Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christian Charity and Provisions for Amiable Separation

The following is taken from my comments following Rev. Rydecki's recent post, Praise the Lord for preserving our place of worship. The editors of Intrepid Lutherans requested that I make those comments a full post, given that it takes the conversation in an important direction. Since Rev. Spencer's post on the Church Year is important, and we don't want to distract from it, we have pulled it back and will re-post it next Monday, so that it can get the full and undivided attention of our readers.

Many years ago, upon the recommendation of an ELS pastor, I purchased and read through Nelson & Fevold's The Lutheran Church Among Norwegian Americans (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). A two-volume work, it covers a massive amount of historical material, though ultimately must be characterized as a work of propaganda for the Norwegian Lutheran church body to which the authors – both professors at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN – belonged (the Evangelical Lutheran Church), and which in the year of this work's publication joined with several other Lutheran church bodies to form the American Lutheran Church (ALC). Reading through this work, I was (and remain) astonished at the protracted and bitter nature of the struggles these Norwegian Lutherans endured.

As Norwegian immigrants settled in the upper mid-west, they brought their Lutheran religion with them, forming local congregations, which, once established, reached out to other Norwegian Lutheran congregations in neighboring settlements in hopes of establishing fellowship and enjoying the benefits thereof. A great many Lutheran "synods," "conferences," and "associations" were developed among them. And these organizations were manifestly imperfect. In the first case, perhaps due to ignorance or poor legal advice, or due to language barriers, the incorporation of congregations and church bodies was not always sound. In the second, as these Lutherans discovered over time, in their understandably natural eagerness to enjoy unity with other Lutherans sharing the same language and culture, they either overlooked or failed to recognize doctrinal differences, which, festering over the years, eventually came to a head and erupted in controversy. No, "Election" was not the only one – there were many doctrinal controversies among American Lutherans in the 19th Century. As difficult as these controversies were for those involved, once personal convictions had been arrived at and sides taken, one would have hoped that Christians of such high ideals would have amiably separated – at least out of respect for the stand upon Christian conscience taken by their adversaries, even if they vehemently disagreed. "Amiable separation" was not the term for what happened. The fact is, the most bitter, protracted and ugly public displays of petty materialistic vindictiveness occurred after the lines of doctrinal disagreement had been established and separation revealed as inevitable. The worst and most sickening fights were not over the doctrine. They were fought over the stuff – the publishing houses, the schools and seminaries, and the church buildings – and such fights were made all the more difficult given the legal imperfections of the incorporating documents, which in many cases very poorly considered the dispersion or liquidation of assets in the event of separation or dissolution.

In one famous case – the “Augsburg Controversy” – a group of Lutherans lead by Rev.'s Sven Oftedahl and Georg Sverdrup from Augsburg College/Seminary in Minneapolis, withdrew from their participation in the mergers of 1890, which formed the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (UNLC), mostly over ideologies of Christian education which pitted Augsburg against St. Olaf college seminaries and threatened the existence of Augsburg (though the doctrine of the "Church" and the issue of church polity was involved as well). This resulted in a crisis over control of Augsburg Publishing House and Augsburg College. The Church organization to which the Augsburg professors belonged – the Conference for the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – had emerged from a preceding church body, along with another church body which claimed control over the assets of both church bodies on the basis of the incorporating documents of their predecessor body, and on the basis of deficient incorporating documents of the Conference. Already wary of its legal foundation in 1877, the Minnesota Legislature had gotten involved at the request of the Conference, passing a special Curative Act in their favor to ensure independent control of the Seminary property. Lengthy court battles ensued. In 1890, the newly formed UNLC initiated legal proceedings against Augsburg. In 1894, the control of the Publishing House was handed over to the UNLC by the courts. In 1897, the Curative Act passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 1877, was found unconstitutional by a Minnesota District Court, which then ruled in favor of the UNLC and handed to it control of the Seminary. Augsburg appealed, and in 1898, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the lower court's finding that the Curative Act was unconstitutional, but nevertheless overturned the decision of the lower court which ordered Augsburg to hand over control to the UNLC. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the independence of the School from the UNLC on other grounds. Sverdrup and Oftedahl went on to form the Lutheran Free Church (LFC), an association of free and independent Lutheran congregations, which was part of the ALC mergers in 1960. A minority of the LFC objected to union with the ALC, and, refusing to join, formed the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC) instead, and sued once again for control of Augsburg College/Seminary. They lost that battle, and today Augsburg is entrenched in liberal protestantism. Prior to the breakup of the ELCA, the AFLC was the fourth largest Lutheran "church body" in North America (just behind the WELS). It remains a conservative association of Lutheran congregations, and runs the nation's only Lutheran Bible School. Interestingly, it is my understanding that the American Association of Lutheran Congregations (AALC), a small association of Lutheran congregations which enjoys fellowship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS)as of its 2007 Convention, is largely comprised of congregations from the former LFC which had participated in the formation of the ALC in 1960, but which refused to join the ELCA when the ALC, LCA and other liberal Lutheran Church bodies formed it in 1987. This is ironic, given the profoundly anti-Missourian positions of Sverdrup and Oftedahl from which the old LFC emerged. Anyway, I highly recommend this two-volume work, not only as a balance to the one-sided Missouri-centric history we Synodical Conference Lutherans sing in unison to each other, but as preparation for certain reality once realignment among confessional Lutherans in North America begins in earnest. As history informs us, it won't be pretty.

In my opinion, it makes sense that a Synod funding organization like CEF would include provisions for the termination of a loan in the event of a congregation's separation from WELS. They're not in the business of funding non-WELS congregations, after all. One would hope, however, that Christian charity would prevail in such circumstances, and that reasonable terms and time periods would be applied. Whether a month-and-half is reasonable, I'm not in a position to judge. What I find troublesome, however, is not that such provisions exist in a mortgage contract or that they are acted upon, but that it is done so in a way that appears vindictive, as if the objective is to hurriedly deprive a Christian congregation of its rightful property, either in favor of a minority party who is not legally entitled to it, or to simply "get back" at them for leaving the Synod, or as if such action is calculated to interfere with decisions which ought to be made strictly from the standpoint of Christian conscience. Whether there was vindictive intent or not, the appearance of impropriety is certainly evident.

Regardless of whether such impropriety is the fact, this situation opens an entirely different and more significant issue: that of leveraging the threat of "taking stuff away" to ensure the continued allegiance of Christians to an earthly organization. I absolutely do not want a pastor to lead from anything other than the convictions of Christian conscience, nor do I wish in any way, shape or form to be affiliated with a Christian organization which prohibits its members from speaking and acting from such convictions, and which threatens them with loss of home, income and healthcare if they do. There is no realistic way to maintain either doctrinal integrity or unity under such circumstances. Purists will say, and quite correctly so, that material things don't matter, that only God's Word and the integrity of pure doctrine matter, and that pastors who do not stand in the face of error are weaklings and cowards. Though many would like to face the error, such purists may say in all charity, sin has made them timid and weak. I agree. I'm a sinner too, and can identify with its depleting effects. And if these were the only factors involved, then shame on all us individual sinners for not doing the right thing, and that would be the end of the matter. But they aren't the only factors involved.

What about the organization which exploits human weakness for its own benefit by lumping the honest convictions of Christian conscience in with moral infractions like embezzlement, child pornography and marital infidelity (yes, I know, remorseful embezzlers, child pornographers and adulterers receive unconditional absolution, while those perceived as "errorists" are unrepentant sinners from whom absolution is unconditionally withheld)? Only someone worse than an embezzler, child pornographer or adulterer would dare express his genuine convictions – the threat of such a stigma is an effective deterrent. What about the organization that threatens the expression of one's genuine Christian convictions with immediate termination of pay and healthcare and the loss of housing? What does that mean to the young pastor trying to repay eight to twelve years of Synod education which he is required to have, that, outside of the Church, won't get him a job pushing a broom? What does that mean to the pastor who's been encouraged by Synod to have a large family – as the new method of "growing the church" – who is now responsible for four to six or more dependents? What does it mean for the mid-to-late career pastor whose body is beginning to deteriorate, who has begun to think that he would like to avoid a retirement in forgotten obscurity as a resident of a government-run convalescent home like the ones he routinely visits? Threatening such men with immediate loss of home, loss of income, loss of healthcare, and loss of pension does not in any way, shape or form encourage them to do what the church needs them to do: to be watchful for error and to oppose it. It doesn't even make them ambivalent towards it. Instead, exploiting human weaknesses in this way has the effect of forcefully driving them away from this activity which is vitally important to the health and integrity of the visible church. Such men may even see error or unwise activity, but will deliberately remain silent.

