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Are Lutherans Like Catholics? Yes, and No. Read this interview.

June 29th, 2012 1 comment

Painting of a Lutheran Divine Service in the Netherlands in the 16th Century

 

Concordia Publishing House recently published the translation of an excellent book that documents how much of traditional church practice was retained during the Lutheran Reformation. Lutherans, unlike Calvinists, did not set out to tear down and destroy historic church practices. Calvinist churches in Geneva and elsewhere are infamous for literally ripping down church art and destroying visual symbolism, among other things. Learn more about Faith and Act and purchase a copy.

Here is an interview with the translation of Faith and Act, Kevin Walker, talking about the book and the issues it raises.

An Interview with Kevin Walker, translator of Ernst Walter Zeeden, Faith and Act

Did the Reformation completely reject medieval Catholicism? How did Lutheran teaching express itself in the life of the congregation? In 1959, Ernst Walter Zeeden coined the phrase Konfessionsbildung (confession-building) to describe the process of change at the time of the Reformation. His research revealed that Catholic faith and practice was not rejected immediately nor completely by the reformers. Instead, as translator Kevin Walker states in his translator’s preface: “The Reformation did not happen overnight—neither with the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, nor with the presentation of the Augsburg Confession.” In the classic study Faith and Act, Zeeden explores how faith influenced the act of worship and the liturgical and devotional practice of the Reformation church.

The following interview with Kevin Walker introduces Zeeden, his book Faith and Act, and provides some additional insight into the work of a translator.

CPH: Who was Ernst Walter Zeeden?
Walker: Dr. Zeeden (1916–2011), who converted from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism (though his wife and children did not), was a renowned historian with a distinguished career at Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen. He not only authored numerous books and articles, but also lectured and served as thesis adviser for seventy doctoral students. Along with Josef Engel and Heiko Oberman, he helped found and lead the university’s first liberal arts Collaborative Research Center, “Late Middle Ages and Reformation” (SFB 8). His investigations into how confessions arose and impacted culture in Germany during the “Age of Religious Wars” opened a new field of research and paved the way for further studies of confessional formation and confessionalization.

CPH: Why is Faith and Act an important book for those interested in the Reformation and post-Reformation eras?
Walker: Within the history of historical research for these eras, this book was groundbreaking in its approach to presenting information from primary sources concerning the faith and structure of the early Lutheran Church and how these looked in practice, both in church and in society. The author provides evidence for understanding the Reformation as a process in which certain Catholic traditions remained, sometimes quite contrary to what we may expect.

CPH: What does Faith and Act have to say to those who are involved in current discussions concerning liturgy? Church organization? The Office of the Ministry? Separation of church and state?
Walker: In general, simply being acquainted with the past is valuable for understanding who we are and where we’ve come from. In particular, Faith and Act intimates reasons for the development of set liturgical forms and why some practices were retained or abandoned, sometimes precisely because of government mandate or interaction with people of a different confession. It speaks of the greater and lesser ban (or excommunication) within the civil and ecclesiastical realms. It shows the Lutheran Church untouched by congregationalism and having a hierarchical structure in which even a secular prince sometimes had a place. Other cases of church not being separate from state are indicated. Also included are ramifications of poorly educated clergy and clergy forced to work on the side. All of this can inform how we deal with conditions that exist now or may arise.

CPH: As you worked on this translation, what new insights did you gain? What did you take away from the project personally?
Walker: My childhood impression of the Reformation happening overnight has long since been shattered, but working on this book reinforced my understanding of the Reformation as a long and complex process involving not merely the protest against doctrinal errors and abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, but also the intricate relations between church and state, clergy and laity, tradition and society, confessed faith and lived faith. My interaction with Dr. Zeeden’s text and sources as well as additional research and corresponding with his colleague Dr. Schindling instilled in me a great appreciation for the work and legacy of Dr. Zeeden.

CPH: What was the most difficult thing about translating this particular book?
Walker: When I began, translating sixteenth-century German was still fairly new to me, and I didn’t have Sehling and other sources at my disposal, which sometimes made it difficult to translate excerpts from church orders, especially when written in Low German. Clarification came later when I was able to read the excerpts in their original context. In general, when dealing with Early New High German, I came to rely heavily on the Grimm brothers’ Deutsches Wörterbuch.

