Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Concupiscence, Gottesdienst, Quaetenus: What Does This Mean?

My daughter Paige and I were running together. We'd gone a ways with each of us drifting off to our own thoughts. The silence was broken by a question from Paige: "Dad, how do you pronounce the word that means we have a tendency to sin?" "Concupiscence," said I. The run then continued in silence for a while.

How did she come up with that random question?

Because she knew what concupiscence was. She'd learned it from adult Bible study at church (I had her come with us instead of going to the kids class when she was in high school - yes, I'm a rebel.) She'd also learned it at home from our home catechesis.

Have you been avoiding the use of "big words?" Here's a quote of Pastor Paul McCain from the October 27th Issues, Etc. show:
I have to give credit to Pastor Peter Bender, who years ago at a seminar I attended said something that's always stuck with me. The argument we often face is we cannot teach children words they don't understand, and he said very simply, "If that was our attitude, then none of us would ever learn to speak, because the words we learn as we're learning to speak we don't understand, we just say them, and then we grow into these words." So learning the words is the foundation for understanding what they mean.
If you don't know what the words concupiscence, quaetenus, or Gottesdienst mean, you're missing out. Ask your pastor to teach them to you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Straddling Heaven and Earth

Quoting from John W. Kleinig's essay "Ministry and Ordination" contained in Women Pastors?: The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective:

As holy priests, all Christians have equal access to the presence of the Triune God. As priests with the privilege of access to God’s heavenly presence, they perform two functions. On the one hand, they offer true sacrifices of themselves to God in Christ with their bodies and offerings, their prayers and praises. These are offered both for themselves and other people. They therefore represent the world and the people of the world sacrificially before God in the divine service. On the other hand, they represent God to the people of the world, communally in their corporate witness and personally in their vocation. As holy priests they bring God’s love and peace and blessing to those who, unlike them, do not yet have assess [sic] by faith to God’s gracious presence. The spiritual priesthood therefore straddles heaven and earth. It brings the needs of other people to God, and it brings God’s blessings back to them.
Kleinig, John W. "Ministry and Ordination." Women Pastors?: The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. Ed. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless. St. Louis: CPH, 2008. 323-336. photo credit:

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Emerging Church, Part 5: A Generous Orthodoxy?

The phrase "a generous orthodoxy" comes from the pen of Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren. Some people might call his phrase describing the Emerging Church an oxymoron, positing that while the Emerging Church is generous, you may not want to call it orthodox. That would be a wrong assumption, because it is neither generous, nor orthodox. McLaren states in his book The Church on the Other Side:

We shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. After all, if our perspectives are biased by the groups we belong to, if our understanding is limited by our contexts, if our view is valid only from our subjective standpoint, then each of us is untrustworthy and subjective in knowledge and judgment and none of us can presume to very much authority. (p. 163)

What an odd thing to say - compare McLaren’s words with Paul's words to the Thessalonians:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2 Thess. 2:15 ESV).

Martin Luther's response to Erasmus comes to mind after pondering McLaren's false presuppositions: "What a fulsome speaker you are!-but utterly ignorant of what you are talking about."1

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fear Not...

A Savior is born... fear not.

God grant you and your family a blessed Christmas as we join together, rejoicing in the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

See you in a few days.

photo credit: Martin Beek

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Emerging Church, Part 4: Failing to Unwrap the Gift

Last time, we explored what many in the Emerging Church consider the Gospel, a social gospel mixed with a large dose of liberation theology. This departure from orthodoxy is justified under the pretense of a need to attract postmodern people.

Examining Emerging Church objections to the "institutional" church, many of their objections are based on straw man arguments, yet some of their objections do ring true, especially when compared with Evangelicalism. Many of these objections can and should be answered by placing them squarely into the realm of Lutheranism.

The following quotes illustrate the mindset of Emerging Church authors, followed by contrasting observations provided by orthodox Lutheran theology.

Emerging Church author Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis says

When we choose God's vision of who we are, we are living as God made us to live. We are living in the flow of how we are going to live forever. This is the life of heaven, here and now. And as we live this life, in harmony with God's intentions for us, the life of heaven becomes more and more present in our lives. Heaven comes to earth. This is why Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." There is this place, this realm, heaven, where things are as God desires them to be. As we live this way, heaven comes here. To this place, this world, the one we're living in. (p. 147)

Bringing heaven and the kingdom of God to earth are familiar themes in the Emerging Church, themes in which the "followers of Jesus" are the ones who accomplish the "bringing." LCMS seminary professor Arthur Just corrects this oft man-centered Emerging Church view with a proper Christ-centered perspective:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lutheran Theology Doesn't Mix

When you mix Lutheran theology with the theology of other denominations bad things happen, things like contentious counting, women's ordination, silly seeker-sensitive services and more. In an effort to promote Lutheran theology and raise awareness to the threat of foreign theology seeping into Lutheran distinctives and contaminating them like food coloring in water, I created the graphic above. Please feel free to use it, distribute it, paste it to your blog or front door, however you'd like. To get your own copy, just click on the image and save the larger image that pops up.

Thanks for contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Not to Teach

If you're looking for something to add to your list of things to avoid, The Alpha Course would be a good candidate. Billed as a "non-threatening introduction to the Christian faith," The Alpha Course is essentially a course taught with a Pentecostal outlook. The course insists that you take your Christian beliefs to the next level by being filled with the Spirit, something that all Christians already possess in totality. Unfortunately, there are a few Lutheran churches that teach the Alpha Course.

Jim Pierce has written a short review of The Alpha Course, available on his blog Confessional's Bytes. I hope you'll check it out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Emerging Church, Part 3: What Gospel?

In Part 2 of our series, we discovered how beliefs in the Emerging Church are often created through a triad of community, experience, and Scripture, as opposed to sola Scriptura. The results of this sort of viewpoint can be seen playing out in the words of Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren:

I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be “saved”? When I read the bible, I don’t see it meaning, “I’m going to heaven after I die.” (online reference)

Other big names in the emerging conversation, such as Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, and N. T. Wright, pay lip service to heaven. But their passing nod to heaven (if it occurs at all) is generally more of a disclaimer quickly mentioned, before they move on to what they really want to talk about, redefining the Gospel into a utopian vision of earth now.

So people shouldn’t think of their destiny in relation to heaven or hell, which aren’t the ultimate reality, but in relation to God–God the compassionate Father, God who loves the poor and the weak and the vulnerable and cares when they’re mistreated, God who values both personal morality and public justice, God whose will is peace and justice for all. (Brian McLaren through a character in his book The Last Word and the Word After That, p. 164)

They often speak of God’s dreams for the world and their participation in those dreams, and of love:

Our dream is to join in the activity of God in the world wherever we are able, so that God’s dreams for our world come true. In the process, the world can be healed and changed, and so can we. (Emergent Village, online reference)

We invite you to join with us in pursuing the dreams and love of God for the world in the way of Jesus. (Solomon’s Porch, leader Doug Pagitt, online reference)

God’s dream was for freedom and creativity, kindness and justice, generosity and peace, diversity and harmony. (McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 141)

Repentance is redefined, and original sin is omitted entirely:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Confessing the Faith

"A Lutheran's attitude toward the confessions will indicate his attitude toward the Gospel itself."

