Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There’s a doin’s a-transpirin’!

Is there a Confessional “movement” in the Lutheran church today? While here, in the present time, we are not at a good vantage point to judge that. Future generations will be able to look back and see more clearly what is happening now than we can. For example, back in the 5th century, Romans and Visigoths were not sitting around discussing starting the Middle Ages.

Visigoth: “Well, we’ve sacked you quite thoroughly. What shall we do now?”

Roman: “Hmmm, why don’t we start a movement called the ‘Middle Ages’?”

Visigoth: “Sounds good!”

To push for a Confessional “movement” is counterproductive. Pre-made “movements” don’t work. Look at the LCMS’ Ablaze! “movement” for a good example. Real movements are determined by history and they are not the result of a person or group of people deciding a “movement” needed to be started. They start because of what a group of people are doing at a specific time in history, whether that group was well-organized and their movements thoroughly planned and coordinated or not. Look at Luther. He didn’t wake up one morning and decide to start a “movement”. He didn’t collect an amiable committee of monks around himself to discuss how to start a “movement”. He was used by God and did what he was supposed to be doing according to his vocation. From that, a legitimate movement sprung up, but its beginnings were not contrived as some are attempting today.

Roman Catholic: “Hey, Marty, what are you doing this weekend?”

Luther: “I think I’ll start a Lutheran Reformation. Would you like to help get the movement organized? We need some catchy slogans and a focused marketing campaign to really get our message out to our chosen key demographic.”

We Angry Lutherans would be tickled pink if there were a Confessional Lutheran movement happening today (Hey, we’d be thrilled, “movement” or not, if more Lutherans would read and be taught the Lutheran Confessions as they are a correct exposition of Holy Scripture) but will have to leave the judgment of our day to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Instead of trying to organize or galvanize “Confessionals” on email groups or as delegates for the next synod convention (even with a good synod president, there will still be problems), keep serving faithfully, learning more of our Lutheran faith, and teaching others. God will take care of His Bride. If there is a Confessional movement today bringing many back to a focus on Christ and his gifts, it is not our doing, but His.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In other news: Today, the Earth Will Continue Rotating

It should be no surprise that the LCMS COP issued a vague statement that did little more than attempt to cover the backsides of the LCMS COP after the Issues, Etc. mess. What were some of the Issues supporters hoping for? A fistfight at the COP meeting? A dramatic testimony from the conservative/confessional DPs ending with something reminiscent of Luther’s “Here I stand…”? Nothing like that was going to happen for this is a bureaucracy. A bureaucracy, whether in a church body or a purely secular organization is large, slow, unemotional, and largely unintelligent, even though it may be made up of individually highly intelligent people. The bureaucracy will always seek to protect the bureaucracy.

Let’s look at what the statement says. “We are very concerned about how this pain has affected the church as it carries Christ’s gifts to the world. Only the devil would rejoice over this disruption!” Yup, and the devil must be pretty happy over both the ending of this radio outreach tool and the division that was previously around and has now surfaced.

“We realize that in our understanding and application of the 4th commandment, this matter is not the responsibility of the Council of Presidents.” This seems to be an attempt to say in some religious-sounding way that this was not the jurisdiction of the COP. See Rev. Cwirla's excellent thoughts on this.

“We must regard with Christian charity and trust the judgment of our duly elected brothers and sisters in Christ on the BCS, along with its Executive Director, Mr. David Strand.” True. Since Mr. Strand has provided no reasoning behind his decision the dissenters have NO PROOF of his motives. To speculate without proof diminishes the credibility of those who oppose him.

“In response to the concern that the manner in which this decision was
implemented lacked Christian compassion, it is important to note our belief that such was not the case.” This sentence doesn’t really say anything. It doesn’t say the implementation was carried out with “Christian compassion”, it just says the COP’s belief is that is was not implemented without such compassion. Again, with no proof, those who disagree have no facts on which to stand.

