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.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Desktop Revisited


What's On Your Desktop?

We're having guests over for dinner this evening, so, mercifully, I'm having to clean my desk off. I've got a nice big desk, which makes for a nice big mess at times. For the fun of it, I decided to take inventory, from left to right and top to bottom. Here's the body count:
  • A whole bunch of miscellaneous papers
  • A framed photo of Zach on Tolmie Peak when he was much younger
  • A Borders gift card from my sister
  • An old Issues, Etc. CD
  • A small box of raisins
  • Lutheran Service Book
  • Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service
  • Daniel: Encouragement for Faith
  • The Bondage of the Will
  • Yoga and the Body of Christ: What Position Should Christians Hold?
  • Cellphone
  • Digital camera
  • Current issue of Christian Research Journal
  • iPod
  • Stack of mail
  • Laptop
  • A Time of Departing: How Ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians With the World's Religions
  • A 5 x 7 photo of Cheryl that I'm supposed to mail to my mom
  • Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective
  • NIV Bible
  • A coaster
  • Lamp
  • Speakers
  • Joystick
  • Desktop computer
  • Lutheran Worship
  • Webcam
  • Two more old Issues, Etc. cd's
  • Current issue of Steadfast Quarterly: The Journal of the Brothers of John the Steadfast
  • Church membership directory
  • Current issue of Air Line Pilot
  • Radio/CD player
No wonder I can't get anything done.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Speaking Back to God

Quoting Pastor Peter Bender, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wisconsin, and Director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy. This quote is taken from part 2 of his Apostles’ Creed series, God the Son, on Issues, Etc.™:
...we are called to make confession as Christians. And the confession that we make is to speak back to God what it is that He has spoken to us. Which Word the Holy Spirit used to call us to faith in the first place. So the Word of the Gospel comes to us. We hear it, and by the Word of the Gospel we are called to faith and we speak back to God what He’s spoken to us. Like children who speak back to their parents the language that they have heard from their parents. And we are all called to speak the same language.

The Apostle’s Creed, we talked at the beginning of our time today about the objectivity of the language. It’s not only objective, but it’s objective language that is Scriptural language. It’s not language that is drawn from contemporary society and culture, because the contemporary societies and cultures change over time. Now this is God’s language. We take up God’s language, and we speak it back to Him. And what’s unique about the Apostle’s Creed is that every word, every phrase is Biblical. ...It speaks God’s language in God’s way. ...That’s the other thing that the Creed continues to do in that language we speak back to God, that’s faithful to the Scriptures, that speaks in God’s way. It’s always drawing us away from ourselves to God. In so many contemporary creeds that people concoct, end up being a kind of navel gazing, or speak more about the quality of my believing than they do about the objective reality of who God is and what He has done, which is how the Scriptures speak.

You can listen to the whole show here:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ablaze! Numbers With Honor

Ablaze!, the rightfully maligned LCMS missiological “movement,” seems to be struggling. As Mollie Ziegler points out, while 30% of the time allotted to reach 100 million people has elapsed, we haven’t even met 10% of the goal. Not to worry though. They’re now counting kids in LCMS schools as “critical events” in order to inflate the numbers. 183,203 were added to “the number of unreached or uncommitted people with whom the Gospel has been shared and reported,” because these particular kids are not members of Christian churches. Apparently they just aren’t committed enough. Maybe they could count their parents as well.

In an effort to solve this gnarly numbers problem, I’ve come up with a diplomatic solution.

In 1968 President Nixon ran for reelection. Part of his platform was a pledge to end the Vietnam war, but in a way which would bring “peace with honor.” In 1973 he fulfilled his commitment with a diplomatic solution. The troops came home. Never mind that the fighting continued and the communists eventually controlled both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. It was peace with honor.

We can achieve a similar “numbers with honor,” ending our long synodical nightmare. It will be quick, painless, and a lot cheaper. Here’s how.

I propose taking out a 60 second spot during the 2009 Super Bowl. With 60 seconds to burn, we could present a phenomenal Gospel presentation. Last year’s Super Bowl reached 93.2 million people. Even if this year’s numbers were a little less, add that to the 9.3 million people we’ve already reached, and we’d have met our goal, in one day. Yes, you could make the argument that some of the viewers are already Christians, or that some of them missed the commercial because they were grabbing another beer, but it’s no less disingenuous than counting kids in LCMS schools, or counting at all for that matter. Numbers with honor.

