I have no idea why I didn't include this link from the start of this blog!
On 14 December 1978 I bought a copy of a red paperback called "Three Treatises". (I don't have that great of a memory, I just date my books.) These are the three treatises written by Martin Luther in 1520: Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (August); Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (October); On the Freedom of a Christian (November). I was working on my doctoral dissertation at the time, which was not about Luther at all, but as it contained some passing unflattering references to him, I suppose I thought it would look good if I had some Luther on my bookshelf.
At the time, I had rejected Roman Catholicism as having killed itself at Vatican II, and, there being as I saw it at the time no other Christian church with any basis whatever to hold itself out as wherein the fullness of the church of Christ subsists, Christianity itself in any form showed itself to be a false religion, however, this did not invalidate the "Old Testament", therefore I had taken my place as a believer in, but not a convert to, Orthodox Judaism.
I never read it, and didn't for damn near twenty years until, in 1996, long out of academia, married to a woman raised LCMS but who bailed after Seminex wondering what if anything they still believed in, and in adult instruction class in a WELS parish, hauled it out to see what it said.
What it said changed my life. Starting with "German Nobility", and being a veteran -- casualty -- of a university sponsored by an abbey of German heritage, it was like this guy saw what I had seen, Babylonian Captivity followed. Therein from page to page as he discussed the sacraments, there culminated in his soaring discussion of the Eucharist -- who would not shed tears of gladness, indeed almost faint for joy in Christ etc -- an explosion of light shattering years of darkness! Here in joyous sun-clarity was no new doctrine or church but what the captive church I had known had hemmed and hawed, stammered and stuttered, farted and belched, and at Vatican II, vomited, to say! Christ, his Gospel, his Church, hadn't gone away, it was right here, and I'm in!
The pastor sensed something was up, and gave me a copy of the Tappert Book of Concord (it being the pre-McCain BOC era of church history) to read, which I did on my nighttime shift with my then infant older son in between feedings, and it fleshed the whole thing out. I professed the faith of Christ taught in Scripture and accurately stated in the Book of Concord, especially the Little Catechism, on 15 December 1996. (I don't have that great of a memory, they give you a piece of paper about it.)
Now, Babylonian Captivity is not a confessional document and reading it was not an isolated event but part of a process. But reading it was the point at which the lights went on, and it changed my life. Maybe it would be better to say it was the point at which I knew my life had changed. Even now, I cannot recall coming to that passage about the Eucharist without tears in my eyes.
So I'm putting a link to the text on my blog in a sidebar element titled "A 'Prelude' To My Faith", a nod to both the title of the original and its role in my life. It's a revision of the same translation I read in "Three Treatises". And you know what, that little paperback is still in print, red cover and all!
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