Sunday, June 27, 2010

An Irenaeus Quote And Guarding Against Heretics

The following is today’s reading from the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

We have learned from none others the plan of salvation, than from those whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and the pillar of our faith…

We allege…against those who do not recognize Paul as an apostle: that they should either reject the other words of the Gospel which we have come to know through Luke alone, and not make any use of them; or else, if they do receive all these, they must necessarily admit also that testimony concerning Paul, when he (Luke) tells us that the Lord spoke at first to him from heaven: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? I am Jesus Christ, whom you persecute”; and then to Ananias, saying regarding him: “Go your way; for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name among the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him, from time to time, how great things he must suffer for My names sake.” Those, therefore, who do not accept him [as a teacher], who was chosen by God for this purpose, that he might boldly bear His name, as being sent to the forementioned nations, despise the election of God and separate themselves from the company of the apostles… But they are altogether deceived who imagine that they may learn from the scriptural text adduced by heretics, that [doctrine] which their words plausibly teach. For error is plausible and bears a resemblance to the truth but requires to be disguised; while the truth is without disguise and, therefore, has been entrusted to children.

-Irenaeus of Lyons

Sadly, there are many folks in the church today, both in leadership positions and otherwise, who should fall under the same critique as those who Irenaeus addressed in the quote above. These persons, while teaching in public forums disparage Saint Paul for being too focused on doctrine or too systematic with the ease at which they openly scorn their ex-wives. While expressing concerns that sound Biblical doctrine is a hindrance to spirituality and kingdom growing, these false teachers are more than happy to introduce the doctrines and practices of mystics who believed that God is a she and “sin is necessary part of life because it brings one to self-knowledge” as well as Roman Catholic monks who actually fought against the Lutheran reformers for a papacy which can praise the devotion of members who state “I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it!

Irenaeus correctly ties the Gospel preached by the apostle Paul with the one they learned from Luke who records eye witness testimony to assemble his Gospel text, Paul’s conversion, as well as traveled with him for a bit on his missionary journeys. If they fail to acknowledge Paul’s epistles as being received by God (and if being consistent is an attribute that doesn't offend their post modern sensibilities) then shouldn’t they throw out Luke’s testimony as well? Or maybe a effortless re-imagining of Luke’s account will suit what it is that they wish to introduce into the Church as some seem to have the tendency to do these days with the praise and approval of their ecclesiastical superiors.

I guess that since Saint Peter considered the epistles of Paul to be Scripture (2 Peter 3:16), the setting aside Peter’s epistles as suspect along with the Gospel according to Mark (as Mark’s account is more than likely derived from the testimony of Peter) might also be in order so we don’t fall into an abyss of doctrine where the color white is white and black is black to the vexation of that Roman monk some idolize.

Just as when Irenaeus was defending the Gospel against the Gnostics and those who wished to introduce into the Church new doctrines and practices cloaked in biblical terminology and themes; we must be on guard right now, today, for wolves that hide themselves behind plausible errors that resemble Biblical truths while maintaining that these new or recovered teachings are for the purpose of growing the kingdom, spirituality, or even salvation itself.

As Irenaeus wisely points out, a heretic’s errors are often disguised as plausible teachings and bear a resemblance to the truth. We must always, always be watchful and test what is being taught in the name of God to the very Word of God whether we are pastors, deaconesses, Sunday school teachers, or even slack jawed yokels like myself.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Time Out Episode 71

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out: Time Out, Episode 71 posted.

The Scripture reading for this episode is from Ezekiel 3 with commentary from the Kretzmann Commentary Series. The hymn this time is “Rise, Shine, You People” found on page 825 in the Lutheran Service Book.

In Ezekiel 3, God holds Ezekiel accountable for the preaching of repentance and deliverance of his people. These are stern words for both the person who would speak for God words that God did not deliver and the person who was given words to say by God in his word and did not deliver his message.

Hymn 825, in the Mission and Witness section of the Lutheran Service Book, ties into this by reminding us that we are to celebrate and spread the good news about the Triune God that saves us.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out, Episode 71!