Some of you are squawking that a commercial costs too much. The price for a 30 second spot on NBC for the 2009 Super Bowl is $3 million. I’m sure they’d give us a break for the additional 30 seconds. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to what they want to spend on Ablaze! The goal is to raise $100 million by 2010, with another seven years to go after that.

It seems preposterous that an evangelistic effort could cause division, yet that is what has happened. What would you expect from a “movement” whose most visible aspects are a number, a narcissistic reflection, a theology of glory, and a cloud of dust. The Ablaze! program is like the ark of the covenant in Philistine hands - it’s a plague. Let’s send it back where it came from. Instead, let’s continue the movement that’s based on the way God intends His Church to be nurtured, through Word and Sacrament ministry, and the resulting service to our neighbor in vocation. This is the way God grows His Church, one Baptism at a time.

“Almighty God, You have called Your Church to witness that in Christ You have reconciled us to Yourself. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may proclaim the good news of Your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Amen (LSB, p. 305)

If you’d like to learn more about the problems associated with Ablaze!, read Professor David Berger’s article “Ablaze®, the Movement,” Rev. Todd Wilken’s article “That Exclamation Mark," and Frank Gillespie's article What's Wrong With Ablaze!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When Business and Church Merge

The Lutheran Church has for years flirted with the Church Growth Movement, and more recently with the Emerging Church. One name that frequently surfaces when discussing business practices or church growth is that of Peter Drucker. Drucker, who is often considered the father of modern business management, has wielded a huge influence on the Church.

Drucker might seem an unusual fit for the Church, but there are many who have modeled their church plans after Drucker’s ideas. His name is often mentioned in Church Growth Movement circles.

In an excerpt from Roger Oakland’s book Faith Undone: the emerging church - a new reformation or an end-time deception on the Lighthouse Trails website, Oakland discusses Drucker’s influence among Evangelicals (and thus Lutherans by infiltration). Mr. Oakland describes Peter Drucker’s attraction to mysticism, a practice forbidden by God that is sometimes seen in the Church Growth Movement, and even more common in the Emerging Church. He also relates Drucker’s universalistic leanings and minimization of doctrine. Drucker’s thoughts have lead followers such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Bob Buford, Leonard Sweet, and Doug Pagitt to view the Church as an agent of change. That sounds like an odd way to describe the Church, and it is indeed. Instead of the Church as the gathering of all believers under the cross of Christ to receive His gifts, it is viewed as a vehicle for paradigm shift for the benefit of society.

Drucker’s ideas on mysticism, interspirituality, and paradigm shift formed an ideal breeding ground for the Emerging Church. As Oakland puts it, "This view of minimizing doctrine would become one of the earmarks of the emerging church, which in reality was to be a testing ground for high-tech marketing skills, business management techniques, and an experience-based religion; but its foundation is flawed with a non-biblical, mystical premise."

If you’re interested in some of the ideological underpinnings of both the Church Growth Movement and the Emerging Church, these excerpts from Roger Oakland’s book are a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do Our Symbols Contain Error?

Quoting C.F.W. Walther:

But what of some honest, upright men who either lack the ability to test the whole Book of Concord according to the Word of God and therefore are not convinced that the Symbols agree with Scripture in every point or who have conscientious scruples about certain points? In either case such are not fit to become teachers in the Church, for a bishop must, above all things, be "apt to teach" and "be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers," 1 Tim. 3: 2; Tit. 1: 9.

But is it not possible that the Symbols of the orthodox Church contain errors in less important points? Yes, but the possibility does not establish reality. Only a skeptic, who is always learning and never coming to the truth, despairs of ever finding the truth and will maintain; Men have written this, and therefore it must contain error. But if error should really be found in our Symbols, we would be the first to pass the death sentence on them. But we defy the whole world to point out an error in doctrine in our Book of Concord. For the past three hundred years all the enemies of our Church have tried in vain to find an error, but have failed. They have shown, and we admit it, that our Symbols contain points which are contrary to their blind reason; but they have failed to prove that our Symbols contradict Scripture in the smallest point.
Quoted from Walther's essay titled "Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church," delivered at the Western District Convention in 1858. Printed in the April, 1947 Concordia Theological Monthly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The End of the Confessional Age?

