When discussing theology, I've come to realize that not only is personal study of doctrine a necessary component to faith, but it is something that shouldn't be kept to oneself. I want to share my journey, both past and ongoing, into the realm of theology. Through this, I hope that you will gain insight into the Christian faith as a whole. Before reading anything else, I suggest you read the introduction and definitions (found in the pages tabs above) so you may better understand where I am coming from in everything I write. Because many of my posts are on heresies, there is also a page above with a family tree of heresies and links to all the posts I have so far on the topic.

29 January, 2013

The Office of the Pope and the/an "Antichrist"

I know, to my Roman Catholic friends, that sounds very harsh.  So instead of presenting the Lutheran perspective on this (which you may read at the link), I'd like to give you just the words of the Roman Catholic Church on this teaching, with minor commentary on the passages.  I've tried to keep everything in context, although some passages are rather lengthy.  I included links to where the entire documents I quote from can be read in full so that you can investigate the context for yourself if you so choose.

The purpose of this post is not so much to change the minds of my Roman Catholic friends, but rather to explain where I come from when I say that the office of the Pope is an Antichrist because I know it angers some of them (and from their perspective, I can understand why).

Before that, however, I would be remiss if I didn't define "Antichrist".  Contrary to what Dispensationalists, Classic Pre-Millennialists, and Post-Millennialists errantly teach, the Antichrist is a religious, not political, figure.  There is not only one, but many, Antichrists (1 John 2:18).  An Antichrist is anyone who puts themself in the place of God or who promulgates false teaching.  I could easily make a laundry list of protestants who certainly fit the latter portion of that definition (for example, I would include folks like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Patricia King, Beth Moore, Charles Finney, Jacobus Arminus, and maybe to a lesser extent, even John Calvin--and we haven't even gotten to the heretics I write about weekly).

The Christian Cyclopedia defines 'Antichrist' as:
Term used in the NT (1) of all false teachers (1 John 2:18; 4:3) and (2) of one outstanding adversary of Christ (1 John 2:18). Characteristics of the Antichrist are mentioned, e.g., in Daniel 11; 2 Thessalonians 2.

As to why Lutherans consider the Office of the Pope to be an "Antichrist", I give you the following Roman Catholic documents.  Keeping the definition of Antichrists above in mind (anyone who puts themselves in the place of God or who promulgates false teaching), the words below kind of speak for themselves.

From the Bull Unam Sanctam (1302):
"Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: 'Feed my sheep' [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter].  Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John 'there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.' "
Vicar means "to stand in place of".  The Pope, as "Vicar of Christ", stands in place of Christ since they cannot be two, but one.  This is essentially their first argument, that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, to the Pope having dominion over the Left and Right Hand Kingdoms (a discussion for another time).
"This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, 'Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven' etc., [Mt 16:19]*. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2], unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [Gen 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians are subject to anyone but God (not the Pope, not Peter, not anyone).  The only way for Catholics to make the argument that all humans are subject to the Pontiff is by saying the Pope stands in place of Christ.  This, then, would fall under both false teaching and placing oneself in the place of Christ, both of which fall under the definition of an "Antichrist".

* Probably not the time for this discussion, but Jesus' statement "On this rock I shall build my Church" refers to Peter's confession ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."), not Peter in specific.  Additionally, "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven," etc. refers to the Office of the Keys, not Peter specifically.  A simple look at the original text in Greek makes this very clear.

From Session 6 of the Council of Florence (1439):
"We also define that the holy apostolic see and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world and the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter prince of the apostles, and that he is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him was committed in blessed Peter the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church, as is contained also in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons."
Again, nowhere in Scripture is the Pope (or anyone but God) given "primacy" over the world, nor is Peter or the line of Popes given authority to stand as the "Vicar of Christ", nor is anyone but God the Father of all Christians.  It is dangerous to put one's trust in man rather than God, especially when God gives no man such status.

Interestingly, The Council of Trent (following the Lutheran and protestant reformations) does not mention the Pope (at least on this topic).  Considering it was such a point of contention, and that both Lutherans and protestants raged in many ways against the Pope, one would think that would be the prime topic of such a council.

