Monthly Archives: March 2009

An anti safe approach to the future!

I came across this blog entry tonight, and was blown away. This fellow observes great opportunties ahead, and I think he is right on the mark. This is the time to step up to the plate, and throughout his post he mirrors a common theme, dont be safe, dont be timid, dont be fearful, step forward and get going!

The following final quote from him is pretty powerful

Most of all seek God’s Word for his loving example and the ways that Jesus expressed his love to us. Take a risk, give something up. Stop being so safe and get out there and get your hands dirty for Jesus.

Be carefull this book is very very

expensive, is what the librarian told me, when I picked it up as an interlibrary loan. She told me the replacement cost was listed as $900.00!!! Ouch, I will protect it as if it was gold LOL

My guess is, someone messed up data entry, as Amazon has it for $9.99 and google books has a version one can read online.

Either/or: The Gospel or Neopaganism
Either/or: The Gospel or Neopaganism

I’m looking forward to reading Either/Or: The Gospel or Neopaganism, albeit I am more than a bit concerned with what the solitary reviewer on Amazon has to say.  If the book were not from Braaten and Jenson, I’d almost expect as much, but then again, their stature raises the bar quite a bit. I guess once I get through it, I’ll make my own judgement.

Either way, I’ll handle it very very carefully. No way can I afford $900 to replace it. 🙂

Christian unity and views on Palestine

There are significant differences of opinion within Christianity as a whole as concerns the following ELCA amendment from some time back.

To call upon the ELCA to underscore the call for economic initiatives by this church and its members in the peace not walls campaign. Such initiatives, in consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran church in Jordan and the Holy Land could include purchasing of products of Palestinian providers and exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements. Also to be explored is the entire investment activity activity by this church. Examination of investment would exclude the option of divestiture.

It created quite a firestorm, here is a summary of comments Pondering Pastor received after posting the amendment in his blog.

I’ve been told that God will only bless those nations protecting Israel. I’ve been told that the ELCA position with respect to Israel and Palestine is the primary cause of conflict in all matters within the ELCA. I’ve been told that the ELCA supports terrorism, the destruction of the United States, and teaching children to prefer death over life. I’ve been told that we need to consider the spiritual implications of boycotts of Israel.

Yikes, it seems many seem to forget, some Palestinians are brothers and sister in Christ too.

The question then becomes, despite huge differences in opinion, is unity in Christ still possible? Up until this morning, my answer would have been of course it is. We are not talking about the essentials of faith, its not a soteriological matter. However… an interesting argument was presented by Carl Braaten as concerns another matter, which to me presents some very strong parallels. I don’t know that I agree with him, but it sure warrants careful study and thought.

He states an excellent summary of my prior and current beliefs, which he believes to be in error. Its so well stated, I’m just copying verbatim.

….matters having to do with the laws and commandments of God, and not with the core principles of the gospel, cannot be church-dividing and are not basic to church unity. Matters that fall under the rubric of the “left hand of God,” namely, the will and rule of God in the orders of creation (political, economic, and social structures, including marriage, family, and sexuality), are not central to the gospel as such and therefore cannot be foundational for church unity.

And his response:

The church is founded upon the Word of God, which includes what it believes about God’s activity in both creation and redemption, both law and gospel, both the kingdom on the left and on the right.

He then goes on with some pretty hard hitting examples:

The church is not founded on only one half of the Word of God. Consider this: the Lutheran World Federation raised the task of resisting apartheid in South Africa to a matter of status confessionis. This meant that opposing apartheid becomes a necessary implication of the church’s confession of faith. The white Lutheran congregations protested that the racial struggles in South Africa had nothing to do with the gospel, but only with the kingdom of God on the left hand. Ergo, the struggle for racial justice, whatever side one takes on the issue, cannot constitute a status confessionis for church fellowship. If the LWF was right in its declaration, it shows that the gospel cannot be separated from the law, the kingdom on the right from the kingdom on the left. Lutheran Churches in the United States faced the same issue in the struggle for civil rights when the system of racial segregation meant that Blacks and Whites were not welcome to celebrate Holy Communion together. The Lutheran Churches in Germany under Hitler were confronted by the same problem. The theologians supporting National Socialism declared that its anti-Semitic policies regarding the Jews have nothing to do with the gospel, therefore they have no bearing on church unity and fellowship. The Lutherans in Chile under General Pinochet faced the same kind of issue.

