Series - Theology Thursday

Theology Thursday - Luther Meets Cardinal Cajetan

After Luther published his 95 theses, inviting debate on the abuse of indulgences, things began to move rapidly in Wittenberg. Phillip Schaff, the grand church historian, sums up the course of events during the following year:1

Pope Leo X. was disposed to ignore the Wittenberg movement as a contemptible monkish quarrel; but when it threatened to become dangerous, he tried to make the German monk harmless by the exercise of his power. He is reported to have said first, “Brother Martin is a man of fine genius, and this outbreak is a mere squabble of envious monks;” but afterwards, “It is a drunken German who wrote the Theses; when sober he will change his mind.”

Three months after the appearance of the Theses, he directed the vicar-general of the Augustinian Order to quiet down the restless monk. In March, 1518, he found it necessary to appoint a commission of inquiry under the direction of the learned Dominican Silvester Mazzolini, called from his birthplace Prierio or Prierias (also Prieras), who was master of the sacred palace and professor of theology.

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Theology Thursday - Read Luther's 95 Theses!

Below is the actual text of most ​of Martin Luther’s infamous 95 theses. Many people have heard of them; fewer have actually read them. Here they are:1

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

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Theology Thursday - Slavery and the Bible (ca. 1850)

The following essay appeared in the September 1850 issue of DeBow’s Review,​ which was one of the most important antebellum journals in the South. It appeared just as Congress was debating and passing what became known as “the Compromise of 1850.” The author is anonymous, but the piece sums up, in a remarkably straightforward way, the “Biblical argument” for slavery from a pro-Southern perspective. SharperIron does not endorse the conclusions or presuppositions of this article. However, the article stands as a historical marker; an important reminder that, if a man is desperate enough, he can “find” a way to “biblically” support his position on just about anything.1

A very large party in the United states believe that holding slaves is morally wrong; this party founds its belief upon precepts taught in the Bible, and takes that book as the standard of morality and religion. We, also, look to the same book as our guide in the same matters; yet, we think it right to hold slaves—do hold them, and have held and used them from childhood.

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Theology Thursday . . . on Friday: The Kenosis as Deliberate Concealment

What is the nature of Christ’s incarnation? How did the Messiah’s divine and human natures work together? Much has been written on this, of course. Theology students (and their teachers) have always been intrigued by this question. When this question comes up, the Bible student’s mind inevitably turns to Philippians 2. As Rolland McCune asked, “of what did Christ empty Himself?”1 One common solution is to answer, “Christ emptied Himself of the independent use of His divine attributes.”

This is what McCune suggests. After some exegetical comments on Philippians 2:5-8 and a survey of various theories, he explained that (1) Christ gave up the independent use of His attributes, (2) became subservient to the Father in a unique way, and (3) depended on the Holy Spirit’s power.2 Augustus H. Strong also favored this view.3

There is another view. Read more about Theology Thursday . . . on Friday: The Kenosis as Deliberate Concealment

Theology Thursday - Ernest Pickering on "New Evangelicalism"

Donald Pfaffe, "Views Of New Evangelicalism," CENQ 02:2 (Summer 1959)

In the spring of 1959, Ernest Pickering wrote an article for the Central Bible Quarterly entitled “The Present Status of the New Evangelicalism.”1 This was only one of the first in an eventual avalanche of articles written by passionate and articulate fundamentalists, beginning in the late 1950s, as the breach between the “New Evangelicalism” and “Fundamentalism” became, for many men, a bridge too far.

Elsewhere, Robert Ketchum wrote to GARBC churches and pleaded with them to not participate in Billy Graham’s crusades. To do so, he warned, would be “the same in principle as going back into the [American Baptist] Convention for a season.”2

In the summer of 1959, William Ashbrook (also writing for the Central Bible Quarterly) solemnly warned his readers about the “New Evangelicalism.” He thundered forth, “First, it is a movement born of compromise. Second, it is a movement nurtured on pride of intellect. Third, it is a movement growing on appeasement of evil. And finally, it is a movement doomed by the judgment of God’s holy Word.”3 Read more about Theology Thursday - Ernest Pickering on "New Evangelicalism"

Theology Thursday - Carnell on the "Perils" of Fundamentalism (Part 3)

In this excerpt, Carnell concludes his critique of fundamentalism from his book The Case for Orthodox Theology ​(1959). Here, he has two criticisms. First, he believes the fundamentalist places an overemphasis on soul-winning at the expense of doctrine and Christian love. Second, he charges that fundamentalists, like well-meaning but delusional latter-day Don Quixotes, revel in their supposed “purity” while ironically demonstrating the worst sort of self-righteousness.1  

The Chief End of Man

Whereas orthodoxy says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, fundamentalism says that the chief end of man is to win souls. This conversion of final causes did not come by accident. Lest we be misunderstood, however, let it be clearly and forcefully said that evangelism is an incumbency on the church. Woe to the minister who has no compassion for lost souls! If we are united with Christ’s cross and resurrection, we must also be united with his tears for Jerusalem.

But when the fundamentalist elevates evangelism above other Christian tasks, or when he conceives of evangelism in terms of techniques, he is no longer true to his own presuppositions. While evangelism is a sacred duty, it is by no means our only sacred duty.

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Theology Thursday - Carnell on the "Perils" of Fundamentalism (Part 2)

Edward Carnell continues his infamous broadside against fundamentalism, from his 1959 work The Case for Orthodox Theology. ​Many fundamentalists may not agree with his characterizations. Others may still see relevance for Carnell’s criticisms. No matter what you think of his writing here, it is a fascinating look at an evangelical’s view of the fundametnalist movement in the late 1950s.1

J. Gresham Machen

The mentality of fundamentalism sometimes crops up where one would least expect it; and there Is no better Illustration of this than the inimitable New Testament scholar, J. Gresham Machen.

Machen was an outspoken critic of the fundamentalist movement. He argued with great force that Christianity is a system, not a list of fundamentals. The fundamentals include the virgin birth, Christ’s deity and miracles, the atonement, the resurrection, and the inspiration of the Bible. But this list does not even take in the specific issues of the Protestant Reformation. Roman Catholicism easily falls within the limits of fundamentalism.

While Machen was a foe of the fundamentalist movement, he was a friend of the fundamentalist mentality, for he took an absolute stand on a relative issue, and the wrong at that.

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