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Are You Confused About The Third Use of the Law?

December 18th, 2013 Comments off

Confused

Have you ever been confused about the subject of the “third use of the law”?

Listen in on this conversation about what the Lutheran Church teaches about it:

 

Dr.Luther says: “Therefore it is as necessary that faithful preachers urge good works as that they urge the doctrine of faith. For Satan is enraged by both and bitterly resists them. Nevertheless, faith must be implanted first; for without it one cannot understand what a good work is and what is pleasing to God.” -1535 Galatians lectures, LW 27:53.

Categories: Lutheranism

How to Honor the Saints

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

Lutherans did not throw out the observance of special days and commemorations and festivals in honor of Christian saints, rather, we reformed these observances to get rid of the superstitious false doctrine of Roman Catholicism. In a sermon on Matthew 22:1-14, Martin Luther explains beautifully how we are to honor and thank God for the saints, properly:

“These words beautifully picture to us and teach how we should make use of the life of the saints; namely, to introduce examples by which the doctrine of the Gospel may be confirmed, so that we may the better, by the aid of such examples and lives, meditate upon Christ, and be nourished by and feast upon him as upon fatted-calfs and well fed oxen. This is the reason he calls them fatted-calfs. Take an example: Paul teaches in Rom. 3, 23f. how the bride is full of sin and must be sprinkled by the blood of Christ alone, or she will continue unclean, that is, she must only believe that the blood of Christ was shed for her sins, and there is no other salvation possible. Then he beautifully introduces the example of Abraham and confirms the doctrine of faith by the faith and life of Abraham, and says, 4, 3: “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” That is a true ox, it is properly slain, it nourishes us, so that we become grounded and strengthened in our faith by the example and faith of Abraham. Again, soon after Paul lays before us a fine fatted-calf, when he cites David the Prophet of God and proves from him, that God does not justify us by virtue of our works, but by faith, when he says, Rom. 4, 6-8: “Even as David also pronounces blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckons righteousness apart from works,” saying in Ps. 32, 1-2: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” Behold, that fattens and nourishes in the true sense, when we use the example and doctrine of pious saints to confirm our own doctrine and faith. And this is the true honor that we can give to the saints.”

Source: The Sermons of Martin Luther, Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983), V:227-235.

Happy Reformation Day! Oct. 31, 2008

October 31st, 2013 1 comment

Greetings in Christ, and a blessed and happy Reformation day to all.



Dear Christians One and All Rejoice

by Martin Luther

Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And, with united heart and voice,
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God hath done,
How His right arm the victory won;
Right dearly it hath cost him.

2.  Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay.
Death brooded darkly o’er me.
Sin was my torment night and day.
In sin my mother bore me.
Yea, deep and deeper still I fell.
Life had become a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

3.  My own good works availed me naught,
No merit they attaining.
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left naught but death to be my share.
The pains of hell I suffered.

4.  But God beheld my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation.
And, mindful of His mercies great,
He planned my soul’s salvation.
A father’s heart He turned to me,
Sought my redemption fervently.
He gave His dearest Treasure.

5.  He spoke to His beloved Son:
‘Tis time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free.
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with Thee forever.

6.  This Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother.
And God’s good pleasure to fulfil,
He came to be my Brother.
No garb of pomp or power He wore,
A servant’s form, like mine, He bore,
To lead the devil captive.

7.  To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thess, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be mine.
The foe shall not divide us.

8.  The foe shall shed my precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving.
All this I suffer for thy good
Be steadfast and believing.
Life shall from death the victory win.
My innocence shall bear thy sin;
So art thou blest forever.

9.  Now to My Father I depart,
The Holy Spirit sending
And heavenly wisdom to impart
My help to thee extending.
He shall in trouble comfort thee,
Teach thee to know and follow Me,
And in all truth shall guide thee.

10. What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never.
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy.
This counsel I bequeath thee.

Categories: Lutheranism

What was tragic about the Lutheran Reformation?

October 31st, 2013 26 comments

blog post on the First Things web site some time ago was drawn to my attention by a couple colleagues as we were eating lunch the other day. A perceptive remark was made about it. The article, by a LCMS pastor, is rather typical of what the Roman Catholic journal, First Things, loves to publish: hand-wringing articles by Lutherans over the Reformation.

In the article, the pastor opines that the better color for Reformation Sunday would be a color of mourning, rather than a festive red. He laments the Reformation as a tragedy. He is correct, but for the wrong reason.

Must we lament our sin? Indeed. Must we lament our human pride? Yes! Is the Church always in need of Reformation? Absolutely. Is God, by His Most Holy Word and Sacraments constantly reforming you, me and the whole Christian Church on earth? Amen, Amen, may it ever be so! But, should we lament the fact of the Reformation? No, unless we wish to lament God’s gift of the Gospel, which came breaking through with great clarity once more at this time.

Ironically, though, the author of the article misses the actual tragedy of the Reformation; namely, that it was not wholly successful. The Roman Catholic Church, as such, was formed as a direct result of the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent. And at the Council of Trent the door was slammed shut on the very Gospel itself, the good news that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. What was at least an option before Trent, was pronounced to be a damning error.

This is the tragedy of the Reformation!

 

Categories: Lutheranism

The Reformation is Not About “Different Opinions” but Different Gospels!

October 31st, 2013 1 comment

A great sermon for Reformation Day, by Pastor Larry Peters, preached on October 31, 2010

Not so long ago I had a conversation with a Christian who wondered about those Lutherans, especially their educational programs.  I told him about us and related about Sunday school and Bible study, but he did not seem interested.  Then I talked about catechism class and confirmation and it was catechism class that caught his interest.  He saw it as an indoctrination (negative idea) in which we told kids the answers when we should have been equipping them to think for themselves and choose their own answers to life’s big questions.  I responded that catechism was indeed indoctrination – not to the teachings of men but the embrace of God’s Word and the teaching that alone imparts forgiveness, life and salvation.

