Monday, April 30, 2012

Transhumanism: The Logical End Product of Evolution

In a recent article written by David Yonke published on, Presbyterian minister and seminary professor Rev. Mark Douglas is quoted as saying
…Transhumanism is "inevitable," as long as humanity continues to exist. In extrapolating natural evolution as described by Darwin, and given enough time, the human race will undergo significant genetic and biological changes….
Wait. What? Yes, you heard him correctly. As a natural outgrowth of evolution, we humans will change, and if we avoid extinction due to mutational meltdown or our own stupidity, we will eventually become a new species – we did, after all, manage to throw off our ape heritage, so who’s to argue that we won’t eventually manage something even better (or at least, different). This line of reasoning is called transhumanism, and ultimately, post-humanism.

The article goes on to say
Theologically, one can find support in the Bible for transhumanism, he said, citing Scriptures that describe a future change or transformation. For example, I John 3:2 states that we "will be like him, for we will see him as he is."
Now that’s a new “twist” on things. The full verse in the ESV reads “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” The verse clearly refers to the gloried bodies we will receive after we are resurrected by Christ at His return on Judgment Day, not an evolutionary path. Like Dr. Matthew Becker’s evolutionary tale for the existence of Adam and Eve, the “theological evidence” only works if you believe that the transformation John refers to is a gradual naturally occurring evolution over the millennia, an explanation for which there is no credible Biblical support.

The World Tranhumanist Association (which has been renamed Humanity+), has a twofold definition of transhumanism (the remaining quotations on transhumanism come from the Wikipedia transhumanism page):
1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.
On the face of it, this definition seems rather bland. Yet the transhumanist agenda includes many ideas which are opposed to a world created and sustained by the Triune God. Some of these ideas include:
  1. The underlying assumption that neo-Darwinian evolution is correct.
  2. Man controls his own destiny: “Transhumanist philosophers argue that there not only exists a perfectionist ethical imperative for humans to strive for progress and improvement of the human condition but that it is possible and desirable for humanity to enter a transhuman phase of existence, in which humans are in control of their own evolution. In such a phase, natural evolution would be replaced with deliberate change.” From a Christian perspective, it is God who controls our lives, not us.
  3. Placing people, animals, and sophisticated machines on the same moral plain, and therefore assigning them equal rights, the rejection of which is called speciesism. While ethical treatment of animals is important, assigning animals the same “moral status” as humans ignores our creation in the image of God, and God’s command for us to exercise dominion over all the earth. Assigning a sophisticated machine any moral status is laughable.
  4. “Postgenderism, a social philosophy which seeks the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies.” Obviously, this idea is problematic. The elimination of gender also eliminates God’s created order by destroying normal human sexuality, as well as eliminating the family. The normal vocations of father and mother are eliminated, without which, society is decimated.
  5. The ultimate goal of immortality. Since death is the result of sin, and we are all sinners, this goal is impossible to achieve, and ignores our own sinful condition and need for a Savior.
  6. Mind uploading, in which human consciousness is uploaded into a computer. “After this point, the human body could be treated as an optional accessory and the mind could be transferred to any sufficiently powerful computer.” Our bodies are not optional. As Christians, we recognize that our bodies are important. Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I will see God!
These are but a few of the problems which transhumanism preaches. Transhumanism encompasses all sorts of ideas, each of which should be evaluated on its own merit through the lens of a Christian perspective. I much prefer King David’s view of things:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:13-16 ESV

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. Psalms 145:15-21 ESV
Improving the “human condition” can be a worthy goal when understood within the framework of God’s good creation, but when left to our own devices, we become our own little creative gods, failing to trust in God’s providence. This behavior should come as no surprise when God's Word is twisted so that popularized scientific theory can rule our  hearts and minds.  We turn to an evolutionary and science fiction nightmare where we must manipulate nature to our own ends. Transhumanism is largely a philosophy which has fallen into this trap, and has forgotten Luther’s explanation to the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed. Hopefully, we will not do the same.
The First Article.

Of Creation.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?--Answer.

