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Monthly Archives: July 2013

What is the anonymous God? The gradual capitulation of the LC-MS to the God of American civil religion?

anonymousgodcover

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.—2 Corinthians 11:4

Are we in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LC-MS) perhaps just trying to cling to a dissipating social respectability in America – when being unmistakably faithful should be our goal (I love the last paragraph of this post!)?

Cardinal Dolan: “You love God, we love God and he is the same God” -- http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/06/cardinal_dolan_visits_first_mo.html#/0

Cardinal Dolan: “You love God, we love God and he is the same God” — http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/06/cardinal_dolan_visits_first_mo.html#/0

Growing up in America, I came to consider the God that we speak of in this country to be not necessarily something less than the Christian God, but rather a step towards Jesus Christ.  In other words, the “anonymous God” idea was a polite nod to the natural knowledge of God that Paul discusses in Romans 1 en route to Jesus Christ.  It only goes so far, opening the door for persons of all religions not to be excluded from the American experiment*, but to also hear more as they come to this great land – this land built largely by Christian people.

Raise your hand if you have no tolerance for John 14:6? -- see post and comments here: http://thebarebulb.com/2013/06/04/photographic-evidence/

Raise your hand if you have no tolerance for John 14:6? — see post and comments here: http://thebarebulb.com/2013/06/04/photographic-evidence/

Maybe at one time that was a reasonable interpretation, but perhaps it is becoming less reasonable.  As I understand the Boy Scout controversy between the LC-MS and the WELS from the 1950s, the WELS basically insisted that the Boy Scouts were a type of junior Masonry – and that by participating in the Scouts one was necessarily choosing to participate in a false understanding of God where the “anonymous God” actually took a definite form.  In other words, it is not so much that the people in it disagreed about who God was and felt others had a “right to be wrong”, but that the whole thing necessarily had to mean – would inevitably come to mean? – that there was just one God and we all believed in and worshipped him.

ctcr

One of the things about the new CTCR document on the natural knowledge of God (see here) is that it does not really address the questions that many of us are asking today.  I hear quite a bit about people having not so much a false, but rather deficient view of God – they “only know a God of the Law” we might hear.  Can a person – in some sense – believe in and worship the one, true God while lacking truly spiritual belief and worship?  It would seem so, because we know that there are those in true churches who say they uphold the orthodox teaching about God that nevertheless do not have true faith.  But for Christians, this has historically meant that these persons in part believed, albeit wrongly, in the Son of God who took on human flesh in history.  Now, this notion of an externally correct but internally false belief and worship in the one true God seems to have expanded somewhat.

Our response?

Our response?

 

Does the person who has a general and vague belief in “one God” have a false god or should we just say they have a deficient view of God – perhaps one that is “theologically imprecise”?  We really should get more specific: should we say that a person who insists that God has not come into history in the flesh as Jesus Christ has a false god or only a deficient view of God?  What if the person asserts that Jesus Christ is God but they are to?  What if they insist that Jesus Christ, the man in history, is divine and is to be worshipped but is not fully God?  Do we say false or just “deficient”?  And a related question: should we insist that we can definitively say what is and is not worship?

Our response?

Our response?

If we use a term like “deficient” this raises all kinds of questions.  Are we saying that a person will still be saved or might be saved if words like those spoken above accurately reflect the hearts that speak them?  Or are we just trying to be polite in civil society?  If so, can we think of other ways of being polite and respectful while still giving an unmistakably clear Christian witness?  I think these are the kinds of questions we need to address.

Of course we do not want to deny that each individual may indeed possess somewhat unique beliefs over and against the wider culture or religious groups in which he is found.  What cultures or official religious teaching says and what individuals believe often varies.  We do have the story of Melchizedek in the Bible, for example.  We might also think about Cornelius, whose view of and faith in God was certainly incomplete (deficient?), even as it was true (see here).  That said, are there things that we can say, generally speaking, about the lay of the land that we now inhabit in early 21st century America?   How should we live with our neighbors who do not know Christ?  How shall we speak with them?

anonymous4

In the past, when people in this country had more uniform ideas about what the natural knowledge of God was based on their knowledge of the Bible (quite a bit in this country), Christian evangelists thought that it made sense to go to the core of the Bible, Jesus Christ, right away.  Here we think of what Walter A. Maier and Billy Graham did.  Does it make less sense to do this now?  In a culture that is increasingly paganized and immoral should we be giving more or less weight to the natural knowledge of God?  As I wrote in my last post about this issue (see here), I think we should be focusing more on Divine revelation, specifically getting to the matter of the Risen Judge whom the Father has proven true by His resurrection from the dead.  Directing out attention to that, among other things, I think we can avoid preaching a “different Jesus”.

