Well, they are at it again…insulting every Christian church in the nation in their desperate attempt at saving themselves from oblivion. I’m talking about the United Church of Christ and their ridiculously offensive television advertisements. In this one there is portrayed a mother with a crying child, a gay couple, a Hispanic man, a handicapped person and a poor person being “ejected” out of their church pew. Think I’m making this up? Nope. Oh, yes, do keep in mind this is yet another church that the ELCA is in full communion with.
NEWSWEEK, this week, has a full page “Geek” test. I scored 64. What does this mean? The key on the page indicates: “60+: Seriously nerdy” — and there you have it. You can take the quiz yourself.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in which I serve as a pastor, has prepared a new Lutheran hymnal. I have been aware of, and involved in certain ways, in this project for many years. It began when in the mid-1990s, Rev. A.L. Barry, of blessed memory, was serving as president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Rev. Dr. Paul Grime, Executive Director of the Synod’s Commission on Worship, some time soon after he came to serve in this position, began talking about the need for a new hymnal to replace “Lutheran Worship.” Dr. Barry, at a meeting of the Commission on Worship, indicated that 2007 would seem like a good year for a new hymnal to be made available to the Missouri Synod and so the ball was set in motion. Dr. Grime, with the able assistance of his co-worker in The LCMS Commission on Worship, Rev. Jon Vieker, started into the project, a preliminary step along the way being the production of “Hymnal Supplement ‘98.” Well, we are at the point now where the new hymnal will soon be, God willing, a reality. And it is fantastic. It has been prepared by the LCMS Commission on Worship and has been worked on for many years by committees consisting of literally hundreds of people who have, for the past number of years, devoted themselves to producing for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the wider English-speaking Lutheran community, a hymnal that provides the best of both old and new.
A new web site has been established that will provide a “one stop shop” for news and information about Lutheran Service Book and its various companion pieces, as this information becomes available.
I’ve seen recently first pages of the new hymnal and it is simply gorgeous. It is going to be a tremendous resource, in both style and substance.
I invite you to visit the CPH Lutheran Service Book web site, and bookmark and return often to keep up to date on the progression of the hymnal’s production.
Coming home from work today, I found the latest issue of NEWSWEEK waiting for me [April 3, 2006]. A story in the magazine discusses the new style of horror movies that are all the rage at the box office, and most often among the under 25 set. They are incredibly and sadistically gory and gruesome, described by one New York Times critic as “torture porn.” One young man is quoted as complaining after viewing one of them that it was not bloody enough for him. The article reminded me, in a striking way, of Tertullian’s writing De Spectaculis, “On the Spectacles” — a work in which this Early Church Father wrote against Christians viewing the spectacles of the gladiatorial sports that were so common-place in his days, and the theater of his time that featured absolute filth and raunch, live on the stage. Consider how he answers a protest he commonly heard to the concerns expressed about Christians filling their eyes with the “torture porn” of their days:
“Everyone is quick to argue that since all things were created by God and given to man to use, they must be good, since they are all from a good source. We see many good things in the public shows: the horse, the lion, bodily strength, and musical voice. So, since these things all exist by God’s creative will, they can’t be foreign or hostile to Him. And if they are not opposed to Him, they can’t be considered harmful to those who worship Him, since these things are not foreign to them.” [Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Ch. 2]
Some things never change, do they?
Tertullian concludes his magnificent work on this issue, one we do well to ponder today, by offering an alternative to the public shows and spectacles:
“What are the things which eye has not
seen, ear has not heard, and which have not so much as dimly dawned
upon the human heart? Whatever they are, they are nobler, I believe,
than circus, and both theatres, and every race-course.”
Much to think about, don’t you think?
Good news! The Afghan convert is set to be released. Some quotes from news reports follow. Whenever we are tempted to believe our problems are too great to handle, consider this man’s plight and his bold and courageous faith in Christ.
Rahman is being held in a cell by himself next to the office of a senior prison guard, the warden said. He showed the AP the outside of Rahman’s cell door, but refused to allow reporters to speak to him or see him.
He said Rahman had been asking guards for a Bible but that they did not have any to give him.
He said he was fully aware of his choice and was ready to die for it, according to an interview published Sunday in an Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
“I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die,” Abdul Rahman told the Rome daily, responding to questions sent to him via a human rights worker who visited him in prison.
“Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us,” he added in a clear reference to Jesus.
Rahman also told the Italian newspaper that his family – including his ex-wife and teenage daughters — reported him to the authorities three weeks ago.
He said he made his choice to become a Christian “in small steps,” after he left Afghanistan 16 years ago. He moved to Pakistan, then Germany. He tried to get a visa in Belgium.
