Yesterday: The VA and Vidaza

Yesterday Beth and I spent much of the day down at the VA office in Oakland, before heading out to Dr. Jalil’s for a consultation and to begin her sixth cycle of Vidaza. We honestly didn’t know what to expect – it was her first “doctor’s visit” there. Her primary care physician is a young female doctor who has a great deal of respect for veterans, and she did a pretty thorough “history” on Beth. I appreciated her concern.

We also filed a claim for disability benefits through the VA. We heard from another individual who was standing in line that it can take up to a year simply to process the application. The actual VA benefits counselor we spoke with told us it would be six or seven months – within two months, we should receive acknowledgement that they have received it.

Beth also began her 6th Vidaza cycle. Dr. Jalil was generally encouraged by how she was doing. Note that her white blood cells were at their lowest point that I’ve seen them (1.1) – but also that her hemoglobin, which was raised into the nine-point-something range with four transfusions, actually increased a bit last week (to 9.5). That was a very rare “increase” in her hemoglobin level.

  11/1 11/3 11/10 11/14
White Cells (4.4)  1.48 1.51 1.31 1.1
Hemoglobin (12.5)  9.2 9.1 9.5 9.1
Platelets (145)  59 86 116 88

(Numbers in parentheses represent the minimum “normal” figure. For previous blood counts, see this chart.)

Finally, I’ve put up a new theological blog post, which I’ve entitled “The Roman Catholic Hermeneutic”.  When Catholics and Protestants approach a given topic in Scripture or in history, they approach it in different ways. And it’s this difference, often unspoken, that often renders the subsequent discussions so difficult, if not maddening. You’ll hear things like “You have your interpretation, I have mine”. But what are these “interpretations” based upon? I briefly cite a Protestant scholar and a number of Roman Catholic scholars, and some popes, on how Roman Catholics use the Scriptures. It’s eye opening.

The Righteousness of God

I’m continuing to talk about Martin Luther’s “discovery” of both “justification” and “the Theology of the Cross,” both of which emerged in his thinking at the same time, and which were inextricably related to each other. As McGrath (“Luther’s Theology of the Cross,” Oxford, UK: and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, ©1985, 1990) pointed out:

There are two aspects to Luther’s discovery of ‘the righteousness of God’. The first relates to the nature of this righteousness: Luther discovered a ‘wonderful new definition of righteousness’ which stood in diametrical opposition to human understandings of iustitia. The second relates to the mode by which this righteousness comes to the individual: man cannot perform good works which are capable of earning justification on a quid pro quo basis, but he can totally abase himself, and cry out to God for grace.

This is one of those McGrath statements that has been picked out of his various works and used by Roman Catholics with some glee – recently as David Anders has McGrath lamenting “The Protestant understanding of the nature of justification thus represents a theological novum.” It is a novum because, after Augustine got it wrong, Luther was the first one to get it right. The “infallible” Roman church had gotten it wrong for a thousand years and counting.

More here.
Triablogue: The Righteousness of God

Martin Luther’s “Theology of the Cross”

If you look down the blog roll on the right, you’ll see links to a couple of blog sites where I do some of my other writing: Triablogue, Beggars All Reformation, Reformation500. Generally speaking, I’m quite involved in an activity known as “Christian apologetics,” and in this context, that tends to mean “arguing about religion”.

Down below, I’ve provided a post about My Roman Catholic Background . Someone from work, who was interested in looking for sources that could help us out financially, suggested St. Vincent DePaul, and asked me if I was Roman Catholic. I used to be. I grew up that way, and even wanted to be a priest. In 1983, I was accepted into Seminary. But I never went for a variety of reasons, and over the years, I came to the conclusion, strongly reinforced by a very tender conscience, that if I wanted to be a follower of Christ, I could not remain a Roman Catholic.

I’m sure that some of you reading this would take issue with me, and I’m happy to answer any questions on that topic. I’ve got lots to say about it. I’m convinced that the Reformation was, in the historical context, “the right thing to do”.

According to the Harvard historian Steven Ozment, Martin Luther was “the most brilliant theologian of the age”. Luther is known for his posting of the “95 Theses” on October 31, 1517, but his theology was not an epiphany; rather, it gradually developed over time as Luther taught theology from 1510 onward.

Along with his teaching on the justification by faith alone, which was probably the doctrinal heart of the Reformation, Luther also responded to the attitude of the church of Rome in general, with what became known as his “Theology of the Cross”. This he contrasted with the “Theology of Glory”, a prevailing attitude of the day which was not shy about preaching on the glories of the Roman church.

And this brings me to my point. In circumstances that will cause anyone to ask, “why is this happening to me,” Martin Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” can provide a tremendous amount of comfort and context. Carl Trueman says:

[Luther] is taking Paul’s explosive argument from 1 Corinthians and developing it into a full theological agenda. … God’s wisdom is demonstrated in the foolishness of the cross. Who would have thought up the foolish idea of God taking human flesh in order to die a horrendous death on behalf of sinners who had deliberately defied him, or God making sinners pure by himself becoming sin for them, or God himself raising up a people to newness of life by himself submitting to death? We could go on, looking at such terms as life, blessing, holiness, and righteousness. Every single one must be reconceived in the light of the cross. All are important theological concepts; all are susceptible to human beings casting them in their own image; and all must be recast in the light of the cross.

When your life brings you into a context in which you have to watch your wife suffer with cancer, you end up asking yourself a lot of hard questions. I believe Luther’s Theology of the Cross helps provide some profound answers to those questions.

So this is a topic I hope to explore as we continue to live through this experience.