Archive for March, 2006

United Church of Christ At It Again

March 31st, 2006 4 comments

Well, they are at it again…insulting every Christian church in the nation in their desperate attempt at saving themselves from oblivion. I’m talking about the United Church of Christ and their ridiculously offensive television advertisements. In this one there is portrayed a mother with a crying child, a gay couple, a Hispanic man, a handicapped person and a poor person being "ejected" out of their church pew. Think I’m making this up? Nope. Oh, yes, do keep in mind this is yet another church that the ELCA is in full communion with.

Categories: Uncategorized

Test Your Geek Chic Results

March 31st, 2006 2 comments

NEWSWEEK, this week, has a full page "Geek" test. I scored 64. What does this mean? The key on the page indicates: "60+: Seriously nerdy" — and there you have it. You can take the quiz yourself.

Categories: Web/Tech

Lutheran Service Book

March 31st, 2006 5 comments

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in which I serve as a pastor, has prepared a new Lutheran hymnal. I have been aware of, and involved in certain ways, in this project for many years. It began when in the mid-1990s, Rev. A.L. Barry, of blessed memory, was serving as president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Rev. Dr. Paul Grime, Executive Director of the Synod’s Commission on Worship, some time soon after he came to serve in this position, began talking about the need for a new hymnal to replace "Lutheran Worship." Dr. Barry, at a meeting of the Commission on Worship, indicated that 2007 would seem like a good year for a new hymnal to be made available to the Missouri Synod and so the ball was set in motion. Dr. Grime, with the able assistance of his co-worker in The LCMS Commission on Worship, Rev. Jon Vieker, started into the project, a preliminary step along the way being the production of "Hymnal Supplement ’98." Well, we are at the point now where the new hymnal will soon be, God willing, a reality. And it is  fantastic. It has been prepared by the LCMS Commission on Worship and has been worked on for many years by committees consisting of literally hundreds of people who have, for the past number of years, devoted themselves to producing for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the wider English-speaking Lutheran community, a hymnal that provides the best of both old and new.

A new web site has been established that will provide a "one stop shop" for news and information about Lutheran Service Book and its various companion pieces, as this information becomes available.

I’ve seen recently first pages of the new hymnal and it is simply gorgeous. It is going to be a tremendous resource, in both style and substance.

I invite you to visit the CPH Lutheran Service Book web site, and bookmark and return often to keep up to date on the progression of the hymnal’s production.

Gore is Good: On the New Horror Movies

March 29th, 2006 1 comment

Coming home from work today, I found the latest issue of NEWSWEEK waiting for me [April 3, 2006]. A story in the magazine discusses the new style of horror movies that are all the rage at the box office, and most often among the under 25 set. They are incredibly and sadistically gory and gruesome, described by one New York Times critic as "torture porn." One young man is quoted as complaining after viewing one of them that it was not bloody enough for him. The article reminded me, in a striking way, of Tertullian’s writing De Spectaculis, "On the Spectacles" — a work in which this Early Church Father wrote against Christians viewing the spectacles of the gladiatorial sports that were so common-place in his days, and the theater of his time that featured absolute filth and raunch, live on the stage. Consider how he answers a protest he commonly heard to the concerns expressed about Christians filling their eyes with the "torture porn" of their days:

"Everyone is quick to argue that since all things were created by God and given to man to use, they must be good, since they are all from a good source. We see many good things in the public shows: the horse, the lion, bodily strength, and musical voice. So, since these things all exist by God’s creative will, they can’t be foreign or hostile to Him. And if they are not opposed to Him, they can’t be considered harmful to those who worship Him, since these things are not foreign to them." [Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Ch. 2]

Some things never change, do they?

Tertullian concludes his magnificent work on this issue, one we do well to ponder today, by offering an alternative to the public shows and spectacles:

"What are the things which eye has not
seen, ear has not heard, and which have not so much as dimly dawned
upon the human heart? Whatever they are, they are nobler, I believe,
than circus, and both theatres, and every race-course."

Much to think about, don’t you think?

