Because people have commented on it, I felt the need to announce a change to the BJS homepage.
The “Flashback” feature was originally designed to bring some of our “oldie but goodie” posts to your attention periodically. Unfortunately for a year or so it’s been broken — one of the WordPress upgrades broke it; I didn’t notice it immediately, and by the time I noticed it it was too late to try to figure out which update broke it.
Anyway, I finally got fed up with it and researched the problem and am pleased to announce that it’s now fixed!
You will notice the 6th box down on the homepage has the Flashback graphic on the left side of it. Each time the homepage is replotted, 10 random posts are pulled from the “Flashback” category and cycle through that box. You can use the left/right buttons to go to a post you want if you see one you want to read more of.
You can also review all of our Flashback posts by clicking here or on the Flashback graphic to the left of the slider.
We would welcome recommendations for other posts that should be placed in this category .. since it has been non-functional for so long we haven’t even attempted to classify any new posts, and we didn’t do a complete survey of all our posts when we initially came up with the idea at our last redesign of the website. I’m sure we have many posts written since we first created this blog in June of 2008 that would welcome a reread. Of course, I’m sure there are some posts that we’d all rather forget about, but that the life of a blog.
Thanks for your attention, and a very blessed Reformation celebration to you!
P.s. sorry to all those who “complained” about it not working .. yes, I read your comments; I just couldn’t fit the time in to dig into the code to figure out what went wrong.
And .. for your enjoyment, here’s a duplicate of the flashback slider as seen on the homepage:
This is a reposting of a pair of articles published last year on the origins of Easter and some Easter traditions. The sources are given so that the reader can better be able to debunk the popular “historical” nonsense about the origins of Easter.
The whole series is available at Diatheke Christianity and Paganism.
Easter is the English/Germanic name for the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This particular Feast Day is the heart and center of the whole liturgical practice of the Christian Church Year.
Because it is at the center it is under great attack by those seeking to discredit this liturgical festival. If these people can maintain that Easter is really originally pagan, then they undermine Christ, His Passion, death and Resurrection.
In this article we will look at:
Passover as The Origin of the Christian Church Year
The three High Festivals of the Christian Church Year are Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. All of these days are were established in the early Church on the basis of the biblical dating of Passover. Any festivals that are tied to the dates of these Holy Days are derived from their relationship to Passover.
This means that, contrary to claims from many different sources, the choice of dates for these Festivals and those tied to them have nothing to do with pagan origins.
Let us say that again and more clearly: The dates for Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and all those church holy days that are directly tied to the dates of those holy days are all based originally on Passover. None of these days were chosen due to pagan influences. None! The actual choice for the date was based on what God declared to Moses in about 1,440 B.C. on Mt. Sinai.
There are Christian festivals that are not directly tied to these dates, those are dates such as the the commemoration of Saints. Those days were chosen for their own reasons: usually to commemorate the calender day on which a person was born or died.
But the relationship between the Passover, Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas is an historically demonstrable fact through the writings of the Church Fathers.
And this relationship to Passover is essential to understanding the theology of the Promise and Fulfillment in Christ as well as the establishing of the First Covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant.
About 1,470 years before the Son of God instituted His Holy Supper, that same Son of God commanded Moses and the Congregation of Israel saying:
The ordinance for this festival and the Festival of Unleavened Bread is that the month of Abib become the first month of the religious calendar. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are the basis in the Books of Moses for calculating the two other major festivals of the liturgical year:
And just as the Passover Lamb was selected on the 10th of the First Month, the scapegoat and the sacrificial goat for the Lord were selected on the 10th of the Seventh Month–The Day of Atonement.
Everything in the liturgical year is keyed upon Passover in the Old Testament. This key event does not get put aside in the New Testament. Rather, the Passover takes on even greater significance as it is fulfilled in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
While Clement of Alexandria attests to the fact that there were a handful of different days of the year that people thought the world was created, the view expressed by Clement (c.150 – c. 215), Hippolytus (170 – 235), Julius Africanus (c.160 – c.240) and others at the close of the 2nd century A.D. were the most widely accepted. That view was that the world was created March 25th, Christ was conceived March 25th, and Christ was crucified March 25th. March 25th also was the equinox. Which made this date easy to calculate.
Thus we can see that the choice of this date was also a public confession of the Hypostatic Union of the Two Natures in Christ. Observing Creation, Incarnation, and Passion on the same day confessed that it is the Son of God, the Creator, who became human and so intimately united Himself with humanity by suffering as a man in humanity’s place.
We are not evaluating whether March 25th was the actual date that these events truly happened, we are demonstrating the early rationale for and the early widespread acceptance of this date in the teaching and practice of the Church.
This dating was the basis for later the work of Dionysius Exiguus (c. 470 – c. 544) , and widely enough established in the late 2nd century to be used as proof by Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD):
This view formed the basis for the Alexandrian Era and held in the ancient Church up to the 7th century A.D.
The Christmas Cycle separates from the Easter Cycle
While the early church equated March 25th (the equinox) with the Incarnation of Christ, all those dates related directly to that date became fixed on the calendar. However, the Passover changed each year because it was based on the lunar cycle.
How Did Easter Get Separated from Passover?
So the problem became, when should Christ’s Passion and Resurrection be celebrated? Should it be held relative to Passover regardless of which day of the week it occurred? Or should it be held on the days of the week named in the Gospel narratives regardless of which day of the week the Passover actually occurred?
The debate is called “The Easter Controversy.” It is actually several different controversies through the centuries about the same issue. Records about this debate and from this debate date back to the early and mid 2nd century. And the question of when Easter should be celebrated and how it should be calculated led to many writings of the early chronographers and calendarists.
There were two main parts to these controversies. First, whether Passover and Resurrection should be observed on the 14th of Abib or on the Sunday following. The controversies following this had to deal with the best way to calculate the Passover accurately.
Why Sunday Weekly Worship
Sunday became the focus of Christian worship because it is the Day of the Resurrection of Christ (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:9; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1, 19).
The weekly Sunday worship focused on the Passover given and instituted as the New Covenant fulfilling the Promise (Gal. 4). Paul testifies that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated and tithes were gathered at worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2). Weekly Sunday worship with the Lord’s Supper is weekly observance of the Passover in Christ, but not the passover of the Old Covenant. It is the partial fulfilment of the Passover with the New Covenant. The complete fulfilment of the original Passover waits until the Return of Christ on Judgement day.
Often moderns will make the same claim made by the Sabbath Keepers like Abram Herbert Lewis (1832-1908), that Christians cannot worship on Sunday because that is a pagan day devoted to a pagan God. The Sabbath keepers tried to argue that the early church did not worship on Sunday but that this gradually came about as Christianity gave into paganism and wordliness.
But worship on Sunday was considered a vital confessional practice even while the Apostles were still alive. Ignatius (30 AD – 107 AD) wrote in The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 9 (ANF 1:62-63):
And later in the same chapter:
It was on a Sunday that the Apostle John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ.(Rev. 1:9-10)
Justin Martyr (AD 100–ca.165) bears witness to this unity of dates and practices (also pointing out that the Mithraists copied Christian practice in his time with regard to the ceremonies and sacraments of the Church) [Apology 1:66 –ANF 1:p. 185]. Justin highlighted the significance of the day and the liturgical practice in the following passage:
The First Easter Date Controversy ( up to 190AD)
So by the time the first main controversy about Easter became and issue, most congregations outside of Asia-Minor already celebrated Resurrection on the Sunday following the Passover.
But in Asia-Minor there were several congregations that maintained the practice of celebrating the Crucifixion on the 14th of Abib. These people became called “Fourteenthers” [Quartodeciman].
Eusebeus (Hist. 5:24) records the words of Irenaeus at the time:
Irenaeus stated that the difference in calendar observance was not divisive of fellowship.
There are two important things to note about this controversy:
First: The question of whether 14th Abib or the Sunday following pre-dates this controversy. The practice of a Sunday Easter service is shown by Irenaeus’ and Justin’s letters. The practice of Sunday observance of Easter probably dates back to the Apostolic times.
Second: The issue at hand was when to break the fast for the Resurrection. We have already seen that the 40 day Lenten fast pre-dates Constantine. We see here in Irenaeus that fasting traditions varied from place to place but were considered old traditions.
The choice of the Church to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Sundays is very ancient, probably from the Apostolic period. The choice had nothing to do with Roman pagan holidays or any other pagan holiday. It had to do with making a clear Christological confession about the Christ-the suffering Servant, the God-Man incarnate who redeemed us from sin, Satan, and death itself.
The Second Easter Date Controversy (323 A.D)
This debate took place as part of the Council of Nicea where Athanasius worked against Arius. This is the council that the Easter-haters point to claiming that Constantine usurped the church and brought in pagan customs and dates.
Sunday Easter service was already the norm throughout Christianity by this time. The issue at the Council was which is the best way to calculate when Easter would occur.
The desire was to have all the congregations celebrating on the same date. But that could not happen by depending upon the rabbis fixing the month by physical observation. One of the complaints recorded is that dependency on such physical calculations might allow Passover to be celebrated twice in one solar year.
The practice was to wait until the rabbis had “set the month by observation” (קדוש החדש על פי ראיה) or by means of reckoning (קדוש החדש על פי חשבון).
[ From “Mishna Torah, Book of Times, Regulations for the Sanctifying of the Month” משנה תורה – ספר זמנים – הלכות קידוש החודש – הכול פרק ב]
The Council sought to keep the Passover in Christ from being arbitrarily decided and to have the date uniformly kept throughout the church at large. They set the equinox as the earliest possible date of Passover–already established by early tradition as the day of Creation, Incarnation, and the original Crucifixion.
Nothing in their discussions or in any of the surviving evidence suggests that these dates were chosen or influenced by any pagan practice or teaching. All the actual contemporary evidence points to a great concern that the Passover be marked accurately for the sake of confessing the Hypostatic Union of Christ and His saving work in His Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection.
The Third Easter Date Controversy (c. 600 A.D)
Churches in the British Isles which had been established early were using a different method of calculation than were the churches in the Mediterranean area. The calculations used in the British Isles were using the formula from the time of the Roman occupation, the formula that the church at Rome had made improvements to.
The Easter date in the British Isles had nothing to do with pagan worship, but was based on the older method originating with the churches in the Mediterranean area. When this older method was replaced it had nothing to do with pagan practices. The churches in the British Isles were just conforming to what had been established by the Church at large in the Mediterranean world.
[Thurston, H. (1909). Easter Controversy. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 26, 2013 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05228a.htm]
The date of Easter and the rest of the High Holy Days of the Church are rooted in the observance of the Passover and have no roots in any pagan practice. The Passover was established by God nearly 1500 years before the fulfilment of the Promise in Christ’s death and resurrection. The Church sought to clarify how this date chosen in the calendar and help make the practice consistent throughout the Church.
None of the controversies surrounding the dating of Easter had anything to do with pagan practices. Essentially these controversies were either disagreements on whether to observe the 14th of Abib rather than the Sunday following, or disagreements on the best way to calculate when the Biblical 14th of Abib (the Passover) would take place.
Anyone who contends that the dates were chosen on the basis of pagan sources is making a claim contrary to all actual evidence from the actual periods.
What About Other Pagan Influences?
Part 2 coming soon…..
(from Pastor Preus) I had an experience a couple of weeks ago which made me believe that the church and possibly even the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is getting stronger and more vibrant. After Divine Services on Trinity Sunday a couple of people commented on how nice it was to say the Athanasian Creed. One person whimsically queried as to the liturgical propriety of saying this, the longest of the Ecumenical Creeds, on Sundays other than Trinity Sunday. She modestly averred that she made it a point not to miss church on the Sunday when the Athanasian Creed was spoken since she loved confessing it so much.
I have to confess that I was a bit unsure about whether this strongly Trinitarian creed could be used, say, on Easter, Christmas or the 21st Sunday after Trinity. Who ever heard of confessing the Athanasian Creed on just any old Sunday? But, before such musings got the best of me I did observe to myself how wonderful such a request was. Why?
First, it showed just how effective the patient teaching on liturgical customs can be. I remember the first time I used the Athanasian Creed in Church on Trinity Sunday. My people, who were tragically and inexcusable unaware of such a tradition, murmured and grumbled, “Pastor, it’s so long.” The testing of parishioner patience is risky business even only once a year, I thought. I can remember my feeble attempts to apologize and say something clever like, “It’s only once a year.” What a wimpy response. Such an answer accomplishes little except to reaffirm the silly and sinful thought that we ought actually to determine the length of the service based on our time pieces. God doesn’t look at His watch when you are talking to Him in prayer, so when He is talking to you during the Divine Service don’t you dare look at your watch. I learned later to say, “Yes, it’s long and beautiful and full of grace and the Spirit (swoon, sigh, look wistfully to heaven). It speaks the theology of the church. When we speak it we follow the tradition of the church.” Since I started responding more assertively (and with patient consistent resolve) I really cannot recall anyone complaining about its length. And now people are starting to want the Athanasian Creed more. That’s a positive sign for the church.
Second, the request to speak the creed more often shows that Lutherans really do love doctrine and sophisticated theology. The Creed tends to repeat itself with apparent disregard not only for the pressing time schedules of 21st century Americans but for their theological categories as well. Perhaps that’s because it was produced in the fifth century. It speaks to resolve theological issues which were quite current in the 3rd through 5th Centuries; Issues regarding precisely who God is, who He is not and how we must think of him. It speaks of the great Three in One whom we worship neither “confusing the persons nor dividing the substance” But how is this 1500 year-old creed relevant today? HMMM? Let me think. How long ago was it that we were discussing in our circles whether someone who prayed to “Allah,” the false nonexistent god of the Islamic world, is really praying to God? When was the last time you were in some church which claimed the name Lutheran and you did not hear the Trinitarian invocation or anything else particularly Trinitarian? I receive bulletins from my members who visit other churches which sometimes indicate the absence of any reference to the Holy Trinity during the worship hours of these churches. I can honestly say that I get a couple of questions each year indicating a desire to learn to talk about the unique persons of the Trinity properly. So I show them the Athanasian Creed. I don’t think I am wrong to believe that those who crave the Athanasian Creed are eager to assert the truth of precisely those issues which confront us today. And that is also a positive sign for the church.
In a day when so much is wrong with the organized church and even our church body, it’s nice to get fleeting but certain proof that the consistent teaching and use of liturgical customs is a worthy endeavor. But I still don’t know if it there is liturgical precedent for speaking the Athanasian Creed more than once a year.