From Session 4 of Vatican I (1870), First dogmatic constitution on the Church of Christ:
"4. In order, then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, he set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation.   
5. Upon the strength of this foundation was to be built the eternal temple, and the Church whose topmost part reaches heaven was to rise upon the firmness of this foundation [41]."
Christ, not Peter (or the Office of the Roman Pontiff) is the Cornerstone and foundation of the Church.
"6. And since the gates of hell trying, if they can, to overthrow the Church, make their assault with a hatred that increases day by day against its divinely laid foundation, we judge it necessary, with the approbation of the Sacred Council, and for the protection, defense and growth of the Catholic flock, to propound the doctrine concerning the 1. institution, 2. permanence and 3. nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon which the strength and coherence of the whole Church depends."
The strength of the catholic church (universal church) is faith in Christ, not faith in the primacy of the Pope.

From Session 4 of Vatican I (1870), Chapter 4:

"6. For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.  Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [60]."
In other words, Peter never sinned in his teaching and the Pope (office) has never sinned in its teaching.  Nevermind that Peter was called "Satan" by Christ and told to get behind him (Matthew 16:13-23, the previous verses included for context--just after Peter's confession of faith that is the foundation of the church, he dares to rebuke the Lord and is rebuked himself), denied Christ three times (the only mortal sin is denial of God and blasphemy of the Holy Ghost--Matthew 26:71-75, Mark 14:66-68, Luke 22:54-62, and John 18:15-27), hypocritically participated with the Judaizers when it suited him (Galatians 2:11-21); and nevermind that Catholic doctrine has 'evolved' and sometimes contradicts itself because of the proclamations of various Popes.  No, none have ever erred or sinned in their teaching, including Peter.  (Sorry, I really was trying to keep the snark to a minimum...)
"7. This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell."
See the previous comment.  Always speaking the truth and with never-failing faith.  Was Peter's faith never-failing when he denied Christ?  Was he truthful when he denied his Savior?  When he rebuked Jesus?  When he participated with the Judaizers (a heretical sect, I might add)?
"9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA ["from the chair"], that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.  So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema."
Always truthful, never-failing faith and now infallible (a person who cannot fail, as opposed to inerrant, meaning without error in fact).  And yet the evidence is to the contrary.  Peter himself was clearly not perfect, not always truthful, and not always faithful to God.  He was a man, just like the rest of us.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (note: I removed the footnotes for readability, if you want to see those, they are at the link):
"882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."
Again, the Pope as the "Vicar of Christ" or "the one who stands in the place of Christ".
"891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... the infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself."
In other words, the Ex Cathedra declarations of the Pope are to be viewed and believed as if it was Scripture itself.
"892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it."
And here, that the non-Ex Cathedra declarations are to be adhered to with "religious assent", while distinct from the "assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it."  In other words, not quite infallible, but it almost might as well be.

Finally, from Vatican II (1965):
"2. In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls by divine institution. Therefore, as pastor of all the faithful, he is sent to provide for the common good of the universal Church and for the good of the individual churches. Hence, he holds a primacy of ordinary power over all the churches."
Once again, the Office of the Pope (the Roman Pontiff) in the place of God the Father and God the Son.  Nowhere in Scripture is this power given to any human.

A few brief notes in closing.

In Confession and Absolution, a Lutheran minister would say, "In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."  This power comes from Matthew 16:19, where the Office of the Keys (all ministers of God) are given the power to bind and loose sins.  This is not the same as proclaiming oneself the "Vicar of Christ", because this power was given to ministers by Christ--anything beyond that was not a power given to the pastors and ministers.

There is no need for the office of infallibility because our doctrine is clear and does not change: our doctrine comes from Scripture, and no utterances of man should ever be held on the same level as Scripture.

An interesting thought from when we did a study on this in Church: the Roman Catholic Church has but one Sacrament, the Pope.  Because all power and authority are given to the Pope according to Roman Catholic teaching, all sacraments would lead back to him rather than God.

