Steadfast Dads — The First Duty of a Dad

March 6th, 2012 Post by

I would like to thank Pastor Scheer for this opportunity to contribute to Steadfast Lutherans.  The topic of Christian fatherhood is always a vital one, and this is so especially today in the midst of confusion – also among Christians – about what fathers, mothers, and families are.

The first duty of Dad is to know who is boss.  No, it’s not you.  And it’s not your children.  It’s God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  “I believe that God has made me.”  In making you he has defined for you what you are all about.  The fatherhood of God determines for us Christian fathers what fatherhood is all about.

Fathers, you don’t need your children’s permission to be their father.  God made you their father.  God decides what you are to do.  Your children don’t decide.  You don’t decide.  God decides.

God has given to fathers and mothers the responsibility of teaching God’s word to their children.  We Lutherans confess this in the Catechism where each of the six chief parts of Christian doctrine has the heading: “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”  Ordinarily, the father is the head of the household.  Sometimes the mother becomes the head by default.  When God spoke through Moses to Israel (Deuteronomy chapter 6) to give his chosen people their duties as his children, the first thing he commanded them to do was to keep his word in their hearts.  The second thing he commanded them to do was to teach it to their children.  What do you love?  What is precious to you?  That’s what you give to your children.

But how do we give God’s Word to our children?  The task seems daunting to fathers who are not sure that they know God’s Word well enough to teach it.  We will discuss the teaching of the children at home in a future article, but first things first.  The first thing is what we do on the first day of the week.  It has been a custom for nearly two thousand years now for Christians, on the first day of the week, to go to see Jesus.

 

Dr. Robert Preus, Rolf's dad.

I was a boy growing up in a Christian home for about eighteen years and I have been a pastor for going on thirty two years and I can testify to the fact that a child’s upbringing at home is by far the greatest influence over whether or not he will attend the services of God’s house as an adult.  In the home in which I was raised it was inconceivable that we would skip church.  I remember attempting to do so one day when I was about sixteen years old.  I had stayed out late the night before, got up on the wrong side of the bed, was tired and irritable and did not want to go to church.  I wanted to sleep.  I told my father I was not going to go to church.  He told me that that was my decision.  And it was his decision whether or not to let me eat his food.  He made it clear that going to church would be required if I wanted to eat his food.  I decided to be fed.

Thank God for faithful Christian fathers!  My father had two doctor’s degrees, but it was not advanced theological education that guided him.  It was basic meat and potatoes Lutheranism.  We bring our children to church.  We bring our children to an orthodox Lutheran church.  We teach our children to behave in church and to participate in the service.  There is nothing we do as fathers that is as important.  There is no greater gift we can give to our children.  The first duty of Dad is to bring your children to church.  This is bringing them to Jesus, and Jesus loves the little children, takes them up in his arms, and blesses them!

The risen Lord Jesus appeared to his Church on Easter Sunday with salvation to give.  He  won forgiveness of sins for us and our children by suffering and dying on the cross.  On Sunday he gives this dearly purchased treasure to us and to our children.  Since we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment, we need the forgiveness of sins that God gives to us in the Divine Service every Sunday.  We belong in church with our children every Sunday morning without exception.  We as a family need what God gives us there.

Associate Editor’s Note:  With this post we welcome Pastor Rolf Preus to BJS writing for “Steadfast Dads”.  We look forward to his insights from theology and his own experiences.  With his wife Dort, they will be making some great contributions to our site for the purpose of helping teach and encourage godly parenting in our Lutheran homes.  Here is some more information about Rolf and Dort:

Rolf and Dorothy (Dort) Preus met at Concordia Lutheran Junior College nearly forty years ago, fell in love, got married, and were blessed by God with twelve children and twenty two grandchildren (so far).  Pastor Preus was ordained in 1979 and has been a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.  He received his STM from CTS in Ft. Wayne in 1987.  Dort received her B.A. in elementary education from Concordia, St. Paul in 1975, and learned how to teach from teaching her children at home.  The Preuses presently live in Mayville, North Dakota.  Pastor Preus serves First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, First Evanger Lutheran Church in Fertile, Minnesota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota.

 






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  1. Rev. Steven Bohler
    March 6th, 2012 at 09:22 | #1

    Excellent! Rolf, I always love to hear/read you because you say so much in simple and easy to understand words (very Luther-like). It is a great gift to be able to make theology understandable and practical — a greater gift than just articulating it in technical jargon that goes over the heads of most of us! Give us more.