On All Hallows’ Eve 1517 a monk named Martin Luther posted a list of points for discussion and debate at the University of Wittenberg campus church. The campus church is named All Saints’ Church. The regular bulletin board for such announcements was the front church door. All Saints’ Church was the largest repository of relics of the saints outside of Rome. Many of those relics would be put on display on All Saints’ Day. Indulgences would be granted to those who came to the Church to view the relics of the saints on that day.
The location, the date, the practices: all of these helped focus the issue on and ensure a wide audience to the topic of Luther’s posted points.
The topic of the points for discussion: The Saints of the Church, and whether paying for a Papal Indulgence benefits the Saints, whether dead or living.
These points are called the Ninety-Five Theses. You can read them all at this link. As a sample we give points 27-37:
So, on the Eve of All Saints [Halloween], at All Saints’ Church, among the relics of the saints, during the veneration of the saints, and probably the reciting of the Litany of the Saints.
From late antiquity the cult of the saints grew within the ChristianChurch. It was lucrative–kind of like a circus side-show where the prize for the price of admission was not just to see the relic of a saint, but also to get some time out of purgatory or some grace to do good works to keep from going into purgatory.
In short, the Christian Church was a mess: plugged chock full of prayers to dead people that were declared by officials of the Church to be saints; overflowing with relics of dead people which were to be venerated, adored, and even prayed to in some cases; teaming with pilgrimages to these relics, artifacts of a nominally Christian Church that had abandoned God’s grace through faith in Christ and turned to salvation by other means.
The Church had adopted innumerable pagan practices. And no particular festival day showed the fact more clearly than All Saints’ Day. No particular church building could have been a clearer example than All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, the largest focal point for pilgrimage to venerate the relics of the saints outside of Rome.
So it is instructive to see what was done by Luther and the Lutheran Reformation.
All Saints’ Church was not torn down. Some of its statuary were removed, but not all. Some of its art was changed, not just to get rid of particular saints, but to add some as well. One in particular was buried inside the church with a visible sepulcher and an image of the deceased.
The observation of All Saints’ Day was not prohibited. Rather, it was expanded to include the teaching of God’s Word on what a saint truly is through faith in Christ alone. The abuses imported by the Church for the worship of the saints through the ages were rejected. But the value of remembering them, how God preserved them, and what God worked through them is retained, celebrated, and taught.
The attitude of Luther and the Lutheran Reformers was not to throw away everything that the Roman Church had done. Rather the purpose was to retain as much of the historic Christian practice as could be without violating the central teaching of Scripture: that we are Justified by God by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as taught only in His Scriptures.
We retain All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Eve’, the honoring and remembering of the Saints who have gone before us–who pointed to Christ alone as their and our salvation. We confess in the Augsburg Confession of 1530:
We thank God not by trashing all the heritage of Christian liturgical practice, but by learning it, appreciating the lessons of those who have gone before to shape this practice into a reflection of the bare truth of God’s Word.
The Apology XXI states in part:
There are many today who, like the church of late antiquity and the middle-ages are tired of the testimony of the Saints who have gone before us. They also reject historical liturgical practice and with it the historical confession of the faith. All in favor of newness and a self-satisfied feeling of genuineness in their own expression of worship. So they add, they tweak, they abandon not for the sake of clear biblical teaching, but for the sake of the audience. Whatever gets them in the door. Whatever can attract them to keep them coming.
That is, in part, how the cult of the saints started and twisted the observation of All Saints’ Day off its course before the Reformation.
Blessed Halloween to you all.
About a year ago one of my professors gave me the lecture notes of my grandfather, Robert Preus, from when he taught a course on Justification at St. Catharines back in the 80’s. According to Dr. Jackson, Preus was an adherent of Objective Justification at that time, but Jackson claims that he demonstrates in his essay “Justification and Rome” that he had a breakthrough and realized that this is not a Lutheran teaching. The lecture notes consist of twenty pages of quotes from the Lutheran Church Fathers on Justification, and most of these quotes are found in his “Justification and Rome.” One of the quotes comes from Abraham Calov’s Apodixis articulorum fidei (Lüneberg, 1684, p. 249), and Jackson cites this quote in Preus’ book as proof that he denied Objective Justification by the end of his life. Here is the quote (quoted in “Justification and Rome, 131, n74):
Now, Jackson also likes to point out what Preus wrote on page 72:
So Preus discusses here the distinction between procured and imputed righteousness. Jackson evidently does not see the procuring of Christ’s righteousness for all as part of Objective Justification. I suppose he is right that Quenstedt does not specifically say that God justified the world in Christ. Calov never used the term justification apart from faith. But this does not mean that they did not understand and teach the concept of Objective Justification. Preus gives a good explanation for the lack of outright Objective Justification language in the Lutheran Church Fathers. In his lecture notes, he writes (pg. 11):
Preus then goes on to show that Sebastian Schmidt confesses the concept of Objective Justification in his Romans commentary (Hamburg, 1704, pg. 350). Schmidt, in discussing Romans 5:18, finds a distinction between dikaioma and dikaiosis. The former is a justifying righteousness which came to all men; the latter, set in opposition to katakrima (act of condemnation), is “the very act of justification whereby God justifies us.” Preus also quotes Schmidt in Latin earlier in his notes (pg. 8): “Christ was given up for the sake of the sins of the whole world. In like manner he was risen for the sake of our justification, hic est of the whole world.” (Schmidt 328) Christ became the righteousness of all; His resurrection proves it.
Jackson acts as if Preus had a huge breakthrough in his “Justification and Rome,” failing to realize that the Calov quote was in his lecture notes long before he wrote his essay; in these lecture notes he clearly confessed Objective Justification. If one believes Jackson that Robert Preus used this Calov quote in support of an apparent denial of Objective Justification, one would expect Preus to follow up this quote with such a denial. However, he instead shows the significance of what Calov is saying (“Justification and Rome” n74, pg. 131; c.f. Quenstedt Systema), showing that the Roman Catholics could not speak of forgiveness and righteousness as “objective realities which are offered in the Gospel.” For the Catholics, as opposed to the Lutherans, righteousness and forgiveness are only possibilities which become realities when one begins the process of justification/sanctification. The Gospel therefore is efficacious because it delivers that reality of righteousness and forgiveness already procured to all. Preus, then, demonstrates the reality of justification before faith, only that it is not imputed to me personally prior to faith. The only way one can conclude from “Justification and Rome” that Preus denied Objective Justification is if one reads it not in the context of his theological and scholarly life, but rather in light of one’s own presuppositions and reasoning.
I gather that the assorted bloggers thought these numbers were bad. Actually, I’m not so sure. The percentage of people not going to church is very low compared to other churches and it’s somewhat out of our line of thinking to expect sinful people to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy 100 percent of the time.
As for the other figures, I kind of think the questions are bad. I wrote a little bit about this elsewhere, but here is just one of the questions that Pew asked:
How would you answer that question? Yes? No? I believe in heaven — I don’t believe in people in people who have led good lives.
Another question asked people if they believe in a “literal” interpretation of Scripture. We hopefully all believe the Bible is the word of God. But do you believe in a “literal” thousand year reign? Do you believe Jesus is literally a door?
I think the survey had some serious limitations. But what do you think of the results?
This particular claim toward pagan sources for Christianity and Christian Holy Days goes under various names: Jesus Myth Theory, Jesus Mythicism, Mythicism, Copy-cat Theory, and probably other terms.
The basic claim is that Christ is a fake: an unoriginal copy-cat of some other supposedly more ancient pagan god or gods.
These claims are bunk. Both historians and Biblical theologians have been very thorough in debunking these claims since their earliest times.
A common example that circulates on the web, Twitter, and Facebook is the following graphic:
Most people who share this kind of post do not have the intellectual integrity to bother checking up on these claims. And having a reputation as an Atheist thinker doesn’t seem to keep even famous “thinkers” from falling for this fictional bunk.
But the fact is that this falsehood is widely and popularly promoted by people who claim to be objective. Yet they couldn’t be bothered to actually do the research.
A short list of recent so-called documentaries that have promoted this falsehood:
A couple of recent books popularizing this fiction written by well known Atheist authors:
[These are all 2005 and after, list is from Christ Myth Theory.]
But Hitchens, Dawkins, Maher, Atwill, Dan Brown and others are merely repeating the creative fiction of anti-Christian zealots from the 18th century and after. Back then it was hard for people to check up on the scholarship of a published work. Some of these original thinkers were:
There are many other contributers to this stream of creative fiction. It is apparent by looking at their life and work that they had all their own vested interests in discrediting Christianity. The Wikipedia article on Christ Myth Theory is actually very helpful at gaining source information. It does contain some chronological inaccuracies about the movement. But a bit of careful reading can clear up the matter of who invented which idea when.
For many who pass this falsehood on there is an excellent and short video by Pr. Hans Fiene’s video commentary from Lutheran Satire titled “Horus Ruins Christmas” may be enough to help. The video is focused on the Horus variant, but includes Mithra and others.
Pr. Fiene recently revisited this issue with a new video titled Horus Reads the Internet.”
But there is a lot more background to this series of attacks against Christ, Christianity, and Christian Worship.
The following is a list of supposed originals that they claim formed the basis for Jesus. The list is mainly from James Holding’s very helpful website. Documentation for sources and rebuttals can be found at that website.
James Holding also published a book dealing specifically with this attack against Christianity.
Finding research online to debunk these claims is not actually a difficult thing to do.
One Example: Jesus is Mithra
The following link is an example of a page promoting this falsehood. The article is by a person named Kevin Williams.
What we should note is how academic or scholarly it pretends to be. Consider just for example this point in William’s post:
What the text actually says in context is the following:
The disciples of Mithra formed an organized church with a developed hierarchy. They possessed the ideas of Mediation, Atonement, and a Saviour, who is human and yet divine, and not only the idea, but a doctrine of the Future Life. They had a Eucharist, and a Baptism, and other curious analogies might be pointed out be tween their system and the Church of Christ. Most of these conceptions, no doubt, are integral parts of a religion much older than Christianity. But when we consider how strange they are to the older polytheism of Greece and Rome, and when we observe further that Mithraism did not come into full vogue till the time of Hadrian, that is to say till the age of Gnosticism, we shall hardly be wrong in judging that resemblances were pushed forward, exaggerated, modified, with a special view to the necessities of the conflict with the new faith, and that differences, such as the barbarous superstitions of the Avesia, were kept sedulously in the background with the same object. Paganism was copying Christianity, and by that very act was lowering her arms. [emphasis mine]
Yes, simply looking up the references used as evidence in support for their arguments usually undercuts what they claim. In this case, Kevin Williams’s proof is actually a statement of an idea that the original work is arguing against.
There are two websites I’d suggest for rebuttals specific to the Mithra claim. But take these with a grain of salt. Tekton, for instance, doesn’t accurately deal with the Dec. 25th date in two ways.
First, the establishing of this date for the celebration of Christ’s birth is very early in the Church [by the end of the 2nd century].
Second, there is no birth date for Mithra given in the ancient sources. The association of Dec. 25 with Mithra was a conjecture by a scholar named Cumont.
The study of Mithraism is itself very useful. And, in fact, you can in less than a day learn all there is to know about the actual textual evidence left to us about this religion. The iconography and art would take a bit longer, but those are left to wide and wild interpretations.
A valuable website with all you would ever need to know about what is really known about Mithraism has been put together by Roger Pearse.
First, Objective Justification and Subjective Justification are not two different justifications, but rather two parts of the act of Justification. My brother David has put it well: Objective Justification = God justifies the sinner [through faith]. Subjective Justification = [God justifies the sinner] through faith.
Objective Justification refers to the work of God in Christ as well as the proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments. Subjective Justification refers to faith, which is created by that proclamation and receives the benefits. Subjective Justification does not refer to the administration of the means of grace. While it is true that when we speak of the application of the the accomplished act of Christ we certainly speak of faith, nevertheless the application of the righteousness of Christ in the means of grace as such is objective. God, in Christ, reconciles the world to himself… entrusting the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). It is all one motion. This is why the pastor can pronounce absolution on a sinner even though he does not know for sure –outside of the sinner’s confession — if he truly has faith.
Article three of the Formula of Concord lists the necessary parts of justification (SD III, 25): the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives the righteousness of Christ in the promise of the gospel. The grace of God, the merit of Christ, and the promise of the gospel are all part of Objective Justification. Faith receiving the righteousness of Christ refers to Subjective Justification.
Obviously the means of grace are involved when we discuss Subjective Justification, since it is in them that faith receives the righteousness of Christ. Similarly, the plan and work of our redemption are discussed as well. After all, they are not two different justifications. However, when we speak of Objective Justification, we are not only speaking of what God did back then, but also what he declares today in the promise of the gospel. When we speak of Subjective Justification, we are speaking specifically of faith receiving what is objectively given.
The discussion of Objective and Subjective Justification is simply a distinction within one act. God quenches our thirst. This is one act. Nevertheless, we can distinguish between God preparing the water and pouring it into our mouths on the one hand, and us receiving it in our mouths on the other. It doesn’t change the fact that it is one act. The fact that a sinner can know that he is justified through faith presupposes that the righteousness of Christ is accomplished for all sinners and offered to all sinners.
Below is a letter of resignation from a pastor in the LCMS. It came our way and we feel it is important news for our readers and a helpful warning for us all.
By publishing this letter we are not endorsing the action of this pastor. We do not claim to know all the ins and outs of this situation but we have experienced enough doctrinal foolishness in the LCMS to recognize a warning shot when we see one. We completely understand his frustration and can imagine all that he says to be the case with maybe one exception. This pastor says he found no confessional, brotherly support in the LCMS. That has not been our experience. Are there large pockets of little or no support? Yes, and Pastor VonMehren was apparently in one of those but there also larger pockets of great support and we hope that the posts on this website are proof of such.
We are glad to see this pastor not lay his frustration entirely at the doorstep of President Harrison, Like Pastor VanMehren we are pleased with the leadership and work of President Harrison. Thanks to President Harrison and his team good things are happening in the LCMS to restore purity of doctrine and faithfulness of practice. The pace may not be the same pace as you or I might pick. Some of us would want things to happen faster and some even more deliberately than the current pace but overall, we are being steered in a good direction.