At some point, in a separate post, I will write about the three reasons why the Pope is not the head of both the Left-Hand and Right-Hand Kingdoms as he claims.  If anything, he would "rule" in (but not be the head of) the Right-Hand Kingdom alone and his (meaning the office as a whole) intrusion into the Left-Hand Kingdom has caused many problems throughout history.

Heresy of the Week: Socinianism

Since we decided in Bible Study a few weeks ago that the opposite of Atheism is Unitarianism ("I believe in nothing" vs. "I believe in everything (except Orthodox Christian teachings)" -- and yes, I know that is a drastic oversimplification), I was reminded of this week's heresy.
Socinianism is a 15th century protestant antitrinitarian heresy that has been embraced by the followers of Unitarianism. Socinianism rejects orthodox teachings of God’s knowledge, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ (elements of Arianism, Ebionitism and Psilanthropism) and salvation. Christ was believed to have not existed before the virginal birth of Jesus (moderated Adoptionism); some Socinianites believed that Joseph was the father of Jesus and rejected the virginal birth. They reject the doctrine of original sin and teach that humans were created mortal and would have died naturally whether or not Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Good and Evil. Because there is no original sin, they do not believe in the need for atonement. They teach that God’s omniscience is limited to necessary truths (what will definitely happen in the future) and not to contingent truth (what only might happen in the future); they felt if God knew everything that would happen, free will could not exist.

21 January, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Mandaeism

This week's heresy is a Gnostic sect about which we actually know a lot about, doctrinally at least.
Mandaeism (also known as Mandaeanism) is a late 1st century Gnosticism-family sect that is still practiced in small numbers today with a strong dualistic worldview. Followers today are predominantly Middle Eastern and Mandaeism is mentioned in the Qu’ran. They revered Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and John the Baptist, but denied Jesus and rejected Christianity. There are several specific features to this Gnostic group: there is a supreme formless Entity who was created by the Archetypal Man (creator of the Cosmos); there is a cosmic Father and Mother, known as Light and Darkness or Right and Left (respectively) who are syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form; the soul is an exile, the home and origin of the soul are the supreme Entity to whom the soul eventually returns; astrology (specifically, planets and stars) influence fate and humans, also are like purgatory after death; there is/are a savior spirit(s) that assist the soul on its life journey and into the afterworld of lights; they speak in a language of symbols and metaphor, with ideas and qualities being personified; mysteries (sacraments) aid in purifying the soul and ensure rebirth into a spiritual body; and great secrecy is kept over all initiates, only those considered able to understand and preserve the knowledge are given the ‘gnosis’. There is a high priority placed on marriage and family, with emphasis on an ethical and moral lifestyle. They consider Abraham and Moses as false prophets. There have been some connections made with Elcesaitism, and there is strong evidence that Johannism and Notzrimism are the predecessors of the Mandaeism sect.

15 January, 2013

Bible Study Notes: What's the Difference?

Now that Revelations is wrapped up, my church is doing a study on comparative symbolics, or what the differences in doctrine are between 10 different denominations on 17 different topics.  While I will probably not be at most of those classes (as I am supposed to be teaching another class at the same time), I did get to attend the introduction, and I'll get the notes from each class to hopefully highlight here.

The 10 denominations being looked at in this study are (in parenthesis you'll see the confessions of each church body we are using for these discussions--as you go down the list, it becomes harder to find actual written statements of doctrine for each denomination):

  • Lutheran (Book of Concord)
  • Roman Catholic (Catholic Catechism, Trent, Vatican II)
  • Eastern Orthodox (Larger Catechism)
  • Anglican/Episcopalian (39 Articles)
  • Presbyterian/Reformed/Calvinist (Westminster Confession)
  • Methodist/Weslyan (Methodist Articles of Religion)
  • Baptist (Baptist Faith and Message)
  • Evangelical/Non-Denominational (Calvary Chapel)
  • Pentecostal/Assemblies of God (International Pentecostal Holiness Church Beliefs)
  • Liberal (A Guide to the Study of the Christian Religion)

The 17 doctrines to be discussed are:
  • Scripture/Authority
  • God/The Trinity
  • Creation
  • Man's Will
  • The Incarnation
  • Salvation
    • Original Sin
    • Law and Gospel
    • Justification
    • Sanctification
  • Church
  • Baptism
  • Confession and Absolution
  • The Lord's Supper
  • Worship
  • The Ministry
  • Vocation/Citizenship
  • The End Times

Pastor included a great chart of the denominational family tree for reference (might be a little hard to read this way, I'll see if I can get it in a more readable format at some point).

For many, the immediate question when anyone does this is something along the lines of, "Why do you have to be so divisive?"  Well, we're not.  Quite the opposite.  In doing this, and getting other Christians to realize there are stark differences (many of which are NOT Biblical teachings), we would hope for unity of faith and love, to have the church be of one mind.  How likely that is to occur is yet to be seen, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  Additionally, it is the duty of all Christians to combat error and false doctrine.  Because we in the LCMS practice closed communion for that very reason--because unity in teaching must come before unity in fellowship--a great resource on where in Scripture we are commanded to do just this can be found here.

Finally, here are some notes I had from the class.
  • What distinguishes Lutheranism is not history, geography, etc., but doctrine
  • Many end up in a church "accidentally" (i.e. my parents were "X", so I am as well)--at some point we need to make our belief purposeful
  • How do we know what a church believes?  Is it what a church teaches, or what subscribers actually believe?
  • Every false doctrine, in one way or another, takes away from the clarity and peace of the Gospel
  • Jesus commands us to unity in doctrine, to have His church be of one mind
  • Unity is two-fold: in the proclamation of the Gospel, and in the benefit of the Gospel (many, if not most, denominations agree on the previous, it is the latter where false teaching creep in)
  • The root of false doctrine was in the Garden of Eden: "Did God really say...?"

14 January, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Albigensism

This week's heresy is a more recent (relatively speaking) Gnostic heresy that appeared in France during the end of the Middle Ages.
Albigensism, also called Albigensianism, is a 12th-13th century French heresy, also known as the Cathars or Cathari (Catharism). While named for the French city Albi, they actually seemed to be centered in the city of Toulouse. The extent of their teachings remains unclear, as all surviving documentation originates from the Catholic Church (their opponent). They appear to have subscribed to a dualistic theology (of the Gnosticism vein) with two principle forces: good (this God was Jesus) and evil (Satan and the God of the Old Testament were both considered evil). The material world also was considered evil, and they denied the Resurrection of the body, since the body was material and therefore evil. Those who strictly followed the doctrine were called “perfects” or “perfecti”, which included eschewing all the trappings of the physical world (much like Asceticism), if they were good enough, salvation would come upon death—if not, they would be reincarnated as an animal or human to try again. There is some indication that suicide may have been practiced by some as a way to rid themselves of the “evil” material body. The Albigensis particularly protested the clergy and material wealth of the Church, and in the 12th century, Pope Innocent III waged a crusade to snuff out the Albigensis heresy, which was successful. Albigensism was accused of being a Neo-Manichaean (Manichaeism) movement.

07 January, 2013

New Year Update

I know it is a little belated, seeing as we are already a week into the new year, but better late than never.

Intro and Warning

Briefly, for those new here, my name is Sarah.  I'm 23, I'll be 24 in May of this year (2013).  I'm married to a pretty awesome guy, and we are expecting our first child on our first anniversary--28 April 2013.  I am a political consultant and campaign strategist in the beautiful foothills of Colorado, a state to which I am native.  I'm very geeky and nerdy (old school Sci-Fi, Tolkein, Stargate, X-Files, etc.), I love to read and write and learn new things, I'm a rocker chick when it comes to music (although I'm a classically trained pianist and have a great affinity for classical music as well), I love to swing and ballroom dance when I can, and theology is my passion.

When it comes to theology, I am a cradle Lutheran. I was baptized when I was two weeks old, and confirmed in the Lutheran church. I am extremely conservative and confessional when it comes to my theology.  Succinctly put, I am a Quia-subscribing, UAC-confessing, Evangelical Catholic, thoroughly catechized, confessional, orthodox, Christ-centered, cross-focused, catholic and apostolic, Word and Sacrament, Law and Gospel, traditional and liturgical Lutheran.

For those new to this blog, here is a warning (and reminder to those who aren't new): this blog is rated "L" for Lutheran.

I'm an equal opportunity theological offender, and have no problem taking on any topic or any denomination (including my own).  Mostly, I'm in the business of heresy-hunting and attempting to bring folks around to orthodoxy, although I admit that my methods probably don't exactly make those I wouldn't consider to be orthodox want to listen.

Perhaps better put, I'm a terrible Christian--I readily and openly admit that I stink at evangelism, which is kind of what we are commanded to do: go and make disciples of all nations.  That's because, in my analytical mind, I can't imagine wanting anyone to join something as broken, heretical and unorthodox as much of American Christendom has become--so I will leave that work to those better equipped and without my process of thinking.  What I can do, what I feel I must do, is "evangelize" to those already claiming the name Christian, but who don't seem to understand what it means.  More than that, I want to equip those who are orthodox to be able to give an answer for the hope that lies within them to the world--to Christians and non-Christians alike.

I know I have a tendency to be snarky and perhaps too blunt, but please understand this comes from a place of earnest and the willingness to stake my life on my faith--I'm not doing it just to be obnoxious, I promise.

New Year, New Posts

With those formalities out of the way, I wanted to lay out a bit of a plan for this blog over the next year.

  • Every Monday, I try to put out a "heresy of the week" post.  Some weeks, I do more than one heresy because of how related they are--and some weeks, I don't always get to it on Mondays.  This seems to be my most consistent topic for posting, which is good--and I plan to keep that up.
  • While I have a huge backlog of posts to make on the subjects, I also do "Bible study notes" and "sermon notes" posts when I can (part of my goal this year is to get caught up and be more regular about those posts).
  • One of my other goals this year, besides being more consistent in posting here, is to finally get back into consistent study of Koine Greek.  In fact, I've decided that for Lent, in addition to giving something up (haven't decided that that will be yet), I will be attempting to establish two new habits, one of which will be to spend 15-60 minutes a day on Greek.  As I'm doing that, it is my hope to be posting on that topic as a means of helping me to be accountable (maybe a "Greek Word of the Week" post?).
  • Currently in the queue, I have posts in progress on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (or, why Lutherans believe that the Office of the Pope is an antichrist), the role of the Pope in the Two Kingdoms, and the proper role of women in the church.  Hopefully I'll have those all finished and up in the next week or two, but no promises.  As always, I'll have more posts on various topics as I get the idea for them and/or as time permits.  This aren't going to be quite as consistent as other posts.
Of course... all of this may fall to the wayside after my baby is born, at least for the first few months.  But having a plan will hopefully help me keep on track before 28 April (or thereabouts) and once I get over the sleep deprivation and lack of free time that I know comes with the first few months of baby--it may be wildly optimistic of me to think I'll actually have time for this at all after the baby is born, but I'll keep that optimism for now.

Morality and Spirituality: Christians, please stop confusing the two!

For those who don't know me in "real" life, I do politics for a living.  Specifically, I do political strategy and campaign consulting.  I generally try not to cross streams between politics and theology as much as possible, but there are too many Dispensationalists (read here for a little background if you are unfamiliar with that term) in politics for me to often get away with that, much to my frustration and chagrin.

One of my biggest pet peeves both in politics and in Christendom today is the utter confusion of the Two Kingdoms--or worse, the fact that most Christians I encounter in politics don't even know what Two Kingdoms theology is.  This is something I have written about before, but I feel like it's time for a refresher after several conversations last week on the topic.  From my previous post on the subject:

