Flashback Posts working again



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:



Some Quotes for Discussion of AC XIV

BOCcoverHere are some quotes when considering AC XIV:

XIV Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.



“…it is with those who are legitimately chosen and called by God through the church, therefore with the ministers to whom the use or administration of the ministry of the Word and the sacraments has been committed.”
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent: Volume II, p.97


…[I]t is the response of the Lutheran theologians to the charge that John Eck made in his 404 Propositions that the Lutherans denied the existence of the sacrament of orders, called it a figment of human invention, and asserted that any layman at all can consecrate churches, confirm children, and so on (Wilhelm Gussmann, D. Johann Ecks Vierhundertvier Artikel zum Reichstag von Augsburg 1530 [Kassel:Edmund Pillardy, 1930], nos.267 to 268, pp.134 and 177-78). The Lutheran response is that laymen are not admitted to the really crucial tasks of publicly and responsibly proclaiming the Gospel and of administering the sacraments.
Arthur Carl Piepkorn. “The Sacred Ministry and Holy Ordination in the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church.” in Michael P. Plekon and William S. Wiecher. The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn. (Delhi, NY: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau Books, 1993); p.62
…the word rite in rite vocatus implies in the normal terminology of the 16th century a formal ordination as something over and above a mere calling. Both vocatio (“calling”) and ordinatio (“ordination”) are extensively used in this period to describe the whole process of election and ordination. […] [T]he Confutatio pontifica accepted Article 14 in principle. It would not have done so if it had understood the article as suggesting that ordination was not necessary. The particular point on which the Confutatio insisted was that a bishop perform the ordination. This is clear from the Apology on Article 14. […] The Apology makes it clear that it has no quarrel with ordination or even with episcopacy, but that Episcopal ordination is not available to the proponents of the Augsburg Confession. The implication is that they may have no alternative but to avail themselves of ordination by clergymen in presbyter’s orders.
Arthur Carl Piepkorn. “The Sacred Ministry and Holy Ordination in the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church.” in Michael P. Plekon and William S. Wiecher. The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn. (Delhi, NY: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau Books, 1993); pp.62,63
Since the meaning of the public office is lost, ministry is limited to the private sphere. Willy-nilly Christianity becomes simply a private cult and the rationale for ordained ministry in Lutheranism threatens to disappear altogether. Here I expect is a major reason for the erosion of the understanding of ordained ministry among us. When the church becomes merely a private cult it is difficult to say why just any Christian cannot perform most if not all the functions ordinarily assigned to the ordained. It appears presumptuous in a democratic society to suppose that some are raised to a different level by ecclesiastical monkey business. And since it is, after all, only a “private” matter, what difference does ordination make? Furthermore when members of the clergy themselves capitulate and no longer do what can be called public preaching, teaching, or absolving but rather just make a public display of private emotions and experiences or invest most of their effort in private counseling, what does one need ordained clergy for? What matters is not the public exercise of the office but what “personal skills” or what kind of a (private) person the leader is. There is no way that ordination automatically imparts any skills or makes a person nice. So what is it for? Cannot properly sensitized or trained lay persons do just as well, or better?
Gerhard O. Forde. “The Ordained Ministry” in Todd Nichol & Marc Kolden (ed.) Called and Ordained: Lutheran Perspectives on the Office of the Ministry. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990); p.126
The great majority of our theologians, Luther in the forefront, believe that the holy Supper should never be administered privately by one who is not in the public preaching office, by a layman. That is partly because no such necessity can occur with the holy Supper, as with Baptism and Absolution, that would justify a departure from God’s ordinance ( I Cor 4:1; Romans 10:15; Heb 5:4); partly because the holy Supper “is a public confession and so should have a public minister”; partly because schisms can easily be brought about by such private Communion…
C.F.W. Walther. Pastoral Theology. Trans. John M. Drickamer. (New Haven: Lutheran News Inc, 1995); p.134
And what must the Christians do who are held captive in Turkey? They cannot receive the sacrament and have to be content with their faith and desire which they have for the sacrament and the ordinance of Christ, just as those who die before baptism are nevertheless saved by their faith and desire for baptism. What did the children of Israel do in Babylon when they were unable to have public worship at Jerusalem except in faith and in sincere desire and longing? Therefore, even if the church would have been robbed completely of the sacrament by the pope, still, because the ordinance of Christ remained in their hearts with faith and desire, it would nevertheless have been preserved thereby, as indeed now in our time there are many who outwardly do without the sacrament for they are not willing to honor and strengthen the pope’s abomination under one kind. For Christ’s ordinance and faith are two works of God which are capable of doing anything.
Martin Luther.  “The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests” (Luther’s Works, AE:38; p.207)
In the Formula of Concord’s denial that, “No man’s word or work, be it the merit or speaking of the minister,” brings about the real presence is not to deny that the body and blood are, “distributed through our ministry and office”
FC-SD, VII.74-77.


How the congregation organizes itself, for this no prescriptions are given, just as there are none for how the church’s ministry is to be organized. The apostles came to recognize that it would be helpful for their ministry if they were relieved of the work of caring for the poor and attending to money matters. So the office of the deacons was created as an auxiliary office. But the church was the church already before this office was created. So the church can at any time create auxiliary offices to meet the needs of the time. Examples of this in the history of the church are the office of an episcopate, or superintendency, or any other offices, whatever they may be called. But all these offices have their right of existence only insofar as they serve the one great office of the preaching of the Gospel and the administering of the sacraments. A bishop may be entrusted with the task of seeing to the running of a great diocese. But the meaning of such an assignment can only consist in this, that he thereby gives room and support to the church’s ministry. His actual office is the office of pastor, also when he is a pastor for pastors. By human arrangement he may have the work of superintendency. By divine mandate he has solely the office of preaching the forgiveness and justification of sinners for Christ’s sake.
Hermann Sasse. “Ministry and Congregation” (1949) in We Confess the Church. Trans. Norman E. Nagel. (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986); pp 71,72


Analysis: Contemporary vs. Traditional Worship

Here is a posting that we found on the Vocation in the Valley (yamabe.net) written by Brian Yamabe, one of the commentors on this site. (Vocation in the Valley has been a past Issues Etc blog of the week.) While the arguments put forth below may not convince someone with a contemporary mindset, it will give people with a confessional bend some issues to use in an attempt to retain traditional services at their church. Brian was a delegate to the CNH district convention, and has some insights on that he has posted to his blog.

I’m not a scholar and I’m only a theologian in so far as “everyone is a theologian,” but I’ve been trying to write a paper comparing and contrasting the “traditional” and “contemporary” services that we have at my congregation, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Continue Reading…

Pew and Lutherans

(from Mollie) Gene Veith pointed the way to a few other bloggers who have been looking at the LCMS-specific numbers coming out of that massive Pew report on religion in America:

The survey found that only 84% are absolutely certain there is a god; 12% are fairly certain.
9% seldom go to church; 2% never do.
Only 42% said the Bible should be taken literally.
28% believe there is one correct way to interpret scripture.

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:

Do you think there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded?

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?

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies: All Hallows’ Eve in the Mediaeval Church and the Reformation

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:

  1. In They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].
  2. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
  3. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
  4. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
  5. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
  6. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
  7. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
  8. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
  9. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
  10. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
  11. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

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 Litany of the Saints was not abandoned, but cleaned of its false worship. In fact, the Litany of the Saints is the basis for the Lutheran Litany found in most Lutheran hymnals today.

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:

Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.
Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. 2] For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. 3] He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:1: 4] If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.
5] This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. 6] There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses, which have crept into the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed; because even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere, neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same; 7] although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. 8] For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. 9] But it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some extent corrected.

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:

4] Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 5] Matt. 25:21, 23. The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace 6] truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20. The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 7] These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary.

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.

Hymns for the Book of Concord

The Book of Concord is a wonderful devotional book as well as being the formal confession of faith for the Lutheran Church. To aid in using the Book of Concord for devotion I have provided a copy of the hymns I use for teaching the Book of Concord. In addition for the Large Catechism, I have provided Psalms, as well as the classic Lutheran catechetical hymns, to aid in catechesis for these sections. The hymns are taken from the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH), and “The Hymns of Martin Luther” by Peter Reske (THML). Of course one should feel free to use which ever hymnal you have to sing these treasured hymns, with of course as many verses as you can get your hands on (or of course in their original tongues of English/German/Latin/Greek). I pray that this resource will be useful to all those who believe, teach, and confess what is in the Book of Concord. You can find a PDF copy if you go to my original post at the First Lutheran Church of Boston website.


Preface to the Book of Concord Built on the Rock (LSB 645)
The Ecumenical Creeds We All Believe In One True God (LSB 954)


The Augsburg Confession (AC) and Apology of the Augsburg Confession (Ap)

Preface Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word (LSB 655)
AC I/Ap I: God We All Believe in One True God (LSB 954)
AC II/Ap II (I): Original Sin These Are the Holy Ten Commands (LSB 581)
AC III/Ap III: The Son of God O Love, How Deep (LSB 544)
AC IV/Ap IV (II): Justification Salvation Unto Us Has Come (LSB 555)
AC V: The Ministry Shepherd of Tender Youth (LSB 864)
AC VI/Ap V (III): New Obedience O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696)
AC VII/Ap VII and VIII (IV): The Church I Love Your Kingdom, Lord (LSB 651)
AC VIII/Ap VII and VIII (IV): What the Church Is Built on the Rock (LSB 645)
AC IX/Ap IX: Baptism To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord (LSB 406)
AC X/Ap X: The Lord’s Supper Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior (LSB 627)
AC XI/Ap XI: Confession From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee (LSB 607)
AC XII/Ap XIIa (V) and XIIb (VI): Repentance/Confession and Satisfaction When in the Hour of Deepest Need (LSB 615)
AC XIII/Ap XIII (VII): The Use of the Sacraments My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (LSB 575)
AC XIV/Ap XIV: Order in the Church Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord (LSB 497)
AC XV/Ap XV (VIII): Church Ceremonies Not All the Blood of Beasts (LSB 431)
AC XVI/Ap XVI: Civil Government Before You, Lord, We Bow (LSB 966)
AC XVII/Ap XVII: Christ’s Return for Judgment The Day is Surely Drawing Near (LSB 508)
AC XVIII/Ap XVIII: Free Will Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (LSB 556)
AC XIX/Ap XIX: The Cause of Sin O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (LSB 450)
AC XX/Ap XX: Good Works Renew Me, O Eternal Light (LSB 704)
AC XXI/Ap XXI (IX): Worship of the Saints For All the Saints (LSB 677)
AC XXII/Ap XII (X): Both Kinds in the Sacrament Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord (LSB 637)
AC XXIII/Ap XXIII (XI): The Marriage of Priests The Church’s One Foundation (LSB 644)
AC XXIV/Ap XXIV (XII): The Mass Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared (LSB 622)
AC XXV: Confession Savior, When in Dust to Thee (LSB 419)
AC XXVI: Distinction of Meats By Grace I’m Saved (LSB 566)
AC XXVII/Ap XXVII (XIII): Monastic Vows Jesus, Priceless Treasure (LSB 743)
AC XXVIII/Ap XXVIII (XIV): Church Authority One Thing’s Needful (LSB 536)
Conclusion A Mighty Fortress is Our God (LSB 656)


Smalcald Articles

Preface of Dr. Martin Luther Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word (LSB 655)
Part I: The Awe-Inspiring Articles on the Divine Majesty We All Believe in One True God (LSB 954)
Part II: The Articles That Refer to the Office and Work of Jesus Christ; That is, Our Redemption Article I: The Chief Article Salvation Unto Us Has Come (LSB 555)
Part II Article II: The Mass By Grace I’m Saved (LSB 566)
Part II Article III: Chapters and Cloisters O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696)
Part II Article IV: The Papacy A Mighty Fortress is Our God (LSB 656)
Part III Article I: Sin All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall (LSB 562)
Part III Article II: The Law The Law of God Is Good and Wise (LSB 579)
Part III Article III: Repentance From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee (LSB 607)
Part III Article IV: The Gospel The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace (LSB 580)
Part III Article V: Baptism To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord (LSB 406)
Part III Article VI: The Sacrament of the Altar Lord Jesus Christ You Have Prepared (LSB 622)
Part III Article VII: The Keys The Day is Surely Drawing Near (LSB 508)
Part III Article VIII: Confession Thy Strong Word (LSB 578)
Part III Article IX: Excommunication “As Surely as I Live,” God Said (LSB 614)
Part III Article X: Ordination and the Call Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit (LSB 681)
Part III Article XI: The Marriage of Priests Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying (LSB 516)
Part III Article XII: The Church Built on the Rock (LSB 645)
Part III Article XIII: How One is Justified before God and Does Good Works Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (LSB 556)
Part III Article XIV: Monastic Vows I Bind Unto Myself Today (LSB 604)
Part III Article XV: Human Traditions One Thing’s Needful (LSB 536)


Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word (LSB 655)


The Small Catechism

Preface of Dr. Martin Luther Shepherd of Tender Youth (LSB 864)
Part I: The Ten Commandments These are the Holy Ten Commands (LSB 581)
Part II: The Apostles Creed We All Believe in One True God (LSB 954)
Part III: The Lord’s Prayer Our Father, Who from Heaven Above (LSB 766)
Part IV: The Sacrament of Holy Baptism To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord (LSB 406)
Part V: Confession From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee (LSB 607)
Part VI: The Sacrament of the Altar Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior (LSB 627)
Daily Prayers Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun (LSB 868)
Table of Duties “Come, Follow Me,” the Savior Spake (LSB 688)


