Author Archive -- Dr. Matthew Phillips

Should Lutheran Pastors Chant the Words of Institution?

January 12th, 2015 50 comments

The English verb, ‘to chant’ derives from the Latin word, ‘cantare,’ which simply means to sing.  Some form of singing or chanting existed in the Christian Church since its inception.  Various forms of chanting in Christian worship evolved during the Middle Ages (c.600-c.1400).  Gregorian chant became the most common form of plainchant in the medieval Christian church as it replaced or synthesized with early forms of chanting, such as, Roman chant or Gallican chant. Unfortunately, chanting bothers many American Lutherans.  The most common criticism is that chanting is “too Roman Catholic,” and therefore good Lutherans should not do it.  First,   More…

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Martin Luther, Augustine and the Languages

November 25th, 2014 4 comments

Originally posted on my blog at   “And, further, if I could bring it to pass among you, I should like to ask that you do not neglect the languages but, since it would not be difficult for you, that you have your preachers and some of your gifted boys learn Latin, Greek, and Hebrew well.  I know for a fact that one who has to preach and expound the Scriptures and has no help from the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, but must do it entirely on the basis of his mother tongue, will make many a pretty   More…

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Unknowingly Righteous

November 4th, 2014 No comments

“For inasmuch as the saints are always aware of their sin and seek righteousness from God in accord with His mercy, for this very reason they are always also regarded as righteous by God.  Thus in their own sight and in truth they are unrighteous, but before God they are righteous because He reckons them so because of their confession of sin.  They are actually sinners, but they are righteous by the imputation of a merciful God.  They are unknowingly righteous and knowingly unrighteous; they are sinners in fact but righteous in hope.  And this is what he is saying   More…

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Distinguishing Between Doctrine and Life

October 7th, 2014 8 comments

“Doctrine and life must be distinguished. Life is bad among us, as it is among the papists, but we don’t fight about life and condemn the papists on that account.” (LW 54:110) Dr. Luther spoke these words at his table conversations with his students and friends in 1533. He pointed out how John Wycliffe and John Huss had attacked the papacy in the late Middle Ages because of its corruption and immorality. The papacy’s doctrine, not individual popes’ morality, is the central issue for Luther. He believed it was his calling to refute false doctrine and teach true doctrine. Why?   More…

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Becoming a Christian by Listening

September 24th, 2014 1 comment

My pastor has been teaching on Paul’s epistle to the Galatians for the past several months in Bible study.  As a good Lutheran pastor he has used Luther’s lectures on Galatians to supplement our study.  Luther gave these lectures to students in 1531; however they were published in 1535.  In my view these lectures represent the most significant publication in Luther’s career and his most definitive statement on the doctrine of justification.  When our Bible class discussed Galatians 3:1-6, Paul’s contrast between hearing God’s word by faith and doing works of the Law (and Luther’s comments on this contrast) particularly   More…

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Luther’s View on Financial Support for the Office of the Holy Ministry

August 7th, 2014 7 comments

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stated, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) St. Paul also warned against the inordinate desire for money as a hindrance to true faith. (I Timothy 6:9-10) The Bible has many passages that concern money, riches, greed, and contentment. Money is a very difficult matter for most honest pastors to discuss. They do not want to be self-promoters or appear to be compelling others to make them rich. They know there are many charlatans and false teachers who preach falsely for riches. However, it is necessary for   More…

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A True and Bold Confession! Luther and Zwingli-Part III

Ulrich Zwingli and his colleagues responded to Luther’s treatise, That These Words of Christ, “This is My Body,” Etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics. They attempted to refute Luther’s main points and reaffirm their own assertions regarding the Lord’s Supper.  It was clear that neither side had convinced the other.  Late in 1527 Dr. Luther decided to write a final statement on this subject.  In the early spring of 1528 Martin Luther’s Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper appeared in print.  Although he referred to this work as a “little book,” Luther’s text covers around 200 pages in the modern English   More…

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Martin Luther on Studying Theology and Reading Scripture