Two Kingdoms Theology refers to the Lutheran teaching of the proper distinction between the Left-hand Kingdom (or the Kingdom of Man) and the Right-hand Kingdom (or the Kingdom of God).  I personally consider Romans 13 to be the original separation of Church and State document.  By this, I don't mean that they are completely severed from each other at all, but as another Pastor reminded me, it shows the proper distinction of the Kingdoms, and more importantly, the proper role of a Christian in both Kingdoms.   
I also mean by "separation of Church and State" that a) theocracies are a BIG no-no (basically, preachers are preachers and rulers are rulers, the two roles should not be combined--that is, no blurring of the clear lines between the two Kingdoms); b) that the Left-hand Kingdom is meant to not interfere with the Right-hand Kingdom (First Amendment, anyone?); and c) Christians are called to be involved in government, not using government to advance Christianity, but rather, to advance Natural Law (which we'll get to in a minute). 
For a better illustration, here are some of the differences between the two Kingdoms:
Left-hand Kingdom
Right-hand Kingdom
Kingdom of the Man (State)
Kingdom of God (Church)
Sword: Internal* and External**
Word, no swords
Exists for Order
Exists for Mercy
External Righteousness
Internal Righteousness
Realm of Morals
Realm of Faith
Ruled by Reason
Ruled by Scripture
 *Internal Sword = police, etc.**External Sword = military 
Now, from the Christian (and particularly Lutheran) perspective, Natural Law is exemplified in the second table of the Ten Commandments.  The first table deals with the Right-hand Kingdom, or our faith in God, and the second table deals with the Left-hand Kingdom, or Natural Law and interaction with our neighbor.

While our faith is to govern our actions, we have to understand the clear distinction between the Two Kingdoms to properly function in the political sphere.  We are not to be like the Anabaptists (Radical Reformed), who eschew all political involvement by Christians (in the world, but as far removed from it as possible).  We are also to not be like the Dispensationalists specifically (Calvinists and Arminians alike) and Calvinists in general, who seek theocracies (in the case of Calvin himself, socialist theocracies...).  We are also not to be like the Roman Catholics, who see the Pope as the head of both the Left-hand and Right-hand Kingdoms (I'll be posting on that soon--I should note that the RCC has a right division of the two from my reading of their own church documents, my only complaint is that they put both under the authority of the Pope, which is not a correct application of a correct division, but they are far and away the closest to Lutherans on this issue).

Some pertinent notes on this topic from a sermon my Pastor preached in October 2012 (same post that I quoted above):

  • Many Pastors say that you must "Take your faith into the voting booth," but that is wrong
  • It is not faith, but reason, by which we should vote because the Left-hand Kingdom is ruled by reason (the Right-hand Kingdom is ruled by faith)
  • We should bring not the Apostle's Creed but the 10 Commandments into the voting booth
  • We don't need to elect someone who is Orthodox, but someone who understands and values Natural Law
  • Pagans and Christians should vote the same, because it is by reason and natural law that we should all cast our votes
  • The 10 Commandments are the Christian's "Cliff Notes" of Natural Law
  • Knowing the 10 Commandments makes us reasonable, keeping them makes us wise
  • The State exists for order and the Law, the Church exists for mercy and the Gospel

Beyond a misapplication/misunderstanding/total ignorance of Two Kingdoms Theology, there seems to be this misunderstanding that the United States of America is a "Christian Nation".  Because of the separation of the Two Kingdoms, and because of how utterly dangerous it is to blur the two together, that is simply impossible.  One can say that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (although, more accurately, it was founded on Natural Law, which I would argue stems from Judeo-Christian principles since I believe that Natural Law was written on the hearts of all men by God, but that's another topic).  One can also say that America's Founding Fathers were largely (but NOT entirely, as some foolishly attempt to argue contrary to fact and reason) Christians.  In the first segment of Table Talk Radio, Episode 150, there is a great explanation of this (as well as a succinct explanation of why Dispensationalists totally get it wrong about the nation of Israel, another theological pet peeve of mine).

Finally, there seems to be this misconception that, even if we aren't right now, we are supposed to be a Christian nation.  No.  No, no, no, no, no.  Just no.  That is, again, a Dispensationalist construct.  Theocracies are dangerous and never work (anyone remember what happened to Israel and Judah when they tried doing a theocracy their way?  how about Islam? what about the Holy Roman Empire? etc.).  If man were not fallen, there would be no need for anything else but a theocracy--but we are fallen and sinful human beings, and that simply doesn't work with our fallen nature.