  2. LW
    March 6th, 2012 at 09:22 | #2

    Great post. I often think about how I wish I could thank my grandpa for making sure my dad was in church every week who in turn passed on what he learned and made sure I was in church every week.

  3. March 6th, 2012 at 09:42 | #3

    Great post! Wish I’d thought of that one particular item — you are free to decide whether you are in church each Sunday, but I am free to decide whether to feed you or not. It makes it so clear to the kids, and is something you can follow through with if they choose the wrong choice.

  4. March 6th, 2012 at 10:01 | #4

    Welcome aboard Rolf, glad to have you writing here and I look forward to reading more of your posts

  5. March 6th, 2012 at 14:11 | #5

    Excellent posting, Pr. Preus. Thank you.

    I was just talking to my wife about something similar this morning. We talked about how the world has broken down the family with their ungodly views of equality. Fathers do not submit to Christ and serve their families as Christ serves the Church. Mothers do not submit to their husbands and help them be servants to the family. Children do not learn Godly submission, in obeying and respecting their parents. The brokenness of the family unit leads to the breaking down of society itself. I think I read something like this in the Large Catechism about what it means to honor your father and mother. :)

  6. Lifelong Lutheran
    March 6th, 2012 at 14:28 | #6

    Actually, I don’t think you are free to decide whether to feed your children. That would be child neglect and against the law. It also seems morally wrong to me because you chose to bring the child into the world and you have a responsibility to care for them physically as well as spiritually.

  7. LW
    March 6th, 2012 at 14:56 | #7

    @Lifelong Lutheran #6
    You’re right. It is child neglect, against the Law, and morally wrong to starve your children by allowing them to skip church where they are fed by their Lord.

  8. Lifelong Lutheran
    March 6th, 2012 at 15:06 | #8

    @LW #7
    True, true. And I agree you can’t make church optional for your family because then it becomes too easy to stop going altogether. But what worked in Pastor Preus’s family would not necessarily be appropriate in other families.

  9. LW
    March 6th, 2012 at 15:31 | #9

    @Lifelong Lutheran #8
    You’re right again. Oh how I long for the good old days.

  10. John Eberhart
    March 6th, 2012 at 19:10 | #10

    Thanks Pastor Preus for getting to the main problem in our churches and that is the firm foundation on which we build. Our Savior commands to “raise up our children in the way they should go and they will not depart from it”. Sometimes when watching our kids grow up we can only rely on God’s promise that the Holy Spirit will work His power of the Word on them. “Faith cometh by hearing……..” is sometime the only thread of hope we can hold on to.

  11. Bernie Grebe
    March 6th, 2012 at 20:24 | #11

    Thank You, Pastor Preus!
    One of the biggest problems in the family today is the fact that there is so much outside influence, i.e., soccer and baseball games on Sundays. I so Thank God that my parents raised me in a good christian Lutheran home…what a blessing that is to me.

  12. Timmy
    March 7th, 2012 at 08:50 | #12

    Well done Pastor!
    I distinctly remember coming home very late(just as the sun came up) one Sunday and being told I would be in church that morning. When we got there Mom and Dad marched me right up front where the organ was so I would stay awake. Worst hangover I ever had, and I’ve never forgot it!!!

  13. Nathan R.
    March 7th, 2012 at 19:48 | #13

    Welcome Pastor Preus, I look forward to reading your posts and thank you to your service to my home state of ND (wahpeton) and current state MN (St. Cloud) – personally as a father of 2 young children 3 & 1 my long term goals as a loving father is to make sure Christ is at the center of their lives. It’s a work in progress for me and my whole family.

  14. March 7th, 2012 at 21:55 | #14

    Glad to have you here Pastor Preus. Thanks for your efforts now and in advance for future postings!

  15. Steven Goodrich
    March 8th, 2012 at 01:38 | #15

    Well done! I enjoyed this post very much. As a dad of 5 boys, this kind of encouragement goes a long way especially when it would be so much easier to just wait until after the full moon to take them to church

  16. Tom
    March 8th, 2012 at 11:12 | #16

    This is one of the biggest problems I see in the Church today. Parents feel that they can drop their children off and they will learn everything they need to about God. Forget the other 6 days a week. What makes it worse is the Church allows it if not encourages it. If the church starts to equip fathers on this awesome task I bet the church will see more than 10% of our children staying in the church. Start at church continue it at home! Great read

  17. Rose
    March 13th, 2012 at 19:37 | #17

    At Orlando ROC in January, I had the privilege to learn that LCMS Family Life staff are reintroducing Luther’s idea: Instead of a church-centered, family supported Christian education, let’s go back to a family-centered, church-supported Christian education. A great idea.
    As Luther said, “This is how the head of household should teach….”.

