Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I want to finish writing about Walther's Ninth Evening Lecture...

The part that I have not addressed is one of the hardest parts of the Book of Concord for me to wrap my mind around...not for complexity but for harshness.

I have always, always believed the bible is full of black and white, not the grays spoken of so often these days.  I have also always, always found the New Testament to be hard, not a book of wishy, washy love and prosperity.

Funny, I think I had that totally and completely right and absolutely wrong.

Part of Walther's 9th addresses the Council of Trent.  This is, as Pastor pointed out, a matter of fact, a part of the Catholic church record, and a confession within that denominations that still stands today.  You can read about the different sessions here.

Walther had very strong words on the matter.  Pastor also pointed out that both sides had strong words in that time; people spoke without walking on politically correct eggshells.  He begins:

This preamble does not sound so awful.  We hear this vermin of antichristian iniquity speaking of the Gospel as containing the doctrines of salvation.  However, they add immediately that the Gospel also proscribes morals.  That is the interpretation they put on the intention of Christ when He said:  "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."  Mark 16,15.  They evidently do not intend to accept the Gospel in the true sense of the word.  In the meaning in which they understand it, it is, at best, a law such as Moses proclaimed.  Nor do they urge upon people only the commandments of God, but much more the commandments of the Church. (69-70)

Stop and think for a moment.  Just how many times have you heard about morals in church, things you should be doing?  Some denominations, even today, have raised human traditions to the elevation of preserving your faith.  No drinking.  No dancing.  No dating.  No work on the sabbath.  No technology.  None of these have anything to do with the Gospel, with the message of Jesus Christ.  Drinking does not affect your faith because faith is a Spirit driven work.  Drinking may very well affect your health and well-being if imbibed in excess.  Drinking will not, under any circumstances, affect the work of salvation.  Dancing will not either.

In its sixth session the Council of Trent passed this decree:  "If any one says that men are made righteous solely through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ or solely through the forgiveness of sin, to the exclusion of the grace and love which by the Holy Spirit is poured out in their hearts and is inherent in them; or that the grace by which we are made righteous is nothing else than the favor of God, --let him be accursed.  If any one says that the faith which makes men righteous is nothing else than trust in the divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is only this trust that makes us righteous, --let him be accursed....  If any one says that a justified person does not, by reason of the good works which are done by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and the actual obtainment of eternal life, provided he dies in grace, --let him be accursed."  Unless you are utterly blind and know nothing of the Christian religion, I believe that a plainer proof that the Pope is the Antichrist cannot be offered you. (74)

Alas, that final sentence is so hard, so difficult.

But before that comes the blatant statement that I should be accursed because I believe that I am saved through no work of my own, solely through the work of the Cross!  What fallacy!  What blasphemy! 

The Book of Concord is comprised of ten documents, one of which being a treatise on the Power and the Primacy of the Pope.  It very plainly and very unequivocally states that the Pope is the antichrist.  Understanding so little of the end times save for the convoluted teachings in the Left Behind books, I found this difficult to "hear," to understand.

Pastor gave me a mini-lesson on the matter during my lessoning on Saturday:

  • It is the office of the pope which is the antichrist, not the person; though the person is in error for remaining in and propagating that office.
  • This is because of (at least??) three claims:  that of divine authority; the title of vicar of Christ; and upholding the decrees of the Council of Trent.
  • It is not that the Church cannot have any governmental structure, but when that structure sets itself above and apart from the truth of the Gospel, then it is distorting that very Gospel.
  • The bible does not teach that there is or will only be one antichrist (see I John 2:18 and II John 1:7). 
  • The primary antichrist is satan and the many are all his followers and their works in this world...often completed through acts of man.

What did I learn?  A rebuke of sorts:  Anything against the Gospel, anything that distorts it, anything that sets itself up in place of His work on the cross is antichrist Shouldn't I already know that?  Is that not what I believe? 

Walther did not mince words when standing against the teaching that works have any place in Justification.  He learned this boldness from Luther.  I, too, take that stand.  I take it not merely because the Augsburg Confession resonates so strongly within me.  I take it because I spent 31 years trying to justify myself, trying to make myself holy, trying to trust Jesus enough to shed my sin.  I failed miserably.  I failed because it is not possible.

I stand with the Lutheran confession, even with the words are harsh, impolitic, uncomfortable.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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