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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Lutheran Church teaches Copernicanism, Big Bang? 1 of 2; against Concordia Journal

Concordia Journal
Concordia Seminary, St. L.
[2017-11-18 -- see 2nd comment below by "Carl Vehse"; amended info on Dr. Swamidass in red below]
[2018-02-21: see comments at bottom on Dr. Jurchen's withdrawal.]
      Since the 2017 Summer issue of the LC-MS magazine Concordia Journal was published, several refutations of its assertions and theology have appeared.  Herman Otten's October 2, 2017 issue of Christian News published Rev. Brandt Klawitter's strikingly titled essay "Down With Scripture…in LUTHER's Name!".  Jack Cascione's Reclaim News online commentary has published 3 articles defending against Concordia Seminary's (COSL) thrust for "science", the "Big Bang Theory", "evolutionary creationism", etc.  Especially Cascione's strong stand ("Hate Speech against the Bible") is welcome refreshment against a "Lutheran" seminary that came all the way "out" of the closet with this magazine issue.  I will leave the reader to follow Klawitter's essay (download here) and Cascione's 3 essays (so far) here, here, and here.
      So this blog will not take up space to cover what has already been adequately covered.  I want to first address another point not addressed so far – the Lutheran Church's teaching of "science" that refutes the Bible's clear teaching of natural history, particularly Copernicanism.  (Cascione rightly touches on Luther's true position when he mentions in 2 of his articles Luther's writing on Biblical Chronology.)
Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass
Science advisor to COSL

Lutheran Church teaches Copernicanism?
      Among the statements made by "science advisor" Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass in his essay "A Lutheran Voice in Science" (p. 82-87) is this (p. 84):
“Lutherans openly considered and embraced heliocentrism without fear of reprisal."
"Embraced heliocentrism"?  "Without fear of reprisal"?  What does Dr. Swamidass mean by this blanket assertion?  This is made clear in a previous portion (p. 83) where he states:
"Luther’s doubts notwithstanding, the Lutheran church never took an official position against Copernican theory. To the contrary, the Lutheran University of Wittenberg played a central role in promoting study of heliocentrism. It was Georg Joachim Rheticus, a professor at the University of Wittenburg [sic], who first published the Copernican theory in 1540 and then encouraged Copernicus to publish a more complete treatment. Later, in 1609, another Lutheran, Johannes Kepler, published his opus Astronomia Nova, a careful geometric analysis that demonstrated that ellipses, not circles, traced the paths of planets, including the earth, around the sun."
So Dr. Swamidass, who claims Christianity and I believe Lutheranism but admits he is not a Lutheran (see comment #2 below, in a lecture series), means to say that the Lutheran Church taught the Copernican Theory as objective truth, ("embraced heliocentrism", "Luther's doubts notwithstanding") even as "the Lutheran Church".  This is not true.  The Lutheran Church allowed the teaching of the Copernican Theory only because the theory demonstrated greater predictability of astronomical motions than the older Ptolemy system, only as a purely mathematical model, only in theory.  Dr. Swamidass rightly praises the Lutheran Church for allowing theoretical research, even when this science theoretically or hypothetically encroaches on the objective truth of the Bible's natural history that is taught incidentally.  The Lutheran Church has never taught against the Bible's natural history, notwithstanding that some notable weak Lutherans/Christians crossed the "boundary" from theoretical hypotheses to objective truth.  When scientists who clearly confessed Christianity developed the theories of the "infinitesimal", they did not turn these theories against the Bible's natural history but left them in the purely mathematical realm.  This is well documented by Amir Alexander in his book Infinitesimal, where he shows that it was the Jesuits who fought this theoretical science.  Indeed, Dr. Swamidass can rejoice that he is in the Lutheran Church because of this.
      But surely Dr. Swamidass is aware of what the current Wikipedia article on Johannes Kepler says:
"At the University of Tübingen in Württemberg, concerns over Kepler's perceived Calvinist heresies in violation of the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord prevented his return."
      I can only assume that Dr. Swamidass has not read my nearly year-long series of blogs refuting Copernicanism.  To make it easy for him and the general reader, I am reproducing a portion of my Part 17, where I reported and quoted from the noted historian Peter Barker relating to the theology of Johannes Kepler:

 - - - - - - - - - -  (below is excerpt from previous blog)  - - - - - - - - - - - -

