Monthly Archives: June 2013

Spiritual prostitution in high gear


Goodbye, Christendom.

picture from

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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


We shouldn’t put limits on God?

issuesetcjournalFrom Pastor Wilken’s article in the new Issues ETC. Journal: “What God Cannot Do”.

“The pastor is retired now, so I really hope he is playing golf and no longer preaching. Here’s why. At the time, he served as senior pastor of a large congregation in my church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He was being interviewed on the radio. The interviewer asked him a simple question.

Q: Does God have some other way of salvation, other than Jesus?

A: God can do anything. So, he can save people anyway he wants. But Jesus is the only way we know of.

If his answer doesn’t shock you, it should.

When asked the question, “Does God have some other way of salvation, other than Jesus?” the pastor answered, in effect, “Maybe. I don’t know.”

Near the end of his article, Pastor Wilken says the following:

I’m sure that the retired pastor on the radio I mentioned earlier thought that he was being reasonable, open-minded and tolerant. He wasn’t. He was undermining the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sure he thought he was affirming God’s omnipotence. He wasn’t. He was speculating about a god that can and might do anything, not the God of the Bible. I’m sure he thought he was making God sound very loving. He wasn’t. He was pointing away from the only source of God’s love there is. I’m sure he thought he was comforting people with the idea of God’s omnipotence. He wasn’t. He was robbing everyone who heard him of the only true comfort for sinners when faced with God’s omnipotence.

This is a really good article.  At some point, the whole thing will be available on their website.  That said, I suggest that you subscribe to the Issues ETC. Journal so you can read the article now.  It will be well worth your time.

Here is another great article touching on the same issue:

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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


Killing others as you desire them to kill you: how and why the Golden Rule hunts down and kills every man (part II)

lawandgospelPart I

Part II

Note again that we are not kind like Him – far from it.  Even if we might be able to imagine ourselves as those who did heinous and evil deeds condemned by all (see part I), it may still be difficult for us to see how bad we actually are – that we don’t need to imagine being evil!  That said, we can all be led to see – by logical deductions made from the Golden Rule – that we should be willing to be more kind than we are.  And we are not – for man does not want to give to others that which we, in our hearts, know we ourselves need.  If we do venture to talk about forgiving our neighbors – even those we should love the most – we do it from a selfish perspective: I did it for my sake; it helped me.  It is all about us making the subtitle of “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus our God” our god, that is, “how to get what you want out of relationships”.  No, there is no virtue whatsoever in realizing the truth that unforgiveness and a thirst for revenge will destroy us.

No, if we think that we deserve some credit for coming to this realization that is fully and completely damnable.  There is nothing noble in such self-interest devoid of real concern for one’s neighbor (note I am not saying all self-interest is bad, just incomplete).  Just like the end of Romans 1 says, in our heart of hearts, we reveal ourselves to be persons “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:31, NASB).  If we do genuinely want to show mercy and bring comfort to persons besides ourselves, it is only to those who continue to please us.  And even if God would have us escape this damnable state, it’s one that men, without His help, aim to live in.  Those without Christ are incapable of grasping the “weightier matters of the law” – true mercy, justice and faithfulness (Matt 23).  Even if by His grace He would help us to see and live the wisdom of the Golden Rule in a more fulsome sense, without the clear word that Christ is our Life – who indeed forgives all our sins – we all are destined even to be prideful of this knowledge and life we “possess”.  To take at least some very real credit for our goodness.  At the very least, we are proud of being humble.  Or we are proud of realizing we are proud of being humble, etc. etc.  At bottom, we know ourselves to be good persons with good hearts.  There are perhaps some truly bad persons, but we are not among them.

Is it not clear that man perpetually underestimates the depth and seriousness the sin within him that leads to all manner of actual sins?  No one deserves mercy, but if we could speak that way surely God – who does not need the Golden Rule – would be more than just in withholding it from us.  Is it not clear that a “Great Divorce” on His part would actually be just!?  In spite of the fact that this thought does not seem to occur for many modern persons claiming Christ?

We sophisticated modern persons often seem to think we are more loving and forgiving than God himself!  Before any accuse Him of not following His own Golden Rule here, let us realize that He does not need our mercy and forgiveness.  No, He is the creator of and enforcer of the Golden Rule. 

