Friday, September 29, 2006

What's Wrong With Ablaze!: Part 1

I promised “B” that I would answer the question “why are you hostile to Ablaze!” I really do think that’s a fair question as I’ve been more than a little critical and very public at that. I am more than willing to give a defense for any position I write about. I certainly don’t hide my name or who I am. To do so, with the arguments I make, would be something akin to cowardice.

Because of the broad nature of the question I shall take several posts to answer the question "Do you have theological issues and can you back them up with scripture and the Lutheran confessions?"

The first thing I’ll tackle is, what do the confessions say about evangelism? To put it simply, the confessions say almost nothing! And that, in itself, should speak volumes to us all. The confessors in the Formula of Concord Solid Declaration write in the article concerning election:

54] Thus there is no doubt that God most exactly and certainly foresaw before the time of the world, and still knows, which of those that are called will believe or will not believe; also which of the converted will persevere [in faith] and which will not persevere; which will return after a fall [into grievous sins], and which will fall into obduracy [will perish in their sins]. So, too, the number, how many there are of these on either side, is beyond all doubt perfectly known to God. 55] However, since God has reserved this mystery for His wisdom, and has revealed nothing to us concerning it in His Word, much less commanded us to investigate it with our thoughts, but has earnestly discouraged us there from, Rom. 11, 33ff , we should not reason in our thoughts, draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously into these matters, but should adhere to His revealed Word, to which He points us.
56] Thus without any doubt God also knows and has determined for every one the time and hour of his call and conversion [and when He will raise again one who has lapsed]. But since this has not been revealed to us, we have the command always to keep urging the Word, but to entrust the time and hour [of conversion] to God, Acts 1, 7.
57] Likewise, when we see that God gives His Word at one place [to one kingdom or realm], but not at another [to another nation]; removes it from one place [people], and allows it to remain at another; also, that one is hardened, blinded, given over to a reprobate mind, while another, who is indeed in the same guilt, is converted again, etc.,—in these and similar questions Paul [Rom. 11, 22ff ] 58] fixes a certain limit to us how far we should go, namely, that in the one part we should recognize God's judgment [for He commands us to consider in those who perish the just judgment of God and the penalties of sins]. For they are well-deserved penalties of sins when God so punishes a land or nation for despising His Word that the punishment extends also to their posterity, as is to be seen in the Jews. And thereby [by the punishments] God in some lands and persons exhibits His severity to those that are His [in order to indicate] what we all would have well deserved, and would be worthy and worth, since we act wickedly in opposition to God's Word [are ungrateful for the revealed Word, and live unworthily of the Gospel] and often grieve the Holy Ghost sorely, in order that we may live in the fear of God, and acknowledge and praise God's goodness, to the exclusion of, and contrary to, our merit in and with us, to whom He gives His Word, and with whom He leaves it, and whom He does not harden and reject.

Pay particular attention to 57,58 where the confessors say that those who reject God’s word have hardened their own hearts and are deserving of God’s righteous judgment. The confessors recognize that the Mohammedans and others have heard the Gospel of Christ and have rejected Christ as the Son of God. Just as Jewish community did during Paul’s ministry, they consider the idea of God becoming man foolishness. They say Jesus was a prophet to be sure but by no means is He God. This is blasphemy they cry!

Concerning those who live in this country, is there anyone who doesn’t know who Jesus is? I would say that every soul has heard about Jesus at least once in their life. Now to be sure some have heard and been taught things that were incorrect and not true (that is called bad doctrine). But all have heard! Just because they were poorly catechized does not give us the right to say they just haven’t heard the good news. See two quotes from Klemet Preus here for the stats on the number of confessed Christians in this America (hint, hint, the percentage doesn't change when the population goes up).

Does this mean than we shouldn’t be telling folks about Jesus? No, it does not! We have a duty to confess Christ to all that ask. But we must always point those who question us to the one place where Christ has chosen to extend to us this undeserved means of grace, Word and Sacrament. I believe the reason the confessions are silent on evangelism is that very point. The confessors understood that we can see God’s work in all our daily vocations just as we can see he handiwork in nature itself. But neither of these get us to the place where God lets us know who He is, that is to say we must come to the Father through the Son by faith given to us by the Spirit.

Ablaze! has this just the opposite approach. Ablaze! has us going out to the masses and in doing so makes us the center of the “critical event.” Any “event,” that does not have us pointing to Christ’s Church, as the source of his salvific work, is wrong. See my reprinting of Julie Martinez’s exceptional article here for more on the subject.

