Monday, December 24, 2007

The Wonder of It All

Luke 2:1-14

Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

I have heard the Christmas story every year for the fifty-seven years of my life. As a child, I memorized parts of it each year for my place in the annual Christmas program of the Sunday School. I memorized different parts each year until I had committed to memory the entire passage, from Luke 2, verse one, to verse twenty. I have sung it, and shouted it, and cried my way through it. I have preached it for over twenty years, and written several Christmas programs for Sunday Schools of parishes I have been called to pastor. Through it all, I have never gotten tired of it, nor ever lost the sense of the Wonder of it all.

It almost seems like a faerie tale. It has so many legends built up around it that many people today think that it is a legend itself. The Archbishop of the world-wide Anglican fellowship declared the Christmas narrative to be legend and fiction just this past week. It has the best qualities of a legend it is oft repeated, generally known although not generally well known, and has characters larger than life and it is filled with elements almost too fantastic to believe. It is often called "The Christmas Story." I try to avoid that phrase because it permits people to go on thinking that it is fiction. I try to be careful to call it the Christmas Narrative or the Christmas account. This re-telling of the events of that night so long ago, events of such cosmic significance, are the focus of our attention this day. Our theme is, "The Wonder of It All".

One of the things that doesn't seem to naturally occur to people as they consider the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus is how this simple narrative separates the Christian faith from so many religions, and this account from all of those myths and legends. Have you ever noticed how myths and legends begin? "Once upon a time . . .". They have no historical particularity. You cannot place them in real time and you cannot place them among real people. You cannot ever say that they really happened, nor can you often assert that nothing like it ever did happen.

But Christianity is different. The Christmas account is filled with time and place and people data that gives our faith a firm rooting in real time and history. Christmas is the first, and a very vital step, in bringing God and our salvation down to earth and reality.

God became one of us. You are dust and to dust you shall return, so said God through the Scriptures. He took on that dust for us. He stepped down from the glory of heaven and from what it is to be God and took on our humanity. He did that in Bethlehem. He humbled Himself to the form of an infant. The Wonder of it all!

Think about it! Almighty God endured becoming a helpless infant. Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows! He bore every grief, not just the grief of death. On Christmas day, over two thousand years ago, God stepped out of His glory and into our humility. And there was nothing half-way about it. He did not simply become one of us, but He became a poor and helpless child, of poor and insignificant people. He was not born in a hospital, or a birthing room, or superintended by even a lowly midwife. He was born of a young girl in a stable. It puts me in mind of when I was a child and left a door open in my haste. My mother would ask, What? Were you born in a barn? Jesus would have had to answer, "Yes." Here he is, God in the flesh, born in a stable, cradled in a manger. Imagine the wonder of it all.

He had no glory that man could see. He was laid in a feed trough a hay-rack. The manger was no delightful nativity piece. It was a rough-hewn thing slapped together to hold hay or feed for the animals. The shepherds came because God could not contain Himself. Heaven burst with the joy and the glory of the plan of our salvation and the marvel of the Incarnation. "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." God announced it to mere shepherds, because He just had to tell someone. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." ! The wonder of it all! Not only did God come, as promised, to save His people from their sins, but He came so simple, and so humble, and so accessible. And you can bet that there were still shepherds alive who could hear someone read the words of Luke and say, "Yes, I was there!"

He not only humbled Himself to the point of flesh and poverty and ultimately suffering and dying for us, He left us the details. This is not a "Once Upon a Time" sort of yarn. This is an historical account filled with place and time and people identifiers. In those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. We know of him! We know when he ruled, and how. We can place this man in history. We even know what his name was before he adopted the title Ceasar and called himself "Augustus". His name had been Gaius Octavius Thurinus, until Julius Caesar adopted him and he had been born in 63 B.C..

And this census was first taken when Quirinius was governing in Syria. Only a few people know today that Quirinius governed twice in Syria; once as a military governor and once as the official civil governor. One of those governings began in 8 A.D., so that would be too late for Jesus' birth. The other term was supposedly quite a while before Jesus could have been born. Some people thinks that means that the Bible is in error. Not so! The census (which the King James Version calls a tax because the census was for the purpose of assessing taxes from each region) was ordered originally while Quirinius served in his first term, which lasted until 5 B.C.. Things being what they were, it took a while for the order to be proclaimed and the actual census to happen, just in time for Jesus' birth in about 4 B.C. But many who first read or heard Luke's account would say, "Oh, the census ordered during the governorship of Quirinius in Syria. Yeah, I remember that!"

God has provided us with detail in time and place and people so that we can identify who and where and how in history. All of this was so that we might know for sure from this vantage in history, nearly two thousand years later, that it really happened. Jesus was born at an identifiable time in history, lived among people and through events we know about outside of our religion, walked in places you can visit today, if you wish. The details tell us that it is no myth, no legend, no work of fiction, but history that God came down to rescue us.

God got down to accomplishing that rescue three decades later. He took on our sins with all their shame and guilt, and suffered crucifixion. He was whipped and beaten, spit upon, cursed and mocked. He was nailed rudely to the cross and hung between heaven and earth betrayed and murdered by man, forsaken and punished by God. He endured it all for us and for our sins, to redeem us from sin and death, so that He might forgive us our sins and give us eternal life with Him. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.

"Peace" is the word the angels sang to the Shepherds on that Christmas night so long ago. The sang of peace with God and peace from our sins and the condemnation due to us because of them - given to us in Christ. That is why the angels sang of it. And the judgment of well-pleasing is the judgment that is ours in Christ. He was Well-pleasing to His Father at His Baptism, as He began His public ministry. And He was well-pleasing to His Father on the Mount of Transfiguration as He began the descent into Jerusalem and to the cross. When our sins are forgiven, that is when God declares us well-pleasing to Him in Christ, and we are at peace with Him and at peace with one another in Christ. The blessing sung by the angels was nothing other than the Gospel, only in words that those who do not know the Gospel could not decipher. That is why the world loved the "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men", but despise the Prince of Peace, and reject the gift of Peace which He brings.

But even with all the details provided and the wonderful message of the promises of the Gospel, it is hard to believe, and many do not. Even from within the church, many call this miracle of grace a myth, a legend, or, worse yet, a symbol, and they deny the saving reality of God come into the flesh and the reality of the need to be saved. Outside the church they often don't even pay Christ any attention. Christmas is, to them, a nuisance, or a holiday of human good will and good works, a holiday for children's stories about Santa and Rudolph, and a traditional occasion of gift-giving. Unbelievers either in the church or outside of it are in grave danger for only those who know the truth and place their trust in Jesus Christ have eternal life. Jesus has purchased that salvation for everyone, paying with His own life and His own sufferings and His own blood. Those who would be saved need only take God at His Word, and trust Him, but those who reject Jesus, or His historical reality, or their own need for salvation, are lost.

But we have heard the song of the angels, announcing the glory of God, that He has sent His Son to be born among us Immanuel, God with us. We have heard it through the ears of the shepherds, and have seen it all through the eyes of the Apostles to the bitter end. And tonight we rejoice in it. This is the good news of a great joy, our Savior has been born. Our sins have been lifted off from our shoulders. We have the assurance of God's love and abiding concern. Let us rejoice tonight and sing with the angels of the glory of God which is His indescribable love for us and His remarkable and glorious grace which worked our salvation! Oh, the wonder of it all!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just a Thought

I have great respect for the author of the blog. I agree with him on so many things, and I cannot really take issue with anything substantive at the moment. It just struck me tonight: "Cyberbrethren:A Lutheran Blog" is misnamed.

The blog is clearly the blog of a Lutheran, but it is not so clearly Lutheran itself. It represents the interests and opinions of a Lutheran, but it is audacious hubris to say that the blog itself is Lutheran.

Mind you, I named the web site I started well over a decade ago, "The Confessional Lutheran Web Page", so who is to talk? It may be similar to the pot referencing the carbon build-up on the lower surface of the kettle - presumably both having been well-used over an open fire.


Friday, August 31, 2007


The debate on how one goes about preaching has heated up just a little recently. There is really no reason for a debate. The man called to be the pastor, the seelsorger, of the congregation should be quite clear on the task. He is to think of what he does, what he has been called to do, as a seelsorger (a curate of souls) and a shepherd (for that is what the word “pastor” means).

