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At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (ESV)




God's Reason

Thursday of Epiphany 4

5 February 2015

Every parent has heard a child ask, when given a command, "But, why?" And every parent has answered, "Because, I said so." There are times when authorities simply need to be obeyed, as when we tell a child to step back from a deadly precipice. God has spoken and needs to be obeyed. So many people want to strike up a debate with God demanding to know why God has done and said what God has said and done. God often answers "Because, I said so." We trust God because He is our authority. Sometimes people accuse confessional Lutherans of being "biblicists and fideists," interested in simply obeying the word, as though they were slaves. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." If listening to our heavenly Father when He speaks to us is biblicism and fideism, then I guess we should plead guilty.


If we want to start an argument with God, there are plenty of things we could argue about with Him. The story of Abraham and Isaac confronts us with God's divine command to murder a child. God commands the extermination of whole populations in the Old Testament. And, when in apparent humanistic compassion, Saul spared Agag from slaughter, Saul was punished by God (1Sa 15:9). From the perspective of human reason, we could argue with God quite aggressively. But that sets a bad precedent.


What if we could disagree with God on the basis of human reason on these things and others as well? We could dispute with Him about the wisdom of the incarnation, salvation by crucifixion, the presence of Christ's body and blood in the holy Supper, the humble character of the church's servants, and many other easily named beliefs. But when you get to this level of things, you are reaching the theological center of the church's proclamation. If you push these rationalistic objections to God's ways to the ultimate conclusion, the Word of God will simply be evacuated of its unique theological content. If it doesn't square with human reason, out it goes! Old line Protestant churches have become a theological wasteland, because they are willing to subject God to the scrutiny of human reason.


As it turns out, a willingness to accept simply and faithfully God's Word, is not a quirk of Lutherans. I was deeply heartened to see John Chrysostom in the fourth century saying very much the same things that we confessional Lutherans have taught about God's Word as an unassailable authority for the church. We really believe, along with the church fathers, that Scripture is God's speech to His people, which sets forth His work in Christ. It is not subject to our rationalistic revision. Let's trust God to know what He is talking about.


John Chrysostom


"Let us never call God to account for what is done. Whatever He may lay upon us, let us take that, and let us not inquire into details with curious questions, even though the thing commanded even appears amiss to human reason. What looks more amiss than for a father to slay with his own hands his only and legitimate son (Gn 22:3)? But still when the righteous man was bidden to do it, he raised no fussy scruples about it, but owing to the dignity of the One who asked, he merely accepted the injunction. Another was bidden by God to strike a prophet, when he raised scruples about the seeming unreasonableness of the injunction, and did not simply obey, he was punished to the extreme (1K 20:35-36). But the one who actually struck the prophet was commended. Saul too, when he saved men from death contrary to the decree of God (1Sa 15:9), fell from the kingdom, and was irretrievably punished (1Sa 31:4). And one might find other instances beside these, from which we learn, never to require a reason for God's injunctions, but to yield and obey only.


"If it is dangerous to raise scruples about anything that He may command, and extreme punishment is appointed for those who are curious questioners, what possible excuse is there for those who curiously question things far more mysterious and awful than these. For instance, how could we search how He begot the Son, and in what way, and what His essence is? Since we know this, let us receive the mother of all blessings: faith. Let us sail, so to speak, into a calm harbor, that we may both keep our doctrines orthodox, and by steering our life safely in a straight course, may attain those eternal blessings by the grace and love toward man by our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen."


John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Romans, 2



Almighty God, grant that Your Church, ever being preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


For the Praesidium of the LCMS, that the Lord would bless their work


For the gift of holy marriage, that we would uphold the sanctity of God's gift of the union of one man and one woman in matrimony, by being faithful in our own marriage and by encouraging faithfulness to marriage in our families and communities


For safe travel for those traveling to meetings 
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)


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