Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Worldviews: Exibit B

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the delay in posting the last couple of weeks, I've been away and without regular access to the internet... Anyway, here's the next submission which comes from a dear Lutheran friend of mine: hope you enjoy =)

The Worldview of the Augsburg Confession

SC = Luther’s Small Catechism. LC = Large Catechism. Ap. = Apology of the Augsburg Confession. LSB = Lutheran Service Book. Epitome = Epitome of the Formula of Concord.

I.          Ontology (model of being)

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

In His Word, God has revealed to us many things about time, the center(s) of the universe, and its structure. But, while He did not satisfy every question our curiosity may demand, what is most needful is to understand how all these topics intersect in the person & work of God’s Son. Blessed Dr. Martin Luther, Reformer of the Church, outlines the boundaries of our existence most succinctly in the Explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man begotten of the Virgin Mary of the Holy Spirit, is my Lord; who has redeemed me, a lost & condemned creature, from sin, death, and the power of the devil – not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and innocent suffering & death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity, this is most certainly true.” (SC II)

II.        Futurology (model of the future)

Jesus Christ prepared his followers to expect these things in life:

1)                  The blessing of God
2)                  The hatred of the world
3)                  The growth of the Church

After life, “it is appointed for a man to die once, but after this face judgement.” (Heb. 9:27) The Creed of Athanasius concludes that “whoever does not believe [the catholic faith] faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”

In a moment known only to God the Father, Christ will return visibly to Earth in all his glory. The Church can expect to undergo the persecution, trials & disasters held in store for the last times (see Rev. 6:9-11; Mat. 24:22); her commission of witnessing to Christ and converting souls, both by the aid of the Holy Spirit as promised in John 16, is not finished until “the end of the age” (Mat. 28:18-20).

Our Good Shepherd will then separate the good from the wicked, for good. In Matthew chapter 25, the faithful followers of Christ will enter into glory with him in the presence of God the Father (Heaven), while the worldly join the evil angels banished from his presence (Hell). The Scriptures give us little factual information regarding what kind of experience awaits us in the hereafter. What we infer is that there will be varying stages of glory in Heaven and varying degrees of punishment in Hell (see Mat. 25:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:21; Lk. 12:47-48). The saints in Heaven are too focussed on Christ to claim any merits for themselves; the damned in Hell have no one to blame but their own hardheartedness.

To him be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)

III.       Axiology (theory of values)

God is good. Everything He made is good (Gen. 1-2). Everything He does is good and just. Everything He says is true.  All good things come from Him (Js. 1:17-18).
False teachings ultimately come from the Devil, as do all evil things that would endanger our physical or spiritual well-being; he is, after all, the “father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Satan and his host of fallen angels oppose what is good with a passion equal to his dread of the day of his ultimate destruction in the lake of fire.

Our eternal salvation is the most important thing; God would rather nail His beloved Son to a Roman cross than have any one of us lose our life with Him. Gifts such as culture, patriotism, wealth, family, friendship, and ‘identity’ (whatever that means) are certainly good gifts from God. But even a good thing, when held over & against the Fountain and Source of all goodness, becomes an idol that may jeopardize our salvation. Our priority is to “love & trust in Him and gladly do what He commands” (SC I: The Close of The Commandments). This may demand us to let go of any or all the above things – even our earthly lives.

IV.       Praxeology (theory of actions)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mat. 22:37, 39) (For a thorough treatment of Christian ethics, reference SC or LC I: The Ten Commandments.)

The inclination of the human heart is to “do what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). He involves himself in setting up new laws which he feels he can live up to – and dispenses with these when the “ends justify”. But, the end is always alienation from God. Living by God’s Law as clearly outlined in Holy Scripture offers us an alternative to hatred, suspicion, and self-interest which put us at odds with God and with others. Lutherans use this Law famously in three ways:

1)                 A “fence”: “the Law keeps us from violent outbursts of sin and keeps order in the world.”
2)                 A “mirror”: “the Law accuses us and shows us our sin.”
3)                 A “guide”: “the Law teaches Christians that we should and should not do to lead a God-pleasing life. 

The power to live according to the Law comes from the Gospel.” (Explanation of the Small Catechism 77)
Having clearly outlined in Holy Scripture what kind of works please Him, God expects nothing less than perfect obedience “in thought, word, and deed”. “You must therefore be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 65:48; cf. Lv. 11:14; Mat. 5:20) “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails on one point has become accountable of all of it.” (Js. 2:10) Only those who keep God’s Law without defect can escape His wrath & displeasure – for He, being just, cannot help destroying anything that is not holy. “Depart from me – for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Lk. 5:8; see Is.6:5)

With this in mind, we would despair of approaching the Divine – had it not been for our sacrificial Lamb: Jesus Christ, who placed himself between us and God’s wrath. God commanded his people in the OT to select for this purpose an animal “without blemish”; these were a symbol of the perfect obedience Jesus performed in life (Heb. 10:19-25). God looks at human beings with the spotless record of Jesus in mind. ON TOP OF the merits of Christ, believers cheerfully & prayerfully carry out good works (made possible through participation in the Word and Sacraments). “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Lk. 17:10)

V.        Epistemology (theory of knowledge)

“Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:5)

The measure by which we gage all truth is the canonical Scriptures. God condescended to use human language to communicate with us via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures have come to us through human authors, who actively drew upon their diverse experiences, cultural contexts, and literary styles in composing them. The Scriptures fell from “the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4), they are “trustworthy and true” (Rev. 22:6), and “profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Humans can err, but God is above error; therefore, God’s Word is inerrant.

Within their voluminous pages, God has managed to deliver no more and no less truth than we need to know about Him, His plan, and His will for our lives. “They have Moses and the prophets – let them hear them.” (Lk. 16:29; see Jn. 5:46, 21:25) This does not rule out other means of knowing, such as observable science or historical record. Simply, what the Scriptures teach cannot be negated by our senses, internal sentiments, or outside sources. For example, Jesus is recorded in no less than four places as saying “This is my body… this is my blood” (Lk. 22:19, 20), and – despite no physical evidence – we believe it is. On the practical side, we hold to God’s commands in spite of pressure from friends, rulers, or society (Ac. 5:29).

VI.       Eitology (model of causation & origination)

“The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn. 6:63b)

The origin and the chief cause of all things is the “living & active” Word of God (Heb. 4:12). Perhaps the most incredible way of seeing our world is how these words still have the same power in it today even as they did when He commanded the universe into being (Gen. 1-2), or when Jesus spoke them during His lifetime. This fact evidenced by the Sacramental properties it carries when properly read, understood, and meditated on. “It is God’s will that men should hear this Word and not stop their ears. The Holy Spirit is present with this Word and opens hearts so that they heed it and thus are converted…” (Epitome II.5)

Every time Christ performed a healing, he did so with audible words. A Christian Baptism in “the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:19) carries with it all of his regenerative power – for in it, we are “united with him” (Rm. 6:3-9). When Christ passed orally to the Apostles the power to bind or to loose sins, it is recorded that “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” (Jn. 20:22) Each time our pastor absolves us after confession, we believe that “this is just as valid and as certain as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself” (SC V: Confession). The words spoken by Christ on the historic night when he was betrayed changed ordinary bread and wine into his life-giving body and blood; these words do this same thing each time they are repeated (unaltered). What’s more, his words “Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” give you the prizes of His Passion on the cross. “Which is easier – to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?” (Mk. 2:9)

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