Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Joy to the World and Why Original Intent is Sometimes Best Ignored

When it comes to creeds and confessions original intent is always important. When they become a wax nose they lose all meaning and become useless. But when it comes to hymns, original intent is sometimes best left behind. The hymn Faith of Our Fathers was originally written by a Roman Catholic about the persecution of Roman Catholics and the desire to win the world back to Roman Catholicism but it's found in many Protestant hymnals. The third stanza is omitted in Protestant hymnals for obvious reasons:
Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.
The argument could be made that we should have nothing to do with these heretical hymns but it seems to be a wiser choice to recognize the quality of the hymn while editing it to improve the theological accuracy. If our hymns depended upon the orthodoxy of the composer we would constantly be left in doubt as to what hymns we could sing, wondering exactly how orthodox someone must be in order for us to sing their hymns. Many "Christian songs" aren't worthy of correction but many others are.

In some cases unfortunately the strong and clear doctrinal statements in hymns are corrupted when they make their way into particular hymnal. Liberal, mainline Protestantism often does this. I even came across an old Baptist hymnal that omitted the words "God in three persons, blessed Trinity" from "Holy, Holy, Holy" and replaced it with something else. In an attempt to have a repeating chorus many hymnals have removed the references to the crucifixion in "What Child is This?"

Isaac Watts wrote a number of well-known hymns such as "Joy to the World." What many people are not aware of are the heretical views of Isaac Watts. He held to a heretical Christology in which "the human soul of Christ had been created anterior to the creation of the world, and united to the divine principle in the Godhead known as the Sophia or Logos (only a short step from Arianism, and with some affinity to Sabellianism); and that the personality of the Holy Ghost was figurative rather than proper or literal." He also held to a rather strange form of premillenialism. Isaac Watts wrote his hymns at a time when Calvinists would not allow man-made hymns. In order for his hymns to be accepted, Watts published some pretty extreme paraphrases of Psalms. He would replace Israel with Britain based on his eschatological views. "Joy to the World" is half of his paraphrase of Psalm 98. The reign of Christ in "Joy to the World" as originally intended by Watts was a literal millennial reign. Yet, there is nothing heretical about the words of "Joy to the World" in themselves. In fact, when viewed from an orthodox lens it does a great job of combining both the Nativity of Christ and the second coming of Christ 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The O Antiphons

A few years back, Pastor Bill Cwirla posted a very helpful resource for the use of the O Antiphons in the days leading up to Christmas. There are always lots of reasons to pray for the coming of Christ when we will experience our full salvation. The shooting in Connecticut is a horrific reminder of the sinful world that we live in and that peace and safety can only be found in Christ. I hope that the families of the victims are able to look forward to the resurrection of their children. I don't put any hope in the Mayan calendar but the return of Christ on December 21 would be a wonderful birthday present for me. My own sinful nature is revealed in the fact that my own back pain has caused me to pray "Come Lord Jesus" more than the shootings have. I am curved inward both spiritually and physically.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Connecticut Shooting and Christian Response

Following the horrific events in Connecticut I've been disturbed by the response of many Christians on Facebook. Not only did the shooter lack love for others but the love of many Christians seems to have grown cold. Rather than mourning with those who mourn, many have chosen to use the opportunity to advance a particular political agenda whether it be pro or anti gun. Some have said the incident is the result of the removal of "God" from public schools. This is all idolatry whether it's the idol of guns or the idol of a Utopian society without guns. It is idolatrous to think that the government could solve the problem by placing Bibles in classrooms and/or get public schools to engage in god-talk.

Our old Adam is obsessed with coming up with rational explanations that are somewhere outside of ourselves to explain both the cause and the subjects of evil acts. We make a gods of ourselves and think that if everyone followed our instructions the world would be a safe place. But the truth is that the cause of these evils is the sin within ourselves.

Our calling as Christians is to mourn with those who suffer great evil, not to provide theoretical explanations. Our calling is to bring them the love of Christ whether the victim is a believer or unbeliever. Christ did not come to die for those who could invent magical, sinless utopias. Christ died for the sinners and the ungodly. Christ did not bring explanations for suffering. Christ suffered for the suffering even the most evil who suffer.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sin and Sinlessness in 1 John

In 1 John, John makes seemingly contradictory statements by stating that if we say we have no sin we are calling God a liar (1 John 1:8) and that the one who is born of God does not sin (1 John 3:9). There are countless papers written on this topic and a wide variety of opinions. Some have dealt with this passage by claiming that 1 John 1:8 is speaking of the non-Christian and 1 John 3:9 is speaking of the non-Christian. But the context does not support this view because in 1 John 2 John talks about how Christ is the propitiation of the Christian's sins.

Another popular view supported by the ESV focuses upon the present tense of the verb in 1 John 3:9. The ESV translates 1 John 3:9 as, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning..." The idea found both in the ESV and the Concordia Commentary is that the Christian still sins but does not engage in a life of habitual sin and his life is marked by a general trajectory of getting better. It relies heavily upon the use of the present tense in verse 9. This is a convenient way to resolve the paradox but doesn't seem to be what John is actually trying to communicate. The present tense does not denote a habitual action but an action in progress. The same tense is used in 1:8 which says, "If we say we do not have sin" The ESV is a revision of the RSV and the RSV seems more honest when it translates the verse as "No one born of God commits sin..." If the verse contained something other than "sin" I doubt that the ESV would have translated the verse in this way. If the verse had said, "No one born of God eats bacon," I doubt that the ESV would have translated the verse as, "No one born of God makes a practice of eating bacon." John's point in using the present tense is not to give someone an out who dabbles in sin from time to time. To translate it as "practicing sinning" seems to weaken the intentionally harsh statement that John is delivering.

Some commentators such as Rudlof Schnackenburg, see an eschatological tension at work here where the Christian is already and not yet sinless. This would fit nicely within the simul justus et peccator framework that exists in the Pauline letters and I think there is some validity to that method of interpretation.

I also think that the particular sins that are being addressed should be considered. From the rest of the Epistle it appears that there are false teachers who left the church after their ideas were not accepted and set up their own competing church. The false teachers are walking in darkness and claiming to be sinless. They are denying that Christ has a true human body and that He is the Christ and that He is the Son of God. John refers to the denial of Christ having a real human body as being antichrist (4:4).They are denying the true Christ. They are showing hatred towards their brothers in Christ by separating from them (2:19). They are not providing for the needs of their brothers and not united in doctrine. John implies that they are not helping their brothers in their physical bodies because they deny that Christ had a physical body. They are engaging in immoral behavior but claiming that it is not truly sin because it is only done in the body and the body isn't important. Those who are in the light hold fast to Christ's commandment. The commandment is to confess the true Christ and to love the brothers.

Those in darkness appear to be denying the sacraments as well which is pretty common throughout history among those who deny that Christ had a physical body. In typical Johannine fashion because of the persecution that the church was suffering, John speaks in code about the sacraments. He speaks of the "anointing" (2:27) that those in the light had received. In ancient practice anointing occurred just after baptism. This seems to imply that that those in darkness denied baptism. The references to "love" also seem to be a reference to the Lord's Supper. In John 13 the commandment to love one another is closely tied to the Lord's Supper. John is the Apostle whom Jesus loved and at the beginning of chapter 13 this love is extended to all the Apostles. In John 5:6, John speaks of Jesus and says "This is the one coming through water and blood." Most translations say something like, "This is He who came by water and blood." But the verb is in the present tense (practicing coming probably wouldn't be a good translation either). Jesus comes to us in water and blood. Jesus comes to us in baptism and the Lord's Supper. There are three that testify--the Spirit, the water, and the blood. They are all in agreement in their testimony. The Spirit is not contrary to the water and the blood. The Spirit is not contrary to the physical. You do not attain some higher level of religion by freeing yourself from the earthly elements but rather end up denying the testimony of the Spirit. This statement is closely tied to John's Gospel where Jesus' side is pierced and blood and water flow out (John 19:34-35). John makes quite a deal about this fact. It not only shows that Jesus truly died as a real human being with a real human body but also shows the source of the church's life which is drawn outside of the side of Jesus just as Eve was created from the side of Adam.

Another relevant but difficult passage in understanding how the Christian can be both confessing sins and sinless is found in 1 John 5:16-17. John instructs the congregation to pray for those who have sinned but not if the sin is unto death. John speaks of this sin unto death in a roundabout way. I'm not entirely sure as to exactly what is meant here. The "sin unto death" seems like it must correspond in some way to the sins already described, especially the denial of Christ as He comes to us as the Son of God and Messiah in His human body. It seems like it would have to refer to those who were once part of the church in some way and who have left. It doesn't refer to those who were never a part of the church. Is this judgment reserved for leaders of the movement or maybe even to those who have died in their denial of Christ? I'm not sure.

