Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Sale

I think one of the weaknesses of men who become pastors is how we easily succumb to buying books. Over the past quarter century, I have accumulated a lot of books. I now have more books than I have room for on my bookshelves. I decided to go through my library and drastically reduce the size of my library. My attempt resulted in a 1/3 cut in the size of my library which I am now offering for sale. A list of these books can be found as a PDF document on my website. (You will need Acrobat Reader to view the document.)

They are grouped by boxes so that I can find them easier. There is nothing special about the arrangement. The price I'm asking for each book is noted in brackets at the end of each listing (shipping and handling are not included in the number).

OFFER ONE: Until December 28th, I will be accepting an offer to buy the whole lot for $2,000 (the price and arrangements for shipping would be an additional cost). If you are interested in the whole lot, please contact me.

OFFER TWO: After December 28th, I will be accepting offers for individual books (if the whole lot is unsold).

There are three reasons for this library sale:
1) I have too many books and not enough space for them.
2) I have duplicates of several books and books I have not used (or will not be needing).
3) My financial circumstances have changed so that I could use the money more than the books.

Honest Intentions

Yesterday included our annual trek to the Chinese Restaurant for our annual Christmas Day dinner. As usual, we ate our full (more accurately, more than we should have). This year's buffet included more seafood than previous years which provided too much temptation to restrain myself. But eventually, I got around to my fortune cookie and found it intriguing.

You are a person of imaginative, yet honest intentions. [The statement implies that imaginative intentions are not necessarily honest intentions. Maybe this encourages me to know that my intentions are imaginative and honest. Yet, we know what road is paved with good intentions. Oh well! Maybe I'll have better luck with my next fortune cookie.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Frustrated Hearers

The following snippet fell out of a file folder recently. (It is amazing what you find when you clean out your office files.) I found the author's observation very helpful. I was more surprised when I found out who and written it. And I wondered if he would have the same observation today.

In a recent book-review article, I came across this quote. "The modern preacher might be comforted to hear that at the prime of the Reformation in 1529, Luther the preacher and the Wittenberg congregation had reached a crisis, because his preaching seemed to have no effect. Parishioners especially dreaded sermons on the Catechism, and Luther dreaded having to preach on the vices that the Reform did little to slow." As one whose sermons often leave a lot to be desired (do you ever feel that way, too?), I take some comfort in knowing that even Martin Luther had problems with his preaching once in a while. (Ralph Bohlmann, "Letter to Pastors," Reformation 1991, p. 11)

Who Wouldn't Be Frustrated?

Several years ago, I received the following snippet from a beloved (although not very lovable) professor. I found it as I was cleaning up my office. It is very appropriate to some of my current frustrations:

If I wanted to drive a manager up the wall, I would make him responsible for the success of an organization and give him no authority. I would provide him with unclear goals, not commonly agreed upon within the organization. I would ask him to provide a service of an ill-defined nature, applying a body of knowledge (few people understand in common), and staff his organization with only volunteers in addition to himself. I would expect him to work ten to twelve hours per day and have his work evaluated by a committee of 300 to 500. I would call him a minister and make him accountable to God.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friends and Fun

Well, with our septic down and no LP for cooking (plus the church kitchen had many flies due to the recent Turkey Dinner), I suggested we splurge and buy some Chinese. The food was delicious, but I found my wife's and my fortune cookies very appropriate for our present circumstances:

You will always be surrounded by friends when you need them. [This has been an especially bad month and many friends have helped us in various ways. So much help has come that it is hard who to remember to thank.]

You'll accomplish more later if you have a little fun this weekend. [So yesterday we went to see 'Merchant of Venice' at APT and went for lunch at a local bistro to hobnob with (or just observe) some of the actors. Now will we get more accomplished.]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Paul Gerhardt Hymnody

This past May my family and I attended the Paul Gerhardt Symposium in St. Catharines, Ontario. It was excellent. The music (all Gerhardt, all the time) was played and sung well. The presentations for the most part were very informative. My one observation about the presenters is that those who indicated that they had been (as children) encouraged (forced) to memorize the Gerhardt hymns seemed to have the greatest insights into the richness of Gerhardt's theology and the depth of his faith.

A number of people commented that so few of Gerhardt's hymns had been translated into English. However, one presenter provided a reference to John Kelly's translation of Gerhardt's

I tried to find a copy of Kelly's work through the internet, but found nothing available for purchase. But through Google Books, I found a complete digital copy of Paul Gerhardt's Spiritual Songs (translated by J. Kelly) as well as Geistliche Lieder by Paul Gerhardt. Also available through Google Books is Paul Gerhardt as a Hymn Writer and His Influence on English Hymnody by Theodore Brown Hewitt. These can can be viewed online or downloaded as in PDF format. For those longing for more Gerhardt, these would be excellent resources.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Theosis: Achieving Your Potential in Christ (2)

Over a decade ago, a friend introduced me to the term 'Theosis.' Being thoroughly rooted in Missouri Synod Lutheranism, I had no idea what 'theosis' was. It sounded like a disease. But I was informed that this was a very old term and had great importance to the Eastern Orthodox Church's view of salvation. Now, after reading a few works on 'theosis,' I'm beginning to wonder if my first impression was not so far off the mark.

