A Review and Critique of a Lutheran World Federation Book on Hermeneutics

January 28th, 2014 Comments off

My colleague, Rev. Dr. Christopher Mitchel, was asked by the LCMS’ President’s Office to prepare a review of a recent publication by the Lutheran World Federation on the subject of hermeneutics, using the Gospel of John as the starting point. I’m attaching Dr. Mitchell’s review. Feel free to share it. It in Microsoft WORD format.

Review of LWF Hermeneutics

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The Oxford Comma Infographic: When, Why and How

January 28th, 2014 Comments off
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January 27th, 2014 Comments off

holocaust-memorial-day

From the Gospel Coalition, by Joe Carter:

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual international day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Here are nine things you should know about one of the most horrific genocidal campaigns in history:

The term “Holocaust,” originally from the Greek word “holokauston” which means “sacrifice by fire,” refers to the Nazi’s persecution and planned slaughter of the Jewish people. The biblical word Shoah, meaning “calamity”, became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the 1940s, especially in Europe and Israel. The term “holocaust” became a household word in America when in 1978 NBC television aired the miniseries titled Holocaust.

2. The Holocaust began in January 1933 when Hitler came to power and technically ended on May 8, 1945 (VE Day). But the official genocidal plan was developed at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. Fifteen Nazi leaders, which included a number of state secretaries, senior officials, party leaders, SS officers, and other leaders of government departments, held the meeting to discuss plans for a “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe.” (The Nazis used the euphemistic phrases “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” and “Final Solution” to refer to the genocide of the Jews.) In the course of the meeting, Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich outlined how European Jews would be rounded up and sent to extermination camps.

3. The Nazis distinguished between extermination camps and concentration camps. The interchangeable terms extermination camp (Vernichtungslager) and death camp (Todeslager) refer to camps whose primary function was genocide. Unlike concentration camps, the Nazis did not expect the majority of prisoners taken to the extermination camps to survive more than a few hours after arrival. In the early years of the Holocaust, the Jews were primarily sent to concentration camps (where they would often die of torture and starvation), but from 1942 onwards they were mostly deported to the extermination camps.

4. Genocide at extermination camps was initially carried out in the form of mass shootings. However, the shootings proved to be too psychologically damaging to those being asked to pull the triggers. The Nazis next tried mass killing by blowing victims up with explosives, but that also was found unsuitable. The Nazis settled on gassing their victims (usually with carbon monoxide or a cyanide-based pesticide). Stationary gas chambers could kill 2,000 people at once. Once in the chambers, about one-third of the victims died immediately, though death could take up to 20 minutes.

5. The use of camps equipped with gas chambers for the purpose of systematic mass extermination of peoples was a unique feature of the Holocaust and unprecedented in history. Never before had there existed places with the express purpose of killing people en masse. These were extermination camps established at Auschwitz, Belzec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sobibor, and Treblinka. For political and logistical reasons, the most infamous extermination camps were in Occupied Poland, since Poland had the greatest number of Jews living in Europe.

6. At various concentration and extermination camps, the Nazis conducted medical experiments on their prisoners, which included placing subjects in pressure chambers, testing drugs on them, freezing them, attempting to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes, and various amputations and other surgeries that were often conducted without anesthesia. The most notorious of these Nazi physicians was Dr. Josef Mengele, who worked in Auschwitz. According to one witness, Mengele sewed together a set of twins named Guido and Ina, who were about 4 years old, from the back in an attempt to create Siamese twins. Their parents were able to get some morphine and kill them to end their suffering.

7. Churches throughout Europe were mostly silent while Jews were persecuted, deported, and murdered by the Nazis. As Holocaust scholar Victoria J. Barnett says, “In Nazi Germany in September 1935, there were a few Christians in the Protestant Confessing Church who demanded that their Church take a public stand in defense of the Jews. Their efforts, however, were overruled by Church leaders who wanted to avoid any conflict with the Nazi regime.”

8. The largest Protestant church in Germany in the 1930s was the German Evangelical Church, comprised of 28 regional churches or Landeskirchen that included the three major theological traditions that had emerged from the Reformation: Lutheran, Reformed, and United. Most of Germany’s 40 million Protestants were members of this church, although there were smaller so-called “free” Protestant churches, such as Methodist and Baptist churches. Historically the German Evangelical Church viewed itself as one of the pillars of German culture and society, with a theologically grounded tradition of loyalty to the state. During the 1920s, a movement emerged within the German Evangelical Church called the Deutsche Christen, or “German Christians.” The “German Christians” embraced many of the nationalistic and racial aspects of Nazi ideology. Once the Nazis came to power, this group sought the creation of a national “Reich Church” and supported a “nazified” version of Christianity. The Bekennende Kirche—the “Confessing Church”—emerged in opposition to the “German Christians.” Its founding document, the Barmen Confession of Faith, declared that the church’s allegiance was to God and scripture, not a worldly Führer.

9. The most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed is six million — around 78 percent of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe at the time. Additionally, the Nazis murdered approximately two to three million Soviet POWs, two million ethnic Poles, up to 1,500,000 Romani, 200,000 handicapped, political and religious dissenters, 15,000 homosexuals, and 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, bringing the total genocide toll to around 11 million.

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The Two Natures in Christ and the Communication of Attributes – FREE DOWNLOADABLE CHART

January 27th, 2014 Comments off

I thought it was time to pull out the old “Communication of Attributes” chart, or as Professor Kurt Marquart liked to call it, the “fishbone chart,” that he liked to use to help us work our way through the absolutely profound presentation on the Communication of Attributes in the second volume of Francis Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics.

I prepared the attached chart, based on his lectures, during the class on Christology I took with him and he liked it so much he kept asking me for copies through the years to share with him. I’m glad it has been helpful.

So, in the solemn season of Lent, when our hearts are drawn to meditate and ponder on the suffering and death of the God-man, Jesus Christ, I offer this as a little gift to you. You may download the PDF version, or just click on the image below and do a “save as” of it on your computer. PDF version: Communication-of-Attributes

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 3.23.53 PM

 

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Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom – January 27

January 27th, 2014 4 comments

Johnchrysostom“Golden mouth” – that was John’s honorary name and well earned. One of the most famous preachers in the history of the Church, today is the day we commemorate, remember and thank God for John and his faithful ministry. Here are some interesting reflections I found on Chrysostom. If you are interested in more on the life and activities of John, please refer to the Wikipedia article, that also contains a nice bibliography at the end of the article.

Lessons from the life of John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom was nicknamed “Golden Mouth” and stands as one of the most famous Greek preachers in church history. I return to his life frequently to be reminded of some golden lessons.