“Where there have been communications that have violated the integrity of a brother or sister in Christ, Christ calls us to repentance.” Yes. We assume that as Pres. K. and the DPs have all agreed to this that they are repentant for any angry words they have said or written to the Issues, Etc. supporters and that they, along with those who oppose them, will not make any more personal attacks, though the issues behind this entire issue should still be discussed because they brought to light serious differences in theological thought in the midst of the LCMS.

Now to Pres. Kieschnick’s statement: “Some have interpreted the decision to discontinue 'Issues, Etc.' as being theological or political in nature or purpose. Such interpretations have no basis in fact.” This is true. To surmise the reasons without facts does the Issues supporters no good. You will never know what was actually said. Move on.

“As president of the Synod, I respectfully request and pastorally encourage all in the Synod to be patient and charitable regarding this matter, putting the best construction on actions and decisions connected therewith.” Rev. Petersen is a good example of this.

If you really want to know what went on at the COP meeting, call your DP and calmly and respectfully ask what was said. If you are in one of the districts where the pastors’ conference recently passed a resolution regarding Issues, Etc., that resolution would be another good topic to discuss with your DP. He may not tell you anything, but it would be an honest attempt at finding information.

“I pray for the day when the financial resources of our Synod do not necessitate the reduction in force of radio personnel, the return of missionaries from the foreign mission field, or any other such difficult and painful decisions.” There you go, the decision was purely financial. If you are not happy with what Synod is doing with its limited financial resources, STOP SENDING THEM MONEY. Pres. Kieschnick has given two wonderful ideas for where funds should be diverted: radio ministry and foreign mission fields.

Issues, Etc. was a powerful educational and outreach ministry. Put something similar back on the airwaves or over the internet. Complaining about motives and theorizing on blogs and in discussion groups about why the decision for cancellation was REALLY made does nothing but make you look like a conspiracy theorist. You may as well be wearing a metal colander on your head and wrapping your entire body in tin foil to block the mind-control rays emanating from the Death Star Jerry’s building in the IC (Maybe protecting the super weapon is the REAL reason for the lockdown in the Purple Palace the day of the Issues demonstration???)

Quit bitching and get out your checkbooks. Support Todd and Jeff. Put a good Lutheran program back on the air. Encourage the little old ladies (or any other group in your congregation) to adopt a foreign missionary. Out-mission the self-proclaimed mission-minded.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Update on Issues

An update from Mollie Hemingway after the BCS meeting last week raises more questions and eyebrows than it answers. Maybe the unity Pres. K. was talking about was the unity of having the Strand family unit handle the entire Issue?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How Many Rosary Beads Must I Smash to Inherit Eternal Life?

The Roman Catholic bashing done by some American Lutherans is unfortunate and annoying. It shows an ignorance of both what the errors of the church of Rome are and of what the Lutheran Church confesses. It also fails to recognize how closely related the errors of Rome and Geneva are. American Lutherans tend to side with other protestants in church d├ęcor, ceremony, and language to avoid “looking Catholic”, which gives the impression that Lutherans and Reformed are much closer in doctrine than they officially are, which, ironically, places these Lutherans much closer, at least in appearance, to the doctrine of Rome.

The following conversation has not actually taken place but is a combination of several real conversations that have occurred over the years.

American Lutheran: “So, I just returned from my vacation in _____(Mexico, South America, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Israel, etc.).”

Angry Lutheran: “Oh, yeah! How was it?”

American Lutheran: “It was great! The buildings are so beautiful, especially the churches. After touring ________ Cathedral, which was only open for tours in the afternoon because they still say Mass (look of disgust comes over face) every morning, we were so happy to find a gift shop a few blocks away run by Christians. It was so refreshing to finally find some people over there who believe that Jesus isn’t still dead.”

Angry Lutheran: “Um, what?”

American Lutheran: “Yeah, we got these nice nickel-plated empty tomb and empty cross keychains.”

