Monday, September 30, 2013

Take the Catechetical Challenge

Luther's Small Catechism has been referred to as the "layman's Bible." For those familiar with confessional statements in general but unfamiliar with Luther's Small Catechism, this statement can sound rather blasphemous. However, when you read it you realize how full of Scripture it really is. It covers all the major doctrines in a very concise way. Orthodox Catechisms, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the various Baptist catechisms, all make references to Scripture or have footnotes citing Scriptural passages, but they don't quote Scripture directly in the way that Luther's Small Catechism does. To memorize Luther's Small Catechism is to memorize Scripture itself. Just compare these various catechisms in the way they deal with the Lord's Supper or baptism. Luther is able to plainly state a summary of what Scripture says and then provide a Bible verse or passage that says the exact same thing. None of these other catechisms are able to do that. Some would argue that Luther is taking these verses out of context and that the totality of Scripture testifies against what he says. However, they cannot come up with a single Bible verse to support their position. If the totality of Scripture teaches something you should be able to find a passage that teaches it otherwise the appeal to the totality is really just an excuse to perpetuate a man-made tradition. Many of these churches that came out of the Reformation teach the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture. However, if it's difficult to take many of these churches seriously when they interpret "Baptism now saves you" to mean that baptism doesn't save you or interpret "This is my body" to mean that this is not Christ's body. Luther teaches us in his catechism to cling tightly to the Words of Christ and to ignore the words of the devil who is always asking, "Did God really say...?" Christ died and rose again for you. It is only in His Word that you can have confidence in a theological marketplace with so many competing inferences that are supposed to give us what Jesus and the Apostles "really" meant but apparently said so poorly. Faith clings to the Word of Christ and ignores all the rationalizations of man.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tractatus Logico-Theologicus by John Warwick Montgomery

Wipf and Stock sent me a review copy of Tractatus Logico-Theologicus by John Warwick Montgomery. He's one of my favorite guests on Issues Etc. but this is the first book I've read by him. The book is an evidentialist apologetic for the Christian faith and organized around seven major propositions. These propositions are defended by subsidiary propositions which in turn are defended by subsidiary propositions and so on with numbers and decimal points to guide you along the way. The format was a little difficult to get used to but very effective. Some of the propositions seemed better defended than others but I thought the overall argument for Christianity was laid out very well. There's an occasional untranslated French or Latin sentence but the reader who does not know these languages can skip over these and still understand the point he's making. I thought his arguments against post-modernism and for the resurrection were the best sections of the book. The section dealing with the canon didn't seem very convincing to me. Dr. Montgomery seems to adopt the modern Protestant flat view of the canon and his statements about what books should be included and which shouldn't had very little evidence to back them up. Dr. Montgomery claims that the early church accepted Hebrews even though they knew it wasn't written by Paul because they believed it was written by one of Paul's disciples. But the writings of the early church fathers show that the debate over its canonicity centered upon whether or not it was written by Paul. Those who believed Hebrews was written by Paul accepted its canonicity while those who did not denied its canonicity. The typical modern Protestant position is to say that Hebrews was not written by Paul but is part of the canon but this was not the position of the early church. I didn't think the section on inerrancy was very convincing either. Many of the quotes he provided seemed to really be defending infallibility rather than inerrancy. The problem with the shift of authority from the infallible apographa to the inerrant autographa is that nobody has the autographa. However, this book is well worth the read and I've really never read anything like it.