RSS

Not Radical Enough – the Problem with Radical Lutherans like Gerhard Forde

“Without [faith in Christ], the law always accuses us” -- Philip Melanchthon, 16th century Lutheran confessor.

“Without [faith in Christ], the law always accuses us” — Philip Melanchthon, 16th century Lutheran confessor.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. — Galatians 5:17

I’ve been doing a bunch of posts about  “The Third Use of the Law”.  Here is what we might call part I and part II.  This would be part III.

A couple years ago, on Gene Veith’s blog, I came across this fine quote from the man who carries the torch of the Father of Radical Lutheranism, Gerhard Forde – the ELCA Lutheran theologian Steven D. Paulson.  From the following, you can get a sense of what is appealing – and right! – about the “Radical Lutheran’s” outlook:

`I forgive you’… Luther taught and demonstrated that these simple words give absolute, indubitable certainty, and no one is more dangerous than a person who is certain. The certainty was not based on human self-certainty; it was the opposite of that. It was the certainty of forgiveness because of what the Son of God did by taking the sins of the world upon himself and defeating them at the cross… (p. 7)

Amen to that!  But he then goes on to say:

“…The decisive cosmic battle of God against sin, death, and devil was already waged and won when Christ was raised from the dead to make a new kingdom of people who live with no law, have nowhere to go, and nothing to accomplish. They were simply–free.” (7)

When I first wrote a piece on this called Dangerous children: to the world or to the word? a few years ago – in a post the Lutheran pastor Paul McCain was kind enough to pick up and re-publish – (see here and here) I said this: “I believe that we as God’s children are free indeed – to play and otherwise, but does this strike you as somehow a bit off?” 

For more explanation see here.

For more explanation see here.

It is.  The problem – other than the fact that it presents a more “theologically-liberal-friendly” and “hi-jack-able” view of Lutheranism* – is that it really ignores the concrete realities of the two natures of the Christian: the old man and the new man, each with their own separate – and battling – wills.  The old, unredeemed will, infected by sin as well as the will of the new creature in Christ, ever looking to Christ for all things – pardon, power, sanctification, etc.

Battling wills – what can it mean?  Two natures in the Christian?**  This is quite radical stuff!  Who can understand it?  How can our reason – or even the categories provided by philosophy – begin to accurately capture this divinely revealed reality?  And yet, in order that we might understand our situation as we must – and receive the corresponding medicine and help from God that we need – it is critical that we pay attention to the vivid and concrete language of the Scriptures.

Just like the Scriptures, I am particularly keen to see how all of this plays out on the ground, in our Christian lives (we rightly love Romans 7 but dare not isolate it from its wider context!).  I agree that the law can accuse while it instructs – or even that it can accuse while it is delighted in! – but then what happens when it comes to the Christian’s action?  What next really?  Of course in the midst of real life, we do not focus on God’s law and gospel in an abstract manner – or at least should not.  It is meant to not only accuse, but to be obeyed, period.

A = justification ; B = sanctification.  Thanks for the illustration Dr. Rosenbladt.

A = justification ; B = sanctification. Thanks for the illustration Dr. Rosenbladt.

I think the issue is that as regards the doctrine of justification (always to be kept separate in column A!) we go to the simul: 100% sinner and 100% saint.  In order to give certainty to those with terrified consciences, this doctrine is particularly critical.  On the other hand, as regards our active sanctification (which can be distinguished from the passive sanctification which accompanies justification in time), we go to the partim: we are partially sinner and partially saint, and the saint part in us is to increase in this life.  Here, we are talking about how there is really, somehow, a changed nature and will in the believer and this thing the FC calls the “inchoate righteousness” (see SD III, 23 and 32 – its like the two natures of Christ where there are two wills!) – and the battle is on… (to see more of this in Luther’s Galatians commentary, see what Trent Demarest has posted here).

In my recent posts about Jack Kilcrease’s view of the third use of the law, I think the problems of theologies influenced by Forde – where the partim is, in effect, made irrelevant to the discussion – become ever more clear.  Dr. Kilcrease goes so far as to say that:

“In all fairness to Forde… certain interpretations of the third use of the law made since the Reformation have described it as non-threatening and even pleasant.  If Forde means to take aims at those formulations, then, in light of the confessional understanding of the law, he is certainly correct to do so.”   http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/KilcreaseFordesDoctrineOfTheLaw.pdf

(Jack Kilcrease, “Gerhard’s Forde’s Doctrine of the Law: A Confessional Lutheran Critique,” Concordia Theological Quarterly Volume 75:1-2 (2011): 174, bold mine).

Pastor Bill Cwirla: “You can only say you’re weak on sanctification if you view sanctification as your work.”  Not necessarily... (see conversation here)

Pastor Bill Cwirla: “You can only say you’re weak on sanctification if you view sanctification as your work.” Not necessarily… (see conversation here)

On the contrary, he certainly is not.  Sin decreases in maturing Christians as, driven by Christ and His Spirit, they eagerly seek the means of grace and strive in – not by – God’s Law.  They may not detect progress themselves (I John) – instead becoming ever more aware of their sin (I John 3:19-24 – whew!)  But at the same time their love for God’s law and its truth, goodness, and pleasantness nonetheless increases – along with, importantly, their thankfulness to Christ for fulfilling it in His life and death, silencing its threats against the sin that will remain until death (because, as Pastor Weedon reminds us, on the death bed, Satan will attempt to “play the tape” and get us to end in despair).

There is indeed something new in the Christian that, by nature, cooperates with the Holy Spirit of God in doing good.  While old Adam needs to be kept in check and dragged along in good works, the “new man” is not only passive in receiving God’s gifts but actively delights in the beauty of God’s law and delights in doing it as well.  This is why Martin Chemnitz, in the FC II makes a distinction between the state of man’s will before regeneration and after. FC VI distinguishes between the regenerated part of man and the unregenerated part of man.

Again, this is the partim which Radical Lutheranism feels no need to substantially address.   Not radical enough, it cannot bear what seems to be like a duality of nature, a duality of substance, a duality of essence, a duality of being… what we might call today a dual “ontological reality”…  Note that modern and “respectable” thinkers shun both substances and “dualisms” whenever possible.***

"Make duty a pleasure".