When one begins to think that their job is to simply proclaim the naked law and the naked Gospel, they have ceased being a pastor and taken on the role of an evangelist, and that only in the modern sense of the word. A shepherd does not create sheep, and one who is the “curate of souls” does not go about creating patients, but taking care of the ones who are his assigned lot. His lot, of course, is assigned by the Lord, which Lutherans believe is accomplished by the call. The Lord, then, adds to or subtracts from the “cure” (an old word meaning the district or persons assigned to the spiritual care of a clergyman) by calling individuals into His family by conversion, and calling them home to Himself in eternity by what is known as death of the body.

Between those two events - the call into faith and the call to eternity - the pastor has the care of such souls as His responsibility. He is equipped with three tasks and two sets of tools with which to accomplish this care. The tasks are preaching, teaching, and administering the Sacraments. Note that these three tasks are intertwined, not individual and self-standing tasks. The tools with which these tasks, and the entire cure (or care) of the soul, is to be accomplished are The Word of God and the Holy Sacraments, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and, whether you count it as Word or sacrament, Absolution. I left the word “holy” out of the names in order to avoid the modern offense of seeming to be too “catholic” and because there is little point in redundancy. If it is the Word of God, or worked by His Word, it is holy, and simply saying or not saying the word does not alter that condition.

When one considers the task of the pastor in the light of the call to be curate of souls, the issue of whether one preaches to teach or preaches to convert disappears. No proper sermon ignores the Gospel, and yet there is more to caring for the flock than simply announcing forgiveness. The flock of God needs to be armed against the devil, the world, and their own sinful flesh. That armor is applied by the Word, by knowing God’s good and gracious disposition toward man, and how far one may trust in God and for what one may count on Him - in short, the more that a believer knows of what God has revealed for his edification, the more he or she can believe and trust in the Lord, and understand their lives and circumstances as in the presence and care of God.

The preacher who is teaching his flock, and nurturing them in the Word with both Law and Gospel is also preaching that which converts. If He is not preaching the Gospel, he is not serving as shepherd or seelsorger for his flock. If he is preaching without teaching and warning his flock, he is not serving the shepherd duties either. Any individual who believes that they can do one without the other is not competent for the office.

Modern seminarians are taught to preach short sermons. Such a practice is often aimed at the short attention span of the modern listener. The problem with that approach is twofold: first, it short-changes the congregation, and second, it misunderstands the attention span of the average listener. First, the congregation comes to worship to receive God’s gifts. The Word proclaimed and taught is one of those gifts. The Sunday service is the chief contact time for the pastor with the congregation. More of his flock is present at that one time (even if it involves multiple services on a Sunday) than any other time. He must teach the dickens out of the time He has been given in the service.

Second, the congregation’s attention span, as a product of modern American culture, is significantly shorter than ten minutes. Some are able to discipline themselves and focus on the sermon for the ten minutes, or twenty, or thirty, depending on how long one preaches, and the discipline of the individual. On the other hand, some cannot actually focus as long as the reading of the text. There are a variety of reasons for their distraction; children, their health, the comfort of the seating, the temperature of the air, ambient noises, and how well they slept the night before, and the attire, behavior, or personal grooming of the people seated around them, including their perfumes, among other reasons. People tend to fade in and out of the sermon, despite their best intentions and efforts. The short sermon doesn’t give them time to fade in and out and still hear the message. It rudely demands that they be as capable and clear-headed as the preacher was when he wrote his sermon – and sometimes the sermon demonstrates that the preacher wasn’t all that capable or clear-headed.

There is no ideal length for a sermon. Each sermon should be as long as it takes to proclaim the Word of God, both Law and Gospel, and teach what the Word for the day teaches. Some sermons are shorter, and some will be longer. I have preached as short as fifteen minutes (rarely), and as long as forty-five (a couple of times). The shorter sermon was greeted with complaints that the congregation felt cheated, and were just settling down to listen when I finished, and the longer sermons have been met by several in the congregation noting that they were totally unaware that such an amount of time had passed. I imagine that the important thing is to say something worth listening to, however long or short your sermon may be.

The sermon might well be viewed as a public speech, with the purposes of informing, persuading, and moving to action, to use the categories I learned when studying public speaking as a youth. While the power of the sermon rests in the Word of God, the preacher does well to keep in mind that he is part of the process God has chosen to deliver that Word to his specific group of people. If the Word alone were sufficient, without regard to the deliverance of the Word, one could simply read the original language to the people and be done with it. Of course, that is silly.

The preacher must consider the message, and the audience, and his own abilities, and structure his sermon to inform the congregation of the meaning of the text, and to persuade them that it is true and applies also to their lives and faith, and that they might live in the light of the truth they have just heard. For some preachers, “Goal - Malady - Means” works just fine. For others, the old, ‘Tell them what you are going to say, then say it, and then tell them what you said’ is effective. For some a didactic style works and for others a more conversational approach is better. The style isn’t as important as the Word of God, nor as important as the preacher remembering who he is and why he is standing before a congregation on a Sunday morning.

He is the messenger of God, sent to proclaim the glories of salvation, the goodness of the grace of God, and to feed, nurture, comfort, strengthen, and encourage the people of God in faith and by means of the Word of God. He is not standing before them as a showman. He is not a great adviser. He is not the programmatic “vision-caster”. He is not here to win their respect or to be popular. He is there as the mouthpiece of God, like a radio-station repeater, speaking what God has given Him to speak in the text for the day.

If you can do that, the questions about where your focus is supposed to be in the sermon will fade away. The focus is on the Word of God being delivered, proclaimed, and taught to the people of God for their blessing, comfort, encouragement, and faith. If you cannot preach, teach, and administer the Sacraments, then you don’t belong in the pulpit to begin with. Seelsorger. “Curate of souls”, Pastor, Shepherd, all mean the same thing. If the pastor forgets what he is there for, his presence serves someone other that Christ.

Monday, August 27, 2007

An Age of Unbelief

We are living in an age of unbelief.

In the church, politics and power matter more to most than does truth, God, or salvation, although the majority of those rightly accused by these words would cry out that I am unjust in saying so. But that is just part of the game. You have to pretend to be about Christ and church and such, but in reality it is the advance of power and personal privilege that takes center stage.

In society, I see the very same dynamic. Our politicians, with precious few exceptions, play at national politics as though it were a game and the dangers of the world around us cannot possibly intrude. Logically, if the dangers of the world around us could not possibly intrude, we would have no need of government. But if the dangers are real, the "playing of politics" as a game, without an eye to the potential repercussions, is idiotic to the point of treason.

Today the enemies of our nation's elected leader have succeeded in finally acquiring the resignation of the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. He was hounded into resignation over the perfectly legitimate firing of eight Federal Prosecutors. They do serve at the pleasure of the President. The previous president fired every single one of them - ninety-three, I believe. That firing put an end to some troubling federal investigations - one into the President's own conduct. But that action was defended as entirely legitimate at the very same time the firing of eight men was called a presidential abuse of power. The only differences one can observe is that President Bush did not terminate any on-going investigations into his own conduct or that of another Republican, while President Clinton did, and President Bush only fired eight men, not ninety-three.

I carry no brief for Mr. Gonzales. I find the Democratic Party's attack on everything that they can possibly connect to President Bush to be irresponsible to the point of being treasonous. There are real-world dangers from which all of our elected representatives are charged with protecting this nation, and the wholesale assault on every effort of one party to do anything does not strengthen us. It is playing politics as though it is a game with no other consequence than winning a prize. But there are enemies looking to destroy us, and the Democrats are willing allies with those people in appearance, if not in fact. And I am none too sure about the fact in this case, either.

I do wish there was some way that the game players could reap the whirlwind without the destruction and misery that their behavior strives toward falling upon the whole nation of us. My greatest concern is that they will reap what they are sowing -- and so will we.

And in these times of turmoil and uncertainty, we should be able to look to the church for comfort and peace of mind. God offers it in Jesus Christ, and the knowledge that He is still (and always) in control, even when the world seems to be spinning out of it. Sadly, though, the institutional church is failing because its leaders are caught up in playing politics just like our national leaders. Like them, they also forget that there are real dangers and real enemies, and they play down and dirty to win the prize of position and power without thought or concern for the real-world consequences for those they are called to protect and shepherd.

With regard to the church leaders, at least I have the comfort of knowing that they shall reap what they sow, in the end. I, and others who continue to fight the good fight, will have to reach out to care for those forgotten by the ones who style themselves as "leaders" in this age of unbelief.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Old-Fashioned Bully

I was watching Bill Maher on the Larry King show on CNN when it struck me, the man is a bully. He has the microphone, and says the most outrageous things, offensive and deliberately so, in situations where those he offends and insults cannot respond.

Sure, he doesn't kick them or punch them. He does something much worse. He wounds them with unreasonable attack while the ones he attacks are unable to either defend themselves or respond in any effective manner.