In my honest opinion, since we want pastors to live out their Christian conscience, then in cases where separation demonstrably occurs as a result of their honest convictions, as opposed to cases of moral turpitude, the terms of separation need to reflect the fact that we have genuinely valued Christian conscience all along. The pension accounts of pastors separating under such circumstances ought to be rolled over into personal IRAs or some other retirement vehicle, and provision for severance packages which include the continuation of pay and health care for a reasonable period of time also ought to be made. While this does not at all alleviate the uncertainty involved with separation, it tends to remove the vindictive nature of termination threats, and encourages a healthy idealism and a willingness to be objective and have dialogue. Will it ever happen? I personally doubt it...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Praise the Lord for preserving our place of worship

I posted the following on our church website today.  Since many of our readers have been paying attention to our situation, I decided to link to it here on Intrepid:

Praise the Lord for preserving our place of worship

Our congregation decided on October 17, 2012, to disaffiliate from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) so that we can continue to believe and teach that sinners are saved and justified in no other way but by faith in Christ. The WELS demanded that we believe and teach that God has already saved and declared all people to be righteous in His sight, whether or not they believe and are baptized. When they condemned our confession of faith as false doctrine, we could no longer remain in fellowship with them. The Gospel is more important than any denominational affiliation, and by God's grace alone, the Gospel is still being proclaimed in our midst.

Our congregation faced an immediate challenge. Our church's mortgage was with the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), and we still owed $275,000 on the property. Within 48 hours of our decision to disaffiliate, in spite of the fact that we had never missed a monthly payment, the CEF sent us a letter in which they cited a clause in our loan agreement that placed us in default on our loan the moment we disaffiliated from the WELS. In the same letter, they threatened to begin foreclosure proceedings if we did not pay off our balance in full by December 1st.

We were not entirely surprised by this letter from the CEF. On the very evening on which we decided to disaffiliate from the WELS, within two hours of our decision, Pastor Jon Buchholz, president of the Arizona-California District of the WELS, who happened to be at a pastors' conference at that very moment, began announcing to some of the pastors there that the CEF would call the note on our loan—another warning not to defy the synod.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

The Lord provided willing and generous hearts among our members and among our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the country, and we were immediately able to reduce our debt by over $25,000. At the same time, He provided a local bank that was willing to refinance our mortgage. We closed on the loan November 26th, five days ahead of our December 1st deadline.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (Romans 8:31-33).

This is part of a letter I sent to my members yesterday:

I would like to thank all of the families and individuals of our congregation who helped to make all of this possible—those who donated large or small amounts. Your gifts for the work of the Lord in this place are fragrant offerings to the Lord, acceptable and pleasing to Him through faith in the blood of Christ that cleanses and purifies all the works of God’s children. I give thanks to God for all of you.

Most of all, let us give thanks to God together. We took a stand on a very basic but very important doctrinal issue, trusting that the Lord would preserve us in spite of the odds that were against us. It is He who has helped and supported us for the sake of His Gospel. We could never have done it. And so we pray with the Psalmist in Psalm 115:

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. 9 O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. 10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. 11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. 12 The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; 13 he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great. 14 May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! 15 May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! 16 The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. 17 The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. 18 But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!

See you Sunday,
+Pastor Rydecki

Thursday, November 22, 2012

President of the United States declares National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer

For those wishing to know how our government has viewed the purpose of Thanksgiving – a civic holiday, not a sectarian one – the text of the first Presidential Thanksgiving Day Proclamation reads as follows:

    General George Washington prays for his troops and nation at Valley Forge.
    General George Washington prays for his troops and nation at Valley Forge, outside Philadelphia, PA, in the winter of 1778.
    Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

    Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness”:

    Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these united States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

    And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplication to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

    Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, AD 1789

    President George Washington
See the Library of Congress exhibit, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic for additional interesting (and surprisingly well-balanced) information.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Congress issues Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

For those wishing to know how our government has viewed the purpose of Thanksgiving – a civic holiday, not a sectarian one – the text of the first Congressional Thanksgiving Day Proclamation reads as follows:

    Opening prayer of First Continental Congress, in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, 1774.
    The opening prayer of the First Continental Congress, in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, PA, 1774.

    Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased Him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of His common providence, but also smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that He hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success:

    It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these united States, to set apart Thursday, the 18th day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise; that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please Him graciously to afford His blessings on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these united States the greatest of all blessings, independence and peace; that it may please Him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labor of the husbandman, that our land may yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under His nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

    And it is further recommended, that servile labor, and such recreation as, though at other times innocent, may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment, be omitted on so solemn an occasion.

This Proclamation was Issued by the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War, November 1, 1777 – the day after news reached them of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, a triumph which turned the tide of the War. It was authored by Mr. Samuel Adams, future Governor of Massachusetts, and cousin of future President of the United States, Mr. John Adams.

See the Library of Congress exhibit, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic for additional interesting (and surprisingly well-balanced) information.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Humiliation & Prayer Sunday

[Written to my congregation this past Sunday - Pastor Spencer]

Why Observe A Day of Humiliation & Prayer?

           A day of humiliation and prayer has been observed in the Church since the middle of the 4th Century, very soon after the Christian faith was no longer an outlaw religion.  Both Pastors and people recognized the need to remember our place under our Almighty Father and beneficent Creator as created beings; sinful and often arrogant ones at that. This need seemed most apparent during times of great danger, stress, or upheaval, either from political forces or from the earth itself.
          As nation-states came into being, it became very common for the leaders of a country to declare "a national day of humiliation and prayer" in the face of some natural disaster, at a time of invasion and war, or in the midst of great economic hardship for the people. Thus, in the Lutheran lands during the Thirty Year's War such proclamations came often. Such was also the case during the two English Civil Wars, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the War Between the States, and World Wars I & II. Proclamations of a National Day of Humiliation and Prayer by men like George Washington, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt have become quite famous in American history. But over the past fifty years or so, the practice of setting aside a day to focus on our great need for God and His grace and mercy, and to pray for His continued love and blessing has fallen into disuse.
          We certainly cannot say that this is the cause of the difficulties and calamities of the past few decades – Viet Nam, Watergate, terrible floods and hurricanes, AIDS, political scandal and upheaval, 9/11, economic hardship, Jihad, and the like. However, it is certain that in past centuries such problems would bring about a turn of God's people to publicly and openly recognize their sins, and their need for His help.
                   Thus, as your shepherd, I have decided that there is no better time than now to return to this ancient and worthwhile practice and set aside one of our Sundays of worship as a Day of Humiliation and Prayer. In doing this I do not desire to forget that each Sunday is in fact a celebration of Christ's Resurrection, or to detract from the joy of our sure and certain salvation by grace through faith. I hope only to give us all an opportunity to give voice to our humility as reconciled sinners before our holy God, and to our pleas for His mercy and guidance in our many trials and problems.
          Let us use this occasion to admit that we have rebelled against God's will and brought much of our troubles upon ourselves by our greed, impatience, and pride. Let us pray for His undeserved grace and continued blessings upon us, our church, and our nation. Let us then leave our worship refreshed by His love and forgiveness, and strengthened by His Word to be better and more able citizens and Christians!
          To God alone be the glory!

Propers, Hymns, and Readings
for Humiliation & Prayer Sunday

Possible Sundays:
- Sunday before Ascension (Rogate); very ancient practice from the early church
- a Sunday in late October/early November (harvest & winter planting); again very historic, especially in Germany
- the last Sunday of the Church Year; in place of Christ the King Sunday in
preparation for Advent 

The Order of Holy Communion (TLH 1941), or Service of Word & Sacrament (CW)  

Opening Hymn:
286 or 287

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the LORD has spoken, "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me." They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger; they are gone away backward. If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who shall stand?

