Thursday, December 06, 2007

An introduction never made...





Watch this video on YouTube. Blair Wingo does a great job of explaining what is NOT Jesus today. She claims, in her gentle rapping style, that she will re-introduce us to Jesus, but she never quite gets there. What she does is reinforce God's Law, but she doesn't get to the gospel. Not surprising to me, thought, because the Gospel is often missing in evangelical-style evangelism today. But, the Law alone, as preached by Moses in the 10 Commandments, cannot save without being preached along with the good news that Jesus died to pay for our sins because we are incapable of keeping God's Law, incapable of saving ourselves...and incapable of recognizing who Jesus is! Only the Holy Spirit can plant that seed of faith in us when God's Word is proclaimed. Let's hope that her stylistic rap was followed by someone who preached the gospel.

Thanks to Extreme Theology for pointing me to this video!

Friday, November 16, 2007

An old goodbye...

Going through an old computer this morning, I found the letter I wrote to my former church. I think I wrote it one year (5-5-04) after leaving Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley. I hope I sent it. I honestly don't remember.

I am writing to formally notify you that our family has joined King of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Golden Valley. This church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I hope that you will be interested in knowing the reasons for our desire to leave Calvary Lutheran Church and the ELCA.

1. The lack of depth of the youth confirmation program. I greatly value the true confirmation program I participated in under Pastor Nelson in the 1970’s. As a confirmation leader two years ago, I was shocked to learn that we would never formally study Luther’s teachings or memorize key scripture and confessions.

2. The very blatant anti-war sentiment put forth by the pastors, especially Pastor Lynn and the refusal to pray for our local and national elected leaders and citizens serving in the military;

3. The ELCA stance on many matters, including exploring the acceptance of homosexuality and women serving as pastors.

4. Calvary’s pronounced leaning toward evangelical and reformed doctrines through seminars, congregational programs (Maxwell, Schueller, Hybels and others) and Sunday school curriculum.

I am no pastor and would not be able to adequately debate any of these issues with you. I can only tell you that I have searched for a scripturally-sound Christian church for the past 20 years and have finally found a true home in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

This decision was at least two years in the making and I had many conversations about it with several pastors and leaders. Calvary was my home since 1972 and I shed quite a few tears at the point I knew I had to separate myself from your teachings. I am quite sure that, beyond a polite “We will miss you.”, our family will not be missed because Calvary is headed away from biblical truths and into a state of constantly fluctuating beliefs not founded in inerrant scripture. I personally know of two other families who have left for these very same reasons and one other that is currently considering leaving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reformation Sunday

I love Reformation Sunday! I walk in and see the large red folder containing the outline of the familiar long service. Everyone knows to allow an extra half hour. The music is concert quality, though always God-focused and not focused on the performers. Our Senior Choir and Handbell Choir always present something wonderfully beautiful and liturgical. The basic service outline is familiar, though a little longer than usual: invocation, hymns, responsive reading, confession and absolution (my favorite!), various readings, children's message, a good law and gospel sermon, offering, prayers, blessing. Each hymn is tied in to Luther somehow, which is fitting for the day. The sermon ties in Luther. Again, all normal to me. Although I love this service, I must confess that I don't understand why we do some of the things we do in a worship service.


The mention of the Reformation in prayer makes me slightly uncomfortable, but its really not inappropriate. I guess I figure that although God was definitely honored in Luther's Reformation and His church was most definitely reformed, I can't picture God focusing on the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. I mean, I think every day should be reformation day. In the Confession and Absolution, we read aloud Luther's Explanation of the Ten Commandments. Yeah, the whole thing just like your confirmand did. Now, as a confessional Lutheran I love it, but part of me wonders what a visitor would think. Shame on me! But are we done? No! After the each lesson, we state Luther's Explanation of the Apostle's Creed. Again, the whole thing. After the Lord's Prayer, we recite Luther's explanation of it. The whole thing. Very educational, but it just doesn't seem worshipful to me.

Despite my reservations, I do enjoy our church's Reformation Day service. I even willingly went twice this year - on Sunday morning and again on Monday night to bring my working nephew to God's Word. I just think that we should put signs up on the door advising visitors advising that we only do this once a year. I just can't shake the impression that it is very un-Lutheran to focus on Luther throughout the service. We only do it once a year, so I can live with it.

King of Grace Reformation Day Service 2008

The Invocation
Opening Anthem - Thy Strong Word (Senior Choir)
Responsive Reading
Anthem - Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word (ELH #589)
Confession and Absolution
Anthem - Built on the Rock (ELH #211)
Old Testament Lesson - Jeremiah 31:31-34
Epistle Reading - Romans 3:19-28
Gospel Reading - John 8:31-36
Children's Message
Sermon Hymn - A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (ELH #250)
Sermon - Our Lutheran Heritage - Our Christian Heritage (based on John 8:31-32)
Offering and Registration while Handbell Choir plays Variations on Ein Feste Burg
Prayers
The Lord's Prayer
Closing Hymn - God's Word is Our Great Heritage
Blessing

Sermon highlights:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31 & 32

Hold to my teaching:

  • King of Grace has been in existence for 38 years, longer when you factor in the two congregations who joined to create it.
  • Consider our ancestors who passed on Christian heritage to us.
  • Much of modern Lutheranism bears little resemblance to what we teach and confess in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. For the future, it is up to us to maintain sound doctrine for future generations.
  • Luther himself didn't want others to call the church "Lutheran", but the name stuck anyway. Luther merely returned the church to its roots - we are dead in our sins and salvation comes by grace alone through truth alone. He made it clear to others that the doctrine was not his and that he had not been crucified for anyone
  • Lutheran heritage and Christian heritage are equal; they are the same.

Monday, November 05, 2007

What do you see when you look in the mirror?


What did you see when you looked in the mirror this morning? Did you see a sagging face, gray hair, no hair or even hair in the wrong places? Do you still feel, like I do, that you are that 18 year old looking in the mirror and wondering what in the world happened? What changed? When I look in the mirror, as a child of God, I see the robe of Christ's righteousness wrapped around me.

I've always hated changes. At least that is what I've always told myself. What I hate, or dread (a more accurate term) is anticipating change. The actual change isn't usually as bad as I dreaded...and sometimes is actually fun or exhilarating. Then afterward, there's the typical thought, "Well, that wasn't so bad." or "I'm so glad things changed."

My life this past year has been so full of changes. A year ago, I had a (seemingly) healthy back, a sick body, 30 extra pounds of fat, a child who walked way too close to the line (actually stepping over the line would be more accurate), an illusion of freedom from sin...the list goes on and wouldn't make sense to many. Now, one year later, I am mostly recovered from surgery, coping with moderate back concerns, 30 pounds lighter, witnessing a child making some really good choices, and now very aware of my sin nature (though fully clothed as a saint thanks to Christ).

