Monthly Archives: February 2009

Lutheran history, something way cool from UV Koren

Back when I taught Sunday school at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church years ago, more than a few times I marveled at the guys of old. Sometimes I’d arrive early, or if we had youth activities and I had spare time during down periods, I’d look at the photos of UV Koren, and wonder what it was like back then. I should have dug into the books of the church library as no doubt there was a wealth of info, albeit the earliest texts were likely in Norwegian. Alas, I was more interested in the teaching the subject at hand then the history, and as such never did.

Well, the wonderment continued, especially as I started to dig into “the election controversy” of the 1880’s. I had thought it was just election, until I got talking with an old housemate who had studied such as part of his discernment process. He mentioned in passing that it was not only election, but also high church, low church, slavery, and a host of other items. Guess what, virtually none of that info is online (at least from a ELCA predecessor standpoint, WELS and LCMS do have some info, however, there is a somewhat selective bias), a fair amount of it is only in Norwegian or German, and then throw in some Latin just for good measure.

Thus, its off to the library we go. Thank goodness for interlibrary loan, and a reluctance to remove old books with limited circulation by some libraries. One of the books I picked up used the old rubber date stamp and card thing. The last it was checked out was in 1988, and prior to that 1968! It was written in 1925, and be golly, those pages are old. I’m almost guessing the librarian had to clean the dust off of it, and probably was going ?????? who on earth would request this.

One of the things I found fascinating was the following from UV Koren, and I think there is a lot of wisdom today. Granted he was no fan of historical critical exegesis, but I’ll bold the key part that I think is oh so key, whether it be in matters of unity or doctrine. This is from an online resource and its a English translation of A Lecture Delivered Before the Theological Students at Luther Seminary.

One hears that it is often said that we rest on the shoulders of our fathers and that we should, therefore, have a better insight than they had. Let us see! First of all, we must be careful about whom we accept as our spiritual fathers. These must be the ones who have been obedient to the Word of God. If these are our fathers, then we must learn of them what they have learned from God’s Word. If we have, with their help, learned the same in God’s Word, then we can well climb up on their shoulders, if we desire to do so. We may then perhaps see something or other that escaped their notice. But mark well, we should not be in any great hurry, for we will not see anything that contradicts what they and we, after them, have seen in God’s Word! For this is not yea and nay, but yea and amen. And before we come so far that we have seen more than the fathers, we will find that we have become so old that we have no more time to see and search any further. We will be glad to come down from the shoulders of the elders and sit at their feet and do our best to come as far in knowledge as they. This will be the good fortune for the fewest of us. It is understood that I am here speaking of the chief parts of revelation. There may be many things in resources, archaeology, grammar and other areas of linguistics, etc., where information can be gathered which was not known to the fathers and which may give a better insight into one or another Bible passage. But whatever belongs to the basic truths, the essence of God, His will and deeds, man’s condition and salvation, the means of grace, the way and order of salvation, etc., in these truths nothing new can be uncovered. This would contradict the essence of God’s eternal Word and the essential attributes of revelation. We Christians have no use for the spirit of the age, though we should learn to know our times–the clearer the better–and to make use of this knowledge also in the form of our presentation of eternal truths

2 Timothy 2:16 Godless Chatter, Getting Real, Transparency

Hmmm, been thinking about this one a bit… There is an element of being “real” or transparent, and there is Godless chatter too. Its incredible hard to define, as realness and transparency can cross into a lack of reverence and gossip pretty easily. Perhaps this is one where one has to rely on the still small voice, albeit scripture does address this in a multitude of areas.

sadly, I think it quite easy to put up a brick wall and not listen to the Holy Spirit in such matters, whether it be common parlance, or something one really likes for other reasons. Or perhaps worse, being a guy with a log in the eye, its what others do (being middle aged), ie the young whipper snappers and their enthusiastic chatter over movies or the little old ladies who mix fellowship and gossip.

Of course there is also the issue of conviction. We dont get hit with every detail of the law at once… it may take years to be led in that direction. Yet, if God is calling, we best listen. Ultimately, the quesiton is where do we pick up the cross on this, and should we put lines in the same, and if so, where should they be. Perry Noble has some interesting thoughts on that, concerning personal safeguards. I think he makes a lot of sense, know ones vulnerabilities, and make the lines from there.

For me, is it endless bantering over theology? It could be, but perhaps not, as it could also lead to edification. Its tough though… I must admit I do like to spar periodically, but when is the line crossed? I know I never let things go personal, but that may well be too far.

Is it crass language? This is a tough as well, as its regional, its cultural, and its even time sensitive. What about a couple blog titles I’ve read. One is Jesus says Dont be a Dick (which btw is quite funny, and surprisingly theologically profound too, but the language is bothersome to me). Another is a title I’ve shared here, “Giving Jesus the bird” There was also the outrage over the use of some language on Christian radio that resulted in the removal of Chuck Swindolls show on VCY a couple years back. This is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I guess I draw the line some of the time, and not others on a case by case deal. Probably more cultural/regional than anything though.