Previous Time Out episodes:

Time Our Episode 70

Time Our Episode 69
Time Our Episode 68
Time Our Episode 67
Time Our Episode 66
Time Our Episode 65
Time Our Episode 64
Time Our Episode 63
Time Our Episode 62
Time Our Episode 61
Time Our Episode 60
Time Our Episode 59
Time Our Episode 58
Time Our Episode 57

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nineteen Years Ago…

On June 21, 1991 I walked into a movie theater and met the women who would be my missus. A three o’clock in the afternoon exactly one year later we were married.

I count each and every day since walking into that theater as a blessing from God. I knew the moment I met her that she was the person who I wanted to bury me and fortunately she thought so as well.

Happy anniversary missus!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Get’s A Church Sign’s Top Billing In June?

Maybe it’s always been the case and I never noticed it before, I’m just not sure. There are several churches on the way to work that have signs that do more than advertise when the congregation gathers for Sunday worship. Of the ones that fall into that grouping are a couple that like to distinguish themselves with cute or whimsical proverbs (but rarely proverbs of a Biblical origin or nature) that I believe are meant to attract folks driving by as in common with many churches across this country.

One thing that is nearly always absent from church signs is the second person of the Trinity: Jesus. God the Father usually receives the top billing as far as I can tell with the Holy Spirit bring up a strong second place showing. Jesus, if He does make an appearance, is usually consigned to being a mere concept or idea as best as I can tell. There are lots of short sayings that mention someone that will make my life easier, make me a better person, that loves me very much, or even some friend that hasn’t sent a friend request on Facebook for me to accept in my heart yet... you get the idea. It is however, an odd day that I see Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord proclaimed in any clarity and by His name on a church sign. If you think I'm exaggerating then go for a drive this weekend, look around at all the church signs in your neighborhood, and you'll see what I mean.

This really shouldn’t come as a too much of a surprise when people held up as popular pastors within Americanized Christianity rarely, if ever, mention Jesus in their sermons. Should we expect the crucified and risen Lord to appear on a church sign if He ain’t proclaimed in our seeker sensitive purpose driven worship services? Nah, not really.

Now, as I noted above, I think I’ve noticed a change in the church signs on the way to work in the last few weeks. It made sense once I caught on but I still thought it was bizarre and an indication of the health of the Americanized church. It seems that while Jesus may be missing in action, Ted and Debbie along with Cheryl and Stacy made onto their church’s signs in the month of June. Who the heck are these people you ask?

Ted and Debbie were being congratulated on their recently wedding while Cheryl and Stacy were receiving praise for graduating from the local high school (in might have been college but I suspect otherwise as the high schools graduations usually fall in the month of June ‘round here).

I have no problem celebrating weddings or graduations. As members of a congregation marry or go off to school. I think it’s a good that we hold the calling of husband, wife, or student in high regard and as important vocations in which our Lord has graciously placed these folk. The odd thing, to me anyways, is that so many churches I’m driving by seem to have taken into account and marked June as a time to observe weddings and graduations while the rest of the year they either couldn’t or wouldn’t find a way mark the one person they are called to proclaim to the world: Jesus!

Is sticking Jesus on your church’s sign and giving Him top billing one Sunday too much to ask? Apparently so as Ted and Debbie and Cheryl and Stacy made it onto their congregation’s signs before Jesus did in the year 2010! Sheesh.

So, what do the readers of POTF have on their church’s signs? Do the signs in front of your church find a way to proclaim Jesus and His cross or do they follow the trends of the congregations I pass on the way to work? Just wondering…

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is False Teaching A Violation Of The Second Commandment?

I’m way behind in listening to my podcasts so today’s soundbite of the day comes from a segment that aired two weeks ago to the day on Issues, Etc. I hope the guys at IE don’t mind that it takes some of us a while to listen to all the shows…

Back on May 27 Pastors Henrickson and Woerth discussed on the Pastors’ Roundtable the fact that Dr. Luther’s viewed teaching falsely in the name of God was the most egregious violation of the Second Commandment. Is false teaching a violation of the second commandment? Absolutely!

