Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Matthew Becker's Heretical Teaching Against the Autopisti of the Word

Matthew Becker's Heresy against the Autopisti of the Word

Dr. Matthew Becker, on the roster of ordained clergy in the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, and Professor at Valparaiso University, publically teaches[1] a variety of heresies[2] against Scripture and the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. These heresies touch upon various doctrines: the office of public ministry, the order of creation, creation, the fall, sin, and of course, Scripture.


Since the first-mentioned heresies contradict Scripture, part of what he had to do, logically, was adopt from bygone days hackneyed attacks on the authority of the Word. The Word had to be changed in order to change those other doctrines. The attacks are so old, tired, and worn out that it would be boring, if it were not that they will drag our children to Hell.


Many have written to expose these heresies. They do an incisive job of refuting Dr. Becker point by point. My purpose here is nothing like that. The purpose of this post is limited to:

  • Christian assurance of Scripture

  • which is assurance from the autopisti of the Word

  • and how this is the watershed of the conflict

This is the watershed. It is very important to follow the trickles, streams, and rivers down the waterways. Theologians are doing that, and we should read the theologians. But as a layman who has seen this movie before in the American Lutheran Church of the 1960s, and who was fortunate enough to be confirmed by one of the devout theologians of that synod, The Rev. Dr. Casper B. Nervig, my perspective is that we must keep track of the watershed issue: the autopisti of the Word.


Yes, autopisti. This is what Dr. Becker denies. He denies what my confirmation pastor taught me, and what all orthodox Lutheran doctors, teachers, pastors, and public ministers have taught since the Reformation.


Before we can get to the normative authority of the Word, which is its authority to establish our teachings about various doctrines, such as sin, salvation, the means of grace, the office of public ministry, and so on, first we must get straight the causative authority of the Word. What causes the Word to have authority, to give us the assurance that it is the Word of God. Those other doctrines, absolutely essential to the purity of the Gospel, are down a ways from the watershed, in the areas of the Word's normative authority. The watershed is the causative authority of the Word.


Take a few steps to one side of the watershed, and water flows to the Pacific Ocean. Take a few steps to the other side of the watershed, and water flows to the Gulf of Mexico. It looks like mere feet, but destiny is oceans apart.


Therefore in this conflict, part of what we must do is clarify the causative authority of the Word, and rally all the faithful at the watershed. This is strategic. The rest is tactical. We already have the better tactics. Let's deploy them strategically.


Dr. Nervig spoke on the autopisti of the Word at the Northern Minnesota district pastoral conference, N.L.C.A., Bemidji, Minnesota, April 18, 1939. His presentation was published as, "Christian Assurance: An Exegetical Study of Romans 8:16," Journal of Theology of the American Lutheran Conference, pp. 337-51, (Danish Lutheran Publishing House, Blair, Nebraska, April, 1941). He said, pp. 345-47:


We can be assured that God's Word is true because Scripture itself has given us that assurance through the testimony of the Holy Spirit. In other words, God's word is self-assuring regarding itself. To the world that sounds presumptuous , but it is the sovereign authority of Scripture. This has been called the 'causative authority' of Scripture in distinction from the 'normative authority' of Scripture in matters of faith and life. J. T. Mueller says, (Christian Dogmatics, Concordia 1934, p. 121) 'The causative authority of the Holy Scripture is that by which it engenders and preserves faith in its own teaching through its very word' (Rom 10:17). 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' This causative authority is exercised directly by the Holy Spirit through the Word bringing out a divine assurance (fides divina). That is the testimony of the Holy Spirit.


Of this Quenstedt writes: 'The ultimate reason by and through which we are led to believe with a divine and unshaken faith that God's Word is God's Word is the intrinsic power and efficacy of that Word itself, or the testimony and seal of the Holy Spirit, who speaks in and through Scripture, because the bestowal of faith . . . is a work that emanates from the Holy Spirit.'  Hollaz writes as follows: 'By the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, is here understood the supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, attentively read or heard . . . by which he moves, opens, and illuminates the heart of man and incites it to faithful obedience.' (Quoted by Mueller, p. 121)


In support of this, notice that Paul writes to the Corinthians that his 'speech and preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit and power' (I Cor. 2:4,5). To the Thessalonians he writes that they received his word as the Word of God because the divine word 'effectually worketh in you that believe' (I Thess. 2:13,14).


Our assurance of the truth of Scripture is based on nothing outside of the Word itself. That Word, by the testimony of the Holy Spirit working through itself, gives the assurance that it is true. This is as it were the declaration of independence of Scripture in which it accepts no superior and not even a peer. It is sovereign, absolutely autonomous, containing within itself the assurance of its authority.  . . .


This principle of Scripture comes to us from the Reformation. It received a clean-cut formulation in the early orthodoxy in the words of Joh. Gerhard, who spoke of this principle as 'quaedam principa, autopista kai anapodeikta, certissima et indemonstrabilia, quae non dependent ex aliis, sed alia ex ipsis.' (a certain principle, self-evident – or self-persuading – and independent of proof, most sure and beyond proof, which is not dependent on others but which others depend upon).


Having seen the 'autopisti,' the autonomous self-certainty of the Word of God we cease to look for any other proof to buttress our faith in its authority. This testimony of the Holy Spirit becomes then in fact identical with faith. Quoting Luther: 'We do not distinguish the Holy Spirit from faith, nor is He contrary to faith; for He is Himself the assurance of the Word, who makes us certain of the Word, so that we do not doubt, but believe most certainly and beyond all doubt that it is just so and in no respect whatever different from that which God in His Word declares and tells us' (Erlangen Edition, vol. 58, p. 153). If someone asks, 'How do you know that the Scriptures are true?' I answer, 'I know it is true because I believe it is true.' But 'I believe' does not mean 'It is my opinion' as that word is so often used. This I believe' is a certainty which I have from the Holy Spirit working in me through the Word; it is the testimony of the Holy Spirit.


It should hardly be necessary to call attention to it but let me remind you that in no way is this assurance to be defined as experience so that it becomes confused with the testimony of the human spirit. It is independent of our spirit grounded in God's word.


Now it is true that there is a certain human assurance regarding the truth of God's Word. It is called fides humana. Internally these proofs are, the unique harmony of its many books and authors, the sublime nature of its contents, the amazing prediction of future events, etc. Externally these proofs are its power to survive centuries of assault, its stupendous achievement in changing men as individuals and in fact whole civilizations, the faith of martyrs and others similar. These are scientific proofs of the divine authority of the Bible. But let us remember that the best that such proofs can do is to provide a sort of a human assurance, as Quenstedt says, they do not beget a 'divine, but merely a human faith; not an unshaken certainty, but merely a credibility or a very probable opinion' (quoted by Mueller, p. 123). They can be used by the pastor as a starting point with the hope of persuading the unregenerate to give God's Word a hearing, but beyond that these 'proofs' are totally helpless; after that God's Word and the Holy Spirit must create saving faith and assurance.


We cannot judge Dr. Becker's heart. We can judge only his confession. By his confession, he denies the autopisti of the Word. At the watershed, those few steps are what cause him to subject the Word to external tests of truth and reject the Word's sovereign independence. That's why, later, down the waterway, when dealing with the normative authority of the Word on creation, fall, sin, salvation, ordination, and so on, he is oceans apart from the Confessors of the Evangelical Lutheran faith.




[1] Matthew Becker, “A Case for Female Pastors and Theologians,” in A Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2010), 126-140. Matthew Becker, “The Scandal of the LCMS Mind” (revised), in A Daystar Reader (Portland, Ore.: Daystar.net, 2010), 165-184.


[2]  Matt Harrison, "Regarding a recent decision of a panel not to proceed with charges regarding a public false teacher in the LCMS," Witness, Mercy, Life Together, January 26, 2015. "When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the errancy of the Bible, the historical-critical method, open communion, communion with the Reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the Synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance and remove such a teacher where there is no repentance, then we are liars and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation." See also, Scott Diekmann, "Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker: Nature Interprets Scripture," Stand Firm, April 16, 2012.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

From Empire to Execution in Four Days

Jesus Is the Real Nowhere Man

Sidney Herald religion column published January 4, 2015


Napoleon moved with his army through Switzerland. People hailed him everywhere with thunderous applause and cheers. He seemed unimpressed. Someone said, "Isn’t it great, this roaring support of the people?” Napoleon replied, “The same people cheering for me today would cheer just as loudly at my execution.”


When Jesus showed his glory, people liked him. When He fed 5000, the crowd wanted to “take Him by force to make Him king.” (John 6:15) When He paraded into Jerusalem in the traditional way of kings, crowds blessed him as “the King of Israel!” (John 12.13) That was Palm Sunday. By Thursday, they cried, “Crucify him!” Like Napoleon said.


When Jesus hid his glory, people hated him. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world; [otherwise] my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered.” (John 18:36) No fight, no power, no glory. The chief priests said, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)


When Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, at first Herod was glad to see him. “He was hoping to see some sign done by him.” (Luke 23:8) Jesus showed him no sign. Because he saw no glory in Jesus, “Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe.” (Luke 23:11)


Pilate’s soldiers also mocked Jesus. Each mockery was directed against his kingship. They clothed him with a purple robe, twisted a crown of thorns, put the crown on his head, put a reed in his right hand like a scepter, bowed the knee before him, saluted him with “Hail, King of the Jews,” worshiped him in mock worship, struck him with their hands, and spit on him. They struck him on the head with a scepter-like reed showing themselves as kings more than he was.


When the Romans crucified a criminal, they wrote the condemnation on a placard, such as, Traitor, Insurrectionist, or Assassin. On Jesus’ placard they wrote, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Such shame, to think you are a king and be so weak. They wrote it in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Let everyone read the shame.


At the cross, people mocked Jesus as a king without glory. “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” (Matthew 27:42) They were like Herod. They demanded glory.


Isaiah prophesied of this, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” (Isaiah 45:15) The power and glory, wisdom and holiness of God were hidden deeply under their opposites, weakness and shame, foolishness and guilt. The Cross is the opposite of glory. The Suffering Servant is the opposite of a king. He hides, suffers, and serves to be our Savior.


Jesus endured our rejection of him that we might have his acceptance with the Father. On the basis of Christ’s blood, we receive “his grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Word Does Things To Us: Law-Gospel Metanarrative

"Sixteenth century  humanists were already changing biblical exegesis by finding 'a literary method for handling the narrative construction of the Bible as a whole … where discrete biblical meanings congealed in a coherent body of knowledge.' Luther contributed to that search by providing a metanarrative that recognized the dilemma of the sinner and delivered God's salvation, categorizing the biblical message as law that condemns sinners and gospel that resurrects children of God.

"Over the following decades Luther's presupposition that God's Word is a living, creating instrument became intimately connected with defining this metanarrative of God's interaction with his human creatures. As he abandoned the allegorical method as his orienting hermeneutic, he slowly became convinced that Scripture's meaning lay not in 'the system of signification of the text's exoteric or esoteric meanings but rather in what the text actually did to him and for him.'  He proposed that the story of God's creation, redemption, and sanctification of fallen humankind proceeds out of Scripture and into the life of the congregation through the use of its message. This message functions in oral, written, and sacramental forms as the law kills and the gospel makes alive. 'Alive' for him meant living by faith in Christ, in the vertical dimension of life, and loving the neighbor in its horizontal dimension."

Robert Kolb, Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith, p. 46 (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Jesus Fooled the World

Sidney Herald religion column published November 30, 2014


Messiah is a person foretold in Hebrew prophesies. The prophets spoke during more than 1000 years. Each added specifics to who Messiah would be.


To fool the world, all Jesus had to do was fulfill a few hundred prophesies. Let’s look at a sample.


Jesus was choosy about his parents, to make himself a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David.


He was fussy about the year he was born, the one foretold by Daniel.


He was picky about where he was born, the little town of Bethlehem, population 500-600, smaller than Culbertson. He had the Roman Empire slap on a tax at the right time to drive Joseph and Mary there when he would be delivered. That placed him among one to two dozen boys born there per year.


He hired the wise men who visited from the east through a temp agency. He ordered his own star in the sky marking his birthplace from the Sears Roebuck catalog.


A prophet said Messiah would be called out of Egypt. Another said that during his infancy, mothers all around would weep for their dead children. So Jesus enlisted King Herod, in an effort to get rid of Messiah, to kill off all baby boys up to two years old. That drove his mom and dad to flee for safety to Egypt and left mothers all around weeping.


A prophet said Messiah would be called a Nazarene. So after Herod died and the family was returning from Egypt, he talked Joseph and Mary into moving to Nazareth.


Those prophetic fulfillments already narrowed it down to Jesus being the only man in history who could be Messiah, but Jesus was an over achiever. He kept up the act through his life and even after his death.


He got Judas to betray him into death. He fixed the price of betrayal at 30 pieces of silver. He got Judas to throw down the silver pieces in the Temple. He got the Jewish leaders to use the 30 pieces to buy the potter’s field.


Since Jews executed by stoning, the Romans came in handy again. Jesus used their governor, Pontius Pilate, to execute him by crucifixion, as prophesied. Pilate was so accommodating, he executed Jesus with two thieves, and he placed Jesus between the thieves, as foretold.


The soldiers killing Jesus helped him fulfill prophesies surrounding the cross. They gambled for his clothes, offered him gall, pierced his side, and, though ordinarily they would have broken his legs with bats so he would die before the Sabbath started, oddly, they did not break his legs.


Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus’ body in his own tomb, so Messiah, though poor, was buried among the rich.


Why believe Jesus? It’s not the best reason, but one reason is, it’s too much work not to. I don’t have the brain power to refute all these prophesies and fulfillments. This Jesus is the Messiah who has power and authority to forgive your sins, and He’s willing.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Focus of Life is "None of the Above"

Focus of Life

The focus of life is, "none of the above."


The Pagan and secular worlds say we have three options for emphasis in our lives:


1. Doing.


2. Being.


3. Thinking (or believing).


Which is it? None of the above.


They overlook the fourth option:


4. Receiving.


Yes, receiving.


The Doer is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


God creates. The Father creates us, and He creates the rest of the creation for us. Pagans and secularists say this is too self-centered, but since God is love, He doesn't seem to think it is so self-centered for him to create creation for us, nor for us to be occupied with receiving it. Check out Luther's explanation of the First Article. You'll see it there. God is for you.


God redeems. The Son becomes incarnate. The Son lays down his life. No one takes it from him. He works blood atonement on the Cross. For whom does He do this? He invites you to say, "for me." In the words of Luther's explanation of the Second Article, you can say, "Jesus is my Lord, who has redeemed me ... purchased and won me ... that I may be His own." God is for you.


God sanctifies. The Holy Spirit is the holifying, sanctifying, the making-holy Spirit. Holiness is not just an inert attribute or property of the Spirit. The word Holy in the name Holy Spirit says what the Spirit DOES. He makes holy. He calls, He gathers, He enlightens, He sanctifies you, and the whole Christian church on earth. God is for you.


God delivers. He delivers justification, faith, and regeneration by the Word using water. He delivers his true body and blood by the Word using bread and wine. With the blood received in your mouth, He delivers to you what the blood was shed for, the forgiveness of sins. In the Word and Sacraments, God is Immanuel, God with us, who visits with consolation for sin and joy in salvation. God is for you.


True Worship. The true worship of God is to receive his gifts.


And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the latreiva [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the latreiva [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, IV.49)


Focus. Immerse your life in his gifts, and don't worry, you'll have all the doing, being, and thinking anyone could use. We cannot do, be, or think rightly without his gifts. But mostly, you will have life, and that abundantly and eternally, as a reception by faith of gifts from our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, the God who is for us and gives us his greatest gift: Himself.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

You Are Nominated for the King's Choice Award

Sidney Herald religion column published November 16, 2014

Hollywood royalty. Millions watch them in theatres. More millions watch them when their movies are on television. Still more watch them receiving Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, and People’s Choice Awards. In those pageants, the media rank their glory by what they wear, who their designers are, who does their hair, and who arrives with whom. They are royalty, so they go from glory to glory.

Not so with the King of Kings. Jesus is a strange king. He kept voluntarily hiding his glory. He hid his royal glory by his birth in poverty, life of suffering, crucifixion, and death. In burial, the hiding was complete. To feel the weight of his humiliation in burial, it helps to recall the prominence of his Kingdom in the Gospel.

The Gospel is called the “gospel of the kingdom.” John the Baptist and Jesus announced the kingdom. The Twelve and the Seventy taught the kingdom. Between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus taught the kingdom. He sent out the Apostles to teach the kingdom. The end comes after the kingdom is preached in the whole world.

The Beatitudes begin and end with the kingdom. The kingdom is what most of Jesus’ parables are about. In them, He repeatedly says, “The kingdom is like.” Jesus says to seek the kingdom first. The purpose of being born again is to see the kingdom, and the purpose of being converted is to enter the kingdom.

Jesus entered Jerusalem in the style of a king. He was crucified as King of the Jews. Soldiers mocked him with a crown of thorns. People mocked him, saying if He was a king, He should come down from the cross and save himself. The repenting thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when Christ came into his kingdom.

The hallmark of kingdoms is their glory. In a doxology sometimes added to the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” As King, Jesus was entitled to glory. With the prominence of his Kingdom in the Gospel, we could expect a display of glory. Instead, He was buried in dust.

The Bible pictures dust as the opposite of royal glory. The Lord said to King Jehu, “I lifted you out of the dust and made you ruler over my people Israel.” (1 Kings 16:2) In Hannah’s prayer, she said, “He raises the poor from the dust … to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.” (1 Samuel 2:8)

Instead of going from dust to throne, Jesus went from throne to dust. He buried himself in the grave we deserved, to give us his glory. He “calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12) He is “bringing many sons to glory.” (Hebrews 2:10) In the resurrection they “will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Through the word of his burial, you are nominated for the King’s Choice Award, his gift to you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jesus' Senior Picture Was Not in the Newspaper

Sidney Herald religion column published October 19, 2014


I redesigned my Dad’s ’69 Chevy pickup. From a stop sign on a side street, I pulled into an intersection entering a 4-lane avenue. Wham! I hadn’t seen that car to my left. The officer gave me a date to appear. Wearing my Sunday suit, I walked 20 blocks to court. The judge asked, “How do you plead?” “Guilty.” “Your fine is $40.” In 1970, that was a pile of money for a high school junior. The judge wanted it all, now. I didn’t have it. My imagination conjured severe consequences.


The judge’s laser-targeted eyes shifted from me to something behind me. I looked where the judge looked. My Dad had followed me to court. He had been sitting quietly in the back, but now was coming forward with a check already made out. His love for me was showing.


The next year, our class was supposed to submit our senior pictures to the newspaper. Local businesses sponsored them in the graduation edition. Dad was the manager of a business that was going to sponsor mine. Through neglect, I failed to get my picture to the paper. When the edition came out, Dad was deprived of showing his regard for me. He suffered.


God the Father likes to show that He loves his Only Begotten Son. At Jesus’ baptism, He said so everyone could hear, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In Christ’s transfiguration, the Father said it again and added, “Listen to him.” Jesus always was aware of his Father’s love. (John 11:41-42; 15:9; 17:23-26; Mark 12:6; Luke 20:13)


But in his state of humiliation, Jesus passed through five steps: birth in poverty, life of suffering, crucifixion, death, and burial. In that fifth step, one of the things that made it a humiliation was that the Father's love for him was silenced.


In Psalm 88, Jesus speaks ahead of time about his burial. He said, “Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?” (v 11) It is not declared. The grave silenced the Father’s love. Jesus was deprived the honor of love’s declaration, and the Father was deprived of showing his regard for his Son. They both suffered. Instead of a senior picture in the newspaper, Jesus went to the grave. Burial humiliated Christ because dust hid the Father’s love for him under wrath for our sin. The Psalm says,


I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.
You have laid me in the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,


Derek Kidner says, “There is no sadder prayer in the Psalter.” For our sin, Jesus descended from the bosom of the Father to burial and banishment by his Father. He did this to bring us to his Father. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) Through the burial of Christ when the Father was silent about his love for him, the Father openly declared his love for us. In our burials, we have the hope of the resurrection. Through the humiliation of his body being buried, we shall be raised in glorified bodies.