Monday, May 31, 2010

How About an LCMS Logo on Your Headstone?

The Reporter Online announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the use of the trademarked logo cross of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for use on government headstones and markers at graves of U.S. veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs calls these special icons an "emblem of belief." I'm not so sure I'd care to have anything other than the standard cross on my grave, or possibly the approved Lutheran version. There aren't going to be denominations in heaven. What do you think?

Honoring Our Veterans

Thanks to all of you who have served, or are still serving our nation in the Armed Forces. Today we honor you and those who have died fighting for our country. Being in the service is an honorable vocation, protecting others from the tyranny of evil.

Over the years I’ve spoken with many veterans who have some pretty grim stories to tell. Buddies who didn’t come back and scenes too terrible to recount – and many tears shed. These are memories that never fade.

My dad had a few of those memories that he carried around with him for his whole life, plus some shrapnel in his head to go along with the stories. I can remember him telling me when I was little how, after being shot, they wrapped a big white bandage around his head and sent him back out to continue the fight. As an adult I figured that he was joking about that aspect of his recovery, but now I’m not so sure. Judging from the severity of the battle, maybe that’s exactly how it happened. (It was a Japanese machine gun that shredded his pack and caught him in the right temple).

He made it back, along with the shrapnel, malaria, and damaged hearing from a hand grenade that went off uncomfortably close to his fox hole. Leyte and New Guinea weren’t the best places to be hanging out in those days.

Like many veterans, my dad didn’t talk much about his war experiences. I’ve got his Purple Heart and other ribbons. I had to look it up to discover that the Oak Leaf Cluster that is on my dad’s Purple Heart Ribbon meant he was wounded twice, something I didn’t even know. The only battle I remember him talking about was one in which they were on one side of a river and the Japanese advancing from the other side. He told me their water-cooled machine guns got so hot that eventually they couldn’t fire any longer. Dad was in the 32nd Infantry “Red Arrow” Division, which spent more days in combat than any other U.S. division in any war. After doing a little research, I discovered the following details of that battle, which took place on July 10th, 1944:
…Only three infantry battalions and two understrength cavalry squadrons defended the Driniumor River line. They had little barbed wire, few bunkers, poor fields of fire, and miserable jungle tracks for communication.

The Driniumor's twenty-foot-wide stream was easily fordable, calf-deep water. Dense jungle and towering trees on both sides of the wider riverbed effectively masked movement on the opposite banks. American riflemen and machine gunners in foxholes, pits, and a few bunkers along the river nervously awaited a Japanese attack. Japanese prisoners of war told of a forthcoming assault. American patrols had encountered stiffening Japanese resistance, and numerous decrypted messages pointed to an imminent offensive. Rather than wait for the Japanese attack, [Maj. Gen. Charles P.] Hall ordered a textbook maneuver, a reconnaissance-in-force along both enemy flanks, to commence on 10 July.

That morning an infantry battalion on the north and a cavalry squadron on the south crossed the Driniumor and probed cautiously eastward. The reconnaissance-in-force passed north and south of [the Japanese] Eighteenth Army's main assembly areas which were from two to four miles inland from the coast. Only two infantry battalions and a cavalry squadron remained to defend the Driniumor line.

That night ten thousand howling Japanese troops burst across the shallow Driniumor and charged through the center of the badly outnumbered and undermanned covering force. GIs fired their machine guns and automatic rifles until the barrels turned red hot, but the Japanese, eerily visible under the light of flares, surged forward. American artillery fell in clusters on the Japanese infantrymen, killing and maiming hundreds or crushing others beneath the tall trees that snapped apart in the unceasing explosions. Japanese numbers proved irresistible. Their breakthrough precipitated a month-long battle of attrition in the New Guinea wilds.

GIs moved behind heavy artillery support to close off pockets of Japanese resistance. The jungle restricted movement so the hardest fighting fell to rifle squads or platoons. Infantrymen fought a disconnected series of vicious actions that appeared coherent only on headquarters' situation maps. [Japanese Lt. Gen. Hatazo] Adachi's men asked no quarter and received none. During July and August 1944, nearly 10,000 Japanese perished. Almost 3,000 Americans fell along the Driniumor, 440 of them killed. In terms of American casualties, it was MacArthur's most costly campaign since Buna.