Quoted from Dr. Robert Preus's paper "Confessional Subscription."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ablaze! Is...

Here's a list of quotes on the Ablaze! program, all taken from the synod's website:

Ablaze!™ is not a program. It's a movement.
Ablaze! is not an answer…it's an invitation!
"Ablaze!" is a vision...
Ablaze! is the name of an initiative...
Ablaze! is taking hold...
Ablaze! is all about burning hearts...
Ablaze! is a movement to effect a culture change in our church...
Ablaze! is about re-engineering instead of downsizing.
Ablaze! is a mission movement...
Ablaze! is taking hold, kindling a renewed zeal for the mission...
Ablaze!” is an effort...
Ablaze! is a grassroots movement.
Ablaze! is the spark that will bring renewed focus and passion for mission!
Ablaze! is a bold vision...
Ablaze! is all about every Lutheran Christian...
Ablaze! is what we are doing...

The question is, what do you think Ablaze! is?

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Will Never Thirst

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John 4:13-14

photo credit: Darwin Bell

Friday, December 12, 2008

Runnin' in Boston

Went for a run on my layover in Boston today.

Ran through Boston Common. There was a nativity scene with one thing missing, the baby Jesus. I’m assuming they’ll put him in His manger on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Ran past the bar front of the old Cheers TV show.

Circumnavigated Fenway Park, home of the Green Monster.

Multitasked by having a phone conversation with Pastor Kurt Onken along the way. He didn’t seem to object to my heavy breathing.

Ran through the Christian Scientist headquarters campus – a good example of how you get soaked monetarily if you’re a cult member.

Back in time for a quick bite to eat at Yankee Lobster, and then hop on the jet for the six hour flight back to Seattle. Life is good!

photo credit: posotum74, Caitlinator

Diligently Joined

From Dr. Martin Luther:

"The Church can never be better governed and preserved than if we all live under one head, Christ. All the bishops should be equal in office (although they may be unequal in gifts). They should be diligently joined in unity of doctrine, faith, sacraments, prayer, works of love, and such."

The Smalcald Articles, IV, 9. Quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: CPH, 2006) 269.

photo credit: Lawrence OP

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Emerging Church, Part 2: A “Chastened Hermeneutic”

In Part 1, we closed with Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren waxing of the need for something radically new, a new church, a new spirituality, a new framework for our theology, and an new Christian. That new Christian will be one with a “chastened hermeneutic,” according to the Emerging Church. The old methods of objective Biblical exegesis and universal propositional truth just won’t cut it in a postmodern world.

According to the postmodern way of thinking, to quote Gene Edward Veith, “Postmodernist theories begin with the assumption that language cannot render truths about the world in an objective way. Language, by its very nature, shapes what we think. Since language is a cultural creation, meaning is ultimately (again) a social construction. (Postmodern Times, p. 51)

In postmodern parlance, words apart from a cultural context cannot be understood or transmit meaning. If you live in Sri Lanka, I won’t be able to effectively communicate with you because of our differing cultural perspectives. This is one of the reasons why the Emerging Church places such a heavy emphasis on community. “One cannot understand the truths of Christianity as an outside observer. One needs first to experience the embodied truth of the community.” (Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, p. 125) “As we had said before, we cannot simply ‘go to the book.’ Truth cannot properly reside as a mere proposition of a page. Truth lives in persons and relationship.” (Emergent author Neil Livingstone; online reference)

Truth is thus “made” through the interaction of the specific local community. By now you may be picking up on the obvious – if truth is manufactured locally, then there can be multiple versions of “truth.” While this thought sounds absurd, it is wholeheartedly embraced by the postmodern mind, and some members of the Emerging Church as well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are We Confirming Errors?

The following quotes are taken from Dr. Cameron MacKenzie's paper "Uses and Abuses of Power In the Church," which was presented at the Rocky Mountain District Pastors Conference in 2000.

Of course, the question immediately arises that if, as Walther says, the sacraments are the bonds between Christians and not just Lutherans, how is that we refuse to commune any except those in our fellowship? The answer lies, as I indicated earlier, in Walther's understanding of the true visible church, since to commune those who do not belong to that church is to confirm them in the errors of the churches to which they do belong. Against those Lutherans who in his own day did not practice closed communion, Walther writes:

If the leaders of the Church Council [i.e., General Council] would accept [these Scripture passages], they would have to give up their false principles and practices; but they will not accept them until they have recognized that there actually is a true, visible church of God in an unqualified sense. They do not say to their heterodox communicants that through partaking of Communion with us they hold to our doctrine and our church. They allow them to remain stuck in error and plunge them and themselves into the sin of hypocrisy.
Since in Walther's view, it is a grievous sin to belong to a non-Lutheran church, we should not comfort the non-Lutheran or even the unionistic Lutheran in his error by communing him at our altars. For Walther, it is a grave misuse of church power to practice open communion.

But doesn't this mean that we are withholding the consolations of the gospel from such persons who might be visiting our churches? Walther answers no, because, of course, he can still hear the preaching. Furthermore, Walther reminds us that the eucharist is not an evangelistic tool to convert the unbeliever but was instead "instituted to strengthen the faith of those who are already are true Christians. Therefore Communion should be administered to no one who has been revealed as a false [i.e., erring] Christian."

Far from being a loveless approach to members of other churches, Walther contends that closed communion is actually an act of love. Referring to Lev. 19:17, "Do not hate your brother in you heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt," Walther writes, "Rebuking is so often presented as lovelessness; but unjustly, for we hear here: If you do not love someone you will not rebuke him. So then, to warn your fellowman against a false and destructive way is certainly true love."

...Walther's final thesis in his 1870 essay is also an important one for our purposes because it too reminds us that the purpose of closed communion is to preserve the purity of the marks of the church. Walther writes:

The more unionism and syncretism are the sin and corruption of our time, the more the loyalty of the orthodox church now demands that the Lord's Supper not be misused as a means of external union without the internal unity of faith.
Once again, and it bears repeating, we can know of no internal unity of faith apart from one's confession of faith. That confession includes one's church membership. We simply cannot say that a member is in no way responsible for the teachings and practices of his church. After all, this is America. If he does not like what his church does, he can leave it. And should, according to Walther, if his church is heterodox. Then - and only then - can we express our unity in the sacrament - when there is also unity of confession.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Rock and My Fortress

I thank God for all of my brothers and sisters who stand firm in the faith, on whom I can lean, and who stand ready to defend that which we hold dear. Though we may fall in battle, there is One who is our rock, our refuge. On Him, we fix our hope. On the last day, He will raise us up. On that day, and evermore, we will sing with one voice our praise to the Lamb at the center of the throne.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:

I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support.

