Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Issues, Etc. Takes a Giant Turn for the Worst

Jeff out corrallin' guests.
Things are rapidly going downhill at the Lutheran Public Radio studios.  Why you ask?  Apparently the gate was left open on the stable of guests, who subsequently vamoosed,  resulting in Producer Jeff Schwarz having to lasso people straight off the range as emergency guests. (A little like an emergency Baptism I guess - you do what you have to do.) Things got so dire that they actually interviewed me, discussing the article I recently wrote for Higher Things Magazine. The interview was so bad that I completely forgot to listen to my own spot, which was prerecorded and aired yesterday. Imagine my surprise when I was reminded about the whole dusty affair by a link Kari Anderson posted on Facebook.  I guess, as Pastor Wilken says, "they're all reruns to me."  So I suggest, unless you absolutely insist on listening to every segment of Issues, Etc., that you skip this one.  I saw on the news that most of the previous guests have now been rounded back up, so things should return to their normal quality programming at the LPR stable shortly.  We can all praise the Lord for that!

photocredit: Conlawprof

Monday, January 30, 2012

The LCMS National Youth Gathering: Improvements on the Horizon

It's too infrequently that I talk about the good things that are happening in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  I suppose in a sense that goes along with the turf, considering the name of the blog.  While at the Lutheran Concerns Association Conference the LCMS Board of Directors Vice-Chairman, Pastor Michael Kumm, reported that there is an  effort being made to return the National Youth Gathering to a more confessional posture.  While he didn't go into much detail, I assume that means returning to a more liturgically structured affair, rather than something that looks like an evangelical Sunday morning funfest centered on me and my emotions.  He did caution us that these changes may not happen all at once, but I'm happy to note that someone is taking notice.  Another option for your kids, Higher Things, is always a good bet.  You can check out a past post on the National Youth Gathering here, and one on Higher Things here.

For other good things going on in the LCMS, I highly recommend Pastor Larry Peters recent blog post titled "It's Not Nothing..." on this blog Pastoral Meanderings.

Ferris Bueller is Back! Matthew Broderick Stars in 2012 Super Bowl Commercial

Who doesn’t love Ferris Bueller? Well now you can love him again, as Matthew Broderick reprises his 1986 classic film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in a 2012 Honda CR-V Super Bowl TV commercial. Titled "Matthew's Day Off," here's a sneak preview of the extended version. In case you missed the original, I’ll let you borrow my copy, assuming of course you’ve got a DVD player and know how to use it.

A Report on the Lutheran Concerns Association Annual Conference

The Lutheran Concerns Association Annual (LCA) Conference was held the day before Concordia Theological Seminary’s (CTS) annual symposia in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on January 16. For those of you who didn’t make it, I’d have to say it was well worth the trip.

There aren’t too many venues in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod where you can sit down in a relatively intimate setting and hear from a Seminary President, a Synod Vice-President, a member of the Synod Board of Directors, a man who witnessed first-hand the “battle for the Bible” in the LCMS, and several other well known LCMS people all in one day, yet that’s what we were treated to at the LCA Conference.

The day started out with a Bible study presented by Rev. Charles Froh, and devotions by Rev. Dr. William Weinrich. CTS President Rev. Dr. Larry Rast gave his presentation “For Better or for Worse? Seminaries, Theological Education, and Pastoral Formation after Google.” If you attended the Lutheran Confessions Symposium at CTS, Dr. Rast’s presentation there was similar to the LCA presentation. A portion of his concluding remarks:
The purpose of this paper has been to raise some questions in your mind—though it may not have offered any answers. Questions about pastoral formation and certification, delivery systems for theological education, the relationship of pedagogy and methodology, continuing education, basic issues of funding, and many others will need to attention of best minds gathered together in prayerful consideration of the future of our confession. I hope this paper will contribute modestly to that endeavor, and I look forward to working through these issues with you.
I always enjoy Dr. Rast. He is a strong advocate for a rigorous on-campus pastoral formation program, one which, as he pointed out, takes gobs of dollars to support. Our seminaries certainly need our support if they are to continue to provide pastors who know the original languages and are solidly grounded in our confession.

Dovetailing nicely with Dr. Rast’s presentation was Rev. Kevin Vogts presentation “Our Concordia System: The Dying of the Light or Light from Above?” Rev. Vogts was the Director of Communications and Church Relations at Concordia Wisconsin from 1998-2003. He noted the continuing secularization of many of the Christian institutions of higher education in the U.S., which to some degree is related to their transformation to self-supporting institutions – which is where we are today with our Concordia University System and two seminaries. Rev. Vogts closed with a helpful set of suggestions on how we can preserve the integrity of our educational system. Certainly, both of these presentations offer hope for the future, but we will need sustained commitment in order to accomplish these goals.