I'm am fully moved into the stage of life where I feel very vulnerable to unexpected changes. So many people I know have failing marriages, failing dreams and failing health. I'm only 47! What will it be like when I'm in my 60's? Yet, despite all that I could worry about, I have so much to be thankful for. For most people, its not death we fear; we fear life. I was reminded this morning that we don't enter the cemetery to stay there. We merely pass through...like a tunnel.

Today's sermon was about thankfulness and sainthood, based on Psalm 30:4. Pastor Ekhoff asked, "Did you see a saint in the mirror this morning?" He reminded us that we are saints through Jesus Christ, along with those saints already in heaven. We saints are one fellowship. That's a comforting thought.

Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.

4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said,
"I will never be shaken."

7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 "What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help."

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

God is God and we are not

Words of wisdom from a young man...

It saddens me how so many congregations "chip away" at the rich history of Lutheran liturgy and worship and conform to the ever-increasing popular "seeker services" - and this is occurring to services with traditional music. Confession and Absolution is spoken by the Pastor in a way not to "confuse" unchurched guests. The "Bible reading" takes the place of Scripture readings of Law and Gospel. The sermon is turned into how Jesus can help you. Communion is an act. This list goes on.

It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen through the efforts of one. It happens through Pastors that seek "better ways" to "connect with the lost" and forget the teachings that they confessed to vowed to uphold in their ordinations. It happens to through congregational members who forget or put aside the dear teachings of Luther's Small and Large Catechisms in favor on figuring out ways to grow their church.

It happens by forgetting that God is God and we are not. Christians are to come together on Sunday to worship God - not to attend a seminar on how to understand their life and how God can make it better. The timeless truths of Scripture and God's plan for us is revealed, but it is out of thankfulness for what He has done and humility and reverence and awe for the most powerful timeless loving being in the universe that we come together to worship Him! Liturgy - speaking, singing, chanting the words of God himself as revealed in Scripture. How can man speak more truthfully than with the word of God himself? How can man's feeling - sinful as he is, even as a new creation- be more reverent than the Word from which the universe sprang into being.

Just the ranting of a young Elder that wants to change his church. Thanks for listening.

For myself, I will never forget the relief of coming to a worship service where God comes to me, first and foremost. No longer do I need to come to church with my game face on - dressed well, happy, perfect children, sins neatly under control (not that I don't try to do that, in Christ, already). I now come to church to be reminded of my hopeless condition, then immediately being led through confession of my sins and be a recipient of the good news that I have been forgiven. My liturgical church service is a reflection of God, in that it is about what God has done for me in love because I am His child and am helpless to save myself. From that firm foundation, I am able to approach God with my singing and praise.

Borrowed in full from Cyberbrethren's excellent post on fear of liturgy, Lutheran Worship: Old School ... Too Roman Catholic? Thoughts on Lutheranism and Liturgy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want



Lately, I've been listening to a hauntingly beautiful song from The Dream Academy's album, Somewhere in the Sun. I went to great length's to get the song on my iPod. The song was never released in the U.S., so I bought a CD on eBay from someone in London and waited to receive it in the mail. How quaint and yet thoroughly modern.

My favorite cut's title is somewhat embarrassing to me: please please please let me get what I want. Why is it embarrassing to me? Well, for obvious and very grown up reasons, right? I mean, we know that adults aren't supposed to go around begging and demanding like children to get their wishes granted by someone more in charge than they are. We NEVER say things like, "Oh, PLEASE let me get what I want!" aloud, do we? I think, if we are honest, most of us admit to at least thinking like that once in a while. On another level, I've been wondering if it is scriptural for me to ask God, "Please let me get what I want." It could be a prayer. The sentiment certainly is honest and probably echoes many people's thoughts, especially those of us who've suffered more often than not in our lives.

Sinners that we are by nature, we have no right to expect anything from God, let alone that he should hear and answer the requests we make of him. But through the atoning work of Jesus, we have received full access to the “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). To pray on the basis of who Jesus is and what he has done for us is to “pray in Jesus name.”

When we pray in Jesus’ name, God not only promises to hear us; Jesus says that we will actually receive whatever we ask (John 16:23, Matthew 7:7-11, Matthew 21:22). Of course, we will leave it to God in his wisdom to decide exactly when and how to answer us. Sometimes his answer appears not to match our request exactly. But even then we always receive more and better things than we ask for. Jesus’ promise is always kept.

For us Christians, the problem is never a lack of willingness to hear us on God’s part. At times, however, it is inattention to prayer on our part, or a weak and shaky confidence that God really does hear and answer (Luke 18:8). The rich promises that God attaches to prayer in his Word will strengthen our confidence and move us to pray confidently and often. (From WELS.net)


According to Wikipedia...

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want was a cover version recorded in 1984 by The Dream Academy. The instrumental version of the song is the better known cover version, since it was used in the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off (during the Art Gallery scene) along with "The Edge of Forever". The single wasn't originally included in their debut album, The Dream Academy but later appeared on the compilation album, Somewhere in the Sun... Best of the Dream Academy.
The art gallery scene in the movie has long been one of my favorite movie scenes. I think the music had much to do with it, along with the wonderful art pieces at my favorite art museum, The Art Institute of Chicago. Time and money aside, I would spend one day a month in that museum...for the rest of my time on earth....with this song playing on my iPod:

"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want"

Good times for a change.
See the luck I've had
Would make a good man turn bad.
So please, please, please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want...
This time.

Haven't had a dream in a long time.
See, the life I've had would make a good man bad.
So for once in my life
Let me get what I want.
Lord knows it would be the first time.

Watch the Music video on YouTube

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The responsiblity of a preacher and of a congregation

To those false prophets God says:

“You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:2)

To congregations who listen to false prophets, God says:

16 Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“ Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They make you worthless;
They speak a vision of their own heart,
Not from the mouth of the LORD.
17 They continually say to those who despise Me,
‘ The LORD has said, “You shall have peace”’;
And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say,
‘ No evil shall come upon you.’”
18 For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD,
And has perceived and heard His word?
Who has marked His word and heard it?
19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury—
A violent whirlwind!
It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back
Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.
21 “ I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran.
I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

(Jeremiah 23:16-21)


These words should be heeded by any Christian. I pray that my own synod's men heed these words.

Contemporary worship as idolatry?

On adopting "contemporary" practices in worship...

Contemporary/Alternative/non-liturgical worship is not a new invention. Short-sighted pastors and congregations get all excited about what a tool such non- or anti-liturgical worship could be for outreach and education.

