A conversation is underway at the "Blog of Concord" concerning Augsburg Confession, Article XXI, on Good Works. Come on over and pay a visit, add a comment if you wish.
Great quote here. HT Treaders
To require a Christian priest to say little more at a benediction than
“the Sustainer bids you to peacefully love your neighbor” or “May the
Holy One be with you always” is effectively the same as asking a
surgeon to say to a man dying on the operating table, “Don’t worry,
everything is all right.” It is not a truthful word, and the dying man
(and we are all dying men) needs the truthful word.
Read the whole article here.
John Parker on the Dishonesty of Inclusive Prayers
Once I accepted an invitation to give the benediction at the graduation of
the Medical University of South Carolina. I was delighted that a school like
MUSC was still willing to invoke the Name of God and ask his blessings on those
who are to be sent out into the world to practice the work that the school
has trained them to do.
Having driven past the university’s beautiful St. Luke’s Chapel
(named after St. Luke, the evangelist and physician) hundreds of times, I began
to consider what words might be fitting for these medical students. I sat at
my desk, reviewing ancient books of Christian prayers, to write the most appropriate
one for those commencing the next step of their professional medical lives.
Two days later, I received by mail a delightful letter, thanking me for agreeing
to deliver the benediction and inviting me to a number of related festivities.
Included with the letter, though, was a memorandum from the Office of the President
of the Medical University: “Guidelines for Invocation and Benediction
at Public Functions,” guidelines to which I would be required to conform
in order to bless the graduates.
The first was a reasonable request for any public speaker: “Appeal
to the larger spiritual virtues that all faiths have in common: love, faith,
hope . . . peace, goodness.” The second was acceptable, although dripping
with political correctness: “Use inclusive language: forbears rather
than fathers, . . .” etc.
The third was a problem. Here is the text (the boldface appears in the original):
Steer clear of parochial, exclusively defining religious names, concepts,
practices, and metaphors. A good rule of thumb to remember is that you come
representing the entire faith community, not just your own group. The prayer
should therefore not be offensive to anyone, whether Catholic, Baptist, Jewish,
Muslim, etc. For example, when opening or closing, an inclusive choice
would be “Holy God, Holy One, Creator, Sustainer,” rather than “Allah,
Jesus, Holy Trinity,” etc.
In four sentences, the Medical University of South Carolina, in its effort
to “set a tone of reverence at our public assemblies” and “bear
testimony to [our] richly diverse religious and cultural heritage” and
somehow to make generic and inoffensive any public benediction or invocation,
sanctioned officially one religion over all others: American pop-religion—a
tray full of cafeteria-style faith, which takes nice-sounding “religious” words
from this group and that, pleasing to the ear but without real content.
I sent my prepared benediction to the Office of the President, wanting to
embarrass neither myself nor the staff of the Medical University at graduation.
I soon received a polite call from the same office, during which I was un-invited
to bless the graduates.
The truly Christian benediction (the only type of benediction I am authorized
by my archbishop and my ordination to give) is not permitted. Thus, the university,
hoping to display its “religious heritage” and seeking to demonstrate
its “pride in . . . diversity,” actually shows itself to be selectively
inclusive. Inclusion in the Medical University’s public religious expression
is limited to those who will show no conviction at all.
No Good Word
The heritage of the Medical University is, to some degree, Christian. Its
chapel is not “generic” by any stretch—it is named for a
Christian saint, adorned with his stained-glass image, and topped with the
Cross of Christ. These have been the marks of a certain faith. Not
a generic faith.
Only a certain faith offers what people truly want and need, while a generic
faith cannot—which we often see, ironically enough, in the world into
which these graduates are being sent. Someone suffering from a third heart
attack doesn’t want to hear about spirits that sustain us or a “god” who
is with us in our suffering. He wants—even needs and expects—the
blessing and grace of God in that moment.
