Archive for April, 2012

The Survival of Medieval Ceremonies in The Lutheran Reformation – Cover and Sample

April 30th, 2012 2 comments

Look what came across my desk today…the proof copy of the cover for the forthcoming new book: Faith and Act: The Survival of Medieval Ceremonies in the Lutheran Reformation. You can preorder a copy now, by clicking here. Download a PDF sample from the book, by clicking here.



Here is more information on the book:

The Reformation did not happen overnight, not with the singular act of posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, or even the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. Prof. Dr. Zeeden’s classic study of how medieval church practices continued and developed within Lutheran church orders offers readers a unique perspective on how faith influences the act of worship. Historians of liturgy and theology will discover insights and important continuity between the Lutheran churches of the sixteenth century and their forbearers of the late medieval period.

What Others Are Saying

“Faith and Act [is] . . . a mix of exacting research and historiographical vision that may justly be viewed as one of the foundation texts of modern Reformation history.”
—C. Scott Dixon Queen’s University, Belfast

“Historians of liturgy and church discipline will welcome the re-appearance of Zeeden’s classic monograph, gracefully translated and with updated bibliographical references.”
—Ralph Keen University of Illinois at Chicago

“Kevin Walker’s translation of Faith and Act represents a necessary addition to contemporary scholarship on how liturgical practices shaped the lived religion of the Reformation churches . . . and delightfully unsettles easy generalizations about the transition from medieval to early modern Christianity.”
—Phillip Haberkern Boston University

“Liturgical scholars as well as pastors will find this volume to be a useful guide to understanding the evangelical reception and appropriation of the catholic legacy of liturgical forms and practices in light of the immediate background of the medieval church.”
—John T. Pless Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

“One of the most important works of German research from the past half century concerning the history of the Reformation and its ramifications. . . . It is to be highly welcomed that now after half a century this groundbreaking study for research is being translated into English.”
—Anton Schindling Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen

“A gripping read awaits those who attend to Zeeden’s multi-faceted account of the nitty-gritty of classical Lutheran church life in its parish and public setting.”
—John R Stephenson Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario

“What a service Kevin G. Walker has done for the Lutheran Church in English speaking lands by providing this fine translation of Ernst Zeeden’s helpful monograph. . . . I heartily recommend the book to any and all who love the Lutheran liturgy and seek to become better acquainted with its formative development in the time of the great Church Orders.”
—William C. Weedon Director of Worship The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Daily Prayer: For Encourage Pastors and People

April 30th, 2012 Comments off

Merciful Father, by Your Son You always give to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds to guide and feed Your flock. By Your Holy Spirit encourage all pastors that they may faithfully proclaim only Your truth, and grant Your people wisdom that their souls may be restored in the green pastures and quiet waters of Your salvation.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Source: LCMS “Let Us Pray”

Dangerous to the World: Good! Dangerous to the Word: Bad! Or…Getting Luther Only Half-Right

April 30th, 2012 11 comments


I’m passing along this terrific blog post by Mr. Nathan Rinne, an ELCA layman:

On Gene Veith’s blog, I recently came across this great quote from ELCA Lutheran theologian Steven D. Paulson:

`I forgive you’… Luther taught and demonstrated that these simple words give absolute, indubitable certainty, and no one is more dangerous than a person who is certain. The certainty was not based on human self-certainty; it was the opposite of that. It was the certainty of forgiveness because of what the Son of God did by taking the sins of the world upon himself and defeating them at the cross… (p. 7)

Amen to that!  But he then goes on to say:

“…The decisive cosmic battle of God against sin, death, and devil was already waged and won when Christ was raised from the dead to make a new kingdom of people who live with no law, nowhere to go, and nothing to accomplish. They were simply–free.” (7)

Now, I believe that we as God’s children are free indeed – to play and otherwise, but does this strike you as somehow a bit off?  As I have said before,

“Although God’s Law is the only consistent moral framework that exists which enables us to grow in our relationships with God and one another – albeit only when empowered by and freed by the Gospel of grace – have we not come to doubt just this?” and “From what, ultimately, have we been saved? Sin, or the Law of God? We have been freed from the Law, and are no longer under the Law.  But we have not been saved from the Law, for this we uphold and fulfill in Christ (Romans [3:31 and] 8:4).”

Is this just me refusing to embrace the radical Gospel as God has revealed it? (as Paul does in Romans 6:1).  I don’t think so.  In the conversation that resulted from the same blog post mentioned above, I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman who has visited this blog before.