“Make duty a pleasure”.

So the Law always accuses… But.  Yes, I said “but”.  Christian maturity demands that we say more.

Philip Melanchton did say more (in Ap. IV, 167).  In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession for example, here is what he says:

When this keeping of the law and obedience to the law is perfect, it is indeed righteousness; but in us it is weak and impure. Therefore it does not please God for its own sake, and it is not acceptable for its own sake. From what we have said it is clear that justification does not mean merely the beginning of our renewal, but the reconciliation by which we are later accepted. Nevertheless, it is more clearly evident now that this incipient keeping of the law does not justify, because it is accepted only on account of faith. We must not trust that we are accounted righteous before God by our own perfection and keeping of the law, but only because of Christ. … All the Scriptures and the church proclaim that the law cannot be satisfied. The incipient keeping of the law does not please God for its own sake, but for the sake of faith in Christ. Without this, the law always accuses us. For who loves or fears God enough? Who endures patiently enough the afflictions that God sends? Who does not often wonder whether history is governed by God’s counsels or by chance? Who does not often doubt whether God hears him? Who does not often complain because the wicked have better luck than the devout, because the wicked persecute the devout? Who lives up to the requirements of his calling? Who loves his neighbor as himself? Who is not tempted by lust?  (Ap. IV, 160-161, 166-167)

Read those italicized and bolded remarks a few times over. 

Not radical enough.

Not radical enough.

We recognize that we, the baptized, have been forgiven in Christ and continue to be forgiven in Christ – and this gives us the motivation to call on the Holy Spirit, Christ’s Spirit, for power and strength as we seek to drive out our old Adam and his sin more and more.  How?  Through seeking out the means of grace and living by the full counsel of God, which means in part, living in, not by, the Law.

Luther is very clear on this exact matter – none of our current confusion would have caught him off guard.  In this case, at least, there is nothing new under the sun.

“On account of the Old Adam we are also baptized for repentance.  We must constantly repent; we must constantly mortify our flesh.  That is, we must continually mend our evil ways and be cleansed and at the same time always hope for that forgiveness that we now have.  When we are baptized and believe in Christ, we do all this…. Christ wants to say: ‘I baptize and call you to repentance.  But at the same time I confer on you the spiritual fire, that is, the Holy Spirit, so that you live under the forgiveness of sins, repenting daily and purging and cleansing the evil flesh, which strives against the Spirit’” (LW, 22, 179-180).

And…

[The Lord’s Supper]…nourishes and strengthens the new creature…[it] is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger. For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses.  But it has to suffer a great deal of opposition…” (LC, Part V)

FIN

*To not have expectations of a person certainly could sound like love to the world – especially today’s world – but insofar as we are new creations in Christ we certainly know that this is actually rather disinterest, lack of concern, and lack of love.

**“The reason why seemingly contradictory statements are often made in the Bible about Christians is due to the Christians two-fold nature. The simple fact is that within each Christian two natures constantly oppose each other. “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit wars against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17) — end of chapter 1 of “On Christian freedom”

***a notable exception is this quote from Hans Ulrich Bumbrecht, professor of Romance languages at Stanford University, from his 2004 book “Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey”:

What I want to say….is that there is probably no way to end the exclusive dominance of interpretation, to abandon hermeneutics… in the humanities without using concepts that potential intellectual opponents may polemically characterize as “substantialist,” that is concepts such as “substance” itself, “presence,” and perhaps even “reality” and “Being”.  To use such concepts, however, has long been a symptom of despicably bad intellectual taste in the humanities; indeed, to believe in the possibility of referring to the world other than by meaning has become anonymous with the utmost degree of philosophical naivete – and until recently, few humanists have been courageous enough to deliberately draw such potentially devastating and embarrassing criticism upon themselves.  We all know only too well that saying whatever it takes to confute the charge of being “substantialist” is the humanities on autopilot (bold mine, quoted in Armin Wenz, Biblical Hermeneutics in a Postmodern World: Sacramental Hermeneutics versus Spiritualistic Constructivism, LOGIA, 2013)

As I noted in the past: “In other words, almost no one today in the academic world is a “substantialist”, or we might say “essentialist” –  to suggest that there are things in the cosmos that have firm categories of being, or essence, or substance, is anathema, for the universe is in flux.  To suggest that some of these things have an objective meaning or purpose we can discern takes even greater hutzpa.  Now, it is likely that some in the fields of the humanities see what has become their arch-nemesis, science, as being “essentialist”, however one notes the primacy (and difficulty) of interpretation in the modern sciences as well: to speak of essences is to speak of atomic particles, and not things we regularly see and experience in the cosmos, like males and females, and marriages and children, for example.  More importantly, the particles and assemblies of particles might “mean something” in a purely material sense – showing themselves to have a certain order and predictability – but a greater purpose in those things that contain them can only be a total mystery (I talked about the despair this creates here).”

Here, perhaps we should think about the English in the Small Catechism (“What does this mean?”) as opposed to the German (“What is this?”).

If we don’t treat the work that Christ does in us to produce a new nature with a new will with a new righteousness as a real in the Christian, is there, literally, any substance to what we are talking about?  How would this not be more appealing to persons who would like to, on the concrete ground, change the church’s moral teachings?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Destiny of Humanity: On the Meaning of Marriage

Pretty excellent stuff.  Here is the beauty of the law of God – but more, the mystery of Christ and His Church.

From Rod Dreher’s blog:

In the same way, I cannot commend to you strongly enough this 16-minute video, produced by the Vatican for the gathering; it’s part of a series called “Humanum”. I learned about it through C.C. Pecknold, who rightly praises its production values to the moon. This is superb storytelling:

.

Thank you mom and dad… that I was blessed to be in a family where the love of God was made manifest (imperfectly, but unmistakably)….

