Monday, February 12, 2007

Publishing books without fear.

I have been reading Martin Luther's book "The Bondage of the Will" recently. Basically the book was written as a response to a person named Erasmus who was a humanist in the Roman church, who took the position of mans free will. Christians history does owe Erasmus some credit on a couple of levels, he was responsible for one of the (if not the) earliest critical Greek New Testament texts. Even Martin Luther found it quite useful.

There is a lot of history between Erasmus and Luther that led up to Erasmus' publishing the book "Diatribe seu collatio de libero arbitrio" (Discussion, or Collation, concerning Free-Will). The translation of Luther's book as done by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston does a great job of giving details of all the events and exchanges between Luther and Erasmus and other prominent figures in light of the tension being caused by the reformation. Long story short, Erasmus wrote the "Diatribe" more by compulsion from outside forces rather than desire or conviction. Nevertheless, He wrote it. And he did so as a sort of swipe at Luther's theology, to which Luther masterfully responded and tore the Diatribe to shreds with unarguable theology.

Hopefully, if nothing else, this will get you interested in reading a great book. But here are my thoughts that I intended to share. Even as I was just reading the Historical and theological introduction to this book it struck me how even letters sent to one person and another were published for everyone to read and see. Furthermore it also struck me how it seemed there was some accountability amongst the theologians for what they wrote. After all Luther did not hesitate to strike down the diatribe with all the weight of Scripture because he saw it as no less than an attack on the gospel itself.

I'm sure there was much that went unchecked then as well, but just seeing a few examples of this "accountability" as you might call it, I thought to myself there needs to be more of that today. James White wrote "The Potter's Freedom" in response to Norman Geislers "Chosen But Free" and I think it kind of perturbed Geisler. My thinking however is "So what?" Should a person be able to wright a book dealing with doctrines of God's holy Scripture and have no fear? I should think that an honest Christian would welcome critique, even if it is a bit harsh. Though a response should certainly be done in the love of Christ, it should be done more often than it is.

To many authors today write books with no fear because they feel they can say whatever they like and get away with it. Here is my war cry, small though it may be received, "Let's keep theolgians and authors accountable for what they write!"

I don't mean to say that every book that is published deserves a response, or even everytime we disagree with a certain point made that it warrants a full response. But I do mean to say when we see a book or an article written that (knowingly or unknowingly) assaults the gospel it is our Christian duty to give an apologetic/polemic response. Apologetic meaning a biblical defense of the truth, not an "I'm sorry."

If such could be brought about more often then it might make the next person think hard before he puts pen to paper or more likely finger to keyboard. If I wrote something that did not stand under the weight of Scripture I would hope someone would challenge me in a Christlike manner. If this practice became more common place 1 of 2 things might happen.

1. Earnest and sincere brothers might be corrected in love and refute their own mistakes.

2. The person might not change their position but at least both sides of the argument have presented for readers to weigh for themselves.

I'm sick of books and articles that spit out heresies, and false doctrines going unchecked. And in the spirit of meaning what I say, I am going to take on a book written by Bryan McLaren called "The Secret Message of Jesus." Mclaren does no less than try to redefine the gospel in a way that unravells it altogether. And I am going to very soon write a response and see if I can get it published.

Those of you who know the word of God I encourage to join me in my pursuit of putting some fear back into writing on the Scriptures.



Gregory said...

Funny, when I've tried to keep you (and others) accountable for what you write, you get rather upset with me, fail to reply, and criticise me for having too much time on my hands...

As for Luther and Erasmus, and publishing books, it was also a lot more difficult to get books out (though it was easier suddenly with the Printing Press). And the governing authority and accountability for theologians was the Catholic Church. And it wasn't that Luther was responding to Erasmus' book so much as Erasmus was replying to Luther. Luther started the debate, after all, by posting the 95 theses to Wittenberg's door (the common method of starting a debate in those days). Erasmus took up the challenge, and that's how the various books, etc. came to be.

And whether Luther was defending the 'true Gospel', or Erasmus was, is a matter of opinion.

risen_soul said...

