What does the LC-MS document “When Homes are Heartless” Mean? (part 2 of 10)

Cain, and Abel, the first example of domestic abuse, and “the first family suffers permanent damage.” — From When Homes are Heartless.


Part 1

Welcome back to part 2 of this series.

As I mentioned in part 1,

“this 10-part series of posts, set to run mostly at my personal blog (theology like a child), will dive into some of the sources and philosophies that helped inform the When Homes are Heartless document—as well as my critiques of those sources and philosophies.”

For those of you looking for a bit of a roadmap on the series, I am going to:

  • address the question of my own fitness to deal with the topic (part 3)
  • note some of the key questions the When Homes are Heartless document raises (part 4)
  • talk about why the issue of domestic (and sexual) violence is particularly important for Christians (part 5) and then,
  • deal with the pitfalls believers might unwittingly fall into as they attempt to “take on board” what is considered the best secular thinking on the topic (parts 6-10, more of a roadmap for these will be coming up later)

At this point however, we are still simply offering thought-provoking quotes to prepare us for the ensuing parts that will come later.

First, Mary Pellauer, Ph.D, ELCA Lutheran, and author of a 1998 ELCA document on domestic abuse:

“I will suggest some theological changes we must make in order to have a theological position that can more adequately stand against domestic violence. Some themes we must remove or renounce; others we must strengthen or extend. Incorporating the perceptions of survivors is essential to this work. Those who have not lived in family terrors often believe that their understanding is normative, or should be normative; it may be surprising to hear how different survivors’ perceptions and needs are. Ultimately, it is my contention that deep theological thinking and reformation are necessary for the church to further the healing and prevention of domestic and sexual abuse. I will offer four specific theological proposals for renewal: peace, baptism, authority, and sexuality; I will offer four ways of seeing the world that the church needs to renounce: medieval social theory, patriarchy, biblicism, and a theology of the status quo, the belief that whatever happens, no matter what, is God’s will (2,3).…”


“I am certainly convinced that God is not male; that the image of God as male serves to  shore up male dominance and androcentrism; and that the image of God as male conceals from us many important things about God and justifies the ways of patriarchy to us. The plethora of war-like images that tumble out of the tradition, whether in Scripture or hymns, could never have developed in such profusion if the church had said over and over again that God is our Mother. For many survivors, Ntozake Shange’s line, “I found God in myself and I loved Her fiercely,” may have an enormous healing power, especially if they realize that it occurs in the aftermath of domestic violence. But Shange’s line may also shock, disorient, excite or even sometimes frighten survivors, especially if they have never had the self-worth to imagine that God could have so close a connection with them. It would not hurt our churches to image God as exclusively female for, say, a couple of decades or so, and then to pause to evaluate what we’ve learned in the course of such an experiment… (italics mine)…David Blumenthal’s Facing the Abusing God…composes prayers for Jewish rituals that parallel the people’s asking for God’s forgiveness and insisting in turn that God ask the people for forgiveness…As a survivor, I found these… petitions to be moving. They touched some part of me that I did not know needed to be touched. (38-40, italics hers).”

“I will offer four ways of seeing the world that the church needs to renounce: medieval social theory, patriarchy, biblicism, and a theology of the status quo…” — Pellauer


John Warwick Montgomery, writing about how in the 16th and 17th century, the churches of the Reformation attempted to more fully enact the Bible’s teaching when it came to the matter of divorce and remarriage:

“The…Lutheran doctrine can be formulated in the following terms: (1) Marriage is ideally for life and any marital breakup is the result of sin. (2) Only one legitimate “cause” of divorce is recognized in Scripture: that of adultery. Here the innocent party has the option of staying in the relationship or of divorcing the guilty partner. (3) Malicious desertion by an unbelieving spouse constitutes divorce per se; here, the innocent spouse is freed from the marital bond by the desertion, but may choose to wait for the return of the deserting spouse and a reestablishment of the marriage with that person. (4) In the case of desertion, “unbelief” does not mean that an innocent spouse is freed from marriage only if the deserting spouse is a professed non-Christian; conduct utterly inconsistent with Christian profession may properly relegate the deserter to the functional status of unbeliever for the purposes of terminating the marriage. (5) Desertion may be actual or constructive, the later consisting, for example, of physical abuse or antisocial conduct of such seriousness that it forces the couple apart, or irrational refusal to enter into sexual relations (thus separating the couple on a fundamental level). (6) Even when neither adultery nor malicious desertion has occurred it is conceivable (but rare) that a divorce can be ecclesiastically recognized on the ground that, though an evil, it is a lesser of evils. (7) Whenever the divorce is theologically legitimate, remarriage is likewise legitimate and may be performed in the church and according to church rites” (125-126, Christ Our Advocate).

