Friday, December 24, 2010

FW: Video Sample of Authentic Worship #4 – Sign of the Cross Baptismal Remembrance and Taizé Song

A fourth sample…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Friday, December 24, 2010 1:36 PM
Author: Pastor Tim Rossow
Subject: Video Sample of Authentic Worship #4 – Sign of the Cross Baptismal Remembrance and Taizé Song


(by Pastor Rossow) This series of posts is intended to do two things: 1) be instructive on how to do the liturgy and 2) demonstrate that the traditional liturgy is rich, varied, fresh, vibrant and creative. When done well, the traditional liturgy can satisfy many of the illicit cravings for so called "contemporary worship." As an example of the creative and fresh side of the traditional liturgy we offer this final Advent video of a meaningful baptismal ritual and a midweek Advent service built around Taizé music. The service included hymnody and psalmody in this style, which we will include in future udpates.

We will be offering a greater variety of parishes in this series in weeks to come and we hope you will be a part of it. Just have someone take out their smart-phone video camera and capture a part of your parish at worship. It can be creative like the things we have shown so far but we are also looking for the "ordinaries" and the routine. If you have a video to share send it to me at rossow.tim"at" and we will give it consideration.

The baptismal remembrance rite (ending during the first half of the video) takes place about a third into the service. (Click here for the service folder.) People are simply invited to come forward as they see fit to dip their fingers in the water of our ever-flowing font and make the sign of the cross. It has turned out to be a great way to introduce more people to the benefit of making the sign of the cross. We have about thirty percent of our congregation making the sign of the cross during the liturgy. Each year we see some people who don't regularly do so come up for this ritual and then start making the sign of the cross routinely. Lutherans like coming up front en masse (ashes, pledge cards, etc.). This was our fourth Advent midweek service and it was lightly attended but it was still a good crowd. About 90% of the people came up to the font.

Taizé music is from the Taizé Community in France. There are several examples in the Lutheran Service Book: 638,767,780,943, and 951. It is an ecumenical group with an emphasis on "spirituality." The music can be misused as simple repetitive mantras for the sake of generic spirituality apart from the spirituality of the cross but the music was intentionally composed for meditation on Christ, His Word, and the Sacraments, so it can also be used to add a helpful meditative aspect to traditional Lutheran worship. Traditional Lutheran worship is after all, ecumenical and spiritual in the best senses of the words. The following description from our service folder of our use of Taizé music is helpful.

The liturgy this evening features the music of Taizé, an ecumenical retreat community in France.  The songs and antiphons of Taizé are designed to maximize the participation of a diverse community in the liturgy.  Because of the varied backgrounds of the persons attending retreats at Taizé, and because of the limited rehearsal time available for the visiting musicians on the retreats, the musical style developed there emphasized simple elements crafted so that more complex elements could be superimposed on top of them.  This allows for the theme of the song to be learned quickly by a crowd of persons, while permitting skilled musicians to layer additional parts on top of the theme.  This method of composition, known as ostinato, was employed by many of the great musicians of the Baroque and Classical eras.  In addition to allowing for a use of variety of musical talents, the variations also sustain the interest of the worshiper, even as a theme is repeated several times.

The use of theme and variations is the best tradition of Christian meditation, which is directed extra nos ("outside of us") rather than within.  These choruses are not mantras repeated in an effort to change our perception of reality, but instead are repetitive structures crafted to deepen our reflection on the Word and magnify our prayer.

Enjoy the video and maybe it will help you and your parish to enrich the ecumenicity and spirituality of your traditional Lutheran worship. By the way, I bet you have never seen a squeeze box used in traditional Lutheran liturgy. We will led again by the accordian tonight as we sing Silent Night with our candles lit at the midnight mass. Thank you Cantor Magness! (The Taizé music begins around the 1:20 mark. This song is a canon and so goes longer than other songs used in the service.)

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FW: Choral Performance in the Reconstructed Frauen Kirche in Dresden

Click on "View article" to see a select video…

Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Thursday, December 23, 2010 8:44 AM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: Choral Performance in the Reconstructed Frauen Kirche in Dresden

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FW: Why December 25 is Christmas

And a perspective from Dr. Veith…


Feed: Cranach: The Blog of Veith
Posted on: Friday, December 24, 2010 3:46 AM
Author: Gene Veith
Subject: Why December 25 is Christmas


As I keep posting about, Christmas on December 25 is NOT due to there being a pagan holiday on that day.  Repeat:  Christmas is NOT based on the Roman festival of Sol Invictus.  Substantial scholarship has shot down that theory, but we keep hearing it–in the press, in books that try to debunk Christianity, in churches that oppose following the church year, and even in some comments on this blog.

Now the authoritative Biblical Archaeology Review weighs in, citing more evidence debunking the pagan origin of Christmas myth, showing how it got started, and–most interestingly–tracing how the December 25 date did get set aside as the date of Jesus's birth.

To put it simply, the date is nine months after the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the appearance of the angel to the Virgin Mary announcing her conception by the Holy Spirit.  That date is March 25.  The reason for that date is the belief that great prophets died on the date of their conception.  We do know historically the date when Jesus died, since it is tied to the Jewish passover.   The church determined that date to be March 25, before Good Friday and Easter became floating holidays that always fall on the weekends.  The article in BAR cites how widely the attested in Jewish and rabbinic literature is the association between conception date and death date, and how this was also well known in the early church.

Please join me in correcting the myth of the pagan origins of Christmas whenever you hear it.

HT: Joe Carter

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FW: White Horse Inn — A Christmas Sermon From Luther

From Luther and these good folks…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Friday, December 24, 2010 4:00 AM
Author: Norm Fisher
Subject: White Horse Inn — A Christmas Sermon From Luther


Thanks to a loyal BJS reader Jim for bringing this to our attention; White Horse Inn posted this yesterday.

Dad Rod Thursdays — A Christmas Sermon From Luther

Once again we are featuring a treat for Christmas from Dr. Rosenbladt. Listen to Dr. Rosenbladt preach a Christmas sermon borne of Martin Luther's writings, constructed by Dr. Roland Bainton, who taught history at Yale University from 1936 to 1961. Though Luther never wrote nor preached this sermon, it is assembled from his writings as a series of parts, as Dr. Bainton envisioned Luther could have written a Christmas sermon. This audio was dug up from the archives and has been converted from audio tape.

