Archive for December, 2007

iLife and iWork = Ultra Mac Goodness

December 28th, 2007 6 comments

I have a friend who was raving recently about iWork, Apple’s productivityNewiwork0708074
software for the Mac. It includes Pages, the word processing component; Keynote, the presentation software; and Numbers, the spreadsheet program. I was a bit skeptical, but…I’m a complete convert now. And the iLife software that comes loaded on Macs is truly superb. I’m up and running creating, and burning, really high quality DVDs. All of which is to say, if you are a Mac user, or you are considering it, you will not be disappointed and, I suspect, you will be blown away by the functionality that comes out of the box with a Mac. You have to pay for the iWork suite of programs, but you have a nice long trial period to consider it. iLife comes with the Mac and includes iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and GarageBand.

Categories: Macintosh

John Calvin was Not a Very Good Calvinist — Thank Goodness!

December 28th, 2007 8 comments

I bumped into this very well done brief summary of John Calvin’s view on what has become one of the five-pillars of Calvinist "wisdom" or, to put it more accurately, one of the things that is so wrong about Calvinism namely, the teaching that Christ’s atonement was limited, not for all. It is a such a glaring contradiction of the teaching of the New Testament, but Calvinism finally is about logically arranging all things in a nice, tidy system. Well, seems John Calvin himself was not much of a Calvinist. Here are quotes from his Bible commentaries that refute belief in a limited atonement:

How Calvinistic was John Calvin? What did he teach concerning the extent of the atonement? Let us ponder his own words:

Isaiah 53:12–"I approve of the ordinary reading, that He alone bore
the punishment of many, because on Him was laid the guilt of the whole
world. It is evident from other passages, and especially from the fifth
chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that many sometimes denotes all."

Mark 14:24 – "The word many does not mean a part of the world only, but
the whole human race." In other words, Christ’s blood was shed for the
whole human race.

On Matthew 20:28–"‘Many’ is used, not for a
definite number, but for a large number, in that He sets Himself over
against all others. And this is its meaning also in Rom. 5:15, where
Paul is not talking of a part of mankind but of the whole human race."

John 1:29 – "And when he says the sin OF THE WORLD, He extends this
favour indiscriminately to the whole human race….all men without
exception are guilty of unrighteousness before God and need to be
reconciled to Him….Now our duty is, to embrace the benefit which is
offered to all, that each of us may be convinced that there is nothing
to hinder him from obtaining reconciliation in Christ, provided that he
comes to him by…faith."

On John 3:16 – "He has employed the
universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to
partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers….He
shows Himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when He invites all
men without exception to the faith of Christ."

On Romans 5:18 –
"He makes this favor common to all, because it is propoundable to all,
and not because it is in reality extended to all (i.e. in the
experience); for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole
world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all,
yet all do not receive Him."

On 2 Corinthians 5:19 – God "shows
Himself to be reconciled to the whole world" and Calvin goes on to say
that the "whole world" means "all men without exception."

Galatians 5:12 – "It is the will of God that we should seek the
salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins
of the whole world."

On Colossians 1:15–"This redemption was
procured by the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of His death all
the sins of the world have been expiated."

On Hebrews 5:9–"He
(the writer of Hebrews) has inserted the universal term ‘to all’ to
show that no one is excluded from this salvation who proves to be
attentive and obedient to the Gospel of Christ."

Calvin even
taught that the lost were purchased by Christ’s blood: "It is no small
matter to have the souls perish who were bought by the blood of Christ"
(MG, 83).

In fairness, it should be stated that some of Calvin’s
comments seem to indicate that he held to a limited atonement (see his
comments on 1 Timothy 2:4-6, for example, where he says that the "all"
refers to all classes or ranks of men, and see his comments on 1 John
2:2 where he says that the word all or whole does not include the
reprobate). However, in his comments on 1 John 2:2 he mentions a phrase
commonly used in the schools: "Christ suffered sufficiently for the
whole world, but efficiently only for the elect." He then states that
he is in basic agreement with this statement and that it is true.
Calvin basically taught that the cross-work of Christ was unlimited in
its extent, but limited in its application. Only those who believe
benefit from it.