The Large Catechism

Long Preface Psalm 1; Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word (LSB 655)
Short Preface Psalm 119:1-8 (Aleph); Shepherd of Tender Youth (LSB 864)
Part I: The First Commandment Psalm 115; Sing Praise to God, the Highest Good (LSB 819)
Part I: The Second Commandment Psalm 8; At the Name of Jesus (LSB 512)
Part I: The Third Commandment Psalm 84; Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide (LSB 585)
Part I: The Fourth Commandment Psalm 127; Happy the Man Who Fearth God (“Wo Gott Zum Haus” THML 29)
Part I: The Fifth Commandment Psalm 139; Lord of All Nations, Grant Me Grace (LSB 844)
Part I: The Sixth Commandment Psalm 45; Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying (LSB 516)
Part I: The Seventh Commandment Psalm 37; Son of God, Eternal Savior (LSB 842)
Part I: The Eighth Commandment Psalm 15; O God My Faithful God (LSB 696)
Part I: The Ninth and Tenth Commandments Psalm 19; If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee (LSB 750)
Part I: The Conclusion of the Ten Commandments Psalm 112; These Are the Holy Ten Commands (LSB 581)
Part II: Introduction Psalm 14; Te Deum (LSB 223)
Part II: The First Article of the Apostle’s Creed Psalm 33; Eternal Father, Strong to Save (LSB 717)
Part II: The Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed Psalm 2; O Love, How Deep (LSB 544)
Part II: The Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed Psalm 51; Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest (LSB 498/499)
Part III: Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 141; Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow (LSB 880)
Part III: The First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 96; Oh Lord Look Down From Heaven Behold (TLH 260)
Part III: The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 24; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (LSB 357)
Part III: The Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 145; What God Ordains is Always Good (LSB 760)
Part III: The Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 104; Now Thank We All Our God (LSB 895)
Part III: The Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 32; Lord, to You I Make Confession (LSB 608)
Part III: The Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 125; Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus (LSB 685)
Part III: The Seventh and Last Petition of the Lord’s Prayer Psalm 23; O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe (LSB 666)
Part IV: Holy Baptism Psalm 89; To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord (LSB 406)
Part V: The Sacrament of the Altar Psalm 116; Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior (LSB 627)


Formula of Concord (Epitome and Solid Declaration)

The Summary Content, Rule, and Norm I Know My Faith Is Founded (LSB 587)
Article I: Original Sin All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall (LSB 562)
Article II: Free Will Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest (LSB 498/499)
Article III: The Righteousness of Faith Before God By Grace I’m Saved (LSB 566)
Article IV: Good Works O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696)
Article V: Law and Gospel Salvation Unto Us Has Come (LSB 555)
Article VI: The Third Use of God’s Law “Come, Follow Me,” the Savior Spake (LSB 688)
Article VII: The Holy Supper of Christ Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared (LSB 622)
Article VIII: The Person of Christ Savior of the Nations Come (LSB 332)
Article IX: The Descent of Christ to Hell Christ is the World’s Redeemer (LSB 539)
Article X: Church Practices Lord Jesus Christ the Church’s Head (LSB 647)
Article XI: God’s Eternal Foreknowledge, Predestination, and Election If God Himself Be For Me (LSB 724)
Article XII: Other Factions, Heresies, and Sects O Lord Look Down From Heaven Behold (TLH 260)


A Historical Review of the Relationship Between District and Synod, by August Suelflow, Summarized by Dr. Ken Schurb

Pastor Charles Henrickson passed along this timely summary of a report given to the synod back in 1961 when structural changes were being considered. It was written by LCMS historian August Suelflow and is summarized for us here by Dr. Ken Schurb, formerly the assistant to synodical president Al Barry.

As you read Dr. Schurb’s summary of this report notice how things have changed in our synod. Notice that there was formerly much more emphasis on doctrinal supervision. Notice how the role of the circuit counselor (originally called the “circuit visitor”) has morphed from a doctrinal supervisor to an administrative promotional man for the district and synod, a great loss indeed. Notice too that the synod formerly paid the salaries of its college and seminary teachers. These days, they have all been forced to support themselves financially setting the stage for individualism and a lack of unity. It used to be the case that each district was responsible to pay dues to the synod so that the proceedings of their district convention, particularly the doctrinal paper, be sent to all other members of synod so that all would know what was going on in each district. (Notice that those doctrinal papers were reviewed by the St. Louis Seminary faculty for doctrinal purity. Today we have a beauracratic board – the CTCR – doing the work that should be done by our seminaries.) This practice of inter-district communication has long been lost. As a matter of fact, district conventions do not even have doctrinal papers presented anymore. Look for these and other changes as you read this insightful paper.

The synod of the past was far from perfect but there is a clear sense that the synod of old made doctrinal purity and theological unity top priorities. Let’s remain vigilant by learning more about what is going on in the synod today so that we can be informed participants. BJS will be providing more resources along these lines in the weeks to come.

Be sure to check out comment #16 on the “Being Steadfast Includes Being Vigilant” string for some more excellent resources on LCMS structure. Thanks to Rev. Jack Bauer for pointing these out for us. Pastor Wilken has given a firm endorsement for the “Three Walls” article listed there.

Also, if anyone has any news about proceedings at the convocation in St. Louis, please post your news and reflections here.

Pastor Rossow

Does your worship prepare you for death?

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

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

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?



Video Presentations from BJS 2015 Conference


We are pleased to announce the videos are now available from the recent Brothers of John the Steadfast 2015 Conference held at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL on Feb 20-21st. Thanks to Peter Slayton for helping getting these recordings ready and published.

To view them on youtube click here to view all 7 videos.

To listen to the audio presentations, click here (it may be easier to listen to these files if you have a slow internet connection)

The videos are listed below in order; the conference schedule can be found here.

Session 1: Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, “The Obligation and Temptation of Dealing with False Teaching”


Session 2: Pr. Clint Poppe, “The Barking Dog Approach”


Vespers Sermon: Pr. Chris Hull, “Confessing in confidence”


Session 3: Pr. Larry Beane, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?”


Session 4: Pr. Hans Fiene, “The Use of Snark in Lutheran Confession”


Divine Service Sermon, Pr. Joshua Scheer, “Work to be done, work that is done”


Session 5: Pr. Todd Wilken, “Despite What You’ve Heard, the LCMS Is Not a Lost Cause”

Distinguishing Between Doctrine and Life

This is a re-post from October 2014 that reflects Luther’s teaching on how to deal with false doctrine and its teachers.



“Doctrine and life must be distinguished. Life is bad among us, as it is among the papists, but we don’t fight about life and condemn the papists on that account.” (LW 54:110)

Dr. Luther spoke these words at his table conversations with his students and friends in 1533. He pointed out how John Wycliffe and John Huss had attacked the papacy in the late Middle Ages because of its corruption and immorality. The papacy’s doctrine, not individual popes’ morality, is the central issue for Luther. He believed it was his calling to refute false doctrine and teach true doctrine. Why? Luther states:

When the Word remains pure, then the life (even if there is something lacking in it) can be molded properly. Everything depends on the Word, and the pope has abolished the Word and created another one. With this I have won nothing else than that I teach aright. It’s the teaching that breaks the pope’s neck. (LW 54:110) [Emphasis added]

Do these statements mean that Luther did not care about how Christians lived? Simply put, no. However, Luther understood that true doctrine (the Word) will correct faulty living. Luther understood the weaknesses with which even believers continue to struggle. He also knew that only the right teaching of God’s Word could overcome those struggles.

In a sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany on Colossians 3:12-17 Dr. Luther addressed the relationship of doctrine and life. He exhorted Christians to demonstrate their compassion to all people. True Christians associate with sinners and demonstrate God’s love. God does not deal with sinners according to the strictness of the Law and neither should Christians. Those who require absolute perfection in Christians are hypocrites who do not understand God’s love and compassion. However, Luther asserts that Christian love should not tolerate false teachers or their doctrine. Therefore, he concludes, “A defective life does not destroy Christianity; it exercises it. But defective doctrine—false belief—destroys all good.” (Sermons of Martin Luther, Trans. Nicholas Lenker, Vol. 2, p. 80.)

Luther spoke similarly regarding kindness. This virtue should mold the entire life of a Christian. Those who possess kindness defer to others and attract all people with gentleness and sympathy. However, kindness has its limits in relation to false doctrine. Luther stated forcefully:

But the liberality of kindness is not to be extended to false doctrine. Only relative to conduct and works is it to be exercised. As oft before stated, love with all its works and fruits has no place in the matter of unsound doctrine. I must love my neighbor and show him kindness whatever the imperfections of life. But if he refuses to believe or to teach sound doctrine, I cannot, I dare not, love him or show him kindness. According to Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), I must hold him excommunicated and accursed, even though he be an angel from heaven.” (Lenker, Vol. 2, p. 81)

This statement clearly demonstrates Luther’s understanding of how Christians should oppose false teachers. Christians must demonstrate kindness, forgiveness, and meekness toward sinners and bear with one another’s faults. However, Christians must never abide false teaching because tolerating it in the church is not true love at all.

Some Clarifications in Articulating Objective Justification

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.  

Divine Service — an Explanation

DS-ExplanationMany 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:

  • “We’ve always wanted to write something like this, but never had the time”.
  • “I’m thrilled with it — in addition to having it available as information for our visitors, I’m planning on having a 2- or 3- week Bible study, reading through this and expanding on the liturgy”.
  • “It’s well designed and fits nicely behind our hymnals”.
  • “These are great for visitors and members alike, and a good tool to help members learn why we worship the way we do”.

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.

Doctrine means nothing when Practice can mean anything.

Recently I was discussing some things with a fellow pastor and I uttered the phrase above.  Many comments recently on this blog have been directed to the belief that solid Lutheran beliefs (expressed in the Book of Concord) can find their expression in a wide diversity of practices.

These things remind me of the Coexist bumper stickers you see on cars.  The use a number of religious symbols to spell out the word.  Would an LCMS bumper sticker say the same thing, using symbols of organs, praise bands, vested pastors, polo and khaki pastors, pastors in pulpit, pastors wandering around during sermons,  women readers, communion rails under pastoral care, and drive-by open communion groups?  How much of the discussion around needing such diversity and “broad consensus” stems not from theology but the general attitude that also produces the “coexist” bumper stickers?

While affirming that absolute uniformity in all ceremonies is not necessary in the Church, our fathers in the faith (including LCMS fathers) made uniformity something to be sought after.  The knew the benefit in having practices that lined up with each other from parish to parish.  They knew the comfort that would bring to people of all generations.  They knew the catholic principle behind the church, that it is not trapped in a certain time or place.  They also knew that doctrine informs practice and that practice informs doctrine.

Do we think we know better than our fathers?  Do we really think that diversity of practices can still be upheld and still claim to have doctrinal unity?  And this is now something in the LCMS over a generation old, which means in the flow of Lex Credendi, Lex Orandi, the practices that we have now tolerated have begun to affect our beliefs.

Diverse practices will come home to roost – and I wonder if the great disunity and disharmony today in the LCMS is only the fruit of a generation or better of allowing so many diverse practices to coexist under the banner of confessional Lutheranism.  Too often now, we can find “lifelong Lutherans” with completely different ideas on what it means to be Lutheran, and this is the result of having so many different practices.

But that is another thing that diversity of practices does – it is no longer about beliefs or doctrine, but about practices.  The focus has shifted.  When practice can mean almost anything, doctrine means almost nothing.

Those who now seek after uniformity are accused of being legalistic and loveless, sinning against those whom they try to “impose” ceremonies upon.  But behind the superficial accusation of sin (and the pious rebellion of the Old Adam), is the truth that uniformity serves Christ’s Church and that means Christians, real people who struggle in this life.  Uniformity serves the next generation of Christians by not creating a destructive feedback loop of diverse practices lessening or changing doctrine.  Those who strive for uniformity are trying to show love to those who are not just in front of them, but to those who come later, perhaps generations later.

The practical question is this:  what does uniformity look like in the LCMS of 2012?  I would suggest services of Lutheran Service Book, its Agenda and so forth (including vestments for clergy).  The rites of LSB still resemble those that are common across the whole Evangelical Lutheran Church.  But as of lately, even discussions here on BJS haven’t allowed such “broad consensus” – Is there really a unity of belief underlying this stubborn diversity?

Why Christians Make the Sign of the Holy Cross (and a word on genuflection)

In The Small Catechism, Martin Luther encouraged Christians to retain the practice of making the sign of the cross. The Missouri Synod, following Luther’s advice, has encouraged Christians to continue making the sign 0310151243of the cross, notably at a number of places during the Divine Service. Several of these are indicated in Lutheran Service Book by the LSB cross symbolsymbol, though there are a number of places in the liturgy where Christians have crossed themselves that are not indicated in LSB (see #3, 5, 6, and 7, below). Before we look at why the cross may be made at these places, first a word on how to make the sign of the cross.