It is possible that some readers are now thoroughly offended by that previous comment. I will be simply dismissed as an unenlightened protestant heretic. (Yes, some EO writers clearly lump all protestants together as heretics and I am not in the least bothered by that judgment because they are wrong.) What I have discovered is that the word and concept of theosis carries with it all the baggage of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Some Lutherans (particularly the Finnish Lutherans) have tried to resurrect the word 'theosis' into the vocabulary of the modern Lutheran Church. They rationalize their position by stating that 'theosis' simply means 'deification.' And because Luther himself uses the term 'deification,' it is appropriate for Lutherans to use the word 'theosis.' Some might consider this an over-simplification of their argument, but it basic point which I gathered from some Finnish Lutheran presentations.

The concept of theosis in Anthony Coniaris's book Achieving Your Potential in Christ: Theosis is the fruit of all Eastern Orthodox doctrine. All EO doctrine serves and enlightens its understanding of theosis. What this means is that the errors of EO on original sin, justfication, work of the Spirit (eg, Pelagianism) corrupt any positive usage of the term 'theosis.'

It is possible that 'theosis' is a very good term, but its current usage among the EO make it very inappropriate for usage by Evangelical Lutherans.

Theosis: Achieving Your Potential in Christ (1)

In preparation for my presentation (directed discussion) for The Augustana Ministerium's Theological Conference (30-31 August 2007) in Burleson, Texas, one of the readings which I suggested was Achieving Your Potential in Christ: Theosis by Anthony M. Coniaris. Selected portions of his book can be found on the internet.

As John Fenton points out on his blog, "Orthodoxy has no central body of "confessional documents" because it does not have a central hierarchical authority." Thus I cannot attribute to Coniaris's book any authoritative status on the subject of theosis. However, numerous Orthodox parishes refer to his book as an excellent resource for those interested in discovering more about theosis. Coniaris may not necessarily be the final authority but his presentation is highly regarded among the Eastern Orthodox.

Coniaris's book is in its 2nd edition from Light and Life Publishing Company. Its slightly over 100 pages (1st edition) are in large type font. His presentation is not a theological treatise, but a treatise for Eastern Orthodox laity.

Monday, August 06, 2007

LCMS 2007 Convention: Male Restroom Etiquette

Restroom etiquette is rarely an issue for men, except at sporting events and LCMS conventions/pastors' conferences. The 2007 LCMS convention provided one of those unique experiences where there were actually lines for the men's restroom. This created one of those awkward experiences of too many men in a restroom. Women apparently appreciate a full restroom for the opportunity of meaningful discussion without the presence of men. This is not the case for men.

A specifically awkward moment for me was when -- as I was standing at the urinal --the man to my left put his right hand on my right shoulder. (For those who are in the know it was a certain former ecclesiastical supervisor.) After that awkward moment settled in, I remembered the following YouTube video:

At future conventions, this video should be part of the delegate orientation so that these awkward moments do not occur again and that there are no tragic fallouts. There are enough tense moments on the convention floor. There is no need to add to them in the men's restroom.

Friday, August 03, 2007

LCMS 2007 Convention: Church Politics and the Theology of Glory

In previous years, I had believed that as long as my side prepared well for the convention we could prevail. After several conventions where all our organizing was fruitless, I was distressed at our failure. I wondered if God had abandoned my synod and if I should leave this sinking ship.

So last year when my friends called upon me to join them in preparing for the district convention, I reluctantly agreed. But I found myself being un-enthusiastic about all the meetings and strategizing. Many people believed we were unprepared and that our side would not prevail. Then, lo and behold, the convention turned out much better than we had hoped.

So what happened? Rather than an organized assault, individual delegates addressed those resolutions which were most important to them. Bad resolutions were defeated or improved. With winsome and passionate (non-aggressive) arguments along with a little self-effacing humor, our concerns were addressed and in some cases answered.

Did we prevail? By no means. But we confessed the truth and let God's Word and sound reasoning do the convincing. Not by might or right, but by insight and God's light, the convention turned out much better than many people had thought possible. How much better you may ask? Well, one delegate was heartily thanked and encouraged by many who had voted to censure him six years previous.

I learned something important. Many people go into church conventions wanting to prevail. They believe that with the right strategy and organization they can advance their cause. Rather than desiring to confess and convince, they seek to coerce and reign.

This attitude is prevalent on both sides of the aisle (whether liberal or conservative, whether dogmatic or pragmatic, whether confessional or not). This attitude is clearly indicative of the theology of glory. Many believe that if they do not prevail on every issue, then all is lost. This is a theology of glory. They do not want to struggle and wrestle for the truth, but simply have the truth accepted without question or struggle. This is a theology of glory.

In contrast, under the theology of the cross we should expect the devil to be opposing us at every turn. He is not turned back by the best laid plans of mice and men, but by the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. We should expect continuously to contend for the true faith. And so under the cross of Christ, we confess and confess and confess. And in the end the Lord of the Church will determine what is best for His Church -- whether it will flourish under a 'David' or suffer under an 'Ahab.'

So what did we learn from the 2007 LCMS convention? We learned that we will have to continue to have to contend and struggle under the cross.