For a full discussion of Calvin’s views on
the extent of the atonement, see Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism by C.
Gordon Olson, Appendix E, pages 458-463.

In conclusion, Calvin
made some statements which seem to indicate he held to a limited
atonement, but he also made many more statements which seem to better
harmonize with an unlimited atonement. The best indication of where he
stood on this issue, as Norman Duty suggests, should come from his
final statement on the matter. Calvin made a statement in his will,
drawn up when he was 54, shortly before his death. The year was 1564
and may be regarded as his final judgment concerning the extent of the
atonement: "I testify also and profess that I humbly seek from God,
that He may so will me to be washed and purified by the great
Redeemer’s blood, shed for the sins of the human race, that it may be
permitted me to stand before His tribunal under the covert of the
Redeemer Himself." [See Douty, The Death of Christ, pages 175-176. For
an excellent discussion of Calvin’s position on the extent of the
atonement, see Morison, The Extent of the Atonement, pages 126-128.]
See also Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology, Volume 3, pages 382-387.

Categories: Calvinism

The New Year’s Challenge

December 27th, 2007 10 comments

Greetings in Christ. Pastor Weedon and I agreed last year to strive to read through the entire BOC, following the order or readings in the front of the book, and read the daily lectionary in LSB last year. He did. I did not. But…I’m glad I tried.

Once again therefore, I’m going to issue the challenge:

Will you join me in reading through the Book of Concord in the next year? And…reading the daily lectionary in Lutheran Service Book? And trying to pray at least one of the daily prayer offices therein? Matins, or Vespers?

Let’s pray for each other that we not only agree to do it, but …. do it!


Categories: Uncategorized

Adoration of Christ

December 23rd, 2007 1 comment

As frequent readers of this blog site know, I really love fine art, and most particularly, fine art depicting Christian themes. While preparing our family’s Christmas newsletter, I came across this striking painting: The Nativity by Federico Fiori Barocci (1597, oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain). What I find unique about this painting is that it sets the birth of Christ in quite a realistic setting, unlike many depictions from the 16th century. Most interesting to me is how Joseph is opening the door of the stable to the shepherds, who are coming to see this great thing that has come to pass, as the angels had told them. You can almost hear St. Joseph saying, "Yes, he is right here, come in and see!"


Categories: Art

Preach to Pain

December 23rd, 2007 5 comments

Pastor David Petersen offers on his blog site, in the following words, some very wise and helpful advice to preachers. This is a lesson most men new to the preaching office are usually oblivious too until they get some good, practical, life-experience under their belt ministering to real people with real problems. Sadly, however, some pastors never do get it. I’m going to produce here Pastor P’s thoughts, then follow them by a comment I made in response to it. I really appreciated his thought-provoking remarks, and I hope you do too.

Preach to pain.
by Rev. David Petersen

We sometimes forget this at Christmas. Strangely, I think we even forget it sometimes at funerals.

We need to remember that Christian joy is not giddiness and generic
feelings of happiness or good will toward the world. It is not simply
gratitude that we have nice families who like us and a day off work.
Christian joy is better captured by the mood of Silent Night than it is
by Jingle Bells. It is solemn and serious. It runs deep. It knows
suffering and sorrow and fear.

Shepherds quake at the sight of God laid into a manger in infant
weakness. So should we at the thought of it. It is not all glitter and
eggnog and new toys. There is something deeply troubling in the sorrows
of Mary and the hardships endured by her Son already during His first
night on earth.

Those who have mourned for years are more conflicted and troubled at
Christmas than most any other time of the year. They don’t know how to
feel. They are hurt and yet they are at peace. They joy is painful.

That pain is righteous. The faithful are disappointed with the world,
outraged at its injustices, weary of its failures and disease. At
Christmas they glimpse anew the love of God that has entered into our
brokenness to restore and recreate us. The good work that has been
begun in them is not yet complete. They are waiting. They are eager for
the end. They are full of fear and love of God and awed by the
magnitude and consistency of grace. Faith is always disaffected with
the world, always eager for the new creation, and on this side of glory
it always hurts.

"Preach to pain," Dr. Deffner used to say, "and you’ll always have active listeners."

