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Archive for January, 2010

The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy

January 31st, 2010 9 comments

Here’s an interesting analysis of a “problem”that is, in truth, a crisis. Thanks to Justin Taylor for this post. David Nienhuis, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, has a helpful piece in the Modern Reformation on the problem of evangelical students “familiar” with the Bible but still essentially illiterate.

Here’s an excerpt on how it happened:

Christians schooled in this rather anti-intellectual, common-denominator evangelistic approach to faith responded to the later twentieth-century decline in church attendance by looking not to more substantial catechesis but to business and consumer models to provide strategies for growth. By now we’re all familiar with the story: increasing attendance by means of niche marketing led church leaders to frame the content of their sermons and liturgies according to the self-reported perceived needs of potential “seekers” shaped by the logic of consumerism. Now many American consumer-congregants have come to expect their churches to function as communities of goods and services that provide care and comfort without the kind of challenge and discipline required for authentic Christian formation to take place.

He goes on to describe the difference between those transformed by the Word and those who are merely informed quoters of the Word:

To make a real difference in people’s lives, biblical literacy programs will have to do more than simply encourage believers to memorize a select set of Bible verses. They will have to teach people to speak the language of faith; and while this language is of course grounded in the grammar, vocabulary, and stories of the Bible, living languages are embedded in actual human communities that are constituted by particular habits, values, practices, stories, and exemplars. We don’t memorize languages; we use them and live through them. As Paulo Freire reminded us, literacy enables us to read both the word and the world. Language mediates our reality, expands our horizons, inspires our imagination, and empowers our actions. Literacy therefore isn’t simply about possessing a static ability to read and write; it is a dynamic reality, a never-ending life practice that involves putting those skills to work in reshaping our identity and transforming our world. Biblical literacy programs need to do more than produce informed quoters. They need to produce transformed readers.

Toward the end he lays out his vision:

We want to create a community ethos of habitual, orderly, communal ingestion of the revelatory text. We do so in the hope that the Spirit of God will transform readers into hearers who know what it is to abide before the mirror of the Word long enough to become enscripturated doers; that is, people of faith who are adept at interpreting their individual stories and those of their culture through the grand story of God as it is made known in the Bible.

The whole thing is worth a careful read.

The Story of a First Edition 1580 Book of Concord

January 30th, 2010 8 comments

I have an interesting story to share, well, at least it is interesting to me. If you are a book geek, like me, you’ll may find this interesting too. If you are not, stop reading now.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Dr. Robert Kolb and in the midst of a back/forth e-mail discussion that day, somehow the matter of finding copies of old printings of the Book of Concord came up and we were discussing how it is rather interesting to notice that in most of the 17th century and into the 18th century, the most commonly found copies of the Book of Concord printed are only copies of the Latin Book of Concord. Latin, of course, was the language of the schools and scholars, so it makes sense. But finding German printings of the BOC beyond the 16th century is more difficult. I have one printed in the 1700s, and the first German/Latin diglot edition, printed in the 1700s as well, but a German edition from the 1600s is much less frequently found.

Then conversation in the e-mail discussion turned to the “holy grail” of Book of Concord collectors. I told Dr. Kolb that I had been on the “hunt” for a first edition of the 1580 German Book of Concord for nearly ten years, and had found one about five or six years ago, bound with a copy of the Saxon Church Order, but it was going for around $4,500 and so I had to pass. Well, after our e-mail exchange, I was poking around again looking for a first edition of the 1580 Book of Concord and to my amazement, found one listed by a German rare book shop. Talk about eerie! The next day I e-mailed Dr. Kolb and told him he was my good luck charm.

The book arrived a couple weeks ago. I was able to purchase it for a considerably lower price because it is missing the title page and a few pages of the foreword. I suspect, but can not prove, that it fell victim to an unfortunate practice out there of removing key pages from rare books and selling them as separate pieces. Egads! But, if so, it only benefited me, for I was able to obtain a first edition of the BOC for a lot less than the other one I had found.

I’ve posted a few photos here for you to see it. The first photo is the book as it now sits in my office, surrounded by some other Luther related items, and sitting under the Cranach Weimar Altar painting. The close up below is a shot of the most important page in the book for establishing its authenticity, the printer’s colophon. You’ll notice the date on it is 1579, not 1580. Here’s why. The Formula of Concord was printed in 1579, but was bound up into the whole book only in 1580, so that is why you will find in first editions of the 1580 Book of Concord, this kind of printer’s colophon with a date of 1579 on it.

So, there’s my 1580 Book of Concord story. Sorry about the quality of the photos, I just used my iPhone camera.

Printer's Colophon Page in 1580 German Book of Concord

Categories: Book of Concord, Books

When You Reject Natural Moral Law, Totalitarianism is the Inevitable Result

January 29th, 2010 2 comments

Archbishop Raymond Burke, in a homily given in Phoenix, Arizona:

In our culture, “the law more and more dares to force those with the sacred trust of caring for the health of their brothers and sisters to violate the most sacred tenets of their consciences, and to force individuals and institutions to cooperate in egregious violations of the natural moral law,” he said. “In such a society, the administration of justice is no longer a participation in the justice of God, an obedient response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but a façade cloaking our own selfishness and refusal to give our lives for the sake of the good of all our brothers and sisters. It is a society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the common good, and is embracing a totalitarianism which masks itself as the ‘hope,’ the ‘future,’ of our nation. Reason and faith teaches us that such a society can only produce violence and death and in the end destroy itself,” Archbishop Burke warned.

Read the entire story, as reported by CNA.

How to Be Aggresively Inarticulate

January 28th, 2010 3 comments

Bach and Japan: How Beauty Serves the Truth of the Gospel

January 28th, 2010 8 comments

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a YouTube video of Masaaki Suzuki discussing the reason Bach is so important to him. It is a wonderful witness to Christ and the Gospel. Nearly ten years ago my friend Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto wrote a piece for FIRST THINGS about the powerful impact Bach’s music has had in Japan for the sake of the Gospel.

J. S. Bach in Japan
Uwe Siemon–Netto

Twenty–five years ago when there was still a Communist East Germany, I interviewed several boys from Leipzig’s Thomanerchor, the choir once led by Johann Sebastian Bach. Many of those children came from atheistic homes. “Is it possible to sing Bach without faith?” I asked them. “Probably not,” they replied, “but we do have faith. Bach has worked as a missionary among all of us.” During a recent journey to Japan I discovered that 250 years after his death Bach is now playing a key role in evangelizing that country, one of the most secularized nations in the developed world.

When Bach died on July 28, 1750, after two botched eye operations performed by John Taylor, a quack from England, his last major work, The Art of the Fugue, remained incomplete. It culminates in a quadruple contrapunctus bearing his signature, for it is formed from the letters b–a–c–h (in German musical terminology b–natural is called “h”). Just as you might expect the final section of Fugue 19 to begin, the music stops eerily. The blind man no longer had the strength to pull together its various themes to a perfect ending. Instead he dictated to his son–in–law a powerful last chorale—Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit (Before thy throne I come herewith)—and then he departed.

The Art of the Fugue is perhaps Bach’s most abstract and intellectually challenging work. Yet its pristine grace led Arthur Peacocke, the English theologian and biologist, to aver that the Holy Spirit himself had written it, using Bach’s hand. A quarter millennium after the composer’s death, this quality of his music provides Christianity with a curious inroad to a group of people who in the past had resisted evangelization more effectively than any other: Japan’s elite.

Read more…

Categories: Bach

The iPad. It is here. All hail Apple! Amazon: be afraid, be very afraid.

January 27th, 2010 22 comments

Categories: Macintosh

Have You Seen Luther Anywhere? Help us track down copies of this statue

January 26th, 2010 1 comment

Categories: Uncategorized

“Graphic Novel” Version of The Small Catechism by Martin Luther

January 26th, 2010 12 comments

I have been so eager to tell you all about a great new resource from Concordia Publishing House. It’s been in the works for quite some time, and I’m now able to share the cover image of it, along with a nice sample. It is a “graphic novel” form of The Small Catechism, titled, Timeless Bible Truths. The illustrator is a LCMS Director of Christian Education, Scott L. Jung. He did a spectacularly good job wedding text to images. As I was reading through it again recently I was once more struck by the fact that each time I read it, I have to remind myself that the words in this thing are precisely nothing more, and nothing less, than Luther’s Catechism. The images bring the text alive in a remarkably effective manner. I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of this resource. I think it will be useful for both youth and adults. We live in a visual age and we must use all means possible to communicate the truth to a visual culture. And, keep in mind, from the very beginning, Luther’s Catechisms, both Small and Large, included images throughout them to illustrate the text. Enjoy the sample. Just click on this link and a PDF file will download. Here is the product information page on our web site. Please help spread the word on this.

Here are a few more pictures of the interior, from the sample:

Categories: CPH Resources

Here is How a Haitian Pastor Explains the Earthquake

January 25th, 2010 1 comment

Pastor Thomas Bernard was interviewed by Dr. Douglas Rutt, one of the LCMS persons who went into Haiti recently. “We have God’s Word and His Sacraments, that’s where we have our comfort.” Amen, Pastor Bernard!

HT: Dr. Collver.

Categories: Uncategorized

Name Those Tracks! What is on the Evening and Morning Recording?

January 25th, 2010 7 comments

We are hearing from a number of you now who have received the Evening and Morning: The Music of Lutheran Daily Prayer recording. To say you are enjoying this recording is an understatement. We are hearing from from folks enjoying this on their commutes, praying Matins on the way to work, and Vespers on the way home. Others are using this to help their families sing together during their daily prayer and time of devotions. The recording does not provide track names, just numbers, something we will correct in the next printing of the CD.

Here then is the organization of the CD. Thanks to Rev. Scot Kinnaman, our colleague here at CPH, for providing this.

The CD is organized this way. You can create a separate playlist for each daily prayer office.

* Matins (Tracks 01–08)
* Vespers (Tracks 09–14)
* Morning Prayer (Tracks 15–21)
* Evening Prayer (Tracks 22–29)
* Compline (Tracks 30–38)
* Litany (Track 39)

List of tracks:
01 Matins Sentences
02 Matins Venite
03 Matins Responsory
04 Matins Te Deum
05 Matins Benedictus
06 Matins Kyrie/Our Father
07 Matins Collect
08 Matins Benedictus & Benediction
09 Vespers Sentences
10 Vespers Responsory
11 Vespers Magnificat
12 Vespers Kyrie/Our Father
13 Vespers Collect
14 Vespers Benedictus & Benediction
15 Morning Prayer Sentences
16 Morning Prayer Venite
17 Morning Prayer In Many Ways
18 Morning Prayer Benedictus
19 Morning Prayer Collect
20 Morning Prayer Our Father
21 Morning Prayer Benedictus & Benediction
22 Evening Prayer Service of Light
23 Evening Prayer Psalm 141
24 Evening Prayer In Many Ways
25 Evening Prayer Magnificat
26 Evening Prayer Litany
27 Evening Prayer Collect
28 Evening Prayer Our Father
29 Evening Prayer Benedictus & Benediction
30 Compline Opening Sentences
31 Compline Confession
32 Compline Lessons
33 Compline Responsory
34 Compline Prayer
35 Compline Prayers
36 Compline Our Father
37 Compline Nunc Dimittis
38 Compline Benediction
39 Litany

Categories: CPH Resources

Imagine the Potential

January 24th, 2010 Comments off

Categories: Sanctity of Life

Why are some saved, and not others?

January 23rd, 2010 5 comments

The other day, my son asked me, “Dad, why are some people saved, and others are not.” I said, “Aha! You are taking Latin, so tell me what this means. You are asking about the crux theologorum.” He thought for a moment and said, “The cross of theologians?” “Correct you are, sir,” I said, “What you are asking is the old question that has proven the downfall of many theologians through the ages, ‘Why some, not others?’ ” And from there we proceeded into an interesting conversation about a feature of Lutheranism that makes both Calvinists “God predestines some to hell, others to heaven”, on the one hand, and Arminians “I have chosen to follow Jesus!” folks, on the other, frustrated with us. Lutheranism, as does Sacred Scripture, simply does not answer the question why some are saved, and not others. Here’s a great Q/A on this that succinctly states why this is the teaching of the Bible, and, consequently, historic Lutheranism.

Question:

I understand that God chose those for salvation before the very foundation of the world. The Bible does not say that there are those who are chosen and that there are those who are not. So, does that mean then that God chose everyone to be saved before the foundation of the world and therefore it is man’s choice whether he will accept God’s saving grace or not? However, one cannot come into God’s grace by himself, but by the Holy Spirit “leading” him unto salvation. Is that the correct interpretation? I am confused by the fact that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, yet the very action of choosing can mean that there were those who were not chosen. I know that God wishes everyone to be saved. Can you help me?

Answer:

The question you are wrestling with is really the question, “Why are some saved and not others?” Theologians throughout history have referred to this question as the “crux theologorum” (“the cross of the theologians”) because of the difficulty (and from the Lutheran perspective, the impossibility) of giving an answer to this question which is satisfactory to our human reason.

Some answer this question by pointing to man’s “free will”–only those are saved who “choose” to be saved. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible even man’s will is “dead” and powerless to “choose” God and his grace in Christ. We are saved not because we “choose” to be saved but because the Holy Spirit works faith in our heart through the Gospel (even faith is a gift!). Others answer this question by pointing to God’s sovereign will: God himself predestines from eternity some to be saved and others to be damned. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible God sincerely desires all to be saved and has predestined no one to damnation.

So how do Lutherans answer this question? The answer is that Lutherans do not try to answer it, because (we believe) the Bible itself does not provide an answer to this question that is comprehensible to human reason. Lutherans affirm, with Scripture, that whoever is saved is saved by God’s grace alone, a grace so sure that it excludes all human “action” and “choice” but rather rests on the foundation of God’s action in Christ and his “choice” (predestination) from before the beginning of time. Lutherans also affirm, with Scripture, that those who are damned are damned not by God’s “choice” but on account of their own human sin and rebellion and unbelief. From a human perspective, there is no “rational” or “logical” way to put these two truths together. Lutherans believe and confess them not because they are “rational” and “logical,” but because this is what we find taught in Scripture.

For a further discussion of this issue, you may want to read Articles II and XI in the Formula of Concord (contained in the Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions).

Source: LCMS.ORG

More Information on the Situation in Haiti: Interview with Head of LCMS World Relief and Human Care

January 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Rev. Matt Harrison describes the pastoral care and support given by a team of LCMS folks in Jimani, a Dominican Republic town on the Haitian border. This pastoral care team is working alongside of the LCMS World Relief and Human Care Mercy Medical Team at the hospital in the same town. It reiterates the point that the single best thing to give at this time to help out the Haitians is money, not material goods, but money. This is the most effective way of getting help as quickly as possible into the situation. You can donate here.

Here is the link to the interview with Rev. Harrison.

And here is a note from Rev. Harrison, who went into Haiti to visit with the president of our partner church there:

I have been having trouble updating my blog for the past day or two. In fact, as I was trying to update my blog a few moments ago, we had an aftershock tremor that shook the building and I lost Internet again but was able to link the account to a phone. Very briefly we went into Haiti today to meet President Kessa. We gave him an emergency grant for $30,000 as well as a few other items like the French version of LSB.  Six members of our assessment team accompanied President Kessa to Port-au-Prince. President Kessa asked me, Revs. Collver and Hernandez also to come to Port-au-Prince, but we declined so as to not complicate the logistics of the trip. President Kessa expressed gratitude to the LCMS for assisting his church and for sending people on the ground. Tomorrow we will travel to Haiti to retrieve the rest of our team and to distribute food stuffs (rice, oil, etc.) to President Kessa. Meanwhile, the Medical Mercy Team has been warmly recieved and provided much needed assistance when the hospital was most in need. Of the 500 or so critical patients treated over the first two days, only four died at the hospital. This demonstrates the great skill of the entire volunteer hospital staff.  The need is great, but the Lord contines to bless. I hope to update this again tomorrow. MCH

Here is a report from Rev. Carlos Hernandez, who is also in Jimani, via Rev. Harrison’s blog site.

Reflections. By Rev Carlos Hernandez, Director, Districts and Congregations, LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Jimani, Dominican Republic, January 22, 2010 -

Today was our first full day on the ground responding to the emergency/crisis/”life or death” needs of the victims of the forceful and destructive Haitian earthquake that has decimated this already poverty-ridden Caribbean country. Our initial response, which is part and parcel of our LCMS World Relief and Human Care disaster relief plan, began very early this morning on the Haitian side of the Dominican Republic/Haitian border where a grant $30,000 was given to President Marky Kessa to begin to address the most basic survival needs of the earthquake victims of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti and the communities they serve, most of them already barely surviving before the earthquake.

Another emergency grant is in the planning stage to bring in much needed food to Jacmel. After an on-sight assessment this afternoon in the Port-au-Prince, Haiti area, Rev Glenn Merritt called our temporary WR-HC administrative base for the Haitian earthquake here in Jimani, Dominican Republic, to alert our Executive Director, Rev. Matthew Harrison that food and water is still a crisis, urgent need among President Kessa’s pastors, their congregations and the communities they serve!

Our whole team ceremoniously witnessed his signing of our grant agreement which insures a high level of accountability. In my brief conversation with President Kessa, I wanted to impress upon him that we at LMCS WR-HC are in it with him for the long term, as we move from the emergency, to relief, to transition, to recovery, and rebuilding stages. “Good. Good,” he smiled, “That’s what we need!”

At this point, though President Kessa invited us all to come (“you have to see the need with your own eyes,” he said pleadingly to all of us), We split into two teams in accordance with an administrative agreement with those of us staying behind – Pastors Hernandez, Collver and Harrison – providing urgently needed pastoral care along with Pastors Ted Krey and Walter Ries at ‘hospital samaritano’ where many have been airlifted from Haiti by two helicopter (donated by two wealthy donors) for what one surgeon said was the best medical care they can receive. Top surgeons from all over have come to donate their time and skill, including Helen, Glenn Merritt’s daughter.

And our pastoral skills were mightily used!

About mid-afternoon, a earthquake tremor shook the buildings in the hospital compound including the building where we are sleeping on mattresses.

We were taking a brief break drinking water to recoup from the exhausting and draining heat when a nurse ran to call us back to pastoral care duty. She said: “The situation has turned chaotic and dangerous! Please come and calm them! Some are jumping from the second story building fearful that another tremor might kill them! ”

In their post traumatic stress, they were re-living the original Haitian earthquake. it was dinner time. So as we distributed meals, we shared gospel words of comfort.

Wait! We just had another tremor!!

All of us – nurses, doctors, pastors sleeping on mattresses in the empty house near the hospital just ran out!

This one was worse than the earlier one!

We’re sleeping outside tonight!

Suffice it to say, we are in the middle of crisis – caring for victims and fearing we might become victims ourselves.

One final reflection. It has been gratifying for me as a Latino how neighboring Latin American countries, with a lot of impoverished conditions of their own, are coming to the aid if their Haitian neighbors. The Dominican Republic, of course, Haiti’s nearest neighbor, but also Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico, whose governor accompanied a caravan of supplies and volunteers to ‘el hospital samaritani’ – good samaritans all indeed!

There is also a lot of concern among Latinos in the U.S. About the victims of the Haitian earthquake. I have had three interviews in Spanish since coming here by a national bilingual station – Metro News in Phoenix. I am happy to tell them that the LCMS shares the gospel with both comforting words and compassionate and merciful actions. In the face of this terrible tragedy that will occupy our time and energies for some time.

Another $30,000 is desperately needed for a first shipment of much needed food, water and medicine.

Sent from my Windows Mobile phone

Categories: Uncategorized

We shall not be weary. We shall not rest: On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

January 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Remarks offered by Rev. John Neuhaus at the 2008 National Right to Life Convention

We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest

Once again this year, the National Right to Life convention is partly a reunion of veterans from battles past and partly a youth rally of those recruited for the battles to come. And that is just what it should be. The pro-life movement that began in the twentieth century laid the foundation for the pro-life movement of the twenty-first century. We have been at this a long time, and we are just getting started. All that has been and all that will be is prelude to, and anticipation of, an indomitable hope. All that has been and all that will be is premised upon the promise of Our Lord’s return in glory when, as we read in the Book of Revelation, “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be sorrow nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And all things will be new.

That is the horizon of hope that, from generation to generation, sustains the great human rights cause of our time and all times—the cause of life. We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.

It has been a long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go. Some say it started with the notorious Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 when, by what Justice Byron White called an act of raw judicial power, the Supreme Court wiped from the books of all fifty states every law protecting the unborn child. But it goes back long before that. Some say it started with the agitation for “liberalized abortion law” in the 1960s when the novel doctrine was proposed that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has the right to destroy her child. But it goes back long before that. It goes back to the movements for eugenics and racial and ideological cleansing of the last century.

Whether led by enlightened liberals, such as Margaret Sanger, or brutal totalitarians, whose names live in infamy, the doctrine and the practice was that some people stood in the way of progress and were therefore non-persons, living, as it was said, “lives unworthy of life.” But it goes back even before that. It goes back to the institution of slavery in which human beings were declared to be chattel property to be bought and sold and used and discarded at the whim of their masters. It goes way on back.

As Pope John Paul the Great wrote in his historic message Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) the culture of death goes all the way back to that fateful afternoon when Cain struck down his brother Abel, and the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And Cain answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” The voice of the blood of brothers and sisters beyond numbering cry out from the slave ships and battlegrounds and concentration camps and torture chambers of the past and the present. The voice of the blood of the innocents cries out from the abortuaries and sophisticated biotech laboratories of this beloved country today. Contending for the culture of life has been a very long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go.

The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called “A Life Worth Living.” He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one’s potential. These were among the measures of what was called “a life worth living.”

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu’s list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.

In that moment, I knew that I had been recruited to the cause of the culture of life. To be recruited to the cause of the culture of life is to be recruited for the duration; and there is no end in sight, except to the eyes of faith.

Perhaps you, too, can specify such a moment when you knew you were recruited. At that moment you could have said, “Yes, it’s terrible that in this country alone 4,000 innocent children are killed every day, but then so many terrible things are happening in the world. Am I my infant brother’s keeper? Am I my infant sister’s keeper?” You could have said that, but you didn’t. You could have said, “Yes, the nation that I love is betraying its founding principles—that every human being is endowed by God with inalienable rights, including, and most foundationally, the right to life. But,” you could have said, “the Supreme Court has spoken and its word is the law of the land. What can I do about it?” You could have said that, but you didn’t. That horror, that betrayal, would not let you go. You knew, you knew there and then, that you were recruited to contend for the culture of life, and that you were recruited for the duration.

The contention between the culture of life and the culture of death is not a battle of our own choosing. We are not the ones who imposed upon the nation the lethal logic that human beings have no rights we are bound to respect if they are too small, too weak, too dependent, too burdensome. That lethal logic, backed by the force of law, was imposed by an arrogant elite that for almost forty years has been telling us to get over it, to get used to it.

But “We the People,” who are the political sovereign in this constitutional democracy, have not gotten over it, we have not gotten used to it, and we will never, we will never ever, agree that the culture of death is the unchangeable law of the land.

“We the People” have not and will not ratify the lethal logic of Roe v. Wade. That notorious decision of 1973 is the most consequential moral and political event of the last half century of our nation’s history. It has produced a dramatic realignment of moral and political forces, led by evangelicals and Catholics together, and joined by citizens beyond numbering who know that how we respond to this horror defines who we are as individuals and as a people. Our opponents, once so confident, are now on the defensive. Having lost the argument with the American people, they desperately cling to the dictates of the courts. No longer able to present themselves as the wave of the future, they watch in dismay as a younger generation recoils in horror from the bloodletting of an abortion industry so arrogantly imposed by judges beyond the rule of law.

We do not know, we do not need to know, how the battle for the dignity of the human person will be resolved. God knows, and that is enough. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta and saints beyond numbering have taught us, our task is not to be successful but to be faithful. Yet in that faithfulness is the lively hope of success. We are the stronger because we are unburdened by delusions. We know that in a sinful world, far short of the promised Kingdom of God, there will always be great evils. The principalities and powers will continue to rage, but they will not prevail. In the midst of the encroaching darkness of the culture of death, we have heard the voice of him who said, “In the world you will have trouble. But fear not, I have overcome the world.” Because he has overcome, we shall overcome. We do not know when; we do not know how. God knows, and that is enough. We know the justice of our cause, we trust in the faithfulness of his promise, and therefore we shall not weary, we shall not rest.

Whether, in this great contest between the culture of life and the culture of death, we were recruited many years ago or whether we were recruited only yesterday, we have been recruited for the duration. We go from this convention refreshed in our resolve to fight the good fight. We go from this convention trusting in the words of the prophet Isaiah that “they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The journey has been long, and there are miles and miles to go. But from this convention the word is carried to every neighborhood, every house of worship, every congressional office, every state house, every precinct of this our beloved country—from this convention the word is carried that, until every human being created in the image and likeness of God—no matter how small or how weak, no matter how old or how burdensome—until every human being created in the image and likeness of God is protected in law and cared for in life, we shall not weary, we shall not rest. And, in this the great human rights struggle of our time and all times, we shall overcome.

Richard John Neuhaus, who passed away January 8, 2009, delivered these comments at the July 2008 convention of the National Right to Life Committee.

Categories: Sanctity of Life

No “End Run” Around the Cross

January 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Here is a graphic that, Rev. James Douthwaite, at St. Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia, uses to explain how we should always factor in the Cross when we consider our relationship to God and His relationship to us. (A parishioner made this visual image.)

So, in God’s relationship to us, we might wonder, “Am I really saved?” “Am I of the elect?” “Is God angry with me?” “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” In each case, if we leave out the Cross, questions like these can drive us to despair or insanity. But consider them in light of the Cross–of Christ’s intercession, His atonement, and His suffering for us–and the paradigm shifts. I am saved because Christ paid my penalty. I am elect in the Cross where God placed my sins. God’s anger is appeased in the death of His Son. God does not just look down in detachment at the sufferings of the world; rather, He entered that world in His incarnation in Christ and Himself suffered on the Cross, where He also bore MY afflictions.

In our relationship to God: “Does God hear my prayers?” “What do I need to do to satisfy God?” “I’m not worthy of God’s love.” God hears us through our Intercessor Jesus who has won perfect access for us to the Father through His death and resurrection. God is already satisfied because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are not worthy, but Christ is worthy, and because of the Cross His worthiness is imputed to us.

Again, end runs around the Cross lead to doubt and torment, but considering God through the lens of the Cross, and understanding that God considers us through the lens of the Cross makes all the difference.

Source: Dr. Gene Edward Veith

Categories: Christian Life