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Archive for January, 2011

How to Build a Nice Little Library of Classical Music, For Only $15

January 19th, 2011 2 comments

Step 1: Go to Amazon.com.

Step 2: Download the MP3s for the following albums:

Each one is only $5. You can see all of their albums in that collection here.

Step 3: Transfer them into your iTunes or however you listen to music on your computer on MP3 player.

So for only $15, you’ll have nearly 300 classical pieces—over 30 hours—at your disposal.

HT: Justin Taylor

Categories: Uncategorized

Martin Luther King Day

January 17th, 2011 9 comments

It is time once again for me to make my annual comments about Martin Luther King day. Sadly, every year when I do this I get the same sort of responses, no matter how hard I try to be clear on why this day is so important to so many of our African-American brothers and sisters, and in fact, why it is so important for our whole country.

Sure enough there are those quite happy to entirely ignore the point of my post and wax on about how Martin Luther King was this, that, or another thing, about how his theology was bad, or how he was ‘liberal’ and on and on.

I will again however say that such comments display an astounding lack of sensitivity and concern about the feelings of our fellow Americans who look to Martin Luther King as a significant figure in advancing civil rights in this nation. And please do not, please, do not say, "Some of my best friends are Black." Oh, really? Then try to be a bit more sensitive, please. Some of my best friends are left handed, but I don’t go out of my way to offend left-handed people by denigrating honoring a left-handed person whom they have high regard for. But, seriously, some of my best friends are left-handed. I even married a left-handed person. See how hollow that sounds?

I do wonder how many of us with pale skin have ever shared a table with a Black person, actually spoken at length with them as people, not as "Blacks." Similarly, how many Blacks have had Whites into their homes and hosted them for a meal and spoke to them as people, not White? I know the problem cuts both directions, but on MLK day, this is not the appropriate time for White folk to go on and one about their gripes with Black folks.

And then, I hear from people telling me how terrible the civil rights movement has been for African-Americans, and how it has only led to what is now a permanent underclass in this country, etc. etc. There is plenty to talk about here. But that the Civil Rights movement was a good thing in many ways is undeniable.

Would you have preferred the continuation of Jim Crow laws, lynchings and telling people they can’t drink from certain water fountains, use certain bathrooms or ride only in the back of the bus or not be served a meal just because their skin is dark? Would you feel the same if the laws were in reverse and it was the white-skinned who could not do these things? "Good Christians" are not immune are they? I still have a vivid memory of angst being expressed by some members of my home congregation when Black folks showed up once for Holy Communion, from the common cup! And that was only in the late 1960s, not that too far long ago.

After the Civil War and well into the 1960s many, many African-Americans were still treated nearly like slaves in so many place. Despite the Civil War, many states made it impossible for blacks to vote and via indentured servanthood [aka sharecropping] created a serfdom across the South? Can we be a bit sensitive to the bitter, hard and long struggle of a people brought to this country as slaves?" [Yes, yes, I know blacks sold other blacks into slavery in Africa...and yes, African-Americans can be as prejudiced against others because of race as anyone else].

So, I apologize for what appears to be a gloomy post, but it is always sad that whenever anyone tries to say anything about Civil Rights, particularly on MLK day, we have to have a litany from white folks criticizing, whining and complaining, thus quite entirely missing the point of MLK and his meaning for our nation and for so many of our fellow citizens.

I’m actually seeing signs that the times they are a changing. When I was a kid it was inevitable that we would refer to other kids as "that black kid" and no doubt they would refer to us "as that white kid." My own kids have delighted me in that they have spoken of friends by name and never once have referred to them as "that black kid" or "you know, my Chinese friend." They’ve had friends over to the house that we have heard about from school for weeks and I’ve been delighted to find they are African or Chinese, and not once did our kids refer to them by race, but by their qualities as persons. A good sign indeed and this is where we need to be. No, it is unrealistic to believe we will ever be "color blind." That’s not what I’m suggesting, but it would be great if we would not always jump to race as the first way to describe a person.

Recently in an interview on 60 minutes one of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman, laid it out in a blunt way. He just wants to be referred to as a person, not a black man, but as a man. And he thought the notion of a "black history" month to be absurd, and even insulting, trying to suggest his "history" could be reduced to a month on the calendar.

I believe it is a necessary and good thing in the kingdom of the left, to work for that day when across this great nation people will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. And I suspect that if people’s skin tone was a bit more dark than it may be now they might have some better sense of why this is a dream worthy of our full support, and sympathy. So, I say, "Happy MLK day."