This gentleman said: “God expects nothing of His children. That is the fundamental principle of the Gospel, probably best expressed in what Martin Luther wrote on his deathbed (cart?), ‘This is true, we are beggars all.’”

I responded: “Insofar as we are sinners, we need to be told that God expects us to follow His commandments. No? Not just that we ‘get to’, but that He expects us to, in His words, ‘make duty a pleasure.’”

He said: “… The relationship we have with our Father is not that we need to know what ‘He expects us to do’, but we need to know what His will is…. As soon as we think that ‘God expects something’, we have left the province of the Gospel. But as our Lord taught, even that will be forgiven.” (see the whole context here)

I said: “Not sure I really get the distinction. His will is that He expects love, no?”, and he replied: “No. HE IS LOVE. He expects nothing. Perfect love does not expect anything from anyone; perfect love only serves, as He Who took upon Himself the form of a Servant.”

To which I said: “…because God is love, He expects love from His children. He delights in making them into the kind of people who do love, and know the joy that comes through love. Insofar as we are sinners, we hate this and run from it. Insofar as we are saints, we delight and rejoice in it, for we desire to imitate our loving Father, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who revealed true love to us and made us the recipients of it. What a person needs to hear depends on the attitude we discern they have.”

I took notice when he quoted Luke 6: 35 (“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”) and said “’Expect nothing in return’? That is how God loves.” (see the whole contexthere)

But then I thought a bit and replied:

“The problem with this here is that sinful man’s kind of expectations – i.e. “tit for tat” – are being contrasted with God’s way of doing things. God’s love – and hence His expectations – are more like that of a parent in their most selfless of moments, who desires the best for their child in life. To really love God and neighbor is to live in freedom, and God would have His trusting children to grow in this wonderful love. It should be good news to us that He expects us to grown in His love, loving His will (which He has indeed given us and we are always trying to catch up to, grow into) – the fact that it does not sound like good news to us – even after He has redeemed us – simply once again illustrates the extent to which sin inheres in us. I John 4:17 is a wonderful verse, but it is the ideal that we won’t reach until the other side of heaven.

I can’t imagine a parent not having some expectations – hopes – for their child. To not have expectations of a child does not sound like love to me, but disinterest, lack of concern, lack of love.”

The conversation is not over yet, but I’m not sure how long it can go on…  Augustine encouraged Christians with the radical words, “love God and do what you will.”  Dare we go any further than that?  We know that God ultimately takes the sinner out for the sake of the little ones. And we want to be on the side of the little ones!  We want to keep the faith.

The first part of Paulson’s quote makes us dangerous to the world.  The second part makes us dangerous to the Word.  This kind of conversation has been going on a long time.  Read this. 

Also see my series on antinomianism here.

Categories: Christian Life

Daily Prayer: The Lord is Our Shepherd

April 29th, 2012 Comments off

Merciful Father, by Your Son You always give to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds to guide and feed Your flock. By Your Holy Spirit encourage all pastors that they may faithfully proclaim only Your truth, and grant Your people wisdom that their souls may be restored in the green pastures and quiet waters of Your salvation.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Source: LCMS “Let Us Pray”

Daily Luther: Why the World Hates Christians

April 28th, 2012 Comments off

“The evil foe and the world hate Christians not because they are sinners and stumble and fall occasionally. No, both the devil and the world could well tolerate that and would be well satisfied with them. But the fact that Christians hold to the Word in faith, that they put their hope in the Son of God, comfort themselves with His death and resurrection, fear God and desire to live according to His will, earnestly desire that through their confession others may come to the knowledge of God and faith, this the devil and the world cannot endure. For this reason they constantly torment the Christians; Satan afflicts their bodies with diseases, as St. Paul complains: The messenger of Satan buffets him and impales him, filling his heart and conscience with sadness, melancholy, terror, and the like; or he destroys their property by storms, hail, fire, as was the case with Job …. Therefore mind well, you dare not deny that you are a poor sinner, deserving all punishment; yea, God subjects His children to punishment for their sins, as Peter says: ‘Judgment must begin at the house of God.’ But you should say: Satan and the world do not hate me on account of my sins …. Why, then, do they hate me? It is on account of this Man [Christ], the Sin-bearer, whom I accept and confess as my God and Savior.” (St. L. XIII:434 ff.)

Look What Came Today – Complete “Pages” of The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition with Notes

April 27th, 2012 6 comments

We received today back from the typesetters complete “first pages” of The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition with Notes, and …. wow, it is really amazing. You are going to love what a rich treasure of resources this volume provides, as it restores once more to many Lutherans a part of the Lutheran Bible tradition that went “missing in action” when the Lutheran Church moved over to English. The book will be available later this Fall, but you can already place an order, by going here.