One measure of the severity of the fighting was the award of four Medals of Honor, all posthumously, for the campaign. Three soldiers received the decoration for self-sacrifice. Pvt. Donald R. Lobaugh of the 127th Infantry, 32d Division, launched a single-handed attack on a Japanese machine gun nest that saved his squad but cost him his life. S. Sgt. Gerald L. Endl, 128th Infantry, 32d Division, also single-handedly engaged the enemy at close range to save seven wounded Americans. As Endl was carrying the last wounded man to safety, a burst of Japanese machine gun fire killed him. Second Lt. George W. G. Boyce, Jr., of Troop A, 112th RCT, threw himself on a hand grenade to save his men. Second Lt. Dale Eldon Christensen, also of Troop A, won the medal for his series of heroic actions and outstanding leadership during the 112th's mid-July counterattack. Christensen was later killed "mopping up" after a Japanese attack. Their valor and the anonymous heroism of their comrades broke the back of Eighteenth Army.

…But above all New Guinea was the story of the courage of the GI who could always be counted on to move forward against a determined foe. It was the ordinary American soldier who endured the worst deprivations that the debilitating New Guinea climate and terrain could offer. It was the lowly GI who was the brains, the muscle, the blood, and the heart and soul of the great army that came of age in the Southwest Pacific Area in 1943 and 1944. In one tough fight after another, he never lost a battle to the Japanese. Those accomplishments and sacrifices are forever his and deserve to be remembered by all. [This account was taken from a U.S. Army Center of Military History brochure prepared by Edward J. Drea.]
Thanks to all veterans who have defended our country. You are not forgotten. God speed.

The photos are of some of my dad’s ribbons. You can hover over each photo to see what each ribbon signifies. The map is courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The LCMS Convention: Floor Committee Intrigue

And so it begins. An overview of the 104 convention resolutions prepared by the eight floor committees for the 64th Regular Convention of the LCMS has been released by Reporter Online. The biggest news may not be what’s in them, but what isn’t in them. In what seems to be a growing tradition in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the floor committees did whatever they wanted to do, ignoring the majority of the overtures presented to them by congregations and Districts across the Synod.

Pastor Todd Wilken’s partial list of resolutions Floor Committee 8 ignored is rather stunning (Floor Committee 8 is responsible for Structure and Governance):
• To Foster Greater Unanimity in Decisions re Structure
• To Postpone Consideration and Implementation of Task Force Report
• To Exercise Care and Delay Implementation of Structure Changes
• To Allow Time to Study Task Force Recommendations
• To Submit BRTFSSG Report to All Congregations for Study and Defer Action until Following Convention
• To Proceed with Task Force Proposals Only If Full and Timely Disclosure of Proposed Revisions Is Provided
• To Reject Blue Ribbon Task Force Recommendations
• To Defer Proposed Restructure/Reorganization To 2013 Convention
• To Delay Implementation of Certain BRTFSSG Proposals
• To Consider Recommendations of BRTFSSG as Separate Items to Be Voted on Individually
• To Consider Alternate Restructure Plans and Proposals and Decline Recommended Changes To Synod Constitution
• To Retain Existing Synod Constitution
• To Reject Proposed Changes to Articles II, III, and VI
• To Retain Current Constitution Articles II–IV, VI–VII
• To Align Synod Structure with Walther’s Church and Ministry
• To Affirm Integrity and Dignity of All Congregations
• To Respect All Congregations Equally
• To Give Congregation Overtures Equal Consideration
• To Reject All Proposals That Limit or Hinder Participation of Congregations
• To Retain Congregational Orientation of Synod
• To Remove Task Force Proposal re Constitutional Subscription
• To Delete Reference to Constitution from Proposed Article VII
• To Reject Coercive Language in Handbook
• To Retain Current Congregational Representation
• To Maintain Present Form of Delegate Representation
• To Retain Voting Delegates as Lay and Pastoral
• To Retain Current Article V of Constitution
• To Reject Any Proposed Changes re Voting Delegates to Synod Conventions
• To Reject Proposed Change re Voting Delegates To District Conventions
• To Reject “Associate Members” Recommendation
• To Clarify Voting Rights of the Preaching Office
• To Preserve Fifty Percent Lay Vote
• To Have Every Congregation Represented at Synod Conventions
• To Allow Vacant Congregations Two Lay Delegates
• To Oppose Dissolution of English District
• To Retain Present District Structure
• To Retain Current District Alignment
• To Retain or Increase Number of Districts
• To Continue Current Practice of Election of Circuit Counselors
• To Return to Use of Title “Circuit Visitor”
• To Increase Convention Quorum Requirement
• To Continue to Allow Congregations To Choose Vice-Presidents
• To Elect Officers by Direct Vote of Congregations
• To Change Composition and Increase Duties of Board of Directors
• To Give Careful Consideration When Addressing BRTFSSG Recommendation 18
• To Delay Implementation of BRTFSSG Recommendation re National Office Structure
• To Reject Proposal for Advisory Boards
• To Retain Board for Pastoral Education
• To Reject Any Proposal for Name Change
• To Keep the Name “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”
• To Retain Name “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”
• To Decline Further Study of LCMS Name Change
• To Retain the Name “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”
• To Reject Any Proposal to Change Pastoral Candidate Certification
The Reporter Online states that “all eight committees' proposals primarily respond to reports and a total of 251 overtures.” In the case of Floor Committee 8, it seems like they didn’t respond – instead, they excised. Part of their report goes on to say
One of the major resolutions coming out of Floor Committee 8 calls for the realignment of the Synod's national ministries around two mission boards. In the preamble to the resolution, the committee states that the "current operational structure of the Synod's boards and commissions and the relationship of staff coordination and accountability begs for improvement."
It seems that, in light of the complete disregard for any and all objections to the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance recommendations, it is the floor committees’ accountability that “begs for improvement.” Their statement is an allness statement that is based on somewhat of a false premise.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Texan with a German Accent