Even if we were to never hear of Jesus Christ and His mercy that restores, all of us can still be shown that we deserve damnation.  This should be clear from what has already been said above.  No, if there is any love in the world it is from God, and apart from God’s continually influencing and completely turning human being’s hardened hearts, they shamefully reject the tender mercies which restore both life and eternal life through and through.  In short, if in our heart of hearts we believe that seventy-times-seven forgiveness should be for us but not for our neighbor – whether explicitly or implicitly or tacitly (if we care to make all these distinctions!) – we are really saying that it is not for us at all.  In spite of the fact that we are all one in Adam, we deny that we are our brother’s keeper.

In the realm in which we live, we must not avoid – and cannot avoid – making judgments about what is right and wrong.  That said, only sinless ones are entitled to cast the first stone – that judgment that seals the final cutoff and great divorce, or eternal separation.   

But look what even the only Sinless One does instead!  He is merciful.  He takes the harsh blows meant for us!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

I hope you can join with me in saying to this Lamb: “Lord have mercy!  Hosannah! (that is “save now”)”


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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


Killing others as you desire them to kill you: how and why the Golden Rule hunts down and kills every man (part I)

hammerofgod“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”—Matthew 7:12

Part I

First of all, in case any of you were unaware of the fact, the “Pontificator” is back.  Father A. Kimel, the prolific theological blogger who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism years ago, has now become Eastern Orthodox and is now blogging over at Eclectic Orthodoxy.  Years ago, Father Kimel’s blog was the place for very interesting theological discussion for those of the more ancient expressions of Christian faith, and I always found it interesting how he tried to incorporate Lutheran insights into many a conversation.

Recently, he has had a few posts discussing justification by faith, and with this notions of penal substitution (see here and here and especially hereIn his view, we cannot say “the attributes of justice and mercy are reconciled at Calvary.”  This is because “the penal construal of atonement makes justice prior to mercy: the latter can only be displayed once the demands of justice are fulfilled.”

Put that way, of course there would be a problem.  After all, God’s merciful heart not only flows from the cross, but leads to the cross.  In any case, this series of posts can be seen as a re-frame and defense of God’s just nature.  Here goes…

We are all utterly damnable.  Mercy-rejecting people all.  How so?

Note that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth… God gave them up… (3 x)” (Romans 1:17, 24, 26, 28).  Not only this, but part of our ungodliness and unrighteousness is this: “in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).

Ouch.  Evidently, this fact also points to a suppression of the truth on our part.

And first and foremost, let us all acknowledge that there is plenty of this suppression going on.  As Romans 1 also indicates, men have an unarticulated sense – in their bones – of the reality that is God, and this from their earliest days (this is your “infant theology” for this post – see here for more).  Further, intellectually they simply know that something cannot come from nothing (see here for more on this).  But suppression of the truth is not something that only applies to those denying these realities.

As far as how we are to act there is also a great deal of suppression going on.   I hope you will allow me to demonstrate.  Note that all adults are able to at least grasp the idea behind the “Golden Rule” – we are not just to not do to others what we don’t want them to do to us, as many teachers before Jesus Christ said – but we are simply to do unto others as we would have them do to us!  (note: if a person does not think this seems to work with the sixth commandment, for example, that person should think about how they would want others to treat their own mother, sister, or daughter).

So, the “Golden Rule” is our template for how we treat our fellow man.  Now consider this:  Do we want others to forgive us – i.e. restore us when we have done what is wrong and harmed those relationships?  Of course we do (after Adam and Eve’s sin, love does mean, contrary to the song, all of us having to say we are sorry).  And hypothetically, if we found ourselves to be those who had done deeds that not only harmed relationships but were universally seen as heinous and evil, would we still want forgiveness for ourselves?  Unless we were in total despair over our despicable deeds, we certainly would!  We would long for a mercy and kindness that could restore us – and not justice of the retributive kind.

We Christians also know that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).  But this is not how we operate – for we are not ready to show such kindness to others, and this extends to our anemic understanding of how the “Golden Rule” should permeate our lives.  We are not ready to give forgiveness to others as we would like to be forgiven – where our own inward evaluation takes us outside of ourselves and our individual interests and concerns.  No.  Rather, we see life as being all about “what I do for myself by myself to enrich myself” (Beverly Yanke) – and we are self-centered persons who want from others what we will not give to others.  In short, we do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves, much less love God with all our heart, strength, soul and mind.   We do not fear, love and trust in God.  And this is incredibly serious. 

