Monday, October 31, 2011

FW: Grasp These Words or Die in Your Sins – The Significance of the Reformation




Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Monday, October 31, 2011 5:07 PM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Grasp These Words or Die in Your Sins – The Significance of the Reformation


An excellent sermon for the Reformation of the Church, preached by Pastor Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

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FW: What about all these churches?


Veith and McCain…


Feed: Cranach: The Blog of Veith
Posted on: Monday, October 31, 2011 3:16 AM
Author: Gene Veith
Subject: What about all these churches?


Reformation Day is nothing to celebrate, according to some Christians.  It marks the day Christianity was shattered into countless little sects.  We need to find unity rather than revel in things that divide us.  Luther's breaking away from what was then one Church was a tragedy.

First of all, Luther didn't break away from the Church.  He was excommunicated!  There is a big difference.  Secondly, the Church did need reforming.  Even the Church of Rome came to admit that, finally coming to grips with the financial and moral corruption that had become rife in late medieval Christianity.  If there were no Reformation, there would have been no Counter-Reformation.

As for all of the subsequent church bodies, Paul McCain, in a Reformation Day meditation, offers a useful taxonomy:

Another point that confuses many people is the fact that there are so many different churches to choose from. It is an awful mess, so it seems. Yes, it can be confusing, but it really is not as complicated as some would think, or want to maintain. Up until the year 1054 there was basically one unified Christian church, distinct from a number of non-Christian or anti-Christian heretical groups. In 1054 the church divided into Eastern and Western Christianity. By the time of the late Middle Ages the Western Church, which had come to be known as the Roman Catholic Church, had reached a point of deep corruption, most importantly in what it believed, but also in the morals and life of the clergy and church leadership. In 1517 there began what we know today as the Reformation, when Martin Luther, a professor and monk in Wittenberg, Germany posted a series of "talking points" on the practice of selling "indulgences" by which people were led to believe they could buy forgiveness of sins, for their dead relatives in purgatory. A person has to decide is the Lutheran view of Christianity is correct, or the Roman Catholic view is correct.

After the Reformation, many groups developed from the teachings of persons other than Martin Luther, most notably, two men: Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, who did much of his work in Geneva. These two men and their writings gave rise to many churches that can be traced back to and grouped under the general category of "Reformed" churches. In America in the 19th and 20th century there arose many splinter groups from Reformed churches, these would include "Charismatic" and "Pentecostal" groups, along with groups that rejected all denominations and became, in effect, a denomination of their own, the so-called "non-denominational" churches. And so the question then becomes, "Is Lutheran theology correct, or Reformed theology correct?" So, is it Rome or Wittenberg. If Wittenberg, then is it Geneva or Wittenberg?" Once those decisions are made, the myriad of denominations today makes a lot more sense.

But there is an additional challenge unique to our century and more so the past half-century. Today, despite all their denominational differences and historic confessions, the vast majority of Christian churches in Protestantism have been nearly overwhelmed by the rise of liberal Christianity. This unites them more so than any other feature of their confession of faith. Historic differences are no longer regarded as divisive since these divisions were based on one group's understanding of the Biblical text as opposed to another group's understanding of the Bible. For example, the difference between Lutheran and Reformed views of the Lord's Supper are very important and based on very serious and clear differences in how the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are understood. Liberalism however regards the words of Jesus in the Bible as unreliable. It teaches that we can not be sure that what is recorded in the Bible is true and accurate, therefore, there is no point in being "dogmatic" about much of anything having to do with the Bible. Modern liberalism has swept through all Christian denominations, Lutheran Reformed, Protestant and Roman Catholic.

via The Festival of the Reformation: October 31 – Does Being Lutheran Still Matter? | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

So one must decide if Rome was right, or if Wittenberg was right?  (Or, before that, I suppose, if Constantinople was right.)  If Luther was right to post those theses, the next decision is whether Wittenberg or Geneva was right.  And then, I suppose, a choice between a number of other places (Canterbury?  New Bedford?  Plymouth, Massachusetts?  Upstate New York?  Chicago?  Azusa Street?)

But now EVERYBODY also must decide between conservative theology and the new (and unifying) liberal theology.

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LHP Review: The Heart of Christian Doctrine

The Theology and Life of Robert David Preus: Papers Presented at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, Itasca, Illinois, April 8-10, 1999. St. Louis: The Luther Academy, 2009. 142 Pages. Paper. $15.95. (LHP)

The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours (Impact Series). Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2008. 283 Pages. Paper. $17.99. (LHP).

Wright, N. T. Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. 279 Pages. Cloth. $25.00. (LHP)

Nichols, Stephen J. What Is Vocation? (Basics of the Faith series). Phillipsburg, NJ: PandR, 2010. 31 Pages. Paper/Staple-bound. $3.99. (LHP)

Saltzman, Russell E. The Pastor's Page and Other Small Essays. Delhi, New York: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2010. 100 Pages. Paper. $6.50. (LHPN)

Gilbert, Greg. Foreword by D. A. Carson. What Is the Gospel? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. 127 Pages. Cloth. $12.99. (LHP)

Having recently reviewed two books that systematically presented Christian Doctrine, it only made sense to group these books together as ones that reflect on the heart of Christian Doctrine: Christ, Justification, and the Gospel.