Categories: Current Affairs

Public Confession of a Stephanite: What Martin Stephan Was Really Like

January 13th, 2011 11 comments

Pastor Joel Baseley has recently completed the translation of a signficant document giving an important glimpse into what Martin Stephan was really like and what his high-handed authoritarianism meant for those who came to America, eventually to form The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I regret that at the upcoming symposium on the Lutheran Confessions at Fort Wayne has given opportunity to a descendant of Stephan, an ELCA pastor turned counselor who, along with his radically lesbian feminist sister, have mounted a campaign to try to rehabilitate Stephan, making all kinds of ridiculous accusations about Walther and others. It is a shame that there are some in our circles who actually believe that Stephan was mistreated and that great evil was done to him by C.F.W. Walther and others.

Read this document and  you will see for yourself that Martin Stephan was an evil shepherd, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who was an authoritarian legalist, not a truly evangelical pastor.

Here’s the document Pastor Basely translated, click on the link and click on it again when it opens in a new window to download it as a PDF file: Keyls_Confession

Categories: LCMS

God’s Final Answer When We Ask Him “Why?”

January 13th, 2011 3 comments

We believe that God is both almighty and that He is good.  He created all things and we look to Him for every blessing.  It all comes from God and God alone.  That’s what we confess in the Apostles Creed when we say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

Well, if God is both all powerful and completely good, goes the atheist’s objection, why is the world He created full of suffering?  Yes, we know that suffering comes from our sinful condition and is part of this fallen world, but our answer needs to say more.  Could not God have created a world in which evil and suffering were impossible?

Actually, speculating as to what God might have done, or what kind of universe He might have created, is just not fruitful.  The universe God did create is the only one we know.

In the movie Bruce Almighty, if I remember correctly, God “allows” a man named Bruce to have all power.  For a while Bruce enjoys walking on water, doing miracles, etc.  But then the prayers start pouring in (all by email!).  At first, Bruce answers them all individually, but after a while he gets tired and just starts answering them all with “yes.”  As a result, the world quickly begins to break down in chaos (as I remember the movie).  When the laws of physics start collapsing, God intervenes and takes back control – thankfully!

Why is there suffering?  God is not the cause of evil, but here’s the key.  The world is full of conflicting wants, needs and demands, all by people who are sinfully turned in on themselves.  It’s a condition from which we cannot free ourselves.

When we ask God, why am I suffering? we are usually protesting that we don’t deserve the treatment we think we are receiving.  We don’t like to admit that we are part of the problem and that the evil we deplore runs right through each of us. Ah, there’s the rub.  Evil is not just out there, it’s in here, in my heart and yours.  That’s what we have to confess when we are honest with God.

But what does God do about evil and suffering?  He comes.  He does not give a three part, logical, reasoned out answer.  God comes Himself.  That’s what we believe when we confess with St. Paul, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).  There is no greater revelation of God in our suffering world than this: God Himself up there in Christ hanging dead on the cross.

There God in Jesus went to the bottom of all that ails us, all the sin that kills us.  It killed Him, too, but not for long.  He lived again, rising from the dead in wonderful, amazing victory.  God’s only answer to our question why? is the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So then, also for us, the way to life is through death and resurrection.  When we believers in Jesus suffer, we can remember that the pain is only a reminder that one day we will turn in this present mortal body, corrupted by sin as it is, and receive from the Lord Jesus a brand new body.  “This perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality … thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 57).

And when the Spirit of God working through God’s Law reveals to us the depths of our sin, He calls us to repent, that is, to be honest with God about our condition and to die to sin so that God may forgive us and raise us to life.  This daily dying begins with our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, continues life-long with confession and forgiveness, until we die for the last time and Jesus raises us to life forever (see Romans 6:1-11).

Apart from the cross of Christ, suffering is an unrelenting evil, but in the hand of God, and remembering the cross of Jesus, can we see our suffering as a tool in God’s hand to strip you and me of the things that don’t matter?  So that we concentrate all the more on what He has done for us?  On what He has in store for our future?  On the things that DO matter?  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

Oh, I know we still cry out.  It still hurts.  The pain and grief, both physical and emotional, can seem unbearable at times.  But when we cry out, we are crying to the One who knows our condition.  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).  We look to Him because He will give us His victory, whether now or later.

