My Final PhD Seminar

After two and a half years of seminar work, writing papers, presentations, and flying to and from Kansas City, my final PhD seminar begins today. It has been a long and strenuous journey through my classes, and it seems odd that I have finally reached my final seminar before my comprehensive exam and dissertation.mbts-pict

I remember when my doctoral studies started in August 2014 and I mapped out my potential schedule, the “Dissertation Seminar” seemed all too far away. I had Old/New Testament Theology, Advanced Greek/Hebrew grammar, and various other courses that I looked forward to taking. I never thought this seminar would be reached, but slow and steady finishes the race.

The way Midwestern offers their non-residential courses allows the student to take two seminars each semester, but only one at a time. When one seminar ends, the next one possibly available for the student will begin the next day or a week later. For example, when my Old Testament Theology seminar ended in April 2015 my Adv. Greek Grammar began the very next week. Also, taking advantage of directed studies can speed up the degree as well. I was fortunate to take NT Theology and Adv. Hebrew Grammar in this format.

With the full support of my wife and congregation, I have not stopped my schooling since January 2015. In fact, my Adv. Hebrew class ended a week before our son was born, so this has been my first “break” since January 2015. Continue reading

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The Ninety-Five Theses

The Ninety-Five Theses

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

luther_95-thesesOut of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to penitence in one’s heart; for such penitence is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward penitence) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep. Continue reading

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Martin Luther on “Righteousness of God”

The teaching of justification by faith alone stands as one of the five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Fide served as the battle cry for the Reformers who declared that a person is saved or justified by faith alone apart from the works of the law. It was Martin Luther who rediscovered this biblical doctrine during his tenure as a lecturer in biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. As he studied, he became convinced that the primary source of Christian theology was not the papal traditions but rather the Bible itself, especially interpreted through the lens of Augustine of Hippo.[1] This discovery eventually lead Luther to rebuild the church from the ground up as in an effort to be faithful to the command of Scripture that the believer is simultaneously a righteous person and a sinner (simul justus et peccator). Thus, the foundation laid by Luther may well be the reason he is attributed with the statement, “Justification is the article by which the church stands and falls.”[2]

Martin Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ changed the course of church history, but what preceded the Reformation was a distinctly different understanding of the meaning “righteousness of God.” Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ served as the catalyst that launched the Reformation. In essence, Luther sought to understand how one martin-luther-statueobtained favor before God. In other words, Luther wanted to know how humanity entered into a relationship with God, one that would save from damnation, death, and hell. Of course, the medieval and Catholic answer to this was the sacraments and the need for intermediaries, such as Mary and the saints. Nevertheless, Luther still wrestled with this as the basis, and it was primarily from how Paul used the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

Luther’s vision of God served as the foundation for what he thought about everything else, especially with the notion of sin and the Law.[3] He knew that people stood condemned before a holy God, and he rejected the notion that people could earn their righteousness.[4] Yet upon his reading of Romans, Luther struggled still with δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

I had conceived a burning desire to understand what Paul meant in his Letter to the Romans, but thus far there had stood in my way, not the cold blood around my heart but that one word which is in chapter one: “The justice of God is revealed in it.” I hated that word, “justice of God,” which by the use and custom of all my teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically as referring to formal or active justice, as they call it, i.e., that justice by which God is just and by which he punishes sinners and the unjust.[5]

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ETS 2015 Reflections

ets-logoLast year I was able to attend my first national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held in Atlanta, Georgia. I have wanted to attend since I was accepted for student membership in 2010, but scheduling conflicts always prohibited my journey. I had to live vicariously through others who attended, listen to their stories about papers presented (and book sales), and follow their journey via Twitter.

I was talking with a friend a few months back who is also attending this year, and he asked about my experience from 2015.

First, it was every theological students dream. There before me on every floor were world-renown scholars in their own discipline. I saw Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology was helpful for me in my early years, from a distance in the book store. I sat a few rows ahead of Bill Mounce who authored the Basics of Biblical Greek textbook that taught me the Greek language. I saw both Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning whose work on Verbal Aspect has dramatically changed how I read the Greek New Testament. I shared an elevator ride with D.A. Carson, saw Doug Moo in the lobby, and watched Tom Schreiner help count votes in the business meeting. I was attending a theological conference with these “heavy-hitters.” Continue reading

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