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Atheists in Great Britain are seeking to become "de-baptized".
Michael Evans, an atheist, believes infant baptism to be "a form of child abuse". That's right, his parents who most likely treated him with nothing but kindness their entire lives took that early moment, which I'm sure he didn't remember to begin with, to viciously attack them with the cool waters of baptism. Please! Heaven forbid if his parents actually gave him a bath! What torture!
What these heathens do not understand, is that baptism, although performed by a pastor, priest, etc., in a particular church, may seem like something that is wrought by one man upon another, is really nothing but an act of mercy and blessing through regeneration on behalf of the Holy Spirit to man, and not vice-versa. Therefore, the regeneration brought about by baptism is something which no man has the power to rescind. Like it or not baptism is with us until the day we die and neither man nor demon can take this objective reality away from us. However, to him who does not believe in his Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus and His vicarious atonement on our behalf, will find that his baptism has been of no personal benefit, because justification comes by grace, through faith in Christ alone, none of which can be received apart from God's Word. It's safe to say I believe this man, and anyone in the NSS organization, has not taken comfort in God's Word as their actions betray. As a matter of fact, God's Word, His sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper cause them quite a bit of discomfort. Why?
I mean, what's the big deal about us silly Christians sprinkling a bit of water on the heads of infants, or eating a wafer and drinking wine? At least from an outsiders perspective they would appear to be foolish, meaningless ceremonies from an ancient, and irrelevant religion. What's the big deal? Seriously atheists, answer me this one question, what's the big deal?
Arguing for the Calvinist side is Frank Turk, an "internet apologist", and, obviously, a Calvinist.
Arguing for the Lutheran side is Pr. Stuart Wood, who is one of the instruments of God's use in putting this blog together in the first place, and also a good friend to boot.
Please give a look-see!
See how long you can stomach it.
Click here to read the article.
One commentator, an atheist who writes for the Examiner, regarding this case stated,
Indiana LCMS Pastors Convince Congregations to Relinquish Voter Supremacy
Rev. Jack Cascione Reclaimnews@earthlink.net
Sacerdotal LCMS pastors are circulating a Romanist congregational constitution to Indiana congregations. The goal is to convince the congregations to give up Voter Supremacy and their God-given right to exercise the Office of the Keys.
This new constitution takes away the Voters’ Assembly’s right to judge doctrine, decide who is a member of the congregation, and vote on matters of excommunication. It also takes away the Voters’ right to manage their own property.
In addition to the Romanist constitution these pastors are making a bogus claim that changes in Indiana law make it dangerous for LCMS congregations to maintain Voter Supremacy. They are claiming that Professor Richard Nuffer (also an attorney) who teaches at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne IN, endorses their recommendations to disenfranchise LCMS Voters’ Assemblies with their new constitution.
These LCMS pastors claim that the solution for “legal protection” from rulings by the Indiana Supreme Court is to have a Board of Deacons govern the congregation in place of the Voters’ Assembly.
This “new” constitution has the approval of the Indiana District. This is further evidence that the LCMS is abandoning Walther’s “Church and Ministry.”
They also claim that C. F. W. Walther, the founder of the LCMS, wasn’t following a Biblical model by promoting Voter Supremacy and an elected Church Council. Thus, the LCMS has not been following the Bible since its founding in 1847
Luther teaches exactly the opposite when he writes: “The right to judge and pronounce on matters of doctrine belongs to each and every Christian, so much so that he is doing an accursed thing who impairs this right by a hairbreadth”. (Luther XIX: 341) Pieper Vol. I Page 350,
“With particular vehemence the Roman theologians denounced the Scripture teaching that also ‘laymen’ could and should judge doctrine on the basis of Scripture.” Pieper Vol. I Page 351.
Pieper (Pages 351-353) quotes John Gerhard’s response to the papists who claimed laypeople should follow their shepherds even if the shepherd is wrong:
The Anti-Lutheran Jesuit Theologian Bellarmine (1542-1621) writes: “The uneducated people cannot judge the doctrine of their shepherds otherwise than by comparing it with the doctrine of their predecessors and the regular shepherds.”
John Gerhard (1582-1637) answers for the Lutherans: “I answer: The example of the Bereans shows that this is wrong; they daily searched the Scriptures, inquiring carefully whether these things were so that were proclaimed by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 17:11); they set up as norm of judgment not the doctrine of the regular shepherds, but the Holy Scriptures, and for this they were commended by the Holy Spirit. . . . When Christ, the Prophets, and the Apostles performed their ministry of teaching here on earth, they preached not only to the learned, but also the unlearned, in such a manner that they were understood by all; why, then, should the writings of the Prophets and Apostles be so obscure and perplexing that the unlearned people could not in any way judge them?”
Bellarmine writes: “But if the people could of themselves pass judgment on the doctrine of the shepherd, they would not need preachers.”
John Gerhard: “I answer: That is an illogical conclusion. Both things are commanded by God; that the people pass judgment on the doctrine of the shepherd—which Bellarmine a while in ago in definite words conceded to the people—and that there are to be nevertheless ministers in the Church, ‘they are not all teachers’ (1Cor. 12:29; Eph. 4:11). It is one thing to inquire into the truth of the doctrine and know the difference between heresy and orthodoxy, between false prophets and true teachers; this is the general call, which belongs to all Christians. It is another thing to teach publicly in the Church; that is a special call. We do not make shepherds of the sheep, but demand that they be and remain sheep; however, we do not want them to be brute sheep, which neither can nor should distinguish between shepherds and wolves. The Papists make their hearers brute sheep, which follow a shepherd without discretion, not asking whether he leads them to noxious pastures or changes himself into a wolf; they make the hearers parrots which hang on the nod of the prelates, and of the prelates they make angels, which are infallible and accountable to no one . . . . The reason which Bellarmine adds is plainly Anti-Christian: ‘When the appointed shepherd and one who is not called teach things which are contrary to each other, the people should by all means rather follow their shepherd than him who is not a shepherd, even if it should chance that the shepherd erred.’ But it is wrong that the people ought to follow the appointed shepherd when he errs; for this would be nothing else than to command the sheep to follow their shepherd also to noxious pastures, to ask the Christians to prefer darkness to light, error to truth, human regulations to divine authority.”
Following are excerpts from the letter written by Rev. Phil Meyer being circulated in the Indiana District of the LCMS to convince lay people to give up Voter Supremacy:
Meyer writes: “The event which pushed us to consider a new constitution and bylaws was a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana which [is] no longer according churches organized around Articles of Association the legal protections it once did. . . .It became clear that we needed to protect the congregation legally, and this gave us a chance to look once again at our current constitution and bylaws.”
This is a straw-man argument with no basis in fact. Meyer fails to give one example from the Indiana Supreme Court that removes “the legal protections it once did?”
Since its founding in 1847, the LCMS has published sample constitutions for its member congregations based on voter polity. At no time has this placed any congregation in any legal jeopardy. Such a blatant misrepresentation also means that any secular or church organization based on “Robert’s Rules of Order” could no longer function under the protection of the law in the United States.
“In most congregations the Voters’ Assembly is a rather small and unrepresentative group of people who make decisions which impact the whole congregation.”
