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.


I Could Be Wrong (But I Don’t Think I Am)

[bonus points if you recognize the artist from which I stole the title]

“No man ought to write at all, or even to speak at all, unless he thinks that he is in truth and the other man in error.” [and] “But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.” — G.K. Chesterton

The bulk of irrational haters who disagree with me tend to say things like “How can you be so arrogant as to think that you’re right and everyone else is wrong?”  The simple answer is: it seems natural to me to argue in favor of things I think are correct, and against things I think are wrong.  I don’t claim to speak for anyone else, but I would feel sort of stupid arguing in favor of things I thought were wrong.

Those who have drunk deeply from the wells of certain strands of post-modernism, however, seem to think it is an intellectual virtue never to come to any firm conclusions (except, of course, that those with firm conclusions can’t possibly be right).  They then attack the “arrogance” of those who, crazily!, argue on behalf of what they have come to believe is correct.

Another favorite technique of the haters is to claim that, while they are still on their “journeys,” embracing “doubt,” those who hold passionately to their convictions must have been indoctrinated from birth with those convictions, rather than come by them honestly.  It seems incredible to them that people might actually have thought about something enough to form a reasoned opinion on any given subject, especially religion.   Then, instead of arguing the point at hand, they resort to name-calling and purely ad hominem attacks, along with four-letter words such as “Pharisee,” “self-righteous,” “hypocritical,” “judgmental.”  It’s as if no one learns critical thinking anymore; the proof is in how few people can manage to get out a coherent sentence, complete with correctly spelled words and proper grammar, without falling back on smoke and mirrors.

The point is this: get over your sensitivity to people with whom you disagree and actually contribute to the argument.  Don’t try to figure out someone’s motivation, unless they explicitly state it, and simply respond calmly and intelligently.  Also, you might question, prior to hitting ‘submit,’ whether you’re reading something into a comment that is not there.  Really, it’s not that hard.


On Venting and Speaking Polemically

Okay, okay.  So people don’t like what I say or the way I say it.  Specifically, with regard to David Bazan.  (How many times do I have to say that I like his music, have nearly everything he’s put out, and have not stopped listening to him since he said the word ‘fuck’?)  I rarely have comments on anything; but dare to say something negative about someone’s idol, and watch the comments roll in.

I write things as strongly as I feel I can.  That’s a problem sometimes.  But it means that when people read what I write, they think they’ve got me figured out.  For what it’s worth, I’m not a Fundamentalist; I’m not a legalist; I’m not a Pharisee (most of the time); and I’m not part of the Christian, commercialistic ghetto (really, Stephy, I think this blog is funny.  Do those shirts that change secular slogans to Christian clichés bother anyone else?).

I can be brought to my knees by the slicing accusation of the Law, and perhaps that was necessary with some of the things I said about Bazan, or at least the way they were perceived.  I was really only trying to say two things: no one can be objective (ever) and parents have a God-given responsibility to their children.  That’s it.  If I obscured my points with polemic, I apologize.  If I misread Bazan, I apologize.  It was a printed interview, and as blogs and e-mails prove, these mediums cannot be used without misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

I started blogging because things pissed me off.  And my wife didn’t want to hear it.  So here it is, for anyone to read.  But I try to justify my polemic with reason and argument (that word has a positive connotation for me).  That’s where the discussion should be, not on who can think of the most creative (or uncreative) names to call someone.

So, for what it’s worth, maybe don’t assume you know someone from a few words on a computer screen; and I’ll try to do the same.


Unnecessary Punctuation “Marks”

If bad punctuation leading to misunderstanding has ever annoyed you or made you angry, go here. Reminds me of the first book to make me laugh out loud in a long time: Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves. (You’ll never look at punctuation in the same way.)  [If such things make you laugh, see this.]

The other day I was putting liquid gold–I mean, gasoline–in my truck and I noticed one of the warnings on the pump: “Do not overfill, tank.” If my name’s not “tank,” does that mean I can? Do they have a lot of tanks filling themselves up in Crookston, MN? What is with the urge to put random punctuation in strange places?