His heart longs for some assurance that even if his body won’t be okay
(sometimes it won’t), Someone is reminding him, “Lo, I am with
you always, even unto the end of the age.” This is the very same assurance
and grace this Orthodox priest hoped—and was invited—to offer to
the graduates who will care for such a soul.
To require a Christian priest to say little more at a benediction than “the
Sustainer bids you to peacefully love your neighbor” or “May the
Holy One be with you always” is effectively the same as asking a surgeon
to say to a man dying on the operating table, “Don’t worry, everything
is all right.” It is not a truthful word, and the dying man (and we are
all dying men) needs the truthful word.
Doctors, nurses, indeed all hospital personnel and those for whom
they care need, like all the rest of us who are struggling to live in this
dying world, a true, good word—a real benediction in the fullest sense
of the term. Why can we no longer give it to them?
Within the walls of a hospital, a sterile, antiseptic environment is critical
for the care and recovery of patients. But the sterile, antiseptic “benediction” the
guidelines require is a “good word” to no one, blesses no one,
offers no promise of divine aid and comfort to men and women who will need
it desperately. Such selective inclusivity removes every particular faith to
a space well off to the side, where it can do no harm to the secular ideal
of “inclusivity,” but can do no good either.
In the end, to ask a Christian pastor to bless a gathering in this way is
little more than having some person in religious clothing stand in front of
a crowd to say a few generically religious words, hoping to give some religious
legitimacy to a public gathering. Not only is there no power or grace in it,
it is devoid of any essential meaning.
A True Prayer
That May, I did offer my prayer for the graduates of the Medical University
of South Carolina, though not in their presence. I prayed:
“O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Lover of Mankind, Physician of our souls
and bodies, who in pain bore our infirmities, and by whose wounds we are healed:
“Who gave sight to the man born blind, who straightened the woman who
was bent over for eighteen years, who gave speech and sight to the mute demoniac,
who not only forgave the paralytic his sins, but healed him to walk, who restored
the withered hand of a troubled man, who stopped the flow of blood of her who
bled for twelve years, who raised Jairus’s daughter to life, who brought
the four-days-dead Lazarus to life, and who heals every infirmity under the
“Do now, O Lord, give your grace to all those here gathered who have
labored and studied hour upon hour, to go into all the world, and also to heal
by the talent you have given to each of them. Strengthen them, by your strength,
to fear no evil or disease; enlighten them to do no evil by the works of their
hands, and preserve them and those they serve in peace.
“For you are our God, and we know no other. And to you we send up glory
together with your Father who is from everlasting, and your most Holy, Good,
and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
is priest-in-charge of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church, a mission parish
of the Orthodox Church in America, in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. He
earned his MDiv (2001) at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in
Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and his MTh (2004) at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox
Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. He can be reached at
I do not understand how there can be full communion between churches like the ELCA that does not endorse homosexual marriages and those that do, for instance, the United Church of Christ. Here is a photo of a UCC marriage celebration.
Believe Teach Confess
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God,
begotten of the Father from eternity,and also true man, born of the
Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned
creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the
power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy,
precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that
I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve
Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as
He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is
most certainly true.
Painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Younger, 1555. St. Peter and Paul Church. Weimar, Germany.
A recent Q/A on the excellent WELS FAQ page has a dynamite response to a common, though woefully misinformed, question about whether or not a crucifix is "Lutheran." I must admit that anytime I hear a comment about a crucifix being "too Catholic" it makes my skin crawl. And when I hear the ridiculously painful explanations offered for the "empty cross" such as, it is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection [no, the cross would be empty even if he remained dead!], I want to tear my hair out. So, kudos to our friends in the WELS. There are still, unfortunately, too many Lutherans who actually do think a crucifix is somehow "not really Lutheran." Oh, the humanity! Somebody, please make it stop! Thanks WELS for doing your part.Q: Is the crucifix hanging on a church wall an idol? I think it is the Puritans who claim that since no one has ever seen God, we cannot know what He looks like. Therefore, every depiction of Christ is false and represents an idol.