So we submit for your edification and as a warning shot over the bow of the battleship Missouri the heartfelt and accurate letter of a frustrated, former LCMS pastor. May this letter further egg us on to uphold pure doctrine and faithful practice.
(Editor’s Note: Pastor Otten writes the BJS regular column “Steadfast Lessons from the Past.” The columns are archived here. Walter Bouman, well known liberal, of whom he writes here left the LCMS and became an ALC pastor in 1977. He died in 2008. The lesser known pastors and laymen that brother Otten brings to our attention are the real heroes.)
“Brother Rossow you want two columns a month under the theme STEADFAST LESSONS FROM THE PAST?”
His reply, “Yes, old man, just dig into your files!”
That digging revealed those who were “steadfast” in the past.
The March 19th, 1967 issue of THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control of Concordia Teachers College of River Forest, Illinois was considering giving tenure to Dr. Walter Bouman, a member of the faculty. The REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control was asking for information from the church at large concerning Dr. Bouman.
Two years earlier THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER reported on a presentation that Dr. Bouman had given at the Northwest Indiana Pastor’s and Teacher’s Conference held at Valparaiso, Indiana. The conference dealt with the theme “Evolution and/or Creation.” Besides Dr. Bouman two pro evolution professors from Valpo were participants, as well as Dr. John Klotz, Dr. Paul Zimmerman and Professor Rusch, all creationists. The REPORTER article included the words, “In his theological analysis Dr. Bouman advanced arguments supporting the thesis that the conflict in the evolution issue is not posed by science or by the nature of the Bible texts or by the position of the Lutheran Confessions, but ‘by a theological opinion about the nature of inspiration.'” The article continued, “He found fault with the ‘theory of inspiration’ held by Lutheran dogmaticians which makes inspiration the ‘direct communication of otherwise unknowable information.'”
Dr. Bouman’s actual words at the conference were “If, in the process, he (the scientist) discovers facts which do not support the world view of the biblical writers, the church today really has very little difficulty living with both the fact that is discovered and with the Scriptures which is still continues to listen to…The point I’m trying to make here is this. That where the scientific research confronts us with a fact, there we can manage to find a new way to interpret the Scriptures even though a man as revered in our own tradition as I’m sure all of us revere Dr. Pieper thought otherwise.”
Dr. Bouman had said essentially the same thing in an article he prepared for the 1965 LUTHERAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK. In his unedited copy he wrote, “The evangelical approach, because it hears the Word of God as Law and Gospel, is neither bound to Biblical cosmology nor deaf to the Word of God as expressed through biblical cosmology.” In that article, which evaluated Lutheran education materials, he wrote of the Primary Religion Series for the 8th grade,
“In the 8th grade one of the objectives is that the children accept the ‘biblical account of creation’ and receive ‘the courage to support and defend it.’ How sad. Our children deserve something better than this. If one begins with Law and Gospel, then learns something about the literary history and the literary nature of the Genesis prolog…then we should have no fear of theories which can possibly expand our vision of God’s working.”
What did the Board of Control hear from the church at large when it asked for information concerning granting tenure to Dr. Bouman, when he had so publicly written and spoken? Who would teach us a lesson of STEADFASTNESS?
There were seventeen “letters of protest.” The names of those who wrote such letters of protested are perhaps not know by many, now forty one years later.
Four of the seventeen letters came from laymen. Their names are here mentioned out of deep respect for these Brothers of John the Steadfast, who for the most part are now in the presence of Him Whom they confessed and served. Three of the four were from the Northern Illinois District. One was Gerhardt Freundt, a consulting engineer. If the open hearing that preceded the 1962 Cleveland convention of the Synod was recorded, and that recording were still available, one today could hear his evangelical and dramatic appeal to Dr. Martin Scharlemann to no longer hold the views that he expressed in his controversial essays. (Dr. Scharlemann eventually recanted his views and became a staunch supporter of conservativism but prior to that had embraced elements of the liberal higher criticism.)
Another who protested was Karl Heinecke of Western Springs, Illinois. Karl served his Lord in a most unassuming way. It was he who was most responsible for THE WEST TOWNS DAILY CHAPEL over station WTAQ. For many years the Gospel was broadcast daily on this program from this station at 8:00 a.m. It reached all of Chicagoland and Northern Indiana. Countless homebound Christians were daily sustained by it. It was he who organized and scheduled 10 Missouri Synod pastors for their biweekly Gospel broadcast.
Another layman, who sent a letter of protest, was a dear friend of this writer, Marv Toepper, deeply committed to Christ, Christian education and Lutheran confessionalism from his earliest days at Grace Lutheran Church of Chicago. Grace was then served by Pastor Elbert, a member of the old Chicago Study Club, whose members read THE CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN with gratitude.
The one layman who protested, who did not come from Illinois, was Ralph Lohrengel. His home was in Michigan. Ralph alone remains as the one of the four laymen who still serves as a “steadfast” servant in the church militant.
Five of the “letters of protest” came from pastors of the Northern Illinois District. Pastors Robert Kamphoefner of Immanuel in Dundee; Pastor Martin Lopahs of St. Paul, Round Lake; Pastor John Lutze of Immanuel, Downers Grove; Pastor Ray Wessler of St. John, Calument City; and Pastor Harold Krueger of Lake Zurich all dear friends wrote urging the Board of Control of the River Forest college not to grant tenure to Dr. Bouman. One of these pastors and his congregation, St. Paul’s of Round Lake, left the Synod after the 1971 Milwaukee convention of synod for the failure of that convention to fully address and faithfully confess all the issues then facing the synod. Dr. Bouman was still on the River Forest faculty, with tenure.
Four congregations, either via their voter’s assembly or board of elders, submitted “letters of protest.” The board of elders of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor A.O. Gebauer\ and the board of elders of Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Cary, Illinois, served by Pastor Robert Hess urged the Board of Control not to grant tenure. St. Andrews Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor Martin Frick and St. Paul Lutheran Church of Brookfield, Illinois, served by this writer, also so urged that tenure not be granted. St. Andrews of Chicago, and their pastor, Martin Frick, would also leave the Synod after the Milwaukee convention for the same reasons as did St. Paul of Round Lake.
Four “letters of protest” came from outside Illinois. Pastors Richard Borchers of Fairmount, North Dakota; Pastor Harold Braun of St. Paul, Minnesota; Pastor C.A. Rathjen of Muscoda, Wisconsin; and Pastor Waldo Werning of Milwaukee all expressed their desire that Dr. Bouman not be given tenure.
There were fifteen “letters of commendation.” With one exception these were letters from individuals. The one exception was a letter from the church council of Ascension Lutheran Church of Riverside, where Dr. Martin Marty held membership. Ascension Lutheran Church would leave the LCMS in the Seminex days.
Individual “letters of commendation” came from Dr. Alfred Fuerbringer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. In his letter he told the Board that Dr. Bouman had taught summer courses at the St. Louis Seminary.
Dr. Arthur Repp, the Academic dean of the St. Louis Seminary also wrote a “letter of commendation.” He also mentioned the fact that Dr. Bouman had taught at the seminary.
The executive director of the CTCR, Dr. Richard Jungkuntz, urged the board to grant tenure, as did the former President of the Northern Illinois District, Pastor Erwin Paul. The word “former” in identifying Pastor Erwin Paul has much to do with Dr. Walter Bouman, but that’s for another column.
It was forty one years ago so the fact that some of these letters were handwritten is not unexpected. Such a letter was received from the President of the Minnesota District, urging tenure. It was written by President Alfred Seltz.
The Dean of the Chapel at Valpo, Pastor William Buege, also urged the Board to grant tenure, as did Dr. Bouman’s own pastor, Dr. F. Dean Lueking of Grace Lutheran Church of River Forest, a congregation that also left the LCMS.
The chairman of the Theology Department of Concordia Teacher’s College of River Forest wrote similarly. That chairman was Dr. Ralph Gehrke, who himself was found guilty of teaching contrary to the Word of God. But that’s another story.
A “letter of recommendation” came from the Secretary of Campus Ministry, Pastor Reuben Hahn.
Other pastors who supported the granting of tenure were Pastor Kurt Grotheer of the Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Itasca, Illinois, Pastor Daniel Fuelling of Zion, Bensenville, Illinois, Pastor Walter Lamp of Mount Olive in Rockford, Illinois, Pastor Dennis Schlecht of Christ the King in Schumberg, Illinois, and Pastor James Manz of First St. Paul, Chicago.
Space and time do not permit comments on the content of all the letters. Some of those supporting tenure were very careful in what was said. To share the contents of these letters would be most revealing, but hopefully the source for all of the above “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE, River Forest, Illinois, MEETING, MAY 23, 1967, 2:00 P.M.” is available at Concordia Historical Institute and not only in the files of this writer. Many of those letters reveal even more clearly the issues that gave birth to Seminex than the Blue Book.
President Oliver Harms was ultimately involved in the matter. The May 23rd meeting did not find the Board granting tenure. President Harms subsequently wrote to those opposing tenure to supply adequate documentation for their opposition to the granting of tenure. “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE” contains a 20 page response to the request of Dr. Harms. That response is most revealing. But this 20 page document did not stop the granting of tenure, it was ultimately granted. To some it seemed that the granting of tenure was unnecessarily long delayed. The Board heard from those concerned about the delay. One such letter came from Pastor Rueben Spannaus, head of Lutheran Child and Family Services.
But who were the “STEADFAST” ones in this matter. Were the church leaders the steadfast ones? Was it the Seminary President or the seminary Dean, or the CTCR executive secretary? Were they the “steadfast” ones? Were the District Presidents the “steadfast” ones? Was the chairman of the theology department “steadfast?” No, rather the response of these men revealed the deep theological and confessional dilemma the Synod was facing.
Who were the steadfast ones? They were laymen and “just” pastors of congregations, yes, one was a district Stewardship Exec, but the others were pastors without any position in the Synod except a “divine call” to serve a Christian congregation.
And now, as Paul Harvey says, for “the rest of the story.” In a paper delivered April 9th, 2002 entitled “CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN RESOURSES FOR ADDRESSING THE STUDY OF HUMAN SEXUALITY” Dr. Bouman, by then a member of ELCA, not because he had been disciplined by Missouri, employing the same theological principles he did in the 1965 LEA YEARBOOK, discusses homosexuality, and those theological principles are for still another column. It is a 30 page paper, heavy with footnotes. He says that there are three options or alternatives suggested for the one who is homosexual or lesbian. One of the suggested alternatives is “celibacy.” He writes, “The one alternative which is not open to the Lutheran tradition is the requirement of celibacy.” He supports his assertion that celibacy is not an option by quoting a famous theological source which says “No human law or vow can nullify a command or institution of God.” From whence does this assertion of Dr. Bouman come? It comes from the Augsburg Confession. Where is it found? It is found in the article on the Marriage of Priests. He writes of this quotation of the Augsburg Confession “This seems to be equally applicable to the situations of persons with homosexual orientation.” So we cannot expect a homosexual to be celibate.
My church has “forever” had communion every Sunday, but at alternate services. Early service for the 1st and 3rd Sundays, and late service for the 2nd and 4th Sundays. So people who wanted every-Sunday communion could do it by simply alternating which service they attend each week.
I’m pleased that as of Easter Sunday 2011, we moved to communion in every Service. We spent a year working with the congregation talking about the change (We are Lutherans .. we don’t like change!), which included using CPH’s book, The Blessings of Weekly Communion.
I can say that after several months, the congregation has fully accepted the practice and we are all enjoying the benefits of communion offered at every service.
Here is the article written by our pastor from our April 2011 church newsletter; mailed out to all congregation members prior to the change. I thought it well written to describe the reasons for making the change, and perhaps useful for other congregations who are interested in moving towards every Sunday communion.
Your Pastors and Elders have been studying the biblical wisdom of having Holy Communion at every Sunday and Wednesday service for well over a year now. During this time the Board of Elders and Pastors have read and discussed a very persuasive book entitled, “The Blessings of Weekly Communion” filled with convincing reasons why we should restore this practice of every service, every Sunday Communion.
To appreciate the Sacrament of the Altar, and desire it regularly, you first have to understand what it is, and why Christ wants us to receive “often”. Far too many regular church-goers don’t understand. They think that they are doing God a service by coming to church. While they’re willing to do this for an hour or so each week, they’re unsure whether they want to commit to the longer Communion worship format each week. They feel like we are asking them to “up” their commitment to the Lord by asking them to stay in church twenty minutes longer every other Sunday morning or Wednesday evening.
But attending church is not a service we perform for God’s benefit. It’s the other way around. God is doing us a far greater service when we come to church. For God has gifts that He wants to give to us in the divine service. Gifts found only in His Word and Sacraments. God’s reason for wanting you in worship is so that you can freely receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. For worship is where God gives us these gifts in His Word and Sacraments.
Long ago, Jesus Christ won forgiveness and peace with God for us by His cross. Then Jesus Christ gave us eternal victory over our enemies sin, death, and the devil by His resurrection. We call this good news — the Gospel. Christians gather weekly to hear this Gospel preached to us, and to receive this very same Gospel visibly, tangibly, and personally by receiving Christ’s body and blood. God wants to give us a double portion of His love and grace for us in Christ in worship centered on His preached Word and distributed Supper of forgiveness.
As Christians we gather weekly in the confidence that Christ is present among us in His Word and Sacrament. For these, along with Holy Baptism, are the means of grace by which Christ has chosen to save us. Just as we come to church in order to hear about what Christ accomplished for us by His obedient suffering and death, so we come to receive with our lips that same Christ who comes to us in His own true body and blood.
Like the sermon, the sacrament is the way that Christians shed their sins, receive God’s mercy and Christ’s forgiveness. Do we have to receive the Sacrament of the Altar weekly? Of course not. But should the church make the Lord’s Supper available for those who do desire it that frequently? Yes. When you realize that the Lord’s Supper is God’s gift to His people in Christ to strengthen faith, to forgive sinners, to turn hearts back to God, and to bring us Jesus — making it available every Sunday and every Wednesday really seems like a “no brainer”.
Luther and the Lutherans after him thought so too. In our Lutheran Confessions, which all Lutheran Pastors and Congregations are sworn to uphold, we learn that during the Reformation Era and after, it was the practice of every Lutheran congregation to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at every service on every Sunday because of the extremely high importance that Lutherans have historically placed on the Gospel comfort that Holy Communion provides. The early Lutherans understood that as sinners Christians are constantly in need of what the Lord wants to give us in the Lord’s supper.
It’s unfortunate that in the years following the Reformation that this church practice of offering the Sacrament of the Altar in every service faded away and was forgotten. Pietism and other spiritual movements within Christianity lessened the importance of the Lord’s Supper in the life of the Lutheran Church. When these lower views of the Sacrament became dominant, it lessened the frequency of a Christian’s desire to receive the Sacrament. People even became afraid of the Sacrament which God had intended only to bring abundant comfort and reassurance to believers. At this, the Lutheran Church’s lowest theological point, the Sacrament was only celebrated four times a year so that members did not run what they considered the great risk of receiving it unworthily. This happened as strict spiritual preparation for the Lord’s Supper became more important than the Gospel intent of the Lord’s Supper. Over time our Biblical understanding of the Lord’s Supper as Gospel, and the frequency of its use have made a comeback in Lutheran congregations.
Most of the arguments against the practice of every Sunday, every service Communion are really not biblical objections at all, but rather utilitarian concerns such as: “Won’t it take too long?” Others will worry that it will take away from the specialness of the Lord’s Supper. However, we preach the Gospel every Sunday without any similar concern or objection. Others will fear that it will turn into a form of legalism by making members feel that they must come forward to the altar every time the Lord’s Supper is offered. However, we want it to be abundantly clear that our congregation is only making the Sacrament available to those who may desire it on a given Sunday, without making any judgments about those who will continue to prefer taking it less often. Finally, there are some logistic concerns that we need to work out. We are concerned that the service not run too long. We are also concerned with how to continue to fit in the children’s message. We ask for your love, your prayers, and your patience as we work through these details to get them right.
I am thankful to serve a congregation in our more secular times which still recognizes the biblical importance of the Lord’s Supper and treasures its Gospel reassurance. I hope you are thankful to belong to such a church.
God’s Steward of the Mysteries of God,
In light of the recent encouragement of District President Linnemann of the Northwest District, to unseat President Matthew Harrison and replace him with David Maier, I thought it would be helpful to grade Harrison’s first term according to the standard he is accountable to – the LCMS Constitution and By-laws. As Jim Pierce and Scott Diekmann have shown in other posts, DP Linnemann used an unusual metric by which to measure President Harrison – his ability to engage the culture. That is an interesting measurement but really has nothing to do with the president’s stated duties.
I give President Harrison a grade of A-. It might have been a lower grade had he not been given the huge distraction of spelling out and implementing the Blue Ribbon proposals from the last convention that almost totally reworked the structure of synod. He and his staff have done an incredibly fine job with that task.
His grade might have been higher had he handled the Newtown issue better. We shall share more about that below.
Overall, for a first term, President Harrison has performed his duties very well. Many traditional LCMS members were looking for him to shake things up more than he did but my guess is that he has chosen to take the first three years to build trust in all corners of the synod before making too many bold moves and I nave taken that into consideration in assigning my grade.
I have provided the text of the two major sections of the Constitution and Bylaws that involve the duties of the president. I have given a grade for most of the sections of the Constitution and only for those things in the Bylaws that go into more detail than the Constitution. (The Constitution and Bylaws are in italics and my comments are in plain font.)
Feel free to offer your own grade in the comment section below.
Overall Grade: A-
Constitution Article XI.B – Rights and Duties of Officers
1. The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the administration of
a. All officers of the Synod; b. All such as are employed by the Synod; c. The individual districts of the Synod; d. All district presidents.
Grade: A I give Harrison an A grade here for two reasons. He has done an excellent job of filling positions in the International Center, hiring faithful and talented employees. The one interaction that we know of for sure with District Presidents is the Newtown incident. We will have critical comments on that below but in terms of providing oversight for DP Yeadon on that matter, Harrison was definitely Johnny on the spot.
2. It is the President’s duty to see to it that all the aforementioned act in accordance with the Synod’s Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Synod.
Grade: A Harrison worked faithfully to have the aforementioned parties comply with the constitution.
3. The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod.
Grade: C- Here President Harrison let us down. I am thinking of the Newtown incident. He get’s “A’s” on the previous two subsets but when it actually comes to admonishing and reproving, the grade is nearly failing because we still have ministering among us a pastor who clearly violated Scripture and our by-laws (the Newtown syncretism and unionism) who has gone without the president’s reproving. We are left with disunity of doctrine. As I say, the grade would be worse were it not for the second “once in a lifetime incident” that occurred a few weeks later. I am referring to the Boston Marathon tragedy. I have no proof to offer you but I am convinced that President Harrison’s clear statement that Newtown was syncretistic and unionistic (even though he left the errorist without reproof) was the main motivation for President Yeadon and the people of First Lutheran in Boston to hold their own service rather than following the unionistic and syncretistic model in Newtown. Had there been unreproved syncretism and unionism in Boston I would be calling for the defeat of Harrison. Given the exact opposite was the case, with genuine care and compassion expressed by the LCMS in Boston without syncretism and unionism, President Harrison gets part of the credit, a major part. (Thanks to President Yeadon as well.)
4. The President shall see to it that the resolutions of the Synod are carried out.
Grade: A+ (see #7 below)
5. When the Synod meets in convention, the President shall give a report of his administration. He shall conduct the sessions of the convention so that all things are done in a Christian manner and in accord with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod.
6. It is the duty of the President, or an officer of the Synod appointed by the President, to be present at the meetings of the districts, to advise them, and to report at the next session of the Synod.
Grade: B In my own district (Northern Illinois) Harrison and First Vice President Mueller hit a home run with their presentation. I have heard first hand reports from other districts however, that Harrison was weak on supporting the historic liturgy and instead gave too much room for alternative formats.
7. The President shall perform all additional duties assigned to him by the Bylaws or by special resolution of the Synod in convention.
Grade: A+ Harrison and his team (mostly the three assistants Vieker, Colver and Below) could not have done better defining and implementing the structural changes mandated by the last convention. We cannot overestimate the amount of time and attention this demanded. The fine work they did on this outweighs most of whatever anyone wants to criticize them for.
8. When matters arise between meetings of the Synod in convention which are of such a nature that action thereon cannot be delayed until the next convention, the President is authorized to submit them to a written vote of the member congregations of the Synod only after full and complete information regarding the matter has been sent to member congregations by presidential letter and has been published in an official periodical of the Synod. If such matters
are related to the business affairs of the Synod, such a vote shall be conducted only after the President has consulted with the synodical Board of Directors. In all cases, at least one-fourth of the member congregations must register their vote.
By-laws Article 3 – National Organization and Responsibilities
Responsibilities and Duties—Ecclesiastical
220.127.116.11 As the chief ecclesiastical officer of the Synod, the President shall supervise the doctrine taught and practiced in the Synod, including all synodwide corporate entities.
18.104.22.168.1 The President of the Synod has ecclesiastical supervision of all officers of the Synod and its agencies, the individual districts of the Synod, and all district presidents.
(a) He shall see to it that the resolutions of the Synod are carried out. After the national convention has determined triennial emphases for the Synod, he shall, in consultation with the Council of Presidents, identify specific goals for the national office that will support and encourage ministry at the congregational level.
(b) In the districts of the Synod, he shall carry out his ecclesiastical duties through the district’s president.
(c) He shall at regular intervals officially visit or cause to be visited all the educational institutions of the Synod to exercise supervision over the doctrine taught and practiced in those institutions.
(d) He shall meet regularly with the Council of Presidents and, as deemed necessary, with individual district presidents or small groups of district presidents to see to it that they are in accordance with Article II of the Constitution, adopted doctrinal statements of the Synod, and doctrinal resolutions of the Synod. He shall receive regular reports on this subject from the district presidents. In cases of doctrinal dissent, Bylaw section 1.8 shall be followed.
22.214.171.124.2 The President shall be the chief ecumenical officer of the Synod.
(a) He shall represent the Synod, in consultation with the appropriate board or commission, in official contacts with all partner churches by aiding, counseling, and advising them and by strengthening the relations with and among them.
Grade: A President Harrison and his international assistant Al Colver have done a great job reaching into all corners of the globe to extend confessional Lutheranism. Along with Harrison and Colver we need to credit the Fort Wayne Seminary (John Pless in particular) for seeing and then capitalizing on nascent confessional movements around the world and providing teaching and materials to support them. We should also mention here our favorite mentor of international Lutheranism – James May and his Lutherans in Africa organization.
We do have one caution. We need to look carefully at the burgeoning Lutheranism. It is not always what it seems to be. The Mikane Yesus group in Ethiopia for example, is turning away from liberal Lutheranism, which of course is good. But their clear Pentecostalism is quite troubling. They are a long way from being confessional Lutherans.
(b) He or his representative shall represent the Synod in official contacts with other church bodies.
Responsibilities and Duties—Administrative
126.96.36.199 The President shall oversee the activities of all officers, executives, and agencies of the Synod to see to it that they are acting in accordance with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.
(a) He shall at regular intervals officially visit or cause to be visited all the educational institutions of the Synod and thereby exercise oversight over their administration as it relates to adherence to the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.
(b) He shall meet regularly with the Council of Presidents and, as deemed necessary, with individual district presidents or small groups of district presidents, to see to it that their administration is in accordance with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod. He shall receive regular reports on this subject from the district presidents.
(c) He shall call up for review any action by an individual officer, executive, or agency that, in his view, may be in violation of the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.
(1) If he deems appropriate, he shall request that such action be altered or reversed.
(2) If the matter cannot be resolved, he shall refer it to the Synod’s Board of Directors, the Commission on Constitutional Matters, and/or the Synod in convention as he deems appropriate to the issues and party/parties involved. (3) This provision in no way alters the President’s constitutional duty to report to the Synod those who do not act in accordance with the Constitution and do not heed his admonition, as prescribed in Article XI B 2 of the Constitution.
(d) He shall serve as leader of the Administrative Team (see Bylaw section 3.5) and shall report to the Board of Directors on the activities of the team.
Responsibilities and Duties—Ecclesiastical and Administrative
188.8.131.52 The President shall have responsibilities and duties that are both ecclesiastical and administrative.
(a) He shall report in person or through a vice-president or other officer of the Synod to all district conventions and to that end formulate the report that is to be made.
(b) He shall make provisions for new district presidents and members of boards and commissions of the Synod to be acquainted with their duties and responsibilities.
(c) He shall carry out his constitutional responsibility (Art. XI B 1–4) for the supervision of the doctrine and administration of all officers, executives, and agencies of the national office.
(d) He shall personally or by way of a representative have the option to attend all meetings of all commissions (except the Commission on Constitutional Matters), the boards of all synodwide corporate entities, and the Board of Trustees—Concordia Plans (Board of Directors—Concordia Plan Services), including executive sessions (the President or his representative already serves as a voting member of the mission boards and serves as a voting member of the Board of Directors of the Synod and the Board of Directors of Concordia Publishing House). (1) The President’s representative shall normally be a member of the Administrative Team. (2) The President shall, in reasonable time, receive notice of such meetings, the proposed agenda, and minutes thereof.
(e) He shall engage in consultation with each mission board, commission, and the governing board of each synodwide corporate entity to reach mutual concurrence on a slate of candidates for the position of chief executive or executive director.
Grade: A Harrison has worked diligently on this matter.
(f) As ecclesiastical supervisor, he shall provide leadership to all officers, agencies, and national office staff of the Synod. Through the Chief Mission Officer, he shall (1) coordinate the content of communications, public relations, and news and information provided by the Synod. (2) coordinate and supervise all fund-raising and planned giving activity by the national Synod and its agencies. (3) serve the Synod by providing leadership, coordination, and oversight for pre-seminary education programs, seminary education, and post-seminary continuing education, and by providing advocacy for pastoral education and health within the Synod.
Grade: B- We clearly need a much stronger hand in this area.
(g) He shall consult with the vice-presidents, as elected advisers, whenever important and difficult Synod, inter-Lutheran, and partner church questions arise.
(h) He shall establish the duties and responsibilities of the First Vice-President in consultation with the First Vice-President.
Grade: C President Mueller is an excellent right hand man for Harrison but the Koinonia project is far behind “schedule” and also needs a stronger hand.
(i) He shall make an official report at each meeting of the Synod in convention.
(j) He shall approve the draft of the Convention Proceedings before it is published by the Secretary of the Synod.
(k) He shall have the right to authorize the vice-presidents to perform the duties of his office and hold them responsible for their performance. Accountability, however, shall always remain with the President.
(l) He shall exercise executive power when the affairs of the Synod demand it and when he has been expressly invested with such power by the Synod in convention.
(m) He shall be authorized, in the event that the affairs of the Synod require the exercise of executive power for a purpose for which there is no specific directive of the Synod, to exercise such power after consultation with the vice-presidents, the Board of Directors of the Synod, or the Council of Presidents, whichever in his judgment is most appropriate. Any member of the Synod shall have the right to appeal such action to the Commission on Constitutional Matters and/or the Synod in convention, whichever is appropriate. The Lutheran Church Extension Fund—Missouri Synod is exempt from this bylaw.
(n) He shall, in the interval between meetings of the Synod in convention, appoint special boards or committees whenever the purpose for which the Synod has been organized requires or when conditions arising in the course of time demand such action.
(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of five posts by Pastor Preus on Holy Communion.)
In May of 2007, a graduate of the Ft. Wayne seminary named Clint Stark produced a paper based on a questionnaire which he had sent to all pastors and seminary students in the LCMS. The questionnaire sought to ascertain the worship practices of the pastors of the synod including their practice of admitting people to the altar. Almost half (46.2 % or 3000 respondents) of those polled actually responded. This is a remarkably large number and provides data which have a high degree of accuracy. This is what Rev. Stark found.
In the question about admittance to the Lord’s Supper Rev. Stark gave five options to the question: “Who do you admit to the Lord’s Supper?” These options were: “Baptized Christians, Lutherans, Only members of the LCMS and her sister synods in good standing, Those who confess the real presence, Anyone sincerely desiring to commune.”
Now such polls inevitably evoke protests from all quarters because the person writing the questions has not nuanced them so precisely as to capture the subtleties of 6000 different practices in the synod which correspond to the 6000 pastors of the church. But let’s just forgive Brother Stark if he had to limit the number of responses to five rather than 6000. What he discovered is that 50.2% of the pastors in the synod actually restrict communion to those with whom we are in fellowship. And over a third (35.53%) of the pastors apparently give communion to anyone who believes in the real presence. Setting aside for the sake of discussion that the confessions of the church do not use the expression “real presence” and that it seems to be of Reformed origins let’s just analyze the responses.