CPH: You have worked on translations for the extension of the American edition of Luther’s Works. How did the work on Zeeden’s book inform your work on Luther and vice versa?
My translating of Luther began after my initial translation of Zeeden’s book, so that work and becoming more familiar with the church orders was very beneficial for translating Luther, not merely from a linguistic standpoint but also in terms of content. When I revised my initial translation of Zeeden, I had already gained several years of experience translating Luther, so that in turn helped enhance the accuracy of the final translation.

CPH: What projects are in your immediate future? If you could translate or write anything, what would it be and why?
Walker: Currently I am in the midst of translating the biography of Martin Luther by Johannes Mathesius, which is a series of seventeen sermons preached from 1562–64. One thing I would really like to translate into English is the Apology or Defense of the Book of Concord, first written in German in 1582 and translated into Latin soon thereafter. As a response to criticisms of the Book of Concord, this largely unknown work deserves more attention from those who adhere to the Book of Concord. It is set in perspective in section 291 of Bente’s Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions, which also include excerpts in sections 253–256.

CPH: Can you tell us anything about your plans to translate Lutheran theological literature into Russian?
Walker: My main goal here is to translate German writings of Luther into Russian. For the next year or two I intend to take some classes devoted to translation from German to Russian. Although I continue learning Russian, I have made a small beginning at translating Luther into Russian. The greatest obstacles are simply finding time for this and a suitable editor with time to work through my translations with me. The few works of Luther already in Russian—plus the time demand for translating from the original and researching—means that there is more work than could be done well in a lifetime, so I will have to be selective. Unfortunately this is only a free-time endeavor without the support of large team of experts and a publishing house. Meanwhile, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation is filling the need for Luther’s Works in Russian by translating from the American Edition.

Learn more about Faith and Act.

What others are saying:
Ernst Walter Zeeden was one of the most important Reformation historians of the twentieth century. Years before scholars began to weigh up the vitality of late-medieval religion or trace the broad outlines of the confessionalization process, Zeeden was shedding light on a religious culture that transcended the traditional late-medieval and early modern divide while thinking of new ways to comprehend the period as a whole, an approach that eventually led to his influential idea of the “formation of confessions.” Faith and Act was one of his earliest and most important works in this vein, 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, PhD, Queen’s University, Belfast

Fun with a Shotgun — Enjoying Second Ammendment Freedom in the USA

June 28th, 2012 Comments off

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LCMS Response to Supreme Court Ruling: Religious Freedom at Risk

June 28th, 2012 Comments off

An important letter….

 ST. LOUIS, June 28, 2012—In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today to largely let stand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, issued the following statement:

“In light of today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we remain opposed to the controversial birth control mandate, which is one of the requirements included in the law.

“The Court’s decision today guarantees that we will continue to bring awareness to the threat to religious liberty represented by the birth control mandate, which requires virtually all health plans, including those of religious organizations, to cover birth control drugs and products that could cause the death of the unborn. We are opposed to the birth control mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life and creates a conflict of conscience for religious employers and insurers, who face steep penalties for non-compliance based upon their religious convictions.

“We will continue to stand with those who have filed suit in the many religious freedom cases pending against the birth control mandate.  Through education and civic advocacy, we will continue to educate the public about the vital necessity of protecting our First Amendment right to act according to the tenets of our faith.  We remain steadfast in our opposition to the birth control mandate and will continue working to ensure our right to refrain from paying for products and services that conflict with our doctrine about the sanctity of all human life.

“And, regardless of the Court’s decision on the health care reform law, we in the LCMS will continue to uphold the sanctity of all human life while we care for the sick and work to restore the health and well-being of people in our communities and around the world.”

About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The 2.3 million-member Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a mission-oriented, Bible-based, confessional Christian denomination headquartered in St. Louis.  Through acts of witness and mercy, the church carries out its mission worldwide to make known the love of Jesus Christ.  Learn more at www.lcms.org.

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We Need Software Testers!!

June 28th, 2012 1 comment

Would you like a chance to experience the latest in church management software or church website building software at no cost to you? Well you can, by becoming a field tester for Concordia Technology Solutions.  We are excited to announce the start of a new field-testing initiative. Field testers play an important role in all of our software releases due to their unique way of evaluating software. Therefore, we enthusiastically invite you to join us in this testing endeavor.

