"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."


- Martin Luther




Luther's Rose


I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.



SOLI DEO GLORIA



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The Entropy of Passion. Why?

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
  Romans 7:7-12
I actually learned something of value this semester in college. You see, I learned about physics, a subject about which I had only a passing knowledge of, however it is a subject key to my area of study: Engineering. When I learned some of the "meat and potatoes" of physics I was invigorated. Sometimes I would walk out of class with a quickened pulse. I'd sit in my car afterword, and for the whole ride home I listened to nothing but the excited thoughts in my head. Radio off, car kinetically moving, and my head in the clouds (or was it in the movement of particles). In any case, I really like the knowledge I gained this semester, and the feeling of satisfaction that went along with it. Yet, physics wasn't the thing of value I learned (although it's a part of it), it was something far greater.

So one of the times I was floating home a thought occurred to me. How many times in my life had I this, "quickening of the pulse" only to find the flame quenched later upon recalling it? Why wasn't this feeling, a feeling I enjoyed mind you, attached with me every time I reflected back on a particular profound thought, subject, or idea, what have you? What was this feeling anyway?

In relation to my Christian life up till now, I've had similar experiences with theology. I remember reading C.S. Lewis', Mere Christianity, (and I believe it was in this book, however, I might be wrong) where he stated that theology was not the thing itself, i.e. Christ and His cross, but merely a road map, a place to guide you in times of spiritual weirdness.

At the time I was attending a PCUSA church that was bitten by the bug of "American Evangelicalism." Everything was about mission, and not only the mission of evangelism (although that is what they considered it all to be), or assisting the poor (although that was apart of their mission budget), but this was something different altogether. Their mission was about getting people in the door by whatever means possible. One could think this a good thing, especially if the pastor ministered the Law and Gospel from the pulpit, but that never seemed to happen. What's funny, is that I am now reminded of Walther's words from his great book, Law and Gospel, where he says:
But suppose some one could truthfully say, “There was no false teaching in my sermon,” still his entire sermon may have been wrong. Can that be true?...Note this well. When you hear some sectarian preach, you may say, “What he said was the truth,” and yet you do not feel satisfied. Here is the key for unlocking this mystery: the preacher did not rightly divide Law and Gospel, and hence everything went wrong. He preached Law where he should have preached Gospel, and he offered Gospel truth where he should have presented the Law. 
(The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Thesis II, C.F.W. Walther)
Almost all the sermons were about becoming a better person, with a little Gospel thrown in the mix for good measure. Mentioning sin with too much emphasis, or lingering on the real problem (i.e. original sin) for too long was considered something of a bad idea, because it would drive people out the door you see. Something about this way of practicing Christianity seemed suspicious, underhanded even, for when I compared what was going at the pulpit, to that which was going on in my Bible, two different pictures emerged.

It was around that time I began reading Lewis, especially Mere Christianity, and saw that the problem I was having regarding the different representations of Christianity, and everyone's apparent blindness to the problem, had to do with the knowledge (or lack thereof) regarding ancient theology and scripture in the modern Church. I became of the opinion that many mainstream Protestant Churches had drifted terribly off course, and were far from their father's theology. So, at that point I began devouring everything "theological" in sight. I was reading materials by Calvinists, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Catholics even, because I wanted something deep, not the surface mumbo-jumbo I was being fed from the pulpit each Sunday.

My father had, at that time, been going through some theological exploration of his own. He was raised a Presbyterian, and in the years to come became overtly Calvinistic in his theology. However, his Calvinism was causing him some issues of his own, mainly with double predestination and the assurance of salvation. By a fortuitous trip to England he and I had taken, where he scored some "out of print" Luther's Works, and also by a friend at his work who suggested he go to a LCMS Church, things began to change for him. It was then he began mining the riches of Lutheran theology, which was a great challenge to his Calvinism, yet Lutheranism won out in the end. I'm happy to say that he's been assured of his salvation ever since, praise God!

Likewise, he kept feeding me Lutheran materials he had printed from the internet. Three-ring binders full of material, one after another he gave me, along with a copy of Luther's Small Catechism which I began to read daily. This flow of material from many different streams of theological sources were beginning to do my head in due to the apparent contradictions between them, but yet, I pressed on.