There’s my answer, and I’m sticking to it!  I’m going to hold onto His Word, receive His body and blood, remember His death and resurrection, and hear His promise, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

This is the greatest thing our almighty creating Father ever did: to send, in eternal love, His one and only Son for us.  JESUS is God’s final answer for us.  In Him God’s Spirit now calls those who follow Him to reach out in mercy for all who are suffering. This mercy grows from Jesus giving us a life together through His body and blood given and shed for us.  Alive in His name now and forever, we bear witness to all He has done for us by His suffering, death and resurrection.

Witness, mercy, life together – all from God’s final answer, in Jesus!

Source: Rev. Herbert Mueller, First Vice-President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Categories: Uncategorized

New Edition of Philip Melanchthon’s Loci

January 12th, 2011 1 comment

In honor of the 450th anniversary of Philip Melanchthon’s death in 1560, a second edition of his Loci Communes (“Commonplaces” or “Common Topics”) has been issued in hardback. Originally published by CPH in English under the name Loci Theologici 1543, this book is actually Melanchthon’s last Latin edition, published in 1559. Generations of Lutheran pastors learned theology from this book in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This revised English edition includes several new features: a new translation of the “Definitions of Terms That Have Been Used in the Church,” a new historical introduction, cross-references to the original Latin, Scripture index, and an index of persons.

You can read a sample from the book on the CPH web site where you can order it.

Martin Luther had high praise for Melanchthon’s Loci. In his preface to The Bondage of the Will (1525), he wrote, “Philip Melanchthon’s invincible little book on Loci Theologici [“Theological Topics”] … in my judgment is worthy not only of immortality but even of the Church’s canon.” And Luther’s praise of Melanchthon’s book did not stop there. A table talk from the winter of 1542–43 records Luther’s praise of Melanchthon’s Loci:

“If anybody wishes to become a theologian, he has a great advantage, first of all, in having the Bible. This is now so clear that he can read it without any trouble. Afterward he should read Philip’s Loci Communes. This he should read diligently and well, until he has its contents fixed in his head. If he has these two he is a theologian, and neither the devil nor a heretic can shake him. The whole of theology is open to him, and afterward he can read whatever he wishes for edification. …

“There’s no book under the sun in which the whole of theology is so compactly presented as in the Loci Communes. If you read all the fathers and sententiaries you have nothing. No better book has been written after the Holy Scriptures than Philip’s. He expresses himself more concisely than I do when he argues and instructs. I’m garrulous and more rhetorical.”

Thus, at least some of Luther’s friends and students continued to hear his praise of Melanchthon’s Loci at the beginning of the 1540’s, when the expanded and revised second “era” of Melanchthon’s work had been in public for several years. The Loci of 1521 and 1536 also had a profound impact on the method (at least) of John Calvin’s 1539 Institutes of the Christian Religion.

In the years after Luther’s death (1546), Melanchthon’s teaching in the later editions of the Loci and elsewhere led to controversy and division within the Lutheran Church until the majority of Lutherans settled their differences according to God’s Word by means of the Formula of Concord (1577, published in the Book of Concord in 1580). The controversies surrounding Melanchthon centered on human free choice in spiritual matters, the necessity of good works for salvation, the Lord’s Supper, and ceremonies neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture (adiaphora). The tinder for most of these fires can be seen in this present volume.

Despite the controversies that arose from Melanchthon’s teaching both within the Loci and outside of them, this text continued to be highly esteemed among Lutherans. One of the fathers of the Formula of Concord, Martin Chemnitz, lectured on this text. His successor, Polycarp Leyser, took care to print not only Chemnitz’s lectures but also the latest edition of Melanchthon’s Loci as well, even though Chemnitz clearly refuted Melanchthon’s position at certain points. The Loci continued to be used as a theology textbook in electoral Saxony until Leonhard Hutter’s Compendium locorum theologicorum (1610) replaced it, thirty years after the Book of Concord was published. Even in our day, Melanchthon has solid, biblical teaching, aimed at consoling Christian hearts and kindling in them the love of God and of their neighbor.

(From the new introduction.)

Melanchthon’s Loci communes theologici is one of the several most significant and influential compendia of theology written during the Reformation. This translation, which presents the final stage of its textual development, had an enormous impact on developing Lutheran and Reformed theology, whether in its content or its method. The new edition of Preus’s work with Mayes’s introduction is a welcome presence in Reformation studies.