In 1920, Bjug Harstad, then President of the Norwegian Synod wrote:

"The unclarity, lukewarmness and liberalism of the times are dangerous because several harmful things follow from them. Because people do not stress the heart's inner life of faith and heartfelt appropriation of God's undeserved grace and gifts, the forgiveness of sin, life and salvation through faith alone without the deeds of the law, then no particular desire to dwell much with the doctrine of God's essence, attributes, grace and the Means of Grace, is felt, but mostly the need for cooperating in the externals. Meetings and talks revolve then most around practical things, man's own undertakings, often completely ordinary worldly business which sometimes is praised as Christians' deeds of love, while a precise exposition of one or another important doctrine would produce disturbance and disagreement. Must I ask if such church work is anything other than idolatry before God? Read on...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Drowning myself daily...


To write Drowning Myself Daily as the title of my post makes me feel like I'm borrowing someone's excellent blog title, but the very visual description of drowning one's self daily can be traced a bit further back to Martin Luther. Recently, the WELS Q&A site addressed this concept:

The familiar words and imagery used by Luther may be found in his Small Catechism, under "Fourth" in the exposition of Baptism. Most if not all youth confirmands in Lutheran churches memorize the words, so it is indeed familiar. For additional information, one may ponder Romans 6:1-15, which Luther refers to in the Catechism.

John's call to "Repent" for the "forgiveness of sins" is first of all a call to repentance in the wide sense, including both contrition and faith in Jesus as one's Savior. Whenever the forgiveness of sins is connected to repentance, faith as well as contrition is involved. John indeed proclaimed both law and gospel, exposing sins and identifying the person and work of the Savior. That was his task and is our task, to preach God's Word, law and gospel.


John's call to "Repent" for the "forgiveness of sins" is secondly NOT a command for anyone to do anything by his or her own power. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that no sinful human being can repent on his own. No one can come to Jesus except by God's power (John 6:37, 44) . That's why we often use a term like "gospel imperative" for this kind of speech. It is a command or an invitation that carries with it the ability for the listener to respond. It is comparable to other divine commands like "Let there be light" or "Let the land produce vegetation" (Genesis 1) or "Lazarus, come out!" (John 11) or "In the name of Jesus Christ, walk!" (Acts 3). The command itself supplies the power and moves the person to do what is desired by God.


...What part is our action? To proclaim God's Word, law and gospel, to point ourselves and others to the reality and seriousness of sin and the reality and greatness of pardon through the unconditional gospel, and to call each other to repentance in God's name. What part is God's action? To work true sorrow for sin and true reliance on Jesus Christ in the human heart, and to preserve that miracle of repentance in the human heart.


In my journey as a human and as a Christian, I have struggled with what is my part and what is God's part. In the past few months, I have been wrestled with what I wish was a final step but is more likely just a next step in my journey to heaven.

My many years as an Evangelical taught me a very bad habit. The continual emphasis on my works as the way of salvation, apparently, deeply ingrained in me the idea that I am impervious to certain things, certain behaviors, certain temptations. For example, I would see someone in the church or community who was suffered the result of some sin, such as a crime, or lying (the outward act of lying) or murder or adultery (the list could go on forever), and I'd dismiss that person as an unrepentant sinner. Because I was "saved", I believed that such a circumstance would never happen to me. The spirit of God resided in me because I had asked Him. This was my protection. My faith was actually in myself and it worked...for a while.

It's easy to be full of ideals in your teens and twenties. Everything seems black and white in those days of clarity before a career, spouse and kids. I was right and whomever disagreed with me was wrong, from religion to politics to diet. What I didn't count on is that I would change as I aged. What I didn't count on was that, just perhaps, my so-called clarity was really a near- blind rigidity based on fear of the unknown and poor theological underpinnings. What I didn't count on was that any Christian is capable of any sin, particular ones he or she thinks would never occur.

In equal rigidity, perhaps, it is easy for me to blame that fear of the unknown on a poor education. My parents gave me the best, in their minds. I got the basic suburban high school education and a state college teaching degree. I received a typical ELCA confirmation and then attended various IVCF activities in college. I read scripture often...more often than most college students, I'm sure. Still, my lack of a strong Christian education made me easy prey for many false teachings through the years. Like a Christian not being able to fall into certain sins.

Today, the only thing I know I can do for certain is to drown myself daily in my baptism.


As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.

First.

What is Baptism?--Answer.

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.

Which is that word of God?--Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Secondly.

What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Thirdly.

How can water do such great things?--Answer.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

Fourthly.

What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?--Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Quoting Luther, quoting Christ

What I saw, in reference to my previous post, was Pirate quoting Luther who was, in turn, quoting Christ. However, it seems that others interpret that as merely quoting Luther. To me, the difference is huge. I was taught that the Lutheran Confessions reflect scripture and sit upon them. Scripture is the foundation. It is conceivable that we could remain Lutheran without the Lutheran Confessions, though they would surely be naturally created again over time (as the originals were) in response to the continual false teachings that crop up among believers. We could not, however, do without scripture.


Monday, May 07, 2007

A faulty premise on the Lord's Supper

Should I try blogging again, Jack?

I read a post at Boar's Head Tavern, my favorite religion blog I never recommend to others*, on Saturday which literally kept me thinking all weekend. One of my favorite Lutheran bloggers affectionately known as Pirate posted a good commentary on the what Lutheran's believe regarding the Lord's Supper. The post was timely because I was looking forward to hearing Pastor Flohr announce loudly with joy, "Your sins are forgiven! Depart in peace!"

Here's is the entire thread. I know its against blogging protocol to post something in its entirety, but in this case I will:

The Real Presence

The Lutheran doctrine is fairly simple: the bread and wine, by virtue of Christ having said so in the Words of Institution, is no longer just bread and wine only, but also the body and blood of Christ. The body and blood of Christ are in fact taken and eaten.

The litmus test is what we call the manducatio impiorum, which is a fancy Latin slogan meaning “The unbelievers eat the body and blood of Christ, too,” but to their judgment, not to their salvation–just like they hear the Gospel, but not unto salvation. There are two major points of doctrine that rest on the Real Presence:

First, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are all bestowed in the Supper. Notice the difference between Q168 of the WLC and Luther’s Small Catechism. First, Westminster:

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.

Nowhere is forgiveness mentioned. Rather, the sacrament is essentially a means of increasing one’s sanctification, which is nearly identical to the Roman Catholic view of Holy Communion (which is different from the Sacrifice of the Mass). Now, Luther:

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

And in the context of Luther’s theology, “life” means “eternal life.” Sacraments bestow justification.