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Question That Should End All Debate About the Third Use of the Law

Luther: “What do we older folks live for if not for the care of the young, to teach and train them?” -- Martin Luther (Martin Luther, the Estate of Marriage)

Luther: “What do we older folks live for if not for the care of the young, to teach and train them?” — Martin Luther (Martin Luther, the Estate of Marriage)

“…the Law of God is useful… to the end that… when [men] have been born anew by the Spirit of God…they live and walk in the law” — FC VI: 1

(welcome readers from Old Life – this is part II… see parts I and III here and here respectively)

Here it is, a practical question Americanized Christians indoctrinated into toxic freedom might not immediately get, but most all little kids can probably make sense of:

Just because my children must sometimes be coerced to attend worship services, does that necessarily mean they are not Christians? 

(perhaps check out the previous post I mentioned: “Come to me and I will give you rest.” Law or gospel?)

If you answer “no” to that question, you can come to grips with what the Lutheran Confessors were trying to say as regards the “third use of the law”, namely this:

It’s all about Christian’s Spirit-led and default inclination being to coerce and drag old Adam – some other Christian’s or our own – into the presence of God’s means of grace and beyond… i.e. into the straight paths that make life safe and good for straying sheep.

It’s that easy.  Amazing how Satan can pull the wool over our eyes!

But what about the law’s accusation?  Well, that is not what FC, article VI is about… but let’s address the issue head-on:  we can definitely say that the law always kills old Adam.  Further – we can say that the law does not have the power to produce God-pleasing works – with a qualification.  The qualification is that “God-pleasing works” are defined as those that are motivated primarily by the Gospel in the Christian and are not done as a result of external coercion – like when I make my kids attend worship or sit for family devotions when they don’t want to. On the other hand, so long as the coerced believer has faith – no matter how small, the Gospel covers all their sin anyway for Christ’s sake, making these works “God-pleasing” in a sense as well – they are not externally bad works after all.

If you’d like, you can stop reading now.  That’s the main point.  If you would like more theological-egg-head stuff, read on….

In the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord (VI:9) it recommends for our reflection a Luther sermon regarding the third use of the law: “as Dr. Luther has fully explained this at greater length in the Summer Part of the Church Postil, on the Epistle for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity” (Pastor Mark Surburg helpfully explores the implications of this here). The Formula of Concord does not point us to Martin Luther’s Antinomian Disputations at this point, but this simply goes to but this simply goes to show that sometimes we might not understand something in front of us quite the way we should without looking at something else that goes into more detail about the matter.*

Family devotions with Dr. Luther: "The inexperienced and perverse youth need to be restrained and trained by the iron bars of ceremonies lest their unchecked ardor rush headlong into vice after vice... they are rather to be taught that they have been so imprisoned in ceremonies, not that they should be made righteous or gain great merit by them, but that they might thus be kept from doing evil and might more easily be instructed to the righteousness of faith."

Family devotions with Dr. Luther: “The inexperienced and perverse youth need to be restrained and trained by the iron bars of ceremonies lest their unchecked ardor rush headlong into vice after vice… they are rather to be taught that they have been so imprisoned in ceremonies, not that they should be made righteous or gain great merit by them, but that they might thus be kept from doing evil and might more easily be instructed to the righteousness of faith.

In a previous post of which this is a follow-up, I critiqued a quote by Jack Kilcrease, posted by Pastor Matt Richards, about the third use of the law (read his whole paper here). Let me go into more detail specifically about what I am saying there. Kilcrease’s words do not really do justice to the fully-orbed reality of the situation being addressed in FC VI – the text is saying things that he is not saying.

As Kilcrease notes, the first use of the law – its “political use” – is not meant to instruct or discipline Christians.  The third use of the law, on the other hand, is.  Again, my point here is that the third use of the law is not primarily concerned to be talking about the matter of the law’s accusation** (of the non-Christian or Christian), but it is talking about the law being used with Christians specifically*** – for instruction and discipline – with the result being obedience.

I hope the following goes a long way in making my previous post more clear.  When the law is used with Christians with the result being obedience, there are a few things that may be happening:

  • Christians obey due to authorities who need to use coercion (parents, teachers, pastors, neighbors, etc) because they are letting their old man get a hold of their new man (hence we read later: “But *the believer* without any coercion and with a willing spirit, *in so far as he is reborn*, does what no threat of the law could ever have wrung from him”).  What this means is that the believer, in so far as he is not reborn, does good only when it is wrung out of him – maybe even by using explicitly stated rewards and punishments.  Again though, these coerced works are not “works of the law” per se, because they are still done by believers, and the blood of Christ covers these forced works, making them pleasing in the eyes of God.

Obviously, this is less than ideal.  Here is something that is much better:

  • Christians obey willingly without coercion, due to their putting their old man in its placeby their new man (not Christ, but the new nature that wills – “not my will…” – to cooperate with Christ’s Spirit) who is eager to do so, and spontaneously does so more or less consciously (in other words, they cheerfully and joyfully make the decision, in cooperation with Christ’s Spirit, to do something in the midst of a necessary fight vs. their old man, utilizing even “teaching, admonition, force, threatening of the Law,….the club of punishments[,] and troubles” themselves against their old man – their old nature).  Regarding the “new man” in SD II a concrete anthropological location is indicated in the Christian for the renewed delight in God’s holy law – this is his “concreated righteousness”.

Again, FC VI, the third use of the law, is not really about its accusation and corresponding repentance.  It is about the end result of obedience.  Now, better yet:

  • Christians obey willingly without coercion either more or less unconsciously (in other words, they simply do something without needing to fight much vs. their old man).  Ideally, we do these good works more and more spontaneously, as Old Adam’s strength dissipates – while never fully disappearing in this life.  Here, again, we think about Luther’s famous words introducing the book of Romans…. (updated: as I noted in the previous post, none of this means, of course, that these good works are not also in need of Christ’s blood to cleanse them, being tainted as they are by the original sin that is within us – see here for more)

But wait, that's not what Luther said: "When [Christ, the fulfiller of the law] is present, the law loses its power. It cannot administer wrath because Christ has freed us from it. Then he brings the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him that they might delight in the law of the Lord, according to the first psalm (Ps. 1:2). In this way their souls are recreated with [the Law](i) in view and this Spirit gives them the will that they might do it. In the future life, however, they will have the will to do the law not only in Spirit, but also in flesh, which, as long as it lives here, strives against this delight. To render the law delightful, undefiled is therefore the office of Christ, the fulfiller of the law, whose glory and handiwork announce the heavens and the firmament, the apostles and their successors (Ps. 19:1, cf. Rom. 10:18)." See also his exposition of Ps. 1:2 in AE 14:294f.

