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2) Gerhard on salvation on infants of non-Christians:
In the same chapter of his "Comprehensive Explanation," Gerhard notes early in the chapter that he is discussing only the children of Christians and that we are not to judge those who are outside (I Cor 5:12).  At the end of the chapter, however, he notes that those outside Christ are not saved.  He adds that those who do not know the Lord's will do not deserve the punishment of those who do know but disobey (Lk 12:47f), implying that deceased infants of non-Christians will not have the same degree of punishment.
What has struck me in reading 16th through 19th century Lutherans on the eternal state of non-Christians (infants or otherwise) is a set of assumptions that shapes their thinking:
1) Gen 3:15 was the gospel to Adam and Eve; they knew the promise of the Messiah;
2) History is short; it only began in 4000 BC or so;
3) Humanity is rather compact; all are descendants of Noah, not that many generations ago, and Noah also knew the promise, handed down from Adam and Eve; otherwise he would not be approved by God;
4) the sons of Noah live to be very old; Shem lives to be 600 (Gen 11.11).  If you do the calculations, Shem outlives Abraham.  In fact, Melanchthon in his Romans commentary states that Shem was Melchizedek.
If you are thinking against the background of this set of assumptions, then it is not the case that the nations had never heard the promise.  They had; it had been passed down from the primal patriarches.  But they had neglected it.  They are thus culpable.
Whether or not one finds this narrative convincing, the point is that the earlier Lutheran tradition assumed that the loss of salvation in some sense always implied that rejection of the gospel (and thus that the gospel had in some sense been heard and salvation was open to all).  This view fits with the Luthearn rejection of limited atonement and with the insistence that the call to salvation was universal.   Contemporary theology needs to find a way of saying the same thing, in a way that is Christologically and evangelically faithful.  (The best attempt I know is J. A. DiNoia's book, "The Diversity of Religions.") 
My own response to Harvey's question is that we can and should pray for the inclusion of every deceased or aborted infant in Christ's mercy.  We can only pray, because we do not know (as Pastor Weedon notes), but we can pray with hope. 
Michael Root
Harvey (we met, I think, when you were down here at Southern a few years ago),
Let me respond in a series of posts: 1) on the salvation of non-baptized children of infants; 2) salvation of infants of non-Christians; 3) and the relevance of all this to abortion.
Gerhard has a chapter on the salvation of the non-baptized children of Christians, including those who die in the womb, in his "Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper. " He thinks what he says is biblical and not speculation, in contrast with what the speculation he thinks is found in the Catholic teaching about limbo. 
1) He understands the necessity of baptism in John 3:5 to imply only that baptism must not be rejected; it does not imply that if baptism is absent through no fault of one's own, one is lost.
2) He cites the "suffer the little children to come unto me" passage (Mk 10:14).
3) He argues that while we are bound to God's chosen external means, God can work apart from such means (the thief on the cross is saved without baptism; Paul is converted by a voice from heaven, not by human preaching).
4) The bulk of his biblical argument, however, comes from the OT and an analogy with circumcision.  Gen 17:7 states that God is our God and the God of our seed.  The seed are included in salvation and the seed would include the child who dies in the mother's womb, prior to the possibility of baptism.  He notes that circumcision was on the eighth day, but there is no sense that a child who died prior to the eighth day is lost.  When circumcision was impossible, in the wilderness (Jos 5.5) or under the Greek persecution (I Macc. 1:51-64), there is no sense that the uncircumcised were lost.  Some of the Holy Innocents had to be less that eight days old, yet they are not thought to be lost.  He adds: "Much rather they are blessed little souls, quite secure little ones, little diamonds of the martyrs."  He sees the corporate sense of God's blessing on Israel to be also applicable to the church.  I find this quite interesting, since I have always thought of the circumcision analogy as a more distinctively Reformed emphasis in the understanding of baptism.
(Whoops, must go to dinner - it may be tomorrow before I can continue, for whatever it is worth)