A crucifix for multitudes of Christians is not an idol but a treasured reminder of the gift of forgiveness and the indescribable love that won for us forgiveness and eternal life.
While various opinions throughout history have made rules beyond Scripture concerning art in churches or homes, Lutherans operate with Christian freedom on this topic – as long as the art serves a beneficial spritual purpose and is not used superstitiously.
Note the use of a crucifix at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and another newly constructed WELS church in Antioch, IL. You can see pictures of the chapel, crucifixes, and new church at Worship the Lord. Look under issues 18 and 21.
Another newer Lutheran church, dedicated in 2000, contains a striking and large crucifix. The church’s website offers this meaningful commentary:
The crucifix is suspended at the center of the sanctuary, acknowledging the death of the God/Man as the foundational reality of the Christian faith. Christ’s sacrificial death in our place – for the forgiveness of our sins – is the only basis for the salvation of humanity. To worship in this sanctuary is literally to gather at the foot of the cross. The placement of the crucifix over the altar and the pulpit serves to emphasize the altar as the emblem of Christ’s sacrificial death and the responsibility of the preacher to proclaim Christ and Him crucified in every sermon. The "corpus," that is, the body of Christ upon the cross, is 8 feet tall, carved in Lindenwood. The realistic nature of the figure is designed to impress upon the worshiper the grim reality of death by crucifixion, and thus the high price that God’s Son was willing to pay for our salvation. Nowhere else can the depth and the power of God’s love for us be seen more clearly than at the cross. The Savior bows His weary head, still crowned with the mocking thorns, as if to look down in love upon the congregation gathered below. The intricate detail of the carving is inspired by the Nikolaus Gerhaert crucifix in the Lutheran Church of St. George in Nördlingen, Germany. The "titulus," that is, the placard over the head of Christ bears the full inscription "Jesus of Nazareth – King of the Jews" in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin (cf. John 19:19-21). The 16 foot cross is carved of rough hewn oak and bowed in the traditional manner.
(Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston)
A misunderstanding among some Lutherans is the idea that use of a crucifix is a Roman Catholic practice. The history of Lutheranism demonstrates that the crucifix was a regular and routine feature of Lutheran worship and devotional life during Luther’s lifetime and long after during the period of Lutheran Orthdoxy. One occasionally hears a WELS rationale for why some churches have empty crosses – that we emphasize the resurrection. But this is a pious fiction, a rationale constructed after centuries of Lutheran use of crucifixes. This pious fiction may have came about because of the confluence of two factors: an architectural minimalism in the second half of the 20th century, and the false idea that only Catholics use crucifixes – even though all Lutheran churches in early Lutheran Germany would have used a crucifix, as did many early WELS churches.
St. Paul states, "We preach Christ crucified" – not resurrected (1 Co 1:23). But this hardly denies the resurrection nor the value of preaching about the resurrection. The difference is that the resurrection is the seal proclaiming the validity of what Christ accomplished at the cross. Yet in our daily lives, we need the results and blessings of the crucifixion even while we live in the confidence of the resurrection. In Christian worship the blessings of the crucifixion (and also the perfect life of Christ) are delivered to us through the gospel in absolution, preaching, and the sacraments.
See also the article But Isn’t That Catholic?There are many other comments about crucifixes on the WELS website Q&A. You can search on the term. See especially the following. Some of these address the idea that a crucifix is a "graven image." Others address the value of Lutherans using a crucifix.
The 477th Anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
The 427th Anniversary of the Publication of the Book of Concord
I wish all of you a happy anniversary! The anniversary today of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, in 1530, and the anniversary of the publication of the Book of Concord, fifty years later.
I thought a sermon from Dr. C.F.W. Walther commemorating the anniversary of the Formula of Concord would be an appropriate item for this day. So, here you go. The text below is from a WORD file, so apologies for any formatting issues, but you can still read it.
