Friday, March 30, 2012

The Seeker-Sensitive Military Machine Grinds to a Halt

The 2004 movie Downfall portrayed the last twelve days of Hitler’s life in his Berlin bunker. Since then, the movie has taken on a life of its own. The scene of an enraged Hitler in his bunker has been co-opted by all sorts of people as they insert their own imaginative subtitles, which works well if your audience doesn’t speak German. In this one, Hitler berates his general staff for their failure to fully embrace Hitler’s expansionary seeker-sensitive church growth plans. It’s got some pretty funny lines. Enjoy.

HT: Chris Rosebrough

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lutheran Missiology: Confessing the Primacy of the Means of Grace

Quoting from Dr. Naomichi Masaki's article in the Holy Trinity 1998 issue of Logia (VII, 3) titled "Confessing Christ: Office and Vocation":
Lutheran missiology must confess the primacy of the means of grace. To confess the means of grace is to confess the office of the holy ministry (AC V) and its instrumentality in the confession of the gospel itself. Such, indeed, was Luther’s own understanding of the missionary task. According to Luther, the task of a missionary is to teach true worship. To emphasize this point, Luther cites the example of Noah. Luther notes that when Noah was traveling around the world, preaching everywhere, he was “giving instructions concerning the true worship of God.” Since for Luther there is no true worship of God other than what God himself has given, the sacraments together with preaching, he sees Noah as guiding people to sacramental worship so that they could meet God in “the covering.” The work of a missionary never stops at baptism, but it continues in teaching, until all are brought into the world of the Divine Service, where our crucified and risen Lord is present to give them his gifts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Get Your Free Copy of Higher Things Magazine

The Spring 2012 issue of Higher Things Magazine is out.  It has a number of great articles on apologetics, designed to arm you, or your high school or college age kid, with tools that will help you give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  Authors include Pastor George Borghardt, Pastor Jonathan Fisk, Pastor Mark Pierson, Editor Katie Micilcavage, Pastor Bill Cwirla, Pastor Ian Pacey, Pastor Brent Kuhlman, Dr. Adam Francisco, and apologist Craig Parton.  That's one heckuva lineup!

Equally impressive, you can download this issue for free at the Higher Things website.  Give it a read, and pass it along to the kids at church.  Check it out here, or download the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eat Chocolate, Get Skinny

Here’s a study I can get behind. According to a letter published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and reported on Bloomberg, a study of 1,000 people concluded that those who ate chocolate about five times a week had a one point lower body mass index than those who didn’t. That equates to about 5 pounds less for someone five feet tall and weighing 120 pounds.

Will eating chocolate five times a day make you even skinnier? I’m offering to be a participant in their next study to find out.

HT: Pastor Scott Klemsz

photo credit: Dale

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Glamorous Life of the Airline Pilot

My buddy Jim Lancaster is a fellow pilot. He, like a lot of other pilots, leads a charmed and glamorous life. When he's not commanding a big jet airliner, he might be spending time at one of his homes, the closest one to work being three miles east of Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles. It’s a short trip to sand between your toes and a little boogie boarding. As you might expect, the price of real estate here is pretty high. There’s an even steeper price to pay for this prime piece of terra firma though. What price does Jim pay for his slice of California dreamin’?

$60 per month – it’s a rented piece of crumbling asphalt in the Los Angeles World Airport’s Parking Lot B, directly under the approach end of Runway 25L. This prime spot is great if you’re a pilot. You can hear the alluring whisper of a high bypass turbofan jet engine (or four) passing directly over your head every couple of minutes. Or the subtle concussion of a 747 taking off from the adjacent runway. Never mind if one of these airborne aluminum marvels should happen to land short and send trailers skittering like silver balls across the tilted horizontal plain of a pulsating pinball machine. As an added bonus, Jim gets to live away from his family for much of the time in his luxurious 2001 Tradewinds trailer, parked among a bunch of other airline types who also live the glamorous life in Lot B. Jim dreams of going home to Seattle on the “weekends” – although maybe that dream is a kerosene-induced chimera, brought on by the constant smell of combusted jet fuel gently rolling between his and the other trailers like a romantic San Francisco fog.

