Sunday, November 30, 2014

Which Comes First New Birth or Faith: Thoughts on Spurgen - Part 1

While reading in a pro-Arminian baptist book entitled Whosoever Will, contributor Dr. Paige Patterson, President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, quoted Reformed pastor Charles Spurgeon as having rejected that regeneration precedes faith:
If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinner.
The above statement is taken from his sermon The Warrant of Faith (preached on September 20, 1862; you can listen to it here) and appears to contradict an important Calvinist distinctive. What makes it so powerful is that Spurgeon said the above, not Jacob Arminius.

So what did Charles Spurgeon believe? Was Reformed in every way except this one area of theology?

Before interacting with Spurgeon's theology (which I will do in a future post), let us first do two things. First, let us remind ourselves that Spurgeon was more Calvinist than most Calvinists. He was a staunch five-point Calvinists and believed it to be pure doctrine. Spurgeon himself famously said:
The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again. (source)
More quotes could be sited by Spurgeon in his defense of Calvinism. Any half-decent book on him will make this clear. It is often difficult to read Spurgeon without hearing his Calvinism. Spurgeon, we could say, was baptist in his ecclesiology and Reformed in his soteriology.

Secondly, we should allow tensions in theology. Spurgeon illustrates this well in his own ministry. Read the final paragraphs of any sermon of Spurgeo, and you will find a man that pleads for the sinner to repent and respond to the gospel call in a way we would (stereotypically) expect an Arminian minister would. Spurgeon did not see a contradiction in being Reformed and calling on sinners to repent.

As it is relates to Spurgeon's view on regenation and new birth, the Prince of Preachers clearly held to the doctrine commonly referred to as "Irresistible Grace." Steve Lawson quotes Spurgeon as saying:
Difficulty is not a word to be found in the dictionary of heaven. Nothing can be impossible with God. The swearing reprobate, whose mouth is blackened with profanity, whose heart is a very hell, and his life like the reeking flames of the bottomless pit—such a man, if the Lord but looks on him and makes bare His arm of irresistible grace, shall yet praise God and bless His name and live to His honor.’ In short, no human heart is so obstinate that the Spirit cannot conquer and convert it. (source)
I mention this because irresistible grace and regeneration-before-faith are often closely tied together. So to suggest that he did not hold to regeneration before faith does not, at least to Spurgeon himself, contradict his Calvinism.

Finally, let us look at some of the resources for the above question before moving forward. First, the often-used quote above is taken from his sermon "The Warrent of Faith," which can be assessed here. Secondly, Spurgeon preached a sermon called "Faith and Regeneration" which can be assessed here. See also his sermons "Regeneration," "The Necessity of Regeneration," "The Work of the Holy Spirit," as well as his comments on John 3:7 on his morning devotion for March 6. These resources (and no doubt we could add more), will be beneficial to our study.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 


No doubt any discussion regarding the origin of baptists must deal with the connection, or lack there-of, with the radical reformation. In his book Baptists Through the Centuries, Dr. David Bebbington opens chapter 3 with these words: The most developed historiographical controversy concerning the Baptists surrounds their relationship with the Anabaptists (25). Whether this is an exaggeration or not I will let the reader decide, but no doubt this question certainly ranks at the top. The author then goes on to report:
The idea that there was a bond between baptists and Anabaptists was popular in the nineteenth century with those who wanted to argue that believer's baptism had never died out since the apostles' time. The Anabaptists, on this understanding, were those who in the early sixteenth century passed on to the Baptists a perennial witness. When it became clearer that there was no such succession of true baptismal practice down through the centuries, those Baptists in the twentieth century who wished to forge links with features of the Anabaptist testimony such as pacifism were still predisposed to see connections between the two movements in the past. (25)
No doubt the presuppositions behind Landmarkism is a primary means for wanting to find a link between the two, but I want to put forward another reason. I have ministered in rural communities for over a decade where there is a large number of Amish and Mennonites. In an effort of mutual respect and civility, it has been my experience to find many baptists to suggests that we both share the same birth mother.

Nevertheless, Babbington sets forth the case for connecting the radical reformation and the baptists. The strongest evidence regards the connection between the Anabaptists and John Smyth who is considered to be the first baptist.

In Smyth's biography, the baptist forefather decides to create his own church based on his belief in believer's baptism.
His solution, reached early in 1609, was to baptize himself and then to baptize the others, so establishing fresh church according to the pattern he had discerned in the New Testament. The repudiation of their earlier infant baptisms by all the members of the congregation was audacious enough, but the act of self-baptism seemed particularly scandalous. There was no scripture warrant for it, and it savored of the despised and hated Anabaptist. Contemporaries wondered whether the Anabaptists were actually responsible for Smyth's aberration. It is a question for historians as well. (34)
No doubt that Smyth was influenced by Mennonite Anabaptists. One such community was found near Smyth's church. Babbington even suggests, It is clear, however, that in his final years his mind was at one with the Anabpatists. (35)

Yet to suggest that Smyth is the "smoking gun," is misleading. Babbington writes:
There is important evidence about Smyth's attitude to the Waterlanders in his own apology for performing the self-baptism. he undertook it because, he explained, "ther was no church to whome we could Joyne with a Good conscience to have baptisme from them." If he had already been under the sway of the Waterlanders, he would surely have considered their church to be one he could conscientiously approach. There are no signs of Mennonite influence in Smyth's writings down to march 1609, after the baptism, but there are indications of familiarity with Menno immediately afterwards. It is far more likely that Smyth entered on his explorations of Mennonite thought after rather than before the crucial act. The Anabaptists, we may conclude were the source of most of the mature convictions of John Smyth, but not of his creation of the first Baptist church. (38)
Furthermore, after Smyth's death the baptists and the Anabaptists grew farther away from each other. In the end, however, there is no real link between the two. The baptists grew independently from any influence from the Anabaptists and Babbington makes a strong case here. What makes this chapter so important is that Babbington makes the case for the connection rather convincingly (on the surface) only to show why such an argument is inadequate. Ultimately, we must conclude as we did in the previous chapter, baptists trace their origins to the English seperatists, not to the Anabaptists. John Smyth came to his conclusions out of that movement and only afterward was influenced by the Mennonites.


