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“Christ is the real reality of humanity before God”

December 28, 2012 1 comment

st pat crucifix color closeup 3This is from an old post from Dr. Jack Kilcrease’s blog.  I like the way that he puts it so much I feel like there is a hymn or a poem about to emerge from it.

http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-basic-ontic-flaw-in-rejection-of.html

With this, therefore, we observe the basic ontic flaw in the logic of those who
rejection of objective justification.  Objective justification assumes that
Christ is the real reality of humanity before God.  Our justification is not
therefore a legal fiction because righteousness is not a predicate of our being,
but something that exists outside of ourselves already actualized in Christ.
This is true irrespective of our faith.  What those reject objective
justification assume is that being righteous means possessing a certain quality
in our being.  The predicate “righteousness” cannot be recognized coram Deo unless faith
is first present.  If faith is present, God can now predicate the quality of
righteousness present in Christ to person who has now accepted and received this
predicate into their being- though of course in this case by imputation  rather
than by renewal (as in RC theology).  … In this theology, I am an individual, centered
entity, existing on my own.  Likewise, so is Christ.  The only thing that
connects the various qualities present in our beings is faith which prompts
God’s imputation.
… The point is rather that the subjective justification brought
about by faith is not a legal fiction or the convergence of two centered
entities by an arbitrary judgment of God.  Rather, since Christ is the being of
my being, having faith means to cease to be self-alienated from my true self
which is to be found in the person of Christ.  The essence of sin is the be (as
Augustine says) curved in on one’s self.  One’s true being is external to one’s
self in God’s address.  Adam was “very good” because God continuously gave him
the good by his sustaining Word and he passively received it.  We now passively
receive the good every moment of every day and yet we are not good because he do
not praise God and therefore reject his grace in creation.  In the same way, the
person of my person is Christ and yet if I remain unbelieving, I am alienated
from my true reality before God in Christ.  I am rejecting God’s grace in
creation and redemption, and consequently I will be judged.  Faith therefore
simply means coming to my true self as God has actualized in a new narrative of
creation in Christ.

Related Links

http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com

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Exorcising The Christmas Spirit with the Gospel

November 21, 2012 3 comments

At my house, Christmas music begins to play sometime in the middle or early part of November.  If you’ve ever listened to Christmas radio stations, you know that they play the same songs over and over and over and over and over again. 

 

And then they play them a few more times.

 

It isn’t yet Thanksgiving, but I’ve already heard Wham!’s “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” at least five times. This is perhaps the only song of Wham’s oeuvre which still emerges from the mists of the early 80’s to remind us of those, by comparison to today, almost Victorian times when George Michael was still into women and when pop stars didn’t come out of the closet.

 

I think that’s probably a big part of the reason why people who like holiday music like holiday music, just as it’s probably part of the reason why people who have never lived in the country like the formulaic Chevy-truck-ad jingles that comprise most of what’s played on country-music (so-called) radio stations.  People like it, at least in part, because it makes them feel safe.

 

Christmas begins about the same time in my house that it does in much of the United States—following hard upon Halloween.  Both holidays were once Christian holy days, to whatever degree they may have been reappropriated from pagans.

 

In America they are pagan holidays again, although I think Samhain (isn’t that what the Wiccans call it?), Yule, and Saturnalia would be more enjoyable.  What offends me about American subversions of Christian holidays—American re-paganization—is the awful aesthetics.  Some of my aversion to “Christmas” in America arises from the way that the mystery and the miracle of the incarnation of God is obscured. 

But mostly it’s just elitism. 

 

I’ve hated American consumerism since I was a kid.  It blights the mind, soul, and imagination by constantly making available (for a price) whatever is convenient and easily digestible.  In its wake it leaves mind-numbingly ugly and boring places to live.  It destroys all sense of the sacred.  It creates soft minds and shrunken souls. 

 

But my elitism really is an impediment when it comes to being a pastor. I don’t want to be superior or right; I want to teach Christians how the Church’s preparation for the birth of Jesus ought to be very different from the cheap consolation provided by American “Christmas.” 

 

Cheap consolation is really the enemy in almost every case when liturgical pastors and pastors wanting to teach the doctrine of Evangelical Lutheran Church run into resistance from popular piety.  American pop Christianity sells because people want to feel good and safe and because it’s easy to understand.  Sometimes people turn to it because they are suffering and they need answers immediately.  Other times people turn to it because it permits them to indulge themselves with the illusion that the solution to the suffering we endure as a result of living in a collapsing world  is to go back to the simple answers about God we really always knew and from which we were never far. 