Abandon Ship

Another convention has come and gone. Some are calling 'abandon ship.' I used to find myself contemplating this call and determining whether or not the time is right. I eventually realized that 'abandoning ship' was not for me to determine.

Some (even me) have wondered if the LCMS is a sinking ship. If it is, then we should compare our current state of affairs to a 'sinking ship' (such as the Titanic). When the Titanic began to sink, the captain gave the order to man the lifeboats. During this chaotic time, each officer was given assigned duties. Some were placed in charge of a lifeboat. Others were assigned to assist the passengers in getting in the lifeboats. Others were responsible to search the ship and to lead passengers to the lifeboats. Others were to rescue trapped passengers. Others had to stay at their posts until the very end. Any ship officer/employee who sought to save himself over the passengers was considered a coward.

And so it is in the synod. Each pastor has his assigned duties. Some must stay and tend the ones who remain in harms way. Others are called to man the lifeboats and guide their people to safety. And some will stay at their posts and go down with the ship. Yet anyone who abandons his duties is to be considered a hireling.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

LCMS 2007 Convention: Circuit Exceptions

I had the privilege of serving as our circuit's delegate to the 2007 LCMS convention. I need to prepare a report for my circuit. So I thought I would start here and see where I go.

One of the burning issues prior to the convention was the number of exceptions which were granted to circuits which did not meet the LCMS Handbook requirement. At first I was caught up in the frenzy, but after careful consideration, I realized that those raising the big stink were focusing on the wrong thing.

Our synodical president followed the bylaws, period. The bylaws leave the final decision to him (with no specified criteria). Just because one president uses one set of criteria and a subsequent president uses a different does not mean that either one violated the bylaw.

The real problem rests with those districts which asked for exceptions in 2004. They should have been required to realign their circuits so as to not need exceptions. One solution may be to add a bylaw stating that a district which is granted an exception must realign their circuits before the next synodical convention to bring their district's circuits into conformity with the synod's bylaws.

I also did a little math to figure out how badly the LCMS convention was out of balance. The bylaw requires that an electoral circuit must have between 7 and 20 congregations and have a aggregate communicant membership of between 1500 and 10000. Now if you divide the synod's total congregations (6044 as of 2005) by 7 and 20, you get 863 and 302 respectively as the range of circuits. Then if you divide the synod's total communicant membership (1,870657) by 1500 and 10000, you get 1247 and 187 as the range of circuits. Okay, if you are still following me, divide 863 and 302 and 1247 and 187 by 4 and you get 650.

That means there should be around 650 electoral circuits for the synod. From my best guessing it appears that there were about 652 electoral circuits for the 2007 convention. So it was pretty close to spot on. Some districts -- because of exceptions -- were over-represented (eg, Pacific Southwest, Eastern, and English), whereas other districts -- even with exceptions -- were under-represented (eg, Michigan, North Wisconsin, and Minnesota South).

Rather than complaining about the exceptions, we should be insisting that the districts evaluate the circuit alignments and correct them to be in conformity with the synod's bylaws.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Christology and Justification

Over the past few years, I have gotten into animated discussions about whether justification is the chief article. Usually what happens is I say something about justification being the chief article to which the other party says something like, "No, Christology is the chief article." Then we argue about whether the Smalcald Articles (SA, Part II) indicate the chief article to be justification or christology. Other places in the confessions clearly indicate that when the Lutheran Reformers refer to the "chief article" or the "article on which the Church stands or falls," they are referring to justification -- In the words of the Apology, this article of justification by faith is the chief article of the entire Christian doctrine” (Tappert, p. 540).

In reflecting upon these discussions, there appears to be a tendency among "Christology" proponents to change the chief article from justification to christology. First, this assertion sets up a false dichotomy. Second, this represents a not-so-subtle shift in their understanding of justification. To say that Christology is the chief article is to separate Christology from Justification.

Christology deals primarily with the person of Christ. Justification encompasses both the person and work of Christ. Making Christology the chief article permits the adherent to hold various opinions as to the work of Christ (eg, justification, deification, moral example, etc.). Holding to Justification as the chief article necessitates holding to a correct view of who Christ is.

Asserting the primacy of the article of Justification maintains the intimate connection between christology and justification. Asserting the primacy of the article of Christology allows for the corruption of this intimacy between the two articles.

This intimate connnection between justification and christology was exquisitely expressed by our Lutheran fathers. The genius of the Augsburg Confession on this point is revealed in the placement of Justification as the fourth article. Justification is the linch-pin between what precedes and what follows it. The first three articles set the stage for the work of Christ (AC IV). Articles V and following flow naturally from the article on Justification -- the Ministry (V) is the office through which God proclaims Justification; the new man produces fruit (VI) because of his justification; as new-born children of God we are gathered into the body of Christ (VII/VIII); the work of Christ is applied through the ministry in the Church by means of the Sacraments (IX-XIII); etc.

