Salomon Liscovius (1640-1689)
I expanded a few of the questions for the sake of clarification for 21st century Americans pewsitters.
Second Commandment. [You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord Your God.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name; but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. ]
How have I witnessed against the Name of God—that is, against all those things in which God in His glory has revealed Himself?
Haven’t I often pronounced the name of God or Jesus without reverence?
How often have I prayed without proper devotion or conception of His divine majesty?
How well-established is my pattern of reading and meditating on the divine Word?
Have I ever, now and then, quoted verses of Scripture in an unseemly way–either to put my knowledge on display, or to make a joke?
Have I shown proper reverence for the Creator’s wisdom, goodness, and omnipotence in the way I regard His creation and the way I handle it?
Have I, after the fashion of brazen and fearless sinners, misused my mouth for:
Curses—wishing damnation, death, or other evil on my neighbor or on God’s creation, or using abusive or filthy words about people and things around me?
Oaths—swearing by God’s name either to cover up a lie or on trivial, foolish occasions (“I swear to God, that was the worst movie ever!”), or
Blasphemies—treating God’s name or His word with contempt by cursing Him, teaching or supporting false doctrine, mocking or opposing true doctrine, treating Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or other things God has made holy by His word with carelessness or disrespect?
Have I clung to superstitions, or magical things?
Have I trusted in the saints or other beings to heal or bless me, when God has not promised to do so?
Have I trusted in horoscopes, visions or prophecies, psychics, and other people or things for guidance, instead of God Himself and those He given a vocation to guide others (such as parents, teachers, pastors, wise Christians, wise neighbors, employers…)
Have I placed faith in things that God has not promised to bless us through, such as “holy water”, crystals, rosaries, icons, pieces of the bones of the saints, aliens or UFO’s, ghosts, the spirits of loved ones, etc.?
Have I been a liar and a deceiver in spiritual things, knowingly perverting God’s Word, or else deceiving others through hypocrisy?
How often do I give laud and praise to God?
- Pruefungsfragen: “Questions for Self-Examination”. First Commandment (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Do I have true faith? Thoughts on Announcing For Communion, Self-Examination, and Infant Communion (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- What Was Your Name Again (ptl2010.com)
These are the “self-examination” or “proving-questions” out of the Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz published by Concordia in the 1800s. What follows is the first commandment. The gentleman who wrote them was a pastor, but I wasn’t able to find much biographical information. I’m putting these questions in the bulletin for the next several months; then I hope I can put together a small book of prayers for our congregation.
280. Self-examination Questions.
Salomo Liscovius, German Lutheran Pastor (d. 1716)
Holy and righteous God, You who see and hear everything, I come now before You to honestly examine my condition and to find out where I stand—whether I am on the road to damnation. I am much too corrupt and my heart is far too false and deceitful for this; search me out Yourself, O God! Test and search out how I am within, and allow me to recognize my condition in truth through Your Word and Spirit.
Have I often thought about You, You great Creator and Preserver, Redeemer and Sanctifier?
Have I held Your will and commandments as the plumb line in what I have done and left undone, so that I always ask myself: Does God’s commandment permit this?
Have I sometimes had detestable thoughts within me, such as: “Maybe there is no God?”
Have I not worshipped many idols, exalting myself, following my will alone, and having sought only my own honor and pleasure?
Haven’t I had a greater fear in the face other men than before God? Haven’t I been more timid in their presence more than God’s presence, striving after their favor more than after God’s grace?
Haven’t I done out of love for man numerous things that I would not do out of love for God?
Haven’t I put my trust in powerful friends and benefactors and in the favor of men?
Has my heart found peace in temporal things—money, goods, honor—and thus not sought happiness and joy solely in the Eternal Good, from which all other good things come?
Have I sought the help of sorcerers [as well as occultists, mediums, fortune tellers, those who call on any kind of spirits, false gods, or saints to practice magic, cast spells, tell the future, or speak to the dead] or Satan’s aid, instead of having sought God’s help and aid? Have I been more afraid of their might than of the power of God?
Have I rightly pictured to myself God’s omnipotence, His omnipresence, His righteousness and grace, so that I have been moved to a childlike fear toward Him?