Here’s a picture, which you can supersize to your heart’s content by clicking on it and clicking again on it and clicking on it, again….


Daily Luther: The Mercy of God Urges and Compels us To Do Good Works

April 27th, 2012 Comments off

“The lawmonger compels with threats and punishments; the preacher of grace persuades and incites men by reminding them of the goodness and mercy of God which they have experienced, for he wants no unwilling works or grudging service; he wants men to render a glad and joyous service to the Lord. Whoever will not let himself be moved and drawn by the consoling and lovely words of God’s mercy, granted to and bestowed on us without measure in Christ, so that he gladly and joyfully does all this to the glory of God and the welfare of his neighbor, amounts to nothing and all labor is wasted on him. How can laws and threats soften him to do God’s will, whom such fire of heavenly love and grace does not soften and melt? It is not man’s mercy but God’s compassion that we have received and that St. Paul sets before us to urge and impel us.” (St. L. XII:318 f.)

Daily Prayer: For the Dying and Grieving

April 27th, 2012 Comments off

Gracious Father, since You raised Your Son from the grave, death must release all who trust in Him. Give faith to those near death (including _______) and to their families.  Comfort all who mourn the death of loved ones (including ________).

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Categories: Uncategorized

Root Cause for Much of the Confusion in Lutheran Circles about Sanctification, Good Works, and Preaching

April 27th, 2012 17 comments

I picked up these interesting comments from an ELCA pastor who was, and still is, a very admiring student of the theology of Gehard Forde, whose influence, in my opinion, has gained far to great a toehold in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and it may well be that this attitude explains why we see some Lutheran sermons going out of their way to avoid any kind of parenesis. This of course flies directly in the face of Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and the preaching from all confessionally Lutheran orthodox fathers of our faith, from Luther well into the 19th and 20th centuries. This attitude has spread in Lutheran circles to the point that we often see sermons and teaching that ignores, even goes out of its way, to avoid mentioning anything concrete about the life of holy living to which we are called in Christ.

[Forde's] primary weakness can be illustrated by examining how he concludes his sermon “Justification by Faith Alone.” He proclaims, “There is nothing for me to do but just say it: You are just for Jesus’ sake. And there is nothing for you to do but just listen. Believe it, it is for you! It will really reform your life!”There is nothing for me to do? Really? Can’t we say anything, then, about what this reformed life looks like? Forde is adamant that preaching is not about moral instruction, paraenesis, growth, faith practices, or a description of what this new life accomplished through the word might look like. Most of it would amount to a “third” use of the law, an understanding of the law Forde opposed and thought was actually just a return to the first under a new guise. Forde refuses to preach about the Christian life, change, and progress for, as far as I can tell, three reasons. The first reason is anthropological, and is the most damning, for it virtually silences anyone who would even question Forde’s thinking on the matter. The second reason, this one harmatological, offers a view of humanity that does not include things like progress, growth in virtue, holiness, and the like. This second reason, less accusative in nature, is easier to engage. The third reason concerns imputed or passive righteousness, a doctrine that circles back to reason one, for it is a concept only the New Adam can understand by faith. 

Categories: Christian Life

Oldest Intact Book in Europe

April 26th, 2012 10 comments

The oldest intact book in Europe, a copy of the Gospel of John, from 687 A.D., purchased by the British Library for $14.5 million dollars (!).

British Library buys oldest intact book in Europe

After an unprecedented campaign to raise £9 million ($14.5 million) in 8 months, the British Library has reached its goal and is now the proud owner of the 7th century St. Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest book in Europe that is fully intact from covers to binding to sewing structure to vellum pages. It was the most ambitious and most successful fundraising campaign in the Library’s history, marshaling donations from the likes of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the British Library trusts, the Art Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, major individual donors and members of the public.

Although the former owners, the Society of Jesus, had loaned the book to the Library since 1979, since it wasn’t publicly owned the institution could not spend any money on conservation. It was on display, but with the cover closed to avoid any damage to the pages. Once the money to acquire the Gospel was secured, the British Library brought in leading conservation experts to assess the ancient volume. They found it in unbelievably good condition.

The Gospel has now gone on display in the entrance hall of the Sir John Ritblat Gallery in the British Library building at St. Pancras and for the first time it is open so that visitors can see two of the pages. This exhibit closes on June 17th.

