Saturday, February 27, 2010

"What Would You Rather Have; A Religion Or A Relationship?"

I received an email earlier this week that I wanted to address but couldn’t because of my work schedule being ramped up to get ready for a couple of weeks out of town. A friend of mine has written me that she has been visiting a very traditional congregation that uses the historic liturgy and sings the time tested hymnody sung by conservative congregations across denominational lines to supplement her Sunday morning worship at a congregation that has departed from, by all outward appearances, looking like a historic Lutheran church that your grandparents would recognize and be pleased with.

Let’s look at two of the more bizarre practices before I ask my questions:

The pastor has rewrote the ecumenical creeds for the congregation to

The people get to stand up at a point in the worship service and say
like the good folks at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church: “The bible I hold is God's word from cover to cover. It makes me wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking,and training me how to live. I need to read listen and learn from God's word every day. This is most certainly true.”

If I had to endure either of these situations this I’d be looking for a way to supplement my Sunday worship just like my friend has choosen to do. I’ve wrote several posts detailing why I can’t return a home church because the pastor not only rewrote the creeds to the point I wasn’t even sure he was talking about a confession of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but he rewrote the Lord’s Prayer in such a way that even the Dali Lama could agreed with the text. Nope, ain’t gonna go back there…

So, since it’s become public knowledge that my friend is supplementing her Sunday morning worship with visits to a more traditional worship setting she has been under a good deal of pressure to stop visiting the more traditional congregation and “looking deeper into liturgy”. She writes:

Pastor doesn’t' really approve of what we are doing and has already challenged us with questions like "what would you rather have; a religion or a relationship."

What? Religion or a relationship? Is that what a liturgical, traditional congregation is, just a religion? Really?

Now, I promised some folks that since I’m a bit busy I’d give my readers the opportunity to address the question; “what would you rather have; a religion or a relationship?” I said I’d put this post up a few days ago but I wanted to get my friends permission to include actual quotes from her email.

So… for the discussion please address the dichotomy of religion versus relationships in the context of visiting or being a member of a traditional, liturgical congregation (and is that a false dichotomy?) and what does Scripture say concerning religion versus relationship when speaking of the faithful gathering to worship the crucified and risen Lord.

Discuss. What say you?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Mormons Are Right!

In my last post I posted a comment from Mike in which he took issue with my statement that Mormons are not Christian. Mike stated that any group who claims to be and believes themselves to be Christian should be considered as such. I of course respectfully disagree.

Heaven will at the last day be filled with a whole group of folks that Lutherans disagree with. There will be Methodists, Baptists, and maybe even an Episcopalian or two if they haven’t followed for what pass for leadership in that nearly apostate church body. Heck, there might even be nondenominational or two or three if they hadn’t bought what passes for vapid preaching that has members looking to fulfilling their “purpose” by looking to works instead of unmerited grace not unlike the Roman church they all love to criticize even though the two merit based theological systems mirror each other perfectly.

Lutherans, boy howdy, are Lutherans ever in for a surprise at the eschaton or the last day when they bump into people who for some odd reason never liked singing Gerhardt hymns during Lent. Oh the horror! Heaven will not as we would want it and thank God for that as our imaginations, wants, and desires are as sinful and corrupt as they can be.

One thing is certain for all of Christendom concerning heaven; there won’t be a single Mormon at the party. Think I’m being judgmental? Just ask a Mormon if there will be a single Trinitarian believing, ecumenical creed confessing, and historic hymn singing soul in their corner of the afterlife. If they have been properly taught at the ward, stake, and temple then they have no choice but to say that they will be the only ones rewarded properly for what they believe teach and confess. And on this point they are more correct than they know.

As Mike should know, being a former Mormon himself, that Mormons teach that those outside of the Mormon faith believe in a “mythical Christ” as is clearly taught in Mormon Doctrine, 269. In the book Mormonism 101 (one of the finest resources on the largest of the made in America religions) the authors site former president Gordon Hinkley as responding to those who claimed that Latter-day Saints do not believe in the traditional Christ as saying “No, we don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.”

Want more?

The Mormons teach that the conception of Jesus was in a natural manner as every other man. In other words, God the father conceived His son by lying with Mary. Mary didn’t have sexual relations with a mortal man but rather was impregnated by the God the Father the same way any human is conceived. Christians teach that Christ was not created in such a manner but was begotten of the Father by the Holy Spirit.

The Mormon’s teach that Jesus had a brother whereas Christians teach that Jesus has no brother.

