The Norwegian State Church has, as of today, voted to ordain actively homosexual persons as pastors. This signals the yet more complete collapse of the state church as a genuinely Lutheran Church in Norway. May God strengthen those who continue to oppose these evils and remain steadfast in His Word. A friend sent me this note: "Pro-homosexual ordination forces won a final vote by 50-33 in the
Church of Norway’s assembly today (16 November). The measure removes
the bar to ordination of practicing homosexuals, permitting "local
option" on the question for now. ["Local option" is, of course, the standard revisionist ploy until they consolidate their position.]"
one should at the same time say yes and no about the same thing, unless he be an utter ignoramus or a desperate scoffer.
is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching
beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about
Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be
said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the
very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the
third article, of sanctification, that is, of the new life in Christ.
They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather
always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in
Christ, and under no circumstances use these or similar words, "Listen!
You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a
whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious,
vindictive, malicious, etc.!" Instead they say, "Listen! Though you are
an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you
but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has
fulfilled it all!"
me, my dear man, is that not granting the premise and denying the
conclusion? It is, indeed, taking away Christ and bringing him to
naught at the same time he is most beautifully proclaimed! And it is
saying yes and no to the same thing. For there is no such Christ that
died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from
sins and lead a new life. Thus they preach Christ nicely with Nestorian
and Eutychian logic that Christ is and yet is not Christ. They may be
fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for
they do not preach "about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit," but
solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they
extoll so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, he has purchased
redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform
us out of the old Adam into new men-we die unto sin and live unto
righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it
beyond, as St. Paul teaches (Rm 6- 7). Christ did not earn only
"grace," for us, but also "the gift of the Holy Spirit," so that we
might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he
who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have
a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not
there, even if all the angels would cry, "Christ! Christ!" He must be
damned with this, his new Christ.
Luther, Luther’s Works, 41:113-14
Comment moderation is now back on due to the fact that a comment was posted here overnight containing a link to an unsavory Internet site promoting a "lifestyle" that is contrary to the Sixth Commandment. I simply can’t have that. I will however continue the open comment policy as previously announced, provided comments comply with the "Comment Policy" posted to the right, as per the usual. Thanks for understanding.
A new conversation is underway over at the Blog of Concord.
I’m tempted to say that if these tremendously beautiful renderings of powerful hymns and chants don’t move your heart to joy and praise of God you are a block of stone, but that would perhaps be rude.
I’ll let you know how.
Here are some of mine:
1) Rude drivers.
2) People who drive under the speed limit in the fast lane.
3) Being late [oh, how I hate to be late!].
4) Lack of common courtesy, such as "please" and "thank you."
5) Meetings for the sake of having a meeting.
6) Having my little morning rituals thrown askew.
7) Interruptions when I’m really concentrating.
8) People who treat other people rudely.
9) Bad coffee, which means, most coffee brewed at any church event or location.
10) Poor customer service.
11) Bad service in a restaurant.
13) Confusing the proper use of "I" and "me." Drives me nuts.
14) People who correct people who misuse "I" and "me."
15) Comb overs. If it’s gone, it’s gone. Stop pretending! You are not fooling anyone.
16) When I’m too lazy to get out of bed early and get exercising.
17) Laziness in others.
18) People who delegate up.
19) People who are always looking to make excuses and blame others.
20) People who fail to give credit to others.
21) The fact that I do not read as much as I want to.
22) Hymns played without any rest between verses to breath.
23) Hymns played like they are all funeral dirges.
24) Organs played too loudly in church.
25) Shoes that are not clean and shined, mine included.
26) Women who dress in a slutty fashion (sorry to be rude about it).
27) Anytime I behave like a horse’s rump toward anyone.
28) Having a messy/disorganized desk and/or office.
What are some of your pet peeves?
And it continues in the ELCA.
Of course, they did not have a game today, but…hey, you’ve got to take whatever good news you can find.
As readers of this blog site know, a topic that has had my attention for quite some time is the problem of an aversion to sanctification that has taken hold in certain quarters in Confessional Lutheranism. It is a subset of Gospel reductionism, and a sad legacy of those years in our Synod when there was active and open denial of the third use of the law. Under that influence there developed unfortunate views of Christian sanctification. Also there are those who appear to think that the best antidote to legalism is a certain kind of antinomianism. I’ve noticed for many years that there are those who go so far as to think that since Pietism is a problem, a demonstration of impiety is the solution: coarse language, crude humor, making fun of people, drinking to excess, etc.
It is a sort of pendulum move. If there are Christians who lose sight of Christ and the Gospel in their quest to be about good works, there is this odd notion that the way to counteract that is attempting to reduce the entire Christian experience and life to a rather formulaic, rote articulation of the doctrine of justification and denunciation of works righteousness. The proper distinction between Law and Gospel has come to be understood to mean that a sermon should not speak about the Christian’s life transformed by the Gospel. I’ve been told by several Lutheran pastors that any sermon that ends with any mention of works thereby fails to distinguish between Law and Gospel. I find no evidence for this position in the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, or any of our Lutheran orthodox fathers, including Luther, down to our own time with Walther. It is a legacy of more recent Lutheran speculation, not historic Lutheranism.
As a result of all this, it is no wonder that there are Lutheran Christians who regard the Gospel as not much more than a way to be "let off the hook" for personal responsibility for moral, virtuous Christian behavior. I’ve had more than one conversation with a pastor who has indicated that this is cropping up increasingly in pastoral ministry. A person comes expressing a sense of remorse for a situation but is not capable of recognizing their own culpability for the situation and their contribution to the situation in their lack of commitment to virtue and morality as a Christian living out their lives in grateful obedience to God. They come seeking forgiveness, or perhaps, to be made to feel better, with some sort of pastoral, "Oh, that’s ok. You are only human. Don’t worry, you are forgiven" when they have no intention to stop the sinful behavior. Simply put, Christ did not shed His blood on the cross to give you "freedom" to live like a pig, unconcerned about good works and living your life to glorify God. Some have even taken to promoting shirts that say "Weak on
sanctification." That is as offensive to me as a shirt that would
proclaim, "Weak on justification."
The Gospel sets us free from sin, not free to sin. The Gospel liberates us from captivity from sin, but does not excuse a libertine life. The Gospel forgives sin, it does not excuse it. We are justified by Christ’s perfect righteousness, but unrighteousness is never justified.
Some might say, "There McCain goes again. Another rant about good works. Who does he think he is?" Who am I? ‘m a sinner who daily sins, much, and is in need of forgiveness. I’m a man who loses my temper, who becomes impatient, who says things I wish I would not say, who thinks things I wish I would not think, who does thing I wish I would not do, that I don’t even want to do. Who am I? A sinner. Like you. That’s why daily I pray, "Forgive us our trespasses." But I do not want to reach a point where I try to let myself off the hook and say, "Oh, don’t worry about the sins in your life. Don’t be concerned. Don’t try to stop sinning and don’t try to live the life to which I’m called in Christ." I hope I’m never not concerned. I hope and pray I’m never not troubled by my sin. For if and when that time comes, I know that the Gospel will not be as sweet and of such joy.
Time and again I encounter an attitude born of an improper lack of teaching about the life of good works to which we are called in Christ. I’ve run into more than a few earnest Lutheran Christians who actually believe that it is permissible for them to indulge themselves in drunkenness and coarse, crude, vulgar language, enjoying pornographic rap lyrics, and the most vile of movies. Where does this idea come from? Certainly not from the Scriptures, nor the Lutheran Confessions. We Lutherans love the Bible when it talks about justification and forgiveness, but do we love it as much when it speaks specifically to us, as Christians, about the consequences of the new life in Christ? Note the two passages that follow. These are not being written to unregenerate pagans but to those who have been born anew in Christ.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love,
as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a
sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all
uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is
fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse
jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath,
malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)
In Christ, we do strive to obey God and glorify Him with our behavior. Notice: in Christ we do this. We in Christ and Christ in us. We are not concerned about good works to win or merit or earn God’s love and favor, but to glorify Him, to thank Him, to praise Him, to serve Him, to obey Him, for the pleasure of it, for the joy of it, for the fact that we are new creations in Christ.
