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Archive for August, 2009

And meanwhile, in Rome….what’s old is new again

August 22nd, 2009 14 comments

The Pope has released some new/old liturgical laws. Read it for yourself here.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

LCMS President’s Remarks to the ELCA Assembly

August 22nd, 2009 8 comments

Address by President Gerald Kieschnick, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly,

Minneapolis, Minnesota

August 22, 2009,

Presiding Bishop Hanson, Members of the Assembly, Special Guests, Friends in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the years of my life and ministry, these words from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 have become especially meaningful:

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting mankind’s sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-21, ESV)

What a blessing it is to know that our sin is forgiven, removed from us as far as the east is from the west, because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ on Calvary’s cross. And what a humbling privilege and huge responsibility it is to know that God is making his appeal, through people like you and like me, people with feet of clay, that the world might be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.

I bring you these greetings on behalf of the 2.4 million members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at a difficult time in the world and in the church. Economic pressures bring great burdens. Strife finds its way into the LCMS, the ELCA, worldwide Lutheranism, and the Christian Church as a whole. Mankind’s inhumanity to mankind manifests itself in global unrest and worldwide terrorism. Peace is often elusive, both in the world and in the church, as sin and Satan continue to rear their ugly heads in both venues.

Lutherans are no strangers to discord and divisiveness. The Lutheran church was born under such conditions. Yet we also know the path to concord, expressed in these rather straight forward words in The Formula of Concord, written during a notable time of doctrinal controversy and discord in the church. Hear these words from the Kolb-Wengert translation:

“For these controversies are not merely misunderstandings or semantic arguments, where someone might think that one group had not sufficiently grasped what the other group was trying to say or that the tensions were based upon only a few specific words of relatively little consequence. Rather, these controversies deal with important and significant matters, and they are of such a nature that the positions of the erring party neither could nor should be tolerated in the church of God, much less be excused or defended.

“Therefore, necessity demands explanation of these disputed articles on the basis of God’s Word and reliable writings, so that those with a proper Christian understanding could recognize which position regarding the points under dispute is in accord with God’s Word and the Christian Augsburg Confession and which is not, and so that Christians of good will, who are concerned about the truth, might protect and guard themselves from the errors and corruptions that have appeared among us.”

The writers of this Formula pledged themselves, and I quote, “to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments, as to the pure, clear fountain of Israel, which alone is the one true guiding principle, according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.” Discord can become concord when Christian individuals and Christian church bodies are faithful to the Holy Scriptures, which reveal the Gospel of God’s grace, forgiveness, and salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The very fact that I represent a denomination known as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at an assembly of a denomination known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America bears witness to the fact that, sadly and regrettably, in spite of the holy Word and mercy of our God, the Confessions affirmed by the constitutions of both our church bodies, and the faithful example of those who have gone before us, schisms remain, not only in the Christian church, but also in the Lutheran church. We have doctrinal differences that separate us. That is no secret.

I speak these next words in deep humility, with a heavy heart and no desire whatsoever to offend. The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same gender unions as pleasing to God will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA. It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies. The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm. This grieves my heart and the hearts of all in the ELCA, the LCMS, and other Christian church bodies throughout the world who do not see these decisions as compatible with the Word of God, or in agreement with the consensus of 2000 years of Christian theological affirmation regarding what Scripture teaches about human sexuality. Simply stated, this matter is fundamentally related to significant differences in how we understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.

Only by the mercy of our Almighty God does hope remain for us poor, miserable sinners. By His grace, through Word and Sacraments, the evangelical witness and authentic message of sin and grace, Law and Gospel, must resound to a troubled world so desperately in need of His love in Christ.

May God grant each of us sensitivity, humility, boldness, courage, faithfulness, and forgiveness as we continue to strive toward God-pleasing harmony and concord in what we believe, teach, and confess. We have much to accomplish in the mission our Lord Jesus has entrusted to us.

May God have mercy upon us all, and grant us His peace in Christ.

Categories: Uncategorized

Evidence for Infant Baptism in the Early Church

August 20th, 2009 6 comments

778-baptism-oneChristian Churches that do not baptize infants take a good deal of offense at those of us who do. What is the witness of the early church in regard to the baptism of infants? Turns out there is quite a bit, both from the writings of the church fathers and inscriptions that have been found on the tombs of infants and very young children. Here is a selection of such evidence:

Evidence for Infant Baptism in the Church Fathers and Inscriptions

The following is intended not as irrefutable evidence, nor as the first line of an apologetic for infant baptism. It is certainly neither. The Scriptures themselves, especially the Scriptural teaching of sin, grace, and faith, form the clear basis for the practice. However these passages do present the clear practice of infant baptism in the ancient church of the second through the fourth centuries.

The Fathers

Irenaeus: For he came to save all by means of himself — all, I say, who by him are born again to God — infants, children, adolescents, young men, and old men. (Against Heresies II.22.4)

Hippolytus: And they shall baptize the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family. And next they shall baptism the grown men; and last the women. (Apostolic Tradition 21.3-5)

Origen: I take this occasion to discuss something which our brothers often inquire about. Infants are baptized for the remission of sins. Of what kinds? Or when did they sin? But since “No one is exempt from stain,” one removes the stain by the mystery of baptism. For this reason infants are baptized. For “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Homily on Luke 14:5).

[After quoting Psalm 51:5 and Job 14:4] These verses may be adduced when it is asked why, since the baptism of the church is given for the remission of sins, baptism according to the practice of the church is given even to infants; since indeed if there is in infants nothing which ought to pertain to forgiveness and mercy, the grace of baptism would be superfluous. (Homily on Leviticus 8:3).

[After quoting Leviticus 12:8 and Psalm 51:5] For this also the church had a tradition from the apostles, to give baptism even to infants. For they to whom the secrets of the divine mysteries were given knew that there is in all persons the natural stains of sin which must be washed away by the water and the Spirit. On account of these stains the body itself is called the body of sin. (Commentary on Romans 5:9)

Cyprian: In respect of the case of infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man… Spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision… we ought to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins – that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another” (Letter 58 to Fidus).

Augustine: For from the infant newly born to the old man bent with age, as there is none shut out from baptism, so there is none who in baptism does not die to sin. (Enchiridion; ch. 43)

The Inscriptions

Here the words of Everett Ferguson are appropriate: “Early Christian inscriptions, which in the largest numbers come from the environs of Rome, furnish some instances of child and infant baptism for the third century . . . Nearly all the early Christian inscriptions are epitaphs. A considerable number of these are for the graves of children. The vast majority give no evidence whether the child was baptized or not . . . Actually the word “baptism” is seldom used. The idea is expressed by “received grace,” “made a believer” or “neophyte” (newly planted ” used to mean “newly baptized”) — from Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries; Revised Edition (Abilene: ACU Press, 1984) .

To the sacred dead. Florentius made this monument to his worthy son Appronianus, who lived one year, nine months, and five days. Since he was dearly loved by his grandmother, and she saw that he was going to die, she asked from the church that he might depart from the world a believer. (ILCV I:1343, from the third century; edited by E. Diehl (second edition; Berlin, 1961))

Postumius Eutenion, a believer, who obtained holy grace the day before his birthday at a very late hour and died. He lived six years and was buried on the fifth of Ides of July on the day of Jupiter on which he was born. His soul is with the saints in peace. Felicissimus, Eutheria, and Festa his grandmother to their worthy son Postumius. (ILCV I:1524, from the early fourth century)

Sweet Tyche lived one year, ten months, fifteen days, Received [grace] on the eighth day before the Kalends. Gave up [her soul] on the same day. (Inscriptiones latinae christianae veteres, Vol. I number 1531)

Irene who lived with her parents ten months and six days received [grace] seven days before the Ides of April and gave up [her soul] on the Ides of April. (ILCV I:1532)

To Proiecto, neophyte infant, who lived two years seven months. (ILCV I:1484)

Source

Photo courtesy of Don Danz, www.DanzFamily.com

Categories: baptism

Do the Lutheran Confessions Restrict our Theology?

August 18th, 2009 8 comments

titlepageSM4dHere is a question that was put up on Facebook. It is one of those questions that reminds me of the old “when did you stop beating your wife” type of questions; that is, the way it is worded it is meant to elicit a “no” from you, but the question is predicated on a faulty premise, that the Lutheran Confessions are somehow a “restriction” on our thinking. Just the opposite is true, the Lutheran Confessions liberate us from our preconceptions and errors in theological reflection. Here then is the qustion, and how I responded. How would you have responded?

Were our Confessions conceived as a theological box with intentionally fixed boundaries unaffected by changing contexts?

We ask our pastors and other church workers carefully to study the Book of Concord so as to determine if they can, with joy and confidence, say, “Yes, this is my belief, teaching and confession.” . . . they are a “fixed boundary” for what we believe, teach and confess to be the teachings of God’s Word.

Here is how the Formula of Concord concludes:

“Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God’s grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God’s grace, intend to abide thereby.”

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Reclaiming Lutheranism’s Love and Respect for the Church Fathers

August 14th, 2009 6 comments

02064_early_church_fathersjpg.jpegAn aspect of Lutheranism that is somewhat unknown, unfortunately, to many Lutherans, is the fact that we never renounced, rejected or otherwise denigrated a study of, and love for, the church fathers. In fact, it was a Lutheran who coined the word “patrology” to refer to the study of the writings of the church fathers. The “church fathers” are those theologians of both East and West, who lived and produced theological works from roughly 100-500 a.d. There is remarkable consistency across their writings, and Lutherans delighted particularly in showing their opponents in the Roman Catholic Church that the Lutheran confession of the ancient faith was thoroughly consistent with the teachings of the church fathers. While never elevating extra-biblical opinions of the church fathers above Scripture, as Rome did, Lutheranism has never rejected, but rather has embraced, the early church fathers as our own. It is a false and misleading claim that the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Church are the ones who are faithful to the early church fathers, in fact, it is Lutheranism that is the most authentic and faithful confession of the faith of the church fathers.

Carl Beckwith put matters well in an article published in an issue of Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 68:3/4, July/October 2004, when he wrote:

“Lutherans have always recognized the value of studying the early church fathers. Whether Martin Luther or Johann Gerhard, C.F.W. Walther or Hermann Sasse, one finds a considerable familiarity with and appreciation of the church fathers. In his important study on post-Reformation Lutheranism, Robert Preus explains, “The Lutherans were convinced that the church fathers were worthy of being read directly, although critically, ‘dividing the straw from the gold.” ” The Lutherans appealed to the fathers, according to Jacob Preus, because they “were part of the ‘heavenly witnesses,’ men standing before the judgment seat of God and bearing witness to their faith.” By using the testimony of these heavenly witnesses, the Lutherans demonstrated the continuity of their teaching with the church catholic.”

How then can a person go about learning more about the church fathers and reading them, not uncritically, but with understanding and appreciation? For this task, I recommend a person read the works of Johann Gerhard and Martin Chemnitz, both of whom were very familiar with the early church fathers and made much use of them in their theological writings. Rather start to tackle, right away, entire works of the Church Fathers, an anthology of their writings, organized around topics, can be very helpful. The very best resource like this is rather new, it is the five volume series Ancient Christian Doctrine, offering quotes of the early church fathers around the Nicene Creed and its various points. It is very well done.

Finally, here is a nice summary of how Lutherans should regard, and make use of, the church fathers. Dr. Beckwith concludes his article:

“Martin Chemnitz’s approach to the fathers is one of esteem and discernment. He appreciates and makes use of their contribution to Christian doctrine, their guidance in theological terminology, and their many struggles to defend God’s word against the heretics. When the fathers fail to distinguish between law and gospel, distort the articles of justification and sanctification, or overemphasize works and discipline, Chemnitz seeks to understand why such statements were made. He does not see their shortcomings as an opportunity for ridicule but rather as a call for diligence that we not repeat their mistakes in our defense of God’s word. When we reverently and faithfully approach the fathers, we do so knowing they sought only to confess the faith that leads to everlasting life. Just as we pray today for brotherly correction when we stray from God’s word, so too we correct these heavenly witnesses when they stray from the only rule and norm for doctrine, God’s inspired and inerrant word.”

Categories: Church Fathers

The Impact of Social Networking on Friendships in 14-21 Year Olds (Gen Y)

August 13th, 2009 2 comments

teen_comptuer

Research by MySpace reveals interesting things about how 14-21 year olds regard social networking and their online friends:

“The MySpace study asked social networking users between the ages of 14 and 21 (aka “Generation Y”) questions about their interactions both on social networks and in their real life, too. Some 36% of the respondents said they found it easier to talk about themselves online than in the real world, leading them to share more about themselves using technology. This group also felt that their online friends knew more about them, and so, in a sense, were closer than offline friends because they all knew what was going on in each other’s lives. Outside of the social networking sites, the survey respondents overwhelmingly felt ill-at-ease in social groups. A whopping 72% said they felt “left out” and didn’t think they fit into any particular group. More than four-fifths (82%) said they moved between four or more different groups of friends in an effort to find acceptance.

In many ways, easy access to technology can be seen as both a blessing a curse for this young group of digital natives. These days, you’ll often encounter teens having text message conversations or posting status updates while ignoring the very friends they’re presently with in the real world. Behavior like this could certainly send a message to the others that they are second priority to whomever else has engaged their friend’s attention. That could easily lead to feelings of being “left out” as reported in this study.”

Read more about it here.

Categories: Social Networking

Genuine Leather Editions of The Lutheran Study Bible: First Look!

August 12th, 2009 11 comments

Black and Sangria [burgundy], genuine leather editions. Here you go! The paper inside these two books has not a word on it. Still a ways to go before we have finished books here, but…this is how the genuine leather covers are going to look. No, we are NOT releasing a Bible with blank pages, for the “do it yourself theology” crowd. If you want to place an order for The Lutheran Study Bible, please visit: cph.org/lutheranbible and you can find your way around the various editions and options. If you want to see what the difference is between regular and larger print, grab this file and take a look: promo_large_print_comparison

Genuine Black

Largersangria

First Come, First Served or A Word to the Wise Re: The Lutheran Study Bible

August 12th, 2009 6 comments

Word To The WiseThe large kit of promotional materials is making its way to you, even as I key in this message. I expect that Lutheran congregations will start receiving it already this week, and for sure by the end of the month. So, be looking for it. It’s important. May I offer a word of advice? Place your orders for The Lutheran Study Bible, now, not later. Why do I say this? Two reasons:

(1) Based on the ever growing “volume” of incoming questions, comments, and all around excitement, it is clear that The Lutheran Study Bible is going to be big, as in B I G, big.

(2) Based on the accelerating pace of pre-publication orders, it appears to be the case that the first print run of The Lutheran Study Bible will be going fast, and based on the complexities of paper supplies, we can not guarantee delivery of the Bible before Christmas once the first print run is out.

I highly recommend therefore that you and your congregation get orders in as soon as you can and basically “take a number” and get in line, for we will be shipping Bibles as the orders were received: first come, first served. So, just a word to the wise.

Please see the illustration to the left, if you are a visual learner.

Just a word to the wise. Call 800-325-3040 or go to cph.org/lutheranbible

The Legacy of John Calvin

August 12th, 2009 14 comments

ncd01583This year Christians who are heirs of John Calvin’s theological work are celebrating his 500th birthday. Calvinists like to refer to Calvin’s work as the “second wave” of the Reformation and often we hear Calvinists asserting that it was left to Calvin to complete the Reformation that Luther began. This has been the standard “party line” from Reformed theologians, and Crypto-Calvinists, both before and ever since Luther’s death in 1546. It is very important that Lutheran Christians remain aware of the very serious, foundational differences in doctrine between historic, classic Lutheranism and historic, classic Calvinism. Where both confessional Lutherans and confessional Calvinists do agree is often on the moral issues of our day and in a common stand against the liberal mainline protestant theology that has taken over many historically Lutheran and Calvinist Churches. But agreement on these issues is not such that we can simply neglect the reality of our historic differences on key and essential doctrines, including, but not limited to: the person and work of Christ, Christ’s atonement, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, the means of grace, predestination, the uses of the Law, etc.

I consider it a great tragedy that John Calvin did so much to corrupt the genuine evangelical Reformation of the Western Church. The errors that flow from Calvin’s theology of a limited atonement, an irresistible grace and a predestination of some to hell, are a corruption of the Scriptures and the Gospel of Christ. Calvin and those that followed him, taught that the atonement of Christ is limited only to those who are saved, thus robbing everyone of the comfort of the Gospel promise that Christ died for all, not simply for some. Calvin’s errors on the atonement and predestination come from Calvinism’s erroneous use of reason, and its penchant to try to construct an ex post facto explanation of why some are saved and not others. Calvin also corrupted the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and in spite of lofty claims about the Eucharist, Calvin does not confess that Christ actually gives His body to communicants, but rather communicants in receiving bread, ascend to heaven with their souls and there feed on Christ by faith. It is an empty shell of a supper that Calvin would have us receive in Holy Communion.

While we certainly do not deny that the Gospel is heard and believed by Reformed Christians, who clearly do love our common Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we can not consider Calvinism, and the Reformed Church tradition that follows it, to be an authentic expression of Luther’s Reformation. I am not in favor of Lutherans allying themselves with Reformed theologians, no matter how conservative they might be on certain issues. Calvin’s work in Geneva was, in large part, one of iconoclastic destruction, not a conservative reformation. Calvinism put into place a theological system that deemphasizes God’s chief and most essential quality: love and replaces it with a focus on God’s “sovereignty.”

The fundamental problem with Calvinism is well summarized by Francis Pieper in his magisterial work Christian Dogmatics (Volume 1, pg. 25ff):

The Reformed denominations likewise acknowledge in principle the divine authority of the divinely inspired Scriptures. The inspiration of Scripture has found valiant champions among the Reformed theologians not only in the past, but also today. But in practice Reformed theology forsakes the Scripture principle. It has become the fashion to say that the difference between the Reformed and the Lutheran Church consists in this, that the Reformed Church “more exclusively” makes Scripture the source of the Christian doctrine, while the Lutheran Church, being more deeply “rooted in the past” and of a more “conservative” nature, accepts not only Scripture, but also tradition as authoritative. But this is not in accord with the facts. The history of dogma tells this story: In those doctrines in which it differs from the Lutheran Church and for the sake of which it has established itself as a separate body within visible Christendom, the Reformed Church, as far as it follows in the footsteps of Zwingli and Calvin, sets aside the Scripture principle and operates instead with rationalistic axioms. The Reformed theologians frankly state that reason must have a voice in determining Christian doctrine.

Read the extended entry for a further summary and presentation of the fundamental problems with Calvinis theology. It is for these reasons that Calvin’s work is not to be celebrated, but lamented.

Read more…

Categories: Calvinism

The More the Merrier? The Next Big Sexual Relationship Trend

August 11th, 2009 4 comments

ks125877No marriage. Homosexual marriage. What’s next? Multiple coupling: polyamory. It’s coming and we need to be aware of it. Do note all the latest buzz words and redefinition of terms. Dr. Al Mohler speaks to this issue:

Once a sexual revolution is set loose, it inevitably runs its course through the culture.  While the current flashpoints of cultural conflict are focused on same-sex marriage and gender issues, others are biding their time.  As Newsweek magazine makes clear, some new flashpoints are getting restless.

Polyamory, reports Newsweek, is having a “coming-out-party.”  Polyamory is the current “term of art” applied to “families” or “clusters” comprised of multiple sexual partners. As Newsweek explains, this is not exactly polygamy, because marriage is not the issue. Advocates of polyamory argue that their lifestyle is not “open marriage.” Indeed, they define their movement in terms of the moral principle of “ethical nonmonogamy,” defined as “engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person — based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.”

Legal theorists and opponents of same-sex marriage routinely (and rightly) make the argument that the legalization of homosexual marriage will, inevitably, lead to the legalization of polygamy. Once marriage is redefined to allow for same-sex unions, any determination to maintain legal prohibitions against polygamy will be seen as merely arbitrary. At the same time, once strictures against adultery were eliminated in the culture and in the law, something essentially like polygamy was inevitable.

The article in Newsweek, written by Jessica Bennett, presents polyamory as a growing movement that now involves persons in the cultural mainstream. As the magazine reports: “Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city.”

The movement now claims a number of recognized books, blogs, podcasts, and even an online magazine entitled “Loving More.” According to Newsweek, actress Tilda Swinton and Carla Bruni, the First Lady of France, have emerged as prominent spokespersons for nonmonogamy. As should be expected, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University now features a “polyamory library.”

Jessica Bennett suggests that the contemporary polyamory movement has roots in utopian movements of the 19th century:

The notion of multiple-partner relationships is as old as the human race itself. But polyamorists trace the foundation of their movement to the utopian Oneida commune of upstate New York, founded in 1848 by Yale theologian John Humphrey Noyes. Noyes believed in a kind of communalism he hoped would fix relations between men and women; both genders had equal voice in community governance, and every man was considered to be married to every woman. But it wasn’t until the late-1960s and 1970s “free love” movement that polyamory truly came into vogue; when books like Open Marriage topped best-seller lists and groups like the North American Swingers Club began experimenting with the concept. The term “polyamory,” coined in the 1990s, popped up in both the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries in 2006.

In one sense, the polyamorous defy easy categorization. The movement includes couples who openly and with full knowledge of each other engage in sexual relationships with others. Some are involved in group sex and others experiment with bisexuality. The Newsweek article introduces readers to a new vocabulary. The most revealing word is “polyfidelitous” –  which means that the multiple partners keep sexual activity within their own self-identified cluster.

Interestingly, Bennett observes that the movement “has a decidedly feminist bent.” If men can have multiple wives or female partners, then, the logic goes, women must have the same in order to achieve “gender equality.” Bennett quotes Allena Gabosch, director of an organization known as the “Center for Sex Positive Culture,” suggesting that polyamory sounds scary to people because “it shakes up their worldview.” But, she insists, polyamory might well be “more natural than we think.”

Perhaps the best way to understand this new movement is to understand it as a natural consequence of subverting marriage. We have largely normalized adultery, serialized marriage, separated marriage from reproduction and childbearing, and accepted divorce as a mechanism for liberation. Once this happens, boundary after boundary falls as sexual regulation virtually disappears among those defined as “consenting adults.”

The ultimate sign of our moral confusion becomes evident when virtually no one appears ready to condemn polyamory as immoral. The only arguments mustered against this new movement focus on matters of practicality. Polyamory is certainly not new, but this new movement is yet another reminder that virtually all the fences are now down when it comes to sex and sexual relationships.  What comes next?

Categories: Culture

There is No Good Reason Not to Offer the Lord’s Supper Every Sunday: Do you agree?

August 10th, 2009 37 comments

100th-Anniversary-040-735765I’ve been pondering the perplexing phenomenon of Lutheran congregations not offering the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, along with the quirky, “Service of Communion without Communion” the infamous “page 5″ service of The Lutheran Hymnal, or as some put it wryly, “the dry mass.”

In The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod we’ve been passing resolution after resolution, “encouraging” congregations to offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday for years now, but we still have far too many congregations that celebrate the Lord’s Supper every-other-Sunday, at best, or even less frequently, at worse.

Holy Scripture indicates that the Lord’s Supper was offered to God’s people each Lord’s Day (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20,33). The Lutheran Confessions declare in our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the Sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved (Augsburg Confession XXIV, para.34). And Dr Luther in his Large Catechism writes, Indeed, the very words, “as often as you do it”, implies that we should do it often. And they were added because Christ wishes the Sacrament to be free, not bound to special times like the Passover (Large Catechism, Fifth Part, para.47).

Here’s a great resource to get you started. I am convinced that if a congregation prayerfully studies this book together, the remaining objections to communion every Sunday can only finally be attributed to willful, selfish, ignorance, and can on longer be used as a valid reason not to offer the Lord’s Supper at each Divine Service in our congregations. The point I always make with people who protest at the thought of a congregation offering the Sacrament every Sunday that it is “too often” or “too Roman Catholic” or too…whatever, is that while they may choose not to receive the Sacrament every Sunday, they have no right to deny this gift to others simply because they don’t want it.

When we consider the enormous blessings that we receive in the Lord’s Supper, that we are receiving from Christ Himself, His very body and blood for forgiveness, life and salvation, how could we not want to receive this gift at every Divine Service?

Simply put, I can not think of one single good reason why the Lord’s Supper is not offered in our congregations every Sunday. Can you? If your congregation does not offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, why doesn’t it? And what can you do about it?

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-09

August 9th, 2009 Comments off
  • Audio Interview about J. S. Bach: I did an interview about Bach on Issues Etc. yesterday. You can give it a list.. http://bit.ly/Ga82D #
  • I have to tell somebody, like you! I saw the new “Graphic Catechism” … it is an amazingly powerful word/graphic combo. Coming soon! #
  • NEWS FLASH: My Blackberry voice mail icon is gone! Got a new voice mail, deleted it, poof icon gone. I know you were worried! : ) #
  • Twelve Ways Church Workers Can [and should!] Use Social Media: I have some friends who take great pride in being.. http://bit.ly/niDIk #
  • Rehanging pictures. Life lesson: husband gets to pick where ONE goes, wife all rest. Just smile and say, “Looks great there!” #
  • Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

New Samples Galore from The Lutheran Study Bible

August 7th, 2009 3 comments

lookinside_03Samples, and more samples. Many new ones are now available at The Lutheran Study Bible’s web site, here: cph.org/lutheranbible

Mega-Churches: Neither the Problem nor the Solution, but a Mirror

August 6th, 2009 2 comments

Here is an interesting article from Christianity Today, online. Which you can read here. Here’s a snippet that offers some common-sense observations. While the trends in the mega-church might be on a larger scale, similar challenges are facing medium and small congregations:

At some point cultural adaptation itself needs to be adapted—back into gospel culture. For instance, African churches found it necessary to tolerate polygamy and other cultural practices in the first generation of missionaries. But by the second and third generations, maturing Christian disciples were undermining polygamy. In corporate America, it may be necessary to use the ethos of marketing to gain the gospel a hearing. But after a generation, shouldn’t megachurches begin shifting away from business and consumer language in the way they conceive of their work? In none of Paul’s prayers for his churches does he highlight “innovative growth strategies” that “multiply impact.” His language is radically un-businesslike and inefficient. One example: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17). Unfortunately, the latest Leadership Network study shows that the language of business and consumerism persistently frames the megachurch worldview. . . . While the megachurch has some unique dynamics, most medium-sized and smaller churches in America are not that much different in demographics. It’s not as if no young people attend smaller churches, or as if every member of a smaller church is an active volunteer! And many a smaller church chases after “strategies and programs” that can “meet spiritual needs” and “multiply effectiveness.” As it turns out, the megachurch is like a megaphone. It is not so much an aberrant form of church as a large, flashing icon of the American church. It’s no secret that too many evangelical leaders are captivated more by business culture than biblical culture, spending more time absorbed in strategies and effectiveness and relatively little time in prayer. No, it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation, but let’s face it, it often is.

“Stalin was a monster” — Russia Faces up to History

August 4th, 2009 2 comments

Here is a story I found very interesting, and perhaps you will to. How does a nation come to terms with its history?

Russian archbishop’s censure of Stalin as ‘a monster’, makes waves – Feature
By Sophia Kishkovsky

Moscow, 4 August (ENI)–Comments by a senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church condemning Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, accusing him of genocide, shortly before a European security forum equated the crimes of Stalin and Hitler, have stirred heated debate in the Russian media and blogosphere.

“I think that Stalin was a spiritually-deformed monster, who created a horrific, inhuman system of ruling the country,” Archbishop Hilarion had said in a June interview with the news magazine Ekspert. “He unleashed a genocide against the people of his own country and bears personal responsibility for the death of millions of innocent people. In this respect Stalin is completely comparable to Hitler.”

Hilarion is head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, a post Patriarch Kirill I held before he was elected leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in January.

Hilarion’s comments came shortly before a session of the parliamentary assembly of the 56-member, Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Lithuania. At its 3 July meeting, the organization in a resolution stated that both Nazism and Stalinism “brought about genocide, violations of humans rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

The resolution called on member states to mark each 23 August, the day of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union, as “a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism”.

The Russian foreign ministry denounced the resolution as “an attempt to distort history for political purposes”.

The Second World War is considered a sacred topic in Russia, where it is called the Great Patriotic War. In May, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the creation of a commission to fight the “falsification of history” and defend the official account of the Soviet past.

Stalin is portrayed by top officials, and also in a study guide for high school teachers approved by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when he was president, as an effective manager, comparable to the Russian tsars or to Bismarck, who united Germany in the 19th century. Putin has also continued his efforts to unite the pre-revolutionary and Bolshevik strands of Russian history into a seamless narrative.

Shortly before Victory Day celebrations on 9 May to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Patriarch Kirill indicated an interpretation of events that might diverge with that of the Kremlin. The Soviet victory in the war was “a miracle,” Kirill said, and the suffering of the Soviet people during the war is atonement for its rejection of Christianity during the Bolshevik era after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

At the end of July, during his first official visit in Ukraine, Kirill laid a wreath at a monument to victims of a Stalin-era famine that Ukrainians regard as genocide, and which President Medvedev refused to visit in 2008. The Patriarch spoke of how his family, and the entire Soviet people, had suffered under Stalinism.

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Categories: Culture, Current Affairs