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Archive for July, 2011

The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition with Notes – A Tantalizing Tidbit of the Feast to Come

July 27th, 2011 10 comments

 

I received today yet another packet of The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition with Notes. This one happened to contain the Table of Contents I thought I would tantalize and, yes, tease you, with a look at it. As you can see, this is a very substantial and highly significant presentation of the Apocrypha. Frankly, there is no other edition of the Apocrypha like this one available from any publisher or church body of which I’m aware. I think this is really going to be a well received volume and generate a lot of interest. It will be out Fall 2012. Be sure to hit the “read more” link to see the entire Table of Contents.

Here is the menu of the feast that awaits you…..

 

Contents

Front Matter

Contributors

Acknowledgements

Foreword

The Engravings

Editor’s Preface

Preface to ESV Apocrypha

Features of The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes

An Introduction to the Apocrypha and the Time Between the Testaments

Read more…

Categories: CPH Resources

Why the New NIV is Bad News for Lutherans

July 27th, 2011 21 comments

You may have heard, or if you haven’t heard, you should know, that Zondervan has released a new version of the New International Version. For lack of any other name, it is referred to in most circles as NIV 2011. Simply put, this translation is not appropriate for use by confessional Lutherans because it imposes a theological and cultural agenda that is alien to that of God’s Word. It does so through the use of “gender neutrality” in how it translates God’s Word. I frankly am glad that this new translation affords us the chance to move away from a translation that has been insufficient since it was first released, and now, in light of the fact that Zondervan corporation, the publisher of the NIV, is owned by Ruppert Murdoch’s media empire, the sooner we can stop putting money into one of the world’s largest purveyors of pornography, the better.

We here at CPH reviewed carefully the text of the NIV 2011 and are particularly disturbed by the subtle, but highly significant, ways it changes the wording of key texts referring to men and women and their proper relationship and roles in the Church. These changes open wide the door that laypeople will be misled into thinking that women clergy are appropriate.

In the past couple years, I’ve published a number of blog articles on this issue, and I thought it time to bring them back and gather them in one place to make it more convenient for you to read them. Here they are, you can either link to them, or you can read the full article in this blog post by following the “read more” button:

Major Evangelical Organization Says It Can Not Endorse NIV 2011

NIV 2011: Proceed With Caution

Updating the New International Version: Translator’s Notes [revealing the agenda driving this translation]

Why We Must Avoid Gender Neutrality Like the Plague

God Inspired Metaphors: Another Key Problem with NIV 2011

ESV v. NIV Read more…

Why Do Some Leave? Root Cause Analysis on Why Some Pastors Leave the Lutheran Church

July 26th, 2011 37 comments

My good friend, Pastor William Weedon, and I, were recently lamenting the loss of yet another fine pastor to another communion. He put some thoughts down in an e-mail and I thought they were so spot-on that I asked him if I could share them on my blog, if he was not going to post them. He said, ok, so here you go:

Such is life in the Church militant. We’re not in the Church triumphant yet, and so the battle goes on. We lose good men, men who perhaps came to loved Lutheranism for the trappings that Lutheranism itself identifies as fitting, but absolutely nonessential. To make of the nonessential the essential, to delight first and foremost in that which is of man and not divinely mandated, is to move outside of Lutheranism in one’s heart. Always remember Loehe’s solemn protest against an overestimation of externals – better to have no liturgy and pure gospel than the most resplendent service and falsification of the truth. Of course, the best of all is to have neither such overestimation nor such falsification!

Categories: Uncategorized

Have You Taken a Look at PrayNow Lately?

July 25th, 2011 14 comments

I have mentioned the Lutheran daily prayer App called PrayNow several times before and I know thousands of people have it, but I’m wondering if you don’t have it, if you have taken a look at it lately? The latest version adds additional prayer services, as requested. There is also the option to have all the daily readings integrated into the classic prayer offices: Matins, Vespers, Compline. It is a really impressive App and there is nothing else quite like it available in the iOS world. We are definitely working on an Android version of PrayNow as well. Just thought I would mention PrayNow since it has been some time since I have.

PrayNow has picked up some very vocal fans, including President Matthew Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

You can read more about it at Apple’s iTune store, by following this link. Check out the very positive reviews when you are there.

It is fully compatible and will operate natively on any Apple mobile device: iPhone, iPad, iTouch, etc. It requires iOS 3.0 or higher to work.

Categories: CPH Resources

A Visit to Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne and a Tour of the New Library

July 25th, 2011 3 comments

I had the unique opportunity, and distinct pleasure, of visiting my alma mater, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The occasion was the Divine Service on Friday, at 10:00 a.m. when calls for deaconesses were issued and one placement for an internship was issued. There were not many calls. There was one issues in absetntia and one issues to one woman who was at the service. That woman happened to my mother, Jean McCain. She has received a call to be a deaconess at Grace Lutheran Church in Albion, Michigan, working with Pastor David Reed. I was invited to preach and preside at the Divine Service. As anyone who is familiar with CTS Fort Wayne knows, the Divine Service is conducted with great reverence, dignity and beauty, and this day was no exception. I managed not to garble the service up and all went well. I preached on the festival of St. Mary Magdalene, a fitting day for deaconesses. There were gathered that day a number of the Deaconess students.

If you are so inclined, you can listen to the entire Divine Service. The pulpit has a microphone, so you can hear the sermon clearly. Link here. I had the best results by letting the whole service download and then playing it in iTunes.