You can find more of Dr. Rosenbladt's works, some for free and some for sale, at New Reformation Press.

Once again, enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

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FW: How December 25th Became Christmas

Just in case you were wondering…


Feed: God the Crucified
Posted on: Friday, December 24, 2010 8:10 AM
Author: (Pastor Lange)
Subject: How December 25th Became Christmas


Biblical Archeology Review does a thorough and convincing job of debunking the commonly heard assumption that 4th century Christians made up the birthday of Jesus out of whole cloth.

It's not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus' birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.

More careful scholarship shows that the dating of Christmas had nothing to do with the Sol Invictus festival and everything to do with the dating of the crucifixion.

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus' conception. Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.

This also helps to explain why those churches which calculate the date of Easter differently than we do (read Eastern Orthodox) also calculate the date of Christmas to January 6 instead of December 25. But the bottom line is that original Christianity did not think in terms of competition with pagans. They rather thought in terms of the historical suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Read the whole article by clicking on the title of this post.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pulpit Review: Verbum Dei Populo

Lockwood, Gregory J. 1 Corinthians (Concordia Popular Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 373 Pages. Paper. $24.99. (P)

The latest volume in the Concordia Popular Commentary series is 1 Corinthians. My family has a tradition of "Christmas money" in addition to some gifts. Those funds help in times of emergency. They also provide money to spend on great items on sale after Christmas or into the new year. This is a great book for lay Bible students. You could even spend your "Christmas money."

This commentary draws its content from the Concordia Commentary series. This new lay-friendly edition includes all of the original translation and commentary but excludes technical notes, original biblical languages, and terminology required of an academic edition.
Today's world holds similar challenges that were present in Corinth during Paul's time. This commentary shows how Paul witnesses to Christ as a clear beacon who guides us through all of lives issues.

The Reverend Dr. Gregory J. Lockwood is a professor at Australian Lutheran College in Adelaide. He has previously served as a missionary in Papua New Guinea, as a parish pastor, and as a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (publisher's website)
"What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth." Vegas didn't come up with the concept. They borrowed it and marketed it better.  This volume is an introduction to that world and the Christians who struggled and/or remained faithful in a very specific "valley of the shadow," Corinth.

Highlights for readers include:
  • The Prefaces (vii). The Editor and Author do a great job of preparing the reader for some of the best English-language commentaries currently in print. Readers, especially Lutherans, need to know what makes these commentaries uniquely helpful ways to understand the Bible text.
  • Teaching on Closed Communion (230ff). Why are Missouri Synod Lutherans considered "odd" because they do what a majority of Christians still practice, a practice that was nearly universal for 2000 years because it is biblical, apostolic, pastoral, and confessional?
  • The Excursus on Worship Practice Today (287ff). I intend to call the CPH permissions department to request the privilege of reproducing these three pages for use by delegates to the Wyoming District LCMS Theological Conference on Worship. For example: "Untold damage has been caused to congregations by the reckless and iconoclastic jettisoning of the church's historic liturgies and hymns in the interests of 'change'" (288).
  • The Excursus on The Ordination of Women (299ff). It concludes with an extended quotation by Mrs. Sara Low, a laywoman opposed to the Church of England approving the ordination of women. She concludes: "What of tomorrow? If you wake in the morning having voted yes, you'll know that you have voted for a Church irreconcilably divided, for whom the revealed truth of God is no longer authoritative. If you vote no, you will wake to tears and a healing ministry, but above all to the possibility of a renewed New Testament Church, for all of us could then be united in encouraging, training and funding the ministry of priest, deacon, teacher, prophet, healer, administrator, spiritual director--all promised by the Holy Spirit. I urge Synod to vote for the authority of the Word of God, for the unity of Christ's Church and against this ruinous legistlation" (315).
Lockwood's commentary on 1 Corinthians for the Concordia Popular Commentary is the second-best commentary on 1 Corinthians I own. That is because Lockwood's commentary on 1 Corinthians for the Concordia Commentary series is the best. 

Concordia Publishing House, please continue this series. Keep the price point right where it is or lower. Consider CPC volumes for special seasonal sales. And, might we suggest that Proverbs would be a great next volume for Concordia Popular Commentary?

Pastors, consider using both volumes in these series together as an outline of an in-depth verse-by-verse Bible study series.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

LHP Review: Perspectives on Worship Today

 Leaver, Robin A. and Joyce Ann Zimmerman, Editors. Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998. 455 Pages. Paper. $49.95.  (LH)

Westermeyer, Paul. Rise, O Church: Reflections on the Church, Its Music, and Empire. Fenton, MO: Morning Star Music Publishers, 2008. 56 Pages. Paper. $15.00. 1-800-647-2117. (LH)

Witherington, Ben III. We Have Seen His Glory: A Vision of Kingdom Worship. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. 166 Pages. Paper. $16.00. (LHP)

Webber, Robert E. Foreword by John D. Witvliet. Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. 191 Pages. Paper. $14.99. (L)

Parry, Robin. Worshipping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship. Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2005. 202 Pages. Paper. $12.99.  (LHP)

I am astounded at the number of different perspectives there are on worship today. The five books we discuss here cover Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism, and points in-between and outside these Christian traditions.

Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning looks and reads like a textbook. It also a collection of essays written by invited experts in their field. 

"Intended for liturgical music majors as well as professional pastoral musicians, pastors, and liturgical practitioners, Liturgy and Music provides a solid introduction to the scope and role of liturgical music in both Catholic and Christian worship. It offers a comprehensive theological approach to liturgical music and breaks new ground for both a theology of liturgy and a theology of liturgical music.

"Liturgy and Music is divided into two parts, "worship/liturgy" and "liturgical music." Part one covers foundational topics in worship/liturgy, including the liturgical year, sacred time, space, and symbols, ritual, Eucharist, homily, and the worshiping assembly. Part two examines liturgical/church music, including its forms and functions, music as liturgy and prayer, music as corporate praise in both the Reformation and Catholic traditions, and formation for liturgical music. Each part concludes with a bibliographic chapter.
"It is a lifetime learning process to discover new ways that musical liturgy can raise people up to encounter God in praise and thanksgiving. Liturgy and Music assists that learning process by leading liturgical music professionals and others to a full-throated worship of God.