The second is that the reality of the sacrament is founded exclusively on Christ’s word. Westminster simply asserts that those who have faith feed on Christ in the Supper. Christ’s institution and word are only mentioned when discussing how the sacrament is to be performed, but not in discussing what it is, or how we know what is there. Any sense of the Words of Instutution being that which makes the sacramental reality is made is completely absent–faith, not the word of Christ, make the Supper into the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood (and that only in a spiritual sense). Without faith, only bread and wine is there, leaving it incumbent upon the communicant to ascertain for himself whether what is supposed to be happening is truly happening with him. Therefore, one must condition one’s self internally for the Supper to work. As Q171 says,

They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

Contrast that with Luther, who always goes back to “This is my body.” It is Christ’s body because Christ has said so, and it gives the forgiveness of sins because Christ has said so. The communicant is exhorted to look not within himself, but to simply believe what Christ has said”

Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.

The Lutheran doctrine of the Supper is nothing other than justification by faith alone put into practice.



Shea posted a good response to Pirate's post:

If I was holding the highlighter and reading the Luther you quoted I would have presented it this way:

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

The question in my mind is to what degree faith in this promise requires believing anything about the bread and cup themselves. In 1 Corinthians 10 (one chapter before the LS ordinance, obviously) when Paul said that “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” Do you believe that the Rock was Christ in the same way that the bread you eat tomorrow is?

I’m sure that’s not the first time you’ve heard this argument, but I will be interested to hear your answer to it.

Can you guess what about Shea's question intrigued me? I think he is operating from faulty premise about what is important to Lutherans. What could that be?


*I never recommend BHT blog to anyone because it should be discovered and read at one's own risk. I love it, but it could really confuse someone not prepared to THINK.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

O Sacred Head Now Wounded



It is difficult, sometimes, to discuss with evangelicals my disdain for much of contemporary worship music. After five years in the confessional Lutheran church, I have yet to sing a hymn I hate. Our music director has also done a fantastic job of bringing in hymns written by contemporary Lutheran musicians. I agree that there are many good worship hymns still being written today and I pray that more good musicians and songwriters will follow their calling and serve today's church. Here is one hymn that has more than stood the test of time, for both a pleasing tune and truly worshipful and sound lyrics. Contemplating Christ's suffering certainly helps me put my own pain of recovery from surgery into its proper perspective.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Words attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (read more here)

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded



It is difficult, sometimes, to discuss with evangelicals my disdain for much of contemporary worship music. After five years in the confessional Lutheran church, I have yet to sing a hymn I hate. Our music director has also done a fantastic job of bringing in hymns written by contemporary Lutheran musicians. I agree that there are many good worship hymns still being written today and I pray that more good musicians and songwriters will follow their calling and serve today's church. Here is one hymn that has more than stood the test of time, for both a pleasing tune and truly worshipful and sound lyrics.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Words attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (read more here)

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Paul Gerhardt Service in Princeton

For local residents interested, there will be a special service for the 400th anniversary of Paul Gerhardt's birth. It will be held Bethany Lutheran Church in Princeton, Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. on March 19, 2007.
 
It will be a devotional service to commemorate 400th anniversary of the birth of the great Lutheran hymn writer, pastor and confessor Paul Gerhardt. Besides congregational singing, local church and children's choirs will be participating in the service. The service will consist mainly of Gerhardt's hymns, with commentary on his life. Anyone who is in the area and able to come is very welcome to join!.
 
(Bethany Lutheran Church in Princeton, Minnesota, 801 South Sixth Street -- at the corner of 6th Street South and 8th Avenue, near the high school and the Fairview hospital. Phone at the church is 763-389-3070.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Thoughts on Vocation...



The first time I ever heard of the concept of vocation was in college. Without using the actual term, someone once told me that Christians should strive to praise God in daily activities. Especially in the things often seen as mindless, boring and not very spiritual - like washing the dishes. At that point in my life, I had immersed myself in the evangelical world of self-sanctification, especially through activities like witnessing, waving my arms in praise, planning for mission trips, etc. This new concept of vocation (serving God in daily life through the gifts and places He's given you) seemed strange, intriguing. Not surprisingly, I wouldn't hear more of it until leaving evangelicalism.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The devil waxes furious...

Incarnatus est posted these good words from an early church father. It's so good I've copied the entire post! Be sure to visit Incarnatus est for other helpful posts. I love his header:
A Blog. Lutheran. Catholic. Sacramental. Addressing the contemporary life of the church from an authentic, ancient Christian point of view. And the occasional thought on rock and roll.
The perfect blog, then.

Leo the Great on Lent and Satan and the Christian

And, dearly-beloved, no season requires and bestows this fortitude more than the present, when by the observance of a special strictness a habit is acquired which must be persevered in. For it is well known to you that this is the time when throughout the world the devil waxes furious, and the Christian army has to combat him, and any that have grown lukewarm and slothful, or that are absorbed in worldly cares, must now be furnished with spiritual armour and their ardour kindled for the fray by the heavenly trumpet, inasmuch as he, through whose envy death came into the world, is now consumed with the strongest jealousy and now tortured with the greatest vexation.

For he sees whole tribes of the human race brought in afresh to the adoption of God's sons and the offspring of the New Birth multiplied through the virgin fertility of the Church. He sees himself robbed of all his tyrannic power, and driven from the hearts of those he once possessed, while from either sex thousands of the old, the young, the middle-aged are snatched away from him, and no one is debarred by sin either of his own or original, where justification is not paid for deserts, but simply given as a free gift. He sees, too, those that have lapsed, and have been deceived by his treacherous snares, washed in the tears of penitence and, by the Apostle's key unlocking the gates of mercy, admitted to the benefit of reconciliation. He feels, moreover, that the day of the Lord's Passion is at hand, and that he is crushed by the power of that cross which in Christ, Who was free from all debt of sin, was the world's ransom and not the penalty of sin.

Sermon XLIX: On Lent XI

Thursday, February 22, 2007

True Christian Piety, part 1


True Christian piety does not consist primarily in what we do but in recognizing what our God has done for us.

Author: John M. Brenner


pi·e·ty n. pl.: The condition of reverence and devotion to God that comes with faith in Christ.

pi·e·tism n. :Making subjective standards of piety and religious experience the essential measure of Christianity or the Christian faith.


Luther was not the first to try to reform the church. Many before him recognized that something was wrong in the life of God's people. But most who went before Luther focused on behavior or organizational reforms.

Luther, however, recognized that the real problem in the church was not how people were living but what the church was teaching. The Roman Church emphasized what people were to do to contribute to their salvation rather than teaching that Jesus has accomplished everything for salvation in our place. Rome had raised tradition and the decisions and decrees of popes and councils to a position of equal or superior authority to the Holy Scriptures.

Medieval piety included making pilgrimages to "holy" places and praying to Mary and the saints. Taking monastic vows and doing works of penance were considered meritorious. Among the common people, knowledge of the basic teachings of the Bible was often minimal. The Lord's Supper was viewed as a sacrifice we offer to gain God's favor rather than a gracious meal of life by which God offers and seals the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Striving to gain God's favor by leading a life of medieval piety drove Luther to the point of despair. The more he tried to keep God's law and appease God by what he did, the more his conscience became burdened with the knowledge that all of his efforts fell far short.

Piety in Luther's time

As Luther studied the Scriptures, he came to understand that true Christian piety does not consist primarily in what we do but in recognizing what our God has done for us. The message of the Lutheran Reformation centered on God's full and free forgiveness won by the perfect life and sacrifice
of God's own Son. Jesus made
full atonement for our sins. He has defeated the Prince of Darkness and opened heaven's doors. True Christian piety consists in trusting that message.

To foster true piety, Luther and his colleagues translated the Bible into
the language of the people, published books of sermons and devotional material, and wrote hymns and catechisms.

Luther's Small Catechism provided a summary and explanation of the basic truths of Christianity in terms so simple that even a child could understand. Those basic truths were so important that he reviewed them every day. In his preface to the Large Catechism, Luther wrote,



I, too, am a doctor and a preacher. . . . Yet I continue to do as a child does that is being taught the Catechism. Mornings and when I otherwise have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I like, but must remain a child and student of the Catechism.


Read on:  http://tinyurl.com/yol4qs

The law and gospel of adultery

For any baptized soul who has struggled with sin, I offer this heartfelt letter and pastoral response. I found it on the WELS Q&A site this morning and was very touched. I think that in this age of pietism, it is a temptation to make certain sins worse than others and tell ourselves that God couldn't possibly forgive a particular type of sin. It is also easy to compartmentalize our sins by putting them into boxes. It is easy to say that you didn't commit adultery, but only thought about a person in a sexual way. Yet Christ's words are harsh...to do so is adultery. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Who can truthfully say that he or she has NEVER done that? I imagine very few. The law does indeed convict...with a very sharp knife to the heart.

Question:

I strayed very badly from God last year. I was extremely sexually immoral. In a nutshell, I committed adultery. My question is, is there any hope for me to be saved? I knew God before I did this unspeakable gross act. In fact, I did it in the face of Him. How can I expect to be saved? Yes, I'm highly repentant of my sins. Yet, how can I expect Him to forgive me?



Pastoral response:

What you are saying is that you have committed the sin of adultery. You are saying that you did it last year. You are saying that you did it deliberately in the face of God! You wonder how you can expect to be saved? You say that you are highly repentant, but wonder, "How can I expect him to forgive me?"

There are five sections of the Scripture to which I would like to refer you: II Samuel 11; II Samuel 12:13; Psalm 32:3-5; II Corinthians 5:19; and Romans 8:1 ff.

In II Samuel 11 we have the account in God's Word about how David and Bathsheba sinned. Like you, David knew that what he was doing was a sin. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David even tried to cover up his sin by having Uriah, Bathsheba's husband come to her to sleep with her so that everyone might think that Uriah was the child's father. When that did not work David arranged to have Uriah murdered in such a way that it looked like he died in battle.

Just like you, David knowingly and willfully sinned. Can you see the comparisons between David and you?

God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin. David repented. He said: II Samuel 12:13, "I have sinned against the Lord." I hear you saying the same thing.

Then, in Psalm 32:3-5, David tells his people about his sin and his forgiveness from God. He first describes the emotions I hear you expressing: vs. 3-4 "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer."

This is the pain I hear you saying. "How can I expect to be saved?" I deliberately and knowingly sinned! How can I expect God to forgive me?"

David describes his faith in God's solution in this way: vs. 5 "I said, ' I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' -- and you forgave the iniquity of my sin."

I hear you saying, "I am highly repentant of my sins." David said the same thing. Now, you ask, "How did David get that confidence and trust that God forgave him and I don't have it?

Repentance always involves two things. The one -- that we confess our sins to God. The other -- that we believe that we receive absolution or forgiveness from God because of Jesus."

I hear you saying that you have confessed your sins. I also hear you saying that because of the way you feel you sinned so knowingly and willingly, and because you so strongly feel guilt for your sin, you can't understand how God could forgive you.

First: God forgave David who not only knowingly and willingly committed adultery, but also knowingly and willingly caused his lover's husband to be murdered. God forgave David because of Christ who has paid for the sins of the whole world upon the cross. God forgives you also because of Jesus.

When Jesus went to the cross, he paid for all the sins of all people of all time. That includes the sins of King David and your sins also. Listen to what God tells us in II Corinthians 5:19: "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." You are a part of the world for whom Christ died. You can't tell me or God that you are not a part of the world for whose sins Christ went to the cross. You are also a part of the whole world which has been reconciled to God because of Christ. That part is just as true. To be reconciled to God means that God, in Christ, has made peace between you and him.

In others words, trust in the mercy of God. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He has made peace between you and God. Be at Peace!

Romans 8:1 "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Jesus died for you. He paid for your sins upon the cross. Be assured that there is nothing in all creation that "will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:39. That "us" includes you!

My last encouragement to you is that you go to your pastor and hear this same message of peace from him. Take your question and answer with you. Show it to him and talk with him about it.

Be at peace! Your Jesus loves you, died for you, arose for you, and lives for you!

Out of faith and love for Jesus, live for him! As a fruit of your repentance, fight the temptation to commit adultery again.

Source: http://www.wels.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?1518&cuItem_itemID=812&cuTopic_topicID=28

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Thoughts on today's popular "contemporary" worship music

I found this comment from Josh Schneider left on my blog a couple of years ago.  His words are an encouragement to me today.

...Regarding contemporary worship, I certainly agree that it can promote a false understanding of the working of the Spirit, and often the lyrics are 'me-centered.' I think contemporary music should be resisted mainly because it doesn't convey the Gospel well, and is subject to the idea that the music should be catered to people's likes and dislikes . It also is typically associated with a theology of glory. I don't believe contemporary music is sinful, per se, but for the above reasons I think there are much better alternatives (i.e. historic liturgy and hymnody). Also, I find that the contemporary music has very little 'staying-power', by which I mean you can get sick of it very quickly, and it has little lasting substance that might be of comfort in times of trial. I think in choosing worship music, we should always seek to present the best and the highest forms of music as our 'spiritual sacrifice.' Not watered down stuff that makes us feel good.