Individuals who choose to participate will have the option to test our upcoming releases of Shepherd’s Staff 2013Church360°, and/or Unite from home or at church. Note: In order to be a field tester for Shepherd’s Staff, users must have a current support contract.

Shepherd’s Staff is a fully integrated church management software currently used by approximately 6,200 churches nationwide. Church offices utilize Shepherd’s Staff on PC-based computers to track membership, attendance, contributions, and finance.

Church 360° is our newest church management software. This easy-to-use web-based program allows users to manage their church’s membership, events, attendance, and offerings from anywhere they have web access.

Unite is a unique web-based solution for a church.  The vision for Unite is to provide three products in one: website development and content management, social networking within a church, and a church-management front end for Church360°.

In return for submitting feedback on a regular basis and completing the testing phase:

  • Shepherd’s Staff testers will receive 6 months of free support.
  • Church360° testers will receive a full year’s use of a Church360° website.
  • Unite testers will receive a full year’s use of a Unite website.

Our programmers have finished coding and we have spent months testing these programs in house. Even with this effort, we still want your aid in testing all of the new functionality and features in a real-world environment. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at support@cts.cph.org for more information.

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Doomed to Repeat History

June 28th, 2012 1 comment

Thanks to Dr. Larry Rast, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, for this “funny because it is so true” moment….posted on his blog. You got to like a theologian who is into: rock guitar, trains, and church history, plus has a sense of humor. No doubt he has learned the truth of what Dr. Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary has quipped, “Being a president of seminary is like being a president of a cemetery, you can walk around telling people things, but nobody listens.”

 

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A Trio of Treasures: New Books from Concordia Publishing House

June 27th, 2012 4 comments

Click on the picture to see the full sized image.

Three great new books from Concordia Publishing House.

A Year in the Old Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the ChurchYear by Jeffrey Pulse. This book will guide you through the major stories of the Old Testament in the course of a year, in a way that is encouraging and manageable. A Year in the Old Testament guides you through reading the major stories of the Old Testament in the course of a year, and does it in a way that is encouraging and manageable. Along the way readers gain an understanding of the message of God’s Word. Each Day Includes

  • Main Psalmody
  • Additional Psalmody
  • Old Testament Reading
  • New Testament Reading
  • Prayer of the Day
  • Brief Meditation

Extras

  • Brief Introduction to the Christian Church Year
  • A Liturgical Calendar – Sundays and Seasons
  • A Sanctoral Calendar – Feast, Festivals and Commemorations with explanations
  • Additional  prayers

A Year in the Old Testament takes the reader from their own experiences of daily life into the Bible. There is no greater source of comfort, hope, help, and counsel than the Word of God itself. Nothing serves the Christian faith more than diligently and daily reading and searching the Holy Scriptures.

Luther’s Works: Prefaces I  The newest volume in the extension of Luther’s Works, offering many previously untranslated prefaces Luther wrote for a wide variety of books. Never before in English, this volume presents Luther’s prefaces from 1520–32 for the writings of both colleagues and opponents. In Luther’s day, the preface was sometimes the most important part of the book. The preface used the most beautiful of language to praise the author, his work, and his arguments—and to decry his opponents. Publishers knew that having Luther’s preface brought instant fame to any book. Some of Luther’s prefaces are short, witty, and incisive; others are as long as treatises, with thorough discussions of important theology. Satirical, earnest, tender, combative—in his prefaces Luther is all these things. Over and over, Luther calls his readers to remember why the Reformation was needed, and not to take it for granted. Reminder:  Become a subscriber and save! Each volume is currently priced at $49.99 each, but as a subscriber you pay only $34.99 plus shipping, a 30% saving. Volumes will release once a year and will be shipped to you automatically. To become a subscriber, view prospectus, view table of contents, or read testimonials visitcph.org/luthersworks.