In the next post I’ll tackle the Church as the source of the means of grace using the Augsburg Confession.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An Email Request

Every now and then I get emails that ask me to defend a particular position that I write about. And every now and then I get one that asks me to stop looking at everything with such a lackadaisical attitude and style that I’m used to writing in. Ok, that’s fair enough. I have a very sarcastic sense of humor and sometimes my ever so humble opinions get lost in my unique style. As I’ve said, fair enough.

Back in July I received the following email:

You may have done this in the past but could you please post your reasons for being so hostile against Ablaze! Do you have theological issues and can you back them up with scripture and the Lutheran confessions. I hear so much negative talk but no one to my knowledge has ever backed it up with scripture.I am just a Lutheran tired of all the negative talk in our synod. We have the right theology and we have been sent to proclaim Christ. Let’s share that.B

I answered "B" this way:

B, Yes I will be more than happy to oblige! I do though, have a time problem because of training that I had to attend as well as my wife's birthday present that will take me to Alaska for a couple of weeks.If I didn't think Scripture and the confessions spoke to the issue, I would be a hypocrite to voice my opinion the way I do. (This is one of the reasons I use my real name) I have a lengthy Sunday school lesson to prepare for this weekend, after that I will address your concerns in a stand alone post. Please feel free to email me if you think of specific questions. I've answered emails before in posts, but only with the sender’s permission. Is that fair?

While I didn’t get a response, by email or otherwise, from “B”, I will use the next few posts to answer “B's" questions. I’ll try to keep it down to three or four posts and (hopefully) keep the sarcasm down to a minimum.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Explaining Kurt Marquart, Sort Of

A while ago over at Cyberstones, Pastor David Peterson let his readers know that Professor Kurt Marquart was diagnosed with ALS. He started this post requesting that folks share their experiences of Professor Marquart with his readers.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is that I was trying to share my limited knowledge with somebody over the weekend. Because my experience is limited to a only few classes, I thought I would hit some of the highlights of that post that I thought mirrored my thoughts.

From Seminarian Chaz Lehmann:
I haven't had the pleasure of having Professor Marquart for class yet, but I met him in the hall one bright winter day. He smiled at the clear blue sky. It was about 15 degrees outside.He said, "The weather today is like a Calvinist sacrament. It reminds us of what we don't have."

From - Rev. Chris Patterson
(re. "decision" theology & in support of infant baptism): "A child needs to eat long before he can read a menu."
"Heresy always likes to dress up in the vestments of the historic Church."
(following his Monastic 'soup' story): "That kind of holiness makes himself a bloody nuisance to everybody else.""The ears of the people are holier than the mouths of the priests."(re. Calvin): "...Tries to dress up the same old raven with biblical-looking plumage.""Hatred is simply chilled and hardened anger."
"You can teach a monkey to do liturgy, but you can't teach a parrot to preach..."

From Rev. David M. Juhl
10/4/1999 - What is the recipe for Holy Water? Boil the hell out of it.
10/8/1999 - We install three things: Refrigerators, Televisions, and Pastors.
10/18/1999 - God created us to be happy in Him. (One of my favorite phrases)
10/29/1999 - Preaching is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
11/3/1999 - Calvinism is nothing but high-church Zwinglianism.
11/8/1999 - ((arguing against the) Sacramentarians on FC VIII) "Christ can't be at His Supper because He's detained in Heaven."
I would be remiss if I didn't mention a light-hearted Marquart moment. My Sem 4 year I took "Worship in Luther and the Confessions" from him. We watched video clips of the best and worst of worship in films, videos, etc. One particular video was an LWML Convention in the early 1990's that featured a "Lutheran rap" song, replete with wacky gestures including a knee slap. Our class went hysterical watching the silliness of a "Lutheran rap". When the laughter died down, Prof. Marquart said humbly with a glimmer in his eye, "Words fail me." That sent us reeling. Then he added, "What is this dog-like lifting of the leg?" I still smile and chuckle everytime I remember that moment.
All of these quotes do indeed show an intelligent and witty professor. But I’m afraid that’s all that shows.

My favorite response to Pastor Peterson comes from Reverend Jared Melius. This little story speaks volumes to the pastoral nature of Professor Marquart.

From Rev. Jared Melius
While at the seminary, our son Jonathan died suddenly. He was eight months old. That was almost three years ago now. So I sat down this evening and sifted through a couple hundred symphathy cards from that time looking for the one that was perhaps my favorite. I remember reading it several times over the course of a week or two. It was this short letter from Dr. Marquart:"Dear Friends, Please forgive the lateness of this card. Have been away a lot. If the good Lord has led you, like precious gold, through this Refiner's fire, you must be very special to Him. Few have endured what you have. He who is pure Love, and who has poured that love out upon us in His Son, ever bless and cheer and strengthen you in that same Son of His love! Kurt Marquart"In those difficult months, it seems that, in very few words, he put his finger on how my wife and I were hurting. It was like a crucible. We were regularly reminded that Jonathan was precious to God and that He was in Heaven. That was a comfort. But, Dr. Marquart reminded us that God still loved us, and demonstrates that love, even, and above all, during times of trial. I am indebted dearly to Dr. Marquart, for His writing, for His instruction, and also for this personal token. The good Lord cheer and strengthen him as he now passes, like precious gold, through a Refiner's fire of a different kind.