For more:
The People's Preacher: The Life of Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers
John MacArthur on Baptism
Credo vs. Paedo: MacArthur & Sproul Debate Baptism
"The Baptist Reformation"
Recoverying a Vision: A Documentary on the Presidency of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

All Around the Web - November 27, 2014

Albert Mohler - The Ferguson Moment—A Moral Test for the Nation

 
Trevin Wax - N. T. Wright On Marriage as a Signpost

Malphurs Group - 10 Warning Signs of a Church Plateau

The Gospel Coalition - Trip Lee Brags on the King

Buzzfeed - If Martin Luther Quotations Were Motivational Posters (some strong language)


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From Lewis's Pen: Look to Christ

From Mere Christianity:
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you'll find your real self. Lose your life and you'll save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep nothing back. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.


All Around the Web - November 26, 2014

Don Whitney - A Proud Calvinist

Heath Lambert - What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy?

Ordinary Pastor - Do You Deny Sola Scriptura?


Tim Challies - No, You Are Not Running Late. You Are Rude and Inconsiderate!





 
Facts & Trends - 10 Facts About Nones in the U.S.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All Around the Web - November 25, 2014


Thom Rainer - 10 Common Worship Distractions

Eric Metaxas - Different Is Better

Cripplegate - How to count to three in Hebrew: For how long was Jesus dead?

Market Watch - More parents move in with their kids

Real Clear Politics - Scott Walker: "You Have To Be Crazy To Want To Be President"

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation


Where do the Baptists come from? Beyond a question of interests, the answer has been a subject of serious divide and animosity among baptists. There are, in general, three views. The first is Landmarkism which makes the wild claim that there have always been baptist-like churches that did not follow the apostasy of the Catholic Church. The second view is that baptists arise out of the Anabaptist/Radical Reformation tradition either directly or indirectly (or at least intellectually). The third view is that baptist find their roots in the English separatists movement.

In his book Baptists Through the Centuries, Dr. Bebbington barely addresses Landmarkism in chapters 2-3 and instead focuses on the other, more historic, possibilities. But before moving on, we should note that for decades Landmarkism was not only the majority view among baptists but embraced as strongly as other baptist and orthodox doctrines of the faith. Rejecting Landmarkism eventually led to the expulsion of one president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: William Whitsitt. Landmarkism is now almost been universally rejected.

Nevertheless, Bebbington suggests in chapter two that baptist are the offspring of the Reformation. The chapter begins with the assertion The origins of the Baptists lie in the maelstrom of the sixteenth-century Reformation (7). He then surveys the world of sixteenth century Europe and then looks (very briefly) at the influence and theology of the leaders of the Reformation beginning with Martin Luther and moving to Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin.*

He then looks at the English reformation in more detail. The first person worth highlighting here is John Wycliff and the Lollards who though showed no trace of the doctrine of justification by faith alone that was to energize the Reformation (13) once Luther's ideas made its way into England some of the Lollards seem to have merged fairly rapidly into the rising tide of Protestant feeling (13). From there, the Reformation in England took a decidedly political turn. So long as the King or Queen was Protestant, the Reformation moved forward but only at a snails pace. No doubt King Henry's Anglicanism still looked markedly like Roman Catholicism only without the Pope.

From this slow process arise the Puritans and from them arises the English Separatists. For the sake of space, Bebbington leaves out a lot of the story here, but he no doubt provides a helpful survey of the key figures and parties. One important point he makes regards Bloody Mary's role in the Reformation of England. He suggests, and I think rightly, that due to her violent scourge against the Protestants, the Reformation ultimately gained steam. He writes:
These scenes, and many judicial killings of lesser figures, earned Mary an unenviable reputation for cruelty. Although, at her accession, Protestant commitment was relatively weak in the population at large except in the southeast near London, she managed to alienate many more of her subjects. meanwhile, those who fled to the continent to escape persecution made common cause with the more advanced personalities of the Reformed world. . . . By creating martyrs and exiles, Mary did almost as much as her half-brother Edward had done to advance the Protestant cause. (14-15)
One prominent figure who fled Scotland under Mary was John Knox who helped with the Geneva Translation which became the primary English translation of the Bible until the later King James Version surpassed it in usage.

Nevertheless, out of the environment of this marriage between the monarchy and English protestantism, separatism arise. Bebbington points to Henry Jacob as one who planted a church that eventually reached Baptist conclusions. However, it is John Smyth who was the first to embrace believer's baptism (20-21). Thus it is these two men who are credited with the birth of the baptists.

All of this is summarized at the conclusion of the chapter. The author writes:
The early Baptists were the products of their times. They were conscious of the broad outlines of the Reformation that had preceded their emergence. There had been protests by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin against doctrines and practices that obscured the centrality of personal faith in the Christian life. In England the Lollards had long criticized the existing church. There had been tentative official moves toward change under Henry VIII, rapid developments in the same direction under Edward VI, and a sudden and cruel reversal under Mary. The Church of England under Elizabeth had established Protestantism, but there seemed to be much more scope for reform. Puritans wanted to press on with the task, objecting in particular to the idolatry that seemed bound up with the existing form of worship. the failure of demands for further change, especially at the Hamption Court conference, led to the creation of separatist congregations who members would not tarry for the authorities. When, in the 1630s, the Church of England turned back toward Roman Catholic ceremonies, the undercurrent of hostility to false worship surfaced even more powerfully. Churches such as Broadmead arose int he middle years of the seventeenth century in order to bring the process of religious reform to its consummation. Like the Independents, baptists were the heirs of the Reformation, Puritanism, and separatism. They adopted the same principles of punctilious loyalty to the word of God, of passionate desire to worship the Almighty correctly, and of willingness to restructure the church in accordance with God's precepts. Their biblical, liturgical, and ecclesisatical priorities drove them through Puritan loyalties into separatism and, eventually, to the further step of repudiating infant baptism. Baptists were the pole who took Reformation principles to their ultimate conclusion. (23-24)
In the end, I believe Bebbington is right. Though the connection between the first baptist and the radical reformation will be considered in the next chapter, ultimately the evidence is clear that baptists find their roots in the Reformation in general and the English separatists movement in particular. Any other conclusion is a misreading of the evidence.


* Though ultimately unrelated to our broader point here, there is one brief section regarding Calvin worth pointing out. Bebbington remarks regarding Calvin's Institutes that "The Almighty, he held, had chosen those who would be saved. This is the kernel of the doctrine of predestination for which Calvin is best known, but it was not the center of his system. Rather, he stressed that salvation came by grace as the undeserved gift of God" (11-12). I commend Bebbington here. In the margins of my book I wrote simply, "Thank you."


