Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thoughts of Humiliation and Prayer - St. Luke 13:1-5

The simple truth is, not all of us become the men we once hoped we might be.
But we are all God's creatures.
If there be any among us who thought ill of Mister Hollom,
or spoke ill of him,
or failed him in any respect of fellowship,
then we ask for your forgiveness, Lord.
And we ask for his.

- Jack Aubrey, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

I will never forget the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Truth be told, at the time, I did not think too much or care too much about it. It was seven years ago today, and I was a student at the seminary. I was newly married, and the fall quarter had just begun. I had too many other things on my mind to pay that much attention to what the LWF was doing.

The reason I will never forget the signing of JDDJ is because Matt Harrison preached that week at chapel. By the end of the sermon, it became a day of humiliation and prayer for all of us. Harrison called the seminary - really, the entire LCMS - to repentance. We had not cared enough to speak up beforehand. We had not loved them enough to go to any length to dissuade them from their chosen theological path - though we believed it wrong and dangerous to the souls of millions of people. We had not done enough even to try to prevent the tragic event of that Reformation day when the LWF officially sold whatever was left of its Lutheran soul to sleep with Rome on Justification. We in the LCMS had sinned in our silence, our indifference, and our lack of love.

Even though we took no part in the events of that day, we may not stand by and count ourselves innocent. Any self-righteousness which we might muster is smashed by the understanding that even our best and holiest deeds will always fail to break the dreaded oppression of sin. No one may stand boasting in his own decisions, in his own words or deeds before God. Such righteousness crumbles and dies when confronted by the strict demands of God's holy Law. We live alone before God by His mercy.

Events of the past few days have reminded me of that sermon, and the movie quotation above pretty well summarizes my understanding of a godly reaction on our part to such things: Repentance. (See also St. Luke 13:1-5.) The simple truth is that we all have sinned in this matter, and that we are all guilty. We have thought ill, have not thought enough to say anything at all, have not pursued every effort to "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness". We have failed in our fellowship of humanity, to say nothing of our fellowship in the Gospel, in Christ and His Church.

I pray for forgiveness.

May Almighty God have mercy on all our souls through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How much of a difference does a comma make?

I was reading through the Henkel Concordia (1854) and noticed something curious:

"I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth."

The way I had learned it (and have been saying it) is:

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth."

Is there a difference? What does it mean?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cyberbrethren posts When is a Book of Concord Not a Book of Concord? Readers who are interested in the Concordia may well find this post an interesting summary of a discussion surrounding textual issues and the Book of Concord. Kudos to Paul McCain for organizing and posting these thoughts.

As a response, I offer a few questions:

1) The Henkels are a very interesting group coming out of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee in the early 1800s. Weird things were happening in those days (read: revivals), and the early American Lutheran scene isn't very pretty (read: not confessional Lutheran). David Henkel is credited with getting the confessional ball rolling among his family and is one of the translators credited in the Henkel edition of the Book of Concord. (See side links)

Looking at some of David's writings, it is evident that he had access to Luther's works. Is anyone aware of where/how would he/the rest of his family have had access to Luther or a 1580 Book of Concord?

2) Cyberbrethren posted: "Ironically, to this day, the only complete translation of the German edition of the Book of Concord of 1580 is the translation prepared by the Henkels in the 1850s, with the 1854 second edition being the better edition"

What makes the second Henkel edition better than the first? Is there a critique published somewhere?

3) I was a little surprised in the post above to read that "formulas of confessional subscription do not refer to a specific edition of the Book of Concord". The proposed ordination rite for Lutheran Service Book does specifically mention "the 1580 Book of Concord" - so perhaps I do not understand what is being said?

4) One of these days, I will learn to make use of the "trackback" function. I'm sure that there must be a FAQ somewhere...

Again - thank you to Cyberbrethren for an informative and interesting post. I commend it to anyone interested in textual questions about the Book of Concord.
"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#24)

Affirmative position regarding "God's Eternal Foreknowledge and Election":

12. The Christian is to concern himself with the doctrine of the eternal election of God only in so far as it is revealed in the Word of God, which shows us Christ as the “book of life.” Through the proclamation of the Holy Gospel, Christ opens and reveals this book for us, as it is written, “Those he predestined, he also called.” In Christ we should seek the eternal election of the Father, who has decreed in his eternal counsel that he would save no one except those who acknowledge his Son, Christ, and truly believe on him. The Christian should banish all other opinions since they do not proceed from God but are inspired by the evil foe in an attempt to weaken for us or to rob us entirely of the glorious comfort which this salutary doctrine gives us, namely, that we know that we have been elected to eternal life out of pure grace in Christ without any merit of our own, and that no one can pluck us out of his hand. God assures us of this gracious election not only in mere words, but also with his oath, and has sealed it with his holy sacraments, of which we can remind ourselves and with which we can comfort ourselves in our greatest temptations and thus extinguish the flaming darts of the devil. (Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.496; FC Epitome XI: 13)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#23)

In the preaching of the law there are two things we must always keep in mind. First, we cannot keep the law unless we have been reborn by faith in Christ, as Christ says (John 15:5), “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Secondly, though men can at most do certain outward works, this universal statement must be permitted to interpret the entire law (Heb. 11:6), “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” We must keep the Gospel promise that through Christ we have access to the Father (Rom. 5:2). It is clear that we are not justified by the law. Otherwise, if the preaching of the law were enough by itself, why would Christ and the Gospel be necessary? Thus in the preaching of penitence it is not enough to preach the law, the Word that convicts of sin. For the law works wrath; it only accuses; it only terrifies consciences. Consciences cannot find peace unless they hear the voice of God, clearly promising the forgiveness of sins. Therefore it is necessary to add the Gospel promise, that for Christ’s sake sins are forgiven and that by faith in Christ we obtain the forgiveness of sins. If our opponents exclude the Gospel of Christ from the preaching of penitence, they deserve to be regarded as blasphemers against Christ. (Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.144; Apology IV: 256-7)
The quick and the dead

I had a discussion on a shut-in call today about the difference between "the living and the dead" and "the quick and the dead".

My congregations are currently using The Lutheran Hymnal, and there is some discussion about changing over to Lutheran Service Book. In discussing with my shut-in some of the differences between the two, we started talking about the "updating" in the language of the creed. (I realize that everyone who uses Lutheran Worship is already past this discussion; I appreciate your patience :)

Quick means living. It has all sorts of archaic meanings: as an adjective - not stagnant, running, flowing; fiery, glowing; pregnant.

There is also a verbal form, "to quicken", which means: to make alive, revive; to cause to be enlivened, stimulate. "To quicken" has the archaic meaning "to kindle, to cause to burn more intensely" (which brings to mind the prayer: "Come Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Thy love"). "To quicken" also means "to come to life" - "entering into a phase of active growth and development" and "reaching the stage of gestation at which fetal motion is felt".*

I've always wondered if there was something a little more generic about "living" and whether we did not lose something from "quick" in the updating. Thoughts?

*From Libronix looking at Merriam-Webster, I. 1996, c1993. Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Merriam-Webster: Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Book of Concord links posted - I've added several links on the sidebar to locations where the Concordia can be found on-line for viewing or for purchase. (Addall.com is always a great place to look for comparison pricing, although CPH and CBD are not listed in the sites which addall compares). Particularly interesting in this list are the 1580 German edition of the Book of Concord (published in Dresden, scanned from the copy (?)located at(?) Wartburg Seminary's library) and the French edition (which I found when doing research for a mission organization here in northern Minnesota that works with Lutherans in Haiti). Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Monday, October 09, 2006

"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#22)

[Speaking of Malachi 1:11] (T)he very words of the prophet express his meaning. For they first say this, namely, that the name of the Lord will be great. This is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel. For through this the name of Christ is made known, and the mercy of the Father, promised in Christ, is recognized. The preaching of the Gospel produces faith in those who receive the Gospel. They call upon God, they give thanks to God, they bear afflictions for their confession, they produce good works for the glory of Christ. Thus the name of the Lord becomes great among the Gentiles (bookofconcord.org: Apology XXIV: 32).

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#21)

The question has been, Is the preaching of the Holy Gospel strictly speaking only a preaching of grace which proclaims the forgiveness of sins, or is it also a preaching of repentance and reproof that condemns unbelief, since unbelief is condemned not in the law but wholly through the Gospel? (Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.477-8; FC Epitome V: 1).
Answer? The Word of God must be rightly divided in order to maintain the distinction between Law and Gospel. Strictly speaking, the Law "teaches what is right and God-pleasing" and "condemns everything that is sinful and contrary to God's will" (ibid, 478:3). Strictly speaking, the Gospel "is the kind of doctrine that teaches what a man who has not kept the law and is condemned by it should believe, namely, that Christ has satisfied and paid for all guilt and without man’s merit has obtained and won for him forgiveness of sins, the 'righteousness that avails before God,' and eternal life" (ibid, 5; cf. 7).

However, the term 'Gospel' is not always used in its strict sense when it is used in Holy Scripture. The word may also mean "a proclamation both of repentance and of forgiveness of sins" (ibid, 6).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's your favorite translation/edition of the Concordia (and why)? The McCain Reader's Edition? Tappert? Kolb-Wengert? The Triglotta? I think that Jacobs was available at the CTSFW bookstore when I was a student; I don't know if it is still there. How about the Henkel edition of the Book of Concord; are there still copies of this edition out there?

When you read the Concordia, what format do you prefer? Do you prefer to read it electronically - either on-line (I think Triglotta is the version available at bookofconcord.org) or electronically (Tappert and Kolb-Wengert are available on CD) or do you like the feel of a book in your hands?
"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#20)

Here is a quotation about listening to sermons, from the section on the Third Commandment in the Large Catechism:

In the same way those conceited fellows should be chastised who, after hearing a sermon or two, become sick and tired of it and feel that they know it all and need no more instruction....

Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, still you are daily under the dominion of the devil, who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it. On the other hand, when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, new pleasure, and a new spirit of devotion, and it constantly cleanses the heart and its meditations. For these words are not idle or dead, but effective and living.
(Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.378-9; LC 10 Commandments III: 99-100).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#19)

The following quotation from the Formula of Concord (Epitome, Article I - Original Sin) is perhaps implicit in making the point that a preacher should consider the hearers when choosing the words and language that he uses in his sermons. (One can find a similar point made elsewhere in the Confessions, particularly with reference to "sermons for children".)

As far as the Latin words substantia and accidens are concerned, they are not biblical terms and, besides, they are unknown to the common man. They should therefore not be employed in sermons delivered to common, unlearned people, but simple folk should be spared them.

In schools and learned circles these words can profitably be retained in the discussion of original sin because they are familiar and convey no false impressions, and they clearly show the distinction between the essence of a particular thing and that which pertains to it only accidentally.
(Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.469; FC Epitome: 23-4).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Blog My Soul has started a series of noteworthy posts entitled: "How Lutherans Worship". Kinnanman is the author of a book recently released by CPH, "Worshipping with Angels and Archangels", which looks to be an excellent resource to use with confirmation classes and catechumens of all ages.
"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#18)

To set the context for the following quotation on preaching, Melanchthon talks in this particular section in Apology IV (Justification) about how the "scholastics have followed the philosophers... (in) teach(ing) only the righteousness of reason - that is, civil works - and maintain that without the Holy Spirit reason can love God above all things" (Ap IV:9; Tappert 108). He argues: "If we can be justified by reason and its works, what need is there of Christ or of regeneration?" (ibid, 12).

We have heard of some who, in their sermons, laid aside the Gospel and expounded the ethics of Aristotle. If the opponents’ ideas are correct, this was perfectly proper, for Aristotle wrote so well on natural ethics that nothing further needs to be added. We see that there are books in existence which compare certain teachings of Christ with the teachings of Socrates, Zeno, and others, as though Christ had come to give some sort of laws by which we could merit the forgiveness of sins rather than receiving it freely for his merits. So if we accept this teaching of the opponents that we merit forgiveness of sins and justification by the works of reason, there will be no difference between philosophical or Pharisaic righteousness and Christian righteousness (Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.109; Apology IV: 14-6).

It seems that the key problem here is not that these sermons preached "philosophical ethics" but that they "laid aside the Gospel" and made it appear as though Christ's purpose in coming was to teach men how to *merit* forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, etc. When philosophical ethics are *substituted for* the Gospel, a good gift of God's creation is substituted for God as the recipient of our love and trust - ultimately becoming a false god.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"On Preaching" from the Confessions (#17)

Good works should be done because God has commanded them and in order to exercise our faith, to give testimony, and to render thanks. For these reasons good works must necessarily be done. They take place in a flesh that is partly unregenerate and hinders what the Holy Spirit motivates, fouling it with its impurity. Because of faith they are nevertheless holy and divine works, sacrifices, and the reign of Christ, whereby he shows his rule before the world. For in these works he sanctifies hearts and suppresses the devil. And in order to keep the Gospel among men, he visibly pits the witness of the saints against the rule of the devil; in our weakness he displays his strength. The dangers, labors, and sermons of the apostle Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, and other teachers of the church are holy works, true sacrifices acceptable to God, battles by which Christ restrained the devil and drove him away from the believers. (Tappert, The Book of Concord. Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1959, p.133; Apology IV: 189=90)