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Archive for March, 2011

Most Important Archeological Find in Christian History Ever! Or Not.

March 31st, 2011 11 comments

You may have heard about the “discovery” of a document that is being hyped by the media and opportunistic “scholars” as being the “greatest find” ever in the history of archeology related to Christianity, with claims that this find is akin to the Dead Sea scrolls in its importance for Christianity. The best response at this point is simply to tell people that there is, at present, very little actual information about the discovery and the document itself is written in some sort of Hebrew based code-language. It is also very important for people to keep in mind that there were swirling about in the days after Christ’s life a number of heretical sects and groups that combined elements of Christianity and Judaism with various pagan philosophies and religious opinions. There is nothing surprising therefore to find that there may be a document produced by one of these sects. What it contains remains unknown. It may be a wonderful discovery providing yet more extra-Biblical evidence confirming the historicity of the canonical Scripture. Or it may not be. At this point, it is best to ignore the media hype and chatter and wait for some sober-minded evaluation and judgment. I remain disgusted by so-called “scholars” who literally bank on the general public’s ignorance about things that have been well know for many years. Here is but one example of the media-hype over this set of metal plates.

New Kindle eBook Titles from Concordia Publishing House

March 30th, 2011 8 comments
Categories: CPH Resources, eBooks

Happy Birthday Model 1911 and Thank You John Moses Browning

March 29th, 2011 8 comments

Today is the 100th birthday of the Model 1911 semi-automatic handgun. Perfected by Mr. John Moses Browning and officially adopted on this day by the US Military: March 29, 1911. I’m into the shooting sports as some of you may know and I thoroughly enjoy my 1911, a Springfield Armory “Loaded” Model, which comes with the latest improvements to the 1911, but the same basic function and design remains the same. Chambered in .45 ACP, this pistol is a pleasure to own and shoot, as any 1911 owner will tell you. Do yourself a favor and don’t get a 1911 owner start waxing rhapsodic about it. You will either be bored to tears, or you will go out and get on yourself.

Here’s a great video on the 1911, made by one of my favorite YouTube shooters, Hickok 45, a high school history teacher who does a great job featuring various firearms, in an enjoyable way.

And here’s a little video I shot out at my gun range this weekend, in which you can see my 1911.

Categories: Shooting Sports

Take a Look at the Luther Graphic Novel Sampler

March 29th, 2011 9 comments

I hesitated to post this because, well, it is not the world’s greatest video. I tried holding the camera in one hand, using the HD lens in my iPhone, which means I can’t see what’s going on while recording, and… well … anyway, here you go:

Categories: CPH Resources

How Do You Make the Bible More Personal?

March 29th, 2011 Comments off

I found this video on Justin Taylor’s blog site and thought it was a very well done response to a common question: “How can I make the Bible more personal?” The couple asking the counselor this question framed their inquiry in very honest and helpful terms, and the response is also equally helpful. We Lutherans can offer something even more though: the dynamic of the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel as they are used by our Lord to mold and shape us. Please watch this video, then…consider making use of a set of materials we produced some time ago to facilitate the use of the Scriptures in a richly and intensely personal and devotional way, using the ancient art of the “divine reading” of the Bible, a practice that Martin Luther advocated and reformed. I’m referring to the “Light of Life” program, which will help you and the members of your congregation get started on developing the habit of daily, prayerful meditation on God’s Word. Here is a link to the Light of Life program page on our CPH web site.

 

Dr. David Powlison – Making Scripture Personal from CCEF on Vimeo.

 

Categories: CPH Resources

What is the Purpose of the Book of Concord in the Lutheran Church

March 26th, 2011 1 comment

The true church is gathered not around Scripture, but around the rightly understood, the purely and correctly interpreted Bible. It is the task of the church’s confession to express the right understanding of Scripture which the Church has reached. Thus pastors are helped to proclaim only the pure doctrine, and congregations are protected against the whims of the preacher and the misinterpretation of Scripture. In this sense the church’s confession is servant of the Word.

From Church and Confession (1941), English translation by Norman Nagel in We Confess: Jesus Christ (Concordia Publishing House, 1984) p. 84. Thanks for Pastor Mark Henderson for posting this.