First, no other option of the five received even 10% of the vote. So the two dominant practices of our synod are: 1) communing only those in fellowship with us and 2) communing anyone who accepts the real presence.
Third, this is a practice where emotions run high and there is lots of discussion often angry. We really should try to agree.
Fourth, while Rev. Stark concedes that none of the options on the questionnaire is precisely the synod’s position, it seems obvious to me that admitting “only members of the LCMS and her sister synods in good standing” does reflect the historic view of the synod much more closely than any of the other options. It also seems quite obvious to me, regardless of my own personal views, that giving to all who believe in the real presence is not the official practice of the synod.
Other data from the survey are worthy of comment. In the following districts less than 25% of the pastors actually practice closed communion which is the official position of our synod. Atlantic (23.33%), CNH 25.42%), Florida Georgia (20.83%), New Jersey (23.08%), Northwest (21.28%), Southeastern (20%), PSW (19.39%). These are all districts on the coasts. Now let’s be honest. The district presidents of these districts are supposed to carry out the will of the synod in their district. They are the ecclesiastical supervisors. Here is a divisive issue where vast numbers of their pastors simply don’t do what is the will of the synod and the DPS seem to be doing nothing at all. What kind of oversight is that? At the same time we should also recognize that these errant DPS did not get us into this sad state of affairs. What has happened over the decades is a type of civil disobedience in which pastors know our practice but simply do otherwise realizing that no one will actually do anything about it except perhaps some radical conservatives whining a bit.
Given the size of the group which defies the synod’s position it seems that we are well beyond the point of enforcing policy unless we are willing to accept the consequence which would inevitably occur – division. Perhaps these DPS realize this. I could suggest that we dialog but it seems to me that we have done that for the last half century. I could also suggest that we decide what our position is and simply expect people to follow it. But we have tried that almost a dozen times as well.
I will tell you what will not work. It will not work for leaders of the church to pretend that we are a united synod. People have strong views on the subject. Mutually exclusive and widely diverse opinions and practices are prevalent in our church body. We cannot expect peace unless someone figures out how to bring us together.
Those districts with the highest number of pastors who practice closed communion are Central Illinois (78.26%), Iowa East (85%), Montana (92.86%), North Dakota (83.33%), and Wyoming (84.85%).
Next time: The importance of Closed Communion.
(Editor’s Note: Early on this website has included much in the way of theological critique. Our goal is to not only teach the Brothers (and others) how to critique bad theology and practice but to also proactively train the Brothers in good practice and theology and so we will be offering more columns such as this new one that teaches about the liturgy. This is the second in a twenty two part series. We thank Pastor David Oberdieck for letting us use it. We cannot say everything about every part of the liturgy in this series so if you think there are significant things left unsaid please use the comment section to help grow the Brothers.
These were initially intended to be put into bulletins or read at the start or end of the service to educate the laity on the different parts of the service. As we develop them we hope to put them in a form that can be used in that manner, or inserted into newsletters or other methods of distribution.)
Notes on the Liturgy #2 — THE INVOCATION
There are three significant elements in regard to the invocation. First, when the pastor calls out, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” it acts as a simple creed. We are confessing whom we believe the one true God is. We worship the Trinity and none other. When outsiders come to the Divine Service, if they are paying attention, they will realize that the people they are with are worshipping the Triune God. We are clear right up front, in whose name we gather and who we are worshipping.
Second, in the Invocation, we are asking for and acknowledging God’s presence in the service. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20 NIV)
Finally, it is significant that the Invocation is accompanied by the sign of the cross. We received both the name of the Trinity and the sign of the cross at Baptism. We received the name of the Trinity by divine command. Since Baptism gives us the benefits of the cross, the sign of the cross was placed upon us according to the tradition of the catholic church. This then should be a reminder to us that God, who washed us and claimed us in Baptism, is the one who has brought us into the worshiping community. “We do not come as those who deserve to come because of what we have done.” We come because He has called us through the Holy Spirit in the water and Word of Baptism.
These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited.
Complaints are a part of life in a fallen world. Add to that a culture of personal opinions and tastes, and complaint can become of increased importance. Complaints can be necessary. They also hold the power to utterly destroy people and congregations. The following is meant to help the church (congregations especially) start to grow away from a culture of complaint and more towards godly conversations and reconciliation among the baptized. It should be noted that public sin is not the issue in this posting.
From this text it is very important to note the personal and private nature of complaints. Some complaints do not rise to the category of “sin” but some do. Matthew 18 forbids the anonymous complaint. Unless we are talking about legal matters (ex. Sexual Misconduct) the complaints of anyone ought to be such that the person’s name is to be used. Anonymous complaints are not of God.
Some fruit of anonymous complaints:
ACTION – If you are presented with a complaint about a person/practice under the authority of a person the following should be the course of action:
Remembering the 8th Commandment in your interactions with others.
When discussing anything with another person whose complaint is being raised against someone else, please remember that this commandment tells us to defend, speak well of, and explain everything in the kindest way (best construction). Again, the first thing in any complaint is to make sure that the complainer has already brought this to the proper person (complainee). If not, the effort to complain is nothing more than gossip and possibly much more (slander, betrayal).
Some other helpful passages of Scripture to help in this:
I had the opportunity to hear an excellent presentation this afternoon from a neighboring pastor (Rev. Shawn Kumm of Zion, Laramie) on Lutheran worship. One of the best points that he made was related to how worship is meant to prepare the Christian for death.
I have often found that all theology finds its best expression on the deathbed. It is there that Lutheran teachings become so distinct from others that one can really see the pure Gospel versus impure ones. What struck me about this worship leading to death thing is the difference between liturgical and “contemporary” services.
Liturgical worship seeks through repetition to not only give the gifts of God to the believer, sustaining his faith in the here and now and into the hereafter. It has an eternal perspective on things, which is reflected in its rich heritage. It is fitting for those at the beginning of life who cannot read and yet through the constant repetition can still learn, all those in between, and even those at the end of life who have lost their minds in relation to most things but still remember the things which they repeated each week in Church. Opposite to that, and lacking eternal focus, CoWo tends to feed an always changing “milk” at best (avoiding deeper concepts/teachings which may drive people away), with the goal of making all people feel comfortable and excited about what is going on (certainly striving so that they may never feel bored [where does boredom with God’s Word reside, in a worship form or in an undisciplined, Old Adam loving heart?]. CoWo does not teach the children, it does not help those who have lost their reason or senses. It is exclusive. There is not the repetition of the Scriptures as you find it in the liturgy, but instead a constant changing in order to keep relevant to the individual and the whims of the visitor (because if the visitor or age determines the worship, it will have to change). I often wonder if underlying these two very different things in worship isn’t the focus of God vs. man, the changeless from the always changing, the trustworthy and reliable vs. the unreliable.
There is another key – relevance. CoWo is meant to be relevant to the here and now, with forms that change and messages that pertain to “real life” here and now. Liturgical worship is meant to be relevant to the then, here, now, and even times to come. It prepares a soul to have a full library of texts, tunes, and prayers housed inside of it to be recalled at later times. These later times could include the deathbed, but also all those steps that we must take in this vale of tears to that point. One thing the pastor noted today was the question: “how many praise bands have you seen at the nursing home?”
Liturgical worship allows the Christian to be prepared to make his confession. The Words are familiar, ones which he has been taught and confessed before. CoWo forces the Christian to say words that he may not believe (or make the spot discernment to not confess something). Pastors who like to “tinker” with the liturgy, you may want to consider how your tinkering forces your sheep to confess things which they have had no prior warning that they would be confessing. Does such constant changing instill anything of value to your people? (other than catechizing them to grab onto the new, follow their emotions, and don’t dare to learn anything deeper or ancient)
Pastors who use CoWo, what is your pastoral care at the nursing home look like? Do you sing them the most popular and relevant songs of the day, or do you then and there return to the solid pattern of words that was taught by the hymnals which these saints have used for years? What will you do for those young ones now feeding off of constant change when they are experiencing your visit while they await death? What well can you possibly draw from when all you dug were puddles that changed as the seasons went by? What does your message sound like when talking to one undergoing great trial and tribulation? Is it there that you put aside the theology of glory and go back to the cross? In the end (of life that is) it seems that CoWo falls flat and actually shows a good amount of spiritual neglect in the scope of preparing souls to go to their Maker.
A passage comes to mind in this: 2 Timothy 3:1-7
I think many of those things in that passage could do with CoWo theology, but the one that I have really started to key into is the “always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth”. With all of the constant changes, there is always learning going on, but no one ever gets something solidly sunk in, so that when they approach death they can have such a vast deposit of knowledge to draw upon.
If you are a layperson under the influence of CoWo teachings, consider what will happen when your reason and senses start to go (after all you are dying too). What will remain of all the varied and many things that you have experienced? What will have been engrained into your mind as to remain when various ailments take the things which did not get reinforced in this life?
I came across an interesting blog article written by Dr. Matthew Becker, an LCMS clergyperson serving as a professor at Valparaiso University. The article is called “The Being of Adam, the New Adam, and the Ontology of Pastors.” In it, Becker is reacting to an article he read in the July 2011 issue of CTSFW’s magazine For the Life of the World, the article “What Is Mercy?” by Dr. Cynthia Lumley. Becker contends that Lumley’s article “contains assertions that are contrary to evangelical-Lutheran doctrine,” since Lumley says, “The very maleness of pastors is essential to the Holy Office in which they serve.”
Becker writes: “Contrary to Lumley’s Roman ontological-sacerdotalist view about the ontology of the pastor, the symbolical books of the Ev. Luth. church present the holy ministry chiefly (but not exclusively) in functional, dynamic terms, for the sake of obtaining and strengthening trust in the promise that God forgives people by grace for Christ’s sake through faith. Moreover, the symbolical books stress that ALL baptized Christians, both male and female, have the power and authority of preaching the gospel and administering the means of grace, although not all are well-suited or qualified for this ministry; for example, they might not be able to teach very well. Especially important is the confessional position that a called and ordained minister of Christ, whether male or female, acts in the place of God and in the stead of Christ. . . .”
Becker concludes: “Thankfully, the physical particularities of Jesus, including his gender, age, race, etc., are accidental, non-essential to his salvific work of reconciling Adam (‘human beings’) to God. The same principle is true for those who serve ‘in the stead and by the command’ of Christ today. Accidental attributes of the pastor’s being are inconsequential for the fulfillment of the holy office.”
And in one of the comments at his blog, Becker adds: “While the presbyteroi and episcopoi referred to in the pastorals were men, there are other NT texts that open the way for female pastors, as I have argued in several essays.”
What do you think of Becker’s arguments? Do you think that the maleness of Jesus and of pastors is “accidental,” “non-essential,” “inconsequential”? Do you think that the New Testament has passages that “open the way for female pastors”? When describing “the confessional position” on “a called and ordained minister of Christ,” does it make sense to add the words “whether male or female”?
So with the news of the LCMS inability to deal with one of its most flagrant dissenters since the 1970s, it is sure to be an issue that the people of God need to learn about. One of the best things about the seminex time was the increase in laity knowing the issues and the truth of the matter.
So what can be done locally in the parish?
There will be some to suggest the political avenue: candidates, elections, resolutions, memorials, etc. This is fine, but it is not the congregational answer. It is also the answer which continues to show limited success since the system itself is starting to get in the way of faithful church practices.
I would suggest bringing the issues of the LCMS into your parish in the form of special Bible Studies. A few months ago I began this in my parish. Do we talk the dirt of the LCMS? No. We have gone through the Constitution, which allowed for plenty of teaching of our theology, what it means, and what it looks like. Have we discussed aberrations and violations of the Constitution (like the clause about exclusive use of doctrinally pure hymnals?), yes, but the tone of the studies does not have to be “rainy day”. There are some really good things to teach about when you teach about the LCMS. Our history, our theology, our practices all come up. Face it, the laity are not ignorant on these things. They travel, they have family in the LCMS in other places. They see the mess and experience it firsthand. They can sense the dissonance when publications like the Lutheran Witness teach good stuff while other publications from RSOs teach other stuff. They can sense that something just doesn’t quite fit.
One of the most helpful things in the discussion has been the ACELC study documents. They point out some of the issues certainly, but they also collect the Scriptures, the Confessions, and stances of the LCMS on these issues. It is a great repository of our confessional teaching that relates the teachings to our practices. They teach what we have believed and still believe. The ACELC video “If not now, when?” is also helpful as an overview of the ten issues the ACELC has identified to address.
One thing that I have remembered to remind the people of through this is that our Lord Jesus Christ is ascended to the right hand of the God the Father Almighty. This has meaning as we look at the Church on earth. He who was crucified but is risen also now rules over all things for the good of the baptized. It is easy to get wrapped up and bound up into Synodical intrigue and the mess of ecclesiastical unsupervision that goes on, but that often leads to the temptation to despair. Despairing in Christ is no good at all. Despairing of your trust in princes is good (even ones who wear collars and claim churchly office), for Christ is still Lord of His Church (this is a Lutheran belief, if you want to trust a man, try the papists).
Pastors – take the extra time to teach more. Teach the few who will come. Teach the many. In season and out of season.
Laity – take advantage of the time to be taught. Show up. Listen. Ask Questions. Lutheran teachings are still treasures for the soul.
One warning I would issue – in your teaching make sure to not overstress the issues at hand. From seminex we got a whole bunch of folks who believed that THE Lutheran distinctive was an “inspired, inerrant” Bible. While we believe this, it is not the center of what we confess. From this overemphasis, there were some who used that as a litmus test for joining churches and found fellowship with churches like the Assemblies of God possible. A contemporary example would be overemphasizing liturgy to the point that people think Eastern Orthodoxy is a good option.
So have your studies. Talk it out. Teach. Learn. Pray. Encourage. Warn. Rebuke. These are good things. And whatever happens, know that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Evangelical Lutheran Church still gets its life from Him.
In our conversations with many of you we have sensed a need for a resource to explain our Biblical practice and the theology behind Closed Communion. In response we have just added two individual pamphlets that you may use in your own congregation for this purpose. If you would like to take a look at them, you can find them here or later under the Teaching Materials tab on the toolbar at the top of each page.
You may use them as your own however you like, personalize them for your own setting or situation, and, please, without any attribution to us. We pray you will find this resource to be helpful.
