Thursday, May 12, 2016

 MY MUSLIM FAITH? [My Muslim faith?]

 .Obama Muslim?
.John Wycliffe
.John Huss
.Price of oil
.Debt crisis- solved?
.Fulton Sheen
.Did Muslims celebrate 911?
.Church history
. Aquinas, Anselm
.Ontological argument
.Is God Just?

PAST POSTS [verses below]-
. -[1462] ANSELM- Over the next few months I will do some brief overviews on important historical figures from church history. They will be under a separate section after the same name. Anselm was born in Italy in the year 1033, he eventually became a very influential church teacher and is famous for a few things; he came up with an argument for the existence of God called ‘the Ontological argument’ ontology is a word that means the nature of being. His idea went like this ‘Because there is no other greater conceivable being than God, that means God must exist’ in so many words he said because humans have this conscious belief in God as the greatest being, that therefore he must be that being. I’ll admit when I first read this argument I had some difficulties with it, I think you can find problems with it. But he nevertheless introduced it and it has become one of the classical apologetic arguments for God’s existence. The second major teaching that Anselm gave us was the teaching on the Atonement; Anselm taught that Jesus died to ransom man back to God, the penalty of death was a penalty paid to God. You say ‘what’s so new about that’? Many other church teachers taught that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil, that at the fall of man satan gained dominion over man and that Jesus death purchased us back from satan. Though there is some truth to man being under the dominion of satan after the fall, yet Anselm was ‘more right’ in the way he approached it. As a matter of fact His teaching eventually became the norm for the church. Anselm introduced Reason into the argument for the existence of God. Many teachers used scripture and appealed to the church fathers to prove the reality of God, Anselm was one of the first to lean heavily on logic when arguing for Gods existence. He is considered one of the greats of church history and we still benefit from the influence of Anselm to this day.

[1469] AQUINAS, THOMAS- Thomas is considered to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. Born in Naples around 1225, he studied in Cologne under the Dominican order. During Thomas lifetime there was a rediscovery of the ancient writings of the philosopher Aristotle. Thomas would write commentaries on the philosophy of Aristotle and he would attempt to introduce reason into the arguments to prove the existence of God. He was a follower of that form of Christian teaching called ‘scholasticism’ this method used reason and logical debate to arrive at truth. Other scholars would reject this method [Bonaventure] they felt that using these rationale methods was a contradiction to faith. Thomas would become famous for his ‘five ways’ also referred to as Natural Theology. Thomas taught that there were 5 basic ways man could examine the natural created order and come to a rational belief in the existence of God; Thomas taught that the first cause of all things had to be God, you logically needed a first ‘causer’ to start the ball rolling [prime mover]. John Duns Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas and he disagreed with the scholastic method. Scotus would become famous among the Franciscans; Aquinas would be famous among the Dominicans. Today many Catholic scholars pride themselves in being ‘Thomistic’ in their thought. Thomas also spoke much about ‘just war’ theory, originally introduced by Augustine. He taught that the means of war had to be just in order for the war itself to be ‘justified’; in today’s wars [Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan] I believe the use of unmanned drone attacks that kill civilians can be considered an unjust method. Thomas’ great works are Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae, Thomas is called the ‘angelic doctor’ of the Catholic faith.

Okay- let’s start a brief overview of some church history. Over the next few weeks I want to hit on the 16th century Protestant reformation and try and cover some of the key figures of the movement.

Martin Luther- the German reformer who had the most influence in the movement was born and raised in Germany.

As a boy his parents were peasant farmers and eventually his dad became a miner and became a very successful businessman- he would go on and eventually own 6 foundries.

He sent his son to law school- and young Luther excelled. At the age of 21 he accomplished more than many of his peers. One day on his way home from the university a thunderstorm broke out and Luther was almost struck by a bolt of lightning.

In fear he cried out to Saint Ann [the mother of Mary] and said ‘Saint Ann- if you save me I will become a monk’ [Ann was the patron Saint for miners- thus Luther was familiar with her].