  18. Andrew
    April 16th, 2012 at 14:25 | #18

    I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here but I gotta ask: why? Why is the first duty of a Dad to bring your children to church? I’m not a theologian, I’m not Lutheran and I’m not trying to be a jerk. As a kid, the ol’ “because I said so” shtick didn’t work with me and it never will. If I’m supposed to do something, I usually like well thought out, rational and logical reasons for doing so. So why? Why is it important to go to church at all? I’d like a serious and legitamate discussion here.

    I go every Sunday providing I’m not ill. But I don’t go because I think I HAVE to. I go because I genuinely like it. I have fun there. I find God there. I find love there. I enjoy the sense of family and fellowship I experience there. I enjoy hearing God’s message through Scripture and sermon. So I have a whole long list of why I like to go, but I don’t know of any reasons why I have to go. Possible eternal damnation? Because it simply hurts or upsets God or Jesus? It is commanded? From where does the doctrine come? What is its Scriptural basis? I didn’t see that addressed in the article. Sure, he stated, “When God spoke through Moses to Israel (Deuteronomy chapter 6) to give his chosen people their duties as his children, the first thing he commanded them to do was to keep his word in their hearts.” But was that a commandment to go to church, or in that particular case, temple? Did Jesus ever speak on the matter? Also, considering that Jews practice the Sabbath on Friday night into Saturday and seeing how Jesus was a Jew, how/when did we, as Christians, start conducting our worship services on Sunday?

    Obviously, the father of Rev. Preus felt it was so important to go that he threatened his kid with starvation (well, at the very least, lack of easy access to food). Unfortunately, he never explained to the author why it was so important. It just was… and if you wanna eat his food, you better start thinking the same way. In my opinion, that’s not a good argument. To be fair, his father might have explained why but, y’know, I can only go by what’s in the article. I can also see how it would seem a bit hypocritical: You need to know that Jesus loves you so you better go to church OR ELSE!

    Plus, that approach needs to be handled carefully otherwise it could backfire and lead to alienation. After all, if someone questions the reason behind why something is being done a certain way, and furthermore if that someone disagrees with what is being done, and you or I cannot give a logical and satifactory reason why it’s being done that way, well, that someone may just go off and start his own religion…

    :)

    So can anyone help me out? Thanks.

  19. Rolf Preus
    April 16th, 2012 at 14:58 | #19

    Rather than providing you with a direct answer to your questions, I would like to ask you a question. Should a man refrain from sexual intimacy with any other woman than his own wife? If you agree that he should I would then ask you what he should do if he doesn’t want to refrain from such intimacy with other women? What if he would have fun and enjoy that intimacy with some other woman but would not enjoy it with his wife? What should he do?

  20. Rolf Preus
    April 16th, 2012 at 15:56 | #20

    As to the propriety of not feeding the child (actually, I was sixteen at the time) who won’t go to church, my father’s point was that I needed spiritual nourishment more than I needed bodily nourishment. If I refused food for my soul he would deny me food for my body. That was the point. I didn’t make that explicit. I thought it would be understood.

  21. Andrew
    April 17th, 2012 at 08:24 | #21

    @Rolf Preus #19

    First off, I want you to know, I’m not trolling here. A Lutheran pastor friend of mine posted a link to your article on his Facebook page. He and I often engage in very good theological (and sometimes political) debate. Since he posts pretty good stuff, I followed the link, read your piece and decide to engage in a discussion here. Now, to address your comments:

    Should a man refrain from sexual intimacy with any other woman than his own wife? In my opinion yes, unless of course, the folks involved are cool with the whole polygamy thing. It ain’t for me, but who am I to judge?

    If you agree that he should I would then ask you what he should do if he doesn’t want to refrain from such intimacy with other women? What if he would have fun and enjoy that intimacy with some other woman but would not enjoy it with his wife? Most likely, seek counseling if he wants his marriage to last. If not, get divorced.