ChristusThe practice of crossing one’s self is an ancient practice and is derived from such passages as Deuteronomy 6:8, Ezekiel 9:4, Revelation 7:3, 9:4, and 14:1. The practice of tracing the cross on objects and one’s body is discussed by such church fathers as Tertullian (v. 6), Jerome (“Epitaph Paulae”), and Cyril (par. 36). There are differences in tradition on how to make the gesture, both with respect to the shape of the hand and also what direction to trace the cross from shoulder to shoulder.

The three main variations of finger position are 1) to use two fingers (either index & middle or thumb and index) to indicate the two natures of Christ; 2) to bring the tip of the thumb, index, and middle finger together to signify the three persons of the Trinity; or 3) to extend the thumb, index, and middle finger while folding the ring and little finger back against the palm, thus indicating both the Holy Trinity and two natures of Christ (as seen in the mosaic to the right).

The other consideration when making the sign of the cross is the question of which direction to make the motion. There is (almost) agreement regarding the first two steps, beginning at the forehead and then going down to the sternum (or navel, in the East). Then the question is whether to go from right to left, or from left to right. The right to left pattern appears to be the more ancient practice and is the method most commonly found in the Lutheran rubrics (it is also used by the Orthodox). Theologically, this follows from the biblical preference of right over left (sheep on the right, goats on the left [Matthew 25:33] and Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father [Acts 5:31]). The left to right pattern is the dominant method in the Roman church and is a reminder that Jesus first descended into hell (as indicated by beginning with the left) before ascending to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Enough about procedure. There are various points in the liturgy where the sign of the cross may be made. The placement of the cross at these locations is not haphazard, but rather has theological significance. Much more could be said about this than what follows, but here are some thoughts to get you going.

  1. The sign of the cross may be made at the Invocation (“In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit). That, of course, is the Name into which Christians are baptized, and St. Paul teaches that it is into the death (cross) of Christ that we are baptized (Romans 6:3-5). To be “baptized into Jesus’ death” means all the benefits of the cross (forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation) are applied to you personally in Holy Baptism. The first time the sign of the cross is placed on Christians is in Holy Baptism (“receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your + forehead and upon your + heart to make you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified”). Thus, it is especially appropriate to make the sign of the cross over yourself when the pastor speaks the baptismal Invocation, since to trace the cross on your body is to confess that the cross and all of its benefits are yours by virtue of Holy Baptism.
  2. Christians may also cross themselves during the Absolution when the pastor says, “I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Note again the use of the baptismal formula, so everything that was said above about the Invocation also applies to making the sign of the cross during the Absolution. Jesus has not commanded us to re-baptize the repentant Christian after they sin. He has, however, given His Church the ability to forgive sins on earth (Matthew 16:19), which is the means by which we continually experience the cleansing benefits of Holy Baptism (see “fourthly” in Luther’s Small Catechism).
  3. The celebrant may also make the sign of the cross (with his right thumb) on his forehead, lips, and heart just prior to the reading of the Holy Gospel as a sort of prayer that he would know, say, and believe nothing except Christ crucified. This is reflected in the traditional prayer that is said by the celebrant just prior to the reading: “May the Lord be in my heart and on my lips, that I may worthily and rightly proclaim His Gospel, in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
  4. It is also appropriate to make the sign of the cross at the words “and the life + of the world to come” in the creed, for it is the cross which gives us the hope of everlasting life in the restored creation.
  5. Sometimes pastors will cross themselves as they begin their sermons while speaking the Invocation, since the Christian sermon is a proclamation of God’s saving Name (congregations may follow suit by crossing themselves and responding by saying, “Amen”). The comments in #1 and #2 above also apply here, since the sermon is, in many ways, an extended Absolution.
  6. Christians have also made the sign of the cross at the words “Blessed is He” during the Sanctus. Those words were spoken by the crowds on Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on His way to the cross, thus the practice of crossing yourself at this time (Matthew 21:9). In addition to crossing themselves, Christians have also bowed during the Sanctus (more on that shortly).
  7. The sign of the cross may also be made at the words “deliver us from evil” (or: “from the evil one)” in the Lord’s Prayer (see the seventh petition). The rationale here is similar as it was for the Creed (see #4, above). The cross is that which fulfills this petition, delivering us from evil and giving us the hope of a blessed end.
    The Mond Crucifixion (Raphael) Notes especially the two angels catching the blood of our Lord in chalices, highlighting the connection between the cross and the Sacrament of the Altar
    The Mond Crucifixion (Raphael)
    Note especially the two angels catching the blood of our Lord in chalices, highlighting the connection between the cross and the Sacrament of the Altar
  8. Christians may also cross themselves during the Verba (“this is My + body,”; “this cup is the new testament in My + blood”) and the dismissal (“Depart + in peace”). At the altar, you receive the body and blood which Jesus gave and shed for you on the cross (see the Raphael painting at the left).
  9. Finally, the cross may be made during the Benediction (“and + give you peace”), for the peace and communion we have with God is possible only through the cross. Recall the song of the angels at the birth of Jesus (which we sing in the Gloria in Excelsis): “Glory be to God on high, on earth, peace,” (Luke 2:14).

Making the sign of the cross, while certainly not required, can be a very helpful practice and carries with it a great deal of theological significance. It is a reminder that in all things, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23) and that the Christian life is one of bearing the cross (Matthew 16:24).

A Word on Bowing/Genuflecting:

In Ceremony and Celebration, Paul H.D. Lang offers the following comments on bowing and genuflecting:

Bowing and genuflecting are very closely related. A genuflection is merely a more profound bow. When genuflecting, one touches the ground with the right knee at the place where the foot was and then stands upright again at once in a continuous action. Bowing and genuflecting are reverences or, when directed to people, signs of respect. Giving form and expression to inner devotions, reverences help to make our worship meaningful and impressive. Books on ceremonies distinguish between head bows and body bows. In head bows, only the head is inclined. An example of this kind of bow is the one an officiant makes to the people at the response, “And with thy spirit.” In the body bow, the head and shoulders are bent forward. It is always made in expressing reverence to God, (61).

Christians have also sometimes bowed their heads whenever the name of Jesus is spoken and also when we speak of worship during the liturgy (“we worship Thee” in the Gloria in Excelsis and “is worshiped and glorified” in the Nicene Creed).

Christians may also genuflect during the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”, which appears both at the end of the Introit and Nunc Dimittis), and also while singing the words of the seraphim from Isaiah’s vision of God in the Temple in the Sanctus (Isaiah 6:1-3). As an expression of reverence, it is appropriate to bow when the Divine Name is spoken (which reminds us of the importance of keeping God’s Name holy and using it rightly; cf. the 1st Petition & 2nd Commandment). The Sanctus (see also #6, above), with its related ceremonies of genuflecting and crossing, is particularly appropriate at this point in the Service of the Sacrament, for like the seraphim and the crowds on Palm Sunday, we are also in the presence of God (cf. Isaiah 6 & Matthew 21).

Christians have also bowed at the words “and became man” during the Nicene Creed. It is appropriate for us to bow as we confess the Incarnation, even as the magi fell down and worshiped the Incarnate Lord (Matthew 3:11).

Luther, in his typically colorful fashion, relates the following story about genuflecting during the Creed:

Colbert genuflectingThe following tale is told about a coarse and brutal lout. While the words “And was made man” were being sung in church, he remained standing, neither genuflecting nor removing his hat. He showed no reverence, but just stood there like a clod. All the others dropped to their knees when the Nicene Creed was prayed and chanted devoutly. Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin. He cursed him gruesomely and said: “May hell consume you! If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: ‘God was made an angel,’ I would bend not only to my knees but my whole body to the ground! And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone. You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood!

Whether this story is true or not, it is nevertheless in accordance with the faith. With this instructive story the holy fathers wished to admonish the youth the revere the indescribably great miracle of the incarnation; they wanted us to open our eyes wide and ponder these words well,” (AE 22:105-106).

The most profound genuflection occurs during consecration and distribution as an act of worship to the bodily presence of Christ with us in, with, and under the bread and the wine. Communicants typically bend both knees (double genuflect) when receiving the Sacrament. A helpful discussion of the relationship between genuflecting and theology of the Sacrament can be found over at Gottesdienst.

Light from Light — Pictures from the 2015 BJS Conference

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.


Audio presentations from the 2015 Conference can be found on the Brothers of John the Steadfast website.  Video of the conference can be found at this link: on the BJS website.


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.

Please go to the Brothers of John the Steadfast website, and check out all theaudio presentations from the 2015 conference.  Or check out the videos of the conference by clicking here.


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.

Thank you.


Additional Pictures

Click here for additional pictures from the 2015 BJS Conference.

Click here for additional pictures from all the previous BJS Conferences(2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013).

God’s blessing to you.

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies: All Saints’ Day/Eve and Samhain

All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day: Origins and Samhain-ization

Today it seems that everyone knows that Halloween is originally a Celtic pagan holy day named Samhain [pronounced: Sow-in] which the Christian Church supplanted for the sake of forcing pagans to convert to Christianity. Obviously, in this line of thought, Christianity has nothing of it self to offer and must co-opt, adopt, adapt, and use non-Christian sources for the sake of gaining converts from the world outside of Christianity.

A read through the Old Testament will show that the people of God have many times adopted religious practices and celebrations from the pagan nations around them: Sometimes in an effort to gain peace with those nations, sometimes to attract members, sometimes so they could fit in better with surrounding nations, sometimes in outright rebellion to God. The Acts of the Apostles, their Epistles, and the book of Revelation also show various ways that the Church adopted the cultural and religious practices of the pagans around them. The writings of the early Church Fathers contain many, many documents against the adoption of pagan practices and writings against those false teachers who adopted aspects of pagan worship and faith.

So, it is not like it would be unusual for the Church to do something like stealing a pagan holy day, claim it for its own, and use this to attract those outside the Church (pagans) by making them feel more comfortable—or by coercion. Both have happened.

Some might wonder what the point is of trying to establish which came first: pagan or Christian. Indeed, one website described this kind of effort as a “pissing match” to establish who’s holy day is older. That attitude misses the point of doing the history. The issue is that Neo-Pagans and Wiccans, in an effort to discredit Christianity, have made many assertions about the history of these holy days that are patently false. Most of their claims are based on an intellectual heritage that comes through the Folklorists of the 19th and early 20th centuries—which itself was deeply influenced by the wealth of philosophy, arts, and literature from the Romantic movement (particularly Gothic fiction).

When one looks at individual claims about the supposed antiquity of the Neo-Pagan/Wiccan holy day of Samhain one finds the actual historical evidence lacking.

Of course, then some claim “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” This is supposed to prove that since we are not able to find any evidence of the observation of Samhain before the 9th century, and since lack of evidence cannot prove something was not there; the whole line of research is fallacious—NeoPagans/Wiccans therefore have the upper-hand and win! Too bad, poor Christians!

Actually their claims must be tested by evidence, not just ours. If one were to claim that NASA put a man on Mars long before the Framers signed the Constitution, most people know just enough of history to begin to question such a ludicrous claim.[Footnote 1]

So, for example, the Neo-Pagan claims “Samhain was celebrated on October 31st by the Druids all over Europe before Christianity came.” Then there are some specifics that can be examined: what kind of calendar did the Celts use? Does it have a date called “Samhain”? Was it actually a single date, or a prolonged season/time/festival/fast? If it was a single date does that date equate to October 31? Is that before or after the Gregorian calendar reforms? How is Samhain described in the earliest literature? When was that? How did it change over time? Are there records of suppression of this holy day?

On the other hand: if one were to assert: “All Saints’ Day came from non-Celtic regions, was known in the East and West, and was moved to November 1st long before there were any explicitly pagan ideas associated with Samhain.” Again there are specifics one can examine. All along the same lines of inquiry outlined just previously.

This article is an effort to gather together resources on the origin and historical development of All Saints’ Day, the evening before which is called All Saints’ Eve, or Halloween. I have tried to provide links to online versions of these resources to make it easier for the reader to go through the original documents. But many of the resources are in print editions only. The information is presented as a chronologically arranged annotated/narrated bibliography on the subjects of Samhain and All Saints’ Day.

Since so many people today believe that the origin of All Saints’ Day and Halloween are to be found in the Celtic festival of Samhain we consider it first.

Documentary History of Samhain

The ancient Celtic calendars that we actually have and know about are luni-solar. That is, the months were lunar months tied to the phases of the moon, and that an extra batch of days was added at the end or in other places to tidy up with the solar year. Because the calendar was based on the phases of the moon the claim that October 31 must be historic Samhain is patently false.


Samhain as Part of the Ancient Celtic Calendar-A.D. 2nd Century

The oldest fairly complete ancient Celtic calendar we have that includes a mention of something like Samhain is the Colingy Calendar. The Colingy Calendar was found at Colingy, Ain, France in 1887 and is now held at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Lyon, France.

The Calendar itself is dated to the late 2nd century AD on the basis of its linguistic features.

The wikipedia article on the Colingy Calendar has a good bibliography for extended research. You can see the calendar and how Archaeologists, Historians, and Linguists have worked to interpret the text at the Roman Britain Organisation’s website by Kevan White, as well as at John Bonsing’s website.

Some of the things learned from this Celtic calendar are pointed out by Kevan White;

1. “The Celtic month started at the full-moon, rather than the new-moon, probably because the full-moon is easier to observe and record. Each month alternately contained 29 or 30 days, making a Celtic year 354 days in length.

