent job of loving my family and loving other people by bestowing upon them acts of kindness and compassion, while putting up with their faults, sins, and imperfections. God has given me all the knowledge and understanding that I need in order to actually do this. I have plenty of understanding-knowledge for now, about how to actually get this done. God, so to speak, is waiting on me to fully use what I already know, I am not waiting on Him to give me more knowledge and understanding.
So the truth is I already know more about God’s Love than I actually use, that true to my shame that I have a surplus of knowledge and understanding of God’s Love, how so? Well, because sometime my sorry butt fails badly to do what I should do in the area of following God in His demonstrated examples of how-to-love. I have Christ as an example of what the Love of God looks like in action here in the real world of men, yet sometimes I am unkind and unloving.
So I think I can do as you suggest and “distinguish between God as he actually is in himself, and God as we finite human beings experience him” and at the same time know enough about Him so that I can live a good moral life, love my family, love my friends and neighbors, do good deeds, do acts of kindness, feed and nurture faith, seek to learn more about God, enjoy good music, good literature, and life in general.
Susanna, good point. I was thinking as I read it, that there was a time in certain places within Christendom where better and more solid doctrinal preaching was the order of the day and there was little “Joel Osteen-ing” going on.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one example of that in Britain, and in America the preachers that sat under the old line Calvinist professors like Warfield, Charles Hodge,
A.A. Hodge, W.G.T. Shed and Archibald Alexander and went on to graduate from the old Princeton Theological Seminary, were men who towed the line on solid exegetical Biblical doctrinal preaching, with none of this “touchy-feely” … and … “We-Are-The-World” stuff one hears to often these days from pulpits.
And thats not to even mention the screamers and ranters that come out late at night on TV :freaked:.
It seems these days with regard to late night television preachers, that all you need in order to become an ordained minister is a body temperture around 98 degrees and be able to hollar, bellow, and zippy back and forth around the stage very fast.
/grin… You had some very good Armenian Bible preachers too back in those days, we mentioned the Wesleys before as I recall, and there were others too.
"Dr. Ernest Schwiebert, who died on March 10, 2000 at the age of 104, described this book as his greatest accomplishment (Deshler, OH Flag, March 23, 2000). Researched and written on location in Germany in 1950, the book analyzes conditions surrounding the Lutheran Reformation according to history, politics, the church, and academia - a daunting task for one book.
But the author organizes his material well and one of his specialties, the analysis of the Reformation as a university movement, comes through clearly and cleanly in this work. Both those familiar with Luther’s life and those exploring it for the first time will appreciate how Dr. Schwiebert brought scholarly research on the topic into the reach of many people."__Alan Hafner
Let’s clear up the “Selling and buying of Indulgences”:
*“The Catholic Church does not now nor has it ever approved the sale of indulgences. This is to be distinguished from the undeniable fact that individual Catholics (perhaps the best known of them being the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519]) did sell indulgences–but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations. This practice is utterly opposed to the Catholic Church’s teaching on indulgences, and it cannot be regarded as a teaching or practice of the Church.” * Does the Catholic Church still sell indulgences? | Catholic Answers
*One never could “buy” indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There was no outright selling of indulgences. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “*t is easy to see how abuses crept in. Among the good works which might be encouraged by being made the condition of an indulgence, almsgiving would naturally hold a conspicuous place. . . . It is well to observe that in these purposes there is nothing essentially evil. To give money to God or to the poor is a praiseworthy act, and, when it is done from right motives, it will surely not go unrewarded.” * Myths about Indulgences | Catholic Answers
Sorry about the cut and paste job. And forgive the appearance of an attack of Luther, and derailing of the topic, please.