When [Christ, the fulfiller of the law] is present, the law loses its power. It cannot administer wrath because Christ has freed us from it. Then he brings the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him that they might delight in the law of the Lord, according to the first psalm (Ps. 1:2). In this way their souls are recreated with [the Law] in view and this Spirit gives them the will that they might do it. In the future life, however, they will have the will to do the law not only in Spirit, but also in flesh, which, as long as it lives here, strives against this delight. To render the law delightful, undefiled is therefore the office of Christ, the fulfiller of the law, whose glory and handiwork announce the heavens and the firmament, the apostles and their successors (Ps. 19:1, cf. Rom. 10:18).” See also his exposition of Ps. 1:2 in AE 14:294f.

Here we must say this: when the Formula says that if we were free from sin we would obey “just as the sun of itself, without any [foreign] impulse, completes its ordinary course”, this illustration does not necessarily mean that there will not be some real, conscious, struggle of wills in the Christian to obey as regards one’s own person.  This can in fact describe both the second and third kind of scenarios (and of course it also does not seek to make the Christian out to be some kind of automaton or inert tool of sorts [see this recent post from Pastor Matt Richards, which seems like this to me] for the very voluntary volitional obedience of the angels is also mentioned (VI:6)).

To re-iterate: the article on the third use of the law is not really about the accusation of the law – that was covered earlier in the FC – but it is rather about the new obedience of the Christian as regards God’s law.

In other words, for some believers – for those whose new man is strong – this use of the law certainly is “more harmless than any other use of the law”.  It *can*, contra Kilcrease, be “rightly be characterized as a pleasant or non-threatening form of the law” and even “friendly”.

Why?  Because while the law always accuses, they, ever conscious of the Gospel and its high call, know that they are forgiven in Christ (see Ap. IV, 167) and are, correspondingly, eager to do good.****

So, as Luther says, the Holy Spirit renders the Law enjoyable and gentle to the justified and we can even say that, to the extent that a believer is “actively” righteous, the law’s accusatory office has ceased.

Dr. Kilcrease also said: “Therefore, when the Formula of Concord posits a third use of the law, it is not supplementing a weak connection between justification and sanctification by trying to inculcate obedience to the law”.  In light of what has been written above, I now think that this statement is highly questionable as well.

In other words, as Pastor Holger Sonntag explained to me, “SD VI is taking a deep anthropological look at AC VI, which commends itself, given that that anthropology needed clarifying/reaffirming against the new Manichaeans in SD I.”

Again, Pastor Sonntag’s words:

“In other words, FC VI considers the law not as that which condemns the sinner to hell, but as “the definite rule” which, by means of its fierce threats (and sweet promises!), coerces the old man in the believer into what can only be an unwilling obedience and hence into an unwilling cooperation with the Holy Spirit and the reborn part of the believer, the new man in us, who willingly does what the one law of God teaches him as a “definite rule according to which he should pattern and regulate his entire life”.

Finally, what all of this highlights is a simple Scriptural truth we should all recognize: it is the more highly sanctified men, not those who need it the most, who are eager to hear words of both direction and correction.  Further as regards the Christian’s sanctification, this is important to add: while there is growth in piety and sanctification, it’s not really a linear progression, meaning: we may feel strong one day and weak the next.  Nevertheless, over the whole of the Christian life, the following picture shows how it should look – even if we ourselves, ever aware of our sin, do not see this progress.

"nor must it vex the regenerate with its coercion, because they have pleasure in God's Law after the inner man."  Picture from paper here.

VI:5 – “nor must [the law] vex the regenerate with its coercion, because they have pleasure in God’s Law after the inner man.” Picture from paper here.

FIN

 

Notes:

*In like fashion, in the “worship wars” look at how people treat the section on adiaphora in the FC.  They read the words, but totally miss the clear implications of the words – what they are really getting at.  However, if they read more of Luther on these issues, they might be able to discern – should be able to discern – what the words in the Formula are really getting at.  I plan on doing some posts on this in the future: “How an improper understanding of sanctification lies at the root of the worship wars”.

Here, SD, Rule and Norm 9 is noted: “The pure churches and schools have everywhere recognized these publicly and generally accepted documents [the “Lutheran” confessions adopted in the 1530s] as the sum and pattern of the doctrine which Dr. Luther of blessed memory clearly set forth in his writings on the basis of God’s Word and conclusively established against the papacy and other sects. We also wish to be regarded as appealing to further extensive statements in his doctrinal and polemical writings, but in the necessary and Christian terms and manner in which he himself refers to them in the Preface to the Latin edition of his collected works.

**Note the text in the Epitome of article VI, it does not say: “(3) after they are reborn, and while the flesh still inheres in them, to lead them to a knowledge of their sin, so they don’t forget Jesus and become Pharisees.”

***Note from SD IV: “We should often, with all diligence and earnestness, repeat and impress upon Christians who have been justified by faith these true, immutable, and divine threats and earnest punishments and admonitions.”  Also from Epitome IV:

3] 2. Afterwards a schism arose also between some theologians with respect to the two words necessary and free, since the one side contended that the word necessary should not be employed concerning the new obedience, which, they say, does not flow from necessity and coercion, but from a voluntary spirit. The other side insisted on the word necessary, because, they say, this obedience is not at our option, but regenerate men are obliged to render this obedience.

4] From this disputation concerning the terms a controversy afterwards occurred concerning the subject itself; for the one side contended that among Christians the Law should not be urged at all, but men should be exhorted to good works from the Holy Gospel alone; the other side contradicted this.”