He was spared and off to the monastery he went. Luther eventually became an ordained priest and even though his dad initially was upset that his son became a priest- yet he was proud of his boy later on.

Luther would eventually make a Pilgrimage to Rome- on foot [a few month walk from Germany to Rome!] and what he saw devastated him. Rome- and the Vatican- were in bad shape. Many of the priests lived in open sin- and the city that he saw as his headquarters for the faith- well it was a mess.

Luther made the famous penitent walk/crawl up the stairs of the Lateran church [this church was the most famous church before the construction of St. Peters. The actual stairs of the church are the same stairs that Christ walked up during his trial under Pontius Pilate. Yes- you hear many ‘stories’ while studying church history- things like the relics or left over pieces of the Cross- well these stories are usually fake. But the stairs of the Lateran church are indeed the same stairs that Christ walked on- the early ‘church’ builders dismantled the stairs at Pilate’s court in Jerusalem and installed them at this church building in Rome].

When Luther got to the top of the stairs- it is reported that he questioned the faith- he had a crisis of faith and thought that maybe the whole thing was a sham.

Okay- as we do a few more posts over the coming weeks- I want you guys to see that the main players of the Reformation were sincere Catholic men who had many questions about what they saw as corrupt in their own church. These men did not want to start a breakaway church- they simply wanted to reform the church they loved.

Keep in mind that Luther excelled during his legal studies- he had a keen legal mind- this will be important later on when we see the debates he has with Rome over the doctrine of Justification by faith- the letters of the apostle Paul [Romans- Galatians] use lots of legal language- and his early education will help him in these debates.

Okay- that’s it for today. Maybe do a Google search on Luther and familiarize yourself a little with the history.

The ‘readings’ for this week are 2nd Samuel 6-7 and Psalms 89. See what they have in common.


Let’s start with some church history. In the last post I covered the early years of Martin Luther- probably the most significant figure of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther studied for the priesthood in Erfurt, Germany. He would eventually wind up in Wittenberg- one of the major university cities of the Reformation. Wittenberg was actually a small insignificant town- but the political leader over the region- Frederick the Wise- sought to put it on the map.

He wanted to turn Wittenberg into a German ‘Rome’. He wanted it to become a major Pilgrimage city where Christians would see Wittenberg as a destination- just like they saw Rome.

So Frederick embarked on this plan and he searched thru all the Catholic learning centers of the time and finally recruited 3 top scholars to teach out of the university at Wittenberg- Luther was one of the 3.

Just as a side note- Frederick would succeed at making Wittenberg a major catholic center. He would eventually obtain over 19,000 Relics for the Cathedral church there [Relics were used in the ancient system of buying indulgences and making special pilgrimage trips to important Churches. If the church/city that your making the Pilgrimage to has a lot of Relics- bones or other famous material objects from church history- then the value of the Pilgrimage was high. In theory Frederick collected so many that if you added up all the ‘time off’ from Purgatory- you would get 1 million, 900 thousand years off! Some of the famous relics at Wittenberg were a hair from the beard of Jesus- straw from the manger Jesus was born in- and even a branch from the famous burning bush of Moses! As you can see- there was a lot of commercializing going on- even back then].

When Luther arrived in Wittenberg- he made a name for himself as a top scholar. Many protestants- who revere Luther- usually are not aware that he was a master Linguist [sort of like Rick Perry!]

Yes Luther mastered language- and he showed it in his teaching on the book of Psalms.

In 1515 he began his famous study on the book of Romans and as he went thru the very first chapter- something shook him. He came across the passage that says the Just shall live by faith. This verse first appears in the O.T. book of Habakkuk- and is quoted 3 more times in the N.T.

Luther was very aware of the concept of the righteousness of God- he struggled for many years trying to reconcile his own sinful nature with Gods holiness- but he never really ‘saw’ the biblical concept of righteousness as a free gift that God ‘imputes’ to the sinner.

Yes- for the 1st time in Luther’s life- after his years training for the priesthood- the pilgrimage he made to Rome- the thousands of hours he spent confessing his sins while a monk in Erfurt- he never really understood that the righteousness of God was a free gift given to those who have faith.

