Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What is more important? True beliefs about God or doing good actions?

What does the Bible teach about the relative importance of actions and beliefs? Which should we settle first?

J.Warner Wallace explains:

I just came home from a week in the great state of Utah. Our missions team of high school students had the opportunity to talk with many LDS and Christian believers about the nature of salvation. Many of our conversations centered on the relationship between faith and works. Christianity is unique in its characterization of salvation as the free gift of God:

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

This concept of grace is missing in Mormonism (as it has been classically described by LDS prophets and Mormon scripture). In fact, many of the Mormon believers we talked with described Christians as people who consistently take advantage of “cheap grace”. One member of the LDS church told us, “Christians say a prayer, get ‘saved’ and then run out and live like hell. They don’t think it’s important to obey the commandments.” At times, in an effort to emphasis the free nature of salvation, many Christians minimize the importance of good works in the Christian life. We sometimes neglect to tell our LDS friends that a grateful life, surrendered in response to what Christ has done for us, does actually result in a life of good works. The passage in Ephesians provides us with an important equation that can help us make this distinction. If you divide this verse in the middle, you’ll find faith and salvation on one side of the verse and works on the other:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith | not by works, so that no one can boast.

This verse in Ephesians provides us with a simple equation that can help us remember a life transformed by the saving grace of God produces good works, even though good works are not what save us:

The Christian equation:
Salvation + Faith = Works

The Non-Christian equation:
Faith + Works = Salvation

The question is not whether someone performs good works, but why someone performs good works. Both Christian and non-Christian believers have a place for good works in their respective equations. Works are not missing from the Christian calculation. But for us, good works are the result of our gratitude for (and recognition of) what God has done. When we realize that our own efforts are utterly impotent, we begin to understand the gift that God has given us. When we understand what God has done for us, we can’t help but be humbled and grateful. A grateful life, ever reflective of the depth of God’s kindness, results in a surrendered response. We can’t help but want to live differently.

I think it’s pretty important to get it clear that in Biblical Christianity, the focus is on getting the beliefs correct first. I actually think that the heavy burden of a works-based faith is a big reason why people are turned off about religion in general. It would really be much better for us all if we figured out who God is first and then made adjustments to live in light of that, instead of leaving the theology aside and just trying to join an organization and do what people tell us to do. Let’s meet God in truth first, then act accordingly once that relationship is settled.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Reformation Day celebrates the supremacy of Scripture and reason in theology

The Ligonier Ministries web site has a summary of the event that kicked off the Reformation.

Excerpt:

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther tacked up 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg. With this act, he hoped to provoke a discussion among the scholars about the abuses of the indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. He was not trying to create a public furor by any means, but within a fortnight, these theses had spread through the country like wildfire. The last thing Luther had in mind was to start some kind of major controversy, but nevertheless major controversy did begin.

From the discussions at Wittenberg, the disputations began to accelerate and escalate. Copies of the theses reached Rome and critical meetings were scheduled with the young monk. In these debates, Luther was maneuvered into proclaiming publicly that he had questions about the infallibility of church councils and also that he thought that it was possible that the pope could err. In 1520 a papal encyclical was issued which condemned Martin Luther as a heretic. Luther burned the document in a public bonfire and his defiance before the church was now a matter of record.

In response, Martin Luther picked up his pen to challenge the entire penitential system of the Roman Catholic Church, which undermined in principle the free remission of sins that is ours in the gospel. By doing so, he was unswervingly advocating his commitment to sola fide, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

In 1521, Luther was summoned to the Imperial Diet, an authoritative meeting that involved the princes of the church, called by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to be held in the city of Worms in Germany. Luther was an outlaw. For him to appear at the Diet was to risk his very life; therefore, he was given safe conduct by the Emperor to attend. With a few friends, Luther traveled from Wittenberg to Worms. The eyewitnesses of that episode tell us that when Luther’s little covered wagon appeared around the corner of the bend, there were lookouts posted in the church tower at Worms. All the people were agog waiting for the arrival of this notorious person. When Luther’s caravan was sighted, people were throwing their hats in the air, blowing trumpets, and creating all the fanfare of the arrival of the hero. It was the 16th century answer to a ticker-tape parade.

