Joke of the Week: More Yogi Berra-isms
“We were overwhelming underdogs.
“The other teams could make trouble for us if they win.”
When asked the time, I replied, “You mean now?”
“We made too many wrong mistakes.”
“If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Of poached eggs and transgenderism
C.S. Lewis refers in passing to “a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg” in one of his essays. He means a man who really identifies as a poached egg, and properly judges him to be mentally unbalanced. It seems to me that some in our day should criticize Lewis for that reference on the basis of consistency. They say that a biological male is not mentally unbalanced if he truly identifies as a woman; a biological female is not psychologically disturbed if she feels deep inside that she is a he. Consistency demands that the man’s self-identification ought to be affirmed. But reality demands that both the man and the transgender person be helped by mental health practicioners and prayed for by Christians who feel compassion rather than disgust and loathing. Jesus healed the mentally ill; we ought to pray that he will heal transgender people.
Say it isn’t so!
On August 31 of this year the Pew Research Center, a respected outfit, reported the results of a survey they conducted regarding American beliefs on purgatory. The survey described purgatory as a place where those who die are purged from their remaining sin and are made entirely holy prior to entering heaven. 70% of Roman Catholics believe in purgatory; perhaps the only surprise there is that the figure is not higher, since belief in purgatory is official church teaching.
The big surprise to me was that 24% of those who self-identify as evangelicals also believe in purgatory! This finding is very discouraging. It suggests that a quarter of evangelical Protestants believe that the work of Christ on the cross was not enough to fit us for heaven, that we must add our own works or endure purifying suffering to finish the job of making us ready for heaven. Those who believe in purgatory may believe it is a means of grace, but the belief still suggests that we are not wholly justified when we trust in Christ by faith alone. That, friends, is a denial of the gospel. Perhaps I will comment more on this in a later post.
Luther’s 95 Theses for 21st Century Christians
- For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
Luther here applies the principles asserted in Theses 5, 20, and 21 to the issue of indulgences. In Thesis 5 he wrote that the pope can only remit penalties imposed by himself or by the canons. In Thesis 20 he wrote that “plenary remission of all penalties” referred only the penalties imposed by the pope himself. In Thesis 21 he denies that the pope can grant indulgences that forgive sins against God; he can only grant indulgences remitting the penalties he himself prescribed.
Such penalties have regard to sacramental satisfaction. Penance is one of the sacraments of the Catholic Church, and the penalties Luther refers to are those imposed by the priest as satisfaction for sin. Satisfaction is one step in the sacrament, the others being contrition/confession and absolution. Satisfaction is the most important part of the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance. Thomas Aquinas said, “the acts of the penitent are the proximate matter of this sacrament.” In other words, all parts of the sacrament of penance must be fulfilled, but it is the penalties imposed by the priest that constitute the heart of the sacrament.
According to Catholic teaching, the penitent must make satisfaction in part for his own sins. The Catholic Church acknowledged the necessity of Christ’s work in making satisfaction for the guilt of sin, but as far as temporal penalties are concerned, the sinner must also make satisfaction or face purgatory. Indulgences were supposed to release one from purgatory. They made the necessary satisfaction.
It seems that in Luther’s day many Catholics believed their acts of penance, or else indulgences, made satisfaction not only for venial sins that deserve purgatory, but also for mortal sins that deserve hell. To them, a plenary, or full indulgence was a guarantee of heaven.
Protestants believe, in accordance with Scripture, that Christ made full satisfaction for all the sins of his people. We neither can nor must make any satisfaction ourselves; Christ bore all of our sins and made satisfaction for them:
You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:12-14
Even though we may not believe indulgences can release us from purgatory, we must be on guard against the idea that our good deeds contribute even a little towards satisfying God’s wrath against sin. That idea is synergism, man and God working together, man doing his part and God doing his part. Synergism is unbiblical. We are to believe rather in monergism, God acting alone in Christ, who saved us by his sinless life and especially by his death on the cross. That was the gospel