The Article on Justification is the chief article not because it is better, superior, or more important, but because it is the focal point to which all other articles lead to and flow from.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Luther on the Law of the Law

In preparation for my presentation at the Annual Theological Conference of The Augustana Ministerium, I came upon an interesting article by Tuomo Mannermaa entitled "The Doctrine of Justification and Christology" (Concordia Theological Quarterly, July 2000, pp. 206-239) with an excellent quote from Martin Luther:
Thus with the sweetest names Christ is called my Law, my sin, and my death, in opposition to the Law, sin, and death, even though in fact He is nothing but sheer liberty, righteousness, life, and eternal salvation. Therefore He became Law to the Law, sin to sin, and death to death, in order that He might redeem me from the curse of the Law, justify me, and make me alive. And so Christ is both: While He is the Law, He is liberty; while He is sin, He is righteousness; and while He is death, He is life. For by the very fact that He permitted the Law to accuse Him, sin to damn Him, and death to devour Him He abrogated the Law, damned sin, destroyed death, and justified and saved me. Thus Christ is a poison against the Law, sin, and death, and simultaneously a remedy to regain liberty, righteousness, and eternal life. (LW 26, p. 163: Gal 2:20)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Keeping Up Appearances

Since the beginning of this year, I have been keeping myself busy with several projects -- translating a 300-year-old (Latin, German, French, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Old English) book, preparing two new classes for CUW's Beloit Adult Education Program, and preparing a presentation for the Augustana Ministerium -- along with trying to keep up with the two parishes I am serving. To say the least, I have been doing quite a bit of reading. As a slow reader, the amount has been daunting and at times overwhelming.

Because of this high demand, I have tried to stay clear of other issues (although they might be very important), so that I can get these other projects completed. I have not been too successful because I am a delegate to this year's LCMS convention and have been trying to make myself as informed as possible on the key issues. And then another issue has drawn me out -- the discussion of Sanctification and the Third Use of the Law.

As I have been pondering this matter, I believe another item can be thrown into the mix -- Theosis.

Theosis (deification) is a key theological issue among the Eastern Orthodox. And those who speak of theosis as the shape of the Christian life sound so much like some Lutherans who are discussing Sanctification/Third Use of the Law. I have seen some dear friends go down the path of theosis away from the primacy of justification. Likewise, in my discussions (heated arguments) with fellow confessional Lutherans, I hear some speaking of sanctification in a way that sounds like 'theosis' to such an extent that it sounds to me that they are moving away from the primacy of justification.

And so, I am planning another series of blog posts under the title "Sanctification, Third Use of the Law, and Theosis."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Magnetic Personality

I usually get a good chuckle from my chinese fortune cookies. Today, we ate a nice Chinese Restaurant during lunch break from the Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium.

Today's 'fortune' read -- You have an unusually magnetic personality.

It is amazing how well these cookies know me ;)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Chemnitz and McNabb

What possible connection could there be between Martin Chemnitz and Donovan McNabb? Well, apparently, my comments about Chemnitz being overrated have irritated some people as have Rush Limbaugh's comments about McNabb. Limbaugh did not say McNabb was a bad quarterback -- only overrated. Likewise, I did not say that Chemnitz was a bad theologian -- only overrated.

Chemnitz is described as a centrist who did not like the vitriolic nature of the controversies among Lutherans. Probably one of the most outspoken Lutherans of the latter half of the 16th century was Matthias Flacius. Apparently, there was no love lost between these two Lutheran theologians.

Flacius chastised those Lutheran theologians who opposed the Augsburg Interim and Leipzig Interim in a quiet, non-confrontational way --among whom were Melanchthon and Chemnitz. It was Flacius's strong, passionate defense of Lutheranism and opposition to the Interims that led to the withdrawal of the Interims and the freedom for other theologians to compose the Book of Concord.

So, did Chemnitz make great contributions to Lutheran theology? Certainly! He is one of the greatest theologians of Lutheranism. But when Lutheranism faced its direst moments after the death of Luther, it was not Melanchthon and Chemnitz who stood up to the forces of the pope and emperor, but men like Flacius and the people of Magdeburg. Historically speaking, if it weren't for Flacius, Chemnitz would not have flourished.

If we want to rate Luther with an A+, then I would put Chemnitz as B+ and Flacius as A-. If Flacius erred in his doctrine of human corruption, Chemnitz erred in being a pacifist in the midst of strife and controversies.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rosie -- The Associate Cat

Our current cat (Athena - the mighty huntress) is going on seven years old. She is a good hunter (of very small to medium-size game). But as we learned from our previous cat (Ashes), even cats can move past their prime and not perform up to expectations and fulfill their office (of keeping the house free of mice and the yard free of rodents). When the gophers were getting closer to the house, we realized Ashes needed help. Athena was added to our household when our previous cat was well past his prime. He was the Cat and Athena was the Associate Cat. Needless to say the Cat and his Associate did not get along. They basically co-existed and tolerated each other's presence in the house and yard. After Ashes' death, Athena assumed the office of Cat.

Well, in a stop-gap effort and to avoid future intrusions by those rodent interlopers, we determined it was time to add a new Associate Cat. So yesterday we introduced "Rosie" as the new Associate. Rosie is Athena's niece and from a good hunting family. As Athena fades from her prime, Rosie should be right there to fill the void. The office of Cat will not be empty and those loathesome rodents can remain in fear.

As you would guess, introducing a new Associate has not been easy. Athena now is sulking outside and avoiding the family. Rosie has been trying to introduce herself to Athena, but Athena knows that Rosie is only after her job. Hopefully with time, the Cat and Associate Cat will adjust to each other and become a fearsome duo warding off the forces of rodently evilness.