Things, however, became very solemn in a hurry because the next day he appeared before the Diet. His books were stacked on a table in the room, and he was asked and ordered to recant of his writings. This surprised Luther because he thought he was going to have an opportunity to defend his writings; but the only question really of any importance that was asked of him was this: “Are these your writings?” And when he said yes, they said, “Are you ready to recant of them?”

Hollywood has their version of Luther standing there boldly with his fist in the air saying, “Here I stand!” and so on. But instead he dropped his chin on his chest and muttered something that nobody could understand, so they asked him to speak up. “What did you say?” He said, “May I have 24 hours to think about it.” And so Luther was granted a reprieve of 24 hours to return to his room to contemplate the seriousness of this occasion.

The prayer that Luther wrote in that ensuing 24-hour period was one of the most moving prayers I have ever read in my life. In that prayer, Luther cried out for God in his sense of total loneliness fearing that God had abandoned him, and proclaimed, “O Lord, I am Thine, and the cause is Thine, give me the courage to stand.”

And on the morrow, Luther was called once again back to the court and was told to reply to the question. He said to the Diet, “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant, for my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” And with that there was an instant uproar.

The Protestant Reformation emphasizes the responsibility of each person to become familiar with what the Bible teaches for themselves and to make sense of it using the laws of logic for themselves. There is an enormous focus on the individual and individual’s responsibility to puzzle theology out for himself, using the tools available to him: reason, science, Scripture, history.  The Reformation put forward the famous five Solas: “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone); “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone); “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone); “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone); and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory).

My friend J.W. Wartick has a post about the effects of the Reformation on society as a whole.

Here’s one of the effects: (links removed)

Capitalism had already begun before the European Reformations, having its renewal start in Italian city states in the 12th Century (for a detailed and extremely interesting discussion of this, see Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason, 71ff). The Reformation, however, provided a place for capitalism to flourish. John Calvin’s thought touched upon nearly every contemporary problem, and one of these was usury (money lending at interest). Focusing upon the cultural context of the prohibition of usury in the Hebrew Scriptures, Calvin argued that his contemporary cultural context provided a way for usury to work without being necessarily wrong. Lending money in such a fashion was essential for the later development of capitalism (Alister McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 259-260).

The Reformation also paved the way for a “Protestant Work Ethic.” Martin Luther’s notion of the “priesthood of all believers” demolished the hard distinction between the “temporal” and “spiritual” realm which dominated the thought of the church at the time. By breaking down this barrier, hard labor was elevated. It was no longer seen as an inferior life to that of monastic withdrawal; rather, any type of work could be pleasing to God (McGrath, 256-258). In contemporary churches, one can often hear about how the engineer, the retail worker, the auto worker, and the like should all utilize their skills to the glory of God. Such thinking came directly from the Reformation.

The Reformation also kick-started science, because nature held secrets about God’s existence and character.

Excerpt:

Without the Reformation, modern science would probably have developed in any event because of the ethos of rationality and the doctrine of creation conducive to it. The Reformation, however, hastened the development by criticizing scholasticism and by putting emphasis on the direct observation of nature. Luther has been called the Copernicus of theology while, on the other hand, Copernicus has been called the Luther of astronomy. Indeed, Thomas Sprat, an Anglican clergyman and an early member of the Royal Society, emphasized that there was a reformation, some would say revolution, in both philosophy and theology [3]. In natural philosophy or science, questions about nature were no longer answered primarily by quoting Aristotle and the Scholastics, but by turning to observation of and experimentation on nature itself. Similarly, after the Reformation, Protestants no longer answered questions in theology primarily by quoting scholastic philosophers and theologians, but by turning directly to the Bible. Luther interpreted Scripture by asking: what is the clear and straightforward meaning of the text? Scientists interpret nature in the simplest way using the minimum number of hypotheses.