"Essays and contributors included in part one are:
  • "What Is Liturgical Worship," by Mary M. Schaefer;
  • "The Liturgical Year," by Thomas J. Talley;
  • "Liturgical Assembly: Who Is the Subject of Liturgy?" by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS;
  • "Putting Heart into Liturgy," by William Cieslak, OFM Cap;
  • "Symbolic Actions in Christian Worship," by Patrick Byrne;
  • "Ritual: Straight Jacket or Dancing Shoes?" by Joseph Fortuna;
  • "Must Eucharist Do Everything?" by John F. Baldovin;
  • "Theology, Styles, and Structure of the Liturgy of the Hours," by Austin H. Fleming;
  • "Homily as Proclamation," by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS;
  • "General Intercessions," by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS;
  • "Liturgical Spirituality: Living What We Sing About," by James Dallen; and
  • "Liturgy and Worship: A Select Pastoral Bibliography," by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS.
"Essays and contributors included in part two are:
  • "What Is Liturgical Music?" by Robin A. Leaver;
  • "Liturgical Music as Music: The Contribution of the Human Sciences," by J. Michael Joncas;
  • "Liturgical Music: Its Forms and Functions," by Raymond Glover;
  • "Liturgical Music as Liturgy," by William T. Flynn;
  • "Liturgical Music as Prayer," by Kathleen Harmon, SND de N;
  • "Liturgical Music as Corporate Song 1: Hymnody in Reformation Churches," by Robin A. Leaver;
  • "Liturgical Music as Corporate Song 2: Problems of Hymnody in Catholic Worship," by Frank C. Quinn, OP;
  • "Liturgical Music as Corporate Song 3: Opportunities for Hymnody in Catholic Worship," by Michael James Molloy;
  • "Liturgical Music as Homily and Hermeneutic," by Robin A. Leaver;
  • "Liturgical Music, Culturally Tuned," by Mark Bangert;
  • "Liturgical Musical Formation," by Don E. Saliers;
  • "Liturgical Music as Anamnesis," by Robin A. Leaver.
As is true with most essay collections, varied perspectives are gathered together for a common purpose. It is also true that some essays are stronger than others in a given collection. Enough generalities! How about some specifics?

This is a book for and by "Christian mainline, sacramental denominations" (viii). 

Schaefer turned me off by a reference to the "history of religions" school. I was disappointed that the foundational essay ("What Is Liturgical Worship" began on an interfaith note, essentially downplaying the uniqueness of Christian belief and worship. The section on "the normative Sunday Worship Service" gave me some hope about the "ecumenical convergence" liturgiologists see (15ff). 

Talley repeats what he has already written in his own work, that December 25 as the celebration of Christmas borrowed from the Romans (24). Other scholars disagree, pointing out the data is scarce, and while the date is most likely not the actual birthday of Christ, and it may be possible that neo-pagan Romans reasserted Saturnalia on December 25 after Christians began using it.    

Zimmerman (49) is right to call Christ "the Subject of the Liturgy," a good reminder to all Christians that Christian worship should be Gospel-centered and Christ-focused. Baldovin (121ff) highlights the proprium, or unique focus and purpose of Divine Service by highlighting three major ways that the Sunday liturgy has been misused. The author's guidance on the general Prayer of the Church are also edifying and helpfully pragmatic (163). Zimmerman's Chapter 12 provides a reading list, "A Select Pastoral Bibliography," that should be considered a good starting place for those looking for "library builders," but is rather weak on Lutheran resources (194ff). Glover helps in the latter regard (238, 246), but his focus is only on Lutheran Book of Worship, due to the larger use of that book compared to other Lutheran hymnals, and this volumes 1998 copyright date. In addition, Leaver highlights Lutheran hymnody (283ff; and liturgy, 352ff; and Bach, 397; and Luther, 405ff) as does Quinn (309). Leaver is to be commended for a skilled critique of the now-dated, yet influential "church growth" movement (402ff).

More explanation of the Lutheran (Augustana) Rite would be a great place for expansion and revision in an updated edition. I would also recommend the addition of an index.

Page 337 is one of the most helpful to students of early Christian song. Are these treasures in your hymnal or personal repertoire.

Bangert treads into dangerous territory, culture and liturgical inculturation (360ff). Why is it dangerous? It usually doesn't go very well. Many past and current attempts merely replace the old with the new or lead to unionism and syncretism. Those flavors leave a bad taste in the mouth of a Missouri Synod Lutheran. I might respectfully suggest a new/revised essay here that preserves more of the unique Christian confession and the transcultural nature of the inherited Western Rite.

Liturgy and Music is still worth your time and money!

Paul Westermeyer is a scholar worth reading and hearing. Rise, O Church, is a less-successful foray of thought into "the Church, Its Music, and Empire."

"This powerful collection of essays by Paul Westermeyer is both prophetic and pastoral. Dr. Westermeyer pulls themes from Susan Cherwien’s marvelous hymn 'Rise, O Church' and challenges and encourages worship leaders to examine the influences on the church that come from modern day outside sources. Through the study of hymns both modern and historical, the author calls us back to a biblical perspective of worship. A 'must read' for musicians and clergy" (publisher's website). 

Let me pick up where this description leaves off. Westermeyer himself is negatively influenced by outside sources. For example:
  • Consider the "problem with Sodom." It was not "inhospitality" (48) as so many say, denying the homosexual activity condemned there. The author's theological position on "sexual orientation" was made more clear early on (7).
  • I want to hear the painful truths he shares in the opening paragraph of page 50. Yet, it sounded too much like collective guilt leading to social justice, complete with a quote of Tillich. For the sins he mentions, the Gospel needs to be more than just "God's love." I would add "new creation," in addition to "reconciliation," "restoration," and "new life."
  • I have no problem with a letter as a sermon illustration, but I cannot accept a modern (or ancient) letter "non-canonical reading" (16ff).
  • Unfortunately, and likely far beyond the author's control, a book of 56 pages is overpriced at $15.
This book is actually five lectures based on a hymn of the same title that served as theme for the Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy in 2007. It dares too much and is too theologically radical for me. I did appreciate the author's call for the church of this generation to rise and "take up its role in the world" (xii). The theological issue at hand is just what that role should be. There the author and I part company....for now.

Our next book is part of the Liturgical Studies Series of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. To date, we have found significant disagreement with authors of the books in this series.