Pastor Matt Harrison, the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, on his blog Mercy Journey’s With Pastor Harrison, has an interesting quote of theologian Hermann Sasse, gleaned from one of Sasse’s Letters to Lutheran Pastors, #60. Here’s a highlight:

So it seems for American Lutheranism that the confessional age has come to an end. It seems so, yet it is not so. Are the theologians that speak thus today in the Lutheran Church entirely clear on the matter of what the end of the confessional age might actually mean? It would be the end of the church. Confessing belongs to the very essence of the church. There exists either a church based on a confession, or there exists no church. There exists no “ecumenical” church. There exists an ecumenical way of thinking, that greets and interacts with the “divided brethren” in love and understanding.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Epistle of First Rod

If you’ve never had the opportunity to hear Dr. Rod Rosenbladt speak, you’re missing out. Dr. Rosenbladt is Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Apologetics at Concordia University-Irvine, and co-host of the radio program The White Horse Inn.

Dr. Rosenbladt recently made four separate appearances on Issues, Etc.™, discussing the four Solas of the reformation. The following quote is from the fourth show on Sola Scriptura. While the quote gives you some idea of Dr. Rosenbladt’s wit and character, you really have to hear him to get the full effect.

Host Todd Wilken:
How would you respond to someone who says "Look, Sola Scriptura sounds great, but in fact, it really is putting God in a box, or God in a book. You’re limiting the voice of the Spirit." And we hear this from both charismatic types and from theological liberals.

Dr. Rosenbladt:
Sigh. Putting God in a box is a popularized piece of bad philosophy. Usually if you scratch that there’s nothing underneath it. What you want to find out is whether what Scripture says is true, whether it’s sufficient, and whether it’s "only." If you come to that conclusion, then all your meanderings, that you believe that the ethers and the spirits have given you, are to be judged by the text of Scripture and nothing else. You will never be able to verify that your latest dream is on the level of Holy Scripture. In fact, if I come to you with the book of First Rod, you should throw me out. That is, there’s nothing behind the book of First Rod. The last apostle who could have authenticated it is dead. His name was John. So if I write the inspired book 2,000 years later, sorry, you cannot get authentication for it, you should reject me.

You can listen to the entire Issues, Etc.™ show here:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pastor Stuckwisch on Löhe

Pastor Stuckwisch blogged at Four and Twenty Blackbirds on the Wilhelm Löhe Conference, which he attended last weekend. Löhe was a 19th century German pastor, theologian, and missionary. Though he was "banished" to a small parish in Bavaria for his troublesome insistence on standing on the Lutheran Confessions and pure doctrine, he had a great impact both at home and abroad in the mission field. The Gospel cannot be bound. Here are a few of Pastor Stuckwisch's thoughts, which he graciously allowed me to share with you:

Here was a man, staunchly conservative and confessional in his theology, renowned for his liturgical scholarship and practice, yet as zealous and proactive as anyone in the world has ever been in both evangelical missions and genuine works of mercy. For Löhe there was no conflict or competition in any of this, but the greatest and most natural harmony. The Church lives from the Liturgy into the world with the Gospel.
...One of the things that struck me throughout the conference, most especially in Professor John Pless's paper on Löhe's pastoral theology, but also in each of the other papers, was how similar Löhe's aims, emphases, efforts and tangible accomplishments were, in comparison to recent discussions of an evangelical "rule" or "canon" here on the Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds blog. I've previously noted Löhe's example in this regard, but to hear the descriptions and discussions of his work and his contributions solidified that point. He instructed and inspired; he organized, encouraged, supported and assisted; he learned from the past and wrote for the future; he lent his knowledge and energies to the good ordering of pastoral preparation and practice, liturgical administration and prayer, congregational formation and protocol, inner and outer missions. As the paper by Dr. Wolfgang Fenske demonstrated, Löhe did much to establish and foster forms in service and support of substance. He thus exemplified the benefit of an evangelical "rule" for prayer, pastoral care, and public profession of the faith.