Prof. Peter Barker
Prof. Peter Barker of the University of Oklahoma presents himself not only as an authority on the history of science, but also on... Lutheranism.  But is this really so?  Here is his comment regarding the Lutheran Confessions in his essay "The Role of Religion in the Lutheran Response to Copernicus" among the essays in the book Rethinking the Scientific Revolution edited by Margaret J. Osler (page 68, Google Books):
The unfortunately named Formula of Concord was an attempt to heal the breach between strict Lutherans and less-strict Phillippists and others sympathetic to Calvinism. Issued on June 25, 1580 (the fiftieth anniversary of the Augsburg confession), it was accepted by Saxony, Württemberg, and Baden, ... The employment of the formula thus deepened the divisions it was intended to heal, by obliging people like ... Kepler, to choose between a new orthodox Lutheranism that opposed Calvinism, and the older Phillipist version that tolerated it. Kepler's response was to follow a career that avoided the Formula.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -   (end of excerpt)  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
      But more to the point made by Dr. Swamidass, Robert Westman, in his "magisterial" book  The Copernican Question, reported (p. 337):
Maestlin and Kepler had crossed a political and disciplinary boundary with the Tübingen [Lutheran] theolo­gians. Hafenreffer gave ‘brotherly advice’ to Kep­ler: he should remain a ‘pure mathematician,’ stay away from making true claims about the universe, and avoid provoking schisms in the Church.”  
Hafenreffer’s (and Luther’s) forbearance of clandestine errorists, such as Kepler, Maestlin and Rheticus is not proof that “Lutherans embraced heliocentrism” as objective truth.  Far from it, it proves the opposite.

This covers also the situation with George Rheticus and other weak Lutherans or false Lutherans who clandestinely held to Copernicanism, that the Copernican Theory was objective truth.  

The current Wikipedia article on Rheticus, relying on Westman's thorough history, reports that Rheticus
"refrained from publishing the work in his life in order to avoid angering more conservative Christians such as Melanchthon."
Indeed, Wikipedia and Robert Westman clearly disprove Swamidass's claim of "without fear of reprisal".  It was surprising to me that Swamidass would publicly make his assertions when I have clearly shown that the true Lutheran theologians, from Luther all the way to Dr. Franz Pieper, have taught, as theologians, that because the Bible is a priori true, that the Copernican Theory can never be objectively true, Joshua 10:13.  To claim Rheticus and Kepler for his assertion is especially puzzling because general history knows that both of these men differed in their theology from the Lutheran Church.
==>> Swamidass's doubts notwithstanding,... the Lutheran Church never "embraced heliocentrism" or took an official position condoning Copernicanism as objective truth, but only as a theory.   (It wasn't Luther's "doubts", it was Luther's teaching, especially in his commentary on Genesis.)
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = .

Brief Statement… allows Big Bang Theory? 
      On a separate note, I had to laugh out loud when I read (p. 79) how Profs. Charles Arand and Joel Okamoto refer to the Brief Statement as "our position regarding a six-day creation" at Concordia Seminary.  Of course Franz Pieper's Brief Statement reaffirms the Bible's teaching of a six-day creation, but everyone can see that Arand-Okamoto's assumption that the Big Bang Theory (à la the Jurchen essay, p. 64-74) [* see note below] can fit their doctrinal “position” is a fiction. (Let the reader see how this fits the term schizophrenia).  Franz Pieper, the author of the Brief Statementspecifically defended the approximate Biblical age of 6000 years against the scientific error of millions or billions of years teaching.  If Arand questions this, he can read Pieper's article in 1896 in Lehre und Wehre here.  I doubt that he would question it because he already knows it.  No, the COSL professors can claim all they want that the Brief Statement's (and the Bible's) “six-day creation” allows more than six 24-hour days, but that is a fiction.

      I also had to laugh out loud when I read again on their copyright/credits page that
“...the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.”
Nowhere does Concordia Journal reveal that Lehre und Wehre, from its beginning to its end, cried out against what this issue teaches.  They can blithely make their claim because they know that Lehre und Wehre was published in the German language so that virtually none of its lay members can easily access it directly, and have very limited availability of English translations. —  I would add that this statement by the Journal is misleading because Walther is not the founder of the "The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod".  No, "The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod" left the old (German) Missouri Synod that Walther founded… and its teachers know it full well.

Concordia Journal / LC-MS speak with a “Lutheran Voice”?
      This issue of Concordia Journal uses the words "biblicistic" (Moulds p. 40) and "fundamentalist" (Swamidass p. 83) to charge Lutherans who hold to the literal natural history taught by the Bible.  Also in a veiled way it even seems to charge them with "mortal sin" (Arand/Okamato p. 30), maybe even "theologians of glory" (Arand p. 28 ff.).  That should not bother true Lutherans.  True Lutherans should know that the old (German) Missouri Synod endured similar heinous charges against it... yet continued simply in "God's Word and Luther's Doctrine Pure". —  So I will just keep on in "biblicistic", "fundamentalist" "mortal sin" — i.e. believing the Bible just as it reads.

      No, Dr. Swamidass, the Evangelical Lutheran Church has always taught that Copernicanism is what Prof. Arand calls "scientism" (p. 18, 29, 33), i.e. not objectively true.  And it started not 100 years ago (p. 83), but 500 years ago by... Martin Luther – as even you admit.  No, those "fundamentalists" that you have identified (and even Ken Ham, p. 79) are only weakly echoing the teaching of the Lutheran Church.
      The LC-MS Concordia Seminary teachers only show how far they have removed themselves from the true Evangelical Lutheran Church.  How do I know this so well?  Because I did not leave the LC-MS the 2nd time because of Copernicanism, I left it over their loss of the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification. In the next Part 2a, I address a point of theology not mentioned (so far) by Cascione's Reclaim News or Rev. Klawitter.