Pastor Matt Harrison, on his It’s Time website, has provided copies of a sermon and a statement of Rev. Johann Kilian’s which he translated from the original German, as well as a very interesting historical background piece. Pastor Kilian came from Prussia in Germany to escape the forced union of Lutheran and Reformed churches by the state, and was the framer of confessional Lutheranism in Texas. (Imagine a Texan with a German accent!) Pastor Kilian’s statement at the dedication of a church in Klitten, Germany in 1848 is especially prescient. In many ways, he might as well have been speaking to us today.

I highly recommend Pastor Harrison’s work. Here’s some of what Pastor Kilian had to say:
They say: “We regard you as a sect because you place Luther and the old Lutheran Confessions over the Bible and hold too much to the writings of men, who were certainly subject to error.”

But perhaps this perception, like the texts we preach, is a result of the Bible itself. Has anyone heard us preach something different from what is in the Gospels, Epistles, or other passages of Scripture? Don’t we demonstrate everything that we teach, above all, out of the Bible? Who can convince us that we get our doctrine out of any writings other than the Scriptures? So what we are accused of cannot be true. Our difference with others who also claim the Bible [for what they teach and confess] cannot be that we somehow revere the Bible any less than they do. No, we completely agree with those who believe and assert that the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments should be the sole doctrinal basis for the Christian. But what happens when the most divergent of people claim that their views are in the Bible, and men of various differing views of the faith [Glaubensrichtungen] each proves his own presumptions from the Bible and adorns and arms himself against orthodox Christians with the Bible? What then? Is the Bible contradictory because each party drags something different out of it? No, that certainly is not and cannot be the case. The Bible does not contradict itself. The difference, the disunity, is not found in the Bible itself, but in those who explicate and explain the Bible. This difference has no other cause than that the Bible is explained according to differing principles of faith [Glaubensgrunde]. The one approach is new, the other accords with a certain faith which has been passed down. The new understanding, animated by a fraudulent spirit, views the very letters and words of the Bible in a different way than they are actually to be understood according to a sound understanding of human language. The other approach judges each passage with a healthy grasp of Holy Scripture, and with regard to its connection with the entire Bible. The controversy here is not whether Christian doctrine is to be taken from the Bible or not, but how and according to what [standard] the Holy Scriptures are to be explicated and which are the chief parts of the contents of the Bible.

