Archive for September, 2011

News Flash: The Pope is Still Roman Catholic

September 23rd, 2011 2 comments

And lest anyone get a bit too carried away with PB XVI, we need to remember that he is still very much Roman Catholic and reflects the false and potentially damning doctrine of this church body in these remarks, on a visit to a Marian shrine, and we recall why we must, with a heavy heart and deep sorrow, continue to assert: papam ipsum verum antichristum est.

Pope Benedict: address at Etzelsbach Marian Shrine

Friday evening Pope Benedict XVI lead a congregation of hundreds in the celebration Vespers at the Wallfahrtskapelle, or Pilgrimage Chapel of the Shrine, located in the small hamlet of Etzelsbach, outside the city of Erfurt. Here are his remarks:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Now I am able to fulfil my wish to visit Eichsfeld, and here in Etzelsbach to thank Mary in company with you. “Here in the beloved quiet vale”, as the pilgrims’ hymn says, “under the old lime trees”, Mary gives us security and new strength. During two godless dictatorships, which sought to deprive the people of their ancestral faith, the inhabitants of Eichsfeld were in no doubt that here in this shrine at Etzelsbach an open door and a place of inner peace was to be found. The special friendship with Mary that grew from all this, is what we seek to cultivate further, not least through this evening’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When Christians of all times and places turn to Mary, they are acting on the spontaneous conviction that Jesus cannot refuse his mother what she asks; and they are relying on the unshakable trust that Mary is also our mother – a mother who has experienced the greatest of all sorrows, who feels all our griefs with us and ponders in a maternal way how to overcome them. How many people down the centuries have made pilgrimages to Mary, in order to find comfort and strength before the image of the Mother of Sorrows, as here at Etzelsbach!

Let us look upon her likeness: a woman of middle age, her eyelids heavy with much weeping, gazing pensively into the distance, as if meditating in her heart upon everything that had happened. On her knees rests the lifeless body of her son, she holds him gently and lovingly, like a precious gift. We see the marks of the crucifixion on his bare flesh. The left arm of the corpse is pointing straight down. Perhaps this sculpture of the Pietà, like so many others, was originally placed above an altar. The crucified Jesus would then be pointing with his outstretched arm to what was taking place on the altar, where the holy sacrifice that he had accomplished is made present in the Eucharist.

A particular feature of the holy image of Etzelsbach is the position of Our Lord’s body. In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord. Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way. It seems to me that a deep meaning lies hidden in this representation, that only becomes apparent through silent contemplation: in the Etzelsbach image, the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love. We know that the heart is also the seat of the most tender affection as well as the most intimate compassion. In Mary’s heart there is room for the love that her divine Son wants to bestow upon the world.

Marian devotion focuses on contemplation of the relationship between the Mother and her divine Son. The faithful constantly discover new dimensions and qualities which this mystery can help to disclose for us, for example when the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is seen as a symbol of her deep and unreserved loving unity with Christ. It is not self-fulfilment that truly enables people to flourish, according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which can easily turn into a sophisticated form of selfishness. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.

“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), as we have just heard in the Scripture reading. With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world. Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey. “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home” (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and conveys to us the strength of divine love.

Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from our plight? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. “Understand,” she seems to say to us, “that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields unreservedly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise.” Where God is, there is a future. Indeed – when we allow God’s love to influence the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions. Amen.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Pope’s Remarks at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt

September 23rd, 2011 8 comments

Here is a transcript of Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt. Following a brief video. The church you see at the beginning of the video is the church at the cloister, where Luther took his monastic vows. He was ordained a priest at the Erfurt cathedral (if I may correct the pope), the room you see toward the end of the video is the “chapter room,” where the monks would gather regularly to review their order’s rules and attend to matters concerning their life together. Say what you want about this Pope, but he knows and understands Luther’s theology much better than most of the so-called “Lutherans” in the mainline/liberal Lutheran churches today. What I’ve always appreciated about Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is that he has never compromised Rome’s doctrinal position, and has invited serious conversation and dialogue based on clear confession, something that can rarely be said about the leaders of any of the large liberal member churches of the Lutheran World Federation. Whenever an invitation for dialogue based on honest confession is offered, it is an important opportunity to bear witness to Christ and His Gospel.


September 23, 2011. ( (-ONLY VIDEO-) Behind closed doors the pope met with representatives of Germany’s Evangelical Church. In a powerful speech the pope spoke about Martin Luther, who led the Protestant Reform.  He encouraged the ecumenical dialogue to continue so both groups can strengthen their relationship even more.

Benedict XVI recalled the question once asked by Martin Luther, which gave rise to Lutheranism: “what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God.?” The pope went on to say,  that this question is still relevant. It’s a question, he said, that each person should ask themselves.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to thank you for this opportunity to come together with you. I am particularly grateful to Pastor Schneider for greeting me and welcoming me into your midst with his kind words. At the same time I want to express my thanks for the particularly gracious gesture that our meeting can be held in this historic location.

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the Lutheran Church of Germany here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Now perhaps you will say: all well and good, but what has this to do with our ecumenical situation? Could this just be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems that are still waiting for practical progress, for concrete results? I would respond by saying that the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

The risk of losing this, sadly, is not unreal. I would like to make two points here. The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.

The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country more controversial: the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task. Moreover, we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith – thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God. As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted the first great ecumenical opening, so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord.

Another Theory Bites the Dust: Faster Than the Speed of Light? Yup

September 22nd, 2011 2 comments

Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab said Thursday they have clocked neutrinos traveling faster than light. That’s something that according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity — the famous E (equals) mc2 equation — just doesn’t happen.

read the whole story here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Get Your Order in for The Story Bible Now

September 22nd, 2011 Comments off

I wanted to make you aware of one of the good news/bad news situations we face often here at Concordia Publishing House. The response to The Story Bible has far exceeded our expectation and we have sold thousands of copies, depleting our first print run. We are going back on press for thousands more, but won’t be able to get back on press again and expect to get them delivered before Christmas. So, when this second printing runs out, that may be it for the year. So…word to the wise … if you or your congregation were making plans to order multiple copies of The Story Bible. Do it now.