There was one point in Dr. Fenske's presentation that I regretted somewhat. He emphasized the centrality of the Lord's Supper in Löhe's theology and practice; not only in his liturgical theology, but in all of his pastoral practice. Life for Wilhelm Löhe was lived to and from the Sacrament of the Altar; everything that he and his congregation did were offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the One who feeds His Church with His holy body and precious blood. This point I do not regret, but greatly admire and appreciate. In connection with that sacramental emphasis, it is also true, there was a shift in the liturgical practice that Löhe advocated and emulated, in which the sermon was no longer understood or undertaken as the dominating center and highest peak. Dr. Fenske described this as an intentional downplaying of preaching, and it was that point I regretted. It gives the wrong impression, in my opinion. Löhe's goal was not to downplay preaching, but to recover a truly evangelical and liturgical preaching that would bring the congregation in repentance and faith to the Sacrament. He viewed the sermon and the Sacrament as the two mountain heights of the Liturgy, the second of them higher, yes, but the two of them together fundamental to the Divine Service.

Another pastor at the conference posed the question: How was it that Wilhelm Löhe was able to accomplish so much within (and from) his Neuendettelsau congregation? How was he able, for example, to lead the people from the practice of having the Lord's Supper twice a year (once in the spring, and once in the fall) to having the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day, and then, finally, every day of every week? And how was he able to restore such a lively practice of Individual Confession and Absolution within his congregation? The answer given to these questions was a good one: patience and steady teaching. It took decades to accomplish these developments, and Löhe was always teaching, catechizing, writing. He used the means available to confess the faith, and he did so faithfully over the long haul of thirty-five years in his parish.

All of this is meet and right. However, I would make the case that Löhe's preaching was fundamental to everything else. Professor Pless made that point, for example, in noting that Löhe regarded preaching as the primary place of ordinary, ongoing pastoral care. So, too, the preaching is the primary place for ongoing catechesis. It was for his rich evangelical preaching that people flocked from miles around to hear Löhe, to receive the Gospel from him, to be cared for by such a good shepherd. I believe it was Dr. Detlev Schulz who shared the anecdote, at the beginning of his paper, that Löhe had once begun preaching at 1:00 p.m. and was still preaching when the people needed to light the lamps in the early evening. It is an example of what we Lutherans confess: nothing holds the people like the preaching of the Gospel. Nothing cares for them and enlivens them like the preaching of the Gospel. Nothing else will be possible or matter, finally, without that steady preaching of the Gospel.

It was Löhe's faithful and conscientious preaching, I maintain, that led his people in faith to the body and blood of Christ at the Altar; and his preaching that led the people in faith from the Altar out into the world, to Christ in their neighbors near and far. It will be such preaching by which we also are best able to serve and support the people of God entrusted to our pastoral care.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kudos to Mrs. Gaunt

I was on a run, listening to Issues, Etc.™ on my iPod. As I hurdled a downed tree on the trail, Pastor Gaunt was speaking about his sermon preparation. What he said brought tears to my eyes, although it was really his wife’s words that got to me:

There’s so many times when I’m preparing [my sermon], usually late on Saturday night. So I’m kind of a Sabbatarian really. I do all my work - I rest on Friday night, goofing around. Then I just work like a madman on Saturday trying to get ready for the next morning. And I’m feeling like I don’t have it. I don’t have anything there. And it’s at that time that my wife will say “Just go in and preach the Gospel. Tell the people the Gospel. And you can do that.” “You know, you’re right.”

It is always the Gospel that aching souls need to hear – sinners who have first been convicted by the preaching of the Law. But it’s not the pastor who is speaking those words of forgiveness in the Gospel, it is Jesus Christ himself. Through the Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the pastor’s voice delivers what no other word could ever deliver, forgiveness, life, and salvation. As Jesus says:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (John 6:63b, ESV).

You can never stray by sticking to Mrs. Gaunt’s advice: “Just go in and preach the Gospel. Tell the people the Gospel.”

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13, ESV).