“Desertion may be actual or constructive, the later consisting, for example, of physical abuse or antisocial conduct of such seriousness that it forces the couple apart…” — Montgomery


Writer for the website, the Federalist, Matthew Cochran, speaking of the limits of tolerance in the political sphere:

“[W]hen one party violates a contract, the other party is no longer bound by all of its terms. If you sign a contract to buy a car, and the dealer refuses to turn it over you, you aren’t “sinking to their level” by refusing to hand over your money. If you contract an employee who never shows up for work, you aren’t “repaying evil for evil” by withholding his wages. The same is true when dealing with people who are deliberately uncivil to civil people — it fundamentally changes what the rest of society owes them.”[1]

“[W]hen one party violates a contract, the other party is no longer bound by all of its terms.” — Cochran



[1] OK… I will sneak in a comment here. When one respects Christian beliefs and norms good marriages—meaning marriages that have a large role for real love and trust—will be the foundation of a healthy and flourishing society.

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Posted by on September 22, 2018 in Uncategorized


What does the LC-MS document “When Homes are Heartless” Mean? (part 1 of 10)

Eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope: “whatever is, is right.” Well…



Note: the first part of this series was also posted at the Just and Sinner blog, which is also made evident in the text that follows.

Have you read the LC-MS document When Homes are Heartless yet?

A few months ago I read it. It made me think. You might want to read it to.

After I read it, I wrote up a post which dealt with some of my reactions to it, and posted it on a private online group for discussion. To say the least, this posting caused a bit of a firestorm, earning fierce responses from some of the very authors of the document. Jumping off from the content of that conversation, this 10-part series of posts, set to run mostly at my personal blog (theology like a child), will dive into some of the sources and philosophies that helped inform the When Homes are Heartless document—as well as my critiques of those sources and philosophies.

Above all, I hope the series will be helpful to those men and women who are trying to intelligently navigate the numerous complexities involved in the issue of domestic violence through Christian eyes.

Before we do that though, here are some interesting and thought-provoking quotes to chew on, often directly or indirectly addressing the issues in this series, offered without comment from myself (as you can imagine, this being a 10-part series, I will have much more to say)… Specifically how these quotes are relevant to our topic should become clearer in subsequent parts of this series. No one should assume that by sharing these quotes I endorse their content in whole or in part (you must wait!).

Some may be thinking: “Why start this way? Please save the time of the reader and tell us your thesis! Where are you going with this?”

I can only say that I proceed as I do to build some trust with those I would like to persaude, to try and proceed both intelligently and sympathetically. I hope you can put up with that.

First, from the Christian apologist and disciple of Francis Schaeffer, Udo Middelmann:

“Culturally, Judaism and Christianity have produced a mentality of change, personal effort, and responsibility coupled with critique, repentance, and dissatisfaction. We are aliens in this land because our home is not on earth in its present form. Compassion for the weak, assistance to the needy, the rule of law to restrain harmful power, and many other initiatives create a world that produce enough food for the hungry and give hope to the exploited.

The God of the Bible is innocent of the evil in our world. Christians are not drugged into faith by an opiate of religion that makes them see no evil and resign themselves to their present experience. Jews and Christians find in Scripture a freedom from any form of determinism. They are called to love God and obey him, not through uncritical resigned submission but from wisdom and enjoyment” (210, 211, The Innocence of God).

…In a fallen world, nothing—be it particular governments, marriage roles, job successes or failures, pains of illness or ways of dying, intelligence or stupidity—is necessarily from God… (213)

…the dying neighbor next door and the seeker burdened with the inhuman cultural-religious faith will find in the Bible the larger revelation of the gracious God and father of Jesus Christ which he will often miss in church. Like any other gift offered to us, the unmerited favor of God in Christ can then be first understood in its intellectual, moral, and historic context before being believed and accepted with ‘the empty hands of faith’” (216)

“…In a fallen world, nothing…is necessarily from God…” — Middelmann


From the anti-feminist writer and disciple of Phyllis Schlafly, Suzanne Venker:

“We alpha women are tired. Tired of always feeling like we have to do it all ourselves, tired of feeling like we have to prove that we can handle it all all the time. We want so badly for the dominant male to just come in and take over and handle things so we can focus on what we really want: to have a loving relationship and to raise our kids while knowing we’re taken care of and protected. We want that so badly, but society makes us feel guilty for wanting it so we constantly battle ourselves in an effort to convince ourselves that we don’t need those things — which is exhausting since at the end of the day we know, deep down, that’s what we want and need. Reading [romance] novels [like Fifty Shades] is an escape, and a safe way to be dominated and not be judged for it (from here).”

From a different post a few months later:

“Let’s look… at the parable of Adam and Eve, where God commands them not to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Eve disobeys God and eats the apple anyway, and then commands Adam to do the same. What does Adam do? He obeys Eve instead of God. He eats the apple. The moral of the story is that a man will do almost anything to please a woman.