****From Luther’s Antinomian Disputations, we learn that under the accusatory law insofar as they are sinners, Christians are also “without the law” because Christ’s fulfillment of the law is imputed to them and insofar as they battle sin in their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit (pp. 16-17, Sonntag, God’s Last Word)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

“New choices for adults have not generally been helpful to the well-being of children.”

whatwecan'tnotknowIn the class at Concordia University St. Paul that I taught the other night, I said, among other things, something like this:

“In Romans 1 we are told that we know there is a creator by what has been made…. we also know what is right and wrong even if we do not have the power in ourselves to do it… That said, it also tells us that even though we have this knowledge we suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  We can “sear our consciences” and bury this knowledge very deep so that we do not even feel fear of God.  We are willing to call evil good and good evil, flatter ourselves to the extent that we cannot discover or hate our sin…or even assert that there must be no God…”

Regular readers of this blog might know that I listen regularly to the Briefing, the daily news review from the highly significant Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler.  All of what follows is from the Thursday program of this week, Nov. 13, 2014.  Just seemed like some significant stuff (I have bolded some of they key sentences…..) that has ceased to be obvious to many persons.

Here is Mohler, starting with the title for this section of his show:

Studies indicate demise of intact families negatively impacts economic success of children

….

All these points in the research demonstrated within them point to the importance of the intact family. And this is coming from a rather conservative sociological and economic analysis. The full report from Professors Wilcox and Lerman is found at the American Enterprise Institute entitled “For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America.” Now that came from the right, but what about from the left? That’s where the second item looms even larger in importance. It’s found in an article published recently in the Washington Post by Robert J. Samuelson, a columnist and economist. He writes about what he calls the ‘family deficit.’ He said,

“We Americans believe in progress, and yet progress is often a double-edged sword. The benefits and adventures of change often vie with the shortcomings and disruptions, leaving us in a twilight zone of ambiguity and doubt about the ultimate outcome. Few subjects [he says,] better illustrate this than the decline of marriage,”

He cites, again a more liberal source, Isabel Sawhill and her recent book, ‘Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage.’ He then writes this,

Even those who know marriage is on the skids — presumably, most of us — may be surprised by the extent of its decline… [He goes on to say] Americans coming of age in the 1950s, the expectation was that most would marry. It was part of society’s belief structure. And most did. Now these powerful social pressures have faded and, for many, disappeared.

In 1960 he cites only 12 % of adults ages 25 to 34 had never married. So that’s 1965, only 12% of relatively young adults had not married. By the time they were 45 to 54, the never-married share of that generation was only 5%. That was just 1960, fast forward Samuelson says, to 2010 and 47 % of Americans aged 25 to 34 had never married. Based on present trends he says, this will still be 25% in 2030 when they’re aged 45 to 54.

Now in terms of worldview, consider the importance of the admission he makes in the next paragraph; and I quote,

“The stranglehold that marriage had on middle-class thinking and behavior began to weaken in the 1960s with birth control pills, publication of Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ — an assault on women’s traditional housecleaning and child-rearing roles — and the gradual liberalization of divorce laws.”

Now note quite carefully that those very three things – the sexual revolution, feminism, and the gradual liberalization of divorce laws – those have been the very three things that many Christian conservatives, and furthermore social conservatives from a secular arena, have pointed to as the fountainhead of much of the breakdown of the family and the marginalization of marriage. But that paragraph was not written by a conservative Christian or otherwise, it was written by a mainstream liberal – a rather influential columnist – and published of all places in the Washington Post on its opinion page.

But the most shocking paragraph in Samuelson’s column comes later. It reads and I quote,

“But the biggest social cost of less marriage involves children. ‘New choices for adults,’ Sawhill writes, ‘have not generally been helpful to the well-being of children.’ [Samuelson then writes,] Single-parent families have exploded. In 1950, they were 7 percent of families with children under 18; by 2013, they were 31 percent. Nor was the shift isolated. The share was 27 percent for whites, 34 percent for Hispanics and 62 percent for African Americans.”

Then follows this absolutely blockbuster sentence,

“By harming children’s emotional and intellectual development, the expansion of adult choices may have reduced society’s collective welfare.”

That is indeed a stunning sentence. It’s an absolutely true crystallizing clear sentence. It’s a sentence that rightly describes what has been happening in America over the last 4 to 5 decades. There has been a radical expansion of adult choice and it has been at the tremendous now documented undeniable expense of America’s children. That’s the kind of thing the conservatives have been talking about for decades now. But it tells us something, something very important when that message comes from now one of the most influential syndicated columnist in one of the most influential liberal newspapers in the United States.

Now to be quite honest, in terms of Samuelson’s argument, he is not suggesting any kind of moral reversal. He seems to be just as committed now to the kind of moral individual expressive that created this kind of liberalizing trend. But he does at least have the honesty to document the problem and to trace it to its roots and to point out that this radical expansion of choices for adults, this great moral revolution, has come at the direct and now documented expense of America’s children. We should pause and note that the documented decline in the family unit, the documented marginalization of marriage itself, and the documented impact on children, the fact that this is now documented in the pages of the Washington Post, well that’s a remarkable cultural achievement; a moral achievement that should not pass without our notice.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Confused about Lutherans and the Third Use of the Law?

One not totally successful attempt to clear things up.

One not totally successful attempt to clear things up.

That is how I introduced the folks over at the Reformation 500 blog (please note: I frequently, yet tactfully and gracefully, try to make known my disagreements with my Reformed friends there) to my previous post.  Here’s what I said next:

That’s OK.  I humbly submit to you that many Lutherans – even many who call themselves Confessional – are as well.

Have no fear – this post should clear go a long way in clearly things up… (note that Pastor Matt Richards, mentioned in the article, frequently blogs at Pastor Jonathan Fisk’s Worldview Everlasting site).

Or such is my intention.

Warning: the post will take you into the thick of an intra-Lutheran debate that has been raging for, oh, the last fifty years or so…

And here is a nice quote from Pastor Holger Sonntag that goes a long way in bringing some light to this long-dark situation:

“Therefore, while the triumphant Christian is indeed the one who is completely righteous in God’s judgment by faith, the militant Christian is the Christian as he concretely exists in his person and as he is both incipiently, but inadequately righteous in himself and still filled with ‘much wretchedness’ that just waits for an opportunity to come to the fore unless vigorously combated by the new man in the Christian.