For more:
The People's Preacher: The Life of Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers
John MacArthur on Baptism
Credo vs. Paedo: MacArthur & Sproul Debate Baptism
"The Baptist Reformation"
Recoverying a Vision: A Documentary on the Presidency of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spurgeon on the Gospel Call

From Tom Nettles's book, Living By Revealed Truth:
I believe it is the duty of every minister of Christ plainly and faithfully to preach the gospel to all who hear it; and as I believe the inability of men to spiritual things to be wholly of the moral, and therefore of the criminal kind, and that it is their duty to love the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in him for salvation though they do not; I therefore believe free and solemn addresses, invitations, calls, and warnings to them to not only be consistent, but directly adapted, as means, in the hands of the Spirit of God, to bring them to Christ. I consider it as a part of my duty which I could not open it without being guilty of the blood of souls." (279)

All Around the Web - November 24, 2014

Trevin Wax - Give Me the Doubly Offensive Jesus, Please

Denny Burk - What’s wrong with reparative therapy?

Eric Metaxas - Millennials and the Bible

Thom Rainer - Seven Ways to Deal with CAVE Dwellers in Your Church

Christian Post - Former Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll Selling Longtime Residence for $650,000

Top 10 DC Comic movies (some violence. So be warned).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Coolidge: Men Do Not Make Laws

From my favorite President, Calvin Coolidge:
Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness. That state is most fortunate in its form of government which has the aptest instruments for the discovery of laws. The latest, most modern, and nearest perfect system that statesmanship has devised is representative government. Its weakness is the weakness of us imperfect human beings who administer it. Its strength is that even such administration secures to the people more blessings than any other system ever produced.  (January 7, 2014)
Just as rights originate from God, so do laws. God is the great Lawgiver. Apart from him, we are hopelessly blind.



All Around the Web - November 21, 2014

Kyle McDanell -  "Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Entire Series

Thom Rainer - Ministers Can Continue Using the Housing Allowance Per Court Ruling

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Dangers for Complementarians

The Telegraph - Baby captured smiling in the womb by ultrasound

Peggy Noonan - The Loneliest President Since Nixon


Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction

In 1864 a congregation in the English East Midlands that was planning a baptism decided, according to the minutes of its church meeting, "that a pair of waterproof boots be purchased by the Church for the occasion and for future Baptisms." The congregation was clearly not envisaging that the baptismal ceremonies would be conducted, as in most Christian churches, by sprinkling water on the brow of an infant. So much water would be used that the minister in charge would need boots to keep himself dry. The volume of water shows that the candidates were to be submerged, and were evidently to be large people. The mode of baptism was immersion; the subjects were to be those capable of conscious faith. This was a Baptist church, one belonging to the New Connexion of General Baptists in Castle Donington, Leicestershire. (1)

In roughly four hundred years, baptists have become one of the most dominant Christian denominations in the world. Beginning in England, the baptists have moved to America and now has churches in most countries around the world. Their story is a fascinating one and thus I have decided to blog through Dr. David Bebbington's book Baptists Through the Centuries: A History of a Global People (Baylor, 2010).

Admittedly, this book has been on my shelf for several years. It was assigned reading in seminary and I am afraid I barely cracked its cover. Nevertheless, I was recently asked about the origin of the baptists, I found this forsaken book. Shortly after opening its pages I realized that it would serve as a good volume to walk through slowly.

The above quote are the first words of the book. Like most church minutes, it appears mundane and historically insignificant to the casual reader but it reveals much more. Not only do we know this is a baptist church identified by its staunch belief in believers baptism, but, as the author goes on to note, it reveals the level of respectability the baptists had earned in the surrounding community. The baptists were no longer a small sect, but a growing, vibrant community of believers.

Bebbington states his thesis thus: This book attempts to address the question of why Baptists have been over the four centuries of their existence. (2) Here he makes two important points. First, we must not assume that Baptists [have] possessed a single, consistent identity. Thee were, after all, many types of Baptists. The General baptists of Castle Donington, for example, entirely repudiated the Calvinism that most Baptists then professed. That last point is an interesting one the author explores in more detail in a later chapter. The Arminian (General) baptists rejected what most Baptists, the author suggests, believed at that time: the doctrines of grace.

Secondly, Bebbington sets out to provide a history of baptists globally. The baptists were born out of English separatism (a subject he discusses in the second chapter) and quickly spread to America. The author notes that A large majority of Baptists - roughly two-thirds - still live in the United States. (3) Nevertheless, there are sizeable communities of Baptists have grown up elsewhere as well. Nigeria claims over 2 million members, while Congo, India, Myanmar (Burma), and Brazil all report between 1 and 2 million. There is, therefore, a need for Baptist history to have an international dimension. (3-4).

From this standpoint, the author will push forward will a global history of baptists one that begins with the English separatists in the 17th century.

I look forward to this journey.


For more:
The People's Preacher: The Life of Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers
John MacArthur on Baptism
Credo vs. Paedo: MacArthur & Sproul Debate Baptism
"The Baptist Reformation"
Recoverying a Vision: A Documentary on the Presidency of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

All Around the Web - November 20, 2014


David Schrock - What is Evangelical Feminism? And Where Did It Come From?

The Gospel Coalition - A Missing Piece in North American Worship

Trevin Wax - How To Implement a Communist Revolution in 3 Easy Steps

John Stonestreet -  One Life Lost, All Lives Diminished

Practical Shepherding - What are the 5 areas of a local church that need to be addressed in church revitalization?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From Lewis's Pen: Better to Reign in Hell

From The Great Divorce:
"Well, Sir," I said, "that also needs explaining. What do they choose, these souls who go back (I have yet seen no others)? And how can they choose it?"

"Milton was right," said my Teacher. "The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.' There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy - that is, to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends. Ye call it the Sulks. But in adult life it has a hundred fine names - Achilles' wrath and Coriolanus' grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride.

All Around the Web - November 19, 2014

The Gospel Coalition - On the Wrong Side of History?: Carson, Keller, and Piper Tackle a Common Objection 

Liberate - Paul Tripp on the Problems in Pastoral Culture

Thom Rainer - Fourteen Characteristics of Genuinely Friendly Churches

John Stonestreet - Forgetting the Family Factor

Financial Times - The rise of Christianity in China


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Look Ma, Your on TV . . .

Promoting Operation Christmas Child.

wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Entire Series

Recently I finished a long series of blogs on the wonderful book Seeking the City: Wealth, Poverty, and Political Economy in Christian Perspective by Drs. Chad Brand and Tom Pratt. Below you will find the links to each post as well as other articles related to the book.