Lutheran Carnival XXXIII

Lutheran Carnival XXXIII is up and running at Be Strong in the Grace. After I begged Pastor Walter Snyder, he included a post responding to the question "can a Christian be comic book author?" But is that the only good post in the Carnivale? Heck no! Take a gander at all the great submissions and be sure to thank TKls2myhrt for doing such a good job hosting said Carnivale.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Two Prized Possessions

Two of the most prized possessions in my library are signed copies of Anatomy of an Explosion and The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry, and Governance, both by Kurt Marquart. He was always gracious and willing to sign one of his books.

I got to take several classes with Professor Marquart. While in class I was always afraid that I if stopped to take notes, I would miss something.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Professor Kurt Marquart Called Home

Here is the message that President Dean Wenthe sent to the seminary community.

Dear Members of the Seminary Family:
I wish to inform the seminary family that on the morning of September 19 our distinguished colleague, beloved professor, and brother in Christ, Dr. Kurt Marquart, died. After suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, he died peacefully at home. Earlier in the evening he had baptized his new great-grandson, Evan.
As baptism joined Dr. Marquart and Evan to Christ's death and resurrection, we confess that he now enjoys that full life that Christ gives to those who are joined to Him (John 10:10).
President Wenthe

I had the opportunity on numerous occasions to sit in on Professor Marquart's classes during my visits to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I always thought that if I could retain just a gram of what he was teaching, my knowledge of what it meant to be confessional would be light years ahead of where I'm at, even today.

His book Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict detailed what led up to and the effects of higher and textual criticism within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I have two copies of this book in my library. One copy never leaves my house. The second copy is always available to those who just tout ecumenicalism and theological goofiness over the confessions and Scripture.

The Church catholic has lost a great voice on this side of eternity.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My Acceptance Speech

Here's what I said: "I, first of all would like to thank the academy. For without them, none of my dreams would have been realized. Then I would like to thank all of my peeps out there for their support (sniffle) of my high sarcasm that has made this day possible. Finally I want to thank Jesus. For without him, my bold and unapologetic sinning would have surely put me in the lowest pits of hell. This award is for you Jesus, (sniffle) it's for you. Thank you all...."

Would anyone like to guess why I would make such an acceptance speech? I'll make it interesting, an official Putting Out The Fire t-shirt to the first person who sends me an email with the correct answer. Those who are excluded from said contest: you know who you are, nuff said!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Curses, I've Been Tagged...Again

MorningGlory2 tagged me earlier today. I hate being tagged...

One book that changed your life: The Book of Concord. The reason for this choice is that when I got done reading it I realized for the first time that what I thought about Scripture was irrelevant compared to what it actually said. I had once thought that it was up to me to figure out what God wanted me to understand or do. After reading the Lutheran Confessions, which are a defense of the faith, I understood that God has done all the doing already. I think it’s just in all our natures (that is sinful) to make God be who we want him to be instead of who He really is. That’s to say after reading the Book of Concord, I understood God only as expressed as the Son, Jesus. And also after reading the Book of Concord, I understood that it is only by faith given by the Spirit that I’m able to believe and surely not by my own power or understanding.

One book that you’ve read more than once: On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 by Gerhard Forde. I read this book every Lent. 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. Excellent read!

One book that you would want on a deserted island: The Bible, NKJV. Nuff said?

One book that made you laugh: Ok, the answer really depends on what you mean by book. If I’m allowed a book in the comic book realm, well, Marvel Zombies hit just the right spot. Zombies has a virus infecting earth and with the exception of a few humans, the only ones that are left are the zombified superheroes. It’s really funnier than it sounds! Marvel took classic covers and zombified them for the 5 issue miniseries. What a hoot.

But some don’t think comic books aren’t real books (they’re called comic books folks!). In that case, the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner. Just read it! The story does not go where you think it will, and you'll love the ending (oh no, they didn’t, did they?).

One book that made you cry: Silly wabbit, boys don’t cry. (unless the jury comes back and says “not guilty”, then I think we get to cry)

One book you wish had (will) been written: Lutheran History by the Reverend Doctor Lawrence Rast. Dr. Rast is the best teacher of Lutheran history I’ve ever met. I just wish he’d take 10% of that stuff in his noggin and help the rest of us to learn.