It was a giant weight lifted from his shoulders- Luther did not need to try any more to live up to the standards of God- in  a way that would earn for him forgiveness- but he would simply believe- and the righteousness of God would be counted to him as a gift.

Luther would go on to call this an Alien Righteousness- that is it is not found within the person who tries to do all the church works he can- or buying all the indulgences- or any other of the many religious actions he was practicing- but this free gift of being right with God- it came to those who had faith- the Just shall live by Faith- this was indeed good news for the scholar.

As time went on- Germany would get embroiled in the political machinations of the day- Luther’s top political cover was Frederick the Wise- hardly a Protestant Reformer! He spent lots of time trying to make Wittenberg the major Catholic center in Germany.

But at the time there was a political fight raging between Rome and some of the other nation/states. There was a figure head office called the Holy Roman Emperor. This office was really in name only- but it rose up during the first Millennium of Christian history and sought to replace the influence that Rome was losing.

So you had France, Spain and England all vying for the title. Eventually it would go to King Charles of Spain- but the Pope- who played a major role in nominating the person- he did not want any of these top 3 to get the position. Henry the Eighth was the king of England at the time- and these ‘3 kings’ were sort of in competition with Rome- so the Pope tried to get Fredrick the Wise to throw his hat into the ring.

Frederick just happened to be one of the Electors of this position.

His actual title was The Elector of Saxony.

So Fredrick had lots of influence- and as Rome would eventually but heads with the stubborn bull of Wittenberg [Luther] Frederick would become the major protector of Luther.

Okay- I think we’ll stop here for today. The experience that Luther had- the enlightenment that came to him while teaching the book of Romans- this is often called The Tower experience of Luther- it took place in the year 1515.


Let’s pick up where we left off 2 posts back. We were talking about Martin Luther and the events that led up to the Protestant Reformation.

In order to understand the key act that caused the protest- we will have to teach some Catholic history/doctrine.

In the 16th century Pope Julius began the effort to build St. Peters basilica in Rome. He got as far as laying the foundation and died. Pope Leo the 10th would pick up after him.

The church needed to raise money for the project- and the German prince- Albert- would play a major role.

It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant scholars agree that the Popes of the day were pretty corrupt. They came from what we call the Medici line of Popes.

If you remember last month I wrote a post on the Renaissance- I talked about the Medici family and how they played a major role in supporting the Renaissance that took place in the 13th century in Florence Italy that would spread to the region.

Well this very influential family also played a big role in who would get top positions in the church.

At the time of Luther and prince Albert- if you had the right connections and the money- you could literally buy a position in the church.

Albert already held 2 Bishop seats- and there was an opening for an Archbishops seat in Mainz [Germany] and he wanted that one too.

It should be noted that official Canon law [church law] said you could only hold one seat at a time- Albert was bidding on his 3rd one! And he was too young for all of them.

So even the Pope and the officials held little respect for what the church actually taught at the time.

So Albert opens up negotiations with Leo- and the bidding starts AT 12,000 Duckets [money] Albert counters with 7,000- and they agree on 10,000. How did they justify the numbers? 12- The number of Apostles. 7- The 7 deadly sins. 10- The 10 commandments.

Yes- the church was pretty corrupt at the time.

So Albert works out a plan with Leo- he will borrow the money from the German banks- and pay the banks off by the Pope giving Albert the right to sell Indulgences.

What’s an Indulgence?

Okay- this is where it gets tricky.

The ancient church taught a system called The Treasury of Merit. This was a sort of spiritual bank account that ‘stored up’ the good deeds of others over the years.

You had the good deeds of Jesus at the top- but you also had Mary and Joseph- the 12 Apostles- and other various saints thru out time.

The way the ‘bank’ worked was you could tap into the account by getting a Papal indulgence- a sort of I.O.U. that had the Popes guarantee that it would get so much time out of Purgatory for a loved one.

The actual sacrament that accesses the account is called Penance [confession].