Psalms 18:1-18 ESV

photo credit: OneEighteen

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fewer Spaghetti Suppers

Dr. John Warwick Montgomery on the October 24th Issues, Etc. show:

I would like to see pastors conduct classes in their congregations, in their churches, that would bring people up to speed on this. Indeed, this gives me an opportunity for ranting and raving. The fact of the matter is that very few churches do anything in apologetics, in the defense of the faith. And this is one of the reasons why our young people go off to college without any real understanding of how to refute the critics of Christianity and they are blown right out of the water by secular professors. ...We should have fewer spaghetti suppers and more serious work on the defense of the faith in our churches.

photo credit: ambery

Friday, December 5, 2008

Know that the Lord Is God Indeed

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, His praise forthtell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make.
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Appproach with joy His courts unto.
Praise, laud, and bless His name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For Why? The Lord our God is good:
His mercy is forever sure.
His truth at all times firmly stood
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God whom heav'n and earth adore,
From us and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

LSB, 791

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Emerging Church, Part 1: What’s Emerging?

Over the past couple of years Emerging Church leaders such as Dan Kimball and Leonard Sweet have been offered the podium at various speaking engagements in the LCMS, and aspects of “emerging” thought are making their way onto the whiteboards of Lutheran classrooms, conference agendas, and pastors’ sermon texts, inviting the obvious question, “What’s emerging?”

The Emerging Church cannot actually be called a “church” in the denominational sense, but is rather a loose affiliation of individuals, churches, and organizations that discuss and share similar ideas. The beginnings of this movement or “conversation” grew out of a need to “effectively” reach the younger generation with the Gospel, who often hold to a more postmodern viewpoint. Members of the Emerging community include people from all points along the theological sliding scale, ranging from those who want to remain within their current “tradition” and are just looking for a few “tips,” to those who want to totally reinvent Christianity (yes, they actually use the word reinvent).

There are those leaders in the conversation whose theology is fairly conservative and generally orthodox (although sometimes with notable aberrations in certain areas), such as Mark Driscoll and Dan Kimball. There are also leaders whose theology is more than a little questionable, cast somewhere near the heretical nether regions, including Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, and Doug Pagitt. Finally, there are those people who didn’t necessarily set out to be an Emerging Church type, but are admired far and wide for their emergent ideas. This category would include people like Walter Brueggemann, Leonard Sweet, and N. T. Wright (because of his justification-jettisoning consort with the New Perspective on Paul).


After much arm twisting on Pastor Rossow's part, and fear and trembling on my part, I've decided to write an occasional article for The Brothers of John the Steadfast. Some of those articles I'll also post here, so if you frequent the BJS site, (which wouldn't be a bad idea), you may get double vision.

photo credit: jenny downing

The Magnificat

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

photo credit: Niali McAuley

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fundraising Gone Awry

Host Todd Wilken, on the October 27th Issues, Etc. show:

I was speaking at a congregation yesterday, on a Reformation Sunday, about the efforts to raise money by selling of indulgences, and it struck me as I was speaking, that the Church even today, not even going back to the 16th century, the Church even today is very deft at finding ways to turn even the most sacred doctrines, or it's worst errors, into a fundraising opportunity. Not much has changed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Get Ready

My family can attest that I’m not a big drinker. When we host the neighborhood Bunco party, I’ll run out and grab some beer. If there’s any left over, it’ll sit on the garage shelf ‘til the next neighborhood Bunco party, eight or nine months later. Not that I’m a teetotaler. I’ll have an occasional beer when I’m out on the road or over at my neighbor Gary’s house. But I’m thinking I’m going to have to raise my personal one-beer limit to a two-beer limit by incrementally increasing my weekly consumption a bit. Why? Because the first annual Brothers of John the Steadfast National Conference is coming up – “No pietists allowed.”

If you’re not familiar with The Brothers of John the Steadfast, their mission statement reads

The Brothers of John the Steadfast, brings together Lutheran laymen to defend and promote the orthodox Christian faith which is taught in the Lutheran Confessions, provide financial support for Christian new media (e.g. Issues, Etc.), and to support other endeavors selected by its membership that defend and promote the cause of confessional Lutheranism.

The conference is slated for February 13th and 14th at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL. The guest speakers include Pastor Todd Wilken and all-around good guy Chris Rosebrough, host of the Fighting for the Faith radio program. I’d encourage all of you to check out the Brothers of John the Steadfast, including the ladies, and you teetotalers out there, and join us in Naperville in February.

The weekend will include a Vespers Service, the Divine Service, a trip to a chocolate bar, a wine tasting hosted by Chris Rosebrough, breakfast, a workout in the gym, and “other piety-stretching outings” as well (I’ll leave those to your imagination).

If you really want to get ready for the conference, I suggest you develop a liking for Pastor Wilken’s favorite beverage, Budweiser & Clamato Chelada, ¡La Combinación Perfecta!, or Chelada for short. Now that you’re totally off balance, I’ll let you in on the bad news, i.e., what’s in it. This stuff is actually made by Anheuser Busch, and is a mixture of Budweiser (or Bud Light) and clamato juice. For the uninitiated, clamato juice is secret code for tomato juice mixed with clam juice. I know. Exactly how do you get juice from a clam, and which end does it come out of, assuming a clam has got an “end?” At any rate, hopefully I’ll track Pastor Wilken down at the conference and we can hoist a frosty cold Chelada together.

But seriously folks! Come to the conference, where we can, together, celebrate our oneness in Christ, our oneness in our Confession, and build each other up. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

photo credit: Caveman 92223

Synodical Restructuring? Whoa!

In other words, the congregations need to speak now or forever hold their peace. I am lovingly asking you to consider taking the following steps toward assisting your congregations in avoiding what could be a mistake of absolutely stunning proportions on the part of the national church body.

Quoted above are the words of Pastor Daniel Torkelson regarding the proposed Synodical restructuring that is now on the table. Pastor Torkelson was a delegate to the August convocation on restructuring, and offers some good advice on what can be done to stop the bad parts of the proposed restructuring from becoming a reality. You can view his entire letter to the South Wisconsin District at Pastor Tom Chryst's blog Preachrblog.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Havin' Fun In the Emerald City

Who are those guys? They're three of the Brothers of John the Steadfast, hanging out in Seattle. That's Jim Pierce on the left, yours truly in the center, and Pastor Tim Rossow on the right. We got together, along with Pastor Rossow's wife Phyllis (who took the photo), for a little fellowship and to compare notes across from the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.

Jim Pierce is a good friend of mine, author of the blog Confessional's Bytes, and a frequent denizen of The Wittenberg Trail. He lives in the Seattle area along with his wife and two kids.

Pastor Rossow serves as senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville, Illinois, and is the man behind The Brothers of John the Steadfast website. You might also recognize his voice from his appearances on Issues, Etc.

I met up with Pastor Rossow and Phyllis a week ago, with Pastor Rossow buying me lunch. Today, he also bought me a pastry and drink. After that, Jim bought me lunch at a fancy French restaurant, plus paid for my parking. With friends like these, who needs a job! Anybody else coming out to Seattle? I'm available.

Times spent with fellow Christians who share a common Confession are a treasure and a gift from God. I'm looking forward to spending more time with other like-minded Lutherans at the Brothers of John the Steadfast National Conference in February, which will be the topic of tomorrow's post.