Pastor Doug Gaunt is the undershepherd at Trinity Lutheran Church in Orchard Farms, Missouri. This was an excellent show - a pastor’s roundtable on the Third Commandment, which you can listen to here:

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Purpose of an Unconditional Subscription

Quoting C. F. W. Walther:

The purpose for which the Church demands a subscription to its Symbols is twofold: a) that the Church may convince itself that its teachers really possess the orthodox understanding of Scripture and the same pure, unadulterated faith as the Church; b) that the Church may bind them with a solemn promise to teach this faith pure and unadulterated or renounce the office of teaching instead of disturbing the Church with their false teaching.
Quoted from Walther's essay titled "Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church," delivered at the Western District Convention in 1858. Printed in the April, 1947 Concordia Theological Monthly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Liturgy is God’s Leiturgia

Quoting from Richard A. Krause’s paper “Worship Wars at the Dawn of a New Millennium: Lutheranism and the Means of Grace vs. the 'Success Story' of American Evangelicalism":

The church must be visible. Its true marks, the right preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, are to be perceptible to the eye of the people. Though the church does not consist in external things such as ceremonies and rites, and though her true essence remains unknown to the unbeliever, the presence of the church is established by the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Lutherans insist that the church is not upheld by the piety of the believers but by the external means of Word and sacrament. As Luther said, "Where the gospel is, there is Christ. Where Christ is, there is the Holy Spirit and his kingdom, the true kingdom of heaven."

The liturgy of the church is the word in action. It is properly referred to as Gottesdienst, or "divine service." The liturgy is God's leiturgia, his public service to his fallen creation through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. The liturgy is comprised of the deeds and words of Jesus. They are cleansing words that bring forgiveness, life, and salvation. God is the subject, and we are the objects of his service. Unfortunately, in the English-speaking world, worship is most often understood primarily as something we do to recognize the greatness of God. Such a view stands in opposition to Lutheran worship. It turns worship into an anthropocentric activity defined by what we do and what we understand God to be. Lutheran worship will always emphasize the opposite idea, that worship comes from God to us. The gifts of God always stand at the center. Thus, worship is not just another program of the church, but it is the very heartbeat of our life with God as he comes with his gifts and we respond in our prayers, praise, and hymns.

God's Word in the liturgy continues the great work of holy baptism as it kills and makes alive...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Post-Church Era?

Thank you Pastor Beane for reminding us that the Lord is in charge of His Church. Here is an excerpt from Pastor Beane's post "The Post-Church Era?"

I find the words "Post-Church Era" to be disturbing. I think Scripture is clear: the Church is an eternal entity. And while the culture is increasingly hostile to the Bride of Christ - especially the more the Church clings to ecclesiastical traditions that the world finds repugnant - we have the Lord's promise: "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18).

The word "post-church" is an oxymoron to the believer. Such language is the prattle of secular sociologists. When the Church stops talking like the Church, when she uses the language of something else - like a business in need of a bailout, or a social club in need of a marketing strategy to attract new members - it is indicative that she no longer sees herself as the supernatural bride of a supernatural God - but rather just another organization that can be analyzed and manipulated using the world's methodologies.

Instead of speaking of Christianity in the argot of the atheist analyst (from the perspective of the world) as "post-church", we should be describing the fallen world (from the perspective of Christ and his church) as that which is passing away.

The Green Bible: Environmentalism Gone Awry

When groups like the Sierra Club and The Humane Society endorse a particular version of the Bible, or any version of the Bible, something is amiss. The Sierra Club and The Humane Society are both secular organizations. There’s a confusion of God’s spiritual kingdom and God’s earthly kingdom going on in these types of situations where secular societies try to "save" the world. And that’s what’s happening with the newest version of the Bible, The Green Bible.

The Green Bible is a New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation with "verses and passages that speak to God's care for creation highlighted in green."1 The NRSV is a middle of the road Bible translation, about midway between a word-for-word Bible and a thought-for-thought Bible. It’s not the best translation around, but usable nonetheless. The addition of the green highlighting, and the presuppositions which go along with it, however, create a different picture entirely. While the text of each Bible is identical, the emphasis in The Green Bible is completely skewed.

Judging from the hype surrounding the initial publication of this Bible, the endorsements, the lead-in poetry, the introduction in the front, the highlighted text itself, and the subject index, one can draw some solid conclusions about this "specialty" Bible.