But here’s the thing. Eve didn’t really want Adam to eat the apple. What she wanted was for him to say, “No, I will not listen to you. I will not give you more power than God.” In other words, Eve didn’t want a man she could control. She was testing Adam, and he failed.

After that post was published, I received an email from a man named Tom who asked me why women test men. “Why do women have this need to test men? I get it, and the evidence of my life has born this out. But why?”

Dr. Robert Glover, author of No More Mr. Nice Guy, is the first author (that I’m aware of) to identify and write about this behavior on the part of women. Many do it unknowingly, he says, because they don’t “feel safe” knowing they can push a man around. “She wants to know you’ll stand up to her. That is how she will feel secure in the relationship” (from here).”

“We want so badly for the dominant male to just come in and take over and handle things…” — Venker


Finally (for this post), an extended quote from the advocate for abused woman, Lundy Bancroft, writing about his perspective on the play Frankie and Johnny Got Married, which one theater says is “based on a true story,” and is a “romantic comedy about two lost people finding each other”:

“Several years ago I saw the play Frankie and Johnny Got Married in Boston. The story line goes like this: Johnny is in love with Frankie and knows that she is the right woman for him. One evening he comes to her apartment to express his love and convince her to get involved with him. She is not interested, and tells him so. Johnny then begins a relentless pressure campaign that lasts for the remainder of the play. He criticizes her and puts her down, telling her that her fears of intimacy and commitment are the reasons why she avoids being with him. He lets her know that, whatever knowledge she may have about who she is and what she needs, his judgment is better. Frankie remains unimpressed.

So Johnny’s coercion escalates. At one point Frankie, who is exhausted after hours of this pressure, attempts to go to sleep, but Johnny blocks her path to the bedroom, grabbing her arms. She then goes to the kitchen and makes herself a sandwich, figuring that if she can’t sleep she might at least eat. It is not to be, however, because Johnny grabs the plate away from her and heaves it into the sink, sandwich and all.

Exasperated, Frankie orders Johnny to leave her apartment. He refuses. She threatens to call the police to remove him, to which he replies with words to the effect of: “Go ahead, bring them over. In an hour they will have released me, and I’ll be back on your fire escape. Sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with me.”

So now that Frankie has discovered that she can’t succeed in having any of her rights respected at all, what happens next? Lo and behold, she has an epiphany! A life-changing breakthrough! In a flash, she overcomes her fear of deep connection—it turns out Johnny was right about her fear of intimacy as well as everything else—and she falls enraptured into his arms. Frankie and Johnny are in love. The curtain falls. (Presumably Frankie is now permitted to eat and sleep, though we have no way to say for sure.)

The most astounding part of the evening was still to come, however. To my amazement, the roughly two hundred and fifty well-educated, economically privileged adults who were packed into their Huntington Theater Company seats rose in a roar of delighted applause, smiling from ear to ear. Not a person in the auditorium remained seated—except me. I had been working with abusers for over five years at this point and knew perfectly well what we had been witnessing. No one else seemed to notice anything amiss in the physical grabbing, sleep and food deprivation, threats, superiority, and other forms of coercion we had just watched. Was Frankie reluctant to be with Johnny because she feared intimacy? Or could it perhaps have been because he was arrogant, coercive, and physically violent? Who wouldn’t fear intimacy with this bully? One ought to.

The messages to young men, intentional or not, are that coercion and even a degree of physical violence and intimidation are compatible with deep love and that a man can know better than a woman what is good for her. The attitudes that drive the behavior of many of my clients were woven throughout this play. And if a young boy doesn’t see this play—most of the audience was adult—he nonetheless is influenced by the attitudes that his parents bring home with them from the theater (Why Does He Do That?, 2002, 324-325).

“The messages to young men, intentional or not, are that coercion and even a degree of physical violence and intimidation are compatible with deep love and that a man can know better than a woman what is good for her…” — Bancroft


More thought-provoking quotes in part 2, which will run in a few days at my personal blog.


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Posted by on September 19, 2018 in Uncategorized


The Truth About Being A Prodigal and Why You Never Want to be One

By Quamdilexilegemtuam (or Quam for short)

Much ink has been spilled and much oxygen wasted on the “testimony” of the so-called prodigals among us.  As a former prodigal myself, let me assure you, there is nothing glamorous nor beneficial in choosing to live a life of sin and rebellion.  Indeed, quite the opposite is true.

To begin, let’s get very clear on an oft overlooked and monumental fact.  Choosing to be a “prodigal” is choosing to abandon faith.  Lest we forget what abandoning faith ultimately means, let me spell that out in no uncertain terms.  Abandoning faith means choosing a lifetime of war with God and an eternity in hell.  It is a deception of the highest order to claim that abandoning the faith is somehow a “necessary evil” that aides in ultimately strengthening faith.  That simply is not true.  The notion that we cannot be saved by our works, yet we can be saved by our sin – that the only thing our salvation requires is our sin – is patently unbiblical.  It is a direct violation of the teaching of St. Paul in Romans 6 and in other places.  It is a blasphemy of the cross of Christ.