This man saw the truth of God’s Word as many truths, taught by many different denominations, and the Christian’s purpose to find the version of truth that fits you.  We all find temptation to see matters of faith as less about truth than about interpretation – as if God’s Word were sufficiently vague to make it impossible to know whose take on that Word is genuine and true.  We all find certain attraction that we get to decide what Scripture says and what is truth.

I am here today to tell you that this is baloney.  The different ways people read God’s Word are not merely variations on a theme but radically different Gospels.  The Reformation of Luther is not about competing interpretations but about the one Gospel which is true and others which are false.  If you read St. Paul’s letters, you hear him warn the people against departing from the truth that He delivered to them.  He was not offering one version of the truth but the only truth that saves — the truth of Jesus Christ. We face exactly the same challenge today.

Christianity is not the domain of differing but equally true ideas about God.  Christianity is not some umbrella religion of many different truths that all claim to be right.  Christianity is about the one, true Gospel that has the power to forgive, save, and give eternal life.  The other gospels are false gospels that are powerless to do anything for you.  Luther’s battle was not with a pope or a council but with a false gospel which had robbed the Church of the Word that does what it says, delivers what it promises, and bestows what it speaks.

Lutheran identity is not rooted in an opinion of a man named Luther but in the rediscovery of this one true Gospel at a time when it had long been hidden and distorted by false teachings that deprived it of its power to do what that Gospel promises to do – to forgive our sins, redeem us from death, and impart to us eternal salvation.  Lutherans do not proclaim a Lutheran Gospel but the one, true, unchanging Gospel that St. Paul insists is the only truth at all.  What is this truth?  The article on which the Church stands or falls is justification – how are we saved.

We are saved by grace as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus and not by our works.  The truth is that much of what you hear on TV and the popular books hawked as Christian today is nothing less than a religion of works.  If you are good enough, you get happiness, health, and wealth today and if you are not, you have to fix what is wrong so that God can give you these things.  This is not the Gospel of the cross, of sin and forgiveness, of death and life.

We are saved through faith – not a faith which is the fruit of our reason or intellect or the warm fuzzy of our feelings but the faith that only the Holy Spirit can plant in us, working through the Word and Sacraments, so that we might grasp hold of the cross and trust in Jesus Christ alone.  This faith is not about your decision but about God’s declaration, not about knowledge or understanding but about trust.

We are saved in Christ – not as one of many messengers whom God has sent whose names may be Moroni or Mohammed but as the one and only Son of God, incarnate by the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, who suffered as the innocent for the guilty, died a death that was ours to die and rose to impart to us the life none of us could accomplish for ourselves.  Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus – not a teacher or mentor or role model but the Savior whom the prophets promised, who kept the commandments for us, and who alone has the power to cloth us in righteousness and holiness.  Without this Jesus, the whole Christian religion falls apart and there is nothing left to hold on to or hope in.

It is not that we Lutherans have an exclusive claim to this truth – we do not.  But apart from this exclusive truth, there are no Christians.  We gladly affirm those who came before us and those who may not bear the name Lutheran but who confess this saving truth.  Yet we also warn that apart from this saving truth, there is no truth that saves, no hope for life over death, and no good but the fleeting pleasure of the moment.
Lutherans confess that this Gospel is the message of Scripture and no other.  It is this message that is confessed from Genesis to Revelation.  It is this Gospel of Jesus Christ, this Gospel of the cross and empty tomb, and this Gospel of forgiveness, life and salvation that is the one message of the Bible.  Scripture cradles the Christ of the manger and cross and empty tomb and without Him its words speak nothing to us.

This is the truth that saves – it is not a consolation for the bad things you have to endure in this life but the hope that sustains you today because by baptism and faith you confess the eternal tomorrow Jesus prepare for you. This is the Word that sets us free from sin, free from fear, and free from the impossible task of being good enough to fix what is wrong with you.

What is the Lutheran difference?  In reality, there is none.  In our confessions, Lutherans hold in trust the one, true, saving Gospel which is the promise for all but which is always under assault.  We are not Lutherans to be different but Lutherans to be faithful to this one saving Gospel.  We celebrate the Reformation history because this Gospel could not be silenced, because of the faithful who confessed before the world the faithful truth that still sets us free.  We call ourselves Lutheran only because of this heritage of faithfulness and we pledge to do nothing less than faithfully raise up this Gospel and this Christ in our own time.
In our Lutheran Confessions is not our interpretation of the Bible but embodied for all the one truth that belongs to all in Christ.  This is the ecumenical truth that alone reforms and unites and saves.  We exist as Lutherans for the sake of this one authentic truth in Jesus Christ, to proclaim it to the world and to live it out within the community of God’s Word and sacraments.  The truth that endures forever!
Robert Capon wrote of this truth in vivid terms in his book From Noon to Three: “The reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two hundred proof grace — of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.  The word of the gospel — after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps — suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight boys: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”

God help us to stand for this truth today with courage and confidence, to drink deeply of his sweet grace, not to dilute it in any way, nor to allow it ever again to be cast aside in favor of something which is powerless to reach into the abyss of our sin and death with forgiveness and life.  This is what the Reformation is about.  Then and now.  Amen.

Categories: Lutheranism

Fifteen Minutes that Changed the World Forever – Reflections on the Reformation

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

I’m asked for a copy of this article every year, and so am happy again to provide it. Please feel free to copy and share it, but I would ask that it not be changed. Thanks.

Fifteen Minutes that Changed the World Forever

By Rev. Paul T. McCain

Several years ago, I attended a conference on the doctrine of justification in Wittenberg, Germany. There were pastors, presidents and bishops from Lutheran churches throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, and various countries in the land of the former Soviet Union. These servants of Christ know what it means to be distinctly Lutheran, often under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances. In many cases, they are walking through fiery trials suffering various forms of persecution for their commitment to Christ and His Word. It was humbling to be with them and discuss the chief article of the faith.