A show of hands of those presenters who read Stand Firm. Or not. Rast is waffling.
Rev. Michael Kumm, who is the Vice-Chairman of the LCMS Board of Directors, presented on “Synodical Issues and Update.” He gave an overview of the ongoing restructuring effort, which is a rather herculean task, as well as other miscellaneous synodical affairs, while at the same time not giving away too many state secrets. It’s always nice to be able to question someone who actually knows what’s going on in the Synod!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lutheran Satire Nails it Again: Creeds

I hate it when somebody posts some idea that I wanted to post on, but this video from Lutheran Satire nails the comments I often hear about creeds, so I'm posting it anyway, even if I do get "scooped." Plus, I reserve the right to post my own "creeds" post, assuming I ever actually get it done, which is a pretty big assumption.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Playing Blind Man's Bluff with God

Dr. Martin Luther, as quoted in One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66:
Reason plays the game of blind man’s bluff with God. It makes nothing but false moves and always misses Him in that it calls that “God” which is not God; and, conversely, fails to call Him God who is God…. It goes about the matter in this clumsy way, ascribing the name of God and divine honor to what it imagines to be God but never hitting upon the true God but rather on the devil or its own notion, which the devil controls. This is the reason why there is indeed a very great difference between knowing that God exists and knowing what or who God really is. The first truth human nature knows, and it is written in all hearts; the second only the Holy Spirit teaches. (St. L 14:859)
Edward Engelbrecht, One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66 (St. Louis: CPH, 2007) 98.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We’ll Always have Paris Fort Wayne; the 2012 Symposia, Epilogue

In a sense, attending the Symposia is a unique opportunity for us outsiders, because it offers us a chance to participate in the life of the seminary for a week. Attending the presentations is a little like going to class, albeit with a lot of material. Interacting with the rest of the community is valuable. And one of the really nice things is the ability to participate in the various worship services, including the Divine Service if you’re there on Monday.

There’s something very beautiful about hearing the voices of so many men, and a few women, filling Kramer Chapel. It’s a treat to attend daily services, something that’s not available back at home. Walking through those doors is like entering another world, one free from all the worries and pressures of a hectic existence. One can sit and appreciate the choir, the organ, the cantor, the words of the sermon, all the while resting in Christ. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Thanks to President Larry Rast, the faculty, staff, and students of Concordia Theological Seminary for sharing your campus with us. It’s greatly appreciated.

photo credit: Bob Myers

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We’ll Always have Paris Fort Wayne; the 2012 Symposia, Part 2

One of the best things about the Symposia is being able to hang out with fellow confessional Lutherans, and there’s always plenty of them to be found – perhaps too many in fact, judging from my lack of sleep.

Most of the “quality time” that I spent with others occurred over dinner. I was able to break bread with my friend Joe Strieter a couple of times. Joe has a lot of insight into synodical issues, as well as being a solid confessional Lutheran. One night I had dinner with Gene White and Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, followed by a contest of wills with Pastor Wolfmueller, seeing which of us could continue a lucid conversation while staying awake later than either of us should have been up. Eventually Wolfmueller cracked – of course I had a one hour time zone advantage on him, he being on Mountain time, while I was operating on Pacific time. I also had dinner with Pastors Tim Rossow and Jonathan Fisk, and Chris Rosebrough (who wasn’t attending the symposia). It was good to see Chris, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.

The most egregious social event occurred when I went to a bar someplace in the middle of nowhere with Pastors Drew Newman, Tim Rossow, Marcus Mackay, Clint Poppe, Scott Porath, (who has a radio program along with Pastor Brent Kuhlman in McCook, NE), Christopher Gerdes, Kent Schaaf (hope I got all that right), and a couple of others whose names I’ve subsequently forgotten - sorry guys. I’m pretty sure I was the token layman of the group. I mostly kept my mouth shut, not because of my layman status, but out of fear that my teeth would be discolored from all that cigar smoke. At times I was wishing I had a pair of night vision goggles to maintain visual contact with everyone in the group. I wonder if the cigar epidemic has anything to do with a certain synodical president? Probably not. Seriously, that was a lot of fun. Where else can you sit around with a bunch of guys and never have the conversation drift towards football? This is what true unity brings. I paid the price though. Pastor Rossow and I didn’t get back to the hotel until well after midnight, and I still had to bid on next month’s flying schedule before I went to bed (plus wash my clothes in the sink for de-fumigation purposes), so I didn’t hit the hay until 4 a.m.

