I commend Jerry L. Walls for his examination of the issue of purgatory from
his own Wesleyan tradition (“Purgatory
for Everyone,” April). His effort reveals an interesting
similarity between the Wesleyan tradition and the tradition
of Roman Catholicism on the issue of purgatory.
The Lutheran understanding is different. Confessional Lutherans stress that justification is a completed act and not a process. This assertion is often expressed in terms of “forensic justification,” that is, justification as a legal declaration. The danger of using the legal metaphor in terms of justification is that one could make the mistake of viewing justification as a “legal fiction” (i.e., the sinner remains a sinner while God simply pretends that he is righteous). But confessional Lutherans do not view justification as a “legal fiction.” The God who declares us to be righteous in Christ also makes us righteous in Christ by His creative Word in the moment of justification.
Professor Walls says: “Real virtue is achieved over a period of time by numerous choices and decisions.” He further says: “The classical notion of purgatory also seems necessary to a related issue in the process of sanctification: our free participation in it. . . . God takes our freedom seriously and is patient with it.” Both the Wesleyan and Roman traditions view the “freedom of the human will” as a necessary component in the process of justification. In contrast, Lutherans confess that since the Fall our wills are in bondage to unbelief. Unbelievers still have wills, but they are completely opposed to God (Romans 8:7-8). A rabid dog willingly chooses to hate and bite its master. However, a rabid dog cannot choose to love and serve its master. The only solution for a rabid dog is to kill it and get a new one. Lutherans teach that God kills so that He can make alive. All this is done in Christ as a complete gift.
Prof. Walls writes: “Wesleyans insist that God not only forgives us but also changes us and actually makes us righteous. Only when we are entirely sanctified or fully perfected in this sense are we truly fit to enjoy the beatific vision in heaven.” In contrast, Lutherans confess that the “beatific vision” descends to us when Christ comes into our lives through Baptism, Absolution, and with his own Body and Blood in Holy Communion. We are not made ready for service in heaven. Heaven makes Himself ready to serve us (John 1:14).
Purgatory is not necessary because we have all the “progress” we need and more through the work of Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!
(The Rev.) Tom Eckstein
Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)
Jerry L. Walls replies:
I want to thank Pastor Eckstein for his thoughtful critique of my article on purgatory. However, I am not sure I understand some of his claims, in particular when he says, “The God who declares us to be righteous in Christ also makes us righteous in Christ by His creative Word in the moment of justification.” If Pastor Eckstein means that we are made righteous in more than a legal sense, the question is to what degree he believes this is so. Does he mean that the justified are actually made fully righteous in the sense that they perfectly love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that they likewise love their neighbor as themselves? In other words, does he mean to say that believers are also fully sanctified in the moment of justification? It is doubtful that he means this. In his Large Catechism, Luther described believers as those in whom “holiness has begun and is growing daily” but who look forward to a time after death when they “will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life.” But for now, he held, “we are only halfway pure and holy.” If Pastor Eckstein agrees that believers are typically only halfway holy when they die, then he faces the problem for which I have argued that purgatory is the answer.
The question of course is whether we are made fully holy with our free cooperation or by a unilateral act of God. While I agree that our wills apart from grace are bent on opposing the will of God, it does not follow from this that our free response can play no role in our salvation. Indeed, it is my view that grace restores our freedom and thereby enables and encourages us to trust and love God, but it does not determine us to do so. This explains why the holiness that is begun in justification sometimes grows slowly and sporadically. But if God unilaterally kills our individual sin and unbelief like a master might kill a rabid dog, it is harder to account for the uneven progress in sanctification most believers display. A rabid dog that is killed loses its bite entirely, not merely halfway.
As for the claim that the beatific vision comes into our lives through Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion, I am at a loss to know how to respond. Surely Pastor Eckstein does not mean that heaven is fully present in the lives of those who are only halfway holy, and who are still contending with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In short, I think Pastor Eckstein has confused justification and sanctification.
In his commendable desire to exalt God’s gracious gifts to us in Christ, he
has been led to make one-sided and exaggerated claims. A more balanced approach
that recognizes the important role of our response in appropriating those gifts
would lead him to agree that growth in holiness is indeed a matter of daily
progress that must finally culminate in the perfection that God intends for
us. Along that trajectory of thought lies purgatory.