However, we are to be a nation of morals, based on Natural Law.  Morality, being a Left-hand Kingdom thing, is not the same as spirituality, a Right-hand Kingdom thing (see the chart above).  The two should not be confused.  I know many moral non-Christians, and many immoral "Christians".  Morality deals with Natural Law and the conscience which, as I've already mentioned, I would certainly argue are given to all men by God--but the key thing there is that all men possess this, whether or not they are Christians.  One does not need to have faith to be moral, and it is a fallacy at absolute best to say otherwise.

Heresies of the Week: Monarchianism, Adoptionism, Dynmanic Monarchianism, and Sabellianism

Since I missed last week (bad way to start the New Year, no?), I thought I would give you a few "big", interrelated heresies this week: Monarchianism, Adoptionism (or Dynamic Monarchianism--similar, but slightly distinct) and Sabellianism (more commonly known as Modalism).

Monarchianism is a 2nd century heresy that emphasizes God as one person—the Father (antitrinitarian). It originally rose as an attempt to combat Tritheism by overemphasizing (to the point of diminishing and eliminating two persons of the Trinity) the singularity of God. There are two contradictory models of Monarchianism: Adoptionism (or Dynamic Monarchianism) and Sabellianism (or Modalism). Psilanthropism (and, by extension, Unitarianism) is considered an Adoptionism heresy, and Noeticism and Patripassianism are considered Sabellianism heresies (although Noeticism came first, historically).
Adoptionism is a 2nd century heresy of the Arianism family. It purports that Jesus was ‘adopted’ as the Son of God at either His baptism, His resurrection or His ascension (depending on which sect to whom you were speaking) because of His godly human life up until that point. Some historians have traced it all the way back to the time of Christ on earth. It was one of two main forms of Monarchianism (the other being Sabellianism, also known as Modalism). Adoptionism is also known as “Dynamic Monarchianism”, and denies the eternal pre-existence of Christ. Adoptionism was condemned as heretical by a decree from Pope Victor (who was Pope from 190-198). Samosatenism was a 3rd century adoptionist heresy that taught Jesus was a man who ‘kept’ himself sinless and ultimately achieved union with God (while considered closer to Adoptionism, it appears to not fit well with either branch of Monarchianism), after which it seemed to ‘die’ out. It reemerged in the 8th century in Spain (Spanish Adoptionism), teaching then that Christ was the Son of God with respect to His divine nature, but Jesus, as a man, was merely the adopted Son of God; and again from the 12th century on as “Neo-Adoptionism”. Psilanthropism was the 18th century Unitarianism take on Adoptionism.
Dynamic Monarchianism: see Adoptionism. This is a Monarchianism and Arianism heresy. The main distinction between Adoptionism and Dynamic Monarchianism (usually used interchangeably) is that they deny the Logos, or person of Christ, and teach that the Holy Ghost is simply a force of or the presence of the Father. They teach that Jesus was only a man. Unitarianism, known then as Psilanthropism, picked up on this heresy in the 19th century, still practicing it today, along with Christadelphianism and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Sabellianism (also known as Modalism) is an antitrinitarian Monarchianism (the other branch being Adoptionism, or Dynamic Monarchianism) heresy that teaches the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are simply different modes or aspects of One God, perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in one Godhead. They do not deny the divinity or humanity of Jesus (and while they believe in a singular God, the “mode” of the Son was imbued in Jesus), like believers of Arianism or Monophysitism. There is no way for God to be all three modes simultaneously; He may only be one at a time. The United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches still teach Modalism today, saying that the mode of God is “Jesus only” now and that baptism is required for salvation (no unbaptized person will ever be “saved”). On the other hand, believers in Unitarianism teach that God simply is one person, with no distinct “modes”.

As mentioned in the descriptions, it is important to understand these heresies because they are still being practices in several "church" bodies.  So next time a Jehovah's Witness comes to your door or you run into a Unitarian, you have a conversation starter!