Archive for January, 2007

FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Are Protestants Heretics?

January 31st, 2007 4 comments

I found this article to be particularly fascinating. Father Oakes comments on his position over against Luther and the doctrine of justification.

Link: FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Are Protestants Heretics?.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

On Reading and the Pastor

January 30th, 2007 8 comments

Dr. C.F.W. Walther preached a very powerful sermon at a pastoral conference in which he talks about the pastor and the reading that he does. Now, it would be my opinion that the text he is preaching on, when it refers to "give attention to reading" is actually better rendered, "give attention to the reading" referring to the reading of God’s Word in the worship assembly of the Christians, but….regardless of how one wishes to take that Pauline/Dominical command, Walther’s point is still very good and worth our careful consideration.

My lawyer friend here marvels that in his profession he is required to take continuing education classes every year in order to retain his certification to practice law, but pastors have no such requirements. Doctor friends too have wondered aloud at the fact that they have to continue to take courses in order to retain their license to practice medicine, whereas pastors can graduate from the seminary and never again crack open a book. It is an interesting point. What of it? Should we clergy-person types be required by the Church to receive formal continuing theological education? I’m not talking here about Synodical fund-raising workshops, yet another Church Growth week long seminar with the latest guru, or programmatic things like that, nope none of that. Rather, what about in-depth theological education: courses in contemporary trends in various theological discplines, preaching workshops, practicums on various areas of pastoral care and practice, truly meaningful stuff. How about a Greek brush-up class? Or Hebrew?

Imagine the howls of protest that would arise if today there was required what was commonplace in Martin Chemnitz’ church consistory: regular examination of  pastors and other church ministers. In Chemnitz’ day pastors had actually to have memorized his "Handbook" and be able to recite it upon questioning. Yikes!

Walther offers a healthy corrective. Thanks to Pastor Joel Basely for kindly offering this sermon to me to share with the Cyberbrethren community. Thanks Joel! Here is Walther’s sermon:

Download Walthersermononreading.pdf

Categories: Uncategorized

Great Reference Meta-Site

January 30th, 2007 1 comment

The Internet is a great resource, but there is so much information out there and so many places to look, at times one hardly knows where to begin. Here is a great web site that provides a lengthy catalog of reference sites on the Internet. And here is a site that has a number of college level courses on video, along with other reference sites.

Categories: Internet Resource

Two Questions

January 29th, 2007 1 comment

Thanks to Pastor Mangold for posting this comment. I thought it was worth a separate post.

1.  I don’t believe it can be much simpler than the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer and its meaning.  How can we "teach God’s Word in its truth and purity" and then teach our people to "lead God pleasing lives" if we cannot preach sanctification?

2. I certainly do not believe that St. Paul had a problem proclaiming the Gospel and then diving right into his great "therefores."  If Paul can say "Christ died for your sins, therefore you will respond by . . . " why can’t we do the same?

Good questions indeed.

Categories: Christian Life

Hear Him

January 29th, 2007 Comments off

Thought from Luther on the Transfiguration:

“This is His command, ‘This is my beloved Son; hear him.’ In Him I have come down to you, so that you can see Me, and hear Me, and touch Me. There and nowhere else shall all find M, who desire Me and long to be free from their sins and saved. On this world we should immediately seize, and say: Here God Himself speaks. I will follow Him and listen to no other word or preaching, and neither learn nor know anything else about God. For in this Person (says St. Paul) dwells the fullness of the Godhead, and apart from Him there is no God that I can meet or draw near to. And where this man’s word is heard or His work seen, the word and work of God are truly heard and seen.”

(Martin Luther, Exposition of John XIV, WA 45.520f; translated in Day by Day We Magnify Thee).

Categories: Lutheranism

Two Presentations on the Third Use of the Law

January 29th, 2007 2 comments

A friend just recently pointed me to the papers that Dr. Kurt Marquart and Dr. David Scaer delivered in 2005 at the symposium on the Lutheran Confessions. Here are the papers.

Download marquart3rduse.pdf

Download scaer3rduse.pdf

Is there is a significant difference between the two papers? I do not see that. I view these papers as complimentary. Marquart’s concern is with a certain view that holds one should not speak about doing good works in our sermon but merely use the Law according to its "second use" and not concern ourselves with sanctification (in its narrow sense), but let that just take care of itself. Scaer’s concern is not to let conversations about good works float free of Christ and the Gospel but to realize that it is all in Christ, and as a result of Christ, but he too sees great value in the third use of the law, and points out that when we fail to confess the third use of the law we are risking the kind of Gospel reductionism that plagued The LCMS during the Seminex crisis.