Afterward, Dr. Paul Grime gave me a tour of the new library facilities. Wow, simply amazing. Anyone who has not yet seen it will be, like me, simply blown away. It is gorgeous. It is so large it will hold the combined book collections (excluding duplicates) of all the books on the campus of CTS Fort Wayne and Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. There is simply no other Lutheran theological library of this size in the world. It is stunning. I hope, like me, you are supporting the construction of the new library. You can keep up on the progress of construction at this site.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ziegler-Hemingway Takes on the Media Frenzy Over Bachmann, the Pope and Lutheranism: Wall Street Journal Article

July 24th, 2011 2 comments

I’m a bit late to this party, but last Friday there was a wonderful editorial in the Wall Street Journal, written by that Lutheran maven of media, Mollie Ziegler-Hemingway. I thought it pretty much drove the nails into the coffin and put away the media nonsense over the non-story that Michelle Bachmann used to belong to a Lutheran congregation that is part of a church body that is Lutheran and actually teaches what Lutherans have always taught about the power and authority of the papacy. And, yes, yours truly was quoted in the article, but in spite of that it is a very fine piece of writing, don’t you think?

Here’s a bit of the article, with the rest available via the read more link at the bottom.

American political reporters aren’t known for their vocal support of Roman Catholic teachings. But when they discovered recently that Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was once a Lutheran, they began defending the papacy as if they were the Vatican’s own Swiss Guard. They asked with concern, could Catholics even vote for a former Lutheran?

Ms. Bachmann’s former church, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, hasn’t followed the mainline Protestant church practice of regularly revising its doctrines. The Lutheran confessions, or statements of faith, are found in the Book of Concord, first published in 1580. They explain the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. Accordingly, they don’t believe the pope’s authority comes from God.This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the Reformation, but it hit the press hard.

“Michele Bachmann leaves church accused of anti-Catholic bias,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The Atlantic Monthly: “Michele Bachmann’s Church Says the Pope Is the Antichrist.” From the Washington Post, we learned that the Lutheran Confessions use “unfortunate wording.” To be sure, the “antichrist” rhetoric is strong. Found in Martin Luther’s Smalcald Articles, such language is part of a tradition that reaches back into the 10th century.

As a National Council of Churches Committee has written, “Not only dissidents and heretics but even saints had called the bishop of Rome the ‘antichrist’ when they wished to castigate his abuse of power. During the Reformation, Catholic statements against Lutheran beliefs were similarly strong. The Council of Trent’s canons declared that anyone who believed in justification by faith alone was to be “anathema,” or cut off from the church. These words shock modern ears. But in the Reformation era “there was a much greater degree of rough and tumble in the way Christians addressed issues and those with whom they disagreed,” explained the Rev. Paul McCain, publisher of a 2005 reader’s edition of the Book of Concord.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

New York Bishop Gets Tough on Homosexuality: Orders Gay Couples to Marry

July 22nd, 2011 Comments off

Sign of the times….no, I’m not making this up. You can read it for yourself here.

Excerpt:

Long Island Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano has put his foot down against gay clergy who residing in homosexual relationships, and has given a nine month deadline for them to either get married or stop living together, according to the News Observer.

“I need to be mindful that the church has always asked people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships. I won’t allow heterosexual clergy to live in a rectory or church housing without the benefit of marriage. When one puts it in that context, then you see how it all begins to make sense,” said Provenzano.

Reverend Christopher Hofer, pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. Jude agrees with Provenzano, “I think his statement was not only fair, but beyond generous. It gives people time, acknowledging that there’s a financial component involved and recognizing that some may not choose to live together.

“Now that the state is recognizing civil marriage, we as priests, perhaps deacons too, who are in committed relationships, have a choice: we either live what we preach to become civilly married or we live apart,” he said.

Those Dern Lutherans: Kevin DeYoung Interview of Moi

July 21st, 2011 9 comments

A few weeks ago Kevin DeYoung posted an interesting piece on his blog site, “What’s Up With Lutherans?” and it caused, surprise!, a few Lutherans to get a bit upset. I posted a couple comments on the post and as a result he asked to interview me for his blog site. Here are the results.

I like Lutherans, really I do. If I didn’t, why would I be talking to Paul T. McCain. I just met this brother, but I can already tell he’s the kind of guy I want to hang out with. He’s theological, funny, and publishes books. And the title, “Those Dern Lutherans” was his idea.

1. Paul, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself—your background, your family, your ministry.

I was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, in the Heart of Dixie, the son of Lutheran day school teachers. I saw my first snowfall and heard my first real Northern accent when I went to college in Chicago at the age of 18. I am a pastor in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I studied for the ministry at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, where I stayed on for a couple extra years of advance study and served as an instructor in the department of systematic theology. After that I spent about three years as a pastor in Iowa, serving a wonderful little congregation which taught me how to be a pastor.

I came to Saint Louis in 1992 and spent nearly ten years serving two of our church body presidents as their assistant, and from there I’ve been serving at Concordia Publishing House for now nearly ten years, where I serve as Publisher.

I’m married to a great lady, Lynn, for almost thirty years. We have three children–Paul, John and Mary–all of whom are now covered under our car insurance plan. Let the reader understand.

2. As you know, I wrote a post a few weeks ago, “What’s Up With Lutherans?” It wasn’t the finest moment in blogging history. I’m not sure my post did what I wanted it to do. But I think it succeeded in getting Lutherans riled up! Why do you think evangelical Lutherans and conservative evangelicalism seem to be in two different worlds? Or was my whole premise mistaken?

I’m sorry to hear it got Lutheran riled up, but we tend to be easily riled, particularly the Germans. The Scandinavians are much more laid back. I’m Irish and I’m a Lutheran, so that’s an interesting combination.

Your question is intriguing. It does feel at times we are in two different worlds. I think it might be the case that conservative/confessing Lutherans like me are more aware of what’s going on among Evangelicals than Evangelicals are about what’s going on among us, simply because there are so many more of you, than us.

I think that Lutherans, on the whole, tend to go about their business rather quietly and do not seem to capture the public imagination as much as Evangelicals (loosely defined). After all, we are the Lake Wobegon people, who are humble, shy and retiring by nature. Fundamentally, however, I do not think we live in two different worlds. I’d say we are in the same city, but just live in different parts of town, if that makes sense.

3. What is the history of the term “evangelical” for Lutherans? Do most Lutherans think of themselves as a part of American evangelicalism?

Interestingly, the first Evangelicals were the Lutherans. That’s how we chose to refer to ourselves and how we were known early in the Reformation. We published a book a number of years ago and it remains one of our best sellers, by Dr. Gene Edward Veith, titled, The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals. Dr. Veith does a great job exploring these kinds of issues in a clear understandable way.

But then our opponents started calling us “Lutherans.” It stuck and the term “Evangelical” fell away from common usage, particularly here in the USA. The term “Evangelical” now means, in my opinion, just about what anyone wants it to mean. Confessing Lutherans can point readily and easily in fact to a single book when somebody asks us, “What’s a Lutheran?” We pull out the Book of Concord from 1580 and say, “Here, this pretty much covers it.” I think that tends to give us more interest in a clear sense of doctrinal identity and unity.

I do not think that most Lutherans consider themselves to be American Evangelicals. We tend to think of ourselves first, and foremost, simply as Lutheran Christians. I must say in light of the fact that conservative Lutherans do have a single book by which they can identify themselves, doctrinally, we find trying to nail down precisely what “Evangelicalism” is a bit like an exercise in nailing jello to a wall, and that kind of gives us the heebie-jeebies. That’s a technical term.

4. Do Lutherans like Calvinists?

Yes, but only if they pay for the cigars and beer.

5. More seriously, what do you see as the main difference—theological, cultural, stylistic, historical, whatever—between Lutheran and Reformed churches? Big questions I know.

My fellow Lutherans may have different answers, but after all the years I’ve been carefully watching and following American Evangelicalism and interacting with it, I would respond in this way. First, a HUGE disclaimer. I can only speak for the Lutheranism I confess and am a part of: that is historic, orthodox, authentic, genuine, confessional Lutheranism, not the liberal mainline form of it that we find here in the United States (primarily with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

So, theological? We are keen on emphasizing the proper distinction between God’s Law, that shows us our sin, and God’s Gospel, that shows us our Savior and we emphasize God’s objective work through both His Word and His Sacraments. The “S” word makes our Evangelical friends very nervous, but we hold and cherish the Sacraments and really believe that God works saving faith by the power of His promising Word through Baptism. We also believe that the Lord’s Supper is our Lord Christ’s own dear body and blood, actually under, with and in the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and drink, and that through it we receive forgiveness and life, and wherever there is forgiveness and life, there is salvation.

Cultural? Wow, that’s all over the map. Lutherans come in all cultural shapes and sizes. Evangelicalism as well. I think we probably share more of a common American culture than we do a common ecclesiastical culture. For Lutherans, Evangelical worship forms and practices have become more popular, but ironically, just when some Lutherans are running after Evangelical “style” we have Evangelicals coming our direction looking for better substance and loving the historic, traditional Lutheran style of worship. It is reverent, dignified and liturgical, with forms dating all the way back to the 16th century. It is anchored in the liturgical life of the Christian Church, the major elements of which can be traced all the way back into nearly the first century, as evidenced in the Didache.

Historically, of course, Calvinism and Lutheranism have come to blows, sometimes literally, over very important subjects like: predestination, the Sacraments, and Christology. This is too big an issue for this brief interview, but I would trace the cause of our differences to fundamentally different understandings of the doctrine of the Incarnation and its implications for all our theology.

6. What are some good resources to read on Luther or Lutheranism?

Well, of course, anything published by Concordia Publishing House! Seriously, though, I would recommend the volumes in the Essential Lutheran Library. We put this collection together as a “core” library for Lutherans to use in their personal daily devotional life and to inform and shape their confession of the Christian faith. Here’s the link to it.

7. What are some of your favorite Lutheran authors/books? What about non-Lutheran favorite books or authors?

Favorite Lutheran authors? Of course, number one, is Martin Luther. I just love the guy. His writing has a vibrancy and relevancy unmatched by few others. After Luther, I enjoy the works of Martin Chemnitz, John Gerhard, C.F.W. Walther and Dr. Gene Edward Veith, to name but a few Lutheran authors.

Non-Lutherans? That’s easy: Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I love the Lord of the Rings, and am very keen on any of Lewis’ non-fiction. I just find him to be one of the most articulate and eloquent Christian writers in the English language. I must confess however I do not like Chronicles of Narnia. I’m sorry!

8. Have you ever been to Lake Wobegon?

Yes. Take my advice. Do not want to go during the Lutefisk festival. Nasty stuff that, and the Lutheran church ladies will make you eat it. You have been warned.

9. Anything else you think the world needs to know about Lutherans?

I would say this: I think Evangelicals often find themselves searching for something they feel might be a bit “missing” in their Christian walk, and think that Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy may fit the bill, while all the while Lutheranism is there, right around the corner. Often when they find a traditional Lutheran Church they are surprised to find a robust, rich worship life, rooted in the Scripture (which is what the liturgy is, in its entirety). They find a rich focus on Christ and the Gospel–Lutherans are adamant that Christ is the heart and center of everything, and they also find a tangible experience with God, not based simply on feelings or emotions, but on a concrete and objective experience with God’s grace through the sacraments. And all this is wrapped up in such a vibrant passionate love for Jesus. We Lutherans combine the best of what is Evangelical, with the best of what is truly catholic about the Church, with the rich heritage of the Lutheran Reformation. I think it is a winning combination, but of course, I’m kind of biased.