Categories: Hermann Sasse

Martin Luther on the Meaning of Christ’s Victory Over Sin, Death and Hell

March 26th, 2011 Comments off

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

A blessed Easter to you all. Here are some thoughts from Martin Luther on the meaning of Christ’s victory over Satan, death and hell, from his 1523 commentary on 1 Corinthians, specifically on 1 Cor. 15:54–55.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” is a common saying. St. Paul is able to speak about this article at such length because his heart is filled with it and he is so convinced of it that he regards all else as nothing by comparison. If his heart were not filled to overflowing with such thoughts, these words would never occur to him. Therefore they sound so hazy and strange and incomprehensible to others who do not occupy themselves with such thoughts. But whoever concerns himself with these matters and reflects on another life will, I am sure, comprehend and understand them; for Paul speaks of this subject as though he were already face to face with it. And because Christ is risen and gives us His resurrection against our sin, death, and hell, we must advance to where we also learn to say: “O death, where is thy sting? etc.,” although we at present see only the reverse, namely, that we have nothing but the perishable hanging about our neck, that we lead a wretched filthy life, that we are subject to all sorts of distress and danger, and that nothing but death awaits us in the end.

But the faith that clings to Christ is able to engender far different thoughts. It can envisage a new existence. It can form an image and gain sight of a condition where this perishable, wretched form is erased entirely and replaced by a pure and celestial essence. For since faith is certain of this doctrine that Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection, it must follow that this resurrection is just as effective in us as it was for Him—except that He is a different person, namely, true God. And faith must bring it about that this body’s frail and mortal being is discarded and removed and a different, immortal being is put on, with a body that can no longer be touched by filth, sickness, mishap, misery, or death but is perfectly pure, healthy, strong, and beautiful, so that not even the point of a needle can injure it. That will be the power and the effect, or, as St. Pauls says here, the victory gained by Christ, which will completely do away with and purge our sin and death with its attendant frailties, perils, and sufferings of the body.

Note how St. Paul speaks about this life and existence. He views it not as man himself but as a dress that he must wear now but discards later and replaces with another. He makes no more of death and grave than he does of taking off an old torn garment and casting it away. To him the resurrection is like putting on a beautiful new garment called immortalitas, incorruptibility or immortality. It is spun and woven by Christ’s victory. For the victory of Christ, who overcame all in Himself, was wrought for the purpose of clothing you with it and of cleansing you from your sin and death, so that nothing of your corruptible body remains or of anything that the devil infused in you or that derives from him, all sorts of misfortunes and frailties, error and folly, everything except your natural and true body as created by God. For God did not create man that he should sin and die, but that he should live. But the devil inflicted so much shameful filth and so many blemishes on nature that man must bear so much sickness, stench, and misfortune about his neck because he sinned. But now that sin is removed through Christ, we shall be rid of all of that too. All will be pure, and nothing that is evil or loathsome will be felt any longer on earth. However, this is not brought about in any other way than that we first shed this old, evil garment through death. We must be divested of it entirely, and it must turn into dust.

When that comes to pass, Paul says, this will be fulfilled; now we say: Scriptum est, but then we shall say: Factum est. The time will come when that which is now always preached and spoken about will actually happen and be carried out. And what is that? It is the fact recorded in the words: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” St. Paul states that these words are found in Scripture; I really do not know where in Scripture. They seem to be taken from the prophet Hosea, chapter 13:14, where we read: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, I will be your poison. O Sheol, I will be your plague (or pestilence).” That is to say: “I will kill you and do away with you.” For in Scripture poison and pestilence are regarded as a deadly evil, which quickly destroys and kills a person, for instance, when he is stung by the most venomous adders or when he gets a high, virulent fever or contracts the pestilence. It is natural also for the bite of a snake to bring about a fever. St. Paul may have had that in mind and paraphrased it with a few words.

However, I believe that St. Paul’s eyes ranged further and that he wished to include, in addition to Hosea’s statement, all similar ones contained in Scripture; for instance, above all the chief verse from which many others are derived, Gen. 3:15, where God says to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” In the Hebrew we find the same word for both zertreten and stechen.61 That word really means to bite as a serpent bites as it shoots the venom in. It means to say that the serpent will bite Christ’s heel, but He, in turn, will bite its head, that He will be a mortal venom and a pestilence for it, as Hosea interprets from this text. And this verse now prompts this proclamation of St. Paul: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” For our Lord Christ brought it about that the venom and the bites of the devil were deadened and completely swallowed up by Him, who crushed his head, that is, who stripped him of all his might and power. In this way we can relate all similar verses found throughout the prophets to this one. They all flow from this one and into this one, so that all of them comprise but one text. For according to His rich Spirit He melts many verses into one and molds a text from these which is supplied by all of Scripture and expresses the meaning of all of Scripture.