    But see, I’m not talking about severing your relationship with God or having a fling with some other deity. I’m talking about going to church. I have a very good personal relationship with God. God governs every aspect of my life. I talk to God all the time, usually asking for advice or guidance. And I know my relationship with God is in good standing because, despite my human imperfection and weakness, He continues to bestow upon me innumerable blessings, so many, in fact, that when I try to count them each evening, I always feel like I’m selling Him short. Even when I am struck with tragedy (like when my town and house flooded from Hurricane Irene), I find He blesses me because I come out the other end a better and stronger person. If my relationship with God is this good, what makes church so special? Why couldn’t I worship him in the privacy of my own home?

    For me (and maybe for you, too, which is really the why I like discussions like this – I like to learn and better understand folks), church isn’t a building. It’s a community of faith. It’s the people that make the church. If I invite my congregation into my home and we worship there together, that’s church. And again, maybe you feel the same. As a matter of fact, we have a “Take Out Church” ministry where members of our congregation will go to the folks who are shut in and can’t physically make it to church and worship with them in their own homes – without a pastor, mind you, as our church is in the process of calling a new minister. But to me, that counts. And when I spend my 30 or 40 minutes at night praying, counting my blessings, reading my Bible and just talking to God? That counts, too. I when I volunteer at the food bank or when I volunteer and help build houses for Habitat for Humanity or when I sell a cake from my side business knowing all the money from that side business goes to Heifer International, to me, that’s church, too. After all, if the point is to gain spiritual nourishment, well, I find life offers up a pretty big buffet from which I can feast.

    I think our previous pastor made a very good analogy:
    Going to church is like playing a sport. Sure, you can shoot hoops all by yourself and have fun, but you’ll probably have more fun, enjoy the camaraderie and probably achieve much loftier heights if you’re part of a team.

    Ultimately, though, I feel like I have misunderstood your article so I’m seeking clarification. So again, I ask, why is it important to HAVE to go to church?

  22. Andrew
    April 17th, 2012 at 08:51 | #22

    @Rolf Preus #20
    “If I refused food for my soul he would deny me food for my body.”

    No offense to your dad, but I just feel there might be a better way to have overcome that issue. That’s like “faith by force.” If you want me to go, you need to sell me on it, not threaten me. When you’re trying to teach someone about Jesus’ infinite love (so much love that he allowed himself to be tortured and killed) for you, a physical threat (like withholding food) does not seem like a very practical way to demonstrate that. And I remember that when my parents drug me to church, all I did was sit there and stew. I didn’t pay attention to the service, never listened to the sermon and just complained to myself how much I hated being there. So really, what spiritual nourishment was I gaining by physical being there but mentally blocking it all out?

    The threats (and the guilt) from my parents ultimately NEVER worked. Even when I got over the animosity, I went to church because “it’s just what you’re supposed to do!” Get in, get out, good for 7 days. So I still missed out on spiritual nourishment.

    I didn’t come to the realization of how important faith and religion was until I was 20-something and my girlfriend (now my wife) starting asking me serious question about my beliefs and what I thought about God and Jesus and Scripture. When I couldn’t answer a lot of her questions, it piqued my curiosity. I saw how her faith governed her life and how much of a good influence it was on her. It made me want that, too. She engaged me, got me questioning her, got me questioning myself and it snowballed from there. She sold me on it. She opened my eyes to what I was missing and I haven’t looked back since.

  23. Jean
    April 17th, 2012 at 08:57 | #23

    @Andrew #21

    Hebrews 10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

    God wants us to. He knows what’s best for me.

  24. Rolf Preus
    April 17th, 2012 at 09:04 | #24

    Everything God teaches us falls into the category either or the law or of the gospel. The law is God’s commandments that tell us what we must do and that condemn us for failing to do what we must do. The gospel is God’s promise of the forgiveness of sins for the sake of the obedience and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    We go to church for both law and gospel reasons. God tells us to go to church in the Third Commandment. True, the Sabbath law God gave to Moses was abrogated in Christ who is our true Sabbath rest, so we permit no one to judge us when it comes to the Old Testament regulations that were a shadow of Christ. But the command that we hear God’s word and keep it is part of that permanent law written in our hearts. Simply put, we are obligated to go to church even as we are obligated to pay our debts, remain faithful to our spouse, honor our parents, and be content with our possessions. Read the Ten Commandments. They define our obligations to God and neighbor.