Aside from the obvious marketing designed to make HarperOne (a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers) a tidy profit, the other thrust of this Bible is not related to orthodox Christianity per se, but rather to environmentalism. There is also a pervasive overtone of what might be called a Social Gospel.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Given the Left Foot of Fellowship

Chris Rosebrough, the host of the Fighting for the Faith radio program, made this comment on his September 18th show:

If you’re going to a Purpose-Driven church and you’re gonna try to combat this as a church congregant, you’re going to be given the left foot of fellowship because that’s what the Purpose-Driven church teaches them to do with people who are dissidents. They don’t tolerate dissidents because you’re supposed to unquestioningly get behind the vision of the pastor.
By Purpose-Driven, Chris means a church that follows the seeker-sensitive blueprint often found in the Church Growth Movement. The term Purpose-Driven comes from Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Church, and his subsequent book The Purpose-Driven Life. These types of churches often try to recast the die on how a church should look and operate – the technical term is paradigm shift.

In moving a congregation to a more seeker-sensitive "model," many things are thrown out the window. Out go the liturgy, doctrine, and the Old Testament lesson, out go closed Communion, vestments, and true unity. Out goes the name on the front of the building, and possibly even the cross on the wall. They are replaced by a sermon series on how to solve your problems, praise bands, coffee bar, consultants, and vision. The Gospel is twisted into Law.

Next comes the push for a re-engineered church "management" structure, Constitution, and By-Laws. The senior pastor becomes a manager, and you, the parishioner, become the minister. Your church starts looking like the "evangelical" community church down the road.

These kinds of "hostile takeovers" are not pretty. If you’re one of those people who think that the main focus of your congregation should be Word and Sacrament ministry instead of meeting the felt needs of unbelievers, and you dare to voice your opinion, watch out! You might just get the left foot of fellowship. At the very least, you’ll be labeled as "divisive" and ostracized.

I mention this because it’s happening now in a church near you – possibly even in the pew you’re currently occupying.

Chris states that the pastors of Purpose-Driven churches are taught to give troublemakers the heave-ho. This sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t. It’s the game plan of choice if you want your seeker-sensitive church to be a "success." Kick out the discerning, doctrinally oriented members, and replace them with "seekers."

If you’d like to get a sneak peak at the play book that provides the details on how to excise these troublemakers who resist the paradigm shift, here are two well written articles on the subject:

By Ralph M. Petersen on his blog Well-Meaning Gentlemen With Different Ideas, titled "Resisters, Obstructionists, and Troublemakers."

By Berit Kjos on her apologetics website Kjos Ministries, titled "Dealing With Resisters."

If you’re in one of these churches, and you’re the type of person who’d rather fight than switch, put on your shoes and breastplate, strap on you belt and helmet, and grab your shield and sword – you’re in for a fight.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Sublime Description of the Divine Service

This truly Lutheran description of the Divine Service comes from the introduction found in Lutheran Worship. Thanks to Dr. Robert Shreckhise for pointing it out.

Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God.

Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where his name is, there he is. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words he has used to make himself known to us.

The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. How best to do this we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship through the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day-the living heritage and something new.

Friday, October 3, 2008

There’s A New Bumper Sticker In Town

A new bumper sticker adorns the hind end of my car.

I’ve never been much of a bumper sticker guy. The bumper sticker this one replaces was the first I’d had since the ‘80's. It said “If God is your copilot, switch seats.” Kind of corny, but it went well with my pilot vocation.

But this, this is the penultimate sticker. One for the ages.

I am a little concerned though that it’s affixation to my ‘88 Honda Civic won’t really do it justice, considering the Civic is starting to show it’s age. I think the sticker will really turn heads though, and nobody will even notice what it’s sticking to. Now, if I can just keep the bumper from falling off.

The address for you to get your own Issues, Etc.™ bumper sticker is:

Lutheran Public Radio
1600 Gulfview Drive
Collinsville, IL 62234

Send a self-addressed stamped envelope along with your request.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jump On the Bandwagon

Well, maybe it’s not a bandwagon. Probably more like a broken down covered wagon, with the rim busted off the splintered wagon wheel, and the pioneer wife saying a prayer over her freshly snake bit husband.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the new gizmo over there on the right. The one with the little icons of people’s faces. Yeah. That one. The one that says “FREQUENT FLYERS (5), and “FOLLOW THIS BLOG.” If you click on “FOLLOW THIS BLOG,” you can then sign up and proclaim to the world that you’re one of the few and the proud who read Stand Firm. Or for you shy types, you can sign up anonymously as well.

