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.

26 August, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Paulicianism

The next few weeks will be Adoptionism-related heresies.
Paulicianism is a 7th century Adoptionism and Gnosticism heresy that is still practiced in small sects today. Paulicianism was accused of being a Neo-Manichaean (Manichaeism) movement and is similar to Albigensism, Bogomilism, and Patarenism. The founder, a man renamed Silvanus, considered his work to be calling Christians ‘back’ to a pure Christianity, which was dualistic under his teaching. Little is known about their actual theology, other than it was dualistic and adoptionist. Their other known tenants are reminiscent of common Gnosticism teachings. They were anti-Marians (actually ‘opposing Mary’, as opposed to Antidicomarianism, which simply oppose her perpetual virginity) and rejected the Old Testament.

25 August, 2013

Adult Confirmation: Introduction, Law/Gospel, Scripture

Today was the start of Adult Confirmation at my church.  I'm going just as a refresher (I was confirmed when I was 14) and so my husband would have company while attending.  Since I took copious notes (5 notebook pages), I thought I would share them here.


What is a catechism? A catechism is the Bible boiled down, like Cliff Notes.  Luther's Small Catechism, the basis of our confirmation studies in the LCMS, consists of several parts:

  • Six Chief Parts:
    • 10 Commandments
    • Apostles' Creed
    • Lord's Prayer
    • Baptism
    • Confession and Absolution
    • Lord's Supper
  • Explanation (what is properly Luther's Small Catechism)
  • Short explanation (added on later)

Law and Gospel

Boiled down even further, the Bible can be summed up in two words: Law and Gospel.  These two words are the very essence of the Bible.

Word of Command
Word of Promise
God’s “Do”s
God’s “Done” (it is finished)
Description of God’s Holiness and command to be holy like God
Declares “You are holy.” (by faith and not works)
Summarized in the 10 Commandments (Natural Law)
Summarized in the Creeds
Shows us our sin and the need for a Savior
Shows us our Savior
Can only condemn

There are 3 uses of the law:
  1. As a Curb
  2. As a Mirror
  3. As a Guide (or rule)

The necessary conclusion of the Law is: I need help.  I need a Savior.

Old Testament Law is divided into three categories:
  1. Moral Law (Natural Law, the 10 Commandments)
  2. Civil Law (bound up to Israel, our civil law is now bound to secular governments)
  3. Ceremonial Law (fulfilled in Christ)

Ceremonial law:
  • Belongs only to the Old Testament
  • Points us to Christ
  • To now practice any ceremonial law is to deny the work, life, death, and resurrection of Christ: it denies Him as the fulfillment of the law and as Savior of the world
(an interesting note about Hebrew: the word for "whole burnt offering" is holocaust)

New Testament "ceremonial law":
  • Baptism
  • Confession and Absolution
  • Lord's Supper

There are only two religions in the world:
  • The Religion of Law (all religions except...)
  • The Religion of Gospel (...Christianity)

It is very important for a proper distinction of Law and Gospel. "Glawspel" is nothing more than diluted law.  We confess that, outside of the Lutheran church, the proper distinction between Law and Gospel does not exist.

There are two sources for knowledge about God: Natural and Revealed.  Natural knowledge of God comes through Creation and the Conscience.  Revealed knowledge of God comes through Scripture.

We learn from Nature that God is:
  • Big (creation)
  • Good (order)
  • Mad (we are bad)
Nature shows us only law.

Revealed to us in Scripture is:
  • God's name
  • Triune nature
  • Salvation
The revealed God is Gospel.

Consciences can be broken when:
  • It tells us we are guilty when we are not
  • It tells us we are not guilty when we are
  • It tells us we are condemned when we are saved
The Devil works on two things:
  • Your conscience
  • The Church

The Bible

This was the "Bible in 15 minutes" summary given by Pastor.

Old Testament:
  • Written by the prophets
  • Written in Hebrew
  • 39 books in 5 'sections':
    • Torah (Books of Moses, 5 books)
    • History (12 books)
    • Wisdom (5 books)
    • Major Prophets (4 books)
    • Minor Prophets (13 books)
  • The major theme running through the whole Old Testament is the promise of Jesus, the seed--every word, every person, every event is driving you towards Christ.
Between the Testaments is the Apocrypha (mostly written in Greek).  We believe it to be helpful, but not sacred or inspired.