It was also quite a thrill to spend four days in Wittenberg and walk where Luther walked. On the last day of the conference I decided to time how long it would have taken Martin Luther to walk from the door of his Augustinian monastery to the Castle Church to post the ninety-five theses. Another LCMS pastor attending the conference, Bob Zagore, came with me and he counted the steps. Bob counted 2,000 steps. I counted fifteen minutes.

As Luther left his monastery on October 31, 1517, turned left, and walked to the Castle Church on the west side of town, I doubt he had any idea just what he was setting in motion. Four years later, Pope Leo’s representative, Aleander reported, “All of Germany is in an uproar! Ninety-percent of the people are shouting, “Luther!” and the other ten percent—if they don’t care about Luther—at least have “Death to the Roman court!” as their slogan.” (Martin Brecht, Martin Luther The Road to Reformation, Fortress Press: 1:439).

Father Martin was outraged by the Roman system of indulgences and what it was doing to the precious souls he cared for at the city church of St. Mary as confessor and preacher. He was deeply angered when one after another member of his congregation told him about the indulgence that they had walked all day to buy from John Tetzel in the little town of Jütebog, just over the border of Electoral Saxony. They thought they had assurance of grace and comfort, for themselves, or for loved ones who had died. They clung to their indulgence receipt, instead of the crucified Lord. They believed that with their act of penance and contribution to the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome, God would smile on them and make things easier for them after their death.

Luther could not remain silent. And so he spoke, and wrote, and preached, and taught, and debated. He posted his theses and he mailed a copy of them on the same day to the Archbishop of Mainz, protesting the indulgences that were being sold within his diocese. In so doing, Luther set an axe at the root of the Papal tree. Enormous sources of revenue were at stake. Papal and imperial politics were involved beyond what Luther fully realized. Luther said after the controversy was under way:

Read more…

Categories: Lutheranism

Repentance: What is It?

February 19th, 2013 1 comment

repentance

The following is a small section from the “Corpus Doctrinae” (Body of Doctrine) of the Braunschweig-Woelfenbuettel Church Order 1569, largely written by Martin Chemnitz.

“The little word repentance [busse] is used in many places in the scriptures for the first part of conversion, which has otherwise been called contrition, sorrow and sadness, when repentance, faith and the fruits of repentance are distinguished, Mark 1[15]; Acts 20[21] and 26[18]-20]. In certain places it is used for the whole of conversion: Jer. 18[8]; Ezek. 18[21] and 33[11]; Matt. 4[17]; Luke 13[5] and 15[10]. And thus it is used in the common language of the church in both ways, according to the circumstances of the material [under consideration]. The preacher shall not cause any quarrel over words in this matter, rather simply and clearly explain the sense and meaning. So also, when repentance is named and by it is understood the entire conversion of man, it is common to say that repentance has three parts or pieces : first, sorrow and sadness or terrors of conscience on account of sin; second, faith which in the gospel seeks and lays hold of forgiveness of sins out of grace for the sake of Christ; third, the fruits of repentance, that is, the beginning of a new life or new obedience. And the preacher shall cause no unnecessary quarrel regarding such distinction or recounting of the parts of repentance, rather follow the Apology as it speaks of this matter with fine discretion. If new obedience is numbered and reckoned with sorrow and faith in the doctrine of repentance, we would not have any great opposition to this, provided the matter itself is taught with the proper distinctions, namely that godly sorrow, which works a sorrow unto blessedness which no man regrets, II Cor. 7[10], consists of two parts, contritio et fides, contrition and faith; but new obedience does not belong to it. And thus the question is of how and by what means one may obtain the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. When it is taught that sin is first forgiven through faith, then the fruit follow, good works as God commands, and the suffering of the cross, which God lays upon the old Adam, this is a destructive error which is taught in Papacy that people merit grace by their sorrow and regret. The sorrow must rather come first. For the sick need the doctor, not the healthy, Matt 9[12]. But grace, forgiveness of sin and eternal life have been earned by Christ alone and are laid hold of and received through faith alone. Thereafter, on this basis, and from this source, good fruits then follow. Thus the threefold — repentance, faith and new obedience — are to be truthfully explained and taught. For where there is no repentance, there can be no upright faith. And where no good fruits follow, there is a certain indication that neither true repentance nor upright faith are present. But these three must be taught with due distinction regarding which precede, which follow, which are the office and characteristics of each, and especially, which is the means by which forgiveness of sins, earned and attained by Christ, is obtained, laid hold of, and received.”

— Translation by M.C. Harrison and Jacob Corzine; Unpublished.

 

Blessed Martin Chemnitz; From the memorial epitaph in St. Martini Church, Braunschweig, Germany. Photo copyright P.T. McCain.

 

 

Categories: Lutheranism

What About Those Lutherans? Things You May Not Know About Lutherans

January 23rd, 2013 5 comments

 

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NOTE: My friends over at The Gospel Coalition, a good group of Calvinists (no, really, they are-[smile]), asked me write up an article, as a result of some back forth I had with Kevin DeYoung a while back. It has now been posted and I thought you might like to read it. So, here it is:

 

What About Those Lutherans?

The invitation to contribute this article followed a conversation with Kevin DeYoung, who asked the question, “What’s Up with Lutherans?” Kevin invited me to write about things people may misunderstand about Lutheranism.

Disclaimer: As most of you know, not all Lutherans are really Lutherans, just as not all Calvinists are really Calvinists, or all Reformed are really Reformed. Sadly, in our ranks, as in yours, we have people who claim to be such, but have strayed far from the historic confession and faith of their church. I write from the perspective of a Lutheran who regards the historic doctrinal standard of the Lutheran Church, that is, the Book of Concord of 1580, to be a true and correct exposition of God’s Word. When I was ordained a Lutheran pastor nearly 25 years ago I pledged my unqualified acceptance of, agreement with, and commitment to the Book of Concord. If you don’t know much about the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord you can see/read and download them all here.

Puzzled by Lutherans

OK, now what we have that out of the way, let me address a few things that Calvinists, or Reformed, or evangelicals, may find sometimes to be puzzling about Lutherans. I’d like to hear what you would add to the list.