“Every knee shall bow” can be sweet Gospel to us Christians, and hopefully we can say it like it is!  I am so glad that Jesus is the only true God!  I am so glad that He and He alone reveals the truth about who God is!  I am joyful that He is the one worthy and no other!

Some who do not believe may be caught up in that and eagerly hear the message not just of His resurrection but His cross.  But of course we know that many will not.  Still – I think that there is power in this bold message.  Is there power in the message of the natural law to?  Perhaps there is… but maybe that comes in the context of preaching God’s law like its something we assume people know at some level? (instead of emphasizing how we can see how clear it is by the reason God has given us**)  That said, it seems to me that if we were more bold in our public messages about God’s Law and the Risen Judge many of those just might say to us: “I liked it better when you focused on that ‘natural law’ thing you talked about…  Shut up about this other stuff, why don’t you…”

"I have agonized over choosing words that accurately record the facts at my disposal without giving offense to any who disagree with my conclusions."  What does this mean?

“I have agonized over choosing words that accurately record the facts at my disposal without giving offense to any who disagree with my conclusions.” What does this mean?

Here’s what I think: maybe that is the kind of reaction we need to be hearing more of.  Not because we want to, but because that is what happens when you preach according to what the times demand.

FIN

*Of course, the idea of God should also make people think of judgment and curb sin.  This contributes to religion’s role as “social glue”.  This aspect of “under God” in America seems to have dissipated quite a bit as well.

**Years ago, I wrote the following:

Certainly, man has always sought to dethrone and play God, but in the past, it was perhaps easier to argue that since man exhibited a common design, any wide-spread commonalities in morality that existed in the world could and should be upheld.  Now, however, with at least the illusion that all the “laws of nature” can be fundamentally changed or altered, man grows bolder still at the dawn of the “brave new world”.  As much as I, for example, might want people to accept the argument that a human embryo is a human person by virtue of the hard, physical evidence of its genetic code[i], other scientists point to what they say are more genuine criteria – ideas which to me hardly seem to be more universal, clear, distinct, sensible…  For whatever reason, practical, cold, hard, detached, objective materialistic science seems to be convincing only a few these days.  Although Enlightenment rationalism of its agnostic and atheistic varieties may still put forth its occasional brave and enthusiastic convert who finds its tenants to be both valuable and convincing[ii], this is increasingly rare.  What is less rare is people tacitly assuming that though the Western world “works” better than other modes of life, they long for less individualistic and more holistic mental models, and so this is argument is hardly compelling and satisfying to them.[iii]  Evidently, in the minds of many, the factual and the ethical / religious are both important, but are completely separate realms.[iv]  It seems that however humanity is to be transformed, whether according to God’s or man’s design, the old ideas about reality – and even reality itself – need to be not merely renewed, but rather destroyed before being rebuilt.


[i] I think this is a very big deal.  Is it not entirely reasonable to ask the following?:  “Given that, physically (genetically) speaking, there is a common humanity, why is it that if we deny the other personhood we think we can confidently maintain our own?  On what basis (by what concept?) do we do this other than our own will to power – in short, to create the reality we desire?”  Of course, in order to avoid this conclusion, one may posit a radical dualism, namely, that matter is evil or of no consequence while the “soul” alone counts.  This can also be done in order to deny any distinction between the sexes, i.e., perhaps I experience myself as a male and my friend as female, but this duality is not real and should become one.  In addition, if we believe the physical body to be an illusory self (this is basic Eastern religion which would say the same of the multiplicity of particulars that we see around us, and further, in Buddhism, we find that the notion that we exist as individuals is the source of our suffering) this idea, of course, will have consequences in the [illusory] physical world.  Further, if we believe the psychological self (soul?) to be an illusory self, and therefore resort to talking only of the importance of useful fictions for our lives, how can this not result in unending power struggles – “red in tooth and claw” – for personal recognition?

[ii] The intriguing book Infidel, by the former Dutch politician and Muslim-turned-atheist-rationalist Ayan Hirsi Ali, comes to mind here.

