Monday, December 21, 2009

Which is the more important Clause?

“Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.”

John, towards the end of His Gospel, gives us these words. And there is a contrast set forth - two clauses. John notes that there is more that the disciples saw that isn't written. John notes that what is written is written for belief and salvation.

Which clause is more important?

This is what I find frustrating about so many of the Tradition vs. Scripture battles that come along. They end up moving into the realm of whether or not tradition is valuable, whether or not it is true, how much we use it. It puts all the emphasis and focus on that first clause -- is this part of that other stuff that the disciples saw, is this stuff that is rightly handed down?

We can surmise, we can come up with guesses - we can delight, even. (I myself love the tale of John refusing to enter the Bath when he sees the gnostic leaving - and on Christmas day the tale of Satan smacking the guy who doesn't doff his cap at "Homo factus est"). But is tradition and its veracity the thrust and focus?

It isn't for John. Yes, there is other stuff - but this, this here, this Gospel is written so that you may believe in Christ and have eternal life. The other stuff is nice, may be nice, but the meat, the real McCoy is here in the Word. If you want surety, if you want something concrete, go to the Word, because it has what you need.

Tradition informs. Tradition may safeguard. Tradition may even protect errors that have crept into the Church over time, (for as we see in John 21:23 - the brothers are capable of twisting the oral tradition as well). But the Word of God gives what we need.

While we make use of the first clause, we live in the second.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And if any of you pipe up with "But we think Santa is the most important Claus" I will find you and beat you.

Chad Myers said...

Except the printed word is not enough because it doesn't explain itself in all circumstances.

All Christians of any denomination have Tradition (large 'T' -- and also little 't' tradition, but that's not important for this discussion).

They have established how they interpret the Bible and (try to) remain consistent with their Tradition.

So it comes down to: Whose Tradition is the correct one -- the one that Christ and the Holy Spirit intended us to receive and hold to? They can't all be correct, in fact not even two can be correct since they are all contradictory with each other.

It's possible that all Traditions contain portions of the Truth and incorrect portions. But Christ implied that he would create one church and that the Holy Spirit would guide it and prevent it from error.

He also said that there is one way, one truth, and one life. Not many, not several, not even two. One.

So which one is it? And how would one know?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

By seeing which is in accord with the written Word - by seeing which doesn't twist the written Word or add additional mandates to it, for if even an angel from heaven were to preach a different Gospel, anathema sit.

How does one judge a tradition? I say it must be on the basis of Scripture.

Pastor D said...

Call me "Billy Bible" but the written Word is the ONLY thing we truly have. And, it's a sure thing. We live in the second clause and the Word HAS what we need!

Chad Myers said...

The problem is "in accord". It seems every Christian denomination has a different definition of "in accord".

Also, I'm curious how you regard the first generation Christians, as there was no written Word. Paul speaks of tradition (and talks about passing on traditions -- in fact IIRC he uses the Greek word for tradition as a verb "these things I have traditioned to you")

So before there was the written Word, there was the Apostolic Tradition whose most important points were written down.

At any rate, I agree with what you say and so does every other denomination of Christianity (even the ones who say they're Christian by deny the divinity of Christ such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses).

So again, I go back to the fundamental question, who determines what is "in accord"?

I could list several problematic teachings of Lutheranism that aren't "in accord" with Scripture.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

What do you mean there was no written word? You had Moses and the Prophets? The preaching of Christ is nothing but explaining that the life and death and resurrection of Christ is precisely what Moses and the Psalms and the Prophets proclaimed concerning Him.

It isn't as though there was no written Word in the Early Church, or prior to Paul. It was the Law and the Prophets.

If you wish to go to a point prior to the written Word, you need to go prior to Moses - and what we see in Genesis is over and over people forgetting and abandoning God - ignoring the spoken Word. Thus, the written Word is given so that the Word is concrete - and when that Word is abandoned, even the Prophets speak and are stoned.

+ + + +

One final thing - I doubt you could convince me that these Lutheran doctrines are not in accord with Scripture - and if you can, I will gladly yield. I hold the stance of Luther - unless I am convinced by Scripture or clear reason (i.e. demonstratable flaws in the logic of my interpretation), I cannot and will not recant.

Chad Myers said...

Obviously I meant not written Word of the New Testament variety -- of the life and followings of Christ. The Church in Antioch, for example, might have had some writings, but it didn't have The New Testament books as we do today. They had the Apostles and their appointed (by Peter) Bishop, Ignatius to guide and instruct them. Ignatius would correspond with the Apostles and specifically with Peter for guidance how to lead his sheep.

How did Peter, the Apostles, Paul, Ignatius, etc lead their flock without being able to hand Bibles or scrolls out?

As far as Luthernaism and 'in accord', if you're already Lutheran, then you will probably ignore or dismiss any proof I give you as Luther did because this isn't about scriptural proof, it's about the authority to teach which Luther usurped because it was far more profitable and politically advantageous to do so at the time (though not without a lot of risk).

Luther failed to toss out the letter of James which clearly refutes Sola Fide, not to mention all of Paul's writings especially Hebrews. That's just for starters.

Sola Scriptura is basically an oxymoron since that isn't spelled out in the Scripture itself.

So we go back to the original argument: Sola Fida, Sola Scriptura, etc are all dependent upon how you interpret scripture. And since we can't all be right with our contradictory interpretations, there must be some way that we can be certain whom is correct. Christ must've provided us with a way to be certain -- a way that transcends the written Word (because it wasn't around when he created The Church and it's possible it may be destroyed at some point in the future [some one-world government that outlaws Christianity and burns all the Bibles, for example]). There must be some way we can be assured that a particular interpretation of the Bible is the correct one according to the Holy Spirit.

Luther argued that we can all do it and that has proved to be sheer madness as you can see by how much chaos and confusion (not to mention heresy) it has caused in the thousands of conflicting denominations we have now.

No, Christ created ONE CHURCH with a clear authority to teach ("As the Father has sent me, so I send you", "Whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven", "Go forth, teaching all nations, baptizing them...", "Do this in remembrance of me", and on and on).

So how can we be assured of Christ's teaching on a particular issue?

Chad Myers said...

"I hold the stance of Luther - unless I am convinced by Scripture or clear reason (i.e. demonstratable flaws in the logic of my interpretation),"

Please explain how two Christians, reading the same chapter of Scripture can come to completely different and contradictory interpretations (with wide-sweeping ramifications) and still be following *THE* Way, *THE* Truth, and *THE* Life?

*THE* implies ONE. Yet there are 2 (actually there are thousands).

Where in scripture is the authority given for private interpretation?

Where in scripture is the process by which two Christians can resolve their contradictions and still be in communion?

Ask any Jehovah's Witness about proof for the Trinity in Scripture. Yet Lutherans believe in the Trinity.

Ask any Orthodox about proof for the doctrine of Original Sin (an Aquinal invention, they say) in Scripture. Yet Lutherans believe in Original Sin. Why?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

We can be assured by what the Word preserves for us, and informed in our interpretation by the faithful men of the past who teach that Word. . . but the secure, infallible point is the Word.

People are fallible. What they do with the infallible Word will often have errors. And there are times I do even disagree with Luther (I think James should be included in the cannon, but do note that James is part of the antilegoumena, so there is within the catholic tradition a valid line of questioning it's cannonical status) -- and frankly he was being beat over the head by fallible people abusing James, his frustration is understandable.

(Note: Faith without works is dead -- but it is not the works that give life to faith, nor the works that give salvation -- James is speaking of the necessity of works in the Christian life - not as the effective cause of faith or salvation)

And the reason two people can come to differing interpretations is the same reason by the people of Rome can and have at point elected multiple popes -- sin in this world is a wretched thing.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If we want certainty, why are we not all part of the Patriarchy of Jerusalem - the one mentioned and established in Acts. . . or possibly Antioch?

Why would we think that Rome, an upstart local, should take the Primacy and be THE locus of correct interpretation that you crave? Why Rome?

Chad Myers said...

Because we follow the Holy See.
The Patriarchy of Jerusalem and Antioch moved, with Peter (the See) to Rome. We follow the See, not the location. Rome may be nuked in 10 years and it'll have to move somewhere else.

Paul, Ignatius, Polycarp, and all the Fathers testified to the primacy of the Roman See under Peter's succession. Even the Orthodox admit to the primacy of Peter (but just disagree with how the Pope has wielded that power over the centuries).

There must be ONE teaching authority to settle disputes and declare anathema otherwise you have what we have today: A mess of chaos created by Luther and others with everyone becoming a mini-Pope and making up their own dogma.

It's to the point now where we have Evangelical "Bible Churches" baptizing people "In the name of Jesus Christ", calling into question whether it's a valid Sacrament since the proper form is not being followed.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

So you are not following tradition, but the holder of an office and his interpretation, so that if the holder of the See makes a judgment or speaks ex cathedra, one is bound to his statement. In which sense is that following tradition?

And you can't really cite the Orthodox for the primacy of the Pope and call for the Papacy as having the sole interpretive authority. . . as the East emphatically fights that.

And yes, I will freely admit that there are many places that do and teach rank stupidity. . . but our goal is not merely order, but truth. Does the "See" ensure truth? Given the history of the Papacy, the contradictions and schisms within the See itself - I don't see this to be a guarantor of Truth.

Order, perhaps. . . but I'm concerned with Truth. Thy Word is Truth.

Arturo said...

Chad, you are barking up the wrong tree. All your comments smell of a typical Roman Catholic Pop-Apologists who go to any lengths to defend Holy, Mother church. Been there, done that. The inconsistencies of Rome over the centuries. Sad, sad.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Thinking on this more, I think we see a move that has been repeated time and time again. Does Truth produce order, or does order produce Truth?

Look at the chaos and disorder - if we establish order (typically by what we think would be good), then we can ensure and protect the Truth. This is what the Pharisees did - the idea of Corban helped ensure good order, the rules and customs were orderly. But they did not produce truth, in fact, to many who followed these man-made laws the Truth was not recognizable.

No, if there is to be order, it must flow from the Truth. We are sinners - we are slaves to disorder and chaos. The Truth, Christ Jesus, is what sets us free. And all our attempts to ensure order by the power of our own reason or legislation or pounding of gavels does nothing. Proclaim Christ - which is what the Apostles did when they preached, it is what they did when they wrote the New Testament for us, and it is what we ought to do when we expand upon the Words of Jesus that they wrote for us, for they have been written that we might believe.

+ + + +
Why isn't John the preeminent apostle. . . he is the one to whom Jesus handed Mary at the Crucifixion?

Chad Myers said...

@Rev Brown:

I am following the tradition, upheld by the Apostles and their Successors.

In what way are you not following a 'holder of an office' in Luther? Only in your case, he has no Apostolic Succession and no promise by Christ to properly 'feed His sheep'.

Orthodox theologians have begrudgingly acknowledged the Primacy of the of the Church in Rome to, among other things, call an ecumenical council (which is why the Eastern Churches haven't had one since the Great Schism).

RE: Order following Truth: In the Church, the order is divine. The people are all screwed up and routinely fail, yet the Church and Her Teachings live on. Even during the great abuses around the time of Luther, the Church never officially taught salvation by works, yet there were a few members of the hierarchy teaching this and a lot of confused faithful that were reciting it. Yet it was never in any official Magisterial teachings or documents. Luther was right to rail against these heresies within the church and indeed in the Councils of Trent, the Church officially came down upon these heresies in step with Luther in this regard.

In the end though, I keep coming back to the fundamental point: You use these words "the Truth", yet you cannot account for why your version of "the Truth" is any better than, say, "Grace Flowing Hills Bible Church" down the corner.

Chad Myers said...

Why isn't John the preeminent apostle? Because repeatedly throughout Scripture Christ refers to Peter only or Peter first when he talks with the Apostles. He changed Peter's name from Simon to Peter (a major event in Biblical terms, when God gives someone a new name, it's important). Christ later made Peter confess three times to recant his three denials, etc.

In Acts, we see Peter playing a primary role and the Apostles following his leadership.

@Arturo: If you have something to contribute, please do, otherwise these polemics serve nothing and are uncharitable at best.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I will gladly contend that what I teach is more in accord with the Scriptures and the Truth than the church down the street.

I'm also still quite leery of how Rome claims authority in and of itself. Peter was not the only apostle, but there were many - and after them the bishops. Authority is not place solely in Peter; indeed, even after the Ascension Paul needs oppose him to his face. That does not speak to his bearing perfectly the tradition.

So thus, I am leery of saying that one successor, or any line of successors must be the sole place of where the truth is. . . I do not trust Rome's claims to maintaining a perfected tradition, especially given history.

+ + + + +

So. . . Luther was right to rail against the abuses in Rome, and Justification is not by works, and Trent fixes the small, localized errors, yet Trent also declares Luther and anyone who teaches Justification by faith to be anathema...


I am currently anathemized by Rome. . . I don't buy the "Oh, Rome, at Trent, fixed the problems Luther rightly pointed out" line.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." (Canon 14).

See, there it is - I am anathema according to Rome. Don't try to tell me of how lovely Trent is. . . doesn't work.

Chad Myers said...

Rome claims authority based on the scripture when Christ declares Peter the Rock upon which he will build his church. It's quite straightforward.

"Authority is not placed solely on Peter" I never said that. Authority is placed in the Church, with Peter as its head. Like I said, he's not a tyrant or dictator, he is a shepherd.

"I do not trust Rome's claims" There are no claims, it's proven. You keep mistaking the sinful actions of the people within the Church with the teachings of the Church itself.

Is the US Constitution invalid because Barak Obama doesn't follow it and doesn't teach according to its principles and literal words?

RE: Canon 14: So when James says that you are saved by faith and faith is demonstrated by works, is the Church supposed to contradict that? Paul says similar things except when he's talking to the Jews about "Works of the Law" (Mosaic/Levitical Law).