Also, around this time I had been going through a lot personal turmoil and soul searching due to the circumstances of my life. One day, when everything felt like it was lost, I read an issue of Modern Reformation (a magazine which claims to be an ecumenical journal for all churches born of the reformation, but whose center of gravity, nevertheless, is thoroughly pitted in Geneva), and the subject was about suffering in the world, and God's role in it. This was about a year or so after 9-11, so it seemed an appropriate subject still fresh on everyone's mind.

This issue was pretty good because it appeared every theological discipline whose roots where from the reformation were represented. Also, I'd be remiss in not mentioning that up until this time, there were some aspects of Lutheranism I couldn't quite get through my thick skull, such as: the Lord's Supper, Baptismal Regeneration, were they (that is, Lutherans) Arminian or Calvinistic in their attitude towards a sinners role in salvation (as if these were the only two options), etc.

However, one article (it's a good article, you should give it read) in particular caught my attention, written by Pastor Bill Cwirla, a Lutheran pastor of the LCMS Church, and it was about suffering and the "hiddenness" of God in suffering (i.e. theology of the cross). Also around this time I had read Luther's, The Heidelberg Disputation, something which left my head spinning. Yet, this article seemed to make sense of it all.

I can't explain to you what it was like, because I can't explain it to myself even, but everything seemed to fall into place with the cross of Christ and His suffering at the center; the Lord's Supper, Baptismal Regeneration, the bondage of the will to sin, etc. It was a like a torrent of understanding mysteriously aligned everything in my head regarding Christianity in general, and Lutheranism in particular, and there were no more loose ends. It was from that moment forward I knew I was home, I knew I was Lutheran.

Now, my experiences this semester weren't quite on par with that one, but the feelings which sprung up from within were definitely from the same well. However, it is seven years later, and do I still have the same intensity of feeling in regards to Lutheran theology? No. Don't get me wrong, I love Lutheranism because it delivers me the Gospel better than any other denomination I've been to, but the intensity of that original feeling is definitely not there. And so, I suspect also that the intensity of my feelings for physics at this time will dissipate as well.

What is this feeling?

Passion would be the only way I could describe it. Not passion in the sense that we sacrifice some things for other things we love (we all do that everyday to a certain degree), no, what I'm talking about is a feeling so strong for something, that you would withhold sleep to take it in more completely because there isn't enough hours in the day to satisfy yourself. It is your waking thought, and  it is in the last flutterings of your mind before you sleep.

Some might think it extreme to talk like this, and it is in certain sense, but our passions are extreme. Look at a drug addict, a young couple in love, a mother or father's love for their child, an over-devoted employee, an obsessed care-taker, an over-acheiving student, what have you, all of these different walks of life have something in common, they are all passionate to the point of personal detriment. Now granted, some of these walks of life are more productive than others, I don't mean to judge them in such a manner, I only wish to point out that their feeling of passion is relative to each other.

Well then, who is it really hurting?

Interesting choice of words, because passion has been know to cause pain. Heck, the root of the word passion is "passio", which in Latin means "to suffer." So, when I speak of passion, I also speak of suffering. But what am I suffering if I obsess my thoughts upon physics, theology, or the pursuit of knowledge in general? Here follows my profundity (tongue firmly implanted in cheek).

In the beginning of a thing I feel intense passion, for instance; when I met my wife (then girlfriend), I couldn't keep my mind off of her. Yet, as time wore on, the passion that was once there, unfortunately, is not as strong as either of us would hope for now. However, why would we hope for such a passion after these few years? After all, I love my family, you could say I am compassionate for them, and the love is still there even if the intense passion is gone. Well, I'll tell you why we search for such passionate intensity, because it feels good. It motivates us, it brings our hearts to life, it quickens our pulse.

One might ask, "what's wrong with that?" I would answer, where is that intensity after a lengthy period of time?

You see, in physics there is something called entropy, and according to the free internet dictionary it defines it as being:

1. Symbol S For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.
2. A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.
3. A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.
4. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.
5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.
So, entropy is the subtraction of heat (i.e. what is caused by the electromagnetic force of friction as it effects molecules in motion) from an isolated system. The perfect example is something like a cup of coffee left in a moderately temperate room, eventually the heat will dissipate from the water because the intense motion of the water molecules will be slowed down by the cooler temperature of the room. Hotter things dissipate because of colder things because colder things invade and slow down hotter things. This will happen until there is an equilibrium between the coffee in the cup and the atmospheric temperature outside of it. In a grander sense, this is a fate that will meet us all, because the universe is cooling rapidly (at least rapidly in an astronomical sense) and all of the elements in the universe will end in a state similar to iron (iron is the measurement of equilibrium for the universe). You might call this a "heat-death" of the universe.

This is similar to the passion in us all. Initially it is intense and moving furiously within us, compelling us to do things we wouldn't normally do, then, it dissipates with time, usurped with other passions later on in life. Our passions are dying a "heat death" all there own.

Why? What is killing them?

Well, as St. Augustine said, "Thou hast created us for Thyself [i.e. God] and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee." In us all there is a God shaped void. We are restless until it is filled, thus, we fill it with these passions, with idols of our own creation, and, for a time they suffice. But they do not suffice in any everlasting sense.

Why?

St. Paul in the book of Romans, 7th chapter, says:
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
What does he mean here when he speaks of the Law?

The whole of the Law can be summed up in these two things: love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, body, soul, and strength; and love thy neighbor as thyself. One is the first table of the Law, and the other the second. The first table addresses mans relation to God, and the second addresses mans relation to his fellow man. However, both tables lead to the same source, you might even say the most supreme commandment of them all, namely:


Thou shalt have no other gods.
What does this mean?
--Answer.
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
(Luther's Small Catechism)


All of the Law leads to this, whether it is known by anyone or unknown. This Law was woven into the very fabric of creation, and the only reason anyone's ignorant to it is because of the curse of original sin. However, the motivations of our hearts are unto this end continually, and, as St. Augustine says, "our hearts will not rest until they rest in thee."

Besides, ignorance of the Law is no excuse, for if anyone operates as under the Law, yet does not fulfill it, they too are under its curse. If we do not "fear, love, and trust in God above all things," we are ruined since all things are unto this end. This is why our passions are dying a heat death as it were, for the things we are passionate for, even if we are faithful Christians, are never for the "fear, love, and trust in God above all things." So by our passions, by our lusts in the material things, or in wisdom, or in strength, whatever it maybe, it is always rooted in ourselves and never in God, and thus it kills us.

Does this make God's Law evil?

The answer is an emphatic no! Here is why:
Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Romans 7:13
Yet, why would God want to make us exceedingly sinful, wouldn't he be causing evil so that good may come?

I would say from a human perspective that would be correct, however, what we should be concerned with is not a human perspective, but a divine one (or at least as much as we are capable in a human sense). You see, what we consider good for us, and what God considers good for us are two different things.

For example, what if a patient who has a cancer, that is on the verge of becoming terminal, that is unless the patient is treated right away, whose doctor told them that everything is okay, go on, drink and be merry; would that be a good thing for the doctor to do? No. They should tell the patient as it is.

So it is with God, except that the patient (us) is terminal with original sin and is completely convinced, regardless of everything he feels, that he's fine, that he doesn't need to take God's direction.

Does a family member tell a drug addicted sibling that their behavior is alright, go on, keep doing drugs? No, they pull the bottom out by doing an intervention so that the drug addicted family member can finally see how artificial and empty their lives have become.

So it is with God, by letting us know that we are "addicted" to sin, so to speak.

And, in many cases He lets us come to the utter end of ourselves to show us that we are not infinite and in control, but that He is God and we are not. That we are completely out of control and defective to the core of our being by our sinful depravities. But in all this, He only does it for our own good. He only does this to bring us to the foot of the cross to learn from our Savior how depraved we actually are. It is there on Christ's cross where the fruit of our labors is on display for everyone to see. It is there were Jesus payed an infinite debt to his father in our place, a debt we could never pay. And, in the end it is at the throne of the slain Lamb in judgment that ALL shall see what their sinful works, good, bad or indifferent, which they have rendered.

However, none of this should frighten us too long, for all of Christs works are now ours. God in his mercy and long-suffering gave us the perfect life Christ lived (and still lives) out of His love for people who by nature hate Him

Go in peace, but know that your passions also wound Christ, even passions that lead to good things. Only good people can do good things, and evil people evil things. No one is good, not one, and all our deeds, the good, the bad, the ugly are evil. However, our Father has made us good by the deeds of Christ. It is in Him, By Him, and through Him that any good is done in the world. Thanks be to God!

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