I think the best way to understand John's statements about the Christian as sinner and as sinless is similar to that of what we find in Romans 7 but from a different angle. The Christian who confesses that Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah who has paid the price for his sins, and who has a real human body is truly sinless according to his new nature. All of his sins have been covered by the blood of Christ. The person who denies that he is a sinner does nothing but sin and remains in the dark.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Work Out Your Salvation With Fear and Trembling

The half-verse "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" is used by some to teach that our good works contribute in some way to our salvation and used by others to teach that sanctification is a synergistic process. But when examined in context neither is true. The Bible is not a collection of random statements like the Qur'an. The half-verse is taken from Philippians 2:12. God did not write verse numbers. Philippians was originally intended to be read as a single sermon. The meaning must be derived from the context or a meaningless phrase that you can use to tell people they must do almost anything. Do your good works outnumber your bad works? If you're really "saved" why aren't you out there winning people for Jesus?

The letter/sermon begins by addressing the "saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philip pi." Paul says that God is the one who started the work in Philippi and that God will bring this work to completion when Christ returns (1:6, this verse also gets taken out of context for various purposes). Paul prays for that the church would grow in love with knowledge and discernment and filled with the fruit of righteousness. In his letter/sermon to the Galatians Paul distinguishes between the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. Fruit naturally springs up out of the Christian because of the work of the Holy Spirit while our old Adam continues to produce the sinful works of the flesh. There are similarities here as well to Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats. The goats bring their good works before God but are cast away. The sheep didn't even realize that they were doing good works.

Paul then goes on to talk about his imprisonment and the preachers who have appeared at the church of Philippi in his absence (1:14 ff.).. These people are trying to gain financially in Paul's absence. In a very pastoral way Paul directs the Philippians away from trying to determine motivations and instead directs them to examine the message that is preached. If they preach Christ all is well and good but as we find later there are some Judaizers among them trying to preach a works based salvation. These Judaizers seem to be saying that Paul's suffering is the result of his false teaching but Paul says that the Christian life is a life of suffering. He calls the Philippians to remain united and not be divided by the Judaizers. By remaining united in the Gospel they will be sign of the destruction of the Judaizers and a clear sign of their own salvation which is from God and not the result of gaining notoriety among men (1:28-29).

In chapter 2 Paul argues that if the Philippians have faith in Christ and communally participate in the Holy Spirit (most likely a reference to the Eucharist), they should be united in doctrine and love and be serving one another in humility. Let the same mind be in them that was also in Christ. They are to share the same way of thinking that Christ had when He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant even though He is God. Christ did not come to be served but to serve. He humiliated Himself by being crucified by a world that hated Him. He has been exalted but his exaltation will not be realized on earth until the second coming. The Christian has also been called to suffer and in act in humility toward his enemies. The Christian is exalted but that exaltation will not be realized until the second coming. After saying all this, Paul says:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.(Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
Paul is not calling for inward navel gazing to determine if good works outnumber bad works so that we can determine if we are really Christians. The "therefore" signals that what follows is a conclusion drawn from the previous section. He says "my beloved." It is a call to the church as a whole. It is not individualistic. It is call to remain obedient to the Gospel and not to listen to the Judaizers. They are to work out their salvation in fear and trembling because it is God who works in them both to will and to work for His good pleasure. They shouldn't loose fear of God and start thinking that they're good works are something to boast about that make them better than others and earn them salvation. Their truly good works are not their own but are worked in them by God. Even their good desires are the work of God. If they start looking towards their good works they have reason to fear and tremble. If they present their good works before God when Christ returns they will be damned. Salvation is found in Christ alone.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The War on Advent

This is the time of year when Christians in America feel that they are being persecuted because the cashier did not wish them a Merry Christmas. The fact of the matter is that it's not even Christmas. It seems like they should be upset that they are not being wished blessed Advent. The Christian celebration of Christmas begins on December 25th and lasts for 12 days. The secular celebration of Christmas seems to start earlier every year. It used to start right after Thanksgiving but now seems to start some time before Halloween. The secular celebration of Christmas is not about the celebration of the birth of Christ but about the buying of merchandise, Santa Claus, family get-togethers, snow, and sentimental songs about the season. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of these things but there's nothing inherently Christian about them either. The retailers make most of their money during this time and so it makes sense that they would want to extend the season prior to the time on Black Friday when Americans follow their "Thanksgiving" by trying to kill one another for a television set or gaming system. When the retail store says, "Merry Christmas" it means the same thing as when it says "Happy Holidays." Both phrases translate to, "Have a great time buying lots of stuff."

In America, the problem as far as Christmas goes is not with the retail outlets. The problem is with the church following the lead of the retail outlets. The church may say, "Merry Christmas" but it often means little more than family get-togethers, snow, and thinking about how cute baby Jesus is. Much of American Christianity is anti-liturgical and does not follow the liturgical calendar. There is no command in Scripture to follow the liturgical calendar. But things seem to go terribly wrong when churches decide to not follow the liturgical calendar except for Christmas and Easter without celebrating Advent or Lent. The penitential seasons are done away with. People may agree that Jesus was crucified but they worship the resurrected Christ never mind what Paul said about preaching nothing but Christ crucified. The significance of Christmas and Easter are both diminished without Advent and Lent. People sing empty and meaningless carols and think about how thankful they are to be with family. Those who have lost family members who are suffering from tragedy feel left out Some churches will have special programs to try to lure people into the church through a play that makes them feel good.

Rather than complaining that the retail outlets are taking Christ out of Christmas, why not call upon the church to stop taking Christ out of Christmas while it wishes you a Merry Christmas? The one year lectionary starts Advent by telling about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem where He went to be crucified for you. Jesus was born to die for you. He wasn't born so that you could stand around and talk about how cute He is and tell people that we give gifts just like God gave Jesus to the world. He wasn't born so that your church could put on Christmas plays to lure people in. If your church celebrates Christmas, ask them why they don't celebrate Advent. Advent not only anticipates the birth of Christ but the second coming of Christ. It doesn't look in the headlines trying to find some hidden code to show we are living in the end times. It is a realization that we are already in the end times and a call to prepare for the second coming of Jesus. It doesn't look for the coming of a Jesus who is absent but a Jesus who has promised to be with us until the end--a Jesus who gives us His very body and blood in the Lord's Supper. Demand that your church put the Mass back into Christmas and give you Christ's body and blood on Christmas and every Sunday. Demand that your church give you a real Christ who did not come to set an example but came to do what you cannot do and died for you. If they will not give you these things, find some church that will and stop caring about the greeting the guy gives you at the retail store.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Infant Baptism and Wild Living

I was discussing baptism with a Baptist and one of the objections against infant baptism that he brought up was the fact that he had friends who were baptized as infants and were now engaged in "wild living." What he meant exactly by "wild living" wasn't clear from the rest of the conversation but I'm guessing that he means they are engaged in some kind of sinful lifestyle. However, it's not too difficult to find people who have been baptized as adults and are also engaging in "wild living." The typical Baptist approach to such people is to conclude that they were never really "saved" to begin with and to try to convert such people to Christianity and perhaps even have them baptized again. In 1 Corinthians 6 and elsewhere, Paul instead calls people back to their baptisms. He doesn't say, "You had some water poured on you but you must not really be Christians because of how you're acting." Instead he appeals to their baptism. Instead he says, "You're all living like unbelievers but you were washed in the waters of baptism, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of Jesus Christ. So stop acting like unbelievers, Jesus paid for all your sins."

What stands behind the "wild living" accusation is very dangerous. It's an attempt at self-justification. It involves the person making the accusation placing their good works before God in an attempt to justify themselves. They convince themselves that although they may make mistakes from time to time, they aren't like those people over there who are engaging in these sinful lifestyles--regardless of whether the lifestyle is something actually condemned by God or only condemned by the person making the accusation. We are all sinners. Every day we commit acts that are worthy of God's temporal and eternal punishment. But God has washed us in the waters of holy baptism and united us to Christ. Our sins are washed away in baptism. We are forgiven in baptism. We are regenerated in baptism. Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross, even those we commit after baptism.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Statistical Argument Against Infant Baptism

In discussions with Baptists, statistics are sometimes brought forth that supposedly refute infant baptism. They point out all the people who been baptized but do not live as Christians when they grow up. I have never been able to find a credible source for any of these statistics and have no idea of knowing what percentage of baptized babies grow up to lead Christian lives and I doubt anyone else is able to either. There are too many variables and too many terms that need defining. Whatever the percentage is, we can all point to people we know that were baptized who do not seem to have any faith in Christ. But this doesn't really prove that infant baptism is wrong. Truth is not determined by numbers. The fact that a mega church has more members doesn't mean that a mega church is being more faithful than a smaller church. Biblical fidelity is measured by the Scriptures and not by counting numbers.

The fact that numbers are brought up at all is very telling. It points to pragmatism rather than a trust in Christ's promises despite all the objections to the contrary. Tertullian was the first to question the practice of infant baptism. He did not question the validity of infant baptism but he thought it was better to wait because he did not believe that infants were sinful and thought it put a heavy burden on baptismal sponsors. Zwingli makes a similar objection. Zwingli doesn't deny the validity of infant baptism but he does think it's better to wait until someone has shown that they are truly committed to being a Christian. The Scriptures don't say to wait. The Scriptures don't specifically say to baptize babies but they don't specifically say to baptize ninety year olds either. Jesus told the Apostles to disciple the nations by baptizing them.