Categories: Film

“Somebody, a long time ago, did it all for us.”

March 26th, 2006 1 comment

Good news! The Afghan convert is set to be released. Some quotes from news reports follow. Whenever we are tempted to believe our problems are too great to handle, consider this man’s plight and his bold and courageous faith in Christ.

Rahman is being held in a cell by himself next to
the office of a senior prison guard, the warden said. He showed the AP the
outside of Rahman’s cell door, but refused to allow reporters to speak to
him or see him.

He said Rahman had been asking guards for a Bible but that they did not have any to give him.

He said he was fully aware of his
choice and was ready to die for it, according to an interview published Sunday
in an Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have
chosen. If I must die, I will die," Abdul Rahman told the Rome daily, responding
to questions sent to him via a human rights worker who visited him in prison.

"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

Rahman also told the Italian newspaper that his family
– including his ex-wife and teenage daughters — reported him to the authorities
three weeks ago.

He said he made his choice to become a Christian "in
small steps," after he left Afghanistan 16 years ago. He moved to Pakistan,
then Germany. He tried to get a visa in Belgium.

"In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization.
They were Catholics," Rahman said. "I started talking to them about religion,
I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind."

  Afghan convert set to be freed


      An Afghan man charged with converting to Christianity is set to be released from jail while his case is reviewed.


Abdul Rahman’s case has been handed back to the attorney-general because of gaps in the evidence, an official said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that while the
attorney-general looked at the papers, Mr Rahman did not need to be

Mr Rahman, a Christian for 16 years, was charged with rejecting Islam and potentially faced the death penalty.


Afghanistan’s legal system is built on Islamic Sharia law, and Mr
Rahman could have faced execution if he had refused to renounce

      Karzai concerned


The Afghan government has come under increasing pressure over the case, says the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul.

Key international backers of President Hamid Karzai have called for Mr
Rahman’s release, while Muslim conservatives in Afghanistan are in
favour of his detention.

Mr Karzai has personally intervened in the case and
several top level meetings have been held over the past two days to
resolve the issue.

Details of his imminent release are being kept secret, as feelings in Kabul have run high over the case.

      ’Mental issues’


Earlier, Mr Rahman’s family asked the court to dismiss the case against him, saying he suffered from mental illness.

Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told the BBC there was considerable doubt that Mr Rahman was fit to stand trial.

According to Judge Mawlavizada, Mr Rahman appeared "disturbed".

He said the accused man’s relatives had told the authorities he was
insane and that they claimed Mr Rahman had said he heard strange voices
in his head.

The judge also said it was not clear if the accused was really an Afghan or a citizen of another country.

Mr Rahman has lived outside Afghanistan for 16 years and is believed to
have converted to Christianity during a stay in Germany.



Categories: The Persecuted Church

Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel

March 26th, 2006 2 comments

A friend of mine recently pointed out a book to me that I’d been meaning to acquire for a long time: Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel. It was first published in the Library of Christian Classics series. It is now reprinted by Regent College. I managed to snag a first edition from a used book site. What is it? A collection of letters by Martin Luther, many of which were never translated before. It is edited and translated by Theodore Tappert and was done before the American Edition of Luther’s Works project got underway. There is quite a lot here in English that is available nowhere else.

Categories: Uncategorized

Martin Luther, the Ballet

March 24th, 2006 1 comment

This is quite remarkable, a ballet on the life and work of Martin Luther.

Link: Martin Luther / the Ballet.

Categories: Uncategorized

Patriarch? No. Supreme Pontiff? Yes.

March 24th, 2006 1 comment

The Pope decided to drop one ancient title for the Pope: Patriarch of the West. This was thought to be something that might encourage the reunification of East and West, for no longer would the Pope basically lay claim to anything and everything not covered by the Eastern Patriarchs. But, apparently, not everyone views it that way. The Russian Patriarch rightly notes that there is still that "minor detail" of the first title in the long list of titles claimed by the Pope "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church." The Orthodox churches are not the only ones that reject this claim. We Lutherans do as well.  The reality is that Christ did not, and does not, ordain and establish a "universal pontiff." That is both a theological and historical fiction.