Save 33%! Order 10 or more for only $19.99 each, enter promo code YST at checkout. Here is where to order online, or call our 800 number: 800-325-3040.

Be sure to visit The Story Bible’s web site for a variety of helpful resources.

Never before in our nearly 150 years of publishing have we produced a Bible for children as rich and feature-filled as The Story Bible. This treasure will be a great help to pastors, teachers, parents and grandparents as they, like the faithful mother and grandmother of St. Timothy, lead the little ones to understand the Sacred Scriptures.

Throughout this Bible, high quality realistic art from our Growing in Christ series is used to fully engage the reader, rather than using cartoonish artwork that might suggest to children that the Bible stories are pretend rather than real.

Our intent was to keep the focus on Christ by presenting stories with Old Testament prophecies about Christ so we could present one story for all of Scripture—God’s gift of the Savior. Instead of paraphrasing each story, they were drawn directly from the Bible while adjusting them for student readability.

Many stories from the latter part of the Old Testament have been included so that children may begin to build an understanding of the sequence of biblical history. There is also a user’s guide included to explain how to use this Bible with children at different stages of development and reading levels.

Other unique features included in this Bible are discussion questions, learning activities, and prayers. These bring each story to life, making a meaningful and lasting impression on children from ages 3 to 8.

Whether for at-home use, in preschools, or as part of a congregation-wide children’s ministry, this Bible will make a lasting impact.


Categories: CPH Resources

Treasury of Daily Prayer Compact Edition – Sneak Peak

September 21st, 2011 10 comments

Just a quick look at a cover design print out, for the forthcoming compact edition of the Treasury of Daily Prayer, coming early in 2012, from your favorite Lutheran publishing house. I’ll share more details as they become available.

Categories: CPH Resources

Word of Encouragement for Christian Schools and Christian Teachers from President Harrison

September 21st, 2011 Comments off

Categories: LCMS

New Book about Infant Baptism

September 20th, 2011 4 comments

Author David P. Scaer investigates the effects of rationalism and other influences on modern views of Baptism, especially the teachings of Erlangen theologians in the nineteenth century. At the heart of the matter are questions about “infant faith” (fides infantium) and the Reformation principle of “faith alone” (sola fide). The issues raised and discussed in this book are relevant in our day as well. You can place an order for the book here, and view an sample from the book here.

What Others Are Saying
David Scaer proves his thesis well: something significant was lost in Luther’s baptismal theology when nineteenth century Lutherans began to deny that infants are able to have faith. This lively and clear tour of key German theologians demonstrates from yet another angle the corrosive effects of Rationalism and Romanticism on Lutheran sacramental theology. A recovery of Luther’s robust understanding of baptism is sorely needed in our churches. Dr. Scaer’s careful study points to what must be said when we talk about God’s powerful action in water and word.
—Dr. Mark D. Tranvik
Professor of Religion and Department Chair
Augsburg College
Minneapolis, MN

Luther wanted Christians to have no doubt that in their baptisms, God had made them his own, and this faith, received at baptism, was to be exercised each day in repentance and trust. Dr. Scaer shows how that confident confession was eroded by a fragmented modern understanding of the individual and a resulting defective theology. This book uncovers the errors, faulty logic and inconsistencies among 19th century theologians and serves to restore the confidence in baptismal faith as the Lutheran Confessions attest.
—Martin E. Conkling, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology
Concordia College-New York

Real advances in the history of doctrine (Dogmengeschichte) come not through the publication of general treatises like Jaroslav Pelikan’s five volume opus, but through research on specific theological topics (loci) in specific historical periods. David Scaer’s book on the doctrine of infant baptism in the 19th century is a sterling example of such a real advance, containing both detailed descriptions and orthodox Lutheran critiques. Besides a brilliant defense of Luther’s doctrine of the “faith-of-infants,” this book also reveals the non-Lutheran anthropology of German Idealism that was the basis for most of the “Erlangen theology” in the 19th and 20th centuries.
—Rev. Martin R. Noland, Ph.D.
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, IN
Former Director of the Concordia Historical Institute

This is a controversy that is erupting again and again. . . . Because the Church grows through Baptism and exists through it as a community in the Body of Christ, this fascinating study by Professor Scaer has a fundamental and exemplary significance.
—Professor Dr. Reinhard Slenczka, D.D.
Professor emeritus from Erlangen Faculty of Theology

This book will be of interest not only to systematic theologians, but also liturgists, pastoral theologians, ecumenists, and pastors seeking fidelity to Scripture and the Confessions.
—Prof. Mark Mattes, Ph.D.
Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Grand View University, Des Moines, IA

In this volume Dr. Scaer traces the theological challenges that confronted nineteenth-century Lutherans who had abandoned Martin Luther’s teaching regarding infant faith. Lutherans two centuries down the line from the subjects of this book are still impacted by their thought and practice. This book is an indispensable resource for tracing the differing understandings about the nature of faith and its relationship to God’s work in and through baptism that still affect the Lutheran tradition today.
—Rev. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr., Ph.D.
President and Professor of Historical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN

In this fascinating study Dr Scaer examines the way infant baptism was handled by nineteenth century Lutheran thinkers. With typical forthrightness he exposes their discomfort—and the theological gymnastics required of them as they sought to retain the practice whilst having discarded much of the theology which justified it, especially Luther’s assertion of infant faith. This book deserves a wide readership not only amongst confessional Lutherans seeking a better understanding of their tradition, but amongst all who seek clarity and honesty in their theology and practice of baptism.
—Rev. Preb. Jonathan Trigg, Ph.D.
Anglican clergyman, Diocese of London
Author, Baptism in the Theology of Martin Luther

David P. Scaer, Th.D., is a professor of Systematic Theology and New Testament at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana and editor of Concordia Theological Quarterly. He is an author for three volumes in the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series, as well as The Sermon on the Mount (2000), Discourses in Matthew (2004), and numerous other publications.