Luther believed that the world was beginning a new age, which would bring not only a reform of religion but a new appreciation of nature. In his informal “Table Talk” he said,

We are at the dawn of a new era, for we are beginning to recover the knowledge of the external world that was lost through the fall of Adam. We now observe creatures properly …. But by the grace of God we already recognize in the most delicate flower the wonders of divine goodness and omnipotence [4].

In the last part of this statement, Luther paraphrased the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 1:20).

Luther was open to the authentic scientific advances of his age [5]. He appreciated the mechanical inventions of his day.

He accepted the use of medicine in treating disease and is quoted as having said [6],

It’s our Lord God who created all things and they are good. Wherefore it’s permissible to use medicine, for it is a creature of God.

To someone who said that it is not permissible for a Christian to use medicine, Luther replied rhetorically, “Do you eat when you are hungry?” According to Andrew White [7], this attitude of Luther made the Protestant cities of Germany more ready than others to admit anatomical investigation and dissection.

Luther accepted astronomy as a science, but rejected astrology as a superstition because it cannot be confirmed by demonstration. Astrology, according to Luther, is idolatry and violates the first commandment. He was both amused and distressed by Melanchthon’s interest in astrology, a belief system that was widely accepted at the time [8].

The Reformation means good economics and good science, as well as good theology.

But theology still had some growing to do.

The challenges of the Reformers led to the development of the doctrine of middle knowledge, which reconciles divine sovereignty with human freedom and responsibility, solving a major problem with Reformed theology.

A very good book on middle knowledge is “Salvation and Sovereignty” by Kenneth Heathley. Highly recommended by Paul Gould.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pro-religious liberty protesters arrested for praying outside White House

From Life Site News. (H/T Mommy Life via Mary)

Excerpt:

Six pro-life activists, including one Catholic priest, were arrested this morning in front of the White House while holding a peaceful prayer vigil in protest against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. They were released shortly thereafter, after paying a $100 fine.

Fr. Denis Wilde, the Associate Director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews that by their arrests the protesters hoped to send a “wake-up call” to President Obama that opposition to his mandate is not going away.

The six were arrested on a charge of “disobeying a lawful order.” The priest explained that while it is legal to hold protests in front of the White House, protesters are not allowed to remain stationary, including if they kneel down and pray.

“Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said. “We knew that was the risk when we gathered today, and we will do it again regardless of the risk. What people of faith – of every faith – need to do now is stand with us.”

My previous story on Obama’s war on religion is here: The Becket Fund assesses Obama’s “compromise” on the contraception mandate.

Related posts

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Becket Fund assesses Obama’s “compromise” on the contraception mandate

Eric Metaxas shared this on Facebook, so here it is.

Full text:

Facing a political firestorm, President Obama today announced his intent to make changes to a controversial rule that would require religious institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But this “compromise” is an exercise in obfuscation, not a good faith effort to solve the problem. Thousands of churches, religious organizations, businesses, individuals, and others will still be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

For example, the fake compromise will not help the Becket Fund’s clients Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Colorado Christian University, and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic media organization. They will still be forced to pay for insurance that provides contraceptive coverage. The White House’s claim that “the insurance companies will pay for it” is silly. For-profit insurance companies aren’t going to donate contraceptives and abortion drugs to employees; the employer will pay for it one way or the other. More fundamentally, the Becket Fund’s clients still face the same chilling dilemma they did yesterday: choosing between helping their employees buy immoral abortion drugs or paying huge fines.

“This is a false ‘compromise’ designed to protect the President’s re-election chances, not to protect the right of conscience,” says Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund. “No one should be fooled by what amounts to an accounting gimmick. Religious employers will still have to violate their religious convictions or pay heavy annual fines to the IRS.”