1. Earnest education in the grammatical-historical interpretation of Scripture. Plaguing the exegesis of the early church preachers (the Patristics) is an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. The move away from allegorical to the grammatical-historical was attempted by several but matured primarily under the scholarship of Diodore of Tarsus and it was this man who passed this method of interpretation to Chrysostom in Antioch. Contrary to most schools, the Atiochene school was “built on a method of interpretation rather than a theological tendency” (Old, Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, 2:169).

Training in the grammatical-historical method shows itself clearly in the fruits of Chrysostom’s preaching, reflecting a high view of the authority of Scripture. “The preaching of the Word of God is authoritative and efficacious because it is God’s Word, not the preacher’s. Here is the foundation of the passion and the power of great preaching. It is for this reason that the great preachers have preached and their congregations have heard them” (Old, 2:185). Only a conviction of Scripture’s authority forces the preacher to interpret carefully. Chrysostom held a high view of Scripture.

2. Secular liberal arts education. Amazingly, Chrysostom was both educated by one of the great Christian exegetes of his era and one of the great secular orators. His widowed (but wealthy) mother sent John to study under Libanius, a pagan professor famed for his rhetorician in Constantinople and Nicomedia. It seems to be an odd decision for a Christian mother but the fruit of this secular learning – a strong imagination, skills in clear communication and a powerful literary talent – are all evident throughout John’s later work (see our excerpt on spiritual warfare from last week). Hughes Oliphant Old writes, “Metaphors and similes seem to come to this preacher all quite naturally and without the least sort of effort” (Old, 2:193).

This blending of the secular/pagan and Christian educations was beneficial. Getting good exegetical and theological training is obvious. But those seeking to preach are encouraged to also seek a secular degree in liberal arts, too. “One of the reasons John Chrysostom achieve such distinction as a preacher was because he mastered both classical oratory as it was so brilliantly taught by Libanius and the principles of biblical interpretation as taught with no less luster by Diodore” (Old, 2:172). The diversity of training provides the preacher excellent skills in critical thinking, communicating in general and specifically in speaking the Gospel to fellow classmates who represent the diverse colors of culture (homosexual worldview, humanism, naturalism, atheism, agnosticism, theological liberalism, feminism, etc.).

3. Preaching against the sins of culture. In our day, when church-going Christians are in the minority, we are told the church should resemble the world in order to get non-Christians in the door. Chrysostom knew better. Christianity in his time was also the minority, lived among a majority of pagans in Antioch. Crowds of pagans would gather to hear good oratory and so Chrysostom’s sermons were well-attended by non-Christians. This did not stop him from taking the cultural sins and idols head-on. And he encouraged his people to live differently than the culture around them, to evangelize their neighbors by their actions before evangelizing with words. Chrysostom encourages us to evangelize our culture by being radically different.

4. Fighting worldliness. Chrysostom wrote on the topic of fasting: “Fasting is, as much as lies in us, an imitation of the angles, a contemning of things present, a school of prayer, a nourishment of the soul, a bridle of the mouth, an abatement of concupiscence: it mollifies rage, it appeases anger, it calms the tempests of nature, it excites reason, it clears the mind, it disburthens the flesh, it chases away night-pollutions, it frees from head-ache. By fasting, a man gets composed behaviour, free utterance of his tongue, right apprehensions of his mind.” Chrysostom understood the benefits of fasting and taught his people to prefer godly sorrow over worldly joy. John challenged his congregation to fast as an offensive against the idol-saturated Antioch. His asceticism and preaching against extravagance infuriated emperor Arcadius and his wife Eudoxia. Despite the mocking of the day, great and earnest preachers perceive the sinfulness of worldliness and warn souls.

5. Preaching plainly. I don’t suggest that John was a plain preacher. He was trained under one of the greatest Pagan orators in Libanius and his sermons bear the watermark of oratorical greatness. Whether a true offer or not, it is said Libanius eyed his prized student Chrysostom as his replacement. Obviously, Chrysostom could have preached with the greatest eloquence of his age. However, he chose rather to open Scripture in a simple manner, accessible to all of his hearers. “His plainness of speech gave great offense to the beautiful and imperious Eudoxia, the worldly consort of Arcadius. This hatred of the empress and the envy and anger of many of the clergy were the causes of Chrysostom’s deposition and banishment” (Dargan, A History of Preaching, 1:90).

Chrysostom preached to sinners in the “real world.” He touched understood the lives of his hearers, he was experientially sensitive and these qualities made a great impact. “The Shakespeare of preachers has not appeared,” John Broadus wrote in 1907. “But why should he not some day appear? One who can touch every chord of human feeling, treat every interest of human life, draw illustration from every object and relation of the known universe, and use all to gain acceptance and obedience for the gospel of salvation. No preacher has ever come nearer this than Chrysostom, perhaps none, on the whole, so near” (Broadus, Lectures on the History of Preaching, p. 78).

6. Late start. Chrysostom, who died at 60, took to the pulpit in Antioch at the age of 39. He had been educated in the Liberal Arts, worked in law and served as a deacon for several years. He had many years of Christian service behind him and a great knowledge of the world when he rose to the primary preacher in Antioch. But he was also a considerably old man when he got his start. This teaches preachers a bit about patience. You may know God has called you to preach His Word but now you are in school or working a secular job or otherwise wondering what God has in store. Chrysostom reminds us that God’s timing may come later than we want but He is sovereignly preparing us for ministry no matter where we are. We are called to commune with God and experience life in the “real world” in preparation for our future tasks. John Broadus writes, “In our impatient age and country, when so many think time spent in preparation is time lost, it is well to remember that the two most celebrated preachers of the early Christian centuries began to preach, Chrysostrom at thirty-nine, and Augustine at thirty-six” (Broadus, p. 76). Nearly 40 years of preparation for 18 years of fruitful ministry (12 years in Antioch and 6 in Constantinople). However in these 18 years, Chrysostom preached daily and only Spurgeon has left more sermons in print. Be patient in the preparation.

7. Sensitive to the cultural events. One of the most powerful experiences of Chrysostom’s ministry in Antioch occurred in 386. The people believing emperor Theodosius was overtaxing them rioted and destroyed imperial statues in the Antioch. Such an act brought swift and harsh response from the emperor including many arrests and killings. Even before the reprisal took place, the people knew they had sinned and were in deep trouble.

Amidst the upheaval in Antioch as the city awaited certain reprisal from the emperor, Chrysostom asked his city who they feared more. Do they fear the wrath of the emperor more than the wrath of God?