Indeed, these are compeling arguments, but they seem mostly based upon man’s reasoning, as concerns unity. While I agree with the points of view, I find it difficult to back it up as a standalone. I find the use of the word “If” more than a bit troubling.

If the LWF was right in its declaration, it shows that the gospel cannot be separated from the law, the kingdom on the right from the kingdom on the left.


10 early Sunday Morning Thoughts

Dave’s Lenton Lutheran Paradox is amazingly cool! A must read for all faith based bloggers.

It appears more and more Pastor’s are writing their sermons at Starbucks, Panera, and other WiFi enabled coffee shops. Are such firms the new secratarium or pastors office? Its a powerful thing in many ways. I must admit it would be interesting to walk in to a Panera and see 20 folks wearing clerical collars. My guess is most protestan pastors wear civies, but might make for an interesting clerical mashup some time.

Greed is insideous, it propagates a great deal, and seemingly morphs to self righteous justice on others, and coveting as a cover in reference to an observation of comments on Carlos the realtor loosing his shirt. Very sad in many ways, both for Carlos, but also folks attacking him. I found myself called on the carpet by Mark Thoma as concerns my opposition to the bailout. Its very little different than the folks on the ABC news site, that I was fuming about above. I disagree with the govt plan from a long term point of view, but I also admit I was thinking punitive measures for those who got us into this mess, rather than focusing on the least of these who likely will be hurt the most.

A great exposition on suffering by the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten, followed by a call to pick up the cross. Very powerful.

Can someone somewhere come up with an analogy for the trinity that doesn’t present one or more heresies? I’ve read far too many of them this week.

Some folks think Pietism is a positive, go figure, but it does serve to explain why folks are attracted to Islam and the Jehovah Witnesses. Sadly pietism doesnt last, and it will eventually fail them. Luther had it right with his Law and Gospel approach, the law alone doesnt work. BigNorsk has an excellent discussion at CF.

Why are folks always wanting to lean towards Chiliasm, and why doesn’t Revelation in and of itself provide hope. Looking forward to reading Barbara Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed this week, perhaps it has some answers. Just arrived via interlibrary loan for Monday pickup.

This week, I need to group twitter pastors in tweetdeck, as there is a lot of cool stuff going on, but i need to sort out business, science, and aviation to find them. I only have 600 or so folks I follow. I can’t imagine how the twitter power users handle it.

Great news, Alan Henley will get further therapy!!! Prayer is very powerful, and I’m certain God changed some hearts to make this happen.

Eek, I gotta set my clock ahead, egads, I will be tired for church in the AM, even more so now. At least I remembered now rather than at 7AM LOL

The slavery controversy in the Norwegian Lutheran church and others

Today, I reached the section on the slavery controversy of the mid- late 1800’s. In many ways, its saddening to read the opinions of the well respected men of the past and how wrong they were. They were dealing with a society about to undergo a major shift, and with that, the definition of what was sinful or not.

For some, it appeared an annoyance, they didnt see it as having soteriological implications, but more so, a dispute over the third use of the law. Others did take a stance on it in regards to the third use of the law on both sides. Others, saw it as impacting the first use of the law and that it had soteriological implications bordering on the second, and for others, there was nothing wrong with it. The thing is, depending on how one interpreted scripture, or picked and chose, it was possible to take nearly any position, and Biblically back it up.

There was also a strong focus on not wanting to divide the church or even polarize their congregation. Many pastors did not want to give an opinion, and a few that did, came up with wishy washy answers, or they chose to redirect their response by referring to the laws of the land. A few others with strong views, saw this as something to fall on their sword over, and aligned their views appropriately. Some pastors went forth with scathing remarks as concerning those who held opposing views.

In many ways, reading through the history this is like digging up dirt of the past that should likely be long since forgotten. Certainly, the info is not published in current church literature, and few will go to the lengths of reading antique church history books. On the other hand, I think we best be aware of our history, such that we can avoid the errors of the past. A few things I read seem just way too close to home even today, albeit the topics are different. May the reader have much wisdom.

ELCA task force on sexuality Whats with the blogosphere and obscuration

So, I’ve been persusing blogs on all sides of the ELCA’s task force recommendations. A somewhat recurrent theme seems to be long drawn out entries, almost white papers. Granted, its a complex and lengthy document…. but when one brings up 10, 20, or more points of response within a single blog entry, its a bit of a bear to disect. On the other hand in doing so, there is an element of protection; ie its hard to gang up on an author when they have a fire hose of shooting out. Being one in the past who always volunteered to jumped into the fire so to speak, I’ve made good use of datadump obscuration. Not so much as to avoid criticism, but if I’m going to have a few hundred to a few thousand folks ticked off at me, I’d rather have them ticked off on 50 different matters than 1 or 2.

However, I’m going to try to go the other way, short of this post where I’ll ramble on a bit. I really want to come to some conclusion. As I wrote before, I dont have an opinion , and now a year and then later I still dont. By the time I get through this series of blog entries, I hopefully will have one. Its not that I’d be voting or anything, but what the document if fully implemented could do is put a congregation, a synod, and a bishop in the position to make some difficult decisions. As such, I ask myself, what would I do? What if I were a Bishop, and was presented with such? What would be my decision, such that I could sleep at night? Creating such a hypothetical, albeit impossible, situation, puts my skin in the game. It makes the task force recommendations real, not just a academic third party thing where i sit as an outside observer.

Whats all this rationalist theology anyhow and where did Satan go

So I’m behind on the lectionary… one of the issues of non-real time particpation in the ELCA faith community. Anyhow, the text of issue is Mark 1:29-39, where in v 32-34 Jesus is curing the sick and casting out demons.

Lutherans, as a general rule dont get into the demon thing very much at all, or pretty much anything supernatural in this world, short of the sacrements. Even the more confessional branches such as WELS tend to de-emphasize demonology, albeit they admit it is very real. The ELCA seems to lean much more towards a rationalistic view. In part, its like a dont ask dont tell thing, no one wants to talk about it, and we havent had a rite for it for years.

The thing is, there are a kazillion unknowns out there. Back in my days of hard core metrology, whether it be NMR, or plasma physics, nearly everytime we uncovered something, there was always a huge door that opened up more. If anything, short of a very few who put their heads in the sands, their are more unknowns now than there were even in Luther’s day. Now, to the average Joe, probably not, we put guys on the moon, we attack diseases, and if they really knew what was going on inside their computer chip. they would really be amazed. The average Joe may percieve that the world has nearly been conquered outside of economics theory, where as I see it, we’re just beginning. Even in psychology, I’m amazed at fNMR, vibratory NMR, and PET scanning to map brain activity, yet in reality, these are baby steps when one looks at the whole.

In many ways though, their are millions more distractions to keep out focus from God than there ever were in the past. Food shortages and disease in the past often resulted in people focusing on God. Today, as Sarcastic Lutheran states it could be possession by idols, whether it be money, power, or a host of others.

However, I think we shoot ourselves in the foot by not taking demonic possession and/or influence seriously. Its very easy to rationalize things away, where as when contemporary pharma, and psych show no answers, and the church has no answers, rationalism really fails. Granted, at least the LCMS covers exorcism academically, and likely there are some practioners hidden away, but its not the sort of thing for the unknowledgeable, fearful, inept, or inexperienced…. and how does that work, when its concieveable a pastor could give 60 years of service to the church and never run into it? I’m certain I’ve run into 2 cases over the years, but then I’ve had dealings with tens of thousands of people… and for an average church size of a couple hundred members, statistically, its pretty unlikely in todays rationalistic world.

I do very much like what Father at Magdalene’s Egg had to say.

Our job is the cure of souls: calling sinners to repentance, reconciling penitents, praying for our people and leading them in their own prayers. In that context, it only makes sense for us to do things that many shy away from: to bless people, homes and objects, for starters. We actually have rites for such things, even if they are sometimes used reluctantly. And yes, this includes cleansing people who have been possessed by unclean spirits, a task for which we no published rite, and for which nearly none of us is prepared.

But, when you think about it, this ought to be one of the most basic tools in a pastor’s kit. Once upon a time it was, literally, as common as baptism. And the faithful have a right to ask: if a pastor can’t defend them from evil spirits, then — really — what good is he?

The other aspect, and I think its pretty validly supported by scripture to be sober, vigilent, and to just keep far away. I remember years ago, a university buddy of mine lived in a dirt cheap place that had thousands of projecting plaster pentacles on nearly every wall. When I visited him, its like whoa, whats this.. he said, its something likely not of God, and that he didnt want to know any thing more about it, so as not to be influenced.

However, there is a bit of a wrench in the works… televangelists, and charismatics talk about Satan and exorcism quite a bit. Why do they seem to have so much more of a problem, and why do they make so much of a public spectical of it… Its hard to say without coming across pretty judgemental, but in my Lutheran history research, it nearly seems some set the stage for it. I dont have anything rock solid right now, as the history project is a long term thing. However, often times I’ll do a quick scan ahead in my texts while cooking a meal and i did come across some pretty scary points of view. When I get to that point for real study, as contrasted with a preview, I will make an entry here in the blog.

Church Shopping tradition & diversity

This is  a response to Pastor Bryans blog where he talks about the negatives of church shopping, namely tradition, beliefs, style, and a lack of diversity. I’ll focus on tradition and diversity.

Tradition creates a feeling of comfort, which in and of itself is fine, but it can also lead to complacency. If one attends church A, because the primary reason is tradition, ie what one’s family has always done for generations, that can lead  to trouble. I look back to my time in Belfast many years ago. Too many times folks said they were protestant or Catholic, because their grandparents were, the theological differences between faiths played a much smaller role than tradition and politics, some did not believe at all, but still used the faith labels. It was a sad deal for sure.

Granted, if one can present Christian witness as to why one attends a church, and include family tradition, its super great. However, one should also be aware of the dangers for those who cannot present a witness of their faith. In many ways, I think upending the generational construct for the most part is a positive thing, as it may lead to further questioning and a deepening of ones faith. If the family church is on the mark, folks will return after a period of time.

As far as the lack of diversity due to church shopping being negative, I wholeheartedly agree. Often times the resulting lack of diversity from transient birds of a feather flocking together makes outreach to the community difficult as cliques began to form. Also too much homogeneity can lead to problems in discipleship. There is less challenge and less conviction outside the scope of a very narrow socio-demographic arena. Otoh, one could also attribute the potential for this to occur in a generationally focused church, unless it has a real heart for outreach and evangelism.

Years back, I remember our adult Sunday school class, a elementary teacher, a truck driver, a janitor, a college professor, and an engineer. It was cool to have such diversity and to learn from one another. And yet, when folks church shop, they often times do not seek out diversity, instead they wish to find like minded people.

Wowzers… law / Gospel as a homiletical principle

In my search for regional blogs, as part of my quest to learn more of Lutheran history, I found Skating in the Garden in High Heels under my Alb from Roland, IA. The major focus was on the law and Gospel, but also how the third use of the law ties in. The part below is mind blowing!

From Mark Alan Powell

Law and Gospel is primarily a homiletical principle.

“A sermon is a liturgical act that serves as ameans of grace, conveying law and gospel to people. The goal of a sermon is not to provide peopel with doctrinal or moral instruction. It is to proclaim gods’ word that judges or accuse and Gods word that comfort or saves”

As a youngster, thats what I heard, and it was very clear… as I went on to uni, and experieced non-liturgical US evangelical churches, sermons were not law and Gospel focused, but where instead, pretty much focused on moral or in some cases doctrinal instruction, and i went ?????

Just as Todd Rhoades said “When did we lose sexy? Where did he/she go? And how did the church find him/her?” it was if somehow the US evangelical churches during my time at uni, lost the law/Gospel, instead they most certainly found sexy, as well as significant morality, plus some doctrine as needed.

Granted, I dont think there is anything wrong with that per se (outside of liturgical churches, that is), as long as it doesn’t overshadow the Gospel, or the law for that matter. Yet, over the years, I’ve run into too many horror stories of the law and Gospel somehow being lost or ambiguous, even within the Lutheran church. In some ways, I think an overt emphasis from the pulpit on sex or morality, predisposes folks to be weak willed in such matters. Ie, taking the burn with passion thing to such an extreme that young kids marry way too young in order to have sex. Egads, talk about a disaster in the works. Even the whole pornography deal is culpable in some ways. When folks get it drilled into their heads in church, there is a danger of obsession I think. Not once do I remember my old pastors preaching on premarital or post marital sex, pornography,other moral issues outside of a highly integrated law and Gospel approach. Of course, add in the lectionary, and such subjects if covered at all, will be pretty rare in a 3 year cycle. I guess its why I had a bird over the star tribune thing. Self identified Lutherans were confused as to the law and Gospel, applying the third use of the law in the wrong arena, and a few even redefined santification as to split it off into something way out there.

Granted, some of this may be due to the huge influence of Christian media. I listen to a multitude of pastors from a wide range of denominations, i may disagree with parts, but as long as scripture is present, its cool. I can sort out the theological issues, but I’m not so sure the casual listener may do so, nor may they even want to. Again, I have to take some blame for this too… been out of the shoes for many yearrs.

Whoa, its almost 4:40AM I gotta run, so I will have to add more later

Some quick thoughts to continue:

Contemporizing, good or bad:

In todays world, even in the Lutheran church, Law/Gospel preaching is not done as well as it was, in some cases, it seems adrift wonder why? Where does seeker sensitive and discipleship fit?

Fascinating divergent opinoins on FC6

I need to look up the Norewegian Lutheran doctrinal stances that came out of Roland, IA. I wonder if it was when they resolved or perhaps one of the early meetings on the absolution controversy..

15 Sunday morning rambles

1. When writing an extended paper defending a theological position, don’t make a major error in the 2nd paragraph of the first page. It kills credibility fast. I’m sure I’ll do the same, or have done so and dont know yet… but still, EEK

2. If guest preaching, know something about the host preacher. Ie, Billy Sunday condemned tobacco at Charles Spurgeon’s church, apparently not aware of the man’s love for cigars.

3. I always wondered why the ELCA seems to emphasize parts of the Book of Concord more so than the others. Its historical. Many early Norwegian Synod Lutheran churches were not aware of it in its entirety. (and even if they were, they might have selectively disagreed with parts of it, some churches were really close to reformed theology)

4. There were folks called anti-Missourians in the mid 1800’s, yep the disagreements among Lutheran has gone on for a long time.

5. Some how or another, in pre-internet, like 150 years ago, folks all over the midwest had serious theological arguments. Its not unlike an online theology message board, just a lot slower. Folks had to really think things through, as you couldn’t just pound on a guy 2 minutes after he said something. How the average Joe on the street became so interested in Christiological matters is fascinating. It was said it was via newsletters and such. Today we have email… but egads, if I did a newsletter covering a small section of Christology. I’d probably have zero subscribers. They had whole multitudes. Gotta learn more on this.

6. Small towns in the area were chosen for major theological conferences. It just seems hard to consider that today, when everything is in Chicago or Minneapolis. Back then Kenyon, MN Rushford, MN and even Roland IA, were where huge issues where discussed. Thats cool!

7. I have a hypothesis as to the secondary effects of an over emphasis, or worse a solitary emphasis on the penal substitutionary theory of atonement.

8. Always frustrated with spell checkers in that they don’t have theological words in their dictionaries.

9. Thinks that if one is writing about anothers faith practices, it should be confirmed by a few first hand witnesses. People mess up their own explanations of faith all the time, to say nothing of occasional errant teachers, and its worse when such are propagated as truth by others outside of said faith practice.

10. Todd Rhoades is pretty funny when he says “When did we lose sexy? Where did he/she go? And how did the church find him/her?” And of course, the comments trail took off in another direction for a bit, but they are still worth a read.

11. Major bummer on loosing Grace Matters from SDS News. First Issues gets cancelled last spring, faith stories last summer and now GM, radio ministry is taking some serious hits.

12. Great news… but Ken is ambiguous, we shall be in suspence… wonder whats up at 63ft and 100Watts! (I checked the FCC database for radio stations, it would be cool if they return!)

13. Pastor Alan’s John the Baptist impression was ubercool. Just wish he would put that photo on his blog, although Tommy and I both thought he should eat locusts and honey. 🙂

14. This afternoon, I need to add more to my blogroll. Pastor Eric’s The Heart of a Pastor is way cool… he is in SW MN, I may need to expand my geological place holder, as I haven’t found any more faith blogs in Southeast MN, and statistically, there should be a lot, but google is not friendly on geo search it seems.

15. Almost wish I were back doing the youth ministry thing… got some cool ideas for text messaging as a youth group activity. Sort of running with the  Lent on Twitter idea, combined with an occasional shot of Graingers live interactivity during youth meetings, and then some type of group collaboration afterthat. Maybe I should open source it.