So with pleasure we introduce Rosie to our friends and family.

PS - Apparently she likes Runescape.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Antinomian and the Legalist (5/5)

In a previous post, I made some general observations about the weaknesses of the papers by Dr. Scaer and Dr. Marquart.

First, I commented that both Dr. Scaer and Dr. Marquart equate the accusatory function of the law with the second use (p. 5 and p. 3, respectively).

Anonymous basically said that I was wrong. To which I respond, you cannot say the law always accuses, but then say it does not accuse in its first and third use. Because to say that the law does not accuse in its first and third use is to say that the law does NOT always accuse.

Second, I said "It is the height of arrogance that men can dissect the Law in their regular preaching."

Anonymous asked, "Are you accusing Dr. Marquart of reaching for the 'height of arrogance'?" To which I respond: This comment was not just in regards to Dr. Marquart's comment, but to any who assert that a mere mortal can preach one use of the law distinctly from its other uses.

Anonymous also took issue with my break down of who needs the uses. To which I respond: That is the issue. Only the Spirit of God knows what each individual hearer needs. Thus the preacher must preach the law and let the Spirit wield it according to uses. I let the Spirit do His work of convicting, convincing, converting. I simply want to preach the law and Gospel in their fullness.

Anonymous adds that the Christian "doesn't need any use because he doesn't need any law." To which I respond: And I'm antinomian?

Third, I disagreed with Marquart's statement of how Christian's are made holy.

Anonymous accused me of overlooking other statments from Marquart's paper. To which I respond, we are not made holy by our obedience, but solely by the merits and mediation of Christ. Dr. Marquart's later comment -- "The Law is the standard and measure of good works, but it lacks the power to produce or motivate them" -- does not speak of our holiness, but the measure. In the earlier comment -- "Our lives are holy only as they conform to the revealed will of God, in other words, to the third use of the Law" -- he defines holiness by our work (conforming). At worst, it wrong; at best, it is a poor choice of words.

Fourth, I take issue with Dr. Marquart's denial that good works are 'automatic' when the confessions speak of good works as 'spontaneous.'

Anonymous state that "'spontaneously' does not mean 'automatically' or 'the work of automata.'" To which I respond, Webster's New International Dictionary (2nd edition, unabridged) lists automatic and spontaneous as synonyms. Anonymous is wrong.

Finally, I have had the privilege of reading many works by Dr. Marquart and hearing numerous essays at symposia. I believe his paper from 2005 symposia was not one of his best. It definitely should not be used as a litmus test for orthodoxy on the subject of the Third Use of the Law. I had intended to leave that paper be, until a certain influential member of synod began using (misusing) it as a litmus test. I wish we would lay this specific paper by Dr. Marquart to rest. We should remember all the wonderful things he did and said in defense of the true doctrine in the face of our synod's difficult times. That should be his continuing legacy, not an isolated paper on a disputed topic.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Antinomian and the Legalist (4/5)

Several posts on the topic of the third of the law and Scaer and Marquart had no comments, but I will list the subject of the posts here:

First, in relationship to the Third Use of the Law, the two men work from different definitions of sanctification. This is important as one sees sanctification as who and whose you are; the other views sanctification by what you do. This difference effects how they approach the purpose of preaching and who applies the law in its third use. Marquart views the preacher as wielding the Law in its Third Use. Scaer has the preacher preaching the Law and the Spirit wields it according to its three uses.

Second, how each man reacts to the comments of an emeritus pastor effects how they approach the Third Use of the Law. Without the full details, we do not know if the emeritus pastor's evaluation is full and correct. We do not know if this emeritus pastor has correct or incorrect understanding of Law and Gospel, of Sanctification, of Third Use. We are unable to judge for ourselves whether his complaint is justified or not, because we do not have access the preacher(s) he appears to be critiquing.

Third, each man uses a different definition for good works. This is extremely important. Marquart reacts against the view that good works flow as from an automaton (without thought or effort). Scaer sees good works which are like fruit which a tree produces. Scaer does not promote an automaton view of good works, but simply as a fruit tree from its nature produces fruit, so also the Christian through the working of the Spirit brings forth good work according to his new nature in Christ. Marquart would appear to say that the fruit analogy is not effective because there was no thought put into it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Antinomian and the Legalist (3/5)

In a previous post, I observed that Dr. Scaer and Dr. Marquart appeared to have different definitions of antinomianism. Dr. Scaer defines antinomians as those who reject the entire law in all its uses. Dr. Marquart has a definition limited to the apparent rejection of the Third Use of the Law.

Aaron provides a quote from Chemnitz (via Jonathan Lange's article Using the Third Use) by which he says that Chemnitz provides the link between Scaer's and Marquart's definitions. [In an attempt at full-disclosure, I should say that I am not a Chemnitz fan (oops, I guess that gives some people a reason to call me a heretic). I think his contribution to Lutheranism is overrated.]

The readers of this blog can look at the quote themselves and make their own judgment. I prefer to follow the Formula's definition: "Therefore we justly condemn the Antinomians or nomoclasts who cast the preaching of the law out of the churches and would have us criticize sin and teach contrition and sorrow not from the law but solely from the Gospel" (FC.SD.V.15).