Categories: CPH Resources

Why NIV 2011 is Bad News for Lutherans – Continued

September 19th, 2011 10 comments

I picked up this critique of the NIV 2011 from WELS Pastor Robert Koester, and am passing it along to you for your consideration. Note: the same concerns raised here pertain equally to the gender-neutral version of the Book of Concord – the Kolb/Wengert edition — which intentionally distorts the original language of our Lutheran Confessions to accommodate the feminist/homosexual agenda in the ELCA. Be warned!

One of the major issues with the NIV 2011 is not a matter of this or that poor translation, but rather a complete overhaul of the entire Bible with regards to gender language. The following letter written by Rev. Robert Koester highlights some of the root problems underlying the NIV’s drastic changes to gender language. This letter has already been shared with the Translation Evaluation Committee, and we post it here because we believe it should be read as widely as possible within the WELS. Rev. Koester’s points deserve our urgent consideration.


Thoughts on Gender-Neutral Language in the NIV 2011
I believe there are major linguistic and hermeneutical problems with the gender neutral language used in the NIV 2011. The concerns noted below go beyond translation problems with individual passages.

We are familiar with the NIV 2011’s attempts to make Scripture gender neutral. Words that carry a masculine meaning are retranslated using the normal editorial tools for gender neutrality. For example, singulars become plurals; “one” or “someone” is made plural in the predicate; “you” is substituted for “he” or “him;” and words like “brother” and “father” are changed, so that “brothers” becomes “brothers and sisters” and “fathers” becomes “parents.” (This is distinct ANTHROPOS and ADAM that can often be translated using gender neutral terms.)

Depending on how you count them, the changes number in the hundreds and perhaps well over a thousand. We are no longer dealing with changes to individual passages that we could teach around (even if there were several dozen of them) but with the entire fabric of Scripture in this area.

A gender-neutral translation changes the way in which translators determine the meaning of words. We have all relied on lexicons to help us understand word meanings. We trust the lexicographer to study a word, relying, where possible, on how the word is used in Scripture. After a thorough study, the lexicographer gives the word a range of meanings.

In the interest of gender neutrality, however, gender neutral translators extend the range of meaning of certain words far beyond what traditional lexicographers have arrived at. In regard to gender neutral language, the approach is this: If a word is used in a context that references both men and women, the word was considered by the original writers actually to be gender neutral. Accordingly, translators are allowed to use whatever techniques they need to translate into gender-neutral English.

Completely overlooked is the reverse argument, namely, that since groups of men and women are addressed or referred to by words that carry a masculine meaning (when the writers could have easily used a different word or included additional words to make the passage gender inclusive), we should explore why the original authors did this and wrestle with how we should reflect this in translation.

Some words in the Hebrew and Greek do have a wide range of meaning. ADAM and ANTHROPOS certainly do. And we may not hear the word ANDRES exactly like the early Greeks did, even if we debate the likelihood that they heard a straight gender-neurtral “brothers and sisters.” Often, the NIV 1984translates “man” or “men” when it could or should have used “person,” “people,” or some other gender-neutral term. A retranslation of the Bible that singles out those terms for a gender-neutral treatment would be helpful in our society and probably would make a drastic difference in how gender specific Scripture is considered to be.

But the NIV 2011 does not stop with these words. If a Hebrew or Greek word is used in a context where men and women are being addressed, the translators do not rely on the reader to read that fact into the gender-specific word used in Scripture. Rather, they widen the range of meaning for that word and translate accordingly. For example, “your own brothers” is changed to “your fellow Israelites,” “brothers” becomes “relatives,” “turn your sons away” becomes “turn your children away,” “your needy brother” becomes “the needy among your fellow Israelites,” “sin of the fathers” becomes “sin of the parents,” “fathers” becomes “ancestors,” etc.

It can certainly be argued that in the context, men and women were included in those statements. But can the translator for that reason expand the range of meanings of “father” at will and translate “father and mother”? Or in the case of the Greek word for “brothers,” does the context give the translator the right to extend its range of meaning and translate “brothers and sisters”? At NPH we regularly operate like this, but we are dealing with people’s words—that we have the right to change—not with the words of God.

But the NIV translators go beyond this. Their intention is not just to reflect what they think is how the early Hebrews or Greeks understood certain words like “men” or “brothers,” but to remove those words entirely and substitute other words. Consider the translation of Acts 10:23. The NIV 1984 translates, “The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along.” The 2011 NIV translates, “The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.” Perhaps the translators didn’t think the context would allow their normal gender-neutral translation, “brothers and sisters.” So to get rid of the gender-specific word “brother,” they translated “believer.” But “brother” and “believer” are two different words.

Again, we are not arguing that Paul’s audience did not include men and women, or that when Paul addressed a mixed group he was only addressing the males. We are arguing that the word he used was not always gender neutral.

But gender-neutral translators still go further. Once they have been given license to retranslate words, they retranslate events or offices. They make them fit more closely with Western culture. Here are a few examples from Deuteronomy. In 5:23 “leading men” is translated “leaders,” even though the reference is to the elders—all males—who approached God along with Moses at Mount Sinai. In reference to soldiers in 20:8, “is any man afraid . . . his brothers” is changed to “is anyone afraid . . . his fellow soldiers.” (In this case, they make part of the sentence gender neutral yet retain “his.”) In 21:5 and 31:9, “the sons of Levi” is changed to “the Levitical priests,” even though the priests were all male. In 10:22 “forefathers” is changed to “ancestors,” even though the 70 referred to here were all men. In 1:35 “not a man of” is changed to “no one from,” even though the reference is to the people counted in the original census, who were all males. In 1 Chronicles 9:17, there is a reference to the gatekeepers in the temple: “Shallum . . . Ahiman and their brothers” is retranslated “Shallum . . . Ahiman and their fellow Levites.” Was this change made only to excise the male word “brothers,” or was it made to suppress the fact that only males served in that capacity in the temple?

For additional illustrations and concerns, see the reviewers of Judges, Acts, and 1 Corinthians in the reviewer notes on our synod’s translation committee’s Web page. And note the comment from the convention floor regarding the change of “brothers” in Acts 1:16 to “brothers and sisters,” which then becomes the antecedent for “they” in verse 23, the people who nominated two men to replace Judas.