New Testament:
  • Written by the Apostles
  • Written in Greek
  • 27 books in 5 'sections':
    • Gospels (4 books)
      • Each book follows the same basic pattern with two major sections in each: the birth and ministry of Jesus; and His death and resurrection
    • Acts (history of the early Church, 1 book)
    • Pauline Epistles (named for "to whom", 13 books)
    • Catholic (universal) Epistles (named mostly for "by whom" because they were addressed to the whole church, 8 books)
    • Prophesy (Revelations, 1 book)
  • Three major authors in the New Testament:
    • Luke: author of Luke and Acts
    • Paul: oversaw the writing of the Gospel of Luke and book of Acts, authored the 13 Pauline Epistles
    • Peter: oversaw the writing of the Gospel of Mark, authored 1 and 2 Peter

Next week, we tackle the first table of the law (Commandments 1-3, by the Lutheran numbering--there are about 5 different ways to number the Commandments, which we will talk about next week).

Hopefully you can make sense of my notes, if not--please comment and I'll be happy to clarify!

19 August, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Anomœanism

Another Arian heresy this week... a somewhat hard-line sect.
Anomœanism: Anomœanism (also known as Aëtianism, Anomeanism, Eunomianism, or Heterousianism) is a 4th century Arianism sect. It comes from a Greek word, literally meaning “not similar”. They purported that Jesus (the Son) was of a different nature and in no way like God (the Father). They rejected Arian’s later confession adopted to be readmitted into the church and clung to his original teachings. They went farther than semi-Arianism, who also denied the consubstantiality of Jesus, but believed that he was like the Father simultaneously.

12 August, 2013

Heresies of the Week: The Seven Deadly "ism"s

A slight break from my usual heresy of the week post for the seven "ism"s destroying modern Christendom as laid out in Pr. Jonathan Fisk's wonderful book "Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible".  Not all of these are actual "ism"s, in that they don't all end that way, but they are "ism"s in that they are movements rather than sound doctrine.

Without giving the book away, here are the 7 "ism"s (with their description from the website above):
  • Mysticism: Never follow a rule that follows your liver, your heart, your pancreas, or any other bodily organ that could conceivably have its mind changed by the shifting of the wind.
  • Moralism: Never follow a rule that wasn't written in stone a very, very long time ago (doubly so if the grass is only greener on the other side because it's made of plastic). 
  • Rationalism: Never follow a rule just because it makes sense (especially if it promises to work because it makes sense [and especially, especially if it either contains the words "spirit-led" or can be entirely explained by a petri dish full of midi-chlorians]).
  • Prosperity: Never follow a rule because it benefits you now (and if it mentions "abundance," run screaming from the room).
  • Pragmatism: Never follow a rule that has to start over (again and again … and again …) again.
  • Werechurch: Never follow a rule that doesn't like rules.
  • "Seven Degrees of You": Never follow a rule in order to justify yourself. Seriously.
There really is nothing new here.  Mysticism has been around forever (taking great root in the Gnostic and Arminian movements in particular); Moralism found its way via legalism and asceticism; Rationalism in the enlightenment; Prosperity in the "Prosperity Gospel" movement that is just reiterations of many older movements; Pragmatism is deep in Arminian theology (particularly the Charismatic movement); the "Werechurch" in some Gnostic sects and Antinomians; and the "Seven Degrees of You" is perhaps the most rampant in today's "me-centric" culture that has taken over much of American Christendom.

Heresies are important to study and learn, not only to be obnoxious or drudge up old history (although I'm okay with both of those as well), but because there is nothing new under the sun--and these things recycle themselves over and over and over and over.  I'm not doing this just to hear myself talk (er... read my writing?), but to hopefully remind fellow Christians that doctrine matters.  Sound doctrine matters.  Pure doctrine matters.  False doctrine is deadly.  And that is why I'm so "fixated" on heresies--because, in the end, it really matters.

P.S. Take some time to watch Worldview Everlasting.  It's awesome.