First, Lutheranism is a bit perplexing to outsiders when they notice that we look and sound a lot like Roman Catholics when it comes to our historic worship life and our historic spirituality and traditions. As one person told me years ago when I explained that I was a Lutheran pastor, “Oh, yes, I know about Lutheranism. You guys are just like the Catholics, except you have two sacraments instead of seven, and you can have a wife.” On another occasion an older person visited my congregation in Iowa and attended the Divine Service. Just so happened that Sunday I chanted the entire Lutheran liturgy as we celebrated the Sacrament of the Altar. As she left she said, “Oh, Father, I just loved your Mass, it sounded just like Mass used to be before Vatican II ruined it, only it was in English and you talked a lot about Jesus. I liked that. And your wife is so nice. I wish our Masses were like yours, and I think it would be great if our priests could marry.”

The reality, which Lutherans often have done a good job of keeping secret, is that historic, orthodox Lutheranism does in fact consider itself the rightful heir of everything that was and is good about the catholic [small "c"] church, in its Western expression. The beating heart of the Lutheran confessions is a warm, vibrant, Jesus-centered spirituality in worship, both public and private, that holds high the gospel. We were, after all, the first to be called “evangelicals” in the Reformation era. It’s a shame so many Protestants have swum the Tiber or the Bosporus in look for a richer spiritual, historic, and liturgical Christian faith and life when all the time the spiritual heirs of little Wittenberg in Germany could have offered those very things. Shame on us for not being more aggressive in our efforts to hold the flag high for historic Lutheranism!

Grateful Response

Second, Lutherans do give a hoot about good works and the life of Christian sanctification (that term defined narrowly to refer to the new life in Christ we are given as a gift by God). In spite of what some modern Lutherans may, or may not, say about the third use of the law, we do expect our pastors to exhort in their sermons. This is quite a debate in some circles of Lutherans, mind you, often in reaction to evangelical preaching that seems to “assume” the gospel or regards it as “something that happened to me when I accepted Jesus” Lutherans don’t believe it’s appropriate for sermons to become fairly long harangues about what the Christian should be doing. Putting Christ at the center of our preaching means that in a typical confessional/orthodox Lutheran sermon you are going to hear a lot about Jesus and what he has done for you, as opposed to a sermon to make you feel better about what you are doing for Jesus. Yet we still urge people to do good works and to pursue holiness in grateful response to the forgiveness of sins so richly lavished on them through Christ our Lord.

Third, Lutherans enjoy talking theology with Calvinists, or anyone else for that matter who is willing to stand for something. We often feel a much greater kindred spirit with those who agree on key doctrines and points of the Christian life shaped by fidelity to the Scriptures than we do with our fellow “Lutherans.” All too often those who take the Reformer’s name have ditched our confessions, compromised away virtually every key truth confessed in the Lutheran Confessions, usually with liberal Calvinist or Reformed Christians. They have even bargained away the very gospel itself in a rather breathless pursuit of some kind of acceptance by the Vatican. Ironically, the Vatican is well aware of liberal Lutheran tendencies and much prefers the kind of Lutherans who still believe the historic faith of the church, who believe killing unborn babies is murder, still believe that God created Adam and Eve as man and wife, and so forth and so on.

Fourth, Lutherans can be a cranky and contentious bunch. I lament the fact that some of my fellow Lutherans, in a zeal to guard the truth, give the impression that they would rather go “Amish” on the greater Christian community and shun everyone else. But please don’t mistake our practice of “closed communion” as an example of what I’m decrying. We confessional Lutherans firmly hold to the old principle that church fellowship is altar fellowship. We, along with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, believe that we can celebrate the Lord’s Supper together when there is the “consensus on the doctrine of the gospel and on the administration of the sacraments.” Still, you will just have to put up with us sometimes for coming across as more than a little unconcerned or disinterested in anything any other Christian church has to say. That’s a problem, and we need to get over it. We might even be willing to do things like write an article for a Calvinist website.

We Lutherans, by God’s grace, strive, in the knowledge that we are both saints and sinners, to give all glory to God, who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to save it.

Paul T. McCain serves as publisher at Concordia Publishing House in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his wife. They are the parents of three children. He is the general editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions and blogs at cyberbrethren.com.

©2013 Paul T. McCain. This article may be copied and shared as long as there are no changes made to it.

Categories: Lutheranism

The Three Things We Must Do to Support a Revival of Confessional Lutheranism

January 18th, 2013 8 comments

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If God should once more grant us a revival, and with it a renewal of our church, that rests with God’s omnipotence alone.

That which we are able to do is threefold.

First

First of all, we can make ourselves see the status of our church and of Christendom. We must understand, of course, that the question is not how the legendary eighty million Lutherans of the world, who really do not exist but [who] have been invented by exceedingly superficial and thoughtless statistics, can be merged into a powerful organism. We must know, however, how those can be congregated from the midst of that poor, stricken, and feeble Lutheranism for whom the Lutheran Confession is not a mere pretense, but, as it was for Luther and the signatories of the Confessions, a matter of life and death, of eternal life and eternal death, because it is a matter pertaining to the everlasting truth of the Holy Scriptures, which concerns all peoples and all churches of Christendom. Indeed, we are not called to think and act in an ecumenical fashion, looking upon the Confessions as something relative, reducing them to the lowest level and practically doing away with them. We are, like Luther, to search for the one truth of the one Gospel for the one Church. Let us again become confessional Lutherans for the sake of the unity of the Church.