A word of caution though: Lutherans are usually the ones most shy about Lutheranism. I suspect this is why you, Kevin, rightly asked, “Hey, where are the Lutherans?” You actually made a good and valid point. We suffer often from an inferiority complex and sometimes think that only Lutherans would care about Lutheranism and sometimes some of us are tempted to ditch our heritage to try to go with the “new” and “flashy” stuff, when all the time, the sturdy trustworthy Word of God is there, and it is from that inerrant and inspired Word that we know the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in our lives, as he is in your life!

Thanks Paul for an insider’s look at Lutheranism, presented with the sort of vim and vigor Luther would be proud of. But, of course, conscience (a good Lutheran word) compels me to add that if anyone reading this blog is looking for a sturdy, robustly theological Christian heritage that prizes faithfulness over flashiness, is evangelical and catholic in the best senses of those two words,  and is wrapped in a vibrant passion for Jesus Christ–feel free to try the Reformed faith too!

Categories: Lutheranism

Want a Digital Copy of the First Edition of the Book of Concord? Free Download Available

July 19th, 2011 6 comments

 

I mentioned a few weeks ago a link that Pastor Harrison had sleuthed out in his never ending quest to find rare and wonderful first editions of Lutheran works. He had found a complete, full color, scanned version of the Book of Concord from a German library and I had failed to notice that not only can you have fun viewing it online, you can download the whole thing as a PDF file and explore it to your heart’s content off-line. Here’s the direct link to the PDF download. It is a large file, so if you have only dial-up or slower broadband, so be advised.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

The Danger of Tinkering with the Bible’s Original Language and the Language of Christian Creeds: How Jesus Went Missing in the United Church of Christ

July 18th, 2011 3 comments

This is a great blog post from the Gospel Coalition’s blog site.

The Curious Case of How the United Church of Christ Lost Jesus

Posted By John Starke On July 15, 2011

“We are still a Trinitarian denomination,” United Church of Christ spokesman Bennett Guess says. You may be in trouble if you find yourself explaining that you’re still trinitarian. After six years of debate, the UCC has resolved [1] to revise their bylaws and constitution to replace every instance of “Heavenly Father” with “Triune God.”

Here’s how the UCC explains the change:

This was not a theological document. It was a restructuring from five boards to one. And in doing this, we dealt with bylaws written decades ago, before the denomination’s commitment to using inclusive and expansive imagery for God.

We no longer use exclusively male language to refer to God. We haven’t for a long time.

On the bright side you might conclude of this progressive denomination, “Well, at least they’re sticking with the Trinity.” And that’s how some have defended the UCC against charges of “sawing off one leg of Christianity’s Holy Trinity.” USA Today‘s Cathy Lynn Grossman rather sardonically comes to the defense [3] of the UCC, says that this change in language will not, in fact, cause the 1 million-member denomination to “rebuff Christ and God by slashing a reference to God as ‘Heavenly Father.’”

Maybe not. But the problem is that you’re not trinitarian just by calling yourself trinitarian. The Bible doesn’t allow for us to worship the Trinity as God A, God A, and Holy God A and still call ourselves Christian.

We can learn a lesson from the Arians, a popular but heretical faction in the early church. They didn’t want use the name “Father” either. But their motives were a little more explicitly mischievous. They didn’t think the Son was equal with God, so eternally speaking, God was not a Father since the Son didn’t eternally exist. Searching for a name to describe this view of God, they came up with “Unoriginate.”

Isn’t it interesting that when we try to clear God of his trinitarian nature and then try to describe who he is, we only have impersonal terms?

Athanasius didn’t like the term “Unoriginate,” and not just because it sounded like a poorly named professional wrestler. He rejected the title because it didn’t explain who God is fundamentally. By calling God the “Unoriginate,” we are defining him by what is in contrast, the “originate”—that is, creation. And God is not dependent upon the existence of creation, nor is he defined by it. So we must do better than “Unoriginate.”

But, as Athanasius pointed out, if we call God “Father,” we immediately contemplate the Son. And here we have something that is fundamental and eternal to both of them: The Father is the Father of the Son; the Son is the Son of the Father. To know God, we must know God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. Otherwise we are grasping for totems of our own imaginations.

And now back to the curious case of the UCC. The problem isn’t only their sensitivity to gender-exclusivity in God or their modern sensibilities trumping the Bible. As we saw with the Arians, if you don’t have a Heavenly Father, then you don’t have a Son. And if you don’t have a Son, you’ve lost Jesus.

As evangelicals concerned with the centrality of the gospel, we must speak carefully and biblically about who God is and how he has revealed himself to us. Like taking an ax to a trunk of a tree, if we speak loosely about God and his nature, the gospel will come tumbling down with it.

As creatures, we depend on God to reveal knowledge of himself to us. Who are we to give him his name? He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has told us so.

Article republished from The Gospel Coalition Blog: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc

Lutheran Church—Canada Response to Pro-Homosexuality Decisions in Canada

July 18th, 2011 2 comments

A very fine statement released by the leadership of the Lutheran Church—Canada in response to the ELCIC’s decisions at their churchwide assembly this week.

July 18, 2011

Many Lutherans still support traditional marriage

Responding to a vote by delegates at the convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) meeting in Saskatoon, July 15 and 16 which authorizes its pastors to conduct same-gender marriages and finds sexual orientation no longer an issue for ordaining pastors, the leaders of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) issued a statement noting that the ELCIC does not speak for all Lutherans in the country.

The statement at www.lutheranchurch.ca/marriage notes that the ELCIC is the only Lutheran church body in Canada “that has approved such a departure from accepted Christian teaching.” While the ELCIC is the largest Lutheran body in Canada, statistics available online show that nearly 40 percent of Lutherans worshipping each week belong to congregations outside the ELCIC.