The Lutheran Confessions' definition of antinomianism trumps Chemnitz's definition from a non-confessional document. A disagreement over the Third Use of the Law does not constitute sufficient grounds to throw out epitaphs such as 'antinomianism.' It for this reason that I believe Marquart's label of 'antinomianism' is incorrectly applied.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Antinomian and the Legalist (2/5)

In a previous post, I observed that Dr. Scaer approached the topic – of the Third Use of the Law – from a descriptive view and Dr. Marquart approached the topic from a prescriptive view.

To which PTM responded: “Is this descriptive, or proscriptive? Possibly both? And since you and I are both Lutheran enigmas, isn't that ok?” Followed by a quote from the Lutheran Confessions (Large Catechism III.39-47; McCain, p. 412-413).

First, is Scaer’s approach ‘descriptive’ or ‘proscriptive’? [I had to get out my Webster’s New International Dictionary (2nd edition, unabridged) to try to figure out the difference between the two words. Because the definitions used the verb form in the definition, I am providing the definitions to the verbs.]

Describe – to write down or write out or to give an account
Proscribe – to put outside the law or to denounce or condemn
Prescribe – to describe in advance or to lay down authoritatively as a guide

Well, I certainly do not think Dr. Scaer was denouncing or condemning. Although Dr. Marquart denounced certain things, his approach was more prescriptive. So, I must admit that I do not understand the point PTM was trying to make; oh well, nothing new there.

Second, in regards to the quote from the Large Catechism: I agree with it. The question remains: does the new man act ungodly or the old Adam? Answer: old Adam. Does the old Adam need the Third Use of the Law or the Law in all its points? Answer: the Law in all its points. Who lives according to the Word? Answer: the new man or Christ in us; born in us through the Spirit. Does Christ and His Church live by the law or the Gospel? Answer: the Gospel.

PTM’s quote from the Large Catechism does not prove his point, but proves the necessity of preaching the Law in all its points and to let the Spirit ‘use’ it as He knows it should be.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Antinomian and the Legalist (1/5)

A while back, I was basically asked, 'put up or shut up,' when I asserted that Professors Marquardt and Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, had distinct approaches to their views to the Third Use of the Law. I provided a number examples (which can be found in previous posts) of these differences.

In some following posts I will try to give an answer to the responses that were raised. Although I am sure that to some people that , whatever answers I do give, will be insufficient or inadequate.

My initial comments about Scaer and Marquardt were given in response to my wife being called an antinomian (and by association me, because I did not disagree with her). This moniker 'antinomian' was given because of difference of opinion on the Third Use of the Law. But the true antinomian is one who opposes the law (whether first, second, or third use). So to call someone 'antinomian' because of difference of opinion on the Third Use of the Law reveals the ignorance of the name caller. [Yes, I mean ignorance]. I have found that those who so freely call others 'antinomians' are themselves 'legalists.'

So thus if I am an 'antinomian' based on my understanding of the Third Use of the Law, I guess I would have to consider the one who calls me that is a 'legalist.'

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Who I Am -- The Lutheran Confessions

In recent discussions with some fellow LCMS pastors, I was asked whether I consider the Lutheran Confessions descriptive or prescriptive. This question was asked after I gave my reasons for holding to the historic liturgy and the one-year lectionary and for advocating weekly communion.

t has been my observation that when people call the Lutheran Confessions descriptive, they are implying that the Lutheran Confessions are merely historical documents which describe that point in the history of the Lutheran Church and thus have no true relevance today. This is not much different than some theologians who want to move the study of the Lutheran Confessions from the dogmatics/systematics department to the historical department. I thought this problem was simply isolated to the 1960s and 1970s of the LCMS. But the relegation of the Lutheran Confessions to mere historical documents is alive and well in the LCMS of the 21st century.

On the other hand, when people call the Lutheran Confessions prescriptive, they are implying that these documents are a ball and chain that hold us captive or a leash that leads us around. This is a rather legalistic view of these doctrinal masterpieces of the Lutheran Church.

I used to have trouble answering this question, because either answer -- 'descriptive' or 'prescriptive' -- seems to be the wrong one. But when I was recently asked this question at a winkel, I chose 'descriptive' BUT NOT in the historical sense, but in a me sense.

The Lutheran Confessions describe me. When I subscribed to the Lutheran Confessions, it was as if I was standing beside those 16th century theologians and laity who made their confession before emperor and pope. The Lutheran Confessions are not their words, they are my words.

Each pastor, who subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions, should be able to read any portion of these documents and say, 'This is what I believe, teach, confess, and practice.'

And so when it comes to the Lutheran Confessions --I will quote a country-western song -- that's 'Who I Am!'