Second

The second thing that we must do to attain this end, and something we can do without difficulty, is that we again study the Confessions, that we again and again compare them with Holy Scripture, and that we constantly learn to value their interpretation of the Scriptures and their scriptural proofs more profoundly. As the Roman Catholic has the daily duty to read his breviary, a tedious and difficult task, our duty must be, next to the thorough study of the Scriptures, the unflagging study of the Confessions. In this manner let us begin prayerfully to read Luther’s Large Catechism. For Luther, though an old doctor, still was not ashamed to pray the catechism daily. The deepest cause for the failure of the German church struggle is none other than that everyone always spoke about the Confessions, appealed to them, but did not really know them. We need this insight not only for ourselves, our teaching, and our preaching but also very much so for our congregations. At the last large convention of the United Lutheran Church in America, an engineer made the statement (by the way, in agreement with the president of the church, Dr. Fry17) that the church is in need of theologians, that it calls for theologians. The Christian congregation of the present day in all lands and of all creeds is tired of the undogmatic, devotional character of the ethical sermon, which changes its theme every year. It demands in a way which we pastors frequently do not understand at all a substantial dogmatic sermon, a doctrinal sermon in the best sense of the word. If our contemporaries do not find it in the Lutheran Church, then the hunger for doctrine will drive them into other denominations. Therefore lay hold of the Confessions, dear brethren in the ministry, by yourselves and together with others.*

Third

The third thing, however, that we must learn anew is Luther’s invincible faith in the power of the means of grace. Whatever the Church still has and still does should not be minimized. But she does not live from mercy, or from political and social activity. She does not subsist on large numbers. When will the terrible superstition of the Christendom of our day cease that Jesus Christ is powerful only there where two or three million are gathered together in His name? When will we again comprehend that the Church lives by the means of grace of the pure preaching of the Gospel and by the divinely instituted administration of the Sacraments and by nothing else? And for no other reason than because Jesus Christ the Lord is present in His means of grace and builds His Church on earth, being even as powerful as ever before in the history of the Church— even if His power and glory, to speak as our Confessions do, are cruce tectum, hidden under the cross [Ap VII– VIII 18]. Oh, what secret unbelief and what little faith we find in the Church that calls herself the Church of the sola fide! May God in His grace eradicate this unbelief and strengthen this weak faith in our souls and renew us through the great faith of the New Testament and the Reformation. That, and that alone, is the manner of overcoming the urgent need of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the greatest and weightiest crisis of her history.

 — From: Sasse, Herman (2013-01-09). Letters to Lutheran Pastors – Volume 1; Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Number One: “Concerning the Status of the Lutheran Churches in the World Today,” December 1948.  Concordia Pub House. Kindle Edition.

 

* [Do not use the ELCA's edition of the Book of Concord, which undermines the authority of the Book of Concord by substituting texts never used in either the German or Latin editions of the Book of Concord. Further, it contains intentional mistranslations of the original language to accommodate the feminist and gay/lesbian agenda in the ELCA, and that incorrectly identifies the crypto-Calvinists as "crypto-Philippists," not to mention the insidious and pervasive use of a gender neutered translation style which weakens the clear Christological confession in the BOC].

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Categories: CPH Resources, Lutheranism

Spurning Lutheranism in the Land of Luther or Why the EKiD is NOT a Lutheran Church

December 13th, 2012 5 comments

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(This comes from the Missouri Synod’s partner church The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church [SELK] in Germany by The Rt Revd Dr. Jobst Schöne D.D., Bishop Emeritus, translated by Wilhelm Torgerson, shared by Dr. Al Collver on his blog.)

What is motivating the EKD? How an “ecumenical” project came to grief

A commentary by The Rt Revd Dr. Jobst Schöne D.D., Bishop Emeritus of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK)

A new deluxe-edition of the Luther Bible is on the market, published – surprisingly – by the “Bild-Zeitung”, the tabloid newspaper with the largest circulation in Europe. It was presented to the public on 3 December 2012 in the Castle Church in Wittenberg in the presence of prominent representatives of Church and State. Yet, as things turned out, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the SELK, who had been scheduled to address the assembly, was not even invited to attend.

All kinds of monkey games had been going on ahead of the event. The original plans called for this special edition of the German Bible to appear under the joint auspices of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). This cooperation was to be indicated by Forewords written by both the President of the LWF, Bishop Dr. Mounib Younan from Jerusalem (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land), and the Chairman of the ILC, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Bishop of the SELK and member of the Presidium of the Association of Christian Churches in Germany).

Now the Council of the “Evangelical Church in Germany” (EKD, the federation of all Protestant territorial churches in Germany) holds the copyright of the 1984 edition of the text of the Luther Bible. Obviously, the EKD had a hard time granting the permission asked of it. In the end the EKD only gave its go-ahead when the cooperative venture on the part of the LWF and the ILC had been stymied. The Council of the EKD declared it “to be imperative and quite sufficient for the chairman of the Council to write the pre-face.” The Council insisted that pride of place should be given to a new preface by its chairman, President Dr. Nikolaus Schneider of the Union Church (!) of the Rhineland. They insisted also on the removal of the foreword by SELK-Bishop Voigt which had already been submitted. All this despite the fact that the Council of the EKD had not made any contribution to this publishing project; the Council could only insist on its copyright monopoly. On top of this, the introduction I wrote, “On how to get into reading Holy Scripture”, was to be unceremoniously axed. But at this point the Axel Springer Publishing House refused to play along, threatening to stop the entire project if need be.

At the end of the day, the Council of the EKD gave in, at least to some extent. My intro-duction could remain, but only under certain conditions. The head office of the EKD let it be understood that “there is consensus in the EKD that the Old Testament is a book entirely on its own and therefore it cannot and should not be read only and primarily as a witness to Christ…” If the project was to be rescued, a compromise would have to be found, albeit at a heavy price. The EKD would not allow the statement I had made to stand, “that according to the Christian understanding these writings (of the Old Testa-ment) all point to Him who reveals Himself as the Son of God, Jesus Christ….Therefore Christians read and understand the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.” I was informed that “if these sentences were to appear in print, considerable irritation would ensue in our EKD ranks.” Any indication that the New Testament opens up a proper understanding for reading the Bible is something the EKD would “consider most un-usual,” something that could “make absolutely no claim to objectivity.”

We yielded to the EKD’s insistence, simply in order to bring the Bible to people who otherwise would hardly have any access to it. And what could be more important than that?