We Have Seen His Glory sounds a clarion call to worship in light of the coming Kingdom. Ben Witherington here contends that Christian worship cannot be a matter of merely continuing ancient practices; instead, we must be preparing for worship in the Kingdom of God when it comes on earth. The eight chapters in this thought-provoking book each end with questions for reflection and discussion — ideal fare for church study groups.

“In this study I hope to tease some minds into active thought about what worship should look like if we really believe that God’s Kingdom is coming. . . . It’s time for us to explore a more biblical and Kingdom-oriented vision of worship.”
from the prelude


1. We Have Seen His Glory: The Day Is Coming and Now Is

2. Glorifying the Creator and Redeemer: Revelation 4–5

3. Worship as Sabbatical

4. The Legacy of Judaism

5. Glorifying God in a Bolder Way

6. Illuminating the Good News

7. Work and Worship: Labors of Love?

8. Doxology: The End and Aim of All Things

Bibliography (publisher's website)

I must say it again: Lutherans and Calvinists differ on the very theology of worship. God speaks first. Then, we respond. God serves us. Our response of prayer, praise, offerings, and thanksgiving is not the main thing (contra p. 16). I therefore have a strong reaction against misunderstanding of what "going to church" is all about. Yes, we are to regularly attend a Christian congregation where we are served by the Lord. We are to avoid anthropocentric or consumer-oriented approaches to worship (cf. ix)

A discussion of Christian worship is not helped by defining the English word "worship." Webster makes us lazy. We need to discuss the Hebrew and Greek words behind the English translations (14).

I want proof for the authors claim (66) that "spiritual songs" "may mean spontaneous songs from the heart prompted by the Spirit. We can't be certain about any of this..." How about a better definition: song inspired by the Holy Spirit from canonical Scripture like the Magnificat, et al?

A quote from Gandhi is out of place (131). Worship that is "unsettling" is not always helpful (contra, p. 153) ! 

The author should be commended for...
  • Teaching about the Didache (83)
  • Comparing Proverbs, Sirach, Matthew, and Luke to "echoes" in the book of James (188-189)
  • Emphasizing Christocentric worship (155)
  • Critique of seeker-sensitive worship (146ff)
  • Encouraging good Christian preaching
If a Lutheran reader knows what he/she will get in a book from this series and can ignore/correct Calvinistic assumptions as they go, We Have Seen His Glory may well be a blessing to them.

We would encourage this publisher to send fewer unsolicited titles and consider some of our reader's suggestions for Eerdmans titles they would like to hear about from a Lutheran point of view.

The late Robert Webber was a prolific author. Ancient-Future Worship is a must-read.

God has a story. Worship does God's story.

There is a crisis of worship today. The problem goes beyond matters of style--it is a crisis of content and of form. Worship in churches today is too often dead and dry, or busy and self-involved. Robert Webber attributes these problems to a loss of vision of God and of God's narrative in past, present, and future history. 

As he examines worship practices of Old Testament Israel and the early church, Webber uncovers ancient principles and practices that can reinvigorate our worship today and into the future.

The final volume in Webber's acclaimed Ancient-Future series, Ancient-Future Worship is the culmination of a lifetime of study and reflection on Christian worship. Here is an urgent call to recover a vigorous, God-glorifying, transformative worship through the enactment and proclamation of God's glorious story. The road to the future, argues Webber, runs through the past.

Robert E. Webber (1933-2007) was, at the time of his death, Myers Professor of 
Ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, and served as the president of the Institute for Worship Studies in Orange Park, Florida. His many books include Ancient-Future Faith and The Younger Evangelicals. (publisher's website).

I was first introduced to Webber through Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. In many ways, I felt like an evangelical on the Wittenberg trail due to the practices of my college church that diverged from my LCMS upbringing. I also appreciated his Prymer.

First, a critique. I will always object that the Lutheran theology of the Sacrament of the Altar is called "consubstantiation" (148). Webber's explanation on that page is closer to the actual Lutheran position than he may have wished to admit. Further development in this explanation is needed by this book's readers and Webber's devoted students. I pray Lutherans will have part in that discussion.

The Appendix is the author's document A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future (179ff).
  1. On the Primacy of the Biblical Narrative (The term "rules" is to law-focused.)
  2. On the Church, the Continuation of God's Narrative (I appreciate his use of the terms "catholicity" and "apostolicity.")
  3. On the Church's Theological Reflection on God's Narrative (He proposes unity in "the tradition that has been believed everywhere, always and by all.")
  4. On the Church's Worship as Telling and Enacting God's Narrative (I would re-word how he describes a focus on God's work over our work.)
  5. On Spiritual Formation in the Church as Embodiment of God's Narrative (This would be a good place to talk about making disciples of all nations by means of baptizing and by means of teaching.)
  6. On the Church's Embodied Life in the World (This is often called "vocation.")
What I have always appreciated about the books of Robert Webber is the fact that he expects his readers to think, reflect, and interact with his ideas. They may or may not come to his same conclusions. The Introduction explains how he intends readers to read this book (23). His summary of major worship trends in history is concise, understandable, and worthy of discussion (86), especially by Christians who know of little Christian history beyond their own life experience.

The more I read of Ancient-Future Worship, the more I became convinced that Webber was on to something big. And, in my opinion, Biblically faithful confessional church bodies (like the LCMS) that preserve the Western heritage of Divine Service and the Daily Office through use and catechesis are living examples of what Webber advocates.

Read Ancient-Future Worship. Buy copies to study at Winkel conferences. In the new year, QBR will post a review of this and other books in the Ancient-Future series.

Our fifth book was at the same time the most discouraging and encouraging of the five. More explanation follows the book blurb.


Writing for church leaders, worship leaders, and songwriters as well as those interested in theology, Robin Parry looks at why the Trinity matters and addresses pressing questions such as: 
·         What is the relationship between theology and worship?
·         Why is the Trinity central to Christian living and believing?
·         Does the Trinity help us understand what we do when we worship?
·         How can we write and select songs that foster an awareness of the Trinity?
·         How can we make the Trinity central through Holy Communion, spiritual gifts, preaching, and the use of the arts?

Practical and realistic, Worshipping Trinity shows how we can maintain the centrality of the Trinity in a fast-changing worship culture.

Robin Parry is commissioning editor for Paternoster.

My intro to this book deserves some explanation. On first impression, I honestly thought, "Why is this book so influential in some circles? Why was it recommended by hymnwriters I appreciate? It's unnecessary. My seminary training covered all of this and in a better way, too!"

Thank the Lord that first impressions are not always permament. Generally, some time passes between requesting a book and receiving it, receiving it and assigning it to a reviewer, and then again before a written review ends up in my email inbox. After I personally read a book, I let it set for a day or a week to make sure that I have come to some constructive conclusions about what needs to be said. My conclusions (and first impression) changed again with Worshipping Trinity.

My second impression: "You know, not everyone who could/would read Parry's book had or has access to a world-class seminary education with a solid theological foundation from the Scriptures! His potential readers might never talk to me, read my blogs, or enter the doors of my congregation, but they could read this. What Robin Parry has done from his background as a "charismatic (of the mild-mannered variety)" (3) is do some of the hard work (in print) of rediscovering a theology of the Trinity. Granted, this is something that was not everywhere and always lost to the modern Christian church, but his work gives me hope for British Evangelicalism (broadly defined).

To be sure, the author and I will differ on "tongues" (158, 194 note 2, et al) and "spiritual gifts" (169), and hymns like "Spirit of the Living God" that separate the work of the Spirit from the Biblical means He has promised to use (116). I would also caution the author against quoting Moltmann (41). And, to reiterate what we've said before, it really isn't helpful to do a lot of verbal archaeology on the English word "worship," for what we really need are in-depth studies of the Greek and Hebrew Bible words behind that translation.
Robin Parry has done his fellow Christians a service in opening their eyes to what the Scriptures say about God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has presented their Christian heritage of worship theology and practice in a winsome way, and has challenged his readers to be more intentional about both worship theology and practice.

It has been five years since Worshipping Trinity was published. I would love to see a revised edition of this book so that the author could further reflect and demonstrate a growing theological maturity.

Five books. More than five perspectives on worship. Each is insightful in its own way. Liturgy and Music deserves study. Ancient-Future Worship needs more reflection by its readers before application. And we'll be watching to see what Robin Parry writes next.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

FW: The Lutheran Study Edition of the Apocrypha is Coming Along Nicely



Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 8:51 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: The Lutheran Study Edition of the Apocrypha is Coming Along Nicely


The Apocrypha: Lutheran Study Edition is coming on along very nicely. It is on track to be available in 2012. We have received our first set of pages in layout and it is looking great. Here's a sneak-peek, and, as always, for a larger image, click on the images below, then it will appear in another window, click on it again for the larger size.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Resources Received: New and Notable!

Braaten, Carl E., Editor. Preface by Paull E. Spring. Seeking New Directions for Lutheranism: Biblical, Theological, and Churchly Perspectives. Delhi, NY: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2010. 228 Pages. Paper. $18.00 plus postage. (LHP)

FW: Video Sample of Authentic Lutheran Worship #3 – The Royal Highway Like You Have Never Seen

Another example…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Monday, December 20, 2010 9:51 PM
Author: Pastor Tim Rossow
Subject: Video Sample of Authentic Lutheran Worship #3 – The Royal Highway Like You Have Never Seen


(by Rev. Tim Rossow) Authentic Lutheran worship is not the same as repristinating Lutheran worship. Lutheran hymnody can be presented and led in a variety of ways and still be authentically Lutheran.

The attached video of "Prepare the Royal Highway" is from one of Bethany Lutheran's  (Naperville, Illinois) mid-week Advent services. Some might call it non-Lutheran. It is certainly a lively leading of the hymn but the emphasis is still on leading the congregation. Notice how well the congregation is singing. Cantor Magness (at the piano), is an expert in training the congregation to sing. Even though this may sound like a "pop" presentation of the hymn it really is not. Most "pop" Christian songs are not good for congregational singing and are geared for concerts. The back beat of pop and rock music (the drum set is the usual culprit) also does not lend itself to congregational singing. Instead, this is a setting of the hymn that uses the harmonic vocabulary of our culture and the tonal capabilities of the piano to support the melody.

This presentation is not for every parish. Bethany Lutheran enjoys a wide variety of instrumentation and embraces the catholicity of the Lord's song and so the congregation readily embraced this presentation of the hymn. Others might not. What this sample of authentic Lutheran worship should do for all pastors and congregations is demonstrate that there is more than one acceptable way to play hymns and doing so can enrich the liturgy and bring an end to the argument that Confessional Lutherans are stuck in sixteenth century mud.

Prepare the Royal Highway – Lutheran Service Book 343 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

FW: “O Emmanuel, Come” (Advent sermon series on the O Antiphons, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)



Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Saturday, December 18, 2010 11:18 PM
Author: Charles Henrickson
Subject: "O Emmanuel, Come" (Advent sermon series on the O Antiphons, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)


This is the seventh in an Advent sermon series on "The Seven Great 'O' Antiphons."

"O Emmanuel, Come" (Matthew 1:18-25)

And now we come to the last of the seven O Antiphons, "O Emmanuel." You see it there in your hymnal, on the page facing the hymn; it's the one listed for December 23. You'll find it also in your bulletin. So let's pray this "Emmanuel" antiphon together: "O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed for the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God."

This word "Emmanuel"–it sounds familiar enough, but what does it mean? The word "Emmanuel" with an "E" is just the Latin spelling of the Hebrew word "Immanuel." And in Hebrew it goes like this: "Im-manu-el." "Im" means "with." "Manu" means "us." And "El" means "God." So "Im-manu-el," literally, "With us, God." Or to put it a little more smoothly, "God with us."

That's what the word "Emmanuel" means, simple enough. But what does it mean in the larger sense to have God with us? How does that happen? Is it good or bad, to have God with us? Is that a scary or a comforting thought? What does it mean for our lives that God is with us? Those are all questions to ponder when we pray this prayer, "O Emmanuel, Come."

The term "Emmanuel" can have both a scary and a comforting side. Scary, in that the idea of "God with us" for judgment would indeed terrify us poor miserable sinners. Our lack of faith and trust in God would be exposed. We couldn't hide anything from God–as though we really could conceal our sins from God in the first place. Not! Remember how our father Adam tried to hide in the bushes from God, because he was afraid. Guilt will do that to you. You'll try to run away and hide from God, keep him at a distance. But that is just a case of self-delusion. God knows where you are, and he knows what you've done. You can run, but you can't hide.