A collection of essays presented at the 1999 Congress on the Lutheran Confessions has the substance of a theological tome. That's a high compliment!

The Theology and Life of Robert David Preus is a collection of papers presented at the 1999 Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in paperback.

Titles of the papers are:
  • Dr. Robert D. Preus: Confessional Systematician and Teacher of the Confessions, Kenneth Hagen
  • The Doctrine of Justification in the Theology of Robert Preus, Rolf Preus
  • Dr. Robert D. Preus and International Lutheranism, Jobst Schoene
  • The Doctrine of the Scriptures in the Theology of Robert David Preus (16 October 1924-4 November 1995), David Scaer
  • Dr. Robert D. Preus and the Evangelicals: A Tribute to Robert Preus, Michael Horton
  • Robert Preus--Life in Christ's Church, Daniel Preus
  • Robert Preus as an Organizer of Confessional Lutheranism, Marin R. Noland
  • Dr. Robert D. Preus and the Norwegian Lutheran Churches: Their Impact on American Lutheranism Today, Oliver Olson
  • Dr. Robert D. Preus: The Lutheran Confessions and the Idea of Confessional Lutheranism, Kurt Marquart,
  • Robert D. Preus: A Bibliography 
(Source: Publisher's website)
Michael Horton's presentation is to be especially noted as a tribute to the strong, consistent, Biblical confession Robert Preus made as a Lutheran while appropriately working together with other Reformation Christians to provide a clear witness to American Evangelicalism. Horton calls for "fair-mindedness" (78) and for a confessional Lutheranism without aberrations. Such is the challenge for Lutherans. We need to get our own house in order while making a fresh confession of the faith once delivered to the saints.

Why "testament" rather than "covenant"? See Oliver Olson's essay on how "covenant" may open the way for "a Reformed brand of synergism, especially by means of the American Puritan tradition" (120).

The sainted Dr. Marquardt is at his pithy best as he concludes his essay on the idea of Confessional Lutheranism:
The real problem, then, is not what we officially list as 'confessions,' old or new, but what we actually do with our confessions. Do we dare implement them--even if it means numerical losses? Confessions are simply not meant to be constitutional 'paragraphs' or decorative church-political documents on patient paper. They are meant to govern the life of the church. When we confess in the New Testament sense, we at once unite and divide. 'Confession' by majority vote is no confession at all, if mutual communion, church fellowship, continues undisturbed between those who confess and those who deny.  Obviously such 'confessing' is not meant seriously. Real confession has real consequences at the altar and in the pulpit. It either affirms or else violates the marks of the church, the purely preached gospel and the rightly administered sacraments, which alone determine church fellowship (134-5).
The volume is worth purchasing merely because it is about Robert Preus. It is also worth adding to your library for the Marquardt presentation alone. And it supports the work of the Luther Academy, too!

Daniel Deutschlander's recent Northwestern Publishing House book focuses on The Theology of the Cross.

According to the publisher, this is "A book on Christian doctrine that reminds readers that all biblical doctrine relates to Scripture's central teaching that God sent his Son to save lost sinners. The Old and New Testaments make it clear that our salvation is found in the cross of Christ. However, there is a seeming paradox between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory. Sinful people tend to overlook the cross and its demands and, instead, focus on the glory that they think they should now enjoy because they call themselves Christians. This is a matter of urgent concern. Deutschlander helps us to see Christ's cross as our cross. He reminds us that our good works have no value for our salvation. Yet good works are valuable as fruits of faith done out of gratitude to God for his gift of salvation. It deepens our understanding and appreciation for God's gift of life in Christ. It warns us of Satan's efforts to turn us from Christ to ourselves. It comforts us with the assurance that the cross of Christ leads to heavenly glory."

This book leads the reader to the cross of Jesus Christ and properly distinguishes the Lutheran theology of the cross from the alternative, a sad and ultimately unchristian theology of glory. "The liturgy addresses the needs of crossbearers" (4). The Church needs worship formed by the theology of the cross (133) and families need more than a "cute" Christmas and "nice" Easter (177ff).

What to do if God seems to be my enemy? Consider Chapter 2.

A choice quote: "Ultimately all error aims at using a rejection of my cross to get to the rejection of his cross, that is, to a rejection of the heart and core of the gospel, the doctrine of justification" (62)

A creative use of "sliver" helps create interest in Chapters 3 and 4, explaining acidia, otherwise known as sloth, laziness, or even apathy (81) and how to prevent overreaching with the Table of Duties (105).

The reader hears of the hiddenness of God (e.g. 114) and is catechized about common crosses of Christians (Chapter 7).