Noting the words of Jesus who spoke of marriage in terms of a man leaving his father and mother, being united to his wife, and the two becoming one flesh, LCC’s presidents (bishops) declared the church body’s continuing witness to “Christ’s clear teaching that God designed marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.” They further stated that LCC will not ordain pastors who do not support this position.

At its 2002 convention Lutheran Church–Canada affirmed the historic biblical definition of marriage and at its most recent convention in June 2011 agreed that the Bible’s qualifications and standards for a pastor include a heterosexual orientation.

LCC’s position is one held by the Church for the past 2000 years and supported by millions of Christians worldwide including the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and a rapidly growing number of Lutheran churches in Africa. “LCC is not speaking from the margins,” the statement notes.

The statement also rejects any notion that holding to “historic Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality constitutes ‘homophobia,’ an irrational fear and hatred of people with same-gender orientation.” LCC’s leaders refuse to defend those who take a threatening or insulting approach to the issue, but instead “repent of such sin and ask God to help His people overcome it wherever it occurs.”

After noting that there are Lutheran Christians in Canada “still deeply committed to the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and still dedicated to its clear witness on human sexuality, marriage and standards for ministry” the leaders pledge prayers for those within the ELCIC for whom their church body’s decision is troubling.

Further information:
Ian Adnams
communications@lutheranchurch.ca

Categories: Lutheranism

Lutheran Service Builder: If You Are Not Using It, Here’s Why You Should Be

July 18th, 2011 7 comments

I know many of you have heard about Lutheran Service Builder, but for those who have not, it is the comprehensive digital version of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s hymnal: Lutheran Service Book. Some people still, very mistakenly, think, that the Builder is only really good for printing out the worship service in bulletins, but it is much, much … much … more than that. It is a total worship planning and preparation aid and help. It allows you to easily track the hymns your congregation has sung, it helps pastors see quickly all the readings for the Church Year coming up. It is a powerful tool for finding appropriate hymns and locating Scriptural references throughout all the hymns in Lutheran Service Book. Did you know the Builder offers complete access to and integration with the Synod’s weekly “Let us Pray” prayers for each week? There is an optional module for the Builder offering complete integration with the Concordia Organist, making it possible for you to produce a complete audio accompaniment for the entire worship service? And the list goes on…

It is the finest Lutheran worship planning resource out there. Unlike some other resources that offer the user access to word processing files hosted on a web site, the Builder makes using the hymnal’s resources quick, easy and powerful, in a stand-alone program.

Lutheran Service Builder has become an important tool for congregations of all sizes, from the smallest to the largest.

We offer several packages and programs of the Builder depending on congregational size and even a free fully functioning demo for you to try out. You can read all about the Builder’s pricing schedule and get more details and the demo by following this link.

It has proven particularly helpful for a whole host of events outside of and beyond the Sunday morning worship service in a congregation. I’ve heard from people telling me how they use it for their schools, for gatherings of smaller groups in their congregations, for funerals, for weddings, for baptisms, for shut-in calls, for nursing home visits. It allows you to put together appropriate worship resources for any event or any occasion.

Recently I’ve had a few contacts from people asking for a “large print” edition of Lutheran Service Book, and I’ve been able to remind them that: (a) a large print edition of Lutheran Service Builder is unwieldy since it is printed across several volumes, by Lutheran Blind Mission and (b) Lutheran Service Builder allows you to produce a special “sight saving” edition of your complete worship service in any size type you want. It makes it perfect for congregations looking for a way to help those who require very large print to read the liturgy and the texts of the hymns.

I could go on and on about the benefits and blessings of Lutheran Service Builder, but here let me simply offer a word of encouragement to you:

If your congregation has not been using Lutheran Service Builder, or does not have, please reconsider. We have thousands of congregations using it now and those who use it now say they can’t live without it.

Here are some accolades about Lutheran Service Buidler:

“I’m not as tech-savvy as many, and the thought of Lutheran Service Builder was a bit intimidating. I put off getting it for a while. But when reason overcame fear, I was delighted to find the product intuitive and easy-to-use right from the get-go. Preparing the ordinary Sunday bulletin is a snap now, but where Builder excels is in preparation of special bulletins. For us, that means our Catechism Service and midweek Vespers during Advent and Lent. It is as easy as point-and-click and the whole treasury of Lutheran Service Book unfolds in its richness. Can’t think how that hymn goes? No Problem. A click, and Builder lets you hear it. Need an occasional service or rite added in? It’s just a click away also. And those those moments when I’m being particularly dense, help is always just an email of phone call away. The Builder team stands behind their product in a way that simply erases frustrations. If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing the product, I can’t encourage you enough to give it a try. You will not be disappointed.”–Pr. William Weedon, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL

Lutheran Service Builder has become an essential and dependable weekly resource for our staff. It does most of the research for us—yet allows us to customize as we wish. LSB was easy to learn and easy to apply for our ministry. It is saving us valuable time with each bulletin. By using LSB, we need less human effort producing—and less time spent proofreading for errors.
LSB has become a one-stop-shop database for us, as it offers great detail from the most recent hymnal, plus the appropriate weekly Bible readings. And in addition, LSB monitors copyright management for us so we don’t have to worry! Another important bonus is the LSB technical support. They have been easy to reach, quick to respond, and dependable for follow-up. We will continue using this tool! It’s the best!”–John Payne, Music Director, Saint Michael Lutheran Church, Fort Myers, FL

“Not only is my congregation extremely pleased with Lutheran Service Book, but the addition of Lutheran Service Builder has truly been a blessing! For special events, special services, devotions, Bible studies, and countless other needs, Lutheran Service Builder has come through with flying colors to deeply enhance our study and worship. I find it easy to use, and it produces a wonderfully professional-looking product. I have to do very little to make a self-contained bulletin very easy to read and follow. What used to be a hassle or impossible has been made easy. I appreciate the work that has gone into providing such a useful product for pastors and the Church at large!”–Pr. Michael Kumm, Trinity Lutheran Church, Millstadt, IL

Lutheran Service Builder is a major help for a “sight-reading deficient” pastor like myself. It is a huge blessing to be able to hear the music for the hymns without calling one of our organists. If I recall a phrase from a hymn that matches up with the sermon I’m going to preach, I can locate the hymn in a matter of seconds. I have also been consistently impressed with the support offered by Concordia Publishing House for the product. The program receives updates for hymn suggestions, festival days, and more automatically.”–Pr. Richard Anderegg, Faith Ev. Lutheran Church, St. Roberts, MO

Categories: CPH Resources

What is the Purpose of the Lutheran Confessions?