Pastor Meyer may as well say that preaching is bad in so many congregations so let’s get rid of preaching. The practice of congregational Voters’ Assemblies as taught by Walther included all men over the age of 21. This was always the intent of Lutheran teaching and practice according to Luther. "That A Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and To Call, Appoint, And Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture" (Luther’s Works American Edition Vol. 37: Pages 303 to 314.)
Meyer writes: “In some congregations Voters’ Assemblies have voted to dismiss pastors for reasons that have no basis in Holy Scripture.”
Two wrongs don’t make a right. We may as well say that in some congregations, pastors have abused their office, so let’s get rid of all pastors.
Meyer writes: “Therefore, we must always remember that the authority in any Christian congregation is not the Pastor or the Church Council or the Voters’ Assembly, but our Lord Jesus Christ alone [Colossians 1.18] who rules his people through his Word alone.”
Here is where Pastor Meyer shows himself to be a Sacerdotalist by making himself the sole interpreter of God’s Word in the congregation. The Church is the congregation of saints where the Gospel is taught in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution. The Pastoral Office is not one of the marks of the local congregation. Since Jesus Christ hasn’t spoken to anyone on earth since John wrote Revelation, the voters of the local congregation have the God-given authority to judge their own doctrine and practice. "That A Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and To Call, Appoint, And Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture" (Luther’s Works American Edition Vol. 37: Pages 303 to 314.)
“Likewise Christ gives supreme and final jurisdiction to the Church, when He says: ‘Tell it unto the Church.’” Concordia Trig. 511 par. 24, also “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”, also Pieper, Vol. III, 421.
Meyer writes: “It should never be a matter of ‘voting’ because that has its roots in the Kingdom of the Left Hand. Thus, this new model seeks to minimize any abuse or concentration of power in the hands of one individual or group of individuals.”
Here Pastor Meyer tells a bald-face lie. Voting in the church has its roots in the Bible.
Voting has its roots in the Bible.
"How much more, then, does not a certain community as a whole have both right and command to commit BY COMMON VOTE such an office to one or more, to be exercised in its stead. With the approval of the community these might then delegate the office to others." Luther’s Works 40:36
“A Christian, thus, is born to the ministry of the Word in baptism, and if papal bishops are unwilling to bestow the ministry of the Word except on such as destroy the Word of God and ruin the church, then it but remains either to let the church perish without the Word or to let those who come together CAST THEIR BALLOTS and elect one or as many as are needed of those who are capable." [2Tim. 2; Acts 18: 24ff; 1Cor.14: 30; Ti.1: 6ff.] Luther’s Works 40:37
"Neither Titus nor Timothy nor Paul ever instituted a priest without the CONGREGATION'S ELECTION AND CALL." Luther’s Works 39:312
"Again, we even read in Acts 4 [6:1-6] regarding an even lesser office, that the apostles were not permitted to institute a person as deacon without the knowledge and consent of the congregation. Rather, THE CONGREGATION ELECTED AND CALLED the seven deacons, and the apostles confirmed them." Luther’s Works 39:312
Lenski p. 1151
“Acts 20:4 names seven men, and no doubt all of them were appointed by VOTE.” Lenski translates 2Cor.8: 19 as follows: ..., “and not only (this), but who also was VOTED as our travel companion in this grace which is being ministered by us to show (pros) the Lord’s glory and our own readiness, (thereby) avoiding that anyone blame us in this bounty which is being ministered by us.”
"[The Greek word] ‘cheirotoneo’ means to vote by holding up the hand. The supposition that a number of churches could not thus vote for a man is unwarranted. His name was proposed in church after church, and because of his splendid reputation all voted for him to be their representative.”
Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich: “A Greek -English Lexicon of the New Testament” p. 889, the first meaning for “cheirotoneo” is “choose, elect by raising hands..."
Kittel: “A Theological Dictionary of the New Testament” in Vol. IX, p. 437, has the first meaning for “cheirotoneo, ” “1. Raising the hand to express agreement in a vote....” It also gives numerous citations from ancient Greek literature.
Liddell & Scott: “A Greek-English Lexicon Revised” published by Oxford states, “‘cheirotoneo’ means ‘Stretch out the hand, for the purpose of giving one’s vote in the assembly....’” There are also voluminous citations from ancient Greek literature supporting this interpretation on p. 1,986.
Moulton & Milligan: “The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and other Non-Literary Sources,” “cheirotoneo” means “Stretch out the hand,” then “elect by show of hands....” It also cites examples from the Early Church regarding election and ordination.
Francis Pieper: “Christian Dogmatics,” CPH, St. Louis, 1953, Volume III p. 453 “More over, the word used Acts 14:23, “cheirotoneo,” clearly states that in ordaining the elders a vote or election by the congregation took place. . . . Meyer adds: ‘The analogy of Acts 6:2-6 demands this connotation of the word ‘chosen,’ a word that, taken from the ancient method of voting by raising of hands, occurs only here and 2Cor. 8:19 in the New Testament, and this analogy forbids the wider sense. . . [appointed, placed] in the ordination of presbyters, . . . [and also forbids] ‘so that the appointment took place entirely by Apostolic authority (Loehe)’ . . . . Most arbitrarily false the Catholics: [who say] it referred to the [laying on of hands] in the ordination of presbyters.’ History shows, too, that for a long time in the Church of the first centuries public ministers were appointed by congregational vote. The remark of the Smalcald Articles: ‘Formerly the people elected pastors and bishops’ (Trigl. 525, ibid., 70), can be proved to be historically correct.”
Meyer writes: “The Deacons are chosen to the Council of Deacons but not to a specific board. This helps the Deacons recognize that they represent the entire congregation and not a certain constituency or committee.”
Any layman who would agree to give up his right to judge doctrine to a deacon or any other office in the church is willing to give up his birthright as Esau gave his birthright up to Jacob for the sake of expediency. The layman who doesn’t know about Esau and Jacob is an ignorant dolt who deserves to be enslaved by the Papacy with a ring in his nose, while he kisses the Pope’s feet. It would be better to let the U. S. Congress pick their own Congressmen than for lay people to give up their God-given right to judge doctrine and choose officers by direct nomination and vote in their own church.
Meyer writes: “We have been most careful to guard the physical assets of the congregation in the event of division and/or dissolution so that there be a God-pleasing outcome. The congregation shall retain sole control of her physical assets [buildings, property, endowment funds, etc.]. No outside body [District or Synod] may come in and seize the physical assets should a division take place on account of doctrine.”
This is just plain fear-mongering. Who is going to take their property? Give us a quote. If anything, the congregation in this new constitution loses its control over its property because the Voters’ Assembly is no longer the supreme judge over its own doctrine, practice, and property.
Meyer writes: “We have researched the various items in this document thoroughly. We have sought the counsel of Professor Richard Nuffer of Concordia Theological Seminary, a former practicing attorney and a member of our District’s Constitutional Committee, the body which shall have to approve this document.”
Nuffer should be removed from the faculty at Fort Wayne for teaching false doctrine about Walther’s “Church and Ministry.” Nuffer is opposed to Voter Supremacy, the official practice of the LCMS as taught by Walther’s “Church and Ministry.” Walther’s teaching and practice is directed at both the Kingdom on the Left and the Kingdom on the Right. The congregation is the final judge of all activity in its sphere.
Walther also regularly quotes Matthew 18:15-20 as textual proof for the divine institution of the Congregation in addition to the divine institution of the Voters’ Assembly. He writes in his pastoral theology: “Since, ACCORDING TO GOD’S WORD, THE CONGREGATION IS THE HIGHEST COURT WITHIN ITS CIRCLE (Matt.18:17 Col. 4:17), and the preacher has church authority only in common [one vote like every other layman] with the congregation (Matt. 20-25-26; 23:8; 1Peter.5:1-3; 2Cor.8:8), the preacher must be concerned that the congregational assembly, both regular and special ones as needed at times, be held in Christian order to consider and carry out what is necessary for its governing (Matt. 18:17; 1Cor. 5:4;2 2Cor.2;6 Acts 6:20 15:1-4, 30; 21:17-22; 1Tim.5:20).” (“Pastoral Theology” by C.F.W. Walther, CN New Haven Mo., 5th Edition 1906 page 257)
+ Pádraig of Ireland, Bishop and Missionary + 17 March AD 466
Pádraig (Patrick, Padraic), one of the best-known missionary saints, was born to a Christian family in southwest Britain around the year 389. While he was a teenager, raiders captured and took him to Ireland. There, he was forced to serve as a herdsman.
After six years he escaped and found his way, home, and then traveled to a monastery community in France. Imagine the surprise of those who knew him — even by his own reckoning, he left Britain as one who cared little for God.
With his new trust in the Lord, Patrick threw himself wholeheartedly into monastic life. Ordained a bishop in 432, he made his way back to Ireland, where he spent the rest of his long life spreading the Gospel and organizing Christian communities.
He staunchly defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity during a time when it was not popular to do so. His writings include his autobiography, Confessio, and several prayers and hymns still used in the church today.
Pádraig died around the year 466. Many people attribute the Lorica (see below) to him. One of the symbols used for Patrick in ecclesiastical art is a red Cross Saltire on a white background. This was added to the overlaid crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew to form the current Union Jack of the United Kingdom.
The legendary account of Patrick driving snakes off of the Emerald Isle is just that — a legend. There's no evidence that snakes ever slithered across Irish soil. Much more likely is the story that he used the shamrock or some other type of clover to roughly illustrate the Holy Trinity to the unconverted folk of Ireland.
If he were to return to earth in present day, one can only imagine the disdain with which this hero of the faith would view the drunken celebrations in many places which are held to "honor" his memory.
Psalm 97:1-2,7-12 or 96:1-7
1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Almighty God, in Your providence You chose your servant Pádraig to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who wandered in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of You; grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever.
The Lorica or Saint Patrick's Breastplate
I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgement hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
against the heart's idolatry,
against the wizard's evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.
Translation by Cecil Francis Alexander
This was retrieved from over at Aardvark Alley....
(P.S. - Poor St. Patrick must be rolling over in his grave at the debauchery celebrated on this day of his commemoration. Let's be sober and chaste on the day of this great saint and attempt to lead a life as noble as his.)
Come one, come all, and read about what these "English?" adherents to the "religion of peace" did to this heathen infidel who dared to speak about those peace-loving Islamists.
Read about it in this article....
Here the InternetMonk blog posts that started this whole thing.
In addition, Todd Wilken of Issues Etc., has done an interview with the author of "The Coming Evangelical Collapse", Michael Spencer. Give it a listen!
Wow! Here is some "glass-is-half-full" positive news about American Evangelicalism from Michael Spencer, columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, he says:
"We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West."
"This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good."
Ah, there's nothing like callin'em as you see'em!
Now, According to Spencer, here's why (many reasons I agree with, by the way):
"1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism."
"2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught."
"3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile."
"4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism."
"5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching."
"6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith."
Now, according to Spencer, what will be left?
"•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success."
"•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions."
"•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal."
"•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision."
"•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear."
"•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism."
"•Evangelicalism needs a "rescue mission" from the world Christian community."
"•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war."
This partly jives with an (AFP) report regarding the rise of secularism, and other reports regarding declining Church membership across the board.
The basic gist of the (AFP) press report states that:
"Secularism is gaining ground in the United States, eating away at the percentage of Americans who identify with the Protestant Christianity of the founding fathers, a poll published Monday showed."
"The percentage of Americans who adhered to no particular religion jumped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent last year, the third American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) conducted over 10 months last year by pollsters from Trinity College in Connecticut, showed."
"When the survey was conducted in 2001, 14.1 percent of respondents said they were not religious."
Now, if what these reports are stating is indeed fact, then things will definitely be a-changin' in the religious and political landscape as we know it. However, for now, I want to go back to Spencer's reasons why and expectations of things to come.
First he says, "Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism."
When he states the term "Evangelicals" I will suppose that he's referring to everything under the umbrella of "American-style Evangelicalism".
Oddly enough, much of the "culture war" phenomena was started by the family values oriented LDS Church. Only since the late sixties, following the social and political upheaval of the times did the fundamentalists jump on board and try to "take back culture", as if they had owned it at one time or another, or that it's theirs by right or something. Now we have organizations like Focus on the Family, and Campus Crusades for Christ, etc., who follow more of a "deeds not creeds" mentality, which believes nothing more than civil righteousness as God pleasing acts. That's when you hear guys such as Hagee, or Robertson, et. al, claim that when any calamity which befalls the United States is a just punishment from God because of the immoral republic. These guys are classic theologians of glory, God rewards good behavior and punishes evil behavior, therefore when anything bad happens to the nation, it's because of the immorality of its people. Yet, these guys fail to see that everything, even the good things man does is nothing but evil. and for a better explanation on this point see thesis 6, and proof from the Heidelberg disputation.
As for the political element of it all, it is frankly disturbing. It is right for everyone outside the fray of Evangelicalism to look with a jaundiced eye at the gland-hand, Christian, political action committee lobbyists who cozy up with politicians in hopes of affecting some legislation favorable to their side. One hasn't seen such coziness between Church and State since the 15th century, and heaven forbid you tell a fundamentalist that he resembles the papacy, for he's sure to respond, "but I don't pray to Mary or the Saints, or go to confession, or believe the Pope is infallible", as if this "style-over-substance" were the only thing that separates us from Rome.
Later he says, "[w]e Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught."
I'll assume, once again, that when he speaks of "orthodox" that he's speaking of Churches rooted in Biblical doctrine and the Word of God. If this is the case, then I must say that I agree with him. The discipline, or lack thereof, regarding American Churches in passing on their faith, correctly mind you, in favor of the "happy-clappy" style of worship and personal devotion, has showed itself highly inferior to secularist intellectuals, especially when a young Christian is faced with it on their college campus.
Regarding what Spencer is anticipating for the Evangelicalism to come, he said, "[e]xpect [it] to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches...."