07 August, 2013

Update and New Blog Series

As expected, my New Year's/Lenten Resolution to work on Greek every day has gone by the wayside since the birth of my son (he will be 4 months old tomorrow!), so my plans to do that on my blog have followed accordingly.  At least I've been keeping up about once a week, but that has slowed progress significantly.  And with the political season kicking into gear (since that's what I do in real life), it'll probably stay stagnated like that for the next year or more.

Besides which, Pr. Jonathan Fisk over at Worldview Everlasting does excellent Greek Tuesday videos almost every week (I would highly recommend starting with his recent video on the Lord's Prayer from Luke), and those are much better than anything I could come up with on my humble little blog--so go watch and enjoy!

However, I'd like to have a little more depth to this blog besides just Heresies (as much fun as those are), and occasional theological screeds.

Hump day is now "Church Council Wednesday", which I'll start in the next few weeks (depending on when I have time to queue up my first set of posts on the topic).  I'm not going to go crazy in-depth because there are a plethora of sites that do so already--some of which I will link to in my posts--but I will give a basic overview of each council: reason(s) called, major players, controversies, related heresies, and results of the council.

I've done some research already into them, and have compiled the following color-coded list.  The key below will show you which councils are recognized as ecumenical by which groups.  If I've missed a council, or mislabeled one, please let me know.

Universally recognized as Ecumenical
Recognized as Ecumenical by the Roman Catholic Church
Recognized as Ecumenical by the Eastern Orthodox Church
Not recognized as Ecumenical by any church body
  • Council of Jerusalem (Apostolic Council) (50)
  • First Council of Nicaea (325)
  • First Council of Constantinople (381)
  • Council of Ephesus (431)
  • Second Council of Ephesus (449)
  • Council of Chalcedon (451)
  • Second Council of Constantinople (553)
  • Third Council of Constantinople (680-681)
  • Quinisext Council (Council in Trullo) (692)
  • Council of Hieria (754)
  • Lateran Council (769)
  • Second Council of Nicaea (787)
  • Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870)
  • Fifth Council of Constantinople (879–880)
  • First Council of the Lateran (1123)
  • Second Council of the Lateran (1139)
  • Third Council of the Lateran (1179)
  • Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215)
  • First Council of Lyon (1245)
  • Second Council of Lyon (1274)
  • Council of Vienne (1311-1312)
  • Council of Constantinople (1341–1351)
  • Council of Pisa (1409)
  • Fifth Council of Constance (1414-1418)
  • Council of Siena (1423–1424)
  • Council of Basel, Ferrara and Florence (1431-1445)
  • Fifth Council of the Lateran (1512-1517)
  • Council of Trent (1545-1563)
  • First Synod of Jerusalem (1583)
  • Second Synod of Jerusalem (1672)
  • First Vatican Council (1870)
  • Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

I'm also planning on an "Early Church Father of the Month" series, beginning with a list by century of Early Church Fathers.  There are a number of excellent resources online where you can read many of their works, particularly the more "obscure" Fathers (it's much harder to find their writings intact and/or in print), which I've started compiling as well.  I am hopefully that I can get that series up and running this Fall.

Since Google Reader has gone away (I've done much grumbling over this), I've begun listing all the confessional Lutheran blogs I follow on the side.  I haven't quite finished that list yet, but the majority is up there now.

Finally, a little project of mine (the genesis for all the content of this blog, in fact) will hopefully be getting more attention now that I'm sleeping most of the way through the night again.  Stay tuned for more on that in the coming months.

05 August, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Samosatenism

This week's heresy is a precursor of Arianism.
Samosatenism: Samosatenism is a pre-Arianism heresy of the 2nd century. Paul of Samosata (for whom this heresy is named) was one of Arius’ teachers. This heresy proposes that Christ was the adopted Son of the Father, not His Son by nature (in the vein of moderate Adoptionism). Christ was taught to be neither perfect God nor perfect Man. Christ was believed to be a created being, not uncreated as the Father is, and therefore less than fully divine (and thus is an antitrinitarian heresy). This heresy was condemned in 325 at the Council of Nicaea along with Arianism.