The St. Cuthbert Gospel is a copy of the Gospel of St. John written in Latin around 687 A.D., the year Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, died. The cover and back are made of crimson goatskin leather over birch boards, witha chalice and vine motif embossed on the front. It’s an incredibly rare surviving example of Anglo-Saxon leather work. Inside, the Latin script on the vellum pages is beautifully preserved and extremely clear.

It was written by monks at Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, probably with the specific intention of creating a pocket gospel to place in Cuthbert’s coffin when it was moved behind the altar at Lindisfarne Cathedral in 698. When the coffin was opened, Cuthbert’s body was found to be incorrupt for the first, but not the last, time.

The Vikings invaded Lindisfarne in 875, and the monks fled carrying the coffin and its precious cargo with them. They were on the lam for seven years until they settled in Durham. The saint was kept in a church on the site of the present Durham Cathedral (with occasional interludes elsewhere while escaping later invaders), then in Durham Cathedral as we know it today until Henry VIII’s marauders came to pillage the cathedral during the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541.

The monks hid St. Cuthbert’s body, but the Gospel was taken during this time and passed into private hands. It turned up again in 1769 when a private collector gave it to the English Jesuit College at Liège, later moved to England and renamed Stonyhurst College. The Jesuits kept it in the Stonyhurst Library until they loaned it permanently to the British Library in 1979.

Despite this checkered past, the St. Cuthbert Gospel has been preserved in a virtually incorrupt state of its own. You would never imagine looking at it that it’s 1300 years old. Now that the Library owns it, they are making long-term conservation plans to ensure that it retains its preternatural condition. They’ve also digitized the entire volume and uploaded it to their website.

The British Library is partnering with Durham Cathedral so the Gospel will split its time between London and Durham.

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, said: “It is the best possible news to know that the Cuthbert Gospel has been saved for the nation. For the people of Durham and North East England, this is a most treasured book. Buried with Cuthbert and retrieved from his coffin, it held a place of great honour in Durham Cathedral Priory. The place in the Cathedral where it was kept in the Middle Ages is still the home of our unique manuscript collection.

“I want to pay tribute to the heroic efforts of the British Library in achieving this wonderful outcome. It has been a privilege to be associated with this fundraising campaign. I am pleased that the Friends of Durham Cathedral have supported it with a generous gift, and that one of the fund’s donors has chosen to channel a major gift through the Cathedral.

“As part of the plan agreed between the World Heritage Site and the British Library for its display, we look forward from time to time to welcoming this precious book back to the peninsula where Cuthbert’s remains are honoured. It will be always be loved and cherished here. I am sure Cuthbert shares our delight.”

Categories: Books

Daily Luther: Nothing Can Be More Present Than God

April 26th, 2012 Comments off

“God sends out no bailiffs or angels when He creates and preserves a thing, but all that is the direct work of His divine power. But if He is to create and sustain it, He must Himself be present and must form and sustain His creature, both in its innermost and its outermost parts. Therefore God must be present in every creature in its innermost and its outermost parts, on all sides, through and through, below and above, before and behind. Nothing can be more present and closer to the creature than God Himself with His power.” (St. L. XX:804.)

Categories: Uncategorized

Prayer for the Lonely and Depressed

April 26th, 2012 Comments off

Gracious Father, hear the cries of all who are sick, recuperating, lonely, and depressed (including __________), and use us to bring Your Word of life to encourage them in Christ’s victory.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Categories: Uncategorized

St. Mark the Evangelist: April 25

April 25th, 2012 3 comments

Lectionary Readings for St. Mark’s Day

Isaiah 52:7-10
Eph. 4:7-16
Luke 10:1-9


Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark. Grant that we may firmly believe these glad tidings and daily walk according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Information about Mark

(Greek Markos, Latin Marcus).

It is assumed in this article that the individual referred to in Acts as John Mark (12:12, 25; 15:37), John (xiii, 5, 13), Mark (15:39), is identical with the Mark mentioned by St. Paul (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24) and by St. Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Their identity is not questioned by any ancient writer of note, while it is strongly suggested, on the one hand by the fact that Mark of the Pauline Epistles was the cousin (ho anepsios) of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), to whom Mark of Acts seems to have been bound by some special tie (Acts 15:37, 39); on the other by the probability that the Mark, whom St. Peter calls his son (1 Peter 5:13), is no other than the son of Mary, the Apostle’s old friend in Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). To the Jewish name John was added the Roman pronomen Marcus, and by the latter he was commonly known to the readers of Acts (15:37, ton kaloumenon Markon) and of the Epistles. Mark’s mother was a prominent member of the infant Church at Jerusalem; it was to her house that Peter turned on his release from prison; the house was approached by a porch (pulon), there was a slave girl (paidiske), probably the portress, to open the door, and the house was a meeting-place for the brethren, “many” of whom were praying there the night St. Peter arrived from prison (Acts 12:12-13).