Yours in Christ,
Here is the text from the second bulletin insert.
Is It Closed or Close?
A Historic Practice that Still Goes on Today
But Shouldn’t it Be up To Me to Decide if I go to Communion?
What Would Open Communion Say to Our Kids and Potential Members?
The Difference Between Fellowship and Friendship
We Take Your Confession of Faith Seriously
But What if I’m a Member of the ELCA?
Because you won’t commune me does that mean you think I’m going to hell?
Christian Men and Women Can Disagree Without Sending Each Other To Hell
Okay, so prove to me your practice of closed Communion is found in the Bible?
Where Do I Find Out More?
A Pick in Exile
I was too young to remember the struggles in the church during the 1970’s and I’ve never been too interested in diving into this part of LCMS history. But Pr. Scheer recommended a debate to me this past week on the conflict so I decided to take a look.
The panelists for the program were Rev. Samuel J. Roth, Gerald A. Miller , Rev. Thomas A. Baker, and Rev. Herman J. Otten.
I found the exchange at 43:45 most interesting. Pr. Otten asks if there is room for men in our church that say that Christ is not the only way to salvation and that maybe some of these people who die without are going to be save. Pr. Roth says that there is no other way to salvation except through Jesus Christ but he starts with the grace of God and God is free to save anyone in anyway He wants.
The other exchange I found interesting was at 1:03:50 on the historicity of Jonah.
The “Best Practices for Ministry” description is brief on the convention website. “A FREE conference encouraging pastors, church workers and lay people as we reach out with the Gospel of Christ. For those who love: the local church, the unchurched, the LCMS.” They also say that they’re “Bible-Based, Gospel-Centered, Mission-Driven, & Future-Oriented.”
That sums up the official information. It’s no secret, however, that this has become a popular destination for members of the Missouri Synod who are “missionally” minded. Why not? The well-organized conference is teeming with professional speakers at every turn, helpful volunteers, and delicious cookies.
But this place isn’t about the externals. Spiritual things are happening. Here a deeper understanding of “ministry” is cultivated and reinforced. It quickly becomes apparent that there is not one ministry. Ministries are everywhere and they potentially belong to anyone who has a heart for it. These ministries are the fundamental activity of the church. It’s an externally oriented movement that continually adapts to the world’s circumstances so it can draw outsiders into a visible assembly of people who experience God. This is the church. Ministries are what it does. Why? Because the world is in crisis, and church’s ministries are its last hope. How does this work? Outsiders are brought in through relationships which are initiated through these ministries. Whatever the method of outreach, it’s about making a personal connections with people in a dying world. Once they’re in the door, they have an opportunity to deepen and grow into a new, experience laden, relationship with God.
Out in the Synod that they so love, there’s opposition from the “confessionals” who challenge the very biblical basis for such a model. But here at “Best Practices” they’ll find reprieve from the nagging attacks that ceaselessly spring from the lips of the doctrine lovers and orthodoxy hounds. Sure, doctrine is important, but not all that necessary to talk about, especially when it comes to practical things, like outreach and ministries. Here they’re empowered and equipped to return to their congregations with renewed zeal and vision. There’s advice form one worker to the next on how to implement the latest changes of governance to facilitate the pastor’s role as a leader. They’ll learn how to disciple their followers and cultivate them into leaders so they too can establish and operate various ministries. The laying on of hands is common. Prayers are offered. Applause often reverberates through the gymnasium after a powerfully moving message and prayer. If I recall, there were nearly 1500 attendees. The sheer number of like-minded church workers offered the consolation that they’re not alone. Far from it. They are vast. They might even be growing.
The language and themes that permeated from one room to the next revolved around empowerment, equipping, affirmation, and discipleship. In Bill Woolsey’s plenary session on “Giving Away Authority and How that Blesses Leadership,” they learned that authority cannot be appealed to, it must instead be given away to equip others, like the younger millennials, for ministry. “Start new, reach new.” Right? What that might say about those who appeal to the authority of God’s Word and the confessions, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t sound good.
I’m a typical Fort Wayne grad. I’ve drunk from the streams of our confessional theology and delight in orthodoxy which is Jesus’ doctrine. Thus, much of the conference’s language and argumentation eluded me. This is a problem because I’m often in conversation with fellow pastors who use this wildly different ecclesial vocabulary. Church and ministry simply do not mean the same things between us. But these languages are not two equally valid options for articulating the same thing. One rests on the foundation of Scripture and the confessions. The other you can find in business seminars and the self-help section of the bookstore. The laity need to know this. They have to know that leadership principles and tips on interpersonal relationships are not to be equated with the Gospel, the holy ministry, or faithful pastoral practice. I came and heckled with Twitter, if you can call tweeting heckling. I thought it would be good if both the pastors and laity saw that the permeating themes of the conference are not approved by everyone in the Synod. Far from it.
The tweets didn’t last long. One of the organizers explained that my use of their hashtag was harmful. It necessarily tied the reputation of the conference to many and various opinions of the speakers. The thought is that the conference was free to just about anybody, anyone could come and present, so it’s not fair to tag the conference in direct connection with the teaching of its presenters. Thinking back on it, I could have stood my ground and argued that nobody owns hashtags. They’re a way to identify your comments in relation to a place or idea. Nevertheless, the damage had already been done. Feelings were hurt and the good vibes of solidarity and peace were shaken.
Someone explained to me that the reason so many attendees were upset with my comments was because they were there to be “rejuvenated and renewed.” By calling attention to problems with the conference and its presenters, it made it hard for these church workers to relax. After thinking about this comment, I became incredibly sad. I realized that many of these church workers, pastors, and laity had been fed program after program to implement by these folks in the past, but with limited to no results. Who do you blame when you come up short? They beat themselves up and head back out to Phoenix. Then they hear about the new, statistically proven program that grows congregations, and the next popular movement that’s bringing the most people into the church. When they hear this, they’re invited to jump on to the cusp of the wave of relevance. They’re equipped with more tools, more visions, and PowerPoint after PowerPoint of diagrams that show them how everything they’ve been doing wrong and the new plan to fix it.
This is bondage to the Law. Pastors especially, who have suffered under their congregations’ criticism and feel the pain of losing member after member to secular society, come here to reload the magic bullets that are supposed the solve the numbers and money problem. This inevitably leads to a desire to change their behaviors and attitudes, reworking their own personality to become a better leader. It will also mean reorganizing whoever they have left in the pews to do the work of ministry for them, probably because they’ve proven themselves insufficient in making enough personal relationships to grow the church. Either way, by coming back to this conference, their consciences are being soothed with a false hope, a hope found in the ingenuity and strength of men.
These pastors and church workers need to hear that Satan is raging against them. That he’s snatching one member after another from their congregations. The church is going to be assaulted by new winds of false doctrine and the cleverly devised myths of culture. Yes, the Lord has promised that his Church shall endure (Matt. 16:18), but that doesn’t mean that she’ll not suffer.
When our churches suffer from loss of any type, this is the time for examination and repentance. Under the glare of God’s Law we’ll see all our good intentions and efforts at outreach have been laced with pride and vanity from the start. Terror and sorrow are soon to follow for the person who does not harden himself against the truth. But now what? Where do we find help? Do we wander the path of the Law, by seeking out new programs and visions to implement?
No. This is the time for the Gospel. These pastors need to hear that they have come up short, but that Jesus’ promise of mercy has not abandoned them. True rejuvenation begins with absolution found at an orthodox altar. Repentance, not restructuring, the Lord’s promises, not new programs are what’s needed. It’s only from this starting point that both pastors and laity can relearn both the identity and the purpose of the Christian church. Upon this rock of atonement, forgiveness, and grace, they’ll learn that the church is not a fluid movement that defined by leaders and followers. The church is a rock, a holy institution of Christ where there the ministry of Law and Gospel preaching never changes. Yes the circumstances in the world change, but the Jesus’ own instituting words are never abandoned for the sake of relevance. There’s more than ample opportunity to talk about edifying practices, but this is pure poison if Jesus’ doctrine and institutions are not retained. The pastor must find his consolation in the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, not the newest path to success that he can implement through his own works.
While many of these sectionals would be fine as a secular seminar on interpersonal communication and business advice, I’m afraid that their place in the church corrupts and changes the very language that should be used to describe and think about the body of Christ. Orthodoxy, after all, is a conformity of language, a familiar pattern of expressing the faith that would be recognizable to both Christ’s apostles who first preached the Scriptures and our Lutheran fathers who confessed them.
The best practices were established by Jesus, his preaching and sacraments which impart forgiveness and life, and these never change.
The reasons for Communion every Sunday are surprising. The reasons Lutheran churches fell away from this practice also are surprising.
Pr Klemet Preus, the author of the article republished below, was surprised about the reasons for and against. After visiting a congregation that had written into its constitution that Communion would be given at each Sunday service and hearing its pastor, John T. Pless, speaking definitely in favor of it, he was prompted to study.
He found reasons for frequent Communion in the:
But suddenly, in the 19th Century, things changed. Many Lutheran churches offered Communion only monthly, and some only four times a year. Why? What happened? Oh, of course ….
More recently, every Sunday Communion has been making a comeback, and that is a good thing. Still, there are some practical concerns.
All of this and more are revealed in the following article, “Communion Every Sunday, Why?” written by Pr Klemet Preus, Epiphany, 2001.
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Communion Every Sunday, Why?
In the early 80s I was the Campus Pastor at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Each year we would get together with college students from the various Universities in the Upper mid-west and have a joint retreat. In 1983 we traveled from Grand Forks down to Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota and were hosted by Pastor John Pless and University Lutheran Church. During the Sunday service we celebrated Holy Communion as was typical at these retreats. But this time I noticed something different. ULC had written into its constitution that Communion would be given at each Sunday service. The Augsburg Confession was sited as support for this practice. “Among us the Mass is celebrated every Lord’s day and on other festivals, when the sacrament is made available to those who wish to partake of it, after they have been examined and absolved.” Pastor Pless explained that the church had committed itself to the practice every Sunday communion.
Two things initially struck me. First, I thought that Pastor Pless was being a little extreme. This was a very radical notion I thought. And all the reasons why I would oppose such an idea immediately rushed into my mind. Wouldn’t this require much more work for the altar guild, the secretary, the pastor and the communion assistants? When would the church do Matins or Morning Prayer? Wouldn’t people begin to take Holy Communion for granted? People like to invite non-Lutheran family and friends to church when there is no communion. With communion every Sunday how could you do this? Isn’t this kind of Catholic? John is high church and very liturgical. So I initially figured this was a high church fad. But I wondered.
Second, I was surprised and a little miffed at myself that I had not really read this in the Lutheran Confessions before. Of course I had read the Confessions. I had read them at least four times, and many times since. And I had pledged to teach according to these documents as every Lutheran Pastor has. But I had not noticed this particular phrase before. Since I have always prided myself in being a true and faithful Lutheran pastor and theologian I was put off that I had to be educated by someone else. I had taken one course on the liturgy in the seminary. In it we learned how to do the various liturgies. We never really thought about how often to have the sacrament. We were taught to give it “often” whatever that meant. In the doctrine courses we learned that the true body and blood were given for the forgiveness of sins. But we had simply accepted the practices of our churches as proper. That practice was communion once a month or twice a month. Now I was being challenged to think again about the frequency of communion.
So, I spent the next year studying the issue. And I asked the right questions. What does the Bible say? What does our doctrine say? What do the Lutheran Confessions say? What was the practice of the earliest Christians? What is the custom of the church throughout the centuries? What are the positive and negative influences in history which shaped the church’s practice throughout the centuries and particularly our practice? Is the whole issue worth all the trouble? It took me about a year of thought, study and discussion with other pastors and Christians. I was not about to change my mind and worship patterns easily. This is what I found.
The Bible never tells us exactly how often to have communion. Of course the Bible never tells us how often to have church services either. And the Bible never tells us how often to receive absolution. The Bible never says at exactly what age to baptize children.
There is a reason for this.
You can’t place laws and rules upon the gifts of the gospel. God tells us that we are saved in our baptism, in the Gospel and the Lord’s Supper. He never tells us how often to hear his word. He just figures that we will hear it as often as we can. He does not place rules on how often we should be absolved of our sins. He figures that we will take the forgiveness as often as we can. He simply forgives us through the gospel all the time. He never tells us how soon to baptize our babies. He just tells us how much they need it and what a blessing we have in Baptism. He figures we will baptize as early as possible.
So also with Holy Communion. He never tells us to receive it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or once in your life. He simply tells us how much we need it and how great it is and He figures we will act accordingly. Then He tells us to do it often. He figures we will receive the Lord’s Supper as often as we can.
The Lord’s Supper is like kissing your wife or husband. The minute you have to place rules on how often, then the kiss loses its affectionate force. No one who is in love would ever say, “I think we have kissed enough,” or “That kiss will have to do for the rest of the day.” No one says, “How often do we have to kiss?” Instead we ask, “How often do we get to kiss?” We kiss and get kissed as often as we can.
The Lord’s Supper is more than a kiss from God. Through Holy Communion God gives us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through the body and blood of Jesus. We need and want these blessings all the time. So the question should not be, “How often do we have to take communion?” Rather we should ask, “How often do we get to take communion.”
Logistically, the Lord’s Supper is more difficult to give than a kiss. First you have to gather the church together. You have to provide a place as well as the elements of unleavened bread and wine. You need to instruct as to the proper meaning of the Sacrament. And you have to do all this with a sense of respect and decorum. So, how often should the Lord’s Supper be given? In the Scriptures, in the practice of the early church, at the time of the Reformation, in the Lutheran Confessions, and until quite recently the answer has always been, “We give the Lord’s Supper at every Sunday Service.”
In the New Testament there is no mention of Sunday services without a mention of the Lord’s Supper. In Acts 2:42 Paul describes the earliest Services, “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s teaching, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayer.” So the “breaking of bread” or Communion was a common part of the normal Christian services. These services were held in the evening since most of the people worked on Sundays. (It wasn’t until the year 321 AD that Sunday became a day of rest for Christians.) Another reference to Sunday services is found in Acts 20:7 where Luke says, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” Then it describes a service with preaching followed by the “breaking of bread.” You get the impression from these verses that Sunday evening were reserved for two things: instruction in doctrine and Holy Communion.