If a Baptist knows that you believe in baptismal regeneration he may also bring up people like Hitler and many others who were baptized as infants but left the Christian faith. This is because he believes that if a person is given faith they will never fall away from the faith. However, the Scriptures tell us differently. We often read of those who have faith but fall away and Paul gives warnings that would be completely unnecessary if people never fell away. The Baptist promises greater assurance by saying that those who fall away never "really" had faith to begin with but this provides no assurance at all. Those who fell away thought that they had faith, so you can never really know if you are just fooling yourself into thinking you have faith.

Aside from the theological problems already mentioned with the statistical argument, the statistical argument also fails by its own standards. Depending on whose numbers you use, only somewhere between 3-9% of people who "make a decision for Christ" at an evangelistic crusade are living Christian lives a year later. Keep in mind that the vast majority of those who attend evangelism crusades regarded themselves as Christians prior to going to the crusade. What the crusade does is seek to emotionally manipulate people into thinking they were not Christians before and to associate being a Christian with an emotional response. When these people stop having emotional responses then they conclude they might as well not bother going to church anymore. Just before the first so-called Great Awakening church attendance was at an all-time high in the regions it took place in. After the Great Awakening attendance was at an all-time low in the same regions. The Second Great Awakening did the same thing. There was short burst of excitement followed by an emptying of the churches. People have developed all kinds of methodology with loose ties to Scripture in attempts to weed out the "false" converts and establish a pure church but none of this keeps people from falling away. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says that when the Gospel is preached some will believe for a time but eventually reject it. It's a sad reality that we can't do anything about. We are not wiser than Jesus. Introducing other things to emotionally manipulate people will only make things worse. Jesus told the Apostles to disciple the nations by baptizing them, He didn't say to disciple the nations by emotionally manipulating them. Introducing random rules to determine the "real" Christians from the "false" ones does not keep people from falling away. All that it does is lead people to either self-righteousness or despair.

The fact of the matter is that people fall away if they "make a decision" after becoming an adult just as they fall away after being baptized as an infant. The vast majority of Christians today (around 90%) were baptized as infants. Even if you take the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox out of the equation the majority of Christians were baptized as infants. Even among Baptists, a large percentage were baptized as infants in some other tradition. There are very, very few people today in America who are joining Christian churches as adults who grew up outside of the church. When a church is growing it usually means people are coming in from a different church.

Rather than doubt Christ's Word we should cling to it. Rather than putting our trust in some methodology or a tradition that disguises itself as Scripture, cling to Christ's promises. The Bible says that baptism now saves you and is for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus said that we are born again through water and the Spirit. Baptism does what it says because it is not just plain water but water joined with God's Word. Baptism is not our work but God's work. Sure, He uses sinful human instruments to bring it about but He does this with preaching as well. It's still God's Word. The fact that it is God's work and not man's work that saves us is seen most clearly in the baby who doesn't have any crazy ideas about being able to save himself. Denial of infant baptism always ends up denying what the Scriptures say about baptism and turns it into something we do for God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lutherans Against Hitler: The Untold Story by Lowell C. Green

A friend loaned me a copy of Lutherans Against Hitler: The Untold Story by Lowell C. Green. The title made me a little suspicious that this was some kind of sensationalist revisionist history but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually very well-researched and honest. Green honestly discusses the strengths and weaknesses of confessional Lutherans who took a stand against Hitler and provides lots of support from both primary sources and personal interviews. Green does not make sweeping generalizations but instead provides an incredibly detailed account that manages to stay interesting throughout. Green's work doesn't concentrate on well-known Lutherans like Bonhoeffer. Instead his work provides information on the less well known confessional Lutherans. He does a good job of explaining how Hitler managed to gain the support of so many churches and the theological issues that kept Lutherans and the Reformed from taking a united stand against Hitler. He shows the similarities between the bad eschatology of Karl Barth and Hitler. He also shows how Karl Barth's theology which denied the distinction between Law and Gospel and also denied general revelation removed the necessary tools to oppose Hitler. The book is mostly descriptive rather than prescriptive but much can be learned that has current application. It shows us what can happen when doctrine is set aside and we unite based on national identity and generic god-talk.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Apocolypse and Bob Dylan's Psalms

Ever since I was a small child, I've been a Bob Dylan fan. His new album is coming out on September 11th and I thought I would take the time to listen to all of his albums in chronological order--some of which I had never heard before. What I noticed is that all of Dylan's best songs all tend to be ambiguous. Hurricane may have been an interesting song when it was released and may even have helped to get someone out of jail but it's not moving in the same way that A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall is. Masters of War was written in reaction to the weapons companies that were profiting from the Cold War but the song remains relevant because it's not lyrically bound to the Cold War. With God on Our Side remains relevant because many still ignore atrocities committed by their country with the excuse that God is on their side. Along with being ambiguous when it comes to the event, they also approach the subject from an unusual angle that results in deeper thought. "She Loves You" by the Beatles is ambiguous enough to be applied to many relationships but doesn't result in the same type of deep thought that Dylan's Just Like a Woman does. Dylan has always been reluctant to reveal who or what the song is actually about and I think it's better that he doesn't. When Just Like a Woman is revealed to be about one particular woman it ceases to be relevant for anyone but Bob Dylan.

There's a similar problem I've seen in both the interpretation of the Book of Revelation and the Psalms. Some interpret the book of Revelation as being almost entirely about the future and others interpret it as being entirely about the past. Both groups miss out the richness of the language and present comfort that it provides. The book is so amazing because it is able to communicate to the church in every age. Every generation sees the monstrous figures all around them that we find in the Book of Revelation and every generation is given the comfort that the Lamb is still winning. Strangely enough, when Dylan went through his "born again" phase he seemed to miss this as well. Some of his concert footage during that period you can here him warning people about Armageddon and presenting them with a dispensationalist view of eschatology. After Dylan's "born again" phase he started supporting Judaism and his current religious beliefs are unclear. Strangely enough, Thunder on the Mountain which is one of his relatively recent songs contains apocalyptic imagery in a way that is actually more in keeping with the way that Revelation presents it than his songs were during his "born again" period. You get the sense that he's probably making some references to the 9/11 attacks but not in such a way that it's tied completely to the 9/11 attacks. The song will remain relevant when people don't think so much about 9/11 anymore.

When I'm discussion theology the subject of infant faith will come up on occasion. I'll point people to Psalm 22 and am almost always told that this is a Messianic Psalm and so it only applies to Jesus. In the first place, there are no non-Messianic Psalms. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of all the Psalms. But none of the Psalms are only about Jesus. The Psalms are also true expression of the life of the person who penned them. However, the Psalms were also written by David and the other authors to be sung by all Israel and later by every Christian. You miss the meaning and purpose of the Psalms if you insist on making only about the person who wrote them or only about Jesus. Jesus exhibits faith in God as a young infant in most perfect sort of way but that doesn't mean He's the only one who hoped in God while on His mother's breasts. The Psalms used to be the hymnbook of the church. The fact that they no longer serve that purpose in many churches is part of the problem. So you find people reading Psalm 51 as if it's just David telling us about how he repented after sinning with Bathsheba and then we can sit around and discuss whether or not it's possible for a "real" New Testament Christian to fall into these kinds of sins since we have been given the Holy Spirit. But it's not included in the Book of Psalms for that purpose. It's included so that you can sing it as your own experience. If it's sung as your own experience the answer to the question is pretty obvious. I was watching the great documentary about Bob Dylan called No Direction Home. In one section, Joan Baez talks about how Bob Dylan wrote When the Ship Comes In after being refused a room at a hotel. It's a wonderful imprecatory song. Later on in the documentary Bob Dylan is performing "When the Ship Comes In" at the historic March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a Dream" speech. The song perfectly fits that context as well but would have seemed silly if people knew that Dylan had originally wrote it after being refused a hotel room. They may have even been insulted to think that Dylan was comparing his petty annoyances to the sufferings that people experienced due to racism. But because the original context was unknown, the song was very powerful.

I'm not suggesting that we should close our eyes to the original historical context of Revelation or the Psalms. However, we will likely miss the point of both if that's all we see. The Book of Psalms and Revelation are given to us by Christ for our comfort.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Power of the Prophetic Blessing: An Astonishing Revelation For a New Generation by John Hagee

I received a free review copy of The Power of the Prophetic Blessing by John Hagee. I had heard of this author and watched him briefly on television but never read anything by him. The book is based on the idea that if you are a spiritual authority of some kind you can pronounce blessings upon people and God will make those blessings come to pass as long as you follow all the proper protocol.

Hagee goes down a number of rabbit trails throughout the book. In one case he talks about how blessing was done by the laying on of hands and uses this as springboard to talk about how important it is to hug people. He seems to have trouble staying focused or creating an intelligible argument for what he's trying to prove. It's not until chapter 10 that he really lays out six steps that are required to unleash the prophetic blessing. It would have made more sense to turn each of these six steps into a chapter and eliminate the rest of the book.