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
24 March 2006 


Pope abandons ancient title, but ‘creates conundrum’ about unity


By Luigi Sandri 
Rome, 24 March (ENI)–Pope Benedict XVI has dropped one of his
official titles – that of "Patriarch of the West" – in a move the
Vatican says may help church unity but which has been criticised
by a prominent Russian Orthodox bishop. 

In a 22 March statement, the Pontifical Council for Promoting
Christian Unity said the title first used by a pope in AD 642 had
been abandoned because it had become "obsolete and practically

It said, "The renouncement of this title aims to express a
historical and theological reality and at the same time … could
prove useful to ecumenical dialogue." 

The dropping of the title in the official Vatican directory, the
"Annuario pontificio", was reported at the beginning of March but
at the time the Vatican offered no explanation for the change. 

Some analysts speculated it was intended to help the Vatican’s
dialogue with Eastern Orthodox churches which is seen as one of
Pope Benedict’s priorities. 

The role of the papacy is a key stumbling block in the relations
between the two Christian traditions, which are scheduled to
restart theological talks in September after a six-year break. 

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini was reported saying the title had
been used in the past to provoke negative comparisons between
papal claims of universal jurisdiction by the worldwide
"Patriarchate of the West" and the more restricted size and
jurisdiction of the traditional Orthodox patriarchates. 

However, Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and
Austria, warned that it was not clear "how the removal of the
title could possibly ameliorate Catholic-Orthodox relations".   

The Pope’s other titles included that of "Supreme Pontiff of the
Universal Church", and Hilarion suggested the Pope was seeking to
confirm a claim to universal church jurisdiction also over the
patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox church. 

"With relation to the pope of Rome the title ‘Supreme Pontiff of
the Universal Church’ points to the pope’s universal jurisdiction
which is not and will never be recognised by the Orthodox
Churches," Hilarion noted in a statement carried on the Web site "It is precisely this title that should
have been dropped first, had the move been motivated by the  *
desire for amelioration of the Catholic-Orthodox relations." [381

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Categories: Roman Catholicism

“Evangelical” Theologian Argues for Gay Rights

March 24th, 2006 6 comments

Louisville, Kentucky—Taking on the most divisive issue in the church today the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jack Rogers, argues unequivocally for the ordination and marriage of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) in Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.

A life-long evangelical and a respected theologian, Rogers argues that fidelity to the Bible demands equal rights in the church and society for people who are LGBT. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers’s own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church’s well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; and debunks oft-repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians.

“The best methods of interpretation, from the Reformation on down through today, call upon us to interpret the Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry. Using this method we see clearly that Jesus and the Bible, properly understood, do not condemn people who are homosexual,” Rogers writes in a stirring conclusion that is sure to provoke debate.

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality was released this March by Westminster John Knox Press to widespread attention and acclaim. Yesterday, Rogers was the featured guest on KQED San Francisco’s “Forum,” which skyrocketed sales on And next week, Rogers will begin a national book tour with more than twenty speaking engagements confirmed.

The book has also received glowing reviews from some of America’s foremost religious leaders:

“This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality,” says J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church (where Bill Clinton worshipped) in Washington, D.C. “Rogers frames the issues on deep biblical and theological grounds, challenging superficial readings of Scripture. The book is wonderfully relevant… It is a gift to all of us.”

“This book is simply wonderful—an intelligent, well-researched, amazingly helpful contribution by a person of faith to one of the most difficult debates of our time,” declares Joanna Adams, pastor of Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

“Rogers’s arguments are relentless, accurate, and devastating to those who claim that there are serious scriptural, doctrinal, or confessional reasons to deprive LGBT people from full participation in the life and ministry of the church,” states the Reverend Elder Nancy Wilson, the Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church.