Not only that, I say, but you might actually help them. You might give
them some understanding of their suffering, some encouragement that
their suffering is not in vain, and some hope of the Day when what they
long for will be delivered in full.

McCain response:

Dave, I’ve been thinking a lot about this post. Among the many
wonderfully thought-provoking things you’ve posted here, I think this
is truly one of the finest. I would encourage you to expand this into a
full-blown article for the CTQ, or LOGIA.

I have come to a point in my own preaching that I recognize that this is precisely the very thing that is key to making preaching, preaching, as opposed to:

Rhetoricizing (is that a word?)
Musing on certain random irrelevant concepts

To preach to pain; often, to preach through pain, to pain, is what preaching is all about. It is one sinner declaring the reality of sin and the comfort of the Gospel, to another. It is one hungry man saying to hungry people, here is where will find the bread that lasts. It is one man parched with thirst showing others where, and how, to find the living water. It is one sick man saying to sick people, here is healing; one dying, to the dying, pointing them to Life Incarnate.

We tend to come out of seminary believing that if are able to parse
every verb, decline each noun, analyze grammar, syntax and theme,
we will have a good sermon; similarly, we tend to think that if we are able to give a
dogmatic lecture, more fitting for the seminary classroom, or bible
class, we have a good sermon. We are under the impression if we follow a somewhat
slavishly formulaic pattern that goes: law, gospel, come take
communion, we have preached a good sermon. Then, some, in reaction to this, fall into the other ditch: preaching sermon that are not much more than expanded Hallmark greeting cards, or more akin to stand-up routines.

As I read the sermons of the fathers, and listen to good sermons, I am
struck, repeatedly, by precisely what you say in your post. "Good
sermons" — those that reach me the most deeply, that speak to me most
profoundly, are sermons that are actually speaking to the hearer. The
pastor is talking to me. He is preaching to me. He is not trying to
impress some long-distant seminary professor. He is not attempting to
"follow the formula and get it just so." He is not trying to manipulate me.

He is preaching. He is, as you say, preaching to pain. The pain of my
sin is preached to, with clear words of God’s judgment against that
sin. The Gospel is preached concretely so that the great "for you" is
"for me."

The more I ponder these things, the more I come to appreciate and
understand what was said about our Lord, "And looking out on the crowd,
he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a

All of which is to say, Pastor Petersen: well done and many thanks for a fine post!

Categories: Sermons

Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective

December 17th, 2007 21 comments

I’m pleased to announce the publication of Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. It is a four hundred page book, paperback, 6×9. Price: $26.99. You may place an order on the Concordia Publishing House web site or call 800-325-3040.

As the ordination of women becomes more commonplace, it is increasingly important for all faithful Lutherans, clergy and laity alike, to be able to articulate why, because of the teachings of Holy Scripture, women should not be ordained as pastors. This book offers a rich variety of essays on this topic from Lutherans around the world as they have, in the past century up to the present time, responded to the practice of placing women in the church’s pastoral ministry.

There are over twenty essays in this volume, representing Lutheran churches throughout the world. The essays are divided into four sections, including: Biblical studies, historical studies, doctrinal studies and practical studies.

Anders Nygren, a great theologian from the Church of Sweden, said prophetically after his church adopted the ordination of women as pastors, "This decision not only means a determination of the specific issue concerning female pastor, but, I am convinced, also means that our church has now shifted into a previously unknown path heading in the direction of Gnosticism and the Schwaermerei. . . I must declare my deep sorry regarding the decision and give notice of my reservation over the same."

"Years ago, C.S. Lewis said that should the Church opt to ordain women, it would very quickly find that it had brought about a whole new religion. . . . His words have an uncanny prescience to them. Perhaps it is time to step back, reexamine what we have done, and if honesty requires us to say that we have done wrong, begin the necessary correction of the course."  from the essay in the book, How My Mind Has Changed, by Rev. Louis A. Smith, ELCA pastor


Matthew C. Harrison is the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Ministries.