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 5

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 5 
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 6
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 7


Other links:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around the Web - November 18, 2014


Alex Chadiek - John Piper Answers: Do You Regret Partnering with Mark Driscoll?

American Enterprise Institute - The crucial importance of stay-at-home wives

Voddie Bauckham - Following the Call

Doug Wilson - Surveying the Text: John

Telegraph - 'You filthy, abnormal animal’: graphic contents of anonymous letter sent by FBI to Martin Luther King


Friday, November 14, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 7

Is the redistribution of wealth moral? Since the rise of Barack Obama and a progressive movement who is becoming more brazen in its arguments and policy as a result, the question is an important one. Progressives coax their doctrines under the guise of emotionalism and morality. Thus it is morally necessary to legalize millions of undocumented workers. It is morally necessary to raise taxes on the rich 1% (they don't need it anyways). It is morally necessary to pass single-payer healthcare. Etc.

But is progressive fiscal and societal policies moral? In their book Seeking the City, authors Chad Brand and Tom Pratt emphatically argue no. They write:
It follows from these propositions that "redistributive" schemes to acquire wealth among people (note the word here is acquire not produce) are immoral. The earliest forms of this process were personal theft and dishonest business dealing for bartered goods. On a macroscale it involved groups getting together to raid and pillage. When coinage came to be a form of universal exchange, carving and chipping at the precious metals served the same purpose, just as counterfeiting of coins and paper money did and do. The Bible condemns the dishonest scale or measure and other forms of marketplace deception. All kinds of cheating in the economic realm have been the common lot of mankind from time immemorial. The worst schemes, however, proceed under the guise of legalized theft. This was the sin of the kings of Israel and Judah who transgressed God's commands to benefit their "servants," so tellingly denounced by the prophets and punished in the exile. It is not he "beastly" theft of empire, but such thievish sin is condemned in the sight of God, though it be done by supposedly theocratic kings. This is now the common practice of modern governments who, if democratic, organize constituencies to confiscate the wealth of other constituencies by law, until those (and other) constituencies can seize the power to do the same to others, and "redistribute" to chosen receivers, while taking some off the top for themselves (a la Judas and the bag). It matters not whether the constituencies are denominated "rich" or "poor" or "corporate" or "private" or "Democrat" or "Republican." some might label it "gangster captalism." No rational consideration of what is actually going on here can be called moral. This is immoral by definition, and to call it otherwise (often by degrading the language to obfuscate what is called in the jargon of the Left "unearned income") and denounce from a Christian standpoint those who oppose it (as greedy or covetous or hateful or even "fascist") is a distortion of moral categories that leads to the unwinding of foundational concepts of human rights and ethical standards. This is precisely the kind of degradation of the language used by fascists to confuse the public and manipulate politics. (855-856)
I agree. A few, very brief points of elaboration. First, the difference between "acquire" and "produce" mentioned above is huge. Wealth produced is wealth earned. Wealth acquired is wealth taken.

Secondly, the strength of modern progressivism can be laid at the fact they have corrupted the meaning of "moral." The rise of moral relativism has become nothing more than vacant emotionalism. Ravi Zacharias is fond of suggesting that we are a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings. Such a generation will be quick to surrender freedom under the guise of "doing what feels like the right thing." Or more simply, "do it for the kids."

Finally, let us return to an earlier point made in Seeking the City. Government cannot love my neighbor for me. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is far from love. The authors put it this way, "Nowhere in the long discourse on the separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 does Jesus condone taking other people's money to feed 'the least of these my brethren.'" (857)

Point well made. They then reminds us all that "no Christian who would learn of the need of a friend for transportation, who would then steal his neighbor's vehicle to give to the friend in the name of compassion or justice or 'fairness.'" We do, all too often however, do just that when we "vote to have someone else do it for us, if we happen to be of this moral and political persuasion." (857)

Finally, we must conclude as the authors do at the very end of their book:
C. S. Lewis years ago seemed to be warning of a terrible time and place where perpetual winter prevailed at the behest of the white Witch, her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia (or so she imagined herself), who deplored Christmas and was defeated only when the sacrificial Aslan returned from the among the dead to defeat her. His Chronicles of Narnia, couched int he guise of children's stories, teach far more than fairy-tale lessons. In our opinion, if the real world of ruling-class, czarist fantasies continues to set the agenda, a long winter threatens the political economy and constitutional liberties of an enervated and supposedly secure populace with no Christmas in sight. Lewis was prescient: "Of all the tyrannies, tyranny sincerely expressed for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent oral busybodies." We must concur. (877-878)

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 5

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 5 
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 6
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 7


For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around the Web - November 14, 2014

Albert Mohler - Sexual Orientation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Russell Moore - Questions and Ethics: Should my son participate in a high school band raffle?

Sam Rainer - What to Expect if You’re a Church’s First Millennial Pastor

Art Rainer - Why Aspiring Ministers Should Avoid Student Loan Debt

EAG News - Report card: School named for Barack Obama ‘fails to meet expectations’


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sermon Resources on the Gospel of Matthew

I recently preached verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Matthew. As such I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in some great resources. Below are a few of them worth highlighting.

Jesus According to the Scriptures by Darrell Bock - This is one of the best books on Jesus and the Gospels in my library. Bock offers a harmony and survey of the Four Gospels. This was always one of the first resources I picked up. His comments on each passage are brief, yet fairly thorough.

Matthew by William Hendriksen -My favorite commentary on Matthew from my favorite commentary series: The New American Commentary Series.

Matthew, 4 volumes by John MacArthur - I have always been a big fan of John MacArthur and thus recommend his commentary series. With that said, the reader should know that his commentaries are essentially his sermons modified. In fact, if you are going to listen to MacArthur's treatment of a given text online, you will get more than what is published in his commentaries. At times, MacArthur would spend multiple hours on a certain passage while his commentary will give it only a chapter or two. Also, MacArthur does not footnote or cite much.

NIV Harmony of the Gospels by Robert Thomas and Stanley Gundry  - Every pastor needs a good harmony. I recommend this one as editors include great appendixes and the footnotes are insightful. For my thoughts on using harmonies when preaching through one of the gospels, click here.

The Murder of Jesus by John MacArthur - I have written a recommendation of this book. You can read it here.

Jesus and the Gospels by Craig Blomberg - One of the best introductory surveys of the Gospels.

Word Pictures in the New Testament: Matthew-Mark by A. T. Robertson - Robertson was one of the great scholars of his day and remains influential even today. This is a helpful resource that offers some insight into the Greek text.