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

photo credits: Christina Aguilera’s album Bionic: RCA Records / h+ magazine Fall 2008 issue cover

Friday, April 27, 2012

Have a Bright and Cheery Weekend

...After this video, anything would be an improvement.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

All Men Must Be Taken Captive

…Ask God that He keep us in His light and grace-filled Word, so that we do not fall back into such great or even greater darkness, as HE says in John 12 [:35-36]: “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.” For if we are unthankful, as were our forefathers, surely God is able to punish us with a blindness just as great as that with which they were punished. Look at how the heathen, Jews, Turks, and pope are being punished with blindness. If God withdraws His hand in anger, then the prince of darkness immediately takes us to believe whatever he wants. Thus the Egyptians in former times believed that an ox, dog, fish, worm, or even onions and garlic were gods. When God’s omnipotence abandons us, then the devil is omnipotent in His place, for all men must be taken captive.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown. vol. 60, Prefaces II, (Saint Louis: CPH, 2011) 278.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Kid Is Going Off to College. How Do I Prepare?

There’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes into choosing a college for your kid to attend. And speaking from experience, there will never be more angst than when you say “goodbye” to your child that last time before you drive away. No matter how many phone calls you make, or purposely don’t make, in a sense, they’re on their own. How can you make the transition easier? Here’s the best advice I’ve heard, from Pastor Marcus Zill on his March 12 Issues, Etc. appearance:
I would encourage parents – take time, go to the place where your kid is gonna, your young person is gonna go to school. Go to church with them. Get them as familiar as you can with the church, the campus pastor if there’s not a campus pastor or a campus ministry run out of a church. We have many wonderful campus ministries that are run out of local congregations. But take them to church. Take them multiple times. And that first week of school, stick around for that Sunday and make sure you go with them. And then come back, you know, three, four weeks later if possible and go to church with them again. Most young people have grown up in the same church, seen the same people, having a pastor that they’re familiar with, and going with their parents. When they go off to school, don’t assume that they’re going to just get up on their own, walk down six flights of stairs or take the elevator and walk down to a local church, especially when they don’t know anybody and it’s a completely new experience. So anything that parents can do to get their son or daughter in touch with those that can care for them in this way is really crucial so that relationship can be established, even long before they show up on campus.

photo credit: jeremy.wilburn

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Four Stages of Church Growth Disease

Quoting Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller off the Table Talk Radio Facebook page.  I know some people who are in Stage 1 of this deadly disease.  You probably do too.  Research has now proven that the best way to treat this malady is by immediate removal from the contaminated zone, followed by a prescription of constant and lifelong exposure to Word and Sacrament. Here's the quote:

The Four Stages of Church Growth Disease:

Stage 1: I’m uncomfortable with all the changes happening around my church, but I guess it’s okay, after all, it’s for the ‘lost’ and the ‘youth’ and the ‘mission.’

Stage 2: I’m disappointed that I’m not being fed at my church, but I also feel guilty for this, after all, you go to church to serve, not to be served, right?

Stage 3: I’m looking for a more authentic community of Jesus-followers.

Stage 4: I’m an atheist.

You can also hear the four stages of Church Growth Disease discussed on Table Talk Radio episode number 195, an episode that's well worth listening to, especially if you're looking for a little theologic comic relief.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Avoiding Incurvatus In Se

I was listening to a well known non-Lutheran preacher speaking the other day. He was saying something about the life of the Church, and Christ's presence, and it sounded empty. Since large chunks of Christianity deny the physical presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, and they deny the power of Baptism and the means of grace, they're left with an empty shell. Claiming, at best, a spiritual presence of Christ is like saying He's not really here. Not really. You've got to go looking for him - climb a ladder to the right hand of God to actually see Him. And if He is not here, but He's just up there, His blessings aren't here either.  And if His blessings aren't here, something else will fill the void.  What fills the void?  Often it's sermons on moralism, your best life now, and purpose.  But Christ wants us to have an abundant life, which comes by living in His physical presence, right here and now, as he draws us to Him in the forgiveness of sins found in His Word and Sacraments. We daily celebrate the forgiveness won for us on the cross by remembering our Baptism and the promise it contains.  We celebrate as we hear Christ's words of absolution spoken by the pastor each Sunday, and as Christ comes to us bodily in Communion.  It is in this sacramental life that the fullness of Christ is found and lived out, in repentance and forgiveness.  This is the blessing that I wish people of other denominations would come to know.  Without it, the Christian life is empty and loses its vitality, curving inward on itself.