The Mormon’s teach that Jesus reached perfection after His resurrection whereas Christians teach the Jesus was always God and was always perfect.

The Jesus of the Mormon’s faith is a very different Jesus than the historical Jesus confessed by the church catholic. That’s why I’m with the Mormons when I say that I agree with them one hundred percent; their Jesus is not our Jesus.

Hmm, who knew it be so easy to come to an agreement with he sons of Kolob?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And Today’s Angry Email Is From…

I get all sorts of angry email from folks taking me to task for everything from my insistence that hymnody solidly confess the faith and not sound like a love song to Jesus to my making crazy statements like we shouldn’t even try to separate the mission from the message so as to be more seeker sensitive to unchurched peoples.

When I get angry emails or comments I always try to be as nice as possible with folks and presume that some of the anger is from people who haven’t read POTF before and that maybe some of that anger is just confusion from walking into the middle of a much larger debate. I think I do a pretty fair job at engaging people who are critical of what I write in a respectful way.

I certainly don’t delete comments because I disagree with people. I can count on one hand the four people I’ve had to delete comments from. Each time the eighth commandment was involved and I just don’t tolerate character assassination (even if the charge is true) here at POTF. I’ve always allowed people to disagree with me either in the comments of a post or by an email address which has been public for as long as this blog has been up.

A bit ago I received the following in the inbox:

Hi Im Mike. As I sit here watching BSG and reading your rant I had a thought. Being an ex mormon and not the biggest supporter of much anything Christian Im surprised that I take a bit of offense to this rant. The Mormons are Christian. Any religion that believes in Christ is. And just as hypocritical as the rest of you. I know youll hate this but im going to suggest anyway. Listen to We~re From America by Marilyn Manson. Forget your judgements, as that is Gods job NOT YOURS. Just listen to what the man is saying. Then reflect on the country and world that corruption, the moral majority, and all forms of religion has built for us to live in. The word of God isnt the problem. The word in the hands of man is. I welcome your cmmnt at

You know what I like about this comment? The author was man enough to sign his name! I don’t get that a lot from people that disagree with me. So, I sent Mike a short note which started out this way:

Hi Mike,

Thank you for leaving your recent comment at Putting Out The Fire. While I strongly disagree with you premise that anyone who believes in Jesus are Christian, I do applaud you for your willingness to engage me in a conversation. There are a goodly number of individuals who disagree with me who leave anonymous comments that make declarative statements and either fail to back up their argument with facts (verifiable or otherwise) or that are little more than hate filled diatribes.

I went on to ask Mike if he wouldn’t mind engaging me in a conversation and was hoping that he could provide insight as a former member of the Mormon church. I stated that the subject of the post would really center on who exactly is Christian, how can know who is Christian, and are there means to state that there are people who claim to be Christian but might not be.

Sadly, Mike never responded back. And that’s a darned shame.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Bible As History, No Modernity Or Post Modern Goofiness In This Class

I started teaching a class this past Sunday on whether the Old Testament can be viewed as an account of a historical nature or if, as many modern and postmodern would have it, we should look at the Biblical narrative and accounts as myths, fables, or morality tales similar to parables in that they are only meant to teach us how to play nice and love one another but have no grounding within genuine history. Guess which side I’m taking?

It’s remarkable how much Jesus talked about events recorded in the Old Testament as if the events really, really occurred. Imagine that… He talks of the flood recorded the Genesis account in Matt. 24:36-39 as if it is a real event. He also speaks of Sodom and Gomorra as if they were real cities destroyed for their wickedness in Matt. 11:23,24 and Jonah as a real person swallowed by a real fish in Matt. 12:39-41.

In the texts we are looking at in our study it is clear that at no time is Jesus using the kind of language He uses when He teaches by parables, such as “the kingdom of heaven is like…” or ”the kingdom of heaven can be compared to…”, when referring to events recorded in the Books of Moses and the prophets! Jesus speaks to his hearers and to us of real events occurring within a recorded history.

Now it could be that I’m just cherry picking verses out of context except that the Gospel writers are very careful to tell us when Jesus is using parables to ‘splain things. In addition, Jesus always explains his parables to the disciples even if not right away (another case for is meaning is at the last supper, meaning, yes, He really did mean that the bread and the wine are His Body and Blood and not some allegorical representation supposed by my evangelical friends!)