July 18th, 2011 4 comments

What is the purpose and spirit of the Lutheran Confessions?

We use the word “confession” in a variety of ways today. A young man confesses his love for his fiancee. A criminal confesses to a felony. Christians confess their sins to a fellow believer or at the appropriate time in the church service. The Lutheran Confessions are something quite different from all that. They are written, formal statements with which a group of Christians, or an individual, declare to the world their faith, their deepest and undaunted convictions.

The Lutheran Confessions represent the result of more than 50 years of earnest endeavor by Martin Luther and his followers to give Biblical and clear expression to their religious convictions. The important word in that definition is the word “convictions.” This word reveals the spirit in which the Lutheran Confessions were written, not a spirit of hesitation or doubt, but of deepest confidence that Lutherans, when they were writing and subscribing the Concessions and creeds, because their content was all drawn from the Word of God, Scripture, were affirming the truth, the saving truth.

Listen to what the Lutheran confessors say in the very last paragraph of the Book of Concord (FC SD, XII, 40), a statement that describes their assurance and their doctrinal certainty:

Therefore, it is our intent to give witness before God and all Christendom, among those who are alive today and those who will come after us, that the explanation here set forth regarding all the controversial articles of faith which we have addressed and explained—and no other explanation—is our teaching, faith, and confession. In it we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith, and we will neither secretly nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it. Instead, on the strength of God’s grace we intend to abide by this confession.

Here we observe that those who wrote and signed the Lutheran Confessions were not merely settling controversies, or expressing opinions, or devising new and clever doctrinal formulations. They were confessing their faith and expressing their determination never to depart from that confession. They take their stand as in the presence of God and stake their very salvation on the doctrine they confess. So confident are they of their position, so certain of their doctrine, that they dare bind not only themselves but also their posterity to it. And in another place they show their willingness to submit themselves not only to the content but to the very phrases of their confession: “We have determined not to depart even a finger’s breadth either from the subjects themselves, or from the phrases which are found in [the Confessions]” (Preface of the Book of Concord, quoted from Concordia Triglotta [St. Louis: Concordia, 1921], p. 23).

I am sure that such a profession seems like an impossible anachronism today, a mark of inflexible pride which can no longer be respected or emulated by enlightened people. But certainly with such expressions of certainty the Confessions have captured the spirit of Christ and the New Testament. Our Lord taught with authority and promised His disciples that they would “know the truth.” And how often does the inspired apostle Paul dogmatically affirm, “I know,” “I speak the truth … .. I am persuaded”!

The Lutheran confessors are convinced that Christians, basing their doctrine on Scripture and the promises of God, can be certain of their salvation and can formulate and confess true statements about God and all the articles of the Christian faith. It is this spirit in which all our Confessions were written and in which they so eloquently give witness to the Gospel of Christ. The Importance of Doctrine

According to the Lutheran Confessions, true doctrine, i. e., correct teaching about God and His activity toward us, is not some remote possibility but a marvelous fact, the result of God’s grace; and this doctrine is demonstrated in the Confessions themselves. Those who wrote our Confessions were convinced of this (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 13); but more than that, they were persuaded that true doctrine, theology (which means language about God), is of inestimable importance to the church and to individual Christians. Why?

It is first and foremost by pure doctrine that we honor God and hallow His name, as we pray in the First Petition of the Small Catechism. “For,” Luther says, “there is nothing he would rather hear than to have his glory and praise exalted above everything and his Word taught in its purity and cherished and treasured” (LC, 111, 48). It is by agreement in the pure doctrine that permanent concord and harmony can be achieved in the church. “In order to preserve the pure doctrine and to maintain a thorough, lasting, and God-pleasing concord within the church, it is essential not only to present the true and wholesome doctrine correctly, but also to accuse the adversaries who teach otherwise (1 Tim. 3:9; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:24; 3:16)” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 14). Doctrine is important to Lutherans because they believe that Christian doctrine is not a human fabrication but originates in God. It is God’s revealed teaching about Himself and all He has done for us in Christ. Therefore Luther says confidently and joyfully: “The doctrine is not ours but God’s” (WA, 17 11, 233). And he will risk everything for the doctrine, for to compromise would do harm to God and to all the world. Luther’s spirit is echoed throughout our Confessions as they affirm that their doctrine is “drawn from and conformed to the Word of God” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 5, 10). Pure Christian doctrine is important for our Lutheran Confessions because it brings eternal salvation. It “alone is our guide to salvation” (Preface to the Book of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, p. 11). For this reason our Confessions call it “heavenly doctrine” and they never fail to show and apply this saving aim of evangelical doctrine.

This emphasis on the importance of Christian doctrine is often not understood or appreciated in our day of relativism and indifference.

How often do modem church leaders declaim that the church will never achieve purity of doctrine; nor is it necessary! Therefore we should concentrate our efforts toward ministry to people in their needs. The longest article in our Confessions deals with good works and ministry to people in their needs (Ap, IV, 122-400) and insistently admonishes the church to follow such an enterprise. But this does not make doctrine less important! Today when people are leaving the church in droves and abandoning the faith, we must keep our priorities straight.