Other recommended commentaries:
  • Matthew by John Broadus
  • The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay
  • Matthew by Craig Blomberg
  • Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels by John Calvin
  • Both commentaries by R. T. France
  • Matthew by Hershel Hobbs
  • Matthew by Craig Keener
  • Matthew thru Romans by J. Vernon McGee
  • The Gospel According to Matthew by Leon Morris
  • The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text by John Nolland 
  • Matthew by David Turner
Other recommended works on the Gospels, the New Testament, and Christology
  • The Passion Sermons of Martin Luther 
  • Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
  • Mere Christianity by CS Lewis 
  • Greek New Testament by 
  • New Testament History by F. F. Bruce 
  • The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon
  • Jesus the Messiah by Robert Stein

For more:
To the Source: Josephus on the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essences, and Zealots
To the Source: Hiding the Body of Jesus

All Around the Web - November 13, 2014


The Gospel Coalition - The Zimzum of Love

Moore to the Point - Questions & Ethics: Should couples write their own wedding vows?

Eric Geiger - The First 11 Minutes at Your Church

Timothy George - Know Your Southern Baptists: Timothy George


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From Lewis's Pen: Faith

From Mere Christianity:
Now I must turn to Faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back to the subject of Humility. You may remember I said that the first step toward humility was to realise that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist. Very well, then. The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues is that we fail. If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If there was any idea of a sort of bargain—any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debt so that it was up to Him, in mere justice, to perform His side—that has to be wiped out.

I think every one who has some vague belief in God, until he becomes a Christian, has the idea of an exam, or of a bargain in his mind. The first result of real Christianity is to blow that idea into bits. When they find it blown into bits, some people think this means that Christianity is a failure and give up. They seem to imagine that God is very simpleminded! In fact, of course, He knows all about this. One of the very things Christianity was designed to do was to blow this idea to bits. God has been waiting for the moment at which you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam or putting Him in your debt.




All Around the Web - November 12, 2014

Craig Blomberg - Ehrman Errant 

Reformation21 - The Transfiguration & Golgotha Compared

Jonathan Leeman - Counterpoint: Politics and the Pulpit: Pastors and Political Candidates, Part II

Tim Challies - 3 Things To Consider Before That Next Big Sin

The Blaze - President George W. Bush Reveals Details About the Bible’s Impact on His Life and Presidency


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 6

Authors Chad Brand and Tom Pratt say it better than I can in their book Seeking the City:
Only envy would deny those who benefit mankind in this manner economic rewards that outstrip that which is given to billions of others, even if it is in the billions of dollars.

Yet, still the attempt to control outcomes from cradle to grave goes on in an educational system that insists on constant invasion of parental rights, a tax system that punishes entrepreneurial talent and risk-taking and rewards foolish and immoral behavior, a political dance that pits groups of supposed "have-nots" against those who have "won the lottery in life," courts that regard their task as exercising the "heart" and "empathy" to walk in someone else's shoes rather than upholding the law and the Constitution, and attempts to reconstruct whole segments of the economy through "health-care reform" and "cap-and-trade" schemes to "save the planet." The equality this will "provide" is the equality of a vast leveling down, not a pulling up of the downtrodden to full enjoyment of the liberties and wealth of American society as we have known it.

The equality that is achievable, and biblical as well, is that which gives every human being the same standing before the law and guarantees that the rules will not be changed arbitrarily by the previous court or the next higher court. Rather, the law is standardized in advance by a written Constitution to which all parties concerned with law enforcement are bound to give allegiance and service. There can be no justice where this is not found and fiercely upheld. Chaos and anarchy can be the only end result of discarding this principle. The failure of this process is what the Bible labels as injustice, or unrighteousness. When government and human individuals collude to take from their fellows to give to themselves or their cronies, whether business or political cronies, it is called theft and unjust gain. This collusion at every level is what creates Babylonish culture, the parody of new Jerusalem. Let us never forget that the Babylon we should fear more is the one in the human heart of which Luther warned: "For all evils and seductions are done under the guise of godliness. Every calamity begins in God's name." These words were further echoed by Helmut Thielicke out of the Nazi tragedy: "Our towns are copied fragments from our breast; and all man's Babylons strive but to impart the grandeur of his Babylonian heart." (822-823)

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 5

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 5 
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 6


For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around the Web - November 11, 2014

Books and Culture - The Zimzum of Love | If you read nothing else, you need to read this one article.

Eric Metaxas - No Church, No Freedom

Radical - David Platt Interviews Mark Dever

Ordinary Pastor - Does God Change in the Incarnation?

The Guardian - Mental health of children and young people ‘at risk in digital age’


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 5

In his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Dr. Thomas Sowell makes the simple, yet profound, argument that what separates liberals and conservatives regards their view of human nature. Conservatives have a pessimistic view of human nature while liberals are more optimistic. From their understanding of justice and punishment to economics and the size of government, the real difference lies between a conflict of anthropologies.

In the following video, radio host Dennis Prager summarizes it well:
This same point is raised by authors Chad Brand and Tom Pratt in their book Seeking the City. Returning to their thesis, the authors write:
The preceding chapters have made the case for market economics as the better choice for wealth production, accumulation, and distribution, and for fulfilling the biblical mandate to fill and subdue the creation. We are aware that "making the case" is in the eye of the beholder and that some will never be convinced because they have a completely different "vision" of the nature and destiny of humanity. This vision of the way things ought to be, as opposed to the way things are, is a matter ideological conviction and the search for a satisfying involvement in a t least attempting to "change" the world as it is to something better. Our premises involve especially an understanding of human nature as fallen and thus sinful in all endeavors and therefore dangerous to a person's fellow human beings when that person accumulates too much coercive power and especially dangerous when such a person couches his or her coercive measures in moralistic formulations that imply that disagreement comes only from an evil to which his or her own heart is not subject. From this condition proceed the societal and cultural structures that we call "the world" here, and we contend that no "system" on earth can escape them without divine intervention. John Kekes is surely right when he commends what was until the 1960s a consensus in American political life that ideologues must be avoided in favor of the kind of political accommodation that attempts to solve practical problems with practical solutions, cope with emergencies, and reconcile conflicting interests. The ideologues are out to "change the world," and woe to any human being that gets in the way. This observation applies equally to the Right and the Left politically and to Christian and non-Christian as well. (810-811)
I have suggested in an earlier post 2 main theological arguments for limited government. The first was simply that Jesus is Lord and not Caesar. The other is that the government cannot love our neighbor for us. A third reason should be added here: original sin.