Click on the graphic for a larger view of the LAX environs

Jim is one of the many pilots who “commute” to work – living in one place but being based somewhere else. These pilots, when their work week ends, seek the nearest congested gate with the fastest jet to get them back home, wherever that might be. Sometimes they do this because they don’t want to uproot their family, or they can’t afford to live where they’re based, or their base is a crime-ridden metropolis where no one wants to live. At any rate there’s a whole lot of commuting going on. These pilots, if the back end of the airplane is full, sit in an uncomfortable extra seat in the flight deck called the jump seat. (The only good thing about this is that it's free.)  There’s no week that goes by where I don’t have one of these forlorn pilots, trying to get where they need to go, sitting in my jump seat.

So the next time you see your pilot showing up for work and looking a little harried, well maybe it wasn’t really his or her first flight of the day. My, what we won’t do to fly for a living! And if you're feeling particularly sorry for your displaced pilot, chocolate is always a nice gesture. Fortunately, I’ve never commuted, having always been blessed with a decent place to be based (although chocolate is still a nice gesture).

The Lot B denizens have been the subject of more than one newspaper article, including this one written by Daniel Weikel in the Los Angeles Times in 2009, from which I drew a little of the information used to write this post. Happy flying!

map courtesy of Google Maps

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Districts Gone Bad

Overtures to conventions have a way of disappearing. Presidents are often given the power to disallow an overture if they deem it to be factually in error. Here is the colorful tale of an overture that was sent to the waterless desert graveyard of rejected overtures. In this case, it was an overture in support of University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) in Minnesota, sent to the Minnesota North District Convention by one of its circuits. I converted the original pdf file to a graphic so it could be posted. You can find the original pdf file on the ULC website here. Decide for yourself it the overture contained factual errors.

The ULC property has been sold out from under them by the Minnesota South District. They are in their last month before they must pack up and leave, leaving behind many hopes and dreams and stepping into an uncertain future. Fortunately, God promises to be with them! More information on the sale of ULC can be found here, as well as ways in which you can help.

Click on the graphic to enlarge

The Church in Motion

Quoting from Dr. Naomichi Masaki's article in the Holy Trinity 1998 issue of Logia (VII, 3) titled "Confessing Christ: Office and Vocation":
...It is clear that the church does not stop. From the Father to the Son to the apostles to the office of the holy ministry to all people. The movement is that of the Holy Spirit delivering the forgiveness of sins. And yet this movement can be halted when the work of missions is halted. Wilhelm Löhe says it well:
For mission is nothing but the one church of God in motion, the actualization of the one universal, catholic church.... Mission is the life of the catholic church. Where it stops, blood and breath stop; where it dies, the love which unites heaven and earth also dies. The catholic church and mission—these two no one can separate without killing both, and that is impossible.
Werner Elert affirms that this statement of Löhe’s was “exactly what Luther thought.” He continues: “The motion of the one church—church is motion, for it merely expresses the endless dynamic of the Gospel.” This motion of the church is further urged by William C. Weinrich:
To reflect upon “mission” or upon “evangelism” is to reflect upon the Church itself, for the act of mission or of evangelism is not accidental or coincidental to the Church—like the activity of golf, tennis or horseback riding is to this or that individual—but the act of mission belongs to the very “core” of what it means to be the Church.... The Church evangelized because it had to. This assertion is to be understood in the strictest possible sense. The early Church did not begin the work of evangelism simply because Christ commanded it (cf. Matt. 28:19); mission was not simple obedience to a high authority. Nor did the Church evangelize out of a sense of gratitude for God’s love, out of a sense of responsibility in light of the last judgment, or out of a sense of concern for fallen man’s destiny— although these may be considered “emotive causations” for the Church’s mission activity, as we shall note below. Rather, the Church evangelized because it could not do otherwise, and it could not do otherwise because in the Holy Spirit the Church had been taken up into the very activity of God in Christ whereby the final purposes of God are fulfilled. The early Church did not understand mission as a merely human action done in response to the good things God had done. Mission was perceived christologically— as God acting for the salvation of fallen mankind, but God acting only in union with mankind. The early Church understood mission to be the very expression of the Lordship of Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Thus a christological understanding of missions is to be found in the way of the administration of the means of grace through the office of the holy ministry. In the book of Acts, as the faithful celebrated the sacrament and prayed continually, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). It was the Lord’s doing; they could not claim any credit by their founding mission societies, organizing city missions, or writing books on dynamic evangelism. As the liturgy through preaching and the Lord’s Supper continues to move us from within to without (toward God in faith and toward the neighbor in love), so the church itself moves toward all people. This is the flow of God’s sending.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quotable Blog Quotes #16

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

The Brothers of John the Steadfast
Pastor Martin Noland
SMP Program is “Mega-Death for Lutheran Congregations

So, to put it simply, the real purpose of the SMP program was to reduce the training requirements for the pastoral office and to bypass the “gate-keeping” function of the seminary admissions offices.