Last month Pastor Larry Peters, on his blog Pastoral Meanderings said much the same thing in his post titled "All theology is Christology and all heresy/error begins with Christology...".  His post is reprinted here in its entirety with permission.
To refine my title, someone once said to me that all heresy is rooted in a denial of the incarnation. While I fear exaggeration often precludes the very clarity it seeks to provide, this is one case in which the statement is truth. All heresy is rooted in a denial of the incarnation. So, on this Annunciation of Our Lord day, it is good to read reflect upon the full measure of our incarnational theology.

 I was reading in Bo Giertz the other day: (in the book Christ's Church
God is in our midst! Just as Jesus once entered the world as God's outstretched hand, as a visible revelation of God's invisible being, and as an audible message of that which no ear has heard, so God's hand is still stretched out at the baptismal font and the communion rails, and so the Word still sounds, not as a mechanical repetition of what the Master once said but as continually repeated message from the mouth of our Savior... It is the same way with the sacraments. They are not symbols and metaphors but Christ's way of to deal with us today, just as real and tangible as He once dealt with people on the fields of Galilee and the streets in Capernaum... 

The miracle that took place in the incarnation when the Word became flesh continues in the church and the sacraments. He who does not understand the incarnation will not understand the sacraments and he who does not understand the sacraments will not understand what Christ has done for us... Living and genuine Christianity is in its innermost essence faith in the incarnation and the atonement. It is in its innermost essence sacramental... 
Bo Giertz certainly has hit the nail on the head. Failure to acknowledge the incarnation is the seedbed to disavowing the sacramental presence of Christ in the means of grace. You cannot confess the incarnation and reject the Sacraments (means of grace). They go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other and the other defines the first. It is meaningless to confess God's presence unless you can confess that presence HERE in baptismal water, in absolution's voice, in bread and wine. To put it as I often do when teaching parents, stop pointing to the sky when you teach your children where God is and point instead to the Word and Sacraments, for these are the places where God has attached Himself, made Himself present and available for us. We do not need a God out there. We need a located God -- in the incarnation and in the means of grace (sacraments). We are not imposing this upon God but He has bound Himself to these external forms out of love for us and to deliver to us the full measure of what Christ accomplished for us and our salvation.

Friday, April 20, 2012

This Is Marlboro Country

Note: As is often the case on Fridays, this post is a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek comment.  It isn't intended to be a Law-oriented, YOU CANNOT SMOKE message.  It is within your Christian liberty to light up and take that seductive drag if you'd like, although as a health care professional, I took an oath which precludes me from giving you a big "thumbs up" for doing so.  There.  Now back to our post:

Even back when I was a kid, people had figured out that smoking wasn't such a great idea.  Somebody put up a big sign on the local cemetery fence that said "THIS IS MARLBORO COUNTRY."

And if the old U.S. label didn't get your attention, "Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health," maybe this one from Hong Kong will:

Enjoy the video - this is Marlboro country:

cemetery photo credit: Nathan Marciniak

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Refining Process

…We in our day must endure stiff-necked sectarians, who vex and trouble us, just as our predecessors were troubled by heretics in their day and the prophets were troubled by false prophets in their own day. For the world must be and wants to be deceived, and the elect must be tested, tried, and refined, all to the praise and honor of God in eternity. Amen.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown. vol. 60, Prefaces II, (Saint Louis: CPH, 2011) 335.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Which One of These is Different?

Q: Which one of these graphics is different from the others?

A: None of them. They're all science fiction.

L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was a prolific science fiction writer. He reportedly said at one point “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” Apparently he took his own advice.

By spending gobs of money (on Scientology courses), Scientologists progress toward their goal of becoming more and more aware of who they actually are - thetans. Advancing through the levels of Scientology supposedly releases one from the matter-energy-space-time universe (called MEST). Ultimately, one can control MEST through the power of the mind, and operate without a body.

In 2008 Wikileaks released a secret 612 page Scientology document which delineates the procedures required to progress through each of the eight levels required to become a fully functional thetan. In the third level, called OT3 (OT stands for Operating Thetan), the student is told the big secret that explains who they are and the universe around them. At this point the student will have spent in the vicinity of $161,000 (costs vary depending on individual experience). The Wikileaks document, which was written by L. Ron Hubbard, and frequently contains his own handwritten notes, reads like a Sci Fi plot. If I'd spent thousands of dollars to hear that I'd been frozen and shipped to earth by an evil dictator named Xenu, I'd be looking for my money back - something that's not going to happen. The following graphic from the document is the first page of L. Ron Hubbard's handwritten explanation for our genesis (found on page 236), followed by a typed out version of his entire explanation. Let the buyer beware.

The head of the Galactic Confederation (76 planets around larger stars visible from here) (founded 95,000,000 yrs ago, very space opera) solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per planet - 178 billion on average) by mass implanting. He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H-bomb on the principal volcanoes (Incident 2) and then the Pacific area ones were taken in boxes to Hawaii and the Atlantic area ones to Las Palmas and there "packaged." His name was Xenu. He used renegades. Various misleading data by means of circuits etc. was placed in the implants. When through with his crime, Loyal Officers (to the people) captured him after six years of battle and put him in an electronic mountain trap where he still is. "They" are gone. The place (Confed.) has since been a desert.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Shall so Anomalous a Situation Be Brought to an End?

Quoting from J. Gresham Machen's book Christianity and Liberalism, p. 151:
But how shall so anomalous a situation be brought to an end? The best way would undoubtedly be the voluntary withdrawal of the liberal ministers from those confessional churches whose confessions they do not, in the plain historical sense, accept. And we have not altogether abandoned hope of such a solution. Our differences with the liberal party in the Church are indeed profound, but with regard to the obligation of simple honesty of speech, some agreement might surely be attained. Certainly the withdrawal of liberal ministers from the creedal churches would be enormously in the interests of harmony and co-operation. Nothing engenders strife so much as a forced unity, within the same organization, of those who disagree fundamentally in aim.

photo credit: J.Salmoral

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker: Nature Interprets Scripture

As a professor at Valparaiso University, Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker  wields a tremendous amount of influence on young minds. Dr. Becker is also a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) rostered pastor, concurrently serving as vacancy pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Michigan City, Indiana. While there are some things on which we would agree, at least on a superficial level, his crusade for women’s ordination wouldn't be one of them. He is also an evolution proponent, rejects a literal six-day creation, and is a vocal critic of the LCMS positions on these topics. (At the end of the post is further information regarding Dr. Becker’s formal dissent with the LCMS, as well as references for further investigation.)

Dr. Becker has voiced his views in numerous forums, and submitted his formal dissent to the LCMS, which included two of his essays titled “A Case for Female Pastors and Theologians” (excerpted from the book A Daystar Reader) and “The Scandal of the LCMS Mind” (hereafter called The Scandal). One of the LCMS documents with which he takes issue is the 2004 Convention Resolution 2-08A. Questioning the qualifications of the responsible committee members, he opines “which members of Committee Two are experts in the sciences of geology, paleontology, biology, and genetics, to be able to speak so authoritatively about this scientific  [evolution] issue.” And what are Dr. Becker’s qualifications? He is an Associate Professor of Theology. It seems reasonable to hold him to his own standard. He’s certainly no expert in any of the areas he mentions either, which renders him no more qualified than they to speak to the scientific aspects of the topic at hand.

