Feathers and All

Of Andreas von Karlstadt, Luther said, “Dr. Karlstadt and his spirits replace the lowest with the highest, the best with the least, the first with the last.  Yet he would be considered the greatest spirit of all, he who has devoured the Holy Spirit feathers and all” (LW [AE] 40:83).  He wrote that against Karlstadt in the same sense that Christ said of the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24, ESV).

Every time humans get hold of the Law, they elevate what their own reason and experience tells them ought to be foremost, while ignoring the significance of God’s revealed Word (first Christ, then the Scriptures which testify to Him).  Soon enough, human reason and experience are lifted to the highest place, so that God’s own words are made of secondary or of no importance at all.  This is, first of all, a failure to distinguish Law and Gospel: to make all things a matter of distinguishing between various laws, rather than between Law and Gospel.  So which law is more important?  Which law should I keep to get further in my progress toward God?  Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees that they have not even discerned the most important laws, let alone the Gospel.  Similarly, Karlstadt thought that breaking down images and cathedrals was most important, mistaking such iconoclasm for the Gospel.

But this sort of enthusiasm (“God-inside-ism”) has been around from the time that Eve heard “Did God really say?” instead of “Thus says Yahweh.”  “In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world–fed and spread among them as poison by the old dragon” (Smalcald Articles, III:8, 9 [Kolb/Wengert Ed.]).

In this “spirit,” Tony Jones writes (“‘Women in Ministry’ — I’m Over It”),

The fact is, as I preached in that sermon, God ordains, not man. The process of ordination is simply a human recognition of a divinely given charism. If God has ordained a woman to ministry and you deny or reject that ordination, woe betide you! For Jesus taught unequivocally that to blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin.

Let me interpret that verse for you: If the Holy Spirit has given the charism of preaching or teaching or pastoral care to a woman, and you deny the authority of that charism because of some head-in-your-ass biblical hermeneutic, you are committing an unforgivable sin.

Let me interpret it more pithily: The work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation.

Chew on that, Complementarians.

Not only does Jones know better than the Scriptures (or, at least, the “head-in-your-ass biblical hermeneutic” of 1800 years of Christianity; this is what we call “generational arrogance”), he knows exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing.  And they always do.  Know what the Holy Spirit is up to, that is.  And how can you argue with the Holy Spirit?  After all, “The work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation.”  But what if the work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation, or lack thereof, Tony?  Now, suddenly, we have a seeming stalemate of competing Holy Spirits.  Will the real Holy Spirit please stand up?  Because, if He does not, I am stumped at how to resolve this question.  If Moses and St. Paul do not sufficiently answer the question of who should be a pastor of God’s flock, how in the world does Tony Jones expect to pronounce authoritatively on the subject?  How are we to know if God is ordaining, or a mere man?  (Maybe mere men have ordained women, instead of God?)  How do we know if God “has ordained a woman to ministry,” so that we are sure not to deny or reject it and so commit Jones’ “unpardonable,” “unforgivable sin”?  (By Jones’ standard, there are a hell of a lot of people in Hell, since they never approved of the ordination of women to the preaching Office, and so are unforgiven.  Of course, I have no idea of Jones believes in Hell, so maybe all those unforgiven sinners are caught in some eternal limbo.)

It appears to be incomprehensible to some people that the Holy Spirit might actually have had something to do with the writing down of the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, and that the Spirit doesn’t want to go beyond what He’s written, so that we can be sure what is and what is not His work.  Because, frankly, if the Spirit is free to say anything Tony Jones thinks He should say, then Jones is worse than the papacy ever was.  (Personally, I’d take the Pope over Jones).  Speaking of the papacy, the Smalcald Articles again:

The papacy is also purely religious raving in that the pope boasts that ‘all laws are in the shrine of his heart’ and that what he decides and commands in his churches is supposed to be the Spirit and law–even when it is above or contrary to the Scriptures or the spoken Word. …

In the same way [as the devil tempted Adam and Eve], our enthusiasts also condemn the external Word, and yet they themselves do not keep silent.  Instead they fill the world with their chattering and scribbling–as if the Spirit could not come through the Scriptures or the spoken word of the apostles, but the Spirit must come through their own writings and words.  Why do they not abstain from their preaching and writing until the Spirit comes into the people apart from and in advance of their writings?  After all, they boast the Spirit has come into them without the preaching of the Scriptures. …

Therefore we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external Word and sacrament.  Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a Word and sacrament is of the devil. (SA III:8, 4-6, 10 [K/W Ed.])

Chew on that Tony Jones.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s