Without Christ in our life, it is not just that we will be damned, but we are damned already.  Life without God is hell. 

To say that we should freely restore all who sin, however they have sinned seems unfair (note: this does not mean that there will never be consequences for our sin)… there is a bit of the scandal of the cross detectable even here, written in the reason God gives us and which is accessible to every man.  Not only this, but the Holy Scriptures of course give us definitive proof that God is kind, and that in His patience, He is always looking to lead persons to the path of godly sorrow and repentance which leads to faith in His pardon, and hence, forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Jesus has cleared up any confusion once and for all regarding what the Father’s face looks like towards sinful human beings.

Part II

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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


Judging Jesus style?: the real reasons for discipline in the church

ICor5,11-13A very interesting conversation going on at Rod Dreher’s blog about the time and place to shun.

Here is some from Dreher:

Growing up in the Deep South is good training for developing the kind of conscience that can love sinners despite their sin. Every younger person, white and black, knows at least one old white person who holds immoral views on race, but who is also, in other ways, a kind, generous, and upstanding person. Are we to condemn them wholesale for their moral blindness on this one issue? How fair is that? More to the point, how truthful is that, given that all of us are morally blind in one way or another, and depend on the mercy of others, hoping that they will love us and accept us despite our sins, failings, and errors. Once you start pulling at that thread, and deciding who you are and aren’t going to love and live in relationship with because they’ve transgressed an important moral boundary, who knows where it will end? There are some moral boundaries that, when crossed, to require disfellowshipping. But I think we ought to be reluctant to draw those lines.

Rom9,1-3_001One commentator on the blog said that she had grown up in a family where people “thought it was their responsibility to inform everybody of their sins, or at the very least to let their disapproval be known”.

She said that in her teens she realized that all of this “fraternal correction” was to save themselves from hell, and not because they actually cared about those who erred or thought that their attempts to correct would amount to anything.

She also says that no one really cared that the unkind things that people said turned others away.  And then she says this:

No matter–my family knew with utter certainty that on judgement day, they could proudly stand before the Lord and say, “But I tried to tell all these sinners! I pointed out their sins to them, Lord!”

It was utterly self-serving and self-absorbed. I have a feeling the worst of them were in for quite a shock when they hit the pearly gates.

I loved them anyway, of course, and I hope for God’s mercy for them, but I also hope none of my children turn out that way.

Now I wonder if the commenter has perhaps flattened out the complexity of this situation a bit too much.  But let’s assume not.

Here is my reply to her, currently in moderation:

Of course that should not be the motivation. They were simply wrong. The Christian’s motivation should always be out of love for God and love for one’s neighbor (see Paul in Romans 9:1-5). Love for God by honoring Him and choosing His way of doing “tough love” and love for neighbor that starts at home (preferably in a Christian home and at the very least in the wider family of the Church, starting locally) and seeks to include more and more persons in its embrace.

If [what you say] is the motivation of the Christian and they become aware of such a motivation (and hopefully brothers and sisters who sense this is their motivation will make them aware of it at appropriate times), they should simply confess it before God and rest in the peace of His absolution. We fight the war against the world, our flesh and the devil not to attain peace with God, but because we have peace with God through the flesh and blood of the crucified Son of God, God incarnate.

Again, if that is not the reason we fight, we should confess our sin before God – our sin of not believing that He constantly gives broken sinners forgiveness, life and salvation 70 x 7 – and move on in faith, sometimes boldly, and sometimes with trembling.

ICor5,4-5To another commenter I said the following:

you seem incapable of believing that it is possible for a person who chooses to shun/stigmatize another might love them. I am telling you, they can. If you can’t believe that, I can’t make you. Their greatest desire is that they are going to be able to have the most perfect relationship possible with that person in the next life. They simply know and believe that true faith in Christ only exists in repentance – exactly the thing that that first “Protestant” said first in the 95 theses he posted that ended up starting the Reformation.

This conversation is why I think blogs can be so valuable.  They can be marvelous and challenge you with things and scenarios you never would have imagined on your own.  They force you to clarify your thinking.  To define terms and deal with concrete situations (as much as we can do that not being in the particular circumstance/context ourselves).

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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Uncategorized



Daring to deny Darwin


(“Darwin Day” is Feb. 12 – I was bummed to find out I had missed it)

What could be more interesting than the creation-evolution debate?