Interestingly, both men praise Dr. Scott Murray’s excellent book on this subject.

Here is a "clip" from Dr. Marquart’s paper, from his conclusion:

"I am not advocating that we as truly evangelical preachers should imitate Calvinism or so-called “Evangelicalism.”  The main use of the law is that which shows us our sin.  And the Gospel, not the Law in any of its uses, must predominate in our preaching.  Like humane physicians we must stress the diagnosis not for its own sake, but for the sake of the cure, and then concentrate on the glorious treasures of  the love of God, poured out upon us so superabundantly in His blessed Son!  It is our task to preach the love and joy of God into people’s hearts.  But then we must also guide them towards God-pleasing expressions of their responding love for God.  And in our non-sacramental age, in which all sorts of sacrament-substitutes flourish, such as alleged tongues and miracles, millennialist fantasies about Middle Eastern places and politics, “purpose-driven” psycho- babble, and the like, we must hold high the glory of the Gospel, which is “the power [dynamis] of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16).   Our preaching needs to serve and communicate the three permanent witnesses on earth, the spirit (or the blessed Gospel words which are spirit and life, St. Jn. 6:63), the water of Holy Baptism, and the Blood of the New Testament, I John 5:8.  It is through these blessed Gospel-channels that the divine life of faith is transmitted to us sinners. This, however, does not imply indifference to sanctification.  Our Confessions stress its importance everywhere.  Indeed, they insist that sanctification, as the precious fruit of justifying faith, must grow and increase in us.   The Apology teaches “that we ought to begin to keep the law and then keep it more and more” (IV,124, p. 140).  Again:  “For we do not abolish the law, Paul says [Rom. 3:31], but we establish it, because when we receive the Holy Spirit by faith the fulfillment of the law necessarily follows, through which love, patience, chastity, and other fruits of the Spirit continually grow” (XX,15, p. 237).   Luther’s Large Catechism teaches that the Holy Spirit through the Word “creates and increases holiness, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in its  fruits.”  Also:  “holiness has begun and is growing daily.” Again:  “All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins” (Creed, pp. 438, 439).  Further:  “Now, when we enter Christ’s kingdom, this corruption must daily decrease so that the longer we live the more gentle, patient, and meek we become, and the
more we break away from greed, hatred, envy, and pride” (Baptism, p. 465).  And the Formula  of Concord teaches that the Holy Spirit “cleanses human beings and daily makes them more upright an holier.”  Also:  the Spirit “creates and increases holiness, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in the fruits which the Spirit produces. . . He brings us into the Christian community, in which he sanctifies us and brings about in us a daily increase in faith and good works” (II, p. 551). 

Sometimes we are told that sanctification is best left to itself, that conscious attempts to please God lead to hypocrisy, and that if we just preach the Gospel, sanctification will happen automatically.  No, we are not automata.  We have a renewed will, which “is not idle in the daily practice of repentance but cooperates in all the works of the Holy Spirit that He accomplishes through us” (Formula of Concord, SD, II,88, p. 561).   If being branches in the True Vine (St. Jn. 15) means that like plants we have no conscious intentions, but simply produce fruit “automatically,”  then the same applies to the Vine Himself.  And that is as absurd as saying that since Christ is the Way and the Door, He is as indifferent as ways and doors are to who is passing over or through them!  This pseudo-biblical argument is exactly parallel to that of the old antinomians, who argued that Christians will do the right things “without any teaching, admonition, exhortation, or prodding of the law, . . . just as in and of themselves the sun, the moon, and all the stars follow unimpeded the regular course God gave them once and for all” (FC, SD,VI,6, p. 588). 

Clearly the New Testament exhortations to love and good works require conscious effort, not unthinking, automatic compliance with inner instincts!  Thus St. Paul begs the Roman Christians by the mercies of God (which he had expounded in the preceding 11 chapters) to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, as their “reasonable worship” (Rom. 12:1).  And of himself he writes:  “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is  ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil.3:13,14, NIV).  No automatism or somnabulism (sleep-walking) here!"

Categories: Christian Life

Changing Light Bulbs

January 27th, 2007 5 comments
How many Christians does it take to change a light  bulb?

[No, Mormons are not Christians, ok? It's a joke people. For those who don't get that point, no further, run, don't walk, to get a life. Thanks!]

Charismatic: Only 1
Hands are already in the  air.   

Pentecostal: 10
One to change the bulb, and  nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.
Presbyterians:  None
Lights will go on and off at predestined  times.


Roman Catholic: None
Candles  only.   
Baptists : At least 15.
One to change the  light bulb, and three committees to approve the
change and decide who  brings the potato salad and fried chicken .   
Episcopalians:  3
One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Mormons:  5
One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do  it.

We choose not to make a statement  either in favour of or against
the need for a light bulb. However, if in  your own journey you have
found that light bulbs work for you, you are  invited to write a poem
or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for  the next Sunday
service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb  traditions,
including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life and  tinted, all
of which are equally valid paths to  luminescence.   

Methodists: Undetermined
Whether your  light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are
loved.You can be a light  bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Bring a
bulb of your choice to the Sunday  lighting service and a covered dish
to pass.   
Nazarene! :  6
One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.   
Lutherans: None
Lutherans don’t believe in  change.

Missouri Synod Lutherans: 11
One to change it, and ten consultants to tell us how

ELCA Lutherans: 101
Ten ten-member task forces to meet and issue reports and studies on the subject of changing light bulbs until everyone agrees its ok, one person to change it.

Amish: What’s a light  bulb?
Categories: Humor

Doctrine and Life: Health and Healing

January 27th, 2007 1 comment

"Doctrine must be pure and clean, namely, the dear, blessed, holy, and one word of God, without any addition. But life, which should daily direct, purify, and sanctify itself according to doctrine, is not yet entirely pure or holy, so long as this maggoty body of flesh and blood is alive. But as long as it is in the process of purification and sanctification, being continually healed by the Samaritan and no longer decaying in its own impurity, it is graciously excused, pardoned, and forgiven for the sake of the word, through which it is healed and purified; thus it must be called pure. This is why the holy Christian church is not a whore or unholy, because it continues to hold to and remain with the word (which is its holiness) without blemish and with strength. “You are already made clean (says Christ in John 15 [:3]) by the word which I have spoken to you,” not on your own account.

Martin Luther, vol. 41, Luther’s Works, Vol. 41  : Church and Ministry III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 41:218 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1966).

Categories: Uncategorized

Zeal for Good Works

January 26th, 2007 9 comments

I’ve had some further thoughts about the subject of preaching about good works and what has been described by Professor Kurt Marquart as a disturbing "aversion to sanctification" that is at work in some of the preaching we hear these days. Some Lutherans are great on Hebrews 12:2, but act as if Hebrews 12:1 was not there. When and how did any of us begin to think that exhorting the regenerate to do good works in a sermon is somehow inappropriate, or must never come after the Gospel is preached, or is "covered" as we preach against sin? I’ve been pondering this and have some more thoughts.

Read more…

Categories: Christian Life

The Great Danger that Confronts the Christian Church

January 26th, 2007 Comments off

A wonderful comment by Dr. Walther, preaching on Matthew 8: Christ stills the storm:

"This is a portrait of the great danger that confronts the Christian Church at all times. Just like this boat, the Church travels on the sea of the world. Its pilot is Christ, its oarsmen are the preachers of the Gospel, its gangplank is faith and Baptism, its anchor is hope, its mast is the cross, its sail is the Word swelled by the Holy Spirit, its flag is our confession, its crew is faithful Christians, and the harbor to which it is traveling is heaven. As soon as this ship of the Church weighed anchor, at the time of the apostles, and set out on its voyage, a tempest arose from below and a windstorm from above. Hell, the world, and even the heavens seemed to be united in a conspiracy to disrupt and destroy the Church. A tempest of bloody persecution beset it, to be soon followed by a whirlwind of false doctrines. From that time on the Church has always been in danger of being smashed to pieces and sinking in the deep."

More to come!

Walther, God Grant It, p. 163-164.

Always Looking for Something New

January 25th, 2007 1 comment

“Rehoboam, who succeeded Solomon, was not content with his father’s wise administration of the state; he ruined everything, and his kingdom was cut into two parts. But this does not happen only in external and political affairs, where such foolishness is more tolerable, since it does damage only to physical matters, but also in religion and in the Word of God. The descendants always neglect the purity of the doctrine handed down to them by the fathers and look for something new. This is what is now being done by those who, after the Gospel has once more become known, are not content with the purity of faith and the doctrine of the Gospel but are stirring up new controversies about the sacraments; and when these controversies have run their course, an infinite number of new sects will arise. For the flesh cannot remain content with the one simple and true doctrine.” (AE 15:43)

Categories: Lutheranism

Life is a Hospital

January 25th, 2007 Comments off

"After baptism there still remains much of the old Adam. For, as we have often said, it is tame that sin is forgiven in baptism, but we are not yet altogether clean, as is shown in the parable of the Samaritan, who carried the man wounded by robbers to an inn [Luke 10:30–37]. He did not take care of him in such a way that he healed him at once, but rather bound up his wounds and poured on oil. The man who fell among robbers suffered two injuries. First, everything that he had was taken from him, he was robbed; and second, he was wounded, so that he was half-dead and would have died, if the Samaritan had not come to him. Adam fell among the robbers and implanted sin in us all. If Christ, the Samaritan, had not come, we should all have had to die. He it is who binds our wounds, carries us into the church and is now healing us. So we are now under the Physician’s care. The sin, it is true, is wholly forgiven, but it has not been wholly purged. If the Holy Spirit is not ruling men, they become corrupt again; but the Holy Spirit must cleanse the wounds daily. Therefore this life is a hospital; the sin has really been forgiven, but it has not yet been healed."

Martin Luther, vol. 51, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51  : Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 51:373 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1959).

Categories: Uncategorized

Worship of the One, True God

January 24th, 2007 2 comments

Great Luther quote, commenting on how the people of the Old Testament sought other places and ways and even gods to worship.

"God had proclaimed through the prophets and had foretold through Moses that prayer or worship at any other places would be unacceptable to Him. But they would not listen. Instead, they cried out: “This is where we worship the true God.” And they persisted in their self-invented worship and even killed the prophets over it. There was a small group, however, which believed God’s Word and paid no attention to the great multitude. This is what true Christians must do today. They must not be influenced by the actions of those who enjoy the name and the reputation of great and holy people, who are called God’s servants and the church. They must declare: “Here is my God. I refuse to believe in any other God than the Creator of heaven and earth. I will believe only in the God who is united with Him who is called Jesus Christ. In Him I must place my trust. Then I know that I have the true God. If I have Him, I can proudly defy the devil and the world. If they deprive me of mammon, goods, honor, life and limb, I still have a Christ who is Lord over life and death, over the world and everything. And even if the devil frightens me and makes me depressed and conscience-stricken, he will still not obtain the victory. For here is my Lord, in whom I believe. And if I trust in Him, I am trusting in God; for He Himself is true God. Hence whatever temporal and physical harm I suffer, I account as a husk or as a hollow nut, instead of which God will grant me an eternal treasure and everlasting life.”

"Thus these words are also spoken as a consolation for the Christians, whom God allows to suffer this misery and to cope with their enemies—the devil, who plagues and torments them, and the world, which confronts them with pride, contempt, persecution, murder, etc. Christ says: “To remain cheerful in the midst of all this, and to ward off defeat, remember only that I am the real Savior and God, and rely on Me; then you will encounter the true God and experience My omnipotent power and might. Let the world and the pseudo saints depend and rely on whom they will. Let them believe and do as they want. It is all vain and futile. Against all this you need no other weapon or armor than your adherence to Me. In this way you cling to God. He cannot do otherwise than help you. Therefore if they hate, persecute, and murder you, We will love, adopt, and protect you; We will quicken you and dwell with you forever.”

Luther’s Works, Vol. 24  : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann. (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1961), pg. 24-25.

Categories: Lutheranism

False Peace with Man and God

January 24th, 2007 Comments off

"As sinful and godless as it is to quarrel over mere words or indifferent questions, it is just as reprehensible to ignore differences concerning precious, certain, divine truths instead of fighting for them. . . . According to God’s Word, the church that wants to make peace by leaving some of the truth behind and declaring false doctrine to be acceptable is a house of whitewashed walls that are neither mortared nor built upon solid ground. As a result, any wind can blow it down, and any rain can wash it away. Such a church is more dangerous than the most awful sect, for at least the sect recognizes that only pure doctrine should be preached in a church. A so-called union church stands on rotten ground. No one in it can find and possess the pure truth because no one is willing to fight for it. May God protect every pious Christian from such false peace with man and against God."

-Dr. C.F.W. Walther
God Grant It
(Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), p. 154-155.

Categories: Liberal Christianity

The Debt Owed to Truth

January 24th, 2007 Comments off

"Faith is the debt that is owed to truth, and there is no truth except God alone."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 1535 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1964), 27:356.

Categories: Uncategorized