How would you like to have God with you, seeing what you're doing, hearing what you're saying, knowing what you're thinking, 24/7, every moment of every day? Would your life be pleasing in his sight? The things that no one else can see, but that you know–your impure thoughts, your hateful thoughts, your inner selfishness and the self-centeredness that you can't get rid of, who you really are, deep down–would you want God knowing all that? Guess what? He already does. God with us–how will you withstand that kind of scrutiny?

So Immanuel, "God with us" in judgment–that by itself terrifies us and condemns us, and we want to run away and hide. No comfort there.

But the good news is that God is with us, not to judge us, but to save us! That's what Christmas is all about. God coming in the flesh to be with us as our Savior. The birth of that little baby–he is Emmanuel, God with us: "'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'" All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)."

So these two words go together: "Immanuel" and "Jesus." "Immanuel" tells us that he is "God with us." And "Jesus" tells us why he comes to be with us, and that is, to save us. The one who is God in the flesh, with us, living where we live–he is with us in order to save us from our sins. That's what this other word, "Jesus," tells us about him. Again, it's Hebrew, "Yehoshua," or "Yeshua" for short, and it means "Yahweh saves," "The Lord saves." That's why this baby gets that name, because that's what he will do. God with us to save us from our sins. "Immanuel." "Jesus."

It takes God with us in order to save us. We couldn't do it on our own. Only God can, and he does. We couldn't rise above our sins, or offset them with our works, or sweep them under the rug. They had to be dealt with and paid for. So God in his infinite mercy sent his own Son to do the job. Only Christ is righteous enough to keep God's law the way it was meant to be kept. Only the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross is big enough to cover the sins of the whole world, the Son of God dying in the place of every sinner, including you. Only his holy blood can wash away our sins. So here comes Jesus, whose very name means "Savior," to be God with us in order to save, not to judge. "Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel."

And Christ's resurrection shows us that his death on the cross was powerful to do the job, to atone for our sins, save us from them, save us from the power of death, and save us for a new and everlasting life. We have a living Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And this Savior is still with us. He promises, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." Jesus is still with us, here in our midst, here in his church, present to forgive our sins. And our risen Lord promises to stay with us as our Emmanuel. He says, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Your Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, is with you always, all the days, the good days and the bad. The day when your heart is warmed, life is going well, your faith is strong, you're happy and joyful in the Lord–on that day Christ is being your Emmanuel. But also on the not-so-happy days, the day when you hear the bad diagnosis, the day when you're lonely and depressed, the day when you're struggling with doubt and a guilty conscience–on those days, too, Jesus is with you as your Emmanuel, forgiving you and saving you. Hear again his sure promise: "And behold, I am with you always"–literally, all the days–"to the end of the age."

"To the end of the age": That is where we are looking, that is where we are headed, when we pray the Emmanuel antiphon. We're praying that Christ will come and save us on that day. Save us from the judgment to come and from the destruction and damnation that are about to fall on this planet and its people. Come and save us, good Lord! Come again at your Second Advent, and rescue us from wrath and ruination. Only you can do it, Lord; we trust in you. We look ahead in hope, according to your promise; according to your name, "Jesus," "Savior"; according to your being Emmanuel, "God with us." That is the ultimate goal, isn't it? God with us, forever. "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God."

That, dear friends, is our great Advent hope, so well encapsulated in these seven O Antiphons. Oh, come, Christ our Wisdom, so ordering all things according to God's grand design. Come, Adonai, Lord, our mighty Redeemer and Liberator. O Root of Jesse, come, the one who is both root and shoot of Israel's line of kings. O Key of David, come, you who unlock our prison doors and open the kingdom of heaven to all believers. O Dayspring, the light that dawns upon our path. O King of the nations, our true treasure, the one we desire above all things. And now finally, O Emmanuel, God with us to save.

These antiphon prayers are true preparation, getting us ready for Christ's coming at Christmas and at the end of time. As Christmas preparation, the seven O Antiphons are brilliantly timed. You'll recall that you saw in your hymnal, opposite Hymn 357, that these antiphons are assigned, each one to a date, over the seven days leading up to the day of Christmas Eve. In other words, December 17 through 23.

Now look in your bulletin at the seven titles for Christ, in their Latin form: Sapientia, Adonai, Radix Jesse, Clavis David, Oriens, Rex gentium, and Emmanuel. Take the first letter from each of those titles–"S" for "Sapientia," "A" for "Adonai," "R" for "Radix," and so on–put those seven letters together and what do they spell? S-A-R-C-O-R-E, SARCORE. And what does that mean? Absolutely nothing! SARCORE is not even a word. But if you take those seven letters and run them the other way around, E-R-O-C-R-A-S, "ERO CRAS," that does mean something! "Ero," in Latin. is the future tense of the verb "to be," and so it means, "I will be." And "cras"–like in our word "procrastinate"–"cras" means "tomorrow." "Ero cras," "I will be, tomorrow."

So here are these seven O Antiphons, the church is praying them over seven days beginning December 17, and we end on December 23, the day before Christmas Eve. The church has been praying, "O Christ, come. Come and be here for us, to save us at your Second Coming just as surely as you came at Christmas. O come, O come, Emmanuel." And with our prayer comes Christ's answer, his promise, "Ero cras," "I will be, tomorrow." Dear friends, here is the beautiful message of the seven O Antiphons: As near as Christmas is coming, so near is the coming of our Savior. His salvation is on the way, right around the corner.

And with that, then, we bring our Advent "O Antiphon" series to a close by praying together the final, "Emmanuel" antiphon: "O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed for the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God."

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FW: Fellowship Recognized Between LCMS and SELC



Feed: Witness, Mercy, Life Together.
Posted on: Sunday, December 19, 2010 9:14 PM
Author: Al Collver
Subject: Fellowship Recognized Between LCMS and SELC


Bishop Lytkin with pastors from SELC and representatives from CTSFW

On 17 December 2010, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) approved the recognition of church fellowship between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC). The approval of the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and the SELC occurred twelve years after the SELC first requested fellowship discussions with the LCMS under President Alvin Barry.  Under Bylaw, after a request for fellowship, consultation with the Preasidium, and the approval of the recognition of fellowship, the President of Synod may declare recognition of such fellowship.

Commenting on the CTCR's action, President Matthew C. Harrison said, "We give thanks to the Lord that after much patience and longsuffering on the part of the Siberian Lutherans, the Missouri Synod can now recognize the gift of fellowship that the Lord has worked between the LCMS and the SELC." For his part, Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin of the SELC has stated several times in the past, "From our point of view, we are in fellowship with the LCMS."