Thus Paul now wants to say: “After Christ has accomplished the purpose of His resurrection, then all that is recorded of the victory will be fulfilled, namely, that by means of it both death and hell will be swallowed up and exist no longer.” Then one may say: “Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your spear?” Then this will no longer be proclaimed or heard and believed, but we ourselves will feel and experience it. Then the word will no longer be Fiat but Factum est. Then we will be face to face with what is now presented to us in words. In the meantime we must cling to this verse and know that what it says will surely come to pass.

Now note these words. Note how forcefully he speaks of death on the basis of Scripture. He pictures him as entirely swallowed up and devoured, with nothing remaining of him who himself devoured and swallowed up all men on earth. We hear furthermore that He Himself will be a poison to death and a pestilence to hell, which will consume all the poison with which the devil killed and destroyed people. For this poison is nothing else than the curse which has passed on to the whole world. It was blown and beaten into us by the devil, and we must all die from it. That is the drink he offered Adam and we all partook of with Adam when we were born. It has coursed through our body and all its members, and it also manifests itself externally by means of all sorts of distress and sorrow. However, Scripture discloses a salutary medicine and a precious antidote, given us by God in the Word, in which He assures us that He will kill death in return and that He also gives the devil a drink with which he will have to drink himself to death forever. He himself will have to devour his poison, curse, sin, hell, and death which he attached to nature, while we will be saved from these eternally by believing and adhering to the Seed.

“I Myself will do that,” He says; “I will be your death and your pestilence.” He applies these ugly words, death and pestilence, to Himself; and yet they are so immeasurably comforting. For note what and whom He refers to with these words. He is not a foe of nature. No, He shows that He wishes to help nature and subdue its enemy, death and devil. He has compassion with our misery, for He sees that we are now drowned by the devil’s poison and by death and are so submerged in it that we cannot extricate ourselves. He wants to wreak vengeance on him as on His own foe, who poisoned and spoiled His work. Therefore this is a real divine antidote, not taken from a physician’s pharmacy but prepared by heaven and given to us through Christ’s resurrection. It will be harmless for us, but it will kill and ruin only him who gave and served us this poison. And now, when we begin to believe the article of Christ, the potion is already mixed and drunk which eliminates the poison that he injected into my heart and conscience and also into my body. Now we are saved from the curse, and the same poison which we have in us is now poured out for the devil, so that he has to eat death by us. Thus we have drunk a salutary medicine in Baptism and the Sacrament, which expels and removes our poison. This does not kill me but the very enemy who intended to kill me with it. You see, that is why God employs such figurative language and calls Himself a poison, not a poison for us poor people who once were cumbered with death and pestilence, but a poison against the poison of death and hell. Now we who feel such poison and plague can take comfort from that, assured that God befriends us so greatly that He completely removes these from our body and soul and feeds these to devil and death, that his belly is rent by them.

Poison and pestilence are a death which does not kill suddenly and abruptly; but it kills nevertheless. It gradually makes its way through the whole body until it reaches the heart. That is the way God also treats us. He does not want to carry out the victory over death and devil all of a sudden, but He has this proclaimed for a while for the sake of the elect who are yet to be born. So He begins to mix and prepare the potion to be a purgatio or a medication for us, to refresh and to invigorate us but to be poison and death for the devil. This is comparable to a potion prescribed by a physician. This is conducive to a patient’s health, but it is poison to a fever. Thus He could well call His medicine or antidote a poison or a pestilence. Here, too, it is true that one poison expels another, that one pestilence kills the other.

This also applies to Christendom now, when Word, Baptism, and the Sacrament are administered and nothing is proclaimed but that Christ died and rose again. That is the only prescription or purgatio for our sin and death. That we must take daily and let it work, in order to drive the poison from our heart and take us from death and hell to eternal life. He promised us that; and He commanded us to proclaim it and to believe it. Thereby He brings it about in us daily that it penetrates like a leaven (as Christ says in Matt. 13:33). Then the heart grows and grows in faith and learns to despise and overcome this life and its hardships.