“In other words, the concrete person of the Christian is here not described as totally sinful man before God, an expression which Luther can also use in the Antinomian disputations, but as a Christian, that is, as a believer who, while already justified and triumphant over all sin and condemnation before God for Christ’s sake, still battles his way forward on the path of progressive sanctification.

“This means that Luther here conflates, without any confusion of faith and works in the article on justification, two related ways of describing the Christian as, on the one hand, totally righteous and totally sinful (totus iustus, totus peccator) and as, on the other hand, partly righteous and partly sinful (partim iustus, partim peccator). He does so in order to be able to express anthropologically what happens in the battle in us that is progressive sanctification.”

Rev. Dr. Holger Sonntag, “God’s Last Word”: http://bit.ly/141MFOa

Update: Great – masterful – show on the Law by the upstart seminarians at Pseudepodcast.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

A response to Pastor Matt Richards and Dr. Jack Kilcrease regarding the third use of the law

“The reason why seemingly contradictory statements are often made in the Bible about Christians is due to the Christians two-fold nature.  The simple fact is that within each Christian two natures constantly oppose each other.  “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit wars against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17) -- end of chapter 1 of  “On Christian freedom”,

“The reason why seemingly contradictory statements are often made in the Bible about Christians is due to the Christians two-fold nature. The simple fact is that within each Christian two natures constantly oppose each other. “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit wars against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17) — end of chapter 1 of “On Christian freedom”,

NOTE: When it comes to the best way of how to understand Christian anthropology, I do not purport to speak for any person here except for myself, even as I am confident that what I say is harmonious with FC VI.*

It is my good guess that the recent discussion that occurred at the Brothers of John the Steadfast blog about Pastor Jordan Cooper’s new book** (mentioned in the last post) has spurred some recent posts in the Lutheran blogosphere.

On his blog, PM Notes, Pastor Matt Richards offers, in part, this quotation from the Lutheran theologian Jack Kilcrease (go here for the entire context of the quote he offers) regarding the ever-controversial “third use of the law”.

First, Kilcrease handles the first use of the law, its political use:

According to the sixth article of the Formula of Concord, the law possesses a first use: “external discipline and decency are maintained by it against wild, disobedient men.”(FC SO VI; Triglot 963) The Formula here specifically defines the first use as applying to non-Christians, or at least to false ones, through coercive authorities (parents, teachers, police, military, etc.). It is not meant to instruct or discipline Christians, but non-believers who are “wild and disobedient.”

Then, he discusses the third use (the second use is that men may be led to the knowledge of their sins):

The sixth article of the Formula also defines the third use of the law. This logically follows from the contention of both Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions that the law is God’s eternal will for human beings. Although human beings are no longer defined and determined in their relationship with God (coram deo) by the condemnation of the law, the law nevertheless still represents God’s will for human life: “For the law is a mirror in which the will of God, and what pleases Him, are exactly portrayed, and which should [therefore] be constantly held up to the believers and be diligently urged upon them without ceasing.”(FC SO VI; Triglot 963)  Such a formulation provokes the question: if faith sanctifies and renews Christians, will they not automatically perform the works of the law? Yes, to the extent that they are sanctified, they will perform the works of the law, but “believers are not renewed in this life perfectly or completely.”(FC SO VI; Triglot 965)  The justified sinner, therefore, is in need of the law to subdue his or her old nature. The Formula of Concord compares the old nature to “an intractable, refractory ass [that] is still a part of them [believers], which must be coerced to the obedience of Christ, not only by the teaching, admonition, force and threatening of the Law, but also oftentimes by the club of punishments and troubles, until the body of sin is entirely put off.”(FC SO VI; Triglot 969) This use of the law is no more harmless than any other use of the law. It cannot rightly be characterized as a pleasant or non-threatening form of the law.

… when the Formula of Concord posits a third use of the law, it is not… attempt[ing] to claim that the law has suddenly become friendly and nonthreatening. (Jack Kilcrease, “Gerhard’s Forde’s Doctrine of the Law: A Confessional Lutheran Critique,” Concordia Theological Quarterly Volume 75:1-2 (2011): 171-174, bold mine).

I submit that the third use of the law does not need to be controversial and Kilcrease is not necessarily right in making these conclusions. Why?  Because, as Lutherans have been teaching from the beginning, the Christian is made up of two natures. Insofar as he is new in Christ, the Christian hears the law – perhaps regardless of how it is preached (i.e. with threats and punishments or as a gift of God: the beautiful expression of God’s will), and delights, in the power of Christ’s Spirit, to subdue his old Adam – either unconsciously or very consciously.

Luther: we are to drive out remaining sin like Israel was to drive out the Jebusites.

Luther (contra Harold Senkbeil?!): we are to drive out remaining sin like Israel was to drive out the Jebusites.

A couple things to unpack here from that statement above. All of what I say below I think goes hand in hand with that which I just re-posted, which shows how Luther modeled the old and new man that resides in the Christian.

If the believer is subduing old Adam more or less unconsciously, this means that the believer, motivated by the Gospel in the power of the Spirit, is simply caught up in doing all manner of good, such that the desires and designs of old Adam, for the moment, almost seem to fade completely into the background. Here one might think about Luther’s famous preface to the book of Romans (none of this means of course, that our good works are not tainted by the original sin that is within us, and that Christ’s blood is not needed to cleanse them – see here for more)

And yet, sometimes the believer will need to subdue old Adam more or less consciously, simply meaning that, in that moment, the Christian is aware (I am using believer and Christian interchangeably here by the way) of not only being inspired and motivated by Christ’s gospel, but also that old Adam’s desires and designs are strong as well. In effect this means that old Adam must be told to shut up, perhaps taken for a walk, corralled, starved, tied up, chained, thrashed, etc. In short, drowned where he belongs in baptism. Here, our new nature is most cooperative with Christ – and the preacher, regardless of whether he threatens or cheerfully exhorts – in putting down the vile beast that we know will one day completely be destroyed.