“Moreover, I want to point out to you a correct way of studying theology, for I have had practice in that.  If you keep to it, you will become so learned that you yourself could (if it were necessary) write books just as good as those of the fathers and councils, even as I (in God) dare to presume and boast, without arrogance and lying, that in the matter of writing books I do not stand much behind some of the fathers.  Of my life I can by no means make the same boast.  This is the way taught by   More…

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Martin Luther on the Multiplication of Laws

“In the papacy we foolish saints added one ordinance to the other.  There were laws without number.  These only terrified the consciences and left people languishing with thirst.  The preachers only intensified the thirst.  This is inevitable.  The teachings of works-righteousness call forth thirst upon thirst….This is also what the jurists do.  They constantly change, amend, and improve the laws, multiplying them without end.  It is like a snowball that rolls from a roof or from a mountain.  It is small when it begins, but it accumulates more and more snow as it rolls downward.  Finally it becomes so large that   More…

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Some Thoughts on Worship in Chapel: A Response to Rev. Robert Weinkauf’s Post

This blog (at least the few posts I’ve actually made) has focused on my expertise in church history.  I have desired to avoid commenting on any current issues within the Synod on this site because many others already do that here.  By the way, I will finally be completing the third part on the controversy on the Lord’s Supper between Luther and Zwingli and their colleagues during the Reformation in the near future.  It may relate to the subject of this current blog post. As a history professor at Concordia University, Nebraska I have a different perspective than Rev. Robert   More…

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Is Every Christian a Minister?

The answer to this question may change depending on one’s understanding of minister.  If understood broadly, any Christian may serve others.  However, minister usually means someone whom Lutherans commonly call a pastor today.  Therefore, obviously, every Christian is not a minister or pastor.  In 1530 the first Lutherans understood this well when they confessed, “…no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” [1] It is possible to further explain the Augsburg Confession through an examination of the contemporary writings of Martin Luther related to this subject. Early in the Reformation Luther   More…

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Augustine, Luther, and the Sacraments

“Baptism is a very different thing from all other water, not by virtue of the natural substance but because here something nobler is added, for God himself stakes his honor, his power, and his might on it.  Therefore it is not simply a natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water….all by virtue of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word that no one can sufficiently extol, for it contains and conveys all that is God’s.  This, too, is where it derives its nature so that it is called a sacrament, as St. Augustine taught, ‘Accedat verbum   More…

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“There Is No Middle Ground”: Martin Luther, Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper-Part II

This is part 2 of a 3-part series; part 1 is found here   In 1527 Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli both published significant works concerning the Lord’s Supper.  Both represented responses to writings from the previous year.  In his Friendly Exegesis, That is, Exposition of the Matter of the Eucharist to Martin Luther Zwingli claimed that he reluctantly debated against Luther.  Despite his stated irenic intentions, Zwingli incessantly pointed out the weaknesses of Luther’s teachings.  He identified Luther’s teaching on the physical presence of Christ as an error very similar to Rome’s doctrine of transubstantiation.  Zwingli resented Luther’s harsh   More…

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Great Stuff — No Thanks from the World

Found on Historia et Memoria: “In great part we serve, teach, admonish, suffer, give consolation, and do things commanded by God for unworthy men. Here we gain nothing for our services but hatred, envy, and exile; and our whole life is nothing else than the loss of kindness. Therefore, you must never hope that the world will acknowledge and remunerate your faithfulness and diligence; for it does the opposite….Set another goal, therefore, for your service and your life than the thanks of the world. Its gratitude is suddenly changed into fury.” Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Luther’s Works, vol. 7,   More…

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Luther, Zwingli and Supper-Part I

March 21st, 2013 7 comments

Martin Luther and his colleagues in Wittenberg were not the only theologians to set forth a theological program of reform in the early sixteenth century.  In fact, many competing visions of reform emerged.  In the early 1520s Ulrich Zwingli led a religious reform in Zurich, one of the cantons of the Swiss Confederacy.  While he was not the only early Protestant reformer in Switzerland, Zwingli became the most significant religious leader of the Swiss Reformation until his death in 1531.  Zwingli won the support of the government of Zurich that led to significant changes in faith and practice.  These included   More…