Angry Lutheran: “Are you saying that Roman Catholics aren’t Christians?”

American Lutheran: “Well, they don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead!”

Angry Lutheran: “I’m pretty sure they do believe that Jesus rose. They do accept the three Ecumenical Creeds and I haven’t watched EWTN in a while, but I think I would have remembered hearing something about the entire Church of Rome denying the resurrection of our Lord.”

American Lutheran: “All their statues and pictures of Jesus showed him dead on the cross, so it sure seems like they don’t believe that he rose.”

Angry Lutheran: “Church art depicting Christ’s death on the cross is a most comforting sight for Christians. After he suffered for our sins and declared, ‘It is finished’, the punishment for our sins was paid. Because of his death we are washed clean in his blood.
“Aren’t you a member of Backlit Empty Cross Lutheran Church (BECLC)? What does your art tell people? It appears that you worship an ancient form of execution. Your God isn’t even pictured in your church.”

American Lutheran: “Well, everyone knows that Jesus isn’t still on the cross. The empty cross shows that he rose.”

Angry Lutheran: “No, it doesn’t. The empty cross doesn’t show that he was ever on the cross or that he paid the price for our sins. Didn’t your congregation stop praying the historic liturgy because you felt that visitors wouldn’t understand it? Isn’t that why you switched to a praise service? How is it that you don’t expect the visitors to understand what is happening when the liturgy traces the whole story of salvation drawn from Scripture during worship, but you expect them to look at an empty cross and know that Jesus suffered and died on that cross and three days later rose again?”

American Lutheran: “You’re just holding onto tradition.”

Angry Lutheran: “Yup. And so are you. The difference is that the tradition you prefer leads back as far as the Radical Reformation and doesn’t clearly teach what Christ did on the cross. The tradition of picturing Christ on the cross leads back much farther and is truly catholic and Scriptural. St. Paul wrote, ‘We preach Christ crucified’, not hey, look at our empty cross! By the way, did you bother to talk to any Roman Catholics to ask about their beliefs?”

American Lutheran: “You can’t listen to those unbelievers! We have to evangelize them!”

Angry Lutheran: “Is there a bar near here? Suddenly, I need a drink.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why?

When it’s all about us and our feelings, then it’s not about Christ. Even with good intentions, in our sinful natures, we are all Enthusiasts and put our felt needs and our wants first. Were the employees of the Purple Palace unaware of the feelings of many regarding the cancellation of Issues, Etc.? No, they were well aware of the 7,000+ signatures on the petition and the article and letters to the editor in the Wall Street Journal and the resolutions passed by some districts’ pastors’ conferences. Was the demonstration on Monday necessary to let whoever was responsible for the decision to cancel Issues, Etc. know about the feelings of those who disagree with the decision? No. Then for whose benefit was the demonstration staged? We posit that it was unintentionally (we’ll grant) for the sake of the feelings of those demonstrating. The rationale for the protest we had heard was that it would support Todd and Jeff. Trying to look at the situation objectively, this reason does not hold up. Did a demonstration put food on the tables of these two families or help with their bills? Did it thank God for their faithful service in a better or more meaningful way than the Vespers service the night before? No, so the most likely reason left for the demonstration has at its heart that most dangerous of reasons: “our feelings”. Feelings are fickle, feelings are not always to be trusted. Feelings are generally self-centered.

As was seen in the St. Louis Post Dispatch coverage of the event, the BCS chairman was certainly aware before the protest that his decision has not been received well in some corners of the LCMS. The problem is not that he and others didn’t know, the problem is that he and others, as evidenced by his words to the Post Dispatch reporter, don’t care. He trivialized the 7,000 signatures and basically gave a big bureaucratic middle finger to those trying to show their “feelings” on the matter. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It fits perfectly well with how the Issues, Etc. matter has been handled up to this point. It is not a productive use of time, energy, paint, or posterboard to continue looking for the reasons behind the cancellation. Most likely, they will never be given honestly. We all have our suspicions, but without proof, it may be best to move on from the “Why?”. The question has been asked. It has not been answered. It probably will not be answered.

Unfortunately, photos were taken of the protesters by some from the International Center. By the way, when was the decision to make signs and act like it’s still 1968 made? Wasn’t this supposed to be more of a prayer vigil? Regardless, how do you think those pictures are going to be used? Do you think Pres. K. or Mr. Strand wanted them for a scrapbook? With those pictures in hand, who will look like the wild nutcases? The folks telling the synod that they had no choice but to shut down Issues, Etc. to be fiscally responsible or the ones out on the street holding signs in the air?

We are just as upset about the cancellation as many of you are. However, this demonstration was not a good idea. Don’t give fodder to those who oppose you. If the synod doesn’t care about the 1/3 of 1% who signed the petition, then those unimportant thousands can make a much more effective protest with their pocketbooks. Put Issues, Etc. either back on the radio or on the internet, and put your donations behind that and Higher Things and other worthy truly Lutheran efforts.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Very Short Distance from Rome to Geneva ~ There is Nothing New Under the Sun

“Clearly theologians have mingled more of philosophy with Christian doctrine than was necessary. Their influence should not appear so great that it will be unlawful to disagree with their arguments, because at the same time many clear errors are found among them. One of these maintains that, from purely natural powers, we are able to love God above all things. This preaching, although it is clearly false, has produced many other errors. For the Scriptures, the Holy Fathers, and the judgments of all the godly everywhere respond. Therefore, popes, or some theologians, and monks in the Church have taught us to seek the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness through our own works and to invent new forms of worship, which have clouded over Christ’s office and have made out of Christ not the Atoning Sacrifice and Justifier, but only a Legislator. Yet, the knowledge of Christ has always remained with some godly persons. Scripture, furthermore, has predicted that the righteousness of faith would be clouded over by human traditions and the teaching of works in this way. Paul often complains about this. (See Galatians 4:9; 5:7; Colossians 2:8, 16-19; 1 Timothy 4:2-5; etc.) There were even during his time those who-instead of the righteousness of faith-taught that people were reconciled to God and justified by their own works and own acts of worship, and not through faith for Christ’s sake. People judge by nature that God should be appeased by works. Nor does reason see a righteousness other than the righteousness of the Law, understood in a civil sense. So there have always been some who have taught this earthly righteousness alone to the exclusion of the righteousness of faith. Such teachers will always exist. The same thing happened among the people of Israel. The majority of the people thought that they merited the forgiveness of sins by their works. Therefore, they piled up sacrifices and acts of worship. On the contrary, the prophets, in condemnation of this opinion, taught the righteousness of faith. What happened among the people of Israel are illustrations of those things that were to happen in the Church (1 Corinthians 10:11).” -Philip Melancthon, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Equal Opportunity Offenders

From the inaugural post on this site (a.k.a. the Angry Lutherans’ Mission Statement): “The Lutheran church has much to offer, yet, in many places in the United States, it has sold out to Enthusiasm to the point where a good number of Lutherans do not know or care what their church officially teaches. This is truly sad.” And this is what makes us angry. When pastors, lay leaders, bureaucrats, and synod officials speak or write contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions or are unclear and vague, Lutherans are driven farther from what the Lutheran Church confesses. All pastors in the LCMS and the WELS gave a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions on their ordination days. Yet, some of these same pastors will vigorously argue against what the Lutheran Confessions say, sometimes through ignorance, sometimes willfully. If you are a Lutheran pastor, you should be reasonably expected to teach the Lutheran faith. While no church body in this country has ever been entirely pure in all of the teaching done by all of its pastors, this is still a praiseworthy goal. Not just pastors, but all others who have the task of speaking on behalf of a Lutheran church body should be held to the same standard.

We are not angry with any particular church body or organization. Actually, if you are angry with the LCMS, the WELS, or any other organized body, you may have crossed the line from Angry Lutheran to Crazy Lutheran. Like most others, we have friends and relatives in many different Christian denominations, sects, cults, and non-Christian religions. The Lutheran Church stands in stark contrast to all others. We believe that the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from Scripture, is faithful and true. We are deeply concerned when this doctrine is not clearly proclaimed, for the Lutheran doctrine is Christ and Him crucified as the only Way of salvation.

We do not believe that either the WELS or the LCMS is the Only True Visible Synod on Earth. We are not proselytizing. We have no interest in playing musical Lutherans by urging people to join another Lutheran synod or one of the new smaller Lutheran church bodies. Because those of our little committee are involved in the LCMS and the WELS, these are the two church bodies discussed here. Both the LCMS and the WELS had conventions this past summer in which divisions within each synod were noticed by anyone honestly paying attention. These divides are over more than just style or adiaphora. They are theological, and they run deep. Because the Lutheran confession is so precious, we continue to be angry whenever anyone who claims to be Lutheran contradicts or muddies it, especially when these things are almost constantly sent to us through official channels or by acquaintances. We certainly hope that all Lutherans, especially pastors and synod leaders, will learn what the Lutheran Church has, treasure it, and clearly communicate it with others. However, in our advancing age and crotchetiness, we will continue to be annoyed by practices and statements that should be Lutheran but are not, regardless of where they originate.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Was George Orwell a Lutheran?

There are rumors of spies in the offices of Lutheran synods who keep tabs on what is written about their particular synod on blogs and in discussion groups. Is this true? We don’t know, but the rumors lead us to wonder, ”Why?” Why would a synod official order a subordinate to spy on what members of said synod’s congregations and the synod’s pastors are writing about the synod? If the officials of a synod are confident in and believe what they have done and said publicly, they shouldn’t be nervous if anyone questions or challenges their public statements, should they? Any such challenge could just be met with a strong backing of Lutheran theology that reinforces whatever was questioned, right?

Insubordination among pastors and laity can be a serious offense. However, when pastors and lay people are asking why certain statements were made or challenging that what was said was not in keeping with Lutheran doctrine, they are not being insubordinate but are obeying “God rather than men”. Pastors and synod spokesmen should be happy when people are acting like the Bereans and testing what they say against Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. It shows people are paying attention and helps to sharpen the pastors and synod-types who will need to give answers to those bringing questions.

Such spying shows either doubt about whether what you as an official of a Lutheran church body have said or written is correct, or something of a Narcissistic personality disorder that gets its knickers in a twist when faced with the reality that not everyone is going to agree with you, admire you, or accept your word as absolute truth. If you know what you are doing, what you are writing, and stand behind what you write and speak for the public, you can have the confidence to ignore such challenges if they have no merit.

Are there spies? Who knows? If there are it shows a sad cowardice on the part of those who should first of all know Lutheran theology, and secondly proclaim Lutheran theology, not spend their time scouring the internet for dissenting voices.

Monday, April 7, 2008

How About Absolute Attention?

In the oft-repeated quote Lord Acton writes, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Can we apply the same thinking to attention? If a preacher is getting some attention locally for an engaging personality and is liked well enough to be given the opportunity to start a “television ministry”, in some ways a first for a preacher of his particular synod, is there a temptation to shift the focus of the message preached off of Christ and onto the preacher himself? We think so, for this is sinful human nature. Even we Christians will tend to put ourselves first, direct the spotlight onto ourselves, and bask in the head-swelling glow of fawning attention paid by anyone who will support us.

The correct answer to the game below is, as you know, C. This quote was taken from the Winter/Spring 2008 edition of Time of Grace Magazine and was written by Pastor Mark Jeske, who is a WELS pastor, as far as we can tell. The Time of Grace website is not terribly forthcoming on either Jeske’s or his congregation’s (St. Marcus Church in Milwaukee, WI-Wasn’t it formerly called St. Marcus Lutheran Church?) synodical affiliation. However, the official WELS website links to Time of Grace Ministry, so we believe it safe to assume that both he and his congregation are WELS.

You may have seen Pr. Jeske last summer at a synod convention. Oddly, you would not have seen him at the WELS convention but the LCMS one, which has caused some other WELS pastors to twist their colorful neckties in frustration. Why would a WELS pastor attend the LCMS convention but not the convention of his own synod? Was the trip to Houston an attempt at evangelism? Is it really a good idea to try to evangelize away members of another church body during that church body’s convention? Or, was this an offer to “help” with the ministries of LCMS congregations by directing their members to the Time of Grace television program? If so, wouldn’t this be participating in an expression of the faith with the LCMS and be a fellowship issue for the WELS?

The quotation for Spot the Lutheran was taken from Pastor Jeske’s featured message (sermon?) for this issue. The entire message sounds disturbingly similar to most other protestant televangelists. The first and second pages of the four-page message have no mention of Christ or sin. This is the closest we found to the preaching of the Law: “You cannot get to heaven by yourself. You cannot beat death and Satan by yourself any more than you can swim from Long Beach to Hawaii. You have only one chance to get this right, and I would advise you not to dawdle on making up your mind about this, because you cannot guarantee how many more breaths your lungs will suck in.”

Later, Pr. Jeske writes after quoting 1 Corinthians 15:1 (“Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.”), “I hope that you burn that verse into your memory and carry it around with you for the rest of your life. I hope you will be willing to share those words with other people who are afraid to die, people who live with terror, who drag around guilt and who know no other way to face death”.

This is the first Bible passage to make it into the message. Sadly, 1 Corinthians 15:1 does not say what the gospel is, therefore that verse by itself cannot comfort anguished consciences. You cannot take a stand when the Rock on which to stand has not been proclaimed. Pr. Jeske had only mentioned Jesus in passing before this point. He wrote three paragraphs previous, “Your getting to heaven is done by Jesus as a gift to you, and you grab on to it by believing-by faith.” Ok, though that doesn’t really say what Jesus did. He goes on: “By grace, through faith. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? To find where it says that in the Bible, go to 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15. This is a magnificent essay on what resurrection of the body is all about. It explains the connection between what Christ went through on Easter Sunday and what you and I are investing all of our hopes in.”

This seems somewhat misleading. Christ said “It is finished.” on Friday, not Sunday. To write “what Christ went through on Easter Sunday” sounds like His suffering continued. This is not Lutheran. The price for sin was paid in full by Christ’s suffering and death. And what about that suffering and death on Good Friday? It’s not here. Not directly. We did find it in passing in a few places, but couched in decision theology language, softened by folksy images, and tinged with universalism:

“That message – the message of the gospel – is stained and splattered with blood, his blood, for yours. That is not cheap at all. It’s very expensive and precious. It’s a gift, and it comes through words – words that your granny told you when you sat on her lap and she told you about Jesus rising from the dead, or words your daddy used when he tucked you into bed and prayed with you, ‘I pray the Lord my soul to take.’”

“So here it is; it’s this or nothing. Make up your mind right now. What is going to be your plan when your life comes to an end? I want to assure you that the resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates that everything he said is real, including his words on the cross, ‘Father, forgive them…’

Remember his words, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ He said that to a slimy criminal receiving the death sentence, but the same goes for you. What if Jesus said to you, ‘You might think of yourself as a failure, a sinner, a loser – but today you will be with me in paradise.’”

“You are clean in the blood of the Lamb, and the resurrection guarantees that the Father accepted his payment for you and stamped your account paid in full.”

For a Lutheran pastor, something is missing. Where are the Sacraments? As Luther wrote in his Large Catechism, Part V: “Although the work is done and the forgiveness of sins is secured by the cross (John 19:30), it cannot come to us in any other way than through the Word.” Now Luther is not writing about the quotations of random Bible passages that mention the word “gospel”, but to be clear he writes, “Now the only way this treasure is passed along and made our very own is in the words ‘Given…and shed for you’.” This in no way denigrates the preached Word, through which the Holy Spirit works and sustains faith where and when He wills, but why would a Lutheran pastor not mention the Sacraments as they are also God’s means of grace?

“Daddy” and “Granny” talking to a youngun’ about Jesus’ resurrection is great, and the Word is efficacious when shared by clergypersons and non-clergypersons alike, but why not talk about the Church and finding Christ there as that is where He has promised to be? Why not mention Holy Baptism as entrance into the Church? As Dr. Luther wrote in the Large Catechism, Part IV: “We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul. For by Baptism we are made holy and are saved (1 Corinthians 6:11). No other kind of life, no work upon earth, can do this.” Look at Pentecost for an example. Peter did not preach to the crowd to make a decision. He preached Christ and Him crucified and said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38) The three thousand who were added to the church that day were not added by their decision, but by their baptism. Our confidence in our salvation does not rest on what Grandma or Dad have said but on our baptisms. Again, Martin Luther, “So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, ‘Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.’”

The audience for whom the Time of Grace message was written is not clear. With several appeals to “make up your mind”, in the initial three pages it seems that this message is written for non-Christians. Yet, on the last page, Pr. Jeske is encouraging his audience to share the Easter message with others, which could only be done by Christians. This brings in a rather curious line of reasoning that has arisen to defend parts of Lutheran sermons that tend to sound like decision theology. We have heard that when a Lutheran preacher urges his audience to make a decision, others will defend this as “preaching to sanctification”. It is assumed that this will cover the tracks that seem to lead to decision theology, which most Lutherans will still say is wrong, even if they don’t know why. Decisions CAN be made with regard to sanctification, the thinking goes, because somewhere in the Lutheran Confessions it says something about us cooperating with our own sanctification, though not our own justification.

Well, it does say something like that in The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration: “as soon as the Holy Spirit has begun His work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and holy Sacraments, we can and should cooperate through His power, although still in great weakness. This cooperation does not come from our fleshly natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts that the Holy Spirit has begun in us in conversion. St. Paul clearly and eagerly encourages that ‘working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain’ (2 Corinthians 6:1). But this is to be understood in no other way than the following: the converted person does good to such an extent and as long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him. As soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from the person, he could not for a moment keep obeying God. But (if anyone would take St. Paul's words in this sense-) the converted person cooperates with the Holy Spirit the way two horses draw a wagon together-this could not be allowed in any way without damaging the divine truth.” The Confessions are pretty clear; some Lutheran preaching is not. Without qualifications in sermons or messages, perhaps it would be best for Lutherans to stay away from “decision” language to avoid giving the impression that we cooperate in our own justification or that we are able to do more in our sanctification than we can.

Another section of the magazine has several questions written by readers printed with their answers by Pr. Jeske. Half the questions have more to do with Mark Jeske than with Christ. It would be analogous to receiving an issue of Gottesdienst with a glossy four-page spread of questions from readers and answers by Rev. Dr. Eckardt. (What’s your favorite liturgical color and why? Do you prefer single malt or blended Scotch? Aged twelve or fifteen years?) Pr. Jeske’s answer to a question about “living a Christian life Monday through Saturday” is quite telling. Pr. Jeske writes, “No matter how great your study and worship on Sunday was, it is not sufficient to sustain your life for six more days.” So much for God’s grace being sufficient for us! Pr. Jeske goes on to encourage the questioner to find some time every day to read God’s Word and pray. We’re all for reading God’s Word and praying, but there’s no need to question the efficacy of God’s Word in preached Word and offered Sacrament in the Divine Service!

The focus here is not on Christ. It is on the preacher. Even in an attempt at humility, it doesn’t quite come off believably. Pr. Jeske writes in the opening letter to the magazine that he doesn’t enjoy having his picture taken. Yet, there are twelve pictures of him in the twenty pages of this edition. (Sorry, one more Gottesdienst comparison: imagine grinning pictures of all the editors and contributors next to sermons, articles, and poems, some formal in clerical garb, some maybe more casual-fishing, golfing, etc.) He is the focus of most of the publication. In an article written by Pr. Jeske he recounts meeting a young man with many physical handicaps who through great effort, made it to a special Sunday church service that featured Pr. Jeske’s choir. “That young man, who deals with lots of difficulties and physical challenges most of us will never have to face, manages to get himself 60 miles from home just so he could hear our choir and meet me. That’s humbling.” So the thrill is not in preaching Christ crucified, not that someone was brought to faith, but that someone would want to meet you? Compare that to the testimony given by another preacher, “I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

And the Answer is...

C

We promise to post more information regarding this quote as soon as it is received and reviewed at Angry Lutheran HQ, hopefully by Monday.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spot the Lutheran

If you belong to a four-letter Lutheran synod you receive a fair amount of mail from the synod and its affiliates. Usually these colorful, supposedly uplifting publications are accompanied by a return envelope to make it more convenient for you to send in your check to support whatever “ministry” is being specifically touted or the synod in general. If you are an Angry Lutheran, your “friends” may pass along their junk mail to you in order to get some sick thrill by watching your blood pressure rise. If these “friends” are theologically sharp church secretaries or pastors, you will be buried in propaganda and not just that of your own synod since Lutheran churches seem to be sent more wacky American Protestant propaganda than the general public. Regardless of where it comes from, you may end up with piles of mostly useless paper and the question arises: What should I do with all this unsolicited crap?

There are a few options:

1. You could read it all to keep up-to-date on the happenings in your synod and American Christianity.

~We don’t recommend this. It will lead to debilitating mental illness.

2. You could throw everything you receive into recycling without opening it.

~While recycling is our preferred disposal method, we think it’s a shame not to find a use for it before recycling. Hey, a tree gave its life already, and recycling won’t bring that tree back. Don’t let a tree die in vain!

3. Make a game.

~This we do recommend. And so we bring you:

Spot the Lutheran

The rules are quite simple. Below are four quotes. One came from Lutheran junk mail. The other three are from non-Lutheran junk mail. (Sesame Street kids of the 70s and 80s, all together now: “One of these things is not like the others….”) Can you spot the Lutheran?

(No cheating with internet searches, please. Use your own reason and background in bureaucratic propaganda reading.)

A. “In the midst of our suffering, we can be blessed as we think of His (Christ’s) suffering and relate to Him in that way. Then as we realize that His suffering was for us personally, we can, in a small way, participate in His suffering as we experience our own suffering. That leads to real fellowship with our Lord and communication with Him, which leads to the revelation of His plan for our lives.”

B. “Real friendship with anyone involves a growing, loving relationship. And to be a friend requires a decision to love that person whether human or divine. In our spiritual teen age, we need to decide to love God.”

C. “So here it is; it’s this or nothing. Make up your mind right now. What is going to be your plan when your life comes to an end? I want to assure you that the resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates that everything he said is real”

D. “That suffering of Jesus is beyond our comprehension. He had become sin and when He died, sin died. But that was not the end—He rose again sinless, thus defeating Satan for all eternity. Through that victory, our Lord has given us power outflowing from His resurrection”

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hmmm....

Interesting. We assume Pres. Kieschnick spoke privately with Ms. Hemingway in accord with Matthew 18 and the 8th Commandment before writing to the Wall Street Journal. Or was her "sin" of writing an accurate and fair editorial one of those elusive public sins that calls for public rebuke?

Truly, this is sad. If the Archbishop of the LCMS believes that a 51% or 52% majority is "unity", there's a massive problem of dealing with reality before addressing any theological issues.