“In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization. They were Catholics,” Rahman said. “I started talking to them about religion, I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind.” Afghan convert set to be freed
An Afghan man charged with converting to Christianity is set to be released from jail while his case is reviewed.
Abdul Rahman’s case has been handed back to the attorney-general because of gaps in the evidence, an official said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that while the
attorney-general looked at the papers, Mr Rahman did not need to be
Mr Rahman, a Christian for 16 years, was charged with rejecting Islam and potentially faced the death penalty.
Afghanistan’s legal system is built on Islamic Sharia law, and Mr
Rahman could have faced execution if he had refused to renounce
The Afghan government has come under increasing pressure over the case, says the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul.
Key international backers of President Hamid Karzai have called for Mr
Rahman’s release, while Muslim conservatives in Afghanistan are in
favour of his detention.
Mr Karzai has personally intervened in the case and
several top level meetings have been held over the past two days to
resolve the issue. Details of his imminent release are being kept secret, as feelings in Kabul have run high over the case.
Earlier, Mr Rahman’s family asked the court to dismiss the case against him, saying he suffered from mental illness.
Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told the BBC there was considerable doubt that Mr Rahman was fit to stand trial.
According to Judge Mawlavizada, Mr Rahman appeared “disturbed”. He said the accused man’s relatives had told the authorities he was
insane and that they claimed Mr Rahman had said he heard strange voices
in his head.
The judge also said it was not clear if the accused was really an Afghan or a citizen of another country. Mr Rahman has lived outside Afghanistan for 16 years and is believed to
have converted to Christianity during a stay in Germany.
A friend of mine recently pointed out a book to me that I’d been meaning to acquire for a long time: Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel. It was first published in the Library of Christian Classics series. It is now reprinted by Regent College. I managed to snag a first edition from a used book site. What is it? A collection of letters by Martin Luther, many of which were never translated before. It is edited and translated by Theodore Tappert and was done before the American Edition of Luther’s Works project got underway. There is quite a lot here in English that is available nowhere else.
This is quite remarkable, a ballet on the life and work of Martin Luther.
Link: Martin Luther / the Ballet.
The Pope decided to drop one ancient title for the Pope: Patriarch of the West. This was thought to be something that might encourage the reunification of East and West, for no longer would the Pope basically lay claim to anything and everything not covered by the Eastern Patriarchs. But, apparently, not everyone views it that way. The Russian Patriarch rightly notes that there is still that “minor detail” of the first title in the long list of titles claimed by the Pope “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.” The Orthodox churches are not the only ones that reject this claim. We Lutherans do as well. The reality is that Christ did not, and does not, ordain and establish a “universal pontiff.” That is both a theological and historical fiction.
Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
24 March 2006
Pope abandons ancient title, but ‘creates conundrum’ about unity
By Luigi Sandri
Rome, 24 March (ENI)–Pope Benedict XVI has dropped one of his
official titles – that of “Patriarch of the West” – in a move the
Vatican says may help church unity but which has been criticised
by a prominent Russian Orthodox bishop.
In a 22 March statement, the Pontifical Council for Promoting
Christian Unity said the title first used by a pope in AD 642 had
been abandoned because it had become “obsolete and practically
It said, “The renouncement of this title aims to express a
historical and theological reality and at the same time … could
prove useful to ecumenical dialogue.”
The dropping of the title in the official Vatican directory, the
“Annuario pontificio”, was reported at the beginning of March but
at the time the Vatican offered no explanation for the change.
Some analysts speculated it was intended to help the Vatican’s
dialogue with Eastern Orthodox churches which is seen as one of
Pope Benedict’s priorities.
The role of the papacy is a key stumbling block in the relations
between the two Christian traditions, which are scheduled to
restart theological talks in September after a six-year break.
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini was reported saying the title had
been used in the past to provoke negative comparisons between
papal claims of universal jurisdiction by the worldwide
“Patriarchate of the West” and the more restricted size and
jurisdiction of the traditional Orthodox patriarchates.
However, Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and
Austria, warned that it was not clear “how the removal of the
title could possibly ameliorate Catholic-Orthodox relations”.
The Pope’s other titles included that of “Supreme Pontiff of the
Universal Church”, and Hilarion suggested the Pope was seeking to
confirm a claim to universal church jurisdiction also over the
patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox church.
“With relation to the pope of Rome the title ‘Supreme Pontiff of
the Universal Church’ points to the pope’s universal jurisdiction
which is not and will never be recognised by the Orthodox
Churches,” Hilarion noted in a statement carried on the Web site
www.orthodoxeurope.org “It is precisely this title that should
have been dropped first, had the move been motivated by the *
desire for amelioration of the Catholic-Orthodox relations.” [381
All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.
