Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Contemplations on Hebrews 9:13-14

For your reading pleasure, in preparation for Holy Week

Contemplations on Hebrews 9:13-14

13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (NASB)

One of the old country-church songs I remember my grandmother singing said, "There's power in the blood!" Of course, it was referring to the blood of Christ. How sad that so many who sang that song didn't and still don't take full advantage of that great power. They try to add their feeble will to Christ's work; make their "decision" a part of their salvation. Also, they deny the continuing strength and peace He gives in His Holy Supper as they seek to remove that very blood, shed for all, from this wonderful sacrament. We know better – at least we ought to – for the Bible does indeed teach us that the blood of Christ has great power!

In the days of the Old Testament, a red heifer – the color red signifying the inflaming and viral nature of sin – was to be slain by a priest; but not the High Priest. The High Priest was to abstain from all contact with death. Then the body and blood were to be burnt outside the camp of Israel. Some of the blood was retained and sprinkled towards the tabernacle, and also, during the process of burning, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were thrown into the fire. The ashes were gathered, kept, and stored for use by those who had become ceremonially unclean by touching the dead, and for the purification of a house, furniture, and cooking implements where a death had taken place. The ashes were mixed with water and sprinkled upon people, buildings, and other items on the third and seventh day, and thus the defilement was removed. This was God's own arrangement for the purity of His people. Only those who complied with this will of God could enjoy the liberty of approaching His courts, and sharing in the blessings of the tabernacle and priesthood.

We can't fail to see the many symbols of the sacrifice of Christ in this ceremonial purification – an animal red with sin, a Savior Who was "made to be sin"; burned outside the camp, crucified outside Jerusalem; wood, the cross; hyssop in both scenes; scarlet wool, the robe Jesus wore. Truly, this red heifer was a type of Christ. By believing what God said concerning the ashes of this animal, the people were purified. By faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we too are purified!
The writer to the Hebrews had previously noted the inferior and limited effect of all the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. So also here he moves from the blood of slain beasts to the Divine nature of our Lord, and marks out the untold value and merit of His death and the great and eternal results of the purification we receive by faith. Thus, it is Christ's sacrifice that cleanses our consciences from dead works.

Death in the Old Testament is almost always identified with pollution. A conscience defiled by dead works shows nothing more than the putrefying nature of sin, and the exclusion from God which it produces. But the precious blood of Christ, which cleanses the conscience, fills it with love, gratitude, and service toward God and others. Christ's death opens the gates of fellowship with God and brings us to His mercy-seat where we have eternal peace with Him!

It has been said, "In service there is glory!" Being purified of sin by the blood of Christ means we can now serve God. And at the end of our service is complete and total glory.

Biblical Christianity has been referred to by its critics as "a blood-thirsty religion." Indeed, the very thought of God purposely ordering the slaughter of millions of animals, and His own Son, is so disturbing, even revolting, to most modern theologians, that they completely reject the blood atonement outright; both in the Old Testament, and in the story of Jesus Christ. These are the same folks who reject hell, damnation, Jesus as the only way to heaven, and most of what the Bible clearly teaches. Thus, they forfeit the benefits that were won for them by Christ on the Cross!

Again, we know better. The Bible teaches us that God is not blood-thirsty, but in reality hungers and thirsts to love and save all people. This is only made possible by the Cross! Truly, the blood of Christ has power, the power to purify us from all sin, and the power to give us eternal glory!

Pastor Spencer

Contemplations on Luke 13

For your reading pleasure, in preparation for Holy Week -

Contemplations on Luke 13:22-30

22 And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27 and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. 29 And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.”

Jesus speaks here, simply and clearly, about those who will and those who will not enter eternal life with God. He uses the picture of a house with only one entrance, and a very small one at that! He reminds us that the door to heaven is narrow!

What Jesus taught throughout His entire ministry, wherever He went, was always the same: that there is forgiveness and salvation in Him, and Him alone; that God's love to mankind has been shown in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that by believing in this Son of God anyone can and will be saved. In fact, He was, at the time of this parable, on His way to terrible agony and death in Jerusalem.

As He made His way to the scene of His Most Holy Passion, a man asked Him a strange question. It was strange because it showed concern for how many would be saved rather than the process of salvation. In His answer our Lord warns us that we are in a very personal and intense struggle which requires great vigilance on our part because of the opposition of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a house. The entrance to that house is through a very narrow door. The door is standing open, but only for a short time. In fact, it looks impossible for us to get through that door. And indeed it is impossible to do so – by ourselves! There is only one way to make it through that door: faith in Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior! As He once said, "I Am the Gate," and again, "No one comes to the Father but by Me."

And Jesus wants us to know that there will be many people who will have such saving faith. They will come from the four corners of the earth. It's not race, or nationality, or politics, or poverty, or power, or anything else that places anyone into heaven. It's faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Redeemer of mankind. That's why we preach the Gospel to all people everywhere. And there are many who are still far from the Gospel. They may be on another continent, or they may be just around the corner. By the power and love of God the Good News of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ will reach out to them, and these "last" shall be made "first," just like all other believers. And this is where our own sanctification can be important. Preaching is one thing. Doing is another. We must let our lights shine and our salt season so that others might be drawn to the Word we proclaim. Sanctification is not just for us, and it's not just to please God – though that would be enough. Our sanctification also aids our outreach and the spread of God's kingdom.

Sadly, far too many will not be able to enter through that narrow door. Again, not because they are too sinful, but because they carry the weight of their own righteousness. Those that think they are good enough to get into heaven without Jesus are way too "fat" with their so-called good works to squeeze through the door into heaven. All their efforts will be in vain. Notice how Jesus makes it so emphatic, "I tell you!" In other words, here is the truth – listen up!

Not only is the door to heaven far too small to admit our "works," but the door could be shut altogether without notice, and for good. This door closes for each individual at death and for the whole world on Judgment Day. And once the Judge of heaven and earth has closed the door it is forever shut. It's just that simple, and yes, that terrifying! But only for the unbeliever. And no amount of protesting or arguing will make any difference. Jesus says that at the Last Day many people will say that they knew of Christ, that they had seen Him, heard His message; that they had, in fact, had every opportunity to believe in Him, but yet remained in the ranks of the unbelievers. In like manner, there are those even in the church who can claim to be confirmed, long-time members of a congregation – or at least their names are on some church's membership list somewhere, but in fact their faith is dead. As Jesus puts it, "By their deeds you will know them." Here again, He's talking about REAL sanctification – not deeds without faith, but faith shown by deeds!

Jesus is saying that many who have the blessings of the Word, through their own pride and carelessness often refuse to accept it, indeed reject it, and are lost. We need to warn them; whether they are those who are plainly living in unbelief, or those in our own circles who seem to be losing their way through that narrow door. And we need to warn ourselves. If we ignore or despise the blessings of the Gospel through the Means of Grace, they could be taken away from us!

Today the door is open. It is open to all the living. Tomorrow it may be closed. Tomorrow it may be too late. Let us follow Christ's instruction today, and through the Means of Grace, given so bountifully to us in Word and Sacraments, make every effort to enter through the narrow door by trusting in Him alone and not in ourselves. Truly, the door to heaven is narrow, but it is wide open to all those who trust in Jesus!

Pastor Spencer

Friday, March 23, 2012

“Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny” – Part Two

Erasmus, the Ambiguity of Scripture, and the Tyranny of Man’s opinions
    “Though it has been overshadowed by the engagement on the will, an additional major issue in Luther’s Bondage of the Will [a.k.a. De Servo Arbitrio or simply ‘DSA’] concerns the clarity of Scripture. Seeking to protect the integrity and power of human choice, in his Diatribe Erasmus had claimed that the Bible is ambiguous on key matters. In reply, Luther asserted its clarity.

Bondage of the Will, by Martin Luther 1525That quote is the opening sentence of a paper delivered by Rev. Dr. James Nestingen (NALC) at the Lutheran Free Conference that was held on the MLC campus in November 2011 (bold and underline emphasis is mine). The title of his paper was “Biblical Clarity and Ambiguity in The Bondage of the Will. I was personally present for the reading of this paper at the Conference, along with reactions delivered by Rev. Scott Murray (Vice President, LCMS) and Professor Joel Fredrich (WELS, Martin Luther College), which were essentially appreciative of Dr. Nestingen’s paper.

And I must commend the Conference for their choice of Dr. Nestingen to cover this topic. If anyone cares to do an internet search for information about Nestingen, he will find that Nestingen is Professor Emeritus, Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, and has apparently been conservative enough throughout his career to have been considered, at least by some, a thorn in the side of the ELCA. Furthermore, he is a recognized Luther scholar. But what makes his insight so interesting, and useful, is the liberal context in which he spent his career and to which he applied his studies. The ELCA had opened itself up to the perspectives and sensibilities of secular and unregenerate culture, while, again under the guise of offering a Gospel “relevant for Christian living,” its message and ministry devolved to a “Third Use” form of moralistic social activism, consistent with those Worldly perspectives and sensibilities. In other words, the issues raging in the ELCA, to which Dr. Nestingen applied his studies, and to which he applies his analysis of Luther’s Bondage of the Will relative to the perspicuity of Scripture, are very much the same issues raging in greater society today, which impact us everywhere outside the walls of our church buildings, and threaten to enter our Church through our exposure to these issues everywhere else. Professor Fredrich briefly touches on this observation in his reaction paper, confirming for the reader that the observations and applications Dr. Nestingen makes are probably out of reach for WELS scholars – they would never think to make them on their own, simply due to lack of exposure to the issues. Thus, Dr. Nestingen's insight on this topic was much appreciated by me and others.

After covering two of Luther’s preliminary arguments in Bondage of the Will, Dr. Nestingen begins with the issue of ambiguity vs. perspicuity:
    [T]he assumptions of the arguments [Erasmus] employed against the reformer have become so dominant in public culture that they seem inescapable. So searching out the implications of Luther’s replies concerning the clarity of Scripture has to proceed at two levels, one in relation to the historical conflict itself, the other in relation to the victorious heritage of humanism in these times.

    “To begin with, Luther’s preliminary arguments expose the assumptions that drive Erasmus’ argument throughout. From the start, Erasmus assumes sufficient detachment from Scripture and the authoritative traditions of the church to choose skepticism as an available alternative. He is the agent, surveying the range of claims before him, discerning their relative value. Having taken such a position for granted, Erasmus’ goal is to preserve his options. Just as he picks and chooses among truths presented to him, in his own mind he will preserve his alternatives before God.

    “Thus Erasmus, in illusion if not in reality, remains sovereign... he stands aloof as arbiter of Scripture, the faith of the church and what falls most appropriately on the ears of the peasants. The major premise of the argument controls the conclusion — from the beginning, Erasmus is the acting subject.

    “Further, the preliminary argument demonstrates Erasmus’ appraisal of authority. It is essentially negative, setting limits without offering anything significantly positive — the authority of law as opposed to gospel. So it limits and confines without any acknowledged promise or benefit...

    “Thus, finally, Erasmus’ freedom is negative. It is an innate quality of the will that asserts itself over and against the authorities that encompass and seek to limit it, not a positive gift or bestowal granted in a life-determining relationship with its saving Lord. Consequently, the self has no alternative but to seize on ambiguity — the absence of any compelling significance or meaning — as though it were liberty. No wonder Luther later described Erasmus as ‘Christless, Spiritless and cold as ice’” (pp. 5-6, bold emphasis mine).
From here, Nestingen goes on to analyze Luther’s argument for the perspicuity of Scripture, identifying in them two levels of clarity: the first “external,” and the second “internal.” In the former case, Luther was essentially referring to the domain of man’s reason set to the tasks of textual criticism and biblical hermeneutics. In the latter, he refers to the Holy Spirit active in the believer, who works to illuminate the Scriptures meaning. Quoting Luther, Nestingen writes,
    “Because of the power of sin, ‘All men have their hearts darkened, so that even when they can discuss and quote all that is in Scripture, they do not understand or really know any of it.’ Thus, ‘the Spirit is needed for the understanding of all Scripture and every part of Scripture’” (pg. 5).
and three pages later helpfully amplifies this this, as follows:
    “[T]he internal perspicuity of Scripture is not a matter of reason but of faith that has been worked by the Holy Spirit... This begins with a death... and it continues in a daily dying and rising. This death eliminates the self as actor... The gospel is Christ’s work now carried through by his Spirit... bringing the faithful into the rhythm of dying and rising with him...

    “Thus internal clarification of the gospel involves continued proclamation and administration... As the gospel creates faith, faith returns to the word daily and afresh. Ambiguity in this context becomes intolerable, threatening to undermine what has become life-defining. But clarification in faith is not merely remedial — it is a joyous renewal in the promises and gifts of the gospel. ‘This is what makes our theology certain,’ as Luther wrote in the Galatians Commentary, ‘it takes us outside of ourselves and brings us to rest in Christ Jesus’” (pg. 9, bold emphasis mine).
It is worth pointing out, as does Professor Fredrich in his reaction paper, that it is proper to consider “external” and “internal” perspicuity together, not separately. One could imagine that separating the two, and admitting only the latter, would result in general preference for and overruling emphasis on the “personal meaning” that individuals may take from their own unique reading of the Scriptures. Such would amount to a self-referential “anthropocentric” Gospel, where meaning is determined from man’s fallen sensibilities; and as unique readings vary, the clear message of the Gospel would swiftly descend into chaos. In any human organization, like the ELCA for instance, unity of teaching could only be asserted, and order could only be maintained around that teaching, not by appeal to and mutual agreement on the objective meaning of Scripture, but democratically: “We shall officially adopt those opinions regarding the teaching of Scripture which are shared by the majority of individuals, determined by vote. Those having opposing opinions are to be silent.”

And such church organizations, insofar as they open themselves up to worldly sensibilities, share fully with the world in these Erasmian conclusions:
    “Contemporary uses of Erasmus’ argument for ambiguity follow a similar pattern... Only the measurable, quantifiable and repeatable can be considered factual or truthful; everything else, unable to meet such standards, falls into the category of values or personal opinion. In effect, what Charles Saunders Pierce called ‘the argument from personal tenacity’ has become normative [i.e. ‘it’s true because I say so,’ added Dr. Nestingen as he read this paper]. There literally is no law regarding personal and inter-personal relations — there are just choices.

    “In this context, by such standards, the claim that biblical law is ambiguous goes without saying. Ancient, it is by definition out of touch with contemporary realities. Patriarchal, it was conditioned by an age in which male-female relationships — as currently defined by the privileged — were by definition inappropriate. With these and similar objections, the assertion of ambiguity requires no further explanation or defense. It is an assumption that needs no further investigation and brooks no challenge” (pg. 9, bold and underline emphasis mine).

    “For this reason, in the mainline churches where the argument for ambiguity has been deployed, the next step has not been the one a reasonable person... would suggest. Because by contemporary definition the self cannot move beyond the self-assertion evident in the use of any form of standard, there’s no point in further examination of the arguments. Bondage to the self represents a given, an a priori which makes further examination pointless. In fact, Erasmus for all of his vaunted cultural significance, has become something of an antique. Only theologians talk about free will anymore. In a cynical reversal, while the heirs of Erasmus reduce the gospel to an appeal — speaking of faith as one alternative among many — the culture describes what the law has condemned as predestined and so beyond any choice...

    “For the church, appeals to the supposed ambiguity of the biblical text bring an end to any further conversation. Students of Scripture can cite any number of passages that, at the level of external clarity, require further study. Such investigation is the logical next step, and entirely reasonable. But when a church body invokes ambiguity to legislate a particular reading of passages, the possibility of any other reading has been officially eliminated. The authority of the Scripture has been taken over by its interpreters to enforce their commitments. Imperially silenced, those who disagree, who hold to the biblical priority set by the Formula of Concord, have been effectively excluded, literally unchurched” (pp. 9-10, bold and underline emphasis mine).
Dear reader, we ought to thank Dr. Nestingen for alerting us to the tactic of asserting Scripture’s ambiguity as opportunity for supposed liberty, and for locating the modern source of this tactic in Erasmus – who opposed Luther in this regard. It seems, in our post-modern age, when ALL truth and meaning are self-referentially experiential, that the “discovery” of ambiguity in the Scriptures, having become great sport, has accelerated to an alarming rate!

But it is time for you to comment.
  • Have we opened ourselves to the unregenerate and anti-biblical thought patterns of post-modernism? Have we at least been less than watchful for the osmosis of such ideologies from the World?
  • Do we see in our own midst the tactic of appealing to Scripture’s “ambiguity” on display?
  • Does the acceptance of various anthropocentric aberrations of the Church Growth Movement, including Sectarian Worship, depend, at least in part, on an appeal to “ambiguity” and the license that it grants?
  • Does the advocacy of certain translations of the Bible appeal to “ambiguity” – “ambiguity” that we really never knew was there before, but which seem to have been revealed to us in the peculiarities of the post-modern perspectives rampant in popular culture?
If you recognize this tactic at work, where do you identify it? What are its implications for the pure teaching of God’s Word, and for Unity under that teaching?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny” – Part One

Without the “Theology of the Cross” man misuses the best in the worst manner

The title of this two-part series of posts was taken from the closing sentence of my previous post, When the Third Use of the Law pre-dominates.... Through the eyes of those who were there, we caught a glimpse in that post of the decay in clarity of Scripture’s teaching that occurred in the ELCA. As the Second Use of the Law was replaced over time with its Third Use, the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture and certainty of its teaching was rendered more and more ambiguous, requiring man to supply clarity in matters which Scripture had previously been thought to clearly teach. Under the guise of offering a Gospel “relevant for Christian living,” Third Use preaching offered little more than a degenerate form of moralistic social activism, well-suited for the itching ears of those no longer disposed to endure sound doctrine, who’ve instead turned to chasing their own lusts (2 Ti. 4:1-5). This decay lead the ELCA officially into the antinomianism it now revels in, having, at its Church Wide Assembly in 2009, officially placed “sin into the ‘not-sin’ category, by majority vote,” declaring that monogamous homosexual relationships “[are] God-pleasing... against the clear Word of Scripture” (quoting from my previous post). The tyranny in this is that in the ELCA, man has become the arbiter of Scripture’s clarity and meaning, rather than Scripture itself, and from the verdict of man’s declaration there is no appeal – that is, there is no recognized higher authority to which one may appeal (Scripture having been declared ambiguous, or unclear because it has been made difficult to understand), making man and his declarations the final authority.

This is what two average individuals, one layman and one clergyman, present in the ELCA throughout its decline, seemed to independently observe. But we don’t really need direct observation of these events to predict that such would happen. Do we?

Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is full of pride and covets God’s glory for himself (Is. 14:13-14; Ma. 4:8-10), and that at the instigation of Satan man Fell into this same sin, in this way separating himself from God: the sin of pride and of desiring equality with God (Ge. 3:1-19). This sinfulness remains part of our fallen human nature. We want to be like God. We desire His wisdom and authority for ourselves. We long for ourselves a share in God’s glory. Being entirely unlike God, however – that is, being unrighteous, unjust, unloving, lacking knowledge, having no real power over Creation, and certainly not being everywhere present all the time – we abuse the Revelations of Himself to us, in our efforts to rob Him of the glory that belongs only to Himself:
    In the case of General Revelation – or God’s revelation of Himself to all of mankind within His Created Order – contemporary man studies it not just for the purpose of understanding it and of being good stewards before God in its use, but studies according to his own definitions, contrived by him to specifically rule out any authority above man, for the purpose of bringing Creation under his immediate control. Being like God means that man can predict, guide and control Creation on his own terms, or at least convince himself that he can; and if such control results in death or suffering, this is not significantly different than the results man observes in God’s own control of Creation.

    In the case of Special Revelation – or God’s direct revelation of Himself to all of mankind in the clear Word of Scripture, which He has preserved for us, just as He promised, down through the ages to today – man studies it not just for the purpose of understanding it and of being good stewards of its teaching, but for the purpose of discovering where it is wrong, inconsistent or incomplete, and in need of man’s correcting and clarifying efforts. Being like God means that, just as we suffer various shortcomings, we recognize the same in Him – His “failure” to perfectly preserve His Word, for instance, or His “failure” to inspire His Word in perfectly clear terms suitable for direct translation into any language. As His equal, man takes great honor in critiquing God’s Word – in the same manner we would the written work of any of our colleagues – helpfully pointing out His errors, contradictions and lack of clarity, in the hopes that our efforts will assist God in producing a more excellent and well-received message.
Crucifixion of Christ, by Georges Rouault (1937)Man naturally pursues a “Theology of Glory.” The consequences of this with respect to God’s many gifts to mankind are clearly stated by Dr. Martin Luther, who stated in his 24th Thesis at the Heidelberg Disputation, without the 'Theology of the Cross' man misuses the best in the worst manner. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that where man permits himself the freedom and authority to arbitrate God’s Revelation, he does so with the force and finality of God Himself. It should also come as no surprise that man, according to his nature, does work toward this very end – whether deliberately or quite unconsciously – and that he revels in the glory assigned to him for his efforts.

It seems most charitable to assume that no confessing Christian would deliberately seek a place of judgment over God’s Word, and to leave it at that – remaining oblivious to its likelihood and limiting ourselves to the messy job of first recognizing when it happens and then reacting to it long after the fact. This is, however, a dangerously pollyanna attitude, since the tactic of arguing for the abstruseness of Scripture, in order to deliberately accumulate authority and glory to man, is not unknown in the history of the Church. In fact, this is exactly how, and why, Erasmus, in his Freedom of the Will (a.k.a. De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio, or Diatribe), and later supporting works, argued for the ambiguity of the Scriptures – to maintain the freedom and authority of man over against Scripture. And Erasmus’ arguments have remained active as a dominant force in Western Society and, through it, the Christian Church – more so today, perhaps, than ever before.

To be continued in Part Two, tomorrow... (“Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny” – Part Two)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Will Become Of Us?

There's been a lot of hand-wringing lately over the political future of our county. Especially in one of the major political parties, there seems to be much consternation over who can lead them to victory in the presidential race, as the nomination process seems to drag on and on. Political pundits on both sides of the aisle bemoan all the difficult problems facing the nation and point fingers at one another as the cause and hold themselves and their policies out as the solution. Most proclaim - as they do every four years - that this election will be the most important in the country's history. And, there are many doom-sayers predicting the complete collapse of the society, and a bleak future.

Where does the church stand in all of this? What does the Bible tell us about the rise and fall of nations and peoples? Check out what St. Paul says in Romans, chapter 9, especially verses 14 to 18, and I hope God's point of view becomes clear:

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

The Declaration of Independence proclaims boldly, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bonds that have tied them….” Why did our forefathers believe it was necessary to break their political bonds with England? Injustice! Unfairness! Tyranny! And so, our country began its existence in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

Yet it would seem that at this point in our history we have become somewhat misguided in our pursuit. We have sacrificed eternal life and spiritual liberty to pursue material happiness. We do not seem care if we have real justice as long as we are comfortable and entertained. We seem to care more about what the government should do for us, than what we can do for others and ourselves. Fairness seems unimportant as long as we get what we want and long as we can do what we want.

At the same time, when something does go wrong, then we clamor for justice and fairness. When a storm hits, or a drunk driver kills or injures a friend, or an illness strikes, or a mother kills her children, or we lose our job, then we cry out that it's just not fair. Why did God let this happen? How could a just and fair God let this happen?

First, we seem to forget the Bible's many examples of God’s mercy and compassion. Paul quotes here what God told Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” The fact is God showed a great deal of mercy toward one particular group of people – Israel. Indeed, God was merciful to the people of Israel long before He spoke to Moses. He gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the promise of the Savior and His many blessings. He protected them and made them into a great nation. Time and time again He rescued them from the injustice and disaster. Over and over again He showered them with his complete underserved love and kindness.

Perhaps some might look at God's actions with regard to Israel and declare Him unfair. They might complain about God choosing Jacob the younger over his twin brother Esau before he was born and declare that unjust. And they might consider God delivering the Israelites from Egypt and proclaim such as unfair. After all, why should God favor this one nation over all the others? But God’s fairness or justice is not our justice.

Such folks might forget that Egypt was powerful too, and had many advantages over the nations around them. Why? God tells us, “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” In other words God treated Egypt well for a very good reason – to move along His plan of salvation for the whole world! Egypt was raised to power because God was using them to take care of his people. God used Joseph to save Egypt from a great famine because He wanted to display His power and to set the stage for the building up of Israel four hundred years later.

Then, once Israel was ready to become a new nation, God maneuvered a new family of rulers into Egypt who opposed Him and made His people into his slaves. This would make the Israelites want to leave the Land of Goshen, and provide an excellent opportunity for God to show His power to the whole world down to this very day! He destroyed that Pharaoh and his army is the waters of the Red Sea. In this, God was more just and fair in dealing with Pharaoh than Pharaoh was in dealing with God and His people. God did not give Egypt what it truly deserved. He could have brought down fire and brimstone, totally destroying the land and its people as He did to Sodom and Gomorrah. But He did not. Egypt still existed after God’s people left their land. In fact, Egypt's greatest days were still of ahead of her, and God used Egypt many times again as He trained and disciplined Israel. The fact is – God was more than fair to Egypt. That's His kind of justice! And this is all for His Glory – and our salvation!

Now, what is just or unjust, fair or unfair, all depends on your point of view. And since God is in charge and we are only His creations, what He does is always just, whether we think so or not. The situation of Israel and Egypt illustrates the difference between God and man. God is the one in charge. God wants all people to be saved. Yet there are many different people and many different nations in the world. He wants all of them to hear the Gospel of Jesus. Still, the majority take advantage of God's patience and mercy. So sometimes God has enough rejection and rebellion and He sends or lets trouble strike. He brings down the proud and mighty for a time – like He did Egypt. He reminds mankind just who is in charge. But even then He does not punish as sinners deserve. He disciplines; He chastises; He cajoles; all with the hope that people will listen to His Word and believe His beautiful Gospel message.

This is His point to Paul – that He has a right to do what He wants with anyone and any nation. God has mercy on whom He decides to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wills to harden. And this truth too brings out the cry of injustice against the LORD. People question God’s ways and ask, “Why does God blame us? For who can resist His will?” But now Paul answers, "Who are you to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"

Here Paul uses a common example of everyday life to explain why we really have very little right to question God. God is like a potter making pottery. The pot is nothing without the potter. In the same way God has the right to do with people as He sees fit. He is the Maker of all things – and this includes all people and all nations. He chooses who they are going to be, where they are going to live, what they are going to do, and how they will be used for His ultimate purpose of savings souls, hopefully, including theirs! And sometimes He even uses those who reject his Gospel to save those who will believe; using the damned to bring others faith and eternal life. Now, that might not seem fair, but if it's one of us who gains salvation – who are we to complain!?

Consider again the nation of Israel. God choose them and raised them up for one purpose and one purpose only – to bring the Messiah into the world, period! Because of this purpose, time and time again He had mercy on these stiff-necked and rebellious people, even when they least deserved it. Indeed, every time a little trouble came their way they whined and complained against God and His leaders. Still, He continued to help and deliver them. Even sending them into slavery again – this time in Babylon, was really good for them. After that they never again fell into idol-worship. He preserved them until Jesus came. Then, with their purpose fulfilled, they could continue on and serve God and the Gospel, or they could rebel and lose their nation for nearly two thousand years. We know how that turned out!

So now, when we think about Israel and Egypt, the Jews and Gentiles; our faith is strengthened and increased. We see God’s great power and mercy in controlling the lives of nations, large and small, weak and powerful. So also we believe God can help us through any trouble, big or little, important or minor. More importantly, we understand that God controls people and nations only for the purpose of bringing people into contact with the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Good News tells them the story of how God sent His Son into the world to satisfy His own divine justice.

All sinners deserved to be punished for eternity in hell, but God decided – quite unfairly – to save sinners. So His Son became a substitute for sinners. He lived as a man and yet did not sin. He suffered and died to pay the penalty sinners owed a just and righteous God. His Son became the object of His wrath so we could become the objects of His glory. Sinners became saints through faith in Jesus. Those headed to hell became heirs of heaven! Unfair? Sure! Great for us? Absolutely!

What usually happens when people see or feel some kind of injustice? Oh, they may put up with it for a while, but sooner or later they rebel. That's what happened when our nation was born. The leaders felt the taxes imposed on them from far-away England were unjust and unfair, among other grievances. So they rebelled and won our independence. However, in point of fact, they had been aided and protected from the Spanish, French, and many native America tribes for nearly two hundred years, and the powerful British navy guaranteed their commerce on the seas and completely destroyed the pirate threat from their waters. Some could say that rebellion was no way to say thank you! Ah, but fairness and justice is in the mind of those on the receiving end, eh?!

Today our leaders have set upon us much more burdensome taxes, and interfered in our lives much more than King George could ever have dreamed of doing! But even today many people don't oppose taxes that are for their benefit, or that only affect others. But let the tax be on them, and out comes the Tea Party!

So, where is justice? Where is fairness? Where is our God? And what's going to happen to our nation? As we enjoy another year of freedom, and endure another election cycle, let us all remember God's message to us through Paul. With God, there is no such thing as injustice, even for a moment. God is just and His justice is absolute, perfect, and final. It may take a while to play out. We may not always recognize it as perfect. But, be assured, as the Psalmist says, “God is in His heavens, He will not be moved!”

Of course we thank God that in His mercy, He has blessed our nation. We praise God that He is in control. We pray for our nation and rejoice that He hears our prayers. And most importantly, we thank Him more than anything else for His free and faithful grace that moved Him to send His Son to satisfy divine justice for us, and for working His will in the world in such a way that we would come to believe this wonderful truth for our eternal salvation. Truly, justice and glory belong not to any one nation or particular nation, but to God and Him alone – and we wouldn't want it any other way!

Pastor Spencer

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When the Third Use of the Law pre-dominates...

About two weeks ago, one Rev. Mark Schroeder (LCMS), wrote a short piece for the blog The Brothers of John the Steadfast entitled, “I can’t tell you how thrilled and excited I am.”. It was an interesting piece, given Rev. Schroeder's background and perspective: a pastor in the AELC, then ELCA, and then finally LCMS, by colloquy in 2010. He had recently been invited to join the roster of bloggers at BJS, to add his perspectives related to issues in ELCA. The title of the piece is a quote from the newly elected bishop of ELCA's Minneapolis synod, Ann Svennungsen, as of February 18, 2012, which he addresses along with the voting assembly's overwhelming acceptance of a resolution to formally oppose a proposed amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution banning same-sex marriage and defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Rev. Schroeder goes on to lament the apostasy of the ELCA, and more importantly, to humbly correct his fellows in the LCMS for what he perceives as elation at the disintegration of the ELCA, saying:
    “Too many of my brothers and sisters in the LCMS seem to be almost thrilled by the demise of the ELCA. I pray I am over-reaching and plain wrong in that analysis. This is a profound sadness... [they] are moving totally into the world and wanting to be a part of it. No longer, 'in the world but not OF the world'... The greater and deeper crisis was succinctly stated by German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg in 1996:

      If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”..
One must appreciate his sentiments. I, for one, particularly appreciated the straightforward quote he offered from Pannenberg, which poignantly captured the severity of the ELCA's departure from Scripture and the Confessions. While most of us think it, it seems that not many are prepared to actually say that the ELCA is outside "the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."

But what really caught my attention was the exchange Rev. Schroeder had with an LCMS layman, who was formerly a member of the ELCA. In their exchange, they offered observations regarding the course of ELCA's demise: the growing absence of the Second Use of the Law. The layman, at comment #12, who identifies himself as "Ken M" offers the following observations:
    February 26th, 2012 at 19:48 | #12

    I am currently a member of LCMS, but most of my background is ELCA and predecessor bodies. To be honest, it puzzles me when most LCMS criticize ELCA, simply because it misses the point of why I left.

    ELCA is often criticized as being “antinomian”, and the 3rd use of the Law is often mentioned as a “problem”. My lived experience with the ELCA is not that there is too little Law preached, but rather that it is ONLY Law that is preached. Many attempts at being relevant. Many statements on social issues. As I understand it, this IS 3rd use of the law. Whether it is God’s law that is normative is another problematic issue, admittedly. What I found totally lacking is preaching and teaching of the THEOLOGICAL use of the Law.

    Too many sermons are “God is nice. God wants you to be nice. Go be nice.” This is admittedly a bit of a caricature, but it is distilled from too many pastors and bishops out there. If this is a help for anyone, it is only a help for those who “feel” nice. This is not a help for the terrified consciences for which our confessions care so deeply. Any why did Jesus have to die if both he and we are so “nice”? No wonder when I served on a call committee in an ELCA congregation that there was a candidate who sent us some sermon tapes where he didn’t ever mention Jesus doing anything…

    I have heard too much crap in LCMS too. The vital difference is that it seems that LCMS is still reformable. As Walther put it in Law and Gospel, the problem with the sin against the spirit is not that it is worse than other sins but rather that it cuts us off from the cure.

    This is the sickness to death that I had to reject. And it fills me with a deep sadness and pain to this day that I had to do so.
It is clear that this layman lived under continuous Law preaching, where the Law was not applied according to its Second Use, to convict sinners of their sin as a prelude to a Preachment of the Gospel, but was applied in its Third Use. His description of the Law that he heard over the years was that it was pretty vague and nondescript, summarized as "be nice."

Rev. Schroeder responds at comment #14 as a Pastor with firsthand experience (and clarifies for "Ken M" a bit what it was he was obviously trying to say):
    February 27th, 2012 at 19:50 | #14

    The distinction that you may find useful is this: the difference between God’s Law (the Decalogue) and man-made law(s), as in the ELCA.

    The ELCA is antinomian to the core as indicated by the fact that a church-wide assembly put a sin into the “not-sin” category, by majority vote, and say it is God-pleasing, going against the clear Word of Scripture. So, the result is: there is little, if no, theological (2nd) use of the Law in pulpits and classrooms and you nailed that. I discovered this when as an ELCA pastor, preaching Law and Gospel sermons, some folks would simmer with hostility at to what I was preaching (as I found out later!).

    And so the ELCA, in it’s denial of the 2nd Use of the Law (theological) and the resulting antinomianism, the vacuum has been filled by something else: man-made law (and maybe the equivalent to it is human tradition). So what fills the void, for instance, is congregational programs (the bane of many a congregation) and social justice. And as in the true Law of God: if we just do this (man-made law: btw, see Mormonism and Islam), then we will have more people on a Sunday and a true Christian society and nation and we are saved. It’s fairly easy, after all we can vote on it! It is akin to indulgences. Just buy this or just buy into this. And so as I heard one ELCA pastor preach that “Jesus was a self-authentic human being.” No, Savior there.

    And I agree with your assessment about “niceness”: a friend and colleague had as his screen saver the scroll: “Nice is the enemy of the good.” “Nice” is a fairly easy man-made law to fulfill. “Have a nice day!” “No thanks, I have better plans.” So does the Lord. My friend also said that our Lord came to justify the ungodly…not ungodliness. The result: no need for Jesus Christ.

    And the Third Use of the Law is absolutely blunted: to see if our good works are actually pleasing to God, as in the 10 Commandments and as Luther correctly teaches them in the Catechisms.

    In my interview to become an LCMS pastor, one of the panel, a district president, said, you know the LCMS is not perfect. I said, If it were, then the Lord has returned. No church, worth it’s salt, will ever say it is perfect and the LCMS so clings to the fullness of the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ.
Note Rev. Schroeder's comment regarding what happens when the clarity of Scripture, the Law in this context, is diluted: man swoops in to provide that clarity – "It’s fairly easy, after all we can vote on it!" That is, the organization takes on what ought to be the authority of Scripture. This is undoubtedly what has happened in the ELCA with respect to the approval of homosexuality and of female ministers. As Law and Gospel has disappeared from among them, teaching on these issues has also become less clear to the point that the Scriptures have been declared ambiguous regarding these unpopular teachings. As a result, Scripture teaching has not been sought to decide such matters; instead, the organization had absconded with that role, and there is no appealing to any authority above it – Scripture has been declared mute on the subject – leaving the decision of the organization final and authoritative. Thus, the matter is decided and no further discussion on these matters can be entertained.

I will have more to say on this in coming days, as these were precisely the observations of Rev. Dr. Nestingen (formerly ELCA now NALC) in the essay he delivered at the Lutheran Free Conference held at MLC last November – for which I was in attendance: Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Shepherd As Watchman

Dear Reader,

You will notice a new picture gracing the home page of our blog. It shows Pastors as shepherds defending their flocks from the attacks of the many wolves in this old evil world. It speaks for itself. It is how we see the efforts of Intrepid Lutherans.

To go along with this new image, we are posting two other items. The first is a sermon based on a section of Ezekiel chapter thirty-three – the famous chapter dealing with what it means to be a watchman in God's kingdom. The second is a brief clarification of our purposes, objectives, and methods of working here on the blog.

As always, your comments and questions on both or either are welcome!

Ezekiel 33:7-9
So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Crash of American Airlines flight 191, O'Hare, May 25, 1979Many of you might remember the terrible crash of a DC-10 a few years ago in Chicago, in which over two hundred people were killed. It was found that the crash was caused by a defective engine mount on one of the wings. The problem had simply been missed by maintenance workers.

Now, what would you have done if you had seen the crack in the mount and realized the dire implications? Most likely you would have warned the airline, and the people about to board the plane, of the danger. If they listened to you, you would save many lives, but even if they refused to listen, you would still know that you at least tried to warn them.

The same is true in the spiritual world. Many are crashing into Hell everyday and many more are on a collision course. God has given us the responsibility to warn others about Hell, about the coming danger if they continue to refuse to believe what God tells them in His Holy Word. And not only are we to warn people about rejecting God and His Word, but also about teaching and living falsely concerning His Word. As Ezekiel points out: We Are God's Watchmen! As such, We are to listen to Him, and We are to pass on His warnings.

First of all, it is true that Ezekiel had a special and specific divine Call, directly from the LORD, to speak to the people of Israel. In this, he is certainly a picture of all Ministers of the Gospel, the Pastors and teachers who are Called to speak God's Word publicly on behalf of His believers in a given place and time. But in a more general, yet limited way, every single believer is a messenger of the LORD in their private lives of faith. In addition, every Pastor, teacher, and member is a watchman in God's Church, "testing the spirits," and making sure that His Word is taught in all its truth and purity, and the sacraments administered according to the command of Christ. This is why we have Creeds and Confessions, to aid all of us in this essential task.

Now, if we are to be God's watchmen, then we need to listen to Him, because only He can tell us the right things to say to warn people properly. This is true because God is the only perfect source of infallible truth. For this reason the Lord says to Ezekiel, "so hear the Word I speak and give them warning from Me." Notice the word comes from God to the people. Ezekiel is only a messenger. This is always what a prophet is; a mouthpiece for God. He is someone who is to speak to the people for God and from God.

What God has to say is always important. More than that, He is always perfect and correct. As the psalmist says, "Is God a man that He should lie?" In other words, it is impossible for God to lie. The same is not true for man. Ever since the Fall into sin, when man chose to follow the devil, the "father of lies," we have all been more that capable of lying. We have all done it at one time or another in our lives, perhaps even quiet often. Indeed, lying, like many kinds of sin, can be very habit forming. But, what is especially sad is to see people lying in the name of God. Using God's holy name to back them up. People concoct all kinds of crazy religions and ultimately lead many people straight to Hell instead of the promised paradise they were shown by these false prophets.

We can trust God because He has led us to our own salvation. We have the peace of knowing all our sins, including lying, are paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ the sinless Son of God. We have felt the security of being the children of God. We have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, guiding and moving us to serve our Lord with our lives. Therefore we have confidence in our God and in His Word which led us to Him and will lead us finally to our reward in heaven.

If we are to have anything good to say in this world at all, we must listen to God. And not just for a few years in Sunday School and confirmation classes, or once a week for a few minutes, but we must be constantly hearing, learning, and growing in the Word of life. Just look at Ezekiel. He was a great prophet, chosen of God, but even he had to listen constantly to God in order to be a true prophet. Think of Abraham, Moses, David, St. Paul, and even Jesus! Did not all of them study God's Word at all times during their lives? Where did we find the boy Jesus - in the temple! Where did we see the young man of Nazareth - in the synagogue! How can we who so often know so little do any less? None of us are too old or too young or too smart or too busy to learn more of God's precious Word of truth!

So we learn more of God's Word. Then what? What are we suppose to say? Who are we suppose to say it to? And why? What does God tell Ezekiel to say? "say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,'" So, obviously, we are to speak to the wicked. But who are they, and how are we to judge? Let's remember who God was talking about when He spoke to Ezekiel. He was talking about all those who would not obey Him, and to obey God always means firsthand foremost, to believe in Him and in what says, and to put it into practice as much as possible in your lives. There were many in Ezekiel's day who professed to believe in God, yet lived only for themselves and even followed other gods - idols. And there were some who refused to acknowledge the one true God at all. These are the wicked.

The Last Judgement, by Peter Paul RubensWe have many kinds of wicked people around us today. Just as in the Old Testament, there are those who claim to believe in God but do not follow His Word, they are the hypocrites, and they are wicked. Then there are those who say they follow God, but their religion is a false one, and the gods they follow do not really even exists. They are false teachers leading others to Hell, and they are wicked. Finally, there are those who claim to believe in no God at all, who put their trust in man, and his science, and technology. They are blasphemers, and they are wicked.

And why should we speak to these people at all? Why not just let God deal with them. Well, He has! He sent His Son Jesus to die for their sins too! And He has given us the task of warning them that unless they believe in the salvation won for them by Jesus Christ, they will be lost to Hell. Whether they believe us or not is not our concern. That we tell them is still our responsibility. Listen again to God as He tells us, "if you do not speak out to dissuade him from his wicked ways that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself." It is clear here what our duty is. We are warn the wicked. Not that they will merely die, but that such a death will be eternal and terrible. And if we fail to do so, God will ask us on judgment day why we did not speak up. Of course, since we are believers, we will not be damned to hell along with the wicked, but even to be saved from answering such a question from our Lord is worth whatever it takes to warn the wicked.

And yes, we are also our brother's keeper. Our brothers can be many kinds of people. They can be all the believers, and they can be all the other people in the world. Can we stand by and allow any to continue down the path of unbelief that leads to Hell? Can we stand still while some hold to false teachings that may destroy their faith? Can we be silent when the world attacks the true teachings of God's pure Word, and thus attacks our faith and our God? I believe we must all answer NO!! We must not remain silent in the face of evil of any kind. We must be witnesses to the truth of God's Word. We must call sin, sin; false doctrine, false doctrine. We must warn those who would put their faith in anything but the cross of Christ that they are in danger. We must point out all the terrors of Hell to those that deny God and His salvation. Finally, we must always be ready with an answer directly from God to any question or accusation. We must be prepared to defend our faith and our teachings from those who would tear it down. And to do all this, we must ever be students of the infallible Holy Scriptures and our precious Lutheran Confessions.

How would you feel if you had seen that crack in the wing and you didn't say anything about it, and saw the plane crash? Don't we feel the same way about those whom we are sure are without a saving faith? Don't we want to warn them of Hell, and show them the way to heaven? And don't we feel the same way about those whose faith we believe is in danger because of false teachings? I believe we do, and we can, and we must, and we will warn them all, because – We Are God's Watchmen! Amen.

[Preached originally by Pastor Steven Spencer at St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church, Brodhead, WI – September 30th, 1984]

What We're All About - And NOT

God’s Word, a Means of GraceWe've been getting messages about Intrepid Lutherans. Some have been quite good and complimentary, and some others somewhat worrisome. So, we wish to set the record straight. We want to clear up some misconceptions and false perceptions about our organization among brother WELS Pastors and all members and friends of our synod.
  • It is not our Divine Call to preserve, repair, or create doctrinal unity in the WELS. That can only be accomplished by God working by means of His Word as it is studied, cherished, practiced and proclaimed by Believers, whether holding a Divine Call or not, all of whom possess His general call to watch out for false teachers and join only with those who are fully agreed in all matters of doctrine and practice.
  • We also recognize that it is not our Call to tell Circuit Pastors, District Presidents, the Conference of Presidents, or the President of the Synod how to do their jobs. We speak according to Christian conscience. Those who believe something merits action, and who have a legitimate Call to act are certainly free to do so, or to refrain, on their own, without permission or direction from us. Again, as is true of all believers, we retain the freedom to speak passionately and confidently about sound doctrine and confessional practice.
  • We are not "checking up" on Pastors or congregations. It is not our Call to nit-pick sermons, or web-pages, or worship services. In cases of questionable public and repeated statements and actions which are brought to our attention by concerned laity and others, we may address them indirectly as examples, or directly, as the case may warrant.
  • We are not some kind of self-appointed “guardians” of “true” or “real” Lutheranism in the WELS. As stated above, all Christians, not just those holding office in church organizations, are under Scripture's direct injunction to watch out for false teachers, reject false teaching, hold only to the pure teaching of God's Word, and join only with those who do the same.
  • We are not "militant," but rather only have a passion for the truth and a love for the Scriptures and the Book of Concord, consistent with what one would expect from within the "Church Militant" – those believers on earth who are "contending for the faith."
  • We endeavor to support and encourage consistent confessionalism in every aspect of pastoral and congregational life – period, that’s it, no more, no less. And we are convinced that an internet blog can be a useful and effective vehicle for this effort.
  • Just as we have truly endeavored to "put the best construction" on things we observe, we respectfully request the same consideration from those who may disagree with us from time to time.
  • This is obviously a public forum and is intended to be such. Therefore, we respectfully request that if anyone has a comment, or a question, or a concern, or a complaint about anything posted on this blog, that they make it to us directly and publicly here on the blog. Please do not write to us or call us privately – again, about things written here on Intrepid Lutherans. We cannot guarantee that we will respond privately.
Lutheran Book of ConcordChristianity everywhere faces daunting difficulties, and much more than merely financial ones. Our synod is no exception. The matters which concern us all, cry out for serious deliberation, discussion, and yes, even debate. They need honest, open, and frank dialog. But they also demand patience, understanding, humility, charity, and circumspection. Intrepid Lutherans will make every effort to consistently practice these considerations and we expect the same from others.

May God guide us to fulfill His good and gracious will!

The Editors of Intrepid Lutherans

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