Confessional Gadfly
Pastor Eric Brown
Letting Jesus be the Hero

It's not about you, it's not about your works or your praise or your strength or the justice you bring -- it's about Christ and His salvation and His righteousness. Come, let us fix our eyes not upon ourselves, but upon Christ Jesus, for He gives us faith and He brings that faith to its full end and flower in the life of the world to come!

Confessional Gadfly
Pastor Eric Brown
Seeing Through Dame Reason’s Stylish Sunglasses

I see people dimming the light of God's revealed Word by choosing to look through dame reason's stylish sunglasses.

Gottesdienst Online
Pastor Jason Braaten
Playing the das-ist-Katholisch Card

The Western Rite then should be the Lutheran's default position not an add-on of Roman Catholic style to an otherwise abstracted and neutral Lutheran substance. The historic ceremonies of the Western Rite retained during the Reformation are ours. They are our heritage. This isn't about style. This is about who we are as Lutherans and about what we believe, teach, and confess. After everything that obstructed the Gospel was removed, what remained was pure Gospel, a Gospel enacted by the very ceremonies of the Western Rite.

And so claiming the ceremonies of the Western Rite is, in fact, to teach and confess as Lutherans believe. It is teaching what it means to be Lutheran in word and deed. That is, after all, what ceremonies do, is it not (AC XXIV:1-3)? They teach. So let's teach. Teach your people. Use the historic ceremonies of the Western Church, vetted and retained during the Reformation, to teach what we as Lutherans believe, teach, and confess.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Your Long Lost Cousin Wasn’t a Chimpanzee!

Time to redraw the diagram. As genome mapping becomes more sophisticated and more organisms are studied in greater detail, it looks like the branches of the evolutionary tree have been drawn in the wrong spots. Maybe there aren’t any branches. To quote Jeffrey Tomkins, Ph.D., discussing a recent article in Nature magazine on the Institute for Creation Research website,
In a significant number of cases, evolutionary trees based on DNA sequences show that humans are more closely related to gorillas or orangutans than chimpanzees—again, all depending on which DNA fragment is used for the analysis. The overall outcome is that no clear path of common ancestry between humans and various primates exists, so no coherent model of primate evolution can be achieved.
Of course, that’s not news to many Christians, who draw their evolutionary conclusions first and foremost from Scripture. For them, man was created in God’s image rather than having evolved from the primordial goo to you. Once again, it appears that science is further vindicating the truth of the Bible. But then again, whether science seems to agree with Scripture or not, Truth will always be found in the person of Jesus Christ – He is the way, the truth, and the life.

photo credit: Bryan Wright

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dead, Dry Bones Come to Life in Wittenberg: The Latin School Will Teach Once Again

Both Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon worked tirelessly to introduce a proper educational system in German Saxony. One of their success stories was the Boys’ Latin School in Wittenberg, established in 1533. Here the students obtained a proper classical education whose foundation was Jesus Christ. This school, and others like it, became a strong support structure for the Reformation, as the students were taught the faith as well as the Trivium and the Quadrivium. Students in the upper level studied Hebrew and Greek, and some of them went on to Wittenberg University to become Lutheran pastors. Even now, this system of classical education has left its mark in our present Concordia system. Today in the city of Wittenberg there is a remnant of that system which is being resurrected.

The Wittenberg Boys’ Latin School was founded under the watchful eye of Luther and Melanchthon in 1533 (there was a girls’ school as well). In 1564, the school moved to a new building, across from Luther’s church, the Stadtkirche (also known as St. Mary’s or Town Church in English). That building, like many centuries-old buildings, has survived a number of iterations, including life as a publishing plant and a clothes factory, having now stood empty for nearly two decades. It was built on the site of the old Wittenburg ossuary. The Christians whose bones have been found in a dig beneath the building await the trumpet call when Christ will return and bring their bones back to life. Similarly, as the carcass of this old building is brought back to life, the dead, dry bones of unbelievers will come to life as the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ once again issues forth from this building.