Not the Lutheran position: faith by itself does not generate good works, but...the new man remains lazy and needs the law to remind him of his duty... (Calvin per David Scaer)

Not the Lutheran position: faith by itself does not generate good works, but…the new man remains lazy and needs the law to remind him of his duty… (Calvin per David Scaer)

(If you would like to see all of this made a bit more concrete, you can take a look at this post that I did on the matter of attending worship services: “Come to me and I will give you rest.” Law or gospel?)**

Above, I have talked here about particularly kinds of “moments” in our lives. The bigger picture is that this is a long and drawn out process (see the diagram below). The Christian life is a life-long fight,and it is the Christian who desires to participate in this fight, not the non-Christian. And insofar as we are new men in Christ, our motivation always comes from a love for God and neighbor born out of the Gospel narrowly understood (Christ’s crucified for me, freeing me from sin, death and the devil) – not out of hope for reward or fear of punishment, but rather to honor the Lord and love the neighbor.

From paper here.

From paper here.

Some give the impression that they think the “Preaching Sanctification” crowd is making Christians feel like they are outside of God’s salvation.  On the contrary, like Luther did in his sermons, we are simply assuming that those who have true faith are concerned to demonstrate their faith by works – they realize faith and works go hand and hand and make their confession believable. Those who don’t have true faith don’t have this concern, even if they were at one point baptized

I suggest, in what I believe is in line with the work of Pastor Paul Strawn and Pastor Holger Sonntag, that it is because of this kind of reality above (the different desires and designs we have according to our different natures) that Martin Luther said that the Law, when applied to believers, can be “attenuated” or “domesticated”. Insofar as the believer is new in Christ, the law has [indeed] become “friendly and nonthreatening”!

Want more demonstrating this?  Luther says in his Antinomian Disputations, apparently much to the consternation of many modern Lutherans (all of these are culled from here)… :

  • The Holy Spirit renders the Law “enjoyable and gentle” to the justified (p. 4)
  • The preacher should not make the law overly harsh among the justified but should change into the gentler tone of exhortation (p. 5, see also 17)
  • “Under Christ the law is in the state of being done, not of having been done”, and therefore believers need to be “admonished by the law” (p. 5)
  • Too much condemning law can lead into despair and to kill completely – the law “should be reduced through the impossible supposition to a salutary use” (pp. 8, 9)
  • The law’s constant accusation against those outside of Christ is its main purpose or use (p. 14)
  • To the extent that a believer is “actively” righteous, the law’s accusatory office has ceased (p. 16)
  • Under the accusatory law insofar as they are sinners, Christians are also “without the law” because Christ’s fulfillment of the law is imputed to them and insofar as they battle sin in their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit (pp. 16-17)
  • We obey more willingly and freely when Christ’s life is shown as the example of the law (p. 17)
  • Our “active justification” in the world, while imperfect, is still praiseworthy (pp. 23, 24)
  • God needs our good works because He is pleased to need them according to His will (pp. 25, 26)
  • Luther’s anthropology of the “Thomas Christian”, where we are a twin that is triumphant and militant at the same time, explains how we are called into “lifelong military service and battle array” to expel sin against God’s law in them more and more (pp. 27, 28 ; note this is not the sinner/saint distinction)
  • Venial sins are done against the renewed will of the Christian, while mortal sins are done with the full consent and pleasure of those who either never had or who have now lost Spirit, faith, and therefore also their renewed heart (p. 29, 30)
1 Cor. 9:27:  "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

1 Cor. 9:27: “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

 

So, as Pastor Holger Sonntag says, when it comes to preaching, Luther says that “this method” is that of “Christ himself, John the Baptist, the apostles and prophets.” (see here for more).****

FIN

 

Notes:

*Perhaps this view of Christian anthropology is not the best overall way to put or look at things, but again, I do not believe that there is anything false in what I am saying.

**The debate is pretty lengthy.  For three very helpful comments that will help you digest the gist of it quickly, see these first two comments from Pastor Sonntag:

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=38683&cpage=5#comment-1033941

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=38683&cpage=5#comment-1034100

..and, I think, one of Pastor Cooper’s most important remarks… Pay close attention to this – particularly what he says about how he became a Lutheran and the confusion he experienced – and ponder what this might mean.

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=38683&cpage=5#comment-1033889

***A short clip my post about Pastor Paul Strawn’s paper, mentioned above:

“Strawn quotes Luther in his second Galatians commentary saying that “there is great comfort for the faithful in this teaching of Paul’s [about the dual nature of the Christian] … if we sometimes become aware of the evil of our nature and our flesh…we are aroused and stirred up to have faith and to call upon Christ…” (p. 12) “Mindful of our illness”, the Christian constantly and consciously hears and meditates on the word of God, prays, and uses the sacraments to be “purged” and “cleansed of the poison of sin” – until our deaths when we are entirely purged. We also use rituals and works “like an orderly of sorts” so that our sinful nature can be restrained while we “endur[e] the cure of a living physician, that is Christ.” (p. 13).”

****For more good stuff, read this paper by Pastor Mark Surburg as well.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Two Natures of the Christian

Luther: we are to drive out remaining sin like Israel was to drive out the Jebusites.

Luther: we are to drive out remaining sin like Israel was to drive out the Jebusites.

This post is from about 1 1/2 years ago.  It was originally called “The saint-sinner Christian life: driving out the sin that remains”.  I am republishing it because it seems appropriate to do so in light of a recent discussion that took place on the Brothers of John the Steadfast blog about the Lutheran pastor Jordan Cooper’s book about theosis, Christification: a Lutheran Approach to Theosis.

Here it is:

(exclusive paper* from the recent confessional Lutheran conference in Bloomington, MN:  “It’s the Law – or is it?: Legalism vs. Antinomianism”)

For children, things are pretty simple.  When dad says “I forgive you” or “do this” they know what that means.  But what should simple Christians do when some of the most well-known Lutheran theologians from the 19th and 20th centuries seem to imply that Christians who strive to excel in love for God and neighbor are almost certainly attempting to justify or save themselves by their works? (this is something I alluded to in my previous post)

Well, getting deep into the word and some good old hymns is undoubtedly some of the best help.  In the process they might also find themselves having to make some fine theological distinctions, though I submit that the answer is not in some new paradigm of the “two kinds of righteousness” (stay tuned – more on this later this week).  Fortunately, Dr. Martin Luther already did this theological work in his day, giving us 21st century men the 16th century insight we need.  It would seem that Luther’s theological anthropology holds the key to our dilemma.