    We go to church for gospel reasons. We need the forgiveness of sins and God gives us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in his gospel and sacraments. That’s what church is: it is God giving us forgiveness of sins through the preaching of his gospel and the administration of his sacraments. We go to church to be served by Jesus Christ who gave his life as the ransom to set us free from our sins and who still serves us today through his servants who speak of his behalf, giving us the treasures of salvation that Jesus won for us all.

    I don’t know if you’re being facetious or serious in your comments responding to my question about a man refraining from sexual intimacy with a woman who is not his wife. My position is that since God condemns adultery and fornication in the Sixth Commandment, and since he also forbids divorce, if a man wants to be sexually active with a woman other than his wife he mustn’t do what he wants to do. He must do what God requires of him. God’s will, not ours, determines what we should be doing.

    This was my point in responding to your post as I did. You said that you went to church because it was fun, but not because you had to. Frankly, I don’t think that church is fun. I don’t think it should be fun. We’re dealing with matters pertaining to heaven and hell here. We’re dealing with eternal verities and issues of life and death. This is serious business. God isn’t our good old buddy, he is a consuming fire and if we do not know him in the person of his incarnate Son Jesus who suffered and died for us he will surely punish us for our sins.

    We Lutherans are very much focused in on sin and forgiveness. We take church seriously because church is where we are gathered together in Jesus’ name to receive from him the gifts of forgiveness of sins, peace with God, deliverance from death and the devil, and eternal life. All these treasures God gives us in his gospel and sacraments and that’s what going to church is all about.

  25. Andrew
    April 18th, 2012 at 19:24 | #25

    @Rolf Preus #24
    Thank you, Reverend, for taking the time to explain your positions to me. I appreciate it.

    As far as being facetious or serious, my answers were a little bit of both. The way I see it, in the grand scheme of things, I’m only on this ‘berg for a blink of an eye. As such, life is far too short to take much of anything too seriously, so I try to enjoy God’s gift of humor as often as I can (kinda along the same lines of Pastor Rossow with his “No Pietists Allowed” link). So while I firmly stand by my answers, there was, in fact, a bit of tongue in my cheek.

    I have to apologize. I completely misunderstood your married man analogy so thanks for clarifying that you meant: “He must do what God requires of him. God’s will, not ours, determines what we should be doing.” So basically what you’re saying is that God’s will is for us to go to church, correct? My initial question was, “Well, where the Scripture stating that going to church is God’s will?” You’re saying that it’s derived from the 3rd Commandment. Do I have that straight?

    That being said, I’m surprised that you cite the 3rd Commandment as a decree to go to church. I’m not connecting the dots on how not taking God’s name in vain ties into receiving “from him the gifts of forgiveness of sins, peace with God, deliverance from death and the devil, and eternal life.” I could see a much easier connection to the 4th Commandment. Would you please be able to expand on your correlation?

    I should also rephrase my initial question. I know that no where in the Old Testament or 4 Gospels is church mentioned. After all, we’re talking about Jews. The held the Sabbath on Friday night into Saturday morning and attended Temple for worship and to present offerings. I assumed that church as we know it arose after the death and resurrection of Christ (the resurrection, of course, being why we switched our Sabbath from Friday night to Sunday morning). I was thinking, however, that there was some sort of passage in the Old Testament about it being God’s will to attend worship at the Temple which Christian church founders would have co-opted into the new religion or, perhaps, something being stated in one of the many New Testament books outside of the Gospels stating why church attendance is God’s will. I haven’t been able to find any. What I did find, however, at http://archive.catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9902fea1.asp was quite revealing, specifically the “Sabbath in the Post-Apostolic Age” section, all of which you’re probably well aware.

    I’ll have to research the Didache further to see if anyone knows who wrote it and to see if anyone ever researched how Scripture helped to influence this guide (or, perhaps, you could fill me in if you happen to know offhand). Not only that, I find it interesting that the article quotes it by saying, “On the Lord’s own day, gather together and break bread.” That says nothing about worship, yet the author on Catholic.com makes the leap that it does. Like I said, I’ll have to look into it more to see if the claim is justified. Regardless, it seems that Sunday worship in the Church just seemed to evolve over time cobbled together from various influences with really no direct link to Scripture at all. I’d love to know what prompted Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, to ultimately come to his proclamation.

