Monday, March 27, 2006

A Great Post Over At Cyberbrethren

We all worship the same God, don't we? I mean as long as we worship one God, as long as we worship in a monotheistic manner, it's the right God, isn't it? Well that question is answered over at Cyberbrethren in this post. I would answer the question myself, but this post puts it better than I could ever dream of.

HT: Bunnie Diehl

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Modest Proposal for a New Book of Concord Translation

Today I am pleased to have a post by a guest contributor, His Eminence , A. Blaise. Enjoy!

The recent flap over the “McCain edition” of the Confessions having its doctrinal certification removed raises a number of issues that perhaps we have overlooked far too long. For my own part, I think the removal of the certification is patently ridiculous and a clear case of the increasingly nasty power politics the leaders of the Missouri Synod seem increasingly willing to play.
It seems there are three things the (anonymous) doctrinal reviewers didn’t like about McCain’s edition: 1) He makes it clear in the translation of LC 66 that no Lutheran would ever assert that Jews, Muslims, hypocritical Christians, or pagans actually believe in the one true God despite their heretical stance. It is plain from the context, Luther’s and his colleagues’ other writings, and the Latin translation of Large Cathecism 66, that this is an entirely correct and theologically responsible position to take, well supported by the facts and context of LC 66. All that is being said in LC 66 is that even those who claim to be monotheists cannot thereby be considered true believers. 2) That McCain’s edition makes it very difficult indeed to argue that the 16th century confessors would be supporters of modern “liturgical diversity”, annoys the critics who seem to wish to sweep all our current liturgical controversies under the rug of “adiaphora” with little further serious theological reflection. 3) That McCain’s edition translates the Treatise 11 “the church is more than the ministers” (an honest formal equivalent translation of the German, and the second most common meaning of the Latin supra) showing that in context the confessors are simply saying the church is not just clergy, rather than making a precise statement about ecclesiastical supervision, seems to annoy the reviewers deeply, as it (rightly) removes a favorite proof-text for certain modern notions of lay supervision of the clergy. But that an honest and scholarly responsible translation makes us uncomfortable and forces us to rethink some of the positions we’ve grown comfortable with over the last 50 years, does not seem an adequate reason to remove a book’s doctrinal certification!
No, the main reasons for revoking the McCain edition of the Concordia’s certification would seem, on the face of it, to be silly and fallacious. His edition is as good as or better than any English edition of the Book of Concord currently in print. However…
There is a legitimate concern raised in the “challenges” to the McCain edition that we should consider. It is the eclectic nature of the text employed—translating sometimes the Latin, sometimes the German. (What is unfair about this charge though is that Jacobs, Bente/Dau, Tappert, Kolb/Wengert all do the same thing! For some parts of the Confessions, they translate the German, for others, the Latin, but never with a clearly explained rationale for their choice! Furthermore, editions like Kolb/Wengert engage in serious textual mischief by trying to reconstruct the original version of the Apology and other texts, instead of going with the actual text in the 1580 Dresden edition (which is substantially different from Melanchthon’s originals).
It would seem that modern Lutheran scholars have wrong-headedly imported the standards of biblical text criticism into text criticism of the Book of Concord. Why is that bad? Well, for one thing, in biblical criticism it is beyond argument that the authoritative text is the original autograph of each biblical book. What Matthew penned and signed is the authoritative text of the Gospel of Matthew. Since we don’t have any of these original autographs, we must try to reconstruct as best we can what the autograph must have looked like.
But when it comes to the text of the Book of Concord, the “autograph” situation is different. It really doesn’t matter at all what Melanchthon originally signed off on in 1531 as the Apology to the Formula of Concord. Granted, it has a certain scholarly interest, but it really makes no difference confessionally. What exactly Luther did or didn’t include in his Small Catechism of 1529 is likewise, really beside the point. What is authoritative for the Lutheran Church is the text that was subscribed by the churches on June 25, 1580. And in fact, there is no serious issue as to what that text is—it is the German language Dresden edition of the Book of Concord, of which we have 5 extant (autographed!) copies. There are minor differences among the five, and that is a legitimate area for text critics to ply their scholarly trade.
But there can be no argument that what was signed, autographed, and subscribed as the Lutheran Confession on June 25, 1580 is a well established German text. This is what needs to be translated, for this alone is the real Book of Concord. What Tappert, Kolb/Wengert and even McCain’s edition offer is, in too many places, just the early source material for the Book of Concord, rather than the thing itself. And that is simply no longer adequate. Unreflectively importing theories of biblical text criticism into our establishment of a text for the Book of Concord has worked much mischief and it is time to be clear that the only autograph that matters is the German text signed June 25, 1580!
As far as the authority of the 1584 Leipzig edition (the official Latin translation of the Concordia) confusion seems to reign here as well. The translation was made official only because so many people were doing their own private Latin translations and it was getting confusing. The Latin edition was made official simply to standardize a single Latin edition, not to authorize it as equal to the German (the Leipzig edition differs from the Dresden in this important respect—it has no page of signatories—no “autographs” because it was never subscribed as our Confession). 20th century scholars made much of the fact that the Latin text is often cited by 16th and 17th century scholars. But this is not proof that the old Lutherans therefore preferred the Leipzig edition over the Dresden, or saw its authority as equal to the German, but simply shows that Latin was still the language of theological scholarship back then. Since Latin is no longer the language in which even our professional Lutheran scholars do their work, it would seem the day is long past that the Latin translation should be used for any purpose other than as a scholarly resource that demonstrates how the official 16th century translators construed the authoritative German text.
So my modest proposal is this: how about translating the best text of the 1580 Dresden German edition of the Book of Concord in a careful, scholarly, formal equivalent (literal) fashion, employing standard 21st century English? Since most of our pastors (and even a number of our scholars) are no longer comfortable with medieval German, it seems vital that we have a scrupulously accurate translation of the text that was actually subscribed as the Book of Concord, not some fair approximation of that text.
One could argue that, as late as the 1950’s, this was not a big deal, as most pastors of the LCMS could still read the original 1580 German text quite easily. The English translations of the time, Bente/Dau, and Tappert were scholarly luxuries and could afford to pursue other interests than simply presenting the authoritative text of the Book of Concord of 1580. But today, we do not have that luxury any longer, as few pastors, and not even all our theological scholars, can use the German original anymore. A reliable translation of the real Book of Concord is an urgent need among us!
We have professors at our two Concordia seminaries who are well versed in medieval German, able to write good, modern English, and possessed of the theological acumen necessary to produce a good translation of our Confession. Let’s have them get to it! What could be more important for a church that claims to be a confessional church than to have a solid and reliable vernacular text of her Confession for her pastors, scholars, and laypeople to use as the norm of our Synod’s preaching, teaching, and practice? Maybe only a text of the Holy Scriptures that is similarly translated, but that’s another article for another time!
While the translators of the Dresden text are at it, they should take care to translate the entire book of Concord—something not a single English language edition has ever done! Every English translation extant has failed to translate huge sections of the Concordia—the biblical quotations, instead, taking the easy way of just inserting their favorite bible translation instead of treating the biblical quotations as part of the text of the Concordia. But since the German Bible they used in the Concordia is different in important ways from the KJV, RSV, NKJV, or ESV, and since the Concordia is nothing but an exposition of a vast array of biblical texts, translating precisely the version of the text actually being cited is crucial to clarity, understanding, and theological integrity. So let’s refuse any and all shortcuts!
Finally, I know many will claim “We’ve got Kolb/Wengert and McCain! Surely the market for new editions of the Book of Concord is glutted!” But marketing and sales should not enter into this question. Our only concern should be fidelity to the true Faith, rightly confessed by the Book of Concord of 1580. Questions of money, marketing, and sales should take a back seat, here at least, to questions of theological and confessional integrity…

"McCain" Edition Of BOC Pulled

Over the last few days a bit of a discord has arisen over the "McCain" edition of the Book of Concord. I first became aware of this nonsense over at TheologyGeekBlog. Orycteropus Afer over at Aardvark Alley has a much more detailed post here than I've got time to put together.

For those of you who are not Lutheran, the Book of Concord is what Lutherans confess and teach . From the confessions:"The Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of all doctrine" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 9). What the Bible asserts, God asserts. What the Bible commands, God commands. The authority of the Scriptures is complete, certain and final. The Scriptures are accepted by the Lutheran Confessions as the actual Word of God. The Lutheran Confessions urge us to believe the Scriptures for "they will not lie to you" (LC, V, 76) and cannot be "false and deceitful" (FC SD, VII, 96). The Bible is God's "pure, infallible, and unalterable Word" (Preface to the BOC). "

Lutherans are a little different from most Christians in the west as we actually wrote down what it is that we believe the Bible says. We do not believe it is up to the individual person to define for themselves what "I think the Bible says". So every time I refer to a confessional Lutheran, what I'm referring to is a person who subscribes unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions because they are a pure exposition of the Word of God.

Again, please visit Orycteropus Afer for a more detailed post on the matter.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Your Kidding, Right?

I was approached last night by one of the young adults from my high school Sunday school class. He had just looked at my blog a few hours earlier and had one question, "You were just being sarcastic....right? I mean, you were kidding...right?"

So was I being sarcastic or was I being serious? Sounds like an easy question. Hmmm.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XIX

TKls2myhrt over at Be Strong in the Grace has the honor of hosting the Lutheran Carnival XIX. She takes the occasion to introduce us to a forefather of her beloved Norwegian Synod: Jakob Aall Ottesen. Please take some time to learn about Pastor Ottesen as well as the numerous (more than thirty this time) posts on a variety of subjects.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Video Consecration Of The Sacraments

As I’ve said before, I’ll take requests for topics. I was just emailed a story that actually came to my attention last week. I first became aware of the video consecration of the Eucharist down in Texas on this post at What You Do, Do Quickly. “V” asked me to look this over and thought it might be blog worthy. The Commission on Theology and Church Relations thought it was a bad idea and said this " pastors speak the words of institution in the presence [CTCR emphasis] of the assembled congregation to give assurance that the church is faithfully following Christ's own example and instructions in instituting His supper, thereby also giving assurance that the body and blood of Christ are actually being given and received for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. It also said that it is by Christ's Word and its power -- not the mere "sound" or "recording" of a pastor's voice -- that His body and blood are present in the bread and wine when used in accordance with Christ's Word and will." Ok,I see where they are coming from. But here’s my take on it.

I think video consecration of the sacraments is a good thing, and here’s why.

Our beloved Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is and has been for some time, been facing a shortage of qualified and willing persons to be pastors. Until we go back to the medieval practice of promising our children to monasteries, so the little ragamuffins may be trained from a very young age to be priests, we need to think outside the box. I don’t have any children myself, so this allows me to look at that topic objectively. But let’s get back to the topic at hand.

The leaders that we have elected to lead our synod have placed before us a program, no a movement, Ablaze! that will lead us to find favor with the Lord. Ablaze! tells us to look outward to the unbeliever, the “unchurched”, and the faithfully undecided. How are we to do this when we burden our pastors with those who are already professed members of the elect? Our Lord Himself said in Mark 2:19 (NKJV) “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The exegetical scholar Eugene H. Peterson who gave us The Message translates it better this way “who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick not the spiritually-fit.”

My idea is to take the video consecration of the elements of the Eucharist and apply it to Baptism as well. Heck, I can even envision a future where the entire worship service is on DVD. The Romans are way ahead of us on this one. EWTN has for years been offering its viewers the opportunity to watch a real mass on TV. Why do we lag behind Rome? There is no excuse for this. And why can’t we ship, along with the DVD of a worship service a little packet of the two kinds ready to go? Just think about how this would add to the worship life of the church. Pop in the DVD, break open the seal on the grape juice and wafers, kick back and enjoy singing all the stanzas of “This Is The Day” without the distraction of children crying or cell phones going off.

All of this could be accomplished at Concordia Publishing House. Imagine, if you will, all the necessary ingredients for an enjoyable Sunday mourning packaged right up at our own publishing house. As the sacrament, songs for the day, as well as a fully printed bulletin are placed in the box, Pastor Paul McCain or one of his helpers could actually bless the sacraments as they roll off the assembly line but before they are sealed up to go out the door to be delivered by Brown or DHL. Sure the sacraments would be blessed by the pastor on the DVD, but some of the weaker brothers might object to the whole process. You all know how bad Lutherans are about change. Heck, it took ‘em nearly five hundred years just to start to use an English translation of the Bible. Also in the box, CPH could include a copy of the Excel file with every member of the congregation on it. This could be a way to insure that everyone who should be attending church is attending church. This way, the local Elders of the congregations could be made aware of anyone that has fallen away. All this is done with the current staff at CPH. No new employees!

How much more time would this free up to start new missions everywhere! A bunch I say! This would free up more time for our pastors to hop into their Astro minivans and go to where they are needed most. It’s just a reallocation of resources, that’s all. This week the pastor might be needed at the local soup kitchen handing out hotdogs to the homeless as he preaches the word purely to those who need it most. Next week, it might be the local country club to preach against wealth obtained on the backs of the previous week’s poor by the soulless dominion of corporate orthodoxy. The pastor will go wherever he is needed most. This is how things should have always been done. Did Paul stay in one place? No, he went on at least four mission trips. Shouldn’t we try to, at the very least, meet the standard Paul, a called servant of the Word, met? And all this was done before our pastors had those cute little rust colored K-cars. It’s so much easier now with modern transportation. There is no excuse for not reaching out to the unchurched since the inventions of planes, trains, and automobiles.

Again, my point is this; we need to stop worrying about those who are already members of our beloved synod. It is time to start reaching out to those who need the comfort of the Gospel the most. Many of these don’t even realize what it is they are missing. It is time to go to them, wherever they might be. If that means I lose my pastor for a time, so he may preach to the unchurched, so be it. I refuse to let some dusty old sixteenth century documents get it the way of sharing Jesus. Its time to stop worrying about the spiritually-fit and get serious about reaching the sin-sick. If video consecration of the sacraments helps us be more mission minded and stop worrying about church all the time, I’m for it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Finally, A Good Decision By The Supremes

As reported by CNN, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously last Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God. Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church's religious practice.
Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision. Upon learning this
MorningGlory2 requested that I post "on this little gem" she found over at Rhettorical. Ok, I'll take requests.

I'll be honest, I wasn't that fond of the movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia. Stay with me, this is going somewhere. I understand that the movie is allegory and all, I really do. But that's my problem with it. I just want to hear the Gospel as opposed to seeing it up on a big screen. But this was just a personal problem and I do recognize the movie was well done.
There was one scene in the movie that I thought should have been just a little bit longer. It was the scene when the children were first told of Aslan ( the Christ figure ) by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. The scene from the book went as follows:

"Is, is he a man?" asked Lucy."Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

The Movie left out that one little line about Aslan not being safe, while still being good. What Lewis is saying is that the God of Scripture is not a tame God. He's just yes, He's fair yes, but He's not tame. Just ask poor Uzzah who was struck dead just for touching God's stuff in
1 Samuel 6:6,7 . That's not tame folks!

It makes my skin crawl to go to the local ballpark on "church day" and listen to players give testimonials about how "JC" or "the J-man" changed their life. For crying out loud, this is the Lord of heaven and earth that these guys are describing like one of their drinking buddies.

There are a whole host of reasons for this I guess. But I lay the lion's share (pun intended) of the blame on the sorry state of Christianity in America today. When the majority of our churches, and yes a good number of Lutheran churches as well, run their Sunday services like a self help seminar, what else is to be expected. People sitting in the pews are being told as long as they try really really hard, God will bless them with everything their hearts desire. When all that people hear, is the dribble about what they can do for Jesus, is it any surprise that they view the crucified and risen Lord and Savior as one of their "buds"?

So what does this have to do with the recent decision by the Supremes? I think it was a great decision. I do, honest. I think nothing would be better than if neo evangelicals started passing out some of those special shrooms before worship began. Maybe then they could see God in, with, and under the Sacraments. Can't you just see them staring at the baptismal font or at the Eucharist and saying "Oooh, maybe it's not just a symbol." Maybe after seeing angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven coming literally out of the woodwork, they would understand that the nice God they wanted to go golfing with later that day, is not the God of Scripture.

As strange as it sounds, the church should now stand up and thank the Supreme Court. They have actually started the process of bringing back a healthy fear of God. I never thought I would say this but, God bless the United States Supreme Court!

Top Ten Trivia Tips

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Putting Out The Fire!

  1. Putting Out The Fire has three eyelids!
  2. American Airlines saved forty thousand dollars a year by eliminating Putting Out The Fire from each salad served in first class.
  3. If you lick Putting Out The Fire ten times, you will consume one calorie.
  4. The Eskimos have over fifty words for Putting Out The Fire!
  5. A lump of Putting Out The Fire the size of a matchbox can be flattened into a sheet the size of a tennis court.
  6. Putting Out The Fireicide is the killing of Putting Out The Fire!
  7. Over 46,000 pieces of Putting Out The Fire float on every square mile of ocean!
  8. If you cut Putting Out The Fire in half and count the number of seeds inside, you will know how many children you are going to have.
  9. The risk of being struck by Putting Out The Fire is one occurence every 9,300 years.
  10. Putting Out The Fire can give birth ten days after being born, and is born pregnant." I am interested in

- do tell me about

HT to Orycteropus Afer

Friday, March 03, 2006

Some Sermons Are Just Plain Bad

Pastor Todd Wilken of Issues, Ect. radio program frequently reviews sermons from a whole variety of pastors and folks who say they are called to preach the Word of God. He starts the review segments by listing three standards by which all sermons should be judged:

1. How often is Jesus mentioned? For his purposes, a simple tally will suffice.
2. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs? Is Jesus the one who acts, or are you?
3. What are the verbs? What has Jesus done and what is He doing?

Why do I bring this up? Well, I just got done listening to a sermon that had failed on all three counts. I was promised that this is the church to go to. After all, this church believes in the Bible. The sermon I listened to was all about me. Me, me, and more me. It was all about what I can do if I just turn my life over to Jesus and trust Him to make everything all hunky-dory. I could get the same thing at the local optimist club meeting. Any sermon that doesn't preach Law and Gospel is just burning time till Sunday brunch. Any sermon that focuses on what we do misses the mark of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Any sermon that has me running the verbs has me in charge of my own salvation. That is simply not something this poor and miserable sinner would ever want. And all the Bible passages looked up during the sermon will not make up for bad

Isn't it enough to just believe in the Bible? No. The Mormon say they believe that Bible is true, but they are completely wrong and not Christian. I feel blessed that God has me given a church where I get to hear every week what Christ as done for me, and not the other way around.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Lenten Readings

As I have said before, Lent is one of my favorite times of the Church year. For Lent I try to always read Dr. Gerhard Forde's little book On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518. Dr. Forde not only goes over Dr. Luther's explanation of the false belief that good works offer salvation, but also the proof texts that can only silence the enthusiast in us all. I got the idea for this post after reading this post which sites Thesis 26 over at What You Do, Do Quickly.

The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518
1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
4. Although the works of God are always unattractive and ap­pear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.
6. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self‑security.
9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.
13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.
14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.
15. Nor could free will remain in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in its passive capacity.
16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.
17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.
18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1:20].
20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who com­prehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffer­ing and the cross.
21. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A the­ology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
23. The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ [Rom. 4:15].
24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.
25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
26. The law says, do this, and it is never done. Grace says, believe in this, and everything is already done.
27. Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work and our work an accomplished work, and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.
28. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Today Is Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. Leave it to Aardvark Alley to come up with a great post on this and the Lenten season. I was able to attend a truncated service this morning before I left for an out of town excursion. The Pastor even did a little chanting! He does pretty good at chanting but prefers to only do in a small group setting. So we chanted the introit for Ash Wednesday and then the vicar performed the imposition of ashes.

The ashes are supposed to come from the burning of last year's palm crosses. As the pastor or vicar makes the sign of the cross on the forehead he reminds us of our mortality by announcing "From dust thou art and dust shalt thou return".

I've already had one family member say that we Lutherans are "just like the Catholics." because of my church's practice of imposition of ashes. I did try to explain that yes, we are catholic, as long as there is a small case c on the front of catholic. Said family member then responded with"see, see, you are Catholic!" Anything resembling the ancient Church or involving liturgy is frowned upon by my family. And to be honest, I'll take the insult as a compliment. While I could never go to Rome, or to the east for that matter, at least Rome has the sacraments.