Dr. Becker insists in The Scandal that
…Scientific data about the reality of physical death in the animal and plant kingdoms prior to origin of human beings (e.g., fossils of animals that lived long before the origin of human beings) must lead those who interpret the Bible in light of scientific knowledge to restate the nature of God’s good creation prior to the advent of human sin (e.g., such a good creation must have included the reality of death prior to the existence of human beings) and the character of the historical origin of sin (e.g., the advent of sin is to be traced to the first hominids who disobeyed God’s will but not necessarily to their having eaten from a tree in an actual place called the Garden of Eden several thousand years ago).
His reasoning allows him to ask such questions as these, quoted from his essay:
• “Was Adam literally formed from the ground?”
• “Did the snake really speak?”
• “Did God really walk in the garden?”
With this in mind, it becomes obvious that while Adam and Eve were the first hominids to disobey God’s will, they may not have been the first hominids, and they certainly had evolutionary precursors. In other words, Adam and Eve had parents – call them Jack and Jenny, and Barney and Betty. To ward off a potential problem, let’s just say that Jack, Jenny, Barney, and Betty weren’t homo sapiens. Though they looked just like Adam and Eve, they had some minute evolutionary disadvantage, a lack of some obscure or obvious mutation that Adam and/or Eve possessed, that allowed God to draw an evolutionary line in the sand. Adam and Eve surely proclaimed “Our parents may have looked like us, but we’re the dawn of a new branch on the evolutionary tree.” Thus, we can now honestly say that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, because “everyone” that came prior to them weren’t hominids. Be careful though. From now on, when you read Genesis 2:7,
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
you must read it with a wink and a nod in your heart. Of course, this means that St. Paul fouled up when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Apparently Paul wasn’t much of a metaphorical thinker. Writing “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—,“ what he should have written to cover his bases was
Therefore, just as sin ALLEGORICALLY came into the world through one man hominid, and death through sin though all non-hominids already experienced death, and so death spread to all men hominids because all sinned....
One point Dr. Becker uses to undermine the arguments of those individuals who reject evolution is to equate them with those who rejected the Copernican heliocentric universe in the 16th century. If you reject evolution, you’re a medieval rube. (My words, not his.) When J. Gresham Machen wrote his now classic book Christianity and Liberalism, perhaps he was presciently thinking of Dr. Becker’s ideas when he penned these lines:
By them this little book, if it ever comes into their hands, will soon be flung aside as only another attempt at defence of a position already hopelessly lost. There are still individuals, they will say, who believe that the earth is flat; there are also individuals who defend the Christianity of the Church, miracles and atonement and all. In either case, it will be said, the phenomenon is interesting as a curious example of arrested development, but it is nothing more.
Once the creationists have been dealt with, and evolution coronated, women’s ordination becomes all the more easy to tackle. A “figurative” interpretation of Genesis 1-9 is used to redefine the order of creation, and presto chango, women’s ordination is okey dokey. A figurative interpretation of Genesis and women’s ordination go together like peanut butter and jelly, like homosexuality and the ELCA. (If you don’t understand the relationship between women’s ordination and homosexuality, listen to Dr. Al Collver discussing it on Issues, Etc., and read the excellent CPH book Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Perspective.)

Dr. Becker calls evolution and its related subset of “truths” “venerable, commonly-held scientific theories” (quoted from ALPB Forum). Evolution is certainly a commonly held theory, but venerable it’s not. To base theological arguments as weighty as these on a theory as weak as that of evolution is risky at best, irresponsible or negligent more likely. Just because a theory is accepted by a broad swath of society doesn’t mean it’s correct. Faulty reasoning regarding nature should not be allowed to interpret Scripture.

Dr. Becker states “I am a strict Lutheran confessionalist” (same ALPB comment). He says that his views do not undermine the articles of faith. The LCMS CTCR would seem to disagree:
…Dr. Becker’s essays reflect a view of and approach to Scripture that are clearly incompatible with the Synod’s doctrinal position on the authority and interpretation of Holy Scripture….
While Dr. Becker does not espouse materialism, his views on these issues are certainly synchronous in many ways with those who hold to a materialistic worldview, and bring to mind the words of G. K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy:
Scientific materialism binds the Creator Himself; it chains up God as the Apocalypse chained the devil. It leaves nothing free in the universe. And those who assist this process are called the "liberal theologians."
We do not “walk together” as a synod in the LCMS by walking in opposite directions. Dr. Becker’s ideas steer him in a course that’s on the tail of the synodical compass needle, not its head. His acceptance of unproven scientific theory and subsequent faulty theologic reasoning is disheartening. What may be more disturbing is that we as a synod allow him to do so, apparently unmindful of our Constitutional duty as a synod to conserve and promote the unity of the true faith and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism, and heresy, especially when it is within our own ranks. I’d encourage you not to take my word for it, but rather examine what Dr. Becker has to say and decide for yourself. As Charles Porterfield Krauth said in The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, “A Church which contends for nothing, has either lost the truth, or has ceased loving it.”

Click below for quotes from the CTCR response to Dr. Becker and references.

Friday, April 13, 2012

G. K. Chesterton: A Natural-Born Blogger

G. K. Chesterton would have made a great blogger. His thought here mirrors my own:

"After this I begin to sketch a view of life which may not interest my reader, but which, at any rate, interests me."

Gilbert K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Fairbanks: Project Gutenberg, 1994) eBook edition, location 542.

photo credit: giveawayboy

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Self-made Worship

Quoting from Rev. Edward Engelbrecht's book  One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66, in which he quotes from Dr. Martin Luther as follows:
...Let everyone see to it that he is certain his worship and service of God has been instituted by God’s word, and not invented by his pious notions or good intentions. Whoever engages in a form of worship to which God has not borne witness ought to know that he is serving not the true God but an idol that he has concocted for himself. (AE 35:272-73)
Edward Engelbrecht, One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66 (St. Louis: CPH, 2007) 95.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don’t Stop Short

Here's a quote of Pastor Jonathan Fisk on his March 21 Issues, Etc. visit. While he discussed a number of things that fall within the bailiwick of evidential apologetics, he also put the whole thing into perspective at the front end of the discussion. Don’t forget to tell your unbelieving conversation mate, when you're presenting evidence that supports the truth of the Gospel, what they really need to hear: they’re a sinner in need of a Savior, just like the rest of us.  Evidence that proves the reliability of the text of Scripture, or that demonstrates that there really was a historical man named Jesus, is helpful, but it has no power to save. Here’s Pastor Fisk’s comment:
…Really, it doesn’t matter how much good evidence you have for the resurrection, and we’ve got plenty of it, it becomes a matter not of convincing people to look at the evidence, but of preaching sin and grace, of Law and Gospel. And it does become the work of the Spirit to bring us to believe in this resurrection and what it means.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Year of the Lord's Favor

“With Christ there is freedom everywhere.”

-Varia, a young girl writing from a Soviet labor camp sometime in the last century.
17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."  20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."  Luke 4:17-21 ESV
The Varia quote is taken from Richard Wurmbrand's book Tortured for Christ, (Bartlesville: Living Sacrifice Book Company, 1998) 140.

photo credit: Dar

Monday, April 9, 2012

And You Think You've Got It Tough?!

Posted below is a condensed version of part of the autobiography of Pastor Johannes Jacob Strieter, who was ordained in 1852 in the LCMS (at that time called Die Deutsche Evangelish-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und Anderen Staaten). This excerpt describes his time at the "Practical Seminary" in Fort Wayne, Indiana, beginning in 1850.  The Fort Wayne Seminary was started by Wilhelm Löhe in 1846 as a sort of emergency training outpost, designed to prepare pastors for the field rather quickly, a practice which eventually was discontinued.  Dr. Wilhelm Sihler was the head of the Seminary at the time.  As you might imagine, the contrast between today's seminary experience and that of yesteryear is quite dramatic.  I haven't seen too many of our seminarians go for a swim in the river after class, along with the head of the Seminary!


I took the canal boat to Fort Wayne. I went straight to the seminary. Steinbach told me later when they saw me coming, they imagined I was a tramp. The students told me where to find Dr. Sihler. He sat in the kitchen and was making a pony for his son, Christian, by tying his colored handkerchief on a chair leg. He told him who I was, where I came from and what I intended to do. He inquired about Craemer but I could give him no information. October 10, 1850 I arrived in Fort Wayne and Craemer arrived October 24th. Dr. Sihler called up the stairway, “R!” Above his small study the Doctor had a room which served as a lecture room. Two students were sitting there: R. and W. They also boarded with the doctor. R. came and Sihler said, “You take Mr. S to Mrs. Bornemann.” She was a widow and she boarded me for some time. The doctor asked whether I had money. I told him no, and he said, “Good, every quarter year is payday. Then you go to Mr. Griebel and he will give you money.” So it was. Every quarter cost $5.00 which I received from Mr. Griebel. The farmers brought us many things, even half of a hog and fine sausage.

Soon I moved into the seminary. When Professor Craemer arrived, studying certainly began.  There were 20 students and the professor gave us such long lessons to study and prepare that I sometimes only got two hours' sleep. We soon had bad headaches. Lessons began at 8 o'clock. At 10 o'clock we got a slice of bread but no butter. At noon, continuously beans. At one, lessons began again until four.  Then we often went to the river behind the milldam for a swim. Sometimes Doctor went with us.

After I was in college 6 weeks I had to catechize on the Seventh Commandment. Weekly, we were obliged to go to the doctor's house. On the second floor in R's and W's room these lectures were held. The Catechist got six or seven scholars from teacher Wolf. These school children sat on a bench. The college students stood and leaned against the walls of the rooms. The doctor sat in a chair and the Catechist before the children. Fear, we had plenty. I started. I had some practical experience with violation of the seventh commandment. I showed that all humans are thieves. After I was finished the Doctor asked every student in rotation what he had to criticize. Soon after, I delivered a paper on the false doctrines concerning Holy Communion. At another time I attended to a child's burial out in the woods. While we were singing two men stood behind me and sang loud over my shoulder but in the middle they sang differently and upset me. In the second verse just so, but by the third I turned my face somewhat towards them and sang louder and this time I held the melody. I also gave religious instruction in the neighborhood. Once I delivered a funeral sermon from Sihler's pulpit.

Professor Craemer accepted a preaching place and appointed me his Vicar. The place was called Nothstein after a man who resided there. Others lived in the woods about there. It was twelve miles from Fort Wayne. Every two weeks I had to preach. I started in the morning afoot, preached, and held religious instruction with the children, and then walked back in the afternoon.  Twice others relieved me; otherwise I always attended it myself.

In 1852, at the end of June and the beginning of July, a synodical meeting was held in Fort Wayne. A certain Pastor B. from Ohio, was present and joined the synod. B. came to Craemer and asked for a pastor which he needed for a congregation that he had in Ohio. Craemer called me and told me I must be examined and then go to Ohio with Mr. B. to serve as pastor. In reality, R. and I had been appointed to become Indian missionaries. We both were enthusiastic! Craemer had St. Matthew's Gospel translated into the Chippewa language. Roeder and I would open our testament, Craemer would read it in the Indian language and we would repeat it. Then we copied the terrible jawbreakers to memorize them. The Chippewa language had many difficult words, because the language had few words and consequently everything had to be elucidated by description. Miessler, later a doctor in Chicago, who became Baierlein's successor in Bethany told us before he left that the Chippewa language is rooted in the Hebrew.

I pleaded with Professor Craemer not to send me because I wished to study longer, but to no avail. At 8 o'clock I seated myself before Professor Craemer and Dr. Sihler. The students sat behind me. Craemer examined me until 10 o'clock; then after a short pause Dr. Sihler tackled me. His first question was, “What do we read - Matthew 13?” Luckily I knew. But now I also should explain what those parables teach us. How this turned out, I do not remember anymore, but I received my diploma.  On July 4, 1852, we took the canal boat to Toledo. Then on a steamer we went to Sandusky, to Monroe, Detroit, and Cleveland.

photo credit:  curtis4x5

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Who Will Roll the Stone for Us?

Mark 16 

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  3 And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?"  4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back--it was very large.  5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  6 And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."  8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Mark 16:1-8 ESV

photo credit: Jim Forest

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Remember Me!

Job 14

1 "Man who is born of a woman
     is few of days and full of trouble.
2 He comes out like a flower and withers;
     he flees like a shadow and continues not.
3 And do you open your eyes on such a one
     and bring me into judgment with you?
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an
    There is not one.
5 Since his days are determined,
     and the number of his months is with
     and you have appointed his limits that he
       cannot pass,
6 look away from him and leave him alone,
     that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his
7 "For there is hope for a tree,
     if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
     and that its shoots will not cease.
8 Though its root grow old in the earth,
     and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
     and put out branches like a young plant.
10 But a man dies and is laid low;
      man breathes his last, and where is he?
11 As waters fail from a lake
      and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so a man lies down and rises not again;
      till the heavens are no more he will not
      or be roused out of his sleep.
13 Oh that you would hide me in Sheol,
      that you would conceal me until your
        wrath be past,
      that you would appoint me a set time, and
        remember me!
14 If a man dies, shall he live again?
      All the days of my service I would wait,
      till my renewal should come.

Job 14:1-14 ESV

Friday, April 6, 2012

With His Stripes We Are Healed

Isaiah 52, 53

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
       he shall be high and lifted up,
       and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you--
       his appearance was so marred, beyond
          human semblance,
       and his form beyond that of the children of
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
       kings shall shut their mouths because of
     for that which has not been told them they
     and that which they have not heard they
1 Who has believed what he has heard from
   And to whom has the arm of the LORD been
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
     and like a root out of dry ground;
   he had no form or majesty that we should
     look at him,
   and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
     a man of sorrows, and acquainted with
   and as one from whom men hide their faces
     he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
     and carried our sorrows;
   yet we esteemed him stricken,
     smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
     he was crushed for our iniquities;
   upon him was the chastisement that brought
       us peace,
   and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
     we have turned--every one--
       to his own way;
   and the LORD has laid on him
     the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
     yet he opened not his mouth;
   like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
     and like a sheep that before its shearers is
     so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken
   and as for his generation, who considered
   that he was cut off out of the land of the
   stricken for the transgression of my
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
     and with a rich man in his death,
   although he had done no violence,
     and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
       he has put him to grief;
     when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
       he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong
          his days;
     the will of the LORD shall prosper in his
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see
       and be satisfied;
     by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my
     make many to be accounted righteous,
     and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the
     and he shall divide the spoil with the
     because he poured out his soul to death
       and was numbered with the
     yet he bore the sin of many,
       and makes intercession for the

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 ESV

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Your Lamb Shall Be Without Blemish

Exodus 12

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 "This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
    7 "Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 "This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 ESV

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

He Who Vindicates Me Is Near

Isaiah 50

4 The Lord GOD has given me
      the tongue of those who are taught,
   that I may know how to sustain with a word
      him who is weary.
   Morning by morning he awakens;
      he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
      and I was not rebellious;
      I turned not backward.
6 I gave my back to those who strike,
      and my cheeks to those who pull out the
   I hid not my face
      from disgrace and spitting.
7 But the Lord GOD helps me;
      therefore I have not been disgraced;
   therefore I have set my face like a flint,
      and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
8    He who vindicates me is near.
   Who will contend with me?
      Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary?
   Let him come near to me.
9a Behold, the Lord GOD helps me;
      who will declare me guilty?

Isaiah 50:4-9a ESV

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Light for the Nations

Isaiah 49

1 Listen to me, O coastlands,
     and give attention, you peoples from afar.
  The LORD called me from the womb,
     from the body of my mother he named my
2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
     in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
  he made me a polished arrow;
     in his quiver he hid me away.
3 And he said to me, "You are my servant,
     Israel, in whom I will be glorified."
4 But I said, "I have labored in vain;
     I have spent my strength for nothing and
   yet surely my right is with the LORD,
     and my recompense with my God."
5 And now the LORD says,
     he who formed me from the womb to be
       his servant,
   to bring Jacob back to him;
     and that Israel might be gathered to him--
   for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
     and my God has become my strength--
6 he says:
   "It is too light a thing that you should be my
     to raise up the tribes of Jacob
     and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
   I will make you as a light for the nations,
     that my salvation may reach to the end of
       the earth."
7 Thus says the LORD,
     the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
   to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
     the servant of rulers:
  "Kings shall see and arise;
     princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
  because of the LORD, who is faithful,
     the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

Isaiah 49:1-7 ESV

Monday, April 2, 2012

Behold My Servant, Whom I Uphold

Isaiah 42

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
      my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
    I have put my Spirit upon him;
      he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

5 Thus says God, the LORD,
    who created the heavens and stretched
        them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes
        from it,
    who gives breath to the people on it
      and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 "I am the LORD; I have called you in
      I will take you by the hand and keep you;
    I will give you as a covenant for the people,
      a light for the nations,
7    to open the eyes that are blind,
    to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
      from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the LORD; that is my name;
      my glory I give to no other,
      nor my praise to carved idols.
9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
      and new things I now declare;
   before they spring forth
      I tell you of them."

Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Behold, Your King Is Coming

Zechariah 9

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
      Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
   Behold, your king is coming to you;
      righteous and having salvation is he,
   humble and mounted on a donkey,
      on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
       and the war horse from Jerusalem;
    and the battle bow shall be cut off,
       and he shall speak peace to the nations;
    his rule shall be from sea to sea,
       and from the River to the ends of the
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my
       covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the
       waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of
    today I declare that I will restore to you

Zechariah 9:9-12 ESV