Lutheranism 101: The Lord’s Supper  Here you stand, wondering what the Lord’s Supper is all about. Well, let us introduce you to the latest addition to the Lutheranism 101 family! LUTHERANISM 101: THE LORD’S SUPPER examines what Scripture and the Confessions have to say about Jesus’ gift of His true body to eat and His true blood to drink. What Lutherans believe and teach about the Lord’s Supper makes us distinct from all other Christians. We believe the Lord’s Supper is a life-giving blessing given by God to the Church. It is a miracle in bread and wine established by the God-man Jesus Christ. Using the same conversational style and design as Lutheranism 101, THE LORD’S SUPPER gives

• An overview of Jesus’ teaching regarding the Lord’s Supper
• A discussion of problems that happen when some either don’t believe what Scripture says about His Supper, or try to say more than Scripture says
• A discussion of how belief in who Jesus is affects what we believe about the Sacrament and what we receive.

 

Commemoration of Cyril of Alexandria

June 27th, 2012 Comments off

Saint Cyril (ca. AD 376-444) became Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt in 412. Throughout his career he defended a number of orthodox doctrines, among them the teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is “rightly called and truly is the Mother of God” — Theotokos, “the God-Bearer” (Formula of Concord, Epitome, VIII, 12). In 431 the Council of Ephesus affirmed this teaching that the Son of Mary is also true God.

The Council was responding to the Nestorian heresy, which distinguished so completely between the divine and human natures of Christ that claims were made that the divine Christ did some things while the human Jesus did others.

Some of the differences are quite subtle; perhaps even Nestorius himself could not have foreseen the full ramifications of his position, including a “resurrection” of only the divine nature. Ephesus condemned the title of “Christ-Bearer” (Christotokos) for the Virgin, since the Nestorians would only claim that Mary bore the Christ, but not God Himself.

Cyril receives almost as many brickbats as he does bouquets, even from orthodox Christians, because he’s also known for being what one person calls “an ill-tempered, quarrelsome, hasty, and violent man.” This seems especially so during his early years as Bishop of Alexandria.

A particularly acute example of his extreme rigity comes from his closing of Novatianist churches, although the Novationists weren’t particularly unorthodox. Their “fault” was as much one of pride as of theology — they descended from those who’d stood firm in the persecutions of earlier years and refused to associate or worship with the heirs of those who recanted the Faith under persecution. Their main theological aberration were insisting upon rebaptism of converts from “lapsed” Christianity and an attitude that was, perhaps, less than Christ-like in dealing with erring brothers.

Cyril also ran the Jews out of town. The reason given was that they were seditious and violent, although we’re left with little evidence. This action likely contributed to an ongoing feud with Orestes, the imperial prefect. These disagreements seemingly spilled over into a quarrel with the prefect’s friend, the neo-platonist scholar Hypatia, who was later murdered by a mob.

Few have directly condemned Cyril for her death but the leaders of the mob certainly claimed the bishop as their leader. In modern times, Carl Sagan, in his book Cosmos, blamed Hypatia’s death (and the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria) on dogmatic Christianity’s desire to root out rational paganism. However, other scholars see the whole feud as an internal Church struggle and no one has yet established a definitive cause (or date) for the final destruction of Alexandria’s library.

At any rate, and despite the considerable rancor that accompanied his early years as bishop, the mature Cyril worked diligently to reconcile the Nestorian and Orthodox parties. His efforts led many of the less virulent Nestorians back to full communion.

The writings of Cyril on the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ reveal him to be one of the most able theologians of his time. Cyril’s Christology influenced subsequent church councils and was a primary source for Lutheran confessional writings. He still speaks clearly to our age, especially as the old Christological heresies are trotted out under new guises.

Collect

Heavenly Father, You used Your servant Cyril to confess the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of Your Son being one person with fully divine and human natures. Grant that we, also, might be constant in Your Word, bold in Your confession, and steadfast in Your worship, to the glory of Your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

HT: Aardvark Alley.