This new edition of the Bible is now available. But in the process an entirely feasible piece of joint work was thoroughly nixed, and the SELK was cruelly duped. All of this did not display a very “ecumenical” attitude on the part of the EKD, even though President Schneider writes lyrically in his preface that “the Council of the EKD was extraordinarily glad to agree to the request to allow the use of Martin Luther’s translation (1984 revi-sion) in this edition of the Bible.” Who is going to believe him?

Bishop emeritus Dr. Jobst Schöne D.D.
(Berlin, Germany)

Categories: Lutheranism

Thoughts for All Saints Day: We Feebly Struggle, They in Glory Shine

November 2nd, 2012 Comments off

All Saints Day…what a mess of superstition and abuse had arisen around it by the time of the 16th century. The “All Saints’ Foundation” at the Castle Church in Wittenberg were the custodians of the Elector of Saxony’s enormous collection of relics, which were put on public display once a year, on All Saints’ Day. I have a facsimile replica of the book published in Wittenberg, and illustrated by Lucas Cranach, documenting each of the major relics in the collection, with bits of bones and whisps of hair and pieces of arms, or legs, from various and sundry saints, and a number of supposed relics even from our dear Lord and His mother.

As Luther says in the Small Catechism, “Good God, what miserable things I have seen!” The thought was, in those days, that by viewing a relic one would receive some special blessing and benefit, and, of course, an indulgence that would reduce the time a person would have to spend in purgatory, being “purged” of his sins, which because they were not mortal sins, would not keep a person out of heaven, but would certainly delay his entry. The “saints” however were viewed as persons who through their lives of higher sanctity, morality and good works had earned a superabundance of God’s grace and therefore deposited this “extra” grace into a treasury of merits that the less-saintly folk on earth could draw upon by invocation of the saints, by viewing their relics, etc. It truly was a tragic system of distracting and covering up the glory and merit of Christ.

What a liberating thing it is to read therefore what our Lutheran Confessions have to say about the saints. Invoking them, and praying to them, is of course rejected, but…we Lutheran do *not* reject recognizing those particularly notable heros of the Faith. That is why we do retain a sanctoral cycle in the Church Year [though, tragically, one would never know it by observing most congregations' practice!].

Here is what Article XXI of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession has to say about the proper manner in which we honor and remember the saints.

Our Confession approves honoring the saints in three ways. The first is thanksgiving. We should thank God because He has shown examples of mercy, because He wishes to save people, and because He has given teachers and other gifts to the Church. These gifts, since they are the greatest, should be amplified. The saints themselves, who have faithfully used these gifts, should be praised just as Christ praises faithful businessmen (Matthew 25:21, 23). The second service is the strengthening of our faith.When we see Peter’s denial forgiven, we also are encouraged to believe all the more that grace truly superabounds over sin (Romans 5:20). The third honor is the imitation, first of faith, then of the other virtues. Everyone should imitate the saints according to his calling. The adversaries do not require these true honors. They argue only about invocation, which, even if it were not dangerous, still is not necessary.

Source: Apology of the Augsburg Confession Article XXI Paragraphs 4-7. Concordia CPH: 2006, p. 202.

ILC Executive Committee Gathers with Global Confessional Lutheran Leaders

November 1st, 2012 Comments off

Caption L to R: Rev. President Christian Ekong, The Lutheran Church of Nigeria; Rev. President James Cerdenola, The Lutheran Church in the Philippines, Rev. President Gijsbertus van Hattem, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium; Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt; Rev. President Robert Bugbee, Lutheran Church of Canada; Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; Rev. President Jon Ehlers, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.

 

ILC Executive Committee Gathers with Global Confessional Lutheran Leaders

On the 495th anniversary of the Reformation, ILC Executive Committee members joined more than 120 global Lutheran leaders at the groundbreaking International Conference on Confessional Leadership to discuss the Lutheran Church in the 21st century. The conference focused on the themes of Witness (Martyría), Mercy (Diakonía) and Life Together (Koinonía), with keynote presenters on each topic and responses from leaders in Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Europe.

Rev. Dr. Jobst Schoene, bishop emeritus of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, speaking on the topic of Koinonía observed, “We are linked to each other as Lutherans who take their confession seriously. To express our God-given Koinonía, we get to take responsibility for each other. There is still a lot to do: more exchange, for instance, of theological discussion, exchange of teachers, of servants in the ministry. Mutual assistance and help in various fields. The practice of intercommunion and intercelebration where there is doctrinal agreement. And if that’s missing: to work for such agreement. Can we any longer afford to let Koinonía at the altar have a minor ranking among International Lutheran Council (ILC) churches?”

Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, newly appointed ILC executive secretary, commented, “Right now we have a unique opportunity among world Lutherans who are interested in a church that confesses the Scriptures and the Book of Concord.And the ILC is composed of churches that take the Scriptures and the Book of Concord seriously. In light of the things that are going on in the world, the social upheavals and unbiblical teachings, Lutherans around the world are looking for a church that takes these things seriously. The ILC is extremely happy to be at this conference representing 20-plus million Lutherans around the world. It is a tremendous opportunity for the ILC to promote its message.”

“We are using the opportunity to meet as the executive committee of the ILC and have the great pleasure to welcome Rev. Collver, our new executive secretary, while we attend the conference as church leaders from all parts of the ILC,” said Hans Jorg Voigt, SELK bishop and chairman of the ILC.

“Of course, the concerns that bring all these people together … really overlap very strongly with the concerns of the ILC, and that’s to try to create a clear profile not only in our churches, but in the world of a faithful Lutheran witness. We all realize that there is a great openness to this sort of thing. It is a challenging time, and so we are very grateful that we are able to be included in this conference and have time to work on our ILC business as well,” noted Rev. Robert Bugbee, president of the Lutheran Church—Canada and North American Representative to the ILC.

The conference is sponsored by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and funded by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

The ILC is a worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God.

Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III
Executive Secretary
International Lutheran Council

c/o The LCMS

1333 S. Kirkwood Road

St. Louis, MO 63122
UNITED STATES

Phone: 636-751-3970
Email: albert.collver@lcms.org

Categories: Lutheranism

HERE WE STAND….still — A Response to FIRST THINGS

November 1st, 2012 7 comments

FIRST THINGS, the very decidedly pro-Roman Catholic journal, enjoys posting editorials, by Lutherans, around Reformation Day. When they did this last year, the Lutheran pastor who wrote the piece was whining and wringing his hands that there was a Reformation. And guess what? I’ve learned that he left his Lutheran congregation and accepted a position at a Roman Catholic seminary directing their Lay Ministry program. Go figure. See note below for details.

Well, imagine my disappointment when my friend Russ Saltzmann was roped into this kind of Reformation Day nonsense by FIRST THINGS and wrote an article whining that he can’t receive the Lord’s Supper in the Roman communion. His “justification” for why he should (yes, pun intended) begins with a list of areas of agreement and, yup, sure enough, he asserts that Rome and Lutheranism now agree on justification by grace. Russ should know better. Of course we agree on justification “by grace” but what he leaves out is precisely the point of disagreement “through faith alone.” And that was the whole point of the Reformation, Russ, et al.

He cites Carl Braaten, the man whose dogmatics text has been used for many years in ELCA seminaries to fill hearts and minds with the detritus of liberal Lutheran theology. He asserts that nothing should prevent full communion since a closed altar post-JDDJ “has insufficient theological warrant from Scripture.” What a load of … baloney.

I posted this response to the FIRST THINGS site, which may, or may not, have gone through their system.

My friend, Russ, bless his heart, is just so very wrong from the very start when he begins his checklist of agreement by asserting that Lutherans and Rome have agreed on justification by grace.

Rome knows this is not true, which is why it was quick to issue a “clarification” after the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was announced, making clear that it had not retracted any of its positions on this issue, as set in stone at the Council of Trent.

Further, the Lutheran World Federation “spun” the event to make it seem as though most/many Lutherans agreed, but that “spin” was flatly a lie. Many LWF member churches never signed on to the agreement.

Further, most of the most prominent Lutheran scholars in Germany and other countries issued a public statement saying, “Wait a minute….” and explained why the JDDJ was not some sort of marvelous break through.

And of course, those Lutheran church in the world that self-identify as Confessional Lutheran Churches, those that, unlike the ELCA and its sister churches in Scandinavia and elsewhere, still actually insists that Lutherans should confession that is in the Lutheran Confessions (I know, crazy, huh?) came out very loudly, clearly and publically asserting all the reasons why the JDDJ was not a breakthrough, but merely and only a liberal mainline Lutheran sell out, as usual, on this, the key teaching of Holy Scripture.

I’m sad to see that my friend Russ played right into the hands of the First Thing pro-Roman agenda by offering this piece around Reformation Day. I recall a year ago we had another such anemic effort by a young man wringing his hands over the fact that the Church was reformed. No surprise that the young man has left the Lutheran Church and “Poped.”

So, let the record show that the assertion that Rome and Lutheranism are in agreement on the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone is simply not true. NOT. TRUE.

Happy Reformation Day!!

Here we stand, still.

[Note: The author of the other FIRST THINGS blog post to which I refer is Rev. Joshua Genig. He is listed on the roster of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as a pastor but has accepted the position of Director of Lay Ministry at St. Cyril and St. Methodius Roman Catholic Seminary in Detroit. I have no idea how this is possible, and have sought further information from Rev. Genig. Here is what I asked: “How can this be? If you  are a Lutheran pastor how can you in good conscience serve as a director of Lay Ministry at a Roman Catholic seminary? Can you please explain?” He has not responded. Some have told me that RC institutions do not require their professors to be RC. I am well aware of that, but mind you: this is a seminary, and he is director of a program preparing people to be lay ministers in Roman Catholic parish settings. Quite a big difference there, folks.]

 

 

Categories: Lutheranism

The Last Lutheran — Reformation Day Wake Up Call

October 30th, 2012 20 comments

My colleague, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, penned this powerful little post and how appropriate for Lutherans to read it on Reformation Day. And no, he did not literally “pen” it, ok? I know what some of you in Intertube land are thinking. When you read this, please do yourself a favor and do not think immediately of excuses or justifications, just let it sink in a bit. I’ve read far too  many types of comments that go something like this, “We are being faithful so people will find us.” Or “We are being faithful, numbers don’t matter, we are not about numbers, but about being faithful.” Or, the worst of the latest thinking yet on this: “God has elected some to salvation and they will get there because God has elected them, therefore, we should not be caught up in any sense of urgency about the Lord’s mission.” Yes, I’m serious. That’s the latest foolishness floating around on subjects like this.

Faithfulness AND outreach, always a both/and, never, ever, every an either/or.

Here then is the article.

The Last Lutheran

“Grandpa, what’s a ‘Luth-ran’?”

The computer reflected in the boy’s dark eyes as he squinted, pondering his own question.

“Have you tried searching the internet?” grandpa said, looking back from the Skype portal on the computer screen.

“No. I thought you would just know.” The boy reached out, touched the screen to draw up the search engine. Then said, “Luth-ran.” The results screen listed various links to online encyclopedias but no sites for congregations. The boy’s eyes searched the links, wondering which to open.

“Mom said you were a Lutheran, grandpa. I thought you would just know. I have to do a report on how things used to be and the teacher said we could ask questions of our grandparents.”

“I was a Lutheran. That was a long time ago. There was a Lutheran church in town and I went there. But now it’s a recycling center. You know, the one where we turn in our plastics for credit?”

“That place was a church? It’s a mess. . . . Why did people go to church?”

“Everyone went to church then. Well, not everyone. But many did. Church was important. The churches were the biggest buildings in town. You saw your friends there and they taught you about the Bible,” grandpa said.

“There’s a church in our city, grandpa. We drive by it. But it’s not really big and the people speak Spanish there. Do you think it’s a Lutheran church?”