I was always told that bullies were cowards. I guess attacking faith and any opinion you don't like - and not just arguing a reasoned objection but pathetic name calling and ad-hominem of the most extreme sort - from the safety of the working end of the microphone qualifies one as a coward.

He makes a big deal of how unreasonable people like Rush Limbaugh are. I don't think his insults toward Rush are anything particularly bully-ish. Rush has a microphone and an audience. He can respond. It is when Mr. Maher spreads his contempt toward those - either individually or as a class - that hold opinions contrary to his own by ridicule and insult, rather than reasoned discourse, that he demonstrates the character of the big thug who can take your lunch money away, and there is nothing you can do about it! So there!

Bill Maher is just a bully. And he styles himself as a humorist. How sad.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Early Communion

I link to an article on the idea of early communion, advanced on Cyberbrethren. It is worth some debate. I find it disquieting, and not because I appose early communion. I began training children for confirmation earlier, in my last parish, due to the pressures of the culture and society, and the eagerness of the children. I don't see age as an impediment. When they are ready, they are ready.

The defense of the idea - the case that the author, Pastor Rick Stuckwisch, was making began to sound oddly like, "Oh, what the heck! Let's do it!"

I respect Pastor Stuckwisch, and believe he is sincere and careful. I suspect, however that the approach he and Rev. McCain are advancing would tend back to the Roman practice of first communion at about first grade, whether the child is prepared or not. At least the practice of instruction for confirmation before communion gives us a fighting chance to pound something into the heads of the children. I am not opposed to the very utilitarian nature of the practice which gives us the confirmation class years to teach. We need to get something into the child's brain about Christian doctrine. Memory work is good too. What we get in there the Holy Spirit can call up for use any time. What isn't there cannot be recalled. Changing the practice to earlier communion isn't a real answer to the questions people raise - including the Rev. McCain - about the age of confirmation. It is simply moving the same questions from 14 to 6. We will then be facing the question of why not just commune infants - and some Lutherans are asking that already.

The Lord's Supper is not required for salvation. It is not a sine qua non as Baptism is (and we have people debating the necessity of Baptism!). I don't like the graduation idea, either, but we can use the opportunity to instruct. I think the current practice is useful.

I know that faithful pastors like Rev. Stuckwisch will exercise his spiritual oversight faithfully. But when the practice is established, those who follow may not. It is hard enough to get pastors to do confirmation instruction now. Imagine how careless many would be if first communion were at first grade, and there was no incentive to endure or demand what is now confirmation instruction.

I know, it is the parent's responsibility. (That takes a load off my pastor's head.) I am all for admitting those who are ready to the altar - meaning those who understand what the Supper is, and are capable of examining themselves. But let's not set a bad rule in place. I think the age should stay where it is and exceptions be made when individual Christians demonstrate that they are ready.

That's my $.02 worth.

Anne Rice

The author of the Vampire stories professes a change to being a Christian. I hope for her sake that it is true. Still, on her blog, Anne, she still tries to defend her artistic vision when writing An Interview with a Vampire, and the subsequent books. Okay, perhaps I can swallow that.

Now she is taking the position of being a pro-life Christian, who is a Democrat, and most admires Hillary Clinton as a candidate for President. This stance is way too much for me. I understand political devotion, but it is not consistent to be pro-life and support a strongly pro-abortion candidate. Then she says that she believes that the only hope for pro-life positions is with the Democratic party. That is the party that has made pro-choice (meaning pro-abortion) the litmus test.

Politics aside, these positions are not intellectually consistent.

A Small Aside: As I typed this post, with Anne Rice's site in another window, suddenly "Ave Maria" began in the background. Surely this woman cannot take her political stance as a serious Catholic?


Monday, July 23, 2007

Defining Don Matzat

The July 23rd issue of Christian News gave two thirds of a page to Don Matzat’s assault on the Lutheran Service Book Agenda, entitled "Defining the Center". It was a diatribe critical of one sentence on the first page of the overview of the Agenda. It reads, "Baptism is at the center of the Christian faith and life." While it is not likely anyone would take this critique seriously, little errors sometimes grow into huge problems if not addressed, so this unfortunate commentary begs a response.

First, I carry no agenda for the LSB. I am a dyed in the wool TLH sort of guy, and I have no plans to use the LSB, so I am not defending it out of devotion to the product. The attack, however, is classic liberalism and in and of itself false doctrine. This does not surprise, considering the author. Don Matzat is a former charismatic, former conservative, recently connected to Jesus First, who lately defended the gross unionism of Yankee Stadium and aggressively advanced the un-Christian notion that Muslims and Christians worshipped the same God. When Pastor Matzat asked the question: "If I reject that statement, am I still an orthodox Lutheran?", one was tempted to respond, "What ever do you mean by ‘still’?" You haven’t been orthodox in a long time, sir.

Rev. Matzat declares that offending sentence is "false doctrine". It appears from his article that the charge might be maintained if one defined their terms carefully and idiosyncratically enough. Matzat doesn’t do that, however. He simply states as fact things which he does not illustrate or support, and appears to have a unique personal understanding of several concepts over which he is anguishing.

For example, he asserts that Lutheran theologians have always taught a distinction between the baptism of infants and the baptism of adults. He does not clearly articulate the distinction of which he writes. Presumably the distinction is, as he asserts, "Baptism is simply adult confirmation." One would want to see the quotes supporting that distinction which "Lutheran theologians have always properly taught". Matzat doesn’t provide them. Even the single source he references a few paragraphs later speaks of adult baptism, according to Rev. Matzat’s own summary, as sealing, confirming, and increasing the redemption and regeneration wrought by the Gospel. It would appear from his own source to be something more than "simply adult confirmation".

Lutheran theologians of the past have spoken with greater respect for Baptism. Chemnitz, in his Loci Theologici, refers to Baptism as the "ordinary means" of regeneration "But Baptism is the regular [or ordinary; ordinarium] means, that is, "the washing of regeneration," Titus 3:5, so that those who are born of the flesh and were not in the kingdom of heaven might be born again of water and the Spirit and thus enter the kingdom of heaven, John 3:5. For they are "baptized for the remission of sins," Acts 2:38, in order that the sins in which they were born might be washed away, Acts 22:16, and that they might be cleansed and saved by God through the washing of regeneration, Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5."1 Pieper says, "Baptism, then, involves the establishment of a covenant of grace between God and the person baptized."2 "Scripture has decided this question. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper certainly do belong to the foundation of the Christian faith, together with the Word of the Gospel, for Baptism is given "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38), and in the Lord’s Supper Christ’s body and blood are imparted as "given for you" and "shed for you for the remission of sins" (Luke 22:19 ff.; Matt. 26:26 ff.). The promise and offer of the forgiveness of sins, which is the foundation of faith, is contained also in the Sacraments."3

Elert says, "Baptism is the basic and crucial event which makes a new man out of the old, and so regarded it is the event of an individual. Its purpose, however, is not private or isolated. By Baptism we are drawn into the death and resurrection of Christ and so out of the domain of enemy powers, above all out of the domain of the Law into the freedom of that kingdom where Christ is Lord. These thoughts are developed by Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechetical instruction of the newly baptized, and he finds in them the basis for the renunciation of the devil effected in Baptism as also for the koinonia of the baptized with the suffering and death of Christ. Now Paul also describes the relationship with Christ which we enter through Baptism by saying that we are baptized in one Spirit into one body, and he derives from this the organic relationship of the members of the body of Christ also with one another (1 Cor. 12:12 ff.). Through Baptism we become not only saints but also "holy brothers" (Heb. 3:1). All Christians share the same sonship, and Christ is "the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8:29). Both the common bond of the ethos of an organized congregation, by which the church separates itself from its unholy surroundings, and specifically also its brotherhood rest on the fact that its koinonia is a baptismal fellowship."4 These descriptions certainly appear to go beyond "simply adult confirmation".

Matzat also declares that Baptism is not absolutely necessary. While he quotes Pieper on this point, he makes more of issue than is warranted. He appears to suggest that Baptism is not really necessary, and brings Pieper in to play seemingly ignoring the context of the quote. Franz Pieper did not argue that Baptism was not necessary, he argued that where Baptism was not possible, there Baptism is not absolutely necessary. "Whoever, therefore, comes to faith in the Gospel, has remission of sins and salvation, even though circumstances prevent his being baptized."5 (emphasis mine) It is disingenuous to argue that because one might in extreme circumstances stand in God’s grace and favor without Baptism, that Baptism is therefore not truly necessary and so not at the center of Christian faith and life.

