Archive for May, 2010

Last Week for Concordia Publishing House Spring Catalog Sale: Great Deals – Check it Out

May 26th, 2010 Comments off

Just a word to the wise, we are in the last week of our Spring catalog and wow, has the response to the catalog been terrific, the best ever! Why? There are some really awesome deals available. So, check it out. One week to go. Free shipping for any order over $75. Check it out.

Categories: CPH Resources

The Danger of Antinomianism

May 26th, 2010 2 comments

“Whoever thinks that antinomianism is the alternative to legalism should face up to the fact that he also has confused the Law and the Gospel. Tertullian [ca. 160- ca. 225] noted this confusion in Marcion [d. ca. 160]. But we must ask this question: Wouldn’t Marcion be right, if the Gospel’s essence is the forgiveness of sins and Jesus is no law giver? Then we have to give the benefit of doubt to the antinomians of the Reformation era. Weren’t they justified in their program in holding that the law belonged to the civil sphere, that is, the government. They could even quote Luther: “The Decalogue belongs to city hall and not in the pulpit.” They used his characterization of the Law to support their view that there is no other Jesus than a “sweet” Christ. Whenever the Law and the Gospel are separated from each other, wherever the connection between the Law and the Gospel is lost, then what Luther said proves itself to be true: Where either the Law or the Gospel is lost, then the other is also thoroughly destroyed. Every form of antinomianism necessarily destroys the Gospel. Where the preaching of the Law does not work the recognition of sins, how is it possible to experience or understand the forgiveness of sins [Gospel]? Already it was Marcion who no longer understood that redemption meant the forgiveness of sins. If in our time the church neglects the preaching of the Law, the proclamation of the unchanging commands of God to people and nations, then one day the Gospel will inevitably be lost. The contemporary danger of a practical antinomianism is overpowering. How easy it is for the church of an age stridently to forbid the preaching of God’s commandments and to derive the definitive ethic for all human behavior from resources stemming from the world itself, and then to retreat to the gospel, as if the church’s task was proclaiming that God forgives a world which according to its own laws is decaying in sin. No, the forgiveness of sins can only be preached to the penitent. No church can call upon the Reformation and even upon Luther to exempt it from preaching the Law to everyone within the nation and state. Simply for the reason that the reformers were careful in stating that the preaching of the Law consisted in the civil use of the Law, the usus legis elenchticus [the first use law] as well as usus legis in renatis, the application of the Law to the regenerate. The regenerate have come to know that the Gospel is more than and something other than the divine Law, because in the Gospel God is not doing a foreign work, but his own work by which he justifies sinners and makes them alive. Between the Scylla of legalism and Charybis of antinomianism leads a narrow and dangerous path which the church must follow in her ethical thought. Whether she finds the way depends on the purity of her proclamation and on this depends her existence. It is my wish that the World Conference of Churches meeting at Oxford [1937] would be so endowed that churches of Christendom would serve in some way as a light house on this way. Each of the churches must find its own way. They can only find their ways by turning away from the world’s tempting siren calls and in this benighted century to listen to the voice of him who speaks to Christendom the same message which he spoke to the apostles and the reformers and which they believed: “I am the way.” [John 14:6]

Hermann Sasse; Ecumenical Council for Practical Christianity; Law and Gospel (December 1936); Translated by David P. Scaer

Categories: Uncategorized

Pentecost Tuesday: The Need for Pentecost Preachers

May 25th, 2010 6 comments

I remain very puzzled by a trend in some circles that would have us never preach/teach from the pulpit about our lives of renewal in Christ and about the good works to which we are to be about as a result of our justification and redemption. This is a novelty in Lutheranism and does not square with our historic Lutheran confession and practice. Here, for example, is a powerful comment from Martin Luther about this problem.

They are excellent preachers of the Easter truth, but miserable preachers of the truth of Pentecost. For there is nothing in their preaching concerning sanctification of the Holy Ghost and about being quickened into a new life. They preach only about the redemption of Christ. It is proper to extol Christ in our preaching; but Christ is the Christ and has acquired redemption from sin and death for this very purpose that the Holy Spirit should change our Old Adam into a new man, that we are to be dead unto sin and live unto righteousness, as Paul teaches Rom. 6:2 ff., and that we are to begin this change and increase in this new life here and consummate it hereafter. For Christ has gained for us not only grace (gratiam), but also the gift (donum) of the Holy Ghost, so that we obtain from Him not only forgiveness of sin, but also the ceasing from sin.

Martin Luther, On The Councils and the Churches, quoted by Dr. C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel  : 39 Evening Lectures, p. 121

Seventeenth Century Collector’s Box in Augmented Reality

May 24th, 2010 2 comments

This is completely fascinating! From The History Blog. Because there are no images of Mary or the saints on this box, I think the likelihood that it was owned by a wealthy Lutheran is very high.

The J. Paul Getty Museum has utilized a technology called Augmented Reality to display the details of a collector’s cabinet from Augsburg, Germany, (made ca. 1630). The cabinet is an incredibly complex piece of furniture that was designed to showcase its owners’ most precious collectibles. It opens on four sides to expose a bewildering array of drawers, cubbies and richly decorated surfaces.

Visitors aren’t allowed to touch it, of course — it’s a delicate piece — so the Getty decided to provide a virtual experience of the cabinet’s wonders both for the museum visitors and for visitors to its website.

“We are always looking for ways in which we can enhance the viewer’s experience,” says Erin Coburn, head of the museum’s Collection Information & Access department. During a discussion about the pavilion’s reopening, she says, “A curator suggested we do something to help people understand the Augsberg cabinet in a way other than just staring at it.”

Coburn and her colleagues created an “interactive” — a virtual model that computer users can spin, open and reassemble. This model is accessible via two touch screens in the gallery and on the Getty’s website at

The Getty also has enabled online computer users to view and interact with a floating 3-D simulation of the cabinet, thanks to Augmented Reality technology, which combines the real and the virtual in real time.

There’s a wee delay while it loads, but nothing dramatic. Not only can you move all the way around it and zoom in to every section, but there are explanatory details on the most salient features of each side. Click on the “Overview” button for an awesome animation of the whole cabinet spinning around with its drawers pulled out. When you click “Show Structure” the outer walls go transparent and you can see the guts of the piece, exploring all kinds of drawers and pull-out trays in annotated detail.

I love it when technology makes history accessible. No more roped off velvet chairs and plexiglass walls keeping our collective grubby hands off of beautiful, fascinating objects.

Protip: It plays a little better in Firefox than it does in Internet Explorer. Mainly the browsers both handle it fine, but IE gave me trouble when I tried to click on the drawers and pull-outs in the “Show Structure” mode.

Categories: Archeology

Why is Unity, Per Se, Not a Mark of the Church?

May 24th, 2010 2 comments

We confess that the church is one on the basis of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. The reasons for this unity we explained earlier (§ 34), among which the chief is the unity of faith and doctrine (Eph. 4:5). (2) Therefore unity per se is not a mark of the church. Rather, it must be connected with faith and doctrine, Eph. 4:5: “One Lord, one faith;” v. 13: “. . . until we all attain to the unity of faith” (Athanasius, Letter ad Antioch.). “Only that is the true concord which is of faith. Without that, it is the best dissent; the most destructive concord,” as Gregory Nazianzen writes (Orat. 1, de pace).
(Johann Gerhard, Theological Commonplaces: On the Church, § 231).

Categories: Uncategorized

Lutheranism 101: Coming Next October

May 24th, 2010 9 comments

I’m enjoying today reviewing the nearly final pages on Lutheranism 101, a new book coming from Concordia Publishing House in October 2010. It’s a basic “primer” on Lutheranism that I think you are really going to enjoy. I’ll share more details as the project moves along, but for now, let the cover suffice to give you a hint of what’s in store. As always, click a couple times on the photo for a “mega” size version.

Categories: CPH Resources

On the Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

May 23rd, 2010 1 comment

Here is a wonderfully succinct summary of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel and why it is so essential.

More from the Braunschweig-Woelfenbuettel Church Order…

“The entire doctrine of the divine word, revealed in Holy Scripture, consists in these two distinct chief parts: the doctrine of the law, and the doctrine of the gospel. (When we, however, indicate in the New Testament the law, we mean with Christ [Mt. 22,34-40] and Paul [Rom. 7,12] simply the Ten Commandments, as they are explained in scripture.) And both of these chief parts must remain together in the church of God and be set forth with one another: not just the law without the gospel, and not just the gospel without the law. And yet the two chief parts must be and remain diligently distinguished, that each continue and maintain its particular, proper and distinct office and work, as Paul shows in an excellent and thorough way in II Cor. 3[6], Gal. 3[19ff.], and Rom. 3[19ff.]. That is, the law performs the office and task of preaching and revealing sin, God’s wrath against sin, and damnation and eternal death on account of sin. Thus it is a ministerium, II Cor. 3[6], that is, a means and tool through which God leads us to true, earnest recognition of our sin, Rom. 3[20]. Indeed like a hammer of God, Jer. 23[29], through which He shatters and removes our stone, hard, unrepentant heart and gives us a heart troubled over its sin, II Cor. 7[10], fearful of the wrath of God, troubled and anxious in the face of eternal death and damnation, Rom. 4[15]; Psalm 51[3ff.]; Is. 66[2]; Ez. 36[26f.]. But the gospel has and performs this office: it reveals in Christ the righteousness in which and through which we become free of sin and righteous before God, and acceptable to Him unto eternal life, by grace through faith, without the doing works. And it is a ministerium, means and tool by which God again comforts and raises up slain consciences, gifts, applies and gives forgiveness of sin, righteousness, eternal life, and in summary, gives salvation to all who believe, Rom. 1[16] and 3[22f.]; II Cor. 3[9]. And Paul expresses the distinction briefly in Rom. 3[23f.] and 10[3f.]; Gal. 3[10-14]: The law is a doctrine of our works, which we are to do. The gospel, however, preaches what Christ has done for us, and so that we may receive it with faith.

“This doctrine of the distinction of the law and the gospel will and should thus be accommodated to use: If the preacher has godless, secure people before him, whom he would be pleased to lead and bring to true knowledge of their sin by divine power and working, so that they may see themselves before the wrath of God, death and damnation, and thus through an earnest displeasure, sorrow and regret, turn away from sin, that is, come to repentance, then what he shall present to them from the Word of God, to what he shall direct them so that the Holy Spirit may grant them repentance, that is, give them true knowledge, sorrow and regret over their sin, 2 Tim 2[25f.] is namely not the Gospel, but the Law. For the same is the ministerium of sin and death, II Cor. 3[7;9], through the law comes the knowledge of sin, Rom. 3[20], the law brings wrath, Rom. 4[15], and the law shows even the saints that in this life sin still dwells in their flesh, Rom. 7[5], so that they do not become arrogant, but are kept in humility, and with dear David place their salvation only in this, that their sin has been covered and not reckoned to them, Rom. 4[7f.].

“If, however, one is to comfort a troubled conscience; likewise, if one is to show the people where they may seek, find and obtain the grace of God, reconciliation, forgiveness of sin, and eternal life; one shall not point them to the law, that is, to our works. For the law was not given as if it could make righteous and alive, Rom. 3[19f.]; Gal. 3[10ff.]. Neither does it comfort the conscience, but rather works wrath, Rom. 4[15], is an office not of life, but of death and damnation, II Cor. 3[7;9]. Such consciences shall instead be directed to the doctrine of the gospel of Christ. The same shall be presented to them as a ministerium, means and tool, through which the Holy Spirit will apply, give, and bestow comfort, forgiveness of sins, righteousness and eternal life, through faith, for the sake of Christ.

“Third, if a preacher desires to teach regarding the renewal or new obedience that the Holy Spirit may renew hearts through the word, he must pay very close attention to what word and teaching he uses to that end. The law well shows what we should do, but it does not give the power and the ability. Rather the Holy Spirit must renew the heart, Titus 3[5], and the fruits of the same are all upright, good works Gal. 5[22]; Eph. 5[9]. The Holy Spirit, however, is given and received not through the law, but through the preaching of faith, Gal. 3[2]. Therefore, the person must first become righteous through Christ and acceptable to God, before then the Holy Spirit renews the heart, so that it obtains a good disposition, and in consideration of the great goodness and grace of God desires from the heart to serve and be obedient to God, Rom. 6[17]. And thus when the renewing of the Holy Spirit has begun in the heart, the heart shall not think up special acts of worship [gottesdienste] based on human laws or one’s own devotion, Col. 2[8;23]; Matt. 15[3-9]; Deut. 12[29-31]; Ezek. 20[16]. Rather the law then comes and points out which are those good works God has prepared and in which those who are his should walk, Eph. 2[10]; Ezek. 20[11f.]; Deut. 12[1]; Rom. 12[1f.]; Gal. 5[22f.]. And because the law also quickly shows that even such good works of the saints in this life are weak, impure and imperfect, Psalm 32[6]; Rom. 7[14ff.], the gospel thus comes again and teaches how and why such good works are pleasing and acceptable to God. That is, they are not acceptable because they are pure and perfect, but through faith for the sake of the Lord Christ, because the person of the believer is reconciled and acceptable to God. Such distinctions between the law and the gospel must be diligently maintained. For papaldom is today still a remarkable example for what mischief results in the church when law and gospel are mixed, or separated too far from one another, or their correct use is completely reversed. And therefore it must be reproved that the pope has made out of the law of works a doctrine through which one may obtain forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and conversely, out of the gospel a doctrine of works, indeed, a doctrine which terrifies and does not comfort.

“Neither shall the antinomians or those who assault the law [gesetzstürmer] be tolerated in these churches. They throw the preaching of the law out of the church and would have sin rebuked, and teach sorrow and regret not out of the law, but out of the gospel, under the pretense that consciences should not be so sternly attacked, nor so severely terrorized as happens with the law. But Luther defeated the fanatics on the powerful basis of Holy Scripture. Nor is it true as certain people fanaticize [schwermen] that when the knowledge of sin, sorrow and regret over sin are preached from the law, this is a Judas-repentance and eternal despair. This would be true if one would stop at the preaching of the law alone and not immediately upon repentance present the forgiveness of sins through the gospel. As such it would be a Judas-like despair. But in this case the law would not have been rightly preached. For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness for those who believe [finis legis est Christus ad iustitiam credenti], Rom. 10:[4]. And through the law God has bound everything under sin, in order that he might have mercy upon all, that the promise might come through faith in Christ, Rom. 11[32]; Gal. 3[22]; and the law is a custodian unto Christ [et lex est paedagogus ad Christum [Gal. 3:24]. Those who reject the third use of the law [tertium usum legis] also do wrongly, as though the law should be of no use to the converted and renewed, in that is reports to them what good works they are to do unto new obedience, as this is explained above.”

Translated by Matthew Harrison and Jacob Corzine; Unpublished.

Categories: Lutheranism

Law and Gospel: How to Read and Understand the Bible

May 22nd, 2010 8 comments

We’ve prepared a robust sampler of the new forthcoming edition of Walther’s famous work on the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. You can download the PDF file here, and browse around to your heart’s content.

WARNING: The sample is a large PDF file, nearly 5 megs. So, it will take a while to download, depending on your Interweb connection speed. Please, no whining about the file size.

And, if you are so inclined to get your order in before the book is actually printed and back here at CPH, which will be toward the end of June/early July. More details are available on the Law/Gospel product page on the CPH web site.

I think you will be very impressed by the wealth of information the new edition offers, and the superior translation being offered. As you will see, there are lots of great new features in this special reader’s edition of this classic work.

Pastor Paul T. McCain
Concordia Publishing House

Categories: CPH Resources

Icon of J.S. Bach

May 22nd, 2010 7 comments

I stumbled upon a web site with a large collection of icons, in a more modern style. One of them is, yup, of J.S. Bach. You can not only buy a copy of the icon in various formats, you can purchase it on a t-shirt and coffee mug. I’m not sure what to make of this, but…for what it is worth, if you have been looking for an icon of J.S. Bach to add to your collection, here you go.

Categories: Bach

LOGOS edition of The Lutheran Study Bible Now Available via LOGOS’ iPhone App

May 20th, 2010 14 comments

This morning I installed the LOGOS iPhone/iTouch/iPad app on my iPad and was delighted to see, as I loaded the various volumes in my LOGOS library, that LOGOS has “flipped the switch” on The Lutheran Study Bible to make it viewable via the LOGOS app. It is fantastic! To use this functionality you have to have purchased one of the new LOGOS 4.0 packages, or upgrade your system software. Please consult with LOGOS for technical support on this if you don’t know how to get this working on your iPhone/iTouch or iPad. Here’s the tech support number: 1-800-875-6467.

Here are three screen shots from my iPad, in vertical display mode and horizontal display mode. There are three pictures: (1) The TLSB showing the LOGOS App controls showing; (2) How it looks in vertical read mode; (3) And then horizontally displayed. You can click through on the image to the super-sized version of the screen. Click on the picture, go to the next page, click on it again, and voila.

TLSB in the LOGOS App, with App controls displayed

TLSB in Logos App, vertical view

TLSB in Logos App, horizontal view

So, now I can read and use The Lutheran Study Bible on:

  • My desktop computer
  • My laptop computer
  • My iPhone
  • My iTouch
  • My iPad
  • My Kindle

How and on what devices can you read/use The Lutheran Study Bible?

You can read The Lutheran Study Bible Kindle edition, via the Kindle app on:

  • All Apple computers and smart phones and iPads.
  • All PC computers/laptops/netbooks.
  • All Blackberries
  • The Amazon Kindle Android app is on the way.

You can read The Lutheran Study Bible LOGOS edition:

  • All Apple computers, iPhone/iTouch/iPad.
  • All PC computers.

The DRM e-Pub version of The Lutheran Study Bible is coming soon.

The iBookstore version of The Lutheran Study Bible is coming soon.

Oh, yes, the other option you have for reading/using The Lutheran Study Bible is by reading the actual book. If you want to get all old school about it.

The Lord’s Supper is a Blessed Exchange

May 20th, 2010 Comments off

“There in the Supper it is not a mere man who deals with you individually, but Christ, your Savior himself, through his minister [diener]. And he says: “Take and eat. This is my body, which is given for you. Take and drink. This is my blood which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of your sin, etc.” In our flesh nothing good dwells. The sin which works in us many evil desires, hinders the good and often causes us to fall. Christ however in his Supper makes with us the blessed exchange [seligen wechssel]. For he through his holy flesh and blood unites himself with us so that he thus through his power ever more and more may crucify and kill the old Adam. And thus we all become one body in Christ where one member is to love, honor and advance the others. And in summary, he who finds that he is weak in faith has in the Lord’s Supper a blessed, powerful antidote [antidotum] that strengthens faith, etc. If this basis is diligently stressed, pious Christians will find themselves partaking of the Lord’s Supper often and with great devotion. And also on these grounds they can instruct themselves regarding the use, fruit and consolation which poor, troubled consciences find in the right use of the Lord’s Supper. However, if a person will not allow himself to be moved by these reasons one can know what kind of Christian he is.”

Martin Chemnitz, Braunschweig-Woelfenbuettel Church Order, 1569.

An Interesting Encounter with the Games Liberal Theologians Play

May 20th, 2010 9 comments

Last Saturday I was having a thoroughly enjoyable conversation with Rev. Dr. James Voelz, Dean of Faculty at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He was telling anecdotes from his fascinating and varied academic experiences. He said what really impressed him was when he was a  young man studying in Cambridge, the famous liberal theologian, JAT Robinson, came in to lecture. Somebody asked him about something in Romans, a key passage, and without blinking an eye, Dr. Robertson simply said, “Oh, yes, of course Paul said that, but Paul was wrong.” Dr. Voelz pointed out what a completely honest response that was.

But what so often happens among liberals, particularly those in mainline protestant churches, is that they do not have the personal integrity to say simply, “Paul was wrong” or “Christ was wrong” but they play all sorts of games trying to explain how, well, that was what Christ said, or what Paul wrote, but the words don’t mean what they say, or appear to mean, or they did not really say what we think they said. In other words, they indulge in fundamentally deceptive ways of getting around the plain meaning of the text.

We see this all over the place in the recent ELCA decisions regarding homosexuality and we saw it all over the place in the days of Seminex in our own Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I shared with Dr. Voelz one of my favorite stories about the Seminex days in our Synod, told me by an eye/ear witness. One of the Seminex professors, when asked if he personally believed that the account of Christ walking on water was true and if Christ did in fact walk on water paused for a long time and said, “Well, I certainly would not want to say Christ could not have walked on water.”Dr. Voelz, who was a student at the time during the years of the Seminex crisis confirmed that this kind of duplicitous way of approaching the issues was standard operating procedure among the pro-Seminex theologians on the campus of Concordia Seminary.

Most recently, on this blog site, when I posted something about why it is so important to maintain that there was a real Adam and a real Eve, a liberal theologian popped on and asked me where Christ ever said there was a real Adam and Eve. He is indulging in the kind of passive-aggresive, dishonest game playing that characterizes so much of American liberalism in many of the mainline protestant denominations. Liberal theologians know that, in varying degrees, the rank and file members of their congregations still believe the “old myths” they were taught as children, and so they dance around and play with the text of Scripture, trying to cover over their own utter disbelief in what the Bible clearly asserts.

Years ago when I was a young pastor, a neighboring pastor friend of mine who visited a newly installed ELCA Lutheran pastor told me about his conversation with her. When he asked her what she personally believed about the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s own bodily resurrection, asking her this question as they stood in the grave yard of her church, she said, “Oh, of course, I don’t believe in all that anymore.” And when he asked her, “Well, what do you preach about then?” She quickly said, “Oh, I preach what I know my people want to hear about these things.”

This is the kind of game-playing that goes on constantly; tragically, through these kinds of games, many are deceived. But God is not mocked. (Galatians 6:7)

There is No Good Reason Not to Offer the Lord’s Supper at Every Divine Service in a Lutheran Congregation

May 19th, 2010 5 comments

There is no good reason not to offer the Lord’s Supper in every Divine Service. There are reasons not to, but they are not good reasons. They are either reasons forced on a parish by a long history of insufficient understanding and practice of the Supper, or they are excuses. But they are not good reasons. We are church that cherishes the means of grace, at least on paper. We all are taught to recite what the Lord’s Supper and what it means. Great words! But then, in too many of our congregations, the Lord’s Supper is only offered every-other-Sunday. The reasons for not offering it more frequently are many, one of the most common is, “But it won’t be special, if we offer it to often.” To that I say to every congregation and every person who put that forward as a reason: “Why do you take up an offering every Sunday? It makes it so less special when you take the offering.” But how many of our congregations always pass the plate, at every service, or, frankly, at any time there are people in the church building for a formal worship service: Wednesdays, Saturday nights, special occasions. We dutifully and without fail pass the plate and allow the people of God to give generously. So why do we not also as diligently give the people of God the chance to receive God’s special gifts in His supper as often as they are given a chance to give gifts back to God? It makes no sense to many any more.

And, when I hear people saying, “We should not offer the Supper every Sunday, for there are people who will feel forced to take it, or feel guilty if they don’t, or don’t want it every Sunday.” I say, as nicely as I can, “We are certainly not demanding anyone receive the Lord’s Supper. If you feel no hunger or desire for it as frequently as it is offered, please do not receive it. But is it right to tell others who do, ‘No, you can’t have it this Sunday, because some of us don’t want it? If a banquet is served, and there are those who do not feel hungry for it, they do not have to eat it, but should that stop us from serving the wonderful feast the Lord provides in His Supper?”

I’ve watched for years as my church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, has passed resolution after resolution after resolution at Synod conventions “encouraging” congregations to offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday to all who are there and desire it. That’s the doctrine and practice of the historic, confessing Lutheran Church, as set forth plainly, clearly and unhesitatingly in our Lutheran Confessions. In fact, at the time of the Reformation, Lutherans were nearly, frankly, boasting that the Lord’s Supper is celebrated more reverently and received appropriately and in genuine faith by more people than ever before. Very matter-of-factly, the Lutheran Confessions state: “The Mass is not a sacrifice to remove the sins of others, whether living or dead, but should be a Communion in which the priest and others receive the sacrament for themselves, it is observed among us in the following manner: On holy days, and at other times when communicants are present, Mass is held and those who desire it are communicated. Thus the Mass is preserved among us in its proper use, the use which was formerly observed in the church and which can be proved by St. Paul’s statement in I Cor. 11:20ff. and by many statements of the Fathers. For Chrysostom reports how the priest stood every day, inviting some to Communion and forbidding others to approach.” Augsburg Confession XXIV.34

When Luther was asked by the City Council of Nürnberg, through Lazarus Spengler, about how frequently the Lord’s Supper should be offered Luther had this to say:

Should anyone request my counsel in this way, then I would give this advice: … that you should celebrate one or two Masses in the two parish churches on Sundays or holy days, depending on whether there are few or many communicants. Should it be regarded as needful or good, you might do the same in the hospital too. …you might celebrate Mass during the week on whichever days it would be needful, that is, if any communicants would be present and would ask for and request the Sacrament. This way we should compel no one to receive the Sacrament, and yet everyone would be adequately served in an orderly manner. If the Ministers of the Church would fall to griping at this point, maintaining that they were being placed under duress or complaining that they are unfitted to face such demands, then I would demonstrate to them that no merely human compulsion is at work here, but on the contrary they are being compelled by God Himself through His Call. For because they have the Office, they are already, in virtue of their Call and Office, obliged and compelled to administer the Sacrament whenever people request it of them, so that their excuses amount to nothing; just as they are under obligation to preach, comfort, absolve, help the poor, and visit the sick as often as people need or ask for these services. [Source:Weimar Ausgabe, Briefwechsel, 4:533-34; quoted in John Raymond Stephenson, “The Holy Eucharist: At the Center or Periphery of the Church’s Life in Luther’s Thinking?”, A Lively Legacy: Essays in Honor of Robert Preus, edited by Kurt E. Marquart, Stephenson, and Bjarne W. Teigen (Fort Wayne, Ind.: Concordia Theological Seminary, 1985), pp. 161-62.] Read an entire article on this issue by Pastor David Jay Webber, here, from which these quotes are taken. I’ve appended it to the end of this article in the “more” section.

Let me let Hermann Sasse have the last word, for now, on this subject. Please give these beautiful comments your prayerful consideration.

The Lutheran doctrine of the consecration assumes that every celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an unfathomable miracle, just as the first Lord’s Supper was not, as the Reformed Church supposes, a parabolic action but also a miracle. Every Lord’s Supper that we celebrate is a miracle, no less than the miracles that Jesus did during His days on earth. The same is true, although in another way, of Baptism. As the preaching of the Lord was accompanied by His signs and wonders, so the proclamation of His church is accompanied by the sacraments. And as the deeds of Jesus were the dawn of the coming redemption (Luke 4:18ff.; Matthew ll:4ff.), so in Baptism and in the Lord’s Supper we are already given what belongs to the coming world. As often as the church gathers around the table of the Lord it is already the “day of the Lord,” i.e., the day of the Messiah (cf. Amos 5:18), the day of His return. This is the original meaning of Sunday as the “day of the Lord,” on which John (Revelation l:9ff.) in the Spirit could participate in the heavenly divine service, while the churches of Asia were gathered for the Lord’s Supper (cf. 3:20). Sunday is an anticipation of the parousia. It is this because on that day the Lord comes to His church in the Word and in the Sacrament of the Altar. For this reason the church greets Him before the consecration with “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” The old Lutheran Church of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries still celebrated the divine service in this sense, which Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession defends with the words: “We are unjustly accused of having abolished the Mass. Without boasting, it is manifest that the Mass is observed among us with greater devotion and more earnestness than among our opponents.” [Ap. XXIV.9] This honor is long past, since late orthodoxy neglected the liturgical instruction of the people, Pietism destroyed the Lutheran concept of sacrament, and rationalism nullified faith in miracles. Will the Lutheran Church recover the divine service to which its Confession bears witness? It cannot be a matter of repristinating an unrepeatable past but only of understanding anew the teaching of the Holy Scriptures about the Sacrament of the Altar as confessed in the Confession. Everything else will come of itself. It is an experience of the history of Lutheranism in the nineteenth century that generally, wherever Luther’s doctrine of the Real Presence is again understood and believed, hunger for the Sacrament of the Altar wakens afresh, and the liturgy is renewed. We see beginnings of such an experience even today. No liturgical movement can help our church unless it is inspired with Luther’s profound understanding of the consecration. In the consecration Jesus Christ is speaking and no one else. He speaks the Word of divine omnipotence: “This is My body,” “This is My blood,” and of divine love: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” And this Word creates what it says, the true presence of His body and blood and the forgiveness of sins. So both forms in which the Gospel appears meet in the consecration, the spoken and the acted Gospel, the Word and the Sacrament. In this sense the consecration is the Gospel itself.

Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors XXVI, 1952.

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The End of Lutheranism: 1575 – Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

May 18th, 2010 3 comments

They claim that our church is heretical and have often predicted a fatal massacre for it. In fact, they have even dared to determine the year of its destruction. (Johannes Taisnierius Hannonius, Physiogn. Pauli oper. Math., p. 457, predicted from the stars in 1572 that “the Lutheran religion will be wiped out within three years.” See also Johann Paulus Windeckius, Prognostic. de futuro ecclesiae statu.) But this church, by God’s benefaction, still stands unmoved, and we hope that it will continue to flourish until the end of the world. (Johann Gerhard, Theological Commonplaces: On the Church, § 172)

Such was the prediction. Some things never change. Predictions of disaster unless something is done immediately are always in the air. Things are so bad, some say, we must make sweeping changes NOW, before it is too late. Such Chicken Little “sky is falling” doom and gloom, fear-mongering, panic-causing prognosticators, come and go. They did in Johann Gerhard’s time, they do in ours as well. We hear it in our society and in the church.

And in response to it all, we do well to recall the motto of the Reformation Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum — The Word of the Lord endures forever!

Categories: Lutheranism

How C.F.W. Walther Lectured

May 18th, 2010 1 comment

C.F.W. Walther was an extremely popular preacher and professor. Our professional/academic book team has been working hard at bringing out a new edition of what many consider to be the most important lecture series he gave to students Law and Gospel. By the way, the “proper distinction between,” that is normally added to the title, was just that: added later. The lecture series he gave was simply, by him, titled Law and Gospel. You can download and read/see an extended sample of this forthcoming volume. It will be available in late June/early July.

Here is something that may fascinate you, as it did me: we have actual copies of the lecture notes Walther prepared and then gave for the Law and Gospel “Luther hour” lecture series he presented on this. These lectures were delivered outside the normal classroom experience and intended to be a bit more relaxed and less formal in nature. Here is a blog post that Rev. Engelbrecht posted to his blog today.

My colleague, Charles Schaum, prepared the following for our web page on C. F. W. Walther. On the site you can view samples of Walther’s handwritten notes for the lectures on Law and Gospel. In July, CPH will release a new translation/edition of Walther’s Law and Gospel, which has been one of the most influential documents in American Lutheran churches.

“When C.F.W. Walther gave his lectures on Law and Gospel, he generally used notes on three or four leaves of paper folded into a booklet. Walther used his notes as a guide for what he intended to say to the students, but he felt free to depart somewhat from them if needed. Nevertheless, his notes show the material that he wanted to communicate.

“Walther wrote his notes in longhand, but in an abbreviated style. He left an ample margin on the right where he wrote references to works, other remarks, and space for revision.

“These notes are important because one can use them to answer questions about whether the original transcriptions were accurate. For example, the German versions refer to a hymn writer as pastor “Lollmann,” as does the Dau edition. Yet Walther’s notes clearly show Caspar Neumann as the hymn writer, as the new edition of Law and Gospel indicates.”

Here is a PDF scan of some of Walther’s notes.