2. “The calendar took into account the differing time periods taken by the moon and the sun to circle the earth (prevalent geocentric terminology used), and reconciled the differences by inserting an extra month on a regular cycle. This method of intercalation meant that most years contained twelve months, and approximately every third year contained thirteen months. This extra month was called Mid Samonios, and was intercalated between Cutios and Giamonios in the calendar.

3. “The month was divided into two parts, a ‘light’ half, and a ‘dark’ half, each approximately of two week’s duration; the division marked by the word Atenoux ‘returning night’ on the Coligny fragments. This confirms that the new-moon also played a part in the Celtic calendar, and very likely had some religious significance. This also bears-out the impression we get from the traditional Celtic folk-stories which maintain that the normal period of Celtic timekeeping was the fortnight.”

Both White and Bonsing have done calendar calculations attempting to synchronize this ancient Celtic calendar with our current system. A very important point to note is that for the years worked out AD 24 to AD 54 the first day of Samhain never occurred on October 31. It occurred on November 1 only once in that span of years in AD 38.

Also, there is no mention of or description of any calendrical festival cycle that would in any way compare to the Neo-Pagan and modern Wiccan “Wheel of the Year”.

Bonsing, John

2007    The Celtic Calendar.

White, Kevan

The Colingy Calendar at The Roman Britain Organisation

See also the bibliography on the Colingy Calendar at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coligny_calendar

Finally, there is no explicit mention of a holiday called Samhain in this calendar. No such holiday is mentioned until 1,000 years later.

Now, we must admit, we can not claim that this one calendar actually represents a uniform practice of all the different areas where Celts lived. They may, as was in ancient Greece, have had different calendars for each area. In which case, we can not say for certain anything about a pan-celtic or even local practice until such evidence can be found.


Medieval Celtic References to Samhain

The Laws of Hywel Dda ca 1285 AD

Harleian MS 4353 (V) with emendations from Cleopatra A XIV (W)

    Welsh King Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) reigned 880 AD to 950 AD. The earliest copies of laws attributed to his rule are from 1285 AD. In this calendar the “calends of winter” = Samhain is used to fix an end to an economic activity. No festival is mentioned. Of course, King Hywel Dda lived in a time after the festival of All Saints’ Day had been introduced to the British Isles. The manuscript comes from well after the November 1st date had been established in the region.

Tochmarc Emire (“The Wooing of Emer“) maybe 10th century AD, certainly older than the 15th c.

from the Ulster Cycle in Irish mythology.

The earliest manuscript is from the 15th or 16th century A.D. Some scholars conjecture that the story may go back to the 10th or 8th century AD. But there is no manuscript evidence for this. In any event, this is after the Christianization of Ireland and after the celebration of All Saints’ Day had been introduced in that land. In this document the word Samhain is understood to mean “the end of summer.” While this document describes druids working ritual at Beltane, there is nothing mentioned of ritual at Samhain. Even if the story goes back to the 10th century this is still after the festival of All Saints’ Day had been established on November 1st in the region.

[paragraph 27]

Serglige Con Culainn (“The Sick-Bed of Cú Chulainn”), written maybe the 10th or 11th century A.D.

Also known as Oenét Emire (“The Only Jealousy of Emer:) is a narrative from the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. This is the oldest reference from the medieval period and it comes from a 12th century AD manuscript. Note that this is well after All Saints’ Day is established on November 1st in the region.

This text mentions a festival in connection with Samhain:

“EVERY year the men of Ulster were accustomed to hold festival together; and the time when they held it was for three days before Samhain, the Summer-End, and for three days after that day, and upon Samhain itself. And the time that is spoken of is that when the men of Ulster were in the Plain of Murthemne, and there they used to keep that festival every year; nor was there an thing in the world that they would do at that time except sports, and marketings, and splendours, and pomps, and feasting and eating; and it is from that custom of theirs that the Festival of the Samhain has descended, that is now held throughout the whole of Ireland.”



Sanas Cormaic (“Cormac’s narrative” “Cormac’s Glossary”) manuscripts from early 15th c. AD

An early Irish glossary with  etymologies and explanations for more than 1,400 words.

Ascribed to Cormac mac Cuilennáin (d. 908).

Significant because the glossary does mention Beltane and the rituals around it, but does not mention Samhain at all.

Due to the fact it describes some detail of pagan practice at Beltane it is not likely that Samhain was eliminated out of religious prejudice.

Here we would expect to find something if there were because of the nature of the work and its contents. But we find nothing on Samhain.



Samhain in the Early Folklorists-16th Century and Later

Seathrún Céitinn, known in English as Geoffrey Keating, c1569-c1644
Irish Roman Catholic priest, poet and historian from County Tipperary
Keating wrote what looks like an observation of folk customs:

“there the Fire of Tlachtgha was instituted, at which it was their custom to assemble and bring together the druids of Ireland on the eve of Samhain to offer sacrifice to all the gods. It was at that fire they used to burn their victims; and it was of obligation under penalty of fine to quench the fires of Ireland on that night, and the men of Ireland were forbidden to kindle fires except from that fire; and for each fire that was kindled from it in Ireland the king of Munster received a tax of a screaball, or three-pence, since the land on which Tlachtgha is belongs to the part of Munster given to Meath.” (p. 247)

Keating’s account of the Feast of Tara and his treatment of Samhain has been found to be creative anachronistic fiction by Daniel. Binchy pp 129-130 of his 1958 ‘The Fair of Tailtu and the Feast of Tara’, Eriu, 18:113-38.

Foras Feasa ar Éirinn: the history of Ireland D. Comyn and P.S. Dineen (eds.) 4 vols. Irish Texts Society, London 1902-14.
Irish: http://celt.ucc.ie/published/G100054/index.html
English: http://celt.ucc.ie/published/T100054/index.html

Grimm, Jacob 1785-1863
German philologist, jurist and mythologist who was very creative in his association of ideas and imaginative in his conclusions.

1883    Teutonic Mythology, Volume 2, Tr. James Steven Stallybrass, from the 4th ed. 1877,  George Bell and Sons.,

-p. 614 in his discussion of religious fire his claim is based on sources which repeat Keating;

-p. 627 where Grimm claims that the Yule Log and Samhain are equivalent religious expressions without regard to cultural, seasonal, and regional differences.

See also the supplement volume 4 p. 1465f

Rhys, John 1840-1915

First Professor of Celtic at Oxford University. Citing Keating and his experience in contemporary folklore, Rhys was the first to suggest that Samhain was the ‘Celtic’ new year celebration.

1886    Lectures on the origin and growth of religion as illustrated by Celtic heathendom (1892 ed)

Hutton notes two recent authors who have revived Keating’s fiction.

Gantz, Jeffrey.
1981    Early Irish Myths and Sagas. London: Penguin Books picks up Keating’s story and conjectures about a possible ancient mythological nature of Samhain.

MacCana, Proinsias
1970    Celtic Mythology. New York: Hamlyn, bases some mythological conclusions on the same discredited evidence.

[Hutton, Stations of the Sun, 361f, 508]

Frazer, James 1854-1941

Scottish social anthropologist very influential in the early stages of the modern studies of folklore,  mythology and comparative religion, especially with respect to his 1890 publication, The Golden Bough.

Frazer was the first to suggest that Samhain was an ancient pan-Celtic festival of the dead that had been taken over by the Church.

1907     Adonis, Attis, Osiris: studies in the history of oriental religion, 2d ed., rev. and enl., Macmillan and co., limited in London . Pages 301-18  particularly p. 315 to 318.

Frazer’s comparative religion and folklore research methods and analytical methods have been largely discredited today.

At this point we are up to the 20th century and there is no real credible evidence that Samhain was any kind of ancient pan-Celtic festival of the dead, or that it was a new years celebration, or that it was even a fixed festival.


Documented Origins of All Saints’ Day


Earliest record of an annual commemoration of martyrs.

The earliest surviving record of an annual commemoration of a saint or saints dates to the 2nd century A.D. There is no reference to any pagan festival. The purpose of the day is to remember the testimony to faith in Christ that the saints gave with their lives and deaths. Polycarp’s martyrdom ties together both Rome and Smyrna on the southwestern edge of modern Turkey.

The documentary evidence laid out below demonstrates that the practice of a day dedicated to All Saints originates in non-Celtic regions well before documentary evidence of a festival of Samhain begins, and that this festival is established on November 1st without any reference to pagan practices relating specifically to Samhain.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp, c. AD 150

of Smyrna, on the western coast of Turkey.

Ante-Nicene Fathers I, p. 43

Origins of annual commemoration of martyrs in the East

Through the persecutions of the early centuries so many Christians were killed because of their faith, that churches in different areas began setting aside a particular day of the church year dedicated to All the Saints and Martyrs.

Gregory Thaumaturgus before AD 270

of Neo-Caesarea a city in Tokat Province, Turkey.

Sermon on the Festival of All Saints Ante-Nicene Fathers VI, p. 72

Ephrem the Deacon AD 306-373 of Edessa, Syria

Ephrem’s Nisibene Hymn 6:30f mentions an annual feast of Martyrs/Champions that co-occurred with the Feast of the Ascension. NPNF-2:13 p. 176

According to the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia Ephrem notes the observance of an annual Festival of All Saints’ in Edessa on the thirteenth of May. We are looking for an English translation.

Mershman, F. (1907). All Saints’ Day. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 30, 2013 from New Advent:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01315a.htmEphrem’s works http://www.doaks.org/research/byzantine/resources/syriac/brock/ephrem

The Synod of Gangra AD 340

modern Çankırı, capital city of Çankırı Province, in Turkey

Council of Laodicea AD 363-364

  •     Canon 51 established that the annual commemoration of Saints’ days (their nativities) that take place during Lent should be held on the Sabbath or Sunday following so that they can be commemorated with the full Liturgy rather than with the partial liturgies that were prescribed for weekdays in Lent.
    NPNF2-14: p. 156 [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.viii.vii.iii.lvi.html]

St. Basil of Caesarea AD 379 a city in Central Anatolia, Turkey.

Also noted in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Basil chose a day when the churches of his bishopric would honor the memories of all Saints known, and unknown, alive or in heaven. We are looking for the reference.

Mershman, F. (1907). All Saints’ Day. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 30, 2013 from New Advent:

John Chrysostom, died AD 407 of Constantinople.

The Reference typically given is to his 74th Homily, or his Homily for the First Sunday after Pentecost. In this referenced sermon Chrysostom wrote that a festival of All Saints was observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Constantinople during his episcopate.

    See especially;

2006    John Chrysostom: The Cult of the Saints: Select Homilies and Letters. Introduced, translated and annotated by Wendy Mayer and Bronwen NielSt Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
[This book is helpful in understanding how important and widespread in the Church the commemoration of the martyred Saints had become at such an early date.]

The African Code AD 419 at Carthage

Council in Trullo (The Quinisext Council) AD 692 in Constantinople


Documented celebrations of the festival in the West

Readers should be aware that the East and the West were not isolated from each other. Even before Polycarp’s martyrdom, he and others before him had traveled to Rome. And others from the West had traveled to places in the East. We find documents from Rome that the annual celebration of an All Saint’s day which was widespread in the East was also the practice in Rome and the West.

Pope Boniface IV in AD 610

All Saints Day commemoration celebrated May 13 at the dedication of Sancta Maria ad Martyres

Ferri, G. (1904). Le carte dell’Archivio Liberiano dal secolo X al XV. Archivio della Societa Romana di Storia Patria (in Italian) 27.

There was also liturgical contact between Rome and England. Under Boniface IV, Mellitus, the first Bishop of London, went to Rome “to consult the pope on important matters relative to the newly established English Church”  Bede, H. E., II, iv.]

Standardizing the Date in the Western Church

While an annual celebration of All Saints was widespread throughout the east and the west from very early, the dates chosen for this festival differed. The documentary evidence we have shows a movement  as early, and possibly before AD 740 to celebrate the festival on November 1.

Pope Gregory III, died AD 741

Gregory dedicated a chapel in Saint Peter’s, Rome, for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”
[“All Saints Day,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, ed. E. A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 41-42

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. 1911 “All Saints, Festival of”. Encyclopædia Britannica 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/All_Saints,_Festival_of ]

There are several other sources listed by Todd Granger in his article on “All Saints’ Day,” a similar list is given in Hutton’s The Stations of the Sun, p. 364.

These include

  • Arno, bishop of Salzburg (†821), had it adopted by a synod in the year 798.
  • Alcuin (†804) mentions the date in a letter of that year,
  • Manuscripts of the Martyrology of Bede have it on November 1st as marginal addition at about the same time.
  • A November commemoration of All Saints was already widespread in Frankish lands during Charlemagne’s reign (†814).
  • Pope Gregory the Fourth, under Gallican influence, ordered the observance of the first of November as a feast of All Saints,
  • Early ninth century an English calendar (of Oxford) on November 1st ranks the day as a principal feast.  There were over twelve hundred ancient church dedications to All Saints in England,

In Ireland

Saint Óengus of Tallaght ( Oengus the Culdee) died c. AD 824

  • Félire Óengusso (The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee)  8th or 9th century

A metrical martyrology ascribed to Oengus which contains a note on  All Martyrs on the seventeenth of April and of All Saints of Europe on the twentieth of April.

The earliest Manuscript for this from the early 15th century. Internal evidence, the names of the particular kings listed, indicates the text was originally written before 833 AD.