As a very young child, one of the main things I wanted to know about was how science and the Bible fit together.  “What about the dinosaurs dad?” (an elephant?)

The powers that be inform us that anyone who believes in something like young earth creationism is a complete and total moron (evidently people like Leonard Brand, Ben Carson, Terry Hamblin [Wikipedia article here], Andrew McIntosh, John C. Sanford, Raymond Damadian, Stephen Lloyd and Todd Wood for instance).  These days, saying you believe this a good way to socially assassinate yourself when it comes to intellectual respectability*.

It seems another way to do this – not as much of course – is simply to question evolution period, as Ben Steyn argued in the 2008 movie Expelled.  Besides the revealing Dawkins-aliens moment, the highlight of the movie had to be the agnostic and secular Jew David Berlinski, the mathematician-physicist turned harsh Darwin-critic.  His effortless takedown of neo-Darwinian thought was compelling and his brash confidence admittedly entertaining (see the You Tube clip below for Berlinski on Darwinian evolution).  Berlinski has nothing but contempt for what he sees as the intellectually facile system that is called the neo-Darwinian synthesis – a “Scientific Scandal” if there ever was one, he says.

I would say that Berlinski is well worth reading (if not for the sheer entertainment).  And recently, our library ordered a book of his essays The Deniable Darwin.

As one can see by looking at Berlinski’s various books as held by OCLC WorldCat libraries, many of his peers in academia evidently did not judge this book to be one of his better moments.


One might be forgiven for thinking the articulate anti-Darwinian thoughts of a highly educated, scientific mind the stature of Berlinskis’ might actually be of interest to people.

Certainly, there is an interest in semi-popularized books about evolution.


All this said, as one can see from the first chart above his 2008 book lampooning atheism did a bit better.  In it, he said of Darwinism:

We have no idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did.  We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions.  Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. (bold mine, p. xiii, see also 156-165).

And in this excellent interview on Issues ETC., Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute talks about Berlinski as well as four other prominent, non-religious scientists scientists who have dared to question the Darwinian orthodoxy*: Jerry Fodor, Lynn Margulis (both opponents of intelligent design), Thomas Nagel (in his book pictured below: “the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude”), and Steve Fuller (an agnostic who defends intelligent design).  He also mentioned the late Philip Skell.


Luskin reinforces what should be the obvious notion that science is not the impartial search for truth, but is also governed by important sociological and political factors (and spiritual of course) as well.

It also seems to me that Luskin has been very careful with his examples.  I noted several months ago his Discovery Institute colleague Paul Neslon was rightfully skewered (it seemed to me) by a couple prominent atheist-Darwinists, Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers, for being careless about representing people’s views.

This topic is always interesting to me.  I wish I had more time to read these books!


*That said, here is a link to a recent debate between two prominent young earth creationists (YEC) and two old earth creationists (OEC).

**The article the interview is based on is found in this issue (Issue 2, 2013) of the Christian Research Journal: Are There Nonreligious Skeptics of Darwinian Evolution and Proponents of Intelligent Design?

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Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Uncategorized



Trust in God: infinitely precious

2178722084_83ec7c31d3Some persons go overboard in thinking that God gives them personal guidance.  Others go overboard in thinking that we should only look to the Bible and never have any confidence in anything else.

After my last post,one man left some interesting comments:

Referring to people going overboard in their belief that they had personal words from God which they pressed on others, he said this:

“This problem was precisely why I left the Southern Baptist churches, and went looking for another denomination.

Straight away, I narrowed it down to “Conservative” Episcopal, or LCMS. I started with Episcopalians because C.S. Lewis was an Anglican, and I figured if he could be a member, then I can at least shelter there. We found a church before I could move on to you Lutherans.”

I responded by saying that I was very happy about how LC-MS people’s gut instinct is to flee to the Scriptures, and yet…

“Its just that in the Scriptures themselves we sometimes see God giving special guidance…

But here is where the details get important.  I went on to say:

Still, if I am understanding you rightly, you are saying that you discerned – using the Scriptures and your God-given wisdom, that the kind of “special guidance” some persons claimed was from God was anything but…”

He responded:

Correct. I stand ready to believe anyone who claims special guidance if they tell me they heard a voice, saw a burning bush, had their eyes scaled, etc. Passing a sign for Baskin-Robbins is not a clue from God to date Robin; just because you were thinking about Robin at the time.