You may argue back, “But without our sin, the cross would not have been necessary!  It’s not the healthy that need a physician but the sick!”  True enough.  However, we distort these truths when we arrive at the conclusion that we need somehow to experience the heights of sin and rebellion beyond what’s already present in order to qualify for the cross and the aid of The Physician.  Simply being born in sin and acting in accord with that sinful nature is plenty to make us suitable for the Gospel, yet our sinful nature thinks that we must sin all the more that grace might abound.  Fundamentally, this is a failure to recognize our own sin.

Now, some might make the claim that we’re all prodigals at some level.  I disagree with that reading of the parable from St. Luke’s Gospel.  This is clearly a case of a man who was in the household of faith and chose to leave.  Not everyone who is in the Church does this nor should they.  The lesson for those who have remained faithful is threefold.  One, it is a warning not to abandon faith.  Two, it is a lesson on the great mercy of the Father.  Third, it is an exhortation to continually recognize the Father’s great mercy extended to us even as we remain faithful sons that are still in need of forgiveness.

I believe it’s no accident that St. Luke records for us the incident at Simon’s home in Luke 7 in order to prepare us for this parable in chapter fifteen.  The point of Jesus’ teaching there is not that Simon needed to go out and engage in manifest sin.  The point Christ was making was that Simon needed to recognize his own sin and be grateful that his many sins were forgiven.

To be sure, no prodigal thinks prior to their apostasy, “Oh, I don’t have enough sin.  I need to go out and do some ‘wild living’!”  Instead, those at the greatest risk of abandoning the faith generally fall into two categories:  one, a legalistic camp — believing a life can be lived on this side of glory with no sin and two, an “all is grace” camp – believing that a reformation of life as a Christian should, at best, not be emphasized.  Both potential prodigals ignore the clear exhortation of Holy Scripture to “take heed, lest he fall” (1 Cor 10).

The “legalist”, thinking himself to be perfect, ignores his daily need of the Gospel.  The “all is grace” man ignores his need to strive, work, and discipline himself in his sanctification.  One day the “perfect man” is confronted with a sin he cannot bear up under because he has so neglected the Gospel.  The “grace man” falls into a pattern of sin that destroys faith because he has so neglected the seriousness of his sin.  These sins that lead to apostasy are generally sudden, manifest, and utterly devastating to both the prodigal and everyone around him.

Adding to this, if a prodigal does return to the faith, he often falls into the opposite ditch or goes deeper into his former error.  The legalist, reacting to his former situation, all but ignores sanctification or he tries to double down on his perfectionism.  The more libertine fellow will often do the opposite; seek to guard against sin only and neglect the Gospel or, attempting to justify his rebellion, put forth a recapitulated version of his former antinomian theology.  Put simply prodigals tend to experience a pendulum swing from one extreme to the other.

Take “Dave” for instance.  Dave was an all-American Christian man, a pastor, and eventually a teacher at his denomination’s college.  All he cared about was making sure he followed the commands of Holy Scripture and of his success as a college professor.  One day Dave is injured while on his daily bike ride and his doctor prescribes a muscle relaxer.  Dave becomes addicted.  Instead of turning to the Gospel for help, he determined all was lost by his moral failure and chooses apostasy instead of forgiveness.  Fortunately, Dave returns to the faith, however there’s a problem.  Instead of retaining his former love of God’s law, he completely abandons it in favor of an “all is grace” antinomianism.  Or, conversely, Dave decides that this time, he will try harder than ever before not to succumb to addiction and continue to all but ignore the Gospel.

Then take “Chris”.  Chris is popular, good-looking, and an elder in his local parish.  He teaches one of the adult bible study classes where his exposition of the Gospel is virtually irresistible.  Unfortunately, his “all is grace” message has fueled a vice of his – kleptomania.  He begins robbing liquor stores.  Eventually Chris is caught and is disciplined by his church.  Like “Dave”, instead of seeking forgiveness, Chris goes prodigal.  After some time, Chris does come to his senses and returns.  Only this time, he is going to take God’s law seriously.  Never mind all of this “grace” stuff.  Chris is going to follow the Law.  Or, conversely, Chris will decide that he didn’t get grace enough.  Now he thinks that because of his descent into gross and manifest sin, he is not only qualified to teach bible class, but is more qualified than anyone to be in the pastoral office.