What about song lyrics? Heart of a Pastor in Garbage in Garbage out brings up some interesting ideas. In some ways I agree, but in others not so much. The lyrics in Highway to Hell are very much aligned with someone who doesn’t know Jesus. I obviously dont think such has a place in worship, but for a teenage youth group as a discussion topic, absolutely. Whether teens should be listening to such, I’m not so sure. I dont make the same connection with music as Heart of a Pastor makes, at least as concerns these lyrics, although there are others, which go way too far ie actually promoting sin etc. However, as a bass player for hire years ago, on a Saturday night, I may well be playing “Highway to Hell”, and 6 hours later at a church somewhere playing “Awesome God“. Perhaps I am putting up a brick wall.

I will say after living on the road playing CCM for 3 months, and not hearing any secular music, I was taken aback when I first heard Chicago’s Stay the Night on the ride back to LAX. Granted, there is a difference between Highway to Hell and Stay the Night, but no where near as much as between them and Let There be Praise.

By the same token, if we sanitize our communications such that we dont even mention some scripture, or completely disregard real life, hurts and all, thats not cool either. Granted, just because the size comparisons of male anatomy is present in scripture, I doubt one should not make such discussions common parlance. (Yep that was going on, way before the advent of spam)

I think perhaps part of the answer resides in context, 2 Timothy 2:15-18, seems to present a significant amount of lattitude, yet obviously its not the whole story, there is still the outright condemnation of gossip, and reverence is a common theme throughout scripture. Alas, it is late, and thus those are for another blog entry.

Major rambling and rabbit trails, open questions, trust, church failures, technology

First, I need to blame the LCMS for keeping me up all night. They have the most amazing Cyclopedia on their website. It all stared when I came across progressive invovements blog, where he discussed Sigmund and Gottfreid Fritschel. That led to a google search, which brought me to their Cyclopedia entry.

Which then turned into a fascinating read of American Lutheran history of the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. I’m likely to spend hours digging through the cyclopedia. In the past I’ve talked about the election controversy of the 1880’s, but always suspected there was a lot more to it than that.. and yes there was. High church, low church, open questions, eschatology. All sorts of way cool things one can dig into.

And then open questions brought me over to Janice Heidlberger’s blog, where she discusses an article called “The Downside of Worship” which I commented upon, and copied the big issue here.

A guy named George stated

“God is big enough to handle our fear, anger and questions.” But there doesn’t seem to be a forum for these kinds of discussions in the church, he also said.

Why is this… or perhaps in more Lutheran terminoloy, “What does this mean?”

I’ve got some ideas… First, I know it can work outside of church, it works out pretty well online if the proper environment is created.

  • I’ve connected with some pastors and seminary students on facebook in a small discussion group, where there is some seriously major big question discussions… Sort of the egads, man am I out of my league here type of questions.
  • Along that line BelindaP and I started CFA a tad over a year ago with the same intent, to go after the hardcore questions in a safe environment, and it worked pretty well, Until we had a software crash which I’m still trying to debug.,, Granted, as we state in the preamble. …you will find topics that you don’t see on other Christian sites. Peoples’ exploration of faith is messy, so we allow for that.

But within the church proper, it doesnt seem to work out too well. I think a few things are the problem.

  • Many hard core questions can be embarrasing or perhaps a tad too personal, and thats where anonymity online plays a significant factor. Granted I’m not anonymous online, but thats a personal choice I made… the vast majority of folks use psuedonyms or pen names online, and thats ok.
  • In the midwest, we have mostly Norwegian or German heritage, and historically correct or not, today, it fosters a lot of independence. There is a lot less community within the church than their really ought to be.
  • Many times the church has failed with a bang… how do you create safe environment, when you have ex-members whose confidence has been betrayed a church staffer, or have been abused, etc etc. Perhaps co-leading a large ecumenical ministry gave me a somewhat jaded view, but the heartaches shared by far too many doesnt bode too well for the church proper. At least within the ELCA the ecclesiastical structure’s oversights go a long way in preventing such, but I’m sure it still occurs albeit rarely.

Solutions… well, recovery from church failure is a tough one, and it will take time, and a ton of pastoral care, if a potential member can even get to that point. Community wise, well I think the economic downturn may well force the issue on that one, and mitigate it a lot. Still the hard core issue remains… anonymity in 3D doesnt work too well, and it requires a ton of trust.

George in the article describes himself as a long term church member… if time doesnt do it… People are fallible, as are pastors, yet within the scope of edification, open and hard questions very much fall within the churches domain.

Perhaps there is a blending of tech and church which could work though, the guys over at Grainger Community Church are doing some fascinating work with text messaging. Granted its a mega church with a budget large enough to support some cool tech, but the potential to address this hole in ministry is pretty amazing.

Star Tribune on ELCA’s task force recommendations

First, one major beef with the article. The issue is with changing the Visions and Expectations document. The issue at hand is this, currently it states “ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships” The ELCA has ordained homosexual ministers for years, that’s nothing new, where as the press and the associated comments seen to reinforce this aspect of whether to ordain gay ministers or not as being the focus, its not.

The issue is whether ministers in committed same gender relationships can be ordained or not. The task force’s recommendation is to leave it in the hands of the local infrastructure. I don’t know if that’s really a good thing or not on either side of the equation, I’ll need to pray, study, and think, on it a bit, or more likely a lot. Its a whole lot grayer and convoluted than would seem on the surface, that’s for sure.

My rant of the day however is in the comment section of the newspaper. Egads, the ELCA has some of the best resources in the world for education, and the sheer number of folks leaving comments who are confusing law and Gospel, or adding a whole lot of non-Lutheran theology to the mix is disheartening (note I am referring to folks who self identified as Lutheran, I would not have the same expectations of someone who ascribed to the teachings of Calvin or Arminus). In addition, the ELCA’s stance on Bibliology is very clear, yet that too was confused by many. Of course I probably need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for some of that. I haven’t formally taught for years, I guess I ought to change that.

We’re planning a missions trip to St Paul, MN

was a message I recieved from a friend of mine a while back… and the thing is, she lives in Australia! Its like cool, we could finally meet up after all these years of online communications… but in the back of my mind, I was going whoa.

Why travel across the globe, especially when there are so many to be reached, and why St Paul where there are churches everywhere, and many of them have long term missionaries, and send folks out on short term mission trips all over the world. That was until I saw an discussion by Tad DeLay concerning Ed Stetzers book on church planting. Some interesting and somewhat discouraging stats:

– In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

-In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

-In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

-in 2004, the latest year available, there are 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

– There are 120 million secular undiscipled people in the United States.

– The U.S. is the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere.

– The U.S. is the fifth largest mission field on earth.

I really like what Tad came up with, so rather than further commentary, I’ll direct you to his blog.

Notes on Original Sin

Its interesting to note the variances on hope original sin is portrayed across denominational boundaries… It seems very difficult for folks to accept the loss of free will, and there is a ton of wiggling to try and include it somehow. There also seems to be a lot of wiggling around how bad folks are… ie we are not all that bad… and babies are not bad either ?????

This is pretty bizarre imho, as it seems so very clear, but it is very hard to hear too. More research will be needed.

Paul III Council of Trent-5

The council of Trent is fascinating, albeit the section below seems on pretty shakey ground. But then what would a Lutheran say in these matter? We are called anathema 🙂

If anyone denies that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or says that the whole of that which belongs to the essence of sin is not taken away, but says that it is only canceled or not imputed, let him be anathema.

For in those who are born again God hates nothing, because there is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism unto death,[18] who walk not according to the flesh,[19] but, putting off the old man and putting on the new one who is created according to God,[20] are made innocent, immaculate, pure, guiltless and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, joint heirs with Christ;[21] so that there is nothing whatever to hinder their entrance into heaven.

But this holy council perceives and confesses that in the one baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to sin, which, since it is left for us to wrestle with, cannot injure those who do not acquiesce but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; indeed, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned.[22]

This concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes calls sin,[23] the holy council declares the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin in the sense that it is truly and properly sin in those born again, but in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin.

But if anyone is of the contrary opinion, let him be anathema.


Dr Don Shaw on Christian Unity

I read a newspaper column written by Pastor Don Shaw where he talked about measurable success in ministry, and its an absolutely fascinating article… but alas it deserves a much longer entry than what I have time for today, thus I’ll jump on that next week. 🙂

In part of researching for my own writings, I thought I’d do a little digging and see if I could find any of his sermons online, as he sure sounds like a real cool guy, with a ton more history and experience than he readily shares. (He appears exceedingly humble) And sure enough, I found one last night at a church he visited. Sure wish he had a blog or podcast though, this guy is way cool

I listened to it last night, and have been taking notes on and off, as there is just so much good material. Granted as a Lutheran who leans emergent, our beliefs are going to be somewhat at odds since he is a conservative Baptist. Otoh, like many of the pastors I listen to with differing beliefs, there is a ton more common ground than not, and what he had to say as concerns Christian unity was amazing.

He started out this section discussion eschatology… and something we all agree on, well somewhat short of full preterist views, is Jesus will return. Beyond that, we run into headaches with premill, amill, and posmill viewpoints, but ultimately we agree on Jesus returning. That is where unity can be found.

And this is his premise, and I think its pretty cool…

Iif we are to die on the hill, it better be important to
The Gospel

Its well worth taking a listen, this is one smart pastor with a ton of wisdom and experience.