Lutheran Mythbusting: The Theology of the Cross is Gospel and Essential to Luther’s Theology

June 26th, 2012 17 comments

I was listening in the other day to a fascinating discussion among colleagues here and one made an observation that I found quite helpful. It brought to mind the memory of the time I first heard something like this, from no less than Dr. Norman Nagel. Here is what one of my colleagues, Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes said:

Luther’s theology of the cross was discovered by researchers in the 20th century. Why? Because except for a few spots in his early writings, Luther didn’t speak of a “theology of the cross” . . . most notably we see it appearing in Luther’s early work, his discussions of the Heidelberg Disputation and in the still-not-translated Operationes in Psalmos, WA 5:176.32-33 . . Luther didn’t use crux sola est rostra theology [the cross alone is our theology] much, even though of course the cross (or rather, Christ’s work on the cross) is central to his theology. Luther’s use of “theology of the cross” at the time of these early writings was not quite Gospel. Dr. Norman Nagel is reported to have commented more than once that Luther’s theology of the cross in 1518 was still sublutheran because he hadn’t yet gotten salvation extra now [outside of us]. It was more along these lines: God saves us through putting us through suffering just as He put His Son through suffering; if you flee the suffering, you flee the saving work of God’s bulldozer plowing you down. So the cross is our only theology: God saves us by sending us suffering. At least that is how the discussion has been related to me.

I can definitely verify what Dr. Mayes reports. Dr. Nagel helpfully pointed out that “the theology of the cross” drops away from Luther’s writings as he matured.

So, be a bit careful when you hear people waxing rhapsodic about Luther’s alleged “theology of the cross.” As articulated by Luther himself in his earlier writings, the Gospel had not come entirely clear in his thinking.

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Good Review of “Friends of the Law” in Wisconsin Synod Journal

June 25th, 2012 Comments off

The book Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Life has received a very favorable review from Dr. John Brug, of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, in their theological journal. It is good to see these kinds of reviews beginning to appear. Friends of the Law is truly a remarkable tour de force utterly demolishing the mythology that has been floating around since the early part of last century that Martin Luther did not in fact teach a third use of the law, some claiming he didn’t even refer to third use. The author, my colleague here at Concordia Publishing House, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, utterly shatters the myth and provides hard, factual, primary source documentation to refute those claiming otherwise. It is simply a magnificent book and if you have not read it, may I please encourage you to do so? Here are more details about the book, along with a sample you can view.

Charges of forgery, heresy, legalism, and immorality turn on the question of whether Martin Luther taught a third use of the Law for the Christian life. For the past sixty years, well-meaning scholars believed they settled the question—with dire consequences. Friends of the Law sets forth a completely new body of evidence that shows how little Luther’s teaching was understood. This new book looks at the doctrine of the Law and invites a new consensus that could change the way Christians view the Reformation and even their daily walk with God. Contains data tables translations of passages not available in English appendices bibliography on Law and Gospel.

“For more than a century, each generation of scholars has produced a definitive study that redefines our understanding of Luther’s signature teaching on the ‘uses of the law’. Edward Engelbrecht’s impressive new title is the definitive study for our generation. It reflects a masterful command of all of Luther’s writings on point, and of the place of Luther’s teachings on all three uses of the law in the classical and Christian tradition. Crisply written, meticulously documented, and conveniently presented in short chapters, with useful tables and appendices, this is now the go-to book for scholars, students, and pastors alike.”

John Witte, Jr., Emory University Author of Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation

“I’m writing simply to thank you and commend you for your excellent book, ‘Friends of the Law’. I finished reading it this afternoon. It clarified many things for me. I’m looking forward to recommending it to my first-semester class in The Lutheran Confessions, due to get underway at Australian Lutheran College.”

Gregory Lockwood, ThD Emeritus Professor of New Testament Studies Australian Lutheran College

“Engelbrecht forces the reader to face the fact that . . . a modernist confessional theology . . . dismisses the law as oppressive.”

Walter Sundberg, Ph.D. Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

“A corrective to often unbalanced understandings of Law and Gospel.”

Jeffrey K. Mann, Ph.D. Susquehanna University

“Friends of the Law will be of interest to Luther scholars, parish pastors, and parishioners.”

Daniel E. Lee, Ph.D. Augustana College

“Engelbrecht . . . shows that Luther maintained a third use of the law.”

Prof. Mark Mattes, Ph.D. Grand View University

“An important contribution . . . An eminent ecumenical study.”

Franz Posset, Ph.D. Author of The Real Luther

“Demonstrates convincingly that Luther taught the so-called third use of the law.”