The ability to communicate is based on the meaning of words. A gender neutral translation bases word meanings more on the perceived needs of the receptor language than on what can be proven from the original.

Feminine versus masculine endings, plural versus singular endings, third person versus second person endings—these are realities of language. But the NIV 2011 translators have simply ignored these grammatical distinctions for the sake of gender neutrality.

Except when the reference is to a specific male person, the translators have eliminated the use of “he” and “him.” Sentences are simply made plural, even though the nouns and verbs are singular. The second person is sometimes substituted for the third person. The predicate is made plural when the subject is singular. (We might accept that as being in line with modern usage. At least in this case the force of the singular and its ability to address each of us personally is not completely lost, which it is in many passages.)

The lack of attention to singulars and plurals can lead to odd results. For example, in Leviticus 14:2-9 where the Lord gives Moses a law regarding skin disease, at verse 2 the translators begin substituting the plural for the singular. This is followed consistently in the next seven verses. When you get to verse 9, which details the rites of purification, you have Moses commanding everyone to shave off their beards. The law of skin diseases no doubt applied to women as well as men. But a sensitive translator would not have allowed himself to get backed into this corner. It seems that it would have been difficult to avoid this error unless the masculine singular had been retained. Of course, this would have resulted in inconsistent translation practices.

We have been appealing to Luther for the right to translate idiomatically and in good English. We certainly agree with his translation principles, and we should emulate them. But I find it hard to believe that he would play fast and loose with the grammar of the original language simply to make it more readable for his culture. His concerns at Marburg would hardly have carried much weight if he had. I believe we should think twice before we use Luther to defend a gender-neutral translation like the NIV 2011.

This is not an argument for a wooden translation. We all know that the idiomatic nature of language often moves outside of the structure of grammar. There may be times when we are forced to change singulars to plurals or give noun and verb endings a meaning not in the original simply so we can communicate. But the NIV 2011 moves far beyond this. On a wholesale level, it ignores the noun and verb forms so it can make the language gender inclusive. Some may argue that this is the modern idiom. But changing the actual meanings of words, changing the grammar, and even changing the nature of a situation that was part of the culture of Scripture for the sake of gender neutrality is simply not an acceptable way of translating, no matter how much an art translating might be. This smacks more of an agenda than a simple heartfelt desire to make God’s Word understandable.

Culture Shift
In my opinion, there is an even more serious matter in gender neutral-translation.

A gender-neutral translation implies a shift in cultures. There is the implication that today’s Western society, in how it views the relationship between men and women, has advanced in its understanding and moved beyond the weakness of previous (read patriarchal) cultures.

Gender-neutral translators are forced to articulate why they feel compelled to translate into gender-nutral language. They can express their reasons in one of two, but mutually exclusive, ways.

The first, which we discussed in the first two sections, is to argue that their translation does indeed reflect the meaning of the words God uses in Scripture. But without tampering with word meanings and grammar, I think it would be difficult to prove that the original readers understood Scripture to be a gender-neutral document. Without trying to define it further, there is a certain “maleness” to the language of Scripture that surfaces in the language, the laws, and in how the New Testament applies Old Testament statements.

I think it is more accurate to say that while the people did understand that male terms often referred to men and women, they were content to accept God’s way of speaking. They saw something in God’s way of expressing himself—something that simply cannot be jettisoned by some future egalitarian society. They also realized that how God expressed himself was foundational for their culture and carried applications for the roles of men and women—without at the same time affirming the many ways mankind’s sinfulness has corrupted those applications.

Anyone who agrees that the linguistic justification for an egalitarian translation rests on shaky grounds must turn to the second approach, the culture-shift argument. They must make the claim that a shift in cultures justifies a shift in one’s approach to the subject—which commonly occurs in application of certain Bible passages, but can also occur in translation practices.

They will admit that the original Hebrew and Greek authors had an overlying gender-specific way of speaking. They will admit that Scripture has a certain maleness about it. They will admit that it was written in the context of a patriarchal culture, reflects that culture, and affirms it. But they believe they must adjust all of this in order to to communicate with modern culture. They reason that if the ancient authors were writing today, they would simply have written in modern gender-neutral terms.

But if God is behind the words of Scripture, then it is not just the people of a culture who are involved in the words of Scripture, but God. Here is where the damaging implications of gender-neutral language begin to show.

I think it can be demonstrated that most denominations that resist gender-specific language also object to what that language implies for our culture. They consider some aspects of modern culture, specifically its egalitarian nature, to be superior to the culture of the past. And since the relationship of men and women in those cultures was based to some extent on the gender-specific language of Scripture, then that language must be changed. If there is a “maleness” in Scripture, it must be excised. And if the Lord was behind this, he was either wrong or the Bible writers were not communicating his truth clearly but allowing their own culture to emerge in their writing.

At heart, gender neutrality is not about translating per se, but about hermeneutics, a hermeneutics driven by the fact that cultures change and by the question of what that implies about the words and statements of Scripture.

We are all aware of the unbiblical practices rapidly gaining ground in the formerly conservative Evangelical world. Evangelical Christian denominations have come to evolutionary teaching, homosexuality, and egalitarian Christian congregations and homes. At first, some in these churches have tried to justify their new positions on the basis of the words of Scripture and exegesis of its passages. But invariably, when they realize this cannot be done without stretching word meanings and introducing odd interpretations of the pertinent passages, they turn to the culture-shift argument and appeal to our more enlightened understanding. It cannot be overstated how deeply this argument is embedded in Western Christianity—not just in liberal churches but in a large part of the Evangelical world.

This is a different spirit. In a gender-neutral translation, this spirit does not show itself in Bible interpretation as in the examples in the paragraph above, but in Bible translation. The translator’s view of how culture should be and how we should express ourselves to reflect our understanding of culture trumps how the Scripture writers expressed themselves.

We readily grant that the NIV 2011 retains an accurate enough translation of passages on which the conservative Christian world has built its theology of the roles of men and women. But the extent to which the translators have altered word meanings, etc., makes a person wonder about their attitude toward the passages that will not allow an egalitarian society. That is a strong statement, but is it that far out of line? Would they prefer that God had inspired his Word in a culture similar to ours today and written in clear, unmistakable gender-neutral terms?

