Parish Newsletter: Reliability of the Scriptures by Pastor Karl Weber

This is a newsletter article written by Pastor Karl Weber, author of our posts on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If you have written an article for your parish newsletter that you think might be useful to a wider audience, please submit it to us.

 

NEWSLETTER – JULY 2011

On occasion parishioners ask me how they ought to respond to skeptics who poke holes at the reliability of the Scriptures. In addition to non-Christians who raise these questions of doubt, there are also Christians who ask the same questions in order to be strengthened in the faith. This is a good thing.

In addition to pointing Christians to the presence of the Holy Spirit we can also point people to the historical record of manuscript evidence from antiquity. Follow the chart that I obtained from Focus on the Family.

SUBJECT Years Written
After the Fact
# of Manuscripts
That Exist
Homer’s Illiad 500 years 643
Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars 1,000 10
Pliney’s History 750 7
Thucydides History 1,300 8
Herodotus’ History 1,300 8
BIBLE (NT) 30 5,000 + Greek manuscripts
19,000 + non-Greek

This chart clearly shows the superiority for Christian manuscripts as opposed to any secular manuscript evidence. This is seen on two fronts.

The New Testament documents were written as early as thirty (30) years after the events they record. The earliest secular manuscript is Homer’s Illiad written some five hundred years after the event it records. A lot of faulty memories can arise over a five hundred year time period as opposed to a thirty year time period.

Additionally one can point to the number of manuscripts that exist recording the event. Again I reference Homer’s Illiad which has some 653 manuscripts from antiquity that mention the event. This might seem like quite a lot when measured against the seven manuscripts from antiquity that contain Pliney’s History, or the ten manuscripts that detail Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

However, these 653 manuscripts detailing Homer’s Illiad are dwarfed by the 5,000 plus Greek manuscripts from antiquity recording New Testament books. And if that weren’t enough, compare that to the 19,000 plus manuscripts in a tongue other than Greek from antiquity that record various New Testament books. Clearly the weight of evidence is on the side of the Holy Spirit’s working ? .

Now obviously a non-believer may use his freedom to still reject the New Testament evidence in favor of his preconceived prejudices. Clearly he has that freedom to do so, but at peril of his soul.

However, gently point out that if our non-Christian friend rejects the super abundant manuscript evidence for the New Testament documents what would that lead him to say about the secular documents we have looked at? Honesty and genuine scholarship would lead to only one answer.

Have confidence my friends in the miracle working activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. The record of the Savior’s act of saving our souls from judgment for life eternal is well attested to. Jesus Christ is so merciful to us in shedding his blood to forgive our many sins, and, in leaving such abundance testimony of his saving acts for us in the pages of Scripture.

Blessings,
Pastor Weber
St. John’s Lutheran Church
Ottertail, MN

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Parish Newsletter: Reliability of the Scriptures by Pastor Karl Weber — 36 Comments

  1. What is Karl’s point? I’m not aware of many out there who insist that Homer’s Illiad is inerrant and completely historically accurate. It’s an epic poem. As for the number of manuscripts that exist, the conclusion of a non-Christian can be that Hebrew literature was a more popular and cherished piece of fiction than Homer’s Illiad. And the area where the manuscripts were found is more arid which aids their preservation.

    Such is often the benefit of gleaning and sharing information from fundamentalist sources such as Focus on the Family.

  2. Clearly the weight of evidence is on the side of the Holy Spirit’s working ? .

    This evidence demands a verdict! LOL

  3. Typically these sort of numbers for manuscript evidence are raised in response to the skeptic who claims that we can’t be certain that any of the historical figures in the Bible actually existed; in particular Jesus and the Apostles. Does that same skeptic apply the same level of doubt to the other documents in the list? Typically they do not. They will accept Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War as truthful eyewitness testimony without blinking an eye, but then turn around and claim that we can’t trust the Gospel of Mark because the manuscript evidence just isn’t there to support the events in his account, etc. The information provided by Focus on the Family, in this case, can be useful to slap down bad arguments by skeptics. However, as a former skeptic and atheist I can say that none of this would have convinced me in the slightest that the supernatural claims in the NT are events that actually happened. A person who is dead in sin, who hates God, can’t come to Christ by strength of his own reasoning over factoids about manuscript evidence. In fact, this is where I disagree with some of the language in the OP such as “…may use his freedom…” which implies that “Joe Skeptic” has a will that is free to accept the truth claims of Christ, and about Christ, in the NT. “Joe Skeptic” has no such freedom of will. His will is bound in sin; he is a slave to sin and the only means by which “Joe Skeptic” may be set free is through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel of Jesus Christ ringing in his ears.

