Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Ten Commandments And Free Will

In Hebrew, a negative command is not given by negating an imperative, but rather it is done by use of two constructions:

al + jussive
lo + the imperfect

The lo + imperfect construction expresses a general prohibition, whereas the al + jussive construction expresses a more emphatic and immediate negative command.

Now with this knowledge of Hebrew syntax in mind, when we look at the Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20 and later in Deuteronomy 5, we see that they are given with the lo+ imperfect construction instead of the expected al+ jussive construction which carries more force. Why is this? Is God merely suggesting that we don’t do these things? “I’d really like you not to kill or steal, so if you would please not do it that would be great. Thanks.” I don’t think so. I think there is something much greater going on here which reveals the true glory and love of God. God does not bark out the command like an angry drill sergeant, forcing us by all means to obey Him. Instead, God has given us free will. He tells us that we shall not steal, kill, commit adultery, etc. as a general prohibition, but He does not force us to obey. That would deny us our freedom and it would negate love. Love is a free act of the will. We are given the free choice to reject God or to obey and thus love Him. Now, I am not by any means suggesting that there are not any repercussions for not obeying the 10 Commandments. Free will comes with responsibilities and consequences for actions. If we fail to obey the Commandments there are surely punishments for not doing so. It is the same for any child that does not do the will of his father. But God will not force us to obey. That is the key. As the Baltimore Catechism teaches, God made us so that we would “know Him,…love Him, and…serve Him in this world, and…be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” We cannot love God if we are forced to do so. That is the very antithesis of love. It is coercion. And that is why God gave us free will; so we could freely love and serve Him in this world in order to be happy with Him in the next.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Real Luther

"James I. Packer and O. R. Johnston in the long introduction to their edition of Luther's The Bondage of the Will, make a remarkable statement on p. 59. They say that much of modern Protestantism has gone far from Luther. To get it right, use The Bondage of the Will, about which they claim on p.40 that Luther himself considered it the most important of his works.

On p.273 they quote Luther as saying insistently that there is no free will.

What he means is that without grace, a man is incapable of doing good. With grace he can do it. But Luther says we cannot do anything to get grace. He makes this clear twice (pp. 103-04 and 204) by comparing a human being to a horse. Either God or the devil will ride it, and accordingly a man does good or evil. But he has nothing to say about which one rides him.

So he goes to heaven or hell accordingly, and has no control over which place he goes. The picture is dismal, for on p.101 Luther says that God saves "so few and damns so many." He says it is hard to believe then that He is just. On p.314 he even says that those who are damned are "undeserving". Yet we must reverence God as being merciful to a few, and show "some measure of deference" to His Wisdom by thinking He is just when He seems unjust.

Of course, this is very disturbing. Luther himself, on p.217 says it has caused him to stumble more than once, and that he has gone down "to the deepest pit of despair." He even wished he had not been made a man.

The authors asserted, as we saw above, that much of modern Protestantism has gone far from Luther. An example, which they do not give, is found in Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod of Lutherans,1932, §14: They say that if we consider two things: that all men are equally corrupt, and that grace is everywhere: then why are not all saved? They reply: "We cannot answer it." Luther answered it: blind predestination, which the Missouri Synod did not want to face.

We comment: 1) He holds that we can do nothing to get grace or to determine salvation for ourselves. He passes by 2 Cor 6:1:"We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain." All over Scripture there are similar exhortations to repent, to return to God. They are all nonsense, and mockery of man, if we cannot determine whether or not a grace comes in vain. It is true, St. Paul also said in 2 Cor 3:5 that we cannot get a good thought by our own power,or even make a good decision or carry it out: Phil 2:13. But these texts must not cause us to deny 2 Cor 6:1 and many other texts of Scripture.

2) Luther also thinks God denies grace to most people. But the Father accepted the price of redemption (1 Cor 6:20) which is infinite. Therefore He bound Himself to make grace available infinitely, that is, without limit, except for our rejection of it. We have it in our power to reject or not reject: 2 Cor 6:1 again.

3) Luther ignored the most basic comparison of the Gospels: God is our Father. No Father damns most of His children without even giving them a chance. He wills all to be saved:1 Tim 2:4. If He refuses grace with no fault on the part of the human, then He could not say He wills all to be saved. In fact, Paul in Gal 2:20 said: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Vatican II, On Church in Modern World §22 said: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me." So He died for each individual, He created an infinite title or claim to grace for each individual. Then He could not without reason refuse it to anyone at all."

-William Most.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Did FDR Know Hebrew?

In his first Inaugural Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Today in my Hebrew class, I learned that stative verbs cannot have a direct object. The verb for "to fear" in Hebrew is one such stative verb. It turns out that the only thing you can fear in Hebrew is.....fear itself!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Realized Eschatology

“The New Testament is essentially the presence of the eschatological event. Its purpose is not to teach us the existence of Paradise, nor to promise us this Pradise in the future, but to show us this Paradise already present in Christ: ‘This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.’ It is not the proclamation of Judgement to come, but of Judgement already here: ‘Sentence is now being passed on this world; now is the time when the prince of this world is to be cast out.’ The Old Testament proclaimed that a servant of God would be a lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world. The New Testament shows us ‘the Lamb of God…he who takes away the sin of the world.’ And it teaches us that with the coming of this Lamb, the fate of mankind is at once unveiled and disclosed, that the Last Things are revealed and fulfilled. Christ, as C.H. Dodd says, is ‘realized eschatology.’”

-Jean Danielou in Christ and Us.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Corpus Ratzinger

The Vatican publishing house has announced that they are releasing a 13-volume set of Pope Benedict's works from before he became Pope. Read more about it here.
Anyone know what works are to be included?