[Note: when this 2017 Summer issue of Concordia Journal becomes unavailable to the general public, contact me for a PDF copy with full searchable text, and hyperlinks to all footnotes.]

[2018-02-21: According to the reports here and here, it was announced that (1) Dr. Jurchen has requested that his article be withdrawn; (2a) Prof. Charles Arand (and other unnamed persons) will "no longer comment on the specifics of his article"; (2b) admitted the Concordia Journal was "in error. We apologize and ask forgiveness for the confusion this has caused"; (2b) Arand commented, after promising not to comment,  that "the article did not articulate this argument clearly and presented a confusing witness". — Dr. Jurchen's letter of withdrawal is most refreshing for the Church, but one wonders if Prof. Arand (and the Concordia Seminary faculty) would have offered the same comments and apology if Dr. Jurchen had not withdrawn his article.]


  1. According to Dennis Danielson, in his The First Copernican (2006, pp. 90-3), when Georg Joachim Rheticus returned in October, 1541, to Wittenberg from his stay with Copernicus, three issues put a damper on his efforts to promote the heliocentric theory:

    1. Wittenberg had low morale because of the scandal caused by Luther's approval of bigamy for Philip of Hesse;
    2. Rheticus was given additional administrative duties as dean of the faculty of arts; and
    3. Melanchthon, in intense negotiations with the pope's representatives about reconciliation, had written a letter listing a Polish astronomer's claim of earth moving around a fixed sun as among a list of absurdities plaguing churches and schools.

    As a result, Rheticus taught his astronomy class during 1541-2 with an exaggerated reverence for Ptolemy. While the Copernican heliocentric model was later taught by Erasmus Reinhold after Rheticus left in 1542, it was taught at Wittenberg only as a convenient mathematical tool for astronomical calculations, not as a model of heliocentric reality that the earth revolves on its axis and orbits around a fixed sun.

    This "Wittenberg interpretation" of Copernicanism is discussed in "The Melanchthon Circle, Rheticus, and the Wittenberg Interpretation of the Copernican Theory” (Isis, Vol. 66, No. 2, Jun., 1975, pp. 164-193), in which Westman states (pp. 189-190):

    "While there is of course no way to know what might have happened had Rheticus stayed longer [at Wittenberg], it is relevant to note that such a group of followers did not form about him either in Leipzig or in Cracow; nor did either the Narratio prima or De revolutionibus itself have the effect of producing Rheticus-like conversions among those who remained at Wittenberg in the 1540s, 1550s, and 1560s. Although several students were present at Rheticus’ lectures in 1541, after his return from Frombork and before his departure for Leipzig, none of these (Burmeister lists among them Peucer, Schreiber, Stoius, Homelius, Heller, Lauterwalt, Staphylus, and Acontius) were to adopt a strong realist interpretation of the Copernican theory."

  2. In the Summer 2017 issue of the Concordia Journal, Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass presents his paper, "A Lutheran Voice in Science." Swamidass's paper contains these subsections:

    • Where is the Lutheran Voice?
    • Lutheran History
    • Lutheran Epistomology
    • Lutheran Theology
    • Recovering the Lutheran Voice

    This is a new depth of irony for the Concordia Journal. In his introduction to Owen Gingerich's March 21, 2017, presentation, Dr. Swamidass adimts (at 2:26 into the video) that he is not Lutheran.

    1. "Carl Vehse"
      Of all the myths you have exposed, maybe this is one of your greatest finds? I had to laugh in amazement, in astonishment... I had to go to that video and see for myself, and indeed found that Dr. Swamidass at least admitted in the lecture intro that "I am not a Lutheran but uh...". You had to be listening closely to catch this "little detail".
      I considered posting a separate blog post exposing this "new depth of irony", but I will leave it here in your comment and amend my post above with your timely exposure. I just now noticed that the CSL Scholar web page had not yet been saved to the Wayback Machine, so I just saved it. Unfortunately that did not save the Vimeo video. Do you know how that can be saved for posterity? -- Also I wonder if there was ever a transcript published of this lecture. The web page says "This document is currently not available here." Was it ever?
      As I think about this situation, it appears to me that Swamidass is not the culprit, but the duplicity, the deceptiveness lies entirely with the teachers of Concordia Sem. who have fed Swamidass his information on "Lutheranism" and so he is just reporting the "Lutheranism" of... Concordia Seminary.
      If Dr. Swamidass eventually reads this, he should be warned that if he wants to know the truth, he (and Owen Gingrich) should back away from Concordia Seminary. If he wants to know the true "Lutheran Voice", he (and Gingrich) should just read the Lutheran Confessions. He should just read Luther. If he continues instead to listen to Concordia Seminary for his "Lutheranism", he becomes just a laughingstock... and risks losing his Christian faith.
      If there are graduating men coming out of this Seminary who are have not lost their Christian faith, then they have a much stronger faith than I do. As for me, "...when I am weak, then am I strong." 2 Cor. 12:10


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