I Corinthians shows the same thing. In chapter 11 the people “come together as a church.” Part of the coming together was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Here the people would precede their services with a meal called “the love feast.” These feasts are also mention in Jude 12. In Corinth the people would exclude some of the poorer people from the love feast by starting the dinner before the common laborers got off work. “Wait for them,” Paul says. The people had gathered for the Lord’s Supper but were abusing it. Paul criticizes them for their abuse and corrects it by explaining how their services should be done. Listen to his works,
I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper you eat…I received from the Lord what I also give to you: that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, etc. 
So Paul corrected the bad and kept the good. To Paul, the exclusion of people who were part of the church was bad. To Paul, Communion at every service was good.
The Earliest Christians gathered together on Sunday evenings. The services had two parts: the instruction and the Communion. Today these two parts of the service are reflected in some of our hymnals and our bulletins. There is the service of the Word and the service of the Sacrament. The recently published Lutheran Service Book, a hymnal of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, divides the Sunday services into three parts, “Confession and Absolution,” “Service of the Word” and “Service of the Sacrament.” These divisions reflect what the church of Paul and the earliest Christians did in their services. The early Christians may not in all cases have had services every Sunday. Persecution, hardship, travel difficulty, and large distances may have made this impossible. But every time these Christians gathered together they received from their Lord His Word and His Sacrament.
The literature of the fist two centuries shows that Word and Sacrament were the universally common Sunday practice among Christians. One of the earliest Christian writings besides the Bible is called the Didache. It was written about the year 100 AD and possibly earlier, even before the last apostles had died. In this writing the people are directed to, “Assemble in common on the Lord’s own day to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.” The earliest account of a Sunday service was written by a man named Justin Martyr in about the year 150 AD. This is his account:
On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good thing. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president [the pastor or minister who presided] in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.
Notice how the Lord’s Supper was just as much part of the services as was the instruction in the Word. The earliest surviving Christian liturgy, called the Apostolic Traditions, was written about the year 215 by Hippolytus. This work is something like our Lutheran Agenda, the book which the pastor uses in leading the services. In Apostolic Traditions the Bishop and the people exchange greetings, “The Lord be with you, And with your spirit, Lift up you hearts, We lift them to the Lord, Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, It is right and proper to do so.” Then immediately follows the Words of institution. This was the every Sunday expectation of the early churches.
I could provide quotations from the liturgies or theology books from almost every century until recently. All would show that the Sacrament of the Altar was celebrated every time the people of God gathered.
Over the years the church corrupted the sacrament. Sermons were eliminated from the Divine Service. The Sacrament gradually was viewed as a sacrificial act of worship by the priest rather than the gift of God’s salvation. The language used in the liturgy was Latin and not the language of the common people. It was thought that those in the pew didn’t really need to understand the words since they were spoken to God and not to the people. The people communed less and less often while the priests communed more and more. At the time of Thomas Aquinas (1277) communion was considered frequent if a person went two to four times a year. Alarmed at this paucity of participation edicts were periodically pronounced mandating the reception of the Sacrament. Everyone was to go to communion at least four times a year and especially on Easter. The press of the masses at Easter would require so much time that the custom of withholding the cup from the laity became widespread. This custom became church law in the church in 1415 AD so that by the time of Luther no lay-Christian had sipped upon the blood of Christ for more than a century. Superstition lead people to pilfer pieces of the bread and bring them home to worship. The people no longer sang the hymns or liturgical parts. The monks did this. Christianity had truly become a spectator religion. The grace of God was simply not received and consequently not treasured by the common Christian.
Yet, through all the centuries and despite the crass and Christless corruptions of the Eucharist, the services in God’s house always featured the Sacrament of the Altar.
Martin Luther became embroiled with the Papists over the church’s understanding of grace. (Early Lutherans never viewed themselves as fighting with the Catholic Church but with the Pope, so they referred to their opponent as Papists.) Luther believed that grace was the forgiveness of sins earned for all by Christ and freely given in the Absolution, the Word, Baptism and the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s Supper, to Luther, is not something that the priest did for God but something that Christ has given to us. You can imagine the changes that were made.
Luther refused to change anything that was not wrong. He retained as much of the liturgy as the gospel would allow. So the collects, the prayers, the creeds, the readings, the order of service and the basic structure of Word and Sacrament were retained. And these are faithfully employed today in all Confessional Lutheran churches.
But changes were required. The Lutherans’ greatest concern was that the people get to know God better. Preaching was reestablished in the churches, since it had fallen into disuse. Luther wrote the liturgy in German. Now the people were treated to the Divine Service in their own language. They could understand what was being said and done. The Bible was translated into German so that the readings could be understood. Luther and many of his contemporaries wrote hymns so that the people could be taught the truths of Christ simply and could participate in the proclamation in the service. Catechisms were written and produced so that the people could be trained easily. The words of institution were no longer mumbled in Latin by the Priests. They were spoken or chanted loudly to the people in their own language. The main emphasis of the Reformation was that the people could understand the grace of God. These changes had salutary effects on the hearts and habits of God’s people. Communion attendance increased dramatically. In fact the Lutherans were attending the Sacrament so often that their Roman Catholic neighbors got a little jealous. Ironically, “the practice of frequent communions in the Church of Rome today owes much to Reformation inspiration.”
But old habits die hard. Many Lutherans were reluctant to take communion every week. Some were afraid to receive the blood in the Sacrament. So the early Lutherans slowly and painstakingly taught and explained the need and blessings of the Lord’s Supper. They did not force. They simply taught. And they realized that people need time to adjust to change, even necessary change.
One change that Luther and the early Lutherans never considered was to drop the celebration of the Sacrament from the Sunday morning service. Luther Reed summarized the practice of the Early Lutherans.
“The appreciation and unbroken use of the Service by the Lutheran Church in all lands is noteworthy…. The church has everywhere retained the Service for its normal Sunday service. Other Protestant churches promptly abandoned the historic liturgy and established a type of preaching service separate from the Holy Communion…. The Lutheran Church restored the “primitive synthesis” of the early church by including in balanced proportion the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacrament in the principal service of the day.
What happened? At the time of Luther the church celebrated communion every Sunday. By the middle of the twentieth century, when I was born, most Lutheran churches offered communion only once a month. What happened? It was my discovery of the answer to this question that convinced me to teach that we must return to the historic practice of communion every Sunday.
Old habits die hard. And praiseworthy liturgical habits must be guarded with great vigilance. Three factors lead to the loss of the practice of weekly communion among the Lutherans. The first is called Pietism. The Pietists stressed the importance of personal preparation for communion. This, in itself, is good. Luther said that fasting is good outward preparation. And the Lutheran Church has always insisted that communicant be prepared by learning the basic teachings of the catechism and by making a confession of sins. These practices are reflected in the Book of Concord, “Among us…the sacrament is available for all who wish to partake of it after they have been examined and absolved.” But the preparation expected by the Pietists was different. It was not learning the true faith at all.
The Sacrament was surrounded with an atmosphere of awe and fear; excessive emphasis was place upon personal and intensely introspective preparation; and there grew up in the people’s minds a dread of possibly being unworthy and of “being guilty” of the body and blood of Christ. These morbid and exaggerated emphases upon preparation for the Sacrament, rather than upon the Sacrament itself, are still occasionally in evidence.
I see this fear of the Sacrament occasionally today. I’ve heard people say that the reason they are uncomfortable with weekly communion is that they require time and spiritual effort to prepare themselves for the Sacrament. “If I take it too often I will not be able to be prepared.” These sentiments, while sincere, are not what Jesus wants. He does not want us to focus on our sins and our repentance so much that we neglect the forgiveness in the Sacrament. How does one prepare for the Sacrament? You learn the catechism. Remember your baptism. Go to confession. Receive the absolution. Believe. That is preparation.
The second factor that caused the Lutherans to give up weekly Communion is far worse. It is Rationalism. Pietists were Christians with a misplaced faith. Rationalists were not Christian at all. Leading rationalists were men whose names you vaguely remember from Western Civilization class in high school: Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire, Locke. Rationalists believed that their reason and understanding was the measure of all things. Their creed was that creeds were bad. The Rationalists spawned the Unitarian Church, the FreeMasons, Secular Humanism and the general age of unbelief in which we live. Rationalists rejected the belief that people are sinful. They denied the great events of God in Christ. Churches were turned into lecture halls. Preaching Christ was discarded in favor of flowery addresses intended to inspire. Sunday services became a time in which we could be impressed with each other and the Lord’s Supper is not conducive for that. In Germany the frequency of Sacramental celebration plummeted dramatically in the 1800s until the Liberal Lutheran practice approximated that the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Reformation.
The Lutheran Church that began migrating to America in the 1840s was not healthy. Its worship was impoverished and it practices lax. It had lost much of its doctrinal heritage and true doctrinally sound confessional pastors were rare. The pastors who did come to America, while dedicated, were often young and inexperienced. The New World was not flowing with milk and honey. Rather, it was teeming with forces that were foreign to Lutherans and to the gospel itself. Fred Precht has said, “The cumulative effects of the Thirty Years War, Pietism and Rationalism spanning almost two centuries, left the worship and the life of the churches at a low ebb at the opening of the 19th century…. It is to be noted that it was in this period of the church’s history that the large migrations of Confessional Lutherans to America took place.”
The third factor, which led to a decrease in the frequency of the Sacrament especially in America, is the influence of Reformed and baptistic theology and preachers. Followers of John Calvin, early American revivalistic preachers, usually Baptistic in theology, denied that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. To them it was fellowship meal of bread and grape juice, which was not needed more than a handful of times annually. Many early Lutherans came to America to escape the unbelief in the churches in Europe. These pioneers often found themselves with neither church nor pastor. They lived among the Mennonites, Moravians, and Methodists of America. The faithful Lutheran pastors who did serve the Lutherans often had to attend the needs of literally dozens of parishes. These “Circuit Riders” could visit their parishes only periodically and the people never could find a rhythm of regular Divine Services. Further, the abundant Baptistic and Methodistic itinerant preachers often enticed faithful New World Lutherans from their doctrinal roots. These revivalists did not believe in the saving benefits of the Lord’s Supper. Revivalism continues to influence Lutherans to this very day.
So Pietism, Rationalism and the Reformed Churches all worked their influence on Lutherans until we lost something very precious. Reed Summarizes,
Luther and his associates never would have approved of the “half-mass” commonly found among us today as the normal Sunday worship of our congregations. For two hundred years, or nearly half the time from the Reformation to the present, the normal Sunday service in Lutheran lands was the purified Mass, or Hauptgottesdienst, (High Divine Service) with its twin peaks of Sermon and Sacrament. There were weekly celebrations and the people in general received the Sacrament much more frequently than before. The ravages of war, the example of Calvinism, the later subjective practices of Pietistic groups in a domestic type of worship, and the unbelief of rationalism, however, finally broke the genuine Lutheran Tradition.
COMMUNION FREQUENCY TODAY
Realizing our ragged history, honoring our heritage and treasuring the grace found in it, Lutherans of late have begun to teach the importance of communion every Sunday. The practice of equally stressing both the sermon and the Sacrament is not only consistent with the bible and practice of the first Christians it is uniquely Lutheran. The Roman Catholic Church has historically stressed the Sacrament, often to the exclusion of preaching. Protestants have historically stressed preaching often to the exclusion of the Sacrament. Lutherans have always tried to maintain a balance between the two. This balance has been called “The Twin Peaks,” “The primitive synthesis,” “The High Divine Service” or simply, “the Service of Word and Sacrament.”
Within Lutheranism in America and specifically in the Missouri Synod the frequency of communion has gradually increased over the last half century. Many life-long Lutherans born in the 20s or 30s can remember when communion was offered quarterly. By the sixties and seventies most Lutheran Churches celebrated the Supper at least monthly. Today almost all churches offer the Sacrament twice monthly. Certainly there has been an increase in the frequency of communion. In 1995 the Convention of the Lutheran church Missouri Synod passed the following Resolution:
Whereas, the opportunity to receive the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day was a reality cherished by Luther and set forth clearly with high esteem by our Luther confessions (Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession and of the Apology); and
The result of such study has lead many Lutheran congregations to establish every Sunday Communion. I am convinced that more and more congregations and pastors, as they study the issue, will make the change to communion every service if they have not already done so.
LEX ORANDI LEX CREDENDI
In the fifth century a theologian named Prosper of Aquitaine spoke these words. They mean: “The law of worship is the law of faith.” As we worship so we shall be believe and as we believe so we shall worship. The greatest teacher in the church has always been the Divine Service itself. Every child of seven who goes consistently to church knows the words of the Liturgy. We know what to expect. If something is missing we know. If something is added we know. If something is changed we especially know. Our children know the creed, the Lord’s prayer, the words of institution, John 1:29, I John 1:8-9, Hebrews 1:1-2 and a host of other passages because they say them each week. We learn how to confess our sins in the confession. We learn how God absolves. Our children know that God calls the pastor because they see him dressed in robes each week. We all know that the sermon is God’s word because we place it into a pulpit spoken by God’s pastor. We learn about Baptism when the babies are baptized. The Liturgy teaches. The Liturgy teaches us about the Lord’s Supper too.
The best way to teach our children and ourselves is to make them see the same blessings from God each week. Certain parts in the Sunday Services need to be observed and received each week. That way we immediately notice if they are gone. Each week we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we confess the Creed, we hear the Scriptures and we reflect upon the sermon. If these parts were missing we would feel like something was taken away. By using Worship Services which contain the same things week after week we are teaching ourselves and our children that these are blessings from God which are part and parcel of His service to us. I have talked to people who have gone to churches where one or more of these ingredients were missing, whether the creed or the Lord’s Prayer or even the sermon. They have shared with me that they felt like they had not fully been to church. The same thing should be said of the Lord’s supper.
We all teach our children and ourselves the importance and surpassing value of the Sacrament of the Altar. And that is good. We must make the Sacrament so much part of the Sunday morning expectation that all would immediately know that something was missing if it were not there. If we want to impress on our children the importance of vegetables we must serve vegetables every day. If we teach our children to love the Sacrament then we must serve it at every Divine Service. When our children grow up and attend some Reformed church with their friends let them say, “It was nice but they didn’t have the Lord’s Supper.” We need to change our expectations of the every Sunday service.
COMMUNION EVERY SUNDAY:
But before such a practice is implemented, no matter how praiseworthy people need a chance to think about it. I studied the issue for over a year before I began to teach it. You should have the same chance for reflection. That is why I offer you this paper. It is to give you a chance to consider the Bible teaching and the history of the Church. But consider also your feelings. Below are many questions I have heard. Answers are given.