Oh no, not more of this! I suppose though if people are going to reject the Gospel and sound Biblical doctrine, not that the current American Evangelical Churches necessarily teach such things, but the masses will still need an idol of "Christian-Lite", you know, heavy on pop-psychology and lite on doctrine, to get them through. I just wish this won't be the case, but I'll suppose we'll see.
Later he says, "[t]wo of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions."
Well, this is already an occurring phenomenon. Please see my article here, and response to that article here where I wrote about, and then communicated with a Fr. Hackney who converted from the LCMS to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Also, another more notable case is that of Christian Apologist Francis Beckwith, who converted from (I'm not exactly sure what Church body he was originally affiliated with, but it was something akin to American Evangelicalism, I think, but please don't quote me on that) to Roman Catholicism.
So, I guess if people grow disgusted by "content-less", "un-historic" Christianity then it would make some sense for someone to gravitate towards something with a tremendous weight of history and meaningful tradition.
All-in-all no one knows what the future holds, and as for me, I'm with Luther (in more ways than just this one) when he says, and I paraphrase, "if someone knew beyond the shadow of a doubt the world were to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today." So, in regard to crumbling Church movements, where crumblings have actually happened, and rumors of crumblings are supposed to happen, we, that is Confessional Orthodox Lutherans must preach the Gospel to lost and broken souls today.
(But then again maybe there's something to all this, perhaps this is what Dave Wilkerson was talking about on his blog. But then again, maybe not.)
Today we look at thesis five of the Heidelberg Disputation, it states:
The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
It is here we delve deeper into how God works through man, and, more especially how these works of God relate to the so-called “righteous-capabilities” of man.
For the sake of illustration, let’s pretend a pro-angler was given a rod made of the weakest, rotted-through, worm-eaten balsa wood one could find. Also, instead of high-test string, he was given a spool of over-cooked spaghetti in its place. And, just to make the example a little more absurd, let's just forget about any kind of bait altogether. Yet, in spite of these impossible disadvantages this experienced fisherman miraculously catches a glorious 15 pound Bass! How he manages to do such a thing is beyond us, but, nevertheless he does it. Now, would we marvel at the fisherman and his ability to pull off such an amazing feet, or would we give all praise to the rod?
Given the knowledge of all the particulars it's kind of a stupid question right? Well not so fast, for what's truly amazing is how many people would actually give praise to the rod. Let me explain.
While many would give lip-service praise to God for the ability to do any kind of good thing, they would still be understood as a “good” person, and perhaps accept praise for as much. It's as if the goodness of the work derives itself from, and is attributed to the person, instead of the source of all goodness, which is none other than God himself.
The perfect example of this is seen at any kind of awards gala. The person receiving recognition, perhaps may give thanks to God, but in the end, the event is not about our Lord, it is about the people receiving the award. So, in many cases, after giving lip service to God, they then recite a seemingly endless list of people they thank, people they could’ve never accomplished such and such an act without, all the while never thanking God for putting these very same people into their lives to help in the first place. While it may be true that a person could never do a certain thing without help of another, nevertheless, the help they receive, whether it is from natural circumstances or helping hand from without, ultimately comes from God, does it not? And, as for the people who are attending, to them this is not a worship service for God, but for the people of honor, the people whom this benefit is for.
Unfortunately, it's not much different in the church either. In a PC-USA Presbyterian church, a church I was once a member of, it was, and probably still is common practice for the congregation to clap wildly in appreciation for any kind of soloist (instrumental or vocal), for the choir, or for the children’s skit (regrettably during worship), what have you, as if the congregation was at some kind of concert hooting and hollering for their favorite pop-star! One time, during a “Wide-Open-Worship” service I was regrettably attending (notice the clever acronym W.O.W.), the “worship-leader” felt a little embarrassed (perhaps a guilt-pang of conscience maybe) by all the praise she was receiving, and to alleviate some of this “embarrassment” she praised and encouraged the audience to continue giving “claps for Jesus”.
So, it's easy to see that from the secular world all the way into the pews of our local congregation that it's quite common to obey our natural urges and praise the works of men, but not the God who gives us the ability to do any of these works in the first place. However, that's not really all that this thesis is trying to get at, as a matter of fact, it is but a small part, for the focus of this thesis is on what man observes as a good and “sinless” work.
The thesis presumes the bondage of man to sin (Rom. 3:10-18) as the only thing he's capable of doing in any active sense, even when the outcome is good, or the observation of the act appears right to human eyes. Yet, it is really by God working through us in a passive sense that any good is procured or made manifest through the work itself, and subsequently the work we actively do still remains sinful because of our bound nature. Here is Luther describing it beautifully in his own words regarding the proof for this thesis, and he states:
“In Eccles. 7[:20], we read, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” In this connection, however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: “If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words?” or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.” Why does he add “who does good,” as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus [Prov. 24:16], “The righteous man falls seven times a day.” Here he does not say, “A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good.” This is a comparison. If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.”
So, what does this all point back to? Well, what it points back to is that man, in his natural state, cannot see things as they really are. God is hidden to him, and is hidden to him by an act of mans evil will. When He, that is God, works in the world it's as if He wears masks, scary, ugly masks that effectively work in making God look like a devil, or a fool (not that this is or isn't necessarily his intention). Man's erring reason assumes that because Gods works appear evil or foolish is that it's because He is an evil fool. However, this is only man averting his eyes from the truth, for the evilness that seems to come about by God's work is really better likened to a master working with a poor instrument, which is nothing but Him working through us or fallen nature, both of which are a consequence of original sin.
Conversely, when we see a ray of light in the ordinarily ugly actions of man we are quick to attribute it to the “indwelling goodness” of that individual. Yet, once again this is simply man unwilling to look at his own evil nature, and willfully denying that he's incapable of doing anything other than actively sinning.
So, here we are once again, looking at the nature of God and the nature of man confusing ultimately what is plainly visible with what is hidden, and what is plainly good with what is evil. Why? Well, it basically boils down to this, we can't bare to look at ourselves as we really are. The only way we can possibly do that is by looking at our reflection in the mirror of God's Law, and even doing that causes us to retract in horror, so much so, that we pray to never do it again. You see, in this reflection we will see someone who so richly deserves the full wrath of God that the only punishment to suffice would be public humiliation, flogging, permanent alienation from God, and hanging cursed on a tree until death, nevertheless before our family, friends, and fellow countrymen.
If you ask me how I know this, then I must answer that this is the very death my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died in my stead. I know this because, according to the Scripture, my sin is now His, and His righteousness is now mine. This cruel death and punishment He took in my place. The humiliation I deserve He endured. The flogging He received was on account of my sins. And the curse of hanging on a tree, which Christ received was truly the curse that was solely unto me alone.
God did to His own Son what He vowed to never do to us.(Heb. 13:5) The forsaken nature of Christ on the cross at calvary was always meant for me, but because Christ took it upon Himself, I never have to question God's favor towards me. Whenever I feel forsaken of God I can always look back to Christ on the cross and know, confidently, that Christ was forsaken of God once and for all, and especially for me from all eternity. Yet, not only me, but for the whole world as well. Christ has made all things new, and in Him we are no longer made in the likeness of our first father Adam, but in the likeness of the Son of God, restored unto the very likeness of God himself.