Chrysostom immediately began preaching sermons we now know as the “Sermons on the Statues” and initiated a 40 day fast for the city. Of his sermon content we are told, “At one time his object here is to console a people struggling with present distress; at another, to strengthen minds that were sinking under the extremity of danger; and above all, by repeated admonition, to persuade the people of Antioch, on occasion of the threatened calamities, to correct the vices and to wipe away the crimes that had thus provoked God’s wrath; which endeavor on the part of Chrysostom certainly ended in results agreeable to his desire, as he sometimes acknowledges” (Preface to the Benedictine edition).

In one sermon Chrysostom said,

“How then is it any thing but absurd, to submit to the greatest hardships, when an Emperor enjoins it; but when God commands nothing grievous nor difficult, but what is very tolerable and easy, to despise or to deride it, and to advance custom as an excuse? Let us not, I entreat, so far despise our own safety, but let us fear God as we fear man. I know that ye shudder at hearing this, but what deserves to be shuddered at is that ye do not pay even so much respect to God; and that whilst ye diligently observe the Emperor’s decrees, ye trample under foot those which are divine, and which have come down from heaven; and consider diligence concerning these a secondary object. For what apology will there be left for us, and what pardon, if after so much admonition we persist in the same practices.”

Chrysostom, like Jesus, used the climate of the day to point souls towards the holiness and wrath of God and to encourage repentance (Luke 13:1-5)? When preachers today use 9/11, tsunamis and hurricanes to point souls towards God they walk in the pattern set by Christ and followed by Chrysostom. So preachers, take advantage of the times. Be acquainted with the conditions of your culture and put them to use spiritually in calling sinners to repentance.

8. Preaching as a prophet calling God’s people to repentance. Chrysostom did not hesitate to call professing Christians to repentance. In this sense he was prophetic. “One can hardly avoid the observation that if he was everything a Greek orator was supposed to be, he was also everything a Hebrew prophet was supposed to be. With all the passion of Elijah he confronted God’s people with their sins; with all the eloquence of Isaiah he called his congregation to repentance” (Old, 2:195). This certainly flows from an understanding of the age he preached and the specific temptations of his people. The great preachers seek to pull their congregation out of their sins to humble them and lead them to the Cross. A failure to lead a church out of a particular sin leads to serious corporate troubles (see Rev. 2:1-3:22).

9. Errors. Chrysostom leaves a great legacy to follow but not without errors. While watching the busy city of Antioch, John “sharpened that penetrating knowledge of human nature,” but would later move to a monastery, a decision that would certainly hamper his (and his followers) sensitivity to the surrounding culture (Broadus, p. 73). While not allegorizing, he is known for twisting passages to suit his own needs. His emphasis on celibacy, transubstantiation, monasticism are all quite unfortunate though compared to his contemporaries Chrysostom held a cautious and discerning Mariology.

But most unfortunate, Chrysostom said far more about ethics and works than about Christ and redemption in the Cross. Too frequently readers of his sermons will find only momentary glimpses of the Cross. Were it not for his concluding benediction, Jesus Christ would be altogether absent from many of his sermons.

Conclusion

It does no good making a list of errors if we don’t humbly recognize we have our own. Church history repeats one general theme: Even the greatest preacher will not escape the errors of his day. We take lessons from Chrysostom’s life tempered with the sober reality that the Patristic era of church history contains many grievous errors. It will prove beneficial to pray and ask God this question: What errors of my age – those errors commonly held by my friends and associates – what of these errors have I unknowingly fallen? The errors which seem so obvious centuries later go unseen at the time.

The beauty of history is that we take the good and leave the bad. From the fruit of Chrysostom’s life we can return to our ministries with a basket filled with rich lessons.

 

 

Commemoration of St. John Chrysostom

January 27th, 2014 1 comment

Mosaic of Chrysostom in the Hagia Sophia. Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey.

Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

Today, we pray:

O God, You gave to your servant John Chrysostom grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregations of Antioch and Constantinople, John fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to your church bishops and pastors who are like John in preaching and fidelity in their ministry of the Word to your people, and grant that we all be partakers of the divine nature through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You adn the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For a longer biographical sketch of Chrysostom, read the extended entry. Read more…

A Book “Worthy of Immortality and the Church’s Canon”

January 26th, 2014 1 comment

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“Philip Melanchthon’s invincible little book on Loci Theologici in my judgment is worthy not only of immortality but even of the Church’s canon.”

(Martin Luther in Bondage of the Will [1525], WA 18:601)

“There’s no book under the sun in which the whole of theology is so compactly presented as in the Loci Communes. . . . No better book has been written after the Holy Scriptures than Philip’s.”

(Martin Luther from Table Talk, no. 5511, LW 54:440)

As any confessional Lutheran knows who has studied the history of the Lutheran Confessions and the Lutheran Reformation, Philip Melanchthon was both a gifted theologian and a man given to excessive worry and compromise. As a result, the fine work he did in the earlier years of the Reformation, when he was most closely and strongly influenced by Martin Luther, was his best work. Later on, particularly after Luther died, Philip went off the rails and ended up taking positions that led to severe compromises with both the Roman Catholics and Calvinists, and, particularly in the hands of his students, Melancthon’s later theology led to a series of very dangerous doctrinal errors that had to be condemned and rejected very specifically in the Formula of Concord. Talk about the ironies of history!

But … as I said, in his earlier years Philip was consistently hitting them out of the park, beginning with a book I read in a single day in the basement of the old library at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.

The book?

Philip’s first edition of his Loci Communes. I could not stop reading it and could not put the book down. Fortunately, because it is relatively brief, and I, in those days, had the luxury of uninterrupted hours simply to read and study, read it cover to cover and then, in the next few weeks, read it three more times. I can count on a couple hands the theological works I’ve read multiple times, but this is indeed one of them.

It blew me away. The writing is crystal clear. The Evangelical passion is powerful. The clarity of the Law and Gospel distinction running through the book is amazing.

It’s no wonder Martin Luther gushed on about this book, that it is “worthy of immortality” and that it should made part of the Church’s canon! Yes, Luther said that. Our dear Father Martin was given to a tad of excess in his rhetoric from time to time when he found a great book. I can identify with that inclination. I guess I’m doing the same thing here.

But, Luther was not far from the truth actually. Melancthon’s 1521 Loci Communes was the very first time Lutheran theology was written up in the form of a classic “systematic theology” or as close to one as was available then, but Melanchthon actually is responsible with this book for starting the Lutheran tradition of writing dogmatics, a tradition that would be carried forward by Martin Chemnitz, then John Gerhard, and all the great dogmaticians of the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy.

In other words, this is a “must read” book. And by “must” I mean, “must” and by read, I mean, “read.”

For many years, the only English translation of the 1521 Loci was only available in a book containing also a work by Martin Bucer, published in 1969. Go figure. But no more.