P.S. Both Jim and Pastor Rossow also blogged about our get together - it's what bloggers do! Since Jim is also a chef, he was able to name off the names of the places we frequented and the names of my entree and appetizer - none of which I could relate to my wife once I returned home. Here's Jim's post, and here's Pastor Rossow's post.

What Must We Do?

Quoting C.F.W. Walther, from Pastor John Moe's essay "What Makes a Christian?: A Look at the Great Commission."

When our synod, the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, thirty-six years ago met for the first time in the God-blessed city of Chicago, it was a small, despised little band of only twelve poor congregations. The church which in this country still called itself evangelical-Lutheran lay in utter ruin. The teaching of our church was unknown territory for it. The small number of preachers who still knew something about it and wanted to stick to it were considered people with limited mental capacities, and the hope was that they would soon die out. The Lutheran Confessions were hardly known even by name anymore, and they were considered documents of earlier unenlightened times, now long obsolete. Instead of Luther's doctrine in the church that called itself Lutheran, the teaching of Zwingli and obvious rationalism was in vogue, coupled with fanatic methods of conversion. ... To want to transplant the Old Lutheran church, which submitted to every letter of the Word of God, to this land of untamed love for liberty seemed in real fact to be a completely hopeless, worse than foolish undertaking. But far from letting itself be made to falter, our synod did not ask: What must we do to become large and numerous? But it only asked: What must we do to be found faithful before the Lord of the church ? Our synod knew that success was not in its hands. Success is therefore left to God. (C.F.W. Walther, CJ, 15:3, p.226-7)

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Word Is Above Criticism

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:
The Word is so completely above criticism that there is not one iota of a mistake in the Law and in the divine promises. Therefore we are to yield to no sect; nor are we to yield in any point of Scripture, however much men clamor and slander, saying that we are violating love by adhering so strictly to the words; for the beginning of all love is that the "right scepter" remain. If this cannot be obtained in any other way, then love and anything even greater, if that exists, must be broken, so that only the word may remain pure. If this purity of the Word and this "right scepter" stand, I shall be glad to bear in love the manners and mistakes of my brother. (W 40 II, 531 f – E op ex 18, 187 – SL 5, 398)
Quoted from What Luther Says (St Louis: CPH, 1959) 1368.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise

A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 100

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

God's Gift of Time

Quoting from Dr. Arthur Just's book Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service:
Time is a part of our lives that we seldom think or talk about, except when we complain that we do not have enough of it. Few people think of time as holy or as a gift of God, but time is sacred, a trust from God to live in His creation with joy and contentment. Time is marked by Christians in a special way in their liturgical life because Christ entered time. By His presence in the creation to make all things new He changed our reckoning of time forever. From the beginning, early Christians lived with clarity about how, through Christ’s resurrection, eternity now bore in upon our finite time. They lived in that tension between a life lived toward the end time within time itself, that tension between the now and the not yet. By their accounting of days and weeks and years, Christians gave meaning to time. Their timekeeping proceeded from Jewish timekeeping and also proclaimed that now all was fulfilled in Christ.

Liturgical time allows the Church to proclaim time’s sacred character as Christ-centered. Through Sunday as the day of worship and rhythms of the Church Year, the Church teaches how our days and weeks and years are shaped and formed by the reality that Jesus entered our time and space. This rhythm shows us how we are to truly live in God’s gift of time as temporal beings baptized into Christ’s eternal life. The structure of time says as much about us as a people as anything else we do or say as Christians.
Arthur A. Just Jr., Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service, (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) 116.
photo credit: ToniVC

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today I Beheld God's Word and Work

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:

Furthermore, when Christ commands His apostles to proclaim His Word and to carry on His work, we hear and see Him Himself, and thus also God the Father; for they publish and proclaim no other Word than that which they heard from His lips, and they point solely to Him. Thus the process goes on; the Word is handed down to us through the agency of true bishops, pastors, and preachers, who received it from the apostles.... Thus the apostles and pastors are nothing but channels through which Christ leads and transmits His Gospel from the Father to us. Therefore wherever you hear the Gospel properly taught or see a person baptized, wherever you see someone administer or receive the Sacrament, or wherever you witness someone absolving another, there you may say without hesitation: ‘Today I beheld God’s Word and work. Yes, I saw and heard God Himself preaching and baptizing’. To be sure, the tongue, the voice, the hands, etc, are those of a human being, but the Word and the ministry are really those of the Divine Majesty Himself. Hence it must be viewed and believed as though God’s own voice were resounding from heaven and as though we were seeing Him administering Baptism or the Sacrament with His own hands. (LW 24, 66, 67)
Quoted from Women Pastors?: The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. Ed. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless. (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) 219.

photo credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers

Friday, November 21, 2008

Papal Confusion on Justification

The Pope, in his address to the general audience in St. Peter’s Square this week, hit the nail on the head when he said "The Letter to the Philippians gives us a moving testimony of Paul's turning from a justice based on the law and achieved by observance of the prescribed works, to a justice based on faith in Christ...." Unfortunately, he missed the nail entirely as he continued his address, defining faith and justification in terms of what we do, rather than in terms of what Christ has done.

Justification is a legal term in which God declares us innocent and thus saved, even though we are guilty. He does this by ignoring our own sin which rightly damns us, and imputing to us Christ’s righteousness. The Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Church, on the other hand, have always required our own works be added to the salvific formula. While they say that salvation begins with grace, it isn’t completed by grace.

The Council of Trent, which ended in 1563, codified Roman Catholic Church doctrine, and it remains the basis for their beliefs. The sixth session of the Council of Trent, discussing justification, states:
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.

CANON XXI.-If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.
Trent insists that the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross is not enough to earn your salvation, thus rejecting His completed work. Your own good works merit "the attainment of that eternal life." This doctrine robs Christ of His victory and robs sinners of their assurance.

Trent’s statements on justification remain their official doctrine, which their current Catechism verifies in paragraph 2010,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rescue from Abbreviation Hell #2

If you’re hopelessly stumped like I am by abbreviations used in blog posts, websites, and forums, the cavalry has arrived. I’ve compiled another list (the first one being here) of the more common, and some of the more arcane, churchly abbreviations. If you’re up for it, take the test and see how you fare. If not, click on "Read More..." for your rescue from abbreviation "hell."

Take the Test:

Instructions: Read through the list. Write down the abbreviations you know on a piece of paper. Then compare your answers with the correct answers by clicking on "Read More... ." Add up the number of correct answers, and see how you rank. When finished with the test, post answers on refrigerator door for future reference. For extra credit, leave me a list of your abbreviations.

Your score indicates:

If you got less than six right: Ignorance is bliss
6-19: A seasoned layperson
20-33: Church worker
34-40: What have you been readin’?
Above 40: You’re a synodocrat

A!CC =
AC =
BT =
CC =
CW =
HT =
IE =
LW =
PP =
SP =
WA =

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To Pastor and Layman Alike

Here’s what Dr. Walther had to say in 1885 about a previous time in Church history. While he bemoans the time of rationalism in the Church, in many ways, our time of postmodern thought is similar:


During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Rationalism rushed in upon the so-called Protestant Church with the force of a spring-tide. In the lecture halls of universities it was held up as a new and great light to young theologians, who afterwards preached it to the common people as true Christianity – Christianity purified. Thus Rationalism gradually became the dominant type of religion. The inevitable consequence was that the conviction that it is not a matter of indifference whether a person is a Lutheran or a Reformed or a Catholic vanished completely. The small remnant of sincere Christians who still believed and confessed with their mouths that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, that man is justified before God by faith in Christ alone, – these few Christians extended to each other the right hand of brotherly fellowship, like persons saved from a great shipwreck, who, having seen most of their fellow-passengers go down to a watery grave, now embrace each other with tears of joy though they had been perfect strangers before. In this state of affairs the thought had to arise in all hearts that the time had come for putting an end to the abominable church quarrels (that is what doctrinal controversies were called) and to let down the bars that divided the churches from one another. Especially the confessions, it was held, must be removed, because, like toll-gates along a highway, they hindered progress, and to sum up, a great universal union of the churches, at least of the Protestant churches, must at last be instituted.

But, lo! what happened? [sic] In the year 1817, when this plan was to be executed, Claus Harms, in whom there was still some Lutheran blood flowing, wrote ninety-five theses against Rationalism and the union of churches, which he intended as a counterpart to the Ninety-five Theses of Luther. In these theses he said to the advocates of church union: “You purpose to make the poor handmaid, the Lutheran Church, rich by a marriage. Do not perform the act over Luther’s grave. Life will come into his bones, and then – woe to you!” This glorious prediction was fulfilled. When the union of churches was actually put into effect in Prussia, multitudes of Lutherans suddenly awoke from their spiritual sleep, remembered that they belonged to the Lutheran Church, and declared that they would never forsake the faith of their fathers. In fact, they chose to see themselves evicted from their homes, imprisoned, and expatriated rather than consent to a union of truth with error, of the Word of God with man’s word, of the true Church with a false Church.

In our day, the light from the lamp of Confessional Lutheranism grows faint. As Reformed theology is pouring in over the gunwales, and district officials confess that our Lutheran Confessions are no longer relevant, truth is sacrificed on the altar of pragmatism.

The first two of Pastor Harms’ 95 Theses read

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spirit Tracker?

The Northwest District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is leading the way in pioneering a “new” program called Tracking the Spirit (TTS). This program (which they call a “movement”), is described as “following and joining Him [the Holy Spirit] as He leads people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.” Describing the program is a five page document, which consists of a brief introduction, followed by an article “written by a Northwest District pastor to his congregation after having attended one of the first TTS informational events in 2001.”

Tracking the Spirit has some very positive attributes. First and most obvious, its ultimate goal is to share the Gospel with those people who don’t know Christ as their Savior. It should be commended for exploring other ways to start a church besides “the way we’ve always done it.” It’s also designed to minimize the cost of a “traditional” church startup, and be more nimble in doing so. Its emphasis on the relational sharing of the Gospel is a good one, as long as vocation is emphasized. At the same time, it has negatives associated with it, which are described below.

The first sentence of the introduction states that TTS is not “all about us.” Having read Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life, this comment is worrisome. Pastor Warren stated at the beginning of his book that “it’s not about you.” He then proceeded to spend 319 pages talking about and glorifying “you,” and cajoling “you” with the third use of the Law. If it’s so obvious that TTS isn’t about “us,” why point it out? This defense of the “obvious” is reminiscent of Senator Bumper’s comments at President Clinton’s impeachment trial, when he said "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about money' – it's about money. And when you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex’ – it's about sex.” And when you hear someone say “It’s not about us,” it’s about us.

So is it about “us,” or “you,” or not? Consider the beginning of the pastor’s article:

What is our “Business” as a church?

“What business are you in?” Have we thought about that? Ponder the Great Commission and your personal obedience to it. What am I doing, not only to BE a disciple, but to MAKE disciples?

So apparently it is about “you.” It’s about you and what you’re doin’ for the Lord. It’s about your personal obedience. It’s about a Law-driven, guilt ridden, message. This prodding to “MAKE disciples” turns God’s good Law, in this case the third use of the Law as a guide, into a club and naked moralism, confounding Law and Gospel. Coercing people with the Law produces hypocrites, Pharisees, and despairing Christians, rather than the good works that flow from faith. (Reference C.F.W. Walther’s Thesis XXIII in The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel).

The article moves on to relate how LCMS membership is paralleling the decline of the general “churched” population in the United States, calling the LCMS “part of that unhealthy picture.” At this point we need to take a time out, because this statement makes an erroneous assumption. To equate the size of the Church with the health of the Church is a theology of glory. God grows His Church as he sees fit. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. To quote the 2001 LCMS report of the Church Growth Study Committee (titled “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission”), “As at Pentecost, God built His church with dramatic increase in numbers through the proclamation of the cross; so in the days of Noah, Elijah, and Jeremiah, He built His church in times of decreasing numbers (1 Pet. 3:17–22).” A more appropriate posture concerning “numbers” would be that of the Lutheran pastor, who when asked how many people were in his parish, replied “As many as the Lord has given us.”

The author describes “Tracking the Spirit” as “a movement within our district to empower churches to improve their health and to grow, implementing the two foundational factors mentioned above – SMALL GROUPS (outreach based) and CHURCH PLANTING.” According to TTS, these two factors are foundational, and “what makes for healthy churches.” This thought is completely foreign to Scripture and our Confession. Healthy churches are “made” through the power of the Word, preached, joined with water, given and shed, in which unworthy sinners are declared righteous through the substitutionary death and resurrection of their Savior Jesus Christ. It’s not about us and what we’re doing - it’s about Jesus Christ and what He is doing to daily recreate us in the waters of Baptism, in His body and blood, and in the hearing of His Word. Here’s how the Solid Declaration puts it:

Out of His immense goodness and mercy, God provides for the public preaching of His divine eternal Law and His wonderful plan for our redemption, that of the holy, only saving Gospel of His eternal Son, our only Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. By this preaching He gathers an eternal Church for Himself from the human race and works in people’s hearts true repentance, knowledge of sins, and true faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. By this means, and in no other way (i.e., through His holy Word, when people hear it preached or read it, and through the holy Sacraments when they are used according to His Word), God desires to call people to eternal salvation. He desires to draw them to Himself and convert, regenerate, and sanctify them. SD II, 50.

TTS begins in the wrong place. Instead of starting with the Confession, it starts with a man-centered solution to the perceived “problem” of shrinking numbers. It claims that the “current” way of starting churches is expensive, requiring land and “a salaried professional ‘mission developer’ (that means a trained pastor – in short supply);” their pragmatic solution is a house church with no pastor, ending up with the “house,” but not the “church.” They state:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Luther On Scholasticism

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:

Let others determine for themselves what they have learned in scholastic theology. As to myself, I know and confess that I have learned nothing in it but ignorance of sin, righteousness, Baptism, and all of Christian life. Nor did I learn what the power of God, the work of God, the grace of God, the righteousness of God, faith, hope, and love are. I not only learned nothing (which could be tolerated), but I learned only what I had to unlearn again because all was contrary to Holy Writ. I should be surprised if others were more fortunate in their learning. If there are such, I frankly congratulate them. As for me, I lost Christ there; in Paul I have now found Him again. (W 2, 414 - E op var arg 3, 262 - SL 18, 840)
Quoted from What Luther Says (St Louis: CPH, 1959) 1366.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Motivation For Christian Living

Quoting from Professor Harold Senkbeil's book Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness:

I used to think the main motivation for Christian living was a thankful heart. Because of what Jesus did for me on His cross, I was supposed to thank Him by living a holy life. Of course it’s true that the depth of Christ’s saving love ought to move our heart to thanks and our lives to His service. We love, writes St. John, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). But this love is more than skin deep. The love which prompts us to thankful service to others is not our own. It is the very love of Christ Himself, continually extended and dispensed to us in the proclamation of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments. Every deed of kindness, each work of love which Jesus Christ does, using us as His instruments. St. Paul describes it this way: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Harold L. Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (St. Louis: CPH, 1994) 162.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making the Gospel Relevant

Willow Creek Community Church is the evangelical megachurch located in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Illinois. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels has literally written the book on the Seeker Sensitive Church Growth Movement, influencing a generation of the world's pastors. G. A. Pritchard spent 2 1/2 years behind the scenes at Willow Creek, studying it for his doctoral dissertation. Part of that process resulted in the eventual writing of his book Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church. The following quotes are taken from his book:

"The point behind this history? I did not want to write this book. I did not come to the study of Willow creek with a strong motivation to defend or attack Willow Creek. Although I am an evangelical, I did not come to my study of Willow Creek primarily as an advocate or critic, but as a researcher. This may have been my greatest advantage. My lack of an agenda has helped me describe the church more fairly." (p. 15)

...making the gospel relevant can easily compromise it. The unintended consequences of this approach are that Hybels incorporates large chunks of the American psychological worldview into his basic teaching and teaches that fulfillment is a consequence of the Christian life. There is a lack of critical evaluation to Willow Creek’s approach to relevance. This felt-need approach to relevance ultimately distorts their Christianity.
A more biblical approach to the current American fixation with fulfillment is to call it the idolatry that it is. Jesus does not guarantee that to follow him will make one fulfilled. In fact, at several points, the direct opposite is communicated: "I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:19); "I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34); "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). The temptation to say that Christianity will meet all one’s felt needs and provide fulfillment is not true to biblical Christianity. (p. 200)

G. A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pastor Harrison: "It's Time"

Pastor Matt Harrison, the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and frequent mention for LCMS Presidential candidate in 2010, has released a paper suggesting a solution for our mutual Synodical woes. Rather than spoil it for you with my favorite quotes, I suggest you dig right in:

Instructions for viewing: Click on the rectangular icon at the top and far right of the Scribd "window" below to view the document in full screen mode. To return, click on the "X" that will be at the far right.

Its Time: LCMS Unity and Mission
Get your own at Scribd or explore others:

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Is a Confessional Lutheran?

Frank Gillespie at Putting Out the Fire asked:

So, what is a confessional Lutheran and what does that mean?

Here's my answer:

What Is a Confessional Lutheran?

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes the Creeds and articles of faith contained in the Book of Concord, because they accurately reflect the doctrine contained in the Scriptures.

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes in the inerrancy, inspiration, sufficiency, and efficacy of Scripture, believing it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes that in Christ's body and blood offered in Communion, and in the water of Baptism, there is forgiveness of sins.

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who stands on the mighty solas of the Reformation.

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who confesses those same beliefs by sharing them with others and teaching them to their family.

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes that our Confession is worth defending, because it is Christ’s honor that is at stake.

A Confessional Lutheran is someone who renounces secret and shameful ways, avoiding deception and distortion of God’s Word, instead setting forth the truth plainly for all to see.

You Died In the Font

Quoting Pastor Todd Peperkorn, from his paper "How Two Missouri Synod Leaders Handled False Doctrine and Dissent in the Twentieth Century: Francis Pieper and John Behnken," available at Consensus:

What are you willing to confess, and what are you willing to suffer for the face of the Gospel? Christ has won everything for you in His death and resurrection. God forgives your sins for Jesus' sake. You need not be afraid of men and what they may do to you. For you died in the font. Confess the faith, and don't be afraid.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Apostasy

To the ecclesiastical supervisor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod who made his bold confession this week that The Book of Concord is no longer relevant:

The Church does not consist of people in power or ecclesiastical or secular dignity, because many princes and archbishops and others of lower rank have been found to have apostatized from the faith. Therefore, the Church consists of those persons in whom there is a true knowledge and confession of faith and truth.

Ap. VII, 21

photo credit: bruckerrlb

In Casu Confessionis

Pastor Albert Collver delivered his paper "In Statu Confessionis: Origins and Development" to the Confession and Christ’s Mission: Challenges to the Future of the LCMS Conference in 2004 (available at Consensus). In it he explores the Confessional basis of the Latin phrase Nihil est adiaphoron in statu confessionis et scandali, nothing is an adiaphoron in the state of confession and scandal.

In the LCMS today Confessional pastors are occasionally harassed for standing up for our Confession, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in more serious ways. With this persecution going on, it is appropriate to explore the "state of confession" and what a proper response to persecution should be.

Pastor Collver defines the time of confession (in casu confessionis) as a time of persecution. He goes on to explore in casu confessionis within the context of Formula of Concord Article X, and the Epitome, and determines that "although persecution could be defined rather broadly, the Formula of Concord clearly has in mind persecution by the government."

Here is a portion of his conclusion, one which might be disputed by some, and one which is worthy of discussion:
The Formula of Concord, Article X, does indeed describe a case for confession in the midst of persecution by the state. It seems that the confessors had in mind a rather limited scope. The struggles of the church over against the state in German lands and in particular with the Nazi regime brought about the expansion of a questionable concept to include a protest against the state for political and ethical reasons, rather than, strictly speaking, theological reasons. Bonhoeffer had in mind a corporate confession of protest. Karl Barth morphed Bonhoeffer’s corporate protest into an individual protest. Barth altered the direction by putting the church in a position to dictate to the state in accord with Reformed theology. The churches of the Synodical Conference completely removed the left-hand kingdom from the equation, instead applying the term to an intra-church conflict. This last application is perhaps further a field from what the Formula of Concord described than even Karl Barth’s version.

In light of the foregoing, a status confessionis protest against a church body does not seem to be a tenable option to those who take the Lutheran Confessions seriously. A better way is that of Dr. Luther and countless other saints who gave a good and faithful confession in the place and situation the Lord called them to do so. The faithful confession was made until it could not be tolerated by those who opposed the truth any longer. This is the key. How does one know when a church body is unreformable? A church body is unreformable when the true confession is no longer tolerated. By this, we do not mean to indicate merely a lapse in the practice of the true confession, but the snuffing out of the voice of the true confession. As long as the Gospel is confessed in truth and purity, there is the opportunity to hear the Gospel’s call. When the true confession is silenced definitively and permanently from a place either by force or by the power of the sword, that is, by the abuse of the left-hand kingdom, or through institutional and ecclesiastical measures, then there is no hope of reform.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not a Critical Event

In March of this year Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller posted these comments on his Wittenberg Trail blog. I've been carrying his list of not-critical events in my head ever since, waiting for the day when I would repost them, and that day is today. Rejoice with me, with Pastor Wolfmueller, and with all the Saints past and present in these not-critical events:
It has been synodically mandated and convention approved that, being Ablaze!(r), we are all supposed to be critical-eventing. I, on the other hand, have had a blessed year full of not-critical events.

Today I baptized a twelve-year-old girl, the granddaughter of a member of my congregation who is in hospice. She renounced the devil and all his ways, confessed the name of Jesus, and as we knelt together over the living room table, she was born-again in the waters of Holy Baptism. This was not a critical event.

Two weeks ago a dear saint, fighting with all her faith, broke through her depression, left her house for the first time in months, and drove to church. She was welcomed with joy, and welcomes the Lord's Word with joy. This was not a critical event.

A few days ago my wife and I learned, joy of joys, that we are expecting our fourth child. This was not a critical event. In eight months, if the Lord answers our prayers, our newborn baby will be marked with the cross and reborn in baptism. This will not be a critical event.

Last year I buried nine of the Lord's dear people. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we committed their bodies to the earth in the great hope of the resurrection of all flesh. With prayers and hymns and Scripture and sermon the Lord's people found solace that the same resurrection is for them. These were not critical events.

In the past few months my daughter lost a tooth, my son wore his first tie and learned the Lord's prayer, my baby said, “Dada.” These were not critical events.
A year ago I preached in the Lutheran Church of Serowe, Botswana, Africa, first in English, and then a sermon that was translated into Tshwana. We ate and drank the Lord's Body and Blood together. We traveled to the edge of the Kalahari and celebrated the Divine Service in a mud hut with families ravaged by AIDS. These were not critical events.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quotable Podcast Quotes #1

Quotable Quotes From Christian Radio

Issues, Etc.™
Pastor Klemet Preus

Host Todd Wilken:
Is it a two way street? Will false practice produce false teaching in time?
Pastor Klemet Preus:
Oh, yes it will if people accept it, and practice becomes part of you so that you accept it uncritically, and people ultimately will accept the false doctrine which stands behind a poor practice. And that’s what’s tragic about many Lutheran ministers. I think they have doctrine in their hearts and their heads, they just don’t seem to understand that if they engage in false practices they’ll undermine their own doctrine. The Church is one generation away from losing its vibrancy and possibly even losing its soul.

Issues, Etc.™
Pastor Todd Wilken
I had Mexican for lunch today, okay. And Mexican can sometimes do a number on you. There’s a burning in the bosom! I don’t know if it’s Mexican or if it’s the Holy Spirit. Can I feel the Spirit working?

Issues, Etc.™
Pastor Todd Wilken
Jesus didn’t come to show us the way, He came to be the way, in a perfect life, His death and His resurrection, to be the way of salvation for every sinner on earth, every person, man, woman, and child.

Issues, Etc.™
Web Extra Open Mics: David Strand’s Q & A
Pastor Todd Wilken
They should post this on the wall at the International Center: “People who work for an organization facing financial difficulty realize that continued employment in such circumstances can be precarious.” They should post that as a sign on the front door of the International Center.

Issues, Etc.™
Dr. Rod Rosenbladt discussing the first sola of the reformation, Christ alone.

Host Todd Wilken:
What is this kind of not Christ alone but kind of the Christ-less or the cross-less preaching? What is it doing? What will it produce?
Dr. Rosenbladt:
Well I think in the end it produces atheists. It just takes a while to come to fruition. I think some of these stadiums that are filled with thousands, I just hope I’m wrong here, but when it can’t make good on the happy happy promises, “become a Christian and your life will get better,” I thing the next chapter to that is “I tried it,” and they become immune to the real thing. They thought they tried it, and it didn’t work, or it didn’t pan out.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Luther on Indulgences

The nails slam into the already splintered wood as Luther hammers his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door on this day in 1517. In this now symbolic beginning to the Reformation, Luther rails against the selling of indulgences by the pope. Two of his theses read

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
In 1547, in response to the aspersions of Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Luther put pen to paper and commented on the indulgence controversy:
When people were writing the year 1517, a preaching friar by the name of John Tetzel, a loudmouthed fellow, happened to appear on the scene. Duke Frederick had previously saved him from the bag in Innsbruck; for Maximilian had condemned him to death by drowning in the river Inn (because of his great virtue, you may well imagine). And Duke Frederick had this matter called to his [Tetzel's] attention when he began to slander us Wittenbergers. Tetzel, moreover, freely confessed the affair. This same Tetzel, then, carried indulgences about and sold grace for money, as expensively or cheaply as he could by the exertion of all his powers. At that time I was a preacher here in the monastery and a young doctor, brand-new (neulich aus der Esse kommen), fervent and zealous (hitzig und lustig) in Holy Scripture.

Then, when many people of Wittenberg ran to Jütterbock and Zerbst, etc., for indulgences, and I (as truly as my Lord Christ has redeemed me) did not know what these indulgences were, as indeed no one knew, I began to preach gently that one could do something better, something that would be more certain than the buying of indulgences. Such a sermon against indulgences I had previously delivered here in the castle and had earned poor grace with Duke Frederick, for he loved his foundation very dearly. But, to come to the real cause of the Lutheran disturbance, I let everything go on the way it was going. Meanwhile I hear that Tetzel preached terrible, horrible articles, of which I now will name a few, to wit:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Commune How Often? Seventy Times Seven

From the Preface to Luther’s Small Catechism:

Last, since the tyranny of the pope has been abolished, people are no longer willing to go to the Sacrament, and thus they despise it. Here again encouragement is necessary, yet with this understanding: We are to force no one to believe or to receive the Sacrament. Nor should we set up any law, time, or place for it. Instead, preach in such a way that by their own will, without our law, they will urge themselves and, as it were, compel us pastors to administer the Sacrament. This is done by telling them, “When someone does not seek or desire the Sacrament at least four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is not a Christian, just as a person is not a Christian who does not believe or hear the Gospel.” For Christ did not say, “Leave this out, or, despise this,” but, “Do this, as often as you drink it,” and other such words. Truly, He wants it done, and not entirely neglected and despised. “Do this,” He says.

Now, whoever does not highly value the Sacrament shows that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell. In other words, he does not believe any such things, although he is in them up over his head and his ears and is doubly the devil’s own. On the other hand, he needs no grace, no life, no paradise, no heaven, no Christ, no God, nor anything good. For if he believed that he had so much evil around him, and needed so much that is good, he would not neglect the Sacrament, by which such evil is remedied and so much good is bestowed. Nor would it be necessary to force him to go to the Sacrament by any law. He would come running and racing of his own will, would force himself, and beg that you must give him the Sacrament.

photo credit: drp

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Islam: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America, and author of "They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can," was interviewed by Pastor Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc.™ recently. Brigitte calls those Muslims that most people would call "radical" Muslims, "purists," because they zealously follow the teachings of the Koran. While many Muslims are moderates who do not support violence and believe in the right of others to hold differing religious views, the purists are waging a holy war against Judaism and Christianity, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them. She argues that though these Islamic radicals are in the minority, they should be stopped.