In his discussion of
Glenn Loury’s The Anatomy of Racial Inequality
(May), J. L. A. Garcia relates three axioms with which Loury
begins. The second, in Garcia’s words, is “that racially
classified individuals have no common essence that can explain
their superior or inferior social performance and achievement.”
Garcia goes on to say that “Loury seems not to recognize
how uncontroversial [axiom two] is and how little follows
from its truth.” But the cited axiom is false, and much
follows from its falsity.
As exhibit A, I enter into evidence the document “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” signed by fifty-two prominent experts in the study of intelligence. It first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on December 13, 1994, and was republished in Intelligence, the leading academic journal in the field. It was published as an appendix in Hans Eysenck’s excellent 1998 book A New Look at Intelligence and is easily accessible on the Web. Eysenck relates that the document was written “to set the record straight after the media’s onslaught on the [Richard] Herrnstein and [Charles] Murray book The Bell Curve, which showed little appreciation of the fact that the book represented mainly orthodox thinking, and gave a very accurate picture of the views held by mainstream academics.”
Among the twenty-five propositions about intelligence in this document is the statement that “the bell curve for whites is centered roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve for American blacks roughly around 85.” Another proposition states that “genetics plays a bigger role than does environment in creating IQ differences among individuals.”
What is the significance of this largely inherited white-black difference, amounting to about one standard deviation? Proposition nine of the Mainstream document states that “IQ is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic, and social outcomes. Its relation to the welfare and performance of individuals is very strong in some areas of life (education, military training), moderate but robust in others (social competence), and modest but consistent in others (law-abidingness).”
Herrnstein and Murray demonstrated these correlations in a thorough analysis of data on whites alone. Dan Seligman, in A Question of Intelligence (1992), similarly points out the white-black gap of 15-18 IQ points (depending on the test) and makes this telling comment: “If you tell yourself that the top professional and managerial jobs in this country require an IQ of at least 115 or thereabouts, then you also have to tell yourself that only about two percent of blacks appear able to compete for these jobs. The comparable figure for whites would be about 16 percent.” Analogous conclusions can be made about educational achievement and any area that places a premium on intelligence.
The empirical truths about the significance of intelligence for success in life and the reality of group differences in intelligence are so often ignored or denied because many people are looking for equality in the wrong places. There is true equality only on the spiritual level. The ability to apprehend multivariate calculus or dunk a basketball is not identically distributed among individuals, nor across groups. But everyone is equally created in the image of God and is loved by Him with an infinite love. And every mortal of normal mind has equal freedom and responsibility to make moral choices. (Of course people differ greatly in the degree to which their moral choices conform to the standard God establishes, thus making it appropriate to judge them by “the content of their characters.”)
Only by acknowledging the sovereignty of the spiritual over the material (and mental) can we recognize where our true equality lies. There can be no brotherhood of man without the fatherhood of God.
Daniel Love Glazer
J. L. A. Garcia replies:
Mr. Glazer raises several points.
1) My contention was that commitment to a racial essence, let alone to any essential differences between black and white people explaining their disparate social performance, was no part of the positions of most of the principal conservative writers on race—Dinesh D’Souza, Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom, Thomas Sowell, et al. It is their positions I took to be the target of Loury’s argument, and I inferred it was no part of this central controversy between him and his chief adversaries. Loury emphasizeý white attitudes and behavior in accounting for past and present socioeconomic inequality between blacks and whites in America; his critics largely accept similar causation for past inequality but emphasize the attitudes, values, and behavior of more than a few black people in explaining today’s. I explicitly mentioned that Charles Murray’s position, emphasizing allegedly inherited differences in intelligence, might differ from theirs on this point. Nothing in Mr. Glazer’s letter shows that racial essentialism, which some of these conservative writers explicitly reject, is central to their project, nor that Murray’s position is more important than theirs.