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Distinct Approaches -- Scaer and Marquart (6/6)

Continuing with my observations regarding the distinct opinions of two respected churchmen of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on the subject of the third use of the law (their papers are referenced in a previous post), my sixth and final observation is the weaknesses of each man's presentation.
  • Both Dr. Scaer and Dr. Marquart equate the accusatory function of the law with the second use (p. 5 and p. 3, respectively). As I commented in a previous post, I find this approach to be unclear in its biblical and confessional roots.
  • Dr. Marquart's underlying premise throughout his paper is that the Law can be preached in its third use distinct from the first and second uses. While the Law may be preached by men, it is used by God. It is the height of arrogance that men can dissect the Law in their regular preaching. On any given Sunday, the people gathered in my congregation need all three functions - the hypocrites (and any unbelievers present) need the first; the old Adam in believers needs the second; the new man needs the third. No matter which function each individual requires, the Law always accuses.
  • Dr. Marquart says "Our lives are holy only as they conform to the revealed will of God, in other words, to the third use of the Law" (p. 3). It appears as if he is saying that we are made holy by the law. I was taught that our lives are made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit - "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11). The confessions also speak of the Holy Spirit effecting holiness through the Gospel. "The Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ" (LC II.37).
  • Marquart notes, "Clearly the New Testament exhortations to love and good works require conscious effort, not unthinking, automatic compliance with inner instincts!" However, note what the Formula of Concord contributes, "Fruits of the Spirit, however, are those works which the Spirit of God, who dwells in the believers, works through the regenerated, and which the regenerated perform in so far as they are reborn and do them as spontaneously as if they knew of no command, threat, or reward. In this sense the children of God live in the law and walk according to the law of God. In his epistles St. Paul calls it the law of Christ and the law of the mind. Thus God’s children are “not under the law, but under grace” (FC, Ep. VI.6).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Distinct Approaches -- Scaer and Marquart (5/6)

Continuing with my observations regarding the distinct opinions of two respected churchmen of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on the subject of the third use of the law (their papers are referenced in a previous post), my fifth observation is how each man defines good works.

  • Dr. Scaer sees good works as being "done freely" (p. 3) and from a Luther quote "as a tree bears fruit" (p. 6).
  • Dr. Marquart sees good works as "conscious attempts" because we are not "automata" (p. 8).
One sees good works as those things which are done through us; the other as those things which we determine to do.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Distinct Approaches -- Scaer and Marquart (4/6)

Continuing with my observations regarding the distinct opinions of two respected churchmen of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on the subject of the third use of the law (their papers are referenced in a previous post), my fourth observation is how each man reacts to a concern of an emeritus pastor.

Dr. Marquart recounts the following:
About two years ago an emerited colleague wrote to me complaining about a sort of preaching which “seemingly questions the Formula of Concord. . . about the Third Use of the Law.” He added: “How can one read the Scriptures over and over and not see how much and how often our Lord (in the Gospels) and the Apostles (in the Epistles) call for Christian sanctification, crucifying the flesh, putting down the old man an putting on the new man, abounding in the work of the Lord, provoking to love and good works, being fruitful . . .?”
  • Dr. Marquart accepts the criticism of this pastor as true and begins his thesis that preachers should be preaching more sanctification, good works, and third use of the law.
  • Dr. Scaer responds to the pastor's criticism noting that we have no details from which the pastor leveled his criticism, but this pastor's criticism tells us more about he believes is proper preaching of the third use of the law.
The problem with Dr. Marquart's approach is that we (the readers and hearers) have no way of knowing what specifically errant preaching is being chastised. We are not able to determine if the pastor's criticism is justified or not. Dr. Scaer does not dismiss the criticism, but tempers his judgment of those preachers who are being criticized.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Distinct Approaches -- Scaer and Marquart (3/6)

Continuing with my observations regarding the distinct opinions of two respected churchmen of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on the subject of the third use of the law (their papers are referenced in a previous post), my third observation is how each man defines sanctification.
  • Dr. Scaer defines sanctification: "Putting on the new man is the work of Christ (Gospel) and is the real sanctification" (p. 2).
  • Dr. Marquart defines sanctification by equating it with the Third Use (p. 1) and as "our lives are holy only as they conform to the revealed will of God, in other words, to the third use of the law" (p. 3)
One sees sanctification as who and whose you are; the other views sanctification by what you do.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Distinct Approaches -- Scaer and Marquart (2/6)

Continuing with my observations regarding the distinct opinions of two respected churchmen of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on the subject of the third use of the law (their papers are referenced in a previous post), my second observation is how each man defines antinomianism.
  • Dr. Scaer defines antinomianism in two places: "Antinomianism is the belief that Christians are by faith free from all moral and ethical standards" (p. 2) and later, "...the antinomian view that the Law's accusations apply to the Christian as sinner, lex semper accusat, and not to Christian life" (p. 11).
  • Dr. Marquart defines antinomianism: "the neo-antinomian avoidance of sanctification and the Third Use..." (p. 1).
One equeates the law with moral and ethical standards; the other with sanctification. This distinction affects how each man approaches the subject of the third use and its application to the Christian life.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Distinct Approaches -- Scaer and Marquart (1/6)

In a previous post, I mentioned the distinct opinions of two respected churchmen of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod on the subject of the third use of the law. I am sure some who have read the papers will find my thoughts too picky, others might consider them appropriate.

After hearing the presentations, Q&A sessions, and panel discussion (and after re-reading the papers), my first observation concerns each man's underlying approach to discussing the third use of the law:
  • Dr. Scaer approached the topic from a descriptive view. He is more interested in how it is received by the hearer. This evidenced by his parenthetical insertions of "first use" or "second use" or "third use" throughout his paper.
  • Dr. Marquart approached the topic from a prescriptive view. He is more interested in how each specific function of the law is presented by the preacher. This evidence by his repeated references to preaching.