Richard A. Muller
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Categories: Uncategorized

Icky, Sticky, Hairy, Scary — Fantastic New Children’s Book

January 12th, 2011 1 comment

Let me let Rev. Charles Lehman tell you about this great new book by Concordia Publishing House, from his blog site.

Jonathan Schkade, in addition to being my best friend, is without debate, the most interesting children’s book author in the known universe. If you don’t believe me, look at this picture. Pictures do not lie. As he says on his website, “My name is Jonathan Schkade (rhymes with “body”). Mostly I write books for kids that talk about Jesus and how much God loves us. I have also never kissed a real pig or crossed a lake in a wooden boat.”

It really doesn’t get much more awesome than that.

Why, you might ask, do I care about your awesome friend that holds oversized insects?

I’m glad you asked!  The reason, of course, is that you should really buy his book.  It is the most interesting, well-written, and well-illustrated children’s book published in this decade.  The decade is only 11 days old, you say?  That’s irrelevant.  True is true.

If you want a fun and engaging book that tells 50+ bible stories and proverbs to your kids in a way they’ll remember and want you to read to them again and again, buy it.  If you want a book that tells your kid about how much Jesus loves them, buy it.

If you really don’t like your kids, then, by all means, do not under any circumstances buy this book.  It would make them far too happy and teach them far too much about God’s Word, and if you hate your kids, you really don’t want that to happen

Here is where you can read more about the book and take a look at a sample from the book.

Categories: CPH Resources

Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal – In Stock and Available Now

January 11th, 2011 2 comments

I’m very pleased to let you know that an incredibly important book is now in print. I’m referring to Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal? In this book sixteen contemporary Lutheran scholars, teachers and pastors look for answers within the historic Lutheran faith on how the doctrine of Natural Law may be once more raised to the forefront of our thinking. It is a doctrine that has been, frankly, nearly lost among us, at our grave peril. The essays contained in this book offer a fresh reappraisal of natural law within historic Lutheran teaching and practice. The book contains questions for thought, reflection and study, either by individuals or groups, along with indices to Scripture and Lutheran Confessions citations within the book. The book has been widely well received among scholars from various confessions who have received advance copies.

At the book’s web site you can download a sample from the book, and connect to a Facebook page set up to facilitate community and discussion about natural law. You can also place your order. It is very reasonably priced at $24.99, plus shipping.

Why the Natural Law Is Necessary
No contemporary thinker is interested in a wooden repristination of the natural law that is tied necessarily to the particular metaphysical foundations in the Thomistic–Aristotelian synthesis. The history of natural law shows a wide variety of interpretations and applications. But they all have some elements in common. They all oppose cultural relativism, the notion that laws are mere moral conventions that vary among societies, with no transcendent ontological claim to being universally valid and binding. To the contrary; those who hold to the natural law believe that for a law to be just, it must conform to the structure of reality itself and not depend on the oscillating opinions and preferences of human beings. The law must be the same for all human beings and at all times, so that if murder is morally wrong in America, it is equally so in Asia and Africa. If torture is to be condemned as evil in Jerusalem, it must be equally so in London and Tehran. The United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights formulates rules with respect to freedom and equality that are binding on all nations and peoples, not because of any majority vote, but because of an inherent correspondence between reason and nature. That is what is meant by saying that the Law is “written on the hearts” (Romans 2:25) of all human beings.
- Carl Braaten -

Contributors

Rev. Robert C. Baker (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Carl E. Braaten (ELCA)
Mr. Matthew E. Cochran (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III (LCMS)
Mr. Jacob Corzine (LCMS)
Dr. Adam S. Francisco (LCMS)
Rev. Gifford A. Grobien (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Korey D. Maas (LCMS)
Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson (ELS)
Dr. Thomas D. Pearson (ELCA)
Rev. Prof. John T. Pless (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Carl E. Rockrohr (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Armin Wenz (SELK)
Rev. Dr. J. Larry Yoder, STS (NALC)
Prof. Marianne Howard Yoder (NALC)
Rev. Prof. Roland Ziegler (LCMS)
What Others Are Saying
Natural law was a common idea among the Reformers and their heirs. There has been some fledgling reconsideration of this heritage in recent years in my own Reformed tradition, and it is very encouraging to see similar discussions taking place among Lutherans.  Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal helpfully wrestles with natural law from various historical and theological angles and also explores its relevance for several important social and ecclesiastical controversies of the present day. These essays on natural law—some enthusiastic, some cautious, others skeptical—are a wonderful contribution to the literature and should help to stimulate important conversations about this perennial issue for years to come.
David VanDrunen
Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic
Theology and Christian Ethics
Westminster Seminary California
As a Catholic, I found it fascinating to read these fine essays and “listen in” on a conversation about natural law conducted by an outstanding group of Lutheran scholars. The authors consider such topics as whether there really is a natural human capacity to identify and affirm valid moral norms, and whether belief in a moral law accessible to unaided reason is compatible with an acknowledgment of the devastating impact of sin on the human intellect as well as the human will. Lutherans will benefit from reading these essays, but so will everybody else.
Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Princeton University
God’s law is written in two ways and two places:  Not only in the words of revelation, but in our being, for we are made in God’s image.  For a long time, many Christians neglected or even denied this insight because of the mistaken idea that if the image of God can be obscured by sin, then for all practical purposes there is no natural law.  How ironic, and how deadly to our common witness, that this common ground among all human beings, this universal prologue to the gospel, should have become a battle ground among Christians themselves.  Catholic myself, I rejoice to see the rekindling of reflection on natural law among Lutherans, and I look forward to many interesting conversations.
J. Budziszewski
Professor of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin
Categories: CPH Resources

Installation of President Matthew Harrison as Assistant Pastor at Village Lutheran Church

January 9th, 2011 1 comment

Installation of President Matthew Harrison at Village Lutheran Church, Ladue, Missouri.

A wonderful thing happened this morning at Village Lutheran Church in Ladue, Missouri. The sitting president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was installed as the congregation’s assistant pastor. This is the first time in forty years that an incumbent president of The LCMS has been an active parish pastor. I think this is a good thing for our Synod and for our Synod’s president. After the service, I was talking to Pastor Harrison and he was telling me about his first hospital visit to a member of his congregation. He paid a visit on a dear elderly saint of God who was delighted to be visited…by one of her pastors. President Harrison said to me, “The closer the Synod president is to bedpans, the better.” I think there is quite a lot of wisdom in that statement.

Categories: LCMS

The Baptism of Our Lord: All Righteousness Fulfilled For You

January 8th, 2011 Comments off

Today many of our congregations are observing the festival of the Baptism of Our Lord, on this the second Sunday in a very short Epiphany season, due to the early start of Lent this year. What is the meaning of the baptism of our Lord? I’ll let Martin Luther explain it, in the words of his hymn, To Jordan Came the Christ Our Lord.

To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord,
To do God’s pleasure willing,
And there was by Saint John baptized,
All righteousness fulfilling;
There did He consecrate a bath
To wash away transgression,
And quench the bitterness of death
By His own blood and passion;
He would a new life give us.

So hear ye all, and well perceive
What God doth call baptism,
And what a Christian should believe
Who error shuns and schism:
That we should water use, the Lord
Declareth it His pleasure;
Not simple water, but the Word
And Spirit without measure;
He is the true Baptizer.

To show us this, He hath His Word
With signs and symbols given;
On Jordan’s banks was plainly heard
The Father’€™s voice from Heaven:
“This is My well-beloved Son,
In whom My soul delighteth;
Hear Him.” Yea, hear Him every one
Whom He Himself inviteth,
Hear and obey His teaching.

In tender manhood Jesus straight
To holy Jordan wendeth;
The Holy Ghost from Heaven’s gate
In dovelike shape descendeth;
That thus the truth be not denied,
Nor should our faith n’er waver,
That the Three Persons all preside,
At baptism’s holy laver,
And dwell with the believer.

Thus Jesus His disciples sent:
Go teach ye every nation,
That lost in sin they must repent;
And flee from condemnation:
He that believes and is baptized,
Obtains a mighty blessing;
A new-born man, no more he dies,
Eternal life possessing,
A joyful heir of Heaven.

Who in this mercy hath not faith,
Nor aught therein discerneth,
Is yet in sin, condemned to death,
And fire that ever burneth;
His holiness avails him not,
Nor aught which he is doing;
His inborn sin brings all to naught,
And maketh sure his ruin;
Himself he cannot succor.

The eye of sense alone is dim,
And nothing sees but water;
Faith sees Christ Jesus, and in Him
The Lamb ordained for slaughter;
She sees the cleansing fountain red
With the dear blood of Jesus,
Which from the sins inherited
From fallen Adam frees us,
And from our own misdoings.