One book you wish had never been written: My first choice was going to be the Koran. Mainly because of the scourge of Islamic fascism that exist today. But we live in a post modern society that can’t call evil evil. Unfortunately, that’s just the way our fallen world works. But after thinking about it for little while longer I came up with Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren.

Sorry, but throwing in a few Bible verses doesn’t hide a business model that strives to grow the church by reducing everything theological to the lowest common denominator. Warren’s book is appealing because it has us running the verbs. His book focuses on what we can do for God instead of God’s undeserved mercy expressed in Christ. It’s a good thing I never read Warren’s book before the Book of Concord.

One book you are currently reading: Commentary on Romans by Philip Melanchthon. This commentary was written before Melanchthon succumbed to the power of the dark side. It is after this was written that he started to be a little more ecumenical and thereby be a little more tolerant of those who said “But what the Bible really means is…” I’m reading this now because next to Galatians, Romans is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

One book you have been meaning to read: I’ve been meaning to read The Song of Songs: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture by Christopher Wright Mitchell. But for crying out loud, it’s 1300 pages long and weighs 5.39 pounds! Someday………… least I own it. I know, I know, it won’t read itself sitting on my library table.

Now I’m supposed to tag five people with this thing. Here goes:Uh, uh I don't tag people.

Two Quotes from Klemet Preus's Book

Here are two very interesting points Klemet Preus makes in his book The Fire and the Staff, Lutheran Theology in Practice.

“Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham have conducted revivals for more than a century. They have energized the Evangelical community. Growth experts have inspired their churches with endless techniques for evangelism, ideas for growth, and strategies for increase. You would expect that Christianity, and especially Evangelical Christianity, would be prospering in the United States. Sadly this is not true. William Chadwick relates a comment from C. Peter Wagner at a lecture given at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1991: “Our initial research indicates that there has been no appreciable growth in the American Evangelical population as a whole over the last ten years.” George Barna agrees. In 1996 he concluded that “the proportion of born again Christians in America has remained unchanged… Data showed that most measures of religious activity among American adults have remained flat or are experiencing slow decline.”

“What is happening? People are flitting about from congregation to congregation playing musical churches. Some churches wax. Others wane. Christianity looses its force and credibility in an increasingly cynical world. Moody converted those who were already in churches. Today’s Evangelical community does the same.”

Maybe somebody should tell Wagner we now have Ablaze! With the Ablaze! program, no wait, it’s a movement; we can change the proportion of Christians in America. We’ve just been doing it all wrong before. I just wish that there was some way to educate the masses on how important it is for us to make new Christians! If only there was a way…

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XXXII

Christopher Gillespie (no relation) at Outer Rim Territories has Lutheran Carnival XXXII up and running. Christopher has opened this edition of the Carnival with, a subject that readers of this blog know is dear to my heart, an essay on confessional Lutheranism. Be sure to stop by and tell him what a great job he's done!

Post Number 100!

Wow, this is my one hundredth post! While that is not a big deal to most, it sure is to me. Last year, I was only reading a few blogs here and there and didn’t even know how to post a comment. And now…well you know.

One of the neatest things for me over the last year is getting to know new friends that I didn’t know were out there. As a confessional Lutheran I think the tendency is to just assume that we are all alone out in the world. But that of course is just our old Adam, our sinful nature, rearing his ugly head. I know that the Word of the Lord endures forever no matter what we do as sinful creatures to mold Christ and His Church to what we would have it be. With American evangelicalism in the state it is, and with Lutherans racing to become more and more PentaBaptiMethoCostal, it’s easy to look inward to our faults instead of looking to the Church eternal.

And it is through this whole blogging thing that I really have gained almost a renewed sense of hope. I get to hear God’s word spoken purely through his call and ordained servants week after week. I count myself blessed to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist administered rightly. But when I look at what’s going on around me, especially in the way of missions, it’s just enough to make me scream.

But through this whole blogging thingy, I get to read like minded pastors and confessional laity both. This has shown me that I’m not on an island, I’m a member of Christ’s Church and I’m not and never was alone. Over the past ten months, I’ve made new old friends with Burrs, Swedes, Geeks, Beasts, and Aardvarks just to name a few. I just think it’s too cool to be able to be able meet or converse with folks that, while we’ve maybe never met, I truly count as brothers and sisters!

And none of this would have been possible without the help of MorningGlory2. MorningGlory2 is the person who first helped me to set up my blog. So you see, it’s really all her fault! Her site is a little bit of everything from property rights to border security. There is not much Lutheran (as she isn’t Lutheran) there but she is always a good read!

And finally, I wish to thank everyone that has commented on this blog or wrote to me. All of you have made this "new" obsession of mine fun. Thank you so much again!