…It is certainly true that there was a time when many Lutherans made mere inflated head knowledge [Wissen] out of the true faith and correct doctrine. In their often very fleshly zeal for correct doctrine, they had fallen into a hardness of heart. Love grew so cold that Lutheran and Reformed [theologians] wrote and fought against each other with terrible anger and hatred. In our time, we must be careful to avoid this terrible and incorrect path. But in our time, love is spoken of so much, and purity and certainty of faith and love are so little regarded, that nearly all opinions regarding faith are considered as equal. This is also a very dangerous and incorrect path. True, holy love is so constituted that it is as zealous for the correct faith as for pure life. True love bears witness against erring spirits, should they but teach against the Scriptures in one point, just as much as it also bears witness against immoral [persons] who steal, drink heavily, do wrong, or carry on in other sinful ways. For sin is everything that is contrary to God’s Word. It includes false, useless doctrine as much as useless living. It is as much a wrong relationship over against God as a wrong relationship over against men. But where in our time is a love for God that detests false doctrine as much as lazy and useless living? Where is the love which courageously says with Paul, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9)? Where is the love which delivered Hymenaeus over to Satan, as it is written in 2 Timothy 2:17–18, because he taught falsely regarding the resurrection (1 Timothy 1:20)? Where is the love which writes to Titus, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10–11). Where is the burning love of Paul in our time, which expresses not merely its own judgment but God’s judgment against godless doctrine just as much as over godless life? We are to love God above all things [Small Catechism, First Commandment], in order to rightly love the neighbor. From the first table of the Law of God precedes the second table. So for us, right faith and right doctrine (devotion toward God [Gottseligkeit]) are first, and the love of neighbor (devotion toward people [Leutseligkeit]) second. Only if it proceeds from faith will it be right before God. Here then, all love that is commanded and praised by men, even if it only denies and nullifies right faith and right doctrine in just one point, is a godless love. Therefore we should not enter into church fellowship [Kirchengemeinschaft] with those who teach falsely in various parts [of the faith]. We must rather bear witness against them so that they not be pacified in their sins, that they recognize their guilt, and so give God the honor!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LCMS 2010 Convention & Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance: List of Articles v. 3.0

Here is a list of some of the best articles on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance recommendations and convention info. I'll update and republish the list as time goes on.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 5-25
Pushing Restructuring Through

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 5-24
Synod boards and commissions in a fight for their existence

Pastor Tim Rossow, 5-17
Blunt Opposition to a Key Blue Ribbon Proposal Comes from a Surprising Source

Dr. Al Collver, 5-15
Report of Special Committee re Art VII, 1944

Pastor Klemet Preus, 5-6
Why President Kieschnick’s Numbers are Down

Jim Pierce, 5-3
Revisiting a Point in the BRTFSSG

Pastor Charles Henrickson, 4-30
My “bad”: How a desperate Jesus First will distort and deflect

Pastor Klemet Preus, 4-30
Why President Kieschnick showed poorly: Part III

Pastor Charles Henrickson, 4-29
Jesus First on low nominations: We meant to do that!

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 4-26
Here’s the “confidential” report

Scott Diekmann, 4-26
You Didn’t See Any of These in the BRTFSSG Recommendations

Pastor Klemet Preus, 4-26
What do the nominations numbers mean? Part II

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 4-24
“Not a consolidation of power”?

Pastor Charles Henrickson, 4-24
Kieschnick: Low Nominations Mean High Satisfaction

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 4-23
If you had half a million dollars, what would you do with it?

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 4-23
Major unrest regarding Blue Ribbon Task Force proposals

Pastor Klemet Preus, 4-19
What do the nominations numbers mean? Part I

Pastor Charles Henrickson, 4-7
Nominations announced: Harrison tops ballot by wide margin

Pastor Tim Rossow, 3-26
Supporter of President Kieschnick says Some are Intimidated by Blue Ribbon Proposals

Dr. Martin Noland, 3-22
The Blue Ribbon Plan #18 and the Spoils System

Pastor Lincoln Winter, 3-16
Forest Boar Task Force on Synod Scructure and Gonvernance (FBTFSSG)

Pastor Tim Rossow, 3-1
Comprehensive Analysis on the Blue Ribbon Proposals Part 10 – Recommendation #7: To What Extent does your Congregation Actually Need and Use District and Synod?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To Split or Not to Split?

Quoting C.F.W. Walther in discussion at the East District Convention in 1868:

Yet one must be careful in dealing with those whose consciences are still captive in adiaphora. For example, if a Puritan, apprised of our doctrine, wanted to forbid me to do an incidental task on Sunday because [in his judgment] I would be sinning against the Third Commandment and would be damned, then, to avoid being resubjected to the slavish yoke of the Old Testament Sabbath law, from which Christ has, after all, freed me with sour labor, I would have to perform this incidental task precisely on Sunday as a witness against him. But if I see that he is an upright Christian, only caught up in his erring conscience, then I would have to guard myself earnestly against giving him offense and first try to enlighten him with words. Only if he were revealed as an obstinate person or even would blaspheme, would I have a cord of wood delivered and start splitting wood with gusto [on Sunday], in order to show him by [this] action that I am sure of my ground also in [my] heart.

So, in order not to give offense to one who is weak, we must avoid doing many things that we would otherwise be completely free [to do]. For whereas we are free in faith and conscience, we must nevertheless according to love make ourselves servants to all people, but only in order, by all possible means, to save some. Whoever does it for another reason—fear of men or to please them, fear of affliction, or to get along better in the world—he denies the freedom to which Christ has brought him and thereby [denies] Christ Himself. (brackets in original)

C.F.W. Walther, Essays for the Church, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1992) 189.

photo credit: John Collier, Jr.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past are Condemned to Repeat It

A quote from Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz's Loci Theologici, written in the 16th century:

However, it can profitably be said here that the most ancient writers of the church neither explained adequately the doctrine of original sin and free will, nor spoke with sufficient exactness and fullness according to the command of the Holy Spirit concerning these articles. The reason was that their dealings were chiefly with pagans who ridiculed, rejected, and persecuted the doctrines of the church as absurdities, when they measured them by the judgment of reason. Justin, Clement, and others therefore thought that the pagans would be less unfriendly if those things which seemed most abhorrent in Scripture were toned down. Thus they accommodated Scripture to the reasoned opinions of the philosophers, thinking that the resulting doctrine of the church would be more plausible to the pagans, so that more of them could be won for the church. But the confusion which followed from this in the doctrine of the church showed itself clearly even in the time of Augustine.

Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, The Doctrine of Man in the Writings of Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, ed. Herman A. Preus and Edmund Smits, (St. Louis: CPH, 2005) 158.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just Say "No"

Lutheran contemporary worship is like how the "70s" look now - it just doesn't work.

photo credit: Chris Pirillo

Thursday, May 20, 2010

History Revisited

Dr. Al Collver, on his blog ABC3s of Miscellany, recently reported on a 1944 Synod Special Committee that recommended that Article VII of the LCMS Constitution be amended so that member congregations would be forced to carry out resolutions of the Synod. That recommendation is not unlike the one being pushed by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) today, which adds to Article VII the following:

B. Relation of the Members to the Synod

In their relation to the Synod, all members of the Synod, by voluntarily subscribing to the Confession (Article II) and the Constitution of the Synod, make a confession of faith, a joint commitment to God’s mission, and a mutual covenant of love. In so doing, they

1. Bind themselves to the confessional basis of the Synod (Article II);
2. Agree to abide by, honor, and uphold the collective will of the Synod as expressed in its Constitution, Bylaws, and convention resolutions;
3. Pledge their active involvement and support of the Synod’s efforts to carry out its mission and purpose; and
4. Promise that, if they find themselves to be in disagreement with the Synod’s actions or positions, they will so advise the Synod in a loving and evangelical manner, and if necessary follow the Synod’s authorized procedures for expressing dissent.

This current recommendation seems to mirror the attitude of the current Synod President, who said this when speaking to the 2006 Texas District Convention:

You are free to disagree, everyone is free to disagree, but let me say this: You, pastors, are NOT free to publicly teach or preach that Synod is wrong on ANY given issue. I'll say it again, you are NOT free to teach in a bible class or preach from the pulpit that Synod is wrong on any issue.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who, Me?

It’s a little perplexing to read Lutherans who claim that the method can be changed without changing the message. It’s an argument that’s sometimes floated by those who want to change worship practices – but how you worship influences how you believe, and vice versa (lex orandi, lex credendi). But it’s beyond perplexing, in fact it’s downright disturbing, to see someone who doesn’t even hold to some of the basic tenets of Christianity point it out while fellow Lutherans deny the naked truth. In this case, it’s Brian McLaren, one of the most widely know Emerging Church leaders, who could school some of our own on this point. McLaren, among other heresies, rejects the atonement. But he does understand that doctrine and practice are related:

It has been fashionable among the innovative [emerging] pastors I know to say, “We’re not changing the message; we’re only changing the medium.” This claim is probably less than honest … in the new church we must realize how medium and message are intertwined. When we change the medium, the message that’s received is changed, however subtly, as well. We might as well get beyond our naivete or denial about this….

Maybe it’s time for us Lutherans to lose our naivete, and denial, as well.

Quoted from the article “Contextual Theology – Falling From Truth Through the Emerging Church” by Roger Oakland on the “from the lighthouse…” blog, who is in turn quoting from Brian McLaren’s book Church on the Other Side.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Kilt Makes the Man - with Addendum!

Jeff Schwarz mentioned the other day on an Issues, Etc. segment that he’d like to see Pastor Wilken in a kilt. I was sure I’d seen him wearing one in the past, and after rummaging around in the bottom drawer for a while I found this photo. The kilt looks slightly big on Todd, but it is color coordinated, and it brings out the color of his eyes too. Once a Scotsman, always a Scotsman, that’s what I always say.