Almighty and most merciful God, our heavenly Father, of whose compassion there is no end, Who is long-sufferings, gracious, and plenteous in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, we have sinned and done perversely, we have forsaken and grievously offended You; against You, You only, have we sinned and done evil in Your sight. But we ask You, O LORD, remember not against us our former iniquities; let Your tender mercies speedily come to us, for we are brought very low; help us, O God of our salvation, and purge away our sins for the glory of Your holy name and for the sake of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament Lesson:
First Samuel 7:3-14, Isaiah 1:2-20, Daniel 9:3-19, or Joel 2:11-19

6, 32, 38, or 130

Acts 3:12-26, Romans 12:1-21, First Timothy 1:12-2:8, Hebrews 10:19-31

Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. Praise the LORD!

Matthew 3:1-17, Matthew 5:13-20 & 6:1-8, Matthew 6:16-34, or Matthew 7:1-23

Hymn of the Day:

Prayer of the Church:
The Litany

P: Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Lord, have mercy upon us.
P: Christ, have mercy upon us.
C: Christ, have mercy upon us.
P: Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Lord, have mercy upon us.
P: O Christ, hear us.
C: O Christ, hear us.
P: O God, the Father in heaven:
C: Have mercy upon us.
P: O God, the Son, Redeemer of the world:
C: Have mercy upon us.
P: O God, the Holy Ghost:
C: Have mercy upon us.
P: O Holy Trinity, One God:
C: Have mercy upon us.
P: Be gracious unto us.
C: Spare us, good LORD.
P: Be gracious unto us.
C: Help us, good LORD.
P: From all sin; from all error; from all evil:
C: Good LORD, deliver us.
P: From the crafts and assaults of the devil;
From sudden and evil death;
From pestilence and famine;
From war and bloodshed;
From sedition and rebellion;
From lightening and tempest;
From all calamity by fire and water;
And from everlasting death:
C: Good LORD, deliver us.
P: By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation(+);
By Your holy birth;
By Your Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation;
By Your Agony and bloody Sweat;
By Your Cross and Passion (+);
By Your precious Death and Burial;
By Your glorious Resurrection and Ascension;
And by the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter:
C: Help us, good Lord.
P: In all times of our tribulation;
In all times of our prosperity;
In the hour of our death;
And on the Day of Judgment:
C: Help us, good Lord.
P: We poor sinners do beseech You;
C: To hear us, good LORD.
P: To rule and govern Your Holy Christian Church;
To preserve all pastors and ministers of Your Church in the true knowledge and understanding of Your Word, and in holiness of life;
To put an end to all divisions and causes of offence;
To bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived;
To beat down Satan under our feet;
To send faithful laborers in your harvest;
To accompany your Word with Your Spirit and grace;
To raise up them that fall, and to strengthen such as do stand;
And to comfort and help the weak-hearted and the distresses:
C: We ask You to hear us, good LORD.
P: To give to all nations peace and concord;
To preserve our country from discord and contention;
To direct and defend our President, and all others in authority;
To bless and keep our magistrates, and all our people:
C: We beseech You to hear us, good LORD.
P: To behold and rescue all who are in danger, necessity and tribulation;
To protect all who travel by land, air, or water.
To preserve all women in the perils of childbirth;
To strengthen and keep all sick persons and young children;
To set free all who are innocently imprisoned.
To defend and provide for all fatherless children and widows;
And to have mercy upon all people:
C: We beseech you to hear us, good LORD.
P: To forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts;
To give and preserve to our use the fruits of the earth;
And graciously to hear our prayers:
C: We beseech You to hear us, good LORD.
 P: O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God;
C: We beseech You to hear us.
P: O Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world;
C: Have mercy upon us.
P: O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of world;
C: Have mercy upon us.
P: O Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world;
C: Grant us Your peace!
P: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Who desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his evil ways and live: We beseech You graciously to turn from us those punishments which we by our sins have deserved, and to grace us grace hereafter to serve You in holiness and pureness of living; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.
C: Amen.

Communion Distribution Hymn:

Closing Hymn:
408, 409, 412, or 413

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Gospel motivates fidelity to doctrine in practice: Brief words on the use of distinguishing clerical attire

Way back in September of 2010, I published a brief essay entitled, "How, then, shall we be attired?" or "Why I Wear a Tie to Church". It began with a statement in the introductory paragraph suggesting that there is a foundation in what people are convinced as a matter of Christian Conscience is True for how they act; suggesting, that is, that Christian doctrine may actually be the foundation of Christian practice rather than being completely disassociated from it: "There's a reason why people have reserved some of their finest clothing for Sunday, referring to it as their 'Sunday Best,' and I think there are good reasons for Christians to continue doing so. What we do is a reflection of what we hold to be True."

From this point my brief essay proceeded by describing some of the important Truths of Christian doctrine which confessional Lutherans, who recognize the significance of historical belief and practice, consider the ongoing realities of incarnational and sacramental doctrine, and suggesting that these realities, if they are actually regarded as such rather than merely claimed as such, are sufficient to motivate practice that is consistent with them. Namely, we believe that Jesus Christ is actually present in the Divine Service, and is there actively serving us. If we not only claim that this is true, but actually believe it is true, then we are apt to engage in practice that is consistent with actually believing it, rather than merely saying it. This includes our choice of attire, as I continued in that little essay. At no point was Law used as a basis for suggesting that certain attire may be more appropriate than certain other attire; instead, it pointed to the significance of the Gospel as motivation for the desire to represent with fidelity what we confess to believe. Indeed, it concludes with the strong suggestion that such practice is not only consistent with important Christian realities, but is evangelical as well: "The reality is, in Western Society, the Christian's 'Sunday Best' is his 'religious garb' – it openly communicates his Christian religion and his observance of it to those who see him, and opens doors of communication where inconspicuous dress would fail to do so."

Appealing to the Gospel, Rev. Michael Berg (WELS) suggested much the same thing in his excellent paper, The Beauty of the Western Rite, which he delivered at the 2012 Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity – see pages 11, 26, 36 and 54, for example, or hear his comments @~5'45" to ~7'35", @~10'45" to ~11'50", @~38'10" to ~42' or @~44'35" to ~54' in the video we posted of his presentation. Who is actually present in the Divine Service, and how does that motivate the order of our practice? Rev. Berg offers a very compelling case.

Likewise, Rev. Anthony Voltattorni (LCMS), in a November 6, 2012 interview on Issues, Etc., makes a compelling and motivating case for the use of traditional clerical garb instead of the non-distinguishing casual wear that continues to grow in popularity as pastors grow more and more disconnected from their office, and take on the role of representing contemporary culture before the congregation rather than Christ.

Why Does a Pastor Wear a Clerical Collar? – Rev. Anthony Voltattorni (LCMS), 11/6/12


In this 30 minute interview, Rev. Voltattorni centers his discussion on the evangelical significance of Office of the Holy Ministry. He makes the point that according to this Lutheran teaching, the pastor does not represent the culture before the congregation during the Sunday morning Divine Service or through the week as he carries out the functions of his Office. On the contrary, the pastor represents Christ. The evangelical significance of this teaching is compelling enough to motivate the conscientious Lutheran pastor in his public practice, such that he strives to carry it out in an unambiguous and consistently representative way. The purpose of casual garb, observes Rev. Voltattorni, is to fulfill the former (and wrong) understanding of his role – that of representing the culture before the congregation – by drawing attention to himself as a representative of mankind. In contrast, the purpose of clerical garb is to fulfill the latter – of unambiguously representing Christ by adopting the attire recognized worldwide as peculiar to his Office – by reminding not only the congregation of this fact, but himself as well, helping him submit to his Office and refrain from frivolity and offense. Rev. Voltattorni proceeds by pointing out that distinctive clerical garb does draw attention to it's wearer, in agreement with one of the primary criticisms of its use. Yet, he continues, casual wear attracts attention as well – it does not make the wearer inconspicuous, it only makes his Office inconspicuous. Distinctive clerical garb, on the other hand, draws attention to its wearer as one who occupies the Office to which Christ appointed him through His congregation, and as one who is always eager to represent Christ and share his Message everywhere he goes. Moreover, concludes Rev. Voltattorni, by publicly distinguishing himself in this way, instead of remaining inconspicuous when in public, the pastor is not only announcing his desire to share the Good News of Salvation through Faith in the promises of Christ, he is also boldly inviting persecution from those who hate Christ and His messengers.

It is an informative and compelling little interview, and, of course, Rev. Voltattorni expresses himself far better than I have summarized him here. We recommend that our readers listen to and consider what Rev. Voltattorni has to say.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Johann Gerhard on Romans 5:19

Previously I had posted a translation of Johann Gerhard on Romans 3, Romans 4, and Romans 5:18.  Here's a translation of his interpretation of Romans 5:19.

(Translation copyright 2012 by Paul A. Rydecki.  All emphasis is in the original.)

Adnotationes ad priora capita Epistolae D. Pauli ad Romanos (1644)

Romans 5:19
σπερ γρ δι τς παρακος το νς νθρώπου μαρτωλο κατεστάθησαν ο πολλοί, οτω κα δι τς πακος το νς δίκαιοι κατασταθήσονται ο πολλοί.
[The Apostle] demonstrates the basis for the preceding comparison, which consists in this, that these two men (Adam and Christ) have been established as two stocks from which righteousness and life are propagated to others. For Adam was established at the beginning of creation as the stock from which righteousness and life should be propagated to all his posterity.  But since he turned away from God through sin, from that time on unrighteousness and death are propagated from him to all his posterity. Therefore, God out of grace took pity on the human race and opened up another source of righteousness and life for us.  He sent Christ the Mediator, from whom as a stock and a tree of life, righteousness and life should be communicated to all who are grafted into Him by faith.
What he had earlier called transgression (παράπτωμα) he now calls disobedience (παρακοήν), because the origin and source of transgression was disobedience. And what he had earlier called righteousness (δικαίωμα), he now calls obedience (πακοήν), because Christ, by obeying His heavenly Father to death, even death on a cross, acquired that righteousness for us (Phil. 2:9).  Then in turn, what he had said earlier—by one transgression condemnation (κατάκριμα) came upon all—that he brings out in this verse saying that many were made sinners, because that propagation of sin and contraction of guilt is the cause of condemnation. And what he had said earlier—through one Man’s righteousness the benefit overflowed to all for justification (δικαίωσιν)—that he brings out here saying that through one Man’s obedience many were made righteous. But he uses a future tense verb on account of those who will believe (τος μέλλοντας πιστεύειν).
Godly men of old speak in this way concerning this contrast of Adam and Christ.  Irenaeus (Book 5, ch. 18, p.342): Just as through one conquered man our race descended into death, so again through one conquering man we have ascended to life.  And just as death won the prize against us through a man, so again we have won the prize against death through a man.  Augustine writes in Letter 57 ad Dardan. q. 2: In the one case it became clear how the choice of a man should prevail for death; in the other case, how the help of God should prevail for life. He says the same thing in Book 2 On Original Sin, ch. 24: The Christian faith properly consists in the case of these two men.  Through one of them we were sold under sin; through the other we are redeemed from sin.  One of these men caused us to perish in himself by doing his own will rather than the will of Him by whom he was made; the other Man saved us in Himself by not doing His own will, but the will of Him by whom He was sent. Lyranus in h.1: Just as through the disobedience of Adam his posterity were made unrighteous, so through the obedience of Christ many are justified in the wood of the outstretched cross.
The Papists try to wrest out of h.1 that we are justified through an infused and inherent righteousness.
Pererius in h.1 says: Paul did not say that they were made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, nor should one imagine that they were made so through imputed disobedience.  Rather, he said “through disobedience,” that is, disobedience that came through the sin that dwells intrinsically in them due to Adam’s disobedience. Similarly, therefore, it is not that the obedience of Christ makes them righteous, as if men became righteous not through an inherent righteousness but through an imputed righteousness.  Rather, they are made righteous through the obedience of Christ, because this was the meritorious cause.
We reply:  This presupposes that that phrase righteousness makes righteous and unrighteousness makes unrighteous, is only meant formally; but that the other phrase, through righteousness they are made righteous and through unrighteousness they are made unrighteous is only meant with regard to merit[1].  And yet Pererius himself is forced to deny this hypothesis when that which is through faith δι πίστεως), Rom. 3:22,30, is interpreted formally.  Thus in 2 Tim. 3:15, faith is not the cause because of which a person merits becoming wise for salvation, but is rather itself the form of that wisdom. Thus when in Gal. 5:6 faith is said to work through love, love cannot be understood as the meritorious cause why faith works. Bellarmine himself in Book 2 On Justification, ch. 3, says: We are justified through his grace, i.e., through the righteousness given and infused by him, and this is the formal cause.
Bellarmine, in Book 2 On Justification, ch. 3:  Through the unrighteousness of Adam we were made unrighteous by an unrighteousness that truly and really inheres in us, not by imputation.  Therefore, in the same way we are made righteous through the obedience of Christ, by a righteousness that inheres in us.  Becanus, in Part 1 On Justification, ch. 2 section 14: Just as we were made unrighteous through the disobedience of Adam, so through the obedience of Christ we are made righteous. Yet we are made unrighteous through Adam’s disobedience, not formally, but only efficiently and meritoriously. Therefore we are also made righteous through the obedience of Christ, not formally, but only efficiently and meritoriously.
We reply:
1) The comparison between the disobedience of Adam and the obedience of Christ is not instituted simply[2] and absolutely, but according to something in particular[3]. For the Apostle is considering at that time the causes of our salvation and condemnation, for just as the condemnation draws its origin from Adam’s disobedience, so our salvation draws its origin from Christ’s obedience. Then, the Apostle considers the propagation and effects of Christ’s obedience and of Adam’ disobedience, for just as through the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so through the obedience of Christ they are made righteous. 
2) But by no means is this comparison to be extended to the mode of propagation and communication, which the Apostle is obviously not treating in this passage; but he dealt with that in the preceding passages, teaching that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us by faith, but that Adam’s sin is propagated to us by carnal generation.
3) If we wanted to go beyond the limits of the Apostolic comparison, someone could infer from the same that the righteousness of Christ is propagated to us through carnal generation, since the unrighteousness of Adam is communicated to us in that manner.  Likewise, one could infer that the righteousness of Christ is propagated to all men together, without any regard for faith or unbelief, since the sin of Adam is propagated to all through carnal generation. 
4) But since that is absurd, a distinction must fully be made between the acquisition and the application of the merit of Christ; or between the benefit itself and participation in the benefit.  The acquisition of the merit, or the benefit itself obtained by the death of Christ is general.  For as Adam, by his disobedience, enveloped all of his posterity in the guilt of sin, so Christ, who suffered and died for the sins of all, also merited and acquired righteousness for all.  But this benefit is only applied to those who are grafted into Christ by faith, and only they become participants in this benefit. 
5) The contrast is evident in this Apostolic text between justification and condemnation, v. 16 and v.18. But since they are contrasted under the same genre, and condemnation is, to be sure, a judicial act, from that it follows that justification is also a judicial act, and hence it consists, not in the infusion of righteousness, but in the absolution from sins. Undoubtedly, as through the sin of Adam sin is propagated to all men, for it results in condemnation for them, that is, because of it they are damned by the righteous judgment of God unless reconciliation and remission take place, so through the merit of Christ righteousness and salvation have been obtained for all, so that they may be justified by faith, that is, that they may be pronounced righteous, absolved from sins and freed from condemnation. 
6) To be made righteous and to be justified are considered by the Apostle to be equivalent expressions (σοδυναμοσι).  Therefore, to be made righteous is contrasted with for condemnation in v.19; so also to be justified in v.18; and hence each has a forensic meaning. The verb they will be made (κατασταθήσονται) indicates that these things are carried out before the tribunal of God’s righteous judgment, who condemns Adam’s posterity on account of sin, but absolves believers in Christ from that damnation and makes them righteous (Rom. 10:3, 2 Cor. 5:21). 
7) By no semblance of truth can it be denied that the sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity.  For although the corruption of nature that arises from Adam’s sin inheres in his posterity, nevertheless it cannot be denied that Adam’s sin, from which the corruption of nature arises, is imputed to them (Ex. 20:5, Rom. 5:13).  For as soon as our first parents sinned, in whose loins was the entire human race, and who received gifts not only for themselves, but also for their posterity, their transgression was considered the transgression of the entire human race, and hence was imputed to all of them so that they are damned before they are born. Therefore, Bellarmine himself in Book 4 On the Loss of Grace, ch. 10, writes: The sin of Adam is imputed to all his posterity in such a way as if all had committed the same sin. And he cites the statement of Bernhard: Adam’s guilt is ours, for although it was in another, we still sinned; and it was imputed to us by God’s righteous judgment, although secretly.
Stapleton in Antidoto h.l. presses the verb they will be made (κατασταθήσονται).  This vocable, he says, is most suitable for explaining inherent righteousness, for the use of Scripture teaches that it does not mean imputation, but the true and inherent acquisition and possession (Luke 12). Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 place him over all things.  You placed him over all the works of your hands.  James 2, He is made an enemy of God.
We reply:
1) Some declare that the verb to be made applies to the status of the believers in the future age in which they will be made righteous by inherent righteousness—and that a most perfect righteousness. Certainly the benefits of Christ do not end with this life, but are extended also into the future life.  Therefore, in this way this phrase would designate the effect of justification.  This is what they make of the words of the Apostle, those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life. For distinct times are noted: they receive the abundance of the gift, already in place in this life; yet they do not reign in life, but will reign, that is, someday and in the future age.
2) In justification, believers are truly made righteous by the imputed righteousness of Christ, no more truly than a servant who is at some time placed by his lord over all his goods, or a man who is placed by God over all the works of His hands.  But it does not follow, if someone wishes to infer from this truth an inherence of righteousness.  Nor in the examples cited is inherence necessarily established.  A man is made lord of the creatures not through inherence, but through relationship; a man is made a friend of God, not by some affection inhering in the man himself, since God loved those who did not exist.