Dr. Christian Preus has now produced a truly masterful fresh translation that far exceeds the older translation, containing not merely a sparkling, crisp, clear and lively translation of Melanchthon’s work but a wealth of helpful footnotes that really opens the text to the reader. Concordia Publishing House will be releasing this translation in the next few weeks and it is available for preorder now. Yes, Kindle version coming as well, as per the usual.

Martin Luther called Philip Melanchthon’s most important work, Loci Communes 1521, worthy of immortality. This lively, accessible English translation by Christian Preus includes an introduction that delves in to the history of this important contribution to the Reformation movement, as well as extensive footnotes that explain the people and concepts used by Melanchthon to explain the Gospel.

You can take a look inside here.

Praise for Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521

This book takes us back to the early stages and to the heart of the Reformation, so it is just wonderful that it has now once again become so accessible. The translation is as fresh as the content of the Loci of 1521, and that makes it just the kind of material we need for teaching and learning. Melanchthon’s book has been fundamental for church and theology in the Lutheran as well as the Calvinist tradition. And both will see through this new edition how relevant this reformer and his work still are today.—Herman Selderhuis (Director Refo500, Professor of Church History, Theological University Apeldoorn)

Christian Preus provides helpful historical and theological contextualization to the Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon in his introduction. With the text itself, he gives us a clear, modern translation that both improves on the work of past translators and also includes judicious scholarly commentary. This is a welcome and useful tool for modern students of the Reformation.—Dr. Günter Frank (Director of the European Melanchthon Academy)

The lucidity that marked the first version of Melanchthon’s Loci communes is captured in this expert translation by a scholar equally expert in the nuances of humanist Latin and the principles of evangelical theology. Preus brings modern readers into contact with Melanchthon’s brilliant early work, augmenting his clear translation with helpful annotations and the perfect introduction to Melanchthon’s life and thought.—Ralph Keen (Schmitt Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago)

Melanchthon’s Loci Communes 1521 is available for preorder.

This is arguably Philip Melanchthon’s most important work. Anyone interested in the history of the Lutheran Reformation will find that this book, the first Lutheran work of “systematic theology,” is present in a very lively, accessible English translation, with extensive, helpful footnotes that explain the people and concepts used by Melanchthon to explain the Gospel.

Features

  • Clear English translation
  • Scripture index
  • Index of subjects and names
  • Extensive historical introduction by translator Dr. Christian Preus
  • Extensive footnotes explaining terminology, history, and theology

Philip Melanchthon’s invincible little book on Loci Theologici in my judgment is worthy not only of immortality but even of the Church’s canon.
-Martin Luther

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Third Sunday After Epiphany: Christ’s Word is For All

January 26th, 2014 5 comments

We hear God’s Word:

2 Kings 5:1–15a
Romans 1:8–17
or Romans 12:16–21
Matthew 8:1–13

We pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities and stretch forth the hand of Your majesty to heal and defend us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lectionary Summary: Jesus Came for Gentiles, Too

The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Gentile (Rom. 1:8–17). Even in the Old Testament, the Gentiles were beneficiaries of God’s saving power. Though unimpressed at first with the Word of God, a Syrian commander is persuaded to receive that Word, and in the water he is cleansed and brought to faith in the God of Israel (2 Kings 5:1–15a). Evil is overcome by good (Rom 12:16–21). So also in the New Testament, a Roman centurion demonstrates great and humble faith in the Lord (Matt. 8:1–13). All he needs is the Word of Christ, for he trusts that Jesus’ Word of healing has authority to accomplish what it says. And indeed it does. The centurion’s faith is praised by our Lord above that of any Israelite. For the last shall be first, and the first last. Apart from faith in Christ, there is no salvation—not even for a Jew¬—but only weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Source).

Bach Cantata for the Third Sunday after Epiphany BWV 72

1. Chorus (S, A, T, B)

All things but as God is willing,
Both in joy and deepest grief,
Both in good and evil times.
God’s own will shall be my solace
Under cloud and shining sun.
All things but as God is willing,
This shall hence my motto be.(1)

2. Recit. (A)

O Christian blest who always doth his own will
In God’s own will submerge, no matter what may happen,
In health and sickness!
Lord, if thou wilt,(2) must all things be obedient!
Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst bring me contentment!
Lord, if thou wilt, shall vanish all my pain!
Lord, if thou wilt, will I be well and clean!
Lord, if thou wilt, all sadness will be gladness!
Lord, if thou wilt, I’ll find midst thorns a pasture!
Lord, if thou wilt, will I be blest at last!
Lord, if thou wilt, (let me express in faith this sentence
To make my soul be quiet!)
Lord, if thou wilt, I’ll perish not,
Though life and limb have me forsaken,
If to my heart thy Spirit speaks this word!(3)

3. Aria (A)

With ev’rything I have and am
I’ll trust myself to Jesus;

      E’en though my feeble soul and mind

 

      The will of God not fathom,

 

      Still may he lead me ever forth

 

    On roads of thorns and roses!

4. Recit. (B)

So now believe!
Thy Savior saith: “This will I!”(4)
He shall his gracious hand
Most willingly extend thee
When cross and suff’ring thee have frightened;
He knoweth thy distress and lifts the cross’s bond,
He helps the weak
And would, the humble roof
Of poor in spirit not despising,
Therein deign graciously to enter.

5. Aria (S)

My Jesus will(5) do it, he will thy cross now sweeten.
E’en though thy heart may lie amidst much toil and trouble,
Shall it yet soft and still within his arms find rest
If him thy faith doth grasp! My Jesus will do it.

6. Chorale (S, A, T, B)

What my God will, be done alway,
His will, it is the best will;
To help all those he is prepared
Whose faith in him is steadfast.
He frees from want, this righteous God,
And punisheth with measure:
Who trusts in God, on him relies,
Him will he not abandon.

St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor: January 26

January 26th, 2014 1 comment

A disciple and companion of St. Paul to whom the great saint addressed one of his letters. Paul referred to Titus as “my true child in our common faith”. Not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, he was noted in Galatians where Paul writes of journeying to Jerusalem with Barnabas, accompanied by Titus. He was then dispatched to Corinth, Greece, where he successfully reconciled the Christian community there with Paul, its founder. Titus was later left on the island of Crete to help organize the Church, although he soon went to Dalmatia, Croatia. According to Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical History, he served as the first bishop of Crete. He was buried in Cortyna (Gortyna), Crete; his head was later translated to Venice during the invasion of Crete by the Saracens in 832 and was enshrined in St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy. Here is where Titus is mentioned in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 2:132 Corinthians 7:6-142 Corinthians 8:6-232 Corinthians 12:18Galatians 2:1-32 Timothy 4:10Titus 1:4

The appointed Scripture readings for today are:

Acts 20:28-35

Titus 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

We pray:

Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Festival of St. Paul’s Conversion to the Faith

January 25th, 2014 1 comment

The Conversion of St. Paul by Peter Paul Rubens

Can there be a more magnificent example of the love, grace and mercy of God than the conversion of our father in Christ, St. Paul? From persecutor to preacher, from murderer of the saints, to the merciful lover of all souls. The Scripture readings appointed for today are:

Acts 9:1-22

Galatians 1:11-24

Matthew 19:27-30

So today, in thanksgiving to God, we pray:

Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Here are St. John Chrysostom’s thoughts on St. Paul:

“Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means. To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities. Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation. But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant”. I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out: Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalised that I am not consumed with indignation? I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well. Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day – and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming. You see how he calls all to share the same glory. Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings. In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realise that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.”