Q. Some have said, “Were we doing wrong not to have communion every Sunday?”
A. Of course not. Many early Christian communities did not have any kind of services every Sunday. They were not doing wrong. It is not a question of right and wrong. But once those communities were able to have services every Sunday they did so. So should we.
Q. Isn’t Communion every Sunday Roman Catholic?
A. Communion every Sunday is biblical. It was practiced long before there was a
Q. Isn’t this practice a bit extreme?
A. This was my initial reaction. I discovered that weekly communion is the common practice of most Christians throughout history and certainly of the first Christians and the first Lutherans. It may seem extreme to us because it is new to us. And, in fact, it is extreme. It is extremely comforting for sinners to be forgiven by Christ’s body and blood every week. It is extremely important to have the strength and assurance, which only the Sacrament can give.
Q. We practice closed communion. If I bring my friend or relatives to church I don’t want to have to make them uncomfortable about not communing. If we don’t have communion on a given Sunday I can bring my friends. Now what can I do?
A. This is real and valid concern. Of course we don’t want to make guests feel unwelcome. In the early church Christians would bring family and friends to the service of the Word. Then those who wished to commune would move to a different room altogether to have the Lord’s Supper. The doors would be closed before the service of the Sacrament began and no guests were allowed. That is how those Christians handled the issue.
I think that we need to consider why this is such a problem today. There is little doubt that the questioning of closed communion among us is a reflection of the influence of those churches around us who do not believe in the Lord’s Supper. In most churches today everyone is asked to commune. This is the common historic practice of all Reformed churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Non-Denominational, etc.). It has become the practice of the ELCA because of the profound influences of Reformed theology upon that church. Many pastors in the LC-MS refuse to practice closed communion even though they have promised to do so upon entering the Synod. They often feel pressured by churches around us that simply have a different practice. But we must remember that these churches do not believe in the bodily presence of Jesus in the Sacrament.
When we refuse communion to someone we appear judgmental about a person’s faith. Such is not the case. We simply need to communicate that Holy Communion is an extremely intimate sharing between members who have a common confession based on the bible. Those who share this intimate meal should be known by us and confess with us. This is not a casual thing. Again, it’s like kissing your spouse. There has to be a certain commitment before that kiss can happen.
Practicing closed communion especially toward members of the ELCA is particularly difficult. Most of us have family and friends in the ELCA who are fine Christian people. Sometimes it is difficult for us to admit that our family members or friends belong to false churches. But it is necessary if we are to give an effective witness. Closed Communion forces this upon us. It is uncomfortable. We don’t like it. But it is necessary. These family and friends need to hear in a loving way that they are in a church which could seriously harm their faith or destroy it altogether.
I recently heard an inspiring essay from a pastor who is a professor and former bishop of the ELCA. In his essay he asked the rhetorical question, “We must ask whether this ELCA…any longer qualifies as bona fide Lutheranism. Indeed, is it a Christian Church?” We must love the Christian people in the ELCA enough to pray for them and follow of the example of this courageous Bishop who concludes his essay: “I have dedicated the remainder of my life to attempting to open the eyes of my brothers and sisters in the ELCA to the liberating, glorious truth of the infallible inerrant Word of God.”
If you are inviting a friend or relative to church you probably would like them to join our church. Sooner or later they will have to be told about closed communion. Tell them right away. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. Simply speak the truth in love. I am convinced that any fair-minded person will accept our position and practice if it is explained patiently.
Q. Won’t Communion every Sunday be a lot of work?
A. Yes. And it is pretty obvious who the new work will fall upon – The altar guild. They must set up and take down the Sacrament twice as often. This requires either twice as many workers or the same people doing twice the work. So no new practice should be implemented until the guild has had an ample opportunity to recruit and train new workers. If elders help in the distribution of the Sacrament they would also have to help twice as much. This might require the congregation to approve and appoint more elders to help distribute the Sacrament.
Q. Won’t the services last longer? We are so rushed on Sunday as it is.
A. The Divine Service lasts longer than Matins or Morning Prayer. This is so because these other services were not originally intended to be Sunday morning services. They were morning services prayed and sung by the church in the middle of the week. Communion every Sunday might require us to examine again the best way in which to use our time on Sunday mornings. Congregations might have to tweak their schedules a bit. Most churches can devise ways in which to commune more quickly. That should be examined at any rate. At the same time it should be remembered that the 60-minute Divine Service is a recent American invention which has no mention in the bible and no historical precedent. Perhaps we need to reconsider our expectations that the Service of God be limited to only one hour a week.
Q. But kids are tough enough in church for 60 minutes and we are a church with lots of kids.
A. Again the practice of the early church solved this problem by not even allowing the uninstructed children to come into the Sacrament room. We probably don’t want to do this today. But there are solutions for the problem of antsy children which don’t require their parents to be deprived of the Blessed Sacrament. Work on it.
Q. I like Matins and Morning Prayer. I will miss them. Can’t we still do them?
A. A congregation could schedule mid-week Matins or Morning Prayer for those who really wanted to attend. But the time press of people’s midweek lives might render such prayer opportunities meager indeed. Many of the great songs in these liturgies, The Venite, The Magnificat, The Te Deum, even the Gospel Canticle can easily be employed occasionally in the Divine Service. These treasures of the church need not fall into disuse.
Q. I need time to think about these things.
A. Changes in the church, even salutary changes should be made slowly and with great deliberation. Take your time. Talk to your pastor. Study the issue. Talk to others in the church. Talk to the elders.
THE LUTHERAN ATTITUDE TOWARD
Change should always be initiated with painstaking care, especially change in the liturgy. Too often pastors have promoted their own personal hobbyhorses without considering the feelings of the church. Consequently God’s people are sometimes harmed by the very men to whom God has entrusted their souls. This should never happen.
The early Lutherans were especially sensitive to this. Luther himself never initiated changes without first explaining to the people exactly why such a change was needed. And he was quite patient especially for a man with such strong convictions. One true anecdote will help to illustrate this. Luther believed very strongly that those who communed should receive both the body and blood in the sacrament. They called it “communion in two kinds.” But Luther also believed that the people needed to be taught the practice so that they could understand when it was implemented. When he was absent from Wittenberg for a few months his colleague, Andrew Karlstadt, began to give to the laypeople both the bread and the wine in Holy Communion. Luther believed that the people had not been given adequate time to get used to the idea. He returned to Wittenberg and promptly stopped the practice. At the same time he preached a series of eight sermons intended to explain the way the Gospel works. In his fifth sermon he said:
Now let us speak of the two kinds. Although I hold that it is necessary that the Sacrament should be received in both kinds, according to the institution of the Lord, nevertheless it must not be made compulsory nor a general law. We must rather promote and practice and preach the Word, and then afterwards leave the result and execution of it entirely to the Word, giving everyone his freedom in this matter. Where this is not done, the Sacrament becomes for me an outward work and a hypocrisy, which is just what the devil wants. But when the Word is given free course and is not bound to any external observance, it takes hold of one today and sinks into his heart, tomorrow it touches another, and so on. Thus quietly and soberly it does its work and no on will know how it all came about.
It seems to me that Luther’s wise counsel would apply to us in a couple of ways. First, even a necessary change should never be imposed upon people against their will. Rather the Word changes people’s hearts. Then the change is made. Second, people accept change at different rates. It is wrong to force people to accept change before they are ready. People should not feel forced to do anything they do not want. Even taking the Lord’s supper, saving as it is, should never be forced upon people. Third, people should be allowed to receive the Lord’s Supper each Sunday just as people at Luther’s time were allowed to receive both kinds in the Sacrament. Eventually all the Lutherans began to receive the Sacrament in both kinds. But it took time. I am convinced that eventually the Lutheran churches will all offer the Sacrament at all their Sunday services. But it will take time. No one should feel forced. No one should treat a gift like a duty. Everyone should be free to change at the rate at which they feel comfortable.
One of the occupational hazards of being a minister of the Gospel is to expect things of people that you yourself never did. I took me a year to really be convinced that the Sacrament belongs in every Sunday service. Yet I often feel impatient when others don’t make the adjustment in a couple of weeks. Luther constantly reminds me that I need to give others the same chance that I was able to have.
God’s people are justifiably very cautious about any change. Pastors are justifiable jealous to give to the people as much of God’s blessings as they possibly can. Often people stubbornly refuse to be taught by their pastors. And often pastors have been insensitive if well intended. Pastors are called to teach and the people are called by God to learn from their divinely appointed pastors. But, unfortunately many in our churches have been hurt by change and have often felt as if change were imposed upon them. All should feel comfortable with even the best changes. Pastors are given the freedom and challenge to balance the responsibility of ministry with the needs of the people. That is why no pastor should ever promote programs where he is the beneficiary. Weekly communion is a practice it which all of God’s people benefit eternally. When God’s grace is promoted and served and people receive it in faith then the church is blessed.
Should the churches of Christ celebrate the Sacrament every Sunday? Yes they should. The Bible teaches it. The confessions of our church require it. The Gospel expects it. The history of the church shows it. The liturgy demands it. Our children need it. Our faith thrives on it. Our heritage gives it. Our God provides it.
When should this happen? Tragically we live in a time when the question actually needs to be asked. It should happen when the people of God have learned and are ready and eager to receive all the blessings of Christ on every Sunday service.
 Augsburg Confession, Apology, Article XXIV paragraph 1
 “ELCA Journeys: Personal Reflections on the Last Forty Years,” Michael McDaniel, paper given at the 2001 Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions, p. 7.
Thanks to BJS reader Rick Techlin for posting this pictoral review of the BJS conference on his blog, Light from Light:
The Brothers Of John the Steadfast held their annual conference in Naperville, Illinois on February 20 & 21, 2015 A.D. It was an excellent conference with a lot of insightful presentations, good food, entertainment, and enjoyable fellowship.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast is a group of mostly LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) laymen and pastors dedicated to promoting Confessional Lutheranism.
The conference was held at Bethany Lutheran Church and School.
The theme of the 2015 conference was, “When Heterodoxy Hits Home.”
All the pictures in this post are from that conference.
The first session was with Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller. His topic was: “The Obligation and Temptation of Dealing with False Teaching.”
One of the challenges of taking photos at this conference was the new candle holders that Bethany had installed down the center isle. I tried to incorporate them into the photos as best as I could.
Bethany Lutheran’s unique stained glass windows can be seen in the background.
This stained glass window depicts God’s gift of Woman to Man. (God was depicted in the window above this one, and was the source of the yellow rays of light that blessed our original parents).
Pastor Rossow introduced the next speaker. Pastor Rossow was an excellent and gracious host.
The second speaker on Friday was Pastor Clint Poppe of the ACELC.
The topic of Pastor Poppe’s presentation was, “The Barking Dog Approach.”
Dinner followed, and then there was the evening prayer.
In commemoration of the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, the liturgical color for the evening prayer was red.
On Friday evening, the Brothers of John the Steadfast gathered in private homes for the “No Pietists Allowed” parties. Then the next morning on Saturday was the “Manly Man’s Breakfast” at Bethany.
On Saturday morning, Pastor Joshua Scheer introduced the Reverend Larry Beane.
Pastor Beane’s presentation was entitled, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?” During his presentation, he maintained that the entire Book of Concord was descriptive.
Pastor Hans Fiene was the second speaker on Saturday. Pastor Fiene is the creator of The Lutheran Satire. He spoke about when satire is appropriate to use in defense of the faith.
The last speaker was Pastor Todd Wilken from Issues, Etc. Pastor Wilken spoke about our need for perspective, patience, and perseverance.
The Lord blesses his people when we gather to hear, discuss, and ponder his word and Sacrament.
Thank you to all who were involved in making this an enjoyable conference.
Click here for additional pictures from all the previous BJS Conferences(2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013).
God’s blessing to you.
A while back, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America adopted a statement on the doctrine of justification that decisively rejected the teaching of objective/subjective justification – which had been an earmark of the “Synodical Conference” tradition of Lutheranism. The pastors of the Association of Confessional Lutheran Congregations, which up until now has been in fellowship with the ELDoNA, have now prepared a formal theological response to the ELDoNA document, which is available on the ACLC website. I am not a member of, or a spokesperson for, the ACLC, so I would not expect to be discussing their document very much in this forum. But since their document does address a subject that I have discussed on this blog in the past (here and here), and since those previous posting garnered quite a bit of discussion among the readers of this blog, I thought that it would be of interest to those readers also to made aware of these developments, and of the ACLC document.
I’m a lay person who has been constantly being educated in what it truly means to be a confessional Lutheran. I love it! It’s been a slow learning, growing process over more than a decade now. I have always been a Lutheran, born and bred. Baptized into the Lord’s family at three weeks of age, I have always just believed. I felt awe, fear, and respect for our great God, and knew he loved me so much He sent His only Son to save me from my sins. John 3:16 was my confirmation verse, and I had to do my pre-confirmation speech on it.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started having a lot more contact in my life with people of other Christian persuasions. It came as a surprise to me that you had to ask Jesus to live in your heart! I had learned as a Lutheran that He was always with me, and I could pray to Him whenever, wherever I wanted. Life had always been lived with worship on Sunday, but most of the rest of the week was spent doing ordinary family things, like kids home work, cooking, cleaning, working outside the home, etc. I attended Bible Studies sometimes when offered. I was involved in the LWML, helped with VBS in the kitchen or crafts, and started reading my Bible.
Many of you have observed the “Explanation of the Divine Service” pamphlets that are found in the pew racks at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville while attending a conference or event there.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast have worked with Martin Graphics to make a version of this pamphlet available to the church at large. Martin Graphics prepared and printed a laminated, four-color version of the pewcard last month.
These pewcards have been so well received that a second printing has now been completed. Some of the comments coming back to us are:
For more information about “The Divine Service — an Explanation”, or to order them, click here.
We’ve also received several comments asking if our pewcard can be customized for the historic Lutheran Order of Service, published as “Divine Service 3” in LSB, the Common Service in the WELS Christian Worship; and of course the Order of Holy Communion in TLH. When we created the initial version we looked through all orders of service from the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) and attempted to come up with a version that fits most of them. We are now actively developing this version customized for DS3.
We gratefully acknowledge the work of Pastor Timothy Rossow who developed the first version of this publication.