When a penitent does penance- he confesses his sin to the priest- and he is absolved by the authority of the church that the priest has. The priest usually tells the person ‘say so many Hail Mary’s- Our Father’s’ and that’s a form of penance.

One of the other things the church practiced was called Alms Deeds. This term is found in the bible and it means giving your money to the poor- it is a noble act that Jesus himself taught.

In theory- part of the sacrament of penance was tied into Alms Deeds- you can access the account thru the practice of giving to the poor- which also meant giving to the church that helps the poor- and in the hands of the Medici line of Popes- meant outright giving money to the Pope.

So now you see how the abuse worked its way into the pockets of the faithful.

Albert now had the permission from Leo to sell these indulgences in Germany- and he would pick a certain corrupt priest to sell them in a place called Saxony- the region where Luther operated out of.

It should be noted that the Catholic Church never taught the crass act of ‘buying your way out of Purgatory’. The practice of including giving money as a part of the sacrament of penance was tied into the biblical principle of giving to the poor- a good thing.

But Tetzel and others abused the official meaning of the indulgence- and did make it sound like you could by your way out of Purgatory [in theory- a loved one might be in Purgatory for so many years- and through the indulgence you are actually getting time off for them- because the good deeds of others are now applied to the account].

The money Albert would raise- half would go to Rome for the building of St. peters- and half would go to pay off the banks in Germany- it was a sad system- and a sad time for the church as a whole.

It would be wrong to judge the entire church at the time as being corrupt- you did have many sincere Priests and Catholic men and women who saw the abuses and did not take part in them.

But there was corruption at the top- and this would eventually lead to the breakup of the church- and the launching of what we now call the Protestant Movement.

As a side note- it should be said that many Catholics and Protestants are not aware of the whole treasury of merit system- and the church never officially changed her position on the doctrine.

There were 3 Church councils since the time [Trent- 1500’s, Vatican 1- 1800’s and Vatican 2- 1962-65]. The Treasury of Merit never came up for change.

Obviously Protestants don’t believe in Purgatory- and it’s not my purpose in these posts to change Catholics into Protestants or vice versa- but to give all sides a clear view of the issues that divided us- and to try and be honest- and respectful during the process.

Does the bible teach anything like a Treasury of Merit? Well actually it does. The bible teaches that the righteousness of Christ is the treasury that people can access- by faith- and become righteous in the sight if God.

The idea- applied to Christ- is good.

But in the hands of the Medici Popes- and the ambitious prince of Germany- it would lead to disaster.

Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John


Let’s do another post on the Protestant Reformation. I’ll probably only do a few more before I transition into another study.

By the way- all the studies I do thru out the year are posted in the February posts of the following year.

Okay- last we left off Luther was just beginning to butt heads with the church [Tetzel] over the abuse of the sale of indulgences that was going on in Germany.

In a previous post I mentioned how the priest- Tetzel- was selling these ‘get out of Purgatory’ type coupons in the area where Luther operated out- Saxony.

Actually- Tetzel never entered Saxony itself- but was selling these out of a bordering city- and many of Luther’s students/parishioners were being hoodwinked into spending their money to rescue a loved one out of Purgatory.

Tetzel is known for a jingle he started in connection with the sale of the indulgence- it goes ‘as soon as a coin in the coffer rings- a soul in Purgatory springs’- ouch!

Like I said before- the church never taught this- they did teach the Treasury of Merit [previous post] but the way Tetzel used it was a real abuse of the teaching of the church at the time.

Now- Luther responds to the abuse by writing the famous 95 thesis. This is the act that is often associated with the launching of the Reformation- the act that got the ball rolling.

The 95 thesis were simply 95 questions challenging the whole practice of the sale of indulgences- there was no mention of the doctrine of Justification by Faith- which will become the trumpet sound that springs out of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther takes these questions- written in Latin- and nails them to the university church door at Wittenberg. Sometimes while reading church history this ‘nailing to the door’ is seen as a sort of vandalism - you know- ‘he nailed them to the door!’

In actuality Luther was simply using the system of the day that one scholar would use in order to bring up an official point of contention with the church- Luther wrote the Thesis in Latin- which was the scholars language- not the language of the common man.

But Luther’s students quickly translated the Thesis into the vernacular [German] and it was said that in 2 weeks the paper made it into every village of Germany.

The challenge was a spark in the lives of many Christians who also believed the church was off track and that someone needed to rebuke her- and they picked Luther as the man for the job.

Now- the Catholic church wanted Luther to go to Rome and discuss the situation there- Luther’s friends warned him not to go- so they agreed to meet- a few times- in Germany.

The first meeting was in 1518 at Heidelberg- Luther actually gave a great defense of his argument and convinced some other top Catholic scholars that he was right [as a side note- the church had already scheduled this meeting because of a controversy that rose up between the Augustinian order of monks and the Dominicans. They were debating over which philosophy was more consistent with church teaching- Nominalism or Realism- for those of you who have read the posts this past year- I taught this when doing our posts on philosophy].

One man- Martin Bucer- wrote a stirring account of Luther- Bucer would later influence another young Swiss priest with  Reformation teachings- his name is John Calvin.

As a side not Calvin will become one of the 3 big heavy hitters of the 16th century Reformation [Ulrich Zwingli is the 3rd].

Luther will meet again in Augsburg- and debate the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Cardinal Cajetan.

Then he goes to the city of Leipzig- and debates the leading German scholar- Johann Eck.

And his last meeting with the church will be at the famous Diet of Worms [pronounced- Vurmtz] and it will be here that Luther makes his last stand and officially will break with the church and launch the Protestant Reformation.

It should be noted that Luther held what we call a High Church position for most of this time- he still saw the church at Rome- and the Pope- as a legitimate expression of true Christianity- his beef was what he saw as an abuse of the system- by the priest Tetzel.

As time progressed- the other beliefs of Luther- founded upon the bible- did come into contention with Rome.

The main disagreement eventually became the teaching in the bible called Justification by faith. I have written a study on the topic on the blog- I have also written a bible study on the book of Romans and Galatians.

For those of you who can- try and read Romans chapters 2-4 and Galatians 2-3- these are the key chapters that cover the teaching.

Down the road I will cover the official teaching of both the Protestants and the Catholics on the doctrine of justification- the Catholic Council of Trent- referred to as the Counter Reformation- spells out the official teaching of Rome- and there are a few papers put out by the Reformers that explain their belief.

Since the 16th century Reformation there have been efforts made by Protestants and Catholics to bridge the gap as much as possible- to try to come to some common language since the historic split.

I like some of the efforts that have been made- and recently both groups put out a statement that jointly said we all believe that we are saved by Gods grace thru Christ- that’s good.

But as we get into some of the actual discussion- you will see the points at which the 2 sides disagreed- and the main one was on the act- the actual thing that happens- when a person is declared just- the Reformers said it takes place when a person has faith- believes- the Catholic church said it takes place at baptism- water baptism.

This- as well as a few other things- will be a defining distinction between the 2.

Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John


Let’s do a little review today. I know the history posts go a little long sometimes- and many Christians do not see the value in studying church history.

But I have found over the years that a lot of independent type churches- good men- good people- but cut off from the broader church- well these churches have a tendency to get off in a rut- a particular doctrine or style of teaching- and after a while it becomes impossible to get these good church folk back on the balanced course.

A few examples. Many years ago- as a young Pastor- I had lots of good Pastor friends who too were doing their best to do what they felt God wanted.
[part 2]

At the time- I began having difficulty with many of the most popular interpretations of the bible that these good men were using.

After a while I realized that some of the stuff was so off course- that if they didn’t make some major course corrections at the time- that they were going  to end up spending their entire Pastorate teaching stuff that is out right false.

I have talked a lot about this over the years- and the examples are too numerous to cover them all- but a good example is the ‘Camel going thru the eye of a Needle’ verse.

One time Jesus and his men were going thru town and a young  rich guy asks Jesus what he must do to be saved.

A pretty straight forward question- right to the point.

Jesus tells the guy to keep the law- the guy asks which ones.

Ah- now you’re digging yourself in brother.

So Jesus says to love God and his neighbor- these are the top ones.

He asks ‘and who is my neighbor’?

Jesus goes on and gives an explanation- and he also tells the guy to go and sell all he has and give it to the poor- and follow him.

The guy goes away sad  because he was rich.

Then Jesus says ‘it’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a Camel to go thru the Eye of a Needle’.


The disciples [I think Peter?] say ‘then who can be saved’?

Jesus says with men it is impossible- but not with God- with God all things are possible.

[just a quick side note- I haven’t read all these stories in a while- trust me- they are all in the bible- but I might have mixed a few together- but the main point stays the same]

Okay- in context- what could Jesus be saying about the camel and the needle?

It sure seems like he’s using a figure of speech  that would mean ‘look- the guy is too attached to his money to fully give himself over to being a follower of me- maybe down the road he will change- but he’s not ready yet’.

Seems reasonable to me- don’t you think?

But wait- in the group of pastors/teachers that were popular at the time- one of the main teachings was how to get rich- and they saw financial increase as the main thing- I mean that’s what they focused on  all the time.

(1427) THE LORD GAVE THE WORD; GREAT WAS THE COMPANY OF THOSE THAT PUBLISHED IT- Psalms 68:11  In the 14th century you had the Oxford scholar, John Wycliffe, challenge the church and publish an English bible that would be understood by the common man. His view of the true church was that all those who believed in Christ comprised the mystical Body of Christ thru out the ages; he held to the same view that many believers would later embrace. His works would eventually influence John Huss, the great Bohemian priest, and Huss too would preach a doctrine of the universal church which transcended institutional boundaries. In the 16th century William Tyndale would take up the charge to get the bible into the hands of the common man; he longed for the day that the simple plowman would know the scriptures as well as the trained clergy; Tyndale would die for the faith [as Huss] but would pray/prophesy that God would touch the heart of the king of England and make his word known. Henry the 8th would eventually place an English bible into every church building thru out his realm. The history of God getting his word into the hands of the common man is great, many divine interventions [or inventions!] came along just at the right time to aid in the efforts. Guttenberg would invent the printing press in the 15th century and Luther’s reformation would take off as his books and tracts would get published by the boat loads [as well as many other great teachers’ stuff- like Erasmus Greek New Testament bible]. The institutional church would resist the free flow of these writings, they feared that the people might teach wrong doctrine, or that the masses might interpret the bible in a wrong way. Were these fears groundless? Not really. Many did mess up in their reading of the bible, and others would start their own sects based on faulty interpretations. But for the most part God was in the business of getting his word out to as many people as possible. I have found over the years that believers have a sort of blind spot when it comes to the ‘sacred’ modes of transmitting the bible. For instance many well meaning men believe that the process of meeting in a building on Sunday, and the bible being preached to as many as you can get to come to the meeting; many feel that this expression [being only one of many] is the actual God ordained way of getting the bible taught to the people. Many who hold to this singular idea, to the point where they feel the doing of this is actually called ‘the local church’ will look down upon other means of getting the word out. The explosion of the internet has truly been the printing press of modern times. Many average believers now have the ability to reach the world from their computers; are their dangers with this process? Sure. Will some teach wrong stuff? As Sarah Palin would say ‘you betcha’. But all in all people should embrace the reality that we live in a day where once again the average saint has the ability to get the word out to the masses with little, or no cost. I don’t want people to get me wrong, going to ‘church’ to hear the sermon is fine [most of the times!] but the bible does not teach the concept that the meeting of believers in buildings on Sunday is actually called ‘the local church’. For sure this is an expression of ‘local church’ it is a way that many believers have come to practice their faith; but it would be wrong to exalt this view of church to the point where we hinder others who are getting the word out in many different ways. In the New Testament, the ‘local churches’ referred to communities of believers who lived in your city/region- the term does not refer exclusively to meeting in a lecture hall environment to hear a lecture! Psalms says God gave the word and great was the company of those that published it; lets rejoice in the fact that we live in a time where a great company of people can ‘publish it’.

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