Theology Further Considered as a Habitude

9. THEOLOGY FURTHER CONSIDERED AS A HABITUDE. 

Theology as a habitude, or ability, is described in all those Scripture passages which depict the character and qualifications of the true Christian minister, who, in the sense of Holy Scripture, is a true theologian, possessing the ability (sufficiency) to administer the functions of the ministry in the divinely appointed manner. On the basis of Holy Scripture we may therefore describe the theological habitude as follows : –

a. The theological habitude is a spiritual habitude (habitus spiritualis, supernaturalis), that is to say, an ability which is implanted in the soul not by natural gifts, but by the Holy Ghost. It presupposes personal faith in Christ’s vicarious atonement and consequently the regeneration, or conversion, of the theologian. Unbelieving ministers or teachers do not deserve the name of theologian; and in the sense of Holy Scripture they are not theologians, though they may have apprehended the doctrines of the Word of God intellectually and be able to present them clearly and correctly. In other words, there is no theologia irregenitorum, or theology of the unregenerate, since the souls of the unconverted and unbelieving are not inhabited and actuated by the Holy Ghost, but by the “prince of this world,” that is, Satan. Eph. 2, 2 : “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”. Holy Scripture always describes a true minister of Christ as a penitent, believing child of God, who ascribes to divine grace both his sufficiency and his call into the ministry. 2 Cor. 3, 5: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament.” 2 Tim. 2, lff. : “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” etc. A true minister of Christ, or theologian, is therefore a sanctified believer. 1 Tim. 3, 2ff.: “A bishop must be blameless, … of good behavior, … apt to teach,” etc. 

Unbelieving and unregenerate ministers hold their sacred office not by God’s will, but only by His permission. Although their personal unbelief does not render inefficacious the Word they preach and the Sacraments they administer, provided they preach the Word of God in truth and purity and administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution, yet the incumbency and administration of the sacred office by hypocrites greatly dishonors the Lord and is an offense to the Church and a perpetual menace to the faith and piety of their hearers. Jer. 14, 14-16: “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them. . . . By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets.” Cp. also Jer. 23, 11-32; Ezek. 13, 3-9; etc. 

It was this important truth, namely, that a true theologian is a sincere believer, that prompted our dogmaticians to describe theology, first of all, as a habitus spiritualis vel supernaturalis, conferred by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Baier thus writes (I, 69) : “Theology is by its very nature a supernatural habitude, acquired not by any powers of our own, but by the powers of grace through the operation of the Holy Ghost.” He adds that all theology which is not wrought by the Holy Ghost is so called only in an improper sense. So also Luther writes: “A doctor of Holy Scripture no one can make for you except the Holy Spirit from heaven, as Christ says, John 6, 45: ‘And they shall be all taught of God.”‘ (St. L., X, 399.) The spiritual habitude of theology implies also faith in Holy Scripture as the divinely inspired, infallible Word of God; and this faith, too, is the work and gift of the Holy Ghost. 

b. The theological habitude further includes the ability to refrain from all human opinions and thoughts on God and divine things, to draw all doctrines from Holy Scripture, and thus to teach nothing but God’s Word. John 8, 31. 32: ”If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed.” St. Paul writes to Timothy, 1 Tim. 6, 3. 4: “If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words.”. That the “words of our Lord Jesus Christ” are not merely the words which our Savior Himself spoke during His sojourn on earth, but all the inspired writings of the prophets and the apostles, is proved by various passages, John 17, 20; 1 Pet. 1, 10-12; Eph. 2, 20; etc. These passages disqualify and bar all teachers of the Church who, while rejecting Holy Scripture as the sole source and norm of faith, draw their doctrines from false sources, such as “Christian traditions,” the “regenerate heart,” “Christian consciousness,” “private revelations,” “Christian experience,” etc. Luther, in his exposition of Jer. 23, 16, correctly remarks: “Behold, all prophets who do not preach out of the mouth of God deceive, and God forbid that we should hear them.” (St. L., XIX, 821.) 

c. The theological habitude includes, moreover, the ability to teach the whole Word of God as it is set forth in Holy Scripture. In order to attest his ministerial faithfulness, St. Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20, 27: “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Christian ministers must proclaim the whole Word of God in its truth and purity to be “pure from the blood of all men,” as St. Paul witnesses concerning himself, Acts 20, 26: “Wherefore I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men.” It is for this very reason that the apostle so earnestly admonishes Timothy, 1 Tim. 4, 16: “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” A Christian teacher should therefore “take heed unto the doctrine,” study it with great zeal and diligence, preach it fully and without admixture of human opinion, and thus prove himself faithful by presenting to his hearers all the doctrines of God’s Word. Matt. 28, 20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” 1 Cor. 4, 2 : “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” J er. 48, 10: “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully” (marginal note: “negligently”). Such ability, however, is not of man’s own power, but of God. 

d. The theological habitude implies also the ability to convince the gainsayers. Titus 1, 9: “Holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Holy Scripture never prohibits polemics, but rather commands it, since controversy, if carried on in the commendable spirit of Christian charity, is never destructive, but highly profitable to the Church. Every kind of polemics that is prompted by, and exhibits, a carnal, factious spirit is, of course, an abuse of Christian controversy and is therefore forbidden. Titus 3, 9 : “But avoid foolish questions and genealogies and contentions and strivings about the Law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” 2 Cor. 10, 3: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” Again, true polemics requires not only the refutation of false doctrine, but also the clear and Scriptural presentation of the true doctrine in order that the opponent may be won over to the divine truth; for this, after all, is the final purpose of all true polemics, that falsehood may be eliminated and divine truth be received. Toleration of false doctrine within the Church is unfaithfulness to God’s Word and therefore unfaithfulness to God Himself, who has entrusted His truth to the care of His Church, Matt. 28, 19. 20. 

For this reason also the ministry of Christ and His apostles was largely spent in polemics; for while they were teaching the truth, they always testified against error. Matt. 7, 15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing; but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Rom. 16, 17: “I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” False doctrine is so pernicious and so displeasing to God that He demands not only the refutation of all error, but also the excommunication of the errorist in case he proves himself a heretic. Rom. 16, 17: “And avoid them.” 2 John 10: “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed.” Clearly and emphatically Holy Scripture rejects every form of syncretism, or unionism.

No matter what the motives may be that induce men to depart from Holy Scripture and to cause divisions and offenses contrary to the truth of God’s Word, they must all be condemned as carnal and sinful. There are no “noble” motives for causing divisions within the Church; they are all equally reprehensible and ungodly. Holy Scripture describes them as follows: belly service, Rom. 16, 18; pride, 1 Tim. 6, 4; the inordinate desire for honor, John 5, 44; unwillingness to suffer for Christ’s sake, Gal. 6, 12; envy, Matt. 27, 18; perversity, 1 Tim. 6, 4; John 16,3; 1 Tim. 1,13; the personal vanity and viciousness of theologians, 2 Tim. 3, 1-9; etc. “Many heresies have arisen in the Church only from the hatred of the teachers.” (Apology, III, 121.) Divisions within the Church are therefore not pleasing to God, nor do they exist by the will of God, but they are God’s just punishment upon those who do not love the truth. 2 Thess. 2, 10-12: “Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 

e. The theological habitude lastly embraces the ability to suffer for the sake of Christ and His Word. 2 Tim. 2, 3 : “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”; v. 9: “Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil-doer, even unto bonds. But the Word of God is not bound.” The suffering of Christians in general and of Christian ministers in particular is caused by the world’s hatred of, and contempt for, God’s Word. 1 Cor. 1, 23 : “We preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block and unto the Greeks foolishness.” The result of the world’s antagonism to the Gospel of Christ is described by our Savior as follows: “Ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake,” Matt. 24, 9. 

Unwillingness to suffer for the Gospel’s sake leads to compromises with error, to the denial of divine truth, and in the end to apostasy from divine grace. 2 Tim. 2, 12: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” Unless the Christian, and above all the Christian theologian, is ready for Christ’s sake to renounce ease and friendship, to take upon himself loss of honor and property, and even to lay down his life for the sake of divine truth, he cannot serve his Master as this is required of him. The theological habitude (habitus practicus), then, is the ability, divinely bestowed, to teach the pure and unadulterated Word of God, to declare the whole counsel of God unto salvation, to oppose and refute false doctrine, and to suffer for Christ’s sake all the consequences which the proclamation of the Word of God entails.

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