Has my fear of God also brought forth its proper fruit, such as obedience, hatred of evil, remorse over sins, humility, patience, watchfulness, and the like?
Have I striven to recognize God as the highest good and to love Him above all things?
Have I diligently pondered God’s perfection, majesty, kindness, compassion, might, riches, and favors to the end?
Has my love [toward God] come into being merely for sake of gaining temporal happiness and benefits?
Have I felt the fruits of the true love of God within me, such as hatred against sins, contempt for the world, patience, yearning for greater union with God, praise, thanksgiving, and joy?
How have I obtained my trust in God? Is it a well-founded and childlike trust?
Have I based my trust on God’s goodness, truth, omnipotence, and promises?
Has this trust worked in me its proper fruit—such as hope, calmness, courage, and endurance?
How have I obtained my knowledge of God? Is it a living or a dead knowledge?
Do I seek to increase in this knowledge?
Do I seriously guard myself against all errors [in doctrine?]
Are all my yearnings for God and His grace alone, or are there other things that come before Him?
- Luther – Prayer Concerning True Devotion (Gebets-Schatz) (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
A couple of different American Lutheran groups have put out a “Beichtspiegel”–“confessional mirror.” These apparently were fairly common in Lutheran Germany, at least at one time. They are generally questions applying the ten commandments to one’s life which a person can use in examining himself before going to confession and Holy Communion.
At one time you generally didn’t go to communion, if you were a Lutheran, without first going to private confession and absolution. Even in America we still had the custom into the 1970’s or so where a person would “announce” before going to communion. Originally, at least as I understand LCMS practice, that is started out not necessarily as “private confession” per se, but when you came into the pastor’s office and said, “I want to commune,” he would ask you a variety of questions to ensure and assure that you were ready to receive Christ’s body and blood. By the time they phased it out it had essentially devolved into a phone call to the pastor on Saturday night.
At seminary they advocated the attempt to restore practices that American Lutherans had lost–weekly communion, individual absolution, chasubles…but I never heard a single professor suggest that we might want to bring announcement back. I found an article about the practice of “announcement” in an old German “Lehre und Wehre” and I kind of think it would be an interesting topic to research.
If we were able to reinstate announcement in a non-legalistic way, I think it ultimately could be very consoling to people, and it would help to assuage people’s concern that if we have the sacrament too often people will abuse it. This complaint does have a certain validity. What does the Augustana say? “No one is admitted to [Sacrament of the Altar] unless they have first been examined and absolved.” Luther says the same type of thing either in the Smalcald Articles or one of the Catechisms…we don’t intend to give the Sacrament to people who can’t tell you what it is or why they want to receive it. Well, that would also help us with teaching people what the ministry really is–namely an office set apart to represent Christ in preaching His Word, absolving, baptizing, giving the sacrament, exhorting, rebuking, etc.
Originally I started this post because I translated part of the old LCMS “Gebets-Schatz” Beichtspiegel, except it’s not called that in the Gebets-Schatz. They’re called Pruefungsfragen, rougly translated “self-examination questions” or “proving questions.”
Sometimes I think if I had had access to questions like these in response to my anxiety about salvation when I was confirmation age, and if I had had a pastor with whom I could have talked and who could have examined me in this way, I would never have fallen away.
Sometimes Lutheran laymen get very passionate about how private confession is unlutheran and they’re free in Christ not to do it. I think the reason I’m so passionate about it in the other direction is that I think in part that I fell away from Christ because although I knew private confession existed for Lutherans, I just thought that to go to it meant you were somehow failing as a Christian.
As a final point…I remember debating with about three men at seminary who were smarter than me about infant communion. As on most things at seminary, I gave sort of the standard dead orthodox Missourian Lutheran response: well, don’t people need to examine themselves before communion? To which one guy (who, along with the other guy, is a pastor in the LCMS) said, “They’ve already examined themselves and desire it!” I left the discussion feeling stupid and angry because I was silenced in the argument.
Later, I asked Prof. John Pless about it and he said, “Paul is clearly talking about a noetic self-examination in 1 Corinthians.” I liked that answer because saying, “Noetic” has a way of making people circumspect about arguing further.
