Friday, July 25, 2014

Exhibit B, Part II

So, along with my list of world view questions, I included another list of miscellaneous "bonus questions." I included them with the intention that contributors could answer as many or as few of them as they like... however, just because they didn't make it into the main body of questions doesn't mean they aren't important... Many of them pertain to things that often have many different meanings depending on who you're talking to (especially in English where Religious Homonyms abound...) Thus, here are the bonus questions that were submitted along with the last worldview. I broke them up because otherwise things could get pretty long (that and I haven't had very many responses as of yet... so I'm kinda trying to stretch things out a little... =/)

Worldview of the Augsburg Confession
~ Bonus Questions ~

What is Salvation? 

“To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever.” (LC IV.25) Salvation can be compared to being alive. A living person works and has a will; a dead person neither has a will nor can he do works. With this in mind, the Christian is “dead to sin and [made] alive to God in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:11). The person whose sins have not been forgiven is “dead in [his] transgressions” (Eph. 2:1); moreover, as an enemy of God (John 8:34), is unable to please God in anything he does. A person cannot be ‘partly’ alive, ‘partly’ on the right side of the law, or ‘partly’ belonging to both God and to the Devil.

Salvation is thought of as having two parts: Justification (“being made just”) and Sanctification (“being made holy”). Justification can be thought of as being brought to life, and sanctification involves living God’s way. “Faith apart from works is dead.” (Js. 2:14-26)

It is useless to single out any precise “moment” of salvation. We were saved when Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross. We are saved when the old man is “put off in Baptism”; we are saved each time we partake of the Communion cup or receive the Absolution from our priest. We will be saved when the Son returns in His glory to finally separate the good from the wicked. “For, where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” (SC: The Sacrament of the Altar)

What is Scripture? 

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Pr. 30:5-6)

Scripture is the Word of God. Because Scripture has two natures – divine and human – St. John the Evangelist believed that Jesus Christ is the living incarnation of the Word (Gk. ο λογος) (Jn. 1:1; Rev. 19:13). The properties of Scripture having been adequately treated in our Epistemology, what remains are a brief word on the authority of Scripture. Now, just as the written word of a king or leader carries the same weight as if they were speaking to you directly, we owe the proper reverence to the word of God. Dr. Martin Luther reasoned thus: “The Gospels were taken up and approved by the Fathers; that is to say, the Fathers themselves recognized the Holy Spirit. But one must not infer from this: The church or the Fathers are above the Gospel, any more than to say, I recognize the true and living God and his Word; therefore I am above God and his word. Just as one is not superior to a prince whom one acknowledges, or to a parent, so it is here.” Thus Irenaeus of Lyons summed up in Against Heresies III.1-2: “If anyone does not agree with [the Scriptures] he despises the companions of the Lord, he despises the Lord Christ himself, he despises even the Father, and he is self-condemned, resisting and refuting his own salvation as all the heretics do.” Again: as a certain Political Science professor at TWU would express it, when God speaks, “you listen up and shut up”.

Our Lord was known to open arguments with statements like: “Have you never read?” or, “It is written” or, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God!” The Holy Apostles understood that everything revealed to them was in accordance with – and did not contradict – the words of the OT (see 2 Pet. 16-21; Ac. 15). The Jewish believers in Berea “received the word in all eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see if these things were so.” (Ac. 17:11)

What is the Church? 

“It is a fellowship of faith and of the Holy Spirit in marks. Yet this fellowship has outward marks that can be recognized. These marks are the pure doctrine of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. This Church alone is called Christ’s body, which Christ renews, sanctifies, and governs by His Spirit. Paul testified about this when he says, ‘And gave Him as head over all things the Church, which is His body: the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:22-23)” (Ap. IV.5)

If you understood, then you heard it right: the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church can be found anywhere called ministers of Christ dispense the Word of God and the Sacraments according to His institution (1 Cor. 4:1)! It is not one particular synodical body; it is any synodical body that bears these marks of the Church. Whenever your pastor/priest/bishop ministers according to the standards set forth by the Apostles, you are part of Christ’s Church.

You may hear of the “Church Militant”; that is us believers on earth who still contend with the Devil, the world, and the desires of our sinful flesh (see Eph. 5:12).  Those who have left this world for God are called the “Church Triumphant”. Both together form the “Communion of Saints”.  The ancient Liturgy recognizes their joint worship that happens during celebration of the Lord’s Supper: “Therefore, with angels and archangels, and all the company of Heaven, we laud & magnify Your Glorious Name…” (LSB, Divine Service: Proper Preface for Holy Communion)

What is the Symbol of Faith? 

The Prophetic & Apostolic Scriptures are the ultimate rule & norm of faith. (Period.)

The Confessional Lutheran Church adheres to authoritative statements (symbols) of faith, such as the three Catholic Creeds: namely, the Apostles’, Nicene (in its Western form), and Athanasian. These and other symbolic documents are collected in the Book of Concord (or, The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church). The Confessional writings were compiled by countless theologians over the 16th century in answer to both ancient and new heresies. According to the International Lutheran Council, the Book of Concord represents “a clear & accurate exposition of the Holy Scriptures”.

Outside of this, Lutherans do not subscribe uncritically to the private opinions of any saintly or otherwise figure in the Church. Whether he be Martin Luther, St. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, a pope, or our local pastor, they are occasionally erring humans – as much as you or me. For a church to claim absolute congruence with one teacher or another is problematic, as even the ancient Fathers were known to disagree in their writings. However, there is remarkable agreement (concord) in terms of how they viewed God, Scripture, and our salvation. Faithful teachers past & present are a gift of the Holy Spirit. The misguided statements of Christian teachers are their own; but where they teach the orthodox, catholic, and evangelical doctrine of the Church, they form part of her rich Sacred Tradition.