Brigitte rightly points out that while there are pacifist verses in the Koran, they are abrogated by more recent verses in the Koran which incite violence and Jihad. (Not all Muslims agree on the doctrine of Abrogation.) Islam is often characterized as a pacifist religion, yet it is the minority that sometimes shapes the direction of the silent majority. She cites the example of Nazi Germany. The majority of Germans were not Nazis, yet the Nazis were able to accomplish their goals, at least until they were stopped.

Here’s a little of what Brigitte had to say:
...the Muslim Brotherhood Project talks about a two-fold fight against the West, a military Jihad and a cultural Jihad. We know they’re trying to attack us militarily and we’re taking the necessary precautions to prevent such an attack. But the cultural Jihad is moving full force, and we are asleep. And here are some of the examples I talk about in the book. Who would have thought that Sharia Law would come to Harvard University which in 2007 regulated women-only gym hours. An Imam in Des Moines, Iowa gave an opening prayer at the 2008 Iowa legislative session in which he calls on Allah to quote, "Give us victory over those who disbelieve," end quote – meaning victory over all of us "infidels." Muslim taxi drivers in Minnesota are refusing to pick up passengers carrying alcohol. The first Islamic public school, the Khalil Gibran Academy in New York City opened in 2007, and was funded by tax dollars. American colleges are designating Islamic prayer rooms on college campuses for use by Muslims only. Islam is being taught in public schools as an official course in elementary, middle, and high schools. Who would have thought one day we’re going to get to a day where the fine line between the separation of church and state is being completely erased by Islam...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shine Like a City On a Hill

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller on Table Talk Radio, Show #18, responding to the Ablaze! argument that we should be bringing in the numbers and counting:
When you argue that with someone who wants to support the Ablaze! movement, they say "Well sure they count in the Bible. For example, on the day of Pentecost we read in the Book of Acts that 2,000 people were Baptized on that single day, so there they counted how many people were Baptized." If you want to count Baptisms that's good, because when you count Baptisms you’re counting names, you’re counting people, there’s something personal there. You’re naming people. You’re not a number but a name, especially when you’re Baptized, and maybe that’s another problem of the Ablaze! movement. We have the Lord’s command on how to make disciples of all the nations. You do it by Baptism and by teaching. But the Ablaze! movement doesn’t count Baptism, or Confirmation, which is teaching, as a critical event. So that the two very things that should be at the central point of the mission of the Church – these are just left out. So really the question that the Lord has given the Church to ask is "Am I being faithful to the Lord’s Word? Am I teaching it in its truth and in it’s purity? Is the Gospel shining in its brilliant light in our midst?" And we know that if the Lord Jesus is there in the shining light of the Gospel, that the Lord would have us be a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. That we will shine like a city on a hill, a lamp that’s not put under the bushel. That we will grow by the gift of God, like Paul says, "I planted, Apollos watered, but it’s God who gives the growth." So we are not to be concerned with the growth, with counting, with numbering, with all of this sort of thing. What we’re to be concerned with is the truth of the Gospel, the name of Jesus, and if that’s straight, then everything else will straighten itself out. But if that’s not straight, if that’s confused, or it’s hidden, or it’s muddled, if we take the light of the Gospel and put it under a bushel then everything else will fall apart and go wrong.

...We don’t need to get fancy in the Church. Jesus knows that we’re not the brightest bulbs in the world so He keeps it simple for us. He says "Baptize and teach. Baptize and teach." And that in this Baptism and in this teaching of the Gospel the kingdom of God continues to come in our midst, and we can rejoice in it. It’s not that complicated. It’s not that fancy. We don’t need consultants or big bureaucracies to tell us this sort of thing, the Lord’s Word is plain. Baptize and teach, and rejoice in His presence and promises.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quotable Blog Quotes #4

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Confessional Gadfly
Rev. Eric J. Brown

Here’s how Pastor Brown introduces then Vicar Christopher Esget, whom Pastor Brown calls one of the five people who have greatly impacted his life of faith and love on this earth:
And then, my dad and I are wandering around at the Student fair booth, and there is this book-nerdy-looking guy in a clerical sitting with a copy of Tappert. My dad and I looked and each other, and my dad said, "Well, if that ELCA guy is looking at Tappert, maybe he's not completely horrid." Turn [sic] out he was the LCMS Vicar from Trinity in Norman.

Pastor Christopher Esget commenting on the SMP program and other alternate routes to ordination:
Yet more significant than scholarly training, seminary life forms and shapes the spiritual and liturgical mind of the pastor. I learned more in the chapel, lunchroom, and Kantorei van than in any classroom. Yet despite four years of resident seminary education (for two degrees: M.Div. and S.T.M.), two years of fieldwork, a summer vicarage, and a full-year vicarage, I wasn’t at all prepared to be a pastor. Take away substantive theological grounding, and we will have a synod full of Joel Osteens - toothy smiles, good intentions, and moralisms.
By claiming that our communion is “close” rather than “closed” we switch the stress from belonging to something that is God’s to something that is ours.

A Heresy Hunter at Concordia
Bob Hunter’s lamentation on the beginning of his Greek adventures. Bob is a first year Seminarian in Ft. Wayne.
Ode to Greek

Greek is a dead language
As dead as it can be
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it's killing me

All are dead who wrote it
All are dead who spoke it
All die who learn it
Blessed death - they earn it


The Cruciform Confession
Pseudonymous Seminarian O. H. Lee
My second year at seminary has begun and I, therefore, have died to the world (not just in the Christian sense).
Brothers of John the Steadfast
An article written by Dr. Joseph Herl
We too are called to be faithful. Do we select our music in church to be successful in moving people, in reaching them for Christ, in convincing them to become Christians? If so, welcome to Arminianism and the Law. Or do we choose music that glorifies God and conveys as well as possible through its texts and associations the fullness of Christian teaching? If so, welcome to Luther and the Gospel.

In reading the above I was reminded of what we are seeing today in the church with the "Seeker Sensitive" and "Church Growth" programs which focus on making those who need to know they are sick, comfortable. Instead of congregations being a "hospital" dispensing the divine "medicine" of Word and Sacrament, some congregations have become the equivalent to Disney Land; aiming to treat their ill patients with entertainment, self-help guides, and diluted, sugary, "gospel".

Brothers of John the Steadfast
Jim Pierce’s Comment on Mollie Ziegler Hemingway’s post about Ablaze! now adding LCMS school children who aren’t members of a Christian church to the Ablaze! tally:
The Mormons baptize for the dead… maybe team Ablaze!™ could start counting “unchurched” buried in Lutheran cemeteries? Hmm… I better not give them any ideas.