American “Christmas”and its associated rituals—holiday music beginning in November, flagrant overspending, Christmas carol singing in Advent and parties in school, church, work all through December, overeating and overdrinking–all the Christmasy things that enable us to avoid honest appraisal of our selves, our lives, the way our society is going, and numb ourselves into a syrupy, sentimental glow—is almost exactly like American Christianity.

But here is where pastors and hearers who know something of the value of the pure teaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments and the liturgy and hymnody of the Church fail.  American “Christianity” and American “Christmas” is democratic, and we are too often elitists.  American “Christmas” isn’t supercilious toward people who just want to feel safe and good. It embraces them.

 

 A lot of people believe that if they really like a song by Elvis, nobody can tell them that Bach’s music is simply better.  So if they hear Joel Osteen preach and understand him, they also think that no one can tell them that a sermon by Chrysostom or Luther is simply better either. 

American “Christmas” and American “Christianity” accept this reality in people and cater to it.  But not only do I not cater to it—I despise it and have almost zero patience when people expect me to do the same thing.  Lacking patience and love toward people who don’t immediately respond to real Christianity and real Christmas is not a Christian virtue.  Harboring anger and resentment toward Lutherans who are stubborn in adhering to bad teaching and traditions flowing from that teaching–whether out of snobbery or  out of anger–is grave sin.  With this anger we make the Gospel noxious because we smear it with the scent of our own pride.  Particularly pastors.  When I get mad because I’m trying to teach God’s Word purely and you’re not listening, I’m really mad because you’re not respecting me or listening to me.  And that is to use the ministry of the Gospel which Christ instituted for the salvation of sinners as a means of exalting myself.

 
Jesus preached and taught to the masses; He didn’t tickle ears, but taught the Word of God in a way that was accessible to normal people–not only the great.  He was patient and continued to teach even when He met with opposition and mistreatment.  Luther preached to and taught the masses.  He sought to elevate them—that’s why the Reformation went hand in hand with a renewal of education.  But he also taught; patiently, bearing with the people, serving them and caring enough to be understood by them.   

I’ve failed consistently in this way.  It’s not that I didn’t teach, but that I became angry and afraid when people didn’t get it or didn’t appear to want to get it.  On the one hand there is fear because you want to be a good pastor, be faithful to Christ, serve the people.  On the other hand there is simply sin and profanation of God’s Name and Word.  There was my desire to be honored that trumped any other desire–whether to love and serve the congregation or to love and serve Christ.  I was unwilling to bear with unjust criticism without snapping at my critics. At other times I’ve reacted to criticism that I thought was unjust with anger or defensiveness, later realizing that I was wrong, that I was failing to properly divide law and gospel, and I needed to be opposed. 

 

Lutherans also have to be democratic in the sense that we are willing to teach God’s Word—slowly, patiently, consistently—and bear with people.  That is the way that Jesus was democratic.  He loved the people.  So He was willing to teach them–the eternal Son–even when they wouldn’t hear Him and when they dishonored Him.  Love means patiently teaching and listening to criticism and learning slowly, over time, where you are not being understood.  So often people embrace false teaching, or bad traditions, because they are scared or because they feel stupid and the false teaching relieves the feelings of stupidity by addressing people where they are. 

 

Then a guy like me comes in, teaches for awhile, receives flak, and very quickly begins responding in anger to the people.  And is it any surprise if people then run to preachers (or to religious practices) that make them feel safe, that feel familiar?  Is it surprising if people go to a pastor who is nice and acts like he loves them [even though he is a wolf], instead of to the one who comes to change everything and says, “You are doing it wrong”, and reacts with harshness and arrogance when they don’t immediately listen?  In trying to roll back American Christmas in Lutheran churches so that we can once again observe Advent, there will be the inevitable conflict.  People will say it’s “too catholic.”  Probably one of the best ways we can observe Advent is to try to fast and repent of  haughty and angry defensiveness, and show kindness, patience, and love to people who haven’t yet experienced the blessing of preparing for the mystery of Christ’s birth through Advent.  Really, it’s not something to get angry about, but to have pity about, that lots of people would prefer to sing Christmas Carols for a month and haven’t developed a taste for the rich gospel we have in so many Lutheran Advent hymns.