In the photo, Craig Fichtinger, Pastor Todd Wilken, and Jeff Schwarz.


This just in - Jeff's hand has been found!

This blog post was picked by Jeff as today's Issues, Etc. Blog of the Week. Both he and Todd enjoyed Pastor Wilken's kiltish look (although somebody needs to explain to Jeff that the word is "Scotsman" with an ess, not "Scotman.") Pastor Wilken seemed to think there was some kind of "foul play" in the location of Jeff's right hand however. Being the gentleman that I am, I didn't want to draw attention to it so I didn't mention it originally. But now I guess the cat's out of the bag, so to speak. Fortunately, I found another photo in the drawer, a more seemly version, and am now posting that one as well for your viewing pleasure. Let me know which pic you like better.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Courage for the Sake of the Gospel

The video version of the sixteenth chapter of Pastor Matt Harrison's book Christ have Mercy: How to Put Your Faith in Action:

NEWS FLASH: Dr. Nagel is on Issues, Etc. today!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Understanding the Article of Forgiveness of Sins

Martin Chemnitz, from his Loci Theologici, Locus 7:

…We should rightly understand the article of forgiveness of sins. For it is not a certain “quality” which is infused once for all, either in Baptism or when we are converted from mortal sin. But just as we always carry about the body of sin in this life, just so the remission of sins is ours (with us), because the son of God daily lets his shadow cover the flesh of his members, in which no good thing dwells, in order that sin should not be imputed.

Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, The Doctrine of Man in the Writings of Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, ed. Herman A. Preus and Edmund Smits, (St. Louis: CPH, 2005) 194.

photo credit: Grant MacDonald

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Piety Lutheran Style

Quoting from Professor John Pless's paper "Liturgy and Evangelism in Service of the Mysteria Dei":

Piety. Pietism has perhaps clouded the fact that there is a genuine Lutheran piety. Piety is not the same as Pietism . There is nothing showy about this piety. It is the piety of the daily prayers and the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism. It is a piety that flows from liturgy to vocation in the pattern of Romans 12 where the Apostle bids us to present our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God. It is a piety that prays and works. It is the piety shaped by the words of the post-communion collect which implores God to strengthen us through the salutary of gift of the Sacrament "in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another...."

photo credit: mysza831

Monday, May 10, 2010

Physics and Metaphysics: A Book Review of The Journey to Truth by George F. Garlick Ph.D.

In Dr. George F. Garlick’s book The Journey to Truth: How Scientific Discovery Provides Insights into Spiritual Truths, Dr. Garlick provides a nice summary statement for his book in the preface:

…I believe that we are created in the likeness of the Almighty God, and as such we are encouraged and invited to pursue the revelation of the spiritual and physical truth as we open our hearts and minds to Him. Further, I believe that as we progress in understanding some of the mysteries of our existence and the nature of God, our faith is deepened, and enriched – not compromised (p. xi-x) [sic].

Dr. Garlick’s journey began on a farm in Nebraska, where he experienced first-hand the mysteries of God’s Creation out on the Great Plains, yet his path led him away from the farm and away from God. He left the farm, setting his sights on college. But his college experience caused him to begin asking questions:

Over the next few years I tried to attack the problem of God’s existence with the only approach that was reasonable to me: the scientific process. I was determined to figure out whether or not God existed. I embarked on this journey, using my intellect to pursue faith, but this approach failed. My life did not change until I reversed the process and allowed my faith to lead my intellectual understanding (9).

He went on to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and solid-state physics at Iowa State University. His research in the field of Holographic Ultrasound Technology and his ongoing childhood wonder about the mysteries of Creation have dovetailed with his belief that “by using our mind to explore the mysteries of our universe, we can achieve a better understanding of our relationship with God” (17).

Through the course of the book Dr. Garlick describes such things as the Big Bang, higher dimensions (those above the dimensions of length, width, height, and time), superstring theory, and the nature of light. He relates his belief in how these scientific theories demonstrate the nature of God, answering such questions as how miracles are possible, how we can communicate with God, and how God can be both immanent and transcendent. As an example, Dr. Garlick believes that God can enter into our four dimensions because His “presence in the fifth dimension permeates the entirety of our visible world and is present among us and even within our bodies” (87). He contends that God’s fifth dimension presence allows Him to enter our dimensions and yet remain separate from the sin that permeates them, the fifth dimension acting as a one-way barrier.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

LCMS and ELCA Talk about ELCA’s Decisions on Sexuality

The Reporter Online reported yesterday on the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation (CLC) meeting between ELCA leaders and LCMS leaders, which met April 12-13 (I've had to link to the joint ELCA copy of the press release, since it has disappeared from the LCMS website). In-depth discussions were held on the theological implications of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions on human sexuality. The LCMS officials included President Kieschnick; Dr. William R. Diekelman, First Vice-President; Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig, Synod Secretary; Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations; Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, Director of LCMS Church Relations and Assistant to the President; Ronald Schulz, Chief Administrative Officer; and Dr. Larry Stoterau, President of the Pacific Southwest District.

