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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Critical-destructive and critical-restorative

Dr. Armin Wenz puts forth the following one-two theme toward the end of his EXCELLENT essay entitled, "The Holy Scriptures as foundation and means of grace for the Church":

1. The chief relationship between Scripture and tradition can be described as critical-destructive (Wenz).

2. The second relationship between Scripture and tradition can be described as critical-restorative (Wenz).

While I was taught this and believe this, I have never seen these Reformation truths set forth with such powerful words. Wenz goes on to describe each relationship: "The rediscovery of Scripture and justification led the Reformers to the understanding that many traditions in the Church act contrary to the Scriptural message and had often replaced central aspects of the gospel. The second relationship between Scripture and tradition ... is indicated that Scripture has an effect on tradition and the work of Christians and that is salutary for the Church to build upon" (Wenz).

Wenz concisely and theologically puts forward the Holy Scripture and tradition, and does so in the appropriate order. Some traditions are detrimental, but others are salutary. The judge of traditions is Holy Scripture. If a particular tradition is detrimental to or according to the Holy Scriptures, then that tradition must be either reformed or removed. If a particular tradition is salutary, then that tradition should remain and be encouraged.

This sound Reformation approach is found throughout Wenz's essay, and there are many other beautiful gems in that essay as well.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Oswald Bayer and the proclaimed Word

The following is a compilation of one of Bayer's themes in ,,Theology the Lutheran Way":

God is in relation, in us, by speaking to us and addressing us. He addresses us in the word of promise, so that we can answer Him in faith (Bayer 20). The notes to Luther’s 1531 Lectures on Galatians say: God’s justification by humans in faith and the condemnation and denial of God through unbelief (Bayer 20). It is Christ’s office and work to put an end to the conflict between the naked God (deus nudus) and sinful humans (homo nudus) and to overcome such a fatal confrontation so that God can speak to sinners and mercifully rescue them (Bayer 21). He saves them from death and from being curved in on themselves (Bayer 21). God does not deal [act] with us, nor has He ever dealt [acted] with us otherwise than through the word of promise (Bayer 21). We in turn cannot deal with God otherwise than through faith in His word of promise” (Bayer 21). Everything depends on God’s performative word for the enactment of the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the healing of our ingratitude towards the Creator (Bayer 88). The performative word derives its competence, it’s authority, from the resurrection of the crucified Christ (Bayer 90). For Luther, worship has to do with the enactment of the word and faith, of promissio and fides (Bayer 89). For God does not deal, nor has He ever dealt, with us except through the word of promise (Bayer 89). We, in turn, cannot deal with God except through faith in the word of His promise (Bayer 89).

Gottesdienst (Divine Service) is first and last God’s service to us, the sacrifice He made for us in Christ, which He distributes to us in the particular Divine Service: ,,Take and eat! I am here for you!“ (Bayer 90). We misunderstand this Divine Service, which is meant to delight us, if we want to give as a work what we are meant to take and receive as a gift (Bayer 90). We receive through the ,,priest,“ as the servant of the divine Word, ,,the promise and the sign, and we receive the Lord’s Supper passively“ (Bayer 90). The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice we offer, but something we passively receive (Bayer 90). The Words of Institution are performative words that give what they say (Bayer 91). God’s giving leads to us loving others (Bayer 91).

Luther speaks of the Word and the Sacraments as performative words that are active and effective words (verbum efficax) (Bayer 130). We can call the gospel in the Sacraments as the ,,embodied word“ (Bayer 139). Theology then does not refer primarily to a ,,doing“ or ,,knowing“ or ,,feeling,“ but to a word, a particular word. For what we can say of the word we can say also of faith (Bayer 139). Only if the word is promise (promissio) is faith really faith (Bayer 139).

Theology focuses on the speech used in the Divine Service, namely, promise and faith (law and gospel) (Bayer 94). Theology is a doctrine of forms and as such it preserves the findings of form analysis (Formgeschichte) (Bayer 94). Theology also studies history in light of the promise (Bayer 95). The dependence of faith on the Word is to be recognized, objectively and concretely, as history (Geschichte), and not, subjectively and abstractly, as historicity (Geschichtlichkeit) (Bayer 100). Theology is a theology of Anfechtung: it involves trial, testing, and spiritual attack (Bayer 95). Theology is Christological: it can only speak of the God who speaks to us through the history of Christ (Bayer 95). God’s wrath and judgment are forms of His love (Bayer 96). Theology is practical and experience: God is active; we are passive (Bayer 96). Unfortunately, people of modernity understand themselves primarily as doers and actors (Bayer 111). The human heart is an ,,idol factory“ (fabrica idolorum) (Bayer 190). The other gods have their reality in their promises and enticements, as either something fascinating (fascinosum) or frightening (tremendum), in the sense of a power that is given to them by the human fabricating heart (cor fingens) (Bayer 198). The passivity associated with the political use of the law (usus politicus legis) should be understood differently than the other three passivities (Bayer 114). For when God works through His law to preserve His creation, the human agent (homo agens) works with Him (Bayer 114).

The word always comes first and faith follows the word; this is the criterion of the true Divine Service (Bayer 89). Religion is not a private matter (Bayer 89). Faith is nothing but ,,a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God“ (Bayer 92). God, and God alone, does His work in us (Bayer 92). Faith is primarily a receptive life (vita passiva) (Bayer 93). Faith kills not only works if they are misused for self-justification, faith also kills reason if it is wrongly used for the purposes of self-justification (Bayer 110). God’s unity can only be confessed and believed (Bayer 198).