John T. Pless is Assistant Professor, Pastoral Ministry and Missions, and Director of Field Education, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

What Others Are Saying
"It is striking that in the ancient Near East, where female deities and priestesses were abundant, Israel was told to have only male priests. Similarly, in the Greco-Roman world, where female gods and priestesses flourished, the Church restricted the apostolic-pastoral office to men. This volume is to be commended for similarly resisting the prevailing cultural novelties by supporting in a scholarly and churchly manner the God-given order for the Church’s ministry. Women as well as men are blessed when they hear and follow the living, healing voice of Jesus in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures."
— Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe,
President, Concordia Theological Seminary,
Fort Wayne, Indiana

"The apostolic ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament cannot be made androgynous or gender-neutral against the plain text of God’s Word. Against the tides of postmodernism and the fallicies of ancient paganism, we as biblical Christians maintain that above all varying and changing human truths, there is God’s divine and eternal truth revealed to us in His Word. Departing from His Word, the Bible, means separating from the living God. The essays in this book are from able hands of ministers who still want the Church to continue praying, "Thy will be done," not, "my will be done" nor the "will of my time." This book reveals the truth from the God who was, who is, and who is to come. It will help many who doubt the truth of Holy Scripture and will build and nurture those who confess God to be faithful and living according to His Word."

— Most Rev. Dr. Walter Obare Omwanza,
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya

"Being liberated from colonization in the last century and already facing the globalization of culture at the beginning of this new millennium, the African Lutheran Churches confront the issue of women’s ordination with pressure form within and without. This book comes at the right time as spiritual illumination, strengthening hands and providing leadership and a path for them and for those [churches] in the same situation in their war over against a modern neopagan understanding of the office of pastor."
— Dr. Randrianasolo Joseph
Professor of Theology, Malagasy Lutheran Church
Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Louis A. Brighton
Peter Brunner
David W. Bryce
Bertil Gärtner
Bo Giertz
Charles A. Gieschen
Henry P. Hamann
John W. Kleinig
Peter Kriewaldt
Gregory Lockwood
Geelong North
Hermann Sasse
David P. Scaer
Robert Schaibley
Fredrik Sidenvall
Reinhard Slenczka
Louis A. Smith
William Weinrich
Roland Ziegler

Categories: Books

Final Thoughts on the Compass Rumpus

December 15th, 2007 Comments off

Well said, by fellow Lutheran Anthony Sacramone. Kudos!

Categories: movies

December 15th, 2007 Comments off

Merry Christmas, from Apple Computer.


Categories: Uncategorized

Journeys of St. Paul via Google Maps

December 15th, 2007 1 comment

Here is a really great resource: a person has created, with Google maps, the journeys of St. Paul. You can view the journeys in various ways, including the "terrain view" which will let you see the topography of where St. Paul went.

Categories: Internet Resource

A Case Study in The Ongoing Conversation in the Lutheran Church About What it Means to be “Missional”

December 15th, 2007 18 comments

How best to reach out
boldly with the Gospel while remaining faithful to Scripture and the
Lutheran Confessions continues to be a vital topic of ongoing study and conversation. It is often helpful to have specific examples on the table while examining the meaning and implication of being missional. Here are two.

First: A Christmas video prepared by a Lutheran congregation.

Second: This same congregation decided recently not to put the word "Lutheran" on their church buildings’ signs. Here is how they explain that decision.

What are your thoughts?

Categories: Lutheranism

The Bells of Thuringia

December 14th, 2007 4 comments

Thanks to a friend who sent me this wonderful link to recordings of church bells in Thuringia, Germany. Listen to this and you will know what church bells are supposed to sound like. My experience is that American Lutheran congregations often ring a bell for thirty seconds or so at the start of the service. In Germany they are rung regularly, throughout the day, on the hour, and even through the night. In Wittenberg, I recall sleeping with the window in my hotel room open, hearing the bell of St. Mary’s tolling throughout the night to mark the passing hours. Here in the USA, people would protest that this is "noise pollution." To which, I would say, with all the gusto I can muster, "Bah! Humbug!"

In the city of Magdeburg, I was sitting down in the cloister of the great cathedral there and all of sudden I just about toppled over backward as the bells of the cathedral began to ring. They rang, and rang, and rang. What was going on? It was just 3:00 p.m. and the bells were riging the passing of the hour for nearly twelve minutes non-stop! It was amazing.

The bell featured in the first recording you will hear is one of the largest bells cast during the Middle Ages, the "Gloriosa" at the cathedral of Erfurt. This was the bell Luther heard on the day of his ordination in the cathedral, and the bell he would have heard during all the years in the monastery, which was within short walking distance of the cathedral. Cast in 1497, it is the largest bell cast during
the Middle Ages and, at 8 feet in diamater, it is still the
world’s largest medieval free-swinging bell. 

Read the extended entry for technical details about the bell and its sound qualities.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

KFUO Radio Interview on Children’s Books

December 12th, 2007 Comments off

I did an interview yesterday with the world’s best Lutheran talk radio show, Issues, etc., on the subject of children’s books. If you would care to listen, here is the MP3 file of the interview.

Download mccain_interview.mp3

Categories: Books

USA Today and Christian Children’s Books

December 11th, 2007 1 comment

Yes, you read that title correctly. Today, USA Today has posted an article about Christian children’s books and much to my delight the reporter really "got it." The thrust of the article is how many Christian parents are now looking for books that do not treat the Bible as a collection of "rules" or Aesop Fables or Mother Goose stories. And if you read the article you’ll notice a certain blogger whom you might know was interviewed for the story. He did not quite say things precisely as reported. He did not say a certain Lutheran publishing company was not interested in being innovative; rather, he said we are not interested in trying to make the Bible teach or say what it does not teach or say. But, well, overall I was very impressed by the piece and by the good job the reporter did. She told me (ok, yes, I was interviewed) that she loved the CPH Arch Book, "The Fall Into Sin." Why? "Because you guys really just tell it like it is!" She went on to say, "And I notice that no matter what Bible story you are telling you always end up coming back to talk about Jesus!" Yes!! I quoted to her what the Gospel of John says, which we understand to apply to the Bible, "These things are written, that you may believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Categories: Books

Sunny and Me

December 9th, 2007 3 comments

How many of you would guess I have, arguably, the world’s cutest dog? His name is Sunny. He is a Bichon Frise. We got him when he was a pup. His grandfather won best-of-something at the Westminster Dog Show several years ago. He weighs all of 12 pounds, sopping wet. He is the most intelligent dog I’ve ever been around. And I’ve been around dogs my whole life. This is the first small dog I’ve ever had. I grew up with big dogs. This one I can carry in one arm. He doesn’t shed. He doesn’t smell. He only rarely barks, though he is very expressive with all sorts of little sounds. He can: shake, high-five, sit, lie down, stay, come, fetch, and roll over, and over, and over. His record is fifteen in a row. He "goes" on command, morning and evening. He was a challenge to house train, but my wife, the absolute queen of positive reinforcement training, won the day. OK, there. Now you know one of my secrets. I have a wimpy dog. What can I say? I’m just a big softie ok?

Categories: Uncategorized

Wise Men Still Seek Jesus, Not Relics

December 9th, 2007 1 comment

In another reminder that Rome is still Rome, comes a report that alleged bits of bones of the three wise men will be on display in the Tucson, Arizona. The Apostolate for Holy Relics is co-sponsoring the visit along with an area Knights of Columbus group. I’m sure even many good Roman Catholics would beg to differ with Mr. Garcia who exclaimed, "This is the closest I’m going to get to God in my physical lifetime,"
said Arizona Knights of Columbus spokesman John Garcia. "And since this
is a time of Christmas, it puts us closer in touch with the birth of

No, Mr. Garcia, the closest you are ever going to be to Christ is when you receive Him in Word and Sacrament.

But, wait! There’s more to be seen. From the article:

The exhibit is also expected to feature relics from the manger,
fabric from the Virgin Mary’s veil and Joseph’s coat, and a bone
fragment from St. Elizabeth, who was the Virgin Mary’s ninth cousin. "It’s a tangible thread between heaven and Earth," said Thomas
Serafin, a lay Catholic who is president of the Apostolate for Holy
In his Large Catechism, Luther use the German word for relic, "heiligtum" to good effect when he writes:

"The Word of God is the true holy thing [heiligtum - relic] above all
holy things. Indeed it is the only one we Christians acknowledge and
have . . . God’s Word is the treasure that sanctifies all things" (Large Catechism, Commandments, par. 91).

Categories: Roman Catholicism