This actually harmed me. I had almost totally given up on believing in miracles altogether. A couple weeks ago I heard a story of miraculous healing, and it was the first time I ever believed it. Honestly, I was so relieved I almost cried.

“So relieved I almost cried”.  Interesting, huh? 

I think what these comments illustrate is that when we fall off the horse either way – on the left or the right – the believer’s trust in God can be harmed.

As I said to start my last post:

When persons ask whether or not God speaks to us today, often they are not wondering about speaking per se, but want to know whether or not God provides specific guidance to us in particular circumstances. 

And here’s a good way to end:

Lord, take my hand and lead me
Upon life’s way;
Direct, protect and feed me
From day to day.
Without your grace and favour
I go astray;
So take my hand, O Savior,
And lead the way.*


*Lord, take my hand and lead me.  Herman Brückner, Rudolph A. John & others
based on Julie von Hausmann 1826-1901

Image credit:



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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


How God communicates with us outside of, but in harmony with, the Scriptures (part II)

Part I

God?: "Check this out".

God?: “Check this out”.

When persons ask whether or not God speaks to us today, often they are not wondering about speaking per se, but want to know whether or not God provides specific guidance to us in particular circumstances.   

Months ago, there was a post on the wonderful Lutheran site, Worldview Everlasting , and the “WE Team” answered a question that went like this (the post’s title: “Are conservative Lutherans anti-Spirit led?”)

I’ve been watching your videos for a while now. You seem to be anti-spirit led. In that everything we need for this life is in the word, and it is, but certain issues or decisions can arise in you[r] life where you need direction and the Bible doesn’t have a “clear” answer. Like choosing between 2 jobs or what college to attend. Or simply just asking the Lord for direction in your life. I believe if we ask we will receive. ~B (bold mine)

Here was the response from one of the WE Team pastors:

Dear B: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? I believe that God has made me together with all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. When it comes to decisions we make which there is no clear command or prohibition from the Word of God, we have freedom to make such a decision. For this, God has given us our reason. Yes pray about it, but if for one minute you begin to think that God is speaking to you outside of His external Word, don’t believe it, for there is no certainty there. In fact it is quite often that Satan appears as an angel of light, deceiving one into thinking that his activity is the activity of the Holy Spirit. How do you know the difference? You look to God’s Word, and where there is freedom and God’s Word is silent, you can use your reason and decide how best you can love and serve your neighbor. (bold mine)

I can understand why the good pastor feels he should speak this way. But is this all he should be saying?

What does this mean? Although we may not have clear promise from God for us today, we know, for example, that the Lord’s angel spoke to Philip (Acts 8), the Holy Spirit was said to choose Paul and Barnabas for His work (Acts 13), a man in a vision told Paul to come into Macedonia (Acts 16), and a man named Agabus both prophesied a coming famine and Paul’s being handed over to the Gentiles (Acts 11 and 21 – I note Paul, perhaps exercising his Christian freedom, goes to Jerusalem anyways).  Should we simply close ourselves up to the possibility of such events?

A depiction of Prince Frederick's dream of Luther fulfilling Hus' prophecy.

A depiction of Prince Frederick’s dream of Luther fulfilling Hus’ prophecy.

But if so, why did the early Lutherans and Lutherans still today talk about the prophecy Hus made being fulfilled in Luther? (even though we don’t put our hope in this). Why do we assume Luther in the Smalcald articles is saying more than simply “we don’t make church doctrines out of things that are outside God’s word”? (see part I)  Obviously, judging from what Luther wrote elsewhere, he certainly believed in prayer being answered and Christians taking comfort in God’s answers to their specific prayers….

We all should know that God certainly does provide specific guidance and help to us in particular circumstances when it comes to prayer – and even without it.  In I Kings someone loses an ax head and God cares enough about this seemingly little thing to help them find it after Elisha prays.  My wife reminds me that 2 years ago, my son lost a small toy during a 4th of July Fireworks display.  She prayed with him about it and miraculously found it on the ground far away. She is also convinced that God sent an angel to untie a solid knot on our cat’s leash so he didn’t end up hanging himself on our neighbor’s fence last year.  I have no trouble believing that, and in fact do.

Yes?  See * below.

Yes? See * below.

Many of us probably do have experiences like this where we think that God was comforting us, helping us, guiding us, and in general, communicating with us in a special way.  Of course, we don’t put our ultimate hope in this.  And this is definitely not that which gives us certainty of our having peace with God! (i.e. being saved, being in a state of grace).  But are we wrong to have some robust confidence about these things nonetheless?  For example, when an evangelical says “it’s a God thing”, do we need to insist this is necessarily them putting the focus on themselves – or are we willing to consider that it may be a general child-like confidence in God’s providence and that he answers prayers?  What if someone says – gasp! – that they are certain that God led them or helped them in this or that way in their lives (as long as it is not into something sinful!)?  My father dreamed of his life-threatening car accident about five days before he had it.  We know of a Lutheran pastor not far from here who was anointed with oil by fellow pastors and made a full recovery from throat cancer.  I know a person who knows that God healed two animals on death’s door (after praying for these).  I’ve heard many other stories besides these from people I know.

On the other hand, as the Baptist Albert Mohler says, I think we can say with confidence that the person hearing from God about what color to paint their kitchen table is probably not a person to go to for spiritual direction.

So what does good spiritual direction look like?  I have often said to persons anxiously seeking a spouse, “don’t think there is just one special person God has planned for you that you have to find”.  I think that this, in general, is a good way to look at things: God may often simply give us confidence that we can take one particular path that He has presented to us.  That said, to give another example of how Lutherans falter here, the other day my wife was reading the Lutheran youth magazine “Higher Things” (Winter 2012 – not available for free).  In one article a pastor, Pastor Bill Cwirla, in no uncertain terms tells his audience that God has no plan for their life, and encourages them to look to Luther’s Table of Duties in the catechism. Now, I think there may indeed be a time and place to direct a person to the Table of Duties when they are wondering what to do and seem obsessed about not “hearing from God”.  Especially if they are feeling burdened by this (there is no doubt that the danger exists that persons may be taught or just think that they must discover God’s will for their life and that if they do not sense they are experiencing Him or His leading that they are failing as Christians – or may not even be Christians! – see here).  That said, should we say things like this to fellow believers?  I don’t think so.  My wife was quite upset with this particular call to use what some call sanctified common sense and I think justifiably so.  These are not either-or kinds of matters.  But the impression is given that they are.

I understand that there are real questions that remain here: when God spoke in the book of Acts for example, was that using visioncastingdiscernible words that were clearly coming from Him and not the recipient of the message?  Or was it more of a voiceless “prompting” the recipient felt in his or her spirit?  Might God guide, in this or that circumstance (perhaps most likely in places where His word has not been established), not only individuals and families but even congregations in this way today?  (I am not talking about “where there is no vision the people perish”, “obey-me-or-disobey-God”, “vision casting”-stuff, whether threatened by pastor or layperson – see here).  And still – does not God, having given us the “mind of Christ”, primarily guide us with His Holy Spirit by daily applying His external word to our hearts and minds – empowering what we may justifiably call our “sanctified common sense”?  In any case, we Lutherans should be more careful about how we talk about these matters – not giving the impression that we “quench the Spirit” (and giving them reason to think they should look for another church).  In countering one excess or another, let’s not fall off the other side of the horse.


*-For some good critiques of this book, go here.

vision casting image (and vision-casting critique) here:


Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Uncategorized


Song gets me every time…

Listening to this song in the background as I grade papers for class.  A very beautiful and powerful tribute from this man to the child he helped abort.

“Happy Birthday”

Happy Birthday…so make a wish

[Verse 1:]
Please accept my apologies, wonder what would have been
Would you’ve been a little angel or an angel of sin?
Tom-boy running around, hanging with all the guys.
Or a little tough boy with beautiful brown eyes?
I payed for the murder before they determined the sex
Choosing our life over your life meant your death
And you never got a chance to even open your eyes
Sometimes I wonder as a fetus if you faught for your life?
Would you have been a little genius in love with math?
Would you have played in your schoolclothes and made me mad?
Would you have been a little rapper like your papa da Piper?
Would you have made me quit smokin’ by finding one of my lighters?
I wonder about your skintone and shape of your nose?
And the way you would have laughed and talked fast or slow?
Think about it every year, so I picked up a pen
Happy birthday, love you whoever you woulda been
Happy birthday…

All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed (happy birthday)
All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed

I made a mistake!

[Verse 2:]
I’ve got a millon excuses to why you died
Bet the people got their own reasons for homicide
Who’s to say it woulda worked, and who’s to say it wouldn’t have?
I was young and strugglin’ but old enough to be your dad
The fear of being a father has never disappeared
Pondering frequently while I’m zippin’ on my beer
My vision of a family was artificial and fake
So when it came time to create I made a mistake
Now you’ve got a little brother maybe he’s really you?
Maybe you really forgave us knowin’ we was confused?
Maybe everytime that he smiles it’s you proudly knowin’
that your father’s doin’ the right thing now?
I never tell a woman what to do with her body
But if she don’t love children then we can’t party
Think about it every year, so I picked up a pen
Happy birthday, love you whoever you woulda been
Happy birthday…

All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed (happy birthday)
All I thought was a dream (yeah, make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed

I made a mistake!

And from the heavens to the womb to the heavens again
From the endin’ to the endin’, never got to begin
Maybe one day we could meet face to face?
In a place without time and space
Happy birthday…

From the heavens to the womb to the heavens again
From the endin’ to the endin’, never got to begin
Maybe one day we could meet face to face?
In a place without time and space
Happy birthday…

All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed (happy birthday)
All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed

I made a mistake…!

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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


How God communicates with us outside of, but in harmony with, the Scriptures (part I)

um, no.

um, no.

Why doesn’t God speak to people today like He did in the Bible?

I think lots of people ask this question.  That said, I also think that we should think critically about the assumptions that might be behind it.

When it comes to the practical question of hearing from God, I suggest the main answer we should give is this:

If you want to hear from God, listen to what Jesus says in His word.  As the book of Hebrews tells us: ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.’”

Also note that even in “Bible times”, though God would sometimes speak audibly with His prophets, we also get the impression that there were long periods of time where God was relatively silent, not doing miracles, etc. (think of the 400 years of slavery in Egypt and the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments).

The Christian church has historically recognized – with unanimity – certain Gospels, epistles, etc., as God’s authoritative voice, His infallible word, which applies to today.  There is no doubt that confidence in this word has plummeted, sometimes even among Christians who consider themselves theologically conservative.  Either the Bible merely contains but is not Gods’ word or it is something like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the main intention not being to convey real history that speaks to us and forms us now, but rather to simply speak to us and form us now (see what happened there?)

Yes, that's true

Yes, that’s true

So first of all, let us speak about the voice of God where we should know we have it.  God’s Holy Spirit will certainly guide us – through the words of the Scriptures as well as words faithfully conveying those truths – acting on our mind and consciences… We do experience God in this way, full stop.  This leads us to Christ, God’s “last word” in these “end times” (see above).  Hearing and reading the word of God is experiencing God, for it is His communication to us, which leads to our good, right and salutary communicating with Him (in responsive prayer).

Now, if one were to hear God’s voice outside of these Scriptures it will not – if is truly God’s word –  “go beyond what is written”, as Paul says, in addition to not contradicting what is read in the Bible.  Not only this, but this voice will certainly not be giving us new information by which to make new doctrines.  What would this voice do then – whether we are speaking of a voice heard audibly or sensed internally?



Well, let’s not move too quickly.  First, note what Luther said about some people in his day who were saying that God created spiritual life and revealed doctrine to them – not via His “external word” – but via direct impressions in their heart, purportedly given to them by the “Holy Spirit”:

In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning [from the first fall] to the end of the world, [its poison] having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power [life], and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the Papacy and Mahomet. 10] Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. 11] It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments. For God wished to appear even to Moses through the burning bush and spoken Word; and no prophet neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments [or spoken Word]. 12] Neither was John the Baptist conceived without the preceding word of Gabriel, nor did he leap in his mother’s womb without the voice of Mary. 13] And Peter says, 2 Pet. 1:21: The prophecy came not by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy, much less would the Holy Ghost have moved them to speak when they still were unholy [or profane]; for they were holy, says he, since the Holy Ghost spake through them.

I note that in large part because of this quotation from Luther (in the Smalcald Articles, an authoritative document of the Lutheran church), many Lutherans are determined to stick only with the Bible for guidance at all times.  On the one hand, I can fully understand this, because if we abide in the Scriptures and hold these words to be the most important words we can be hearing, meditating on, and responding to, we can hardly go wrong.  But on the other hand, this view can lead to a lack of nuance when nuance is necessary.  

What do I mean by “lack of nuance”?  In my next post, I will give a couple of examples…

Part II

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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Uncategorized