I’ll include a few highlights of the report, as well as a few comments. All quotes from the report will be indented.
The leaders began their discussion by reviewing "Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions," a 10-page document prepared by a task force appointed by Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, who indicated that the document was intended for use by LCMS pastors and members in their own study and in dialogue with ELCA members.

Key provisions of the document are:

• The LCMS believes and teaches "that same-gender sexual activity -- in every situation -- violates the will of our Creator and must be recognized as sin." The LCMS affirms the biblical view of marriage as a lifelong union of a man and a woman, and that unmarried men and women are to "live in sexual chastity and celibacy."
• There is "legitimate concern" over the ways people who are gay or lesbian have been "excluded and even vilified by Christians."
• The LCMS does not believe that the ELCA's decisions on sexuality should necessarily or summarily end cooperative work in human care since this work is "based on the sharing of a common goal, not doctrinal unity." The LCMS document continued, "However, we hope and expect that the leadership of such entities will respect the theological position of the Synod (including its position on same-gender sexual activity) and avoid any policies or decisions which would require us to cease our support and involvement in their activities."
• The LCMS believes that disagreements about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior "impact the Gospel itself," since the Gospel is "the heart, center, and ultimate message of the Bible," and that "a church body's acceptance of homosexual activity promotes a false security about behavior and conduct which God has forbidden and from which He longs to redeem us."
• A prayer that the ELCA would reconsider its actions.
The above quotes from the document are well and good, as far as they go. One weakness in the document is that while it addresses same-gender sexual activity, it seems to lack any definitive comment on same-gender sexual desire or thought. Perhaps they mean to include this in the definition of “sexual chastity.”

Disagreements about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior certainly "impact the Gospel itself." In the broad sense of the word Gospel, I would contend that the ELCA and the LCMS do not share the same Gospel, and that the ELCA in fact preaches a different Gospel.
"We received it in the understanding that you were speaking to your own church, but also to us," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA Presiding Bishop. "We also hope that you understand, and we understand, that our actions put stress on relationships, but not stress to the point that we believe that they should sever the relationships rather than call us to deeper conversation."
Presiding Bishop Hanson’s call to deeper conversation is the same call he makes to all of those who disagree in the ELCA. His call is one in which he desires that those who disagree with the version of the Gospel which condones homosexuality continue in the conversation so that they too can be assimilated by his specious views.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Offending Reason

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:
Therefore the first thing to be done is that through faith we kill unbelief, contempt and hatred of God, and the murmuring against His wrath, His judgment, and all the words and deeds of God; for then we kill reason. It can be killed by nothing else but faith, which believes God and thus attributes His glory to Him. It does this in spite of the fact that He speaks what seems foolish, absurd, and impossible to reason, and in spite of the fact that God depicts Himself otherwise than reason can either judge or grasp, namely, this way: “If you wish to placate Me, do not offer Me your works and merits. But believe in Jesus Christ, My only Son, who was born, who suffered, who was crucified, and who died for your sins. Then I will accept you and pronounce you righteous. And whatever of your sin still remains in, you I will not impute to you.” If reason is not slaughtered, and if all the religions and forms of worship under heaven that have been thought up by men to obtain righteousness in the sight of God are not condemned, the righteousness of faith cannot stand.

When reason hears this, it is immediately offended and says: “Then are good works nothing? Have I toiled and borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat (Matt. 20:12) for nothing?” This is the source of that revolt of the nations, kings, and princes against the Lord and against His Christ (Ps. 2:1–2). The pope with his monks does not want to give the impression of having erred; much less will he permit himself to be condemned. Likewise the Turk and others.