--
Posted by Josh Schneider to Be Strong in the Grace at 5/9/2005 05:48:12 PM

I also received these words of encouragement from an ELS pastor this morning.  I share them with you to illustrate the kind of pastoring I have experienced in my synod.  The ELS is my family's earthly refuge and heaven is where I am bound:

The ELS is a "little" synod but can be a complicated place! We are basically a miniature version of what the old synodical conference was -- Norwegian Synod (ELS), WELS, and LCMS born and bred people all attempting to co-exist together as adults.
 
Basically I want to tell you to take heart. You are in a synod that wants to be faithful to God's Word. Therefore the devil wants to rob us of our treasure, and all of this divisiveness is the result of his efforts. So you are in the right place. Also you are in a faithful congregation at King of Grace, with three faithful pastors. If there were contemporary worship undercutting Lutheran doctrine and practice taking place, I think you would know it. People who have fled something bad tend to know it when they see it crop up again. So ignore the attacks.
 
The best remedy I can offer you is: Look up Paul Gerhardt in the authors at the back of your Evangelical Lutheran Hymnody. Look up all his hymns. Sing them (esp. #377, 517, 448, 208, 57, 304, and 20), or at least read them through. Gerhardt's hymns are the best remedy for what you are feeling right now.

I will follow this pastor's advice! 

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What to think about the ELS...

Warning: I've broken my rule about how blogs should never serve as one's diary.

I read something this morning at Norman's Demense that caused me to think. Norman wrote:

As a layman in the ELS, I resent those who wanted to fight out their respective WELS/LC-MS positions in the ELS.

I never thought about the current dissension in the ELS in that way, but it certainly makes sense to me. My perspective is greatly colored, of course, by my view of the ELS and King of Grace as my refuge...my adopted homeland. I have one big fault in that I hate change and struggle with it (sorry to break my own rule about blogs NEVER being diaries). I am so ANGRY to be forced to study and try to understand issues that I didn't create and barely understand. It does seem to me, though, that the ELS has been held to some higher standard of conduct because of the perception that we had our house in order and had achieved some kind of purity of doctrine. (If you don't agree with that, fine, don't tell me about it. You can't deny that some held that position).

Then I read this morning something at an anonymous blog, creatively referring to trouble in paradise, that my own church is instituting contemporary worship. Funny thing is that, as a member, I know nothing about this. It's probably not even true, but it's being said. In the name of a fight for doctrinal purity? Really? When I fled Evangelicalism, I wanted a refuge and now I have a nightmare. It's unfair, no?

So, let's summarize what Theresa wants from life: predictability, unity, stability, fairness, kindness, purity, perfection, truth and bravery. And I'm expecting in this lifetime! I'm a great thinker, aren't I? I'm ripe for heaven, I suppose. I'm so-o-o glad I took the morning off to get my car fixed. It gave me lots of time to productively read Lutheran blogs. Yikes! Too much free time isn't good for me.

Update: The thought has occurred to me that what Lutheranism has to offered Evangelical refugees is not a peaceful refuge, but a land where doctrine matters. This new land I now live in isn't always peaceful, except maybe on Christmas Eve, but the battle is important. So, for me to stand and yell, "Let's all just live in peace." really just puts me back in Evangelicalism where everyone consoles themselves by saying, "Let's all just love Jesus."

Contemporary Worship

If contemporary worship was instituted at my church, I'd be hard pressed not to jump up, protest, cover my ears and run out crying. My church surely is not foolish enough to abandon liturgy and chase after the lie of "it's what people want". I hate rumors and fears, but I prefer to address them head-on.

Just sayin'...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lutheran Carnival XLI: The Post Season

Dan at Necessary Roughness has posted Lutheran Carnival XLI*. Dan has a way of tying together life and sports to which my family and I can relate. Dan creatively groups the posts by topic:

Lutheran Carnival XLI is divided into the three phases of game play in American football: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. Offense will carry posts that address thinking outside the Christian faith. Defense will carry those posts that defend the faith. Special Teams are posts either by teams or require special treatment.
In Lutheran Carnival tradition, Dan introduces us to another Lutheran we should all know, Phillip Nicolai...

Philipp was a second-generation pastor in Germany, born in 1556 and died in 1608. He preached during a time when both Roman Catholics and Calvinists were making life difficult to be a Lutheran: he had to flee several times or preach in house meetings. In 1601 he was elected chief pastor of Saint Katherine’s in Hamburg, finishing out his life in 1608 with a violent fever.

Nicolai is best remembered for two of my favorite hymns/chorales: “Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying” (LSB 516, TLH 609) and “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (LSB 395, TLH 343). It seems the Morning Star hymn has been translated a couple of times. The hymn’s tune, Wir Schön Leuchtet, has been appropriated for five hymns in LSB, a testimony to its versatility and popularity. It’s beautiful stuff; I’ll be happy to play it for the locals.



Phillip Nicolai

Be sure to read the many good posts of this edition of the esteemed Lutheran Carnival! Great job, Dan!


* If you're like me and realize that your knowledge of Roman numerals ended a few carnivals back, Nova Roma gives a short explanation of each symbol If you're rushed, you can use their handy converter.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Be Strong in the Grace: Infant Baptism

I've been perusing an excellent blog. Chris Rosebrough keeps the blog, Extreme Theology. He snuck under my radar last spring and summer, but I've found it and am enjoying it. He's even spoken on my favorite radio program, Issues Etc. Last June, Mr. Rosebrough posted a pastoral paper on infant baptism which I am compelled (always a good reason for stealing, right?) to post here because good Lutheran blogs seem to come and go too frequently. Despite the fact that I was given the gift of infant baptism, I withheld it from my own children. At the urging of an old-school Lutheran pastor, I finally relented and allowed them to be baptized. At the end of my evangelical journey, I began adult catechism classes and was immediately drawn to deep repentance over keeping my children from God's gift of baptism.

Chris writes:

I am reproducing this paper in its entirety for discussion purposes. This paper was written by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of Hope Lutheran Church of Aurora, Colorado. I think it provides an excellent Biblical look at this topic. Please read it with an open mind to what the scriptures are teaching. If you disagree with his conclusions, then spend the time in the scriptures searching what the scriptures teach.

I would also recommend listening to Pastor Wolfmueller's recent interview on the Issues Etc. radio program. Click here to listen.


Infant Faith a List of Scriptures

"Will you have your baby baptized?" I asked a friend who is also a pastor of a non-denominational church in town.

"No, Bryan," he responded, "You know we believe in believer's baptism."

Such was the conversation that provoked this short essay, for suddenly, and with profound clarity, did the connection between rejecting infant baptism and rejecting infant faith become apparent. The thinking is this, "If we only baptize believers, then of course we don't baptize babies, because babies do not and can not believe."1 Baptizing an infant is understood to be an "unbelievers baptism." It is this thought which I propose to contradict with the Holy Scriptures by showing not only the possibility but also the reality of infant faith.