That is the victory by which death is to be swallowed up, so that we need fear death no longer or remain in it. For the heart is already saturated by the Gospel, which shall be poison and pestilence to death. It weakens death from day to day and deprives him of his strength, until he is submerged entirely and disappears. For although he is not yet entirely swallowed up in us, the victory gained by Christ is already present, and through Gospel, Baptism, and faith it has become our victory. On the Last Day, when we have taken off the old, terrestrial, perishable garment and put on a new celestial one, we can destroy him completely with this victory. Then we will remain in life forever; then we will behold and perceive life as we now behold and feel the reverse, namely, that death is in us and that we are stuck in death. The victory appears to be his alone, as he as the lord of the world devours and consumes one person after another up to the Last Day. But nevertheless we know from Scripture that victory was wrested from him by Christ, who began to swallow him up in Himself. And through Him we, too, are spiritually victorious over him. Later we will bury death also physically and do away with him entirely, so that nothing will be seen or known of him any longer. Instead, we will have nothing but life and bliss.

Then we will really begin to glory joyfully and defiantly and say and sing: “O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory?” That is really snapping one’s fingers at death and hell and saying: “Dear death, do not bite me, but show your anger with me and kill me. I defy death and hell and challenge them to touch a hair on my head!63 Where are you now, you vile man-eaters?” Then there will be naught but making game of death, hell, and devil. And as they now boast and jeer at the whole world, saying, “We defy you to escape us!” tables will then be turned. Then we can vent our anger on them and defy them forever and say: “Now let us see what you are able to kill! Of course, you have been enjoined from killing. Now it is your turn to lie there ignominiously and be ridiculed in the bargain.” This has already begun through Christ on His own body. He sings this song of defiance against death and hell uninterruptedly: “Dear death, once upon a time you crucified and buried Me too; and you trampled Me underfoot. You assumed that you had gained the victory and had devoured Me. But where are you now? I defy you to pursue Me further!” For death has already been drowned and swallowed up entirely on His body, with not as much as a speck of death’s dust remaining on Him. Now we who believe in Him share in this when the hour comes in which we see and feel how death and hell are entirely swallowed up and exterminated. At present, however, we await the hour, assured that this will surely come to pass and that we can already defiantly rely on Christ by faith over against sin, death, and hell.

Luther, M. (1999, c1973). Vol. 28: Luther’s works, vol. 28  : 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (28:201). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Archeologists Discover Letter Written to St. Paul

March 25th, 2011 31 comments

Word is now coming out that a letter has been discovered that was written to St. Paul, in response to his letter to the churches in Galatia. Here is an English translation.

Parodios, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, to our brother Paulos.

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

Our church recently received a copy of the letter that you sent to the church of Galatia. We hope you will not mind hearing our humble concerns. In the past we have noticed you are more interested in confronting people rather than conversing with them, but we hope you will receive this letter as an invitation to further dialogue.

First of all, we are uncomfortable with your tone throughout the correspondence. We know it is difficult sometimes to discern tone of voice from written communication, but you should keep this in mind as well. One could gather from your careless use of words that you are losing your temper. You certainly sound angry. This is unbecoming a spokesperson for the faith. As you say yourself, one of the manifest fruit of God’s Spirit is gentleness.

Aren’t you being a hypocrite to preach grace but not show it to our Judaizer brothers? They may not worship as you do or emphasize the same teachings you do, but our Lord has “sheep not of this fold,” and there is certainly room within the broader Way for these brothers. Their methodology may differ from yours, but certainly their hearts are in the right place.

You yourself know that our Lord required personal contact when we have a grievance against another. Have you personally contacted any of these men? Have you sat down to reason with them personally? Have you issued a personal invitation? Some of them may even reconsider their viewpoints if you had taken a different tack. We know that your position is likely that public teaching is open to public criticism, but we can do better than what is expected, can’t we?