The book makes a number of rather silly errors. There are some formatting problems and on page 9 Hagee confuses the Mount of Transfiguration with the Mount of Ascension. There is a formatting error on pages 226-227. The text should be offset in some way to show that Hagee is telling someone else's story and not talking his husband. On page 248, Hagee makes it sound as if the Greek New Testament is a translation from the King James Version of the Bible and then confuses Thayer's lexicon with the KJV.

Throughout the book Hagee takes passages that are addressing particular individuals in Scripture and then speaks as if they apply to everyone. On page 37 Hagee takes something that God said specifically to Jeremiah and tries to apply to everyone.

On pages 52-53 Hagee speaks of the promise God gave to Abraham and tries to prove that this blessing is tied to Abraham's obedience and so if you obey God He will bless you too. But the text doesn't say anything like that. Abraham was basically a pagan and God told him that He would bless him before he did anything. God then tells him to go but the text doesn't say that God blessed Abraham because he went. Throughout the book, Hagee tries to argue that God's blessings are always dependent upon our obedience. As I was reading I started to wonder what Hagee would do with the passage in Genesis 12 where Abraham told his wife to lie and yet was still delivered. I (and I think most commentators) would understand this to be example of God's faithfulness despite our unfaithfulness. I expected Hagee to simply ignore this passage since it doesn't seem to fit his formula. But instead Hagee brings the passage up (p. 56) as an example of Abraham trusting in God. But if Abraham trusted God, wouldn't he tell his wife to tell the full truth?

Hagee spends a large portion of the book talking about how we must support the nation of Israel to receive God's blessing. He completely misses the point that the New Testament portrays Jesus as the New Israel and that through union with Christ we become heirs of the promises given to Abraham. Israel plays a much bigger role in this book than Jesus does. You even get the sense that Hagee believes that Jews are saved apart from Christ. Hagee takes Romans 15:27 (p. 83) and tries to use it as proof text for supporting the Jewish people. But Paul was not taking a collection for the Jewish people in general but for Jews who had become Christians and were living in Jerusalem. Paul is not taking a collection for Jews who deny Christ. Hagee spends a large portion of the book trying to prove that any nation that does not support Israel will be cursed and any nation that does will be blessed. He very selectively quotes from various news sources. Hagee claims (pp. 86-88) Hugo Chavez got cancer because he made a speech in which he claimed that Israel had killed a group of humanitarians that were bringing aid to the Palestinians. In many cases Hagee's book is self-refuting if you're paying attention. He claims that those who support national Israel will receive material blessings and make lots of friends and then (pp. 93-95) Hagee talks about people who were killed for protecting the Jews. When Hagee speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus (p. 158) he makes it sound like it was just the Roman government that put Jesus to death.

The book is not based upon any real command in the Scriptures but rather upon narrative examples. This guy made "prophetic blessings" and therefore you should too. Hagee uses Habakkuk 2:2-3 (pp. 216-217) where God tells Habakkuk to write down the vision God gives him to try to teach that we should write down all the things we would like to accomplish. But Habakkuk wasn't writing a wish list of things he would like to accomplish, he wrote what God very clearly instructed him to write. It wasn't just some feeling that Habakkuk had. Ezekiel ate dung, does that mean that we should eat dung? There's also a number of "prophetic blessings" in Scripture that are very negative and in some cases more of a curse than a blessing. I thought that Hagee might just ignore these. He does mention them. In some cases he tries to make them sound positive and in others he just states the negative results. But if we are to bless our children in this very same way are we also supposed to curse them? Hagee never addresses the issue.

Hagee's depiction of God is very weak and limited. On page 214 he says:

God can only get involved in your life and in your dreams for the future when you call out to Him in prayer. The initiative rests with you.

Basically, God is weak and can't do anything according to Hagee unless we initiate it. If Hagee were right then we would be the real gods and God would just be some sort of power source that we tap into. On page 259, Hagee says that because God calls the things that are not as though they were we should too. Hagee says that according to Romans 4 Abraham became the father of Isaac because he believed God's promise. But that's not what the text says at all. It says Abraham was declared righteous by God because He trusted God's promise and the promise was not ultimately just to give him a son or piece of land but to give him Jesus.

Starting on page 266, Hagee begins to lay out the Scriptural requirements for releasing the prophetic blessing. Earlier in the book he does say that you have to believe that Jesus died for you but this doesn't make it on the list. Jesus seems like little more than a tool to use to unleash your power in the book. Earlier in the book he also says you have to do nice things for national Israel but that isn't mentioned in the list either. The first requirement is that the person who gives the blessing must have spiritual authority. They should be a parent or pastor according to Hagee. However, elsewhere in the book, Hagee says that if you don't have a pastor or parent who is willing to do this for you, you can pray a rather strange prayer over yourself.

The second requirement is that you stand while giving the blessing. Strangely, none of the Scriptural passages that Hagee gives involve people standing to give a blessing. 2 Chronicles 6:3 says that the people were standing but doesn't say that the person giving the blessing was standing. He quotes some of the strangest passages to try to prove his point. He even quotes Acts 7:33 where God tells Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. Not only is there a lack of any command in the Scriptures he provides but there is also just a lack of any example of what he's talking about. Maybe since the bush was on fire we should light ourselves on fire when we bless someone.

The third requirement is that the person blessing should do so with uplifted hands. Hagee does provide some examples but the Scriptures also speak of people blessing by placing their hand on someone. Especially when blessing individuals the practice seems to be to place the hand upon the person and strangely enough elsewhere in the book Hagee does talk about people blessing by placing the hand on the head.

The fourth requirement is that it be done in the name of the Lord. For some reason Hagee decides to apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 to America in this section. You would think that if he were going to insist on reading the Jews into all kinds of strange places in the New Testament he wouldn't be trying to read America in the Old Testament. Then he makes a claim that aerial photographs have captured the name of God chiseled on the mountains of Jerusalem. I don't know what this has to do with this requirement and I haven't been able to substantiate this claim. I would expect a footnote pointing to some evidence but there is none.

The fifth requirement is that the blessing be bestowed face to face. Once again, the Scriptural passage he cites don't say anything about blessing someone face to face. One speaks of the LORD speaking to Moses face to face and another speaks of Jacob seeing God face to face.

The sixth requirement is that the prophetic blessing be given with a voice of authority that all can here. I'm not sure who the "all" are. The passage he references is Deuteronomy 27:14 where God says that the Levites are to speak with a loud voice to all the men of Israel. So I guess all the men in Israel must be able to hear you when you bless someone.

The Bible is not a book about how to release prophetic blessings. According to Jesus, the Bible is all about Jesus. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit came to testify of Jesus. Paul said that he preached nothing but Christ-crucified.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Guide To Interpreting the Book of Revelation

My BA is in Greek and the last Greek class I took was a self-designed course in which I translated the Book of Revelation from the Robinson/Pierpont text. I ended up editing and self-publishing my translation but it could use some revision. I worked my way through Beale's commentary on the Greek text of Revelation as well as a number of other commentaries and articles in theological/Biblical studies journals. The guidelines I'm going to suggest did not come from inside of my own head but rather a synthesis of what I consider the best advice that I've found in various books and articles. But I don't know of any books or articles that bring these all together.


1. Revelation begins with "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." It's not the revelation of the Antichrist or the revelation of the United Nations or the revelation of the nation state of Israel. This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If you're reading commentary on the book of Revelation and the author manages to go for quite some time without talking about Jesus there is something completely wrong with his approach. This is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ."

2. Revelation signifies things. In verse 1, in addition to telling us that this is a revelation of Jesus Christ, we are told that the angel that Revelation was "signified" (KJV) by the angel to John. The book begins by telling us that it's going to contain a bunch of signs and symbols. We would be denying what the book says about itself if we were to demand an absolute literalistic interpretation and nobody interprets the entire book literally. If you read the dispensationalists, they pick out certain things to take literally but they don't take the whole thing literally. They think the locusts are helicopters and so forth.

3. Revelation is written in a liturgical format. In 1:3 the book pronounces a blessing upon the reader and the hearers. Throughout the book The book assumes that it is being read within the context of a liturgical worship service where people are gathered to receive Christ's body and blood. The Lamb on the Altar is central to the book. The book itself is arranged in a liturgical format that follows the historic liturgy.

4. Revelation is very sacramental. Revelation 3:20 is a common verse quoted in evangelism but despite what the evangelists say there isn't anything about Jesus knocking on the door of your heart. Jesus is knocking on the door of the church and promises the church that if they open the door He will eat with them in the Lord's Supper. Revelation also contains lots of baptismal language where people are said to wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

5. Revelation is purposefully ambiguous. It is not intended to only be relevant to a single group of people at a single point in time. When David penned Psalm 51 he had his sin with Bathsheba in mind but wrote it in such a way that every Christian could take it upon his lips. 666 has something to do with Nero but 666 is not limited to Nero. The message of Revelation is that the Lamb is conquering through the blood of the martyrs even though from all earthly appearances Christ is absent and the church is being defeated. This message has relevance to the church in every age and especially the persecuted church in every age. The imagery associated with the persecutors applies to the persecutors of every age. The point is not to try to find a one to one correspondence between a single image and a single persecutor or to try to predict when a specific persecutor will come. The point is to provide comfort to the persecuted because the Lamb wins.