The list of fellow bloggers with whom I at least got to say “hi” to includes:

Rev. Tom Chryst, Preachrblog
Rev. Dr. Al Collver, The ABC3s of Miscellany
Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, Gottesblog
Rev. Jonathan Fisk, Worldview Everlasting
Rev. Christopher Gillespie, Outer Rim Territories
Rev. President Matt Harrison, Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Rev. Kurt Hering, Laughing Martin
Rev. Dr. Jack Kilcrease, Theologia Crucis
Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes, Lutheran Orthodoxy
Rev. Dr. Michael Paul, 因基督稱義
Rev. Larry Peters, Pastoral Meanderings
Rev. Robert Portier, Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Rev. Dr. Larry Rast, Rastaman Vibrations
Chris Rosebrough, Fighting for the Faith (and multiple others)
Rev. Tim Rossow, Brothers of John the Steadfast 
Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, The World-Wide Wolfmueller

In the basement near the bookstore Adriane Dorr and Deaconess Pam Nielsen were manning a booth (maybe that should be “personning” a booth). We had a lively conversation. I hadn’t met either of them before – now I know why Wilken and Schwarz are always trying to marry off Adriane, and why they continue to ask Pam back to the studio. Speaking of bookstores, I demonstrated amazing restraint in only purchasing one book on this trip.

A smattering of the many other people I talked to: Pastor Peter Bender (his last series discussing vocation on Issues, Etc. was great), Walter Dissen, Pastor Aric Fenske, Dr. Daniel Gard, Dr. Arthur Just (who also saw our daughter down in Haiti), Pastor Michael Kumm and his wife Janet, Greta Martin, Bob Myers, Dr. John Nordling, Dennis Peskey, Prof. John Pless, Rev. Klemet Preus, Lilian Spilde, Rev. Doug Taylor, Ginny Valleau, Rev. Larry Ziegler (whose main claim to fame now is that he's the father of Mollie Ziegler Hemingway), and Rev. Tom Zimmerman.

I’m thankful for all of my Lutheran friends. They are a true blessing. See you next year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

We’ll Always have Paris Fort Wayne; the 2012 Symposia, Part 1

I made it back from Fort Wayne and the 2012 Symposia Series. Between the very slow snowy drive to the Fort Wayne airport and the circuitous route home, I’m thankful I made it back in one day (if you call getting home at 3 a.m. one day). Chicago was snowed in with all the flights from FWA canceled, so I had to fly to Dallas, and then to Seattle. The flight out of Dallas was way overbooked, with them paying some people to wait until the next day to travel. Since I’m an airline pilot, I can ride in the cockpit (for free) on just about any U.S. carrier, which is what I thought I’d be doing. You don’t want to ride in the jumpseat on a 737 – absolutely no leg room, the seat is hard as a rock with a straight up and down back, and that’s the good seat (there’s two on a 737 – the other jumpseat is directly behind the captain’s seat and it doesn’t even have knee room). But in Joel Osteen-like divine providence, what he calls God’s faaaa-ver, not only did I get on the plane, there was one first class seat that was inexplicably open. Nice! Some other selfless pilot, I think he was an American pilot, let me sit in first class and he took the jumpseat. Thanks to United Airlines, Skywest Airlines, American Eagle, and American Airlines for allowing me to ride along.

The Symposia, as always, were excellent. The Exegetical Theology Symposium featured Doctors David and Peter Scaer, Dr. Charles Gieschen, Dr. Richard Bauckham, Daniel Johansson, Dr. Arthur Just, and a panel discussion moderated by Dr. William Weinrich. I don’t know why some people skip the panel discussions, because they’re really good, with people asking questions that often need to be asked.

Dr. Richard Bauckham, the renowned Professor from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, had a two-part presentation on Jesus and the eyewitnesses which was quite interesting. His recent book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, sold out in the bookstore. He was autographing the book for people who had one, but I opted instead to hear Dr. Just’s presentation. Note to sem: Don’t run concurrent presentations and autograph sessions.

The Symposium on “The Lutheran Confessions: Justification in a Contemporary Context” featured Dr. Larry Rast, Dr. Scott Murray, Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Dr. Erik M. Heen, Dr. David Scaer, Dr. Christopher J. Malloy, Dr. Gordon Isaac, Prof. Roland Ziegler, and Dr. Jack Kilcrease, as well as a panel discussion.