 

I’m grateful for my beautiful wife and son and for the opportunity they give me to practice not being a jerk about American Christmas in Advent.  I am thankful for the opportunity to learn to  lead our family, graciously, into the gift of observing Advent with its call to repentance, faith, and willing obedience to Christ. 

 

In long gone times there were outward, physical disciplines associated with repentance, faith, and renewal.  Self-examination and confession and fasting went with repentance.  Attending Advent services midweek meant giving one’s attention to Christ’s Word, which works in contrite hearts the faith that our sins, from which we cannot free ourselves, have been blotted out by the suffering and death of the baby of Mary.  And where this faith is, there is joyful giving from a new and glad and confident heart.  So Christians practiced almsgiving.  Instead of buying family huge, extravagant gifts, they gave to the poor.  This is the way I want to learn to spend Advent with my family.  But that is a lot harder than simply trashing American consumerist “Christmas” and its associated rites, such as having to listen to “Feliz Navidad” for a month and a half.  As annoying as that is.  It takes doing it myself, and then walking with them into it.  Not just giving orders.

I wrote an article for the church newsletter trying to explain the importance of Advent and why we don’t immediately start singing Christmas hymns in church in December.  And I also tried to point out why it would be better if during Advent the Church behaved differently from the world, and instead of the church calendar filling up in December with Christmas parties (during Advent), we should consciously reject the way the world tries to greet the miracle of Jesus’ birth not by “making straight the way of the Lord” but by bombarding ourselves with things designed to arouse “the proper Christmas spirit”.  I don’t know whether the article will succeed as a gracious attempt to teach the gifts of Advent or whether it will be one more instance of making people feel dumb and then wondering why they reject what you say.  I’ll post it on here shortly.


Our society really need this witness from the Church in Advent.  But it will never happen if those who understand the gift of Advent don’t love people enough to teach patiently and bear with people when they don’t get it or reject it.  So I hope that God will teach me and sinners like me to love and serve our brothers and show the value of pure doctrine and the church’s liturgy by demonstrating the love and patience that come from the Gospel.  Then maybe they could hear that we are truly safe in Him—not in the false comfort that comes from avoiding penitence, but in the true comfort given by Him who was placed in a manger to deliver us from our sins.

 

 

Repost: Kill Your Conscience, Kill Your Reason

November 6, 2012 2 comments
(Note: This really should be a topic for “That’s Too Catholic.”  So look for a “that’s too catholic” post about contraception (or the lack thereof.)

Once a man has killed his conscience in even a single point, natural reason brings forth nothing but error.

This is an article about contraception from a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod theological journal published in 1917. It’s interesting to see the certainty that the Missouri Synod possessed about contraception, even though now we “don’t have an official position.” I guess at that time, less than 100 years ago, all Christian Churches had an “official position” on contraception, whether they were Baptist or Episcopal or Lutheran, or Roman or Eastern. The position was, “it’s a sin.”

The quote above is also instructive. Why do we consistently fail to convince anyone that Christian opposition to homosexual “marriage” is something other than bigotry? Over time it’s easy to start to recognize that nature puts sexuality, conception, and marriage/fidelity together. But try to explain this very simple moral point in a college setting, and you’ll be blacklisted, laughed out of the room, ostracized. Why are otherwise very intelligent people so unable to follow a very simple train of thought with regard to moral issues? Because once you’ve martyred your conscience in regard to one thing, you lose the ability to reason. I suppose this is connected to Paul’s argument, that God gave people over to a “reprobate mind” that is no longer able to perceive basic things like, “An image made to look like a snake or a dragon” can’t be the true God.

It explains very well why otherwise intelligent people show themselves so incapable of making correct judgments about facts like the one above. Natural reason tells you that the true God can’t be a reptile or a bird, since He is omnipotent and eternal. But once we reject the light of simple moral truths which even the pagans understand, we get to where we are unable to reason morally. That’ s where we are now.

Lehre und Wehre (1917), p. 138

More dangerous still than the shameless “birth control” movement is the slogan preached for years in so many American newspapers: “Fewer children and better ones.” The Congregationalist Advance shows in a recent lead article the deception on which this hypocritical proposition of the eugenicists is based.

“The families where there are fewer children have on them the burden of proof. Are there better children in those homes where there are fewer? The contrary is the experience of many homes. The one child is a petted and spoiled child. The men and women who make their mark in the world have largely come out of large families. The reasons are partly apparent. The child who has grown up in a large family has already met a considerable number of life’s social problems and adjusted himself to them. In the large family there must be give and take. There must be adjustment and division and compromise. There must be the constant measuring of one’s own desire against another’s right. A child so reared has met the world, and settled some of its essential problems before he leaves the home.”

Not only is restricting the number of children according to the principle “fewer children, but better” immoral and godless; it is untenable even when judged according to reason alone. How unreasonably the case is made in favor of child-impoverished families is evident from a statement in the Brooklyn Union Standard from 1908, which recently came into our hands again. It was argued at the time that, since the era of protracted warfare is behind us, homeland defense is no longer a contemporary problem. For that reason we can safely limit the number of children! We let the words follow:

“It is now recognized in this day of universal education that it is better to raise three children, so their minds shall be reasonably equipped for the battle of life, and their bodies strong, so as to withstand the hardships of adversity, than to bring five children to the age of maturity in a condition which foretells their filling the ranks of the lower strata of society. With frequent and protracted wars a thing of the past, with the questions of national defense less pressing than ever before, with the conquering of plagues, which in other centuries claimed their thousands yearly, the common welfare does not demand families with eight or ten children, particularly if their parents are poor.”

Is it necessary to repeat more of this today? [At the time this was written the US had recently entered the first world war, by far the most bloody conflict the world had ever seen up until that point.] Even the first sentence with its reference to the sinking down of children into the lower strata of society when their number in the family rises above five is complete nonsense and goes against daily experience.

Once a man has killed his conscience in even a single point, natural reason brings forth nothing but error. G.

How Babies In the Womb Are Saved According to Wittenberg Theology

September 7, 2012 12 comments

Johann Bugenhagen “Concerning Unborn Children and Children who cannot be Baptized”

I’m reposting this because in its previous form, it was attached to a long preface about “Confessional Lutheranism as Ideology.”  But it needs to be read and disseminated to pastors and laity in its own right.

Johann Bugenhagen Pomeranus

“Concerning Unborn Children and Children Who Cannot Be Baptized”

Wittenberg, 1551.

p. 62 f.

But we say that children are conceived and born in sin and cannot be saved without Christ, to Whom we carry them in baptism. Here we have a gracious judgment, secure and certain: “Let the little children come to me…etc.” This we won’t allow to be taken away from us; it does not mean a secret counsel of God or a dark illusion, but instead God’s gracious promise that the kingdom of heaven belongs to our children. Thus they are brought to Christ, because without Christ there is no salvation. For that reason the children of Turks [Muslims] and Jews are not saved—because they are not brought to Christ.

Yes, I say still more on the same promise of Christ, that the parents, or others who are present, may and should take the little child in prayer even while it is still in the womb, and with thanksgiving for Christ’s command, offer or bring it [to Him] together with this or a similar prayer.

“Beloved heavenly Father, thank You that You have blessed us with the fruit of the womb. Beloved Lord Jesus Christ, let this little child be Yours, as You have said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, because such is the Kingdom of God.’ On this Your promise we bring this child with our prayer. When it is born and comes into our hands, we will also gladly bring it to You to carry it to you in Baptism, etc.”

The prayer, of course, may well be said using other words. That doesn’t matter at all, as long as the prayer proceeds only from the promise of Christ concerning the little children. Thus we should certainly believe that Christ accepts the child, and should not commend it to the secret judgment of God.

We have, then, two strong promises from Christ which we cannot deny, but in which we can firmly trust. One is that He has called us to pray and has graciously promised to hear us. And to this He has sworn: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, so it will be.” John 16. The other is the promise concerning the children: “Such is the kingdom of heaven. Let them come to Me.” Here we Christians should understand that whether we carry the little children to Christ in Baptism or with our prayers, we carry them to Christ in person, here and now, and He is also present and takes them up and accepts them here and now. Because Christ is in His Word and promises, in His Sacrament, and in our prayers which have been commanded us.* Yes, truly, in us ourselves—effectually, presently, and substantially.** Oh, what an unspeakable grace of God!

*It appears to me that this is what is being said—“and in our prayers which have been commanded to us—“ but for this I really need to consult with some people to make sure I’m not wrong.

** I’m not completely clear what these last 3 adverbs say exactly. But the point of the entire section seems to be—Christ is present in Word and Sacrament. But He is also present in our bodies; He dwells in Christians, fills them, He prays in them and does good works in them. So when I bring my child to Christ in prayer, He is not far off so that I am unable to bring my child to Him, but He is present also in the bodies of the saints.

Prayer in Great Affliction and Danger. Luther

September 4, 2012 5 comments

Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz #421.  [Another] Prayer in Great Affliction and Danger  Martin Luther(1483-1546)

 

I know for certain that our Lord God still heartily loves me, even though I sink in the mire of this great affliction and distress, and cannot see how I could possibly be helped.  Yet I commend it to my dear God.  Even now in this misery He looks upon me as a mother looks on her little child which she has carried in her womb, under her heart.  He will create good and blessing out of this suffering.   So I will pray to Him and firmly believe Him that He hears me and will deliver me.  For when the righteous cry, the Lord hears them and saves them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17  Amen.

Lutheran “Austerity” v. “Catholic” Profligacy?

August 17, 2012 4 comments

Maybe some of the characteristics of the old confessions still live on in the different parts of Christendom.  But I think it’s a stretch.  This is a worthwhile article, though, for pointing out the value Luther and Lutheran theology place on good works, though.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/opinion/sunday/in-euro-crisis-germany-looks-to-martin-luther.html?_r=1

But rather than scour tarnished Weimar, we should read much deeper into Germany’s incomparably rich history, and in particular the indelible mark left by Martin Luther and the “mighty fortress” he built with his strain of Protestantism. Even today Germany, though religiously diverse and politically secular, defines itself and its mission through the writings and actions of the 16th century reformer, who left a succinct definition of Lutheran society in his treatise “The Freedom of a Christian,” which he summarized in two sentences: “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none, and a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all.”

Consider Luther’s view on charity and the poor. He made the care of the poor an organized, civic obligation by proposing that a common chest be put in every German town; rather than skimp along with the traditional practice of almsgiving to the needy and deserving native poor, Luther proposed that they receive grants, or loans, from the chest. Each recipient would pledge to repay the borrowed amount after a timely recovery and return to self-sufficiency, thereby taking responsibility for both his neighbors and himself. This was love of one’s neighbor through shared civic responsibility, what the Lutherans still call “faith begetting charity.”

…But if their Lutheran heritage of sacrificing for their neighbors makes Germans choose austerity, it also leads them to social engagement. In classic Lutheran teaching, the salvation of the believer “by faith alone” does not curtail the need for constant charitable good works, as ill-informed critics allege. Faith, rather, empowers the believer to act in the world by taking the worry out of his present and future religious life.

Questions for self-examination–3rd Commandment (part 2)

August 9, 2012 3 comments

Questions for Self-Examination

For preparation for Confession and for the Sacrament of the Altar

Salomon Liscovius.  Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz.

 

3rd Commandment  (continued)

Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.

 Have I spent my time in the church after the fashion of the children of the world, showing off my clothes, chatting about worldly things, constantly looking around at other people, measuring the preacher’s speaking only by whether or not it was pleasing according to human standards, seeking to attract attention to myself by strange behavior, whether rude and disrespectful or overly devout?  Have I spent a lot of the time sleeping, whether at home in bed or in church?

 Have I repeated the sermon to myself at home, or even thought of it, particularly those parts that concern my occupation?  Have I spent the rest of the Sunday in holy exercises, such as reading, praying, singing, self-examination, together with meditation on God’s work and marvellous deeds, renewing my good intentions to serve God and amend my life, and so on? 

 Have I also sought to teach, awaken and build up others?  Have I carried on good conversations (leading to spiritual edification and encouragement, as opposed to sinful and impure talk), and stood by poor sorrowing ones with comfort and help?  Or have I sought my joy on the Lord’s Day with the world in various pleasures of the flesh, in sinful joking and foolishness?  Do I spend the whole remaining day playing games?  Have I spent the time eating and drinking too much, or in too frequent parties and keeping company, forgetting first of all to set apart the Lord’s Day for His Word to work in me toward eternal life?

 

Do I sincerely want to serve God, and grow and improve in faith in Christ and obedience to Him?

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