Clearly, both “Dave” and “Chris” have it all wrong as prodigals.  As we will see, the returning prodigal still must deal with temporal consequences.  This might include, for defrocked clergymen who have betrayed Christ’s Church, to remain out of the ministry for a very extended period if not for a lifetime.  Like the situation regarding salvation, being an apostate does not further qualify a man for ministry over those who, while still sinners, have remained in the faith.  At any rate, we observe here that not only going prodigal, as it were, has no benefits to faith, it is also a detriment when said prodigal returns.  This is especially true when that man is attempting to enter into a formal ministry capacity.

Furthermore, what is most troubling about the returning prodigal is that it seems they are making attempts to salve their damaged consciences with another gospel.  (This would be a good example of the “all is grace” prodigal slipping deeper into his former error or the “legalist” reacting against his previous Gospel-less life.) This “gospel” tells them that somehow their sin is necessary because it brought them to a fuller understanding of the true Gospel.  Or that they never really understood the Gospel before they fell headlong into sin.  Furthermore, the claim is made that those who haven’t rebelled can’t understand the cross of Christ as deeply as a sin-scarred prodigal can.  Some intimate that they are better and more qualified teachers of the Gospel than men who have been faithful.  Moreover, this attitude perpetuates the lie that the Gospel has no power to transform men’s lives for the better; that there is no “getting better” as a Christian.  There is only the greater realization of how evil we really are.  For those in the “prodigal works salvation camp”, if you will, the entire Christian project is simply becoming accustomed to the justification in Christ we enjoy as Christians.  In other words, for the hyper-grace prodigal, the only “good work” we can do as Christians is to get more fully acquainted with our Justification.  In his mind, anything further amounts to legalism.

Additionally, I am frequently stunned at the surprise of the prodigals who aren’t welcomed back into the fold with open arms.  Totally unwilling to recognize the damage his own sin caused, the prodigal is quick to point out how his faithful brother mistrusts him.  We prodigals tend to condemn our faithful brothers for not being as gracious and welcoming as the Father.  It’s somehow permissible if we sin all the day long, yet we condemn our brothers for the sin of not being perfectly forgiving?  That’s hypocrisy.  If we as prodigals want forgiveness from our brothers, we too must be willing to give some grace to them – especially those whom we have betrayed the most.

I am reminded here of a relationship in my own life with a faithful brother who I hurt quite deeply with my sin.  While he never gave up on me, he simply would not allow me back in his life until he was convinced that I’d been brought to genuine repentance.  In this case, what my friend did with me was right, good, and wise.  But sometimes people are simply hurt by our sin such to the degree that it’s difficult to forgive the offending brother.  Prodigals, like me, should allow those who have been hurt by our sin this latitude.  We should recall that we have been forgiven many sins and that if a brother falters in the sin of unforgiveness, we too should extend him grace.

Moreover, the prodigal must take into account that it is perfectly legitimate for offended brothers to both forgive us all the while treating us with caution.  It is equally legitimate for certain brothers to mete out temporal punishment to us if they are in a proper position of authority to do so.  So for instance, a pastor who falls into manifest sin must be willing to undergo that church’s discipline process.  Instead of fleeing or decrying such discipline as “unforgiveness”, that man should, if he is genuinely repentant, embrace such discipline as from the Lord.

Finally, what many don’t realize about prodigals is that they will live with regret and shame the remainder of their lives.  As stated, I believe that some will try to salve those emotions and memories by falsely believing that their sin was somehow necessary.  A person can only do that exercise so long before he realizes such efforts are akin to holding your breath.  One day, the brutal reality will hit you.  You abandoned the faith and there was not a single shred of what you did that was good, let alone profitable to faith.  You didn’t earn a higher place in understanding salvation.  All you did – every bit of it – was evil and corrupt to the core.

Despite all of this, God be praised that while we were still a long way off, our dear heavenly Father ran to embrace us once again.  And that really is our only hope.  My son teases me because sometimes I weep during the singing of the Agnus Dei after the consecration of the elements.  It goes, “Oh Christ thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world.  Have mercy upon us.”  This moment is particularly striking because I realize I cannot in any way justify my sin and that I need One who can take it away.  My sin served no purpose.  It was stupid.  Irrational.  It hurt countless people who I said I loved.  Yet the Father still sees fit to welcome me back with open arms for the sake of His Son.  He called off the war, despite my best efforts to destroy Him and everyone around me.  He robes me with the robes of a son.  And now, far from thinking that sin and rebellion are what is required, my Father empowers me with His own Son’s body and blood and the preaching of His word to be the man I was created to be; a man who loves His law and His commandments.  I can truly put my hand to the plow in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to love much because I have been forgiven much all while recognizing that it didn’t require me abandoning the faith.  The Father’s love and grace was always there.