6. Revelation is classified among what Eusebius referred to as the disputed books of the New Testament (along with Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2&3 John). It did not receive the immediate widespread acceptance that the Gospels or the letters of Paul did. Revelation and these other disputed books are listed as part of the New Testament Apocrypha by Martin Chemnitz. The term "Apocrypha" shouldn't scare us. Up until the late 1800's English Protestant Bibles contained the Old Testament Apocrypha. The KJV and Luther's Bible both contained the Apocrypha. However, the disputed books are not as clear in what they teach as the undisputed books. The canonical order provides a helpful guide. If you start with Matthew and use Matthew as the lens through which to read Mark and then use Matthew and Mark as the lens through which to read Luke and so on down the line you're far less likely to fall into error. Revelation alludes to a number of other books and assumes you are already familiar with them, the other books do not assume that you have read Revelation. So it doesn't make sense to read Revelation and then try to read Revelation into all other books of the Bible.

7. Because of this, Revelation should not be used as your first stop in determining the correct eschatological position. You should look to the Gospels first and work your way out to Revelation and never base a doctrine completely on some line from Revelation and/or some disputed dating of Revelation. Christ has called us to trust and believe what He says, not speculations. We can learn a lot about Jesus in the Book of Revelation (it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, remember?), but it's not some kind of handbook on eschatology. The purpose is to comfort the persecuted, not to provide secret codes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

David Barton: When Jesus is Lord Means Caesar is Lord

Secularists tend to understand the separation of church and state in such a way that religious beliefs should have no bearing on politics. The reaction of many evangelicals has been to argue that America was founded as a Christian nation and that the separation was only intended to keep the state from messing with the church but that the church can mess with the state as much as it wants. Neither position really takes original intent seriously, both are engaging in revisionist history, and although the second position is more likely to be more popular with Christians it is far more dangerous to real Christianity.

David Barton is one of the more popular defenders of the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. Barton has no formal credentials in law or history but is presented to us as an expert in historical and constitutional issues. When confronted with the fact that no reputable historians agree with him, Barton refuses to engage in debate and says that they disagree because they're either all liberals or jealous of him. Many of Barton's quotes of the founding fathers have been shown to be fraudulent.

Huckabee, Gingrich, and Glenn Beck have all sung the praises of Barton. But he has also run into some trouble with some evangelicals recently because of his statements that Glenn Beck (who is a Mormon) is a Christian. I would argue that Barton is just being consistent. Barton regards Beck as being a Christian for the same reason that he regards the founding fathers as all being Christians and for the same reason he regards the Constitution as being Christian. For Barton, a Christian is not someone who believes in the Christ of Scripture. For Barton, a Christian is someone who holds to a Judeo-Christian morality, believes in limited government, and is a Zionist. Barton dismisses the statements Jefferson made against Christianity. Jefferson even issued his own version of the Bible with all the miracles removed but Barton even tries to explain this away and even says that there is no DNA evidence to prove that Jefferson fathered any children outside of his marriage. In the mind of Barton, what makes a person a Christian seems to be that they support the Republican party platform and say nice things about Jesus. Doctrines like the Trinity or who Jesus was are really not important to Barton.

In the early church, Christians were put to death for refusing to say "Caesar is Lord." It wasn't really believed that Caesar was an actual god as much as it was acknowledging allegiance to a particular culture and worldview. Many Roman intellectuals did not regard the stories about the gods as true but they formed part of a cultural heritage. The Christian worldview was understood to be a threat to that unity and heritage. Christians didn't party with the Romans and placed greater value on those who were looked down on in Roman society. Christians did not try to convince the Romans that the Rome was a Christian nation and did not try to legislate Christianity.

When Barton engages in revisionist history he doesn't help the Christian cause at all. Instead he makes Christians look like idiots. But worse than that, he turns Caesar into Jesus. If Romney, Jefferson, and Deist founding fathers are true Christians, then what is a Christian? It can't have anything to do with the Biblical Jesus who is true God and true man and died for our sins, since these people that Barton claims are Christians deny some or all of these teachings. I'm sure that people who affirm the orthodox teachings regarding Christ would be regarded as Christians by Barton as well but it's not necessary. If the early Christians were concerned for the "Christianity" that Barton endorses they would never have bothered to write the Nicene Creed. They would have issued political and moral statements but not doctrinal statements. Jesus. As it stands, Barton's "Jesus" has very little to do with the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. Barton's "Jesus" is the embodiment of Judeo-Christian values enshrined in the Constitution as interpreted by the neo-conservatives. Barton's Jesus is really Caesar. Barton's is not the Caesar of Biblical times but he is still a Caesar.

When Caesar kills Christians it's very clear who Caesar is and what a Christian is and who Jesus is. But when Jesus becomes reinterpreted to fit the mold of the American Caesar, the true Jesus gets lost and there is no salvation because there is nothing we really need saving from unless of course you aren't American and/or don't subscribe to American ideals.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Art of Faith: A Guide to Understanding Christian Art and Architecture by Judith Couchman

Paraclete Press sent me a review copy of The Art of Faith: A Guide to Christian Art and Architecture by Judith Couchman. The book is arranged topically. Within those divisions there are various entries that explain the symbolism found in Christian artwork. An index is provided so that you can quickly look up an entry such as "almond." Each entry contains a brief explanation and examples of painting where this symbol can be found. I am not aware of any book quite like this and it should be helpful for anyone who has an interest in Christian art. Symbols typically are there for a reason and not merely decorative. Like other books from Paraclete Press, the book attempts to be ecumenical in order to be useful to a wide variety of Christians but at times I thought this was take too far. For instance, the majority (if not all) of the artistic works mentioned that depict baptism were done by people who held to baptismal regeneration but the author of the book says that baptism is a symbol of salvation. So we end up with a painting that contains symbols of symbols. When it came to the Lord's Supper, the author spent a brief time explaining the different views that Christians have of the Lord's Supper but I don't think all these various views existed among the artists. The book is not tiny but I would have liked to see entries that were a bit longer in some cases. When we get to the baptism of Jesus all we really learn is that the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove in Christian art. But the book is certainly still useful, especially when dealing with some of the less obvious symbolism in Christian art.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Textual Criticism, Falsifiability, and the Gospel of Q

In order for a claim to be convincing it has to be falsifiable. This sounds contradictory until you think about it a bit. The statement, "It will rain tomorrow" is falsifiable because you can observe whether or not it rains tomorrow. If someone says that a silent, invisible dragon that takes up no space lives in his garage, it is not falsifiable because there is no way of observing the dragon. The claims of most non-Christian religions are not falsifiable. There is no way of proving that Mohammed or Joseph Smith did not receive revelation from God and so there is also no way of proving that they did.

Christianity is unique as a religion in that it is falsifiable. If it could be proven that someone had Jesus's bones, it would be proven that Christianity is false. The historical evidence that a resurrection did take place is strong enough that there are people who believe that Jesus had some type of resurrection without buying into all that He taught. As Christians we believe what Jesus taught because He died and rose again.

Unfortunately much of current textual criticism operates under a number of assumptions that are not falsifiable and which the actual evidence tends to contradict. Even though the manuscripts that we have tend to support the idea that except in a few localized instances scribes tended to simply copy what was in front of them, textual criticism tends to assume that those who copied texts were making insertions and expanding the text all over the place and that these changes became the dominant text. This is true even among those who hold to a rather high view of Scripture. At the very least, they tend to accept the textual work done by those who assume that the church has been in the business of corrupting the text rather than preserving the text and that the reading that the church rejected should be preferred to the one it accepted.

The idea that the church expanded the text has also caused a shift from the historic view that Matthew was the first Gospel written to the idea that Mark must have been the first Gospel written. Mark seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with Matthew but the "shorter is original" argument tends to win out over the idea that Mark was writing for a specific purpose. When it is widely accepted that the church began to corrupt the text at a very early date, it's no surprise that people start to question the integrity of the Gospels themselves and start looking elsewhere for another source. So the "Q Source Hypothesis" developed.

The idea is that Matthew and Luke were dependent upon both Mark and "Q." The problem is that there is no evidence that there is such a thing as "Q." There is not a single manuscript and there is not a single reference to "Q" in the church fathers. It only exists in the imagination of textual critics. Since it only exists in the imagination of textual critics it is not falifiable. You can't prove that "Q" doesn't exist for the same reasons you can't prove that Joseph Smith didn't receive magic spectacles and gold plates. You can't prove that "Q" doesn't exist for the same reason you can't prove that the Gospels were not spoken through the mouth of a dragon that resulted in unicorns pooping out manuscripts. The idea that "Q" doesn't exist is in fact falsifiable because all you would need to prove me wrong is to produce a copy of "Q." But to assert that "Q" does exist is not falsifiable because there is no real way to prove that it doesn't exist. Augsburg/Fortress actually released a The Critical Edition of Q.Scholars voted on what passages they beleived were included in this thing that has no evidence of ever having existed.

If the Q theory only held sway in the field of textual criticism things might not be so bad. But the assumption of Q has ruined a great number of commentaries on the Gospels. Some scholars spend so much time in commentaries talking about whether or not a specific passage was drawn from Q that they have little space left to comment on the Greek text that really exists that is sitting before them and little time to delve into the theology of the text. Even more liberal scholars who buy into these theories like Brevard Childs have recognized the problem and insist that eventually you have to deal with the text you have--the text which is actually used by the church--rather than only dealing with the imaginary text that nobody has.

I am thankful for the Concordia Commentary series for this reason as well as many others. I'm really looking forward to the forthcoming commentary on Mark by Dr. James Voelz. Dr. Voelz studied under C.F.D. Moule and knows the Greek as well as anyone. He puts together a pretty persuasive argument for the idea that Mark was written after Matthew and Luke.

At the end of the day, the pastor's job is to deliver Christ-crucified to people from the Scriptures as the perfect icon of Christ. The pastor's job is not to engage in speculation and doubt in order to impress people with how smart he supposedly is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by Charles Porterfield Krauth

I just recently finished reading The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by Charles Porterfield Krauth. You can read it for free here or purchase a printed copy hereArchive.org has several copies in various digital formats that you can download for free. Unfortunately the copy I downloaded for my Kindle had lots and lots of OCR errors. But possibly one of the other copies has fewer.

C.P. Krauth played a big role in getting the Lutheran church to return to her confessions in the 19th Century and this book is a tremendous accomplishment. In many other books, the term "Conservative Reformation" has reference to Lutheran and Calvinist churches as opposed to the "Radical Reformation" which refers to the anabaptists. But Krauth understands the Calvinists to be part of the "Radical Reformation." So the book is really a defense and explanation of the historic teachings of the Lutheran churches, especially on the issue of the sacraments. Krauth defends the Lutheran position as being the historic Christian position against every objection you could possibly think of and many you never would. He responds to some of the more legitimate arguments but also takes the time to respond to some of the most ridiculous arguments against the Lutheran position. In one section Krauth goes on forever refuting some ridiculous statements by some Baptists claiming that Luther believed immersion was required for a valid baptism. But Krauth spends most of the time correcting Calvinist misrepresentations of Lutheranism and arguing against the Calvinist position. He gives such a thorough defense of the Lutheran that it's hard to see how anyone could refute what he wrote. Unfortunately the length of his work results in not many people reading it. Krauth is direct. He's not flowery in his language. He doesn't talk around issues. Krauth takes a very definite position. For an exhaustive defense of the Lutheran faith you really can't beat him but it will probably exhaust you.

He also sings the praises of Luther for some time in his book. I thought it was a little over the top but he says some things about Luther I was not aware of. So go lock yourself in the Wartburg Castle for a few months and read some Krauth.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dispensationalism, Calvinism, and Progressive Revelation

Issues Etc. recently had a very interesting interview with Dr. Thomas Ice. I appreciate the fact that Issues Etc. often has guests that disagree with the theological position of the program so that we are able to hear a representative from that theological position explain why they believe what they believe. Dr. Thomas Ice is a very intelligent man and able to defend Dispensationalism as well as anyone I've heard. There are some huge problems with his position but I thought he had some very interesting things to say.

Dr. Ice is an honest enough scholar to admit that Dispensationalism is a relatively new system of belief. Dr. Ice does not believe this is problematic because according to him doctrine is in continual development. He listed the substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, and covenant theology as all things that took time to develop in the church. Dr. Ice says that the early Dispensationalists were Calvinists and very concerned about the glory of God.

This interview with Dr. Ice made me realize something I had not noticed before. Even though most current Dispensationalists are not Calvinists and most current Calvinists are not Dispensationalists, Dispensationalism could not have developed without Calvinism.

Both the Lutherans and the early church fathers believed that the Scriptures were all about Jesus. The early church fathers found Jesus in some of the most unlikely places in the Old Testament. By doing this, they were following the Apostolic tradition. Many examples could be pointed to in the New Testament but I'll just use one as an example that I believe also demonstrates the problem with Dispensationalism. Hosea 11:1 says:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11:1 ESV)
If all we had was Hosea 11:1, how should it be interpreted? It would seem that according the historical-grammatical method used by most Protestants "Israel" would be understood as national Israel and God is speaking of a past even when He delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt. But how does Matthew interpret Hosea 11:1?

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15 ESV)

Matthew takes a statement that appears to be just a statement about a past even that happened to Israel and interprets it as a prophecy about Jesus. The Dispensationalist will tell us that Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit and free to give entirely new meanings to Old Testament texts. The Calvinist will generally accept Matthew 2:15 as giving us the authoritative interpretation of Hosea 11:1 but is uncomfortable with interpreting Old Testament texts that are not explicitly referenced in the New Testament in the same way. The Lutherans and the Early Church Fathers understood the Apostles to be providing us with examples of how we should read the Old Testament.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (John 5:39 ESV)
Lutherans understand the above passages to teach that all of the Scriptures are all about Jesus. Calvinists and Dispensationalists tend to take them to mean that the Old Testament contains prophecies about Jesus but that the Old Testament is not all about Jesus. The church fathers taught that the Psalms were all about Jesus, but Calvin only believed some of them were and thought that the interpretations given by the church fathers that found Jesus everywhere were ridiculous just as the Dispensationalist finds them ridiculous.

Lutherans confess with the Apostle Paul that the central message of all preaching should be Christ-crucified because ultimately the Scriptures are all about Christ-crucified for the justification of sinners. But Calvinism and Dispensationalism see God's glory as the central teaching of all of Scripture. For Calvinism and Dispensationalism, the crucifixion of Christ is part of the larger story about God's glory.

I appreciate the work done by Kim Riddlebarger and other Calvinist theologians on eschatology. Lutherans have been a little lazy. But Calvinist theologians tend to make the leap immediately to showing how the church is the fulfillment of Israel. This is partially due to the prominent place that Covenant Theology has in Calvinism. When Calvinists argue for infant baptism they tend to do so on the covenantal grounds first defended by Zwingli rather than use the historic arguments about infants being part of the nations and needing to have their sins washed away. But rather than jump immediately from Israel to the church, I think it's important to see as Matthew does that Jesus is Israel reduced to one. Jesus is the New Israel. Jesus does everything Israel failed to do. Through our union with Jesus as the church we receive the blessings promised to Israel. This keeps everything centered upon Christ rather than on a transition from Israel to the church.

I think this could be helpful from an apologetics perspective as well. Often, Dispensationalists are reacting against covenant theology which they understand to be replacement theology that replaces Israel with the church. But the Scriptures are not centered upon Israel or the church, they are centered upon Christ. What is said about both God and Israel in the Old Testament is usually metaphorically true of each of them but becomes literally true in Christ. Psalm 22 applied in some metaphorical way to both David and Israel but is literally true of Christ. When Job says that God walks on the waters, Jesus literally does that. People have managed to use Old Testament prophecy in very wrong ways to justify the taking of another person's land or slavery or something like that. But the possibility of abuses get taken off the table if you take it as all being about Jesus and it's hard to argue that the Devil is deceiving people into thinking that the Bible is all about Jesus.

Todd Wilken rightly pointed out how mainline liberals have used the idea of the continual development of doctrine to justify some pretty outrageous things. But so has Rome. And I think people would be surprised to find out that even in confessionally Calvinist circles, the idea of the continual development of doctrine is promoted. I was at a lecture done by Herman Hanko where he said that if  a church does not continue to develop in its doctrines it will die off. That's at least part of the reason why there are so many different Calvinist denominations. They have all developed in different directions.

Calvinism has to accept the idea that doctrine isn't just something to be handed down but must be continually developed. Otherwise there would be no way to justify the doctrine of the limited atonement or the idea that once someone has real faith they will never fall away from the faith. Michael Horton has tried to find these teachings in the church fathers but as I've shown in a previous blog post the scholarship is really, really bad. You can't find TULIP in the church fathers. Contrary to Dr. Ice you can find justification by faith alone and the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement does not begin with Anselm. But it's not that surprising that within the Calvinist system that believes that everyone got it wrong until they came along that Dispensationalism would develop and regard themselves as building upon and further developing what Calvinism started. If everyone got the atonement wrong for so long, how do we know that they didn't get eschatology wrong and the relationship between the church and Israel? The covenant theology taught by Calvinism is a relatively new doctrine in the Christian church, only a little bit older than Dispensationalism.

You can have your covenant theology or your Dispensationalism. I'll take Christ-crucified in my ear and in my mouth for the forgiveness of my sins.

The SBC: Calvinism, Arminianism, and the Sinner's Prayer

A Facebook friend of mine asked me to comment on the SBC resolution on the Sinner's Prayer. I really don't have a dog in the fight and for the most part it's just silly but I guess I'll respond anyhow. The majority of churches in the SBC follow the typical Baptist understanding of salvation. They typically don't think theology is really all that important and embrace those doctrines that they like the most or that they think are most helpful for evangelism. They embrace a hodge podge of Calvinist and Arminian doctrines. They don't like total depravity, election, the limited atonement, or irresistible grace, but they do like once saved always saved. (This is different from the Lutheran position which isn't Calvinist or Arminian either but just lets the paradoxes hang there. Lutheran theology is not theologically lazy and isn't taking its positions based on pragmatic reasons. Lutherans take the positions that they do because they believe the Scriptures are all about Jesus and trust the Scriptures more than human reason.) On the other hand, there has been a growing number of Calvinists in the SBC. They claim that the SBC has been Calvinistic historically. From my own studies it seems more likely that there has always been people with a variety of soteriological positions within the SBC. The Calvinists may have predominated at the beginning but they weren't the only ones there and there was never a move to adopt a Calvinist confessional document that was binding in any sense. The Baptist Faith and Message doesn't take any real position on the issue and even that isn't really binding in any real sense. From its beginnings the SBC has been more concerned with sending missionaries than it has been concerned with what those missionaries believe. The SBC was founded in 1845 after disputes with the Northern Baptist Churches over slavery. The American Baptist Home Missionary Society would not appoint slave owners as missionaries and this in part led to the formation of the SBC. Over time of course the SBC has abandoned the pro-slavery position, but the only things that really seem to unite the SBC are not-baptizing babies, not recognizing and form of baptism other than immersion as being valid, and being very pro-missionary.

But anyhow, you have basically two groups. You have the Calminian Baptists who are still in the majority but  who fear the rise of the Calvinist baptists. So recently they have chosen to respond by trying to pass meaningless resolutions. The passing of meaningless resolutions is certainly not unique to the SBC, it seems like all reasonably large denominations feel the need to do so. But I think it might be interesting to look at the resolution and the Scriptural references offered. You can read it in its entirety here. But I'll address each section in order.

WHEREAS, God desires for every person to be saved and has made salvation available for any person who hears the Gospel (John 3:16; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2); and
The idea that "God desires for every person to be saved" is adequately demonstrated by the Scriptural passages provided. The idea that God "has made salvation available for any person who hears the Gospel" is not or at least it's not clear as to what it means to make salvation available. Christ has won salvation for every person, even those who never hear the Gospel. Paul says that the job of the pastor is to be a minister of reconciliation who says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Salvation is received through faith. I suppose there is a sense in which you can say it is "available" but at best the language is sloppy.
WHEREAS, A free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel is both possible and necessary in order for anyone to be born again (John 3:1-16; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); and
None of the proof texts listed prove the statement. None of them say that we are born again by responding positively to the drawing of the Holy Spirit. John 3 says we are born again/from above by being born of water and Spirit which is a pretty clear reference to baptism even though neither parties like that idea. Acts 16:30-31 says "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" but it doesn't say that we are born again by believing. Romans 10:11-13 says that all who believe in Jesus will be saved. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says that the Word of God is at work in believers. It doesn't say that belief is what causes God's Word to work. There are a couple of different problems that I think are hidden beneath some of the language used in the resolution. The Calminians tend to think of being saved and being born again as being completely synonymous. Most of the time they will only speak of salvation in terms of what happens when someone believes the Gospel at a particular time when someone makes a decision for Christ or something. But the Scriptures have a much richer understanding of salvation. In Romans 5 the Scriptures say that all who died in Adam were justified in Christ (this won't make the Calvinists happy either). So if someone asks me, "When did you get saved?" I can say, "On April 3, 33 AD." The Scriptures also speak of salvation as tied to God's Word in baptism ("baptism now saves you," "baptism for the remission of sins," etc.). So I can say that I got saved on the date of my baptism. Of the proof texts listed the John 3:1-16 passage would fall under this category. However, the Scriptures also speak of our salvation as future. And if you look at the verb tenses that's what's going on in the Acts, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians passages that are listed. The Scriptures point us to our salvation as a future event that happens when Christ returns and our bodies are resurrected. We are not just spirits trapped inside an evil body. For the Calvinist in the debate (and here Lutherans would agree) they would point to the fact that in the Scriptures regeneration produces faith, it's not the result of faith.
WHEREAS, Prayer is God’s gracious means through which any person can communicate with Him and is everywhere in Scripture commanded and commended for every matter and every person (2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 7:7-11; Mark 11:17; Philippians 4:6); and
God does not hear the prayer of the unbeliever and this is part of the problem with the sinner's prayer. If you believe that Jesus died for your sins you are already a believer and it is certainly a good thing to thank God for this salvation He has given you but sinner's prayer makes it seem like your act of saying the prayer is what makes you a believer or Christian. For practical purposes the altar call and sinner's prayer end up replacing the gifts that God has given to us. The Scriptures speak of both baptism and the Lord's Supper as being for the forgiveness of sins and saving us. The Baptist doesn't believe this and so he replaces the sacraments with the sinner's prayer.
WHEREAS, Praying to God to express repentance for sins, to acknowledge Christ as Lord, and to ask for forgiveness and salvation is modeled in the Bible (Acts 2:37-38; Romans 10:9-10); and
In Acts 2 Peter says to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Peter doesn't say "Repent and say the sinner's prayer." He doesn't even say, "Repent and pray." Romans 10:9-10 says that those who confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord as an expression of their belief that God raised Jesus from the dead they will be saved. But it doesn't say that their salvation is a result of this action. In the book of Acts the calling on the name of the Lord is associated with baptism where the baptismal candidate would call on the name of the Lord and be baptized.
WHEREAS, While there is no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a “Sinner’s Prayer,” the prayer of repentance and faith, acknowledging salvation through Christ alone and expressing complete surrender to His Lordship, is the biblical means by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life (Luke 18:9-14, 23:39-43); and
Both the publican/tax collector and the thief on the cross cry out for mercy based upon their belief that God is merciful. They do not express complete surrender or anything like that (I think people are fooling themselves if they think they have completely surrendered themselves anyhow.). Instead they both essentially just cry out, "Lord, have mercy!" This is our continual cry based on our belief in who God is in Christ. This is not something we do to make ourselves born again but a confession of who we really are and who God really is. We sin daily and daily we receive God's forgiveness.
WHEREAS, It is biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation and to speak of Christ’s response to such a prayer as “entering a sinner’s heart and life” (John 14:23; Acts 2:37-40; 16:29-30; Romans 10:11-17; Ephesians 3:17); and
John 14:23 speaks of the Triune God entering into the believer. This is a promise given by Christ. The Triune God will abide in the believer. Jesus is not saying, "Say this sinner's prayer and then I will come and live in your heart." Acts 2:37-40 says to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 16:29-30 simply has the question from the jailer as to what he must do to be saved. I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Romans 10:11-17 speaks of the salvation of all who believe and speaks of the believer expressing himself by calling on the name of the Lord (which was ordinarily done at baptism). Verse 14 also makes clear that Christ speaks through the pastor. But there's nothing about asking Jesus into your heart. In Ephesians 3:17, Paul prays that Christ would dwell in the hearts of those who are already believers in Ephesus. This isn't a prayer given to them to say to become Christians. Rather it is Paul's prayer for their daily spiritual needs.
WHEREAS, A “Sinner’s Prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel (Matthew 6:7, 15:7-9; 28:18-20); now, therefore, be it
This is strange. In the Scriptures we don't really find altar calls and sinner's prayers but now we are fishing around for guidelines on how to use or not use the sinner's prayer. Matthew 6:7 warns against mindless babbling as found in pagan prayers. Matthew 15:7-9 warns against teaching that doctrines and practices that men come up with be taught as commandments from God. But it would seem that trying to pass a resolution promoting the "Sinner's Prayer" is just that. Matthew 28:18-20 says to make disciples by baptizing people not by having them say a sinner's prayer.
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in New Orleans, LA, June 19-20, 2012, commend the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church; and be it further
So says the commandments of men...
RESOLVED, That we encourage all Christians to enthusiastically and intentionally proclaim the Gospel to sinners everywhere, being prepared to give them the reason for the hope we have in Christ (I Peter 3:15), and being prepared to lead them to confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9), including praying to receive Him as Savior and Lord (John 1:12).
Are you enthusiastic enough? That sounds like a commandment from men too. 1 Peter 3:15 says we should be ready to give an answer when people ask us about the hope that is in us. It doesn't say that every Christian is responsible to go proclaim the Gospel everywhere. If the guy who wrote these resolutions really believed that he wouldn't have time to write these resolutions. How do I know if I'm intentional enough? Romans 10:9 should give comfort to every believer. It's not a checklist to make other people do. God's Word does what it says. It doesn't need your help. John 1:12 isn't a command either. It's a description of what actually happens. The "Sinner's Prayer," just like the altar call, is a man-made tradition that finds its roots in 18th Century revivalism. The people who came up with it knew full well that this tradition was not found in the Scriptures. But for pragmatic reasons they thought it was a good idea. Then they went hunting for Biblical passages to support what they had already decided to do. And now it's reached the point that people wouldn't even know how to bring other people the Gospel without using it. The Gospel is not the "Sinner's Prayer." The Gospel is Christ-crucified. God has not promised to work through the "Sinner's Prayer." God has promised to work through His Word both in the preaching of the Word and in His Word in baptism.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Curious Case of Ulrich Zwingli: Pelagian Politician and Hero to His Victims