This excerpt from a homily by St. John Chrysostom (Hom. 2 de laudibus sancti Pauli: PG 50, 480-484)

May a Layman Administer the Lord’s Supper to His Family? Luther Says No!

January 24th, 2014 Comments off

IsayNO(A Letter to Wolfgang Brauer, Pastor at Jessen)

Grace and peace in Christ.

Dear Reverend Pastor, to the question that your kind friend, Sigmund Hangreuter has posed to you in writing, and which you have desired to have addressed to me, as you wanted to show this good man, your friend, that he would not be responsible to turn to such remedies as to commune him and his household and that it would also be unnecessary since he is not also called, nor has the command, to do so if some tyrannical servant of the church who was responsible to do that might refuse to administer it to him and his people, for he may just as well be able to be blessed in his faith through God’s Word and since it would also cause a great offense to thus distribute the sacraments willy-nilly in peoples’ houses, and would, at length, result in nothing good, but only give rise to division and sects; as the people now tend to act in such outlandish and absurd ways.

For the first Christians in the age of the apostles did not receive the Sacrament privately in their houses, but had rather assembled together, and even had they done that, such an example would no longer be applicable today, just as it does not apply today that we should all have our property in common as they were also doing at that time, for the Gospel is publicly extended now along with the Sacrament. But a housefather’s teaching God’s Word to his family is right and should be done, for God has commanded that we must teach and raise our children and household, and the Word is commended to each and every one of us.

But the Sacrament is a public confession and must have a public servant since along with it is stated, as Christ says, that it should be done in his remembrance, that is, as St. Paul says: to proclaim or preach the LORD’s death until he come; and this man also says that people should gather together and harshly rebukes those who individually use the LORD’s Supper privately.

So even if that is not forbidden, it is commended each person to teach his household privately with God’s Word, and to also use it himself, and yet no one is commanded to baptize himself, etc. For it is one thing to have a public office in the church and another to be the house father of his household, therefore they are neither to be mingled, nor separated.

Now since in this there is no emergency, nor calling, one must not presume to do anything without God’s definite command and only from his own pious thoughts, for nothing good will come of it.

This is how you might answer, my dear parson, on my behalf.

Be in this commended to God. Amen.

On St. David’s Day, 1536 AD.

Martin Luther

From: the November 1847 edition of “The Lutheran” edited by CFW Walther; translated by Pastor Joel Baseley, Mark V Publications.

Categories: Uncategorized

Festival of St. Timothy: Pastor and Confessor

January 24th, 2014 4 comments

Jan.26-St.Timothy_151122

My name is Paul Timothy McCain. Many people always assume my parents named me Paul after my father, who is also named Paul, but I came to learn the reasons for my name were much deeper than that. My father, Paul, wanted his son, Paul, to have the kind of father/son relationship that St. Timothy had with St. Paul, as summed up in these verses, from 2 Timothy 3: “Timothy, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

My dad would often reference these verses on a birthday card, or in a letter, or on a gift book. I cherish the gift of the name my parents gave me and so any day in the Church Year set aside to commemorate and remember St. Paul and/or St. Timothy are special and unique for me, in a variety of ways; even more so now that my earthly father is with my heavenly father for all eternity, with St. Paul and St. Timothy and all the faithful pastors, confessors and all the saints.

Pastor Randy Asburry had a nice blog post today for St. Timothy some time back and I offer it here to you for your consideration:

Today the Lutheran Service Book calendar thanks God for St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor. It’s more than just a “Commemoration”; it’s a full “Feast and Festival” with three readings appointed for the Divine Service. Here are some reflections on those readings.

Acts 16:1-5: In the first reading for this feast day, we read how St. Paul first met Timothy and how he recruited Timothy to join him in the service of preaching the Gospel. Timothy was “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.” How interesting that Timothy came from a family of one pious parent and one parent who was, well, we just don’t know, aside from his nationality. For whatever reason, most likely his father’s will, Timothy was not circumcised. So as St. Paul recruited Timothy into the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he chose to circumcise Timothy in order that the Gospel might have a hearing among the Jews. From this reading we see that God most certainly can and does use us weak, earthen vessels, with all of our family and personal baggage – actually, despite all our baggage! – to proclaim His goodness and mercy in Christ Jesus crucified and risen. After Timothy joined St. Paul’s missionary entourage, “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” A great testimony to the Messiah and the message that St. Timothy was called to preach!

Read more…

Another Bogus “Breakthrough” in Lutheran-Roman Catholic Conversation

January 21st, 2014 Comments off

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 8.42.20 AMThe latest round of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue here in the United States concluded and a book has been published detailing the results. And, as usual, what we have here is, simply put, simply another example of the liberal Lutherans of the ELCA compromising Lutheran public teaching. This is an excellent book review by Mark Menacher detailing precisely how and why things again went so badly. It is very, very important to note the role that the faulty ELCA edition of the Lutheran Confessions played in this latest bogus so-called “breakthrough” in Lutheran-Roman Catholic conversations. You really should read this very carefully and take to heart the caveats and warnings contained here. This review was originally posted over at BLOGIA, the blog site of the Lutheran journal LOGIA. If you are not a subscriber to LOGIA, you should be, and BLOGIA should be a part of your regular reading as well.

The Hope of Eternal Life—Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue XI. Edited by Lowell G. Almen and Richard J. Sklba. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lutheran University Press, 2011. 211 pages. Click here.

The eleventh round of Lutheran—Roman Catholic (L-RC) dialogue in the United States began in December 2005 and concluded in October 2010. The final report as entitled above was released on November 15, 2010, and was originally made available for download in Portable Document Format (PDF). Edited by Lowell G. Almen, Lutheran co-chair of the dialogue and retired secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba of Milwaukee, Roman Catholic co-chair of the dialogue, this novella of Lutheran ecumenical remythologization provides almost interesting reading. A table of contents, a preface, four chapters, four appendices, and two background papers comprise this volume. Appendix Three, by Stephen Hultgren, is included for no discernable reason, and Appendix Four might also be categorized as background information. The latter, “The Intermediate State: Patristic and Medieval Doctrinal Development and Recent Receptions” by Jared Wicks (133–175), is arguably the only useful part of this book. The two background papers proper were presumably incorporated based on author gender (female). Although formally listed as participants on the Lutheran side, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) theologians Samuel H. Nafzger and Dean O. Wenthe do not appear to have played an active role, other than providing personal, confessional authenticity to the designation “Lutheran” used in the dialogue.