Here, I am reminded of the words the Father spoke to the older son.  “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  Not only did the older son struggle to believe this about his Father, but I believe the younger son did as well.  This is what initiated his leaving.  May all of us grasp tightly to this truth whether faithful or former apostate:  by the death and resurrection of Christ and the forgiveness of all our sins, all that the Father has is now our inheritance. May we both live in accord with that truth as well as continually recognizing our daily need for our Father’s great mercy and grace.




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Posted by on July 31, 2018 in Uncategorized


Rome’s Crises, Reformation Roots

The symbolism of that crown rejected, but not the substance.


Post by Pastor Mark Brown

That crazy gang of Evangelical Catholics at the ALPB always held that to be Lutheran was to be a reform movement within the Church Catholic. The brightest light of this was of course Richard Neuhaus, but there were many who never left the Lutheran Church. It is in that sense of Reform that I write this because it feels like a Kairos moment. It is not that the Wittenberg Catholic branch doesn’t have its own troubles, but we have different ones. In my observation all of the Roman Catholic travails of today should be forcing a review of the errors of the Council of Trent and the reappraisal of the Augsburg Confession. This little post is going to discuss two elements: confession and the marriage of clergy. There is going to be some significant hand-waving, but I’m going to assume that you my readers are knowledgeable enough to judge if I am being fair.

The Lutheran Church has long held that the real division of the reformation was over the doctrine of justification. I’m not refuting that justification was or might continue to be a division, but 20 years after the JDDJ there have been no significant further developments, and that document itself just didn’t cause much movement. My branch of Lutherans never accepted the JDDJ, but I’d like to suggest that justification is not the core of the disputes, at least not as far as Trent and Augsburg are concerned. Instead the problem is claimed papal authority which goes right back to the 95 theses. The Lutheran confessions notoriously label the Papacy as the Whore of Babylon. What they mean by that is simply that the papacy in its claims usurps the rightful role of Christ. It promulgates laws where Christ does not, and it withholds absolution where Christ has granted it.

The first example I wish to look at is the current and ongoing sexual scandal of priestly abuse. Article 23 of the Augsburg Confession lays out the Reformation’s reconciliation of exactly this issue.  (Article 27 on monastic vows is supplementary.) It’s first line is “Complaints about unchaste priests are common.” The article on monastic vows adds the more unsavory sexual references. A recent blog post by Rod Dreher quotes a statistic, “at any one time no more than 50% of priests are practicing celibacy.”  Since entering the pastorate, with wife and family, I can appreciate celibacy. I certainly admire those who are able to maintain it. But as St. Paul would say, this is a gift that not all have. Even Christ says, “not everyone can receive this saying.” Against the united testimony of Scripture, early church history and the Eastern church, Rome has continued to demand celibacy of its priests. When the numbers of unchaste priests are around 50%, celibacy is no longer a wholesome practice, but a good excuse to end the affair when you tire of it.[i] The unwholesomeness of the current practice is brought further into the light when read in light of Article 27. The 50% is not mostly priests having heterosexual affairs which in their sin are still naturally ordered, but includes a great number of homosexual affairs which sin is intrinsically disordered. What the reformation took as the distorted sexuality of the monastic experience is today lived in the midst of the flock. And the source is not scripture or even ancient tradition but Papal assertion.

The most interesting note in article 23 is the living memory of the imposition of celibacy in Germany. “They offered up such resistance that when the Archbishop of Mainz was about to publish the pope’s decree about celibacy, he was almost killed in a riot by enraged priests.” The Augsburg Confession does not eliminate celibacy or monasticism, but recognizes both the law and the gospel, primarily that such a thing should not be made into a law but can only be lived out of the power of the gospel. Likewise, that gospel can be lived out in the institution of marriage. The ongoing sexual abuse problem calls out for Rome to reconsider the wisdom of Article 23. The Papal promulgation of a law that Christ does not demand should be withdrawn.

The second example would stem from the Roman problem with divorce, remarriage and communion. It is this one that goes right back to the start of the Reformation. Luther’s 95 theses are an attack on the practice of Confession and indulgences. (I still hope to have published a longer article on this, but it is under consideration at this time, so this is a very quick rehearsal.) The Lutheran conception of confession is simple with two parts – confession and absolution. Our confession is an act of faith. The pronouncement of the absolution is the removal of the sin. One may still have to deal with temporal consequences of the sin (i.e. if you picked up herpes because of fornication you will have to deal with it the rest of your life), but the moral consequences (i.e. death) are gone. Without lessening the sin of breaking apart what God has joined together, divorce is not the unforgiveable sin. The absolution of God removes it and should restore one to full participation at the altar. The Roman Catholic conception of confession has three parts: confession, absolution and satisfaction. For the confession to have been proven true, and the absolution to have been received, the works of satisfaction must be made. In the case of remarriage, it is this satisfaction that would bar communion. The satisfaction for the sin of divorce is either to reunite with your spouse or to live in celibacy. A second marriage, following the words of Christ, is adultery. And it most certainly would be if one was unrepentant. But again we see in satisfaction a papal insertion of authority beyond that which Christ commands. Nowhere in scripture do we find passages that focus on repentance being our work or on the quality of that repentance. All we find are passages that speak of God granting repentance (for example Acts 5:31). Article 25 of the Augsburg Confession restores the joy of Thy salvation and gives to us the free Spirit.

My contention is that the core issue of the reformation is not justification but the abuse of papal authority and by extension church authority. In demanding satisfaction where Christ has already forgiven, we are Lords and not servants. Likewise in demanding celibacy where the freedom to marry is granted we steal the Lord’s throne. The scandals that currently toss the Roman church should highlight exactly the core problem of the 16th century – a refusal to repent of the usurpation of the authority of Christ by the office claiming to be the vicar of Christ. These crises that are swamping that communion are of such serious magnitude that this Lutheran can’t help but see the cry of God calling for repentance. My prayer is that it might be granted, and our sad divisions ceased.



[i] What I mean by this is what follows. If the unchaste priest number was say 5%, that is something that would be in the realm of sinful humans beset by temptation to an affair not a systematic problem. When the number is 50% that is a systematic problem. The picture is of priests maintaining sexual relationships just like the majority of the single population of America – serial monogamy, but they have the ultimate out. While the rest of the serial monogamists have to break-up which includes the “I don’t love you” scene, the priest can say “I love you, but I have a calling I need to be faithful to.” Cue the Thornsbirds and the great forbidden romance scene. The deeper problem in that statistic though is not the Thornbirds, but the fact that a lot of that 50% is homosexual. By disallowing marriage of priests, the Roman priesthood has been greatly skewed in its sexual proclivities. The loser is honest celibacy.



Posted by on July 25, 2018 in Uncategorized


American Patrimony — Father’s Day Post from Lance Brown

Presenting a punchy father’s day reflection for your weekend, I give you my [online] friend, Old Man Lance Brown…

Genealogy is a growth industry. There’s a good chance you know someone who has taken a DNA test to learn about their ethnic ancestry or created an online family tree. Amateur family historians spend millions of hours and billions of dollars on their hobby and many professionals make a nice living helping people explore their roots. Even as the family is undermined and denigrated, even as birth rates crash and marriage has become a perverted joke, the natural desire for kinship persists.

It’s an interesting contrast. In an age when basic biological truths are denied, the rapidly progressing science of genetics reconnects us to reality and to the past. For example, the Y chromosome is passed only from father to son, one generation to the next, tracing down the paternal line. As such, Y-DNA testing is available only to males. Biological males. Actual males. It doesn’t matter if you self-identify as an albino butterfly or transsexual artichoke. DNA doesn’t care. Similarly, mitochondrial DNA is inherited by all of us only from our mothers. We are made male and female. You have a paternal line of genetic inheritance and a maternal line. No amount of gender theorizing, cross-dressing, surgical mutilation, or performative protesting can change these facts. Another example, people who say things like ‘there’s only one race, the human race’ will, at the same time, often find themselves fascinated by what genetic genealogy can tell them about their racial/ethnic heritage. And we’ve all seen the amusing clips of racial purists confronted with their own impurity.

In addition to the explosion in genetic genealogy, more traditional forms of climbing up the branches on our family trees have also been aided by technological developments. Records once kept locked away are scanned and made available on the internet. Sophisticated algorithms and rudimentary AI make it possible to find familial needles in historical haystacks. You can see how immigrants assimilated and became American over time. How fortunes were made and lost in an era before cronyism at the top and welfare at the bottom shut down social mobility in what used to be the land of the free (free to succeed and also free to fail). Using your smartphone or tablet you can search through old newspapers (the social media of the past) to learn about the daily lives of the men and women you descend from.

One of the men whose blood flows in my veins was named David Brown. He was born in 1852, the youngest of nine boys. Several of his older brothers fought in the War Between the States. David lived most of his life in the town of Hollidaysburg, PA and had six children of his own. He died many years and several generations before I came along. But a while back, in the course of investigating my ancestry, I found some old newspaper articles about David. Among the things I learned about him, I discovered he would occasionally participate in public debates. I got a real kick out of these below from the 1890s….

David was no Luddite. He understood science and industry could be used to improve our lives. But he also recognized the potential dangers of the disruptions caused by technological advancement.

From April of 1890:

David was clearly on the right side of the prohibition question.

From December of 1894:

Great men from Jesus to Martin Luther to Lando Calrissian have appreciated a good drink.

As you can see here, David had a good sense of humor (that would not be received so well today….)

From April of 1895:

I guess back then a man needed a woman like a fish needs a bicycle. He clearly came of age before the 19th amendment started us down the slide to becoming a nation of soy boys.