Luther says:

The great difference between doctrine and life is obvious, even as the difference between heaven and earth. Life may be unclean, sinful, and inconsistent; but doctrine must be pure, holy, sound, unchanging … not a tittle or letter may be omitted, however much life may fail to meet the requirements of doctrine. This is so because doctrine is God’s Word, and God’s truth alone, whereas life is partly our own doing…. God will have patience with man’s moral failings and imperfections and forgive them. But He cannot, will not, and shall not tolerate a man’s altering or abolishing doctrine itself. For doctrine involves His exalted, divine Majesty itself (WA, 30 111, 343 f.)

Strong words! But this is the spirit of confessional Lutheranism.

Again theologians remind us today that what matters for the Christian is his faith relation to Christ: Faith is directed toward Christ and not a body of doctrine. Of course! And how often do our Confessions stress just this point! But the Christ in whom we believe and live and hope is not a phantom or myth, but the very Son of God who became a man, who really lived and suffered and died as our Substitute, and who rose again for our justification. In short, He is the Christ of whom we can speak meaningfully and cognitively; and the minute we begin to speak about Him and confess Him, we are speaking doctrine.

Again we are told that we are saved by Christ, not by pure doctrine. True! But does this make pure doctrine unimportant? We are not saved by good works or social concern either. But does that make social concern and works of love of no account? No, pure doctrine has its function. It enables us to glorify God with our lips, to teach and proclaim a pure and saving Gospel and not a false gospel, to bring poor sinners to know their true condition and to know God as He is, a wonderful and gracious Savior, and not to flounder seeking and chasing phantoms.

Let us take our Confessions seriously when they see pure doctrine as a wonderful gift and instrument for glorifying God and building His church. This was Paul’s conviction: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16). 14 Confessional Subscription, an Evangelical Act

Lutherans have always held that creeds and confessions are necessary for the well-being of the church. Just as Christ’s church and all Christians are called upon to confess their faith (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 4:2), so the church, if it is to continue to proclaim the pure Gospel in season and out of season, must for many reasons construct formal and permanent symbols and confessions and require pastors and teachers to subscribe these confessions. It is impossible for the church to be a nonconfessional church, just as impossible as to be a nonconfessing church. And so today and ever since the Reformation Lutheran churches over the world have required their pastors to subscribe the Lutheran Confessions.

What does this mean? With her confessions the church is speaking to the world, but also to God, who has spoken to her in His Word-speaking to Him in total commitment, speaking to Him by an unequivocal, unconditional response in the spirit of, “We believe, teach, and confess” (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 1). This response is Scriptural, taken from Scripture itself. How often do we read in our Confessions that the teaching presented is “grounded in God’s Word”! And so the Confessions are no more than a kind of “comprehensive summary, rule, and norm,” grounded in the Word of God, “according to which all doctrines should be judged and the errors which intruded should be explained and decided in a Christian way” (FC Ep, Heading). This would be an unbelievably arrogant position to take, were it not for the fact that all the doctrine of our Confessions is diligently and faithfully drawn from Scripture.

And so when the Lutheran pastor subscribes the Lutheran Confessions (and the confirmand or layman confesses his belief in the Catechism [LC, Preface, 19]), this is a primary way in which he willingly and joyfully and without reservation or qualification confesses his faith and proclaims to the world what his belief and doctrine and confession really are. Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the father of the Missouri Synod, long ago explained the meaning of confessional subscription, and his words are as cogent today as when they were first written:

An unconditional subscription is the solemn declaration which the individual who wants to serve the church makes under oath (1) that he accepts the doctrinal content of our Symbolical Books, because he recognizes the fact that it is in 15 full agreement with Scripture and does not militate against Scripture in any point, whether that point be of major or minor importance; (2) that he therefore heartily believes in this divine truth and is determined to preach this doctrine…. Whether the subject be dealt with expressly or only incidentally, an unconditional subscription refers to the whole content of the Symbols and does not allow the subscriber to make any mental reservation in any point. Nor will he exclude such doctrines as are discussed incidentally in support of other doctrines, because the fact that they are so stamps them as irrevocable articles of faith and demands their joyful acceptance by everyone who subscribes the Symbols.

This is precisely how the Confessions themselves understand subscription (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 3, 5, 6; SD, Rule and Norm, 1, 2, 5).

Needless to say, confessional subscription in the nature of the case is binding and unconditional. A subscription with qualifications or reservations is a contradiction in terms and dishonest.

Today many Lutherans claim that such an unconditional subscription is legalistic. Sometimes they assert that such a position is pompous and not even honest.

We might respond: What can possibly be wrong about confessing our faith freely and taking our confession seriously? For it is the freest and most joyful act in the world for those of us who have searched these great confessional writings and found them to be Scriptural and evangelical to subscribe them. Of course, to force or bribe or wheedle a person into subscribing them would be an awful sin and a denial of what our Confessions are, namely symbols, standards around which Christians rally willingly and joyfully in all their Christian freedom. Confessions Are the Voice of the Church

When I was a boy my father told me a curious story about an occurrence in the 19th century. During the controversy among Lutherans concerning predestination, the old Norwegian Synod sided with the Missouri Synod. One member of the Norwegian Synod demurred vehemently and in his consternation said, “I am the Norwegian Synod.” That, of course, was an absurdity, just as it would be absurd for me to claim, “I am the church.” The church, as we shall see, 16 according to our Confessions is the total of all believers in Christ.

So it is, in a similar sense, with the Confessions. They do not belong to Luther or Melanchthon or those who, sometimes after great struggles, wrote them. They belong to those for whom they were written, the church. Princes subscribed the Augsburg Confession on behalf of their churches. Luther’s catechisms were finally subscribed because the lay people had already accepted them. Thousands of clergy subscribed the entire Book of Concord, and the only reason the laity did not do so was the length of the book. All this suggests two things.