The second commandment of course is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain” which was given, along with the other commandments, by Yahweh to Moses in Exodus 20:7. The Small Catechism explains the second commandment this way:

We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

The entire segment where Pastors Henrickson and Woerth discuss the second commandment can be heard here. It’s a great segment and well worth your time.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Issues, Etc. Interview With Dr. Steven Hein On The Suject Of Mysticism

Last week on Issues, Etc. host Todd Wilken conducted three interviews with Dr. Steven Hein of the Concordia Institute for Christian Studies on man’s failed attempts to reach God. The three interviews covered the topics of moralism, rationalism, and finally mysticism. What a great series of interviews with the subject of mysticism being somewhat timely in light of the most recent posts!

What is mysticism you ask? Well, I had to look this one up myself since I have very little formal training in theology in the Lutheran Cyclopedia:

Mysticism (from the Gk. mystikos, “mystical; secret”

A. Term applied to a wide range of phenomena (e.g. demonology,* magic,* dreaminess,* weird experiences, occultism)

The Lutheran Cyclopedia further explains:

The goal of mysticism is the alleged intuitive and emotional contact with the Absolute (“that which is,” “the Good,” “God,” and many other aspects of ultimate spiritual values). In it’s practical aspects, mysticism is the attempt to apperceive, use, and enjoy ultimate values.

The Lutheran Cyclopedia also gives us an insight into Martin Luther and mysticism:

In his early period M. Luther* ed. Deutsche Theologie (see “German Theology”) and commended the work of J. Tauler* (St. L. ed., XXIa, 56). J. Staupitz* was a mystic. But Luther's system centered in the external Word of God and its doctrine of justification. He condemned the mysticism of Sebastian Franck,* A. R. B. v. Karlstadt,* T. Münzer, K. v. Schwenkfeld,* N. Storch (see Zwickau Prophets).

The Lutheran Cyclopedia concludes the entry on mysticism with a list of folks who are mystics to be condemned:

B. Other mystics include Adam* of St. Victor, Angela* de Foligno, J. Böhme,* Bernard* of Clairvaux, Bonaventura,* N. Cabasilas,* Catherine* of Siena, Clement* of Alexandria, R. Crashaw,* Dionysius* the Areopagite, (2), Gertrude the Great (see Gertrude, 1), Gregory* of Nyssa, Guyon,* Hildegard* of Bingen, W. Hilton,* F. v. Hügel,* Hugh* of St. Victor, W. R. Inge,* Jacopone* da Todi, W. James,* John* of the Cross, R. M. Jones,* Julian(a)* of Norwich, W. Law,* Luis* de Granada, Mechthild* of Hackeborn, Mechthild* of Magdeburg, M. de Molinos,* Richard* of St. Victor, R. Rolle* de Hampole, J. v. Ruysbroeck,* H. Suso,* Teresa* of Ávila, E. Underhill.* EL

Do you regular readers of POTF recognize any of names in the list of people to be condemned for their mysticism? Let me remind my critics, because I know I’m gonna catch flack over this, that this list isn’t mine but rather it is on a webpage bought and paid for by the LC-MS as well as published by Concordia Publishing House in their printed version of the Lutheran Cyclopedia. Just so ya know…

The interview with Dr. Steven Hein was good one in that Dr. Hein did an excellent job at explaining how mysticism is just one more of man’s failed attempts to reach God. Dr. Hein also explained the different ways mysticism manifests itself in Christian circles today and why it’s considered a “digression” back to heresies that plagued the early church.

Sadly, I understand that there are people who wish to reintroduce the very kind of mysticism back into the Lutheran church that the reformation confessors condemned in the sixteenth century (when mysticism was at the height of it’s popularity) while claiming that such was normative and always part of the historical church’s practices since the Apostolic age. Listen to the interview linked below for some great insight on this new/old heresy rearing its ugly head in today’s church. Thank you Pr. Wilken and Dr. Hein both for a great interview!

Issues, Etc. Interview With Dr. Steven Hein On Mysticism