And here is where the danger lies. To a greater or lesser degree, God is pitted against Scripture. He must be distanced from what the Scripture writers said. The verbal inspiration of Scripture is watered down or lost. I am not implying that anyone in our circles is thinking this way. But my concern is that if we adopt the NIV 2011 or any gender-neutral translation, we are admitting a Trojan horse into our church that will weaken how we approach, interpret, and apply Scripture. If continued study reveals that a gender-neutral approach to Bible translation cannot be argued linguistically, then we will be forcing ourselves to sit in judgment on God’s way of expressing himself in what we perceive as a different cultural context.

The subject of gender-neutral translating is, at heart, about whether God’s way of expressing himself is legitimate for all time. By God’s grace our church body still says yes to that. Gender neutral translators say no.

Accordingly, we need to guard the fact that God chose to reveal his will in very specific ways. He chose to use gender-specific noun and verb endings. He chose to use “brothers” and “fathers” when he could have used specific gender-inclusive language. His tools for protecting Israel and for teaching them his Word—the military and the priesthood—could have been comprised of men and women, but they weren’t. Every law could have been the same for males and females, but they weren’t. Women could have been included equally in the long lists of genealogies. But they weren’t.

There is a vast difference between saying, “God’s Word in the original reflects the culture of the time” and, “God’s Word in the original reflects the headship-helper relation between men and women as taught throughout Scripture.” By accepting a gender-neutral translation, we will be accepting the first expression. This is the Trojan horse. If our synod does adopt the NIV 2011 translation, we will force ourselves into the quagmire of redefining how we arrive a word meanings, what is the role of gender, person, and number in translation, and the role culture shift should play in our hermeneutics of Scripture.

It is better to live with what Scripture says and do our best to translate it into good English. It is far better to trust that the Lord will reach his elect through a legitimate translation and will overcome any problems such a translation may cause in the ears of the modern reader.

Practical Issues
The points I’ve made above are the most important. The following are a few observations of a more practical nature.


What exactly is accuracy? We use this term without defining it. We probably think of it as a relative term, referring to the number of passages where a word is mistranslated or where a grammatical construction is missed. We must determine how many such problems earn a translation the label “inaccurate.”

If we accept how the NIV 2011 update of individual passages has improved or worsened the NIV 1984, I believe we can legitimately use the “there is no perfect translation” argument. But if we do not agree with how the NIV 2011 deals with the words and grammar in question, we can only conclude that the NIV 2011 is a very inaccurate translation, purposely ignoring some word meanings and grammar for the sake of gender neutrality.

Note: This is essentially the conclusion the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention arrived at. At their most recent convention they passed a resolution which included this evaluation of the NIV 2011: “This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and . . . although it is possible for Bible scholars to disagree about translation methods or which English words best translate the original languages, the 2011 NIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards.”)

A separation of “ability for the reader to understand” and “gender-neutral language”

Those who argue for the NIV 2011 seem to combine these two issues. It’s almost as if objecting to gender-neutral language is to object to wanting Scripture to be understood in our society.

To be sure, the NIV 1984’s translation of ANTHROPOS as “man” and its many unnecessary uses of “he” or “him” as the pronoun, may cause confusion to some in our culture and set up a roadblock to understanding.

But in most cases, gender-neutral changes hardly make it easier for people to understand what the Bible says. The pastor who reviewed Judges for the WELS translation committee offered these comments on Judges 17:3:

    “The problem I see with inclusive language and the NIV 2011 is that the translation committee [Biblica] felt obligated to find gender neutral terminology for terms where there is no confusion about the gender of the men to whom Scripture is referring. ‘But because he was afraid of the . . . men of the town. . . .” [NIV 1984] That translation offers no confusion to anyone, whether traditionalist or feminist. It is idiomatic English, inoffensive, and perfectly understandable.”

The writer’s final statement can be applied to many, probably to most, of the passages where gender-neutral language is used.

In our discussions, we should carefully distinguish these two issues. Gender-neutral language cannot necessarily be equated with the ability of people in our modern culture to understand Scripture better.

Our own translation and study Bible

The entire discussion of whether or not to create our own translation depends on how we deal with the topics of words, grammar, and culture shift discussed in the first part of this paper. If we did our own translation, would it be gender neutral? Or are we assuming that our own translation would be gender specific? What would our posture be toward word meanings and grammar?

Perhaps if we started our discussion with these issues, our path would become clear. Otherwise, a translation process will not be a peaceful thing, nor will it solve any problem.

The same could be said of a study Bible. A study Bible based on the NIV 2011 will have to adopt a position on gender neutrality. Would we choose to accept gender neutral language, remain noncommittal, or express disagreement? The Pentateuch is perhaps the section of Scripture most consistently affected by gender neutrality. It also establishes the foundation for the rest of Scripture. It would take an effort to explain the NIV 2011’s translation practices in that section of Scripture, particularly if we disagreed with gender neutrality.

And if the impetus for a study Bible comes from the need to explain and correct the problems we see in the NIV 2011, one wonders if it is wise to choose that translation in the first place.

If the NIV 2011 is accepted, could we also endorse an alternate, secondary translation—something gender specific and perhaps more literal? Would that be a wise compromise? Authors submitting books to NPH could choose to use the alternate translation if they chose not to use the NIV. Or would that also cast suspicion on the NIV 2011?

A stable translation

The synod needs a stable translation. I question how stable the NIV 2011 is. The objection to this concern is that we don’t know how stable any translation will be. There is some truth to that. But have we researched the long-term translation philosophies and publishing plans for other translations?

We do have a track record for Biblica and Zondervan. Previous translations, the NIVI and the TNIV were published without taking the NIV 1984 out of production. Both faced criticism from the Evangelical world, largely because of their gender-neutral language. Both were withdrawn from publication.

The NIV 2011 is a scaled-back version of the TNIV in regard to gender neutral language. Immediately upon release of the NIV 2011, Zondervan ceased publication of the NIV 1984. It does not take a lot of business sense to figure out why. A failed translation means a big loss of revenue. The only way Zondervan could keep this from happening again was for them (1) to argue that the NIV 2011 was simply a normal maintenance upgrade, call it the “NIV” without any additional letters, and simply put it in bookstores as a replacement for the NIV 1984; and (2) consistent with this, take the 1984 version out of print. Obviously, this would force people to buy the 2011 version.

The speed at which this was done is frightening. Denominations and publishing houses were caught off guard. September 2009, when the new translation was announced, to March 2011, when the NIV 1984 was no longer in print, was too short a time for our denomination and publishing company to retool. And the fact that the NIV 2011 was not available for review until November 2010 made it even more frustrating.

Congregations in the WELS are now experiencing the repercussions. Members are buying new NIV Bibles without realizing they are buying the new version. Some want to buy a new Bible for themselves or as a gift but realize the WELS is still deciding on whether or not to adopt the new version or not. Synod officials are being forced to make decisions they cannot make in a few month’s time and are feeling the pressure. NPH is being forced to hold off publishing a large amount of curriculum material until the dust settles. And Zondervan is still unclear about how long it will give NPH permission to use the 1984 version.

How can it be said that Zondervan is acting for the good of God’s kingdom? They certainly have the right to publish a new version if they wish. But Zondervan should not force denominations to use their new translation, which is essentially what they are doing. At the least, they should have kept the 1984 version in production for four or five years to give churches time to decide if they wanted to use the new version. That would have been simple Christian courtesy and fairness.

Biblica and Zondervan seem to be hiding behind the idea that the NIV 2011 is merely a normal maintenance upgrade to the 1984 version—no big deal. But the number of changes and the change to gender neutral-language make it a very big deal. If it were a maintenance upgrade, publishers could simply continue their publishing plans using the 1984 version and updateing the passages that were changed. And churches could simply keep their present pew Bibles knowing that members might find a few differences when they followed along with the readings. But the number of changes to NIV makes this impossible.

In spite of all this, the display material Zondervan supplies to Christian book stores gives the buyer no clue that this is a new translation. It is simply advertised as the NIV.

Some denominations, most notably the Southern Baptist Convention and the LCMS, don’t agree that this is a maintenance upgrade. They have either rejected the new translation and/or chosen not to use it. It is not fair to simply dismiss their actions by saying they want to promote their own translation (in the case of the SBC) or that they simply prefer another translation (in the case of the LCMS). It is more fair—and accurate—to say that these denominations saw the direction Biblica and Zondervan were going in their translation philosophy and chose to jump ship. The SBC created their own translation (as some in our synod are now recommending that we do). The LCMS adopted another translation (which others in our synod are now recommending).

When we consider the stability of the NIV 2011, we should consider the following: The NIV 2011 is a rework of the TNIV, which failed largely because of its gender-neutral language. Biblica was committed to the kind of changes found in the TNIV (otherwise they would not have produced that translation in the first place). It would not be unfair to say that at least some on Biblica’s translating committee would like to make a future NIV more in line with the TNIV. Zondervan has no compunctions about calling the NIV 2011 a simple maintenance upgrade and treating it as such. If the rather radical jump from gender-specific to gender-neutral language can be treated as a normal upgrade, would an advance on gender neutrality be treated any differently?

True, we don’t know the future of any translation. But Biblica’s and Zondervan’s track records give us some pretty solid data about how they handle things. Do we want to continue our relationship with them? I think we should think long and hard about that.

In saying this, I am not taking the obstructionist position but am concerned about what will be the most beneficial for our synod in the long run. My main concern, however, is not about what is easiest, but what is best for the spiritual lives of our people and the hermeneutical challenges we will face.

Making a decision to adopt a new translation now would be difficult, but it will be even more difficult down the road with the next NIV translation (if Biblica advances gender neutrality) after our pastors and people have accepted that way of translating.

Develop a way to deal with an issue in interpretation and not in translation

We should develop a clear philosophy of how far translations can go in interpretation and how much must be left to the teacher. This is an important topic, especially for those translating the Bible into a language or dialect for the first time. We might agree that in that context and as an aid to new Christians the translator could be more free to settle on a translation that reflects one specific interpretation of the text.

But it can also be argued that such a translation is not the best for a church body such as the WELS. After all, many paraphrases are available to those who want to read the Bible quickly without having to do a lot of on-the-fly interpretation. We do need a translation that is adequate for reading from the lectern, but we especially need a translation that can serve our people in their study and growth in God’s Word—a Bible that gets them closer to the Hebrew or Greek idiom without sacrificing the English.

This past Sunday the pastor was preaching about Solomon. Without disparaging the NIV, he pointed out the difference between the NIV’s translation of Solomon’s answer to God’s request and how it is stated in the original. In the NIV Solomon said, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties” (1 Kings 3:7). The KJV reflects the original in its translation: “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.” I appreciated his pointing that out. With a couple words of introduction, it conjured up a fine picture that even a little child can understand.

How far you go in either direction is a judgment call. But the topic is worth discussing. It is worth bringing it to the attention of our laypeople as they think about reading this or that translation.

An emotive issue?

It may be necessary to issue this warning. But in my opinion, making too much of it is counterproductive. It assumes that many pastors and laypeople are loading their rifles and circling the wagons. I think our pastors and members realize that we have been put into a difficult position. Zondervan has forced denominations either to make a quick decision or to make a slower decision with all the havoc that it creates. People realize this or are willing to have it explained to them. Emotions are aroused if the issues are not addressed. The answer to dealing with hot tempers is not only warning people against them, but for leaders to explain the issues in a logical way so that people can understand them.

I think our people would rather have us make a careful and reasoned decision no matter how long it takes. After all, this is the Bible their publishing house will be asked to use in its publications and the one they will likely be using every day of their lives.

This whole process can be a very positive thing for our synod!

The entire Evangelical world is awash in loose principles of translating and horribly wrong interpretations fueled by the culture-shift argument. Our people are often influenced by this. Lessons learned in wrestling with the NIV 2011 translation issue will help our people grow in their understanding of Bible translation and interpretation.

