Crucifying desires for wisdom, power, pleasure, and honor

Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks, as the poet says: “The more water they drink, the more they thirst for it.” The same thought is expressed in Eccles. 1 [:8]: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” This holds true of all desires. Thus also the desire for knowledge is not satisfied by the acquisition of wisdom but is stimulated that much more. Likewise the desire for glory is not satisfied by the acquisition of glory, nor is the desire to rule satisfied by power and authority, nor is the desire for praise satisfied by praise, and so on, as Christ shows in John 4 [:13] , where he says, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again.” The remedy for curing desire does not lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it. In other words, he who wishes to become wise does not seek wisdom by progressing toward it but becomes a fool by retrogressing into seeking folly. Likewise he who wishes to have much power, honor, pleasure, satisfaction in all things must flee rather than seek power, honor, pleasure, and satisfaction in all things. This is the wisdom which is folly to the world.

—Martin Luther*

Continue reading

A specious argument against ordaining women as pastors

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 (NLT)

An unjustified denial of women’s ordination as pastors

The interpretation of the above passage that has been adopted by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) obscures Paul’s clear argument, leaving the synod without any warrant for its practice of forbidding women from being ordained as pastors. Here are the logical steps of Paul’s reasoning in 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

  1. Adam was created before Eve.
  2. Therefore, a woman may not have authority over a man.
  3. Therefore, a woman may not teach in the church.

Since the 1960s, the LCMS has with increasingly consistency argued in its adopted position papers that the conclusion (#3) follows from the first premise (#1) even while denying the second step (#2). Under the assumption that Paul made a valid argument, what should Step 2 be replaced with to make the logic valid? In other words, how would Step 3 follow from Step 1 without considering Step 2? That is exactly what is missing in the current LCMS exegesis.

Since the LCMS no longer has any credible rationale for its refusal to ordain women as pastors, its practice is left vulnerable to attack.

The argument from the masculinity of the Father and the Groom

Prof. William C. Weinrich attempted to fill the breach by proposing that since pastors represent Christ when they teach his word and since Christ was a man, the Son of the Father, it follows that it is fitting that only men serve as pastors (“‘It is not Given to Women to Teach’: A Lex in Search of a Ratio,” Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, 1993, esp. pp. 28-31). Other theologians bearing the Lutheran name also hold this “Christological view of the ministry” (John F. Brug, 2009, The Ministry of the Word, NPH, pp. 316-331). Weinrich explained, “In the context of the pastoral office a male pastor remains the apt representative of the Father’s grace whereby all, male and female alike, hear the words of Christ and become the Bride of the Groom” (pp. 29-30).

That is eerily recognizable as a version of the male-representative defense of the papacy’s uncategorically barring of women from the priesthood:

  • “The Church has recognised that only those who have received a calling to serve by acting in the person of Christ can be ordained. The priest, therefore, must be a man because he represents a man, the God-Man: Jesus Christ. By his ordination, a priest acts in the very person of Christ the Head, who is the Bridegroom of His Bride, the Church” (“Why not Women Priests”  — accessed 21 December 2014)
  • “The church is the bride of Christ, and presbyters and bishops represent Christ to the church; women cannot represent the bridegroom” (Arthur A. Vogel, “Christ, Revelation, and the Ordination of Women,” in Towards a New Theology of Ordination: Essays on the Ordination of Women — accessed 21 December 2014)
  • “John Paul II places the inherent differences between men and women within the context of ‘an order of love’ rather than ‘an order of creation’ . . . Why can’t we have spiritual fathers (priests) and spiritual mothers (priestesses)? The answer is one that feminists do not like to hear . . . namely, that the priest is an icon of Christ and acts in persona Christi at the altar and in the confessional. In 1976 the Vatican issued Inter Insignores or “Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood.” As this document says, we cannot ignore the fact that Christ is a man. He is the bridegroom; the Church is his bride. This nuptial mystery is proclaimed throughout the Old and New Testaments. One must utterly disregard the importance of this symbolism for the economy of salvation in order to make an argument for women’s ordination. There are actions “in which Christ himself, the author of the Covenant, the Bridegroom and Head of the Church, is represented.” At these times, Christ’s role (this is the original sense of the word persona) must be taken by a man. This is especially true in the case of the Eucharist, when Christ is exercising his ministry of salvation” (Jennifer Ferrara, in “Ordaining Women: Two Views,” First Things, April 2003, accessed 22 December 2014).
  • “If Christ-by his free and sovereign choice, clearly attested to by the Gospel and by the Church’s constant Tradition-entrusted only to men the task of being an “icon” of his countenance as “shepherd” and “bridegroom” of the Church through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood, this in no way detracts from the role of women, or for that matter from the role of the other members of the Church who are not ordained to the sacred ministry, since all share equally in the dignity proper to the “common priesthood” based on Baptism” (“Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women,” John Paul II, Vatican, 29 June 1995, Libreria Editrice Vaticana — accessed 21 December 2014).