It’s the pious thing to do. (Or is that pietistic? Although I don’t think there’s that many pietists that read this blog. Maybe one or two). For you good Lutheran laymen and laywomen out there, what’s to stop you from signing on? You’ve always wanted your own private pew in church anyhow. And you pastors. Your face over on the right will certainly accelerate the gravitational pull of that CRM list. After all, the Augustana Ministerium is here for you.

If you click on the little icons, you can read that person’s profile. For the technophiles out there, if you’ve got a Blogger blog, you can follow the blogs you sign up for in your Google reader, and also via your reading list on your Blogger dashboard. You can also add this gadget to your Blogger blog, which I think will ultimately be a way for all of us to promote each other’s blogs.

For more info, you can read here, here, and here.

And of course, thanks to all for reading along and signing up.

Quotable Blog Quotes #3

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

The Brothers of John the Steadfast
Pastor Todd Wilken

Grammatically, the word ablaze seems to fall into the category of adjectives that can only be used predicatively, that is, as a complement to a noun, linked to it by a form of the verb "to be." In other words, the adjective ablaze will always come at the end of a phrase like "the building is ablaze" and never before the word it modifies, "the ablaze building." Ablaze is like some other a- words, such as astray, adrift, afraid, alone, aghast, ashamed and asleep.

A Little Leaven
Chris Rosebrough
Just in case you have a close encounter of the Klingon kind, there is a now a Klingon Language Version (KLV) Bible that you can use to share the gospel. We probably shouldn't be complaining because this thing actually looks far more accurate than The Message.

Father Hollywood
Rev. Larry L. Beane II, SSP
There is an increasing secularization of the Church - which brings with it the baggage of marketing. And that marketing is impossible without joining the world's chorus of "change for change's sake" - not only driving a wedge between style (lex orandi) and substance (lex credendi), but actually downplaying doctrine for the sake of popular appeal. This is precisely why churches - even in the once-conservative Missouri Synod - are being pushed by their own leadership ("executives") into abandoning tradition (from the Latin: "traditio" from "trado" - to hand over) in favor of mass-marketing and entertainment.
As the synodical president has said in his oft-repeated slogan: "This is not your grandfather's church."
This explains the proliferation of not only megachurches and "contemporary" services, but also niche congregations that seek only certain segments of the population, such as the young, or those who like heavy-metal music, or those who connect with coffee-shop culture. This explains why the cookie-cutter "emergent" model is being pushed from above (the corporate headquarters) - an approach to "doing church" that features pop music, a rejection of clerical vestments and traditional church architecture, a desire to appeal to pop culture, and a downplaying of the mysterious working of the holy sacraments ("emerging" churches within the LCMS will defend their infrequent communion by an appeal to the number of visitors who attend their entertaining services).
We are a church at war with our ancestors.

Necessary Roughness
Dan discussing the proposed restructuring in the LCMS
A synod is a group of members or congregations who agree. They are either in agreement or not; they cannot agree with "binding force." If this is "walking together," it must look like a three-legged race.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Confessional Lutheran?

This post is reproduced with the permission of Pastor Gary Hall, the author of the new blog Creedal Crime. It is a copy of Pastor Hall’s September 26 entry, which garnered him the singular distinction of Jeff Schwarz’s pick for Issues, Etc.™ blog of the week.

Is it just me or is it odd that we have to qualify Lutheran with Confessional? And evangelical would seem an odd qualifier as well. For what is a Lutheran but one who preaches and teaches in accord with the Book of Concord? If you are not preaching and teaching in accord with the Book of Concord how can you call yourself Lutheran? I guess that would make you a Cafeteria Lutheran, to borrow a term. Preaching and teaching according to your own fancy...I think St. Paul had something to say about that...."There will come a time when men will not put up with sound doctrine, but gather teachers to say what they want to hear."

And to think I sat down to post just that first question.