In one portion of your letter, you indicate you don’t even know these persons! “Whoever he is,” you write. Our dear Paulos, how can you rightly criticize them when you don’t know them? It’s clear you haven’t even read their material, because you never quote them. We implore you to see that they are plainly within the tradition of Moses and of the Prophets. They understand the context of the covenant in ways you appear deaf to.

Similarly, we find your tone and resorting to harsh language not in keeping with the love of Christ. “Foolish Galatians.” “Let him be accursed.” “Emasculate themselves.” Really? Can you not hear yourself? You think this is Christlike? Does this sound like something our Lord would say? Do you think this flippant, outrageous, personal, vindictive manner of speech speaks well of God’s love or the church? It is clear you are taking this way too personally. Indeed, you ask the Galatians if you are now their enemy. Does everything have to be so black and white to you?

Paulos, what will unbelievers think when they read this letter? Do you think this will commend the gospel to them? This kind of harsh language just makes us look like a bunch of angry people. They see we can’t even love each other, and over what? Circumcision? This is a terrible advertisement for God’s love to an unbelieving world. You have given plenty of people permission now to disregard Jesus, if this is what his mouthpieces sound like.

We hope you will reconsider your approach. We know that you catch much more flies with honey than with vinegar. We are concerned that your ill-worded letter signals a divisiveness that threatens to fracture the church. We beg you to reconsider how important these minor issues are, and how in the future you may speak in ways that better reflect God’s love.

The grace—and the love!—of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brother.

HT: Justin Taylor

God, the Sticky Handed One: LCMS Catechesis

March 23rd, 2011 3 comments

Wow, my friend William Weedon has been asked to be “Chief Catechist” at The LCMS’ International Center and every week comes over to lead a special chapel service aimed at catechesis for the entire IC staff, at least those who attend the daily chapel services. They are receiving treasures from my good friend. I am incredibly encouraged to think that the our friends at the IC are receiving this kind of catechesis. Perhaps Pastor Weedon’s work will be shared with the rest of the Church when he is finished. Good stuff, is an understatement. See if you don’t agree.

Here is the catechesis he delivered today.

On the third article. TSP regularly has a fund-raiser in the fall in which the Magazine rep puts money in a circle on the floor and the children are given “sticky hands” and they are allowed for a set time to pick up the money with the sticky hand and whatever they can get in that time, they keep. Sticky hand. Meet the Holy Spirit! He’s the sticky hand of God!

The Father sends the Son, and the Son sends the Spirit, and the Spirit grabs hold of you and brings you to the Son, who will at the last day present you to the Father.

You, rather like the money, are not active in this process: the Spirit works faith in you – it comes solely as gift, and you contribute to this faith not the least little thing. Here is a key difference between Rome and the Lutherans.

What does the Holy Spirit use to grab hold of you and bring you to Jesus, which is just another way of saying: to give you faith? He uses the Gospel. As we heard in the Scripture reading (John 16), the Spirit glorifies Jesus. He does so by taking of Jesus’ and declaring it to you. That doesn’t mean just telling you ABOUT what belongs to Jesus; that means He reveals what belongs to Jesus as YOURS. All that the Lord Jesus has He wants to give to you. His Father to be your Father. His home to be your home. His LIFE to be your life. St. Paul said it so well in 1 Cor. 12: “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God that we may know the things freely given to us by God!”

A “spirit” that wants to talk to you about something other than Jesus, isn’t the Spirit of God! Remember how St. John could write: “the testimony of Jesus IS the Spirit of prophesy!”

And spirit-wrought faith is not something He creates in you once and then He’s done. It is a gift He wishes to constantly give into you by that Gospel. He drapes you in the promises as often as you hear the Gospel in Absolution or the Sacrament or remember your Baptism, and these promises constantly impart and strengthen and sustain faith. Faith is never something we come up with on our own – it is not like He gets it going and then WE have to keep it going. Rather, it comes always as His gracious gift through the Word.

So, yes, the Holy Spirit is the sticky hand of God – bringing you constantly to Jesus, as He glorifies Him and extols all that is YOURS in Him and so constantly pours into you and strengthens in you the gift of faith. And there’s always more of Jesus for you to receive, to believe, to marvel at and glorify.

“I believe that I cannot (note, not that I COULD not, but that I CANNOT) by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified AND KEPT ME in the true faith….”