What is Grace? 

Grace, by definition, is a gift or a waived punishment unmerited by our prior worthiness. Grace is often contrasted with Nature (defined here as the pre-existing state of a thing; i.e. human nature). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing – it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
You may ask, How are we saved by grace? The Sacraments are the “Means of Grace”, as they transfer the work of the Spirit to the believer in a very tangible and efficacious way. The Means of Grace are: the Word of God, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper/the Eucharist/Holy Communion.

Grace is not irresistible, as it requires two things on the part of the believer: contrition (genuine sorrow over one’s sins) and faith (undaunted confidence in one’s salvation). Confusing? more like Amazing!

What is the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit? 

Good works are the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. (see Gal. 5:22-25; 2 Pet. 1:10; James 2:18) The Holy Spirit has “called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and kept me in the true faith.” (SC: Explanation of the Third Article) A life according to God’s commands – that is, whenever a person is horrified by his sins and bears “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mat. 3:8) – is evidence enough that the Spirit is at work in a person. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in a person with mortal sin – that is, one who makes a show of living an ungodly lifestyle.

God has promised us that the Spirit is predictably present & at work via tangible means: the Word and Sacraments. Water drowns and washes us in Holy Baptism; we eat the flesh & drink the blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; we hear and speak the Word of God, read orally and actively in the Liturgy. Predictable does not mean boring; it means reliable.

Inexplicable signs, apparitions, prophesies, and miracles are not necessarily of the Holy Spirit, as even false prophets, demons, and “Antichrists” can perform them (Rev. 13:13-14; see Deut. 13:1-5, 1 Sam. 28). Rather, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this Word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19b-20)

Why do bad things happen to good people?

1)      “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, and chastens every son whom he receives.” (Prov. 3:11,12, cited in Heb. 12:6) We may not be as “good” as we think we are at any given moment.

2)       “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, ‘If the righteous will be scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Pet. 4:12-18)

3)      God doesn’t really owe us this knowledge. (see Job; Ecclesiastes 8:14-17)

What happened at the Fall? 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” (Gen. 1:27) “What was this image and likeness other than that man was created with the wisdom and righteousness so that he could apprehend God and reflect God? Mankind was given the gift of knowing God, fearing God, and being confident in God. This is how Irenaeus and Ambrose interpret the likeness to God.” (Ap. I.18, 19) Man was created with a free will and “original righteousness”, defined above.

At the Fall, man lost his “original righteousness”, to be replaced with “original sin”. He became no longer able to enjoy communion with God, to trust his neighbour without reservation, or to sustain his immortality with the fruit of the Tree of Life. Having transgressed God’s Law, God’s further dealings with man had to come via some form of punishment or sacrifice (atonement). “The law requires that everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22) “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23a)
Death (like sin) was never an essential part of being human; it is solely the result of sin. Death is defined as “separation”, i.e. of the soul from the body, or of any being from God.

What is sin? Sin nature? 

“The ancient definition of sin is that it is a lack of righteousness. This definition not only denies that mankind is capable of knowing God, placing confidence in God, fearing and loving God, and certainly also the ability to produce such things … when righteousness has been lost, conspicuence came in its place. Since diseased nature cannot fear and love God and believe God, it seeks and loves carnal things. By nature, when we are secure, we hold God’s judgement in contempt.” (Ap. I.23, 24)
There are two kinds of sin:

1)      Original sin. Refers to the unavoidable inclination towards sin that a person inherits. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity/ and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) The marks of original sin are evident in that “the wages of sin are death” (Rom. 6:23a), and all human beings, from the moment of conception, despite their mental capacity to be self-aware, are vulnerable to physical & spiritual death.

2)      Actual sin. Refers to any sins that a person commits, both consciously and unconsciously. “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” (Psalm 19:12)
Of those born of woman, only Jesus the Nazarene, being “in very nature God”, is innocent from the contagion of sin. “He became sin who knew no sin, that through him the many would be counted righteous.” (2 Cor. 5:21; see Psalm 49:7)

What is Communion? 

Communion may have a myriad of meanings. (Κοιονια “fellowship”, i.e. with a Spiritual quality to it.) In the broad sense, it may refer to the fellowship shared between any living persons – esp. between the persons of the Trinity, or between the believer and Jesus Christ. (see Ac. 4:32-37)

In the strictest sense, communion refers to the intimate fellowship of members in the congregation. Congregations are said to be “in communion” when their members are permitted to receive the Eucharist, to be sponsors at Baptism, and to occupy leadership roles in the congregation; Lutherans refer to this as “altar & pulpit fellowship”. In this sense, communion is important because it refers to the rights of a Christian; it also implies that their fellowship with other believers contributes to building up the kingdom of God.

The harshest penalty the Church has the authority to exact is excommunication. Called “church discipline”, so long as a believer is in the state of excommunication, they surrender their rights as a Christian & their fellowship with other believers – with the implication that they may suffer this penalty in the next world, if the reasons for such discipline are not amended. Reasons for excommunication include living in mortal sin, or holding to beliefs that contradict those of the Church. “Expel the immoral brother!” (1 Cor. 5; cf. 1 Cor. 10:21)

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