Part of the original plan for the building was to house a museum called the Martin Luther Experience. That portion of the plan has been scrapped due to monetary constraints. While a museum would have been nice, I can’t help but be excited about the enduring legacy that will be created by present and future Lutherans who will come into contact with the Gospel here. The building is currently being remodeled, with appointments for
  • Educational and cultural programs
  • Short-term guest housing for visitors, scholars, teachers and students – especially from LCMS universities and seminaries
  • Research and writing
  • Historical exhibits
  • Dining and fellowship
  • A welcome center
The Wittenberg Latin School will teach once again, as the Lord restores dead, dry bones to life through His Gospel. Here’s a video taken by President Matt Harrison which shows the interior of the building:

Friday, March 16, 2012


In a recent appearance on Issues, Etc., Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Matt Harrison gets a chuckle out of Host Todd Wilken’s denial of any affiliation with, or knowledge of, Synodocat. I’m not a behavioral analyst or anything, but doesn’t that look on Pastor Wilken’s face say it all? Plus of course, the cat in the background.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

True Union Among Christians

Quoting from a sermon of Dr. Martin Luther preached in his home on Maundy Thursday in 1534:
Another benign effect of this Sacrament is the union, in faith and doctrine, which it produces among Christians, and which is so very necessary. To bring about true union among Christians it is not sufficient that they come together to hear the same preaching and the same word, but they must also meet around the same altar to receive the same food and drink. One may, perchance, hear me preach the word and yet be my enemy; but if one partakes of the Lord’s Supper he, by that act, makes for himself, individually, a public confession of his faith, although there may be hypocrites now and then; and thus a more reliable union, between the Christians who unite in this Sacrament, is formed than if they merely had the Gospel preached unto them, though this may also cause them to be of one mind. Those of the same faith and the same hope unite at the Table of the Lord, while those of a different faith stand aloof. Agreement in the church is very desirable, and there should be no divisions in matters of faith. This union was properly called by a Latin term, Communio, a communion, and those who would not agree with other Christians in faith, doctrine, and life, were called Excommunicati, as being different in their belief and conduct, and hence unworthy to belong to the congregation of those who are of one mind, lest they might produce dissensions and schisms. By means also of the Holy Sacrament Christ establishes this union among the little company of His believers.
This quote is taken from the inaugural edition of Logia in 1992, in an article titled “Two Sermons on the Holy Supper.” They in turn were quoting from the house postil, in this case from Sermons on the Gospels for the Sundays and Principal Festivals of the Church Year by Martin Luther, translated by E. Schmid and edited by M. Loy (Rock Island, Illinois: Augustana Book Company, 1871).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Right Mix

There’s a lot of really gifted, highly qualified people who helped write Concordia Publishing House’s book Lutheranism 101, many of whom I especially admire. Starting on page 299 there’s a list of contributors. They include deans, pastors, business managers, seminary faculty, people with bachelors and masters degrees and doctorates, commission members, DCEs, graduates of Cambridge and Stanford, district presidents, editors and authors, deaconesses, consultants, lecturers and writers, supervisors and church planters. But there’s one that really stands out, and that’s the bio of Rebekah Curtis. What could be so special amongst all the others? See for yourself:
Rebekah Curtis makes food, cleans up messes, and writes sporadically. She vaguely remembers receiving a BS in education from Concordia University Nebraska and an MA from Concordia Seminary. Rebekah reports that she and her husband have five children, all above average.
Now that’s a bio. The right mix of humor, humility, and vocation. I’ll have to remember that.

photo credit: Paul-W

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Is the Proper Role of Laymen in the Church?

Mr. Gene White, who is a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer for Confessional Lutherans for Christ's Commission, has written a paper which explores the role of laymen in the Church. This is a topic which at times generates questions, and sometimes leads to controversy between those of varying opinion. I invite you to read and consider Gene's paper, and please feel free to leave your comments. You can download the entire paper here.

A Presentation of Lay Leadership and Teaching in the History of the Early Church and the Lutheran Church to the Present Time

This effort has been prompted by questions concerning the “proper” role of the laity in church leadership, particularly in the area of teaching. I view the clergy/laity to be one of historical partnership, each having its proper and defined role based on Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. It is unfortunate that some have come up with different definitions of this relationship which either restrict the working relationship, or make the relationships almost interchangeable. Both extremes infringe on the proper exercise of vocation. Further, this paper will most likely not change anyone’s mind in this matter, but hopefully it will provide a fair and balanced approach to the surrounding issues and prevent someone from falling into one of the extremes.

