Archive for May, 2007

A Conversation with a Former Lutheran Pastor on Papal Infallibilty

May 31st, 2007 3 comments
I recently had an interesting exchange with a former Lutheran pastor, now a Roman Catholic layman, on the issue of Papal infallibility. Here is our conversation.

David, where would one find a comprehensive list of all
infallible pronouncements by the Popes? And, would this list of
infallible statements by Pope have to be, itself, infallible?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 9:04:00 PM



           Schütz    said…    

  Ah, chuckle, chuckle, Pastor McCain. What a wag you are.

can give you a list of those papal pronouncements which are recognised
by all Catholics to undeniably meet the requirements for an infallible
definition of doctrine.

It is a disappointingly short list,
Paul. And to be precise, they are "declarations" of the "definition" of
dogma rather than "pronouncments".

The first was in the
Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, when Pius IX
pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first
instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted
by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human
race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Life After Calvinism

May 31st, 2007 3 comments
In light of my recent post on Calvinism, I found this post on Reformed Catholicism to be timely and quite a coincidence. There appears to be a growing number of thoughtful Calvinists that are finding what I, not they mind you, what I would describe as a certain vapid sterility to the old "five point Calvinism" with its endless preoccupation with making all things "fit" into a "logical system." My only response to this kind of post is: come to Wittenberg where catholicism was never thrown out like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. We too have our own struggles with a legacy of Pietism and the influence of a generic American protestantism.

Quote begins:

My friend, R. Heath McClure, casually said something in passing that
was actually quite profound. Sitting in a coffee shop in downtown
Franklin, Tennessee, he stated, “Calvinism, at least as a system of
doctrine, wages war against the organic nature of the faith.”

Wham! Slapped me silly in the face!

I’m a Calvinist (I think), and have been one for quite some time
(Heath assures me I’m actually a Lutheran, and others have accused me
of being Catholic — so be it!). But over the last few years, my
Calvinism has been in transition as I’ve tried to account for all of
the Bible in all of life.

And one area of life that my Calvinism has been both blessing and
curse is in the area of suffering. So I’ve altered my thinking a bit. I
suppose at this point, I’m best classified as a Post-Calvinist.

Syllogisms are rarely comforting. But many Calvinists think
they are. Nonsense. Syllogisms are tidy, soapy-fresh, and completely
scum-free. But suffering (and life in general!) is bloody, painful, and
full of tears. Moreover, Calvinism fails to speak accurately about the
Sacraments, and about the language of the Scriptures.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

How Catholic is the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

May 29th, 2007 3 comments

I bumped into a web site that has an interesting article by traditionalist Roman Catholics on why they do not regard the Catechism of the Catholic Church as Roman Catholic enough. I found it quite interesting.

Categories: Uncategorized

Roman Catholic Business as Usual

May 26th, 2007 6 comments

A number of years ago somehow my name and home addresss made its way on to a Roman Catholic mailing list, and, as these things go, my name was passed to other RC charities, and now I regularly receive fund raising requests from various Roman Catholic charities. Today a particularly interesting one came in the mail. It is a stark reminder that for all the fine-sounding words we hear coming from certain corners in Romanism, when it comes down to it, it is, literally, "business" as usual–the business of selling masses, merits and works. The mailing I received came from the Marianist order of priests and contained a memorial card to use to give to a friend or loved one who has  had a death in the family. The fund raising letter urges you to use the card, by sending in money to the order. In the center of the card is a "Memorial Remembrance." It states: "Perpetual Membership in the Marianist Spiritual Alliance has been conferred upon (fill in the blank) who will share forever in the Masses, Prayers, and Good Works of the Marianists. Requested by (fill in the blank). And it is signed "Father Pat" Father Patrick Tonry, SM, Spiritual Director." If that were not troubling enough, it is shocking that nowhere in the card is there any word of Christ and the Gospel. There is a picture of Jesus standing in clouds, but the card nowhere mentions a word about the Resurrection of Christ. It indicates simply that many people see death as an ending, but "religious people" know that death is just the beginning of eternal life. The inside cover of the memorial card states that paying for a loved one’s "Perpetual Membership" in the Marianist Spiritual alliance will bring with it the guarantee of "One holy Mass offered each day of the year for those enrolled" and the promise that every Marianist Priest offers four masses every year for all the enrolled. It is very important for us to keep these things in mind whenever we are tempted to think that Rome really has taken a turn for the better. In fact, it is just, literally, business as usual: the same old anti-Gospel confession and teachings of Rome against which the Lutheran Confessions speak out so forcefully and reject and condemn. Why? Because the grace and glory of Christ is horribly obscured and set aside when people are led to place their hope, and find their comfort, in the good works of another human being. This is false and damning doctrine indeed. And, it just so happens I receive this mailing the day before the anniversary on which the Edict of Worms was issued, declaring Luther a heretic and public criminal, subject to the death penalty wherever he went and at any time. Yes, it’s business as usual. But thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, is still the pure, free, true Gospel, as usual, that provides the antidote to Rome’s legalism and that inherent legalist inside each of us that would have us believe that we must "do something" in an effort to placate God and earn His favor. Christ has done it all, for us.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Field Report on Pastoral Care Companion

May 26th, 2007 3 comments

‘ve been hearing from pastors receiving the Pastoral Care Companion.
This note struck me as particularly helpful, since it explains how a
700+ page book is "just right" after all. (By the way, this same not is
helpful in explaining how we are going to be producing a 1,800+ page
daily prayer resource that will *not* be overwhelming either).

    When you sent out word that the LSB Pastor’s Companion was now
available – and then mentioned that it had *700 pages* and was ONE INCH
THICK … I was really worried. I said to myself, "Self – if it’s going
to be THAT *big* , you might just as well carry around a pocket BIBLE!"
(which I often do). Honestly, I was worried: it sounded WAY too big for
constant, day-to-day use. But I went ahead & ordered one … and it
arrived today. And I was *amazed* : this thing *is* really SMALL ! Just
right for carrying around !! Just for fun, I took a caliper &
measured its thickness: it’s *only* 13/16" thick, or 7/8" at the most -
not an entire INCH. Maybe it’s a "mental image" thing, akin to saying
"$29.99" instead of "Thirty bucks," but … it really ISN’T as big as I
had thought. Not too big, not too little … it really IS "just right."

Categories: Uncategorized

“Orthodoxy”: Myths and Realities

May 25th, 2007 10 comments

Recently, one of the "ninety day wonder" priests ordained by the former Roman Catholic, turned Oral Roberts Bible professor, turned Orthodox bishop, so-called, has taken to agitating on several Lutheran blog sites, engaging in efforts at sheep-stealing. It’s important once again to make the following points.

What I notice in reading discussions between Lutherans and recent
converts to Eastern Orthodoxy, or those considering taking the plunge
to swim the Bosporus, is how hard they strive to assure themselves that
in leaving the Lutheran Confession and embracing Eastern Orthodoxy they
are in fact either completing what they started to find in Lutheranism,
or that they are discovering what Lutheranism leans toward, but does
not fully embrace, or perhaps most honestly of all, they say that they
have found the fullness of the Church that Lutheranism lacks.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Reflections on Calvinism and Lutheranism

May 25th, 2007 14 comments


Marvin Olasky some time back wrote a colum in WORLD magazine in which he documented from several sources how profoundly
unchurched and immoral Puritan New England was. What? The bastion of
Puritanical Calvinism? Yes, none other!

More women were fornicating than attending church on Sunday morning.
Abortions were not at all uncommon. More men were sleeping off a
Saturday night binge than were in church. Church attendance was at an
all time low. No wonder the Calvinists had to pass laws to try to
legislate behavior. I found it all very interesting. The Calvinist
"system" is coming clearer for me. In the same issue there is an
article by a Calvinist columnist describing how she finds comfort,
purpose and meaning in life. But not a word about Jesus Christ. None..
Just talk of the great Sovereign God.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Pastoral Care Companion

May 19th, 2007 7 comments

I spent a pleasant hour with the Pastoral Care Companion today and I can summarize my reaction to it with three words: Wow and wow. Oh, how I wish I would have had this resource when I was in the parish. Anyone who has struggled with the paucity of practical and helpful materials in the "Little Agenda" will be overjoyed with this resource. It is truly a remarkable tool for pastoral care of souls. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Uncategorized

Early Church Fathers on the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper

May 19th, 2007 4 comments

Calvinists like to talk about the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but when pressed, they, like Calvin, confess the real absence, not the real presence of Christ in His Supper. Calvin believed that the body and blood of Christ are as far removed from the elements of the Eucharist as heaven is from earth and that it is an impious superstition to believe that the body and blood of Christ are actually under the bread and wine of the Eucharist (see the Consensus Tigurinus which Calvin authored with Bullinger). At least Calvin was consistent. He also believed that Christ sneaked his way into the room where the disciples were after He rose, but before He Ascended, since his Risen human body could not possibly have just "appeared" and passed through the closed door. The Early Church fathers, like Lutheranism, rejoiced to confess our Lord’s actual presence in the Eucharistic elements. Here is but a sampling of their thinking on this.

Ignatius of Antioch

"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the
pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of
Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his
blood, which is love incorruptible" (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

A Hunger for Substance

May 19th, 2007 1 comment

Thanks to a new colleague here at Concordia Publishing House, Josh, for sharing with me his copy of an utterly fascinating book titled, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Here is but one small "clip" from the book, which is filled with tremendously useful and important information. By the way, according to Wikipedia, I’m both a "Boomer" and a "Gen-X-er" depending on how you define either category. Actually, a trailer Boomer and a leading-edge Xer. I can see this reality from both angles.  Consider this important statement in the book, which every survey done of people who are in their twenties and thirties reveals to be true, a fact that, tragically, far too many "boomers" in their fifties and sixties, frankly those in key leadership roles in many churches, simply either do not understand, or do not want to understand. To the extent that we either do not know this, or refuse to believe it, we condemn our Lutheran church to a slow, painful and lingering decline.


Despite their generation’s famous distrust of institutions and their parents’ conspicuous quest for feel-good theology, many young adults are flocking to churches that preach conventional morality and employ traditional worship. Young adults who are disenchanted with the moral relativism and materialism that saturate popular culture–and many American churches–may find viscerally attracted to the very aspects of Christianity that their parents’ generation rejected. Churches that demand sacrifice and celebrate tradition often appeal to world-weary young adults.

"Generations X and Y have watched the parental seeking [of baby boomers] and don’t have the same set of questions," said Phyllis Tickle, a contributing editor at Publishers’ Weekly and national commentator on religion and spirituality. "They want to go to a spirituality that’s rooted in tradition."

Tickle, who left Presbyterianism in college to be come an Episcopalian, has edited and written dozens of books, including a trilogy of best-selling prayer manuals based On the he sixth-century Benedictine Rule of fixed-hour prayer. Though she sees a split in the the American consciousness between religion, spirituality, and morality–with many Americans now identifying themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious,’ for instance–she predicts that tide may turn with the next generation. For the past four or five years, Tickle said, she and her peers in the book business have been expecting to see a shift from generic and New Age spirituality to tradition. [McCain: And that shift has happened!]. A 2000 Gallup youth survey confirmed that change, Tickle said, when it found that teenagers identified most strongly as "religious" (55%), instead of "spiritual but not religious" (39%) or "religious and spiritual" (2%).

"That’s a major shift," said Tickle, who expects to see morality eventually reunited with spirituality and religion. "It had to come." . . . .

For nearly all of these young orthodox believers, a good church gives them the fullness of the gospel and worship experience that connects them to the mystery of God’s presence.

The primary cravings of young orthodox Christians in America–for tough time-tested teachings and worship imbued with mystery and a sense of the transcendent–are often the result of deficiencies in their childhood spiritual diet. Those raised in mainline Protestant and Catholic churches typically complain that their faith formation consisted of vague platitudes abut tolerance and love, not the "hard Gospel" of sin and salvation. They recall church leaders so absorbed with chic social causes that they filed to lay the faith foundations for their service work. In evangelical circles, young adults often recall many sermons on personal salvation but few discussions of how Christians should treat the poor, engage the culture, or learn from Christian history and tradition. They complain of pastors focused more on winning converts than helping converts live out their Christian faith and of worship more interested in entertaining the congregation than encouraging reverence for God.

Many evangelicals — including many children of former Catholics and mainline Protestants — are drifting back toward those liturgical churches in a quest for historical Christianity. Others remain committed to evangelical Christianity but devoted to engaging — not ignoring or retreating from — popular culture and church tradition.  . . . .

The trend toward tradition and mystery in worship transcends denominational lines. Magazines such as Christianity Today and FaithWorks have run major features on the attraction of evangelical and Low-Church Protestants to traditional devotions and liturgical worship.

End quote

The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy
Loyola Press, 2002), pg. 60-64).

Categories: Uncategorized

Pastoral Care Companion Now Available

May 18th, 2007 Comments off

I’m pleased to report that the much-anticipated Pastoral Care Companion volume is now available. It is a wonderful resources, with over 700 pages of resources for a wide variety of situations and circumstances that pastors face in their ministry. It is a compact 4 x 6 inches, and only one inch thick. You may now place your order by calling 800-325-3040, asking for the Pastoral Care Companion, item number: 031178. Price $36. Or you may place your order on the CPH web site. There is no better ordination gift! Lutheran bloggers: spread the news!

Please note: This is not so specific to the Lutheran Service Book that only LCMS pastors can use it. Not at all. It would be a great resource for any Lutheran pastor, or any Christian pastor.

Categories: Uncategorized

Secret Files of the Inquisition

May 17th, 2007 Comments off

There is playing now on many PBS stations a series titled, "The Secret Files of the Inquisition." It’s very well done, and quite fascinating. I just happened to catch the episode that featured the stories of several Lutherans in Venice and elsewhere who were executed by the Inquisition. It was quite breathtaking actually to just catch a glimpse of their steadfast Lutheran confession of faith, and refusal to abandon it. A young Italian university student was eventually boiled in oil for his refusal to recant. It’s not perhaps as scholarly as we might prefer, and can be accused just a bit of sensationalism, but it appears that some of the basic facts are getting out through the series. If you have a chance to see it, you might enjoy the opportunity. You can check it out at the link in this post.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Changing Character of European Christianity

May 17th, 2007 Comments off

An interesting article in American Spectator magazine documents the changing nature of Christianity on the European continent. Very interesting indeed.

Categories: Uncategorized

Discussion of Church Ceremonies at the BOC Blog

May 16th, 2007 1 comment

A good discussion is underway at the Blog of Concord site on Augsburg Confession XV, on Church Ceremonies. In a day when we have some congregations featuring beds in the chancels and sex talks from the pulpit, to congregations that believe the use of Jacobian English is the best way to go from our mouth to God’s ear, it is a lively subject, to say the least, one worthy of our careful consideration. Stop by and add a thought, if you wish.

Categories: Uncategorized

In Defense of Liberal Theology

May 16th, 2007 5 comments

Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, or, as I recently admitted to a fellow Lutheran blogger, I unashamedly consider myself on the cutting edge of 16th century Lutheran theology, a new book from Augsburg-Fortress Press, to me, pretty well summarizes the problem with mainline Christendom in this country. Sasse once observed that the classic liberals of the 19th century were like little children playing in their sandbox unaware that the sun was setting on them. In the same vein, the publishing house of the ELCA, a church body in a flat spin, has issued an apologia for liberal theology, the "great movement" that has delivered to the church doubt, confusion and damning apostasy. Why would anyone wish to advocate for it? I’m all for understanding it, but defending it? Arguing for it? Not so much. Here’s how this new book is described:

In this incisive work, distinguished theologian Peter Hodgson
reflects on the precarious yet vital role of theology today and
its nearly lost and sometimes discredited tradition of liberal
thought, especially liberal theology. Liberal theology has been
the main thread of Christian thinking over the last 200 years, but
it threatens to be obscured by a rising tide of conservative and
even fundamentalist Christianity, on the one hand, and a secular
materialism, on the other. Hodgson’s sure-footed work offers a way of seeing our religious
and political situations together. He calls for liberal theology to
reinvent itself and to fulfill its crucial historical roles as a mediator
between Christian commitment and the cultural situation and
as a critical lens through which to retrieve and reconstrue key
Christian doctrines. The heart or root of Christian commitment, Hodgson finds,
lies in its radical vision of freedom – God’s, nature’s, and our
own. In the end, Hodgson’s proposal embraces not only theology
but Christianity itself and its relevance to today’s most
pressing problems.

Categories: Liberal Christianity