Yet, do I not still look into the mirror of God's Law and see this wretched man? Of course I do, we all do! However, in spite of what we see, always know that God's Law is a two-way mirror, while, yes, you cannot help but see your hideous reflection, God, when looking through the other side at us, also can't help but see the resplendent beauty of Christ's righteousness in our place. He no longer sees us as our true selves; He sees us nothing other than His very own Son. So, let us then rest in the peace of our Lord, perceiving nothing but Christ and Him crucified for our sins just like our Father in heaven perceives our image through nothing but His blessed holiness. Once this right perception of things unseen is restored, then, and only then can we apprehend correctly the divine mysteries of our God in heaven.
Bible Passage:Gal 3:10
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them. Gal. 3:10.
* * *
Here we see that the curse is, as it were, a flood swallowing up whatsoever is without Abraham; that is to say, without faith and the promise of the blessing of Abraham. Now, if the Law itself, given by Moses at the commandment of God, makes them subject to the curse who are under it, much more shall the laws and traditions so do, that are devised by man. He, therefore, that will avoid the curse, must lay hold upon the promise of blessing, or upon the faith of Abraham, or else he shall remain under the curse. Upon this place "shall be blessed in thee," it follows that all nations, whether they were before Abraham, in his time, or after him, are accursed, and shall abide under the curse forever, unless they be blessed in the faith of Abraham, unto whom the promise of the blessing was given to be published by his seed throughout the whole world. Here nothing is handled as touching civil laws, manners, or matters political (which are the ordinances of God, and good things, and the Scripture elsewhere approves and commends the same), but of a spiritual righteousness, by which we are justified before God and are called the children of God. This spiritual righteousness, excluding the Law and all works, looks only unto the grace and blessing which is given by Christ, as it was promised to Abraham and by him believed. Now, if we hope to receive this blessing by Christ alone, then it follows necessarily that it is not received by the Law. They, therefore, who are under the Law are not blessed, but remain under the curse.
Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing His bleeding love.
Anyway, here are some pictures of the 10,000 year old artifacts found in rural Kurdistan (Iraq).
Labels: Biblical archaeology
(This is from the website LCMS sermons; you can get this sent to your e-mail everyday if you wish.)
Bible Passage:Gal 3:9
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Gal. 3:9.
* * *
All the weight and force of this passage lies in the words, "With faithful Abraham." For he puts a plain difference between Abraham and Abraham. As if we said, 'There is a working and a believing Abraham.' With the working Abraham we have nothing to do, for if he is justified by works, he may boast, but not before God. Let the Jews glory as much as they will of that begetting Abraham who is a worker, who is circumcised, and keeps the Law; but we glory in the faithful Abraham, of whom the Scripture says that he received the blessing of righteousness through his faith, not only for himself, but also for all those which believe as he did. Therefore all the world is blessed; that is to say, receives the imputation of righteousness, if it believes as Abraham did. Wherefore the blessing is nothing else but the promise of the Gospel. It was indeed a great glory that Abraham received circumcision at the commandment of God, that he was endued with excellent virtues, that he obeyed God in all things, as it is also great virtue to follow the example of Christ working, to love your neighbor, to pray for your enemies; but all this avails nothing toward righteousness before God. Paul speaks here of Christ redeeming and Abraham believing, and not of Christ giving example or of Abraham working.
Look unto Him, ye nations; own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone.
Be justified by grace.
Please excuse the appearance of my blog, as I am reassembling it after a colossal blunder.
If you run a blog on blogger, and, for some reason you get the idea to download one of those free templates made independently by other users on sites other than blogger, and you happen to know nothing about code, like myself, don't even attempt to install it.
That is, unless, you like to rebuild your blog from scratch.
This is Fr. Daniel Hackney's response to the article I wrote about him and his turn toward the Eastern Orthodox Church:
I am Father Daniel Hackney. Drew I would like to commend you for your zeal for the faith in relativistic times such as these. I discern that you are a man of conviction, thus I will invest this time in reply to your posting. However if you or anyone would like to talk further, you may contact me at email@example.com. However, I prefer to speak on the phone, since e-mail is such a limited way to communicate (devoid of sound, intonation and the like).
First of all, you are now hearing from Father Daniel Hackney himself. In your posting you were reacting to an article about Father Daniel, but for anyone who has been interviewed by a newspaper you know that what ends up in print does not always accurately quote or capture the essence of the interview (mine was about thirty minutes long). This is analogous to trying to react to or understand Jesus by reacting to an article written by the Jesus Seminar about Jesus. And yes I know that I am no Jesus.
Some germane examples of what I am talking from this article are that my family "lapsed" from attending church before I was born (not after). Thus I was not raised in any particular liturgical or non-liturgical atmosphere. Accordingly, I did not begin to attend church until I was seventeen years old. Yes, it was a “Jesus movement” church, but it was a stable one as far as they were at that time: No hyper-spirituality or over the top manifestations or the like.
Next, it is true that after high school, I entered a college affiliated with the Assemblies of God, but during my first year there I started worshipping at an Episcopal church, and became a conservative Anglo-Catholic shortly thereafter. Some four years later I became Lutheran. Thus out of the twenty-eight years that I have been attending church, twenty-three of them have been spent worshipping in a “western-rite” liturgical service. Its hymns, prayers and scripture readings have shaped most of my Christian experience. I am thankful for that.
I could go on about inaccuracies in the article that you referenced; nevertheless, I believe the reporter did the best he could. But I can assure you that much of my time was spent in the conversation talking doctrine and praxis. Anyone who knows me (and many good Lutheran pastors do) knows that I care foremost about “taking heed to my doctrine, for in so doing I will save both myself and my hearers”.
In my ten years of pastoral ministry, I shunned away from writing articles for publication. I instead applied myself toward being a responsible “steward of the mysteries of God”. The only reason why I am writing this is out of a soteriological concern for those who may dismiss Orthodoxy due to the article that I was asked to interview for. I will attempt to keep this brief, but would welcome meeting with anyone either personally or by phone to discuss these things further.
Why did I become Orthodox after serving ten years as a pastor in the LCMS? Instead of trying to write a complete account (if such a thing is even possible), I will simply give a couple of important starting points for discussion. I hope that when I am done, it will at least begin to demonstrate that I have thought and have prayed about this as the thinking, rational-spiritual human being that I am. God created man in His own image and likeness. He has elevated all of us far above all other creatures on this earth. Thus we are all unrepeatable persons who are unique and valuable in the eyes of God. When we differ from one another (especially when it comes to the Kingdom of God) we should be careful to answer one another based upon the issues at hand.
So for instance, I am aware having been Lutheran for years (most of my adult life) that there are honest differences in this tradition over such things as church government (Walther vs. Loehe) or the Ever-Virginity of Mary. The important thing is that when speaking with someone of a different point of view, that we do not resort to such things as claiming that just because they have come to a different conclusion, that they have been “bitten by a bug”. This metaphor either reveals a lack of serious consideration of theology (in this instance) on the part of the one being demeaned, or it reveals such a vacuum on the part of the one resorting to such an accusation. Let the reader decide for himself which is the case. Either Father Daniel has been bitten by a bug, and is incapable of rational and coherent argument (whether you agree with it or not), or possibly the one resorting to such a level of discussion needs to repent and at least admit that “we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when that which is perfect (that being neither Rev. McCain, nor me) comes, then we will know, just as we are fully known”. As we enter this Holy season of Lent, let us all ask for forgiveness from one another. And may we turn our hearts toward Him who “being in the very form of God, considered equality with God something not to be grasped, but humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant”. He emptied Himself for us; we have all been made rich in grace, life and light.