The dialogue’s Preface cites the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds as providing precedent for a study of the hope of eternal life. Notably, however, “The foundation for the discussions and findings of Round XI was established by the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,’” as “officially received by the Catholic Church and member churches of the Lutheran World Federation on October 31, 1999.” Despite listing numerous, insurmountable ecclesial and social obstacles, the dialogue participants seek the restoration of “full, sacramental communion” between Lutherans and Catholics (7; see also 118, 125–126). To that end, “Round XI offers fresh insights” into the “continuity in the communion of saints, prayers for or about the dead, the meaning of death, purgation, an interim state between death and the final general judgment, and the promise of the resurrection” (8). This review essay examines this dialogue’s claimed foundational use of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ),” the dialogue’s content and methodology, and finally the biblical and confessional reliability of its conclusions.

Chapter One, “Our Common Hope of Eternal Life,” opens with subsection heading “A. Positive Developments in the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in Light of the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’” (pp. 11–13, §§1–8, hereafter page number(s), § number(s)). The text claims that in Augsburg, Germany, an “ecumenically historic moment transpired” when JDDJ was signed by representatives of the Vatican and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) (11, §1)—except that the “Official Common Statement” (OCS) with Annex was signed instead. “Their signatures attested to the official reception in our churches of the fruit of years of ecumenical dialogue on the topic of justification,…” (11, §2)—except that no LWF member church has approved the OCS with Annex. “The findings, statements of consensus, and even expressions of certain divergent convictions related to ‘The Hope of Eternal Life’ are built upon” JDDJ ¶15 (11, §3)—although Lutheran objections in part to JDDJ ¶15 and its exclusion of salvation by “faith alone” necessitated the drafting of the OCS with Annex to rescue JDDJ from ecumenical purgatory. “The method of the ‘Joint Declaration’ is reflected in this report” (11, §4), which essentially means that Lutherans abandon biblical and Lutheran confessional positions to merit religious congruence with the Council of Trent. Even though “[w]e wrestled with descriptions of the contemporary character of indulgences in Catholic practice, especially in the light of the ‘Joint Declaration’” (13, §7), nonetheless “[t]he ‘Joint Declaration’ affirms that the ‘Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church will continue to strive together to deepen this common understanding of justification and to make it bear fruit in the life and teaching of the churches’ (JDDJ, ¶43)” (13, §8).

That is the foundation for Round XI of US L-RC dialogue. Unfortunately, the JDDJ edifice is worse. Conveniently having misplaced scripture, “… Lutheranism has no widely received doctrinal texts beyond the Book of Concord (with the possible exception of the JDDJ), …” (19, §23). On topic, in Chapter II under the heading “3. Common Teaching in the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” this dialogue stresses that in JDDJ the “respective Catholic and Lutheran paragraphs on good works link merit and reward to God’s promise” to be realized “in heaven” as “eternal life,” respectively (53, §108). Propagandistically, the “affirmation that Catholic teaching on justification as presented in the JDDJ does not fall under Lutheran condemnation places Catholic practices of [meritorious] prayers for the dead in a new context,” (107, §251)—which might have ecumenical veracity and meaning if the Lutheran confessions contained condemnations of the Roman Church’s doctrine and if such prayers were not unilaterally considered meritorious. Finally, this “document has pursued a similar method, although not written in the style of the JDDJ. Our discussions of purgatory and prayer for the dead in Chapter III must not be read in isolation from Chapter II, in which we develop our common convictions. Those common convictions form the necessary interpretative context for what we say about traditionally divisive topics” (118, §281). In other words, JDDJ and its application, rather than scripture and the Lutheran confessions, provide the “interpretative context” for the ELCA’s aspired relations with the Roman Church. Opponents of the “Joint Declaration” forewarned that JDDJ might be used in this way, and this dialogue justifies their concerns.

All vacuous JDDJ pageantry aside, the ELCA has a problem. Although “[b]oth Lutherans and Catholics affirm that the justified who die in faith will be granted eschatological perfection” (whatever that means) and although “[t]he justified in this life are one in Christ with those who have died in Christ” (12, §6), unfortunately ELCA Lutherans are neither perfect enough nor dead enough either to merit or to be granted “full, sacramental communion” with the papal church. How can one earn such favor?

To understand this dialogue’s role in the ELCA’s pursuit of reintegration into the Roman fold, two issues are at stake. First, JDDJ is wholly undermined by Canon 30 of the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, and subsequently by catchall Canon 33, in that Canon 30 condemns (anathematizes, curses) those who do not accept purgatory. Thus, contrary to JDDJ’s stated goal and claimed achievement, the sixteenth-century condemnations of Lutherans by the Vatican in this decree still apply, and the ecumenists’ foil to slay the justification dragon barring a Protestant return to Rome is itself foiled. Second, it would be nigh on impossible for the Vatican to celebrate Luther’s Ninety-five Theses against indulgences with the Lutheran World Federation in 2017 if the Vatican had nothing to celebrate. Therefore, ways must be found for latter day Lutherans to recant what Luther would not. These goals account for the retrograde state of the content and the methodology of The Hope of Eternal Life.

In order to minimize objections to this eventual goal, Luther himself, as well as scripture and the Lutheran confessions, must be neutralized, and agreement on “intermediate states” of the dead for whom prayers can be offered, especially in purgatory, must be re-established. Thus, in addition to Lutheranism having “no widely received doctrinal texts beyond the Book of Concord,” except JDDJ, and although the Book of Concord describes Luther as the “most distinguished teacher of the churches which confess the Augsburg Confession” (“der fürnehmbste Lehrer,” see Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche [BSLK], 984, 41), this dialogue surmises,

What is the status of the self between death and resurrection? This question was not a focus of controversy during the sixteenth century, although a few Lutheran theologians (most notable, Luther) were willing to entertain possibilities excluded by Catholic teaching. More recently, the question of intermediate states has been debated within each of our traditions. How these questions are answered affects the discussion of other topics, e.g., purgatory (21, §28).