First, "at the center" does not mean it is the center, just central, connected to the center. One has to reject the Augsburg Confession to arrive at the point Rev. Matzat seems to be making, denying its importance. View article IX: "Our churches teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation, that the grace of God is offered through Baptism, and that children should be baptized, for being offered to God through Baptism they are received into his grace.

"Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who reject the Baptism of children and declare that children are saved without Baptism."6

We also confess that those who are not baptized are lost: Article II. OF THE AC, [ORIGINAL SIN] "Our churches also teach that since the fall of Adam all men who are propagated according to nature are born in sin. That is to say, they are without fear of God, are without trust in God, and are concupiscent. And this disease or vice of origin is truly sin, which even now damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit."7 (emphasis mine)

The truly regrettable element of Matzat’s article, however, is the apparent contrasting of Christ and His work, and holy Baptism. He appears to present Baptism as a work we accomplish, which is to be understood as separate from and at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While I cannot address the possible errors of thinking in the mind of that seminary field-worker from so many years ago whom Matzat references as apparent justification for this concept, I have no experience with any Lutheran teaching Baptism as saving ex opera operato or effective in distinction from and contrast to the work of Christ. The notion that we should "remember our baptism" is thoroughly Lutheran. It comes from an honest reading of the Small Catechism, on Baptism, part four; "What does such baptizing with water signify?
"Answer: It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God’s presence.
"Where is this written?
Answer: In Romans 6:4, St. Paul wrote, "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." 8

Pieper clearly teaches the same idea as the Catechism, "Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs that continually admonish, cheer, and encourage desponding minds to believe the more firmly that sins are forgiven,"9 Or, lest one think that one need "cherry-pick" their Pieper citations, "Though administered only once, Baptism is to be used by Christians throughout their whole life. Nowhere do the Apostles call on Christians to repeat Baptism; however, they frequently recall to their minds the Baptism once received. This reminder is intended both for consolation and for admonition."10

When Matzat suggests that this phrase is in error or leads to "putting at risk the eternal salvation of our people" he is simply not dealing honestly with the theology he is confronting.

Baptism rests on the work of Christ, and connects us to the work of Christ, making us part of the body of Christ. If Christ is the center, Baptism is at the center for the Christian because Baptism initiates our relationship with Christ, being "baptized into Christ" and "putting on Christ" and being "baptized into His death". Walther quotes Luther: "It has been determined that God will not create any Christians unless they are baptized and called by the Gospel. He desires that all who are called Christians should be separated from the world by the Gospel and Baptism."11 The strange notion that we preach might preach "Law and Baptism" rather than "Law and Gospel" suggests that the Baptism is excluded from the Gospel, or offers something other than the Gospel. It is true, or ought to be, that we preach Christ. It should also be true that we preach Baptism, since Baptism is the ordinary means for becoming a Christian and being made part of the Church, and connects us to Christ and His work, whether we are adults or children.

Luther stresses what a precious thing Baptism is, and does not appear to distinguish between adult and infant when expressing the power or majesty of Baptism, as follows:

"This passage must be studied carefully, in opposition to the fanatical spirits who minimize the majesty of Baptism and speak wickedly about it. Paul, by contrast, adorns Baptism with magnificent titles when he calls it ‘the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5). And here he says that all who have been baptized have put on Christ. Now, as I have said, Paul is speaking about a ‘putting on,’ not by imitation but by birth. He does not say: ‘Through Baptism you have received a token by which you have been enlisted in the number of the Christians’ ; this is what the sectarians imagine when they make of Baptism merely a token, that is, a small and empty sign. But he says: ‘As many of you as have been baptized have put on Christ.’ That is: ‘You have been snatched beyond the Law into a new birth that took place in Baptism. Therefore you are no longer under the Law, but you have been dressed in a new garment, that is, in the righteousness of Christ.’ Therefore Paul teaches that Baptism is not a sign but the garment of Christ, in fact, that Christ Himself is our garment. Hence Baptism is a very powerful and effective thing. For when we have put on Christ, the garment of our righteousness and salvation, then we also put on Christ, the garment of imitation."12

Baptism also has a place in the life of Christians daily. Hear Melancthon: "Therefore when the baptized person learns the doctrine, he should exercise his faith [and] believe that he truly is received by God for the sake of Christ and is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Baptism is to be used in this way throughout life. It should daily remind us: Behold, by this sign God testified that you have been received into grace. He does not want this testimony to be despised. Therefore you should believe that you have truly been received and you should call upon Him in this faith. This is the constant use of Baptism."13 Or listen to Walther again, this time at the end of Lecture 34 in The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel: "When a person has fallen from his faith and baptismal grace, we do not tell him to construct a new ship for himself in which to continue his voyage to heaven, but to return to his faith in Baptism, which is a covenant that remains unshaken, because God does not cancel the word of promise which He has pledged to the baptized. The renegade, who has come to the knowledge of his fall and is penitent has nothing else to do than to cling to God’s promise given him at his baptism, and to rest assured that, since by Baptism he was made a child of God and has now been quickened out of mortal sins, he can rest assured that he will not perish."14

Luther also addresses how we should continue to make use of our Baptism, particularly in the context of those who might try to put their Baptisms behind them, so to speak:

"Those who presume to blot out and put away their sin by "satisfaction" are the same sort of people. They go so far as to disregard their baptism, as if they had no more need of it beyond the fact of having once been baptized. They do not know that baptism is in force all through life, even until death, yes (as said above) even to the Last Day. For this reason they presume to find some other way of blotting out sin, namely, by works. So for themselves and for all others, they create evil, terrified, and uncertain consciences, and despair at the hour of death. They do not know how they stand with God, thinking that by sin they have now lost their baptism and that it profits them no more.
Guard yourself, by all means, against this error. For as has been said, if anyone has fallen into sin, he should all the more remember his baptism, how God has here made a covenant with him to forgive all his sins, if only he will fight against them even until death. Upon this truth, upon this alliance with God, a man must joyfully dare to rely. Then baptism again goes into force and operation. Then his heart again becomes peaceful and glad, not in his own works or "satisfaction," but in the mercy of God promised to him in baptism, a mercy which God will keep forever. This faith a person must hold so firmly that he would cling to it even though everything and all sins attacked him. For he who lets himself be forced away from this faith makes God a liar in his promise in the sacrament of baptism." 15

Or Pieper (again): "Though administered only once, Baptism is to be used by Christians throughout their whole life. Nowhere do the Apostles call on Christians to repeat Baptism; however, they frequently recall to their minds the Baptism once received. This reminder is intended both for consolation and for admonition. In Gal. 3:26-27 Paul reminds the Christians that by their Baptism they put on Christ, that is, became God’s children, without the Law, by faith in Christ. In Rom. 6:3 ff. Paul employs Baptism for admonition, instructing Christians that by their Baptism they have become dead unto sin, but alive unto righteousness. Peter strikingly sets forth the consolation of Baptism. He says (1 Pet. 3:21) that as Noah and his family were saved by the water of the Flood, even so the water of Baptism now saves us, and the reason he gives is that Baptism is ‘not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the covenant of a good conscience toward God.’ Baptism, then, involves the establishment of a covenant of grace between God and the person baptized. With good reason, therefore, the daily repentance of Christians is called a daily return to Baptism, or to the covenant of Baptism, inasmuch as the believers daily confess their transgressions, by faith seize the remission of sins guaranteed by Baptism, and, thus consoled, strive for fruits worthy of repentance in a new life."16

Matzat sets two truths of the Christian faith at odds with one another, contrasting and dividing them. He sets up a straw man, and knocks it down. He seems to actually acknowledge this problem when he complains that he cannot file a complaint with the Commission on Doctrinal review, having been told by the Chairman of the Commission that "no one would agree with [him]". He addresses this rejection as demonstrating the need for theological discussion as though if one individual departs from sound doctrine their departure illustrates the need for further theological debate. Sometimes, however, departure from sound doctrine is just another example of a pattern in that individual’s life

1 Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1989, p. 728.

2 Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953, Vol. III, p. 276.

3 Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953, Vol. I, p. 86.

4 Elert, Werner. Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1966.

5 Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953, Vol. III, p. 280.

6 Tappert, Theodore G. The Augsburg Confession : Translated from the Latin. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.

7 Tappert, Theodore G. The Augsburg Confession : Translated from the Latin. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.

8 Tappert, Theodore G. The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.

9 Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953.

10 Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953, p. 275.

11 Walther, C.F.W. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. Tranlsation of: Die Stimme Unserer Kirche in Der Frage Von Kirche Und Amt. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

12 Luther, Martin. Vol. 26, Luther's Works, Vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann. Luther's Works. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1963.

13 Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1989.

14 Walther, Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm, William Herman Theodore Dau, and Ernest Eckhardt. The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel : 39 Evening Lectures. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, c1929, p. 360.

15 Luther, Martin. Vol. 35, Luther's Works, Vol. 35 : Word and Sacrament I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1960, p. 36.

16 Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1950, c1951, c1953, p. 275-276.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Romans 1:22

The passage named in the title says. "Professing to be wise, they became fools." The Apostle Paul writes these words about the decline of man into sin and godlessness. In the environment of our world today, it seems like trenchant political and social commentary.

Our nation faces a threat from an enemy that hides in a religion, Islam. The goals of Islam are clearly and frequently stated: a world-wide caliphate. The whole world under Islamic law and morality. One political party and a significant number of Americans behave as though "it couldn't happen here," or "it really couldn't be all that bad." The evidence of the nature and effect of the Muslim mentality is freely available by looking at Islamic nations. The possibility of it happening here can be assessed by examining the Islamification of Europe, and noting the remarkable similarities between the European response to militant Islam in their midst, and the American government's official response (dhimmitude) to the same sort of insanity as it unfolds among us.

We are winning the war in Iraq, militarily, but losing it in the media, who appear determined to undermine our nation at every point of its strength. The media's behavior defies reasonable analysis. That anyone would pay any attention to it any longer is just as irrational.

The President has led an effective effort of protect our nation from terrorism. The economy is booming. Yet people want to impeach him, and his approval numbers are just below abysmal.

We have people over-wraught about the 3,000+ deaths in a war in Iraq in over three years, and they are absolutely frantic to end our involvement there. These same people seem unaware and unconcerned about the roughly 25,000 people who die each year at the hands of illegal aliens (p.c. speak = "undocumented immigrants"). Statistically, 12 people are murdered by the alien hoard invading our nation each day, and 13 more die daily as a result of things like traffic accidents, usually coupled with alcohol abuse, at the hands of illegals. Still, the deadly invading force is presented to us as nice people who want only to make a living to support their families, and want to do the work no American is willing to do.

That would be nice if it were true, but the illegals often work jobs Americans would do: construction for fifteen to twenty-five dollars per hour. That kind of wage would be welcome by any job-seeking American. They have been hired as Border Patrol Agents, Police Officers (by some communities), teachers, and government employees. All of these jobs would be happily filled by your average American job-seeker.

Speaking of the invasion, how is it that our borders cannot be controlled? How is it that twelve million or more have crossed our borders, and nothing is being done about it? How is it that there is no outcry? How is it that those we have placed in office to do these sorts of things are not being held to public account for their egregious failures?

How can it be that a man can be convicted and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail for remembering something differently than someone else? How can he be convicted of lying when the main evidence against him is the recollection of a politically motivated member of the news (yeah, that's a joke) media, who also cannot clearly recall many of the details he is to testify about? How can the act he is convicted of - lying to the FBI in the course of an investigation into what turns out not to be a crime - deserve far more stringent punishment than lying to a federal court under oath (like Pres. Clinton), or stealing classified documents from the national archives, and shredding them, and doing so repeatedly over a period of days? How can a bad memory, or small deceit in insignificant matters be more aggressively punished than, say, coercing bribes of hundreds of thousands of dollars from people while serving as a US Congressman?

How can the President who apparently sold pardons, and pardoned murderers and terrorists, be given any credibility when he criticizes President Bush for commuting the sentence - not pardoning - of the man mentioned above?

Then again, how can it be that congress can pass laws which apply to us, and then exempt themselves from these very same provisions??

The privileged class tells us how to live our lives - save the earth from anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. The Scientific community is clearly divided as to any man-made effect of terrestrial temperature cycles, but setting that aside, the privileged class ignore their own warnings and urgings. They have bigger, less energy-conserving homes. They drive larger and less fuel-efficient vehicles. They travel by private airplane, and their concerts to encourage an environmentally sensitive lifestyle consumes more resources and creates vastly more pollution while ostensibly trying to persuade us of the urgency of living more frugally, and creating a smaller "carbon footprint".

Someone is constantly trying to tell us what to eat, what to drive, and how to live - while ignoring everything they tell us. Somehow, they are exempt from the need to do these thing.

Am I missing something, or is this insanity? The "wise" who would guide us, are the biggest fools of all. We are living in dangerous times, and we have permitted the inmates to run the asylum!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Defining Your Opinions

The recent resurgence of the Ann Coulter controversy has brought into focus one of the modern media's most irritating agendas, defining your opinion.

I used to think that the media excitement about this topic or that was merely the result of a slow news day and reporters of limited talent. Now I discern the goal of shaping your opinions, and mine, by reacting strongly and repeatedly to people and events. Sometimes the media can coerce behaviors out of our leaders (or celebrities) my the artificial uproar they create, but their more fundamental agenda is to tell you how you should see and value people and events.

This would account for the declining popularity of the President in the midst of a booming economy and despite his steadfastness in prosecuting a war on terrorism for the purpose of our own national safety and security. With Ann Coulter, they are deliberately misconstruing her words and telling us that we should have no patience with this woman as she exercises her freedom of expression. We are supposed to be patient and tolerant of expressions that attack our faith, and our sense of what is right and wrong, and our customs and traditions, but let someone poke fun at the politically correct, and freedom of expression has apparently gone too far!

I am looking forward to the Synod's attempt to tell us what to think after the coming convention. True, the national media will probably not pay much attention or care what you think - - but watch the Synodical media! They will try to spin and tell you what you should think and how you should feel. It will be interesting.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It Makes Pefect Sense to Me!

I was breezing through a post on Cyberbrethren that posited the question of how they could do it -- "it" being fellowship between church bodies like the United Church of Christ which sanctions homosexual unions and the E.L.C.A. which does not, yet.

As I looked at the picture, it all made perfect sense to me, in a perverse sort of way. The churches that can marry those two men and/or those two women in the picture almost always give hearty apporval to the fifth person in the image, the female "reverend". Some of my friends refer to women 'ministers' as "priestitutes". I simply call them "penguins." I like the description I once heard Dr. David Scaer give, "true transvestites: women dressed in clothing reserved for men".

In any case, it makes perfect sense to me! If you can ignore the Word of God and ordain women, "Same Sex Unions" are an easy step. They have already lost any ability to tell the difference between the sexes anyhow.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Coming Convention of the LCMS

I have been a delegate to the Convention of the LCMS three times, and have attended two other Conventions as a visitor. My observations at these conventions has made me somewhat cynical about the rationale of some -- particularly Boards and Commissions -- who offer overtures to the Synod. What follows is my take on the coming convention by review of the first issue of Today's Business.

First, most issues are not dealt with by the convention. They are shuffled off, given to some Board of Committee, the conduct of which may have inspired the overture in the first place. A number of overtures are denied simply because the powers that be like things just the way they are, and so the Synod in convention is not going to be allowed to consider them.

What the Synod is allowed to do is consider the resolutions that the administration wants them to consider - not necessarily what the people of they Synod want them to consider.

My observation is that most of what the Convention will spend its time on is not worth the time they will spend. It will not address any substantive issue and it will focus on saying things that don't - or should not - need saying.

My other observation is that the Administration appears to be tightening the reigns and drawing more control and authority into the bureaucracy. The Synod that began as a voluntary association of congregations to work together to accomplish certain things - stuctured with congregations on top and Synod as organization on the bottom - has reversed its understanding of itself and has become a controlling organization which seems to view the congregations as franchisees of the corporate entity known as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Truth doesn't need - or seek - this sort of power. Error and deception always do. The three stages in the progress of error in the church (from Krauth) seem to apply directly here.

Anyhow, here are select resolutions with my take on them. You may note that I ignore resolutions that seem to be of little value or effect:

LCMS convention resolutions:


1.03 - New study on the Priesthood of All Believers. appears hostile to the office of the Ministry

1.05 - Make outreach a top priority in worker training. not wise. It forgets the Gospel and sound doctrine.

1.09 - Accounting for the use of Fan into Flames Fund. Probably a good idea.

1.11 - Continue campus ministry in association with the ELCA. Weasel words. Awful repudiation of the late memorial from the Waseca Circuit. They were clear in asking that we dissolve such connections with a church body we have declared heterodox, Seems like a no-brainer to me, but I am not a social progressive bureaucrat.

1.12 - Decline overtures. Facile. RE:1-12 - Denies the Synod the opportunity to debate the theology of Ablaze and of the report on the theology of Ablaze issue by the Synod. Should be defeated.


2.01 - Theological Conferences on Worship. This appears to be an effort to baptize the status quo of diversity and mind-numbing abandonment of historic liturgy. I believe it is a bad idea.

2.02 - To Provide Guidance for the Use of Contemporary Worship Resources. unfortunate resolution
  • Asserts without foundation that there is a need for contemporary worship songs - does not define what they mean by Contemporary songs for worship or other terms or identify the need which they assert exists. Need and want are two different things, as any parent of teen-agers can clearly tell you.
  • Asserts that there are pastors and teachers and DCE's throughout the synod who are composing solid Lutheran contemporary worship songs. There is no reference to the not-solid and non-Lutheran junk that is also produced, or how to distinguish between them.
  • calls for the Synod to do the unnecessary: create a network for dissemination of these resources. A web site created by any interested party could serve. It would not give the Synod more power to do it that way, though.

2.06 - To Promote Relational Vitality in Congregations. This is a bad resolution:
  • wants to commend those who are charged with dealing with conflict in our congregations in a Biblical manner, but have have failed to faithfully address a great evil in our midst.
  • heads in the wrong direction for a proper solution to the problem in our Synod - not in the direction of the Word of God.
  • initiates another bout of bad technical jargon with ambiguous meaning.

2.07 - To Encourage Individual Confession and Absolution. a good resolution. It should not be necessary, but it probably is.


3.01 - Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with AALC. Definitely wrong
  • the AALC has a long history as a wild-eyed Charismatic Fellowship
  • the judgment of those in charge (CTCR, particularly the leadership of it) is notoriously suspect in this area.
  • If we are ready for fellowship with TAALC, I suspect that the change did not happen among them.

3.03 - To Request the CTCR to Develop a Plan for Confessional Leadership. Urges the publishing of a new dogmatics text and appears to want to take Luther Academy's place in arranging and directing Theological Symposia throughout the world. I personally am not tickled with either goal.

3.04 - Call for a Study of the Natural Knowledge of God and it Implications for Public Witness. Stupid. Moves in the wrong direction, away from the Word. Seems to be calculated to please the world.

3.05 - To Provide Further Discussion and Guidance on the Matter of Serial Prayer. Asking the wrong people to talk about theology. Actually dismissing the real question of unionism at Yankee Stadium and similar inter-religion services by focusing on something else.

3.06 - To Assign the CTCR to Address Environmental Issues. Bad idea. We have the Gospel to preach, why do we need to be involved in the debates swirling about in environmentalism as a church body? Although this is better than allowing them to address controversial theological issues.

3.07 - To Study the CTCR Reports Relating to the Service of Women in the Church. The reports are flawed. Maybe we should study Scriptures instead.

3.11 - To Endeavor to Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. This resolution misunderstands the concept, and asks us to reduce to bare minimums the doctrinal content of "unity". Like putting a loaded gun into the hands of a toddler. Clearly reflects the "new thinking" in Missouri.


4.01 - To Plan Summit to Restore Harmony and Trust. The fifth 'whereas' disavows the validity of the concerns which often divide us and lead to distrust. This Summit is dead on arrival.

4.02 - To Begin Stewardship Renewal Through Enhanced Communication. Double talk and gobbledygook. They (the people in the organization's Stewardship department) still do not understand stewardship. They think they can manipulate people into it.

4.03 - To Develop a Program to Emphasize Biblical Whole Life Stewardship. Nice words. Silly resolution. See 4.02 above.

4.09 - To Provide Financial Support and Adopt Funding Models for the Seminaries. That the Synod would take this funding matter over is right. What it will result in may not be so good. The crisis in Seminary funding happened over years as the organization called "Synod" found itself more interested in other things, and allowed the cost of a Seminary education to skyrocket while the Synod's financial support for the Seminaries diminished to nearly nothing. If Synod was willing and able to do this in the first place, we would not have the problems in funding Seminary education we have. When they take it over, we can expect money will control seminary faculties at the behest of the Synod administration. That will teach those uppity confessionals for maintaining a Lutheran presence on at least one campus (sometimes both)!

4.10 - To Encourage Funding for the Center for Hispanic Studies. Well, our nation refuses to control the border, so . . .
  • except that we probably could get CLEF or LHF to do the needed translation work for us cheaply.

4.12 - To Demonstrate Support for Walking Together. Seeks to encourage greater centralization of Synod resources. The power of the centralization is manipulative over many in Synod now. Going farther suits the Synodical desire for more control but will not serve truth or the Church well.

4.15 - To Decline Overtures. automatic. I list it here to give the example of shallow reasoning for declining to consider an overture.
  • RE: Ov. 4-36 To Change appointment process. Declined without giving the Synod an opportunity to discuss it or consider another process. Answer reads like, "We will ignore your ideas because we like things the way they are right now." Automatically a bad answer.


5.01 - To Establish Specific Ministry Pastor Program. Bad idea just on its face. Opens the door to too many evils to count.
  • Suggests that not all people need competent and well-trained pastors.
  • Creates a sub-class of pastors (with sub-standard preparation) which will eventually be regularized, if history is any guide.
  • begins to open the door to requiring continuing education.
  • lays the ground work for training specific men for specific places and types of ministry.
  • adds to the COP's already absurd authority.

5.05 - To Encourage Commitment to Continuing Education for Clergy. A step toward requiring Continuing Education. A Bad thing for the Church. I don't mean that continuing learning is a bad thing, but the requirement to do so under pains of decertification would be abusive and manipulative. This resolution doesn't take us all the way there, but it starts the journey.


6.04 - Ministry to Immigrants - We should be willing to subvert our nations laws to help the poor and needy? The Church as church has no place in this. Individual Christians may, but not the organization called "church".

6.05 - To petition the CTCR to give us theological cover for breaking the law of our nations for the sake of the illegals. Nah.

6.06 - To develop materials about domestic abuse. Yeah, let's leave off all that Gospel talk and do something socially useful.


(This is the place where the really spooky things start to happen)

7.03 - To Amend Bylaw 3.2.5. Meant to eliminate the presence of those nominated from the floor of a convention from the list to be considered if the board needs to replace someone elected by the convention. Stupid move. Gives extra authority - unwarranted authority - to the nominating committee of the convention.

7.07 - Change bylaw 1.5 and add definitions. This resolutions seeks to establish a conflict of interest policy which would silence dissent.

7.08 - To Add Bylaw re Removal of Individual Members from Board or Commission Memberships. The title itself should give one pause. After 160 years, now, all of a sudden, we need a special resolution to remove those we want to remove? This is clearly about strengthening control.
  • We cannot make charges of false doctrine work to remove pastors expeditiously, but it is listed here as a reason to remove a Board or Commission member.
  • We have a District President who was removed for failure to honor and uphold the doctrinal position of Synod and conduct unbecoming a Christian (reasons #2 and #3), yet he was restored by CCM fiat. Clearly these regulations are meant to serve administrative power, not truth or doctrine - nor the well-being of Synod.
  • "breach of loyalty owed to the board of commission" that will cover any expressed difference of opinion.
Welcome to the police state of LCMS! Big Brother is instituting thought control.

7.09 - To Affirm Use of Synod Dispute Resolution Process. The Dispute Resolution process was devised to sabotage justice and godly resolution of conflict. It has served to manage disputes to the liking of the powers that be. It is abusive to begin with. Now the Synod seeks to silence all opposition by closing the door to "secular remedies" and guarantee injustice, and threatens removal to any and all who disregard this notice. Then we will be treated to pious platitudes about the "procedures for dissent" which are only less effective than shouting into an empty room, and then closing the door quickly and quietly.

7.10 - To Amend Bylaws 1.9 and 3.9.3 Pertaining to Doctrinal Review. Creates a new class of materials which may be disseminated without doctrinal review. Now we can have false doctrine published by Synod and distributed deliberately through official channels as long as it is "study documents" and "exploratory materials" and as long as they are clearly marked as not having been through doctrinal review. The Statement of the 44 in 1945 would have been publishable by the Synod under these rules. Of course, today that document, condemned at the time as containing false doctrine, is held up as our modern orthodoxy. The danger in this resolution is phenomenal.

7.11 - To Improve the Process for Floor Nominations at Synod Conventions. Clearly intended to stop or at least severely restrict the practice. More authority centralized, less ability to work effectively for change given to the members and people of the Synod.

7.13 - To Decline Overtures. Rationale for declining most overtures appears to be, "we like it this way, and we don't want to take the time to talk about it."