Why Eastern Orthodoxy? First of all, because she is the only Church that has kept the Initiation rites of Baptism, Chrismation (which is nothing less than the “anointing” or “chrisma” mentioned by the Apostle John in his first epistle) and Communion intact in their proper place and time. And how did I come to that realization? Not by reading “Orthodox materials” (although they certainly are beneficial)! Rather, a couple of years ago I actually followed a debate on several Lutheran Blogs concerning communion for all who have received Christ in baptism, including little children. One pastor recommended reading a book by J.D.C. Fisher entitled Baptism in the Medieval West. This work (by a Roman Catholic Scholar) details how the undivided church of the east and west gave communion to all the faithful- even infants. I read this book, and what was important is that it copiously quotes the Church Fathers in each century of the first Millennium of Christianity. The evidence is overwhelming in my opinion. But of course I would challenge anyone who truly desires truth not to avoid reading the church fathers, but rather to buy this book off of amazon.com, and check the author’s references to infant communion (such as Cyprian around 250 AD speaking of an infant still suckling as taking communion).
After studying this issue for years (as all pastors should) I came to realize that due to factors such as the Western bishops not entrusting the presbyters with the chrism (thus delaying communion for many children) and the attendant Barbarian invasions; the West began to see one’s worthiness to partake of Christ in the Eucharist as dependent on the person’s being of an “age of reason” [i.e. Aquinas, the Reformers]. Along with this departure of viewing Christ revealed in the Bread and Wine as a gift given by grace to all the faithful, faulty exegesis developed to support this hitherto unknown practice of withholding Christ from some of those “who have been united with Him in His death and Resurrection”. One key example of this is the applying little children as a referent in the Pauline letter to the Corinthians regarding “discerning the body of Christ”. The reasoning was that in order to partake of Christ in communion one must be able to possess a developed intellect in order to share in this grace/gift. But all earlier commentaries (and the text itself) demonstrates that the referent here are those who “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” by overindulging in food and drink at the Eucharistic feast. Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.
Connected with this issue is the matter of our requesting the prayers of departed Saints/Martyrs. For years I did not accept, let alone practice this. For I did not see any evidence of it in the earliest Fathers such as Ignatius, Irenaeus, or even Cyprian; However, one day I met a man who had studied at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. I asked him whether there was any evidence for this practice in the early church. He said that it was written all over the walls of the catacombs, and that he had seen it with his own eyes! At the time that he saw all of this he was Roman Catholic, not Orthodox. This was unsettling for me, since I have never been one to run away from opinions and evidence that challenges my own imperfect knowledge of God and His Kingdom. Truth stands by itself; it does not need a hedge built around it, or rather around Him who is Truth.
Later it dawned on me that whenever something of an heterodox innovation was introduced into the church of the first few centuries, this church “founded upon the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone” reacted with righteous fervor against any and all intrusions. Gnosticism, Montanism, Catharism and Arianism all were addressed by name and in detail. Thus if requesting prayers of departed saints/martyrs had been an innovation, the church of Ignatius of Antioch, or Irenaeus of Lyons, or Clement of Alexandria, or Cyprian of Carthage and especially the Nicene Fathers and their immediate sons and daughters would have reacted overwhelmingly against such a supposed paradigm shift from praying only to God to also requesting prayer of someone who was with God. But such is not the case! We even have a prayer that is fairly well attested to being addressed to the Theotokos from Alexandria, Egypt around 250 AD. This prayer (called in Latin the sub tuum praesidium) is still prayed in an Orthodox prayer office.
Thus it is unreasonable and impossible (in my opinion) that such disparate Christian communities as existed in Egypt, Gaul, Syria, Spain, Rome and Greece would have all been “bitten by such a large infectious bug” without trying to fight against this with all of their might. Would it have been possible for all of Christendom in the fourth century and afterwards to completely buy into “false praxis” like this? Impossible! There would have been some remnant communities of those who baptize but do not commune infants and small children, some leftover evidence of those who did not want their children chrismated/confirmed until they had reached an age of reason; indeed I contend that if these assumptions are true there would be extant today some obscure village somewhere that stayed faithful in not allowing their baptized infants/little children to partake of Christ in the Eucharist. But no such people have been or are attested to in real (not philosophical) history. Either such communities slowly devolved over a millennium with respect to communion (Roman Catholic), or arose at the time of the Reformation (forbidding invocation of Saints while retaining the Roman Catholic devolution with respect to the initiation rites of the church) in an attempt to get back to what they thought (with scarcely the resources we have today such as the discovery of the authenticity of the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch in the last century or so) was the teachings of the “ancient church”.
As a Lutheran pastor when teaching adult instruction, after laying a scriptural foundation for the practice of Infant Baptism; I would reference an obscure religious group in modern day Iraq called the Mandaeans who are partly the descendants of those who had been baptized by John the Baptist, but who had not received the baptism of Christ. I would say that if a tiny group like that has still survived, “where is the continuous community who has survived not baptizing babies?” As I mentioned above certainly with a huge movement like Christianity spread over so much land mass from Roman occupied Britain all the way east to Persia, most assuredly there would be pockets of such people in existence, or at least well attested to”. From there as I became convinced from actual, real Christian texts written by Hippolytus, Cyprian, Augustine and the like [Western Fathers] that the undivided church of the first thousand years had both initiated people into the faith as the Orthodox do today, and that that same church requested the help, salvation and prayers of departed Saints/Martyrs- I came to apply the above rule to searching for such a community as well.
“Where is the continuous community that forbids Christ from entering the mouths of little ones”? It is nowhere. “Where is the church that has always shunned from asking intercession of Saints”? I am not talking about some isolated reference in some patristic text, but I am asking, “Where are these people”? They have not, and do not exist. So you mean to tell me that all of Christendom was deceived on such major points as these during and immediately after the persecutions of the third and early fourth century- and that without a public record of such a fight? Impossible!
In conclusion, be assured that I did not come up with this spiritual reflection out of “Eastern Orthodox books or prayer resources”. Instead, I believe that the Holy Spirit guided me as He promises to guide all believers. He is the authority in the Church. One does not enter into the Church by “our own reason or strength”. We are initiated into the church by Baptism, Chrismation and Communion. Only when these three rites are “administered rightly” do we get a proper view of salvation as a gift given by grace in the sacraments of the church. If we displace any of these from one another (of course excepting an emergency), we tear apart their unity. Indeed we tear apart the body of Christ. But the Spirit who proceeds from the Father alone calls us into a relationship with the only Begotten Son and Word of God, whose desire is that we “be one, as He and the Father are one”. This unity can only happen by a work of the Spirit who has established a continuous catholic community with Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons (c.f. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome) serving the laity. The memory of this community is preserved and cherished in its scriptures, icons, music and architecture. It is connected as one “communion of saints”; time and space do not limit its essence as una sancta. It is a suffering church, but it is purified by such trials- not obliterated.
In the fiery furnace the three young men were not diminished; in the same way the womb of Mary contained the one who is an unquenchable fire. She became more spacious than the heavens! Who are we to question God’s ability to enable requests of prayers from believers to Saints to reach their destination? Could not God by a divine energy enable such requests to reach their destination? To absolutely rule this out is to fall into the error of Zwingli, whose God “was only as big as his own mind”. Just because in our finite minds such requests for intercession may seem as ridiculous as the “body of Christ stretched all over the universe”; God is able to manifest His Body wherever and in whatever manner He wishes. God is not bound by our rational thought, our self-limiting laws; or by our unbelief. Instead He is merciful to us all, enabling us to share as “partakers in His Divine Nature”.
Finally, regarding Orthodox references to the “Holy Theotokos saving us”. These have to be some of the most difficult exclamations for those outside the Orthodox Church to understand. I definitely did not apprehend such songs and prayers before I had entered the church. Now that I have spent some time on the inside, I will do my best to give my experience with such prayers and hymns.
The short answer that you will sometimes be told is that the Ever Virgin saves us by giving birth to Christ. This is true as far as it goes. But admittedly not only does the Orthodox Church sing and pray to the Theotokos asking for salvation, help, protection and the like; but also to the Saints and Martyrs whom she commemorates does she beseech such aide. How is this to be understood?
II Corinthians 1:9-11 reads, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us; you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many”. This passage illustrates the Orthodox understanding of salvation. It is initiated at Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist unto a new life of good works. Clearly Orthodox understands that only Christ died, was buried and rose again for our salvation. But having been made one with Christ, we now are saved together in the Church, the Body of Christ. We are aided by one another’s prayers. We are shielded by one another’s faith. We are protected and kept until the last day by the intercessions of the all, especially by the Ever-virgin Mary. This is just simply a praxis of believing in the efficacy of prayer, “for the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. All in the context of a life lived in the sacraments and liturgy of the Church.
Thank you for reading this response. Maranatha to all who await His appearing again in glory.
Here is my response to his response:
In the spirit of something you said in your response, which was:
“The important thing is that when speaking with someone of a different point of view, that we do not resort to such things as claiming that just because they have come to a different conclusion, that they have been “bitten by a bug”...As we enter this Holy season of Lent, let us all ask for forgiveness from one another.”
So, in the spirit of humility, let me start by asking your forgiveness on areas of my article where the conclusions that I had drawn seem to be a bit unfair, that is after having now heard a little bit more of your story.
When I stated:
“His affectionate self-description as "ecumenical-mutt" is pretty accurate given his personal history, but, for now pay close attention to the Pentecostalism of his background and just keep that fresh in you[r] minds as I shall return to it later.”
and then later I said:
“While, admittedly, these two Churches are different, there are similarities between them, and one can see that it wouldn't be too hard for a deceiver like Satan to bridge the errors of both, that is if one still harbored a soft spot in their heart for the heterodoxy of their youth.”
I must admit that your right. I used you as an example, and at times I painted your story in a light of someone who's been “bitten by a bug”, as you say. I should have been more prudent in my judgment of your story, in that a person always deserves the benefit of the doubt. I should have assumed that this decision of yours was made responsibly and not done on a whim, or acted upon “willy-nilly”, but rather, one that was evidently deliberated with caution and careful forethought.
Also, I was quite to casual in drawing inferences regarding certain positions you held in your youth, and then claiming that these positions were direct evidence of why you hold the current theological stance that you do. This attitude in my piece was irresponsible and I ask for your forgiveness.
Now, with that said, I would like to address some of the points of your response.
Unfortunately, I feel that many of the things I could say in response to your response are answers you probably already know having been a practicing Lutheran for so many years. And, as you are most assuredly aware that the theological divide between the Eastern Orthodox and Confessional Lutheranism is one that is basically unbridgeable.
Here are some reasons why.
First, when you say such things as:
“Why did I become Orthodox after serving ten years as a pastor in the LCMS?...I hope that when I am done, it will at least begin to demonstrate that I have thought and have prayed about this as the thinking, rational-spiritual human being that I am. God created man in His own image and likeness. He has elevated all of us far above all other creatures on this earth. Thus we are all unrepeatable persons who are unique and valuable in the eyes of God. When we differ from one another (especially when it comes to the Kingdom of God) we should be careful to answer one another based upon the issues at hand.” [emphasis mine]
“Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.” [emphasis mine]
I can say, that you have presented yourself as quite a rational man, a man filled with much knowledge regarding the position you've taken, however, I believe your inquiring into things, and the realizations you've come across, in the end ultimately means nothing. Here's why. You have demonstrated that you are a great student of ecclesiastical history, but by putting pieces of history together and coming to realizations about certain connections really does nothing in regards to convincing me that the way you went about your exploration of the Eastern Orthodox Church and its theological validity as a Church body, in fact, lead you to anything but valid or invalid conclusions. You see, there must be some source, some rule or norm by which we can judge the traditions and practices of the Church.
To you, it is evident that you believe:
“Only when these three rites are “administered rightly” do we get a proper view of salvation as a gift given by grace in the sacraments of the church. If we displace any of these from one another (of course excepting an emergency), we tear apart their unity. Indeed we tear apart the body of Christ. But the Spirit who proceeds from the Father alone calls us into a relationship with the only Begotten Son and Word of God, whose desire is that we “be one, as He and the Father are one”. This unity can only happen by a work of the Spirit who has established a continuous catholic community with Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons (c.f. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome) serving the laity.” [emphasis mine]
So, the only thing I can gain from this is that for you, the rule and norm is the Church itself. As a former Lutheran you must know what I and other Lutherans think of this. We do not believe that salvation ultimately is something entrusted to the physical Church, but that it is something entrusted to the entire “priesthood of all believers”, that is, the universal and catholic church we are essentially unable to see. This would be the Church that is visible to God's eyes only. We also believe that the final arbiter is God's Word, and not the traditions or Fathers of the Church.
I guess you could say we have two fundamentally different views of what the Church actually is. For you it is a physical and spiritual institution given to the Apostles, by Christ, and kept pure (under Apostolic succession) by the Fathers since Christs ascension. For us it is an institution given us by Christ, formed by and under divinely inspired and inerrant Apostles, and preserved by God's Word given us through His Holy Spirit.
The Church is not the center for us, Christ is, for without Christ there would be no efficacy in the Church, the sacraments, or in God's word by the proclamation of the Gospel. I know you probably won't agree with this, but without Christ, there would be no purpose for the Holy Spirit either, for His sole purpose, according to Scripture, is to point us back to Christ. (John 15:26; 16:7; 20:20, Gal. 4:6)
Also, just a couple more things, you say:
“After studying this issue for years (as all pastors should) I came to realize that due to factors such as the Western bishops not entrusting the presbyters with the chrism (thus delaying communion for many children) and the attendant Barbarian invasions; the West began to see one’s worthiness to partake of Christ in the Eucharist as dependent on the person’s being of an “age of reason” [i.e. Aquinas, the Reformers]”
While this sounds like an interesting read and a possible reason for the whole “age of reason” mentality, this is not the reason for Lutherans withholding communion from infants. It has always been a position of protection for the communicant. It seems that you might have anticipated this answer, for you then said:
“But all earlier commentaries (and the text itself) demonstrates that the referent here are those who “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” by overindulging in food and drink at the Eucharistic feast. Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.”