With Luther safely relegated to a minority position of inconsequential, esoteric views, the ELCA’s ecumenical Pelagianism can continue encumbered. To remove other obstacles on the Lutheran side, the dialogue asserts, “The Lutheran Reformation had no distinctive teaching about death or intermediate states. The Lutheran Confessions simply assume that the souls of the dead exist and are in a blessed communion with Christ” (25–26, §43). Therefore, to fill this void and to feign some sort of parity with Vatican doctrine, “reference will be made to material from particular Lutheran churches, even though they have not received universal Lutheran acceptance” (19, §22). This tactic favors especially those texts and liturgical materials which have been strategically brought into Lutheran “practice” since Vatican II with an ecumenical lex orandi, lex credendi, intention of making a future reintegration into the papal fold as unobtrusive as possible.

In order to propose the notion that purgatory is not “church-dividing,” The Hope of Eternal Life gradually guides its Protestant reader to a dead end. Selected “Common Affirmations” exemplify this as follows: “Our churches affirm that death cannot destroy the communion with God of those redeemed and justified” (35, §59). “Our churches thus teach an ongoing personal existence beyond death, to which our divine Creator relates in saving love” (35, §60). The “interrelation between the general judgment of all humanity on the Last Day and the particular judgment of individuals upon their death…has never been a church-dividing matter between our churches, but does affect issues that have been disputed, e.g., purgatory” (43, §84, italics original). “Hans Martensen, bishop of Sjaelland in the Church of Denmark, thought judgment might be postponed at death for some who might benefit by further time for repentance” (45–46, §91). “Wolfhart Pannenberg, while critical of the concept of purgatory as a distinct, temporally-extended intermediate state, affirms purgation as an aspect of judgment…He develops this view in a discussion of the ideas of Joseph Ratzinger and concludes: ‘There is thus no more reason for the Reformation opposition’” (87, §203). “In light of the analysis given above, this dialogue believes that the topic of purgation, in and of itself, need not divide our communions” (91, §212, bold original). After such preparation for purgatory and despite the qualification that “Lutheran Confessions are uniformly critical of the doctrine of purgatory” (78, §179, the summit has been reached,

270. As with masses for the dead, indulgences appear in a different light when understood within the context of the solidarity of all the justified with Christ and each other. Lutherans in this dialogue have come to see that the intent behind the contemporary practice of indulgences is an expression of an appeal to the mercy of Christ. Whether indulgences do or can adequately embody that intent remains a genuine question for Lutherans. Lutherans also ask whether indulgences are so open to abuse and misunderstanding that their evangelical intent is obscured. Nevertheless, since the practice of indulgences has not been seen as required for communion with the Catholic Church, Lutherans need not adopt these practices for the sake of such communion. Ecumenical rapprochement requires, however, that Lutherans not condemn Catholic teaching about the practice of indulgences as inherently contrary to the Gospel (113–114).

As with all its ecumenical endeavours, this conclusion reiterates the ELCA’s abandonment of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, which clearly states the sufficiency of the gospel “purely” preached (and taught) as the only foundation for true church unity.

Given the foregoing, it should not be entirely surprising that this dialogue’s use of the Bible and the Lutheran confessions is less than reliable, as an introductory paragraph exemplifies,

This dialogue’s discussion of biblical texts seeks to illumine the scriptural foundations and background of our churches’ respective teachings on the hope of eternal life without completely settling these hermeneutical questions. Judgments whether particular biblical texts adequately ground particular beliefs about heaven, hell, purgatory, etc., often involve judgments on these larger questions. Sometimes our churches have drawn different conclusions from the same biblical texts, e.g., 1 Cor. 3 and Matthew 12:32 (which will be discussed below in a section on purgatory) (20, §26).

Notably, the “dialogue’s discussion” seeks “to illumine the scriptural foundations and background of our churches’ respective teachings” rather than the other way around, i.e., the word being a lamp unto the dialogue participants’ feet. Furthermore, not only uncritically but also unquestioningly, this dialogue repeatedly cites writings from the Apocrypha, particularly 2 Maccabees, as scripture. In other words, this dialogue’s stated methodology precludes the Old and New Testaments from being solely foundational either for the dialogue or for the churches’ respective teachings, particularly regarding purgatory (70–71, §161). In contrast, such scripture did provide the foundation for the Reformers’ confessional critique and rejection of purgatory, which this dialogue readily and repeatedly notes (79, §§181, 182; 82, §191).

Likewise, this dialogue’s use of or reference to material from the Lutheran confessions, taken frequently out of context, is misleading at best. Within the context of this dialogue and its goals, however, such misleading is deliberate, deceptive by design. For example, after describing and quoting Luther’s rejection of purgatory in the Smalcald Articles (SA II, II) as an apparition of the devil (Teufelsgespenst) and idolatry, which one would like (mocht) to discard (or abandon) “even if it were neither error nor idolatry” (Kolb-Wengert, 303), “man es mocht wohl lassen, wenn es schon kein Irrtum noch Abgotterei wäre” (BSLK, 420), this dialogue continues,

The existence of purgatory is not dogmatically denied. Rather, 1) the existence of purgatory is not taught by Scripture and thus cannot be binding doctrine, and 2) belief in purgatory is now hopelessly bound up with unacceptable practices. A belief that could be discussed in principle is concretely objectionable because of its associations (79, §181).

Clearly, Luther’s use of the subjunctive form “would like” (mocht) rather than mag (may), the latter used in both Tappert (295) and Kolb-Wengert (303), indicates what one “would like” to do even if purgatory “were” (ware, again subjunctive) not error or idolatry. This double subjunctive “translated” into the indicative means that purgatory is error and idolatry and thus is not open for discussion, regardless of associations. Whereas the Kolb-Wengert translation of Luther’s subjunctive into an English subjunctive is mechanically correct, it is not meaningfully correct. The Kolb-Wengert translation thus invites this dialogue’s drafters to exploit this mechanical translation as a means to allow Luther to give tacit permission to discuss purgatory stripped of all evils. Meaningfully, however, Tappert has it much more correct: “All this may consequently be discarded, apart entirely from the fact that [purgatory] is error and idolatry.” Confessionally, for both the BSLK and Tappert, the door to discussing purgatory is shut and locked.

Another questionable application of the Lutheran confessions pertains to “meritorious” works and this dialogue’s attempts to harmonize Lutheran and papal positions. With reference to Apology IV on justification (Kolb-Wengert, 171), homogenized for the Council of Trent, this dialogue asserts, “The Apology states that good works, which can only be performed by those who are in Christ, ‘are truly meritorious, but not for the forgiveness of sins or justification. For they are not pleasing to [God] except in those who are justified on account of faith’” (51, §105). This dialogue further states, “In its Decree on Justification, the Council of Trent similarly taught that good works that are meritorious before God are possible only for those in Christ, for the justified.” Thus, the “ecumenical question is the significance of the difference between the Apology’s statement that eternal life is a reward in the sense of a recompense and the Council of Trent’s statement that eternal life is a merited reward” (52–53, §107).