2) Is Murray right? Mr. Glazer observes that many statisticians of intelligence, including some prominent ones, agree with several of Murray’s contentions. We might also note, however, that they have drawn much less support from many other social scientists. The dispute will not be settled by counting heads for or against Murray’s claims—especially as politics plays a part on both sides—but by fair and informed assessment of the evidence. (One important critique of Murray’s reasoning, reprinted and widely respected in my discipline, is that of the philosopher Ned Block in Cognition, 1995.) I do not pretend to expertise in the area. Suffice it to say that these are some of the problematic inferences that Mr. Glazer must defend: a) difference in intelligence from difference in IQ; b) a racial and genetic cause of this difference from a racial correlation with it; c) a “common racial essence” from a racial cause. Most important, he must show that socioeconomic inequality between blacks and whites in the U.S. is mainly owing to this purported difference. Murray and Herrnstein worried that in our information-driven age, it will be difficult to keep a difference in intelligence from being reflected socioeconomically. But even if it exists, is this differential “ability to apprehendêmultivariate calculus” the cause of much of today’s socioeconomic disparity between races? Of 1950’s? Of 1900’s? Of 1850’s? Recall it is such “durable inequality” that was the focus of Loury’s book and the relevant part of my essay.
3) Whether or not there are such differences between racial groups, plainly
people are unequal in many ways. Of course, such gaps do nothing to justify
degrading social arrangements. I agree with Mr. Glazer that human freedom and
responsibility, and our imaging of God and His love for us, shape our moral
status and entitlements. He seems to think the latter can be recognized and
appreciated only by those who acknowledge God’s fatherhood and “the sovereignty
of the spiritual.” Maybe so, but some of us think that the moral “standard[s]
God establishes” are inscribed not only in tablets and Scriptures but also in
our nature and our hearts. In a time when unbelief reaches so high in our society
and is lodged so deep in many of the most influential, and when consensus against
racial injustice and for racial comity is so needed, let us hope we are right.
In “How I Became
the Catholic I Was” (April) Richard John Neuhaus refers
to “the . . . synthesis of piety, clear reason, and ecclesial
authority” that he discovered in the person and teaching
of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, Professor of Systematic Theology
at Concordia Seminary in Clayton, Missouri. Piepkorn, Father
Neuhaus states, “underscored the Church’s tradition prior
to the Reformation, the tradition of which Lutheranism was
part.” In Piepkorn’s synthesis, Fr. Neuhaus continues, “Lutheranism
was not a new beginning, a so-called rediscovery of the
gospel, by which the authentic and apostolic Church was
reconstituted . . . but another chapter in the history of
the one Church,” which is not “a theological school of thought,
or a society formed by allegiance to theological formulas—not
even formulas such as ‘justification by faith’—but is, rather,
the historically specifiable community of ordered discipleship
through time, until the end of time.” This understanding,
Fr. Neuhaus states, led Piepkorn to emphasize “that we are
Christians first, catholic Christians second, and Lutheran
Christians third.” I commend Fr. Neuhaus for this faithful
and felicitous summary of the teachings of his and my beloved
teacher, exemplar, and father in Christ.
But then Fr. Neuhaus adds, “In this understanding the goal was to fulfill the promise of the Lutheran Reformation by bringing its gifts into full communion with the Great Tradition that is most fully and rightly ordered through time in the Roman Catholic Church.”
I have no quarrel with the first part of that statement. But the last clause makes it sound as if Piepkorn believed that “the Great Tradition . . . is most fully and rightly ordered through time in the Roman Catholic Church,” and that all that was needed to achieve Piepkorn’s vision was for that Church to receive the gifts of the Lutheran Reformation.
I submit that Piepkorn’s vision was at once more complex and more subtle than that. To use his words, he believed “that the Church that has existed ever since our ascended Lord commanded his disciples to be his witnesses to the end of the age continued—after the mutual excommunications of a.d. 1054—in the form of the Eastern Catholic and the Western Catholic Churches.”
The Western Church in turn, Piepkorn taught, continued—after the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530—in the form of the Church of the Augsburg Confession (given the name “Lutheran” by its adversaries after the death of Martin Luther).
Piepkorn also believed and taught that the Western Church continued—after new dogmas were promulgated by the Council of Trent in 1545-63—in the form of what we know today as the Roman Catholic Church.
In this reading, the Roman Catholic Church—as Piepkorn insisted his students call it—not only postdated the Church of the Augsburg Confession, but was less rather than more Catholic than that Church, despite the latter Church’s provisional status as a confessional movement within the broader Western Church. So, unless the Roman Catholic Church made significant changes, one could only become less, not more, Catholic by joining it.
Of course much has changed in both churches since Piepkorn went to his everlasting reward in 1973. On the positive side, the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the Augsburg Confession have even agreed on the formula, if not on the precise meaning, of “justification by grace through faith” (which, according to Piepkorn, is the scripturally correct wording).
On the negative side, I doubt that Fr. Neuhaus would deny that novel ¦eachings in the branch of Lutheranism that he joined after Piepkorn’s death played a not insignificant role in his 1990 decision to join the Roman Catholic Church.
But just as abusus non tollit usum, so abuses do not destroy the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church—not in 1054, or 1530, or 1545-63, or in 2002 when Fr. Neuhaus admits to spending thirty hours a week on what may be the most severe crisis the Church has ever faced. Perhaps, just perhaps, in the century ahead that crisis will be used in God’s good providence to help us achieve Piepkorn’s vision of a community that will be even more fully and rightly ordered through time than any of the less than perfect communities, Eastern or Western, in which the Great Tradition continues at present.
(The Rev.) Philip J. Secker
Hope Lutheran Church
Pastor Secker is right. Piepkorn did sometimes assert—usually with
a mischievous smile, if I recall—the priority, even chronological priority,
of the Church of the Augsburg Confession. I did not and do not think that plausible
since, among other reasons, “fully and rightly ordered” has from the apostolic
period to the present included episcopal order in succession to the apostles.
Yes, I know, Piepkorn also asserted the priority, also the chronological priority,
of the presbyterial over the episcopal office. That, too, is not supported by
the Great Tradition to which Piepkorn appealed. In my article, I said he was
a powerful influence. I did not say I was persuaded by everything he said, nor
would I speculate about what he might say today.
Joseph Loconte’s article “Keeping
the Faith” (May) asserts correctly that “civil liberty
and religious liberty must be defended together.” But it
is hard to see how religious liberty can be defended by
making faith-based institutions dependent on government,
which, as Christians have always known, is a primary source
of danger to religious freedom.
Mr. Loconte quotes Lyman Beecher’s argument that voluntary associations should be “independent of government.” How can they be independent of government if they become dependent on direct government subsidies? Government will tell them whom they can hire and what they can support. No good can come of this proposal. Tax deductions and credits are a better alternative.
Joseph F. Johnston, Jr.
Joseph Loconte replies:
Mr. Johnston’s concerns about religious organizations becoming dependent on government are well placed. Direct government grants and contracts are the riskiest approach to supporting faith-based charities; vouchers and tax credits are the best way to avoid church-state entanglement.
Nevertheless, private giving for social services hovers at around $20
billion a year—barely five percent of the annual cost of government welfare. Relying mostly on the private sector to attack social ills made sense when America was a nineteenth-century agrarian republic, but it simply won’t work today. We cannot hope to fight poverty, illegitimacy, family breakdown, or drug use without a new approach to church-state partnerships, one that engages our most humane and effective providers.
There’s no reason to assume that Christian charities, especially those with
orthodox views, will succumb to the smothering embrace of government benefactors.
The best field research (from the University of Pennsylvania and the Center
for Public Justice, for example) suggests that conservative ministries can work
closely with local government, while protecting their independence and religious
mission. Maybe it’s time for a little more faith in America’s Good Samaritans.
I am an Army reservist, and I happened to read Alicia Mosier’s “Standing
at Attention” (May) as I was crossing the Atlantic after
finishing a six-month tour of active duty with a NATO unit
concerned with apprehending individuals accused of committing
war crimes in Bosnia during that nation’s brutal civil war.