However, its not just the “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” (although that is the serious consequence of eating the supper unworthily), or the referent to the lascivious Corinthians that's the issue for Lutherans, it is the “but let a man examine himself” part that's the problem. A child is incapable, until they've proven it through confirmation, of being able to accurately examine themselves. Paul Kretzmann in his Popular Commentary explains the biblical need for worthiness of the communicant when he says:
“But the wonderful content and purpose of the Holy Communion demands, at the same time, a most careful preparation on the part of the communicant: So that whoever eats the bread, or drinks the cup of the Lord, unworthily, guilty is he of the body and blood of the Lord. To eat unworthily is to be in such a spiritual condition or to conduct oneself in such a manner as to be out of harmony with the dignity and the sanctity of the heavenly meal. Should a person come to the Lord's Supper as he would go to any other meal, considering his actions to be the mere eating of bread and the mere drinking of wine, if he feels neither desire for the grace of God nor devotion at the prospect of partaking in the miracle feast, then such a person will be guilty, not merely of a thoughtless eating and drinking, but of desecration of the body and blood of the Lord. He will show that he has neither a conception of his sinful-ness nor a longing for the grace of God; and thus his guilt will consist in his hindering the grace of God in the Sacrament, which is ready to bestow upon him forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
It follows, then, for every earnest Christian: But let a man examine himself, make a careful test of his own mind and attitude, explore all the secret recesses of his heart, not, as some commentaries say, to see whether he is religiously and morally qualified, personally worthy of being a guest of the Lord's, but, as our liturgical formula very properly says, to see whether he heartily repents of his sins, believes in Jesus Christ, and sincerely and earnestly purposes to amend his sinful life. Having made this examination, preferably with the aid of the questions in the Fifth Chief Part, in the Table of Duties, and in the Christian Questions offered in our Small Catechism, a Christian may come and partake of God's meal of grace. The purpose of the admonition, therefore, is not to deter and scare away such Christians in whom self-examination reveals many sins in thoughts, words, and deeds, but to stimulate the right desire for the grace of God, the need, of which this self-exploration has shown to exist.61) "Therefore we should here learn diligently and mark that such persons do not receive the Sacrament unworthily as say and confess they are poor sinners, feel various temptations.… If you did not want to receive the Sacrament unless you were free from all sins, it would follow that you would never go to the Sacrament. But they that knowingly continue in sins receive the venerable Sacrament unworthily; as, murderous hatred of their neighbor, murder, fornication, adultery, and other, similar public transgressions, and do not purpose to discontinue them. For the Sacrament has been instituted by Christ the Lord, not that people should remain in sins, but that they should obtain forgiveness and grow in sanctity. ... I can speak with authority of what results follow if a person abstains from the Sacrament for a time; I have also been in such fire of the devil that I became estranged from the venerable Sacrament, and that I attended with the greater unwillingness, the longer this lasted. Be sure to beware of this and get into the habit of going often, especially if you are fit to go, that is, if you find that your heart, on account of your sins, is heavy and shy, in order that you may not forget our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but remember His sacrifice and death; for otherwise He asks nothing of us." 62)
But of the unworthy the apostle says: For he that eats and drinks unworthily, judgment, condemnation, he eats and drinks to himself, because he does not discern, discriminate, the body of Christ. He makes no distinction between an ordinary meal and this heavenly meal; he does not realize that the true body and blood of his Savior are here present, and that for this reason a thoughtless use of the Sacrament is blasphemy and results in the final righteous punishment of God. For he that approaches the table of the Lord in such a spirit of frivolousness will indeed also receive the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine, but not as that of his Redeemer, rather as that of his Judge, who will, on the last day, demand an account of him with sharp reckoning, since the outward behavior is only an indication and demonstration of the unbelief of the heart. "We teach, believe, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guests, those namely who do not believe, concerning whom it is written, John 3, 18: 'He that believeth not is condemned already,' And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper, 1 Cor. 11, 29." 63)”
This has been the interpretation in Lutheranism since days of old. For instance, in the correspondence between the theologians of Tubingen, one of them being Jacob Andreae, with the Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople regarding the Augsburg Confession, they state:
“We often exhort our people who have repented to partake frequently of the Lord's Supper. However, we do not commune the infants, for Paul says: "Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the Lord's body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself" [1 Cor 11:28-29]. And since the children are not able to examine themselves and, thus, cannot discern the Lord's body, we think that the ceremony of the baptism is sufficient for their salvation, and also the hidden faith with which the Lord has bestowed them. For through this faith they spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, even if they do not, in the communion of the supper, physically eat it. That spiritual eating, which Christ speaks of in Saint John's Gospel, is always necessary; but the other, the mystical one [the Lord's Supper], is not always necessary.”
Augsburg and Constantinople (Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982), p. 143.
and Martin Chemnitz:
It is clear that one cannot deal with infants through the bare preaching of repentance and remission of sins, for that requires hearing (Rom. 10:17), deliberation and meditation (Ps. 119), understanding (Matt. 13:51), which are not found in infants. With regard to the Lord's Supper Paul says: "Let a man examine himself."Likewise: "Let him discern the Lord's body," a thing which cannot be ascribed to infants. Moreover, Christ instituted His Supper for such as had already become His disciples. In the Old Testament infants were circumcised on the eighth day, but they were admitted to the eating of the Passover lamb when they were able to ask: "What do you mean by this service?" (Ex. 12:26). There remains therefore of the means of grace in the New Testament only the sacrament of Baptism.
Martin Chemnitz (Fred Kramer, translator), Examination of the Council of Trent, Part II (St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1978), pp. 165-166.
and from Johann Gerhard:
Since the Apostle Paul expressly requires in 1 Cor. 11:28,29 that a person first examine himself and then eat of the consecrated bread and drink of the consecrated chalice, so that he does not become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord through an unworthy reception, it thus indisputably follows that not only Christians ... are to be admitted to the holy Supper, but specifically those who examine themselves; that is, those who judge themselves, 1 Cor. 11:31, discern the Lord's body, v. 29, and proclaim His death, v. 26. Therefore, the following are herewith excluded:
and finally from C.F.W. Walther, he says:
Since according to God's Word everyone who wants to go to the Lord's Table should first examine himself and discern the Lord's body (1 Cor. 11:28-29), the holy Supper is not to be administered to children who are still incapable of doing so. It was an obvious misuse when it [communing children] was rather generally done, from the the third to the fifth centuries, out of a misunderstanding of John 6:53, which was [incorrectly] understood as referring to receiving the Sacrament. This misuse was also practiced by the Bohemian Hussites and is the rule still today in the Greek church.