[Irish text http://www.ucc.ie/celt/online/G200001/]

[Bilingual text https://archive.org/stream/martyrologyofoen29oenguoft#page/106/mode/2up ]

  • The Martyrology of Tallaght 8th or 9th century

A narrative martyrology ascribed to Oengus which also confirms the practice of this festival in Ireland before the end of the first millenium.

1857 Calendar of Irish saints, the martyrology of Tallagh, with notices of the patron saints of Ireland, and select poems and hymns (Google eBook) Matthew Kelly, Tallaght abbey, J. Mullany,


All Saints’ Day is included in the Anglican  Book of Common Prayer, from 1549.



Footnote 1: Ironically, the parallel to this example is very close. Wicca and NeoPaganism is a mid-20th century invention, having no demonstrable historical ties to any ancient or medieval pagan religions—but having very clearly demonstrable origins through the writings and works of people like Eliphas Levy, Alistair Crowley, Gerald Gardiner, Robert Cochrane, Doreen Valiente, Margaret Murray, Alexander Sander, Zusana Budapest, Starhawk, the Buckleys, Margo Adler, and many others.

Concordia University Plan for the Future? A consolidated Concordia?

LCMS_corporate_sealWhat I mention in this article is my opinion and thinking out loud.  It was prompted by the Synod President’s comments after the same-sex marriage decision of the Supreme Court (see his interview with Issues Etc.).  He stated that student loans may become a problem which would greatly affect the Concordia University System.  Here is a way around it I offer as merely a starting idea (which would of course require all sorts of expertise to actually make happen).  I know many people are tied to their colleges and they have served a good purpose in the past, but if we are looking at losing the whole system, it may behoove us to be forward-thinking enough to prepare to sustain something for the good of the church.

Time to disconnect from the government’s provisions (that money comes with strings attached, and we will see them very clearly in the future).  This means likely that we could sustain only one University/Seminary on our own and keep it viable.  The solution then is to sell off/rearrange/reallocate the Concordias.

The trick would be to pick which one to keep.  An obvious suggestion would be Concordia Austin as it resides in a state that has shown itself more protective of religious freedom than others.  Another probable situation would be the Fort Wayne campus, which has room to expand, but also has some stipulations that it reverts back to the original donor if Synod tries to close it down or sell it.  (there would be financial gain from selling Austin).  There are probably other properties with similar arrangements, but I don’t know of them.

The sell off would be interesting.  We have a lot of premium property.  There is a lot of money that could be raised for the support of the new single Concordia University and Seminary.  This would still be in keeping with the purpose of the Concordias because the goal is to have one that is sustainable without government funding.

The rearrangement of staff could also be good.  There have been problems reported from the Concordias in regards to teaching and the need for more Lutheran teachers.  A consolidation of universities into one allows for the “cream of the crop” to become the new faculty.  Imagine a theology faculty built from the best of the two seminaries and Concordias?  Other departments would benefit as well from such a centralization.  The result would be a quality Lutheran education taught by outstanding Lutheran teachers no matter what major.

The reallocation is the biggest question mark for me.  No doubt, many gifts and endowments have been given to the various Concordias.  How they all get moved to the new one is a legal matter I have no expertise over, but someone out there has it, and honestly the point of this article is to get people thinking about how to get “lean and mean” as a Church, starting with one of the areas that will likely be hit first.

Think of other possibilities.  The headquarters for the LCMS could also be housed in this new campus, and the current corporate headquarters could be sold and its proceeds could help support the church’s work in the new place.

The changing landscape of American culture should stir us to forward thinking about how to prepare.  If we wait to react on many of these kind of things, it will be too late.
This is all just ideas.  The Synod Convention is an opportunity for some of these ideas (or others) to be brought forward to be acted on (even if study is necessary as a first step).  Please feel free to comment with ideas about the Concordia Universities below.



It’s More About the ‘Heart’ Knowledge than it is About the ‘Head’ Knowledge According to St. Louis Sem Magazine, by Pr. Rossow

In this Fall’s edition of “Concordia Seminary,” the magazine of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, it is reported that the professors remind the students that “it’s more about the ‘heart’ knowledge than it is about the ‘head’ knowledge” (p. 21).

This sounds like something one might hear from a Methobapticostal seminary rather than the historic bastion of objective truth and the pure Gospel expressed in the historic liturgy known as Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. It is my personal opinion that the faculty of the St. Louis Seminary, on a whole, is characterized by professors who are either captivated by silly post-modern notions of “contextualization” and/or consumed with making the Scriptures and Lutheranism compatible with the emotion laden spirituality of the American Evangelicals.

The quote in the first paragraph is taken from an article titled “Beyond the four walls.” It is an interview with a second year alternate route student from the Pacific Northwest who according to the article has a “passion for mission” and is on a quest to give people answers and reach them through “their passions and interests.”

I don’t know if the professors actually teach that heart knowledge (whatever that oxymoron might be) is more important than head knowledge. I hope not. The Scriptures do not allow us to pit one against the other. The Gospel is an objective fact of “head knowledge” and is grasped by the Holy Spirit moving our wills to true faith and trust. The real point of this story, and one that is indisputable, is that in the Fall of the year of our Lord, 2011, Concordia Seminary published a fancy, full color rag with the above quote in the tag line and as the heart of the article.

Getting back to the professors, I would not be surprised if they do actually teach this however, since the St. Louis seminary has recently introduced contemporary worship and small group “ministry” into the routine of spiritual exercise at the institution. Both of these tactics are born out of the narcissistic culture of the 1960’s – 90’s in which traditional, noetic rooted denominations have been caving right and left to this Methabapticostal pitting of emotion against reason and practice against doctrine. There are clear signs that Concordia, St. Louis is entering that race to relevance and emotive based spirituality.

We Lutherans certainly know from our Augustinian heritage (Luther was an Augustinian monk) that the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit’s moving of the will to trust and faith is essential to salvation. In this sense, the will (seat of the emotions?) is crucial in the salvation of the individual. In the hands of the liberals of the 20th century (Bultmann and the like) this led to the hermeneutics of “impact” preaching in which the important thing was the existential condition of the individual. To them, it mattered not if the Scriptures were true. They failed to combat the onslaught of the empirical methods of science that undermined the truth of Scripture. Their response was to elevate the “impact” of the preaching of the “word.” They taught that it doesn’t matter if the Gospel is true. What matters is that it moves the hearer to existential meaning. They are wrong and their teaching did great harm to the church.

In the 1970’s courageous and truthful Lutherans such as J. A. O. Preus led Concordia Seminary St. Louis in the charge against such false pitting of emotion against knowledge. They steadfastly defended the common sense truth of the Scriptures.

Today the threat in Confessional Lutheranism is not so much from the “impact” liberals who are retiring and dying out. The threat is from a new generation of people who pit the heart against the head in a psychological way in contrast to the philosophical approach of Bultmann. They favor the heart because of the need to tickle the ears of the current generation which is steeped in emotion and relevance. This is a threat to the Scriptural understanding of the pure Gospel which is true beyond my feelings and even despite my feelings. The Gospel is comforting because it is true that God loves me even when I don’t feel as if He does. The objective fact of the cross remains whether I like it or like it not. The Gospel is comforting because, even when it does not seem relevant to my daily struggles, it is the one thing that I really need, the forgiveness of sins.

Pray that this article from the seminary about the alternate route student is an anomaly and join us in continuing to steadfastly work so that the truth prevail in our beloved LCMS.

The Call Process Primer

The best pastor is the one God has sent you.
The best pastor is the one God has sent you.

Calling a new pastor is a great and glorious occasion.  It can however be a hard time as well.  Your congregation is going through a lot of things after losing its pastor.  There is grief in many situations at his departure. There may be some who are glad.  To make matters worse everyone seems to get an opinion on what should happen next.

The following are some general thoughts/opinions/suggestions/clarifications about the Call Process.

First of all, you will want to be familiar with your congregation’s constitution and bylaws to see the procedure that needs to be followed.  It may be very specific, but could also be generic.  Whichever it is, you will want to follow it to the letter.

Your District President will likely want to be involved in the process.  The call process is your congregation’s call process.  It is not the District President’s process.  Follow your Constitution and Bylaws.  The Call List normally involves the input/counsel of the District President (and normally it should), but it does not always have to.  Here is the exact section of the LCMS Bylaws which spells out the congregation’s responsibility and also District’s in regards to calls (District Bylaws cannot contradict these).  Please note the only requirements are that you seek counsel of your District President (2.5.1) [the exact definition of “counsel” is not known] and that you call a man who is on the clergy roster of the LCMS (2.5.2) or follow the appropriate call process for calling from the seminaries.  That is the congregation’s responsibility to follow for its continued membership in the LCMS.  Anything else is recommendation or advice only.

2.5  Calling Ministers of Religion by Congregations

2.5.1       Congregations shall seek the counsel of their respective district presidents when calling ordained or commissioned ministers.

2.5.2       Congregations that are members of the Synod shall call and be served only by (1) ordained ministers who have been admitted to their respective ministries in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth in these Bylaws and have thereby become members of the Synod; (2) candidates for the pastoral ministry who have satisfied the qualifications and requirements for assignment of first calls by the Council of Presidents acting as the Board of Assignments; or (3) ordained ministers who are members in good standing of church bodies that have been formally recognized to be in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod when agreements for such calls are in place.

2.5.3       Congregations that are members of the Synod shall call only (1) commissioned ministers who have been admitted to their ministries in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth in these Bylaws and have thereby become members of the Synod; (2) candidates of LCMS colleges and universities who have satisfied the qualifications and requirements for assignment of first calls by the Council of Presidents acting as the Board of Assignments; or (3) commissioned ministers (or those holding positions comparable to commissioned ministers) who are members in good standing of church bodies that have been formally recognized to be in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod when agreements for such calls are in place.

2.5.4       Congregations that violate these requirements and persist in such violation shall, after due admonition, forfeit their membership in the Synod.

(the LCMS Handbook can be found at lcms.org or a PDF copy: 2013 LCMS Handbook_January_12_2015_v2)

There are really two directions which a call can go out to – the field and the seminary.  The process changes based upon which type of call you want to pursue.  Calling from the seminary involves an application for a candidate (a man ready to be ordained) and follows the bylaws involving the seminary and the Council of Presidents placement procedures.

Calling from the field will follow more of what I describe below with nominations, sorting through the mix, and finally calling.  Calling from the field indicates that the man you want to call is already ordained and on the roster (Minister of Religion – Ordained [we use IRS language]) of the LCMS.  This man could already serve a congregation or could be on what is called “candidate” status.  Much has been written on Candidate (formerly CRM) status, but to put it simply – a “Candidate” who is already ordained is a man ready and willing to serve an LCMS congregation.  The rhetoric used about “damaged goods” or whatever about a Candidate is a violation of the 8th Commandment and should be rebuked.  There are many reasons men may end up as candidates, but their official LCMS status says they are ready, able, and willing to be actively serving congregations as pastors.  If such a man was unfit for the ministry he would be removed from the roster (which is the job of the District Presidents).

There are different things which may be brought up in the way of counsel from District Presidents.  These things are I believe brought up with the best of intentions, but may not serve the best interest of the congregation – getting a regular, faithful pastor sooner rather than later.  Also, they tend to increase the length of pastoral vacancies (and in general the shorter the vacancy the better).  Things like Intentional Interim Ministers might be brought up.  In my opinion they are not a good option because of the temporary nature of their call, which is rather muddy when considered against the lifelong nature of a Divine Call (here is a good presentation paper on the topic of Interim Ministry).  If there is reason to try an interim, why not just call a pastor who can help and stay rather than a man who is there for a bit and then gone?  Having a regular, faithful pastor is the best (and simplest) option for any congregational situation.  Similarly there are numerous self-studies or inventories or surveys which can be done in the congregation.  This may provide some information as to the condition of catechesis in the congregation, but not much more.  In my opinion they delay the best thing for a congregation – a regular, faithful pastor serving among God’s people.

Usually there is a time when the congregation takes nominations from its own members.  This can be a very good thing.  Some members may ask other pastors for input or names.  They may be familiar with pastors from their travels. They may be familiar with pastors from the internet.  The #1 quality you want in any pastor is faithfulness to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions.  Sadly, in a Synodical situation such as ours, some research about candidates may be necessary.  The internet can very helpful in seeing the kind of pastors that are faithful shepherd types.  Do a search for each pastors name and read some of his writings (Google Tip — put quotes around his name to find the specific pastor if it is a common last name).  These names may be submitted to the counsel of the District President (remember it is still the congregation’s call process) and often will make it onto the official Call List for the call committee and congregation to consider.  If the District President removes names from the nominations it is permissible to ask why the names were removed (sometimes reasons may be that the pastor has just taken another call, sometimes it may be an arbitrary rule like a pastor has to serve 3 years in his first parish [an unwritten rule which by no means has to be followed if the congregation desires to call a rostered clergyman with less than 3 years parish experience]).  If he adds names to the ones nominated it is permissible and a good suggestion to ask why the names were added (in my present parish situation, the District President added some excellent names that had not come up from the congregation).  In the end, so long as the congregation follows their constitution and bylaws with regards to process, consults the District President and then calls a man who is on the clergy roster of the LCMS, they can call anyone.  Remember, it is the congregation’s call process.

Usually a formal Call List will be established with the help of the District President.  When you start getting official information about pastors, each one will have two documents, one will be called a SET (Self-Evaluation Tool).  This includes a number of questions and answers on hot topic issues in the LCMS (worship practices, closed communion stuff, women and men, etc.).  These answers will vary greatly.  Plain speech is good to read, but often answers are not so plain.  Some pastors will fill every space with their beliefs/practices, some will be brief.  Some specific, some generic.  Some theological, some political.  It can be a hard document to read, and even harder to read between the lines.  An opinion on the SET – The SET is a sad piece of evidence to the diversity of beliefs and practices allowed in the LCMS.  It should be unnecessary, but since there is such diversity, it is necessary to be able to try to ascertain the beliefs and practices of the man you want to call.

See a blank SET form here (PDF).

The second document is the PIF (Personal Information Form) which is usually completed by both the pastor and his own District President.  This has more basic family and living situation information with some theological/practical commentary by the District President.  The commentary (often in the form of rating) is usually on strengths and weaknesses of the pastor.  There is also some commentary (rating) on worship and preaching.  The commentary (rating) is very subjective to the individual District President’s own views of things (or possibly another District President’s view if it has not been updated), which can be helpful if you know that District President, less so if you don’t.  The PIF comes from the candidate pastor’s District President, which of course may not be the same as your own.  Some tips for dealing with the subjectivity of the ratings could include asking the District President how many times he has heard the pastor preach (sometimes they may not have heard a sermon but still have to give a rating), what his last sermon was like, what does he mean by rating him as “liturgically flexible”, etc.  Clarifying questions like those can help get a sense for what the District President really means (after all, that way of rating things isn’t exactly fair to them either).

In more recent years, interviewing has become another way to sort through the candidates for a call.  Interviewing in my opinion should be unnecessary, but in such an environment of the LCMS today it may indeed be necessary.  This and the SET (and section of commentary on the PIF) are things that testify against us and we should grieve over their need to be used.

From these things and your requirements for the call process (from your congregation’s constitution and bylaws) the Call meetings should proceed.  The best result for any Lutheran congregation is to extend a call to a faithful candidate and have him accept it and work to begin his new pastorate serving God’s baptized people in your congregation.  Some things along this:

After a congregation extends (or issues) a call after the appropriate procedure, that pastor will need to be notified and information will need to be sent (Call Paperwork, other information [the sky is the limit here, newspapers, school information, extra congregational information, Constitution and Bylaws, anything to help in the deliberation process]).  The pastor will begin his deliberations of the call (using prayerful reason).  If he serves a congregation already he will need to notify them (this can be a time of anxiety in his current congregation).  It is also an anxious time in the pastor’s family (if he has one).  In the era of facebook and so forth, it is best to keep the call private until it has been publicly announced to the congregation he currently serves.  He may set a deadline to his deliberation, but he may not (there is no hard and fast rule).  If he accepts the call, he will begin his transition to your congregation (wrapping up at his current congregation, moving, installation dates, etc.).  If he doesn’t accept it (returns the call), your congregation will have to have another Call meeting to extend the call to another pastor.

This process is one that is a great and glorious, although as you can tell it has any number of opportunities for sin and temptation as well.  Work together as a congregation, knowing that the Lord God who sends out laborers into the harvest is going to send a man to serve Him in your congregation.

Here are some other tips while this process is ongoing:

Pray.  Prayer is essential to the call process.  God has commanded us to pray in all situations, and even better, He has promised to hear our prayers.  We expect God to provide pastors for His flocks (having a pastor is a need of the baptized, God supplies our needs).  We are tempted to become anxious or despair.  Prayer teaches us who is in control.  It is an exercise of faith and piety.  It helps us guard against the evil one.  Pray for your congregation, your future pastor, his family, his congregation (if he is currently serving), your District President and Circuit Visitor, your congregational leadership, your vacancy pastor and whoever else is involved in the process.

Love each other.  The call process can quickly bring up divisions in congregations.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you (see the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism).

Study the Scriptures.  The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy; Titus) are a great resource when thinking about pastors.  The texts about the pastoral office are also a great read.  Here are just a “few” that you will likely hear at an ordination (a pastor’s first call) or installation (at any pastor’s subsequent call):

Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 9:35-38; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 22:24-30; Luke 44-49; John 10:11-16; John 20:21-23; John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 3:4-9; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 2 Corinthians 10:17-18; Ephesians 4:11-12; Philippians 1:3-8; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:14-16; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 5:2-4; Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 20:1-2; Psalm 27:1, 14; Psalm 84:7-8; Isaiah 6:1-8; Isaiah 40:9-11; Isaiah 42:1-9; Isaiah 52:7-10; Jeremiah 1:4-9; Jeremiah 15:19-21; Ezekiel 33:7-9; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Daniel 12:3.

Study the Catechism.  Here two parts are very important (study it all – its very short and even the most “mature” Christians ought to study it regularly).  The Fifth Chief part on the Office of the Keys and Confession (absolution) and the Table of Duties on Preachers and Hearers.

Prepare yourselves to receive your new pastor.  Yes, this means planning for helping with the move and settling in.  Yes, this means congregational celebrations.  Yes, this means being a big help to your pastor’s family wherever you can (in the ways they would receive help also in mind).  Yes, this means helping your pastor get settled and encouraging him as he settles in (he will be going through a strange “bitter sweet” time as he has left people dear to him and is glad to be now serving you).  Perhaps you would want to help him by having some of the congregation’s current traditions and practices written down so he can know those things that are free (for an article on this click here).  The absolute best way to receive your pastor is to attend Church (including his installation) and Bible studies.

Augsburg Confession, article V

1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.

4 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 33.


Augsburg Confession, article XIV

Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 39.

Parallels of Pornography and “Praise” Music

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Warning: this post contains sexually explicit material

Pornography is wicked. So is the sinful flesh, which is why porn sells. One source reported a “conservative estimate” of U.S. pornography revenues around $8 billion in 2012. Pornography is just as damnable a sin as any other sexual sin, but for all the outcry from (orthodox) churches over the legalization of homosexual marriage, where is the same outcry against the legality of pornography? Pornography is a much greater problem than homosexuality, statistically speaking. Maybe this one hits too close to home?

Pornography is such an abomination because, like all sin, it dehumanizes people. In the case of pornography, it reduces living, breathing human beings, made in the image of God, to nothing more than objects for sexual pleasure. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis observes:

We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman.” Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want.

He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes).

Speaking against the evil of masturbation in Volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, he writes:

For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.

And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman.

For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.

Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.

In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. . . . After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.

At the risk of making a very obvious point: sexually explicit magazines sell because of the aesthetics, not because of the words. Take all of the articles away, make it purely a picture book, and I guarantee it will still sell. Porn is all about the aesthetics.

The same is largely true of CCM “praise” music. It’s not about the words; it’s about the sound, the aesthetics. The texts tend to be very shallow, and sometimes even teach false doctrine. Just as pornography encourages lust for a “woman apparatus” over intimate knowledge of a spouse, so-called “praise music” is nothing more than a cheap “God apparatus” that encourages lust for a catchy beat over intimate knowledge of God’s Word. Consider the chorus to “Trading My Sorrows”:

And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I know, it’s profound. It’s not for no reason this genre has earned itself the label “7-11” songs (songs where you sing the same seven words eleven times).  So why do some churches tolerate this nonsense? For the same reason pornography sells: because of the aesthetics. Remember Nirvana? Nobody could understand what Kurt Cobain was saying, and if you finally did figure it out, it was mostly nonsense. Granted Nirvana wasn’t a praise band, but this principle remains true of much praise music. Much of what passes for “praise music” is shallow, nonsensical, and sometimes even false. True praise of God consists of declaring who God is and what He’s done, not in singing about how much we like to sing about Him. Consider this gem (“I Love to Praise Him”):

Verse 1:
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name) {x3}
I Love to praise His holy name
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise up my Lord (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise His holy name
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to put my hands together and praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
Is there anybody out here feel the same tonight (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise His holy name

Verse 2:
For He’s my rock (He’s my rock, my rock, my sword, my shield)
He’s my will (He’s my will in the middle of the week)
I know He’ll never (I know He’ll never, never let me down)
He’s just a Jewel (He’s just a Jewel that I have found)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
I Love to praise His holy name

Repeat Verse 2:
For He’s my rock (He’s my rock, my rock, my sword, my shield)
He’s my will (He’s my will in the middle of the week)
I know He’ll never (I know He’ll never, never let me down)
He’s just a Jewel (He’s just a Jewel that I have found)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
I Love to praise (x8)
I Love to praise His holy name
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise) {x3}
Make me feel good to praise Him (I Love to praise)
He’s worthy of the praise (I Love to praise)
He’s worthy of the glory (I Love to praise)
Everybody Love to praise Him (I Love to praise) {x2}
Help me say
I Love (I Love) {x15}
I Love to praise (x8)
I Love (I Love) {x16}
I Love to praise (x8)
I Love (I Love) {x16}
I Love to praise

Well-meaning Christians are sometimes even able to tolerate false doctrine in a song they really like. Consider, for example, the once-popular Michael W. Smith song “Breathe”, which sounds quite pantheistic:

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

Or consider “Dance with Me” by Jesus Culture, which asks God to “romance me” and frames our relationship with God as if we were His sexual partners:

Won’t You dance with me, Oh
Lover of my soul,
to the song of all songs?
Romance me, Oh
Lover of my soul
to the song of all songs.

Hymns, on the other hand, are not about the aesthetics. They are about the Word, not the music. We sing them because of what they teach us about the faith. Augsburg Confession XXIV.2—3 says:

Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people. After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.

Likewise, the Apology (XXIV.3) says:

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray. Therefore we keep Latin for the sake of those who study and understand it, and we insert German hymns to give the common people something to learn that will arouse their faith and fear.

In a good hymn (and certainly they are not all created equal), the music serves the text. I suspect this is why many people dislike hymns today: they are more interested in singing something that has a catchy beat than in learning something about God’s Word through music.

This is why most praise music is ear porn. People like it because of the feeling it creates; they listen for the aesthetics, not for the words. Nobody sings or listens to this stuff because it’s such an eloquent expression of the faith; they like the way it sounds.

This is not to say that there are not any doctrinally sound, substantive praise songs out there. However, the genre is flooded with songs that are mostly shallow, and when they do teach doctrine, it is usually false. There aren’t too many orthodox theologians writing praise songs these days, and most of those who write CCM songs are hardly orthodox theologians. And even where the text is orthodox, the music still usually takes center stage and the text is an afterthought. The music should serve the text, not the other way around.

Aesthetics do matter, especially in God’s house. Which is more suitable for use in the presence of the living God? A genre of music where the emphasis is clearly on the music and not the message (not to mention is a genre that has strong ties to sex, drugs, and rock and roll), or a genre that seeks to decrease so that Christ might increase?

The Blessings of Weekly Communion

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,
Pastor Mark Elliott
St John Lutheran Church
Champaign, IL

LCMS prof calls maleness of Jesus/pastors “inconsequential” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

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”?

Justification is always the issue… Preaching

I know we have kind of beaten the horse a bit with this issue, but I don’t ever get bored with this.  Justification is always the issue.  So in this article, I would like to talk about how Objective Justification is expressed simply in the proclamation of the Gospel.

What we know about the Bible is that it all centers around Christ, who He is, and what He did.  So practically, all teachings of Scripture tumble down if the Bible’s message about Christ’s reconciliation of the world to God and His justification for all people is not true.

For one, how can a pastor forgive sins in Christ’s stead and pronounce with certainty the grace of God upon a sinner if he cannot see the sinner’s faith?  If the pastor says to a sinner who inwardly does not have faith “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” does the pastor as a result lie or say something untrue?  Of course not!  If that were the case, then God would be a liar.  Sure, the sinner does not personally receive by faith the forgiveness and will be ripe for destruction if he continues in his unbelief, but that does not make God a liar.  Rather, it makes the unbeliever the liar. (Rom 3:3ff)  If the pastor says to someone, “This promise is for you,” but he doesn’t believe, will the pastor then say, “Well, I guess it wasn’t for you!”?  Of course not!  This article of faith is not merely theological handy work; it is not merely unneeded elaboration.  It is the very heart of the Gospel that Jesus mandated to be preached to all nations.



Here is what the Old Norwegian Lutheran Synod president Herman Amberg Preus (1874) had to say on this topic when a seminary professor was denying this teaching of Objective Justification:



According to his new gospel the professor must preach that through his suffering and death Christ has only accomplished so much that God has now become willing to let his wrath cease and to be reconciled and to loose, confer grace, forgive, justify and open access to salvation, but that in actuality he can only do and does all this if man on his part fulfills the condition placed on him by God, namely that he is supposed to believe. And the thing which is thus supposed to be believed does not become this that God already has done this and is reconciled but that God will do it and will be reconciled when he sees the obedience and the good quality in man, that he believes.

This whole issue comes down to the preaching of the Gospel, that is, the preaching of the vicarious atonement for us, the objective redemption for us.  This objective reality is proclaimed to us personally.  Objective justification fills the Word with the assuring proclamation: “This redemption, this reconciliation, this justification, this forgiveness is for you; Christ is your righteousness.”

At the end  of his Pentecost sermon from Acts 2, Peter says, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)  Then Peter proclaims to them that this promise is “for you and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)  Notice how Peter first calls them to repentance; he then immediately presents them with the gift of baptism and the Holy Spirit; then he says who this promise is for.  The promise is for everyone, but Peter does not start with that.  Rather, he first says, “This promise is for you and your children.”  This is the implication of Objective Justification, namely a personal proclamation: “for you.”  Preaching Objective Justification is not merely preaching the fact that Jesus died for the sins of all and rose again for the justification of all, then letting the people connect the dots.  It is more direct than that.


God justified me.  He justified me by faith on account of the justification already won for me by Christ (this is what propter Christum per fidem means), offered to me, given to me, and, inseparable from His Word, delivered to me personally by the Gospel for faith and through faith. (Rom 1:16-17)  Adolf Koeberle makes this point that Paul saw no separation of God’s act of redemption and his mission to proclaim it.  This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 :

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Paul received it to deliver it and proclaim it “for you.”  Again, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and has given to us the Word of reconciliation.”  God’s act of reconciling the world to Himself in Christ and His giving of the Word are perfectly united.  Paul continues by uniting the office of the ministry to this Word of reconciliation.  The office of the ministry cannot possibly be separated from the universal reconciliation that God accomplished for us in Christ.  The primary task of the office of the ministry is to personally proclaim to people Objective Justification.  And how is this done?  It is done by preaching Christ for us.

Objective Justification teaches not only who justifies but whom He justifies.  For the sake of Christ’s obedient suffering and death, God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5).  Objective Justification teaches to whom God gives this promise.  As His Word proclaims, it is for all.  Those who have faith receive it and are saved.  Those who do not believe are condemned, and the wrath of God remains on them.

Justification is always the issue in preaching, because that is what Christ has commanded His pastors to preach.  When the pastor preaches that “Christ died for your sins, and He rose again for your justification,” he is preaching Objective Justification; he is preaching the Gospel.  May we always remember the power of God’s Word, and from where this message gets its efficacy, namely the Vicarious Atonement.  May we always take comfort in the certainty of the promise.  We can have certainty in it; the Resurrection proves it!


Beautiful Baptismal Certificates from Wolfson Creative, by Pastor Thomas Messer

Pastor Messer wrote this on his blog and submitted it to us for posting here:


A few weeks back, I contacted Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller for information regarding the beautiful baptismal certificates I saw him advertising here. He responded quickly, and carefully laid out the details of the ordering process. A few days later, electronic versions of customized baptismal certificates for our congregation arrived in my inbox. Along with the certificates, I received a helpful FAQ document explaining the purpose of these certificates and providing helpful hints and instructions on how to make the most of them.

I couldn’t be more pleased with these certificates. First, they are absolutely beautiful! The artwork and Scripture passages which appear on them serve to teach the marvelous treasure which belongs to all who have received the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit in the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Second, these customized certificates now belong to our congregation. Having paid the one-time fee of $35, we own the rights to these certificates and can print as many as we like and use them however we see fit – forever. No more periodic ordering of baptismal certificates for us! Third, the ease of using these certificates is a treasure in itself. You simply fill in the appropriate info on your master pdfs and you’re ready to go. They are designed to print on 11×17 paper, but if your printer does not have that capability, you can save the master pdfs to a flash drive, CD, etc., take them to a local copy shop, fill in the appropriate info, and make your copies. Lastly, the beauty and high quality of these certificates make for wonderful and treasured keepsakes. They look absolutely gorgeous framed and hanging on a wall. And because we own the rights to our certificates, we do not have to limit our use to future Baptisms, but can offer to print certificates for those who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in the past, which they can hang as a beautiful reminder of the eternal blessings they have as beloved children of God.

I highly recommend these certificates and encourage everyone to follow the link above to give them a look and consider ordering. I am very thankful to Pr. Wolfmueller and his partner in this endeavor, Jason Hanson (the clever combination of their names results in “Wolfson Creative”), for providing the beloved gift of these wonderful certificates to the Church.

Go now and check them out. You won’t be disappointed. They are awesome!

In Christ,
Rev. Thomas C. Messer
Peace Lutheran Church
Alma, MI

Why Biblical Inerrancy is Important — and Always Will Be

954634_bible (1)Forty years ago, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (hereafter LCMS) was in an uproar. Its Saint Louis seminary president, John Tietjen, was suspended in the January 20, 1974 meeting of the seminary’s Board of Control. On January 21st the majority of the seminary students declared a “moratorium” on classes and the majority of the faculty went on strike. This resulted in the well-known “walk-out” of most of the faculty and students on February 19th, viewed on broadcast television throughout the United States. Subsequently the majority of students and faculty formed the “Seminex” seminary, graduating its first class on May 24, 1974. Two years later, in December 1976, the “Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches” (AELC) was formed with 250 former LCMS congregations and with “Seminex” as its partner seminary and guiding light.

What was the issue in this intense church struggle? The doctrinal issue was expressed at the 1973 LCMS convention when it adopted Resolution 3-01, which included a resolved to accept “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles” (hereafter “1973 Statement”) as the expression of “the Synod’s position on current doctrinal issues.” What was the result of this struggle within the LCMS? The standard reference work by E.T. & M.B. Bachmann, Lutheran Churches in the World: A Handbook (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989) states that by means of the departure of the Seminex faculty and the AELC, as well as the severing of fellowship with the ALC, the LCMS ’reclaimed its historic confessional stance on the doctrine of the authority of Scripture’ and reaffirmed its ban on the ordination of women to the pastoral office.(ibid., p. 607).

“Biblical inerrancy” was the most contested idea and term in this struggle. Biblical inerrancy was affirmed absolutely, with plenary range and without qualification, in the 1973 Statement, which declared: We therefore believe, teach, and confess that since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, they contain no errors or contradictions but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth. We hold that the opinion that Scripture contains errors is a violation of the sola scriptura, for it rests upon the acceptance of some norm or criterion of truth above the Scriptures. We recognize that there are apparent contradictions or discrepancies and problems which arise because of uncertainty over the original text. (see This We Believe: Selected Topics of Faith and Practice in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod[St Louis: The LCMS, n.d., p. 78]; also see online ).

Conservative Protestants in the United States recognized that the struggle within the LCMS was similar to their own struggles. In 1978, four years after the “walk-out,” the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy adopted the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” (see Normal L. Geisler, Inerrancy [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979], 493-502; also see online ). The 1978 Chicago Statement has become a reference point for the definition of “biblical inerrancy” among conservative Protestants and Evangelicals. But then I have recently noticed—due to a number of books by Evangelical publishers, articles by Evangelical journals, and indications in Evangelical institutions–that the Chicago Statement and “biblical inerrancy” is being ignored, considered passé, even attacked. What does this mean?

I cannot answer what this means for conservative Protestants and Evangelicals in America, since I do not participate in their conferences, conventions, or societies. But I can answer the question of what a rejection of “biblical inerrancy” means. It means that the Christian who attacks “biblical inerrancy” has uncritically accepted the arguments of Liberal Protestants; or maybe in some cases, has actually apostasized from the faith. I recognize that there are many laypeople in mainline and Evangelical churches who don’t affirm “biblical inerrancy” because they have never been taught it, or they don’t understand its significance. They affirm and believe in the saving faith as expressed in the three Christian creeds, and so for that reason are bona fide Christians.

My concern is with all people who reject or attack “biblical inerrancy” when its meaning has been properly explained, e.g., in the 1973 Statement or the 1978 Chicago Statement. Such people are not bona fide Christians, but Liberals.

I don’t mean “liberal” in the way it is commonly used as an adjective. I mean “Liberal” in the sense of a comprehensive philosophy of life that may include religious components. This is the definition of “Liberal” employed by Dr. Gary Dorrien, the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary—New York and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. In his magisterial three-volume history of American Liberal Theology, Dorrien carefully defines the term “Liberal” in this way: Fundamentally [liberal theology] is the idea of a genuine Christianity not based on external authority. Liberal theology seeks to reinterpret the symbols of traditional Christianity in a way that creates a progressive religious alternative to atheistic rationalism and to theologies based on external authority (my emphases; see Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805-1900 [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001], xxiii).

Notice that Liberal theology is a third worldview, which Dorrien calls a “third way” between atheism and traditional Christianity (ibid., xxi). Liberal theology rejects external religious authority, i.e., it rejects the authority of the Pope, of Patriarchs, of creeds and confessions, of church councils, of church fathers, and especially of the Bible. In this respect, the 1973 Statement was absolutely brilliant when it declared: “We hold that the opinion that Scripture contains errors is a violation of the sola scriptura, for it rests upon the acceptance of some norm or criterion of truth above the Scriptures.” The norm or criterion of truth for Liberal theology is the internal authority of the religious-person’s own mind, informed by the preaching of the Liberal preacher and scholarship of the Liberal professor. So according to the Liberal perspective, whatever the religious-person finds offensive, or disagreeable, or contradictory, or problematic in the Bible must be an error and rejected by definition. The idea of “Biblical inerrancy” is thus not just an affirmation of the quality of the Bible, but is really a rejection of the fundamental principle of the Liberal worldview.

Because of this historic-and-contemporary conflict in worldviews, i.e., between a Christian faith based on the external authority of Scriptures and the Liberal faith based on an internal authority, “Biblical inerrancy” has become the homoousion of the 20th and 21st centuries. It will never cease to be a dividing line, until the one worldview or the other collapses. Those Protestant churches which affirm the external authority of Scripture cannot abandon “Biblical inerrancy,” as explained either by the 1973 Statement (for Lutherans) or the 1978 Chicago Statement (for Evangelicals), without thereby actually adopting the Liberal religious worldview in whole or in part. And such a worldview is not Christian.

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies: Christmas and Saturnalia

Did Christianity Steal the Date of Pagan Winter Solstice Celebrations? The Roman celebration discussed in this article is the multi-day festival of Saturnalia.

The Mis-Use of Roman Sources: Saturnalia

In these articles we have seen the texts from the early Christians that show their reasons why they calculated particular dates for the Incarnation and Birth of Christ. These dates were based on the Passover texts. Even their calculation for the dates of the Creation of the universe centered on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ at the Passover.


Saturnalia is often talked about as if it were the same as Brumalia. And especially with reference to Christmas, these two occasions are also blended together with other hypothetical and real unrelated pagan festivals from various cultures.

Here we are going to separate Saturnalia from Brumalia. The reason for this is simple, they are not the same thing. Though there are some ancient documents that speak about these two occasions as happening at the same general time of the year, there is considerable variation in the ancient texts as to when Saturnalia could actually be celebrated.

Often the claims are that Saturnalia is the origin for Christmas caroling, gift giving, Christmas lights, and even the notion of celebrating the birth of a particular child.

What was Saturnalia?

One of the problems in describing Saturnalia is that there is no single ancient Roman document that describes the festival fully. The closest and fullest description comes from the 5th century A.D. by the hand of Macrobius in his work titled Saturnalia.

Of course, by the 5th century the dates for the Christmas celebration had long been established. So, while the modern claim that Christmas had been moved to December 25th in order to suppress or “baptize” the Saturnalia celebration is without any merit, there are these other aspects of the Saturnalia celebration that modern Christmas revisionists claim the Church stole from the pagan festival.

Saturnalia was a festival dedicated to honoring the pagan god Saturn. In Greece the name of Saturn was Kronos. Very often there are claims that the festival involved the celebration of a special birth. T.C. Schmidt has posted extensive quotations from Macrobius’ (5th Century AD) book titled Saturnalia. The quotations concern the nature and origin and history of the festival of Saturnalia.

From the quotations of Macrobius it becomes apparent that the Romans did not have consistent stories about the origin or the dating of the festival. Macrobius outlined four different traditions for the origin:

  1. The first tradition claims that the festival was instituted by Janus so that humans would honor their ruler Saturn (who had disappeared) for the gifts Saturn gave to humans: arboriculture, fertilizer, using symbols of Saturn’s effigy holding the sickle (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.7.24-26)

    “[24] It was during their reign that Saturn suddenly disappeared, and Janus then devised means to add to his honors. First he gave the name Saturnia to all the land which acknowledged his rule; and then he built an altar, instituting rites as to a god and calling these rites the Saturnalia—a fact which goes to show how very much older the festival is than the city of Rome. And it was because Saturn had improved the conditions of life that, by order of Janus, religious honors were paid to him, as his effigy indicates, which received the additional attribute of a sickle, the symbol of harvest.
    [25] Saturn is credited with the invention of the art of grafting, with the cultivation of fruit trees, and with instructing men in everything that belongs to the fertilizing of the fields. Furthermore, at Cyrene his worshipers, when they offer sacrifice to him, crown themselves with fresh figs and present each other with cakes, for they hold that he discovered honey and fruits. Moreover, at Rome men call him “Sterculius,” as having been the first to fertilize the fields with dung (stercus). [26] His reign is said to have been a time of great happiness, both on account of the universal plenty that then prevailed and because as yet there was no division into bond and free—as one may gather from the complete license enjoyed by slaves at the Saturnalia.”

  2. Another tradition says the festival was instituted by men Hercules left behind on Saturn hill. In this version the festival was created to help men be respectful of gods. (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.7.27)

    [27] Another tradition accounts for the Saturnalia as follows. Hercules is said to have left men behind him in Italy, either (as certain authorities hold) because he was angry with them for neglecting to watch over his herds or (as some suppose), deliberately, to protect his altar and temple from attacks. Harassed by brigands, these men occupied a high hill and called themselves Saturnians, from the name which the hill too used previously to bear, and, conscious of the protection afforded to them by the name of Saturn and by the awe which the god inspired, they are said to have instituted the Saturnalia, to the end that the very observance of the festival thus proclaimed might bring the uncouth minds of their neighbors to show a greater respect for the worship of the god.