Michael Root
Quote from: Harvey_Mozolak on November 19, 2008, 07:00:41 AM
I have asked this before in an abortion discussion and has been met with silence.  I know something of the Roman Catholic answer.  What is our Lutheran (albeit divided as we always are) answer (or answers) to the question-- what is the salvic state of those people who are aborted?  And what does our view of such salvation or condemnation or lack of knowledge/certainty have to day to our postion on abortion in the first place?  (Universalists need not respond, please)   Harvey Mozolak
John Gerhard has no formal authority, but he is certainly a significant figure of the Lutheran tradition.  I would think what he says would apply: "We neither can, nor ought we rashly to condemn those infants that die either in their mother's womb, or suddenly for any cause before receiving Baptism ; we should rather conclude that the prayers of pious parents, or, if the parents in this matter are neglectful, the prayers of the Church, poured out before God for these infants, are mercifullly heard, and that they are received into favor and life by God." (From the Loci, quoted in Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evan-Luth Church, p. 554 of the version I have - Schmid is downloadable in its entirety from - a goldmine)
Gerhard, however, is speaking of the infants of Christians, even if neglectful Christians. 
Your Turn / Re: Miscellaneous Questions
November 17, 2008, 07:59:57 PM
I never call them "the symbols" and hardly ever hear them referred to as such, at least not in the circles I travel in.  When I teach the Confessions, I only refer to the term "symbol" in relation to the Formula calling the Augsburg Confession a "symbol."
Your Turn / Re: Miscellaneous Questions
November 17, 2008, 06:49:31 PM
The Formula of Concord (Ep, Summary Rule, 4) already refers to the Augsburg Confession as "our symbol for this time" (dieser Zeit unserem Symbolo).  The use of the term "symbol" for creed goes back at least as far as the Council of Chalcedon (451), which refers to the Nicene Creed as a "symbolon."  Latin usage was similar: Augustine's "On Faith and the Creed" is in the Latin original "De Fide et Symbolo" (393).  Pelikan, in his book "Credo" (p. 7) simply says the the Greek symbolon and the Latin symbolum were, with "regula fidei", among the earliest terms for creeds.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 188) explains: "The Greek word symbolon meant half of a broken object, for example, a seal presented as a token of recognition. the broken parts were placed together to verify the bearer's identity. the symbol of faith, then, is a sign of recognition and communion between believers. Symbolon also means a gathering, collection or summary. A symbol of faith is a summary of the principal truths of the faith and therefore serves as the first and fundamental point of reference for catechesis."
Michael (wasting time after dinner rather than getting to work) Root
Quote from: swbohler on November 16, 2008, 04:15:34 PM
  I was trying to save anyone (especially Dr. Root) any embarrassment at a lack of knowledge.