“Rogers adds immensely to those who argue for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church and in the clergy,” says the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, Episcopal Church. “His experience in and reflections on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be useful to people of ALL mainline denominations. Especially helpful was his analysis of how ‘other’ theories (natural law, complementary body parts, etc.) are superimposed onto scriptural texts without any scriptural basis. For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     March 24, 2006

For additional information contact:
Gavin Stephens, <>, (502) 569-5713

I’ve Been Wondering About Believing In and Worshiping the One True God

March 24th, 2006 12 comments

The story about the man who may be executed in Afghanistan for his conversion to Christianity got me to thinking. I found myself wondering why it is that if Christians and Muslims actually do believe in and worship the one, true God, a person can be put to death for worshipping Christ, intead of Allah in Muslim nations that follow strict Islamic law? And for that matter, if Muslims do in fact believe in and worship the one, true God, why should we be concerned if people are Muslim instead of Christian? Sometimes we hear people say something like this: "The Muslim God is also the true God (there is only one true God, right?) but worshiped in an inadequate way."

Finally I had to ask myself, "Was Jesus wrong when He said ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ "(John 8:19; ESV)? If it is true that Jews do worship and believe in the one true God, though they deny Christ as Messiah and Lord, then Jesus must have been wrong. If it is true that Muslims and other non-Christians actually do believe in and worship the one true God, even while rejecting Jesus Christ, then Jesus was a liar.

The operative words here are "believe" and "worship" and "one, true God." Let this much be clear, as one would hope it would be. Muslims absolutely do not believe in, or worship, the one true God. To say this is not in any way to deny the natural knowledge that there is a god. But as Paul makes clear in Romans 1, this natural knowledge is corrupted by sin and men turn to the worship of false gods (Romans 1:21 "Although they knew
God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they
became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were
darkened"). This is precisely what happens when you believe in and worship any god other than the One, True, God. In other words, the corruption of the natural knowledge of God is dramatically evident when people do not worship the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity, but turn to false gods, such as the Muslim "Allah."

Here are a few Luther quotes on the subject that I find particularly instructive:

"When the Turks go into battle their only war cry is “Allah! Allah!” and they shout it till heaven and earth resound. But in the Arabic language. Allah means God, and is a corruption of the Hebrew Eloha. For they have been taught in the Koran that they shall boast constantly with these words, “There is no God but God.” All that is really a device of the devil. For what does it mean to say, “There is no God but God,” without distinguishing one God from another? The devil, too, is a god, and they honor him with this word; there is no doubt of that. Therefore I believe that the Turks’ Allah does more in war than they themselves. He gives them courage and wiles; he guides sword and fist, horse and man. What do you think, then, of the holy people who can call upon God in battle, and yet destroy Christ and all God’s words and works, as you have heard?” (American Edition 46:183).

“All people who say that they mean the true God who created heaven and earth are lying. They do not accept His work and Word but place their own thoughts above God and His Word. If they truly believed in a God who created heaven and earth, they would also know that as Creator this same God is also above their thoughts and possesses the same authority to make, break and do as He pleases. But since they do not let Him be the Creator above them and their thoughts in so small a matter, it cannot be true that they believe [Glaube] Him to be the Creator of all creation.” (Walch 10.I.1:241)

“It does Jews, Turks, and heretics no good to profess a very great devoutness and to boast against us Christians that they believe in the one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and also call him “Father” with intense earnestness. For all that, their worship consists of nothing except futile and useless words that they use to take the name of God in vain and misuse it, against the Second Commandment. . . Here you see that when they do not know who God is; and when they call Him “Creator” and “God” and “Father,” they don’t know what they are actually saying…Therefore they have no God, but they misuse the name of “God” in sin and shame and invent their own god and creator, who is supposed to be their father and whose children they profess to be.” (St.L 3:1932)

“Jews, Turks, and Tartars all esteem Christ and His mother Mary very highly. But they do not believe [glaube] that He is the Son of God, in whom one must believe and through whom all are saved. . . .  Therefore, the faith of the Jews and the Turks is nothing but sheer blindness, for they exclude the Son and want to retain only the Father. This is the chief article of our Christian faith: that the Son is eternal and true God, and also true man, sent into the world for its salvation. This article annuls the belief [glaube] of the Jews, the Turks, and all others who renounce the Son and thus worship another god and look to another source for help. The Turk is not able to pray the Lord’s Prayer or the articles of the Creed. Faith, to which God alone is entitled, is the chief type of worship. For we are not to believe in angels, prophets, or apostles. No, this divine honor is due the Son alone; for He is true God with the Father. John treats this article very intensively. . . . If I earnestly believe that Christ is true God and that He became our Savior, I will never deny this but will proclaim it publicly against the Turks, the world, the pope, the Jews ,and all the sects. I will confess that it is true. I would rather forfeit my life or jeopardize my property and honor than disavow this. Wherever faith is genuine, it cannot hold its tongue; it would rather suffer death. Such faith will also confess God’s Word before tyrants. To be sure, it will encounter all sorts of trials and temptations from the devil, as the martyrs amply demonstrate.” (AE 22:392-393).

“Turks and Jews boast a lot about God and claim to have a better faith than we Christians. They say they cannot be wrong. They say that they believe [Glaube] in one God, who created heaven and earth and everything else. This kind of faith certainly can not be wrong, they think. Christ, however, here concludes: ‘He who hates Me, hates my Father.” Now, since Turks and Jews hate Christ and persecute His Word, they certainly also hate the God who has created heaven and earth. They do not believe [Glaube] in Him and they do not honor Him. For Christ is the same one God.” (StL 13a, 1285).

Here are some quotes from Luther’s Large Catechism on the subject:

“As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.” (Large Catechism, Tappert, p. 365).

"You can easily judge how the world practices nothing but false worship and idolatry. There has never been a people so wicked that it did not establish and maintain some sort of worship. Everyone has set up a god of his own, to which he looked for blessings, help, and comfort… Everyone made into a god that to which his heart was inclined. Even in the mind of all the heathen, therefore, to have a god means to trust and believe. The trouble is that their trust is false and wrong, for it is not founded upon the one God, apart from whom there is truly no god in heaven or on earth. Accordingly the heathen actually fashion their fancies and dreams about God into an idol and entrust themselves to an empty nothing. So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.” (Large Catechism, Tappert, pp. 366-377).

“Whoever knows that in Christ he has a gracious God, truly knows God, calls upon him, and is not, like the heathen, without God. For the devil and the ungodly do not believe this article concerning the forgiveness of sin, and so they are at enmity with God, cannot call upon him, and have no hope of receiving good from him.” (Tappert, p. 44).

“For pagans had something of a knowledge of God from the law of nature, but at the same time they did not truly know him nor did they truly honor him (Rom. 1[:19-32]). (Kolb/Wengert, p. 585.)

Let’s let God’s Holy Word have the final say here:

“We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” John 8:41

Again, Holy Scripture: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you.” John 17:25

Again, Holy Scripture: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ Rom. 10:14-15.

Again, Holy Scripture: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I Cor. 2:14

Again, Holy Scripture: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:8-9

Again, Holy Scripture: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13

Again, Holy Scripture: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do
not know God. I Thess. 4:3-5 

Again, Holy Scripture: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. I John 2:22-23

Again, Holy Scripture: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does
not know us is that it did not know him.” I John 3:1

Again, Holy Scripture: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” I John 4:1-3

Again, Holy Scripture: “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” I John 4:6

Again, Holy Scripture: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I John 5:19-21

“Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes,
you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but
he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I
am from him and he sent me." John 7:28-29

Again, Holy Scripture: “Then they asked him, "Where is your father?"
"You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you
would know my Father also.” John 8:19 .


Sign of the Times

March 23rd, 2006 1 comment

An interesting report on the WORLD blog site about Amazon’s move to correct a "glitch" in their search system in which a person entering the word "abortion" in the engine would receive a query at the top of the search results: "Did you mean adoption?"

Categories: Sanctity of Life

The Ugly and the Beautiful

March 22nd, 2006 Comments off
The beauty of Christ’s Resurrection challenges Christians to imitate God’s splendor

by Uwe Siemon-Netto

Don’t be fooled by paintings and sculptures depicting Christ’s
crucifixion as a serene event. He did not hang there looking charming,
His arms outstretched to bless humanity in a farewell gesture of sorts.
Such images, often found in churches, almost seem to support the
contention of some heretics that God spared His Son the tortures of the
most painful form of execution—in other words, that the crucifixion was
a divine hoax.

The truth is dire. Christ’s passion was horribly
ugly. After all, He was true man as well as true God. As a true man He
felt the torment. His body, reeking, sweating, bleeding, was as
contorted as the bodies of the two criminals to His right and His left.
He doubtless groaned, screamed in agony. And He sensed dereliction: “My
God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Let’s not kid ourselves—there was nothing aesthetically pleasing
about what happened on that first Good Friday at Golgatha. Look at
Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece in Colmar, France, reproduced
here.  So shocking is this sight that you may be tempted to turn away,
just as you may have closed your eyes during the scourging and
crucifixion scenes in Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ.”

But this is precisely how it must have been. Had the crucifixion not
been ugly, had Jesus not experienced evil at its very worst “pro me,”
as Luther said, meaning “for me,” then all this would have been bogus,
a lie. Then the resurrection would have been a lie as well. We would
have been deprived of the participation in its eternal beauty. In fact,
we would not be Christians at all but still dwelling in darkness. We
would not be saved.

It seems we have moved away from the sound theology of Grünewald—or
the artists who created the mosaics in the vault of the magnificent
Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice showing realistically the ugliness of
Christ’s suffering and the beauty of His Resurrection. Tragically,
thinking of the Christian faith in terms of aesthetics is not
fashionable in post-modernity, whose relativism blurs the distinction
between ugliness and beauty, just as it blurs the line between evil and

“I think this is beautiful,” said a Frenchman I know whose entire
body is covered with “Gothic” tattoos depicting Satan’s realm—skulls
and bones, chains and flames, and the ghastly visages of demons. “This
was a beautiful work of art,” said German composer Karl-Heinz
Stockhausen about the 9/11photographs of airplanes crashing into New
York’s World Trade Center bursting into balls of flames.

Bad equals good and ugly equals beautiful.  There is a Greek word for this contemporary folly: diaballein, literally “throwing across,” or turning things on their head. This expression has given the devil his name.

As post-moderns, worshipers included, groove to “music” without
melody and harmony, as even Christians regale in the noises emitted by
the likes of Eminem, who screeches out his vulgar and destructive
lyrics, I wonder: What happened to the Biblical notion that beauty is
willed by God; that God himself “shines forth … in beauty” (Ps. 50:2)?
What happened to the insight that beauty is a key element of
civilization, and that civilization is the fruit of the order created
by God? Whatever happened to man’s God-willed yearning to become

St. Thomas Aquinas called beauty the “splendor of order,” and the
church father St. Gregory of Nyssa saw beauty as God’s uncreated order.
Yet there is nothing exclusively Christian about seeing beauty as
coming from God, and that creating beauty is therefore one of
humanity’s most noble endeavors.

“Whichever way I turn I see the face of God,” says the Koran,
referring to nature’s loveliness. As a journalist covering the dialogue
between religion and science, I discovered that, of all scientists,
astrophysicists from every culture were most inclined to acknowledge
God’s existence. Many told me that the breathtaking beauty of the
universe left them no option. “Why do I believe in a Creator?” asked a
Hindu cosmologist rhetorically. “Because I need someone to say ‘thank
you’ to,” he explained.

The desire to seek and create beauty appears to be built into the
nature of the human species, even those who did or do not know the true
God. Thousands of years ago, cave-dwelling people in southwestern
France created magnificent cave drawings in their grottos.

We easily recognize the exotic beauty of ancient Chinese or American
Indian works of art. Though generally not Christians, the Japanese,
perhaps more than any other people on earth these days, are embracing
and sometimes allowing themselves to be converted by Johann Sebastain
Bach’s music, which must at first have sounded alien to their ears.

To be sure, de gustibus non est disputandum, as the Romans
said, there is no disputing about taste. I make no judgment here
whether a Beethoven symphony is superior to a Johann Strauss waltz or a
W.C. Handy song played by Louis Armstrong or sung by Ella Fitzgerald.
They are all beautiful.

So how do we explain some people’s urge to create ugliness, a
perversion seemingly unique in the history of civilization? How do we
explain the proliferation of treeless malls, bland apartment housing,
or heavy-metal music or, worse still, black metal, its Satanic

My friend by correspondence, Rev. Philip G. Meyer of Terre Haute,
Ind., sees today’s trend toward ugliness as a manifestation of modern
man’s rebellion against God. He is right. If God equals beauty and is
the Author of beauty, then it behooves man as the one created in God’s
image to imitate the Creator (Eph. 5:1)—or, in Lutheran, vernacular:
Conform to Christ, the beauty of whose resurrection defeated the
ugliness of His crucifixion.

It’s also too common for God’s beautiful creatures to willfully use
“body art”—especially tattooing and piercing—to achieve the opposite
image—the image of Satan. Someone cleverly observed that tolerance is
the last virtue of a depraved society. With this in mind I’ll state
with cheerful intolerance: The post-modern fad to create ugliness to
the point of destroying one’s God-given features is not something we
can dismiss as neither good nor evil. It is evil—period!

This is why cultivating once again one’s own sense of aesthetics,
and raising future generations to appreciate beauty, should be seen as
a profound obligation by God’s people. And there is no more appropriate
time of the year to remind ourselves of this than this month when we
commemorate the horrific ugliness of Christ’s Passion followed by the
splendor of His Resurrection.

- -0 –

Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto is director of the Concordia Seminary Institute
on Lay Vocation, St. Louis, and the Concordia Center for Faith and
Journalism, Bronxville, N.Y.   His email address is:

Categories: Christian Life

Biblical Art on the WWW

March 22nd, 2006 Comments off

A friend recently pointed a wonderful web site out to me. As most readers of this blog site know, I really love fine art and particularly art depicting Christian/Biblical themes. What a gold mine! Thanks Joe!  Biblical Art on the WWW.

Categories: Art

With Friends Like These….

March 20th, 2006 2 comments

From our great ally on the War on Terrorism, the country whose freedom we won by spilling American blood, come this news. But I’m so glad to read that they are not against any particular religion in the world, they only kill people who convert to Christianity in their country.

Afghan Man Faces Death for Allegedly Converting to Christianity   

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan man who allegedly converted from Islam to Christianity is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death, a judge said Sunday.

The defendant, Abdul Rahman,
was arrested last month after his family went to the police and accused
him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told the
Associated Press in an interview. Such a conversion would violate the
country’s Islamic laws.

Rahman, who is believed to be 41, was charged with rejecting Islam when his trial started last week, the judge said.

During the hearing, the defendant allegedly confessed that he
converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago when he was 25 and
working as a medical aid worker for Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan, Mawlavezada said.

Afghanistan’s constitution is based on Shariah law, which states
that any Muslim who rejects their religion should be sentenced to death.

"We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in
Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law," the judge said.
"It is an attack on Islam. … The prosecutor is asking for the death

The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said the case was the first of its kind in Afghanistan.

He said that he had offered to drop the charges if Rahman changed his religion back to Islam, but the defendant refused.

Mawlavezada said he would rule on the case within two months.

Afghanistan is a deeply conservative society and 99 percent of its 28 million people are Muslim. The rest are mainly Hindus.

Categories: Islam

1580 Book of Concord: Now Printable!

March 20th, 2006 Comments off

An update from our friends at "Lutheran Legacy." They have added a very important functionality to their web site: printing! So, now you can not only view the treasures they are making available electronically, but you can also print them out. For instance, you now can print your very own copy of a first edition 1580 Dresden edition of the Book of Concord. To find the print function, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions