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.

30 September, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Millenarianism

The last of the eschatological heresies on my list is Millenarianism.
Millenarianism (also known as Millenarism) is a belief that everything revolves around a one thousand-year cycle after which a major transformation will come. Millennialism is a specific example of Millenarianism. These views were condemned by both the Catholic Church, and Lutherans (in the Augsburg Confession of 1530). Many modern movements, such as Millerism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Branch Davidians and (by some) even Judaism are considered to be Millenarianists.

23 September, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Priscillianism

Back to Gnosticism for a bit with this week's heresy...
Priscillianism is a Manichaeism and Gnosticism heresy of the 4th century. Like most Gnostic sects, they teach a dualistic heresy with two kingdoms, light and dark. Human souls were originally destined to conquer the Kingdom of Darkness, but fell and were imprisoned in material bodies. Both light and dark is therefore in humans. Salvation comes in liberation from the dominion of matter. They taught that a savior came in a heavenly body, appeared to be like a man and appeared to die, which released the souls of men from the influence of earthly matter. They practiced Asceticism. Like the Islamic doctrine of Taqiyya, Priscillianists were allowed to lie if the ends were holy.

22 September, 2013

Adult Confirmation: Ten Commandments--Second Table (part two)

After a break last week due to the flooding (my church was flooded), we finished up the 10 Commandments this week.

Sixth Commandment

Diagnostic Questions
  • Am I content in my spouse (delight)? (married) 
  • Am I content in my chastity (delight)? (single) 
Only commandment with a “do do” not a “do not do and do do”

Chaste – purity

  • Impure 
  • Lust 
  • Indecent 
Lord gives us rules about having sex: appropriate only for a husband and wife with each other—and that’s it.

Sexual immorality is now such the norm that being chaste is considered immoral.

Sexual immorality is the only internal, rather than external, sin. It is a joining not only of flesh, but of spirit.

Intimacy is much more than our culture acknowledges.

Picture of…
  • …responsibility: parent 
  • …irresponsibility: sex 
Sex must be the act of someone responsible, not irresponsible. Not recreational, but procreational.

Different risks for sex:
  • Man’s risk is minimal 
  • Woman risks pregnancy 
Feminism should be about accountability for men, rather than “reducing” risk for women

Abstinence is the negative side of chastity. Continence is the gift of perpetual abstinence.

Can be broken in:
  • Adultery: sexual activity with someone not your spouse 
  • Fornication: any sexual activity by unmarried people 
  • Divorce: two reason that are acceptable (but not necessary)— 
    • Abandonment 
      • Abuse (understood as a form of abandonment) 
    • Adultery 
  • Marriage: between one man and one woman 
    • Polygamy is tolerated, but never okay (never ends well) 
    • Homosexuality is not allowed 
  • Pornography: sexually explicit writing and images (dulls our conscience so we become unaware of our sin—addictive like drugs and alcohol; doesn’t manifest itself like other addictions, masquerades as a secret) 
Chastity includes our eyes and imagination

There is a lot of guilt and shame associated with the sixth commandment: nakedness and depression; whether you commit sexual sin or have it committed against you.

“What I have called clean do not call unclean.”

Does marriage belong to the church or state? It’s God’s own separate institution, which means it is apart from both.

Seventh Commandment

Not just stewards, but owners

Commands us to be generous, sin is to be greedy (lust for stuff)

Laziness is a sin against the 7th commandment (diligence)

Anti-socialism commandment
  • Inflation is theft (manipulation of value) 
  • Usury in the realm of theft 
  • Debt is destabilizing 
Economics is a continued meditation on the 7th commandment

Eighth Commandment

Anti-gossip commandment (intent to destroy reputation)

Establishes the judiciary and courts

Attempt to protect neighbor’s reputation in private first (then public if necessary); unless it is a false teaching, then address it publicly

Test for bringing sin to light: you risk your own reputation, be willing to bring it to court (Luther’s test)

Ninth and Tenth Commandment


10th: enticement

Every sin starts with 9th and 10th commandments (faulty desire)

1st and 2nd + 9th and 10th are matters of the heart (others with mouth and actions)

16 September, 2013

Heresies of the Week: Noeticism and Patripassianism

Two more related heresies this week, both of a Sabellianism flavor.
Noeticism is a 3rd century, antitrinitarian heresy that says God moved into Mary as a single spirit (with no distinction in the Trinity), became Christ upon birth and the Father himself died on the cross. Noeticism is considered the forerunner of Patripassianism­.
Patripassianism (also spelled Patripassionism) is a 3rd century heresy that believes God the Father also suffered with Christ on the Cross (or that the Father alone suffered on the Cross), and anything that happened to Jesus happened to the Father as well. It is considered heretical because only the human nature of Christ could suffer, not His divine nature. It is an antitrinitarian heresy because it denies the distinctness of the three persons in the Trinity. Patripassianism is considered to be a Sabellianism heresy, but the “father” of Patripassianism is Noeticism.