This doctrine, as it applies to government and economics, states to things. First, evil is real. Secondly, we are prone toward wickedness. No parent, it is often pointed out, ever trained their child to lie. Lying seems to come naturally. Society is no different.

In their book, Brand and Pratt argue that liberalism fails in its inability to deal with pervasive original sin. By denying that, structures, programs (especially government programs), economic theories, etc. are weak at best due to human corruption hurts society in the end.  The authors note:
Problems are viewed in terms of "social organization" so that one school holds that people would be good if only political institutions would not corrupt them; another believes that they would be good if the prior evil of a faulty economic organization could be eliminated. Or another school thinks of this evil as no more than ignorance, and therefore waits for a more perfect educational process to redeem the human race from its partial and particular loyalties. But no school asks how it is that an essentially good human being could have produced corrupting and tyrannical political organizations or exploiting organizations or fanatical and superstitious religious organizations (812)
No society can survive, let alone thrive, unless it recognizes sin. This is, perhaps, the real strength of free market capitalism. Adam Smith understood that humans were corrupt and inherently selfish. Thus the average exchange of money and goods was rooted in selfish desires on both sides. The customer wants the best product for the cheapest price. The producer wants money. Both, in the end, serve their own selfish desires by pseudo-serving each other. At its root, that is the real strength of capitalism and why it has proven to be the greatest theory of economic growth.

Ultimately, the Christian must move beyond economic and political theories to resolve this problem. Sin cannot be defeated or limited by means of legislation, education, or capitalism. Christ, and Christ alone, has the power to accomplish that. Therefore, a just society must befriend religion in general and, I believe, Christianity in particular. Government has its limits.

I want to conclude with the following from the authors:
If our excitement about the world leads us into the grand illusion that we stand somehow outside the world, knowing what's best for it, tools and goodwill and gusto at the ready, we have not yet come to terms with the reality that the world has changed us far more than we will ever change it. Beware of world changers - they have not yet learned the true meaning of sin. (824)

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 5

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 5 


For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 9 
When the Bad Do Bad: David Brooks & the Secular Question of Depravity 
The Transcendence of Greed:  What Economics Can Teach Us About the Gospel 
Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
The Utopian Myth: Pandora and the Avatar Blues
"Fall: God Judges" by Mark Discoll
"Its a Human Problem": What the History of Slavery Can Teach About Ourselves 

All Around the Web - November 7, 2014

Religion News Service - Southern Baptists change their tone but not their substance on homosexuality

People - Terminally Ill Woman Brittany Maynard Has Ended Her Own Life

Thom Rainer - 14 Questions Church Leaders Should Ask about Church Finances

Church Tech - Determining the Technology Your Church Should Be Using

Weekly Standard - Obama on Moms Who Stay Home to Raise Kids: 'That's Not a Choice We Want Americans to Make'


Thursday, November 6, 2014

This is My Body: Martin Luther on the Lord's Supper

Earlier I posted Ulrich Zwingli's thoughts on the Lord's Supper, a position I hold. Below, however, I want to highlight Luther's argument for consubstantiation for the simple reason that he is fun to read even when he is wrong and disagreeable.

Here is Luther in his book, with the lively title, That These Words "This is my body," etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics:
Our adversary says that mere bread and win are present, not the body and blood of the Lord. If they believe and teach wrongly here, then they blaspheme God and are giving the lie to the Holy Spirit, betray Christ, and seduce the world. . . .

Neither does it help them to assert that at all other points they have a high and noble regard for god's words and the entire gospel, except in this matter. My friend, God's Word s God's Word; this point does not require much haggling! When one blasphemously gives the lie to God in a single word, or says it is a minor matter if God is blasphemed or called a liar, one blasphemes the entire god and makes light of all blasphemy. . . .

The sum and substance of all this is that we have on our side the clear, distinct Scripture which reads, "Take, eat; this is my body," and we are not under obligation nor will we be pressed to cite Scripture beyond this text - though we could do so abundantly. On the contrary, they should produce Scripture which reads, "This represents my body," or, "This is a sign of my body." . . .

Suppose they say: The Scriptures contradict themselves, and no one reconciles them unless he believes that mere bread and wine are present in the Supper. Answer: What Scripture? Suppose they say: Oh, where the article of faith is established that Christ ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of God in his glory. Again, eating flesh is of no avail, John 6[:63], "The flesh is of no avail." So, if flesh and blood are in the Supper, Christ could not be sitting at the right hand of God in his glory, and he would be giving us something to eat which is of no use for salvation. Therefore name any Scripture you will, it must make of Christ's body a "sign of the body," and this must be the text of the Supper!

Who would have expected such lofty wisdom from the fanatics? here you see the best single arugment that they have. . . .

Now anyone who asks too many questions becomes unwelcome, but I must ask some more, that I may become still more clever. How do we become certain, good gentlemen, that a body may not through the power of God be at the same time in heaven and in the Supper, since the power of God has neither measure nor number, and does things which no mind can comprehend but must simply be believed? When he says, "This is my body," how shall I calm my heart and convince it that God has no means or power to do what his Word says? . . .

Here perhaps they may say: We can prove it very well. Once we climbed up to heaven secretly, just at midnight, when God was most soundly asleep. We had a lantern and a master key with us, broke into his most secret chamber, and unlocked all his chests and strongboxes in which his power lay. We took gold scales so that we could weigh our look accurately adn be sure to hit it just right. But we found no power that can enable a body to be at the same time n heaven and in the Supper. Therefore it is certain that "body" must mean "sign of the body." May God repay you, Satan, you damnable wretch, for the shameful and cocksure way you ridicule us! But my ridicule in turn will tickle you, too, what do you bet? . . .

The Scriptures teach us, however, that the right hand of God is not a specific place in which a body must or may be, such as on a golden throne, but is the almighty power of God, which at one and the same time can be nowhere and yet must be everywhere. It cannot be at any one place, I say. For if it were at some specific place, it would have to be there in a circumscribed an determinate manner, as everything which is at one place must be at that place determinately and measurably, so that it cannot meanwhile be at any other place. But the power of God cannot be so determined and measured, for it is uncircumscribed and immeasurable, beyond and above all that is or may be.

On the other hand, it must be essentially present at all places, even in the tiniest tree leaf. The reason is this: It is God who crates, effects, and preserves all things through his almighty power and right hand, as our Creed confesses. for he dispatches no officials or angels when he creates or preserves something, but all this is the work of his divine power itself. If he is to create or preserve it, however, he must be present and must make and preserve his creation both in its innermost and outermost aspects. . . . 