Robert Koester
September 1, 2011

Meet the “Reality Hits You Hard, Dude” Guy

September 17th, 2011 1 comment
Categories: Humor


September 17th, 2011 3 comments

Simply sensational, indeed. If you have ever held an M1 Garand you’ll doubly appreciate the close order drill on display here with it.

You won’t believe what happens at 2:49 or so into the video.

Of course, these guys ain’t too shabby either. NOTE: Don’t try this at home, kids.



Categories: Uncategorized

Reality Hits You Hard, Bro

September 17th, 2011 1 comment

This guy is a natural story teller, he is being interviewed by a local reporter in Arizona after being involved in a vehicle accident, trapped in his car by a downed power poll. HT: MZHemingway.

Categories: Humor

Now This is the Kind of Sermon We All Need to Hear More Of

September 16th, 2011 Comments off

This is a superb sermon by the president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, delivered at the opening service of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, in which they installed a new president, Dr. Larry Rast. I wonder if President Harrison could not be imposed upon to preach at all significant events on the campuses of our two seminaries: call services, graduations and opening services.

Categories: Uncategorized

Translation of Hymn by Philip Melanchthon

September 16th, 2011 1 comment

Another interesting hymn translation from Matthew Carver.

Here is my translation of Dicimus grates tibi summe rerum Conditor (P. Melanchthon, 1539) from the Latin rather than from the German paraphrase by Paul Eber (†1569; translations of that have been made by Seiss and Cronenwett). This one preserves the meter. I provide the melody from Lossius Psalmodia (1579):

THANKS UNTO THEE, O highest Lord, Creator,
We for Thy faithful ministers now render,
Whose host Thine hand as flames of fire created,
Holy and blameless.

2. Of Thine own light they shine with radiant glory,
Ever Thy face with raptured gaze beholding,
From Thee Thy words and heav’nly wisdom drawing,
Filled by their Fountain.

3. Thou dost not suffer this Thy holy people
Idly to throng, nor futilely to flutter
Round the vast realms of ether, nor unheeding
Through winds to frolic.

4. Them hast Thou bidden to be Christ’s attendants,
And to defend the gath’ring of the godly,
Duly revering all Thy holy statutes,
Tending their teaching.

5. For hotly burning with ungodly hatred,
Against Thy camp, the dragon, ever furious,
Wages his war, by whom both sin and dying
This world first entered.

6. Here seeks he naught but ruin and destruction
Of house and city, church and congregation,
And every thought of Law and fitting conduct:—
Fain would he raze them.

7. Yet o’er us watch the heav’nly troops of angels
Following Christ, their Captain and Commander,
Curbing the cruel weapons of the dragon,
Where’er he rages.

8. Angels saved Lot from Sodom’s devastation,
Harbored Elisha from the hostile armies;
Ringed round by angels, he beheld unfearing
Banners of battle.

9. Safe mid the circling lions stood the prophet
Daniel, surrounded by a hedge of angels;
Thus doth God ever by His faithful servants
Keep us all covered.

10. Of Thy protection we would now be mindful,
As unto Thee our choirs, their voices blending
With choirs angelic, thankful anthems render,
O kind Creator.

11. Set these Thy watchmen o’er Thy temple ever,
And o’er Thy people, which esteems as sacred
The Word of Christ, Thy Son; this we beseech Thee
With all devotion.

Translation © Matthew Carver, 2011.


1. Dicimus grates tibi, summe rerum
Conditor, gnato tua quod ministros
Flammeos finxit manus angelorum
Agmina pura.

2. Qui tuae lucis radiis vibrantes
Te vident laetis oculis, tuasque
Hauriunt voces, sapientiaeque
Fonte fruuntur.

3. Hos nec [non] ignavum sinis [finis] esse vulgus,
Nec per ingentes volitare frustra
Aetheris tractus, temere nec inter
Ludere ventos.

4. Sed jubes Christo comites adesse
Et pios caetus hominum tueri,
Qui tuas leges venerantur, atque
Discere curant.

5. Impiis ardens odiis et ira
Nam tuis castris draco semper infert
Bella, qui primis scelus atque mortem
Intulit orbi.

6. Hic domos, urbes, tua templa, gentes
Et tuae legis monumenta tota
Et bonos mores abolere tentat
Funditus omnes.

7. Interim sed nos regit angelorum,
Quae ducem Christum sequitur, caterva,
Atque grassantis reprimit cruenta
Arma draconis.

8. Angeli Lothon Sodomae tuentur,
Inter infestos Elisaeus [C…] hostes,
Angelis cinctus, nihil extimescit
Bellica signa.

9. Tutus est inter medios leones,
Angelis s(a)eptus Daniel propheta:
Sic tegit semper Deus his ministris
Omnia nostra.

10. Hoc tuum munus celebramus una,
Et tibi noster chorus angelique
Gratias dicunt simul accinentes,
Conditor alme.

11. Et tuo templo vigiles ut addas
Angelos semper, populoque, Gnati
Qui tui verbum colit, obsecramus
Pectore toto.

Categories: Lutheran Hymns

Deaconess Pam Nielsen’s Installation

September 16th, 2011 4 comments

I had the privilege yesterday of preaching for the installation of Deaconess Pamela Nielsen’s installation as managing editor for Witness, Mercy, Life Together at the International Center. What a joy to sing Matins and one of my most favorite hymns of all time: the Te Deum Laudamus. Here’s a great blog post on the occasion with more photos. Adriane Dorr uses a special camera with a lens that takes pictures sideways. It’s kind of cool.

Categories: Uncategorized

Eleven ELCA Theologians Endorse Forthcoming Book by CPH on the Law

September 15th, 2011 3 comments

It is interesting to note that, in addition to the many LCMS theologians endorsing Rev. Engelbrecht’s forthcoming new book, Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Life, we have received words of encouragment and endorsement from eleven ELCA theologians. Here is what Ed shared on his blog today:

I am excited that theologians in the ELCA welcome my latest book and I am hopeful that it will stir further discussion on the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. The book, I believe, illustrates what an important role historical theology has in guiding the exegetical, dogmatic, and practical disciplines of theology. Sound historical theology is one of the greatest tests for the reliability of doctrine and practice since assumptions and “rules of thumb” can easily spin out of control and lead to unfaithfulness. The book gives a concrete example of how this happens and offers a basis for re-evaluating what we believe, teach, and confess.