Prof. John Brug, Ph.D. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

The Crucifix Finally Finds a Home in The LCMS’ International Center’s Chapel

June 23rd, 2012 6 comments

Great news from Pastor Weedon. Finally, there is a crucifix in the chapel at The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s International Center. Read about it here.

Here is a helpful Q/A to help Lutheran recover their heritage. A crucifix is NOT a “Roman Catholic thing.”

This is a Q/A that used to be on The LCMS’ Frequently Asked Question page. For some reason it was removed. Pastor Weedon, can you do anything about that??

Question:

Is the use of crucifixes a Roman Catholic practice? Doesn’t the empty cross provide a better symbol for Lutherans? How does the LCMS feel about using a crucifix in church? [Note: A crucifix is a cross with a statue of the crucified Christ on it].

Answer:

A common misunderstanding among some some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a “Roman Catholic” practice. The history of Lutheranism demonstrates that the crucifix was a regular and routine feature of Lutheran worship and devotional life during Luther’s lifetime and during the period of Lutheran Orthdoxy. It was also the case among the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. If you were to visit most of the original congregations of the LCMS here in the United States you would find lovely crucifixes adorning their altars, and in addition, beautiful statues on the altar of Christ and the four evangelists, or other such scenes. There is nothing uniquely Roman Catholic about this.  Many Lutherans and Lutheran congregations use crucifixes. Crucifixes are used in the chapels of both of our seminaries.

Lutheranism has always considered the crucifix to be a powerful reminder of the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for us and our salvation, on the cross. A crucifix vividly brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s divinely inspired words, “We preach Christ and Him crucified”  (1 Cor. 1:23).

Interestingly enough, while there is certainly nothing “wrong” with an “empty” cross, the practice of using an “empty cross” on a Lutheran congregation’s altar comes more from non-Lutheran sources. At the time of the Reformation there was conflict between Lutherans and Reformed Christians over the proper place of pictures, images, statues and the like in the church. Lutherans stood with historic Christendom in realizing that such art in the church was not wrong, and was a great aid for helping to focus devotional thoughts on the truths of the Word of God, no greater truth can be found that the death of Jesus Christ our Lord for the world’s salvation.

The “empty cross” is not a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, as some say, for the fact is that the cross would have been empty regardless of whether or not Christ had risen from the grave. The point to be kept clear here is that both an “empty cross” and a crucifix, symbolize the same thing: the death of Christ our Lord for the salvation of the world. Many feel that the crucifix symbolizes this truth more clearly and strikingly. That has been the traditional opinion of historic Lutheranism, until the last fifty years ago, due to the influence we will now mention.

Some Lutherans began to move away from crucifixes during the age of Lutheran Pietism, which rejected much of Lutheran doctrine and consequently many Lutheran worship practices. At the time, Lutheran Pietists, contrary to the clear postion of Luther and the earlier Lutherns, held that symbols such as the crucifix were wrong. This was never the view of historic Lutheranism.  Here in America, Lutherans have always felt a certain pressure to “fit in” with the Reformed Christianity that predominates much of the Protestant church here. Thus, for some Lutherans this meant doing away with things such as crucifixes, and vestments, and other traditional forms of Lutheran worship and piety. It is sad when some Lutherans are made to feel embarrassed about their Lutheranism by members of churches that teach the Word of God in error and who do not share Lutheanism’s clear confession and practice of the full truth of the Word of God.

Lutheranism has always recognized that the use of any symbol (even the empty cross) can become an idolatrous practice, if in any way people are led to believe there is “power in the cross” or that a picture or representation of a cross has some sort of ability, in itself, to bring us into relationship with Christ and His Gospel. Any of God’s good gifts can be turned against Him in this life and become an end in themselves.

Lutherans have never believed that banning or limiting proper artwork in the church is the way to prevent its improper use. Rather, we believe that proper teaching and right use is the best way, and the way that is in keeping with the gift of freedom we have in Christ to use all things to the glory and honor of God. Thus, many Lutherans use and enjoy the crucifix as a meaningful reminder of our Lord’s suffering and death. It might interest you to know that our Synod’s president has a beautiful crucifix adorning the wall of his office, constantly reminding him and visitors to his office of the great love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In short, and this is the most important point of all: there is nothing contrary to God’s Holy Word, or our Lutheran Confessions, about the proper use of the crucifix, just as there is nothing wrong with the proper use of an empty cross, or any other church symbol by which we are reminded of the great things God has done for us. We need to guard against quickly dismissing out of hand practices that we believe are “too Roman Catholic” before we more adequately explore their use and history in our own church.