Of all the major 16th Century magisterial Reformers, Zwingli is perhaps the oddest. There is no major branch of Christianity that traces its lineage back to Zwingli but many of his ideas are influential among Baptists, Calvinists, and liberals. Many Baptists regard him as a sort of hero of the faith but the anabaptists in Zwingli's day came to regard him as being worse than the pope. Zwingli's own views on the issue of infant baptism are still disputed. On July 14, 1524, Zwingli wrote (For most of the quotes in this article I am dependent upon a paper written by a defender of Zwingli. My interpretation of these quotes is obviously different.):
Although I know, as the Fathers show, that infants have been baptized occasionally from the earliest times, still it was not so universal a custom as it is now, but the common practice was as soon as they arrived at the age of reason to form them into classes for instruction in the Word of Salvation (hence they were called catechumens, i.e., persons under instruction). And after a firm faith had been implanted in their hearts and they had confessed the same with their mouth, then they were baptized. I could wish that this custom of giving instruction were revived to-day, viz., since the children are baptized so young their religious instruction might begin as soon as they come to sufficient understanding. Otherwise they suffer a great and ruinous disadvantage if they are not as well religiously instructed after baptism as the children of the ancients were before baptism, as sermons to them still prove. (Huldreich Zwingli, Ausleqen und Begrundung der Schlussreden oder Artikel, as found in Huldreich Zwingli's Werke, Vol. 1, pp. 239-240, quoted by Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, p. 243)
Some of Zwingli's followers became anabaptists and used some of Zwingli's writings in support of their position. On August 31, 1526, Zwingli wrote:
Then the blind fellow adduced what I had written about teaching catechumens some years ago in the book on the Sixty-seven Articles. For he did not know that it was our custom that boys also as in former times be taught the rudiments of the faith. This he referred to baptism, rather indiscreetly; as if I had said that it was my counsel that the custom of not baptizing infants be brought back again, when I had spoken of imbuing children in the elements of faith. When he saw that he had erred in this matter he was charming.(Huldreich Zwingli, Letter to Peter Gynoraeus, August 31,1526, as found in Huldreich Zwingli's Werke, Vol. 7, p. 534. quoted in Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, p. 253)
Zwingli does not say that infant baptism is invalid in the 1524 quote. But he pretty clearly says that he thinks it's better to wait until the child is older. His position is similar to some statements made by Tertullian although Tertullian believed in baptismal regeneration which Zwingli rejected.  However, rather than saying that he was wrong in what he had previously written Zwingli tries to pretend that the other guy just didn't understand. Zwingli was a politician and this becomes apparent on more than a couple occasions. The anabaptists had studied under Zwingli and received their foundational teachings from Zwingli. They understandably felt betrayed when Zwingli turned on them. In conversations with the anabaptists, Zwingli told them that he didn't think the theological differences between them and him were significant enough to divide over but he did not always say this same thing to the state. At times he would call for leniency, at other times he would call upon the state to get rid of these anabaptists.   Some have wondered if Zwingli actually changed his position on infant baptism or if he decided to start defending infant baptism for political reasons. I don't think we can know for sure, but we do see a general pattern throughout Zwingli's career where he seems to change theological positions when it is politically advantageous.

When Zwingli wrote his defense of infant baptism, he said that he didn't believe that anyone else had ever defended infant baptism with the arguments he was making (Yoder, Tdufertum und Reformation, p. 18.). Historically the church has defended infant baptism based on the command to disciple all nations by baptizing them (since infants are part of the nations) and also on the belief that infants are born sinners. But Zwingli denied the doctrine of original sin. He wrote:
Whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to admit that original sin, as it is in the descendants of Adam, is not properly sin, as has already been explained, for it is not a transgression of the Law. It is therefore properly a disease and a condition.
Zwingli's denial of original sin led him to defend infant baptism on covenantal grounds. Zwingli argued that infant baptism replaced circumcision and so the children of believers should be baptized just as the male children of believers were circumcised under the old covenant. The Calvinist churches have followed Zwingli in this argument.

But Zwingli's character and general approach is most apparent in his debate with Luther and the events that followed. Hermann Sasse's excellent book, This is My Body, provides a very helpful reconstruction of the debate. Throughout the debate, Luther clung tightly the Scriptures and Zwingli objected on philosophical grounds. They wrote up a statement in which they stated fourteen points of agreement and one point of disagreement. But after the debate, Zwingli published his own edition of the proceedings of the debate and the resulting articles. In his edition Zwingli bragged about how he supposedly beat Luther in debate and included added "explanations" to the articles in the margins that basically denied the very things that the articles of agreement said. Luther understood the articles to be a real confession of faith to die for. Zwingli understood them to be a political statement that could be read in various ways to bring people of different beliefs together to co-operate politically.

Zwingli's method of Biblical interpretation was rationalistic. Even though the average person would probably put Zwingli and the Roman Catholic church on opposite ends of the spectrum on the issue of the Lord's Supper, the underlying presuppositions are almost identical. Throughout the debate, Zwingli quoted Thomas Aquinas who taught that revelation can never contradict reason. Aquinas used this in support of transubstantiation. Zwingli used this in support of his purely symbolic view of the Supper. Luther took the exact opposite position and said that revelation often contradicts human reason. In many ways liberal Bible scholars can find their spiritual father in Zwingli. If reason tells us that if it looks like ordinary bread and wine it must be ordinary bread and wine, then reason also tells us that people don't rise from the dead, walk on water, or do any of the other things that the Scriptures say.

In addition to Zwingli's rationalistic doubt of the plain words of Scripture, when he was certain that he was right but unable to find Scriptural support he would sometimes appeal to visions:

We began, therefore, to think over the whole, revolve the whole; still the examples which occurred were the same I had used in the Commentary (on True and False Religion), or of the same kind. I am about to narrate a fact--a fact of such a kind that I would wish to conceal it, but conscience compels me to pour forth what the Lord has imparted, though I know to what reproach and ridicule I am about to expose myself. On the thirteenth of April I seemed to myself, in a dream, to contend with an adversary, a writer, and to have lost my power of speech, so that what I knew to be true my tongue failed me in the effort to speak...Though, as concerns ourselves, it be no more than a dream we are telling, yet it is no light thing that we were taught by a dream, thanks be to God, to whose glory also we are telling these things. We seemed to be greatly disturbed. At this point, from a machine," (the theatrical apparatus by which supernatural persons were made to appear in the air,) “an adviser was present (whether he was black or white I do not at all remember; for it is a dream I am telling), who said: You weakling! answer him that in Exod. xii. 11, it is written: 'It is the Phase--that is, the Passing over of the Lord.' On the instant that this apparition showed itself I sprung from my couch. I first examined the passage thoroughly in the Septuagint, and preached upon it before the whole congregation with all my strength. This sermon dispelled the doubts of the students, who had hesitated because of the obstacle of the parable" (that "is" meant "signify" only when a Parable was explained). "Such a Passover of Christ was celebrated on those three days as I never saw, and the number of those, it is thought, who look back to the garlic and flesh-pots of Egypt is going to be far less." (Zwinglii Opera. Turici. 1832. III. 841.) 

In this passage, Zwingli attempts to refute the Lutherans who he refers to as those "who look back to the garlic and flesh-pots of Egypt." But the passage he appeals to doesn't help him at all. In Exodus 12:11, Zwingli assumes that "it" means "the Lamb" and the meaning is that the lamb signifies the Passover. But the word "is" is not found in the Hebrew. Also, "it" does not refer to just the lamb but everything that precedes. But even apart from this, Zwingli's appeal to divine revelation to take us away from the plain words of Scripture is disturbing. If Zwingli did in fact see a vision it was inspired by demons or his own sinful nature.

I'm aware that most Calvinists will say that they have some problems with Zwingli as well. But I've noticed that if you attack Zwingli, most Calvinists will take it as an attack on Calvin. There is also a general shift in Calvinist churches away from a Calvinist understanding of the sacraments to a Zwinglian view. At any rate, I think Calvinists and Baptists should at least be aware of who this Zwingli fellow was. He is not a hero of the faith. He is an enemy of the faith. He was a rationalistic Pelagian politician who had more confidence in his own reason than he did in God's Word.

Just as an aside, I know that some in the Calvinist camp think that if only Calvin had made it to the Marburg Colloquy, Lutherans and Calvinists would be united today. But I don't think there is any real reason to believe this. Zwingli's basic arguments against the Lutheran view are essentially the same as Calvin's.

The bread is the body of Christ. The wine is the blood of Christ. They are for the forgiveness of your sins. That's what Jesus says.