I don’t know who reads this blog. But if anyone from my church read it, I would feel bad now if I used words or arguments that made them feel stupid, as though you have to be a genius to come to the right answer in theological questions. Prof. Pless wasn’t doing that because he was talking to a seminary student and not to a congregation. But, it might be a good thing for seminarians to practice as they argue theology–not only learning theology by debating, but also how to discuss it with someone who disagrees with you without trying to make them feel stupid, since that is a completely destructive tendency when you actually start shepherding souls.
Actually this debate is fairly easy to understand. The guy who told me that “babies have already examined themselves and desire the sacrament” was referring to Lutheran baptismal theology. We don’t say that babies are baptized in their parents’ faith, or the sponsors’ faith, or the church’s faith. We believe that they have their own faith…either before Baptism or after receiving it. This is why one of the prayers in the LCMS alternate rite for Baptism (I’m pretty sure from Luther) says something like: “we bring this child to you, desiring the forgiveness of sins. Open to him knocks, grant that he who seeks finds…etc.”
(This is also connected to the paragraphs from Bugenhagen I translated a few weeks ago about what happens to babies who are not baptized because they die before they can be…)
So, my colleague was saying, “Babies have living faith in Christ…they are baptized into Christ. Therefore” [I think this was his argument], “since they have real faith in Christ, they also examine themselves and desire all of Christ’s gifts, including the Lord’s Supper.”
On the other hand, Prof. Pless was saying that when Paul talks about self-examination in 1 Corinthians 11 and elsewhere, he is talking about a conscious self-examination.
I think the passages from Paul become nonsensical if they aren’t interpreted the way Prof. Pless does. Also, it’s simply impossible to square a different reading with the Lutheran Confessions.
Luther’s theology about right reception of the Lord’s Supper is this: What makes you worthy is: 1. believing that it
is Jesus’ body and blood. 2. hunger and thirst for the benefits conferred in the Lord’s Supper, namely forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. 3. This presupposes contrition–i.e. fear of God’s wrath. It presupposes also the desire for the forgiveness of sins and comfort and faith that Jesus gives or will give me what I desire in the Lord’s Supper. 4. Finally, Luther teaches that Christians should examine themselves to see whether or not they will receive the supper worthily. Even more he insists that people need to be examined by the pastor to see whether they are ready.
I frankly believe that our present practice of examining people once, at confirmation, is a bad practice, out of step with our theology. There are many members of our congregation who come to church regularly enough not to get dropped from membership. Yet they come so seldom that one is forced to conclude that they are either extremely ignorant about the nature of saving faith, or else they simply despise God’s gifts. Yet they are never examined, because people have come to think that reception at the Lord’s table is a right conferred forever by virtue of your confirmation. People tend to think this even after they or their children have left the church and become Baptist. But if they’re still on the books at an LCMS congregation, people don’t think anymore question should be raised.
I guess the conclusion is this, and then I’ll post the examination questions (it may have to be later this evening now.) If there are still high church confessional Lutherans who sympathize with infant communion, this should not be coddled by LCMS confessionals simply because they’re our type of guys and they agree on the liturgy.
Infant communion is an attack on the article of justification, and therefore an assault on the pure Gospel and the heart of the Lutheran Church. If I’m goring your ox, I probably don’t know who you are, so I don’t say this with anger against you, but out of concern that Satan doesn’t play little games in the backyard of those who want to see the pure Gospel alone confessed in the Missouri Synod.
It’s an attack on the article of justification because while faith can be living and can justify while a person is not conscious of it, and while it is true that true faith in Christ believes against the feelings and perceptions of the old Adam, it is also true that we are able to “test ourselves” to see whether we are in the faith.
The tendency that leads toward infant communion–it seems to me–teaches falsely about the nature of saving faith. While faith that saves is not “faith in faith,” and while saving faith can exist in those who aren’t aware of it (people who are sleeping; people in a coma; people with Alzheimer’s; babies), we are also commanded in scripture to “test ourselves” and “to make our calling and election sure.” It is certainly not the case that Christians are being presumptuous when they are assured of their salvation or of being in a state of grace.
This assurance is not always felt; the assurance is found in God’s promises.
Yet experience plays a role in this. Does it matter if my heart doesn’t feel love for God, doesn’t feel like praying, doesn’t really care whether it receives the Sacrament? Of course it does! It’s sin that I don’t desire the sacrament very much, or don’t feel like praying, or would rather watch TV than hear God’s Word.
That awareness of the sin that lives in me is the very thing that should direct me to my need for Christ and what He gives me in the Holy Supper–his true body and blood. And if I feel that I am not sufficiently repentant or hungry, then I should mourn over that and go to communion asking God to renew my sick heart. But I shouldn’t say, “Oh well, it isn’t necessary to feel anything to be a good Christian. After all, babies have faith even though they don’t act like it. Our spirit prays even when our lips and minds are doing something else.”
No, instead I should go mourning the ungodliness of my flesh, that it despises God even after all that He’s done for me. But with assurance I should go to the altar with the horrible wickedness of my heart, because Jesus receives sinners there and gives them His body and blood.
All around in Lutheranism, among laity and pastors, you see this idea that we can be Christians and agnostics at the same time. It is true that we doubt. My life is a big billboard of that. Christians doubt and are weak in faith. That’s because sin still lives in us. And yet Christianity is marked by certainty, assurance, because the Spirit works in us by the Word. I think in Pieper I remember reading that faith “IS assurance.” or “The assurance of
salvation is faith.” I didn’t like that at the time, because I didn’t understand it.
When I get out of the pulpit, how do I know that I preached God’s Word and not my own? Should I just say, “Ah, whatever…it could be I preached God’s word, it could be I just poisoned everyone who heard me–whatevs”?
How do I know that when I am judged God will receive me? I know because His Word tells me. How do you know that You rightly interpret His Word? I know because the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scripture unfolds it, and He has revealed it to me. It’s not that I always feel it or that I don’t doubt.
But like the hymn says:
God’s Word is all-sufficient
It makes divinely sure
And trusting in its wisdom
My faith shall rest secure. Erdmann Neumeister, “I Know My Faith is Founded.”
And to this our soul’s salvation
Witnesses Your Spirit, Lord,
In Your Sacraments and Word.
There He sends true consolation,
Giving us the gift of faith
That we fear not hell nor death. Johann Olearius “Oh, How Great is Your Compassion”
How is it that people who want to be confessional Lutherans could get this confused? In our efforts to avoid the subjectivism of the evangelicals, some of what is called “Confessional Lutheranism” sounds an awful lot like removing faith from the article of justification.
Where did this come from?
Again, to reiterate: faith can exist where someone is unconscious of it. But the person who’s worried about whether or not he is really a Christian doesn’t need to hear, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not necessary that you feel anything.” Instead they need God’s law and gospel applied to them. If they are really troubled because they are willfully sinning, then they need to hear that repentance does not include hanging on to sin but wanting to be free of it. (Then proclaim the Gospel). If they are troubled because of their ongoing struggle with sin and lack of sanctification, they need to be told that is the reason why the Lord’s Supper was instituted–not for those who have already overcome sin, but for those who are burdened by it and fear that they will be damned because of it.
That kind of certainty would be more common, I think, if instead of the protestant “every man his own priest”, we recovered the Lutheran understanding of the Church as the “communion of saints” and the “mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren” as a means of grace. I think assurance of salvation is tied to confession of sins before men–whether or not that is done formally. When church people don’t deal with one another as lost sinners who need the other members of the body…and when we hide our sins from each other, it causes the whole church to lose the joy of salvation.
“Restore to me [and all Lutheran congregations] the joy of Your salvation, and grant [us] a willing spirit…”
- Confessional Lutheranism as Ideology and the Salvation of Unbaptized Infants (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
Earlier this week, I was driving by Evergreen Terrace [the project just to the north of St. Peter, for those who don’t know.] There was a little kiosk set up in this abandoned lot near St. John the Baptist parish that said, “Free Cell Phones.” My scam alarm started going off in my head. Somebody has to be making money off the people at Evergreen, said the alarm. Then I forgot about it.
This morning I was about to pull into the executive parking lot–that is the little lot on the north side of the church, which would be in the foreground of this picture. But the free cell phone kiosk was there, so instead I parked on the street.
To keep this post short…a little investigation showed that it was, in fact, not a scam…at least not in the sense that the people living at Evergreen were getting money taken from them.
Nope. “Life Wireless”, the company giving the phones, really is giving people a free cellphone along with a plan for a certain number of free minutes per month, if they receive government benefits like Link or SSI. Life Wireless apparently gets money from the FCC to sign people up and give away these phones. The USA Today article that I found (surprisingly there weren’t a ton of stories by major news carriers) said that the FCC has had a program to help low income folks with land lines…but it appears that suddenly the budget has gotten bigger for the “free government cellphone program.”
Well, it would be understandable why the Obama administration would want to do something like this now. The article said: Low income people need cell phones. It looks bad if they fill out job applications but have no phones. Also elderly people could be endangered by not having one.
True, but most folks I see in the neighborhood already have cell phones. It seems like it would be fairly easy for an unscrupulous wireless company to sign up all kinds of people who don’t really need cell phones unless the government watches this closely.
As I said, it’s easy to see why the Obama administration would want to do this now; if he has a tough election, it would be important for him to make sure people who depend on government assistance get to the voting booth. But what’s not as easy to explain is why his opponents let him do this. Has there been much on this in the news? I didn’t see anything from conservative news outlets. Well, there was something on the Drudge report.
Does the president have the power to put more money into a program like this without congress’ approval? Whether he does or doesn’t, you’d think the republicans would make noise about it.
All interesting things to think about as I sit in my office as the pastor of a predominantly white, elderly, politically conservative congregation a few feet down the road from a housing project at which most residents are african american and under 25.
Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if in settings like this the Church did what it alone is able to do–what no political power can accomplish? That is, show the mercy of Christ to people who are suffering, without asking whether the suffering person is Jew, Samaritan, priest or tax collector, clean or unclean?
UPDATE: Eric Cantor (R House Majority Leader) has opposed it; his website has this blurb:
“BACKGROUND INFORMATION: SAVES $5 BILLION The Universal Service Fund (USF) imposes a tax on telephone bills in order to ensure that all areas of the nation have accessible telephone service. A portion of the tax supports the “Lifeline/Link-up” program that subsidizes telephone service for qualified low-income customers. In 2008, a private wireless carrier company parlayed this federal subsidy into developing a commercial product offering free cell phones and wireless service to low-income consumers, paid for exclusively by taxpayers. Not surprisingly, participation in the program significantly increased, and spending jumped dramatically from $802 million annually in 2008 to $1.32 billion in 2010. Officials estimate costs will continue growing as this free option becomes available in more states. Meanwhile, the GAO recently released a report warning Congress about the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse, concluding that the program lacks effective internal controls. This proposal would eliminate taxpayer-subsidized free cell phone giveaways and save $500 million annually.” http://majorityleader.gov/YouCut/P2_W6.htm
This website, though, claims that it is actually the phone companies who pay a fee that goes into a fund to finance the free phones…in other words, it’s not coming out of your pocket. http://www.factcheck.org/2012/05/congressmans-slippery-cell-phone-claim/
Anyway, this post isn’t really about the political issues at stake, but about how in the church our political identities often are so important to us that we allow them to get in the way of our identity as Christ’s royal priesthood. Jesus preached the good news to the poor. Of course we will always have the poor with us, but there is a great difference between being poor and being without hope or full of envy, and beimg poor in earthly things but rich toward God through faith in Christ.
The history of Christendom shows us many times where a renewal of faith in Christ caused the wealthy to be more compassionate toward the needy and the poor to be less oppressed by the demoralization that accompanies poverty, where people begin to engage in patterns of behavior that perpetuate poverty.
May God teach us first to regard ourselves as royal priests and citizens of heaven and secondly as people of this or that political stripe. Thank God, there will be no political parties in heaven.
- Government to Take Control of Your Cell Phone? – Make way for Text Messages from the President (sgtreport.com)
- DHS Cellphone Alert System ‘Follows You Around’ (newsworldwide.wordpress.com)
This morning I was very tired and my son was in my bed talking to his mother. She said, “Stink, did you tell Dad what we found out about lightning bugs?” He didn’t want to have to explain it. So she told me. Lightning bugs apparently live underground for 2 years as grubs. Then they come out and fly around during the summer for about 3 weeks, mate, and die.
The reason they were telling me this was because the other night we were catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar, and my son put a crabapple in the jar. I said, “Why did you do that?” He said, “So the lightning bugs will have something to eat.” I said, “Lightning bugs don’t eat crabapples. They eat other bugs.”
But I think what they were telling me this morning was that they don’t eat anything at all for the few wekks of their lives. I’m not 100 percent sure on that, though, because I was pretty tired.
So I was saying, “So basically lightning bugs spend two years underground in order to spend two weeks flying around with glowing butts in a big lightning bug summer of love.” My son said: “Dad, lightning bugs don’t have butts. They have rear ends.”
Then later on I was eating french toast at the breakfast table, and there was a little ant crawling on the table, which I killed. Then a few minutes later there was another one. I said, “When did all these ants get into the house? Son, ask these ants what they think they’re doing.”
He said, “I don’t speak ant.”
- Man struck by lightning … in the scrotum (newslite.tv)
For some reason, people keep reading the post I wrote on Eber‘s hymn “In Christi Wunden Schlaf Ich Ein”. In that post I trashed Zinzendorf and went on about the inferiority of his theology in “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness.” Well, I have to retract much of my criticism in the post. Unfortunately much of what I wrote just reflects that I was a neophyte and had not read hymnody in German (and barely understood German).
I realized this last night when I was looking at a hymn by one of my favorite hymn writers (probably
my absolute favorite): Johann Olearius. One of his hymns that I think is untranslated has a line similar to Zinzendorf’s (although Olearius came first): “Dein Blut, mein Schmuck, mein Ehrenkleid, Dein Unschuld und Gerechtigkeit, Macht, dass ich kann vor Gott bestehn, Und zu der Himmelsfreud eingehn.” [Zinzendorf’s was–Christi, dein Blut und G’rechtigkeit/ Das ist mein Schmuck und Ehrenkleid…”] Admittedly, Zinzendorf’s hymn, which borrows from a long history of Lutheran hymns, does not deserve to be the famous one. However any comments I made about the inferiority of the lines themselves…I’d have to look at it again. I can’t stand by them.
One place I was surely wrong was saying that “Ehrenkleid” means “wedding dress”, not “glorious dress.” No, “Ehrenkleid” literally means “glorious dress.” I think I thought it was “wedding dress” because “Ehefrau” means “wedded-wife.”
In the future I’ll try to be more circumspect so I don’t have to retract things.
- Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Or were you too busy having a beer with Caiaphas and making snotty jokes about Galilean piety? (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Heretical Hymns (acmul.wordpress.com)
- When You Are In a Storm (ronpogue.typepad.com)
- Things to consider before you correct another person (rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com)
- The Good Shepherd (thehomeschoolroadtrip.com)
- All I Know to do is Pray (cafechurch.typepad.com)
…If [a preacher] does rebuke sins, they undertake to have him removed…When you are scolded as a usurer, adulterer, or whatever kind of swine you are, or [it is said] that a peasant, a townsman, or a nobleman is godless, no one will suffer that… Are you really righteous because I [do not] rebuke your vices? Then let the devil be [your] preacher…
…Whoever is timid and despairing should not be a preacher, because he must take his stand against the devil and the world, [saying,] “You are wicked, etc.” and thus take everyone’s hatred and enmity upon me…
…That I reprove the Papists comes from pure love. I have received nothing from such reproof but enmity, hatred, and persecution by the devil and men…
…I am not a preacher so that I may be your blockheaded fool and slackjawed ape and not chastise your knavery. “But he is a pious lord, prince, judge.” Yes? Then let him go to the devil along with you…It is better for you to have one or two subjects who pray and give thanks for your love than to have all the others praise you for your laxity, etc. If you do not want to rebuke, do not become a husband. And yet you should show your love by rebuking…
….Thus there must always be rebuking; indeed, not a single daily sin should be accepted by way of compromise.