Doctrinal errors connected to the male-representative argument

Followed consistently, that line of reasoning—that the literal maleness of the pastor is necessary for adequately representing the male Christ—must conclude that all male believers are literally feminized in their relationship with Christ, as occurs to some extent in bridal mysticism. Such sublimated sexuality has no support from the biblical texts portraying certain aspects of God’s covenant with his people in terms of betrothal and marriage (e.g., Hosea 1-2; Ephesians 5:21ff). Rather, its roots lie in Augustine’s Caritas-synthesis of the Eros motif of ancient Platonism, gnosticism, and Origin with the Agapē motif of apostolic Christianity, Irenaeus, and the Lutheran Reformation (Anders Nygren, 1982, Agape and Eros, University of Chicago Press). Regardless of how widespread Caritas’s contempt of women has become, it has no place in the church of the Augsburg Confession.

Weinrich’s attempted solution creates another serious problem in its denial of the confessional Lutheran doctrine of church and ministry as opposed to the doctrine held by the papacy. According to Ephesians 4:11, pastors indeed represent Christ, serving as his gifts to the church, not as mere representatives of the church. The New Testament also teaches that they do so not because they are his exclusive representatives in the service of the word but rather because they are spokesmen of the church, which represents Christ in obedience to his commands to proclaim the gospel in word and sacrament. The church is the communion of all believers, not only pastors or even a confusing mix of pastors and laity, much less an organization. According to the Gospels and Peter’s first epistle, every believer, male or female, is a priest called to announce the good news of God’s saving deeds as a sent representative of Christ himself. One way believers do that is by choosing pastors from their midst to teach the gospel and administer the sacraments as their representative. Once called to the public ministry, the pastor continues to represent Christ as a priest, but now also as a representative of other priests, no longer only as an individual. In short, pastors publicly represent Christ through the church because it consists of the women as well as the men who represent Christ originally. Since Christ found it fitting that believing women represent him, delivering the gospel message in his name, Weinrich’s reasoning to the contrary is uncanny from the Lutheran perspective.

Thus, the male-representative argument of Weinrich and the papacy has unsettling connections to two grave errors: the semi-pagan Caritas synthesis and its historically related view of church and ministry.

Back to Paul’s simple argument

The reason Paul did not allow women to teach the congregation has nothing to do with the supposed unfitness of female teachers to represent the male Christ. Since Paul was not issuing a new ceremonial law or other legal regulation in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, his directive cannot be grasped without a clear understanding of his supporting argument.

The context and Greek grammar of v. 12 together suggest that “man” serves as the object not only of “to have authority over” but also of “to teach” (G. W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Kindle location 2487; T. R. Schreiner, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” Women in the Church: an Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Kindle location 2252). In that case, the clause may be accurately translated, “I do not permit a woman to teach a man or to have authority over a man,” as is made clear by the Complete Jewish Bible, the Easy-to-Read Version, the New Life Version, and the New Living Translation, quoted above. That Paul specifically prohibited teaching men as opposed to representing Christ is clear in the whole structure of the tightly connected argument, from the submissive learning of the women in v. 11 to the differences between Adam and Eve in vv. 13-15 (Mark Braun,1981, “An Exegesis Of I Timothy 2:11-15 And Its Relation To The CHE Statement: ‘The Role Of Man And Woman According To Holy Scripture’”). The problem with Paul’s argument is not a lack of clarity but rather the sharp conflict between its conclusion and values in current Western culture.

In conclusion, there is no need to search for a rationale for Paul’s statements on the roles of women, much less to find one in the assumed propriety of having male teachers as the sole representatives of a male Bridegroom. Believers already have the simple word of Scripture. Paul stated his rationale in plain language. It is not lost.

Acknowledgments

Constructive criticism from Rolf Preus and David Jay Webber is gratefully acknowledged.

Agape, Eros, Caritas: Love motifs at war

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it. …sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive…

—Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation

enthroned

Agapē motif: Christ as mirror of the paternal heart

Agapē /ah-GAH-pay/ is the Greek word the New Testament uses for the sacrificial love that motivated the Triune God to reconcile selfish humanity to himself and to pardon all who repent and believe this good news. The Agapē motif is Anders Nygren’s term for what Martin Luther recognized in the Apostles’ Creed as the distinctive core of Christianity:

Behold, here you have the entire divine essence, will, and work depicted most exquisitely in quite short and yet rich words, wherein consists all our wisdom, which surpasses and exceeds the wisdom, mind, and reason of all men. For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself. For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost. These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth.