I appreciated the information; no annoyance at all.  Thanks.
I think the connection between abortion and nuclear weapons is quite precise: both involve the readiness to violate the same ethical principle - never directly take an innocent human life.  Nuclear deterence involved not just possessing the weapons but having them in place, ready to go at a moment's notice, with structures for commanding their use wihich perhaps could not have been countermanded in an emergency.  To stand ready, willing, and able to killl millions of civilians is inherently evil in itself, even if we avoided the cataclysm of using them.  That deterence may have worked makes the moral point all the more pointed: are we willing to forego a benefit because it involves an action that cannot be morally taken, under any circumstances?  It is precisely the question of whether we really believe in some moral absolutes that the deterence question focuses. 
In the 1980s, I used to go around giving talks on a consistent ethic of life - anti-abortion and anti-nuclear-weapons.  I found that all I did was make everyone mad at me, and I may be succeeeding again!
Dr. Gard (thanks for clarification, Pastor Bohler - Dr. Gard's profile didn't indicate any of this information),
We are not disagreeing on the evil of abortion.  But as a voter, am I captive to politicians who say that they are pro-life, when I doubt they can or will do anything effective?  Can I ignore other morally pressing issues, such as the torture that occurs at Guantanamo, which I am confident President Obama will halt? 
I voted for Mike Huckabee in the South Carolina primary, had made up my mind not to vote at all in the presdiential election, but finally voted for Obama with great reservations, while simultaneously making a contribution to Democrats for Life.  I won't deny that I may have been wrong.
I'll make a separate comment on abortion and nuclear weapons.
Mr. Gard,
Thanks for the comment.  I agree completely that political and moral judgments are closely connected and am in no way denying the some moral judgments are absolute - one is never directly to take an innocent human life, for example.  Thus, I believe we should outlaw abortion and unilaterally destroy all strategic nuclear weapons, whose only possible use is direct attack on civilian populations.  But because some moral judgments are absolute does not mean that all are.  I am not for separating a moral judgment on an issue from a moral judgment on a candidate, just saying that they are distinct and that the latter is more complex because we must weigh more than one moral issue and make judgments about what the candiidate might be willing and able to do in office: John McCain campaigned as against abortion, but his record is not as consistent as, say, Mike Huckabee's; he said that he would not make any one issue a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees; and he supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  Does that mean that I cannot vote for McCain?  Perhaps there are times when voting for a particular candidate separates one from the communion of the church, but was this election one of them?
McCain also supported embryonic stem-cell research, which, I agree, is morally wrong.  This highlights the difference between moral judgments on support for particular policies and moral judgments on voting for particular candidates.
I thinik Steven's excellent point is the sort of information that one has to take into account in thinking about voting.
And the follow-up: the Catholic bishop's office in Charleston has distanced itself from the priest's statement: see
(The diocese of Charleton is without a bishop at the moment, hence the comment coming from the administrator.)
My point is rather narrow and relates directly to the question of whether voting for Obama should be seen, even by those who consider abortion inherently evil, as separating someone from the full communion of the church.

When a legislator faces, say, a bill outlawing partial-birth abortion, I think that no prudential judgment is relevant (other than whether the bill does what it is intended to do).  A legislator cannot vote against such a bill, reasoning that, well, she would get defeated if she supported it and she can do so much good by staying in the legislature.  The legislator is voting directly on the inherently evil action.

That seems to me morally distinct from a vote for an elected official.  One has to ask whether this office can do anything about this evil (must I vote for the pro-life candidate for county auditor?) and one must make a judgment whether this person will carry through on their promise (a doubt many had about Mit Romney on various issues).

On abortion and this election, I think it is not irrelevant to have asked some prudential questions:
1. Would McCain have the opportunity to appoint any Supreme Court justices in the next four years?  Are there likely retirements from the court in the next four years?
2. Would McCain in fact make opposition to abortion a litmus test for a Supreme Court nominee?  How high a priority is opposition to abortion for him?
3. Would someone he is likely to appoint then carry through and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?  How a justice will actually vote is uncertain.
4. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what is the likelihood of state governments then will outlaw abortion?

I don't think it obviously wrong to ask what was the likelihood that McCain would be able and willing actually to do something that would actually stop abortions.  One might judge that such a likelihood was not great enough to outweigh other considerations that also relate to fundamental moral concerns (I think that torture is inherently evil and that strategic nuclear weapons, which have no use other than the direct killing of millions of civilians, cannot be morally possessed.  Abortion is not the only non-prudential moral question we face politically).  A particular judgment on these questions might be wrong, but I don't think it is open to the same sort of condemnation as that which is fitting for a legislator who, say, fails to oppose a bill banning something like partial-birth abortion.

Sorry for the long post.  Let me add that I know Fr. Newman and respect him.  I think on this point he is wrong.
What Fr. Newman (at St. Mary's, Greenville, South Carolina) said in the parish bulletin was:

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."

I think this overlooks an important distinction between the political action of voting for or against abortion (which political representatives do and which is not a prudential judgment) and the action of voters electing representatives and officials and who must estimate what effect a particular office can have on an issue (a president cannot outlaw abortion; he or she can only appoint a supreme court justice, who might then vote to overturn Roe v. Wade; which would itself then return to matter to the states, who then would have to decide) and whether this particular candidate would in fact carry through on what they say.  The latter are prudential judgments, to be weighed with other prudential judgments, on which even those who oppose abortion as an inherent evil which should be outlawed can disagree.

Michael Root

Michael Root
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