Listen now, you pig, dog, or fanatic, whatever kind of unreasonable ass you are: Even if Christ's body is everywhere, you do not therefore immediately eat or drink or touch him; nor do I talk with you about such tings in this manner, either; go back to your pigpen and your filth. I said above that the right hand of God is everywhere, but at the same time nowhere and uncircumscribed, above and apart form all creatures. Three is a difference between his being present and your touching. He is free and unbound wherever he is, and he does not have to stand there like a rogue set in a pillory, or his neck in irons.


Do this in Remembrance: Zwingli on the Lord's Supper

Many students of church history are surprised to discover that the most hotly debated issue among the Reformers (like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, and their colleagues) regarded, of all things, the Lord's Supper. All of them rejected transubstantiation as taught by the Catholic Church. In its place, however, there came to be three basic views. Luther defended what is called consubstantiation (he still takes the words "This is my body," etc. literally) while Calvin spoke of Christ's spiritual presence in the bread and wine.

As a Baptist I reject whole-heartedly both the Roman Catholic view and the Lutheran view. One of the writings that sealed it for me was the following from Ulrich Zwingli who defended a remembrance/symbolic view of the meal. In his book An Account of the Faith of Ulrich Zwingli, the Reformer wrote:
I believe that in the holy Eucharist, i.e., the supper of thanksgiving, the true body of Christ is present by the contemplation of faith. This means that they who thank the Lord for the benefits bestowed on us in His Son acknowledge that He assumed true flesh, in it truly suffered, truly washed away our sins by His blood; and thus everything done by Christ becomes as it were present to them by the contemplation of faith. But that the body of Christ in essence and really, i. e., the natural body itself, is either present in the supper or masticated with our mouth and teeth, as the Papists or some [i.e., the Lutherans] who look back to the fleshpots of Egypt assert, we not only deny, but constantly maintain to be an error, contrary to the Word of God. This, with the divine assistance, I will in a few words, make as clear as the sun to your majesty, O Emperor. First, by citing the divine oracles; secondly, by attacking the opponents with arguments derived therefrom, as with military engines; lastly, by showing that the ancient theologians held our opinion. Meanwhile, thou Creator, thou Spirit, be present, enlighten the minds of thy people, and fill with grace and light the hearts that thou hast created!

Christ Himself, the mouth and wisdom of God, saith: "The poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always" [John 12: 8]. Here the presence of the body alone is denied, for according to His divinity He is always present, because He is always everywhere, according to His other word: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" [Matth. 28:20], viz., according to divinity, power and goodness. Augustine agrees with us. Neither is there any foundation for the assertion of the opponents that the humanity of Christ is wherever the divinity is, otherwise the person is divided; for this [49] would destroy Christ's true humanity. Only the deity can be everywhere. That humanity is in one place, but divinity everywhere, divides the person just as little as the Son's assumption of humanity divides the unity of the divine essence. Indeed, it would be easier to effect a separation in the unity of essence if one person of the divine being would assume the form of a creature but the others not at all, than to separate the person if the humanity be at one place but the divinity everywhere; since we see even in creation that bodies are confined to one place, but their power and influence extend very far. An example is the sun, whose body is in one place, while his power pervades all things. The human mind also surmounts the stars and penetrates the underworld, but the body is nevertheless in one place.

Christ says also: "Again I leave the world and go to the Father" [John 16: 28]. Here the word "to leave" is used, just as "to have" before, so that the opponents cannot say: "We do not have Him visibly." For when He speaks of the visible withdrawal of His body, He says: "A little while and ye shall not see me," etc. [John 16: 16]. Neither would we maintain anything but a delusion if we were to contend that His natural body were present, but invisible. For why should He evade sight, when He nevertheless would be here, who so often manifested himself to the disciples after the resurrection? "But, it is expedient for you," He says,"that I go away" [John 16: 7]. But if He were here, it would be expedient that we should see Him. For as often as the disciples thought about seeing Him, He manifested Himself openly, so that neither sense nor thought might suffer in aught. "Handle me," He says; and "Be not afraid, it is I," and "Mary, touch me not," etc. [Lk. 24: 39; John 6: 20; 20: 17].

When in departing He commended His disciples to His Father, He said: "I am no more in the world" [John 17: 11]. Here we have a substantive verb ("I arn no more in the world"), no less than in the words: "This is my body;" so that the opponents cannot say that there is a trope here, since they deny that substantives admit of the trope. But the case has no need of such arguments, for there follows: "But these are in the world." This antithesis clearly teaches that He was not, according to His human nature, in the world at a time when His disciples were.

[50] And that we may know when He took His departure-not, as they invent rather than explain, when He made Himself invisible-Luke says: "While he blessed them he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" [Lk. 24: 51]. He does not say: "He vanished," or "rendered himself invisible." About this Mark says: "After the Lord had spoken to them he was received up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God" [Mk. 16: 19]. He does not say: "He remained here, but rendered his body invisible." Again Luke says in Acts: "When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight" [Acts 1: 9]. A cloud covered Him, of which there would have been no need if He had only removed His appearance but otherwise bad continued to be present. Nor would there have been any need of removal and elevation. Again: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven" [Acts 1: 11]. What is clearer than this? "From you," he says, "he was taken up;" therefore, He was not with them visibly or invisibly, according to His human nature. When, then, we shall see Him return as He departed, we shall know that He is present. Otherwise He sits, according to His human nature, at the right hand of His Father until He will return to judge the quick and the dead.

But since there are some who deprive the body of Christ of restriction to a place and say that He is not in a place, let them see how clearly, and with closed eyes, they oppose the truth. He was in the manger, on the cross, at Jerusalem when his parents were on their journey home; in the sepulchre and out of the sepulchre; for the angel says:. "He is risen, he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" [Mk. 16: 6]. And that they may not be able to say that His body is everywhere, let them hear: "When the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood in their midst" [John 20: 19]. What need had He of coming if His body was everywhere, but invisible? It would have been enough to come, but merely as one who was present to manifest Himself. But let such sophistical trifles be gone, which rob us of the truth both of Christ's humanity and of the Holy Scriptures.

