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.


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.


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.


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.


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.