In the Appendices, readers are introduced to Hermann Sasse (223ff) and perhaps preachers will be encouraged to preach their own special sermon series on the theology of the cross based on this example (227).

Need a renewed perspective on what your congregation (and Christmas/Easter) visitors really need to hear? Read The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours.

N. T. Wright gets a lot of press. I appreciate the impact he has made in getting people to think. I'm not always encouraged by his content.

Few issues are more central to the Christian faith than the nature, scope and means of salvation. Many have thought it to be largely a transaction that gets one to heaven. In this riveting book, N. T. Wright explains that God's salvation is radically more than this.
At the heart of much vigorous debate on this topic is the term the apostle Paul uses in several of his letters to describe what happens to those in Christ--justification. Paul uses this dramatic image from the law court to declare that Christians are acquitted of the cosmic accusations against them. But justification goes beyond this in Paul's writings to offer a vision of God's future for the whole world as well as for his people.
Here in one place Wright now offers a comprehensive account and defense of his perspective on this crucial doctrine. He provides a sweeping overview of the central points in the debate before launching into a thorough explanation of the key texts in Paul's writings. While fully cognizant of tradition and controversy, the final authority for his conclusions is the letters of Paul themselves.

Along the way Wright responds to critics, such as John Piper, who have challenged what has come to be called the New Perspective. For Wright, what Paul means by justification is nothing less than God's unswerving commitment to the covenant promise he made to bless the whole world through Abraham and his family.

This irenic response is an important contribution for those on both sides of the debate--and those still in between--to consider. Whether you're a fan of Wright's work or have read his critics and would like to know the other side of the story, here is a chance to interact with Wright's views on the issues at stake and form your own conclusions.

Related Information and Resources

Read an interview with N. T. Wright here. Download an in-depth QandA interview with N. T. Wright about Justification. (publisher's website)
There's a comforting kind of radical and a concerning kind of radical. It is comforting to have someone rediscover the reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was comforting to hear from Wright. It concerns me that the bulk of Justification restates, reevaluates, or rewords traditional ways of confessing, teaching, and believing what Jesus accomplished. I had a visceral reaction to the book in a negative way.

It's not that I object to fresh words expressing Christian doctrine, faith, and life. I read Bonhoeffer, after all. In academic writing, there just seems to be an unnecessary communication gap between John Piper and N. T. Wright. As our regular readers may note, I do not see eye-to-eye with Piper on worship (

Wright argues for a thought experiment where we read Ephesians and Colossians first and then interpret Romans and Galatians in their light (43). I'm not opposed to experiments, but I don't agree with his assumptions that Lutherans (44) ignore large parts of books they don't like or  put redemption "into operation through faith, without works". There's too much re-writing of history here for me. "What might have been" is for alternate history in science fiction. ("What if Calvin would have agreed with Luther?" is a more fun what if for me, ranking up there with "What if England had gone Lutheran because of Barnes?") I disagree with the premise, his assumptions and details, and therefore disagree with his conclusions.

Wright is probably writing against more of the liberal ELCA version of "Lutheran," but there are larger critiques of Lutheranism in general (72ff, et al). Wright: "Not of course, that I wish to repeat the manifold hermeneutical dangers so evident in Luther's wonderful and deeply flawed commentary on Galatians, imagining that Paul is attacking exactly the enemies as he is himself" (112). Wright endorses Luther's simil iustus et peccator (119), Luther's "two kingdoms" (174), and is largely in favor of Freedom of a Christian (193). In contrast, I recoil at the following: "Part of me recoils from having to question this traditional reading on the text" (159 on 2 Cor. 5:21).

The author has some valuable things to say. Effective communication is not taking place. Consider the following question and answer from an interview by Trevin Wax on on January 13, 2009:
What is at stake in this debate over justification? If one were to adopt Piper's view instead of yours, what would they be missing?
What's missing is the big, Pauline picture of God's gospel going out to redeem the whole world, all of creation, with ourselves as part of that. What's missing is the big, Pauline view of the church, Jew and Gentile on equal footing, as the sing to the powers of the world that Jesus is Lord and they aren't. What's missing is the key work of the Holy Spirit in enabling the already justified believers to live with moral energy and will so that they really do "please God" as Paul says again and again, but as Reformed theology is shy of lest is smack of smuggling in works-righteousness again. What's missing is an insistence on Scripture itself rather than tradition.
Scripture, yes! Wright's answers in the interview were much clearer and acceptable than his muddled, overly-complicated, and controversial book. I'll stick with my Greek, Hebrew, and Luther, and will monitor further discussions. I assert that not only do Wright and his critics speak past one another, Wright also has need to more closely examine Luther (and not merely in translation) and Lutheranism (of the LCMS variety) before critiquing us too harshly.

His conclusion has a verbally creative final paragraph (252), but I think there is too much talking past the Reformation tradition of exegesis and theology on justification for N. T. Wright's book to be as helpful to Christians as he hoped it would be.