According to a White House “fact sheet,” some religious employers will no longer be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs; coverage for those services will instead be provided for free directly by insurance companies. This does not protect anyone’s conscience. First, the problem is helping employees get abortion drugs, not the cost of providing those drugs. Since providing insurance benefits would still help employees get insurance, religious employers still have to choose between providing health benefits that help employees get abortion drugs, and paying annual fines. Second, thousands of religious organizations self insure, meaning that they will be forced to pay directly for these services in violation of their religious beliefs. Third, it is unclear which religious organizations are permitted to claim the new exemption, and whether it will extend to for-profit organizations, individuals, or non-denominational organizations.

“It is especially telling that the details of this fake ‘compromise’ will likely not be announced until after the election,” said Smith. “Religious freedom is not a political football to be kicked around in an election-year. Rather than providing full protection for the right of conscience, President Obama has made a cynical political play that is the antithesis of ‘hope and change.’”

My previous post in which I chastised the Roman Catholic bishops for supporting Obamacare is here.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama revises contraception mandate but Catholic groups still pay for abortion drugs

Life News explains.

Excerpt:

The Obama administration has revised its controversial mandate that had forced religious employers to pay for health insurance coverage that includes birth control and drugs like Plan B, the morning after pill, and ella that can cause abortions.

Responding to a firestorm of opposition from pro-life organizations, Catholics groups and even some Democrats, the Obama administration has revised the mandate in a way that pro-life advocates are saying is even worse.

The revised Obama mandate will make religious groups contract with insurers to offer birth control and the potentially abortion-causing drugs to women at no cost. The revised mandate will have religious employers refer women to their insurance company for coverage that still violates their moral and religious beliefs. Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide coverage at no cost.

Essentially, religious groups will still be mandated to offer plans that cover both birth control and the ella abortion drug.

According to Obama administration officials on a conference call this morning, a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

The birth control and abortion-causing drugs will simply be “part of the bundle of services that all insurance companies are required to offer,” White House officials said.

“We are actually more comfortable having the insurance industry offer and market this to women than religious institutions,” the White House said on the conference call LifeNews listened to because they “understand how contraception works” and it “makes sense financially.”

[…]Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told LifeNews in response to the revised mandate that it violates the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“This ObamaCare rule still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion. It’s a fig leaf, not a compromise. Whether they are affiliated with a church or not, employers will still be forced to pay an insurance company for coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs,” he said. “This is not just a problem for church-affiliated hospitals and charities. Under these rules, a small business owner with religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs and contraception must either violate his religious beliefs or violate the law.”

“The liberal Obama administration thinks its political goals trump the religious faith of American citizens. That isn’t right, fair, or constitutional,” he said.

The abortions will still be paid for by the religious groups. They are going to pay for the drugs through medical insurance premiums. So religious organizations are still being forced to provide abortions for their workers.

Who is to blame for this? I blame Catholic bishops. Catholic bishops do believe in socialism. They do want a secular government to take money from religious people. And they do want government to hand out medical care to people, instead of letting individuals, businesses and charities provide health care.

Rick Santorum agrees with me on this.

Consider this interview with Rick Santorum in which he reacts Obama’s health care mandate.

Excerpt:

HH: Now I want to talk to you about two substantive issues, Senator Santorum. The first are these new regulations from the Obama administration. I read the letter from Archbishop Olmstead of Phoenix on the air. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has written a new article in First Things. It’s shocking, actually, what’s going on. Should this be a centerpiece of whoever the nominee’s campaign is?

RS: I talked about it in every speech I’ve given today. And here’s what I said, though, Hugh. I said that I took issue with the Catholic Bishops Conference, because Hugh, you may remember, they embraced Obamacare.

HH: Yes.

RS: They embraced it and said…here’s what I said to them. Be careful when you have government saying that they can give you rights, that you have a right to health care, and government’s going to give you something, because once you are now dependant on government, they, not only can they take that right away, they can tell you how to exercise that right, and you can either like it or not. And that’s the problem. That’s what the Catholic Bishops Conference didn’t get, that there’s no free lunch here, folks. If you’re going to give people secular power, then they’re going to use it in a secular fashion. And that’s why, you know, I hate to say it, but you know, you had it coming. And it’s time to wake up and realize that government isn’t the answer to the social ills. It’s people of faith, and it’s families, and it’s communities, and it’s charities that need to do this as it has in America so successfully for so long.