Update: Thanks to Brian who offered a comment to this post. I went over to his blog site and there discovered a couple quotes by LCMS theologian Gilbert Meilaender that are expressing concerns similar to mine. I’ve never read Meilaender much at all, to be honest, but it was intriguing to me to read him expressing things I’m wrestling with. I am not at all persuaded that the problem is the Law/Gospel dialectic itself, but very poor applications and understandings of it. Here is what Meilaender has written:
“I want to examine critically a certain understanding of Lutheranism,
which (whether our language in that of paradox, of the law-gospel
distinction, of the law always accusing, of dialect, or of freedom from
the law and critique of any third use of the law) eventually arrives at
a kind of practical antinomianism — which is, alas, all too readily
accompanied by a strident moralism — but which, were it consistent,
would have no reason to pray that our hearts may be set to obey God’s
commandments.” (p. 253)
“Not without good reason … has Niels Henrik Gregersen argued that
“Luther’s dialect of law and gospel should not be elevated into a
theological principle that structures the interpretation of Christian
faith from beginning to end.” When that is done, Gregersen notes, we
end with a theology that “cannot express the extent to which the New
Testament constantly instructs the believer to act according to his or
her belief: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus Christ.’” We
need to better than this dialectical Lutheranism. We need a theology
that does not invite us to forget that “the grace of God has appeared
for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and
worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this
world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our
great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself up for us to redeem
us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who
are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14), We need a theology that
does not invite us to act as if the incarnation, cross, and empty tomb
have done nothing new and transforming in history.” (page 263-264)
From Hearts Set to Obey, chapter 14 of I Am the Lord Your God: Christian Reflections on the Ten Commandments, edited by Carl Braaten and Christopher Seitz (Eerdmans, 2005).
Scenes from the CPH Warehouse Sale held today. Publishing is an interesting business. Do you know of any other business that permits distributors to return products up to a year or more after they have purchased them, at a huge discount? Well, that’s publishing; consequently, every year we have items that we offer to the general public at huge savings because they have been returned. Oh, did I mention that the publishing business permits returns of products that are damaged, no matter how badly damaged? Yes, that too. And so we offer gently used materials every year. This is just the way publishing is. Here is how a warehouse sale, both before the crowds rush the tent and then during the sale.
Before the tent is opened.
After the tent is opened!
Don’t stand in the way of the folks when the tent first opens.
The sale begins at 8:00 in the morning. Here is the line as it had formed by 7:30. The first people at the front of the tent arrived from Illinois at 5:30. The evening before we let seminarians come and they start arriving at around 2:30 and the tent doesn’t open until 4:00.
Music lovers digging through sheet music.
Once people have what they want, they enter the check out tent where they first bring their items to tables with CPH staff members who tally up their purchases. Here is Rev. Benjamin Mayes (left) and Rev. Robert Baker (right) adding up somebody’s purchases. Serious business.
Well, time to get ready to head off to the annual Concordia Publishing House Warehouse Sale. I’m bringing along my camera and will get some photos of the event. Last night was the closed sale for seminary students where they line up an hour or two in advance and then stampede in to the academic and professional book tables. Today is the open sale for the general public where they line up an hour or two in advance and stampede every table. I’ll be back in touch later today with photos when I have them.
I finally had a chance to meet in person one of my favorite Lutheran bloggers: Diane Meyer of Respublica. I was attending the second annual prayer breakfast at Concordia Seminary on Thursday, and Diane came up to my table and said "Does somebody at this table blog?" Diane’s blog, as I told her, is one of the very best examples I know of, of what a personal blog is all about. Diane engages issues of importance to her family and her community with humor and intelligent analysis. I get a lot of my local news from Diane’s blog: highway construction, local politics, best place for hamburgers, etc. She’s a good writer and it is a fun blog to read. So, be sure to add Diane’s blog to your feed reader.
Well, it is beautiful and stunning. I’m talking about the latest Apple Operating System for the Macintosh, OS X Leopard (OS 10.5). But it is not without its problems. Seems a certain small percent of people installing it have had problems. I was one of them. How bad? Well, for whatever reason our hardware guru had, finally, to completely reformat my hard disk and do a clean install. Now, a clean install is a good thing every so often, but when you don’t plan on having to do a clean install and reformat your hard disk, not so good. And, add to this the fact that it just so happens my company is switching over to a new mail server this week, which is consuming a lot of time and attention of our tech crew, well, it made for nearly three whole days of being without my beloved Macintosh. But yesterday, it came back from the hospital and is now proudly running Mac OS X. It is a beautiful new operating system. The feature that is really, really cool is the ability to browse through the contents of your various folders in the same way you look at album covers in iTune. Really cool. I’m getting used to some of the design tweeks to the system. I really like the way you can preview contents of folders in the dock. And the backup utility included, "Time Machine" is a great solution and help for keeping your hard disk backed up daily, weekly and monthly: all of this is now done automatically for you. Just plug in an external hard disk, and Time Machine does the rest. So, warning to all of you looking to upgrade to Leopard: be careful. An update is due out around Thanksgiving supposedly to take care of whatever the bugs are in the system causing install problems. But if you are a Mac fan, you are going to love the new features. I know PC users are used to all sorts of glitches, problems, crashes and such, but it is so rare on the Mac, when it happens, it is very traumatic. Your sympathy is appreciated. Grin.