Categories: Uncategorized

New Additions to CPH’s Kindle Titles

March 23rd, 2011 Comments off
Categories: CPH Resources, eBooks

Lutheranism 101: Kindle Edition Now Available Along With Other New CPH Titles

March 22nd, 2011 13 comments

Greetings dear readers. I have good news. Lutheranism 101: Kindle Edition is now live on Amazon’s web site and ready to be downloaded. Keep checking Amazon for our latest Kindle title releases we have about 25 or so new titles that will be showing up over the next several days and weeks. As I write this blog post, we have a total of 102 titles in Kindle format. You can see them all here.

Other new offerings in Kindle format include, Kurt Senske’s popular book The Calling: How to Live a Life of Significance; Time of Grace by Mark Jeske; Blessings and Prayers for Expectant Mothers; On the Nature of Theology and Scripture by Johann Gerhard. A little something for everybody.

ePub versions of these books are also coming soon as well, sold directly from our CPH site. ePub can be used on a Nook and a variety of other devices.

Just FYI: People often ask about Apple’s iBookstore. At this point, due to Apple’s ever changing contractual demands, and the fact that the Kindle is, by far, still the leading eb0ok reading platform of choice: both the device itself, and the Kindle app for a huge variety of devices: computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets computers, Droid devices, Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod, we have not seen much need to move into the iBookstore when the Kindle format is able to reach far more people, less expensively and more robustly than

The Tsunami and the Apocalypse – Article by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto

March 22nd, 2011 3 comments

Dr. Netto sent me this column and I’m passing it along to you….

FAITH MATTERS: The tsunami last week and the Apocalypse . . . eventually

The Bible cautions believers against speculating about the date and time of the Apocalypse, although current world events and calamities seem to invite such conjecture. There are the uprisings in the Middle East. In Japan, the tsunami and earthquake disasters are fueling raising nuclear fears. And then the nuttiness of clergymen fitting Luther’s definition of “false clerics and schismatic spirits” reminds us that Christ listed some signs of the looming end of times, for example the appearance of many bogus prophets. The Rev. Steve Lawler, part-time rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church in Ferguson, Missouri, might just fit this rubric.

Fawler decided to “give up church for Lent,” and to adopt Muslim rituals and dietary rules for the 40 days until Easter. Thankfully, his bishop threatened to defrock him if he continued this practice, which manifestly confirms a Roman verity that preceded Christianity: Whom the gods want to destroy they first make mad. As Bishop George Wayne Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “He can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim. If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church.”

If the times weren’t so dire it would be fun to spin Fawler’s rationale further: How about giving up love for marriage in Lent? How about giving up death for funerals, or birth for adolescence, or motherhood for fatherhood? One must cheer the bishop for trying to maintain theological sanity, which isn’t easy in today’s religious environment where major denominations are degenerating into post-Christian neo-Gnostic sects, to wit the joint celebration of the Eucharist by Episcopalians and Hindus three years ago in Los Angeles, or a same-sex wedding in a sanctuary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), also in southern California. The most titillating moment during this betrothal came when the woman pastor placed a consecrated host on the tongue of a seeing-eye dog; it is worth remembering in this context that according to Lutheran sacramental theology communicants receive Christ’s true body and blood “in with and under” the bread and the wine.

Taken by itself, the emergence of Gnostic sects is of course insufficient evidence for the imminence of Judgment Day. Gnosticism, a set of diverse syncretistic religious movements, has been around since antiquity and a huge threat to the early Church; yet the Church prevailed. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a Gnostic before his conversion to Christianity in 386 A.D.; be became one of the most important Fathers of the Church.

Spurious end-time prophecies also have a long track record. As Anglican theologian and philosophy professor Gerald R. McDermott points out, Christians in the days of Pope Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century thought that Judgment Day was nigh when the Lombards, a northern Germanic tribe, invaded present-day Italy. In the 16th century, Martin Luther was certain that the Apocalypse would occur in his lifetime or shortly thereafter. Later less formidable characters obtained their 15 minutes of glory, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, by prophesying precise dates for Christ’s return (parousia), never mind that Jesus said in Matthew 24:25 that nobody could know the time and day.

In 1856, the prophetess of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Ellen G. White, reported that an angel had announced to her the nearness of Christ’s return. The angel, she said, told her what would happen to most people: “Some (will become) food for worms, some subjects for the seven last plagues.” Also in the mid-19th century, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, predicted that Jesus would be back within 56 years.