As the Apology of the Augsburg Confession puts it, “Recognition of original sin is a necessity, nor can we know the magnitude of the grace of Christ unless we acknowledge our faults… Properly speaking, the Gospel is the command to believe that we have a gracious God because of Christ” (Article II, ¶33 and Article IV, ¶345, T. G. Tappert). In the classic Agape and Eros, Anders Nygren documents how this central motif of apostolic Christianity was clearly proclaimed by Irenaeus but later obscured by Plato’s Eros motif in the dark ages until the Agapē motif was recovered by the Lutheran Reformation.

The Eros motif: Humanity yearning upwards out of self-love

Platonic Eros, as opposed to vulgar Eros, is the yearning people have for the impersonal Highest Good. It came into conflict with the heavenly Father’s pity for the world below in its expression in Gnosticism and in Origin. The two types of love differ in their basis, direction, and nature.

The Caritas motif: Desiring God out of baptized self-love

Agape and Eros chronicles the course of the love war through the centuries. Roots of such present-day errors as bridal mysticism and Reformed theology lie in the Caritas motif. The Caritas motif is Augustine’s synthesis between the Eros motif and the Agapē motif. According to Caritas, the Christian is not to repent of self-love but rather is to redirect his self-love to what can really satisfy it: the heavenly Bridegroom and his Father. In Caritas’s pure Augustinian form, that is accomplished in a life of meritorious self-denial and humility via grace infused by the Holy Spirit.

Continue reading

Receiving God’s love

"Although the controversies of the Reformation dealt more with the definition of faith than with either hope or charity, the Reformers identified the uniqueness of God’s agape for man as unmerited love; therefore, they required that charity, as man’s love for man, be based not upon the desirability of its object but upon the transformation of its subject through the power of divine agape" (Encyclopædia Britannica).

"The life of faith is the vita passiva, living as trusting receivers of God’s goodness whether that be in the realm of creation or redemption… By believing the serpent humanity falsely believes itself not to be the receiver of all that is good. As a result humans must stand in a relationship of rivalry and self-justification before God… I must claim [righteousness] on the basis of my own activity rather than my receptivity" (pp. 27, 28-29 of Jack Kilcrease, Logia 19 (4), 21-33).

God at his most glorious

Luther on the Theology of the Cross by Robert Kolb | Excerpt:

God at his most glorious, in his display of the extent of his mercy and love for his human creatures, appears, Luther believed, in the depth of the shame of the cross. There he is to be seen as he really is, in his true righteousness, which is mercy and love. There human beings are to be seen as those who deserve to die eternally but who now through baptismal death have the life Christ gives through his resurrection, forever.

Eros values; Agapē creates value

“The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it. …sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive…”

—Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation

Agapē & Eros: worldviews in conflict

  Agapē worldview Eros worldview
 God’s love Freedom in giving, even to sinners N/A
 Neighborly love Continues God’s love, even for enemies The good in others is loved in order to attain God as the Highest Good
 Love for God Thankful response to God’s love God satisfies deepest desires
 Self-love  N/A The basis of all other love

[based on Agape and Eros, pp. 217-219]

 

Transvaluation of all human values

Agape and Eros <!– [alt. edition] –>(pp. 202-204):

"Modern men," [Nietzsche] says, "hardened as they are to all Christian terminology, no longer appreciate the horrible extravagance which, for ancient taste, lay in the paradox of the formula, ‘God on the Cross’. Never before had there been anywhere such an audacious inversion, never anything so terrifying, so challenging and challengeable, as this formula; it promised a transvaluation of all ancient values."… But "God on the Cross" is only another name for the Agape of the Cross… The idea of Agape is by no means self-contradictory. On the contrary, it is a quite simple and clear and easily comprehensible idea. It is paradoxical and irrational only inasmuch as it means a transvaluation of all previously accepted values.

What is the gospel of the kingdom?

According to the Synoptic Gospels, the apostles had announced the good news of the kingdom of God even before they understood that Jesus must die and rise again. By word and miraculous sign, they had proclaimed the truly glad tidings that Jesus had come to free Israel from death and from her demonic enemies and to preach good news to the poor, thereby fulfilling Messianic prophecy. Jesus’ work to destroy Satan’s kingdom continued as he died, rose, and ascended to heaven. The Son of the Virgin Mary now reigns with all power on heaven and earth.

St. Luke is particularly clear about the content of “the gospel of the kingdom.” Jesus and the apostles heralded the gospel, the good news of the kingdom (Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; Acts 8:12). Jesus was anointed as Messiah to announce to the poor the good news of liberty and healing (Luke 4:18-19, 43):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Jesus proclaimed to the poor this good news of freedom from the curse (Luke 4:20):

Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.

Jesus and the disciples not only proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, but actually brought the glad tidings of the kingdom as he healed the sick and cast out demons (Luke 7:22; 8:1-3; 10:9-11). By attending to that message rather than the things of this age, Mary of Bethany received the one thing needed, which would not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42). The very Consolation of Israel, One greater than Solomon, long foretold by the law and prophets, had come! His reign means the deliverance from all of the enemies of God’s people!

