Friday, June 29, 2012

The Next Conference of Intrepid Lutherans...

Commentary in Rev. Spencer's recent post, Ambivalent, seems to have gone in two directions; the first (naturally) is commentary regarding the topic of the post, the second (which is mostly my fault) is commentary responding to questions regarding the Next Conference of Intrepid Lutherans. So I am creating a post dedicated to soliciting comments from our readers regarding our next Conference, so as to avoid distracting from the important issues Rev. Spencer wanted discussed following his post. I'll start with my comments from his post:
    Mr. Douglas Lindee said (June 27, 2012 2:52 PM)...
      I'll also very emphatically add, regarding Conference attendance, that not only were we pleased with attendance, but that, given the number of signers we are privileged to have, given their disparate locations, and given the location of the Conference itself (in an area we were relatively certain would draw few supporters, but hopefully more of those opposed to our mission and message), our expectations were, in fact, vastly exceeded. We planned and budgeted for almost half the attendance we actually received, and were not confident as we planned that we would receive even that. Our Conference attendence thus turned out to be a great blessing to us, and a strong affirmation of our purpose.

      As for our attendees, I was more than gratified to learn that the nature of the issues we represent and the content of the presentations we offered were of sufficient weight to draw concerned Lutherans from all over the Midwest -- from Michigan to western Minnesota, to Iowa. It was quite a humbling experience to have been a part of it.

      It is clear to us, especially from the discussion among attendees during the Open Forums at the Conference, as well as during informal discussion with individuals throughout the Conference, that the issues we presented are recognized as substantive matters, and are of great concern to many. Thus, we are already in the very preliminary stages of planning our next Conference. We have discussed holding the next one further west than WELS NWD. We have also tossed around topics and a date.

      Do any of our readers have suggestions for location, date, and topics?

    Mr. Douglas Lindee said (June 29, 2012 9:21 AM)...
      Dutch, Christian, Lee, Perry, Daniel -- Thank you all for your suggestions! And keep them coming everybody! ...Here are a couple more questions:

      1. How long would you be willing to spend at such a conference? One day is not enough -- we know that now. Is two days enough? Is four days too much? And when during the week? I'm thinking a Thursday-Saturday conference, followed by the full Divine Service at the host church the following Sunday morning. This would mean Wednesday and Sunday are travel days for most folks. Probably doable for students and maybe pastors, not so much for regular folks with only two or three weeks vacation a year. I am assuming that summertime (with kids and teachers out of school) is the best time of year. What do you think?
      2. Would our readers be offended if we declared the IL conference a "Free Conference" so that we could invite confessional Lutheran speakers outside ELS and WELS? This could be done if we kept a DS, joint prayer, etc., off the agenda (while offering Matins/Vespers/DS as off-agenda opportunities for those desiring to attend). I ask since there are some topics, like Vocation for example (which should definitely go on the list of topics), for which I personally know of no competent speakers in WELS, much less competent speakers willing to appear at a conference hosted by Intrepid Lutherans. Potential speakers from the ELS may be a different story, but if not, then we may feel compelled to look outside WELS and ELS. If we want the best speakers on the topics we choose, we may have to go outside WELS. What do you think?
      3. Finally, I might as well ask this, too. For a multi-day conference, what would be the maximum you would be willing to pay, per day, assuming we also provide light breakfast, lunch and dinner?

So the questions we would like our readers to consider and answer for us can be summarized as follows:
  1. Time of year
  2. Duration of the Conference
  3. Location
  4. Topics of Interest
  5. "Free Conference" so that non-WELS/ELS speakers (experts in a particular topic) can be invited?
  6. Cost

Here are some responses we've had on these questions, so far:
    Christian Schulz said (June 27, 2012 3:52 PM)...
      Somewhere in Minnesota would be great, although that's just because I'm living there! But at the same time it would be nice to see if some MLC, Bethany, and Bethany seminary students could be recruited to come (that is, if the date were during the school year).

      As far as topics go, I would really be interested in talking about justification thoroughly. Also, the Divine Service would be another great topic. Rev. Berg's presentation was outstanding. For next year, with Rev. Berg's presentation as the bread and butter from last year's conference, it would be great if it was more zoomed in on dealing with sectarian worship vs. the historic Lutheran Liturgy. Maybe expand upon the bound will and why sectarian worship undermines it as well as a treatise of Ap IV, 49. Oh! Maybe another topic could be on the Office of the holy Ministry? Those are just some very candid thoughts of mine...

    Dutch Gray Stoeberl said (June 27, 2012 4:05 PM)...
      What do differently...well.., my better half's (attendee) suggestions were, a pre conference packet for attendees. That way they know or can equate themselves with terms, topics, & information not readily available or known to laity. Speakers, notes, not word for word reading, from packet or prepared speech. More time for discussion & communication, per topic. Date, if it's a priority to you, you'll make a point to attend, like everything else. Location, it was 2 hrs for us. We would have gone to MI (never been), MN or IA. It's that important to us. Things happen, but it's about importance & priority.

    Daniel Baker said (June 28, 2012 10:06 PM)...
      ...I would like to see the next conference in a larger city. This will come off as biased, but to the best of my knowledge the greater Milwaukee area is (at least for now) considered the center of the WELS world; I think that it would make a more suitable meeting location, and perhaps facilitate a larger attendance. Alternatively, other centers of WELS life like Watertown and New Ulm would be amicable.

      I would also like to echo Christian's thought when it comes to furthering the examination of the Divine Service that we began at this conference. Aside from Justification, the matter of worship has to be at the core of our message. To that end, it seems to me that there is no better way to emphasize the importance of the Chief Divine Service than to actually celebrate it. As awesome as it was to experience the Divine Offices for the first time in a corporate setting, they pale in comparison to the Communion Liturgy. Just my two cents though. You also might consider consulting a more competent musician. ;-)

    Lee Liermann said (June 29, 2012 6:23 AM)...
      For the next conference I would like to hear an expanded discussion regarding Vocation.

Dear Readers, please let us know what you opinions are on these questions. We will use your answers as a basis for planning our next Conference.

Thank You!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thrivent selling hangman's rope

At what point will Lutherans scrum up the courage to confront Thrivent's ecumenism?  

Last fall Thrivent For Lutherans co-sponsored an evening lecture at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio near San Francisco by author Lynne Twist. Although Thrivent has recently openly communicated its intention to abandon its Lutheran heritage (as if its Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army efforts weren't clear enough), it had no excuse as a "faith based organization" (as Thrivent describes itself) to financially support a Mystic trying to improve the condition of people's souls.

Alarmingly, Lynne Twist was the keynote speaker for Thrivent's 2010 national sales conference at the Minneapolis HQ.

Reading my partial transcript below of the Interfaith presentation doesn't do it justice. It must be experienced. Too many times she approached what could have developed into a Scriptural point on stewardship or contentment in Christ, but swerved off the road and into the "Self," "The Other," or "Consciousness." Here is the embedded video.
I'm talking about sufficiency; we're trained to want more than we need.  Sufficiency is precise. It's being met by the universe with exactly what you need over and over and over again.  And I say that that's the radical surprising truth about your life, about my life, and about life: that we actually get exactly what we need.  It's not an amount of anything, now that you're looking in the 'amount' category there. I want to disabuse you of that.  It's a way of seeing, a way of being, a way of perceiving the world. 
And I'm going on to say something else if I could, because this really kind of makes my point. I have another 80+ year old teacher [editor's note: the other teacher mentioned earlier was Buckminster Fuller] who is Brother David Steindl-Rast the great Benedictine monk, who is the greatest living scholar on 'gratefulness' n the world or many people would say that and I'm one of them.  And Brother David is steeped in gratefulness and he has a website [redacted] which I recommend. He writes on gratefulness, he speaks on gratefulness, he lives it, and I see people who know him and say, "Don't you just love Brother David?"  And so I asked him, "What's the difference between gratefulness and gratitude?"  His answer fills out what I'm saying, so I want to give that answer to you from Brother David. He said: gratitude has two great branches. One is gratefulness. The other is thanksgiving. 
Gratefulness is the experience of life when the bowl of life is so full that it's almost overflowing but not quite.  The bowl of life is so full that it's bowed to the top, but not yet dribbling over the edges. And that's the great-full-ness of life. That's when you're in the great-FULL-ness of life. And when you're in the great-FULL-ness of life, when you're in that experience, you're one with god, you're one with the universe, there is no 'other.'  And that's so 'full-filling' that the bowl of life overflows and becomes a fountain which puts you in the other branch of gratitude called thanksgiving.  
And when you're in the branch of gratitude called thanksgiving, the bowl of life is overflowing and you're so grateful that there's an 'other.'  All you want to do is serve and give and contribute and make a difference. And that's so full-filling, that it puts you in the great-FULL-ness of life again, so etc.  You can go back and forth between the two branches of gratitude. 
What I'm illustrating here is (gesturing) this is sufficiency and this is abundance. In my understanding of life, I say that true abundance only flows from sufficiency, from enough. It never comes from more.  Grasping for more will only lead you to lack and thinking you need more again. But from the context of sufficiency, of wholeness, of the great-FULL-ness of life, that overflows into true, authentic abundance from which we share, give, contribute, serve, and have a depth of your own wholeness and sufficiency and abundance in your heart. 
The speech is not an aberration. Her book, The Soul of Money, holds up each of the following as illustrative in learning how resources and ideas flow:  evolutionary biology, "Nature," Buddha, pagan indigenous peoples, Planned Parenthood, "His Holiness the Dali Lama", Buckminster Fuller, "Mother Earth," and the visions/dreams of Muslim women.  Note anything missing?
Of course it wouldn't be a lecture in San Francisco without a collectivist motivation.  
I have a mission on this planet to facilitate the reallocation of the world's resources - financial resources - away from fear and help move them towards love. Away from death, destruction and consumption, and help move them toward life, and sustainability, and the health and well being of all children, and all species, for all time. 
Vladimir Lenin gloated that Capitalists would sell to Communists the very rope they'd use for Capitalism's noose.  It's the same irony that the proverbial "little old ladies" premium payments are funding the erosion of the Gospel. 

[Speaking of Communism , Rick Warren modeled both his 40 Days framework and cell groups after the success of the Communists, but that's another essay. 'Communist Success' is a non sequitur, as it results in mountains of human corpses.] 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Dear Readers,

 The post below contains some of my thoughts in reflection on our recent conference in Oshkosh. They were written on the train-ride back to Arizona, in the wee, small hours of a very dark night, rolling across the flat-lands of western Kansas, as I sat all alone in the lounge car listening to the rhythm of the rails. It is my opinion, nothing more, nothing less, and as such not necessarily the opinion of the management and staff of Intrepid Lutherans, Inc.

 Intrepid Lutherans: How Am I Ambivalent About Thee –

Let Me Count the Ways!

Well, as of the first of this month we've been in operation for two years. There have been two years of articles, comments, editorials, and we have recently completed our first national conference. About seventy people showed up at that meeting in Oshkosh, from the WELS, ELS, LCMS, and a couple of Protes'tants. But among all these were very few WELS Pastors. And when we look a bit closer, the same is true of articles, comments, and "signers" on Intrepid Lutherans. As any good Lutheran might ask, "What Does This Mean?"

 Does it mean that the other Pastors of the Wisconsin Synod don't care about doctrine and practice at all? No, I don't believe that would be accurate. The fact is, the vast majority probably still don't even know Intrepid Lutherans exist in the first place!  Of the fourteen hundred or so ordained ministers of the Gospel in the WELS, I would venture to say that about two-thirds to three-fourths don't know anything about Intrepid Lutherans. Of those that do know, most are leaders – District Presidents, Administrators, and Circuit Pastors. I know, because two years ago I personally sent each and every one of the men in these categories an introductory email about us. So, this opinion piece is not about them – repeat, NOT about them. I'll save that for another time.

 So, besides the leaders, I figure maybe another two to three hundred WELS Pastors know about Intrepid Lutherans and what we're trying to do. Of that, I believe maybe a good one-third or more are dead-set against what we stand for. Ok, where does that leave us now? Perhaps a hundred to a hundred and fifty Pastors in our synod know about us and don't oppose us outright, maybe even vigorously agree with our general aims and objectives. I think we could add to that number another fifty or so from the ELS. So, the question then becomes – why only about twenty Pastor "signers," and about that number at our meeting earlier this month? The answer, in my humble opinion – and once again, that's all this is, just my opinion – is sheer ambivalence, nothing more, nothing less. Now, the question is – why?

 I can think of a few reasons, and these are in no particular order of importance.

- There are those that truly don't care. Oh, they care about doctrine and practice, just not about problems and issues with doctrine and practice in our church body. Also, many in this group simply refuse to believe that there ARE any problems or issues with doctrine and practice among us. They just do not want to know or believe in such. They don't want to get involved, period! They believe it is just none of their business. This attitude can best be summarized by what an older Pastor said to me many, many years ago, when I was starting up my "Orthodox Lutheran Forum" (an early fore-runner of Intrepid Lutherans). When I asked him for his help and support on this earlier venture, he said, "I take care of my congregation. I let God take care of the synod." But let's examine that philosophy for just a second or two. I replied to him something like, "But what if Martin Luther had thought that way – where would we be now!?" To which he quickly replied, "So, now you think you're a Junior Martin Luther?" Ouch! Touché! No question, I do not put myself in Father Martin's shoes! And OK, I will admit that, technically, "reform" was a part of Luther's Call and position as a "Doctor of the Church." That's the way he saw it. He felt he HAD to do what he did – like it or not. Fine and well. So, who are the "Doctors of the Church" today in the WELS, who have the explicit Call to reform it, if necessary? Certainly we could say that District Presidents, Seminary Professors, and Circuit Pastors have this right and responsibility. But is that all? Really? I believe that in our system today all Pastors are charged with maintaining doctrine and practice throughout our church body. We are all our brothers' keepers in this regard, and we all have a right and a duty to hold each other accountable in this regard. If I'm wrong on this, I invite correction.

- Much like this attitude is another one like it – maybe we're right about our concerns, but we're going about all the wrong way. I've been asked, "Haven't you ever heard of 'channels?' And what about the 8th Commandment? Matthew 18? Proper procedure?" All these issues about proper channels, correct procedure, and supposedly speaking ill of others behind their backs and so on, have been addressed over and over and over again on Intrepid Lutherans. I maintain that we are not guilty of any of these "sins." If we are, then we have certainly not been formally charged with such. The fact that such has not happened proves either that we are indeed not guilty, or that those who should make such charges are themselves ambivalent. In addition, part of the "channels" we are encouraged to use are conventions, conferences, and other such meetings. But ask just about any WELS Pastor today about these gatherings, and if robust discussion and debate takes place there anymore, or actual thorny issues and difficult problems are addressed and argued, and most will have to admit such is most certainly not the case. Why? Once again, ambivalence raises its ugly head.

- Then, of course, there is . . . fear. Fear, as we all know, is a very powerful motivator, both for action and inaction. What should WELS Pastors fear when it comes to publicly and openly aligning with Intrepid Lutherans? Ah, now there is an excellent question! It is also an almost impossible question to which to give finite and definite answers. Indeed,  there may be as many answers as there are Pastors in our synod! And how can it be answered right now without reverting to suspicion, gossip, and slander? I could give free reign to my thoughts and speculation here, but that's all it would be, and would solve or answer nothing. Suffice it to say for now that I believe fear is out there and it is a very strong and basic reason why we have so few Pastoral "signers," or Pastors willing write for us, or even to comment on our site. That having been said, I also think we can all agree that fear is lousy motivation for an historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran Pastor to do or not do anything!  

- Finally – at least for now – another reason for ambivalence is, I am told, most Pastors believe they just don't have the time or energy to get involved with broader synodical matters. Really? Oh, come on! I don't know of a single Pastor who doesn't have some "extra" time these days. If we don't, there's something very wrong with our time management! [That too, is a topic for another occasion!] Besides time with our families, which, of course, is essential, we still have time leftover. Time to play computer games. We have time to post on Facebook. We have time to golf, hunt, fish, go to baseball and football games, and so on, and so on, and so on. We have more "free time" than our ancestors could ever even imagine. So, what it comes back to is that getting to know and getting involved with wider church issues is just not a priority to many. The attitude is, very simply – "I don't want to talk about it or think about it or know about it – please just leave me alone!" Fine, but don't say there isn't "time," because that's just not correct. Once again, it's just pure and simple ambivalence, nothing more.

So, I have reached the conclusion that, basically, a certain percentage of my brother Pastors want nothing to do with Intrepid Lutherans or any kind of discussion over possible problems in doctrine and practice among us. Another percentage know about us, but would like to silence us. Yet another percentage know and agree with our objectives but don't want to join us publicly. I believe many of my dear brothers think "something should be done by somebody," but just not them, or even us. These believe that we must all simply trust our leaders and have patience. Maybe things will be taken care, maybe they won't. If not, oh well, that's ok too. And that, my friends, is ambivalence! Like it? I hope not.

 I also hope that this little opinion piece will prick at least a few consciences and move a few more of my dear brothers to care enough to stand with us openly and publicly. Come on, men, take a chance. Stick your necks out. Be bold. Be brave. Be  . . . INTREPID!

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chemnitz's Absolution for only the Penitent Faithful

On 'Issues Etc.' radio the other day, Rev. Will Weedon (Director of Worship for LCMS)   mentioned an Absolution included in the Kirchenordnung for Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel by Chemnitz and Andreae in A.D. 1569. 
 "The Almighty God has been merciful to you, and through the merit of the most holy suffering death and resurrection of Jesus Christ His beloved Son, He forgives you all your sins, and I as a called and ordained servant of the Christian Church proclaim to all you who truly repent and who through faith place your trust and minds on the merit of Jesus Christ and who order your lives according to the commands and will of God the forgiveness of all of your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. On the contrary however, I say to any impenitent and unbelieving, according to God's Word and in His name, that God has held your sin against you and this certainly is punished. Amen. "
How would — if at all — such an Absolution sting our ears in our modern WELS pews?  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Church and Continuity Conference Review: Do We Want to Be Dresden Lutherans? – by Rev. Paul Rydecki

I closed out the Saturday presentations with a paper entitled, “Do We Want to Be Dresden Lutherans?”*, a reference to the Book of Concord, which was first printed in Dresden, Germany, in 1580. The paper highlighted the problem that develops when Lutherans become tied to the human institution of a synod rather than to the confession of Concord. I asserted that we should be loyal to a synod through the Book of Concord, rather than being loyal to the Book of Concord through a synod. The Bible is the True North. The Lutheran Confessions are our compass that responds to the North— our response to the truth revealed in the Scriptures. A synod is a voluntary arrangement of people walking in an agreed-upon direction. I rather directly suggested in my paper that, while all of us in the WELS claim to be walking fully in the direction of the Book of Concord, our actual confessional subscription is broader than that, ranging from those who consider the Confessions to be totally irrelevant, to those who subscribe to them insofar as they believe them to be relevant, to those who subscribe to them unconditionally and insist that all who claim to walk together in a synod do the same. Finally, I offer several suggestions outlining what our doctrine and practice would look like “if we want to be Dresden Lutherans,” because that’s what I intend to be. Who’s with me? And who isn’t? Let’s walk together honestly, or not at all.

* Current online version contains a revision on page 10.

Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity ~ June 1-2, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ~ Oshkosh, WI
Do We Want to Be Dresden Lutherans?
by Rev. Paul Rydecki

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Church and Continuity Conference Review: The Beauty of the Western Rite – by Rev. Michael Berg

The third presentation on Saturday was given by Rev. Michael Berg: “The Beauty of the Western Rite, Part 1.” More than a simple explanation of the parts of the historic Divine Service, the first section of Rev. Berg’s paper explores the sacramental nature of Lutheran worship and how various worship forms are a response to the fundamental question, “Who is present?” in worship. Like Rev. Boehringer, Rev. Berg also emphasizes the bound will of man, the theology of the cross and Christian vocation, and suggests that an evangelical and catholic Lutheranism that remains true to its theology holds out exactly what a postmodern world needs.

In "The Beauty of the Western Rite, Part 2," Rev. Berg tells a short story called, "Any Given Sunday," in which he illustrates in a very down-to-earth way how the Divine Service confronts real-life sinners in the midst of their troubles, struggles, joys and sorrows and brings the Word of God to them right where they need it.  This section also includes an explanation of the benefits of offering Holy Communion every Sunday.

Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity ~ June 1-2, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ~ Oshkosh, WI
The Beauty of the Western Rite, Part 1
The Beauty of the Western Rite, Part 2

by Rev. Michael Berg.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Church and Continuity Conference Review: In Bondage to Expectations – by Rev. Luke Boehringer

Saturday's second presentation was given by Rev. Luke Boehringer and was entitled, “In Bondage to Expectations: Why Results Pull Us Away from the Cross.” Rev. Boehringer focused heavily on the fatal flaws of the Church Growth Movement. He demonstrated how the Church Growth philosophy and methods are diametrically opposed to the Lutheran emphases of the bound will, the theology of the cross and the doctrine of vocation.

Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity ~ June 1-2, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ~ Oshkosh, WI
In Bondage to Expectations
Why Results Pull Us Away from the Cross
by Rev. Luke Boehringer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Church and Continuity" Conference Review: Why is this Happening to Us? How the culture wars become religious wars among us – by Mr. Douglas Lindee

The Church: Steadfast through the Ages, by Elizabeth Lindee
Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity ~ June 1-2, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ~ Oshkosh, WI
Why is this Happening to Us?
How the culture wars become religious wars among us

by Mr. Douglas L. Lindee, Jr.

On June 2, 2012, I delivered the paper, Why is this Happening to Us? How the culture wars become religious wars among us, to the first annual Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity. The title of the paper is not answered directly in the paper, but indirectly. To the extent that the World, as one of the Christian's great enemies, wages war against Christians, worms its way into the Church and induces compromise, culture wars have always resulted in some sort of religious contention. Being watchful for such compromise means, among other things, having a clear historical perspective as a basis for living out the present. This rationale is explicated in the introduction and reinforced in the conclusion, with the body of the essay split into two sections demonstrating the necessity of watchfulness, the first section focusing on the original "Crisis of of Word" – the early composition of the inspired texts, their collection into the Canon of Scripture, their use in the early defense of orthodoxy, and their faithful preservation and transmission to us in contemporary times – and the second section focusing on the history of the times surrounding the Early Church, and how, despite having the Word, cultural pressures resulted in compromise and error which became so deep-rooted that much of it remains unshaken even to this day. That is, a having of the Word did not, and does not, translate to a keeping of it. Keeping the Word by maintaining vigilance against error, is necessarily an historical task employed to detect change in the culture surrounding the Church of today in order to keep the World from invading and changing the Church. From the paper:
    History teaches us at least two things... First, that the world or worldliness are the enemies of the Church; second, how, ultimately, the world has exerted its corrupting influence: by pressuring and goading the church into compromise. This paper will endeavor to show, by giving somewhat detailed examples from specific periods of social upheaval in the early history of the West, both that the world had conducted itself as the enemy of Christ and His Church and how its influence wormed its way into the church and induced it to compromise. Such will suggest that the same is occurring today, in our post-Modern era, the period of social upheaval in which we have been placed by God to contend for the faith. Whether this paper succeeds in these primary endeavors, the author will admit to a secondary endeavor: to equip the reader with apologetic facts and sources that will aid him in his own defense of the faith.
The two middle sections of this paper represent a sampling of research and historical facts I have collected since about 2005, perhaps with the lofty goal of an eventual publication that no one will ever read. The content of the essay is not original or unique by any means, as attested by the number of Endnotes (many people have collected these same facts and written on these same topics, though perhaps not with the same use and purpose I have), nor was it written with the clergyman in mind, as I expect that every competent pastor daily lives with such facts in the forefront of his mind. Rather, I wrote and documented as I did for the sake of today's laity, who is largely ignorant of such things, using the topic as a pretense to also "equip [the lay reader] with apologetic facts and sources that will aid him in his own defense of the faith." Finally, it should be noted that the paper linked above is slightly revised from the paper handed out at the Conference. Discussion following my delivery prompted me to add five explanatory endnotes to the main essay and expand a handful of others in both the main essay and in Appendix A, and to add a couple of quotations to the body of Appendix A. Otherwise, the revised body of the essay includes only minor grammatical changes.

Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity ~ June 1-2, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ~ Oshkosh, WI
Why is this Happening to Us?
How the culture wars become religious wars among us
by Mr. Douglas L. Lindee, Jr.

The video above was taken as I read the paper at the Conference on June 2, 2012. The sound quality is admittedly wanting, but it is audible. I should explain that near the end I sound a note of slight exasperation... Unfortunately, the previous session had gone ever by about 20 minutes, and with lunch following my presentation, I had a hard-stop. The result was a loss of about 25% of the time I had expected to have for delivering the paper. In fact, at one point in the presentation, I had to pause for a minute to determine on the fly how I was going to redact and summarize the entire second section of my paper. Ach du lieber! Oh well, lessons learned for next time... At least all the content is recorded in print!

The remaining three presentations will be posted through next week – I have it on fairly good authority that the audio of those presentation is much better!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Church and Continuity" Conference Review: Gender Neutral Translating

The presentations at the 2012 Intrepid Lutherans "Church and Continuity" conference commenced Friday evening with Rev. Robert Koester’s comments on the NIV2011 Bible translation matter.  He offered an abbreviated review of his paper, "Gender Neutral Translating and the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture."

His expanded treatment of the topic was delivered to the January 2012  Metro-Milwaukee Pastor's Conference,  "A Brief Layman's Guide: Understanding the Problems of Gender Neutral Translating."

Rev. Koester also made available last fall an eight page overview of several concerns.

Since even the brief layman's guide is a thoughtful 60 pages, permit me a few paragraphs to highlight only one point of concern out of many offered.  (I hesitate to do so because Rev. Koester's research should not go unread.)  Biblica Inc.'s Committee on Bible Translation (C.B.T.)  was assigned editorial guidelines, and quoting from Koester's paper,
Instructions given the C.B.T. as they set out to do their first gender-neutral translation are public knowledge. Principles C and D of part I, “Basic Principles” reads:
C. Authors of Biblical books, even while writing Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, unconsciously reflected in many ways, the particular cultures in which they wrote. Hence in the manner in which they articulate the Word of God, they sometimes offend modern sensibilities. At such times, translators can and may use non-offending renderings so as not to hinder the message of the Spirit.

D. The patriarchalism (like other social patterns) of the ancient cultures in which the Biblical books were composed is pervasively reflected in forms of expression that appear, in the modern context, to deny the common human dignity of all hearers and readers. For these forms, alternative modes of expression can and may be used, though care must be taken not to distort the intent of the original text.

Consider again the above section from the Biblica Inc.'s C.B.T.  Is the work produced under such filters a translation or an interpretation?   Should we shrug off with deliberate indifference the intent to adjust Scriptures to avoid offending sensibilities and to avoid 'denying the common human dignity'?

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.  Proverbs 30.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

'Church and Continuity' conference concludes

Intrepid Lutherans extends their thanks to all participants for the 2012 "Church and Continuity" conference just concluded.  Special thanks to the guest presenters, Rev. Robert Koester, Rev. Luke Behringer, Rev. Michael Berg, and Mr. Rick Techlin for their papers and comments.  The hospitality of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Oshkosh) was outstanding. Laity attending from Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan and all corners of Wisconsin return home with much to consider and share.

Video of the proceedings will be rendered and posted next week, along with PDFs of papers.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Some Lesser-known Information Regarding the History of the Teaching on the Holy Trinity

The Feast Day of the Blessed Holy Trinity

The festival of the Trinity is unique in many respects. First and foremost, of course, its focus is on a doctrine rather than an event in the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In addition, the call and desire for its observance came not from theologians, Doctors of the Church, Popes, or Councils, but from the common people and priests in Christian congregations early in the second millennium of the Church.

For the first thousand years of Christianity, this Sunday was called "The Octave [8th Day"] of Pentecost. Beginning in the 11th Century, local parishes began to observe this day as the Festival of the Holy Trinity. Why exactly, is unknown. This was completely a "grass-roots" movement, not one coming from the leaders of the Church.

However, in 1332 Pope John XXII proclaimed that this Feast Day can and should be celebrated throughout the Church. In the beginning the festival was celebrated at different times in different part of the Church. In some places it was observed on the Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost. In other places it was marked on the Sunday before St. Andrew's Day, thus making it the last Sunday in the Church Year. Eventually, the Sunday after Pentecost became the favored time to observe this great festival.

Today, the Festival of the Holy Trinity marks the end of the Church Year's first half. The festivals of the first half commemorate the historic facts of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth – all of which point to Him and Him alone, and indeed confirm Him, as the one and only Redeemer, Mediator, and Savior of all mankind.

This Feast Day is quite different in that it teaches and praises a great doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. In doing so, it sums up all the doctrines and teachings of the entire Bible and gives due and proper expression to the adoring worship of all true believers of the one true and only God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One in Three and Three in One!

A "close call" for the correct doctrine of the Trinity!

Few believers today realize how close the Western Christian Church came to losing a truly Biblical and salutary formulation of the teaching concerning the Holy Trinity. Things got pretty dicey there for a while. Allow me to give a quick thumbnail's sketch of what happened.

While it is true that the very Scriptural and correct explanation of the Trinity taught by St. Athanasius won out at the Council of Nice in Bithynia in A.D. 325 – later referred to as the Council of Nicaea – that most certainly did not end the matter. In fact, it would take nearly sixty more years for the proper Biblical understanding to finally gain the upper hand, and more than one hundred and twenty years before it was firmly entrenched and solidified throughout the Western Church.

It seems that some of the bishops at the council went along only reluctantly with the Athanasian formula. They were led by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, and had the support of the Emperor's sister, Constantia. Indeed, she had been able to turn her brother to the Arian side of the controversy; so much so that Athanasius was actually banished from the Imperial Court in 336. Had Arius himself not died that very year, plans were even in the works to bring him to Constantinople in great pomp and ceremony and reinstate him into the good graces of the Church.

Constantine himself died the next year. But that gave only more power and influence to the Eusebians. Constantius, the second son of Constantine became emperor and he made Eusebius Bishop of Constantinople in 338. Thus, the Arian followers of Eusebius took complete control of the Eastern Church and began systematically to pressure the Church on the Western side of the Empire. Many Church Councils were held, many creeds were formulated, and many "anathemas" hurled against each side by the other.

Now, it is important to remember that the Roman Empire of those days was divided into two Empires – the East and West. Constantius, an Arian, was Emperor in the East, and his brother Constans, who favored Athanasius, was Emperor in the West. There were many complicated political reasons why the two brothers would sometimes work together and support one another, and other times oppose and work against each other. Thus, politics played a large role in the outcome of this controversy. God does indeed use strange means, His wonders to perform!

Constans had called for a general synod or council to settle the question of the Trinity. His brother went along with this call and such a council met in 343 at Sofia, Bulgaria. However, instead of solving the problem, this meeting ended in complete separation in the church. The delegates from the East walked out and held their own meeting at a place called Philippopolis. Things then went from bad to worse for the "good guys."

Here now, a quick review of the problem: Following Arius, but compromising a bit on his doctrine, the Eusebians held to an understanding of the persons of the Trinity best summarized in the Greek term "homoiousios," meaning that the essence of the Second Person (and Third Person for that matter) of the Trinity is "like" but not the "same as" that of the Father. Athanasius and his followers insisted that the Bible clearly teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all have the very same essence; the Greek term here being "homoousios;" [note that only the little letter 'i' divides them!] although they remain three distinct "persons" within the one divine Godhead. One is not any less eternal, omnipotent God than the other, and so on. For any number of reasons, many Christians found this teaching quite unsatisfactory!

Back to our story – As Church Councils piled up it looked as though the Eusebians would win the battle. Athanasius and his followers were condemned at Milan in 355, and banished from the Empire. Athanasius had to flee into the desert, where he lived for years among the monks and hermits. Every time the Athanasian party would seem like they were making a comeback, Eastern Emperor Constantius would issue a decree and back the Eusebians.

Then Constantius died in 361, and was followed in quick succession by two Arian Emperors, Julian the Apostate and Valens. This turned out, however, to be a good development for the true Trinitarians. Julian allowed Athanasius to return from exile, whereupon he then guided a wonderful Council at Alexandria in 362. In addition, both Julian and Valens proved to be so violent and fanatical that they turned many people, priests, deacons, and bishops against the Arian side. By the time of Athanasius' death in 373, the Biblical and orthodox view of the Trinity had gained ground. In 381 the Emperor Theodosius the Great called the Second Council of Constantinople at which the old Nicene Creed was re-approved and declared the true and Scriptural doctrine.

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, a new "Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed" was first quoted and received with great acclaim as the "faith of the Three Hundred and Eighteen Fathers (a reference to the Council of Nicaea in 325) and the "faith of the One Hundred and Fifty Fathers" (a reference to the Council of Constantinople of 381). It is indeed this very creed – the one quoted in A.D. 451 – which we today refer to as simply "The Nicene Creed." But, let us never forget that we all came "this close" to being Arians and losing saving faith altogether.

Let us praise God for His goodness and mercy, and thank our Lord and Savior and Ruler of All Things, Jesus Christ, for His marvelous working in the world of empires and councils, emperors and bishops, to safeguard the faith once delivered to the saints and thus our connection to salvation and eternal life!

And now for your further Feast of the Holy Trinity contemplations –

A Bible study done many years ago in a former congregation:

The Trinity in the Old Testament

The Trinity is clearly laid out in the New Testament. Still, it is implicitly revealed also in the Old Testament.

Unmistakable indications of the Trinity in the Hebrew Scriptures include:

1. The use of plural forms.

a. Pronouns, where God speaking, uses “us” and “our.” (Genesis 3:22, Genesis 11:7, Isaiah 6:8) The most important passage is Genesis 1:26-27, where the plurality is used in connection with the very nature of God. This is the most compelling reference because here God uses plural forms to explain his own “image and likeness.”

b. The plural form for “Lord” used frequently in the Old Testament. (“adonai” =
“Lord” literally, “my Masters”)

c. The Hebrew had a singular term for God, “Eloah,” which they occasionally used, but the vast majority of the time the plural form of God, “Elohim,” is used throughout the Old Testament. Had there been only be two persons within God, the Hebrews could have used a dual form “Elohiayim,” which was usually used of things that occurred in pairs.

2. Usage of the word “one” in the composite sense.

a. The Old Testament teaches that God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet this does not conflict in any way with Trinitarian belief. On the contrary, it actually helps to affirm this doctrine. One of the most compelling examples in the Old Testament of the composite sense of “one” is found in Genesis 2:24. Two people who were very pointedly created in the “image” of God, become “one flesh” in the marriage union, and thus produce a sense of an image in a composite sense. The use of the Hebrew word for one, “echad,” in other passages also demonstrates that this word means “one entity” rather than a strictly single, solitary thing.

3. Theophanies, that is, instances where the Second Person of the Trinity, the
pre-incarnate Christ, appears in the form of “The Angel of the LORD.”

a. The Old Testament contain numerous examples of a Being who, although He appears in the form of a man, acts and speaks like God and is referred to as God. Indeed, He is both identified as God and distinguished from God. (see Genesis 16:7-13; 18-19; 22:11-18; Exodus 3:2-6; 23:20-23; Judges 6:11-14, 20-22; 13:21-23; Zechariah 12:8)

b. These appearances prepared God’s people for the incarnation, since they
described the coming of a Divine Visitor who would be both true God and true man.

4. The many “Son” passages.

a. The Old Testament describes a Being who is uniquely a very human, yet also very divine Son. (i.e. Proverbs 30:4; Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 2:7-12; Daniel 7:13-14) NOTE: This last passage forms the background behind Jesus’ own use of the title “Son of Man.” This title has tremendous meaning.

- It denotes His exalted personality as the One who comes from heaven and opposes the beastly human powers, which come from earth

- It connect His advent with His reappearance of the clouds of glory

- It speaks of His free access to the “One who is The ancient of days,” God the Father

- It shows His universal and everlasting reign

5. The use of pronouns suggesting more than one Person within God.

a. The LORD uses both “Me” and “Him” in referring to the same Being, Christ in
Zechariah 12:10. 

b. The Angel of the LORD uses both “from Me” and “fearer of God” in referring to the same entity in Genesis 22:12.

6. Passages that identify two Beings as God or LORD (YHWH).

a. Genesis 19:23 – YHWH in heaven versus YHWH on earth

b. Psalm 45:6-7 – God referring to Another as “God”

c. Zechariah 3:1-2 – YHWH calling upon YHWH: “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke you, O Satan”

7. The Holy Spirit is linked with God and given attributes of personality.

a. All three Persons of the Trinity can be seen in Isaiah 63:8-10

b. Most importantly we see here the personality of the Holy Spirit. He is “vexed, grieved” by disobedience. This verb in Hebrew is always used in conjunction with persons, or God, and never of inanimate things.

Therefore, we see that in the Old Testament all the essential components for the doctrine of the Trinity were laid out. Of course, what may have been enigma to many of the Jews of the Old Testament was revealed in full splendor in the New Testament.

In the providence of God working through history, it was only a matter of time before believers began to systematize and articulate these passages into meaningful theological statements. It is indeed fascinating to trace the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, from the subtle, seminal forms seen in the OT to the full glory of saving truth found in the NT. Thus, as we reflect on the fact of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we also reflect upon the marvel, mystery, and wonder of the One True Triune God!

Pastor Spencer

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