[iii] Perhaps even here there are echoes of Christian influence.   People are wary of an overly particularistic, nationalistic view of life that seems to not really have the whole world in mind.  They sense that it is incomplete, some kind of self-serving “theology of glory” that, in the interest of surviving and perhaps even thriving, does so only at the expense of a thoughtlessness and parochialism towards the rest of the increasingly known world.  To them, the argument that Western civilization, capitalism, democracy, or “Christianity is the worst culture, economic system, form of government or religion – except for the others ones” (to paraphrase Churchill) may be true, but it also seems profoundly hollow as well – and rightly so.

[iv] This would seem to be the logical conclusion of popular philosopher David Wienberger’s new book Everything is Miscellaneous.

Image credits: www.anonymousartofrevolution.com

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Sex is nothing and sex is everything: unreasoning beasts all

homosexuality,main-qimg-67d2bb16695efaa25708afbbef6d879d

Western civilization = unreasoning beasts all.

From Rod Dreher’s blog:

Well, Commonweal, as many of you know, is the leading liberal Catholic magazine, and it has just published an essay by Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett explaining how there really is an emerging threat to religious liberty from all this…

[Here is a excerpt from Garnett]:

The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and gay civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

Now, from Mark Surburg’s blog:

I recently came across this piece written by Anthony Esolen two years ago.  He makes an interesting and very common sense argument against the sexual revolution.  We are told that what happens in the bedroom between two consenting adults is private and doesn’t concern anyone else.  Yet the very nature of sex is that it impacts the common good of society as a whole.

He writes:
About trivialities, the law should have little to say. But our sexual behavior is far from trivial. In fact, the same people who, in one way, claim for it such triviality that it must fall beneath the notice of the law, in another way, exalt it as the lodestone of human life, such that any curtailment of sexual autonomy must strike to the very heart of our beings. We cannot have it both ways at once. Indeed, I can conceive of no other thing more deeply determinative of what a society will be like, or even whether it will be a genuine society at all, than our folkways regarding men and women, their courtship, their marriage, their duties to one another, and their raising of children. Sex—both the distinction between man and woman, and the act that unites man and woman in the embrace that is essentially oriented towards the future—is a foundational consideration for every people. When we ask, “Will a man be allowed to have more than one wife?” or “Will husbands and wives be allowed to divorce at will?” or “Will unmarried people be encouraged to behave as if they were married?”, we are asking, whether we understand it fully or not, “What kind of culture, if any, do we want to share?”

Esolen goes on to note the ways that the sexual revolution has harmed the common good of our society. We can pretend that sex is a only a private thing between two consenting adults.  But the world around us that this has created says something very different.

Now to cap things off, this from Aaron Wolf, of Chronicles magazine, recently interviewed on Issues ETC:

To treat a same-sex couple differently would be hateful, a sin against fairness, a refusal to recognize, accept, and embrace publicly something that pleases them.

A tiny portion of the population has successfully overthrown an institution that has existed since the Creation of the world.  How?  In 1993, two same-sex couples in Hawaii simply wanted to be married, and we as a society have no publicly recognized basis for saying no.  But more to the point, like the very neat categories of hetero- and homosexual, gay marriage “screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is OK.”  Gay marriage screams acceptance to the vast majority of Americans who do not personally experience same-sex attraction, but who want public reassurance that whatever they want to do—whether to consume deviant pornography, or trade in their wives over irreconcilable differences, or live in deliberately childless marriages and accumulate toys—is OK.  You are what you are because that’s how you were born.  And any challenge or restraint on what you want to do, on what pleases you, cannot be tolerated.  Fair is fair.

Conservative Christians have failed to stop the juggernaut of gay marriage because we have embraced the values of the sensate culture.  American society is not ruled and normed by Scripture, and so any appeal to it (“I will make him an help meet for him”) in defense of “traditional marriage” appears as nothing more than special pleading, an appeal to what pleases us….

 – See more at: http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2013/07/25/hell-bent-why-gay-marriage-was-inevitable/#sthash.31jAelr9.dpuf

Updated:

Also listen to Wheaton prof. Stanton L. Jones, summing up what we have – and haven’t – learned about homosexuality from social science: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/02/same-sex-science

And, now listen to 47:00-49:38.  David Brooks, speaking at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, has some shocking information here that sums it up.  Think this hedonism started in the 1960s?  Guess again

FIN

Image credit: http://www.quora.com/Marco-Witzmann

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

All things dying: why even grace-promoting pagan elites are ridden by the devil

allthingsshiningii_001

The answer is this: because only the risen Christ is Lord of all and the giver of all good gifts. That’s it.