Here’s another Christian clergyperson who believes that when Christians pray to Jesus and when Muslims pray to Allah, they are actually praying to the one and same, true God.
TESTING THE FAITH
Priest goes Muslim,
but remains Christian
Episcopalian prays at mosque Fridays,
joins in church service Sunday mornings
Posted: June 18, 2007
9:22 p.m. Eastern
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
Rev. Ann Holmes Redding at Seattle mosque (Courtesy Seattle Times)
SEATTLE – A veteran Episcopal priest says she became a Muslim just over
a year ago and now worships at a mosque Fridays – but that hasn’t
stopped her from donning her white collar Sunday mornings.
am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African
descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both," Rev. Ann Holmes Redding
told the Seattle Times.
a priest for more than 20 years, until recently was director of faith
formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, the paper
reported. Now, she’s telling the world about her adherence to Islam,
provoking bewilderment from Christians and Muslims.
Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., told the Times there are
"tenets of the faiths that are very, very different."
"The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?"
Readers of this blog site might like to know that there are several new posts on the "Blog of Concord" the Internet’s only web site devoted to an ongoing conversation about the Lutheran Confessions. Pay it a visit. Add a comment or two.
Here is a, typically, excellent op-ed piece by the Roman Catholic layman George Weigel, expressing his opinion about a Roman Catholic bishop’s protest of the new forthcoming improvements to the English translations currently used here in America of the Mass. If you have ever been to an American Roman Catholic Mass you may have noticed the horrendously poor English phrasings. The same would hold true for the approved English translation of the Bible as well, but for now the issue is the Mass. What I found helpful in this op-ed piece is how Weigel’s comments also pertain to any pastor or congregation, in any denomination, offering up their own "home-brewed" liturgies. I’ve noticed, time and again, how horrendously bad these things are. Weigel hits the nail on the head.
Writing in the May 21 issue of America, Bishop Donald W.
Trautman of Erie, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the
Liturgy, called the lay people of the Church to the barricades, urging
us to “speak up!” in response to the new translations of Mass texts
being developed by the International Commission on English in the
Liturgy. I’d like to take the bishop on his generous invitation, even
if my remarks may not be precisely the kind he intended to provoke.
Writing in the May 21 issue of America, Bishop Donald W.
Dr. James White offers a helpful refutation of the popular way among Roman Catholics to defend their practice of praying to the saints. His foil here is a Roman Catholic layman named Armstrong who self-published a book titled, "The One Minute Apologist."
Under the broad topic of Mary and the Saints, Armstrong attempts to
defend Rome’s doctrine of prayer to saints. Once again, we find no
evidence that he is interested in responding to the strongest
objections to his position, but only to the weakest. But despite this,
even in responding to the weakest argumentation, the number of circular
arguments and simply false assumptions is great indeed. Armstrong
rightly lays out the objection: "The Bible forbids communication with
the dead. It also tells us there is only one mediator between God and
men: Jesus." Exactly, and, if he has taken the time to listen at all,
he knows that the vacuous, yet nigh unto universal, argument of Roman
Catholic apologists regarding asking a friend to pray for you (this is
somehow taken as having relevance to Jesus’ role as the sole mediator
between God and men). The fact that Jesus role as mediator is
essentially and necessarily different is lost on those who use this
facile argumentation, for Christ has a grounds upon which to stand as a
mediator that no one, including Mary, possesses. This has been
explained many times, but Roman apologists continue repeating their
simplistic argument as if no one has ever responded to it.
The Concordia edition of the Book of Concord is now available, and in stock, and shipping….in leather, burgundy leather. Mmmmm…leather.
Or place your order via telephone at: 800-325-3040
NOTE: The regular hardback edition remains available at a special introductory price of $20, but this special price is good until until July 31. After July 31, the price goes up to $29.99 and it won’t be available for $20 again. So…word to the wise, and all that.