I have said this in interpretation of the sentence “And it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” in order that the students of the Sacred Scriptures may understand how Christian righteousness is to be defined properly and accurately, namely, that it is a trust in the Son of God or a trust of the heart in God through Christ. Here this clause is to be added to provide the differentia for the definition: “which faith is imputed as righteousness for the sake of Christ.” For, as I have said, these two things make Christian righteousness perfect: The first is faith in the heart, which is a divinely granted gift and which formally believes in Christ; the second is that God reckons this imperfect faith as perfect righteousness for the sake of Christ, His Son, who suffered for the sins of the world and in whom I begin to believe. On account of this faith in Christ God does not see the sin that still remains in me. For so long as I go on living in the flesh, there is certainly sin in me. But meanwhile Christ protects me under the shadow of His wings and spreads over me the wide heaven of the forgiveness of sins, under which I live in safety. This prevents God from seeing the sins that still cling to my flesh. My flesh distrusts God, is angry with Him, does not rejoice in Him, etc. But God overlooks these sins, and in His sight they are as though they were not sins. This is accomplished by imputation on account of the faith by which I begin to take hold of Christ; and on His account God reckons imperfect righteousness as perfect righteousness and sin as not sin, even though it really is sin.
Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther's works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (26:vii-232). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baptism: A Very Splendid Thing

Dr. Martin Luther on Baptism:

Therefore our Baptism is of permanent value. Although someone falls from its grace and sins, we nonetheless always have access to it that we may again subdue the old man. But we must not be sprinkled with water again; for although we were immersed in water a hundred times, it would nonetheless be no more than one Baptism. The effect and significance of the Sacrament continue and remain. Hence repentance is nothing but a return and approach to Baptism—in order to repeat and practice what we had previously begun but later abandoned.

I say this in order to keep people from falling into the notion which we harbored for a long time when we imagined that Baptism is something of the past which we could no longer use after we had again fallen into sin. This is the result of looking only at the act that is performed once. It arose from what St. Jerome wrote: that repentance is the “second plank,” on which we must swim forth and go to the other side after the foundering of the ship on which we embark and cross over when we enter the Christian Church. Now, these words deprive Baptism of its usefulness, so that it can no longer benefit us. Therefore the statement is not correct; for the ship never founders, because, as I have said, it is God’s ordinance and no device of our own. But it may happen that we slip and fall out of the ship. However, if anyone falls out, let him see to it that he swims up to it again and clings to it until he again comes into it and sails on in it, as he had formerly begun to do.

Thus we see what a very splendid thing Baptism is. It snatches us from the jaws of the devil, makes us God’s own, restrains and removes sin, and then daily strengthens the new man within us. It is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this state of misery to eternal glory. For this reason everyone should consider his Baptism as his daily dress, to be worn constantly. Every day he should be found in the faith and its fruits, suppressing the old man, and growing up in the new; for if we want to be Christians, we must practice the work whereby we are Christians. But if anyone falls from baptismal grace, let him return to it. For as Christ, the Mercy Seat, does not withdraw from us or forbid us to come to Him again even though we sin, so all His treasures and gifts also remain with us. When, therefore, we have once received the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, it stays with us day by day as long as we live, that is, as long as we drag the old man about with us. (W 30 I, 221 f -E 21, 140 f-SL 10, 133 f)

Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §163, 60-61.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Get Ready – To Get Fired!

If you’re a fan of the Discovery Channel’s hit TV show Dirty Jobs, you might have noticed the similarity of the title of this post to the words host Mike Rowe says at the beginning of his show: Get ready – to get dirty! If you’re a delegate to the 2010 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Regular Convention in Houston this July and you’re planning to pull the lever in favor of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance recommendation on doing away with the Program Boards in the LCMS (Recommendation #18), then you might as well say in your best Mike Rowe voice:

Get ready – to get fired!

And if you’re an employee that was on one of the formerly existing Program Boards then you might as well say in your best Mike Rowe voice:

Get ready – to get packing!

…because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’re going to be unceremoniously given your pink slip and shown the door, just like Jeff Schwarz and Todd Wilken, the Producer and Host of the radio show Issues, Etc., were when they got canned in March of 2008. You won’t have to worry about being fired during Holy Week though, because it’s going to happen a lot sooner than that. One well-placed source in the International Center told me that they were told that they’ll be out on the street as soon as October. It’s a good thing there’s going to be free health care.

If you happen to be one of the chosen few, you might be asked to stay on in some new capacity - depending on who the Synod President is at the time. If you're not of the same "ideology," better dust off that resumé.

So before you go pulling any levers in Houston, think carefully about how your vote will influence the trajectory of the Synod, and the way your choice will influence the lives of many of the employees throughout the Synod. The law of unintended consequences will have its way in ways many of us haven’t even considered.

Photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel.