Friday, October 06, 2017

500 Years Later and Martin Luther Is Reforming the Church Again on the Meaning of Life and Death

On October 31, 2017, the evangelical world will celebrate the 500th year anniversary of Martin Luther pinning the 95 Thesis on the door of Wittenburg Castle, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther called on the Church to look to the Bible alone in answering the question, "How is a sinner made right with God?"  This question in Luther's day would have been the more theological "How is a sinner justified? Luther believed the Bible alone answers this question accurately:  By God's grace in Jesus Christ through faith in Jesus Christ.  Or, as Luther and the other reformers declared in Latin:
Sola Gratia (Grace alone). Sola Fide (Faith alone). Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). 
During the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church had departed from the biblical teaching of justification by grace through faith and began the corrupt practice of selling indulgences.  An indulgence was an official Church document that a priest would hand to a sinner after payment of gold or silver to the Church. According to the doctrine of indulgence, the sinner's payment would absolve the sinner or his designee from any divine punishment due sin. Thus the sinner could go ahead and indulge himself. One monk by the name of Tetsel would walk the streets in Luther's day, hold out the Church coffers for donations, and then sing:
"As coins in the coffer ring, souls from Purgatory do spring." 
Luther, a Catholic priest, opposed the sale of indulgences. His 95 Thesis had the more formal title Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. The Church labeled Luther a "protestor," and that's why those who followed Scriptures and supported Luther on the doctrine of justification were called "Protest-ants."

Luther's complaints against the Church and Church leaders were harsh. He believed that the Church wanted money to build great cathedrals, and "scared the hell" out of commoners to get the money. He condemned the pope's extravagance and desire for more riches. One of Luther's 95 Theses asked the question:
Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?
In response, the Church condemned Luther, excommunicated him, put him on trial, and came close to burning him at the stake for his rebellion against their authority.

Religious leaders have a bad habit of not wanting their views questioned. It's much easier to attack a reformer as heretical so as not to disrupt the flow of institutional funding than it is for institutional leaders to painstakingly examine their standardized teaching for any potential errors. All of us are more comfortable creating pain for protestors than we are risking the personal and public shame in having to admit something we taught doesn't line up with Sola Scriptura.

For Luther, the issue was biblical authority over Church authority. Luther believed every Christian should be careful to derive what he or she believes from the Scriptures alone and to hold fast "to the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

The Church condemned Luther for his biblical view of justification by grace through faith. They called him unorthodox, heretical, and pronounced him anathema (e.g., cursed).  He paid a heavy personal price for his dissent against the Church, but Luther remained steadfast to Scripture.

Luther's calm, defiant, and reasoned accounting of his views on justification before Church leaders was grounded in Luther's firm belief of Sola Scriptura/  He defended his popular writings which disputed indulgences on the basis that he only wrote what the Bible taught. Dr. Scott H. Hendrix, the author of Luther and the Papacy, writes:
Luther asserted that his conscience was captive to the Word of God and that he could not go against conscience. Though already excommunicated by Rome, Luther saw himself as a sworn teacher of Scripture who must advocate the right of all Christians to hear and live by the gospel. 'Here I stand: I can do no other. God help me.'
500 years after Luther's courageous stand against the Church, most professing Christians see Luther's view on justification as orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church's view of indulgences (since renounced by the Church) as heretical.

Reformation eventually removes the error and reorients people to the truth.

A New Reformation Is Dawning 

Another Reformation is dawning in the evangelical church. Ironically, this new Reformation also finds its roots in Luther.  

This modern Reformation is over the meaning of life and death. Martin Luther and today's Bible-believing reformers are emphasizing two biblical truths denied by many Christians. These two truths are as follows:
  1. Immortal life is a gift from God to those He justifies by grace and is not inherent to human existence.
  2. Destruction through death for a human being is the just and final judgment of God for one's sins. 
These two biblical truths may be called for simplicity's sake the doctrine of conditional immortality.

If Jesus tarries, Luther's belief in conditional immortality will most likely be considered Christian orthodoxy in the year 2517, and the modern evangelical belief in the eternal conscious torment of the wicked will die a fate similar to the false doctrine of indulgences.

That kind of talk may be strange to your ears because you have been in churches all your life where you were told by authoritative Christian leaders that hell is where the wicked will receive eternal conscious torment. You never thought to question whether the Bible teaches that the wicked have immortal life.

To Martin Luther and other reformers in his day, and to many Bible-believing Christian reformers of this present day, Jesus Christ conquered death and now holds "the keys of life and death" (Revelation 1:18), and immortal life is only given to those who are in Him.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is immortal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  (Romans 6:23).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son - His only begotten Son - that whosever believes in Him will not perish, but have immortal life" (John 3:16)
Christ taught there is coming a time when "all who are in the graves will hear My voice" (John 5:28) and will be raised from the graves where:
"Those those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29). 
The Bible teaches that "there is no one who does good, not one" (Romans 3:12). The standard of good that God sets for being granted immortal life is far superior to any goodness we possess or display. God expects perfect goodness (Matthew 5:48). He created us in His image, and He expects and deserves nothing less than goodness that reflects Him. Nobody deserves to live forever because nobody is good like God.

So back to the original question of this post: "How is a sinner justified?" Or, to put it another way, how does a sinner receive immortal life from God, which is what perfect goodness deserves?

Remember Luther's answer in the year 1517.

A sinner is delivered from destruction through death and given immortal life by God's grace in Jesus Christ through faith in Jesus Christ.  Sola Gratia (grace alone). Sola Fide (faith alone). Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).
"Kiss the Son or He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction" (Psalm 2:12).  
Jesus is very important to the human race.

Jesus died. He died in place of sinners. Jesus died as the only perfect Substitute for sinners. He died bearing the penalty of our sins, which is death. "God made Him who had no sin (e.g., He who didn't deserve to die) to be sin for us (He willingly died for us) so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (and live forever)" (II Corinthians 5:21).

So only the righteous live forever, and sinners are only righteous in Him.

Destruction through Death for the Wicked

But it's the second category of people Jesus raises from the dead - 'those who have done evil' - that is the subject of the modern Reformation in the church.

Luther and the other reformers in his day, including John Wycliffe,  John Hus, William Tyndale and many others, believed that the Bible teaches the final punishment of the wicked meant their total destruction through death.
"A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity." (Psalm 37: 10-11)
"The wicked are like chaff that blows away." (Psalm 1:4)
"The wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might." (II Thessalonians 1:9)
The modern evangelical church teaches that all human beings are inherently immortal and so every human being lives forever, whether righteous or wicked. To many evangelicals today, immortal life is not conditional upon being justified by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Immortality, they say, is inherent to being human.

Martin Luther called the Church's teaching of inherent immortality "a monstrous fiction" (Volume 7, pp 131,132).

Luther believed that the Bible teaches destruction through death is God's just punishment for the wicked. He understood through the Scriptures that though "God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33;11), God will still "raise the wicked" (John 5:28) for the Day of Judgment. After Jesus righteously exposes and censures each individual sinner at the Judgment Seat, Jesus will sentence the wicked to die a second time (Revelation 20:13-15).

This is why the Bible teaches that you should not fear a man who might take your life in your first death when your body is destroyed and your breath goes back to God who gave it for a season, but rather, you should fear Him who has the power to destroy both your body and breath in the second death which is forever (Matthew 10:28).

Jon Hus, John Wycliffe, and other Reformers agreed with Luther.

The wicked will cease to exist.

John Calvin did not agree.

John Calvin opposed Luther's views on the destruction of both body and soul. Calvin believed, like the ancient Greeks, that there is an invisible, immortal soul that lives within a body and is distinct and separate from the body. At the young age of twenty-five, John Calvin published Psychopannychia, a refutation of Luther's conclusions on the intermediate state based on Luther's belief in conditional immortality. 

Calvin took the position that the soul is innately immortal. To Calvin, just like the Greek philosopher Plato, all souls exist independent of the body and are indestructible and immortal. Therefore, it is impossible for the wicked to be destroyed because the soul of the wicked is indestructible. 

Calvin taught and believed in inherent human immortality, a doctrine that the institutional Roman Catholic Church taught as well. Martin Luther, John Hus, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and most of the other reformers in Calvin's day refuted Calvin's and the Church's teaching on inherent immortality and taught that the wicked will face their just judgment for their sins and be completely destroyed by God.

Most evangelicals today who align with Luther and the reformers on the biblical doctrine of justification by grace through faith have rejected Luther's and the other reformers' teaching on conditional immortality. Most evangelicals continue to embrace Calvin's and the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine of inherent immortality. 

So unlike 'justification by faith,' Luther's 'conditional immortality of the soul' never blossomed into evangelical orthodoxy even though Luther's writings on this subject were comparable to his writings on justification by faith in both breadth and depth.

A follower of Calvin might be tempted to respond, "That's because Luther's views on the destruction of the dead are heretical and not biblical." 

I issue a caution. Don't make the same mistake the Roman Catholic Church did in 1517.

The Bible Teaches Conditional Immortality according to Luther and the Reformers

Martin Luther and the other reformers believed immortal life was a gift, conditioned upon faith in Jesus Christ. They believed the Scriptures teach that those who reject Christ will suffer the punishment of destruction through death.  To the reformers, immortality is inherently natural to God alone. But God will give immortality as a gift to those He deems righteous.
"...the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and lives in unapproachable light... "– 1 Timothy 6:15-16
"To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." – Romans 2:7
"The soul that sins shall die" – Ezekiel 18:20
"The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." – Genesis 3:22
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." – Matthew 10:28 
Luther and the reformers believed that the punishment of the wicked was destruction through death, not torment through the ages. The Lake of Fire would be the fulfillment of God's promise to ultimately destroy the wicked.
"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branchwill be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty" (Malachi 4:1-3). 
My friend Paul Young, the author of The Shack, is a hopeful universalist. I do not believe universalism has any biblical merit. As already mentioned, the Scripture teaches that Christ will raise every person from death at His coming (John 5:29), but for some, this resurrection is an act of God's justice and judgment through death, and not grace and the gift of life.  Not all will live forever. Some will die a second time. 

Christians are called not to take vengeance for the evil done to us or against those we love. We are to anticipate that God will properly deal with unrepentant evildoers. He will destroy them through death. The punishment of death is God's prerogative as Creator, not ours. The Apostle Paul writes;
"Do not take revenge, " the Apostle Paul tells us, "but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). 
I have written in defense of Paul Young and his orthodox views on the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul Young is like all orthodox Christians when it comes to an understanding of God's grace in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

What Paul Young struggles with is the thought of God eternally punishing sinners. Forever in hell is a very long time in Paul's way of thinking, especially for a ten-year-old who dies without faith in Christ. So Paul and other Christian believers like him are hopeful that Christ will eventually deliver everybody from eternal conscious torment in hell.

But the Bible does not teach universal reconciliation.

Maybe the antidote for people who gravitate toward the unbiblical doctrine of universal reconciliation is the biblical teaching of conditional immortality.

Destruction through the second death is the just punishment of the wicked.

Conditional immortality was part and parcel of Luther's message 500 years ago. It was as important to the reformers as justification through faith. But while following Luther on justification, the majority of the evangelical church has followed Calvin and the Roman Catholic Church on the subject of immortality. But that is changing.

A new Reformation is dawning.

Objections to Be Considered

In honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I will be writing the next few weeks (until October 31, 2017) on objections that many Christians have on the doctrine of conditional immortality. Some of the questions I will seek to biblically answer during October 2017 include:

1. If destruction through death is the ultimate punishment for the wicked, then what motivation would the wicked have to turn from their sins and trust Jesus Christ? Is not eternal conscious torment the only way to scare a sinner to Jesus?

Answer: I will hope to show that it is only the goodness of God that leads a sinner to true repentance, and scaring people to Jesus with visions of eternal conscious torment is similar to the sale of indulgences in Luther's day. It's good for business but does little to change lives.

2. What happens to a believer in Christ when he or she dies the first time? Does not conditional immortality necessitate the belief that at the time of the first death the body goes back to dust and the person's breath dissipates and disappears, so that there is 'nothingness' until the resurrection?

Answer: I will hope to show that in the resurrection we are outside of time and that from the perspective of the one who dies, the resurrection is immediate, regardless of the number of years that have passed from the first death to the general resurrection when Christ calls our names.

3. What about Revelation 20:10 and Revelation 14:10-11 and the Parable of the Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)? Don't these biblical texts teach that the wicked will be tormented forever?

Answer: No. I will hope to show biblically and textually that the apocalyptic language of Revelation is consistent with the teaching of destruction through death throughout the Bible, and I will again show how the teaching of the Rich Man and Lazarus is Christ's way of cautioning religious leaders about taking money from unsuspecting and gullible people for personal gain. In the end, religious leaders who sell their message to become rich will be destroyed.

These and other questions will be answered in future posts. Feel free to ask your own in the comment section. 


Bill Kinnon said...

Thank you for this, Wade. I look forward to the series.

Dale said...

Wade, please note that the Roman Catholic Church has not renounced indulgences.The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "An Indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

Rex Ray said...


As a teenager, we spent two years in Germany and marveled at the beautiful Catholic Churches. We learned most farmers had run out of money in paying for their sins to be removed. The church had taken their land for payment and the farmers worked as ‘share croppers’. Many concrete steps in high towers were very worn from people doing penance climbing them on their knees.

I believe the straw that broke the camel’s back with Luther was the ‘advance sale of indulgences. If a person paid in advance, he would be ‘forgiven’ in case he died before he could pay a priest.

Rex Ray said...


Here we go again: ‘same song, second verse; could be better but it’s going to get worse.’ :)

Judy pointed out a page from Max Lucado’s book:

“We long for the reassurance that the soul goes immediately to be with God. But dare we believe it? Can we believe it? According to the Bible we can. Scripture is surprisingly quiet about this phase of our lives. When speaking about the period between the death of the body and the resurrection of the body, the Bible doesn’t shout; it just whispers. But at the confluence of these whispers, a firm voice is heard. This authoritative voice assures us that, at death, the Christian immediately enters into the presence of God and enjoys conscious fellowship with the Father and with those who have gone before.”

More later.

Wade Burleson said...


Thank you. I stand corrected. I was writing based upon an understanding I had that later councils reversed the official doctrine of the church on indulgences. I will definitely look into this, but appreciate your information. There may have been an amendment to the doctrine instead of a renunciation. Appreciate the comment.

Wade Burleson said...

My hero in ministry, Dr. John Gill, folllowed Calvin and believed exactly as Max Lucado. It’s difficult for me to write something that goes counter to the teaching of a man I cherish (like Gill), but my conscience is bound to the Word of God.

Let me see if I can give similar encouragement to that of Max Lucado, using biblical terminology:

“We long for the reassurance that the person who dies goes immediately to be with God. Dare we believe they do? Can we believe they do? According to the Bible, the resurrection is real. We can believe that the person who dies in Christ will be with the Lord forever, for Christ HImself promised to raise the dead to everlasting life. When speaking about the period between the death of the person we love and the resurrection of the person we love, the Bible shouts! “The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up to meet them in the air, and so shall we be with the Lord and our loved ones forever!” A firm voice is heard! Christ is our Resurrection. His authoritative voice assures us that death is not the end, but that the Christian awaits the resurrection when Christ will raise His people from death to immortal life. From the perspective of the one who died, the resurrection is immediate, for eternity and immortality are outside of time. But for those of us who remain, we keep our hope in Christ and HIs promise of immortal life in the resurrection for those who trust Him.”



Tom Kelley said...

Wade, I appreciate you, and I am always blessed by your writings. Your interpretation of scripture in this matter is appealing in many ways, and falls squarely within the realm of orthodoxy. But so does the view of inherent immortality, and those who believe and teach it are not merely following Plato or Calvin, but are doing their best to be faithful to what they believe scripture teaches. I know you are aware that each side of this debate has responses to the other's interpretations and objections, just as is the case with Calvinists and Arminians.

I don't think the issue of different views of the nature of immortality rises to the level of a new reformation, as it is not a matter of essential doctrine (as is the matter of whether justification and salvation are accomplished by Christ alone or by Christ plus our works), nor is it even a matter of orthodoxy or heresy. As doctrines go, this one is tertiary at best. It's worth exploring and wrestling with various passages that are used in support of either position, but ultimately not that big a deal. I don't think there is likely to be wide-spread consensus on this in the future, any more than there is on millennial views or views of the tribulation.

Wade Burleson said...


Thank you for your perceptive comment. I fully affirm what you write.

Inherent immortality is well within orthodoxy.

My writing is sometimes too forceful. Thank you for your patience and understanding.


Tom Kelley said...

Nah, Wade, not too forceful. Just passionate. :)

It's a good thing to have conviction and excitement about what we believe.

RB Kuter said...

Wade, I am looking forward to what you will be writing although I do not anticipate being surprised because I have learned a lot regarding the positions you will be taking and the basis for that by reading your posts for a long time. Still, I look forward hopefully to learning new things and insights into God's Word, which is a matter that comes up as I read this post.

I will wait to respond on most points until you have the opportunity to state your case more fully, but I would like to respond on one mentioned in this:

I believe that anyone who cannot perceive of God judging non-repentant sinners to eternal hell are probably not perceiving things the way God does. They are not assessing the weight of "sin" as God does/ not assessing the price paid on the cross for the redemption of sinners as God does/ and therefore, cannot assess the degree of grace and forgiveness offered as does God.

Paul Young apparently makes his determination of what is truth based upon what he "feels" is just and unjust. That is so similar to many people who also conclude that those saved will be rescued by the rapture prior to The Great Tribulation so as to avoid the trauma of that period or those that conclude that this planet will not utterly be destroyed and vaporized into non-existence. Rather than leaning toward what Scripture unapologetically says in a stragithforward manner, their conclusions seem to be made with the precepts of what they perfer to happen and they use some scraps of Scripture to support it and then force it to be consistent against a perponderance of Scripture that says otherwise.

Anyway, I do promise that I am going to try to be objective and learn from your coming posts and I am going to try really hard not to hijack the responses with long, elaborate writings like this one!

Christiane said...

We look around at all the sadness in this world and we wonder and we hope and we wait.
Is a story about a man who was involved with literature and poetry and he knew of the famous poem 'The Lost Child' by W.B. Yeats with its mournful refrain: "
"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand."

Then came this poetry-loving man to a sadness in his own life. But asked by his own child a question about 'why'?, this man spoke not of Yeats or of 'this world's too full of sadness'; or of any of the poems that spoke of 'the great sadness' we all fear,
but instead, he spoke to his son about Our Lord, maybe not wanting to take away the child's hope, or maybe his own deep need for hope. Here is the account in part:

"The day after . . . . when my wife went for her regular OB-GYN check up and ultrasound, the LPN couldn't find a heartbeat. The sonogram confirmed that our boy had, in their terms, "lost integrity" at six months, at the edge of viability.

We had to wait until the next day before a bed came open at the hospital and, after a long night, we got a room in the maternity ward. The nursing staff had taped a small postcard to the door of our labor and delivery suite. It pictured a newly fallen oak leaf resting on a swath of billowing purple silk and bedewed with a single drop of water. It notified those pacing in the hall outside or sleeping fitfully in the lobby that what was happening silently in this room was not the same as what was going on in the other rooms on the ward. And as my wife labored to deliver the small body, perfectly formed but hopelessly entangled in the umbilical cord, I understood that the only thing we would be able to do for him as parents was to deliver him intact and see him safely buried. With dull fingers I dialed the phone number of a mortuary; the numbers of all the funeral homes in town had been conveniently put on a business card for just such an occasion.

We had no hillock nor enclosed arbor to give form to our grief, only a rectangular hole piercing the permafrost and a small white casket on a green bier. At the graveside, my wife said that this child was her third son and his name was Joseph. She said that she had been thinking about how she would teach him to tie his shoes and to read, to use his words when he got angry, and to pet the kitty gently, but that he would now become her teacher—he would teach us about facing what we had feared the most, the death of one of our children. Three-year-old Jake leaned over the gravesite and looked in. He wondered whether Joseph was sitting down in the casket or standing up. Sam, the seven-year-old, did not say much, but he somberly laid a red tulip on the casket like the rest of us.

When it was my turn, I told the boys the story of Jesus and the children: when the children were playing and climbing all over Jesus, Jesus' friends, the disciples, wanted them to go away and leave him alone, but Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me."
. . . . When we were done, the attendants lowered the tiny box into the grave. I found a lego and crayon in my coat pocket. I dropped them into the grave as we turned and left."

Given the choice of preserving 'hope' for children, I wonder if in choosing to do that, we often confirm our own hope . . . . that Our Lord is not wanting for us to be sent away so as not to bother Him. That He is not like that at all. :)

Christiane said...

Idumea or Edom in Hebrew was the region south of Judea originally inhabited by the reputed descendents of Jacob's brother Esau.

And am I born to die? And lay this body down? And as my trembling spirits fly Into a world unknown A land of deeper shade Unpierced by human thought The dreary region of the dead Where all things are forgot?

Soon as from earth I go What will become of me? Eternal happiness or woe Must then my fortune be Waked by the trumpet's sound I from my grave shall rise And see the Judge with glory crowned And see the flaming skies"

RB Kuter said...

So, I wonder what Catholics think of Luther today? I know that some of the Catholic traditions have changed over the years and perhaps there is not the emphasis on relics and their sale for accumulating money, etc., but what about the basic doctrines that Luther proposed were erroneously being promoted by the then Catholic church, i.e., salvation by grace, in Christ alone, views on Mary, the saints, etc.? The conflict between Luther and the "Church" at that time was intense. How does the Catholic church view him and his teachings today?

Christiane said...

you wrote, ' How does the Catholic church view him and his teachings today? '
Denny Burk quoted Pope Francis some time ago, this:
"I think that the intentions of Martin Luther were not mistaken. He was a reformer. Perhaps some methods were not correct. But in that time, if we read the story of the Pastor, a German Lutheran who then converted when he saw reality – he became Catholic – in that time, the Church was not exactly a model to imitate. There was corruption in the Church, there was worldliness, attachment to money, to power…and this he protested. Then he was intelligent and took some steps forward justifying, and because he did this. And today Lutherans and Catholics, Protestants, all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he did not err. He made a medicine for the Church…" (Pope Francis)

And I responded to Denny's post, which was entitled "

what Francis is referring to goes back in the Church to writings by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Yes, something is being seriously re-examined by the Catholic Church concerning Martin Luther and his contributions to the whole Church. This work is slowly unfolding, long overdue, and much needed.

I can offer this excerpt which I think is understandable: it is from Benedict XVI, a German by birth and a great scholar in the Church, this:

” …. our common identity within the diversity of cultures is Christ, and it is He who makes us just. Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary.
For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, IF it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to His life.
And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14).”

the source of this quote is from a speech given by Benedict during a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, 19 November 2008

I hope the quote helps some. Here is a link that helps get to that site:"

there is more that was shared on Denny's site, here is the link:

RRR, I hope this helps some.

It was a good question. All I can say it that I can see Martin Luther in the future perhaps being named one of the Doctors of the Church because of his specific contributions to the understanding of justification in the context of faith in Christ.
It might happen. It might not. But stranger things have happened in the Church . . . a little nun who died young left some writings behind in which she shared her desire to become a priest and these writings were sent to Rome to be examined . . . was she condemned? Nope. They made her a Doctor of the Church for her contributions to the Church in the understanding of Our Lord and His love. Go figure.

RB Kuter said...

Thank you, Christiane, for responding to my questions. It was best to hear from a Catholic source directly and you did this thoroughly. I will check out these links.

I have a number of questions regarding the Catholic position on a number of things and fully intend on visiting the Catholic church nearby to make an appointment with the priest so we can have a good dialogue and he can answer my questions. I always prefer going directly to leaders in groups who are well versed on their faith positions rather than depending on others who speak as outsiders. Invariably, their views will be biased one way or the other. Thanks for your input.

Rex Ray said...


I think these are most of the changes in the Catholic Church.

300 AD. Prayers for dead & making sign of cross.
375- Worship of saints and angels.
431- Mass first instituted.
500- Priest dressed different than laymen.
526- Extreme uncton. (Sacramental anointing a person in danger of death.)
593- Doctrine of purgatory introduced.
600- Worship in Latin and prayers to Mary.
607- Boniface III made first Pope.
709- Kissing the Pope’s foot.
786- Worshiping of images and relics.
850- Use of “Holy Water” began.
995- Canonization of dead saints.
998- Fasting on Fridays and during Lent.
1079-Celibacy of the priesthood.
1090-Prayer beads,
1184-The Inquisition.
1190-Sale of Indulgences.
1215-Transubstantiation. (Turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.)
1220-Adoration of the wafer.
1229-Bible forbidden to laymen.
1414-Cup forbidden to people at communion.
1439-Doctrine of purgatory decreed.
1439-Doctrine of seven sacraments affirmed.
1508-The Ave Maria approved.
1534-Jesuit order founded.
1545-Tradition granted equal authority with Bible.
1546-Apoccryphal books put into Bible.
1854-Immaculate conception of Mary.
1864-Syllabus of Errors proclaimed.
1870 Infallibility of Pope declared.
1930-Public schools condemned.
1950-Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
1965-Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church.
1992-Permission to believe earth revolved around the sun.

Christiane said...

Hello RRR,

I think you can also check the Vatican web site for information. But I like your idea of going to the primary source to find out what is actually believed as there is a lot of mis-information out there, yes.

I came to Wade's blog long ago when I wanted to know more about my grandmother's Southern Baptist denomination, and I was right to do it, absolutely. I had seen news broadcasts of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church and I was worried that it might be connected to my grandmother's denomination, which of course it was not . . . far from it, thank God.

RB Kuter said...

Wow, Rex Ray, where did you get all of those dates and events? Maybe it came from the Vatican website that Christiane mentioned. I'll check on that. I find it all very interesting, for instance, I had no idea that the Catholic church did not have the tradition of having a Pope until the 600s. There are probably a half billion Catholics out there and I have neglected in learning about them, probably due to my not ever having lived in an area with a large number of Catholics around me. We now have thousands of Hispanics around us and they are virtually all Catholic so it's time I studied up so as to better understand their views. Appreciate all the info.

Christiane said...

Hello RRR,
I can assure you that Rex Ray did NOT get those dates and events from a Catholic source. I suspect it was someone like Lorraine Boettner, but Rex can tell you for sure.

Rex Ray said...


In 1992 I read a newspaper the Pope gave permission to believe earth revolved around the sun. I made all the statements based on history.

Today, I asked Google a few points. They were not the same but I thought they were in the ballpark.

“In 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution , Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church in these words: "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."

Rex Ray said...


(More later) :)

Subject: Earth has never nor will it ever be heaven.

Jesus said “I tell you the truth; you will ALL see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between HEAVEN and EARTH.” (John 1:51)

Let’s don’t dodge the subject by discussing Jesus being a stairway; we know no one (exception is babies etc.) enters heaven except by trusting Jesus.

“Jacob left Beersheba… [I’ve visited our son when he lived a year among Muslims 15 miles from Beersheba] he dreamed of a stairway that reached from EARTH up to HEAVEN. He saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord…” (Genesis 28:10-13)

Paul was stoned and left for dead.

“I was caught up to the THIRD heaven…to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed with words; things no human is allowed to tell.” (2 Corinthians 2-4)

This explains the first heaven is our atmosphere, the second heaven is the moon and stars etc., and the third heaven is with God.

Christiane said...

Hello REX RAY,

You have always and ever been one of my favorite people in the blog world, and I can share with you that I find the joy and the pathos of your wonderful stories to be evidence that you are a blessed soul, with an insight into the human condition that can make me laugh and reduce me to tears and, at times, all in the same story ... a wonderful gift you share with us, yes.

I think, if you want to know about Catholicism, the best thing to do is to go to the source as there are many things in it you would not find acceptable, but I would rather you find them from someone or someplace of good will that treats you with respect and does not try to give you wrong information. There is plenty of wrong information out there and I have found that in going to the source and asking questions directly of the source, this does yield more solid help than assuming from a place of not knowing what is really meaningful to a faith community. I've done it and I have been much rewarded . . . I went out to learn 'facts' and in the process, I found the 'witness' of so very many people to the goodness of God. What a gift! I am thankful for the journey, yes. :) May your journey also ALWAYS be among people of good will, dear friend.

Rex Ray said...


Thanks for the kind words. Finding the source for information is good advice. Of course the ‘source’ is sometimes hard to find.

Besides Jesus, Paul is my biggest hero in the Bible, but sometimes heroes fall off their horses such as this account:

Did Paul have a forgetful memory?
“When Paul arrived, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove. Then Festus, wanting to please the JEWS, asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there? But Paul replied, “No’. This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here…no one has the right to turn me over to these men to kill me.
I APPEAL TO CAESAR! Festus conferred with his advisers and then replied. “Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you will go!” (Acts 25:7-12)

There were no Jews present when Paul appealed to King Agrippa in (Acts 26:1-29); the meeting broke up and everyone left:
“Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left.” (Acts 26:30)

“Agrippa said to Festus, He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:32)

It may have been years later when Paul said: “The Romans tried me and wanted to release me…But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar…” (Acts 28:18-19)

I wonder if Paul wished he hadn’t appealed to Caesar because he died in prison. On the other hand, if he had not appealed to Caesar in Acts 25, he may have been killed by Jewish leaders.

RB Kuter said...

So, Rex Ray, what do you think Paul forgot? Acts 23:11 says that The Lord, I presume, Christ, appeared by Paul's side and said:
“Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” This is prior to Paul's being sent to Rome by Agrippa. So I doubt that Paul had any regrets about being imprisoned in Rome given that he was fulfilling his mission there. Who knows what all God accomplished through the works of Paul through his going to Rome.

The Jewish persecutors again unwittingly fulfill God's plan for the expansion of The Gospel by their continued persecution of Paul resulting in his making the mission trip to Rome, as they unwittingly fulfilled God's plan for the redemption of mankind through their persecution and crucifixion of Jesus. Ain't God grand!?!

Chris Riley said...

I will be reading with interest how you navigate through this. I appreciate your historical and Biblical scholarship. My initial first question deals with the 2 Thessalonians passage about an "everlasting" judgement. My immediate interpretation goes to a period of time (eternal) punishment. But I am interested to see what happens with this discussion.

Rex Ray said...

You asked what Paul forgot. He forgot WHEN he appealed to Caesar. He appealed to Caesar in Acts 25, but he said he did years later “The Romans tried me and wanted to release me…But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar…” (Acts 28:18-19)

BTW. There were NO Jews present in Acts 28:18-19.

Yes, it was God’s plans for him die in Rome and he used evil men to do it just as evil men put Jesus on the cross.

If Paul had never gone to prison much of the New Testament would be missing.

Did Paul rejoice in prison? He made the best of it. Winter was coming and he wanted Timothy to bring his coat. He was killed by Romans but the guilt was on the ones that caused him to be there. Paul named them in (2 Timothy 4:16) “At my first answer no man stood with me…I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”

This is the prayer Paul heard Stephen pray. I believe the same crime had been done.

Rex Ray said...


Besides a bad memory, Paul revealed he did not tell the truth as he confessed later.

When Paul was before the Jewish high council he knew he was on trial because he believed and preached Jesus, but he said, “I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:6)

When Paul presented his case to the governor, Felix, he regretted telling this untruth.

“Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of, EXCEPT for the one time I shouted out, “I am on trial before you because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 24:20)

Anonymous said...

RRR and Rex, James Redford had some interesting/unique perspectives on Jesus, Paul and Rome that I've not run across before.


RB Kuter said...

Thanks, Ken. I checked that out. He presents an interesting perspective. I'm not convinced. Are you?

Anonymous said...

RRR - not on all of it for sure, but I'm open to any perspective other than what I was indoctrinated with. Guess you could say I'm in a state of flux. :)

I liked his Golden rule vs the Rotten rule (he called it the Satanic principle) synopsis.


Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade: in our years among the northern plains Lutherans many taught just what you teach in this post. Others rejected soul sleep, teaching the unbeliever is judged, sent to hell for annihilation right after death. The believer is judged for eternity immediately, going to be with Christ in paradise in a spiritual body. Only at the second coming of Christ will the believer receive their new physical body. Unbelievers will never be physically resurrected. I'm curious your thoughts on this other similar view?


Anonymous said...

I forgot: they also taught the believer, in their new physical body, will be judged for deeds done in this life as to rewards in heaven, not judgement for sin.


Wade Burleson said...


I believe Scripture teaches every person will be raised from the dead, both the righteous and the wicked, but only the wicked will be judged for what they've done in this life. Then, they are handed over to die the second death.

The righteous inherit the earth and a home Christ has built for them. In terms of "when" this general resurrection takes place, I do believe it is at the coming of Christ - but from the person who dies perspective, it's immediate, for eternity is outside of time.

I also believe the resurrected body is different from this body we now have in various ways, with the biggest difference being "this mortal shall put on immortality." What an immortal body looks like is difficult to suggest, but there must be recognition and semblance to this mortal body because people are recognized in eternity.

RB Kuter said...


Hope you are still viewing this post. You said,
"but from the person who dies perspective, it's immediate, for eternity is outside of time."

This suggests, and I believe you have made this analogy in the past, that when a person dies, they are in a "sleep" state, as we can best identify. Time continues on for those who are not asleep, but for those asleep, they wake up and are not aware that they have been sleeping for hundreds of years. Yet Scripture depicts those who are in the "sleep" state, i.e., have physically died but not yet resurrected, being conscious, active, and interacting with others.

Also, I am a bit confused on your proposal that a lost person "perishes", or ceases to exist physically or spiritually when they die, in which case there would be no way to "resurrect" them. Or am I mistaken and you are actually saying that they too are in a "sleep" state until they are resurrected, judged, and then they "perish"?

If you are saying the unsaved "sleep", yet continue to exist following their physical death until they are judged and then "perish"-cease to exist, it would seem plausible that they will continue to exist after their physical death for eternity, in hell.

Hope you can respond. It's a complex but exciting topic.

Wade Burleson said...


To sleep implies an immaterial, invisible “soul” in repose.

I do not believei the Bible teaches “soul” sleep. I believe people die. Their bodies are placed “in the tombs” or “in the sea” or are destroyed “in a fire.” They die.

But somehow, someway, on that day, those who have died “will hear the voice of Christ” and rise from the dead.

That’s not soul sleep. It’s physical resurrection.

The wicked will then die a “second death” (physical, material, corporal death), and the righteous will be gifted with immortal life.

RB Kuter said...

I am sure you can feel comfortable in your interpretation of these things, but I could not.

I have responded on a later post with what was probably a "too long" response. Thank you for your patience in allowing us to respond with our thoughts and positions, even when they are contradictory to your own. To me, that reflects your self-confidence, grace and Godly heart. I do try to be respectful and tone down my intensity to do so, but sometimes it may not clearly reflect that. Sorry for that.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade,

I am an LCMS Lutheran, formerly an SBC Calvinist. I enjoy following your blog as you always introduce thought-provoking considerations. I will say that I believe that you “get” Luther better than any Baptist leader that I have encountered.

Blessings and peace,

Paul S

Aussie John said...

Wade, RRR,

Recently we in Australia have been reading of the awful fires in USA where many have died, some apparently completely consumed beyond identification as a human body.

Some could have been Christians. Where are they, their spirits etc.?

I'm not wanting an answer, but simply to propose that we need to be careful about being adamant that a personal belief, no matter how long held, or affirmed by theological experts. I spent far too many years trying to intellectualize these matters, debating them without truly satisfying answers.

Now, maybe old age has made me too settled in my faith in His finished work, but I suspect that God will give us all a surprise when we stand in His presence!

"The saying is trustworthy, for:IF WE DIED WITH HIM, WE WILL ALSO LIVE WITH HIM; IF WE ENDURE,WE WILL ALSO REIGN WITH HIM;IF WE DENY HIM,HE ALSO WILL DENY US;IF WE ARE FAITHLESS,HE REMAINS FAITHFUL-FOR HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF. Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,and their talk will spread like gangrene." (2 Tim.2:11-17)

RB Kuter said...

"Now, maybe old age has made me too settled in my faith in His finished work"

Prov 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.
22: 6 ​​​​​Train a child in the way that he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

9: 10 ​​​​​​​The beginning of wisdom is to fear the LORD,
and acknowledging the Holy One is understanding.

As you undoubtedly know, Aussie John, gray hair is particularly honored in African and Asian cultures. I believe that case is also true to a high degree in western cultures. Your becoming more steadfast and immovable in your position and opinion on things should not, in my estimation, be considered as being "dogmatic/opinionated/close-minded". I know you are not a decrepit old man, but I think you are an "elder" to many. How unnatural it would be if you were still "blowing in the wind" and being unsettled and searching for the right roost upon which to perch, so to speak. That is the phase that younger ones are in.

Your "experience", having intelligently and devotedly pondered and studied and dealt with so many doctrines, proposals, teachings over the years, has earned you the honor of being an influential source of credibility and sound teaching. You have tried and proven much. I believe that is the phase of life and service that you have now entered. It is more critical than ever for you to identify with those positions with which you hold to be the most accurate and true and more than ever, allow yourself to be accessible as an elder/mentor/teacher.

Rex Ray said...

Wade, RRR, Christiane, and ALL,

Baptists are NOT Protestants because they were never part of the Catholic Church. They protested baptizing babies for salvation and their opponents named them Anabaptist. They eventually became known as Baptist. states Anabaptist were persecuted by Protestants and Catholics during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

One town had the head of an Anabaptist on ever fence post for 15 miles.