Archive for April, 2011

Great Blog Post on the Lord’s Supper by Dr. Gene Edward Veith

April 16th, 2011 1 comment

This Is My Body

by Gene Edward Veith

As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity.

At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, that great debate over the Lord’s Supper between Luther and Zwingli, Dr. Martin took a piece of chalk and wrote on a table: “This is my body.” In answer to Zwingli’s long philosophical discourse, Luther whipped off the tablecloth and pointed to those words. For Luther, the conviction that the bread and wine of Holy Communion are the body and blood of Christ was a matter of trusting God’s Word. Since the Bible says, “This is my body,” he would not countenance any arguments designed to prove “this is not my body.” As at Augsburg, so at Marburg, Luther was saying, “Here I stand” on the Word of God.

Lutherans are puzzled at the resistance from so many other Christians at their conviction that the Lord’s Supper involves “the real presence of Christ.” Calvin had no problem affirming Christ’s true presence in the Lord’s Supper, but he did not understand this in terms of corporeal presence. Luther, who always encouraged Christians to look outside of themselves rather than within themselves to know God, believed in Christ’s objective presence through the objective Word of God that consecrates the elements. Another sticking point was whether an unbeliever receives the corporeal body of Christ. Calvin would say no. Luther, citing 1 Corinthians 11:27–30, would say yes.

By the way, in this ecumenical forum, let it be known that Lutherans, according to their official statements of faith, reject “consubstantiation.” We do not believe that the body and the bread, the blood and the wine, constitute a new and unique substance. We reject all such philosophical attempts to parse this miracle, insisting that we must simply accept the biblical language without interpretation, that the bread and wine are still bread and wine and also the body and blood of Jesus.

But, for Luther, the Lord’s Supper is not just about the real presence of Christ. “The main thing in the Sacrament,” Luther teaches in The Small Catechism, are the words “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Specifically, the words “for you.”

Whereas Rome taught that the rite of Holy Communion was a good work, man’s offering of Christ up to God, the Reformation reversed that. The Lord’s Supper is about Christ offering Himself — His body broken on the cross and the blood that He shed for the forgiveness of sins — to us. That is, the Lord’s Supper embodies the Gospel.

Many Christians look for signs and miracles. But there is no more miraculous sign than what happens during Holy Communion. Many Christians look for a religious experience, but there is no experience as vivid as tasting. Evangelicals talk about receiving Christ, something that happened way back at their conversion. But in the Lord’s Supper, as we are brought back to the Gospel again and again, we can continue to receive Christ.

Contemporary Christianity tends to be all internalized — a matter of my feelings, my inner life, and my personal opinions. People look inward for their salvation, with some health-and-wealth preachers urging the members of their congregation to “have faith in yourself.” But the Reformers — Calvin as well as Luther — stressed how salvation is extra nos, outside ourselves, accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Contemporary Christians tend to be all spiritual. They often scorn the physical realm, even as they indulge their sinful flesh, reasoning like Gnostics that what they do with their bodies does not affect their spirits. They often construe God as a being primarily inside their heads, and they treat Jesus like some imaginary friend. The Reformers rejected such Gnosticism.

Recovering the Lord’s Supper can remind all Christians that their faith is grounded in objectivity, in a God who created matter and became incarnate in history, in a Christ who redeemed us by giving His body — not just His “spirit” — in a bloody sacrifice.

What we do in our bodies and in our physical, mundane lives does matter, both for sin and for grace. When we eat the bread of the Lord’s Supper, Christ nourishes us both spiritually and physically, uniting us with His body on the cross and the body that is His church. When we drink the wine, Christ’s cleansing blood courses through our veins, such is the thoroughness and the intimacy of our salvation.

© Tabletalk magazine

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.


Categories: Uncategorized

LCMS President Matthew Harrison’s Holy Week Video Message

April 15th, 2011 Comments off

Categories: Uncategorized

Gratitude: An Atheist’s Dissonance

April 15th, 2011 3 comments

This was an awesome piece.

Gratitude: An Atheists Dissonance
from FIRST THINGS: On the Square by (Alma Acevedo )

When I lie on my back and look up at the Milky Way on a clear night and see the vast distances of space and reflect that these are also vast differences of time as well, when I look at the Grand Canyon and see the strata going down, down, down, through periods of time which the human mind cant comprehend . . . its a feeling of sort of an abstract gratitude that I am alive to appreciate these wonders, when I look down a microscope its the same feeling, I am grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders.”

These moving, and ostensibly sincere, words were pronounced by Richard Dawkins at the Atheism is the new fundamentalism” debate staged by the U.K.-based organization Intelligence Squared in November 2009. Spoken in a deliberate tone and convinced demeanor, these words interjected a dissonant note to Dawkins otherwise fairly consistently crafted atheistic and anti-religious presentation. Elsewhere, the evolutionary biologist has described his feeling of exultation,” and the overwhelming feeling of being” elicited by his experience of the natural world. Wonder, exultation, overwhelmed-all empirically appropriate and logically suitable responses to the magnificence of the universe. But, gratitude?

Unlike being comfortable,” which requires the preposition with (as in I feel comfortable with these shoes”), if any, being grateful” calls for a to another person. Gratitude is not a self-enclosed or self-sufficient feeling but a human persons response to another person or persons-whether human or divine-for benefits, gifts, or favors received from them, such as the gratitude due to caring parents, loving friends, and dedicated teachers or mentors. As Kant succinctly observes, The duty of gratitude consists in honoring a person because of a benefit he has rendered us” (italics added). When gratitude is due to a country, an organization (e.g., a school, a hospital, a shelter), or some other collective, it is owed to them as communities of human persons, not as impersonal institutions.

Dawkins might reply that he is grateful for the Milky Way and the Grand Canyon. Being grateful for a good, an event, or a state, however, presupposes a gift-giver. Those grateful for a promotion or applause, their health or their sufferings, are, albeit implicitly, grateful to the persons who brought about the event or state. Abstract” gratitude, therefore, is as meaningless as abstract piety, as oxymoronic as abstract repayment. Gratitude without a benefactor is as incongruous as a refund without a payer.

The recipients of gratitude are not abstract, but concrete persons who, even if no longer physically with us, live on in our thankful memories. Gratitude that is not deliberately aimed at a person-human or divine-whose gifts or favors deserve it is not gratitude at all, but complacency, conceit, pride, pleasure, or wonder and awe at best.

Nor can Dawkins claim to be grateful to himself. Thanking oneself is hardly reasonable. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, In things that one does for oneself, there is no place for gratitude or ingratitude, since a man cannot deny himself a thing except by keeping it” (Summa Theologica, 2a2ae, 106). One may feel surprised, satisfied, joyful, happy, proud, even self-congratulatory, but self-thankful” is, plainly, inconsistent. Thanks are reserved to the other-to the parents for their understanding and support, to the special friends for their encouragement, to the mentors for their patience, to the boss who granted the unique opportunity.

We may be happy to be alive; but if also grateful to be so, it must necessarily be to the Giver of that gift. If nature” is thanked,” it is, in reality, in an anthropomorphic or personalized guise. If natural selection or sheer luck developed the Milky Way and the Grand Canyon, why should gratitude be felt at all? An impersonal, inevitable, or chance benefit is not a fitting recipient of gratitude. Gratitude entails humbly reaching out, acknowledging, appreciating, and even honoring the benefactor by means of thankful words, gestures, deeds, goodwill, or material signs-a card, memento, or some token of heartfelt recognition.

According to Aquinas, since every effect turns naturally to its cause,” and a benefactor is cause of the beneficiary, . . . the natural order requires that he who has received a favor should, by repaying the favor, turn to his benefactor according to the mode of each.” That is, the virtue of gratitude entails that the recipient ought to repay the giver with spontaneous affection of the heart” in a manner commensurate with the gift received.

Since the nature of the debt” depends on its causes, the gratitude owed to God (the first principle of all our goods”) is the greatest, followed by that owed our parents, persons excelling in dignity,” and other benefactors. The response to these human persons can be disproportionate, degenerating into vices such as flattery or exhibitionism, besides ingratitude. Excessive gratitude to God, however, is inconceivable. To the Gift-giver, the Giver of all being, a worshipful grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders” is called for.

In his outburst of gratitude, the famous atheist was not thanking his parents, his family, his teachers, his friends, his followers, nor even an anthropomorphous nature. He certainly was not irrationally thanking himself. In Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton tellingly confided his own experience of gratitude: The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom.” Does Dawkins know?

Alma Acevedo teaches courses in applied ethics.

Categories: Uncategorized

New Book Available on Martin Luther – The Real Luther: A Friar at Erfurt and Wittenberg

April 14th, 2011 16 comments

I’m happy to let you know that Concordia Publishing House has just released a new study of Martin Luther. You can view a PDF sample from the book, and order it here. The book is available with a 20% discount for all rostered church workers (of any denomination, not just Lutheran!).

Roman Catholic Scholar, Franz Posset, carefully explores the history of Luther’s development in the crucial years of 1501-17 before Luther’s views were disputed. Setting aside legends and accusations, Posset gets at the facts about Luther as a late medieval friar in an age of reform. The book includes:
Illustrations from Luther’s career

A complete, new translation of Philip Melanchthon’s memoirs of Luther’s life, based on actual discussions with Luther

A fresh chronology of Luther’s life from 1501-17, based on the latest research

Extensive references to both primary and secondary literature for Luther studies
Author Franz Posset, PhD, is an independent researcher and an associate editor of Luther Digest. He has authored five books, including The Front-Runner of the Catholic Reformation: The Life and Works of Johann von Staupitz (2003), and articles for historical encyclopedias. His scholarly research has also appeared in numerous journals. In 2003 he was awarded the Natalie Zemon Davis Prize for superb scholarship.

What Others are Saying

Students and researchers should read this book as a model for how to do Reformation History.
-Markus Wriedt, Dr. Theol., Dr. Habil.
Professor of Historical Theology/Church History
Goethe University Frankfurt/Main and Marquette University

A fascinating history . . . Luther is both a Catholic and a Reformer at the same time.
-Wolfgang Thönissen, Dr. Theol., Dr. Habil.
Professor of Ecumenical Theology
Faculty of Theology, Paderborn

I was constantly fascinated and sometimes even thrilled by his insights into Dr. Martin’s continuity with medieval theology.

-Bishop Richard J. Sklba
Vicar General/Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee
Co-chair of the National Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue

Mollie Ziegler-Hemingway Interviews First Muslim Chaplain at Duke University

April 13th, 2011 1 comment

This is really a fascinating interview. A must see. Check it out.

Categories: Islam

The Christian Art of the Catacombs

April 13th, 2011 1 comment

An interesting story about a new book that has been published The Paintings of the Roman Catacombs. Here is a web site devoted to the Roman catacombs.

Categories: Archeology

My VDMA 1911 .45 Pistol: An Homage to the Smalcaldic League and the Lutheran Reformation

April 12th, 2011 61 comments

I received a set of custom grips for my 1911 handgun, and decided to have inscribed on them the symbol that was widely used by the Lutheran princes throughout the Reformation era, the famous: VDMA, standing for the Latin motto Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum. This symbol was inscribed on swords, cannons and armor used by the Smalcaldic League which was formed to be a mutual defense organization, against the Catholic princes trying to overthrow the Reformation in the various territories of Germany that had embraced it.

Here is a photo of my 1911 with my VDMA grips, following that, another brief explanation of the VDMA symbol, as usual for a really large version of the image, click on it and then click on it again and you’ll have it.


Here’s what it looks like completely detailed stripped:

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever is the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, a confident expression of the enduring power and authority of God’s Word. The motto is based on Isaiah 40:6-8 quoted by 1 Peter 1:24-25. It first appeared in the court of Frederick the Wise in 1522. He had it sewn onto the right sleeve of the court’s official clothing, which was worn by prince and servant alike. It was used by Frederick’s successors, his brother John the Steadfast, and his nephew John Frederick the Magnanimous. It became the official motto of the Smalcaldic League and was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as a symbol of the unity of the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.*

*From Concordia The Lutheran Confessions, by Concordia Publishing House. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

150 Years Ago Today Began the Great War Between the States: Thoughts on the Tragedy and Necessity of the Civil War

April 12th, 2011 6 comments


I was born and raised deep in the heart of Dixie, in the Florida panhandle, only twenty minutes or so away from Alabama right across the state line, where, tragically, some of the most brutal forms of chattel slavery that was the basis for the South’s economy was practiced, in the dense pine forests near my home town of Pensacola, Florida. I remember as a child visiting many Civil War museums and sites and none of us in those days great up without memorizing the words to “Dixie”[a song written by a Northerner, ironically] and singing it with gusto. I then recall learning, as I grew older, the real history behind the “War of Northern Aggression” and feeling deep horror and shame at the thought of how this nation treated millions of people living here, bought and sold as property. Over twelve million people from Africa were brought against their will between the 16th and 19th to the “New World” with 650,000 brought to the United States. While slavery had gradually gone away in the Northern States, in the South, by 1860, there were four million men, women and children owned as slaves and they were the essence of the Southern economic system.

The Civil War was fresh in the living memory of the Deep South I grew up in, a South that was being wracked by another conflict, born of the Civil War: the civil rights movement. One could argue that the Civil War was finally not truly over until civil rights legislation was passed and enforced throughout the South. 150 years ago began that great conflict that would consume so many of our nation’s men, at the time, on both sides. I remain deeply distressed that even some of my fellow LCMS pastors are so willingly complicit with attempts to recast the history of the times and make it appear as though the issue of slavery was not at the very heart of the issues that precipitated the Civil War.

Slavery was a festering wound in the side of the United States at its very inception, when, frankly, hypocritically, the same men who declared that all men are created equal owned as property fellow men, as slaves. The war was long in coming, but perhaps inevitable and tragically, finally necessary. But what a great tragedy it was. I think that no better words have ever been spoken on why the war was necessary than those spoken by Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Following Lincoln’s speech, are words from a speech given by the vice-president of the confederacy, driving a nail into the coffin of the argument that the Civil War was not about “slavery.” When people talk about the “culture” of the South, and “peculiar institution” of the South, let’s be clear: that culture, that “peculiar institution” was slavery!

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And here are Alexander Stephens words, talking about the purpose of the formation of the Confederate States of America:

“The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution of African slavery as it exists amongst us, and the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him . . . were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. . . . Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its corner- stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. . . . Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system . . . . I have been asked, what of the future? It has been apprehended by some that we would have arrayed against us the civilized world. I care not who or how many they may be against us, when we stand upon the eternal principles of truth, if we are true to ourselves and the principles for which we contend, we must triumph.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Is it Time for You to Buy a Kindle?

April 12th, 2011 11 comments

Perhaps…read here about Amazon’s new aggressive plan to get more people to buy a Kindle.

Categories: e-books

Arch Books on iPad? Yup, there’s an App for that

April 11th, 2011 2 comments

I’m happy to announce that as of today there are sixteen Arch Books on the iTunes store, in iPad app format. This is a first for us and, these are among the very few, if not only, Bible story books for children available on the iPad, period. You can take a look at all sixteen titles available by looking at Concordia Publishing House’s Apps in the iTunes store. Here’s the link. Here’s a screen shot from the iTunes store. These are really cool apps. The child can listen and watch as the book is read to them, or…you can record  your own voice reading the book to the child. The bright, beautiful iPad display is really quite stunning and Arch books are a perfect fit for this platform. Here’s a screen shot, following the screen shot is another showing all sixteen titles presently available.

My Half-Marathon Running Wife

April 10th, 2011 11 comments

Hooray for my Lynn…she ran a half-marathon this morning, here’s she is afterward, and she is still smiling!

Categories: Uncategorized

Homosexual Advocacy Group Claims “Progress” in Advancing Their Cause in The LCMS

April 10th, 2011 14 comments

An ELCA pastor-friend of mine was kind enough to alert me to a fund raising letter that the gay-rights group, “Lutherans Concerned,” recently sent out, in which they claim they are working with certain “LCMS leaders” and making “some good progress” with “friends” in “LCMS leadership.” Lutherans Concerned is the lobbying group that, in close cooperation with ELCA leadeship, worked very hard to get the ELCA to embrace homosexuality as an acceptable “lifestyle.”

The letter makes a disturbing claim:

“Additionally, we are making some good, albeit very slow, progress with a few friends in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod leadership, however details must remain confidential to protect them and our continued progress.”

The question is: Is this actually true? Much depends on how they are using the word “leader.” The Synod’s president and vice-presidents are clearly not those they have in mind. Frankly, I call “baloney” on this and assert that this organization is simply lying. Lutherans Concerned is well known for making all kinds of false assertions and doing whatever they need to do to advance the cause of homosexuality; however, it is also necessary to state that liberal organizations in The LCMS, like the DayStar organization, have in fact published materials that reflect this point of view. It is very small, and consists mostly of older retired, Seminex-era pastors and a few retired professors, but … one can never be too careful with these things and so we can be grateful to Lutherans Concerned for “coming out” on this issue. I would not know which “LCMS leaders” they are referencing, since, to my knowledge there is not a single LCMS “leader” who would support the Lutherans Concerned agenda. But they are making this claim.

The ELCA pastor who sent this to me said to me:

“You are only too aware of the devastating effect Lutherans Concerned has had in the ELCA, I wanted to let a few trusted folks in the LCMS know about this. I have no other info than this, but seeing as it comes from Emily Eastwood, it is pretty official. While I believe Missouri has strengths and resources lacking in the ELCA, still these are treacherous times. Share this with whoever you wish; if you want a copy of the entire letter just let me know and I will send one to you.”

Categories: Homosexuality

The New Yorker Takes a Swing at Understanding Bach’s Sacred Music and Misses

April 9th, 2011 9 comments

No matter how often one is disappointed by articles on Bach’s sacred music, published in secular periodicals, there is always hope that maybe, just maybe, the article will be objective enough actually to recognize that J.S. Bach was a committed orthodox Lutheran composer, no, make that a Kantor, a servant of the church, and…there are actually committed Christians who keep his sacred music alive, like Masaaki Suzuki, of the Bach Collegium of Japan, precisely as a way to witness to their Christian faith, but alas, the latest example of such an article is another disappointment. It simply boggles my mind that such a key ingredient in really understanding who Bach was and why he did what he did is so blithely ignored and overlooked, even when there are references to the specifically Christian content of his sacred music works. I suppose it should not be a disappointment, but alas, it is.

Here’s an example from the New Yorker article of a reporter, perhaps struggling valiantly, to grasp the meaning of the St. John Passion, but failing utterly, to come up with anything more than a recognition of morality and human helpfulness, which, I suppose, is the right place to start, but the glorious good news of the Passion of Jesus Christ, is missing entirely from the reporter’s view.

We feel both the blind mechanics of catastrophe and the desperation of those caught in its midst. Perhaps the most uncanny example is the opening chorus of the “St. John Passion.” The orchestra begins with a divine maelstrom: swirling sixteenth-note figures, stinging dissonances, a pulsing drone in the bass. Three times the chorus cries out “Herr!”—“Lord!”—and then is caught up in the rapid-moving instrumental rhythm, in an image of mortal helplessness.

In contrast, the now retired, UPI Religion Editor, Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto “got it” when he wrote this article for, yes, Christianity Today, about how the sacred works of Bach are bringing people to the Christian faith in Japan. Uwe wrote a number of years ago, in an article titled Bach in Japan:

During Holy Week, Suzuki’s performances of the St. Matthew Passion are always sold out, although tickets cost more than $600. After each concert, members of the audience crowd Suzuki on the podium asking him about the Christian concept of hope and about death, a topic normally taboo in polite Japanese society. “I am spreading Bach’s message, which is a biblical one,” Suzuki told me. But why do Bach’s melodies and harmonies, so alien to the Asian ear, appeal to the Japanese? Musicologists attribute this to Francis Xavier and other Jesuit missionaries, who introduced Gregorian chant into Japan and built organs from bamboo pipes 400 years ago. Though Christianity was soon squashed, elements of its music infiltrated traditional folk song. Four centuries later, this curious fact is now enabling tens of thousands of Japanese to come to Christ via Bach. The surprising success of this music in evangelizing one of the most secular nations on earth has led Lutheran theologian Yoshikazu Tokuzen to call Bach a “vehicle of the Holy Spirit.”



Categories: Bach

Martin Luther’s Small Catchism in: German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew

April 8th, 2011 2 comments

Matthew Carver, of Hymnoglypt fame, and the translator of Valerius Herberger’s The Great Works of God sent me a note alerting me to the fact that Google books now has a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism, published in Wittenberg, in 1605, that provides the text of the Catechism in four languages: German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Here’s the link to it in Google books.



Categories: Uncategorized

Bacon Cologne: Scent by the gods

April 8th, 2011 Comments off

Categories: Humor