In Christ,

Praise for Friends of the Law:

In this tour de force Engelbrecht leaves no stone unturned as he shows that Luther maintained a third use of the law, even if he did not always use that specific phrase. For Luther, the law not only provides order and accuses sinners but also instructs us in Christian life and witness. Those familiar with the literature on antinomianism will discover new material here, while first-timers entering the debate on the role of law will find an accessible overview of the discussion. Advancing on previous studies, this book situates Luther’s thinking within previous apostolic and medieval traditions. Engelbrecht offers a fine scholarly contribution with significant ramifications for pastoral ministry.

—Mark Mattes, Ph.D.
Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Grand View University, Des Moines, IA

The book is excellent. First, there is the attention that Engelbrecht gives to the history of the problem. I dare any contemporary interested in the issue of the third use of the law to come up with a better genealogy in the record of Western theology going back to the early church. Second, the references to Luther regarding third use are so many and so concentrated, I don’t see how anyone who cares about Luther could continue to claim that Luther taught only two uses of the law. Third, the book is timely. The unmistakable tendency in mainline Protestantism today is to equate the gospel with subjective freedom and personal desire. Engelbrecht forces the reader to face the fact that this destructive tendency has been aided and abetted, however unintentionally, by a modernist confessional theology that dismisses the law as oppressive.

—Walter Sundberg, Ph.D.
Professor of Church History
Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Swimming against the mainstream of contemporary Luther scholarship, Engelbrecht presents a plausible interpretation of an aspect of Luther’s thought that does not receive the attention it deserves. His identification of medieval sources that had an impact on Luther is a particular strength of the book. Thoroughly researched and written in a style that will make it accessible to a wide range of readers, Friends of the Law will be of interest to Luther scholars, parish pastors, and parishioners. The book will be an excellent addition to church libraries, as well as to seminary and university libraries.

—Daniel E. Lee, Ph.D.
Professor of Ethics
Director, Augustana Center for the Study of Ethics
Augustana College

Friends of the Law is a clearly written, thorough, and comprehensive treatment of the functions of the Law in Christian history and theology. Engelbrecht’s systematic examination of the uses and usefulness of God’s Law is a tremendous resource for those who would understand this essential aspect of Christian theology, and especially its role in the Lutheran Church. A corrective to often unbalanced understandings of Law and Gospel, Engelbrecht has done a great service to the Church with the publication of this book.

—Jeffrey K. Mann, Ph.D.
Department Head, Philosophy and Religion
Associate Professor of Religion
Susquehanna University
Author, Shall We Sin? Responding to the Antinomian
Question in Lutheran Theology

This book is an important contribution to the longstanding debate about whether Luther taught a third use of the Law. It can serve as an accessible introduction to the topic for those who are not deeply familiar with prior argumentation, but also presents a sophisticated rebuttal to the interpretation that has dominated scholarship for the past sixty years. Engelbrecht draws attention to the fact that Luther was not the first theologian to discuss various functions of the law. In addition to offering extensive background about the development of thought about this issue, he backs up his analysis of Luther’s perspective with a rich array of quotes from the reformer’s writings.

—Eric Lund, Ph.D.
Professor of Religion
St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN
Editor of Documents from the History
of Lutheranism, 1517–1750

Engelbrecht has presented us with a comprehensive and compelling challenge to the conventional wisdom that Luther employed no Third Use of the Law in his construal of the Christian life.

—Robert Benne, Ph.D.
Author, Ordinary Saints: An Introduction to the Christian Life
Director, Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society

All interpreters of Luther agree that in the Reformer’s eye, the law has two uses. All further agree that the law restrains sinners and exposes sin. But has it only two functions? Can it only bring death? Might it not have a third use—the purpose of instruction for life? In this far-reaching, compendious text, Edward Engelbrecht—in great detail and in grand scope—offers a persuasive case for finding truth in the “at least three uses” camp. Students, pastors and scholars alike will find reliable guidance and provocative suggestion in these pages.

—Rev. Derek R. Nelson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Religion
Co-Director of Thiel Global Institute
Thiel College, Greenville, PA

EngelbrechtFriends of the Law introduces us to a Luther whose nuanced understanding of the moral life surpasses many a Lutheran. This book will be a thorn in the flesh of all who insist Luther had no use for a “third use of the law.”

—H. David Baer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy
Department Chair
Texas Lutheran University

With aplomb that is brazen yet respectful, Pastor Engelbrecht takes on the establishment of contemporary Luther interpreters in arguing for Luther’s sustained affirmation of three uses of the law. Even those who might disagree with some of his claims will learn from his wide-reaching consideration of the use of law in the long history of Christian theology and in the lives of Christians today.

—Rev. Curtis L. Thompson, Ph.D.
Professor of Religion
Thiel College, Greenville, PA
A member of the clergy of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The mid 20th century consensus that Luther—and thus Lutheran theology—has no third use of the law has been seriously and carefully challenged! This monograph should create earthquakes in historical theology circles. Edward Engelbrecht traces the early church’s problematic use of “new law,” as well as the medieval church’s introduction of “third use” language. Engelbrecht has set forth clear third use affirmations in Luther’s writings. These are found before, during, and after the antinomian controversies. Luther’s references to “uses” of the law in the life of the Christian are many (though not always with the “third use” term.)

—Ralph W. Quere, Ph.D.
Professor emeritus
History and Theology
Wartburg Theological Seminary
Dubuque, IA

This book provides a well-researched argument for a more nuanced interpretation of Luther’s teaching on the law. Even those who disagree with its conclusions will benefit from its comprehensive case for why the law is not only an accusing force but also the means the Holy Spirit uses to enable us as forgiven sinners to praise God and to live righteous lives in joyous service to others.

—Lois Malcolm, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Review Editor, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics
Luther Seminary

Categories: CPH Resources