    The only thing that I’ve really come to see mandated is that you need to worship God on the Sabbath which church leaders eventually changed over to Sunday for a variety of reasons. I see no mandate in early church doctrine (from the limited research I’ve done) that says it needs to be done together in a church; rather, it seems that practice was simply recommended as a good thing to do with no harsh penalty for not complying. Obviously, at some point in Catholic history, that changed. Or has it? I’ll have to see if I can find the official church doctrine and also look into if there is a stated punishment for not going to church and when/how that doctrine was formed.

    Of course, maybe the survival of the early church was dependent upon worshiping together, especially considering the persecution early Christians faced. Plus, it helps if everyone is on the same page. After all, ya can’t play basketball unless you all agree to the same set of rules. Then again, look at all the different Christian denominations that exist. So much for agreeing to the same set of rules, right? After all, you’re Lutheran and I’m part of the United Church of Christ even though I was raised Byzantine Catholic. Still, we are all bound together as Christians by our belief in the teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Really, then, just how important are all those other rules? And are we too often putting the importance of those rules before importance of following Christ’s teaching to “preach good news to the poor… proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18)? Those are rhetorical, by the way. Just something to chew on, y’know?

    One last thing, in regard to church not being fun. I could not disagree with you more. Like I said, I was raised Catholic and I was always told that we “celebrate” Mass. The Epistle of Barnabas states that we should “spend the eighth day in celebration.” As such, when I worship, I celebrate Christ’s resurrection. I celebrate that He has granted me eternal life. I celebrate all the joy and good and wonder that God has given me in my life. I have never been to a celebration that wasn’t a joyous, happy, fun affair. You say God’s not my buddy? Well, I can tell you that ‘s not how I have experienced God. Despite all the mistakes I’ve made in life, the failures I’ve had avoiding sin, despite my corruptible and weak human nature, I have yet to experience this consumable fire of which you speak. No, God has been nothing BUT good to me. Even when my house flooded from Irene. I had friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and, of course, my fellow congregants come to help pick up the pieces. God was not in that flood, but God was in each and every one of those people – my buddies – that came to my family’s aid. If God is not my buddy, why was God present during my lowest points in life? If God was not my buddy, then why have I had more blessing than I can count bestowed upon me? No, Reverend, I disagree. God is my buddy because God proves it to me everyday with grace, love and kindness.

    Again, thanks for engaging me in this conversation. I hope I didn’t get on your nerves too much. What can I say? I ask a lot of questions because I don’t like being ignorant – especially when it comes to my Christian brethren. I’m quite appreciative for your article (and my friend’s FB link that led me to it) because it resulted in me learning a lot I didn’t know before and its set me on a quest to learn more.

  26. Andrew
    April 18th, 2012 at 20:08 | #26

    Actually, Rev. Preus, after talking with my wife (we often discuss theology as our faith and religion is very important to us both), it hit me. What I am really trying to ask is do you (or Lutherans in general) believe that missing church is a sin? If so, how grave of a sin is it? Lastly, what was the origin of that doctrine? I realize I went about asking those three questions in an extraordinarily convoluted fashion and for that I apologize. But really, this is what I’m trying to determine.

    You may have already answered that when you stated, “But the command that we hear God’s word and keep it is part of that permanent law written in our hearts.” However, I contend that we can hear God’s word just by reading the Bible.

    I also wanted to add on that while I go because I enjoy service, (again, after talking to my wife), I learn a lot there, too. Attending church has helped me grow enormously as a Christian and I think attending a good church will do that for anyone. As such, I think it’s good for people to go to church. That being said, I think people can grow as Christians without church (although probably much slower and with more difficulty) and I certainly don’t think it’s a sin if you miss it from time to time.

    Thanks again for putting up with me.

  27. Rolf Preus
    April 19th, 2012 at 08:02 | #27

    Thanks for your questions, Andrew. I’ll try to give you some clear answers.

    First of all, we Lutherans do not break the First Commandment into two commandments (as the Reformed do), so for us the Sabbath commandment is the Third Commandment.

    But the Sabbath law was abolished, as you know. (See Colossians 2:16-17) The Church did not have the authority to change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. God abolished it and the Church simply began gathering for worship on Sundays because that was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Rome codified Sunday worship, but really never had the authority to do so, but then Rome codifies all sorts of things, both good and bad, that she has no authority to codify. The fact is that the Church has been worshipping together on Sundays since the first century.

    Luther does a fine and thoroughly biblical job of interpreting the Third Commandment for Christians in his Catechism. He asks, “What does this mean?” Answer: “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Jesus tells us that his sheep hear his voice (John 10:27). He tells his Christians to hold on to everything he says (Matthew 28:20). The apostolic Church continued steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread (the celebration of the Lord’s Supper) and in the prayers (Acts 2:42). By the way, the reference in the Didache to the breaking of bread is a reference to the Lord’s Supper. See 1 Corinthians 10:16. We go to Church to hear God’s word by which our faith is engendered (Romans 10:17). Jesus wants his flock fed (Acts 20:28) and this feeding takes place by the undershepherds of the Good Shepherd faithfully preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments, which are the food the sheep need to live.

    This is why you should not only go to church faithfully, you should pay close attention to the word that is proclaimed and you should attend only congregations at which the pure and wholesome doctrine is taught.

    There is no divine law that says that services must be held on Sundays. That’s custom, or tradition, if you will. But obviously, we go when services are held. If services are on Sunday, we go on Sunday. In most Lutheran congregations we also have midweek services in the evenings during Advent and Lent.

    As to why a Christian should go to church, you might find this article interesting: http://www.christforus.org/Papers/Content/why_go_to_church.html

  28. Andrew
    April 27th, 2012 at 15:34 | #28

    Thank you, Rev. Preus, for the link to your very eye opening article. If I had read that right from the get-go, I probably would have had fewer questions. It helped me understand many of your stances very succinctly – even if I don’t necessarily agree with/believe in them. I do, however, respect them.

    I guess the biggest theological difference we have is our belief in the importance of the Eucharist (do Lutherans refer to Communion as such or is that strictly a Catholic term?). I gather from your ChristForUs link (and please correct me if I misunderstood) that you feel the partaking of the Eucharist is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, which is what I was taught as a Catholic. Side note: do Lutherans believe in transubstantiation?

    Me? Well, I think the literal breaking of Christ’s body and shedding of his blood is the end-all-be-all for the remission of sins (providing you’re actually sorry for having sinned in the first place). Partaking in the Lord’s Supper, for me, is done in remembrance of Christ, to keep fresh in our minds his dying for us, as well as to remember Christ pleading for us, in virtue of his death, at God’s right hand. I think Communion, in and of itself, does nothing special for our sins other than to keep us in the right frame of mind, understanding the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice.

    That’s makes it important for me, but obviously not as important as it is for you. As such, I don’t treat Communion lightly, but if I miss it, well, I don’t see that as being a deal breaker between me and God. I also feel that when you partake of it, you are affirming that you take Jesus as your Lord and Life, and you are yielding yourself to Him and His will so it’s not something about which you should be flippant (but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun). And I really think that’s what Paul was getting at with 1 Corinthians 11. Basically, make sure Communion is a bond of mutual love and affection between Christians otherwise it can easily be turned into an instrument of division and animosity.

    In regard to my initial query as to why we have to go to church, for you it seems necessary to receive the Word and for the forgiveness of sins (through the Lord’s Supper). I still contend that both the Word and forgiveness, while better in the midst of a church community (completely unrelated to any specific building or structure) can be done individually, simply between you and God. Obviously, we approach it from different angles and I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be said to better align our philosophies (but you’re more than welcome to try as I’m enjoying how much I’m learning from this exchange).

    Again, I think it’s good to go to church. I think folks SHOULD go to church but by no means do I think folks HAVE to go to church. In fact, if you don’t have the right frame of mind, if your ears and mind and heart aren’t open, then I firmly believe you should NOT go. In short, I no longer believe not going to church is a sin, as I was taught growing up Catholic.

    I do have one last question. You stated, “you should attend only congregations at which the pure and wholesome doctrine is taught.” How does one establish that criteria? Obviously Rome would contend you are not teaching the correct doctrine while you might contend Rome is in the wrong. Otherwise, why be separate denominations? Who is to say that my interpretation of Scripture is any less valid than yours? Who is to say the Pope’s interpretation is any more valid than yours or mine? Jesus shook up a lot of conventional wisdom in his day – He ate with sinners, healed (worked) on the Sabbath, didn’t make His disciples fast twice a week , interrupted the stoning of the adulteress caught in her sin, touched a leper, and went home with tax collectors – and it got Him killed. If someone came along and challenged our conventional wisdom, how would we react? How would we know if we were reacting correctly? How can we be sure that anyone proclaiming that they know what constitutes the pure and wholesome doctrine isn’t making the same mistake the Pharisees made over 2000 years ago? It just seems your statement is much more easily said than done. :)

  29. Rolf Preus
    April 28th, 2012 at 10:19 | #29

    Andrew, I will answer your questions as well as I can. Let me begin with your last question. How can we know which church teaches the pure doctrine? We go by God’s word, the Holy Scriptures. Ah, but there are so many interpretations, right? So that won’t work. Then we must go to an authoritative interpreter (the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches) or we may reduce the necessary biblical truth to a few fundamental truths (American Protestantism) or we may require a common religious experience (the various forms of Pentecostalism) or an agreed upon system of doctrine (the conservative Reformed). Or . . . .