[1] meritorie
[2] simpliciter
[3] secundum quid

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Civics Lesson for American Christians: "Church and State in the United States," by Dr. Philip Schaff

Dr. Philip SchaffDr. Philip Schaff (d. 1893) was among America's pre-eminent church historians and theologians of the 19th Century. Together with Dr. John Williamson Nevin (d. 1886), Dr. Schaff assisted in advocating German Reformed theology, a Zwinglian variety of Reformed teaching, contributing to a rise in its prominence that pitted it against the more widely accepted Calvinist theology of Charles Hodge (d. 1878) in a bid for dominance among the Reformed in America. Though this bid was unsuccessful, the Mercersburg Theology, as it was named in honor of the seminary where Nevin and Schaff taught, represented a teaching that was uniquely Christocentric among the Reformed, whose theology typically begins with and centers on the sovereignty of God, rather than the person of Christ.0 This factor, in addition to the impeccable academic credentials of these men, no doubt contributed to the use of their research by prominent confessional Lutherans, like C.F.W Walther and C.P. Krauth, both of whom quote favorably from Schaff and Nevin. In fact, Krauth's Conservative Reformation quotes both Nevin and Schaff with great frequency. We at Intrepid Lutherans quote from Dr. Schaff's History of the Christian ChurchClick here for a brief biography of Dr. Philip Schaff, and links to download his public domain works, including his 3 volume Creeds of Christendom and his 7 volume History of the Christian Church quite frequently as well.

In 1887, Dr. Schaff, published a little book entitled, Church and State in the United States: Or the American Idea of Religious Liberty and it Practical Effects; with Official Documents. It is a marvelous little book, an indispensable civics guide for the American Christian. In honor of this important day, November 6, 2012, the day of our national election for the Presidency of the United States, we here publish select sections from this book, from pages 53-56 and pages 69-78.

Church and State
in the United States:
The American Idea of
Religious Liberty and
its Practical Effect

(excerpts from)

by Dr. Philip Schaff

A.D. 1887

(pp. 53-56)

The separation of church and state as it exists in this country is not a separation of the nation from Christianity.

This seems paradoxical and impossible to all who entertain an absolutist or utopian idea of the state, and identify it either with the government, as did Louis XIV (according to his maxim: L'ttat cest moi),1 or with the realization of the moral idea, as Hegel2 and Rothe,3 or with the nation, as Bluntschli,4 and Mulford.5

The tendency of modern times is to limit the powers of the government, and to raise the liberty of the people. The government is for the people, and not the people for the government. In ancient Greece and Rome the freeman was lost in the citizen, and the majority of the people were slaves. Plato carried this idea to the extent of community of property, wives, and children, in his utopian Republic.6 Against this Aristotle protested with his strong realistic sense, and defended in his Politics the rights of property and the dignity of the family. The American ideal of the state is a republic of self-governing freemen who are a law to themselves. "That government is best which governs least."

The state can never be indifferent to the morals of the people; it can never prosper without education and public virtue. Nevertheless its direct and chief concern in our country is with the political, civil, and secular affairs; while the literary, moral, and religious interests are left to the voluntary agency of individuals, societies, and churches, under the protection of the laws. In Europe, the people look to the government for taking the initiative; in America they help themselves and go ahead.

The nation is much broader and deeper than the state, and the deepest thing in the nation's heart is its religion.

If we speak of a Christian nation we must take the word in the qualified sense of the prevailing religious sentiment and profession; for in any nation and under any relation of church and state, there are multitudes of unbelievers, misbelievers, and hypocrites. Moreover, we must not measure the Christian character of a people by outward signs, such as crosses, crucifixes, pictures, processions, clerical coats, and monastic cowls, all of which abound in Roman Catholic countries and in Russia, on the streets and in public places, but are seldom seen in the United States. We must go to the churches and Sunday-schools, visit the houses and family altars, attend the numerous meetings of synods, conferences, conventions, observe the sacred stillness of the Lord's Day, converse with leading men of all professions and grades of culture, study the religious literature and periodical press with its accounts of the daily thoughts, words, and deeds of the people. A foreigner may at first get bewildered by the seeming confusion of ideas, and be repelled by strange novelties or eccentricities; but he will gradually be impressed with the unity and strength of the national sentiment on all vital questions of religion and morals.

With this understanding we may boldly assert that the American nation is as religious and as Christian as any nation on earth, and in some respects even more so, for the very reason that the profession and support of religion are left entirely free. State-churchism is apt to breed hypocrisy and infidelity, while free-churchism favors the growth of religion.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the most philosophic foreign observer of American institutions, says:

    There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth... In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details of public opinion, but it directs the manners of the community, and by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state... Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must, nevertheless, be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country, for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions. I am certain that the Americans hold religion to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.7
This judgment of the celebrated French scholar and statesman is extremely important, and worthy of being seriously considered by all our educators and politicians, in opposition to infidels and anarchists, foreign and domestic, who are zealous in spreading the seed of atheism and irreligion, and are undermining the very foundations of our republic. I fully agree with De Tocqueville. I came to the same conclusion soon after my immigration to America in 1844, and I have been confirmed in it by an experience of forty-three years and a dozen visits to Europe. In Roman Catholic countries and in Russia there is more outward show, in Protestant countries more inward substance, of religion. There the common people are devout and churchy, but ignorant and superstitious; while the educated classes are skeptical or indifferent. In Protestant countries there is more information and intelligent faith, but also a vast amount of rationalism and unbelief. In Great Britain Christianity has a stronger hold on all classes of society than on the Continent, and this is partly due to the fact that it is allowed more freedom.

(pp. 68-79)

A total separation of church and state is an impossibility, unless we cease to be a Christian people.

There are three interests and institutions which belong to both church and state, and must be maintained and regulated by both. These are
  1. monogamy in marriage,
  2. the weekly day of rest,
  3. and the public school
Here the American government and national sentiment have so far decidedly protected the principles and institutions of Christianity as essential elements in our conception of civilized society.


Monogamy, according to the unanimous sentiment of all Christian nations, is the only normal and legitimate form of marriage. It has been maintained by Congress, with the approval of the nation, in its prohibitory legislation against the new Mohammedanism in Utah, and the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest tribunal of our laws, has sanctioned the prohibition of polygamy as constitutional. The Mormons have to submit, or to emigrate to more congenial climes.

All the States uphold monogamy and punish bigamy. But some of them, unfortunately, are very loose on the subject of divorce, and a reform of legislation in conformity to the law of Christ is highly necessary for the safety and prosperity of the family. It is to the honor of the Roman Catholic Church in our country that she upholds the sanctity of the marriage tie.8

Sunday Laws.

The Christian Sabbath or weekly day of rest is likewise protected by legislation, and justly so, because it has a civil as well as a religious side; it is necessary and profitable for the body as well as for the soul; it is of special benefit to the laboring classes, and guards them against the tyranny of capital. The Sabbath, like the family, antedates the Mosaic legislation, and is founded in the original constitution of man, for whose temporal and spiritual benefit it was instituted by the God of creation. The state has nothing to do with the religious aspect of Sunday, but is deeply interested in its civil aspect, which affects the whole domestic and social life of a people.

The Federal Constitution, in deference to the national sentiment, incidentally recognizes Sunday by the clause (Art. I., Sect. 7):
    If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it.
Congress never meets on Sunday, except of necessity, at the close of the short term, to complete legislation if the third of March happens to fall on a Sunday. The President is never inaugurated on a Sunday. The Supreme Court and the Federal Courts are closed on that day. And if the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday, the great national festival is put off till Monday. The Revised Statutes of the United States sustain the observance of Sunday in four particulars. They exempt the cadets at West Point and the students of the Naval Academy from study on Sunday; they exclude Sunday, like the Fourth of July and Christmas Day, from computation in certain bankruptcy proceedings; and provide that army chaplains shall hold religious services at least once on each Lord's Day.

During the civil war, when the Sunday rest was very much interrupted by the army movements, the President of the United States issued the following important order:
    Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 15, 1862.

    The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service. The importance, for man and beast, of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will, demand that Sunday labor in the army and navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity. The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperilled, by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High. At this time of public distress, adopting the words of Washington, in 1776, "men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country, without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality." The first general order issued by the Father of his Country, after the Declaration of Independence, indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended:

      "The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country."

The State legislatures, State courts, and State elections follow the example of the general government, or rather preceded it. The States are older than the United States, and Sunday is older than both.

Most of the States protect Sunday by special statutes.

These Sunday laws of the States are not positive and coercive, but negative, defensive, and protective, and as such perfectly constitutional, whatever Sabbath-breaking infidels may say. The state, indeed, has no right to command the religious observance of Sunday, or to punish anybody for not going to church, as was done formerly in some countries of Europe. Such coercive legislation would be unconstitutional and contrary to religious liberty. The private observance and private non-observance is left perfectly free to everybody. But the state is in duty bound to protect the religious community in their right to enjoy the rest of that day, and should forbid such public desecration as interferes with this right.

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, February 4, 1861, decided that the regulation of the Christian Sabbath "as a civil and political institution" is "within the just powers of the civil government," and that the prohibition of theatrical and dramatic performances on that day
    rests on the same foundation as a multitude of other laws on our statute-book, such as those against gambling, lotteries, keeping disorderly houses, polygamy, horse-racing, profane cursing and swearing, disturbances of religious meetings, selling of intoxicating liquor on election days within a given distance from the polls, etc. All these and many others do, to some extent, restrain the citizen and deprive him of some of his natural rights; but the legislature have the right to prohibit acts injurious to the public and subversive of government, or which tend to the destruction of the morals of the people, and disturb the peace and good order of society. It is exclusively for the legislature to determine what acts should be prohibited as dangerous to the community.9
The Penal Code of New York, as amended in 1882 and 1883, forbids "all labor on Sunday, excepting works of necessity or charity," and declares "Sabbath-breaking a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than one dollar and not more than ten dollars, or by imprisonment in a jail not exceeding five days, or by both." Among things expressly prohibited on Sunday, the Penal Code10 mentions
  • "all shooting, hunting, fishing, playing, horse-racing, gaming, or other public sports, exercises, or shows";
  • "all trades, manufactures, agricultural or mechanical employments";
  • "all manner of public selling or offering for sale of any property" (except articles of food and meals);
  • "all service of legal process of any kind whatever";
  • "all processions and parades" (except funeral processions and religious processions);
  • "the performance of any tragedy, comedy, opera," or any other dramatic performance (which is subjected to an additional penalty of five hundred dollars).11
The opposition to the Sunday laws comes especially from the foreign population, who have grown up under the demoralizing influence of the continental Sunday, and are not yet sufficiently naturalized to appreciate the habits of the land of their adoption. But the more earnest and religious portion of German immigrants are in hearty sympathy with the quiet and order of the American Sunday and have repeatedly expressed it in public meetings in New York and other large cities.12

The only class of American citizens who might with justice complain of our Sunday laws and ask protection of the last day of the week instead of the first, are the Jews and the Seventh Day Baptists. But they are a small minority, and must submit to the will of the majority, as the government cannot wisely appoint two weekly days of rest. The Revised Statutes of New York, however, provide that those who keep "the last day of the week, called Saturday, as holy time, and do not labor or work on that day," shall be exempted from the penalties of the statute against labor on Sunday, provided only that their labor do not "interrupt or disturb other persons in observing the first day of the week as holy time." The law of New York exempts also the same persons from military duty and jury duty on Saturday.

The United States present, in respect to Sunday legislation and Sunday observance, a most striking contrast to the Continent of Europe, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, where Sunday is perverted from a holy day of rest and worship into a frivolous holiday of amusement and dissipation,13 dedicated to beer gardens, theatres, horse-races, and political elections. Judged by the standard of Sunday observance, America is the most Christian country in the world, with the only exceptions of England and Scotland.

Religion in Public Schools.

The relation of state education to religion is a most important and most difficult problem, which will agitate the country for a long time. It is increased by a difference of views within the religious denominations themselves; while on the questions of monogamy and Sunday they are substantially agreed.

The Roman Catholics, under the dictation of the Vatican, oppose our public schools, which are supported by general taxation, for the reason that their religion is not taught there, and that a "godless" education is worse than none. They are right in the supreme estimate of religion as a factor in education, but they are radically wrong in identifying the Christian religion with the Roman creed, and very unjust in calling our public schools "godless." They must learn to appreciate Protestant Christianity, which has built up this country and made it great, prosperous, and free.14 Their Church enjoys greater liberty in the United States than in Italy or Spain or Austria or France or Mexico, and for this they should at least be grateful. They will never succeed in overthrowing the public school system, nor in securing a division of the school funds for sectarian purposes. They have a remedy in private and parochial schools, which they can multiply without let or hindrance. There is no compulsory attendance on public schools in any of our States. The only point of reasonable complaint from Catholics is that they are taxed for the support of public schools which they condemn. Strict justice would exempt them from the school tax.15 But the principal tax-payers are wealthy Protestants, who, for various reasons, prefer to educate their children in private schools at their own expense. The right of minorities should be protected by all means save the destruction of the rights of the majority, which must rule in a republican country. The Roman Catholics would act more wisely and patriotically by uniting with the religious portion of the Protestant community in every effort to improve the moral character of the public schools. They may be sure of a cordial disposition to meet them in every just and reasonable demand. Protestants are just as much concerned for the religious and moral training of their children as they.

The public school is and ever will be an American institution from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It dates from early colonial days in New England, and has always been, next to the church, the chief nursery of popular intelligence, virtue, and piety. The Continental Congress, in the ordinance of 1787 (Article III.), enjoined it upon the territory northwest of the Ohio River, that "schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged," because "religion, morality, and knowledge are necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind."16 The public school system grows and aims higher every year. It is not satisfied with elementary instruction, but aims at a full college and university education, at least in the West, where large landed endowments come to its aid. The state has the right and the duty to educate its citizens for useful citizenship, and should give the poorest and humblest the benefit of a sufficient training for that purpose. A democratic republic based upon universal suffrage depends for its safety and prosperity upon the intelligence and virtue of the people. But virtue is based on religion, and the obligations of man to man rest upon the obligations of man to his Maker and Preserver. Intellectual training without moral training is dangerous, and moral training without religion lacks the strongest incentive which appeals to the highest motives, and quickens and energizes all the lower motives. Who can measure the influence of the single idea of an omniscient and omnipresent God who reads our thoughts afar off and who will judge all our deeds? The example of Christ is a more effectual teacher and reformer than all the moral philosophies, ancient and modern.

The state recognizes the importance of religion by allowing the reading of the Bible, the singing of a hymn, and the recital of the Lord's Prayer, or some other prayer, as opening exercises of the school. I am informed by competent authority that at least four fifths of the public schools in the United States observe this custom.17 Most of the school teachers, especially the ladies, are members of evangelical churches, and commend religion by their spirit and example. To call such schools "godless" is simply a slander.

Some schools exclude the Bible to please the Roman Catholics, who oppose every Protestant version, and the Jews and infidels who oppose Christianity in any form. Other schools have found it necessary to reintroduce religious exercises for the maintenance of proper discipline.

The Catholics certainly have a right to demand the Douay version as a substitute for that of King James, and both might be read, the one to the Catholic, the other to the Protestant pupils; but they are at heart opposed to the free and independent atmosphere of thought which prevails in the schools of a Protestant community, and which is dangerous to the principles of authority and absolute obedience to the priesthood. It is vain, therefore, to expect to satisfy them by the exclusion of the Bible from the public school, which is advocated by many Protestants as a peace measure.18 It is better to hold on to the timehonored custom of holding up before the rising generation day by day a short and suitable lesson from the Book of books, no matter in what version. The Psalms contain the sublimest lyrical poetry; the Lord's Prayer is the best of all prayers: the Sermon on the Mount is more popular and beautiful than any moral essay; and the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is the most effective sermon on charity. A competent committee of clergymen and laymen of all denominations could make a judicious selection which would satisfy every reasonable demand. With unreason even the gods fight in vain.19

The reading of brief Bible lessons, with prayer and singing, is a devotional exercise rather than religious instruction, but it is all that can be expected from the state, which dare not intermeddle with the differences of belief. Positive religious instruction is the duty of the family, and the church, which has the commission to teach all nations the way of life. The state cannot be safely intrusted with this duty. It might teach rationalism, as is actually done in many public schools and universities of Germany, Holland, and Switzerland.

But the state may allow the different denominations to monopolize certain school hours in the school building for religious instruction.20 In this way the problem of united secular and separate religious education could be solved, at least to the reasonable satisfaction of the great majority. Possibly the more liberal portion of our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens might agree to such a compromise. In communities which are sufficiently homogeneous, one teacher would answer; in others, two or more might be chosen, and the children divided into classes according to the will of the parents or guardians.

The state is undoubtedly competent to give instruction in all elementary and secular or neutral branches of learning, such as reading and writing, mathematics, languages, geography, chemistry, natural science, logic, rhetoric, medicine, law, etc.21 The difficulty begins in history and the moral sciences which deal with character, touch upon religious ground, and enjoin the eternal principles of duty. A history which would ignore God, Christ, the Bible, the Church, the Reformation, and the faith of the first settlers of this country, would be nothing but a ghastly skeleton of dry bones. An education which ignores the greatest characters and events and the most sacred interests in human life must breed religious indifference, infidelity, and immorality.

But the people will not allow this as long as they remain religious and Christian. Parents will not send their children to godless schools. They have the power in their own hands; they appoint the school boards, and through them the teachers.22 This is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Republican institutions are a blessing or a curse according to the character of those who administer them.23 And so it is with our public schools. All depends at last upon competent and faithful teachers. If the teachers fear God and love righteousness, they will inspire their pupils with the same spirit; if they do not, they will raise an infidel generation, notwithstanding the reading of the Bible and the teaching of the Catechism. It is in the interest of the educational institutions of the several States, and indispensable to their well-being, that they should maintain a friendly relation to the churches and the Christian religion, which is the best educator and civilizer of any people.

Whatever defects there are in our public schools, they can be supplied by the Sunday-schools, which are multiplying and increasing in importance with the growth of the country, by catechetical instruction of the pastor, which ought to be revived as a special preparation for church membership; and by private schools, academies, and denominational colleges and universities. The church is perfectly free and untrammelled in the vast work of education, and this is all she can expect. If she does her full duty, America will soon surpass every other country in general intelligence, knowledge, and culture. Here is an opportunity for every man to become a gentleman, for every woman to become a lady, and for all to become good Christians.24

  1. IL Note: For more details, including the impact of this starting place in Reformed-Calvinist and Lutheran systems of theology, please see our essay, Differences between Reformed and Lutheran Doctrines. (Click here to return)
  2. This corresponds to the Roman Catholic idea that the clergy or hierarchy are the church; while the laity are doomed to passive obedience. Pope Pius IX. said during the Vatican Council: "I am the tradition." (Click here to return)
  3. Philosophic des Rechts. Hegel calls the state "die Wirklichkeit dcr sittlichen Idee," "die selbstbewusste Verniinftigkeit und Sittlichkeit", and "das System der sittlichen Welt." ("Works," vol. viii. p. 340 sqq.) (Click here to return)
  4. Richard Rothe, in his Anfange der christlichen Kirche, (Wittenberg, 1837, pp, 1-138), teaches the ultimate absorption of religion into morals, and of the church into an ideal state, which he identifies with the kingdom of God (the basileia tou' qeou'). But the ultimate state is a theocracy where God shall be all in all. (i Cor. xv. 28) (Click here to return)
  5. Lehre vom modernen Staat. Engl. translation: Theory of the Modern State, Oxford, 1885. (Click here to return)
  6. The Nation: The Foundations of Civil and Political Life in the United States, Boston, 1870, 9th edition, 1884. This work grew out of the enthusiasm for the nation enkindled by the civil war for its salvation. It is a profound study of speculative politics, with the main ideas borrowed from Bluntschli and Hegel. Mulford wrote afterwards a theological treatise under the title, The Republic of God, Boston, 9th ed., 1886. (Click here to return)
  7. IL Note: C.F.W. Walther, in his Second Lecture on Communism and Socialism, highlighted this -- Plato's communistic theory of property ownership -- as follows: "Plato, the renowned philosopher, lived 400 years before Christ. He wrote a book treating exclusively of government and the commonwealth. In this book he also says that the most beautiful and most perfect form of a republic is that of communism." (Click here to return)
  8. Democracy in America, translated by Henry Reeve, New York, 1838, vol. i. pp. 285, 286 sq. (Click here to return)
  9. IL Note: See the following Intrepid Lutheran post for details on the relationship between Gay Marriage and Polygamy: God, Marriage, and The State In Our World Today. Maintaining the integrity of the institution of marriage, as a monogomous lifelong union between one man and one woman, continues to be a critical factor in maintaining a civilized society, which continues to be attacked by "infidels and anarchists ...zealous in spreading the seed of atheism and irreligion." And by all accounts, the Church in America is acquiescing to the enemies of civilization. In the words of Dr. Schaff, above, I must agree, "It is to the honor of the Roman Catholic Church in our country that she upholds the sanctity of the marriage tie." While to their shame, other Christians are absenting themselves from this critical debate. (Click here to return)
  10. See the whole decision in Document XI. (Click here to return)
  11. See "The Penal Code of New York," Title x. ch. 1, Of Crimes against Religious Liberty and Conscience. (Click here to return)
  12. IL Note: Obviously, if such laws were common, and enforced, today, much of what passes for "Worship" these days (especially among congregations infected with the disease of Church Growth) would be outlawed as "the performance of tragedy, comedy... or any other dramatic performance" as a "public desecration [which] interferes with [the] right [of religious observance]". They would also do away with the frustrating interference of sporting events with Christian religious observance. While it is true that many such laws are no longer on the books, there are still many which remain, some of which are still enforced. As a child growing up in Ohio, hunting seasons were closed on Sundays, nor was liquor sold on Sundays. Many states and localities continue to observe such ordinances as healthy for the community. Whether it is the law or not, many Christian business owners continue to observe the "Christian Sabbath" for the sake of conscience anyway. The owner of Discount Tires, for example, being a devout Roman Catholic (so I was told a few years ago by one of his proud long-time employees), closes his stores nationwide on Sunday. Many businesses remain closed on Sunday. One businesses I had owned in the past, a small store, my business partner and I felt compelled to close on Sunday. Many consultants I know and work with -- especially Christians -- refuse to travel on Sunday. These are good practices that are healthy for Christianity, and therefore, healthy for our Christian nation.

    But the principle at work here extends beyond the civic recognition of Sunday as the "Christian Sabbath," the protection of which is enjoined for the benefit of society. In my honest opinion, it extends to all public Christian practice, especially protection from state coercion to civic practices that violate Christian doctrine. One such example facing Christians today is the enforcement of health care provisions requiring Christian businessmen and various religious organizations to violate their Christian conscience by providing for the use of abortifacient in the health insurance they offer to employees. Rev. Matthew Harrison, LCMS Synod President, courageously testified before a Congressional hearing against this horrifically anti-Christian practice, and was later joined by WELS Synod President, Rev. Mark Schroeder and other Christians, in a publicly issued declaration denouncing the government's interference with people who act according to religious conscience. In these and in every case, the freedom of Christians to publicly practice their religion according to conscience is tied to the connection of that practice to their doctrine. While advocates of the Church Growth Movement strive at every turn to convince Christians that all practice is completely free, is completely separate from Christian doctrine, and is therefore, totally arbitrary and open to the whim of the individual, they are also sweeping away all grounds on which Christians may claim protection for any public manifestation of their religion: none of the Christian's practice is a matter of religious conviction, it is completely a matter of his arbitrary opinion, having as its foundation any one thing or another, and if it so happens that doctrine is involved in his opinion, it is not necessarily involved, but only incidentally involved. They engage in all forms of verbal thrashing in order to create room enough to justify, not just liberty, but open license to engage in all manner of irreverent worship practice, and in this way unwittingly deny themselves and all those associated with them any foundation for religious liberty in society. (Click here to return)
  13. See documents of the New York Sabbath Committee, Nos. xv., xvi., xxvi., xxvii., and the author's essays on the Christian Sabbath, in "Christ and Christianity," New York and London, 1885, pp. 213-275. The most recent German demonstration in protection of the Sunday and Excise laws took place November 1, 1887, at a mass meeting in Cooper Institute, New York, against the "Personal Liberty Party," which would claim the half of Sunday from 2 P.M. till midnight for the special benefit of the liquor trade, while all other trades are prohibited. All the speeches were made in the German language and met with enthusiastic applause. (Click here to return)
  14. IL Note: To the shame of American Christians, they have allowed the same to occur here in the United States, since the time Dr. Schaff wrote this treatise. (Click here to return)
  15. IL Note: Dr. Schaff may seem to be overreaching here, but he is right. Roman Catholics did not start emigrating to the United States in any significant number until the mid-19th Century. (Click here to return)
  16. IL Note: Note Dr. Schaff's reasoning, here. It is very reasonable and fair. The same applies to any group of Christians, who are forced to condemn a public school system as a godless enemy of Christianity. (Click here to return)
  17. IL Note: It is very important to recognize that, in the purpose of education to prepare "citizens for useful citizenship," in order to secure for the future, as much as possible, "good government and the happiness of mankind," "knowledge" was regarded by our Founders as only one of three necessary components. The other two necessary components of education were Religion and Morality. Note also that "training in the performance of manual tasks" was not (and has never been) considered a legitimate aspect of a real education. Education addresses the mind and character of the human. Manual training does not. You can train a monkey, after all; but you can't educate him. We at Intrepid Lutherans have addressed the topic of Education several times. A good place to start is to read the "Nurturing the Fine Arts in the Church" section in our recent post, Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Advent & Christmas, and follow the links from that post to our other posts on Education. (Click here to return)
  18. E, E. White, LL.D., Superintendent of Public Schools in Cincinnati, in his paper read before the National Educational Association in Topeka, Kansas, July 15, 1886, says (p. 10): "The great majority of American schools are religious without being sectarian; and it is high time that this fact were more universally recognized. It is doubtless true that the most impressive forms of presenting religious sanctions to the mind and heart of the young are prayer, silent or spoken, and the reverent reading of the Bible, especially those portions that present human duty in its relations to the Divine Will — forms still permitted and widely used in four fifths of the American schools." (Click here to return)
  19. IL Note: Today, of course, the majority of Christians of all stripes, having been effectively schooled on the the subject by the United States Supreme Court in its 1962 and 1963 decisions prohibiting prayer and all activities which "advance or inhibit religion" or "result in an excessive entanglement between government and religion" (with the term "excessive entanglement" now taken to mean "any connection with"), are active advocates for the removal of wholesome Bible reading from the school. Dr. Schaff is correct: it is vain to think that would satisfy anyone, especially those among the "infidels and anarchists ...zealous in spreading the seed of atheism and irreligion" who so boldly attack Christianity in all of its forms. They didn't stop at prayer, they took the Bible, and not satisfied with that, they now wage open war against Christianity while openly embracing and advocating nearly all other forms of "alternative religion," including atheism. American Christians have lost contact with their Christian conscience, either through lack of education and catechesis, or through sufficient bullying from the institutions of government and the liberal church. (Click here to return)
  20. IL Note: Notice that Dr. Schaff's defense for wholesome Bible reading in the public schools has nothing whatsoever to do with "nurturing the faith of the reader," but, properly within the sphere of public education, is a Natural Law defense focusing on the aims of education itself: cultivating the intellect and moral character of the individual. (Click here to return)
  21. IL Note: When I was a high-school student in a small school district in northwest Wisconsin, not only were teachers prohibited from assigning homework on Wednesdays (the day most commonly set aside by the churches for catechism and mid-week worship), but absences on Wednesdays for day-time catechism and religious instruction were automatically approved. Of course, these activities did not occur in the school building, but this was the next best thing that a largely Christian community could do considering the anti-Christian edicts of the United States Supreme Court. (Click here to return)
  22. IL Note: Theoretically, yes, "the state is undoubtedly competent to give instruction..." In actuality, especially following Dewey's Progressivistic "Education Revolution" in the early 20th Century, which has now been co-opted by post-Modern Epistemological Learning Theories, like Social and Radical Constructivism, we cannot share Dr. Schaff's confidence in the state to provide competent education. As mentioned in footnote 16, please see the "Nurturing the Fine Arts in the Church" section in our recent post, Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Advent & Christmas, and follow the links from that post to our other posts on Education, for more information. (Click here to return)
  23. IL Note: O how many Christian parents have abdicated their involvement in public affairs, especially that of the local school board, to the "infidels and anarchists ...zealous in spreading the seed of atheism and irreligion!" And how American Education and Society has suffered! We are now staring the veritable collapse of Western Civilization square in the eye. And no one would care even if they were equipped to recognize it!. (Click here to return)
  24. IL Note: And, hence, the necessity of education to address the character of the individual, which necessarily forces education to come into positive contact with religion. The two cannot be separated. (Click here to return)
  25. IL Note: And here, in pointing to the positive civic and social impact of a robust Christian influence in American Society, Dr. Schaff echoes Dr. Walther, who in his First Lecture on Communism and Socialism stated:
      "If, then, there is to be any help for the world, the people must become Christians, as said above. There is no other way. There are, however, many thousands of people who are called Christians, but who are not such... We must admit, that it is even so, that there are many scoundrels among those who bear the Christian name, who are not worthy of the name. But when we speak of Christians we do not mean those who simply have the name, but those who do not only believe in the Bible, but who, in their life, manifest and carry out the principles contained in the Bible. These alone are Christians, and if all were such Christians, we would have heaven on earth, and the cross, which we must expect, would be easy to bear."
    And who also warned in his Fourth Lecture on Communism and Socialism:
      "To this must be added, that where the true Christian religion takes possession of the human heart, there it changes the relation between man and man and actually improves it. It is then that the relation between the rich and poor, between rulers and subjects, between employers and employees, and between the lofty and the low, is really improved. That true faith produces these fruits when it takes possession of the heart, we learned in the last lecture. For when great necessity came upon the Christian congregation at Jerusalem, when the sword hung, as it were, by a hair over the Christian’s head, the Christians had all things common, neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, and all only provided that none might be in want. And such will be men’s relation to each other, where persons have become true Christians, who do not carry their faith at their tongue’s end, but in whose hearts faith dwells."
    The Church, active in Society, had made Western Civilization what it once was. The Church, retreating from active life in Society, has reduced Western Civilization to the convulsing wretch it has become. It is, as it always has been, the Church which must now rebuild the West for the sake of future generations, for the sake of Civilization itself, by once again asserting itself in the society in which God has placed it and maintaining: (a) the Sanctity of Marriage, (b) the protection of Christian Practice in public life, and, (c) because "religion, morality, and knowledge are necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind," the advocacy of a genuine education -- which cultivates the intellect and character of the individual -- for all people (not mere training in manual tasks for the masses), recognizing the necessary connection of this endeavor to the singularly civilizing character of the Christian religion. Indeed, "an education which ignores the greatest characters and events of human history and the most sacred interests in human life must breed religious indifference, infidelity, and immorality;" we know this is true because this is the point at which we have now arrived in America. Therefore, "it is in the interest of the educational institutions of the several States, and indispensable to their well-being, that they should maintain a friendly relation to the churches and the Christian religion, which is the best educator and civilizer of any people." This is where the church in America ought to assert herself. (Click here to return)

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