Rev. Lorfeld wrote that “when we read Scripture, we don’t come at it with a blank slate.” I think I understand and agree to this. Indeed, how could anyone claim that they read anything completely objectively? I also understand that “Scripture must be read in light of the correct doctrinal position.” But of course it begs the question of what correct doctrine is?
I did take an extra look at the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (something that I haven’t even read all of yet…) and I see as you say that there are both good Scriptural proofs and proofs from the fathers. In a typical discussion with a Baptist, I might point out these same passages cited in the Apology. But then the objections come: what about these other passages? I could then basically answer that basically Justification trumps all that (or maybe that the Baptist’s understand of the verse is wrong). Anyway it ends in the usual: you have your verses and I have mine.
Pastor Lorfeld writes that the “Rule of Faith is given by Scripture itself (so it isn’t something entirely contrived): Christ at the center, Law and Gospel rightly divided, and justification by grace through faith alone.”
I agree with this. So maybe my question is: How do I prove that from the Bible? And how do I do it in a way that doesn’t just point out a handful of verses (which can be countered by another handful of verses). In a way that truly points out that *all* of the Bible needs to be read *in view of*: “Christ at the center, Law and Gospel rightly divided, and justification by grace through faith alone.”?
Sorry for all these confusing words. Again feel free to edit all this. I hope it makes sense. If you don’t want to post this, I would appreciate a personal message…
Editors Note: Follow up questions are screened and only posted if it is clear that it is a question. One of the goals of this site is to avoid debate. There is a time and place for debate, but this is not it. Genuine questions seeking to learn is another matter entirely!
“You can argue for the Real Presence in the Sacrament, you can argue for Inerrancy, you can argue for Baptismal Regeneration, you can argue for the validity of Holy Absolution as a Divine act on earth among men. If you argue for it long enough people are going to begin to say they don’t believe it. So what you do is not argue for it… you argue FROM it.”
(http://www.redeemerfortwayne.org/korbyaudio.php – By Virtue of My Office 1, 30:16, for the reference)
I think this is at the heart of the issue. As Lutherans we confess that Scripture is our sole rule and norm for doctrine and practice. Yet this position of “sola scriptura” is often changed into a position of “nuda scriptura”. As if we plug our ears and sing “La, la, la” to the Church’s history of preaching and teaching on what Scripture says. That’s what your Protestant friends in a sense want. They would like to believe that a complete heathen can pick up the Bible and magically come to a right understanding of what Scripture teaches. Now, certainly the Holy Spirit working the the Word can create faith, however it should be quickly apparent that there’s this thing called the Church (which is Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, as we confess in the Creed). So a Christian should never think him/herself as an island of interpretation, but a person that has been thrust into a community with thousands of years of history. Sure, there’s been a whack biscuit here and there, and we look at what they say in contrast to Scripture, but we never close our ears to the helping voice of the Church.
Some have explained this as a circle or spiral… but I really like where Dr. Korby goes with this. That we can explain and argue till our jaw hurts these things, and then people will think we are liars because we spend so much time arguing for them. Rather, we should confess and argue from them. This is kind of the point of the whole 6 Chief parts of the Small Catechism. Really these things are foundational. It’s tough to proof text your way out of an argument with someone who has a different idea of what Scripture is painting, not impossible, as I think with things like Baptism, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc. Scripture is so glaringly obvious that one has to do a lot of work to read something like 1 Peter 3:21 and then say “Baptism doesn’t save.” Some do… I’m baffled as to how.
The best advice I can give… read and know your Scripture better than your friends… Lutherans are notoriously bad Bible students, and it’s a shame (the criticism is directed at myself just as much here), and memorize the Small Catechism – put it to heart. That alone will give you a solid foundation to have discussions with friends and neighbors.
One of the foundational books for Lutherans to read is “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel” by C.W.F. Walther. You can purchase a new edition entitled “How to Read the Bible” here http://bit.ly/d70H2q.
Otherwise, don’t be discouraged. These are not easy issues to tackle. I’m not sure where you are in life, but if you are really wrestling with these things at this level, you may want to consider serious study. There is a graduate school at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis where you can really learn to answer these questions. It is not for training pastors, but for training lay people to be better theologians. Check it out if and when you may be available for such a thing.
“Handful of verses” arguments are always frustrating. They go around and around, getting nowhere. One of the ideas that may be helpful to remember is that the burden of proof remains for the person who brings the new idea. Schism is a serious offense in Christianity. Luther was convinced that his emphasis on the Gospel (Eph. 2:8-9) was not contrary to that of the church universal. Lutherans are convinced that this emphasis is always hard to communicate well.
If the “American ‘baptist’” milieu is your chief source of angst, and you want to read a church father, go and read the Ignatius (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.toc.html). Consider how he talks about the Euchairst, the clergy, schismatics, unity, harmony, and so forth. Read through his letters, and then read through Paul’s letters again. Do they contradict or does Ignatius provide some new insight? He is closer to the source than a 21st century American.
While reading church fathers, like Ignatius, you’re going to notice that he is dealing with various issues: doubt about the bodily resurrection, the temptation to split, Judaizing, standing firm in the face of persecution, and so forth. One of the things that led to the Reformation was that the church had never really dealt with the issue of justification. Luther work raised this subject to the issue of the day. Rather than having a balanced discussion, the split happened. I believe that Luther was right, and the people who would latter be called Lutherans best capture the “heart” of the debate.
The desired council eventually convened as the Council of Trent. This was a one sided debate. Check out the canons and decrees on Justification: http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html. Again, while dealing with the ‘baptist’ milleu, you will see that some of the things they teach are more ‘Catholic’ than ‘Reformation.’ Many ‘protestants’ operate with a view of Christianity that misses the real issue of the Reformation—the inability of man to cooperate in salvation—the idea that we are saved by grace (God’s work and attutitude toward sinners) through faith (a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit) in Christ (his person and work, his atoning death for sinners upon the cross) alone.
One of the early events in the history of the Reformation that gets over looked is the Heidelberg Disputation. In this disputation, much of the thought-shift of the Reformation is taking place. You can “google” the phrase to learn a little bit about it, but to dig deeper, another book to check out this book by Alister McGrath: http://bit.ly/a1b2c3