8.01 - To Adopt Amendments to the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws re Resolution 7-02A. Clarifies the responsibility of the Board of Directors, particularly as it deals with CCM Opinions. That part is good. Then it complicates the issue of review of CCM opinions by the Synod in Convention -- but maintains the pious fiction that we can actually call those things up for review. Furthers the appearance of the Synod as a dictatorship - our own little papacy, with the COP serving as the College of Cardinals.

8.02 - To Affirm Christian Resolution of Disputes. This is a reminder that we are obligated to resolve disputes by this single, unscriptural method.

8.04 - To provide Wording for Congregations' Constitutions and Bylaws. Sadly necessary. A good solution to the problems that prompted it.

8.07 - To Call a Special Convention to Amend Synod Structure and Governance. On its face, it is an attempt to streamline the process of change in structure and governance so the next convention can deal with the changes. It simply means that we need to streamline annd accelerate the transformation of the Missouri Synod into something none of us imagined and something none of us wanted when we joined. This is not your grandfather's Synod! Soon it will not be your father's or your own.

8.08 - To Provide a Process for Reconsideration of CCM Opinions. Adds a step in the process of challenging the CCM opinions, one that is really unlikely to have any success -- but will give the CCM the defense against any challenge to the opinions of the CCM that "we considered this objection, and found it without merit." If Walther could roll over in his grave, by now we could use him to power a high-speed lathe.

8.10 - To Refer for Theological Study CCM Opinions 02-2296, 02-2309, and 02-2320. The resolution begins with the premise that certain opinions"may" have been in error. It continues by suggesting that we have now adjusted our Constitution and Bylaws to fit the erring opinions, so they are no longer in error. It then suggests that the way to answer the theological concerns some have expressed is to let the CTCR take a run at it, and report back in three years. This is how we avoid allowing the Synod to actually review and vote on the opinions themselves in convention. George Orwell would be a prophet in today's church. He simply missed the date by 23 years.

8.11 - To Respectfully Decline Overtures re CCM Opinions. This means, we don't want the Synod to take any action on these.

8.12 - To Respectfully Decline Overtures. Sad.
  • We cannot reconsider a resolution because they don't want to.
  • In one case, we maintain the impious fiction that there is actual supervision of the President of Synod. This is, of course, a lie.
  • In another case, we cannot ask anyone who promotes false doctrine to leave the Synod by convention resolution because we supposedly have process in place to do that - although it only works when the powers that be want it to - while open false teaching is regularly ignored, and complainants about such false teaching are chastised and hounded for not following the correct procedure precisely.

Omnibus Resolutions pass without much controversy - and they serve to keep the convention from thinking too much. Besides, if we considered all of these resolutions, we might have to extend the time of the convention, or reduce the greetings and videos time, and that would tend to make the convention dangerously useful.

Well, there it is. My take on the coming convention. The best result appears to be that the convention does absolutely nothing - except electing new and confessional Lutheran Leadership (which ain't likely).

Typically, a convention automatically approves over 90% of what is presented to it. This could be a disastrous convention for the historic Synod. Probably a refreshing thing for Incumbent President Jerry Keischnick, and the revisionist "Jesus First" types that support him, and support change in the commitments and doctrines of our - should I simply say "the" - Synod.

God help us in these difficult and threatening times. We will need the strength of a faithful church to confront the impending dangers of Islam - and secularism - in our age (although I think militant Islam will simply crush secularism when the two collide). Sadly, we Christians are just too 'nice' for that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Politics or Gospel?

Observing the church in today's world, one is prompted to wonder what the church is supposed to be about, politics? Or the Gospel?

In congregation after congregation, pastors are being attacked and forced from office for being too Lutheran. That is never the charge made formally, but time and again, a pastor who endeavors to teach faithfully, and lead his congregation in the historic liturgy is being attacked. The charges are things like "arrogance" for daring to confess that he knows the truth, that faithfulness is more to be desired than novelty, and that, as pastor, he is charged with the responsibility to oversee and guide what is taught in that parish. A host of other charges is usually concocted: the pastor is not "a people person", the pastor does not attend to the "needs" of his people adequately, the pastor is autocratic, and the pastor maintains associations with other, hopelessly old-fashioned, conservative Lutheran pastors.

Let me insert here the comment that in almost every case, if not every single one, the issue is theological. It is about doctrine, not the conduct or the person of the pastor. That is the single issue always denied and steadfastly rejected - and yet it is the issue.

That is a reality of the church in modern times. People don't want to stand on truth, and they expect their church to cater to their fluctuating desire and tastes. This is sad. The reason it raises the question about politics or the gospel is that those elected officials who are charged with preserving the Gospel and justice and the rights of both pastors and congregations usually don't. They count bodies and take the side of the larger number (the the deeper pockets) rather than even making a pass at standing on the truth. They are politicians, not churchmen. Their concern is evidently focused on re-election and organizational continuance than the preservation of the truth and the proclamation of the Gospel.

The same principle can be seen in the rush to the new hymnal. As the pastor of a congregation that still uses the old TLH, I hear from people of every age-group who cannot understand why the new hymnal is being pushed. The Liturgies can be had in the predecessor hymnals. The new hymnal loses some more old favorite hymns, and changes the ones it keeps. The single argument in favor of the change is that some people objected to changes in the past. One man even reports that select members of his congregation remember the same sorts of unhappiness with the issuance of The Lutheran Hymnal back in 1941.

I think the memory of 66 years ago is remarkable. The complaints then, of course, were not the same, since TLH did not change the liturgy from the old green Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal. Most of the hymns were preserved, too. The hardest change back then for most was switching from German to English. TLH was not perfect, but it preserved the liturgy, most hymns in familiar form, and the creeds as spoken for centuries among English speaking Christians.

It is sad when the argument in favor of the new hymnal boils down to the reality that after a generation or two have known nothing but this hymnal, it, too, will become a precious old favorite, to be replaced for publishing house profits - and to feed another worship controversy. It doesn't answer the question asked of why the old, faithful worship is being deliberately displaced, and why the cries of those who wish to cling to the historic worship are being cast aside. The answer, "Because we can" doesn't satisfy.

The question is not, "can the new hymnal be used profitably?", but how does the strongly encouraged change to this new hymnal serve the Gospel? I can illustrate with numerous examples how the constancy of the TLH in the life of Christians has preserved and aided their faith. Those suffering dementia have often demonstrated the value of the long and frequent repetition of the Liturgy, as they cannot remember family and friends, but the prayers and confessions of the liturgy remain. What illustrations are there for the rolling changes -- admittedly reduced somewhat in the liturgical sections -- of a new hymnal serve that purpose?

Change is inevitable, I suppose. The question is, does it serve politics or the gospel?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

I always have the best intentions of blogging. I get very passionate about things and I think of all the stuff I want to write. Unfortunately, I think of it while I am away from my computer.

Besides, dial-up blogging is so time consuming.

My son, at A Fort Made of Books, tells me just to get on with it, and write something, or people will not come here to read, so I am going to try to put something up with some regularity.

Am I a mouse or am I a man? The answer doesn't matter, because their best laid plans both suffer the same fate.

Humor, arh, arh.

Monday, May 14, 2007


The controversy blooming on certain sites about a video called "Virgilicious" is nothing if not illustrative of the thought-processes of children.

As a parent, I noted that children tend to confuse communication with capitulation. In other words, if you don't agree with them, and support their ideas, children believe that you could not possibly have heard them. They grow louder and more shrill as any adult -- especially one in authority -- maintains any position but open-hearted acceptance and enthusiastic support for the plans and opinions of the immature. Sadly, congressional politicians emulate this behavior, but that is another blog.

The video controversy demonstrates this characteristic of the immature. The supporters of the video refuse to hear what the critics of it are saying - and while endorsing the free expression of the makers of the video, they totally dismiss the rights and the thoughts of those who might not see things in the same way.

The argument is that this is a multi-layered commentary on society, and possibly the church. Because it is presumably an honest expression of opinion, so the argument goes, it should be not just tolerated but accepted. That line line of reasoning, however, is ignored by the defenders of the video, since those who don't appreciate the video also have an honest opinion, which should therefore not just be tolerated (which it is not) but accepted. It also goes to reason that there is no opinion which ought not be accepted, no presentation which ought to be critiqued, let alone rejected, on the basis that it is obnoxious, offensive, immoral or abhorrent to anyone.

When children rule, there are no standards except their own highly volatile and temporary standards. This condition is best described with the proverb, "the inmates are running the asylum".


Blogging would be much more enjoyable if one could afford high-speed internet. Waiting five minutes for the blog page to appear is excruciating. When dial-up makes the internet crawl and everything take three to five times as long as it should, blogging becomes too expensive in terms of minutes in a busy day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A New Direction

I humbly offer the Democratic Party a new vision for their policy. Having listened to the anti-war rhetoric of the past couple of months, I suggest the following:

Suspend Homeland security, bring the soldiers home, and disband the military. Take no further action for the ostensible purpose of national security until some enemy perpetrates a truly grievous attack on our nation. Since the 3,000 deaths of 9/11 have been declared to be "not that serious" by spokesmen of the Left, we should establish a "tragedy threshold" of not less than 10,000 deaths in any single attack. We shall not determine the seriousness of the attack by the aggregate of several individual attacks, but only respond to those attacks that kill more than 10,000 Americans at one time. Those interested in terrorism which will not transcend the ordinary law enforcement level of concern should limit their potential targets to 5,000 at at time. Americans, tired of pictures showing human suffering, and unwilling to listen to Democrats whining and demagoguery, can then simply 'soldier on' past insignificant and relatively meaningless assaults which kill mere thousands of people.

Think of the savings! No need for military expenses. Police will probably be unnecessary too, since "merely" 3,000 deaths is not worth our attention, day to day crime, and non-tragedy-level terrorism should not trouble us overly much. The Anti-American elements of our nation will find little to protest, since such policies will certainly end our national existence - and those who take over after the Untied States falls will likely not endure their protests. Then they will have what they long for, and those who find national security too bothersome to pay attention to will find that they will not be bothered by security again for a long time.

And our mainstream news media will be able to celebrate their final victory, which, oddly enough, will also probably result in their demise as free press - the one bright spot in this vision of the future.

Unfortunately, the good, hard-working people who make this nation function would suffer alongside - and probably more than the dysfunctional and disaffected who cannot tolerate prosperity and freedom. I thank God that He does not give us what we deserve (and what many who cannot think clearly seek), but blesses us instead.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Function of Faith

One could easily become despondent in modern society. It appears to be managed by the insane. Political leaders, charged with cultivating the political conditions best suited for our collective well-being as a nation - appear to act on the principle of self- aggrandizement and perpetuation of personal power. The news media, often presented as the watchmen of our society, bound to deliver truth to a free people so that they may act in ways congruent with their freedom, behave as advocates for insanity, and clearly oppose freedom for everyone aside from themselves.

We have Global Warming (it MUST be capitalized) as the boogey-man. The science is almost totally absent, but the politics are clear - and the intended effect is the diminution of personal liberty, so it is a media agenda item of first importance, and the darling of the "moonbat" politico's. The nanny state is busy regulating where one may smoke, and which cooking oils may be used, while the fanatics who seek our death and destruction are ignored or coddled - whether from south of the border or the Middle East. Our leaders seem more interested in undoing the marvelous American Experiment in personal liberty by restrictive laws and rising taxes than actually representing the people that elected them. And schools seem more interested in indoctrination in anti-American and anti-capitalistic polemic than education in "the three 'r's".

Faith steps in here - as in any circumstance - to remind us that our hope is not in man but in God, our true home is not in this world but in eternal life with our Lord. "Trust not in princes", so says the Bible. That would include elected officials. Our Hope, our Peace, and our Comfort is not in our circumstances here. He (not "it") is Christ.

That doesn't mean we abandon this world, or the fight in it for freedom and human well-being in the political sense. Those are worthy battles, and the ability to engage in them without the fear of the "knock on the door in the middle of the night" is great gift of God for all in this country. We should take full advantage of the gift and do what we can -- but our peace of mind and true joy come from knowing that God is in charge, that life is never out of His control, however it may seem to us at any particular moment, and that better awaits us ultimately. Faith comforts fear. Faith emboldens us for the daily battle for our neighbor's benefit. Faith enables us to risk, because our battle has already been won decisively - and we have been given a share in His victory!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Bones of Jesus

It is Easter in just a few weeks. Naturally, we will be treated to the unbelieving world's freshest attacks on the Christian faith. They are presented as new and TRUE!

A 1980 discovery of ossuaries (bone boxes) from the time of Jesus. The names on the boxes are among the most common names of that time. Add a touch of Hollywood and you have the discovery of the bones of Jesus in his grave just in time for Easter 2007.

Never mind that the discoveries were so unremarkable that NO ONE has tried to suggest that this is actually Jesus Christ's tomb for over twenty-five years (well, there was that one poorly received documentary in England in the 1990's). This is news because the new, slipshod documentary is due out soon. At least it gave a small pause from the wall-to-wall coverage of the Anna Nichole Smith saga.

The answer is very simple. We walk by faith, not by sight. Our authority is Scripture: the very Word of God. If we were going to allow the vacant musings of those known to be hostile to the Christian faith to confirm or deny our faith. there would be no faith left.

Besides, doesn't it make sense that if Jesus were alive after the crucifixion, and lived long enough to marry and raise a son, that someone would have recorded it somewhere? We know the objections the Jews raised to the resurrection both from secular sources and Scripture - and they substantially agree about what the Jews said! If they had Jesus in Jerusalem for years, the Christian faith would not have survived because the Jewish authorities would have been very vocal about His presence.

Give an event the 'patina' of time and you can pretend anything is possible. The medieval church had relics (Luther said that there were enough pieces of the true cross around to build a chapel). The modern "church" of antichristian unbelief has James Cameron - - this year, at least!

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I can hardly bear to read the news any longer.

Those in charge of preserving justice among us have no interest in justice: see the Justice Department and Scooter Libby.

Those in charge of our national security have no interest in national security: see border control, illegal immigration.

Those in charge of delivering information to us about the world around us are more interested in making the news than reporting it: see any main-stream, drive-by, lap-dog media outlet.

Those in charge of representing the citizens of this country wisely have no interest in representing us, they want to rule us: see the new congress - or almost any other legislative body local, state, or whatever. I mean outlawing foods?? Proposing making opinions illegal and punishable by law?? Hello? Big Brother calling.

Those responsible for preserving the sound doctrine of God's Word among us have no idea what it is about: see any denominational organization - I look at the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's leadership and see the abdication of doctrine and truth in favor of pandering for the sake of making money.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, February 16, 2007

You Can't Win

Reading the news today I see that Border Patrol agents go to jail for trying to stop drug smuggling and illegal border crossing - and now they have put a Border Patrol Agent in prison for letting illegals through.

It's so confusing!

No Movie

Last night I had a strange experience.

I awakened at 5:05 AM, only casually aware of the time because I was really focused on the fact that I could not inhale! I cannot say how long it took me to open my windpipe - it seemed significantly long. It is this flu, and the mucus had congealed in my throat and simply blocked off my air.

I got up, and then sat down again, all the while earnestly trying to inhale. I messaged my throat, and finally I took a drink of ice water (on the bedstand), and that opened enough of a passage (somehow) that I could carefully inhale a lung-full of air to cough the blockage loose. I had pins and needles all over my body. It took about a half-an-hour to return to equilibrium and feel that laying down again was worth the risk.

It was interesting, in an urgent sort of way. I don't recommend trying it out just for the experience, though. My mind does not go to panic in such circumstances - faulty wiring, I suppose. I get real calm and analytical. That is how I thought of the water. I also was contemplating the consequence of failing to find air. I am prepared for that, one day, too, thanks to Jesus showing the way.

But my life never did flash before my eyes. I was a little disappointed. If you're going to take that trip, the least they could do is let you watch the in-flight movie!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Let No Man Speak It's Name

A couple of months ago, a Moslem drove an SUV into a crowd of Jews. The media - drive-by types - could not imagine how this happened. We were assured that the obvious religious implications were not determinative.

The other day, a Bosnian Muslim went to a shopping mall and began shooting people. The Drive-By's were all in a lather trying to figure out what it was that this young man had in his head before he went into a public place and began to murder innocent strangers. They interviewed his family, who all spoke of what a nice kid the guy was, and who were just as puzzled as could be by his behavior. Oddly, no one, not even the conservative talk-show hosts have thought to use the "Terrorist" title for either of these men. If they had done the same things in Israel, or Iraq, no one would have batted an eye. We are engaged in a war against terrorism, the enemy are Islamic terrorists, but when Muslims (foreign born, no less) kill innocent people here, it appears to be too far a stretch for our media to connect those particular dots.

The Cole, the Khobar Towers, the World Trade Center (twice) - and no one thinks "terrorism" when Muslims murder the innocent in America? Let some yahoo blow up a building in Oklahoma, and they have no problem - but he was white, and non-Muslim. Islamic terrorism must be one of those things that happens somewhere else - not in America - unless Homeland Security says it can.

Weird world, eh?