    No, on second thought, let’s go back to the Scriptures. The Evangelical Lutheran Church teaches the Word of God faithfully, in complete agreement with the clear Scriptures. Check it out for yourself and you will see that I am right. To begin with, read Luther’s Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession. See for yourself that we believe, teach, and confess what the Bible plainly teaches.

    The Catholics (both Roman and Orthodox) place their “holy Tradition” above the Holy Scriptures. The Reformed (both the Calvinists and those who react against strict Calvinism) place their reason above the Holy Scriptures, as do liberals. Only Lutherans – and conservative Lutherans at that – permit the Scriptures alone to be the sole source, standard, and judge of all teaching.

    Now, on the basis of the clear words of the Holy Scriptures, without subjecting them to correction from Tradition, human reason, or human experience, what benefits does God give us in the Lord’s Supper? Jesus says of the sacramental elements (bread and wine) that they are his body and blood, given and shed for the remission of sins. So then, what should we as Christians believe? We should believe that the bread that we eat is Christ’s body, given for us. We should believe that the wine that we drink is Christ’s blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. That’s what we should believe because that’s what Jesus, in the Bible, says.

    This means that if we find ourselves in a church that denies that the sacramental bread and wine are Christ’s body and blood, we should leave that church. If we belong to a church that denies that the Lord’s Supper gives us forgiveness of sins, we should leave that church. We should not tolerate an “interpretation” of the Holy Scriptures that constitutes a rejection of what God plainly says.

    Most churches place their own human reason above the Holy Scriptures and force the Bible to agree with reason, rather than placing human reason under the Holy Scriptures and forcing reason to agree with the Bible. If you attended a conservative, Bible-believing, Catechism-confessing Lutheran church you would be encouraged to hold on to the words of your Savior closely and with firm faith. You would learn to see the Lord’s Supper as a gift from God to you, and not as you as affirming that you take Jesus as the Lord of your life.

    There is a big difference between God giving himself to you and you giving yourself to God. This is the difference between life and death.

    Some Lutherans call the Lord’s Supper the Eucharist. Some call it the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. In the Catechism it is called the Sacrament of the Altar. It doesn’t matter so much what you call it. What matters is that it is the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

    We do not believe that you must go to the Lord’s Supper to receive the forgiveness of sins. Lutherans do not believe in communing babies, yet we certainly believe that they receive the forgiveness of sins from God in Holy Baptism, and in the word of God.

    Finally, Andrew, I don’t have a religious philosophy. While I find philosophy to be interesting at times (except for Existentialism, which I find to be absurd, but then so do Existentialists!), I don’t find philosophy to be particularly satisfying. I’m a sinner hungry for righteousness and I cannot find what I need within me or in anything I do or think or say. I can try to yield myself to Jesus, but can I really do so adequately? Seriously, can I say I have fully yielded myself to God? I don’t know anyone who can honestly make that claim.

    What I need is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God gives that to me in his word. He gives me forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from hell. He gives this to faith. Faith receives only what God gives. If God doesn’t give, faith has nothing to receive. Where is the word where God gives me salvation?

    It is written down in the Bible. It is given to me in Holy Baptism. It is preached to me by the preacher God sends to preach. It is spoken to me in the absolution the minister pronounces on me. It is given to me in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word made flesh, who was crucified for me, who took away my sins and rose from the dead with life and immortality to give, comes to me in his word and gives me forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

    This is why a Christian goes to church.

    Get a hold of a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession. Find a faithful Lutheran pastor in your area who will teach you the pure gospel. Do it, Andrew! I promise you that you will be glad you did. God bless you!

  30. John Rixe
    April 28th, 2012 at 12:27 | #30

    @Andrew #28
    @Rolf Preus #29

    Excellent questions and excellent answers.  

    May you be blessed by the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 115:15)

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