Infant Faith, Old Testament and New

Do babies have faith? While we might be tempted to answer this question with reason or by experience, there is only one trustworthy place to find the answer: the Holy Scriptures. What, then, does the Bible say?

Psalm 71:5-6 (NKJV)

5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
6 By You I have been upheld from my birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother's womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.

Note, first of all, that the word 'youth' is expansive in Hebrew, used as a word for infants even unto young men and women2. The context of this word indicates what the Psalmist (presumably King David) means by 'youth', adding to the text 'birth' and coming out of the womb. This is as young as young can be, and to this young youth the Lord is his 'trust', his faith, his Confidence.

In verse 6 we would perhaps prefer a more literal translation. The word translated "have been upheld" by the New King James Version is reflexive, to 'support' or 'brace oneself'.3 Here are a few different versions:

New International Version: "From birth I have relied on you."
Revised Standard Version: "Upon thee have I leaned from my birth."
An American Translation: "I have depended on you from birth."

These phrases, 'relied upon, leaned upon, depended on', certainly imply faith. This verse, as the one before it, extols the faith and trust of the child "from birth." This text tells of the trust and reliance of an infant in the true God, and this text is not alone in the Scriptures.

As we turn to the pages of the New Testament we find a number of passages discussing the possibility and the reality of infant faith. There are a number of Greek words for 'child', and a quick survey of these words will help set the stage for our review of these passages.4

paidion- This is the most common word used of a very young child, infant, child, both boys and girls.

brephos- This word can be used of unborn babies in the womb [St Luke 1:41,44] or of nursing babies and infants [St Luke 2:12,16].

mikron- Literally, "small one," this word can be used to describe one's stature [St Luke 19:3], one's age [St Matthew 18:6,10,14], or in esteem, influence and power.
napion- [nhpiwn] This word can be used of an infant, often nursing [Hebrews 5:13], or, in the legal sense, of a minor. [Galatians 4:1].

thalazonton - One who is nursing [St Matthew 21:16].
teknon- [teknon] Child, with special reference to the relationship with the parents, used even for unborn babies in the womb.

Jesus Blesses the Children
St Luke 18:15-17 [And parallels in St Matthew 19:13-15 and St Mark 10:13-16] (NKJV)
"15 Then they also brought infants (brephos) to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, 'Let the little children (paidion) come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child (paidion) will by no means enter it.'"
Jesus would have the children come to Him, and would have no one forbid them. Why? Because "of such is the kingdom of God." The children who possess the kingdom are the infants, the nursing babies being carried in their mother's arms. (Infant and children are used interchangeably in this passage, the infants [brephos] that are being brought are the same children [paidios] that Jesus receives.) And their possessing of the kingdom is not accidental; as if Jesus says, "Because they have not attained the age of accountability I will overlook the necessity of faith and give these babies the kingdom because the are innocent" or some other such thing. No, theirs is the kingdom of heaven in such a sense that the children are the very picture of faith. The children are such a picture of faith that even adults must be like them in order to attain the kingdom of heaven. This same teaching is heard in the following text, where Jesus again talks of the necessity of becoming as a child to have the gift of the heavenly kingdom.

True Greatness
St Matthew 18:1-5 [And parallels in St Mark 9:33-37 and St Luke 9:46-48] (NKJV)
"1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' 2 Then Jesus called a little child (paidion) to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children (paidion), you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child (paidion) is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child (paidion) like this in My name receives Me.'"

Here Jesus sets a child before His disciples to teach them who the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is, and, what's more, says that unless we, too, become as children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. There are not two ways to obtain the kingdom of heaven, one for adults (faith) and another for children (apparently just being children). Possessing the kingdom of heaven is the sole result of faith (faith alone). According to Jesus the children are the possessors of the kingdom and, therefore, the very picture of humility and faith. This is said plainly in the next verse.

The Little One Who Believe in Me
St Matthew 18:6 [And parallels in St Mark 9:42-43 and St Luke 17:2, see also 18:10 and 14] (NKJV)
"6 But whoever causes on of these little ones (mikron) who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
The little ones of verse six is the little child of the previous passage whom Jesus sets before His disciples. These "little ones" are explicitly described as the ones "who believe in" Jesus. The clarity of the text needs no comment.

Later in the text these little ones are described as the possessors of angels who "behold the face of the Father" [18:10] and as those whom the "Father desires that they do not perish" [18:14].

Jesus Gives Thanks to the Father
St Matthew 11:25-27 [And parallel in St Luke 10:21-22] (NKJV)
"25 At that time Jesus answered and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes (napion). 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

It is, Jesus teaches us, the Father's will to reveal 'these things' to babies. What are "these things' which the babes have? They are not offended by Christ, but trust that He is the Coming One, sent from God. [St Matthew 11:3-6] It is the wise and the prudent that have so much trouble with the works of Christ, but not the babes. These are the ones to whom the kingdom is revealed.

While it might be a mystery to us, it is becoming clear that in the mind of Jesus and the context of the Scriptures it is not strange thing to think of babes, infants and children as those who believe in Christ. It might not seem good to us to ascribe to infants faith and trust in Christ, but it does seem good in the Father's sight [11:26].

Out of the Mouths of Babes and Nursing Infants
St Matthew 21:15-16 (NKJV)
"15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children (paidion) crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant 16 and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"
And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read,
' Out of the mouth of babes (napion) and nursing infants (thalazonton)
You have perfected praise'?"

Jesus here quotes Psalm 8:2 to support the accolades that the children are offering Him as He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Lord enlists children, babies, and nursing infants to sing His praises and announce His coming. While it is possible for the Lord to call forth His praises even from stones [St Luke 19:40], it is His good pleasure to perfect (or complete) His praise with the confession and singing of babes and nursing infants. This praise is certainly a fruit of faith.

John the Baptist
St Luke 1:15,41
"15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mther's womb."
"41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

The circumstances of John the Baptists conception and birth are certainly unique, and we should, therefore not presume too much from it. What is clear is that it is certainly possible for the Holy Spirit to fill a child even in the womb, and that this child even responds with joy at the presence of His Lord (who is also in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary).

From Childhood You have Know the Scriptures
2 Timothy 3:14,15
"14 But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood (brephos) you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

The word 'childhood' would lead us to think of this as a young person, studying and leaning from a teacher, but the Greek word 'brephos' pushes us back further, to infancy. (NIV: "how from infancy you have know the holy Scriptures.") Again, the Scriptures do not think it a strange thing for an infant to trust, believe, know, and praise the Lord.