When, on the occasion of the famine of A.D. 45-46, Barnabas and Saul had completed their ministration in Jerusalem, they took Mark with them on their return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). Not long after, when they started on St. Paul’s first Apostolic journey, they had Mark with them as some sort of assistant (hupereten, Acts 13:5); but the vagueness and variety of meaning of the Greek term makes it uncertain in what precise capacity he acted. Neither selected by the Holy Spirit, nor delegated by the Church of Antioch, as were Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2-4), he was probably taken by the Apostles as one who could be of general help. The context of Acts 13:5, suggests that he helped even in preaching the Word. When Paul and Barnabas resolved to push on from Perga into central Asia Minor, Mark, departed from them, if indeed he had not already done so at Paphos, and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). What his reasons were for turning back, we cannot say with certainty; Acts 15:38, seems to suggest that he feared the toil. At any rate, the incident was not forgotten by St. Paul, who refused on account of it to take Mark with him on the second Apostolic journey. This refusal led to the separation of Paul and Barnabas, and the latter, taking Mark with him, sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-40). At this point (A.D. 49-50) we lose sight of Mark in Acts, and we meet him no more in the New Testament, till he appears some ten years afterwards as the fellow-worker of St. Paul, and in the company of St. Peter, at Rome.

Read more…

Daily Luther: How to Make a Blind Man the Judge of Color

April 25th, 2012 Comments off

“If it were proper to employ our human reason in this matter, I venture to say I would be able to speculate and rationalize with more skill than the Jews or the Turks. But I thank my God that He gave me grace to have no desire to dispute concerning this article, whether it be true or consistent; but because I find it well grounded and taught in the Scriptures, I believe God more than my own reason and thoughts, and care nothing for the objection that it is unreasonable to teach the existence of but one essence in which there are three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The question here is not whether this doctrine is true, but whether it is found in the Word of God. If it is found there, then be assured that it is true, for God’s Word is truth. Since the Holy Scriptures have this article of faith, as we have just now seen, and since our fathers so earnestly contended for its preservation and have handed it down to us in its purity, we should not attempt to investigate with our reason how Father, Son, and Holy Ghost can be one God. We poor human beings cannot even comprehend, though we have the help of ever so many wise men of this world, how it happens that we laugh, or can see a high hill many miles away, or how sleep overpowers us so that the body seems dead and is yet alive. If we are thus unable to understand matters pertaining to our own life and daily experiences, why, then, prompted by the devil, should we venture with our own reason to comprehend God in His majesty and divine essence! If we must speculate, let us begin with our own selves and find out what becomes of our eyes, ears, and other senses when we sleep. Speculation in this direction might at least be indulged in without harm.” (St. L. XIII:664 ff.)

Furthermore: “No, God be praised, we [Christians] clearly perceive such doctrine to be beyond the reason of man. No acute Jewish intellects are needed to demonstrate that to us; with full knowledge we consent to such assertion. Upon the strength of our own experience we confess that wherever the light of reason is not supplemented by that of the Holy Spirit, it will be impossible to apprehend, believe, and maintain this article of faith. What a proud, conceited, Jewish thing is reason that it dares to sit in judgment concerning the Deity, though it has never beheld the Divine Being; yes, is unable to behold Him. Reason does not know what it is talking about, for ‘God dwells in an unapproachable light’ (1 Tim. 6:16) and must come to us, though as light concealed in a lantern; and again, ‘no man hath seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him’ (John 1:18); and long ago Moses said: ‘There shall no man see Me and live’ (Ex. 33:20) …. What uncouth louts are we to prize our poor, blind reason more highly than the testimony of Seripture! The Scriptures are God’s testimony concerning Himself; reason can know nothing of Deity itself, and yet it ventures to judge what is beyond its ken. That, surely, means to make a blind man the judge of color.” (St. L. X: 1007, 1018.)

Francis Pieper, vol. 1, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., 402-03 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Stunning Image from Hubbell Telescope

April 25th, 2012 3 comments

The Tarantula nebula is located 170,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the smaller satellite galaxies that hover around our own Milky Way. Inside the nebula is 30 Doradus, which, because of its local proximity to our galaxy, has long been a cosmic laboratory of sorts for astronomers studying how stars are born and evolve.The image covers an area about 650 light-years across that includes so many stars that their mass would add up to millions of our own sun if combined, they added. (One light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion kilometers). Here are more details and photos.

Categories: Uncategorized