Dr. Malloy, a Roman Catholic, spoke on the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification from a Catholic perspective. He definitely seemed a bit nervous, and who could blame him? He managed to make it through though and effectively survived the barbs that Dr. David Scaer tossed his way.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On Approach in Mexico City

For the majority of you who don't have opportunity to sit in the pointy end of an airliner on landing, this is what it looks like. The video shows a Mexicana flight crew landing in Mexico City. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Comfort in Works

Dr. C.F.W. Walther quoting Luther's comments on Genesis 27:38:
“When we were still monks, we accomplished nothing by our mortifications of the flesh, for we refused to admit our sin and our godless way of life. As a matter of fact, we knew nothing about original sin, and we didn’t understand that unbelief is sin. And, what is more, we also believed and taught that one must doubt God’s grace and mercy. That is why, the harder I ran and desired to come to Christ, the further He receded from me. After confession and when I had conducted Mass, my heart was never at peace, for conscience can never find real, abiding comfort in good works.” (II, 467, [cf. LW 5, 157])
Our works cannot justify us, or give us true comfort.  Only faith in Jesus Christ justifies.

C.F.W. Walther, Essays for the Church, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: CPH, 1992) 268.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Remember When... #1

Just for the fun of it, I thought I'd do an occasional "remember when" post.  This first one takes a look at a few blogs that no longer exist, and a few that have a little different "face" now than they did then.

Remember when...

Pastor Bill Cwirla occasionally took refuge in his bunker, Blogosphere Underground?

It's now been captured by Dale from Kentucky.

Remember when the Wild Boar still roamed the forest,

Athanasius and Crysostom were still fighting for their grandfather's church,

and the Issues, Etc. trademark was a source of contention?

Benjamin Harju was still a rostered LCMS pastor, before he really did drop the ball by resigning and becoming an Eastern Orthodox member,

and General Scuttlebutt still graced the cyberwaves:

Dr. Larry Rast was a Dean, not a President,

and Pastor Matt Harrison was an Executive Director, not a President.  Some things are just meant to be.

And you've heard the phrase, "...whom God misses most" - well that's the Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer.  I sure wish Jack would come back.  I miss him too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bet You Haven't Heard this Theological Term Before

Every once in a while you run across an insightful new term that bears repeating, and this is one of those. Reproduced below is a post from my rather creative apologist friend Pastor Ken Silva, author of the website Apprising Ministries. Reproduced with permission.

NARCIGESIS [nahr- si -jee’ -sis]

[(From: narcissus; 1540–50; < Latin < Greek nárkissos plant name, traditionally connected, by virtue of plant's narcotic effects, with nárkç numbness, torpor; probably from a pre-Gk. Aegean word, but associated with Gk. narke "numbness" (see narcotic) because of the plant's sedative effect.) (From: eisegesis; 1890–95; < Greek eisḗgesis, equivalent to eis- into + ( h ) çge- (stem of hçgeîsthai to lead) + -sis -sis {C19: from Greek eis into, in + -egesis, as in exegesis}.)]


Classical Mythology: a mythological youth (Narcissus) who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool and wasted away from unsatisfied desire, whereupon he was transformed a plant bearing his name, commonly associated with an amaryllidaceous plant of the Eurasian genus Narcissus, esp N. poeticus, whose yellow, orange, or white flowers have a crown surrounded by spreading segments.

Classical Psychology: “Narcissists” are people completely absorbed in themselves. (See narcissism.) Inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.

  1. The reading of one’s own life experiences and/or that of another’s life experience, into the text of Scripture; the need to make the Bible all about themselves.
  2. An interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s self-authority, particularly driven by self-esteem, self-actualization, mystical experiences and/or the interpreter’s “felt needs.” (See Sola Experientia)
  3. A personal and/or mystical interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s own ideas, biases, opinions, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, impressions, dreams, revelations, or the like, rather than based upon the plain meaning of the text.
  4. The reading of one’s own doctrinal theories into Scripture (as opposed to exegesis, which is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of biblical text), particularly as a result of personal experience. (See Sola Experientia)
  5. Self-centered, self-defined and self-authenticating biblical interpretation, application and counsel.
  6. The reading of one’s own interpretation into Scripture based upon the egotistic belief that all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; and that only the learned, the elect, or the leadership elite (of which the interpreter considers himself), may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (See Plura Scriptura)
  7. The egotistical drive to invent new theologies, doctrines, revelations, applications and philosophies about Scripture, often manifested in self-aggrandizement activities such as book publishing, conferences, setting up organizations and websites, money-making schemes and publicity drives.
  8. Oxymoron: Subjective exegesis.
adjective: narcigetic, narcigetical

See also:

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Love Mondays!

Watch the video, then watch it a second time after you’ve figured it out! Be sure to click on “Click HERE to continue reading” below to read the rest of the post, after you’ve watched the video.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Goal of Apologetics

"The goal of apologetics is not victory but truth. Both sides win."

Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1994) 22.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Communicatio Idiomatum in English

Quoting from E. G. Schwiebert's book Luther and His Times: The Reformation from a New Perspective:
In his tract [Concerning the Lord’s Supper, a Confession] of 1528 Luther wrote on this relationship:
If you can say: Here is God, then you must also grant that the Man Christ is likewise present.  And, if you were to point to a place where God is present and not the man, then the person would already be divided, for then I could really make the assertion: Here is God who is not man and never was man and not my God.  …No, my dear fellow, where you place God, there you must likewise put the humanity of Christ, for they cannot be separated in that they have become one person.
God is not limited to space, yet He revealed Himself in space.  He can be where he wishes and can be everywhere present.  To define this presence, Luther used the terms in, with, and under, implying “real presence,” yet not in the physical sense of space.  The same Christ who could pass through stone walls, bolted doors, and disappear in a moment, could for Luther also be in the bread and wine through this quality of ubiquity, even though Communion was celebrated in ten thousand places at the same time.
E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times: The Reformation from a New Perspective, (St. Louis: CPH, 1950) 703.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In You Changing a Diaper, Christ Celebrates His Victory over the Devil

There’s not many tasks in life less delectable than changing dirty diapers – yet in seemingly mundane tasks such as this, through His subjects, Christ battles the devil and extends His Kingdom.

Our good works as Christians are always tainted by sin, but since they are done in Christ, they are made perfect. As Philip Melanchthon says in Article V of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (paragraph 68),
Yet, because of Christ, they are holy, divine works, sacrifices, and acts belonging to the rule of Christ, who in this way displays His kingdom before this world. For in these works He sanctifies hearts and represses the devil. In order to retain the Gospel among people, He openly sets the confession of saints against the kingdom of the devil and, in our weakness, declares His power.
You may not get many kudos from your coworkers for taking out the trash, yet in these simple acts you serve your neighbor, confess the faith, and praise God. When you do these ordinary tasks, Satan loses ground on the plain of spiritual battle, pointing to the final consummation of all things when Christ will return in glory. As Master Philip says, “These deeds are holy works and true sacrifices acceptable to God.”
71 [192] We think this way also about every good work in the humblest callings and in private affairs. Through these works Christ celebrates His victory over the devil, just as the distribution of alms by the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:1) was a holy work, a sacrifice and battle of Christ against the devil, who labors so that nothing may be done to praise God. 72 [193] To demean such works (the confession of doctrine, sufferings, works of love, suppression of the flesh) would be to demean the outward rule of Christ’s kingdom among people.
It is a great comfort to know that in the midst of our daily toil, there is Christ with us, proclaiming His victory in the seemingly insignificant, thwarting the devil and the naysayers of this world, proclaiming His victory and ultimate triumph over evil. Changing that diaper never looked so good!

Quotes from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis: CPH, 2005), 110.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Too Much Christmas Shopping...

...can make you all tuckered out.

photo credit: mfhiatt

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ongoing Sanctification

Pastor Peter Bender, from his December 27 appearance on Issues, Etc., discussing Christian vocation:
The longer we live as Christians, the mark of Christian maturity is, the longer, the more we learn to believe how dependent upon the grace of God we are.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Time to Submit Overtures

With the LCMS District Conventions fast approaching this year, and the LCMS national convention in 2013, it’s time to work on overtures if you haven’t already done so. Here’s a list of spots where you can go to see what other people’s overture ideas look like:

Suggestions from the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (ACELC) can be found here.

Suggested overtures on The Brothers of John the Steadfast website are here.

A list of older overtures from the Wyoming District can be found here.

A helpful overview of overture procedures can be found in the latest issue of The Lutheran Concerns Associations' The Lutheran Clarion, available here.

Information about overtures from the 2010 LCMS Handbook can be found here.

A pdf of the District Convention dates can be found here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Vocation of a Friend

Below is a great post from Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller's blog The World-Wide Wolfmueller on the vocation of friend.  Pastor Wolfmueller is the undershepherd at Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado, as well as co-host of the world renowned internet radio show Table Talk Radio. Reprinted with permission:

What’s a Vocation?
The teaching of vocation is one of the most wonderful in the Scriptures. Our vocations are more than our job, they are our calling, our station in life; they are the way we fit into this world.

We all have multiple vocations. I am a Christian, a son, a husband, a father, a pastor, a citizen, etc. Every vocation defines who my neighbor is. As a Christian I am a neighbor to all people with on obligation to love all. As a son I have my father and mother to honor. As a husband I have Keri to love and cherish. As father I have Hannah, Andrew, Daniel and Isaac to love and provide for. As a Pastor I have you, the members of Hope Lutheran to love and care for with the Word of God and the Sacraments.

Your vocation puts a name on the neighbor that Jesus commands to love as yourself. And God is at work in our vocation. When we ask our Father in Heaven to provide us daily bread, we are praying for those who have the vocation of farmer and miller and baker and grocery store manager, etc. God is behind all these various vocations answering our prayers.

We do well to consider our various vocations in light of the Scriptures to see how the Lord has ordered this world and put is in it. The Table of Duties in the Small Catechism is a good place to start; it outlines the various different callings in life and provides Scriptures for each one.

The Vocation of Friend
There is, though, a vocation that I have never seen discussed: the vocation of friend. Our vocation of friend is a wonderful gift from God. We all have a friend, and this is pleasing in the eyes of God. It is good, then, for us to consider the Scriptures instruction regarding friendship.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Ultimate Medieval Offset

By now you’ve heard of offsets. In our politically correct world, it’s no longer acceptable to burn coal to produce electricity, because it produces carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and who knows how many other “oxides” that haven’t even been invented yet. It’s no longer acceptable to drive to the grocery store to pick up that loaf of bread, because your car is belching hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Not to worry though, because they’ve now invented the carbon offset. Pay someone to go plant a tree and you will have atoned for that trip to the grocery store in your gas guzzling SUV. (Never mind that they drove to go plant the tree, plus a separate trip to buy the tree too.) Companies can continue to pollute by buying carbon offsets to atone for their sins. They pay somebody else to do some environmentally friendly thing, such as building a wind or solar-powered generator. It’s a system that makes little sense, having spawned such ideas as the “Carbon Farming Initiative: Management of large feral herbivores,” more commonly known as killing camels.*

My favorite offset though, is the Ignorance Offset, which “allow[s] you to offset your own or someone else's ignorance by supporting the increase of knowledge elsewhere.” Maybe you or someone you know could benefit from one of these. Just kidding about the you part of that – Stand Firm readers are of course some of the smartest readers in blogdom.

Anyway, one of the original offsets was a medieval offset promoted by the Roman Catholic Church. This specific offset was offered to those who “couldn’t” participate in a crusade, but had available cash. Originally, if you participated in a crusade, you received an indulgence which immediately granted you temporal relief from the punishment for sin, as well as relief from purgatory. Since a crusade was viewed as a pilgrimage of sorts, many of the initial participants weren’t soldiers, but rather Joe the serf down the road who wanted to join the cause carrying his pitchfork and obtain the crusade indulgence. Since these hangers-on bogged down the war machine, the Catholic Church came up with a new and improved indulgence. Rather than go on the crusade yourself, you could instead pay the amount of money that was required to support a soldier, and still receive the indulgence. This was a “win/win” situation for everybody:
  1. It allowed the common folk to receive the coveted indulgence.
  2. It kept non-soldiers from getting in the way and sapping the resources of the military campaign.
  3. It kept the Roman Curia’s coffers filled.
  4. It was an incentive used to attract crusade supporters to offset Islam’s promise to their warriors of an immediate trip to heaven with its attendant feasts and eternal sexual gratification if killed while participating in the jihad.
Needless to say, the promise to the Islamic warrior is false, and so is the indulgence to the Christian. Everyone’s punishment for sin has already been accomplished by Jesus on the cross. There’s no working, or contributing, your way into heaven. Those who put their faith in indulgences are really putting their faith in their own good works, and placing themselves under the curse of the Law.

While the crusade indulgence no longer exists, indulgences in Roman Catholicism still do. Faithful Catholics labor under the fallacy that they must make satisfaction for their sins. If you know someone like this, the most loving thing you can do for them is to gently speak the Gospel to them, and show them how they’ve erred in their doctrine. There are no offsets needed in the heavenly kingdom.

*Thanks to Anthony Watts for pointing this one out.