Because You Have Known the Father
1 John 2:12,13
"12 I write to you, little children (teknon),
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake...
13 I write to you, little children (paidion),
Because you have known the Father."

St John, here, addresses the little children much as our Lord did, as those who believe. In the first instance (verse twelve), this could be seen as a familiar address, as John does in 2:1 (My little children, teknia) and other places. But that John changes the word in verse thirteen is striking, and leads us to interpret the little children referred to as actual youths, babies, etc. This is certainly not out of the ordinary in the Word of the Scriptures.

We see from the testimony of the Scriptures that infants can and do have faith. What this means is that infant baptism is believer's baptism. So to the original conversation concerning infant faith,

"Will you have your baby baptized?" I asked.

"No, Bryan, You know we believe in believer's baptism."

"Well," and here comes the answer, "so do I."5 While the faith does not give validity to the baptism, when we baptize an infant we are not just splashing water on a rock. This child can and does, by the power of God's Word, have faith in Christ Jesus, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What has now become apparent is that there are two different understandings of faith at work. On one hand, faith is seen as a gift of God, on the other, faith is the response of man to the offer of salvation. These two different understandings of faith we now take up as we consider faith as gift.

Faith as Gift

To get a handle on the Baptist/Evangelical conception of faith, we turn to a classic tract that has been used as a 'witnessing tool' for years: The Four Spiritual Laws. The Four Spiritual Laws are:

God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.

Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life.

Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.

We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.

Notice that the Gospel, as expressed in the third law, is potential. "Through [Christ] you can know and experience God's love." It is possible to know God's love, but there is a necessary first step for the potential Christian, there must be a response to God's love and plan. Faith, then, is the "must" of the fourth law, "we must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord." In The Four Spiritual Laws, this "receiving" takes the form of the "sinner's prayer", asking Jesus into our heart. There are any number of ways that this "receiving" occurs in different churches, but all are a response to the offer of salvation. Faith, then, is a "response," an act of man to whom the Gospel is offered.

If this is how faith is understood, it is understandable that infants would be excluded. Infants have trouble praying the sinners prayer and walking forward for the altar call; infants have trouble talking and walking at all. So the inability to respond is equated with the inability to believe.

The Bible, on the other hand, is careful to show how faith is a gift of God. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." [Ephesians 2:8] The gift of God is precisely the faith through which salvation comes. "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." [Philippians 1:29] "You were raised with Him through faith in the working of God." [Colossians 2:12]

Faith, then, is a gift, created by God's Word. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." [Romans 10:17] Of course, God does not do the believing for us. It is we, infants and adults, who believe, just as it is we who live, and yet just as God gives and sustains our life, so God gives and sustains our faith. Though infants cannot speak, they certainly can hear. Though infants cannot respond, they can receive gifts. As we saw in the survey of Biblical texts, the trust and dependence and receptiveness of infants is very picture of faith.

It might offend our reason and sensibilities, but the Scriptures are clear that infants and children can and do have faith. May God grant to all of His people, both young and old, the faith of a child in order that ours would be the kingdom of heaven.

INJ
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Oculi, Lent III, 2006


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NOTES

1It is interesting to note that most (if not all) of the official statements of the Baptist church do not explicitly make the connection between believer's baptism and the lack of infant baptism; it is, I suppose, assumed. I could find no official, "Therefore we do not baptize babies." Here are a few examples:

The Baptist Confession of 1688, Of Baptism

"1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament ordained by Jesus Christ to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with him in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

2. Those who do actually profess repentance toward God, faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance." (Shaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom, III.741)

The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833

"We believe that Christian Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth, in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effect in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is a prerequisite to the privileges of a Church relation." (Shaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom, III.747)

The Baptist Faith and Message, Revised 2000

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper." (From www.sbc.net/bfm)

On the other hand, the connection is explicit in the very first article of the Anabaptist Schleitheim Confession of 1527. (Written two years before Luther's Catechisms.)

"I. Observe concerning baptism: Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with Him and to all those who with this significance request it (baptism) of us and demand it for themselves. This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abomination of the Pope. In this you have the foundation and testimony of the apostles. Matt. 28, Mark 16, Acts 2, 8, 16, 19. This we wish to hold simply, yet firmly and with assurance." ( www.anabaptists.org/history/schleith.html) This Confession is quoted on the Southern Baptist website in an article explaining the Baptist understanding of baptism. ( www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=14103)

2R[n "'Boy, lad, youth' a. of infant [Exodus 2:6], to be born [Judges 13:5,7,8,12], just born [1 Samuel 4:21], not weaned [1 Samuel 1:24; also Isaiah 8:4, cf. 7:16+]. b. of lad just weaned [1 Samuel 1:24,25,27], etc. c. youth: of youth Ishmael [Genesis 21:12f], Isaac [Genesis 22:5,12]... d. with special stress on youthfulness [Judges 8:20; 1 Samuel 17:33,42]... e. of marriageable age [Genesis 34:19], warrior Absalom, [2 Samuel 18:5,12]" The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, MA. 1906, Sixth Printing, 2001, p. 654-655).

3Jm's; is in the Niphal, as in Isaiah 48:2. See BDB, p. 701-702.

4Definitions are taken from A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer, William Arndt and Wilbur Gingrich (The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL. 1979)

5That Lutheran baptism assumes faith in the infant being baptized can be seen in the Lutheran baptismal liturgy. Before the child is baptized they are asked:

"N., do you renounce the devil?"

Answer: "Yes."

"And all his works?"

Answer: "Yes."

"And all his ways?"

Answer: "Yes."

Then he shall ask:

"Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?"

Answer: "Yes."

"Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was born and suffered?"

Answer: "Yes."

"Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian church, the community of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and after death an eternal life?"

Answer: "Yes."

"Do you want to be baptized?"

Answer: "Yes."

This liturgy is taken from Luther's baptismal book, published in 1523 and republished in 1526 (on which this text is taken). This translation is taken for the Book of Concord, ed. Kolb and Wengert (Augsburg Fortress. Minneapolis, MN, 2000. p. 374-375).

The rubric calls for the sponsors to answer the questions in the place of the child, but never-the-less, it is the child who is asked the question, and so it is the child who says, "Yes, I renounce the devil. Yes, I believe in God the Father. Yes, I believe in God the Son. Yes, I believe in God the Holy Spirit. Yes, I want to be baptized." This assumes that the child has faith before they are baptized. So Lutherans, following the Lutheran liturgy, baptize believers.

6The Four Spiritual Laws were written in 1965 by Bill Bright, the founder of "Campus Crusade for Christ." Approximately 1.5 billion copies of this tract have been printed according to the evangelical website of Campus Crusade: www.greatcom.org.laws.