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Monday, April 11, 2016

Gerardus Bouw– Scriptural stand, some aberrations; Part 13b

      This continues from Part 13a, a series on Copernicanism and Geocentricity (see Intro & Contents in Part 1) in response to a letter from a young person ("Josh") who asked if I believed Geocentricity ... and did not ridicule me in his question.
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      In the previous Part 13a, I concentrated more on the scientific aspects of Dr. Bouw's writings.  As one reads his materials, one immediately finds that he credits his science view today on his conversion to Christianity, and in many respects uses his new found reverence for Holy Scripture to judge against erring teachers, particularly humanists.  In going through his book he says several praiseworthy things, one might say even very Lutheran things:

+ Preface i: The Reformation of the sixteenth century was a time when men chose to subject the traditions of churches and men to the norms of Scripture. God’s words were to overrule men’s. The Reformation set men free through the truth of Scripture and set men at liberty, the liberty that can only be found under grace. (Preface, i)
+ “Today, unfortunately, the authority of the Holy Bible is almost nonexistent even among those who call themselves Bible believers. … The defeat of the Bible’s authority in the realm of science played a large role in the defeat of the Bible’s authority in all other matters of faith and practice; and the beginning of that defeat, the first victory of the humanists, was the defeat of what seemed like a minor doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of geocentricity.” Pg 254
+ Luther never did honor any of the humanists’ requests for support of their “reform” movements, although some other Reformers, most notably Melanchthon and Calvin, were not as wise as Luther in their dealings with the humanists. (!) pg. 272
+ It is not out of character for Calvin to have spoken so because he was generally quite impressed by science and well accustomed to accommodating the Bible to science if there was any apparent disagreement between the two fields. Pg. 285
+ Thus it came to pass, as stated in the chapter quote, that the God-centered outlook of the Reformation was replaced by the man-centered (anthropocentric) outlook of this day. With the focus of science shifting from God and his creation, man soon forgot the warning of Leonard Euler, one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, who wrote to a German princess about Scripture and math that:  ...in our researches into the phenomena of the visible world...we [are subject to] weaknesses and inconsistencies so humiliating...[that] a Revelation [Scripture] was absolutely necessary to us; and we ought to avail ourselves of it, with the most powerful veneration.  pg. 326
+ Truth is, I am not of the Reformed mindset, so I take Scripture's warning against philosophy more seriously... pg 577

In general Bouw speaks well of Luther and the Reformation – most pleasant to read from a non-Lutheran.  Surprisingly he is critical of Calvin in this regard.  And the last quote by the great mathematician Euler was a pleasant surprise!  But more than this, the online “credal statement” of the Assn. for Biblical Astronomy reads quite good from a Christian standpoint:
“...no man is righteous and so all are in need of salvation, which is the free gift of God, given by the grace of God, and not to be obtained through any merit or works of our own. We affirm that salvation is available only through faith in the shed blood and finished work of our risen LORD and saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Tell me that this does not prove, as Walther said, that "all Reformed sects… were first Lutheran".
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      But there are some problematic theological areas as I read through Dr. Bouw's book.  One could wish that he had more cognizance of the Papacy as the Antichrist (as Martin Luther identified).  He rather attributes most of Christianity's woes to "atheistic-humanistic view of science".  –  More problematic, but not surprising, he is weak on the doctrine of the Trinity.  Although Bouw claims above (pg 577) that he is "not of the Reformed mindset", Franz Pieper pointed out the scriptural teaching of the Trinity and its importance, and then proceeded to show how the Reformed sects (including Baptists) succumb to reason as they weaken on this central doctrine.  This weakness is exposed as Bouw attempts to judge (and justify) Isaac Newton's weakness (or denial) on the Trinity.  On pages 400-401, he says
Newton’s only departure from the Anabaptist-Baptist line may have been in the matter of the Trinity.  Newton could well have had some doctrinal problems with the Trinity in light of John 14:28 where Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I.”  If God is infinite and if the members of the Trinity are one (Scripture nowhere says they are equal, just that they are one), how can one of them say another is greater? The answer was not discovered until the 19th century when mathematician Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Phillip Cantor (1845-1918) demonstrated two infinities, a smaller infinity and a larger infinity.  He labeled them אo, called aleph-null, and אl, called aleph-one. The second is infinitely larger than the first, thus serving to explain Jesus’ claim that the Father is greater than he in John 14:28. 
With Bouw's attempt to use mathematics (!) to explain John 14:28, he jolts a Christian's senses... he uncharacteristically steps away from "Scripture explains Scripture"... and falters badly.  God, the Trinity, and Christ's self-imposed humiliation are not to be explained by man's reasoning, certainly not by mathematics.  And Cantor the mathematician, said to be "a devout Lutheran", is known to have suffered repeated bouts of depression over his misuse of mathematics to explain theological matters.  Bouw partially recovers with a welcome footnote:
Much of this is still beyond our understanding for even the brightest mathematical minds cannot agree on our two original infinities. Be careful not to make too much of this, dear reader.
I will have to correct Dr. Bouw on his footnote: "Be careful dear reader, do not make anything at all of this mathematical explanation of John 14:28!"  And I would further counsel Dr. Bouw that he should read Franz Pieper's whole section of the Doctrine of the Trinity, in particular his section on "Objections to the Unity of the Godhead", Christian Dogmatics, volume 1, page 392.  Pieper answers an objection to this doctrine:
Christ says expressly that the Father is greater than the Son (John 14:28-29).  Answer: Christ is here speaking of an inferiority to the Father which is to cease at His glorification and return to the Father; in other words, Christ is inferior only according to the human nature in the State of Humiliation.
Dr. Bouw: remember your quote of Leonard Euler above!  Remember your own saying (pg 577) that "I take Scripture's warning against philosophy more seriously".  Consider what the old Synodical Conference suggested as a prayer when one reaches a Bible passage where our reason rears its head and wants to take over our understanding in spiritual matters: "That should make you rather immediately suspicious and drive you to sigh: God forbid that I should condemn His Word by my reason."
      And Dr. Bouw: how can you, as a Baptist, deny the words of Scripture "baptism doth also now save us"?  What do those words of Scripture say? (1 Peter 3:21 KJV)  The Lutheran Church accepts those words just as they read, the Water and the Word.

To:  Dr. Bouw
      When I returned to my Christian faith, I attended both my earlier LCMS congregation and a conservative Baptist church with a friend.  I marveled at this Baptist church that seemed to hold to the Holy Scriptures so well, just as you and your Mantua Country Baptist Church do.  I would almost say they were better at holding to Scripture than my LCMS congregation -- they visibly carried their Bibles into church!  But it was at a Sunday evening Bible study meeting where a Baptist congregational member asked a question of the pastor that he could not quite understand the Bible verse 2 Peter 2:1, which essentially says "false prophets ... denying the Lord that bought them".  This passage clearly states the Lord Jesus even paid for the sins of the "false prophets".  But a week later the Baptist preacher forced Calvin's false "limited atonement" doctrine on this passage... and I had to stop attending, for it was my Lutheran teaching lately re-learned from C.F.W. Walther and Franz Pieper, that the Bible teaches first and foremost Universal, Objective Justification -- John 3:16.  Indeed, this is how Walther, Pieper, and... Martin Luther could properly distinguish between the Law and the Gospel... only when the pure Gospel is rightly understood.  You will find plenty of Scriptural support for this on my blog.
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      But lest Dr. Bouw think me too harsh against his theology, I will call him the “apostle to today’s scientists”, for the use of his deep understanding of modern science and his Christian faith to give aid to those who want to believe their Bible.  Would to God there were a true Lutheran scientist who would step into Dr. Bouw’s shoes and continue his work.  For Dr. Bouw is surely getting up in years (born 1945), and this scientific apologetic should continue, to defend against our modern world’s acceptance by Christians of Copernicanism.
      And so it is distressing that the one most known today for defending against Copernicanism, Dr. Gerardus Bouw, is not a Lutheran.  That was not always the case, as we have seen, for the most prominent defenders in past times were indeed Lutheran
      I will leave the subject of Dr. Bouw's theology for now.  But I want to publish some highlights of his history of geocentrists, where we find some points of interest and... some surprises, in Part 13c-1.