Series - Theology Thursday

Theology Thursday - Billy Graham on Ecumenical Evangelism

In the Summer of 1957, Billy Graham came to Madison Square Garden in New York City. In this excerpt from his autobiography,1 Graham discussed the opposition he received from fundamentalists prior to this Crusade, and his own reasoning for doing ecumenical evangelism:

Opposition also came from a few in the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities, although I had made it clear I was not going to New York to speak against other traditions or to proselytize people away from them. My goal instead was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was presented in the Bible and to call men and women to commit their lives to Him …

To my knowledge, the only vocal opposition from the Roman Catholic community came from a single article in a limited-circulation Catholic magazine. The author, an official with the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) in Washingtin D.C. wrote, “Catholics are not permitted to participate in Protestant religious services.” He went on to state that for faithful Catholics, “Billy is a danger to the faith.”

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Theology Thursday – Anselm on the Atonement

Anselm was a brilliant guy. A genius. He published his book Why God Became Man in 1097, so you could say it’s a bit of an antique. Anselm’s book is really about why Christ had to take on a human nature and be conceived of and born to a virgin. But, along the way, he tackled the reason for Christ’s death and thus popularized the “satisfaction theory” of atonement, which envisioned God as an overlord of sorts who was owed “satisfaction” or payment by his subjects for crimes committed, in order to set things right.

This theory is very intriguing, and it’s not too far from the penal substitution theory most conservative Christians are taught. Here is the excerpt:

What it is to sin and to give recompense for sin

Anselm: What we have to investigate, therefore, is the question: ‘By what rationale does God forgive the sins of men?’ And, so that we may do this more clearly, let us first see what it is to sin and what it is to give satisfaction for sin.

Boso: It is for you to demonstrate and for me to pay attention.

Anselm: If an angel or a man were always to render to God what he owes, he would never sin.

Boso: I cannot contradict this.

Anselm: Then, to sin is nothing other than not to give God what is owed to him.

Boso: What is the debt which we owe to God?

Anselm: All the will of a rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God.

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Theology Thursday - The Covenant of Grace

The following is the full text of Chapter 7, from the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter VII: Of God’s Covenant with Man

I. The distance between God and the creature is so great that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.1

II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,2 wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity,3 upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.4

III. Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,5 commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved,6 and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.7

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Theology Thursday - Aquinas on the Procession and Generation of the Son

If Christians confess that the Son proceeds from the Father, then is it proper to call this “generation?” Doesn’t this term imply the Son had a beginning, or at least owes His existence to the Father? Is the “eternal generation of the Son” a Biblical concept?

Many Christians assume the medieval period lacked original theological insight. Almost unconsciously, they often assume the church entered a dark age at the end of the patristic era; a darkness which was only pierced by the bright and shining rays of the Reformation 1000 years later. This is incorrect.

In this excerpt from his work Summa Theologica, the theologian Thomas Aquinas carefully discusses whether Christ’s procession from the Father can properly be termed “generation.” He follows the scholastic method, which means he (1) first introduces potential defeater objections, (2) then issues a crushing “on the contrary” statement which defines his own position, (3) followed by an extended discussion and defense of his position (“I answer that”), and (4) concludes with replies to the objections.

He begins:1

Having considered what belongs to the unity of the divine essence, it remains to treat of what belongs to the Trinity of the persons in God. And because the divine Persons are distinguished from each other according to the relations of origin, the order of the doctrine leads us to consider firstly, the question of origin or procession; secondly, the relations of origin; thirdly, the persons.

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Theology Thursday - Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian

Sir Anthony Buzzard is a Unitarian theologian and founder of Restoration Fellowship, a movement dedicated to proclaiming (among other things) the allegedly Unitarian creed of Jesus.

In this excerpt from his book, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian, Sir Anthony explains why Jesus’ explanation from Mark 12:28-29 is so important to understanding the Unitarian view of God, and why the doctrine of the Trinity is allegedly false:1

May I invite you to join me in an exploration of a massively important episode in the teaching life of Jesus. This occurred towards the end of his short, strenuous itinerant ministry as a teacher and preacher of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. It is an event with the potential to affect dramatically your journey of faith — an event able to change radically the way we think about our Christian faith.

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Theology Thursday - Thomas Aquinas on Reprobation

In this short excerpt from his massive and unfinished systematic treatise, Summa Theologica, Aquinas discusses the difficult doctrine of reprobation 1

Whether God reprobates any man?

Objection 1: It seems that God reprobates no man. For nobody reprobates what he loves. But God loves every man, according to (Wis. 11:25): “Thou lovest all things that are, and Thou hatest none of the things Thou hast made.” Therefore God reprobates no man.

Objection 2: Further, if God reprobates any man, it would be necessary for reprobation to have the same relation to the reprobates as predestination has to the predestined. But predestination is the cause of the salvation of the predestined. Therefore reprobation will likewise be the cause of the loss of the reprobate. But this false. For it is said (Osee 13:9): “Destruction is thy own, O Israel; Thy help is only in Me.” God does not, then, reprobate any man.

Objection 3: Further, to no one ought anything be imputed which he cannot avoid. But if God reprobates anyone, that one must perish. For it is said (Eccles. 7:14): “Consider the works of God, that no man can correct whom He hath despised.” Therefore it could not be imputed to any man, were he to perish. But this is false. Therefore God does not reprobate anyone.

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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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