09 September, 2013

Heresy of the Week: Christadelphianism

This week is the last of the Adoptionism heresies.
Christadelphianism is the name for a 19th-21st century heretical church that follows Unitarianism (making it both antitrinitarian and a Pelagianism-family heresy). They now have churches in 120 countries, but a relatively small membership worldwide. They believe in rebaptism through total immersion and pacifism (Anabaptism), and they deny the Trinity (believing instead in God the Father only). They claim all their teachings are from the inerrant Bible. They believe in Jesus, but as a Father-created being, not eternal God. They believe there is no security in salvation, and that you must keep trying to live a perfect life your whole life. You will not know if you were “good enough” until the Second Coming when all mankind finds out where they spend the rest of eternity—in Hell, or on a new, transformed earth with God (they do not believe in Heaven). The Nazarenes we know today started out as Christadelphians, but separated in the late 19th century.

08 September, 2013

Adult Confirmation: Ten Commandments--Second Table (part one)

Click on the links to see notes from Week 1 and Week 2.

This week, we dug into the meat of the 4th and 5th commandments ("Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother," and "Thou shalt not murder," respectively).  We were supposed to cover the rest of the commandments... but you know how that goes.

Here are my notes from tonight's class.


  • 1st Commandment--God gives us Himself, and takes everything else away (deals with our heart)
  • 2nd Commandment--God gives us his name and gives us a life of prayer (deals with our lips)
  • 3rd Commandment--God gives us the gift of worship and His Word (deals with our ears)
  • The Commandments are not only restrictive ("do not do this bad thing"), but also positive ("do this good thing")
  • What does it mean to live a Christian life?  Listening.  Our "action" is passive, not active.
Before we got into the rest of the class, my husband asked a good question about why we say "fear and love" in the response to each Commandment in our Small Catechism.
  • Fear and Love are contradictory ideas
  • Some say that fear is "holy awe and respect"--but the Bible doesn't say that (those words could have been used, but weren't)
  • Fear leaves you completely at the the mercy of God
  • God commands us to fear Him only--once we believe, the threat of damnation (fear) is removed, and only love remains
  • Fear gives way to love; Law gives way to Gospel
  • We have a continual battle between Fear and Love (Law and Gospel), which is why we say both
We then talked about Luther's "tower experience" (when he first understood the Gospel)
  • Romans 1:16--Luther was hung up on the phrase "righteousness of God"
  • He believed that the Law = 10 Commandments, and the Gospel = more commands
  • That makes this "active righteousness", or our works used to fulfil the Law and the "Gospel commands"
  • Luther felt this was oppressive and wondered why God would do this--it's like asking us to complete an impossible task
  • Luther realized, unlike any other theologian, that we don't need to try and make God's Word more palatable; we don't need to add or subtract anything--we just need to believe (and not always understand)
  • The Scriptures tell us all we need to know, not all we want to know
  • He realized that righteousness was passive (through faith and trust) rather than active (through works)

Second Table

  • The Fourth Commandment (establishing authority) is the font of societal order and the foundation of all other commandments following.
  • Estates: the ordering of society
    • 1st: Family - parents --> children
      • Foremost estate of human society--the primary building block
    • 2nd: Church - preacher --> preachee (hearer)
      • Also deals with the 3rd commandment
      • Canonical governance, means of disseminating Law and Gospel
    • 3rd: State - ruler --> ruled
      • Civil governance (derived from family)
      • Unlike the other two estates, the structure of the state is complex, although overly simplified, it becomes ruler and ruled
      • Unique caveat with constitutional representative government (like America)
      • Family does not serve the state, the state serves the family (since the estate of the family is the building block of the state)
    • It is VERY important not to confuse these estates (i.e. in a theocracy unless it is established by God--the ONLY one ever established was in Old Testament Israel)
  • Vocation: calling and station in life
    • Who is my neighbor?
    • Who our neighbor is determines how we specifically act towards those involved with our vocations.
  • Authority vs. Power = function of vocation vs. essential
  • Authority is to give gifts
  • Satan attacks the institutions of the family and attempts to pervert the balance of family supremacy over the state
  • See my previous post on the Left Hand and Right Hand Kingdoms here (we reviewed it in class tonight)
  • When dealing with the 5th Commandment (which protects life), understand that there is a distinction between killing and murder (i.e. self defense, war, capital punishment)
  • How do you distinguish between the two?  Ask: "Am I angry?"
  • The Just War Theory was developed to help determine when it was justified for Christians to be involved in war
  • Violence is sometimes necessary to use against death to bring death to an end.

Next week, we will finish up the 10 Commandments and hopefully start the Apostles' Creed.  The political animal in me is looking forward to more thorough discussion of the 7th Commandment, which Pastor calls the "anti-socialism" Commandment.  I already enjoy the discussions we've had about the 4th Commandment and authority.  A little teaser for next week:

02 September, 2013

Heresies of the Week: Ebionitism and Psilanthropism

A continuation of Adoptionism-related heresies...
Ebionitism (coming from a word meaning “the poor” in Hebrew) refers to a Jewish Christian heretical sect of the early church. They regard Jesus as the Messiah and insist that it is still necessary to follow all Jewish laws, traditions and rites (a Legalism heresy). They rejected the writings of Paul as “apostate”. As suggested by their name, they put a high premium on voluntary poverty. Some scholars differentiate Ebionites from groups such as the Nazarenes or Messianic Jews, other considered them the same. Ebionites believe in a Monophysitism-style angelology, claiming that Christ is a great archangel who was incarnated in Jesus and then adopted as the Son of God (quasi-Adoptionism and Psilanthropism). 
Psilanthropism is sometimes used to describe Ebionitism, and is considered part of the Adoptionism family of heresies. It teaches that Jesus is “merely human” and is the literal son of two human parents (coming from the Greek for “plain human” or “mere human”). Modern iterations of this heresy include the Unitarian Church (Unitarianism) and the Unification Church.

01 September, 2013

Adult Confirmation: Ten Commandments--First Table

Tonight we had a brief review of Law and Gospel, an overview of the Ten Commandments, and talked a little more in-depth about the first table of the Law (see below for a definition of that).  Here are my notes.

Law and Gospel (review)

See my notes from last week's class for more on Law and Gospel.

Briefly, the Law condemns, and the Gospel brings salvation.

There are three uses of the Law:

  1. Curb (for all people)
  2. Mirror (the primary purpose of the Law, for all people)
  3. Guide or Rule (exclusive to Christians)
The Holy Ghost drives us in different directions based on Law and Gospel, but always towards the same place.
Forgiveness of sins is meaningless without a knowledge of sin.

Ten Commandments Overview

There are two tables to the Ten Commandments:

The First Table is God's table, or how we relate to God, and is the first three commandments.
The Second Table is our neighbor's table, or how we interact with our neighbor, and is the last seven commandments.

Note: Lutherans and Catholics number our commandments a little differently than protestantism.  This is because when God gave the commandments, He didn't number them, just said there were 10, and as Pastor pointed out last week, there really should be 9 or 11 "logically", so we make them work as 10 as best we can.  Protestantism separates our first commandment into two, and combines our ninth and tenth into one.  I'll say what each commandment is when I talk about it to hopefully help avoid confusion.  I don't know if there is a right or wrong way to number then, this is just how we do it.

The First Table drives us vertically in faith towards God; the Second Table drives us horizontally in love towards our neighbor.

If you were to boil down the Ten Commandments even further from the two tables, they can be summarized in one word: love.

Love is a very deadly word.  Love ensures that we know we have never fulfilled the Law.  Remember, the Law always accuses.

The Ten Commandments are institutions that establish order in this world.  The commandments protect what God institutes.  The commandments are less of a "leash" (to yank us back when we sin), and more of a fence (to protect God's institutions).  In each commandment, God gives us these gifts:
  • God Himself (in the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods," God take everything else away from us and gives us the gift of Himself)
  • His Name (in the second commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain," God gives us the gifts of prayer, worship, and right doctrine)
  • Holiness (in the third commandment, "Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day," God gives us the gift of His Word and the Church)
  • Authority (in the fourth commandment, "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother [that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long upon the earth]," God gives us the gift of family and the state)
  • Life (in the fifth commandment, "Thou shalt not murder," God gives us the gift of life)
  • Marriage (in the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," God gives us the gifts of marriage and sex)
  • Property (in the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," God gives us the gifts of money, labor, and possessions)
  • Honor (in the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," God gives us the gifts of reputation and our good name)
  • Contentment (in the ninth and tenth commandments, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house," and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his," God gives us the gift of contentment)

First Table

Below are specific notes on each commandment from the first table.  The questions are diagnostic questions to help self-examine when reflecting on the commandments.

First Commandment: There is no fear left.  God, who can destroy our body and soul, won't because He destroyed his Son instead of us.
  • Primary: Of what am I afraid?  What do I fear?
  • Secondary: In what do I trust?  What do I love?
Second Commandment: God is trusting us to rightly use His name, not to hide it away.  Jews, for fear of misusing God's name, wouldn't use it, however, we are sinning when we don't use His name rightly--which also means when we don't use it at all.  When praying, you ask (because that is who He is) and give thanks (for what He gives).
  • Primary: How are my prayers?
Third Commandment: The way something is made holy is by having God's name put on it.  Holy means to be set apart.  Holiness isn't a form of morality.
  • Primary: What is my attitude towards worship?

The Importance of Doctrine

The second and third commandments in particular warn against false doctrine.  Dr. Luther said that all false doctrines strike at Christ.  We misuse the name of God when we teach something false in His name.  We do not worship God when we teach false doctrine in our churches or use it in worship.  That is why right doctrine is so important.  The one of the most loving things we can do for our neighbor is insist on sound doctrine.  Other forms of prevalent false worship today are:
  • Unionism: joining in worship with other denominations who teach incorrect doctrine
  • Syncretism: worshiping with those of other religions, giving the impression that "all paths lead to God"
That is why, as Lutherans, we practice closed communion, because we cannot partake of a table where false doctrine is the confession.  We also do not allow those we know do not confess as we do to commune with us.  This is a loving, not mean, thing.  It protects the Pastor (who is accountable for those he communes), the congregation (who then would partake in a unified confession of false doctrine), and you (who may potentially eat the Body and drink the Blood to your damnation, as 1 Corthinians 15 says).