The message of Jesus to be heralded to the nations in the power of the Spirit was the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47-49). The fact that the main way the Spirit works in Luke-Acts is by empowering bold proclamation of that message means he brings the kingdom through the forgiveness of sins. That is as hard as making a lame man whole (Luke 5:23 = Mark 2:9 = Matthew 9:5): Jesus announced that message by the power of the Spirit (Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14, 18), just as he brought the kingdom through exorcism in the power of the Spirit (Luke 11:20 with Matthew 12:28). Indeed, he was rejected at Nazareth because he claimed to be the one who was empowered by the Spirit to heal the sick and to proclaim the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18-21); doing those things showed John’s disciples that Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 7:22 = Matthew 11:4-5). The coming of the Spirit to Gentiles showed that they, too, should receive the baptism of forgiveness (Acts 10:47-48). Baptism in Luke-Acts is cleansing for repentance and forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16) and thus is included in the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed to the nations (Luke 24:47); those who believed the good news of the kingdom were baptized (Acts 8:12).

Just as healing was performed in Jesus’ name, forgiveness through faith in his name was proclaimed (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:6; 3:16; 4:10-12; 10:43; 16:18). For through his disciples acting in his name, Jesus himself continues to heal and to proclaim the good news (Acts 9:34; 26:22-23). Jesus called sinners to repentance from the beginning of his ministry (Luke 5:31-32; 19:10), and the risen Lord still blesses sinners by turning them from their iniquities (Acts 3:26)—repentance as well as forgiveness is a gift from the now-exalted Prince (Acts 5:31).

The good news of salvation from sin and its curse is encapsulated in forgiveness through faith in Jesus’ name. This is “the good news of peace” (Acts 10:36-43; cf. 17:30-31):

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Paul, according to Luke, gives examples of how “all the prophets” bear witness of that (Acts 13:32-39):

And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Rejoice, believing the forgiveness of sins that has been proclaimed to you!

Luther on objective justification

Some have asserted that the distinction between objective and subjective justification is a development of Lutheran theology that occurred only after the time of the Reformation. Martin Luther, however, had explicitly taught that all have been forgiven whether or not they believe it and yet that those who refuse to believe thereby forfeit the benefits of forgiveness:

Even he who does not believe that he is free and his sins forgiven shall also learn, in due time, how assuredly his sins were forgiven, even though he did not believe it. St. Paul says in Rom. 3[:3]: “Their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God.” We are not talking here either about people’s belief or disbelief regarding the efficacy of the keys. We realize that few believe. We are speaking of what the keys accomplish and give. He who does not accept what the keys give receives, of course, nothing. But this is not the key’s fault. Many do not believe the gospel, but this does not mean that the gospel is not true or effective. A king gives you a castle. If you do not accept it, then it is not the king’s fault, nor is he guilty of a lie. But you have deceived yourself and the fault is yours. The king certainly gave it.

Well, you say, here you yourself teach that the key fails. For the keys do not accomplish their purpose when some do not believe nor accept. Well, friend, if you call this failing, then God fails in all his words and works. For few accept what he constantly speaks and does for all. This means doing violence to the proper meaning of words. I do not call it a failure or a mistake if I say or do something, and somebody else despises or ignores it. But so they understand, teach, and observe concerning the pope’s wrong key: The key itself can err, even though a person would like to accept and rely on it. For it is a conditionalis clavis, a conditional, a vacillating key which does not direct us to God’s Word, but to our own repentance. It does not say candidly and boldly that you are to believe that I most certainly loose you. But it says that if you are repentant and pious, I loose you, if not, then I fail. That is the clavis errans, the erring key. It cannot with any assurance say that I know for certain that I have loosed you before God, whether you believe it or not, as St. Peter’s key can say.

Luther, M., The Keys (1999, c1958), Luther’s Works, vol. 40: Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.), Philadelphia: Fortress Press, pp. 366-367, hyperlink added.

Until the first president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod read that treatise, also called On the Keys, he did not understand the gospel of the kingdom (C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel).

As he pointed out, the unconditional good news announced by Luther — that the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world — is diametrically opposed to the conditional "gospels" taught by the denominations — that a sinner cannot have assurance of forgiveness without first either choosing Christ or determining whether one is among the few for whom he died. The schism arose because, not satisfied with the Agapē motif proclaimed by Luther in its simplicity, Calvin, Arminius, and others mixed in seemingly reasonable elements of the spiritual Erōs philosophy, the ancient Greek version of the lie that man must reach up to God. There is good news: God came down to rescue those who do not have the strength to make the right decision or to find evidence of their election (Rom. 5:6-8).