The two ends of the question have been answered in practical terms by those that adhere to the “every man is a minister” theology on one end of the scale, to those who maintain that the laity cannot teach religious topics publicly, as being solely the function of an ordained and called minister. The Augsburg Confession Article XIV being the cited reference in the later instance. The other end of the question is not germane to the question, so it will not be addressed.

The early church is the obvious place to start, with the Lutheran Reformation also being a significant data point. Three questions need to be addressed, and they are all intertwined with the starting point.
  1. What is the correct historic interpretation of Article XIV?
  2. What laymen held leadership roles down through history from the early church through the Reformation period and up to modern times? (When dealing with historical reviews it should be noted that if the people were important and held dominate positions they may have been mentioned, otherwise, not at all.)
  3. In addition to public leadership on behalf of the church, which of these individuals also publicly taught religious topics, lectured, etc.?
In starting the research on this presentation I have used the Internet, plus several references published by CPH and a few Pastor friends who have been kind enough to make contributions to this effort. Investigations, such as this one, must look at several sources to put together a mosaic of the people and events, because not all references totally agree with each other. I have used what sources are available to me, which reflect the available views, if there is a conflicting view I use the majority view. I will also deal with the first question last, as the proper context must be developed before the question is answered. In fact, context is an important point to remember because we tend to see history from our current context, not the context that was in play at the time of the events under discussion.

Another critical issue, though not really a part of the original effort, is to address the historical treatment of those non-clergy professional church workers who have been called to serve full time in the Lord’s vineyard, as distinguished from those who have not. Another way to pose that point could be, “When is a layman a professional layman (commissioned, etc.) and when is the layman an “ordinary layman?” That question will have to be answered by someone having a higher grade level than mine, as there does not seem to be consistent agreement, particularly in these times about this important question. It is a question of everybody not fitting neatly into distinct boxes and somehow I think the Lord never intended that to be so. Thus for the purposes of this presentation I will refer to three classes of people, clergy, professional church workers (technically layman), and ordinary laymen. Professional church workers consist of many job descriptions, but for our purposes in this presentation I will speak primarily of those who are professors of theology and teachers in K-12 and college positions.

The Early Church

In the early church Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160 - 225) is a good example of a teaching layman, who also wrote extensively on theological topics, and served essentially as an early theologian. It would appear from one source that laymen of such talent held the title of Master, or Master Teacher. (It is about this time when the term clergy and layman came into use.) There are some who say he was a deacon, while others say he was a teacher first and later became a deacon. Jerome says that he became a clergyman at some point, and the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity states he became a presbyter, which was an ordained position. What was the sequence of events seems to be the issue. Later in life, he was expelled from the Church for his attributed beliefs, with some sources saying it was unjustly done….a pattern that later developed into more draconian methods for dealing with those who irritated the early church.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Remeber When... #2: Issues, Etc. Rises Again

Remember when the Issues, Etc. home page looked like this...

...instead of like this?:

Pastor Wilken in a tie, instead of a tee shirt! Ironically (or maybe not), today Issues, Etc. makes its reappearance on the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's AM radio station KFUO, less than a week from the four year anniversary of its original cancellation on March 18, 2008.  Like the mythical phoenix, Issues has once again arisen from the ashes, this time back at its original home, but without the shackles of Synodical censure or the whim of bureauocratic  expediency.

This time they're paying their own way, purchasing ten hours of live programming weekly, from  3-5 p.m. CST weekdays on KFUO 850 AM in the St. Louis area. Hopefully this will be a stepping stone to bigger things.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Evidence and the Proof

All bundled up and ready for my run along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage. It’s 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and I'm appropriately dressed in cap, Brooks Adrenalines, tights, a long sleeved shirt, running jacket and gloves.

Just minutes before I was on the phone with our daughter, telling her I was headed for a run along the Coastal Trail. As I hung up I jokingly commented that I hoped I wouldn’t fall into the water or get attacked by a moose. Paige sounded a bit alarmed. Well, you can’t really fall into the water on this trail, especially since it’s all frozen along the shore at this time of year, although a moose encounter is a definite possibility. Here’s the photographic report of my beautiful snowy run from Elderberry Park to Earthquake Park and back.

The evidence

The proof

Looking across the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet to Mt. Susitna

Downtown Anchorage

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sold Out - for Now: Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North

Last September I blogged about a soon to be released book titled Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North by Richard Davies and Matilda Moreton. Mr. Davies emailed me at the end of January letting me know that the book had been released. I guess nobody will accuse me of being a "quick draw" - yep, it's been released, and now it's sold out. Apparently it's a very popular book. I suspect they'll print more (White Sea Publishing, London). Here's a couple more photos of the book. For information on where you might still be able to procure one, you can visit Mr. Davies website here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Can Grape Juice Be Substituted for Wine in The Lord's Supper?

Quoting from the article "Opinion of the Department of Systematic Theology: The Fruit of the Vine in the Sacrament of the Altar" (Concordia Theological Quarterly, January - April 1981), in which they leave no doubt that there can be no substitute for wine in the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Scriptural texts leave no doubt that Christ was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples. Among the foodstuffs on the table would have been unleavened bread and wine. As regards the latter, it was without question the fermented product of the grape vine, in view of the fact that this was the spring of the year, probably April. Moreover, wine was the customary drink of the Jews at solemn festival meals, the peri haggephen (liturgical Hebrew for "fruit of the vine"). There can be no doubt then, as Lenski points out, that this fruit of the vine" - with emphasis on the this - which the Passover cup contained "shuts out any and all other products of the vine save actual wine and thwarts all modern efforts that speak of unfermented grape juice, raisin tea, or diluted grape syrup" (Commentary on Matthew, p. 1028). The point is that "fruit of the vine" is a technical term which in the stated contexts can have no other meaning than wine. The church has never, from that day forward, felt at liberty to alter the solemn testament given by Christ in  conjuction with the bread and the wine of the Sacrament (cf. Matt. 28:20; Gal. 3: 15). Whenever such altering or substitution was introduced, it was promptly repudiated, lest any doubt be cast upon the validity of the sacrament as Christ instituted it.

photo credit: Vainsang

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Warm Up!

Getting a little tired of winter? Since I was taking a blogging break last summer, I didn't get a chance to post any VBS photos - so warm up with a few of these:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Beware the Tract!

At the end of an arid run in Las Vegas, I stopped at the McDonald's a block down from the hotel to grab something to drink. I figured they wouldn’t appreciate sweat rolling off my face as I stood in line, so I went into the rest room to rinse off a little. It was there that I spotted a couple of “tracts” obviously left in a strategic spot by some enterprising evangelist. One of my odd little quirks is collecting tracts. There’s a folder in our aging file cabinet with tracts from all over the place. You never know where you’ll spot one, and it’s always an adventure trying to predict from the cover what the inside will reveal.

One of the two tracts was titled “The Last Days” – I’ll leave that one to your imagination. The other was titled “ANGEL OF LIGHT,” and it was decidedly un-angelic and unenlightening. These particular black and white beauties were obviously made on somebody’s copy machine, each held together by a single staple. While the author did reference multiple Bible verses, he or she lacked a proper understanding of the distinction between Law and Gospel, and lacked an understanding of simul justus et peccator, that we’re simultaneously saint and sinner.

Our tract starts out with the protagonist, James, being convicted of his sins by a pastor’s sermon, followed by his repentance. We then see this scene:

James replies: “But Johnny, the Bible says we can’t serve two masters! maybe you aren’t a Christian.” Says Johnny, “Loosen up! you’ll figure it out, don’t worry so much, God understands.” And James replies “Sorry I can’t go. I’m going to study the Bible.” Two pages later we again find James listening to a sermon:

Page 7 continues:

Then on page 8: “I don’t wilfully do wrong. –Wilfully- what does the Bible say about wilful? Aw, Hebrews 10:26 for if we sin wilfully after that we have recieved the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins! Once I recognize a thought, an attitude, a false statement, or anything else is wrong, what I do with it determines whether it is sin. I have the will to choose! There is no sin I must do! They are not sin until I realize the wrong, and continue in it!”

The rest of the tract piles the Law so high that it’s difficult to find any Gospel, quoting 1 Peter 2:21-22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The author fails to understand that we are simultaneously sinner and saint. Christians are called to avoid sin, yet we still sin. And if you did manage to go without sinning, you’re still a sinner, because original sin corrupts your nature. St. Paul answers James’ rhetorical question of page 6,

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Do the Words of Institution Hold?

From Luther’s tract That These Words of Christ “This Is My Body” Still Firmly Stand Against the Schwaermer, written in 1527:
Thus the words (of institution) hold first the bread and cup for the sacrament, the bread and the cup hold the body and blood of Christ, the body and blood hold the New Testament, the New Testament holds forgiveness of sins, and forgiveness of sins holds life eternal and salvation.

E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times: The Reformation from a New Perspective, (St. Louis: CPH, 1950) 703.