  4. @Rev. Don Kirchner #1
    Do Lutherans Do Apologetics?
    by Rev. Korey D. Maas

    Apologetics is a word that comes form the Greek word apologia meaning a defense against the charges made by the prosecution (see Acts 26:2 and 1 Peter 3:15). Agologetics as a theological discipline is the intellectual defense of the faith.

    It is often heard that “Lutherans don’t do apologetics.” When heard, this claim is frequently followed by a supporting statement to the effect that, “You can’t argue people into faith.” For good measure, the historically-minded might even point out that Martin Luther himself had some not very nice things to say about theological appeals to fallen human reason.

    And while each of these statements might be true, each also needs to be thoroughly qualified. To say that Lutherans don’t do apologetics may be, unfortunately, largely true as a simple description of recent North American Lutheranism. Yet it is certainly not the case that Lutherans have always been averse to the project, as becomes evident even upon examining the prolegomena of many seventeenth-century Lutheran dogmatic works.

    Similarly, it is indeed true that Luther, in high polemical mode, did sometimes rail against reason’s misuse and abuse. Yet in less polemical writings—the Small Catechism, for example—he is quick to point out that reason is, of course, one of God’s good gifts. And even in his more controversial writings he could admit that “we must use our reason or else give way to the fanatics” (AE 37:224).

    But this is not at all to suggest that one can argue people into faith. Doing so, however, is not the task of apologetics. Given that faith is created by God Himself via the proclamation of the Gospel, the primary apologetic task might simply be characterized as addressing those intellectual objections the unbeliever raises in an attempt to dismiss a clear proclamation of the Gospel. And quite understandably, these objections are most frequently aimed at matters of empirical fact, the sorts of Christian claims that might at least in theory be verified or falsified by some logical or investigative means. The reason this is perfectly understandable is that Christianity, unlike most world religions, is firmly grounded in objective historical events.

    To ask whether Jesus existed, or whether He publicly claimed to be God incarnate, or whether He rose from death in order to establish that claim is not at all to ask an esoteric “religious” question such as, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It is to ask a question about objective, historical facts. It is, therefore, not surprising that the apostles themselves regularly appealed to empirical evidence in their proclamation of Christ. John insists that he writes about what he and his companions “have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched” (1 John 1:1). Peter, presenting the case for Christ to a hostile audience, not only reminds his hearers that he was an eyewitness to the events described, but refers to these events having happened “as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22).

    Likewise, the modern apologist says merely that if there are certain objections to the faith that can be addressed by reasonable appeals to evidence—or certain foundational facts that can be similarly established—then by all means, when speaking to the rational unbeliever, make every possible use of reason and evidence. By all means, tear down the intellectual barriers the skeptic has constructed to “protect” himself from a confrontation with the Gospel. No, doing so will not argue anyone into faith. But by means of reasonable and persuasive argument, as by means of the Law, “every mouth may be silenced” (Romans 3:19). And with mouths closed, perhaps way is made for ears to be opened.

    Rev. Korey D. Maas is Assistant Professor of Theology and Church History at Concordia University Irvine, where he holds the 2008-2009 Harry and Caroline Trembath Chair in Confessional Theology. He is also currently a Guest Tutor at Westfield House of Theological Studies, Cambridge, England, and a Visiting Fellow in the Cambridge University Faculty of Divinity.

    This article is reprinted with permission from, For the Life of the World, Volume Thirteen, Number One – Spring 2009, published by Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN ?

  5. Such arguments are debating tools, but nobody believes that they serve as a Means of Grace, for cryin’ out loud. I’ve heard John W. Montgomery, Craig Parton and others use these very arguments. They serve to refute the practitioners of H/C who claim the New Testament (especially the Gospels) was “made up” by Christians. They buttress our claim that Jesus life, death, and resurrection are historical facts. They can give confidence to believers whose faith may have been challenged by the skeptics within their own denomination, let alone outside the church.

    But they are not a Means of Grace. Those who take issue with Pastor Weber’s points have totally missed the point, I’m afraid, and frankly, it seems are picking at nits. We are not God’s lawyers, and nobody is going to be argued into heaven, apart from the propositions and witness of Holy Scripture and the resultant working of the Holy Spirit.

    As far as the arguments against “using one’s freedom” point is concerned, since when do we teach irresistable grace? Do we not teach that one can use one’s freedom to resist the Holy Spirit? That is hardly teaching decision theology. Or am I missing something?

    Johannes

  6. I thank Johannes and Bubba (in referencing Kory Maas) for the “shout-out” regaring the salutary use of the law, i.e., apologetics.

    While a student at CTSFW I took a fourth year elective class on apologetics from the sainted Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart. Marquart, a Lutheran, continually emphasized the use of apologetics as we enter the market place of ideas. There is a salutary use of the law i.e., “apologetics” to silence the false reasoning of the non-Christian in preparation for the proclamation of the Gospel. Many of us engage in apologetics when we discuss creation. We use reason to silence the false thinking of evolutionists and then we procalim the truth of Scripture.

    Last night I just finished reading, “Natural Science, Natural Rights and Natural Law: Abortion in Historical Perspective,” by Korey Maas in “Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal,” (CPH 2011), pp. 221-234. A large section of this book and the article written by Maas deals with apologetics, called in this context, Natural Law. Maas makes the interesting observation in our nation that while we as a nation are decling as a percentage of Christians those in favor of the pro-life position have increased as a percentage in our nation. This uptick in pro-life commitment is not due to the Gospel (since Chrisitians are declining as a percentage of our nation’s population) but due natural law, reasoned as apologetics.

    As wonderful as the pro-life position is, the only position that gives eternal pro-life is Holy Baptism. But when apologetics and natural law make for civic righteousness then the Gospel may better be proclaimed. St. Paul says as much when he references the “pax romana” the Roman peace in Gal 4:4.

    I hope this helps.

    Blessings,

    Pr. Karl Weber

  7. The overwhelming abundance of manuscript evidence for the New Testament is a very useful tool for dealing primarily with christians desiring to strengthen their faith. The evidence chart provided by Focus on the Family did not arise from their research; the source material is referenced by many other christian apologists as well (including J.W. Montgomery in “Tractatus Logico – Theologicus” and Craig Parton in “The Defense Never Rests”). Other apologetical authors, such as Dr. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek have employed this same evidence to bolster the reliability claims of the New Testament.

    The mere facts and figures associated with manuscript evidence will not generate faith; the usefulness of this information attests to the witness base of the New Testament writings as Rev. Mass’ article reports. If you approach this information from a fundamentalist paradigm, Geisler and Turek find this information most useful to “stop the mouths” of those who question the authenticity of the New Testament. Their approach is to “Zip the Lip” and give the ears a chance to work.

    Although I have not heard any apologetist claim this evidence can convert a non-believer, the first step toward a Gospel proclamation is to endeavor to get people to listen – to hear, for that is the power of the Gospel. Whether a Lutheran is confronted by non-believers or christians of excessively liberal theology, these facts stand for they do not arise from biblical interpretation; they originate outside of belief (or lack thereof). They are a matter of fact – not faith. If we can tear down the wall of unbelief seperating our fellowman from the Gospel, then we can let God be God and proclaim the Good News to those willing to hear.

    Pax,
    Dennis

  8. Karl,

    I have no problemn with the use of apologetics.

    My question was your use of the stats. As I particularized in my initial post, what is your point?

  9. Christians copied and disseminated thousands of manuscripts~ how does this prove anything? Do we have the originals? Do we have any dating back to the first century?
    And even if we did have the originals how exactly do they prove Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event? Could we please leave the phony evidence gathering to fundies and get back to what we Lutherans do best ~word and sacrament?

  10. @Johannes #6

    Hi Johanne,

    Nope, we do not confess “irresistable grace,” but we do confess the bondage of our wills and that we can’t come to Christ through our own reason. Indeed, our minds, prior to conversion, are in gear and driving down the road for the devil and sin. There is no neutral gear where we hear a presentation for Christ, and then we decide to put the transmission into gear for Jesus.

    What this means is that you can’t persuade me (if I am dead in sin) of the truth of the Gospel; that is wholly the work of the Holy Spirit through His Word. Indeed as Dennis rightly points out above, facts and figures concerning manuscript evidence do not generate faith. Does that mean we don’t do apologetics? Nope. It means we understand why we are doing apologetics and it isn’t because we are “Arminius light.” 🙂

  11. I think the best use of this evidence is in answer to the question of whether or not what is being taught now is in conformity with what the Church has always taught. Paul said, “we preach Christ and Him Crucified…” and Paul (and the rest of the apostles) took these things as historical facts. But faith is more than a mere knowledge of the historical facts, its properly understanding the significance of these facts. Faith begins with the question, “What does this mean?” (Luther’s version, not Voelz’)

    In any “eye-witness” situation, we have the ability to trust or distrust the eye-witness. Did Jesus die and rise again? That’s a matter of, do you believe those who witnessed the facts and relayed them to us or not. The problem is that over 2,000 years, testimony often gets muddied and turns into “he-said,” “she-said,” which nobody trusts.

    With manuscripts and other attestations (eg, the writings of the earliest church fathers which include fragments and paraphrases of what the Apostles taught) we can trace back quite a distance to be very near the actual events – when the testimony (1) was less prone to corruption by the influences that exert themselves over time (2) could be corroborated by other eye-witnesses and (3) was falsifiable by those who were also there to witness these events (or at least dig up the bones from the gravesite).

    These statistics and the research that generates them give us confidence that the testimony that reaches us is the testimony given by those who were there. Beyond that, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to generate faith in the significance of these events. It is faith in the “for you” that’s important. The devil certainly believes Jesus died and rose again from the dead, and shudders at the fact. But the devil does not (and cannot) believe that Jesus died for him.

    The Christian, on the other hand, can (and does) believe that these historical facts, attested to by the writings of the apostles and evangelists, have an impact on us here and now. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” NO! I wasn’t — but someone was, and what they said happened is that He suffered, died and was buried, and on the third day He rose again, then ascended into heaven – sent the Holy Spirit in a miraculous display (just as He promised) – and He promised to return to judge the living and the dead.

    “So?” So, if it is true that He died and rose then ascended – there’s some significance to that. It means something. Christianity, since its earliest days, has always taught that these historical facts (PRESUPPOSED as true by the biblical authors – and historically falsifiable but never falsified by those who were contemporary with them) mean (among many other things) that His sacrificial death was fully sufficient to forgive our sins. These things also mean that, to those who believe this, God gives the power to become the sons of God and inheritors of the promises given through Christ.

    Knowledge of the historical facts is insufficient (not irrelevant, merely insufficient) for saving faith. Believing the syllogism – “If these things are true then, Christ died to forgive MY sins,” is also insufficient. Faith is a knowledge of the historical facts, a belief in their significance, and a trust that BECAUSE the facts are objectively true, their significance for me is also true.

    What these statistics do provide, however, is assurance that what is currently believed, taught and confessed is what the Apostles believed, taught, and confessed. These statistics provide hope and assurance so that believers can take comfort in Christ’s promise, “Lo, I will be with you always,” because we have been taught to “KEEP/TREASURE everything I have AUTHORITATIVELY SPOKEN to you.” (not OBEY everything I have COMMANDED you).

    Such information is, in my opinion, most useful not with the unbeliever but with the NEW believer who, when the Holy Spirit has done His work through Law and Gospel, faith is newly kindled, is buffeted and battered by the skeptic that is the Old Adam along with the devil working through the unbelieving world to threaten to blow out the gospel light in the heart of the new believer because the new believer is prone to be tossed about by every wave of teaching and needs to be pointed to the place where stability can be found so they can be come thoroughly grounded in the truth. These statistics provide objective, outward evidence that what they are being taught to believe and confess is what has been handed down, reliably, from those who were first eye-witnesses of the events.

  12. @Jim Pierce #11

    In addition to my above post I would like to quote from the Solid Declaration regarding the human will prior to conversion:

    “6] In order to explain this controversy in a Christian manner, according to the guidance of God’s Word, and by His grace to decide it, our doctrine, faith, and confession are as follows:

    7] Namely, that in spiritual and divine things the intellect, heart, and will of the unregenerate man are utterly unable, by their own natural powers, to understand, believe, accept, think, will, begin, effect, do, work, or concur in working anything, but they are entirely dead to what is good, and corrupt, so that in man’s nature since the Fall, before regeneration, there is not the least spark of spiritual power remaining, nor present, by which, of himself, he can prepare himself for God’s grace, or accept the offered grace, nor be capable of it for and of himself, or apply or accommodate himself thereto, or by his own powers be able of himself, as of himself, to aid, do, work, or concur in working anything towards his conversion, either wholly, or half, or in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part; but that he is the servant [and slave] of sin, John 8:34, and a captive of the devil, by whom he is moved, Eph. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:26. Hence the natural free will according to its perverted disposition and nature is strong and active only with respect to what is displeasing and contrary to God.

    8] This declaration and principal [general] reply to the chief question and statement of the controversy presented in the introduction to this article is confirmed and substantiated by the following arguments from God’s Word, and although they are contrary to proud reason and philosophy, yet we know that the wisdom of this perverted world is only foolishness before God, and that articles of faith must be judged only from God’s Word.

    9] For, first, although man’s reason or natural intellect indeed has still a dim spark of the knowledge that there is a God, as also of the doctrine of the Law, Rom. 1:19ff, yet it is so ignorant, blind, and perverted that when even the most ingenious and learned men upon earth read or hear the Gospel of the Son of God and the promise of eternal salvation, they cannot from their own powers perceive, apprehend, understand, or believe and regard it as true, but the more diligence and earnestness they employ, wishing to comprehend these spiritual things with their reason, the less they understand or believe, and before they become enlightened and are taught by the Holy Ghost, they regard all this only as foolishness or fictions. 10] 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him. 1 Cor. 1:21: For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Eph. 4:17f.: They (that is, those not born again of God’s Spirit) walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. Matt. 13:11ff; Luke 8:18: Seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand; but it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Rom. 3:11. 12: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Accordingly, the Scriptures flatly call natural man in spiritual and divine things darkness, Eph. 5:8, Acts 26:18. John 1:5: The light shineth in darkness (that is, in the dark, blind world, which does not know or regard God), and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Likewise, the Scriptures teach that man in sins is not only weak and sick, but defunct and entirely dead, Eph. 2:1. 5; Col. 2:13.

    11] Now, just as a man who is physically dead cannot of his own powers prepare or adapt himself to obtain temporal life again, so the man who is spiritually dead in sins cannot of his own strength adapt or apply himself to the acquisition of spiritual and heavenly righteousness and life, unless he is delivered and quickened by the Son of God from the death of sin.

    12] Therefore the Scriptures deny to the intellect, heart, and will of the natural man all aptness, skill, capacity, and ability to think, to understand, to be able to do, to begin, to will, to undertake, to act, to work or to concur in working anything good and right in spiritual things as of himself. 2 Cor. 3:5: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. Rom. 3:12: They are together become unprofitable. John 8:37: My Word hath no place in you. John 1:5: The darkness comprehendeth (or receiveth) it not [the light]. 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not (or, as the Greek word properly signifies, grasps not, comprehends not, accepts not) the things of the Spirit, that is, he is not capable of spiritual things; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them. 13] Much less will he truly believe the Gospel, or assent thereto and regard it as truth. Rom. 8:7: The carnal mind, or the mind of the natural man, is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. And, in a word, it remains eternally true what the Son of God says, John 15; 5: Without Me ye can do nothing. And Paul, Phil. 2:13: It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. 14] To all godly Christians who feel and experience in their hearts a small spark or longing for divine grace and eternal salvation this precious passage is very comforting; for they know that God has kindled in their hearts this beginning of true godliness, and that He will further strengthen and help them in their great weakness to persevere in true faith unto the end. ” (Book of Concord On-Line, SD II, 6-14)

  13. While an unbeliever cannot be convinced of the Gospel by these factoids, they can be made to cease from one of their arguments against faith, namely, that the manuscript evidence is late and thin. The manuscript evidence is early and fat. They will have more reasons for unbelief, but at least this sort of information can cause them to abandon one reason, and in some cases even cause them to be a little gun shy of trying to spread their skepticism to others for fear of being exposed as themselves out of date, not evidence based, unscientific, and unhistorical. Apologetics, while not evangelistic, is estoppel, and that by itself has some value.

  14. @Jim Pierce #11

    I don’t see how anything Pr. Weber posted even remotely suggested decision theology, which is why I questioned your statements. Others have done a better job than I in defending apologetics. It’s obvious now that you and I are on the same page, so I rest my case.

    Johannes

  15. @Johannes #16

    Johannes,

    It is good we are on the same page. 🙂 However for the sake of clarity and others reading your remark, I did not state that Pr. Weber was evoking decision theology with what he wrote. What I pointed out is my own disagreement with his choice of words, such as “may use his freedom”, which do imply that there is some sort of neutral capacity of the will that is neither for nor against Christ and in our “freedom” we “choose” the devil. There is no such freedom of the will. Prior to regeneration we are born dead in sin, hell bent against God, and in a constant state of rebellion against him. There is no freedom to choose doing sin, since we are born slaves to sin. We are born captives of the devil and are moved by him until we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Luther refers to this in his Bondage of the Will as we are a beast upon which sits one of two riders. Either the devil is in the saddle driving us or God is in the saddle driving us. After the fall in Eden there is no neutral rider in the saddle (ourselves) from which we freely choose the devil or God.

    Are we still on the same page? 🙂

  16. @Jim Pierce #17

    Jim, with all due respect, I think you’re picking a nit. But that doesn’t mean we’re not on the same page. I rarely have cause to disagree with you, but on this one, I believe you read more into the article than was there. Now, I’m not calling you a “nit-wit”, just a bit of a nit-picker, and one of my favorite nit-pickers, at that. Let’s leave it there.

    Johannes (just imagine there’s a smiley face attached)

  17. Johannes :
    I believe you read more into the article than was there

    And I have hopefully pointed out that I haven’t done so which was the point of my clarifications. But as you say “Let’s leave it….”

    Jim (Dutifully picking nits.)

  18. Dr. Karl Weber wrote:

    “Now obviously a non-believer may use his freedom to still reject the New Testament evidence in favor of his preconceived prejudices. Clearly he has that freedom to do so, but at peril of his soul.”

    That is a doctrinally correct, Lutheran statement. To deny that man is free to reject the gift is to embrace irresistible grace and, by definition, renders what is being given a non-gift.

  19. @Jim Pierce #11
    I understand apologetics to be useful in clearing the path for the presentation of Law and Gospel. Faith is a gift and a miracle, the first resurrection but it is not given in a vacuum, it works with our reasoning in a manner we cannot comprehend anymore than we can the Trinity or The Incarnation, it is supra logical. Apologetics can serve to bolster the Christian and give attention to the value and reasonableness of God’s Word to the unbeliever. If our faith is of value it must also be TRUE. The objectivity of our faith, looking to Christ and not our own experiences lends itself to critical examination. There is much that is reasonable about our faith and much beyond our reason but we trust Him for that which we do not know because of what we do know about Him.

  20. @mames #21

    You’re preaching to the choir, Brother. I am definitely not against good apologetics. Anyone who reads my blog will attest to the fact that I have been known to engage in a bit of apologetics myself. Indeed, up above I wrote that information like that found in the OP can be used to “slap down” bad arguments by skeptics. I also indicated, such information does not generate faith in the unbeliever.

  21. @ Pr. Kirchner #20,

    Since I am the only one who took issue with the language in the OP over “freedom” I can’t help but think your comments are directed at me. So, I will go ahead and respond.

    I have been searching through the Book of Concord looking for any statements that state we have the “freedom” to reject the Gospel. Can you cite our confession where it uses such language?

    I may be wrong, and certainly desire to be corrected, but what I understand from our confessions, such as AC XVIII is that we have liberty in the choice of works below us, that is works under our control such as civil righteousness, but we do not have liberty (or freedom) with regard to those things above us, that is we are not free to stop resisting the Holy Spirit prior to our regeneration, but that prior to regeneration we always do resist the Holy Spirit. Luther describes what I am pointing at in the following from the BoW, “Let us briefly consider this, lest we should suffer anything most perniciously spoken, to pass by unnoticed. Here then, I observe, that if it proved that our salvation is apart from our own strength and counsel, and depends on the working of God alone (which I hope I shall clearly prove hereafter, in the counsel of this discussion), does it not evidently follow, that when God is not present with us to work in us, everything that we do is evil, and that we of necessity do those things which are of no avail unto salvation? For if it is not we ourselves, but God only, that works salvation in us, it must follow, whether or no, that we do nothing unto salvation before the working of God in us” (Bondage of the Will p. 56 Henry Cole translator).

    Luther goes on to tell us that by “necessity” he does not mean “compulsion.” He writes, “But, by necessity, I do not mean compulsion; but (as they term it) the necessity of immutability, not of compulsion; that is, a man void of the Spirit of God does not evil against his will as by violence, or as if he were taken by the neck and forced to do it, in the same way as a thief or cutthroat is dragged to punishment against his will; but he does it spontaneously, and with a desirous and craving power, leave off, restrain, or change; but it goes on still desiring and craving” (ibid.)

    So in what sense is this necessity to do evil, to resist the Holy Spirit, “freedom?”

    Luther goes on to write about our bondage of the will to evil… “In a word, if we be under the god of this world, without the operation and Spirit of God, we are led captives by him at his will, as Paul says (2 Tim. 2:26). So that, we cannot will anything but that which he wills. For he is that “strong man armed,” who so keeps his palace, that those whom he holds captive are kept in peace, that they might not cause any motion or feeling against him; otherwise, the kingdom of Satan, being divided against itself, could not stand; whereas, Christ affirms it does stand” (ibid. p. 57).

    It is noteworthy here that Luther writes about the unregenerate that they are “captives” by the devil (god of this will) and can’t “will anything but that which he wills.” What does that mean? Luther then goes on to write his now famous words, “Thus, the human will is, as it were, a beast between the two. If God sit thereon, it will and goes where God will; as the psalm says, ‘I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee’ (Ps. 73:22-23). If Satan sits thereon, it will and goes as Satan will. Not is it in the power of its own will to choose, to which rider it will run, nor which it will seek; but the riders themselves contend, which shall have and hold it” (ibid.) What does that mean? Obviously Luther has defined this necessity as not being coercion, but at the same time he is definitely stating we do not have the freedom to choose which “rider” will run us. If we had the “freedom” then why do we need Christ to overthrow the “strong man armed” and set us free through a gift of faith to receive His gifts? In what sense then can we say we have the “freedom” to resist the Holy Spirit? What could that mean? Yes, we are not coerced to resist, but yet we do so not out of choice, but of our own natures? Is that correct? It seems that is what Luther is claiming and that also seems to be what our confessions are saying, but again, I am open to correction and would like to read where at in our confessions is this talk of our “freedom to reject” the Gospel to the peril of our souls. As I understand it, prior to regeneration, we are in a constant state of hostility against the Gospel and that not only by our natures, but also in our minds. Hence we are in darkness, blind, and can do nothing other but reject the Holy Spirit. However, that is not the same thing as being at liberty, or free, to resist the gifts of God; such liberty implies that our will is not affected by our natures and that we could be at least indifferent towards the Gospel and not hostile. At least that is how I understand “freedom.” But, again, I am open to correction and would like to see what you have to offer from our confessions regarding the use of “freedom” when it comes to resisting the Holy Spirit.

  22. @Rev. Don Kirchner #20

    That is a doctrinally correct, Lutheran statement. To deny that man is free to reject the gift is to embrace irresistible grace

    I thought that Luther’s divine monergism, bondage of the will, and single predestination meant that the lost resist grace, resist it from their wills, and resist it from the bondage of their wills, not from any freedom because they lack the freedom of will. They do resist, which distinguished Luther from Calvin. They resist from their wills, which distinguishes Luther from Calvin. Grace is resistable, which distinguishes Luther from Calvin. But that does not add up to freedom of the will. They resist from their bound wills. Isn’t this the Lutheran doctrine?

  23. Sorry, I don’t have time. I’m heading to Lake of the Woods for fishing. I’ll be back Saturday night.

    I do know that the blessed Martin Luther had no problem using such language in the proper conteext.

    “Thus when Esau says: “I am about to die; of what use is the birthright to me?” he indicates that he is thinking only of his belly and that he is scorning the promise as worthless and unprofitable for the future life, precisely as the Epicureans say today: “Why is it necessary to hear the Gospel and to make use of the Keys or the Lord’s Supper?” But Jacob thinks differently and knows that these sacred things are preparations for the life to come. Therefore he esteems them highly and burns with desire for them. But those who want to make use of them for this life only are deprived of them justly and by divine authority, for in that case they have the freedom of the will knowingly and willingly to sell or reject them.” [AE 4, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 21-25: 405]

    So too, Dr. Weber is quite knowledgeable, so I have no problem with his expression. As to the horse analogy, as one commentator/pastor has stated, “One is free to fall off the horse.”

  24. I do know that the blessed Martin Luther had no problem using such language in the proper conteext.

    According to Gerhard Forde in his Captivation of the Will, “Luther insisted against all comers that free will is a mere title, and empty name, with no reality” (p.47). This is consistent with Luther’s argument against Erasmus, “Hence it follows that ‘free-will’ without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good” (BoW, translated by J.I. Packer p. 104).

    What Pr. Weber writes above is “Now obviously a non-believer may use his freedom to still reject the New Testament evidence in favor of his preconceived prejudices. Clearly he has that freedom to do so, but at peril of his soul” (emphasis mine).

    I take issue with such “freedom” because as I understand the Scriptures, our confession of faith, and Luther is that prior to regeneration our souls are already in peril. Prior to regeneration our wills our bound and gagged, “the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil” when it comes to salvation—when it comes to the “peril of his [our] soul[s].” Am I mistaken? Do we believe, teach, and confess that our wills are actually “free?” Given the context provided by Pr. Weber’s quote (i.e. the “peril” of our souls), what does “freedom” mean? How is that statement a “doctrinally correct” Lutheran assertion? I agree with you that given the proper context such language may be fine, but the context given above is concerning the “peril” of souls which I have taken to mean that we do have a will that is at liberty to reject the Gospel; implying that there is some neutral place in our will where we are at least indifferent towards the Gospel prior to regeneration. Is that not the implication of the statement? I look forward to your response when you get back and hope you enjoy your fishing trip.

    Here is an interesting quote from Forde’s Captivation of the Will:

    A will is not a neutral “thing” to be turned this way and that. Such an idea is, Luther maintains, a mere logical fancy. The idea that there is in us a middle term, willing as such, to which one could affix adjectives, comes from preoccupation with words rather than the thing in themselves (Packer, 115 [Bondage of the Will]). We are, indeed, willing being. But the point is that we are not free. A will is always willing and cannot stop. Indeed, God will not let us stop. And unless the Spirit of God enters into the matter, the will goes badly. Indeed, to attribute a “free” will to humans is not just a logical mistake, it is ultimately blasphemy (Packer, 105). For God is the only one who could be said to have a free will. It is a divine name. It does not exist among humans, for they are creatures. Luther always insisted that free will was a res de solo titulo, a mere title only which does not exist in what we like to call “the real world.” (emphasis mine p. 55)

  25. @Rev. M. Dent #28

    Moving along… I would like to offer an apology to all the readers and to Pr. Weber. I have re-read his comments over and over and believe that I was putting too much emphasis on the words “…freedom to do so, but at peril of his soul.” After going through the Solid Declaration article II paragraphs 50 – 56, but in particular paragraph 53, I see what Pr. Weber likely meant; which is that he was not talking about freedom with regard to things of the Spirit, but probably our “free will” to a “certain extent” which allows us to do things such as walk to church or not walk to church, or listen to a sermon or not listen to a sermon. Hence I can plug my ears to the apologist.

    I apologize if offense was taken by anyone regarding my words. I certainly do not intend offense, or disrespect, towards Pr. Weber or anyone else here for that matter.

    Now having said all that… if there is anything worth continuing to discuss here I am happy to oblige, since I am very interested in the topic of the Bondage of the Will.

  26. Jim,

    Your apology is graciously accepted. We are all in the process of learning.

    Blessings, my friend,

    Pr. Weber

  27. I’m another confessional Lutheran in favor of apologetics. There is so much garbage in circulation that promotes the message that the Bible cannot be trusted that we need to let our members all understand that Christians have very good responses to all the charges. They all need to know that the responses are available and that they are solid, so that, even if they don’t remember the answer to any particular charge, they can have an idea of where to go to get the good responses that we have.
    Regarding the statistical table that is included in Pastor Weber’s fine article, I think some of the information in the first column is conflated from another table. It is fine to say that Homer was writing at a time that was 500 years after the Trojan War. However, Julius Caesar did not write The Gallic Wars 1000 years after the Gallic Wars. Instead, what the 1000 years refers to is that the oldest known physical manuscript of that book dates from a time that is 1000 years after Caesar wrote it. So, two different aspects of the timing of the manuscripts are being discussed. (I have not gone to Focus on the Family to look for the original.)
    (Regarding Homer, since the archaeologists have found that there was a previous Trojan War about 400 years before the more well-known one, it seems likely that some of the original material that Homer used was a conflation of tales from the two different wars, and so Homer was possibly removed in time from some of his source material by 900 years rather than 500 years.)

  28. I enjoyed this piece by Mr Weber the same as I enjoy an article supporting Christianity in the Christian Archeology magazine. It’s just plain interesting and people that read it take it in that vein. The historicity of the article has the same effect of reading National Geographic. It fleshes out the historical and cultural perspective to the reader. A learning experience and not a means of grace.

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