Canon 14 is correct and, as I understand it, Lutherans agree with this. You just misinterpret it to say that you have to go out and do 100 good deeds a day to be saved. That's not what Canon 14 is saying.

It's saying you can't just say, "Lord, Lord" and expect to be saved. It doesn't work like that. Jesus repeatedly states this over and over (sheep and goats, must be baptized to be saved, must give up your money and follow him, must repent, etc, etc, etc).

Even the Devil has Faith in Christ, yet he is not saved.

Read James 2 several times. And ask yourself why Luther and you think you're smarter/more-in-touch with Christ's teachings than James and Paul and Peter? It's really an arrogant position.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

A few things. . .

The Rock upon which the Church is built in neuter in Greek. Petros is not. Using the basic rules of grammar, the antecedent of "Rock" cannot refer to Peter because it does not agree in gender. I'm sure you've heard this before. . . and I assure, it is true.

Also, you have a bizarre, platonic view of the Church (which is odd, given the typical Roman love of Aristotelian language) where the "Church" is completely separated from those in it. To a certain extent, this is true, but if the Church is full of false teachers, one must not heed them. When Rome rids itself of it's errors, that will be a fantastic day - but until then. . . it is no longer the True Visible Church on earth. The teachings that are taught have a real impact.

Also - I don't think you get James 2 -- if one claims faith, but has no works, there is in reality NO FAITH. That's the point. Faith is what brings salvation. If one claims to have faith (note, "if someone says he has faith" - James is not saying that this person in fact has faith, but rather just that a person is claiming faith) but shows not love, that that faith is dead. One cannot use "faith" as an excuse against works.

And Faith is not mere knowledge -Satan has no "faith" in Christ - He knows Christ, but is there trust in Christ? Is there any repentance (which accompanies faith)? Faith is not mere knowledge of Christ, but a trust in Him. . . Satan doesn't trust in Christ. . . you're off there.

(Indeed, one might say that as one Trusts in Christ in faith, one gladly does works, trusting that even if he gives away his own cloak, God will provide for him).

And I do not think that I understand things better than Peter, James, or Paul -- I think I understand Peter, James, and Paul better than those who are sycophants to their early successors and have substituted the traditions of men for the Words which Peter, James, and Paul recorded for us.

For I too am a shepherd, I know what it is to tend to the Sheep -- I feed Christ's sheep regularly. And I know when one is a shepherd -- and demands of obedience and claims to able to speak ex cathedra is not shepherding, it is tyranny.

Chad Myers said...

RE: Petros: It is not true, that's a simplistic view of the situation. This perhaps will explain it better:

RE: "bizarre platonic" - no, this is how it is understood by people who have taken the time to really research the Church. I do not say this to insult you, but I think you do suffer from significant ignorance of the Church and her teachings. You owe it to yourself to at least understand this better so you can be a better Lutheran (and understand more of why Luther did what he did).

RE: Faith and works: I do understand James, and Canon 14 is entirely consistent with this. James says "not by faith alone" and so does Canon 14.

RE: Tyranny: Quite the opposite. It is a clear visible leadership of the heads of the Church. The Pope is not a tyrant. Quite the opposite with Luther who was more of a tyrant than any Pope ever was.

You do feed your sheep and I thank God for that. However you are feeding them incompletely. You do not feed them the True Bread as Christ spoke of in John 6. You do not give them the wholeness of Christ's truth. In this regard you do them a disservice and allow them to persist in misguided ignorance. I am not judging or accusing you, I do not allege any malice or malintent. I believe you're doing what you think is right and best, but I am telling you that it is not wholly right and not wholly best.

Chad Myers said...

RE: sycophants: Now you're just being nasty. It is clear you really have no idea what you're talking about w/r/t to the Papacy. You really should investigate further.

The Lutheran Church is quite clearly in violation of Christ's words in several places, not to mention James (which is why Luther wanted it removed and why he felt the need to add 'alone' in one of Paul's letters next to 'faith' -- who the heck does he think he is anyhow? speak of tyrants...)

Peter, James, and Paul all speak of a Church and Paul's letters are episcopal guidance delivered through a hierarchy. All the Church Fathers, even in the 1st century record of a Church organized very much like the Catholic Church is organized today. For 1500 years, this was understood and largely taken for granted until Luther decided he knew better.

And now you follow someone who overrode prior ancient Church Councils, who added 'traditions of men' (Sola fide, scriptura), and created a church built upon himself and not upon Christ.

Judge a tree by its fruit. Lutheranism has fallen far from Christ's vision and has split and divided Christ's church again and again. It broke the line of succession, it suspended the sacrifice of the mass and thus deprived the people the Real Food and Real Drink (John 6).

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I will say enough. . . you are not going to convince me to become Roman nor am I going to convince you to be Lutheran.