But the wise men of our age do not want this Christ – this beautiful Christ.  They do not rejoice and lift their voices to heaven, joyful that the God who is there has the face of the crucified and risen one – and Him alone.  They want something inferior, false, and, quite frankly, despicable.

It is from the elite of the elites, in All Things Shining (2011 ; see here and here for two very good Amazon reviews, the first one being the kind of reaction I suspect the authors wanted, and the second one appreciated by me), that we find one of the latest optimistic appraisals of the West’s future – discovering that a polytheism* akin to Homer’s is our hope.

Philosophers Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, of UC-Berkeley and Harvard respectively, write:

[the gods are] malicious and vindictive and joyous and divine – and the universe is all of these by turns.  Which is to say that ultimately it is no one of them.  A whole pantheon of gods is really there” (p. 185)

The Gods Descending to Do Battle, Pope's Homer's Iliad. B. 20. L. 51 ; Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Gods_Descending_to_Do_Battle.png

The Gods Descending to Do Battle, Pope’s Homer’s Iliad. B. 20. L. 51 ; Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Gods_Descending_to_Do_Battle.png

Feel encouraged?  In Nietzsche-esque fashion they write:

“At the center of Homer’s world, then, is the sense that what matters is already given to us, and that the best life is the one that manages to get in sync with it.  This vision speaks eloquently to our own modern needs.  Homer’s Olympian gods give his Greeks a sense of the sacred that underwrites the joys and sorrows of a truly meaningful existence.  To lure back these Homeric gods is a saving possibility after the death of God: it would allow us to survive the breakdown of monotheism while resisting the descent into a nihilisitic existence” (p. 61).

Really.  Polytheism? (again see * below)  They say this is needed, in part, because of the current disenchantment of the world:

“After Descartes, we have come to see ourselves as almost infinitely free assigners of meaning who can give whatever meaning we choose to the meaningless objects around us.” (p. 139)

They also don’t really get Luther, another link in their argumentative chain:

“in Luther’s account of Christianity the world in its political, religious, and environmental forms is entirely disenchanted” (p. 136).

lutherbetweengodanddevil

Actually, Luther was a man between God and the devil first and foremost because he believed the world’s institutions – family, church and state – were between God and the devil.  In any case, they are out to re-enchant the world with polytheism, and they talk about how in Homer’s Greece people were caught up in the good work of the gods (they don’t focus on the very bad works, really – or the groaning realities of the fallen creation for that matter) and recognize these gifts with thankful hearts.  Dreyfus and Kelly talk about how modern man needs to make the effort to make himself open to receive these gifts in thankfulness.  This is the right posture, they say.

And here, in contrast to the freedom – and paralyzing burden – of the choices that those in the modern West must constantly make – they put forth a “grace” from the outside as that which can be the most formative thing in our lives (of course the fact that many a modern man needs to be reminded that something above and outside of himself provides joy, wonder, gratitude and meaning simply shows how far gone the West as a whole is).  That said, what is missing here is that the authors basically presuppose that we can – by an act of our will – make ourselves ready and open to receive that Ultimate which is good, true, beautiful, and finally saving.

bondageofthewill

We cannot.

So, some might ask: are we not responsible at all then?  Can we just say “the devil made me do it”?

Well, if you are using this as an excuse, you will pay for it.  You are like Helen and you are responsible for what happened with Paris** – even if you think “it just happened” as a gift from the gods.  No, you will indeed pay for being ridden by the devil you love.

Unless.

Repent.  Be found in Christ who bled and died to release you from your sin, from death, and from the dark spiritual forces that haunt this fallen world.  Be swept away and “attuned” by His purposes and desires instead.  For before Him both the “customer is always right” and the “spirit of the age” find their deserved end.  And there is no need to “lure [him] back” – for He is still with us, wherever His word is proclaimed – even in the moment you read this – and His sacraments administered according to His command.

Again, “All things Shining” advocates a return to polytheism.  Not necessarily Homer’s pantheon, but something like it.  Practically speaking, this means gods that are more like fallen human beings.  You know, the petty and vindictive who strike you down when you offend them and their honor.  Those who love war and encourage adultery and use their charisma to make it happen.  Those who don’t really care about some people and look very bad compared to Jesus.

Bummer that?

Bummer that?

There is a good reason why very early Christian apologists like Justin Martyr and Athenagoras mercilessly skewered and mocked the gods of the ancient world (see here and here, for example).  While in the Old Testament it is human beings and particularly God’s very own people who don’t come off so well, in Greek mythology it is the divine beings themselves who don’t.  We need to be saved from this, not by this.

Don’t get me wrong here – David Brooks is right to say that this is a “smart” book.  It is very smart: these men are indeed learned, insightful, and creative and I did learn some valuable things from them.  Their diagnosis and analysis of the modern malaise that infects our elites – and increasingly our populace – has much to say to us.  That said, it is amazing that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Goodbye West?  Hello India?

But hear o worldly wise, the truth does not change:

“He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31, NASB)

coldcasechristianity

And I mean to start a conversation with unbelievers by saying this, not cut off discussion by being “unreasonable” or “irrational”.  For those who end up disagreeing with me, you only have my continued prayers and desire for friendship, whether in this life or the next life or both.

Heed, friend:

The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.—I John 2:17

FIN

*While “polytheism” may indeed simply be a figure of speech the authors use to make a deeper point about “polytheistic moods”, it seems to me that there is nothing in their book a real polytheist need object to.  I fail to see the reason the book cannot serve as a ‘soft’ introduction to real polytheism, as unlikely as that might seem right now.  From an Amazon reviewer:  “The call to a renewed polytheism is not so much a plea to reconsider the tedious and metaphysical arguments about the existence of gods or God. These arguments prove everything and nothing at once. It is rather an invitation to heed impulses alive, but rarely acknowledged, within us all. It is a call to rediscover, without shame this time, a sense of the sacred. The gods appear in this work as mere tropes, figures of speech that give us a shared vocabulary, a means of joining hands across the unbridgeable silence separating us from one another. It is a call to being open to what is present: ‘[O]ur focus on ourselves as isolated, autonomous agents has had the effect of banishing the gods – that is to say, covering up or blocking our sensitivity to what is sacred in the world. The gods are calling us but we have ceased to listen.’ Amen, I want incongruously to say.”

**From another Amazon reviewer: “Helen of Troy, despite causing the Trojan War and leaving her husband to run of with Paris, was acting with ‘arete’, with excellence, by being responsive to Aphrodite’s call. Later, the wave passed and the mood subsided and she returned to her husband, and was responsive to Hera’s call, to the domestic dimension in life, without feeling the need to rank, reconcile, or compare the two dimensions or moralize her actions. THIS is what POLYTHEISM truly means. It means that there is no overarching mono-logic consideration that can rank and adjudicate the gods and goddess and the realities, the domains, over which they preside. To decline from this to monotheism is to narrow the range and wonder of human life from its multi-dimensional richness in Homer, to the nothingness of a line, a single dimension, in the modern world.”

Sounds like a view tailor-made for the increasingly decadent West.  A view that will allow for both greater non-Christian spirituality and greater immorality.

My pastor adds:

“what Dreyfus and Kelly assert makes complete sense: The idea of gods and goddesses comes into being to explain the unexplainable to man. I thought the same of the movie Slumdog Millionaire: It relieved the angst of the actors and actresses in Hollywood by convincing them that they need not feel guilty about their popularity and wealth, it was just a matter of chance; if it was not them, it would have been someone else.”

Ah, yes, the kind of “chance” that even a non-Darwinist pagan can get behind….

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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More sanctification means more justification preaching

lutherpreachingchristThat’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Of course the opposite is true as well: more justification preaching means more sanctification.  But this statement needs to be qualified while the other one does not.

The fact of the matter is that all confessional Lutherans want Christ to be proclaimed.  And we want the message that God justifies the wicked in Christ to be heard more and more – and for failing Christians more and more.

That takes more sanctification.  And I think all of us know it.

I know people balk here, so please listen to what I recently told someone: when I make statements like “all of us judge some to be more holy than others” I am thinking about others, not myself.  I am a complete and total mess.  My pet sins and terrible attitude (I am the father of 5 boys under 10 and I don’t handle it very well, I think) disqualify me from any serious consideration of being highly sanctified.  I am not consistently driving old Adam out, in the power of the Holy Spirit, like I should be.  Somedays it is like I’m just a sleepwalking old Adam, permeated by original sin, unable to shake the bad attitudes and habits, and seemingly unable to look to God for help in overcoming the sin that seems to utterly possess me.

So what to say?  Perhaps this: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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“Please Mr. CTCR – [do your part to] get the Word of God into our consciences”

ctcr

The fool asserts “there is no God”.  Even pagans who aren’t too far gone recognize that.

Perhaps the new CTCR* document from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, titled The Natural Knowledge of God in Christian Confession &  Christian Witness (find it here) should have just said that and stopped.

The thing is – it did not even say that.  Where the Scriptures inform us that evil men can grow more evil – where they, for example, assert that there is no God ; or call evil good and good evil ; or are not even able to detect their sin – we as a church have evidently become far less aware of this knowledge.

onlythedecalogue

The document features a battery of Luther (and Melanchton) quotes (see pp. 46 and 47 in particular), but it did not include these selections from the recently translated but largely ignored Antinomian theses of Martin Luther (see here and here ; order it here):

“The law in general is… given… for all of humanity; indeed because many laws that are useful for this life are also given, written together with the Decalogue, and are written on the hearts of all men, unless they are utterly unnatural, ever since the birth or creation of man, together with Adam.  But because man is fallen into sin and since gradually men fell away and turned away from God more and more, and , disregarded by God, became worse, until it [sc. The law] is almost totally fallen into oblivion and obscured, God was forced again to give us an end, lest we forgot totally his law, so that we would at least remember who we were before and who we will be in the future… when it says ‘You disobey God, you do not believe in God, you do not fear God; you are a faithless adulterer, disobedient,” and whatever is such, here I am at once horrified and fear and feel in the heart that I certainly owe this God; not because the Decalogue was handed down and written for us, but so that we know even the laws which we brought with us into this world.  And by this preaching at once the veil is removed and I am shown that I sin… as the people of Gomorrah who killed prophets and never had a sense of the law or a true notion thereof…”  Four hundred years before there was a law’ (Gal. 3:17) must be understood of the written or Mosaic law.  For otherwise the law is born with us” (bold mine, translations above from “The Third Disputation Against the Antinomians”, Preface, translated by Pastor Paul Strawn and Pastor Holger Sonntag. 2007)

…Let those words sink in.  For Luther at least, it almost seems as if – sometimes at least – the “natural law” cannot be imagined to exist apart from the presence of God’s word and believers in the world.  On the other hand, in the CTCR document there is no nod towards Luther’s kinds of nuance.  Rather, “for the ordering of life in the civil realm… appeals to Scripture… are not, strictly speaking, necessary” (p. 47).  Interestingly, Pastor William Weedon, discussing a conversation with Bryan Wolfmueller, makes points that would be compatible with Luther’s above.  It seems to me that both Bryan Wolfmueller and Dr. J. Budziszewski, in Issues ETC. interviews, have also made points about “seared consciences” and the like that would also jive with Luther’s.

undertheinfluence

I wanted to like this CTCR document.  After reading parts I-III – and learning some good stuff along the way – I still had some real hope.  But part IV – Natural Knowledge and Christian Witness – did not deliver.

I can’t shake the conviction that the real question is this: as persons grow more evil – more against those things revealed in the Word of God – is Divine revelation more or less necessary?  What, in general can we say about this?**

boundconscience

The western world, historically “under the [Christian] influence” is increasingly less so.  The elites in our culture who rule are going, going….  So much so in fact that when President Harrison says [to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee] “Please Mr. Chairman, get the federal government out of our conscience”, we embrace the rhetoric but do not think about it critically: in general, should we not want the federal government in our consciences – upholding what is good for all in our temporal lives (Rom. 13) – when it comes to the civil realm?

The document ends with Philippians 2:9-11, encouraging us all to proclaim

“the name that is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

don'ttellmethat

Amen to that, but let me tell you what I am thinking.  That statement from the Apostle Paul can be taken as Law or Gospel.  Given what Paul says in Acts 17:26-31 it seems to me that any and all who reject the words spoken of here are “without excuse” as well.  It is not the word of the Anonymous God they should fear but the word of the risen Christ.  Look what is said about the Holy Spirit’s conviction in John 16:8-11, which used to be a “staple passage” among Lutherans:

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

coepagan

Today we even have people who claim to follow Christ but who, for example, embrace homosexual behavior – and many of these certainly would not reject all notions of the natural knowledge of God or natural law (go to the bound conscience image above and link to the paper).  To say that pagan influence in the Church itself is increasing would be make a gross understatement.  Why am I wrong to think that we somehow need to bring back – albeit perhaps somewhat rehabilitated and updated – the kind of Jesus Christ Luther had some real awareness of?

christjudge

FIN

*Commission of Theology and Church relations

**Another related question: is the church in any way to be ruled by the Gospel alone? (see p. 45, see this post here).  As is often the case with theological reasoning, it is not so much that anything the CTCR says is wrong.  It is rather what is left unsaid – and the context in which the discussion is held.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Adopted by Christ

infanticide

“Quite by chance I saw an article explaining how Roman fathers would keep their hands folded when presented with their newborn children. They had the choice to except or reject paternity. To reject meant the child would be cast onto the street to be at the mercy of passers-by or carrion for hungry birds. Open arms meant life, love and a future as a child of the father.  Within Roman society formal adoption was common amongst higher ranking citizens an example of this is Julius Caesar adopting Octavius, who became the Emperor Augustus.    Most rejected children whether because of gender or defect just ended up placed outside the home to die.  For the fortunate few who were adopted they became one with the family as if natural born. God has, through Christ done the same for us.

As we lay shivering, bloody, on the point of death Jesus made it possible for our adoption. Literally ‘saved’ from death.”

via: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2013/02/orphans/ (yes, I am quoting from an Emergent Christianity blogs – this is actually a good post)

Image credit: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/01/05/Abortion-and-the-Ancient-Practice-of-Child-Sacrifice.aspx

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Gems from my students

Some interesting comments from my students in my last online class (all used with permission).

This first one struck me as a pretty amazing story:

I have not doubted that God exists since I was 7 years old. At that age, I had a life changing experience in which there left no doubt in my mind that there is a higher being beyond our plane of existence. My personal experience that proved this to me, was because at age 7, I was run over by my school bus. I remember to this day, coming back to consciousness under the bus while the front tires rolled off my fingertips and looking back, I could see the rear tires spit out gravel as they started to turn faster behind me, and directly in line with my head. I remember being totally petrified in fear, unable to move, and then this voice just thundered through my head, “Roll.” One word, but spoken with the kind of authority that one does not, CANNOT, disobey. I know this was not my own self-preservation speaking, I KNOW this. I rolled out just before the rear wheels came over the spot where my head had been. Then, as I stood up, that sense of calmness that had taken over me just moments before, left and I began sobbing and ran for home like any normal child in pain would. Not only was I “saved” that day, but even though a fully loaded bus ran up my spine, and down my arm to the very ends of my fingers, I had no broken bones. So to tell me that God does not exist, would be a futile thing.

This one, critical of the practices he sees in churches around him, is from a student who does not associate himself with any particular faith, even as he did grow up Lutheran: 

…I have been thinking about just how far some churches have strayed from actual worship.  Without even setting foot in a church I can see how religion has been bastardized into, what looks to me, to be a money making venture that plays on peoples fears and beliefs.  If you flip through the TV channels you will more than likely find some televangelist talking about eternal damnation and how your donation to the church could earn Gods favor.  Even someone like me who is at best a sceptic this is beyond belief.  To use religion and the fear of hell to leech money from people is about as low as you can get.  I grew up attending a small church in Austin, MN.  At one point our congregation worshiped out of a hotel conference room, and then eventually moved to an old, tiny and in need of work building just outside of town. Growing up this way did teach me one thing. You do not need a million dollar building, HD TV’s, and surround sound to worship.  In many ways this only confirms my belief in the corruption and financial focus of organized religion.  This is in no way meant to be derogatory to religion itself, but only to its exploitation by certain people.

Another very touching story from one from one of my solid Christian students:

….I know what it is like to lose a brother. I know it is weird, but it seems as if I had just seen him and I am waiting to see him again. My brother passed Jan… 2012. I know that instilling my faith in God has allowed me to get through this hard time. I hope you don’t mind if I share a short story… My brother’s sons name is Jonas and he is apraxic and has slight autism. He is the sweetest boy you’d ever meet. After going to public school, he would go to the parochial school for child care; he has such a wonderful faith in God. When my brother passed, he was 8 years old, almost 9 and he saw everyone in the house grieving. He gathered everyone into the dining room area at my parents house and had us all hold hands and he led us in a prayer to God. You could not understand all of his words due to the apraxia, but it was so emotional for all of us family to have him see the hurt and pain and know to go to God in prayer. I can see how faith is the backbone and along with faith comes love and care. We are all Gods children and He makes sure that we are loved and taken care of…

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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