Although I’m not exactly sure what Ms. Mosier intended by
her article, the overall tone struck me as patronizing and
I found particularly distressing Ms. Mosier’s almost casual repetition of the conservative canard that the NATO mission to the Balkans was “unclear,” unwise, or the product of too little thought. In fact, the military mission originated as, and continues to be, the implementation of a framework for peace forged at Dayton, Ohio, under U.S. leadership. The mission so far has succeeded splendidly, in the sense that the region has enjoyed a freedom from violence for almost seven years, following a bloody conflict in which thousands upon thousands perished.
Similarly, the military was not “right-sized” down to “bare-bones levels” under the Clinton Administration. If nothing else, the current efforts to counter terrorism demonstrate that the military leviathan purchased with red ink during the Reagan years has no role in modern conflict. The troops directly involved in the “war” against terrorism number fewer than ten thousand, or hardly five percent of the Army’s current size. The decisive factor in the toppling of the Taliban was the awesome firepower refined over the past ten years, not the largely immobile, encumbered ground forces that took so long to deploy during Desert Storm.
Finally, soldiers do not need or want paeans to their bravery, sacrifices, and values from those who’ve never served a day of their lives in uniform—they’ve heard them too often from draft-dodging politicians, merchants seeking to sell something, and charlatans who practice the art of “more patriotic than thou.” Those who serve would rather you join them in the struggle, to share in their sacrifices, rather than utter the fulsome words that, in the end, amount to nothing.
Darrel J. Vandeveld
Alicia Mosier replies:
It is true that Bosnia is now relatively stable, thanks largely to the efforts of American troops. Whether the outcome was good, however, is a different question from whether U.S. foreign policy under Bill Clinton allowed the American people to be confident about why our troops were there in the first place.
With regard to the military’s force reduction, Mr. Vandeveld takes as his example the war on terrorism. While American airpower can indeed be credited with much of the victory in Afghanistan, it is now widely recognized that our dependence on airpower and proxy forces in the winter of last year—i.e., our reluctance to use our own regular infantry—enabled many members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to escape. If we had had more troops there from the beginning, the victory would surely have been more complete. The Secretary of Defense has argued that the military must be transformed into a lighter, more mobile, more lethal force. Transformation is one thing; neglect is another. We do not know where this war will take us, and it seems to me it would be wiser not to take for granted that every conflict can or should be managed with precision bombs and Special Forces.
Especially in the immediate aftermath of a long tour of duty far from home,
it is understandable that a few paragraphs of praise from a civilian would ring
hollow to Mr. Vandeveld. I certainly did not intend to patronize, nor to belittle
the mission in which he has recently served. It is true, I have never been in
uniform. The sacrifices of military service are nevertheless not entirely abstract
to me; my fiancé, º sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, is currently serving in Afghanistan.
But one need not experience something personally to understand or appreciate
it, much less to be sincerely grateful.
The review of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide
Noted, May) suggests that the author, Bat Ye’or, is
“unfairly critical” both of Christians “complicit in the
‘Islamization’ of Judaism and Christianity” and the Holy
See’s “solicitous” attitude toward threatened Christian
communities in the Middle East. These comments are rather
misguided, and reflect a lack of understanding of the historical
dynamics of dhimmitude so carefully elucidated by Bat Ye’or.
With meticulous documentation, Bat Ye’or makes clear that
the same dhimmi Eastern Christian clerical movement that
lobbied against the renunciation of the “deicide” allegation
at Vatican II is also responsible for the Islamization of
First, why is it not appropriate, on moral grounds, to criticize those clerics who opposed abrogation of the hateful libel branding Jews as a “deicide people”? Second, both actions, i.e., opposing the renunciation of the deicide allegation and facilitating the Islamization of Judaism and Christianity, are characteristic of the historical role assigned to dhimmi elites under Islamic rule: the promotion of Islamic interests, even at the expense of the dhimmi communities themselves.
It is also quite apparent that the Holy See’s “solicitous” attitude toward Eastern Christians is more accurately characterized as an inappropriate silence regarding the persecution of these dwindling communities. The Holy See has not openly condemned the post-colonial resurgence of classical jihad-war ideology, or its ugly consequences, in the Middle East and North Africa. This genocidal ideology has been responsible, in large measure, for such atrocities as the massacre and enslavement of thousands of Sudanese Christians, in addition to repeated pogroms targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Bat Ye’or’s work is a clarion call for the Holy See (and the entire Western Christian hierarchy) to acknowledge candidly the plight of Middle Eastern Christian minorities, while lobbying aggressively for protection of their basic human rights. She argues convincingly that continued silence will allow the Islamic Middle East, already Judenrein, to become Christianrein as well.
Andrew G. Bostom, M.D.
Providence, Rhode Island
While I admire Richard John Neuhaus’ frank and keen insights into
Jews and the Jewish community (“Don’t
Mention the Jews,” Public Square, May), I also find
some of them questionable, if not narrow-minded.
First, I often get the feeling that Father Neuhaus should get some new Jewish friends, friends more informed about everyday Jews—unless of course he doesn’t understand what his current Jewish friends have told him. He might also change some of his Christian friends who have some rather odd views of Jews, views with which he seems to be sympathetic.
As a Jewish professional of some forty years, I just haven’t seen Jews as self-centered, insecure, and fearful—and/or contemptuous of Christians—as Fr. Neuhaus seems to suggest. If Jews were, they would have left America long ago—unless they were masochists. Certainly, Jews wouldn’t be intermarrying at the rates they are with non-Jews—and vice versa.
Of course, some Jews, particularly among the older generation, have such feelings, with a few being paranoid. But such is true of all past or present persecuted minority groups.
I am also troubled by Fr. Neuhaus’ description of Jewish “disproportionate influence,” as if Jews had engaged in something wrong, evil, underhanded by excelling. Fr. Neuhaus should have criticized friends who hold such views, not for saying what they believe but for believing what they said. Since when is it a sin to achieve? How can achievement in science or the arts be “inordinate”? Should, for example, Jews be excluded from medical research because some forty-five Nobelists in medicine are Jewish?
Mr. Perlmutter’s point about distinguishing between “disproportionate”
and “inordinate” was precisely the point of my essay. I am sorry he missed that.
But I agree that I need more friends.
As a Jewish reader of First Things, I found Richard John Neuhaus’
brief note on “Messianic
Jews” (Public Square, May) somewhat condescending as
well as inaccurate. Quoting the Jewish Forward newspaper
that Messianic Jews “deify” Jesus, Father Neuhaus finds
fit to correct the paper’s theology: “Like other Christians,
they believe he really is true God and true man.” Well,
that’s all well and good, but the Forward, rather
than misapprehending Christian thought, was giving voice
to the ancient Jewish stance that Christians call a man
a god. The Christian (and Messianic) insistence that Jesus
(as God) retained his humanity does nothing to lessen the
Judaic heresy of such a position—which was the Forward’s
Much more problematic is Fr. Neuhaus’ easy, self-congratulatory assertion that “the argument among Jews as to whether Jesus is or is not the Messiah has been going on for almost two thousand years.” To respond journalistically: Where? When? Who? What? and How? I am familiar with attempts by Christians over many centuries to win Jews, debate us, convert us by force if not by persuasion, but I’d like to hear even the most elementary evidence of this extended intra-Jewish “argument” concerning the status of Jesus. As flattering as it might be for Christians to feel that the Jewish people are at all involved with Nazarene preoccupations, you’ll excuse us please if we have had other matters in mind these last fifty generations. These matters include studying God’s Torah and fulfilling its commandments; sçriving to survive in dignity amid a Jew-despising world; working to build families and communities—and now a country—that are faithful to our covenantal assignments: be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a light to all peoples.
Fr. Neuhaus is right about one thing: Messianic Jews are practicing Christianity, not Judaism. This is why their places of worship should not be listed under “Synagogues” in the phone book. Unfortunately, when you are the smallest of God’s nations (Deuteronomy 7:7)—and living in “Christian America”—these things make a difference.
Of course Jews have been concerned about many other things over the
centuries, but there is a history of intermittent but not insignificant argument
about whether Jesus is the Messiah, stretching from Saul of Tarsus to Franz
Rosenzweig, and of course including Messianic Jews and their Jewish interlocutors