[Note: the photos of the two leather editions on the web site are of only the bonded. A photo of the genuine leather edition is coming].
The 20% professional/rostered church worker discount applies to these items. Please let me also note that only rostered, professional church workers may receive this discount. In other words, if you are buying a book for a church worker, you don’t get the 20% discount, they have to buy it directly from us themselves. Just so you know.
The bonded leather is a flexible cover, with thumb indexes to all the major portions of the book and gilded page edges, with a ribbon marker. The genuine leather edition is rather unique these days. It is a hardback leather volume, in a slipcase. It has silk endsheets, a ribbon marker and gilded page edges, with thumb index. Both books come in a nice outer box making it a nice gift presentation.
Be the first on your block to have a leather edition of the Book of Concord and impress your friends and family with your impeccably good taste, or something like that. To my knowledge, this is the first time the Book of Concord has been available in a leather edition since Concordia Publishing House reprinted a German edition of the BOC in 1890. I do not believe the Triglotta was printed with a leather cover, but a leather-like material. Anyone know?
Martin Luther offers wonderful advice to us when the Devil wants to lead us to despair due to our sins or any suffering and affliction in life:
A Christian must learn to apprehend this and to avail himself of it when the battle is joined and the Law attacks him and tries to accuse him, when sin wants to slay him and thrust him into the jaws of hell, and when his own conscience tells him: “You have done this, and you have done that; you are a sinner and are deserving of death, etc.” Then the Christian should answer confidently: “It is unfortunately true that I am a sinner and that I have surely deserved death. So far you are right. But still you shall not condemn and slay me. Another, who is named my Lord Christ, shall stay your hand. You accused and you murdered Him innocently. But do you remember how you vainly dashed full tilt against Him and burned yourself and thereby forfeited all your rights to me and to all Christians? For [Vol. 28, Page 212] He both bore and overcame sin and death not for Himself but for me. Therefore I concede you no rightful accusation against me. I can, rather, justly assert my rights against you for trying to attack me without cause and despite the fact that you were already condemned and overcome by Him, which deprived you of any right to assail and accuse me. And although you may now attack and devour me according to the flesh, you shall not accomplish or gain anything by this. You must eat your own sting and choke to death on it. For I am no longer the man you are looking for; I am no longer a child of man, but a child of God, for I am baptized in His blood and on His victory, and I am vested with all His possessions.
You see, in this way Christians must fortify themselves with this victory of Christ. With it they must repel the devil. They must not give way to him in a dispute, but say: “How dare you accuse and harass a Christian? Do you not know who my Lord is and what He is able to do?” There is nothing better—for anyone who can do it—than to deride and defy him and say cheerfully: “If you want to be a villain, go ahead, but take heed and do not bother me! and do not expect any thanks for this either.66 If you are so eager to sting and to strike, go up to Him who is seated above and do battle with Him. If you have any designs on me, lodge your accusation there, before your Judge and mine, and let us see what you will accomplish.” But he does not want to go there, for he is well aware that he has lost out there and that he is already sentenced and slain by Him. Therefore he avoids going there as he avoids the cross. Nor does he go to the impudent, wild, and coarse people who are unconcerned about sin and death, for he already owns these. No, he wants to attack only us who seek Christ and who would fain be rid of sin and death. He is intent on tearing Christ from our heart and on frightening and oppressing us with sin and death, so that we might despair and surrender to him completely. Therefore we must again rebuff him and point him to the victory which is ours in Christ. In that way we must embrace Christ and hold to Him, so that the devil cannot approach us; for he knows very well that he is unable to accomplish anything if we but cling steadily and firmly to this by faith.
This is the beautiful sermon for Christians which shows us how we, through Christ’s victory, rid ourselves of sin’s sting, which kills us, and of the power of the Law, which drives this sting into us. And it [Vol. 28, Page 213] shows us that in the end this sting will be completely destroyed in us. And now St. Paul appropriately concludes with a song which he sings: “Thanks and praise be to God, who gave us such a victory!” We can join in that song and in that way always celebrate Easter, praising and extolling God for a victory that was not won or achieved in battle by us—it is far too sublime and great for that—but was presented and given to us by the mercy of God. He had compassion with our misery, from which no one could rescue us, and He sent His Son and let Him enter the battle. He laid these enemies, sin, death, and hell, low and retained the victory. He transferred this victory to us, so that we may say it is our victory. It is just as if it had been gained by us. The only condition is that we must accept this sincerely and not give God the lie, as they do who presume to overcome their sin and death by themselves. Nor dare we be found ungrateful for this, as vulgar, false Christians do, but we must keep this in our heart in firm faith and confirm ourselves in this and always be engrossed in such a message of thanks and sing of this victory in Christ. And in faith in this we must cheerfully depart this life, until we experience this victory also in our own body. May God help us to that end through the same dear Son. To Him be glory and honor forever.67
Martin Luther, vol. 28, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28 : 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 28:211 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1973).
For the sake of a blogging friend who hates it when "old guys" like me try to sound cool, I added the "kicking it" phrase just to make him grind his teeth.
The Vatican is about to release a statement indicating that the celebration of the 16th Century Tridentine Mass is kosher again throughout the Roman communion. Previously, it required special dispensation of the local bishop to celebrate it and many Roman Catholic bishops have not permitted it in their dioceses. The Vatican statement would be a Papal "indult" as it is called allowing priests everywhere to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without the permission of their bishop. The big question still remains: will the Pope put any conditions on his indult, or not? The "Motu proprio," as this kind of statement is called, has been written and is being translated. It apparently has already been leaked, in Spanish, in Central America. This is all the buzz on many Roman Catholic blogs, which I enjoy monitoring. The Old Order Mass is the Mass form that was used throughout Roman Catholicism up until Vatican II introduced the New Order mass. I have attended many New Order masses, while I was a student at a Roman Catholic High School, and at friends’ churches, and I have always been struck by how insipid and banal it is in many respects, to be fair, in terms of style, no different from how poorly the Lutheran Divine Service is conducted at far too many Lutheran congregations. The Old Order mass is the form of the Mass against which Luther speaks out so powerfully in the Smalcald Articles. This is a prime opportunity for Lutherans to assert the Evangelical treasures of the Scriptures. With a Vatican approval of the Old Order of the Mass Rome will once again clearly demonstrate that in spite of all the romanticizing done by Lutheran ecumenists about how Rome has "changed" and how it has now again "embraced the Gospel," it is in fact just the same old, same old Romanism. Interestingly, this call for the old Latin Mass is coming from younger catholics.
And here is another "choice" item. My good friend, Dr. Gene Edward Veith, recently handed me several pages from a book I was unaware of: Joseph Leo Koerner’s The Reformation of the Image. The writing is a bit stilted, but…what a treasure is to be found in this book. It drives a stake through the heart of the Pietistic evils that have inflicted much of American Lutheranism when it comes to the visual arts and our worship spaces. I was talking to a dear lady recently, a new Lutheran, who explained that she loves simplicity and would prefer a stark room in which to worship God, to an elaborately decorated church. I wondered aloud with her why this is. Our Lord is a very visually oriented God. His first command, "Let there be light" is proof enough of this. If he wanted us to exist in a realm of "pure thought" without visuals, He would not have created light nor have given us eyes. But, He did, thanks be to Him, and so we can, and should, enjoy the treasures of beauty experienced by all our senses, in our lives, and in our worship as well. Nothing is more sad to me, than a bare, stark interior of a church deprived of beautiful symbols and visual images. I shudder when I see the interior of the typical Presbyterian church. Reminds me of a funeral home chapel. This book explains the genius of Lutheran art.