First, that every Lutheran ought to be concerned with what is rightfully his and ought to agree with the doctrine of the Confessions. But it suggests also that, if the Confessions really belong to the entire church, then everyone in the church ought to be united in the evangelical doctrine of the Confessions. That was the case when the Book of Concord was compiled in 1580, and it ought to be the case today. Doctrinal Unanimity, a Blessing to the Church

The Church of the Reformation after the death of Luther in one respect resembled the congregation at Corinth in the first century: It was a church highly endowed with the gifts of the Spirit, but at the same time tragically confused and divided. To the Corinthian congregation Paul wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Paul had no quarrel with the diversity of spiritual gifts he found in that congregation; he rejoiced in all that, provided it did not polarize the church. But there is only one Christ, he says, who is undivided; one Gospel; and all Christians are to be of the same mind and judgment, united in their faith and doctrine.

The Church of the Reformation took Paul’s admonition seriously when after Luther’s death doctrinal controversies arose and threatened to destroy its unity in the Gospel. The Lutheran churches recognized that the unity of the Spirit which Paul stressed could only be manifested when there was unanimity “in doctrine and in all its articles and … the right use of the holy sacraments” (FC SD, X, 31). Their program for 17 unity and concord in a troubled church went as follows: “The primary requirement for basic and permanent concord within the church is a summary formula and pattern, unanimously approved, in which the summarized doctrine commonly confessed by the churches of the pure Christian religion is drawn together out of the Word of God” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 1).

What a remarkable statement! Here is not the cynical despairing of the possibility of doctrinal unity, so common to our relativistic age! not the sneering rejection of doctrinal unanimity as something inimical to man’s freedom and autonomy. No, here is a statement of confidence in the unifying power of the Word and Spirit of God. These old Lutherans were convinced that doctrinal controversies were an offense and doctrinal aberrations pernicious to believers and unbelievers alike. “The opinions of the erring party cannot be tolerated in the church of God,” they said, “much less be excused and defended” (FC SD, Intro., 9). But at the same time they maintained with Paul-like optimism that unity in doctrine and all its articles was not a remote possibility, not an impossible goal at the end of a rainbow, but a wonderful blessing that could be achieved by the church which would bow to the Word of God and allow the Spirit to rule in all its life.

And so the Lutheran confessors dare to produce a confession which all are asked to sign and which represents the unanimous declaration of all. They pledge themselves to the Book of Concord and confess: “We have from our hearts and with our mouths declared in mutual agreement that we shall neither prepare nor accept a different or a new confession of our faith. Rather, we pledge ourselves again to those public and well-known symbols or common confessions which have at all times and in all places been accepted in all the churches of the Augsburg Confession” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 2). And they dare to maintain: “All doctrines should conform to the standards [the Lutheran Confessions] set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith” (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 6). Do such statements reveal pride, cocksureness, narrowness? Not at all! But Pauline, Spirit-led confidence and optimism.

If only we could recapture this spirit today! Openness is an in-word today. And a “wholesome latitude” in doctrine is 18 considered by many Lutherans to be a positive blessing to the church. Not many years ago a Lutheran synod actually stated (but later modified, thank goodness): “We are firmly convinced that it is neither necessary nor possible to agree in all non-fundamental doctrines.” But where do the Scriptures or our Confessions say such a thing? Where are we ever told that we Christians need not agree on what Scripture affirms? Yes, let us be open to people’s desires and needs, to their diversity of gifts and opinions. But not to error. Let us rather give heed to Paul’s words and speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment. Let us face up to doctrinal differences wherever they arise and impinge upon our unity. And let us seek and treasure the doctrinal unanimity of which our Confessions speak. Then we may call ourselves Lutherans.

Source: Getting into The Theology of Concord by Robert D. Preus (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977), pgs. 7-29. Order a copy of this book

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for Students – You Have Got to See/Get This Thing

July 15th, 2011 5 comments

 

A stunning new book hit my in box today from our distribution center: Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook For Students. It is simply stunning. It is printed in full color, with hundreds of illustrations, and concise, well presented information. It is a beefy, substantial 500 page book, printed on beautiful paper, and easy to handle in a four color laminated paper cover. It is $23.99. You can see a sample of it by downloading this file (give it time to download, it is a 17 megabyte file). This book is for EVERYONE, young and old alike. Place your order online, or call 800-325-3040.

Who is this Bible Handbook for?
Anyone who wants to take an in-depth look at each book of the Bible and learn more about important people, signficant places, customs and traditions, and life in Biblical times.
What does this book provide?
This handbook starts with an introduction to the Bible, looking at questions such as:
  • Who wrote the Bible?
  • How is the Bible organized?
  • What’s up with all those translations?
  • Is the Bible reliable and trustworthy?
  • How can I get the most out of the Bible reading I do?
The book then presents a survey of all 66 books of the Bible and the time between the Old and New Testaments.  The books are arranged by the major collections of biblical literature and ordered by biblical book.  Readers will explore and discover the who, what, when, where, why and how of:
  • The Books of Moses
  • The Books of History
  • The Books of Wisdom
  • The Books of the Prophets
  • The Time Between the Testaments
  • The Gospels and Acts
  • The Pauline Epistles
  • The General Epistles and Revelation

In addition to summaries of major topics of the Bible, the handbook also includes articles, charts, diagrams, genealogies, illustrations, maps, outlines, overviews and timelines that provide additional detail for personal, group or class study.

Categories: CPH Resources

UCC “Flash Eucharist” and Sad Bunny

July 15th, 2011 9 comments

I watched this and felt like this:

 

Categories: Liberal Lutheranism