Monday, January 29, 2007

True or False -- Doctrinal Assertions

An assertion must be true or else it is false. If is true, it is always true. If an assertion is considered true some times and false at other times, then it is no longer an asertion.

Assertions are fundamental to Christian doctrine (such as, God created the heavens and the earth; Jesus was born of a virgin; Jesus rose from the dead; etc.). An example of a doctrinal assertion from the Lutheran Confessions is the Law always accuses (lex semper accusat). The phrase the Law always accuses is used nearly ten times in the Book of Concord (and only in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession).

While the phrase the Law always accuses is a doctrinal assertion, some people say that the law accuses only according to its second use (function), but not according to its first or third. With this exception, the statement the Law always accuses is no longer true. On several occasions, I have asked where this distinction comes from. However, no one has provided substantive documentation. So I remain at a loss as to the origin and necessity of this distinction.

If someone says "the law always accuses, except...," then he in essence denies the doctrinal assertion that the law always accuses. This is very confusing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ow! That Hurts!

What do you do when you are hit in the face by a two by four? You react in pain because you cannot help but feel the hurt. Such is the case in regard to an on-going discussion concerning sanctification and the third use of the law.

I have sensed over the past few years a growing division within confessional Lutheranism and trying to figure out where it was coming from. At the 2005 Concordia Theological Seminary Symposium, I got my whack in the face and realized what the key divisive issue was. After hearing the presentations by Dr. David Scaer and Dr. Kurt Marquart, it was apparent that sanctification and the third use of the law were among the key divisive issues. As a Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, graduate, I was not aware that these two highly respected churchmen had such distinct opinions on the third use of the law.

Since then Ihave felt the pain, as I have seen men and women whom I greatly respect dividing themselves up between these two starkly contrasting positions. Some may argue that the differences are largely semantics, but I see essential differences which must be addressed.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What is a Confessional Lutheran? (Part 2 of 2)

In truth to be a Lutheran means also to be ‘confessional Lutheran,’ because a Lutheran is defined by the confession to which he holds. However, there are many people who call themselves ‘Lutheran,’ but at the same time reject all or portions of Book of Concord, such people are renouncing what it means to be Lutheran.

For an example, consider the interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-12 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Most every major English translation does not have a comma between “saints” and “for.” Thus, you will hear many preachers (including Lutherans) say that the ministers job is two fold: first, to equip the saints so the saints can do ministry, and second, to edify the body of Christ. But the problem is that the original language does not have any punctuation. Thus, our Lutheran Confessions understand the work of the pastors (from this passage) to be three-fold: first, to equip the saints; second, to do the work of the ministry; third, to edify the body of Christ. Any Lutheran pastor who insists on a two-fold understanding of Ephesians 4:12 is not teaching in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions (ie, he is not a ‘confessional Lutheran’).

The Lutheran Confessions are the lens by which we view and interpret God’s Word. When questions of doctrine and practice arise, we return to God’s Word; but what happens when there is a disagreement about what God’s Word means? As Lutherans, we turn to the Lutheran Confessions. The Word of God is not for private interpretation that is why we have confessions so that we have a common interpretation of God’s Word.

The Lutheran Confessions do address many issues which are facing modern Lutheranism: Which God is the true God? Are the gods of Judaism and Islam the same as the God of the Christians? Who may commune at a particular altar? How often should commune be offered? How often should I commune? Should we use the historic liturgy? Should we have vestments? Is it permitted to cross oneself? Is it permitted to kneel and genuflect? Is private confession and absolution required? Is confirmation necessary? Are there two or three or more sacraments? May pastors be called ‘Father’? Should we use a chalice or individual cups?

The answer to these questions will not determine if you are or are not a ‘confessional Lutheran,’ but how you get to your answer will? A confessional Lutheran will let Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions be heard.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What is a Confessional Lutheran? (Part 1 of 2)

The simple answer is: Depends on whom you ask!

Most every ‘Confessional Lutheran’ will have his own personal definition of what that term means. Some will say that it means conservative. Others may say it is redundant (i.e., if you are a Lutheran, of course you are confessional). Others will say that it means the ‘pastor is in charge.’ Others will say it means that you expect your pastor to wear a certain uniform (such as, a black shirt with a white tab or collar). Still others will say that it means adhering to the historic liturgy, every Sunday communion, private confession and absolution.

Try using the word “confessional” in other contexts. You cannot say ‘confessional Catholic’ or ‘confessional Methodist’ or ‘confessional Baptist,’ etc. If you place the word “confessional” before the name of any religion or Christian denomination, it will only be appropriate to Lutherans. Why is that? The word confessional implies “holding to a confession.” [Yes, the Roman Catholics use the term confessional in regards to a place or act of confessing one’s sins. But that is not the sense of the word we are considering.]

The phrase “confessional Lutheran” could be also stated as “a Lutheran who holds to a confession.” In this case it would refer to the body of documents known as “The Lutheran Confessions.” Every Evangelical-Lutheran pastor is asked at his ordination, if accepts and will teach in accordance with the three ecumenical creeds, the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, the Large and Small Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles and Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord. These documents are gathered into one volume known as the Book of Concord. Likewise, many Lutheran congregations will include these documents in the confessional statement of their constitutions.