“No. I don’t suppose so,” grandpa said. “You don’t pass Lutheran churches anymore. Was a time when every town had one, or at least an old one boarded up for sale or turned into a museum. You don’t even see that much anymore.”

“So, what happened? Why are you the last Lutheran? The internet articles have a lot about ‘Jesus.’ Is that a Lutheran thing?”

Grandpa hesitated. “I don’t think I can say. That’s kind of a personal question, honey—not one you ask. People have their own beliefs and ideas. Everyone can think what he wants. So, it’s best not to ask about it.”

 

The Reformation Is Cancelled

In 2017 the Lutheran church in North America will observe the Reformation by closing hundreds of its congregations and preaching stations. We love the purity of our pulpits and quiet of our sanctuaries, which grow every quieter.

I am writing this because of something I saw the other day. Recently, CPH introduced an easy to use Outreach Kit, which some Lutheran congregations have picked up. Most congregations are taking one copy of the kit, which equips them to reach out to 50 households.

What struck me yesterday was when I saw members of another conservative protestant church snap up twelve copies of the kit, intending to reach out to 600 households—shocking contrast in behavior and an indictment of our passive, Lutheran culture.

Some reasons other conservative Protestants are growing while Lutherans are not can be explained as simply as follows:

  •  Outreach is an on-going priority for them. They build it into their members’ thinking while Lutherans do not.
  • They plan for it and budget for it while we plan for the best sausage supper.
  • They will work with all the messy, confused, needy people who respond to the outreach. We find such people annoying.

Our congregations tend to be slower or even totally negligent on these points. This is perhaps because we are a 500 year old church and they are more spry by comparison. Be we have got to address this cultural issue.

 

A New Reformation

Our congregations need to learn to sow the Word liberally while teaching the Word conservatively. Anything else implies a lack of confidence—a lack of faith—in the Word of God we profess. As we believe, teach and confess the life-giving Word, outreach will become our highest priority. That is what I would like us to celebrate in 2017. Lord, have mercy.

I’ve invited the leadership at Concordia Publishing House to consider what we can do to change the passive culture of our churches and turn us outward toward the community with the Gospel.

I invite my readers to consider the same and raise the same questions in their local churches.

 

”We beg of You, bless, oh bless, the work of spreading Your written Word. . . . You know how listless our hearts are and how easily our zeal grows cold. Grant us therefore genuine glowing love, a love that will never grow cold or weary.” Amen.

—C. F. W. Walther, For the Life of the Church, p. 30.

Categories: Lutheranism

The Story of the Luther Seal, or Luther Rose

October 10th, 2012 7 comments

luther-sealLuther’s seal, or as it is sometimes called, Luther’s rose, is the most widely known symbol of Lutheranism. It’s origins are interesting. Luther was  invited to create a personal symbol to summarize his faith in the 1520, as his writings became increasingly popular, there was a desire on the part of the Wittenberg printers somehow to try to indicate what was an authorized publication of Luther’s works, and so they asked Luther to tell them what he would like to have as his personal mark on his published works. I put a copy of the first known printed version of the seal, further down in this post.

It was very common in Luther’s Day for public servants, theologians, political rulers, and others of some public note, to have a personal seal. In 1530, Prince John Frederick wanted to give Luther a gift of a signet ring, as an expression of his appreciation, love and respect for Dr. Luther. The gift was personally presented to Luther, by Prince John, at the Coburg Castle on September 14, Holy Cross Day, when the Prince stopped at Coburg while travelling back from the meeting in Augsburg. The Coburg Fortress was the southernmost fortified property in what was then Electoral Saxony.  Luther could not attend the Diet of Augsburg, but had to remain behind in Coburg, since he was still considered by the Emperor, Charles V, to be a public criminal, not to mention the fact that he was also considered a heretic and excommunicated by the Roman Church.  Lazarus Spengler, of Nürnberg, [see note below about Spengler], apparently helped to have the ring prepared, he asked Luther for an explanation of the seal. Luther offered both an explanation and also an indication of the colors it should contain. This was somewhat unusual, for full color seals were very rare, in these early years of printing. Any four-color image in a book would have to be provided by hand. The ring was a thank you from John Frederick to Luther, in return for Luther having dedicated his translation of the Book of Daniel, to the Prince. Johann Frederick was, in my opinion, the greatest lay-hero of the Lutheran Reformation. You can read more about him here.

The image in this post is a colorized version of the original version of the Luther seal, as it first appeared in print, originally in black and white (see image below). It is one of the best presentations I’ve seen of it, in color. And this is why I say this. Generally, in color versions of the seal, the blue is too dark and deep. Luther’s concept was that the blue stands for a blue sky. This is more accurate. The image was found on Wikipedia and is in the public domain. I removed the Luther initials “M” and “L” which appeared on it when it was first printed. If you click on the image, you will be taken to the original size of the graphic. As I said, this image is in the public domain and you can use it as you wish. I thought I’d mention this image and talk a bit about this famous symbol for Lutheranism. The other symbol for Lutheranism, is the stylized letters of the motto Verbum Domini manet in aeternum, [The word of the Lord endures forever], which I’ll describe and explain in a future post.

Here is how Luther explained his seal, when he was asked about it by the man who was preparing the ring for him, at Prince John’s request:luthslg

“Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. ‘For one who believes from the heart will be justified’ (Rom. 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theoligae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.

A note on the text of this letter:

Martin Luther, Letter to Lazarus Spengler, July 8, 1530, as included in the translation by Amy Marga from “Luthers Siegel: Eine elementare Deutung seiner Theologie,” in Luther 67 (1996):66–87. Translation printed in Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. XIV, Num. 4, Winter 2000, pg. 409-410. The text used for this translation is from Johannes Schilling, Briefe, Auswah, Ubersetzung und Erlauterungen in Vol. 6 of Ausgewaehlte Schriften/MartinLuther. The text of Luther’s letter is also found in the Weimar edition of Luther’s Works, Briefe Vol. 5:444f and in English translation in Luther’s Works: American Edition, Vol. 49:356-359).

Read more…

Categories: Lutheranism