Archive for June, 2006

Light Up Your 4th With Orthodox Lutheranism

June 30th, 2006 2 comments

Light up your fourth of July weekend with Orthodox Lutheranism! A tantalizing appetizer of the feast that awaits you in Johann Gerhard’s "Theological Commonplaces" awaits you.

You may now view, as a PDF file, on the CPH web site, a very nice sampling of the first Gerhard volume, including:

Index Page
Title Page
Table of Contents
Publisher’s Preface
Introduction to Johann Gerhard and the "Commonplaces"
A nice sampling of pages from Gerhard on:
The Canonical Gospels

Where can you find it? You can click through to this direct link.

Here is the full address to the site with the samples, right below the book picture.


Have a great 4th of July. Thank God for the blessing of these United States of America!

Categories: Uncategorized

Noah’s Ark?

June 30th, 2006 5 comments

You are going to be hearing in the media reports about a team of Christian explorers and archeologists who have travelled to Iran and have ascended a mountain to try to identify what has been known about for years: a long boat-like structure on the mountain. Here is the official news and information site on the expedition, with photos. I do not know what to think about it at this point. It clearly looks like wood and apparently tests have confirmed it is petrified wood, with marine creatures attached to it in places that could only have come from the ocean. Interesting?

Link: Noah’s Ark? For Real – CWN.

Categories: Science

Darkmyroad … New Blog

June 29th, 2006 Comments off

An important new blog site has appeared, one devoted to depression and other disorders and those in ministry. A very important subject. Check it out.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thoughts on Liturgy, Freedom, Uniformity and Lutheran Identity

June 28th, 2006 7 comments

Dr. Holger Sonntag offers these poignant comments on the issue of liturgy, worship, orders and freedom.  The post of last week or so on adiaphora elicited quite an active discussion, and a number of comments, of varying quality. Pastor Sonntag offered this as a comment to that thread, but it was so good that I felt it deserved to be featured as a separate blog post.

First, I want to respond to a comment on this blog site about my connecting liturgiology and ecclesiology. I don’t quite see how this would make liturgy part of the areas in which we need to agree before we can have church fellowship. All I meant to say here is: Lutheran churches with Lutheran theology should also worship in a recognizably Lutheran way.

AC VII, esp. when we take it together with Ap. VII-VIII, shows very clearly that Lutherans navigated the double dangers of a liturgical uniformity that was of a meritorious nature and a confusion of freedom of faith with liturgical license. What they opted for, for the sake of public harmony and tranquility, was liturgical uniformity that is of a non-meritorious nature.

They applied it in such a way that sovereign cities and principalities would have uniform orders which needed not to be identical all across Germany and Scandinavia.

There is a difference between necessity and usefulness. Just because something is not necessary (and liturgical uniformity is not necessary for church fellowship) doesn’t mean it’s bad. Good works are not necessary for salvation, but they’re not bad…

Now, not to start a chicken-egg hunt here, but as to a person’s more recent quoting from Luther’s German Mass on Luther’s respect for those who already have "good orders" (LW 53:62), it might be good to determine how this applies to us today.

Wasn’t it this way that some among us felt the need, beginning perhaps sometimes in the 60s or 70s, to take it upon themselves to alter the "good orders" already in existence in congregations (TLH) and to replace them with their own creations and alterations. That’s now history, I know, but we also shouldn’t pretend that the "new orders" we’re talking about in our context somehow emerged in anything remotely similar to the liturgical vacuum created by Luther’s reformation which necessitated decisive *theological* (not: stylistic) changes in the traditional liturgy to reflect the rediscovered gospel.

Here pastors felt the theological need to act, and probably rightly so; and Luther respected their sincere work. — Yet is that what happened in the last 30 years, was TLH (or LW) in such a dire need of *theological* reform that everybody was called to try their hand in this "state of emergency" to create the "diversity" that exists today?

In the same context (about LW 53:62), Luther nonetheless talks about that it would be nice to have uniform ceremonies in the principalities (he just can’t help it, it seems!). These territories were, in my recollection of German history, the basic sovereign units of the German empire: they could wage wars, enter into confederations, etc. And they also had the right to reform (and defend) the church (ius reformandi) and to establish ceremonies (ius liturgicum) — a mayor in, say, Saxony, didn’t have these rights independently because they were held by his sovereign. In other words, these little states were different from the individual states in America.

Practically speaking, they were also the basic point of reference for most people. Yes, they were all Germans (esp. against Rome), but they were, perhaps first of all, Saxons, Prussians, Bavarians, etc. Only a few merchants, or mercenaries or theologians, would ever travel outside of their tiny nations. Most were farmers and craftsmen.

And, if I’m not wrong, you also couldn’t simply leave you home country and move to a different place. You belonged to the prince; he was your "father" (see the LC on that one), he owned you as his subject (this is why suicide was a crime against the prince: you were defrauding him of his possession).

This ties in to the point Luther makes elsewhere: let’s avoid confusion and offense. Well, if all are uniform in one territory; if all are basically never leaving that territory, you clearly don’t need a "German" solution to a problem that can be solved on the Saxon or Prussian level.

Again, is that our situation today? It is not. People travel, snowbirds come to mind when you live in MN. Folks spend several months away from home; they visit their children in other parts of the country. — Any congregations out there where that’s caused discussions and perhaps even ugly divisions??

We can’t pretend that we’re still shepherding a flock of stationary farmers and little merchants who don’t have the money to go to town more often than once a week, much less the means to leave the state.

And, these pragmatic considerations aside, the early Missourians whose members also didn’t travel a lot, still strove to be uniform liturgically in CA, MN, MO, AL, NY, and MI — nationally, in other words! They took pleasure in looking the same as fellow Missourians everywhere (that’s love too) — and they wanted to look different than those not in fellowship with us based on agreement in the areas mentioned in AC VII. This is different from sectarianism.

Why do we worship the way we do? Because its theologically sound and, after careful and respectful consideration of our (Lutheran) heritage (4th Commandment!), we’ve freely and lovingly agreed to do it this way. Isn’t is possible to be a Lutheran and worship based on a slimed-down version of the divine service without all these cumbersome canticles? Probably, but that’s just not what we’ve agreed upon. Otherwise, we’d only abide, e.g., by the agreed-upon bylaws and constitution of synod, not by its agreed-upon hymnal and liturgy. That’d be pretty sad.

Finally, as in the case of Luther (and the Early Church, I read somewhere), the point of reference for our liturgical practice (and reform) ought to be those of the household of the faith, not potential members or heterodox communions.

Evangelism, at least in the previous millennia, I venture to say, didn’t exactly happen in the worship service. It happend in the home, at work, and wherever else Christians and unbelievers rubbed shoulders in the context of their vocations. As the opening invocation indicates, the worship service is chiefly for those who already rightly know and believe in the triune God; only they can call upon him in a God-pleasing manner. Others may visit (and we welcome them, except at the communion table — oops…), but they can’t be made the defining yardstick for Christian worship. To understand and appreciate the divine service, you need to know the catechism, LW 53:64.

By the way, the catechism is perhaps a good example for our discussion here. Is there anything in God’s word that tells us we have to use catechisms to instruct unbelievers? No. Is there anything in God’s word that tells us that we must use Luther’s catechism? No. Can Christian doctrine be taught *correctly* in any other way than Luther’s? I guess so! So, why are we then urging congregations to use the SC (or maybe we aren’t urging them — so why should we urge them …), by means of the hymnal? Because we’re Lutherans, and Luther has put it together so well, and we have / should agree upon it to do it this way.

The catechism, as well as the liturgy catechetically understood (another thought in Ap. VII-VIII), provide us with the Christian language; they helps us to understand the bible’s language correctly which is the Spirit’s speaking; they help us to speak this language faithfully and accurately to our neighbor, so that he and we would praise God with one voice and in one common understanding, Rom. 15.

Everybody using their own version of a little catechism? Possible. Good? No.

PCUSA and Marijuana

June 28th, 2006 Comments off

Now it all makes sense. The recent decision by the PCUSA to accept alternative names for God must be somehow related to their interest in smoking pot. Perhaps this the most charitable explanation for the PCUSA’s heretical names for God is that they were sampling some medicinal marijuana.

US Presbyterians support medicinal use of marijuana   

By Cheryl Heckler 
Oxford, Ohio, 28 June (ENI)–The Presbyterian Church (USA) has
become the seventh major religious organization in the United
States to support the use of medical marijuana, an issue expected
to come before the US House of Representatives during the week. 

"Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy," said the Rev. Lynn
Bledsoe, a Presbyterian minister from Alabama who works as a
hospice chaplain, in a statement issued by the Interfaith Drug
Policy Initiative, a group seeking to promote "less coercive"
alternatives to the war on drugs. 

The consensus vote of the church’s general assembly in
Birmingham, Alabama on 21 June came as the US lawmakers were to
consider a bill prohibiting the federal government from using any
of its budget to take legal action against medical marijuana
users who comply with their state laws and have a doctor’s order.Marijuana


Currently, 11 US states allow medical uses of marijuana following
a doctor’s prescription, but federal law enforcement officials
can arrest people in those states.   

"As people of faith, we are called to stand up for humans who are
suffering needlessly," said Bledsoe. "It is unconscionable that
seriously ill patients can be arrested for making an earnest
attempt at healing by using medical marijuana with their doctors’

Polls show that about three out of four Americans support
allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for patients who
need it. However, the US Congress voted by 264 votes to 162
against legalised medical marijuana in 2005, and experts do not
expect the current bill to pass either.   

Other religious groups endorsing the use of medical marijuana
include the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the
United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the
Progressive National Baptist Convention and the Unitarian
Universalist Association.   

Those supporting the use of marijuana say it helps in short-term
use for those suffering debilitating symptoms such as vomiting or
intractable pain and should be permitted when other approved
medications have failed. 

Those opposing the use of marijuana argue it offers no unique
benefits and that prescription drugs can provide everything
marijuana does. They also argue it is a bad example to society
and that it stands as a gateway drug to cocaine or heroin. [379

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

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 


Categories: Liberal Christianity

The Scotsman – International – 1,000 skeletons found in Rome catacombs

June 28th, 2006 1 comment

Very intersting story on a discovery of over 1,000 skeletons found in Rome’s catecombs.

Link: The Scotsman – International – 1,000 skeletons found in Rome catacombs.

Categories: Uncategorized

Revising the Trinity’s Name

June 28th, 2006 Comments off

Gene Edward Veith provides further commentary on the PCUSA’s recent adoption of new names and words to use for the Holy Trinity. This raises an extremely serious issue. Orthodoxy is now declared formally optional in the PCUSA in regard to the names revealed by God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

TPersons baptized in the PCUSA under these new names can not be received as persons who have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Any Baptism performed in the name of the "Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-Giving Womb" does not have the Word of Christ, therefore, no promise of Christ, therefore…it is not a baptism, but merely a sprinkling of water.

Persons thus baptized can not be received by any orthdox Christian church as baptized Christians and can not be received at the Lord’s Table either. Churches in full communion with the PCUSA who do not reject this PCUSA move thereby endorse it and in so doing put a huge question mark on what they themselves understand to be the import of the Lord’s institution. They may still use"Father, Son and Holy Spirit" but by not rejecting specifically an ecumenical partner’s decision to treat these terms as one of several viable options, they therefore treat as optional our Lord’s words and command.

What does this mean for confessional Lutheran churches? It means that those presenting themselves for membership in our congregations need to be very carefully questioned about the nature of their Baptism. In whose name was it administered?

It would be better to administer Holy Baptism according to Christ’s word and promise than leave anyone in doubt as to the legitimacy and validity of their baptism.

There is a very real pastoral dimension to all this that the PCUSA liberals, in their zeal to advance their warped agenda obviously didn’t think about, or didn’t care about.

Link: More on revising the Trinity.

Categories: Uncategorized

Papal Party Pooper?

June 27th, 2006 9 comments

The Pope has indicated he wants to see traditional Roman Catholic styles at Roman Catholic Masses. The liberal chatterati will no doubt bemoan this as akin to starting up the Spanish Inquisition. It is interesting indeed.

Link: Pope Opposes Guitar Riffs At Church – June 27, 2006 – The New York Sun.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

June 25th, 2006 Comments off

I want to do a wonderful and useful post on the fact that we have the chance, today, on a Sunday, to celebrate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. A truly remarkable moment in church history. But…why bother when fellow Lutheran Blogger, Pastor Walter Snyder, has the job more than well in hand, and beautiifully done? I therefore recommend you to his site.

The most I will offer on my own site is a photograph of an extremely rare copy of the first printed edition of the Augsburg Confession and Apolology of the Augsburg Confession, which they have in the Lutherhouse in Wittenberg, Germany. It was printed by George Rhau, in Wittenberg, in Spring 1531.

Categories: Lutheranism

Lars Walker — Get Him. Read Him.

June 24th, 2006 3 comments

Do you have a personal literary advisor? I am perhaps one of the fortunate few to have one. And I have a very good one. A Lutheran one. His name is Gene Edward Veith. Dr. Veith has published about as many books as I have actually read, carefully. I can’t help but giggle a bit when I hear about "published" authors in Lutheran circles. I just think of Dr. Veith and chuckle a bit. The man has published a lot of books, about a lot of things, from country music, to postmodernism, to American landscape painters. Therefore, when Dr. Veith recommends books, I listen. He recently sent me an e-mail that put it this way: "Stop whatever you are doing and order Lars Walkers’ books." So, I did. I’m eighty pages into Mr. Walker’s "Wolf Time." I am absolutely fascinated and mesmerized. And I’m not a "fantasy" fan. But, this book is amazing. It is at the same time a mystery, a fable, a morality play, and it is very much authentically Christian…and….Lutheran! It manages to advocate for the historic Christian faith while not coming across as "preachy" and contrived. So, if you want some great summer reading, check out Mr. Lars Walker. He has three books published: Wolf Time, The Year of the Warrior, and Blood and Judgement. I could hardly put it down to take the time to post this. I have to get back to the book to find out what happens next.

Categories: Books

Congregations? Churches? The same thing?

June 24th, 2006 1 comment

Recently in our discussions on worship and adiaphora, a claim has been made that the Book of Concord, when it speaks of "churches" in FC X, most often has in view individual, local congregations.

Is this so?

Some friends in Australians a number of years ago prepared an excellent paper and study on adiaphora. Here is a quote from the paper.

d. The Formula of Concord permits some degree of liturgical diversity in public worship.

• At different times the church may change those rites and ceremonies which have not been instituted by God.

• The "church in every place" (German: die Gemeine Gottes j(e)des Orts; Latin:
ecclesia Dei ubivis terrarum) has the right to do so in its particular location.

• Does this refer to each local congregation, as the translation of church as
"community" and the incorrect translation of the Latin dative singular as "churches" in the footnote to FC Ep X, 4 by Tappert seems to imply, or does it refer to each regional church?

• The Latin translation of Gemeine as "church" (ecclesia) and of "every place" (jedes
Orts) as "in all lands" (ubivis terrarum) shows that the authors were thinking of
territorial churches. Historically speaking, that is how this formulation was
understood and applied in the Lutheran church until modern times.

Here is the rest of the paper:

Categories: Lutheranism

The Local Options and the PCUSA

June 24th, 2006 1 comment

Among other interesting decisions made by the Presbyterian Church USA, they have now, in essence, as a national church body, washed their hands of accountability on homosexuality issues, by making these decisions matter of local option. I’m surprised that this is not where the ELCA went at their last Assembly, though I have a strong suspicion that this is where the ELCA will end up next time. The PCUSA and the ELCA are "full communion" partners and this means that PCUSA clergy are recognized as full and legitimate pastors in the ELCA. What now will happen? Will the ELCA try to make exceptions to this rule? Or grant "local options" to homosexual PCUSA clergy? This gets very messy, very quickly. Here is the ENI story. Also, please note Dr. Veith’s comment on the PCUSA and the Trinity!!

US Presbyterians will allow districts to decide on gay

By Cheryl Heckler 
Oxford, Ohio, 21 June (ENI)–The Presbyterian Church (USA) has
voted to allow flexibility in deciding whether to ordain
non-celibate homosexuals as clergy, something that was previously
banned outright by the denomination. 

"With the vote today, we have not altered the fundamentals; we
have the same standards as before," said the Rev. Clifton
Kirkpatrick, the denomination’s stated clerk (chief executive),
after the 20 June decision at the church’s general assembly in
Birmingham, Alabama. 

The denomination’s Book of Order states that clergy must adhere
to "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a
woman or chastity in singleness". 

But the new policy approved by 298 votes to 221 on 20 June gives
regional presbyteries (church districts) and congregations
greater leeway in ordaining clergy as well as lay deacons or
elders, provided they are faithful to the church’s core values. 

"The report encourages a more pastoral approach to ordination and
encourages our governing bodies to do a thorough work of
examining people for office," Kirkpatrick stated during the 15-22
June assembly of the church. 

But the Rev. David Miller of Tampa Bay presbytery called the
measure "a wrong turn", the Presbyterian News Service reported.
He said it was "a license * to overlook clear standards that have
been set, a license to ignore the larger discernment of the body
of Christ and a license to legislate by interpretation". 

The proposal was one of seven contained in a theological task
force report that has spent four years looking for ways to help
the denomination stay together despite its differences. The
report urged all Presbyterians "to avoid division into separate
denominations", a warning also sounded by the general secretary
of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches. 

"I’m afraid that fragmentation has crept into the church," the
Rev. Setri Nyomi told   
an 18 June service gathering of worshippers from the PCUSA and
two smaller denominations – the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
(CPC) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America (CPCA),
without referring specifically to the issue of ordination of

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the 3.2-million-member PCUSA is
the largest Presbyterian body in the United States and has almost
11 000 congregations.   

"Everything is seen as a disposable good, including relationships
and the oneness of the church," Nyomi said, urging members of the
three denominations to "lay aside every weight and sin" -
especially divisiveness and fragmentation – in order to run the
race of faith properly. [419 words] 

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

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Not Free to Use Our Liberty?

June 24th, 2006 Comments off

The recent interesting series of comments and the ensuing discussion on adiaphora in the context of the specific issue of a church that has a Marian shrine has caused some to raise interesting questions and suggestions about the Lutheran Confessions, Article X, of the Formula of Concord. I did a post some time ago on what, precisely, the formulators of the Formula had in mind when it came to how the church goes about together deciding what is best in terms of adiaphora. Here is a link to that post. The latest wrinkle on interpreting FC X that I’ve heard is that since the context of the Adiaphoristic controversy was one of persecution, if/when there is no persecution going on, or something either being done, or not done, as a compromise or concession to a demand to compromise doctrine then, if I understand the point correctly, each individual congregation is basically free to do whatever is right in its own eyes. I do not find this a convincing or coherent interpretation of FC X and frankly, it is lifting FC X out of context from the rest of the Book of Concord and what it has to say about worship, liturgy and adiaphora. One chap has recently side-stepped the issue by declaring that "liturgy is not adiaphora" and then from there proceeds to defend the Marian shrine by saying that this is just fine since it is not being done because of any demand that it be used by Roman Catholics. That doesn’t quite get it either, does it?

Categories: Lutheranism

Hanging Out at The Wartburg

June 22nd, 2006 1 comment

OK, so here is your humble blogger in the room at the Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the New Testament into German, among other things he did while in "exile" there after the Diet of Worms, from 1521-1522. Love being blind, my wife and parents may not notice the fact that all I see when I look at the picture is a middle-aged, balding, pudgy guy holding a big old honkin’ camera. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. The portrait over my left shoulder is an original Cranach, of Luther, as "Knight George."


Categories: Blogging

Fascinating Debate Still Going On

June 21st, 2006 Comments off

My recent post about a Lutheran congregation’s Marian shrine is still recieving considerable conversation. That description is not mine, by the way, but a recent defender of the practice. If you have an opinion to share, please post. And if that opinion happens actually to deal with the point of the post, that is especially welcome. But in either case, comment away.

Categories: Lutheranism