We now examine Christians at work and in their lives producing the fruits of the Gospel. This is vocation.

Vocation comes from the Latin word for "to call." God calls us to faith in Christ. We live our lives of faith serving God by serving our neighbor. "Works help our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living," we sing.
For some people, work is tedious and boring—something to endure until the weekend arrives. For others, work is everything; it consumes them and their time. The former find no meaning or satisfaction in their jobs, the latter find too much—both lack an eternal perspective, a biblical framework through which they can evaluate what they spend most of their lives doing.

This booklet offers that framework. Work, as ordained by God, has meaning and purpose. And by understanding your own vocation, you too can say with the psalmist, “Yes, establish the work of our hands!”(publisher's website)

These brief books from PandR Publishing on the basics of the faith have been helpful to me in explaining less-familiar Christian concepts in preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. Martin Luther is respected as a reformer, applying the word vocation to all aspects of a godly life lived in faith (8). Noted Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach makes an appearance as his "Soli Deo Gloria," to God alone be the glory, is added to the other solas of the Reformation (9).  

No, vocation is not Gospel, but  I especially appreciated the artful way Nichols shows us Jesus' vocation as Savior, and that is Gospel (25).

Most churches have newsletters. And most pastors write a regular column in their churches’ newsletters. For those who know Russ Saltzman via his 17 years as editor of Forum Letter from 1991 - 2007‚ it will come as no surprise that writing a monthly “Pastor’s Page” is something he did uncommonly well. This small book contains a collection of newsletter columns that he mostly wrote originally for his parishioners.

Pastor Saltzman’s writing is engaging and often humorous. But these are serious pieces about serious subjects like the Incarnation, the authority of the Bible, suffering, judgment, the Real Presence, the Two Kingdoms and more. Some are personal reflections on family or congregational life, but most are in fact short theological essays. Pastor Saltzman is writing for people he knows, loves and respects, and he has put a lot of thought into what he says. Reading each of these short essays is rather like having a conversation with a pastor you can trust to be honest with you.

Current Forum Letter editor and parish pastor Richard O. Johnson said about it that “The Pastor’s Page should be a seminary textbook for teaching future pastors how to communicate-and just how to be-with their parishioners.” There is indeed much here for pastors and other Christian teachers from which to learn and to borrow. But this book is also a joy to read just for its own sake. (publisher's website)
Call me crazy, but newsletter articles should say something worth the reader's time. Russ Saltzman does that. His articles are memorable and worth learning from.

I have questions and concerns about the apple juice story (44), yet I appreciate the author's bold stand in the ELCA (71 et al) and the challenges being a Lutheran in a time of troubling questionaire results (39ff)! Pastors and other readers will smile and respect the challenges all pastoral care brings (74ff), including weevils (20ff).

What Is the Gospel? I remember many segments that Issues, Etc. has done over the years exposing the sad ignorance and lack of clarity of many Christian authors and publishers on that very question. How does Greg Gilbert fare?

What is the gospel? It seems like a simple question, yet it has been known to incite some heated responses, even in the church. How are we to formulate a clear, biblical understanding of the gospel? Tradition, reason, and experience all leave us ultimately disappointed. If we want answers, we must turn to the Word of God.

Greg Gilbert does so in What Is the Gospel? Beginning with Paul's systematic presentation of the gospel in Romans and moving through the sermons in Acts, Gilbert argues that the central structure of the gospel consists of four main subjects: God, man, Christ, and a response. The book carefully examines each and then explores the effects the gospel can have in individuals, churches, and the world. Both Christian and non-Christian readers will gain a clearer understanding of the gospel in this valuable resource.

GREG GILBERT earned his BA from Yale and his MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the author of What Is the Gospel?, and the co-author of What Is the Mission of the Church?
D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He earned a doctorate in New Testament Studies from Cambridge University. He is an active guest lecturer, and he has written or edited more than forty books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago. (publisher's website)
Carson's forward calls for evangelicals to actually focus on the Gospel, the evangel. This is a good start (13ff).

Gilbert knows the Gospel and articulates it well (21, 31, Chapter 4, et al). The response to the Gospel is repentance and faith (Chapter 5). I would prefer that the Biblical order be maintained rather than "faith and repentance). He holds readers' feet to the fire in calling for repentance (80), yet lets expressions of decision theology go (also 80). I commend the author for maintaining a theology of the cross (Chapter 7), especially by exposing several false substitute "gospels," including moralism (109). God works through means, especially through the servants He has called into His service. The author explains the role of the holy ministry in comparison to the ministry of angels (119). Overall, the focus is on the person and work of Christ and the gifts He gifts and the Gift He is.

Justification is the article of faith by which the Church stands or falls. May these thoughts bless your reading and preparation for preaching, teaching, and pastoral care for the sake of the Gospel.

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.

Pulpit Review: Christian Doctrine

Driscoll, Mark and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. 463 Pages. Cloth. $22.99. (P).

Mueller, Steven P. Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to Doctrinal Theology (Called by the Gospel). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005. 574 Pages. Paper. $55.00. (P)

Whether the seminary's department is called "Systematic," "Dogmatic," or "Doctrinal" Theology, Christians should embrace as study of what the Bible says, especially when everything God's Word says about a specific topic or issue is organized in one place.

I am not talking about "winds of doctrine" or mere "human doctrine." The best dogmatics texts treat the sedes doctrinae, "seat of the doctrine," as the source of what Christians teach. This has been caricatured into "proof texting," at best, and, at worst, misused by those who wish to push another agenda and/or deceive those who respect and trust the Bible as God's Word: "Let's come up with some crazy idea and find some Bible verse to take out of context and 'prop up' our new teaching."

We find a positive use of the word "doctrine" in two books for consideration in this review.

Doctrine is the word Christians use to define the truth-claims revealed in Holy Scripture. Of course there is a multitude of churches, church networks, and denominations, each with their own doctrinal statement with many points of disagreement. But while Christians disagree on a number of doctrines, there are key elements that cannot be denied by anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus.
In Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, Driscoll and Breshears teach thirteen of these key elements. This meaty yet readable overview of basic doctrine will help Christians clarify and articulate their beliefs in accordance with the Bible.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and is the author of several books, including Vintage Jesus.
Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. (publisher's website)

Doctrine by Mark Driscoll from Crossway on Vimeo.
I get nervous when I hear the word "nondenominational." It means "no name." In my experience, most places that are "nondenom" have a name. They are part of some kind of denominational structure. For one reason or another, they are embarrassed by the label. It is also my experience that many "nondenom" folks have a theology that is largely Arminian Baptist, like much of American Evangelicalism. My point is rather simple: everyone should have a name because everyone teaches something about God, Jesus, the Bible, conversion, salvation, Baptism, Communion, and the delivery of the forgiveness of sins. Why not be upfront about it from the start?

My concerns about the Driscoll/Breshears collaboration:
  • Problems with "common grace" and possible salvation through general revelation (38ff)
  • An unfortunate denigration of a valid translation of Genesis 1:2 (including Martin Luther) that inaccurately assumes a sellout to Ancient Greek cosmology (83)
  • A discussion/denial of 24-hour days in creation due to a lack of clarity on the issue (93ff)
  • An unnecessary dependence on an A&E network/History channel TV show on the crucifixion (245ff)
  • Unhelpful talk of "open-handed" doctrines that are actually false theology, not open questions or mere preferences (310)
  • Inadequate and inaccurate teaching on Baptism and Communion (325ff). No one is pleased when you don't pick a side but merely describe some of them half-heartedly. (He comes down on the "memorial" view, 294.) See also a similar approach to teaching about charismatic gifts (e.g. 386).
  • An incomplete theology of worship that assumes but does not elaborate the primary work of God in speaking to us and saving us with our worship as a mere secondary response (337ff)
What do I appreciate about the volume?
  • Crossway cared enough about this title to put it in hardcover
  • The embracing of "angelomorphic Christology," OT appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ (21)
  • A largely-consistent expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • An encouragement of mission (242)
  • Use of the Gospel word, "gift" (262)
  • "The complementarian view of church leadership whereby only qualified men can occupy the office of elder-pastor..." (320)
  • Quoting Luther's insights on idolatry (346)
  • A better treatment of a theology of worship (352ff)
Art is medieval, yet modern. Writing is largely crisp and conversational. The authors appear uncomfortable with some controversial doctrines and bold on others. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe is a solid effort, but one that would be inappropriate and inadequate for use as a text at my school or in my congregation. It should serve well its intended audience of American Evangelicals looking for something deeper.

Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess offers an overview of the major doctrines of Christianity in a comprehensive, but accessible way. Written from a Lutheran perspective, this book is a helpful resource to those within that tradition and to others who seek a deeper theological understanding. Firmly rooted in Scripture, this book emphasizes the interrelatedness of all Christian teaching, with its central teaching being the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

This book is ideal as a text for university students and other educated Christian adults who seek to expand their knowledge of God's revelation and its application in human lives. It introduces and uses classical theological vocabulary and terminology, while offering clear definitions and application. Key terms, study questions, glossary, and sidebars help make this a valuable resource. Suggested readings from Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and other secondary sources guide the reader into deeper study. (publisher's website)
Mueller's doctrinal text is a better modern text than John Theodore Mueller's Christian Dogmatics, itself a summary/translation of Francis Pieper's Christian Dogmatics. This is Biblically grounded, Catechism-friendly Lutheran teaching from the Scriptures, the same dogma sung by Lutheran Service Book. It is available in the bookstores and classrooms of the Concordia University system of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and is resold (following doctrinal review) by our denominational publisher, Concordia Publishing House. 

Highlights include:
  • Authors Korey D. Maas, Timothy H. Maschke, Brian M. Mosemann, Steven P. Mueller, and Gregory P. Seltz (now Lutheran Hour speaker)
  • Justification (Chapter 11) held up as the central doctrine of the faith and the importance of a christocentric organization of all doctrine, following the basic order of the creeds (22)
  • A recognition of the difference between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory in worship (34)
  • An entire chapter on Law and Gospel as an introduction to the importance of the distinction in understanding the Bible (55ff)
  • An emphasis on the Means of Grace (312ff)
  • A helpful appendix on the Lutheran Confessions (485ff)
This book could be strengthened by being published with a hardcover. 

Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess is part of a larger series of LCMS-written and Wipf and Stock-published introductory volumes on the Old Testament, the New Testament, and History. I look forward to reading the rest.

Doctrine remains important to Christians because of the claims made by God's Word. We hold to the faith once delivered to the saints. Amen.

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 Gospel For Those Broken By The Church–for free




Feed: Cranach: The Blog of Veith
Posted on: Monday, October 31, 2011 3:31 AM
Author: Gene Veith
Subject: The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church–for free


Rod Rosenbladt, emeritus professor at Concordia-Irvine and a co-host at the White Horse Inn radio program, has a presentation that has become a classic, with tapes and transcripts passed from hand to hand like samizdat novels in the former Soviet Union.  It's called "The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church."   Many, MANY have found it a lifesaver, indeed, a proclamation of the Gospel that is so powerful that they have come to faith.  Even long-time veterans–and casualties–of churches have come to understand through this presentation the full magnitude of the Gospel, with many embracing it for the first time.  It's featured in a sidebar on this blog as being available from New Reformation Press.

Well, now New Reformation Press, with the support of South Orange County Outreach and Faith Lutheran Church in Capistrano, California, is making this this presentation available FOR FREE.   You can download it as an mp3 file, as a written transcript, or as a video!

I've heard Dr. Rosenbladt give this message in person and it blew me away, so hard-hitting and effective and pastoral it is, giving such comfort to troubled souls and making so real the full implications of Christ's Gospel.  You want an example of evangelism?  Here it is.  It is addressed specifically to the casualties of American Christianity, to those who have become burnt out, disillusioned, and despairing due to the pressures, expectations, and culture of so many of our churches.

Listening to this presentation would be an excellent Reformation day observance.  In both its proclamation of the all-sufficient work of Christ and in its critique of churches that neglect that message, it captures what the Reformation was–and is–all about.

Get it or view the video here:   New Reformation Press » The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

FW: Reformation Thoughts...




Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Sunday, October 30, 2011 5:38 PM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: Reformation Thoughts...


If the Holy Trinity was as holy as the Trinitarian dogma taught; if original sin was as virulent as the Augustinian tradition said it was; and if Christ was as necessary as the Christological dogma implied—then the only way to treat justification in a manner faithful to the best of Catholic tradition was to teach justification by faith.

With these words, Jaroslav Pelikan addresses the Reformation not as some blip on the radar of church history or some terrible detour to a once straight path but the true expression of catholicity.  At this time of year, Lutherans often speak of their glorious heritage of reform and renewal as if our history began on this date in 1517.  Luther would strongly object to a characterization of the Reformation movement as sectarian.  Luther would bristle at the thought that he stood for some fringe opinion out of the mainstream of Christian thought and faith.  Yet today that is exactly the impression some Lutherans want to give.  We act as if our history began with a hammer and a nail and a church door and that nothing much happened in the fifteen centuries before that moment in time.  Sometimes we are even more parochial and point to much more recent dates as the start of the true history of the Church (say 1839 and a few ships sailing from Saxony).

Existing side by side in pre-Reformation theology were several ways of interpreting the righteousness of God and the act of justification. They ranged from strongly moralistic views that seemed to equate justification with moral renewal to ultra-forensic views, which saw justification as a 'nude imputation' that seemed possible apart from Christ, by an arbitrary decree of God. Between these extremes were many combinations; and though certain views predominated in late nominalism, it is not possible even there to speak of a single doctrine of justification.

Newman was right in saying that doctrine develops but the doctrine that develops is doctrine gone awry.  At the time the seeds of the Reformation were being planted, the doctrine of justification was developing -- not just ways of expressing the one truth of the Christ event but actual different theologies that competed and often conflicted.  What happened in the Reformation was not the start of something new but the course correction that reclaimed what was old and true and catholic.  The evangelical expression of justification was not some aberration but the reclamation of what had been lost or overshadowed by other truths and not a few lies.

All the more tragic, therefore, was the Roman reaction on the front which was most important to the reformers, the message and teaching of the church. This had to be reformed according to the word of God; unless it was, no moral improvement would be able to alter the basic problem. Rome's reactions were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone—a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers—Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted (justification by faith and works), now became required. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition.

As Pelikan points out in his seminal work Obedient Rebels, it was not the rejection of heretics but the banishment of its own catholic identity that was at work in the Reformation in its response the Counter Reformation.  Yet Lutherans run the risk of doing the very same thing when they reject their catholic identity and forget the centuries of church life and thought that went before the tragic necessity of the Great Reformation.  If we would be so bold as to challenge Rome to recognize the catholic identity of our confession, we must allow others to challenge us to see beyond the the sixteenth century.

Truly both options could not be allowed to stand -- justification by faith alone or justification by faith plus works.  They were conflicting truths that weakened the Church and her witness to the world.  But in resolving this conflict, the authority must rest with Scripture and not with the pious opinions of theologians whether ancient or eloquent.  This was Luther's point.  Let the conflicting ideas be sounded forth in debate and let the voice of God's Word decide.  Not council, not pope, not theologian but Scripture must choose which is authentic, which is faithful, and which is true.  Luther did not hide his convictions but put them forth and Rome should have been prepared to do the same.  Instead we ended up with a breech and a schism and now with competing camps each claiming to be the right one.

Lutherans have become too institutionalized in their Lutheran identity and speak as if Reformation was the greatest moment in history.  It was tragic and however necessary it will always be as tragic as it was necessary.  Rome has become institutionalized in its Counter Reformation and so has amputated part of its own catholic faith and identity -- even anathematizing it. No matter the careful steps tried to reconcile in the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification, Lutheranism cannot live with justification by grace through faith as being a minority opinion and Rome cannot erase its own history of rejection.  So we delicately dance around what remains -- is justification by grace through faith THE teaching of Scripture or is justification plus works what Jesus came to die for and what St. Paul commends as truth?

And so we celebrate one more Reformation.  Lutherans needing to know and celebrate their history before 1517 and Rome needing to know and celebrate the reform rooted in the Gospel and the faithful corrective to what had become a mish mash of conflicting ideas about how we are made right before God.  Can we give thanks for the Reformation without looking down our noses at those who gave Luther the boot?  Can we proclaim the Reformation truth as not just one permitted opinion but the defining issue and the doctrine on which the whole Church stands or falls?  And the catholic faith is this... ought to be the start of the preaching on this day and the start of every conversation to reclaim Protestantism from its abyss of relativity and Rome from its rejection of what Scripture teaches...

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

FW: Temptations Preachers Face




Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Saturday, October 29, 2011 5:00 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Temptations Preachers Face


I've been thinking a lot lately about the quality of the preaching in the pulpits of our church and I am growing increasingly concerned that we are moving further and further away from the unique strengths of Lutheran preaching as we have received it from generations previous to ours. I'm going to frame my concerns by referring to temptations preachers face. I'm coming at this, of course, from my perspective and convictions as a confessing, orthodox Lutheran, committed to the Sacred Scriptures, having vowed to preach and teach the Word of God in conformity with the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord. As you'll see, this is no mere finger pointing exercise, this is also a chance for me to reflect on how these temptations impact me when I preach.

The Therapeutic Temptation
The "Therapeutic Temptation" is one that would have preachers use their sermons to give what amounts to little more than a pep talk, often in the context of cute, touching, emotional or an otherwise manipulative story, either real, or made up. I'm referring to the infamous, "There was once a little boy who…" or the, "There was a man who said/did…" These sermons will be marked by a preaching of Law that is soft and squidgy around the edges, it's not a preaching of God's holy, righteous wrath against sin and a warning against it and a rebuking of sin and sinners. It is Law preached in such a way that bad things, bad people or bad situations are lamented in doleful tones. It sounds often like this, "Isn't it sad when…." or "Have you ever….." and the tone is one of sounding "oh, so sorry about that" and "shouldn't we all feel bad" about this problem. Then the sermon goes on to offer encouragement and support for getting out of our bad and negative feelings and circumstances. The Law is soft, the Gospel therefore comes across as antidote to feeling sad and bad. I face this temptation when I preach. I want so much to make people feel better, to feel good, to leave feeling positive. That can get in the way of good Law/Gospel preaching. I would say this is what I'm hearing more and more in pulpits. Law becomes simply lament. Gospel becomes simply encouragement and reassurance.

The Entertainment Temptation
Public speaking, once becomes fairly good at it, is a place where one's personal ego can really get in the way of God's Word. It is so tempting to get wrapped up in the moment and begin to feel a need to amuse, delight and entertain the listeners. Now, granted, the use of the classic art of rhetoric is important, but it is tempting for preachers to work very hard to elicit a laugh, a chuckle, to amuse, to entertain. They mistake audience reaction with effective preaching and they mistake emotionally manipulating the congregation with preaching God's Word effectively. The problem with the entertainment temptation is that often the effort to entertain and elicit a positive emotional reaction from the congregation causes the preacher to neglect the doctrine in the text he is preaching on, to neglect, frankly, the Scriptures, and to spend an inordinate amount of time developing his story that he just knows will get the kind of response he is looking for. Public speaking is heady stuff. I have been tempted to go for the cheap line, the little quip, the comment I know will get chuckle and spend too much time on that, than on preaching God's Word. And here again, in this context, Law is neglected, or ignored, because, after all, the Law is not "upbeat" it is not "entertaining." It will not delight and amuse people to hear that they, by nature, are poor, miserable sinners who have nothing but wicked, evil deeds to offer to the holy and righteous God. And when the Law is neglected, the Gospel then loses the force of its power to convert and regeneration. In such a context, the Gospel is watered down to be part of an entertaining experience for the listeners.

The Hurry It Up Temptation
This is quite an insidious temptation that I think we all have fallen into, nearly totally. For many centuries, and even millennia, in the church's history, sermons, where they were taken seriously, were thirty, forty or even sixty minutes long. The sermon was the opportunity for the pastor to preach and teach God's Word carefully and thoroughly, from Sunday to Sunday, but then, and here I'm speaking only of my own church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, sermons that were forty-five minutes long, became only thirty minutes, then they dropped to twenty minutes, and now it is often the case that sermons now are only twelve, or ten or even eight minutes long. Simply put, these are no longer sermons, they have become rather formulaic quick devotional thoughts. There is not enough time carefully to delve into the text, and open it up to hearers. A text become more a pretext for the sharing of what becomes quite repetitive themes: some talk of something bad (Law), some talk of Jesus taking care of it all for us (Gospel) and then reference to the Sacrament. I'm tempted to do this when I know that there is a full service with communion. It is tempting to skip lightly over the text and instead use the short time I have to make a couple devotional points and then get on to the Sacrament. For all I love the Sacrament of the Altar and love that we are celebrating it more often, the Sacrament of the Altar must never become an excuse to make our sermons shorter and less substantial. We are the church of Word and Sacrament, not word AND SACRAMENT. I think that we are forgetting this.

The Grind My Axe Temptation
This temptation is characterized by a preacher managing to "find" in any Biblical text, a pretext for him to yet, once more, grind his axe on his hobby-horse issue, or subject, or theme, no matter what it might be. The hobby-horse might be quite correct and what the preacher says about it is quite true, but it is a temptation preachers face to turn nearly every sermon they give into an opportunity once more to repeat the same issues, over and over again. Perhaps he will be wanting to talk always about the liturgical practices in the parish, to turn every sermon into a little discourse on some point of church history, or to keep referring to some particular event or trend in society. Every sermon manages to include a reference to the issue that is really "bugging" the preacher and it comes out in his sermon. I am tempted to do this when I find myself wanting to warn people against the "feel good/health and wealth" prosperity preachers. I find that I can easily find myself bashing this error in every sermon. And while I'm perfectly correct in my warning, it is not appropriate for me to hijack every sermon on every Biblical text, to interject my own particular agenda. The lectionary is a good corrective, and if the preacher resolves actually to preach on the subjects, issues and topics that flow naturally from the lectionary readings, there is much less of a chance that the preacher will fall victim to the "Grind My Axe" temptation.

Do you have more temptations to add to this list?

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FW: For Orthodox Lutheran Pastors


A hymn…


Feed: Lutheran Hymn Revival
Posted on: Saturday, October 29, 2011 2:01 PM
Author: (Amberg)
Subject: For Orthodox Lutheran Pastors


This hymn is written for all orthodox Lutheran Pastors, especially those who have been wrongfully removed by their congregations from the office into which Christ placed them.  God hears your prayers; may God have mercy on those congregations and those in authority who have incurred God's wrath.


The tune is "Ach bleib bei uns"

Paul preaching to the Jews in Damascus - 12th C. Mosaic



Lord God preserve your ministry

Against all sin and heresy,

Send down Your Spirit from above

To guard Your pastors with Your love.




Of all the men who dare to teach,

How few there are who purely preach - 


But see how poor and weak they are

Who wield Your Word and wage Your war!



But You have promised them your grace

Who call on you in every place;

And You have called them here below

To heed Your call and plant and sow.



Give them your law to plow the clay,

And break all self-deceit away,

Then let the broken hearts receive

The seed that makes the heart believe.



And let Your pastors patient wait,

Nor think that You are coming late,

But water with Your Spirit's Word,

Until the ends of earth have heard.  



For in due season they shall reap,

If now they watch and do not sleep,

And keep your doctrine as their torch

To guard the treasures of your Church.



For woe to him, when Christ shall come,

Who lets the thief break in our home

And rob the treasures of His Bride,

And cast His Word of truth aside! 



But blest is he who toils in tears

Until the Pastor reappears,

To gather to Himself His sheep

And dry the eyes of those who weep.



"Well done, you good and faithful slave!

You ran the race your Savior gave;

A crown of righteousness is yours,

And open stand your mansion's doors.



Then will the prophets sing with you,

Apostles with the martyrs too,

With all the saints and heavenly host,

"Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!


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