Later, while noting the LCMS’s rejection of such prayer, the dialogue states, “The presence of prayers for the dead in the funeral liturgies” of ELCA hymnals since 1978 “supports a partially shared practice of prayer for the dead [with the Roman Church] and sheds new light on remaining differences on purgatory” (108, §255). Thus, despite differences, ELCA Lutherans and Catholics “agree that such prayer is a good work of the justified. They agree that good works will be rewarded by God in this world and the next, and in that sense can be called meritorious. They agree that prayer constitutes an aspect of penance. They agree that prayer is efficacious; it can truly aid the person prayed for, although that aid does not operate automatically and is always under the will of God” (108, §256). This explains, as per §270 quoted above, why “indulgences appear in a different light when understood within the context of the solidarity of all the justified with Christ and each other,” and thus why Lutherans must “not condemn Catholic teaching about the practice of indulgences as inherently contrary to the Gospel.”

This second example from the Lutheran confessions represents more than exploitable ambiguities in translation. The similar phrasing regarding rewards and “meritorious” works between the Council of Trent and the Apology is possible chiefly because the Kolb-Wengert Book of Concord uses a different Apology. Whereas the quarto edition of Ap IV, 194, standard since 1580, only in a couple lines—almost in passing—describes “good works” as meritoria (BSLK) and “meritorious” (Tappert), the Kolb-Wengert rendition uses the octavo edition instead. The octavo edition omits Ap IV, 194 and elaborately discusses rewards and “meritorious” works in several new paragraphs placed after Ap IV, 257. This elaboration provides ample fodder (39, §72; 50–52, §§103, 105) for the dialogue drafters to conjure confessional congruence, which the BSLK and Tappert, arguably, would not.

According to Kolb-Wengert, “In using this approach, we follow the most recent modern German translation of the Book of Concord” (109) with note 3 referring to the Evangelische Bekenntnisse: Bekenntnisschriften der Reformation und neuere theologische Erklärungen (Evangelical Confessions: Confessional Writings of the Reformation and Newer Theological Declarations). Notably, this collection of Lutheran and Reformed confessional writings was collated by and published for use in the Evangelische Kirche der Union (Evangelical Church of the Union, EKU) and thereafter in the Union Evangelischer Kirchen (Union of Evangelical Churches, UEK) in the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD). In other words, the Apology in Kolb-Wengert is patterned on a translation for use in union churches in Germany. Synergistically, while Kolb-Wengert “unionism” provides a meritorious tool for ELCA ecumenism, the ELCA’s ecumenism again reveals the confessional unreliability of the Kolb-Wengert Book of Concord over against the BSLK benchmark edition used by confessional Lutherans since 1580 (see also Mark D. Menacher, Priesthood, Pastors, Bishops—Public Ministry for the Reformation & Today by Timothy J. Wengert, published in LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology 19 (Reformation 2010), 48–51).

In short summary, from a biblical and Lutheran confessional standpoint, The Hope of Eternal Life—Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue XI was dead on arrival and does not have a prayer for purgation or for anything else either in this life or in the life to come.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Commemoration of Sarah

January 20th, 2014 3 comments

Today we commemorate and thank God for Sarah. She was the wife (and half-sister) of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Gen. 11:29; 20:12). In obedience to divine command (Gen. 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan. She remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God’s long-standing promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Gen. 21: 1-3). She is remembered and honored as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three patriarchs. She is also favorably noted for her hospitality to strangers (Gen. 18:1-8). Following her death at the age of 127, she was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah (Gen. 49:13), where her husband was later buried.

And thus, today we pray:

Lord and Father of us all, You looked with favor upon Sarah in her advanced years, putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of many blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Second Sunday After Epiphany: The First of His Signs

January 19th, 2014 1 comment

When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, it was “the first of His signs,” by which He “manifested His glory” (John 2:11). It pointed to His coming “hour,” when He was lifted up on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins and the life of the world (John 2:4; 12:23–32). The glory of the cross is incomprehensible apart from the Word and Spirit of God, but disciples of Jesus recognize that glory in the signs of His Gospel, and so they believe in Him. Jesus does not wait for His disciples to discover Him on their own, but He seeks out the forsaken and the desolate and unites them to Himself. He adorns them with His own beautiful righteousness and delights in them “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride” (Is. 62:4–5). Purified by the washing of water with His Word in Holy Baptism, His disciples confess that “Jesus is Lord,” and they return thanks to Him “in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3), as they drink the good wine that He pours out for them, which is the new testament in His blood.

Readings Appointed for Today

Introit: Ps. 66:1–5, 20; antiphon: Ps. 66:4, 92:1
Old Testament: Ex. 33:12–23 or Amos 9:11-15
Psalmody: Psalm 67 (antiphon: v. 1) or Psalm 111 (antiphon: v. 9)
Epistle: Ephesians 5:22-33 or Romans 12:6-16
Gradual: Psalm 107:20-21
Verse: Psalm 148:2
Gospel: John 2:1-11

From Luther’s Church Postil on the Gospel for Today

“Hence the highest thought in this Gospel lesson, and it must ever be kept in mind, is, that we honor God as being good and gracious, even if he acts and speaks otherwise, and all our understanding and feeling be otherwise. For in this way feeling is killed, and the old man perishes, so that nothing but faith in God’s goodness remains, and no feeling. For here you see how his mother retains a free faith and holds it forth as an example to us. She is certain that he will be gracious, although she does not feel it. She is certain also that she feels otherwise than she believes. Therefore she freely leaves and commends all to his goodness, and fixes for him neither time nor place, neither manner nor measure, neither person nor name. He is to act when it pleases him. If not in the midst of the feast, then at the end of it, or after the feast. My defeat I will swallow, his scorning me, letting me stand in disgrace before all the guests, speaking so unkindly to me, causing us all to blush for shame. He acts tart, but he is sweet I know. Let us proceed in the same way, then we are true Christians. … Observe, God and men proceed in contrary ways. Men set on first that which is best, afterward that which is worse. God first gives the cross and affliction, then honor and blessedness. This is because men seek to preserve the old man; on which account they instruct us to keep the Law by works, and offer promises great and sweet. But the outcome is stale, the result has a vile taste; for the longer it goes on the worse is the condition of conscience, although, being intoxicated with great promises, it does not feel its wretchedness; yet at last when the wine is digested, and the false promises gone, the wretchedness appears. But God first of all terrifies the conscience, sets on miserable wine, in fact nothing but water; then, however, he consoles us with the promises of the Gospel which endure forever.” Source.