Louisville, Kentucky—Taking on the most divisive issue in the church today the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jack Rogers, argues unequivocally for the ordination and marriage of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) in Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.
A life-long evangelical and a respected theologian, Rogers argues that fidelity to the Bible demands equal rights in the church and society for people who are LGBT. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers’s own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church’s well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; and debunks oft-repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians.
“The best methods of interpretation, from the Reformation on down through today, call upon us to interpret the Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry. Using this method we see clearly that Jesus and the Bible, properly understood, do not condemn people who are homosexual,” Rogers writes in a stirring conclusion that is sure to provoke debate.
Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality was released this March by Westminster John Knox Press to widespread attention and acclaim. Yesterday, Rogers was the featured guest on KQED San Francisco’s “Forum,” which skyrocketed sales on Amazon.com. And next week, Rogers will begin a national book tour with more than twenty speaking engagements confirmed.
The book has also received glowing reviews from some of America’s foremost religious leaders:
“This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality,” says J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church (where Bill Clinton worshipped) in Washington, D.C. “Rogers frames the issues on deep biblical and theological grounds, challenging superficial readings of Scripture. The book is wonderfully relevant… It is a gift to all of us.”
“This book is simply wonderful—an intelligent, well-researched, amazingly helpful contribution by a person of faith to one of the most difficult debates of our time,” declares Joanna Adams, pastor of Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.
“Rogers’s arguments are relentless, accurate, and devastating to those who claim that there are serious scriptural, doctrinal, or confessional reasons to deprive LGBT people from full participation in the life and ministry of the church,” states the Reverend Elder Nancy Wilson, the Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church.
“Rogers adds immensely to those who argue for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church and in the clergy,” says the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, Episcopal Church. “His experience in and reflections on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be useful to people of ALL mainline denominations. Especially helpful was his analysis of how ‘other’ theories (natural law, complementary body parts, etc.) are superimposed onto scriptural texts without any scriptural basis. For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 24, 2006
For additional information contact:
Gavin Stephens, <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org, (502) 569-5713
The story about the man who may be executed in Afghanistan for his conversion to Christianity got me to thinking. I found myself wondering why it is that if Christians and Muslims actually do believe in and worship the one, true God, a person can be put to death for worshipping Christ, instead of Allah in Muslim nations that follow strict Islamic law? And for that matter, if Muslims do in fact believe in and worship the one, true God, why should we be concerned if people are Muslim instead of Christian? Sometimes we hear people say something like this: “The Muslim God is also the true God (there is only one true God, right?) but worshiped in an inadequate way.”
Finally I had to ask myself, “Was Jesus wrong when He said ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ “(John 8:19; ESV)? If it is true that Jews do worship and believe in the one true God, though they deny Christ as Messiah and Lord, then Jesus must have been wrong. If it is true that Muslims and other non-Christians actually do believe in and worship the one true God, even while rejecting Jesus Christ, then Jesus was a liar.
The operative words here are “believe” and “worship” and “one, true God.” Let this much be clear, as one would hope it would be. Muslims absolutely do not believe in, or worship, the one true God. To say this is not in any way to deny the natural knowledge that there is a god. But as Paul makes clear in Romans 1, this natural knowledge is corrupted by sin and men turn to the worship of false gods (Romans 1:21 “Although they knew
God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they
became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were
darkened”). This is precisely what happens when you believe in and worship any god other than the One, True, God. In other words, the corruption of the natural knowledge of God is dramatically evident when people do not worship the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity, but turn to false gods, such as the Muslim “Allah.”
Here are a few Luther quotes on the subject that I find particularly instructive:
“When the Turks go into battle their only war cry is “Allah! Allah!” and they shout it till heaven and earth resound. But in the Arabic language. Allah means God, and is a corruption of the Hebrew Eloha. For they have been taught in the Koran that they shall boast constantly with these words, “There is no God but God.” All that is really a device of the devil. For what does it mean to say, “There is no God but God,” without distinguishing one God from another? The devil, too, is a god, and they honor him with this word; there is no doubt of that. Therefore I believe that the Turks’ Allah does more in war than they themselves. He gives them courage and wiles; he guides sword and fist, horse and man. What do you think, then, of the holy people who can call upon God in battle, and yet destroy Christ and all God’s words and works, as you have heard?” (American Edition 46:183).
“All people who say that they mean the true God who created heaven and earth are lying. They do not accept His work and Word but place their own thoughts above God and His Word. If they truly believed in a God who created heaven and earth, they would also know that as Creator this same God is also above their thoughts and possesses the same authority to make, break and do as He pleases. But since they do not let Him be the Creator above them and their thoughts in so small a matter, it cannot be true that they believe [Glaube] Him to be the Creator of all creation.” (Walch 10.I.1:241)
“It does Jews, Turks, and heretics no good to profess a very great devoutness and to boast against us Christians that they believe in the one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and also call him “Father” with intense earnestness. For all that, their worship consists of nothing except futile and useless words that they use to take the name of God in vain and misuse it, against the Second Commandment. . . Here you see that when they do not know who God is; and when they call Him “Creator” and “God” and “Father,” they don’t know what they are actually saying…Therefore they have no God, but they misuse the name of “God” in sin and shame and invent their own god and creator, who is supposed to be their father and whose children they profess to be.” (St.L 3:1932)
“Jews, Turks, and Tartars all esteem Christ and His mother Mary very highly. But they do not believe [glaube] that He is the Son of God, in whom one must believe and through whom all are saved. . . . Therefore, the faith of the Jews and the Turks is nothing but sheer blindness, for they exclude the Son and want to retain only the Father. This is the chief article of our Christian faith: that the Son is eternal and true God, and also true man, sent into the world for its salvation. This article annuls the belief [glaube] of the Jews, the Turks, and all others who renounce the Son and thus worship another god and look to another source for help. The Turk is not able to pray the Lord’s Prayer or the articles of the Creed. Faith, to which God alone is entitled, is the chief type of worship. For we are not to believe in angels, prophets, or apostles. No, this divine honor is due the Son alone; for He is true God with the Father. John treats this article very intensively. . . . If I earnestly believe that Christ is true God and that He became our Savior, I will never deny this but will proclaim it publicly against the Turks, the world, the pope, the Jews ,and all the sects. I will confess that it is true. I would rather forfeit my life or jeopardize my property and honor than disavow this. Wherever faith is genuine, it cannot hold its tongue; it would rather suffer death. Such faith will also confess God’s Word before tyrants. To be sure, it will encounter all sorts of trials and temptations from the devil, as the martyrs amply demonstrate.” (AE 22:392-393).
“Turks and Jews boast a lot about God and claim to have a better faith than we Christians. They say they cannot be wrong. They say that they believe [Glaube] in one God, who created heaven and earth and everything else. This kind of faith certainly can not be wrong, they think. Christ, however, here concludes: ‘He who hates Me, hates my Father.” Now, since Turks and Jews hate Christ and persecute His Word, they certainly also hate the God who has created heaven and earth. They do not believe [Glaube] in Him and they do not honor Him. For Christ is the same one God.” (StL 13a, 1285).
Here are some quotes from Luther’s Large Catechism on the subject:
“As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.” (Large Catechism, Tappert, p. 365).
“You can easily judge how the world practices nothing but false worship and idolatry. There has never been a people so wicked that it did not establish and maintain some sort of worship. Everyone has set up a god of his own, to which he looked for blessings, help, and comfort… Everyone made into a god that to which his heart was inclined. Even in the mind of all the heathen, therefore, to have a god means to trust and believe. The trouble is that their trust is false and wrong, for it is not founded upon the one God, apart from whom there is truly no god in heaven or on earth. Accordingly the heathen actually fashion their fancies and dreams about God into an idol and entrust themselves to an empty nothing. So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.” (Large Catechism, Tappert, pp. 366-377).
“Whoever knows that in Christ he has a gracious God, truly knows God, calls upon him, and is not, like the heathen, without God. For the devil and the ungodly do not believe this article concerning the forgiveness of sin, and so they are at enmity with God, cannot call upon him, and have no hope of receiving good from him.” (Tappert, p. 44).
“For pagans had something of a knowledge of God from the law of nature, but at the same time they did not truly know him nor did they truly honor him (Rom. 1[:19-32]). (Kolb/Wengert, p. 585.)
Let’s let God’s Holy Word have the final say here:
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” John 8:41
Again, Holy Scripture: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you.” John 17:25
Again, Holy Scripture: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ Rom. 10:14-15.
Again, Holy Scripture: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I Cor. 2:14
Again, Holy Scripture: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:8-9
Again, Holy Scripture: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13
Again, Holy Scripture: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do
not know God. I Thess. 4:3-5
Again, Holy Scripture: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. I John 2:22-23
Again, Holy Scripture: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does
not know us is that it did not know him.” I John 3:1
Again, Holy Scripture: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” I John 4:1-3
Again, Holy Scripture: “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” I John 4:6
Again, Holy Scripture: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I John 5:19-21
“Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes,
you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but
he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I
am from him and he sent me.” John 7:28-29
Again, Holy Scripture: “Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you
would know my Father also.” John 8:19 .