Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

28 September 2008

It's Your Grandfather's Church Even When It Isn't!

Pastor Christopher Esget, on his excellent blog Esgetology (link in my sidebar element "Lutheran Blogs"), just recently posted the following two passages from the first president of the LCMS, CFW Walther.

Written well over a century ago, they are amazing in that they could have been written this morning. Not only are these two passages a magnificent expression of true Lutheran thinking on doctrine and doctrine in motion (often called worship or liturgy) so needed now, they show too that the trends and forces against which they are needed are hardly the latest and greatest thing, but a temptation to leave what we were founded to stand for and stand for something else thinking we have done no such thing which has been a part of our beloved synod's history from the start. As Bishop Sheen used to say, Old Errors New Labels. Here they are.

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Whether our Synod gains friends or makes enemies, wins honor or invites disgrace, grows or declines in numbers, brings peace or incites enmity, all this must be unimportant to us-just so our Synod may keep the jewel of purity of doctrine and knowledge. However, should our Synod ever grow indifferent toward purity of doctrine, through ingratitude forget this prize, or betray or barter it away to the false church, then let our church body perish and the name Missourian decay in disgrace.

-C.F.W. Walther, First Sermon Delivered at the Opening of Synod, 1 Corinthians 1:4-5

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We know and firmly hold that the character, the soul of Lutheranism, is not found in outward observances but in the pure doctrine. If a congregation had the most beautiful ceremonies in the very best order, but did not have the pure doctrine, it would be anything but Lutheran. We have from the beginning spoken earnestly of good ceremonies, not as though the important thing were outward forms, but rather to make use of our liberty in these things. For true Lutherans know that although one does not have to have these things (because there is no divine command to have them), one may nevertheless have them because good ceremonies are lovely and beautiful and are not forbidden in the Word of God. Therefore the Lutheran church has not abolished “outward ornaments, candles, altar cloths, statues and similar ornaments,” [AP XXIV] but has left them free. The sects proceeded differently because they did not know how to distinguish between what is commanded, forbidden, and left free in the Word of God. We remind only of the mad actions of Carlstadt and of his adherents and followers in Germany and in Switzerland. We on our part have retained the ceremonies and church ornaments in order to prove by our actions that we have a correct understanding of Christian liberty, and know how to conduct ourselves in things which are neither commanded nor forbidden by God.

We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. The Roman antichristendom enslaves poor consciences by imposing human ordinances on them with the command: “You must keep such and such a thing!”; the sects enslave consciences by forbidding and branding as sin what God has left free. Unfortunately, also many of our Lutheran Christians are still without a true understanding of their liberty. This is demonstrated by their aversion to ceremonies.

It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won’t accuse us of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregations is of course still very great with many people — this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, “Qui cantat, bis orat–he who sings prays twice.”

This finds its application also in the matter of the liturgy. Why should congregations or individuals in the congregation want to retain their prejudices? How foolish that would be! For first of all it is clear from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:16) that the congregations of his time had a similar custom. It has been the custom in the Lutheran Church for 250 years.

It creates a solemn impression on the Christian mind when one is reminded by the solemnity of the divine service that one is in the house of God, in childlike love to their heavenly Father, also give expression to their joy in such a lovely manner. We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church. With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search.

How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

The objection: “What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?” was answered with the counter question, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: “It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments.”

-C.F.W. Walther
Explanation of Thesis XVIII, D, Adiaphora, of the book The True Visible Church
Delivered at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, beginning August 9, 1871, at the 16th Central District Convention
Translated by Fred Kramer, printed in Essays for the Church [CPH: 1992], I:193-194.

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Well now ain't that the dingest dangest thing, as a great Missourian of another kind, Jesse James, used to say. Those who would deliver us from being our "grandfather's" synod said the same stuff to grandpa! Well, not mine; he WAS a Methodist of the type to which Walther refers, then turned RC, but you get the idea. Old errors, new labels, so they think it's new. Or emerging, or purpose driven, or ablaze, or whatever new labels they may devise.

Here's how to REALLY not be our grandfather's synod -- leave that nonsense behind!

14 September 2008

Lourdes: The Catholic Benny Hinn

On 24 December 496 or 498, Remigius, bishop of Reims -- to which he had been elected when he was 22 and a layman -- baptised King Clovis of the Franks. Clovis began the identifiable history of France after the collapse of the Roman Empire. But also, the Franks were the first of the Germanic tribes that brought about that collapse to convert to catholic Trinitarian Christianity rather than Arian Christianity. This earned France the title "the eldest daughter of the Church".

To-day in the eldest daughter of the Church, about half identify themselves as Catholic, and about 5% attend Mass. Recently the current pope said an outdoor Mass in Paris, in the homily of which he spoke against materialism and commercialism which he saw as creating a new modern idol with consumerism as something of a religion with its own values and mindset replacing Christian ones.

On Saturday, 13 September 2008, he continued to Lourdes, France, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the reports to her local pastor of Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year old peasant, that she was having visions of Mary the mother of Jesus, beginning 11 February 1858. There were 18 visions, ending 16 July 1858. In the ninth vision, 25 February, the woman told the girl to go to a spring and drink and bathe in it, but she reports finding only a puddle, the spring starting the next day.

Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the natural border between France and Spain, at the time was a village of about 4000 people, whose local dialect Occitan resembles both French and Spanish. In the area, there had long been legends of people returning from Purgatory, called revenants, and there had for some time been childrens' and other reports in the area on both sides of the border of Marian apparitions, and at the time in nearby Garaison there was a popular pilgrimage centre of Marian devotion arising from supposed apparitions to 12-year-old Angleze de Sagazan in 1515.

While the Catholic Church has determined the visions to be real, a Catholic is not obliged to believe they were real, and nothing doctrinal is based on them. Nonetheless, to-day Lourdes is a major tourism destination, hosting between 5 and 6 million pilgrims annually, and the town of now about 15000 nonetheless has more hotels than anywhere in France other than Paris. Some of the pilgrims come seeking cures in the water of the spring. The current baths for those seeking cures have come a long way since Emile Zola's 1892 description that the waters were so filled with various things coming off the bathers that the miracle is that anyone come out of them alive, being built in 1955 and last updated in 1980. The streets are lined with vendors selling trinkets. Everyone from street vendors to the local economy to corporations makes money off it.

Of the hundred of thousands who have sought cures there, only 67 inexplicable cures have been recognised by the Lourdes Medical Bureau, sanctioned by the Church. One wonders if a physician could practice 150 years with only 67 successful treatments if his practice would continue to attract patients in the hundreds of thousands. The pope said it was not so much a place to go seeking miracles as a place of hope. One wonders, hope for what, hope in what? He drank from the water, and authorised special indulgences regarding observance of the anniversary.

They come by the millions, every year, spending money whether seeking cures or not. A site of whose authenticity is not required for belief of its followers by the church who deems it authentic, which has become a major lucrative tourism industry based solely on the legends, does not seem consistent with a message against commercialism and consumerist values, let alone bolster it. A guy in white, stories of miracles in the background of the whole event while they line up in droves money pouring in, the guy saying it's really not about all that -- sounds like the last time Benny Hinn came to town.

Here's a little better advice for those seeking hope:

Let everyone stay in his own parish. There he will find more than in all the shrines even if they were all rolled into one. In your own parish you find baptism, the sacrament, preaching and your neighbour, and these things are greater than all the saints in heaven, for all of them were made saints by God's word and sacrament. (Martin Luther, from To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation)

A PS -- in her own language, Bernadette's name is Bernadeta, a diminuative from her full name Maria Bernarda Sobiros. She never herself said this was Mary, although she did say the woman called herself the Immaculate Conception, now a familiar phrase but then not, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception having been defined as binding dogma only four years earlier at the time and in a pre-media age not likely something an impoverished uneducated peasant girl would know. She did herself drink the water for her lifelong asthma, with no return of symptoms, although she did not seek such treatment when she contracted tuberculosis, from which she died at age 35 in 1879 on 16 April, now her feast day everywhere but France, where it is celebrated 18 February, date of the third apparition and the first in which the woman spoke. She later said the statue put in the grotto in 1864, now the representation of Our Lady of Lourdes, was nothing like the woman who appeared to her. Her body has been exhumed three times and found to be incorrupt. After the last time, in 1925, a wax mask was made. I think I once viewed the body with the mask, though as this was some forty years ago and in a considerably more confused period of my life, it may have been some other saint, although I am not sure there are that many incorrupt saints viewable in southern France. The high school from which I graduated was named after Lourdes, local pronunciation sometimes adding the final "s" and sometimes not from the French, and the town's name in the local language is Lorda anyway.

And BTW poor old Garaison is still in business though not doing nearly so well, and on the web too! http://www.garaison.com/

04 September 2008

New Book and New Blog

Having a hard time getting a daily prayer life going? Want to be a little more connected to these books the pastors talk about being so important but can't find the time or don't know how? Looking to feel like there's a little more to this than just me and here and how I'm feeling about that? Wondering why these "confessional" types get excited about things others call musty, irrelevant and dead but they don't?

Our beloved synod is about to present itself and the church generally with a Treasury of Daily Prayer, which looks to answer all of the above and a good deal more. You can preview it by looking at the material for November at this link
http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/files/treasury_excerpt.pdf
and see how simple the book is to use at this link
http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/files/how_to_use_the_treasury.pdf
and order a copy of the Regular Edition (or link to the Deluxe Edition) at this link
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part_no=124318&find_category=&find_description=&find_part_desc=treasury+of+daily+prayer

Also, if you're wondering what all this stuff we blog about has to do with the Third Use of the Law, how works not in order to be saved but because we are saved looks, how all this looks when it's not balanced elements in a composite but simply aspects of a single whole, try this blog:
Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
http://mercyjourney.blogspot.com/