On one had you're right Gregory. I know, enjoy it, it's rare that I say such a thing. I have in the past gotten angry with you and that's not right. Also I have in the past opened my mouth on a subject which I don't know enough about, and then got defensive about it. So, I'm sorry. Believe it or not even over just the past couple of months I have rethought the way I would approach apologetics. This is largely due to my appreciation for a man named James White whom I have been reading lately as well as listening to lectures and debates by the same. I've learned a lot from him and one of the things he "preaches" fairly heavily is being honest enough to really find out what your opponents view point is before you attack "straw men."

Again I admit some wrong doing towards you and your faith in the past, and I will endevor not to do so in the future. Though I'm still a fallible sinner and could do so unintentionally.

Another thing that has changed is my move into being a 5 point Calvinist. After study I found that I was being terribly inconsistent in my own views and was forced by the weight of Scripture to change them. I now feel that I stand on a much more solid ground because my basic pressupositions are no longer contradictory.

All that said, I of course still don't agree with your position regarding salvation and the Scripture, but I apologize for not playing fair.

As far as Erasmus and Luther goes, what you said is (from my study) only partly true. Yes Luther nailed the 95 Thesis to the Wittenberg door for open discussion and debate, but it was years later that Erasmus wrote his book against Luther's position and the book which he wrote had really nothing to do with any of the "95 thesis" that I am aware of.

From what I have read, Erasmus really tried to stay out of it for a long time but because of more or less "political pressures" from his good friend the pope and some other's he was more or less prompted to write against Luther.

I don't claim to have extensive knowledge on the issue by any means. In fact most of my knowledge on the issue comes from the book I've mentioned in this post. But they give a lot of quotes from letters tha Erasmus wrote that seem to well back up this position.

But I am really not interested in debating the issue as it wasn't really the main point of the post, just an introduction to what got me on the subject of accountability in publishing.

As far as what gospel Luther was defending be an opinion, yes it is.

But I believe that it's God's opinion. And that is all that matters.

Hidden One said...

"But I believe that it's God's opinion. And that is all that matters."

Whoah. Fro a moment there i'm pretty sure I misunderstood me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I [i]think[/i] that you meant that "God's opinion is the only one that matters [regardless of mine own thoguhts in regard to it]."

Fro a moment there, I thoguht you'd said that [b]your[/b] thinking that soemthing was God's will was all that mattered. Wow. Oops.

Sincerely in Christ,
Hidden One.

PS: Truly sorry!

Gregory said...

Hey Jacob,
Thanks for your apology. It really does mean a lot.

As far as Luther and Erasmus go, I wasn't really intending to thoroughly debate the point, either. I was just being glib. I apoligise for that.

I'm glad you've taken a new approach to apologetics, and to your faith. I'm even glad you've adhered to an established faith system to keep you consistent. It might make future discussions between us smoother.

I haven't had a lot of time recently for theological debate or blogging for that matter, but, once I'm gainfully employed again, hopefully that will change (if you wouldn't mind, some prayer for that would be appreciated). I like what you've done with the blog, and would love to be able to discuss some things here more completely.

But until then, God bless

risen_soul said...


You're not working at the church anymore?

I'm down with discussions but I don't have time for full blown debates right now. You are welcome to toss your thoughts in the ring.


I mean that God's opinion is all that matters and I think Luther, at least on this matter, was asserting that which was not only his opinion but also God's.

Gregory said...

Hey Jacob,
No, the Church decided not to renew my contract, so I've been seeking employment since January.

As for God's opinion being all that matters, I wholeheartedly agree. As for whether Luther was relating God's opinion or not, well, that itself is a matter of opinion, isn't it? After all, we both want to seek God's opinion, yet we between ourselves have different opinions about what that is.

And that's what I meant in my original comment. That it's your opinion that Luther was defending the "true Gospel", and it's your opinion that your opinion lines up with God's opinion.

That doesn't necessarily make you wrong on that score, but it doesn't necessarily make you right, either. ;)

Anyway, I have a sort of Job Interview (I'm going for coffee with a priest to discuss "possibilites") tomorrow at 4:30, because they're thinking of hiring someone for children's ministry (As well, the sacristy is retiring this week, too, so maybe I can score that humble position. Heck, it might be better than an actual ministry one right now. Just taking care of the building and the Altar behind the scenes.)

Anyway, pray for me. Thanks.
God bless