  3. A third tradition claims a different geographic origin, that the festival was instituted by the Pelasgians who had migrated into Sicily at the oracle. In this tradition the festival was made to honor and thank Saturn, Dis, and Apollo. This tradition claims that at the festival people originally offered human sacrifices, but Hercules came and convinced them to make masks and burn candles in stead of the human sacrifices. In this particular tradition it is claimed that people of position and power demanded gifts, for a while, from the poor during the festival. (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.7.28-33)

    [28] I am aware too of the account given by Varro of the origin of the Saturnalia. The Pelasgians, he says, when they were driven from their homes, made for various lands, but most of them flocked to Dodona and, doubtful where to settle, consulted the oracle. They received this reply: “Go ye in search of the land of the Sicels and the Aborigines, a land, sacred to Saturn, even Cotyle, where floateth an island. Mingle with these people and then send a tenth to Phoebus and offer heads to Hades and a man to the Father.”8 Such was the response which they received, and after many wanderings they came to Latium, where in the lake of Cutilia they found a floating9 island, [29] for there was a large expanse of turf—perhaps solidified mud or perhaps an accumulation of marsh land with brushwood and trees forming a luxuriant wood—and it was drifting through the water by the movement of the waves in such a way as to win credence even for the tale of Delos, the island which, for all its lofty hills and wide plains, used to journey through the seas from place to place. [30] The discovery of this marvel showed the Pelasgians that here was the home foretold for them. And, after having driven out the Sicilian inhabitants, they took possession of the land, dedicating a tenth of the spoil to Apollo, in accordance with the response given by the oracle, and raising a little shrine to Dis and an altar to Saturn, whose festival they named the Saturnalia.
    [31] For many years they thought to propitiate Dis with human heads and Saturn with the sacrifice of men, since the oracle had bidden them: “Offer heads to Hades and a man (xa) to the Father.” But later, the story goes, Hercules, returning through Italy with the herds of Geryon, persuaded their descendants to replace these unholy sacrifices with others of good omen, by offering to Dis little masks cleverly fashioned to represent the human face, instead of human heads, and by honoring the altars of Saturn with lighted candles instead of with the blood of a man; for the word (porta means “lights” as well as “a man.” [32] This is the origin of the custom of sending round wax tapers during the Saturnalia, although others think that the practice is derived simply from the fact that it was in the reign of Saturn that we made our way, as though to the light, from a rude and gloomy existence to a knowledge of the liberal arts. [33] I should add, however, that I have found it written that, since many through greed made the Saturnalia an excuse to solicit and demand gifts from their clients, a practice which bore heavily on those of more slender means, one Publicius, a tribune, proposed to the people that no one should send anything but wax tapers to one richer than himself.

  4. The last listed tradition says the festival was instituted in Greece further back and adopted by Rome. “The day is kept a holiday, and in country and in town all usually hold joyful feasts, at which each man waits on his own slaves.” (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.7.36-37)

    [36] You have referred, said Praetextatus, to a parallel instance of a change for the better in the ritual of a sacrifice. The point is well taken and well timed. But from the reasons adduced touching the origin of the Saturnalia it appears that the festival is of greater antiquity than the city of Rome, for in fact Lucius Accius” in his Annals says that its regular observance began in Greece before the foundation of Rome. [37] Here are the lines:
    In most of Greece, and above all at Athens, men celebrate in honor of Saturn a festival which they always call the festival of Cronos. The day is kept a holiday, and in country and in town all usually hold joyful feasts, at which each man waits on his own slaves. And so it is with us. Thus from Greece that custom has been handed down, and slaves dine with their masters at that time.

[These Macrobius quotations are Tom Schmidt’s transcriptions of Percival Vaughn Davies Edition, 1969 by Columbia University Press]

Macrobius recorded these four variants on the origin of the festival, but none of them had to do with the birth of a child or the celebration of an infant.

Notice that #3 lists the tradition of using candles and gift giving. #4 brings in feasts and master/slave role reversal.

The implication in the modern revisionists is that Christianity is so un-original:

  1. that it could have no other real reason than stealing from Saturnalia as justification for using light to celebrate “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” Certainly nothing more ancient than Roman Saturnalia, like, for example: Isaiah 60; or a separate tradition at that same time of the year such as the Feast of Dedication/Chanukah (John 10:22) from the period of the Maccabees;
  2. that without Saturnalia Christians could not possibly conceive of  giving gifts in honor of the Christ Child, like those gifts the Wise Men gave to celebrate the Birth of Christ (Matthew 2); or
  3. that the poverty of the incarnation of the Son of God, the King of Creation to serve poor sinners could not be the example for having a 19th century Anglican carol about a 10th century Bohemian king serve the poor.

No, they say, Christians must have imitated these things from the Saturnalia festival.

When Was Saturnalia?

Macrobius wrote in Book 1 chapter 10 [23-24] of his Saturnalia:

Saturnalia used to be celebrated on only one day, the fourteenth before the Kalends of January [=19th Dec.], but that it was afterward prolonged to last three days: first, in consequence of the days which Caesar added to the month of December, and then in pursuance of an edict of Augustus which prescribed a series of three rest days for the Saturnalia. The festival therefore begins on the sixteenth day before the Kalends of January [=17th Dec.] and ends on the fourteenth [=19th Dec.], which used to be the only day of its celebration. However, the addition of the feast of the Sigillaria has extended the time of general excitement and religious rejoicing to seven days. …

In the paragraphs preceding this quotation Macrobius lists sources, quotations, and dates for the various claims about when the Saturnalia was celebrated and for how long. T.C. Schmidt posted the entire chapter and put the date information in bold print so that the reader can see uncertainty of dates associated with this celebration. The text follows:

Saturnalia 1.10.1-23 [again, T.C. Schmid’s transcription of the Davies translation (1969)]

[ 1 ] But to return to our account of the Saturnalia. It was held to an offense against religion to begin a war at the time of the Saturnalia, and to punish a criminal during the days of the festival called for an act of atonement. [2] Our ancestors restricted the Saturnalia to a single day, the fourteenth before the Kalends of January, but, after Gaius Caesar had added two days to December, the day on which the festival was held became the sixteenth before the Kalends of January, with the result that, since the exact day was not commonly known—some observing the addition which Caesar had made to the calendar and others following the old usage —the festival came to be regarded as lasting for more days than one.
And yet in fact among the men of old time there were some who supposed that the Saturnalia lasted for seven days
(if one may use the word “suppose” of something which has the support of competent authorities); [3] for Novius, that excellent writer of Atellan plays, says: “Long awaited they come, the seven days of the Saturnalia” [Ribbeck, II, 328]; and Mummius too, who, after Novius and Pomponius, restored the long-neglected Atellan to favor, says: “Of the many excellent institutions of our ancestors this is the best—that they made the seven days of the Saturnalia begin when the weather is coldest” [Ribbeck, II, 332].
[4] Mallius, however, says that the men who, as I have already related, had found protection in the name of Saturn and in the awe which he inspired, ordained a three-day festival in honor of the god, calling it the Saturnalia, and that it was on the authority of this belief that Augustus, in his laws for the administration of justice, ordered the three days to be kept as rest days.
[5] Masurius and others believed that the Saturnalia were held on one day, the fourteenth day before the Kalends of January, and their opinion is corroborated by Fenestella when he says that the virgin Aemilia was condemned on the fifteenth day before the Kalends of January; for, had that day been a day on which the festival of the Saturnalia was being celebrated, she could not by any means have been called on to plead, [6] and he adds that “the day was the day which preceded the Saturnalia,” and then goes on to say that “on the day after that, namely, the thirteenth day before the Kalends of January, the virgin Licinia was to plead,” thereby making it clear that the thirteenth day too was not a festival.
[ 7 ] On the twelfth day before the Kalends of January there is a rest day in honor of the goddess Angeronia, to whom the pontiffs offer sacrifice in the chapel of Volupia. According to Verrius Flac-cus, this goddess is called Angeronia because, duly propitiated, she banishes anxiety (angores) and mental distress. [8] Masurius adds that an image of this goddess, with the mouth bound up and sealed,1 is placed on the altar of Volupia, because all who conceal their pain and care find, thanks to their endurance, great joy (voluptas) at last. [9] According to Julius Modestus, however, sacrifices are offered to Angeronia because, pursuant to the fulfillment of a vow, she delivered the Roman people from the disease known as the quinsy (angina).
[10] The eleventh day before the Kalends of January is a rest day in honor of the Lares, for whom the praetor Aemilius Regillus in the war against Antiochus solemnly promised to provide a temple in the Campus Martius.
[11] The tenth day before the Kalends is a rest day in honor of Jupiter, called the Larentinalia. I should like to say something of this day, and here are the beliefs generally held about it.
[12] In the reign of Ancus, they say, a sacristan of the temple of Hercules, having nothing to do during the rest day challenged the god to a game of dice, throwing for both players himself, and the stake for which they played was a dinner and the company of a courtesan. [13] Hercules won, and so the sacristan shut up Acca Larentia in the temple (she was the most notable courtesan of the time) and the dinner with her. Next day the woman let it be known that the god as a reward for her favors had bidden her take advantage of the first opportunity that came to her on her way home. [ 14] It so happened that, after she had left the temple, one Carutius, captivated by her beauty, accosted her, and in compliance with his wishes she married him. On her husband’s death all his estate came into her hands, and, when she died, she named the Roman people her heir. [15] Ancus therefore had her buried in the Velabrum, the most frequented part of the city, and a yearly rite was instituted in her honor, at which sacrifice was offered by a priest to her departed spirit—the rest day being dedicated to Jupiter because it was believed of old that souls are given by him and are given back to him again after death. [16] Cato, however, says that Larentia, enriched by the profits of her profession, left lands known as the Turacian, Semurian, Lintirian, and Solinian lands to the Roman people after her death and was therefore deemed worthy of a splendid tomb and the honor of an annual service of remembrance. [17] But Macer, in the first Book of his Histories, maintains that Acca Larentia was the wife of Faustulus and the nurse of Romulus and Remus and that in the reign of Romulus she married a weajthy Etruscan named Carutius, succeeded to her husband’s wealth as his heir, and afterward left it to her foster child Romulus, who dutifully appointed a memorial service and a festival in her honor.
[18] One can infer, then, from all that has been said, that the Saturnalia lasted but one day and was held only on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of January; it was on this day alone that the shout of “Io Saturnalia” would be raised, in the temple of Saturn, at a riotous feast. Now, however, during the celebration of the Saturnalia, this day is allotted to the festival of the Opalia, although the day was first assigned to Saturn and Ops in common.
[19] Men believed that the goddess Ops was the wife of Saturn and that both the Saturnalia and the jOpalia are held in this month of December because the produce of the fields and orchards are thought to be the discovery of these two deities, who, when men have gathered in the fruits of the earth, are worshiped therefore as the givers of a more civilized life. [20] Some too are of the opinion that Saturn and Ops represent heaven and earth, the name Saturn being derived from the word for growth from seed (satus), since such growth is the gift of heaven, and the name Ops being identified with earth, either because it is by her bounty (ops) that life is nourished or because the name comes from the toil (opus) which is needed to bring forth the fruits of trees and fields. [21] When men make prayer to Ops they sit and are careful to touch the earth, signifying thereby that the earth is the very mother of mortals and is to be approached as such.
[22] Philochorus says that Cecrops was the first to build, in Attica, an altar to Saturn and Ops, worshiping these deities as Jupiter and Earth, and to ordain that, when crops and fruits had been garnered, the head of a household everywhere should eat thereof in company with the slaves with whom he had borne the toil of cultivating the land, for it was well pleasing to the god that honor should be paid to the slaves in consideration of their labor. And that is why we follow the practice of a foreign land and offer sacrifice to Saturn with the head uncovered.
[23] I think that we have now given abundant proof that the festival of the Saturnalia used to be celebrated on only one day, the fourteenth before the Kalends of January, but that it was afterward prolonged to last three days: first, in consequence of the days which Caesar added to the month of December, and then in pursuance of an edict of Augustus which prescribed a series of three rest days for the Saturnalia. The festival therefore begins on the sixteenth day before the Kalends of January and ends on the fourteenth, which used to be the only day of its celebration.5 [24] However, the addition of the feast of the Sigillaria has extended the time of general excitement and religious rejoicing to seven days.

Schmidt comments:

Macrobius does an excellent job summarizing authorities that were available to him, most of which I think have been lost. His conclusion is quite clear, Saturnalia originally was one day and occurred on the 14th day before the Kalends January, but when Caesar altered the calendar it was extended to three days and started on the 16th, later a new Festival of Sigillaria extended the celebrations to complete seven days, meaning that the Festival ended on either the 10th or ninth day before the Kalends of January depending on how we count. Of course neither of these days fall on the eighth day before the Kalends of January, that is December 25.

The information from Macrobius is the most thorough. None of the more ancient sources contradict him. In fact, what we have of the ancient sources that speak of dates merely confirm what Macrobius wrote.

Based on Macrobius as well as other ancient Roman sources, the date of Christmas has nothing to do with the dating of Saturnalia.

Annotated Bibliography

[This is an updated and expanded version of my original article on Saturnalia]


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