I understand why he lost this next one, but even when he was wrong he was still right.

From March of 1896:

Some might say there’s a family resemblance.

From October of 1891:

See. I can’t help it. It’s genetic.

Looking at these snippets from long ago there’s much to appreciate. Notice how the church was at the center of community and culture. How the existence of different races, different groups of people, was acknowledged but not obsessed over. And not used as a weapon to divide and conquer. Notice how voluntary associations (mutual aid societies, etc) were a significant presence. Consider how informed men had real debates. Instead of today’s snark battles and flame wars (a form of discourse largely dominated by, and best suited to, tweenage girls and gays). And see how thoughtful men argued about the best ways to use new technology, weighing the costs and benefits to human flourishing.

The 20th century has often been referred to as ‘The American Century’. I’m not sure we should be so pleased with that. The 20th century was indisputably the bloodiest in all of human history. Chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, and mechanized warfare stacked up corpses like mountains and poured out oceans of blood. Modern-day child sacrifice (a.k.a. abortion) doubled down on carnage. World War I smashed what remained of Christendom. Europe was battered by fascism, socialism, and now Islam seems poised to finish the job in the new millenium. Even as America rose to the status of Superpower so much of what made our country great in the first place was being compromised. The foundations eroding away. The sexual revolution became the reign of terror we now live with everyday. Government grew, faith faded, civil society crumbled, and our constitutional republic slid into soft despotism.

Why did  a century of so much innovation, so much scientific and technological achievement, produce so much tyranny and so many horrors? Because too often those in positions of authority, those charged with preserving our civilization and passing on the patrimony entrusted to us by our forefathers failed. They failed to comprehend the nature of, prepare for the scale of, and keep up with the pace of so much change. Most of the social and cultural upheaval conservatives wrestle with flows from repeated and ongoing failures to adapt the institutions of civil society to deal with the disruption caused by wave after wave of technological change. Social conservatives generally, and defenders of orthodoxy and orthopraxy within the Church specifically, have been especially bad at this.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Sound science reveals and confirms truths about the world God created. And when technology is used wisely, in harmony with our biology and for God-pleasing purposes, it’s a great blessing. Genetics, like math, can be an enemy of the sexual revolutionaries and a friend to the proponents of patriarchy. The internet can be used to spread the Gospel. Nanotechnology can be used to deliver medical assistance to babies in the womb. It’s up to us how we choose to use the tools available.

The Progressive movement was self-consciously and explicitly an application of industrialization to politics. They conceived of civilization as one big factory administered by the elite progressive managerial class with help from their subordinate union bosses to enforce mediocrity and maintain conformity. Now their ideological descendants (on both Left and Right) treat human beings as mere economic units to be shuffled around across borders without regard to culture and they use modern telecommunications to trap us all in a prison of constant Orwellian surveillance. Political conservatism has a mixed record handling technological advancement. There have been some achievements but so far the the structural changes put in place by progressives have rarely, if ever, been reversed (universal suffrage, the welfare state, legalized abortion, etc). And the Church is, in some ways, still struggling with the early Industrial Revolution. To say nothing of hormonal contraception and the internet. Though the revival of Confessional Lutheranism and similar movements in other denominations of Christianity have done good, to be sure. But more change, more disruption is coming. Rather than try to hide from it, or allow ourselves to be ruled by it, we must apply wisdom and make technology work for us and our purposes. If not, there will be even greater destruction of life. In every sense.

Forget the 50s and put aside weak tea conservativism longing for the mid 20th century. As we move forward and face great challenges, let’s take some inspiration from small town America in the 19th century. Not a bad place to live.

Imagine that, people used to have a sense of humor. Huh.

For the record, David returned to the Burg. He was buried there.



Posted by on June 15, 2018 in Uncategorized


Summer Social Media Break

I think I mentioned this on Twitter, but I am not planning on blogging much this summer. I have some projects, home-related and academic, I’m working on and any posts that I do write I’m guessing I’ll wait to publish later on.

I might publish some things that others hand on to me, so it might be worth checking here once in a while if you do that.

I’m also on Twitter and Facebook more infrequently, particularly in regards to read what others are saying. : )

Besides the projects I mention above, there are other good reasons to get off, and some of the stuff I talked about here a couple years ago still holds true.

Relatedly, have not read yet, but I’m sure this is good:


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Posted by on June 1, 2018 in Uncategorized


My Interviews with Matthew Garnett about Antinomianism, Radical Lutheranism, and CPH’s So-Called 3rd Use of the Law Book

For those of you who came here for Cody’s piece but would like to hear more solid Lutheran theologizing about the topics he covers.

Here is me on Matthew Garnett’s podcast to discuss such issues a few months back:

Oct. 1:

Oct. 7:

Oct. 13:

Oct. 20:




Posted by on May 10, 2018 in Uncategorized