What surprised me most about how the class started off (This if the first week of the study. I suspect I’ll spend three or four weeks on going over Jesus’ understanding of Scripture before moving on to a look at the evidence of the historicity of the New Testament.) was how these high school students were able state in an unsolicited manner and with a high degree of certainty that the Bible can and should be looked at as a historical document. I really assumed that their secular education would have beaten any notion of the historicity of Scripture completely out of their systems by now. I see so much influence of modernity and postmodern thinking that sometimes I take for granted that the youth might actually be on the right track and capable of critical thinking.

I was even pleasantly surprised when one of my students even recommended a book to me that his grandfather had given to him: Josh McDowell’s book “Evidence Demands A Verdict” for making a case that Scripture is historical in it's very nature. As the kids say: w00t!

There’s no doubt that it’s gonna be fun five or six weeks for everyone in the class.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Homework: “Image Composition”

Finally, here’s my completed homework project “Image Composition” given to me by Dan over at Necessary Roughness explaining how I composed/manufactured a picture of Tom Monson declaring that he’s not a cylon. The first portion of my homework assignment can be found here.

Hope ya’ll enjoy it in spite of the poor sound quality!

Something that I forgot to include is that the text in the crawler along the bottom of the fake screenshot is a shout out to a commenter, Saxoniea, who requested that I place President Tom Monson in the raised seat of the Imperious Leader of the old Battlestar Galactica series. I couldn’t do that because I couldn’t find a picture with a high enough resolution to match up with the pictures I had of Monson and a fuzzy pixilated picture wasn’t what I was going for. So, I put the shout out into the crawl and let everyone know that “judge” Frank couldn’t find any evidence of a high quality picture so the idea was shot down

The fake screenshot in the video can be found in it's original post here along with the accompanying fake press release.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Wanted: Jesus To Dance For Sweet Sixteen, Really...

From the there’s no way in all of Hades even I could ever come up with something this bizarre comes this gem from Craig’s List:

I need a Jesus Christ for Sweet Sixteen (Midtown)

My daughters sweet sixteen is in 5 weeks from friday, she is a huge film buff. Her favorite movie of all time is Passion of the Christ and I want to surprise her with someone dressed as Christ to dance with her after she does her sixteen candles. We are holding the party at a well known club in New York City. Please get back to me ASAP with 4-5 sentences on why this is for you and a picture of you dressed as Jesus Christ

Yep, the posting is real… a parent wants someone dressed up as Jesus to dance with their daughter at her sixteenth birthday party.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Favorite Niece Teaches Her Uncle

My favorite niece, Valerie, finished up the high school’s kid's Sunday school class on the Book of Jonah yesterday.

Boy howdy she did a great job in wrapping up the book with the contrast of Jonah’s temper tantrum outside of Nineveh and Yahweh’s patience, mercy, and grace with his rebellious and sinful children. The students, while a little slow to wake up, did a great job of participating with thoughtful answers that would make any Board of Education superintendent or parent proud!

At the beginning of the class, playing the part of the troublemaker, I asked what exactly were Valerie’s credentials and what gave her the right to teach. Taking her uncles tomfoolery in stride she told everyone that she is a deaconess, a highly trained professional church worker, in the LCMS.

All my favorite niece needs now is a call to a congregation (if anyone knows of a parish looking for a confessional deaconess? Give me a shout if you do) Until she does get a call, I’m gonna recommend that she replace that clown that normally teaches the high school class on Sunday morning because this girl rocks!

And just so ya’ll know; I’m not just saying that because she is my favorite niece but rather because it was real treat to hear a class taught by someone who is so solidly confessional. It’s a rare treat these days to see a class taught to youth that does not pander to the lowest commen denominator but instead seeks to elevate catachetical instruction by engaging the students on a level that parents, at the very least, demand from them in their secular high school even if such is not expected on Sunday morning.

Great job Valerie!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Time Out Episode 50

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out, Episode 50 posted.

The Scripture reading for this episode is Luke 24:13-52 and the hymn is “Spread the Reign of God the Lord” found on page 830 in the Lutheran Service Book.

After the episode which is normally podcast on Pirate Christian Radio, there is another segment featuring a reading from The Popular Commentary of the Bible by Paul E. Kretzmann, Ph. D., D. D. Anyone who is not familiar with Dr. Kretzmann is in for a real treat. I have Dr. Kretzmann’s commentary in my library and consider it an invaluable resource for my both my Sunday school class preparation and my devotional life.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out, Episode 50!

Previous Time Out episodes:

Time Our Episode 49
Time Our Episode 48