Shortly after President Harrison was elected at the 64th regular convention of the LCMS, Bishop Lytkin sent President-elect Harrison a letter on 14 July 2010 saying, "We at Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church also hope that with your election and introduction in the office of the President discussions between our church bodies concerning church fellowship will gain new momentum and will come to a proper conclusion. As you may know, we have met with LCMS church leaders a number of times, starting from Alvin Barry, but in the last year some impending circumstances slowed down our progress." In response to this letter, President Harrison sent a delegation to Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia, which consisted of Rev. Dr. Albert B Collver, Director of Church Relations ­ Assistant to the President, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Director of the CTCR, and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Dean of International Studies, Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, for doctrinal discussions with members of the SELC. The delegation, while acknowledging differences in practice, found no doctrinal differences. On 18 November 2010, President Harrison consulted with the Preasidium regarding pursuing fellowship with the SELC according to Bylaw

With CTCR's December 17 approval, President Matthew C. Harrison, per Bylaw, declared the recognition between the two church bodies.

Upon receiving the news of fellowship with the SELC, President Dean Wenthe of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne stated, "I am delighted that more than a decade of mission work in Siberia on the part of Concordia Theological Seminary, under the direction of Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill and supported by our faculty, now has borne fruit as fellowship between our two churches. The SELC is already one of our church's most vibrant mission partners. We rejoice in God's grace and pray his blessing upon Bishop Lytkin, his pastors and congregations." Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Dean of International Studies and Director of the Russian Project at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, commented further, "The decision of President Harrison to declare altar and pulpit fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church as one of his first international, church relations acts is extremely significant. It reveals a vision and heart for fostering unity among faithful confessional Lutheran brothers and sisters the world over."

Over the past 14 years, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, utilizing its professors, along with pastors primarily from within the Missouri Synod and occasionally from our partner churches such as SELK, provided theological education for the majority of the current pastors in the SELC, largely at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Siberia, Russia.  During this time, the LCMS and the SELC have forged deep relationships. Although the Synod in July 2010 passed Resolution 3-04A to help fast track fellowship with small or emerging confessional Lutheran church bodies, the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC came about through measured and intentional steps.

The passing of Resolution 3-04A at the Synod's convention in July 2010 led to the creation of Bylaw, which reads, "When a small, formative, or emerging church body requests recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod, and after consultation with the Praesidium and approval by the commission, such recognition may be declared by the President of the Synod subject to the endorsement of the subsequent Synod convention." The first use of this Bylaw for the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and the SELC after more than 14 years of contact between the two churches demonstrates a careful and deliberate use of this new responsibility granted to the President.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, Chairman of the CTCR noted, "In John 17 the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for the oneness of His church.  Since that time the church has struggled to express that oneness.  From this we learn, first of all, that fellowship doesn't simply 'happen' by 'chance.'  It is the gift of God.  Second, we see that the realization of that fellowship occurs in a fallen world that now lives under the cross of Christ.  The Commission on Theology and Church Relations rejoices in the Lord's gracious leading of the SELC and LCMS to recognize their confessional unity and looks forward to future opportunities to work toward the faithful expression of the oneness we have in Christ with those who confess the faith in the fullness of its truth."

With the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations – Assistant to the President, said, "As one who taught at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, the formal recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC brings me great joy as the role of confessional Lutheranism is expanded around the world."

The recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC will be brought to the LCMS' 65th regular convention in 2013 for ratification.

Map of Parishes in SELC

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Noted Review: Little-Known Christian History

Jenkins, Philip. The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died. New York: HarperOne/HarperCollins, 2008. 315 Pages. Paper. $15.99. (LHP)

Stark, Rodney. God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. 276 Pages. Cloth. $24.99. (LHP)

Baylor University had a good football season. Both authors featured in this review teach at that university, and both feature little-known Christian history.

Our first book is also a first for QBR: it was recommended as a title to review by one of our long-time readers in the summer of 2009. It took a while for that requested book to be fulfilled by the publisher. Then, it waited longer than that on my personal reading stack. What is this book about?

The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins offers a revolutionary view of the history of the Christian church. Subtitled “The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died,” it explores the extinction of the earliest, most influential Christian churches of China, India, and the Middle East, which held the closest historical links to Jesus and were the dominant expression of Christianity throughout its first millennium. The remarkable true story of the demise of the institution that shaped both Asia and Christianity as we know them today, The Lost History of Christianity is a controversial and important work of religious scholarship that sounds a warning that must be heeded.

In this groundbreaking book, renowned religion scholar Philip Jenkins offers a lost history, revealing that, for centuries, Christianity's center was actually in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with significant communities extending as far as China. The Lost History of Christianity unveils a vast and forgotten network of the world's largest and most influential Christian churches that existed to the east of the Roman Empire. These churches and their leaders ruled the Middle East for centuries and became the chief administrators and academics in the new Muslim empire. The author recounts the shocking history of how these churches—those that had the closest link to Jesus and the early church—died. 

Jenkins takes a stand against current scholars who assert that variant, alternative Christianities disappeared in the fourth and fifth centuries on the heels of a newly formed hierarchy under Constantine, intent on crushing unorthodox views. In reality, Jenkins says, the largest churches in the world were the “heretics” who lost the orthodoxy battles. These so-called heretics were in fact the most influential Christian groups throughout Asia, and their influence lasted an additional one thousand years beyond their supposed demise. 

Jenkins offers a new lens through which to view our world today, including the current conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Without this lost history, we lack an important element for understanding our collective religious past. By understanding the forgotten catastrophe that befell Christianity, we can appreciate the surprising new births that are occurring in our own time, once again making Christianity a true world religion.

Philip Jenkins was born in Wales in 1952. He was educated at Clare College, in the University of Cambridge, where he took a prestigious “Double First” degree—that is, Double First Class Honors. In 1978, he obtained his doctorate in history, also from Cambridge. Since 1980, he has taught at Penn State University, and currently holds the rank of Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities. He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion.

Though his original training was in early modern British history, he has since moved to studying a wide range of contemporary topics and issues, especially in the realm of religion.

Jenkins is a well-known commentator on religion, past and present. He has published 24 books, including The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South and God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis, The Lost History of Christianity and Jesus Wars (Oxford University Press).... (publisher's website)
Our readers deserve to know about the authors and context(s) of the books we review. 

Honestly, The Lost History of Christianity had me thinking deeply, reading it in small chunks over a week. (That's a long for me to take with just one book.) Why? It was new territory in an unique topic because of Jenkins' depth of detail. I had read about the early wide spread of Christianity in Africa, the continent of Asia, and the Middle East, but not with all the specific names and places attached.

Here's what I knew before: Many of these churches were Christian (in the wide sense of the term), and endured for a thousand years in territory unfriendly to Christ today. That said, very, very few of them would/could be in altar and pulpit fellowship with my home, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. Martin Luther himself would be uncomfortable with their (in)complete confession of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and so would C. F. W. Walther.

I am NOT saying that these folks weren't Christian. They are/were more "Christian" than the "Gnostics" who tried pass themselves and their teachings off as Christianity. I will assert with the ancient fathers (and some modern scholars) that many, many of these bishops, pastors, leaders, writers, and lay Christians were too heavily influenced by Nestorianism (both Nestorius and his followers who even went beyond the teachings of their erring teacher) and not influenced enough by the Old Testament and New Testament witness.

Jenkins is to be commended for bringing this "lost history" to light. I do not know his Church affiliation, nor exactly how or if his personal beliefs color this book, but I need to take a moment to offer a note of concern. His work here describes the muddled beliefs of those he writes about as a "golden age." I simply cannot agree. Numbers do not guarantee orthodox Bible teaching.

Yet, this is a "Christian" history in the wide sense. No, these folks are/were not pagans, Hindus, nor Muslims. Their beliefs are part Christian and part....contrary to Scripture. They are/were not totally orthodox Christians. In the light of history, I will mourn the loss of believers, congregations, servants of the Word and also the loss of entire continents to other world religions. Yet, our Lord works in mysterious ways. I will rejoice that a more pure Word (and remnant of believers) was preserved in the West for the sake of "all nations," including the peoples of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

I will also briefly mention my objection to the author's faddish mention of "climate change" (135) and this: "From the tenth century onward, many prospective converts were attracted by the example of Muslim saints and sages, whose charismatic powers recalled those of earlier Christian saints. Nothing in Muslim scriptures makes the faith of Islam more or less likely to engage in persecution or forcible conversion than any other world religion" (31). I disagree with the author on the basis of just the first two suras of the Koran!

So, where does this leave us with Jenkins and The Lost History of Christianity? Here's my recommendation:
  1. Read the book because its subject matter is so unique. Find a copy in your library or get one from your favorite bookseller. Try this one out on an e-reader like a Nook or a Kindle. (I haven't made up my mind in the new "format wars," but will likely hold out for an iPad or a color Kindle.)
  2. By a copy of a great and reliable book on Christology, like The Two Natures of Christ by Martin Chemnitz, p. 191, et al, currently on sale!)
  3. Learn more about Nestorianism and other early Christian sects and how they differ in theology and practice from orthodox catholic (note the intentional small "o" and small "c") Christianity. You may also be edified and informed by the new book by Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr., The New Testament in His Blood, and his brief explanation of how Lutherans reject Nestorian Christology(, footnote 8, pp. 102-103).
  4. Ready for the hard part? Compare and contrast. Ask with Drs. Luther, Chemnitz, and Walther what Bible doctrines are at stake, what Nestorianism means taken to its logical conclusion, and how Nestorius (et al) fail to properly distinguish Law and Gospel. Discuss this with your pastor. Pastors, consider this for a deep study at Winkel conferences.
  5. Pray for the growth of biblical Christianity in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and among "all nations" and for the preservation of the Church especially under persecution.
  6. Learn more about this topic from Jenkins and other authors to help fill in the gaps of this "lost history."

I will look for other titles by Philip Jenkins to better understand his worldview on Christianity. I would describe my feeling toward him as an author in this way: He's a literary chef who uses some spices in my dish that I haven't discovered....yet.

As a reader and reviewer, I have more confidence in recommending Rodney Stark's book, God's Battalions.

In God's Battalions, award-winning author Rodney Stark takes on the long-held view that the Crusades were the first round of European colonialism, conducted for land, loot, and converts by barbarian Christians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. To the contrary, Stark argues that the Crusades were the first military response to unwarranted Muslim terrorist aggression.

Stark reviews the history of the seven major Crusades from 1095 to 1291, demonstrating that the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations, centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West, and sudden attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places. Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, Stark argues that this had nothing to do with any elaborate design of the Christian world to convert all Muslims to Christianity by force of arms. Given current tensions in the Middle East and terrorist attacks around the world, Stark's views are a thought-provoking contribution to our understanding and are sure to spark debate.

Rodney Stark is the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. His thirty books on the history and sociology of religion include The Rise of Christianity; Cities of God; For the Glory of God, which won the 2004 Award of Merit for History/Biography from Christianity Today; Discovering God, which won the 2008 Award of Merit for Theology/Ethics from Christianity Today; and The Victory of Reason (publisher's website).

Ah, to dispel political correctness! It's better than coffee first thing in the morning. No, Christians and Christian leaders are never perfect, but they were justified in calling for a defensive war, one that had unintended consequences. 

Were there abuses? Yes. Some were theological. You may have heard about the seventy-two virgins promised to Muslims who die in battle propogating Islam. Did a Pope borrow part of a this idea from Islam?
Now the pope himself was assuring them that crusading would wash away all their sins...(117)
This false theology has most often been considered as works-righteousness, decried by Lutherans and evangelical Christians. The earlier book by Jenkins put in my mind the context of the ancient world and the "melting pot" of world religions and followers in flux.

The truth is hard to swallow after false "truths" have been taught for so long, but Stark is an engaging writer. Readers can resonate with his clear thinking, creative prose, and reliable research.

The thrust of the preceding chapters can be summarized very briefly. The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not the barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God's battalions (248).

Why did Ferdinand and Isabella have money to give Christopher Columbus? War surplus after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. Why did Charles V want external religious reunion among Roman Catholics and Lutherans? To fight the Turks at the gate of Vienna! Christ did not urge his followers to spread His Faith by the Sword. Mohammed did. The crusades were (at first) intended as defensive wars and Stark proves it.

HarperOne has dared to defy conventional wisdom with both The Lost History of Christianity and God's Battallions.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.