In Christian freedom, we use either the crucifix or an empty cross and should not judge or condemn one another for using either nor not using either symbol of our Lord’s sacrifice for our sins.

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“An Unalienable, Constitutional Right” — Read This Very Important Letter on Religious Freedom and Pass it Along

June 22nd, 2012 2 comments

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life.

In response to the incursion of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious freedom with its controversial contraceptive mandate issued earlier this year, we are compelled to offer “Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice,” an open letter to our members and, indeed, all Americans.

Twenty-four leaders of religious organizations across the country have joined with us in signing the letter. Together, these signatories represent more than 10 million American men, women and children. They represent religious organizations that stand with us in opposition to the contraceptive mandate on the grounds that it is an infringement of our God-given right to act according to the tenets of our faith.

We are preparing to issue this letter even as we await a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a historic piece of legislation meant to extend health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. The HHS contraceptive mandate represents one of the reforms included in the law. The ramifications of the anticipated ruling are, of course, as yet unknown.

That said, our action in authoring this letter is not a statement on the global design of PPACA. As Christians living out our calling to serve our brothers and sisters with the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, we support and engage in wide-ranging efforts to restore health and well-being to the sick and suffering.

Thus, this letter specifically is in response to one effect of the contraceptive mandate—one that would require religious organizations, with only narrowly defined exceptions, to include coverage for contraceptives, including those that could cause the death of unborn babies, in their employee health plans. This is in direct opposition to a core teaching of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod—that only God gives and takes life.

I encourage you to read the letter and to share it widely.

In Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

- – – – – – – – – -

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:
Putting Beliefs into Practice

An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerely yours,

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Gary M. Benedict
President
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
Superior General of the Sisters of Life

Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M.
Director, Department of Religion
Saint Francis Health System

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

U.S. Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches

The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions
Chancellor
Orthodox Church in America

The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All American and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Imam Faizul R. Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of Washington Area

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky
Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations
Orthodox Church in America

The Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Chairman
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore
Province Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. John A. Moldstad
President
Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann
President Concordia Deaconess Conference
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President
NHCLC
Hispanic Evangelical Association

Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann, R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A.
Generalate Secretary
Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan

The Rev. Mark Schroeder
President
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America

Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p.
Communications Director
Little Sisters of the Poor

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
The General Council of the Assemblies of God

Categories: Uncategorized

Why “Dialog” is Futile When it Comes to Truth and Error

June 21st, 2012 Comments off

Great remarks by Dr. Thomas Oden:

Lowercase orthodox believers are not seeking a debating society that would aspire to be a religious version of the United Nations. They do not see organic union as the final objective, especially if that objective is reduce to rhetorical evasion and organizational tinkering. What they want to see is the living confession of Jesus Christ transforming human, personal, and social experience. Wherever they see that, they know instantly from the heart their deep affinity with it. Wherever they don’t hear that, they know inwardly how alien and distant are these temptations.

The seductions of dialogue typically draw believers toward subjective feelings, mutual congratulation, and institutional horse-trading. They thrive on negotiation or arbitration models of interaction. They thereby draw us far away from the truth that is declared in Jesus Christ in whom all believers are called to participate by faith. So it should not be surprising that classic Christian believers tend to regard undisciplined dialogue as a temptation…

Confessing Christians have a long history of experience with the frustration and futility of such undisciplined dialogue not ordered under the written Word. It less often leads to the question of truth than to the question of how we “feel,” and how we can accommodate or negotiate our competing interests. That is different from the question of truth announced in the gospel, which alone engenders the unity of believers.

If the central question of Christian unity for classic Christian believers is the truth of the gospel, then the apostolic testimony made known in Jesus Christ is the first step toward unity. All other dialogue, however altruistic it may appear, is truly a diversion, a pretension of searching for truth, a ruse that substitutes narcissistic talk for integrity. What seems an innocent and generous invitation to dialogue actually amounts to a disposed predetermination to replace the truth question with what we “feel” about our own experience. In this way dialogue becomes an instrument of manipulation already shaped by the wrong premises. Global orthodox believers seek unity in the truth, no unity apart from truth, not unity as a substitute for the truth, but unity in the truth of the revealed Word. (Turning Around the Mainline, 66-67).