These testimonies deny the presence of Christ's body anywhere but in heaven, scripturally speaking, i. e., as far as Scripture [52] tells us about the nature and properties of the body assumed by Christ. And however far the contradictions, which are involved in our propositions regarding the power of God, drive us, we ought not to wrest it to such a point that we believe that God acts contrary to His Word. That would be a sign of impotence, not of power. Moreover, that the natural body of Christ is not eaten with our mouth, He Himself showed us when He said to the Jews, disputing about the corporeal eating of His flesh: "The flesh profiteth nothing" [John 6: 63], namely, eaten naturally, but eaten spiritually it profits much, for it gives life.

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" [John 3: 6]. If, therefore, the natural body of Christ is eaten with our mouth, what else than flesh can come out of flesh, eaten naturally? And lest anyone think lightly of this argument, let him hear the second part: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Therefore, that which is spirit, is born of the Spirit. If then the flesh is salutary to the soul, it should be eaten spiritually, not carnally. This applies also to the sacraments, that spirit is born of Spirit, and not of any corporeal matter, as we have already indicated.
Paul announces that if he once knew Christ according to the flesh, henceforth he would know Him no more after the flesh [II Cor. 5: 16].

In view of these passages we are compelled to confess that the words: "This is my body," should not be understood naturally, but figuratively, just as the words: "This is Jehovah's passover" [Ex. 12: 11]. For the lamb that was eaten every year with the celebration of the festival was not the passing over of the Lord, but it signified that such a passing over had formerly taken place. Besides there is the temporal succession, in that the Lord's Supper followed the eating of the lamb; which reminds us that Christ used words similar to those employed at the passover, for succession leads to imitation. Moreover, the arrangement of the words is the same. The time affords an additional argument, since in the same evening meal the passover was discontinued and the new act of thanksgiving was instituted. A further consideration is the characteristic of memorials, in that they take the name from the thing which they commemorate.

Thus the Athenians named σεισάχθεια, [removal of debts] [53] not as though the debts were remitted every year, but because what Solon once did they continually celebrate; and this their celebration they dignify with the name of the thing itself. Thus those things are called the body and blood of Christ which are the symbols of the true body. Now follow the proofs:

As the body cannot be nourished by a spiritual substance, so the soul cannot be nourished by a corporeal substance. But if the natural body of Christ is eaten, I ask whether it feeds the body or the soul? Not the body, hence the soul. If the soul, then the soul eats flesh, and it would not be true that spirit is only born of Spirit.

In the second place, I ask: What does the body of Christ, eaten naturally, bring about? If it be the forgiveness of sins, as one party claims, then the disciples obtained forgiveness of sins in the Lord's Supper, and therefore, Christ died in vain. If that which is eaten imparts the virtue of Christ's passion, as the same party claims, then the virtue of the passion and redemption was dispensed before it had taken place. If the body is fed for the resurrection, as another [Luther] very ignorantly asserts, much more would the sacrament heal our body and deliver it from sickness. But Irenaeus wants to be understood differently, when he says that our body is nourished by Christ's body for the resurrection. For he desires to show that the hope of our resurrection is strengthened by Christ's resurrection. Behold, what an appropriate figure of speech!

Thirdly--If the natural body of Christ was given to the disciples in the Supper, it necessarily follows that they ate it [54] as it then was. But it was then capable of suffering; hence they ate a vulnerable body, for it was not yet glorified. For if they say: They ate the same body, yet not as it was capable of suffering, but the same as it was after the resurrection, I reply: Either He had two bodies, one not yet glorified and another glorified, or one and the same body was at the same time capable of suffering and incapable. And so, since He dreaded death so much He was doubtless unwilling to suffer, but wanted to make use of that bodily endowment, by virtue of which He was free from pain. Therefore He did not truly suffer, but only by appearance; in this way Marcion is again brought back by these blindfolded gladiators. Six hundred arguments could be adduced, O Emperor, but we shall be content with these.

Moreover, that the ancients agree with us on the last part of this article I shall now establish by two witnesses, both of the first rank, viz.:

By Ambrose, who in the [Commentary on the] First Epistle to the Corinthians says concerning the words: "Ye do show forth the Lord's death," etc.: "Mindful that by the Lord's death we have been freed, we signify in our eating and drinking the flesh and the blood which were offered for us," etc. Now Ambrose is speaking of the food and drink of the Supper, and asserts that we signify those things which were offered for us.

By Augustine also, who in this thirtieth discourse on John affirms that the body of Christ which rose from the dead must be in one place. Here the printed copies have "can be" instead of "must be," but incorrectly, for in the Master of the Sentences [Peter Lombard] and the Canonical Decrees [of Gratian], in which this opinion of Augustine is quoted, the reading is [55] "must." By this we Plainly see that whatever the ancients said so excellently concerning the Supper, they thought not of the natural but of the spiritual eating of Christ's body. For since they knew that the body of Christ must be in one place, and that it is at the right hand of God, they did not withdraw it thence to submit it for mastication to the foul teeth of men.

Augustine likewise teaches in the twelfth chapter "Against Adimantus" that the three expressions: "The blood is the life," and "This is my body" and "The rock was Christ," were spoken symbolically, i. e., as he himself says, in a figure and figuratively. And among many other things he at length comes to these words: "I can interpret that command as given for a sign. For the Lord did not hesitate to say: 'This is my body,' when He was giving a sign of His body." Thus far Augustine. Lo, a key for us whereby we can unlock all the declarations of the ancients concerning the Eucharist! That which is only a sign of the body, he says, is called the body.

Let them who wish go now and condemn us for heresy, only let them know that by the same process they are condemning the opinions of the theologians, contrary to the decrees of the Pontiffs. For from these facts it becomes very evident that the ancients always spoke figuratively wfien they attributed so much to the eating of the body of Christ in the Supper; meaning, not that sacramental eating could cleanse the soul but faith in God through Jesus Christ, which is spiritual eating, whereof this external eating is but symbol and shadow. And as bread sustains the body and wine enlivens and exhilarates, thus it strengthens the soul and assures it of God's mercy that He has given us His Son; thus it renews the mind by the confidence that, by His blood, the sins with which it was being consumed were destroyed. With these passages we shall now rest content, although any one could compile whole volumes in expounding and confirming the fact that the ancients are of our opinion. [56] Neither let the pamphlet recently published* concerning the opinions of the ancients, which it expressly promised to defend, move any one. For in a very short time we shall see the refutation of our very learned brother Oecolampadius, the object of whose exordium it was to defend the opinion of the ancients. But what things should be required in this matter for its clearer exposition and the refutation of the opponents we who hold this opinion have shown, I believe, abundantly, in many books, written to different persons.

For more:
What Does the Lord's Supper Mean?