Then in the 1970s and 1980s, Hal Lindsay achieved notoriety by informing his millions of readers that 1988 would be the year of the parousia; well, it turned out it wasn’t. This list can be continued ad infinitum and include the fear-mongering forecasters of the impending Rapture.

The craze to hypothesize about the end of time or even advance this event by human means, which according to Martin Luther is the ultimate form of utopianism, spills over to other religions as well. In Japan in the 1980s, a semi-blind charlatan by the name of Shoko Asahara founded a “neo-Buddhist” sect called Aum Shinri-Kyo. It recruited primarily graduates of leading universities and gained worldwide infamy by producing huge amounts of Kalashnikov rifles and developing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. In 1995, they set off a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system killing 12, injuring 54 and affecting thousands of others, a misdeed for which Asahara was sentenced to the gallows; he is now awaiting his execution.

What was that all about? In an interview one of his top lieutenants told me that it was the purpose of this crime to trigger World War III between Japan and the United States, which would result in the destruction of the universe. Why would a bunch of young scientists wish to do that? “Well,” he said, “the Lord Shiva has commanded us to give him a helping hand;” Shiva is the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. When he’s done, Brahma, the Creator, would be able to begin a new cycle of creation.

So here we had a “Buddhist” sectarians killing in behalf of a Hindu god, and to top the syncretistic madness, they explained this in Christian terminology. With his hands on a Bible, Asahara’s white-robed henchman informed me that he and his co-religionists were Christ’s soldiers in the Battle of Armageddon. But who was Christ to them? “An incarnation of Shiva, the god of destruction,” he said.

All this would be hilarious if it weren’t so deadly and in total contradiction of what Scripture is saying. It is possible, suggests Gerald McDermott, that calamities such as the current disaster in Japan, are a warning or even temporal punishment from God. In fact, a prominent devotee of the Shinto religion suggested the same thing. “The character of the Japanese people is selfish. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami to wash away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment,” Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, told a press conference.

As for the ultimate Day of Judgment, the Christ’s message is clear: repent and be watchful! “If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:3).

Uwe Siemon-Netto, the former religious affairs editor of United Press International, has been an international journalist for 54 years, covering North America, Vietnam, the Middle East and Europe for German publications. Dr. Siemon-Netto currently directs the League of Faithful Masks and Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Irvine, California.

The Lutheran St. Patrick

March 21st, 2011 4 comments

Pastor Weedon posted this on his blog site, on March 17. On this date in 1565, Alexander Alesius died — a great Scottish Lutheran confessor of the faith. Originally he was born Alexander Alane, and as a student at St. Andrew’s, he argued against those who were expounded the Reformation doctrines. But on February 29, 1528, he witnessed the heroic martyrdom of 24-year-old Patrick Hamilton, a member of Scottish royalty who had studied under Luther and Melanchthon. Alane himself had tried to persuade Hamilton of the truth of the papal doctrines and the error of the Reformation doctrines.

While burning at the stake, Hamilton said such things as “You come forward and testify the truth of your religion by putting your little finger into this fire in which I am burning with my whole body,” and when asked if he still held to his beliefs Hamilton raised three fingers of a half-burned hand, and held them up until he died.

Alexander Alane was so overcome by this witness, and by their prior conversations, that he was won over to the Reformation. He himself was imprisoned, then escaped to Germany in 1532 where he signed his name to the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon gave him a new Latin surname, by which he became known forever afterward. He was excommunicated in 1534, but following Henry VIII’s break with Rome, between 1535 and 1539 he was active in London. He considered Anne Boleyn innocent of the crimes with which she was charged, and in later years communicated with Anne’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, about her mother’s final days. He carried on a disputation with the Roman Catholic bishop of London on the nature of the sacraments. Following the fall of Thomas Cranmer he was compelled to return to Germany, where he served first in a theological chair at the University of Frankfurt, and in his final years as twice-elected rector of the University of Leipzig.

I love the commemoration of St. Patrick as much as anybody, but blessed be the memory and example of Alexander (Alane) Alesius, a great Lutheran confessor and the fruit of Patrick Hamilton’s martyrdom!

Pastor Jerry Gernander (ELS)
Princeton, Minnesota

Here is more more detailed about him, written by Dr. Neelak Tjernagel

Patrick Hamilton: Precursor of the Reformation in Scotland
By Dr. Neelak S. Tjernagel

[For many years Dr. Tjernagel served as professor in the history department
of Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, Illinois.]

“With the best blood of Scotland in his veins, and with the most heroic and accomplished men in the kingdom to form the mind and manners of his early age, it was only natural that he should grow up to be what he afterwards became—when the endowments of Divine grace had been added to the gifts of nature and the accomplishments of education—not only the most zealous and the most courteous of evangelists, a confessor of the truth, as mild and modest and gentle in his bearing and manners, as he was firm and impregnable in his spirit.” In the charmingly archaic phrases of this long sentence Peter Lorimer introduces his affectionate account of the life of Patrick Hamilton, the well-born Scottish scholar of Paris, Louvain, Marburg, and St. Andrews who in his 24th year and on a wind-swept day suffered martyrdom at the gate of St. Salvatore’s College, St. Andrews. Alternate gusts of wind and rain fanned and damped the flame while servants made hurried trips back to the castle to fetch fresh billets to replenish the fire. It was six hours before the flames had finished their task and the faithful martyr could say: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and collapse in death.

Read more…

Gregorian University Library Digitized

March 19th, 2011 1 comment

Lutherans will find this very interesting, since this collection contains the minutes of the Council of Trent, and in the video you see one of Bellarmine’s doctrinal works. Bellarmine was the opponent against whom both Chemnitz and Gerhard wrote, since he epitomized Tridentine theology. Check out the video here. The Gregorian University library was a key stronghold and “armory” for the work of the Jesuits as they battled against the influence of the Reformation. I’ve not been able to find yet a link to the digitized file. If somebody does, let me know. You can read more about the library on Wikipedia.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

There is No Room for Despair in the Christian’s Life

March 18th, 2011 9 comments

 

One of my favorite quotes from the Book of Concord is this one:

We see the infinite dangers that threaten the destruction of the Church. In the Church itself, the number of the wicked who oppress it is too high to count. Therefore, this article in the Creed shows us these consolations in order that we may not despair, but may know that the Church will remain ‹until the end of the world›. No matter how great the multitude of the wicked is, we may know that the Church still exists and Christ provides those gifts He has promised to the Church—to forgive sins, to hear prayer, to give the Holy Spirit.

(Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain, 144 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005).

Here is another great quote, in light of the recent debacle with Rob Bell, the disaster in Japan, the unfolding theological meltdown in much of world Lutheranism, with the ELCA leading the way, and in light of whatever challenges we each face in our own individual callings:

“The present is a time not for ease or pleasure, but for earnest and prayerful work. A terrible crisis unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith. And now there are some indications that the fiction of conformity to the past is to be thrown off, and the real meaning of what has been taking place is to be allowed to appear. The Church, it is now apparently supposed, has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away and the doctrine of the Cross of Christ can be relegated to the limbo of discarded subtleties.

“Yet there is in the Christian life no room for despair. Only, our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand. It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God. Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, with new earnestness, to the study of the Word of God.

“If the Word of God be heeded, the Christian battle will be fought both with love and with faithfulness. Party passions and personal animosities will be put away, but on the other hand, even angels from heaven will be rejected if they preach a gospel different from the blessed gospel of the Cross. Every man must decide upon which side he will stand. God grant that we may decide aright!

“What the immediate future may bring we cannot presume to say. The final result indeed is clear. God has not deserted His Church; He has brought her through even darker hours than those which try our courage now, yet the darkest hour has always come before the dawn. We have today the entrance of paganism into the Church in the name of Christianity. But in the second century a similar battle was fought and won. From another point of view, modern liberalism is like the legalism of the middle ages, with its dependence upon the merit of man. And another Reformation in God’s good time will come.

“But meanwhile our souls are tried. We can only try to do our duty in humility and in sole reliance upon the Savior who bought us with His blood. The future is in God’s hand, and we do not know the means that He will use in the accomplishment of His will.”

—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, (New Edition; Eerdmans, 2009 [orig., 1923), 150. HT: Justin Taylor.

Categories: Christian Life