 

HT: Justin Taylor.

Categories: Uncategorized

Goodness, Gracious Great Balls of Fire!!

June 21st, 2012 Comments off

And now for something completely different…a screen capture from a video of me shooting the Benelli M4 Semi-Automatic 12 gauge shotgun, using Remington 3″ Magnum 00Buckshot. Click on the image for the full size version. And here’s the video.

 

Categories: Shooting Sports

What is The VERY Best Book for Pastoral Ministry? This One!

June 21st, 2012 5 comments

The Best Book for Pastoral Care

 

Yes, of course…the Bible comes first, and if you are a Lutheran, the Book of Concord comes second. But…aside from those books. Without a moment’s doubt, hesitancy or fear of contradiction, I am simply going to say this: The Pastoral Care Companion is, by far, the finest, most useful, practical, meaningful and powerful book for pastoral ministry available. Don’t believe me? You haven’t used The Pastoral Care Companion.

Let me make this point also very clear. This is a tool that will be useful to any Christian pastor who wants to ground his ministry on the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If those two things are not your priorities for pastoral care, this book is not for you. [If they are not your priority for pastoral ministry, then perhaps you should consider a different occupation!].

Still don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself.

The book is available in print form, and in Amazon Kindle format and in ePub format, as an awesome smartphone App for iPhone/iPad and for AndroidPlease, do yourself a huge favor, and what is more, please do those to whom you are called to minister a real favor and bless them with the use of this book as your “everyday carry” companion. The Pastoral Care Companion…don’t leave home without it.

Here a PDF file you can look at to get a taste of what’s in store for you in the Pastoral Care Companion.

This expansive resource provides the pastor with a wealth of materials in his work of caring for souls in times of sickness and distress.

Includes resources for more than 60 topics, divided under eight categories:
• at the time of birth
• ministering to the sick
• at the time of death
• times of spiritual distress
• home and family
• vocation
• times of celebration
• miscellaneous situations.

For each topic, resources include: brief theological commentary to guide the pastor, psalm verses, Bible readings, additional psalm and reading suggestions, prayers, hymn stanzas, and other hymn suggestions.

 

PastoralCare App for iOS and Android

Categories: CPH Resources

Concordia Publishing House E-Book and Digital Book Update

June 19th, 2012 9 comments

I thought I’d give you an update on some new items available as e-books and discuss CPH’s position on e-books. As we all know, E-Book use and sales are rising rapidly, every year. From one year to the next, more people are buying and using e-book readers. At the present time, it is our position that the Amazon Kindle family of readers and applications across a wide range of devices remains the best option for the majority of our customers. And that is why we continue to focus on the Kindle platform. We are however continuing to make our e-books available as e-Pub files for folks who prefer to use that format. We are also exploring moving into the Nook format as well. More on that later.

What’s new in E-books from Concordia Publishing House?

Well, first of all, by way of reminder, we have a new arrangement with LOGOS software, which is the world’s largest, and in my opinion, the best dedicated proprietary software platform for using a huge range of books and resources, all indexed and cross-linked to one another via the Libronix search technology. Simply put, we no longer sell any LOGOS formatted resource directly on a CD-ROM, but now all our resources are available, via instant purchase and download, from LOGOS.COM. Here is our Concordia page on their site. The most recent volume to go live in this new arrangement is Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. In the next several months you will be seeing more resources go live on the LOGOS site, including the more recent volumes of Luther, Gerhard and the Concordia Commentary series. So, please bookmark our LOGOS page and stay tuned.

By way of new e-books available on Amazon, there are several I’d like to draw to your attention:

Bearing the Cross: Devotions on Albrecht Duerer’s Small Passion

Faith and Act: The Survival of Medieval Ceremonies in the Lutheran Reformation

Little Visits with Jesus

The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope

Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C.F.W. Walther

And these are just some of the over 280 titles we have in Kindle format. You can see the complete list by clicking on this link.