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:
(Editor’s Note: Early on this website has included much in the way of theological critique. Our goal is to not only teach the Brothers (and others) how to critique bad theology and practice but to also proactively train the Brothers in good practice and theology and so we will be offering more columns such as this new one that teaches about the liturgy. This is the second in a twenty two part series. We thank Pastor David Oberdieck for letting us use it. We cannot say everything about every part of the liturgy in this series so if you think there are significant things left unsaid please use the comment section to help grow the Brothers.
These were initially intended to be put into bulletins or read at the start or end of the service to educate the laity on the different parts of the service. As we develop them we hope to put them in a form that can be used in that manner, or inserted into newsletters or other methods of distribution.)
Notes on the Liturgy #2 — THE INVOCATION
There are three significant elements in regard to the invocation. First, when the pastor calls out, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” it acts as a simple creed. We are confessing whom we believe the one true God is. We worship the Trinity and none other. When outsiders come to the Divine Service, if they are paying attention, they will realize that the people they are with are worshipping the Triune God. We are clear right up front, in whose name we gather and who we are worshipping.
Second, in the Invocation, we are asking for and acknowledging God’s presence in the service. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20 NIV)
Finally, it is significant that the Invocation is accompanied by the sign of the cross. We received both the name of the Trinity and the sign of the cross at Baptism. We received the name of the Trinity by divine command. Since Baptism gives us the benefits of the cross, the sign of the cross was placed upon us according to the tradition of the catholic church. This then should be a reminder to us that God, who washed us and claimed us in Baptism, is the one who has brought us into the worshiping community. “We do not come as those who deserve to come because of what we have done.” We come because He has called us through the Holy Spirit in the water and Word of Baptism.
These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited.
Thanks to BJS reader Rick Techlin for posting this pictoral review of the BJS conference on his blog, Light from Light:
The Brothers Of John the Steadfast held their annual conference in Naperville, Illinois on February 20 & 21, 2015 A.D. It was an excellent conference with a lot of insightful presentations, good food, entertainment, and enjoyable fellowship.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast is a group of mostly LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) laymen and pastors dedicated to promoting Confessional Lutheranism.
The conference was held at Bethany Lutheran Church and School.
The theme of the 2015 conference was, “When Heterodoxy Hits Home.”
All the pictures in this post are from that conference.
The first session was with Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller. His topic was: “The Obligation and Temptation of Dealing with False Teaching.”
One of the challenges of taking photos at this conference was the new candle holders that Bethany had installed down the center isle. I tried to incorporate them into the photos as best as I could.
Bethany Lutheran’s unique stained glass windows can be seen in the background.
This stained glass window depicts God’s gift of Woman to Man. (God was depicted in the window above this one, and was the source of the yellow rays of light that blessed our original parents).
Pastor Rossow introduced the next speaker. Pastor Rossow was an excellent and gracious host.
The second speaker on Friday was Pastor Clint Poppe of the ACELC.
The topic of Pastor Poppe’s presentation was, “The Barking Dog Approach.”
Dinner followed, and then there was the evening prayer.
In commemoration of the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, the liturgical color for the evening prayer was red.
On Friday evening, the Brothers of John the Steadfast gathered in private homes for the “No Pietists Allowed” parties. Then the next morning on Saturday was the “Manly Man’s Breakfast” at Bethany.
On Saturday morning, Pastor Joshua Scheer introduced the Reverend Larry Beane.
Pastor Beane’s presentation was entitled, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?” During his presentation, he maintained that the entire Book of Concord was descriptive.
Pastor Hans Fiene was the second speaker on Saturday. Pastor Fiene is the creator of The Lutheran Satire. He spoke about when satire is appropriate to use in defense of the faith.
The last speaker was Pastor Todd Wilken from Issues, Etc. Pastor Wilken spoke about our need for perspective, patience, and perseverance.
The Lord blesses his people when we gather to hear, discuss, and ponder his word and Sacrament.
Thank you to all who were involved in making this an enjoyable conference.
Click here for additional pictures from all the previous BJS Conferences(2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013).
God’s blessing to you.
Here 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.”
…[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.
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.
In our conversations with many of you we have sensed a need for a resource to explain our Biblical practice and the theology behind Closed Communion. In response we have just added two individual pamphlets that you may use in your own congregation for this purpose. If you would like to take a look at them, you can find them here or later under the Teaching Materials tab on the toolbar at the top of each page.
You may use them as your own however you like, personalize them for your own setting or situation, and, please, without any attribution to us. We pray you will find this resource to be helpful.
Yours in Christ,
Here is the text from the second bulletin insert.
Is It Closed or Close?
A Historic Practice that Still Goes on Today
But Shouldn’t it Be up To Me to Decide if I go to Communion?
What Would Open Communion Say to Our Kids and Potential Members?
The Difference Between Fellowship and Friendship
We Take Your Confession of Faith Seriously
But What if I’m a Member of the ELCA?
Because you won’t commune me does that mean you think I’m going to hell?
Christian Men and Women Can Disagree Without Sending Each Other To Hell
Okay, so prove to me your practice of closed Communion is found in the Bible?
Where Do I Find Out More?
This is a reposting of a pair of articles published last year on the origins of Easter and some Easter traditions. The sources are given so that the reader can better be able to debunk the popular “historical” nonsense about the origins of Easter.
The whole series is available at Diatheke Christianity and Paganism.
Second Part: Attacks On The Name and Traditions
There are three main things people attack about this Holy Day:
All of these claims are false.
That’s not to say that the materialism of modern culture hasn’t obscured the meaning of Easter through focusing on treats and bunnies. But even though factual information about the tradition of eggs at Easter is plentiful, and even though the use of the hare/rabbit has long history in Christian iconography the propaganda efforts of the anti-Easter crowd and the Neopagans through all kinds of media has overcome the truth. And the lies have found a firm footing in the social awareness of contemporary society. Through venues like the History Channel, college courses, and popular news media the lies have become accepted as historical fact.
The Name of the Holy Day: Easter
As we have demonstrated in the previous article, the choosing of the date for Easter had nothing to do with pagan practices. The original dates chosen and the reasons for adjusting the methods of determining those dates always had to do with determining when the Biblical Passover should be observed so that the festival of the Resurrection could be observed without discord.
While most languages adapt the word פסח Pesach “Passover” as the term for Easter/Passover, German and English adopted the local month name. The local month name was adopted very early, by the records it was adopted while Rome was still active.
Alexander Hislop claimed:
Notice how clever the argument is? Sir Austen Henry Layard just published his first works on Nineveh in 1848, 1849, and 1853. And in 1853, Hislop, who knew nothing about cuneiform or ancient Babylonian languages concludes that since the Babylonian name “Ishtar” sounds like the English word “Easter” they must be the same!
Just so that the argument can not be disproved, Hislop claims that the Druids brought Ishtar to England. This is handy, because the Druids didn’t write anything down. And those records about Druids by others don’t record any such migrations or Ishtar worship.
But there is a possibility: Perhaps the word Easter does come from some pagan goddess.
Was There Actually a Pagan Goddess Easter, Eostre, Ostara?
A search of all the ancient literature left by the Germanic, Celtic, English peoples and their ancestors combined with a search of all ancient literature about those peoples by their contemporaries up to the 8th century A.D. turns up nothing.
There is nothing in any Edda, nothing in any history, nothing. And it is not for lack of written records about the religious practices and beliefs of those peoples through those years.
Note this date, the 8th century A.D. This is when the first mention of a possible “goddess” is made. The date of the Easter festival had already been long established. The use of the term Easter or Ostern (German) had already been long established.
The first mention of such a goddess comes from the Venerable Bede in his 725 A.D. De Temporum Ratione. Bede wrote:
It would seem that Bede, who is listing out the English names of the months in this chapter, confirms that there was a goddess named Eostre. But neither Eostre nor a goddess he mentions in the previous sentence, “Hrethra,” are found in any other literature from either earlier nor later.
It is not unlikely that Bede was conjecturing about the origin of the names given that month names have been named after false gods in other cultures; e.g., July, and August, named after Julius and Augustus upon deification.
We will see a little later that there is another possibility, especially considering that all of the other English month names were seasonal descriptions or events during those times.
January=Giuli; Sun gets stronger
February=Sol-monath, Cake baking
March=Rhed-monath, Otherwise unknown goddess Hretha
April=Eostur-monath, Otherwise unknown goddess Eostra
May=Thrimylchi, Milk the cows three times a day Month
July also=Lida, Gentle
August=Vueod-monath, Month the tares/grasses
September=Haleg-monath, Holy Month
October=Vuinter-fylleth; Winter starting with the full moon Month.
November=Blod-monath, Cattle slaughter month.
December=Giul; Sun gets stronger
Examples of fake quotations:
Both of these fake quotes are from the website easter-origins and are found repeated in dozens of websites.
Here is Einhard’s actual full section 29 on Charlemagne:
All Einhard says is that Charles the Great chose to keep the Germanic month names. There is nothing here that speaks about a pagan goddess named Ostara or Eostra.
There is one more name with the term Eostra in it from this general period. Eosterwine. (650 – 7 March 686) was the second Anglo-Saxon Abbot of Wearmouth in Northumbria (England).
Note that in none of these documents is there anything about who Eostra might have been, what purpose she might have served, who her consorts might have been. All the evidence shows us is that the old English had a month with the name Eostra. It shows us that a well respected writer of the church thought that the month name had pagan roots. But that name, even if used for the feast of the Resurrection, was not chosen because the Passover meal was pagan or polluted by paganism. It would be just like non Pagans today using the word Thursday for the name of a weekday.
No one heard any more about Eostra/Ostara for a thousand years.
That should be repeated: NO ONE heard any more about Eostra/Ostara for a THOUSAND YEARS!
It wasn’t until 1835 when Jacob Grimm began publishing his work on Teutonic Mythology that the name Eostra as a goddess was noticed again.
Everything that we think we know about Eostra comes from Grimm. But notice how what Grimm says is conjecture:
After making what now would be rightly considered an illegitimate venture into etymology of the name Eostre, Grimm continues:
Remember what Grimm is working with. He has only Bede and Einhard. Just like you and I have.
According to the second volume of his Teutonic Mythology, Grimm even associates the Easter egg with Eostra. Though, we shall see, that particularly Christian tradition predates any mention of Eostra by 500 years. Grimm wrote:
Again, notice the conjectural language, but also the confidence he seems to have about his notions.
Everything else about this so called “ancient” goddess Eostra/Ostara has been made up since the late 1800s. And it has been made up out of nothing.
Recently an historian has offered another suggestion. In his article Ostern. Geschichte eines Wortes [D. H. Green The Modern Language Review Vol. 96, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 247-249] Jürgen Udolph suggested that by exampled usages and historical linguistics believes that the goddess names Ostara and Eostre are false conclusions. Rather Udolph traces “Ostern / Easter” from a Nordic root ausa “to pour water,” which was proposed by Siegfried Gutenbrunner in 1966. In this way both the linguistic form of the word in Bede and Einhard along with the name Eostrewine can be maintained, the listing of seasons and seasonal tasks is maintained in Bede, there is no need to create a potential mythology. The implication is that the word Easter would actually etymologically derived from the main baptism service during Easter night.
Before all Sacramental Christians get excited about this article, we need to remember that it too is an historical conjecture. But this conjecture seems to address the evidence as evidence and requires not fanciful and imaginative mythology to be created in support of it.
On the use of Ostern as “Baptize” see also “Ostern”, in: Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, Volume 22, 2000.
The Neopagans and Wiccans have made up all kinds of claims that the Easter holiday had to do with fertility and reproduction. They claim that Ashtorah was a reproductive goddess. There is no evidence in the Bible that the asherah poles and other references to Ashera or Ashtorah had anything to do with fertility. And there is nothing that links the Ashtorah of the Bible with the old Babylonian goddess Ishtar.
Some modern archaeologists who try to show the evolution of religions in the middle-east have conjectured that ancient Ugaritic goddess named Athirat might be linked to the Bible’s Ashtorah even though many Ugaritic documents say otherwise. A few of these scholars also conjectured that this Ugaritic goddess might be the equivalent of Babylon’s Ishtar, but this is only conjecture.
So where are we with real history for “Easter”?
The word Easter comes either from the old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to shine”-possibly to describe the months of the year when the sun began to get brighter and higher during the day. Or it may come from the word “to baptize” indicating the Baptisms which took place on Easter. In 1525 William Tyndale used the Middle-English word “ester” = “Easter” as a translation for Passover and the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The word had already been long used and understood as referring to the day of Christ’s Resurrection when Tyndale made his translation.
Despite what some modern Pagans and Wiccans wish the past might have been, there were no known pagan or wiccan celebrations of a pagan-easter in England or northern Europe in the period from the Middle Ages through the Reformation and up to the late 1800s.
So there are two modern myths that we have debunked: first, it is not true that the name of Easter came from the worship of a pagan spring goddess; second, it is not true that the Easter celebration was a celebration of fertility and reproduction.
Where did the Easter Egg come from?
There are several traditions which converge to bring us the Easter egg. And there is some modern nonsense that really has nothing to do with the use of eggs at Easter.
First, there is a sculpture on the Persepolis of ancient Iran of a line of people bearing gifts on the New Year day celebration on the Spring equinox. One of the many different gifts carried by the people in this sculpture appears to be an egg. This was carved by the old pagan Zoroastrians from ancient Persia (modern Iran).
From this sculpture modern Pagans have conjectured that Christians stole the idea of using eggs at Easter from the ancient Zoroastrians. The problem is that none of the writers in the ancient Christian church mention this tradition where they came into contact with Zoroastrians.
Still, the modern Neopagans and Wiccans assert that the egg is an ancient sign of fertility. That seems as bright a claim as saying that water is wet.
Of the traditions that actually do contribute to Christianity using eggs in the Easter celebration there are three to consider.
First: In the celebration of the Passover meal, which Christ celebrated the night before He was crucified, a roasted whole egg is placed as one of six food items on the Passover plate. The egg, called Beitzah symbolizes the Passover sacrifice that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. The egg was introduced to the Passover meal after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. The egg was the first dish served at Jewish funerals in the time of Christ’s ministry on earth. The egg was also used as a symbol of mourning the loss of the Temple where the Passover Lamb was sacrificed. It is usually eaten dipped in salt water which symbolizes the bitter tears of the people.
Early Christians in the first and second century continued to celebrate the Passover along with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Primarily the Passover was celebrated because of Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper.
Second: the season preceding Easter is called Lent. The season of Lent is a fast. In the article on Lent we saw how ancient this practice was and where it started. In both the eastern and western Church this meant fasting from meat and bird flesh–including eggs. Eggs were used to break the Lenten fast on Easter Morning. In preparation for this breaking of the fast the eggs were decorated to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Paschal Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. The breaking of the shell became a symbol of Christ’s rending of the tomb.
Indeed, the use of decorated eggs to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning is so widespread across the world and so closely tied with the spread of Christianity that one cannot call it anything but a Christian tradition. But that doesn’t keep the Neopagans and modern commentators from trying to claim that Christian’s “stole” this so-called “pagan” tradition.
So we turn to the third tradition:
The Easter Hare
The typical image used to demonstrate that that the Easter Bunny was the consort of Ostara/Eostra is this:
As we have seen above, Ostara/Eostra didn’t really exist. And since she didn’t exist she couldn’t have had a bunny as a consort. But where do they get this ancient looking, archaeological type statue of Ostara and the Rabbit?
All those websites, videos, and well meaning people who try to argue that Easter is pagan and use this picture to do so have a basic problem with honesty.
There is an interesting doubling up of the Easter bunny with the fictional goddess Ostara. The modern ‘histories” of Easter tend to claim 1) that Easter was originally a pagan fertility holiday 2) of devotion to the goddess Ostara (Eastre, however spelled), 3) she used eggs as a symbol of fertility, and 4) she always carried a pet bunny because it was so fertile. Now, all of these 4 claims are fiction.
So where did the bunny really come from?
According to Karl Joseph Simrok’s 1855 book called Handbuch Der Deutschen Mythologie Mit Einschluss Der Nordischen, “The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.” (page 551) The old 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia cites this as proof that Christians cannot use the rabbit in celebration of Easter. But I cannot find this sentence in my copy of Simrok’s book. Perhaps mine is a different edition.
What is interesting about the rabbit or hare is that it has been used by all kinds of religions around the world as a symbol. Each religion fitting its own teaching on the symbol of the rabbit. But in most cases the symbol refers to new life. In the ancient eastern Church the rabbit was used on tombstones and as a symbol of Christ. One author points out that some early Christians viewed the rabbit’s hole as a symbol of the tomb of Christ.
Probably the most complete and systematic study to date is actually Birgit Gehrisch’s Lepusculus Domini, Erotic Hare, Meister Lampe” Zur Rolle des Hasen in der Kulturgeschichte, Inaugural-Dissertaion zur Erlangun, VVB Laufersweiler Verlag, Wettenberg, Germany, 2005.
Christian art has several examples from the early times through the renaissance of rabbits as a symbol of Christ.
To name just a few The three hare window in Paderborn, Germany and also in the monastery Muottatal in Switzerland, where three rabbits are together in a triangle with only one ear each showing, symbolizing the Trinity,
There are actually dozens of examples like this one above scattered all across Europe and Asia.
Martin Schongauer’s 1470 engraving The Temptation of Jesus has three by three rabbits at the feet of Jesus Christ.
His student Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut of 1497 The Holy Family with the Three Hares showing two hares next to each other and the other going down toward a hole with a stone rolled next to it;
Hans Baldung Grien 1512-1516 painted the altar for the Freiburg Cathedral with the second panel representing Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth where he painted the rabbits about the feet of Mary and Elizabeth;
Titan’s Madonna and Child with St. Catherine and a Rabbit which was painted in 1530.
America owes the use of the Easter Bunny to the Pennsylvania Deutch settlers who came from Alsace, a German and French area on the border between the two countries. Back in 1678 Georg Franck von Frankenau in 1682 wrote against the excessive eating of Easter eggs which parents would leave in the name of the Easter Hare–the Resurrected Christ. The people from this region settled in Pennsylvania and brought with them their symbolism and traditions surrounding the hare representing Christ, the egg representing the tomb, and Christ’s resurrection with the giving and breaking of eggs when the fast of Lent was ended on Easter Sunday.
Yes, Easter, the eggs, the bunny, all of them are still being perverted into something else by our own society. The devil, the world, and our own flesh don’t want to hear about Christ’s resurrection and will attack any symbols used to teach the resurrection.
But now you know enough of the real history of Easter and the symbols used by the Christian Church to celebrate this holiday.
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.
In the last few months I have heard two different stories of folks thinking about moving from a Church Growth parish to a confessional one. What was the reason they could not make the switch? In both cases they could not leave their small group. So I ask, what exactly is the connection to the Church in these situations. It looks to me like there is a small group addiction.
We have asserted on this site that small groups are not good for the church and these stories support that point. In each case the individual sensed that it was right to move from a heterodox church (mixed teaching) to an orthodox church (right teaching) but could not break the tie with their small group. So the small group has inculcated a belief that church is about making connections to other people.