Click on the image for more information

Click on the image for more information

This is another report from the theological conference, “It’s the Law – or is it?: Legalism vs. Antinomianism” that recently took place in the Twin Cities.  What follows is a summary of Pastor Paul Strawn’s** paper, “The Lord’s Prayer as a Prayer of Repentance in the Antinomian Disputations of Martin Luther” (note that the paragraphs above are my own stated views).  Permission has been given by a conference organizer to put the paper on the web, and that paper is here* (the diagrams below are from this paper).

Pastor Strawn notes that there are many elements in the traditional Lutheran worship that require Christians to do something they do not want to do: repent of sin and acknowledge that there is “something within [them] that must be driven out in some way” – and that this can only be done with God’s help.   This is particularly true of the Lord’s prayer.

Click on the image for more information

Click on the image for more information

Using Luther’s insight about the Lord’s prayer being a prayer of repentance***, Strawn shows in his thorough examination that throughout his life Luther taught an extremely robust two-nature view of the Christian, analogous to that of Christ’s two natures****.  In fact, in the beginning of his conflict with Rome, the papacy and its theologians took direct aim at Luther’s anthropology, which Luther considered “a settled and true doctrine” (fn 21, p. 6).

Here is a model of what Luther’s anthropology looked like, a model that was consistent throughout his career.  One will note that Luther drew an analogy between man and the Old Testament temple:

figure1

In short, by grace though faith, the new man created and strengthened by Christ is to keep his old man, or old nature, under control by forcing it to do works of service, or love.  This would include not only the second table of the commandments (works done directly for our neighbor), but also the first table of the commandments (works done indirectly for our neighbor)!  All of this would be related not to the “passive righteousness” from above that creates and sustains Christians, but to our “active righteousness of the Law” on earth (not just “civil righteousness according to political laws” or “righteousness of reason” in general).*****  Along these lines, Strawn offers another helpful diagram expanding on the first:

Figure2

Strawn quotes Luther in his second Galatians commentary saying that “there is great comfort for the faithful in this teaching of Paul’s [about the dual nature of the Christian] … if we sometimes become aware of the evil of our nature and our flesh…we are aroused and stirred up to have faith and to call upon Christ…” (p. 12) “Mindful of our illness”, the Christian constantly and consciously hears and meditates on the word of God, prays, and uses the sacraments to be “purged” and “cleansed of the poison of sin” – until our deaths when we are entirely purged.  We also use rituals and works “like an orderly of sorts” so that our sinful nature can be restrained while we “endur[e] the cure of a living physician, that is Christ.” (p. 13).  In sum, this means the Christian life is to look something like this:

Figure3

Luther: “[Christians] have sorrow over and hatred of sin combined with faith.  And this is why they cry out with Paul (Rom. 7:24): ‘O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?’….we are reminded that the repentance of the pious is perpetual – yet in such a way that faith and the knowledge of Christ conquer the terrors so that the fear is filial, not servile…” (ODE, p. 125)

Click on the image for more information

Click on the image for more information

In sum, the Christian life is one of continual repentance as the new man created by Christ wars against the old, and this helps explain both the content of the Lord’s prayer and the Lutheran Liturgical Traditions.

Click on the image for more information

Click on the image for more information

FIN

*The Association of Confessional Lutherans (PO Box 43844, Mpls, MN. 55443-0844 ; Luther Academy (PO Box 2396, Brookfield, WI. 53008)

**This is my pastor.  FYI, he never asks me to blog anything, especially his own stuff, although he gives me permission to share his work when I ask.  I also posted his paper on cataphatic mysticism in worship.  Many of the books referenced in this post are also published by the press he started.

***Strawn summing up Luther’s view expressed there:  ”the praying of the Lord’s Prayer by Christians is the tacit confession that the Christian life is still beset by sin.  What is more, it signals that the Christian must daily drive out that sin through perpetual repentance” (p. 3).

****Strawn demonstrates that Luther uses “a type of genus idiomaticum in which the attributes of either [the old man and the new man] are ascribed to the entire Christian”.  Luther also explicitly made the analogy between the Christian’s two natures and Christ’s two natures in his “Freedom of the Christian” and expanded on this in detail in his “Commentary on the Magnificat” (p. 5, from where the first old/new man diagram above is drawn)

*****Something I would add: the church of course relies on external evidence in order to make imperfect evaluations of a human being’s spiritual state.  If we are to talk about the righteousness that is in the eyes of the world, we must first of all think about the church, who determines what good works are with the help of the Scriptures.  More on this in my upcoming series on the “Two Kinds of Righteousness”.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
Pyromaniacs

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Proslogion

Just another WordPress.com weblog

AlbertMohler.com » Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Worldview Everlasting

Jonathan Fisk exposits on all things Lutheran.

Strange Herring

Signs that the end is near. Nearish.

De Profundis Clamavi ad Te, Domine

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Abide in My Word

Just another WordPress.com weblog

ROUGH TYPE

Nicholas Carr's Blog

Blogia

The Blog of LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology

Gottesdienst Online

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Todd's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Boar's Head Tavern

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Glory to God for All Things

Orthodox Christianity, Culture and Religion, Making the Journey of Faith

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Gospel and Church Fathers

Jonathan Last Online

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Steadfast Lutherans

An international fraternity of confessional Lutheran laymen and pastors, supporting proclamation of Christian doctrine in the new media.

Just another WordPress.com site

Reformation500

A forum for exploring the historical truths of Christianity reclaimed by the Reformers

Surburg's blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Cranach

Christianity, Culture, Vocation

Beggars All: Reformation And Apologetics

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Weedon's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

First Thoughts

A First Things Blog

Pastoral Meanderings

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers