Archive for September, 2009

Form and Substance: A Message to Evangelical Seekers or Lutherans Looking to Jump to Rome or Constantinople

September 30th, 2009 1 comment

Pastor Peters knocks yet another one out of the park. You have added his blog to your regular blog reading, haven’t you? You really must. Here his latest post that was spot-on.

In reading about Lutherans and other Christians (especially evangelicals) who have chosen to swim the Tiber or the Bosporus (i.e. go to Rome or Orthodoxy) I find myself increasingly thinking in terms of the problem of form and substance.
The truth is that many who seek out Rome or Constantinople are coming out of churches that have neither form nor substance. They do not have form — the liturgy, creed, confession, Eucharist, priesthood, etc. They do not have substance — the fullness of the catholic faith in proclamation or in teaching. For many of these people the journey is one that begins with the emptiness of what most of Protestantism has become (whether mainline or evangelical). With worship centered on the “me” of the person in the pew – uh make that theater seat — and with preaching and teaching that has evolved into social justice or personal happiness, their rebellion leads them to find something that has roots, depth, Truth…

For Lutherans (and Episcopalians) the journey is somewhat different. It is not so much a turn from emptiness to something as it is a determination that either form or substance is lacking in their tradition and so they seek that which they believe is gone. For Lutherans it is often a move toward form — a tradition in which the Mass (Divine Liturgy) does not have to be introduced, defended, or justified. It just is. For Lutherans it is often the frustration of substance (present in the Lutheran Confessions and the catholic identity of the Great Reformation and its most significant teachers) that is not reflected in practice (non-communion Sundays, contemporary worship without identifiable liturgy, and a me-too ideal that gravitates either toward non-denominational evangelicalism or mainline Protestantism).

For Episcopalians it is the form that increasingly lacks substance — the Prayer Book, liturgy, the three fold ministry of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon — in a church body that seems to stand for nothing specific and tolerates such a diversity of truths that the one Truth of Jesus Christ is missing.

I understand the frustration. It is tiring to have to remind Lutherans who they are — over and over again. Or to teach them who they are for the first time. Our Confessions have become distant from us — they are there, they are the doctrinal standards of our Synod and congregations, yet we so often do not know them well enough so that they truly inform and define the practice of our faith (the form).

I understand the frustration. My own parish stands out not only from the Baptist/Church of Christ/Nazarene landscape of the city in which we reside but also from the bulk of other Lutheran and LCMS churches in the surrounding cities, states, and District. It is a constant fight to keep our liturgical identity rooted in our catholic confession. I know all too well that the work I have undertaken for nearly 17 years here could all be gone if another kind of Lutheran Pastor replaced me.

Yet I am not so sure that a boat trip across either the Tiber or the Bosporus would yield any substantial gains on either front — form or substance. I love the liturgy, the Western Mass, which is the heart and soul of Lutheran and Roman Catholic worship. Truly the Roman does not have to defend the ceremonial practices of the liturgy as a Lutheran must. But… I am not so sure that Gospel speaks so loudly and clearly in the average Roman Catholic parish as it does in the average Lutheran parish. My own experience is that the form itself has been corrupted by a lack of participation of the congregation, a lack of singing, a shallow musical tradition of anything goes, and a determined need to get 900 people through the Mass, communed, and on their way home in 55 minutes or less. I believe that even in form, the trade off for leaving is really an exchange of one set of problems for another.

When it comes to substance, I think a swim in either direction of Rome or Constantinople, may bring with it a certain fuzziness about this Gospel that means, again, the exchange of one set of problems with another. Rome’s reintroduction of indulgences even as Lutherans and Roman Catholics were supposed to have some solid agreement on justification stands out as a sign of this fuzziness. The ethnic and cultural identity of Eastern Orthodoxy as it is practiced in most parishes is often a hidden barrier to anyone whose worldview and perspective are distinctly Western. The tradition of a church body shaped by the first seven Ecumenical Councils is noble but 1200 years have passed since that last council and Orthodoxy has suffered much from that distance.

I continue to believe that a liturgically vibrant, confessionally confident, theologically informed, and liturgical catholic Lutheran parish offers me the best combination of form and substance. And I would offer it to those frustrated with their current church home… give us a look see…

Like Transformers… more than meets the eye…

Categories: Uncategorized

Follow Fellow Lutheran Jeff Williams on His Journey Into Space

September 30th, 2009 3 comments

Astronaut Jeff Williams, (Colonel, US Army, Retired), blasted off today into space from Russia, on another mission of discovery aboard the International Space Station. You can follow him on Twitter. I was struck today by his post, note the “sdg” at the end, which stands for “Soli Deo Gloria” — to God alone be glory. Jeff is a devout Christian, a fellow LCMS Lutheran, in fact. Here’s a great summary of Jeff and the mission he is going on today.

Concordia Publishing House is publishing his book documenting his last mission drawing from thousands of beautiful photos Jeff took. Jeff is also a devotional author for us, contributing to a new resource for men soon to be published: Blessed Is the Man: A Man’s Journey through the Psalms, Psalms of Praise. Here’s a sample from Jeff’s devotion:

Psalm 148:1–3 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all you shining stars! Psalm 148 is a psalm of worship. It begins and ends with praise. The imagery invoked is sublime and exalted. In the psalm, all that is celestial and terrestrial, inanimate and animate is called to praise. The psalm is an invitation to all of God’s creation—His angels and hosts, the sun and the moon, the heavens, the waters, the beasts and the trees, and the people of the earth—to praise Him. Obviously, lacking vocal chords inanimate objects cannot praise Him, and animals and plants cannot praise Him like we do. Even the angels and hosts of heaven do not need a command to praise. They inherently manifest praise to the Holy One. The psalm is not primarily a list of commands directed to the elements of creation. It is rather an invitation, and for we who have been brought to faith, it is an outpouring from the heart of one redeemed, of a recipient of God’s gracious provision, in worship to the holy and almighty God.

You can follow his Twitter feed at:

Breakfast done. Off we go. See you after docking. Thank you for prayers and support. Enjoy the journey! sdg

Here is video of Jeff’s launch. And you think you have a challenging commute to work! You will see Jeff in the capsule at around 6 minutes into the video.

Categories: Uncategorized

Cracking the Code: Making Sense of References to Martin Luther’s Works

September 30th, 2009 1 comment

The other day, a friend was commenting on the interesting abbreviations a person runs across when reading materials that reference Martin Luther’s writings. It is a alphabet soup kind of situation. Here is a very well done summary overview of the “codes” you come across, actually, abbreviations used by scholars to refer to various editions of the writings of Martin Luther. I thought you would find it helpful as well. It was prepared by Mr. James Swan, a conservative Reformed Christian, who has taken a great interest in Martin Luther. Here is his blog post.

If you’ve come across obscure Luther quotes and can’t understand the documentation, this entry is for you. Often, those who cite Luther polemically can’t provide a context, and the references they provide look like an unknown code. Below is a bit of the code book, so to speak. The above graphic comes from Luther’s own statements concerning his teaching and its results by Henry O’Connor, page 164. It’s typical of the anti-Luther books that Roman Catholics put out in the late 1800′s- early 1900′s. The sources O’Connor refers to are usually out of reach for a typical English speaking blogger. Google Books has made it somewhat easier to locate these some of these type of old sources, but even if you find them, there’s still the question of reading German and Latin.

Sometimes O’Connor will mention a specific treatise title, often he won’t. It makes tracking down Luther quotes and putting them in context very tedious and difficult. Of course, if your typical Roman Catholic Internet warrior would read the actual sources available now, and quote Luther via those sources…. ah, never mind. That’s wishful thinking.

Below are some of the main collections of Luther documents referred to by friends and foes of the Reformation. This is only a brief look. Citations in older books like O’Connor’s and Patrick O’Hare’s are often sparse, cryptic, fragmented, or in a foreign language. If you come across someone using an obscure Luther quote with a reference you don’t understand:

1. If you’re aware that it’s a primary source from long ago, let them know you’re in awe that they have had access to such a rare book. Tell them it’s an honor to dialogue with someone who’s read things like de Wette or Walch, and you look forward to being their pupil.

2. Ask them what the reference means. Chances are, they might not be able to tell you. That’s a good sign they have swiped the quote from a secondary source, and haven’t a clue as to the context.

3. If they can identify the reference as coming from an actual collection of Luther’s works, ask them what specific treatise it’s from and if they know any of the background as to the writing of the treatise.

4. If they do link you to an old Google Book in German or Latin, ask them if they can read either German or Latin.

5. Remember, if someone uses a quote, it’s their responsibility to provide the context, not yours. If they can’t provide an actual context and an historical context, their conclusions and interpretation are worthless.

Luther’s Works
Usually referred to as LW. English edition, published by Concordia Publishing House. You can usually find this set (54 volumes with the 55th book index) in a good library. Single volumes are relatively inexpensive and can bought new or used. There is also a CD ROM of this set. I’ve had this CD ROM for a number of years, and it’s proved invaluable. Concordia is also releasing new volumes of Luther’s Works, but I’m not sure if they will also be initially available electronically.

Works of Martin Luther: With Introduction and Notes
Often referred to as PE. The Philadelphia Edition (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press). Sometimes called the Holman Luther, since it was originally published by A.J. Holman Co. This is an English set in 6 volumes. No need to go out and buy these, you can find them on line. They were published in the early 1900′s.

WA: Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works. 1883-.
Usually referred to as WA. D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe; Weimar, 1883. This is the largest set of Luther’s works, in German. It’s arranged in four parts: Writings (WA),11 volumes of Letters (WA Br, or Briefe), 6 volumes of Tabletalk (WA TR or Tischreden) 9(or 12?) volumes of the German Bible (WA DB). This set was supposed to follow a chronological sequence, but more Luther material was found after the set had been put in motion. When newer items are found, or better source documents of previous material, they are be released in volumes entitled, Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe (AWA). The numbering of the Weimar set can be very confusing, like “WA 10, I, 2″.

The Erlangen Edition
Usually referred to as EA. 1826-1857. Sometimes this set is referred to as “Dr. M. Luthers Samtliche Werke” or “E”. The set includes German and Latin writings from Luther. The 68 German volumes were published 1826-1857, and revised later that century. The 38 Latin writings are specific to biblical interpretation (Exegetica Opera Latina, sometimes referred to as E op ex and Opera latina varii argumenti). They likewise were published in the 19th Century. This set includes 18 volumes of Luther’s letters edited by E.L. Enders, and were also published separately. It also includes Luther’s commentary on Galatians in 3 volumes.

Walch: The Walch Edition
1740-1753. 24 topical volumes. This was a set of Luther’s works published 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch. This set is German, and Walch translated many of Luther’s Latin writings into German. Sometimes this set is referred to as the St. Louis version, the St. Louis-Walch version, or the Halle edition, or Luthers Samtliche Werke, herausgegeben von J. G. Walch. It may be Abbreviated asSt.L This set also includes writings by others, friends and foes of Luther. The set was revised from 1885-1910 (in St. Louis), and may not match up with the earlier set. Sometimes the revision is referred to as St.Lb. Volumes 15-17 contain rare Reformation history texts, and contemporary letters.

Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken (Dewette)
5 volumes of Luther’s letters in German edited by Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette. “The best collection of his Letters was edited by De Wette (5 vols., Berlin, 1825-8), with a supplementary volume by Seidemann (1856)” (source). “The Letters of Luther were separately edited by De Wette, Berlin, 1825, sqq., 5 vols.; vol. VI. by J. C. Seidemann, 1856 (716 pp., with an addition of Lutherbriefe, 1859); supplemented by C. A. H. Burkhardt, Leipz., 1866 (524 pp.); a revised ed. with comments by Dr. E. L. Enders (pastor at Oberrad near Frankfurt a. M.), 1884 sqq. (in the Erl. Frankf ed.). The first volume contains the letters from 1507 to March, 1519. For selection see C. Alfred Hase: Lutherbriefe in Auswahl und Uebersetzung, Leipzig, 1867 (420 pages). Th. Kolde: Analecta Lutherana, Briefe und Actenstücke zur Geschichte Luther’s. Gotha, 1883. Contains letters of Luther and to Luther, gathered with great industry from German and Swiss archives and libraries” (source).

Br:The Braunschweig Edition. 10 volumes of devotional writing, published 1889-1905.

The Clemen (ClL) or the Bonn Edition (BoA). 1825-1828. 8 German volumes. The first four contain complete treatises, 5-8 are selections from early lectures, letters, sermons, and tabletalk. The text is said to be superior to WA.

The Munich Edition (Mu). 6 German volumes, with 7 supplement volumes (Mu Erg), published in the 1900′s.

Luther Deutsch (LD). 11 volumes, with 3 volumes of commentary.

The New Calwer Edition. 12 volumes in modern German.

Martin Luther Studienausgabe. 6 German volumes.

The Wittenberg Edition. 1539-59. contains 12 German and 8 Latin volumes. The material was topical, at the request of Luther. This volume contains some of the writings of Luther’s opponents as well.

The Jena Edition. 1555-1558. 8 German and 4 Latin volumes, 2 supplementary volumes. John Aurifaber, one of the chief collectors of Luther’s Tabletalk was one of the editors of this set.

The Allenburg Edition. 1661-1702. A poorly edited 11 volume German set.

The Leipzig edition. 1729-1740. 23 volumes in German, arranged topically.

The Essential Lutheran Library: Live and in Living Color

September 29th, 2009 6 comments


I’ve been talking about The Essential Lutheran Library, for quite some time. Well, here finally is a photo of the TELL, in its final configuration. More details about the three styles in which you can buy the library are available on the CPH web site. The Essential Lutheran Library contains:

The Lutheran Study Bible

Lutheran Service Book

Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation

Treasury of Daily Prayer

Lutheran Book of Prayer

Reading the Psalms with Luther

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

Categories: CPH Resources

Lutheran Church—Canada President Endorses The Lutheran Study Bible

September 29th, 2009 6 comments

“You’ll find The Lutheran Study Bible to be a whole resource center under one cover! It’s also practical to use, even if you’re in the very early stages of becoming a Bible student. This volume can be a tool in God’s hand to overcome Biblical illiteracy, and to shape His people with the mind of Christ. Its way of introducing you to daily, prayerful Scripture reading is such a blessing.”

Rev. Robert Bugbee, President
Lutheran Church-Canada

Gifted Hands: A Must-See Movie

September 28th, 2009 Comments off

giftedhandsr1artworkpicI was simply stunned at the powerful message affirming life, faith, love, devotion, sacrifice, vocation, family, forgiveness, hope, humility and joyful service that Gifted Hands offers. You simply must watch this movie. Now. Seriously, go to Red Box and get it. You will love it. I know you will.

Categories: movies

“Hey! Where’s my copy of The Lutheran Study Bible?”

September 28th, 2009 2 comments

Many people are excited to have received their copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, others hearing of this, are asking, “Hey! Where’s my copy of The Lutheran Study Bible?” Here’s the latest information: While we had hoped to be shipping out all editions by the end of this week, today we determined that we are not going to be able to begin shipping any thumb indexed or leather editions of The Lutheran Study Bible until the week of October 11. Why? The manufacturing process on thumb indexed and leather editions is taking us a tad longer than we expected. Of course, we are still running well ahead of the announced publication date of October 31. In order to save our customers money, we are not shipping partial orders, that is, if there is an order placed that has regular hardback editions, along with any of the thumb indexed or leather editions, we will hold on shipment until we can fill that order entirely. Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Our Obedience and God’s Price

September 28th, 2009 Comments off

St. Paul says God’s strength is “made perfect in weakness” ( 2 Cor 12:9). Because of God’s will, our bodies should be sacrifices, to declare our obedience, and not to pay for eternal death. God has another price for that: the death of His own Son.”

— Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIIB.63; Concordia, p. 181.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Rev. Gaylin R. Schmeling, President of the ELS Seminary, Praises The Lutheran Study Bible

September 28th, 2009 4 comments

thumb-upinair“Both lay and clergy alike will make good use of the copious study notes, maps, charts, cross-references, and articles included in The Lutheran Study Bible. I appreciate the attention paid to the writings of the church fathers, which preserve this important part of our heritage. This is an excellent study Bible following in the tradition of the Weimar Bible, the study Bible of 17th century Lutheranism. It will be a valuable addition to every personal Library.”

Rev. Gaylin R. Schmeling, President
Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary

Dr. Dean Wenthe, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Endorses The Lutheran Study Bible

September 27th, 2009 3 comments

thumb up“The Lutheran Study Bible displays a remarkable array of virtues: translation notes, a running chronology, and extensive cross references. Noteworthy among its many strengths are: first, significant theological commentary and reflection that draws on the entire history of interpretation with special place given to Lutheran hermeneutical perspectives [that] will enrich every reader’s reflection on the meaning of the Biblical text for their life; secondly, the careful and faithful historical discussions place the Biblical text within its classical setting while noting, but not unduly engaging, alternative theories of dates and authorship. In a word, The Lutheran Study Bible keeps the text and its message before the reader by ordering related issues such as authorship and date as servants of the text rather than distractions. The result: the Christ-centered character of the Sacred Scriptures is everywhere on display. That is the greatest virtue of all.”

Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe

President, Concordia Theological Seminary

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Why Abortion is Different

September 27th, 2009 1 comment

David Koyzis at Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist: Why abortion is different says that, yes, there are many political issues that we should be concerned about. But abortion is not just one of many. It is qualitatively different:

Not all issues necessarily have the same import or significance – something the language of morality may mask. In fact, there is a qualitative difference between abortion and the cluster of issues touched on above. In the case of the latter, no one disputes that the environment must be protected; the current debate revolves around how best to do so. Some favour a market-oriented approach, while others are convinced that government must play a central role. Again no one denies the desirability of furnishing the best health care to all citizens. Disagreement arises over whether this is best done through private or public insurance plans. Though Canadians and Americans have taken different paths on the issue, both approaches have their flaws – serious flaws, as it turns out, which illustrates that calling health care a moral issue cannot itself resolve the political debate.

Abortion is different. Here the quarrel is not over the best way to protect the unborn; it is precisely over whether to do so at all. Those believing women should have the right to terminate a pregnancy hold this position despite the presence of the vulnerable child. Those who believe that the unborn deserve protection do so because of the child’s presence. This fundamental disagreement over what is at stake is what sets the abortion issue apart from most others. Proponents of the so-called consistent life ethic generally fail to comprehend this. Such bishops as Denver’s Charles Chaput are right to make a fuss over Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Abortion is not merely a private opinion; it is a clear matter of justice that needs to be addressed head on.

HT: Cranach.

Categories: Sanctity of Life

Three Things Most Lutherans Love

September 26th, 2009 4 comments

Luther resource

Rev. Thomas Zehnder, Executive Director of LCMS World Mission, Endorses The Lutheran Study Bible

September 26th, 2009 Comments off

thumbs_up“Several years ago a clerk at the Concordia Seminary Book Store said, “Well, in two years a new Lutheran study bible with the ESV translation is going to be published.” It’s been more like 5 years, but here it is! Given the privilege of an “early look” at this Lutheran Study Bible I will say unequivocally that it has been worth the wait!  This Lutheran Study Bible is a veritable library for a reader of Holy Scripture. Articles which give clarity and a deeper understanding of biblical themes are many. One particular entry sheds light on specific and significant content from each biblical book. The notes which give meaningful detail on most of the verses are clearly written and easy on the eyes, and they are written from the viewpoint that the Bible is God’s perfect Word which reveals Christ Jesus as the Savior who has come to give us Life. I cheer for this. Those who have provided the verse by verse explanatory notes and the accompanying articles for this volume do so from the understanding of scripture which proclaims the true purpose of God’s Book: to tell us of the Christ of God who came to be one with us and to redeem us from sin’s curse. Justification by grace through faith is the foundational truth from which the Editors have worked. The Church is grateful. I note that this volume lists the dates of Easter up to A.D. 2030. A reprint is undoubtedly in the works! I want my great-grandchildren to have this in their day as well, way up through Easter 2060 – at least!”

Rev. Dr. Thomas Zehnder
Executive Director
LCMS World Mission
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

A Boy and His Bible

September 25th, 2009 8 comments

johnandbibleTime to complete The Lutheran Study Bible? Six years.

Cost of the larger print edition? $45

Big smile and hug from happy son? Priceless.

This is my son John Augustine McCain with his copy of The Lutheran Study Bible. Said Dad, “John, what kind of Study Bible do you want?” Said John,”I’d like the big one Dad.” Dad said, “Done.” I snapped this pic of John in our house after I brought his Bible home. Who’d have thought an 18 year old could be so happy about a new Bible? I even got a hug out of it. Excellent!

The Keys to Unlocking the Riches of Scripture

September 25th, 2009 3 comments

keysI asked Dr. Gene Edward Veith, the well known Lutheran author and speaker, for a comment about The Lutheran Study Bible. He responded with one sentence:

“The Lutheran Study Bible shows that the distinction between law and gospel, the Word of God as a means of grace, and the presence of Jesus Christ in every page really are the keys to unlocking the riches of Scripture.”

He concluded his note to me by saying,  “That’s short and sweet, but I think it says it all.” I agree with Dr. Veith. Do you?