Now church is certainly about making connections to other people but that is secondary to right teaching. Connections to other people combined with mixed teaching puts one’s soul in peril. In addition, most small groups are organized around Bible study. That begs the question, who is the teacher in the small group? Teaching the Scriptures is no easy task just as brain surgery is no easy task. Brain surgeons have temporal life held in balance by the scalpels they wield. The pastor holds something far more important than temporal life in the scalpels of his Words. He holds the eternal souls in balance and so with a surgeons skill he operates on the heart making sure that he does not slip the slightest to the left or the right but always holding the proper balance of law and Gospel. I have sat in many small groups and witnessed botched spiritual surgeries that either scar the soul with the law apart from the Gospel or leave the cancer intact because of a false desire to administer a candy-coated Gospel apart from the law.
So do the right teaching parishes without small groups leave people without connections? Not at all. Walther teaches that churches should have societies so that Christians can socialize. Before the Rogerian psychology of the 60’s and 70’s messed us up, the church was quite happy having Walther league, couples clubs, card clubs, bowling leagues, and the like. Prayer and Bible study was understood to be done at the divine service. These groups were for fun and socialization. Add to the mix of humanistic psychology a little bit of false Reformed and Pentecostal theology of levels of sanctification and you have people thinking that they need small groups to really connect to God through others and have some kind of meaningful spiritual experience. Connecting to God through Christ’s body and blood in the Divine Service is apparently not enough for these emotion starved, humanistic psychology desiring people and so they become addicted to their small groups and cannot leave for a right teaching parish.
Connections to other Christians are important but they are secondary. They are not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins. That happens in the Divine Service through Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Now that is something to be addicted to!
Yours truly was the guest on the “Studio A” radio program on KFUO, AM 850, on Monday, October 25, to discuss “What Holds Lutheranism Together.” You can listen to the interview below. The 25-minute segment runs from about the 29:00 mark to 54:00. Here are the list and notes for that interview:
9.5 Things That Hold Lutheranism Together
2. The Sacraments
3. The Power of the Word
4. The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel
6. The Doctrine of Vocation
7. Catechism and Hymnal
8. A Doxological Concern
9. A Pastoral Concern
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 of the cross, notably at a number of places during the Divine Service. Several of these are indicated in Lutheran Service Book by the symbol, 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.
The 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.
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:
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:
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.
During my past 9 years of pastoral ministry the discussion with Evangelicals that has resulted in the most confusion, tension, and conflict is most definitely the dialog over infant baptism. Otherwise stated, in my humble opinion there is nothing more offensive to our Evangelical brothers and sisters (those who believe that it is only proper to baptize those who are able to make a profession of faith) than the Lutheran view of infant baptism.
Now, for you lifelong Lutherans you may find this hard to believe, how a precious gift from God can cause such strain, but it is true that it does. My wife and I have unfortunately lost friendships over ‘the infant baptism’ talk. Furthermore, at one point in time I too was very indifferent towards the sacraments and rather antagonistic towards those that boldly cherished them. But you may ask, “Why the offense? What could possibly be so threatening about sprinkling water on a cute and helpless baby?”
In a previous article on Steadfast Lutherans titled, There Are Two Perspectives On Delayed And Legalistic Baptisms, I covered the basic confusion over the sacraments between many Lutherans and what I will call ‘Credobaptist’ Evangelicals. I stated,
While these confusions are very prevalent in conversations with Credobaptist Evangelicals and may cause conversational tension, there is something that is not mentioned in the previous paragraph, something that is much more offensive and something that repeatedly upsets the theology of Credobaptist Evangelicals. That something is infant baptism itself; it is the ‘infant’ part that causes tension. I believe that the reason for strain is due to infant baptism being the quintessential picture of divine monergism. Monergism, as you know, is completely contrary to any and all free will theologies, thus the reason why infant baptism is so difficult for many Credobaptist Evangelicals to accept.
The most common criticism that I have heard against infant baptism is that it doesn’t allow for the baby to make a ‘decision’ for Christ or a ‘profession of faith.’ (At this point we could devote our time to show how the tenets of the Enlightenment have tainted this view of faith, but that can be saved for another time.) Many will protest that it is unjust to baptize a baby before the child can profess faith in Jesus and/or make a decision, therefore, one must wait until the baby reaches an older age.
So, why would it be unjust to baptize a baby before they are able to make their decision? Generally speaking, it is unjust in credobaptist theology because infant baptism infringes upon, violates, and overthrows the doctrine of free will; it takes the child’s ‘choice’ in salvation away. To say that an baby is saved in infant baptism when no choice/decision/profession has been made comes across as extremely scandalous for theologies that embrace the doctrine of free will and it is very offensive towards the old Adam. The old Adam in all of us can’t stand monergism and he especially can’t stand the sacrament of infant baptism. The reason why, in infant baptism the old Adam has no room to play and exercise his supposed free will, but can only drown.
Advertently or inadvertently to guard the doctrine of free will, many Evangelical denominations and many Evangelical movements will postpone baptism until the child is able to make a choice. However, this rationale creates additional problems. How should one handle original sin and consider children when they sin between conception and their decision of faith? To counteract children’s sinful nature from conception until the time they make a decision of faith, an age of accountability status is developed, thus granting the child a period of grace. The age of accountability status embraces that children below a specific age who perish are not held responsible for their sins because they were incapable of understanding wrong from right and were unable to comprehend Jesus’ death on the cross. Furthermore, some Revivalistic and Pietistic traditions can also fall prey to this ideology. They will rightly baptize the child in the name of our Triune God, gifting the child faith and grace, but the baptism is only viewed as a grace that extends until the child can make a decision for Christ at a later point. At that point of decision, the decision then takes the place of the child’s baptism as the location of assurance. Both the Pietist’s view and the Evangelical’s view are ways that attempt to: protect free will theology and avoid the divine monergistic qualities of baptismal regeneration.
So is infant baptism really that radical? One needs to keep in mind that infant baptism is not some rogue theology that is inconsistent with the rest of the scriptures. Take for example the miracles of Jesus. Individuals were not ‘mostly’ blind, but powerlessly blind from birth (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘kind of’ paralytic, but hopelessly and entirely paralyzed (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘partly’ leprous, but helplessly full of leprosy (e.g., Matthew 8). Individuals were not ‘almost’ dead, but dead-dead (e.g., John 11). These individuals are just like an infant, helpless. Yet in these miracles we see the power of the Word, a performative speech from Jesus, that speaks these miracles into existence. Jesus proclaims, “Let it be done to you! Stand up and walk! Be Cleansed! Come out!” The individuals, like an infant, contributed nothing to their healing. Just as the world was spoke into existence in Genesis, Christ spoke these healing miracles into existence. Furthermore, God’s word still speaks faith into existence today (e.g., Romans 10:17). The Word is performative; the Word works faith and this is even true with infants.
As Lutherans we believe, teach, and confess that infant baptism does not work regeneration apart from faith (e.g., Mark 16:15-16, Romans 4:20-25). With that said, we also believe, teach, and confess that faith is not a product of the man’s intellect, or a result of mankind’s will, or conjured up by a person’s arousing feelings. Faith is a gift, a gift worked by the Holy Spirit through the Word (e.g., Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8). Thus, Luther rightly taught that the Word is in and with the water making baptism’s efficacy entirely dependent on the Gospel promises, promises that are connected with the water (e.g. 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38). Otherwise stated, because the Gospel is attached to baptism, baptism is an effective means through which the Holy Spirit works faith and gives grace to infants, apart from any works of righteousness that they do or may do (e.g., Titus 3:5).
As we converse with our dear Evangelical brothers and sisters on this subject, may we not forget that there is a silver lining. As we discuss infant baptism and its ramifications on free will theology may we boldly confess,
So why do many Evangelicals find it difficult to accept infant baptism? It is difficult for many to accept because it is bad news for the old Adam and presents a difficulty for decision/free will theology. In infant baptism faith cannot be misconstrued into an act of the free will—faith does not make baptism but receives its. With infant baptism salvation is most clearly seen as a gift of God descending to a helpless baby, rather than the old Adam using baptism as a token of his obedience. Alas, it is now very understandable why conversations on this subject will result in confusion, tension, and unfortunate conflict.
Regardless of the possible blowback due to our Lutheran baptismal theology, may we graciously esteem our most excellent Baptism as our daily attire in which we walk constantly, that we may always be found in the faith, for infant baptism is not only the quintessential picture of divine monergism, but is divine monergism—rich life-giving water with the Word that works faith, delivers forgiveness of sins, rescues us from the jaws of death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation making us God’s own apart from any and all man-made contributions. In a very literally sense, via infant baptism, we do not wash ourselves but are washed by God. Praise be to God! May we and our Evangelical friends grow ever more appreciative of this great gift.
Often the topic of how God governs all things comes up in parish life during suffering and struggles. Questions will arise about God being the cause of something (sin is the cause of this damned mess), allowing something (as if He is distant from things and is often merely wordplay), or even sending something. This is of course a difficult topic, and it deserves much attention in the lives of Christians who indeed will suffer in this life.
Recently I had a opportunity to sing and meditate upon one of my favorite hymns, “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me” (LSB 756, but if you want a longer version check out TLH, although an even older English version includes even more stanzas to it [truncation of hymns is bad hymnal practice and often reflects a desire to avoid the hard stuff]. There are several points in the hymn where Gerhardt lays even sadness and suffering squarely at God’s feet as the one who sends them.
Is God sending sadness or suffering such horrible news? From one point, suffering sucks. Life in a fallen world is not fun, no matter how much we think we have advanced or progressed, in the end the fallen world catches up with us and grabs hold of us. Sometimes it is at death, more than often it is during a time of great trial or suffering. Then all of the fake gods have to move aside, all of the petty idolatries we have set up for ourselves show their powerlessness to maintain our good life. At that point it is only God and us who are left and it appears we will not last long. So what is wrong with saying that God sent suffering?
Nothing. I don’t want to endure suffering that happens by chance or by some distant God allowing it and watching on. I don’t want the cliche which tries to paint a rosy picture in a fallen world. I don’t want a theoretical or philosophy daydream of a god. I don’t want anything other than the God who I know, or more importantly Who knows me. He has to be the one to lay down a heavy cross or burden upon me. Why? Because I know that God, for He has revealed Himself to me as a God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is slow to anger, merciful, compassionate, abounding in steadfast love – the God who in the Son gave Himself up for my temporal and eternal benefit. The God I want pushing down on my flesh is the very same one who gave up His flesh for me and still feeds the same along with His blood to me each week. The God I want sending the waters over every last bridge and breaking the dams in my life has to be the very same God who baptized me and claimed me as His own. The God I want to receive a cross from has to be the One who endured the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father. The God I want to hear words of sorrow from is the God who has spoken to us by His Son, a man of sorrows and well knowing of grief. This God is with me, the God named Immanuel (God with us), Jesus.
If my suffering is not from Him, that same God who baptizes, preaches, teaches, and feeds – then who can know my suffering or bring relief to it? If it is by chance, then by chance I will come out of this. If it is only allowed by God, then I suppose maybe He will allow relief? If it is sent by Him – the very God of very God who cared for my life and well-being more than anyone else ever could, then I suppose there is something greater to it. If it is sent by THAT God, then it can be somehow good (What God ordains is always good). This is a matter of faith, of trust – but there is no one except the Triune God who deserves such trust, even when He sends sadness.
So as you experience suffering, trial, sadness, loss, and all of the various other crosses which come in this life take heart – God your loving Savior sends them. He has been faithful to you for all of your days up to now, and He will not leave you now either.
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”
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”?
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.
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.
by Pastor Walt Otten
The Brothers of John the Steadfast have asked this 1959 Concordia, St. Louis graduate to prepare a bi-monthly post for this website entitled “This Was Your Grandfather’s Church.” The editor’s instructions to me were, “Just Look through your old files and find something that reflects what was your grandfather’s church and write that up for BJS.” Those files are far removed this morning, 350 miles away, but what is at hand is Pr. Matthew Harrison’s recent book, Christ Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy: How to Put Your Faith in Action, is a 2008 publication of Concordia Publishing House. It does reveal what was your grandfather’s church.
Each chapter begins with a quotation from the Word of God and a statement of Martin Luther, but throughout the book there are also the words of those that Missourians truly consider their grandfathers, Drs. C. F. W. Walther and F. K. D. Wyneken, the first and second presidents of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Many of the words of these grandfathers of the Synod appear for the first time in the English language in Christ Have Mercy, translated by Harrison himself. Harrison clearly demonstrates that these grandfathers of the synod were orthodox theologians in their confession of the faith, and that “mercy” was a vital part of the content and confession of their faith.
Harrison writes in the preface, “I write as a convinced, convicted, and unapologetic clergyman of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The public confession of the Lutheran Church–most fundamentally stated in the Book of Concord–is my own, without equivocation. I believe C.F.W. Walther, the founder of the LCMS, explicated the faith correctly, also on the doctrines of church and ministry. These pages will show a side of Walther’s divinely given role of the care of the needy.”
On pages 175 and 176 Harrison quotes from a sermon he recently discovered and translated of C.F.W. Walther concerning the office of the ministry. Walther proclaimed, “There are five parts here which belong to this office. The first and foremost important is teaching; the second is admonition; the third is giving or the office’s concern for the poor; the fourth is governing or the administration of discipline and order; and finally the fifth is the exercise of mercy or the concern of the office for the sick, the weak and the dying.”
Just an aside from this writer concerning Harrison’s treatment of C.F.W. Walther after reading Christ Have Mercy: any who would claim that Harrison is “anti-Waltherian” do not know Harrison and are not telling the truth. What Harrison does for us in Christ Have Mercy is to truly challenge Missouri to be more Waltherian, that is, to reach out in mercy because of the mercy and grace of God given in baptism, the Supper, the Words of Absolution and through the preaching of the Gospel by those who hold the office of the holy ministry.
Harrison does share with his readers some experiences of his own life. One that was not known to this reader was that after his graduation from Concordia, Seward he spent a year in northern Ontario as a lay missionary. He writes of the emotion he experienced with his wife after the sound of the light plane that brought them to a land of “a thousand frozen lakes alternated with dense pine forest,” faded and disappeared from sight. There in a town of 500 native Canadians he learned what it meant to be part of a community. That year “forever changed my view of individualism and life together as the Church.”
Christ Have Mercy is a challenge to Missouri to be truly what our grandfathers– Walther, Wyneken, Luther and the authors of the Book of Concord– wanted us to be. They would have us be not only orthodox in doctrine, and Harrison clearly and very practically sets forth Lutheran orthodoxy, strongly advocating historic Lutheran worship, but Christ Have Mercy also calls upon the Synod to be orthodox in practice. That is, it calls upon the synod to clearly demonstrate MERCY as well as close communion, renunciation of unionism, etc.
Harrison recently spoke at the annual conference on the catechism sponsored by Peace Lutheran Church of Sussex, Wisconsin. His topic was “Catechesis of the Fifth Commandment.” He assumed the position of one who does not preach from the pulpit, stepping out from behind the lectern. He did so, he told his audience, because he wanted to see the screen on which visuals appeared that augmented his “catechesis.” He held in his hand his Bible, a Nestle text, that is, the Greek New Testament. One might expect that a Brighton, Franzmann, Voelz or Gibbs would lecture with a Greek text in hand; one does not expect that from one who heads the Board for Human Care Ministries. Harrison is a gifted translator, theologian and writer.
The number of quotations in Christ Have Mercy that this writer would want to share with readers of this post would unduly lengthen it. Buy the book and be blessed and challenged in the reading thereof.
There might be those that would wish the book did not include as many pictures of the author as it does. Those pictures show him in the various countries in which his role as executive director of the Board for Human Care Ministries has brought him, but in none of these pictures is he wearing a tuxedo.
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:
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 :
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!
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,
There has been lots of discussion on Pastor Scheer’s recent post .. one commentator pointed out this article by Pastor Paul McCain, which I thought should be brought to the attention of our readers. This is always a difficult subject, especially when you bring friends and family to church, and people need to hear it again and again. I see from a google search for the original document that it is used on quite a few church websites, but as I say we can never hear it enough.
This article is extracted from Communion Fellowship by Paul T. McCain.
A PDF of this document can be found here.
AN EXPLANATION OF CLOSED COMMUNION
The Lutheran practice of “closed communion” is often a thorny issue in our church. It is bound to cause problems when a member asks the pastor if a friend or loved one of another denomination may take communion and the pastor says no. It seems down-right rude! The reaction may be, “Who do you Lutherans think you are anyway! Are Lutherans better Christians than other people?” Unfortunately, the practice of closed communion is not very well understood. This leads to upset and frustration when the doctrine is put into practice. The best way to overcome these difficulties is with knowledge and understanding of what the practice of closed communion is really all about. It is important to understand first what Lutherans believe about communion, and then we can begin to understand the practice of closed communion.
At one time nearly all of the Lutheran church bodies in America (and indeed, most other Christian churches) practiced closed communion. Among Lutherans today only The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a few other smaller Lutheran bodies retain this practice. In our church and others, only those persons who have been properly instructed in the meaning, use, and benefit of the Sacrament may receive the Sacrament. Practically speaking, this means that Holy Communion is offered only to those persons who are confirmed members in good standing of LCMS congregations and those church bodies in full pulpit and altar fellowship with us. It should be noted also that communion is not to be given to the unrepentant nor unbelievers. With this in mind it is to be understood that participation in Holy Communion is never a “right” to be “demanded” but rather a privilege which we receive with thanks and great joy. The pastor of the local congregation is responsible for deciding who is to receive communion and who may not receive communion at the congregation’s altar, by virtue of his office as a called and ordained servant of the Word. Missouri Synod Lutherans will not wish to receive communion at non-Missouri Synod Lutheran churches for the same reasons that members of other church bodies should not want to receive communion at a Missouri Synod congregation.
Lutherans believe that Holy Communion is a sacrament-a very special gift from our Lord Jesus Christ. On the basis of Holy Scripture, we believe that Jesus Christ gives us his actual body and actual blood to eat and to drink, under the bread and wine, in this Sacrament. (See Mt 26:17ff; Mk 14:12ff; Lk 22:7ff; 1 Cor 11:23ff). We do not believe that the bread and wine are only symbols of Christ’s body and blood, or that they merely represent Christ’s body and blood. We take the Scriptures at face value and believe that the bread is the body of Christ and that the wine is the blood of Christ because Jesus said, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood.” We call this belief the doctrine of the Real Presence. We believe that when we receive the body and blood of Christ, under the bread and wine, God forgives our sins. This awareness causes us to be very careful in our celebration of the Sacrament. We know that those who do not discern the body of Christ in the Sacrament do so at their own risk. In other words, persons who are members of church bodies which do not confess the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper are better off not receiving it at our altar. In His Word, God says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).
The Sacrament of Holy Communion is not simply a personal, individual act. The celebration of Holy Communion is also a public act of confession. In other words, it testifies to our unity in the” teaching of the Apostles” (cf. Acts 2:42). When you receive the Sacrament at a church’s altar, you are giving public testimony that you agree with that church’s doctrinal position. This is why we believe, teach, and confess that Holy Communion is the highest expression of church fellowship. We believe that to agree about the Gospel is more than agreeing to some generalities concerning Jesus or the Bible. There is no such thing as a “generic” Christianity. When we commune together we testify to our agreement in the Gospel and all the articles of the Christian Faith. Holy Communion, in this sense, is a mark of confessing the Christian Faith.
When we decline to give Holy Communion to persons not of our church body, we are not doing so because we think they are “bad people” or because they are “not Christians.” We practice a “closeness” at our communion rail because we sincerely believe that this is what the Word of God teaches and what God would have us do with his Son’s precious body and blood. Closed communion is not meant to be a judgmental practice, in the sense that we are condemning people. It is a practice which preserves and upholds the truth and power of the Sacrament. It is a practice which we Lutherans feel protects those who do not believe the same things as we do. It is a practice which recognizes that a person’s church membership does mean something. To belong to a church means to confess what that church believes and confesses. To commune at a church’s altar is the highest expression of confessing oneness with what that church teaches. A person must determine for oneself if what one’s church teaches is what the Word of God teaches. We respect each individual’s decision in this matter, but we cannot in good conscience create the impression that differences between churches are of no significance. Because the differences between churches concern the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, we know that the differences are important and do matter. This is why we choose to practice closed communion, a practice which is found in the historic, orthodox Lutheran Church since the time of the Reformation and a practice which can be traced back to the very early years of the Christian church. We hope that our beliefs will be respected by those who differ with us. We certainly do not intend to offend anyone or do we wish to create ill-will and hurt feelings. Hopefully, this brief explanation will help you or someone else understand that our love for the Sacrament, and our love for the individual, are the motivations for our practice of closed communion.
I had the opportunity to hear an excellent presentation this afternoon from a neighboring pastor (Rev. Shawn Kumm of Zion, Laramie) on Lutheran worship. One of the best points that he made was related to how worship is meant to prepare the Christian for death.
I have often found that all theology finds its best expression on the deathbed. It is there that Lutheran teachings become so distinct from others that one can really see the pure Gospel versus impure ones. What struck me about this worship leading to death thing is the difference between liturgical and “contemporary” services.
Liturgical worship seeks through repetition to not only give the gifts of God to the believer, sustaining his faith in the here and now and into the hereafter. It has an eternal perspective on things, which is reflected in its rich heritage. It is fitting for those at the beginning of life who cannot read and yet through the constant repetition can still learn, all those in between, and even those at the end of life who have lost their minds in relation to most things but still remember the things which they repeated each week in Church. Opposite to that, and lacking eternal focus, CoWo tends to feed an always changing “milk” at best (avoiding deeper concepts/teachings which may drive people away), with the goal of making all people feel comfortable and excited about what is going on (certainly striving so that they may never feel bored [where does boredom with God’s Word reside, in a worship form or in an undisciplined, Old Adam loving heart?]. CoWo does not teach the children, it does not help those who have lost their reason or senses. It is exclusive. There is not the repetition of the Scriptures as you find it in the liturgy, but instead a constant changing in order to keep relevant to the individual and the whims of the visitor (because if the visitor or age determines the worship, it will have to change). I often wonder if underlying these two very different things in worship isn’t the focus of God vs. man, the changeless from the always changing, the trustworthy and reliable vs. the unreliable.
There is another key – relevance. CoWo is meant to be relevant to the here and now, with forms that change and messages that pertain to “real life” here and now. Liturgical worship is meant to be relevant to the then, here, now, and even times to come. It prepares a soul to have a full library of texts, tunes, and prayers housed inside of it to be recalled at later times. These later times could include the deathbed, but also all those steps that we must take in this vale of tears to that point. One thing the pastor noted today was the question: “how many praise bands have you seen at the nursing home?”
Liturgical worship allows the Christian to be prepared to make his confession. The Words are familiar, ones which he has been taught and confessed before. CoWo forces the Christian to say words that he may not believe (or make the spot discernment to not confess something). Pastors who like to “tinker” with the liturgy, you may want to consider how your tinkering forces your sheep to confess things which they have had no prior warning that they would be confessing. Does such constant changing instill anything of value to your people? (other than catechizing them to grab onto the new, follow their emotions, and don’t dare to learn anything deeper or ancient)
Pastors who use CoWo, what is your pastoral care at the nursing home look like? Do you sing them the most popular and relevant songs of the day, or do you then and there return to the solid pattern of words that was taught by the hymnals which these saints have used for years? What will you do for those young ones now feeding off of constant change when they are experiencing your visit while they await death? What well can you possibly draw from when all you dug were puddles that changed as the seasons went by? What does your message sound like when talking to one undergoing great trial and tribulation? Is it there that you put aside the theology of glory and go back to the cross? In the end (of life that is) it seems that CoWo falls flat and actually shows a good amount of spiritual neglect in the scope of preparing souls to go to their Maker.
A passage comes to mind in this: 2 Timothy 3:1-7
I think many of those things in that passage could do with CoWo theology, but the one that I have really started to key into is the “always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth”. With all of the constant changes, there is always learning going on, but no one ever gets something solidly sunk in, so that when they approach death they can have such a vast deposit of knowledge to draw upon.
If you are a layperson under the influence of CoWo teachings, consider what will happen when your reason and senses start to go (after all you are dying too). What will remain of all the varied and many things that you have experienced? What will have been engrained into your mind as to remain when various ailments take the things which did not get reinforced in this life?
If you or your congregation are considering taking that “vote” to remove a pastor (or using such a vote to coerce his resignation), check to make sure that it is for legitimate reasons (persistent adherence to false doctrine; great public shame and vice [scandalous conduct]; willful and real neglect [or inability to perform] of his office). If you are an official involved in removing a pastor check also to make sure it is for legitimate reasons…
Here are some thoughts to consider if your pastor is not teaching falsely, living in scandalous conduct, or gladly neglecting his duties (or unable to do them) in relation to the Ten Commandments:
The First Commandment
Who is your god if you have no Scriptural reason to remove this pastor and yet vote to do that or assist others in doing it? Where is your trust in such a situation where you are “firing” your pastor? God says that he is not mocked in regards to the support and care for pastors (see Galatians 6), where is your fear of God?
The Second Commandment
What does a sinful vote of a Christian congregation do to God’s Name? What does it do if something has no supporting Scripture behind it but we still call it a divine action (such as a divine removal or even a human removal of a divine call)? Luther in the Large Catechism calls the propagation of false teaching the worst violation of the Second Commandment (it’s not just about cussing), how does the unscriptural removal of your pastor teach any truth?
The Third Commandment
Are you gladly hearing and learning the word of God while you are voting out the man God has sent to you to preach and teach it? Just who are you sending away, the preacher or the One who sent Him?
The Fourth Commandment
Pastor are considered fathers in the faith, does willfully removing your pastor or aiding in it honor his position as a mask of God? Does removing his livelihood and calling honor him, serve and obey him, or love and cherish him? By throwing him out the door of your church are you despising him, one of the “other authorities” that Luther names in the Large Catechism?
The Fifth Commandment
How does removing the livelihood of your pastor help and support him in every physical need? This only gets worse if your pastor has a wife and then even worse if he has children.
The Sixth Commandment
How does the church casting out the messenger that her head, Christ Jesus sent to her work into this mystery of Christ and His Church? Do you think such a “divorce” brings glory to God? Jesus says that the ones who reject those He sends will be rejected by Him.
The Seventh Commandment
How does removing your pastor rate in relation to protecting his possessions and income?
The Eighth Commandment
Given that men who are removed from calls bear a giant black mark on their professional record, just what do you think an unscriptural removal does for his reputation? Does masking your vote under district approval or other reasons exemplify the truth or a lie? How has your conversation been about your pastor?
The Ninth Commandment
How does throwing out your pastor help or be of service to him in keeping his house or property?
The Tenth Commandment
How does casting your pastor out urge him to stay and do his duty? Are you guilty of coveting another “type” of pastor? For ear-itching pastors, see the Second Commandment again.
So you have it – sinfully removing a pastor (or helping to do it) without Scriptural cause is a good way to reap the wrath of a jealous God upon the children for the sins of the fathers for the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him (if you doubt that unscriptural removal is not hating God, then reread the questions above).
Repent. Stop the vote. Stop trying to starve him out. God takes no pleasure in it, nor does He desire to punish for it – but He is not mocked. You will reap what you sow on how you treat His messengers.
Christ did not die for you to act however you please – He died to earn the forgiveness of your sins, a forgiveness given through time and space through the means of grace – which is exactly why He sent you your pastor to publicly preach, teach, and administer for your eternal good.
As a final note, any comment attempting to talk about “bad pastors” will be deleted for being off topic and an attempted deflection of the serious matter at hand.
This particular claim toward pagan sources for Christianity and Christian Holy Days goes under various names: Jesus Myth Theory, Jesus Mythicism, Mythicism, Copy-cat Theory, and probably other terms.
The basic claim is that Christ is a fake: an unoriginal copy-cat of some other supposedly more ancient pagan god or gods.
These claims are bunk. Both historians and Biblical theologians have been very thorough in debunking these claims since their earliest times.
A common example that circulates on the web, Twitter, and Facebook is the following graphic:
Most people who share this kind of post do not have the intellectual integrity to bother checking up on these claims. And having a reputation as an Atheist thinker doesn’t seem to keep even famous “thinkers” from falling for this fictional bunk.
But the fact is that this falsehood is widely and popularly promoted by people who claim to be objective. Yet they couldn’t be bothered to actually do the research.
A short list of recent so-called documentaries that have promoted this falsehood:
A couple of recent books popularizing this fiction written by well known Atheist authors:
[These are all 2005 and after, list is from Christ Myth Theory.]
But Hitchens, Dawkins, Maher, Atwill, Dan Brown and others are merely repeating the creative fiction of anti-Christian zealots from the 18th century and after. Back then it was hard for people to check up on the scholarship of a published work. Some of these original thinkers were:
There are many other contributers to this stream of creative fiction. It is apparent by looking at their life and work that they had all their own vested interests in discrediting Christianity. The Wikipedia article on Christ Myth Theory is actually very helpful at gaining source information. It does contain some chronological inaccuracies about the movement. But a bit of careful reading can clear up the matter of who invented which idea when.
For many who pass this falsehood on there is an excellent and short video by Pr. Hans Fiene’s video commentary from Lutheran Satire titled “Horus Ruins Christmas” may be enough to help. The video is focused on the Horus variant, but includes Mithra and others.
Pr. Fiene recently revisited this issue with a new video titled Horus Reads the Internet.”
But there is a lot more background to this series of attacks against Christ, Christianity, and Christian Worship.
The following is a list of supposed originals that they claim formed the basis for Jesus. The list is mainly from James Holding’s very helpful website. Documentation for sources and rebuttals can be found at that website.
James Holding also published a book dealing specifically with this attack against Christianity.
Finding research online to debunk these claims is not actually a difficult thing to do.
One Example: Jesus is Mithra
The following link is an example of a page promoting this falsehood. The article is by a person named Kevin Williams.
What we should note is how academic or scholarly it pretends to be. Consider just for example this point in William’s post:
What the text actually says in context is the following:
The disciples of Mithra formed an organized church with a developed hierarchy. They possessed the ideas of Mediation, Atonement, and a Saviour, who is human and yet divine, and not only the idea, but a doctrine of the Future Life. They had a Eucharist, and a Baptism, and other curious analogies might be pointed out be tween their system and the Church of Christ. Most of these conceptions, no doubt, are integral parts of a religion much older than Christianity. But when we consider how strange they are to the older polytheism of Greece and Rome, and when we observe further that Mithraism did not come into full vogue till the time of Hadrian, that is to say till the age of Gnosticism, we shall hardly be wrong in judging that resemblances were pushed forward, exaggerated, modified, with a special view to the necessities of the conflict with the new faith, and that differences, such as the barbarous superstitions of the Avesia, were kept sedulously in the background with the same object. Paganism was copying Christianity, and by that very act was lowering her arms. [emphasis mine]
Yes, simply looking up the references used as evidence in support for their arguments usually undercuts what they claim. In this case, Kevin Williams’s proof is actually a statement of an idea that the original work is arguing against.
There are two websites I’d suggest for rebuttals specific to the Mithra claim. But take these with a grain of salt. Tekton, for instance, doesn’t accurately deal with the Dec. 25th date in two ways.
First, the establishing of this date for the celebration of Christ’s birth is very early in the Church [by the end of the 2nd century].
Second, there is no birth date for Mithra given in the ancient sources. The association of Dec. 25 with Mithra was a conjecture by a scholar named Cumont.
The study of Mithraism is itself very useful. And, in fact, you can in less than a day learn all there is to know about the actual textual evidence left to us about this religion. The iconography and art would take a bit longer, but those are left to wide and wild interpretations.
A valuable website with all you would ever need to know about what is really known about Mithraism has been put together by Roger Pearse.
In the comments section of Friday’s post by Pastor Rossow titled “Per DP’s Advice LCMS Pastor Cancels Participation in Joint Service but Still Supports Unionism,” arguments were made that having a joint worship service with congregations of other fellowships, such as Methodists, or Baptists, or Presbyterians, is not unionism. Holy Scripture, our Confession, Lutheran theologians, and our own synodical statements disagree with that position. Here are a few quotations from across the centuries to illustrate the point.
From the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Constitution:
“Article VI Conditions of Membership
“Conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod are the following:
The official position of the Synod from “Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod”:
“28. On Church-Fellowship. – Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4, 11; John 8, 31. 32; 1 Tim. 6, 3. 4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7,15, to have church- fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16,17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as the real cause of the origin and continuance of divisions in the Church, Rom. 16,17; 2 John 9.10, and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2,17 ff.”
From the Christian Cyclopedia on the LCMS website:
“Religious unionism consists in joint worship and work of those not united in doctrine. Its essence is an agreement to disagree. In effect, it denies the doctrine of the clearness of Scripture.” (Quoted from The Concordia Cyclopedia, St. Louis, 1927)
From the 1974 CTCR document “A Lutheran Stance Toward Ecumenism”:
“C. On the Congregational Level
“When congregations become members of the Synod they voluntarily accept certain limitations of their autonomy. For the sake of good order and the benefit of all, congregations consent to regulate the exercise of their rights according to a compact freely entered into and mutually accepted. Congregations, for instance, agree to be served only by such pastors as have been certified for placement by the Synod’s seminary faculties and who are members of the Synod. Similarly, congregations agree that they will practice fellowship only with those congregations which belong to a church body with which the Synod is in fellowship. Once such an agreement has been made, confusion and disorder result when congregations act
“WHEREAS, The members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have voluntarily united in a fraternal agreement to determine fellowship relations with other church bodies or congregations, not individually but through convention action (Handbook 1.21) . . .
“D. On the Individual Level
“1. In the exercise of their office pastors will follow synodical policy. Except in emergency situations and in such cases where their action cannot rightfully be construed as disregard for pure doctrine, for the responsibilities of their office, or for the concerns of their brethren in the ministry, pastors will ordinarily commune only those individuals who are members of the Synod or of a Lutheran church body with which the Synod is in fellowship. Pastors will not participate in joint worship services with pastors of denominations with which the Synod has not established fellowship relations. When pastors affiliate with ministerial alliances or associations, they will participate in such activities and service opportunities as do
From the 2001 CTCR document “The Lutheran Understanding of Church Fellowship”:
“The promise not to participate in worship services with those not in church fellowship with the LCMS applies particularly to pastors, who are the official representatives of both their congregations and the LCMS. Their solemn commitment to the scriptural and confessional position of the LCMS must be their guide and will supersede personal feelings or preferences. Trust among LCMS pastors, congregations, and leaders allows everyone to carry out their commitment to fellowship practices to which they have mutually agreed. This trust is undermined when these commitments, as they are set forth in the official documents of the LCMS, are openly violated. Public knowledge of such violations strains relationships and makes reasoned discourse of real issues difficult. This in turn hinders pastors from exercising discretion in unclear situations.”
The following quote is taken from the September 18, 1917 edition of The Lutheran Witness. It points out that the LCMS would have no joint worship services with other Lutheran synods on the Reformation Jubilee, because there was no unity in doctrine. Obviously, this refusal to hold joint worship services with other Lutheran synods would also apply to other non-Lutheran denominations:
“Joint Reformation Celebrations. — Many of our congregations will take part in joint celebrations of the Jubilee. The churches of the Synodical Conference in many centers of population will gather in imposing union services. But there will be no participation of our churches in general Lutheran or Protestant gatherings.
Hermann Sasse, “Concerning the Unity of the Lutheran Church,” Letters to Pastors, No. 25, translated by Matthew C. Harrison:
“True ecumeny, which sees the one church of Christ wherever the means of grace are yet preserved—through which the Lord calls to His church—even beyond the boundaries of one’s own ecclesiology, stands opposed to false ecumeny, which treats Christians of all denominations as brothers in faith. This false ecumeny tries to make visible and tangible that which we humans cannot see and touch, the church as the people of God, as the Body of Christ, as the temple of the Holy Spirit. This false ecumeny changes the ‘article of faith’ about the church into an ‘article of sight.’ It understands the unity of the church, which only the Holy Spirit can create and maintain, as something which we humans can produce. And it tries to produce this unity, in that it works to realize the one faith, the one baptism, the one sacrament of the altar as a compromise of various forms of faith, various interpretations of baptism, and various understandings of holy communion. In so far as it does that, this false ecumeny overlooks [the fact] that the various understandings of the means of grace are not only different possibilities of understanding the truth, but rather that soul-murdering errors and church-destroying heresy also hide among them. True ecumeny sees this. Therefore, it is able to recognize the true unity of the church only there, where it recognizes the one correct faith, the one correct baptism, the one communion of the Lord Christ. True ecumeny asks, therefore, not first about unity, but rather about truth. It knows that where the true church is, there, and there alone, is also the one church. In this sense it understands the high priestly prayer of the Lord, too, in which the ‘that they may all be one’ is linked inseparably with ‘sanctify them in Your truth; Your Word is the truth’ (John 17:17, 21).”
Wilhelm Loehe in Three Books About the Church:
“Let the great ‘It is sufficient’ with which the Augsburg Confession insists upon unity in doctrine and sacrament be our war cry, our watchword, our banner.”
Dr. Franz Pieper, from “Unity of Faith”, an essay delivered at the 1888 Convention of the Synodical Conference, translated by E.J. Otto:
“We dare not allow any other concept of unity to arise among us than the unity of faith which is in harmony with Scripture, the agreement in all articles of Christian doctrine.”
Charles Porterfield Krauth, from “The Right Relation to Denominations in America,” in Lutheran Confessional Theology in America:
“When the Lutheran Church acts in the spirit of the current denominationalism it abandons its own spirit. It is a house divided against itself. Some even then will stand firm, and with the choosing of new gods on the part of others there will be war in the gates. No seeming success could compensate our church for the forsaking of principles which gave her her being, for the loss of internal peace, for the destruction of her proper dignity, for the lack of self-respect which would follow it. The Lutheran Church can never have real moral dignity, real self-respect, a real claim on the reverence and loyalty of its children while it allows the fear of the denominations around it, or the desire of their approval, in any respect to shape its principles or control its actions. It is a fatal thing to ask not, What is right? What is consistent? but, What will be thought of us? How will the sectarian and secular papers talk about us? How will our neighbors of the different communions regard this or that course? Better to die than to prolong a miserable life by such compromise of all that gives life its value.”
Johann Gerhard, quoted from Cyberbrethren, trans. by Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes:
“Not just any unity of faith and doctrine is a mark of the Church, but only the unity of true faith and doctrine, that is, of prophetic and apostolic doctrine, for that alone is of immovable and perpetual truth. Therefore the unity of faith that is a mark of the Church must be based on one foundation of doctrine: the apostolic doctrine. Accordingly, the Church is said to be ‘built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles’ (Eph. 2:20). It is said about the heavenly Jerusalem that “its wall has twelve foundations and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”( Rev. 21:14). Accordingly, in Zech. 8:19 ‘truth and peace’ are joined. In fact, truth is set ahead of peace so that we may understand that God approves of only that peace, concord, and unity which enjoys the foundation and bond of truth. John 8:31: ‘If you remain in My Word, you are truly My disciples.’ John 17:21: ‘That they may be one in Us.'”
Johann Michael Reu, from the pamphlet “In the Interest of Lutheran Unity'”:
“We find this attitude of tolerance quite frequently among unionists. It is often used to assuage a troubled conscience, one’s own as well as that of others; for the unionist declares that every one may continue to hold his own private convictions and merely needs to respect and tolerate those of another. This attitude is totally wrong, for it disregards two important factors: (a) in tolerating divergent doctrines one either denies the perspicuity and clarity of the Scriptures, or one grants to error the right to exist alongside of truth, or one evidences indifference over against Biblical truth by surrendering its absolute validity; and (b) in allowing two opposite views concerning one doctrine to exist side by side, one has entered upon an inclined plane which of necessity leads ever further into complete doctrinal indifference, as may plainly be seen from the most calamitous case on record, viz., the Prussian Union.”
Dr. Theodore Graebner, from his essay “The Leprosy of Unionism”:
“No one believes that any Missouri Synod man would dare to propose at this time (1918) official synodical collaboration with the Reformed sects in church-work. That is a late development at which one does not arrive at a jump. On the other hand, the danger is ever present that on the specious plea of advancing the cause of “Lutheranism,” we be tempted to enter into fellowship with members of synods Lutheran in name, but only partly Lutheran in doctrine and practice. There is danger that we get a taste of applause and flattery; that we become eager for “recognition” as a great church-body; that we compromise our doctrinal stand for the purpose of meeting emergencies. And the time to become aware of that danger is NOW.
“It is a bad sign when hearers become angry at their pastor for “preaching against other churches.” It is a worse sign when pastors, bowing to such disapproval, begin to withhold instructions concerning the errors of the sects. It is a most alarming symptom when pastors and parishioners fraternize. . . with those who represent a different conception of Lutheranism. It becomes denial of the Truth when they associate with such for the purpose of “making church-work more effective” or “keeping the Lutheran Church on the map.”
“As we love our church, let us so teach our people so that they will fear the contagion of error as they would fear to breathe the air of a small-pox hospital. Let us exhibit to them the damnableness of false doctrine. Let us preach Luther on this point, who saw only the work of Satan in every deviation from the truth of Scripture. If our people learn to recognize every false doctrine as a snare of the devil, spread to catch victims for hell, they will not need to be held with a rein lest they stampede into unionism. .. .
“Let it be understood that any undertaking or activity which is, in effect, the doing of religious work jointly with those from whom we ought, according to Scripture to separate, is unionism. Here, if ever, the old sayings must apply: “Nip the evil in the bud.” Our first duty is that of watchfulness. There is no higher duty now because there is no greater danger.”
Dr. Martin Luther, quoted in F. Bente’s Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions:
“Whoever really regards his doctrine, faith, and confession as true, right, and certain cannot remain in the same stall with such as teach or adhere to false doctrine.”
(from Mollie) Today we commemmorate Johann Sebastian Bach, the most wonderful composer of all time. Or, as the Aardvark put it last year:
I was just in a conversation with two younger men who were seriously saying that listening to the audio pornography and vile filth of Eminem is appropriate for Christians. One suggested that because only what comes out of a man is what makes him sinful that it matters not what he sees, or hears, as a Christian. These two young men are sadly typical of a poorly formed understanding of the life of good works to which we are called as Christians that seems pandemic in the Christian Church, where apparently some can wax eloquent about how they are striving to be faithful to God’s Word, but then turn right around and wallow in the mire and squalor of sin. This all the more underscores for me the point that we have a serious lack of emphasis on sanctification in our beloved Lutheran church. There is much teaching that is not being done, that must done. Simply repeating formulas and phrases about justification is not teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. Comforting people with the Gospel when there is no genuine repentance for sin is doing them a disservice. There is a serious “short circuit” here that we need to be mindful of. Let this be clear. Listening to the “music” of swine such as Eminem is sinful and willfully choosing to listen to it is sin that drives out the Holy Spirit. This is deadly serious business. Deadly. Serious.
Pastors who wash their hands of this responsibility claiming that they want to avoid interjecting law into their sermons when they have preached the Gospel are simply shirking their duty as preachers and are being unfaithful to God’s Word.
We have done such a fine job explaining that we are not saved by works that we have, I fear, neglected to urge the faithful to lives of good works as faithfully and clearly as we should. This should not be so among us brethren.
I’m growing increasingly concerned that with the necessary distinction between faith and works that we must always maintain, we Lutherans are tempted to speak of good works and the life of sanctification in such a way as to either minimize it, or worse yet, neglect it. I read sermons and hear comments that give me the impression that some Lutherans think that good works are something that “just happen” on some sort of a spiritual auto-pilot. Concern over a person believing their works are meritorious has led to what borders on paranoia to the point that good works are simply not taught or discussed as they should be. It seems some have forgotten that in fact we do confess three uses of the law, not just a first or second use.
The Apostle, St. Paul, never ceases to urge good works on his listeners nad readers. I recall a conversation once with a person who should know better telling me that the exhortations to good works and lengthy discussions of sanctification we find in the New Testament are not a model at all for preaching, since Paul is not “preaching” but rather writing a letter. This is not a good thing.
A number of years ago an article appeared that put matters well and sounded a very important word of warning and caution. It is by Professor Kurt E. Marquart of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I strongly encourage you to give it your most serious attention.
Antinomian Aversion to Sanctification?
An emerited brother writes that he is disturbed by a kind of preaching that avoids sanctification and “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord . . . about the Third Use of the Law.” The odd thing is that this attitude, he writes, is found among would-be confessional pastors, even though it is really akin to the antinomianism of “Seminex”! He asks, “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man and putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . . ?”
I really have no idea where the anti-sanctification bias comes from. Perhaps it is a knee-jerk over-reaction to “Evangelicalism”: since they stress practical guidance for daily living, we should not! Should we not rather give even more and better practical guidance, just because we distinguish clearly between Law and Gospel? Especially given our anti-sacramental environment, it is of course highly necessary to stress the holy means of grace in our preaching. But we must beware of creating a kind of clericalist caricature that gives the impression that the whole point of the Christian life is to be constantly taking in preaching, absolution and Holy Communion-while ordinary daily life and callings are just humdrum time-fillers in between! That would be like saying that we live to eat, rather than eating to live. The real point of our constant feeding by faith, on the Bread of Life, is that we might gain an ever-firmer hold of Heaven-and meanwhile become ever more useful on earth! We have, after all, been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Cars, too, are not made to be fueled and oiled forever at service-stations. Rather, they are serviced in order that they might yield useful mileage in getting us where we need to go. Real good works before God are not showy, sanctimonious pomp and circumstance, or liturgical falderal in church, but, for example, “when a poor servant girl takes care of a little child or faithfully does what she is told” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, par. 314, Kolb-Wengert, pg. 428).
The royal priesthood of believers needs to recover their sense of joy and high privilege in their daily service to God (1 Pet. 2:9). The “living sacrifice” of bodies, according to their various callings, is the Christian’s “reasonable service” or God-pleasing worship, to which St. Paul exhorts the Romans “by the mercies of God” (Rom. 12:1), which he had set out so forcefully in the preceding eleven chapters! Or, as St. James puts it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Liberal churches tend to stress the one, and conservatives the other, but the Lord would have us do both!
Antinomianism appeals particularly to the Lutheran flesh. But it cannot claim the great Reformer as patron. On the contrary, he writes:
“That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).
“The chief worship of God is to preach the Gospel…in our churches all the sermons deal with topics like these: repentance, fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, prayer . . . the cross, respect for the magistrates and all civil orders, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love.”
“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit, and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy Name abide unto the end: through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.”
(Editor’s Note: Pastor Otten writes the BJS regular column “Steadfast Lessons from the Past.” The columns are archived here. Walter Bouman, well known liberal, of whom he writes here left the LCMS and became an ALC pastor in 1977. He died in 2008. The lesser known pastors and laymen that brother Otten brings to our attention are the real heroes.)
“Brother Rossow you want two columns a month under the theme STEADFAST LESSONS FROM THE PAST?”
His reply, “Yes, old man, just dig into your files!”
That digging revealed those who were “steadfast” in the past.
The March 19th, 1967 issue of THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control of Concordia Teachers College of River Forest, Illinois was considering giving tenure to Dr. Walter Bouman, a member of the faculty. The REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control was asking for information from the church at large concerning Dr. Bouman.
Two years earlier THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER reported on a presentation that Dr. Bouman had given at the Northwest Indiana Pastor’s and Teacher’s Conference held at Valparaiso, Indiana. The conference dealt with the theme “Evolution and/or Creation.” Besides Dr. Bouman two pro evolution professors from Valpo were participants, as well as Dr. John Klotz, Dr. Paul Zimmerman and Professor Rusch, all creationists. The REPORTER article included the words, “In his theological analysis Dr. Bouman advanced arguments supporting the thesis that the conflict in the evolution issue is not posed by science or by the nature of the Bible texts or by the position of the Lutheran Confessions, but ‘by a theological opinion about the nature of inspiration.'” The article continued, “He found fault with the ‘theory of inspiration’ held by Lutheran dogmaticians which makes inspiration the ‘direct communication of otherwise unknowable information.'”
Dr. Bouman’s actual words at the conference were “If, in the process, he (the scientist) discovers facts which do not support the world view of the biblical writers, the church today really has very little difficulty living with both the fact that is discovered and with the Scriptures which is still continues to listen to…The point I’m trying to make here is this. That where the scientific research confronts us with a fact, there we can manage to find a new way to interpret the Scriptures even though a man as revered in our own tradition as I’m sure all of us revere Dr. Pieper thought otherwise.”
Dr. Bouman had said essentially the same thing in an article he prepared for the 1965 LUTHERAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK. In his unedited copy he wrote, “The evangelical approach, because it hears the Word of God as Law and Gospel, is neither bound to Biblical cosmology nor deaf to the Word of God as expressed through biblical cosmology.” In that article, which evaluated Lutheran education materials, he wrote of the Primary Religion Series for the 8th grade,
“In the 8th grade one of the objectives is that the children accept the ‘biblical account of creation’ and receive ‘the courage to support and defend it.’ How sad. Our children deserve something better than this. If one begins with Law and Gospel, then learns something about the literary history and the literary nature of the Genesis prolog…then we should have no fear of theories which can possibly expand our vision of God’s working.”
What did the Board of Control hear from the church at large when it asked for information concerning granting tenure to Dr. Bouman, when he had so publicly written and spoken? Who would teach us a lesson of STEADFASTNESS?
There were seventeen “letters of protest.” The names of those who wrote such letters of protested are perhaps not know by many, now forty one years later.
Four of the seventeen letters came from laymen. Their names are here mentioned out of deep respect for these Brothers of John the Steadfast, who for the most part are now in the presence of Him Whom they confessed and served. Three of the four were from the Northern Illinois District. One was Gerhardt Freundt, a consulting engineer. If the open hearing that preceded the 1962 Cleveland convention of the Synod was recorded, and that recording were still available, one today could hear his evangelical and dramatic appeal to Dr. Martin Scharlemann to no longer hold the views that he expressed in his controversial essays. (Dr. Scharlemann eventually recanted his views and became a staunch supporter of conservativism but prior to that had embraced elements of the liberal higher criticism.)
Another who protested was Karl Heinecke of Western Springs, Illinois. Karl served his Lord in a most unassuming way. It was he who was most responsible for THE WEST TOWNS DAILY CHAPEL over station WTAQ. For many years the Gospel was broadcast daily on this program from this station at 8:00 a.m. It reached all of Chicagoland and Northern Indiana. Countless homebound Christians were daily sustained by it. It was he who organized and scheduled 10 Missouri Synod pastors for their biweekly Gospel broadcast.
Another layman, who sent a letter of protest, was a dear friend of this writer, Marv Toepper, deeply committed to Christ, Christian education and Lutheran confessionalism from his earliest days at Grace Lutheran Church of Chicago. Grace was then served by Pastor Elbert, a member of the old Chicago Study Club, whose members read THE CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN with gratitude.
The one layman who protested, who did not come from Illinois, was Ralph Lohrengel. His home was in Michigan. Ralph alone remains as the one of the four laymen who still serves as a “steadfast” servant in the church militant.
Five of the “letters of protest” came from pastors of the Northern Illinois District. Pastors Robert Kamphoefner of Immanuel in Dundee; Pastor Martin Lopahs of St. Paul, Round Lake; Pastor John Lutze of Immanuel, Downers Grove; Pastor Ray Wessler of St. John, Calument City; and Pastor Harold Krueger of Lake Zurich all dear friends wrote urging the Board of Control of the River Forest college not to grant tenure to Dr. Bouman. One of these pastors and his congregation, St. Paul’s of Round Lake, left the Synod after the 1971 Milwaukee convention of synod for the failure of that convention to fully address and faithfully confess all the issues then facing the synod. Dr. Bouman was still on the River Forest faculty, with tenure.
Four congregations, either via their voter’s assembly or board of elders, submitted “letters of protest.” The board of elders of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor A.O. Gebauer\ and the board of elders of Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Cary, Illinois, served by Pastor Robert Hess urged the Board of Control not to grant tenure. St. Andrews Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor Martin Frick and St. Paul Lutheran Church of Brookfield, Illinois, served by this writer, also so urged that tenure not be granted. St. Andrews of Chicago, and their pastor, Martin Frick, would also leave the Synod after the Milwaukee convention for the same reasons as did St. Paul of Round Lake.
Four “letters of protest” came from outside Illinois. Pastors Richard Borchers of Fairmount, North Dakota; Pastor Harold Braun of St. Paul, Minnesota; Pastor C.A. Rathjen of Muscoda, Wisconsin; and Pastor Waldo Werning of Milwaukee all expressed their desire that Dr. Bouman not be given tenure.
There were fifteen “letters of commendation.” With one exception these were letters from individuals. The one exception was a letter from the church council of Ascension Lutheran Church of Riverside, where Dr. Martin Marty held membership. Ascension Lutheran Church would leave the LCMS in the Seminex days.
Individual “letters of commendation” came from Dr. Alfred Fuerbringer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. In his letter he told the Board that Dr. Bouman had taught summer courses at the St. Louis Seminary.
Dr. Arthur Repp, the Academic dean of the St. Louis Seminary also wrote a “letter of commendation.” He also mentioned the fact that Dr. Bouman had taught at the seminary.
The executive director of the CTCR, Dr. Richard Jungkuntz, urged the board to grant tenure, as did the former President of the Northern Illinois District, Pastor Erwin Paul. The word “former” in identifying Pastor Erwin Paul has much to do with Dr. Walter Bouman, but that’s for another column.
It was forty one years ago so the fact that some of these letters were handwritten is not unexpected. Such a letter was received from the President of the Minnesota District, urging tenure. It was written by President Alfred Seltz.
The Dean of the Chapel at Valpo, Pastor William Buege, also urged the Board to grant tenure, as did Dr. Bouman’s own pastor, Dr. F. Dean Lueking of Grace Lutheran Church of River Forest, a congregation that also left the LCMS.
The chairman of the Theology Department of Concordia Teacher’s College of River Forest wrote similarly. That chairman was Dr. Ralph Gehrke, who himself was found guilty of teaching contrary to the Word of God. But that’s another story.
A “letter of recommendation” came from the Secretary of Campus Ministry, Pastor Reuben Hahn.
Other pastors who supported the granting of tenure were Pastor Kurt Grotheer of the Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Itasca, Illinois, Pastor Daniel Fuelling of Zion, Bensenville, Illinois, Pastor Walter Lamp of Mount Olive in Rockford, Illinois, Pastor Dennis Schlecht of Christ the King in Schumberg, Illinois, and Pastor James Manz of First St. Paul, Chicago.
Space and time do not permit comments on the content of all the letters. Some of those supporting tenure were very careful in what was said. To share the contents of these letters would be most revealing, but hopefully the source for all of the above “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE, River Forest, Illinois, MEETING, MAY 23, 1967, 2:00 P.M.” is available at Concordia Historical Institute and not only in the files of this writer. Many of those letters reveal even more clearly the issues that gave birth to Seminex than the Blue Book.
President Oliver Harms was ultimately involved in the matter. The May 23rd meeting did not find the Board granting tenure. President Harms subsequently wrote to those opposing tenure to supply adequate documentation for their opposition to the granting of tenure. “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE” contains a 20 page response to the request of Dr. Harms. That response is most revealing. But this 20 page document did not stop the granting of tenure, it was ultimately granted. To some it seemed that the granting of tenure was unnecessarily long delayed. The Board heard from those concerned about the delay. One such letter came from Pastor Rueben Spannaus, head of Lutheran Child and Family Services.
But who were the “STEADFAST” ones in this matter. Were the church leaders the steadfast ones? Was it the Seminary President or the seminary Dean, or the CTCR executive secretary? Were they the “steadfast” ones? Were the District Presidents the “steadfast” ones? Was the chairman of the theology department “steadfast?” No, rather the response of these men revealed the deep theological and confessional dilemma the Synod was facing.
Who were the steadfast ones? They were laymen and “just” pastors of congregations, yes, one was a district Stewardship Exec, but the others were pastors without any position in the Synod except a “divine call” to serve a Christian congregation.
And now, as Paul Harvey says, for “the rest of the story.” In a paper delivered April 9th, 2002 entitled “CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN RESOURSES FOR ADDRESSING THE STUDY OF HUMAN SEXUALITY” Dr. Bouman, by then a member of ELCA, not because he had been disciplined by Missouri, employing the same theological principles he did in the 1965 LEA YEARBOOK, discusses homosexuality, and those theological principles are for still another column. It is a 30 page paper, heavy with footnotes. He says that there are three options or alternatives suggested for the one who is homosexual or lesbian. One of the suggested alternatives is “celibacy.” He writes, “The one alternative which is not open to the Lutheran tradition is the requirement of celibacy.” He supports his assertion that celibacy is not an option by quoting a famous theological source which says “No human law or vow can nullify a command or institution of God.” From whence does this assertion of Dr. Bouman come? It comes from the Augsburg Confession. Where is it found? It is found in the article on the Marriage of Priests. He writes of this quotation of the Augsburg Confession “This seems to be equally applicable to the situations of persons with homosexual orientation.” So we cannot expect a homosexual to be celibate.