HH: Rick Santorum, what do you advise Catholic hospitals, Catholic colleges, Catholic…the centers of poverty assistance, the adoption agencies? What do you advise them to do in the face of, as Archbishop Olmstead said, we cannot comply with this unjust law?

RS: Civil disobedience. This will not stand. There’s no way they can make this stand. The Supreme Court, eventually, this thing’s going to get to the Supreme Court just like the ministerial hiring issue that was just decided by the Supreme Court the other day. And it was a 9-0 decision that said the Obama administration can’t roll over people of faith when it comes to hiring. Yet in the face of that decision, this radical, secular government of Barack Obama continues to have faith be the least important of the 1st Amendment. And I just think they fight. They fight in the courts, and they fight by civil disobedience, and go to war with the federal government over this one.

Evangelical protestants feel comfortable with Catholics like Rick Santorum. He gets it. If the bishops are wrong on socialized medicine and wrong on the death penalty and wrong on other things, then so much the worse for the bishops.

Obama did very well with Catholics in 2008 even though Obama is the most pro-abortion president in the history of the United States. Catholics tend to be more liberal on economic issues than evangelicals, which is why many of them voted for Obama. Evangelicals oppose economic liberalism, because they oppose government taking tax money from workers in order to provide services for other people aren’t trying to be self-sufficient. Evangelicals oppose increasing the dependence of individuals on a secular government. Evangelicals don’t want a secular government to take money from individuals and then use it to push secular leftist ideas like global warming, Darwinism and sex education in government run institutions, e.g. – public schools, public broadcasting, etc. Evangelicals trust individuals to care for the poor, and they don’t want to make it too easy for people to make reckless decisions and then get a check in the mail or a free abortion.

What causes this difference between Catholics and evangelicals? Evangelicals believe in salvation through grace ALONE through faith ALONE in Christ ALONE. Evangelicals put the emphasis on what you believe – it has to be true in order to please God. Catholics, just like Mormons, Jews and other religions, emphasize good works as a requirement for salvation. Many Catholics also support inclusivism, which is the view that you can be saved in other religions like Judaism and Islam. This means that for these Catholics, specific Christian doctrines are not essential for salvation, so long as you have sincerity and good works. On the other hand, evangelicals are exclusivists who emphasize the need for each person to arrive at true beliefs about God in order to be saved, and good works are just natural outworkings of their beliefs.

Evangelicals emphasize the responsibility of the individual to discover truth with their Bibles, reasoning, science and history. This belief in individual responsibility carries over into their approach to charity. Evangelicals believe individuals are responsible for deciding what to do about charity – you earn your own money and then you choose yourself how to share with others. But the responsibility to give away money wisely is an individual responsibility – you share your money in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. Evangelicals don’t generally accept the idea of handing money off to someone else and letting them decide what to do with it. We think that everything is our responsibility, starting with Bible study and theology, and going on through to economics and politics.

And this emphasis on individuals over big government has this effect:

(Source)

Note that this chart puts evangelicals together with born-again Christians. But evangelical Christians differ from born-again Christians, because they are firm on exclusive salvation and evangelism. Evangelicals like to study so that they can discuss their beliefs in public, using reasons and evidence to persuade others. A born-again Christian does not have that same emphasis on study and persuasion, because they don’t focus on evangelism. So, if you separate out the born-agains from that 26%, number for Obama support, then you are likely to get a much lower number for evangelicals who support Obama. We don’t like health care mandates covering abortion. Evangelicals are used to having to puzzle things out for themselves – so they puzzled out what Obama believed and then they voted against him.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wintery Tweets

RSS Intelligent Design podcast

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Evolution News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 4,688,369 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,274 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,274 other followers

%d bloggers like this: